The knock on the door comes on a Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon. From by the window, where Adam is sat grappling with the pieces of a mechanical clock that require more precision than his blunt fingertips will grant him, his head lifts and he turns stiffly to stare in surprise towards the entrance. He isn't expecting visitors. It's been three weeks since he left the hospital—all his well-wishers have sent cards, and anyone who was going to call already has. By which he means, Malik's been round twice. It won't be her now. She'll be at work.
Building management, maybe? They normally email first.
He spends so long staring in confusion that another knock sounds by the time he even thinks to move, rising from his chair and picking up the shirt discarded on the back of the couch to cover his bare chest and arms. His eye shields slide into place as he tugs it on. The movement is almost a reflex, the dark polymer plates wired to respond to every surge in cortisol or spike in his pulse, which he hasn't quite yet mastered the ability to consciously override.
He can hear footsteps on the other side as he approaches the door—not retreating, but more like somebody nervously pacing in place. Adam reaches out to undo the lock and manually slides it open.
In the hallway stands a woman. She looks to be around his age, wearing a grey trench coat sat on a sturdy frame, with olive skin and a shock of tightly curled dark hair falling over her right ear. It's buzzed short around the left. In her hand, she clutches a folded sheet of paper he can see at a glance bears the letterhead of Sarif Industries.
Brown eyes, even more nervous than he'd anticipated, stare at him wide and unblinking. Lips begin to move yet say nothing.
After several seconds of awkward silence, Adam finally prompts, "Can I help you?"
Suddenly brought to life, she blinks rapidly and nods her head, looking down at the document in hand. "Yes, sorry, I...I don't know if I've got the wrong place, wrong person. You can't be...well, it says...maybe you are. Are you Adam Jensen?"
Took her a long time to get there. He frowns, feeling his apprehension rising. "I am."
"Oh. Um…" She stares at his face, down at the sheet of paper, then back again. Her gaze fixes intently on his eyes. Or rather, the polarising lenses of polycarbonate obscuring them. "Forgive me for being forward. I have to ask—are you blind?"
That catches him off guard. "No?"
Confusion settles on her face, accompanied by a sudden flush of red across her skin. Without the new augmentations, Adam doubts he could have picked out the subtle change in hue. "Now I have to ask—who are you?"
"My name is Lyssa Demarquez. I...I think I'm your tissue recipient."
"Corneal transplant. I was on the waiting list for surgery until they found me a donor, and according to this, it was you." A beat. "I got your eyes."
Just like that, Adam feels that the floor drops out from under him. He sees her lips move again, but hears nothing above the roaring of blood in his ears. Lightweight carbon fibre and alloy they may be, but in that instant, he can't tell his limbs from lead.
A few seconds, and the feeling passes. He sees Lyssa staring at him in concern. "Mr Jensen?"
The eye shields snap abruptly back into their sheaths. Moving on autopilot, Adam takes a single step back and opens the door wider. He jerks his head. "Please."
Even before the carbon black implants had been grafted onto his face, Adam's sharp bone structure and gravel-rough voice had lent him an intimidating air. It's only amplified now by the tension bunching in the remaining natural muscles between his shoulders. For a moment, Lyssa seems like she can't decide if he's inviting her in to talk to her or to kill her, but as she studies his newly revealed eyes, she makes up her mind. A nervous step carries her over the threshold and past the point of no return.
Standing in the entrance hall, her brown eyes dart around the apartment, taking in objects and shapes that ought to be familiar should the corneas themselves be able to hold any memory.
Adam awkwardly clears his throat. "We should talk. Can I get you a drink? Coffee, maybe?"
"Yes, please. That would be nice."
While Lyssa sheds her coat, he heads into the kitchen to make it. He hasn't even verified who she is, but just from her claim alone he knows they have a lot to discuss. Truth be told, he's grateful for the company.
When he returns with the drinks, he heads down the steps towards the living space and nods towards the couch. Lyssa accepts the silent invitation, perching herself on one of the cushions and discreetly folding her hands in her lap. It occurs to him she's even more uncomfortable than he is.
"Alright, you're going to have to tell me how you found me," he says, setting the drinks down and taking a seat beside her. He doesn't miss the way her eyes linger on his hands. "Surgery was three months ago."
"Same for me. I must have had it within days of you. Spent a couple of weeks in recovery, then I knew that if I could, I had to track you down."
"So how did you?"
"Wasn't easy. When I asked at the hospital, they said it was a donation from LIMB. When I went to LIMB, they just gave me a reference number and told me I had to go to Sarif Industries. Couldn't get anyone to speak to me over the phone, so I physically went into the building and told them the LIMB clinic sent me. Thought I might get myself kicked out with all the trouble going on outside, but apparently the reference from LIMB was enough, so I managed to talk my way into walking out with this." She brandishes the paper bearing his details. "Nothing was technically marked confidential, so they let me have it. I'm sorry. I realise now maybe you didn't want—well, I assumed you were dead. Didn't think you'd care until I realised it said 'live donor'. Made no sense at first. I mean, who just gives up their eyes while they're still alive? But I get it now."
She's staring at his eyes again, and it occurs to Adam that she thinks he volunteered for this. He grits his teeth and turns away. "Why did you need the surgery?"
"Degenerative eye disease. Fuch's dystrophy. I'd have been functionally blind by the time I turn forty if they didn't do anything. Couldn't afford to do what you did—get them augmented—but insurance covered the transplant."
