A Word of Caution

Welcome to the realm of the Unseelie Court. Feel free to wander and browse, but know that the content you will find here is not for the faint of heart. The visions portrayed are often darkly erotic, even disturbing, and should be traversed only by those with the appropriate character and mental age.

You have been warned.


Chapter 3 – The Right Tool for the Job

Molly didn’t miss the forenoon watch change, but she might have if the Captain herself hadn’t dropped by to check on her progress. The girl was covered in grime, salt flakes, and sweat as she leaned over an open panel on the now sparkling clean distiller unit. Several smooth mechanical arms stretched out from the device around her neck into the guts of the machine while Molly herself stared at the hovering blue field in front of her face.

“Miss Amberly…” the Captain repeated for the third time while she placed a hand lightly on her shoulder, causing the girl to jump and bang her head on a nearby metal pipe.

“Captain! I didn’t see you, sir…” She immediately canceled the screen and retracted the arms into the manipulator so she could give the woman her full attention. When she started to stand the Captain stopped her.

“No, please. As you were. I just wanted to see you in action and… Good lord… is this… my distiller?! By god, it’s like brand new!”

Molly smiled. “Well, first rule of electromechanical repair, ‘clean everything’. You’d be amazed how much of a difference a good cleaning makes.”

“That’s extraordinary! But, aside from how it looks, any luck actually repairing this infernal device?”

“Oh goodness, yes,” she replied, enthusiastically. “In fact, I believe I’m just about ready to test my modifications to your system.”

“Modifications? Why does that make me nervous…”

Molly pulled herself up off the floor and wiped off her hands. She was definitely going to need a new set of clothes before lunch.

“Don’t worry, Captain. These are really more ‘upgrades’ than true modifications. Your distiller was pretty old by maritime standards, even older than your ship, actually. And since I had both the original construction designs, and all the newest models used in ships being built today, I had the Nanaris calculate a ‘best case’ upgrade using the available materials. They’ve done a whole lot of miniaturization in more modern versions, so there was plenty of material right from the original distiller. Then it was just a matter of letting it do its thing. It can work really fast autonomously.”

“Wait, so in the last four hours you built a brand new distiller out of parts from my old one?”

Molly thought about it for a second. “Yeah, pretty much. Though this new distiller is miles above the original. I’d say that you should see about a two hundred percent increase over the previous distillation rate, even when it was at its peak.”

The Captain just stared at her, her mouth open.

“Oh! Oh! But the best part is what I did with the heater,” said Molly, excitedly. “See, the distiller is mostly just a really efficient heat exchanger with a series of condensation chambers to separate the brine and produce fresh water. It uses a fair amount of energy, but I checked your matrix and I’m guessing that you had it more recently installed?”

“While we were in Halsforth just before winter…” confirmed the Captain, looking a little overwhelmed by the girl’s enthusiasm.

“Well, it’s top notch. Plenty of power from your sun-cloth sails to easily keep it topped off constantly during daylight hours. Given so much energy potential, I figured, why not make better use of the extra, yes? And Quartermaster Brill mentioned that you used straight seawater for bathing… So I ran the fresh water feed back through the exchanger and then into this large insulated mixing reservoir, and finally out to that pipe right there…” she said, pointing up near the ceiling.

“Miss Amberly! Get to the point, please,” exclaimed the Captain, her face looking a bit pained.

“Uh, you’ve got hot showers now,” she replied, simply.

Captain Pennylust blinked several times. “I beg your pardon?”

“Hot showers. Freshwater,” she pointed to the ceiling and the shower room, which was on the deck just above them.

The blonde-haired woman still looked incredulous. “You’re serious.”

Molly nodded, smiling. “Come on, I’ll show you,” she added, closing the panel on the distiller. She then led the Captain back up a deck. She entered the bathing room, and went to one of the four valves. A few turns produced a stream of sputtering water. She waited.

“There’s probably a little air in the line. Give it a second…”

A few moments later she felt the cold water turn warm and then a nice comfortable hot. She waited just a bit more and then tasted a few drops from her fingers.

