She was sat alone, cross legged, in her in her father’s old aluminium garage, just off of to the side of her parent’s ranch homestead, when I found her—were I would usually always find her. Alexa was the engineering type, even when we were kids; she would play around with her toys, taking them apart or modding them beyond recognition. She was a bit of a loner too, only tolerating a few people; she was rather selective in her friendships. I always consider myself fortunate to be her friend.
As I walked up to the garage, you could smell the tang of protium emanating out from the large doors, well before I could reach them. Protium was that ‘fuel’ like substance that replaced crude oil, when it finally ran out; made from the algae farms that now littered most of the sea’s surface—or at least that’s how it was all explained to me by Alexa.
I walked up and leant against the frame and remained silent, while I watched Alexa as she tinkered away with wrench in hand. She wore her hair in a ponytail, and her crop top was stained blue from the protium and grey with grime. I was always fascinated with how in tune she looked around machinery, as if she actually speaks ‘machine’.
Alexa never realised my presence, so engrossed she was in what she was doing. Then I noticed her arm give way, as she turned the wrench with her ‘hand’. She took the wrench with her other hand and threw it against the wall, hard in anger that it rang against the aluminium.
She left out a scream of pain and frustration, louder than the crashing sound ringing in my ears, then rubbed her shoulder with her now free hand.
After the sound died down, I said: ‘Hey, grease monkey,’ feeling concerned.
‘Oh, hey,’ she said, turning to face me briefly.
‘The prosthetic still giving you trouble?’
She looked upon her skeletally bare arm.
‘Yeh, the damn thing still doesn’t fit correctly. And the nerve endings still haven’t healed properly. Or at least that’s what the cyberneticist said—the fucking hack,’ she said as she looked at her shoulder, where the metallic merged with her supple pink, but dirt covered, skin. She rotated her shoulder multiple times, outstretched her arm slightly, which produced a electronic whirl, then opened and clenched her skeletal hand, which clinked together, as her new metal fingers closed.
‘I guess…I guess I should be grateful. At least I’m not dead,’ she said, with a sigh.
I moved behind her, knelt down, then hugged her. Wrapped my arms around her, tightly. I couldn’t help but feel guilt and pity, but also mainly relief.
‘We all are, everyone that loves you,’ I replied, as I tightened my grip. Her softer hand gasped my arm lightly. ‘Besides, I’m sure you could do better,’ I added, trying to console her.
I let go and sat down beside her, with my back against the corrugated wall, which dug into my back slightly. Alexa chuckled and smiled, then her gaze became distant slightly. I could see that she was remembering that ‘something’, which she would prefer to forget.
‘Thanks, but I doubt that,’ she said. ‘I only just managed to afford this old model. I suppose I should be grateful that I could. The newer models have advanced nanomesh interfaces, which bind to the nerves better. Maybe when I can work on robots again, down the factory, I can save up for an upgrade. Until then—’
‘Don’t you think you’re over doing it though?’ I urged, as I knew Alexa could be really stubborn sometimes.
‘The cyberneticist said I need to try and use it as if nothing was wrong. So that’s what I’m gonna do,’ she replied, nodding once, as if to convince herself of her plan.
‘Fair enough. Just don’t forget we’re all her for you—if you ever need a hand,’ I joked. Alexa laughed, shaking her head.
‘You bitch,’ she replied. And we both shared in the laugher. I can only hope to understand what she must be dealing with, but I know that I’d always be there for her.
‘Come on,’ she said, ‘let go in, I’m hungry.’
‘Sure,’ I replied, and stood up, dusting off the dirt on my bottom. I reached out and offered my hand out to help Alexa up. She took my hand with her prosthetic. I could feel the cold, smooth, lifeless touch of the metal fingers clutch in my hand. It was a strong grip but didn’t hurt; perhaps she still hasn’t realised how strong it is, but I didn’t mind. I pulled her to her feet. She gave me a look as if to realise that she forgot, if only for a few seconds, that it was still there.
We both walked into the house to make dinner for us both and her mother, for when she returned from work. I chose to crash at her’s that night, spending the time talking about my recent travels. We had one of our sleep overs, just like we used to when we were kids.