Description: The corporal was going to need a new set of prosthetic arms and hands -- something that could actually resist EMPs. And only one person would be able to help her. The man, the myth, the legend: Dr. Tran!
The instructors were relentless, unwilling to cut the diminutive Indian woman a break from the grueling Special Operations Training Course. She had to crawl, she had to climb, she had to swim -- all the things she'd done as a grunt, but this time without her right hand or the aid of the prosthetic devices she'd so painstakingly become accustomed to.
Her resolve was tested. She began to wonder, is this even worth it?
And yet -- at the end of it all, the amputee passed her trials wiht flying colors. She made it -- she was inducted into MARSOC, the elite Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.
And by dammit, she was going to get a better set of prosthetics. Her custom, cobbled-together technology wouldn't cut it in missions, they assured her. The shielding was insufficient against EMPs. The seals were barely even water resistant. And what's more, the devices were barely resistant to a simple hammer. No, she would need something more durable, more resistant to the elements.
Something a whole lot cooler.
MARSOC had placed her in touch with a civilian medical contractor known for prosthetics and revolutionary technologies. Over a period of weeks, designs were shared and refined.
And now... the moment of truth: her appointment to be fitted with her new combat gauntlets. The chair creaks as she sets her rucksack down upon it -- something about the 90 lbs of custom-designed KNUCKS attached to said rucksack. She takes a seat in an adjacent chair, a giddy smile on her face as she looks at the bulky, boxy fingers, at their clunky dart launchers, and their miniature turbines. She turns away, making no attempt to hide her smile as she looks back down to the 3D-printed prosthetics she wore here, trying to imagine what it would be like with the new, sleeker models fitted securely around them. Her hand idly clunks against her left knee -- itself a mechanical replacement.
It will be a good day, reassures the uniformed Marine as she leans back in her chair. A good day.
SOME TIME AGO
"Okay. Next up... a Corporal Panesh, Minal. Goes by 'Mint'. We've had our eye on her for awhile... she's currently working on, more or less, a cybernetics project for the Marine Corps, so that's an easy in. I'm assuming Robo-Tran-"
"Please do not call me that."
"- unless anyone has any objections?"
"Should he seduce her, as long as he's there? That worked pretty well for Asamiya."
"Yeah, but Asian girls are into Asian guys."
"India IS Asian, dumbass."
"What? No it's not, it's, like, in the Middle East."
"Which is in Asia!"
"I just-- I just got it. Her nickname-- it makes it a pun."
"What the fuck are-- look, should he try to seduce-"
"Please do not talk about me as if I am not present."
"- her or not?"
"Well now that I see the pun I kind of just want him to kill her."
There are two knocks on the door into the 'examination room' Mint's been placed in, and then the door opens, slowly at first to give the man entering time to make sure Mint hasn't decided to completely disrobe and try to fight her reflection in the mirror.
That isn't a situation anyone wants to walk into twice, after all, especially with different patients.
Once it becomes clear that that isn't the case, the door swings open the rest of the way to permit the entry of one Dr. Richard Tran, International Man of Mystery and Action. In at least one reality, he is framed by rose-laden vines and backed by pastels and bubbles, while a cover band croons a Vietnamese version of 'Dreamweaver.'
"Good afternoon, Corporal," he says, flashing a smile. He glances down at the chart in his hands as he pulls a stool away from a nearby counter and sets himself on it. "I just wanted to go over a few things before we begin... but, first, do you have any questions for me?"
Mint didn't choose the nickname, the nickname chose her. Or maybe her squad did. It's hard to really be sure any more, as she pretty much answers to the nickname more than her real name.
Not that she has reason to really -fear- the labcoated man as he walks into the room. She's rolled the sleeves of her jacket up, revealing the socket and mechanical elbow on her right arm, and the bare skin of her left arm, all the way up to the wrist. Asymmetry isn't uncommon in amputees, and this one wanted to keep the three fingers she still could.
As the Doctor enters the room, she hops to her feet, snapping her heels together. It's not quite military attention stance, but it's probably a bit more snappy than one might expect from a civilian.
"Good afternoon! It's so glad to finally meet you in person, Doctor Tran!" Her voice may be modulated somewhat by military discipline, but there's no mistaking the good mood expressed in her exuberant smile. "I just wanted to know, did you find the right sort of chip socket for the comms module we talked about?" She had previously emailed plans for the socket -- nothing special, just a spare power adapter and a patch-in to the antenna, but declined to get into details of the supposedly classified device. "That was the one thing I was really worried about, with bringing it to you guys outside of Command..."
