#TeamSteamPunk - The Winter War, Part One: PhantomLimbSyndrome - @sigrist

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by sigrist

When Jeremiah opened his eyes that morning it was with a heavy heart. That was the way he woke up most days, in fact. The war had been raging on for years and there didn't seem to be an end in sight. Not to mention the constant pain in his leg. It wasn't one of those phantom limb things, he wasn't even sure that was real. No, his pain came from the foot he had to strap on every morning. He'd swing his legs over the edge of the bed, putting his left foot into his slipper, and the stump of his right leg into the prosthetic the agency made for him. The thick leather belts strapped around his calf and when he walked the spring and clock work gears in his mechanical ankle clicked. Click, click, click--spring, snap! With every step. Click, click, click--spring, snap!

His real foot had been lost on a mission, his last mission. That was probably when things started to turn around for him. When he was in the field he was strong and full of purpose, but now? He'd shuffle along with his ankle click, spring, snapping and his head down, trying not to look anyone in the eye as they passed. They all recognized that his prosthetic was quite a pricey model, which gave them the false impression that he must be someone important. They couldn't have guessed that he earned it by being captured and dismembered one toe at a time.

Maybe that was for the best.

He stood silently on the platform for his train. When he heard a little girl laugh he turned and saw her pointing at his fake foot. Her mother quietly scolded her and Jeremiah pulled the the high collar of his coat closer around his face. The train came chugging along slowly, trailing a plume of black smoke behind it that coroded his lungs as it poisoned the around him. The door slid open and he climbed in his usual car, took his usual seat and closed his eyes against the world. He knew exactly how many stops he'd have to pass before he got to the office, there was no need to watch the train's progress. Closing his eyes allowed him to ignore the state of his war blasted home. It had once been a city full of life and history, now it just hurt him to see the ravages of such a drawn out conflict.

The train pulled in to his stop and he climbed down to the new platform. He didn't have far to go in order to get to the office but he took his time to draw out the walk a little longer. He hated riding that lift everyday and clicking down the hallway to his tiny office. He hated sitting behind a desk so often his stomach was growing flabby. He hated it all but continuing to work was the least he could do to pay back the agency for their generous donation.

Near the end of the day, the door to his office swung open. The director entered without knocking, as usual. "Jeremiah, good to see you made it in today. I have something to discuss with you. As you know, the Prussians are getting more aggressive. They've been spreading misinformation everywhere. We can't trust over seventy percent of the intelligence reports our spies are bringing us and that's a generous estimate."

"And what do you want me to do about that? I've retired, remember? Nothing but desk work for me."

"I'm not asking you to go back into the field."


"But I think you might have a contact who can help."

"No." Jeremiah pushed his chair back as he stood up. He leaned forward, putting both hands on his desk as his face came close to the director's. "Absolutely not."

"Look, Jer, you know I wouldn't ask this if it wasn't the only way."

"She's off limits! I told you that already."

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