A Beginning

It is as natural to die as to be born; and to a
little infant on is as painful as the other.
Francis Bacon, Of Death

You've had better days. First the "secure" landing zone turns out to a be a snake-infested river bank on Honduran border. Now the small insurgent base you were supposed to recointer turned out to be a major rebel installation. With damn fine security, you mentally add, trying to sink a little deeper into the mud, while slipping a fresh clip into your SMG. Those motion detetors must cost more than the average dirt farmer in this Third World steambath makes in his life. Must have some cartel ties. Ever since the DEA stepped up its enforcement in this area of the world, the drug cartels have been using some of the "revolutionary" armies as security. With Mother Russia out of the coup business and Cuba sinking fast there's been a big need for new supporters and a need for freelancers. Which brings up just how you got into this…

It sounded simple, that should have been your first tip off. The guy was sharp, 500 dollar suit and a razor smile. Worked for "certain parties" interested in some recon of a rebel insurgent camp along the border. Too dense for satellite ops and too hazy a boundary for offical actions. You and some other freelancers were to be dropped off, take some notes and be picked up. No sweat.

Well, things blew up, 'natch. There was a web of security a mile deep around the place and now… well, now things are touch and go, dodging South Am mooks in this greenhouse. Lucky for you, the money for security was obviously taken from training. Million dollar tech, two bit troops, you think, listening to them tramping through the trees, making no effort to be quiet in their assured superiority. You hear a chatter of fire as they gun at a spooked bird or monkey. Slipping out of concealment, you take out two of the rear guard under cover of the noise, slitting their throats in relative silence and acquiring some grenades before another spots you.

He looks 20 or so, with 2 bandoliers of bullets over his chest. Too much Rambo. He sprays wildly, blowing up mud and leaves as you roll into cover. He shouts something in Spanish. Nothing important, and it's soon cut off when your thrown knife buries itself in his throat. The fire draws others. You run for the LZ, ammo tearing up the ground behind you. The LZ is just ahead and surprisingly, the helicopter is there. Yes, maybe this won't be a complete clusterfuck after all. Then you hear the distinctive thump of an RPG firing. As the blast wave washes over you, you think, I've definitely had better days.

You regain consciousness lying in a clinically white room. Smells like a hospital. You feel groggy but otherwise fine; it's hard to move your arms and legs, though… but you quickly find the reason. You don't have any. You hear someone walk in while you're considering screaming. They stand just out of view.

"You are a very fortunate man." Just as you feel the dam about to break and the scream tear from your throat, the speaker comes into view. It's a woman, spectacled, with a wide face. Her eyes are a deep brown and quite warm behind the glasses. She has black hair pulled into a tight bun that is beginning to fray a bit. "Please… I know this is a shock, but you are quite safe, and as I said, quite fortunate." Her voice is calm and soothing, her words ease the growing panic. You feel lulled, soothed by her as she explains what happened. The job in South America that went sour, the blast. It all seeps back into your brain through a haze of painkillers. You were pulled out by your employers. Turns out it was the Feds. Couldn't save your arms and legs, but that has put you in a unique position.

Then she starts spouting some shit totally our of your league. Cybernetic prosthetics and skeletal rebuilds, crap like that. It boils down to, they want to use you in some sort of experiment that coould give you your limbs back. Hmmm, a chance or life as a doorstop… some choice. Dr. Rachinda, that's the brain's name, is straight with you. It might not work, but what the hell.

You have to go under the knife twice before they even attach the damn things. And they start you on "anti-rejection serums". The stuff gives you a wild buzz the first few times but you get used to it. Then the final surgery comes. Rachinda is there with some last minute encouragement. Nice, she ain't the one going under, but you appreciate it.

Awakening is the same as always except this time there is a dull tingling in your arms and legs. What the hell? Lifting your arm, you hear a near- silent whirring. You look over the metal protrusion now grafted onto your body. It's vaguely human, with small gears at the joint and dull grey cables instead of veins. Only three fingers on the hand… your hand. Each clicks one by one as you curl them into a metal fist. Why are you taking this calmly? Rachinda did prepare you. You knew what it would look like, but still…

"Impressive… you seem to be a natural," Rachinda says as she steps in. "Are you ready to begin?"

Four weeks later…

The cabbie drops you off a block from your destination, just as you requested. Lucky for you, he ain't the talkative type, just takes the money and goes. Must think you're crazy, a leather overcoat in this heat. Wonder what he would think if he could see what was under it. This is your first real assignment for the Company, your unknown benefactors. A few weeks of training to use your new limbs, some basics and you were set. Not a bad deal, the pay is fat and steady. Still not sure about this James Bond shit, though.

This shouldn't be too difficult. Hmph, where you heard that before? A couple here in Hudson city, scientific types, suspected of double-dealing whatever nameless alphabetized agency you work for. You're supposed to look into them, sniff out any dirt, and if you find it, bring them in or bring them down. You decided to go right to the source, their home. It's in a suburb of Hudson city. Nice place, set back from the road by a long driveway with a fence and hedge to keep out the undesirables.

These metal legs make vaulting the hedge a snap. The yard is as well- manicured as a golf course and you can make out several lights in on the house, all downstairs. A sumptuous pool is takes up a lot of the back yard, with a gazebo and patio set up as well. Smiling grimly to yourself you think, Thank god no motion detectors… Gallows humour… but who's gonna hang you won't say.

Seeing a darkened balcony gives you an idea. Flexing your "legs," you listen to the quiet whir of the internal electronics, the gyro sending a certain tingle up the nerve endings left in your thighs. What the fuck, the Six-Million Dollar Man could pull it off, and you're way more expensive than that. You leap, clearing the edge of the balcony in quick rush of air and landing with a chink on the tiled floor.

The lock on the door is candy. No rigged alarms. Not very security- conscious for spies or especally traitors. Stepping into the room, you sweep your penlight across it. Shit… it's already been ransacked. It used to be some sort of office or study. Files have been overturned, drawers dumped out. A wall safe hangs open in the background, all paperwork gone, except for a small slip of a document on the floor. Picking it up, you pad into the hallway. Dark and silent. But there are voices coming from downstairs. Creeping to the edge of stairs, you listen.