Ben waved to Olivia from the other roof. She took the cue and glided over, landing on the gravel of the roof with a crunch. Ben yanked open the door to the interior of the apartment building and led the way inside.
“No cameras or anythin’ that I found. Cops were here, an’ there’s a good chance there’s listinin’ devices that I missed, so watch what you say,” he explained as they walked down the familiar staircase.
“Should we be here then?” she asked. This was your idea.
“We’re fine. Can’t take too long, though.” They reached the fourth floor of the building, exiting the stairwell and entering the building proper.
They came to Olivia’s old apartment, the one she’d used for the first couple weeks. “Fair warnin’, Johnny Law went through everythin’,” said Ben as he stood off to the side of the door, making room for her to enter and passing her a small duffel bag.
She went in through the broken down door, passing her scratched-in tallies by the door and reached the old couch she’d used as a bed. Ben waited by the front door, keeping watch. It smells a little different. Other people have been here, just not recently.
Scuffs near the feet of the couch further marred the old, shoddy carpet. A scavenged chair leaned against the wall of one of the bedrooms she never used. Stupid backrest. Its shattered leg was new, though. She checked the hallway closet where she’d kept most of her old clothes. I remember there being more in here.
Oh, hey, that alarm clock’s still here. If I remember right, it just needs some batteries. She grabbed that and shoved it in the bag. The water is gone. Not much here besides some trash I never got around to cleaning up. The blankets are way old, and dusty. Not much else I need from here. My backpack was at Ben’s old apartment, and that’s the only other thing I can think of.
She grabbed the last pair of pants and the two shirts that didn’t smell too funny and stuffed them in the small bag Ben had loaned her. Nothing else. She still paused at the hallway leading to the apartment’s front door, looking back over her shoulder.
“We good?” asked Ben, his masked face tilting to the side a few degrees.
“Yeah,” said Olivia, leaving the apartment and curling her tail out of the way as she closed the door.
“That it?” he asked, motioning to her visibly empty bag. “No keepsakes? No closure? No nothin’?”
“No,” she replied with a shake of her head. “I don’t think I’ll miss this place. I mean, it was better than nothing, but I want to move on, you know?”
“I hear you. Meet up at the strip mall, grab a bite? It ain’t that late”
Donut mall! “OK!”
Olivia passed the bag to him to keep her wings clear as they parted ways, her to the roof and him to the ground floor. The shadows in the building almost seemed to reach out to her as she walked. Her pace picked up.
She took flight once she reached the roof. That was… I don’t know. Oh well, there’s no reason to go back anymore. I was kind of afraid there’d be rotting food in there, actually. Bri had left earlier that day, driving off in her car stuffed with stuff, and everyone returned to their normal routines. She was nice. If I don’t act big and scary, people are nicer. Who knew?
She passed over the neighborhood. She’d never actually walked in this area since she figured out the whole flying thing. Nothing but old houses, nothing food-wise that she would have felt comfortable taking. The power lines throughout the neighborhood kept her high up, though the lack of wind that night made flying easier than normal.
At the edge of the roof of her favorite building to overlook the donut mall, she took a seat and waited, enjoying the quiet moment. After a minute and some hollow metallic echoing sounds, Ben climbed and teleported up to join her, bag slung over his shoulder instead of his rifle.
“Well that was quick. Hear any sirens comin’?” he said once he got within normal speaking distance.
She paused. Nothing that really stands out. That ringing sound is starting to get irritating. Actually, other than that, there’s not much at all. Isn’t it a Friday night? “No.”
Ben pulled out the wallet, the one that said “Bad Motherfucker” in red block letters on the outside. “Do I have cash?” he muttered to himself. “I do! Want a burger?”
“OK.” I can’t ever think of a reason to turn down food.
He started for the fast food joint below them. He didn’t take off the mask or anything.
“Wait,” said Olivia.
“You’re going in like that?”
He stopped, spreading his arms apart and looking down at himself. “Huh?”
“You’re just… you know. The mask. Sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“Oh, you can’t pay a fast food worker enough to give a shit. So long as they know I’m payin’ an’ not shootin’, they don’t care. This ain’t too outta the ordinary. Supers still gotta eat.”
“I still don’t think I should walk in there. Because, you know…” she trailed off. But maybe I could.
“You can read the drive thru menu from here, right?”
“Yeah.” Of course I can. Those giant, bright panels outside with all the colorful pictures and words on them? How could you not?
“So read it. Let me know what you want.”
She considered her options. “Um, the bacon burger thing. Oh, yeah, the meal. As a meal.” However you say that.
“Anythin’ else? Want a shake?”
“Sure.” Why not? I don’t think I’ve had one before. Or can remember having one, whatever. It’s under deserts, it must be sweet.
