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IC: Hassan

 

"Ah," he finally looked up, noticing his mistake. Hassan adjusted his helmet to clear his field of vision, turning around to face the right direction.

 

"Clearly I am so confident in your superior satorial taste that I need not have looked upon you before saying that, my lady," Hassan bowed again, this time almost striking his head on the railing.

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IC:

 

"Hmh." Gwen raised an eyebrow and a corner of her mouth as Hassan nearly brained himself with an iron railing. "All the same to you, Hassan, but I'm starting to think all this politeness might be bad for your health. Plus, we keep this lift busy for too long, Powers That Be might start charging me expense for it."

 

-Void


 
 
[ BZPRPG ] - [ Exo-Force ] - [ Breaking Point ]

 

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"Probably from heat warping. Happens when you leave the crates next to a live thruster for too long," Gwen said. "Now, we're going to be removing the ammo belts from the Phalanx cannon first, okay? I'll need you to disengage the locking mechanism. That'll be the switch on the left of the barrel, not on the right. For the love of God, don't flip the switch on the right side of the barrel."

 

-Void


 
 
[ BZPRPG ] - [ Exo-Force ] - [ Breaking Point ]

 

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IC:

 

"Hey, it's my pleasure. We need all the help we can get around here, anyway," Gwen said, watching Hassan hit the switch, breathing a small sigh of relief when she saw that it was the left and not the right, and when the mech directly behind their work station wasn't suddenly riddled with bullet holes. "We've been working pretty much round-the-clock since the ... yeah. Heck, I think your kebab was the first real food I've had in, uh ... what's today?"

 

-Void


 
 
[ BZPRPG ] - [ Exo-Force ] - [ Breaking Point ]

 

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IC:

 

"Yeah," Gwen said. "Sure does, doesn't it...."

 

She had been tapping the toe of her right boot against the side of the lift for the past minute. She relaxed the fingers of her left hand from around the controls, and only then realized how white her knuckles had gone. Something throbbed behind her right eye like a motor engine.

 

"Hassan," she said. "Do you ... What do you think...."

 

Gwen tightened her fingers back on the controls.

 

"Why did you join the Federation?"

 

-Void


 
 
[ BZPRPG ] - [ Exo-Force ] - [ Breaking Point ]

 

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IC: Hassan

 

"Me? Well... Always wanted to travel the world, and go to space. Family never had the means for it. Our kebabs are good, but not that good, you know?"

 

Hassan took the chance to relax for a while, leaning against the railing. From up here, he felt like an ant, scrambling among the titanic Walkers, stoic and unmoving.

 

He decided he liked that feeling.

 

"So I decided to sign up, learn new kebab recipes, serve humanity and all that, and I did believe in that, you know? If it wasn't for the Federation, where I come from would still be..."

 

Hassan paused for a moment, his earliest memories coming back to mind. Of smoke and fire, heat and screaming. The unification of the Middle East had ended by then, but decades, centuries of sectarian hate still bubbled under the surface, and Hassan had experienced an outburst of that violence. Once.

 

"Let's just say it wouldn't be a safe place to sell kebabs on the street. And I still believe in the Federation. Mostly, anyway. Years of service will do that to ya, chip away at your sense of moral superiority. And in any case, I never thought the danger outweighed the benefits at the time. Until now, anyway."

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IC:

 

"Until now," Gwen repeated.

 

When was now? She couldn't even remember what day of the week it was. Must have been at least ... a week, since the attack? At least, must have been. Couldn't have been less. Which meant that her birthday must have come and gone without her noticing it. She had turned nineteen years old and she hadn't even noticed. 

 

"Have you talked to your family?" she asked. "Since the attack, to let them know...."

 

-Void


 
 
[ BZPRPG ] - [ Exo-Force ] - [ Breaking Point ]

 

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IC: Hassan

 

"It was difficult with the communications blackout, but I managed to get out of base to use one of the civvy toll phones before the blackout extended there, maybe a few days ago? They've moved since I joined the Federation, but I got hold of my uncle's mobile. Hopefully he's managed to tell the rest of the family. And as far as I know, Cairo hadn't been hit by the Union ground forces yet."

