Cass awoke with a start. She had been dreaming about... something, but it was
already gone. Her arms felt heavy. Groaning, she opened her eyes and rolled
sideways to find a man watching her. Salt and pepper hair, and a face like
leather. He must have been in his 50s, at least.

"Your arms were starting to necrose. I had to amputate." The man looked down.
"I'm sorry."

"What?" Cass lifted an arm to rub the sleep from her eyes, and felt something
hit her forehead. She looked up, and realised with growing horror what the man
had meant. "My arms- you-"

The man spoke again. "We caught your distress call and pulled you in. You were
nearly dead, and your arms were beyond saving. Judging by the damage on your
suit, someone was trying to kill you."

Cass blinked, and suddenly the memories came flooding back. Jack had come to
finish the job. Luckily for her, he'd failed a second time, but now she was
stuck with a pair of prosthetic arms a few inches too long.

"Your spine made it easier. I have to say, it's very high quality." The man
rubbed his patchy stubble, and Cass realised that he, too, had replacement arms.
His looked a lot more homemade than her own matte black carbon limbs, with
hydraulic pistons visible under exposed steel structure. "My name's Flynn.
You're currently on board Accipiter, my - our ship. You'll meet Alyx and
Flathead at some point."


"How's she taking it?" Alyx span round in their chair as Bonesaw entered the

"Not great. She's got my old pair of KTEK six-tens on, and fuck, they do not
fit." He sighed. "I'll buy her a pair that fit at Kepler Delta. Tau owes me a

"And then what? Just leave her?"

"Her spacesuit was hand-modded. She'll find someone to hire her."

Alyx sighed, turning back to the controls. "I think she can stay. She's clearly
got a good head on her shoulders and it would be... unkind, to say the least, to
just dump her at a station with prosthetics she's not used to." They hit a few
buttons and the ship's impulse engines ignited. "Now, I have to dock a
spaceship. I would appreciate it if you didn't distract me."


Kepler Delta was busy. Kepler Delta was always busy, but today it was extra
busy. Hundreds of people thronged around the station's spaceport, taking
god-knows-what to god-knows-where. Cass was but one small body in a torrent of
low-G traffic. Above her, the ring station stretched up and around, eventually
meeting itself 60km above her.

"Busiest I've seen this place in months," said Alyx, walking up behind her.
"Flynn and Leon are haggling over scrap, so I've been told to take care of you."

Startled, Cass turned to look at her new acquaintance. "Are you Alyx? I think I
heard Flynn mention you."

"The one and only." They were tall, even for a spacer. Their hair was cut short
and might have been dyed red at some point in the past, it was hard to tell.
"Ace pilot, quasi-dyke, good kisser. Or so I've been told," they said, grinning.
The phrase "disarming personality" came to mind. Cass didn't quite trust them
yet, but she could tell it wouldn't be long.


The neon sign read "TAU CYBERNETICS", all in capitals. Well, it did once. At
present it read "TAU  YBE NETICS". Alyx had assured Cass that the quality of the
merchandise did not match that of the sign.

"Are you sure this isn't a kidney harvesting scam?" Cass asked.

"If we were gonna steal your kidneys we would have done it when you were blacked
out on the ship." Alyx pushed open the door to the shop. "You'll be fine. Tau is
a master of his craft."

Cass followed cautiously, and was greeted by rows upon rows of arms, legs,
spines, and other cybernetic components, as well as the faint sound of an angle
grinder from another room. The shop was tiny, with more footprint dedicated to
cluttered shelves and half-open crates than there was for people. 

"Tau!" Alyx yelled. "I got a friend here who needs arms fitting!"

The grinding stopped, and after a few seconds a short, balding man appeared.
This must be the eponymous Tau, Cass thought. He wore overalls, stained with
grease and coolant that had accrued over many years of building and rebuilding
people's limbs. His own arms were cybernetic, likely his own work, and he had a
scar running down his left profile. Atop his forehead perched a pair of welding
goggles. He took one look at Cass and -

"Oh man, you look like an orangutan!" Tau burst out laughing.

Cass blinked. "What's an orangutan?"

"Sorry, I shouldn't laugh. An orangutan is a type of monkey. From Earth. They
have really long arms." Tau cleared his throat. "Did you get measurements of,
yknow... the old set?"

Alyx pulled a flash drive from their pocket. "Here."

"This shouldn't take long. Six-tens are pretty easy to fit." Tau took the drive
and disappeared back into his workshop. The grinding began again.