Olivia glanced at the menu again, finding the bright desert menu in the lower right corner. Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. The cake they’d bought a week ago on a whim, the white cake with white vanilla icing that Ben insisted was called a Nathan Bedford Forrest cake, tasted good. “Vanilla,” said Olivia.
“Really? The borin’ Superman of shake flavors?”
Boring is great! Nothing is shooting at you when things are boring. “Why not?”
“Fair enough,” he said with a shrug.
Ben dropped the bag and went back down the way he came. Olivia watched as he blatantly teleported up to the store and walked through the door, mask and black clothes and all. I really hope the worker guy in there doesn’t shoot lasers or something. A figure caught her eye on a distant rooftop. The moment she focused on it, it vanished. I keep thinking I’m seeing that, but I’m not sure. Oh, Ben’s coming back! I smell food!
After a minute, he rejoined her on the rooftop. “Jumpy little fry cook. Your plain-ass shake,” he said, offering the large cup with a straw sticking out of the lid. He joined her in sitting on the edge of the roof and lifted his mask to eat, leaving it resting on the top of his head. They divided the burgers and ate.
“What do you have against vanilla?” asked Olivia after a moment.
“Nothin’s wrong with it, just borin’.”
“Well, I liked that vanilla cake we got earlier.”
“Oh, yeah. The Nathan Bedford Forrest cake. An’ no one got the joke, either. Disappointin’,” he said around a mouthful of chicken sandwich. Please stop that. Please?
She pushed on. “Do you need to explain the joke then? Because, you know, only you laughed at that.”
“Nathan Bedford Forrest was a founder of the KKK.”
“You don’t understand the significance of callin’ a pure white cake with pure white icin’ after a KKK dude, do you?”
“Nope.” Because of course not.
“White supremacist group.” He paused. Go on. “They don’t like people who ain’t white. They’ll word it differently, so that they ain’t soundin’ like the bad guys, but the core of the matter is they hate anyone who ain’t white, or just anyone who ain’t them. Despicable fellas.” That’s kind of depressing. Ben almost squirmed in his seat as he talked. Is he uncomfortable? We sit on these things all the time. Or is it what he’s talking about? “So if you put colorful sprinkles on a white cake, it’s a desegregation cake. Now, speakin’ as a white dude, I don’t’ think I’m really qualified to speak on race an’ stuff. Just sayin’.”
They finished their food in silence after that. Mmmm. Shake good. Burger tasted a bit off, though. At some point the light of the drive thru menu started dimming over the course of a few seconds then flickering back to life in a regular pattern.
Ben crumpled the last of his three value menu burger wrappers and threw it in the bag. “Had just as much fast food in the past month as the rest of the year combined,” he commented.
She nodded in agreement, still drinking. I can’t remember ever having much healthy stuff. This isn’t that bad though. Right? It’s meat. Meat is good.
“No complaints? From a chick?” asked Ben. What? “The others, minus Rob, were all moanin’ ‘bout that earlier.”
She shrugged. I don’t really mind. I mean, it’s better fresh… “You don’t care?” asked Olivia.
“Nah. I’m, an’ Rob, are some of those infuriatin’ fucks who don’t gain weight no matter how much they eat. It’ll kick my ass when I get older, but that’s tomorrow’s problem”
All the streetlights died. Olivia looked around. Some lights twinkled off in the distance; nothing near them. This is strange. Ben just sighed. Or not?
“Come on, people!” he exclaimed to the sky. “I thought we got this shit sorted out last year!”
Um… “What?” I am just full of clarification questions today, aren’t I?
“The power’s been spotty since forever. But they said they got their shit together. Hell, that was part of the mayor’s campaign. Or was it the governor’s? Whatever.”
“That doesn’t seem very good.”
“Well, they say once New York goes four months without a blackout, the recession slash depression thing we’ve been in will be over. Still, we’ve got a fraction of the population of what New York’s got, so fuck us, I guess. Anythin’ you wanna do while we’re out?”
“No. Not that I can think of. And thank you. For, you know, the food.”
He laughed as he put his mask back into place. “No problem. See you back at the shop?”
“Sure.” It’s too quiet out right now. Kind of dark now, too. Why is it so dark? That’s never been a problem before.
He started jumping down to the ground, and Olivia took flight back to the lair. The lack of wind made the air noticeably hotter, and thickened the pollution. Is that… tapping I hear? She looked behind her. Nothing but empty air and a handful of lights on the horizon. Weird.
She landed at the auto shop, ahead of Ben, at the back entrance, out of view of the main street. Not that it matters, the whole city is still tonight. She went in, closing the door behind her. Home sweet home. And everyone is almost exactly where we left them. Something seems off, though.
There was Amanda, hunched over her desk. Rob flicked a lever of a gear contraption thing, a small model trebuchet which swung, then returned to its original position with rattles and clanks from within. Rob and Chris talked. Well, Chris talked, trying to explain exactly what it is he did in the MHU, and Rob maintained a sort of glazed expression. They haven’t moved. At all. But no Miya. Olivia sniffed the air. Nowhere. And I don’t hear her either. Is she alright? I didn’t hear any movement from out back.
