WARM UP THE GARAGE MIND
“I’ll need tools.” I mumbled low in monotone. My single overseer sat silently on the deck just on the other side of the small fighter. All I could hear was a few whale moans, just barely audible to me despite the Niaron’s size.
“Display tools.” It said. The Niaron head was a thing to behold. An asymmetrical “boulder” presented itself to me, leaning over the edge and sitting atop a short thick neck that had an uncanny ability to divulge it’s dexterity by avoiding the leading edge of the canopy with a precise left tilt. The flat black surface was broken only by a few accoutrements. Two small fine mesh grills set at 45 degrees near what should have been a chin, two oblong rectangles of glass just above those, and two nine sided glass panels set farther apart that stretched just past where temples and forehead should have been. The rectangles had a faraway yellow glow to them that was easy on the eyes but also seemed to slowly evolve thru a strange spectrum. I had seen the nine-sided eyes glow only when there were a group of them outside my cell and they were in the depths of some unknown conversation. He/it leaned in a little closer and the “nine-sides” began to glow. “Display I.” He had planted himself (,and I’m still uncomfortable with assigning “it” gender!), just rearward of the cockpit. One right hand was on the wing and the other right hand was slowly sliding over one of the three I.M. intakes. The four fingertips were doing an eerie jig across several access panels. One left hand was down on the deck and the other was halfway down to the nose of the craft.
“Show you tools?” My interrogative provoked a short gurgle along with a rapid blare of clicks.
This language barrier seem to be falling but I wasn’t sure yet if that was a good thing or not. The “Yeah!” was enthusiastic enough to charm but it also had an interrogative inflection. This thing was learning on the fly. I’d have to steer its’ education wisely.
I gave a slow look-over of the Niaron. The cloth in the joints of it’s’ limbs was a light grey with the same mesh pattern as the “mouths” on the head. The thorax was over four meters wide with four lobes that suggested musculature for each arm individually. The fingers were high dexterity, long, and six jointed with silver pads on the tips and what appeared to be slot for retractable nails on three sides of the pads. Small, flat boxes of various sizes and shapes adorned each segment of every limb as well as the abdominal area. Hard-points at the hips held a sword on the left and a dagger on the right, both were far too large for me to wield. There was no side-arm or rifle. The tip of the swords scabbard had a black ball-bearing in the grasp of four fingers. The nails were protruding to complete the grasp and the function was apparent when he/it had sat down. The scabbard was kicked out with a lower hand to accommodate the sitting position. This black titan looked alive yet was stoically still most of the time with its light grey accents between flat black,,, metal?
I made gestures with my hands being careful not to fall off the thin railed ladder on my side. My left palm was presented flat while my right index finger seemed to write onto it slowly. The next thing that happened threw my eyebrows way back. The hand that had been on the intake/collector housing went back to the arm resting on the wing and flipped open a long thin panel. A strange sheet of black foil was pulled out and gently spread out on the anti-glare plates just in front of the forward canopy, like a picnic blanket. It hung halfway down either side of the hull. I reached out in a lean and touched it slowly. The texture was like a fine woven fabric. Next, from the thin lid down on the arm a meter long stylus was retrieved. It loomed over to me in a smooth and precise motion. “Size.” I stated in a normal tone. My attendant sat straight up and with both left hands took the stylus and broke off an end. I was given a piece about 20cm long. This was all done without any motion from the “boulder” atop the neck, in other words, without looking back, down, or around.
“Scaffold.” The lack of inflection made it hard to understand.
“Yes. Please.” My lean was as precarious as I could make it appear. This told me I might well have an importance to my captors.
“Time.” A waiting period ensued.
I took the “time” to think up something useful to use as a ruse. The electrical shorts would be way too easy to fix. A fine mist of the pilots’ remains had obviously ended up permeating everything. A moisture evacuator and a multi-meter would do. I had to use something I knew they would have very little knowledge of. That would have to be some part, or parts, of the fusion system. I elected to use only one of the two onboard tool-boxes. The one with the sidearm would be it.
A small trolley was approaching from the distance. It must have come from a deck hatch as its speed would not have put it there if it had come from the command decks wall. As soon as it arrived several long, thin arms extrapolated themselves and began to unload scaffolding that was “my size”. The first piece was on my side and perfectly convenient for me to use to address the black scratch paper. I hastily drew a rough picture of an overhead view of the fighter with the thick stylus. I then scribbled out a small box to indicate “the” tool-box. With an index finger I regarded it. “Few tools.” I tapped my finger there a few times. My company pulled a long thick wire from his abdominal area and clipped the end to a corner of the sheet. My lines retraced with small lights. I think my art was being recorded.
After a moment I got the longest sentence thus far, “Use tools more make I repair time display break fabricate work.” Then, “Good.”
So, I was that much closer to a weapon yet still without much of a plan. I could only hope that it would be there, and be a big enough issue to make good use of, someday.
“Ahead tiny room.” I took that to mean it was time to return to my cell. As I restored the ingress/egress ladder as I strode down the short stairway to the deck. I started out for my “tiny room” and just as I cleared the right wing cannon my captor informed me, “direction not.” I paused for a moment. He/it/she, whatever, had leaned over farther with one hand down in the cockpit. The other was pointing aft ward along the upper Interstellar-Medium-Collector, to the lower right tool compartment.
