The cups around the table spoke volumes of those who held them, and it was my prerogative to notice these little details. I’m the new-kid of the crew and I haven’t quite earned my wings in their books, but I’ll be scrapped and solder before I let them get the once-over on me.
Gregor was an easy read. He drank his coffee black in a brass cylinder. When he was angry about something he would add sugar. One sugar meant that something had gone wrong in a machine, two meant he was angry with someone on the crew or a commanding officer, any more than that meant that he wanted to cause irreparable reconstructive changes to people, property, or environments. Today he’d put in five. Only Bigger was willing to sit next to him.
Bigger was more complex. He steamed his own milk in the heat-sink of his brother’s arm and added it to his coffee along with nutmeg and cinnamon. The mixture was drank from a ceramic mug with scroll-work that I hadn’t completely made out since he always had one hand on the cup. The cup was just like Bigger, a part of the whole was always hidden from even my eye. If anyone on the crew knew his real name they weren’t telling, but the gears in his mind were always turning, cranking and clanking out new ideas and solutions. He feared little and shied away from less, but he always examined any problem from as many angles as time would allow him. He could crush my skull without thinking, but something tells me that he’d just as easily think of a way for me to do it to myself. Thankfully I’ve never known a malicious man to take nutmeg in his coffee.
Digger was a polar opposite to his brother. A clockwork arm, an iron jaw, and two piston powered legs made him as much machine as he was man, but he drank tea from a tin cup with a drop of steamed milk and one sugar. He was simple, unrefined, and yet altogether unstoppable. I’d learned that Bigger had been the man to make the parts for his brother, but that it was Digger’s will to live which made him such a presence. He didn’t talk much, and almost all of what he said was a tie-on to something someone else had said. For all this his humor was low-brow, but fantastically timed. We may have been a crew of air-ship engineers, but Digger reminded me of a steam-powered locomotive.
Three sugars and equal parts tea and milk went into a squat mug made of Brass with a narrow iron neck lightly steamed in front of Lively. I had no idea what her first name was, but she was probably the smartest engineer I’d ever met. She’d designed the cup herself, each time it was lifted and set back down it rotated a set of gears which in turn churned and heated the tea in the cup to keep it warm indefinitely. I took a liking to her from day one on the ship, her wit had a finer edge than any gentleman’s sword. I’d almost as quickly learned that she was off the market. I’d have argued that no man could tame her, and that was why no one questioned a female engineer. That may have been true, but it was clear that she had someone special out there. I don’t know what Gregor’s deal in all of it was, but when I’d asked him he’d told me that that was a course which chartered disaster.
Pepper drank brandy in her coffee and spoke German in her sleep. She was all curves and no height, the kind of woman who turned heads on the docks and in the streets, but got overlooked in a crowd over five-foot-three. She was the most troubled mind on the crew, and while clever with a wrench she’d often attempt the first answer presented to her. Her cup was whatever one she found first after brewing the coffee. I asked her why she was always the one to brew the coffee and she told me that if I thought I could do better she’d let me try, but that it’s hard to do with rivets in your knuckles. I don’t have rivets in my knuckles and I decided to stay that way by letting her make the coffee.
What did I drink? I drink tea in the morning and coffee in the evening, and I never add anything to either. Both are drank from the wooden cup I brought on board with me when I signed on with Gregor and I always drink last at the table. What does that say about me? Why don’t you tell me?