Three Minute Scar
by Joseph D. Stirling
Breton Rodgers absently rubbed the stump of his thigh, gently tracing the metal contact points that tied the prosthetic into his nerve clusters, a function that both powered the leg and gave him normal control as if it were real. He leaned back into the seat and glanced at the monitor on the wall, watching the station fill the view. It had been a long two months aboard the small freighter which only served to frustrate him further.
As the dull rattle rang through the ship, Breton slipped the cup over his leg, wincing as the feedback from the charge still in the artificial limb shocked the contact plates. He buckled the straps down and flexed the carbon-fiber muscle groups through the knee and ankle joints, standing once he was sure the calibration was successful. The kink in his back was still bothering him some, but at the moment he didn’t care, he was glad to be leaving this ship even if only to board an equally depressing space station.
Breton grabbed his duffle and slung it over his shoulder, readying himself to step into the last post he could serve. His record as a Law Enforcement Officer wasn’t the best, it was full of covered-up brutality and bribery reports made against him, so many in fact that Voyager’s Rest was the only station willing to take him. He was okay with that. He knew something the review board didn’t, and the occasional hitch in his step from the cybernetic limb was a constant reminder. It took Breton two years to track down the man he blamed for the leg, and now he had found where the man that left him to die was hiding out.
As he walked into the landing deck, looking around for the rest of his luggage, he was overwhelmed by the smell of the place. It was a mixture of sweat, unwashed clothing, recycled air, and machine oil; with such a closed in feeling from the low ceiling and walls lined with maintenance equipment and service-bot docking hubs it was enough to suffocate anyone unfamiliar with station life. Breton could deal; he knew he could after the cause of the injury and the lengthy rehabilitation. He had enough pent up aggression and focus on finding his old partner that none of the bullshit of this “backwoods” drift satellite could sway him from his purpose.
He took the time to oversee a service-bot load what belongings he was allowed to bring and haul them to wherever his designated bunk space was. Breton made for the lock gate and was met by the station’s Law Captain. The man was by all accounts filthy, grease smudged on his arms and face, his beard was caked with dust and grime, yet his smile revealed clean white teeth.
“Officer Rodgers, I presume.” The Captain held offered his hand but withdrew it from Breton’s stare. “I can show you to your quarters if you’d like, unless you want to see the office and find out where you stand on the roster?”
“Duty station first, I’d like to meet some of the boys in blue I’ll be working with. I can go to my room after.” Breton looked the Captain up and down, surprised by the lack of care for his uniform. “Who are you exactly? You’ve got Captain’s bars, but I’ve never seen a Captain so far from uniform protocol.”
“Oh right! Captain Scitz, Matthew Scitz. As for the uniform and the lack of bathing, you’ll get used to that. Water’s a very precious commodity around here, very expensive. It boils down to once a month bathing privileges. Thank god for the Nano-skin.” Breton returned a blank stare. “You have no idea what I’m talking about; you’re a terrestrial I take it, no time spent on a station before? Don’t worry; we’ll get you fitted for a Nano-skin. I don’t even want to know what you can smell right now,” laughed Scitz.
Captain Scitz led Breton through a winding series of corridors, all narrow passages with traffic passing in the opposite direction. Scitz moved with the grace of a dancer, leaning into the wall to let people by without ever slowing. He glanced back a few times and only smiled; the kind that said you’ll get used to it. Once Breton was hopelessly lost from all the twists and turns, all the bulkheads they passed; Scitz finally double-tapped a rounded panel on the wall, which opened a pressure door, and stepped through.
“Welcome to our office. It’s just a cramped as everywhere else, but it is home. You can leave your junk here and go straight back into the white door, Lexi will get you squared away with a skin.” Breton started to speak but Scitz stopped him. “Questions after, trust me.”
Breton complied, pushing his fueled temper into his gut, something he had grown accustomed to; it kept him from losing his job. One more disciplinary action stood between him and a prison sentence since he had no more child credits to give up for compensation. He pushed through the white door and into the med clinic.
A lean woman was tapping away on a holopad, occasionally flipping her hair from her face. She looked up with a brief smile and quick tapped the pad to shut it down.
“Well don’t you look clean, you must be new.” Lexi slid from her stool and began typing a few commands into a unit with a large oval hoop suspended between two posts. “Take off your clothes and step right in. No room for modesty so let them hang where they may.”
