Meanwhile...

Meanwhile . . .
 
 
by Edeyn Hannah Blackeney

 

She stood on the balcony, the light blazing over her left shoulder to warn off ships with captains still too stubborn to update to modern equipment. Her hair kept annoyingly blowing into her mouth as the wind whipped it around her head -- not at all like you see in the movies where the wind is always in your face and hair billows out behind your head in a cloud that never tangles.

Shivering slightly, but inhaling the salt-smelling sea air deeply, she turned to go back down into the lighthouse's living quarters. Priya was supposed to be here already to pick her up. That girl always seemed to be running late.

The familiar growl of Priya's boat met her ears as she went to the kitchen for a glass of water, and moments later she heard the muffled whump of the tie-rope dropping heavily onto the floating dock. Turning on the tap to run cold, she flipped on the path-lights that illuminated a safe route up from the beach. She waited at the counter for the girl to open the door, quietlly drinking the water.

It wasn't a long wait.

"Hello? Oh! There you are... I'm sorry I'm late," was the standard apology as soon as the hinges groaned and the portal belched the spiffily-dressed boat-driver into the kitchen.

"You're not that bad, tonight. I was up on the balcony," she informed her friend with a smile.

Priya lifted an eyebrow -- or tried to... she wasn't very good at it, no matter how big of a fan of Mr. Spock she was. "Do you still try to make shadow animals up there? Or have you finally outgrown that? Oh, no 'uniform' tonight? You mean you get to spend your evening associating with mere mortal folk like me?"

Sheepishly, she shuffled her left foot and explained, "Well, I kinda got suspended. I pitched a fit about the pay scale at the last briefing. I really would rather talk about... well, anything else that's not work, I suppose."

Priya snorted. "Amber, you have got to stop with the crusading and causes in that place. On the other hand, it means I can get you plastered tonight and not have to worry about you being sober enough to get to work in the morning. There's that new club over in Nostalgia Harbor that seems to be hoppin', you wanna try starting there tonight? I mean, it's been over a year since we just went out and did the young and single bit for the testosterone-filled masses."

Amber downed the last of her water, picked up her purse and housekeys, and briskly headed for the door. "Sounds fun. Let's hit it."

The motor of the boat wasn't exactly a roar, but it was definitely loud enough to discourage casual conversation. They had cast off and gotten underway fairly quickly and were now on their way across Webb Cove toward Nostalgia Harbor and the promise of carefree nightlife. As she steered around the buoys and the private "beaches" along the route, Priya stared at her best friend's obviously tense back and shoulders. [She needs the night...] Priya thought, [actually, she needs a week or more, but one night will serve as enough to at least let her relax during suspension.]

[Hmph. Suspension. Her boss probably did it more because he knows how much she refuses to let the job go. He understands her enough to know that she can't compartmentalize work and not-work like the average schmoe. She'll forgive Beaux (gah, 'Beauxregard' -- and he admits it... his parents must've had it in for him), yeah, easily, once she's back from -- er. She didn't say how long she was suspended, did she? Have to ask her about that later, when she was more relaxed and less guarded. If she'd talk about work even then. The pay was obviously nice, but the stress that Amber's chosen vocation came tied up in a bundle with kinda demanded that the compensation be above and beyond. Even if I had the talents and desire to work in public service in the way that Amber burned with dedication, even if the pay and benefits were as nice as I've been told (and shown), even if the hours and time off were as awesome as they are with that organization, I don't think I'd have it in me to do it.]

While Priya's stream-of-consciousness prattled on the way it always did in the background, Amber focused on the sea life in the chill waters underneath her vantage at the front of the Bass Clef. Heh. She always smiled at the punny name. Priya was a musician, a bass player in the local-but-growing-in-popularity band "Heph 'n' Leigh Bawddies and the Meatiers" and a girl that loved to fish for bass in the spring. [That band. Heph and Leigh Bawddies. That couple had to have known they needed to be in performance of some kind with names like those. Oh, look, an orca.]

Nostalgia Harbor's harbor was filled with small craft, but they found a mooring that was open, paid the docking fee, and were off down the pier and boardwalk toward the new place when the light hit them.

"There she is, Angelo, I told you that the other girl'd drag her out whether she wanted to go or not," said the (male) voice behind the retina-searing light in their faces.

Amber growled. No, really, she growled, like a big dog or wild large cat would. The light flicked off and the two were stunned into blinking for a few seconds. Angelo and the voice walked up to them.

"What do you want, Jason?" Priya grumped at the two men.

Their eyes were now clear enough to see the apologetic look on Jason's face as he delivered the message to the recipient, "Er... the Big Guy sent us to find Amber and tell her that her suspension's over. Not only over, but torn up. Yeah. You're being called in tonight, Am. There's something involving the Mayor of Upriver Downs and your..." he paused and assumed a posture that suggested reciting from rote before continuing in a tone that would be mocking if the mind behind it were capable of such a thing, "... experience, training, abilities and unique investigative flavor are required at the Upriver Downs Courthouse as soon as possible."

