Disclaimer: I have no legal rights over Steambot Chronicles.

Our Friendship-- Fresh Beginnings, Bad Endings

The harsh shrieking of seagulls filled the air over Albatross Wharf, accentuating the shouts of the laborers on the piers as they unloaded passengers and cargo from their ships. The large docking area was bustling with activity that fall morning, the air nippy and rank with salt from the sea and grease from the Trotmobiles clanking around loaded with heavier loads of steel beams and lumber to bring into the various warehouses lining the area.

At the end of the line of piers jutting out into the sea by the lighthouse a smaller ship lay moored, it's faded green paint and worn look keeping it from any sort of attention from most of the harbor. The crew had already dispersed to the bar in Mariner City now that their meager cargo was unloaded, and their only passenger disembarked.

The passenger in question was sitting on top of his small chest of belongings by Warehouse Four, gazing quietly at the steely colored sea in front of him. His neatly trimmed black hair was lightly ruffled by the breeze, and his nose was starting to take on a pink hue from the chill, but he seemed to barely take notice. His dark eyes had an almost haunted look in them, accentuated by the visible bags under his eyes as he took in his new surroundings, similar to port he had left from in his home country but entirely different from his home city that he had been forced to leave. 'And all because of one childish prank', his subconscious whispered bitterly to him.

'No, the council said it wasn't my fault.' He railed back against the thought, a familiar internal argument for the past few weeks now, but could easily recall the disgust hidden in the men's eyes, and his father's stern face in his mind's eye after the court had let him leave.

'You were as much at fault as that driver, my son. Because of you,--' The boy shook his head violently as if to shake away the accusations and memories. Leaning forward on his chest, he hunched his shoulders and miserably glanced up and down the concrete strip leading to his ship, waiting for the car that was supposed to pick him up. He had kept his coat bundled away in his chest, and with only a thin button up shirt and his brown slacks on he was getting quite cold.

Just as he was about to turn his gaze back to the sea, however, the unmistakable putter of an engine caught his attention. Looking up, he saw the brightly painted red car making its way towards him, going at a steady pace due to the fact that this section of the wharf was relatively clear of laborers. As it shuddered to a halt in front of him the boy slowly stood up, raising a hand up to make sure his hair wasn't too mussed by the wind as the driver hopped out of his seat to approach the by.

"You are Mister Mallow, correct?" Mallow slowly nodded, a quiet, "Yes," belatedly following the action. He could tell the chauffeur was a bit surprised at his quiet, almost meek attitude, but being obnoxious and conceited like he used to be just made him feel sick inside now. Mallow looked down at his chest to avoid having to look the man in the eye, but apparently the driver followed his gaze due to his next comment: "If you get into the car sir, I'll just get your things tied onto the roof." The man smiled politely, trying to meet Mallow's eyes with his own light brown, but Mallow kept his gaze firmly on the ocean as he nodded again.

As Mallow walked over to the car and let himself in, quietly shutting the door behind him, the driver picked up the surprisingly light chest and grabbed some rope from his seat to secure it to the vehicle. 'That kid sure is an odd one,' he thought to himself as he knotted the spare rope at the end. 'But then again, maybe that's why he's going to live with Duke Bean.' Settling down in his seat and starting the car, the driver thought no more of his passenger, instead focusing at the task at hand of turning and navigating his way through the bustling people and Trotmobiles around the rest of the wharf to get back into the city proper.

Inside the car, Mallow was trying vainly to occupy his thoughts with something innocent or even trifling. Instead, he was stuck either trying to clock out memories of the past few weeks or worrying about what his reception would be at his new home for the next five years. According to everyone back in Happy Garland he was off to pursue his 'studies' in medicine to take over his father's business. Really, this was his father's way of punishing him and forcing him to consider all that he had done. Although Mallow didn't see how sending him to Duke Bean, an old acquaintance of Mallow's long-dead mother, was supposed to be a punishment. He would have figured he'd be sent to live with a fisherman, or even a carpenter. Not an aristocrat.

But from what he had been able to learn on the ship from the few sailors he had talked to who knew the city, the Duke was a stern man with two sons and a daughter, and a bit of an eccentric. He was a blend of old and new values that no one seemed to be able to describe in a few words, which made Mallow a bit wary of his guardian. Until he turned eighteen in three years, he would be entirely under the control of this businessman, the Bean family having gained their fortune long ago in the form of trade.

Glancing out the window to see the last row of wooden warehouses pass by, Mallow gave a soft sigh and closed his eyes. Only to snap them open again as images flashed unheeded across his eyelids. 'If nothing else, maybe I can have some sort of fresh start here.'

AN: This is a project that has been picking away at my resolve for a few months now, and I've finally given in and started to write it.

This chapter is mostly just an opening to the setting, the writing style I'll be using throughout the story, and the perspectives I'll mostly be writing from. While it seems even the game developers of Steambot Chronicles forgot Mallow after the end of the game, he was one of my favorite characters (don't ask why, or you'll get a really long rant).

So, this story is here to just explore some background musings I had about his character after the 'Accident', along with my interpretation of Vanilla's past. If you have not completed the game, I would not recommend reading this story, as it has some spoilers about Connie, Dandelion and Chicory that you may have wanted to find out yourself.

As a last note, Mallow's, and later Vanilla's, ages will both start at fifteen in this story, leaving them at nineteen when Steambot Chronicles begins. Some people consider Vanilla to be younger, about seventeen, but when I remember some of the things you can make Vanilla say and think in that game, I feel more comfortable setting him a bit older. So keep that in mind if you continue to read later chapters.