photo by Michael Kelly

Mandatory Maintenance

The dust is choking out here, even through the helmet my throat dries at the sight. It’s a windy day and with each invisible billow comes another wave of sand. I can feel it through the suit, the way the little grains get in everywhere and make the armored plates scrape. Little nails on a big chalkboard. Wind devils twist in the distance under an orange sky. Somewhere smothered in the haze of that horizon are mountains, but the ashen smog is too thick to make them out. So much for a landmark.

I pull up my display, hoping it’ll actually function today. Of course it doesn’t, giving me a few half hearted fizzling noises and the barest glimpse of an error screen. The suit was a relic of the old world, but these days it’s just a flashier suit of armor than most. One day I’ll get it working right. One day. Until then, it’ll have to be old fashioned analog maps and…non-existant landmarks. Oh good. This bodes well.

I pull up a snap tent from my gear. It’s not much, but it’ll keep the wind and sand at bay. At least I’ll be able to breath while I work. Once inside and with the door zipped behind me I set out my maps and unhitch my helmet. The suit hisses as the cycled oxygen escapes into the tent. My first breath of outside air is always the hardest. It feels like needles are marching down my throat as I draw in a weezing gasp. The gizmo’s of my false lungs add a chilling metallic note to the proceedings. I’ll need to give them a check while I’m stopped. They barely operate as it is and this is the last place I want to have them give me trouble. In fact, that should he priority.

That in mind, I remove the suits torso segment next. It may be easier just to lose the suit entirely, but even in a dust storm I don’t want to be caught unprepared if Raiders come my way…or worse. So I open it up just enough to fish around and pull up my shirt. From underneath all the layers comes the sheen of metal. The plate of tech covers the left side of my chest and stretches two ribs down my side. It is the single part of the lung aparatice that can be seen from the outside. How they fit the rest around my organs is a mystery to me. Medical science was never my strong subject. Tech is, and I know the outer plate is necessary for my survival if the lungs break down or run out of power. It would be…inconvenient…to require surgery in the field. Unfortunately that still isn’t an impossible scenario, so I have to take precautions for avoiding it.

The examination takes a good thirty minutes. I could take the initial readings of system functionality at face value, but I open the hardware up and scoop everything out anyway. It gives me a chance to make sure everything is clean anyway. Wouldn’t want dust in there. To a passerby it would probably look like I was digging around inside my chest cavity. Technically they would be correct too. When all is said and done I confirm that I’m fine, for now, and I close everything back up. Precautions pre-cautioned.

Next order of business, the maps…and figuring out where the hell I even was…

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