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What's Under the Hood?

Posted on Fri Jul 21st, 2023 @ 4:23 by Sarah Bright & Cameron Johnston & Mhairi McIntyre

Chapter: All Hallow's Eve
Location: Graeme's Garage, New Cresthill
Timeline: A week after 'Buyer Beware'
3690 words - 7.4 OF Standard Post Measure

It had been a long, busy week, working in the library, and waiting for the weekend to arrive. Usually Sarah looked forward to having more free time, and being able to potentially get away from the castle for more than a few hours at a time. But potentially was quickly becoming the keyword upon which most of her interests hinged. The bicycle Sarah had bought last weekend would do well enough for the occasional trip into town, weather permitting, but that was about the limit of its usefulness. And truth be told, there wasn't really a whole lot that Sarah was interested in doing in town. The cafe was nice, and she was trying to build a rapport with the public library, but few of the shops catered to her interests, and Sarah was really not at all interested in frequenting any of the local pubs.

No, in a way Sarah had already outgrown the small community of New Cresthill. She had her sights set on the next big thing, the nearby city of Inverness. But unfortunately, the only reliable way of getting there was by car. The village had a train station, but it was geared more towards servicing local industry, and offered few passenger options. Buses were also few and far between, and were more expensive. Plus there was also the thought of feeling vulnerable, using public transit, especially now that the worked at a school for mutants... and was maybe kinda sorta a mutant too. So there was no easy way around it. Eventually, Sarah would need a car.

But the librarian was also dreading getting a car, and in that regard the week had passed far too quickly. She had the money saved for a cheap, used car, but spending that amount of money came with an emotional process that was rarely easy to endure. She may have been born a rich snob, but she'd been raised to be very frugal. The entire week had been spent outlining the need for the purchase, then talking herself out of it, then convincing herself back into the need for the expense. Then there was the constant nitpicking of priorities. Did she need something fancy? Of course not. But she didn't really need something purely utilitarian, either.

Then there was also the deciding factor, and true source of Sarah's anxiety--she'd never actually bought a car before. She'd only ever owned one, and it had been a gift. She knew absolutely nothing about the process, or what to look for, which meant that she was going to get taken advantage of... just like when she'd been sold that bike.

But this time would be different, hopefully. She'd brought her secret weapon.

Not only had Cameron never considered himself much of a weapon, he also wasn't all that sure he was built for secrecy either. Deceit had never come naturally to the mutant, and though he had attempted for a short while to hide his emerging abilities from his family, that had ultimately failed because he just wasn't built for lying. Sneaking around was a different thing, instigating egg and bacon heists entirely another matter, and keeping secrets an absolute different ball game, but for the most part, people knew when Cameron Johnston was around.

Right now it was because his favourite boots had developed a slight flaw.

Somewhere in the space between sole and shoe, a tiny air pocket had developed an alarming tendency to emit a rather leathery putter if he stepped on it a certain way, which would have delighted a much younger Cameron who would have sold off half of his toys for a pair of shoes that made farting noises, but having finally wrangled out of his accomplice what her mysterious intention was for dragging him into town under the assurance that his opinion was absolutely imperative, Cameron stood now on the threshold to a very familiar garage wishing he'd worn a different pair. The slip of his hands into his back pockets was a dead giveaway, though he did his best to curb the displacement of nervousness as he cleared his throat and called out, "Shop!", with a sense of teasing bravado he may or may not have had to fake somewhat.

"Haud yer wheesht, da! The auld man's in a richt foul temper." Mhairi hissed from the entrance of the office to which she had rushed when she had heard people coming their way. She had relapsed into a much more thick version of her accent before she realised who the people were that had made their way over to their shop that morning. She looked in the direction of the door that separated the shop from the residential area. "Sorry. How can I help you fine people today? Is the bike still in working order?" When she made an effort she could actually sound like a properly educated lady.

Sarah blinked, and was at a complete loss as to what Mhairi had just said. The first bit, anyway. Old man? She understood that much. Was this her father's garage? There hadn't been anyone else there when she'd first visited. As they were more or less stunned into silence the librarian heard an audible fart come from her associate. She glanced over and arched an eyebrow, wondering if his lapse in restraint was due to their rough greeting, or perhaps the mental exertion required to try and decipher the mechanic's words. Then she felt like an idiot when she heard the sound again a moment later and realized it was coming from Cam's shoe. She did her best to hide a smirk at that, and looked down at her own shoes. She knew all about farting shoes... as would many who wore brand new Converse sneakers. Thankfully hers were worn to hell, and gratefully silent. Grimy sneakers were better than farting ones, which was why she'd yet to replace them. That, and that was how chucks were supposed to look.

