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The warehouse sky doors creaked open as alarms blared. Above Maurice, the clouds lazily drifted along the planet’s purple tinted sky. In the distance, stars peek-a-booed through the dark blues of the sunset, eager for night. The scene quickly changed. A building sized mecha flew by, a stream of lights streaking behind. The Roboter did another pass before aligning at the sky doors and carefully settling on the polished floor. The ground rumbled at touch down and the Roboter hissed out excess energy as it began to power down. Locking mechanisms clamped the Roboter’s waist.

The alarms went silent and the sky doors hummed closed. Maurice tossed her ear plugs onto a nearby rolling cart and tapped the data tablet that had gone to sleep. It beeped at her before the program began loading in data from the test Zo and her Roboter had just performed. 

Pop music blared from the Roboter once the seal on the crystalized hatch released. The catchy tune had been on repeat in the warehouse for the last week. Zo wanted to drain every drop of serotonin from the song. Maurice was impartial to the popular song, preferring music that made her want to run and punch an actual star in space.

“HOW WAS SHE THIS ROUND?”

“Volume, Zo!”

The volume cut down to nothing from the Roboter’s cockpit. The music flooded the warehouse speakers at a respectable level. “Is it loaded in yet?” Zo called from the crystal yellow hatch.

“90%. I noticed your left side was dragging.”

Zo noisily clammered from her Roboter and bounced to the beat of the music as the elevator whirred down. “My new piercing gave me all sorts of trouble with the helmet. I think my head is getting bigger. Is it getting bigger? You’d tell me if it were getting bigger, right?”

“Did you use the gel Sam gave you?”

Silence. That was telling enough that Zo hadn’t. Was she surprised? No, not after her friend’s last two piercings in which she also didn’t use the medical gel as instructed.

The program dinged at 100% just as Zo joined her. Maurice’s arm was tugged down so the shorter Pilot could see the tablet. “You know, it’ll get infected if you don’t use it.”

“Then it should smell better,” Zo argued, fidgeting with the new earring. She caught herself and stuffed her hand into the pockets of her jumpsuit. “Swipe to the thrusters info and compare it to the last flight?”

Maurice did as requested with a few taps on the translucent screen. It would have been faster if she had a Mind’s Eye- an implant that gave citizens access to the planet’s entire network. Just one more week. One more, and data pads wouldn’t be a necessity to be connected here on LD-42. She’d be a step closer to being like everyone else. “The new plugs improved the overall speed and energy usage. Almost doubled.”

“Thank stars. It only cost us an arm and a few legs for it.”

Maurice nudged Zo with her elbow. “We’ll be rolling in credits when you win your first match as long as you don’t spend it all on other parts. You’re going to crush it, easy.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to get the thrusters checked out by a professional…” A sigh. A bite of her thumbnail.

Maurice snapped the tablet to its compact size and stuffed it in her back pocket. There was no way she was going to let Zo mope around and get too deep in her doubts. This league had been very clear that entrance fees were non-refundable past a certain points and they were very far from said point. No backing out last minute. Not if they wanted to make rent on the warehouse without needing to pick up an extra job or two. “Nia’s match will be on later. Let’s get food and see if it’ll be a similar layout.” Zo sighed and that sigh matched the tune of the song. When did Maurice need to start worrying if the song had integrated into their brains too much? “Fine, but only because you offered and I’m taking it as a sign that you’ll be paying.”

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