Tófi lifted his arm over his face. The Sun was high over them and it was only morning. It wasn’t a hot sun. The air was cool against his skin. This did not change that the sun was in his eyes. A stream of sweat rolled down his temple, slithering across his cheek. It was a hard going repair. He glanced down, standing in between the operator cavity, his legs split apart on the shoulders. He kept balance and glanced behind him.
A little girl peeked her head out of her own lifter, pink cheeked, with mousy black hair. Her eyes were green, like her mother’s and she wore a stained eggshell white apron, matted with splotches of grease and oil.
“Yes, papa?” She squeaked.
“Hand me the star wrench, dear,” asked Tófi. “It’s the one in the third drawer down.”
Mjǫll pulled herself up, out of the cavity, and plopped down to the ground. Pulling up her shawl, she hustled toward an upright toolbox. Tófi watched her little hands rummage through the third drawer until she found it: a small ratchet wrench with six teeth etched into the head piece. Taking it to him, Tófi leaned out of the operator cavity, and grabbed it from Mjǫll below.
“Good work,” he said satisfied.
He lowered himself down into the operator cavity, then located the indicator panel, and began to extract it.
“Papa,” he heard. Tófi put down the wrench, and stood up again. His head peeked out above the chassis, and he saw her standing there, one hand anxiously grabbing the hem of her skirt.
“My lifter won’t move,” she said helplessly. “It’s frozen.”
The little lifter was low to the ground, a model meant for dwarfs; fine enough for a child. That’s why he bought it in the first place. The resplendent rainbow glow had faded from its synthetic fiber hull. He glanced between the lifter and his daughter.
“What do you think happened?” he asked. He smiled when Mjǫll pursed her lips together, vexed.
“The resonator isn’t working. I can’t re-mi-ti-mize.” She mumbled.
“Re-vitalize,” corrected Tófi. “Only the touch from a beautiful little girl can make it whole again.”
Mjǫll shrunk away embarrassed, looking away.
“Daaaaaad,” she exclaimed, lifting her arms up. “You’re silly!”
Tófi had heard enough. He climbed out of the operator cavity and jumped to the ground. His landing was soft. Tufts of grass crumpled under his feet padding the stony soil. He put away his tool, stowing it under his belt and beckoned her to follow him to the small lifter, bent and squat in the tall grass. Leaning against the hull, he pretended to listen to its heart, while his daughter watched in awe. Kinetic alloy absorbed energy from many sources, including body heat. Millions of resin tendrils on microscopic tundras reached out for him, responding to his caress. No power was yielded.
He reasoned it to be the battery. Mjǫll stood by, peering under his arms, watching him with big curious eyes. Tófi patted her head and reached into the power module, locating the synapse drive. Acid had corroded the jumpers, explaining why the lifter was so affordable. Out of his work belt he extracted a fine gradient, and began to sand away at the jumper studs.
“Is he dead?” she asked, worry rising in her voice.
“No,” replied Tófi, “just sleeping. Sometimes they need to sleep when they are tired. I just need to tickle his heart.” He looked back down at Mjǫll who smiled back with hope.
“The battery is his heart,” she said.
Tófi nodded in agreement, but continued his work. Once the jumpers were clean, he re-fastened them to the battery. He could see it glow in the shadows, like a mauve ember, flickering.
“Alright, alright,” he said, as he pulled himself out of the machine. Bending down onto his knee he looked Mjǫll in the eyes and nodded towards the lifter. “Now kiss it and make it all better.”
She whooped, ecstatic, jumping up and down and bypassed him to hug the lifter. She placed one kiss onto the machine’s chest and watched it creak and squeal, shiver and tremble, standing up for the first time in hundreds of years. Immediately, she bolted into the lifter seat and powered on the strength suit, raising her hands, and moving her legs experimentally.
“Happy Birthday,” Tófi remarked proudly. “Go. Try it out now.”
Mjǫll leaped over him and bounced along the dirt path, back to Orn. Wiping his hands off with a dirty rag, Tófi began to walk back to town, following behind her large, concave footprints. He could hear the chickens squawk anxiously in the distance, which made him feel unnaturally happy. It was because she was happy, which warmed his soul to know it.