No one knows how the world war would have ended if the guilds of machine had solved their conflict earlier.
— Ryochi nea Fameril
Linsan didn't know exactly where she was going, but just knowing Tilbin was in the city gave her hope. She headed toward the south before she realized that Miska was leading the way. “Do you know something?”
“There is only one mechanics shop in this part of town. A bunch of bagatos running a Piston shop.”
Miska smiled grimly. “Men who lie out of their assholes.”
“They told me that it wasn't a woman's job to work metal. I was going to let that slide since they have hearts of brick, but if they know about the Black Thunder, I need to ask again.”
Linsan hurried along. As they strode through the city, a thought started to grow in her head and she realized she needed ask. “Miska? Why are you helping us?”
Miska looked at her and shrugged.
“No,” Linsan said stopping near the front of a baker. “You wouldn't just rip up your life to travel across the country for a stranger.”
“Maybe I would.” Miska's eyes flashed and her shoulders tensed.
Linsan stared at her, waiting for the answer.
After a moment, Miska glared at her and then stepped out of the road to the side of the shop. The smells of baked breads wafted past them from the alley at her back. “You know what it is like growing up as a Feil?”
“I heard the name but I don't know what it is.”
“It's the name of my tribe, not that anyone remembered it. We used to call that entire area our home, but then the armies came through. They left behind assholes who claimed the lands since it was 'abandoned.'” She spat on the ground.
“But you lived there? How could they do that?”
Miska gave her a bitter smile. “Never thought about people living before you all shows up?”
Linsan tried to think about all the plays that she knew, none of them talked about the tribes except for a handful where the villians were aboriginal." She blushed and shook her head.
“Don't have to lie to me.”
Linsan ducked her head. “Sorry.”
Miska scoffed and scratched her nose for a moment. “Mayforn's family owns most of Little Rock. The other assholes doled up our lands and farmed them for their profits. They are rich boys who don't have to work which is why they run around stealing and killing.”
Growing more uncomfortable, Linsan squirmed.
“So, Music Girl, I have my reasons to making sure Tilbin, Gabaw, and Mayforn's lives become a living hell. And I will walk the winter trail if it means Old Gab and Cal can breath easier.”
Without waiting for a response, Miska turned and stormed off.
It took Linsan a few seconds before she caught up and walked even with her.
It didn't take them long to get to a beautiful building painted a bright blue. It had faux pistons on either side of the three large doors leading inside. The design was simple, about on par with a stage decoration, but it was a clear indication of which guild the mechanics were associated with.
Even with the cool day, they were wide open as a dozen men worked on two cars inside. They looked rough, with greasy hands and stained clothes.
Miska went for the middle door. “Gentlemen!”
A man underneath the vehicle, a narrow-wheeled car with a tall smokestack and large boiler, pulled out and sat up. “Back for more? This isn't a place for you, Girl. Get your tattooed ass away before someone gets hurt.”
Miska's expression darkened. “I was willing to let that pass but then I found out you lied to me.”
Scoffing, he stood up and shoved his hands in his pockets. “No, I said it wasn't any of your business and to get out before I spank you because you're too big for your britches.”
Mistake stopped in front of him and glared. “You service that Black Thunder that came into town?”
He jaw tightened. “Still ain't your business, Girl.”
“I need to know.”
The other mechanics spread out around Miska and Linsan.
Fear prickled down Linsan's spine. She lowered her hand to her latch, mentally preparing herself to pull out her instrument.
Miska stepped away, toward the side of the garage and the other car. The second one was twisted and bent, the metal broken. The damage looked almost as serious as the Glasscoaster from earlier but only on the surface. Linsan could see that the engine appeared to be intact.
The men followed as their leader spoke.
“Now, I don't care how offended you get, I'm not going to tell you anything. Pistons have pride in their business.”
Miska stopped near the decorative piston. “I plan on asking more aggressively. Maybe negotiating.”
He scoffed again. “I doubt anyone such as yourself has anything of worth.”
Miska signed and the air around her began to warp. “Maybe, but let's start with a simple offer?”
She took one step back, spun around. The air around her began to crawl as the heat blasted away from her. She punched the side of the decorative piston and there was a powerful thud as the metal burst open. Splatters of molten metal spread out as she tore out a hunk of the softened metal as her fist continued through.
Miska followed her punch, stepping into the entrance of the garage and stopping in front of the devastated car. Holding up her hand, she glared as the paint smoked way leaving red metal that brightened. “Now, behind me appears to be a fully functional Daster engine. Those run… what… ten thousand cuks at the cheapest?”
The men's mood changed in an instant, from a threatening to surprise and fear.
“Now, I'm betting I can put my fist through that engine faster than you can stop me.” Miska clenched her hand and the remains of the piston dribbled out of her hand.
The supervisor held up his hand. “Now, listen, Girl, you—”
Then she smiled brightly, her anger disappearing in a flash. She patted the twisted frame. “Or, you give me an hour to shape this metal and save you the two days it would take your men to do it.”
