Sequential beeps chimed in Darius Flack’s ears. His vision was of a deep blue, unending universe. Indistinct voices chattered words he could not isolate, they ran into each-other in a din of gibberish. Thin, boney fingers pawed at his skin running across it not softly, but like sand-paper. The deep blue transformed into a swirling cocktail of red, yellow and blue. The beeping ended, and a number of amorphous silhouettes appeared which were slowly illuminated and took shape.
“The operation is complete, Mr. Flack. How do you feel?” Dr. Elias Shraub asked at his bedside, his spectacles resting precariously at the end of his nose.
“The sensitivity of my skin needs calibration. I can adjust that myself however. Otherwise, I am fine.”
“Do you feel any different?”
He lay still on the bed for a moment, then put his hand on his chest, running his finger over a fresh scar where his skin had been carefully cauterised. It thudded and pulsed. In his chest beat a rhythm of natural beauty.
“My heart beats.” He smiled and eyed the doctor with a look of gratitude.
“The cardiovascular implantation has been complete and your new organs are functioning fine, it appears. Your body is still relying on mechanised organs, though I replaced the obsolete parts with more streamlined, smaller ones from your own company’s inventory. After a few more operations you’ll have a full set of organic internal organs with the exception of the brain and a few others as we discussed, of course. Then, we can begin removing the artificial organs and putting your new ones to proper, unassisted use.”
Nurses and technicians made busy in the background, disconnecting life-support systems that were no longer necessary and wheeling them out of the brightly lit, sterile room. Through the door in the corner of the room appeared a large, broad-shouldered man with deathly pale skin and eyes that glowed burnt orange. The intense white light reflected off of his smooth bald head. Cole Traynor, Darius’ oldest friend and head of security.
“How was the operation, Bicentennial Man?” Cole asked cheerfully. Darius knew the cheerful expression masked quiet contempt.
“I’ve got a heart and it’s ticking, Chrome-Dome. And it’s not a heart of gold,” Darius replied with a grin.
“Ticking? Counting down, more like. You’re making my job feel futile in this quest of yours to become a more fully organic being, complete with all the inherent risks and limited life-span.”
Darius rose from the bed, threw off the sheets and quickly slipped into a stylish, tailor-made suit and a shirt whose colour changed dynamically.
“There’s a true beauty to the natural machinery found in animals and man. There’s a rhythm and poetry to how they work in such blissful union. Inside of man is a thunderous choir, no, an orchestra. All this and it was designed by no man’s hand. Just the anomaly and chance of evolution.
“I don’t care to feel like some product that was run off a factory floor any longer. I want to be human. As much as I can be anyway.”
Cole winced. “After what they did to our kind? After the struggle for emancipation? Jesus, you were there. You remember it.” Cole quickly glanced at the doctor, a human, and made a half-hearted shrug showing contrition for his candor. He then removed his leather gloves—something which Darius had forbidden him from doing in public while on duty—and revealed sleek, silver mechanical hands.
“You have it backwards anyway, Darius. This is what you should be aspiring towards. This is what true evolution is… true adaptation. It’s time for technology to take over from nature. When you founded this company, I thought you understood that.”
“I appreciate your opinion but things change. I’m not the Flack Cannon anymore, Cole. I’m going to bed, thanks for coming down. And thanks, Doc. I’ll arrange the next operation ASAP.”
“Sleep, of course…” Cole sighed.
Darius walked down the corridor unsteadily, self-calibrating his functions for optimal use. His settings had been upset by the operation.
He entered an elevator and punched the button for his penthouse apartment. Sleep (if you could call the period of inactivity that) was not necessary for him, a cyborg, but he liked to enjoy the customs of humanity. Some called it eccentricity. Others, cyborgs like him, found these “eccentricities” a pathetic betrayal. He didn’t care. He too had fought for his freedom and as far as he was concerned, he was entitled to do with his life as he saw fit.
Darius rolled over in a bed that was not his, next to a beautiful woman he did not know. He watched her bare chest rise and fall as she gently inhaled and exhaled. He caressed her cheek and brushed her flowing auburn her from her face. Isabelle. Her eyes opened and she smiled, shifting over groggily to him to kiss him.
“We have to leave tomorrow,” he whispered in her ear, as though he were reciting lines from a script.
“I need more time, Julian. I have goodbyes to say. You know that,” she said pleadingly. He felt restlessness and anxiety. He was afraid of something but he did not know what. He felt like saying something but stopped himself, knowing that it would be uncalled for and hurtful.
“We can’t dawdle. It’s not safe here. Not now. No turning back,” he satisfied himself with saying.
She held his hand. His heart raced. “We have some time. You’re good at what you do, Julian. They won’t figure it out til we’re gone. And by then it will be too late.”
He wasn’t so sure of that. Of what? He rose from the bed and entered the kitchen. The apartment was small and relatively spartan, but comfortable. He approached the sink and poured himself a glass of water to lubricate his dry throat. As he drank it down he stared out the window at the skyscraper dominated skyline. Dead in the centre of his view was the Flack Industries Tower where they designed all kinds of advanced prosthetics for civil and military use. It was the biggest building in the city. And it was his too.
He heard bare feet slapping against the tile floor and turned around to see Isabelle again. She smiled and rested her ahead against his chest.
Darius woke up again in a bed that was his. Alone and disoriented. He turned over and searched frantically for Isabelle for a few moments before his systems began to process environmental information at full efficiency. A dream or a nightmare or something else? He still felt pangs of emotion that he could not explain; a cocktail of fear, anxiety, grief and love.
A dream, a nightmare or a memory? He put his hand on his heart which beat normally, still virtually autonomous from his other bodily functions although very much a part of him.
He got out of bed and entered his wardrobe where he slipped on casual clothes; jeans, a white t-shirt and a leather jacket. He then put on dark sun-glasses to conceal his eyes. Discretion was key; sunglasses would draw some attention at night but he decided that if he kept his head down people would not scrutinise him too closely. The bright orange hue of his eyes was the give-away that he was a non-human. Where he was going, being a cyborg could be very dangerous.
Not content that he would simply blend in and be safe, he unlocked a secret compartment in his armoire and removed a laser pistol which he then stuffed down his jeans.