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Iridium: Resurgence

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It was a hot summer's day, the sun glaring balefully down upon the small Nevada town and the ribbon of road passing straight through it. The town, shimmering in the heat, was sprawled out across a half-dozen blocks, with some scattered houses, a small automotive repair shop, a diner, and various other buildings. It was bright and fresh, just shy of an oasis in the midst of the seemingly endless salt flats.

A young woman, with pale skin and short black hair tied up in a bun, trudged along the highway, her legs sore after so long walking. She knew she was almost at her destination, thankfully – her ill-chosen black clothes soaked up the sun's angry rays, almost beginning to burn the skin beneath from sheer heat. And so it was with no small amount of relief that she looked up again to find the buildings considerably closer than the last time she checked; at the moment she was passing a sign that said "Welcome to Handler's Corners!" In bolded letters.

The diner proved a relief, and the woman slumped down in the first empty booth to simply enjoy the cool air and shade. Her reverie was quickly interrupted as the waitress approached her table, asking "What kin I git ya?" in a good-natured sort of way. Her nametag identified her as "Kelly." The newcomer groaned quietly to herself, but took a quick scan of the menu.

"I think I'll just have some water for now," she decided. Kelly nodded and left, and the woman examined her surroundings. The floor was tiled in a checkerboard of black and white, while the walls were covered in various random items, like license plates, newspaper clippings, and even the propeller of an old WWII fighter. A small jukebox sat in the far corner, playing some recent tunes at a surprisingly gentle volume, nearly drowned out by the hissing of steam as someone else's food was prepared by the plump man standing behind the counter.

As for the other patrons, there was a couple sitting by the jukebox making romantic faces, a quiet woman in a sundress right by the door, and a thick-built man with even thicker eyebrows. The waitress stopped by the counter to grab a plate, which she then set down in front of this man. "Thank you!" He chuckled in a boisterous Russian accent, smiling wide at Kelly. The newcomer was surprised that the other patrons ignored him so easily – his voice seemed to boom throughout the diner.

As Kelly set down a glass of water, complete with ice cubes, the woman raised a finger. "I was just wondering…" She trailed off, uncertain how to phrase it. "He's Russian." The waitress gave her an odd, somewhat disapproving look.

"Oh, Gavril? He ain't a commie if that's what yer worried about. His family came here to git away from all that." Her frown deepened.

The other woman simply waved her hand. "I meant no offense, I was just curious, given the present… climate. You could say I've been living under somewhat of a rock as of late. My apologies."

Kelly shrugged, and walked away.

The sun had finally, mercifully begun to set, and twilight was turning into dusk. The desert wildlife became active, rustling about among the weeds and cacti, and a coyote howled in the distance. The temperature plunged rapidly, going from extreme heat to a cool chill that made the newcomer shiver. She had acquired temporary lodging in a nearby motel, but she would have to find work soon if she wanted a more permanent residence.

To that end, she made her way to a shop on one of the street corners. It was shaped like a quarter of an octagon, with a long central rectangular building facing the corner, and two shorter wings pointed backward at angles. The middle section had three garage doors, with a few scattered stacks of tires sitting about in front of them; the left side had a small convenience store with bathrooms, and the right portion seemed to be for offices and some storage. A sign overhead declared in neon red that this place was "Jose's Auto Repair Emporium." From the look of the place, most of the budget had gone into that sign, though it at least seemed reasonably well-kept.

As she came closer, she saw that the rightmost garage door was open, where a pair of legs stuck out from beneath a '62 Ford Galaxie Skyliner. The rattling click of a ratchet wrench was accompanied by some grunts and the occasional muttered curse. Stepping around a stack of tires, the woman made a beeline for that door, deciding that if the mechanic wasn't who she needed to speak to, he could doubtless direct her in the proper direction.

"Excuse me…" she announced herself, and the mechanic instantaneously shot upward, hitting his head against the Galaxie's driveshaft. "Oh! I didn't mean to startle…" She trailed off as the mechanic slid out from beneath the vehicle and standing up, revealing his face in the process. "You?"

It was the Russian man, Gavril. Up close, he looked surprisingly young despite his imposing stature, clean-shaven and with rather short brown hair, and only faint laugh lines to mar his face. His hands were covered in oil and grease, and he looked reasonably muscular. "Why, hello, ma'am." He didn't seem to register her surprise. "What brings you to this… fine establishment?" Even through his amiable attitude, he seemed to have a difficult time bringing himself to compliment his workplace.

Now having moved past her surprise, the woman got straight to business. "I wanted to find employment; I know cars very well, and this seemed like the place to put that to use. Who should I talk to about applying?"

Gavril shrugged uncomfortably. "Well, I suppose this a place… and Jose is sleeping off his drink as usual, so I shall see to you." He gestured toward a corner of the garage, where an extremely withered Hispanic man snored in a chair.

After Gavril had washed his hands as best as he could, he led the newcomer into the office area, where he pulled a sheet of paper down from the shelf. "This is the form – fill it out on your own time and bring it back to me tomorrow, and I will see about getting you a job." The woman took it with a nod. "It will be a pleasure working with you, miss…?"

"Julia. Julia Miranti." Shaking his still-greasy hand, she added, "And you?"

Gavril chuckled. "Ah, Julia, you have a beautiful name. And you may call me Gavril Eiss."