Other doctors might be startled by Mint's snappiness; but when you're Dr. Tran, Real American Hero, the surprise is when your arrival /doesn't/ make women leap to their feet.
"Not find it, per se," Tran admits, "But we were able to manufacture one. I'm not completely sure it will work, but if it doesn't we should be able to go in later and patch it in, so I wouldn't worry."
He smiles again, and then, after another glance down at the chart in his hands, puts on his Business For Real face. "Now... as I'm sure you know, cybernetics - or bionics, if you prefer, but the point is prostheses this advanced - are a very young field, so even what seems like it could be as simple as changing clothes can actually be a very complex and dangerous procedure."
"And unfortunately, medical records being what they are..." His business face cracks a little, in favor of another smile, this one radiating sheepishness. "... the records on your amputations and on the attachment of the prostheses are somewhat, ah, unclear. I understand that you helped design them, so presumably they were two different operations, yes? Do you know if you underwent general anesthesia during the attachment?"
"Oh, good, good." Minal's exuberance never really faded, but her smile does grow a degree or two. "I -was- worried -- if it doesn't have that exact pinout, the chip won't really fit. I guess we'll find out how it works when I get back to base!"
The cheer begins to fade as the doctor looks down at the clipboard, and gives cautions about the procedure not exactly proceeding as planned. "... Well, I already have the electrodes, do you really need to... put -more- in? I mean, there were already electrodes placed for the features I might need, so... " It's clear she has -some- personal attachment to the research fields in question, though when she is able to observe Dr. Tran's professionalism, she seems to be able to rein in her own personal affectations a notch or two.
"... Yeah, general anesthesia for the electrodes. I don't really need anything else for the smaller hands..."
She wiggles the fingers of her right prosthesis, and then just as casually, wraps the fingers of her left hand around her elbow socket and depresses a latch. After a mechanical click and two hissing sounds, the arm is removed and comes away with only a mild degree of discomfort from the corporal.
"It took some getting used to, but it doesn't hurt at all now."
The corporal sets the thinner arm aside on the chair beside her, while she raises her stump -- showing the electrodes in place. "The first revision, I had to unplug my pretty hands to put the KNUCKS on, but this one I can just slide the KNUCKS over top. Oh, and you asked about the amputation -- I had been fully out while my damaged right arm and the rest of my left palm were taken off. Sawbones in Afghanistan were mean but they weren't -that- mean."
Dr. Tran sucks on his teeth for a moment after Mint's explanations, and after a moment of hesitation, admits, "You are right in that technically we COULD just plug them in without too much trouble, and if you really want to, we can do that, and have you out of here in about fifteen minutes."
"That said," he continues after a beat, "As essentially your doctor in this situation I do have some concerns. The first and most obvious one is your left elbow; I'm worried that the apparently increasing weight of your prostheses might lead to an enhanced risk of dislocation, or even fracture. Have you had any problems like that in the past? Or of the joint... ah, for lack of a better term, 'clicking?'"
Mint tries to edge in during the duration of the beat. "... Wh- I don't have a lot of leave time, so.."
But even the brash New Jersey native is not so rude as to cut off a doctor in the midst of a worrisome explanation. "... I... I'm boxing with these things, doctor, the risk of dislocation is -exactly- the reason for the compressive sleeves we talked about that would go up to my biceps. I mean, what... what are you even talking about that would take -longer- than fifteen minutes?"
Incredulity spreads across her features as she cracks into a smile. "Ahaha, you're not trying to saw my -left- arm off, are you? I mean, I'm kinda attached to this one! And, uh... no! No problems with clicking, it... why. Why, is that... is that common? From bone spurs or something?"
"I hadn't considered the time off requirement," the doctor concedes, frowning. "I admit I'm not used to working with active duty soldiers, at least not soldiers who aren't... essentially looking at the end of their careers, you understand. I should have brought the subject up earlier, but it didn't seem appropriate for anything but face to face conversation."
"The compression sleeve will help, yes, but my big concern is shear on the joint. If there was clicking, it could be a sign that it was coming out of place."
Despite Mint's smile and tinge of disbelief, Tran remains serious. "Bluntly, yes, I think it would probably benefit you in the long run to remove your left arm up through the elbow, especially if further iterations of your prostheses continue to increase in size."
