The Choice

Mack paced their room back and forth, as MedBay, the medical bot, reached its metal arms out to try to wrap Mack in gauze.

“What the fuck was I looking at?” Mack mumbled to themselves.

“Please hold still, please hold still, please hold still, please hold still,” MedBay cried out.

“MACK!”

Mack stopped walking, MedBay quieted as Zahari hovered into the room.

“I managed to bust through that firewall before we left and guess the fuck what!?”

Mack stared at Zahari, the words she said sounding far off and distorted.  The soft beeps and whirrs from MedBay were the only thing that sounded normal.

“That whole area is a military base.  I managed to get a few encrypted files, probably just junk cookies, but you never know!  I’m go— Are you alright?”

MedBay buzzed, doing a scan of Mack’s body.

“Temperature, normal, 3rd and 4th ribcage fractured, seek medical attention.”

“T-Thank you, MedBay.  I thought you said that thing can do open heart surgery?” Mack asked, letting the bot finally wrap Mack in gauze and ace bandages.

“I mean, it can but you know… Secret military bullshit,” Zahari said, Mack mocking her, having heard that excuse many times before.

Mack and Zahari came together by chance, the story still not funny, but certain moments can cause a chuckle depending on the right alcohol.  They were close in age, but the common generational comforts that were around they did not share, but certain memories were part of their shared background.  Mack’s first memory was push-ups, sit-ups, and a mile run; Zahari’s was helping their mother put together a computer from old parts.  Childhood was military school and inner city tech programs.  Teenagedom was full of gun training classes and accelerated courses in math and sciences.   They had passed by each other once at one of the science conventions, but life was different then.  Early adulthood sent Mack into a lie that was meant to destroy their whole platoon. Zahari ended up dropping out of college once her mother died, ending up in a group of other tech nerds who ended up siphoning money from accounts of rich people and dispersing it among their community.  Mack and Zahari didn’t actually meet until prison, however.

“Just say you don’t know the fucking code to break the shit because out of all the military secrets I have seen today, your’s is not even remotely a problem,” Mack said, sitting down on their bed.

The ship hovered in the asteroid belt of the system next to the one where the dance happened.  Zahari peeked out the window, a cool purple sun dancing millions of miles away.

“I watched that whole thing before it cut off and wow.  It really was you.  Are you okay?”  Zahari asked, looking at Mack’s face.  It cracked, a small tear running down their face.

“I’ve had this… This nightmare before where I was me… But from like hundreds of years ago.  And I had to fight myself and the fact that THIS is happening is uh… unsettling in the least!  So, I feel like I need–”

“A coffee?”  A voice called from the door.  A tall, muscular person walked into the room.  Their face was colored with bronze, eyes, and lips a muted gold, their dark skin glowing against the makeup.

“Rihal!”  Zahari called out, hugging them at the waist.  Rihal bent down and kissed Zahari’s head, squeezing her tightly before walking over to Mack, handing them the coffee.  Mack smiled and took a small sip, their fuck scrunching up.

“Ohh ho ho, that is a LOT of whiskey,” Mack wheeze, placing a hand on their chest.  “This is no longer a coffee, this is a night out, damn.”

“Well, I mean, after the bullshit I just saw you do, I feel like you need it, shit,” Rihal said, side-eyeing Mack.  “Fucking fighting your taller self, the fuck.”

Mack laughed. “I imagine that would be frightening for you, you’re practically seven feet.”

“And the fuck I look like fighting ME at 7’6″?!  Nope!”

Rihal was Mack and Zahari’s boss essentially, even though Rihal was apart of a much bigger network of spies and secret tellers.  They had met after Mack and Zahari managed to get out of prison.  Five years of odd jobs before Mack found something that shook them to their core.  They asked Rihal if they could do this mission. Rihal responded yes, but with no backing since it was personal. Rihal sent fuel cards and grocery money, though. Rihal didn’t want to get involved until they read a field report from Mack about a facility that the company Rihal worked for did plenty of business in.  Rihal had been doing a lot “housecleaning” in the organization and something about this one didn’t seem fresh.

“Are you alright?” Rihal asked.  Mack nodded, taking another sip of the 3 parts whiskey, 1 part coffee mixture.

“Nope, this isn’t helping but dammit, do I feel good right now.  When are we going to see an actual doctor?” Mack asked, looking at Zahari.  Zahari took a deep breath.  Rihal stepped in before Zahari said anything.