Everyone grew silent.
“I don't care about getting paid and I'm sure you'll still charge the time, but I want to know about that Black Thunder and I'm willing to earn it.” She wiped the last of molten metal from her palm on her trousers. The fabric smoldered before it cooled.
The supervisor glanced at Linsan who still had her hand on her case. Then he turned back. “Why?”
“Because those men killed someone. They need to be brought to justice.”
“Then let the guards do their job.”
“It was in a different city and you know that authority ends at the city boundaries.”
The supervisor shook his head. “Guild laws say I can't—”
Linsan spoke up with an idea of her own. “But does Piston want to be known for servicing murderers?”
His head snapped toward her.
She hefted her instrument. “I'm pretty good at busking and I'm sure I can come up with a catchy song. Give it three… four days until I can have everyone singing it in this city.”
Miska's shoulders shook as she struggled not to laugh.
He glared at her. “What makes you—?”
A loud hissing noise interrupted him. He looked back to see Miska had her hand on the vehicle hood. The metal was already turning red underneath her grip and the paint blackening.
One of the mechanics lowered his hammer. “Boss?”
The supervisor sighed. “Fuck me on a pike. Fine. Two hours of work and I tell you what I know.”
“I start working, you start talking, my friend leaves and I finish the job. Your men are menacing and I don't trust a delicate girl like her with them.”
The metal under her hand grew brighter.
“Prove you can work.”
With a shrug, Miska lifted her hand from the hood. Leaning over, she picked up a twisted rod of metal and snapped it clear from the vehicle.
The supervisor groaned.
Her hands shimmered as she pumped the metal in her grip, sliding up and down with hard strokes. As she did, the metal grew hotter and began to shift. A few moments later, she twisted and straightened it out. Turning back, she measured it against a spot on the frame and worked to fit it into place.
The other men stared at her in shock.
“Get to work!” snapped the supervisor then turned to Linsan. “My name is Caver. What do you want to know?”
“Not much to tell you. They wouldn't give us a name but they had a guild services guard. That's an agreement where they aren't allowed to use another guild mechanic but get discounts on our services. We offer it—”
“Please, sir?” Linsan interrupted.
“Well, I can't give you their number but I can send word that they are accused of murdering someone. Let the higher ups know what happened.”
“Whoever ruined their car did an impressive job. The metal was sheared clean off and most of the joints were busted. It took us hours to repair the holes and scrape away the scorching.”
Linsan smiled at the description of Brook's and her abilities.
“I had three full crews working full time for a day on it. We had to pay a premium to the Mechanical Guild for some supplies and two of their forgers, but they paid everything without question.”
“Then, they have lots of money?”
Caver shrugged. “Maybe, but they had to go to the bank twice to pay for everything. Final bill was just shy of sixty thousand cuks. Twenty went to those damn thieves over at Mechanical.”
Linsan perked up. “Bank? Which bank?”
“I'd have to check.” He looked around and then beckoned for her to follow. “In my office.”
Linsan hesitated, then called out. “I'm going into his office.”
Miska looked up from where she was straddling the frame and pulling it back into place. “Be safe.”
The other mechanics were still staring at her as Caver and Linsan threaded their way into his office. It was crowded with paperwork, tools, and boxes. He had a small safe in the back which he opened before puling out a black bag. Pulling out a bank note, he handed it to her.
Linsan looked over it. It was a thousand cukdin note with the Ralonix Network embossed on the corners. It had an address near the center of the town.
She was holding more wealth in her hand than she could imagine. It felt like she should have background music welling up behind her or at least a choir singing for the drama but she was neither on a stage or feeling any joy. It was blood money. She asked for some notes and wrote down the serial numbers from a couple of the notes.
“Did they really kill someone?”
She looked up and nodded. “They robbed a bank in Cobbler's End and killed the manager.”
“And they sent a girl and a tribal… excuse me… two girls to hunt him down?” Caver sighed. He had thinning dark hair plastered to his head. When he ran his hand through it, it stuck up in little spikes.
“The manager was my friend's father. They also stole his Black Thunder to escape.”
“These are dangerous men.”
“I'm not going to fight them,” she lied. “I just going to find them and have the local guards arrest them. I just need to know where they are going.”
“Stone Over Moon Waters.”
She froze and stared at him.
“That was what they needed. Enough to get them to Stone Over Moon Waters. I heard them talking about a sale in eight days, I assumed it was for the Black Thunder. It is a beautiful car but they weren't concerned about looks, only that it could drive.”
Eight days. They were going to sell Palisis in eight days. A swelling of sorrow rose up and her vision blurred. “T-Thank you. That's exactly what I needed to know.”
Caver put the notes back into his safe. “Look, if these men are arrested, send me a notarized notice. I'll have them banned from Piston services for life.”
“Do you know how to find the Ralonix bank?”
She didn't. He gave her directions.
Outside, she waved to Miska who was still the center of attention. Even in a few minutes, the front of the vehicle looked considerably better.
“Be safe,” Miska said before she returned to work.