Things come into focus as I open my eyes, pupils adjusting for daylight vision. I look at my left arm, expecting disappointment, yet another failed surgery. I’m surprised to see a fully-formed hand where the stump would end, fingers flexing, all four of them, thumb included. I’ve never had a hand there before!
I look to my right arm. Still the same. The same one I’ve had since hatching, now with its mirror-image twin! Elation fills me as I bring both hands together, joining them, clasping them and then spreading my fingers.
I wonder what other medical wonders the nanosurgeons have wrought. Am I dreaming?
“You’re awake, boy.” A familiar voice, my father, my beloved, terrifying father. “Try to get up, then stand. I won’t have my son lying in bed like an invalid, not after all I’ve spent on this.”
No, I’m not dreaming. That would be pleasant, and pleasant things are for weaklings. I obey my father, rising from the gurney, to stand before him. He looks so small now that I can stand. He comes up barely to my chest. A wave of disgust makes itself apparent, but tempered by a lifetime of obedience through fear. He looks piteous, so fragile from this height. I suppress a strange and sudden desire to strike him down, reveling in the newfound strength coursing through me.
My chest. I look downward at myself, barrel-chested, massive arms, thick, ropy muscles flexing, my legs and feet no longer crippled, no longer disfigured by my genetic misfortune. Armor plates woven under my skin, beneath my scales. I tower over the attendants and servants, standing tall, like a living mountain.
I feel like a god. Yet I know that I’m not. I know better.
I’ve now a body to match my intellect. My matchless intellect. The same that designed the nanosurgeons. The same intellect that has finally overcome my deformity, my weakness, my unworthiness in father’s eyes. Always, I strive to please my father. I strive to be strong. Now, I am.
“Father.” My now bass, rumbling, thunderous voice resonates in the recovery room. What is it I seek? Approval. All I want is approval. Just that. My father is a military man, a courageous man, and all my life I’ve sought his approval. I’ve never had it. Perhaps now? I meet eyes with him, hoping…
He spits blood in my face. I suddenly remember a lifetime of beatings. My mother’s death.
“Weak! Still weak! My son, the giant cripple! The freak! I’m still here, still alive! You know you’ve wanted this moment for years, after your mother’s execution! Do it! You never had the guts to make it as a soldier, and you still don’t. Weak! Stupid! You disgu—”
The hole in his skull from the particle strike smokes a bit as my father’s now lifeless body crumples to the floor. Funny. I designed that better than I thought. The particle weapon shifts back into being my left hand, material flowing like liquid metal, but still quite solid on the nanoscale.
It’s all so sudden. It’s over now. He’s dead. After a lifetime of terror and abuse, he’s finally dead.
No. It’s just begun. I look at his face again as the servants remove his corpse. I wipe the blood from my face. He looks so still. So at peace. But there’s something else. In his glazing eyes, there’s a look I’ve not seen before except after a successful mission by his combat unit. There’s the hint of…a smile? My hearts swell, all three of them, and skip beats as I see what I’ve always wanted to.
I know now what I’ve shown him in striking him down as I did. He must have seen it coming before I, he a trained soldier anticipating what was mere impulse to me. Yet he let it happen. He let me kill him. I’ve shown him my strength. I’ve finally made my father proud.
I won’t disappoint. I think a silent prayer to the Gods of our caste in thanks. This day I am a soldier, and I’ll be the greatest my species has ever seen. It’s just begun, as I take the heirloom that’s been in our family for generations, a strange ring of transparent metal, originally a museum-piece found on a dead world, and slip it upon my finger.
Servants surround me, taking measures of my proportions, fitting me for my new uniform as I draw my plans. There shall be rivers of blood. For I am Dasaelos of caste Gurao. I am a warrior, and my business is war.