Part X: Promises
I woke up just a moment later than Caroline did. She was still sitting on her bed, stretching out. She looked rather peachy. I on the other hand was somewhat sore. In a moment of insanity, I’d impulsively decided to carry her home in my arms, her arms wrapped around me…
The memory of the moment made my whole body catch fire. I couldn’t stop thinking about her eyes, her smile, her skin touching my neck, her breath meeting mine, her smell…
In that moment, I thanked all of the gods that I’d been born a cis girl and didn’t have to hide…
“Good morning.” She said, greeting me with one of her gorgeous smile, not helping anything.
“Morning, how are you doing?” I said, still a little flustered by my own horny brain.
“Good, my broken leg notwithstanding. You?”
“Well, that’s good. Uhm, just a minute.” She closed the curtain presumable to change and I took the opportunity to sneak out and into the shower; setting it to cold, which calmed my stupid brain down.
When I came into the kitchen, Caroline was waiting alone at the counter, sitting on a stool. She’d elected to skip the shower step and had put on a white wool vest over a black tank top and some jeans, her hair just hanging loosely behind her.
“You know what I’m craving? Pancakes.” She said for me. Pancakes sounded delicious.
“Sounds good but can you even cook with your leg like that?”
“Sure, you’ve been really helpful the last few days. We just got to work smart. What do you say I man the grill and you serve?”
So Caroline showed me how to make her pancake batter recipe; flour, baking powder, milk, eggs, brown sugar, a dash of vanilla, a dash of cinnamon and buttermilk, served with some true maple syrup rather than the cheap imitation.
The early birds came up; Sanjay, Ahti, Yougen, Jaeger, Sage and surprisingly Annabelle, the latter of which looked like a zombie, whom I served their breakfast to.
“Well, since we have a free period so I’m going to go see the mechanic for my leg.” Caroline said, having made enough pancakes to feed an army or a little over a dozen teenagers.
“Well, I better go with you then.”
“You know, you really don’t have to if you don’t want to. It’s going to be really boring.”
“I said I’d go and I keep my promises.”
“Let’s go then.” She said, going for the door and I followed.
As we made our way across the field, I held Caroline up in support to minimize the need to put weight on her broken leg. The campus’ cybermechanic shared the same building as Doctor Sij’s clinic. In addition to being the school’s main doctor, she was also my family doctor and therapist so I knew the blue colored Venusian lady well.
We registered on the electronic registration board that handled the clinics and sat down to wait. A few minutes later, the door to the mechanic workshop opened.
“You must be Caroline.” A man said, coming out of his office and stopping before us. He was tall, muscular, dressed like a bodybuilding surfer and sported his own chrome in one arm and a leg. Of all the staff, he was one of the few I’d never met since I knew nobody other than Caroline who was chromed.
“Yes sir.” She said getting up and facing the man.
“I’m Max Steel.” He said. I had no idea if that was his real name or an Alias but it was extremely vaguely familiar. “I was expecting you a little sooner.”
“Stuff got in the way.” She said sheepishly.
“That’s alright. Let’s go into my office.”
Caroline got up and shot me a glance.
“Would you like Charlie to come in with you?”
“You know her name?”
“Of course I do, we can’t have a staff meeting without her dad Ian derailing it to talk about his kids. Like that time he couldn’t resist showing us Charlie’s ballet recital or just how tall Jason’s been getting.”
“He’s really passionate about his kids.”
I could attest to that. When he wasn’t working as a superhero, Ian was basically the model head of PTA, bring kids to dance recitals and soccer practice without fault, sit down to do homework with kids kind of Dad. Having him being so involved was cool, but it could get a little annoying.
“So, how can I help you?” Max asked once we were in his office, which looked more like a garage with a doctor’s exam table than an office.
“My leg’s broken; it’s just not responding to commands anymore.”
“Alright, could you please sit down on my examination table?”
I helped Caroline over and she hoisted herself on top of it. I looked around and found a chair to sit in not too far.
“Remove your shoes and raise your pants so I can examine.”
She did as he asked. Although it’d seen Caroline’s leg before, it was my first time really giving it a look; it connected just below the knee, while the lower leg was fairly simple, the foot was molded to look just like a normal human foot; complete with articulated toes. If it hadn’t been metal gray colored and with the occasional screw and plating seamline showing up here and there, nobody would have noticed at first glance.
