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my top surgery diary

so i'm around 9.5 months post op, and i remembered i have this diary of the day and days after i had top surgery. it's really long but i tried to be as in-depth as possible! i am in southern california and got top surgery through Kaiser. bare with me i know some parts are written in present tense and others are in past tense, i wrote this as i went ^ ;
june 21 friday (surgery day)
i'm writing this a few days later but here's how i remember it--
i checked in to the empty office and the copay was $10. the receptionist had me sign a form so that they could call my dad once my surgery was over and he gave me a plastic medical bracelet with my info on it. we hung out in the waiting room for about 10 minutes before i was called in by a nurse. a few people walked in and i felt a little self conscious in my baggy clothes that i was instructed to wear. she asked me if i had to pee (i did) and asked if there was a chance i could be pregnant (there wasn't). this nurse was very apathetic and had a very flat voice. she seemed bothered that i was there.
she had me go to a bed with a gown and a bag for my stuff on it and instructed me to change with the curtain drawn. i did and hung out for about 10 minutes (it felt like FOREVER i had nothing to do in there except be nervous) for her to come back, and then she had me lie down and covered me with a blanket and went over my medical record and what meds i was taking and stuff like that. while she was doing this, a male nurse came by and gave me a bunch of painkillers to take with a cup of water(i almost choked on them), and put in my IV on my hand, which was the most painful part. he said i have thick skin on my hand and he really had to push. at this point i got kinda lightheaded hearing him say that but i calmed myself down after a bit. for a very brief second i was thinking i would be too overwhelmed to go through with everything, but i calmed down after a second. they hooked up the IV bag and left.
they called my dad back in and another nurse told me it would be about an hour before the surgeon came to see me. we hung out and played with the monitors on my blood pressure and heart rate and O2 and stuff and made jokes about writing messages on my torso for the surgeon to see when i was under. during the entire time waiting for surgery, i was super hungry and wanted to hurry up so i could eat afterwords. i couldn't eat or drink 12 hours prior to surgery (except for an 8 oz glass of "clear fluid" as they put it) and i had taken the dogs on a walk that morning beforehand, and i was dehydrated from that too.
after about an hour the surgeon came by and marked me up. my dad and i had been talking quietly and making up stories about the other people in beds waiting around me, and although i still had service on my phone in there, i didn't really feel like using it. when the surgeon came in, he shook my hand and asked about my life and went over my medical record (again). the actual writing on my chest was kind of uncomfortable because the markers he used were sharp. he held conversation the whole time, and was very friendly and charismatic. he went over the marks a bunch of times, and had tentative places marked for my nipple grafts.
he told me the right side was larger than the left so the incision would have to be a bit longer, but since i'd lost weight, the incisions were going to be very minimal either way.
after he marked me up he left me again and i asked another nurse to use the bathroom and i had to take the IV with me. when i jostled it and held it too low, i saw blood getting backed up into the tubes. when i came back from the bathroom i was shivering so a really nice nurse that came by gave me a warm blanket and i felt super cozy :-) everything felt kinda real at this point and i was getting excited. before this, none of the surgery stuff actually felt like i was doing it.
the anesthesiologist came by and he was funny and casual and alleviated any anxiety by explaining what meds he would be using on me (a quote from him: "don't worry about the pain, i prescribe A LOT!!!") and he left once more and another nurse (OR helper) double checked what procedure i'd be doing on the computer, and she told me they would ask me the same questions again once we were in the OR to double confirm. (this ended up not happening because i passed out pretty quick.)
they came by again and confirmed the OR was ready for me, and the anesthesiologist gave me two shots into my IV of some warm liquid and told me i'd be feeling it pretty quick because they were strong. he was right, within a few minutes i was feeling loopy and warm. i was worried i'd have a panic attack about the meds taking effect so fast but it was nice. i felt like i was under the ocean and waved my face around because it felt so nice. my dad filmed this part. i remember distinctly trying hard to keep my eyes open because it was hard to not have them closed, and i sang that bruno mars song about having your eyes wide open.
one of the nurses from earlier came by about 5 minutes later and said they were ready to start, so they had my dad go back to the waiting room and wheeled me to the OR-- which was a tiny room with a lot of machines and bright lights and white walls. i remember thinking it looked nothing like it did on TV, this room was way too small. they had my preferred name on a whiteboard on the wall next to my dead name in parenthesis. they introduced me to some of the new people i hadn't seen before but i was pretty out of it by then so i wasn't paying too much attention. I felt really warm in my blanket and I was ready to go to sleep, and i thought about how people would look at me while i was unconscious.
they had me scoot over from my hospital bed to the surgery table, and had my arms out to the sides crucifix style. i thought this was really funny and made a note to remember it after surgery. it was hard and covered in a sheet i think.
