The morning sun rose, casting a deep orange glow upon the older district. Already, early rising beings had taken off on skiffs or boats if they were too poor to afford the latter. Nets were made ready, and soon, the wharf would become bustling, filled with traders, salesmen, fishermen, and the goings about of daily life. Suresh left his simple home, stepping out onto the docks, smelling the fresh air that had come in with the tides.
Up in the sky hung the familiar immense gas giant, looming over the entire planet. The light of the old star catching on its enormous rings and reflecting off the atmosphere, causing the huge blue monster to take on an ethereal appearance in the right light. Suresh nodded, looking up at the visage in the sky. A few more days, and the Festival of Lights would take place. The gas giant would pass closer to this little world than it ever would in the next 10 years or so.
Suresh remembered the festival, like it was still fresh in his mind like it was yesterday. Always an incredible sight. The gas giant often distorted the atmosphere as the light reflected off its ice rings, causing incredible shows in the sky that reflected off this largely ocean world, giving the vast oceans a light show of their own. Combined with the age old tradition of the peoples of this world, the festival of light was a special event not to be missed.
But today Suresh wasn't preoccupied with such things. He was off to stop by another part of the old wharf district, and say good morning to a friend. It was his and hers day off today. In fact, he wanted to get her something nice. It'd been a while since he'd been able to sit down and take things easy. On the eve of the festival, he was due for some relaxation. He wasn't a fisherman or an aquatic breeder in this district, but his own job was hectic enough in its own way.
Land was sparse on this little world, existing only in small patches. Naturally, every available piece of land was packed to the tipping point with beings. Cities rose higher and higher, level by level, while the shores and wharfs of the land expanded artificially, spreading outwards in huge floating districts like the one Suresh lived on. Despite the distance between one city-island to the next, the governments soon found out that it was incredibly expensive, and wasteful to use larger ships to transport such a small amount of cargo for the planet's smaller population. As a result, on this world, Bamathuast, the courier business was king. And Suresh lived in the fast lane alongside it. Except for today. Today was a day to sit back and enjoy oneself.
How could one not, on the eve of a spectacular planetary event that the entire planet participated in, while the warm light of the old star created tropical weather all year round, and the blue oceans that glimmered in the light of the approaching gas giant beckoned with gentle waves? Yes, Suresh was going to take it easy today. But first, something for his friend.
Suresh walked through the crowds, keeping an eye out amongst the various traders and market stalls. Admittedly, it had been a long time since he actually walked out here among people, and even longer since he'd stopped and enjoyed the city and its sights. Always too busy travelling from one port to the next on his skiff. A fast machine, very fast indeed. It was a wonder he even saw anything while traveling on it.
Suresh continued to pass by shops of all kinds, but it seemed like he was out of luck. His longtime friend was an oddity on this world. With so much water, and most of it consisting of oceans, storms, and tropical rainfall, rust was a problem for many of her elements. Regardless, she was determined to live here.
But that wasn't his problem at the moment. As a mechanical marvel, a living being of metal and wires, shopping for her was hard. And as Suresh passed through more districts, this only became more evident. Eventually though, he figured it out. He knew exactly what he was going to get her. Suresh traveled through the flowing crowds, taking in everything.
It was fun really, out among all the people here. Bamathuast was known as one of the more relaxed worlds, a high traffic world for tourists. Crime and murder, and outside threats that often plagued other worlds were hardly a bother here. And, traveling through the streets, Suresh could see why. Despite being overcrowded, busy, sprawling, and in some cases, very worn down and less modern-esque in the older districts, the clash of colours as species mingled on the streets created a rainbow of customs, appearances, and an atmosphere of friendliness.
Suresh persisted through the ocean of crowds in the early morning, through district after district, until he found himself in the industrial trade district. Parts, ships, metal and scrap, technology galore. Yes, this was perfect. Suresh browsed past whole shipyards, to small shops, all the way down to simple little trade stalls run by simple folk, who only ever used the basics. And it was in one of these little homely stalls, among the vast crowds, that he spotted something keen on the eyes.
