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Chemicaust: A Short Story in the Mad Element Saga

would have cried out had he been able. The miniature golden gears in his arm screeched for a moment
asifinharmonywithLuke’sdesireclicked and then hummed. The steel gills on his left arm stopped
flapping meaninglessly. The wind howled and the sand kicked up, there was a tension in the air.
The rat bared his teeth and its tail writhed behind it like a snake in pain. It leaned in close to
Luke’sheadandsmiled. It got down on hands and knees to examine him. Itwasn’taratLukecouldn’t
scream. The sensation of flinching rolled over his body but Lukedidn’tflinchHe couldn’tgetaway. The
rat bit into his eye. There was no pain but half of his vision turned off like a snap and a moment later
blood fogged the camera lens again. He lay still as the rat enjoyed its meal, with his remaining eye Luke
saw white flesh held between paws, dangling optical nerves. The steady hum of the drive reassured and
terrified – it promised renewed strength but also the return of pain. Hecouldn’tscreamTimepassed
andmorevermincameandhecouldn’tscreamSteamventedfromhisarmandgrantedareprieve
from the teeth and then the rodents returned, and the not-rodent with the blue eyes and the scalpel-
sharpknifeHecouldn’t scream. Finally the storm that had been promised broke; thunder seemed
louderinthedesertwhereitdidn’tbelongRain began to fall.
Luke felt the knitting of his spine, almost instantly after so much motionless. He felt shocking
cold drops on a badly burnt back. He felt the warm of blood and then a serene pain, in his head, along
his spine, and rippling out through his limbs. It felt like acid in his veins as his nerves switched back on,
motivated by chem pumped through his body. Injected into his blood-stream by the drive in his arm. He
screamed and the rodents leapt away, except for the rat with blue eyes, and hands, and the knife. The
blue-eyed one only backed up and watched him. Luke moved his hands, curled his fingers into fists, tried
to get his arms underneath his chest, push himself up, roll himself over. His skin was dry and cracked, it
hurt to move.
The rat startled backwards at the show of life. It was terrified, and then calm and then smiling.
It leapt on him, the blue-eyed rat with the scalpel, and with an animal ferocity drove the knife into
Luke’s back. The acid in his veins spilled from the wounds and soaked his back and then his entire body
inpainTheratkeptstabbingtheremainsofLuke’sstrengthebbed with the flow of blood, the scent of
which brought the vermin back. The rodents only came close enough to watch; they recognized the
scent of death. Luke was surprised there were no birds – there were always birds where there was
blood.
Luke refused to die, or rather was forced to remain living. As fast as the rat slashed holes in his
skinthefallensoldier’sdrivesoughttorepairthewoundsSkinstitchedbacktogetheralmostinstantly
as it was torn apart, the sight of which turned deliberate stabsintofrantictearingtherat’sknifeleaving
raggedwoundsinsteadofcleancutsLukedidn’tscreamanymorethepainwastoomuchfor
screaming, and yet, he was not dead, and even against the assault of the creature the drive was
prevailing. The whirring servos in his arm repaired the damage to his eye and with it his sight. Tissue
regrew and his eyes reformed. Simultaneously chem pumped steadily into his veins to rapidly generate
scar tissue. In the instant Luke thought he could bear no more pain, the drive restored strength to his
muscles, tension to tendons and ligaments.
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