“Well…this is ass.” Lilly smacked the raised hood of the car.
The hinge creaked threateningly, and the impact chipped off shards of rust from the metal arm. Lilly just glared at it and dared it to snap and send the hood falling onto her head. It would be the perfect end to a perfectly shitty day.
<Well not totally shitty.> She wiped her forehead, ignored the streak of grime it left across her skin, and looked around the side of the raised hood.
Morina sat in the middle seat of the beat-up pickup. Her skin seemed a little paler than usual, and she kept liking her lips and fidgeting like a strung-out junkie. She was acting like that because she was one. Lilly knew her power was addictive. The blood-manipulator needed to kill, she needed to bathe in the blood of victims. It was nauseating, but Lilly wasn’t one to judge one of her few friends…or she wasn’t one to judge them too hard.
Her eyes passed over Morina and fell on Seth. Looking at him as he watched the soft sway of the trees on the side of the country road untangled the knot in her stomach. Her boyfriend, <yeah, we’re official again,> was doing a lot better. He still wasn’t great, which was why they were driving their piece-of-shit truck west as fast as possible. The healer had fixed up the worst of the damage, but he wasn’t the best Super to fix major injuries.
“Think of it like putty,” he’d tried to explain the intricacies of his ability.
“Putty?” Lilly was close to turning the guy’s face into putty.
“My power recreates new tissue and fuses it to the original. While Seth was in his coma I performed the procedure and fuses new tissue to his damaged internal organs.” When Seth had been shot the bullet tore through his lung, ricocheted off a rib – cracking it in the process – and ended up in his stomach. If the bullet hadn’t forced its way through the reinforced glass first it would have been fatal. “It took time to settle until he woke up, but he’s not out of the woods. Strenuous movement or exercise could still easily ruin the work I’ve done. In other words, the putty is solid, but doing too much can fray and rip it before it fully becomes a part of Seth’s body.”
<Thus the driving and our current predicament.>
Seth saw Lilly watching and smiled. She smiled back.
“This is ass?” he questioned her earlier statement with that cute smile she loved.
“Yeah,” she replied and leaned casually, if a little provocatively, against the side of the truck. “It’s worse than a bag of dicks, but better than a clusterfuck of epic proportions.”
“Ok, thanks for clarifying,” Seth leaned out the window and winced slightly. “I’m fine.” He moved slowly back to a normal seated position.
Morina looked back and forth between them and looked like she was going to throw up. <It might just be the withdrawal.> She wasn’t looking too hot.
Lilly’s father had been thorough in her villainous education, which involved learning about cars. She knew how to steal one, how to hotwire the older models, and how to hack the newer smart cars. This truck was beyond old, and her quick inspection told her it was leaking oil, the sparkplugs needed replacing, and worse of all the transmission was shot. It was fine for driving back and forth to the healer’s place in the small, rural, Alabaman town, but it had crapped out before they got halfway through Mississippi.
<It’s not like we can call AAA.> Lilly slammed the hood closed and fought the urge to run her hands through her hair in frustration. The good feeling in her gut and the light flirting with Seth had turned back into a ball of anxiety.
“Truck’s dead. We’d need a shop to repair it, which means money and IDs that was don’t have.” The Healer had thoroughly screwed Lilly out of nearly all the cash she had. It seemed worth it at the time, but now that they were traveling cross-country she was second guessing her decision.
“What now?” Seth asked as he got out of the truck. There was no wincing this time, but he wasn’t going to be able to walk far, which meant him going for help in the macho fashion he was thinking about was not going to happen.
“There’s a town less than ten miles away.” Morina had the map out, but it was shaking slightly in her trembling hands. “We can get what we need there.”
Lilly was pretty sure what Morina was thinking about when she said “get what we need”, but there wasn’t much she could do about that. She wasn’t a psychologist or counselor, she had her own shit to work on and getting involved in other people’s shit was never a good idea; especially when they had super powers.
“Morina and I will go to town and find a ride. Seth, stay here and watch our stuff. We’ll be back soon.”
Seth looked like he wanted to argue, but he didn’t have a leg to stand on when he winced every few minutes as his organs shifted around. Lilly knew her plan was the best solution to everyone’s problems. Seth kept out of sight and wouldn’t rip his internal stitches. Morina would undoubtedly get her fix, and even better, Seth wouldn’t be around to see it. Lastly, Lilly would be able to get them all safely away from the last place the Heroes could positively ID them at. There still hadn’t been any sign of anyone snooping around when they’d left, but with the resources the DVA had at its disposal, it was better safe than sorry.
“Hold down the fort,” she gave Seth a wink before starting the multi-mile trek to civilization. Hurried footsteps followed as Morina joined her.
It would have been simple and easy to make the eight-mile teleport to the small town of bum-fuck nowhere, but she didn’t have a picture to go off location-wise and she didn’t have cell reception. That turned a three-second teleport into a three-hour walk. They passed most of the time in silence, but the little mumbles from Morina grew more and more pronounced the longer they walked and the more effort they exerted. By the time the lights of the town came into view she was mumbling like she belonged in a psych ward.
“Why don’t…” that was as far as Lilly got before Morina wandered off into the twilight after some unsuspecting victim. “Ok then.” Lilly watched her friends retreating back and shrugged.
The town was a perfect example of a one-horse town…literally. There was a statue of a man on a horse waving a stone flag that had faded over hundreds of years. It sat in the middle of a circle of grass at the center of a round-a-bout. The town seemed to branch outward from the statue, but it didn’t make it far.
