“Bad boys bad boys…whatya gonna do…whatya gonna do when they come for you…” Lilly sang along to the song as she drove down the dark country rode. Only her two headlights pierced the blackness as she kicked up dust in her wake. That was a good thing because it showed no one was following her. It was bad because it was only her headlights. “Shit!” she didn’t see the road drop off until she was right on top of it, and she was not obeying the posted speed limit.
The bronco went airborne for a few seconds until it hit the ground hard enough to grind her teeth.
“What the hell!” The two passengers made themselves known as they braced for further impacts.
The car fishtailed, and sent bits of gravel careening into the woods, but she got control, and continued their retreat.
“Sorry. It’s tough to see anything out here.” She leaned forward and tried to make out anything beyond her high beams directly in front of her. Her biggest fear right now, aside from Heroes descending to kick her ass, was hitting a deer or something.
“Do you want me to drive?” Seth asked, but she shook her head. She needed to control some aspect of this situation.
They didn’t have a lot going for them right now. The police knew where they’d been, but not where they were heading. That didn’t matter a lot when you were able to pull the resources they were able to pull. Lilly had almost run into a checkpoint twice while navigating these backroads with nothing better than the map in the bronco’s glove box. Beyond that, she didn’t know the area, and she could feel the noose tightening around them. Worst case scenario…she took the risk of teleporting them all away, and hoped Seth didn’t burst something internally. She’d give him the choice to stay, obviously, but she doubted he wanted to be in prison any more than she did. He was just too pretty for that.
One bright point in this dark situation was the piece of machinery sitting below the center dashboard. She had an idea, grabbed it, and didn’t see any downside to trying.
“Breaker…breaker…this is BubbleGumBooty. What’s with all the hold ups. I’ve got some priority cargo I need to get to New Orleans. Anyone got a way out of this mess?” Lilly didn’t know the procedures for talking over the radio to truckers in the area. Only what she’d seen in the movies.
“I hear ya, BubbleGum.” A frustrated voice answered her in other a minute. “BigDogBilly here. I’m stuck on the 20 at a standstill. I’ve heard from a few other weary travelers that the 55 is backed up too.”
“Hey, BigDog and BubbleGum, RandyDandy here, if you can make it to the 10 on the coastline it’s smooth sailing.
“Thanks, BigDog and Randy, next drinks are on me if we cross paths.” Lilly cut the transmission and brought the car to a stop to look at the map.
If cops were watching the 55, then she was going to have to head east, back the way she’d come, to get on the 59 and down to the 10. The cops would probably be focusing their attention to the west, especially if the Heroes were involved. No one would expect her to head back toward Orlando, but navigating the fifty plus miles back to the 59, on the backroads, in the dark, was going to be a pain.
<Better than jail.> She considered as she did a quick three-point turn and headed back the way she’d come. <This could work.> She shrugged.
Seth and Morina didn’t asked any questions or try to debate the decision. As it stood, Lilly had successfully broken both of them out of prison before, so they figured they owned her a little trust at this point.
<I’ve got this.> Her headlights cut through the night as she drove on.
“How about this one?”
“This has got to be a winner!” Mason hefted up the pineapple to give it a good once over.
He and Kyoshi were standing in the middle of the supermarket’s produce section. Mason was much more used to the cramped bodegas in Brooklyn than the spacious Californian Whole Foods, but he couldn’t argue with the food quality.
“Let me see.” Kyoshi took the fruit from his hands and proceeded to pull out one of the spikey leaves at the top. It came out easily; she nodded, and put the fruit in her basket. “That’s how you choose a pineapple.”
It was a weird thing for a couple of HCP trainees to be doing the day after Christmas. Just about everyone else was hitting up the stores for the deals that always occurred, but Kyoshi’s family had a different tradition. They were gathering up a feast of foods that were out of season, as a reminder that the warm weather was right around the corner; because it was not warm in San Francisco in the winter. It wasn’t New York, but it was in the mid-forties and raining. It was like all the happiness of Christmas went right out the door a day later and allowed the gloom to come sweeping in.
<Speaking of gloom,> Mason saw the Breaking News bulletin flash across the bottom of the TV hanging from the ceiling. There wasn’t a lot of volume, and that made it impossible to hear in the crowded store, but the closed captions were going, so he could read along.
