Mason's catalog of fake body parts was extensive. It all seemed like unnecessary bells and whistles, but if it's helping me blend in, I have no other choice. That's ok. Either be torn apart by the doctors and treated like a lab specimen or stay here, have Bona poke at me once in a while, and keep my humanity. I'll take that second one. Although, weighing the pros and cons in my head got me thinking.
"Hey, Mason," I kept looking through mod schematics, "Can I ask you a quick question?"
"Sure, hon," Mason tinkered with the prosthetic in his lap, "What's on your mind?"
"How many limb replacements have you done?" I wondered.
"Me personally?" he thought for a minute, "I don't know off hand. I'd have to check the records. Why?"
"Just curious," I went on, "I know this isn't exactly the most polite thing to ask and don't think you're obligated to answer, but what kind of mods do you have?"
"I was hoping you'd ask!" Mason lit up, "You see, Ren, I've been an engineer for years, so naturally, I'd be more than happy to talk about it. Some people are a bit sensitive about their body parts, so yeah, it's rude to mention it. If you run into another mechanic, though, I guarantee he'll talk your ear off about them. Especially when they're like me and did all their mods themselves."
"You did your own modding?" I gasped, "That's amazing."
"How do you think I got started?" he wiped the sweat off his forehead, "I tinkered. My legs are metal and my right eye is cybernetic. I remember when I was younger, I'd get yelled at for taking my legs apart. It'd only be from my knee down, though, so I didn't screw up the nerve connections. Those aren't fun. Ever have a really bad sunburn like the kind that leave big blisters?"
"That's kind of like what nerve connections feel like," Mason went on, "Only amplified tenfold and it goes on steady for a couple days. I feel bad for the poor guy that needs to get replacement parts. Consider yourself lucky yours are real. Don't even get me started on when it's raining."
"What happens when it rains?" I wondered. Tyrus said something about his legs rusting. Maybe it was the same for Mason.
"The stumps hurt so bad," he groaned, "Not like it's intolerable, though. Sometimes, it is. Like a pulled muscle. Either it makes you want to curl up in a ball and cry for a while or you can limp on it. Depends on the painkillers you got on hand. Like I said, you're lucky you're all organic."
"Who said any of this was ok?" I pulled a few schematics to the side. I liked to keep my options open.
"You mean, how did the medfeds come to power?" Mason figured, putting on his best narration voice, "Well, it was a cold night in October…"
"Without the dramatics, please," I giggled.
"Alright, alright," he began, "It wasn't exactly a cold night in October. It all happened before my time, but I'll explain it to the best of my ability."
"Take your time."
"It was about a hundred years ago," he told, "Medical science made some serious strides overnight. Around the same time, there was a big, worldwide healthcare reform. All the hospitals were getting revamped to make room for the new stuff coming in. Then, a couple of Japanese doctors started experimenting with preventative medicine. People were more machine than human, but they were also getting less sick and having less injury. And it escalated from there. The athlete that went in with a broken leg came out with a prosthetic. The kid off the street that went in because of complications with asthma came out with literal iron lungs. The old woman with heart disease came out with a new heart made from metal. And the metal and materials used to make them were all infused with their blood, so their bodies would get used to them and not attack them. And so, here we are. Because it worked so well at the adult level, they tried it at the infant level. And it worked. And that's why we're all metal in one way or another. It gave guys like me a job, so I guess it has its pluses."
"But you're a little less human," I pointed out, "Do you ever wonder what it'd be like to still have your organic parts?"
"I do," he nodded, "But it's not a top priority."
"Rumor has it," I remembered, "The doctors have a warehouse full of original organic parts."
"What are the odds that they kept them growing, though?" Mason brushed me off, "Have you been hanging around Kathleen lately?"
"Kat," he corrected himself, "Habit. When I have to yell at her, I bust out her full name. She hates when I do that."
"I know the feeling," I agreed, "When people call me Serenity, they deserve a punch in the teeth."
"A little extreme, don't you think?" Mason laughed.
"No," I smiled, "Not extreme. It's like nails down a chalkboard for me."
"What's a chalkboard?"
"Really?" I gave him a look, "You guys don't have those either?"
"Everything's digital," Mason shrugged, "I'm sorry that we don't have your ancient technology."
"Yet you still use paper for medical files?" I retaliated.
