So, there it was... a cold September day... it was Tyler's 21st birthday... He looked around the camp, and just like yesterday he came closer and closer to the horrid realization, that he no longer had a place there. Tyler had slowly lost contact with the people that he knew and talked too, as they all left him behind... So, Tyler began packing his belongings into his rucksack like backpack. He packed for a few hours that day, on his birthday, then when he was finished he walked down the dirt road to the nearby town...

In the town, there were quite a few people who pointed at him, as it wasn't everyday they saw a twenty-one year-old with a rucksack walking down the streets. Tyler managed to find an old car dealership that was short selling somewhat still functioning cars... Tyler slowly walked through the lot of cars, looking, searching for what he would drive. In one of the sheds, there was a jet black, chromium silver lined 97' 429. Tyler grinned, and walked into the shop, knocking on the door-frame as he went in, "Hello?" he called. Almost instantly a old, short and plump man appeared from behind the counter.

“Why hello, what can I do for a you?” the man asked excitedly.

Tyler, shocked at the sudden appearance and fast response, stammered as he responded, “W-well, I, uhm. Br. I’d like to buy the 429 out in the shed.”

“Oh my, the 429? My, my, my, youngin, have you got enough money for that?” the man asked jubilantly as he hopped down from the stool he was on. The little man grabbed a pair of keys off of a peg board, and begin to walk around the counter to the door past Tyler.

“I, don’t think I have enough for anything really,” Tyler commented in a suddenly downtrodden tone.

“Well, why don’t yah walk out here anyways, you look like you got a certain means about yah,” The old man replied, suddenly seeming more and more like a happy old dwarf to Tyler.

“A means?” Tyler smiled briefly, hoping that the old man wasn’t just pulling his leg for conversation’s sake.

“Well boy, have ye ever worked for something ye couldn’t pay fer?” The little man asked.

“I wouldn’t know sir, most everything I’ve had has been given to me, and I want to change that,” Tyler said as he remembered how babied he had been when he was with his mother.

“Well boy, the name’s Cliff, Cliff Valk, and that’s Mr. Valk to you. You look like yer ready to change some stuff, starting with working for me car,” Cliff said in his ever settling dwarf like tone.

“Wait, your car?” Tyler gawked, “I couldn’t possibly take your car, that would make me feel wrong sir, I just couldn’t,”

“Boy, there’s a difference between working for something, and earning something, it’s different for those of us that are already family. Sometimes that makes it hard for those who aren’t part of your family to earn something that you own,” Cliff continued, “but that just makes it all the more worth it to own it, because you have to work for it, and earn it son,” Cliff explained.

Tyler smiled at Cliff, then he looked around him, they had been walking to the shed, albeit slowly because the old man couldn’t move very fast, “So, Mr. Valk, what can I start with?”

“That’s the spirit boy, come, after you take a look at the car you can get to work washing the cars that are for sale,” Cliff grinned and beckoned for Tyler to open the doors to the shed the rest of the way…

Cliff handed the keys to Tyler, walked to the passenger side and got in, closing the door behind him, which caused Tyler to stand there in disbelief. Cliff laughed in the car, and waved his hands, beckoning Tyler to get into the car. So, Tyler walked to the driver side door, opened it up, sat in the seat and closed the door. “Well, what do you think?” Cliff asked happily.

“This… This is really cool, I don’t think I’ve ever sat in a seat that controls the kind of power that I think is under the hood,” Tyler grinned haphazardly as he tried to think of a way to thank Cliff for the experience.

“Well boy, it ain’t over yet, cuz you get to drive the beast!” Cliff exclaimed as he saw Tyler’s grin. Cliff then made an a few engine noises, commenting to Tyler, “Don’t forget to rev the engine a bit before ye get going good,” Cliff grinned even more. Tyler smiled at the comment, then he put the key into the ignition, turned the car on, and gave it a number of good revs.

“Where to captain?” Tyler asked with a broad smile, already overly excited that he even got to sit in the car, let alone turn it on and now drive it.

“How’s about to the diner up the road a ways, ye look hungry,” Cliff commanded more than he asked Tyler.

“I’ye I’ye Captain,” Tyler, still smiling with happiness at the thought of driving the car, gave it some gas and got it to about 15 miles per hour headed down the dirt driveway-like road to the concrete street. The second Tyler hit the concrete; it was game on, he squealed the tires, and got it going at 50 miles an hour soon after touching the concrete.

After some time at the diner, and the negotiating of their terms and conditions, Cliff and Tyler drove back to the shed. Tyler parked the car, handed the keys to Cliff and followed him to the shed like barn in which he would be staying…

“So six in the morning, right?” Tyler asked, somewhat hoping that he might actually get out of this six o’clock wake up for work.

“Six son, six. You get some rest, and in the mornin’ I’ll be in the shop if yah need me, Gudnight,” Cliff said tiredly, yawning as he turned and walked towards his house at the back of the lot. Cliff reached his house, unlocked the door, went through his nighttime routine and finally crawled into bed, “Well, that young feller’s gonna learn something here perty soon,” Cliff said drowsily as he dosed off into sleep.

