Stories

Upgraded


“Alright Tisia, you can remove the stimulant. It looks like he’s coming too.”

Everything was still murky, but the voice was so clear. My head swam, but I could feel every fiber of the bed sheet against my skin. I opened my eyes and they were unfocused, but I could still recognize who was standing over me.

“Mr. Gritch, I’m glad to see you’re waking up,” Dr. Kask said. He nearly sounded sincere, his voice containing the practiced inflections of a veteran, surely comforting to thousands of patients before. “How are you feeling?”

The back of my head and neck throbbed in pain. It was some of the worst pain I’d ever felt. “My head aches a little, but it’s nothing I can’t stand.” That wasn’t a lie or show of bravado. I could stand it.

Dr. Kask put on a smile. It lacked all the subtle clues that showed it was genuine. “Good. The ache is probably from the stimulants we used to wake you up. It counteracts the painkillers for a short while, but they should kick back in soon. I’m happy to say the surgery was a complete success. Your new implants have been hooked in and there doesn’t appear to be any threat of rejection.”

There was always a threat of rejection, I realized. Even with all the cluster’s best technology and a highly trained doctor, there was always that threat. It was just a drop of salt in the sea of threats I faced every day - I was a capsuleer, after all - but it was one that could harm me in ways no other threat could.

“Well,” Dr. Kask said, “if there’s nothing else, I’ll let you get some rest. If you need anything, the nurse can help you. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, doctor. And thank you,” I said. He nodded curtly and walked out. I looked over at the nurse, a harried looking woman dressed in blue scrubs. They hung limply on her - seventeen wrinkles in the left leg, twelve in the right - camouflaging any figure she may have had. But there were small hints - the way the back of her shirt was slightly tighter around her shoulders when she leaned forward, for example - that told me everything.

“Tisia,” I said.

Her head perked up and she turned around, surprise evident on her face. “How did you know my name?” she asked. Her voice was sweet, a slightly higher pitch than most women I’ve met, and had a hint of curiosity in it. Her accent was almost imperceptible, but there. Intaki, raised on the southern coast of the primary continent.

“I heard the doctor say it when I was waking up,” I told her. I smiled slightly to her, nothing aggressive, but also quite clear in its intent. There was a slight rise of color in her cheeks, her pupils dilated, and she turned her head away without turning her eyes away.

“Well, what can I help you with?” Her subtle smile shone like a supernova.

“I,” I said as I pushed myself into a sitting position, “am starving. I know hospital food is supposed to be good for you and help speed the healing process, but I think I can be treated to a little better than that. I am wondering, could you run out and get me… oh… some yeska? I haven’t had that in forever.”

Her face lit up. “Yeska? My grandmother used to make that for me when I was a little girl all the time. Hers was the best! I’m surprised you’d want some, most people haven’t even heard of it before.”

I let my smile get a bit larger. “Well, get a plate for yourself too, then. I would love to have some company for dinner tonight. I’m paying, of course.”

Her just-crooked smile brought slight wrinkles around her eyes. “Of course, Mr. Gritch. I’ll get it right away.” She started to walk out of the room, in a hurry. Not to leave, but to get back.

“Oh,” I said. “By the way, did your grandmother teach you her recipe for yeska?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you’ll have to cook some for me some time.”

Her blush was like a bonfire to me, and even normal people would be able to spot a flicker of candlelight there. “Maybe I will,” she said. She hurried off even faster.

I leaned back in my bed. It was good to be upgraded.



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