Adventure of a Lifetime
Part XIII: This Feeling
I woke up early like usual. Unlike most days however I didn’t jump out of bed, my leg still crapped out and a few solid slap to the chrome didn’t get it going.. So I slowly dragged my butt to the edge of the bed and started stretching out.
Charlie woke up just then, rubbing her eyes clean. She stretched her arms which I noticed looked a little stiff from her little stunt the previous night.
“Good morning.” I said, unable not to smile.
“Morning, how are you doing?” Charlie said, looking incredibly stiff.
“Good, my broken leg notwithstanding. You?”
“Well, that’s good. Uhm, just a minute.”
I closed the curtain around my bed and changed into the clothes I’d set out on my nightstand the night before. Since it was supposed to be a bit chilly, I’d opted to put on my wool vest, which my grandma had made just for me, along with simple blue jeans.
As I changed, I heard Charlie get up and walk out the door.
Once I was finished, I dragged myself out of bed and stumbled into the common room, dragging my foot across the place until I reached the nearest stool.
Charlie was in the shower but she didn’t take long before coming back fully dressed.
“You know what I’m craving? Pancakes.” I told her.
“Sounds good but can you even cook with your leg like that?” She asked, her voice filled with worry.
“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?”
“Can do.” She said, determined.
I dragged myself to the other side and leaned against the counter as I directed Charlie around, teaching her how to make kickass cinnamon buttermilk pancakes. Thankfully Ravenhold was awesome enough to have real maple syrup rather than that cheap corn syrup crap.
The batter done, I started making pancakes, keeping them small and stacking them high. Soon enough the others started pouring and Charlie served them their breakfast. Once they were served, I kept cooking until I had enough to feed everyone.
“Are you done?” Charlie asked me.
“Alright. What do you want to do now?”
“Well, since we have a free period so I’m going to go see the mechanic for my leg.”
“Well, I better go with you then.” She said with a smile.
“You know, you really don’t have to if you don’t want to. It’s going to be really boring.” My weekly visit to the mechanic could take forever, especially when there were other people. Her word or not, she didn’t have to suffer through that.
“I said I’d go and I keep my promises.”
“Let’s go then.” I said, not arguing any further.
We went out and she helped me across the terrain, holding me on my cybernetic leg’s side. The clinic was thankfully just a short walk away. It has its own building, housing both the cybermech and the medical doctor on staff.
Only two other students were in the fairly large waiting room; a pasty long haired gothy-looking androgynous person and a rather generic looking white guy that just sort of screamed unremarkable.
I gave them a nod but that was the extent of our conversation. Instead I went up to the electronic board and registered for the mechanic. Thankfully the others were there for the human doctor so I was first in line.
I sat down with Charlie, taking her hand in mine out of nervosity. A few minutes later, an office door opened and a huge guy with cybernetics came in.
“You must be Caroline.”
“Yes sir.” I said getting up. He looked like the kind of man you answer to with ‘sir yes sir’s.
“I’m Max Steel.” He said, offering his hand, which I shook. His name was either the fakest I’d ever heard to his parents had wanted to destine their kid to be some kind of cybernetic superhero. Well, I didn’t know if he’d ever been one, but he had the feel of one… “I was expecting you a little sooner.” He then added.
“Stuff got in the way.” I answered, feeling a little intimidated.
“That’s alright. Let’s go into my office.”
I took a step before looking back at Charlie who hesitated in her seat.
“Would you like Charlie to come in with you?” Max asked.
“You know her name?” I said, turning back toward him.
“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.”
“Oh wow.” I answered. It took me a moment to process the words. Had he really said Charlie’s ballet recital?
“He’s really passionate about his kids.” He said. I looked at Charlie who rolled her eyes.
The three of us went into the office and Max turned toward us. The place wasn’t that different from my Boston mechanic; a mix of medical exam room and mechanical shop.
“So, how can I help you?” He asked.
“My leg’s broken; it’s just not responding to commands anymore.”
“Alright, could you please sit down on my examination table?” He nodded toward it and I went forward, Charlie helping me before finding a chair and bringing it closer.
