When I stumbled into the back room of the shop, my head still aching from the night before, Gabe was already buried up to the waist inside an old engine pod. He shot me his usual cheeky grin when he emerged.
“Looks like a few crossed wires,” he said. “And some blighter’s stolen the fuel cell, of course. Shouldn’t be too hard to replace, though.” He paused to scrutinize me. “You look like crap, man.”
I sat down heavily on the chair in front of my workbench and grabbed for the first item in my stack of checked in items – a laser pistol, rusted almost beyond recognition. “It was a rough night,” I replied. “I wish I had known that some Wharfmistresses carry implants that neutralize alcohol before we started the drinking contest.”
I worked my sonic drill into the hairline crevices of the pistol’s slide, and managed to slough most of the rust off of the blowback dissipator. Gabe picked up a comm unit with a shattered screen, but tossed it aside in disgust after a minute’s examination. “Someone tried to use this thing in an ammonium atmosphere,” he commented. “Whole thing’s corroded. Can’t even be recycled for mats.”
Before moving on to the next item in his pile, he shifted his attention back to me. “Charlie, you gotta get over this breakup, man. You’ve been throwing yourself at the wall for the last couple of weeks. Sooner or later, you’re going to step out an airlock by accident.”
I shook my head fiercely, looking down at the firing chip of the pistol so he wouldn’t see me blinking furiously. “It’s not that easy, Gabe. She just up and left, after two years, barely even leaving a note. ‘I need to see the rest of the galaxy’ is the oldest line in the book.” I wrenched the chip out with a yank, snapping the bioplastic in my pliers. Still avoiding my coworker’s gaze, I rummaged through my drawers for a replacement.
Gabe blew steam through the tubes of a klang-distiller that appeared to still be in working condition. “Look, man, you weren’t going to spend the rest of your life with this girl, were you?”
After a moment, I was forced to shake my head in agreement. “No, Carla wasn’t the one for me. But still, you know how rare it is to run into another attractive human these days? Especially one who isn’t either implanted to the gills, or fishing for someone who owns his own ship?” I clicked the new firing chip into place and began polishing the trigger nodal connections.
For a moment, my companion in the back of the pawn shop was silent. The only noise was the soft whine of my auto-buffer as it removed grime from the smooth nodes. “It’s always hard,” he said at length. “But that’s what life is. And we’re a fairly busy port – lots of beings pass through, including humans. You’ll meet another one. In the meantime, maybe if you stop blowing all your credits at the cantina as soon as they’re in your account, you might someday be able to afford that ship of yours.”
I suppressed a sigh as I ratcheted in a new fuel cell. Gabe was annoying with his frank critiques, but he was also correct. His grin certainly didn’t help matters. I spun in my chair, leveling the laser pistol at him. The split second of wide-eyed shock was gratifying. I squeezed the trigger twice.
The two shots flew true, leaving two smoking marks in the door over his shoulder. I grinned back at him. “You might be right,” I said, as he let out the breath he had been holding. “And I’m glad you’re watching out for me. But I’m gonna have to get better on my own, in my own way.”
I tossed the repaired pistol on the slowly growing pile of refurnished devices to be taken out to the pawn shop floor. Fortunately, my headache was fading already.