They had unlocked my brain at a barber shop. I remembered it perfectly after the doctor finished. He sewed me up nervously with his clammy, bloody hands. The scientists of our ancestors always said we only use ten percent of our brains. They got in all wrong whoever they were. The real issue was that we couldn’t access most of it through our consciousness. The doctor flipped the switch on me hoping my jelly mind lasted through the throes of the transformation. I screamed and felt death licking her fingers hungry and ready to eat. But I somehow made it.
I was in a new world, and I felt free as a bird without a cage. It was on this little planet Quandor, one of the smaller planets in our solar system of sixty. The sky was a purple-blue and the dawn sun was losing out to the blue of day. We were in the center of a crowded nest of ice-tip mountains. I buzzed like a bee above the ground looking at the lieutenant. He was my guide and steward on this next-door world. I was able to float because of the chip the barber put in my head called a Blade. We were here to reclaim some of our property.
I touched down on the sharp hill. I was able to float because of the extra energy in my body.
“How long?” I said.
“You have a minute kid.” My lieutenant replied and patted his halo-phone’s screen. It had a holographic ring around it. He was entering in something on its sleek light surface, but I couldn’t see his hands. It would be terrible for them if I knew the code. I nodded as depressed as ever.
“Listen you have time to reflect on your life. Now, stop shaking you look like a jack in the box.”
“Your funny man. But you know I can’t control it Lieu. I know you know that.”
“Well I thought you could be the first Blade to do it. You’ve impressed me more than once.”
I nodded, and he flicked his hand. He always did this, but I was glad he changed his mind.
“Anyway, go have fun Toad. Don’t tell Mavis.”
“You got it, Captain.”
It was time for work. I flew off and sailed powered by the surging current towards the small mark on the map. This was a hideout suspected of holding the thieves we’re looking for. I queued my body; the adrenaline shot through my brain. My helmet’s glass visor lit up guiding me towards the suspected hill.
I brandished a small knife from my side satchel flying along the doted line so illustrated by my visor. I tossed it full power, and it flew like a ballistic bunker buster. When the blade was on, the strength in my arms reached class one. I could lift ten tons.
The wall popped up a set of dust candy and the system updated guiding me in. My next dagger I took out was made of out gold-zirconium. It was meant for the serious shit.
I was greeted by gun shots. All these men fired their Q-rifles. Lower-class weapons that planted poison in you if you got hit. I dodged all the seeds, and took little time banging up their unit.
I could tell the lieutenant was watching up on the hill. It was because of the Blade, the hardware, planted in my head. I was able to hear him talking a thousand feet away. He had told me I’d have thirty seconds to find our blade before Quandor sent in reinforcements. It wasn’t a lot of time, so I’m thinking he overestimated me. But fortunately, he knew about Big Belly James personality. The walls trembled like the vocal cords of an opera singer breaking my apprehension. James bashed in wrecking the concrete wall. I recognized him immediately as one of the guys on our most wanted list. He immediately barked at me with terrorist jargon.
“You Rana scum think you are so clever, and that the rest of the worlds are behind the times.”
“Your James, right?” My visor didn’t wait and confirmed it.
“And you are. Wait don’t answer your Rana scum.” The contempt off him radiated.
This Big James had a lot of nerve and was one of those zealot assholes you’d hear blew something up on the six o’clock news. He stole technology from Rana, and we’re sure he’s plotting one of those explosions. If I don’t take him out right now, it probably be bad for Quandor. Fortunately, I don’t live here.
The fighting started while his friends tossed gatling grenades. They exploded on contact, and the walls became filled with scorching holes. I had to dodge the laser bullets from them as we fought with each other like party animals. Then I took a chance as his huge pipe arms swung at me with his rose-gold knuckles. It grazed the side of my cheek; I was fine, but my cheek bone popped out.
I charged hoping he wouldn’t notice my scheme. I don’t sense any anxiety in his eyes. So, the transparent knife I tossed out as quiet as a fairy lands in the side of his head. Even though I would love to say I knew it would work, I didn’t. Behind me the commander cheered, which was very unexpected.
I ran up to the carcass and dug out the hardware in his head. The rest of his men had already fled, and I had to as well. It was time to go and the Lieutenant didn’t forget to remind me.
