Hope Springs

Mitch's Old 76

Chapter One

The wrench missed Theros’ head by a hair’s breadth. The redneck swinging it was bellowing in rage as the giant pressed against the dirt to save his face before pushing his immense bulk up off the ground, slamming his fist into the hick’s chin as he rose to his knees.

Standing over eight feet, Theros was the tallest man anyone in Hope Springs had ever seen and it was common for the giant to be challenged. Luckily, he liked to fight, even had a fighting cage built behind the garage. Usually they didn’t bring wrenches.

“The hell?” – the yokel, fingering the impact tear where Theros’ fist made contact with his face.

The wrench-wielding maniac, bellowing, charged the still kneeling mechanic, but it only took Theros standing up to remove himself from the drunk’s swing.

Theros was already lunging, ready to wrap his arms around the yokel, ready to slam his face into the fence when he suddenly felt the familiar burn of Azoth, like the heat of the summer sun on his face.

The giant turned to see a hooded figure standing outside the cage, apart from the gathered drunks.

It was someone like him.

Theros’ foe took advantage of the moment’s distraction and slammed the wrench into his downturned head, connecting with the giant’s temple. The swing could have killed a man.

Theros wasn’t a man.

The monster caught himself as his body swung toward the ground and hurled his fist back at the idiot, opening it at the last moment to keep from killing him outright, resisting every urge in his body to let the pyros ignite his muscles with power and send his victim flying and instead simply knocked him out, sending him crumpling to the ground in a heap.

Playtime was over.

“Take this piece of shit off my property.” – Theros, to the yokel’s buddy.

Even as his friends dragged the unconscious drunk out of the cage the crowd began to recede.

“You!” – Theros, pointing a clubbed finger at the one he’d sensed.

“You can stay.”

The others barely glanced at the robed figure as they left, angry that they’d lost yet another fight.

The inside of the garage wasn’t nearly as rundown as the old corrugated metal shell made it look. Mitch, the previous owner, had a peculiar pride in his skill fixing engines and always made sure to have excellent equipment, he’d simply never bothered to spend a dime on the garage itself.

Jimmy Dunn, the head mechanic, was working on a ’99 Chevy Malibu with a blown radiator. He didn’t look up from his work when Theros lumbered in.

“How much longer, Jimmy?”

“It’ll be done by six, just like I told you. Sir.”

Jimmy didn’t like Theros. That was okay. Theros didn’t like Jimmy either.

“I’ve got a guest coming in, I want you to leave ‘em alone.”

“Whatever.”

When the back door finally closed Jimmy’s head popped out from inside the car and Theros knew why.

The anonymous figure smelled like road kill that had been left in the sun for three days.

“Jimmy. Take the rest of the day. I’ll finish up.” – Theros

The mechanic dropped his tools and headed for the door cursing under his breath.

Theros didn’t care. He was already fetching a few fresh bars of soap and a few of the cleaner towels from the supply closet.

“You gonna take that gettup off?”

The figure grunted and began to strip away the layers of filthy clothes. A leather coat, a denim jacket, a sweater, a sweater-vest, two button up shirts, a t-shirt and a wife-beater later she revealed her dark naked flesh, whoever put her together had chosen her torso based on looks, and had chosen well. Unfortunately the arms attached to said torso belonged to no fewer than five separate men, and were held awkwardly to the lithe body by gun-metal gray joints that looked like they had once belonged to some sort of assembly machine.

They were, in fact, very similar to Theros’ own joints.

The Wretch pulled off the scarf and ski-mask that had hidden her face to reveal that it too had belonged to a beautiful woman, though whoever had put her together hadn’t bothered mooring her eyes, and instead bolted what looked like reinforced goggles over them.

She turned to remove her pants, showing a child’s modesty. Unfortunately it did not hide the same machined joints that connected her massive arms to the body. Nor did it hide the hideously malformed and oversized legs that were thus connected by someone who seemed desperate to keep the torso from being too heavily modified, as the hips and pelvis obviously belonged to a third exceptionally well-shaped female.

