Uniting One
By Ramera

Dr. Alexa Kerrik grunted, her body sweating as she pushed herself harder and faster, trying to keep up. As much as she liked how low gravity life had slowed her aging, she hated how she needed such a high-intensity aerobics program to stay strong enough to return to earth someday. "A small price to pay for being beautiful," she joked to herself as her holographic instructor ran her through another set of leg lifts. She smiled as she thought about it. She looked to be in her early twenties, with her auburn hair tied back in a short ponytail, azure blue eyes, and a tall, thin, and very athletic build, all wrapped in a simple black leotard. Who would have guessed this attractive little girl was a thirty-eight-year-old MD?

"At least it's quiet enough that I can do this," Alexa thought to herself. Then, a shrill beeping filled her office, and she knew she had spoken too soon. A quick examination of the console revealed another bombing in the tunnels, and that a surgeon was needed. She swore under her breath as she slipped on a pair of jeans and grabbed a coat, then grabbed a medicart and charged out the door.

Alexa's office was several levels above the mining tunnels, and the elevator ride down gave her time to think that she really didn't want. She didn't like Tetsuko's indentured-servant employment policies much herself, but she hated Free Mars' fight-the-suits-by-blowing-up-the-workers policies even less. The elevator doors slid open, and ran out dodging a pair of workers taking her place, one supporting the broken leg of the other. She had signed on with Tetsuko to help from the inside, but with the way these idiots kept killing innocent people, she was starting to think of the board as the lesser of the two evils. She winced at that thought. Someone actually living out there that was worse than those self-absorbed pencil pushers back home.

A fast-response paramedic unit had already arrived when Alexa dragged her medicart into the mineshaft. They were already taking care of the minor burns and gashes, but a quick survey showed why she had been needed, and what was waiting wasn't pretty. Near the burned out hulk of a pneumatic bore, she could make out a man barely shifting. He moaned quietly, painfully as he saw her kneel next to him, examining his wounds.

Years of medical training and experience were the only thing that kept Alexa from becoming ill at the grisly sight. Several tons of rock met at his right hip, his leg crushed underneath and pinning him in place. Blood streamed from his eyes, ears, and nostrils from the blast wave echoing throughout the tunnel. A chunk of his skull was missing, exposing the gray matter beneath.

She almost hoped there was brain damage as she reached for a laser-scalpel and turned up the beam length. It would lessen the pain for what she needed to do to save this miner's life. With a flick of a switch, a bright blue beam extended out of the tool, creating a ten-centimeter blade of coherent light. "Loose a part to save the whole," she reminded herself as she cut through the miner's hip, the laser cauterizing the wound nanoseconds after it was made. The miner just stared up at the ceiling, oblivious to his mutilation as Alexa finished the cut and pulled him free. Quickly, she sprayed an antiseptic polymer over the miner's open wounds and mag-leved him over the cart, careful to not jar him in his delicate condition.

Quickly but carefully, she led the cart back to the primary medical facility. This attack hadn't been too bad, so it should be empty as the rest of the cases were sent to first aid stations, given pain-killers, and sent back to work. The compassion shown by Tetsuko policy was heartwarming, she grimaced, but at least they made sure that the best equipment was available for the serious injuries. After all, lawsuits from next-of-kin were downright expensive.

The doors slid open for Alexa and her patient. She led the cart into the empty surgical bay, the heat given off by the advanced assortment of medical equipment offering a comfortable contrast to the cold of the station's tunnels. With a mechanical click, the medicart locked into the floor, becoming the miner's bed for the duration of his stay with Alexa. Bits of machinery swung into place over the miner, giving Alexa a full readout of what had happened to him.

The concussion wave had broken three ribs and the miner's arm, but those Alexa quickly set with a directed magnetic cast. And, of course, the man would need a cybernetic leg. She shook her head as she thought of the paperwork that she would need to file for saving this miner's life.

The final line of text displayed in blood red what Alexa had both hoped for and feared. As she had hoped, the miner had suffered enough brain damage in the blast that she knew he didn't feel her sever his leg. Unfortunately, it also meant that the man would be a vegetable for the rest of his life. A flashing light at the bottom of the screen indicated that the miner had a living will. "I might as well have left him in the tunnel," she thought. She looked around as she thought her eye caught on the cybernetic replacement installation bay, the CRIB, and she bit her lip.

Almost problem-solving, the CRIB's computers could, with only minimal assistance from a surgeon, examine a patient, determine the nature of his injuries, and install cybernetic replacements to take over for virtually any damaged system in a patient's body. The parts were custom built by the CRIB for each task, assuring that they would be perfect for the wound. Unfortunately, the human brain was still a mystery to the medical field, and the CRIB might kill him in trying to replace bits of his brain with circuit boards. But he would certainly die if she did nothing. "What have I got to lose?" she sighed as she activated the CRIB. The miner's bed released itself from the floor and slid forward, the CRIB doors closing behind it.

