Sunday, November 24, 2013

12/27/12 - Straffer - One Look Up I Can See Down - pt. 3.1


Mount Sinai Hospital has an amazing secret, hidden behind an ordinary-looking pair of swinging doors.

To get to that secret, you must be clean. You must walk down a hallway that has been specially built to detect any pollutants, toxins, or dangerous substances. If your scan comes up "red," the hallway shuts down, and a force wall pushes you back to its start, like an angry wind that will not take "no" for an answer.

The things on the other side of those doors are delicate, fragile. They require constant maintenance and upgrading. And the men and women who tend to those things have no time for dirt or dust, or anything that might cause a problem for their patients.

Their patients are very grateful for this, or so I am told. I was only allowed to see one of them, today. But then, this man is the star attraction on this day.

Director Straffer, formerly of Deep-Ten: the massive, trans-lunar weapons platform that ringed our Earth and Moon, and protected both from invasion for decades. For all that time, he watched out for us, up until the Imago attempted to kill him and take his place, and then used that platform for their own evil and destructive ends.

But then -- after surviving a fall from there to the Moon -- this man came back to return the favor, and destroyed Deep-Ten.

Some say this may have won our war against the Imago. If so, today I speak to a war hero, about to be given the best honor any such man could be given.

For today, the doctors and scientists of  this place will be wheeling what's left of him from his room, and taking him into a surgical suite so advanced it makes terms like "state of the art" trite and useless. There, over the course of a day, they will labor to make a true miracle.

Over the door of that surgery are the words Melior, Ocior, Fortifor. "Better, Faster, Stronger" -- the motto of Mt. Sinai's Cybernetic Prosthesis Surgery.

Words that will be at the forefront of their minds as they rebuild this man.

* * *

"So let me explain what's going to happen, today," the barrel-chested chief of Surgery says to his patient and his lover, pointing to a high-tech diagram he's printed out: "Before we do anything, we're going to go directly into your cranium, and replace the existing conduits in your neural matter-"

"You can do that?" Straffer asks, cocking an eyebrow. SPYGOD -- ever nearby, today -- gets the feeling that if his lover still had hands, they'd be squeezing his for all they were worth.

The chief smiles: "Been able to do that for about a decade, now. Advances in medical nanotech have been nothing short of astounding. Thought you'd have kept up with that?"

"Well, not really," Straffer admits: "After the last surgery I had, in the early 90's, I was told this was really as good as it was going to get."

"Well, that's the Space Service for you," the man winks, getting up and walking over to put the diagrams on a lit panel, up on the wall: "Think we both know how that goes. We can do better for you. We're going to."

"And if they don't, I'll put lead in his !@#$ing noggin so quick he'll be in Hell before the !@#$ Devil knows he's there," SPYGOD whispers into Straffer's ear.

"Heard that..." the man says, not turning around.

"You'll have to pardon my boyfriend," Straffer chuckles, rolling his eyes: "He wants me up and out of here as soon as possible."

"So do I, frankly," he says, coming back with some new diagrams: "You're a great patient, but I'm kind of tired of having my staff threatened and shot at."

"Sorry," SPYGOD lies, shrugging.

The man smiles, somewhat weakly, and then goes back to explaining the wonder they're going to perform, today.

* * *

Up in the observational theater, I look down at a bare room. No banks of machinery, no life support systems, no pallets of surgical tools. Just a plain white room with a plain white floor, seeming grey and misty under the dim lights.

Then the doctors and technicians come in, and everything changes.

The room is washed in brightness as lights glare, and then dim. Things begin to appear around them: cabinets and tables push up from the floor, light fixtures slide out from the walls, and 3-D screens float in the air. 

Finally, a table appears: a table with a white, metal square looped around it. One of the technicians tests to make certain it has free movement -- sliding it from one end of the table to the other, smooth as glass. Someone else tests the various tanks that sit under that table: reservoirs of mineral and biological material, all hooked up to the metal square. 

There's a bustle of movement from the doors, and a small tray is wheeled in. On top of that tray is the patient -- a head, still plugged into his batteries and nutrient tanks. 

And still wide awake, because they will need him to be fully conscious for what happens next. 

