The story so far:
Of all the survivors, Mr. Sharp was perhaps the grumpiest Renni had encountered. He was also the only one who had more units than Thomas.
Renni crunched through the snow, careful not to drop the thermos of hot coffee she had thought to snag before leaving the mess tent. Her boot caught a patch of ice and she pitched forward. But she didn’t drop a single thing. Instead, a familiar, warm sensation glided across her wrists to her hands and tendrils of silver strewn black curved out and gripped the coffee, bowl, and roll. Renni landed hard on her hand, her unit absorbing a great deal of the impact. With a growl of frustration, she stared at the unit knowing the jarring could cost her a few weeks more of wearing the thing. She was close to having the hand unit removed, her tissues having nearly finished repairing themselves with the help of Harbinger technology.
Careful to avoid more ice, she stood and rearranged her things, the black tendrils sliding back under her coat. They were her gauntlets. She’d thought of the name one day when she wanted to carry them but didn’t have enough hand room along with other burdens. The gauntlets, ever aware of what she needed, had wrapped themselves about her wrists and her hands, like fingerless, thumbless gloves. Now, she rarely went anywhere without them.
“A good thing too,” she mumbled to herself, righting the food and supplies and staring at the already glowing tent solely occupied by Mr. Sharp.
“Renaissance? Get in here, girl, and quit playing out there in the snow!” The angry voice growled and shouted at the same time, each word a staccato bark. Renni sighed, put on a bright smile, and ducked her head through the flap of the tent. “Where the hell is my breakfast, girl?”
“Right here, Mr. Sharp.” She set the food and thermos on the crate beside his cot. With his eyes still intent upon her, she replaced the fuel can at the bottom of one of the lanterns and then spread the blanket across the cot.
“What are you trying to do, girl? Roast me alive?” He shoved the blanket to the side. She smiled, knowing the moment she left he would replace it and burrow down under its warmth. Renni was one of the few people who visited Mr. Sharp and one of fewer who actually understood the crotchety old fart.
The man had been one of the last rescued by Marshal before her friend had found her. He’d lost much to the Mongerers and their experimentations. Units now replaced nearly all his skin, muscles, and bones. Phys managed to save many organs, which meant the man still needed food. But otherwise he was in essence a machine.
“Look at that, will ya?” He thrust an old photograph at Renni. She picked it up and looked at the man in the picture. He was bald, his face stoic, his body lean and well toned. He wore a uniform but she couldn’t tell what branch of who’s military he had once belonged to and she knew nothing of rank. Once she’d overheard Carter call the man Major. Mr. Sharp blew up at that, screaming that he didn’t want a rank, didn’t deserve a rank, etcetera. It had been Renni’s first encounter with the man. But not her last.
“This you?” she asked, bracing for the blowup that would follow. Instead, silence. Looking back, she noticed the blank stare on the metallic face. “I’m sorry, Mr. Sharp. I didn’t mean to…”
He cut her off with the wave of his hand before sitting up, pulling the blanket back over his legs as he did so. “For goodness sakes, girl. Don’t apologize so much.” He held out his hand and Renni returned the photograph. Mr. Sharp looked at it for a long time before setting it on the crate-table beside him.
“It was me. A few years back.” He motioned to the coffee and she poured him a steaming cup. “That Thomas boy didn’t make this batch did he? Kid always burns it.” He took a gulp, his metal lips stretching about the rim of the cup. “Ah… tastes like Marshal’s brew. You know, for a lanky alien, he sure can make a great cup o’ joe.”
Renni chuckled. “You need anything else, Mr. Sharp?”
“I need company, Renaissance. Sit down and tell me what’s been happening beyond these white walls. We haven’t had a good talk in a while.”