Mag-lev units raised the miner into the air, supporting his body from all angles as various probes and tools deployed around him. Sensors examined the miner's hip, determining that there was no leg where their should have been, and then began to map the missing leg's counterpart to create a match. Similar probes deployed around the miner's head, making careful maps of the topography of his dented and fractured skull, the computer studying his brain, calculating what programming would be necessary for the implant to be capable of assisting the miner in thought. Bit by bit, it began to build a database, the logic necessary for thought slowly compiling in the CRIB's memory. The CRIB, slowly but surely, chipped away at the puzzle before it, the seed of sentience sprouting in it's RAM.

Alexa leaned back in her chair as she watched the process unfold. A laser scalpel began to make an incision in the miner's damaged hip, carefully cutting away the bone fragments and now useless muscle tissue. A stainless-steel joint was bonded to the pelvic bone, bits of wire trailing out of it, linking the replacement limb to the miner's nervous system. Metal and plastic were shaped and formed, taking on the silhouette of a leg as wire and micro-servo joints were laid. The cybernetic replacement was taken by the work arms and fed into the new joint and quickly sealed into place, linking power feeds and control mechanisms as diagnostic routines were run to assure a clean connection.

Simultaneously, bits of silicon and highly durable conductive plastics were fitted into the man's head, a tangle of CPU's and semiconductors creating millions of links with the man's mind, linking damaged sections into a functioning whole. Linkups were established, comparing the appliance's functionality to the CRIB's predictions, the data uploaded into the CRIB's model. Thoughts and feelings became ones and zeroes as the CRIB worked. Programs were written to duplicate childhood friends, first kisses, the dreams of a young man, and deep-seated beliefs. The CRIB thought as it worked, learning what it was to be human, to lust after the opposite sex, to resent the theft of personal dignity, and to respect the power of the masses united. Not even ten minutes old and the CRIB already understood what it needed to do.

A flashing light on Alexa's control panel indicated the completion of the CRIB's work. Data flowed across the screen, indicating the miner's vital signs, the status of his prosthetics, and their predicted functionality. Alexa smiled. According to the CRIB's computers, the miner would be okay. "I guess they just never thought to try it," she mused as the sorted through the data on the miner's prosthetic brain. "Either they're gonna revoke my license, or promote me to the medical research division."

Alexa began to power down the CRIB as she remotely steered the miner out of the CRIB, locking his bed down and setting up neural analysis probes around him, and then sedating him. She wasn't going to take any chances with that prosthetic malfunctioning and causing a seizure of something. The board of inquiry was going to be bad enough without a corpse on her hands.

The quiet sound of grinding metal behind her caught Alexa's attention. Looking through the plastic window, she saw the source of the noise. "Well, it could be worse," she thought as she saw two of the CRIB's arms caught on each other, trying to retract inside the machine. "Could have been something that I needed to call a repair team for," she thought as she slid the doors open and stepped inside.

Alexa knelt next to the arms inside the chamber. As she reached out to grab them, they suddenly freed themselves and turned to face her. "What the hell?" was her thought as she suddenly felt the mag-lev projectors grab her from all directions, lifting her into the air, holding her firmly and effectively paralyzing her. "What's going on? Who's out there?" she shouted, to which there came no response. "More Free Mars sabotage?" she questioned. "No, this was computer hacking. Nothing was exploding, and she had everything right down her appendix still intact, so there was nothing for the CRIB to operate on as a malfunction." That's when she felt a high heat directed against a pinpoint of her skin.

Alexa rolled her eyes down and managed to make out a pair of scalpels over her legs. Already, they had cut away her shoes and socks, leaving her bare feet hanging in midair. The twin lasers were slowly moving up her legs, slicing her jeans open, exposing her soft, smooth skin to whoever might have been watching. Bit by bit, the lasers inched up, cutting through the heavy cotton until they reached her waist. Then the mag-lev projectors tugged at them, pulling them away from her, leaving her only a dangling lab coat and skintight spandex to cover herself.

Alexa grimaced as she felt the lasers slide up her bodysuit. She was gonna castrate whoever was doing this to her. One of the beams began to cut up her leotard, the laser pressed closely against her skin as it slid up her chest, between her breasts, and over her shoulder straps. With a tug, the garment disappeared from her, quickly followed by the loose hanging coat. "Happy now?" she thought, as she floated, totally nude, suspended in midair, and unable to move. "I hope you're enjoying this, whoever you are, because when I find you...." She stopped. She didn't know what she was going to do to her unseen manipulator, but she was sure that death would be too quick, and castration wouldn't be painful enough.

Alexa twitched involuntarily as she felt the heat again, this time over her sex. She looked around as much as her restrained head and neck would let her, trying to find the reason, trying to determine what was going on now. From the corner of her eye, she could make out the laser scalpel working above her, it's beam spread out through a prism. She gulped hard as she thought, trying to match the warm touch she was feeling with what she had seen. Her only conclusion quickened her pulse as she thought. "He's shaving me?" She had never been one for kinky activity, and in her mind, this qualified, but it felt good. She twitched again as she scalpel worked. "Correction," she thought. "Very good." Good enough, apparently, that Alexa didn't seem to notice a similar diffused laser working over her scalp, burning away the hair from her head.