Olivia walked up to the privacy curtain around Miya’s bed. “Miya? Are you there?” With no response, she poked her head through the curtain to find an empty bed.
Olivia called out to Rob and Chris. “Hi guys. Um, do you know where Miya is?”
“No, why?” asked Chris, knitting his eyebrows together.
“She’s not out back, and she’s not here. She’s usually asleep by now.”
Rob and Chris exchanged glances. Uh oh. It’s never good when people do that. They got up. “That’s a good point. Where the fuck is she?” said Rob, looking around the main room.
Chris got up and checked the offices out front. He swiftly returned with a shake of his head. “Hey, Amanda, you’ve got cameras all around this place, right?” he asked as Rob jogged up to a large metal box he’d pulled from the back of his truck yesterday.
“Yeah, why?” responded Amanda, not looking up from her tablet.
“Miya’s missing. Olivia didn’t see or smell anything,” responded Chris.
Rob yanked on a small lever on the front of the box. Well-oiled machinery worked within, and the lid popped open.
Amanda shoved the tablet along the desk off to her right and clicked on a mouse to get the central computer’s monitor running. “What, from here? How? Also, hi, Olivia.”
“Oh, hi.” said Olivia as Amanda opened the feeds for the cameras. Let’s not get distracted now.
Amanda rewound the camera footage. “Just a couple minutes back,” said Chris.
Olivia looked over her shoulder to Rob. Keeping his eyes on the nearest door, he strapped a knife to his right forearm. She caught a glimpse of some wires extending towards his hand. A crowbar rested on the box beside him.
Olivia returned her attention to Amanda’s screen. “The fuck?” said Amanda. Well that can’t be good.
Static. That’s all that was on the screen. The static moved around in a vaguely humanoid shape, but that was somewhat less helpful than the real picture would have been. Amanda rewound back a minute, and everything became clear.
The back of the shop remained empty, as usual, save for Rob’s BAT. Over the course of the minute, the edges of the feed became blurrier and blurrier, gradually swallowing up their whole view. Then movement happened.
“What’s the live feed look like?” asked Chris.
Wait, when did the lights get so dim?
“WH-” Something cut off Rob’s shout.
Olivia spun around, her tail nearly taking out Chris. Nothing. Nothing by the box, or in the lair, or by the doors. The crowbar hadn’t moved. Where’d he go? Still smells like he’s here. I didn’t hear anything or anyone else.
“Amanda,” barked Chris.
“On it, where the fuck did my phone go,” she said, jumping to her feet and whipping her head from side to side, searching her desk.
Olivia took a cautious step forward. Nothing happened. She stalked over to where Rob had been. Still nothing. Where’d he go?
“Something’s got it out for us. Stay here or run for it outside?” Amanda asked Chris from under the desk where she’d continued her search. Ben.
“Where’s Ben?” asked Olivia.
“What?” asked Chris.
“Ben?” Something caught the corner of Olivia’s eye. She spun in that direction, only to find a whole lot of nothing, at least nothing out of the ordinary.
“Don’t know, but he can take care of himself,” said Chris from behind Olivia. “Amanda, is there any way…” He trailed off. Amanda was gone. I did not notice that. How did I not notice that?
Chris ducked his head under the desk as Olivia scanned the lair for a target, any target at all. Where are they?
“Shit, shit, shit” Chris muttered under his breath in rapid succession. To Olivia he said, “You see anything?”
She didn’t respond, instead preferring to continue her search of the lair for any clues at all. I’m hissing, aren’t I? Doesn’t matter. Give me back my friends.
“Olivia? You still with me?”
Right. Threatening. Sorry. She turned her head and nodded to him over her shoulder. Then something blurry and dark caught her eye again. Come here, you. She slashed at where she estimated the blur would be, moving at that speed. Harder to do when there were no accompanying sounds she’d grown used to taking advantage of. She hit nothing.
She growled in frustration. “What was that?” asked Chris.
She shot him a questioning look. You didn’t see that? He wasn’t looking at her, instead keeping watch wherever she wasn’t looking. “I saw something,” she managed
Right. Focus. “Need to get out of here,” he said, backing up towards the nearest door.
She followed watching wherever he wasn’t. This is frustrating, not knowing what to hit. The oppressive and absolute silence, beyond her and Chris’s breathing, started to grate. Hate not knowing what’s going on. He turned around to open the door once he reached it. Olivia took a moment to look around at the lair. Looking exactly like home, just devoid of people.
“F-” Whatever Chris said was cut off. No. The door remained closed. Olivia roared. Get out here. Something dark came from overhead.
Thanks, for the new stories.
Also, this is definitely different from the original, but nice, in a creepy fashion.