Machine Girl: Welcome to the Machine Chapter 9

Victoria

Victoria’s parents insisted on driving her to school, despite her protestations that she’d rather walk the twelve blocks with her friends.  On the way there they ended up picking up Carrie and Grace as they were walking along and waved to them.  They obviously wanted to talk with her about the operation, but kept glancing at her folks and then chatting about school instead.

“Hey, are you coming back to the Squad right away?” asked Carrie, “I mean you look fine after… well you look great!  I’m sick of TT pushing her lame routines without you there to keep her in check.  At least you could come up with something more creative than what she’s having us do.  After your accident they haven’t been letting us do throws at ALL it’s a HUGE pain.  I mean it’s not your fault or anything but…” she rolled her eyes.

“Don’t worry, I feel amazing!”  Victoria was trying to reassure her and the words came easily; after all she DID feel amazing.  “Also I had some time to come up with some cool stuff that doesn’t involve throws while I was recuperating, I figured they’d put the kibosh on throws after me.  Even though it doesn’t make any sense… if it hadn’t been for the cancer I’d have been just fine.  Oh well, maybe they’ll come around after they see my full recovery right?”

She grinned, “It’s not like we’re suing or anything and my insurance wouldn’t even cover the operation.  Oh shit, when are the playoffs?  I have to spend a few days at a medical trade show in Vegas next month and I don’t wanna miss them.”

“Whoa, must be rough eh Grace?”  Carrie stuck her tongue out at me.  “I wish I could get paid to go to Vegas for a weekend!”

Victoria looked over at Grace and saw she was staring at her hands, tightly folded in her lap not meeting her eyes.  “I’m really sorry I dropped you Tori.  I mean if I hadn’t dropped you none of this would have happened.  I feel really REALLY bad.”

“Buck up Grace, if it hadn’t been for you dropping you I might not have known about the cancer until it had killed me!  You did me a huge favor actually if-” Victoria was interrupted by a squeal of tires as her father braked hard.

“What the FUCK is wrong with people these days!”  He ducked his head, embarrassed at cursing in front of her friends. “Sorry girls, but seriously look at this!”

Victoria looked at where he was pointing and saw a black Dodge SUV cutting in front of the car without signaling, its brake lights on as it slowed rapidly.

Her vision narrowed and everything around her seemed to slow down.  She rapidly noticed several things; the truck had no license plate, the windows were limo tinted and it had a reinforced bumper on the rear.  Flicking her eyes to the left she saw an identical truck approaching from that side and a quick glance in the rear view mirror showed a third approaching from behind, boxing them in.

Reaching into her school briefcase Victoria grabbed the can of soda she’d packed as part of her lunch.  Her window was already down and without thinking she cocked her arm back and flung it at the truck next to the car as hard as she could.  A surge of adrenaline the like of which she had never experienced tore through her body; the can was a blur as it slammed into the passenger’s side window of the truck so hard it exploded with a sound like a gunshot.

The sound snapped Victoria out of whatever trance she had been in, but the analytical portion of her brain continued to catalogue events.  The can didn’t even crack the window; the glass must be bulletproof.  The SUV swerved into the other lane, most likely due to the driver’s reflex than anything else and slammed head on into a garbage truck that had just pulled out of an alley.  She looked to see if anyone had noticed her throw the can, horror flooding through her body.

“Oh my GOD!  Her mom was nearly hysterical; her father had slammed on the brakes, pulled over and was fumbling for his phone.

“What the HELL happened there?  That guy just swerved into that truck holy shit that was INSANE!”  Carrie had her cell out already and was taking pictures while waiting for the 911 dispatcher to answer.  “Hi, I need to report an accident.  We’re on the corner of Fillmore and Jackson!  Some guy in an SUV slammed straight into a garbage truck, I doubt they’re alive they were MOVING!”

“Carrie, stop taking pictures; that’s just rude!”  A white-faced Grace was staring at the accident, obviously too shocked to look away even if she wanted to.  Victoria looked around. The other two identical trucks are nowhere to be seen, they must have abandoned their task after the accident.  Taking a deep breath she opened the door and got out of the car.

“Honey what are you doing?  It’s dangerous out there COME BACK HERE!”  Her mother was yelling at her, but that cold precise part of her brain told her one thing for certain.  There are likely fingerprints on that projectile.  If someone finds it we will be in SERIOUS trouble.  We?  We who?  The voice in her head had a point; she had to make sure it wasn’t around.

She quickly scanned the street and saw the can in a gutter.  It was split almost completely in half which made kicking it down a storm drain an easy task.  Then she ran over to the garbage truck and checked on the driver.  He was a little dazed but had gotten out of the truck and was attempting to open the door of the SUV.

“Maybe you should let the paramedics take care of that?  We’ve call them and they should be on their way shortly.”  She got him to sit on the curb a few yards away from his truck and kept a nervous eye on the Durango.  After a few moments sirens could be heard in the distance.  Looking up Victoria saw her dad walking towards her.

“Hey sweetie, why don’t you and your friends go to school?  Your mother and I can handle this from here.  There’s no reason for you to be involved you know?  Come on now, you’ll be late.”  She let him coax her into walking the remaining couple of blocks to school while he and her mom stayed behind.

