Machine Girl: Hard Times Call For Hardware – Chapter 3

Eugene

Eugene had been debriefed by the military, told what he could and couldn’t say, told what had and hadn’t happened and then reluctantly released back into the civilian world.  He wondered if the girl he had rescued was still alive; she’d been in rough shape when they got back to the mainland.

After his grilling in that small cinderblock room, General Hallbeck himself had come to sign for his release.  Good old Charles had even thanked Eugene personally for helping the team out, but Eugene was pretty sure he was just happy to have more data on Victoria and her prosthetic.

Victoria had been taken first to the nearest hospital where her battered legs had been amputated.  Eugene shuddered, they had been so pulverized that the Kevlar armor was the only thing keeping them together at all.  After the procedure was complete and her vitals were stable she had been transferred to his medical engineering lab.

It was pure chance that she had given his number to the young robotics expert a couple of days before, the young man was nothing short of brilliant.  His ideas were leaps ahead of the engineering he had seen on the Misery taking the best of what they had thought of but using pure mechanical design instead of using technology to compensate for the shortcomings of their imagination.

He had accomplished in days what Eugene had seen a team of engineers take months, only David had actually gotten it right on the first try.  The second prototype actually gave him chills, his face split with a Cheshire grin.  Victoria was going to love it.

Victoria

Victoria was finally going back to school, there was only half a term left before graduation and she had missed a week of it at the insistence of doctors who weren’t Eugene and didn’t know shit about her situation.  They were still bewildered by her rapid and complete recovery, not to mention the assimilation of the new technology she had that allowed her to walk.  At least she’d been able to rely on Grace to get her the pertinent details so she knew what to study.

She still hadn’t responded to Adam’s overtures, even though she knew he was sincere.  It wasn’t that she was trying to be difficult or that she wasn’t grateful that he had saved her; the fact was that she was simply frightened of him.  It was so hard for her to trust him after what had happened.  Who knew what situation she would be in?  Would he interpret something harmless as a life and death situation?  The massive implications of that were too horrible for her to imagine.  So she made a point of not.

Her new legs were a combination of fantastic and terrible that reflected her mixed feelings about Adam’s influence over her body.  After a bit of practice Victoria found she could move around with far less effort than she had ever exerted with her flesh and blood legs.

The main problem were the sockets where her body joined to the slender slivers of carbon fiber, even though Adam kept them from hurting, by the end of the day blood was often seeping from the edges.  She could only hope they would eventually toughen up.  Because her school uniform had a skirt, Victoria had decided to wear thigh high stockings in order to make her new legs a little less shocking although there was no hiding her feet or her extra height.

“Fucking hell V, what’s that?  Jesus, you have some really hard luck, what happened?”  The ever-tactful Stacy was staring at her in shock.

“Got hit by a truck on a midnight stroll.”  She had decided in advance that she’d use the same story the military had given her father.  After all it wasn’t like she could tell anyone she’d been part of an advanced military strike team that had extracted a high value target from an ocean vessel and suffered severe injury in exchange for their lives and the success of the mission.

“So how are you up and about so fast?  My uncle lost a leg to a land mine in the Gulf War and it took him years to be able to walk on his prosthetic.”

“I have friends who are the top in the industry.  These things are state of the art, check it out!”  Victoria stuck a leg out, balancing on the other.  “All high tech and shit, the only drawback is I never get to wear shoes again.”

“You seriously got hit by a fucking truck?  Shit your mom must be flipping out, she freaks when you get a hangnail.”  Stace was exaggerating as usual.

“Yeah, both my folks are pretty worried honestly, me too.  It’s frightening not having control over your life.”  That statement was a little too close to home.  She didn’t have to fake the anxiety in her voice.

“Hey, hang in there V, it’s not like you to be a Debbie Downer.  I mean look at those things, they’re pretty sweet right?  Sure, they might be a little weird, but YOU’RE a little weird.”  She said with a laugh, “They don’t seem to be hurting you so it’s all good right?  Ow!”

Victoria had punched her in the shoulder.  “Thanks Stace, you always seem to make me feel better.”

“Damn, that’s gonna leave a bruise.” She said, rubbing her arm.

“Oh stop being such a baby, I’m practically an invalid!”  Victoria said with a grin.  “How do you think you did on your midterms then?  Other than History, I’m a little sketched out about mine.”  She said.

“Are you fucking kidding me?  V you always rock on tests, even if you worry about it more than the rest of us.” Stace replied, then she smacked her palm on her head, “Shit, I forgot about something.  Big K is on the warpath.  I overheard her saying she was going to make you see her as soon as you get in today but she didn’t say about what.”

“Great, I can’t think of a better way to start the week.”  Said Victoria.

Big K is what they called Donna Kneepkens, the school’s so-called guidance counselor.  She was huge, not just overweight but also tall and with fairly broad shoulders for a woman although it was hard to keep that in perspective.  Her waistline eclipsed them by a wide margin.  Big K had a large personality and an even bigger ego.

Victoria supposed that she might be pleasant to some people, but she hadn’t seen it yet.  All those years working with kids who would become a much bigger success than she had must have rankled, or else maybe the jokes at her expense that were inevitable in a group of adolescents was the problem.  Either way, if she wasn’t such a bitch Victoria would have felt sorry for her.

“Seriously?  I’ve only been back in school now for a couple weeks and she’s already gunning for me?  What is it this time?  Can’t be my grades, I know those are good unless I bombed my mid-terms.”

Stacy laughed, “I know you didn’t do badly on mid-terms.  Shit you haven’t had an issue with your studies since grade school.”

A hand fell on Victoria’s shoulder and she stopped Adam’s reflexes just barely in time before he executed some complicated arm lock.  Even so she spun in place, brushing the hand away like a bothersome fly and bringing her hands forward, palms open in a defensive posture.

“Good, you’re here early.”  Donna’s voice had a gravely quality; Victoria suspected she had once been a heavy smoker.  “You.  My office.  Now.”

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