Analyst 001.002

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Nikolai trudged through the old freight hauler. He moved on memory alone, only registering his surroundings as an afterthought. The hauler was familiar enough to him that he didn’t need to pay much attention.

Some people stopped and stared as he walked through the narrow corridors. A few said things to him, but Nikolai didn’t respond. He couldn’t imagine what he looked like. Or smelled like, for that matter.

Five days of hiding out in the old sewer system had taken its toll. As had dodging robotic probes while they searched for vex. Until the quarantine had been lifted, he had nothing to do but wallow in his own filth with thoughts of his dead team on his mind.

He needed a few psych pills.

Or counseling.

Psych pills were easier.

So he made his way to the medical bay without even reporting in. Word would undoubtedly spread though the washed up vessel fast enough that it wouldn’t matter. Five days of quarantine, what was another hour? He hadn’t been able to get a message through the jamming either. If Warrior-two hadn’t pulled back on their own, he would probably have their deaths on his conscience as well as whatever Station had in mind for him.

He really needed those psych pills.

Nikolai pushed open the doors to the med bay, paid no attention to the whirring mechanical arms over the operating table, and went straight to the supply cabinet.

Three pills later and he could feel his feelings dampening. That wasn’t to say that the pills made him into an unfeeling android, just that most the most extreme emotions were more manageable.

After gently closing the cabinet, Nikolai turned back to the rest of the room.

Four robotic arms maneuvered over a stainless steel operating table. Each tipped with several instruments that could be extended or retracted at will. From circular saw blades to syringes, sutures to scalpels, scissors to sterilizing agents. It even had dental drills just in case such a thing was needed. The trauma center had everything needed to fix somebody up after even the most severe wounds.

And somebody was apparently in desperate need of them at the moment.

Forceps burrowed into the stomach of a poor man on the table. They dug around for a moment before the arm pulled back. A mushroomed hunk of metal dropped into a tray with a slight clunk. As the forceps arm moved out of the way, two more took its place. One tipped with a syringe of clotting agent, the other with a miniature sewing machine on its tip.

Doctor Vrach sat in her usual seat just to the side of the operating table, staring away from the table without a hint of passion in her eyes. A faint red glow lit up the deepest recesses of her pupils. A pair of glasses hung from a lanyard around her chest as usual, though Nikolai had never seen her actually wear them. Smoke from a lit cigarette trailed off into the ceiling of the medical bay where a series of fans carried it out of the derelict ship.

“Should you really be smoking right now?” Nikolai asked with a nod towards the operating table.

Doctor Vrach didn’t respond to him. She didn’t even look at him, continuing to stare off into space. However, her mechanical arm brought the cigarette up to her lips. She took a long drag. The tip lit up bright orange until she had finished.

“I’m not putting it out,” she said, voice firm. As she spoke, the smoke billowed out of her mouth. “Real ones are rare enough as is. And don’t distract me while I’m working.”

Nikolai wrinkled his nose, waving his hand in front of his face. “That’s going to kill us, you know.”

“My lungs are mechanical,” she said with a melancholic sigh. She brought the cigarette back to her lips again and left it there, letting it hang loosely between her lips. “As you well know.”

“Mine aren’t.”

She shrugged her shoulders, mechanical arm clicking lightly as she moved. “You are far more likely to suffer a violent death before contracting cancer from me.”

Nikolai sighed. Moving around the room, he stopped at the window. A series of plants grew out of thin test tubes, each one stretching up and reaching for the blind-covered window.

He raised a slat of the blinds and peeked out.

The city stood tall in the distance. Sleek lines followed the skyscrapers up, each building smooth as silk. But the Zima tower stood over them all. Four times as high as the next tallest building, it stretched into the dark grey clouds.

Thanks to the pills, he didn’t feel an instant urge to punch something. He couldn’t really appreciate the skyline, but he wasn’t upset by it.

Everything looked too idealistic. Too pretty. And for many residents, it was the perfect city. They didn’t know what went on in Zima’s laboratories.

Turning around, Nikolai found himself frowning in spite of the pills he had taken.

Doctor Vrach still stared listlessly off into space. From behind her, he could see the thick black cables running from the ceiling down to her neck. A black steel plate ran down her back, the same color as her artificial arm and leg. But this was filled with all sorts of outlets.

Her skin around the metal plates was more plastic than flesh. Still flexible, but not real. The tips of her short silver hair glowed like they were fiber optic wires, constantly changing from red to green.

Nikolai shuddered.

She was a product of Zima tower.

Barely even human anymore.

Better than human?

