ave / stories / You are on your own ch.5

The Tacoma collective didn't have great vehicles. It had two larger trucks, one mainly used as spare parts for the other - probably a bad idea if it was needed for evacuation, but if it came to that, there were also half a dozen smaller cars, ranging from scooters to jeeps. To Belinda's disappointment, none of the cars had extensive, patched together and highly questionable mods like hers, which in her professional opinion was half the charm of owning any vehicle. Then again, the collective hadn't had an engineer like her. From a bunch of scavenged plumbing, some old bike parts, and a bottle of oxy that someone had managed to pick up, she was rigging together a crane for one of the jeeps to pack up and transport lumber. It was relatively simple, for her - bar here, bar there, joint between, couple cables to carry the weight -

"Hi, Berry."

Her arm jerked up in surprise, melting through the thin cable in an instant. With a grunt, she turned off the oxy torch and lifted her visor.

"I'm working here!"

"I ain't stopping ya, just looking." Cage's bodyguard leaned over her shoulder, looking over the welds. "Nice work."

"Would be even better if I didn't get people bitchin' about it - liked you better on a leash. There's a bunch of cables on the table over there, make yourself useful and get me a five-gauge one about, whazzat, twelve feet?"

The bodyguard sauntered over to the table. Black milita boots and wide cargo pants. Belinda wondered what its ass looked like under all that.

"You know, you'd get a lot further with people if you were a bit nicer." She picked up one of the cables, twirling it seductively as it showed off its best catwalk back to the engineer. "A lot more pants would drop if you did."

"Wasn't asking," Belinda parried and reached for the cable. It dangled just a foot outside her reach, the milita chick clicking her tongue.

"See, that's what I'm talking about. No 'please' or 'thank you'. The direct approach has its benefits, but there's no reason to be rude now, is there?"

"Honey, if this thing ain't done by tomorrow, I won't be the one doing the explaining." She wasn't sure how to feel about the humiliation. On one hand, she knew Cage was the alpha type, all about power and hierarchy. His guard dog maybe-perhaps-hitting on her couldn't be good news - neither of them had actively tried to manipulate her before, but you had to be prepared for anything and everything with their kind.

On the other hand, a buff lady with pronouns was looking down on her with a slight grin, and it did things to her that she was not at all prepared for.

"Can I have the cable . . . please?"

"Goood girl! Wasn't that hard, was it?" It dropped the coil in her lap, giving her a fake slow-clap with her fingerless gloves. "Keep at it, and the folks here might even grow to like you!"

Belinda suddenly remembered there was a gun tucked away in her jacket. She wasn't sure whom she'd rather shoot. "Where's Cage?" she asked, as casually as she could manage.

"Minding his own business. Speaking of, I should probably go back as well." At the door, she turned back. "Name's Rae Locklear. Room 12 in the left wing. Give me a visit sometime," it chirped, and gave Belinda the most confusing of winks.

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