Chapter 16 – A Leg to Dance On (Part II)

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“When she does go to prom on this leg, she’ll be able to wear a dress that shows off her legs. It will have a similar complexion to the rest of her body and only someone looking very closely will be able to tell that she’s wearing a prosthetic.” She jabbed a thumb over her shoulder at the limp doll-body android chassis laying on the metal gurney behind her. “It’s designed on the same principal as Hadaly’s ‘human camouflage,’ except that instead of being operated by an intelligence, sensors in the leg will cause the skin to goosebump or flush according to indicators in her own blood pressure and body reactions.”

Roger shivered and hugged his arms. “She lost both her arms too?” He contemplated his own hand for a moment. “Kinda like Edward from Full Metal Alchemist isn’t she? Does that make you Winry Rockbell?”

“Ah yes,” Elaine said. Like most of her friends, Roger had taken quickly to Japanese animé and tended to use it as a cultural reference. “I collaborated on the team that prototyped cybernetic arms for her with partially actualized and articulated fingers—in fact, I developed the first iterations of Hadaly’s own cybernetics based on that design. It’s what gave my brother and me the idea to construct a full-body chassis for her. After all, if I could give a girl who’d lost her hands her life back, I saw no reason why I couldn’t give Hadaly a chance to be one of us.”

“And Edward Elric only lost one arm,” she added. She pursed her lips, looking at the human facsimile components in the lab. “As you might have guessed, the technology has advanced somewhat since then. Last year I submitted a design for fully actualized digits and a Brain Machine Interface. I hear that she’s been the recipient of a surprising number of medical grants and is basically the poster-child for advanced prosthetic research.”

Roger flexed his hand, balling and unballing his fist.

“If you could, would you replace one of your arms with something like what Hadaly has, would you?” he asked.

Elaine cocked her head to the side for a moment. “I probably would. After all, our bodies are mostly in our way; however, artificial limbs as elective augments are still a long way off. Even my designs would wear the down the body severely and cause extreme stress to the internal organs…”

“Oh,” Roger said. “I guess we can’t have all the science fiction.”

“I’ll make it happen,” Elaine said.

Roger smiled at that. “And that’s why I came. Frog told me that you’ve run into trouble, again, and that the first thing you did is ignore it by cutting yourself off. Yes, yes, I can see that you’ve got work to do. So, I’m here to ask you to do something.”

Elaine narrowed her eyes. “Do what?”

“Get your coat,” Roger said. “We’re going out.”

“I don’t need a coat,” she replied. “It’s warm outside.”

“It’s a figure of speech,” he said. “I mean to take you to a movie and I’m not taking ‘No’ for an answer.”

“You’re not that stubborn.”

“Watch me,” he said. “I know what it’s like to get denied something that I worked for, and you’re such a busy little bee that you just move onto the next project on your list without regard for your own social health. Do you think you can take a break from saving the universe for just one night?”

Elaine peered at him over the lenses of her spectacles for a moment. The project could wait; she didn’t need to work on it right now. The entire reason of coming to the machine bay had been a presence to get away from her own astonishment of being barred from the theater (although certainly Zane would have found a way to sneak her in.) Ideally, she didn’t want to have to deal with the world.

“Why let the college push you around?” Roger asked as he tentatively ran his fingers along the warm polypastic ankle again. “Here you are, giving a girl her life back with possibly some of the most advanced engineering in the world this side of Star Trek and each time you’ve been presented with a more human problem you run and hide.”

“I don’t hide,” Elaine said. “I have better things to do. Furthermore, it’ll sort itself out. My grades are excellent. I know they must be. If it causes me further issues, I will simply speak to the dean.”

Roger gestured towards one of the nearby computer terminals. “Why don’t you just hack in and fix the problem now? I know you can do it. I’m willing to bet its child’s play to someone with your level of intelligence.”

The lights on the ceiling glinted on her spectacles as she shifted her gaze just a degree.

“That would be cheating,” she said. Following up a case all about cheaters and cheating, it seemed almost morally irresponsible to engage in the same behavior even on her own behalf simply because it would be the easiest route—after all, that’s what the cheaters did in the College of Engineering and look the fallout it generated for the dean.

“So you’re just going to let it lie,” Roger said. “I think that you have trouble with people. I say this because we’ve known each other for two months now and you and I haven’t gone out to do anything. In fact, you wouldn’t even come to the Animé Club if it wasn’t for Frog. I think you need some ‘me time’ to break up your studies, your fantastic detective cases, and saving the world.”

“What do you suggest?” she asked.

A flicker of smile lit upon Roger’s lips when he saw the opening. “I was thinking a movie,” he said. “Since I hear that you missed out on one, we could make up for it by getting one someplace less likely to discriminate.”

A movie couldn’t be so bad, she surmised, and Roger had fairly good taste.

“Fine,” she said. “I’ll get my coat.”

“I thought you said you didn’t need one?” he said.

She pulled the auxiliary door to the machine bay open and gestured him through.

“It’s a figure of speech.”

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