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You Should See the Other Guy

Posted on Tue Jan 30th, 2024 @ 23:58 by Mhairi McIntyre & Sarah Bright
Edited on on Sun Feb 4th, 2024 @ 11:55

Chapter: Winter's Crest Festival
Location: New Cresthill
Timeline: Friday 11th of December, 1992
3762 words - 7.5 OF Standard Post Measure

It was a cold, drizzly and thoroughly miserable day to be out and about in New Cresthill. The day was typical fare for northern Scotland, and certainly nothing out of the ordinary for one used to erratic New England winters, but Sarah still found herself longing for an end to the day's errands. Today it was a not-so-quick trip into town, to visit with one of the local attorneys and hopefully tie up the loose ends of her application for British citizenship.

The meeting had not gone well. It should've been a simple affair really--with an English-born mother, many character references and a seemingly stable place of residence and employment, her application should've been a shoo-in. Now, after she'd completed all the forms, her attorney was strongly suggesting that, after recent events, she consider limiting her 'official' connections to the Avalon Institute. All it would take was the wrong civil servant vetting the application, and she'd be not only denied application, but watch-listed as a known associate of the pro-mutant institution. Sarah didn't get the impression that the man was anti-mutant, but that didn't mean she liked his frank assessment of where the winds of popular opinion were blowing. It was disheartening, really.

The suggestion had been for Sarah to fill out new forms listing her maternal grandmother's address as her place of residence, and to pull back to her original purpose for working and immigrating, which was her doctoral studies in Medieval Literature. It was sound advice, and Sarah was probably going to take it, but it still stung like betrayal. As a closeted homosexual she was well used to having limited rights and a system of government actively working against her, but now that it was starting to double down all over again life was feeling quite suffocating. And the weather was not at all helping her already bleak state of mind.

As she trudged down the empty sidewalk, Sarah rounded the final corner back to her parked car, where she was dealt the final coup de grace--her car, Charlie Morris Marina, smashed to pieces.

The librarian did not run or panic. The damage had already been done, and of course for her legal appointment she had chosen to wear high heels. She approached her car, hands in the pockets of her pea coat as she drew it tighter to her body as if to reflexively fight the cold shiver that shot clean through, not because she felt cold, but because something she loved had been destroyed. With slashed tires Charlie now sat slumped unevenly on her rims. Nearly all of her windows were shattered, and both the front and rear windshields were thoroughly spider-cracked from various blunt-force impacts. Her headlights and tailights were also thoroughly smashed out, as well as the driver's side-view mirror, which had been completely severed from its mounting bracket. The rag top covering Charlie's makeshift sunroof had been completely knifed to shreds, leaving her exposed to the elements. Poking her head into the car's interior, Sarah saw more slash marks riddling the interior, as well as drying pools of what smelled like urine.

Sarah surveyed the scene with dead eyes, spotting a number of fresh cigarette butts both on the ground, and put out on her car. The hooligans that had done this had taken their fucking time, and had clearly been unconcerned about any sort of local intervention.

Without a word Sarah turned around and walked back the way she'd come. Thankfully the sidewalks were empty. Anyone within three meters of Sarah would have been doubled over in pain, puking their guts out. She pulled some coins out of her purse as she neared a phone booth, and then started fumbling through her small stack of business cards until she found the number for Graeme's Garage.

The small office could barely contain the loud ringing of the old bakelite phone on the desk. Had Mhairi been napping with her feet on the table, which she definitely wasn't, it would've disrupted that moment of peace violently and instantly. The young McIntyre cleared her throat and leaned forward to pick up the receiver at the second ring. "Graeme's Garage, how can I help?"

"Hey, it's Sarah..." The librarian said as she turned her back to the payphone and peered through the glass of the booth, scanning for threats. She recognizing Mhairi's voice, but wasn't quite sure if the mechanic remembered her or not. She wasn't the type of person who'd assume that anyone ever would, but she was too distracted to offer a more detailed greeting.

"It's Charlie, she's... she's dead." Sarah added with a sniffle.The poor weather had made her sinuses a bit runny, but the ambient noise from the wind and rain through the phone made it sound like she might be crying. Technically Sarah hadn't bothered trying to start her to see if it really was dead, especially not with the driver's side seat all torn up and splashed with urine. But with the tires all flat and everything smashed out, the car wasn't going anywhere, and this formed the basis of Sarah's ignorant logic, In her mind, the car looked dead.

