My Powersuit Arrived From eBay Today.
by Stewart Wilson
My powersuit arrived from eBay today. I was lucky to win it. A group of anime freaks in Kansas had ganged up to outbid me but I cut in and beat them at the end. They'd just have put it in a glass cabinet, the better to stare at it and admire it. They wouldn't have had any fun.
The manual looks like it's been translated from Japanese by way of Hungarian. Real John Cleese stuff, the book doesn't contain the words “My hovercraft is full of eels” but it may as well do. It'd be more help. There are big cartoon diagrams instead of warning labels. I think one near the back has a mushroom cloud. I dread to think what powers this thing.
I try UseNet, find alt.binaries.warez.powersuit-control.ID1
For ease of use and safety:
Some models have a minor problem with the built-in IFF designator. This is a known issue. Do not activate weapons within fifty (50) metres of friendly targets. All weapons are NRA-certified
- Ensure all flammable objects and people are at least fifteen (15) metres away from flight jets.
- Do not expose to excess heat or pressure (this unit is not rated for operation below the planet's crust)
- Keep arms and legs away from catches when donning suit.
- Do not smoke when operating powersuit.
My girlfriend's getting annoyed. I've spent the last three nights tinkering with this thing, trying to get the software to a usable point. I try explaining that the guy only shpped a parallel adaptor rather than the USB one that he advertised, that it'd take a week to get everything operational. She smiled and asked what one more day was. I gave up that night, and took her to dinner. I may have a powersuit but I'm not obsessed.
Actuator settings are stored in static RAM, accessible even if the onboard power plant (from the look of it nuclear, with a fifty-year usable lifespan) cuts out. Which would be good if the bastard who sold it me had thought to re-set them. As it is, trying to move my arm nearly ripped it off. I spend a painful hour typing one handed, re-setting things manually and trying to restore feeling to everything below my right elbow.
One of the laser lenses is cracked. I don't know how I missed it, but it's no more powerful than a flashlight. I check the prices of replacement lenses, but they're stupid-high. More than I make in a month writing web pages. The siren song of eBay calls again, but I look at the suit and the cracked lens and the chipped paint and the stupid manual, and sigh. I'm going to have to respray it as well, the previous owner had no fashion sense. If I save hard, I can get by on just one laser for now. The shock cannons should help with that, but the replacement ammo is only available through accredited resellers and the import duty is high on them. Another weapon of last resort.
There's a weird smell inside the helmet. I can't spray it clean because that'd mess up the circuitry. So I'm going to have to put up with the smell of someone else's head-sweat whenever I pilot it. On the other hand, the image enhancement and milliwave radar are nice and sharp. The iPod inside is full of J-pop crap, and I spend a night working up a heavy metal playlist for my heavy metal powersuit.
I need a launchpad. My girlfriend won't let me take off too close to the house, not with our new set of garden furniture. I move my stuff (lawnmower, porn stash, video games) from the eaves of the shed and install an opening roof. I auction everything but the lawnmower off on eBay. That goes in the garage. I mention offhand that an underground launch hangar would be cool, but I get The Look. We've not had the garden done long, and there's no way I'm digging it up to build a bigger shed.
For my birthday three weeks later, she buys me a new laser lens. I take her out to dinner every night that week, because I have been neglecting her no matter what she says. I leave the suit unattended, the data umbilicals trickling bits into the onboard computers. Nothing to do now but fit the lens and wait for everything to patch itself in.
A suit this size normally has a ten-man support crew and twenty more incidentals, running software patches and checking armaments and that sort of thing. I wonder what most of them actually do. Sure, it's taken a long time, but the powersuit is ready to run after just over a month's work. On the other hand, there may still be some bugs. I left an agent looking at the software to see if there were going to be any conflicts, but it couldn't be certain.
The night of my first test flight sees me sat at the kitchen table with a half-empty bottle of vodka. My girlfriend's out studying how to make nanotech with kitchen foil and sticky-back plastic, a night class run by an old Blue Peter presenter. I'm getting drunk, because the suit still smells of someone else and the actuators aren't perfect and I've not even re-done the paint and I'm going to die when I take off. I must be mad. Sure, these things are all the rage in Japan, but over here nobody but the RAF bothers with them. The fuck am I supposed to control it? What am I going to do with it? This dream isn't coming true gracefully. I drink more vodka, until the doubt is numbed.
Feedback needles prick my skin, interfacing with my nervous system. The cavernous chestplate folds over, the cables snap away. The powersuit's arms lock around my own. I pick up the helmet and lock it on, a thin trickle of sealant gel running down my bare spine. All readouts are good. Nothing overhead on radar. The shed roof opens up above me. The legs lock. Control surfaces unfold. The jets roar.
I'm flying! I'm a fucking genius!
There's a place my uncle works at over the river that re-sprays cars. I owe him a visit, he owes me a favour. I know he works late of a Thursday, it's the night his wife spends “quality time” with their kids. Given that each of the little sods thinks “quality time” is screaming, running around and being sick on one another, he does right. There's a pinup calendar on the wall, beautiful girls draped over beautiful cars, and an old gas-burning Mustang on the jacks. He laughs like a maniac when I pop the faceplate, tell him I need a respray. He's wanted to do one of these since they took out the giant lizards off Osaka.
An hour later, the paint shining in the light, far more money spent than I first intended, I take to the skies again. I land outside the school where my girlfriend has her night class, and smile when I see her face. We don't say anything to anyone, I just wrap a force field around us (wouldn't do for her to get bugs in her face) and take off.
This beats having a car any day.