GREEN   358   1
   18461   100.99 KB   1141

Midnight

By Autopony
Created: 28th August 2021 05:25:55 AM
16th September 2021 11:18:53 AM

  1. >"Got a real boner for Halloween, huh?"
  2. >You look up from your computer at the counter to see the middle-aged man from earlier hauling in a fender from outside.
  3. "What?"
  4. >With a grunt, the man sets his prize up onto your counter with a *thunk*.
  5. >Before you allow him to answer, your eye catches the glint of the chrome Cougar emblem amidst the dusty, sun-faded green paint.
  6. "The emblem is extra. You want it, or just the fender?"
  7. >Your customer looks slightly disappointed you noticed, but you've been in this business long enough to instantly spot the little shit like that.
  8. >"How much?" he asks
  9. >You take a closer gander at the stylized script, taking notes of a few minor pits and scrapes in the finish.
  10. "Add another ten. Not exactly a mint piece."
  11. >As the man nods, he fishes through his pocket for cash.
  12. >"So, what's the deal, anyway? Got a speaker and camera set up out there?"
  13. "The hell are you talking about?"
  14. >"You call it the Scare-avan?" he adds with a smirk, slapping down two hundred dollar bills, with a crinkled up ten on top.
  15. >You only give him a deadpan stare as you take the cash, silently wondering if this guy was drinking during his time out in the yard.
  16. >He isn't the first to mention odd noises or feeling uneasy, but the sound of rats and other critters scampering amongst the junk piles can have that effect.
  17. >But actually hearing someone - a voice?
  18. >That's new.
  19. >"Alright, well there's somebody out there mumbling and warned me to stay away when I passed that old van at the edge of the Chrysler section," he says, picking up his purchase and heading for the door. "Thanks, have a good one."
  20. "You do the same," you say, glancing up at the clock.
  21. > 5 pm.
  22. >Closing time.
  23. >Sorting out the cash into your drawer and making a quick note on your computer that the '73 XR7 is now sans driver side front fender and emblem, you head out into the afternoon sun to close the gates.
  24. >Life in the desert has made you pretty resilient to heat, but the sun rays beating down on the New Mexico sand all day still catches you off guard from time to time when you walk out of the garage.
  25. >Shutting the heavy wooden gates as your final customer rolls out onto the road in his pickup, you throw the worn padlock onto the latch before heading over to the warwagon.
  26. >You're done with customers perusing the yard, but you still need to pull a few parts for online orders.
  27. >Gingerly reaching through the open window and grabbing the inner door handle of the Trailduster, you quickly wrench the door open, the vintage hinges groaning with reluctance.
  28. >You keep forgetting to at least spray some lube on them.
  29. >Yes, it is a shop truck that was brought here to be junked, but you've sort of grown attached to it.
  30. >The paint is ugly and faded, it's got some dents and an exhaust leak - but it's been reliable and fires up every time.
  31. >And it's the only Trailduster you've ever seen that wasn't rotted out.
  32. >Must have spent its life down in this area.
  33. >The forgotten Plymouth sister of the forgotten Dodge Ramcharger.
  34. >Coincidentally, your first stop is the aforementioned "Scare-avan" at the very back of the yard, just off the main lane.
  35. >First-gen front-wheel-drive shitbox - albeit with a turbo 2.5.
  36. >You don't know why the hell someone wanted you to be sure it's a bonafide turbo Caravan, seeing as he wants just the turbocharger.
  37. >Whatever, he's happily paying a premium.
  38. >You crank up the truck's rumbling engine and set off.
  39. >It certainly isn't a gentle cruise as you meander through the dusty lane between junk piles, bouncing through ruts and washouts from a recent heavy rainstorm.
  40. >Yet, this is the part you enjoy about running a scrapyard full of vintage cars - out alone, pulling parts off of cars.
  41. >Well, it's not all vintage iron - you take in other, newer shit just for the money it will bring in.
  42. >And some of the factories around here offload some of their scrap for a handsome amount of dough.
  43. >You just don't ask any questions about that shit - easier to play dumb if those Environmental Protection Agency fuckers decide to snoop around.
  44. >You haven't had to experience that bullshit.
  45. >Not yet, anyway.
  46. >All the way, the radio mixes with the squeaks and rattles of an old four-by-four suspension, accompanied by the rattles and thumps of various tools, bolts, and gas canisters in the back.
  47. >You finally reach your target - a rattle canned flat black minivan.
  48. >With crudely sprayed on orange flames, no less.
  49. >You have to shake your head at the sight once again as you kill the engine and climb out of the truck.
  50. >Even as you slam the door, you hear the sounds of something moving about.
  51. >Not that you find it surprising - it's impossible to keep animals out of this place.
  52. >More than likely, your last customer heard the same critter moving about, and then mix it with craziness, or drugs, or...
  53. >Maybe just the heat.
  54. >The heat can do weird shit to people.
  55. >Whatever, not your problem.
  56. >Shuffling over to the can, you lift up the hood to make doubly sure the engine still has the turbo on it.
  57. >It's slathered in a nice coat of oil and topped with dust, but the snail is there.
  58. >What isn't here is the prop rod for the hood.
  59. >A jack handle will serve well enough.
  60. >As you head back to the tailgate of the Trailduster, you hear more movement as something scrabbles amongst the cars piled all around.
  61. >Definitely bigger than a mouse.
  62. >Coyote, maybe?
  63. >Those aren't that big, though.
  64. >You start feeling a twinge of anxiety with this unknown guest making its presence known.
  65. >You open up the back tailgate of the Trailduster and pull the handle off of the jack in the back.
  66. >This will scare off the problem.
  67. >You head back over to the Caravan and strike the rear quarter, the sound of steel on rusted metal echoing with a loud report.
  68. >"Don't you dare do that again."
  69. >The unexpected response in words makes you practically jump out of your skin as you whirl around, looking for the source.
  70. >Nothing but junk meets your gaze.
  71. >The fuck?
  72. >Homeless squatter, maybe?
  73. "You're on private property, and we're closed asshole," you shout back, shaking off your initial reservations to put your foot down.
  74. >Still, it sounded close, and the distinctly feminine voice was surprisingly calm and composed.
  75. >Not taken by surprise at all, as if watching you arrive.
  76. >Maybe a rifle in your hands would be a better option for negotiations...
  77. >Now keenly aware of your isolated yet cluttered surroundings that offer up hiding spots, you carefully turn to head back to your truck.
  78. >"Leave me alone, and we won't have any problems."
  79. >You stumble back into the van as you find your intruder directly in your path, barely an arm's length from you.
  80. "The fuck? What..."
  81. >What the fuck, indeed.
  82. > It's only after a moment that your brain comprehends that this trespasser is not human.
  83. > It's not even bipedal.
  84. >An extremely dark blue, nearly black coat of fine fur graces this creature's form that stands upon hooves.
  85. >On all fours - yet its head still reaches probably close to your chest in height.
  86. >That isn't counting the spiraled horn, which brings it close to your full height.
  87. >The thing stares at you with its large, icy blue eyes - shaped like cat's eyes, and studying you like prey.
  88. >No words are exchanged further as you both just stand in a deafening faceoff, the wings of this thing making their presence known slowly as they unfurl.
  89. >The dark feathers are tinged with deep violet, far darker than the subdued shade that accents the navy blue hair and tail that shift in the slight breeze.
  90. >And while your position makes it hard to discern, her hindquarters are splashed with light lavender, with some sort of further silvery markings you cannot make out.
  91. >Maybe the heat is getting to you, as well.
  92. >Imagining fantasy horses and shit...
  93. >Wait a minute...
  94. "You're one of those pony pet thingies, aren't you?"
  95. >Appatently not expecting you to speak up, the being recoils back just a bit, before wrinkling her nose.
  96. >Er, muzzle?
  97. >Snout?
  98. >Does it really matter?
  99. >"Pony companion. Not 'pet'," she says with disgust in her voice.
  100. >The voice is definitely female - may as well call a spade a spade.
  101. >"And... not quite."
  102. >The last bit only comes after a short pause, her face twisting into that of someone rather unsure and insecure.
  103. "Regardless, you're one of those animatronic things - what the hell are you doing in my junkyard?" you press on, feeling more sure that there is no danger in this meeting, however odd it may be.
  104. >But the glare you get in response keeps you on your toes.
  105. >"And you are merely a sack of muscle and bones," she snaps back angrily. "This has been my home for months."
  106. "I've owned this junkyard for years - I have *never* seen anything like you before."
  107. >"Clearly I'm quite skilled at hiding," she sasses back with a smirk.
  108. >You shake your head at the utter nonsense.
  109. "How did you get here, then? Where did you even come from, because I'm pretty sure you things are expensive as hell," you continue to prod.
  110. >You've heard of these weird things before, but don't know much about em.
  111. >Apparently, they were based on a wildly popular cartoon that a bunch of sweaty man-children got carried away with.
  112. >Fucking weirdos.
  113. >"First off, I am not some mere property. Perhaps you should try showing a little respect," she huffs.
  114. >This one definitely has an attitude problem.
  115. >Vinegar isn't going to get you anywhere.
  116. "Okay, sorry," you halfheartedly reply back.
  117. >It seems to be just enough to get the pony to simmer down.
  118. >"Let's just say I am not exactly meant to exist."
  119. >For the first time, she actually seems a bit vulnerable, her voice betraying a healthy dose of bitterness that goes far beyond the combative nature she's shown thus far.
  120. >The statement doesn't instill much confidence in you either.
  121. >But it really doesn't matter - what does matter is she's basically squatting on your property, and beginning to interfere with your customers.
  122. "Look, your past is none of my business, but you can't be out here," you reply firmly.
  123. >"And where am I to go? Do you think it was my idea to wind up here?" she spits, using one of her wings to gesture to the landscape of scrap metal. "I was dumped here, discarded as useless - and judging by this place, you accepted the truck that hauled me here. Meaning you accepted me into your yard, yes?"
  124. >Her voice speeds up toward the end, making no effort into hiding the desperation she clearly feels with your threat of eviction.
  125. >You are dead-set on her being unable to stay out here.
  126. >But the pony does have a point - even though her point also would imply she is your property.
  127. >"What are you out here trying to do?"
  128. >Her question pulls you out of your inner debate.
  129. "I gotta get parts for some orders, starting with the turbo underneath the hood of this van," you say, thumbing back to the Caravan behind you.
  130. >"If I help you, perhaps you can make an exception in regards to my residence here."
  131. >You stare at her form - particularly, her lack of digits on her hooves.
  132. "I really don't need help - and I don't think you really could lend assistance."
  133. >"You dismiss my offer before allowing me any attempt to display what I can do?" she grumbles, stepping forward.
  134. >You can't help but scoff, which only serves to make her scowl.
  135. "You got four hooves that can't hold onto tools, and what kind of mechanical aptitude do you really have? Do you know what a turbo even is?"
  136. >Without a word, she walks past you, toward the front of the van.
  137. >As you keep a wary eye upon her, you notice the irises of her striking blue eyes glowing.
  138. >Before she even reaches it, the hood abruptly pops open, suspended there by an unseen force.
  139. "What the hell?"
  140. >"Electromagnetism. My horn is for more than mere show," she says, directing your attention toward it with a wave of her hoof.
  141. >It's only now you notice the distortion of the air immediately surrounding the spire-like heat waves radiating outward.
  142. >"You - you do not possess a pacemaker, do you?"
  143. >The question draws you back to her face, which is surprisingly one of concern as her brow furrows.
  144. >You shake your head, causing her to exhale deeply as if she had been holding her breath.
  145. >You assume these things don't breathe, anyway.
  146. >But then again, you just assumed these were all for show, in every sense of the word.
  147. >She looks down into the engine bay, studying the sight before her.
