Short Story: A New Age Begins

It would be the first in the next-generation of prosthetic That was how everyone at Cameron Mobility Incorporated saw it. They’d been designing prosthetic devices since the 1940s; from an old man’s scrap wood in a garage, to the custom fitted, laser-cut, hand-assembled metals and plastics of billion dollar industry. Needless to say, the precision-engineered chrome and carbon-fiber had come a long way from the whittled bits of wood Arnold Cameron had first created for his son.

The company hadn’t operated out of a garage in nearly a century, from any one location in decades. The global enterprise had been built on a foundation of one man’s dream and hope for his son. When Arnold died in the late 1980’s, that son stepped into the role of overseer, both poster-child and client from a childhood accident, he took the company public with an image bolstered by his company-replaced right arm and leg.

Public-trading brought investors, stocks, money as the prosthetics became more complex, more specialized, elegant, elaborate. Sturdy, proto-plastics, later replaced again by fully articulated poly-alloys and carbon-fiber “joint and bone” designs.
The heir to the fortune fell ill, forcing his daughter to replace him as head of the company. That was when everything changed– for better or worse was merely dependent on one’s view-point. The company’s stock plunged until measures were taken to secure its future. What those measures were, only one fluent in legalese and corporate intimacies might say. All the world knew was that Cameron Mobility was suddenly growing again, and to new heights.

But until the forth generation Cameron sat on the board of directors, nothing truly astonishing took place. Evelyn Cameron changed that. Like her mother, Evelyn was a trail-blazer, but also a certified genius with a hands-on approach to research and development. On top of her duties as jet-setting business woman, she worked long nights with engineers and technicians in the labs, designing what would come to be known as the most revolutionary prosthetics known to man.

And so, when the culmination of four generations of eager, forward-minded Cameron men and women– and the collaborative toiling of Evelyn and her R&D team– finally came to fruition, they stood at-the-ready for mass production. Their factories in Taiwan and China had already received the plans, and if all went as Evelyn hoped, in a matter of hours the first line in bionic, augmentation prosthetics would be manufactured.

There were already whispers of elective surgeries– voluntary amputations for augmented replacements that would be stronger, tougher, sleeker than human parts. A new black market was ready to form, both around the sale and installation of the new “augs.” No matter the repercussions, there was no doubt this was a new-age. Augs were not just prosthetics, replacements for those poor souls who’d lost part of themselves. Now, they were true to life upgrades, the next step in man’s apex-predatory nature that would see the food-chain and natural evolution forever left behind.

Evelyn and her team had one philosophy; why just return function when it could also be augmented? A decade of research centered on thought-controlled interfaces, superalloys, and miniaturized hydraulics, came next. Then, another five years of prototype construction and programming trial and error that resulted in a line of limb prosthetics that, when installed and routed to the brain via wireless, neural-controllers, exceeded anything an evolved creature could hope to sport.

Everyone had heard the talking heads on Info-Corp’s pseudo-news entertainment channel debating augment-ethics. Most learned people saw them as spouting uneducated nonsense. Evelyn agreed. She’d nearly plunged her company into the red, but somehow retained investor confidence. The rumors spreading of her receiving a Nobel prize didn’t hurt, and were she in any other position, she might have argued them. Instead, she remained silent, watched them bolster investor confidence and keep the money flowing.

She stood now before her first, real test subject. The factories in Taiwan and China were poised for a sprinting run on the first, mass-production line of augs. The man before Evelyn wasn’t someone who’d lost their limbs in an accident, or been born with a corrupted genome and no limb. He was an elective, someone willing to replace limbs with Cameron Mobility’s newest augments.

Evelyn chewed at the tip of her thumb behind a pair of windows. The small observation corridor looked out on the muscled, naked body of the subject. Chrome and carbon fiber rippled from his torso where his limbs should be, as if someone had taken his flesh-less arms and legs, dipped them in steel and carbon-fiber, then replaced the muscles and tendons with criss-crossed mini-hydraulics, actuators, servos, and good, old-fashioned tongue-and-groove gears.

Around him, were masked and suited doctors who’d entered through a clean room. A nurse appeared, wheeling a cart of metal panels and Allen-wrenches. The doctors took places around the body to fit the panels over the augments to hide and protect their innards. For what seemed like hours, but was only moments, they worked the wrenches along bolts. When they stepped away again, the carbon-fiber panels had given the man an intimidating patchwork and a futuristic gleam.

All but one doctor left, the nurse with them. The last prodded the naked man’s neck with a needle, set it aside on the cart. Evelyn waited, breath held. She’d was dimly aware of her team beside and behind her, lined up along the windows in silence. She sensed their own refusal to breathe through the unnatural stillness of the corridor.

The man’s eyes flickered open. The group leaned forward in expectation. He blinked hard, as if waking from a pained sleep, and sat up on an elbow to rub his eyes. The corridor echoed with a half-dozen gasps as the doctor’s mouth moved in silence from the sound-proof room. Evelyn knew from protocol he was being questioned for residual pain.

The man sat up, back to the group, as the doctor carried out a physical exam. After a minute or so, the doctor stepped to the side with a thumbs up. The corridor exploded in cheers, congratulations. The team shook hands, hugged. Someone patted Evelyn’s shoulder and she deflated into her exhaustion.

The truth was, she’d never known if it would really work. Not when it came time to test it. Now, Taiwan and China could begin manufacturing, and in a matter of days, the first augs would ship to awaiting patients and electives. Only then could they know of blow-back from the masses, if any. As the others celebrated around her, she thought rationally; more testing was needed, as was careful monitoring. The man needed to be watched for signs of rejection or other, unpredictable complications.

Time would come to remember those feelings as only footnotes, but even then there was no doubt; a new age had begun.

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