Breton scoffed shortly and began to strip. He stood naked as his birth and started into the machine.
“Hold up a sec there, sport. Lose the bio-limb, flesh only,” she said pointing to his prosthetic.
Breton clenched his jaw, swallowing the anger, and began to unbuckle the unit. He slid the leg free and set it against the wall. “Is this Nano-skin going to interfere with my contact plates? I need them for the leg.” He was rubbing the thick, heavy scar that made up the stump mid-way down his thigh.
“Not at all, the conductivity will actually improve and you shouldn’t feel any sting from the feedback anymore either.” She gave him a broad smile as she eyed his stump and trailed up to his genitals lingering for a moment longer than she should have. “Ahem, well. Step right up Officer.”
Breton hopped into the machine and steadied himself. He glanced up at the hoop and noticed the shiny film that stretched across it. The device powered up and the hoop lowered over him depositing the film over his body. As the slick membrane coated his skin it felt like it bonded directly to his flesh, covering every inch of him. Lexi motioned for him to step out.
“That’s it. The Nano-skin will filter the air you breathe and keep your body clean, it prevents illnesses and viruses by attacking the germs before they get into your system. You can put your clothes back on now; I’m done here at 17:00 if you want to take them off again.”
Breton ignored her as he reattached his leg; it was relief to find no shock when the contacts met. He redressed and let the room without a word. He found Scitz sitting at his desk flipping through files on a holopad.
“Interesting jacket you have, Rodgers. I see why, with all your accomplishments and 15 years Law Service, you end up here. You spent all your child credits to cover your not-so-honest actions in most of your cases. By the way, everything smell better now?”
Breton nodded, this was getting tiresome. He knew Mebrin was on this station and still serving as a Law Officer. Captain Scitz was going on about when his shifts would be and what was appropriate on the station, although Breton was scanning the roster sheet on the wall for Mebrin’s location.
“And that’s about it,” Scitz was saying. “Any questions for me or do you want to find your bunk?”
“I’ll turn in, try to get my stuff unpacked, and then maybe walk around the station to try and get familiar with the layout.”
“Sounds good, Rodgers. The facility opens up on the upper decks; it’s only down here in the service levels that things are a little cramped.” Scitz dropped his holopad and led the way.
Breton walked into his quarters and dropped his duffle on the bunk. Now that all the formalities were out of the way, he could get to the business that brought him here, his old partner Mebrin. The man who left him to die and took credit for a major bust on a large drug smuggling ring on the moon Europa, a case Breton had worked for over a year. And now, thanks to the posted duty roster in the Law Office, Breton knew where on the station Mebrin was.
From his study of the Voyager’s Rest station layouts, he knew where to lure Mebrin so that no one would interrupt their time together. He played with a few keys on the communications unit in the wall and placed a call only Mebrin would receive.
He had fifteen minutes before Mebrin would arrive but knew the quickest way to get to the server room and could be there in six.
Mebrin came down the narrow steps and into the cool air of the server room, it looked deserted, even to his biotech-enhanced vision. He cautioned a few steps into the room, listening to the soft hum of the computer banks, the call he had received had said there was an assault in process, but the room appeared empty.
Breton stepped out from behind the conduit panel and slapped the hypo patch on Mebrin’s shoulder and watched him drop to the floor. He stood over him as he unbuckled his bio-limb with a rage inspired grin.
“You should recognize that hypo, it’s the same dose of nod that junkie spiked me with back on Europa when you left me to die. I remember every second of that day. When the blast-door came down t took three minutes for it to crush through my thigh. Three minutes! The drugs left me aware of each excruciating moment of that. It felt like a lifetime watching my leg get severed.” Breton hopped to a chair a few feet away and sat down. “You remember what you told me? You said I deserved it, that my record made you look bad. Well you deserve this Mebrin.”
Breton opened a hidden panel on his leg and tapped a few keys. The calf opened into a half-moon lined with small teeth and laid it over Mebrin’s thigh. The faintest of a whirring sound started up and Mebrin tensed as the teeth began to chew through the meat of his leg.
“It should take three minutes to finish, though without the stims I don’t think you’ll survive.” Breton could feel a weight lifting from his soul, after four long years he found his peace. He knew the other Law Officer’s would arrive soon, but then he knew it would always end this way. “You ruined my career Mebrin, you deserve this.”