Rob took a generous bite of his burger. My third in three days. My heart must be screaming in agony by now. Doesn’t matter. Om nom and God bless America! He took a swig of a combo of rum and coke. Is this a cuba libre? Or does it need some sort of citrus for it to be called that?
The six of them sat around the table, eating more fast food. They remained crippled by a complete lack of culinary creativity. I’d cook, but we don’t have a stove or anything beyond a microwave. Rob, Ben, Miya, and Amanda had grabbed food on the way back from their alcohol run, Ben had a good fake ID, and the cashier did not appear to give a flying fuck if the people buying were twenty or twenty one. One more year and a couple months, that’s all, then I can buy gallons legally.
“You two eat how I imagine velociraptors would eat,” commented Miya as he and Ben inhaled their food.
“Your point?” asked Rob as he chewed.
“It’s actually somewhat disturbing,” said Amanda.
“You ain’t seen a velociraptor eat before,” snorted Ben. Oh, this! I love his velociraptor story.
“Of course not. They’re all dead,” said Miya.
“No,” said Ben, shaking his finger at her and finishing his food. “No,” he said more clearly. “There’s still a couple.”
“You’re full of shit,” said Amanda. Rob eyed the rum bottle next to him, momentarily calculating how hard he would have to hit it on the table to break it into sharp shards.
“Really?” asked Ben with a raised eyebrow.
“Umm…” began Olivia. Rob glanced her way. He hadn’t seen much of her lately. To be fair, I swear she’s nocturnal, because she’s always sleeping through the day when I’m awake. “What’s a velociraptor?” Your memory is a very strange and inconsistent thing.
“A velociraptor’s a dinosaur, from millions of years ago,” said Miya.
“Hold on,” said Chris. “Here.” He offered Olivia his phone. It’s awesome, having all of humanity’s accumulated knowledge in your pocket.
“Hey, Miya. Could you control the bones in museums? Have a T-Rex golem or somethin’?” asked Rob. That would be fucking awesome.
“I tried that once. Fun fact, fossils are rocks in the shapes of bones, not actually bones. And they’re all dead,” said Miya.
“No they’re not,” insisted Ben.
“He’s right,” said Rob. May as well back him up here.
“Dinosaurs? Really? You really expect anyone to believe that?” asked Amanda. He said it. Why would he lie?
Ben leaned forward. “Tha’ depends, hon. Ya think Overlord’s people could bring ‘em back?” She hesitated, pursing her lips. “Tha’s what I thought,” he said triumphantly. He leaned back with his hands held behind his head, a smug grin on his face.
“Your rifle?” asked Amanda. “How exactly does a random jackass such as you get an Overlord weapon like that?” Dot connection! She’s not dumb.
“I’m glad you asked!” exclaimed Ben. “There was a big fire…”
“No, we talked about this,” broke in Rob. “Remember how Jimmy put it: Start trapped miles underground an’ on fire with nothin’ but a rusty spoon an’ an angry momma bear. Oh, an’ you’re the only one between it an’ a bus full of nuns an’ orphans.” That was a fun day when Ben visited us in Pennsylvania. I wonder how the rest are doing?
“Tha’s not what happened.”
“You’re underground, reality’s got no meanin’ to you at this point.”
“No, shut up,” said Ben with a grin. “No, this is what happened:”
“I was a vigilante in Baltimore before I moved here. When I was out an’ about real late one night, I caught sight of these real suspicious guys. Anyways, they drive for a good hour, an’ it’s pretty late, so there’s only maybe one or two more cars on the highway. The police band broadcast the fire thing right where we started out at, so I knew for certain there was somethin’ off ‘bout them. They eventually get outta the city, and into a swampy area near the coast. It was some government research facility, big chain link fence around it, signs of dogs an’ killer bees an’ shit like tha’ defendin’ the place. They drove in, I found a nice nearby place to park my car and hoofed it after ‘em.”
“This was your old Jeep, right?” asked Rob. Those bastards in the Watch destroyed it. Which was more of a mercy kill, considering how he treated it.
“Did you ever get the damn thing’s oil changed? Cuz you already had it for a year an’ hadn’t bothered when you came up for a visit.” Because you’re an idiot who doesn’t know how cars work, only that they go fast. And the reason you visited was because we had a good healer and half of Baltimore had it out for you because you pissed off the wrong people. Again.
