Chapter 7: Safe Distance

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Cyrus didn’t particularly like begging. But he wasn’t above it.

Grimacing with desperation, he gripped the surface of the clerk’s counter, trying to catch the eye of the mechanic shop owner who had his back turned to him. “My ship’s not that big,” he was saying, keeping his voice casual but convincing — Fiearius was always so much better at this smooth-talking shit than he was. “It’s a small cargo vessel. I just need a place to store it for a few days.”

The gray-haired mechanic grunted, seized a tool box and hauled it away. “That’s what docks are for, kid.”

“No, that’s just it.” Cyrus quickly weaved around the counter to follow after him. “I need a place hidden, to store the ship for a week or so. It won’t cause trouble. I promise. It would just be better if, ah, a certain military base couldn’t see it. If you catch my drift.”

The mechanic started to hang wrenches on the wall, but then he threw Cyrus a dull look of agreement. “Fine. Whatever. You pay, you park in my hangar, I don’t judge.”

“See, that’s the other thing,” said Cyrus, a nervous grin coming to his face. “I can’t exactly — uh — pay for it.”

With that, the man laughed. Just once. Then his face darkened and he barked, “Get out of my shop.”

To Cyrus’ dismay, the man glared, turned on his heel and started limping away into the hangar, leaving Cyrus standing alone stupidly.

For a moment Cyrus considered fleeing in embarrassment. He certainly wanted to — but no, he had to finish this errand, no matter how fruitless. The Beacon was leaving in only a few days, and The Dionysian needed the coverage of a garage, lest the Carthian military come barreling through their doors, guns raised …

“Wait!”

Cyrus hurried to follow the man into the hangar behind the storefront. The hangar was a long, rectangular building, vast and cavernous, rimmed by miniature workshops. Mismatched tools cluttered the shelves, and oil spills stained the floor. In the middle of the room sat a passenger ship, roughly the size of a small house, covered in scaffolding and clearly in mid-repair. An idea struck him.

“I can help you,” said Cyrus, throwing an urgent look over the vessel, then looking back at the mechanic. “I can help you fix this ship.”

The man laughed as he settled on a low stool and started picking through another tool box. “You’re funny, kid. Now get the hell out.”

But Cyrus wasn’t done. Not yet. Smooth-talking he couldn’t do. Negotiations he could barely do without his brother slinging guns at his side. But fixing engines …

“Busted core capacitor, am I right?” he said, jerking his head at the ship. “They’re always going out on this model.”

The man suddenly lifted his head, a suspicious frown on his face, and Cyrus knew he was impressed against his will.

“What makes you think I need your help eh?”

“Let me guess. You rerouted the core power through the auxiliary outlet to bypass the capacitor?”

“O’course. That’s how it’s done. Replacement parts are expensive, y’know.”

“They are,” Cyrus agreed, stepping closer. “But that’s not how to get around buying a new one. I’ve seen mechanics do it all the time. It’s a common mistake. But if you leave it like that, you’re going to blow out the main line in a month. The crew will be dead in the water before the lights even go out.”

Abruptly the man dropped his wrench into the toolbox with a clank. “What the hell do you know about it?”

“Well a lot, actually,” Cyrus muttered, watching with growing alarm as the man suddenly pushed himself to his feet, his face flushing with anger.

“I know what the hell I’m doing,” he growled. “I been doin’ this since before you were born!”

Feeling a little nervous about the situation now, Cyrus started to back up on his heels, wincing as he bumped a workbench at his hip. “Oh I’m sure you do –”

“I do,” roared the man, following after him as he wound backwards out of the room, “and I don’t need some punk ass kid coming in here and telling me I ain’t doin’ it right — !”

“Oh — I know — I’m just trying to help –”  Cyrus backed up another step only to find he was quite literally backed into a corner, all the way into a workbench.

“I don’t need your help, I know what I’m doing, I fixed four of these ships in the past year!” the man yelled, and though it seemed highly likely he was about to get his teeth knocked out, Cyrus’ pride suddenly won over.

