Rachel, Impact Day
Watching Charlie reassemble herself from a tiny piece was simultaneously beautiful and unsettling. It wasn’t like a body growing in high speed motion. It was more like each and every cell was comparing its current location to where it should be, and simply relocating itself in the world to be in the right spot. The visual effect was almost more like pixels appearing, one after another. The whole process took less than half an hour.
I sat over her, waiting for her to regain consciousness, hoping the others wouldn’t discover the ruse before she did. When her face was fully reconstructed, I reached out, and stroked it.
Finally, she opened her eyes. I said nothing as she sat up, holding her head, and looked around. Her gaze settled on me, and she smiled.
“Welcome back,” I said, trying to contain the rush of emotions I felt at her return.
“That was a horrible experience,” she said, but her hand found mine, and latched onto it.
“I wanna hear all about it,” I said. “Every gory detail. If you want to talk about it.”
“Man, I don’t even remember all of it,” she said. “They fucked me up so bad, I was certain the whole plan was gonna fall apart, and I was gonna regrow here early. I think something about the facility kept me there, though. I had to wait until I was outside to blow myself up.”
“We would have figured something out,” I reassured her. “But I’m glad we don’t have to.”
“You have it?”
“I do,” I said, before exhaling slowly. “But I also have some bad news. Well, bad news for me.”
Her face fell. Her hazel eyes scanned me, piercing right through me. It made me feel guilty.
I didn’t want the moment to end. I wanted for us to be happy together, to enjoy being reunited after six months. We couldn’t, though. We had to move quickly.
“What is it?”
“You’re going to have to cut me open to get it,” I said.
“It’s crystalised,” I said. “Which is better than having to filter it out of my blood, but you are going to have to cut me open to get it.”
“Shit,” she said, looking away.
“Hey, it’s okay,” I said, grabbing her arm gently. “I was prepared for worse, and I’ve done the math. It works like a power source, providing the energy for my body to regenerate rapidly, without the need for organic processes. It also recodes the genetic material for enhanced strength and speed, but my body will replace all of that eventually. Still, I’ll be almost as strong as you for a while.”
“So it won’t kill you?” she asked.
“No. There should be enough left in my system to repair the damage of extracting it. It’s gonna hurt like Hell, though.”
Charlie made a face like she’d just swallowed something disgusting. I squeezed her arm.
“Anaesthetic won’t work while it’s in me, not that I have any,” I said. “We’re gonna have to do this the hard way.”
“I hate this,” she said.
“After everything you went through?” I asked. “This is nothing. Unless you’re saying I’m not as tough as you.”
“I think you’re tougher than I’ll ever be,” she said, leaning in. She kissed me gently, and it was very hard not to stretch that out.
Biting my lip, I pulled away, and extracted the scalpel I’d obtained for this very purpose. Charlie took one look at it, and gagged. I handed it to her, and she took it reluctantly, like it might electrocute her.
I pulled my shirt up over my head, and unhooked my bra, before lying down on the bed, face-up. There was already a plastic sheet over it. She stood over me, scalpel in hand.
“You really want to do this?” she asked, her eyes pleading with me to say no.
“Don’t be a wimp,” I joked.
“Charlie, as painful as this is going to be, as much as it’s going to suck, I’d do it as many times as you needed. You know I would.”
“I do,” she said, with a drawn out sigh.
“So cut me the Hell open,” I said.
* * *
“Welcome back,” she said, when I finally regained consciousness. Judging by the light, it couldn’t have been that much later. I smiled, and rubbed my chest. The pain was gone, the wound was healed, but the memory was very vivid.
“That was a horrible experience,” I said, completing the echo.
I noticed she’d dressed me again. I was still lying on the bed, but the plastic sheet had been removed. I saw it in the corner, crumpled up, stained with blood.
“I can’t believe you got through that whole thing without once asking me to stop,” she said, brushing my hair gently.
“If I’d asked you to stop, you would have,” I said. “Besides, tell me honestly you haven’t endured worse.”
“That didn’t make it any more tolerable.”
“Just please tell me it worked,” I said.
“I don’t know,” she said, and I deflated. “I got it out of you, but I haven’t done anything with it yet.” She held it up, a strange red crystal that could have been congealed blood, or could have been a precious stone.
“Why not?” I asked, stretching out. My body still felt strong, but not as much as before. “I didn’t think you’d waste any time.”
“I don’t know what it’ll do to me,” she said, her eyes lowered. “How it will interact with my… with whatever I am.” She placed her hand on mine, and met my eye. Her gaze was intense, but I didn’t look away. “I didn’t want to risk it until I had a chance to say I love you.”
“Wow, all that time apart really turned you into a sap, huh?” I joked, as my heart pounded in my chest.
“Shut up,” she said, removing her hand.
“Alright, before I completely kill the moment, I got you something,” I told her. She raised an eyebrow.
“A present, you idiot.”
I reached into the set of drawers nearby, and pulled out a small box. I held onto it as she watched me suspiciously.
“Why?” she asked.
“You do realise you had a birthday while you were in there, right?”
Her eyes opened wide as she processed it.
“Oh shit, I did!”
“So, happy birthday,” I said, handing her the box. My heart continued to thud as she took it, and looked back at me.
I watched silently as she undid the ribbon, and slowly opened the box. Time felt so slow, and I could have sworn she was taking her time on purpose.
She pulled it out, turning it over in her hand. It was a ring, white-gold with a pink diamond inlay. I thought it was beautiful, but not half as beautiful as she was.
“Rachel, this is beautiful,” she said, her voice catching. “How did you… Actually, I don’t need an answer to that.”
“You really don’t,” I said, laughing.
“Wow. It’s… I love it. I love you. Thank you,” she said, pulling me into a tight embrace. I felt a warm tear splash against my cheek.
“I love you too, Charlie.”
She pulled back just enough to kiss me, a kiss I so wanted to melt into. We were still racing the clock, and I didn’t want to take even a single chance.
“Now, hurry up,” I chided her. “I need to know if all that pain was worth it.”
“Alright, alright,” she said, but kept looking at the ring. She slipped it onto a finger, the ring finger of her right hand. “Okay. Let’s see what happens, shall we?”
Next Week: She Deserves This