On her back were two tattoos, one was a calligraphied name, Dexter, just below the neck, perhaps the name someone that the torso had once loved; and a barcode, just above where the neck and torso had been sutured together.

Theros recognized it immediately. It was similar to the one he had on his own neck.

Theros hadn’t noticed that the woman had begun to kneel down on the ground, as if waiting for him…

“Stop that!” – Theros

The creature turned on him, her face a mask of angry confusion.

“I’m just here to clean you up. There won’t be any of that.” – Theros handed her the towels and soap.

She smiled and again he was reminded of a child. He smiled back and after pointing her to the chemical shower at the back of the garage made to give her some privacy. He hadn’t taken a step before he heard the sound of her biting through the bar of soap.

“No, no, no. You don’t eat it!” – Theros, frustrated.

It was too late, she’d already finished one and was biting into the second.

Theros thought back to his time with the “Circuit”. How they would “clean the equipment” and sighed.

“Hold on here. Yeah, you might as well finish your lunch. I’m going to go find some lye.”

The Circuit had built Theros to fight, just as they’d built this one. But Theros had been smart and capable, he’d gotten the upper hand on his “managers”. This one was more like those he’d fought, broken and simple… more machine than human.

When he returned he found the creature finishing off the last of the towels she’d found herself some coolant to wash it down with.

“That’s disgusting.”

She smiled at him again.

Theros was ready for a fight when she saw the lye. He had no idea how she was going to react and was surprised when she jumped to her feet and spread her arms wide and opened her mouth. It seemed she liked bath time.

“What kid doesn’t?”

Elizabethtown Regional Airport

“What do you mean, “you’re in Kentucky”?”

Doreen was furious, as Alice Mansfield’s agent, she had a right to be. Alice was supposed to be heading to the Caymans for a shoot. It had been in the books for weeks, it meant a lot of money.

“Sorry, Doreen, I have to do this… It’s a family reunion.”

“Is this about what happened in Boston? I said I was sorry, I’ve never done anything like that, I’m not a lesbian – Maybe if you hadn’t – ” – Doreen

“Sorry, the plane’s landing, I have to go now.”

Missy hung up the phone and stepped off of the private jet.

“Welcome to Elizabethtown, Ms. Mansfield.” – The attendant

“Thank you, is my car ready?”

“Yes, ma’am it is… I’m sorry, I just have to ask, could I have my picture taken with you? It would mean the world to me.” – The attendant.

Missy cringed inwardly.

“Sure.”

Mitch’s Old 76
Later

Theros got the woman, whom he’d come to call Dexter, settled down. She was currently wearing a spare set of gray overalls. He’d invited her to stay with him above the garage. The apartment was large and had a spare bedroom, but she’d insisted on staying up and watching television. He understood, he wasn’t particularly tired himself.

He didn’t have cable so he showed her the stack of Looney Tunes DVD’s he’d collected over the last couple of years, before going back down to finish up the radiator.

When he came back upstairs she was still paying rapt attention to the T.V., having wrapped herself in a comforter and was speaking along with the man on the screen.

“Barnett’s being processed. We’re headin’ to Mulligan’s to celebrate.” – Dexter and the man.

“You’re probably not gonna wanna do that.” – Dexter and a second man

“And why’s that?” – Dexter and a woman.

“Dad’s mad.” Dexter and the second man’s voice.

“Get your asses in my office.” – Dexter and another male voice.

Theros was half way through making a Ham Sandwich before he realized what was bothering him about the conversation.

“What are you watching?” – Theros

“SVU, It’s much better than original. McCoy’s boring.” – Dexter

“Where did you get it?”

Dexter shrugged, only half listening as she continued to watch the show with rapt attention.

Somewhere in Kentucky
That night

The Driver had been good for conversation for the first twenty minutes of the drive. That was when Missy made the mistake of joining in, of drawing his attention.

