Frank, awoke, groggy and aching in every part of his body. A stink sizzled in the air, like someone had burned a steak but then quickly tossed it outside. Behind that, a coppery smell that quickly overcame his senses, and he nearly gagged. He heard whispers and angry mutters nearby, but couldn’t make out the words. He struggled to remember when he’d gone to sleep last, but his memories were clouded. Had he gotten drunk? This felt like a massive hangover.
He moaned and tried to move, but it seemed he was restrained. With considerable effort, Frank lifted heavy eyelids and blinked against the bright lights that greeted him.
Beyond a skylight, far above him, a storm raged, pelting the windows with rain. Around him sprawled a laboratory, a cacophony of beakers and tubes and flashing lights and weird electrical coils that didn’t seem to be connected to anything. His old friend Victor stood nearby at one of the consoles, muttering to himself.
His whole body felt strange, alien. He realized he felt quite hot. Sweat beaded on his forehead and on the palms of his hands. Something across his forehead restricted full movement, but Frank could, just barely, move his head. He tilted his eyes downward.
His torso was gone. His neck joined with a smooth, featureless metal cylinder that stretched down to his waist, where his own skin picked back up. Or was it his own skin? He stared at his legs, but they didn’t look like his. The shade of skin was a little off, the hair a little lighter. He flexed his hands, but those definitely weren’t his either. He recognized nothing of the body laid out on the metal slab to which he was confined.
Frank screamed, and Victor jumped to his side.
“Frank!” Victor called. “By god, you’re alive!” His old friend tore at his own hair. “It worked! It worked! This changes everything!”
Frank screamed again, and Victor scrambled forward to pat his head and make soothing shushing sounds.
“Frank, Frank, Frank,” Victor whispered. “It’s okay. Listen. You were in a horrible wreck. Like, horrible. Horrible. I was right behind you, following you. We were going to your house. And this truck, out of nowhere.” Victor slammed his fist into his palm. “Head on. You were crushed. So I…well, I did what I could.”
“You probably don’t want to know.” Victor banged on the metal torso. “This part at least, you could say, is my body,” he said. “Of my own design. It’s got a coal plant in there. Best I could do on short notice. On the bright side, you don’t need to eat anymore. Unless you count coal. You probably should count coal.”
Victor apologized for the restraints and quickly went about loosening them. “I had to make sure you wouldn’t fly off in the storm,” he told Frank with a chuckle. “It’s quite windy up there.”
Frank struggled to sit up, swinging his legs over the side and letting the momentum lift up his new, ungainly body. The cylinder was completely inflexible and he had trouble maintaining his balance. Victor helped him steady himself. Moving drew some power from the steam plant in his chest, and he felt himself vibrate as the boiler kicked on. He heard a low whistle and realized he was venting steam from a tube behind his right shoulder. He took a deep breath, and the gurgling in his new chest felt like the time he had pneumonia as a child.
“I know it’s strange, Frank, but you really are magnificent,” Victor said. “Frank. My Frankensteam. Hah.”
Frank pursed his lips. “Can we discuss the name?”