“And the kid is still lookin’ good!” The proclamation came from the steel stair railing that looked down to the ship hanger bay. There stood a young Matari man. His head was clean shaven. It shone from the glare of the bright lights that hung at dizzying heights above. He was tall with a wiry build. Thick cargo pants and flight jacket covered tee shirt hung loose on his frame.
“You know, Kuvakei could take some lessons from me because I make these implants look goooood.” His smile grew larger as he boasted. The last word drawn out for emphasis as he descended the stairs towards the two that stood at the engineering podium. His arms were out stretched and a cocky grin hung on his lips as he invited his audience to view him.
Avery Louis had changed dramatically over the course of the week. A brush with death could do that to a man; at least a mortal man. A few months ago he had taken the position of Engineer aboard “Boo.” Before it’s destruction it was a Hound, a Tech 2 Minmatar Stealth Bomber. On its last mission it was deployed to engage in a set of classified covert “hot drops” which ended in Ary & Avery Louis both in their pods. For the pod pilot it was just another op. For baseliner, it was very different. He cheated death.
Ary looked up from the spinning hologram of the new ship projected from the console. Cool dark eyes watched him descend. A hint of a smile lingered on her lips. An unimpressed snort came from the white coated fitting specialist who hadn’t bothered to turn around. His attention was focused on the spike of the power grid readings as the covert ops cloaking device was brought on-line.
“So, what do you think? Not bad for my first real battle scar, right?” Avery Louis lifted his head to show off now milky white eye and the scar that ran though it.
“And you got a new war tattoo.” Ary mused.
Her hand reached up to his dark skin as he approached her. Her thumb brushed under the fresh black ink that outlined the marred eye and traced off towards his upper ear. Pride blossomed on her face and softened her features. As emotion bubbling over the crack of flesh up on flesh broke into the air.
“Ow!” Avery Louis winced and cried out from strike. Ary’s hand had reached up to slap him across the back of his head. While unexpected, it was a sign of affection more than anything else. His head was brought toward her shoulder as she embraced him and give him a quick kiss to the cheek.
“I’m proud of you Little Nephew.” The tender piece of praise was quietly spoken into his ear. They were Matari after all.
“I wish you’d stop calling me that.” Avery Louis chide with an embarrassed laugh. “There’s hardly anything little about me and age shouldn’t count if you’re an immortal.”
His chest would puff up slightly as his Matari bravado began to show. He was right, there was nothing little about him. This was not the little boy that she swaddled and burped or the child she watched climb trees or run though the fields planet side. No, he was a man. Tattooed and scarred he was now a Matari man which meant even more.
“All in the eye of the beholder, but don’t forget…” Her tone dropped as humor mixed with sincerity. “… I’m still your boss.”
“Aye aye, Captian.” His tone was just as mocking as the half-assed salute he gave her. The two chuckled, but not everyone was as amused.
The white coated fitting specialist watched the two behind his thing framed spectacles. His face was long, angular and just as severe as his personality. Uninterested in the small reunion, he cleared his throat abruptly. His question asked before he bothered to see if the two were even paying attention.
“Have you made a decision on the lows? All other modules have been fit with the exception of the final low slot.” Subtle hints of agitation hung in the Amarrian’s tone.
“Two ballistics and a nano. It’s the same fitting we get every time…” Avery Louis’ shot his response back quickly and aggressively. He was never good with those he felt has ‘over stepped their bounds.’
“Well… after the last time I was thinking of maybe… beefing up the armor a bit. Just so…” Ary didn’t get the chance full explain before the engineer plunged in to a heated rebuttal.
“After one little hull loss from a frankly shitty bomb run now you want to add armor? No. That’s just… it… It doesn’t make any sense. We need that agility.” His voice echoed off the metal that surrounded them as he grew louder in his agitation.
Ary on the other hand remained cool and quiet. Her voice would drop from his normal tone to almost a whisper as she watched his anger roil. “It’s not because of one bombing run. It’s because of all the future bombing runs. As Captain and Capsuleer I have…”
“Don’t start with that bullshit!” The words were growled from clinched teeth. He turned away from her. His hand came to his face and his thumb rubbed the bridge of his nose in an effort to calm his self. His paced to refrain from loosing his temper, but his anger was already clear on his features from the flare of his nostrils to the wild dilation of his good eye. He would turn back to Ary sharply once his thoughts were collected.
“Your responsibility is to shoot down those mother fuckers before they shoot us down.” His finger was pushed in to her shoulder and then out to some distant unknown enemy. “That. That is your responsibility. My responsibility is that hull and its function and I’ll be damned I let you fuck it up with some bullshit fit.”
“That fit is not bullshit. The hull is paper thin as it is and all you’re doing it is stripping the structure for a minor bonus to inertia and velocity. We were over half way into armor with no option to repair. If we had that extra armor…”
“If we had extra armor then what? I’d still have my eye? Is that what this is about? An eye that’s been replaced with an implant worth millions of ISK and the honor of adding to my war tattoos? Are you really that fucking selfish?”
It was hard to see, but the faint flush of red was starting to build against the warm bronze of Ary’s skin. Her jaws clinched and her eyes narrowed as she and Avery Louis went toe-to-toe. While the two displayed their annoyance very differently; it was clear that both felt the other was treading on thin ice. The fitting specialist was smart to keep out of the way and out of the view of the two Matari.
“It seems you’ve forgotten little nephew.” Her voice remained calm, but her words were razor sharp. “These are MY ships. These are MY fittings. You are MY engineer. I am the immortal one that has shrugged off the ash of countless explosions. You have narrowly survived one and are you are the end all and be all of fittings?”
The thick jacket she wore was shrugged off and thrown to the floor. Her skin exposed, but even with only a sport bra to cover her, one could hardly say her flesh was bare. Avery Louis stepped towards her once more, but stopped. His mouth left hung open as his words caught in his throat.
They covered her in sprawling clusters, the war tattoos. Intricate and mesmerizing designs ran up and down her arms, over her collar bone and over the tops of her breasts. They even circled to her back and met between her shoulder blades trailing down her spine. The black and blood red of the ink sang tales of glory, loss and sacrifice. Each mark and stroke made with its own significance.
A heavy silence hung in the room as the two stood face to face. Ary and Avery Louis’s eyes were locked, but neither spoke or moved for a time. Slowly, in the midst of calm reflection, their anger gave way to mutual sense. A long sigh came from Avery Louis and his large hand ran over his bald head while Ary inhaled deeply as she stooped down to pick up the discarded jacket and slide it back over her shoulders.
“If you love me.” He finally spoke in a defeated tone. “You won’t do me this disservice. And I know you love me Auntie.”
He back away without another word and turned to make his way back up the stairs. Once Avery Louis disappeared from view, a faint clearing of a throat caught her attention. She turned and suddenly remembered the fitting specialist had been there the whole time.
“If I may…?” That high and mighty tone the Ammarians were known for ringing clear.
“No you may not.” Ary quipped back. “Just fit the damn nanofiber internal structure and get it insured.”