Loren and the Machine
Loren and the Machine is the third story written and illustrated by Yuriko Toru. It ran in Special Issue 12 at http://s2b2.livejournal.com/353218.html, and is mirrored at http://www.shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/loren-and-the-machine/.
In 25 Words Or Less
Loren meets a mechanic who's a cyborg, and has to face her own unconscious racism, her brother's mortality, and her growing affections.
The title started as a joke. (My working title was "Steampunk Cyborg Lesbians".)
I named Loren and Michal to be deliberate misspellings of Lauren and Michael, because I wanted their names to be common but unique. Max, I wanted to be easily assumed to be male, so I went with a male name.
Max's mechanical eye is not so much an accurate replacement as it is an augmentation, like Mad-Eye Moody's mad eye. The actual mechanism is a repurposed camera lens; it sees, but differently than a human eye, which is why she can close it -- to stop the cognitive dissonance -- and it's capable of taking digital photos at any time, as well as superimposing images from her computer over the world around her. The computerized parts of her brain work similarly; some of the programming replaces the damaged decision-making and personality circuits in her mind, and some of the programming does things like, say, capture and store digital photographs, or browse the internet.
The illustration was done entirely freehand, so no, it's not perfect. I'm not a digital artist by any means; the closest thing I have to a drawing program is MS Paint, which, as anyone knows, is almost entirely useless. (I say almost, because MS Paint Adventures remains a thing.) I had originally planned to illustrate Loren sitting at the coffee table with her head on her folded arms and Max sitting across from her, but I'm apparently best at drawing the same thing three or four times until I get it to look the way I want it, plus I'm very bad at drawing anatomy from memory and didn't have a model handy, so I did the title page and ran out of time to do anything else that wasn't ostensibly identical. Again, the whole thing was done by hand; the only digital part was the filter I slapped on it to even out the colours. I considered doing the title digitally, but couldn't get what I wanted.
I was originally aiming for a more steampunk universe, but the image I had already of Max (plus my lack of time) forced me to make it more modern-plus-tech. Steampunk tends to present itself in bronze and sepia colour palettes, but Max was very pewter-and-steel grey, so I had to colour the world to match, in a way. Basically, she would've been out of place in a properly steampunk world, so I made it more cyberpunk to better fit her and her shop, and Loren followed.
A Dragon is a model of land-and-air craft; a Cobra is a racing motorcycle-type thing, designed for speedy desert travel but used in big cities by the same assholes who, in our universe, take the mufflers off their bikes to compensate for their lack of redeeming personality traits. The idea to name essentially every vehicle model after appropriate animals was inspired by a combination of what modern vehicles follow that convention, Red vs. Blue, and the existence of the Vespa. (In this universe, a Chupacabra is a model of tractor, the Warthog is a Jeep-type vehicle designed for sand, and a Puma is a car similar to a Jaguar.)
A huge thanks to Bird for the thorough beta, and for kicking my ass when I was being a lazy, unmotivated asshat. Bonus thanks to the editors for putting up with my tardiness twice in a row, and for their kind comments. Also for being awesome.