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Ratch was gone for hours

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Ratch was gone for hours. It was unusual for her. The Nisseri mechanic practically slept in her workshop, if she slept at all. She spent the long hours fine tuning the intricate machinery she'd created for him or tinkering with some other project while he watched her. She didn't know he observed her, he was supposed to be resting. He had not, could not, admit to her he rarely slept more than an hour or two at a time. And when she slipped away during those brief respites, he woke choked in fear, the echo of screams in his head, and a sense of time running out.

This was something else he hadn't admitted to her, but the subject was far more dangerous territory. He didn't know how long he'd lived in the confines of Ratch's workshop. Time was fluid here. Since he slept so little, he had no concept of days or weeks. His abduction from Jamestown felt like another lifetime, reborn the moment he woke up on her table. Essentially, he was a new man, almost more metal than flesh. No one from his childhood would recognize him now.  Another lie, but he didn't want to think of her. Was she still alive? Still looking for him? He prayed not. He didn't feel like Miles Glouschester anymore, he wasn't the quiet machinist from the backwaters of New Earth Six. Miles sighed and shoved his hair out of his face as he paced.

Who are you now? He paused at his distorted reflection in the metallic walls. Half his face bore the fine reticulated plating Ratch made to respond to his facial tics and expressions. She'd seamlessly connected the metal parts to his living nervous system with a network of nanites and minuscule wiring. He could move the machinery as easily as the parts he was born with. The only miracle she couldn't perform was sensation. The work was a testament to her skill and finesse but the nerve ending she connected remained inactive, nothing more that a light pressure. The metal was a dark grey, faintly lit by the wiring underneath it. His mechanical eye was a sharp acid green, contrasted against his natural brown eye, whirring to focus on the growth of facial hair along his jaw. He had a short red beard covering the lower half of his face and his hair brushed his shoulders. He'd been clean shaven when he was taken, with a close cropped inch on his head. I've been here for months and I know nothing about her.

This was the pendulum of his thoughts that swung to and fro between the painful loss of his former life and his uncertain present with an enigma of a female. Most days, he did not trust Ratch, often wondered when she'd hand him back over to the harvesters to finish him off. Nothing but another experiment to her. He resisted the urge to slam his fist against the wall. He dare not make a noise, fearful any passing Nisseri would hear his outburst and investigate. No one allowed in Ratch's workshop but Ratch. He grit his teeth and fought the false sense of security she gave him, a wavering battle. There was nowhere safe for a human on this ship.

The door slid open behind him. He turned to Ratch, her expression distance, eyes unfocused. His doubts and suspicions fell away. She worried her bottom lip again. Whenever he saw the gesture he felt a tug in his stomach. He crossed his arms over his chest to cover his discomfort.

"What's wrong?" Her head snapped toward him, giving him a real glimpse of her face. His heart stuttered. He walked forward before his thoughts caught up. She met him halfway and leaned into his shoulder while his arms settled around the small of her back. Grief, her expression was rife with grief so profound he couldn't help but respond to it. Ratch didn't cry as she rested in his hold, her solemn silence heavy between them.

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