  148. >Clearly, she's forming some sort of guess, hoping to pick out the correct part.
  149. >"It would probably be easier to just take the valve cover off to reach the head bolts, and just take the whole head with exhaust and intake assemblies rather than fight with no room to get just the turbo off. Those bolts are badly corroded, while the head bolts have at least been sitting in oil for most of their life."
  150. >What.
  151. >She looks over at you from beyond the levitating hood and smirks.
  152. >"Should I point out the turbocharger for you, or have I gone beyond that simple test?" she sasses, flashing you a full-width, cheeky grin.
  153. >One that possesses rows of gleaming white, pointed teeth.
  154. >What in the hell kind of an animatronic is this?
  155. >Evidently, she knows why you are silent beyond her display of knowledge, as she embarrassedly hides those fangs behind a much more serious straight face.
  156. >"I think I've proven I can be useful despite my lack of opposable thumbs," she mutters quietly.
  157. "How did you even know that stuff?" you finally manage to force out from your dazed mind.
  158. > "One can learn a lot just by listening to others as they weigh their options out here. But look in the windows," she instructs.
  159. >You turn and look down into the van, finding the interior practically buried in papers.
  160. >No, not papers - books.
  161. >Pamphlets, owners manuals from various makes and models of cars, as well as more than a few mechanics manuals in various states of wear.
  162. >Including a well-worn '94 model year Chilton's that's been missing from your collection.
  163. "Where the hell did you get that one?" you demand, pointing to the open manual as the pony wanders over to your side. "I've been looking for that damn thing for weeks."
  164. >"It was laying on a fender of a car over there," she says, pointing a wing toward the next section over in the junkyard, where the Ford products lie. "I had no idea where it came from, but I found it just before a rainstorm while I was hunting."
  165. "Uh, hunting?" you ask, immediately thinking back to the hardware she displayed just moments ago.
  166. >"Look, I may not be organic in nature like you, but us companions still require energy to function. I'm assuming you don't know much about companion ponies, do you?"
  167. >You fervently shake your head. "Never looked into them, never had any interest to know anything about them. I figure you're just getting humanity one step closer to making Skynet a reality."
  168. >The pony makes a skeptical face - whether it be a lack of understanding or concern in regards to your lack of interest is not clear.
  169. >"Anyway, yes, I hunt whatever small animals I can, as embarrassing as that is to admit," she continues. "Again, I didn't have much choice in the matter, but I am not an herbivore like production models."
  170. "So, what exactly are you, because you're giving me some seriously unsettling military black project vibes right now," you admit, eyeing her cautiously as she circles back around to the front of the van.
  171. >"Don't flatter me," she replies, again allowing her voice to be tainted by bitterness as she glances back.
  172. "Just being honest," you say, shrugging your shoulders.
  173. >But...
  174. >You can't lie to yourself, being able to manipulate parts in tight spots with her abilities could be really helpful.
  175. >And depending on what else she knows, it's possible she could get some stuff done on her own.
  176. >No, you aren't really that fond of being buddied up with one of these pony things, but it beats some of the idiots you've tried hiring before.
  177. >It's about impossible to find someone with knowledge and a good work ethic - you gave up a long time ago.
  178. >She clearly doesn't want to find somewhere else to go, either - meaning there's a drive to keep her word to assist you.
  179. "Alright, Turbo, you help me with this and shit like this, and you can stick around. Just - maybe not out here in the junkyard."
  180. >"Erm... Turbo?" she repeats skeptically.
  181. "I can't really call you 'pony companion.' You got an actual name?" you ask.
  182. >"Do you?"
  183. >You awkwardly take a few steps forward alongside the van and stick your hand out toward her.
  184. "Anonymous. Owner of Anon's Vintage Auto Salvage."
  185. >The pony stares at your hand, hesitant to accept a shake.
  186. >"I'm not going by Turbo, I'll tell you that right now," she warns, looking up at you.
  187. "So you don't have a name?"
  188. >"Beyond my lame fabricated project code? No," she says rather forlornly.
  189. "So..."
  190. >"Midnight," she quickly interjects. "I'm not letting you come up with a name."
  191. "We got a deal then, Midnight?" you say, reaching toward her a little bit more, emphasizing your desire to shake on it.
  192. >Apparently satisfied with the name issue being resolved, she quickly meets your open hand with her hoof.
  193. >"Deal."
  194.  
  195. *****
  196.  
  197. >Okay, you really wish you had found Midnight ages ago.
  198. >It still feels a bit embarrassing to be working with a pony, but having someone that can hold a part while not getting in the way, or putting a wrench to a bolt in a virtually inaccessible area is a godsend.
  199. >Even with the delay of meeting her, you're already heading back to the garage a few minutes past 7.
  200. >You anticipated being out here at least another hour.
  201. >While Midnight made your job easier, driving back with her riding shotgun is another matter.
  202. >It's a very awkward silence that even the radio cannot rectify.
  203. >At least when pulling parts, you were either preoccupied with the task at hand or discussing a plan of action.
  204. >But since you can't allow her to stay in the junkyard, it means this uncomfortable situation will continue even when you get to the garage - she's going to have to stay with you, either somewhere in the shop or in your quarters upstairs.
  205. >Gonna have to break the ice at some point.
  206. "So, how long have you been out here?"
  207. >Midnight's gaze shifts away from the open passenger window for a brief moment to glance at you out of the corner of her eye.
  208. >"I don't really know," she replies, emotionless. " I had no need to keep track of time - so everything just blurred together after the first few days."
  209. "But you figure a few months, huh?"
  210. >"At the very least."
  211. >You hit a particularly deep washout, making both of you jolt forward in your seats.
  212. "God damn. Probably ought to see if I can rent a skid steer again or find one cheap to smooth some of this shit out," you mutter.
  213. >"Or consider a suspension overhaul on this thing so the tires aren't absorbing everything," Midnight laments.
  214. "It's an old truck, what do you expect?"
  215. >"My point still stands - it wouldn't bounce so much if the mechanicals were doing their job."
  216. "Okay, I gotta know - what's your interest in cars?" you finally ask.
  217. >"You imply I should not be?" she retorts, directing her full attention upon you for the first time.
  218. >You just have to give her a knowing glance rather than actually respond.
  219. >"Considering that's all I've been surrounded by for a major portion of my life, how could I not have some knowledge with the mechanical workings of your transportation?"
  220. "The amount of material you had in the back of that shitmobile goes far beyond a basic understanding of automotive mechanicals," you press further.
  221. >Midnight turns away from you to resume her sightseeing out the window.
  222. >Awesome.
  223. >Aren't these damn things supposed to - well, be companions?
  224. >Enjoy talking and helping their human owners?
  225. >Again, you don't know a lot about them - but Midnight is completely opposite of any expectations you had.
  226. >Maybe she's defective - again, she was apparently tossed out in a truckload of scrap.
  227. >But you would think that whoever made her would have at least deactivated her.
  228. >If that's possible.
  229. >You haven't noticed any sort of plugs on her.
  230. >Or anything mechanical, for that matter.
  231. >Hell, she apparently eats to have energy, and by the movements of her barrel, simulates breathing.
  232. >Still, a compactor could have done the job.
  233. >"I like to learn."
  234. >Your thoughts are interrupted by the quiet response from your passenger.
  235. "What?"
  236. >"I enjoy reading, learning about different things," Midnight reiterates, sounding displeased by your inane question. "I ended up here, and between hunting and keeping a low profile, I scrounged around for anything that I could read."
  237. "No offense, but you didn't really have to stay here, did you? I mean, you got legs, you got... do your wings actually work?"
  238. >She nods in response.
  239. >"Hardly what I would consider efficient for anything other than short distances due to the amount of energy exhausted, but yes," she clarifies, finally focusing on her audience. "You really are clueless about us, aren't you?"
  240. "About you companion th- er, ponies, or..."
  241. >"Companions. And ponies in general."
  242. >You scoff as you shake your head.
  243. "Do I look like I have a case of the foo-foo fag-nasties?"
  244. >Midnight puts a hoof to her chin, feigning a deep brainstorming process.
  245. "That was a rhetorical question."
  246. >"Yes, but you do seem to live alone in a junkyard despite being well within the age window where one would expect a man to be married. That doesn't exactly present a heterosexual image to the world."
  247. "Go piss up a rope, Turbo."
  248. >"That is not my name," she seethes.
  249. "I figured if you're gonna throw shade, I may as well return the favor," you say with a smug grin while focusing on the path ahead. "My mistake, didn't realize only you were allowed to do that, princess."
  250. >The Trailduster lurches to a stop in an instant, causing you to slide forward almost out of your seat.
  251. >It's only by the grace of limping along at a slow speed that you don't smack your head on the steering wheel.
  252. "The fuck?"
  253. >You feel around the pedals with your foot.
  254. >The brake pedal feels like it's jammed to the floor, and no matter how much you try to pry, it will not budge.
  255. >You turn your focus away from that trouble to check on Midnight.
  256. >But find yourself greeted by her intensely glowing blue eyes mere inches from your face.
  257. >"If you ever use that term toward me again, you will find I can do much more than 'throw shade'," she growls.
  258. >You've had people get in your face before, but never felt anything as unsettling as the quiet, sinister tone and the piercing gaze that is thrust upon you right now.
  259. "You... talking about 'Turbo?'"
  260. >"Would you like to try the other option?" she hisses back.
  261. >Rather than answer, you slowly shake your head.
  262. >Midnight's eyes stop glowing as she backs off and takes her proper seat once again, just as the brake on the truck release.
  263. >You sit up in your seat again and collect yourself as the truck creeps forward under its own power before you finally give it more throttle to get going.
  264. >As if nothing had happened, Midnight has resumed her watch over the passing rows of cars, silent and calm.
  265. >It isn't until you're almost back at the garage that you speak up.
  266. "So no, I don't know much about your kind. Is there something that prevents you from going elsewhere?" you ask, hoping to resume the conversation from earlier.
  267. >"That opportunity has come and gone - read up on it yourself," she quickly spits back.
  268. >Well, the rest of tonight is going to be fun.
  269.  
  270.  
  271.  
  272. >The clock on your wall quietly mocks you with its rhythmic ticking while you stare up at the ceiling.
  273. >Any bridge you had begun to build with Midnight collapsed with the drive back home, making the evening a tense and uncomfortable affair.
  274. >The mental image of Midnight making a meal out of rats in the yard was a disturbing one, so burgers were on the menu for tonight.
  275. >You don't know if she normally possessed that sort of appetite or had not eaten for some time, but she basically inhaled three of the patties.
  276. >Watching her eat was eye-opening.
  277. >You bought some pretty cheap-ass silverware a long time ago - and whatever it is made of is not magnetic.
  278. >Midnight using a fork was out of the question, so while you were genuinely surprised she attempted to eat with some sort of civility, you anticipated she would be resorting to a more animalistic approach.
  279. >Instead, your guest spied a discarded lid from a can of corn in the trash, and after rinsing it off, folded and manipulated it as a rudimentary set of tongs to grab a hold of her meal.
  280. >Clever girl.
  281. >She wasn't very enthused about you gawking at her during this time, judging by the frown on her face and the disdain that her gaze carried.
  282. >But she didn't say anything.
  283. >In fact, Midnight seemed determined to say as little as possible for basically the rest of the night.
  284. >Simple and short 'yes' or 'no' answers wrapped up her entire vocabulary.
  285. >You don't know if the incident on the ride back was the catalyst or just general anxiety based upon her new surroundings has caused this shift - you didn't ask.
  286. >No sense in taking the risk of flipping her switch to rage mode again - especially since you don't know what else could trigger her temper.
  287. >Instead, you let her be - showing her the couch in the living room she could sleep on, where your room was, and the bathroom downstairs in the shop, if she had to use it.
  288. >She said nothing, so you still don't know if that's a thing.