Some reporter was outside a police station in Mississippi. Mason only had to watch for thirty seconds for his whole day to be ruined. <Hey,> he thought, and gave Kyoshi the equivalent of a mental poke in the shoulder.
She turned up to the news report just as mug shots splashed across the screen. Two of the three they knew very well.
<Oh, Seth, what had you gotten yourself in to?> The couple’s thoughts echoed each other, but there was nothing they could do.
“Can you believe this shi…stuff?” Anika fumed as she watched the same news coverage from Becca’s family room. Most of the Whitfield clan was out and about, but Becca’s youngest sister wanted to stay with the ‘cool’ girls at the house instead of going with mom shopping.
Becca watched the news coverage with the same frown, but not as much venom, as her girlfriend.
“Who’s that? He’s hot.” Becca’s sister stated plainly.
“You better not say that around Momma!” Becca chided.
Despite the long drive, Anika loved it when they came home to the Whitfield’s for holidays. She loved her own adoptive parents, but there was something so natural about being with her girlfriend’s family. Although, someone thinking Seth Abney was hot, instead of a steaming pile of no-good shit, was something new.
“It’s not all about looks.” Becca was trying to impart some wisdom on her sister. “You see that he’s wanted by the police. It says he’s done a lot of things wrong. He’s…he’s a bad guy.” Becca choked up a little bit, so Anika walked over to put her hand on her shoulder.
Becca might have trouble getting accustomed to this, but Anika wasn’t. She’d know Seth was an arrogant, egotistical ass from the beginning. She never thought he’d go this far, but she never thought he’d make it as a Hero. He just didn’t have what it took.
“You know what will help…ice cream.” Anika smiled when Becca’s sister immediately lost interest in what was on TV.
“It’s not even noon yet.” Becca frowned.
“Do you want ice cream or to continue that conversation?” Anika was already following the little Whitfield into the kitchen.
“Point taken.” Becca got up and joined them, while throwing one last look over her shoulder at the pictures on the screen.
<Oh, Seth, what had you gotten yourself in to?>
<One…two. One…two. One…two…three.> Angela said the combinations in her mind as she threw punches at that heavy bag. She followed up with some punishing knees and elbows, dropped back for a final kick, and then needed to wipe the sweat from her eyes. She’d let her hair grow out since earlier in the year. Now, she’d need to get it cut.
The HCP was virtually empty, but a few students and instructors still roamed the halls. Most everyone went home for the break, but Angela wasn’t everyone. She was top of her class, and needed to stay that way. Plus, both of her parents were gone on assignment, so her going anywhere else was a waste of time.
“Martin!” Coach McMillian walked into the gym where she was practicing. “What are you doing here?”
“Geez, you’re never not here, Martin. Go out, buy something, and have a hamburger.” The Close Combat instructor approached with a frown on his face.
“Heroes don’t shop, coach.” Angela continued with her next set of combination.
“Tell that to my bank account,” Craig mumbled.
“What?” Angela’s frown deepened.
“Nothing,” he waved away the statement like a bad smell. “The point is that you need to get out. There is going to be plenty of time for you to be unavailable to do anything but eat and breathe because you’re a Hero. Take a second and live a little while you’ve got the chance. Everyone needs the opportunity to decompress.”
“I can’t, Coach.” She continued with her training.
“That’s why.” Angela pointed at a TV hanging from the ceiling. During the school year, and designated workout with coaches, the TVs were off, but during off time, and during the evenings, they were turned on to let everyone keep up with what was going on in the world. Today, that meant Seth Abney’s face plastered on national TV as a criminal.
“Oh.” Craig was momentarily speechless.
“We’ve got one of our own who’s gone rogue. Better yet, he’s gone rogue with a teleporter. He knows the layout of this place like the back of his hand. If they come looking for a fight. I want to be ready.”
“Security procedures have been changed since Abney got the boot. He’s not going to be able to get back in conventionally, and if he tries unconventionally, we’ll be ready for him.” Craig gave Angela a closer look. “Does this have anything to do with Wraith being the one who set off the bomb that nearly killed your dad, and forced you to see things no teenager ever should?”
“No.” Her answer was too quick, and betrayed her real emotions.
“You know Doctor Johnson is…”
“I’m fine,” she shot back and started hitting the bag faster and harder.
Craig took that as his cue to leave. “Just think about it.” Were his parting words as he left the sophomore class’s top student to work out her anger on a punching bag, which was better than Seth Abney’s face.
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