“Eighteen months between changes, roundabout.”
“How did your engine not explode whenever you started it?” asked Chris. I wondered the exact same thing.
“No idea, and it’s not important! So I start workin’ my way in to the facility, avoidin’ various security thingies. I found the back entrance, when I see the guys from the buildin’ in the city. My plan originally was to ghost ‘em, take any info I could offa them, an’ get the hell outta there. An’ then, suddenly, we got to a section with a lot less cameras. A couple at important parts that I had to teleport past to be safe, but suddenly my job got easier.” Wow, you are cutting this down.
“However, I got distracted by somethin’ shiny, in this case some explosive thingamajiggers. This place was one of those weapon research labs. I got a peek at some tank design room, a robot droid room, an’ now this place. I took a minute to look at how it all worked, basically jus’ better C4 with normal detonators, of which I had some on me, an’ continued on my way. At this point I lost the dudes, but this place was far more fun than jus’ beatin’ on some hired muscle.”
“Why was all of this unlocked?” asked Amanda.
“Cuz people are lazy,” said Rob.
“Yeah. I did have to pick some locks inside some sections, but I guess they figured no one would get that far anyways. I just skipped the electronic locks, this was stuff that was still open. Lookin’ back I got stupid lucky. But tha’s jus’ part of my charm. Eventually I found the armory. Yes, this place had an armory, an’ it was glorious. Glorious…” Ben trailed off for a moment, looking off to the middle distance. “But the thing that caught my eye the most was my handy dandy rifle. There were a bunch of technical specs with the big-ass briefcase it disassembled into, an’ as I was loadin’ it, I saw that capital O over the two chains in an X tucked away on the inside.”
“This made me a bit worried, you understand. I’m jus’ some guy, really. But I thought to myself, ‘Hey, I can fuck with one of the most wanted men in the world here. Who else get’s this kinda opportunity?’ So I started attachin’ bombs to whatever looked structurally important.”
“You were mentioning security stuff before, why was that suddenly not a problem?” asked Miya.
“I’m gettin’ to that,” said Ben. “So I’m makin’ my merry way through, an’ I had to ambush this one fella. At that point alarms started goin’ off. So I’m rushin’ around when someone grabs me an’ pulls me to the side. I nearly knifed the dude, but he managed to say somethin’ along the lines of ‘No’ in broken English. It was three Mexican scientists. They pulled me further, an’ started explainin’. Overlord had kidnapped them, they were part of the science division in Mexico. Apparently biology’s their thing down there.”
“Anyways, they’d tapped into the security stuff, an’ by pure luck they’d seen me on a monitor when I screwed up. They managed to tell me that they’d been tryin’ to escape for some time, about a year, subtly of course, an’ that all they needed was a distraction. As I was far up shit creek an’ needed help, they enlisted me.”
“But weren’t all the alarms going off?” asked Amanda.
“They’d planned for tha’ exact thing. They figured there was no real chance of gettin’ out completely undetected, they’re no expert infiltrators. Not like I had much of a choice, but I wasn’t gonna turn down a way to get out. I told ‘em bout the explosives that I had rigged up to a detonator, an’ they seemed all for it. So we hashed out a plan of attack in about a minute, we were in a bit of a time crunch even though they’d managed to convince their guard that they were complyin’ with the lockdown an’ everythin’, an’ they pulled out what they were workin’ on in that place.”
“Fuckin’ velociraptors. Well, technically they were utahraptors or somethin’ like that, the big ones, but you get what I’m tryin’ to say. They were ridin’ ‘em, straight to the Mexican embassy in Baltimore. Stupidest and greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“What? Why would they be riding them?” asked Amanda.
“Ya know how riot police sometimes ride horses for intimidation? Well, replace the horse with a dinosaur,” said Ben, taking some time to laugh at the memory. “So, long story short, I high tailed it outta there, shootin’ at everyone I see an’ generally tryin’ to draw attention. One of the Mexican fella’s fucked with their security, an’ we got out an’ went our separate ways. I’d managed to hold on to my rifle, an’ had it ever since.” You’re not very good at wrapping up stories.
Miya shook her head skeptically, while Rob couldn’t read Chris’s expression. Olivia appeared to be concentration on what Ben had been saying the whole time.
“You do realize that there’s no way you’re maintaining it right, do you?” asked Amanda.
