Cotto and I held the button panels for dear life as Halon brought the ship down for a sharp landing. At least we were lucky enough that he recognized where to land. Sieta was popular gambling port, so the giant gaming tower really stuck out, even from high in the atmosphere.
Since we wouldn’t be able to call in a landing to the air traffic control tower, we were fortunate enough to find the runway empty.
The pod smashed against the runway with surprising force, jerking me out of my seat.
“We’re here,” Cotto blew her blonde bangs out of her eyes.
We crawled shakily from the pod. My legs felt like jelly after the harsh landing, but at least they worked.
“I forgot how awful Baltienna is. Ugly and smelly,” Halon grumbled as he stumbled out after me.
“Halon! This is Marina’s home, don’t say that!” Cotto scolded automatically.
“Don’t worry about it.” I piped up. “It’s not that great.”
Cotto pursed her lips and glowered at Halon. After a moment, she turned to me. “Looks like we’re going to have to abandon the pod here. Marina, why don’t you show us around?” She suggested enthusiastically. I got the feeling it wasn’t a question.
I reluctantly gave them the grand tour of my loser hometown. Sieta had long ago lost any sign of greenery. Instead it was a dull mix of grey skyscrapers and old houses on the verge of collapse. The only things really worth taking note of were the gaming tower and the pristine state house.
“Where was your mechanics workshop again, Marina?” I wasn’t sure if Cotto was just pretending to be interested or actually cared.
“About a block away. I’m not sure they’d ever want to see me again. Maybe we should just skip that.”
Cotto shook her head deliberately. “I’m sure they’d love to see you! And I’d like to see that mechanics shop again.”
“She’s not going to shut up until you show her the stupid mechanics shop.” Halon muttered.
“Halon, if I were you, I wouldn’t be pissing me off.”
Halon rolled his eyes. “Oh, I’m terrified, Cotto. Here, take my lunch money!”
“Just show me the shop, Marina.”
I led them to the mechanics shop, spouting off every excuse I could think of as to why we shouldn’t go along the way. Cotto wouldn’t hear of it, and demanded to know the names of everyone. “Who was your old boss.”
“Some idiot named Motor.”
“Why would you say that? I can understand calling Halon an idiot, but not anyone else.”
Halon let out a loud sigh. “That was a low blow.”
“I don’t think he thought of himself as a boss. He called himself king.”
We had made it to the mechanics shop. I trudged inside, keeping my head down and hoping that I’d grown up enough that no one recognized me. Of course, Cotto would never let me get off that easily.
She marched up to one of the mechanics, asking for the boss and if it was still Motor.
The mechanic noticed me. When he lifted his head, I recognized him as one of the loudmouths who used to annoy me. “Look what the cat dragged in.” He snickered.
“Motor’s probably in the back, Cotto.” I tugged on her arm. “But he’s probably busy. Let’s go,”
“Show me.” There was a note of authoritativeness in her voice.
“Cotto, please, I—”
In a somewhat mockingly official voice, she said, “As the first lieutenant of the private dangerous cargo transport ship Radiance, I order you to show me where this guy is.”
“You trying to scare her?” Halon bumped Cotto’s arm.
She ignored him. “Marina, nothing is going to happen. I just want to meet him.”
“I don’t understand why,” I grumbled, leading her tiredly to Motor’s office.
The shop hadn’t deteriorated much since I’d left. It was still a blackened space piled with spare parts and reeking of gasoline, but its messy state hadn’t been worsened like I’d expected.
Motor’s office door was cracked open slightly. His head popped up when Cotto excitedly knocked. Catching sight of me, a frightening grin spread across his face. “Marina!”
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