Several days passed, before the cat-girl was capable enough to sit up with her own strength. Another two days found her able to walk... mostly to feeling caged.
But it was nearly two and a half weeks before the infirmary discharged her. And at her arms was always a pair of escorts. She didn't seem to mind though, and her usual retainers quickly warmed up to her rather warm personality.
She was very thankful of her extraction, and had no honest recollection of how she had come to be in the chamber. The only oddity that came to mind was that where she was from the very air seemed to reject technology, tearing it to burnt out husks of melted and undecipherable lumps.
As the weeks spanned into a month, the Counsel's trepidation began to blossom into curiousity, and so decided on a little test.
“Welcome to the Engineering Lab.” Calcimer began. “You have expressed your curiousity at how things work on our world. So here's your chance.”
A gruff-looking man who clearly ate gravel for breakfast stepped out of the depths of the workshop, a massive gear-capped wrench in his bulky hands.
“Ths is Caldeus Bricker.” And gestured to the mustached, bald mechanic-at-arms. “And you're going to be his apprentice.”
The catgirl clearly swallowed down a lump in her throat, a little uncomfortable in her leather work-overalls and blouse.
“Alright lass...” Caldeus began. “First lesson ah th' day...” And out came the broom and dustpan.
“Sweep th' floor and around th' forgets. Try naht tah stick yer tail n'one. Cause yah ain't getting' nah sympatheh from meh.”
- - -
A couple days of sweeping followed collecting the big bits with a fist-sized magnet. “Drop 'em intah th' scrap bin, so they can be melted back dahn an' recast.”
Then a week of emptying the scrap-bins into the Forge Pot, a giant boiling cauldron of bubbling and melting iron ingots.
Nearly two weeks of scrubbing the stone gear casts, nearly one broken foot and scuffed knees found her finally pouring molds of the large gears used to control and open the emergency flood doors as they were replaced and reset.
And yet no complaints from her, except for the day she nearly fractured her foot under the stone slab. But some clever redesign of her custom-fit boots by a tailor bestowed some protective plates over toes and up to the front of her shins.
Finally, Caldeus cracked. “A'ight lass. Yeh've proven yer worth.” And down was clanked a battered and well-used toolkit, with all manner of chipped worn and cracked wrenches and tighteners.”
“Yer first lesson.. will be tah replace yer 'new' tools. Or make 'em work until yah break 'em.” Seems everything was hand-me-down in this place.. something Kistaria seemed determined to fix.
- - -
Two and a half weeks found her knee-deep in castings. Breaking apart, chiseling, and pouring.. cursing, re-casting, forging, before her tools were to usable standards. But Caldeus issued a warning.”
“Nah lass,” The bass rumble of his chest intoned. “Sometimes yeh'll find tha' yeh don't always 'ave the right tool for the job. Mehchanics must sometimes improvise.. so be on yer guard.”
This ominous warning became a full-felt issue not but three days after, as Kistaria was given her first task: Replace the aging pulley system for one of the flood doors.
The Magus Citadel was a work of art, a tunneled city of massive proportions. And with such splendor and enormous size had to come equal safeguards and preparations.
As it was an excised mountain island, it wasn't always the heavy rock above to worry about. It was the ocean too.
At the entrance and exit of every hallway chamber rested a gargantuan door that could seal off impending disaster. But the maintenance on such doors was lax, at best.
Kistaria got this wonderful 'blessing' of a job, and the first three doors she inspected and recalibrated weren't in too shabby condition.
But number four proved treacherous. The pulleys and counterbalances were on old rope, not chain: So as Kistaria pulled open the service panel with her refurbished plate-popper, Disaster struck.
She heard it before she saw it, a strange creaking noise. Turns out that was the rope seperating, pulleys finally finally getting the upper hand.
The panel placement wasn't ideal either, as when the door closed it would be protected from seepage and harm until the chamber could be cleared or drained.
Which meant that as the counterbalance gave way, a sprinkle of rock dust greeted the top of Kistaria's pointy-eared head. If she let the door go, the passageway from the Herbiary and the Citizen's Homepath would be blocked for a week.
Until the door was pulled off a for-certain flat catgirl. Kista was not about to let this happen, and at cost of a wrench and the post-puller blocked the gear threatening to spiral to her doom and others' starvation.
A mad, breathless dash from the Herbiary door to the workshop, a few raised eyebrows from all-new apprentices of Caldeus inside... and she had unlinked from a long spindle enough chain to replace the rope.
When she darted back to the door, the ominous groaning noise had gotten worse: Now it was loud enough to bring a few onlookers.
Already sweating with exhaustion from her madcap dash, she didn't feel she had the strength to feed the chain in. And then on top of that engage the emergency release lever long enough for the chain to cycle around to the other side.
Acts of desperation can lead to terrible ends... or expose new wonders in systems already in place. There was a sharp sizzling sound behind her as she felt the chain slowly slipping from her fingers into the feed channel's oil reservoir.
A smell of cinders as she hastily arched up and managed to loop it through the top, temporarily securing it with a horseshoe-shaped ring bolt.
She went to engage the lever... and it was stuck. Stuck on ring bolt she'd just put on. Far too big to fit up the aperture, she was now faced with another situation. Her impromptu gearholders were being compacted by the intense pressure placed on the entire mechanism.
A growl of frustration found a strange commotion suddenly behind her. And the little knapsack she'd cut the back of to disguise her quadripedal metal limbs had quite literally been rendered into coals laying upon the floor.
The arms were now simmering with a perplexing heat and glowing with the runes that at one time had allowed her to heal her injuries at a whim. But... the magic felt different. Oddly transformed somehow in the bonding of limbs to her back and spine.
She didn't have time to deal with the discovery however, so she wrapped her lower gauntlets around it and tugged on the chain...
Kistaria was a little in awe, and a touch shocked that the chain weighted down by a good three-hundred pounds of door shifted so easily. And sizzling marks were now imprinted into the chain.
Another tug, and the horseshoe came down within reach of the upper pair of gauntlets. Which readily secured grasp in and around the toggle bolt.
The heat suddenly flared within the gearbox alcove, so intense that Kista had to avert her ears and face otherwise she risked losing whiskers...
But when the twin sets of gauntlets unclenched, it was revealed that the horsehoe had been refashioned into a … link of chain? Highly improbable, but she wasn't clearly going to argue.
She waited a precious minute for the new link to cool so it wasn't molten hot and ignited the lubrication oil as it spun around, then carefully gave the lever a little tug.
Now was the best time to pray for a miracle... and the lever disengaged smoothly. The door was now secured in place! She blinked, pulled the lever up... still smooth and a little rattle came about before the door began to lower downwards.
Perplexed, she stopped it halfway before she was forced to crawl -in- to the uncomfortable gearbox, then proceeded to push the lever back into place. Seems she had been fortunate; the system had never been upgraded or changed except the material of the pulley chain.
Kistaria sighed in relief, and with her back to a wall slid down to relax. A wall not underneath a giant cat-crushing weight stone door. She sat and contemplated, while the large brick of folded metal at her back provided more cushion than expected. Contemplating for the longest time this new twist in her life.
When she returned to the workshop, she found to her dismay the three apprentices clustered around a table, talking without really doing anything. Caldeus was probably discussing some sort of project with the high and mighty Counsel.
With a sudden clank she dropped her toolbelt on the table in between the boys. And a wicked grin lit up on her face. Her arms, all six in fact, flared out and gave her a suddenly menacingly fire-etched malevolence.
“Don't just stand there, Caldeus might be gone but there's work to be done!”