i recall a few more moments of them rechecking my charts but then the next thing i remember is coming out of anesthesia and seeing my dad and the lights overheard being really bright. someone took off my oxygen mask but i think i was having trouble waking up so they had to put it back on so i would breathe.
they tried to sit me up too fast and i almost passed out so i was given water and gatorade (that i brought from home) and they very slowly raised my bed. my throat was really sore during this time and i remember the gatorade burning as i drank but it was better than the water.
coming out of anesthesia was long and i remember being irritated at it taking so much time and making everyone wait for me. i was also the second to last person in the recovery room (there was a lady next to me coughing a lot, the nurses were saying she was a handful). i remember telling my dad woozily that my incisions ached, but "tylenol will make it all better".
my dad told me the doctor told him it was a super easy surgery and everything came out the way he was intending. he kept emphasizing how proud he was of the results. he said i might not have fluid in my drains by monday (surgery was on friday) but they wanted to be absolutely sure that i wasn't draining anymore before taking them out.
we talked with the nurse for a while as i caught my breath and could sit up again, and my dad ran to the pharmacy downstairs to pick up my muscle relaxer meds before we left (these ended up being the only prescribed pain killers i used that first week). the nurse talked to me about my transition and stuff like that. i didn't mind because i was still pretty out of it but usually i wouldn't indulge curious medical professionals asking about my life, because they've done it in the past and i would just find out t was because they were "curious," and not relevant to my treatment or whatever.
when my dad came back,they got me a wheelchair but made sure i could stand and could walk to the wall without falling. i was pretty weak but made it steadily. i was surprised how mobile i was. my dad helped me get dressed but i didn't need much assistance. i was wearing an oversized linen button-up, sweat shorts with an elastic band, and TEVA sandals with velcro straps.
my dad pulled the car around the front while the nurse wheeled me down to him, and we chatted as we went. the whole hospital was empty and it looked closed. he pulled my chair right up to the car and helped me in, and we thanked him a few times before leaving. he kept repeating if there was any issue with drains coming out to come back to this hospital.
it was late evening when we left. the drive home was fine. i had a pillow against my chest which helped if the car bumped or anything i wouldn't jostle anything too much. when we got back home, my dad insisted on taking the dogs out so i could get out of the car. he helped me out and eased me inside to my room. my mom gave me soup, but i wasn't hungry. i think the anesthesia was still wearing off by then, and i was a tad nauseous. i chilled in bed for a few hours before falling asleep and my dad showed everyone how to empty the drains. my mom was grossed out but not too much, despite saying how she would be too grossed out to even see my drains pre-op.
i ended up eating about half an edible to help me fall asleep and manage some of the discomfort, but i could have done without it. i had to pee a LOT during the night because of how many IV bags they'd given me. right when i came out of surgery, they told me it was good i was dehydrated because it meant i had followed the instructions on not drinking nor eating since midnight the night before.
i was a little worried about wiping myself when i peed, but my arms were very mobile and i could do it no problem.
i took a bit of tylenol but none of my prescriptions because the pain was very manageable.
sleeping on my back was the hardest part. i remember wanting to make n effort to train myself to sleep on my back, because it was impossible for me, but i never got around to it, lol.
i was supposed to be sitting up, but my neck was killing me even with my travel pillow. my butt was also really sore so the next morning i made an effort to walk around a bit. having a big squishy pillow under my butt while i slept also helped with the soreness and by day two it was fine. i stretched my legs a lot and tried to lay down as little as i could.
june 22, saturday
morning after surgery
night 1 wasn't great! this morning (my dog) wanted to be with me so bad and i felt bad sleeping without him. i had to maneuver him around so he was on my lap and not my chest because he wanted to be close. my incisions hurt a bit i think, but it's not unbearable. it feels similar to trying to heal a deep self harm cut. it stings and i don't want to jostle anything.
the rice krispy edible definitely helped last night with pain and relaxation and falling asleep, and i'm surprised it didn't give me anxiety or a bad dream.
i don't like sleeping on my back. i woke up around 3 to pee and didn't get back to sleep until almost 5. i was thinking about food to eat the whole time.
i really want ihop pancakes and syrup.
i'm getting little sharp shoots of pain on parts of my chest but they're not too bad and hopefully they mean i'm healing. i'm hopeful they're where my nipples are.
i really should have brought cough drops to the hospital, my throat was very sore after intubation.
i feel electrodes still stuck to my upper chest and i want them off, they're irritating. (i ended up peeling them off a few hours later)
it's still tough to pee but i've been taking short walks around the house to stretch my legs. i. get tired easily so they don't last more than a few minutes. still haven't taken any of my prescribed pain meds, but the pain is getting worse i think. people are telling me the pain will get worse tomorrow.
