“How long do you think it’ll take?” Darius asked, perched amid the piping, with Eratosthenes cradled in his lap.
Aife scowled, working at a particularly stubborn bolt on the Sergeant’s engine. “Too long,” she muttered, finally working the bolt loose, “Era’s parts are a dime a dozen, and there should be plenty of spares on this ship to get him back to himself in a few days. As for Sarge…” she sat up, hands hanging between her knees as she surveyed the components of the motorcycle spread out before her.
Darius recognized the look on her face. It didn’t happen often, but sometimes there was a problem too complex, or too big to truly fix. Enough parts of a machine would break that Aife would have to pillage a junkyard or five to get it working again. And those machines never worked the same as they had before. Well, no machine Aife worked on was ever really the same afterwards, but the machines she had to rebuild from parts were almost…depressed. Like they’d lost something vital, despite all the parts being present. Darius had never thought about it before, but now that he knew Aife’s gift, it made sense. It was kinda like the cyborgs who’d gotten too many parts replaced at the same time: still technically themselves, but a bit lost in their own bodies.
“Well,” Darius coughed uncomfortably, unwilling to disturb the reverie of a girl capable of bringing the ship down around his ears. “I guess that means we should focus on Era first, so we can get his help with the bike? I’m still not sure I understand how this works, but…”
Aife shook herself, and looked over at the inert dragon. “No, you’re right. Era helped me build Sarge to begin with, it makes sense that he’d see something I can’t.”
Darius hopped down from his perch, surprised and pleased that Aife was taking his advice. He felt a little guilty that the advice had nothing to do with cheering Aife up, and everything to do with getting Era, his partner in crime, back, but shook off the feeling quickly. As long as the result was the same, he didn’t much care what his motivations were.
“You lot should have enough spare bits lying around,” Aife was muttering to herself, but she held out her hands for the dragon. “I’d hate to cannibalize one of your firebreathers. Not sure if Era’d ever forgive me if he found out.”
“Uh, sure, they’re in that cabinet,” Darius said, not sure if she’d actually been talking to him, but wanting to feel useful.
Aife didn’t look up, but she gave Darius a thumbs-up as she started rummaging through the cabinet.
It had taken a long time to find all the parts. In the end, Aife had to adjust the schematics, or give up on working transport before the next century.
“Why are you so set on a motorcycle anyway?” Era asked for the millionth time, as Aife sifted through yet another machine graveyard, “Hover bikes are just as dangerous, more flexible, and actually, you know, around.”
Aife blew a curl out of her eyes as she pulled on the hood of a car that she hoped still had an engine underneath it. “It’s not about the danger, you clanky lizard. This bike, it…it just needs to be whole again.”
“But, that bike isn’t alive,” Era protested, diving through the gap Aife had created, “It’s barely a frame.”
Aife sighed. The dragon would never understand. Not that she could blame him; she barely understood the need herself.
Some machines had been loved so much, they held the spark of life before Aife’s fumbling brought them fully alive. This bike was one of them, despite its fragmented state.
Era had just about blown a gasket when Aife started declaring some of the parts they’d collected weren’t “right”. But this bike knew who he was. There were some things he was willing to change, but certain bits, certain design elements, those were the parts that held the spirit of the Sergeant.
“Unless the carburetor of an army jeep also double as engine parts for a motorcycle, I think we’re out of luck in this old heap,” Era’s voice drifted up to Aife through layers of rust.
“Are you sure there’s nothing useful in there?” Aife pulled on the hood again, trying to get a better view of the insides. “I had a good feeling about this wreck.”
“You and your feelings,” Era muttered, but Aife heard the clinking of his claws as he pawed at the decaying engine block.
“I can’t believe you made me tear that whole engine apart for a stupid bolt,” Era grumbled, steam hissing from beneath his jaw.
Aife smiled, rolling the bolt around in her fingers. It was rusted, all but stripped, and bore the ghost of a coat of army green paint. It was the last crucial piece.
It was time to wake the Sergeant up and get properly introduced.