Getting Ready for a Road Trip
I groaned. I had a serious headache. Scratch that, migraine or hangover!
"Hey mister!" I felt a poke accompany the proclamation. After a moment, I figured the kid was trying to get my attention, which aroused a little amusement seeing as how I'm a woman.
I opened my eyes, and met darkness. I also felt a little bit of pressure, so I decided that I had a hat on my face. I slowly (so as to not aggravate any injuries I might have) brought my arm to my face and lifted the hat. When I saw the kids, I laughed.
One of them was wearing a canary yellow suit that reminded me of Little Enos from Smokey and the Bandit, and the other was wearing crocodile skin cowboy boots to go with his cowboy motif.
"What, is something wrong with my hat?" the cowboy asked.
I smiled at him. "Nope. Nothing like that." I shifted, checking my surroundings for surprises, and then sat up. The bowler hat fell from my head to my lap and I ignored it as I focused on the two kids in front of me. "So, what kin I do ya fer?" I asked, affecting one of the silliest cowboy accents in my entire repertoire.
They giggled, and my smile grew. I had completed my first objective.
After a moment, they grew serious and the kid in the suit told me "The boss wants to see you."
I raised an eyebrow and asked, "Well, can you lead me to the boss?"
They nodded, and I stood up. I looked around to make sure I had all my stuff, and, putting on my bowler hat (weird that I'd have a bowler hat.), gave them the "Lead on." signal. They lead me to the back of the bar I had been sleeping in. I found it a very interesting experience, especially when we started going up stairs.
When we came to an open door, they looked at me expectantly. I looked at each one, at each side of the door, shrugged, and went in, closing the door behind me.
There was a man at the window, his back to me. "Please, sit down." He said politely. He had a nice voice. A politician's voice. All smooth and flowing. It was soothing, and he, oddly enough, reminded me of a chracter in one of the stories I'd remembered to tell my boys. The character known as Malingo, a sorcerer (humanoid creature who draws magical prowess, among other things, from contracts to devil(s) for his soul), and the description the original teller of the tale, Christopher Stasheff, used in his character's first meeting with Malingo was "Polite, urbane, and treacherous as California bedrock."
I thought for a moment after this little comparison, and said, "If'n it won't be disrespectful of your gracious hospitality, I'd prefer to stand." I'd slipped into a slight accent, though I couldn't identify where I'd gotten it from just yet.
He turned to me, eyebrow raised. "Are you trying to be a kissass?" He asked, a little surprised.
I shook my head. "Until I know more about my entire situation, I'd prefer to hedge my bets. And keep my head on my shoulders, of course." The accent was gone. Damn. I'd needed just a few more words to place it.
He kept his eyebrow raised as he said, "In other words, you're being a kissass."
I shook my head again. "Nope. I'm just being careful until I know what the hell is going on in my life, among other things."
"What sort of other things?"
I pretended to think as I started my list. "I don't know where the hell I am, other than 'Earth, somewhere fairly corrupted with crime', which makes Gotham a prime suspect, even if I haven't heard the Bat's name in conversation yet. I don't know who the hell you are, which makes it difficult to decide on a safe way out of here that doesn't include killing you or becoming one of your hires. I don't know what the hell I'm wearing, because, last I remember, I didn't have about 3 dollars in quarters in my pocket, nor did I have a bowler hat. Finally, if I'm anywhere near Gotham, I need a legal way out and away because if I don't get the space and time to figure myself out, among other things, then I'll probably either go crazy and kill someone, or implode." I stopped looking at the ceiling and focused my attention on his nose, since I wanted him to think I was looking in his eyes, but I didn't want to pay attention to him yet. "Don't get me wrong, the guys in the JLA are great, and Hawkgirl was kinda nice to be around, but I need my space. If I can't establish myself as myself, I'll never be able to act like myself, and-"
He raised his eyebrows and asked, "Don't you ever need a breath?"
I blinked, surprised at his interjection. Then my words filtered through and I giggled nervously. "Um, sometimes?" I offered weakly. It's not that I was afraid of him. It's more that I was more than a little embarrassed at getting caught like that.