"That said," he continues, "I understand why you would be hesitant to, and it's possible my concerns are unmerited. Your specific situation is unique; the closest comparison is a Major Briggs, but his prostheses are symmetrical and up through the shoulder joint."
"So why don't we do this," he says, producing a pen from somewhere and scribbling something on the bottom of the chart in his hands. "This is my personal cell number; you may have gotten a number when you got my e-mail but that will be my work number. This one goes straight to me. I'll give you this, and we'll just attach the new model today, but I'd like you to think about my suggestion, and if you ever have any elbow, or /especially/ shoulder, pain that doesn't have an obvious explanation, I'd like you to contact me."
As he rips the bottom strip of the chart off, he glances up and finally smiles again. "Sound good, Corporal Panesh?"
Minal's response is short, showing no lack of surprise at the notion that the doctor might not have had all the information he may have needed to do his job, mixed with the guilt of failing to consider the impersonality of asking such a thing through e-mail. Not -everyone- is as upfront and straight forward as the US Marine Corps, after all.
She laughs with faint nervousness, but shakes her head. "Nnnnnah, I haven't had any joint pain at all, aside from the ones that get replaced, or injured in combat. I'll just keep my arm, thanks. And yeah, I heard about Major Briggs, he's got some -real- fancy gear. Still, his... trauma was a bit more than mine, if I recall..." It's pretty clear that Mint has done her research on other amputees -- because really, why -shouldn't- she?
She accepts the torn-off chart with her left hand, preferring to keep the prosthetic that provides the missing thumb and index finger in place for the time being. Mostly because it allows her to pinch the sheet of paper and look at it. She places the number in her front pocket, nodding slowly... "... Well, um... sure, doc, but why your personal line, though? I mean, I'm sure you work long hours, I wouldn't wanna bother you while you're not on duty, especially not to go whinin' about a creaky shoulder or elbow."
She laughs, though it might come across as a bit disingenuous. She genuinely has no idea why she's being handed a personal number!
"I'll, uh... keep it mind though! It'd be ten shades of badass to turn into Robo-Jarhead or something, but haha, being a robot might make having a personal life kinda difficult!"
The joke having relieved her anxiety for a moment, she leans back in her chair, expression brightening as she waves her right stump around. "So what all do you need me to do?"
"Nonsense," Tran scoffs, waving a hand dismissively. "You're a lovely woman and any man with any sense would be happy to spend an evening with you.
"And the personal number is to ensure that you get through to me, and not an answering machine that I might not check for weeks. I actually only practice part-time, at the moment, and don't typically take on patients with the potential for urgent situations," he explains. "But I've a lot of respect for you and the sacrifices you've made - quite obviously and literally, in your case - in serving our country. I would hate to see you end up in the hands of some butcher, or, even worse, in the VA system, because I couldn't be reached."
Minal usually talks up a storm. But having the conversation veer from a clinical discussion about prostheses into a commentary on her romantic desirability is... a swerve?
Did she hear that right?
The Indian-American's cheeks darken as she turns over the ramifications of what was said. It's not the first time she's been complimented in such a fashion, but usually it's only as a prelude to a sick burn or crushing denouement. So when Dr. Tran continues to clarify the -purpose- of his personal number...
Well, she's actually a bit embarassed.
And begins to laugh awkwardly.
"Y-yeah, I... I have heard of that happening a lot!"
An uneasy chuckle follows, but she returns to her usual cadence after a moment.
"I mean, it wasn't -quite- that bad at my last duty station, but I'm about to start getting shipped around a whole bunch, and regular visits might not be in my future. So... th-that's very kind of you, Doctor."
She looks down at her hand, resting it upon her knee with a light clank.
"Thanks for thinking about people like me."
Minal looks up at the Doctor again, canting her head to the side. "... Maybe you could think of some improvements to my knee joint, though? It, um. Well, I didn't have any particular plans for it. It works fine now, mostly, but every so often it wants to seize up while I'm walking. Mechanically, it's fine, I keep it lubricated, so I don't know -why- it's doing that -- I haven't been able to replicate the error."
It might be a bit difficult to talk about the joint, though -- Minal is absently running her remaining fingers over the replacement knee, but it's still concealed beneath the leg of her camouflage BDU pants.
If Dr. Tran notices Mint's growing bashfulness in response to his comments, he doesn't much react to it, letting her motormouth and stammer her way back into her comfort zone while he just smiles brightly.