Nikolai watched as her mechanical fingers plucked the cigarette from her mouth. Another plume of smoke escaped into the air as she stared into space. She wasn’t staring just because she was running the operating table. Nikolai couldn’t remember her meeting his eyes even once in the several years they had known each other. She was always staring off into the distance.

No. Not better than human. Barely more than a machine.

“Your team?” she asked as she tapped some ashes off the top of her cigarette.

“Dead,” Nikolai said, turning back to the window. He didn’t bother lifting the blinds again. “Moreau was a vex.”

“I see,” she said, voice flat. “We have no means of testing for vex here. If you are one, I would appreciate a quick death.”

Though he knew that she was entirely serious, Nikolai did not dignify her question with a response.

He turned from the room with a shake of his head. “I still need to report in to Station.”

“Warrior-two was lost as well,” she said, confirming Nikolai’s fears.

Nikolai paused with his hand on the doorway. He considered saying something, but shook his head as he walked out in the end.

— — —

The burning scent of antiseptic solutions hit Sera’s nose, breaking her out of whatever daze had taken hold of her. She snapped open her eyes only to pinch them shut immediately.

Bright white lights hurt her eyes almost as much as getting coated in acid had.

But that brief glimpse had been enough.

Clean, sterile walls surrounded a single bed. Comfortable, but only really so as a side effect of being a bed with padding. It was a far cry from a luxurious memory foam bed. Given the pure white sheets and the metal railing to keep her from falling out, it was safe to say that she was inside an infirmary of some sort.

If the bed and the walls weren’t enough of a clue, there was plenty more. A device had been placed around one of her arms and both of her legs.

The arm covered was the one that had taken the brunt of the acid, protecting her face in the process. A faint violet light came out between her arm and the plastic of the machine itself. Perhaps a curing machine of some sort, toughening something that had been placed over her arm. A protective layer or perhaps even fresh synthetic skin.

Her opposite arm had not one but three separate intravenous bags dripping into her body. Two with clear liquid and one with a yellowish fluid. The clear bags were probably saline solutions, though that seemed like a lot at once. One might be some sort of nutrients while the other was meant to treat dehydration.

Being a nurse’s assistant, Sera had a decent understanding of basic medical procedures. Yellow bags normally meant a multi-vitamin saline solution. If so, that was simply too much liquid. Three whole bags.

Her mind threw out that possibility. It was likely more advanced than what she normally dealt with. Something to help with her arm.

Sera gasped, taking in a deep breath of air.

And my chest, she thought, recalling chunk of metal that had pierced her. It had gone straight through her chest, narrowly sliding between her lungs and heart, piercing nothing more than muscle and bone. A twist of her body right after the acid splashed around her kept it from doing more damage. Really, she wasn’t sure how much had been luck and how much had been her own abilities.

Unfortunately, she hadn’t entirely succeeded. The metal beam had crushed her spine. She distinctly recalled being unable to feel her legs—and being thankful at the time given they had been hit worse with the acid than even her arm.

Sera tried wiggling her toes, fully prepared for disappointment. Her toes responded right away to her great surprise.

Reaching her free arm over, Sera felt up and down her sternum. Her chest was covered in bandages, but not the hard cast-like bandages. They were soft, more coverings than anything else. As such, she could feel her perfectly intact sternum.

Almost perfectly intact. There was a slight ridge right where she knew that it had been shattered. It wasn’t regrown bone then, but rather some sort of prosthetic. Two of her ribs felt much narrower than they should as well, probably part of the same piece.

Though she should be panicking, worried at the very least, Sera found herself unnaturally calm. By all appearances, she was being fixed up. Perhaps not to the absolute best Zima Corporation could do—internet conspiracy theories mentioned that Zima was working on prosthetics that wouldn’t look out of place on a military android—but well enough that Sera’s daily life probably wouldn’t be impacted much once she got out of the hospital.

Amazing, except for the fact that there was absolutely no way that her insurance was good enough to cover this degree of bodily reconstruction.

A door in her room opened with a hiss as the air pressure inside and outside shifted slightly.

Sera forced her eyes open despite the blinding light, wanting to see who had come in to check on her.

A woman with curly brown hair wearing clothing which was something of a cross between a fancy suit, a lab coat, and old-style medical scrubs. The Zima triple-hexagon logo glimmered on a small identification badge over her breast with an almost holographic dazzle. The actual words were too far away to read, but hologram sparked a bit of curiosity and a small bit of worry.

Sera worked in a hospital and she didn’t think that she had ever seen a Cerebro level doctor.

She moved without much of a glance towards Sera, focusing instead on the pad at the foot of the bed. She tapped it, swiped her finger across it, moved her eyes to read whatever reports were displayed.