Adam grunts and makes a show of sipping at the coffee for an excuse not to say anything. I had no idea, he thinks. True, he'd been a registered organ donor, but it had never occurred to him that they might take his parts while he was still alive. Never occurred to him there'd be a situation where they even could.
He feels the burn of the coffee on his tongue and wonders who he'll have to chew out for handing over his details when he gets back to work. Then again, maybe there's a clause in his contract that permitted Sarif to do that, too.
"So, what's it like?" he eventually asks. "You see better now?"
Lyssa nods, though she's still staring at his hands. "Absolutely. It's...incredible. I'm not viewing the world through frosted glass anymore. Everything's so sharp and vivid. Colors, shapes… They said the donor tissue was some of the healthiest they'd seen. Might last me sixty years, provided I don't reject it."
Some good came of this whole thing, then. That's...well, he wants it to be a comfort. All he feels is bitterness.
With his hands tightening around the coffee mug, Adam sets it down on the table before he shatters more ceramic. Lyssa notices, fidgeting with nerves before she finally dares voice a question. "What about you? How do you see now?"
There's a pause in which Adam considers. "Better," he answers flatly.
An awkward silence follows. Lyssa tries to slurp at her coffee, finds it too hot, then puts it down again. Adam imagines he can hear the cogs whirring in her brain. Perhaps thats just the servos in his limbs.
"Is it what you'd hoped?"
She's being bold. Adam stares at his knees, hands resting atop them, and decides to return it with honesty. "To tell the truth, I wasn't hoping for anything, Lyssa. I never asked for this."
Silence, for a beat. "What do you mean?"
"There was an...incident, at work. I was dying; they performed the surgery to save my life. It wasn't planned."
"But your eyes were still working? They said…"
"I know." The confusion in her voice has taken on a note of distress. Adam looks up. Her eyes, when he dares meet them, are captivatingly dark: such a deep shade of brown he might mistake them for black were it not for the flecks of amber lining the outer edge of the iris. Laid over that, a part of himself.
Lyssa continues to stare. "You've had other augmentations before, right? This wasn't…you were at least prepared...?"
He shakes his head softly, bracing for the look he knows is about to come. "No. This all came at once."
There it is. The horror. Shock and disgust that might even be bearable were it not for the pity. "I… I'm sorry."
Adam looks away again. He'd almost regret inviting her in, except that none of this was her fault. Perhaps she shouldn't have gone digging for his information when sharing wasn't something he ever consented to, but she's as much a victim of circumstance as he is.
Gold glints under the beam of light streaming through the window as Adam finds himself staring once more at his hands. He doesn't see it so much as he contemplates how he's seeing it: artificial lens, digital retina, while the organic parts that had once enabled that function look on just a couple of feet away now belonging to somebody else.
Black fingers articulated by golden knuckles flex and ball into a fist. What did they do with the rest of his organic parts once they were done? Incinerate as biological waste? Or have parts of his flesh ended up as skin grafts for a stranger?
He finds less solace in the possibility than he'd hoped for.
"What color were they?"
He's pulled out of his reverie by Lyssa's voice. Adam turns back to her, almost taken aback by the depth of concern in her gaze. The question isn't meant to pry. "Blue," he answers.
"I used to think the color was in the cornea. Silly, really. Wondered if I might walk out of the operating room with different colored eyes. Turns out there's not much difference to see at all."
Adam finds himself wondering how much of himself he'd see, if he dared look. "May I?"
She knows what he wants, nodding her permission as he leans closer and reaches up with the intention to touch her cheek. It's a move that's instinctive, done without thinking, yet the instant the black and gold of his fingers enters his field of vision, he freezes. The metal hovers inches from her skin, shining under the outpouring of hatred from his synthetic eyes. Adam grinds his teeth and snatches his hands away. "I'm sorry."
A crease of confusion forms on Lyssa's brow, deepening further into concern as she reads the disgust on his face. "Don't be. I had metal clamps holding my eyes open for the surgery. You think human hands bother me?"
He blinks, bringing himself to meet her eyes again, still struck by the richness of that brown. "Human?"
Adam feels a gentle touch to the back of his hands. Glancing down, he sees she's grasped both prostheses, guiding his fingers towards her face where she settles them on her cheeks.
"Go on, Adam. Look."
Carefully, like her skin is sacred vellum, he exerts just a whisper of pressure above her cheekbones as he leans in to peer closer.
At the back of his retinal implants, a lattice of photoreceptors captures the image in hyperfine definition. He sees the fibres flexing in her irises through the transparent tissue that once belonged to him, outlined by a ring of microscopic stitches where the corneas attach to the rest of her eyeball. Briefly, he imagines the blade that had sliced the old ones off, and quickly halts the thought.
"How long will it take to heal?"
"Eighteen months for the stitches to come out. What about you?"
"They gave me a health implant that speeds things up. Nine months, supposedly."
He hadn't expected to see anything in her eyes that he could identify as his own. Not truly, yet an irrational, foolish part of his mind had nonetheless hoped, like his organic flesh might come stamped with a brand like the ones Sarif has imprinted on his limbs and eyes and heart. That's me, he tells himself, trusting her word. They can cut me up and replace most of my body with cybernetic parts, if they want, but that will still be me.
Despite the neural implant in his brain that ought to forbid it, Adam realises he's trembling.
"Adam," Lyssa whispers, brown eyes warm and soft and still in some part his. "Thank you. For letting me see again."
Adam swallows down the lump in his throat. Just for a moment, he forgets the artificiality of his own eyes as a tear swells across the polymer surface and spills down his cheek.