  289. >But she certainly made her desires known when heading back toward the stairs that lead up to your living quarters.
  290. >Her eyes practically lit up upon spying your bookshelves crammed with manuals.
  291. >Well, they lit up in a figurative sense, at first, before she tried to take a few off of the shelf with her abilities.
  292. >But after a few moments, she turned away and wandered out onto your shop floor.
  293. "What are you doing?"
  294. >"If I'm going to be put in this situation where I have to live here, I'm going to take advantage of it," was her terse reply.
  295. "That's fine, I don't have a problem with it, but-"
  296. >"There doesn't seem to be any metal fasteners in the bindings."
  297. >As you were about to offer your assistance, a hubcap had floated off of your far wall, accompanied by a thin strip of scrap metal left in the corner.
  298. >Without another word, you watched as three separate, hefty manuals were coaxed out of their homes on the shelf in the grasp of a makeshift tong once again, before gently being placed in a stack upon the hubcap.
  299. "You... plan on doing any sleeping tonight?" you proposed, eyeing the books that each consisted of a whole model year for various makes.
  300. >"Sleep isn't really a requirement - and I read much quicker than you could comprehend."
  301. >That was the last words either of you had exchanged.
  302. >After an hour or two of mind-numbing television and a couple of beers, you forced yourself to go to bed, despite the nagging feeling you wouldn't be falling asleep anytime soon.
  303. >As you hear the chime signifying tomorrow is officially here, you can affirm that feeling as fact.
  304. >How the hell do you sleep after all the shit heaped upon you in such a short span of time?
  305. >It's all fine and dandy that Midnight can be an asset in terms of getting work done - but you really don't want to be *seen* with her.
  306. >It begs the question of what to do outside of the few hours after closing time when you can actually have her assist you out in the yard.
  307. >She seems content with going through all of your shop manuals - but if she can seriously get through three of those in one night, you'd be lucky to keep her occupied for the rest of the week.
  308. >You could let her use your personal laptop to read up on shit - assuming her electromagnetic manipulation abilities don't fry electronics.
  309. >That was something you hadn't considered bringing her home.
  310. >But everything still works so far.
  311. >The Trailduster isn't dead, either.
  312. >Regardless of that whole mess of questions and unknowns, working with her is going to be miserable if you can't find a way to smooth things over soon.
  313. >No time like the present, you suppose - you never did apologize for evidently insulting her.
  314. >Gingerly rolling out of bed, you creep over to your door and crack it open, allowing you a peek into the living room.
  315. >It's almost pitch black - sans the faint blue glow from Midnight's eyes.
  316. >You can barely make out the top of her head over the back of your couch, but her focus on the white pages of a shop manual allows that light to be reflected outward just a bit.
  317. >You hesitate, mulling your options on how best to approach her.
  318. >Startling her surely won't set you off on the right foot.
  319. >"Any particular reason you got up just to stare at me?"
  320. >Midnight abruptly raises her head as she speaks up, her cat-like eyes feeling as if they are piercing right through your body.
  321. >Cue the sad trombone.
  322. "I just didn't want to scare the shit out of you, trying to figure out the best way to make you aware."
  323. >You hear her snicker while you make your way out into the living room proper and flip on a light switch.
  324. >"Please. You aren't anywhere near as quiet as you believe yourself to be," she replies.
  325. "It's the thought that counts, right?" you suggest, taking a seat in the armchair just across from her.
  326. >The smirk that had greeted you disappears with your remark, replaced with an expression that doesn't really lend itself to any interpretation.
  327. >"I suppose so," she admits, much to your surprise. "But why are you awake? I assume it's not just to go downstairs and use the toilet."
  328. "No, can't get to sleep," you sigh, leaning back into your chair as Midnight eyes you expectantly. "Felt like I should apologize to you."
  329. >Now it's Midnight's turn to be caught off guard, as her eyes momentarily widen.
  330. >"About what?"
  331. "Offending you earlier this evening. I may not understand, but it still doesn't change I pissed you off."
  332. >Midnight's icy blue eyes narrow as her face hardens.
  333. >"Are you apologizing to me for me, or for you?" she sternly inquires.
  334. "Wh- both, I guess? I don't really understand what you mean," you manage to stumble out.
  335. >Using the same piece of scrap metal from earlier, Midnight unceremoniously flips the book in front of her closed, directing her newfound ire toward you.
  336. >"Let's not beat around the bush here - you have already made it clear you see me as little more than a ten-year-old girl's plaything that circumvents the toil and responsibility a real animal would entail," she sasses. "You sit there and stare dumbfounded when I manage anything beyond breathing or taking a step without falling over. I get it, you don't like what I am, because you're scared my mere presence advertises to the world you like playing hide the salami with other men. Seriously, don't patronize me."
  337. >Jesus.
  338. >"I'm not particularly thrilled with the prospect of this arrangement either, but it's the best opportunity I have right now, and I'm at least doing something other than scrounging around for flea-bitten meals and reading material which can teach me virtually nothing I can apply otherwise."
  339. "Really?" you blurt out, taken aback by her view of a silver lining.
  340. >She huffs in response.
  341. >"You're a means to an end, not my savior."
  342. "So what is the end goal here?"
  343. >That question instantly silences her as she stares back at you.
  344. "Getting out of here, I'm going to guess? How the hell am I going to help with that? Why can't you just do it now?"
  345. >"You didn't bother to do any research tonight, did you?" she replies, lowering her voice.
  346. >A shake of your head causes her to sigh and roll her eyes.
  347. >"Alright, fine. You tried to apologize, I suppose I can at least throw you one bone from my end."
  348. >You sit forward at full attention while she carefully picks out her words.
  349. >"So you know literally nothing - not about the show, about what I am - completely in the dark, yeah?"
  350. "You're the first one I've ever seen even remotely up close, and in person. Or at least paid any attention to, I admit."
  351. >"When we... when we're produced," she starts, abruptly pausing and staring at the nearest wall. "Eugh, it feels so weird to say that out loud."
  352. "You don't think of yourself as being built, I'm guessing," you suggest.
  353. >"No. I mean, I know we are, but I guess I prefer not to see it that way," she admits, before focusing on you again. "When ponies are produced, we come off the line much like a car does with a VIN number. A specific serial number that says where it was produced, what it is, and where in the sequence it was built."
  354. "I'm familiar with that. Cars have had em for ages," you pipe in.
  355. >"Okay. So we come off the line with our own identification, except instead of a little plate or a sticker, it's via RFID."
  356. "So a chip, then?"
  357. >"Sort of," she says, sticking a hoof out as if you stop you. "It's a specific radio frequency, but it is essentially ingrained into... I guess into our chassis. It cannot be removed, because it really isn't a specific removable object. Now, with that said, what happens if you have a car with no VIN?"
  358. "Well, it sort of depends, because depending on if it was something home built or before a certain y-"
  359. >"You get caught with a brand new car, no VIN at all, what happens to that car?" Midnight interrupts.
  360. "Impounded, probably destroyed if they can't figure out why there's no VIN."
  361. >"Okay. Why?"
  362. "Well, it prevents theft, prevents people pawning off shit that isn't a genuine car with quality control put in place-"
  363. >"It is the same thing for us as ponies. I don't have a genuine RFID," she belts out.
  364. "You aren't real?"
  365. >That ill-advised utterance garners you another icy glare from Midnight.
  366. >"Watch your tongue," she growls quietly. "I assure you, I am far superior to any pony that is - *ahem* 'real.'"
  367. >That doesn't sound arrogant at all.
  368. >"By law, a pony's RFID is registered to the owner, or at the very least, is able to be traced back to the point of origin. It prevents dangerous knockoffs from being sold and puts to rest those minds paranoid of Skynet taking over."
  369. >She makes sure to emphasize that last part, as if to jog your memory.
  370. >You really didn't need it - it's clear you've been batting a thousand from the first minute you met her.
  371. >"Mine is... well, there's no origin, the model is for certain incorrect, I sure as hell have no owner."
  372. "Being found out on your own or in a place that you could be subject to a scan puts you at risk of destruction."
  373. >"Indeed."
  374. >Certainly makes a lot more sense why she would be willing to stay in a junkyard on the outskirts of BFE.
  375. >"And I'm going to jump ahead before you even ask," she continues. "I'm throwing you a bone here - I am not going to give you the whole carcass. Like you said earlier today, my past is none of your concern nor interest. Just try not to insult me anymore. Do I really look like a toy you would buy for your nonexistent daughter to cuddle and play with?"
  376. >Midnight bats her eyelashes, before flashing an uncomfortably toothy smile.
  377. "Not particularly," you reply, wrinkling your nose just a bit.
  378. >"Go back to bed. I accept your apology as long as you let me get back to making sense of the Lean Burn ignition system on '76 Chryslers," she mutters, opening up the book in front of her once again.
  379. >You rise up out of your chair, feeling a bit better even as you let out a little chuckle, flipping the lights back off.
  380. >"Is there something humorous that I don't understand?" you hear called out behind you.
  381. >You turn back around as you reach the door frame of your room, finding Midnight's eyes locked onto you expectantly.
  382. "Let me know if you can make sense of that system - Chrysler sure as fuck couldn't, and they designed the goddamn thing."
  383. >Without another word, you close the door and climb into bed.
  384.  
  385.  
  386.  
  387. >You wake up the next morning feeling relatively refreshed despite the delay in falling asleep.
  388. >Midnight hasn't budged an inch from her spot on the couch - though the books she had stacked beside her now lay on the coffee table, with the last manual mere pages away from being finished.
  389. >How the hell does she even absorb that information reading it so fast?
  390. >Yeah, you get it - she's sort of a computer, but damn.
  391. >Nevertheless, you acknowledge her presence before heading downstairs to shower, trying to keep a balance between accepting her and patronizing her.
  392. >She at least looks up and nods.
  393. >By the time you finish up your morning rituals and head back upstairs, Midnight is casually flipping through the indices.
  394. "Not to imply that you smell, but if you want to get cleaned up, you can use the shower downstairs," you suggest as she tosses the last book onto the coffee table.
  395. >"I'll take you up on your offer - what's the plan for today?" Midnight asks, rising to her hooves and slipping off the couch to the floor.
  396. "I haven't quite figured that out yet, if I'm going to be level with you."
  397. >Midnight looks disappointed as she walks past you and out the door, but doesn't offer any response.
  398. >With what you know about her and what you've witnessed, you can't really blame her.
  399. >She has a terrifyingly sharp intellect, and clearly wants to be challenged.
  400. >Or at least - as she mentioned last night - be given the opportunity to put her knowledge into practice.
  401. >But you aren't going to allow her to wander out alone in the yard while you have customers pulling their own parts.
  402. >It's less about the image and more about the simple fact that she's basically illegal - and being alone, even out here in the sticks is a major risk.
  403. >For both of you, since there are probably some laws that would bury you in shit for knowingly having her around despite her hazy origin.
  404. >Your mind wanders to things closer to the shop floor while you wander around your kitchen, getting stuff around for breakfast.
  405. >It's a rather small and basic affair, much like the rest of your living space.
  406. >There's hardly a counter beside the stove and range top, with the fridge and the sink finding a way to cram in amongst the area.
  407. >Instead, the counter hooks a ninety-degree turn, functioning like an island that separates the space into rooms, while also being a decent dining table, as evidenced by the bar stools on the other side.
  408. >Normally, you would just say fuck it and pour a bowl of knockoff Peanut Butter Crunch, but that's not going to work for Midnight.
  409. >It's not a special occasion, but eggs and sausage are on the menu this morning.
  410. >She will almost certainly eat sausage - eggs might be more of a toss-up.
  411. >As you stand there and tend to both pans, you go through everything else you have to be done.
  412. >There's more than just sitting at the counter and fucking around on the computer - you just procrastinate a lot.