Suresh approached the stall, as the man behind it, clad in bright vestments stroked a long mustache, greeting him with open arms.
"Hello my friend! What can I do for you today?"
"I notice you've got a lot of oils here. Some of the names don't register. You're a foreign dealer?"
The man nodded.
"Yes I am my friend! High quality imports to be found here!"
He leaned over his counter, winking.
"And cheaper than all the big boys too."
Suresh smiled, nodding.
"Okay then. Here's a tough one. Got any oil that a cyborg could use?"
The man's eyes widened.
"Are you? No, you look too real my friend!"
Suresh shook his head.
"It's for a friend. Something for the Festival."
The man ran his fingers along his mustache, twirling the ends of it as he searched through his racks, rows upon rows of small cans in hundreds of different languages.
"Aha my friend, here we are! I have just the thing for you!"
The man slid a small can off the rack, and handed it to Suresh.
"Self-repairing oil! Ingenious stuff. The nanomachines inside the liquid feed off rust and repair damaged systems! You can't go wrong my friend."
"250 credits my friend!"
Suresh looked over the small can.
"That's a bit steep. Take 50 off?"
"25 my friend."
"You have yourself a deal my friend!"
The man handed him a small holographic pad over and Suresh distributed his funds. He nodded, smiling.
"If this stuff works, she's going to be coming to see you. Better stock up on more."
The man smiled.
"Oho! A date for the festival! I wish you luck my friend! Compliments of myself, I hope your friend enjoys it!"
Suresh nodded, shaking the man's hand, as he slipped the canister into one of his jacket pockets.
"You enjoy the festival too, take care now."
Suresh left the stall behind, as the simple man waved him goodbye. Things were going well so far. Now it was time to head out.
Suresh traveled back home, through the districts and back to the docks, to his old little stone house. His home rested on the original landmass that had been settled here, among great cliff sides. This side of the district was known for it's easy on the eyes feeling that came with homes being carved and sculpted out of solid rock, ranging from simple to highly ornate. Pale, sandy white stone carved down to a smooth little dome, with a small extension Suresh had since added for his skiff.
On his skiff, it didn't take long to traverse the city or any of the districts among the various skylanes, and the trip to his friends home was short lived, as he pulled away from the skylanes and came back down to solid land. Surprisingly, even though she was a cyborg, she enjoyed the simplicity of stone as much as Suresh did it seemed. Stepping off his skiff, Suresh knocked on the door, to no answer at first.
"Izz! Don't you tell me you've gone and slept in! You don't even need sleep!"
From inside, a quiet voice spoke.
"I'm up! I'm up! I could use a hand though."
Suresh pressed his palm up against the scanner and the door opened to reveal Izz's simple, rather unkempt home. As Suresh stepped in, he looked over to see his friend, sitting on the couch casually. Although sitting wasn't the best term.
"What the hell's this Izz?"
His friend rolled her eyes.
"My arms and my legs decided they wanted to go somewhere else."
Suresh had seen this before. Izz was diagnosed with a condition among Cyborgs known as Phantom Limb Syndrome. Often, when someone underwent complete body conversion, a phenomenon happened to some particular Cyborgs. Experts believed it had something to do with memories. Memories of when said person didn't have augments. Often, body parts or the entire person themselves would get stuck in a sort of feedback loop, their limbs attempting to go or do something related to the old memories.
Suresh looked down to his friend, who favored a largely solid black construction to her body, as she sat there on her couch, no arms and no lower torso. A simple shirt sat overtop of her synthetic replicants. She eyed him up with a smirk across her face, largely still human, but showing signs of metal implants underneath her skin.
"You're not going to leave me alone about this are you?"
"You bug me all the time about being just regular old Human. Now I've got a chance to list some cons every once in a while."
All Izz could do was tilt her head.
