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Better than an Oath
Subdued calliaphone wakes, tangled in blankets and half-buried in Wallace's upholstery. There is some struggling, some knocking of clutter from couch to ground, and
Subdued calliaphone pokes her nose out into the sharp morning air. Brrr! She struggles into a sitting position, and tugtugs at the blanket until it is wrapped around her shoulders.
Subdued calliaphone blinks, noticing the new signature that has sprung into being on her cast, overnight. Examining the decorations, she concludes that plaster of paris is fertile soil for the growth of artworks.
Subdued calliaphone breakfasts on a melted-then-refrozen cookie in her hand. And regards her accordion and tin-opener, at the far end of the couch.
Subdued calliaphone addresses Cordy and Egbert solemnly. "i bin thinking," she begins. "about our argument last night." she pauses, to let this fact sink in. Her companions do not interrupt.
Subdued calliaphone continues. "an' i've realised you're right. it's all my fault. i wouldn't talk to me if i wuz you, either. i guess i must've fixed you both up wrong. i've done it b'fore, you're not the first."
Subdued calliaphone thinks back to a toilet (still flooded), a mechanical hummingbird (still fixated on unchained melody), a clockwork heart that needed a joker's skills. A Drive.
Subdued calliaphone pauses. gulps. and removes the screwdriver from behind her ear. "so that's it. i'm gonna make an oath. no more fixing ups. cause it's obvious, i'm doin' more harm than-"
Subdued calliaphone breaks off, mid-oath, and twists round to see what that noise is. Nothing there. Odd. Frowning, she tries to pick up the thread.
Subdued calliaphone says "where was I? oh, yeh, so, i'm making a solemn oath. with you two as witnesses, that I do declare I will not fix-"scrapewhirrCLONK.
Subdued calliaphone whirls round again. "d'you mind, i'm trying to swear an oath here." she frowns a little deeper, and peers. Where isthat noise coming from? And then,
Subdued calliaphoneâ€™s eyes open wide, as something emerges from behind a scrap heap. Something small, metallic, and battered. With four hydraulic legs - one of which is held slightly off the ground.
Subdued calliaphone recognises the weapons platform instantly. They might all look the same to some folks, but she'd recognise that little fella anywhere.
Subdued calliaphone whispers, "Dave?" No, not that Dave. There are other Daves in the world, you know. And this one happens to be a mobile weapons platform. An injured mobile weapons platform.
Subdued calliaphone is up already, screwdriver in hand. She wobbles unsteadily on her crutches towards the equally unsteady weapons platform. But at
Subdued calliaphone's approach, it scuttles backwards and nearly overbalances, toppling sideways to lean against a sheet of scrap-metal, and trembling.
Subdued calliaphone halts. Then starts to chitter softly, meaningless reassurances, as the platform regains its precarious balance. She extends a hand, and the platform approaches.
Subdued calliaphone waits until the the little machine is close enough to lean on her. Slowly, it ceases trembling, and after a while, permits
Subdued calliaphone to examine the injured leg. She does so, wincing. "well that's a nice mess and no mistake. You guys sure take a battering, don'tyou?"
Subdued calliaphone works as she talks. Assessing the damage - which is bad. Hydraulic fluid leaks from shattered cylinders, cables are torn and blackened, metal twisted out of shape.
Subdued calliaphone shakes her head. "nothing for it, we're gonna have to take this off." Steeling herself against thoughts of how a three-legged weapons platform will survive,
Subdued calliaphone is surprised by the sound of a hatch door opening. And something falls with a clonk from the platform's underbelly, onto the frozen earth.
Subdued calliaphone looks down, and her eyes light up. "you have a spare? Where did you . . . never mind." Oath entirely forgotten now,
Subdued calliaphone works, undoing the screws that secure the damaged limb, gently disentangling it from the undamaged parts. And as she works,
Subdued calliaphone talks. Still that meaningless prattle, but with a confiding note about it. The platform buzzes and whirrs softly in reply. It's really not clear who's reassuring whom, at this point.
