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Derma

What can two inventors do to stop the creeps, low-lifes, and predators?


     “But does it jibe with it?” A confused look crossed Nicole Zecca’s face.

     “I think that if we rejigger the lenses and affix the sensors just right.…” said Billie Graff. She stood at about five feet three inches and possessed a skin the color of the cliffs of Dover. Her hair cascaded down her back in flaxen locks. Her grey-blue eyes penetrated with a sense of discovery. Nicole’s auburn hair was cropped and swooped around her head like a tiara. She was buxom and stood about five feet seven inches. Her tan skin looked like Himalayan pink salt. She took the skin from this particular project on which they worked, that looked like an opaque, skin-tight bodysuit with points of flexible graphene that served as sensors. It also came equipped with two cameras, a microphone, and the capacity to signal authorities in case of an emergency. The two inventors toiled, and toyed with the skin. A skin that could be attached to any man or woman who wanted to protect themselves from harassment and possible assault, is what they worked on through worrisome days and doubtful nights. They had tested on various heights, weights, and skin colors.

     All of those tests passed. They had to figure out how long the suit would last. Two years? A decade or more? Billie, thirty-two and Nicole thirty-three, served as inventors in a field that no one expected could be executed. The idea of a skin that could flow with the human body; that could withstand the bumps and tumbles; that could sustain the user and provide comfort in knowing that it provided optimum surveillance over them. That comfort mattered. And Billie and Nicole would provide for the men, women, and children the assurance that their bodies would not be violated or assaulted and that their minds would not be harassed or intimidated. This skin, like silk with soft features and the ability to be just as strong, represented all that could be imagined in one piece of clothing. The sensors, delicate, ornate, sophisticated, bent and swayed with ease.

     Sensitive to the touch, each could detect the hands going over erogenous zones as well as neutral zones like the lower back. This skin could send data to a smartphone or smartwatch or desktop computer in case of any threats, verbal or physical. The intelligence behind the skin known as Derma expanded and also contracted. Nicole understood this as she tinkered. She pulled the Derma until it nearly broke like a wad of chewing gum being stretched. But it never broke. It just returned to its original form. Billie sat at the computer analyzing the various points of the Derma. She pinpointed the stress areas and where the skin might show wear. The clock ticked away the seconds for the duo to produce this material. Each of them knew that they had in their minds an actress who would be safeguarded from the advances of a touchy-grabby producer; that a female could be shielded from an overzealous television newsman; that a young man would not be molested by an overaggressive coach; that a young political intern would not be fondled by an incumbent senator. Their contracts with companies outside of the offices in Wilmington, Delaware would expire in the next few hours. What mattered most now was the work that the two would put into Derma.

     Large screens showed the skin being wrapped around mannequins of various heights and rotundity. The mannequins glided through space wearing the Derma models. Nicole and Billie outfitted them with body cameras and a microphone. The equipment remained discreet. Barely could anyone make out that cameras and a microphone set came attached to the wearer of the Derma. Nicole and Billie knew that the time remained an enemy. They had to battle with the clock and within that time frame, come up with a new, viable, and aesthetically pleasing piece of computerized tech, matched with runway style. Nicole reached for a cup of coffee. The lukewarm liquid became hot with the InstaCoffee machine. The caffeine invigorated her senses. She knew what to do now. It seemed as if a jet engine had refueled midair. Yes, she was working but the coffee caused a spike in her productivity.

     Billie looked at her smartwatch. seven hours remain, she thought. Sweat beads formed at her temples.  She pushed herself to see that this project would be completed and on time. In order for that to happen, she would need tap into his spirit and allow the flow of creativity and honest work to fill up the space in which they labored. Nicole held up to the light the pieces that would be fastened onto the Derma. She ran the entire framework through the scanners to see if there existed any tears or marks or smears. She checked and rechecked the body cameras and microphone to ensure their functionality.

