CONTEXT (IF DESIRED) : The pilots responded to a distress signal and discover it is a crashed ship of the Medusa Cascade, the larger organization the Serpent Star is part of. The MC ship had an advanced 3d printer that was broken in the crash, turning into a mix of The Thing and a Grey Goo swarm.
There wasn’t much space on the Apophis. At least, not the personal kind. It had been hard to find the time and privacy to work on her little project without people asking questions. Not that long ago that she’d been the caretaker of a glorified gas station. She wasn’t sure which was worse anymore.
It had been weeks now since she’d joined the crew, finally feeling like she’d earned the trust of ‘Chief’. Now here she stood, nervously fidgeting while he looked over the small collection of photos she’d managed to stitch together.
“From Limbo’s mech you say?” He looked up at her. “Why do you have them then?”
“She’d torn them up, Chief. I thought I’d,” her voice trailed off for a moment. Why even had she done this? “I thought she’d want them?”
“They’ve already been replaced in her cockpit. Did the final check myself before they dropped to that iceball. But…”
“But I didn’t see any of these in there.” He handed her back the collection with a shrug. “I wonder where she stores them.”
“Is she printing them then, maybe? I couldn’t find any print-orders that matched this kind of output.”
“Seems a waste of resources or space to me. We may have a glut of hard matter for now, but not even the Lancers can go around doing unlogged printing. Please ask her to report the prints properly in future.”
“Me, Chief?” She blinked in surprise. “Why me?”
“You get her to talk. Besides the print-order for her mech parts finished and I’ve got far too much on my plate with those damn-…” His eyes meet hers for a moment, before he just sighs and gestures at his screen. Vandalism had flooded the queue and even chief Olayika was having to pick up some of the work orders. It had taken her a while to understand that the man in front of her wasn’t wasn’t the actual chief engineer, but possessed managerial skills his superior lacked.
She could feel the tension in the air and just hoped that when the rest of the Serpent Star were finally booted off the ship she’d be allowed to stay. If she could get a Lancer to vouch for her though…
“I understand, Chief. Leave it to me.” She gave him a smile she hoped conveyed her opinions before she left the cramped little office and stepped into the mech bay again.
The mechs had escaped the nanites better than they had their first encounter; leaving the engineering team more time to handle the ship-side problems. She gave a little wave to the crew working on the giant of a mech named 929, as she approached Innocent Until Proven.
The pilot of that beast seemed an odd man to say the least. Not just the last survivor of some long-dead empire, but a manufactured clone. Abby hadn’t spent much time working on that antique and now felt herself confused by the demand for it’s weapons to be spread out in some form of ‘arsenal display’ ritual. It was hard to imagine a time when resources were so easily squandered, but whatever H.A. used to be, it clearly saw some value in the practice.
Who was she to judge, anyway?
The hunched form of Innocent Until Proven lurked in it’s corner of the bay, hunched over the pallet of parts like some kind of predator over a fresh kill. It seemed the only work done between the Lancers’ return and the start of her shift had been the delivery of parts. Everyone else was too busy with worse-off mechs or work orders around the ship. While Limbo had avoided the worst of the damage, there were countless damage points easily visible and gods only knew how badly the internals were compromised.
“Limbo scares off the folks you don’t huh?” she sighs, as if somehow the machine could hear her. Several of the other mechs could of course, but Limbo had no NHP copilot. “Well, I’ll take care of you then, once I’ve talked to your pilot. Do you know where Limbo is?”
Her gaze turned towards the pallet again. There was surprisingly more on it than she expected, and a glance over the receipt made it clear why. In addition to the Metalmark’s parts there was what seemed to be some kind of combat hardsuit. The printID codes for the parts were in ancient formatting akin to the relic piloted by the woman Abby only knew as Sidewinder.
“We print a lot of this ‘SSC’ marked stuff, don’t we Innocent?” She pauses, as if expecting a reply before removing the mobile speaker from her pocket. The music selection wasn’t large, but it was better than humming to herself like she had been.
It didn’t take long for her to get started into removing the restraining straps from the pallet, trying to sort through parts. 929’s repair crew had given her an idea.
The mech bay had become far quieter by the time Abby was ready. Her active hours may have been called the night shift anywhere with a real day-night cycle. The other mechanics still working were busily engrossed in their own projects, after a few had assisted with some of the heavy lifting of her own.
