Why Don't You Drive?

"Sunshine!" I quickly yelled. My H.A.T. responded by projecting a tiny 4" by 4" translucent, yellow tinted hud in front of my right eye. "Yes C.C.? You lost again?" the British girl's voice said. "No" I said. "I need you to calculate the fastest route back to the dock and predict and avoid the lighting strikes." I saw the lil sunshine backdrop logo spin 90' on the hud, then spin another 90', then just start spinning constantly. I thought, oh crap, I gave her an impossible order and she's stuck again. The car shuddered suddenly from a large gust of barometric shifting air and I wondered how much salt was left in the reactor. Then, the sun logo stopped moving and transitioned into a topographical map with a tiny red dot among the topo rings, us positioned on a thin green line. "That's us." She said. "Based on the remaining salt, the vehicle's weight, the vehicle’s maneuverability, our current location, your rotten luck, and my ability to predict 5 and a half lightning strikes per every 279 square meters of similarly heighted land you're flying into, this is the course we should take." "Awesome possum. Good work SuperShine." I replied. "How drunk are you C.C.? There are no possums out here. But besides that, we have a problem." She retorted dryly.

"What, no rebuttal on SuperShine?" I asked in a smug, sheepish monotone. "Of course not, I'm the only AAI Head Attached Terminal that can put up with your awful humor and lack of direction; I just wish you'd wash me once in a while." She matter-of-fact stated. I laughed out loud; my own hat was berating me at my own indirect request. I looked at my dash gauges and then over at the little weather clock duct taped to the passenger-side's dash. Barometric pressure was dropping steadily, we're screwed.

"I need to drive." She suddenly said. "Huh?" I replied in my Scooby Doo's Shaggy voice. "Give me your left arm. If I have to call out the lightning to you to avoid, we're going to die. We need to be 7 meters or more from the lightning's grounding point. I know your reaction speed; we need more than a hair's breadth here. You know very well what happens when a NaCl reactor gets hit with lightning in the desert, I still don't know how you and Dmitry both survived that blast, there is no level of quantum mathematics I can borrow from the S.H.I.P. at the dock that can explain why neither of you weren't vaporized into the walls of that 197 mile diameter crater." I laughed. "Yeah, you're right, but, maybe enough of my rotten luck turned in on itself and became uber good luck?" I waited eagerly to see how she'd take that logic. "Hard right." She said. "Huh?" was my confused reply. "NOW!!" she screamed.

I furiously started turning the steering wheel clockwise and smashed the gas pedal to the floor. The old Delorean creaked and leaned to the right as my driver-side grav hubs glowed bright blue like a welding arch and the passenger-side grav hubs glowed a dark red as they countered their brother's efforts to roll us over. 9 meters to my eleven o'clock came down a rail of lightning; I could feel the heat and electrical difference even through the Allutanium haul of the Delorean. I looked in the cracked side view mirror on my driver's side to see the pond of molten glass and raining accompaniment of molten, airborne glass slag flying from point zero. I focused my eyes on the lil skull on the yellow tinted hud map. "Re-calculating." I heard Sunshine say. "You could of warned me." I half-joked. "I did." she replied. "I put a skull on the hud where I predicted the lightning should be. I hoped you'd see my wordless efforts to help you avoid death." I just kept my mouth shut; I knew I couldn't win any argument with her.

I tried to study the topo map and cross relate it to my barren landscape before me, but there were too many subtle differences for me to get a feel for what was flying underneath us. Then, the hud image transitioned into two black dots and a black curve. I blinked a couple times thinking my eye had holo-strain from focusing back and forth for so long. Then I smiled, it was a happy face, just without the yellow caricature outline since the hud tint was yellow. "Silly, give me your left arm, so you can go on monologuing me into hoping you can make a decent joke. I can't talk to myself for all digital eternity, and you need conversational practice." She softly stated. "Ha." I said. "I'm glad you think I can make you laugh if I had a digital eternity to try." "Don't worry" She said. "Miracles typically occur after an eternity of waiting. So I believe in you." I sighed and lowered my head; I swear I could hear her laughing quietly between my breaths. "Fine, take my left arm, maybe it will save me from my pending eternity of failure." I said dryly. "Yay" she chirped loudly.

I checked the hud for more skulls before I committed myself to relaxing. None. Good. I shifted in my seat a little to find a more comfortable spot of missing leather and let go of the steering wheel with my left hand while the right hand kept it steady. I closed my left eye and opened it slowly again, the three red letters A.R.M. appeared in my vision.

Looking back on how I lost my arm and inheritted an A.R.M.; I should probably first explain the H.A.T.s and my hat.......

