Crocodile Kevin's Cool & Quick AC Repair
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Most people probably assumed "Crocodile Kevin" was just a nickname, a witty and recognizable brand name for a run of the mill, independent HVAC technician. It does sort of sound like what some dude, freshly fed up with his boss' garbage after a decade or two of hourly work, would come up with when he finally broke out on his own. You could probably find an Alligator Aaron's Air Repair somewhere south of Clearwater, and if he thought about it, Kevin was pretty sure he remembered seeing an old Econovan that said "Gator Gary's Great Repair" in peeling vinyl, rusting into the mulch behind the place where he bought his van. Basically, in the land of New Florida, puns based on gators or their relatives weren't uncommon, and were probably one of the state's biggest exports behind hallucinatory moonshine, multi-flavor hard drugs, and exhausted tourists.

However, what most probably didn't expect was the actual crocodile sitting, or at least, what can be best described as sitting, in the front seat, man-handling the steering wheel with short arms and swearing at passing motorists under his breath. Reptiles had had the right to drive for years, and by this point there were even classes specialized to crocodiles, available at your local DMV. Didn't mean people didn't do double or triple takes when they saw one on the highway, or when one knocked on their door with a tool bag on their back, coming to fix their malfunctioning air conditioner. But when your AC made noises like it was possessed- and that's because it possibly was- and you lived in the Union's most humid state, you weren't in much of a place to be species-ist, though by god it didn't stop people from trying. However, money talked and usually Kevin's rates at least temporarily broke down the species divide. Most of the time, at least. He still had bills from the last time a wacked-out old man grazed him with a .45. That dude was an outlier though, almost always things went down as smoothly as a good bottle of beer.

Of course, sometimes life decided to throw curveballs. Curveballs that were coated in pitch, set on fire, and probably didn't have much to do with the all-American sport. So as the day broke on November 21st, with Kevin anxious for an upcoming Thanksgiving full of steaks and turkey and all other manners of meats befitting his diet, he was quite miffed when he awoke not to the calming mix of jazz he'd purchased at a flea market and set as his alarm, but to the shrill ringtone of his phone attached to the far wall. With a growl, he answered the phone, and couldn't even halfway finish his sentence before he was cut off by the voice of a man very obviously panicked and exhausted. As the man shouted what resembled more piles of words than sentences, Kevin clumsily fumbled for a notepad and began writing down information. 310 Dixieland Drive, orange rancher, can't miss it. As the man's alphabet soup began to slow down, Kevin walked out the door with a mediocre cup of coffee in hand, a few extra tools he decided to grab on the way out, and a grimace befitting for his current mood.

After barreling down I-95 for a handful of miles, he turned onto what suburbia decided was a "Main Street", and then after a few more twists and turns, finally entered the true maze of a bedroom community run amok. After passing countless stretches of worn asphalt with names like "Academy St", "Wabash Dr", and "Dixon Ave", he finally spotted a reflective green and white sign that read "Dixieland Dr". Just as the man had said, the house was hard to miss, a small ranch home, painted a bright orange that would give the state's best citrus a run for its money. The ambient temperature noticeably shot up 10 degrees when he had turned down the street, and as he rolled up the driveway the temperature seemingly continued to swelter. It wasn't unbearable, it still barely hit 80 degrees, which was no more than a Tuesday in April, but it was abnormal for November in the middle of a cold snap.

The temperature steadily ticked upwards as Kevin approached the door. He knocked on the door as gently as he could, and the door swung open with the violence that anyone who'd experienced it knew came from the weird back pressure that a large amount of open windows creates. The man quickly apologized for slamming the door open, and began to give some details about his AC system. Cocytus Model 906, real fancy machine, installed June 1976, little long in the tooth by now but not the worst machine he'd ever worked on. This one was only a little past 6 years old- the oldest machines he'd seen had pushed 30.

He had little time to think any of this through however, as the first thing that hit him upon the door swinging open was the heat. It was the worst summer he'd experienced, that time he turned the heat all the way up in his car instead of the AC, and his maligned day trip to Arizona all rolled into one. It had to be pushing close to 110, and by god the man looked it. He was wearing about as little clothing as one could and still be considered decent, and he was sweating like a fountain. The resulting smell also wasn't amazing, but he could understand the poor roasting man's plight and as such decided to overlook it.

The man quickly lead him to the garage, where the source of the problem could be easily traced to the horrific sounds of scraping and shrieking metal that filled the room, coming from the little AC unit nestled beside the hot water heater. There were certainly more than just a few bolts rattling around inside of this thing, and Kevin got the sinking feeling that it would be more than a simple drop-in replacement job. The man finished talking, and then excused himself to go back inside, presumably to camp out in the freezer. With a sigh, he maneuvered around the HVAC system, and positioned himself to start working on it. Of course, because life seemed in a curve-bally mood, this was the exact moment the stainless steel front panel shook itself loose, and shot across the room, blindsiding a dusty trophy and a few books that had been balanced precariously on a cardboard box, and shattering an aging, wall-mounted touch-tone telephone on the far wall as it hit the ground with a clatter.

