The Alleged Van

The garage at Overwatch HQ was usually a place of relative peace and quiet. This day, a steady stream of mutterings filled the air. Dire threats of an anatomically dubious nature. Detailed, uncomplimentary and impossible genealogies. Accusations of a preference for assorted unhygienic and potentially scandalous personal activities involving immediate family members and farm animals. The source of this invective was a thin woman who was bent over the engine of one of the vehicles present, and this vehicle was the object of her muttered abuse.

She was petite, disheveled and grime-smeared, and her nearly white blonde hair was tied back in a bun and covered with a bandana, though a few strands hung loose. Her pale, unearthly white-blue eyes were squinted at a tough-to-reach component that she was trying to direct a light at to make it easier to get a wrench on it. This awkward process was made easier by the fact that she had two pairs of hands, the second of which was at the end of a pair of flexible and spidery multi-jointed arms attached to the back of her shoulder blades.

The van that she was working on, meanwhile, looked like it would be more at home rotting on blocks amidst three foot tall weeds rather than in a garage as pristine and well equipped as this one. Once it had had a distinctive paint job and its sides had been decorated with a rather impressive mural but sadly rust, patches of bondo and primer and of course the assorted ravages of time had rendered both its original coloration and the subject of its mural difficult to identify. Its engine, meanwhile, was a stubborn and cantankerous beast that had required much creativity and patience to keep in anything resembling working order. Today, its slightly built mechanic was well past the extent of her patience with her recalcitrant charge.

An elderly gentleman with flyaway grey hair and wearing a tweed jacket entered the garage gingerly, looking for the source of the sounds. He started when he saw an indistinct blur where the young woman was supposed to be but then remembered the device that she routinely used to disguise her various anatomical peculiarities. He was rather proud of having personally constructed that device, incidentally – an elegant and compact design, if he did say so himself. No matter: with a tap of a control on the brim of his goggles he activated a display setting that allowed him to see her properly. The first thing that he saw was her shapely posterior, bent over and away from him due to working on the engine; he quickly looked away from that and cleared his throat.

“My dear young Miss Lee, are you all right back here?” he called as she looked back at him over her shoulder.

Linda blinked and turned around to sit on the edge of the engine compartment with her elbows resting on her knees. With an annoyed backwards glance towards the engine, she replied, “Ah’m fine Perfesser… jus’ fixin’ on this ol’ heap again. Ah don’ fancy her breakin’ down inna middle’a the desert somewheres durin’ mah next road trip.” The young woman spoke with a thick and decidedly lower-class Southern accent, but the Professor had no difficulty understanding her.

Strago approached and looked over the vehicle with a slight sniff of disdain, “I have been meaning to ask, Miss Lee… I understand that this is allegedly a vehicle, but where ever did you manage to procure such an… ah… singular example?”

“Aw, c’moan now perfesser, don’ hol’ back. Ya won’ hurt her feelin’s none,” and here she patted the engine, “She cain’t hear you no better’n she can me.”

He chuckled at her rejoinder and adjusted his goggles, then responded with a companionable smile, “In that case, it is an insult to all that is or could ever be called an automobile… and I remain curious as to where you obtained it.”

“Ah got it off’a some skeezy fella in Philly fer a couple hunnerd bucks an’ a blowjob,” Linda replied matter-of-factly. He sincerely hoped that she was speaking idiomatically, but he despaired of that possibility when he caught the look she gave him just before she broke eye contact. “Got it not long after Ah escaped New Bremen. Ah needed wheels t’go West, and couldn’t afford nothin’ better,” she went on, changing the subject. “Say whatcha will ’bout her, but she got me over twenty-five hunnerd miles from Philly ta here. Broke down a couple’a times along th’way, but nothin’ ah couldn’t fix by mah lonesome. What Ah’m plannin’ fer this girl longterm is ta eventually convert ‘er inta a mobile comm center an’ hacker cave. Time an’ funds permittin’, a’course.”

“Yes, well, while jury-rigging such a damaged assembly into something functional is a fair demonstration of mechanical and electronic knowhow…” and here Strago looked over the engine a bit, recognizing considerable ingenuity and improvisation in the face of substandard parts and insufficient resources to do the job properly.”… I am concerned about the cavalier disrespect that you show to your own body, my dear. Have you no dignity?” He tried to sound compassionate and concerned rather than judgmental as he spoke, because he was somewhat fond of the poor once-human creature before him. Her brief pained expression told him that he had not been sufficiently sensitive by half.

“Y’see, that’s the thing raht there, Perfesser,” She shot back, “mah body ain’t ‘zactly showin’ me a whole lotta respect neither,” and she gave an odd sort of shrug with both sets of shoulders. Following that, she sighed and looked away, continuing, “‘Sides… Ah got mah hands full jus’ survivin’. Dignity don’t do too much fer that. Look, ah know ya mean well… but ah reckon that if’n ya wanna help, you can do more good helpin’ a little girl put this back together than by tellin’ her how ta live her life. Deal?”

“Deal,” he replied a bit guardedly as he pulled a remote from his pocket. “Which system were you working on just now?”

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