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As we made our way towards the section of the mall that we needed, I opened a browser window and began to read up on the stuff I’d need to know in order to revamp the ship. My little mechanic bun was super helpful with it all too, telling me how to refine my searches and explaining terms and uses for different components and stuff. I liked my little helper buns. They were good buns.

The Ocula Virtual Computing Environment, as the cybernetic eye computer was known, was amazing despite what the Galicorp lady had told me. Shortened to just Ocula by most it seemed, it allowed me to use my neural implant to control a desktop that was behind my eye, and gosh did I use it.

Another way that my brain was wild and strange was my ability to multitask. That wasn’t really the right word for it though, it was more like… I needed to be doing more than one thing at a time in order to concentrate. Case in point, I was walking with Cerri and reading spaceship component instruction manuals at the same time. It was all incredibly interesting too, I just loved how all of this stuff fit together like a massive puzzle to make a spaceship that worked.

“I think this is a good place to start,” Cerri mused as we came to a stop outside what looked like a massive spacer version of a hardware store.

Through the doors was spacer mechanic heaven. I found myself drawn in as I stared around in wonder at all the shiny components and tools and… everything. I saw big cargo moving robots on display, cleaning robots, and even a big industrial mining drone. It was all so dang cool!

Immediately I was dragging Cerri around the store, pointing out the parts that I needed. Turns out everything could just be tagged for purchase and a robot would come and grab it and take it out the back, where they would box everything up at the end and ship it to where you wanted it. Very handy, considering most of the shit in here was heavier than I could deal with.

I focused on things that were critical to get our ship properly functional, so mainly reactor components and the like. I wasn’t totally confident in my abilities though, so I ordered some capacitors for us as a stopgap measure while I skilled myself up.

“Hey, Alia,” Cerri interrupted, and I turned from the cargo brackets I’d been adding to our order to see her pointing down the aisle we were in. I followed her hand and saw… oh… my…

A parts bin section. There was all sorts of miscellaneous crap just piled up or in crates, and it was amazing, like a sorted and alphabetized junkyard or something. It was all super cheap too, the discarded trash from salvage operations that wasn’t new, but still in good enough condition to be useful to somebody. Somebody like me and my cheap ass.

Right away I was grabbing things that I thought we might need down the line if something broke. Everything from spare magnets for the engines to spare printer nozzles for the 3D printers. There was so much we might end up needing and only so much space to store it all and money with which to buy it.

“Damn, you’re picking up a lot of stuff, will we be able to afford it all?” Cerri asked uncertainly as we made our way through the categorised junkheap.

I nodded, shifting the shopping list to my phone so I could show her. For some reason I actually liked using my Ocula for everything rather than my phone. The mental commands weren’t nearly as clunky as everyone seemed to think on the ingame net. It was just way easier to use my funny digital eyes. I wondered if I could get some enhancements for them later on.

“Oh, that’s actually not very much,” she said with a note of surprise in her voice. “There’s even room for like… something fancy, if you wanted it.”

I began to shake my head, to tell her that I didn’t really need anything else, when my eyes landed on something. It was an almost spherical grey drone looking thing, about a meter and a half in diameter. It had four limbs that appeared to fold into slots to complete the sphere shape. Could it… roll? Wait, those were maneuvering thrusters on it!

I rushed over to it, bringing up its information on my Ocula to figure out what the hell it was. As the information came in, I almost laughed at how weirdly specific it was. Apparently, the thing was an old farming drone designed for use on toxic worlds. What the hell they were farming on a world with a corrosive atmosphere, I don’t know, but that’s what it was for.

This one appeared to be pretty buggered, something had gotten in through a faulty seal and melted some of the controller components. From the looks of things though, most of the stuff that made the limbs and stuff function were still intact. Hell, all the farming tools that folded out of the arms were still in working order.

I had so many ideas for this little thing, and I added it to the cart so fast I think I made mechanic bun’s head spin. I began throwing queries at her — mechanic bun was now a girl, all my buns were — asking for the dimensions of various parts, sockets used and all sorts. Everything I needed to revamp this thing. Maybe a big rocket to strap to the back as well...

Cerri got increasingly confused by my mad dash around the junkheap, until she finally collared me with a stern look, it took awhile for it to get all the way down from her tall eyes to my very short ones. “What are you up to, little lady?”

I grinned back up at her, my tail wagging excitedly back and forth and probably doing a pretty good job of sweeping the floor.

“You promise this is going to be useful?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at me.

As I’d been running around grabbing stuff, I’d been mentally dictating notes into a virtual pad, ideas for what I’d do with the drone, and I now forwarded those to her phone. It gave a beep, and she let go of me to look at it.

I watched as her other eyebrow rose to match the sassy one she’d just aimed at me. Then I began to worry that they might launch off her forehead entirely. “You think you can fit in this thing?” she asked dubiously.

To demonstrate, I sat down on the ground and curled into a sort of crouching ball. I’d obviously create a way more comfortable setup inside it for me, maybe a cupholder, but I knew how small I was. Actually… I could get smaller… better file that idea for after the shopping was done. I’d seen a very interesting clause in the Galicorp contract.

“Huh, I guess you could,” she muttered with an astonished shake of her head.

Standing up, I began my headlong charge around the hardware store, grabbing all the tools and shit I’d need. Then some more I might need. I was being careful with the money though, getting the cheapest stuff that had good reviews.

Finally, I reckoned I was done, and still under budget, if only by a little bit. I stood in the center of a thoroughfare for a moment and double checked, then spun on Cerri with a smile. “I think I’m done. You can use the rest of the money.”

“She speaks!” Cerri exclaimed happily, her smile going all goofy on me.

“I’m excited enough that I can work past my dumbass brain,” I shrugged, still grinning a little crazy-like.

“Ah,” the tall demon said, the telltale tone of realisation in her voice. “Selective mutism.”

Wait, what? “It has a name?”

“Sure it does, it’s closely tied with social anxiety disorders and such,” she nodded, frowning in thought. “If I remember right, it also has ties to sensory processing issues. Do you have problems with too many sources of ambient information overwhelming you?”

I nodded, eyes wide with wonder and confusion. Why had this never come up before? Why had I never been tested for any of this stuff? No one had even tried to figure out why I acted the way I did, why my brain was an asshole to me.

Giving me a sort of bittersweet smile, she ran a hand through her hair and sighed. “Unfortunately, human psychology is not really my specialty, but I know of some who are very good with it. I’ll flick them a message asking for more information, if you’d like?”

I nodded again, a multitude of emotions bubbling around within me until they all exploded out and I was rushing forward to hug Cerri. I think I was going to cry. Simply knowing that there were names for all of my problems was overwhelming.

“Ah!” she blurted, clearly surprised by the hug. Then she was laughing and patting me gently on the back. “No problem, it’s the least I can do for a crewmate, yeah?”

I nodded, and because my powers of speech had once again deserted me, I mentally typed out a message and sent it to her. I’ll make the tools on the little roller mech modular, so we can put science stuff in there too if we want to go somewhere scary to scan things or whatever. Thank you!!!!!!!

The seven exclamation marks were entirely necessary.

“You’re sweet,” she grinned, her hand wavering towards me for a moment before she jerked it back to her side. “So you’re uh, done here?”

I indicated that I was with another bobbing of my head. So much nodding.

“Cool, because you look like you had a lot of fun here, and now I want to do it too,” she said with an excited laugh, her eyes sparkling in a way where I couldn’t tell if they were literally sparkling or if it was exhilaration.