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Blanking the Slate

Serris · 921 · 109062

aabicus (LettuceBacon&Tomato)

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There was a sharp intake of breath as Soren finally scraped against living muscle. Emilena bit her lip and closed her eyes and forced her heatbeat to return to normal. She'd come dangerously close to flinching, and not even because the pain was overwhelming; it was just unexpected after so much numbness. Not letting that happen again... she thought grimly to herself.


Serris

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Soren tried not to look at the vile mixture inside the metal pan. He continued using the scalpel to scrape the dead tissue away from the bone while Axel washed it away.

After several minutes of tedious scraping and washing, all the dead tissue had been removed, leaving behind healthy pink muscle. Unfortunately, the ends of the bone revealed a different story; while the saline washing and careful scraping had removed most of the dead marrow, the bone was still badly splintered.

Soren let out an exhale, fixing the splintered ends was going to be difficult. He then spoke a command to Axel's smartphone and the chapter on orthopedic surgery on the hand was brought up.

"Axel, could you pass me bone-metal graft?" he asked

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Axel grimaced as the rotten flesh fell away to reveal more and more healthy tissue. When Soren asked for the graft, he nodded. "Yeah. Here." As he handed it over he had to admit to himself, Emilena was dealing with the situation better than he ever could.


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The bone-metal graft was a piece of spongy titanium that shaped almost exactly like the bones of the arm. Soren carefully slid the tips into the hollowed out cavities of Emilena's bones.

He held the joint in position with both hands. "Axel, I need you to use the gun to inject the setting cement into where I put the graft into the bone and around the graft-bone junction."

Setting cement was a mixture of calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, biocompatible silica, agar-based aerogel and osteoblast growth factors. It was designed to secure orthopedic implants and induce bone to grow around and into the implant to permanently secure it in place.

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Emilena bit her lip so hard she drew blood. Her heartrate accelerated and she forced herself to concentrate on something else. A jingle, a passage from a book...anything the required effort to recite would keep her sufficiently distracted from Soren's work that she could maintain her promise of not getting in the way. Besides, she didn't need the sight of her skinned phalanges forever burned into her memory banks.


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His face grim, Axel carefully pressed down on a button on the side of the gun as he tried to hold the device steady. The cement eased out of the tip and as it started to settle into and around the joints, Axel worked his way across, trying to make sure he applied it evenly. Shit... is that too much? He had no idea - but under the circumstances it was probably the best Emilena was going to get.

"Alright, I think it's done," he said finally, setting the gun back down on the tray.


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As Axel applied the cement, Soren used a probe to gently scrape away the excess the excess cement and ensure it set the implant into place. Luckily, the cement also contained antimicrobial peptides to combat infection.

"And now we wait," Soren said. He then turned to Emilena. "Emilena, the cement will take about ten minutes to set. In the meantime, I'm going to start preparing your new hand."

He got out what looked like a helmet with a bunch of wires attached to it from another table. Several electrode pads were visible as well. "Axel, I'm going to map the nerves. Could you get her hooked up while I hook the hand up to the neurotester?"

Soren then threw his gloves away and got out the neurotester, a boxy plastic object with several plugs for the electrode leads. He got the hand in question, and making no one saw him, discreetly soldered the chip Rhaegson had given him to the main neural-circuit interface. He then placed the circuit board back into the hand and examined the hand further. He saw the distinct coiled springs of electroactive metal muscles. Far stronger than biological muscle, had same reaction time but its movements were somewhat stiff; Emilena would be able to do nearly everything but crocheting, sewing, calligraphy and other fine manipulation would be a challenge.

He then hooked the sleek grey composite hand to the neurotester and placed it on a stand in front of Emilena.

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"How...how long's the recovery time we're talking here?" Emilena muttered through gritted teeth. With the cleaning out of the way, she hoped the worst was behind her, but unfortunately the coming part was where she lost her ability to extrapolate from previous experience. "I'm not interested in...three to five weeks before a followup appointment."

She looked at her new hand. It looked almost exactly like a healthy organic hand, not like the rejected prop from Metropolis she was envisioning in her head. "So what, is my fur gonna grow over that or something, or will I have to wear gloves for the rest of my life?"


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Soren sighed. He had dealt with some remarkably stupid questions when working with some of his low-class clients but this one was at the top of the heap for idiocy. "You just seriously asked me if your fur will grow over an artificial limb?"

The prosthesis immediately gave the middle finger to Emilena when Soren tinkered with a few commands on the neurotester's keyboard.  

"The answer is no," Soren replied. "As for recovery time. I'd say maybe a week. Give or take a few days."

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"Well, excuse me for not knowing if skin grafts were involved, asshole! Ow!" Emilena tasted blood when she bit her lip after instinctively trying to ball her ruined fist. "You gonna cover it in hair or something? I was damn clear that it needed to be indistinguishable from flesh and blood!"


