Tin Hat

Cohost writing prompt: @littlegods — A Little God you found yourself worshipping entirely by accident

You spent the back end of the war, in the Fleet, flying escort for cargo runs taking medical supplies to the front. The post-Wallachia push, when the Fleet was losing machines faster than it could build them, and pulling all the capable birds from everywhere it could find them to send them forward; and that's how the Band-Aid Run ended up flying the 117 Digiorno-patterns, which had been on the cusp of retirement from service at the start of the war. By that point, pilots were calling them the Dith Sentence.

People turn superstitious, under those conditions. You've got friends adamantly living out the rest of their lives as "roommates", because those wreck-strewn, burning flight decks turned it into an iron article of faith: You don't marry another pilot. You don't spit in Fate's face by saying 'til death.

It was a joke. Of course it was a joke. A spare helmet that some unknown wag stuck on a bit of mop handle, that slowly accreted extra jokes, and in the charged pressure vessel of a Fleet carrier, when the conflict was riding a knife edge and you were the ones bleeding, the jokes took on a genuine, desperate edge. A helmet on a stick became the altar, and Tin Hat became the small god that turns away the bullets, because death was coming and everybody needed things to cling to.

The Fleet are still maintaining that the fire suppressant foam on those burning decks was harmless, but it doesn't take an epidemiologist to eventually say: hey, these rare diseases, they pop up a lot in specific ex-Fleet personnel. So you wait the endless week for the biopsy results, and for the first time in years:

Tin Hat, don't let it be malignant.