<Bar, diner, gas station, family grocery store, and a McDonalds,” it was comforting to know fast food capitalism had penetrated this far into the backwoods. <I bet there’s a Walmart within a few more miles.> She chuckled at the thought and headed for the bar, which conveniently sat right next to the diner.
It smelled like BO, wood, and grease in the packed space. Lilly didn’t know if this was a regular occurrence in the town’s watering hole or a special occasion, but when she walked in the door things literally ground to a halt. It was like one of those awkward moments in a teen high school movie where the pretty girl walks into the room and the AV club full of nerds is stunned speechless. Lilly was the stunning girl, and for the first time was realizing just how out of place she looked at the moment. She had on yoga pants that were probably a size too big, but it was all the Walmart they’d passed had in stock. Above the black pants she had a red, Roll-Tide t-shirt. She didn’t know what it meant, but they’d been everywhere, and things that were everywhere were the best things to buy to blend in. Judging by the way everyone was staring at her chest, she thought they might actually be taking in the shirt instead of her tits.
“Merry Christmas Eve,” the bartender, who was more her age, and kind of cute, was the first one to speak. “Sit anywhere you want.”
Lilly sauntered up to the bar and took the end seat. She could feel eyes watching her, but had that tingle in the base of her neck. She couldn’t tell if they were checking her out or legitimately suspicious of her being here. She tried to act casual either way, but she wasn’t a fan of the circumstances. This much attention was bad for her cover.
The single TV above the bar was playing a football game rerun, and she caught the same symbol on her t-shirt next the leading team’s score. <Football…duh…> she fixed a smile to her face when the bartender came over.
“Merry Christmas Eve,” he repeated with a smile that probably made the female townies weak in the knees.
“Yeah…you too.” Lilly replied with another easy smile. She didn’t even know it was the twenty-fourth, and she had no idea why a bunch of guys were at the bar instead of at home with their families or church. Church was something people did on Christmas Eve.
“What can I get you?”
“A car,” the words slipped out of Lilly’s mouth before she could stop herself. “Mine broke down and I’m looking for a rental place.”
“Nothing within twenty miles of here,” the bartender’s smile was apologetic. “I can have Sal from the garage give you a lift over tomorrow if you want.”
“That’s too long.” Lilly had meant to say “that would be nice” but wasn’t able to.
<What’s wrong with me?>
“What’s the rush?” The bartender was calmly cleaning a glass with a rag. “It’s Christmas Eve, nobody is open.”
“I’m traveling with my friends and…we’ve really got somewhere to be.” Lilly had to force herself to say the final six words. She’d almost said they were running.
“One’s out…hunting… and the other is back with the car. He was in an…accident…not long ago and couldn’t make the trip.” She almost slipped up again.
“Hunting on Christmas Eve?”
“She needs her fix,” Lilly’s statement came out ambiguous enough that it didn’t elicit more questions. That was a good thing. She was pretty sure she was talking to another Super.
The bartender didn’t seem like a Hero in disguise. He was too comfortable behind the bar. The room filled with customers was at ease with him, and he bantered effortlessly back and forth with them. To her eyes it was a natural flow with none of the little hiccups that would occur if this was thrown together over the last few days.
<Probably some low-grade truth power,> she deduced. <It’s great for getting drunks to pour out their hearts at the bar, over several drinks, and leave a big tip, but not enough to warrant HCP training.> He could still be a problem though. She couldn’t stick around here. <Plan B: steal a ride.>
She thanked the bartender when he came back around and made a quick exit. Eyes followed her ass as she left. Since it was Christmas Eve, the streets were deserted, which was good for her. A number of cars were parked next to the bar, eighty percent were American made trucks, and she seriously considered stealing one, but that would be easy to pin on her. Everyone had seen her in the bar. It would be simple to deduce she was the thief. She walked a few blocks, which led her to the opposite side of the small town, to an auto shop.
There was more than one junker behind the metal fence separating the shop’s yard from the street. She would have kept moving but a big sign on the gate made her decision for her. <Closed the twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth, and twenty-sixth,> she read.
They’d be halfway through Texas before the shop opened in a few days. Lilly gave a quick scan to see if the coast was clear before doing a short teleport to the opposite side of the fence. From there she moved quickly to find a ride. There were only a few options but she settled on a Ford Bronco that was at least a decade old. A quick inspection told her that whatever it was in the shop for was already completed, so she popped into the office to find the keys, popped the padlock on the fence and drove off into the deepening darkness in her new ride.
She didn’t get far though. She stopped on the edge of town, parked the Bronco a little way down a dirt side road, and walked back in. “Morina,” she whispered her call over and over again as she walked through the deserted streets. “Where the fuck are you?”
It took her twice as long to find the Super as it did their new car. Finally, she located Morina coming out a duplex not too far from the bar. Her smile was brighter than the street lamp across the street, and she showed none of the withdrawal symptoms she had earlier.
“Let’s go.” Lilly didn’t want to know anything about what had happened, so she led the way back to the Bronco and drove back to Seth. They’d left him alone for nearly five hours and she was worried.
She had every right to be.
When they pulled the Bronco up next to the pick-up truck it was empty, Seth was gone, and there was an orange ticket stuck to the windshield courtesy of the county sheriff.
“Ah shit…” Lilly moaned. The last thing she wanted to do was tangle with cops. “Who gives someone a ticket on Christmas Eve?”
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