The Second XCOM Saga, part 51, interlude 56
by Dan Repperger

As written by Dan Krenzke and Kite Winters…

It was, for Kite, an amusing semi-secret that the part she found most difficult in adapting to her new body was the clanking sound of her footsteps, walking the halls of the base. Before her conversion — really, before the aliens had ever been seen — if her footsteps were clanking, it meant she was wearing reinforced heels, but now it didn’t mean that, but she kept trying to stand up on tiptoe anyway in expectation of them, and her current legs weren’t actually capable of that. She was not planning to bring it up, since the likely outcomes were either that she would be told not to waste time on a stupid problem, or they would want to open up her brain, again. It was a problem that could only be solved by application of time and adaptation. Her brain could adjust on its own for that.

But there was another potential problem which she wished to at least attempt to offer assistance with that brought her to this particular point in space-time. If she was remotely capable of recognizing observable patterns (which a formally trained statistician usually is, even without computational aids embedded in the cerebellum), Sergeant Krenzke would be passing this way soon upon his return from a morning run.

“Good morning!” Kite called out as he approached. She was trying to sound less mechanical, but software can only do so much to correct hardware deficiencies. Even organic software. “May I speak with you, if you have a moment?”

Sweat seeped through the sweatshirt and pants. As Krenzke and Rufus came through the door into the barracks’ hall, steam came off them. He heard Kite’s electronic voice. “Sure. What do you want?”

At times like these, Kite almost wished they had not fixed her eyes as part of the procedure. Knowing that the chunky metal frames she had favored could absorb at least one punch from most people contributed enormously to a greater sense of social ease. “I have been meaning to raise an issue with you for some time, and apologize for my temerity.”

Despite the sterility she was struggling to remove from her voice, she had to pause to take a few deep breaths. “What I suspected when I witnessed you causing a swath of your chest to be ripped off after a mission was, I believe, confirmed a few days ago in the infirmary. Specifically in the statement, ‘Make it hurt. Let me know I live.’ ” Kite broke off abruptly. While her own voice came out as a mechanical almost-mockery of how she had previously sounded, her recollection of what Krenzke had shouted at Jeremy came out like a recording of Krenzke’s voice. “I…I apologize. I did not know that would happen.”

Krenzke saw her awkwardness at broaching a question she didn’t want to ask. He suppressed a grin. “My desire to feel physical pain is not a form of arousal. It’s to…to…well…feel. Emotionally I am so numb that anger seems to be the only feeling that will surface.” He looked at her, his eyes held as much spark as a mannequin’s.

While the question was proving difficult to ask, it was easier to continue, having it answered. “Nor was mine, in source. Only in solution. The hard, the sharp, the forceful. Became gateway to re-learning. Re-remembering. The warm, the soft. The human, instead of the savage animal.” ¬†Whatever expression Kite was attempting to form, what she managed was the briefest flicker of a twitching smirk. “While it was not war in any normal sense which did it to me the first time around, such numbness is a state with which I am familiar. I do not wish for it to progress in you to its logical conclusion. I had intended to offer the…equipment, which was instrumental in my own…humanization. The changes to my body mean I can no longer use most of it. But if you are certain instead, I will ask. Just…try to find whatever last made you feel alive outside of rage and pain. Before it progresses, and instead of anger and conflict, the sensation of life comes only in causing death.”

The former Marine thought for a moment. “Best I can figure out is that this a test of faith for me. Am I going to trust the Almighty to see me through this, or am I going to turn a blind eye to all He has done for me already. Faith, Hope, and Love are not mere feelings of the moment, but actions that require I live it out. Most of the anger that boils out of me is my own lack of living out Faith, Hope, and Love. Then again, if these are not tested beyond the mere feelings of the moment, they’re meaningless. An old US Marine Corps proverb states that pain is a form of waste leaving the body, therefore pain is good. The same could be said of the soul.”

Kite was silent as ho spoke, for once glad of her difficulties showing emotion, and when she responds she did so more slowly, carefully choosing each word. “I cannot speak of faith in an Almighty. But I think that we can find only what we are willing to seek.” ¬†She shook her head briefly, trying to clear it, reaching one metal hand out to Krenzke’s shoulder. “I just…Even as I am now, I am certain that, should I survive this war, I will be capable of reclaiming all of my humanity which holds meaning for me. It will take time. And an appropriate analogue of blood, sweat, and tears. But it will happen. I believe very few things. But one of them is that such recovery is possible for all of us here, despite what we have done. Despite how the consequences of what we have done will change the world.”

“I’ll be praying for you. ”

“And I will be hoping for you.”

Comments (2)

mkbJanuary 7th, 2014 at 10:43 pm

This made me cry. It does not happen often.

mkbJanuary 22nd, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Rereading this… I guess Dan Krenzke took his concerns about being unable to feel to one of two people who are guaranteed to be likely to grok the issue, and yet… Is he also trying to make sure the MEC troopers maintain their empathy, or checking on it?

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