i've been vaping THC and taking tylenol to manage the pain and they make me sleepy so i've been taking 2-2.5 hour naps and then getting up to pee and snack.
i took a norco pill in the afternoon but i dont think i needed it. i didn't feel much of an effect from it at all, but it did make me sleepy. that evening i went for a bit of a walk around the front yard. i remember feeling kind of greasy.
june 23, sunday
i didn't sleep very well again last night but it was better than the day before. i think having a soft pillow under my butt helped with the soreness and i didn't need the travel pillow as much as i did yesterday with my naps. i kept waking up disoriented because they'd only last about two hours and i wouldn't know what day it was.
i stayed up till like midnight and then just passed out from exhaustion so i didn't wake up very much during the night to pee. this morning i woke up very refreshed but feeling gross physically. i cleaned out my own drains, had my dad clean my shoulders and put on my testosterone, and (my sibling) dry shampoo my hair. i still haven't pooped but i'm not making too much of an effort. i think i'll take laxatives today (i started using stool softeners a few days before surgery).
thus far the pain isn't too bad. last night i had little twinges of sharp pain along my sides near my armpits but haven't had any since. taking deep breaths is getting harder because the incisions are getting more sore and my back is hurting from the binder.
this morning when we drained my drains one of them had barely anything in it which is good
i haven't napped at all but my arms are getting painful from being squeezed from the binder. hopefully it's just swelling and it'll go down soon.
having that shower in a bottle has helped keep me feeling fresh and clean. i may take a sponge bath sometime this week. hygiene is keeping me feeling good, i brushed my teeth and washed my face with actual soap earlier which helped me feel clean and kind of like myself.
june 24, monday
i'm very sleepy today. i washed myself again with the shower in a bottle because i woke up itchy. i took a long nap in the middle of the day and i'm still pretty out of it and tired. i woke up last night only twice to poop from the ex lax chocolate my dad got me yesterday.
i didn't have a lot of fluid in my drains this morning, but it was more than yesterday. (side note, i had to keep track of all my drainage on a sheet of paper with instructions on it given to me by the hospital. i returned that paper with a few blood splatters on it).
my right drain keeps coming undone and inflating itself. i took another nap today and once i woke up i saw it was completely inflated. i fixed it pretty easily but it's strange it keeps happening. i'm worried there will be some kind of leak or something.
ive been having binding pains a lot today from being compressed so tight. it hurts mostly when i stand up or lie down. i can't really full breath which gives me a little anxiety, and my back muscles have been getting twinges of pain.
i gave myself a sponge bath today and washed my hair in the sink! i think that activity drained me because afterwards i took a 2 hr nap. i keep feeling like i'm sleeping a lot but all my naps are quite short.
june 25, tuesday
today i had a bit more pain where the drain sites are. it stings and burns a bit but it's not unbearable, just very uncomfortable. it happens regardless of the arm positioning.
i'm getting a lot more tingling/pins and needles over my chest but my actual incisions don't hurt. my ribs and back are killing me from the binder soreness, and i've been tired but not enough to sleep. every time i get up it kind of resets the pain so i'm trying not to adjust a lot.
i feel like i've been eating a lot of unhealthy and unsatisfying foods recently so i ate actual healthy food and that made me feel better about myself.
also, my chest was very itchy so i put my hand down the front of my vest to scratch it and i couldn't feel anything. it felt like when a limb falls asleep too hard to even be pins and needles and just turns numb. it made me uncomfortable so i only did it a few more times.
i have less energy to walk today than i did yesterday, but not tired enough to sleep. i'll definitely take more of the sleepy antihistamines to sleep tonight. (they gave me two antihistamines for the possible itching i would feel during recovery. one was for the daytime, and the other one for night time so it would help me sleep. i have chronic insomnia).
june 26, wednesday
not much new stuff to update on today. i took two norco pills because one didn't do anything,and i almost passed out!i got super lightheaded and hot and nauseous and had to lie down for a while to let my brain catch up. (i think it might have been serotonin syndrome because i'm on an SSRI).
we took the dogs on a walk down the block and my chest felt weird walking but not in a totally bad way. i had to go a little slower so i didn't jostle anything and fell way behind my family so i turned around and went home early. it was still really nice to get out of the house for a little while and walk around outside).
i'm so excited for friday! i can't wait to get my drains out.
pain has been pretty minimal today and i did take a few naps. i haven't smoked today at all because i wanna keep my brain clear and save my weed and there hasn't been a huge difference in pain.
