The sudden embrace of mortar and stone was anything but pleasant as Lexel rode it down inside Zero. Her dedicated defender shook with a crash as they slammed through a series of walls and bounced roughly off a few floors. Lexel had lost count of how many things they had crashed through, her teeth stayed clenched and she felt like she might never stop vibrating.
Zero’s systems were in complete chaos, data streams flickered, alarms roared and to Lexel she could almost feel her friend weakening. They hammered into a weakening wall with a thud and soon found the collapsing bit of construction becoming a makeshift slide that carried them to the ground. The harsh halt to their ride nearly forcibly stole the air from Lexel and sent her belly into a violent lurch. She struggled to wrestle with the disorientation that she soon discovered meant she had become disconnected from Zero. The wounded warrior was once again in his familiar four-legged form and even without their shared link Lexel could see the severity of his sustained damage.
“Come on Zero, we have to keep moving,” Lexel pleaded to her created companion. Zero tried to stand in response but found his locomotive capabilities less than optimal. “Apologies, I am unable to comply,” Zero explained with a new-found slower speech. “I have suffered extensive injury; I am in need of repairs.” Lexel couldn’t just leave him here, she had to do something. So she did the only thing she could think of and tugged Zero up onto her back and stubbornly began stumbling down the street.
Within a block or two Lexel quickly and reluctantly admitted to herself that she lacked the strength to keep going like this. With a sigh Lexel spotted a junk strewn lot and summoned what energy she could to drag Zero the rest of the way inside. “I can’t carry you like you can me,” she apologized. “And I certainly can’t fight anything off like you can either. So if we are going to make it I am going to have to try and fix you.”
Lexel surveyed their surroundings and found from what she could tell they had taken refuge in what used to be some kind of repair or salvage shop. It looked to be little used in recent years but there was still a respectable stockpile of parts and pieces scattered around. The first to catch her eye was the rusted remains of an old roll-bottom work frame that she decided would work as a make-shift cart for Zero. It took some digging and little prying but eventually she proved victorious in securing its release from a pile that had pinned it. But in the process a tidal wave of technological trash came toppling down rather loudly.
“Perhaps nobody noticed that bit,” Lexel winced. “I’ll add you lot to my scrap salvager if I catch you playing pranks on my property again,” came a booming bellowed warning from the old shop nestled at the center of the scrap yard. Already a bright light lit the way as the bulky shape of a man behind it rushed out to investigate. As he turned around the recently disheveled debris to view the waiting scene his furious demeanor soon shifted to one of irritated curiosity.
“Answer quickly; what business do you have here in my yard this night? I have precious little patients left for troublesome teenagers or prank-minded punks. Tell me why I shouldn’t call the Peace-Keepers right now,” he demanded in a tone reminiscent of a teacher’s authority. For the first time that Lexel could ever remember she found herself without even a single thought of answering with anything other than the truth.
“Please, sir, it is an emergency – I need to fix my friend,” she explained with a shaky hand gesturing towards Zero as tears began to fall. “We’re in some bad trouble and…” Lexel tried to make him understand but found her fear had started to overwhelmed her. “I don’t know what else to do but I have to try to fix him,” she sobbed.
“There, there now, no harm done then; I didn’t release I had me a service call. You came to the right place little lady, Tyrn Spanner at your service,” Tyrn introduced himself as kindness now lit his face with a smile. “I haven’t had many emergency calls in the dead of night for some time now,” he admitted, his voice somewhat softer and tender now. “Let’s get him inside then shall we, and have a proper look.”
Without even flinching Lexel watched Tyrn scooped up Zero with ease and as careful as if he were a newborn child carried him inside while she followed behind. A table partially littered with a mixture of tools and tinkered bits received the prototype turned patient. Old instruction manuals and volumes of spec-sheet reference guides were scattered along the walls. As she took it all in she found Tyrn waiting for her to ask and when she did not he volunteered the answer to her unspoken yet expected question.
“I used to be an instructor, I am retired now and I spend my time doing what repairs or tinkering I can for the neighborhood,” Tyrn admitted. Even though a smile could still be seen on his face something told Lexel that the old teacher wasn’t exactly enjoying his retirement. “Why did you stop teaching,” Lexel found herself asking. Instantly she regretted the question, regret flashed on the friendly face briefly before the smiling mask returned.
“My students stopped listening, when people decide they don’t want to learn what you try to teach there is little incentive to continue. But enough of what needs fixing in me; let’s take a look at your friend here, shall we?” Lexel nodded in agreement and even as tired as she started to realize she was she found herself fascinated watching Tyrn work. Much to her surprise she found she understood more of what he said than she expected and even made him raise an eyebrow or two a few times at her comments.
For Tyrn, he realized it was a welcome change not to be alone for once. Almost as nice as it was to have an eager young mind willing to listen to his little lectured lessons. He would just have to wait for her to explain where this curious creation came from. Tyrn Spanner had never been the kind of man to pry in the affairs of others. Nor was he one for turning a blind eye to someone in need. As far as he could judge this little lady was certainly in need and not just from whatever she was running from. He had always been good at fixing things and at teaching others; it’s why he had became a teacher in the first place. But just maybe, just maybe he could try and see if he had it in him to help fix her somehow.
It was always worth a shot at least, he decided. Besides, having something around needing fixed was what he himself had needed for a long time. Not to mention someone willing to lesson or learn. It made that old spark inside him flare back to life.