Sera opened her mouth, intending to speak. Despite the amount of fluids being dumped into her, she found her mouth uncannily dry. Just trying to make a sound felt like sandpaper moving out of her throat.

The doctor noticed the sound and glanced up.

“Seraphina Topalov, you’re awake.”

A simple statement. No question, just an observation. They must have gotten her name from a DNA test, or fingerprints, or retinal scan, or maybe dental matching. Or maybe they used the far more simple method of simply looking at her identification chip embedded within her wrist.

Her acid-damaged wrist. Which might have damaged the chip. Perhaps it was one of the more complex methods.

After staring for a moment as if to confirm her observation, her eyes flicked over to the intravenous bags in just the right way to let Sera know that she really shouldn’t be awake at the moment.

One of those bags had a sedative in it. At least one.

Sera tried to speak again before deciding that it was more effort than it was worth. She wasn’t in much pain, though she couldn’t actually say whether that was because of drugs or because it had been long enough for her to heal. Either way, the scratching in her throat was uncomfortable.

It was just too much work to care.

“Shall I get you a glass of water?” the doctor finally asked.

Sera gave a shallow nod of her head and watched as the doctor left the room without another word.

At first, Sera had been excited. She remembered laughing, or trying to, when that terrorist had been leaning over her. It might have been pain induced laughter, but it was still the first real feeling she could remember having in weeks. Aside from the pain, that was. Then she had definitely felt a great deal of anger towards the terrorists for ruining her day. And, after being left alone, she had felt something else.

She had thought she might die and had felt that despair.

As monotonous as her life had become in recent weeks, she did not wish to die. However, the feeling was not unwelcome.

But now, lying in the hospital bed, all that was gone. The doctors had put her back together again. Sera would be released. Maybe released without any lasting effects thanks to Zima’s technology. She would go home and…

Resume her regular life.

The doctor returned and returned bearing a glass of water with a small straw for ease of consumption. She held the glass and straw up to Sera’s lips without prompting. Incidentally, moving close enough for Sera to read her identification badge.

Doctor Nadezhda Arc.

Cool rushes of water spread through Sera’s mouth and throat as she greedily sucked down the liquid. Apparently, she had needed that more than she thought.

“Pace yourself,” the doctor said as she lowered the glass, making it harder for Sera to actually drink. “You haven’t had proper food or drink in about five days.”

Sera blinked, letting the straw fall from her lips. Again, she tried her voice.

Instead of sandpaper running up her throat, it felt more like a sponge. Soft around the edges but soaking the moisture to the point where she would need another mouthful after a moment of speaking.

“It’s been that long?”

Her voice still came out with a rasp.

The doctor’s lips parted in a grin. “That long? Ten years ago, you would have been written off for dead. Paralyzed for life at the absolute least.” She stalked over to a cabinet at the side of the room and pulled out a disc, small but thick. Three almost fin-like structures jutted off of it.

“We had to replace three of your lumbar vertebrae and two of your thoracic. The meticulous task of reattaching your spinal cord on either end would have been absolutely impossible a mere two years ago. Thanks to yours truly, you’ll be walking again soon enough without even noticing half your spine has been replaced.”

She set the model vertebrae—because there was no way she would be casually handling an expensive bit of medical tech—right on Sera’s chest as she moved around to the foot of the bed.

As she moved, Sera noticed a dark sheen on top of her neck, mostly hidden beneath her short dark hair. A rectangular metal plate.

She turned to the control panel, blocking sight of her neck again. Sera wasn’t quite sure what it could have been, even with her observational awareness. Doctor Arc wasn’t wearing a necklace that it might have been a clasp to. Not to mention it was larger than a necklace should have anyway. There was nothing in her hair either. Just a plate attached to her neck.

Perhaps an access panel to some cybernetics like what Sera had lying on her chest. She hadn’t heard of anything like that on the conspiracy boards, but this was a Cerebro level medical doctor. Who knew what she had access to.

“Your ribcage and sternum are half titanium, though that technology has been around for a while. But your skin,” she said, pausing for a moment to tap at the panel at the foot of the bed.

The faint light from the device around her arm flickered off. The doctor undid a latch and lifted up the top half of the tube.

Sera winced despite knowing what she would find underneath.

Her flesh was raw. Bright red with white lines. It looked more like a marbled steak than anything she was familiar with.

The doctor hummed, smile slipping into a frown as she got a closer look of Sera’s arm.

“Not responding as well as I had hoped,” she said slowly. “You’ll likely have heavy scarring. Maybe not much feeling in this arm or your legs. We’ll have to see.”