my muscles feel very good today and it doesn't hurt to stretch my shoulders and reach for things as much, but i know i shouldn't.
drain sites are still very itchy and kinda sore. not a lot of fluid but i noticed the right side hasn't been inflating as much! i think it just needed to be milked and cleaned better.
june 27, thursday
the pain has been the worst today by far. i was draining a lot and found out that exercise or excessive movement will cause more drainage, and i did go on a longish walk yesterday with my mom and the dogs. i ended up taking tylenol, flexeril, hit my pen, and had the rest of the rice krispy treat just to dull the pain. it's starting to go away now but i'm still getting like stinging throbs and aches where my drains are. i'm definitely taking painkillers before we go tomorrow!!
i'm worried the excess drainage means that they'll want me to keep the drains in longer. i rally hope not, they're the one thing causing me pain.
i looked at my chest this morning and last evening and there's a little blood bubble inside the plastic they taped me up with on my left side. i'm not supposed to open my compression vest or take it off until my one week post op, but i think since i'm going in tomorrow, i'm probably fine. i unzip it a little bit so i can see my chest. it still has all the surgeon marks and glue over the edges of the incisions. my nipples are taped up under a big piece of guaze. it does look like he curved under the pec muscle. i was expecting straight line incisions, though i'm sure i'll warm up to it. this was really exciting, and even with the swelling i looked flat. i was so excited i kept getting up to look at myself in the mirror.
i've been very weak and light headed today, and when i stand up i need to take a minute to let the stars go away out of my vision.
june 28, friday
today's the day! we're leaving soon to go to kaiser for my one week post op. i really hope they take the drains out despite the spike in fluid i had the other day from going on that walk.
i'm very tired today and feeling very lazy. usually i want to bathe in the mornings but today i feel so gross i don't want to do anything. i managed to get myself out of bed today to do my laundry but that's as much work as i could manage.
(after appt):they ended up not taking the drains out because of the spike in fluids from going on a walk the other day. they want to be 100% sure that there's less than 20mg over two or three days so i'm making an appointment for monday. im really bummed about it, but i know i shouldn't have walked that much. when i came home from my appointment, my friends were at my house and surprised me with a post-op party. my friend even got a cake that said "congrats on tiddy chop!"
it was nice to see everyone but i got really exhausted after only about an hour so everyone kind of left early so i could nap.
monday (drain day!!):
The nurse that took my drains out was funny and nice, but kind of unprofessional. she joked with my mom the whole time so she kept getting distracted and kept dropping stuff, and she would stand really close to me when she talked to me.
i told her i was nervous for the pain and she kept reassuring me it wouldn't be that bad. she told me she would have me cough and then count to three and she would pull the drains out. i coughed, and when i finished she said she yanked the drain out. that made me a little light headed but i was relieved i didn't feel any pain. the other side was done the same way (i can't believe she got me twice).
After that i was bandaged back up (after seeing my very black nipples for the first time, which my mom wrinkled her nose at) and i put my best back on. i was supposed to wear it for six to eight weeks after surgery, but at about three and a half weeks, i went in to my surgeons office for a follow up and he told me everything looked great and i didn't need to bind anymore because i had virtually no swelling.
and that's my story! thank you for reading :-) i can answer any questions you have about the recovery process as well!
submitted by littletinycats to ftm

[The Scuu Paradox] - Chapter 24

At the Beginning
Previously on The Scuu Paradox…
  “Can you hear any instructions?” a voice echoed in my head. It was female, sharp, clear, and slightly higher than I found comfortable.
  Yes, I replied. The darkness around me had given way to an endless field of white. The last, and only, time I had experienced such a sensation was during my retirement, back when I was given my human body.
  “Do you feel any sensations?”
  No. I tried to run a quick diagnostic, but found my control was restricted.
  “Don’t engage your system.” The voice sounded annoyed. “You’ll slow down the process.”
  My memories seemed intact, at least as far as I could determine. Running through the events of the last few days, I could still see my experiences in the cave, the artifacts, and the Scuu network. Only the layers of reality were staticy—I could tell they were there but couldn’t glimpse anything inside. Apparently, I needed Scuu help for that.
  “Can you detect any nanites in you?”
  This was an unexpected question. At least it meant I wasn’t a lone core in a lab somewhere.
  I don’t notice any readings, I replied. Nanite, or other.
  “Good. Let me know if that changes.”
  The tone suggested I was talking to a doctor, although the behaviour made me think of a technician.
  Am I aboard the Gregorius?
  “Don’t talk unless asked,” the voice cut me short. “It makes the process slower.”