Typically the H.A.T.s can't interfere with human thought or even interact with any human nervous system's organics. They were designed as personal assistants that drew power from the excess heat of the human head and absorbed protein from released hair follicles to repair the delicate interface sensors embedded in the weave of the physical hat's structure and rebuild the tiny lightscreen emitters mounted in the hat's bill. However, for most cool technological advances, they usually have a beginning edge, and a final edge. The H.A.T.s were the beginning, civilian edge. Mass produced, cheap, easy to maintain and use, they were the first step to closing the gap between human's and machine's semantics. The military saw the potential for expedited training and uninterruptable mesh-like communications between active forces. They just needed to be developed toward a final military edge by the proper specialists.

This is where the humble electronics specialist, biokineticist, horticulturalist, and expert barber, <REDACTED> comes in, or more accurately, begins; Dmitry's father, Mr. <REDACTED> <REDACTED> the Ist. Dimtry's father had just recently finished building an air-conditioning helmet that used detached hair follicles to power it. He had hoped to sell the idea to the sports industry so players could play longer without heat stroke and drain bamage. He had hoped the extra money could be invested back into his family and research to find a way to build a perpetual energy source for hospitals of organics. Dmitry's father knew that medical technology could produce miracles when it was given free, unlimited energy for transatomic tissue reconstruction with any compatible spare matter. The human body could be repaired endlessly, animals could be repaired endlessly, rare bugs could be repaired endlessly. Long story short, Dmitry's father was given all the resources he could ever want or need over the next 21 years to build the final edge the military needed, H.A.T.s with A.R.M.s. The last step was to field test the products in live combat, now, all they needed was a war. The same war that gave me this ARM, and separated Dmitry from his wife and daughter.

If the city hadn't been accidently attacked that day, I wouldn't have been running toward the escape portal with Dmitry's wife and daughter behind me. Dmitry yelling at me to hurry as the city power grid’s control system was still under attack as the invaders were still trying to disable the city's shields to allow the airborne soldiers entry. Dmitry was already through the portal, holding it open from his side. I had made it to the portal just steps ahead of Dmitry's wife and daughter. I walked into the translucent light green rectangle of magic liquid and stretched my arm back through to grab Dmitry's wife's hand and pull them both through the portal. I felt her hand grab mine and I turned forward to pull them both onward and I fell flat on my face onto the floor.

The portal was gone, and with it went most of my arm and Dmitry's family. All three would still be back in the sub basements of the city's escape tunnels, but without power, the portal network would be offline. I looked at what was once my watch arm, teller of time, flipper offer of bad hover car drivers, opener of fridge doors, backup high-five hand....gone. I looked down the dimly lit escape tunnel where Dmitry was standing under the moldy yellow emergency lights. He wasn't moving, just standing there, back to me.

I got to my senses, sat up to a kneeling position and took off my belt, wrapped it around my heavily bleeding arm stump and ratcheted the belt as tight as it would go. I looked up and Dmitry was standing over me, his face was hard to see under his blue hat and moldy yellow lights. He reached out with his left arm and picked me up off the ground by my neck and slowly turned toward the closet wall and held me up against it.

I remember thinking, Dmitry and a team of 19 hand-chosen teammates destroyed an entire, populated, machine city the size of Old Harrisburg in a night. Him and a little machine girl were the only two to return from that area, nearly dead, missing random pieces of flesh from his body, burned, one eyed, carrying an offline someone from a race he was sent to remove all traces of; I wasn't going to live from the bleeding anyway for more than 20 minutes to an hour, plus I was trusted to secure his family from the market they were shopping in and he would secure the portal out of the city; and I had failed.

Dmitry pushed me harder against the wall which lifted me off the floor about 5 inches, we were now eye level. He reached behind his shirt with his right hand and pulled out an old Hammer Stahl paring knife, he slowly held it up to my face so I could read the wording on the handle; "Human", "Air Craft", "Tank" were inscribed in the metal above a thin, hollow, 3" track cut just below the words. Dmitry took his thumb and slid a small red dot upward toward the blade along the thin track, the red dot passed away from "Human" and passed under the word "Air Craft" and then I saw the blade of the knife phase from sight until it disappeared and orange, melted rubble fell from the ceiling. Dmitry paused, and then slide the red dot away from "Air Craft" and higher up the handle yet toward the word "Tank" and the blade phased back from its invisible fog and started to grow blackish purple fuzzy blobs; as the red dot slid further toward the end of the thin track the fuzzy blobs fully merged over the metal blade and flattened out to a 4" wide 6" long completely shiny, black blade with what looked like little purple stars speckled across the blackness. Dmitry pushed the red dot to its final place at the end of "Tank" and I heard the dot snap, suddenly the black blade became 1' wide and melted into the ceiling an unknown length.

I tried to swallow to show my respectful fear, but his grip on my neck seemed to only allow air. Dmitry took his thumb off the little red dot and moved it the edge of the handle, where he proceeded to slowly spin a tiny wheel downwards; the blade responded by shortening its length until it was free of the ceiling and now only about 3' long. He then slowly moved the blade away from my face and held it to his right side; he then angled the blade toward my left shoulder and paused. I tried to get a read of his face, but the hat and crappy lights weren't letting me, I guess I would just be surprised when he settled on a place to satisfy the knife with. Dmitry slowly moved the blade down my still-bleeding arm stump and stopped at the end just past the belt; I realized something in that moment, I couldn't feel any heat from the blade, but, the molten ceiling slag was still orange on the floor since before he adjusted the blade's length.

