The boy who loves machines
Chapter 6: Desperate Times
Location: The dock in front of Steamhawke
Tags: Cult of the Machine
The smell of freshly baked bread made Erm realized he was hungry. The baker's boy selling hot buns to sailors on the docks was shouting about the quality of his wares, and Erm's mouth started to water. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a few coins to buy some sweet raisin buns. As he bit into the warm bread, he saw Mei-Xiu leaning over the railing of the Steamhawke. The perfect machine, Erm thought. Efficient, strong.. beautiful. He was not aware that his mouth was hanging open, with a mouthful of half-chewed bread on display. He had to talk to her. He dropped the bread on the floor and waved both his arms at her. "Mway-Shoow! Mway-Chew!" His words where garbled because he had not finished swallowing the bread.
Mei-Xiu was gently stroking the fiery hair of her beloved doll, Matilda, a doll Shou had packaged and ready for her,despite being unable to see her. 'He always does look out for me', she thought with a smile. As she looked into Matilda's strikingly bright green eyes, she reflected on the recent happenings, Elizabeth, Aurelia, the Governor's Men. And that new deckhand, Azzo, did he dislike her? It wasn't as if being an automaton with deadly claws somehow made her some creepy freak, did it?
The sound of Erm's shout made her jump and her grip on Matilda slip, but fortunately she had retained her reflexes from her assassin days. Mei brought Matilda close as she realized he was saying her name. She restrained herself from grimacing fully from his full and open mouth which resulted in a very awkward smile. "Oh, Erm! What is it?"
Erm ran up the gang plank and fell to his knees at Mei's feet. At least by now he had swallowed the mouthful of food and could speak clearly. "Praise to the machine!" He raised his arms, his hands stretched out to Mei. "To be with the machine is to be with the god!" His upper body doubled over and bowed down deeply. "Praise to the machine!" He raised his body back up to look at Mei-Xiu in adoration.
By now quite a few of the crew had gathered around and stared at the pair. "Oh, Erm finally found a girl," Dottie snickered a bit too loudly. The rest of the crew laughed a little at that, but not too loudly. They had seen Mei-Xiu fight. Most were a little afraid of her.
Mei-Xiu raised an eyebrow,what was going on? Was this some sort of joke? 'People have a weird sense of humor',she decided.She realized the crew was gathered around them now and was laughing,was this a joke on her? Were they making fun of her and why? Mei felt rather uncomfortable and turned a bit red. "Erm? What's going on?"
"Mei-Xiu, you're so much better than us humans of flesh. Don't you see?" Erm jumped up and awkwardly took her hand in his hands which made her blush slightly more,"You should lead us, guide us, show us the way!"
She raised an eyebrow in a look of befuddlement. "The way to where?"
"To anywhere! You know best!" Erm smiled at her brightly. He seemed sincere in his admiration rather than distaste or fear of her status as an automaton.Mei tried to think of a response when from the crowd a man stepped forward. It was the boatswain Naji.
"There, there, lad," he said as he put a hand on either shoulder pulling Erm away from Mei-Xiu. "Had too much to drink, have you?"
Erm spluttered: "Butbutbut,..."
"The Captain leads us, lad," Naji reminded him. He looked at Mei-Xiu sideways. It wasn't that he didn't trust Mei-Xiu, in fact: he very much did. But the girl was young in so many ways, and it was obvious Erm was embarrassing her. "Are you okay, Miss? Do you want to make a complaint about Erm for harassing you? I am sure the Captain would find a fitting punishment for him."
Mei breathed a slight sigh of relief. "I'm fine and I think Erm means well, it's actually nice that he feels comfortable around me."
While Naji still held his shoulders, Erm smiled fanatically at Mei-Xiu. "I have always loved machines, I always feel comfortable around them! And you, you're perfect! You will show us, teach us! Mei-Xiu, what body part should I replace first?" Mei-Xiu stared at him as if she had just eaten a bar of chocolate that had turned out to be a bar made of dog excrement. My hands, so they can work better with the machines? Or.. or .. My legs! So I can stand stronger!" "Erm,I appreciate whatever you're doing," 'Not that I have any what that is...' "But please don't maim yourself.
"That's it, Erm. You need to see a doctor, mate," Naji slowly moved Erm away from the young woman. He hissed in Erm's ear: "You're usually harmlessly annoying, but you're overstepping the boundaries. You're downright rude now! I will report this to Master Brem and the Captain. Let them decide how to discipline you."
Erm just stared at him blankly. "They can't judge me."
Naji pressed his nose against Erm's. "Oh. I think you'll find that they can. And if they don't, then I will see to it you are taught a lesson in manners." With that he pushed Erm in the direction of sickbay. "Go see the doctor, Erm." Then Naji turned to Mei-Xiu again.
"I am sorry, Miss. Erm certainly doesn't speak for all of us," he nodded to the crew watching them.
"You don't like me, you mean?" Mei-Xiu asked.
"Well, that's... I mean, err," Naji blushed a little. "We think... I-I think," he stuttered. "Let's just say you're perfect the way you are, no matter what." He wasn't really sure, but he just did not want to embarrass Mei-Xiu or be rude.
For some reason,those words made Mei-Xiu clench her fists until they turned red and grit her teeth slightly just at their very ends while looking away,giving subtle signs of her anger.Unfortunately,the portion of the crew surrounding her did notice and many shook a bit.'One,two,three...' "Nice going there, Erm!",one short man jeered.The normally quiet,perhaps disturbingly so, Mei swung around with crimson cheeks and a furious scowl. "Okay,the freak show's over,you...you...spiteful wads of night soil!"
The crew muttered and dispersed. Naji watched Erm walking backwards towards sickbay. Then he looked at Mei-Xiu, lifting his arm to lead her away to the captain's meeting room where she could have some time to herself. But the look of anger on Mei's face stopped him from going through with that.
He nodded to her. "Well, if you want to make a complaint, talk to the captain. If you just want to talk, I am always here." He wasn't sure if Mei-Xiu wanted to talk about anything. Maybe she really was just a killing machine, she sure was good at it. He shrugged to himself and pointed a thumb to the ropes he was working on before all of this started. "Gotta get back to work." He walked off.
She sighed,maybe she should make a complaint.