“Yup. It might take a few days to clear all the accumulated salt from the pipes, but I figure you can generate enough fresh water such that you could run these at almost any hour and not overly drain your matrix, or your fresh water store.”

There were a pair of curious crew members leaning into the doorway as the Captain came slowly forward and put her own hand under the stream.

“I’ll be dipped…” she said to herself. She also tasted the water, and then looked over to the girl in seeming disbelief.

She shook her head. “Miss Amberly, let me make sure I understand this. In the span of a single watch, you have not only repaired my distiller, but upgraded it, and my plumbing, so that my crew and I can now bathe in fresh hot water at any hour… Without depleting my fresh water supply?”

“Yes?… I mean, yes, sir. I hope that wasn’t too forward of me. I can put it back to the way it was if it’s a problem…”

“No!” said one of the crew at the door. She ducked and disappeared as the Captain looked in her direction. Punnylust herself just chuckled, and then turned off the faucet.

“Molly, I believe you are about to be very popular with the rest of the crew. Hot showers…” she mumbled to herself, smiling. “Yes, very popular indeed.”



When it got around that there were hot showers to be had, suddenly everyone wanted one, which was a bit of an issue since Molly hadn’t accounted for such a demand. A few rules had to be added about taking no more than a single shower a day, and limiting the time spent under the water, etc… There were a few grumbles, but when Molly added a steam fixture to the far end of the room, which had no such time restrictions, that grumbling disappeared instantly.

“Adding steam was easy,” she explained to Brill, who had come to see the new luxury herself. “The bench was already there, and steam uses almost no water, just power. It’s all self regulating and will turn off if no one is present, to conserve power.”

“I think we’re going to need to add another bench,” said the woman, impressed. “A steam room. Who would have thought? Alright, techie, you’ve pretty much aced this task. Are you ready for something a bit more mundane?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Fine. When you’re next on watch I want you to do a round of kitchen duty. Manny is always needing help in the mess, and it will be good for you to do something a little more down to earth. I don’t want the crew expecting miracles like hot showers from you every day.”

“It was really no trouble…” she started.

The woman put her hand on her shoulder. “I know, lass. And I get that you just want to please the Captain, and that’s all good. But a word of advice from an old hand…”


“Miracles should be doled out slowly, lest people get too used to them. Putting yourself on a pedestal of fame and glory is good now and again, but sooner or later you’re going to have to come back down. And if your head’s already in the clouds, that’s going to be quite the fall, if you get my meaning.”

“I think so. But…”

“Go ahead, lass. Speak your mind.”

“Well, shouldn’t I try to be the best crewmember I can at all times?”

Brill nodded. “Yes. But keep your humility in mind at all times as well. Nobody likes a brown-noser. You’re smart, Molly. Guild trained and educated. But there’s still a bunch you can learn on board the Mistress, and little of it is tech related. Use your skills, but try not to flaunt them, grok?”

She sighed. “Grok. Thank you, sir.”

A single bell sounded.

“Come on. I’ll show you to the mess since we’re both off.”

Molly hesitated. “Uh, shouldn’t I change first?”

The woman looked her up and down as if she had missed something. “Did you spill a toxic on you or…”

“No, no… It’s just, well, look at me.”

The other laughed aloud. “That’s not dirty, love. Oh, you’re welcome to change later if that’s your wish, but so long as you’re not so foul that people can’t eat their food, the rule is ‘eat first, clean later’. If you don’t get a chance to change, you’re just dirty. If you don’t get a chance to eat…” She let the implication hang.

“I get it.”

Lunch was served in a busy galley, with people coming and going almost constantly. Brill grabbed a metal plate and handed one to Molly as they stood in a short line.

“Most evenings I eat in the officer’s mess, or with the Captain, but lunch and breakfast is here,” explained the dark-haired woman. “We’ll eat well enough for a few weeks, while most of the food is fresh. Later, things can get a little more… interesting.”

“She means, disgusting,” said a smiling man just behind them in line. He reached forward, extending his hand. “Johnny Henseed.”