“Absolutely. Still works, though,” said Ben with a grin.
“What were the names of those Mexican scientists?” asked Amanda.
“I dunno. Never asked.”
The conversation divided after that. After a while, Nomad excused himself and left. I almost get the feeling that he doesn’t really like being around us. With that, everyone split up. Olivia left to go flying (whatever that means), and Miya went out back to start carving bones again. She does that a lot, and I never see anything she finishes. The others keep saying something about Overlord, so there’s probably a good story somewhere.
He managed to snag Amanda as she closed one of her laptops at her desk. “Hey,” he said. “Can I talk to you for a sec?”
“What?” she said. Hostile, but I shall endeavor to persevere.
“Couple things. One, any supplies you need that may be hard to get?”
“What do you mean?” Hey! At least I have her attention now.
“Do you need some sort of fancy circuit board or soldering materials or anythin’? If you need somethin’ rare or some specialty tool, The Company might be able to get their hands on it, so let me know. I know Uncle Sam got you your stuff before, an’-” I envy you that. “-we don’t have the same capabilities as a government, so this is just somethin’ to keep in mind.”
She nodded thoughtfully. “Alright, I can think of a few things I need.”
“Cool, send me the list whenever. The other things is that we need to finalize the base design. I’ve got most of it, but since you’re day an’ night better than I am at electrical stuff, I’d like your input on power an’ computers an’ whatnot.”
She sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose momentarily before saying, “Do you have anything going on tonight?”
Pft. I just got here, and most of my time has been spent on ‘go here, beat the shit out of this guy’. “Nope.”
“Wanna do it now? I’d rather get this over with now, I have things to do tomorrow.”
“Right now? It’s nine.”
“Your point? I’m game if you are.” Won’t be the first all nighter I’ve pulled for something like this. And besides, I can barely sleep anyways.
“So how are we dealing with the heat the computers will put out?” asked Amanda an hour later.
“What’s this about heat?” asked Rob. He’d dragged up one of the chairs from around the central table, and now hunched over a cleared spot of Amanda’s desk, with several blueprints detailing different parts of the base. Miya had gone out back twenty minutes ago, off to carve bones or something. Ben read his phone with headphones in a couple feet away. He knows to stay quiet when I’m in the working zone.
“The number of computers I’m talking about will actually emit quite a bit of heat, and they’ll overheat if we don’t do anything about it.”
“Didn’t know that would be a concern.” Hrm, let’s see… “How much we talkin’ ‘bout? The ambient will be about fifty degrees Fahrenheit with nothing in it.” He shuffled through the papers for the appropriate blueprint. It’s good to know we can hold a civil conversation every now and then. That, and I’m not my brother.
“Ew. Get your Fahrenheit out of here. That would be ten degrees Celsius.”
“Not a fan of the American system?”
“No. It’s fucking stupid,” said Amanda indignantly.
“I know, but we’re in America, and a lot of people use it.”
“A lot of people are idiots.” Wow.
“You still gotta be able to use both,” said Rob.
“Imperial units are based on arbitrary bullshit. Metric actually makes sense, it actually has basis in reality. Ergo, fuck imperial.”
“I’m not denying that. G sub c kicked my ass the one time I tried actually takin’ engineerin’ classes.” A goddamn waste of money is what that little spat was. “But it’s still a thing. An’ not only a thing, a thing that you gotta be able to use.”
“Hmph. I know. Still stupid.”
Rob laughed. I’m agreeing with you! “Whatever. So I was thinkin’ of recyclin’ the heated air if it gets too cold, or just vents if we got enough heat inside at the time. Cut back on heatin’ costs elsewhere, since I’m guessin’ you’re not compromisin’ on your precious babies.” No clue how you’ll afford all of them. He sketched out the general plan of what he meant. They’d finally gotten over any hostilities, doing a good job came before petty insults. And she’s already caught an error or two of mine, bonus points for her.
She looked it over. “Just a simple on/off switch for different temperatures. That should take all of five minutes to program, but we’ve gotta find some thermometers. I’m not seeing any on here.”
“Point.” A few quick adjustments. “Look good to you?”
She glanced at it. “As far as I can tell.” Yeah, you are more into electrical stuff than anything else.
“Excellent.” He tossed the paper into the ‘finalize later’ pile. “Now, generators. What were the dimensions again?”