“You know, you’re prettier in person. The magazines always take away the imperfections, you know, they use computers to take away the thing that makes you, you. You’re very beautiful.

“Thank you.” – Missy.

“Would you mind if I took your picture?”

The car was pulling over. Missy realized that she couldn’t see any sign of civilization.

“You know what? I think I’ll walk from here.”

“Oh, of course you will. You’re going to flirt with me, lead me on, play with my emotions. It’s not like I matter, right? I’m just some schmuck who gets paid to drive your perfect little ass around!” –

The car was suddenly on the road again, they were driving faster than before.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you, I’m just tired and it’s late.” – Missy, taking her Taser out of her clutch.

Even as the man railed from the driver’s seat, screaming at her, turning to face her and point his finger in her face, she knew that this was not who he was. She had done this to him. Just like Doreen.

For just a moment she almost let herself be overcome by the hateful things the man spewed at her.

The car was slowing and Missy looked up to see a sign up ahead.

“Hope Springs – Sample our spirit”

She was where she needed to be.

Missy reached into her clutch and pulled out a handful of cash, throwing it at the driver demanded that he pull over.

The man slammed on the brakes and just like that she was free.

It was only after he’d pulled away that she realized that she was still in the middle of nowhere, that nothing there seemed to be any sign of anyone.

There was nothing but old buildings.

Mitch’s Old 76

Dexter chose to sleep downstairs in the garage after Theros said it was time to turn off the TV. He’d set up a cot for her in the break room but still found himself unable to sleep.

What if she got hungry? What if she ate his tools?

Could she?

Suddenly Theros was bolting upright. There it was again, that deep sense of warmth under his skin.

Had Dexter been a plant? Some sort of lure?

The giant flew through the apartment and down the metal stairs into the garage where he was greeted by the sound of wrenching metal; Dexter having pulled bay door off of the track while trying to open it.

“What are you doing?”

“Someone’s here!”

Theros, leaping off of the stares, landed in front of the broken door.

Standing before him was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her skin was almond, her hair chestnut. Her eyes were chocolate brown. She wore expensive clothing and seemed entirely out of place in an old scrapyard.

Then he blinked. Suddenly she was even more beautiful, impossibly so, Her hair and eyes were black and too reflective. Her skin seemed as fragile and rigid as eggshells. There was no softness, no lines, no warmth.

She was like him and Dexter and altogether different.

“What are you?” – Theros

“I’m Missy. I think I’m like you.”

Missy saw the two gargantuan monstrosities standing before her and for the first time she knew she wasn’t alone. Her heart swelled and burned with fire as something inside her, something base and unnatural burned away.

She wasn’t alone.

For just a moment everything was bright and shiny and unimaginatively real and Missy couldn’t help but laugh.

Missy stepped forward, her hand stretched out.

“I’m Missy.”

The big one gave her a good once over, assessing the threat she posed.

“You’re probably the least dangerous thing I’ve ever seen. Come on, get in here, you look too sad for me to make you stay out there.”

“You want to play hopscotch?” – the smaller creature.

“Dexter! What did you do to my floor?”

It seemed that the smaller one had actually carved a hopscotch board into the stone floor.

“Play?”

The big one sighed heavily.

“Go play. I’m sorry about that, I’m Theros, I own this place. That’s Dexter… She’s not right. I’m guessing you’ll want to stay here too.”

“What? No. I just need a ride into town, I can get a room there… You’re like me, aren’t you?” – Missy.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen one of us that looked like you. Mostly they look like Dexter and I.” – Theros.

“I’m gonna go watch SVU!” – Dexter

“Okay… Wait, Don’t go upstairs!”

Dexter rumbled up the stairs on all fours.

“I said DON’T go upstairs! I brought a TV down here!”

Theros looked at Missy and shrugged.

“Come on, I have coffee upstairs, I’ll be right up, I just have to fix the door.”

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Raymer

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