Astraia had been kind enough to summon Limbo to the mechbay and alert Abby of her arrival. The short woman’s eyes narrowed as she approached Abigail, who threw as close to a proper salute as she could manage.
“Your gear, Ma’am!” Abby gave her best impression of Johnny, before cracking into a smile. “I hope it’s to your expectation?”
The ‘Duskwing’ combat suit had been set up on a frame mount, ready and waiting for fitting and final assembly. The thing’s multiple arms resting crossed over its chest. Arranged before it were the still closed transport cases for all the equipment that had been printed with it.
Limbo crouched to open a small case beside her, slowly pulling out a hatchet that looked similar to those carried by her mech. It was heavy and almost comically large in the small woman’s hands. “Yes. This seems in order.” She said simply as the weapon was placed back in the case before she moved on to the next.
Carefully folded, heavy fabric was pulled free in Limbo’s hands, a camo cloak that matched the one draped over her mech. The pilot pulled the fabric around her shoulders, a smile cracking across that scarred face that Abby had never seen before. Contentment, maybe. It was a look she wished she could see more. But she could at least capture this one.
Abby pulled out her comms as quietly as she could, thankful for the camera built in for the first time in years. The pilot froze, the smile falling apart and those slitted eyes sliding up at the clicking shutter sound.
“I… sorry. Should I delete it?” There was a tension in the air Abby had no idea how to handle. “I thought you liked photos? I thought you’d like more of them, with us, you know. On the Apophis?”
The pilot’s eyes were still locked on hers. Silence hung heavy in the air as Abby’s voice trailed off. The looming form of the mech over them seemed to fill the room.
“Do you like it?” Limbo finally spoke, her voice as flat as ever.
“I-..uh?” Abby looked down at her comms, “The photo? Yes? I think. Do you want to se-”
“Keep it then.” Limbo turned away from Abby as she stood, the cloak held in place with one hand. She moved towards the combat suit itself, the fingers of her free hand trailed along another case without opening it. The pilot took a closer look at her new war machine.
Abby paused, unsure if she was about to do the right thing, but steeled herself for whatever reaction was to come. Among the collection of parts for Innocent Until Proven’s repairs was a case that didn’t match the rest. She’d put it aside after carefully going through the receipt.
It was large, and hadn’t been officially requisitioned.
“Limbo… Iska. May I call you Iska?” Abby watched the smaller woman’s head tilts towards her just enough to make it clear she was listening.
“Iska, who is Pfe-,” Abby narrowed her eyes as if it would make the written name easier to say, “P-fayf-”
“Pfeiffer.” Iska corrected quietly.
“Pfeiffer. Okay, who are they? Why did they print you this?” Abby presented the case, the name had been scribbled onto a tag, but that was the only marking on it. The thing was almost as tall as Iska but surprisingly light.
Iska stepped forward slowly, the cloak falling off her shoulders as shaking hands reached forward. Abby was taken aback, letting the pilot take the large object without fuss. She’d never seen her like this; she could almost swear there were tears in those golden eyes.
The thing was laid down, simple latches popped open, and the contents revealed. Abby’s eyebrows narrowed in confusion. It was already a non-standard case shape, but the interior wasn’t standard crashfoam. The case’s contents sitting in carefully moulded support.
“What even is this thing Iska?” She breathed quietly, “I’ve never seen kit like that.”
“It’s not for a mech.” The pilot reached down, but pulled her hand away again, as if scared the thing would bite. “I didn’t order it.”
Abby looked around nervously, but it seemed like they were alone in the room. Save for the NHPs, of course. “Then who did?” She whispered.
“Abigail. Do you trust me?” there was a tone to Iska’s voice she’d not heard before. Iska was gazing up at her mech when Abby turned to face her. The case was held in her hands and as Abby watched the pilot stood again, practically hugging it to her chest.
“Yes! You saved my life!”
“I didn’t kill you, you mean.” Abby was taken aback, but nodded quietly in reply. Iska turned and started towards leaving the mechbay. “Come with me then.”
She felt her cheeks flush for just a moment, having to jog a few steps to fall in pace with Iska. “I’m still on shift for a few more hours.”
“You’re on break.”
“Oh. Okay. But Iska. What IS that thing?”
“It’s called a cello.” The pilot stopped and looked her in the eye for a long moment, tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. “My cello.”