She rattled off what she wanted, and Rob began making adjustments. I think we’ve reached the point where idle conversation is acceptable and not forced. “Do you know if they hold a TechCon out here?”
She perked up immediately. “Of course!” Fuck yeah! TechCon was a semi-regular techie gathering. Lasting anywhere from a weekend to two weeks, depending on the locals, techies and interested parties converged for displaying homemade inventions, new industry innovations, and socialization. We get little enough of that as it is.
“What do you have out here?”
“A lot. Noble’s set up in the Springs-”
“Colorado Springs. It’s about an hour drive to the south.”
“The Air Force Academy’s also down there, they usually have a pretty good setup.”
“Yeah, the military’s like that. Always puttin’ on a show. I remember the Army usually had one of the best displays up back east.” Rob laughed. “I remember asking one of the Army guys there, how they came up with the names of some of their suits. They just pull a random letter out of a hat.”
Amanda grinned. “Seriously?”
“I know, right? It started out as a joke between engineers. They meant to come up with a real naming system later, but the upper brass thought that was the actual name, so they took it and ran before the engineers could tell them otherwise. Never occurred to them that the letter was just a placeholder.”
Amanda laughed. “Idiots.”
“The pilots are the ones that really hate it, because they’ve gotta go by X of K or whatever when they’re out an’ about.”
“Well, there’s worse things in the world than a dumb name, I guess. This one time some company, I think they were, uh, Praetorian Inc., ever heard of them?” asked Amanda
“Well, they do some security work, selling armor, advising, and so on. They’d developed this one grenade, sort of flechette grenade that actually targets anyone within a specific radius, rather than just a nonspecific explosion. Throw it on the ground, and it does its thing. A bit bigger than a standard grenade, too.”
“That’s pretty hardcore.” That’s not really security, unless you count it as deterrence, because that actually sounds pretty scary.
“No kidding. Anyways, they were talking about trying to get the Mexican government interested. So they’re going through the negotiations, everything is goin’ swimmingly, when someone from the American State Department comes up to them later. She tells them ‘Hey, you’ve been negotiating with Overlord’s people. If you land the deal with these people the US government is going to come down on you, hard.’ The Mexicans never got the message, and Praetorian was too spooked to try again.”
“Holy shit. Overlord? Why were his people after that grenade thing? It sounds cool, but not truly cutting edge like they usually deal with.”
Amanda shrugged. “The ways of Overlord are mysterious, apparently. And besides, those were his underlings. Overlord’s a firm believer in delegation.”
That’s really bad, almost selling stuff to Overlord with the State department right over your shoulder. “Anything else cool at your TechCon?”
“Well, the aerospace industry’s usually there in force; they have a big presence here. There’s also the Arsenal up north, there’s some oil refineries up north as well, NORAD’s up in the mountains, some guys who usually frequent DEF CON sometimes have something set up, those are usually very interesting. You ever heard of DEF CON?” Is that what I think it is?
“That’s, ah, that hacker convention? In Vegas?”
Amanda grinned, settling in her chair for a good story, or some bragging. “Correct. Me and a couple of my friends went last year. You leave your electronic devices off, use cash whenever possible, it’s great! But there’s one event, capture the flag. Me and my friends won the main event.”
Her smile slipped. “That’s pretty huge.”
“OK. Good. I got zero context for this. I like physical things, things I can see.”
“So is that why you refuse to use any of the drawing programs I’ve offered you? You could download them on your laptop if you wanted.”
“Yeah. Doesn’t feel real to me if I don’t physically draw it out or somethin’.”
She shrugged. “Alright. Whatever floats your boat.”
“Food at this TechCon still terrible?” The food was always terrible, without fail, everywhere I went.
She snorted. “You expected anything less?”
“Apologies. How dare I expect something resemblin’ culinary quality.” She raised an eyebrow. “I can dream,” said Rob defensively.
She laughed, then said, “Did you ever set up your own booth? I’ve thought about it before, but just never had the time.”
“You kidding? I’m a wanted man, remember? I show up in armor, I’m gettin’ arrested or fightin’ my way out, guaranteed. So no displays or anythin’ from me. Still showed up cuz it’s fuckin’ awesome though.” He finalized the drawings as he talked. Multitasking! “There we go, that should be everything. I’ll go through it all tomorrow, look at the thing as a whole an’ make sure I’m not pumpin’ carbon monoxide into the livin’ spaces or anythin’.” Tired of using my power enough to make a stupid mistake like that right now anyways.
