From the author: What's an FX master to do when someone assaults his wheelchair bound granddaughter?
“Your grandad’s in the FX cupboard again,” Lily said, throwing herself into a chair.
“Oh?” Cat said, a sense of dread creeping up. Grandpa Sam had been protective of her since someone had wheeled Cat off the train during rush hour, shouting that her chair took up too much space.
“He’s running rings around the new hires.”
“That’s great,” Cat said, putting her sandwich down. “Do you want me to ask him to stop?”
“No,” Lily smiled, pulling her hair up. “If having Sam here helps, it’s good. It can’t be permanent, he’ll make the newbies cry if he keeps at it, but until Friday it’s fine. If you need longer it’s fine too. Now, after lunch can you let me know how you’re getting on editing Steven’s latest disaster?”
“No problem,” Cat said with a nod, reaching for her sandwich then stopping. “People don’t think I’m here because of Sam, do they?”
“No one knew about Sam until he came in, glowering like a vulture at anyone who looked at you. And reminding us how the office could be more accessible, which is no bad thing.” She smiled again, the wrinkles around her eyes matching her fake lashes. “Don’t worry about it, Cat. Anyway, if he keeps it up I might have to hire him, he’s still great on animatronics.”
“He’s always kept his hand in,” Cat said.
“We should see about getting him to do a presentation on the changes in FX since he retired, I’m sure we’d get a huge turnout. The great inventor critiques”
“I’ll suggest it,” Cat agreed between mouthfuls.
Grandpa Sam was waiting for Cat at the end of the day, measuring tape in hand.
“Come with me a minute, Bast,” he said as he pecked a kiss to her cheek. He never called her Cat. Bast was a goddess who protected them, he said, and it suited her better. She followed him down to the tech department, huffing at the smell of plastic and glue.
“What do you need me down here for?”
“I want to test something – the boys are all too heavy and I know you’re just a bit bigger than what’s needed.”
“Cheeky!” She laughed, batting his thigh as he opened one of the larger workshops.
“It’s serious business, we need this to move realistically and walk up steps with a camera attached.”
“I thought you were just haunting the new hires.”
“They don’t know how to spot a problem before it becomes a problem, Bast,” he said with a wink, taking her to a set of animatronic legs. They were thick set at the top with a dark, textured wrap over the mechanisms. A body, like a bucking bull, sat on top. “Can you lift up to it?” he asked, looking between her chair and the chassis.
“I can make it,” she said, pushing up on the arms of her chair and pivoting her body weight into it. Her arms were always strong, stronger still since the accident, and she swung herself onto it side saddle. It wobbled a little then stabilised and Grandpa Sam nodded with a smile.
“That’s good – I knew you would be perfect for it. Could you sit with your legs either side? Some of the old cameras have to be attached on both sides.”
“I know what you mean, grandpa,” she laughed, swinging her leg over to sit astride the body. It was slimmer than expected, her legs were snug to the middle and she could feel the give for movement. “I’ve been learning a few things.”
“They tell me how well you’re doing. When they’re not grumbling at me for pointing out issues.”
“They’re still new, play nice,” she said, rolling her eyes at him. “Anything else?”
“No, that’s perfect. You ok coming off?”
“I’ve got it,” she said, slipping from the odd get-up and back into her chair.
“Ice cream on the way home?” he asked as they locked up.
“Mum will actually skin you if you take me for it again, she worries about me getting fat.”
“How can you get fat when you’re pushing that chair around all day? It’s more exercise than she gets,” he said, shaking his head.
“Let’s save that for Friday. It’ll be your last day, we’ll need a treat.”
“Only if you want it to be, Bast, I don’t mind coming back.”
“I know Grandpa, thank you,” Cat said, taking his hand. Grandpa Sam always had callused hands, from working with robots and things that bit back, and Cat’s were starting to match them now. She held a silly bit of pride about that: a sense of having worked with her hands, even if not in the same way. “I have to function in the world, though.”
“That you do, my heart, that you do.”
Friday rolled up quicker than Cat liked, and she went down to see how Grandpa Sam was doing.
“How has your last day been?” she called as she entered the workshop.
“Bast, you scared the life out me!” he said, jumping up from behind a bench.
“You didn’t hear the crunch of me rolling over all this rubbish you leave lying about?”
“A man gets focused on something, he doesn’t pay attention,” he said with a laugh. “Your timing’s perfect, I’m just about done.”
“With that rig you were working on?”
“Exactly. Come see.”
He led her off to the back before whipping a plastic sheet off a long-bodied shape. Wheeling closer Cat could see the base rig was now a full creature; a neck stretching up to a head and a wicked tail peeking out behind.
“It looks like one of the raptors from Jurassic Park,” she laughed, running a hand over the dark skin.
“A good eye. See if you can still sit up on it?”
Cat hefted herself onto the body and it shuddered into life, clicking and whistling like a crow. It took a few tapping steps then stilled, head bobbing.
“Is it meant to do that? Seems like it would give shaky footage,” Cat said, tapping the back of the skull. The head darted forward and snapped, the teeth giving a metal clink as they came together.
“About that. This isn’t for a camera, it’s for you.”
“Grandpa, you can’t go stealing parts of the company’s props,” Cat began and he held a hand up.
“I spoke to Lily, so long as I show them how I did it they’re happy. You can walk on the train or up the stairs, you can you defend yourself should anyone try to touch you, and the tail collapses in so you won’t take up room. It can even hold your chair when that’s folded, if you want – the body has room inside.”
“Are you serious?” Cat asked, moving around on the creature and watching how it went with her, the head swinging and curving like a bird’s.
“Absolutely. It’s light weight and compactable, there’s a harness for the seat, and it can bite the hand off anyone who tries to mess with you.”
“How does it handle going for ice cream?” Cat asked.
“That’s the one test I haven’t run yet. Want to help me?”
“Sounds good, Grandpa.”
This story originally appeared in Ravenskald.