[She relaxed. Damn her,] thought Priya, [She has to go to work, and she relaxed. Augh. I have got to have a talk with that girl! Ah well, more drunk fratboys for me.]

"I have to get back to the lighthouse and get my uniform, boys... I'll meet you in half an --" began Amber.

"Angelo, show the nice lady what you have in your bag," Jason interrupted. Angelo tossed a large paper sack to Amber.

She opened it, peering inside. "That's not my uniform," she observed.

Angelo now spoke for the first time, "It is now. You've got yourself a promotion. New job, new uniform," he turned and started toward an alley -- they could now see well enough to note that he was in his 'work clothes' just like Jason. Navy pinstripes. "C'mon, bikes're this way -- Jason can sidecar on mine, you can have his, just go in the dockhouse and use the bathroom to change. Hurry up, though. The Big Guy isn't in a waiting mood tonight."

[A promotion?] thought Amber, striding toward the huge dockhouse. [Beats a night of pretending to be drunk enough to fall for some guy's 'best' line just to pass the time.]

She went into the Ladies' and slipped into her new uniform, checked to be sure that nothing was on backwards or wrong, and jogged back out to catch the boys, her clubbing clothes now in the brown bag.

As she jogged out and down to the alley, she heard the two guys arguing. "Just put it on, Jason," Angelo was bellowing. She rounded the corner in time to see Jason folded into the tiny sidecar and glaring at Angelo as he roughly shoved a helmet over his ears. He nearly whined when he said, "There. Satisfied? Humiliated me enough this time?" The driver simply nodded, raised a hand to acknowledge Amber and point at the other bike, then kickstarted.

Amber didn't waste time, and got onto the Kawasaki knock-off. She pushed the start, and was behind J & A by only seconds.

A boring 10-minutes ride later, they pulled to the front of the Upriver Downs Courthouse and headed up the wide, flat steps. Angelo was the only person Amber had ever seen that could make Fred look small. I mean, Fred was seven-and-a-half feet tall, with a sturdy build and weight to match. Strolling next to Jason, Angelo looked like a patient father ushering his child up the stairs, both in their matching father-son outfits. Though, most father-son teams didn't choose navy pinstripes as the fashion of choice. Right behind them they went in, nodded at the security guard (who saluted -- saluted -- Amber), and took the stairs to the third floor, being faster than taking the elevator in a government building.

The door to the D.A.'s office was not only open, but the voices were coming from there -- obviously the destination. Inside were three people. The Big Guy was there, the other man had to be the Mayor, and the woman behind the desk was probably exactly who the nameplate said it was, DA Diane Archer-Quinn.

"Don't start the party without us," Amber found herself saying as she strode into the office like she owned the place. This was definitely more her element than clubbing. "Hey, Big Guy. Hello, Mr. Mayor... Madam DA. What's the scoop, folks?"

The Big Guy stood up -- not that it helped any. He was probably taller sitting down (were the chair legs longer than his?) -- "Ah, you're here. Good job, Jason. You two can take off now, go rescue a kitten or something. Close that door, willya Mental Maiden?"

Amber winced. She went to close the door, and replied over her shoulder, "You know that's not been my codename for over a year, and you know how much I hated that one," she turned and faced him, ignoring the other occupants of the office. "I'm not exactly thrilled with 'Vendettacator' either, but it's better than the last two you hung me with. We need to talk about this, especially with a promotion -- I want to pick the next one."

Mayor Dobkins cleared his throat. "Later. We need to clear this up. You wanna tell the story, Miz Archer-Quinn?" he waved dismissively at her while bringing her back into focus.

The DA nodded and took a breath, then began to do what lawyers do best, separate provable facts from things they want to be able to prove and things they don't want anyone able to prove while scattering around enough innocuous facts through the conversation to make you doubt the validity of the sunrise if they want. No one really remembers everything that they say because everyone's mind wanders at some point in every lawyers' speech over 5 minutes long. Practical upshot. The Mayor's Aide used an unregistered ability -- no big deal, usually, but she used it to totally clean out the City Treasury. Amber needed stress relief, but hoped that a NRUNF chase wouldn't be too much for her by herself -- she needed a partner, yet another objection to bring up with The Big Guy.

[Okay,] she thought, [I can do this... and then do the verbal sparring thing with The Fireplug.] As was her usual nerve-calming habit, she started mentally listing... anything. [Who am I? Yes, good list for now. Take stock before jumping in.]

  • Amber Gonzalez
  • Latina
  • Registered Superheroine
  • Inspector -- [Well, for at least 20 minutes, now... 'Inspector Gonzalez' sounds much better than 'Dectective Gonzalez' does, right?] for Ultra-Normal Covert Operations - Washington
  • **shudder** Vendettacator

She looked The Big Guy right in the eye (bending down to do so) and informed him, "We talk later," before turning to ask the doddering Security Guard downstairs to show her the crime scene and the tape of the incident.