“Naked Chrome eh?” Max declared, more than he asked.
“Yeah, I didn’t know what to get… And the chrome cost an arm and a leg so I felt bad about having my mom spend more money on it.”
“Well, if you want a mod, I can install or make them for you. Free of charge.”
“Really?” Caroline said, surprised.
“Ravenhold pays for all of it for its students. Although I’m going to warn you; there’s a waiting list for anything complex, especially early on in the school year. It’s when most students change theirs or get a new skin for it. I can give you a base paint job right now if you’d like. But you’ll have to use a spare until the end of the day so it can dry safely.”
“Eh, I’ll pass for now.” Caroline said.
“Alright, your choice. What do you feel more comfortable with; keeping your leg on or having it removed while I work on it.”
“Which is better?” I asked.
“Both have their advantages. With the legs on I can get real time feedback on performance and immediately calibrate. Removing means I can work more comfortably but it takes time to unhook and rehook the prosthesis.”
“I’d prefer to keep it on.”
“Alright. May I?”
She nodded and he sat down on a high rolling chair, taking her legs and removing its protective shell. Since I was nearby, Caroline reached out for me and I held her hand.
He proceeded to clean the leg, removing quite a bit of dust, grime and thickened grease. The whole process took about an hour but Caroline didn’t seem to mind. Once it was clean, he oiled all the parts as he checked them for movement.
“Found the little bugger.” He said triumphantly. That said, he fiddled around with a screwdriver until before taking a pair of pincers and taking out a bent component. He rolled his chair to a massive cabinet and opened it, taking a similar but intact component which he inserted into the cybernetic prosthesis.
“Alright, I’m going to reconnect you.” He said. “Can you sit up?”
“Okay, try moving it now.”
As requested, she moved her foot, the ankle spinning around.
“That it is. Let’s check for delays; can you wiggle both of your legs’ toes?”
She did and they moved in unison. They went through a few more tests before Max declared everything to be in working order.
“Alright, I’m expecting your butt to be back here no later than next Thursday night for your weekly maintenance, is that clear?” He declared once she got her pant’s legs down and she hopped on her feet.
“Wait, she has to go through this every week?
“Yeah the H+ lifelike model line, especially the MK. IV is a rather renowned for being prone to getting damaged since it has the most moving parts of any models.” He said, replacing the leg’s outer casing. “Good news is; it’s designed to be easy to take apart to fix or replace any malfunctioning components.”
“Is there something better?”
“Well, that depends on what aspect you need. Capital Chrome’s econo-ergonomic can generally go for three weeks between maintenance but it’s no frills; it looks like a tin can, flat soled, no toes or forward foot joint.” He said, getting up and pointing to one of the pictures.
He was right, it looked bad; it was a minimalist design that essentially just looked as if it had loafers on.
“Alright, anything else Caroline?” Max asked.
“No, that’ll be all.”
“Have a good day then.”
“You too. Thank you and see you next week Mr. Steel.”
He nodded and escorted us to the door. We still had about another hour before class so we walked back to the Dorm, Caroline happily skipping about now that she could move freely again.
“There’s something I’ve been wondering.” Caroline said, slowing down.
“What is it?”
“Ballet recital.” She just said, giving me a deadpan look for a few seconds. “Did I hear that correctly?”
“You did…” I said, looking away in shame.
“Okay, there ought to be one hell of a story behind thus.”
I sighed. “Not really, I joined the class to hang out with a friend who was really into it.” I said. It was partially true; I had really just wanted to impress her so I could do kissy stuff with her… But nothing had ever happened.
“Oh that explains it. ‘Cause no way I can picture you wanting to do ballet.”
“I’ll have you know that I’m very gracious.”
“You in a tutu. Not computing in my mind.”
“Oh I hated it.”
“Now there; that’s the Charlie I know.” She said, wrapping an arm around my shoulder. “So, does that mean you’ll do stuff you hate just for my sake?”
“What did I say I’d do the other day?”
It took her a moment to remember.
“Anything for me…”
I took her hand and just gave her a smile.
“I meant it.”
“I’ll hold you to that promise.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”