She shook greetings with the man, relieved by the positive enthusiasm from other crewmates. She wasn’t at all sure how they would treat a stowaway. “I’m…”

“Molly. I know,” he interrupted, grinning. “Everybody knows you, Miss Amberly. Nice to finally have a Tech on board. Seems like a perfect match for someone of your skills, bein’ as we always have things needing repair and all. Not to mention the hot showers. You sure know how to make a good first impression.”

The idea of everyone knowing her was a bit frightening, and she caught the Quartermaster’s eye as they exited the line. The woman was right about how easy it would be to forget her humility. Molly was a bondservant, barely above a criminal, even if the crew treated her as one of their own. She would have to be careful indeed to remember her place.

They sat across from each other at a simple table and ate quickly. Molly didn’t realize how hungry she was until solid food was in front of her. There was a salted pork of some kind, cheese, carrots, some fresh fruit, and even a hunk of bread. The last, Brill explained would sometimes be replaced with sea biscuits. Normal bread didn’t keep long at sea, so they stocked up and ate hearty at the start of a voyage.

“Now that fresh water isn’t a problem,” she raised her cup to Molly in salute, “there’s a lot less pressure to conserve. Most days it would be rationed pretty strictly, with a cup of mead or ale for flavor. It will definitely help morale to be able to drink our fill… Though we may need more rum,” she added thoughtfully.

“Always need more rum,” laughed a woman two seats down. Her dark brown hair was woven into a hundred tight braids that were peppered with natural colored beads and even a few shells. Molly thought it looked stunning, and idly found herself fingering her shorter red hair. Such styles would never have been permitted in the Guild.

“That would be Sheila Vinns,” said the man who had shaken her hand in line. He was seated to her right and had noticed her look of awe. “She’s the best rigger on the Mistress, a real wiz with the ropes. Fingers so strong they’re like pliers.”

When they finished their meal, the Quartermaster excused herself to other work, leaving Molly with free time, her first since coming aboard. It felt very strange to be able to walk freely through the ship, not as a stowaway, but as a member of the crew; even if she was at the bottom of a very long ladder.

She had no idea what to do. She wasn’t even sure where she was allowed to go, and what parts of the ship might be off limits. She wandered around for a bit, mostly trying to stay out of the way; something that was impossible on such a cramped vessel, before finally heading back towards her bunk. She was just about to set up the hammock and take a nap when there was a voice behind her.

“It’s Molly, right?”

She turned and found a girl not much older than she was sitting in her own hammock watching her.

She nodded. “I… I’m supposed to be off watch, and I don’t know what that means. What do people do when not on watch,” she said in frustration. “This is the first time I’ve even been on a ship.”

“Well, most of us don’t come on board as a stowaway,” said the other.

“Right,” she replied, and continued to try and work the clips on her bedding.

“Oh, hey, that came out all wrong,” continued the girl, hopping down. “I didn’t mean to imply anything. We all have our demons,” she added, cryptically. “I’m Star. Star Haven… Yeah, I know, corny name.”

Molly smiled. “I like it. It makes me think of constellations. Molly Amberly,” she added, offering a greeting. The other came forward, took her hand, and proceeded to turn it over and stare into her palm, as though there might be something hidden there.

“Wow, you’ve got strange patterns.”

I… er, what?”

The girl giggled, her streaked blonde hair tinkling. When Molly looked more closely, she noticed a pair of fine braids on each side, much like Sheila Vinns’. At the end of each, however, was a tiny bell.

“My sister says you can tell all kinds of things by the patterns in people’s hands.”


“She tried to teach me, and I look at the hands of everyone I meet, but I just don’t see it, not really, anyway. They say you’re a Tech, and that you fixed the distiller so that we can take fresh hot showers now. I went over, but the place was more crowded than I’ve ever seen it. Bit of a group orgy if you ask me. I’m sure the novelty will wear off quick.”

“Uh… I’m not an official Tech, no cert,” she said, her face blushing slightly. “Not that I’m ever likely to get that now,” she added the last and sat down on her locker, the full weight of that reality hitting her for the first time.