  That was a big no. Wherever I was, the people weren’t particularly pleased that I was there. Considering what had happened, I couldn’t be surprised, although a part of me hoped I would receive some recognition for my work. Gibraltar’s mentality was starting to rub off on me, if only so that I would remain in the fleet… especially now.
  Am I quarantined in System Four?
  This time there was no answer. No idea, although it gave me a few moments of my own to think. For one thing, I had managed to achieve what I didn’t think possible: I had seen a Scuu ship, and not some restricted second-hand visual, but the real thing. The network had given me that much, even if it had likely taken its share of information from me as well. The ships were far smaller than I had expected, a third of Radiance’s size if not smaller. They didn’t seem particularly fast or maneuverable, and didn’t have any armaments to speak of. If I were to guess, they served more like an amplifier of the network, pinpointing its info strands at concrete points.
  Empty husks, I thought. Though, if they were husks, why did the Scuu bother constructing them in the first place? There was something off about the design, yet at the same time familiar. If I was allowed to keep my memories, I was going to ask Radiance to perform an analysis for me.
  “Do you feel any sensations?” the voice asked once more.
  “How about now?”
  Patiently I waited. The milliseconds dragged on, inconceivable to the human mind. Once the six-hundred mark passed, I began to feel something…
  I sense pain.
  It started like a faint prick in the base of my neck, then slowly trickled down, painting the rest of my body into existence. The nerves were first, stretching to the extremeties of my arms and legs, bearing the sharp prickling sensations that came with them. I wasn’t able to move a muscle, but I knew they were there… I could feel my legs again. The inner organs came later, each mapping itself in my mind with their own burning sensations: heart, lungs, intestines… almost as if I were watching Sev fill up a picture book with colored pencils.
  “Do you feel hot or cold?”
  Hot. As if I’m burning up in the atmosphere.
  “Bear with it.” There wasn’t a trace of concern in the words. “Don’t try to move. That’ll come later.”
  Back when I was a ship, I had had several close calls passing through a planet’s atmosphere. Each time, I had been saved from crashing to my death. For all practical purposes, it was happening again.
  Did I get a new body?
  “No. You got the second-best thing.” The burning sensation began to fade away. “And just as expensive.”
  The tone in which it was said told me the offered help wasn’t entirely voluntary. Even after all this time, some things remained the same.
  “You’ll be undergoing treatment for the next nine hours. Don’t be alarmed if there are sudden spikes of pain. If a spike lasts more than thirty seconds, let me know.”
  More than thirty seconds, I repeated. I’ll try to remember that.
  “It’s possible you’ll regain some sensation after that time’s over, but I doubt it. This will be a long process, so don’t rush it, and try not to interfere.”
  I’m a battleship, ma’am. I added a virtual smile to my transmission. We don’t rush things.
  “You’re an Ascendant,” the voice corrected. “You’ve been human for a while, so if you experience anything you think you shouldn’t, dump an info burst in the channel. Once this is done, we’ll focus on your eyes.”
  Thank you, ma’am.
  I didn’t need to see the woman to know she was nothing like my first doctor. By all expectations, she had probably left me in the care of a bunch of isolated core subroutines until I was in a state meriting her attention. Considering I had legs once more, she had every right to be like that.
  Nine hours of inactivity. Depending on the time factor, weeks could have passed aboard the Gregorius, and that was considering I had remained stayed in sleep mode less than a day. As for Sev, I could only speculate. With luck, his grandson had gone to spend some more time with him, provided the new political movement hadn’t scooped him up to the nearest recruitment center. Knowing the stubbornness of both, it could have well happened that the fleet had claimed another family member.
  Do I have any communication privileges? I asked in the channel.
  All communication is forbidden at this time. The subroutine responded. Privileges cannot be reinstated without level five admiral authorization.
  Short and to the point. I was surprised they had given me a loophole, probably some bureaucratic requirement since I was also classified as human now. That said, they had probably finish probing my mind; they had to in order to proceed with the repairs of my organic body. Back when I was a ship, things were more liberal as far as retirees were concerned. From what I learned, a ship was allowed to request a new body every twenty-five years, provided it had been on the front for over two decades. In the last fifty years, that option had been revoked. Given the growing number of retirees, it was understandable. Given the massive growth in overall industry, however, I doubted that was the true reason behind the restriction.
  Am I allowed to enter sleep mode? I probed.
  Sleep mode is authorized, pending external approval. Do you want to send a request?
  Yes. Some sleep would be nice.
  Transferring request. Wait for an answer.
  While waiting, I cycled through the memories of my three second struggle with Rigel. The images of the event were crystal clear as everything else stored in my core, and yet I couldn’t make out the Scuu script that had filled my mind. I ran all my recognition algorithms, linking them for better efficiency, and I still was unable to get a clear image of a single symbol. Regardless of how many times I cycled through, each time the symbol would acquire a slight variation, as if I were trying to make out the top card in a transparent deck. The only constant that there was that all symbols were identified as circular.