“That would be bad,” said Amanda.
He gathered the papers, got up, and stretched.
“Need anything else?” asked Amanda.
“Nah. Once everythin’s done I’ll need you to go through an’ see if I fucked anythin’ of yours up. Other than that, should be good.”
She nodded and went back to her computers. She’s programing something, that much I can tell. She spent the last hour switching between helping me and that. He parted the curtains around his allotted patch of floor aside, grabbing the chest sized steel lock box labeled ‘To Do’ and fiddling with the combination until it opened to reveal the key hole. I’d love to see anyone try to pick my locks. A couple faint clicks when he turned the key, and the six bolts sealing the lid retracted. He threw the plans in with the rest.
That’s done, he thought as he closed the lid and locked it back up, pushing it back to the four other identical boxes aligned next to his mattress. Now what? Rob opened up his laptop. May as well see if any of the old gang will still talk. I’d guess only Sean and Jimmy really would have any reason to be jackasses. And Michael, since he’s Jimmy’s toadie. Fuck, that rather limits my options. The last member, Bri, wasn’t bad, maybe her. A couple clicks.
After a few moments, her face popped up on the screen. She smiled as she brushed a couple strands of dark brown hair out of her face and said, “Hey, Rob! How are you doing?”
“Just fine. How ‘bout yourself?”
“Alright, you’re giving me a good excuse to put off writing some final papers, not gonna lie. What’s up?”
“I may or may not be bored, I’ll let you decide.”
She laughed. “Really?” She took a moment to look around her dorm room, then continued, “I thought your new job would be full of excitement.”
“We just finished a job, actually.” He raised an eyebrow. Are we good to talk about less legal things aloud?
“We’re good,” she confirmed, nodding quickly.
“Yeah, we killed off this local gang, got paid. I’m buildin’ a new base soon; that’s still in the works though.” At least with money I can talk to The Company now. “How you lookin’ for this semester?”
Her mouth twisted. “O-chem is the only real concern I have. Other than that, everything’s looking good once I get this lit paper over with. My roommate is freaking out like she always does. I have no idea how her heart hasn’t burst from stress yet.”
“Ah, the lives of premed students.”
“I know, you’ve said this before.” That you’re fucking insane for getting through med school with crime. Though it paid well enough, but still, I’d rather my doctor not also be a wanted man/woman. Rob left this unsaid, she’d heard it before. “So anyway, how’s Colorado?”
“Sunny. Dry, very dry. Altitude kicked my ass for a bit, but I’m startin’ to acclimize.”
“You mean acclimatize?”
“Yeah, sure. Team’s good. No complaints there. It’s me, my brother, another techie, a magic chick, a heavy bruiser, an’ the morphin’ leader fella. The other techie’s my polar opposite in terms of what she does, so that helps.”
“Sounds you guys are well rounded enough. No mentalist, though?”
“Nope. We ain’t that smart.”
“But there’s not too much organized crime here, it’s more disorganized than anythin’ else. How are the rest doin’ back east?”
She laughed humorlessly. “Jimmy got himself arrested yesterday.” Oh shit. “I had to go help Michael nuke his stuff. Michael managed to get away, and the first thing he did was get all of Jimmy’s electronic contacts, cell phone, computer, that stuff.” Thank god.
“OK, you had me worried there for a sec.” Dick deserves it. We spent a year working together and he got into a pissing contest and threw it all away. I told him as much, and he only got more retarded. Some people just can’t handle the truth.
“So, yeah. Michael got scared and bolted after that. He wouldn’t say where he was going after that, so contacting him might be difficult if you’re thinking about that. He might have been afraid of Jimmy, now that I think about it. He’s the type to blame everyone but himself. I can’t believe I dated him, he’s such an ass.”
“I have no idea either, an’ I told you he was an ass. Those were my exact words three days after we met, an’ he was in the room. I said, ‘Hey, Bri. You seem nice. Why you goin’ out with an ass like Jimmy?’ An’ you got all pissed at me. Well look who was fuckin’ right!” He started laughing.
“I know, I know.” She waved him off. “You were right, I was wrong.”
“Wait, wait. What was that? Could you repeat that?” Could it be? Did she finally admit defeat?
