The young man stepped back from the bundle of machinery and scratched the back of his head. Glowering, he contemplated kicking the damn thing, then shrugged. It probably wouldn't help, anyway. Getting up from the concrete floor of the garage, he absently brushed off the knees of his jeans and looked around at the notes he'd taped on the wall.
Everything seemed to be in order, but when he'd started up the computers, the ECM wasn't operating properly.
"Stupid doctors," he muttered, stepping back as he compared the notes on the wall to the machine in the middle of the room. It was about knee-height, and looked about as exciting as the internal workings of a lawn mower—something he'd surely never need on L2, but he'd seen a few on Earth. But if he could just get it to work, it could change everything.
He looked up a split second before someone tapped at the door, sensing immediately that he was being watched.
"Brought you a snack," the girl said, a smile on her face as she tossed him an apple. The boy caught it one handed and rubbed it on his shirt, his eyes back on the machine again. The girl sighed and stepped down into the cool dark of the garage, her eyes on the charts around the room.
"Geez, what are you doing down here?"
"Trying to get this stupid thing to work," he replied. He took a bite out of the apple, grimacing a little at the sour sharpness. She always did buy the kind that made him feel like he'd sucked on a lemon. "Figured I should test it, before I put it back in my buddy. Thought you had to meet with that guy."
"Did already." She hopped up on the workbench, her feet kicking as she watched him stare at the machine. "Got the contract, so I've got to start looking for more cushion rings for opposable head transmissions. I think there's a few out back."
"Mm." He took another bite of the apple, his mind already a million miles away.
"What're the pictures?" She twisted on the bench, to see the chart behind her, and studied it closely. From across the room, it had looked like a large squiggly design of some archaic language; up close, she could see the design was simply black arrows pointing from one calculation to another.
"System connection," he answered, not really paying attention. "One for each side."
The girl glanced around the room, and counted. "You've got six."
"Of course." He rolled his eyes. "Top and bottom count, too." He flashed a grin, and took another noisy bite, chomping loudly. Bending down, he set the apple on the ground and poked around in the belly of the machine for a few seconds, then stood up again, apple in hand. "Let's see what that does."
"What what does?" The girl craned her neck to see what he was doing.
"Out of the way, genius at work," he told her, and lifted her off the workbench. There was a small black box sitting on the bench, and he flipped several switches, studying the laptop screen nearby. Leaning over, he hit a few keys on the laptop, hummed to himself, and hit another switch.
The girl got out of the way as light filled the small garage, blue beams emitted from six boxes circling the machine. Meanwhile, the machine had begun making a chugging sound, loud enough to rival three Leos at low power. The young man turned, his braid flying behind him, as he trotted from box to box, checking the levels. He laughed when he saw the girl drop her apple to put her fingers in her ears.
"Hey, it's not that bad!" He shook his head when she stuck her tongue out at him, and hustled past.
"I'll be inside!" She screamed the words, and he just laughed again, and went back to whatever he was doing.
Shutting the door behind her, she gritted her teeth as the low rumble made the windowpanes shudder. Wandering to the little kitchen along one wall of the room, she pushed circuit boards and detonator switches out of the way, shaking her head at having a housemate who was either the most scatterbrained man she'd ever met, or such a genius he couldn't survive without multitasking.
"Cook dinner, cook bombs," she muttered, searching for something that would work as earplugs. "Well, I guess that's somewhat logical," she added, sensing that was probably the reason for the pile sitting next to the bags of instant ramen.
She glanced at the clock, wondering if he'd take a break to watch the news—a nightly tradition for him, keeping up to date with what the rest of his comrades were doing, and tracking the action. It meant listening to him mutter quietly about not having his buddy fixed fast enough, but she'd learned to tune that out.
"Now, if I could just tune out the damn machinery!" She screamed it, knowing he wouldn't be able to hear her, but it made her feel a little better. There was a popping sound from the garage, like a small-caliber gun, and she started, stepping forward before freezing, uncertain.
The rumble continued, and she relaxed, until she realized there was now a second sound, like a rush of air through limited intake engine compartments. The new sound was joined another, a high keening that didn't sound right at all, like metal vibrating at a high frequency, and she jumped forward.
Her hand landed on the doorknob right as everything went silent. The girl shook her head, certain she'd find her friend kicking the machinery one more time. Grinning, she flung the door open.
The room looked the same, and then she realized. The machinery in the center still there, but her friend was gone...and everything was covered in a fine layer of dust.