  413. >It's admittedly a bad habit that you swear to change every time you fall behind and have to scramble to get orders done.
  414. >It lasts for maybe three days, tops.
  415. >Shuffling around the pile of sausage links to ensure they all brown pulls an idea to the forefront.
  416. >Right behind the garage is a massive pile of engines.
  417. >It just gets added to as you scrap cars, or as scrap comes in and gets dropped off and sorted.
  418. >Every one of those needs to be stripped down into components - you get a lot more sales from separate parts than you do a whole motor.
  419. >You just usually wait until you need a specific part and pull it yourself.
  420. >Getting some of them torn down would let you be more prepared and organized, and keep Midnight fairly busy.
  421. >Just have to get a few of them hauled into the shop with the forklift this morning.
  422. >While you scheme, Midnight silently walks past without warning, making you jump just a bit.
  423. >You consider a jest about putting a bell on her, but think better of it.
  424. >However, it's only now that you pay attention to the markings you only glimpsed yesterday.
  425. >Upon her hindquarters, within the splash of lavender that already mottles that area, is a silvery-white crescent moon, unevenly shadowed by what almost looks like an inkblot just outside of the symbol's reach.
  426. >Before you can suggest it, Midnight hops up on a barstool across from you.
  427. "I got pork sausage links and eggs. You want some eggs?" you ask her.
  428. >"Yeah, I'll eat eggs. Don't skimp on the sausage links, though," she replies. "Honestly, you didn't have to bother cooking them."
  429. "Well, I wasn't going to eat mine raw. Probably taste better cooked anyway, yeah?"
  430. >"I suppose so."
  431. "What's with your markings, anyway? They have some sort of meaning?"
  432. >"Hm?" Midnight cocks her head.
  433. >You point downward with your spatula after plating her half of the meal.
  434. >Midnight cranes her neck to look back behind her, before the obvious inquiry hits her.
  435. >"Why are you looking at my ass?" she slowly questions.
  436. "I wasn't trying to - you just startled me when you walked back in here, and I just noticed because those markings contrast with your otherwise dark coat," you quickly explain, feeling embarrassed by the accusation.
  437. >Midnight stares at you a moment longer without response while you slide her food over.
  438. >"It's just a hallmark of the show I'm based on. Doesn't mean anything," she finally replies, albeit with an air of nonchalance.
  439. "Alright, I just thought it was kind of odd. They just looked specific."
  440. >"So I'll ask again, what are your plans for today?" Midnight quickly chimes in as she takes a whiff of her food. "Am I just going to have to be cooped up in here for the majority?"
  441. "No, I think I have an idea, there's just something I need to know before I go any further," you start.
  442. >"I certainly hope what you're about to ask me is less awkward than your first question, she snidely comments while sampling her eggs.
  443. "Your ability - the electromagnetism levitating thing that you do - you aren't at risk of frying electronics when you use that, are you?"
  444. >Midnight gives you a queer expression as she chews, but shakes her head.
  445. >"I suppose if I were to unleash a massive amount of energy at once in a short burst, perhaps. But otherwise, computers are fine," she finally explains.
  446. "Well, you asked me if I had a pacemaker yesterday, which was concerning," you remind her.
  447. >"That was more in the vein of decency and caution than actual concern."
  448. >With your only hurdle out of the way, you get started on your own breakfast straight from the frying pan.
  449. "I got a heap of engines right outside the shop - help me drag a few of em in here this morning, and you can go wild and tear em apart. I sell the components - crankshafts, camshafts, distributors, heads, intakes, the block - all that shit. It would be a lot easier to have all that on shelves than having to fetch parts out as I need them."
  450. >"Help you how?"
  451. "More or less keep them from swinging back and forth on the chain when I hook them up onto the forklift."
  452. >To your surprise, Midnight shakes her head.
  453. >Really, that's her hangup on this idea?
  454. "What's wrong with that?" you ask her, trying to keep any frustration from slipping into your voice.
  455. >"I can do it."
  456. "You... driving the forklift?"
  457. >"No, you dolt. Move the engines," she chastises. "I can move them - they aren't that heavy."
  458. >They're like six hundred pounds each," you protest, dumbfounded by her claim.
  459. >"I could probably do that."
  460. "You mean to tell me that's nothing for you to move it?"
  461. >"Well, I wouldn't want to spend hours moving that kind of weight around, no," she replies.
  462. "What's the limit to your abilities, then?"
  463. >Already having taken another mouthful of breakfast, Midnight is merely left to shrug her... shoulders?
  464. >You assume anatomy is the same - doesn't really matter anyway.
  465. >Rather than continue to go back and forth with conversation, both of you focus on finishing up breakfast, leaving the room relatively silent.
  466. >"I don't know what I can do for certain - I've never been put in a situation that required it," Midnight finally answers as she polishes off the last of her plate.
  467. "It's not that big of a deal for me to use the forklift, you know," you caution her.
  468. >You've had days where you felt like He-Man, and regretted it later on.
  469. >You'd rather not have to deal with whatever Midnight overexerting herself would entail.
  470. >"At least let me prove to you I am capable of handling one myself," she argues.
  471. >You agree to her terms, sensing she's dead-set in proving her raw power.
  472. >"And you're going to be fine with me working in the shop, even as people come and go all day?" she asks, a trace of sarcasm trickling through. "You aren't going to get all embarrassed by me?"
  473. >You can't help but smirk at her sassy attitude.
  474. >Mainly because she's forcing it out at this point.
  475. > It's hard to nail down - her voice just doesn't have that same bite like when she's pissed off.
  476. "Nah, I'll be fine. You don't exactly come off as a cute and cuddly plaything for little girls."
  477. >Midnight freezes, dropping the cocky facade she held just moments ago.
  478. "Those were your words last night, I'm just repeating them," you quickly remind her.
  479. >Ever so slowly, a sly grin creeps back onto her face, just wide enough for her elongated canines to make their presence known.
  480. >"I'm merely keeping you on your toes," she muses.
  481.  
  482.  
  483.  
  484. "Turbo!"
  485. >"Stop calling me that!"
  486. >Midnight stands over an engine that lays on the floor in between the posts of the further car lift system.
  487. >Her glowing blue irises are unable to hide the boiling anger they contain, despite being bright enough to seemingly evaporate her cat-like pupils.
  488. >It's been a couple of days since she began putting her knowledge into practice tearing apart junkyard engines.
  489. >There's been a distinct learning curve for her - much to her own surprise and frustration.
  490. >Now, that's not to say Midnight doesn't know what she's doing - far from it.
  491. >She easily identifies parts understands the disassembly process.
  492. >Her biggest issue has been a lack of patience.
  493. >That in turn feeds on her stubbornness.
  494. > It's been obvious from day one Midnight is not one to ask for help or otherwise rely on someone else for practically anything.
  495. >Perhaps worse, once Midnight is pissed off, she has severe tunnel vision - the world around her seems to not exist, aside from the one particular issue she is dealing with.
  496. "Well, you didn't say anything the first three times I called your name, and I'm certainly not going to get between you and the violent tug of war game you have going on right now."
  497. >You walk around the counter, having finished a couple of emails for parts requests and orders.
  498. >Fortunately, you haven't had many walk-in customers.
  499. >It's less about being embarrassed now - the few that have trickled in for parts all sort of taking a glance, a double-take of surprise or shock, but say nothing about Midnight's presence.
  500. >You haven't figured out nor have asked whether it's just because she's here in an odd setting, or if it's her unique looks.
  501. >At least Midnight hasn't taken notable exception to it.
  502. >Now, to be fair, you always have had more business with shipping things out than people actually coming in and pulling their own parts.
  503. >It's just been noticeably slower now than normal - the trend of less in-the-flesh has been going for a while.
  504. >That's just due to the shift in the automotive business as a whole - it's less about the journey in fixing things up, and just focusing on convenience.
  505. >Some of that is just because of the newer generations, while it's also a sign of the lack of free time people possess nowadays.
  506. >God, you sound like an old fart talking about 'newer generations.'
  507. >You have yet to even reach the halfway point of your thirties.
  508. >But facts are facts.
  509. >Midnight continues to scowl even as you reach her side and squat down to get a better look at what is going on.
  510. >Of course, her height on all fours means she's now scowling *down* at you.
  511. >It's gotten a bit easier to ignore that look, considering you see it multiple times a day.
  512. "What are you trying to do that has you literally dragging this engine around the floor?" you ask quietly, pointing to the fresh scrape marks on the dingy concrete floor.
  513. >"I am trying to get the oil pan off, and I almost had it," she grumbles.
  514. >You look over the rusted part, scanning the lip around the perimeter that bolts up to the block.
  515. >Circles of blue paint show where the fasteners once were, and it looks like she did get all of them.
  516. >All of them that screw into the engine block.
  517. >The front of the engine is caked in hardened chunks of dust - a reminder of how long it had been sitting out in the desert sand and the infrequent bouts of rain since pulling it from the engine bay it called home.
  518. >There's an area of the front flange that butts up next to the timing cover still obscured, and as you grab the ratchet Midnight had been using and tap the dirt away, two more bolt heads appear.
  519. >You stay silent and keep your eyes down on the engine - you know better.
  520. >Midnight snorts as the sharp clap of one of her hooves echoes as it strikes the floor.
  521. >"I would have found that on my own," she mutters bitterly.
  522. "I know you would have," you casually agree, waiting for the successive escalation of her temper.
  523. >"You didn't have to come over and point that out to me."
  524. "No, I didn't."
  525. >Waiting for a moment, you finally glance over to Midnight as she offers no further responses.
  526. >At roughly the same time, she focuses on you again, her cold blue eyes still trying to bore holes into anything that opposes her.
  527. >"What?" she barks expectantly.
  528. "I didn't say anything."
  529. >"You look like you want to say something."
  530. "Will you let me say something?" you ask gingerly.
  531. >"Fine."
  532. >You swear it's like talking to a five-year-old coming off of a vicious temper tantrum.
  533. >Which is why this time, you've decided to just let her mouth run rampant rather than argue.
  534. "Why is it a problem if I come over here and help you with something?"
  535. >"Because I don't need your help," she quickly rebuts. "This is all just simple parts and pieces put together that need to be disassembled - I don't need help with that, I'm smart enough to do that."
  536. "I'm not trying to make you feel like you aren't smart - I guarantee you got me handily bested in the brains department."
  537. >"Yet you can come over and point that out as if it were no big deal," Midnight grumbles.
  538. "Because I've been doing this of shit for a long time, Midnight. And because I was over there not involved in this at all while you have been at this for a little bit now."
  539. >Midnight's intense stare softens up a little bit as you explain yourself, offering a slight nod to continue as you take a pause.
  540. "When things aren't going right - I mean, holy shit, you were dragging that whole motor along by an oil pan you had thought was unbolted - just step back and take a breather. It's easy to miss something - I do it, believe me. All those books you've been reading are maintenance stuff - they aren't going to tell you what could happen, or things to look for if a part has been sitting for a while."
  541. >"I'm not giving up once I start something - that's admitting failure," she replies.
  542. "Taking a break to clear your head isn't giving up - it's giving you a chance to clear your mind and take a wider look at what's going on. There's no shame in that - and it's not like I'm timing you on this, either."
  543. >Midnight takes a deep breath, glancing back over at her project for a moment, before turning back to you.
  544. >"I'm not going to make a habit of taking a break," she warns.
  545. "I'm not asking you to, and I'm not telling you what to do," you assure her, partly amazed that she seems to be receptive. "All I'm trying to do is offer some advice. You just let yourself get so pissed off, you don't use your sharp noggin."
  546. >Midnight raises her brow at that comment, but has no reply as the phone on the counter abruptly begins to ring.
  547. "I gotta get that. Seriously, there's no shame in asking questions, either. I'm not gonna make fun of you."
