Part 15

by CM Towns

   “This is awesome!” Michie said as she exited the clothing store alongside Pearl, Eartha and Reed. The group were taking a break from work by visiting the Manhattan Mall.
   “This mall kicks all kinds of behind,” Michie added.
   “I guess. I mean-most malls have the same things,” Eartha said.
   “So, where to next? Shoes?” asked Pearl.
   “Food,” Reed suggested with his handheld game console in hand.
   “We’ll get food in a little while. Meet up with the boys first,” Eartha said.
   “They probably having a hard time finding anything for them. Well-Aamil. Go has got an eye for fashion. That hairstyle must be a pain to keep looking that smooth,” Michie said.

   “He’s cute. For an Asian boy,” Eartha said.
   “For an Asian boy?” Pearl asked.
   “Not into Asian men. I prefer black men above all else. That said-I have seen some very cute Korean guys in pictures before,” Eartha joked.
   “Too bad Jessie couldn’t come,” Michie said.
   “She said she wanted to do more work. Code for her and Elijah probably just doing it,” Eartha said.
   “Elijah was hanging with his folks from the sounds of it. I think Jessie is actually working,” Michie pointed out.
   “Yeah, Jessie was feeding info to the Professor and her team. Plus she wanted to double check on the background for that Mr. Jack guy,” Reed added.
   “Shoes,” Michie pointed and the group went in to look around.
   As they kept shopping Go and Aamil were four stores down at the Sunglasses Hut checking out the shades. Or rather Go was.
   “What you think, Khattak?” Go asked about the shades he was checking out. The sunglasses had white framing with black lenses.
   “I don’t know. Does it look like I have style?” he responded. Go shook his head and checked himself in the mirror.
   “You look uncomfortable,” observed Go.
   “We’re in the business of secret identities and fighting crime, and yet here we are. Wasting valuable time,” Aamil replied.
   “You wish you were back at the suite with Jessie James, nose to a computer doing research?”
   “Yes, actually,” he admitted, “That’s what we should be doing. Not taking time out for a mall run.”
   “Relax. You keep jittering about work you’re going to lose your hair,” Go said.
   “I think hair is more important to you than it is to me,” Aamil said who turned to notice a couple ladies scoping out his teammate.
   “It appears hair is also important to those ladies who are checking you out,” Aamil told him.
   Go used a mirror to take peak at the girls, smiled to himself, and went back to looking at sunglasses.”
   “I do indeed have the goods but nothing in that group fits my taste,” Go said.
   “What would those tastes be?”
   “Hmmmm,” Aamil responded.
   “How about these? Black like a secret agent,” he showed of a pair.
   “Are you going to buy sunglasses or are you just going to try them all and decide you don’t want any of them?” questioned Aamil.
   Go put the glasses back and said, “C’mon, let’s get outta here since you’re not going to be of any help.”
   The two started toward the door when Go asked, “No response to the grand revelation?”
   “Find it interesting you have not announced it. Isn’t that what gay people who are open about themselves do? Announce it to everyone? Pearl practically did,” Go asked.
   “She didn’t really announce it, just lightly flirted with most the women. As to your question, I don’t feel the need to announce it. I only brought it up when I felt I needed to,” Go said.
   “Ah. Is this why you were a juvenile delinquent in Japan? Fighting homophobes?”
   Go laughed. “No, I was a juvenile because I liked fighting.”
   Go smacked Aamils arm and pointed to the other side of the second floor.
   “It’s little man. Let’s go see what’s up with him,” said Go.
   “The girls are probably in that shoe store,” observed Aamil.
   “Of course they are,” he said.
   They walked over and greeted Reed who was playing his game just outside the door.
   Go asked, “So, little man, you having fun?”
   “I don’t like shopping. I’m here because Jessie told me to go with you guys,” he answered.
   “I think you’re the only person on this team I understand,” Aamil said.
