Corinne rang the doorbell and waited for a response. She double-checked the house number and uneasily looked around. The front lawn was more jungle than weeds and the flaked walls needed some major restoration.
The door opened and a man looked at her.
"Hi, I'm here for the ad ?" She smiled.
The man pulled his glasses down and stared at her for a second. He then opened the door for her.
"Come in." He said, motioning her to get in.
The house was sparsely furnished and bits and pieces of machinery littering all surfaces.
"You're the only person who responded to the advert." The man said without looking back, guiding her through the house. He appeared to be somewhere in his early fifties, with unkempt greying hair. He wore a crumpled shirt and sandals.
"I was so curious about the advert." Corinne said, considering to leave as soon as possible.
"You have done something like this before ?"
"I was with the Power Rangers Live Show."
"Power what ?" He narrowed his eyes and stared at her over his reading-glasses, precariously balanced on his nose.
"Power Rangers ?" She pulled out her portfolio.
"Which one were you ?" He browsed through her pictures.
"The Yellow Ranger, here you see, that's me without my helmet. I only did it for two months, I was a replacement after the other girl broke her leg."
"Are you familiar with stretched polymer strings ?" He suddenly asked closing the book with a loud clap.
Corinne thought for a second and shook her head.
"How about advanced polymorphic metals ?"
Again Corinne shook her head in ignorance.
"It's not important. Sweet ?" He said, pulling out a few loose lifesavers from his pocket and popping one in his mouth.
"No thanks." She smiled nervously.
They walked into what appeared to be the living-room. The place looked like a makeshift laboratory with computers, electronic parts and endless series of tubes, Erlenmeyer flasks and bunsenburners, boiling away at strange mixtures.
"Would you mind taking off your clothes and step into that scanner ?" The man abruptly said.
Corinne hesitated. "Er ..."
"Is something wrong ?" The man asked, popping a lifesaver in his mouth.
"Well I don't know, I haven't even introduced myself ..."
"So, who are you ?"
"I'm Corinne." She extended her hand.
"I'm Albert." The man said, limply shaking the fingers of her hand. "Would you get in the scanner now ?" He asked.
"What's it for ?" She asked.
"It's just a 3-D laser scanner, nothing dangerous."
"What does it do ?"
"It uses a laser-beam to scan the surface of an object, or in this case a person." Albert said, adjusting his glasses to get a better look at her.
Corinne began to burrow in her purse and took out a newspaper clipping. "I thought it was meant to be something more ..."
"More what ?" Albert asked in a naive way.
"I thought this was meant to be a tryout for a commercial, a movie or something."
"It's not. I just need to perfect my new invention."
"What's your invention ?"
"It's a new kind of protection."
Corinne's eyes opened wide. "You mean protection-protection ?"
"It's a kind of shield for use in toxic environments." He said without looking back at her, twiddling with the buttons.
She blew a sigh of relief but then. "Toxic ?"
After they had finally managed to understand each other, Corinne stepped into the machine and had her body scanned by a narrow beam of red light.
"Now it will process the data and reconfigure the Mold."
"Say what ?" Corinne asked, dressing herself again. And then she realised he hadn't once looked at her.
"The computer is going to program the Mold with your measurements."
"And then ?" Corinne expected some more difficult explanations.
"It can properly fit you with a shield."
"Fit me ?"
"Yes, I need somebody to test it on."
"It isn't dangerous ?"
"No, I don't think so."
Corinne was now almost dressed again, and considered walking out when Albert got up and took out his wallet. "Before I forget, here's your pay." He handed her a wad of bills.
She quickly counted the money and looked up at Albert.
"Is it okay ?"
"Yeah, but it's over five-thousand dollars !"
"Isn't it enough ?"
Corinne grinned her surprise. "Enough ! I've never seen that much money in my life !"
"Now you have." Albert said dispassionately as ever.
"But I can't accept, just standing here in this scoop ..."
"Scanner." Albert corrected.
Corinne thought it over. With five-thousand dollars, she was out of
financial trouble for some while. She wouldn't walk out right now, besides
she could handle him if there was any trouble, her being such an athletic
girl and having a taser in her bag..
The Mold had a reason for being spelt with a capital letter, it was HUGE ... filling up the largest bedroom. Walls had been knocked out to fit it in.
"Just stand inside the yellow and black circle."
Corinne dropped the towel she was wrapped in and got up on the platform. Mold hissed and screeched.
"The moulding process takes about half an hour and then it needs an hour to set. Oh, and keep your eyes closed." Albert remarked.
"You mean I'll be in here for ..."
The two bullet shaped halves of the mould began to move towards each other. Corinne adjusted her stance to fit in the person-shaped indentations.
She wanted to protest, but Mold clamped shut around her.
The inside of Mold was dark. Corinne had barely space to twitch. "Hey
!" She shouted, but the roar of the machine drowned out her shouting.