“So anyways,” she plowed on. Oh come on, throw me a bone here. “I don’t think they’ve found our old base yet though, so that’s something to be proud of.”
“We only abandoned it a couple weeks ago. How could they find it if no one is going in or out of it anymore?” You’re trying too hard to change the subject. “You’re changing the subject.”
“Nonsense,” she said with a mischievous smile. “Now-”
“Hey, Rob! Who ya talkin’ to?” called out Ben from outside the curtains, pulling them aside and kneeling by Rob laying on his mattress.
“Hi, Ben,” she said, waving.
“Oh, hey, Bri! I still owe you two more alcoholic beverages of yer choice,” said Ben. Because she convinced Sean to patch you up after you crawled your way back up here after the MHU dudes beat the shit out of you in Baltimore on their own dime.
She gave an accepting nod. “Excellent, that’s what I like to hear.” Rob sat back while they exchanged pleasantries.
“So you two are in Westward, right?” eventually asked Bri with all the nonchalant-ness she could muster. She’s about to ask a favor.
“Yeah,” said Ben with some confusion.
“So, after finals I was going to drive to Cali to visit my family, and my route’s going through Westward.”
“Not gonna fly?” asked Rob.
“Of course not, did you read the news?” Something stupid happened.
“Well, there was a bomb that went off at the airport. Flights are super expensive and fucked up and everything. My car’s got good mileage, so driving’s cheaper. Anyway, I was wondering you’d be willing to let me crash wherever you’re staying for a night.”
Rob looked around the lair. This is kind of a shitty place. No water, we’re lucky the weather’s nice right now, my bed’s a mattress with no frame. And I use the term mattress loosely here because it’s more like a sack of rocks in the rough shape of a mattress. And it’s the same for everyone else.
“You sure?” asked Rob.
“This ain’t the best place I’ve ever lived in,” said Ben. On the plus side, we’re not paying rent for it, which is absolutely fantastic.
She shrugged. “I’ll make do.”
“Alright, if ya want. We can make a day out of it an’ everythin’,” said Rob. Let’s see: Chris doesn’t live here, he wouldn’t care, Miya wouldn’t care, Ben and me are on board, Olivia probably wouldn’t care, maybe, Amanda doesn’t live here, but she nearly stabbed me for asking to use some of her stuff yesterday, so there’s a possible problem.
“I’ll ask around, but I don’t think there’d be any real problems,” said Ben.
Just thought of something. “Ehhhh, what about Olivia?” asked Rob. Ben raised an eyebrow. Seriously?
“Little Bird?” asked Ben.
“What’s wrong with her? Does she not like guests or something?” asked Bri.
“No, well, maybe,” said Rob. We’ll see. “Do you read the news?”
“Yeah,” said Bri. “So?”
“You read about a feral in this city?” The one that fucked up my armor? I’m fine, but she spent five minutes the next day tearfully apologizing, and god damn it, my armor still needs some work.
“Oh yeah, they still haven’t found it yet, have they? Didn’t it kill a bunch of people during Freedom Fighter’s attack?”
“Ya know, I keep forgettin’ she did that,” said Ben. Bri’s eyebrows shot up.
Rob turned back to Bri. “Yeah, that feral’s Olivia.”
“You’re living with a feral?” asked Bri after a moment.
“Yeah,” said Ben.
“One that killed, like, a lot of people?”
“Yeah,” said Rob.
Bri stared for a second. “She’s nice,” said Ben helpfully.
“Really?” asked Bri.
“Completely serious,” said Rob. “She’s not bad, so long as you don’t try to kill her.” Then she goes fucking insane. “Just… don’t try to do that, you’ll probably die.”
“I’ll… try… not to,” said Bri.
Bri still looked hesitant, so Ben said, “Let’s get another opinion, since she doesn’t believe us for whatever reason.” He called out, “Amanda, you’re technically female, right?” Well played sir. Something hit a desk, hard. Some footsteps.
Amanda threw aside curtains around Rob’s patch of the shop with such viciousness that Rob briefly worried that they would come down. I don’t want to have to deal with that. “What did you say?” asked Amanda, voice dripping with venom.
Let’s see if I can avoid Amanda ripping off Ben’s balls. Rob flipped the laptop around so that the camera and screen with Bri on it pointed to Amanda. It’s good to know that Bri is used to me and Ben. “Bri, this is Amanda. Amanda, this is Bri.”
That seemed to take out some of the wind in Amanda’s rage sails. “Oh, hello.” She waved to Bri.
“Hey,” Rob heard Bri call back.
“So what did you say, Ben?”
“Wha? Oh, tha’ was just to get ya in here,” said Ben.
“Yeah, she’s not believin’ us, so I figured we’d get another female to assuage her doubts,” said Rob as he got up and carried his laptop to the table outside in the lair, past Amanda. Too many people to sit around in my ‘room’ on my ‘bed’. Ben followed, as did Amanda out of what Rob presumed to be curiosity.
“With yer weird hive mind,” said Ben. You are just batting zero today.
“Believe you about what?” asked Amanda, shooting Ben a nasty look.
“We were talkin’ about her stoppin’ over here in a week or so, since she’s drivin’ to California,” said Rob.
“An’ she don’ believe us ‘bout Olivia,” said Ben.
“Little Miss Apex Predator? Seriously?” Amanda sighed. “Well, yeah, I guess I could see that. But no, she’s not bad at all. I forget about the feral part half the time unless something happens to bring it up. Just treat her like you would any other ripped, seven foot tall girl.”
“Well, I wouldn’t call her ripped,” said Ben. Are you kidding me?
“Are you kidding me?” asked Rob. Amanda just stared.
“Wha?” asked Ben. “Ripped to me is all bulgy an’ stuff.’
Rob and Amanda exchanged glances. What? “For a girl, she’s ripped,” said Amanda. “Trust me on this.”
“Wait,” said Bri. “Seven feet?”
“Roundabout, yeah,” said Rob. “The wings make it hard to tell.”
“That’s really tall,” said Bri. No kidding. It’s a pain when I’m talking to her and/or Chris. My neck starts to protest after bending to look up the whole conversation.
“Don’ worry ‘bout it,” said Ben.
“No. All joking aside she’s fine,” said Amanda. “She’s super shy, actually. Kind of cute.”
Ben said, “I poked her in the eye once, and didn’t get much of a reaction outta her.” Hold on. Back up a second. What?
“What?” asked Amanda. “You poked her in the eye? You jackass! Why would you do that?”
“Wha’? This was right after the massacre thing. I was like ‘You’re not an uncontrollable rage monster’ an’ poke her in the eye to prove it. Seemed to work.”
“So stupid,” muttered Rob. Also hilarious. Bri looked between the three of them incredulously.
“But… that doesn’t… what?” sputtered Amanda. Mere words are no match for such impulsiveness. Amanda rallied. “That’s just mean. You ever notice that she kind of just backs off from conflict? And this was right after, and I mean right after that whole mess. I’m surprised she didn’t curl into a ball and refuse to respond to external stimuli.” Hrm… They haven’t really brought this up before.
“No, I didn’t really notice,” said Ben.
“You’re kinda oblivious about other people, aren’t ya?” asked Rob.
“Seriously,” said Amanda.
“Not completely. Here, for example: Chris. Notice how he’s never spoken a word outside of work? He never hangs out or plays cards or anythin’.” True enough.
“Yeah, I almost get the feelin’ he doesn’t like us too much,” said Rob.
“Are you three just taking this time to talk about your teammates behind their backs?” asked Bri.
“Maybe,” said Amanda.
“Yes,” said Ben.
“Absolutely,” said Rob. We have a consensus!
Amanda continued, “And he always talks in the same almost indifferent voice, it’s like he has all the emotional depth of a wooden board.”
“I haven’t heard anythin’ outside of that,” said Ben. “He don’ talk unless ya ask him specifically, then it’s the shortest answer possible.”
“Nothing to add, Rob?” asked Bri.
He laughed. “Hey, I barely know the guy. I’m gonna take a bit before I can come to any conclusion,” he said.
“So, enough distractions. Ya comin’ or not, Bri?” asked Ben.
Everyone looked at Bri expectantly. She sighed. “Fine, but if anything important of mine gets torn off, I’m blaming you.” She pointed to Rob.
“Fair enough,” he said.
“Alright, I’d love to keep talking but I’ve got a paper to finish. See you all later, it was nice talking to you all.”
They said their goodbyes, and the group of three broke up. Sleep, maybe. I can always pass the time with how I’m going to fix up my armor.