   “Check those two out. They’re trying too hard,” Go said of a pair of men in tank tops showing off their muscles. He then asked, “How fast do you think it’d take Pearl to clean their clocks?”
   Aamil said, “I could probably do it quicker.”
“You got speed on your side, that doesn’t count.”
“Fine. The men are probably slow and even though they have a reach advantage it means little. I see this scenario in which Pearl would be smart to take out the knee of one or use a low blow which would also be effective. Pearl next would probably chin check the second man-just long enough so to turn back to the first, finishing him with a right cross which seems to be her favored punch. Back to the second man-anything really. I would sweep and stomp the midsection if I was her,” explained Aamil said before adding, “Twenty seconds top.”
   “Twenty seconds for what?” asked Eartha.
   “Theorizing how long it would take Pearl to beat up those two muscle heads over there,” Go answered.
   “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” said Pearl.
   “You know Go would probably do it quicker,” Aamil continued.
   “You make it hard to like you,” she replied.
   “Food?” asked Michie.
   “Yes, but where? There isn’t a food court in here,” Eartha said with extreme annoyance.
   “I could have sworn I saw like two pizza places on the way over,” Go said.
   “No. I had pizza today. Let’s go somewhere where we can sit down and eat. Something fancy,” Michie suggested.
   “Yes-political correct multi-ethnic gang of friends walk into fancy restaurant and pay in cash. Think about that,” Aamil responded.
   “We get a taxi and ask the driver for a cheap Chinese food place,” Pearl said.
   “Except we took two taxi’s here. Remember?”
   “Damn Aamil, what do you want to do?”
   “Take taxi’s back to the suite and get food from one of the places nearby. Or room service. Problem solved.”
   “That works,” Reed said.
   “But I want to see more of the city,” Michie said sadden.
   “Me too,” Eartha said.
   “Me three,” Go joined in.
   “Why are you trying to sour the mood?” asked Pearl.
   “Screw you guys I’m going to the-” Aamil was interrupted by the beep on his phone. Everyone’s phone was beeping. He said, “Guess we’re going with my plan.”
   “Wonderful. There better be a Chinese food place near the suites. Or pho. I can go for some pho,” Pearl said.
   The team got out of the mall, hailed a couple cabs and made way back to the hotel. Along the way putting in an order for delivery to the suite. They made haste up to the suite and got settled in while waiting on food and the start of Jessie’s briefing. After the food arrived the team got seated all around the long dining table with plates of Chinese food and drinks in front of them. The centerpiece on the table was a glass dome with a metal bottom that had a wire running to a small control panel just behind Jessie plate of food. Jessie switched it on and the glass lit up, hologram appearing of a cube appear in the center. From the metal sidings popped four little tubs the size of lipstick containers.
   “Anyone there?” asked Jessie.
   The cube morphed to a diploma and came the voice, “Professor here.”
   “Kate! Good to hear from you. Have the brain trust been working hard?” Jessie asked.
   “You know we have. Between this and the nonsense in France,” Kate said.
   “Problems there?” Elijah asked.
   “Some complications but nothing too serious as of yet,” she answered.
   “You guys will be getting some help as soon as Sally gets Highsta fluent in English and teach her how we do our job,” Jessie said.
   “Whose Highsta?” questioned Eartha.
   “The alien who lives in our base. We didn’t tell you that?” Elijah asked.
   “She usually only comes out late. Helps with the cleaning,” Elijah said.
   “I was wondering why the base always looks good,” Eartha said.
   “Are you guys eating?” asked Kate.
   “They brought Chinese food for this briefing. What do we have?” Jessie inquired.
   “GR44 is working on constructing about as detailed a map of the Manhattan underground as we possibly can based on what you have made and available data,” Professor answered.
   “Does this mean we have to go back down there because I really don’t want to,” Eartha said.
   “Why not? It was cool. Me and Go saw this huge rat! Huge! It was awesome,” Reed said before high fiving Go.
   “Ew. Rats,” Eartha said.
