Classroom of the Armitage Senior Secondary School/The Gambia

Cyborg High

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Aaron’s a great guy. He really is. But I swear, when he gets fixated on something you just cannot get him off of it.

“Is there maybe another time we could talk about this?,” I pleaded, hunching down like everybody else as another round tore through the overturned lunch table. I  “When we’re calmer, when nobody’s shooting at us–“

“They’re only *shooting* at us because *you’re* here! I mean, right? Why else would they be here? And when were you going to tell us you were a, a freaking… robot? Or whatever the f–“

Another explosion cut him off, and we all slid even further down. I would have returned fire, but I don’t usually come to school fully loaded.

“Are you really a robot?” Jimmy whispered from beside me on the floor. “Cause I’ve always really liked robots.”

“Does anybody know?” Aaron demanded. “Or did anyone know? Before you blew a hole through Ms. Ossler’s wall? Because I guess that might have clued some people in.” Aaron was really getting worked up now, and an uncomfortable number of shots were starting to home in on the sound of his voice.

“Do you have batteries? Can I see them?” Jimmy whispered.

“I can’t believe this.” Aaron turned away and mumbled something into the fallen plaster.

“What was that?” I asked. Normally I have pretty ridiculous hearing but right that second I was busy keeping my heat signature low and synthesizing a new canister of flechettes. Just give me ten seconds and there will be hell to pay…

“I was gonna ask you to prom.”

Now it was my turn to be blindsided. “Really?” I almost shouted, then flattened as another bullet showered us with splinters. “Well.. I mean, you still could.” Not that he was my absolute top pick for prom date, but he was definitely top 5 material. Top 6.

“Well, now you’re a… robot or something.”

“What, are you suddenly prejudiced against cyborgs? What if you had suddenly found out I had, like, diabetes or something? Would that have stopped you?”

“I guess not. I’m just feeling a little… uh… emasculated here.”

Jimmy scooched over a little closer. “What does emasculated mean?”

It didn’t look like Jimmy was going to answer, so I filled in. “It means–“

But that’s when the kitchen exploded.

At this point in the story, I think I should mention something. I have a lot of fancy hardware installed. Or really, that hardware *is* me. I have a reflex system that’s just crazy, and it’s hooked up to a lot of stuff that I don’t even know how to find yet. It’s on the same level as the stuff that everybody has, like adrenaline and gag reflexes and blinking. Except it’s bigger, more dangerous, and one *hell* of a lot faster.

Sometimes I can feel it kick in, like when I’m crossing the street, or that time those kids were circling us on their bikes at the 7/11. It’s subtle. I just start *knowing* things, like about my surroundings. Oh, and there’s the time thing. Time kinda slows down for awhile, which I assume is the way my consciousness interprets all that parallel processing.

So there we were. Flat on the floor and covered with plaster, Jimmy to one side of me and my potential prom date to the other. I could “see” through the table suddenly, although I knew it was just how my consciousness interpreted what the aftermarket stuff was picking up. The kitchen was filled with a brilliant white glow, and I could see the blast wave slowly making its way toward us, splintering furniture as it came.

One part of me knew I shouldn’t be this calm. But I was *built* to be this calm. And so I analyzed.
1) Just look at that pressure wave. How fascinating. I wonder how much time this is actually taking?
2) I don’t have time to get all of us out of the way. Someone’s going to be hurt, and badly.
3) I wonder if I have any kind of defense against this. What if I just…

And something inside me said *push.* And I pushed. It felt like tightening up my stomach, like leaning forward, like something was forcing its way out of my chest. It hurt like hell, but I let it come and hoped it was what I needed. I saw it come together in front of me, glowing shapes appearing, rotating, locking together, accelerating outward.

*Push*

The wave was almost here. My heat sensors were off the scale, which told me that this was no ordinary gas fire coming our way.

*Push*

The pain increased. The shield enveloped Aaron, half of Jimmy. They hadn’t even had time to react to this, but I could see terror on both faces. The metal edge of the table was glowing. I can do this.

*Push*

Oh God, I can’t. Jimmy’s hand! He’s–

And the blast wave met my shield and became blinding whiteness, too fast for even me to see. And time sped back up, and I could hear screaming, but it seemed far away. I tried to reach for Jimmy, to tell him I was sorry, so sorry… but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t see. Systems were failing left and right. *Don’t panic*, I thought. *There’s always more energy somewhere. I’ll cannibalize a limb and build it again later, I’ll– oh, Jimmy…*

And that’s how they found me, blind and paralyzed and probably smoking, flat on my back in a crater. They took me without a word, took me apart and crated me without ceremony. Even through the lead lining I heard the two gunshots, and I heard Jimmy suddenly stop screaming. *Jimmy, Aaron… I’m so sorry… I tRied. Î sweAr I RÊalLý tR ¿æ ±–

– SYSTEM SHUTDOWN –

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