Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 14 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionThey arrived at the R&D complex and Astrid escorted her guests to her lab on the fourteenth floor of the main building. Leading them over to one of the workbenches, she gestured with a flourish at the robot arm resting upon it. It was obviously made of the same bluish silver material as Robot Valerie, though it was larger than her arms.

“It doesn’t look like a prosthetic at all,” said Mrs. Bonnefoy. “It just looks like an arm, only made of metal.”

“It’s actually a polycarbonate,” said Astrid, “but I guess that’s not really important. Shall we try it out?”

“What do I have to do?” wondered Captain Bonnefoy.

“Take off your shirt,” said Astrid. “And before you get too excited, it’s going to be tomorrow before you’ll be able to control it.”

“Tomorrow? I was expecting that it would take weeks or months.”

He handed his shirt to his wife. Astrid picked up the robot arm and carefully fitted it onto the end of his damaged limb.

“Now we just power it up,” she said, opening a small compartment and pressing a button inside.

There were a series of beeps and hisses, followed by a thunk.

“It’s connecting, and will map out the nerves in your arm. When we hear a series of…” Four or five beeps sounded. “There we are. It’s mapped. Now just sit here and I’ll hook up some sensors to your temples. This way, we can map out the entire command structure by copying the way your brain works.”

“You’re not going to fry my brain or anything, are you?” he asked.

“You would be surprised at how often I’m asked that,” said Astrid. “Now just sit still for about five minutes.”

“All done,” she said, a short while later. “Now it will take up to twenty-four hours for the computers inside the arm to sort and file all the brain information it’s downloaded. At some point, the arm should just start working like a regular arm.”

“This is so exciting,” said Mrs. Bonnefoy.

“Since you’re here, why don’t I show you around the place?”

Astrid gave them a tour of the R&D department, at least those areas of it that weren’t involved in classified work and then they walked across to the design building and visited Mr. Brown’s studio, where large scale mock-ups of Astrid’s space plane and electric racecar awaited her approval.

“I think they look pretty good,” said the girl inventor. “What do you think?”

“I think they’re the coolest things ever,” said Bree Bonnefoy.

Back at the main building, they stopped at the cafeteria for sandwiches and soft drinks. Halfway through the meal, the captain suddenly exclaimed, “Look!” He reached out with the robotic arm and slowly picked up the saltshaker from the table.

“Good. It’s starting to adapt,” said Astrid. “Remember, it won’t be fully functional for a while yet. Just keep calm and carry on, as the British say.”

“I can feel the salt shaker!” said Bonnefoy. “I can actually feel it.”

“Yes, well, the arm has sensors that will relay information to your brain. It’s nothing like your natural arm of course. I mean human limbs have thousands of nerve endings instead of a few dozen sensors. Still, it should help to have some tactile and temperature feedback.”

“It’s a miracle,” he said.

“If it is,” said Astrid, “then it’s a miracle of superconductive microprocessing and about $175,000 worth of engineering.”

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