When she asks about her knee, however, his expression shifts to a thoughtful one. "I didn't look into the details of your knee procedure, but... well, let's see." He sets the chart in his hands aside and slides off his stool, lowering himself down to one knee in front of Mint.
"May I examine it directly?" he asks, glancing up (now there's a rare occurence) at the woman. As he does, he hovers his hands over the hem of her pant leg, to make his intention clear.
Mint usually doesn't get this kind of attention from doctors, especially not in New Jersey -- most seemed bored, or otherwise inattentive in some fashion. But this one -- what a nice doctor!
"I kinda destroyed it in a fight in Transylvania."
The Marine is already starting to roll back her pant leg, pulling it up high enough so that the mechanical body of the joint is exposed. While her leg and the back of her knee are flesh-and-blood, a region about four inches outward from the center of her kneecap has been replaced with carbon-fiber and titanium. Obvious access ports have been provided to facilitate maintenance of the mechanical joint, though it's of a level of technology far more polished than her own bespoke creations.
"I s'pose they could've fixed it better if it didn't take so long to get to medical care, but considering I had to limp part-way down the mountain, the joint was pretty much all gone. So they grafted this beast to the existing bones of my leg and hooked the nerves back up -- I was -totally- out for that op. Every so often I have to go in for an oil change, which... gosh. It's kinda weird just hearing myself -say- that, huh?"
She offers a brief laugh. "Have you ever worked on anything like this before? Doc told me it wasn't their first rodeo here."
The doctor chuckles along with Mint about the absurdity of a person needing an oil change. It's certainly a novel thought, and one that he has definitely never considered before, ever, nope, no sir.
Once Mint's rolled her pant leg up, Tran gently rests his hands on the top of the prosthesis and the flesh just below it. Despite the presumably largely academic nature of his work, his hands are surprisingly rough, and where they touch Mint's actual skin they produce a pleasant tingling sensation. Certainly this is just a result of some unspoken chemistry, and not at all a carefully engineered mechanism inside his hands. That would be ridiculous.
"Not like this exactly," Tran says, a little distractedly, as he manipulates Mint's leg, gently extending and then flexing her knee back and forth and moving it through every possible plane of motion. "But things of this nature, yes. As I said, the field is still in its infancy, but it's advancing quite quickly. Not too long ago, if you were too injured to just replace the joint, they'd probably have had to remove everything below the knee."
He pauses for a beat to finish examining the joint, and then gently lowers Mint's leg back into a resting positino. He frowns thoughtfully, perhaps absentmindedly leaving his hands resting on her leg. "Well, my first thought was arthrofibrosis or a patella problem, but with this those don't seme like concerns. You said it seizes... as in it wants to stay locked out and straight, right? When this happens, can you still move the toes of that foot?"
Minal has undergone physical therapy on any number of occasions -- she is so over the notion of people poking and prodding at her limbs that this should be a breeze.
Or is she?
The Marine's brows furrow at the tingling sensation. Her lips press together firmly as she stares back at the doctor's kneading hands, unsure as to what exactly this 'chemistry' entails.
Remove everything below the knee...
"... I-I'm sorry, what?" she stammers, having been momentarily inattentive. She then rationalizes her way through what Dr. Tran had -actually- told her, and nods slowly -- if a bit embarassed again.
"... Uh... Hm. I think they're usually a bit numb when that happens, now that you mention it. Sometimes, anyway, if not -all- the times..."
This time, the good doctor does acknowledge that Mint is flustered, if only slightly; the smile he shoots her after she catches up to what he was saying has a definite touch of 'rakish grin' in it.
He stays businesslike in every other respect, though. "That suggests, to me, that it's an interface issue rather than a mechanical one," Tran explains. "The reason why this prosthesis is so advanced is that-- well, look."
He shifts his hands around Mint's leg again, lifting the limb up and sliding one hand around to touch the back of her knee, up towards the thigh. "Many of the muscles that move your foot and ankle begin all the way up here, on the bottom of the femur. With an operation this size, they almost certainly had to modify or remove the condyles... ah, the big rounded parts."
"That means that they had to attach some of those muscles to the prosthesis, which means that to work normally, their nerve signals have to be processed through your knee, even though your lower leg is still organic."
"Which means that if the signal is inhibited somehow - for instance, if the prosthesis's electronics are malfunctioning, or if it's damaged, or what have you - you're going to have problems not just with the knee, but with the foot and ankle. I assume these are hardwired to you? Or do they use an electrode system like your hands?"
