Harder Better Faster Stronger 

Putting Martialla on the “bed” seemed like an even worse option than leaving her in the dirt and filth on the ground in terms of cleanliness.  I found a tarp, brought it into the room where she lay, and rolled her over onto it.  She made a chirping noise as I did it.  Like a noise you might expect from a tiny baby kitten.  I saw that the burns across the left side of her upper body stopped in a stark line across her chest, neck and face.  And then I saw why, she had shielded herself with her arm, which was horrifically scorched.   

Once I had her on the tarp, I was able to pull her into the main room.  As I was dragging her someone came over – I don’t know if it was a trader or a Paradiser or who they were.  I shot them until I ran out of bullets.  I didn’t even think about it.  I just did it.  I can’t say why really.  I guess I was trying to help Martialla and I thought that someone walking nearby might interfere with that.  That’s where my mind was I suppose.  Or maybe I was just sad and had a gun in my hand.  I heard Martialla gurgling something and I stopped pulling to kneel down and put my ear by her mouth.  Her one open eye seemed wildly distended and distorted next to the other one which was sealed shut by blood and pus and mucus.   

I eventually figured out that she was saying that I should have saved a bullet for her.   

I ranted and raved about how she wasn’t going to die like someone in a bad medical drama on network television.  I told her that she couldn’t die.  I ordered her, as her employer, not to die.  I begged, I prayed (as covered before), I screamed myself hoarse.  At one point in a fit of rage I hammered on her chest, which is a great way to help a critically injured person.  I felt like she had betrayed me by getting herself killed.   

Illogically I thought if the future (present) people fight and kill each other all the time, shouldn’t they be familiar with wounds and know how to patch them up?  Maybe they don’t have doctor doctors but shouldn’t they have someone with laudanum and a saw that can stitch someone back together?  But that’s now how that works.  The Mongols were great at making people dead, they turned entire cities into piles of bones, that didn’t make them good at fixing people.  Martialla went through a phase where she talked about the Mongols.  It was fucking annoying.  Did you know that their combat doctrine made infantry nearly obsolete for a time?  I do.   

Occasionally people came to try and talk to me.  I guess because I instigated this takeover they thought that I was in charge of something.  If I had any ammo on me I would have shot them, as I did not have any such ammo I just screamed at them to leave me alone.  They seemed confused by my concern for my friend.  I can only imagine that death is so commonplace for them that they don’t make a big deal out of it.  Oh, my best friend died, oh well back to eating dirt and rubbing mud on my face.  I hate everyone in this time.  They should all die and Martialla should be alive.   

In her moments of lucidity Martialla told me to put her out of her misery.   

I told her no.   

Eventually she told me if I wasn’t going to end her suffering there was only one other thing to do.  I thought she meant that I should kill us both.  She didn’t.  She told me it was time to try the canister and see what it does.  Impossible.  What could it do?  But when you have no hope you’ll try just about anything.  My first thought was that I hadn’t left her side in I don’t know how long.  Days it felt like.  And my next thought was that if I did leave her just for a minute to grab my backpack she’d die.  Like me being there was the only thing keeping her alive.  I was plotting out how far away I remembered the bus-truck being and wondering if they moved it since I got off and estimated how fast I could run there and get back.  Can you outrun death?  How fast do you need to move to do it?

But the pack was on my back.  Because it’s a backpack.  I clearly remember taking it off and setting it down in the wheel well of the bus when the fight started.  I remember the feeling of it against my knee as I was leaning forward and shooting out the window.  I must have thrown it back over my shoulder when I went looking for Martialla.  I don’t remember doing that but it seems like a smart thing to do.  Someone could have grabbed all my stuff otherwise.   

When I pulled it out and set it down by Martialla, immediately her shoulder and upper body started glowing, traced through with tiny blue lines under the skin.  They were concentrated all around her terrible wounds, radiating out like a spider-web.  Honestly before, I don’t know if I believed in nanobots or not, I just said that I didn’t to needle Martialla.  In that moment I hoped against hope that she was right.  I imagined swarms of tiny robots inside her working feverishly and desperately to try and knit her back together and all they needed were some reinforcements.   

The canister whirled open like before and I put the injector gun into a slot that filled with blue paste.  I didn’t stop to think about it because if I did I’m sure I wouldn’t have done it.  Logically you can’t inject some unknown blue liquid into someone and not kill them.  But I didn’t stop to think about it, I just did it.  I figured if it was going to work I should put the nanos right where they needed to be, I jammed the gun right into her burned shoulder.  I didn’t push a button or anything, there wasn’t one, I just saw the reservoir empty and the blue light started shining through her skin so brightly that it hurt my eyes to look down at her.   

Her body went rigid like a corpse and then started convulsing.  It was like her knees and elbows were locked tight but she was trying to flail wildly at the shoulder and hips.  I did my best to hold her down but it was like trying to pin down a rabid hyena.  The pressure she was putting on me as I tried to bend her limbs back was so intense that I thought my bones were going to snap.  Blue lines started glowing in my hands and arms like it was some kind of bioluminescent communication between bacteria in our bodies.  Were they screaming for help or just saying hello?  I can’t imagine that I feel asleep.  I must have passed out.  Or maybe Martialla knocked me unconscious with her out of control limbs. 

I just know that when I came around, I was splayed on top of her like she was a ‘67 Shelby Mustang and I was a calendar girl getting paid twenty bucks.  Her voice was clear but weak. 

“Can you get off me please?” 

I rolled back and looked her over, she looked a little better maybe, but still on the edge of death.  I saw her see me seeing her and she flickered her eyes down towards her mangled leg.  It looked much better but that wasn’t really saying much, it had progressed from looking like the end of a New Year’s party horn to more like a human leg stump.  She saw me see that and the look on my face and she told me to look closer.  I scooted around and forced myself to peer at the fleshy bloody mass.  It did look less ragged I guess.  Even as disgusting as it was there was something in the middle that made me look closer. 

“What the fuck is that?  Looks like a micro penis.” 

She smiled in a grotesque Joker grin “It’s a new toe, my foot is growing back.” 

She wiggled it at me and I shrieked like a nineteen fifties housewife being confronted by a mouse or a spider or a communist.  I followed this by immediately by jumping up and skidding away like the selfsame mouse narrowly avoiding getting its neck broken by a snap trap. 


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