It had taken some time, but by now, modified versions of Maya’s hand were commonplace. When she lost her hand, almost a good decade ago, her new hand was more of an experiment than a product. She wanted something that could grasp, something that could feel. And that took trial and error. It also took money. Her payment came in the form of working on a dragonfly.
The Dragonfly Project hadn’t reached out to even the far corners of the solar system yet, so Maya was lucky and got to work in a relay floating just past Mars. Within a few years after she’d been assigned, the project sent out relays out as far as Eris. Now her relay directory had listings named after gods she most certainly never heard of.
Her hand was clamped to her work table while its inner workings were carefully placed across the table’s surface. A spring or two had worn themselves down to useless.
“Maybe I can get some lighter plates next holiday,” she mumbled as she screwed her pinky back into place with her good hand. The newest model weighed even less than a similar sized human hand. Maya’s, however, felt more like carrying a medicine ball at all times, one armed.
Maya stretched her back before pushing the joint at the end of her arm back into her ball and chain. With her flesh hand, she loosened the grip and pulled her arm away. She lifted her newly complete arm and spun her hand in circles, stopped the motors, and flexed her fingers. “Record: April 22nd diagnostic. Hand has full control, although a few of the motors are getting a bit slow.”
She ran her finger tips over a small strip at the edge of her table. The strip ran from silk to leather, smooth plastic to rough sandpaper. “Sensation range is a little smaller. Having trouble picking up the softer textures. Requesting new parts at next touchdown. Send.” The computer in her workshop beeped a few notes of Fur Elise to confirm her request.
Just as she was turning to head to the fabricator for some ice cream, the alarms in her ship blared on, with a cool calm tone spoken after an anxiety inducing horn. “Collision, 1 minute.”
She ran over to her console and took a look at the trajectory of the object. It was heading directly towards her tail. Making a quick choice, she activated jets on the tail and the head of the ship to simply adjust the body out of trajectory without seriously affecting her orbit. She would need to double check the calculations to make some minor corrections to her course, but she could wait after the object had passed.
She straightened her back and turned back to the rear of her living quarters. The fabricator’s screen glowed an enticing green, as if to remind her that she had bought the recipe for mint flavored ice cream on her last holiday. As she was pulling up the file on its display, it hit her. “Wait, nothing that big should be in my path.” She paused for a second, her finger hovering over the print button. “Fuck! Computer, check for any nearby signals.”
Just as she feared, her computer started to play the tell tale tones of a distress signal of a civilian craft, a V-Tail.
“Awesome! Just what I need, a doctor-killer in my orbit. What is it with rich idiots thinking they know how to fly.” She walked back towards her computer and analyzed the distressed ship’s path. Its orbit was decaying. Whatever caused the distress signal knocked the thing right off course. Within an hour the thing would start burning up in Mars’ artificial atmosphere. “The bastard’s got more money than sense. Shitbirds don’t even know how to check and avoid debris.”
Maya sent a priority message over to the other ship. “Hello! I have received your distress signal. This is the Dragonfly Mars-452. Do you need assistance?” The ship was silent. “I repeat, do you need assistance?” Silence again.
She checked the trajectories of her dragonfly and the tiny civilian V-Tail. She had a few minutes left where she would still be in tether range, but not much longer. She bumped her jets to give her a little more time. “Corporate is going to hate this.”
Maya unscrewed her hand and placed it on the magnetic hook next to the airlock. She slipped into her space suit, lining up the ring of her right sleeve with the joint at the end of her arm. Then she grabbed her hand and screwed it over both, forming an airtight seal. In the airlock, she put on her helmet, attached her tether, and launched herself into the void of space.
Across the V-Tail’s side was a gaping hull breach reaching almost 10 meters long. She counted herself blessed that she wouldn’t have to worry about finding a way inside.
After she slipped inside she made sure her tether didn’t get cut on any snags. Turning back around she saw several bodies floating near the controls, not wearing their life suits. “Idiots,” Maya mumbled, “No bulkheads means life suits always on.” She turned the other way and saw two kids, unconscious, but the helmets of their life suits having properly activated.
Using the handrail on the side of the ship not ripped wide open, she pulled herself towards the kids. Both of their chest monitors showed heart beats, so she grabbed them by the scruffs of their suits and moved the three back to the widest portion of the breach.
“Retract.” Maya felt a quick pull from the tether, but she barely moved. Maya’s suit sang a song back informing her that her mass was too much for the tether to retract properly.
“God damnit!” she yelled. “Computer, send me our orbits.” Doing the quick mental math, Maya was certain there was not enough time to rescue one, secure them to the airlock, come back, and rescue the other.
She had to make an impossible choice.
She looked at the kid in her left hand, and then the kid in her right, and then it clicked. She took the loops around the waists of the kids, detached her tether, ran it through them, and attached it back to her suit.
Then she took off her right hand and let it float.
Her suit’s emergency sealing bulkhead clamped down around her right bicep hard. “Fuck!” she yelled. Between the clamp cutting off circulation, and her arm exposed to the void, she was certain she’d lose some haptic function, new hand or not. But she could worry about that later. “Retract!” The tether pulled her and her two new wards back to her dragonfly.
As the line pulled her back at an easy clip, she said, “Computer, request an emergency landing. No way this thing can feed 3 mouths for 4 months.”
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