Subdued calliaphone sets the wrecked hydraulic assembly aside among the scrap, and takes the new one up. ". . .and so Unfair says he's conveylessscent. . ." clickwhirr
Subdued calliaphone fits the new limb into place. prattleprattle ". . .mad at me. i didn't mean to though, i wuz sick an' it got mad an' things all happened a bit quick. . ." clickclickbuzz
Subdued calliaphone frowns over the wiring. the prattling continues. ". . .go an' explain to it, like. apologise. offer to make good?" the platforms whirrs take on a worried note.
Subdued calliaphone doesn't notice. She's too busy grinning, wiping sweat out of her eyes. She says, "there, give that a go." The platform hesitates, then tenatively sets the new leg on the ground.
Subdued calliaphone watches carefully as the weapons platform tries putting weight on all four limbs. They hold. It takes a step. Then another, then suddenly skitters playfully.
Subdued calliaphone says, "well, you look like a satisfied customer, anyroad." and, thoughtful now, says, "so that's settled then. i'll go find the drive, an' explain everything. that's better than an oath."
Subdued calliaphone nods, and gets up - still precarious on her injured limb, which is not quite so easily repaired. Wallace butts against her gently, till she sits down on his cushions.
Subdued calliaphone pats the couch on an armrest. "all right. You can give me a lift, but i better go in alone. just . . . in case. y'know?" she gulps. "don'want anything happening to you, see?"
Subdued calliaphone reaches out to give the weapons platform a scritch. "You rest up for a bit, eh? And watch out for Talon, hey? last I saw he was asking after you."
Subdued calliaphone hugs her knees to her chest as Wallace carries her out of the outpost. Looking ahead, not back, she doesn't see the little weapons platform stand stock still, watching her depart. Nor does
Subdued calliaphone see it take a step forward. And then at a trot, set off on the same path she's taken.
SAS Clan Hall - Lobby
Subdued calliaphone appears here, wobbling inexpertly on crutches, but . . . savvy enough by now to have evaded the barbed-wire and the laser canon.
Subdued calliaphone glances back through the open door. Checking that Wallace is alright out there, not getting into any trouble. He's a sensible couch, so she gueses he'll be fine.
Subdued calliaphone makes her way cautiously round the barricade, fending off the monkey with one of her crutches, and leaning rather precariously on the other.
Subdued calliaphone offers the monkey a cigarette, and smokes another herself. And then, she squares her shoulders. It's time.
Subdued calliaphone makes her way through the vault door, into the room beyond.
Subdued calliaphone: A short time after, there's a mechanical clickwhirrclonk sort of noise, and a little mobile weapons platform enters, from outside. It pauses, then proceeds after calliaphone.
SAS Clan Hall - Clan Room
Subdued calliaphone continues through here, to the far door. No shuddering this time. She knows what lies within, and she's not scared. No indeed,
Subdued calliaphone is, in fact, bloody terrified, of course. But she's got to do what she's got to do. Her mind has been made up.
Subdued calliaphone puts a hand on the rusted door-handle. It's cold, and disintegrating beneath her fingers. A faint vibration shivers up her arm.
Subdued calliaphone disappears into the room beyond. A few minutes pass. Then, there's a mechanical clickclickwhirr, and a little weapons platform follows
Subdued calliaphone in from the lobby, and through the door to the laboratory
SAS Clan Hall - Laboratory
Subdued calliaphone enters the laboratory, and freezes. The smell of ozone is overpowering. The flickering lights are dazzling. And there, in the centre of the room, stands
The Drive, electricity arcing between its heatsink fins. It doesn't look pleased to see her.
Subdued calliaphone gulps, feeling suddenly ill-prepared. Her hands close tightly around the handles of her crutches. For a moment, she just wants to run. But . . . it's awfully difficult running with crutches, and anyway,
Subdued calliaphone is here for a reason. She has something to say.
Subdued calliaphone says, "er. h-hello."
The Drive does not reply. It merely crackles menacingly, and begins to build up charge for an attack.