"Lovely to see you again, dearie hen. Bike is just fine, thank you for asking." Sarah said, matching Mhairi's tidied up accent as she tugged at her sweater hem in a gesture of preening contentment at being referred to as a fine person. She turned in a somewhat dramatic fashion, enough for her pleated skirt to swirl as she pointed at the line of used cars for sale in the lot. "The Marina still for sale?" Sarah asked, trying to hide her excitement over what would be her first time car shopping. The black Morris Marina coupe was not the best or even most reliable car in the lot, but it was the one that fascinated her most. She had yet to figure out why.

"You put her up to this?" Mhairi asked of Cam, without really giving the question from the librarian much credence. The car was obviously still for sale because nobody in their right mind would come in and buy a Marina. "Why?" There wasn't really a satisfying reason in her mind that Cam would set someone up to try and buy what could arguably be considered the worst British car ever made.

Somewhere amidst the existing mortification regarding his footwear, Cameron was starting to experience an entirely different branch of horrified realisation as the remaining details regarding Sarah's motivation for this little jaunt uncoiled slowly as a viper might when contemplating its next meal. The sideways grimace he was affording the car lingered well-into the allotted time for a reasonable response and, by the time he looked back to make eye contact with Mhairi, the bewildered mechanic looked legitimately pained. Slowly, he held both hands up in supplication. "I was just asked to supply an opinion, I wasn't completely let in on the whole story." Lowering one hand, he reached the other up to rub awkwardly at the back of his head. "So, what are we dealing with here? I can vouch for anything you've been told, Mhairi's a good egg." The hell, Johnston? An egg? Cameron cleared his throat and added, "Knows her stuff too."

Truth be told, Sarah hadn't paid much attention to anything the pair of mechanics had been saying. Half a mind, at best. As soon as their comments had relegated her from fellow adult to teenager with questionable taste, she'd more or less tuned out. As if resigned to her new status, Sarah's demeanor had reverted to a more youthful aspect. There was a bounce to her steps, as well as a carefree sashay as she moved over to the row of cars for sale. Was she skipping? Almost. The other half of her mind was already far beyond lost in daydreams of weekend jaunts through the countryside, ragtop open (in her daydreams in never rained), her best mixtape playing, and her favorite girl riding shotgun beside her. Living in the city she'd certainly never gotten to enjoy any of that, as urban traffic easily dispelled the power of new car magic. It could also be argued that the daydream came first, and so that, and not her associates, had caused her lapse of attention and newfound immaturity. Who could say what came first---a classic case of the chicken or the egg conundrum, for sure.

Actually it was none of that. The astute librarian had simply realized that Cam and Mhairi had a history. Who could say if they were dating, but Sarah would wager money that one or both were at least considering it. There was a connection there that seemed so tangible that she could pluck it like guitar strings, to see what kind of chord it would make. A G chord, obviously. Sarah certainly didn't want to comment, or point it out, however. Being a gay woman had taught her not only about the necessity of discretion, but the value of those who chose to maintain it. Her act as a daft teenage girl was simply that, carefully crafted to buy Cam and Mhairi time to sort out their shit while she enjoyed the magic of the moment, before her mechanic friends could kill it.

Reaching the car, Sarah peered into the window, and couldn't stop her fingers from curling around the door latch. She tugged, and heard an audible click before the door opened. It was unlocked! Of course it was. Who would steal a Marina? She instantly parked her butt onto the tan vinyl drivers seat and swung her legs inside, not caring enough to tuck in her skirt so that her full leg wasn't on display. That's what tights were for! She grimaced slightly as she realized that the old duct tape holding the cracked vinyl together was probably going to shred them when and if she chose to exit the vehicle as quickly and carelessly as she'd entered it. Oh well, that was a concern for five minutes from now. Sarah grasped the wheel, and actually made thrumming noises to emulate the throttle as she pretended to drive... even though her feet couldn't reach the pedals. Who'd driven this thing last? Cameron? She fumbled around for the seat release lever.

