Part 7

by CM Towns

   “I don’t want to go back,” Erica said to Araminta. They were seated across from one another in the food court of the mall. Hours earlier the two-along with Frank, April and Arturo made their way into Cardy County (around 45 minute drive) and almost another hour to get to the Warren Mall. From there they split into two groups with plans to meet later at the bookstore to return home. Erica was not looking forward to that. While the base had its positives she would much prefer a normal home or even apartment. Something with windows, close to fast food restaurants and a 7-11.
   “Maybe we can all stay in the city for a night. We got the money,” Araminta said.
   “I would like that but someone would bitch about it being a waste. Nope, we’re going back home to do what we do everyday. Train, watch movies, play video games, and repeat,” Erica complained.
      “It could be worse.”
“It definitely could. Living in that boarding house with the so-called counselors constantly asking ‘what are you doing, where you going’ and having to share a TV and computers. At least I got to go into the city more often,” Erica stated.

   “Why not stay with the Division?” Aramainta asked.
   “I already told you that.”
   “I guess I kind of forget.”
   Erica gave her a glare and Araminta did not care. She liked having Erica to talk to but recognized that Erica was quite annoying and spoiled.
   “I just wanted to go home, then I was kicked out. The government people said they’d give me a place to live if I worked for them. Their boot camp was rough and there was this guy who kept yelling at me. I mean, I had been kidnapped and had people brainwashing me. I broke down a few times and they just wanted me to get over it. Same with the therapist-like his job wasn’t to help me but to tell me that this would all help,” Erica said looking down at her empty plate.
   “I shouldn’t have brought it up,” Araminta said.
   “No you shouldn’t have,” she agreed. There was a pause and then she added, “They told me I couldn’t even start a new life. Stuck at base and superhero until they told me I could quit. They’d still have to check up on me. The training with the team here is better, I get paid, and I start school in a few weeks.”
   “Me and Reed get to go to private school,” Araminta said.
   “You don’t sound to joyful.”
   “I was about school but then I remembered school. It’s going to be harder to balance school and secret identity,” she replied.
   “At least we got homes to stay in for cover. That’s kind of cool,” Erica remarked.
   “Yep. Apartments in case we want friends over,” Araminta added.
   There was a pause for a minute. Araminta drank her soda and Erica took a quick look around.
   “Look, I’m sorry about being a bitch. Just who I am. I’m just having a hard time with the situation. You and the others have gotten into it easier. Or you guys look like you’re made for this. I don’t feel that way,” Erica said.
   “You’re so natural with your powers though.”
   “I guess. I only do a handful of things because they’re easy and effective. I know I should work harder but I think about this life filled with danger and intrigue and I prefer that kind of nonsense in my movies or TV shows.
   “Its just-take this new case they want to do. It worries me. Fighting other superhumans. Ones who think they’re good guys of sort. We also got the actual Division 1 waiting for a moment to fight us. Keeping all these secrets too. A headache. One I could do without,” stated Erica.


   The trio of Frank, April and Arturo made their way out of the CD/Video store.
   “Punk section was lacking but I’m not surprised,” Frank said.
   “But the film selection was pretty good and cheap,” April pointed out.
   “That’s because a lot of people use digital. If the companies weren’t fighting over which streaming subscription to use no one would be buying videos,” he replied.
   “That and most of them suck at old movies and cult movies and foreign movies,” countered April.
   “So where now?” Arturo said.
   “Not having fun?” April questioned.
   “I got a new video game and a new shirt. I’ve been done for hours,” replied Arturo.
   “We’re out of the base, good to get some sunlight,” Frank said.
   “Whatever. I’m from Mexico-I got enough sunshine already in my life,” he shot back.
   The group had walked around the mall and after they were done checked out the local theater but chose to skip seeing a movie. They ended up checking out the bowling alley for a game and after that looked into stores nearby. Mostly department stores but also a toy store and second hand shop. The day was mostly good, though some looks and gazes toward Frank and April had them partly annoyed. More Frank than April who focused on the positive which was hanging out with her new boy toy.
   “So back to the mall?” April asked.
   “We definitely have to head back to the mall, its almost time to meet up and head home,” Frank said.
   Arturo said to that, “The two hours till I can play. I hate having a game and waiting to play.”
   “You and Reed need more hobbies,” responded April.
   “Video games, movies, kicking ass. Three best hobbies a man can have,” bucked Arturo.
   “Maybe you should throw some cartoons in their,” Frank said as they crossed the street.
   “I like DBZ,” Arturo told them.
   “How about something newer?” asked Frank.
   “Family Guy new enough?”
   “Oh God-such a stupid, sick, show,” April responded.
   “I want that on a t-shirt,” Arturo noted before asking, “You sure you don’t want me to head out? We’re leaving in a bit like you said, you two might enjoy some brief time out here alone. You know-for nasty business.”
   “Nasty business?” replied April.
   “I’m Catholic. Your relationship is immoral, like masturbation. Other stuff too. I don’t know. I figure God is too busy watching TV to watch people have sex,” Arturo remarked.
   “Whats Gods favorite shows?” April asked.
   “If he’s a white dude its got to be Seinfeld and Mad Men right? That’s what white people like. That and MASH, whatever the fuck that is. If he’s black, Martin. Maybe the Wire. Definitely In Living Color. He Latino its all about the Telenovelas. Martin Garatuza or maybe Rebelde. Asian, obviously back to Dragonball. Maybe some Samurai TV shows. Or Bollywood stuff if he’s that type of Asian,” Arturo answered.
   April and Frank were laughing and April was very curious to know, “What if Gods a woman?”
   “The Good Wife.”
   “Really?” April asked.
   “Damn straight,” Arturo replied.
   “You watch the Good Wife?” Frank wondered.
   “Sally told me to watch a lot of TV to improve my language skills. She likes that one,” Arturo answered.
   The two made their way to the bookstore talking about shows and Arturo started explaining why Telenovelas were far superior to American television. Mainly because they were far sexier.


