Tia’s arm flinched as Lannah adjusted the mechanism at her wrist, using a red-hot needle to inscribe the Tsa markings needed to reinforce both the spellwork and metalwork holding it together. Unable to stop herself from smirking, Tia analysed her friend’s serious expression despite the Elvis Presley track blaring through the spellcrafted speakers on the walls. Although the song was six hundred years old, she couldn’t deny Lannah had good taste. ‘You always get that same look of severe concentration on your face when you fix me up.’
Lannah finished the Tsa she was working on and sat up, rolling her shoulders back with a sigh. Her eyes were dark with lack of sleep. I probably look just as bad, Tia thought. ‘That’s because you are particularly hard to repair,’ Lannah said. ‘Do you have any idea how many extra enchantments I have to put on your arm just so it can keep up with your raiding antics?’ She stretched her arms up, adjusting herself. ‘Of course, if you didn’t feel the need to keep ripping it off every time you get in the slightest bit of trouble, my job would be much easier.’
Tia made a fist with her metal fingers, testing them out. Satisfied, she sat up, facing Lannah. ‘If I didn’t yank it off, then me and the team would be toast right now. My magic isn’t half as powerful with it on, and the colonists down on that planet aren’t the friendliest of people. And they’ve got two witches of their own. I nearly got spell-speared in the back.’
She jumped off Lannah’s white operating table, nearly hitting her head on the lamp the engineer had been using. She shivered. Now that she wasn’t focused on the pain from her metal arm being fixed, she noticed how cold it was in the room. She grabbed her jacket from the coat rack and zipped it up to her chin, grateful for its cosy warmth.
‘Maybe they felt that a team of raiders suddenly appearing to take all their tech away was a touch uncalled for?’ Lannah suggested, making a quick Tsa in the air with her finger. Immediately, Tia felt the air in the room get warmer. She chewed the inside of her check, quenching down the familiar pang of envy that rose up inside her. If she’d been born with witch gene zero, she would be able to use Tsa marks too. But she hadn’t. She had plain witch gene zero one, like the majority of witches aboard the Merlin.
‘It’s not their tech anyway. It’s Cosmic Witch’s,’ Tia replied, running her fingers through her short hair. Still feels weird to have it this length, but I guess it’s practical. ‘Anyway, we’re only following orders. They want it back as quickly as possible, we had no time to negotiate.’ More like we were told specifically not too. The truth disgusted her just as much as it did Lannah, whose mouth had stilled into a thin line.
The engineer turned away to her desk and began typing up her report, absently flicking the music from ‘Love Me Tender’ to ‘A Little Less Conversation’. ‘If you’re ready, you can sign out on the module. The form should already be on the screen.’ She shot a slight grin over her shoulder. ‘Try to be more careful next time.’