"Dead? Sarah, you should be calling the police, not a garage!" Mhairi panicked in the moment where she felt like this was either someone confessing to a murder or someone finding a murder victim. "Where are you? What happened?" You see, while in Sarah's mind the car was clearly Charlie and she talked about her in such a fashion to her friends and colleagues, she never properly introduced her to the mechanic. Then again, why would she, Charlie had been in the McIntyre's care before she changed owners. Surely Mhairi and Graeme were well aware of the car's proper name.

"Charlie's my car..." Sarah said, with a noticeable pause as she watched a car slowly drive by. But then again, for a fast driver like herself, most other drivers looked like they drove suspiciously slow. "I don't know what happened, but I think its bad. You'll have to see for yourself. We're on Craig Street, two blocks west of the butcher's shop." Sarah didn't sound like she was hurt, but that didn't necessarily rule out an accident. One could only wonder what she would deem 'bad' was exactly. She didn't mean to be cryptic and vague, but she was a bit overwhelmed, and understandably afraid. She was hardly at her best in using her words.

Mhairi felt a huge weight fall off of her. Sure she would've reported a death to the police. Right? When she was out in Africa there had been plenty of times when the justice system was too corrupted to act, and when people took it into their own hands there wasn't anyone that stopped them. Was the country going down that path? Where a disenfranchised minority was forced to be vigilant over their own security and freedom? What side of the fence would she be on then? It was a silly thought as she had jumped into her truck, shotgun in the back, to stand on the ramparts at Avalon when it seemed like things were going to be coming to a head. "Next time lead with that. Are you safe?"

Was she safe? Sarah wasn't really quite sure. She couldn't say whether the damage to her car had been deliberate, or simply a spontaneous act of vandalism. She'd be a lot safer if it was the latter of the two, that much was sure.

"I'm in a phone booth..." Sarah said, sounding as if that was sufficient enough an answer, when really she didn't know what to say. She wasn't out in the cold drizzle, but she wasn't exactly safe.

"Alright then, if you feel unsafe, go to the Corner Bakery, it's half a block in the direction of Craig, past the Greggs. Gabby is a good cookie." It was perhaps a bit weird to talk about someone that was almost a decade her senior in that way but it was something she had picked up over the years. And aside from baking a good cookie, Gabriella was definitely one as well. "I'm on my way with the truck. I'm sure we can fix everything right up."

A brief moment of panic gripped Sarah when Mhairi began to give her directions. Even simple ones sometimes confounded her, as she had very poor spatial awareness. It had improved a lot since her childhood, but reading maps, and picturing directions in her mind were quite often as stressful as they were futile. These directions, however, were very simple, and familiar enough that once she got over the initial moment of panic, she was okay.

"Alright, I'll meet you there then." Sarah said without much hesitation. A bakery sure sounded safer than a phone booth, and would definitely smell better. She'd not been there personally, but had heard good things about the place. Her favorite hangout was the Early Birds' Cafe on the other side of town, a strange place because it was only open from 3am until 11 in the morning,, and only served a limited breakfast menu, along with coffee and tea. She firmly believed it had the best coffee in Britain, and woke up extra early a couple times a week to have breakfast there, and people-watch the night owls passing the torch to the early risers.

"Just pull up out front and I'll come out." The librarian added. She wondered if Mhairi went there often, or simply knew Gabby as a fellow townie. Either way she would ask if the mechanic had a favorite baked good that she could offer her, for coming out to help on such short notice.

[Fifteen minutes later]

It hadn't taken Mhairi long to get the tow truck out of the lot and over to the other side of town, with a jolt she came to a standstill in front of the corner bakery. She pressed the horn, which gave a very meek wail. The tow truck had seen better days, could probably do with a proper service. Mhairi softly patted the steering wheel as if to tell her it was alright to feel a bit under the weather under the current circumstances. She wasn't really one for anthropomorphising vehicles, but the tow truck was different. The old lady had soul.

Hearing the horn and noticing Mhairi in her truck waiting at the curb, Sarah scurried outside and quickly, if awkwardly opened the door and slid onto the truck's bench seat. She placed a bag containing the pastry that Gabby had selected for Mhairi onto the seat next to her, and held up a to-go cup of warm tea, as if offering to be the beverage's cup holder, as the older model truck didn't appear to have any.