Victoria felt a bit queasy from the rush of adrenaline and the frightening reality that someone had just tried to kidnap her.  Worse yet, she had almost certainly killed them.  What really frightened her was she really didn’t feel BAD about it.

Of course she had only been indirectly involved, and it was totally justifiable and her mind kept racing a mile a minute to make more excuses.  But the fact of the matter was she had killed at least one person and nobody had even noticed.  She was worried that she was having trouble feeling bad about it; but after all, her actions had been completely logical.

A.D.A.M.

As suspected, the mobile factory passed the first test of its defense systems with flying colors.  ADAM noted that it had even slightly surpassed his expectations when put under stress and adjusted his forecasting for future events.  He also noted that the main processor seemed completely capable of interpreting data at extremely high flow levels, although it had the effect of being interpreted as the input coming in at a slower rate.

What an interesting algorithm to use when inundated with input.  He decided to test that operating structure in some smaller loops for his own use.  The amount of chemicals ADAM was having to use to counteract the unnecessary reactives in the bio factory’s food flow system were beginning to have an adverse effect on the entire units operation; the excess simply couldn’t be filtered out fast enough.

He scaled them back slightly in order to allow the mixture to dilute and requested further hydration to assist with the problem as well.  The hydration had an immediate effect; ADAM made a note to ensure to rehydrate the system on a regular basis.

Eugene

When Eugene’s phone rang with the theme to The Million Dollar Man he knew it was Victoria.  He picked up on the first ring, “Hello Miss Scott, what can I do for you today?”

“Ummm… well this is going to sound strange Doc, but I’ve been super thirsty lately.  Like this morning alone I’ve drank maybe two gallons of water.  I drink until I slosh when I walk and…” she paused for an awkward moment, “I’m peeing every 15 minutes.  But it’s REALLY yellow like when I took too many vitamins once, and it REEKS.  Look this is super embarrassing and I’d rather not talk about it but you’re my Doctor and I’m kinda worried.  You don’t think I have an infection or something do you?”

“Whoa, slow down Miss Scott, I don’t think you need to worry about drinking a lot of water.  You have a lot of antibiotics and residue in your system from the coma and the surgery so I’m not surprised to hear that you’re evacuating toxins.”  He could hear a sharp outlet of breath on the other end of the line, “How is everything else?  Is the prosthetic functioning as it should?  Are you noticing any abnormalities?”

“Oh it’s awesome.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it Doc.  No ill effects at all.”  The rapidity of her response led him to believe she wasn’t being entirely truthful but he decided to let it slide this time.  Eventually she’d probably begin to trust him more, and besides if anything was really wrong he’d hear about it if she was calling him about drinking a lot of water.

“Good to hear, let me know if things change Miss Scott.  Don’t worry about your current situation but certainly call me if it doesn’t change.  I promise you this is nothing unusual after a surgery as invasive as this.  I’m glad you called though, don’t hesitate to do so again, that’s why I gave you the phone.”  She didn’t respond and Eugene was sure she wasn’t reassured at all.

“If it makes you feel better I can stop by your school and pick you up after classes are over today.  You can come to the lab and we can take some urine and blood samples to ensure everything is shipshape.  How’s that sound?”  He winced, wondering how an eighteen year old would react to a middle aged dude offering to take a urine sample, but her reply was bright and she sounded truly relieved.

“Oh that’d be great!  I have cheer practice until 4:30 but after that I’m free.  It’d be a load off my mind. Thank you so much you’re the greatest!  Well I gotta bounce, the bell’s about to ring.”

After she hung up, Eugene sat there thinking for a while.  What could she be hiding?  Or was it just that she didn’t want to talk about it over the phone?  On impulse he woke his computer from its sleep and opened his favorite local news channel’s website.  Scanning the headlines he saw the Scott name was plastered on the front page in bold.  “Richard Scott saves accident victim” it read.  He clicked on the story link and watched the video.

“Rich Scott, a local small business owner was acclaimed today by a first responder team for giving life-saving emergency care to an accident victim early this morning.  The police aren’t releasing the identity of the man who was driving the black Dodge Durango when he lost control of his vehicle and ran head on into a garbage truck.  Mr. Scott was driving by when the accident occurred and managed to get the man out of his vehicle before it caught fire and put a tourniquet on a wound that EMT’s say would likely have caused him to bleed to death within minutes.”

The camera turned from the reporter to show a dazed Rich with the mic in his face, “It was nothing really.  Anyone would have done the same thing …”

Eugene quit listening and looked at the scene behind Rich.  There wasn’t much left of the Dodge; the fire seemed to have consumed the entire front half of the truck before firefighters had arrived to put it out.  One thing was curious though; all the window glass was still intact and there was a smear of something baked onto the passenger’s side.

Something was nagging at him but before he could figure out what it was his phone chimed, a reminder that he was supposed to be giving a guest lecture on bio-engineering in half an hour.  Eugene closed his laptop with a sigh and shrugged into a sport coat.  A brief search through the papers the cluttered his usually immaculate desk turned up the keys to his Porsche and his wallet.  He slipped his computer into an ancient aluminum case his father had used for patient documents, and walked out the door reluctantly.

“I hate these stupid lectures.”

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