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A steady hand drew the cigarette from his parted lips, his eyes closed in unison with his first breath. The doctor felt the gentle pinch against the inside of his throat, rattling his vocal cords lightly. It was a marvel he recognized this feeling from before. Quietly it seemed those memories had started to pour into the wide mouth of his fragmented mind. He was parched, wanting them to satiate that thirst that often kept him up at night. It was all the same questions, who was he? Where had he come from? Why would the film reel of his memories be clipped and sewn together with other timelines? None of it ever made sense to him, not even the nightmares that left him shaking in bed in a pool of his own sweat. This procedure he’d hoped to be another piece of the puzzle or rather just something to fix the current timeline.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Her voice was once again filled with concern, taking a deep breath of her own while she handed him the blade. “You could have the other medics help you out you know, there’s no point in doing this alone, doc.”
“Don’t worry, you’ve seen me do this more times’n I can count. Jus cuz it’s on me doesn’t make the task any different.” He offered her a smile of reassurance, narrowing his gaze back to the laser scalpel in his hand. The first cut was always the hardest, even as the machines beeped and pumped around him, trying to soften the anxious tourniquet holding his guts in place.
A gentle breath mixed with nicotine helped lay down the first tidy crimson and muddy green line against his flesh. It was always such an amazing sight to see the binding compound holding the two fluids together split apart as soon as they made contact with air. Hazel picked up the gauze, clearing the area of fluid that obstructed their working field. She turned behind her, upping the sedative knowing the next few moments would be either met with a monument of agony or nothing at all.
Time seemed to pass at a snail's pace while he carved away at the subtle markings on his legs, holding his breath as the blade peeled away at old scars. The metal housing was the first to be lifted, giving way with an audible pop. What lay underneath was a tangle of sinew and metal, a disaster that should have been tended to but the priority was put elsewhere. As prone to accidents as he was it seemed the focus had always been getting him back into the realm of the living, instead of playing a round or two with death. To anyone who knew him though, it seemed Julian enjoyed a game of chicken with death far too much for comfort.
Calculated hands pulled the buckled flesh, inch by inch until the connective tissues were cleanly in his sights and the muscle was exposed finally. Further down he drove the blade, tucking away the surges of pain that had welcomed him with exhaustion. “Jus a bit longer…” was all he could muster, pushing sweat from his brow with the backside of his hand. Tightly fluid movements aided their hands in pulling off the last remaining piece of his organic form. Hazel sucked in a shaky breath, taking the heavy limb and discarding it with the rest of the medical waste.
“How does it feel?”
“Like I should have done this ages ago…” his breathing was growing ragged, fighting the demons that crept along his back, taunting him around his decision. Julian remembered the pile of pages laid before him before his first dance with death. The choices were made clear, to enhance, not build another piece of him out of the sticks and flimsy paper that was left of the corpse on that last mission before he was shoved headfirst into the project. He couldn’t remember the reason..but he understood what he was meant for.
Hazel leaned against the table, assisting him in patching up the stump that was left of his leg, she sighed looking up at her mentor with glazed eyes, “Hmm..yea, I know the feeling.” she muttered, pulling the newly fabricated metallic limb to rest just in front of where the other once was.
“Feels like holdin’ onto somethin’ knowin it ain’t goin’ to work anymore no matter how hard ya tend to it. Just keeps failin’ - boy did I try though.”
“Why’d you hold on for so long?”
“I thought I could make it work, honestly. The thing is I knew...I knew I needed to just stomach the fear and jus’ let it go so I could fix what was broken this whole time the right way. No sense in patching things up with spit and sticks. It only holds for so long till the whole thing falls apart again...”
Julian pulled the new limb to the metal housing, he could no longer feel the pain that was once there where his old leg used to be. The sensation of emptiness was new to him, but he’d make do the best way he knew how. Time, that’s all he needed now as he slotted the new piece in place and plugged in the screws one by one.
“I thought about doing that with my arm, had this thing since I was a kid...kind of stupid of me to try and skip through the tracks..but you know. Hold onto what’s familiar I guess.”
“We do that… yea, do it cuz it feels easier than the feelin’ of unknown. Sometimes you just gotta leap. I think I’ll be better...I know I will be better after this.” He offered her another one of his reassuring smiles, holding back the tears creeping along his ducts, putting tons of pressure around his eyes. That limb was one of the last pieces of his humanity, discarded with the medical waste as if it were nothing. To Julian it meant more than just nothing, it was trial and error, lessons learned for the future.
“...gunna be a real pain in the ass learnin’ how to walk again...but ya know I’m good for it. I’ve always been good for it.”
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Julian has been struggling with removing his only remaining organic limb, he finally gave in despite how difficult of a decision it was for him. banner art creds