Jon Smith cleared his throat.
Georgia Clay looked up from the monitor on the front desk. "Oh, Jon, hi, I didn't see you." She smiled brightly at him. "What can I do for you?"
"Listen, I don't know if you can help me....but....I've got a bit of a problem."
"Well, sure," the pretty librarian answered. "If it's a book you need...."
"No, actually.....I need some advice." He frowned, dropped his eyes.
"Well, I'm not sure about that.....but....go ahead and ask, all I can do is say no, right?" She shrugged.
"Well....you see....this is kind of awkward, but.....I need to find a tutor."
"A tutor? You mean for like a GED?"
"No, not exactly....although that may be what I have to resort to eventually."
"Well, it's like this....I'm trying to learn as much as I can about electrical engineering, but I'm starting to have a hard time figuring things out by myself just from books. That's why I need a teacher. And I don't have any records....I'm kind of an amnesia case, we don't really know who I am, so I don't know where I went to high school, or even if I did."
She looked startled.
"Because of that, it would be really hard for me to just go to the university....without records and transcripts and such." He didn't bring up the other, more obvious problem, that of his appearance and the way people tended to react to him.
"Well...." she drawled, her eyebrows knotting. "That's not really my area, but I guess I could place some phone calls to the University, see if anyone there can suggest someone."
"Could you? Would you?" Eagerness lit up his face. "Or even if you can suggest someone I could call, that would be great, too. I thought about just going to the university and trying to talk to the people in the engineering department....but, you know...." He dropped his eyes for a moment, then looked back up smiling. "Any suggestion you could make would be great. I just need a direction to start looking in. I'd really owe you, Georgia."
She smiled cheerily. "No, Jon, I owe you, remember? I'd be happy to try to help you out." She turned back to the monitor, began tapping keys.
It was a couple of days later that Jon was surprised by a phone call from Wyatt Anderson.
"......have you ever heard of Kip Cantorum?"
"Kip? Sure, he was one of my earliest contacts."
"Didn't he tell you he's an electrical engineer?"
"I knew he was something of a hobbyist.....but, no, I didn't realize he had a degree."
"Well, if you already know him, he's your man. I know he does some tutoring on the side, or at least he used to. He's still officed in Galaxy, you shouldn't have any trouble finding him again. Ask him.....if he doesn't have the time to spend with you, call me back, but I've never known Kip to turn down a friend....or a close acquaintance, for that matter."
Which is how Jon found himself spending evenings in Galaxy City after the library had closed.
Kip had a reputation as one of the more inventive engineers in Paragon City. He loved to tinker, and he had recently made quite a name for himself by converting technology seized from villains into harmless children's toys. He worked closely with many of the city's heroes, who would often give him recovered items in exchange for tips about what was going on in the city's technical community.
Kip had been one of the first of those who had trusted Jon enough, despite his appearance, to pass on information on possible jobs, second only to Jonathan St. John-Smythe. It was only now that Jon realized that it had been Kip's fascination with electronics that had caused his initial interest in Jon's future.
He explained to Kip what he was looking for, and why.
"I wondered about that, Jon, back in the day. I assumed you'd be getting whatever help you need from Hero Affairs, or Hero Corps."
"The problem is, nobody seems to know what to make of my prosthetics," Jon replied. "I mean, I know they do their best, but a lot of the time, I can see that they're about as much in the dark as I am. So far, nothing has broken that they haven't been able to figure out how to fix, but......let's face it, the heroing business is rough. And the better the jobs I get, the more dangerous the guys I'm putting in jail. One of these days....."
"Yeah, I can understand where you're coming from. Well, let's take a look and see if I can tell any more than anyone else has. Since I have heroes all over the city bringing me bits of technology they find, I may be able to offer you some insight that no one else has, yet."
They had spent quite a few nights after that, first examining his prosthetics, then testing them, then Kip finally had disconnected one of Jon's legs, and together they had poured over every part, every chip, every nut, bolt, and washer.
"Well, lookie here....." Kip had called out one night.
