Lumi stood motionless, examining the brass legs. I watched her, searching her face for some sign, some acknowledgement, that she liked what she saw. She reached out with a pale hand and traced the engraved pattern and embedded faux-rubies around the rim of one thigh. She found the inside seam and traced it down to the head of the bolt running through the knee before taking a step back and tilting her head, letting her eyes run up and down the length of them.
"Can I try them on?" she asked, her English accented, each consonant precisely enunciated. I nodded and looked around for a suitable space in my cluttered workshop. She solved the problem for me by pushing the tools to one side on the nearest workbench and pulling herself up on the scarred surface to sit with her legs dangling over the edge.
"Can you help me take these off?" She asked.
She pulled up her skirt, wriggling as she tucked it underneath. Her legs were sheathed in thick, dark stockings to mid thigh, the kind that held themselves up. She rolled down the tops to reveal where her smooth skin met hard plastic and then leaned back on her arms, thrusting her hips forward, pushing her legs further towards me.
I took the right leg, one hand behind her knee to pull and the other on top to steady it. The leg was cool to the touch through the sheer fabric.
"Ready," I told her. She nodded; I felt the click, a small vibration, as the locking bolts disengaged and pulled. Her leg came away easily, revealing the stump of her thigh and the titanium abutment that jutted out of it. I put her right leg next to her on the workbench and reached for the left one. This time the click stuttered. I pulled but the leg remained stubbornly attached.
"It sticks sometimes," Lumi told me. "Pull harder."
I moved my left hand up, onto the warm skin above the plastic, the better to push against, and waited for her signal. It didn't come. Instead, cool fingers slipped under my palm and pulled my hand from her leg.
"This is nice," she said, lifting my hand, "Your own work?"
I nodded dumbly as she held it closer to her face, turning it to examine the joints, the alloy bones and tendon linkages visible through the semi-transparent black dermo-plastic. She ran her fingertips over mine, her thumb along the crease of my palm. I shivered at the sensations. She turned my hand over and ran a finger along the back but I couldn't feel that, no sensors there.
"It's lovely, very delicate," she said. Her finger traced the hardness of the wrist joint, pushing my sleeve up until it found were the plastic stopped and I begun. Her touch chased goosebumps up my arm. I shivered again and shrugged off her grip. I felt my cheeks glowing. I hardly dared to meet her eyes but when I did she was smiling.
"Let's try again," she said, leaning back.
This time her leg came away easily.
I scanned her stumps; the laser strobed across scar tissue, mapping the landscapes of past trauma. It took the printer only a few minutes to build the silicon liners to fit her stumps to the brass legs. I stayed by the machine as it built them up, layer by layer, pretending to monitor its progress.
Lumi stayed where I left her, legless on my workbench, her face bathed in the electric glow of her mobile, engrossed in its display.
With printed liners the brass legs fitted perfectly. She flexed the knees, the ankles, the split camel-like toes; the movements became smoother as feedback loops calibrated.
I held her hand as she slipped down from the worktable and wobbled like a newborn foal. Lumi took tentative steps at first, still gripping my hand for support, becoming more confident as the calibrations improved. She let go of my hand as her step quickened and marched away from me. Lumi pulled back her shoulders and added a seductive wiggle, one ankle crossing in front of the other. She turned at the far end of the workshop and skipped back towards me, sped up to a full run, her white-blond hair flying, before skidding to a stop in front of me, showering sparks from the concrete floor and laughing.
"They are wonderful," she said, her breathing a little harder from exertion. "I thought they would be heavier but they feel so light."
Lumi picked up the hem of her skirt and regarded the brass legs again, twisting the left one out so she could see the curved piston of the calf and the cutaway sections on the outside of the thigh showing cogs and gears. She flexed the foot, making the glistening rod of the Achilles slide.
"The gears don't turn," she said. "Are they just for show?"
"Yes, just for show. But they do turn, you just have to turn them on. Let me show you. Give me your phone."
She passed me her mobile from the workbench where she'd left it and I knelt down in front of her, thumbing through the interface and menus. I held the phone up close to each thigh, letting it connect with each leg and download the control widgets. I stood up beside her again and showed her the new controls.
"This is the battery read-out for each leg, " I said as I showed her the display. "They recover energy kinetically but will run down. This is how you turn on the effects."
I thumbed the control and red light came alive inside the interior sections of the legs, visible through the cutaway panels. The gears turned, reflecting the internal light, and the faux-ruby beads on the outside of the knee joints glowed deep crimson. Lumi clapped her hands with delight.
"You've really turned me on!" she said and laughed.
"They'll run down faster with all the effects on," I said.
"Oh Claudia, they are so beautiful. Thank you."
Before I knew what was happening, she had wrapped her arms around me and hugged me. I stood in her embrace, awkward and stiff, my arms stuck straight down at my sides. She was warm and soft, she smelt of lavender and coffee. She let go of me slowly, her eyes seeking mine, trying to hold my gaze.
"I'll get you a carry case," I said, turning away.
There was no doubt she would buy them.
YOU ARE READING
Less Of HerShort Story
Claudia is a shut-in, a nerd. She creates custom cybernetic limbs, unique works of art. Lumi is everything Claudia is not, exotic, exciting, outgoing. Claudia comes to realise they both have their secrets. Secrets that will tear them apart.