A man who detests machinery has to cope with his new mechanical leg.
| Isaac’s legs straddled the cycle. He held the handles, white knuckled. The bike jerked and pulled beneath him in ways Isaac had never felt her do before.
“Steady,” he muttered. He was going fast and the rain drops were crashing against and sliding off of his visor. Slowing down would have been suicide. The flash rains had soaked the copper toned highways. Any sort of brake pressure would have thrown the bike sideways.
He had to ride it out, let it coast down to a comfortable speed and then gently apply the brakes. The hologram at the bottom right of his visor counted down the speed. He was at 213 mph, then 205 and before he could even blink he was down to 197.
“Steady,” he said. The hologram showed his speed to be 120. Isaac took in a breath, exhaled slowly, and then, very carefully, applied the breaks.
“Come on, girl. Don’t break my heart,” he said.
The cycle’s brake lights shone red, painting the copper highways like lips. The cycle bucked and moaned and she threw herself onto her side.
Isaac flew off of the bike. He lost consciousness before hitting anything.
He woke up in a white room. It was day time and the flash rains had disappeared. The sky was gray and bright. Tubes hugged Isaac’s arms and patches kissed his skin where IVs entered. His lower half was submerged in a white dome tank. He felt numb all over.
The floor beside his bed opened up and the squared head of an assistant medical bot ascended to meet Isaac at eye level.
“How are you feeling?” its automated voice asked. A black screen at the base of the robot’s square head displayed an artificial mouth, which moved in sync with its words. Isaac hated that.
“I feel like shit. Is there a nurse anywhere?”
“I am your nurse,” the robot said.
“Is there any other nurse? One who’s actually alive?”
The robot’s eyes scanned back and forth. That’s what they did when they were loading, or, as the manufacturers called it, “thinking.”
“Ms. Jennifer Lordo is being paged. She will be here as soon as possible.”
The bot nodded its head and retracted back into the floor. When it was gone, and the floor had closed, Isaac groaned and rubbed his face. He felt scruff around his jaw line, which startled him a bit since he was slow at growing facial hair.
The doors slid open and Jennifer walked in. She was an older woman who filled out her nurse uniform in all the wrong ways. She came in quietly, slowly made her way to the base of Isaac’s dome. She took up his clip board and scanned through it.
“What day is it?” Isaac asked.
“Monday,” Jennifer replied.
“Crap. That must have been a nasty spill.”
Jennifer didn’t say anything. She sadly smiled, eyes still looking down at the clipboard, and nodded. Isaac saw that her eyes weren’t moving. She wasn’t reading anything on the clipboard. She stared at it so she wouldn’t have to look Isaac in the eyes when she said what had happened.
She said it bluntly, because it didn’t really matter how she said it, and she supposed it’d be best to be straight up and honest with situations like this.
“You lost your leg, Mr. Cross.”
“What?!” Isaac screamed. He tried to move his legs and lower body, twinkle his toes, something, but the dome prevented all movement.
“Your right leg. It’s gone. The doctors did everything they could. You’re very lucky to even be alive.” She put the clipboard back and tried to look Isaac in the eyes. “I’m very sorry, Mr. Cross.”
Rehabilitation occurred one week later. The doctors informed Isaac of the trauma his leg had faced and the options he had for future treatments. The doctor he spoke with, Dr. J. S. Weinert, handed Isaac a catalog to get a better look and understanding of his options.
“If I may,” Weinert said, pointing to a leg on the catalog’s first page, “The SOTA 5.9 model is one of the most popular. The leg is easy to control, easy to put on and take off, easy to maintain. Hell, it’s just easy. Your insurance should cover purchase and installation.”
Isaac took the catalog and stared at the mechanic leg for a long time. “And what if I don’t want a mechanic leg?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I follow.”
“Are there any other treatments available?”
“No,” Weinert said flatly, and a little puzzled. “But the mechanic leg works perfectly fine. Many of the users can’t even tell the difference.”
Isaac was walking again is one week’s time. His mechanic leg worked fine. He couldn’t even tell the difference. His work gave him one week off, fully paid. Isaac tried to convince his boss that he didn’t need the time off, that his leg felt and functioned as if nothing had happened, and that going to work would actually keep his mind off of the whole incident, but his boss wouldn’t have it.
“I don’t want to see you here until next Monday, got that? I’m glad to hear you’re feeling good, but you coming to work will just look bad for the company. Enjoy it. Think of it like a vacation,” he said over the videophone. The boss motioned to hang up, but paused before he did. “You heard of Delilah’s right?”
Isaac had. It was a joint where the “android” population could meet and talk about their “feelings.” When the place first opened up, there were some genuine tears shed amongst the former amputees or organ transplants. But now, with the advances in medicine and the convenience of mechanical limbs/organs, none of the “androids” felt sorry for themselves. It was actually quite the opposite. Some of the new members even offed their own limbs to get into the place.
“That’s the bar down on 3rd, right?” Isaac said. “I heard about it.”
“No, no. It’s down the street from the bar. I think you should check it out. It might cheer you up.”
Isaac spent most of his time working on his cycle. The entire front end was destroyed and the side was scratched down. She was an oldie. Finding parts for her was nearly impossible. Isaac found her at a used car lot. She was the only vehicle in the place that didn’t have automatic steering.
Isaac had a close call with cars that steered themselves. They had flaws; they were programmed to swerve away from oncoming cars and obstacles in case an error had occurred in another car. Swerving was a dangerous thing to do, especially in a heavy city with sidewalks packed with people. One scare was all Isaac needed. The only thing his cycle knew how to do was run and follow its master’s orders and that’s how Isaac liked it.
