The side of the smith’s skull ached. A dull, unrelenting pain that tightened and seeped with every wince, every turn of the jaw, the lightest of frowns. From the top of the left eyebrow down and around the socket, a dozen stitches held a healing wound together. In the socket itself a fading bruise had turned yellow, normal colouration slowly beginning to return.
The last few days had been tense, near suffocating as the very things she feared seemed to rapidly grow to a head. The first was getting back into the forge – aided by a contact who knew someone. The chaos of the riot brought a new set of troubles, ensnaring and choking up. The shutters were locked up tight, the forge sealed from trouble until it blew over. When it did her secrets were removed, passed out and on by clever hands in an attempt to douse the situation she was in. A firm scrubbing out of anything related to the resistance, the illegal practice of gunsmithing and the firearms themselves. All the while the hammer struck against the anvil, ever working in an attempt to distract from the reality she was finding herself in.
She was hot. Dangerous. A risk that needed to cool before even thinking about interacting with her allies again.
And she was terrified of leaving. On this occasion the shutters were half open, the door closed. Occasionally she would stop to peer outside, fearful and unable to convince herself to cross the threshold. Which in of itself was becoming a problem. She could not remember the last time she ate, properly at least. The attempts left her feeling nauseous, appetite destroyed in an instant. The same issue went to washing and self-care – every day brought another layer of dirt and grime, smothering and sticking to the skin and sinking into the injuries. A mess that seemed to have had a lapse in self-preservation.
A swallow, she focused on what she could do – her job. The current project was an unusual one, wrought iron being pulled into shapes to create heavy, curling table legs. She was half way through the template – the one she would use to base all the molds off. Cool end clutched within a gloved hand, she braced as she bent the material round into a gentle curve. The hammer served as the blunt instrument, loud strikes reverberating up through her arms and providing some comfort.
Within the forge was roaring, heat climbing and matching the stifling Yaris air. The hammer was placed down, the piece raised for studying. It had cooled too much. Stuffing it back into the red coals, the smith went about the other needed tasks. The heavy metal lid of the sand pit was lifted, a wheeze as she propped it up against the wall. Her ribs hurt too, the gentle touching reminding her of the lingering aches. It was what she deserved for being compliant to the law. Her own fault for being as cooperative with the Seventen as possible. They wanted her to fight back, to be difficult and challenge them.
The others had done that for her.
Taking up a flat bar, the smith knelt and began to smooth out the sand. The dips and troughs that laid there were flattened, disappearing beneath an edge. Uniform, the same, no room for discrepancies. All bumps stamped out should they rise. Her mind slipped into a state of numbness, the last few days repeating themselves – stuck within a loop of thought. They had come banging on her door a couple of days after, demanding answers. The smith complied, again, a mentally torturing process that took out huge chunks of energy. In the end she was shoved away, no further questions needed; they were clearly satisfied with the evidence produced and the foul mood the landlord was left in.
Gale’s arm shook. More than she expected. The faint trembles amplified. It was illogical behaviour, the immediate danger had past all she had to do was wait it out. But she had been powerless. No reason would be heard no matter what she gave. Her mind lingered, the poisonous whisper crawling its way in. Out there someone knew too much, they had made a threat and a promise to act upon it should she not comply with their wishes. No one could help.
The bar was released, fingers rubbing into her face and covering the eyes. Oppression was to be her existence, if not a slave to a race then a slave to one. She feared what they knew, what power they held over her.
“This is bull shit!” the smith shouted at the still room. Face screwed up, jaw tight, the fists clenched and slammed against the sand in frustration. She was better than this. She knew that. But she still sat upon her haunches, staring down at the imprints left in her outburst.
Get it together Gal-
“No need to get angry now little one,” purred a voice. Anaxian. Striped top. Her gaze turned to see the shape of a man in the forge door way, features obscured by the light that glowed behind him, “We have a task for you. And I'm sure you'll be happy to help us with a favour.” A crack sounded as knuckles popped, the shape stepping into the lower light of the forge, “Wouldn’t want to cause offence after all. Would you now? On your feet now.”
Gale did not move.
“Did you not hear me? Up!”
The smith climbed onto her feet, hands going into her pockets as she weighed him up. He closed the gap, noticing a particular brand of tobacco being smoked – sharper than normal – before it was blown in her face. He was easily a head taller than her, twice her size as well. He gave a smile, yellow teeth flashing, before he moved his attention to the various tools, finger running along the counter, “Good. Now we want a new pack of cigarettes.”
“Couldn’t you just-“
A gasp escaped as the tall man swung his fist into her gut. Bent double, she swayed on her knees, arms wrapping around her sides. He stepped around to her side, fingers knotting into her hair to pull her head back, “No. Now I’m generous, unlike the rest of us,” he shoved her away, “So I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.”
Blinking at him, she watched him turn his attention to the various tools on the counter. Grasping onto one of the racks he looked at her, gently pulling it forward. He raised an eyebrow, “Ten minutes to bring us some before the redecorating starts-“
“But the nearest is-“
There was a crash as the rack came crashing down across the counter. Tools rolled across the floor. He smirked, “Shame. My hold slipped. Best start running.”
Gale grabbed her keys, staggered out into the street and did just that.