Meeting on the Planet



Cid muttered angrily and struggled with a stuck gear. No dice. "Shera, gauge 8 wrench."

Today his assistant was doing her own thing, but he'd heard her voice close by and he wasn't in a position to get out of the hatch and look for his tools; it would be a right mess. More than a mess than it was now.

No wrench materialized in his held up hand. Cid waited a second, two, ten. "Shera, goddamn woman--!"

Thwack. Cid gave a grunt when metal smacked in his palm. The weight was right; he dove back in. Aha, take that, you misaligned piece of shit--

"You're welcome," a definitely male voice quipped from just behind his back.

Cid growled, finished fixing the problem area, and pulled out to glare balefully at the joker who had nothing to do but stand there being funny as other guys worked. "Who the fuck are you?"

Shera winced. The young man only smiled, unruffled as you please. "Duo Maxwell. Got a friend of a friend who said you were looking for another mechanic."

Cid looked suspicious. "Yeah? Who's that friend?"

"Zack Fair, SOLDIER Second class."

Cid remembered the kid. SOLDIERs tended to be an insular lot; friendly ones stuck out, especially ones who actually listened to his space-going dreams. "He ain't stationed at Midgar?"

"Sure he is," Duo replied easily.

"...Oh, oh, don't tell me you've come to another continent just so you can work with us," Shera said, and winced. "It's way too far. Were you moving anyway?"

Duo laughed. "Oh no, I came over just for you."

Cid had been vaguely defensive before, but now he was suspicious. "You're aware we only pay minimum wages, yeah? Budget's sponsored by Shinra, and so far they think we don't need a new mechanic that badly."

"I didn't come here to fix your motor pool," the man countered calmly. "Though I'll do that happily enough, when there's a job in need of doing. I came for the rocket. I don't care about the wages. I could sleep in a cardboard box so long as this means we'll go into space."

Cid snorted. "We, huh?"

"Oh yeah." Maxwell grinned suddenly. "You're the head honcho, but I've improved a few motors in my time..."

He found himself amused by the teasing cockiness of the guy's attitude. "Hah. Talk is cheap."

"Yup," Maxwell agreed brightly. "I figure you'll have to give me a trial period to make sure."

"... Well, I gotta hand you that, you've got balls. Fine then. You don't get paid till Sunday, and not at all if you've been fucking things up. And you're not getting anywhere close to the rocket 'till I say you can. Deal with it."

The guy actually bounced on the balls of his feet. "No problem. I start now?"

Cid took out a cigarette and lit it. Seemed nice, someone who wanted to go into space too. He wasn't going to believe a word of it, not so long as it was still words. "I'll give you the tour, and then it's straight to work."

But when Maxwell saw the half-built rocket, with its open panels and missing floors and the underlying architecture bare for all to see, he paused and gave it a look like he was in love. For a second Cid was almost jealous, like he would have been over some woman. If he'd ever loved a woman even half as much as he loved his dream, that was.

"... Heh. You wanna fly with, huh? Ain't gonna happen for years."

"Yeah, I gathered. It's okay." He grimaced, eyes briefly downcast. "I'm not going anywhere."

Cid briefly wondered where the young man wanted to go, that he couldn't and yet thought nothing of crossing two continents just to work here. "Careful, the competition to take you up ain't gonna be picnic-like."

Maxwell grinned. "Oh yeah." He took a deep breath, rolled up on his toes like he was seriously thinking of climbing it. "It's going to be downright exhilarating."