When he wasn’t working on the cycle, he stayed in. He was embarrassed by his mechanic leg. He left his house once during midweek to go to the grocery store to pick up some food. He walked to the store, and the walk was much more comfortable with the mechanic leg. He didn’t even get tired.
A young boy in the store saw Isaac and stared at his leg and asked, “How high can you jump?”
Isaac shrugged and reached for some frozen chicken wings.
“Whoa, that’s really cool. I wish I had one.”
Isaac threw the wings into his cart and glared at the boy.
“No you don’t. Don’t say that,” he said sternly.
He awoke one morning to a knock at his door. Lack of work had made Isaac lazy and he slept in most days. He pulled a pair of pants over his legs and answered the door. A lanky messenger bot with a head built like a mail box stood by his door. Beside it was a tall, dark man. He was smiling and his teeth, entire left arm and right hand were metal. Circuitry and wires flashed as they wrapped around his arms and chest; upgrades.
The lanky messenger bot’s face opened. A screen and a few stereos folded out. “Come on down to Delilah’s. Friday night is Lady’s Night! Girls drink free!”
“Shut that thing up,” Isaac groaned. The tall man nodded and smacked the bot against its head. The message died.
“We get calls whenever somebody gets their first installation,” the tall man said. He continued to smile and extended his metal hand to shake Isaac’s. Isaac didn’t take it. “My name is Donnie Daimyos, but folks call me D. I’m manager at Delilah’s.”
“I’m on the no call list. You’re not allowed to be here.”
“No, you’ve got me all wrong. I’m not here to advertise or anything. I’m here to see how you’re doing. Lots of people take their first installation really hard. We’re here to remind you that it’s not that bad.”
D left his card and told Isaac that he should come by someday and then he left. Isaac threw the card away and went back to bed. He woke up three hours later, took a shower, and tried to plan out his day, but it was looking pretty bleak. No shop carried the parts to make his cycle work, he still had a solid four days before he got back to work, and he was down right ashamed to go out to any bars. The way Isaac saw it, he was no longer human. He was only part human. And if anybody in any bar were to call him an android, he would have a very hard time restraining himself.
The next day Isaac walked past his garbage can and looked down at the Delilah’s card. He cursed and then fished the card out of the trash.
It was Friday night and Isaac promised himself that he was only going to go in and check the place out, and if he didn’t like it, that’s it, he would never go back. A purple neon sign in the window read, “Delilah’s.” There was a line of the new style cycles, the sort that drove themselves, parked along the sidewalk, surrounded by half machine men and women in tight leather outfits.
The inside of the place was polluted with blue cigarette smoke. There were pool tables, drinks, some booths filled with hot drunk ladies. The entire eastern wall was a television screen. The Giants game was on. The place was a bar.
Isaac found a seat and ordered a whisky and coke.
“You new here?” asked the bartender. He had a mechanical throat and an artificial voice that sounded like a twenty something year old pop singer’s voice. His finger tips and lips were stained from tobacco.
“Yeah,” Isaac said. He took his drink without making eye contact with the bartender, hoping that he would take a hint and stop talking. Bartender did, and walked away, before saying, “We’re here to help you out, Mac.”
Isaac sat in silence for a little bit. He watched the jokers play their little games; mechanical arm wrestling, mechanical eyes lining up impossible billiard shots and making them. He was watching the machines take over.
The bartender came back a few minutes later with another drink. Isaac looked at it. “What the hell is this?”
“It’s from her,” the bartender said, pointing to a girl over in the corner. She had long legs, flesh, a full chest and burning red hair. She was all woman. And she was looking Isaac up and down. He took up the drink and toasted to her from across the room, drank it down and walked over to her.
“Hey, stranger,” she said.
“Hey, beautiful,” he said. That’s how the conversation began. She went by the name Victoria Wilde and she was never subjected to an installation, nor was she interested in one. Delilah’s was her type of place. It was her crowd, a bunch of burly men who were stronger, better than the average Joe. They talked for the night and drank and the conversation ended with her saying, “My place?” and him saying “Sure.”
They were both stinking drunk when they crawled into her car. The car applied seat belts over them then asked for their destination. “Home,” Victoria slurred, breaking out with laughter. They arrived safely, and undressed each other on the way to her bedroom.
He was locked on her soft features and softer skin, while her interest laid on his strong chest and his mechanical leg. She did things to the leg. She tickled it and licked it. Isaac couldn’t feel a thing. He didn’t mind it at first, though, since it all looked very nice. But after ten minutes, it got old.
“I’m up here,” Isaac said.
“Shut up,” Victoria moaned. “Just shut it for a second.”
Isaac reached out and touched Victoria on her back. She pulled away, still latching onto his mechanical leg. “Don’t touch me.”
Oh, Isaac thought. That’s it. She’s one of those metal fetish freaks. One of those women who drools over circuits.
This is what the world has come to, Isaac thought. He shuddered to think where the infatuation would end.
Isaac unattached his leg. It was an easy thing to do, just five buttons, like Dr. Weinert had said. He supported his weight and managed a hop before Victoria noticed he had gotten up.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said.
He managed a few more hops. “You can keep that thing. Looks like you need it more than me.”
He left the machine lover’s apartment and made it back home on his own foot. It took him three hours, but he didn’t care. He did it on his own, and that’s all that mattered. When Isaac got in, he cursed the world and fell back into his sofa. He ordered crutches and massaged the feeling back into his good leg.
They had flaws; the bots were programmed to be like humans and the humans were trying to become bots. For the life of him, he couldn’t figure out which was worse.