"What?" Jon responded. He made no effort to get up....his left leg was still on the worktable, but he leaned in Kip's direction as the engineer pointed at a screen he'd been pouring over.
"That line of code......" he responded. Jon peered at it dutifully, but without understanding. Kip had been cloning the chips that operated the processors for his leg, so that he could examine them at his leisure, and without risk to Jon's ability to function. "There's some work here that was never completed.....or it was completed and then disabled."
"Why would anyone do that?" Jon wondered aloud, not expecting an answer.
"No idea....but.....how would you like to be able to run faster?"
Jon looked his disbelief.
"No, I'm serious.....there's a whole other control mechanism here, sort of a transmission setup, and if it were re-enabled, a bunch of that stuff that I couldn't figure out suddenly makes sense. Look, we can try it, and if it doesn't work like I think, I can always disable it again."
Jon's eye went wide. "Um......are you sure about this? Maybe there was a reason for disabling it...."
"Yeah, yeah, it'll be fun, don't worry about it....I'm sure it'll be all right," Kip was already at work typing commands on his keyboard, while Jon flinched and wondered how he could manage to opt out of the experiment.
It actually took about a week before Kip was satisfied with the modifications he'd created. He'd insisted that Jon come with him to Steel Canyon, and had spent a half hour fiddling with Jon's legs, before instructing him to stand up, and handing him a remote control.
"Okay, now, if this works, there's a disconnected lead for your sensory linkage that I think will control this....once I hook that up, you'll be able to activate your hyperstride mode just by thinking about it, but for right now, that remote will let you turn it on and off. Go ahead and try it."
With a deep sigh and a couple of extra silent prayers, Jon took the remote gingerly, examined it, cradled it in his right hand, placed his thumb over the prominent red button.....held his breath....and pressed.
A deep-throated whine, almost like a small jet engine revving up, filled the air, and rose in frequency before settling into a stable tone. A fine mist of sparks began pouring from his lower legs, as Jon stood rooted in place, sweat beginning to pour off his face. He jabbed at the red button again, then again, but the whine and sparking continued.
"No, here....." Kip took the remote from his hand, turned it over, let Jon watch as he moved a slider from one side to the other, then handed it back. "Okay, now push it."
This time, pressing the red button caused the drone and glow to fade away.
Finally letting his breath out, Jon sat down, ker-plunk, on the pavement, panting hard.
Kip grinned from ear to ear.
"Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?" He laughed, thoroughly enjoying Jon's discomfiture.
"Easy for you to say, it's not your legs we're experimenting on, here," Jon snarled, uncharacteristically.
An hour later, Kip pressed the remote back into Jon's reluctant hand, and told him to turn it on again.
Seeing no way out, Jon growled, "....we who are about to die salute you...." and pressed the red button.
Once again, the rising whine, although the sparking was definately lessened, giving more of the effect of an electrical glow.....still, Jon found it quite disturbing.
"Okay, go for it," Kip instructed.
"What do you mean?"
"Go ahead." The engineer nodded his head. "Try it out. Give it a test run.....so to speak."
Reluctantly, Jon took a step.....finding that he didn't actually fall over, he took another.
"Chicken," Kip grinned.
His mouth twisted, giving the engineer a glare that would have frozen a Clock in its place, Jon leaned forward, braced himself, and began to run.
To his utter surprise, he found that he could. Kip had reassured him that the gyroscopic circuits would prevent him from being flung from his feet, but until he tried it, he hadn't really believed it.
It was different.....and harder.....it took more work on his part to stay balanced, rather like the difference between driving a car and riding a motorcycle.....but he found he could do it. And it seemed to get easier as the seconds ticked by and his brain began to learn the difference in the way the hyperstride motion felt.
He found himself approaching a wall, slowed, came to a full stop, turned, carefully, and ran back the way he had come.
To find Kip sitting on the edge of a railing, an enormously pleased expression on his face.
"Told ya...." he chortled.....
Copyright terraforming.com, November 26, 2012