The guard showed her to a small room with many monitors and a block of VCRs, handed her a tape and told her that after she was done in the tape room, he'd take her to the crime scene. When she was about 20 minutes into it, she leaned forward to find the FFWD on the VCR, since she hadn't remembered to ask the guard at what time the crime happened. At first, she wasn't exactly sure what it was, exactly, she was looking at on the monitors when she found it.

What it appeared to be, was a small woman in a business suit simply walked into the Treasury office, no one stopping her -- in fact, they seemed to be following her orders. [Damn, I wish this stupid thing had audio.] The vault was opened (not like a bank vault... okay, more of a safe than a vault, then) and she simply filled her backpack (hot pink, with Hello Kitty on it) with the stacks of cash before walking out just as unaccosted.

She went downstairs and found Rafe. [Why is there always some old-as-the-hills guard named Rafe?] He handed over the contents of the manilla file folder from the card table-cum-desk at which he was sitting.

So, common from all the interviews:

  • No one remembers anything said
  • $2.7 Million missing
  • All of the witnesses found themselves just suddenly doing something else

"Thanks, Rafe, I appreciate it. Are you gonna need any of this back?" she asked, wanting to get to the paper bag upstairs so she could change into civvies and out of this uniform, even the uncomfortable clubbing outfit. [It's not as bad as it could be, I guess. UNCOW's got nice uniforms when you compare them to some of the other UN-orgs.] She retreated to the office as the DA was leaving (apparently, the Mayor and The Big Guy had both already left), grabbed her bag and headed for a Ladies' room.

Once there, she took stock of the new uniform. [Not much different. Other than color and insignia, it seems to feel the same. Let's see... still the same stupid logo on the right -- no, mirror, duh -- left breast. Acronyms. Too freaking many of them. "Registered Ultra-Normal. Special Police Liason Agent Team" RUN SPLAT? Someday, I'm gonna find the pun-loving, masochistic, bored-by-life whackjob that thinks up the names and acronyms for this organization and feed them their own spleen. Cranberry Red, Hunter Green, and Navy Blue, the tag said. Goes together better than that awful Fuchsia and Melon. Still a jumpsuit, though. I swear, the idiot that designs these must be married to the acronym asshole. What kind of moron puts adult superheroes in 'onesies' f'r crying out loud!]

She shook herself and got changed, put the folder with the uniform in the paper bag, and waved goodbye to Rafe as she trotted out to the -- Jason seemed to have reclaimed his bike. Sighing, she flagged down a cab and gave him an address in Nostalgia Harbor.

She blocked out most of the cab driver's prattle, catching only something about his son's joining the Air Force ROTC. As he dropped her off and took her money, it was as if he was just noticing where he really was.

"Um, miss..." he began, eyes darting to and fro, lingering a bit on the hemline of her clubbing skirt, "... this ain't exactly the part of town you wanna be wearing something as, well, as inviting as that what you got on yerself is."

"Thank you for your concern, I'm fine," she shoved an extra $10 at him and he rolled up his window as he pulled away.

She looked around, walked up to a door and knocked.

"Password," demanded the gravelly voice on the other side of the door.

"Reepicheep's really a rat," she responded in a loud whisper, after which the door was opened and she stepped inside.

The gorilla of a man that was re-bolting the door grinned at her lecherously, but kept hands off -- Donald ran a tight and unforgiving ship. She walked up the hall and into the 'kitchen' where Donald was sitting smoking a pipe. Not like, drub pipe, but a damn Ward Cleaver-type pipe.

"Ahh, my favorite customer," he smiled as the words seeped from his lips, almost unmoving.

"You say that to all the girls, Donny," she teased as the excitement in her started to build, "You got anything for me tonight, Donny? I could do with a bit to go, along with my regular order."

"Yeah, I say that to all the girls... and all the guys. You all provide me with my, whadidjacallit, Sneaks?" grinned Donald as he stood and gestured toward the pile of rumpled clothing in an easychair in the corner.

A girl's voice rose from the pile with just the single word, "Livelihood."

Amber dug in her pocket and handed a not-small roll of cash to Donald, which he counted quickly and then tossed her two bags. The large one was her order, so the small one would be her to go request. She caught them deftly and walked to the bathroom.

Donald watched her go into the room, [Damn fine woman like that... I needs me summa that!]

From behind the closed door, Amber's voice came tinnily, "I can hear that, you moron!"

The dealer shook his head and said aloud, "Cryin' shame what this world's comin' to... when even the superheroes are crank addicts, who is gonna be left to take drugs off the streets? I tell ya, just don't know what --"

The bathroom door opened, Amber emerged and interrupted his mock-tirade, "Shut the hell up, Donny. I'll be back next week. Have a couple of your guys watch my back as I get down to the clubs -- I don't want to have to hurt anyone that decides I'm an easy mark."

I enjoyed this

I'd like to see more of your concept of supers.

-- Joyce

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