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   Chapter 3 It just sucks

Bactine By Paul Kater Characters: 10351

Updated: 2018-02-11 12:03


Daniel wiped sweat from his forehead. Yes, he had found out that Rebuilts could sweat just fine. Bactine was no cure for that. For the ninth time he worked over the drill that Burt had given him to tackle. He was hanging from a rope, holding on with one hand, carrying a mock-up of a seventy lbs rocket destroyer unit in the other hand. The artificial gravity had been cranked up to a sweet five times regular atmosphere. The objective of this training was to let go of the rope and grab one that was swinging beneath him, ninety feet lower, while not losing the destroyer in the attempt. So far he had managed to miss the lower cable and lose the rocket destroyer most times. Only once he'd gotten the cable, dropping the destroyer, and twice he had ended up on the floor one hundred and twenty feet below, the destroyer next to him. Hooray for Bactine bodies. At least they could take a beating like that without a problem.

"Daniel. Concentrate. This is easy, just do it." Burt's voice sounded in his head. The Bactine body had been equipped with short range radio so communication could be established without the need for external gadgets.

"Damn you, Burt, it's not easy. It's confusing as hell." Daniel blinked and shook his head. The sweat was seeping in his eyes, which was annoying enough. Things got even more complicated as his electronic eye kept displaying gobsmacks of readout that he should be able to take advantage of. Instead of being helpful however, the numbers and graphs obstructed his vision. He blamed that for missing the lower cable so often: the jumps in his eye distracted him.

"What's the problem, Daniel? Things should be clear, not confusing."

Daniel reported what bothered him.

"Damn. You're one of those, " Burt said. "Hang on."

"Sure, I'm comfortable here." Daniel grinned to himself as he considered his situation. He'd never been squeamish, but he was certain that this would have made him feel lousy in a matter of seconds, in his old physical state.

A few minutes later Daniel heard Burt's voice again. "Give it one more try, Daniel. Last go. I've arranged that your optical info-stream will be reduced. If that still doesn't work, we'll have it shut down completely."

"Can't they switch it off remotely?" Daniel wanted to know. They couldn't. "That's technology for you, " he mumbled. He gave it one more try, as well as he could.

On his way down he focussed on the wire that he was supposed to grab. Everything was going well, until a graph jumped up in his eye that elaborated on the optimal speed of reach, a countdown that showed him when to reach, and the estimated g-force his body would be taking on a successful grab. Daniel missed the rope and had plenty of time to finish thinking a nasty word before he smashed into the ground once more.

A graph popped up for a few seconds, informing him on the force of impact, as well as a rapid run-down of the result of the automatic systems check that had been performed. He had seen those enough for one day.

The gravity was brought down again, then Burt came in. "That looked painful, Daniel. Go see Jan or Rhonda at the medical bay, they'll adjust the opticals for you." The trainer picked up the battered destroyer mock-up. "If you do that to your enemies, I'll be satisfied." He grinned.

Daniel forced a grin out also as he got up. There was nothing wrong with his body, he decided. Optical displays were one thing, personal confirmation and the absence of pain still was better. "Okay, Burt. Thank you. When do you expect me back?"

"Oh, try to make it somewhere this afternoon, after lunch. Then we'll try this one again."

Daniel sighed. "Okay." Then he walked off to change. His practice clothes bore the signs of the suffering his body had endured.

Rhonda was not at the medical bay. Jan Reynolds, her second in command, greeted Daniel. "Hello there, how are we today?"

"I've seen better days, " Daniel grumbled. He sat down in the chair that Jan pointed at.

"And worse?" Jan inquired as she took a small device and pressed it against his temple.

"I guess. Getting shot to bits is not great, that's true." The number of readouts in his eye went down from eight to three.

"Here, is that better?" Jan asked as she put the device to the side.

"Better. Still not great. Can't you get rid of all that stuff for me?"

"I can, but I only have orders for what I just shut down." Jan shrugged. "Sorry."

Daniel nodded. "Okay. Thanks for that anyway, it's already less annoying." He was certain that Rhonda would have shut the whole display down no matter what.

"It's really bad, isn't it?" Jan sat down next to him. "I'm not a Rebuilt, Daniel, I don't know what it is like. But if you want to talk about it I am willing to listen."

"That's kind of you, Jan. Thank you for the offer. I think it is something I have to work out on my own though. It's my body, my life, my- future." Just in time he had replaced the word 'fate'.

