Gadgets & People: Part I

Sanjay Arc II: Gadgets & People

Part I: The Tinkerer from Another World

I have a confession to make: I definitely get cranky if I don’t get tea-induce caffeine regularly. With Jaeger having claimed a corner of my lab as his personal homework space and his constant questions — both schoolwork and engineering related — getting miffed while working with deadly weapons and high tech equipment was not a good idea.

“Did you know that three-toed sloths sleep for twenty hours a day? In fact they’re so immobile that algae grows on their body.” He said. It was a thing he did whenever I answered a question of his; give me some biology or zoology trivia.

“No I didn’t.” I sighed. “I need some caffeine.”

“Can you get me a refill too?”

“Sure.”

I picked both our cups and left the lab, making the short trek to the house and into the kitchen. Yougen was there too, working on homework at the counter with a cup of hot aromatic jasmine tea, earbuds in her ears linked to a makeshift mp3 player. After putting the kettle on, I came closer inspecting the device.

“Oh hey Sanjay.” She said with a smile, taking one of her ear buds out.

“Evening. Did you make that?” I asked, nodding at the device.

“Oh yeah, had to jury rig parts from three different system and reprogram the thing from scratch.”

“Impressive, where did you learn to do that?”

“My dad worked repurposing old scrap and tech, I learned from him.” She put a hand in her pocket and took out a few more things including a large pocket watch, what I presumed was a light of some sort and the last thing I wasn’t sure of, it was some kind of pen-thing. They were all clearly assembled out of spare parts.

“Impressive. I’d love to see what you could do with top of the line parts.”

“I’d be in heaven.”

“You know, my lab’s right outside. I might accidentally misplace some which you’d have found by chance, without me knowing of course.” I said with that ‘if you know what I mean’ kind of tone. The company would’ve been pissy if they’d known I gave stuff away, but frankly I didn’t care about what they wanted anymore.

“For real?” She asked, her face brightening up.

“For real.”

I finished the tea and coffee preparation and we both went to my lab with her following me in her wheelchair. However I came to a stop in front of the stairs.

“Oh… I hadn’t thought about that.” I mumbled, feeling like a moron.

“It’s fine.” She sighed. “I deal with this all the time.”

She quickly transformed into that other shape of hers, which unlike her normal one could walk. She got up and grabbed her wheelchair. I opened the door for us and she put it up inside the lab before sitting down and transforming back.

“Pardon me if this is an insensitive question, but if you can transform into that other form why stay in this one? Is it a time constraint thing?” I asked.

“No, I can stay as long as I want to. But it’s complicated.” She sighed. “When transformed, it’s more than just changing body shape, it also affects my brain. I’m still me on a level, but my thoughts work differently; I see everyone as either prey or predator, I’m hyper alert, I can’t focus on anything and I just react more aggressively to everything. The longer I stay in that form, the stronger these feelings get.”

“I see. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright. But yeah, walking is good and all but I prefer to be myself.”

I nodded. “Anyway here’s the lab.” I quickly explained every piece of technology lying around and her expression lit up like a kid in a candy store with fad wad of cash. “Don’t mind Jaeger, he’s one step away from become part of the decor here.”

“Hi.” He said, barely glancing up from his math textbook before returning back to it, lips pursed and brow frowning in deep concentration.

“This stuff is so amazing.” She said with a grin.

“It’s absolutely bleeding edge.” I said.

“Oh man, I’ve never seen any of this back home.” She picked a few things, examining them very carefully.

“Well, this isn’t the kind of thing most people can get their hands on. Even technological giants would kill to get what’s in here.”

“True, but to be honest most of the things people here take for granted are miraculous where I come from.”

“Where’s that?”

“Earth-d048.” She said. “Or that was the name it had back when I crossed over. Since we have parahumans, it probably has one of those fancy hebrew codename now.”

“You’re from another Earth?”Jaeger bleeped out.

“Yeah…” She said biting her lip.

“How is it like?”

“Not good… A comet hit Asia in the late eighties, last I saw we hadn’t exactly recovered from that.” She bit her lip again and for a moment there was silence. “But now I’m here and I’m just trying to make the best out of it.”

“That’s a good attitude to keep.” I said. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Jaeger roll his eyes.

“Having to relearn history and a new language was kind of a pain. Like past the ninth-century or so everything is different. The Holy Roman Republic was like the biggest thing on my world, here it never existed. Saxos isn’t even spoken here.”

“Saxos?”

“It’s kind of a mix between High German and Danish of this world with some French and Swedish mixed in. It’s the English of my world, everyone learns it as a second language.” She then spoke a sentence I didn’t understand save for her name, didn’t take a genius to figure out she’d just introduced herself in that language. I shot a look at Jaeger who was squinting.

“I got what you said from context, but beyond that it’s not quite mutually intelligible, but if I got time to deconstruct I might be able to get the basic gist. Maybe.”

“Same for Alephi-German.” She said.

“You said you had parahumans. Others like you?” Jaeger asked.

“Some are like me, others are different. We’re not sure what it really is, we think it came from the comet. All I really know is that we call it ‘das naht bluot’ or black blood, that it acts differently on different people, and that sometimes it’s contagious…”

“Contagious?”

“I’m safe.” she said raising her hands. “Now if you see me bleeding black out my eyes and mouth severely, grunting and screeching like a cave-woman, then you can panic.”

“So, do you feel like doing some tinkering? I have to see what you can do.” I asked, bringing the conversation to the reason I’d brought her there for.

“Oh hell yes!”

Her eyes focused back on the tech and I just followed the way she moved, trying to see how her brain worked as she experimented with new components. Despite a lack of advanced knowledge, she was smart and she definitely had talent when it came to thinking of new things.

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