Hey again, glad you came back for another dose of my memories!
I’m trying to keep this as sequential as possible, so we’re not moving really quickly. And, frankly, our early childhoods weren’t all that exciting, and if I don’t remember it personally I’m not including it. That leaves out a bunch of stories which my folks told me.
But there’s still plenty of stuff to tell you! So on to one of my favorite subjects!
Memories of Aiyana 5
That spring we got bikes.
Isn’t that a sort of rite of passage?
Five or six years old and getting your first bike?
Our kids didn’t; by the time they were five, we were living full-time on Njord and Enterprise. No room for bikes, but on the other hand they learned how to do all sorts of things in low gravity we never had a chance to, so I guess it all works out.
Yeah, so there we are. It was a couple months after the barn incident, and if you know anything about Minnesota weather you know that May is when things finally turn. No more snow, the fields suddenly turn green instead of brown, and all the trees are covered with leaves. The downside is it rains about three days out of four, which means it’s no fun for a couple girls who’d rather be out than in.
But it was spring, and we were five, and so our parents decided it was time for bikes.
They were nice bikes. Mine was green, and Aiyana’s was blue. She pouted because she wanted a red one to match her hair, but then her dad pointed out that the blue matched her eyes and she was all smiles again.
“Your bike’s the same color as your eyes, Kendra!” she told me.
We went out every day for a week on those bikes. Our folks allowed us to go anywhere; part of that was trust, yes. She was the responsible one, but I generally didn’t get into too much trouble when we were together. She talked me out of a bunch of dumb ideas over the years. Part of it was where we lived: nowhere! There simply wasn’t much opportunity for anything bad to happen to us, at least not from another person.
We were out in all weather, and we’d come home wet and muddy and tired and cranky because we didn’t want to take a bath. My mom always insisted I did, probably because there was enough dirt on me to lay down a new field.
One morning I went over like I always did, right after breakfast, and found Aiyana arguing with her mom. It was really pouring down, and going to get worse, so her mom forbade us from going out on the bikes. I didn’t mind; I was never that much a fan of the weather. Aiyana, though, she was really frustrated.
That’s when Aiyana got her bright idea, and she dragged me along.
She asked her dad, all innocent, if she could ‘tinker’ with our bikes to make them better. I don’t know what he thought she meant, but he said she could. Then she asked if she could use some of the stuff they had stored in the barn, and he agreed to that too. They always had a bunch of leftover equipment and parts in the barn, what with one thing and another. Then – and he really should have known better at this point – she asked if she could use his tools. I don’t know what he thought she meant. Hammer? Screwdriver? Wrench? Well, he agreed, and that was it.
First she studied those bikes for about ten minutes. I swear she was memorizing where every bolt and screw went, how it all fitted together, and how it was all supposed to work. Then she started taking them apart.
She’d undo a bolt or a screw or something, hand it to me, and tell me what to write down. I’d write it and she’d put it under the piece. And again. And again. In about thirty minutes we had two bikes, carefully labeled, scattered across half the barn floor.
We went hunting through the ‘junk’ for parts. I didn’t know what we were really looking for; she’d describe what she wanted, and I’d do my best to find it. Pretty soon we had another pile of parts, this one the ‘found’ things, and then she got to work.
She tried to pull over her dad’s toolbox, but it was a foot taller than she was and weighed more than both of us put together, so she need my help. Between us we managed it, and she started pulling out all sorts of tools. There were the ones he thought she’d use, then there were the power tools too. There was a drill, and a laser joiner, some sort of grinder thingy, and others which I still don’t have names for.
That’s when she really got to work. Over the next four hours, with just a break for lunch and my eager but untrained assistance, she put the bikes back together. But they weren’t the bikes we started with, any longer.
In fact, they weren’t two bikes. It was a single bike. Sort of.
There were three wheels across the back and one in front. The silly little banana seats were gone, replaced by the cushioned parts of two old bar stools, placed side-by-side. On the left was a set of handlebars, which she’d bent into a ‘U’ shape and mounted at the base of the ‘U’. This was her steering wheel. At the floor, on both sides, were the pedals, and these were connected to generators. The generators were connected to the batteries, all of them under the seats and all different sizes; whatever we could find.
She’d scrounged a motor and linked it to an axle; the axle, in turn, was connected at the ends to the two outside wheels, the ones with the gears. And the motor, you probably already guessed, was connected to the batteries.
Between us was a hand throttle and brake. She pushed it forward, we went faster. She pulled it back, we went slower. If she pulled it all the way back, past the middle part, it applied a brake to actively slow us down.
Over the whole assembly was a canopy she’d made out of the old broken kayak we’d uncovered.
After we finished we just sort of stood back and looked. This was totally not a bike any longer!
“You wanna?” she said.
We jumped in and started pedaling. That was to keep the batteries as charged as possible, because let me tell you that motor really put out some power! After a couple minutes she pushed the throttle forward and we started creeping out of the barn, absolutely silently.
When we’d made it to the road she dared to open up the throttle a bit more. It was still raining, but we were dry and the tires were holding up to the weight. Well, we went down that country road, turned, went some more, turned again, and by then she really decided to see what she could do. We were both pedaling like mad, we didn’t want to run out of juice, and honestly didn’t see the looks on the cops faces when we passed them.
Next thing we know they’re pulling alongside; come on, we didn’t put rear-view mirrors on it! And the one in the passenger seat’s pointing for us to pull over. Aiyana’s gone absolutely pale as she pulls on the brake and we stop.
They get out of their car and walk back, looking more amused than angry. One stops next to me, one next to Cass, and they give us that classic line: “License and registration, please.” They had to stoop because the whole thing wasn’t more than four feet tall.
Of course we have no clue what they mean and tell them so.
“Who are you?” We give our names; I was still Kendra Smith since my folks hadn’t officially adopted me yet.
“Where did you get this car?”
“It’s not a car, I built it with Kendra from our bikes!”
That wasn’t anything they were ready to process, so they moved on.
“Where do you live?”
This threw Cass, but I’d always had a good sense of direction and distance. I pointed back, over my shoulder, and said, “That way, about eight kilometers, on County Road 5.”
“Well, you ought to get home. This road’s a state road, and you really shouldn’t be riding your, um, bike on a state road. Not in the rain.”
Cass had figured out that maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea and said, “Yes, ma’am,” which I echoed.
“You sure you know how to get home?”
“I never get lost,” I said. Not bragging, just fact.
They got back in their car and drove off; Cass turned us around and, much more subdued, drove us home.
By now our parents had noticed we were gone and were waiting, in force, for us to return. I think they were going to lecture us about going out in the rain on our bikes, but that went out the airlock when they saw us pull up.
I was grounded for two weeks; Cass for three since it was her idea. Of course, grounding meant that we couldn’t use the ‘bike’; we were still allowed to play together.
Her dad and my mom worked that thing over, making some tweaks to it. When we were finally allowed to have it back we found it had a nav system, better batteries (though we still could pedal), a proper steering wheel, mirrors, lights, a windshield, all the things that would keep us safe.
We spent the rest of the summer riding around. The new batteries gave us about fifty klicks range, without charging; with some pedaling, our range was only limited to our imaginations. We explored the entire county, and most of the next county over.
Our folks made some quiet inquiries and let the local police know about our new ride, and whenever we saw one on our excursions all we got was a wave. Well, except the one time with the Northern Imperium Border Patrol, but that’s another story. Oh, and the time we accidentally crossed the border into Big Sky.