The shrill keening of his alarm clock roused David from what had previously been a pleasant dream, throwing him into uncomfortable reality with all the subtlety of a cold bucket of water. With all the technology in the world, he mused sourly, why can’t waking up be pleasant for a change?

Resigned to starting his day, he unhooked the prosthetic arm from its charging dock and snapped it into place, flexing his fingers to test the neural connection. Almost as good as the real thing, he thought to himself, rolling his yes, almost. Rummaging through his nightstand, he cursed when the cigarette pack turned up empty; Monday just continued to be a kick in the pants.

Shouldering his travel bag, David walked down the dingy stairs of his tall apartment building, past the hateful graffiti and heaps of trash that seemed to reappear daily. The whole world’s going to hell, he thought for not the first time, thankful at least for the heavy boots that kept the worst of the street’s offerings from soaking his feet. He lived in one of the only housing developments “friendly” to augmented humans left in the city. And though his prosthetic was an involuntary replacement, its mere presence forever branded him an outsider to mainstream society.

He long ago stopped trying to convince the protesters and activists that he wasn’t modified, that the arm was merely a replacement after a workplace injury. At best they would ignore him, and at worst other “augs” treated him even worse for trying to distance himself from them, trying to present himself as “one of the good ones.” It was a no-win scenario, no matter how many times he had tried. His will to fight the omnipresent bigotry eroded, he now kept this head down and did his best to put up with what was thrown at him – often literally.

There were rumors in the housing tower that a rebellion was coming, that the disenfranchised augs were going to take a stand and make their real plight known, instead of being society’s favorite scapegoat. David didn’t put much stock in that particular rumor mill – no doubt a few of the more hot-headed and rebellious would try to rise up, right into the path of the police’s stun rounds, or worse. The mass media would frame the conflict by reporting how violent, untrustworthy, and dangerous the augs were, their own spin creating and driving the narrative, rather than holding onto a shred of credibility and objectivity. Whether the augs just rolled over and took the continued abuse or struck back, there was no winning, much as with David’s individual situation.

At least it’s not raining, he thought to himself as he stepped onto the quiet street. The well-to-do didn’t pass through his neighborhood, and everyone above the poverty line thought of themselves as “well-to-do,” or at least on the way. Several augmented panhandlers, scrounging for the resources necessary to pay for their anti-rejection drugs, looked up at him, before turning away with disinterest – as a local, David was nearly guaranteed to be as destitute as they were. Their modifications were more specialized than his, likely installed to help them be more competitive in the job market, particularly with construction or materials fabrication. They were likely voluntary replacements too, the thought of which always made David’s skin crawl – he couldn’t imagine willingly giving up a part of himself for a cold metal replacement, no matter how “advanced.”

Even before public opinion turned against the visibly augmented – who were often from society’s lower classes – David wanted to leave the city. It hadn’t felt like home for a long while, just a place to live while doing a series of jobs. After the crackdowns however, he was lucky to get even the occasional paycheck from menial labor, which meant he didn’t have the resources to leave. Work in jobs you hate, in a city you hate, all for the hope of leaving both behind, he grumbled to himself. He wasn’t always like this, he tried to remind himself; there used to be happier days.

As he walked the long miles to his next degrading paycheck, he tried to keep the bright vision of a quiet farmhouse life at the fore of his thoughts. Just a little longer, he wished.

This short is loosely based on the near-future dystopian setting presented in the Deus Ex game series, where human augmentation is a truly double-edged sword for both society as a whole and individuals in specific.