"Back in the thirties," he explained, "The most recent thirties, there was a domestic terrorist cell that managed to hack into the permanent records for everyone and anyone and used them for extortion purposes, so all of the records that weren't compromised were transferred to paper. That's why your physical was on paper. My schematics are safe, though. I see you have a few off to the side. What's on your mind?"
"I've seen some of the others' models," I thought it over, "Tyrus' finger guns are cool, but I feel like I'd be too reckless with that."
"No," I bit my lip, "If I make a really good pun, I have a habit of making finger guns, so having one that's operational would prove to be disastrous."
"That's probably not for you then," Mason gave me a little nudge, "What about Bona's hands? Have you seen them?"
"Yeah," I grumbled, "I don't know if those are for me either. The Swiss army knife capabilities sound nice, but I don't know how I feel about having that on me."
"What would you primarily be using your prosthetics for?"
"Mostly to hide, I think," I assumed, "The doctors are looking for me. Guaranteed. They know I have all of my organic body parts, so if they see metal on me, they won't think twice."
Mason went through his schematics a little closer, "Can I ask you one more thing?"
"Sure," I allowed.
"If worst comes to worst," he sighed out, "And say, we get attacked, the doctors come for the Hub…Would you fight for us?"
That was a heavy hitting question. Why did I say yes? I wasn't sure if I would or not. I just got here a few days ago only to find the world I knew was long, long, long gone. Then again, the Hub was what saved me from what could possibly be a fate worse than death. And I had to be grateful for that. Without Tyrus and the others, I probably would've ended up torn apart by now, unable to recognize who I saw in the mirror. Unable to feel anything in my fingers or my toes. Almost unable to call myself human.
When I was still back home, I had two people to worry about. Eddie. Me. That's it. And I was always the one to make sure Eddie didn't do something stupid that could've possibly got the two of us killed or thrown in jail. But now? I had so many wonderful new friends that worried about me for a change. They wanted to make sure I was safe. They wouldn't think twice about keeping me out of the line of fire. Yet here Mason was, asking if I'd jump back into it whether Tyrus or any of the others wanted me to or not. To be entirely honest, the Hub was feeling more like home than what being with Eddie did. I didn't want this to go away.
"Absolutely," I decided, "What about you? Would you fight for me?"
"I barely know you, hon," Mason pulled one of the schematics up, "But you make a good argument. I'll fight to keep the Hub safe. If you're part of that, then I guess I'll fight for you, too. Especially if you're good enough to fight for us. Now, I think I got something that you might like."
"What's that?" I looked up at the hologram projected on the wall.
"This is for your hand," he explained, "Because we can't do much in your hands considering they're still there, an actuator hides in the palm of your hand on the metal side of things. If you push the actuator and jerk your arm back, a blade will come out of your arm. It'd be super, super handy for melee fights. How's your hand to hand?"
"I can hold my own," my face lit up, "I like the sound of that. Can I get that for both my arms?"
"That shouldn't be too hard to do," Mason went on, "Is that what we're doing with your arms?"
"Definitely!" I beamed, "I get hidden blades to cut people with? I'm in."
"Now, about your legs," he threw the schematics for my arms aside and brought up his list for leg options, "First, let me see what we're working with here."
"No problem," I kicked my legs up onto the table, "See? Nice, aren't they?"
"Not bad," Mason approved, practically drooling, "Not bad at all."
"Mason," I waved my hand in front of his face, "My eyes are up here. Focus."
"Sorry," he snapped out of it, "It's been a long time since I've seen a woman's legs. Her actual legs. Most of the lovely ladies I know don't have their natural legs. Can I…Can I touch them?"
"Drifting into creepy territory here."
"Sorry," Mason winced, "I didn't mean to come off weird. I'm just curious. I'll be able to touch them when we go to take measurements."
"What did you have in mind for my legs, Mason?" I tried to get him back down to Earth.
"When you were a kid," he asked, "Did you ever think about flying?"
"Flying sounds cool," I thought it over, "Why?"
"Because I can do a combination with your hands and your legs," Mason flipped through the schematics again, "And I can give you boosters in your feet and in your hands. Instead of the actuator being in the palm of your hand for your blades, I can put it in your wrists instead. What do you think?"
"Yes please!" I squeaked, "Make me fly!"
