Draft One: ~1000 words

Cold metal below, hard metal walls and roofs, shiny metal ships, hollow metal crates and metal cargo containers and even stitched metal pieces of clothing and intricate metal weapons. Kyumquat's antenna hated it more than the rest of him. It was like chitin, but not from anything alive. Even the air here tasted cold and empty, not like the balesh. Not even like the crowded multilevel merchant district on the asteroid. The Koh-i-Noor loading bay was disgustingly clean with hints of acid.

external image narcotic_base_hangar.png

"Hey, Kumquat, you listening to me?" The human researcher spoke like they were entitled to Kyumquat's attention even though they hadn't said anything to interest him. And rude. And said hens name wrong again.

The machento's antenna was stiff and trying not to accidentally touch anything. The smell was bad enough with the metal and the fermented aroma of the human.

"I listen. You have anything better?"

Kyumquat folded hens upper set of arms and set down on hens other two pair. Hen was getting impatient with the human. Metal tools weren't needed on the balesh and an old fire shooter that didn't shoot was a collectors pieces at best. With the new restriction the Elders put in place on weapon technology, Kyumquat would have to reach into some deep pockets to find a buy for it. Maybe that priest had some collector friends. Or was a collector of foreign rare objects.

"But the gun's an antique! And these mining chisels are a steal as weapons! They cost 700 credits at the Hub!" The researcher still had not said anything interesting. They didn't seem to understand.

"Tools are useless, yes?"

"What? No!"

"They do not cut organics. But I do." Kyumquat raised himself back on his upper legs since it was clear this human didn't understand machento mannerisms. Hen knew how to intimidate humans well enough enough by being bigger than them. "These, I do not want. Why did you call me here?"

Kyumquat would do much better to throw the metal tool at someone than shoot them with it. The UNSF made such stiff technology
The human scrunched in on themself, pale single pair of arms covering their face. "Wait! I can override them! Make them cut anything! Look." They scuttled over to the box and plucked one of the metal chunks out. "Safety is on now." The human pointed the laser at their own leg and pulled the trigger, but the laser made an angry honking sound.

Hen leaned in closer to better watch as the researcher opened a panel, pulled out two thin colored veins and cut one while just scrapping open another.

"You just have to cut the blue one and expose the inside of the white one. Then the blue one attaches there..." The human closed the panel and pointed the chisel at their leg again and pulled the trigger. The chisel made a low rumbling noise and the smell of burning ozone leaked from the front. "It warms up as usual, but works for anything now! Basically, the video sensor that stops anyone from firing at organics is stuck in a constant feedback loop of the initial start cycle which is a black screen and since...

Hen didn't care how the human knew this. A real scientist from their Novus Terra or not, at least they were smart. Also stupid.

"Do that to all of them and they are weapons, yes?" Working weapons were sell-able. To humans and the underground skulkers and smugglers mostly, though many machento and arorem were smart enough to want defense in the boroughs.

"I knew you would understand. So it's worth it, right?"

"These are all chisels?" Kyumquat's antenna swiveled curiously and hen stared at the three crates.

The researcher put a hand behind their neck in a human indication of anxiety or fear of disappointing another. "Not all of them, exactly... Some are medical injectors. Just a row or two each crate. But the rest is. Look, I know you prefer contraband, but these are good money, I swear. I bet Holistic Abe or whoever would give good money for more of these! More than I'm asking."

Kyumquat took the mining laser while the human droned away. It was light and too small for his hand. "I am interested."

"So we can work out a deal? Great, cause I feel super exposed here and this has been taking forever. You're good for your word on the credits, right?"
The machento's antenna tilted backward, his mandible quivering in the machento equivalent of a chuckle. Hen aimed the laser and pulled the trigger, and it buzzed warm in his hand and burned more ozone. Hen released the trigger before it fired. Good.

"No." Kyumquat lumbered up to him, tossing the laser back into the crate.

The human cowered back again, but this time with hands up placating the giant machento. "Hey, pal, I held up my end here. If you end me, there won't be any future trading, less money to be had. You-" Kyumquat punched the human in the side of the head with both right arms, completing a small spin and breathing out deeply.

There were plenty of humans. Each thought they were revolutionary, the first to make some money on the black market. But they were wrong. More would take this one's place. Maybe, if they talked less, hen would keep them.

Kyumquat looked at the three metal boxes the human had brought. Hen secured the silly antique gun and the open crate's lid and set the human like they was sleeping by the cargo containers. Hen picked up a crate in each arm and headed back to the main borough.

So many lasers. There was enough to sell for months! And more than enough to pay for Mandorn's medical training and some of Pyomeol's protection debts too. Hen would tell one of the other black market agents about reconnecting the veins inside.

Was is blue into yellow? Or blue into white? White into blue? The colored strings were hard to differentiate. They all smelled like cold hard metal and citrus.