Mandate of Strength
"Might makes right."
Amanda Holliday cursed as she readjusted the jumpship's exhaust system. The Häkke foundry knew how to make a mean gun, but their aerospace engineering needed some improvement.
"Is this one of the new fighters?" The question came from a deep voice that rumbled across the H.E.L.M.'s hangar bay.
With a sigh, Amanda wheeled her creeper out from under the ship and rose to her feet. "Just a prototype, but—"
She dropped her wrench as she found herself face-to-face with Empress Caiatl.
"I mean, yes, your… uh… majesty." Amanda wiped the grease off her palms.
Caiatl laid a hand on the jumpship's hull, fingers delicately brushing the metallic surface. "Crude," she said musingly, "but it evokes power and efficiency."
"Häkke's specialty," Amanda replied. "Function over form."
"I can appreciate that," said Caiatl. "In a war fought with Hive magic and Darkness, I welcome the simplicity of heavy ordnance."
Amanda chuckled, despite herself. "Yeah… I can drink to that."
Amanda's shoulders relaxed. She leaned against her workbench and waited for the empress to finish her inspection.
"I used to be a pilot," Caiatl said suddenly. "As I soared across the skies of Torobatl, I felt a freedom that eluded me on the ground. As if…" she trailed off, unable to find the words.
"As if you were leaving all your troubles behind," Amanda offered softly. Knowingly.
"Yes," Caiatl said and turned to leave. "I look forward to seeing the prototype in action. You will be the one to fly it?"
"Wouldn't trust it with anyone else."
Caiatl made a sound that Amanda thought could have been a laugh. "Nor I, Shipwright. The Vanguard is fortunate to have you."
She nodded a farewell, leaving Amanda to her work.