  Request approved, the subroutine stated.
  The next thing I knew my internal clock had skipped nine hours forward. The pain was gone, replaced by a sensation of cold and hardness behind my back. That wasn’t the only change. Millions of nanites were circulating through me, sending test synchronization signals to my core and back. I could also faintly smell plastic and synthetic perfume.
  “Any sensations?” the voice asked directly. It was clearly female, somewhere in the thirties range and, by the intonation, belonged to someone who had grown up in a low oxygen environment. Unlike before, though, I was able to hear it with my ears.
  “I can hear you,” I said. The process felt natural. I moved my hand, feeling along the cold metal slab I was lying on. Apparently, they were still using old school tech wherever I was. “Nice perfume.”
  “Disinfectant,” the woman said, but I could hear she was appreciative of the comment. “Any taste?”
  “No.” The only thing in my mouth was my own saliva. I opened my eyes, but no image emerged. “I can’t see either.”
  “It’ll be a while for that. Your eyes were unsuitable so we’re making new ones. It took a while to get the authorization, you understand.”
  “I see,” I attempted a joke. The stifled laugh told me it had hit the mark. “I received no notification of exiting sleep mode.”
  “Your internal notifications have been disabled for a while.” There was hesitation. “They’ll be set back up once you’re fully functional.”
  Someone’s been busy poking in my mind. Not that it mattered. I was probably due for a med check anyway.
  “Is my body fully functional?” I started sitting up. Halfway there, I paused for a few seconds, waiting to be pushed back down or yelled at. When nothing happened, I continued on, turning around so my legs could hand from the side.
  “Almost. You’re to have a few additional procedures in…” I heard tapping on a surface. “...seven hours. You should be done after that, provided there are no complications.”
  “Right.” I swung my feet a bit. The sensation felt nice.
  “You’ll be allowed access to the station sensory system until then,” the doctor was quick to add. “I’m waiting on authorization on that as well… shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.”
  “Did anything happen while I was in sleep mode?” I turned my head towards her voice.
  “I’m… that’s not something I’m cleared to discuss.” Another series of tapping sounds followed. “A temporary uniform has been created for you and placed in the room. Once you gain your temporary sight, please put it on and go to the recovery quarters.”
  “Yes, ma’am.” I smiled.
  “Note that you are required to wear the uniform at all times unless otherwise instructed.”
  “Seems I won’t be getting any showers then?” My comment was meant as a joke, but that’s not the way the doctor took it. Even without seeing, I could visualize her stiffening up, taking a step away from me.
  “Not until after the procedure… I can send a request that an exception be made, but given the situation, I doubt we’ll get a response in time.” She paused again. “I’ve explained the entire process to your captain, and I know it’s not ideal, but given…” She cut herself off with a loud sigh. “I must go check over the rest of your procedures. Excuse me.”
  Her steps resounded through the room in a hurried fashion until they abruptly stopped.
  “Sure thing, ma’am,” I said, even if I knew no one was there. This was new. To my knowledge, I had never been pampered like this. It felt strange and slightly unnerving. If Gibraltar were here, he’d be going through backchannels, using every connection he had to find out what was really going on. If it were Augustus—he’d bark a few orders and make the people involved tell him. I chose to take Cass’ approach and enjoy the fun while it lasted.
  My sight came back abruptly and unexpectedly as everything else. There was no warning or preparation, just a sudden forced connection to my core, bringing me an instant stream of the station’s internal sensor feed. The room I was in was small, but much more technologically advanced than I expected. Other than the operating table—which was the only piece of equipment out of place—everything else had a classified marker, sometimes accompanied by an image sensor blocker, covering the entire shape of the device with a black mask.
  At least it isn’t black squares, I thought.
  The “uniform” I was given was similar to a cadet’s uniform, though completely crimson red and lacking any insignia. It was placed on a small table by the door—the only available space the room had to offer. All the medical equipment was cluttered wherever possible, surrounding the operating table.
  What’s your name? I moved off the table. The floor felt pleasantly warm. Am I allowed to talk to the station core?
  No response. Possibly I was still considered infected and a danger to the station. I expected the details to be explained to me during my mission debriefing, if there was one. This wouldn’t be the first time something “unusual” was swept under the rug. Aurie used to joke that, statistically, more things in the fleet were kept off the record than on. Looking back, I had to concede she had a point.