There will be two things going on, here, today. They will happen at the same time. If everything goes well, they will also be ready for each other at the same time. 

And in this case, they cannot do any less than well. They cannot mess this up. They cannot do this over. If it does not work the first time, when they get into the more delicate (and dangerous) part of the operation, there will be no going back.

So they check everything one more time, and then yet another. The equipment, the patient, their screens, themselves. Everything and everyone is double-checked, just to be sure, and then checked one more time to be absolutely certain. 

And then, when they are as sure as they're ever going to be, they all nod to one another, and start building an enhanced human.

* * *

"Wow," Straffer says as they sit in the waiting room, waiting for the doctors to finish conferring in the next room over: "Just... wow."

"!@#$ing tell me about it," SPYGOD says, tousling his lover's hair: "I thought your old body was something amazing, but this... I had no idea they'd come this !@#$ far."

"And that's you saying it."

"Right, so that's saying something."

They both laugh at the joke, weak as it is, and then go back to snuggling, such as they can.

"Like comparing an edsel to a formula 1 racer," Straffer says.

"A cannon to a minigun," SPYGOD continues: "You're going to be the prettiest !@#$ing man this side of the Atlantic."

"And the most enhanced. I mean... !@#$."

"Are you worried, at all?" SPYGOD asks: "I mean, about the operation."

"Not at all," Straffer says: "I really just wish they'd get on with it. The waiting's what's driving me crazy."

"Well, it's going to be a long haul in there."

"I know, believe me. I think they've got it all timed out and planned, even the cigarette breaks."

"Never a bad idea," SPYGOD winks, revealing that he brought a flask of whiskey: "Speaking of which, want a hit?"

"Is that Wild Turkey?"

"You know it. Your favorite."

"Oh !@#$ yes," Straffer replies, and greedily laps down a few drops as his lover drops them on his tongue. He closes his eyes as he does this, eager for the sensations that will quickly come, and leave just as swiftly -- filtered out with mechanical precision by the machine acting as his liver.

"Not too !@#$ much," SPYGOD says, hiding the flask: "They need you running on all four !@#$ing cylinders, I think."

"I'm good," Straffer says: "This blood scrubber's pretty fast. Too fast, really."

"Makes you !@#$ing wonder what the new one's going to be like, eh?"

"Oh, they better let me get drunk," Straffer says, looking up at him: "I want to be drunk with you. I want to feel like my belly's about to explode after a good meal."

"And after a good !@#$?" SPYGOD asks, grinning

"Like I'm about to explode," Straffer says, shuddering just a little: "Pity it's gone so quickly. I could use a good drunk right about now."

SPYGOD smiles and, tipping the flask back, swallow mightily and then leans down to kiss his lover. As their tongues slide over each other, the alcohol travels with them, giving Straffer at least the illusion of the kick he was looking for. 

They look at each other, then -- eyes hazy from the alcohol, yet sharp with desire -- and all that needs to be said between them is contained in that look. Acknowledgement that one went through the fire for the other, and would do so again and again to be with him. And a promise to honor that sacrifice for as long as they both shall love.

When the doctors come back, a few seconds later, they can't help but feel like they've interrupted something sacred. And maybe they have, too. But it's time to get this show on the road, and if they don't go now, it might not happen at all. 

And so the two men must part, for a time. But neither will be far from the other, during this ordeal, nor far from each other ever again, after it's over.

The whiskey may as well have been a ring.

* * *

"Enhanced human." 

It sounds like a cold and clinical term, but I am told that, despite the name on the hospital wing, they medical profession now likes to think in terms of "enhancements," instead of "bionics" or "cybernetics." So long as even a single piece of a naturally-created being is within the framework, somewhere, all they have done is enhanced its existence, somehow -- made it healthier, stronger, hardier. 

Made it more than it was.

(I am also told that, for a time, they wanted to use the term "enhancile," but it sounded even worse than "cyborg." So "enhanced human" it is.)

I lean over a bit more as they get ready to begin, barely aware that SPYGOD has slipped into the theater, beside me, and taken up watch without saying a word. I wish there was something I could say to him, here and now, but I fear that nothing I could speak would be even adequate at this point.

He watches in silence as they prepare to remake his friend, and I choose to honor it. There will be time for talk, later. Talk, and hopefully many other things. 

