Planetfall: 3

The MEKHANE is just days from my grasp. Months I've worked. I've forcibly inserted the security engrams into the ship's main system and then sweated it out until I was sure it had forgotten about it. I've plotted my exact route to the Confici through the parts of the mountain that are going to be shaded at the right times. I've learned how to pilot the Tanxian Type 4 without even touching one. I'm only 600,000 lines of code away from rerouting the Tanxian's power systems away from heating and interior cooling apparatus and boosting the tibiar actuators for the speed I'll require.

The code is coming along slowly. I'm backtracking and finding errors even as I write it. I can see my ribs through my shirt. I'm lightheaded. I need to eat something.

So close to not worrying about this sort of thing anymore. I don't despise my flesh, the way some of the patriarchs would have us. But I'm close to outgrowing it. It'll be a relief, sure, but it did get me this far. And I still need it to do a few more things.

I mark my place, and stand up to stretch. I reach behind and find the little divot right behind my right shoulder blade. I still wince at the memory of what it felt like, to dig that out. I run a finger into it, finding the seam running across my shoulders. I ease it, careful not to rip any blood vessels or distend any ligaments.

With a little jerk of my neck to the side, I've dislodged my skull. Ducking out from under the cap of flesh around it, I pass my skull through the opened seam. Now I can free the rest of myself.

At first, the feeling of separating myself from my flesh shell felt like yanking a very deep hair out, for about half an hour. Now it's like taking off a shirt that's a little too tight. I work my arms and legs out of the rigid, hollow casing that will keep the other structure upright, and soon I'm entirely free.

The flesh shell does a neat about-face and looks at me. As it moves, I can hear the the tiny little servos implanted throughout it, located at key joints and around the vital organs. If you were to spend time with it in a quiet room, and you knew to listen, you might notice these sounds.

Do I really look like that? So…lumpy, unkempt? It doesn't matter. I hold a hand up in front of my eyes. Gleaming, worked brass, each joint articulated carefully by myself, the fingers filigreed with fine etching. I know it's vain, but I'm always amazed I could do work like this when I was in a previous form. I'll say it, I'm a work of art. So much more elegant than a skeleton; functional, but not without some ornamentation. My eyes don't need to glow blue when I'm like this, really. The only fleshly remnant now rests inside my skull.

I rest my hands on the flesh-shell's shoulders. I am light, my movements fine, but I am strong. Go, eat something, no conversation unless absolutely necessary, and come straight back, I tell it. The expression on my flesh-face barely shifts, acknowledging. I really hope that's not how I look when I'm in there. People must think I'm simple. You can only get so much out of an artificial neural unit; fusing it to the spine didn't leave a lot of room to work with. It leaves my quarters, the door closing behind it, off to grab a soy burger and take a piss while I work on the important stuff.

I sit back down at my terminal, my metallic frame folding neatly into place, my interface much cleaner and sharper now. I take a look back at the code from the last hour; right away I spot three more mistakes that I missed earlier. Quickly, I correct the errors. The next two hundred lines come rushing to me, clear as an Earth day, and my brass fingers fly as I type.

Much better.

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