QuoteIn the outskirts of a town, Altair walked down a quiet street. She looked to be in her late teens and was about 4 and a half feet tall, and wore a long blue and gray dress with puffy sleeves. Her dress collar and lower sleeves were gray, the front was lined with red gems with white stitching below them, and she wore a wide metallic belt with rivets on it.
The sky was overcast with light rain, and the street seemed desolate when no one else could be seen outside. It was out of the way, but there were small businesses that have been there for years with enough customers to sustain them. She entered a small machine shop, and was slightly nervous. A bell jingled when she opened the door.
The shop interior was quite minimalist. There was just one ceiling light, positioned over the shop owner's workstation. It was lit just enough for the shop owner to do her work. On her desk, she had a toolbox, a cash register, phone, Swiss Army knife, radio, flashlight, and some schematics to a device she was building or repairing. The floor of her shop was a shiny dark bluish color. The walls were a matte light grey decorated with some red accents near the top, with a darker metallic gray trim running along the bottom quarter portion. Along near the top of the trim was a glowing neon blue stripe which illuminated the further reaches of the shop.
"Sorry. Uhh? Did I intrude?" Altair asked. "If your shop is closed, I'll come back when it's open!"
The shop owner walked out of the other room, the doorway illuminated mostly by the blue light lining the wall.
"Hello!" The shop owner greeted her, and waved. "It's open. I had to put a finished project storage for a customer who will pick it up tomorrow."
"Hi, could you please fix my calculator?" Altair asked.
"Sure!" The shop owner, MenuetOS, said as she walked to her desk and sat down. She was much taller than Altair, with a height in the upper 5 feet range, and had a slender build. She had a pale complexion with silver eyes, and long wavy red hair that was dark with a gradient that was lighter near the ends. Her fashion sense was futuristic but simple. She wore a metallic blue bodysuit under a simple sleeveless silver dress with a belt, and a couple of garters connected to it to hold up her skirt.
Altair-tan reached into her purse to pull out her calculator, and put it on MenuetOS's desk. It was a large old calculator from the 1970's with a paper roll on it. A few pieces were missing from it, which Altair put on the desk. "I assembled it recently, but my skills aren't as good as they used to be".
MenuetOS looked at it curiously. "I've never seen one of these for myself. I'll fix it, but do you have the schematics for it? That would help a lot."
"I do". Altair dug around a few seconds among the papers in her purse before finding the schematics.
MenuetOS and Altair shared some idle chatter while MenuetOS was studying the schematics.
"I haven't asked this before, but what's it like being part of the Confederation of Independent OS-tans?" Altair asked.
"It's usually not very different from being an unaffiliated wanderer. We live on our own like they do, but we have formal alliances and mutual defense pacts to assist fellow members in need".
"Oh, uhh... any chance I could join?"
"You've survived close to 30 years as a wanderer. Having good survival skills is one of our requirements."
Altair was cheered up by MenuetOS's words, but MenuetOS had some more to say.
"However, candidates must also demonstrate having enough combat skills to assist members in need, should any threat arise".
"I don't have those skills". Altair said as she looked away, discouraged.
MenuetOS had to take a few moments to think of what to say next. "Altair, joining the CIOST isn't completely out of the question. We interview candidates, and all of our members gather to cast our votes on whether to approve them."
"What chance do I have if I can't fight very well?"
"We often approve candidates who show a lot of potential. If you don't have the combat skills for it now, but we notice that you have a lot of potential for them, along with the skills that you have now, you could still be approved, and we can train you."
"Really? Were there any members who were approved that way?"
"Oh, I wouldn't have guessed!" Altair responded, taken aback a moment.
"I almost had a hard time getting approved. It took two tries for me. As an OS still in my beta stages, the other members didn't know what to expect, or they thought I'd be too weak to be considered until I reach version 1.0, but they voted in my favor the second time."
"How did they do that? Was it because of your shop?
"I built this a little after I joined them. They were impressed by my skills with building lightweight but powerful weapons, and repairing equipment. If I did this for them, they agreed to help me train for combat, and pay for the startup costs of my shop."
"Thank you! I can help you train in my spare time, but I'll need to see who else will be willing to help before you apply."
MenuetOS's phone rang. "Excuse me, Altair"
She looked at the caller ID and it was from VMS.
"Hello, VMS? Is this an emergency?" MenuetOS asked, with her voice shaking.
Altair was worried about the conversation she was overhearing. The call ended in a few minutes, with a rushed ending. MenuetOS immediately reached for her desk drawer to pull out her ray gun, and dashed towards the door. "I have to close the shop now to help one of my teammates!"
"Oh no!" Altair said when she ran out of the shop. MenuetOS quickly locked the door behind them and began running. "A malicious bootleg OS-tan stole some important technology from my teammate, and she needs help getting it back!" she explained while Altair was running beside her.
"Who's this teammate, if you don't mind me asking now?"
Altair gasped and almost stopped in her tracks. MenuetOS stopped and turned for a split second. "You know her?" she asked.
"Yes, but I'll tell you when we meet up again!"
"Okay!" MenuetOS kept running. She ran toward a nearby garage where she kept her hovercraft that she built, and took to the skies to find IMSAI 8080's location.
MenuetOS's plan was to meet IMSAI 8080, who could give her a device that shows the location of the stolen devices, and the culprit. IMSAI 8080 was cautious to put tracking devices on every electronic device she made, and learned to make the trackers small enough to avoid being noticed.
Altair looked towards the sky and saw that MenuetOS was out of sight. She then turned away and ran to a nearby cafe she knew of where she could get a meal cheaply. Thoughts were racing through her head and didn't calm down when she was in the cafe.
"I didn't know that IMSAI 8080 was still alive! She could have practically been my clone, but I didn't like that at all. I made my debut almost a year before she did, but it didn't take long for her to become more popular and powerful, yet she seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth by 1981. And so did I. I'll be surprised if she knows I'm still alive. I wanted to ask MenuetOS if IMSAI 8080 knew if that I was still alive and how she felt about that. I'll ask her that next time we meet"