"You're a jerk."
"And you can't do anything about it!"
Suresh stepped over to her, poking her on the nose. Putting on her most sympathetic face, she looked up to Suresh.
"Help me find my limbs? Pretty please?"
"I'm a sucker for damsels in distress."
"I'm not a damsel! I'm just ... armless. And legless."
Suresh looked around her simple home.
"Right. So, what were you dreaming about on your couch last night?"
"I was hungry last night."
Suresh shook his head.
"You spent all that money on a pretty little synthetic body and all you can think about is food. You're a nut Izz."
Suresh walked around through other parts of her home, before running across two pairs of black cybernetic arms, one clutching a cup on the floor with a stone cold grip, and the other laying off by its lonesome on one of her counter tops. Suresh grabbed both, bringing them back around to the main room with him. As he stepped through the doorway, he noticed a visible frown on Izz's face.
"I felt it when you picked up my arms. PLS right? I've got Phantom Signal Syndrome too."
"Right. So, if I did this,"
Suresh grabbed one of her hands.
"You'd feel that right?"
"With a little bit of concentration, I can do a bit more than that."
Suresh felt the black synthetic hand clutch itself around his own fingers, hanging on tight. Suresh rolled his eyes.
"Okay you nut, why don't you just walk your legs back to you then?"
"That's the thing. I can't see where I'm going. I can make them move if I try hard enough, the signal goes both ways. But I need to know where I am. Now, would you stop being a dope and give me my arms back please?"
Suresh held one of Izz's arms up against himself.
"But I love these arms! They're so fashionable! What if I want to keep them for myself?"
Izz closed her eyes as she strained across her features, to which Suresh was slapped lightly across the cheek. He sighed.
"Okay, you win this round."
"Damsel my ass."
Suresh sat down on the couch with her, setting her arms down beside him.
"Speaking of which, you don't have one. Any idea where it could have gone?"
Suresh held up one of her arms up to her shoulder, matching it up with the socket, and drove it in, listening to the clicks of locks as the limb reattached itself.
"I don't know. I don't really remember much else. Oh. Oh no. That's not good."
Suresh grabbed her other arm, and passed it to her now that she had one functioning arm.
"What's not good?"
"I was running."
"You were running. I swear, you're the strangest person I know. Most cyborgs start losing their human nature after only a few years. Not you though. Dreaming about running."
Suresh shook his head.
"Hey! You don't know any other Cyborgs! I'm like the only full bodied one on the planet!"
Suresh shook his head, as he watched her slot her other arm back into place.
"Bad memory too! Izz, you call yourself a robot? Remember that traveling show we went to together? Their boss was a cyborg. Full conversion too. Wore a lot of old clothes. Hugo right?"
"That was him. I liked those Teridian sisters though."
Suresh looked into her eyes, augmented as well, brimming with golden undertones, as he brushed what remained of her red hair aside.
"Missing the point Izz. That guy, Hugo, was old. Polite, but strange. Inhuman."
Suresh watched as she raised her eyebrows.
"Like an alien right?"
"Like an alien. I sure hope you don't turn into that as you get older."
"Guess you're lucky then! I don't age."
"Your head does."
"You win this round."
"Damn right I do. Now, I suppose we should go find your legs?"
Izz shrugged, crossing her arms.
"If you really want to. You want to be my big knight in shining armour?"
"No. I don't have the armour like you do. But I'll tell you what. I'll be your courier."
Suresh watched as the golden light in her synthetic eyes shifted and changed with her thoughts. She smiled.
Suresh stood up.
"Right, don't you go anywhere. You're going to owe me for this though. It's my day off."
"I'll think of something."
Suresh smiled back.
"Oh I'm sure you will."
Suresh sat on his skiff in traffic, going slow for once. He was thinking. Old memories. Izz's legs, the crafty things that they were, found a way out of her house and were walking. Walking to somewhere, to run. Suresh went through old memories of his, trying to remember the last time he'd ever seen Izz run without augments. It was hard. She'd been like this for what seemed like a very long time.
