1963-07-24 - Need a Tune Up?

Past industrial parks and cheap grubby little houses, past cute little towns burried under silt and the stink of industrial progress. Past determined weeds granting some measure of greenery, and abandoned junk piled high in what was once woodland. Over rivers choked with god knows what, mob bodies if the stories are to be believed as well of course. There lies a thing, a mass of acreage and rotting pig iron. A scrap yard piled high with junkers and heaps, with things once beautiful and long since abandoned for the lure of the new and hip. There are mechanical wonders of many ages here, hidden behind twists of weeds and rotting tin roof panels turned fences. Busses and dozers, steam shovels and automobiles. Great racks of all manner of motorcycle, small motor and various industrial things that it'd take a trademen to recognize them. This then, as the sign proclaims? This is Jed's Place.

The parkinglot is vast but mostly stocked with old heaps barely running, as men and women ply through tables of refurbished gizmos and whatsits. Toasters and radios and washing machines made not new again, but at least functional. Alternators and polished fenders, the rest then seems to require a sterner constitution. Yet there it is, parked off to the side. That little Royal Enfield interceptor, in black and navy blue. It's mirror still cracked and, well it'll be entirely right again. The woman then, well she's further on inside.

Red Bandanna tied over her brow, stripped down to a tank top and chain smoking like a steam engine as she works. Oily but well loved wrenches liberating this and that for her tin bucket, tonight then it'd seem she's ripping apart wrecked Indians ironically enough. Selecting valves by a well honed stroke of the thumb and a glance, pulling carbs and stripping parts without any immediately obvious rhyme or reason. This woman alone amongst the hulks, but then again she supposedly knows the guy running it right? Jed was it?

An engine, laboring and in need of TLC, chugs off in the distance. It's a bike that probably had some potential, once upon a time, but to a mechanic's ear it sings a song of pain. Timing off, throttle valve fluttering, even the grate of nearly-stripped brake pads screech as the operator wheels it down to the junkyard.

He rolls up to the gates and opens it, then remounts and rolls through, puttering towards the sound of machine tools under a garage canopy and where that distinctive motorcycle is parked, broken mirror and all.

He rolls the bike up nearby and kills the engine, then rocks it back and puts it on the kickstand. The stranger dismounts— scraggly, unkempt, and looking a few days overdue for a shower.

"You. You're that girl from the diner," he says, in those flat, difficult to read tones. He's still wearing that old Army field jacket, collar upturned, despite the warmth. The fellow stops a dozen paces away, staring at her with an expressionless gaze.

"You said you fix bikes. Yes? This one's broken." He gestures at the bike with a waggled elbow.
It's not a song to her ear if we're going to be plain, it sounds just plain wounded. Yet this is the way of many things, so for a moment she doesn't lift her gaze. She knows it by sound well enough, peering after that machine a few times before lifting her grease smeared face. Yep, that's Ayasha. Only without the bandana and all the leather and, well the height's pretty distinctive yaknow. "When was the last time you took a dead horse to a vet?"She offers, before finally fixing her gaze upon that bum of a man. "You remind me of my uncle, and you shed blood beside me. So yes, I will -show- you how to fix your bike. For free even, but you will learn because It is your thing and not my own."

She rises with a great huff, pausing momentarily there to exchange one cigarette for the next before motioning towards a covered partition. One stuffed with tools and three or four other bikes in various states of disrepair, and well she's got her jacket and satchel and helmet hung there. So yes clearly, she knows the guy it seems. "Push it in there, we'll get started." Another pause as she snags her bucket and toolbox, before glancing back for just a moment. "You eaten yet, army man?"

"No." And he moves the bike off the kickstand and starts rolling it towards the garage, plodding along with an unhurried, efficient step. He rolls the bike into the workspce and finds a spare hoist. It takes him just a few moments to hook the frame up to the liftjack and he cranks it skywards until the bike's a foot off the ground, suspended by the frame.

He doesn't stand around waiting for instruction, though— he finally removes that jacket, the butt of a semi-auto sticking out of the small of his back. He's wearing a tight, woven cotton undershirt, also military issue, and a leather glove covers his left hand.

Reaching for the tools he picks through a few until he comes up with a socket wrench and the appropriate nuts, and starts removing components with practiced ease. He's clearly been around machine shops a few times before, though unlike a professional mechanic he doesn't have much regard for avoiding nicks and dings to the paint and finish.
"These WLA bastards all suffer from poor head design, slow down a moment."Ayasha parks herself atop a convient stool and apparently seems content to watch. "See the texture of the head, the cylinder sleeves and the crank case? The Cylinders are machined, but the head and crank case are cast. Sand casting little parts, like the receivers of an M1 carbine or the bolt of an M3? No big deal. The problem is when we do big parts like these, and then we mix them with machined parts. Sand cast parts have voids, feel that pebbled texture under finger?"And well she does know a thing or two, the entire motor arrangement is a mixture of smooth machined lines, textured sand cast parts and the slightly wavering dull patina of investment cast parts. "The steels are not matched, ever notice that it tends to leak oil out around the head when it's getting hot? Get that little mist on your knee perhaps? Now about those rods and pistons, made much the same way. I'm betting you've got plenty of seat time on a WLA like this, how many of them got less and less responsive the hotter they got? Overheated too easy to boot, didn't want to start when warm, broke easy when they were run hot? How many, all of them?"