   Back at the base, the very shy and uncomfortable HIGHSTA was fooling around in the kitchen. Four arms, teal skin, bald headed humanoid alien. It was unknown if you could classify the alien as a woman or male so they would refer to Highsta as ze or zir or simply as ‘the alien.’
   Highsta was given the option to be relocated to an island habitat for displaced aliens who could not pass as human or did not serve a purpose to the US government. Highsta did not like that idea. It involved sharing an island with beasts who tortured, killed, and enslaved zirs kind. Sure, there would be others like Highsta-ze was sure, but felt nothing good can come from living there. An island of different outworlders would sooner or later bear problems. Conflicts among the people and Highsta would not want to be there for that. However Highsta had little to offer any government outside manual labor, but Red Sprite-an alien herself-discussed zir being brought into the teams home and to work simply as a janitor and maid. It was lighter work then what they had zir do when a captive of the Iczer Empire.
   Highsta was putting together a sandwich while Wolf was by her legs wagging its tongue. Highsta had the mayonnaise out and was getting ready to apply it to the bread when zir froze. Highsta’s heart (three small hearts actually, located in the center of the chest) was bumping fast as Highsta turned to zir’s side slowly.
   “You seem unnecessarily nervous. I guess I can understand, alien. You are surrounded by dirty, awful humans,” Aamil said.
   “Yes, you really only speak with Sally, and Jessie and I hear you get along decently with the youngsters. As well as Wolf here,” Aamil said walking over to the alien. He looked at the food Highsta was preparing and said, “You pretty much just make sandwiches, right? Is it easier than cooking?”
   “I do not cook. I was never good at it,” Highsta said.
   “What’s there to be good at?” Aamil questioned before grabbing a trash can and throwing her food in.
   “There are other people in this base that would like to use the bread and the meat slices. Besides, gorging on the same food everyday and night is pathetic in the face of so many options,” he said.
   Aamil opened the refrigerator and asked, “I imagine Sally and Araminta tested some foods on you, right?”
   Highsta nodded and said, “Nothing that is called beef and poultry.”
   “So you’re forced to eat swine? What about lamb?”
   Highsta thought about it, clicking noise in zirs mouth, before answering, “I believe that is fine.”
   Aamil pulled out some lamb, went to grab some seasoning. Highsta watched, unsure of what the ingredient were. Aamil had a plate and bowl out. Mixed olive oil, lemon juice and thyme.
   “Is there any spices or seasonings you should not have?” asked Aamil.
   “Something called pepper. Soy sauce. That’s all I know,” Highsta told him.
   “Pepper? That’s terrible. Guess I’ll leave out the pepper,” Aamil said as he added sea salt. Aamil soaked some two pieces of lamb in the bowl and then walked over past the freezer into the walk in fridge, pulled out some tomatoes. He showed them to Highsta who took a moment before nodding. Aamil took a knife and another plate before cutting slices.
   Aamil walked over to the grill and tossed the two seasoned lamb pieces on as well as the unseasoned one. He grilled them up, flipping them after a little. After a few minutes he took the unseasoned pieces, ripped the bone and tossed it to Wolf who caught it. Aamil let the other pieces cook as he got more plates and set them. He tossed on some tomatoes and added some of the olive oil. Flipped them after a few moments, then again. Tossed them onto the plates and added salt. He then finished their lamb pieces.
   “You cook often?” Highsta said looking at the meal.
   “No but cooking is not that hard. You take what you can eat, grill on this thing. Add seasoning you can use. Its the easiest way. Then you can graduate to the more complicated,” Aamil said serving two plates.
   “Thank you.”
   “Save your thanks. Stop skulking around this place like a fucking ghost-you live here. Have someone help you cook if you need it. Talk to the people,” Aamil was stern.
   “I don’t belong here,” Highsta responded.
   “Then leave. Oh-wait, you chose to be here. Make it work,” Aamil said taking his food and walking away.