     Billie threw a chair against the wall. It didn’t leave a mark as the wall absorbed the impact. Nicole just went over to the chair and made it upright. She shot a glance at Billie. They shrugged. They returned to this work. This work of uncertainty and attempting to kick time down a flight of stairs. Billie lit up an e-cigarette. It hung out of the side of her mouth. She zoned in on the strengths, now, of the Derma. It’s durability in all seasons, and whether it could withstand dampness and dry conditions all became calculable bits of data for Billie. She peered at a visual of her husband and children. They laughed and played on Bethany Beach in Delaware in a constant three-dimensional loop. She smiled. She let the curls of vapor snake their way around her head. An idea zoomed through her consciousness like a zip-liner coursing from atop a mountain. She took hold of the Derma. She bent it and curled it around and tested it for its lightweight properties and durabilities. Nicole took notice. She walked over to Billie and helped her to bend and fold the skin. They both curled it up an and undid it again. Each of the two ladies of science, of the mind, explored new possibilities with Derma. With the time winding down, they snapped into high gear and focused on getting this skin ready for the showroom. Every component had to work. Each bend, each fold needed to be on point. Whatever their misgivings about the cloth or the graphene, they made up for them with their productiveness. Nicole studied more graphs and more charts to see if the skin could withstand extreme temperatures. Methodical in her approach, she summoned up multiple screens to broadcast whether Derma could hold up against the elements. Her persistence remained a focal point as she typed in code that would make the skin resistant to fire; in the cold, it would bring you warmth; and in the summer, the components would keep the wearer cool.

     While they didn’t work in a private space program, their work seemed to share some of the qualities of an endeavor like that. The two women failed, and failed some more. The skin seemed to not keep up with the tests. Billie wanted to throw another chair, but Nicole intervened. She pushed the seating device aside and directed Billie’s focus back on the project at hand. Through frustration, through all the bits of rage that could have arisen within the two women, they fought on for ideas. Billie strove to have some sense of calm amidst the torrent of the skin not performing up to the task and with time being ever so fleeting, still, she worked. Her hands glided over the surface of the skin. She sent it back through the scanners to determine its resilience. She did this three times to no avail. The clock ticked. Nicole sat at her computer, analyzing the possible reasons for the Derma to not perform the way that it should. 

     With all of her training as a dropout from Delaware Institute of Technology (DIT), she relied on her own didactic intellect. She had scoured textbooks on her own time while working as an administrative assistant for a financial institution. On her off hours, she combed through Internet pages and interviewed major players within the scientific field. Nicole soaked up as much information to keep up with her counterpart, Billie, who graduated with highest honors from DIT. Nichole made up for her lack of formal training with her keen awareness and powerful mindset. In tandem, the two worked like the clock that was ticking against them. One would guide the hours while the other checked the minutes. With each stroke of the hour which had passed, they barely seemed to notice. They resided in a mindframe that permitted no outside distractions–whatever they may be. They distinguished the time that they spent on perfecting the Derma with the fact that whatever the final product would be, it would stand for safety, security, and beauty.

     The computer showed that one aspect of the skin performed up to task. The two rejoiced for a split second, sharing a fist bump. But there lasted no time in bringing up joviality over their unfinished piece. Like dual rally car drivers winding down a patch, Billie remained at the helm and Nicole took notes. The entire time, they drove toward excellence. Their speed match their efficiency and the skin seemed to at least take some shape and form. From the outer layer to the inner lining to the cameras and microphone setup to the sensors, everything had to be perfect. It had to be a harmonious innovation. The sweat equity was evident as the two women poured their souls into this project.

     As it flew across space, the skin seemed to be as a bird floating through the air. Billie had had enough. She looked at the clock. It challenged her. It dared her. She checked every clock in the room: the digital wall clock, the computer, her smartphone, Nicole’s watch. All of them read that they had about three hours left before the Derma would be scrutinized for further evaluation. When the two felt worn out, they just kept working. It wasn’t an aimless or rote form of plodding along to just say that they worked. No. They had a design. That design consisted of a workflow that consisted of training their sights and other senses to the facts. Always, they stuck to the premise that not only did the Derma have to be smart it had to be responsive. Billie picked up her e-cigarette and pulled in the vapor and pushed out cobalt vapor once again. Those curls that inspired her to test out the skin now taunted her somehow. Why is this so difficult? she wondered. Nicole just studied the numbers. Billie added up all the torment and agony of trying to produce this thing. The skin was nearly finished and she had had about enough. Why don’t we scrap the whole thing and start over? she thought.

