Chapter 28: Hot Legs

With one disaster after another, the crew of the Edward Deming are stretched thin after another incident places their friends and family in danger...Some will go to great lengths to achieve their goals, though others may not be so eager to make a Faustian bargain.
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Chapter 28: Hot Legs

Post by uso »

IAS Edward Deming
Medical Bay

“How did you damage your legs?” Heram asked, setting down a stool next to him so the ship’s part time medical officer and full-time biologist Soffy Oo’Tut could jump up onto it. The Wasp-like I’ee sitting down on the stool and waving at Enid. “We should correct whatever mechanical shortcoming happened there in your new legs.”

Enid's eyes darted around the room only to avoid looking at the others. Medical stuff was always hard for her to handle but she was usually to the point and accurate with relaying information about herself. She knew it made things faster. "More than likely overexertion from long distance running and jumping. I get very energetic on occasion. The are also pretty rigid and not good at shock absorption so it strains the joints to do all that." Her words were just louder than a mumble but clear enough.

“Impact Trauma?” Heram asked, perhaps her legs hadn’t been as high quality as he’d thought originally? “I was going to bring in the best Cybernetic limb developer I know for this one and-”

Before he could finish, the flat-white door to the medical bay would slide open to reveal Caxia. The scientist was perhaps the most cybernetic individual onboard the ship, so much so that there wasn’t anything ‘human’ for the eyes to latch onto when looking at their body. Their ‘head’ was a flat disk with sensor bulbs positioned all around the edge. A small black neck connected to a cylindrical main body made of metal that was suspended off the ground by three industrial looking mechanical legs. Around the body was what looked like a coat of literal-arms, 8 vaguely humanoid limbs ending with adjustable fingers for manipulating of objects. No doubt additional sensors, speakers, and other equipment was hidden in the body as well. Not a bit of flesh was left exposed, and one could easily mistake them for a robot.

“HI CAXIA!” Soffy cheerfully said, waving two of her limbs in the air rapidly to signal hello to the newly arrived friend.

“Soffy.” Caxia awknolweded in a rather monotone voice. It was entirely synthetic, vaguely human but without an accent or tone that you could pull information from. “I have designed replacement limbs. These should outperform the original ones considerably.” Caxia didn’t even need to move their body to wirelessly connect with the display table, generating a 3d Image of new legs. They had heavy-duty connecting joints to attach them to Enid’s body, heavy duty batteries built into the thighs, and powerful synthetic muscle bands wrapped around additional hydraulic systems in the interior that acted like bones. They looked more like industrial lifting gear than human legs.

“Just to get ahead of this, Enid may prefer a few more options that are more…” Heram was again cut off.

“This was anticipated.” Caxia said, “I assumed that Enid may prefer to move away from the human form into something that is more suitable for tasks.” The display would change once more, moving away from the highly industrial legs and to something far sleeker, a minimal amount of mechanical muscle, sleek joints, and a curved single-piece foot structure that looked almost like a crowbar. The entire thing looked almost like a single slick piece of carbon-fiber shock absorber. “Such a limb design, while minimalist, would be highly suitable for her position as a pilot due to weight-reduction. There are also additional options if she prefers to truely take advantage of her new form.” Caxia would then deploy two more images, one was a 3d model of a four-legged apparatus that Enid could ‘sit’ in to be moved about while another was a more simple disk that would cradle her body, allowing her to hover using anti-gravity without the need for conventional limbs.

Enid couldn't avoid staring at Caxias stranger designs. Her enjoyment represented by an odd sidecocked grin. "Honestly something low profile would be nice. I want to retain my humanity but advance my abilities. I've been saving some matter synthesizing 'rations'," she adds air quotes to the word ration as if it's not an official name, "for something like this and You can use them." Her mind strolling to thoughts of Geiben even at a time like this. "And maybe being visually pleasing would be nice too." She looks to Wazu as if he was the authority on humans right now.

