Vale sat in the observation room, watching Dash as he worked. He placed his fingers on the metal cast, hitting a button she hadn’t seen before. A small screen suddenly hovered above the cast. Dash sighed, “I really should put a tracker on you. Your stunt today set you back a bit. I’d put you on bed rest if I thought you’d listen.”
He swiped his fingers and the screen vanished. “What’s the point of helping you if you are going to make it worse?” He stared at her with exasperation before looking down at her leg and pulling on a small lever she hadn’t seen before. She felt a sharp pain shoot up her leg and bit back a groan.
His face softened as he looked up at her. “How are you feeling?”
He grinned, “I mean physically. Can’t fix the emotional stuff.”
A spasm of pain shot up her leg, causing her to grip the examination table. She scrunched her eyes shut and took in a breath between clenched teeth. Vale felt a sharp pinch in her thigh, right above where the cast began, and immediately felt the flaring pain dim.
“This leg is waisted on you Raven,” Dash said, his tone chorded in frustration. She opened her eyes as he put down his syringe.
“Vale,” she said. Dash turned to look at her. “My name is Vale.”
“Nice to officially meet you,” he said holding out his left hand. She held up her left hand, self-conscious of the metal that made up her left side. He took it, holding it up to take a look at the material. “Very intricate work. Sky’s fingerprints are all over this.”
Vale was uncomfortable with the attention. “He didn’t make it. Just added a few upgrades.”
Dash nodded, running his finger along her forearm, his deep green eyes analyzing the plates where skin used to be. Vale was thankful that she couldn’t feel his touch, as he continued to stare, his brows furrowing with interest as he moved. “Yeah, the framework foundation isn’t really his style. Who designed it?”
Vale shrugged just to have something to do. “Not sure. I woke up and it was on. I had a bad accident while I was a lightning seeker on The Libertatem.”
Dash paused for a moment, his fingers in mid-air. Then he glanced up at Vale. “Why’d you leave?”
Vale sighed, “not really my choice. The ship crashed.” She looked away thinking of the crew. “The crew died along with our captain, Mortem.”
Dash’s face shot up, his brows raised. Shock flashed across his face. “They all died?”
Vale nodded, gripping the table with her metal hand as memories of her crew flashed through her mind. “Yes,” she whispered. “All of them.” She felt the table groan under her fingertips and instantly let go. Looking down she gasped at the finger-shaped dent in the side. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize...”
“It’s fine. There’s a learning curve with tech. I’m just glad I wasn’t your punching bag. Don’t think I’d survive a direct hit.” Dash pulled up a chair and sat down. “While you heal, you can check out our training room to get a better handle on your tech.”
Rubbing his fingers through his hair his face grew serious. “Since you are stuck on my ship for a while, there are a few things you should know and a few rules you need to follow.” Vale held her breath, waiting for the catch that she knew was coming the moment she was pulled on board.
“First, this is a hospital craft. We travel around fixing the broken. That’s why you are here. We get a lot of people passing through here. We will have an influx of guests over the next few days.”
A sudden spark of hope filled her. “Have you ever come across a shipwreck?”
“You are referring to The Libertatem? No. I had no idea a lightning seeker ship went down until now. It’s strange that it wasn’t reported.”
Vale bit her lip. The AI’s have erased all proof of them. They really are gone. Dash continued. “My crew is using their downtime in between the passenger influx to get some well-deserved rest, which is why you haven’t seen anyone. Floors six through eight are off-limits. You can’t access the floors without my handprint, so don’t even try. If you do find a way onto that floor by some miracle, you will be thrown off the ship. No matter where we are, land or sea.”
His threat made her miss Mortem. “Noted,” Vale replied.
“Good. Now, let’s change out your cast to a smaller more mobile one. I should have known that the large one wouldn’t keep you from unleashing your chaos on my ship.”
Vale ignored the jab and changed the subject as he began to remove pieces of the cast. “So you and Sky are cousins?”
Dash nodded as he pried off a gear underneath a piece of sheet metal. “Yep. Known each other our whole lives.”
“And you two hate each other?”
Dash hit a button and the entire cast fell open, revealing a thin metal casing underneath. “I prefer words like.. despise, detest, loathe. But sure, hate works.” He tapped on a small screen on her leg and several sheets of metal moved. He reached for a set of tools and began to add two braces, one to each side of the metal casing.
Dash sighed, looking suddenly tired as he worked. “He was like my brother. My dad raised us both when Sky’s parents died. My dad’s a doctor. And while I had a knack for understanding the human body, he was gifted at fixing and creating things with metal. I would diagnose an issue and he would find a creative way to fix it.”
Dash finished adding the braces and Vale found that it was built so she could move around much easier. “Much like this brace,” he said, motioning to the cast pieces on the floor. “My goal was to heal even if it impeeded physical movement for a while. The human body knows how to fix itself, it just needs a push.”
Dash leaned back, motioning for Vale to move her leg. She was able to bend it slightly. Dash leaned forward and adjusted the braces. “But Sky... He was less patient. Creating workarounds. Things that pushed the human body so people could keep working, keep moving.”
Dash helped Vale stand up. He motioned for her to put some weight on the casing. She was able to walk but found it awkward. “How’s that?”
She nodded, “much better.”
Dash gave her a sad smile. “Yeah. Everyone prefers the Sky route.” Vale sat back down as Dash knelt in front of her, checking the metal around her ankle. “But I didn’t care if people wanted to do things his way. We were a good team. We could fix anyone.”
“So what happened?”
Dash stared up at her, his eyes becoming dark. “Core.”
The name was familiar, she had heard the name- no seen the name before. The image of a screen filled her mind. “The leader of the Ignitors.”
Dash nodded. “Core died, and it was our fault.”