Jules took me to her “experimental” workshop after dinner. Here she worked her machinist magic. Gadgets, doodads and gewgaws lined shelf after shelf. The lined most of the chairs and floor as well. A metallic Nutcracker seemed to be chasing a self-turning screw across the floor, the Nutcracker’s jaws banging open and closed.
99% of the stuff in this room will never be used. They just expressed her need to create.
Every powered class has its drawbacks, and for machinists that drawback is creation. They have to tinker; it’s a compulsion. The good news is most of it doesn’t work, or at least won’t work for long. The world would quickly become unrecognizable if they did.
Jules is one of the best machinists I know, with a 40% success rate on her inventions. Not that all of them are useful, but they work. A “typical” machinist success rate in mid-20’s to low-30’s.
How she hasn’t been snatched up by one of the major teams is beyond me.
It’s not age. There are younger heroes on The Legendary, the top team in the world.
It’s not fighting skill because her suit augments her strength, allows her to fly (atmosphere and space) and protects her from most forms of terrestial firearms. Plus, I and a retired Innate named Quickstep have taught her hand-to-hand for the past couple of years.
Personally, I think it’s the perception that female machinists are somehow inferior inventors to males. A holdover of the “girls aren’t as good at science as boys” myth.
People can be stupid.
But I digress.
Celia, whose model is a well-known warrior princess, sat in a corner connected to a generator and a computer station. Cables ran from her “heart” and temple, respectively. Her eyes had the wide glassy look that indicated she was off-line while she integrated new information.
Jules tapped on the computer and nodded in satisfaction at the stream of gobbledy-gook that flashed across the screen. I perched my behind on the edge of her desk and waited as she fiddled.
This was her Wonderland and I was very much aware that I was privileged to be allowed to visit. I’ve heard of spouses, parents and even kids of machinists ending up in hospitals because they entered a workshop uninvited (and sometimes with the invitation).
Jules grabbed a few items from one of the shelves and brought them over. She laid them out on the desk for me to get a closer look.
The first one I noticed looked a lot like the blaster she carried when in uniform. She followed my gaze and pointed. “That is based on what I carry, except I varied the settings a bit. The stun has four ascending levels. Level One is for norms. Two is for powereds. Three, (classified-sorry). And Four should be strong enough to knock out most of the things you deal with.”
She looked me dead in the eye. “Should and most.”
I nodded. I’m the beta tester and get to write the rulebook. Sweet.
She continued pointing out features on the blaster. “It doesn’t only stun. It has a varying beam intensity that can do everything from wound to cut through a foot a steel, with enough time of course.” She looked apologetic that she couldn’t give me a quicker cutting time.
I sighed like I was put upon. “Oh, I’ll guess it’ll just have to do.”
She grinned and punched me in the shoulder. “Shut up or I’ll take it back.”
I scooped it up in my hand and did my best Gollum. “Nope. It’s my precious.”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t you have any modern references?”
“The classics never go out of style.”
“Old does not equal classic.” She grabbed what looked like a forearm bracer with a screen off the table. “This little puppy I’m particularly proud of.”
She took my hand and fit the bracer on my forearm. “Activate,” she said.
The screen flashed and various icons popped into view. She scooted in closer to me, excited to show off a bit.
She has no idea what she does to me. Oh well.
I breathed deeply and re-focused myself. I caught up midway through one of her sentences. “-and you can call it from a distance of 20 miles away, either mode.”
She gave me the stink eye. “You haven’t been paying attention, have you.” It wasn’t a question.
My face turned red, but she didn’t push the issue and ask what was distracting me. She patiently went through each icon again.
She had every reason to be proud. A bike icon allowed me to call my Ducati in street or flight mode from 20 miles away, while a shield icon would cause a hard-light circular shield to pop out of a little silver button under my screen. These came along with the standard features like phone, camera, flashlight, GPS, internet access (blogging in real time soon folks), all tied up with a voice controlled bow.
I wanted to hug her. I wanted to kiss her. I wanted to marry her.
I settled for, “Cool, thanks.” I suck so hard.
She smiled and gave me a peck on the cheek. “You know how I worry about you…ever since…”
She saddened at the thought, and…no, I’m not ready to talk about it just yet. Maybe ever.
She patched my bike to my bracer and it was time for me to leave.
And that’s where I leave you now.
Until next time,