Passing through the lanes Suresh kept his eye out on the crowds down below as the tropical wind blew over him and the smell of the sea greeted him. Suresh was trying to figure out where she'd go to. But it didn't click on him. What would be buried deep enough in her scattered mind, with a lasting impression like that? Suresh shook his head. If she couldn't remember him from before, why would she remember something like running? Passing through the lanes, Suresh decided to contact Izz. As he pulled down low, closer to the street level, he could make out her voice now.
"Izz. Suresh here. Your legs are trouble makers. I need some help here."
Suresh caught the sound of her distinct laughter on the other end.
"Hah! If only all the guys said that to me!"
"No really Izz. I don't know where they would have gone. You don't remember running do you?"
"You weren't an athlete Izz."
"Oh. Well, did I like walking animals?"
"You hate inside animals."
"Oh. Okay then. Well, what about something scary?"
"What do you mean, "scary?"
"You know, maybe a mugging or something."
"Izz. It's Bamathuast we're talking here."
"Right. Well, you just keep looking! I'm sure they'll turn up."
Izz cut off the channel, leaving Suresh sitting on his skiff. He hadn't noticed it, but the rain had arrived. Suresh decided to stop for the time being. Time for a break. Pulling his skiff down low, he kept his eyes open for a place he could stop at. He was hungry.
Sitting at the table by his lonesome, Suresh mulled things over a cup of coffee as the tropical rain hammered down outside. It hurt him, doing this. Although long ago he'd learned how to ignore the stinging, some part of it was still there. Izz wasn't a cyborg by choice. She never was, and never would have been. Only those with sufficient funds ever went full cyborg by choice. Or those who needed it to save their life. Izz was never rich.
Suresh started to become lost in thought, as he stared out through the window at the rain hammering down on his skiff. Most of his friends knew that by now, Suresh and Izz were good buddies. Longtime friends. But to him, she was more than that. At one time, she was more. So much more. But her accident took its toll on her. Not just her body, but her mind as well.
Suresh looked out, to the people passing by on the streets, some uncaring of the cold rain pattering down, as they passed by in their day to day business. And then he remembered. Looking into his jacket pocket, he found the can of oil he'd bought for her. He sighed. Self-repairing oil. They could do so much these days. And yet the mind was still out of reach. Suresh remembered, the first time she'd woken up, in the hospital.
She didn't know him. The look in her eyes, the confusion, the absence of the person she was, was right there. And everything he'd loved with her, built with her, was lost. Suresh looked out to his skiff. Maybe not all of it. And despite everything, he became her friend again. It hurt every day he looked at her, and she looked back at him with a different view of things. But he'd never leave her side. And if that meant he was just a friend.
Then he was just a friend.
Suresh set his cup down, thinking. This wasn't something he could fix. No point in wallowing in it. So right now, he needed to find a pair of legs. Walking, or running on their own, trying to live out some old memory of before Izz was a being of wires and metal. And like that, he had it. Izz was never one to run. But he was. It was a memory of him. Suresh set his cup down and paid for everything, before he stepped out the door into the rain.
Suresh sped through the skylanes, now with a clear purpose on his mind. He knew exactly where he was going to check. He ran lots. Quite a bit in his line of work. But in his mind, only one memory of himself running stood out. And the more he thought about it, the more it made sense. And he realized, that Izz would remember this. She ran as well.
Speeding through the lanes, Suresh made his way above the districts, and was heading out of town to the beaches. Bamathuast's cities expanded and covered every inch of land. But beaches were special. Wildlife preserves and parks. Suresh contacted Izz once more through the little chip embedded into his head, listening to her voice as it rung in his ears like she was right there.
"Izz, I think I know where your legs went. But I need your help."
"You were supposed to be my big shining knight! I don't remember very many stories where the knight called up the damsel and asked how to save her."