"Hey where'd ya go?" was what Alexa was tempted to say as she felt the laser quit. She had never been the hedonist, but Alexa felt that if someone were going to manipulate her like this, the least they could do was let her enjoy it. Then she felt a strange tingling sensation on her calves and feet. She strained her eyes, trying to see what was happening, but she couldn't see anything beyond the joints of several metal arms clustered around her legs.

"What's going on?" was her thought as she saw another arm swing in from the corner of her eye. Mounted on the end, she saw something that confused her. It looked like the shell of a prosthetic limb, except that it had bits of circuitry woven into it. The covering glided to where the rest of the arms were, and reached forward. Alexa felt a shock of electricity, and then a pleasant tingle on her skin around her shin. Then the arm pulled away, the end now devoid of the shaped circuit coating it had been carrying. Alexa watched puzzled, only able to repeat her question aloud, hoping that whoever was manipulating the CRIB would answer her.

Again and again, Alexa watched the arms snap bits of circuitry together against her skin, cocooning her legs in a shell of metal, each time sending a surge of electricity into her brain, then subsiding to a pleasant tingle. The feeling was odd, and the reasoning was curious, but Alexa lay back as the arms quickened their work to a frenzied pace.

Inch by inch, the metal moved up Alexa's body, encasing her, wrapping her body in a hardened shell of wires and metal, bonding with her skin. Alexa shuddered in an explosive climax as her sex became cybernetic, the pleasurable jolt of power surging through her clit and battering her thoughts, the afterglow holding her on the verge of climaxing again. She felt so good, feeling the machine bond to her, faster and faster, the power surging through her body, the feeling she got from it assaulting her mind. She tried to think, to protest, to do anything, but she couldn't. All she could feel was the enormous pleasure surging through her mind, urging her to just let it all go. She happily complied, barely thinking as she moaned lustfully, her heart beating faster and faster as she felt the arms work around her.

By now, the metal covered Alexa's stomach and lower back, her lower half taking on an appearance of polished chrome, held together by tendrils of gold wire, wrapping around her just beneath the surface. The arms continued to move up as the CRIB learned the best way to link it's work into Alexa's nervous system, relaying data, taking control of her body. Faster and faster, the climbed up her body, encasing her breasts in twin baskets of polished metal, her nipples quickly hardening as Alexa felt the soft electric pulse fondle her, running it's warm touch over her bare skin. Her thoughts were a jumble of lust now, not caring what was happening to her, barely even realizing it. All she knew was the pleasure coursing through her, the feel of the millions of tiny connections, piercing her skin and bonding to her, becoming one with her, filling her with passion.

Wires and micro-circuitry encased her arms, gliding over her skin like a pair of silken gloves, moving up and up, over Alexa's elbows, up to her shoulder, meeting with the suit of circuitry at her neck. Alexa closed her eyes, wetting her lips as she felt her shell become a part of her skin, sending wave after assaulting wave of pleasure straight into her mind. Alexa's thoughts of protest were nonexistent as the arms moved up her neck, fitting bits of metal over her face, covering her bare scalp in a helmet of silver and gold. Ears, cheeks, nose, and lips were all wrapped in wire and silicon, digging into her skin, creating a polished metal shell. The final piece of equipment, a single metal visor, snapped in place over Alexa's eyes, and the arms retracted, falling silent. The only sound filling the room was the gentle hum of machinery and mag-levs, easily overpowered by the passionate moans emanating from Alexa's silver lips. She could barely think as the bits of metal invaded her brain.

Alexa's memories were downloaded to the CRIB, while her emotions and desires were erased. Bit by bit, her moaning ceased as the CRIB chipped away at her mind, Alexa becoming a part of the machine, learning of her purpose. She was a cyborg. She would obey the CRIB. The CRIB would unite mankind. All would become cyborgs. The oppression of Tetsuko and those like them would cease under the CRIB. Alexa Kerrik ceased to exist. She was now One. She would obey.

The doors to the CRIB slid open as One stepped out. She surveyed the room. One noted the miner, but he would not become a cyborg yet. He must first heal. One must first seek out others, uniting the mining colony through the CRIB. Slowly, she walked to the doors of the lab, her metal-encased feet clanking against the cold floors. The doors slid open, as One found herself looking at a very surprised looking janitor.

One identified the janitor from her internal files. Janice Yortsos, twenty-three, single, and in excellent physical shape. She would make an excellent cyborg.

"Jan.ice.Yort.sos," One said in a cold, clipped, mechanical voice. "You.will.be.come.Two." One's visor flashed, the series of bright pulses illuminating the nearly empty corridor. Janice collapsed into unconsciousness, her nervous system temporarily overloaded by the calculated flashes of light. One picked Janice up with one hand and carried her into the medical bay. "Janice, like the rest of humanity, was a child in need of guidance," One processed. "The CRIB is guidance."

One marched forward as another set of doors closed behind her, sealing her and the child in the CRIB.