Warp Riders – Chapter 5

The Engineer was a helpful person at heart; she just, often, found herself worn out by the disinterest – honestly the ignorance – of everyone else regarding the inner workings of the equipment that kept them all alive.

That day, as she lay on her side in her tent smelling fresh coffee, she was building a radio.

She’d done the trek to the ship with the Bosun at low tide, under the heat of the green sun, and returned at a run with two clanking bags full of scrap parts from the upper store room, all mercifully dry, and a soldering iron she was going to hook up to their solar battery.

And, not that anyone asked, but the Engineer had also rebuilt the solar battery, so that it would work efficiently with the green sunlight. And she and the Stowaway had taken the camp stove apart and put it back together twice already, as they’d sourced new materials to combust.

She had a few radios in mind; one to communicate short range, so one person could work on the ship repairs and another could stand atop a hill and watch for the tide. Another broader, more sensitive receiver, to scan the system for noise.

And a third radio-like tool that she was particularly proud of, that would connect wirelessly to the ship’s research computer, where she had, before the crash, been building an ingenious translation software that she was confident would unlock the words of the Stowaway.

The Captain liked them all to have formal roles on the crew, but the Engineer had taken to thinking of the Stowaway in less rigid terms, referring to them as “kid” and “short stuff” and mostly, while they collaborated, “hey you.” It’d be nice, she thought, to learn their name.

The most delicious part of the communication puzzle, to her, was that the Stowaway clearly understood everything they said, or wrote, or typed. The kid was an active listener, and they followed instructions perfectly. She even caught them reading the waterlogged battery manual.

So, in her engineering mind, she pondered the similarities between the physical locks on the ship doors, and the linguistic lock on the Stowaway’s words, and the strange, locked-in-place feeling of being immersed in the flow of time again. Maybe she just needed a new kind of key.

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