Quote from: undefinedThe next day, Altair stopped by MenuetOS's shop to check if it was open. She noticed that the sign on the window with the shop's hours of operation had an asterisk next to the hours. At the bottom of the sign, the asterisk indicated that these were normal hours of operation, but that the shop could be closed during an emergency.
Altair entered the shop and saw MenuetOS at her desk fixing Altair's calculator.
"Hey, were you able to track down IMSAI 8080's stolen devices and return them to her?"
"Yes. That bootleg OS-tan that stole from her put up a fight, but I got everything back". MenuetOS recounted the challenges of the fight. It was in a forest with low visibility. The sun was setting, and her night vision goggles weren't working. She could not chase down the culprit in the air. She had to carefully land her hovercraft, then had to run, and rely on her hand-to-hand combat skills to disarm the culprit and seize back the stolen devices.
"Great!" Altair cheered. "So... did you mention me when you spoke with her?" she then asked.
"I didn't know if you wanted me to this time, so when she asked what I had been up to before I went to help her, I just said I was at my shop fixing a calculator for a customer and friend. She seemed curious who that was, but didn't say anything."
"Oh, that's not too bad. Before you left yesterday, I wanted to say that I didn't know that she was still alive, and I wanted to ask if she knew that I was still alive."
The shop bell rang, and another visitor entered. A green-eyed woman who was slightly taller than MenuetOS, and had long black hair in pigtails with 4 colored streaks in red, yellow, green, and magenta, and had goggles on top of her head. She wore dangling cube earrings, and wore a black top with slate blue pants, black boots, and pieces of gray armor.
"Hello" She said.
"Hi, NeXTSTEP!" MenuetOS said to her. "I have your ray gun fixed with a little upgrade! I'll get it for you now!"
MenuetOS walked to the storage room, and brought NeXTSTEP's ray gun to the desk. NeXTSTEP paid, but had a discount for also being a CIOST member. She picked up her ray gun and admired the work done to it. "Thanks! You went the extra mile fixing up the scuffs too!" She said.
"I did that without any extra charge." MenuetOS said. "Please call me if you also need help fixing your tank or battle armor!" She added with more excitement in her voice.
"Sure! I will!" NeXTSTEP said as put her ray gun in her holster, waved and walked out.
"Was she one of your friends?" Altair asked.
"Yes. That was NeXTSTEP. Both times I applied for the CIOST, she voted in my favor. We became friends when she said that I had a lot of potential, and because she sympathized with me having a difficult time getting approved".
"She had a difficult time getting approved?" Altair asked in disbelief.
"Whether she was powerful enough, had enough combat skills, and whether she had other skills that would help the CIOST were never disputed. The difficulty for her was from her ties to the Mac House. She became an honorary member of theirs some years ago, but it was before the CIOST was founded."
"And that would've disqualified her?"
"How did she prove herself? Did you vote for her?"
"Oh no" MenuetOS chuckled. "We hadn't met yet. When I first applied, and when I met her, I noticed that she seemed on-edge around some of them. She gave off this vibe of being tough, but lonely, always having to prove that she's not a sell-out seeking political power."
"That's not it, was it?"
"She told me that before her alliance with the Mac House, she was lonely and frustrated that no one cared about the technology she wanted to share with others that would promote cooperation. There were just a few CIOST members at the time who could vouch for her. One of them was BeOS, her former rival who knew her before she allied with the Mac House."
"Who were the others?"
"I don't remember, but there is something you can take from this. If you don't know many of the other CIOST members, even if some of them are suspicious of you, you could still get in if you have skills we need."
"Hmm..." Altair looked down at the table, pondering what skills she had that could be of use.
While Altair was still thinking about it, MenuetOS was adding the last fixes to the calculator. Altair was still thinking.
"It looks perfect! Thank you!" Altair said when she saw the fixed calculator in front of her, but then she worried.
"It's okay if you can't pay the cost all at once." MenuetOS said.
Altair reached for some money from her purse. "This will cover part of it. It's from a writing commission I had."
"That covers about half of the cost, but I'm not in a hurry for the rest of it."
"That's a relief."
"It's almost closing time. Would you have time to go to the shooting range with me tonight? I have another ray gun and I can teach you how to use it."
"Yes! I want to get started training tonight!"