“You seem like a Tech to me. You fixed the distiller up real nice.”

“I left the Guild,” she continued, a knot forming in her stomach. “Being a Tech is all I ever wanted to be, and now it’s the one thing I can never have.” She was almost surprised to actually hear the words coming out of her mouth.

“Hey, whoa…” Star sat down on the locker too, just as Molly’s emotions suddenly caught up with her and she started to sob. The other girl rubbed her back for a few minutes until Molly finally sniffed and apologised.

“I’m sorry, this is all so strange to me. I’m blubbering like a little child, when all I wanted was to get to Pellin Harbor. And now I’m a bondservant on the wrong ship, headed in the wrong direction, with no future, and no idea where I’m even going. ”

“South,” said Star, smiling. After a moment, they both burst out laughing.

“Thanks,” she said to the blonde-haired girl.

“You really shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. Maybe it was fated.”

“Fated? Like by the gods?”

“Goddess,” star corrected her. “That’s what I think anyway; that we all have a purpose. Sometimes we find it on our own, and sometimes we need a little push. The unfortunate ones are those that never let themselves be led. They hold on so tight to what they have, that they don’t allow the Goddess to push them where they’re supposed to be.”

Molly was intrigued. Religious beliefs were only barely tolerated in the Guild, though the Guild itself was nearly a religion.

“Do you think you are where you’re supposed to be, Star?”

The girl grinned. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

“But how do you know?”

“Because, when you aren’t resisting, there’s no ‘wrong’ place to be. I’m like a cork in the water. I go where the wind of the Goddess pushes me. Today that’s working on a ship. Tomorrow, maybe something else.”

Molly sighed. “Wow. I’m not sure I could be that open to change.”

“Well, you left the Guild. You must have had a pretty strong wind to lead you to do that.”

“You could say that, I guess. We had a difference of opinion on how I was being treated as a female student. They thought women should be a lesser subclass, I disagreed, so I left.”

“Politics,” commented the other, shaking her head. “That stinks. But you’re out now, on the sea and ready for more change. I know, why don’t I show you around?”


“Sure! Come on.” She stood and took her hand, drawing her up. “It’ll be fun! I’ve always wanted to give someone a tour.”

And so she did. From bow to stern, Star showed her nearly every space on the ship save for the private officer’s quarters. She explained the various stations and the regulations concerning them as she went, and Molly quickly found herself wishing for a manual. But then she realized that she did have a manual. She took a second and told the Nanaris around her neck to silently record her travels through the vessel in reference mode. Basically, it would catalog everything it saw until she told it to stop. She wasn’t sure how smart the mode was, but she could fine-tune things later. For now, she just wanted to enjoy the tour instead of focusing on trying to memorize every word that came out of Star’s mouth. The girl was a cornucopia of information, and by the time she led her up to the top deck, Molly was convinced her new friend could pilot the ship entirely by herself.

“This place is really a lot more complicated than I pictured it,” she said as they leaned on a rail and watched the ocean.

Star nodded in agreement. “There are over a hundred and twenty people on board. As big as the Mistress is, that’s still a really small space for that many people to live and work and get along without killing each other. The routine and discipline make it all mesh. Everything is organized, you know? From piloting the ship itself, right down to the gun crews should we get attacked.”

Molly frowned. “On that last point… Am I on a ‘gun crew?’”

“You will be, once you’re trained. Everyone helps. Until then, you’ll probably just be a powder rat.”

“A what?”

Star giggled. “Powder rat. Uh, crew members that fetch gunpowder from the munitions hold and pass or carry it up to the gun deck.”

Molly was thoughtful for a moment. “Have you ever been in a battle like that?” she asked, quietly.

The other woman sighed and looked a little sad. “Yeah, once. We were ambushed off the coast of Tegras on a coin run.”

“A coin run?”

“That’s where we’re chartered to deliver a load of currency from one port to another. Someone must have leaked what we had in our hold, because a pair of ships tried to board us as soon as we were out of sight of the harbor.”

