Olena Jackobi put the last few touches on the whirligig that she was completing for a client.
“I know they are inviting me. I don’t want to go.” Olena released the strut and watched the creation spring to life at the touch of the wind.
She cocked her head and saw the delicately balanced pieces swing and swirl in all directions in a dance that took the blades perilously close to one another without touching.
Her boss sighed. “Then, why did you apply?”
Olena shrugged and set the gears to slow the rotation. It had to be locked down for delivery. The wind machine had been crafted from found objects that had been sliced into the perfect size and shape.
Margaret persisted. “Why did you apply?”
Olena scowled and looked at her the moment she finished prepping the device for delivery. “I applied because I wanted to play with their toys, to see if alien technology was different from ours. They just gave me normal, boring human technology to play with.”
Margaret sighed. “Then, you must tell them that you are not returning.”
Olena looked at her as she wiped her hands on her work apron. “I will.”
“You should do it soon. No sense in dragging these things out.”
“I said I would do it. Quit bugging me.”
Margaret smiled knowingly and walked away.
Two weeks later, Olena stared out the viewing window on the lunar base and muttered, “How could she do that?”
Her instructor cleared his throat. “Who are you speaking of?”
“My previous employer. Margaret. She knew I was going to end up here, she just had to goad me into it.”
“I am sure that it was a master manipulation. Now, tell me what the parts can be used for.”
She turned and looked at the workbench. The shattered remains of nine weapons and what appeared to be a toaster were in front of her.
With deliberate motions, she stripped the usable parts from the irreparable. Her instructor nodded, but she kept going, splicing the irreparable into useful connections over and over until the pile of recovered pieces was nearly as large as the factory salvage.
Heilos blinked in surprise. “You have done more than I expected. I would not have thought to combine those wires into a usable connection.”
“They are the same metal and will conduct power neatly. The effect of cold and hot will be easily executed through those coils as well; they just need to be nested instead of singular.”
Heilos looked at the coils. “Ingenious. Two completely different species developed that tech, and you made it work together. Continue to assemble it. I want to see what you create out of these obsolete parts.”
“Seriously. Go to it.”
Olena turned her gaze to the pieces on the table, and her hands moved automatically. She made connections, soldered them in place and tested the power throughput as she went. The tabletop environmental controller was without a housing, but it worked well when she finished.
Heilos blinked. “Well, this is disappointing.”
She was fiddling with the coils and glanced at him. “What is?”
“I had hoped to spend a few weeks training you, but it seems you are ready to go.”
“The moment that you were contracted, there was a position for you at a salvage station. Once I give my report on your competence, you will be on your way.”
Olena sighed. “They are just going to put me where they want me.”
“Yes. Get used to it. For the next three years, you are at their beck and call.”
She flicked a glance at Heilos. “You disapprove?”
“It seems unreasonable to surrender yourself to the control of another species. My kind would never allow it.”
He had leopard-like spots on his skin that were not marks on fur. His body was a random collection of pigments, most of which were concealed by his suit.
She glanced down at her own slightly baggy work suit and shrugged. “I am here to work. I don’t care where I do it.”
“Good. Salvage stations are not known for their amenities.”
Olena shrugged again. “Good. I can make my own.”
He raised his brows and chuckled. “I am guessing you can. Very well, I will process the report today. You have gained your languages and are physically fit for the journey. No time to waste.”
“Just like that?”
He cocked his head. “Did you wish it to take longer?”
She shrugged. “No, I just thought that it would take months, not weeks and days.”
Heilos chuckled and patted her shoulder. “Accept it. You have a talent for this. I wish you success in your future, but I feel that the wish is unnecessary. You are a woman who will make things happen.”
Olena nodded. “I will try.”
“Good. I will send the report and get your transport arranged. You will be leaving within the week. Be ready for it.”
“Are you just trying to get rid of me?”
He grinned and showed off his fangs. “I would love to watch you in action, but it isn’t necessary. I can see what you can do; I want you to show it to others. This is a skill that should be shared.”
“At a salvage yard?”
Heilos chuckled. “A salvage station. You will be taking apart chunks of ancient star ships and seeing what you can make useful again.”
Her imagination suddenly swirled. “Right. That does sound like fun.”