Hylant took a moment to compose herself before she entered the medical wing. Her fronds faded from agitated pink to calm blue, her gills stilled their frantic flutter. She took a breath. This was always the hardest part of her work.
They took the news in different ways. Shouting and screaming were bad. Crying was harder. It was difficult to be professional with battle-hardened warriors weeping in front of her. The worst ones tried to tear off their offending limbs, or kill themselves rather than face the abomination that they’d become.
Abomination though it may be, it was necessary. Civilians who lost a limb could go without, learning to live handicapped. But this was war. Soldiers had to work at peak efficiency, and that meant the twisted marriage of flesh and metal that Hylant had to work with so often. She calmed them and comforted them, but they were always changed afterwards. Their former comrades never treated them the same, and how could they? The patients themselves seemed diminished, shell-shocked, like their arms or legs had stolen their vitality when they left.
Still, the recent progress in the field was definitely helping. The prosthetics were becoming more and more realistic, more indistinguishable from a living limb. The soldiers could pretend, almost believe, that they had not become a monster.
She stroked the datasheet with a long webbed finger. Hmm. This particular patient was one of the mercenaries picked up from the various neutral systems, from a fledgling race known as the Humans. They were rarely seen, and the doctors had never needed to make a prosthetic for such a species before, but they had done their best and assured her that it was up to par. She’d have to see for herself.
She opened the door. The human was conscious, sitting up on a bed never designed for his race, secured for his own safety. His prosthetic arm was well done, so well done that Hylant had to check the chart to know which was which, but it was his face she was more concerned with. His eyes, startlingly high on his head, were wide, and an alien blue. His teeth were bared in a snarl, but Hylant had been told that on a human, such a threat display was actually a social gesture of greeting and familiarity.
“Hi!” he said.
Hylant tried to return the expression, but drawing the teeth back felt bizarre. “Lance-Corporal Simon Grant, I am Pesbekidal Hylant, your caretaker. Are you… aware of what has happened?”
“Yup,” he said cheerfully. “I got my arm blown off down in Miksar 8, so you guys fixed me up with a new one.”
“What? Who told you?” This was bad. Patients had to be told of such a traumatic event by a trained professional. The very idea that someone had callously told him, then left him alone… luckily, he seemed to be a hysterical. They tended not to harm themselves until the shock wore off.
“Oh, no one told me,” he said, mouth still bared in a human smile. “I figu
Message too long. Click here
to view the full text.