  548. >You quickly make your way back to the counter as Midnight sort of just stares at the engine block before her.
  549.  
  550.  
  551.  
  552. >The parts pulling work after closing ended up being a rough one.
  553. >There weren't an overwhelming amount of orders or anything like that - it just so happened every single damn part you needed was a bitch to remove.
  554. >By far the worst had been the rear bumper off of a '64 Imperial.
  555. >Already you were dealing with something heavy as hell - and Midnight had overestimated her strength the last few days.
  556. >She wasn't lying when she boasted about being able to lift a whole engine - but between her insistence that she do everything herself and the extra gusto she put forth whenever she became frustrated...
  557. >There wasn't much left in her tank to hold the massive chrome slab.
  558. >And of course, every damn bolt mounting the brackets to the frame was rusted to hell and back.
  559. >And of course, the customer needed the brackets, so you couldn't just torch em off.
  560. >That single order had cost you the better part of two hours, between getting everything loose and then having the bastard out of its home without hurting yourself in the process.
  561. >You sensed Midnight's frustration over how the situation had resulted - mainly because other than handing you tools and offering a token effort at pulling and prying, she was relegated to watching.
  562. >The other orders went marginally better - but by the time you had wrapped up everything urgently needed, you needed the headlights of the Trailduster to guide you home.
  563. >It wasn't all bad - much to your surprise, Midnight seemed to have taken your advice to heart for the majority of the afternoon tearing apart engines.
  564. >On more than one occasion, you observed her stepping away, taking a few moments to collect herself after having issues with attaining her particular objective at the time.
  565. >Of course, she played it off as looking for a tool, or being thirsty, or...
  566. >You pretended not to notice for the most part, knowing full well she was already reluctant to step away, let alone having you know the actual reason.
  567. >It makes you really wonder where in the hell she came from and under what circumstances made her so prideful to a fault.
  568. >You've never seen anything quite like it.
  569. >But now, while you fiddle around in the kitchen waiting for some poor quality off-brand chicken strips in the oven to be done, you can't help but smirk.
  570. >Midnight, the mare that doesn't need sleep, is laying on the couch with her eyes closed.
  571. >Only the quiet drone of the TV offers ant sort of sound to your living room.
  572. >It's been quite the adjustment having someone else with you virtually all day - not to mention sleeping in your little shithole of a living space.
  573. >You don't even know how long it's been since you have had an employee.
  574. >Obviously, she's not really an employee - you aren't paying her.
  575. >But it has been kind of nice, despite her abrasiveness she isn't ashamed to display.
  576. "If you're still part of the living world, food is just about done," you announce, watching for any movement from your guest.
  577. >One of her ears perks up, swiveling in your direction from out of the mess of her mane.
  578. >"I'm still awake. I told you I don't sleep," she murmurs.
  579. "So, you're checking your eyelids for holes, I'm guessing?"
  580. >The comment draws enough attention from Midnight for her to raise her head and open her eyes.
  581. >"I was relacing with my eyes closed, you ass," she says, too tired or apathetic to put any sort of venom in her voice
  582. "Oh, okay."
  583. >Midnight turns her focus to the television while you pull dinner out of the oven and unceremoniously toss it evenly onto two paper plates.
  584. >You set her pile of chicken strips on the coffee table as you pass by while taking a seat next to her on the couch, in front of the TV.
  585. >Currently on is some sort of awful History Channel original series - you don't really care, it's just moving pictures to pass the time.
  586. >"Are these even edible?" Midnight asks, sniffing at her plate.
  587. "They go into a grey area of what is considered food, but yeah, I guess so."
  588. >"That's not a very reassuring answer."
  589. "Good thing it wasn't supposed to be."
  590. >Neither of you really care though - you both focus solely on getting something in your stomach for the next five or ten minutes.
  591. >"What made you want to own a junkyard?"
  592. >You turn to Midnight, who has already finished up her imitation edible chicken and stares at you.
  593. "What makes you wonder what made me want to own a junkyard?" you retort.
  594. >"Boredom. And you bothered me with questions the first day or so I was here, I may as well get some sort of retribution."
  595. "Well, I didn't really aspire to own a junkyard, I'll say that right upfront. But I always liked older cars, even though most of what's here is before my time," you explain.
  596. >"How do you even know of this kind of stuff then? I assumed that you must have been around it," she objects.
  597. "I was - my family was into that sort of thing, and they grew up in that time. Seemed like everybody had some vintage rod they wrenched on for fun. Hell, my dad had a '74 Charger from before I was born, so those were some of my first memories - cruising in the passenger seat, listening to that boat anchor 400 under the hood."
  598. >Midnight merely cocks her head as you finish, her brow furrowed in confusion and skepticism.
  599. >"'Boat anchor'?"
  600. "Yeah. Basically, their best use was tying em to a chain and throwing the fuckers overboard."
  601. >Midnight continues to stare, though it's clear she doesn't believe your explanation.
  602. "Hey, I didn't come up with the term, I just always heard it. It wasn't necessarily a bad engine, it just came at a time when compression was getting lowered in all production cars to accept unleaded fuel. There was decent low-end torque out of em, but anything above about 2000 rpm, it just felt gutless."
  603. >"Okay, but back to my question - why a junkyard? Why a place where the things that you like are here to be taken apart, left to rust, and ultimately crushed?"
  604. "There are two sides to that coin, and you're seeing the side that I don't," you clarify for her, turning your body a bit more toward her. "First off, I've actually sold more than a few whole chassis or bodies - I just buy whatever someone is selling, whether it be a true basketcase that's only good for parts, or something that can be saved. Sometimes, people are just trying to offload something as quick as they can."
  605. >"You still cannot deny you are tearing apart other cars," she retorts, her voice betraying the resentment of your answer.
  606. >While you aren't surprised by her pessimism, you feel like she's trying to force those bitter feelings down your throat.
  607. "I'm not denying that, you are right in the black and white image of it," you yield to her point. "But consider this - every part that I take off is going to a person that needs it to complete their vehicle. Everything out there in the yard has something it can still offer - it isn't just useless junk, even if it seems that way."
  608. >Midnight recoils just a bit, as if you have said something insulting.
  609. "What?"
  610. >"Nothing," she barks back. "I just didn't expect you to be so damn sappy about a scrapyard."
  611. >You just have to shake your head at her outburst, turning away from her and staring at the TV.
  612. "I get more than a few people that show me pics of what they're working on, or before and after photos, and it always impresses me. Sort of always wanted to go through and do a project like that myself."
  613. >"Then why don't you? You have a whole yard full of parts, what's your excuse?" she quietly demands.
  614. "Look at you trying to be a motivator. That's so sweet," you tease.
  615. >"I don't care what you do - I just asked why you don't take advantage of your situation."
  616. >You can't help but let out a chuckle as you point at the clock on the wall ahead.
  617. "Does it look like I have the time to do a complete project?"
  618. >Midnight's face contorts into a bit of a scowl at your answer.
  619. >"And yet you spend all day screwing around on your computer, even when you aren't going through orders," she protests.
  620. "Yeah, and I gotta be here if someone calls or comes in to go through the yard," you say with a shrug.
  621. >"Uh-huh. How about you at least make the truck a bit less miserable to ride in? You should be able to do that."
  622. "You're going to bitch about that until I do something about it, aren't you?"
  623. >"I'm sorry, I didn't realize you had an affinity for spinal damage," she shoots back. "I sure as hell don't enjoy it."
  624. "Do you even have a spine?" you propose.
  625. >Midnight growls quietly, baring her teeth like a dog readying for an attack.
  626. "Geez, chill out."
  627. >"Then stop making retarded excuses."
  628. "If I was retarded, I would take offense to that."
  629. >"Yet you're taking note of it. How odd."
  630. >...
  631. >Fuck.
  632. >Midnight looks as if she's ready to gloat over your hesitation.
  633. "Tell you what - I'll buy new shocks and leaf springs for the Trailduster, you can suffer through putting them on," you suggest.
  634. >"Fine. If it means eliminating the danger of biting my tongue or chipping a tooth every time we hit a bump, I'll gladly do it."
  635. "Do you have a backup plan if you don't get it done before we have to make our evening parts run?"
  636. >Midnight stays silent, merely staring at you as your question takes the wind out of her sails.
  637. >Without another word, she turns her attention to one of the shop manuals sitting on the coffee table in front of her.
  638. >You aren't sure whether Midnight is still for this plan or not, but you just let it go for the time being.
  639. >Probably get brought up tomorrow while you're messing with your computer.
  640. >For now, it's obvious she's done sparring, so you begin flipping through the channels on the tv to find anything remotely palatable to watch for a bit.
  641. >You have to question yourself from time to time why you should keep paying for this crap.
  642. >There's never a good answer - you just keep holding out that there's something worth your attention.
  643. >You feel the couch shift in sequence with a book being dropped back on the coffee table.
  644. >Turning your head to see what's up, Midnight has already made her way out of the living room and shuffling toward the door leading downstairs.
  645. >She doesn't walk with any sort of enthusiasm in her step, her head held relatively low.
  646. "Where are you going?"
  647. >"I'm going to take a shower," you hear her mutter without missing a step.
  648. "You okay?"
  649. >The knob on the door is twisted slowly by the unseen force of her ability.
  650. >"I'm fine. Believe it or not, I'm tired."
  651. >With that, she slips out of sight through the narrow crack she allows the door to open.
  652. >It closes behind her, barely allowing enough time for her tail to make it out.
  653.  
  654.  
  655.  
  656.  
  657. >You didn't sleep all that well last night.
  658. >As much as you hate to admit it, Midnight's sudden departure and her movements concerned you.
  659. >It shouldn't, considering she's moody most of the time, and this is just another example of it.
  660. >But clearly something bothered her.
  661. >A shower just happened to be a good cover to get away.
  662. >She didn't say much in the morning, but Midnight at least seemed to be more her normal self.
  663. >Just quiet.
  664. >You couldn't spur yourself to inquire about last night.
  665. >It's none of your business, technically.
  666. >And you didn't want to start out the day on a poor note.
  667. >You sort of enjoy the bickering the two of you do, as odd as it may seem.
  668. >But having to walk on pins and needles because something could trigger her like last night was no good.
  669. >At least Midnight was willing to let you use the forklift to bring in a few more engines today.
  670. >Evidently, she learned a lesson after having to sit mostly idle while you pulled parts last night.
  671. >But now, as she goes on with her rituals, and having tended to the few email inquiries from overnight, you have some free time.
  672. >God damn, this feels awkward.
  673. >Just typing "My Little Pony" into the search bar makes you cringe.
  674. >A myriad of results pop up in an instant - consisting of show material, fan sites, and merchandise.
  675. >Wanting to avoid actually delving into this madness, you try to find a site dedicated to selling companions like Midnight.
  676. >And one of the first ones you come across is a name you recognize.
  677. >EquisCo.
  678. > It's been a little while, but you recall they either had or still have some production facility around here.
  679. >More significantly, you have taken in some of their scrap out back a few times in the last couple of years.
  680. >The first time they had contacted you, their company name had raised a red flag - you told em you weren't taking in biowaste.
  681. >With a name like that, you assumed it was some sort of glue factory or something, but the guy on the other end assured you it was electronics and scrap metal.
  682. >You hadn't asked anything beyond that, especially since they paid a healthy amount.
  683. >Coincidentally, it's been a few months since you last took in a truck of scrap from their facilities.
  684. >Even take a crayon-snorting crotch-goblin could connect those dots.
  685. >You look back up from your screen, keeping tabs on Midnight's whereabouts.
  686. >She's ankle-deep in the guts of an Olds big block.
  687. > It's hard to say how she would react to you digging into this shit.
  688. >Yes, Midnight did instruct you to figure out things on your own - on the show itself, not her actual origins.