   “We still don’t even know if our enemies are even down there,” Pearl commented.
   “They are. Or, there might be serious evidence to suggest they could be. You have documented some tracks, fingerprints, debris removal and explosions. Some of the photos have shown smokes being discarded. The brand is similar to what we’ve found some Harkin smoke,” Professor said.
   “Still not a strong enough connection,” Pearl said.
   “No, but we also have that info about suspicious men sneaking into the subways or being spotted coming out of manholes. All similar in looks. Usually a sign of disguise charms. Even if its not Fliopt its still something worth looking into,” Professor replied.
   “That is true,” Pearl said.
   “Suspicious people, smokes, tracks… Anything else of merit?” Aamil inquired.
   “Mr. Jack,” a picture of a blond white male appeared above them, “Real name is Jack Morgan. A two bit thug and middle man. We have been compiling as much information as possible but from what was recovered from the fire we believe he may have been checking into stories of people roaming the New York underground.”
   “How’d we recover that?” asked Elijah.
   “Jessie stole the laptop,” snitched Michie.
   “I didn’t realize your friend was part of this investigation,” Professor said.
   “I tell her everything. Including the fact you’re a huge fan of Dark Shadows and go to conventions,” Jessie said.
   “… Okay-I have an issue with this. Secrecy,” Professor said.
   “Michie was keeping big secrets before you were in the game, so lets move on,” Jessie said.
   “… Where were we?” she asked.
   “Mr. Jack,” Go reminded her.
   “Right. He paid his rent in cash, worked as a bouncer at a club, not really a lot to go on,” Kate continued.
   “They talk to any of the people at the club?” Elijah asked.
   “I’m sure they did but I have not gotten into the police database,” she replied.
   “Anything from the Society?” asked Jessie.
   “The what?” Eartha asked looking around.
   “Group of information traders and hackers associated with the Watchtower boards which discuss superhumans, vigilantes and everything pertaining to it,” explained Pearl.
   “Oh,” was Eartha’s only response.
   “The Society has their eyes mostly on some of the local registration offices and the officers assigned to them. As well as the Teiwaz movements in Europe. Information on Fliopt is minimal right now but there was a rumor about him looking to acquire anything from Barritis. We also were partly able to create that map based on some info from them,” Kate explained.
   “Back up to Fliopt, where did we hear this?” Jessie asked.
   “Just a rumor but it would make sense. Sally has collected certain books and we believe Mizer has taken a number of things,” spoke Kate.
   “And I know for a fact Fliopt has kept a few things for himself. I guess we can look into that angle but without a complete list by someone with knowledge of the temple we would be loss. So thats a dead route,” Jessie said.
   “I have something to ask. The King graffiti. Anything about that? I know there was talk about that guy,” said Go.
   “I actually uploaded the image into Googles image search and found similar markings in various states in the US but also abroad in London, Munich, Morocco, and many more,” answered Professor.
   “That is troubling,” commented Elijah.
   “What about the symbol we found?” Aamil asked.
   “I have not found anything similar to it yet but I’m still looking,” Kate said.
   “Can I see it again?” asked Jessie.
   The diploma morphed into the symbol and it floated there.
   “Looks like something out of a video game,” Reed commented.
   “Could it be alien?” asked Pearl.
   “Send it to Sally. See if she recognizes it,” Jessie said.
   “Doing that now,” Kate said.
   “So where do we go now?” inquired Pearl.
   “Thanks for the help Professor, when GR44 is finished with the maps have them uploaded. And thank the others for us,” Jessie said.
   “I will. Talk to you all soon,” Kate said before signing off.
   “I don’t know whats next,” Jessie said turning to Pearls question, “We have no clue as to what Fliopt is after. Or if its even him like you’ve been reminding us. We know Mr. Jack is dead. I say we finish this food, hang out a little and then call it a night. Maybe some sleep will help us clear our heads and figure out what to do next.”
   “BOARD GAMES!” Reed shouted in suggestion before running out the dining room with food.