“Oh my god… what happened?”

“Well, they were smaller ships, but heavily armed. I don’t think they even knew who they were dealing with, but the Captain had most of the crew go below decks, then waited until the first ship was just within range before turning and giving them a full staggered broadside. She had the gunners all aim for the same point… Just about tore their ship in two. When the smoke cleared, you could see clear through to the water on the far side, and a good third of their main deck was missing, as well as the mast.”

“Holy shit…”

“We had been lucky with the attack. Usually, at that range there’s a lot more variance. But the sea was calm, and like I said, we were lucky… until the other ship opened fire.”

“Was the Mistress hit?”

“Oh yeah. Scary as hell. Looked like the whole world was coming apart. Explosions and wood splinters flying everywhere. We returned fire to the second ship and did enough damage to convince them it wasn’t worth it without help. They buggered out and we finished the run without incident. But we paid a price for sure.”

“Anyone hurt?”

Star looked over at her, her face a blank. “We lost seven crewmates, including my bestie at the time. Another twenty had varying injuries, most from splinters.”

“Oh… Star, I’m so sorry.”

She shrugged. “Comes with the territory. It’s a dangerous life. Mostly, it’s pretty quiet… until it isn’t. Then it’s like being thrown blind into a sandstorm, with people screamin’ and dyin’ and more thunder than you ever want to hear. I’ll tell you what though; if you live through an attack, you’ll feel more alive than you ever have in your whole life.”

Molly blew out her breath in a soft sigh. “Wow. I’m so not going to be able to sleep tonight.”

The girl laughed. “Don’t worry. This place will run you ragged. I promise, by the end of first watch, you’ll be so tired you could probably sleep right through an attack. You’ll see.”

Manny Oleski was a greasy-looking man with dark skin and deep, indigo irises, who pretty much personified the stereotypical image of a “cook” in Molly’s eyes. His slightly pot-bellied form was always moving in the cramped but clean kitchen, and his easygoing skill with the tools of his trade was instantly apparent to her. He had her peeling and cutting potatoes on the other side of a long table down the middle of the kitchen space, and even though he had shown her three times how to hold the awkwardly large knife, she was still moving at a snail’s pace.

“Don’t fear the blade, girl,” he said, as he picked up his own knife and set it to work coining several carrots. “Follow da rules, and then let the tool do the work.”

She was trying, but having already nicked her finger twice, she was a little gun-shy. “You make it look easy.”

“It is easy… when you been doin’ it for nearly ten years. Comes natural-like.”

He had a very strange accent that she couldn’t place.

“Can I ask ya somethin’?… Why you not usin’ that magic ring around your neck? I heard about what ya did with our water. Bein’ one of the only crew members with unlimited access to da fresh stores, I can say it’ll be a real nice pleasure not havin’ to worry about which dishes ta wash and which ta leave dirty.”

She smiled, not having considered the kitchen in her original modifications. “You know, I could probably get hot water down here as well. If I can come up with a bit more copper tubing, I could run you a direct line.”

“Aw, now you are just teasing Manny.”

“No, really,” she replied, looking up. “There’s plenty of room between the bulkheads. I could take the line clear across the ship, no trouble at all.”

“Can’t say I wouldn’t mind not havin’ ta heat all the water misself, but no rush, lass. I’ve been doin’ it this way for a long time. I’m plenty used ta it by now. But I did notice you failed ta answer my question.”

Molly took a moment before responding.

“The Quartermaster suggested that I try not to be ‘too good’ at what I do… That I maybe shouldn’t use my Nanaris all the time.”

The man nodded, his lower lip sticking out a bit.

“‘spose that’s sound advice, mos’ o’ the time. It’s good ta know lots o’ differen’ ways a’ doin’ things, jus’ in case one o’ them  should stop workin’. But don’ let that stop ya from usin’ the right tool for the job.”

“I believe she was thinking that the crew could get… jealous, or something.”

