44.1 - Shop Talk

The Gardner Academy teacher’s lounge is adjacent to one of the school workshops. It’s convenient, given the faculty’s connection to science and engineering. Plus, this way the coffee maker is never broken for long.

Ms. GYRO sits sullenly next to the table. Most of her left arm is scattered in parts across its surface. The right arm holds a molecular welder - the soldering iron’s distant descendant - and is applying it with precision to the assorted innards of the disassembled limb. Augmented-reality goggles cover her eyes. The work demands a level of magnification that no unaided eye can provide, so a micro-camera attached to the welder feeds back to the goggles.

“Open,” says Dr. Schumer. GYRO obediently opens her mouth, and the science teacher connects it with a mug of coffee. The mug tips back, the cyborg gulps some of it down, and Dr. Schumer pulls it away.

“I prefer it black,” GYRO announces. There’s only a hint of sourness in her voice.

“I don’t want you to burn your mouth,” Schumer replies softly. “The pot is fresh, and hot.”

“Your concern for my well being is noted but unnecessary.”

Schumer smiles, though it’s hidden from the other teacher’s sight by the bulky goggles. “My concern for your well-being is a function of my role as department head. Your ability to execute your functions as a teacher is my responsibility.” She’s gotten used to how to talk to the second-strangest teacher on her roster, and it always amuses her to match GYRO in logical arguments.

“Very well.” GYRO continues the welding. “You asked for an assessment of Mr. Leonard Snow, aka Link of the Menagerie.” There’s a pause. “And his associates.”

“The girls, yes.”

The cyborg is very quiet, using the welding as a distraction. Schumer waits quietly.

“Specifically, the provenance of his robotics technology, which forms the basis for his creations. Mr. Snow is a brilliant chemist and engineer. He seems focused on exploring the domain of the light elements. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and similar elements with low atomic weights. He has clearly followed the prevailing scientific literature, drawn insights from early announcements, then anticipated the conclusions these technologies would eventually reach. He is a synthesist rather than innovator. I do not recommend him for the border science track at this time. His inventions are rooted in the strictly conventional, rather than this purported ‘para-psychic brane intersection’ or ‘hyper-tech’ hypothesis–”

“Fine, fine,” sighs Schumer. The actual nature of certain inventors’ creations has eluded analysis for decades, prompting whole fields of investigation into the whys and hows. The two have had this debate before, and now is not the time for it. “You’re saying he reverse engineers episteme and techne at their early stages, then leapfrogs over the subsequent engineering hurdles.”

“That is correct,” GYRO replies, and pauses again. “More coffee.” Her voice is softer.

Schumer complies with a smile.

“Now. Mr. Snow’s ability appears to be rooted in his biology. It seems he would still be a highly desirable candidate for your metahuman biogenetics research.”

Schumer brightens. “Excellent. Now, what about the girls?”

GYRO sets down the welder and raises the goggles from her eyes, and begins assembling the bits of her arm like a jigsaw puzzle. “Synthetic life forms. According to facility security data, a spectrographic analysis, along with other methods of inquiry, show they are composed almost entirely of light elements. Significant effort has been made to allow them to pass as human beings. In addition, their internal mechanisms provide for digestion and respiration, although food does not seem relevant to their metabolic activity.”

“They can eat, they don’t have to. One wonders what other biomimetic functions the young Mr. Snow has added–”

“One does not wonder,” GYRO interrupts curtly. “Dr. Schumer, I must remind you that your duty to your students, their dignity, and their privacy remains paramount.”

“Of course, of course.” Schumer holds pieces of arm in place as her cyborg colleague connects them together, one by one. There’s a faint hissing sound as air seals and magnetic clamps come into play. “Very well. Setting aside the hmm, considerations about appearance and habit, what about their legal status?”

“Recently established as persons under the Hayden Act.” GYRO silently finishes the arm assembly. “Like me,” she can’t help but whisper.

Schumer nods. “So. They can’t be annexed under any kind of safety, security, or student-work clause.”

The cyborg is more taciturn in her silence than before. “That is correct.”

Schumer wraps her hands around the still-warm coffee mug, then sets it down on the table. “Good. That’s good.”

GYRO takes hold of the mug with her newly reassembled hand. It’s halfway to her lips when Schumer continues.

“Mr. Snow would probably listen, if they asked him to help me, though. I wonder what it’d take for them to see things my way…”

The mug trembles slightly. Perhaps the repairs aren’t fully done.


author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6504392