He chuckled. "You're in Blüdhaven, Gotham's sister city. Like Santa Barbra is to LA, Blüdhaven is to Gotham."
I nodded in understanding. "So, what sort of person are you?"
His mouth quirked into an odd smile. "It's been said that I'm one of the more honest, helpful crime bosses in the city."
I puzzled on that one for a bit. "In other words, you're not like the mob, you're not like the mafia, you're not like the Yakuza. You're closer to a generous medieval lord in ownership of a fiefdom who actually cares more about his subjects than his guests."
He nodded thoughtfully. "I've never heard it said that way, but then mostly I don't have new people come to me with such an understanding of history and crime."
I shrugged. "Well, it's more of a hobby than anything else."
"Doesn't make it untrue."
I shrugged again, conceding his point. After a few moments of undecided awkwardness, I decided to play with my bowler hat. It was a nice enough hat. Sturdy, simple. And, as I found out when I played with the edge a little, dangerous. Like Odd Job's hat in Goldfinger.
In short, the sort of thing I love.
I smiled at the thought.
"So," he said at last. "What're your plans?"
"My plans?" I asked the ceiling. I shrugged. "Don't have any really." I thought about it for a while. Finally, I announced in a helpless tone, "Think?"
He chuckled. For some odd reason, it was starting to annoy me. "How 'bout I help you out? I'll arrange for a car to be brought into your possession, a road map that goes from Gotham on out to Metropolis, and a little travelling money. How's that?"
I smiled. "It's a good offer, as long as I get a say in it."
He shrugged. "Sure."
"The car has to be a clunker in good condition." I raised a hand to stall his protests. "By clunker, I mean something less noticeable, preferably something older, and definitely nothing that's sitting in a chop shop because of an associated crime. By good condition, I mean it has to be in working order, with the fluids topped off and good brakes. Oh, and the seats have to be at least somewhat comfortable."
He smiled. "I think that can be arranged. Is that all?" At my nod he continued. "Well, I believe we have an agreement. Would you like to see the car?"
I smiled at him, caught up in the moment a little. "Sure."
We went down the stairs and over into another building, an underground parking lot this time. He brought me over to a beat up black Ford F-250 Ranger. If the state of the seats were any indication, it was well-loved, and greatly enjoyed.
I wasn't entirely sure how I knew it was a 250, specifically, since I'd never really been a truck sort of person. I kinda prefer motorcycles, but the second I saw this truck, I fell in love.
Wheels were old by age but new by use, judging by the freshness of the spines. Rims were simple and steel. Nothing flashy or gaudy (and therefore unnecessary) like chromed rims or attention-drawing decals. The paint seemed a little lackluster, but from the feel it was a fresh coat, which meant that it was supposed to be that way.
The seats were well-used leather. Good quality stuff too, if the sheen said anything to me. Since a young woman named Faith had entered my life, a woman with a good appreciation for leather, my guess would be pretty accurate. I sniffed the air because of a niggling thought and frowned slightly. I could smell lead. I turned to him, curious.
"Lead paint?" I asked.
He shook his head. "Nope. Gramps always was a little too paranoid. Thought he'd die of electrocution because of opening his car, so he paid someone to lead-line his car. Every bit of electronics is lead-lined and most of the paneling is too."
Since lead is a terrible conductor of electricity, I could see the rationale working. Not too sure on how well it works in reality. "How'd he die?" I asked, taking a guess. Warm reading has it's uses, after all.
He smiled cryptically and shrugged. "Well, I think that lead insulation doesn't really help against a .38 to the head."
I chuckled a little at that. "Well, let's hope that I fare better than him."
He nodded at that. "Indeed." He said. He said it in such a flat, affirmatory tone that I just had
to laugh. I didn't bother to explain the joke.
