Hello Friend

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Aleph awoke to a heavy drizzle in the junkyard, her body splayed across a dent she had placed along the side of a refrigerator she called a bed. Water poured in rivulets down her forehead, eyes, and cheeks, before forming a larger necklace around her shoulders that fell to the ground in a steady dripping. The pistons in her chest slowly extended as if to yawn, until a small ratray perched on her shoulder with some morsel it had found.

"Oh, good morning, friend." The manticore murmured to the tiny vermin, which ignored her as it attempted to nibble away the husk of a seed. She studied it for a moment, her pistons thrumming alive with some vague sense of pleasure until one of them let out a violent squeak and groan as it threatened to seize in the accumulated rust and grime that served as its home. Aleph grit her teeth so fiercely she thought she'd crack a bolt, and slowly pushed the piston deeper with a vague hope that it'd stay put for the time being.

She rose and the ratray shuffled in place before simply taking wing. She nodded. "Goodbye friend. I don't want to go shopping either." Her head began to swim as she stumbled off towards the shopping district of the Downwarp; her metal pawfeet plunging deep into mud and muck before she finally reached uneven concrete that threatened to split under her weight. She pursed her lips and froze as she felt that rusting piston shiver like a heart failing to beat. Her window to properly fix it was beginning to shrink, and the consequences of that tragedy bubbled in the back of her head.

Eyes were on her almost immediately as she approached what one might call "civilization" as she towered over most if not all of the bazaar's inhabitants. Moving through without hurting someone was already something of a challenge, but the nauseous spinning of her head doubled that difficulty, and in exasperation she finally reached out with a metal paw to occasionally spread innocents out of the way of her stumbling ton-and-a-half form. The shouts of fright, surprise, and anger filled her ears to the point where she nearly missed the sign of tent she needed.

Inside was a stout little mutt that let out a shout as the manticore stepped in. "You! Get out! Last time you were in here you broke a godforsaken shelf and left me to clean it up!" Aleph ignored him as she browsed the shelves, a shaking pawfinger pushing past bits of scrap and imported goods for the one thing she needed. The mutt stayed behind his desk, eyeing the pliers at the end of Aleph's tail. "I know you can hear me; you ain't that broken just yet, but you're gonna be if you don't get the hell out!" The manticore found the can of oil and slammed it down on the sales counter, her lips curling into a pained grimace. "I need."

"Listen darlin', we all need something out of life, and the things I need the Instantiator can't make."

"I need."

"That's an Upwarp import! Do you think I get that every day and can just give it to you?"

The manticore's pawfingers rapped against the salescounter as her body shook in a dry sob, terminating with a grinding pop that forced small plumes of smoke to exit from the mufflers in her mane. Trembling, she reached into a cavity in her shoulder, and with a horrible screeching snap of metal she tore out what looked like an ancient hood ornament. What was once an almost tacky relic of another era now looked practically totemic, the end of it having been hammered and shaped into a makeshift crankshaft for tiny gears. She offered it to the shopkeep, and took her can with a shiver. He looked up at her, eyebrows raising. "How could you even have something like this? This isn't even..." He studied it, but the manticore merely shrugged. "I am not from here."

She tore off the top of the can, and her pawfingers moved to crinkle the end of it to form a spout to tip into an intake valve. The first rotation of her crankshafts was painful at first until the fresh oil found purchase, but the new cycling of her pistons made her pawtoes curl against the concrete floor in pleasure, and removed the spinning in her head like the shade from a lamp. The mutt eyed all this in a silent bemusement, before murmuring. "You know, shouldn't you change an oil filter, or something...?" The Manticore headed for the exit, a soft smile breaking on her face. "Goodbye friend."

The junkyard was as quiet as she left it, but everything seemed calmer now that her engine had been sorted out. She rested back on her refrigerator, her left arm limp and lifeless since she tore out a major mechanical component there. She chuckled a bit and found a spoon that had somehow escaped some of the moisture, and began the process of shaping it. A blowtorch sprung out of the tool assembly along her tail, and once the spoon was red hot, she brought it up to her mouth, where her twin rows of teeth hammered down in quick succession to form the tiny crankshaft she needed. It was with a quiet amusement that the manticore noted that the hood ornament that was once the end of her old part was now the head of a spoon.

She'd begin inserting the new part into her arm while she thought: "...Did I lie?" The remnants of the old part ground gears to a halt. "The shopkeeper is not my enemy." The ruined remains were removed with needle-nose pliers. "He would take me apart if he knew me." The insertion of the new part made her pawfingers on that arm tingle and slowly regain motor control. "It is better that he doesn't, then." She laid back, while water poured in rivulets down her forehead, eyes, and cheeks. A ratray perched on a slowly shifting piston, its muzzle going to clean under a furred wing. "Hello friend."