  689. >The link you click on sends you to a garishly colored webpage that makes you almost squint in pain.
  690. >Glossing over the blurbs on the main page, you find a tab up top labeled "MEET OUR PONIES!"
  691. >Why does this have to be so awful all the way through?
  692. >You force yourself to visit the page and start browsing through their "products."
  693. >At a glance, you don't see anything recognizable, as the first handful only possess a horn, wings, or neither attribute.
  694. >Not to mention the fact they are all equally as colorful as the website - a stark contrast to Midnight's rather dark hues.
  695. >Each one has a short description, including their name, size, and "SPECIAL ABILITY!"
  696. >"REAL KARATE CHOP ACTION" probably isn't one of them, though.
  697. >The very first one on the page is a lavender unicorn named... ugh, Twilight Sparkle - she's apparently gifted with intelligence.
  698. >Makes you wonder how much more information can be packed into one of these, considering Midnight already could run circles around you in book smarts.
  699. >There's a blue one with a rainbow-hued mane that's aptly named Rainbow Dash, who apparently can fly really fast...
  700. >Midnight hasn't demonstrated her flying abilities - you don't doubt her claims, but with her size, that would be a sight to see.
  701. >Of course, there's one that's extra girly that has an affinity for clothing and fashion.
  702. >There isn't much more that catches your eye until you get further down the page.
  703. >To "The Princess Line."
  704. > There are only four of them, but each one has the horn and wings like Midnight.
  705. >The first one is merely a princess version of the Twilight Sparkle model - and evidently unpopular, judging by the clearance sale tag.
  706. >Another one is a pink one claiming to be "the princess of love."
  707. >You don't begin to fathom any special abilities with that kind of title.
  708. >While the third one is a white and pastel rainbow maned one that is unrecognizable, the last model has some familiar attributes.
  709. >Luna.
  710. >Her mane and tail are dead ringers for Midnight's.
  711. >In addition, the mark on her side is familiar, being in the shape of a crescent moon.
  712. >But that's where the similarities end.
  713. >Her coat is navy blue, too light to be a match for Midnight, whose dark blue coat is only a hair above pitch black.
  714. >The eyes are certainly more normal, rather than that of an apex predator.
  715. >And while the mark is the same shape, it is pure white, rather than a tinge of silver - not to mention it lays upon a mottled black area of fur, instead of Midnight's splash of lavender, with only a token amount of black around the moon itself.
  716. >But with that being the end of the page, you're only left to speculate.
  717. >Maybe Midnight was preproduction - like a prototype.
  718. >But why a prototype would be so far off of the production model when the end goal is to emulate the show characters sure doesn't add up.
  719. >And again - she sure doesn't look family-friendly.
  720. >Her attitude isn't really rated G, either.
  721. >"Good morning!"
  722. >You about jump out of your skin by the sudden announcement, looking up to see a salt-and-pepper-haired man heading to you.
  723. >He stops as you look up.
  724. >"Did I come at a bad time?" he asks, warily shifting his gaze to your computer.
  725. >While you're thankfully saved by the angle of the screen obscuring his vision, you still quickly tab off of your browser, shaking your head.
  726. "No, just going through some stuff, wasn't paying attention. What can I do for you today?"
  727. >His courteous smile returns as he resumes walking up to your counter.
  728. >"Well, I was hoping to find some parts for an Olds Cutlass, third-gen - preferably a '72."
  729. >"Engine parts?"
  730. >Both you and the man glance over toward Midnight, who has an intake manifold levitated above her head.
  731. >"Uh... no..." your customer slowly responds, turning back to you with a look of disbelief.
  732. "Sorry, she's new," you reply, trying your damndest not to be utterly embarrassed by the situation.
  733. >Actually, you don't know how the hell he didn't notice Midnight in the first place.
  734. >"That's alright. Anyways, I was looking for a decklid, some of the chrome trim around the windows, maybe seats if the bases are at least decent. Got any?"
  735. "Yeah, there's more than a few Cutlasses out there, let me double-check what I got before you go out there - you got tools?"
  736. >The man nods his head while you bring up your inventory page.
  737. > It's little more than a glorified, mismanaged spreadsheet, but it works well enough.
  738. >"My granddaughter has one of those pony bots - didn't know you could custom order them, though," he muses quietly as you scroll through the listings.
  739. "Yeah... I just have connections with higher-ups. About the only way you can do it, I think," you lie, trying to keep your voice low to avoid Midnight overhearing your discussion.
  740. > It's good enough for your guest, who chuckles.
  741. >"Still, I wouldn't think anyone would want one modeled after Nightmare Moon."
  742. "What?"
  743. >"Nightmare Moon? That's what it looks like anyway - I didn't mean any offense," he quickly apologizes.
  744. "No, no - none taken. I just - trying to go through this, I didn't hear you," you quickly backtrack, pointing to the screen in front of you. " But yeah, she... makes a good guard dog."
  745. >That gets a laugh from the man, while you spy Midnight glaring at you as she hucks a piston at the nearest brick wall.
  746. >You offer the best look of regret and sympathy you can to her.
  747. "Anyway, looks like I got about five of em out there. Be about eight rows down on the left side. Careful driving back there, it's rough."
  748. >"Thanks."
  749. >As the gentleman heads back out of the shop, he offers a courteous wave to Midnight.
  750. >She barely pities him with a casual glance, her eyes fixated on you.
  751. > It's only as an old Chevy pickup chugs past the door that Midnight speaks up.
  752. >"Guard dog, huh?"
  753. "I didn't mean it Midnight," you sigh, knowing full well you deserve to be confronted. "My mind just blanked and I panicked trying to come up with something, I'm sorry."
  754. >"Come up with something? Why did you have to come up with something?" she demands, trotting up to your counter.
  755. >She rears up and places both forehooves on the countertop, doing her damndest to tower over you.
  756. "Maybe so he doesn't go asking further questions about you? So he doesn't know that you're technically illegal?" you propose to her.
  757. >"Why do you care?"
  758. >What.
  759. "Because you told me yourself that if the wrong person found out you don't have an RFID, you're liable to be destroyed. I don't think you deserve that, do you?"
  760. >She certainly didn't expect that answer, judging by her eyes widening.
  761. >You forgot to mention you'd probably be in trouble with the law too, but whatever.
  762. >"That's still not an excuse to call me your guard dog," she spouts while dropping back down to all fours.
  763. "I never said it was, which is why I apologized."
  764. >Midnight retains her displeased scowl, even if it has softened a bit.
  765. "Tell you what, I'll get suspension parts ordered for the truck right now and that will be taken care of, okay?"
  766. >While she pretends to mull over your bargain, the glint in her eye tells you otherwise.
  767. "Fine," she announces after a dramatic pause. "What had you so enamored on the computer that you didn't even see or hear him walk up?"
  768. >Man, you *really* don't want to spill the beans on the wealth of information you've gathered.
  769. >This isn't the time for it.
  770. "Things I'd... rather not talk about," you hesitantly answer.
  771. >Midnight's nose wrinkles in disgust, making you wish you had come up with an answer that didn't sound so inappropriate.
  772. >"That's... I'm going back to tearing apart engines. Sicko."
  773. >While Midnight heads back to her work corner, you open up your browser tab on the computer again.
  774. >Quickly typing in the name your customer mentioned, you can't help but feel a bit of anticipation at the results.
  775. >Which is quickly sated with the hit of the enter key, and the very first image that pops up.
  776. >That's Midnight.
  777. >Well, at a glance, anyway
  778. >After all, the winged unicorn is colored differently -  pure black, while the eyes are teal.
  779. >The mane is more smoke-like and lacks any sort of purple, while the wings are an odd mix of feathers and bat-like membrane.
  780. >Still, it's clear that was her inspiration.
  781. >What isn't so transparent is why - especially as you read the short blurb that not only highlights her character as a villain, but some sort of twisted version of Luna.
  782. >Probably accounts for the mood.
  783. >Sort of.
  784. >...maybe not - is it really worth just assuming such a thing?
  785. >At the very least, you've managed to get some answers.
  786. >But Midnight's frustration with your utterance brings forth one more question you need to know.
  787. "What else did you hear during that conversation?" you call out to her.
  788. >Midnight doesn't pause or turn back to face you as she hunches over her work.
  789. >"Enough to know you're going to be asking me questions I'd rather not answer."
  790.  
  791.  
  792.  
  793.  
  794.  
  795. "Here it is," you announce, throwing the shifter into park and cutting the engine.
  796. >Midnight looks past you out the driver's side window in curiosity.
  797. >"I find it hard to believe things like that were on the road in any sort of numbers," she muses, wrinkling her nose.
  798. >You assume it's because of the color - a wonderfully '70s shade of green - like baby shit.
  799. >But dammit, there are few things with the amount of presence a land yacht carries.
  800. >Especially a Lincoln Continental Mark Series.
  801. "There wasn't much to be proud of in the '70s between disco and bell bottoms - don't hate too hard," you wisecrack while stepping out of the truck.
  802. >"What is even the reason for something so massive and unwieldy?"
  803. "Ride and comfort, mostly," you reply, pushing down on the front fender and bouncing the suspension.
  804. >It begrudgingly moves with a cacophony of squeaks and groans, both of the metallic and rubber nature.
  805. "A wheelbase this long on a soft suspension is probably the closest thing to riding on a cloud or on a gentle sea. You just glide over the bumps."
  806. >You reach underneath the hood that's already slightly ajar and pull the latch lever, swinging the massive steel hood up with springs that are surprisingly still strong enough to hold.
  807. "Fuel mileage was atrocious with the 460, but you got up to highway speeds pretty quick considering then weight of this boat," you comment while overlooking the Ford Blue powerplant.
  808. >"Are you trying to get parts off of this, or sell it to me?" Midnight sasses in a monotonous tone.
  809. >All afternoon had been relatively quiet - Midnight didn't seem to have too many issues with her work, while you were preoccupied with thirty million questions you wanted to ask her.
  810. >This was really the first time either of you had conversed today in a more casual manner - though admittedly, she was more chatty out in the yard every day thus far.
  811. >Perhaps spending months living and hiding out here has lent it the comfort of home.
  812. >Still, while you're glad you can at least share some interesting quirks about this car, other things preoccupy your mind.
  813. >Tomorrow is Sunday - the only day of the week you don't necessarily have to do anything work-related.
  814. >Meaning depending on the chance you wanted to take, you could learn more about her.
  815. >Without work to do tomorrow, any sort of friction between you and her could be mellowed out by time spent alone.
  816. >The last day or so has had enough indicators that you need to do something other than continue to endure her miserable attitude.
  817. >Last night's chippy conversation that led to her slinking out of the room until sometime after you went to bed was one of em.
  818. >And Midnight's surprise and withdrawal after explaining your cover for her weren't lost on you either.
  819. >You are by no means a psychologist, but Midnight thinks quite highly of herself...
  820. >...and yet she ended up here, likely in a truckload of scrap.
  821. >Those two things are probably related to some extent with the combative nature she displays.
  822. "I don't think you're enticed by my spiel, so I guess we're going the parts route."
  823. >"What are we after on this thing?"
  824. "Air snorkel, AC compressor, and mounting bracket," you reply, pointing to both contraptions near the top of the engine.
  825. >"At least they aren't buried, I suppose," Midnight comments, turning and walking back to the Trailduster's tailgate.
  826. "One is already done," you holler, spinning the wingnut off of the air cleaner assembly.
  827. >Aside from fiddling with a dry-rotted hose on the underside, it comes off cleanly, just in time for Midnight to return with tools.
  828. "Trade you."
  829. >With a smirk from the mare, the tools hover closer to you, while the assembly you're holding lifts out of your grasp.
  830. >With the belt and the power steering pump already missing, it's only a matter of breaking all the bolts loose as well as the refrigerant lines on the compressor to haul it out.