With that, they said their goodbyes and she got in the truck and left. Using the maps that were in there, she drove on out of the city and stopped at a rest stop. The truck ran pretty well. It was old, but well taken-care of. Everything works, and the gas mileage isn't too shabby. She pulled out everything from the car and stripped down to her underwear (in a secluded spot) to take stock of what was available. Two cheap wallets, filled with cash of all denominations: 12 $100's, 7 $1's, 13 $5's, 4 $10's, 3 $20's, and 6 $50's, alltogether. She put the 50's and 100's in her shoes (SAS Alpines) with 3 50's and 6 100's per shoe. For clothing she had white compression shorts and a black sports bra underneath a pair of white cargo pants and a black tank top coupled with a leather trench coat. The hat, as it turned out, was her armor, just extremely compact. Not to mention sharp. Pocketstuffs was the two wallets, a mechanical pencil, a cheap black pen, $1.35 in spare change to go with the $3.25 in quarters she already had, and a small switchblade.
From the glove compartment there was a small gun, the promised travel maps that cover the areas from Blüdhaven, New Jersey on up to Metropolis, New York, a change of clothes (mostly generic stuff like oversized sweats), and a small envelope of cash filled with about 6 G's in 100's.
All in all, not much, but she could work with this. She pulled on the cargo pants and the shoes before putting everything but one of the wallets into a bundle, which she put in the truck. Then she went into the rest stop to think about her future and take care of a call of nature. When she left, she had a dozen donuts, a few sodas, and a solid decision (as well as a reciept saying she spent a 20 dollar bill on a 12 dollar tab). She'd always wondered about the City of Giants. Now, she could see it firsthand.
She sighed happily. Life was good. Being with the nameless one, as she was occaisionally called, was a blast. There was almost never a dull moment. She knew so much, and yet admitted to knowing so little! It was great.
A sound not heard by mortal ears reached her and she rolled her eyes. "Hello Nabu." She didn't bother with the theatrics this time, simply using the body's voice, made deeper through voice lessons.
"You should not be here." The Lord of Order said imperiously.
She rolled her eyes. "What, no, 'Hi there, it's been awhile, sorry I tried to kill you'?" She said sarcastically. "You need to lighten up."
"I'm not sorry I tried to kill you." He said it in an aggrieved tone. "There, you happy?"
She raised an eyebrow. "You actually
updated your diction? Wow. It only took you, like 3,000 years to figure out that the world was leaving you in the dust."
There was a pause. He was probably fidgeting before he came out with something that embarressed him. "I've, actually, been updating almost constantly since the terran year 1950."
She chuckled. "Now, was that so hard?" She asked teasingly.
"Yes." He said harshly.
She chuckled again. "That's gotta really bug ya, the way the human race updates and mangles it's own languages. After all, being a Lord of Order, Chaos just gets right under your skin." She gave him a girly little giggle before falling silent as she watched the sky. "I'm not gonna leave just because you want me to."
"It's not up to me."
"Bullshit." She said it without much heat. This was an old arguement. "Stop being a coward."
"I'm not a coward." He was getting angrier than usual. Interesting.
"You're being a coward. You're not taking responsibility for your own actions. You're a living being, not some mindless machine. Now act like it or so help me I will knock down the doors of the Tower of Fate and slam your backside against the floor!" She smiled. Now there was a threat she could stand behind, and one she could do now. "Now, are we done with the yelling?"
After a moment he managed to calm down. "Yes, we're done yelling."
She nodded. "Good." She sat up and looked around. Seeing no one, she turned her suddenly beady little eyes upon him with a feral smile on her face. "Got any juicy gossip?"
If his face wasn't hidden behind a faintly roman helmet, then she was sure it would be showing his surprise at her sudden change in attitude.
"You're the only one I've seen since coming back from my self-imposed exile. Of course I'm gonna grill you for info. Besides," Her face softened. "You're the only one I really trust. You've got your connections, but you've also got your memories. You remember."
He thought about it, and nodded. He flared out his cape and sat down on the ground next to her, sharing all the information he could remember offhand about the state of life around the cosmos.
A/N: Hey. Sorry it took so long to post, but I was a little stuck. Hope you like it!