There Tyler lay, in the cot, he had to kill all the bugs that crawled out of it, but the worst was that his mind wouldn’t let him sleep. ‘’Wow, the first night out of camp. Hmmm. It’s rather surprising the old man, Cliff, wasn’t even scared of me, I wonder why…’’ As Tyler’s mind continued to wander, he finally decided that it was going to do him no good to try and go to sleep. So, there in the shed where he was to work and sleep, Tyler got the radio out of his rucksack and turned it on softly, he managed to tune into a station he liked just in time to hear the alert that it was eleven pm. Tyler looked at the radio, then at the wire brushes on the table and all the dirty rusty car parts that needed to be brushed. “Well… I guess I might as well get started,” Tyler thought out loud, he then sat down and began to scrub the parts with the wire brush, and about the time the sun was rising, at six am, he had finished with all the work that he was supposed to do for the day. Tyler found that there was a fridge in the little loft of the barn, so he pulled an okay smelling glass bottle of milk from the fridge, and chugged it down. “Got milk?” he asked himself, wondering if the old man would come check on him at six. At this point, Tyler decided he would climb down the loft, and check out the ground floor of the shed.

As Tyler rummaged around in the shed he came across what looked like an automaton, and just as he found it, the door to the shed unlocked and in walked Cliff. “Boy, you got funny sense about ye, looking through another man’s stuff like that,” Cliff remarked abruptly. Tyler gawked, not knowing to respond, but Cliff, realizing this took the opportunity to forgive Tyler, “Son, it’s fine, I take it you’re done with your work?” Cliff asked somewhat expecting a yes.

“Yessir, I am. I couldn’t sleep last night, so I took care of it while I listened to the radio,” Tyler explained.

“Son, do you know what that machine is?” Cliff asked with a odd smile beaming across his face.

“Well, at the least, I would say it’s an automaton,” Tyler guessed, hoping he was somewhere close to correct.

“Automaton? Phsawh, where’d you ever hear a thing like that? Boy, that is one of the wonders of America from World War Two,” Cliff began proudly.

“A wonder? What does it do?” Tyler asked, his curiosity now hooked.

“Son, have you ever heard of them suit-y machine things, the exo something or other suit?” Cliff asked.

“I’ve heard of exosuits, but I’ve never seen one.” Tyler happily stated, then he paused for a second, “How do you get in the suit? It seems closed up,” Tyler implored.

“That’s the sad part about it son, after I was honorably discharged, I was allowed to keep the suit, but it was decommissioned and won’t work, because they stripped a few parts out of it,” Cliff recounted sadly.

“Ha-hav-have, you been looking for the parts to replace it?” Tyler asked, his curiosity getting the better of himself.

“Some parts I have, other parts, I just can’t find ‘em cuz I need about a good pound of that stuff that’s something like bronze. Reason being, the suit won’t start up if it doesn’t have the weapon’s system component filled with hot bronze of sort. Alas though, there wasn’t a lot that the military told me. The special teams commander just said that it was a special metal that was something like bronze,” Cliff sadly recounted.

At this, Tyler perked up, “I’ll be right back, I have to go get something out of my bag,” he said feeling rather happy.

“What boy? You got one-uh them parts I need?” Cliff asked as he watched Tyler climb up the ladder to the loft. Tyler came back down and he had a celestial bronze ingot, one of the items he had pilfered from earlier travels out and about the world.

Tyler held the ingot out to Cliff unsure of if the old man could actually hold it, “Mr. Valk, this is a block of celestial bronze, maybe we could try this and see if it works?” Tyler asked inquisitively.

“Boy, that might just work,” Cliff took the ingot from Tyler, and having always worn flannel button-downs, jeans and boots, it looked like he might have been a weak old man. Instead though Cliff curled the ingot, “Boy, I still got life in me yet,” Cliff stated with pride. “Tyler m’boy, take the tarp off of that table over there,” Cliff commanded as he pointed at a tarp in a corner of the barn. Tyler gave a quick “Yessir” and moved to get the tarp off the table. After the tarp was off the table, it revealed a furnace. Tyler lit the furnace, Cliff put the ingot into a melting pot, and they put the pot into the furnace. Cliff murmered for a second, “mmmm,” then he spoke, “Tyler, get the suit and hook it up in this here harness lift.” Tyler moved to do as he was told, and by the time he had wrestled the exosuit into place, the ingot had melted and was liquid hot.

“So, where are we going to put the molten ingot?” Tyler asked.

“You let me worry about that, what I want for you to do, is when I say ‘now’ I want for you to put your hand on the flat panel on its back and hold your hand there until I tell you to take it off,” Cliff commanded already having the pot in the tongs and moving it towards the suit.

“Uh, okay?” Tyler answered, not sure what to expect from the old man at this point,

Cliff poured the entire molten ingot onto the suit, after the molten metal had seeped into all the grooves of the suit it suddenly acted like it had come to life, and at this, Cliff screamed, “Now!” Tyler quickly put his left hand on the plate, though it was hot, and felt like it was burning his flesh off, which it was, he still held his hand there, “Boy, you can take your hand off now,” Cliff advised gently. The second that Tyler took his hand of the suit it began to quickly shift forms, condensing itself into a silver wrist watch.

