I found this image on Deviant Art from user Shinzen 1102 the other day and was very inspired by it. Often, art on places like DA or Artstation are cool, but not very action or emotionally driven (to me, anyway). This piece, however, did something for me. There is a story conveyed here, lots of possible stories, really. What follows, is just one of them. If you’re interested, I encourage you to go to Shinzen’s original post on DA and express how much you like their work.
Karen stared at her right hand. Could she rightly still call it her hand? It was shaped exactly as her original limb had been, only now… The hypersteel skin curved and twisted as if it were soft and supple flesh, but when she touched it, it was cold and hard to the touch. The red glow of the burning rubble surrounding her reflected on the smooth, metal surface, ensuring it could not be confused with the real thing.
She looked away from her cybernetic limb. Karen had only had the prosthetic for a month, having lost her original arm, from the middle of her bicep down, to a work accident. As a machinist, she’d even opted for the welding torch embedded in the palm. She was still in the middle of her physical therapy and hadn’t even returned to work yet.
Her gaze fell on the carnage at her feet. At the sight of the devastation, her stomach twisted and her mouth fell open. Smoldering ruins lay all around. To her left and right, wide arcs of destruction were carved out of the sides of the two, nearly ancient brick buildings, their rusty fire escapes twisted in glowing knots of steel.
What have I done?
Smoke filled her lungs and the odors of burning…everything, flooded into her nose. Above all the others, something harsh and acrid, like sulfur mixed with charcoal assaulted her sinuses. It was almost like when she’d caught her hair on fire the first time she’d tried to make noodles as a child.
Her gaze darted around the area and fell on a fiery shape. Then it hit her. Her flesh-hand flew up and covered her mouth. She was smelling Taia’s burning corpse. Nausea exploded in her stomach and she turned and retched. Terror flooded through her as bitter bile coated her tongue.
Oh God, Taia!
Karen hadn’t meant to do it. She hadn’t even been that angry. If only Taia hadn’t… She’d told the woman their relationship was over, that she didn’t love her, but Taia insisted. The other woman had grabbed for Karen’s shoulder, but she’d whipped around and slapped her. With her prosthetic hand. The impact had knocked her former lover to the ground. When Taia climbed to her feet, blood trickled down from the corner of her mouth and her cheek was an angry read.
Then Taia snapped and screamed like a madwoman. Her first punch ended up being her last. Karen’s prosthetic acted on its own, she hadn’t known it could do that. The cybernetic limb reached up and caught Taia’s fist. Karen remembered the horror as she watched the metal hand crush Taia’s hand like an overripe peach. Then… Then the torch fired. It should not have been able to do that either, but not only did the torch burn Taia’s hand, it shot out a devastatingly powerful plasma jet that turned the other woman’s arm to ash in a second. Unable to control it, Karen had flailed and ran into the alley. In her rush, she’d sheared off the corners of the buildings and scorched everything in her path.
Karen’s mind returned to the present and she fell to her knees. She didn’t care about the scraps of glass and stone that dug into her skin; she didn’t even feel the wounds. Neither did she hear the sirens approaching.
Peeling her half-jacket off, she glared at the melding of flesh and hypersteel just below her shoulder. Was it possible? Was the attachment seam further up her arm than before? Another bolt of panic shot through her as the border between her skin and the metal moved. She knew it shouldn’t be possible, flesh could not just change into metal. And yet she’d seen it.
Images and thoughts race through her mind like someone flipping through an old printed photo album. Maybe it hadn’t happened. Maybe her mind was playing tricks on her. Maybe, in her hysteria, she’d just misremembered where the surgeons had attached her mechanical appendage. Maybe she was just in shock.
The line moved again.
Karen screamed. She yanked at her prosthetic, dug at the seam between flesh and steel. Her fingernails cut into the skin, which was quickly replaced with more hypersteel. She had to get it off, but everything she did only seemed to make the steel grow faster.
Something snapped inside of Karen. Her head drooped, her eyes closed and she cried. With her metal hand in her lap, she turned the palm up. There, right in the center of her hand, was a torch’s plasma emitter. If she couldn’t remove the limb, maybe she had another way out; a way so she couldn’t hurt anyone else.
The sirens were louder now, loud enough for her to hear over her own sobs. Flashing red and blue lights pierced the orange glow of the fires. Words floated to her ears amid the crackling blaze. The words were angry, commanding.
Karen looked up. Three police in blue and silver combat suits inched toward her, plasma pistols trained on her.
Tears streamed down her face, leaving twisted, clean lines on her blackened cheeks. She shook her head and pleaded. “No. You have to run! I can’t control it.”
Movement to her right caught her attention. Her arm rose up on its own, palm facing the nearest officer. She screamed again and shoved the prosthetic back down. The metal arm fought back, grabbing her good wrist and twisting. Bone snapped and pain ripped through Karen.
Her mind blanked at the agony. The cybernetic arm took advantage and lifted up again. A tiny whisper drifted out from between Karen’s lips. “No.”
Time slowed for Karen as a bright blue line of plasma shot out of the prosthetic’s palm. The energized gas streaked through the air, striking the nearest police officer square in the chest. There was a flash of light and in the next second, the cop was falling to the ground, a six-inch hole where his face had been.
One of the other two officers yelled. “Fire!”
Karen felt her arm shifting to take aim, but not fast enough. She didn’t want it to be fast enough. Something evil was happening to her, and in the split-second before the officer’s plasma bolts stretched out toward her, she was thankful that they were there to stop her from hurting more people.
The first officer’s bolt seared a hole in the center of her forehead, tearing through bone and brain. Karen’s body collapsed to the ground. With no brain to power it, the cybernetic arm fell at her side.
Sergeant Kinkaid kept his weapon trained on the woman as he inched forward. When he was close enough, he checked her pulse. Nothing.
He reached up and touched the button beside his ear. “Four seven alpha kilo to command, request coroner. Officer and suspect down. Inform Digital Diseases Bureau, it looks like we found another one infected.”