Machine Girl: Hard Times Call For Hardware – Chapter 2

“Sorry to interrupt such an exuberant welcome.”  Eugene said, grinning from ear to ear, “Do I get one of those too?”

“My poor baby, why did this have to happen?”  Her mom was nearly in hysterics, pushing past her dad to rush to her side.  “Does it hurt?  Are you OK?”

Her mother’s overreaction – ok, to be fair, she had to admit it wasn’t really an overreaction. It had the effect of making Victoria’s anger at Adam, at Eugene and at the world in general for what had happened to her seem silly.  She was still upset with Adam especially, or maybe afraid of him was more accurate, but all that was pushed aside for now.

“I’m OK I think.  It doesn’t hurt at all but wow do these look wild or what?”  The bare carbon fiber was sparkling under the halogen lighting.  Her new legs were made from interconnected curves that almost mimicked the shape of muscles.  The feet were another story; they ended in a prehensile looking metal X that extended from the center.

“Is it OK for me to try and stand up?”  She wasn’t sure if this should be addressed to Eugene or David but they both answered at the same time.

“Yes it should be.”  Said David, who glanced at Eugene.

“Absolutely.”  Eugene said at the same time.

Affirmative.” This was orange text that trailed across her vision.  That brought her up short.

“Eugene, how can I trust Adam?  After what happened how can I trust him?”  She didn’t intend to have such a pleading tone in her voice.  The vulnerability she heard frightened her.

“Do not worry Tori, he is sorry.”  Yuen-Ja was walking into the room, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, her shoulder length black hair mussed and out of its usual twin pigtails.  “You might not have done what he made you do on your own, but without what he did you would certainly not have been able to rescue Eugene and most likely would have perished along with the others who came with you.”

Victoria sighed and opened her mouth to speak but Yuen-Ja interrupted her.  “You simply cannot hold him saving your life against him.  It is not right and it is not fair.  He even wrote the software used to control your new legs himself.  I tried to help him and he refused.”

“Well let’s try it out then!”  Victoria sat up, feeling Adam’s augmented Neuro-Muscles kick in to make it a smooth and easy process.

“Careful sweetheart!”  Said her mom.

“Just take it slowly OK, you always rush into things.”  Said her dad, hovering almost as close as her mom.  That was out of character for him, he must be really worried about her.  Well, she shouldn’t be surprised.  She had almost died after all.  Again.

She swung her legs over the side of the bed, or at least tried to.  There was a pleasing mechanical whirring sound, Adam was slowing down her actions and making sure she would move slowly and carefully.  Victoria’s body moved with gentle precision, she slid off the bed and stood on her feet.

“I’m never standing completely still.  This is weird.”  Her body was rocking slightly left and right when she tried to simply stand still, “Is it supposed to be like this?  It’s tough to stand without feeling my feet.”

“Like I said before, it’s only a prototype.”  David said apologetically, “I’m still working on the sensors, although Dr. Arlington and Adam already have their parts finished.  It’s tough to design something that sensitive and complex.

“The legs themselves are built to flex when you walk, that should cushion your movements and put minimal strain on the pressure points where they join to your… well your human body.  That’s why I used carbon fiber instead of metal.

“The balance is also difficult, I decided against giving you gyroscopes to maintain balance, it would have decimated the battery life.  As it is, the easiest way to stay upright is to always be moving.  It’s a trick I learned walking on stilts.  I told Adam about it and he built it into the software.”

Victoria experimentally bounced up and down.  She could feel the potential energy in the carbon fiber.  These legs might not be very strong, but they certainly were light.  They would work wonderfully for everyday use.

“What kind of motivators are in here?”  Victoria asked, then she found she knew, “You are using a combination of high-tension cables and Neuro-Muscle, what an interesting idea.  The cables are tight on all four sides and the muscle is used to shift bias from one side to the other.  That way for most normal walking or running the cable tension and elasticity of the carbon fiber does the majority of the work.  How did you think of that?”

“It was Dr. Arlington’s idea.”  David said.

“Careful sweetheart, those don’t really look strong enough to hold you up.”  Her mother said, looking nervously at Victoria’s new appendages.  “I think you’re taller too; a lot taller.”

“Don’t worry Mrs. Scott, carbon fiber is stronger than steel by weight and we tested these up to nine hundred pounds of weight without incident.”  Eugene said, “David had to add six inches to her height to get the proper amount of flex out of the thighs without radically changing the geometry of her stride.”

Victoria was walking around the room now; it almost felt like she was constantly treading on a trampoline or a rope bridge.  Every step was accompanied by a bit of rebound as the synthetic muscle, cable and carbon fiber worked together with her real muscles.  It was a strange experience.  After a little adjustment she was able to walk with a more or less normal stride.

“How long have I been out?  Jeez, it must have taken you guys weeks to come up with all this.”

“Only four days actually.”  David said, “I had a lot of this sorted out already and with Dr. Arlington’s ideas about using carbon fiber and molecularly aligned titanium cable, not to mention him allowing me to use his patented Neuro-muscle fibers, it came together really fast.  It only took Adam half an hour to write that code, he’s amazing.”

“Is this Adam a friend of yours?”  Her father asked, “I don’t think I’ve met him.”

Oh crap.  She was so used to being around Eugene and Yuen-Ja that she hadn’t even thought twice about David’s knowledge of her AI.  Eugene must have told him while they were working on her legs, but her parents had no idea.  Should she tell them?

“He’s a very gifted programmer.”  David saved her from having to decide, “He doesn’t really get out much though.”

“Pretty typical of programmers.”  Her father said, then winced and glanced at Yuen-Ja, “Of course Yuen-Ja isn’t a typical anything.”

“Good save daddy.”  Yuen-Ja said, patting his cheek and everyone laughed, glossing over the incident.

Victoria met David’s eye briefly and he gave her a slow and deliberate wink.

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