Of course, all of this also sent Kevin flying through the air, rag-dolling as elegantly as a sack of flour before hitting the ground and regaining his composure. The temperature in the room was downright hellish, and the cacophonous noise that was once emanating from the machine had now grown even louder, filling the room. It became clear, as a whispy, deep red form shot across the room, what was at play. Demonics-based AC systems were rare, they weren't even close to the most efficient machines one could buy, as using a demon to create cool air was like trying to get an oven to make ice. But the smoothest salesman could sell water to a drowning man, and Florida had no shortage of them. He had been given some basic training on how to deal with a malfunctioning one, back when he had gotten his certifications. The most basic wards that could, if need be, be performed by a teenager, but could at least hold such a minor demon in place.

However, anyone with a spoonful of brain cells could tell that this was far past holding the demon in place, and then calling some specialist from the weirder part of town to come out and cover it. His mind ran at a thousand miles an hour as he hid behind a lawnmower, wracking his brain for anything that could help him in his current situation. He flipped through every book he'd ever read, every class he'd sat through, every person he'd ever talked to. As he scoured his internal rolodex, things began to go south quickly. Items began to fly off shelves, a stack of old drinking glasses shattering as they made contact with a disused table saw. A stack of files began to flicker, as the heat began to spark fire at it's edges. The homeowner briefly came over to see what the hell was going on, but the door was slammed violently shut just as quickly as it was opened. As the cardboard file box finally caught, he remembered something that just might work.

About a year and a half ago, he had been downtown, enjoying drinks and food aplenty. While he hadn't planned it, it was the night of some minor festival, that was apparently important to the small but dedicated local community of magicians, witches, thaumaturgists, and whatever else lurked under similar names. As such, the night was alive- quite literally, alive, in some cases. He'd never seen the sky talk before, except for a few bad experiences with some of the state's finer exports, but boy did it talk then. Either way, a little while after the night had been broken in, he had settled down at a bar where he got into a conversation with an out-of-towner in his early 30s, who was quite enthralled by the concept of a sentient crocodile, and they exchanged stories, even if Kevin's were much more dull than the thaumaturge's stories of his studies in a handful of nexuses across the country.

What now stuck out in his memory though, was a tangent the man had gotten on, where he shadowed a much older man who was, in the middle of normal practice, called out to a Triumph Computers warehouse in the far part of town. A shipment of "Adler" computers had arrived about a week prior, high end machines with demonics-based processors at their heart, and earlier that day an employee had bumped the shelf they were on with a forklift, and sent the whole crate to the floor. After a failed attempt at fixing it themselves, the warehouse had turned to chaos, and they needed it fixed quickly before another employee got ready for a really good settlement from being possessed on the job. The story was one full of action, of intricate magic and demon exorcising, and it took the man almost an hour to finish.

Now, while at the time the intricate, lengthy descriptions full of words that Kevin wasn't privy to the meaning of were the most boring part of the story, they now stuck out brightly in his mind. He wasn't a magical reptile of any description, but he figured it was all shapes anyways, so as long as he arranged them right, it'd go smoothly. With a grease pencil in hand, he scribbled on a clear spot of concrete in the center of the garage, before standing back to overlook his work. As he tried to remember the words to say, he was quite proud of himself for doing something so advanced, especially without smudging any of it as he moved around. Just as the required words popped into his head, a shrill noise erupted from the middle of the rough, messy runes.

The center of the circle was enveloped in a blinding light, before expanding to cover much of the garage's center. Kevin's face barely had time to consider the forthcoming insurance nightmare when it went from bad to worse, as the light turned to flame and bathed the garage in a crisp flame. Despite this, the temperature seemed to quietly drop, as a screech echoed from somewhere around him. When it had all cleared, Kevin looked around at a blackened garage, with little left inside but the charred remains of a cabinet and a half-melted, sagging metal shelf on the farthest wall. The homeowner stood in the doorway, his face in a look that alternated between shock, horror, and "damn shifty crocodiles bastards, shoulda know to never trust them". While he would have loved to make his leave at that, there was a small mountain of insurance paperwork that had to be signed before he could leave, at least if he wanted to be able to have a business tomorrow.

For someone whose garage had just been incinerated by unlicensed, failed magic, the homeowner was fairly calm. Maybe it was shock, maybe it was the calm before a storm that would have ended up with Kevin turned into a fancy mantlepiece. Either way, numbers were exchanged, a few papers signed, and then the debacle was left to the almighty insurance firms to battle out whether or not homeowner's insurance covered rogue demonic technology incinerating 20 years of built up garage clutter. Kevin still had a sense however that he probably wouldn't get many calls from that man, or for that matter, that entire street, for a while, if ever. It had been fairly contained, but in suburbia a story like this didn't stay as such for long. Within the span of a week or two, "That time that Jim got his garage incinerated by a crocodile" would be filed among "the time Dan's son got the cops called on him" and "James' misadventures on a go-kart" in the lexicon of small stories that collected in sprawling bedroom communities, where there wasn't much to do other than chronicle or try and force the creation of said stories.

After a short drive home, the sun seeming lower in the sky than it should have been at that hour, Kevin fell unceremoniously into bed, dreaming of tomorrow's feast and festivities, with a little hope that the day's drinking may even end up blotching this hectic one out of his memory. It was an eventful day, that much could be said, it would be, even for an adventurous man, but it was even more eventful for a humdrum crocodile such as himself. Still, it wasn't entirely uncommon for him to have days like this. Such was the life of a reptilian HVAC technician, in the Union's weirdest state.

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