|A Far Greater Toll
Author: Scrapmask PM
Roseline's really screwed up this time. She's landed her boss in trouble with a local gang. Now her only hope is to enlist a ragtag band of Lost mercenaries. But is the price she's paying too steep? A "Changeling: The Lost" fan fic *COMPLETE*Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural - Changeling - Chapters: 8 - Words: 10,961 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 3 - Updated: 02-28-12 - Published: 02-15-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7840709
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"A Far Greater Toll"
The brake fluid sputtered out, slowing to a drip.
"That's good, Pete. You can ease off the breaks," Rosaline said.
She wiped the sweat off her forehead with the back of one greasy hand. Thankfully, her brown hair was pulled back out of her eyes. Her hands ran briskly over her coveralls, smearing grime over what was already covered in stains from days of work. She'd have to get around to cleaning the uniform soon.
Her apparently pink flesh was smeared with the debris of the garage. But beneath her Glamour, the dark oils mixed with the blue lines carved into her tinted skin.
Pete, her coworker, stuck his head out of the driver's side window. "What'd you say?"
"No more! You're done."
Pete nodded and ducked back into the window.
The car was pretty old. Roseline liked old. Muscle cars like this one came to Bridgewater Auto for Roseline by name. Their owners claimed she was a lucky charm.
"Nobody can make a car run smoother than Ros!"' they'd claim.
"She talks to them," others said.
Word about her expertise spread fast.
Truth be told, she did speak to them. They roared and purred and choked and sputtered at her, and told her stories. Stories about their maladies, their drivers, and their breakdowns. Then she'd start weaving her power over them. The way she wove her Wyrd was always delicate and thoughtful.
Working on cars reminded her of the times she'd spent in the driveway as a teenager, toying around with her junker. It reminded her of a time before.
Before she had spent her nights sleeping in a monstrous mechanical labyrinth.
She couldn't tell how much of that damned place had been a dream. She liked to think of it all as one giant nightmare. Still, whenever she looked in the mirror, she saw her sickly skin and the blue scars dug into her otherwise smooth face and arms. Her markings from Arcadia.
Pete opened the car door and climbed out, almost bumping into Mark, the shop manager, as he walked up. Mark sidestepped the door.
"Ros, you're moving through that thing pretty fast." Mark asked, "We'll be able to get that back to him by tomorrow, you think?"
With a nod, Roseline spoke. "It was nothing. You or Pete could have handled it without me."
"No way in hell was that guy letting anyone touch that thing but you."
She smiled at the compliment. "Stop it, you'll make me blush," she joked.
There was a distant sound of a door opening. Mark cursed.
Ros craned her head to see two men… kids really. Maybe early twenties. They both wore jeans and tee shirts. One smiled wide, his dark skin offsetting his white teeth; his blue bandana kept his braided hair covered. The other had lightly tanned skin, and looked angry at the world. His blue bandana wrapped around his neck, partially covered by his hoodie.
Braided Hair threw open his arms.
"Mark, man!" He drew her boss's name out, making it longer. "It's that time of the month!"
"Stay here," Mark whispered to Roseline and Pete.
Her boss walked towards Braided Hair and Hoodie Kid, his tense movements betraying him. He led the two into his office.
Roseline exchanged a look with Pete.
This had been happening every month for the past year. Two young Crips came in and collected 'protection' money. It was abnormal to see Crips this far south, outside of Newark, but they were spreading. Either that or some young punks figured that they were tough representing the notorious gang.
Roseline kept her head down and continued working. If she tried to help, she'd just make things worse. Negotiations tended to break down when you punch someone in the face.
Keeping out of the way became much harder when she heard Mark shout in terror.
Roseline chanced another glance at Pete, who had paused his sweeping.
The punks had never attacked Mark before. It was always over in a couple of minutes. Nice and quiet.
Mark didn't have the money. She knew it.
Roseline stood up and strode to the door, grabbing a red monkey wrench on her way. She was fed up with twelve months of this bullshit.
Pete shook his head and stepped in her path. "No way, Ros."
"They're attacking him!" She flailed the wrench erratically, causing Pete to duck out of her way.
Another yelp came from the office.
Roseline pushed by, even though Pete grabbed at her. She couldn't stand to let someone be pushed around like that!
She quickly closed the distance between the garage and the office door. Pete cursed and tried to catch her, but the door was already open. Roseline was out of her cage.
Through the open door, Ros saw Mark, arm twisted and head pinned to his desk by Hoodie Kid. Without thinking, she set to business. The kid would be lucky not to have a concussion, getting his head beamed by a monkey-wrench. He almost hit the floor.
Braided Hair spun around fast enough to take a metal shot to the gut. He lifted off the ground for a split second, and landed on his knees. From the sound of the coughing and retching, he was trying not to vomit from the devastating blow.
Ros put her steel-toed boot into Hoodie Kid's side. Hard. He bounced off the wall.
Her arm found Braided Hair and grabbed him by his neck. She lifted him up and pinned him to the wall with the wrench.
Her nostrils flared. Her heart raced. She could hear the machine pulsing around her again. The thick, metallic, oily taste of the air. See the strange beasts that lived there. How they used to hunt her. Until she learned to hunt them. Feed on them. How she'd trained the other humans she met in the monstrous device. How she'd survived.
She was the hunter again now in that auto shop.
When the thug's open mouth drooled on her hand, she was shocked back to reality. She pulled herself away fast, letting him drop.
Both kids scrambled out of the room before she could speak. She looked around. Mark was nursing his arm.
Pete came to the door after the young Crips sprinted out the side door. He looked at her in disbelief.
"Jeez, Ros! You scared the hell out of those guys!" He laughed, before Mark shot him an angry look.
Ros figured his ego was just bruised… until he spoke.
"They'll come back with more creeps," Mark growled. "You should have stayed out of it, Ros."
Roseline huffed and began to protest. "But they were—"
"Damn it, Ros! I could take an ass kicking. I can't take what they're going to do to us now!"
Mark said, "Now I have to call the cops."
Ros snorted. If the gangs weren't already buying them out.
Her boss cursed under his breath, pulling out a phone book to find the number to the police station.
Roseline let the wrench fall to her side. It swayed at hip level as she took a few deep breaths. She felt the hunter receding. She clenched her eyes shut for a moment, regaining her composure.
It was unlikely the cops were going to watch the garage twenty-four seven. As soon as protection wasn't around, all the cars on the premises would have their tires slashed and windows smashed in. The garage's tools would all be stolen and their paperwork burned. Then, for good measure, they'd tag the place.
It would be the end of the business if that happened. They all knew it.
Ros scolded herself for being so impulsive. If she hadn't let her temper get the better of her, Mark wouldn't be in this predicament.
A thought struck Roseline like a bolt. "Wait! Wait! What if I could go talk to them?"
Pete shook his head. "And what? Give them another concussion?"
Mark picked up the phone and began dialing, ignoring the two of them.
Roseline pressed down on the receiver hook. She could hear the dial tone.
"Ros..." Mark warned.
"Hear me out. What if I could scare those punks away? Round up a mob of my own." She said with determination, "Get some actual protection for us?"
Both men stared at her, incredulous. Nobody said anything.
Ros broke the silence, saying, "We could make it not worth their while to extort us anymore."
"These are street thugs we're talking about," Pete argued. "They'll shank you if you try that. Hell, they might shoot you just for what you just did today!"
Mark ran a hand through his disheveled graying hair. He surveyed the desk, the scattered papers, his now broken lamp. "There's nobody who'd help us like that."
Ros smirked. "I think I know some guys."