     The skin glistened with its translucent colors to match all of humanity. From the walls of this super laboratory, the two scientists could bounce ideas. The room was the size of about a quarter of a football field by another quarter of a football field. It showcased lights and desks with computers, but no one sat at them. Just the two of them worked and worked until the thing was up to their high standards of excellence. Primary colors of red, blue, and yellow splashed the walls and they filled the spaces with art that spoke of life, of love, of deep passion. Because that’s what they had for their work. Nicole and Billie each possessed the ability to craft something from nothing. They saw through their ideas with confidence if not bits of anger pointed at office equipment. At least that was Billie. She had a temper and the only thing that could quell the beast within her spirit was the fact that she remained an eminent designer and engineer.

     Nicole was the opposite of Billie. Her more reserved, more relaxed nature suggested that she had been refined by years of schooling. But Billie was the CEO of their company, Praeclarus, LLC. Nicole served as chief technology officer and the two women never clashed on anything. They’d never had an argument in the fifteen years that they’d known each other. Their bond was true. Yet when Billie had her moments of tantrums, Nichole always abated Billie’s rage with a simple look at her face and then Billie was smiling. She would turn once again to the visual of her family and know that while her work came first, they were the closest second. Once again, she hunkered down to resolve this problem. She observed the sensors and noticed what kind of pressure that could be placed on them. On the computer screen, the points indicated in blue and green soft touches and orange and red rougher touches. She then tested the microphone. They would seek to have this skin admissible in court so she wanted to make sure that the glossiness shined through. It did. The sound remained exemplary.

     And the cameras and microphone and sensors that attached to the body skin would also be admissible in a court of law. Billie ensured that the entire ensemble worked in harmony and that it all functioned properly. The secret ingredient that was not so secret anymore remained the fact that the skin would be powered based on the body heat of an individual. The skin had no battery to propel its computing system. Instead, the pressure points of the body would provide fuel for the computers to run and that sat well with Nicole and Billie. Without a battery, there would be no need for recharging and no incident where the battery might leak or explode.

     But the microphone had to be a point of interest as well. It would be able to detect inflection, timbre, and tone of the voice of whomever the wearer encountered. It would pick up on cues that the speaker was being too forward or abrasive and of course record actual words being spoken. Billie fastened the microphone to the visual set. These cameras could see all of the range of the viewer in front and back and on each side. This panoramic view allowed the user to employ the Derma as an audio/visual layer of evidence that would report the scene to a smartphone or tablet or other communications device. Any creep who wanted to feel up a co-worker or speak about sexual escapades or show their privates to the wearer of Derma would be recorded and reported within seconds.

     Billie’s staunch approach to her work was matched by Nicole’s. Both women worked until their knuckles turned white, bracing the difficulty of creating a thing that had never been implemented before. They both took turns fine-tuning and testing the various aspects of the skin. From the sensors, the two could glean data from them and see if they would work every time, all of the time. The skin had to meet the standards not of some bureaucrat in Washington or some crony socialist on Wall Street. It had to meet their own standards and be available to the smart, the agile, the productive, the intelligent people on Wall Street; it had to be a deterrent against unwanted advances by politicians in any state; it had to hold up to the Hollywood actor who wanted to get a little bit too friendly with his counterpart actor or actress. Nicole and Billie kept men and women who wear this skin in mind. They devoted all of their attention to the cause for liberating the victim of any doubt. With the skin and the microphone and body cameras telling the tale, no man or woman could contend with the wonders of technology. What is most important about these two ladies remained their dedication to their craft. While Nicole executed the proper lengths and sizes of the skins, Billie noted the business details and how many orders that the would need to fulfill in the coming weeks.

     Billie sat at her desk and contemplated on the market schemes and Nicole worked on a skin that would be camouflage that would mesh well with service men and women who would claim sexual harassment or assault while in uniform. The two of them left no blank spaces on the pages in the book of constructing a feasible skin to protect against the creeps, the liars, and the predators. Each of them brought to the project a tenacity and a burning desire to achieve. Even when the body cameras drooped or the microphone gave off feedback, the persistent ladies drew on their knowledge of the field and applied it to every problem that they encountered. The skin had to be tested for flammability. It’s resistance to cold had to work for those frosty conditions. Whatever the problem that cropped up, the duo stood there to chop it down to size.

