Leaving System (Pt.2 - Heart and Steel)

((MNS Archangel))
((Vehicle Workshop))

She put in a request for appropriate leave of absence around the time she figured they’d all be gathered for their Corps memorial, citing “Personal/Family” as her reasoning. Not entirely false either, the artillery section was her family, and same extended for the Marine techs and infantry she routinely worked beside. It would probably get approved, depending on whether she was first on the list or not.

Her equipment though would be a little harder to get in place. Sure, it wasn’t weird if she grabbed her guitar from her bunk and brought it out, but converging on the same place as four other people with instruments? On other ships, they’d knock her down a paygrade for going beyond Mandate sanctioning for events. So far though they’ve had a pretty lenient hand on the leash.

There were a few things Navy didn’t have full control of when she and other Marines were aboard. Details typically were given to Marines senior officers to deal out, rather than a Naval officer or some lesser space squid out of the Academy coming into their workspace and dropping orders. So, when it came to her artillery enlisted, she normally had them tasked to regular cleanings of equipment and maintenance of basic systems, usually under the eye of the actual technicians assigned to their unit. Other details included the basics that freed up Navy enlisted to do their actual jobs, which she and the other higher up NCOs usually divided on a weekly basis. This week for her and her team was kitchen detail, so a handful of hers were down in the mess helping whichever poor Navy enlisted had also been stuck with the detail.

On paper she was supposed to be coordinating her units training, which she did there was no question of that. All the Marines were trained on close quarters within the ship in the event that they ever got boarded, infantry being required to also train in assaults and boarding actions against other ships. This of course meant that when they weren’t drilling the motions, they every now and then were able to pit the Marines against each other in exercises, and of course non of them hated anything more than losing, so every drilled their defensive and offensives to win.

The problem was she couldn’t have her artillery unit actually train on anything else. She initially had them practice fighting from within the mechs in fall scenarios, as well as conduct escape drills for the same reason, but there’s only so many ways to do either of those. Wasn’t like she could live fire train inside the ship after all.

In the end, that left her unit splitting its time in three very differently sized areas. Drills and ship duties being the two small ones, and simply staying out of trouble being the big one.

She liked to solve the last with cross training, rotating teams between less used areas of expertise that other Marines were expected to be trained in.

This month was supposed to be dedicated to training in hand to hand, and recertification for her as a trainer, but of course things always seemed to get in the way. The mechs were old, and required some pretty dedicated maintenance which she held her crews to at least assist in, and the Infantry had requested some of hers for ship assault training since her boys actually provided a bit of a challenge. Now that they’ve had a deployment everyone has to have a week of down time to go through stability checks and be cleared for continued combat service, so assigned training was off the table.

So, with nothing to do but continue to unwind, she returned to the motor pool.

Officially on Mandate charters the space designated for maintenance and storage of MMC vehicles was called an MMC Vehicle Workshop and MMC Vehicle Storage Bay, of which this ship only had one to share between her walkers and the cavalry's armor and assault vehicles. Since cavalry hardly ever got deployed it seemed, they mostly kept their vehicles in the Bay while her artillery section’s walkers occupied the Workshop. Every now and then a cavalry vehicle would need to be serviced and there would be some commotion as vehicles got juggled, but they got along for the most part.

Both areas usually won different names depending on who you spoke with. She and many others in the section called the workshop the motor pool, while the techs referred to it as the garage when speaking plain. Cavalry shortened the name to just shop, and infantry stayed the hell away from it and just hung out in the storage bay where their presence was tolerated, which went by the same name for all except the cavalry, who called it the garage as well. Completely throws Navy off, which gives them all a good laugh.

Thankfully Navy didn’t bother them too much in either, which was well enough. When she walked in it was as expected; no squids, on duty techs, some of her section, and of course her one and only.

Nadia spotted her through her welding, sitting some thirty feet in the air on the barrel of a walker, her only safety line as cable attached to her work harness. The torch went off, the face plate went up, and even from where she was standing, she could see trails of black from oil, soot, and whatever else got wiped off her hands and on to her cheeks. They contrasted hard with the vibrant smile she had in store for her.

“You’re late!” she called over the general din of the pool, which was towards the higher end as post-operation servicing was in action. “Quarantine brought yours in almost an hour ago!”

Alicia cupped her mouth to help project her voice. “I have a day job you know!” she called back. “Had to file our post-action paperwork!”

She dismissed the counterargument with a wave and went back to torching. Alicia retrieved a spare harness and rigged herself up for repair work, attaching cable herself and climbing up the mech's leg without using so much as a handhold, simply fitting her fingers in whatever opening they found. It was another thing they practiced since they had the safety lines here.

At the top, she found her half cutting away at some torn bit of casing that housed the barrel, jagged claw marks torn into it.

Nadia said something, but between the mask and the torch that Alicia couldn’t look at directly, it was lost to her ears. She just smiled, dropped mask, and helped finish the cut, removing the damaged casing. Underneath, crumbling and charred bits had been burnt onto the gun, leaving black marks on the blued steel.

Shookhi mikoni,” she muttered, scratching at the charcoal, “Look at this! Scorch marks all over the damn thing! It’ll be days before we get all this out!”

Alicia just chuckled and brushed away some of the blackened crumbs. “Good thing we all have some free days. You can show some of the grunts how to buff the armor and grease the joints, then just task them to cleaning up their walkers, save your team the time for real work.”

She groaned. “Sure, but it still no excuse for scorching it. Literally keep the incinerator nozzles off the damn surface! It’s easy!”

They rappelled down from the walker with the shredded plate, taking it to the steel bin that would eventually be melted down and recycled into new parts in the machine shop. It was something both of them took a little time getting used to when they first joined. She’d worked cars with her dad, so she was used to having to repair or even make parts that companies didn’t manufacture, and Nadia had been a colony mechanic, so everything she did was repairs and refits. Melting down and recasting parts just wasn’t something either of them liked, but it was how the ship maintained her parameters on available mass.

Still, it let them talk some more. She’d contacted her family back home a day ago (being four shifts since the ship didn’t really have days) and they’d only gotten back to her within the last few hours, so she was hoping to have her come along later and say hi through video. She hadn’t watched it yet, but the last one had mentioned one of the logging vehicles suffering some heavy damage, had to use a crane to lift it, so her dad and his apprentices all had their work cut out to get it back in working order.

Alicia didn’t really talk much with her parents, not because she didn’t love them. They just weren’t as close as Nadia and her full extended family living under one roof. The fact that her mom and dad lived beneath separate roofs made that point rather clear.

She also let her in on the post-memorial plan, since behind the scenes she was still organizing that. Well known but largely unspoken fact for when she did these, the timing all came down to when she could attend. This time it would be the coming up second watch, three shifts from now, two after the Navy sponsored event. She put the word out to some of the other coordinators, key people she trusted to actually get things moved around, using only the word ’Second’ and gave Nadia a hug to thank her.

Nadia, her face buried in her shoulder, spoke softly. “I miss him too, we all do. I’m just thankful you came home to us.”

Some people need the literal fabric of space to be shredded around them in order to read minds. Nadia could read hers just by holding her heart in her arms.

Edit - Spelling

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