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The Empathy Syndrome

by Chris Marshall

Waiting in that office alone, I wondered what was going to become of me. For the first time in my life, my future wasn’t in my hands. This bothered me and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it.

The office was in something of a beige, corporate decor, and I could tell the wheelchair I was sitting in, along with the rest of the furniture was rather expensive. The office did have one major plus as far as I could see. It had a large bay window spanning the wall to the right of me which overlooked most of Tokyo.

The door opened behind me and in walked a short but stocky Japanese man, which didn’t surprise me. It seemed like I was the only person in this building who wasn’t Japanese.

"Kive Nakao?", the man asked as he sat down at the desk in front of me.

"Yeah, that’s me".

"My name is Mr. Yamamoto. I’m the minister of administrations for Arasaka. Are you familiar with our organization?" I was surprised by the lack of a Japanese accent in his voice and figured him to be American.

"You are an advanced security operations organization, privately funded and have clientele all over the world."

"Well, since it seems you already know what we do, let’s get to your role in things. In light of recent events, you along with a select few of the surviving members of your party, will now become special operations agents for Arasaka. You will be given assignments to complete, with the aid of a few other specially selected agents. Before we go any further, I would like you to tell me briefly what happened while you were in the mountains".

"What other select few?"

"The captain and Lol were the only ones we disposed of. Everyone else will be used, including Seven". I let out a sigh of relief. Seven was my friend who had given his life for me many times over. One of the only people I still trusted.

"Eight of us were stranded in that building. We could’ve left, but where could we go? We would have frozen by morning, so we searched the building."

"Who searched the building?" Mr. Yamamoto interrupted.

"Myself, Curtis, Seven, Steve, Dave and Dave. Winn stayed with the captain who was in some sort of shock. We found some basic supplies like food, blankets, glow rods and what not. After a few days, Dave Ackerman was killed by that chameleon soldier of yours. Not too long after that, Seven and Dave Gray got the heat working from the boiler rooms. It was a few days later when Steve saw the soldier you put there, tried to shoot him but of course it didn’t do anything. After that we stuck together."

"When did the other party show up?"

"Shortly after the boiler room exploded; when Dave Gray died and Seven got fried. They showed up and acted like they owned the place. Of course they all had guns, and that psycho borg, Lol, while we had next to nothing. They locked us up, and tried to torture Steve. If we had tried to save him, Lol would have killed all of us in a matter of seconds. Afterwards we managed to escape. It helped that your ‘chameleon super soldier’ killed a couple of them. We not only had to hide from them, but from the soldier as well. Finally, he attacked us. More specifically me."

"Yes, it chose you because you had an injured leg and were the weakest prey. We’re still amazed at how you survived after it tore your other leg off," Mr. Yamamoto paused for a moment. "You weren’t expected to live".

"Thanks for your confidence, but I don’t die very easily".

"And that’s exactly why we chose you. We don’t take kindly to our agents dying while on assignment, so we only pick the best, and we make sure they have the best cybernetic technology available to them. This brings me to my next point," Mr. Yamamoto passed a piece of paper to me over the desktop. "After your physical, we comprised this list of cybernetic modifications we’d like you to consider".

I took the paper in my hand.

"You say that like I have some choice in the matter."

"Just take a look and tell me if there’s anything you’d like to add," insisted Mr. Yamamoto.

I began to study the list. I saw things like armour and hydraulic rams for my cyber-arm, a new leg of course, muscle and bone lace, nano surgeons, a second cyber-eye, to be equipped with a targeting scope, a times-square marquee, and radio-link to be installed into my neural processor.

"The only thing I have a problem with is the other eye".

"What’s the problem?"

"I like having a natural eye. Sometimes I see things that my other one can’t."

"Well, I wish there was a way around that. All our operatives must be equipped with a targeting scope in each eye for absolute accuracy. The only choice you have are the other two options you want to put in it."

"And my leg?"

"I’m sorry but your request for a flesh leg instead of a cybernetic one has been denied. We feel it’s best this way." Mr. Yamamoto showed little sympathy for the situation. I noticed that he also had two cybernetic eyes along with an assortment of other implants, and realized that things of this matter were non-negotiable.

"Is it possible to have my eye kept in stasis?"

"I’m sure that won’t be a problem. Of course full ER Therapy will be made available to you should you need it. That’s Empathy Recovery Therapy in case you didn’t know," I nodded. "Now if there’s no more questions, your refitting will begin in the Surgery Bay at 0800 hours tomorrow morning".

"No, that’s fine".

A few days had passed since my meeting with Mr. Yamamoto. My new cybernetic leg had been attached a few days earlier. I forgot just how painful the recovery experience would be, and I was growing slightly more agitated every time I thought about it.

There was a mirror above me attached to the ceiling and I could see myself perfectly. My hair wasn’t its normal shade of blue and it had been ages since I’d seen my eyes without my deep-blue, one-way contacts covering them.

The doctors were surrounding me now as they prepared to remove my eye. The thought of this operation angered me no end. As I lay there on the operating table, my mind began to wander. Who did these people think they were? I wanted to scream. I felt so helpless, and I felt myself becoming less human everyday. My heart was beating a little slower now. I could feel it. It didn’t have as much flesh to circulate through. It was like I could almost feel the blood being rerouted once it got to where my leg used to start. I had had my cyber–arm since I was in the military a few years back, and I was satisfied with that. What choice did I have though? They wouldn’t give me a flesh leg. Would I rather be on supports for the rest of my life having everyone take advantage of me, robbing me, forcing me to beg for handouts? I would rather they just kill me now.

I laid there and stared at my only remaining natural eye in the mirror, and watched it go out of sight as the doctors around me hooked the tubes up to my neural processor. I felt like I was dying as I felt my eyes uncontrollably close. I felt them swell with tears as I began to cry. I felt like I would never open them again, and I really wouldn’t. Not for real anyways. I don’t even know if they saw me. I didn’t care. I wanted to kill them. I wanted to kill everyone, but the restraints and the drugs kept me from moving.

I could feel myself slowly regaining consciousness. I was so afraid to open my eyes. I hated Arasaka. I hated more the fact that they owned me now. No, I think I just hated the fact that when I opened my eyes it would never be the same again. I took a deep breath and opened them. It was a sensation I was only fifty percent familiar with. It seemed slightly more digital now. I made full rotations around the room with my new optical device. I was afraid to even call it an eye. I was caught up in my new device for a moment as I lifted my head and zoomed in to various sections of the room, and engaged my targeting scope. Then I stopped as I saw myself in the mirror above me. I felt like a machine. I felt ugly. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t now. I felt myself starting to slip away. Rage began to swell inside me. I wanted to kill someone, but no one was around, which frustrated me even more. I fought with the restraints, but it was no use. Before another thought entered my mind, two men stepped into the room and shot me. I was helpless. I could feel myself growing drowsy again.

"Take him downstairs and start him on ER Therapy as soon as he wakes up".

Let Chris know what you think. Send him email:
Chris Marshall

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