The Office of Deferred Dreams

“Speed Acer! Anyone home?” Cyd called into the Acer’s garage. Great acoustics, but no way in hell would Axel want a full out party in what was his parents repair shop. It rarely stopped her from asking though. It was late, but like her, he kept crazy hours. “Speed? You around?” She lowered her voice to almost a whisper. “I’m sorry I borrowed a car and hope you can fix that little dent I left in it. You’re the bestest!” Tiptoeing like a thief, she glanced at the collection of gutted out hover-car seats towards the back of the shop, Axel’s make-shift ‘home.’ Teen years on, he was for the most part alone, what with his parents up and disappearing and he’d spent near every waking minute making sure the garage stayed afloat. Bunched up blankets covered the bench seats, but there was no body beneath them. “Speed?”

The shop was full of rusted out and half-complete parts and clearly blasted out engines. This wasn’t a particularly new sight to Cyd, the Acer garage had lately been especially filled with scrap and parts. Back in the day this might have meant an influx of work for the family, now it seemed more of a reminder of what once was as engine parts and smaller bits of gear were really all that truly came through the doors for work these days. A soft din of a beat filled what the air along with the soft occasional clang of metal and a turning of a screwdriver indicated that somewhere further in, someone was at work.

“I hear you--” She called in a sing-song voice, drumming her fingers against her thigh to the beat of the muffled song in the background as she walked further into the garage. With Lexi safely tucked at Math’s, she could afford to be a little more light-hearted, even if that heart was broken from the missing opportunity that no one but her gave a shit about. A black pair of boots and the legs of work overalls jetted out from under a car. Cyd giggled and crept up, keeping out of the light to prevent shadows. She could hear the beat muffled through the headphones he wore. Silently counting to three, she pounced, grabbing his ankles. “GOTCHA!'

An incredibly quick series of squirms and shakes nearly shook the hands off his ankles (and nearly placed a boot into Cyd’s face). The oiled up overalls and face of Axel slid out from the bottom of the car. “AHhhhhhh!!!!!!…..oh yoo watsup CC?” The scream slowly faded to familiarity and he slid off his headphones to his neck and flashed a wide smile at his friend. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you come in, gimmie a hand?” He held up his gloved hand.

Cyd giggled again taking hold of his greased glove which felt damp in her hand. Leaning all the way back to use her weight as leverage, she helped pull him up. “Am I glad you ain’t -- Shit, Axel, what happened to your face?” Her demeanor instantly changed, eyebrows knitted together as the full sight of his bruises and gash came into view. “Does it hurt?” she asked, stepping in and standing on her tiptoes to get a better look. “What happened?

He looked up to the ceiling as he contemplated what to say, hoping the oil and bad lighting would hide the worst of Cyrus' little love note on his cheek, “Oh you know…” He decided it was probably best not to make her worry too much. After all, when she worried, her family worried, and when he made the family worry it felt like he was more of a burden than he was worth. “Just some bad luck I guess, grav system shorted out briefly and gave me a good smack when I was working on it. It’s...I’m fine.” He wasn’t particularly good with lying, especially with the Skye family, extra especially with Cyd, but he figured he’d give it a shot, “It barely even hurts.” That was certainly the biggest lie though.

Cyd’s shoulders sagged as she brushed a bit of his shaggy but oily hair aside from where it had stuck to the now dried blood. “You’re a shitty liar.” She told him in a soft voice. “I hope you never get good at it. Let me clean that up before it gets any worse.” Not waiting for a response - it wasn’t a question or request, more a given that it would happen- she set about finding what he needed. Cyd knew better than to ask if he had a first aid kit, clicks weren’t wasted on bandages and the like. Right now he was lucky he had a roof over his head, but one thing Speed usually kept on hand, she slid open the drawer to his workbench, and rooted around, “Little bit of Lightning,” she said to herself, taking the bottle of clear liquid from the drawer. It was by far the cheapest most burn-a-hole through your stomach kind of alcohol available, likely distilled somewhere she’d rather not know about, but it was alcohol none-the-less, and it’d work. Finding a clean towel in the shop was a little harder, but she snagged one which looked less dirty than the rest hanging by a set of mostly broken lockers which would also have to do.

In the meantime Axel had decided to let her do her work rather than protest further. She looked very out of place in a way, the brighter neon colors clashing with the dingy interior of the shop, but she fit right in with the way she moved about. It was practiced maneuvers and a surprising amount of knowledge of where he kept all his loose ends that really sealed it for him.

“This is gonna sting a little.” She warned, as she reapproached the mechanic, folded cloth in hand. She put the lip of the bottle to the material soaking it just enough to not waste much.

"I'd be more concerned if it didn't." He joked, though he gripped the hood of the car a bit tighter as he prepared for the pain.