“Oh!” I perked up and immediately turned back and went to the rear of the ship. The thick cone of the thrust vectoring exhaust system glistened in the bright star-light. Four smaller attitude nozzles all looked good and ready to roar. Back up against the trailing edge of the wing and just below it, I kneeled down at the access panel. Without hesitation I purged the seal, opened it and looked immediately to the lower right. The diamond etched butt of the 48cm hard-beam fusion pistol was there. I thanked the stars for the merest of seconds and then looked elsewhere. My accompaniment had risen and was maneuvering around to my side.
“Content?” I was pretty sure he meant an inventory of the tool box and not the emotion that the word sounded like it was asking. In any case I ignored the leather flap that obscured the over-thumb housing of the gun and began lifting out tools and naming them, “Multi-meter”, “brass-spanner”, ferrous-spanner”, “poly-olefins spanner”, as I did so I laid them all out carefully to my left. “micro-torch/welder”, “precision-manipulator set”, “Multi-conductive-isolation leads”, and as I progressed the nine-sided eyes began to glow. I ended up with a fascinating array of tools at my feet and they and I were in the “spotlight” emanating from the Niarons’ eyes. “Yes functions,” there was a pause as the head made small circular motions and then funny figure eights. “no functions.” He kneeled down and with a lower right indicated a leather roll.
“Thermo-meter.” I stated succinctly. I pulled the silk bow apart and unrolled the packet. This was not standard issue so I knew I probably had a techies’ craft on my hands. The main housing was 60cm long with a slender rotatable readout screen. It was nestled into a thick, clear protective tube that seemed to “evolve” from the light brown leather. The working end receiver was fashioned with an eight prong box. Several sensor heads were arrayed in clear, brass-weave pockets around the instrument. There were ten in all, each for different temperature ranges from sub zero to Kelvin. “It’s used to,” was as far as I got.
“Tempiurachurrr.” I turned up at him, (OK, let’s go with that designation), and cocked my head a bit to the right. “Ranges wide.”
“You are correct.” I stated matter-of-factly.
I smiled a bit but just as much as Mona Lisa had so many millennia ago. Curiosity began a game in my mind as tool scenarios also began to form. “Designate you?” I was asking him his name.
“Designate.” A top right went up to scratch at the throat with two fingers. The nails must have extended a bit because I defiantly heard the scratching. It was almost as if the neck were hollow. The smaller eyes brightened a bit. “Awonkdi Prithoooow.” A very short pause ensued and then, “Awonkdi I”, followed by, “You designate.” I knew I had his curiosity even deeper into the bag at that point.
“King Dan Ger.” In the same vein as his dispensation I added, “King I.”
“Wonk”, as I abbreviated, went into a swelling cacophony of what I could only interpret as humpback-whale singing. His arms stretched out in four directions and his head tilted back. He obviously felt pretty comfortable in my presence as this was a very vulnerable position from my point of view. One final low register bellow sank down into the depths of sub-sonic-harmonics, and trailed off. He regained his posture.
“Laughter?” I asked.
He was silent for a moment and then spoke, “Yours?” He started slowly and a chill went thru my spine. He nailed human laughter and the bellowing of the both of us began to echo off of the far away diamond ceiling and walls. As we laughed I took my first real look around. The ceiling actually curved down on both sides and met the deck. I felt a pang of momentary vertigo but kept laughing. There was a broken line of benches next to the see-thru walls port and starboard. I knew they had to be huge. I slapped my knee and felt lightheaded as we let our jubilation fade. Wonk even expressed convincingly the die-off spurts of human laughter. I was impressed, no doubt about it.
“You laugh very well Wonk. Where did you learn that?”
He was silent only for the usual moment. “Designate fourteen, human, female.” The cold bite of reality hit me. I wondered if that prisoner was still alive and I doubted it very seriously. He went on with, “sterile fierce loud sting-pitch.” I guess whoever she was she put up a good fight.
“What’s your job on this ship?” I took a chance on asking.
“Job?” his inflections were getting better every moment.
“Task.” I stated and added, “Function. Chore. Duty.”
“Chore I many this time.” I realized Wonk was multitasking this very moment. I wondered on what things those tasks might be. “Affect translation grievous?”
“I could really use your undivided attention right now.” My true intention was to get him as far away from any of the onboard systems as possible. “Can you delay any extra ta…?” I corrected my grammar, “Chores?” I wasn’t sure if he could pick up my meaning with the plural I used.
“Consider it done, King.” Eureka? “You now have my undivided attention for the duration of however long you may need it.” I won’t deny the thunder that struck me as Wonk hit me with such a refined accent that I instantly became aware that I may well have been talking to a scientist all this time.
“Thank you Wonk.”
“You are most welcome. By the way,”
“My mother nicknamed me Awon.”
“I’ll remember that.” I barely concealed my fascination. “I’ll bet she’s very proud of you Awon.” There was a somewhat longer pause this time. Emotions?
“She has gone, everywhere.” He spread his four arms in all directions and let out a lone, long and powerful whistle. The echoes lasted like a lifetime of sadness was being conveyed. The reverberation died into a whisper-of-white-noise hiss.
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