Really, it was a tragedy. Made headlines. Suffering played out on a news-ticker:
CAR CRASH ON CENTRAL - THREE DEAD, ONE WOUNDED - BRAZILIAN WORKER RIOTS - WOLVES WIN 21-0 -
Amongst the dead was his husband. Entirely destroyed by the engine block of the truck as it obliterated the entire front of their car. The sister in law suffered a similar fate, and a metal spear formed by the collision skewered the truck-driver. Andrew didn't remember it in motion - frozen images like strobe lighting. The group realisation they were about to be crushed beneath that behemoth. James throwing up his arms, a split-second before impact. The crunch of metal meeting metal. And then nothing.
He came to in a hospital - painted in those colours designed to calm you. The smell of sterilization fluids. Blurred figures moving around. He was told later he spent five days passing between consciousness and rest, unaware of the injury, unaware of his surgery. Several life-times of work, development, research and new manufacturing techniques. Incredibly expensive. They called it a cross-disciplinary triumph. The rest of the world knew about it before Andrew did.
He stared at it. It remained inert.
'Andrew, could you please try moving it?' A researcher. Responsible for it. Andrew continued to stare. He felt physically sick. 'Andrew?' He looked straight at her. She looked away, unable to stand his glare. His arm itched. He unthinkingly scratched the prosthetic, before shuddering as he was jarred back to the reality of the situation.
These meetings continued for a week until they were successful. The prosthetic was no ordinary one - directly wired to the nerves severed by the accident, it retained all functionality, even able to simulate a rough approximation of sensation. It felt like touching things through woollen gloves with severe numbness. Three days after the success, Andrew was discharged.
His employers had financed the prosthetic. Something one of their many divisions had been working on since before they were merged into the company. The news was huge. A completely functioning prosthetic limb. Massively shortened rehabilitation time. Improved quality of life. None of this was affordable to the common man, but the contracts for private-health firms and PMCs were lucrative.
The apartment was just the same as it'd been when they left. Some of James' family had been visiting it, keeping it nice for his return. The size of it galled him. So big an apartment for just the one. And it was just the one - James' relatives visited often early on, but it quickly trailed off. They had lives to live. Andrew spent a lot of time doing nothing but staring at things. The arm. Photos. Nothing. It took about four weeks before he used the prosthetic without thinking about it. He hadn't been outside in that long either - James and Hannah had been buried whilst he was being operated on. Food was delivered, just as it had been. He was on sick-pay, and had been told to take as long as he needed.
It was night. He got out of bed, a lopsided silhouette against his wide glass windows, letting in the light of the city. He reached for the arm, where he'd left it propped up beside the bed. He clicked in into place against the embedded control unit. There was a whine as it clicked into place, powering up. As he had done many times of late, he looked at the arm, made a fist with it. He could feel the strength of the arm, far beyond that of the original. He released, letting the arm fall to his side naturally. As he walked into the kitchen, it started to hurt. Nothing unusual, he thought. You just get those pains in your limbs, right? Oh. He looked at the prosthetic. A sharp jab of pain like a lance of fire, from fingertip to shoulder, drove him to his knees. Shit. Another. He cried out. Another. He battled for his phone, his entire left side on fire, shot full of acid and glass. The paramedics found him lying on the floor, passed out from the pain.
A year later, life was finally returning to a semblance of normality. Something like things had been before he'd met James. He was working. He met 'New People.' Everyone commented on the arm, but he just brushed it off. He wasn't the only one now. Veterans from PMC deployments for the most part, although some wealthy unfortunates had them too. Early on he'd been hounded by journalists, but the buzz was long gone. Despite meeting many new people, he wasn't looking for someone to replace James. He knew that part of him was as gone as his arm.
He often walked, despite the dangers of it. The towering buildings clustered around, spewing light in every direction, making night/day a matter of aesthetics. They hit him quick. One waved Andrew down, got his attention. His buddy came in from behind with the baseball bat. Crack. Blood on the pavement, the bat. Shirt collar. He went down, senseless. They moved even quicker after that, dragging him away from the street. Into the alley. Into the van. They sped off.
Come-to with the glare of a old-school lamp blaring straight at you. Smell of damp concrete. Walls of the same. No figures moving around. Restraints. Voices echoing in from another room, distant. By the time they came, he was fully aware of the situation, and of the splitting pain in his head. Though they used surgeon's tools, they were not careful. They butchered and hacked their way into him, burrowing around the connecting socket. Andrew passed out several times, but was always jerked back into consciousness by the agony of the operation. Eventually, they pried out the connector, wet with his blood. The pain was unbelievable. It was longer that he had thought, embedded deeply into his body. Andrew passed out again.