Cyd stepped in close and drew air through clenched teeth as she gingerly put the cloth to his face. The fingers of her free hand laced through his uncombed hair to hold his head steady as she gently blotted the gash, removing as much grime as possible while trying not to disturb the scraped up skin and bruises. Tugging on his hair, she tilted his head side to side to assess the damage, she added: “Cripes, Speed, I hope you gave whoever it was this ten times over.” Growing up as he did Axel was no stranger to fighting, but it didn’t make seeing him hurt any easier. “Betcha it’ll leave a cool scar.” She offered, letting go of his hair and tousling it into place. “You’ll look tough.”

His face scrunched at the pain and he bit his tongue, he didn't really have much reason to put on a tough face for Cyd, but he still gave it a go as he tried his best not to wince at the pain. "I don't feel very tough." He let out from an increasingly dejected face.

Cyd ducked to meet his eyes which he was keeping anywhere except on hers. Whatever happened, he didn’t want to talk about it which of course intensified her need to know what happened, and Cyd wasn’t the type to shy away from what she considered her business. Axel wasn’t just her brother’s best friend. He was hers, he was Speed. He mattered more to the Skyes than he gave himself credit for. “You are tough. How many fights didja jump into just to back me or Matty?”

He gave a smile back as the pain eased from his face. "Too many to count honestly, and plenty of scrapes to show for it, but you've got my back plenty." He gave a quick thought to how he had gotten mixed up with the Skye family and Math's business ventures but decided to just focus on the present as he touched at his cut.

“Always,” Cyd replied, swatting his hand from the wound. “It’s what we do. So give me the chance to have yours now and talk to me. What happened Speed? Someone jump you? Who was it? Are you in some sorta trouble? Owe someone clicks?”

Axel shook his hand and looked back to her, thought of another lie, decided that was garbage as well, and exhaled, “It’s not that, I mean I’ll probably owe someone clicks soon enough.” He didn’t have to see the stack of bills to know where they were, and how much higher they would get as soon as the credits stopped clearing from the races.

“So what is it then? Did you lose someone’s stash? Are you running for someone ‘sides Math?”

“Hey I would never do that to Math or you.” Axel scowled a little but the movement of his cheek brought back the pain so he stopped, “Nah, it was at the race track...you really don’t want to know.”

“You do what you gotta do. I’ve moved pharma at raves before didn’t belong to Matty. His is priority, but he’s got responsibilities, you know, a job and other stuff, what’s a rave without party favors? And you sayin’ I don’t wanna know just makes me wanna know even more. You get into a fight at the track? Some rival team brawl at the race?”

He thought over the prospect. In fairness he had considered hiring himself out as a driver before, but he wasn’t as good at talking to people and ‘the business’ as either Skye sibling so he hadn’t pursued it further. Mentally he took a note though, should his situation come to it. “I don’t want you to worry alright? And I wish it was a team, hell even a rival team would be more interesting work.” He looked off to the side, unsure if he was more embarrassed of the injury or the situation he now found himself it. “My...employer...found out I had taken his car for a quick spin around the track and well…..” He motioned with his hand toward the scar.

Cyd let it sink in for a second then dropped her eyes from his so he wouldn’t see the dark clouds of rage settling over them. His employer? Some rich bitch self-entitled citizen thinking they could abuse the shit out of slum rats because they pay them a few credits! She wanted to rip the guy’s lungs out through his ass, and Matty, when Matty found out, Citizen or no, shit was gonna go down. “That motherfucker! That dick!” she said finally through clenched teeth. “Someone needs to let ‘em him know he can’t--” but one look back at Axel and she froze. His expression said it all, telling her the douchebag not only could but would get away with it. Citizens had all the rights, and if OSEC got involved… Speed couldn’t even have representation in court. And she knew he signed some sort of completely one-sided contract, that’s what citizens did. Axel would have to pay back what he earned if he tried to terminate the agreement. Fired at any time like it was nothing, but if he quit? Shit like that was all too common. You don’t want to sign, plenty of others would especially if it meant feeding their family. Fuck, Axel didn’t have a leg to stand on. He knew it, his employer knew it, and Cyd knew it too. His eyes were searching the ground again, his jagged bangs ever in need of a trim hanging down over his face. And from the tinge of redness showing through in his non-bruised cheek it was clear his pride took a hard hit as well. Cyd chewed the inside of her lip and swallowed the bile back down. Just like anytime they had to deal with citizen shits, revenge would have to come in the form of imagining what they’d do if given the chance.

“Tell me--” she said softly, trying to keep any tears from welling up in her hazel eyes, a desperate need to make things better swelling inside her chest. Switching gears could at least lift his spirits, and she knew exactly what would do it. A small smile crossed her lips. “How fast did you go?”

