Mission 17

OPERATION FROZEN HEART
COVERT EXTRACTION
UNITED STATES

“How have you been, Corporal?”

“Fine, fine.”

Thomas Strawberry sat across from Dr Vahlen, feeling uncomfortable. He drummed his fingers on his cybernetic leg, enjoying the rhythmic sensation of tapping while looking all over the room. While Strawberry had never been inside of a psychologist’s office before, it seemed to him as if she had taken great pains to make things as pleasant, which normally wasn’t a quality he associated with her.

“How have you been sleeping?”

Strawberry gave a harsh laugh and said, “Not well. I’m having the nightmares again.”

“Of the surgery?”

“Of the surgery,” confirmed Strawberry.

She wrote something down on the clipboard in front of her and said, “Even though you were under anaesthesia?”

Strawberry sighed and said, “Yes, Doc, even though I was under anaesthesia. But, for real, trying going to sleep and then waking up a as a torso. Wouldn’t you have nightmares?”

“I wouldn’t know, Corporal.”

“Of course not,” muttered Strawberry. She was still scratching on the notepad with her pen and Strawberry surreptitiously tried to see what she was writing down, but she caught him and lifted the clipboard up after throwing him a disapproving glance. He sat back in the chair and continued tapping his fingers, waiting for the doctor to continue asking questions.

“How has your coordination been? Last time we talked, you mentioned the artificial limbs were giving you some problems….”

“It’s getting better. You never realize how hard it is to do anything without nerves. Want that cup of coffee on the counter? Let me swing my arm out like the strongest spaz ever and knock it over for you! I’ve also stopped doing that thing where I accidentally drop my cup. I would just… forget I was holding something,” said Strawberry. Wanting to prove he had a handle on this, he carefully reached out with his mechanical arm to grab the cup of water next to him to take a sip. Dr Vahlen carefully observed the movements and continued to take more notes.

“How’s your rapport with the rest of the soldiers? Has it seemed like anything has changed with the rest of the soldiers?”

“Since the last interview?” asked Strawberry.

“Just in general, Corporal.”

Strawberry shrugged and said, “Not particularly. Sometimes, with the new recruits coming in, they pretty clearly avoid me at first. But no one else seems to mind. Mendiola was given the cold shoulder a bit by everyone at first, myself included. But everyone just got used to it, I guess.”

The doctor nodded, scribbling some more notes. Strawberry continued to drum his fingers on his legs, wondering what was going to be for dinner. He looked around the room, studying the certificates framed on the walls when Dr Vahlen said, “You seem impatient, Corporal.”

“Just getting a little hungry, Doc.”

“We are almost done. Are you still having the pains?” 

“Sometimes,” replied Strawberry, “Though it seems to be happening a lot less. It’s the same thing as before, though. Just sharp pain just down the augmented limbs, it feels. It hurts like hell.”

“Well, that is to be expected. It is known as phantom li-“

Strawberry waved his arm impatiently, saying, “Yes, yes, phantom limb syndrome. I’m well aware Doc, we’ve talked about it enough times.”

With no small amount of pleasure, Strawberry saw Valhen purse her lips in irritation as she looked down to make another note. After a few moments, she looked back up and said, “It seems you are adapting extremely well to the mechanical augmentations. All your combat reports have been favorable, as well. How’s the treatment going for your wounds, by the way?”

At the mere mention of it, Strawberry felt a twinge of pain from his chest, where the deepest plasma burn had been. Instinctively, he brought his hand up to touch it and said, “Thakilla says I’ll be out for another week or so, but it’s healing well. He’s not entirely sure, but he thinks the Meld does something to help out with the healing.”

Dr Vahlen nodded and said, “Makes sense. We still do not entirely understand how the Meld works, but it would make sense if that was the case. Do you have any questions for me, Corporal?”

Strawberry shook his head, and Dr Vahlen said, “Excellent. Enjoy your dinner, Corporal.”

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