When Nada returned as promised with a small bowl of soup in her hands, Manko was sitting upright with a grumbling stomach. Even now that Manko could see normal again, Nada's hair was still a red blur. Her green eyes looked at him curiously from under the short bob haircut.
Nada: ‘Ha, you're staring at my kinetic hairdo.’
She shook her head, which made her hair flash up into a bright red light, as if she was a big matchstick and her head was about to burst into flames.
Nada: ‘Here, this tomato soup will make you feel better. It's slightly enhanced with nano-tech, as is everything in this place.’
Manko put the bowl to his mouth and eagerly slurped the soup. It did not burn his mouth, so he took a big gulp and a warm stream made its way down his throat and into his rejoicing belly. This must have been the best soup he'd ever had. The warmth did not stop in his belly though, but continued to spread thoughout his body. A mellow warmth that soon reached his arms and leg. As he swallowed the last bit of soup, he could feel it already reaching his fingertips. It was as if he was being filled up like a radiator, hollow on the inside, with hot water filling him up entirely. It was a marvelous feeling.
Nada: ‘I hope you don't mind that we're introducing nanotechnology in your body. It's completely harmless, but if you think it is unethical, We can completely remove it from you again, so don't worry.’
Manko: ‘Is there a limit as to how much of this nano-tech a human being can safely have inside?’
Nada: ‘Your body can handle it. At the atomic scale the amount of empty space in your body is almost without boundaries, as I'm sure Zero will explain to you. Here, let me help you up.’
As they left the dome and traversed the empty corridor, Manko insisted to hop on his one leg, feeling more alive than ever after the energizing soup. There were several smaller steel doors. The last door opened and Antoine Gill welcomed them into his Lab. The room was filled with strange machines, unlike any Manko had ever seen before.
‘Please sit on that block over there,' Gill pointed to a white cube in the corner of the room. Manko sat down on the soft block. ‘I think It's time to get you on your feet again, don't you?’
Gill smiled broadly, then lifted a piece of cloth and revealed a beautiful replica of Manko's leg, which looked like it was made out of solid metal.
Gill: ‘When you were in the colander, I made a scan of your leg, mirrored it and printed it. Feel the weight.’
He picked up the leg and threw it at Manko. Manko shrieked and braced himself. The leg almost bounced off Manko, as he clumsily grabbed it. It was incredibly light.
Gill: ‘Allow me...’
Gill put a cuff around his thigh, holding the artificial leg firmly in place and started to connect a belt around Manko's waist, as he continued: ‘Closed-cell titanium foam is a very strong substance yet 95% of the volume consists of void space. As an artist interested in the absence of things, I am sure you can appreciate this remarkable feature.'
Manko was touched. He felt bad that he had previously misjudged Gill on the basis of his taste in music. This was an engineer that understood Manko on an intelectual and personal level.
Manko: ‘Thank you! How can I ever repay you?’ He got up on his feet and felt how the joints in his new leg anticipated his movements.
Gill: ‘Don't worry about it. If you're the missing link in our enterprise, as Zero thinks you are, then making sure you can walk again is the least I can do.’
Nada reached into a pocket of her Lab suit: ‘And this is my welcoming present to you.' She gave Manko a small transparent box: ‘I know you're familiar with AR lenses as you have used them for your KM3 project. I asked Gill to program a few extra layers in. If you blink twice in quick succession, you'll activate a tutorial layer that will explain how things work around here. And if you blink three times or more, well, you'll see. But please wait to put on your lenses until we're all at the table.’
After Manko thanked them many times over, they all left the lab and went up to another steel door. It opened when Nada approached it, giving way to a white dome, much like the one he had been in before. Apart from a few white cubes in various sizes, set like chairs around a table, the dome was empty.
Nada: ‘Welcome to our communal space. This is where we'll have our dinner.’
As they walked over to the cubes, Zero and Bokor entered the dome from the other side. Zero seemed a little distressed as he was talking to Bokor. He mumbled something about ‘children’ and ‘ecosystem’, then looked up and Manko was sure that his mustache curled up as their eyes met.
Zero: ‘Manko, how are you? Is your new leg comfortable? We could have easily merged it permanently with your thigh bone, but Gill told me that you consider your vacuum a space for artworks, so we didn't dare to disrespect your statement. Please, have a seat. Bessy has prepared a three course dinner for us tonight.
As you must have noticed when you had your bowl of soup, nano-cooking is quite different than normal cooking. At the nanometer scale, things start to behave in unimaginable ways. Smaller is not just smaller, it's different. With each step in scale, all the properties of a substance change quite radically and dramatically.
Ah, here comes Bes, our chemist and Chef. She always makes sure that a meal gives us pleasure and improves our health. You will find that the word ‘taste’ will have a new meaning for you after this dinner. In fact, a new dimension.’
Nada: ‘All right Manko, it's time to put in those lenses.’