ROGER carried her body as we covered the vast area of land between the ruined city and the bunker. Every so often I could hear a faint moaning coming from her lips that tugged at my chest and gave me the most horrible feeling of impotence. I could do nothing to help her. We were moving as quickly as we could to get her back to the shelter where there was medicine and supplies to treat her wounds. Would she make it? I tried to keep my spirits high. She had risked her life to save mine and she had no idea who I was. I knew nothing of her for that matter, other than the fact that she was different, special in some way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but I was determined to find out. Tired and thirsty, I fought through the pain to keep up with him, there would be no rest until we made it to the structure. Finally I could walk no further. I stopped. My chest was burning, I could barely see and my head pounded in a furious beat. I collapsed to my knees. He continued on for several strides and then turned to look at me. “We can only rest for a minute or two, her wounds preclude us from stopping any longer.” I smiled faintly and felt the sand on my face. When I awoke, we were outside the compound entrance.
“Awake? I had to drag you the rest of the way.”
I stumbled to my feet, “How long was I out?”
He put the girl down and bent to open the hatch, “Exactly 17 hours and 12 minutes.”
We started our descent into the underground structure. As we came to the long hall we were met by some of the others who rushed us into a makeshift triage.
“Are you all that remain? Where are the others?” One of them asked.
“On their way.”
They helped us into the tiny room and ROGER hoisted her body onto a thin metal bed that would be used for operating. The three of us were filthy and the blood caked beneath our nails had begun to turn black. Her face was covered with sweat and grunge.
They injected her with a needle and I watched her face lose its shape as she drifted further away. ROGER began to clean her wounds as I stood beside him. I stared deeply into her hazy eyes. A longing gaze, which I’m sure she didn’t notice. As she laid there foggy and unresponsive I lifted from her sweaty brow a red lock of matted hair that covered her face and gently brushed it back with my slender fingers. It seemed stray and forgotten almost as if it didn’t belong amongst the others. Her distant orbs appeared as emerald jewels unfocused and silent. I stood beside her for as long as I could and watched as ROGER tirelessly cleaned and dressed her wounds. Finally, I decided there was nothing I could do for her and, leaving her in his capable hands, drifted off to sleep in an uncomfortable position on the floor next to the bed. Tormented by the nightmares of the previous few days, I slept intermittently, waking for a few seconds here and there to look at her face.
There was no day or night underground. Time blurred into a single mass of horrible events as I lay sleeping in a contorted puzzlebox of pain on the cold tile floor. I watched in my mind’s eye as my parents died repeatedly in several many [different] ways, each one more grotesque and miserable than the prior. I saw the alien who took the girl’s arm escape in a cacophony of grisly laughter. I wanted to wake, but needed the sleep. After a few hours, I awoke to see ROGER staring inconsolably over the body of the girl. Measuring the depth of appreciation he had for the human condition, I asked as to her ability to recover from her wounds.
“She appears to be stable. All vital signs are functioning normally. I expect full recovery.” he offered in typical robotic form.
He expects a full recovery. The words rolled around in my head. Full recovery. How can someone make a full recovery, when they have lost a part of themselves? She was lucky she had not bled to death, but as ROGER had explained, the weapons the aliens had used burned her skin and cauterized the wound as it made it. The flesh was sealed shut just as it was ripped apart. As she lay there resting, I could think of nothing else. I wanted to help her somehow, put her back together; But how?
She drifted in and out of consciousness for several days as I sat there beside her. I cleaned her wounds and changed her bandages the entire time. Every so often I thought I caught a glimpse of her staring at me, but her eyes were so unfocused and distant it was impossible to tell. After some time the rest returned. I met with Dade and Po, and we discussed what should be done with the new arrivals. Ideo brought with her the spoils of war, and we examined the weapon. It was one of the electric cannons the aliens used against us. It had been broken along the stock, but its barrel and muzzle remained intact. With a bit of tinkering she thought she might be able to fashion some sort of trigger and repair the device. Suddenly, I was struck with the most unusual idea, and quickly brought the weapon to ROGER.
We began immediately scouring the facility for synthetic skin, similar to the skin that comprised most of ROGERS outer body. The material would be used to help bond the missing portions of her arm to the machinery of the weapon which would be attached to the nerves in her arm. The synthetic skin would act as a conductor for the electrical currents. As long as her body didn’t reject the material, she’d be fine. Since the human body is little more than electrochemical responses flowing through a bag of meat and bones it would be a simple matter of joining the central nervous system to the impulse connections of the particle beam weapon. There would be no need to create a trigger in order to fix the weapon, the nerves in the girls arm would behave as such, thereby creating a circuit that could be actuated by her thoughts.
ROGER began the surgery right away. Blood transfusions were needed immediately while half a dozen machines kept her alive. She flat lined twice and 40 quarts of blood were infused into her body over the course of her 13 and a half hour surgery. She was in a coma for two weeks while ROGER, I and three other men shoehorned the bulky device to her elbow and forearm. She was cold and thin, but she would survive. We replaced her left arm, finally. ROGER served double duty while performing the surgery. He tended to the newcomers wounds and helped to train some of the others in combat medicine. I feel as if my input into this group of rebellious men and women has been beneficial, both to them and myself.
The girl is sleeping now. The drugs have kept her sedated. Which is pleasant, her angelic face is consumed with peace. Losing the arm was bad enough, but finding out what we replaced it with, I fear, could be worse. I want to be the first person she sees when she wakes up, perhaps it will be easier on her, waking to a friendly face. The newcomers have been training in the facility, a man by the name of John has become their military leader. I’ve almost exhausted myself between the surgery and helping the others. I need some sleep.
She awoke sometime while I was out. After being in a deep sleep for almost a month, she was in better health than was expected. I finally got to speak to her, something I’d been wanting to do since I first laid eyes on her. We carefully unwrapped the bandages from her arm, what was left of it, and began peeling back the layers of synthetic material from her skin, that ROGER had grafted onto it. The tarnished metallic weapon appeared like a cannon erupting from the left side of her body. The alien material was strange, almost organic and symbiotic in nature, and at first we thought her body might reject it. She was confused and disoriented, which was to be expected, and had no knowledge of the surgery or how long she had been out.
ROGER began to explain to her in careful measured tones, which was his nature. “Your body appears to be reacting well to the synthetic material I used to bind the weapon to your upper forearm. Your brachialis muscle and the arteries surrounding it were severely damaged, yet the cauterization produced by the alien weapon mitigated major nerve and tissue damage. I was able to attach the device to the remaining nerve groups so that use of it would be almost second nature; easy as making a fist.”
For about 45 minutes all she did was lay there staring at the thing. She lifted her arm up and peered menacingly at it. She couldn’t fire the weapon yet, ROGER had installed a safety precaution in the event that it accidentally went off while she slept, it insured nobody would be hurt. A switch on the underside of her elbow had to be clicked on in order to operate the firing mechanism. She turned her head and cried.
ROGER and I left the room.
“It would be best if we gave her some time to come to terms with what has happened, Jake.” he quietly stated.
I agreed and went away into the common area where everyone else was reading and eating. The sound of metal chairs squealing against the floors and the clanking of utensils and plates kept me company while my mind wandered alone. I refused to make eye contact with anyone.