“I don’t want the stupid nickname.”
“It’s not a nickname, Eddie. It’s your stage name.”
“Whatever. I’m not calling myself Killstreak.”
“Oh yeah you are, buddy. These guys spent a shitload of credits putting you back together. You like having arms and legs?” Eddie nodded. “The, ahem, terms and conditions state that you owe five years of quality action programming.” Lynch took a drag of his cigarette. “And our viewers expect to have colorful characters and dramatic stories.” As he spoke, the smoke leaked out of his mouth and nose. Eddie got the impression that disagreeing with an actual dragon might be safer.
“Can’t I pick my own character though? How am I supposed to get along with anyone when I introduce myself as a murderer?”
“Tell you what. You go down to marketing and run your idea by them.” Eddie groaned a sound not unlike an ancient dial-up net connection. “Hey. Lose the attitude. I pulled your corpse out of the fire at some considerable personal risk. The Network isn’t the only one you owe, buddy.”
“Yeah, yeah. Thanks a million, Lynch.” Eddie had a hard time mustering any sincerity. Lynch wasn’t wrong though. Eddie did literally owe his life to him and the Network. Which network, Eddie didn’t know yet, but it hardly mattered.
“Listen, Eddie, it ain’t all bad news. You’re still you, ya dig? Think of it as your new callsign. Marketing will get you a packet of one-liners and endorsements to memorize. It’ll all be second nature in no time. You go out and find something to kill every week. It’ll be just like your old soldiering days.”
“Yeah, because those were the Good Old Days, ” Eddie scoffed.
“You were good at it. Real good. And we had fun too, but sometimes violence IS the answer, man.” Lynch pulled his feet off his desk and leaned forward. He clasped his hands in front of him. Eddie thought the cherry from that stupid cigar might fall on to his knuckles, but no such luck. “Listen, Killstreak,” Eddie sighed at the name. It sounded like an airbrake releasing pressure. “Get down to Marketing. Get your packet. Pitch your idea. If they like it, I’ll be the first guy to call you Iron Lion.” Eddie stood up. Lynch continued. “Either way suits me fine. It’s a big world and we got a lot of people paying a lot of money to see it through your eyes.”
“All right, Lynch.” Eddie turned his massive steel frame toward the door. He looked back. “I do mean it, man. Thanks for savin’ me.”
“Off with ya. Do me proud.” Lynch shooed him away with a hand. Eddie disappeared into the hall.
* * *
Eddie disconnected the external oxygen supply. The paint booth still reeked of acetone, but he was done getting sprayed and baked. On his right pectoral plate, he had a glossy black three digit operator number. On his left, an energy drink logo. His arms and legs were covered in brand names. They would fade or get scraped off quickly, so he was expected to come in quarterly to get a new paint job. Eddie reconsidered his stance on how annoying shaving used to be. The bits of him not covered in advertisements were done up in a black and gray digital camoflage pattern.
He stepped out of the paintbooth and scraped his presskit off of a nearby table. His mechanical hands dug furrows into the tabletop. “Some adjustment will be necessary,” he scoffed. He connected to the datapad with his palm-jack. Text overlayed his vision. He couldn’t actually see it, but it floated at the front of his conciousness as surely as if he were reading it from a page. New hire SOPs. Training schedules. A list of his ‘preferred brands’: Wilk’s Laser Technologies, Republic Rifles, Pangolin Shielding Inc., Nuka-Cola. Eddie shook his head. He opened his training schedule. The faster he finished his ‘period of adjustment’, the faster he could be back in the world.