She snapped the tube closed again, moving back to the control panel to start-up whatever treatment was going on beneath the plastic of the tube.

“Ah. While you’re awake,” she said, staring at the panel. “I see in your records that you have been prescribed xenichloroben-thirty-three.”

Sera blinked. Well, that answers that question. She had been unsure which of the three drugs she had been taking for an ear infection was the one that changed her.

A Cerebro level doctor personally treating some nobody Gastro, filling her with enough equipment to ensure that not only did she live but she thrived as well?

Sera was a test subject.

Just as had happened when she had encountered the vex, Sera’s brain took complete control of her body, keeping the expression on her face perfectly natural as Doctor Arc looked up from the panel.

“There have been reports of it causing odd sensations after prolonged use. Nothing deadly or otherwise concerning,” she quickly added. There was a slight twitch near her temple as she tried to assuage worry.

Probably lying, Sera thought.

“But I see you were prescribed two weeks worth roughly a month ago. Have you noticed anything outside of the normal with your body?”

“I’m a bit old for puberty, Doctor.”

Her polite smile turned downwards. “I can see your age here,” she said, tapping the panel. “I’m not interested in those kinds of changes. Just something… perhaps seeing things in new lights, or finding your memory better than it used to be. Other reports were similar to those.”

Sera’s mind crashed for a brief moment. The doctor was all but admitting that she was performing some sort of experiment. Admitting it to the point where Sera was mostly certain that even someone without her ability to break down every word she said would be able to figure it out.

“Wouldn’t you know better than I?” Sera said, coughing slightly. Her throat really was drying out again. “I assume you’ve performed scans on my body either before, during, or after whatever surgeries took place.”

“You have no tumors, if that is what you are thinking of. Apart from your obvious injuries, you’re in excellent health.”

That was good to know. At least she didn’t have to worry about exploding into a mass of cancerous flesh.

“Well, the only thing I can think of is mild depression recently,” Sera said. She didn’t think that was perfectly honest. Her uncaring attitude as of late was not quite what she imagined others suffered from, but it was close enough.

And she wasn’t about to admit to anything else until she learned more about Doctor Arc’s intentions.

The doctor let out an honestly regretful sigh upon hearing Sera’s admission. “Others have reported that as well.” She tapped a few times against the panel before walking towards the door. “I have a few wellness tests that I’d like to perform on you before you sleep again, if you’re feeling up to it. Otherwise, you really should be resting more. Be back in a moment.”

She paused at the door, glancing back into the room with a disappointed expression.

“I’ll assign you a therapist. Sadly, I’m not much of a mind doctor myself.”

Sera watched her go, almost stopping her to ask for another drink before deciding that she could simply ask when the doctor returned.

But, as she lay trapped by the machinery around her, Sera couldn’t help but wonder just how big of a lie her final statement had been.

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Author’s Notes: Still not sure about Nikolai’s parts. Might drop him as a protagonist entirely and move him squarely into side character territory. Of course, he probably won’t be seen for a while if that is the case.

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5 replies on “Analyst 001.002

  1. Thank you kindly for the chapter.

    Nikolai’s part was a nice bit of world-building, at least. :> Random, off the wall opinion: He feels less exciting than Sera.

  2. I agree that he feels less exciting, but I think that’s because he doesn’t have superpowers. Sera is the “lucky” one in that regard. Still, he is needed in order to paint the world from more than one perspective.

    1. That’s not an impossibility, but probably isn’t too likely either. Analyst was so close to being the series following Void Domain. I actually had a large chunk written, more than any other project that I’ve written but haven’t released, but… I don’t know. At some point, I realized that the characters were not acting how they should have acted given their personalities. Something was just off. They were following the outline I created rather than what the characters would have done. As such, I scrapped it all pending a rewrite, but then got distracted with other things like Vacant Throne.

      I would really like to do a story more in the vein of science fiction than fantasy… or maybe science fantasy would be a better term for what I have in mind. But I think it would need more workshopping than what I’ve done for Analyst so far.

  3. I realise that I’m confused about why the rebel alliance is killing the same creatures that the empire wants killed. Unless the empire wants them captured instead, in which case I wonder why the rebel alliance isn’t completely penetrated by them and completely irrelevant.

    > wearing that was something of a cross
    c/that/what/ or if you’re aiming for a lower tax on reader’s grammar, c/that/clothing which was/
    > how big of a lie her final statement had been.
    ‘big of a lie’ is very informal, but makes sense in context. Whose final statement? Sera’s about depression or the doctor’s about mind doctoring?

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