She steps closer, tapping the girder fork up front with a little nod. "Girder fork, inferior tech. Cost cutting measure, feels sloppy, doesn't seal the main tube bearings very well. Makes it all kind of vague, hard to predict. They are garbage, like the engine, the transmission, the seat…actually just toss everything but the frame, the tank and I suppose the fenders over there in the corner. None of that is worth saving, we're going to do this bike right. Build you the bike uncle sam failed to, maybe unlike my uncle it won't get you shot in the back of the head."She lets that just hang out there, as she chains up another cigarette. Reaching yonder to offer one to her companion. "Once we get it stripped, we'll break for lunch my dime."

The broody fellow doesn't seem much a talker, because he doesn't much respond aside from a confirmatory grunt or a nod as appropriate. He's /definitely/ been around bikes before, though, because very little of what she's saying seems lost on him. Or he's ignoring her and just guessing well.

It's hard to say.

He unscrews the engine casing bolts and pulls back the block cover, revealing the guts of the machine— the '42 likely saw wartime service and it'd be a good guess if someone said the oil hadn't been fully flushed since there was a unified Germany.

"Valves gone. Seals gone." He examines the engine timing chain. "Needs new chain," he adds.

He looks at the cigarette, as if unsure of what it is, then looks at Ayasha. He shakes his head once, face unreadable, and focuses back on the task at hand of breaking down the motorcycle. He gets the pistons out and the cylinder sleeves next, glancing at them, then tossing them onto a junk pile. On closer inspection, Ayasha's assessment is spot on— one of them badly pitted, the other developing small cracks.
"Harley stole the service contracts from Indian, by underbidding. The 841 was the better bike, but better isn't what they wanted. Like the Thompson, it got as cheap as fast as they could get there. No M1 Garand, no Springfield, no Winchester. Cheap isn't good enough."She meanders away a moment, before vanishing amidst a field of partially stripped V-twins for a moment only to return with a Panhead cradled in her arms like it's made of helium and hope. "There, Panhead 74 cubes. Now take it down to the block and set the pieces aside. You can pitch the cylinders, pistons and the rest. I can feel the flaws just by hand cranking it, but the block is good. "She gives a little nod at that, before easing back to her stool.

"I'll weld the motor mounts up later once we find a proper front end off an FL, and get things together."Theres a little huff there as she eyes the bike passively. "Be honest with me Army Man, because we are friends today and I am showing you kindness. Will you need to chase on this thing, will you need to flee with it or just get from place to place cheaply?"Casually snuffing out her cigarette, before reaching across to dig through another bucket of carbs to fish out a pair, and casually get to stripping them down without much bothering to look at what she's doing. "I wonder, has your war gone and you miss it so? Are you still at war perhaps, or has some new war come and found you? It's difficult for me to read you white men, you are all so brooding."

"War never changes," the scowling man says. He pitches the parts that Ayasha deems 'unsalvageable', tossing them into a growing pile of scrap parts behind him. The new carbs get examined and he starts mounting new gaskets into place after scrubbing the piston interior out thoroughly.

"Need a honing tool." He starts shucking off excess oil and crud clinging to the pistons, using liberal amounts of mineral spirits to do so.

"Just need it to roll." He glances Ayasha's sirection, but doesn't quite look at her. "These parts are expensive. What do I owe you?"
"Bravery."She rises oncemore with a raised hand to halt the work, before she gets into it. Digging through parts boxes to select pistons and rods, and a small scale. Balancing matched sets against one another in silence, building little pairs. "You must act without fear, you must never retreat from your enemies and you must not stand idle whilst the innocent are harmed. We spilled blood together, that makes us something of a kind. Something there is no English word for, something I could never even begin to explain but I expect as a soldier you already understand it well enough." Moving aside to carefully attend to her work, honing pistons and matching journals from mixed parts boxes.