     In particular, the size of the skin remained an issue. For the heavy set user, the skin had to be comfortable and fitting. It couldn't sag or bulge. Nicole zeroed in on the problem. She added a few more layers to the fabric, but not too much. She tailored it, tucked it, and smoothed out the wrinkles. The skin looked like a living, breathing thing. It looked sheer and ready to wear. Nicole stepped back. She observed the skin from afar then came in close to see what changes could be made. Could it be nipped here? Tucked here? she thought. With a few more adjustments, she could see that the skin seemed set on a path of creation. Billie’s insistence on finding the ideal way to synch up the sensors and the audio/visual units to smart devices became her next challenge. Around the room phones, tablets, notebooks, and other devices sparked her to consider just how well-rounded the skin had to be. It had to function on any continent and send data in real time. She stood up and mapped out exactly how the skin would be worn, by whom, and for what purpose. On a giant board of the map of the world, she targeted demographics and made notes of what this skin would cost. Nicole finished up on the microphone and cameras components. The clocked ticked some more. Both of them could not stand for a break. This work had to be finalized tonight or they would’ve gone past their deadline. The two women made it their mission to sculpt, to calculate, to deliver this skin that had consumed them for at least twelve years.

     Graphics floated through space telling them the dimensions of the skin garment. Derma would be the lightest, toughest, and most responsive material known in the realm of cloth manufacturing. To add to the skin’s already impressive features, it allowed for the user to breathe and did not restrict him or her from using the facilities if necessary. The two women thought of the space programs to Mars with their designs. With all of the variables in place, the two put together a litany of more tests and retests to establish the integrity of Derma.

     What each woman despised remained the idea that this was some mystical, magical, miracle material; in press releases, some journalists claimed they had not spent countless hours calculating and preparing and cutting and sewing the pieces to their cloth sculpture. It had to be the work of the unknown and unknowable, and selfish of them to consider themselves the creators of something so pure, so simple, so sufficient. It had to be the forces of society. Without the kindergarten teacher who said that Nicole and Billie stood for being special; or Billie’s college professor who said that her mind was impotent and impossible to comprehend and which prompted her to become another college dropout statistic. Billie and Nicole banded together in these final moments.

     They paused their efforts to observe the paintings which hung on the walls of their stations. They peered at the ones which showcased the power of light and color and the distinction between the everyday, penny-in-pocket circumstances of other artists’ renderings. These pieces conveyed a sense of triumphing over their obstacles, of displaying the beautiful dimensions of the human form, and the possibility to discover truths. In one particular portrait entitled Laughing on Top of the World, a man with a smiling face arched back on a beam while laborers ate their lunch atop the skeleton of a skyscraper. A landscape offered the scene of a bountiful feast with businessmen and women from financiers and railroad industrialists to oil entrepreneurs and computer CEO’s decked out in formal evening wear–the ladies in opulent gowns, and the men in evening jackets and ties– sitting at a long table the size of a conference room table, but replete with all of the trimmings and goodies that a Thanksgiving Day for entrepreneurs could afford. The artist titled the piece, Producer’s Holiday. The two women became inspired as their spirits became refueled. The burden of the long hours seemed like coils of smoke lifting to the ceiling, now. They took one last look at these pieces and then returned to their own portraits and landscapes.

     Billie took another toke off of the e-cigarette and looked at the skin. She just looked at it for a long moment. Her realization that the skin could be too tight ignited in her a fury that could only be subdued by an active mind and a constant hand. She made the adjustments. The material could be formed to fit any body. She tore the skin off the mannequin and set a torch to it. The blaze did not even singe the fabric. She then sent it to the freezer to be tested for the cold, again. This took about ten minutes in subzero temperatures. Convinced that this creation could handle anything that she and Nicole could subject it to, she leaned back in her desk and puffed some more. The nicotine would dull the tension that coursed through her veins. Billie attempted to keep the excitement that the next few hours would be the great unveiling of this most special piece of protection.

     Nicole’s vision of a skin that would serve as the initial witness in any case where harassment or assault would be involved encouraged her to work even more to meet the impending deadline. Her diligence shown through as she studied each and every bit of design that would go into the skin. She instilled into the skin her own sensibilities. As a woman who experienced unwarranted propositions herself, she sought to ensure that her creation would prove to be seamless and work every time. She recalled the day her former boss had talked to her in a low, growling sound at an office Christmas party. She knew that he had become inebriated. He then stretched out his hands and attempted to touch her chest but she whisked his arm away and fled from his office, tears streaking her face.

      Nicole held the wisdom of the actual empirical data that would go into this skin. As a cobbler would fasten shoes, she put together where the arms would go; she mended drooping lines and sagging bits of cloth. While Billie thought that the skin was too tight, Nicole busied herself to make sure that it didn’t hang too loose, either. In synchronicity, the two women went well past three o’clock in the morning. The skin would be smart. It would be able to distinguish a hug and a pat on the back (if the wearer agreed with such gestures, of course) or a hand to the backside or groin area or chest. All of the sensors would relay these sensations in real time and allow for the user to contest in court that he or she was groped or abused in any way. Nicole applied her technical know-how to the project in the remaining moments. She lasered all of her attention into the sensors. These vital elements of the skin would be doing most of the grunt work. Their goal was to record and send back data of the touches to the body and act as if they stood as financial institutions asking patrons if they had used their debit or credit information to purchase items. It would be simple. The whole idea remained to put an absolute end to the sickness of unsought after attention. Nicole held men and young boys in the balance as well. She knew that there were millions of boys who would be more than willing to put on the suit and the audio/visual components to prevent lecherous priests and preachers from gaining access to their most valuable commodities (their bodies and minds). 

     The ferocity in which she worked put locomotives to shame. Her hands flew across keyboards; her touch reached tablets; what she made of the skin in her hand was only matched by her business partner, Billie’s, intensity. Like acrobats in unison flying through space, the two women defeated time by working simultaneously. Their efforts to bring about a change in their own worlds and as a consequence the world around them, pushed them to pursue power. Not political power, but the economic kind. They stood to increase their company’s valuation by billions of dollars if this skin proved to be successful. They breathed like they ran sprinters. That is how profound their work on this project became. But this was more like a marathon than a short burst of running. Nicole and Billie brought all of their intellectual might to the problem of survival. They had on their horizon competitors which would make knock-offs of their coveted skin. They knew this. But what kept them ticking remained their persistence and ingenuity. Nicole’s brain was not Billie’s. These separate individuals, however, could complete each other’s tasks because they remained in tune with one another. Their thought patterns seemed to synch up and allowed them to push forward through all the entanglements and snares. 

     Ideas guided them to places of grandeur. Their thoughts permitted them to reach pinnacles to not be overlooked or overshadowed. Nicole checked and rechecked the durability of the skin. Billie put it through test after test to determine its strengths. Will it withstand being torn or damaged in any way? Nicole employed a scalpel to see what slashes she could make in the material. It was resilient. Not even a scratch appeared on the garment. But what if someone attempts to take off the skin by force? Built into the skin’s DNA remained places where any would-be attacker could not get far at all. He or she would be motionless after struggling to tear asunder the Derma. She tapped her stylus on her touch screen, making little white dots around the silhouette of the skin. Billie continued her task on the effectiveness of the skin and head set. She tested the whole apparatus underwater. Computers described whether the skin could hold up under such conditions. It did.

