After waiting for years, I can finally use this image or a cover. I think it suits this novel, but I'll leave the final verdict to you.
We continue with the preview of Broadcast 9: Warpath with chapter four. After this there will only be two more chapters on the blog, and you'll have to wait a little while for the book to come out. Check back for a release date soon.
Jacob Valent could not walk. No thing in his memory was more frustrating, more difficult to cope with than that simple fact. For two days his daughter helped him in the morning for two hours, trying to get his feet, as useful as clubs, to support him while they dangled from inept ankles with little improvement.
He was thinking about his frustration and the sweat that he’d put into so little improvement when his hand slipped from one of the parallel bars and he fell to the mat like a marionette with its strings cut. It was the fifth time.
He kept his grumbling to himself, but could feel his face flushing red with frustration. Alice was patient and cool as she helped him back up. He didn’t fight her at all, those bars seemed so far away from the padded deck, nearly impossible to reach from where he landed.
With her help he got them under his shoulders and pushed up. Another thing he didn’t understand was why everything but walking seemed to come naturally. His hand-eye coordination was returning, he could sit up without assistance and his balance seemed a little unsteady, but improved. As soon as he tried to walk, his legs seemed to forget what they were supposed to be doing and go on strike.
Alice took a step back when he nodded, indicating that he felt steady again, even though he was only holding himself up on the parallel bars using his arms, there was no weight on his legs. The recovery room aboard the Solar Forge was rectangular, two stories tall, and all the surfaces were a plasticized off white colour. He had mats in one corner, a few balls of various sizes ranging from small for throwing to large for sitting and balancing. Then there were those damned parallel bars. “All right Jake, this is easy,” Doctor Messana said from the other end of what he’d started calling ‘the pill box.’ “I programmed the muscle memory in your legs, so they should already know what a walking motion is, you only have to relax and urge yourself to do it, like you’ve done thousands of times before.”
Jake tried, but the response he got from his leg was a haphazard flop forward. He stared at the awkwardly placed foot. “Are you sure you gave me the right legs? There isn’t someone else with mine having the same problem?”
Doctor Messana shook her head, her lips pursed. “You’re still trying to learn to walk when there’s no need to. It’s easier than that. Your muscles know what to do, you just have to relax and let them do it. You were standing on your own for a few seconds a couple nights ago, remember how easy that was?”
Jake nodded and exhaled. Listening to the Doctor was becoming more frustrating by the minute. He looked at Alice, who had a neutral expression. Jake took a step, or at least that’s what he commanded his left leg to do. He got more awkward lifting and flopping instead.
“Okay, wait,” Doctor Messana said, shaking her head again.
Alice looked almost as irritated as Jake felt, only she had her back to the Doctor.
“You’re concentrating on the small motions required to take one step. Walking is a reflex combining balance and about two hundred muscles working together, you can’t control every single one consciously. What I’d like you to do is forget about one step, and just try to walk to the other end of the bars. Just take a deep breath, relax and as soon as you finish exhaling, let go of the bars and walk to the other end. Alice, give him extra room.”
Jake nodded to Alice, signalling that it was all right, and she took several steps back as he inhaled. He made several unwelcome realizations while he slowly exhaled: his hands were sweaty, his heart was pounding fast, and that the other end of the parallel bars seemed very far away.
He finished exhaling and let go of the bars, refusing to look down at his legs. The realization that he was standing, feeling steadier than he’d felt since waking up gave him a surge of confidence. He started to take his first step, then the whole training room went sideways, he smashed his ribs on the right parallel bar, the padding didn’t seem to spare him any harm, then he finished falling between them, his impact on the mats knocking the wind out of him.
“This is easier than you’re making it, Jake.”
“Stop telling me how fucking easy this is!” Jake roared as soon as he caught a breath. “Does this look easy to you?”
“Fine! Do it the long way, learn to walk all over again!” Doctor Messana said before storming out of the room.
Alice was at his side, helping him back up. He was about to ask for a break, but glanced the other end of the parallel bars, less than three metres away. Even if he had to drag his feet, he’d make it. “I went too far,” Jake muttered.
“She had it coming,” Alice replied. “She couldn’t have expected all that programming to work perfectly. I get my control freakiness from you, so I know what this is. You can’t just trust a brand new pair of legs, and back, and bum to work together to keep you upright unless you’ve had something to do with it.”
Jake smiled at her and nodded. “Yeah, I know. I just wish I was better at picking my battles. These bars are kicking my ass.”
“We’ll take it slower,” Alice said. “One step at a time, first we just get those feet under you properly, then you move them forward without putting much weight on while you keep upright on the bars with your arms. Baby steps though.”
Jake carefully concentrated on moving his thigh so his foot landed on the mat just in front of him, then put a little weight on it. The weight felt good, his leg was strong enough, but his footing was shaky. He shuffled forward a little with his right hand on the bars. “Where’d you learn about teaching someone to walk?” he asked as he started working on the other leg.
“Ayan, Oz, Minh-Chu and I all took a physical training course. Doctor Messana wasn’t thrilled, but we did it anyway, it was Commander Anderson’s idea. He said he went through the course before Ayan was reborn. He had to be prepared if all those memories he recreated in her head wouldn’t attach to her physical body properly.”
“Thank you,” Jake said.
They didn’t speak as Jake ponderously took baby steps all the way to the other end of the parallel bars. He was almost completely dependant on the bars, keeping most of his weight off his feet, but his legs were doing some of the motions, if clumsily, and it felt like progress.
“Now, we turn around,” Alice said, moving to the opening in the bars behind him.
Jake decided to try the Doctor’s advice one last time. He closed his eyes and simply desired to turn around one hundred and eighty degrees, willing his legs to do the work. He got one foot into position, and fell to the mats between the bars so suddenly that Alice couldn’t catch him. The mats saved him from numerous bruises. He looked up from the floor at his daughter, who stared at him in utter shock. “time for a break?” she squeaked.
He couldn’t help but laugh. “I guess we do this the hard way,” he said as she sat down beside him.