"Oh, so suddenly you're a damsel now are you?"
"No. No. I just miss my legs. I'm just sitting here watching TV. I don't feel like using my hands to walk around."
"You're a couch potato."
"And you're a jerk."
"Okay. Tell me, can you feel anything from your legs right now? PSS right? It goes both ways."
"I know they're walking. One foot two foot three foot. Hmmm. I feel something in between my toes."
"What's it feel like?"
"Soft. Kind of soggy. Like you just wanna bury yourself in it."
Suresh nodded, turning his skiff in the right direction as he made for one of the only beaches on this particular island. Below him passed districts, rising in level like platforms, as he drew closer to the city center.
"Right. Thank you Izz. Pretty sure I know where they went. They're damn fast to cover so much ground overnight."
"Okay then mister. Tell me where you think they went."
"For a walk out on the beach."
"Why the beach? I haven't gone there yet."
"That's the point Izz."
"Oh. Is this that thing again?"
"You know, the thing. Sometimes you look at me with big sad puppy eyes or you sound sad for no reason."
"I'm not sad."
"Well you sure sound like it. I don't think I'm going to call you a jerk anymore. You're too depressed to be a jerk."
"Aha! I've gone up in the world!"
"Don't let the pay raise go to your head mister! You're still a courier. Just a sad one is all. You deliver boxes with a frown on your face instead of a shit eating grin."
"You know you're going to owe me big for this right?"
"I know. I'll think of something. Be nice to my legs when you find them!"
"Will do Izz. You stay put now. Professional couch potato it up."
"Oh, you know I will!"
Suresh revved his engine as he sped through the lanes, making his way for the beach he figured they'd be. They had to be there. Looking through old memories, he knew that was where they'd gone.
Suresh walked along the shore line of the beach, watching the waves crash against the sand. The rain had stopped, the storm rolling over the land and headed out to sea once more. A dim light broke through the clouds now, shining down on things. Suresh was following a set of footprints. Only one set. And, as his heart thundered for some reason unknown to him, he looked down the beach, and saw them.
Izz's legs had stopped walking, and where sitting there, in the sand, at the edge of the shore, as water crashed over them. The sight sparked something in Suresh. He remembered that. He sat right there with her. Sat in the glow of the sunset and watched the Festival of Light's ending climax. It brought him to tears. Suresh realized something.
She couldn't remember who he was. What they had, and shared. Couldn't remember anything. But she yearned to. She tried. And her body, now steel more than flesh tried. And right now, it was reliving a memory. And far away, Izz sat, disconnected from it, her mind a collection of scrambled neurons and blank memories. Suresh sat in the sand, watching as the legs sat there, letting the water wash over them. Flinching when the waves arrived, curling up synthetic toes in the sand. Wiping his eyes, Suresh decided to call her. It didn't take long, as the connections were made through the Sub-Net, and before long, Izz answered back.
"Hey! Did my knight find the treasure?"
"Not quite yet. But I want to ask something Izz. About me and you."
"What about me and you?"
"Well, we've been friends for a while now."
"Five years now."
Suresh winced at the words.
"Yeah. Five years..."
"What's up mister frowny? I can hear it in your voice you know."
"Izz. Would you go on a date with me? If I asked, would you move in with me?"
"Oh. I don't know. I don't think-"
"Why not? Me and you. We've been like this for ... a long time now."
"You're my best friend Suresh. I mean, I wouldn't trade you for anything. But, I don't think I could do it."
"Well, I'm just ... well, you know how I am."
"Yeah Izz. I know how you are. And it doesn't change things. So why? Why am I not good enough? Why am I not good enough for you anymore?"
"No, it's not like that. It's not you Suresh."
"Then what is it? Who is it?"
There was a pause on the line. While Izz could recognize him and read him like a book, so could he to her. He knew she was upset.
"Izz. Come on. You can tell me anything."
"I can't. I don't ... I mean, what kind of person was I?"