"War is cruelty, or so one of your own Generals once said."Stepping back finally to let Bucky do his thing, before she gets the sand paper out and the little box of needles. Polishing things up with experienced hands, as she gets another cigarette burning. "You and I, and some others. We have fought many times, in many wars, been called many things. A warrior may die, but he never moves on. Our curse is to be good at such a thing, and so we cannot be spared. There is no heaven or hell for any of us, just another war. All the men we have slain, all those slain beside us. They will come again, for new wars. Friend shall become enemy, enemy shall become friend. Until the end of all things, until the cycle begins anew and our spirits are granted passage to visit grandfather. This is not an easy life, and people do not understand."A pause as she glances up from those carbs to peer after Bucky. "We are in this together now. Fight like a warrior, and die as one. That is all that I require from you, everything else beyond this pact shall be kindnesses between friends."And finally, she lifts a hand free of that sand paper to offer it over.

"I am Ayasha Lincoln, the last Dog Soldier still in this world. Keep your name to yourself if you must, but I wish for you to know mine."Ayasha gives pause, and a smirk. "Well my Legal name anyway, I won't expect you to speak the name I was born to. Strange tongue to you I expect and all."

The stranger works without pause, fitting components to the stolen bike. It's see better days, but there's a lumbering heart somewhere in that machine, one that is being repaired and coaxed back to life. The pistons, headers, valves— he doesn't make much reference to the old manual nearby, though it's from a slightly different model of the classic WLA bike. Not instincts, just a good knowledge of machines, someone who understands how the devices tick and work and talk.

He doesn't stop until Ayasha falls quiet and offers him a handshake. The broody fellow wipes his hands clean on a rag, looking at the handshake, then searching Ayasha's face for… something.

Not finding what he's looking for, he shakes Ayasha's hand with his right. "John Frost," he says, finally introducing himself. "As good a name as any." He doesn't make excuse or apology for his falsehood, leaving it to Ayasha to accept as she likes. "Dog soldier. Never heard of a dog soldier. Are they all as strong as you?"
"John Frost, a cold name for a cold man."She offers a gentle squeeze, but seems satisfied enough for the moment. Returning to her stool to snag a pair of cokes from an icebox, one of which she offers over. "A long time ago, the Cheyenne made war on the white men. There were many reasons, all of them very valid but this isn't about that. Brave warriors bound themselves together, summoned a great warrior spirit to aid them. They made war, history books will say it was about revenge but it wasn't. It was to buy their people time, because we weren't doing so good. Warriors died bravely, and as fewer stood they grew more powerful. The great spirit tried it's best to give us the time we needed to secure our lands, which had been promised in treaties broken. They sold their lives dearly, but they were not enough. In time we collapsed upon ourselves, we fell apart and were broken by the army. Marched onto reservations, starved, poisoned, murdered. Now there were so few Dog Soldiers left, that fighting just saw innocents slaughtered in return."

Ayasha pauses there, peeling that cap off with her bare fingers. "Some thought it best to show our strength, so they went off to fight the white man's wars. We gained nothing, but they had no other way open to them. My uncle, was the last before me. He was educated, a Lieutenant. Fought in Africa, Europe, came home restless. Went to Korea, won himself a box full of medals for all he did. Jed here, the owner of this place? He served under him in Korea, they were like brothers. Killed many men, stronger than I am by far. He fought like a great spirit himself, survived all of that. Gets into a fight in Korea in 54', leaves before he gets his blood up. Standing there trying to kick start his bike so he can get back to his barracks, some arrogant drunkard of a private walks up behind him. Puts a fourty five behind his ear, and now It's just me left."Theres a little shrug there as her gaze wanders, to nowhere really.

"My father would have taken it, but he was murdered. My Cousin then after him, but he was murdered too by the same. Then it would have fallen to my Aunt, but again murdered as was my Mother. As was most everyone I knew growing up, everyone who's name I knew died. The blood lines were cut save for my own, and so here I am. Last one, wondering exactly what war she was born to fight. The Great Spirit feels the great work is yet undone, that I am somehow worthy to hold this power. Yet to what end, what war am I here for."A pause as she sips her soda. "I've been killing the men who prey on the Mutant types, but I don't know. They are all so innocent, they see this evil coming and think they'll be fine if they just behave. I fight anyway, but I'll be honest Mr. Frost. I suspect none of it really matters, but I can't quite bring myself to just sit and watch either."

He's quiet for a long time, then, to the point where Ayasha might start wondering if he's just ignoring her, or simply doesn't care. He works with diligent efficiency, reattaching throttle hoses and intake lines. He's not really slow, but he's very diligent, checking and rechecking to make sure every clinchstrap is tightened down, every butterfly tension spring is properly set. That alone probably will go a long ways towards improving the function of the vehicle, particularly as he replaces some of the more corroded tubes with new ones.

"War never changes," the stranger says, again, as if clinging to a mantra. "People kill for any reason. No reason." He tightens down a few nuts with his left hand and uses the socket wrench to finish the job.

