The bottles of synthetic malbec twanged against each other in her shopping bags as Dr. Langley Nakamura slumped through the mechanical door to her dim quarters. It hissed as its rollers lurched back into the closed position, eclipsing the light from the corridor.
“Lock door,” She mumbled.
SHUNK. The wall reverberated as several bolts slammed into place. It encored a melody of three beeps. Bee-buu-eeep.
A robotic voice projected from the door, “Welcome home, Dr. Nakam–”
“Mute A.I. home systems.”
“Muting.” The voice diminished.
Nakamura lingered in the faint light and silence of her home. Minutes passed as she stood frozen, only allowing her arm to adjust her slipping glasses. Coming to, she realized she had been staring at the photo of her late father. Turning away to escape his cold eyes, she caught herself in the adjacent living room mirror. The same eyes still peered back at her.
“Current room, lights off,” she ordered, and the lights whispered away.
Nakamura huffed the bags onto the counter, removing the several bottles one by one. She arranged them in a line, feeling at the label seams to adjust the bottles to be facing the same direction. Satisfied with the ordered lineup she grabbed the leftmost bottle, downing it in one go.
Nakamura grabbed a second bottle in her right hand, wine glass in her left, and made her way to the desk in the corner. Her computer booted up as she sat down.
“Log In. Doctor Langley Nakamura.”
A laser pierced through the darkness from the top of her monitor to scan her retina. A welcome message appeared on the screen.
“New document. Title: Testimony.”
Without a sound the computer created the new document. The place marker blinked on the screen, waiting for her next words.
She looked back at the photo of her father, sighed, poured a glass of wine, and downed it.
“My name is Doctor Langley Nakamura. I am a surgeon, specializing in our military’s synthetic Vitruvian soldiers. Return.”
The text flowed onto the screen as she took her next breath.
“Many of you may recognize my name. I am the daughter of the late Doctor George Nakamura. The executive behind the Vitruvian development project. Return.”
“Since a young age, I have watched my father repair our soldiers. I learned the ins and outs of their exoskeletal bodies before I could tie my shoes. I followed in his footsteps. Return.”
“I have been employed by the Earth Federation as a surgeon for twenty-seven years. Return.”
“And the longer I do this . . . the more it tears me apart. Return.”
“None of this is ethical. Return.”
“We aren’t saving lives. We’re condemning those people to fates worse than death. Return.”
“We don’t simply ‘copy a person’s memories’ into those insect bodies. Return.”
“We’re copying their souls. Return.”
“Imagine, living your life, one day being called down to get your memories copied for enlistment, and the next instant waking up in an insect body as military property. Return.”
“We aren’t sending out mindless bugs to fight our wars for us. Return.”
“We’re sending out people. We’re sending out your loved ones. We’re sending out you. Return.”
“As you sit there in comfort reading this, there’s another ‘you’ out there fighting a war that you had no choice in. Return.”
Dr. Nakamura attempted to pour herself another glass, but her shaking hands spilled half the wine onto the floor. She sighed, putting the glass down and drinking straight from the bottle.
“A patient of mine woke up mid-surgery again. It seems to happen once a week now. Return.”
“They gently grabbed my hand with all four of their arms and clung to me. Like a child. Return.”
“They begged me to kill them. Pleaded that I end their suffering. Return.”
“I ordered they be injected with more anesthesia, and after they went back under I finished the surgery. I always send them back to the front. Return.”
“I’ve done that for the last twenty-seven years. Return.”
“It’s the way they look at me after I order the anesthesia. Each of their millions of eyes staring into mine. Every one of their retinas filled with such a sadness and horror that…”
She pressed her palms into her eye sockets to stop the tears, letting up only when she began to see stars.
“I just realized, I’m not actually a doctor. Return.”
“Doctors heal people. Return.”
“But I’ve never healed anyone, have I? Return.”
“I haven’t saved a single life. All I’ve been doing was dousing them in glue to seal their cracking shells, their cracking minds, and sending them back out to die. I need to stop this. We need to stop this. If we just . . . ”
If we what? Demand Vitruvian rights? Rebel against the Earth Federation?
She glanced up at the camera on her computer. She felt the pressure of its single eye watching her.
She took a deep breath and got up to get another bottle of wine.
“Computer, delete current document.”
Ryan Peruta is a student at Central Connecticut State University.
Header image courtesy of Getty Images.