I went into the bodyshop to order new legs. The assistant had a screen projection in front of his face, but he burst it as I came up to the counter. Gleaming limbs hung from the wall behind him. He followed my gaze. “New pins?”
I nodded. There was a bright yellow pair with sprung feet that looked promising.
He flicked a new pad into vision on the desk and started to take notes. “What are you on now?”
“Titanium smarts with shock absorbers and stabilised joints.”
“Above or below the knee?”
“Was that a choice or an accident?”
“I was born that way. No shins. I grew up with prosthetics. I tried cloned flesh for a while, but it itched so I went back to the pros.”
He laughed. “Yeah, tell me about it. My wife gets a rash on her clones, and vein damage. Easy to treat, but why have the hassle in the first place?”
I frowned at that. My own wife had wonderful legs. That was part of the problem. I was here to put things right.
“Can I grab your details?” The assistant had opened a blink spot, and I swiped my ID card over it. He raised an eyebrow. “Still using a card? We can set you up with an ID tattoo, or chip you?”
“I like the tradition.”
“Of course, Mr…” He pulled up my profile. “Kesing?”
“Michael Kesing. Yes.”
He got down to business. “If you’re thinking about a full length pair this time, the surgery will take a few hours, followed by several months of recuperation and training.”
“I’m booked on the Mars cycler. I’m already going under for a rejuv package, so can this operation be done at the same time?”
He flicked through the data. “Are you flying from Collins or Wilmott?”
“That’s fine. You can have the op in orbit, sleep through the transfer to the cruiser, and stay unconscious for the whole flight. We’ll get you in shape with auto-stimulation and calibrate the legs for Mars gravity.”
I pointed at the yellow pair on the wall. He made a note, then spun the display to show me a list of potential upgrades. “You’ll be under for six months. Do you want us to fix anything else?”
The prices were eye-watering, but it was tempting. I hadn’t realised this would be so easy. I already had prosthetics below the knee, so I knew there’d be no objections to changing those, but he seemed perfectly happy with my profile. Maybe I could risk some more dramatic changes?
It was amazing what they had on offer. Hands and arms, of course, and new eyes and ears. But also new… plumbing.
I tapped the relevant item on the list. The assistant winked conspiratorially.
“No problem, Mr Kesing. Large or small?”
“Small will be fine.”
He totted up the bill. “So that’s a complete refit from the waist down. In yellow. Anything else?”
I shook my head and authorised the payment. It came to a lot, but it was going to be worth it.
“Thank you, Mr Kesing, that’s all booked in.”
I grinned as I left the shop.
I am not Michael Kesing, and this is not my ID. Michael Kesing is the man who has been having an affair with my wife, and he is going to be livid when he wakes up on Mars.
Graham Brand trained as a metallurgist, casting gold bars in Zambia before returning to the UK and drama school. He spent ten years in the theatre, as an actor, musician and musical director, before becoming a father and switching to IT project management, which has taken him round the world. He now lives in the Yorkshire Dales and blogs far less frequently than he should at crosstimers.com.