Aboard the Katabasis Frontier, Beyond the Gates The ship moaned in the darkness; for all he knew, it was the growls of an empty metallic stomach. The thought brought him comfort as he bore down on the pneumatic wrench. As far as he could recall, the belly of the ship was filled with nothing more than mothballs and half empty PBT containers, smelling of wet cotton and rations far beyond expiration date. Maybe the stomach pangs were warranted. “Ay ay, stop fucking pushing. You’ll crimp the gasket.” Luka leaned back and released the trigger, eyeing the smaller woman with the sort of glare that danced carelessly between nonchalance and exhaustion. The work hadn’t ceased but as soon as the mechanic whirling of the socket cut off, the heat spitting out a plume of tinted steam, he felt a sudden desire to kick his feet back on one of the heat sinks and prop himself out like a proper Marlboro man. “I swear to God if you aren’t any good beyond punching…” She hissed as she worked the bolt back out. “These damn things cost an arm and a leg and we're 10,000 leagues under the sea out here. Not many vendors to sort out our rubber deficits!” By all accounts, Jackson was her surname but Luka reckoned it would have suited her first name at birth. She did a hell of a job at passing but in the right light, even a petite Adam’s apple was visible. “Sweat the small stuff, you’ll end up drowning.” He rebutted with a smirk as he fell on his haunches, splaying out the cord and socket set across the grated floor. Levi knew it better than most but for what Luka considered the majority of his adult life, he was better suited for a needle than any sort of mechanical tool. But necessity meant that an enforcer had to take up necessary skills when there wasn’t much else between the hull and the empty space, gently rapping. Blue eyes glanced up at the sound of debris smacking across the exterior of the hull. With the engines firing faintly, it was almost impossible to make out. Even more impossible was differentiating between that and the simple shrinking and enlarging of metal across the temperature differential of an endless vacuum and roaring thrusters. Like a young man strutting across an open dance floor, it was hard to sort out what was up or down. “It’s nothing.” Luka shook his head and gripped the wrench, eyeing Jackson. “Nothing until it’s something. Like an antenna array.” Craning his head upwards, he knocked his tongue. “And just like that, no more late night tight beams.” While they were far removed from the blue of any ocean, the questionable nature of communications from frontier to belt still put people on edge. Between Jackson and the other crew, it was clear that even explorers had their limits. What had started out as a relationship of convenience had turned into something more; a partnership born from mutual enemies. “Easy for you to say, Lukas…” Jackson had a bad habit of using his full name when she was angry. Or not angry. She tended to just use it when she pleased. “Not all of us have hot-bunking mates.” He nodded, feigning understanding, and handed off the wrench. “Don’t bear down on the gasket, you’ll crimp it.” Jamming his hands into the pockets of his green jumpsuit, he fled the room to find other places for his attention. With all the steam coming out of her ears, Jackson was suddenly a poor partner for conversation.