“Jealous?! Of how fast ya can peel a tater? Oh, lass. There are times for humility, but this ain’t it. We got close to a score o’ these things ta cut and cook in the next hour. The quicker we can do that job, the sooner we can move onto da next. As I understand it, that golden gizmo aroun’ ya neck allows you ta solve problems in the bes’ way possible, yes?”

“Basically,” she agreed.

Manny dumped out a large sack full of potatoes onto the table.

“Here’s the problem. Let’s jus’ say no one else is watchin’ and see whatcha can do, hmm?”

Molly bit her lip, but then activated the Nanaris. “Can I borrow your knife?” she asked.

“No one uses this knife but Manny,” he replied, slyly, while he reached behind him. “But, here’s another ta play wit.”

She took the offered knife, as well as her own, and set them on the table in front of her. Then, she carefully explained the task to the blue screen in front of her. Finally, she turned to Manny.

“Okay. I’m not sure how this is going to work, so you might want to take a step back.”

The man smiled slightly, but retreated as his kitchen would allow.

“Here we go,” she said, and instructed the Nanaris to proceed at three-quarters speed. Suddenly, it was as though a fan had been turned on just in front of her, and she found herself squinting into a breeze. What she saw, was a blur of steel, gold, and potato skins, as the Nanaris processed the entire contents of the sack into the pot, ready for boiling. The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than ten seconds.

“Whoohoo,” cried Manny from the other side of the kitchen. “That is what I’mma talkin’ bout’! Ha!”

Finished with its task, the Nanaris quietly set down the knives and retracted the numerous thin tentacles back into itself, just as it had been before.

“I… I guess I should have told it to keep the peels on the table.” She mentioned, looking about the kitchen. It looked like the potatoes had simply exploded out of their skins. Manny was laughing.

“Ah, details. Nex’ time. It’s worth the cleanup, jus’ ta see what tha’ marvel can do. I don’ think I have eva’ seen somethin’ move so fast. It was beautiful, miss.”

She smiled. “It was, wasn’t it. The right tool for the job…” she repeated to herself.

“Indeed. Now, as amazin’ and temptin’ as it is to do that with all the rest of our taters, I need to be in there workin’ too… An I like my appendages right where they are. Do you think you can slow it down some more?”

“Oh sure! In fact, I can give the Nanaris safety instructions so that it knows to stay clear of you wherever you are or whatever you’re working on.”

“Dat be good,” said the man.

It took another five or ten minutes to get things fully worked out, but once the basic instructions were presented and refined, Molly found that the Nanaris could do many things completely independently. She could oversee the chopping of potatoes, while another thin arm stirred a pot of stew. A third tentacle washed vegetables, even as a fourth was cleaning up potato peelings from the floor and ceiling. She could ‘see’ things from the view of her various extra limbs right on her blue screen, but after a short while, she realized she didn’t need to. She just started to ‘know’ what each of the limbs was doing, much like she knew what she was doing with her own arms. Strangely, she found the multi-tasking to be highly satisfying. At one point, Manny asked her if she could hand her a pot for some salted pork he was preparing. She had just used the one he wanted for some gravy, so without looking, she had one of the Nanaris’ limbs reach up to the high shelves, retrieve a new pot, and present it to the man. There was an odd silence, and she looked up to find Manny blinking at her. He reached out and took the pot from the golden tentacle holding it, and then smiled at her.

“D-did I do something wrong?” she asked a bit nervously.

“Nah, girl. But I am seein’ dat you and that golden necklace are actin’ as one.”

She looked down at herself, and then out at the room, watching the various limbs of the Nanaris perform their appointed tasks. He was right. She and the device were acting in complete synchronicity. More so, even without the blue data screen, she knew exactly where each limb was, and could even ‘feel’ the various tools that they held. She sensed the spoon stirring the stew, the pair of knives at the potatoes, and could even tell the temperature of the water as the Nanaris washed vegetables in the sink. She frowned, stunned at the connection.

“Is dat okay, child?” asked the cook.