 

Hassan looked down directly at Gwen, watching her. She seemed a little on edge, but this height it was hard to tell. What had happened that he'd missed?

 

"How about you? Your family know you're safe?"

Edited by NorikSigma

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IC:

 

"I texted them after the battle," she said. "Everyone's all right."

 

It took a moment, but Gwen chuckled.

 

"My dads were telling me how they tried to get into the panic room when they heard the reports about the attack, and you know what? The lock on the door was faulty. Wouldn't let them in. Imagine that? They have spent God-knows-how-much on that thing, and the second that they need it, it goes and locks them out. Ridiculous."

 

Gwen's smile grew. And then it faded.

 

"They were asking me when I was coming home." She looked away from Hassan. "Like, for good."

 

-Void


 
 
[ BZPRPG ] - [ Exo-Force ] - [ Breaking Point ]

 

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IC: Hassan

 

"Oh, you mean... Like, leaving the Federation?"

 

Hassan couldn't explain why, but he felt a pang of sadness at the realisation. He didn't get to know Gwen for very long, but the prospect of the hangar bereft of the hyperactive mechanical pixie and accompanying banter made him sad.

 

"Are you planning on doing that? I mean, assuming we survive this war."

Edited by NorikSigma

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IC:

 

"I don't mean ... I just...."

 

It wasn't often that Gwen Talal was at a loss for words.

 

"I think that I'm ... that they're scared that ... in the war, that ... like McKinley...."

 

She laughed, but it was nothing more than a sound coming out of her mouth, without feeling.

 

"It's stupid. Never ... nevermind. There should be something that looks like a piece of steel wool attached to a plumbing snake up there. You see it?"

 

-Void


 
 
[ BZPRPG ] - [ Exo-Force ] - [ Breaking Point ]

 

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IC: Hassan

 

Hassan kicked himself. How obtuse could he be? She was the one worried, and she needed reassurance.

 

"No, it's not stupid," Hassan started. "Gwen, I know you're worried. Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?" He asked, activating the vertical lift and lowering himself down to ground level. He decided the repairs could wait for now.

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IC:

 

Yeah, probably--

 

"Nah, I'm good," she said, leaning backwards, pushing her mouth into a lazy grin. "Sorry, shouldn't have brought it up. We need to finish maintenance on these mechs, anyway, remember? Probably late on them, already."

 

-Void


 
 
[ BZPRPG ] - [ Exo-Force ] - [ Breaking Point ]

 

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IC:

 

Gwen watched the lift rise back up, and imagined what she could have said. Should have said.

 

But instead, all she said was: 

 

"All right, feed the steel wool into the barrel of the cannon, and where you feel resistance, scrub up against it. But be careful. Not likely that anything catastrophic's gonna happen, but I'd rather not push our luck too much, y'hear?"

 

-Void


 
 
[ BZPRPG ] - [ Exo-Force ] - [ Breaking Point ]

 

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IC: Hassan

 

"Now that you mention that, I'd like to take back what I said."

 

They rode the lift up in silence, until Hassan couldn't keep silent any longer.

 

"Maybe I'm going to have to apologise again... Gwen, are you sure you're fine? I'd much prefer you talk it out instead of going into our next inevitable battle with worries on your mind. Don't worry, I'm a halfway decent soldier. I've dealt with what you've gone through and I can help you.

 

"It's the least I could do to repay you for... All this."

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IC: Hassan

Hassan grinned abashedly.

 

"On the contrary, you've done me a big favour, sharing the joy of, err, mechanical maintenance with me. And don't forget in the kitchen. I really needed to chase my fears with some cooperative cooking after, y'know, what happened." He decided not to elaborate further. She didn't have to know that he too was shaken after the battle. Especially if he was going to offer guidance.

 

Hassan's expression turned concerned.

 

"So let me repay that favour, alright?"

Edited by NorikSigma

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