"I thought you'd nearly convinced him to scrap her for parts," Cameron murmured quietly, pulling up beside Mhairi to watch, with resignation, as his colleague fell in love with a bad influence. "I think your dad might actually flay us alive if we sell that car to anyone." If Cameron had been aware of Sarah's intuition, there would have been no speed at which the mutant could move that would have covered his tracks adequately enough to make a convincing denial. The problem was, and it was something that he generally got away with by being so personable; Cameron didn't date. It wasn't a lack of interest in it, and in this particular case that could have been said to be particularly apt, but he'd never been able to resolve the problem of putting someone he cared about in harm's way. His sister had always labelled it a martyr's folly, too willing to fall on his own sword ahead of time, but regardless of whether or not he'd be able to keep up the charade under direct opposition, Cam still fretted. None of that did much to hide his barely-contained eagerness as his hands found his back pockets and he screwed up his face. "Doesn't seem kind to break her heart though."

Mhairi took in a deep breath through her nose. This was a terrible idea. The primary reason was that her father always insisted on giving a lot of free service on cars bought in their shop. This thing should've been scrapped, not even for parts, just cubed and left to the side. "Want to take it for a spin?" She leaned in so that the young woman could hear her over the sounds she was making pretending to rev the car.

Just after Mhairi finished asking the question, Sarah's hand finally found the release lever. Unfortunately for her, the car was parked at just enough of an angle for gravity to work against her, and her feet, still reaching for the pedals, weren't firmly planted on the floorboard. The seat quickly lurched forward on smooth rollers and Sarah let out an audible OOOF as her chest slammed into the steering wheel.


The Marina's horn--which sounded just like the roadrunner cartoon-- blared for a whole three and a half seconds, which was probably enough to sound closer to an eternity for those who remembered the garage owner's foul mood. Thankfully the librarian had reacted relatively quickly though, and had deftly planted her feet and pushed back while holding the lever. Car horn aside, the added discomfort of smooshed breasts was an effective catalyst for decisive action.

Sarah laughed nervously and awkwardly in equal measures, fully expecting the mechanic to change her mind and shoo her out of the car. "Uhh, sure I'd love to!" Sarah replied quickly, before anyone could change their mind.

For the longest moment, Cameron simply stared blankly into the rapidly-approaching razzle-dazzle of a future in which he'd never live this down. It wasn't as if it was the first time he'd been dragged into hijinks without any awareness prior that he'd signed up for them but he was still trying to recover from the implication this had been his idea and what it said about a certain mechanic's opinion of him that she'd even accuse him of orchestrating something that was likely to cause her no end of calamity in the long term. Unwilling to set a foot wrong, and not just because of the ensuing noise that would accompany such a move, he remained subdued and visibly unwilling to look Mhairi in the eye.

It did feel like a long moment. Looking over to Cameron, Sarah saw the man's vacant expression, and could only wonder what had drained him of all emotion. Was she embarrassing him? Probably. But it seemed like something more than that. For Pete's sake, the man looked like he was about to be dragged off to an arranged shotgun wedding to his least favorite cousin. Was it the car? Maybe, but Sarah had already assumed that they were all already on the same page in agreeing that was a piece of shit. Maybe she should have better communicated that that was besides the point. She already knew that she was going to have to put money into it, and that there would be no return on investment. She just wanted to make sure that her feet wouldn't fall through the floorboards after a couple months, leaving her driving the thing like Freddy Flintstone. Sarah wished she knew what his hesitation was about, as she felt that anything else she said was just going to make it worse.

Mhairi walked back into the office space right off the side of the Garage. She heard grumbling coming from inside and knew that the clumsyness had stirred something awake inside. Now she had to deal with that as well. "Dinnae worry, I'm handlin' it." She immediately called to her dad who was just getting upright on the couch in the corner.

"Is tha' the Marina?" He asked groggily.

The mechanic had to bite her lip to not go into a rant, "I said I'm handlin' it." Mhairi reiterated.

"You can't sell a Marina."

