CONTEXT (IF DESIRED) : The pilots had boarded a wrecked old ship to find a lone survivor on board, and a group of pirate-consripts (The Serpent Star) also present and looting the ship. While the pirate ship got away, those left behind were ‘rescued’ by the player’s ship the Apophis.

She leaned forward with a sigh, head coming to rest in her hands. It had been a long day and looked to be getting longer. The Apophis was definitely a step up from the Serpent’s Stars, even if it was clear the rest of the crew was keeping their distance for now. Not that she blamed them. After all, who would trust a pirate? Especially one on punitive assignment.

“Abigail,” the voice pulled her head up, “that’s your name right? Feeling okay there?”

She gave a small smile in return. “Yeah, that’s me. Doing okay. Nearly died a few times, had to disarm a bomb, keep getting lost on a whole new ship. It’s been a week.” The figure in front of her just nodded, and it took her a moment to recognize the face. “Oh! It’s been a week, Chief.”

“Don’t stress about it, Abigail. You’ve earned a break. Was coming over to tell you to take one.” The man stepped in closer and his voice lowered, “Just one thing. Next time you store the tension gauge? Batteries are mostly universal and stored together, not with the device.”

“Sorry, Chief.” She muttered while avoiding eye contact. “I’ll do better.”

“You’re new here, I get it. Just letting you know.” She looked back to find… it’s not disapproval, but it’s not a face of warmth either. His gaze turned upward and hers followed to the mech she’d seated herself on the foot of. “Besides, you’re willing to work on this thing.”

Innocent Until Proven, even when powered down, had a predatory aura to it. Abigail had already noticed that the other engineers avoided it. Not as much as that thing Ghan had printed, but still. There was something about the mech that just felt off, like someone was watching you even when you were alone. The silence between the two was broken as Abigail stood and stretched. “Work that won’t get finished with us staring at it, Chief. Thanks for checking in.”

“No rest for the wicked, Abigail.” He left her, heading off towards a group working through the salvageable wrecks recovered from the derelict. They wouldn’t be starving for parts, that’s for sure.

She soon lost track of time as she returned to getting the old pattern mech back to working order. The heavy stealth cape had been already draped over a nearby gantry like some oversized towel. Leaving the gaunt shape of Innocent Until Proven naked didn’t do much to make it more approachable. Humming was the trick for her, just keep a tune going and the gloomy air about the Until Proven was kept at bay.

Abigail’s checklist had finally reached the cockpit, her head poking into the alcove and fumbling for internal lighting controls. She looked down at the data pad she’d been given for reference, finally finding the dial on the third try. A pale light flooding in and reflecting off an array of small paper scraps. Physical photo print outs were not uncommon at all, but what little she’d gleamed of Limbo didn’t show her as much of the sentimental type. She did her best to not disturb them as she went down her checklist, easier said than done when one was wedged into the panel she now needed to pull open.

With a gentle wiggle, she pulled it free. A young boy, a toy ship clasps in his small hands. A recent gift, she’d guess, by the expression on his face. Silence filled the space around her, broken by a familiar voice.

“Yes?” Limbo was watching her, the small pilot having climbed up to the cockpit without making a sound. “Can I help you?”

“Oh! Sorry, maintenance! You took a hell of a beating!” Abigail stammered for a moment, before looking down at the photo in her hand. “Thank you.”

Her gaze turned back to the pilot, who was just watching her with those slitted eyes.

“Thank you for saving me. Us. You didn’t have to, especially with.. you know.” She gestured loosely towards the wrecks, feeling extremely awkward now. “And Elijah. He’s doing okay, they got oxygen to him in time. Thank you. He’s a good kid.”

“You made the smart choice.” Limbo replied flatly, “less combat targets, more skilled crew. Win-win.”

“Still, look. I know you had to make some hard choices. Ones I don’t think I could have. So..” Abigail trailed off, Limbo didn’t seem to be listening to her. The pilot’s eyes slid down, first making Abigail blush before realizing it was the photo clutched against her chest that was taking the attention. “Oh, uh. Right, here you go! It was blocking the-”

“It’s fine.” Limbo took the photo, not looking up from it as she spoke. “Pre-boot sequence? Can’t sleep, I’ll help.”

“Oh, you don’t need to-”

“It wasn’t a question.”

“A…alright.” Abigail climbed out of the cockpit, Limbo sliding in with experienced ease. In truth being able to check over the mech itself during the test run would save her a lot of time and she’d not have wanted to say no. Abby retreated back to a lower arm of the mech to observe. “Okay, release the safety lock, let’s start this.”

“Safety released.”

“Testfire Pre-light systems.”

“Firing now.” Limbo’s voice echoed hollowly as they proceeded down the checklist. The blare of a failed sensor drawing a heavy sigh from Abigail.

“Give me a moment, Limbo. I think that one’s on me.” She ducked her head in under an armour plate, trying to find which of the mass of cables had been socketed incorrectly. She was far too nervous about humming now, so instead tried to strike up conversation. “So who is he? In the picture.”

“Dead.” Limbo’s reply seemed much sharper than before. Abby quietly cursed at herself before the pilot continued. “He… was… a friend of mine. Gavril, wanted to captain a ship when he grew up.”

Abigail didn’t know what to say, beyond a soft “Oh yeah?”

“Hardsuit failure. Didn’t affix his helmet correctly. Bumped just wrong while working outside the station.”

The silence was a lot heavier than it had been before. Abigail didn’t need to be told the rest, and Limbo seemed to know it.. or didn’t want to share it. It took her another minute to finally find the loose cable. Sliding out and back to her perch on the mech’s arm.

“Right then. Uh. From the top, re-release the safety please.” There was only a quiet grunt in return, but she heard the thump of the physical lock releasing. In near silence they worked through the boot up sequence without fault. The rumble as the reactor kicked on drew a happy yelp from Abby. While it hadden taken damage in all the fighting, many of the secondary systems had taken a lot of stress.

After taking a few readings, she had Limbo shut down the mech. There was a quiet hiss and sputtering as the machinery fell silent. She paused then put her ear to the mech’s plating. “Limbo, do you hear that in the cockpit? It’s… I don’t know, creaking? Bubbling? A fluid leak maybe?”

The reply wasn’t what she expected. Looking up at the sound of the cockpit’s hatch being pulled closed. Abby nervously climbed her way up the mech, still unsure of the source of the sound. Her hand came into contact with a small loose object on one of the higher plates, stopping to examine it. Ripped paper, a corner of the photo she’d held earlier. It didn’t take much effort to find other scraps scattered around, a few other photos.

Abigail wasn’t sure what to make of it. If Limbo cared enough to put these in her mech… then why? The engineer busied herself collecting all the scarps she could find. If they couldn’t be reprinted maybe she could mend them. The last few pieces of paper were right next to the cockpit’s hatch, and once she was up close she realized where the sound had been coming from.

She reached out, but froze before knocking on the metal plate. Maybe Limbo just needed to be alone right now. Abby stayed there for a while before trying to leave as quickly and quietly as she could. Looking up again at the hunched form of Innocent Until Proven before retreating fully from the mechbay.

Who could she talk to about this? Would Limbo be upset if she said anything? Questions that she couldn’t answer trailed behind her as she returned to locker space. She’d stash the items for now, talk to Limbo about it all later. That was her plan and it seems like a good one. It’s not like she had much else to store for now anyway.

She stopped, locker door half closed, as she noticed one of the pieces at the top of the pile. A young girl with gold eyes and a pale green skin tone. A similarly coloured hand resting on her shoulder, an arm continuing upward into the torn edge.