Minal chuckles at the rakish grin -- she has worked around enough Marines to know what the look means. And also realizes she might be sending off some signals she doesn't -want- to send off.
It's easy to contextualize the touches upon her leg with the topics of discussion -- almost impossible to ignore, really. But she does keep her mouth closed so she can focus on the meaning of the words rather than the tactile contact. "... Yeah, that sounds like words they used. I didn't really pay much mind to it though, but that -would- explain what's going on..."
Her eyes cross for a moment as she combs through her memories of that conversation. If she were as intricately involved in the knee replacement as she was with her hands, she would be able to volunteer that information right away. As it is, though...
"... I don't remember?" she begins sheepishly. "It's all tucked away inside my leg, I didn't really get too concerned with it. I've never had to reattach anything, like I do with the arms, so... maybe... hardwired? It doesn't happen -that- much though..."
The thought of going under the knife again appears to drain some of the color from her face. "... L-look, you shouldn't have to worry about that though, I mostly just came for the arms, right?"
"It's fine," he assures Mint. He finally removes his hands from her leg, except for a slight, incidental brush of his fingers as he rolls her pant leg back down for her. "It makes most people uncomfortable to think about the details of their prostheses, so ignorance isn't uncommon. But," he adds seriously as he rises back to his feet. "Ignoring the problem could have lethal repercussions, in your line of work, if it acts up at a bad time."
"I'd make an appointment to get it looked at with the doctors who put it in. That, or I can get you a consent form to fill out, for me to receive the necessary information and we can make an appointment for me to look at it."
"But There's nothing to be nervous about," he assures Mint, as he steps over to begin preparing the new KNUCKS for attachment. "If it were a problem with the integrstion into your nervous system, the symptoms would almost certainly be an ongoing problem, rather than an intermittent one. Almost certainly it's a hardware issue with the prosthesis. It may even be treatable with a firmware update."
"I must say, though, I'm surprised," Tran admits, as he hefts one of Mint's shiny new hands up like it weighed almost nothing at all. He must be, as they sa,, 'ripped AF.' "Symptoms like that were the other major concern I had with your arms, because of the nature of the electrode interface. You're just full of twists and turns, eh, Corporal?"
Mint starts to reach her left arm out to pull the pant leg back down, but with Dr. Tran's reassuring bedside manner, her hand remains hovering a fair distance away, with only the -slightest- sense of unease. Mostly because of the way in which the word 'lethal' is couched in such otherwise inoffensive and non-scary language.
"... Y...yeah. I'll... I'll have to get the clearance from my CO for another visit. Everything for me now's all rubber stamped and filled out in triplicate these days." A brief bit of rambling is all it takes for Mint to return to her usual good cheer. "So yeah, hook me up with that consent form!"
She nods quietly with Tran's assessment, having come to similar conclusions -- if it was outright rejection, she wouldn't have intermittent issues. It's comforting to hear that it might be as simple as a firmware upgrade -- she might just have to pull up the schematics herself. "That's good news, yeah..."
When Dr. Tran picks up one of her new arms, her eyes widen. She's been working out, of course, so -she- can lift her own -- but even then, she'd be swaying sharply to one side as the weight is piled on, whereas Tran is almost unaffected. "... Wow, Doc, either you lift a bunch or those things are -way- lighter than my last set. Am I gonna have to load those up with some counterweights?"
She hops to her feet, eagerly eyeing the shiny new prosthesis. "I have to admit, it looks a =lot= better in person! The engineering drawings didn't really do it justice at all, this is all shiny and sleek..."
When Mint comments on his strength, Tran's smile drifts grinwards again. "I take physical fitness very seriously," he says. "As I'm sure you well know, people tend to forget that us shorties are still grown adults. I may not be seven feet tall, but I'm big where it counts."
Sure enough, as he shifts the weight of Mint's new hand, the shirt beneath his labcoat proves itself to be perhaps just a smidge too tight, based on how the musculature of his pecs strains against the fabric. And that's definitely what he was talking about, Mint. You PERVERT.
"Why don't you lie down and I'll hook this up?" the doctor suggests, indicating the classic, paper sheet-covered examination table, a fixture in every doctor's office since time immemorial. "I'd hate for you to fall from a weight imbalance..."
