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The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
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Aardvark

Immortality

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Three fresh corpses, delivered straight from the battlefield, awaited me as soon as I swiped in. So fresh that their skin retained colour in places and not all the blood had congealed. Some wounds still wept, in spite of the attempts to ice the cadavers for delivery. A good distraction from all the admin work that I delegated to the assistant they refuse to hire for me.


Two males, one female, from first glance. All infantry. A corporal and two privates, according to the paper work. Strong of stature, minimal enhancements, all volunteers. They were trained and conditioned as well as could be expected, and probably decently equipped to boot. By the looks of things, so were their foes. Maybe a little better.


No matter, their bodies were in fairly good condition. A hole through the torso and a shattered cranium could be repaired. The bisection, on the other hand, might take a little more work. But nothing too difficult in this day and age. No toxins, infections or other surprises could be picked up, so there was little chance of rejection. That always put a damper on my day.


The head case was simple to fix. A bit of replacement gray matter, a metal plate, a cocktail of exotic chemicals and some spray-on skin and he was good to go. Well, close to. Necrosis never does play fair, so a nutrient bath, along with a swarm of nano machines should take care of the rest. Half an hour later, I sealed my first customer in the tank, had a coffee and moved onto contestant number two.


The holy chest had a wonder of a wound. It looked as though a perfectly circular chunk of body had been sliced out. Skin, bones, muscle, all perfectly sliced to within atomic perfection. I couldn't help but take a few shots to upload for the morbidly curious. Unfortunately for the recipient of this wound, the critter who had inflicted this upon her had stolen her heart. And part of her lungs. I did have a few replacements in the freezer, but I figured why not improve on nature? Fifteen minutes later, I had wrested the robotic replacement heart from its plastic prison and was carefully positioning it in the hole. Lining up the replacement arteries would take a delicate hand, but I had four of them at my disposal. Some replacement polymer ribs to hold it in place, a dash of stemgel to repair the lungs and a brand new spine later and she would be as good as new. Hopefully I'd have her ready by lunch.


A piping hot bowl of delicious nutrislime later, which I'm sure the headcase wouldn't miss, and I was ready to work on my third victim. I had dubbed him torsoboy, for lack of a better name. This one might take a while. Ordinarily, two halves of a body can be stitched back together, assuming the wound was clean enough. This one looked as though he'd been hacked in two by a drunken lumberjack. His kidneys were in tatters, what remained of his digestive tract was sealed in a baggie, and he no longer had a spleen. All that would have to be replaced. This would be expensive, time consuming work, requiring the precision of a surgical master. I loaded up the surgical master program into the robotic surgeons and went to have a smoke.


One anti-cancer stick later and it was back to work. My head case was back in one piece and ready for revivification. One small detail remained. His brain functions. Or lack there of. The headshot had taken out a fair chunk of his gray matter, and along with it, his training, reflexes, senses, most of his childhood and his ability to empathise with other human beings. Along with a whole bunch of other things that I would have remembered, had I opted to study the text, instead of how to cheat for the final exam. Not to worry, it was company policy to take backups on a regular basis. I'm sure he wouldn't miss the last few days.


Or the last few weeks, as it turned out. Headcase had been bunking without his headware. Must have been one of those headcases who believed that we go through those backups, watching his most embarrassing memories for laughs. Where in a war zone would we find the time for light entertainment when there were soldiers to uncorpse? But this left me with the backup that was taken while he was in cold sleep. This could be awkward for him when he wakes up, thinking he has just arrived. Still, that was his own stupid fault. As the saying goes, "Jesus saves, and makes incremental backups." One day, I'd look up who this Jesus person was and why they were so synonymous with common sense, but for now I had a brain to retrain.


The probe slipped in past his eye, then split into tiny threads, each of which worked its way into a different part of his brain. On screen came the usual layout, showing different sections and estimates of mental damage. It was tempting to just wipe whatever was left and replace it with the backup, but I would be offended if anybody ever suspected me of not exercising due diligence. And it looked as though he did have some data left that could be worth salvaging. His memories were gone, but his lizard brain was pretty much intact. Once the computer was done with restoration and reconstruction, this would save him precious weeks of rehabilitation and get him back on that battlefield in no time. There were few things I appreciated more than swift return business.


Her holiness had finished her nutribath and was ready to be brought back. Having been iced so soon after death, her brain was almost perfect. A little repair and creative editing was required to ensure her final memories didn't haunt her in the next life. The event only lasted a few seconds before her conscious mind shut down, but the brain always stretches out the perception of those final moments, as if it were trying to hold onto life the only way it could. Here she was, on the battlefield, now she was falling backwards, now the sky was slowly fading from view, until blackness was all that remained. Curiously, no view of her enemy, which disappointed me. They must have learned about snipers. Fighting a rapidly evolving enemy was troublesome, but they still hadn't figured out how to inflict any truly lasting damage. A quick snip and a little tidying up and she was good as new. She might be a little puzzled as to how she went from battlefield to laboratory, but that was for the shrinks to figure out.


The reconstruction of torsoboy was going well. New guts, new spine, reinforced flesh and a few optional extras that I'm sure he'd appreciate, once he'd come to terms with his second life. Also, he'd never have to do another sit-up and would never be troubled by lactose intolerance. You'd think he'd be appreciative of this huge favour I was doing for him, but some people couldn't seem to take a little bad news like "You'll be living off tasteless nutritional paste for the rest of your life". Though it was really his own fault. He should have tried harder for promotion. Then the company would have sprung for the deluxe package.


With the basic framework in place, I decided to take a look at his thinker. Then immediately regretted it. He hadn't gone down as quickly as I had thought. Something big had bitten into him. An overload of pain, excessive stress and repressed primal fears had made sure his end was as unpleasant as it looked, as well as made my job a little more difficult. It was almost bad enough for me to declare it a loss and go to backups. His last was the night before the battle, so it wouldn't be too bad. But I did enjoy a challenge and this mess would take quite a bit of sorting out before I could hand it to one of the AIs. By my calculations, at least three or four hours of overtime pay worth of sorting out. With a crack of the knuckles, I got to work.


The revivification team found me asleep in my chair when they came for my patients. Repairing the trauma to the Private's mind had taken a bit longer than I had anticipated, but in the end I had displayed the skill and professionalism that this company expected of me. The machines had taken care of his body and had deposited him in a vat after I had passed out, so he was good to go. Another three souls about to be welcomed into the afterlife. Then, once they had reached the minimum acceptable value for "Recovered", would be issued replacement gear and be shipped back to the Immortals Brigade.


Which was a damn good thing, as they would have to live forever to have any chance of paying off the company debts they had just accrued.

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