But this is a separate matter. Below my vantage point, they have begun creating a skeleton -- one that shines under the bright lights as though made of silver.

The white square goes back and forth, from one end of the table to the other. In its center lies the skeleton, floating in the air as it is built up, layer by layer. The minerals and metals are sprayed out, and then funneled and shaped by force fields, slowly becoming more recognizable with each swift pass of the square.

The skeleton does not have a skull, we notice. That is because it is being holographiclly recreated above a smaller, white square, over on the smaller table, right next to the disembodied head. Scans are being made of the organic remnant, and with each scan the hologram becomes more complete, more detailed.

As the metal skeleton is finished, other things are added onto it -- weird, efficient-looking meshes of red flesh and gleaming metals. We see the webwork of nerves, branching out from the spine, and waving in anticipation of things to plug themselves into. A red carpet of muscle to hold it all in and together.

Then the square stops going all the way up and down, and instead focuses on specific areas, building them up one at a time. We see the genesis of the renal system, with small but powerful kidneys leading to a muscularbladder. A large loop of chunky intestines -- designed to create organic nutrients for the organic remnants, and also manufacture synthetic lubricants for the body's many moving parts -- is spiraled out and curved around. 

A large stomach, bulging and wired, is laid down alongside a slim and efficient liver. Something that may or may not be a pancreas is nestled between them, along with several other structures that seem to have more to do with the mechanical systems than the organic.

Strong, filtered lungs, designed to work in a vacuum, are put down on either side of a heart wrapped around a nuclear battery. Then a webwork of arteries and veins is spun out, connecting all things up and down the line with that strong, central organ. Glands are inserted, lymph nodes positioned, and millions of other things brought into life, and then online. 

Each slide of the white square creates yet another portion of yet another biomechanical wonder, gleaming under the lights. Each pass challenges the work of the gods, who labored with mud and stone and divine breath to shape the rude clay into something that could stand tall and say "I am." 

Each pass says "I am God, here," and no one seems willing to disagree. 

* * *

"So, you wanted to !@#$ing talk?" SPYGOD asks the chief surgeon, not long after his lover is wheeled away for pre-op.

"Yeah," the barrel-chested man says, walking across the waiting room and extending a hand: "Let's start over."

"What do you mean?" SPYGOD asks, looking at the hand as though there was a gun in it.

"You're being an !@#$hole, (REDACTED)," the man says, keeping the hand right there: "An !@#$hole to me, to my staff. From the first day here, all up to now. No one's done or said anything to you, now have they?"


"Answer you're looking for is 'no,'" the man pushes: "Either you are an !@#$hole, or we got off on the wrong foot. Since I'm going to be putting your lover back together...?"

SPYGOD looks at him, and then the hand, and then takes it, sighing.

"Yeah, I'm sorry," he says, puffing his cheeks and exhaling: "It's just... I just got him !@#$ing back, you know? I thought he was dead for months. I mourned him and made my peace. And now he's back, and he's alive, and we're taking the future together-"

"As you should. He's crazy about you."

"Yeah, and I'm !@#$ing crazy about him. But then... well, this surgery. A whole !@#$ton of things could go wrong-"

"They won't," the man says, putting his other hand on SPYGOD's shoulder: "Won't let them. Outside of here, you call the shots. Here? I'm in charge. Pins don't drop without my say so."

"If you say so."

The man smiles: "Control, isn't it? Don't like to not have it."

"!@#$ no."

"Then we got one thing in common," he says, clapping SPYGOD on the shoulder and getting ready to walk away: "Another thing? Not gonna let him die. Not in there, anyway."

"But that is a risk?" SPYGOD asks, taking a half step towards him as he goes: "No bull!@#$, doctor. Could we lose him?"

The man looks back from the door, and nods: "We could, yes. Surgery's always dangerous. This kind's really dangerous. But like I said? Not gonna let him die, here."

"You promise?"

The man smiles a little: "Promise. He dies over my dead body. And I don't plan on dying again."

And with that, and a manly wink, he's gone, leaving SPYGOD somewhat chastened, but no less worried.

(SPYGOD is listening to Sunshine in the Shade (The FIXX) and having a Steelhead Broadway Blonde )

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