"This is for you. Thanks for coming to help me. " Sarah said with a sniffle. She didn't appear to be upset, but was visibly more sedate than the last few times the mechanic had seen her. "She's just down that way..." She added in a weary tone, as if addressing a coroner who'd come to collect a body.

"Cheers." Mhairi looked in the different mirrors to make sure she could roll herself back onto the main street. The truck was large and sluggish and a proper look around before doing anything was something that her father had instilled in her from an early age taking the tow truck on the road. They made their way over to the scene of the crime and spotted the Morris, or more accurate to its current condition, the Mortis. "Wow. They really did a number on her." It had already been quite a beat up car, and with the additional damages you didn't need to be a seasoned mechanic to realise that this was what one called an economic total loss. Something told this particular seasoned mechanic, though, that the owner of the car wouldn't quite see it that way. She stepped out of the truck after positioning it nearby and stepped closer to the husk of the Marina better known as Charlie. "We might be able to salvage some parts, the chassis seems intact."

Sarah had been able to hold it together up to this point, but it probably would've been more accurate to say that she was actually in shock. She was shivering... a feeling she'd not felt in over fifteen years, since her abilities first manifested. She pulled her coat closer, not sure how else to deal with a cold that felt so deep that it had taken root in her soul. Mhairi's words, meant to convey some optimism so one at least somewhat familiar with cars, actually had the opposite effect to someone who was ignorant of them, and did indeed anthropomorphize them. She did not know what the word chassis meant. All she really understood were the words might, salvage, and parts. That meant that Charlie was dead, she wasn't coming back, and it was time to open her up and harvest what organs could be saved.

The librarian let out the quietest, most pitiful wail that the mechanic had probably ever heard, as she buried her face in her hands and sat back against the bumper of the tow truck before her legs could give way. Though her body wouldn't let her cry, that distinction meant little with her face covered in drizzle as she quietly sobbed and watched Mhairi prepare for her somber task.

Mhairi stepped away from the tow truck and inspected the damage on Charlie when she barely heard the Librarian's wail over the sounds of the streets and rain. She immediately turned and saw her collapse. She dashed back over to be next to her and knelt right beside her. "It'll be alright, Sarah. Don't worry. We'll have Charlie back on her feet in no time." After a moment of hesitation she put an arm around the shivering form of the distressed woman.

For a moment Mhairi probably regretting touching Sarah, as she was treated to a sample of the librarian's mutant power, and in this instance, a rather unpleasant one. But it only lasted for a moment. In the span of a couple seconds she learned the same lesson Sarah's family had learned, and one that Mhairi's special friend Cam had experienced the better half of. Hug a happy Sarah at each and every opportunity. Hug a sad Sarah at one's own risk. The mechanic felt all the unpleasant sensations from Sarah's state of shock first--a bone deep chill, mixed in with heart palpitations and a crushing feeling of dread. But then the words she'd spoken to Sarah the moment before touching her registered, and all of those feelings vanished. The chill was replaced with a tingling warmth reminiscent of the first rays of sunshine on one's skin after a long, cloudy day. The palpitations were replaced with a steady drumbeat of excitement, and the crushing dread gave way to the airy freedom of hope.

"Really?" Sarah said, hopeful but still disbelieving. On the outside the car looked totally destroyed, but she didn't understand how much easier tires, windows and body panels were to fix than an engine, transmission, or bent chassis. As if to test her hope, Sarah pulled out her car keys and held them. If Mhairi needed them, then maybe what she said really was true... that they were still needed and that her car would be okay.

The mechanic's head was spinning for a moment, not knowing how to process all the emotions that came over her. Mhairi broke the embrace and took in a sharp, cold, breath. As she came closer to the car she took in the extensive damage, and then the smell. As she came close to the flat tires, the warm streetlights reflected off of a blade sticking out the rear left tire. Blood caked to the rubber from where the culprit had tried to pull it free from rim. "Before anything else, we'll ring the polis."

Sarah realized a moment too late what she'd done to Mhairi. Usually she could keep her body from projecting what it was feeling onto others, but it was much harder during emotional highs and lows... and especially when people were touching her. She held out a hand as the mechanic recoiled and moved off toward Charlie, but then thought better of it, as of course that was the worst thing Sarah could do. Standing back up, the librarian gathered her coat about her and realized that she was now quite damp.