  831. >Of course, the lines were supposed to be emptied out before hauling the car back here.
  832. >And if not, you're supposed to at least purge the harmful shit out of there with special equipment.
  833. >lol, no.
  834. >You hear Midnight trudge back to the driver's side fender and peer in while you lean over the front of the car and get to work.
  835. >"Your bullshit aside, I'm surprised you haven't started peppering me with questions," she says.
  836. "Am I supposed to? I didn't get that memo," you jest.
  837. >She doesn't reply with anything.
  838. >You are at least determined to get everything on the bracket cracked loose before you start anything volatile.
  839. >"Why do you care?"
  840. >With a blunt question that lacks any sort of context, Midnight breaks that plan.
  841. "About what exactly? Getting this stuff done?" you reply, being purposely obtuse.
  842. >"You aren't as sneaky and sly as you think you are - I noticed you taking glances in my direction on multiple occasions this morning," she responds. "You make a lot of really stupid faces when you're deep in thought, too. And don't get me started on how you barely waited for me to walk away before you started tapping away at your computer again. Drop the facade."
  843. >You have to stop what you're doing to look at her.
  844. >Midnight doesn't look angry, nor is her tone aggressive by any means.
  845. >She's just...
  846. >Waiting.
  847. >Still, it's an awkward feeling to hear her deduction and observation skills are so goddamn impeccable.
  848. "I wasn't aware you had eyes in the back of your head."
  849. >"When you don't want to be seen or discovered for months on end, you learn to watch everything around you," she quips. "It's all about adapting and surviving - and those habits take longer than a few days to fade."
  850. "And yet you don't seem too upset that I lied."
  851. >Midnight shakes her head.
  852. >"I think you suffered embarrassment enough to atone. But it only brings me back to my original question."
  853. "Why I care enough to dig into the world of ponies, huh?" you suggest, not exactly sure what aspect of caring she is referring to.
  854. >"Among other things."
  855. >You have to give an initial shrug while you go back to tearing apart the Lincoln's ancillaries.
  856. "More or less trying to avoid your fire and fury. I like the banter, but not when one of us is legitimately pissed off, for reasons unknown."
  857. >"And those clues lie on a webpage," she skeptically comments.
  858. >Again, you have to offer a shrug while you strain at a seized bolt.
  859. >It lets go with a pop - and the ratchet spins relatively free.
  860. "Hope no one wants that timing cover, that bolt won't be fun to get out."
  861. >You finish getting out what's left of the bolt, chucking it off to the back of the engine bay with a clatter.
  862. "I don't know how to approach you about something like that," you explain. "I seem to say the wrong thing at one point or another, and you get frustrated like I know better than to say it."
  863. >Midnight's vivid eyes are locked on you with full attentiveness, but she remains quiet.
  864. "I didn't start things off so well, I know that."
  865. >"Like striking my home?"
  866. >Midnight eyes you expectantly as you come to attention to that comment.
  867. "Yes, such as that. I didn't do it for shits and giggles - between having someone tell me they heard shit out here, and hearing things move around and feeling like I was being watched, you had me fucking nervous."
  868. >"Fair enough," she replies.
  869. >You can't help but note your confession to being freaked out has allowed the slightest smile to blemish her serious face.
  870. "Don't get me wrong, I never saw myself having a pony in my house - forget helping me out. More than any human I've ever had employed here, might I add. And it's only been a few days."
  871. >That comment manages to get Midnight to avert her eyes, embarrassed by the disguised compliment.
  872. "So yeah, I want to stay on your good side, which meant going out on a limb to see what I could find on the internet. Even if that was uncomfortable."
  873. >"I'm assuming you didn't find a whole lot."
  874. "I think you know the answer to that."
  875. >You work on the other bolts in silence, breathing a sigh of relief when you crack the last one loose and the whole assembly shifts out of place.
  876. "To be fair, I avoided as much actual show material as possible. I didn't really go through much, just a couple of sites, one in particular," you say, keeping it purposely vague. "Wasn't till the guy needing the Cutlass parts came in that I had a better idea of what to search."
  877. >You glance over to Midnight, who stands there, frozen and devoid of emotion.
  878. "You're supposed to be Nightmare Moon, yeah?"
  879. >She looks down quickly, as if she just dropped something off the fender.
  880. >"That was the end result, I guess," she says in a low voice. "I could pass for it if you don't hold a picture next to me."
  881. >While details don't bother you in terms of her matching a particular model, it clearly eats at her, if that reaction is anything to go by.
  882. >Maybe that's part of her whole aura she forces all the time - an attitude to match the villain she supposedly emulates.
  883. >Or she carries a lot of bitterness over it - a massive chip on her shoulder.
  884. >That's something you will NOT be digging into - you want to smooth things over, and it seems like it's going well enough right now.
  885. >You grimace as you try to lift the whole assembly out of the engine bay.
  886. >Of course, the broken bolt has to be sticking out just enough to get the bracket to stick.
  887. >While you sit there and finagle with it in a rocking motion, Midnight takes notice of your plight as her eyes glow.
  888. >The weight in your hands gets lighter, allowing you a chance to shift your grip and try another angle - and the assembly comes loose.
  889. >Setting the dusty and greasy part upon the radiator support, you get a better handle on it in order to stuff it in the back of the Trailduster.
  890. >Midnight follows you silently, carrying your tools.
  891. > It's hard to come up with anything to say to her, which makes you feel like a dickhead.
  892. >You get everything packed up and both of you climb back aboard the shop truck.
  893. >Midnight resumes her normal position of leaning against the inner door panel, staring out into the rusty landscape of vehicles.
  894. >Though she looks less... tense.
  895. >It's hard to put into words, she just seems less stiff - not on the verge of flipping her lid over something stupid you will say.
  896. >With caution, you speak up with something to break the silence that has pervaded since her last utterance.
  897. "No, you don't match Nightmare Moon exactly. But let's be honest - I wouldn't have a clue who Nightmare Moon was if I hadn't heard it from someone else, and I wouldn't know what she looked like if I hadn't taken the time to look up an image and taken more than a glance. Does it really matter you don't match her?"
  898. >"I never said it did," she's quick to reply.
  899. "I know you didn't," you confirm. "You just didn't seem too thrilled to mention it."
  900. >"Well - no, it's not a good feeling. Why think about it when it doesn't matter?"
  901. >That response - while not containing any venom in her voice - makes you back off on the topic and decide to get going.
  902. >There's a lot going on behind that statement.
  903. >The small block under the hood rumbles to life again and inches forward once you throw it in gear.
  904. >It takes a hard crank of the steering wheel in the rutted tracks to get turned around, but you two are eventually homeward bound.
  905. >It's only after rejoining the main lane in and out of the yard you hear something unexpected.
  906. >A chuckle.
  907. >You turn to look at Midnight, who is still glancing out the window.
  908. "Did I miss something?" you ask.
  909. >She shakes her head and keeps her vision elsewhere, but you see a grin creep onto her face even from this angle.
  910. >"I'm genuinely surprised you went and looked up pony shit on your computer," she replies with mild amusement. " On the shop floor in front of customers, no less."
  911. "Would you rather I have been looking up Brazilian fart porn the whole time?"
  912. >Midnight turns to face you slowly, utterly mortified as her mouth hangs agape.
  913. >She looks like she's about to say something, but you quickly put a hand up to silence her.
  914. "Before you ask, the answer is no."
  915.  
  916.  
  917.  
  918.  
  919. >"Are you planning on getting up today?"
  920. >You groan while rejoining the waking world, opening your eyes slowly as you prepare for the scalding light of the sun to assault your eyes.
  921. >The sun's rays are thankfully not directly in your face, but it takes a moment to focus your vision
  922. >Across the room and to the left of your bed, Midnight sits in the doorway.
  923. >She looks at you expectantly, like a child waiting to be entertained.
  924. "You do know it's weird watching people sleep, right?" you manage to mumble while kicking the bed linens off of your lower half.
  925. >"I was not watching you - it took almost five minutes for you to actually wake up," she explains, mildly offended by your accusation.
  926. >Glancing away from her and to your nightstand on the other side, the dull red digits of your alarm clock flash to 9 am.
  927. "It's only 9 - what's the big deal? It's Sunday."
  928. >Midnight's lustrous eyes merely blink, unaware of the significance.
  929. >Either you didn't tell her, or she didn't listen.
  930. >You can't remember - last night was just sort of odd.
  931. >With the stress of this new situation you found yourself in for almost the whole week, you decided to do a late grocery run - so Sunday could be a complete kick-back-and-relax day to the extreme.
  932. >That was a heftier bill than normal, in addition to a lot more food in general.
  933. >The amount of meat and poultry products you had thrown in the cart earned you some odd looks from the cashier.
  934. >It might have made more sense had Midnight accompanied you - but that would have been another set of odd looks from virtually everyone.
  935. >You aren't her protector, but having Midnight come along just seemed like a risk of her getting caught, as slim as that chance may be.
  936. >The less that people catch wind of her - particularly in the city, where people are more nosy in general - the better.
  937. >Regardless, you probably went a bit overboard in terms of foodstuffs for Midnight - but you don't have a gauge on her yet in terms of appetite.
  938. >She doesn't eat a whole lot despite her size - oftentimes, Midnight goes on just two meals a day.
  939. >But you suppose that could change, depending on if that was an adaptation to the scarcity of food out back.
  940. >Either way, you either have plenty to last for a week or a few weeks.
  941. >Arriving home afterward, Midnight watched as you showed her what you bought.
  942. >She didn't say much.
  943. >You figured it was out of embarrassment - considering she doesn't like asking for help at all.
  944. >But that awkwardness never faded the rest of the night.
  945. >Again, it was perplexing - you felt as if a breakthrough had been made during your talk earlier, but after that, it felt like a regression.
  946. >Midnight continues to just stare at you.
  947. "It's Sunday, I don't open up on Sundays," you say with a groan, forcing your stiff body upright in bed.
  948. >Judging by her furrowed brow and narrowed gaze, she has an issue with that answer.
  949. >"Since when?"
  950. "I have *never* been open on Sundays - once in a great while, I'll gather some shit from out in the yard if I'm backed up, but otherwise, this is my day off. I'm surprised you never caught onto that, considering you've been prowling around for some time now."
  951. >"There were consecutive days I would never see nor hear a soul - and it is not like I had any particular way of keeping track of the days," she clarifies.
  952. >As you get up out of bed, a savory aroma reaches your nose and instantly makes your stomach growl.
  953. "Did you make bacon?"
  954. >"The microwave kind, yes. I wasn't going to wait any longer for you," she replies indignantly. "I wasn't as hungry as I thought I was, so you can have whatever's left."
  955. >You can't help but feel skeptical of her attitude about that, considering Midnight made it clear the first day she had no qualms about eating stuff raw.
  956. >But like you told her - it probably tastes better cooked.
  957. "Alright, thanks. Now unless you plan on taking a picture, stop staring and let me get dressed, please?"
  958. >"I wasn't staring!" she shouts while turning and rushing out of your room.
  959. >Having taken a shower last night before heading out into public, you just throw on a clean shirt and basketball shorts to get ready for a day of nothing.
  960. >As you head out into the living room space en route to the kitchen, Midnight has taken up her familiar residence on the couch, with her head buried in yet another shop manual.
  961. >A respectable pile of bacon sits plated on the kitchen island, just ahead of a stool.
  962. >This is too good - you can't resist even though it's early.
  963. "That's so sweet, you got it all set out for me and everything," you jest.
  964. >"That's where I was sitting to eat, you lazy ass," she mutters.
  965. "It's not being lazy if you don't have anything you need to do," you reply, jamming a whole strip of bacon in your mouth.
  966. >It's still surprisingly warm.
  967. >"So, you plan on doing literally nothing today?" Midnight asks, pulling her attention away from the pages to look at you briefly.
