The mechanic took a long sigh, swiping his badge and entering his workspace. Dressed in overalls that were slightly too large on him and a thermos of coffee uncomfortably full in his hand, he tapped an awaiting computer screen, waiting for the log in screen to load.
“Cpl. Ivy Jones, on shift,” he mumbled at the terminal, continuing on and drinking deeply from his thermos. Around him were dozens of bins of different pieces and parts, limbs and components strewn around. The place was in a desperate need of a reorganization, but he wasn’t going to do first shift’s job for them.
He sat down at a work-desk, putting his things down and hitting an indicator switch on the bench. A sharp buzz sounded across a nearby door, it opening a second later and letting an awaiting doll through. Wordlessly, he listened to the doll’s diagnostic report, then set to work. Flickers of magic sparked, dancing over his delicate tools as the doll’s arm was stripped open. Gears too small to ever be handled by normal fingers were plucked and polished by ethereal tendrils, servos unmounted and replaced, leaving nothing but a hint of magic and a newly functional limb in its place.
He did this for hours, wordlessly going through the countless combat and service dolls, only murmuring to himself from time to time as he attended his work. It was like this, every night, patching up the dolls that their keepers couldn’t. It was an almost meditative process, for him, a new little challenge every time someone’s bullet-ridden combat doll came through, or when a service doll reported in after getting in over its head in ship repair. Always something a little different.
“How are you Sir?” Ivy blinked out of his thoughts, looking up at the doll in front of him. A service doll of unfamiliar make, though its internals looked the same as any other. Service dolls could occasionally be chattier, though they usually didn’t engage with him beyond a simple greeting.
“Uh, fine.” He mumbled back, returning to working on its torso. It seemed like there had been some core damage, though that was more consistent with a combat damage, not the maintenance work it self-reported.
“Good to hear Sir. How long will you be?”
Now there was something even more unusual: a doll concerned with the time. “Does your handler want to know?”
“This one is simply curious.”
He stopped, pulling away and looking the doll over. It wasn’t so much the words that surprised him, but the fact that this doll was talking to him like this. Dolls didn’t interact with regular maintenance staff like this; they were largely automatons outside of interactions with their keepers. He glanced at the exposed core again, a spark of magic reaching out to touch it… a warded core. This doll was bonded to a witch. But why was a service doll paired up with a witch?
“Sir?” It asked again. “Is everything alright?”
“I-yeah. Yes.” He shifted back down, continuing to pull bits of debris out of the chamber. “Sorry. I’ll probably be at this for another hour.”
“Thank you.” The doll shifted back, letting out a content sigh. “Please don’t probe this one’s core any further; the wards on it may cause unpleasant results.”
“…noted.” He discarded bullet fragments into a nearby bin, blinking as he looked deeper into the doll’s body. “Are there many anti-armor installations in the laundry chutes?”
“It’s a dangerous task,” the doll replied with what he could swear was a hint of a smile. “A Doll does all that it is commanded.”
By all rights he could have called a superior then and there, to figure out why someone -a witch, no less- had told their doll to lie about combat damage, but something told him that it wasn’t that big of a deal. Last thing he wanted was to be dragged into a black ops job, find himself reassigned to the borderlands on a mining skiff. Besides that… it was a nice change of pace. Wasn’t every day he got to dig depleted uranium out of a service doll.
The two continued in silence for a time, Ivy retrieving pieces and components at a pace much slower than he’d like, careful not to accidentally nick the core and set off an explosive defensive. This sort of work was very much not his pay-grade, but he could do it. His confidence grew, moving quicker, more deftly, locked in concentration in the task at hand. For the first time in a while, he was actually enjoying this work.
“That should about do it,” he broke the silence, letting out a breath that felt like he’d been holding the entire time. “I replaced as much as I could, but there’s some structural components around the core that’ll need replacements I don’t have. I can schedule a requisition-“
“That won’t be necessary.” The doll investigated the work around its core, nodding in satisfaction before closing the access panel and rolling down its uniform. “Thank you for your work Sir. My Miss will be pleased.”
“Yeah, of course.” He blinked again, watching the doll give him a curtsy before walking back out the way it came, leaving him confused and starting to wonder about how he was going to write up uranium disposal for this maintenance report.
Another doll walked in, giving its diagnostic report and sitting down, motionless while he continued to think about what just happened.