“There you are D, wait til you see what I made for you this time.”
Indoors with all the windows boarded up, Dido was missing her trademark scarf wrapped around her neck and mouth. As she came further into the room, she turned to her brother.
“I swear to the Founders, if you give me something that blows up again Bull, I’m hiding your crutch every day for a week.”
Bull was short for Hannibal, or at least Dido had thought it was when they were younger, and the nickname had stuck. Despite being twins, the two could not be more different. Dido was tall for sixteen, and when the soot wasn’t coating her hair with black, it was a warm chestnut brown. Bull was shorter than his sister, though not by much when he was standing up straight. For Hannibal, that was easier said than done. One of his legs ended at the knee, the result of an accident in a factory when he was younger.
Bull was luckier than most; he’d managed to survive. The factory owner had even spent his own money for a tonic to fight the pain and infection. As a result, Dido still worked there, even though she could make more money if she worked her second job full time. Of course, in her line of work, it was always useful to have a cover. Her job, her real job, was stealing, and she was very good at it.
Being a thief was probably the second or third most popular occupation in the poor Low Quarters. Most thieves didn’t last long though. It was difficult to steal something without any hands or from the bottom of a slaver’s mine shaft—the usual end results when you were caught by the city watch. Dido was an exception, so far at least, because she was careful. She never let anyone see her face when she was working, even her clients.
Another edge she had over the competition was her brother. Since he couldn’t work anymore, he’d taken to tinkering with machines. He’d developed quite a knack for it, to the point that he was sometimes called in to make repairs at nearby factories when a proper Mechanist couldn’t be bothered. Mechanists were the lifeblood of Thage, inventors that kept the machines working and the furnaces burning. Just as Dido kept her real life secret from everyone but her twin, Bull had a dream that he only shared with his sister. He wanted to be a Mechanist. Dido didn’t have the heart to tell him that only the trading cartels near the Hill had enough money to enroll their children in the University.
Bull’s skill with machines was definitely not wasted though. In addition to the odd jobs that pulled in enough coin to help the two of them scrape by, Bull made his sister gadgets. Some of Hannibal’s creations were technical marvels… others were notorious for fizzling out at just the wrong time. Each one had pulled Dido out of the proverbial fire while she was on a job though, so she was interested to see what he’d come up with.
Bull hobbled over to his work bench, using a single crutch to replace his missing half a leg. He picked up a metal cylinder with a spike at one end and leather straps coming off the sides. Dido took the contraption from his outstretched hand and turned it over. There seemed to be some kind of button on the opposite end of the cylinder from the metal spike. When she reached to press it, her brother lunged forward and pulled it from her grasp.
“D, you can’t go pressing buttons before I even tell you what they do. One of these days you’ll take out our apartment and us along with it.”
Now that his precious invention was safe, he was ready to explain.
“This is the first ever pneumatic grappling hook.”
“No, pneumatic, as in powered by pressure. This cylinder can shoot the grappling hook over forty feet.”
“Wow, that’s much better than that crossbow you came up with.”
“The only drawback to this is you can only use it once. Firing it expends the gas and if you want to use it again you need to re-pressurize the cylinder.”
“And it’s designed to be strapped to my arm? Is that safe?”
“Perfectly safe. It’ll only explode if something really heavy hits it the wrong way.”
“That doesn’t make me feel too much better, but I’ll take it.”
* * *