When Sarah saw the knife, she immediately wished she hadn't. Yes, there was some small comfort in knowing that Charlie had fought back, and that the creeps who'd done this to her car had not gotten away with it completely unscathed. But it also planted a seed for revenge. She'd only felt true anger one other time, that day at boarding school, when someone had outed her as a lesbian, and all of her so-called friends had chosen to make her life a living hell for it. In the cafeteria she'd made the whole lot of them so violently ill with her feelings alone that two had to be sent to the hospital. And that poor janitor... left with the mess. Now, she was feeling it all over again.

Sarah did not want to go to the police. They wouldn't do anything to jam up any of the local good ol' boys, and certainly not if it made them look like mutant sympathizers in the process. All getting them involved would do is make her face known to them, and associate it with trouble. And doing so would also ruin any plots of revenge, should she decide to hatch up and act on any.

"Let's not..." Sarah cautioned in a wearied tone. "I'd rather not have to explain why the locals are trying to knife my car to death. I'd sooner get us both out of this weather, and into dry clothes." Someone who wasn't a mutant or some other form of unwelcome minority probably wouldn't understand her hesitation there, but she was hoping that somehow Mhairi would, or would at least not press the issue further.

"Not?" Mhairi wondered what it was that had Sarah worried about going to the police. She'd had similar experiences when she was out in Africa, which was over a concern of corruption and retaliation. It wasn't difficult to see how someone so closely associated with a pro-mutant organisation in the current political climate would worry about something similar. "It's your call," She cleaned her hands with the rag from the back of her pocket, "keep in mind that no police report means no insurance coverage for the repairs."

Sarah laughed at that. "Charlie's only got liability." Her tone was quite sardonic, a far departure from her normal, lighthearted demeanor. Though she could've afforded better coverage options, it had just seemed ludicrous to fully insure the cheapest car in town, when whatever reimbursement she got probably wouldn't even cover the out-of-pocket deductible. Still, Charlie had deserved better.

The librarian shivered again, feeling more stressed by thoughts of money. Though she did have savings and wasn't terribly worried about what she would eventually do, Sarah didn't have the same knack for fiscal matters that it seemed everyone else in her family possessed. All of them were far away, most an ocean away, and any problems she had would now land squarely on her shoulders alone. With all her thoughts on money Sarah failed to take notice of the sounds of an approaching vehicle, which drove at speed right through a puddle within splashing range.

"Ggaaahh!" Sarah growled roughly, almost to the level of a scream, Fully drenched from the chest down, had she had anything on hand, she probably would've hurled it at the passing car to try and satisfy her rage. As it was, the only object of note within easy reach was one of her shoes... which, however tempting, was not going to be an option. Especially considering how her shoes were now definitely worth more than her car.

Mhairi stepped closer to Sarah but stopped herself from putting an arm around the librarian, remembering how it had made her feel a few moments ago. "Why don't you wait in the truck? Put on the radio, the heater, warm up a bit." She slowly guided her to the passenger side and opened the door, motioning for her to step in. As she did she quickly reached into the dash and pulled out a camera. The mechanic wanted to make sure that once the emotions and perhaps fear had died down a bit there would still be a chance to press charges, and even if she wouldn't it gave her an opportunity to show of a before and after.

"There. Take it easy. Have a pastry. I'll get Charlie back to the garage safely and then I'll take you home to Avalon." A quick tap on the knee, an immediate feeling of sorrow. Mhairi took in a sharp breath and she tried to push away the depressive and intrusive thoughts. The door of the truck closed with a heavy metal clang and young lass McIntyre got to working on towing what was left of the Morris Morena.

Having no better course of action, Sarah allowed herself to be ushered toward the truck, where she unceremoniously plopped down in the seat. Very much a sodden, sulky mess, she wriggled about to try and find a comfortable spot on the well-worn and not very ergonomic bench seat, but the more she did, the wetter she felt. Fumbling for the heater switch, she was greeted with a continuous blast of hot air that would've sent her hair streaming, if it weren't already heavy with moisture. She didn't have the will or energy to fiddle with the settings, and just it flow. Her eyes quickly dry out from the heat, and soon after the fatigue set in.

With one last burst of energy, Sarah turned on the radio and heard the tell-tale sounds of the oldies channel. Of course the song playing was the most ironic one to be found---A Beautiful Morning, by The Rascals. It was anything but. With one last weary yawn she stepped out of her shoes and pulled her feet up onto the seat, curling up sideways so she could rest her cheek on the top of the seat back. By the time the song ended she was fast asleep.


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