“I… I really don’t know. I’ve used Nanari before, but not one like this. It’s… unusual. I’m not quite sure what to expect. I’ve heard of Techs having a rapport with their Nanaris, but this…”

“Should we stop?”

“No,” she said a little louder than she meant to. Manny didn’t seem to notice. “I mean, I don’t think it’s a problem. In fact, I’m finding it very… enjoyable. I feel incredibly productive, like this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.”


“Well, not cooking specifically, but… helping. It just feels right, you know?”

He smiled. “Dat I do, girl. So we will go with this new feeling and assume that if your metal side grows tired, that it will let you know.”

She nodded.

“Good. Now han’ me those cuttings and let’s continue.”

If the Nanaris bothered Manny, he never showed it. He seemed to treat the gleaming golden limbs as her own, with complete trust that they would actually take the items he handed to them instead of dropping them to the floor. And for her own part, it really was as though the new arms were her own. It didn’t seem strange at all that she now had five or six extra, nor was it in any way taxing physically or mentally. It was entirely natural to her.

Finally, the man took the last of the fruit she had been chopping and told her to have a seat.

“I think dis may be the first time I have finished mess with time ta spare. I will use it for a little magic of my own…” He then took the fruit and spooned it carefully into a series of pie shells, and topped each with a crumble. In the oven, they smelled heavenly, and when Molly’s stomach grumbled, she realized how hungry she was. Apparently, Manny noticed the sound as well.

“We’ve one last task before we can eat, but I think you will find dis one satisfyin’ as well.” He thought for a moment. “Perhaps, it would be a good time to give your metal side a rest. While I have seen and trust its nature, there are those that might misunderstand a girl wearin’ so much gold, if you understand my meanin’.”

Again, she looked down at herself. The Nanaris was a pretty obvious display. Then she had an idea. Bringing up the control briefly, she caused it to change configuration. A quick series of slides and snaps, and it was looped around her waist like a belt. She pulled her loose shirt over it and then looked to the man.

“How’s this?”

“Most excellent, miss.”

“So what’s left to do?”

He smiled. “Now we get ta serve our meal. Later, when the stores are… less appealing, da crew will grumble. But so close ta port, we can present a bounty. You watch the faces. This group knows good food. They will appreciate your work today, you’ll see.”

Manny was right. The joy to be able to eat a well prepared meal was palatable in the larger dining area, and Molly found herself grinning with pride as she served each grateful crew member a full plate. Later, as the cook brought out his special dessert, there were actual cheers and whistles or approval. Molly was beaming when the man placed a hand on her shoulder and urged her back to the kitchen for their own meal.

“There are two more pies for the duty watch,” said Manny as he set them each a plate and a glass for wine. “An’, a smaller one for us, of course,” he added smiling. He filled her glass and lifted his own.

“To da right tool for the job.”

She grinned and lifted her own glass to his. “The right tool, indeed.”

They both ate in relative silence until their plates were clear. Molly certainly wasn’t an authority on wine, but she happily swirled the glass as she took another bite of fruit pie.

“Dare are certain advantages in bein’ ship’s cook,” he said, indicating the wine.

“It’s really good. It all is! You’re a great cook, Manny. The ship is lucky to have you.”

“As I keep remindin’ the Captain,” he agreed, smiling. “So, let’s talk about your tools. How ya feel about what da Quartermaster say now?”

She thought about it for a moment. “I suppose Brill’s right. I do need to be careful. It’s not just being humble, I could really scare someone in the wrong circumstance… Like with those knives earlier.”

“Aye. And she’s also right that ya need ta do the work with your own hands if possible. You should be strengthening those muscles.” He pointed to her arms. “And da one up here.” The man lifted his finger toward her head. “Learn all ya can at each station you serve watch at, and listen to da crew. Dis’ a good bunch we have here. A real good bunch. Use that gizmo when it makes sense, an’ outta sight if possible. But…” And he held up a finger. “Dare be one time when humility be damned, and that’s to keep a crewmate safe. Dat be da case, you go ahead and pull out all the stops, you hear?”

She nodded. “Yes, sir.”

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