“Remove your shoes and raise your pants so I can examine.” Max asked as I sat down on the edge of the table.
I did as he asked and he examined my leg, noting its serial number, model and features.
“Naked Chrome eh?” Max said rather than ask.
“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.”
There was a big movement of customizing cybernetics; adding shapes, colors, designs, trinkets and gadgets to them so that we Chromees could make it ours. But I’d already felt guilty about the price of the chrome itself, although it hadn’t helped that I’d insisted on getting one of the top of the line ones, with fully articulated toes. The idea of getting a lesser cybernetic hadn’t seemed like a step up…
“Well, if you want a mod, I can install or make them for you. Free of charge.”
“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.”
After an evening of not having my legs, I wasn’t in the mood for being without it for any longer than I had to.
“Eh, I’ll pass for now.”
“Alright, your choice. What do you feel more comfortable with; keeping your leg on or having it removed while I work on it.” Max asked, which surprised me. My Boston mech always had me remove it, which was a pain. Literally, the connector going in or out was like one horrible sting that filled your entire body.
“Which is better?” Charlie 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.” He explained, although omitting the unpleasantness of un/reconnecting it.
“I’d prefer to keep it on.” I said.
“Alright. May I?”
I nodded and he sat down in a tall rolling chair while I laid on my back, preferring not to look at the inside of my leg. I knew it was just metal, but for some reason that grossed me out. Artificial or not, it was still my limb being operated on. My eyes met Charlie and I reached out to her. She took my hand in hers and held it firmly.
“Found the little bugger.” Max said after a while, removing the component before installing a new one in its place.
“Alright, I’m going to reconnect you.” He said a second later, I felt the tingle of the power being switched back on. “Can you sit up?” I did. “Okay, try moving it now.”
Once you’re used to it and the chip embedded in your spine has had time to learn to decode the signals, moving cybernetic limbs is pretty much the same as moving flesh and bone limbs. Still, I focused on my prosthesis and rolled the ankle around, the chrome moving smoothly once again.
“It’s working!” I said out loud, a little more excited than I should have been.
“That it is. Let’s check for delays; can you wiggle both of your legs’ toes?”
I did and both the flesh and chrome toes moved in unison. Which was a good sign. He had me do a few more excercises just to be sure.
“You’re officially repaired and calibrated.”
“Alright, I’m expecting your butt to be back here no later than next Thursday night for your weekly maintenance, is that clear?”
“Wait, she has to go through this every week?
In answer, Max explained the detail of different prosthesis, showing her some different models and their benefits, mine was a maintenance queen, but it was worth it in my humble opinion.
“Alright, anything else Caroline?” Max asked, his lecture over.
“No, that’ll be all.”
“Have a good day then.”
“You too. Thank you and see you next week Mr. Steel.”
Max escorted us to the door and we went out, heading toward the dorm to enjoy the rest of the free period. As we walked, I couldn’t help but skip about happily with my now working legs.
“There’s something I’ve been wondering.” I said, slowing down and coming next to Charlie.
“What is it?”
“Ballet recital.” I told her deadpan before glaring at her. “Did I hear that correctly?”
“You did…” She answered, looking ashamed of herself.
“Okay, there ought to be one hell of a story behind thus.” I said with a chuckle.
I sighed. “Not really, I joined the class to hang out with a friend who was really into it.”
“Oh that explains it. ‘Cause no way I can picture you wanting to do ballet.” Charlie was the least girly girl I’d ever met.
“I’ll have you know that I’m very gracious.” She defended herself.
“You in a tutu. Not computing in my mind.” The image was so wrong and Alien that I couldn’t even imagine it.
“Oh I hated it.”
“Now there; that’s the Charlie I know.” I said, wrapping an arm around her 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?”
I had to take a moment to remember what she’d told me yesterday.
“Anything for me…” I muttered.
She took my hands and gave me the warmest smile I’d ever seen.
“I meant it.” She said, solemnly.
“I’ll hold you to that promise.” I said, my whole body feeling uncomfortably warm all of a sudden. I could feel my heart beating frantically in my chest.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” She said, her words just making my heart beat even stronger..
I couldn’t help but wonder; why was I feeling so strange?