"Okay. My offer stands though, " said the nurse, getting up again. She patted him on the shoulder. "Good luck, Daniel."

"Thank you, Jan." Daniel blinked a few times. Better. Somewhat. He

left the nurse and walked around a bit, ending up in his quarters, staring out the window. He wondered if high command had made a smart move by saving him. Perhaps he was not the kind to become a Rebuilt. Perhaps he'd been better off dead, blown to bits by Qurgon pirates. He did not recall any pain, just the lights from their weapons. It should have been a quick and merciful death.

In his mind he pictured the memorial service that would have been held in his honour. He tried to envision who would be there. His sister, certainly, with whatever person was her present boyfriend or -girl at. And his brother, with his wife and children. Provided, Daniel thought bitterly, he could be bothered to get away from some executive board meeting. Malcolm really fit in with these tight-assed white-collared idiots.

Flashes of the past came to Daniel. He heard the voice of his brother again.

"I can always get you a job in our company, dear brother." Malcolm had just gotten a good position in a firm then, and rubbed it in Daniel's face as often as he could.

After yet another rejection for a job, Daniel had mentioned his intention to join the army, the space forces to his brother. That was something he regretted until this day. It also had strengthened his decision to join the space forces. And he had gotten in there on the first attempt.

Cynthia had been thrilled for him. His sister had written him a real paper letter, in her minute handwriting. He had saved it, still had it. Daniel smiled as he thought of it. That was so much more valuable than the sneer of his younger brother. "Not much of a start, is it? They accept everyone clearly."

Daniel turned away from the window. "Damn you, Malcolm. Why are you haunting me now?" His anger flared up, and he hated it.

The Rebuilt man skipped lunch and headed back to the training room with the ropes and the ghastly gravity. "Burt?"

"Right here, Daniel. Early lunch today?"

"No lunch. Jan turned down the mess in my eye and I want to do this. No. I am going to do this."

"Right on, Daniel. Get the remains of your rocket destroyer, get yourself up there and we'll give it a go."

Daniel picked up the smashed-up box and got hauled up to one hundred and seventy feet. "Ready when you are."

"Jump at will. I'll swing the rope when you're off."

Daniel didn't even think. He jumped and reached the first stationary rope, twenty feet lower, without a problem. Hanging from one arm he kept an eye on the motion of the rope below him, and at the right time he dove down to it. He couldn't miss it.

He missed. The rope wasn't where he'd expected it. The thud he heard as he hit the floor almost washed out the loud twang that came from overhead.

"Sorry, Daniel. The bloody swing-trigger malfunctioned. You were looking good there, though."

Gravity was lowered again. The door opened. Daniel groaned inside as he heard a voice.

"Hey, Daniela, are you comfortable down there? That was one hell of a landing there, sister!" Troy roared with laughter as he walked to the fallen Rebuilt. He pushed Daniel's leg with a foot. "Come on, get up. You're here to learn something, not to lie on your back like a whore."

Daniel gritted his teeth and waited just long enough before getting up. "We are all here to learn something, Troy, " he then said, noticing Ludo who was waiting by the door.

Troy chuckled. "Yeah. And some learn faster, Daniela. Some learn a lot faster."

Daniel grinned, confusing Troy and loving that. "You got that right, Troy. So right."

Ludo did not follow Troy immediately as the latter walked through the door. Instead, he waited for Daniel and quickly said: "Don't worry, Zacharias. This thing is a stinker. Took me a few times to get it right also." Then he sauntered off after Troy, as if he was the Rebuilt's serf.

Daniel went to find Burt and asked permission to get some lunch now, which was fine with Burt. "Just don't miss class this afternoon. We're going into things you really should not do with your new body."

"Isn't this stuff supposed to be indestructible?" Daniel was surprised by the words of the trainer.

"It is. That's what the class is for."

Daniel shook his head as he left. This sounded completely off.

The class however was far from that. Burt told them about the things that they should not do with their bodies, even though there was nothing known to man that would damage them. The most improbable thing that stuck with Daniel was the announcement that they should not volunteer their bodies to be used as a projectile.

Burt explained that someone once had done that. "There is no practical reason that would prevent you from doing it, " he said, "but you have to understand that people who are Rebuilt are part of an elite corps. Turning yourself into a cannonball is not something high command is expecting from someone in whom they have invested so much."

There had been other reasons, moral ones that made a lot of sense, but this particular one of the cannonball refused to be shot out of Daniel's mind. After crashing into the ground so often earlier that day, he wondered what the difference was.

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