“What’s going on Sebastian, one walk home that was more like something out of a nightmare and now I am looking like some kind of toss-out from a tin can factory. I don’t know what happened to me and what little I do know the Doc here don’t seem to be buying. And now I got just about the only friend on this dirt ball coming to visit me speaking in veiled nonsense. Talk to me man, tell it to me straight; what on Gallu is going on!”
Sebastian ruffled his shaggy mane of walnut colored hair and then took a moment to pause and scratch at his chin. It was a familiar gesture that Gabriel recognized; it typically proceeded any dispense of sage-like advice or at the very least bartender banter. “Alright, here goes,” Sebastian began with a wry half smile. “Like I was saying, you know I hear things – it comes with the unique nature of my position in society.”
“Nothing at all to do with the fact you provides a service prone to prompt people to loosen their lips or genuinely in need of a friendly ear you mean.” Gabriel quickly interjected; even if he was still recovering he couldn’t miss the chance to point out that he knew Sebastian better than that. “Fair enough point,” the bold barkeep acknowledged with a chuckle and a nod.
“Now, where was I, oh yes; the word on the street. As you may already be aware there has been the occasional vanishing act of pets here and there along with the rare drifter or two. Nothing to really bother over, not even serious enough for the authorities to get themselves involved in. And then you manage to get into some bizarre bit of bloody trouble walking home. Everybody has been whispering all hush-hush about it and as the rumors spread the words naturally change.
Some of the more regular customers with a friendly nature from the civil-defense forces have been mentioning a growing concern over some of these reports. Nothing official, mind you, but enough to illuminate some interesting points. Chiefly among them is the fact that after these quiet incidents now there has been one involving someone who didn’t vanish and instead survived. And some of them aren’t exactly making a clear case of separating your name from the victim category or its alternative.”
“Wait,” Gabriel halted his friend with a raised hand and called for an immediate stop to this silly notion. “You cannot be serious; look at me, there is no way I could be lying here in this shape and people think for a second that I was involved!” He couldn’t believe it, there was no way anyone could be thinking anything so absurd. How could he have even ended up so mangled if not for some kind of attack from a savage beast? Surely it had to be the talk of those who had had way too much to drink.
“Don’t shoot the messenger Marcus,” Sebastian advised warmly. He knew full well what using that name would do to his friend, and so he was already waiting to return the irritated eye that it called his way. “Yeah, I know how you feel about that name. When are you going to let that one go?” Clenched teeth and closed eyes were all that answered Sebastian’s query; which was a better reaction than he expected.
“Anyway The Rat Hole isn’t going to run itself,” Sebastian declared and rose with a stretch. “You just take care of yourself man, and keep a sharp eye on your tail. Something is definitely going on and until people have something solid to point their fears at you may find yourself a welcome substitute.”
Right on queue, Dr. Foxfire returned back from office. “You seem to do an amazing patch-up job Doctor; he looks to be doing great. Shame you can’t do more to repair that busted brain of his,” Sebastian laughed to himself as he made his exit. Dr. Foxfire seemed distracted to Gabriel, in truth he wasn’t even sure she had noticed Sebastian’s little joke – albeit a terrible one. “Something wrong Doc,” he decided to ask. He had had enough negative news for one day; he was still hoping to get to move around some like the Doctor had mentioned.
“Just a patient record error in the database is all,” Dr. Foxfire offered before changing the subject. “If you are ready to begin, I thought we might start with something simple.” A console along the wall responded to a series of key presses to slide a black slab out from the wall. “We are going to start off slow and I will monitor you. Just step up here and we’re going to start by walking, okay?”
“Sounds good to me,” Gabriel agreed as he found himself excited at the idea of not being confined any longer. The sensation of his feet touching the tiled floor was peculiar at first. He could feel the slight difference between his two feet; somehow the synthetic appendage registered the contact and reported it to his brain. It wasn’t completely unlike the feeling of his natural foot touching the cold floor but there was a slight edge of artificial difference that was subtly present.
As he placed his full weight down he found his legs awkwardly answering but his balance was slightly off. It took a few seconds to steady him, and he gratefully grabbed a hold onto his bed with both hands. His robotic right arm’s metallic exterior echoed the cold touch of the bed’s frame. While the Doctor might have attempted to balance out his various implants, Gabriel somehow could feel a shift in his center that leaned to his now heavier right side.
With a long deep breath Gabriel tediously stepped his way towards the extended platform. Once it registered his presence he discovered the base of the unit gradually began to spin prompting him to start walking to stay on. The pace was very leisurely, and with each stride Gabriel started to get a better feel for his adjusted gait. But the restrained rate was little more than a tease to him; he longed to really get his blood pumping.
“Can’t we step it up a bit Doc,” Gabriel implored as he found a smile starting to form and his mood improving. “Let’s put these new parts through their paces,” he begged as he curiously tried to step just a hair faster and noticed the platform responding. “That is not a good idea,” Dr. Foxfire cautioned only to raise an inquiring eye as Gabriel ignored her. Her peculiar patient was already moving into a joggers trot and threatening to increase his speed further. The monitors were feeding back a stream of steady data, aside from some elevated vitals Gabriel was looking to be in incredible shape. Perhaps even more so than he was prior to the accident, in fact Gabriel looked to be barely warming up.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Dr. Foxfire failed to keep from whispering to herself. The quiet comment caught Gabriel’s attention and without breaking stride he turned to address her. “Surprised at how well your work turned out Doc?” With a shake of her head Dr. Foxfire gestured the question aside. “That is not what I meant; something else is going on here. There is a puzzle here and I aim to solve it. I am going to have to run some more tests.”
Gabriel barely had time to clear the platform as Dr. Foxfire hit the button to return it back into the wall before rapidly retreating from the room lost in her own thoughts. “Guess that means that is all for today,” Gabriel remarked to himself. Absently he flexed his fingers and soon found himself reviewing the strange new feel of his metallic muscles. He hadn’t realized that he had never even managed to get out of breath until now. Perhaps the Doc was right, which reminded him of what Sebastian had been saying. If he alone had survived some monster attack and people found out he was already recovering so fast then there was bound to be questions. And he wasn’t sure if he had any answers that anyone would accept.