“I’m owed a favor by someone.  They are sending their personal doctor immediately to these coordinates within the week, so I would advise you head out now.”  Mack and Zahari stared at Rihal whose face showed no emotion at this time.  Rihal looked over at Zahari, who looked away immediately.  Rihal adjusted their suit jacket and tie, nodding to each of them before leaving.

Mack chugged the coffee, tossing the empty cup in the trash as they clutched their burning chest.

“Whatever Rihal put in that is strong as hell,” Mack complained, eyes trying to focus as the alcohol started to make itself home in Mack’s body.

“Well, by the time that hangover kicks in and you wake up, we should be where that doctor is.  We should be there in two days, I know you’re probably gonna sleep the entire–”  Zahari was busy looking at the map and putting into the data to take the ship there before she turned around and noticed that Mack was already passed out on their bed. “– time…”

The planet that the doctor was going to meet them was a lush, green world full of colorful, dangerous flowers and plants.  One of the plants was the size of a tiger and would only eat small rodents that found their way into its maw.  Mack was up before Zahari for once, staring at a lime green flower that size of their fist open up for the sun as it rose above the horizon.  A black dot started to grow bigger as it headed toward the ship.  It was another ship, a blue and red logo on the front to show that it was a medical ship.  Mack got dressed, ignoring the hail from the ship.

Zahari answered it from her bed, only to roll back over and continue to sleep.

The doctor was a small, fat man with a great big beard that had jewelry sprinkled into it.  He was followed by a team of MedBays.  He wore round sunglasses and a headwrap, locs coming from the top of it.  Mack met with him in the actual medical bay of the ship.

“Good morning!” He said cheerily, smiling a smile that almost blinded Mack.  “I’ve been on a ship similar to yours, so I knew my way around.  I’m Dr. Mishka, I’ll be your caretaker!  I hope I didn’t disturb you?”

“Morning, and no you did not.  I’ve been up for a while,” Mack replied with a small smile.

“Well!” Dr. Mishka clapped his hands together.  “Let’s look you over and see what needs to be done!  Go, team!”

The doctor’s MedBays circled around Mack.  Mack’s own MedBay sat in the corner, a soft beep emitting from it as if it was giving off a sad sigh.

Dr. Mishka stared at a computer screen, all the readings the MedBays were giving him pulling up at a pace only he could understand.

“We are going to have to replace your teeth, add some molding to your entire ribcage, how the fuck did you do that?”

Mack laughed.  “Well, I fell from a 5 story building a year ago.  Landed front first on a car.  Then, a couple of months ago, I got hit by a car.  And then like 5 weeks ago, I was speared by a taller version of me, so… You can say I haven’t been good to my body, haha…”

Dr. Mishka just stared at Mack.

“…riiiiiight…”

Zahari hovered in hours later.  Mack was laying in bed, one of the doctor’s MedBay’s scanning their body for any more hairline fractures to set.

“Well, hey there, sleepy head, nice of you to join in my torture,” Mack said, a bit woozy from the sedatives that Dr. Mishka gave them.

Dr. Mishka popped his head up from behind his computer, smiling at Zahari.

“Good morning!  Would you also like an exam?  I have a MedBay on standby!”

The MedBay he referred to beeped in acknowledgment.

Zahari quickly shook her head and smiled.

Dr. Mishka nodded.  “Of course.  But please let me know if you change your mind.  Your friend here is going to be worked on for a few more days.”

“DAYS!?” Mack and Zahari yelled out.

“Mhm.  Is it alright if I talk to you privately, Mack?  Patient confidentially and all that.”

Zahari looked over at Mack, who nodded.

“I’ll be outside…” Zahari mumbled, leaving the room.

Dr. Mishka got up, making sure the door was closed before walking over to Mack.  He sat on the edge of the bed and took a deep breath.

“So, your body is full of experimental technology.  I know, it was a shock to me, too.”

Mack’s mouth was wide open.

“The reason you aren’t falling apart like a normal person and why you could take a spear through a wall and a table is because of this.  You heal quickly from bruising, and you clot fast as well.  When you break bones, it seems that this tech holds the bone together until you can actually get it set.  You broke your ankle several times, I saw, but the tech created a sort of cocoon around the break so you were still able to move.”

“So it can do all that, but I don’t have superpowers?” Mack asked, chuckling at their own joke.  Dr. Mishka hesitated.

“Rihal asked me to bring some tech that they… he??… had found while cleaning up and wanted me to test it on you.  The tech in you could… give you “superpowers”.”

Mack looked up at Dr. Mishka and nodded.

“Sign me the fuck up, then, chief.”

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