"Anything you'd want for when you're on the ground?" he wondered, "Maybe something to help you run faster in case they try to come for you on foot?"
"Actually," I perked up, "Kat was talking about how the next time she got modded, she could get roller skates for her feet. Could something like that work for me?"
"I don't see why not," Mason brought up the plans for the roller skate feet, "And because there's going to be extra housing space for them anyway, I can even give you options. If you don't want the wheels, I can give you blades and you can use them for ice skating."
"I haven't been ice skating since I was a kid," I let out a heavy, depressed sigh, "One of the last memories I had with my parents…We went out to a pond nearby and went ice skating. Mom was really good. Dad was a tragic mess."
"What happened?" he cocked his head, "If you don't mind me asking."
"They got gunned down," my voice broke a bit, "I was staying with my grandparents that night and Mom and Dad decided to go out. They shouldn't have gone out."
"Nope," Mason pulled me into his lap, holding me in his arms, "Not on my watch, Ren. I'm not going to have you upset because of me. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up."
"It's alright," I brushed him off, laying my head in his shoulder. Mason was quite comfortable. Like a big pillow, "They've been dead for hundreds of years by now. And it's good to talk about them. It's how they stay alive."
"Tell you what," he held me a little tighter, "How about we do your measurements and I get started on your mods, ok? They should be done in about a week."
"Only a week?" I gasped, "Mason, that's amazing."
"Thank you," Mason bowed, "Not trying to pat myself on the back, but I'm the best the Hub's got in the line of prosthetics. Only one person could come close to me, but unfortunately, he's not too good with people, so I got the monopoly."
"Wait a sec," I gave him a look, "You're not talking about Asher, are you?"
"Kid's a savant, believe it or not," he put me back on the table and rolled his chair over to a tool box, "You ever see him put a Rubik's cube together?"
"A twenty-sided one," I told him, "What's that got to do with anything?"
"He's got the twenty-sided one because he salved the six-sided one too fast," Mason said, "You're not supposed to solve a Rubik's cube in thirteen seconds flat. That kid goes through more puzzles in a day than I ever could in a lifetime. So, yes. Asher, if he ever gets any better, would make an incredible engineer."
"There might actually be a way to get him to talk," I gave him my arm, "I mentioned it to Aeson earlier. I'm going to try teaching him sign language."
"If you can manage to get close enough without him biting you," he ran his tape measure up to my shoulder, "Good luck."
"I think I could," I had a little faith in myself, "He seemed pretty ok when I left."
"You might be the miracle exception then," Mason traced his finger down my leg, his cheeks flushed, "My God, Ren…"
"Don't make it weird," I demanded, twitching a little under his touch, "Say what you will. Just don't make it weird."
"You have really soft skin," he gushed, "And it's so beautiful."
"Thank you," I blushed.
"My pleasure," Mason measured my leg, "Alright. I got all I need. How am I getting paid?"
"Uh…" I gave him a look, "What?"
"I don't work for free, hon," he told me, "I need to make a living, too. Same as everyone else here."
"But I just got here," I reminded him, "I don't have any money."
"I'm screwing with you, Ren," Mason teased, "I'm sure either Bona or Tyrus is footing the bill for this, right?"
"Probably," I relaxed, "Don't scare me like that!"
"I'm sorry," he giggled, "I couldn't resist. So, to confirm the order, your legs are getting boosters and skate mods and your arms are getting blades and boosters?"
"Sounds right," I thought, "Thank you, Mason."
"You're welcome," Mason hugged me once more, "Go on. I'm sure you have other things to do today."
"Not really," I shrugged, "I should probably check back in with Tyrus, though. He probably has some little things for me to do. If not, I can find something."
"Alright," he sent me off, "See you later, Ren!"
"Bye!" I waved behind me and ducked under the garage door. Alright, Ren. Where to now? You've gotten your physical. You've gotten prosthetics ordered. Right now, the Hub is your oyster. Where is your oyster going to take you?
A/N: I'm sorry for not updating this yesterday. Really and truly. I figured the chapter from Sunday would've kept you, but I got really, really sick yesterday. I had a really bad migraine that put me down for most of the afternoon and I was out all morning doing stuff, so here we are. And since I'm a day behind, I have ubes of work to do. And I might or might not do another chapter and have another up by tonight. Pray for me, friends. See you next chapter! xx