     Billie wore a rare smile. From the pool of water, to the freezer, to the blow torch, the skin seemed ready for all elements, and the headset stood up to these tests as well. For all of their efforts, the two women could visualize the number of dollars that would be generated. But only if they had a superior product. It had to be sound and feasible. Nicole worked out the equations for the skin to perform for the smallest child to the tallest man or woman. With a few taps on her screen, she produced an algorithm to best protect the skin against damage or destruction. The skin would be famous and predators would know about whether someone wore it or not. Billie and Nicole needed to protect the innocent from these creeps. So, to do that, they struggled and fought against every dilemma that could possibly crop up during the test phase. With hours to go, the two snapped to and fought to finish the project. The money from the private grants aided them in their research. Every cent went into the the development of the skin. For these two, their salaries came first in their decisions to make the skin better. If their product failed to be as near perfect or perfect as possible, then they would just toss in their lab coats and gloves. Hours continued to tick by into the wee time of the morning. Somehow, both Billie and Nicole stayed alert and saw clearly their vision of this skin.

     Just when the time was right, Nicole took a look at her daughter and husband in a three dimensional visual like Billie’s. They moved on a constant loop in raincoats and rain boots hopping into puddles. She knew what this was for, ultimately. She held the utmost contempt for any lecher who would prey upon innocent children or even grown men and women. She kept the most resentment for women who would molest young children without the auspices of their parents or guardians. As serious as this task was, the two women still enjoyed their work. It was like filming a movie on slavery in the United States and winning the top prize of best picture at the award show. The pain and suffering that people had to go through remained not a profit for the two women. However, their toil, their undying spirit to get the skin just right would warrant any cash and prizes that they might garner. Though they had little of them left, they still had a few moments to spend sizing, shrinking, dressing, primping and readying for the launch of the Derma. This particular invention of theirs still had to be patented–they both knew lawyers who would aid them in this–and the skin still needed to be brought to the marketplace to be sold. That meant marketing campaigns, commercial spots, and their own visibility on social media sites. But they poised themselves to be ready for it.

     As a limited liability company, their size remained small but with Derma, they hoped to bring the brand into a full-fledged corporation. Billie toked on her e-cigarette. She tooled a design on the interior of the skin. The insignia of their company, a saluting female five star general, seemed militant, respectful, and like a symbol of quiet strength. Billie and Nicole brought every ounce of brainpower to this particular project. Whether Billie could hold her e-cigarette in one hand and write in the other; whether Nicole could crunch data and munch on a turkey sandwich; both women saw through and delivered on their commitment to greatness.

     Praeclarus, LLC would be launched into the entrepreneurial stratosphere with the Derma. While both women eyed the ultimate goal of being a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, they first had to deal with lint. Yes, the skin could withstand, water, fire, ice, and being shredded to bits, but lint became a concern. Billie reworked some of the elements within the material via the computer and allowed for those lint particles to drop to the floor. The fabric of the skin would offer those sensitive to the material to not sense any discomfort in wearing it. Billie looked at the molecular structure of the skin and made adjustments according to the way that the skin moved. Once she had input a code for the fabric to change its structure, the lint fell to the ground like snowflakes. Another win allowed Billie and Nicole to move forward, yet they could not congratulate each other just yet. They still had to contend with the shipping orders, the data from the computer regarding the longevity of the Derma, and they had to make all of this happen by nine o’clock am. It was now seven o’clock in the morning.

     With every action that the two undertook, there remained to be three or four more remaining. The clarity of the microphone and video; the perfection of the logo; their concerns over the wearability of the skin; all of these factors impelled the two women to create and critique their work at the same time. As the skin once again flew through the air as if a body glided through space, Billie and Nicole could embrace the material. They could discover the faults and flaws inherent in the design and make the skin better. Nicole stitched the logo onto the skin via a printer. It gleamed in platinum against the flesh colored skin. For comfort’s sake Billie and Nicole worked the remaining hours on the graphene that made up the entire skin. It allowed the wearer to roll around, to jump up, and to run out of any situation in which they felt threatened.

     The sensors and audio and visual units would all be integrated and inform the authorities of any wrongdoing. Derma had to meet their standards, not government inspectors, or political busybodies. They knew that they had to put the finishing touches on the skin. It looked like a brand new luxury sedan to Billie and Nicole. They enjoyed the way that it appeared under the lights. But its sole purpose for existing remained to uncover what goes on in the dark. When the movie cameras stop rolling; when class is over; when the government official has office hours; that’s why these ladies designed this skin. Yes, they wanted the spotlight on themselves. Who wouldn’t? Nevertheless, the main draw still remained the fact that the Derma would revolutionize the way that men and women saw sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape. The severity of the entire project propelled Billie and Nicole to look past what works and remember the tiny details that would go into the skin.