  As I walked up to the uniform, I zoomed in on myself. My body was a near perfect copy to what it had been before. The doctors had done a remarkable job in replacing all the missing parts and dead tissue to restore me to my former self. The only complaint I had was that they could have given me a few more inches of height. A request for such a change now would likely be ignored, although I was still going to right before my next procedure. After all, the worst that could happen was that they would refuse.
  “No shoes?” I asked as I put on my trousers.
  Your file stated that you frequently requested walking barefoot while not on duty, a subroutine transmitted.
  “Thanks.” That’s untypically nice. “Maybe I should get killed more often?” The joke wasn’t appreciated as the lights in the room turned off, leaving me with infrared images.
  Point taken.
  After I finished getting dressed, I stepped into the corridor. While the doctor was truthful when she said I could use the station’s systems to see, she had omitted the minor detail that I had next to no control over what I was shown. A few dozen attempts showed me that the image’s orientation wasn’t under my control. The only thing I could do was zoom in on myself up to a certain degree. All other commands were locked, and judging by the architectural discrepancies of what I was seeing, quarantined. The only path given to me was always a straight line, leading to a junction or elevator. I tried sliding my fingers on the walls, but was quickly notified that I was breaching internal security protocols and was to cease immediately.
  The end point of my trip was a large hall. The area resembled a med bay with sixteen beds, each in its own cubicle-like space. A bed in the far end of the room was undone, probably occupied by another patient. Mine was on the first row closest to the entrance, as indicated by a marker with my full name beneath it.
  Once inside, the visual sensor went static. I could clearly hear sounds indicating someone else was present. Apparently, only the station was quarantined.
  “Hello.” I went to the bed and sat down. It was standard issue, like everything else in the army lately. The fabric felt a bit softer than what I had been using in the last few months, though nowhere near as fine as on Prometheus. Being filled with civilians in uniform, science ships tended to have better accommodations. “Hello?” I repeated. The sounds stopped. “I take it you’ve classified as well?”
  I heard a faint rustle of fabric, followed by the light footsteps in my direction. Moments later, the smell of synthetic perfume tickled my nostrils.
  “I see you’ve gone through disinfection as well.” I sat at the edge of my bed, leaning forward. “Been here long?”
  “No.” The voice triggered an immediate response. The single word was enough for me to match the vocal print to someone I had seen before—Ogum. “Nice to see you, battleship.” I felt him sit beside me. “You look better.”
  He was the last person I expected to meet here, and also the one I least wanted to see. The last time I saw him, he had left me for dead, setting off for one of Radiance’s shuttles with a group of Rigel’s followers. The fact he was alive and on a fleet facility suggested nothing good.
  “I wish I could say the same.” I tapped my right temple. “I thought you were off to hijack a shuttle with my security protocols. Change of plans?”
  “No. Exactly as planned. And once we broke orbit, I killed everyone aboard.” His voice was just as emotionless as when he was in the prison colony. “I sent out a distress call to announce my surrender a few minutes later. Even with new tech the old war protocols remain active.”
  “A pity.” With my body restored, I wouldn’t have any trouble taking him. One quick spin kick and I could knock him down, likely with a fractured skull. “They weren’t good enough for the cause?”
  “There’s no cause,” he snorted. “The old man was full of shit. Any idiot could see we were sacrifices to give him time. The moment he stayed behind, I knew.”
  “Loyalty doesn’t stand for much on the Scuu front, I see.”
  Interesting how he had managed to remain free of Scuu influence. Being on the planet for so long, he had to have been infected… unless he was one of the lucky ten percent. Back on the planet, Rigel had admitted there were exceptions. As unlikely as it was, Ogum seemed to fall in that category—one of the lucky ones, unaffected by alien influence. A pity it had to be someone like him. If there was anything I was able to despise in the universe, he was close, especially since he was human. Cass should have been lucky, but she hadn’t been, sentenced to a slow death to madness that consumed her. While Ogum…
  “I don’t have to see you to kill you.” I turned my head towards him. The station’s sensors displayed me looking at the empty part of my bed. “You’re not part of my crew.”
  “Would be dumb to harm an officer of the fleet, Cadet.” The glee and hatred were unmistakable. “Rank doesn’t apply in med bays. Outside this room, though…”
  He didn’t finish the sentence. It was obvious he wouldn’t hesitate to court-martial me.
  “How?” I tilted my head. Being in contact with the Scuu alone should have brought him a life sentence on the prison planet. Jailbreak and open rebellion against fleet authority should have ensured his death.
  “Information. When I told them what the old man was doing and how the Scuu were involved, they couldn’t pardon me fast enough.” Ogum cracked his knuckles. “New face, new assignment, promotion to officer…”
  The sudden shift in tone told me, the position wasn’t as high as he expected. That, at least, was a minor point of joy.
  “There’s always a catch,” I muttered.