“You have ten seconds Toad. Nine, eight…”
“Got the hard ware, Lieu, stop with the counting.”
“You still got a few thousand feet to cover, kid, see you on the other side.”
He was joking. I was back in front of Lieutenant in under five. He pointed at the bone in my cheek. I had almost forgot because I turned off the pain.
“Just snap it back in, and it will heal in a jiffy.” His course hands pat my quivering shoulders. I nodded and cracked the bone back into my cheek as the skin around it to coagulated. It covered over the ridges of my bouldering cheek bones patching it up. As it healed, I heard the missile whistle a baleful tune. It was like the omen of death. The raining fire started a few seconds later as countless screams dwindled inside a cloud of sanguinary mush. I sighed in relief.
“Shut it down, Captain.”
“Just wait a little bit and enjoy it. What I would do to be you right now, Toad.”
“C’mon stop shitting on me and flip the damn switch.”
“Have you lost your manners, brat? At least I’m not calling you 117.” He pulled out the phone and entered it.
The sheer pleasure from being normal again sent me tumbling into the grass. I was tired, so I rolled down the mountain landing in a patch of thistles. The pika were grazing on the flowers, the world was spinning in monochromatic variations of moonlight white, the grasslands pet against me as the wind cuddled me with its gentle waves, and above me the male birds whistled trying to mate with the nearby chicks. I nested below them plastered in the ground.
The lieutenant walked over with a couple gals in uniform.
“You did a good job, Toad. I think you deserve a few days off.”
“Yeah sounds like pan…” It was all in malapropisms. It sucked that I couldn’t control my words. Then the pretty medics gently scooped me up as I melted like an ice cream cone. They tied me down to a stretcher and buckled the harness.
One of them stood out because of her rapt glower. She was wearing the healer’s red cross but had on a smile of a sadist above her pretty hourglass ‘attractions’. She tried to hide it underneath her patches of brown, winding hair, yet it was there. She finished getting me prepped and strapped on some lenses. They numbed every inch of my traumatized flesh.
“You did a good job on your mission, son. Now, where would you like to go this time?” The general’s voice echoed as he asked me. I could only imagine where he was.
“I still have the blade in my pocket General. Give me a few minutes before Imaginary.”
Basically, they used imaginary to speed up healing. It keeps your cells younger.
“Yeah, of course Toad, I’ll even let you pick your poison this time.”
“Hmm, then can I go to someplace with a pretty girl. Someone like the nurse here except with a nicer look in her eyes.”
Ouch, I felt a pinch in my skin. She turned the pain on and squeezed. I tried not to smile as her warm, delightfully soft hands checked my body for sensitivity. Her glower was on me.
“Well, Toad, I know I have a mean look in my eye, but I’m not actually a bad girl. I promise I’ll take good care of you while we’re on our way back to base.”
I was happy. It made me remember I had the blade in my pocket. I pointed at it, and she nodded pulling out the hardware. She came back and took off my socks off. Her and a few bots dropped me off in a hammock. She had the nerve to bend over and tease me with a red lipstick mark on the glass.
“I hope you and the nicer me get along nicely Toad. Maybe I’ll dream about you as well.” She seemed so unreachable as her stilettoes clicked off towards the other room. The chamber I was in started filling up with some liquid goo as we blasted off.
“I have a few worlds ready for you, Toad. I also have another mission I have to inform you about before you get to go wander in Imaginary.”
“Well, just tell me about it then, general.”
“It’s your lucky week, boy. You just need to give a demonstration to congress.”
“Who will I be up against?”
“No fighting this time, Toad. You’ll be racing with an old blade from the last war. It’s just some publicity event so the cardinal secretary can win back office. Luckily, she’s even going to pay you if you win. It seems like your earning yourself some freedom, kid.”
“Yeah, I hope so.”
In Imaginary you usually didn’t have a choice, but today I did. I clicked on the middle option because of the nurse. The boring countdown started, and I skipped over the description.
My vision disappeared somehow, and the world loaded. I landed in a hospital bed full of dry blood stains, with a gatling gun bolted down underneath common patient sheets. I was guessing they hadn’t been changed for a few weeks.
The familiar nurse was next to me staring at me. She had a gun tipped over her shoulder pointing it up at the hole in the ceiling. It was a much better look than my other assistants from my other missions. The countdown finished, and the bed started moving.