"What do you mean?"
"What kind of person was I, so stupid and worthless that I got into an accident that did this to me? Look at me Suresh. You think anybody wants to be with me? I drift off ... and I forget things, and I need so much care ... and attention. You're going after my legs right now Suresh. They walked off on their own because I can't properly control them. It's me ... Suresh. Why would you want me ... when I'm broken like this?"
Suresh looked over to the pair of legs, sitting on the beach, of their own accord.
"Izz. Izzy Izzy Izzy. Don't you ever let me hear you say that again! You're not worthless. And you're not stupid. And you never were. The accident, it wasn't your fault. You're not the one to blame. You hear me! It wasn't your fault. You're beautiful, and wonderful, and I loved you. You and me, we had something. And we still do. I love you. Because I know you're still in there no matter what you look like or how often you forget things."
"Suresh, you say all these things, and look at me, and I don't ... I can't remember any of them. I've only known you for five years. I woke up in the hospital, and you were there. That was the first time I ever saw you in my life."
Suresh shook his head.
"That doesn't matter. I want to be with you. Always. Even if you're my little nut."
"But what if I do it again? What if I forget ... or ... I wake up one morning and I don't know you?"
Suresh stood up, walking over to Izz's legs as they sat in the sand.
"Izz. Close your eyes. I want you to concentrate. Where are your legs, right now?"
"I feel sand. They've stopped moving. And water. It's warm."
"Izz. You say you don't remember anything. But your legs are sitting here, on the beach. Right now, part of you is sitting in the same spot that me and you sat down at 10 years ago. We watched the ending of the Festival together. You're still in there. You're the same person I loved 10 years ago. I wake up every morning, and I miss you ... so much. But who you are now, I love you. No amount of robotics will change that. No amount of augments, or forgotten memories. And I will never, NEVER give up on you, you understand me? I love you. And I always will."
Silence filled the line. Suresh bent down, and poked his fingers on the bottom of the black synthetic feet, watching their toes curl as they slunk away.
"Now cheer up couch potato. I'm coming home whether you want me to or not. You don't have to move in with me. You don't have to go on a date with me. You don't have to do anything. But I will never leave you. And if you want me to be your friend-"
Suresh picked up Izz's legs, slinging them over his shoulder.
"Then I'll be your friend. I'll be your courier. Your knight in shining armour who asks for directions. I'll be whatever you need me to be."
Suresh ended the call, as he walked along the beach with Izz's legs, making his way back along the shore, where he'd pass through the forest pathways, and back out to where he'd parked his skiff.
The return trip home was short, as Izz's legs sat on the back seat of Suresh's skiff, tied down so they wouldn't fall off or move again. He replayed the conversation in his head. He'd said everything he ever could to her right there. But he didn't know what he'd find when he came back to Izz's home. So it was with some worry, and maybe even some anticipation that Suresh sped through the skylanes, to the old wharf district, back to the small little home Izz resided in.
He let his skiff come to a gentle stop near her home, setting it down and stepping off as he began to untie her legs from the back seat. Picking them up over his shoulder, Suresh knocked on the door.
"Excuse me miss, I have a special delivery for you. Express mail!"
The door unlocked, accepting his identity and Suresh stepped in. And there was Izz. Sitting on the couch, watching him. By most conventional standards, cyborgs weren't capable of crying. Most at that point considered it impractical. And Izz had little choice in her setup. But the face, her face, the last part of her that remained relatively unscarred and unbroken, and un-modified on the surface, told him everything. Setting her legs down, Suresh approached, leaning down to hug her.
"Hey ... Hey ... Come on now Izz. It's okay. No need to be sad."
Izz returned the hug, clinging to him tightly.
"I'm so sorry Suresh. I never-"
Suresh cut her off by placing a finger over her lips.
"It's not your fault Izz. It never was. Never will be. I don't blame you for anything."
"But I don't remember! I try so hard and I can't!"
Suresh shook his head.