Axel paused for a moment at the change in direction, mental gears processing but before long he returned with his own smile, “Fast” and a very soft chuckle left his throat. He tilted his head back and started reminiscing, “Oh you should have seen it, halfway to the scrap pile and I still was able to churn 200 k dubs 'cross the line. And the controls were absolute butter as well. It was like I was floating on a cloud, once the turn assist was off and the weight was all…” He let out one big sigh and lowered his head, “Sorry I don’t want to bore you with the details. It felt good, really freakin’ good.” It felt better to think of happier things certainly.

“Equalized?” Cyd finished his sentence for him, well versed on racing from years as Matty’s sidekick. “I got nowheres else to be,” she replied, glancing over her shoulder as she kicked off her shoes and sat cross-legged on one of the nearby bucket seats. She reclined the seat back a bit, but not before patting the one next to it by means of invitation. “Honest and swear, I want to hear it all, shift points to superchargers, but first tell me, what was your overall ET?”

He revisited the moment again, the pure rush of speed, the blinking hazards due to the damage from the race about an hour prior. He got up from the car hood and wiped his hands across his pant legs, leaving a streak of oil. He slid off the top half of his work clothes and revealed a much cleaner, though still quite dirty, shirt beneath as he took up the seat. He began mimicking his actions in the seat as if he was there, “I was putting in about 30 a lap, had some serious G on the turns but I was using one of the spare compression tanks to pump some ‘sphere in and used some welding to hold most of the gaps shut.” He shook his head in disbelief and smiled as he ran a hand through his hair, “I was puking out last week’s breakfast at the end but damn if it didn’t work.”

Cyd snickered and fished around in her backpack til she found a small bag of chips, opening them and offering them to Axel as he spoke. “Lucky it didn’t blow out on you, then again, betcha luck had nothin’ to do with it. Wish I coulda been there. Fast as they get. I’ll come an’ see the races someday.”

"Yeah someday” Axel took a handful of chips and shoved them hungrily into his mouth.

Cyd half smiled and leaned back into the reclined seat. “S’okay,” she said wistfully as she kicked a socked foot against the floor. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Crunching happily at the chips he grabbed another to have on deck, "Wat'ru…" he stopped and finished swallowing his food before continuing, "What're you talking about? You're gonna hit it big and start lighting up the club scene city side right?" He seemed to recall something, "Shit I almost forgot, you had a show like last night or something right?"

“You know it! DJ Digi Kitty is gonna turn out the clubs city side someday,” she promised, holding up her hands and dancing in the bucket seat for emphasis to inaudible music. “Someday,” she settled down and scrunched up her lips. “I was supposed to open for a DJ tonight, but it got Lexi’d,” her tone flattened. “She’s fine, that’s the important part, she’s sleeping it off at Matty’s. I had myself a nice long pity party on the way over so I’m good now. They’ll be plenty of other chances, but I only got one sister.“ The fact that he remembered spoke volumes - even with all he had going on, Speed ‘got’ it, he understood.

“Oh shit, I’m sorry.” Axel started, giving a look of concern toward her, he knew how badly she had wanted moments like that, or at least he had heard how badly she had wanted moments like that enough times to quote a few more bombastic lines of her spiels, “Fucking hell, thats….I’m glad she’s alright but shit I’m sorry. They’re gonna let you get another set though right? You bust your ass for them and you gotta have something to show for it right?” He leaned forward in the chair but kept his eyes on her. He knew that with citizens he didn’t have a shot, but Cyd nearly killed herself with her work. That had to be worth something in his eyes.

Let me? I'll get my shot, count on it! But enough of this feel-sorry-for ourselves bullshit, What’s on the docket tonight? You got work to finish up, or you want to down a couple of supernovas, tell me more about the turns and forget about everything else for a while? Either way - I pick the music. I’m callin’ shotgun.”

A small smile replaced the worry and he offered a hand to her, “Hell yeah, No one’s stopping DJ Diji Kitty. Well, aside from what looked to be some kind of pole apparently.” He joked and got back up to look over the car, “tell you what, you go grab the speakers and I’ll realign this last couplinc and give the sparker a good wack and then we finish the bottle and I’ll try and forget how much you owe me.” He turned back to review his offer and began sliding one arm back into his jacket smiling.

“It was a hoverbike, and I said I was sorry!” She laughed. “And how do you know it wasn’t Matty clipped something? That could possibly be exactly what might have happened!” Before grabbing his speakers, she reached in her bag to put the cat ear headband back on. Party was smaller than earlier, but rave was rave. “Let’s turn it up!” She called, cueing up the music chip with a loud whoop.

Tomorrow would be another day, Cyd thought as she spun on her toes, taking a sip from the bottle. A better one at that. It can’t get much worse.

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