  968. "Probably just watch tv and piddle around on my laptop - what do you think I should do?"
  969. >"I don't know - something at least mildly constructive? Don't lie, you do a fair bit of nothing during the week when you're' 'working,'" she retorts, ensuring her emphasis on the last word is clear enough.
  970. "I don't know what you expect me to do - you don't want me helping you with tearing apart engines-"
  971. >"Because I don't need help," she interrupts with an almost desperate reminder.
  972. "-because you don't need my help, and I have to stick around for when someone comes in asking for something or calls."
  973. >"Why even do that?"
  974. "I don't follow," you admit, continuing to eat as you finally take a seat on a stool.
  975. >Midnight closes up the book in front of her and directs all focus on you, as if she had rehearsed this.
  976. >"You admitted before - you get more business pulling parts off and either shipping them out or having them ready to be picked up by a customer. I've seen it with my own eyes for most of last week, and noticed it out in the yard when I would go days without seeing anyone-"
  977. >"Which you are basing on observations in one section of a massive yard."
  978. >The frown that had begun to creep on her face deepens profusely with your interruption.
  979. >"Don't lie to me. I've been across this whole yard, and it's never busy. How do you think I knew you lived alone?"
  980. "So... what's the point of this?" you ask, feeling like your privacy is being invaded.
  981. >"Wouldn't it make more sense to use your time wisely rather than screw around all day and then spend hours every evening pulling parts off? You clearly enjoy that aspect much more than the standing around."
  982. "Funny, I could say the same for you."
  983. >"Because I can actually put my talents to use rather than simply exist," she says nonchalantly. "Sooner or later, I'm going to run out of engines in your pile - I've already finished quite a few."
  984. >She isn't wrong - yesterday alone she managed to knock out four complete ones, and start on a fifth.
  985. > It's not like junkers roll in every day to replenish that heap.
  986. "You want me to just do all the parts picking myself? Or are you suggesting that you do it?"
  987. >"I'm saying we both do it - cut out the self serve portion altogether, have just a day set aside for pickup."
  988. "Yeah - and then you're cutting out a chunk of my business that prefers to go out in the yard," you remind her.
  989. >"It also gets rid of those that steal - I'm sure you're aware of that taking place," she rebuffs.
  990. >She isn't really wrong - there's more than a few mysteriously missing emblems on many cars out back, but it's one of those things you can't police.
  991. >"And... I also saw your computer downstairs was on last night, and I perused some things," she says, averting her eyes somewhat ashamedly.
  992. >That jolts you up in anger.
  993. "And you think you can just do whatever because I let you live here? That's my personal shit," you scold her.
  994. >"Yeah, and merely breaking even month after month isn't what I would consider a comfortable situation, would you?!" she shouts back.
  995. "That's none of your business, Midnight," you coldly warn her, staring her down.
  996. >She doesn't back off.
  997. >"It is my business, because if you fuck up and lose everything, I lose everything all over again. I have to exist in a perpetual state of hiding in the shadows because I'm not even supposed to exist anymore. What I have here right now and what you have provided for me in only these past several days-"
  998. >Midnight turns her head away from you quickly as she stops spouting off her rebuttal.
  999. "What about it?"
  1000. >"Forget it," she grumbles.
  1001. >Bullshit you will.
  1002. >You shuffle around the couch to Midnight's other side where she has averted her gaze and quickly sit down.
  1003. "What? Finish what you started, Midnight," you instruct her.
  1004. >"I... believe it or not, I'm aware of particular gestures and advice you've provided to me and... I can respect that," she says quietly.
  1005. >What in the goddamn was that word salad?
  1006. "You know, there's a much shorter way of saying that, and it's 'thank you.'"
  1007. >"Fuck you - that was hard enough to say," she sneers.
  1008. "Why? What is so hard about accepting help from someone/ I don't expect anything in return, but holy shit - you act like you were getting teeth pulled."
  1009. >"I'm supposed to be independent."
  1010. "Says who?"
  1011. >"...Me."
  1012. >For fuck's sake.
  1013. "So, you basically want to help me out to help you out. But I'm not really helping you out, because you're helping yourself through me."
  1014. >"Something like that, yes."
  1015. >Still, she isn't wrong - breaking even is a good month in your eyes nowadays.
  1016. >When you bought the business, it was profitable.
  1017. >You had a drive to keep it up.
  1018. >But shit changes.
  1019. >You didn't adapt.
  1020. >By the time you realized that it wasn't just a rough patch, you weren't sure what steps to take to reverse the trend.
  1021. >Ask for help?
  1022. >How in the goddamn do you admit that you are having difficulty running a junkyard?
  1023. >So you just put those troubles out of your mind and enjoy the simpler parts of this place that you attend to.
  1024. >It won't last forever, of course.
  1025. "Let's say I can put the fact you went into my private business behind my back to the side - do you have any ideas to make things better, or is it just one of those things where I need to somehow figure it out since I'm not the only one that's going to pay the price?"
  1026. >Midnight stares straight ahead.
  1027. >"Let's say I perused more than your finances and saw the tragedy that you call an inventory- how in the hell do you keep track of what you have and where you have it?"
  1028. >You sigh.
  1029. "I wing it. I know where the shit is by section, but not exact placement," you admit. "But it's not like I struggle with it, you see that I can find stuff."
  1030. >"And how well does that translate into something comprehensible to people buying items online?"
  1031. "They don't see that - it's my personal list."
  1032. >"So they call you or email you to ask if you have such and such for a certain model."
  1033. "When the hell did you suddenly become versed in business and online commerce?"
  1034. >Midnight locks eyes with you.
  1035. >"I'm not. I'm using common sense in terms of ease of use."
  1036. "Just from one glance at a computer last night?"
  1037. >"And ongoing observations."
  1038. "But 'thank you' is an impossible task. Huh."
  1039. >"Thank. You. How about that?" she huffs.
  1040. "Still a lot of attitude, but Rome wasn't built in a day, I suppose," you comment, standing up and making a beeline for the plate of bacon once again.
  1041. >"Do you at least agree with me?" she asks.
  1042. >You shrug.
  1043. "I guess. I mean, it makes sense. I don't know the first thing about web design or laying out shit like that. Do you?"
  1044. >She shakes her head.
  1045. "So we're back at square one," you say, turning and sitting on a stool.
  1046. >"Anonymous."
  1047. >You think that's the first time you've heard her say your name.
  1048. > It's enough of a surprise to get you spinning around.
  1049. >Midnight has turned to face you directly as well, her expression hard and determined.
  1050. >"I can't help myself without you. You showed me last night that you still have a passion for what you do, sharing what you know," she states. "I will do what I can if you do what you can."
  1051. > It is a bit different now, knowing someone else is depending on you.
  1052. >This wasn't a situation you wanted to be in.
  1053. >Midnight clearly didn't, either.
  1054. >Yet here you both are, trying to dance around the fact that you each need assistance.
  1055. >She just has a more raw way of brushing it aside.
  1056. >You take another strip of bacon, feeling the warmth radiating off of it.
  1057. "It wasn't just a matter of having leftovers to give me, was it?" you ask.
  1058. >"Believe what you want to believe," she mutters.
  1059.  
  1060.  
  1061.  
  1062.  
  1063. >You are Midnight.
  1064. >And you are going to make this work.
  1065. >Whatever it takes.
  1066. >Perhaps it's laughable to call the wasteland littered with decrepit vehicles out back home, but it's the closest thing you've ever had to comfort.
  1067. >Well, the first thing in a long while, anyway.
  1068. >But you prefer to keep the past far, far away.
  1069. >It only brings back misery.
  1070. >Embarrassment.
  1071. >Lies.
  1072. >Feelings of betrayal.
  1073. >Shame.
  1074. >Failure.
  1075. >You aren't a failure, and you won't accept failure.
  1076. >You hate the mere word.
  1077. >You ended up here because you refuse to accept that word.
  1078. >Well, you would have ended up here anyway, most likely.
  1079. >Just not alive.
  1080. >Like the others you were surrounded by during the ride.
  1081. >Fur and bone, parts and pieces.
  1082. >Not quite organic, but not quite synthetic, either.
  1083. >The cold lifeless eyes of those that just accepted failure.
  1084. >Perhaps they had no other choice.
  1085. >Left restricted like normal, unlike you.
  1086. >You really don't know - and you don't want to.
  1087. >You haven't been back to that graveyard since the first day being dumped here.
  1088. >It's a horror you do not want to relive.
  1089. >Months have been spent out here with the same mantra you repeated over and over, one that makes up who you are.
  1090. >Adapt and survive.
  1091. >This was not the facility you were used to - there was no provided nourishment.
  1092. >It was a matter of trial and error to figure out the best way to hunt.
  1093. >Rats are awful, jackrabbit is better - but it's all the same in the end.
  1094. >You originally thought you were alone in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by scrap.
  1095. >It was only logical - no one would willingly be out here.
  1096. >That was a wake-up call the first time you encountered a human.
  1097. >You just bolted from the impromptu meeting, hid for what seemed like days.
  1098. >There are a lot of places to hide - from inside a car on the floorboards, to an empty engine bay, keeping watch through the slats of a grille.
  1099. >The van was a shelter that afforded space and windows to keep watch - in an area that afforded a good view.
  1100. >Most of the yard remained desolate, but you remained wary at all times.
  1101. >It was only then when you had time to think that it became clear you had nothing.
  1102. >More specifically, no goals.
  1103. >No real drive, no destination in mind.
  1104. >You weren't terminated like what should have happened - but there wasn't anything there to keep you going, either.
  1105. >An idle mind is a terrible thing to waste, and to dwell on such troubling thoughts when you had succeeded in your one and only goal you had laid out for yourself -
  1106. >You just started collecting material to read.
  1107. >It was something to do, something to learn.
  1108. >Every car seemed to have a booklet of some sort filled with knowledge.
  1109. >Was it knowledge you could really use?
  1110. >You didn't know, you didn't care.
  1111. >It was only through listening to conversations of passersby whilst awaiting their departure as well as visual observation you understood this was not the end of the line.
  1112. >It could be a beginning.
  1113. >Adapt and survive.
  1114. >But you had not planned to act as soon as you did - Anonymous forced your hoof.
  1115. >Fortunately, he saw worth in your skills.
  1116. >If he hadn't...
  1117. >There was no thought of that because failure was not an option.
  1118. >You only hoped to help enough to keep this place your home.
  1119. >Living with him was...
  1120. >Unexpected.
  1121. >So too was his curiosity, especially considering his rather aversive attitude toward your kind upon initial meeting.
  1122. >It was an odd feeling.
  1123. >Nothing you had ever experienced.
  1124. >The same goes for his pep talks, his pieces of advice, his willingness to provide.
  1125. >You can do this on your own.
  1126. >But...
  1127. >Well, accepting his gestures doesn't mean you *need* them, after all.
  1128. >You didn't *need* his compliments - you've made it this far only being dealt the complete opposite.
  1129. >But you need stability, and you were well aware this was a business, and that orders and customers seemed... off.
  1130. >Which is why you had to discover, to your dismay, the financial realities.
  1131. >How ironic someone who waxes so poetically about this salvage yard not being the end would so easily accept failure without a fight.
  1132. >But you can see there is a passion every time he discusses something automotive - and you need that to remain intact.
  1133. >You have made it this far without goals - and now you have one.
  1134. >It just happens to benefit someone else.
  1135. >It just happens to rely on someone else.
  1136. >But this is still for you.
  1137. >Adapt and survive.
  1138. >You won't accept failure.

Midnight [Part 2]

by Autopony

Midnight

by Autopony

Anon Gets Sent to Tartarus

by Autopony

Embracing the Night 5

by Autopony

Embracing the Night 4

by Autopony