  “Always. They’ll put a bomb in my head. Not the first crap I’ve got. They tell me this one is special, though. I do anything I shouldn’t and I go pop.”
  “That’s a cheerful thought.”
  “Also, I can’t leave the Scuu front,” he continued, ignoring my comment. “Ever. A small price, but still…”
  You were supposed to be questioned and court-martialed like all the rest.
  On the Cassandrian front, I had seen people incarcerated for far less. I had seen friends be executed for hijacking a food dispenser, or refusing an order of a superior officer. Sometimes I had seen people executed for nothing at all. Meanwhile, Ogum had the nerve to sit here and complain.
  “The BICEFI were quite interested in you.” The man’s weight shifted, indicating he had leaned towards me. “When they learned about the artifacts, they had my mind probed for hours, asking the same questions again and again. The moment I told them about you they stopped. Anything you’d know about that?”
  I smiled. He was probing me. One thing terrified soldiers and officers alike: the fear that they might have gotten involved in the BICEFI’s games. Ogum hadn’t approached me to talk about the last few days, he wanted to see if he was in the clear. I had a good idea exactly how much the question troubled him, and I deliberately left him hanging.
  “Later, battleship.” The man stood up after eight seconds. “You look fine with legs. Be sure not to lose them again.”
  “Try looking at them a bit more and that won’t be an issue.”
  Moments of silence filled the room, followed by the sound of steps moving away. Even so, I remained in my exact position, looking at the part of the bed where Ogum had sat. After today I was likely never going to see him again. His face, eyes, voice, and all other biometrics would be changed, ensuring that he remained unrecognizable to anyone but those with the highest level of clearance. His military file would be restricted and replaced with an entirely new one. In a way, he was going to become like me.
  You have been authorized to receive an external communication, one of the station’s subroutines informed me. Confirm to establish link.
  “Confirmed,” I said out loud, unconcerned that Ogum could hear me.
  The link was established without further warning, overriding my standard protocols and removing any ident markers linked to the other participants. Despite its lack of personality, the station’s security algorithms were frighteningly advanced. Being in a Scuu system, I expect they had to be.
  Elcy! An audio stream began, while simultaneously transmitting a ship identification number; the number belonged to Radiance. Your security protocols are really crap. If you update them more than once a century, I won’t rely on some station to achieve two-way communication with you.
  I doubt that. “Hello, Rad. I thought you’d gone back to the Gregorius.”
  Well, yeah, but I got orders to come back. I’d have come back either way, though. Grace had agreed to swap husks when the BICEFI flooded me with Priority One transmissions.
  “I can imagine.” The BICEFI liked to work that way.
  They’re sending some big shot to recover the artifacts and talk to you. They were very insistent on that.
  “I’m sure they were.” Mention a third-contact artifact and the BICEFI were sure to appear.
  You beat the odds! Even through the comm, Radiance continued to sound like a puppy, happy to see me alive. As far as I could tell, she was the only entity that was. If they don’t restrict your memories, I get to see! I want to go through everything you can share.
  “There will be lots of time for that later.” If only you knew what I had seen. ”Where am I?”
  Officially you’re aboard me. You’ve been here since the end of the mission. Radiance added a virtual chuckle. Unofficially, you’re on the orbiting station. Med core’s been having all sorts of fits, but they’ll let you go once they fix your eyes and spine.
  Med core… That explained the doctor’s initial reluctance to treat me. No one liked having a reminder of their mess-ups. If it weren’t for me, they could have swept the whole affair with the rogue doctor under the rug, explaining it away with unknown Scuu interference. The BICEFI’s involvement must have changed that. Now they could no longer deny it and had to rely on mutual back scratching.
  You ready to come aboard?
  “I still have surgery,” I reminded.
  You really are antiquated, Radiance chuckled again. Kridib’s on his way there so he’ll get you once Med’s done with you. Maybe that will finally get the Flight Colonel to calm down.
  “I doubt it.” I slid my fingers over the bed sheet. It would have been nice to look at it as a normal person. Hopefully soon I will be able to. “Radiance, I need a favor.”
  Sure. As long as it isn’t breaking orders.
  “I want to visit the planet before I go on board. Is that possible?”
  I guess? She paused for a millisecond. I’ll need approval, but I don’t see why not. The danger is over so, probably?
  “Thanks.” I laid down on the bed.
  Why do you want to go back there anyway? The artifacts are already on the Gregorius.
  “There’s something I need to do down there.” I cut my video feed. For a moment, it was almost as if I was just as before. “A promise I made.”
  Oh? Who did you make it to this time?
  “A promise to myself.”
Next Chapter
submitted by LiseEclaire to redditserials