Story: Arkadian-verse (a year or two before the start of Arkadian)
Challenge: Guava #13 - See How They Run; Papaya #6 - Don't Look Down; bookblather's birthday prompt: He'd never realized that, deep down inside, what he really wanted to do was make things go splat. -- Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man
Word Count: 664
Summary: In a squad where almost everybody hates everybody else, sometimes 'accidents' will happen...
Notes: I tried to fix all three prompts in my mind because this scene leapt into my head and just demanded I wrote it, but it still managed to crab sideways somewhat... And I guess this is what I get for thinking about seven-year-old characters!
Suspended fifty feet up the warehouse wall, Yirien's mesh cage was not a perch for the faint-hearted. Although she'd never admit it, Aralelle's stomach did flip-flops every time she glanced down. For his part, the slender engineer beside her didn't seem fazed in the slightest by the height, his brow furrowing as he concentrated operating the - unnecessarily complicated, in her opinion - lifting equipment.
"Why can't you do this on the ground anyway?"
"I didn't ask you to follow me," he said without turning to her, his hands moving over the controls with a practiced ease. "If you don't like it, you know where the lift is."
She didn't dignify that with an answer. In silence she watched the huge, yellow-striped pincer move across the grids of the ceiling and lower to grasp and lift a metal crate twice the height of a man. It was graceful, in the same way Kerratrem in full armour was: immense and terrifying, moving faster than you'd ever expect.
"Why are you up here anyway?"
Yirien's words dragged her back to the real world and she turned on him the full force of her distain. He looked unmoved. "I can be up here if I want." He didn't deign to reply and, oddly needled by his lack of response, Aralelle added, "isn't this a bit low-status for someone like you anyway?"
This time he did glance at her, only long enough to quirk up one eyebrow. "Don't you have anything better to do?"
"No." She shoved both hands defiantly into her jacket pockets and gave him a glare that just begged him to contradict her; it took her a moment to realise he wasn't even looking.
He shrugged. "Fine. Whatever." The gripper crane, ably handled by the engineer, lowered the crate into position on the other side of the warehouse then began its journey back to pick up the last glossy cube.
Aralelle glowered at the man beside her, irritated by his ability to ignore her so totally, when a flash of purple from the warehouse floor caught her attention. "Hey, is that Janura?"
Yirien said nothing, but she saw his mouth set into a firm line that, for once, had nothing to do with his opinion of her. Even as his hands slid over the levers and buttons, his gaze tracked the movement of the purple-haired pilot below them. Aralelle didn't think she'd ever before seen someone so deftly handle the vast machine without concentrating on what they were doing. The crane seemed to almost move of its own accord to grab the final crate and raise it into the air on its journey towards its companions.
Until half way - until it was almost directly over the man stalking his way across the floor.
Aralelle stared, wide eyed, as the crate slipped from the pincers. Unable to close her eyes or to shout a warning, her heart pounding, her breath caught in her throat, as the crate plunged toward the floor-
-As Janura leapt backwards and away from the crash, yelling loud curses up at the cage, the expletives enough to make a lesser woman blush. She'd got no doubt he knew exactly who was operating the crane and equally had no doubt there'd be a lot of shouting later too, and all on Janura's side: Yirien barely ever raised his voice.
She turned her attention from the man on the ground, still yelling, to the one beside her staring calmly down at the scene Janura was creating. "You..."
He turned his brown eyes up to her, his face a mask of neutrality. "It slipped."
Aralelle opened her mouth, then closed it again. How could she say she'd seen how easily he'd manipulated the controls without even looking?
That she knew Yirien never made mistakes?
For the first time since she'd met him, since she'd first taken delight in tormenting him and teasing him, Aralelle wondered if she should feel afraid of him.