“Unsurprising. If you wish to retain the human form then there are less advanced options available. However you and Heram should both consider upgrades, despite your reservations cybernetic parts will all greatly increase your quality of life and antifragility to hostile environments.” Caxia stated, swapping over to more ‘normal’ legs being put on display. They were an approximation of human legs, covered with a soft layer of skin-like material that was matched to Enid’s own skin color. They were lightweight, had quite the battery life, and didn’t even actually require power to work… a person could hobble along with practice if they ran out of energy or just recharge wireless when near an Alliance power system. Similarly the freedback was supposed to be ‘as good as the real thing’ with some ability to customize the exact feedback type. There was even some storage space in the thighs. “I take it this was more what you were interested in?”

Heram just nodded, “I’m…… Cybernetics just isn’t me anymore. Though if I change my mind you will be the first to know, Caxia.”

Meanwhile soffy was just quietly watching, a wide OwO being displayed on her LED face mask to indicate she was quite interested in what was being shown, the I’ee carefully observing the 3d models… and swaying side to side just a bit to get a better look at them.

Enid studied the new model Caxia projected along side the good bug. She couldn't help but scrutinize them out of fear of underperformance in physical activities but she may have to deal with that sacrifice. That battery life was sure unbeatable but so was always having pockets. "Could I fit an LP in there? And does it come on both sides?" Now began the game of 20 questions, fear built that she may soon become a burden to the three.

“Long-Play Vinyl Album no. Laser Pistol? Maybe a small one, the storage space is more long than it is wide. I think Caxia wants you to ask about placing an anti-gravity device in there… or some other kind of shock absorbtion technology.” Heram speculated, looking over at Caxia and getting nothing from them. Their face was always a perfect poker face.

"This is gonna be weird but what if you make the thighs wider to add power and storage. Otherwise I'm very down for a miniaturized grav engine tucked in there like my shuttle." Enid's words ran together in the same few breaths.

“Proportions can be adjusted to fit your A-S-T-H-E-T-I-C-S” Caxia stated, though there was just a hint of distates in their artificial voice, after all why go for human-like when there were so many better options?! “Additional storage space, and anti-gravity shock absorption can be added to reduce strain under heavy G.”

Enid's gears spun in thought as she listened to Caxia, whose human-like disdain for her personal human-like choices seemed comedic in a sense but also annoyed her. "Do you think if we made the surface of the socket antimicrobial," a word she often read on surfaces and soaps around the Edward Demming, though was unsure if it applied here, "and created a strong attachment to my existing thighs that maybe I could wear them all the time?" Enid's pitch rose at the end to convey more than a question but also pure hope. Hope for a better life with these legs read across her face. One might find it heartwarming or even fulfilling as if she was a victim of tragedy and- she was. Even years after Heram had found a way to help those affected by the fall of the Wangdaio colonies.

Tears gathered en masse behind Enid's eye's, the gates did not open, restricted by professionalism and social requirements. One stray rebel tear made a break for it and escaped down her face as it tightened to hold back her emotions. This was an amazing moment for her and she was beyond pleased with everyone in the room. She could almost give Soffy a hug too. Her hands had to provide an extra layer of protection unless she began to wail. "Oh my god, I can like, wear shoes and leggings and dress cute. This is a life changer and I really can not thank you guys enough."

“Hm.” It was a sound that Heram made, a tell that he just haddn’t thought of making the legs anti-microbial before. If the thought had ever occurred to Caxia before they didn’t show it, but it was far easier to hide such things with a body as fully cybernetic as theirs. “A coating?” Heram suggested.

“Nano-texturing of the surface would be my choice.” Caxia responded, both of the scientists clearly not used to giving as much thought to the human element of things, “It would last longer than most coatings.”

“OH, what about a non-stick coating? Would make the legs easy to clean and could also be textured for anti-microbial properties ...”

“Yes but….”

With that, the two scientists began discussing specifics of the legs that were well above Enid’s paygrade.
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