Vale swung her mechanical arm as hard as she could. She hit the boy with blond hair in his stomach, causing him to stumble back through the door and hit the floor with a grunt.
Vale ran past him, out of the room in a mad dash, carrying her mechanical arm tucked under her free shoulder. As Vale moved down the poorly lit hallway, she realized she was in the belly of the ship, far from any possible escape route. Machines roared with life around her, pipes hissing above, snaking in gnarled patterns across the ceiling. Her feet clacked loudly across the grated floor. Showing small hints of the dozens of floors below.
She ignored the sense of nausea that filled her as she moved, trying to forget just how large her prison was. I need to get out of here! Racing around the corner, Vale found a ladder, tucked away against the wall. Tilting her head back she peered up. The ladder was a straight shot up leading up several floors.
Biting her lip, Vale looked around, trying to find something to help her climb. She couldn’t shuffle up while holding her mechanical arm. Spotting a set of hanging wires poking out of a nearby wall, Vale took a deep breath, grabbed one and pulled. It snapped, crackling with electricity before dying in her hand.
Wrapping the broken wire around her waist, she slung the mechanical arm through it and began to awkwardly climb up the ladder. She made it up one floor by the time she heard someone on the floor below moving down the hall.
She scrambled faster, making it up five more floors before she reached a dead end. She stumbled off the ladder and found herself in a storage room. Large barrels filled the room, stacked from floor to ceiling, tied to each other so they wouldn’t tilt and fall. A chill ran down her spine. Lightning barrels. The room was filled with electricity precariously packed across the room.
Vale remembered Boomer filling barrels just like these with lightning. She could feel the energy in the room, threatening to crack the barrels apart with one wrong touch. Seeing a door at the far end of the room, Vale slowly began to squeeze by a set of barrels, doing her best not to touch them.
She felt the ship turn, tilting the floor slightly. Barrels creaked around her in protest. The mechanical arm still tucked into the wire at her waist hit a barrel to her left, knocking it out of place and suddenly a tower of barrels spilled, hitting the ground with a crack.
Vale hit the ground, rolling out of the way just as the barrels exploded, shooting electricity in a wild frenzy. The room filled with earsplitting cracks, light so bright that Vale was blinded, rolling into the fetal position hoping to take up as little space as possible to be less of a target as the room erupted into wild chaos.
She held her breath as the room roared and she felt the hair on the back of her neck rise as the floor shook. This is bad. Stay still. Don’t move. Don’t die. Not that she had any say in the matter. The room fell silent, and by some strange miracle, she was unscorched, untouched.
Sitting up, she took in the carnage. A hole was burned into the wall to her right. A group of robots stood, staring at her, eyes red, mechanical arms opening and closing erratically. Several of them twitched, jolts of electricity zigzagging up and down their body. “Error 12001. Correction must be made,” they all wurred in unison.
“Okay... that’s creepy sounding,” Vale whispered, her eyes wide. “I need to get out of here.” She was terrified, frozen with her back up against barrels filled with lightning facing AI’s that were short-circuiting and unpredictable.
She felt a hand come down on her shoulder gently. Turning, she looked up at the boy with blond hair and blue eyes. He held his hand up to lips in a motion of silence. She stared up at him, frozen. He moved past her slowly and motioned for her to stay where she was as he moved towards the wall that had been ripped apart by electricity. He ducked through it, and pulled out the same small gadget that had chirped earlier. He had it attached to the leatherwork belt at his hip.
He held it out and scanned each machine. Several angry sounds came out of the gadget and he sighed, running his fingers through his bright blond hair. Rummaging through a small pouch on his work belt, he pulled out several small items. He placed one on each of the machines and Vale watched them shutter and shut down, collapsing on the ground.
Turning, he looked back at her, his bright sky eyes unreadable. He ducked back through the hole, walked over and held out his hand to Vale. She noticed long jagged scars across each finger. Grease covered his hands, a dark contrast to the light skin underneath. His fingers were calloused. Strong prominent veins snaked up his arms, highlighting his strong muscles.
Vale looked up at his face, confused. “Who are you?” she asked. The boy didn’t answer, his eyes still steady on her face. Finally, she took his hand and stood up, knowing he wasn’t planning on answering her. She glanced around the room, and realized she had destroyed most of their electrical supply. Guilt ripped through her. Yes, she hated that the AI ship had been sent to take down The Libertatem, but she had just destroyed electricity that humanity desperately needed.
What have I done? An angry alarm suddenly filled the room. The boy grabbed Vale’s hand and pulled me behind a barrel, ducking just as a group of AI machines came in. “What-?” The boy shook his head at her and Vale shut her mouth.
The AI’s moved, picking up splintered wood and fallen barrels around the room. They organized the untarnished barrels, moving them to the far corner of the space. The blond boy motioned for Vale to stay down and follow him. They darted from barrel to barrel, stopping to stay hidden from the AI’s.
Why is he hiding me? What will they do if they find us? What’s going on?
After several close calls, they made it back to the ladder, and climbed down until they were on the floor they had started on. Vale climbed off the later and ran her shaky fingers through her hair. So much for that escape attempt.
The blond boy motioned for her to follow. She shook her head. “No. I’m not going anywhere else until you tell me what’s going on. Who are you? Why am I here?” A flicker of frustration crossed his strong features, taking his light eyes and turning them into dark blue storms.
He held up his left hand and placed it flat against his chest. Then he took the index and middle finger on each hand and tapped them together twice. He used his left hand to make a fist then lifted his index and middle finger holding them in place for a moment, then dropping those fingers, he lifted his pinky and thumb in another gesture.
Vale tilted her head and stared at him confused. “I don’t understand.” He made the same set of gestures again with more urgency. He sighed, when she continued to stare at him, lost. He placed his hand to his throat, touching it for emphasis. “Oh.” Vale responded. “You can’t talk.” He shook his head.
He motioned for her to follow. He walked her past the room she broke out of and continued to a room filled with half-broken down machines. She froze at the door. He tapped the machines making it clear they weren’t AI’s and motioned for her to come in. He pulled over a crate for her to sit on and he began to rustle through a box. She slowly lowered herself, curious what he planned to do.
He walked back to her, holding a small screen. He tapped at it and then turned it to face her. A set of text sat on the screen.
My name is Sky. I am the mechanic. You are here because the AI’s have been given a very dangerous directive and I need your help to fix it.