Branded a traitor-to-be, Black weapon engineer Azeya works tirelessly to prove she’s a model airship citizen after her terrorist mother’s execution. But when Azeya and her friends are accused of murder by military mech, Azeya must work with a suspected terrorist to clear their names, or risk sharing her mother’s fate.
Four head officials line Waker’s Brass & Bolts in grave gray uniforms, intimidating badges, esteemed ribbons, and decades of service stripes. Their golden Captain’s Seal pins send my nails into my arm.
One jabs his thumb at the projector switch, showering engineers’ workstations in a piss-yellow light. I bite the inside of my cheek as the security video plays.
A brooding Enforcer mech fumes black from its brass metal joints, one arm a double-barreled cannon, the other an automatic assault rifle. This is where I’d marvel at the walking tank, a thrilling creature of metal muscle. But onscreen, everything’s gone to rusted shit. Its cockpit hisses open and the uniformed pilot, a third of its size, bolts out. He flees for cover as the unmanned Enforcer jerks its arms. Bursts of gunfire explode at the pilot’s back. A heavy ball of lead churns my stomach as the cannon fires its only round and blows the pilot’s legs into blood ribbons and sharded bone.
The video cuts.
My heartbeat hammers. I clutch my oil-stained tee where it rests over my collarbone, where the brand scar hides. Skies, don’t let it be Enforcer 35. Anyone else but not my mech. They’d drag me in front of the rogue Enforcer next.
The official gets a cigarette flaring red between his teeth, eyeing my boss, Waker. “According to your records, you…unwisely hired a second-gen. Who?”
Chairs ruffle and scrape, heads turning, until every pair of engineers’ eyes fasten over me.