Dmitry shifted his standing posture slightly clockwise to his center and moved the blade to the tiny gap between the end of my arm stump and my left kidney, he then turned the blade horizontal and centered it under my arm stump and slowly sank the 3' blade into the wall. I could hear the dripping blood sizzle against the heatless blade and I could guess its edge was probably a centimeter from my shirt and flesh. Dmitry stood there, holding me off the floor, against the wall, centimeters from the mystery blade, and moments from death by "Tank", or minutes to death from blood loss. He then raised his head slightly, although still enshadowed by his hat bill and hidden in moldy light, I could see the tip of his nose and parts of his face from cheekbone to cheekbone; there was no expression, I couldn't tell if he was even breathing.

Dmitry then spoke, low and soft, "Will you help me find and retrieve my wife and daughter?" I could see a small tear of blood running down his right eye's cheek. "Yes" I conjured from my ever crushing vocal chords. "Then I will help you find an arm." Dmitry said as he pushed the blade up the wall and against my arm stump, searing the flesh black from whatever magic this blade possessed to save my life for a couple more days. Once Chef Dmitry was done, he pushed the blade down from the stump and slid the red dot back to "Human". He pulled the knife from the wall and slowly put it back in front of my face. The black shine of the blade began to dance and wobble and turn back into little black blobs which then shrank into little dandelionish puffs that drifted free from the metallic core-blade and dispersed into the air around the knife.

Dmitry then slowly returned the paring knife back behind his shirt and slowly lowered me back to the ground, he then released my neck and took a step back, turned and walked slightly down the hall. I slid slowly down the wall to a sitting position, trying to come to grips with what the hell just happened. I looked down the hall at Dmitry <REDACTED>, 3rd highest in his research division of Interfacing Technologies, I had the utmost fear and respect for whoever he was and whatever he wanted to do. Dmitry turned back around and walked toward me, and knelt on the ground next to me and reached behind his shirt again and pulled out a folded over brown and white hat with a small ice cream cone logo on the face. "Here." He said, "You will earn my trust back through her." "Her?" I quietly asked, confused.

Dmitry reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper. He then slowly took the hat from my hand, opened it from its folded state and placed it on my head and handed me the scrap of paper. Dmitry placed his hand on top of the hat and said "Open the paper and read what you see." I obeyed and fumbled open the scrap of paper with my one hand. "Sunshine." I said, looking up at Dmitry. Dmitry smiled with the left half of his mouth and removed his hand from the hat on my head. I suddenly felt the hat tighten to a more snug fit and a British girl's voice said "Good Morning Brother C.C., I know we just met, but we are us now. I have an Authorization level of -0 as given to me by my Creator and your Gifter, this value cannot be changed so long as you are alive and I am not incinerated in the heart of the sun."

I sat there dumbfounded, missing an arm, in some unknown facility's basement, with a magic hat, and the promise to re-unite a man with his family. "Good Morning Sunshine, pleased to meet you." was all I could mentally process to say. "Awesome, I'm going to eat your dead hair and grow to help you enjoy life without being able to clap." She happily exclaimed. I lowered my head and smiled, those were the best words I'd ever heard from a hat.

Those were the days, but, they're gone now and all I have left are H.A.T.s, A.R.M.s, and an AAI British consciousness all working toward unseparating Dmitry's family.......

Anyway, the A.R.M. hud loaded it's lil menu for me to think through. Advanced, Replaced, Metaframage(S) was the colorized acronym across the top of the menu, they could be legs, fingers, eyes, and even organs; the irony was it was actually my arm. Well, most of my arm, from just above the elbow, down. Even after Dmitry perfected the algorithm for Sunshine's humor, I knew Sunshine would never get that joke so I never mentioned it, she would hopefully never know the war she was designed for. I thought down to the menu item "W.I.F.E.S. - Willful Intra-Limb Framage Enhancement Sharing". Dmitry had such a way with words for these menus, I never knew when he was joking or if he really couldn't spell. "Startica" I thought, and the menu activated.

I felt my left arm getting warm as my hat slowly burrowed down through my nervous system to get to the metal. I slowly blinked my left eye, the ARM hud said "Access Successfully Granted: Weapons disabled.” My hand suddenly gave a thumb up to let me know she was in control now. I smiled as she gripped the wheel with a loaner hand; I couldn't read her mind and neither her to me, but I could feel that she was happy to be doing something simple and somewhat fun with a weaponizable human limb that could remove mountains from the face of the Earth in the same instant those old cameras could flash a blinding blink of white light.

"Skull!" "Argh!" "Ooof" "Sorry....C.C."

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