"Then why is it in the lot? Is it just there to look pretty? Like you I suppose." She had grabbed the keys and was back on her way out. "If I can't talk sense into the lass she'll buy the Marina, and we'll be happy with the money. Because unlike this garage every other establishment runs on the exchange of goods or services for legal tender." Without waiting for a reply she got back outside and lobbed the keys towards Cameron who was still standing frozen between her and the Marina that held his colleague. "Bring it back in one piece, will ya?"

"Don't fancy tagging along?"

The expression on Cameron's face was a mixture of pathetically hopeful and desperately pleading. There was also an element, since the exchange in the office had been a little difficult not to overhear, of feeling guilty about leaving her to face the music with a disgruntled mechanic. He caught the keys, though, and stood hesitantly torn between two loyalties.

"I suppose you could use a good mechanic along for the ride if you're taking that on the road." Mhairi closed the distance between them and approached the car. "Last chance, lassie, I have a very decent Scirocco right over there." She pointed in the direction of the VW they recently gotten off of one of the locals.

Sarah audibly sighed. If she'd wanted the Scirocco, she would've tried to sit in it first. She had nothing against it, really, except for that it was red. She didn't exactly dislike the color, but it wasn't her style. If she wouldn't be caught dead wearing a pair of red shoes, why in hell would she drive around in a red car? There was also the fact that it was a Volkswagen. There was nothing wrong with that, but she'd been driving a German car since the day she'd learned to drive. Normally Sarah was stuck in her ways, but this was one of the few instances where she was looking forward to trying a new flavor.

Realizing that the pair of mechanics were going to do everything they could to stymie this moment for her, the librarian decided to take action. She cranked down the driver's side window and snatched the keys from Cameron's hand. The motor turned over immediately as Sarah turned the keys, and it idled with an angsty putter. She blinked as she saw the gauges come to life. For some reason she'd been expecting to hear the starter wheeze as it tried to bring the motor to life.

"Someone call shotgun!" Sarah said rather loudly, as she gently throttled the gas. There was definitely definitely some kind of rattle going on somewhere down the exhaust pipe, but the engine itself sounded healthy enough. She made some final adjustments to the seat, and carefully plucked the piece of loose duct tape off of her leg before checking the mirrors.

The woebegone look cast sideways didn't bring Cameron a lot of reprieve. With a resigned sigh, he squeezed himself into the passenger seat and offered Sarah a grin that didn't quite make its way to his eyes. "At least nobody can say they won't know you're coming." He struggled with the seatbelt a moment and then made several attempts to figure out what to do with his hands before deciding to leave them balled into fists against his knees. "How far are you hoping to travel with this?" He glanced over his shoulder to the bemused occupant of the back seat and then looked back across at Sarah. "Just that, oddly enough, she'll probably enjoy the longer jaunts than too many short back-and-forths. Could always take her to the coast," he heard himself babbling.

Sarah took a cue from Cameron and buckled her own seatbelt. Not that she didn't usually do that, but the excitement of the moment had perhaps caused her to overlook a few things. Maybe more than a few things. She didn't think to test the turn signals, headlights, windshield wipers or brakes.

"Inverness, for starters!" Sarah said, taking her associate's grin for authentic enthusiasm. She jammed her foot on the brake and released the parking brake, which released its death-grip with a soft thunk and a noticeable jolt that didn't seem to faze the librarian. She slowly let off the brakes, treating the cars occupants to a soft grating squeal as the car's wheels scraped an accumulation of rust off of the brakes, which had been sitting idle for who knows how long. Thankfully the car did stop however, before it could roll down the incline of the parking lot and out onto the street.

"Shit I forgot to take the rag top off!" Sarah said as she looked both ways for traffic, revealing the top of her prioritizes for this venture. She made one last mental note to turn left onto the left lane, and not into what would be considered oncoming traffic in her new place of residence. A creaky spring could be heard compressing as Sarah jammed her foot onto the clutch and wrangled the shifter into first gear. The fact that she was shifting with her left hand made her heart skip a beat, but at least the floor pedals weren't reversed. That would've been too much of an adjustment to overcome with anywhere near the level of confidence she was presently faking.

The Marina's engine grumbled in a surly fashion as Sarah tested the gas, and the tires actually chirped on the pavement as she released the clutch. "Where to, navigator?" Sarah called out as she accelerated and shifted into second gear as the Marina buzzed along down the road, sounding like a swarm of giant, angry bees.


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