The corporal is -more- than used to assertive self-assessments as to one's own physical aptitude -- which could probably explain why her response to 'big where it counts' is little more than a wry smirk. Whether she took it as a perverted comment or not will be left as an exercise for the world-famous Dr. Tran to find out, as her heartrate and physical condition don't really give any signs one way or the other.
Mint looks up to the table, her expression softening a bit. "Oh, sure, I guess that'd be the smart way to handle it..." she mentions, snagging her human-proportioned prosthetic and reattaching it with a hiss of pneumatics and a click. Without much of a second thought, she hops up onto the table, shimmying over so that she can lie down in a more comfortable fashion once the examination table is extended.
She doesn't seem terribly concerned -- after all, this is a totally commonplace examination from a surprisingly friendly doctor. The corporal looks sideways at Dr. Tran. "Is there anything I need to do before putting them on?"
Dr. Richard Tran is a classy gentleman who would never make a lewd joke in front of a lady.
As Mint positions herself on the examination table, Dr. Tran commandeers the chair she had been using, swinging it around to sit facing the table. "Setting aside the concerns we already discussed... ah, let's say 'hopefully not'," he says. As he speaks, he extends the table for her, and then lowers himself into the chair, carefully lifting the new prosthesis and lining it up with Mint's arm, which he gently manipulates into a better position with his off hand.
"Now, this should autocalibrate based on your old data, but we're still going to have you try some things, just for safety's sake. And interfacing with a new prosthetic might feel... I'll use the technical term, and say 'weird,'" he explains, with a grin. More seriously, he adds, "But if you feel any pain, obviously, tell me immediately. Ready?"
Minal relaxes as she lets Dr. Tran do the work here -- which is to say, lifting the oversized prosthetic into position. And she is more than content to tilt herself to her left, allowing him the greater latitude with which to guide her mechanical right arm into the new prosthetic's awaiting socket.
As the docking mechanisms complete, the Marine feels the characteristic loss of sensation as the smaller hand gives way to the controls of the larger hand. The feel of the new electrical impulses, though, is a lot more...
Minal can't help but flash a giddy grin at the sensation. "Y'know, I don't think I ever thought to filter the biofeedback. My old ones felt like there was some electrical noise, like a kind of buzzing. I didn't think it could feel any different..."
She eases herself back to a relaxed position, the prosthetic arm to the side a bit to accomodate her proneness. "... Uh... hm. Oh. My fingers aren't moving yet, are they. I was trying to wiggle them, but nothing happened."
"It'll take a bit to calibrate, even with the old data," Tran assures Mint. "Nothing to worry about. Just give it a minute or two." Despite the resassurance, he takes a moment to make sure the woman isn't about to slide or fall off the table owing to a third of her body weight not being attached to one of her arms, and then rises from his seat to cross the room and attend to a computer, tapping blindingly fast at the keyboard.
After about twenty seconds of that, he glances back at Mint and prompts, "Try now?"
Mint leans back into the raised bump that counts for a pillow on the padded examination table. Her head is pointed up towards the ceiling, but her focus is directed towards the new flurry of sensations that she's come to associate with 'how her right hand should feel.'
In the momentary lull, she gets the idea to ask a question, but just as she does, Dr. Tran's tapping produces some results. Minal closes her mouth for a moment, and thinks about closing her hand.
The smooth whirr of machinery tells her the impulse was successfully communicated to the arm servos.
"Hey, that did it!" she chirps happily. Already she is attempting a series of chordal exercises, starting off slowly for now.
She then asks her delayed question: "... So you're... -part- time? What do you do here, like... just prosthetics, or...?"
"Oh, all sorts of things," Dr. Tran tells Mint, as he crosses the room back to her side. He lowers himself back onto the chair, takes Mint's giant cybernetic hand, and begins directing her without explanation through an elaborate series of movements. Flex this, twist that, yadda yadda.
"Well, not... here, per se," he correct. "I don't work specifically in this building, or anything. I don't actually have a salaried position anywhere. I was lucky enough to have... a very lucrative 20s, after I got my first doctorate, and it's given me the freedom to pursue the things I find interesting."
"I maintain a professional line of communication, of course, but as I said earlier, it can be weeks between the times I check it. Sometimes I'll go off and work with MSF - ah, that's Doctors Without Borders - or sometimes I just need some 'me' time, you know? Travel, that sort of thing. I've actually been dipping my toes into professional fighting lately, too. Well, 'professional', more semi-pro, you know. I'm no Edmond Honda."