     The ticking clock seemed like a time bomb. Would their work blow up in their faces? Billie and Nicole shunned thinking about it. They engaged themselves in the hustle to piece together all of the components and have enough time left over to clean up the laboratory. The skin floated through space one last time. Now, the ladies put the final adjustments on the garment. For all of the tests that had yet to be performed, one remained: what it felt like to wear it. Nicole opted to don the creation. Billie waited for her business partner to change into the skin. She could barely tell that the skin was on Nicole. The microphone and video recorded remained discreet as well. Nicole flexed. She jumped up and down and swished from side to side. She stretched until the garment broke, nearly. Her hands ran over the smooth surface of the skin. Sensors picked up on the pressure and recorded where her hands went, exactly. Both women became convinced.

     Suddenly, the suit became constrictive to Nicole. It wrapped too tight around her midsection and chest and made it difficult to breathe. Billie snapped into action. She knew that the skin could not be damaged by fire, ice, cutting, or any of the conventional ways of damaging or destroying or altering a garment. But the skin came with computer directions. Nicole hyperventilated. She gasped for air as the skin grew tighter and tighter around her. She teared up and her face contorted into a sour frown. Billie’s efforts needed to be precise and timely. She instructed the computer to lessen the grip of the skin. Once the command entered into the software of the skin, it relaxed and allowed Nicole to drop to the ground, one knee on the deck. She inhaled for great amounts of air and rushed to the ladies room to change back into her laboratory attire. Upon her return, Nicole found Billie with a stern face looking at the computer models, wondering what went wrong. We can’t have this occur again, Billie thought her hands flitting through air to change the functions of the computer system. Why did it do that? Nicole asked herself. She still breathed in a heavy way. She sipped some water and returned to the task of improving the skin. She looked at Billie. Billie still had the severe look on her face but it melted away when she looked up at Nicole.

     A half hour remained before the grand unveiling and this snag in the development might’ve spelled troubled for lesser women. These two bonded together to produce the most efficient, safe, and effective pieces of apparel that the world would ever see. They stood on the precipice of mind and matter melding into one stable substance. Though they were in their thirties, their forever young spirits allowed them to take on the problems of the product and all of the fallout that might occur in its wake. But the issue remained: how to prevent this from ever happening to whomever might wear the skin. Billie and Nicole both went to the computers. At those thinking machines, they found a flaw in the design that had gone unnoticed with the shaping mechanism that goes with the skin. The level had been misdirected to fit a woman’s body that was a bit more petite than hers. As the two ladies redid the whole computer system, they tested and retested the skin for anymore insufficiencies. They threw sizes from zero to twenty at the skin and allowed to expand and contrast with a few taps on the tablet. This skin proved to be rather responsive.

     Billie motioned to Nicole that she would now put on the skin. After a short time in the ladies room, Billie entered the laboratory. She breathed great, deep breaths, challenging the suit to cut off her oxygen the way that it did with Nicole. It acted accordingly. No fits of restriction ever surfaced again. Nicole monitored the computer and allowed her fellow inventor to be the second runway model for the suit, just minus the breathing issues. Billie then took off the skin and put her clothes back on in the changing area. With only twenty minutes remaining, before this skin had its debut, the women banded together as sisters in the struggle. Though not bound by blood, they recognized how they came to be tied by experience and spirit. Their love of problem solving; their tireless efforts to bring perfection into the world; their endless quest for beauty in a sometimes ugly place to live; all of these attributes defined them. Their power in creating a product that would safeguard the lives of the would-be defenseless now would have a voice to keep them from falling as prey. They would be infused with the power to decipher whatever advances that may arise and rely on the sensors, cameras, and video to tell the tale.

     Believability became Billie and Nicole’s way of expressing themselves. The fact that the components of the skin would stand in for a witness too shocked or embarrassed by what they encountered would alter the court system forever. Any attempts at tampering, disengaging, or rewriting the code embedded in the skin would cause for criminal punishment. The skin would stand for the strong, the confident, and the brave to allow police, juries, and judges to understand better a given incident of indecent exposure, assaulting a man or woman by an aggressor, or any other forcible actions, the skin would provide full and utter protection.

