“Initiating Oculus.”

White hot pain stabbed through Todd’s brain. The receptors had been there for all of four hours before they insisted upon this initial test. He would’ve liked to get used to the feeling of the solid contact points in his cheeks and forehead first, though he couldn’t deny his excitement.

The agony faded to dull aches at each of the six incisions. His personal, permanent darkness lit up with red numbers and green lines. He sat still in the tank mockup, as he’d been instructed to do, and watched while the lines jumped around, then settled into place to show the contours of the world in front of him. The numbers gave him distances to each isoline.

Goosebumps marched up his arms and legs. “I can see.” He itched to turn and take the whole world in, even in this minimalist way.

“Stay facing forward, Sergeant.”

Duly chastised for twitching, he forced himself to sit still. “Yes, ma’am.” As he watched, new isolines appeared, creating a more complex image. “Is that a tree?”

“No.” She sounded disappointed.

Todd frowned and squinted, though that made no difference. “The lines are too far apart still, I guess.”

“Is it getting better?’

Nothing changed, no matter how much he wanted it to. He stared through the goggles, willing it to change, to show him something else. “Is it a mailbox?”

The voice sighed. “No. Alright, we need to do more work with it. Shutting the Oculus down.”

“No!” Todd’s hand curled into a fist, knowing he shouldn’t have yelled into the mic. “I mean, I’d appreciate leaving it for another few minutes. Maybe you can collect some data? Tweak something?”

“Sorry, Sergeant.”

The lines derezzed, leaving him in darkness again. He sagged and sighed while a tech popped the face mask off. Sharp pain stabbed in his cheek.

“Oh, crap. Medic! The sutures ruptured.” He patted something soft on Todd’s cheek. “Sorry, Sergeant. We’ll get this taken care of right away.”

“It’s okay.” Todd gritted his teeth and wondered if the stupid project would ever let him see despite his ruined eyes.

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