Chapter 70: Working and Waiting

“HO TEENA!” Bristol’s merry salute stayed all hands in the busy street, and at least fifty engineers stopped what they were doing to stare. The street was rank with crude oil and body odor – the perfumes of her profession.

“H-hey guys,” Teena waved weakly. Having that many eyes of her peers boring into her was unnerving to say the least. Many of them wore the ridiculous utili-cloaks that the Gungrave technical community seemed to fancy so much, burdened with pockets and pouches in the traditional gold and red. Even more wore more than 1 tool belt, brimming with anything from everyday screwdrivers to nearly-obsolete butterfly clasps. There were even a few…apprentices? Lackeys? Toting around carts of tools.

While she hesitated at the entrance, she was approached by a well-muscled woman with her hair hidden beneath a tight cap and the most casual attire of the whole group.

“Chief Engineer Tao it’s great to see you again! I was just attaching some belts and chains that seem to have slipped out of place before you handed over the keys to my new toy so I’m really busy but these GUYS wouldn’t stop shouting so I came to see what all the hubbub was about. So what’s the hub, bub?”

“The hub is that your instructions are nonsense and my patience has depleted,” Tao replied coolly. “I told that nitwit you were just buying time, and your friend has been worse than useless.”

“Hey!” Boomed Bristol, hand over his heart. She just glared back. Then crossed her arms, looking back to Teena.

“Mortimus demands a working array by nightfall, so get moving.”

“Okay, okay. I thought you guys could handle it!”

Bristol fell in step as Teena sighed and made her way to the end of the street.

The afternoon slogged by while she and Bristol inspected each gun thoroughly, looking for indicators the others had followed directions exactly. That’s what she told Tao at least, and the military police dogging her every step. They ran through many, many spare parts, half a dozen apprentices, and no small number of curses to the gods above between the two, and it was nearly dusk by the time the last cannon was flagged and approved.

Teena flopped onto the ground, sweaty as a pig and twice as greasy. “Finally!” She sighed. She rapped the big pipe wrench nervously.

Bristol sat gently nearby with a knowing smile. “It’s a right test to do the right thing sometimes, lass. Especially with so many lives on the line.”

They both jumped to their feet as Tao rounded the corner and clucked her tongue. “It’s almost an insult that someone like you bested my work,” she sneered. “Have you finished then, or will this be break thirty seven?”

“WHAT!? I didn’t take no damn thirty breaks you slovenly hag for a-”

“AYE! Ready and waiting to shoot some beasties!”

“Show me.”

Teena punched the protected command panel next to her defiantly. The resulting explosion deafened everyone.

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” Tao demanded.

“You said-”

“Ever heard of ear protection?” She replied, flipping a padded headband from a pocket.

“Ha!” Teena scoffed. “What for? My ears protect me with a constant ringing.” She giggled again at Tao’s frustrated sigh as the woman rubbed her brows, breathing slowly.

“That- no, it doesn’t matter. Excellent.Everything is in order, I’d thank you but it was your fault anyway. Take them.” Tao waved and the military police advanced.

“Ahem,” Teena said.

“You’ll get my prototype over my dead body, you little rat. You hear me? You’re going into the deepest hole I can throw you in.”

Bristol jumped as Teena smacked him with her big wrench, but something in her eye caught his attention. “Karima was right, you were two-timing me the entire time!”

She found herself staring down the barrel of a rifle and threw her hands in the air. “Alright, alright, don’t be a JERK about it.” She bent low as the man backed off.

“As you were!” He bellowed. More rifles.

“This wrench is heavy,” she complained, “I’m just gonna put it on the-”

Before she finished, Bristol pulled a flare gun and angled it at the ground, pulling the trigger in one smooth motion. The projectile ricocheted once before plowing into the group with concussive force and two pulses of bright blue light. Gunfire lit the dark night like lightning as Teena finished prying open the bay door underneath her and disappeared.

Moments later, an artillery shell popped out into Bristol’s waiting arms. “HA HA!” He whirled once before whipping the projectile into the crowd and dove aside.

BOOM

The fire charge gouged a two-meter crater in the side of a command node,tossing armed men and engineers alike into a superheated cloud of steam. The explosive round tore into the actual cannon behind them, erupting with a brilliant flash of white and blue flames.

BOOM BOOM

Teena and Bristol bolted down an alley, twisting and turning randomly in a wild flight through enemy territory. The explosions called enemy soldiers swarming into the area and they were constantly ducking or doubling back to escape the hail of bullets.

Teena’s blood ran cold as their flight ended at a dead end.

“I…I can’t…” She huffed, dizzy from the run.

“Aye lass.” Bristol acknowledged.

They turned in unison, smiling in spite of the armed men bringing arms to bear.
_________________________________________________________
The twisted darkness had morphed an eternity ago into an unending blanket of howling, shrieking monsters. Leliana had lost even the meaning of time in this tortured abyss. If she promised to stay in the cell, maybe they’d take mercy and throw her to the fiends.

She clenched one hand to stop the twitching. Her hands were beginning to fight her commands, grasping the bars or balling into fists independently. I’ll kick my own ass if I have to she threatened herself. She bunched both hands into fists and bore down on a breath.

Then her eyes began to twitch.

“WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”

The feeling of impending action assaulted her at all times now, devouring her mind until she was nothing but the wait.

Author: keyboardcouple

A couple who write and learn in front of their keyboards.

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