"Ah, forgive me... I'm rambling," he realizes, with a sheepish smile. "Everything's feeling normal in the arm?"
All sorts of things. Not a salaried position. But he -is- a doctor, rationalizes Mint with a nod of the head -- that just means he works on contract, as a luxury of falling into money at an early age. Nothing... strange about that! Mint flashes the doctor a warm smile as she continues working her hand through each of the requested motions.
"... Wow, MSF? Maybe our paths have crossed before, then, without knowing it..." It should be on her record that her wounds stemmed from improvised explosives in Afghanistan, after all -- no confidential secrets to be unveiled there.
"... Huh? Oh. Yeah, everything feels great, doc! And no, I don't mind, but..."
Just like that, she changes from sheepish embarassment at forgetting this was a physical examination, right back to rambling herself. Why would -she- need an apology for talking about tangents?
"... like... do you need a teammate or something, when you go into the fighting circuits? I keep trying to get started on the side, but my leave always gets approved too late for the Saturday Night Fight folks to give me anything but the undercard matches..."
At Mint's question about teaming up, Dr. Tran hesitates for a beat, uncertainty flashing across his face. "Don't take this the wrong way," he says slowly, "But I'm always hesitant about starting external relationships with my patients. I suppose it isn't like we'd be dating, or anything, but there's still the potential for the relationship to sour, and then this relationship, well..." He shrugs.
"And I've had bad experiences with joining teams in the past," he admits after a beat. Apparently eager not to address that, he immediately continues, "It seems like the unit is working properly. Shall we attach the other one?" He pops up out of his seat, retrieves the other new prosthetic, and circles around to Mint's other side.
Mint raises an eyebrow as her suggestion of a team-up is likened to dating -- even if only by way of contrast. "I... I hadn't even thought of it -that- way, Doctor. But hey, like my gunny loves to tell me: don't ask, don't get."
She wants to add a shrug in response there; it's kind of obvious from the way she moves. It's kind of tough when she has all her weight attached to a 50-lb arm though.
"Fair enough though. Just thought I'd ask, right?" She flashes a friendly smile as she rests more fully against the table, lowering her left hand as well. "Yeah, hit me, Doc. I'm itching to get used to these sexy beasts."
She's talking about the arms. Obviously!
Despite the many, many straight lines suitable for a flirty comment or a lewd joke, the good doctor remains silent. As aforementioned, he's a gentleman, not a degenerate jarhead like some people, /Mint./ They do provoke somethng of a thoughtful frown from him, though. "Maybe someday," Tran tells Mint. "Just... not right now, I think."
As he begins lining up and slotting the second prosthetic onto Mint, however, he does ask, "Do you mind if I ask if it's a challenge, being a woman in an environment like the Marines? Admittedly I'm not intimately familiar with the environs, but based on everything I've seen and heard, I would think you would be given quite the, ah, hard time."
"Not right now..." Mint even finds herself chuckling at that. "Look, you don't have to look out for my feelings here, I'm not some sensitive little flower that needs to be sheltered or anythin! We're just talking here, Doc."
Minal makes all accomodations necessary to slide her semi-prosthetic left hand into the chilly embrace of carbon fiber, steel, and synthetic fibers. A series of switches await her within, and the same silky-smooth aura of electronic impulses that begin to serenade her nerve endings as the somewhat familiar start-up sequence takes hold. Her eyes soften, losing their focus for a moment as she eases herself inside...
"... Eh? Oh, the Marines are a bunch of softies compared to the assfaces back in Clifton. If nothing else, like... it's safer, y'know? People are packing heat out there in the wilderness, but you know everyone's all fighting for the same team. It's just joking around. And besides, I might be lower rank than a lot of those jarheads, but they know I'm right more often than not. Counts for somethin'!"
Yes, she'd be pleased to admit she's had to 'educate' some of the bigger jerks in her batallion.
"Fair enough," Tran shrugs. "I am glad to hear it, though. A woman as small and cute as you, I'd worry about... I suppose 'bullying' is the word? Regardless of the facts of your strengths and merit."
He blows right past the compliments (observations?) as if they were nothing, moving right on to the matter at hand, as he once again begins moving Mint's arm up, down, back and forth, taking her through a complete series of flexes and extensions. "Everything feeling normal?"
Minal frowns slightly as Dr. Tran continues to make statements that suggest she might have something to be afraid of in the Marine Corps. Or from other Marines. "... Well, bullying is only something you do to someone who can't set you on your own ass, right? The only bullying that gets done is by the pencil-necked Lieutenants who think they got a leg up on us, but our Gunny usually sets 'em straight there."
