Awakening   by Matthew Swallow

Steve woke up screaming. He was strapped to a hard, cold metal bed but as soon as the sensors within the room detected he had regained consciousness, the straps automatically opened.

He stopped screaming and sat up, the memory of the missile salvo that destroyed his gunnery emplacement was raw in his mind, as it seemed only moments since the impact had turned his friend and the rest of the squad into pulp and thrown him luckily back through the open hatchway. He had blacked out then and realised now that someone or something, perhaps one of the ship droids, had dragged him to the medical shutes that automatically transported the injured to the medical deck.

It dawned on him that he wasn’t in one of the standard medical wards in which he had been given his arrival medical, he looked around him at the blank, sterile white walls starting to comprehend where he was. The huge sensor suite behind him finally made him accept that he was in the cyborg processing facility. He screamed again as he slowly looked down at the previously ignored pulsing in his left arm and leg, the scream turned low and guttural as he realised that the majority of the left had side of his body had been replaced. He tried to calm down, tried to control his breathing before looking again at his new body. A mixture of revulsion and awe coursed through him and he started to listen to the signals his body was giving him, he could feel the heat coming from the small nuclear power cell, now buried in his leg and the tingling of nerves now connecting up new but strangely familiar motor control systems.

The battle cruiser he was on shuddered massively and he had to grab hold of the bed straps to stop from falling, was the battle still raging outside? How long had the operation taken?

He had been awake for less than two minutes and still struggling to come to terms with the situation when the ward door slid open and a ship officer burst in through the room, his uniform looked immaculate and he was clearly used to operating from the heavily defended and shielded core of the ship. Steve took a moment to try to remove the fog still sitting in his mind and then remembered this officer from the pre battle briefing, the ships XO had come to see him in person?

Ensign, your entire team and the gun emplacement were wiped out in that last attack, XO Mason bellowed, you are here-by field promoted to gunnery sergeant; get down to Torpedo bay 4 NOW! The Hirondelle is about to pass under the enemy’s heavy support carrier and Torpedo bay 4 will have a clean shot at the recently exposed reactor core before the enemy can bring in another ship to protect the hole. Move move move!

Steve sprang up, reacting slightly faster to this order than he would normally have done, the fog finally lifting and he set off down the corridor at a run. He had heard stories, rumours from un-trustworthy sources, that cyber soldiers had conditioning software buried into their interface system, making for a more compliant space force, but surely they were just rumours?

He ran with a new speed from the power that coursed through him, surprised that his right leg wasn’t slowing him down he thought it must just have been the quality of the software countering the different capabilities of his body.

The ship shook again, immediately klaxons wailed and the ship wide speakers demanded the emergency repair crews head to deck 2, this announcement was immediately followed by another re-tasking the repair crew and calling the shipboard special commandos to repel boarders now identified at the breach on deck 2.

Steve ran on, it was now 60 seconds since the XOs barked orders and he had reached Torpedo bay 4, as he burst into the room he was met with the sight of blood and gore coating the walls and the equipment, virtually everything was dripping in ichor. This was typical of a hyper concussion missile strike, difficult to get through modern shielding but deadly to the crew on the inside, as a massive compressive wave ripped through the kill zone, obliterating flesh but leaving equipment intact for ships that were targeted for capture rather than destruction.

Fortunately for Steve as he sat at the torpedo firing station he discovered that the carrier had already been targeted and the torpedo loaded before the concussion missile had struck, so all he needed to do was develop the firing solution and keep the target painted during flight. The Alliance had agreed that no weapons platform would be capable of independent action, more afraid of rogue AI controlled ships stalking humanity than the loss of shipboard efficiency.

He had gotten there just in time with just 30 seconds to target the exposed ship and strike a decisive blow in this battle. The firing solution went purple, indicating it was at the optimum position and he fired, guiding the station round with his feet while holding the tracking with his hands he noticed a flashing red light on the upper section of his firing screen. Expanding this he saw that an incoming missile was targeted on his station, normally these would be knocked out by the gunnery crew, but as that was the place he had just recently been revived from, he knew this missile would almost certainly get through. He calculated the time to impact and realised it would hit him 2 seconds after the minimum time the torpedo needed to have the target painted, not enough time to get out of the room and to minimum safe distance.

He made a decision that would affect the rest of his life, he decided to leave the torpedo room and get to safety.

Since waking Steve’s actions had been closely monitored by the shipboard intelligence and once the on-board AI calculated with a certainty above 75% what Steve was going to do, a video screen showing Steve in the Torpedo room was brought up on the XO’s command console along with a recommended course of action. The XO activated an emergency protocol and as Steve tried to get up to safety his cyborg leg and arm went rigid, locked in position and on the firing consol.

For the final time that day Steve screamed, clawing at his metallic captor he tore his finger nails but failed to dislodge himself. He looked back at the firing screen, the torpedo couldn’t miss now, he looked at the incoming missile, still screaming he closed his eyes and the next second his world erupted in light and sound.

Steve didn’t open his eyes but he could see, he was staring at the wreck of the torpedo bay but somehow his screen was still working though cracked and broken. The torpedo would detonate in a matter of seconds and as his gaze went out to the carrier he realised he could see the torpedo, some kind of optical zoom was working in his eye, initially unconsciously and then consciously he saw the missile strike and the huge carrier replaced by a brief but powerful sun, then nothing.

What the hell was going on, what was he? He almost dared not look down at what was left of what could not possibly be considered his body anymore. He was more than a cyborg; something new, something outlawed under the alliances own war crimes agreement. He got up, now able to move and searched for something reflective to enable him to look at what he still thought of as his face. Before he could find anything the XO’s voice came through on an intercom he didn’t realise he had, Gunnery Sergeant Steve stop wasting time, I have another urgent mission for you.