Subdued calliaphone pales, backing up a pace. But the door has somehow closed itself behind her. She squeezes her eyes shut, opens them, and tries again. "n-now wait a minute. . .please, i gotta 'xplain."
Subdued calliaphone: A shiver of static passes through the air in the laboratory. It has the feel almost of a pause. A question? Perhaps not one with an answer.
Subdued calliaphone clears her throat, stiffens her spine, and begins to recite. As if it's a speech she's memorised for the occasion. "i- i know we didn't exactly get off to a great start last time we met. . ."
Subdued calliaphone continues, ". . .an' i know i did some damage, but you gotta unnerstand i never meant to. i . . . wuzn't all that well, y'see. i had a terrible cold. an' you. . ."
The Drive rumbles ominously as Callia gestures at it, but she sticks to her script. "you can't jus' blame it all on me. you've clearly got some unresolved issues of your own. that thing with the bananas. . ."
Subdued calliaphone shakes her head. "uncalled for, that was. how's a girl meant to do an honest bit of repair work, under conditions like that?"
The Drive responds. There's a terrific BANG, and a bolt of lightning hits the door, just beside calliaphone, jolting her sideways and throwing her to the floor one way, her crutches the other. The door sags on its hinges, buckled and slightly open.
Subdued calliaphone yalps with pain as she lands. But still she keeps trying, putting out her hands in front of her, to ward off further attack. "nyrughh. . .uhh. . .you're right. . . you're right. i shouldn't . . . shouldn't be having a go at you. it's not . . .your fault."
Subdued calliaphone props herself up to face the Drive. "i'm not surprised you're mad. bananas or no bananas, i guess a screwdriver in the works has gotta hurt. so i've come to apologise, see? Nothing else but that. An' . . . only if you want . . . to fix what i done wrong."
There's the slightest pause in the staticky flickering.
Subdued calliaphone glances up, but the Drive's facade is as hostile as before. Still holding out her hands, she rotates them, demonstrating. "Empty, see? No tricks, no-"
Subdued calliaphone flinches. She knows what that sound means. And she knows she doesn't stand a ghost of a chance like this. But just as the Drive is about to unleash its full wrath, there's a mechanical sort of clickclickwhirr from the doorway.
The Drive hesitates fractionally, perhaps confused, as a second target enters the laboratory. A mobile weapons platform, with its canon primed and ready.
Subdued calliaphone says "Dave!" (no, not that Dave) "You shouldn't be-" and then the Drive lunges at her again. This time with a bolt of . . . no ordinary lightning. It arcs towards her, striking her squarely in the centre of her chest.
Subdued calliaphone is thrown backwards by the blow, but the weapons platform stands its ground. It was built for this. A searing riposte is launched at
The Drive. There is a blinding flash, and the sound of an inch-thick titanium casing splitting open. The room fills with the smell of ozone, everything is smoke and acrid burning, and
Subdued calliaphone gasps a little. "is it over?" A metallic creaking rouses her a little and she opens her eyes, in a soot-blackened face.
Subdued calliaphone stares, glazey-eyed, at the Drive's twitching, creaking carcass. "no" she says, a tear crawling down her cheek and dropping onto the floor. The weapons platform stays close, orienting its canon on the wreckage.
Subdued calliaphone whispers. "but. . . i . . . sorry . . . said so . . . din't need to-"
The Drive lets off a little spark, and the edges of the casing begin to seal themselves back together.
Subdued calliaphone struggles to sit, but it's too much. Even breathing's painful right about now. She closes her eyes. "it din't . . . need-." A rip in the machine's casing curls upwards, seeming to smile at her, as her fists uncurl. The weapons platform looks from
Subdued calliaphone to Drive. And then, with an almost animate snarrl, it finishes the job.
Shards of metal spin off in all directions like a firework, and the casing lies bare, exposing the shifting, writhing circuit boards beneath, but
Subdued calliaphone doesn't see them. There's a flash of light. But no pain. Only numbness.
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