“Well that’s great,” he said, “but I designed it.”

For a moment, Cyrus thought perhaps he’d been saved. The man went still and narrowed his eyes curiously. But then he released a crazed laugh, barked, “Bullshit!” and raised his fist.

Just as Cyrus winced, ducked and braced for a row of knuckles in his face, a third voice rang out through the hangar, curious and interested.

“Soliveré?”

Both men froze. The mechanic halted with his fist in mid air. They looked up onto the catwalk over their heads.

A pair of clear grey eyes looked down at them. They belonged to a young woman leaning her elbow over the railing, a screwdriver in one hand. A pair of glasses was parked in her blonde hair, which was tied in a messy bun, spilling down her shoulders, and from what Cyrus could see she was wearing stained mechanic’s clothes.

“Cyrus Soliveré designed this ship,” she went on smartly. Her voice was friendly, but pressing. “So …  are you him?”

Cyrus couldn’t believe his ears. In all his years flying the span after leaving Satieri, he had never met a single person who recognized him for his work. Or for any other reason.

“Uh … yeah,” he managed at last.

Her head cocked to the side. She might have been teasing — he couldn’t tell. “Prove it then.”

“Prove it?” he repeated indignantly. “How am I supposed to–”

But then he glanced sideways and noticed that the mechanic still seemed like he’d be pleased to ram his head into a wall. “Um, right, well I designed the 300 Carrier, the Palladium 1, I helped on the Arceum–”

“No, no, anyone could look that up,” the young woman argued, sounding amused. “You had an interview once at Atelier Industries. With Otra Atelier, the owner.”

Cyrus blanched. He had, yes, once interviewed with that workshop just outside Paradiex. But that had been right out of school. Five, maybe six years ago? How the hell did she–

“Where did you and Mr. Atelier agree was the best place in all of Paradiex?” she quizzed.

At once, the answer popped into his head, as though it had already been there. He could hardly remember most of that interview and he hadn’t spoken to the CEO of Atelier Industries since, but of this one part, he was absolutely sure.

“The seventeenth floor of City Hall,” he answered with confidence. “On the east side lounge, the window overlooking 51st Avenue. You can see all the ships coming in perfectly. There are buildings blocking the view on every other floor.”

At last, the young woman laughed. She pulled away from the railing and started walking down the metal stairs.

“Alright, you passed. You are him,” she said, coming towards the pair. She tucked her screwdriver into her side pocket, threw out her hand toward him and grinned brightly. “I’m Adrasteia Atelier. I’m his daughter. Nice to meet  ya.”

Too stunned to speak, Cyrus stuck out his shaking hand. She had the strongest handshake he’d ever encountered.

Before he could fully understand what had just transpired, Adrasteia had already turned to the crazed, deadly mechanic. “You should take his offer, Gaar. He’s one of the best engineers in all of Exymeron.”

The man just snorted, although now with Adrasteia’s arrival, he changed from threatening to simply irritated, crossing his arms.

“Just what I need, another Sochy scaring off my customers,” he growled under his breath. But then, he looked at Cyrus and said, “Fine. Alright. You put your ship in this garage. It gets in the way of paying work, you move it. You keep any of your people on the ship or out of the hangar, I don’t want them hanging around my shop. You work from 7am to 7pm every day it’s here, no excuses.” He shoved the toolbox into Cyrus’ hands. “You start now.”

As he walked away begrudgingly, Cyrus heard him mutter, “Fucking pretentious Sochy shit… Addy, keep an eye on him, would ya?”

At last, the mechanic left the room, grumbling all the way.

After a blank, stunned paused, the woman shook her head and turned to Cyrus. “Sorry about him. He’s not as bad as he seems, I promise. All bark, no bite.”

“Yeah,” Cyrus muttered. “Sure … “ It certainly hadn’t seemed that way when he’d been about to knock him out.

Still, he began to follow the woman as she led the way toward the ship in the heart of the hangar.

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