She waited for about a minute until she noticed she was being sprayed by something. The tiny sprays tickled her and she giggled and twitched. After a few minutes the spraying ended and she waited for the next event. Another spray came up much more intense and it felt more like a massage than tickling.
But suddenly she felt a peculiar sensation on her head. She wanted to move because she didn't like the feeling of the water on her head. And then she felt something wash down over her face. Seconds later she realised it was her hair.
Corinne wanted to shout but the machine was too loud. She felt a slight panic now and felt a bit claustrophobic.
And then it seemed as if the mould was being filled with some kind of thick foam. It started by her feet and rose up to her face. Corinne thought she was going to drown until the machine inserted something in her nose. She breathed deeply through the tubes.
Covered in foam, she waited. And then slowly, like a gentle hand, the Mold began to move and shape, squeezing her body in a tight, but thoroughly enjoyable grip. She felt the machine slowly rub her body, like a soothing massage. Like a thousand fingers rubbing her.
Corinne was staggered by the experience. The massaging action sent a
shiver of pleasure down her spine and she felt a weight come off her shoulders.
Even if it was an infernal machine, it worked miracles. It took only a
few minutes for her to become completely relaxed and began to doze off,
going with the flow of things by now.
Corinne woke up as Mold loudly opened. She looked up and saw Albert staring at her. And then she looked down at her own body.
There was a stunned silence as she lifted her metal arms up to get a better look. Her body was covered in a hard, but flexible metal skin. Even her face and head were covered. "What is this ?"
"It's the shield." Albert said.
Except for her eyes, she was completely metallic. "This is weird." And then she remembered her hair was gone. She rubbed her smooth skull and saw Albert realise his mistake. He put his hand to his mouth and looked genuinely embarrassed.
"Your hair." He said like a remorseful child. "I'm so sorry !"
But Corinne was so busy examining her new body, that she shook her head. "It's okay." She said. I can always get a wig. But this is so ..." She flexed her hands and arms watching the smooth and seamless metal shell around her.
Albert was a bit stunned.
She spread her legs and showed off her body. "This is like the thing I've been looking for !"
Albert was puzzled. "How do you mean ?"
Corinne looked at Albert. "I'm a performer, and this is one of the coolest gimmicks I've ever seen."
"But it's an environmental protection screen. It's meant for people
in dangerous situations. And we must test it."
Corinne felt almost sorry for Albert when he shook his head. He'd looked into the microscope for the fifteenth time.
"Are you sure it doesn't work ?" She asked.
Albert was on the verge of tears. "It covers the body, but it isn't impermeable, like I expected. It's useless..."
"What's wrong with it ?"
"I designed the shield to work as a one-way door. It enables the skin to breathe and protects it at the same time, but something has gone wrong in the crystallisation. A complete failure and ten years of research down the drain."
"Can't you fix it ?"
Albert looked at her and remained silent for a moment. He eyed up the silver woman and said. "I gave you my last money. I thought it worked."
She reached for her purse. But he stopped her. "Keep it, I'm ruined anyway."
Albert got up and walked up to Mold. He watched it and said the words the acronym was made from. 'Metal On Living Dermis'.
But suddenly Corinne got up and put her hands on his shoulders. "I think I have an idea. Can I call a friend ?"
"Sure, the phone's downstairs." Albert said a bit stunned
by her sudden outbreak of joyfulness.
Albert looked apprehensively at Thomas who was sitting behind Mold's main computer. He grinned nervously at him when he looked back.
"Are you sure this will work ?" He asked with a hint of worry in his voice.
"If I've got this thing figured out right, I'll be a riot, man."
And he pressed the return key.
Mold opened and behind curtains of steam appeared something that made Albert and Thomas drop their jaws.
Both stared with open mouths at the gleaming silver robot-woman. She cocked her head towards them and touched her temple with the tips of her fingers as a greeting.
Thomas stared at her and noticed there wasn't a single hinge or seam in the metal skin. Even Albert seemed to be enthralled by it and let her get before him. With quick automaton-like moves, she teased him and snapped his suspenders. She then walked over to Thomas who could not prevent himself touching her. The metal skin felt surprisingly cool, like real metal.
"Cowabunga !" Thomas said.
Albert just was rubbing his glasses with his dirty handkerchief. "Aesthetically speaking you looked quite ..."
Corinne smiled, the shell on her face was flexible enough to give her facial expressions.
"Just add some silver contact lenses..." She turned around
and even Albert felt that particular buzz in his lower regions but didn't
really know what it meant. Seeing her plain silver eyes. She'd added some
make-up to highlight the best features of her face.
"And tonight, we have a very special act." Jay Lenno said at the end of the opening monologue standing with his hands in his pocket. "I've never seen anything like it. Have you Kevin ?"
"No, Jay, It's pretty cool." Kevin Eubanks answered
"We'll show it later, but now my first guest just after the break..."