     Ten minutes remained. The skin just needed some trimming and ironing (in a literal sense) and ironing out (in the figurative). Billie hung the skin on the mannequin. The garment looked unimpressive with the body cameras and the video glass. But that was until the lights struck it just right. It appeared as a sculpture or like Producer’s Holiday. It was beauty and an end in itself. The skin and components all formed to create an object in harmony with itself. Nicole and Billie smiled with five minutes remaining in the time frame from where the laboratory and the private inspectors would check out the skin. For being up for close to two days straight, their bodies became weary. But their minds grew more active by the second. Nicole keyed in some final bits of code while Billie pressed the skin with an improvised iron. Both women became so intertwined with this project, that they had no time to sleep. Rest to them would not come until the final private inspector left the laboratory. Instead of resorting to narcotics, the caffeine and nicotine that they imbibed and inhaled, respectively, took care of their nervousness and jitters. They approached these final stages of the project with a sense of “I did this, and it’s going to work.”

     Ever the optimists about their projects, Billie and Nicole elevated their game to new heights. This Derma material would be a death knell to their competition. But that’s not why they accomplished such lofty feats. It was not the destruction of a competitor which compelled them to do the hard things (and do them well). Their own selfish satisfaction of going through the process of creation and achieving the goal and seeing that creation to fruition prompted them to craft such innovations. Unhindered by the unknown and unknowable, the two women knew that their productive accomplishments did not spring from some fount from heaven. Instead, their ideas came into existence through the exercise of their minds and the exertion of their limbs.

     Nicole finished the code. Billie put the last bits of material on the Derma. The two women stepped back. They observed their finished project like the skin was a cathedral, or high performance sports car, or rocket ship. This moment signaled the final second before the inspectors would observe the Derma. They entered the space, the droves of robots. They pored over the data that the computer compiled to craft the skin. They stretched and pulled and burned and iced the skin, just as Billie did. A consensus came about from the top inspectors that made up the teams. It read that the Derma was “the most durable, comfortable, responsive, and intelligent garment ever to be produced within the last thirty years.” Billie and Nicole withheld their enthusiasm during this last phase. They knew that expressing their joy just as the inspectors roved around their work stations would somehow alter the positive feedback that had just been broadcast to them on their smart devices. Tears of splendor streaked their faces. At last, the final inspector vacated from the laboratory. Joy erupted out of the two women with a ferocity and sincerity that befit championship teams winning a match, game, or contest. They knew that the reviews rang true. Each of them didn’t have to experience infighting over who should have pulled her load or why didn’t the other one complete the data on time. 

     This meant celebration. For over a decade, Nicole and Billie had put money, time, and energy into this project. This Derma stood for bringing all people who wished to not be violated the opportunity to protect themselves. Derma would be a bellwether for the next few decades of which situations that this skin would find itself. From the smallest child to the oldest grandmother, each of them would be assured that their Derma would safeguard them from most hurt, harm, or hazard. The two didn’t burst out the champagne on this victory. Rather, they shared a cup of coffee that was smoother, cleaner, and more robust than any other coffee in the world, despite it being over six hours old. But it was hot and strong and Billie and Nicole did not mind the fact that their cups symbolized a job done well. They video phoned their families. They talked about how the inspectors gave them a passing grade that surpassed most any other teams working on projects similar to theirs. They promised that they would keep the brand Praeclarus not only afloat but with engines roaring; the ship would be voyaging with drive and purpose. With this latest addition to their host of inventions and innovations, they would be able to secure even more deals with outfitters and beyond. The possibilities mounted. There seemed like no stopping for Billie and Nicole. While wiping the sweat from their brows and putting all of their gear away, they stopped and looked around their stations. Each surface sparkled like internally flawless diamonds. With all of the work that they had completed, they cleaned up after each progression of work. They prided themselves on cleanliness which they said was close to godlessness.

“You know Billie,” Nicole said. “I think it jibes rather well.”

“Agreed, sister.”