Suggested by: R. R. Virdi
17:00 standard Earth military time
not so distant dyson sphere
The red giant sun blazed through the windows as Irissa slumped against the warm pane of reinforced transparent steel. Slowly, she drew her knees toward her chest, grimacing as the skin of her right hand slipped on the metallic surface of her right. She scowled at the not-so-distant Dyson sphere, that seemed to rest on the nearby cloud. A tiny alarm blipped as she felt her blood pressure climbing, and Irissa fought the urge to fold her body tighter on itself as the metallic chest plates whined in protest. Irissa released her hold and let her knees flop, exposing the cybernetic rig that had replaced the right side of her torso.
With her good left hand, she brushed a stray lock of straight blond hair from her face.
"So much for being the hero," she grumbled, brushing the array of glowing circuits spreading over her shoulder. The phantom ache in her arm that wouldn't go away served as a constant reminder of the event that warranted the prostheses.
Once, she lived on the terraformed colony of Yraxxan. She had been happy in the agrarian society, amid the clamor of harvesters and livestock. Her life's focus had been to explore and find the joy in the moment. She had traversed the small colony from one end to the other—and yet there was always some unexpected detail that would make her smile.
A visit from the Governor changed all that.
He arrived with his entourage in fancy ships of some sleek metal that always shined, even in the dead of night. The Governor never went anywhere without his sleek personal skimmer, which was roughly the same shape as the other ships, albeit on a smaller, single-occupancy scale.
To a people who understood engines and motors and wheels, the advanced antigravity technology was borderline miraculous. The smooth machine seemed to coast along the surface of th ground as easily as a boat drifting through the water. Only Irissa knew just how much of a punch one of these miraculous vehicles could pack.
She groaned as the space where muscle and bone met machine began to ache.
"Stupid child!" She hissed through gritted teeth.
To this day, Irissa didn't even know her name. The little urchin had been directly in the path of the Governor's skimmer, and far too short for him to see, so Irissa had complied with her instincts and ran in front of the skimmer to snatch the girl up. She remembered the small body rolling away from her, the slight press of the skimmer, the sensation of flying—and the distinct snap of bones breaking as her right side crashed into a stone wall. That was the last time she had been able to move her organic right side.
The Governor, of course, did what he could: generously paid off witnesses, withdrew from the planet, taking Irissa's mangled body with him and assuring everyone he would personally see her body repaired by the best medical professionals in the galaxy. The crash had shattered her rib cage, splintered her arm, and snapped her collarbone... But there was nothing modern medicine couldn't fix.
This was why she now sat in a state-of-the-art medical facility, many orbits from Yraxxan. They replaced the damaged parts of her body with titanium prosthetics: a chest plate that covered her left side as well, an arm modeled after her left one, and all the latest developments in cybernetic technology. Irissa stood with a sigh and looked down the length of her mechanical arm. Clenching the metal hand into a fist, she drew back and punched the concrete wall as hard as she could. Chips flew, and a spiderweb of cracks spread across its surface. She had not even felt the impact beyond that side of her spine.
A slow clap echoed behind her.
"Impressive, but maybe you should save that for the Demonstration."
Irissa whirled around as a young man with thick dark hair strode into the room she'd been living in during her stay. She glared at him.
"It's not a Demo; they're going to test me." She crossed her arms, tucking her left arm into the crook of her right. "I'm not going, Roneesh."
He sighed. "Sis—"
"I mean it! What if they want to replace more of my body? I'm already half-cyborg. What if they decide to weaponize me?"
Roneesh nodded to the dent in the wall. "It might help if you didn't act like a weapon, Riss."
She huffed and sat on the lounge next to him. He reached around and rubbed her left shoulder. "They just want to see what you're capable of, Irissa. If you want to just be normal with your cybernetics, then just act normally. You still have your brain. You are not a machine."
"But I am, Ronnie!" Irissa pulled away, looking at her arm. "I am only half a person."
Her brother took both her hands, forcing her gaze up into his eyes. "You have half a body, true. But that doesn't make you half a person. You are still my sister, completely and all the way. That will never change." He grinned at her. "How about if I go with you? I will be right there next to the doctors running the tests, and if even one of them tries anything, I'll pull you out, okay?"
Irissa felt her heart rate elevate within the titanium casing. She smiled at him. "All right," she said. "I'll do it."
"'Atta girl!" Roneesh cheered. He held her left hand as the two of them reported to the medical bay.
"Irissa Marie Carlisle," she stated her full name to the automated receptionist. "Reporting for Cybernetic Assessment Trials."
"Very good," said the digitized voice. "Doctor Rong-Ja is ready for you."
The doors hissed open. Irissa and Roneesh stepped into a single darkened arena, the size of a school gym. Nothing moved.
Irissa stepped forward. "Hello?" She called, her voice echoing in the empty room. "I'm here!"
A video screen flickered to life, projected on a smooth wall overlooking the arena. The face staring down at them could not have been much older than Ronnie, and still much younger than Irissa's father.
"Hello?" Blue eyes blinked behind thick glasses as the young man brushed unruly locks of messy brown hair from his face. "Ah! My little cyborg. How are we doing today?"
Irissa winced at the reference. But at least Ronnie was still with her. "I'm fine; let's just get this over with!"
Dr. Rong-Ja waved his hand. "Okay, okay; I will just be running some simulations for you, and all you have to do is react as you normally would. Think you can manage that?"
"Good. Okay, so the time is 1700 Earth Military Standard, Subject Irissa Carlisle, Test One." He flipped a switch, plunging the whole room into darkness as a voice boomed out from everywhere at once:
Previously in This Series: