Loaded – Awake

Olivia woke up to the ever present sound of high pitched, source-less ringing in her ears. She burrowed her face further into her pillow. No, stop it. And why do my legs ache?

She rolled over and sat upright on the floor, massaging her thigh in hopes of getting the ache to stop. Anyone else awake? In the kitchen behind her, something metal tapped on the counter. The five people scattered around her on various couches were still sleeping, if the slowness of their breathing was any indication.

Who’s that in the kitchen? Olivia got up with care, keeping her wings from whacking Ben on the couch behind her. She walked over to the kitchen, the only part of the basement with lights on.

Roach had a couple bowls out, along with a box of pancake mix and a carton of milk. He rummaged through the fridge.  The stove behind him had a couple of lights on. His head popped up at the sound of her approaching footsteps.

I should say something, standing here being quiet and staring is weird. But… just… don’t say something dumb. Go. “Good morning,” she whispered. Hey! That wasn’t so bad! He gave her a small wave and returned to the fridge.

She leaned her hip against the counter and watched him produce a small carton of eggs from the fridge. He began measuring out flour. Should I just be standing here silently? This seems weird.

“Um, excuse me? Do you need any help?” she asked, keeping her voice down.

He paused for a moment. “Fill with water. To this line,” he said, handing her a large glass measuring cup and tapping the line with his index finger.

Olivia took it and placed it in the sink, twirling the faucet handle. “What are you making?”

“Pancakes. The church holds pancake breakfasts every month, have most of the stuff here.” He dumped the flour into a large bowl. Olivia shut off the water and handed him the glass cup. “Thanks. Rob made dinner. Figured I should make breakfast.”

Roach cracked a couple eggs and poured. Olivia tilted her head. What are the eggs for? I get the water makes the batter powder stuff into, you know, batter. What do eggs add?

He stirred for a minute. “Too thick, needs more water,” he murmured, holding up the wooden spoon and observing the batter.

“Oh, sorry.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “They’re just pancakes. Just need to add more water.”

“So… what do you need the eggs for?”

“Make them rise. Fluffy,” he rasped as he poured a little more water in.

It’s just an egg. “How?”

Roach shrugged, the heavy scarring on his broad shoulders visible beneath his tank top. Sorry. I’ll stop bugging you with food questions. The pancake batter sizzled as he poured it on the heated pan on the stove. That’s so loud. How is no one else waking up from this? Olivia, again with nothing to do, leaned back on counter. It’s weird that I’m just standing here silently, though. Oh, idea.

“Um, excuse me?” she asked. Roach glanced at her. Um, OK. “Why are there only two of you in the Watch here? I mean, three, but… Sorry. Sorry.” Stupid, stupid, stupid. I brought up a guy who just died. Stupid.

“It’s alright,” said Roach, even as his face darkened. Sorry. Shouldn’t have brought Preacher up. Sorry. He flicked the pan up. The pancake flipped midair and landed square in the center of the pan. “What do you mean, only three?”

“Well, um, there were six people in the Watch back home.”

“Who?”

“Um, there was Cinder, Blackout, Whiteout, um… I think their leader’s name was Laura. There were two others, I think. I don’t think I ever heard their names, though.”

Roach shrugged. “Six is a lot. Not sure why. Colorado, yes?” Olivia nodded. I kind of miss the mountains. “Watch must have been lucky there. Or a bunch of libertarians.”

“Libertarians?”

“Watch does the government’s job, policing. Funded privately. Libertarians like that. Dunno about Westward though. Never been.” He judged the golden brown pancake to be done, sliding it off the pan and onto a plate.

Olivia waited until the sizzle of the next pancake died down to ask, “Why did you join?”

“Twenty years ago, was a street punk,” rasped Roach, putting the plate with the pancake in the oven. “Got arrested. Throat slit in jail. Triggered, healed up. Saved my life, but my voice never came back. Served my time, decided to do some good. Cops wouldn’t take a former convict.” His normally deep voice squeaked. He held a hand to his throat and coughed. “Sorry. Joined the Watch instead, got a job working construction on the side.”

“Your throat didn’t heal? Why not?” I saw you get shot in the head. How is your throat still all raspy?

He glanced at her. “See the scars? Very fast healing, not better healing. Broke this arm once,” he said, lifting his right arm. “Healed crooked. Had to re-break it twice. Get it back to normal. More important is faster and better. Brain important, heals perfect. Big blood veins,” he said, tapping the side of his neck. “Important. Healed well. Same with throat. Voice, not important.”

He moved on to the next pancake. That sounds awful. The voice thing, not the pancake thing. The pancakes smell kind of like donuts too. Olivia heard rustling from Quarrel’s couch behind her.

“Good morning,” said Quarrel, padding up to them. Olivia moved to the back of the kitchen to make room.

“Hi. Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you up,” said Olivia.

“Nah, it’s alright. Been awake, just didn’t want to get up.”

“Didn’t want to help with breakfast,” said Roach, a sly smile on his face.

Quarrel stuck her tongue out at him. “Guilty.” Roach just laughed. “So, Olivia, sleep well?” she asked, leaning against the counter like Olivia.

“Um, yes?” Is… is there something more you’re asking?

Quarrel nodded as silence filled the space. Um… yeah. Eventually, she said, “OK.” She turned to Roach. “You scared her.”

“No. That was you.” Scared? I’m not scared.

“What?” asked Olivia.

“We’re just teasing you, don’t worry.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

Quarrel let the silence hang for a moment before asking, “So you really can’t remember anything?”

I know, I’m weird. “No. I can… remember stuff. Just not stuff from, you know, before. Um, I think it was three months ago now.”

“Not even your name?” asked Quarrel. Olivia shook her head. I have a name now. It’s Olivia. I just don’t know what it was before. “Where did Olivia come from, then?”

“I… I don’t know. I thought it sounded nice.” Olivia looked down at her feet. Is that dumb? That sounds kind of dumb.

“What’s it like, flying?” asked Quarrel. Olivia looked back up at the sudden change of topic. Quarrel looked serious, at least more serious than the playful smile she’d been sporting before. Even Roach was paying attention out of the corner of his eye.

“Um, I like it. It’s really fun, actually. I can do rolls and stuff, and go really fast if I dive. And I don’t have to worry about getting spotted, either. Everyone has really bad eyesight, especially in the dark. And I can see the whole city if I go high enough, even the skyscrapers look small. It looks really pretty at night, too.” Olivia realized she’d been babbling. “And… um… yeah.”

Ben teleported to the kitchen. Gah! When did you get up? “Pancakes!” he said in a loud voice just shy of shouting, causing Quarrel to jump. Not so loud. Don’t be mean.

“Wha?” said Quarrel, spinning around. Ben grinned.

“Yes, pancakes,” said Roach without a flinch.

“Damn teleporters,” muttered Quarrel. In the common room beyond, everyone started to move around. Olivia heard Miya curse something. See what you did, Ben? Or hear, whatever.

“About half done,” continued Roach. “Might need to make more batter.”

“Awesome, thanks!” He walked back into the common room and shouted, “Hey, pancakes everyone.” He flicked on the lights. OK, now you’re just being mean.

Olivia heard sighs and groans from everyone else.

“Ben, I’m gonna fucking kill you,” spat Miya.

“That’s not very nice,” he answered.

“Any bacon?” called out Rob. Oh, bacon sounds good. Do we have any bacon?

“Good question,” Ben called back. He twisted his head around. “Any bacon?”

“Sorry, no,” said Roach. Aw.

“Damn. No bacon,” announced Ben.

“Damn,” said Rob.

Olivia and Quarrel joined the others gathering around the table from last night, leaving Roach room to work. Everyone chatted for a while, until Roach finally walked in with two large plates stacked with pancakes.

“Done. Grab your plates and stuff in the kitchen.”

“Do we have any peanut butter?” asked Chris as he got up.

“Maybe? Check the pantry. Why?” asked Quarrel.

“For my pancakes,” replied Chris, walking over to the kitchen.

Everyone paused for a moment. “Peanut butter on pancakes?” asked Quarrel. Ben and Rob tilted their heads simultaneously. What’s wrong with that?

“Yeah. Have you people never had that before?” answered Chris from the kitchen.

“No, never heard of that,” said Ben.

“Well, it’s great,” said Chris, jar of peanut butter in hand. “You non-believers can get up and get you precious regular butter.” He sat down at the white plastic folding table and sighed. “And I forgot a plate.” He climbed out of his seat again.

“Good job,” said Rob with a grin, patting him on the shoulder as he passed.

They eventually got everything distributed and dug in. Olivia and Rob both tried out the peanut butter pancakes. Tastes good with syrup. But then again, so do the normal pancakes. So hooray for syrup.

“Thanks for the food,” said Rob, nodding to Roach.

“No problem.”

“I got the dishes,” said Ben, gathering plates. Quarrel got up after him.

Chris scratched at his two days’ worth of stubble once he passed his plate to Ben. “Hate this,” he muttered. He looks kind of cute like that.

“Sucks to suck,” called out Ben as he walked to the kitchen.

Chris sighed. “I hate you two.”

“Just us?” asked Rob, leaning back in his chair. He pointed to Olivia and Miya. “When they, too, lack magnificent beards?”

Miya nodded and stroked her smooth chin. “What are you talking about? Been growing this out my whole life, you know.” Olivia scratched at her own face as she glanced at Chris again. That… no. No thank you.

“Sorry about that, Chris,” said Quarrel, walking by with a cardboard box. “I think we might have some razors in here somewhere. None of us ever really needed them.”

“Not even you, Roach?” asked Rob.

“No. Aztec. No facial hair,” he rasped.

“So? Seen guys from Mexico with facial hair before,” said Rob.

“Probably from the north, then. I think I’m about one eighth Hispanic, after all the math and shit. But I’m a girl, so it’s kind of a moot point,” said Miya.

“Family is from Michoacán.”

Olivia blinked. What? Did you just make that word up?

“Where’s that?” asked Rob.

“West of the capitol, and that’s in the center of Mexico,” said Miya. “Right?” she asked Roach, who nodded.

Quarrel’s phone buzzed as she rejoined them at the table. She checked it as she sat down. “Boss got us a meeting with Sarge. We’ve got thirty minutes,” she said, standing right back up.

Roach’s eyes widened as he jumped out of his seat. “Sorry,” he rasped. “We need to go, now.”

“Understandable,” said Rob.

“No problem,” added Chris. “Good luck.”

Quarrel and Roach rushed off. Whoa, that was sudden.

“Who is Sarge?” asked Olivia. He’d better not hurt them.

“Probably the head of the MHU here,” said Chris. “If they don’t have a code name like Cyrus they go by the rank they had before their promotion.”

Rob looked around at the others. “Well shit. Hope everything works out for ‘em.”

***

They dawdled for most of the day without Roach and Quarrel. Olivia occupied herself with her phone, Miya having shown her how to download apps. No. Stupid snake thing. I pressed the right button. Olivia looked up from her phone and stretched her neck, vision sliding over the boring basement walls once again. I miss the sun. Can we go outside soon?

“Gettin’ tired of waitin’ on other people to let stuff happen to us. Wanna be in control of our destiny for once,” said Ben, breaking the silence.

“Such is life,” said Chris, not bothering to open his eyes as he relaxed on a couch, hands behind his head.

“Having fun polishing your rifle?” Miya asked Ben, who’d taken his sniper rifle apart on the table across from Olivia.

“You wanna help? You know how to work those bones, shouldn’t be much… harder.” Why did you put emphasis on harder like that?

Rob snickered, on a second couch on the far side of the basement. “Yeah,” he added. “Just long, hard bones, all day long. Work them real well.” I’m missing something here.

“An’ sometimes a bone ain’t a bone. Gotta be careful there,” said Ben. What? But… What’s a bone that isn’t a bone? That doesn’t make any sense.

“Um, guys. What?” said Olivia. Everyone burst into laughter, even Chris. Come on.

“Nothing, Olivia,” said Miya. No one is going to tell me? OK, fine, whatever. Don’t want to make a fuss. Olivia frowned and returned to her phone.

They settled back into silence, until a few minutes later the lock of the door to the basement rattled. Everyone looked up to see Quarrel enter the basement.

“How’d it go?” asked Rob.

“OK… yeah. Just OK,” said Quarrel, crashing on an unoccupied couch.

“Where’s Roach?” asked Olivia. I don’t smell him upstairs. Or hear him.

“Outside on the phone. He said he’d be down soon. But I do have good news for you guys. You had a grey 2003 Crown Vic, right?” Quarrel asked Ben.

“Yeah,” said Ben.

“Well, the cops found it and impounded it, along with your super car thing and my car. We couldn’t get them out for you, and any other actions against the police on our part will land us on their permanent shit list. What I can tell you is that the night watchmen at the impound are generally sleepy, especially around two in the morning. I can also tell you that Sarge likes to put tracers on high value evidence like your cars, usually in the back of the glove box or under the passenger seats.”

“Any news on my car?” asked Chris. “Red 2001 Civic?”

“No, I don’t think they got that. More than likely it’s in a chop shop now. I think a couple Tzontlis wanted to keep Ben’s car.”

“You’re not havin’ a fun day today, Chris,” said Ben.

Chris sighed. Does he need a hug? “So this impound-” he began.

“Ten miles north of here. Your cars are right by the main building. Me and Roach took a drive by before coming back.”

Footsteps pounded on the stairs. Roach entered, saying “Got a call from the hospital. Amanda is awake.”

“Really?” asked Rob, sitting upright. Everyone got up, previous conversation forgotten.

“What? Can we see her?” asked Olivia as she jumped up from her seat and headed for the door. She paused. Why is no one else coming?

“She’s under police surveillance right now, remember?” said Ben.

“Doctors said her parents haven’t left her side, either,” said Roach. “They don’t speak highly of you all.”

“What? But…” said Olivia to herself. Amanda. She’s OK. We can’t just not see her.

“They’re moving her to Westward at her parent’s insistence.”

“Thought she was on trial?” said Chris. “Once she’s healed enough, at any rate.”

“Parents have got money. They pulled strings, not sure how.” Roach looked at everyone quizzically. “How did you not know this?”

“I dunno. Never said anythin’ ‘bout her parents,” said Rob.

“Don’ even know her last name, know that I think about it,” added Ben.

“Well, I don’t know either. But your best chance of meeting her is in Westward, Sarge is keeping a close eye on her until she’s gone.” But… but… No.

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7 thoughts on “Loaded – Awake

  1. Peanut butter on pancakes? That’s insanity right there folks. Jokes aside, I liked the chapter a lot. I really like the internal thought for each character. Looking forward to the next chapter.

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