Chapter 57: The Curse of Frankenstein

The streets below them were danced with the lights of cars driving through the city. Even at night, the business district had few shadows.

“Will he come after you?” Burnout rubbed the side of his head. If his hair were longer he’d have been pushing it behind his ear.

“No. Frankenstein does not attack anyone whose work can’t improve him. Even if I’d made it on the news, I would be too low profile to target.”

Burnout stared intently at her mask, trying to read her hidden face. “Okay, but shouldn’t you stay off the streets? Just to be safe.”

Mach nodded. “I have some projects to work on in the meantime. My armor will be in pieces for a few days.”

She glanced off the side of the building. “I’ll be at the next meeting.”

Burnout’s response was drowned out by the sound of her lifting off.

She could see his forehead twitching, and she knew he did not completely believe her. But she would not argue about it. If Frankenstein found her, she needed to be ready.

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Tina stared at the dismantled appliances all around her. She knew what she needed to make; the idea had been sitting in her head for weeks now, but no matter what she tried to take apart, the pieces would not come together. Her search had stopped being organized hours ago. Normally, she had an idea of what she would need to break down to get the parts for her current idea. But this time there was something missing, some tiny detail that she couldn’t grasp.

The only light filtered in the windows from the street lights outside. It had been dark for hours, but she had dismantled the ceiling fan for its motor before then, and its lights were somewhere out of her work zone.

A low buzzing echoed through the house. She had left the timer on the coffee machine on. That wasn’t right. It shouldn’t have started until the morning.

She glanced out the window to see the lights of dawn slowly breaking over the city.

Tina slowly stood up. Her back failed to straighten as she shuffled towards the kitchen. Her parents had left on vacation earlier in the day…yesterday, and the sound of her socked feet scraping against the carpet echoed in the empty house.

She slowly sipped a cup of coffee. She didn’t have to work today, but she couldn’t sleep. If she slept she might lose what pieces of the device she did have.  Starting over would mean hours more of staring at her work space, idly mulling over the parts sitting in front of her.

It was so much easier when she had had blueprints. The Panzer and Sherman suits were both outdated, but they had laid the foundations for most modern mechers. Their blueprints had set her half a decade ahead. Without something solid to base her ideas off of, she was just blindly forcing her way forward.

The fan motor couldn’t move fast enough on its own; she knew that much. She needed to build something new, but it was designed to move steadily with the fan blades balanced, so it had the right structure. The opening in the field also had to be generated with an opposite pule at precisely the right time, or the device would break. The timing could be done accurately enough with the crystal processor, so that wasn’t what was missing. Perhaps she needed something stronger for the pulse?

She looked around the room for possibilities. The microwave, the coffee machine, the television, none of them could give her the result she needed.

Maybe she needed to head out after all. She might find something in a specialty store she hadn’t thought of.

Tina’s half empty coffee mug sat on the table and she wandered out the door.

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A few people stared at her as she wandered down the street. Her baggy t-shirt and loose jeans didn’t exactly mesh with the crowd walking through the business district and the pair of slippers she had slipped on as she walked out the door did not help.

She trudged past the mirror-like windows of the office buildings. The noise of the crowded streets washed over her, creating a blanket of white noise that she embraced.

Someone paused and glanced a second time at her face. It was a customer from the shop, but he wouldn’t recognize her. After a minute he turned back and hurried to get back on schedule.

A car still occasionally passed by, a flash of color out of the corner of her eye. A single biker rode by on the opposite sight of the street. Its rider’s face was oddly clear against the windows behind him.

Tina paused briefly as the man rode by, staring at the spokes of the wheels. They were strobing backwards. Something in her brain started doing the math on how fast they must be spinning, but she immediately discarded the thought. Her brain was too full for that to bother her.

The cyclist passed by and she kept walking.

Her reflection walked alongside her. It copied her movements, taking steps just after she did. She heard her padded feet hitting the concrete twice. She heard her breaths after she took them. Her reflection was falling behind, so it sped up. But it didn’t stop when it caught up. It kept going, copying the movements she made before she ever made them. She tried to do differently than the reflection, but it never seemed to work. She knew the actions were coming before they happened, she felt herself losing control.

Her reflection reached the end of the block and vanished.

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Tina paid the man at the register. He said something with worry in his eyes, but she waved it off and walked back out of the store.

She looked in the bag she carried with her. It had a box in there, but she couldn’t remember what she had bought. She knew she needed it thought.

The walk back seemed to take hours longer than the walk there. It was well past noon when she got home.

She heard her phone ringing upstairs and went to answer it.

It was her mother, she was saying something. She sounded concerned and frightened, but Tina made the sounds that would help her calm down and hung up the phone.

She pulled the box out of the bag and began to take the contents apart. It didn’t matter what they were, they were just pieces waiting to be put back together.

Her hands began to move without her. She worked until the sun’s last rays streamed through the window. She felt hungry, but she was more tired than anything else.

A shock of warning flashed through her brain and she forced herself downstairs.

She grabbed a meal bar and a glass of water and finished them both. She looked at the stairs and turned away.

Her face hit the couch, and the last bit of daylight hit her face as she closed her eyes.

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