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Soren scowled. "If you want your hand to look dick-shrivelingly horrifying, then yes, I could do a skin graft. But for now, you'll need to wear a glove."

He then fiddled with the neurotester's controls some more. "Axel," he said. "You ready?"

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Axel nodded. "Yeah, give me a second." He shrugged at Emilena as he started shaking loose wires free from the helmet. "You can get fake fur to put on it, but... I guess they forgot to mention they didn't have the resources for that. Shit happens, right? Watch your ears." Axel carefully placed the helmet over her head and started fixing the pads over her skin.

 "Maybe we can find a way to get it later. Alright, we're good to go, Soren," he said, glancing at the human and stepping back.


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Soren nodded as the display showed a digital representation of Emilena's brain. "All right we're ready to map," he said. "Think about flexing your fingers one at a time. Start with the thumb."

He looked at the hand on the display and watched for it to move.

"Oh, Emilena," he added. "There's one thing I forgot to mention, this hand doesn't have a backup power source. Once the battery's dead, you'll need to recharge it or get a disposable one." All but the cheapest prostheses contained backup power sources. Most of them consisted of supercapacitors but some used implantable glucose fuel cells.

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"Awesome." Emilena grumbled. "Another thing I'll be fixing as soon as I can get to a real cyberneticist." Obligingly she attempted to twitch each finger, grimacing as she did so; the skin and muscles were still incredibly tender.


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Axel grunted as Emilena flexed her fingers. "Okay... looks like the connections are all fine." The movement looked stiff and painful, but given the circumstances of the procedure, he wasn't surprised. "Looks like we're almost done here, right?"


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"One last thing," Soren said as he finished mapping the neural links. He turned to Axel. "Axel, could you get the hand ready for attachment while I get the cold plasma wand?"

Soren picked up a slender metallic wand and pressed the ignition button. With a gentle hissing and crackling noise, a fan-shaped plume of pink-blue ionized gas streamed from the head. He gently waved the wand over Emilena's healthy tissue. The wand's cold plasma stream killed most of the bacteria on Emilena's wound.

"Okay, the last thing I'm going to do once Axel attaches the arm is to bandage the attachment site for a bit. Eventually, it should integrate into part of your body like a real hand. I'll leave you hooked up to the neurotester for a bit so the final programming can be done." Soren didn't look up from his meticulous work with the cold plasma wand.

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Emilena hissed as the cold wand decontaminated her hand. She hoped the hiss of the wand itself masked it. She couldn't ask what she wanted to, which was whether the painful part was over, so she settled for lying as still as she could. Her mind couldn't help thinking about the new neural pathways, which was causing her hand to attempt to execute the new commands. For the time being it felt more like her hand was remote-controlled than a part of her. Like a five-year old, she was going to have to relearn how to use her right hand. I wonder if it'd be easier to just become left-handed...

Behind all of them, the burly mare was squeezing the air bubbles out of a surreptitious syringe, making sure everyone's attention was on Emilena...


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Once Soren drew the wand back from Emilena's skin, Axel leaned in with the prepped augmented limb. As it hovered in front of her stump, he gave her a grim look. "Heads up, this is gonna sting like shit." Steadily but firmly, he pushed the robotic limb into the exposed end of her arm, the small filaments which would later fuse with her body digging into the flesh.

That done, he glanced across at Soren, still holding the augment. "Alright, it's connected. Looks clean. Bandage it before she moves it and fucks it up."


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Soren moved quickly, donning new gloves and cleaning the attachment site with the cold plasma. As he bandaged the wound, he looked over at the neurotester's display.

One by one, several red boxes on the screen turned green, indicating that the filaments had connected to the remaining nerves and tendons. "Okay, just a few more minutes...and done!"

Soren carefully disconnected the wires from the augment and packaged them in the carrying case. He then got to work removing the electrode pads from Emilena's arm and carefully took off her helmet. "Okay, everything is done. You might have some trouble with the new arm but the AI inside should help you get acclimated.

He placed the metal pan containing the remains of Emilena's organic hand into an automated washer/sterilizer. Disposing of the gloves in a nearby trash can, he washed his hands in a nearby sink.

"Great job, Axel," he said. "With any luck, maybe we can see if we can get into med school for our Cy.D.s"

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Lightning fast the burly mare came up behind Emilena and stabbed her in the neck with the syringe. "Good job doc," she said with an unmistakable air of contempt as the patient's eyes rolled back and she fell asleep with a gurgle. "You installed everything, right?" The emphasis was unmistakeable.

She began wheeling Emilena to the door. "I hope so, because we'll be checking her over, and giving her a little nap in an Accelerated Growth Pod. Don't have time for natural recovery." Of course, Emilena would lose roughly a day of her natural lifespan for every hour she was in the pod, but the Purifiers didn't expect her to die of old age anyway.