The flesh on Tyler’s left hand was seared with an solemn insignia, the mark, unknown to Tyler, was what bonded him to the machine. “Ah, ah… ahhhhhhh, ahhh, That hurts!” Tyler exclaimed almost passively.

“Shhh boy, the watch and the suit, one in the same, are yours to keep; consider it a gift for letting an old man complete a longsuffered dream of his own,” Cliff said with a complacent sigh.

Tyler’s left hand hurt, but he picked up the watch with his right hand, put the watch on his left wrist and fastened it to his arm. “Thank you sir,” he said, still cringing from the pain in his hand.

Cliff merely smiled at Tyler when he said thank you, after a few moments though, he spoke to Tyler, “Why don’t you go rest for a while, your hand is hurting quite a bit. If you’re up to it tomorrow, I’ll have a list of all the stuff you can do to help around here,”

“Okay, thank you Mr. Valk,” Tyler, still wincing, replied with a short smile, then turned, walked to the ladder and climbed up into the loft. After Tyler was in the loft, Cliff walked out of the barn and back to the shop, slightly worried that the boy’s hand might be severely hurt.

Tyler got the list the next morning, and while he was working time seemed to fly. The hours turned into days, and the days soon turned into weeks.

It was now November, and the air had gotten much colder. At this point Tyler had been with Cliff for almost two months, and he had begun to see that the old man was slowly deteriorating. Cliff began to move slower and slower, he talked a little less every day, but was still as happy as ever. Yet, when Cliff pulled Tyler aside and told him that he was going to die soon, Tyler was aghast, and didn’t want to believe it…

“Tyler,” Cliff asked, “Do you remember when I went to the doctor in September?”

“Y-yeah, is something wrong?” Tyler inquired, suddenly anxious for an answer.

“Boy, they told me I have cancer, and, well, they can’t operate on it because it would kill me. But, I’m going to die soon anyways. I would have been dead back in September, but you’ve been here, and you’ve talked to me, and interacted with me, and it’s kept me alive longer. And… I know that you want the car, and you’ve certainly earned it, you’ve cleaned up all the other cars, and they look like they’re fit for a Smithsonian,” Cliff said, Tyler’s eyes merely begin to water, he wasn’t immune to crying only fear. “So, when I die, you get the car, the belt that you’ve been wearing when you work, you can have it too… But boy, there’s one thing I don’t want for you to have,” Cliff paused.

“Wh-what’s that?” Tyler asked, his eyes still watering almost to the point of tears.

“I don’t want you to have anger or sadness over my death,” Cliff paused again, his lungs agitated from all of his talking. His breaths were getting shallower as he tried to catch his breath. Tyler could only gawk and hope for an answer. A few moments that seemed like eternity passed, then Cliff spoke again, “I want you to be happy. Happy because I’m no longer in pain, and happy because you gave me a good reason to continue living,” Cliff again paused, his lungs more agitated as his tumor was covering the area between his heart and his lungs.

“What reason is that?” Tyler managed to croak out, a few tears having streamed down his face as he spoke.

“Boy,” Cliff coughed, “you gave me a reason to be a teacher again, and to,” Cliff coughed, “and… to teach someone something that they needed to know…” Cliff’s words ended abruptly as he coughed more then fell forwards. Tyler leaped to Cliff and caught him before he fell. Cliff however, had passed out, the pain in his chest was so unbearable that it had incapacitated him. Tyler carried Cliff to the 429, and put him in the passenger seat. As soon as he set Cliff down, Tyler ran to the shop to grab the 429’s keys, sprinted back to the car, started it, and drove hard and fast to get to the hospital.

Tyler made it to the ER, Cliff was rushed in, and as Tyler sat in the waiting room, tears streaking down his face, one leg bouncing with nervousness, a nurse walked in with a clipboard… Tyler looked at the nurse and her face told him that Cliff was dead, he didn’t hear when she told him he needed to sign paperwork, he didn’t hear when they asked him what his relation was to him, but he still answered, like a machine…

The next week went by in a blur. Cliff’s children and grandchildren came to see to the will and what they needed to do to with what Cliff had left them. Cliff’s son was almost furious when he saw that Tyler, who was in the will, was to be given the car. Tyler however, seemingly was a shell of what he thought he was, and wasn’t bothered by Cole’s anger, nor was he bothered when Ann talked sense into Cole. Ann told Tyler it would be best if he went back to the lot, collected his things and left, but she wrote her phone number on a scrap of paper from her purse, and made sure Tyler put it in his pocket. Even that was a blur for Tyler, he walked out of the hospital, drove home, collected the few things that were his. Amidst some of the things that were his, Tyler found an envelope with his name on it, inside was a few hundred dollars, and a letter from Cliff. Tyler folded up the envelope and put it in his pocket, put his things into the car, and drove…


Items Tyler gathered: