Mariano walked to the back of the empty locker room. Their season was over, early. No playoffs this time.
He entered a seven-digit code into the keypad and waited while his eyes were scanned. The door hissed, made popping sounds as cylinders retracted, and slid open. He stepped over the shallow bulkhead into the chamber of arms.
There were seven of them on the wall, each plugged into power and diagnostic cables. Three of the hands were twitching their way through preset limbering routines; they would be used on the practice range in the morning. By other pitchers, though. Or perhaps just technicians probing the outer envelope – a hundred and twenty miles per hour fastballs, metachaotic knuckleballs, recursive sliders . . . things that couldn't be used in League play. They were beautiful to watch, though.
He stepped onto the platform before the empty space where the eighth arm should hang. He unbuttoned his shirt, marveling at how his fingertips – not really "his" at all – could feel each thread in the weave of the cloth. He disconnected the fluid hoses and sensory cables, feeling the arm go progressively more and more numb. Finally he pulled it from the stump, sickened a bit as he always was by the wet sound of broken suction when it finally came off. The orifices in the arm and stump retracted their frills and fronds in reluctant farewells, finally clenching shut.
One last time he hung the arm on the wall. The fist opened wide and relaxed, the calloused palm still dusty from the last few pitches. Somewhere in the dugout there was a baseball that was still a bit warm from it.
"Goodbye," he said.