"Should find a reason to fight," he tells Ayasha. "Any reason. Bad reason. Good reason. Help people, hurt them, overthrow the government, or help it. Better to do something wrong for a good reason than do nothing for no reason at all."
"I started with just trying to find evil men, murderers. Men who killed just because they could, but I'm no detective. Then I went after the bureau of Indian Affairs, but they just punished the innocent. Now, well these men are both in great supply and need killing."She pauses there with another little huff, dipping her head to chain up another cigarette. "I tried to help them, warn them of the danger. Teach them, guide them somehow so they wouldn't need crude things like us. You know what the truth of it is though, Mr. Frost? That they can't do this, they just don't even know how to ask the right questions of themselves. Can't fathom it, don't have the language to even discuss any of it. Men and women of kindness and peace, feels worth protecting but I don't know."Rising only now to grab a pair of hubs and rims and so she begins lacing up a set of wheels.

Nimble little fingers making quick work as she goes, but like most of this? She's done this a time or two. "Do you want to come along, see where this goes? We're a rare breed, and this is rare work after all. It's not as though they can do such things for themselves, maybe this time everything work out. Give them the time they need to find resolve, to understand the gravity of the situation. I am strong, fast and tough but I am only one woman, there are limits to what I can undertake by myself."A pause as she finally crosses her legs and gives a slow roll of her shoulders. "Do you fancy another war, Mr. Frost?"

"Said you should find a cause. Didn't say I had time to help." 'Frost' accepts the first time as the rims and hubs are mounted, and drops it into the bike's forks. He reattaches the brake drums fairly efficiently, then gives the wheel a quick spin, checking it for balance. Finding no fault, he mounts the rear and gives it the same once over, checking the cassette multiple times before finally hooking the drivetrain up to the rear axel.

"Maybe no more Dog Soldiers left, but there are others out there," he says, after several minutes of silence. "You can't fight for yours, but you can fight for them. Lots of people. Tell your story. Fight to make sure they don't lose their dog soldiers on their own people and stories. That's a fight you can still have a chance of winning."
"I don't disagree with you, but from here it seems like you have plenty of time." Theres a little shrug there, as she lets things slide for now. "Now if the old WLA is the only bike you've ridden, be cautious. The pan head here, is a lot more powerful. Take care to practice your shifting, the heel toe is both safer and faster but if a Jockey shift is what you're used to this may take a little time."Finally reclining back against a toolbox as she sips after her coke. "Also keep your eyes open, I think a Moto-Guzzi might actually be a better fit for you than this old thing but they're harder to find on the East Coast. Anyway it would seem you have this well enough in hand, is there anything else you need?"

She eases over to her jacket and gets to cleaning up, scrubbing the grease away with a rag and a dab of gasoline to cut through it. Then on comes the jacket, and from beneath it's spot on the peg her gunbelt. Theres another flash of that gnarly Bowie knife there, and what is that four or five magazine pouches for that cute little Beretta 51' on her hip. No 1911 but then again judging by how tiny she is the thing probably fits her just about perfect. Hands lifting to gently tuck those braids under her collar, before donning that bandanna. "If you are alone, be alone because that is your wish. Otherwise, you'll always be welcome at my campfire alright?"

"Alone," 'Frost' says, and he doesn't bother to clarify if that's his preference or his situation. He finishes tightening down the valves and gives the timing chain one last check, then catches the throttle lever with his fingers and gives the ignition a few harsh, hard kicks. No babying it. The engine coughs and sputters, and then kicks over with a buzzsaw roar of new life on the fourth try.

"Works," the dour fellow comments, setting it to a low idle. "I've ridden before." He leaves it idling and shrugs into his old Army jacket, fray collar and sleeves and all, and finally looks at Ayasha, his features vaguely approaching something like… appreciation? Respect?

"I've got my own fight. This machine, this government— hurts too many. It needs to be torn down. Rebuilt from the ground up. Could use some help," he tells Ayasha, patting the bike as if driving his point home. "They've taken everything from you. Nothing I can do will fix it. Maybe a good fight will make it right for others."
"We will have to discuss this, and many other things in depth then Mr. Frost. I am not against such a thing, but one does not take treason lightly in these days."She cynches that bandana down, pulls down that pudding bowl helmet and starts back towards the parking lot. "I think before we undertake any such thing, we should consult the great spirit. I know of a medicine man who will help with such a thing, let us know the true way of things. I should hope the great spirits will smile upon this endeavor, grant us a vision to guide our hand."A pause as she glances towards the parkinglot for a moment. "Meet me here this Friday, and we'll go visit him. You can stand outside and brood if that is your way, but I am bound by a higher power with expectations. I need to seek his guidance, and who knows. Perhaps he will grant you something as well." And just like that, without another word spoken off she goes. Tugging on gloves as she goes, off to wherever it is she goes.

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