She frowns, glancing over at her left hand, as it is put through the paces. Each move is checked, double-checked, and confirmed : "Y-yeah, it feels fine, just like the last one. None of that raspy noise kinda feeling from my last ones. You're gonna spoil me with these things, Doc!"
She starts to sit up, and the machinery begins to respond in kind.
... And then a thought occurs to her, one that curls her lips into a smirk.
"... Hey, are you trying to say I'm short? You got something against short people?"
His motivations questioned, Tran draws himself up to his full height of 5'2" and sternly tells Mint, "I absolutely am calling you short, Corporal, and I won't be deterred. Do you know how rarely /I/ get the opportunity to call someone short?"
That's about as far as he can get while maintaining his veneer of stoicism, though. "Though, to be fair to us," he adds, "They do say the best things come in small packages." He flashes Mint a brilliant smile, as he moves to help her sit up and clamber off the examination table. "That said... do some pacing just to make sure the balance isn't off, and I want to check a few things on the diagnostics, but for the most part we're all done!"
Everyone's tall compared to Mint.
That said, she's on top of a table. She's undoubtedly taller than the Doctor when she sits upright, so his defiance is curiously mismatched -- and even forces her to break into peals of laughter. "Haha! Okay, fair, fair enough... ha!"
She hefts her arms off the table, wobbling a little bit as the fingers wiggle into motion once more. The whirring sounds and curious waves of impulses may be different than she's used to, but... she's pleased! Even as the laughter fades, her smile remains. "Yeah, the balance is -way- better. I know they -are- a smidge heavier, but the balance makes them feel lighter because I'm not having to compensate..."
She slips off the examination table, bobbing lightly on the balls of her feet as she lets the hands lift and sink. .. And then she looks up at the doctor with that same ebullient grin. "It's... it's uncanny. These things are unreal. I love them, thank you so much!"
As Mint speaks, Tran crosses the room back to the computer, tapping occasionally at the keyboard and intensely studying the screen. "Well, hopefully you still feel that way when the excitment's worn off and they've become routine," he chuckles, looking up from the computer. "It looks like everything's working properly, so you're good to go."
"If you have any questions or problems you know how to contact me, but unless you totally destroy them, I don't expect you'll need them looked at for at least a year."
"Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to you," he adds, with a grin. As he does, he steps away from the computer again and extends a hand towards Mint, for a comically mismatched handshake.
Minal can appreciate the spirit in which Dr. Tran knowingly confides with her. But, as ebullient as she may be from time to time, she shakes her head with a somber response.
"I'll be reminded every time I have to take them off, Doctor."
Still -- she can't maintain an aura of bleakness for very long. "Yeah... We'll see. I'm kinda rough on my hardware. I'm sure I can fix the surface treatment and maybe the servos with the tools we have, but I guess there's a chance of -something- going awry."
She raises her hand when bidden, gripping firmly onto Robo-Tran's hand with her steel grip -- being careful not to exceed the expected limitations of an adult human hand, of course.
"Is it okay if, like... I get other ideas later, if I run them past you?"
"Of course!" Tran says brightly. "Though I would ask you use my work e-mail for that, unless it's... somehow quite urgent." Once Mint gives him his hand back, he goes to stick it in his labcoat pocket, and then suddenly realizes, "Ah, my manners! Come, I'll walk you out."
Another smile, and the good doctor bounds across the room to open the door out for Mint. It is anyone's guess whether it's because he's a gentleman, or because he doesn't want her to get overexcited and rip the door off its hinges. Or possibly both!
"... Well, sure, it'd be murder on your data plan if I sent stuff to your phone, haha!"
Minal doesn't... really have pockets big enough for her to copy Dr. Tran's gesture, so she suffices by letting her arms swing at their natural(?) positions alongside her thighs. The new design, with arm turbines protruding well beyond her elbows, doesn't really allow her to extend her arm hinges out flatly, but the counterbalancing prevents that from being as much of an issue as before.
If anything, her arms pose more of a threat to getting out the door without dinging something up in the process. Minal frowns at the threshold, and realizes that she can egress safely by drawing both hands up before her her face, and crab-stepping sideways through the door. "... Will take some getting used to, though!"
Log created on 20:00:02 12/21/2016 by Mint, and last modified on 15:27:08 12/27/2016.