Strings of Retaliation – 2a – Self

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Frogster and I were having yet another staring contest. Vexx had left it on the dresser to keep me company like the last time I went through a painful remission. I was insane that time, but not anymore. The companion frog just added to the grumpiness caused by pain, immobility and lack of visitors.
“What?” I muttered. “You’re gonna stare me to gratitude?”
The frog didn’t answer, but my synapses did. A non sequitur later, I hummed Stairway to Heaven. My body hurt so much from being opened up and re-muscled, the movement to activate my music chip was too much to ask from me.
I would never had had that reluctance if there still were nanobots in my brain, I thought.
Frogster poked me with its tongue. “Don’t you dare!” It said in my own voice.
“Would you stop doing that?” I rolled on my shoulder, and regretted it instantaneously.
The pain may be dampened by a healthy dose of morphine, I felt every of its burrowing sparks. I remembered liking pain and how it boiled any problem down to one simple feeling. All part of my programming. My true self — whatever that meant — didn’t handle it so well.
On some level, I deserved to suffer. Not because of the lives I took – they called for their demise – but because I sometimes wished I could go back in time. Back to the invisible chains that dictated all my actions without my knowing it. I breezed through life.
I had a purpose.
Now, I have a bright, tacky FBI chocker.
Frogster’s tongue hit my back.
“Vexx!” I bellowed, pressing the call button. “Get your ass here before I rip my stitches.”
A nurse peeked in. “He’s not around. Can I help you?”
“Find him before I kill myself. And take the frog with you.”
The nurse paled and obeyed without another word.
I wouldn’t go through with the threat, not anymore. I contemplated the idea again while I was travelling, but I had promised Vexx I would return.
He should be here.
If panic got him here, he deserved to feel it. I noticed some changes before I went under his knife. A bit more muscles, and a new, colder edge to his mind. But he hacked my chip after the press conference so some things didn’t change.
What could keep him away from my bedside?
Five minutes passed before he showed. “You scared the nurse.”
“This room is driving me nuts.”
“Welcome to the club.”
I hadn’t turned on my back again, but in the tense silence, I heard him pull a chair next to my bed. His hand touched my shoulder and I jerked away, holding back a cringe. Vexx gripped me firmly and forced me to roll onto my back. I glared at him.
“It’s too early for you to move and I won’t talk to your back.” He sat in his chair, arms crossed over his chest.
“I don’t need your sucky attitude.”
My attitude?” he snickered. “You left.”
“So you isolate me in a room with a buggy frog toy?”
“To protect you!” He stood over me and shook his head, while I was still shocked by his words.
When he started pacing back and forth, my mind finally formed its question: Protect me?
“Gabriel put a tracking device in your arm before you left,” he said without my asking. “I found it during the surgery.”
“I scanned myself everyday.”
“It wasn’t emitting. It could have if Gabriel wanted to find you.” Vexx dropped on his chair. “It recorded all your movements while you were gone.”
“You destroyed it.”
“Too suspicious.” He leaned forward to check up on my bandages. I decided to let him. “I rewrote the code,” he continued, his eyes intent on his task. “Did you find her?”
I took a deep breath. “No. You read the file. She’s probably dead in a ditch.”
“I’m sorry.” Vexx slouched back in his chair, and ran his fingers through his hair. This was much more like him. “Why didn’t you come back earlier then?”
“Too much to process.”
I had nightmares about technology destroying my life for as long as I could remember. So I killed tech people. Then, I learnt that the man I called ‘Dad’ programmed my brain that way. And I killed him. Then, I learnt I had been grown in an artificial womb from the ovaries a nameless junkie sold for her next tech fix. None of my trails paned out, but junkies usually OD before they’re forty.
There was no one to kill for that.
“Now I’m back under FBI order.”
I would have stayed away if it hadn’t been from the deadline to trade my mechanical insides back for my original ones. And I promised Vexx. The FBI would want to track down others like me, brothers and sisters of the silicon womb. I didn’t know yet whether I preferred to let my dysfunctional family be. Let them continue their fight against technology and die happy during a mission, instead of telling them they were a fraud.
On the other hand, who was I to withhold the truth?
“I’ll help.” Vexx smiled.
“You better! The tech society knows you as my date from the ball.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Does that mean you’ll give me my old job back at MerriTech?”
I cringed. “That sounds wrong on so many levels.”
Vexx chuckled and the sound calmed my inner-turmoil.
I would have to avoid spending time alone. Too many dark thoughts, too many expectations to fulfil. Too many identities to juggle. Before, even when I dived out of a third story window, I never felt my life would kill me.
“How is Frogster buggy, by the way?” Vexx asked.
“ It kept poking me with its tongue and talking in my own voice.”
A shadow crossed Vexx’s face. “I see.”

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

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