Differences 8-III

Have I Lied to You?

I was back in front of the screen again, tapping away. This time, I'd been taking a multi-pronged approach. Prong One, the hero Fog. Prong Two, the Disciples of Shiva. Prong Three, the Outliers.

I yawned, rubbing at my eyes. It had been a long day, long and exhausting, but at this point, I was too tired to actually sleep. Beside me on the desk sat three empty mugs of tea, a half-eaten cold pizza, and two phones: mine, and the mobile I'd gotten from Flatline. I wasn't expecting either to ring, especially not the latter, but I liked having it there. A reassurance, I suppose, that, yeah, that had just happened. My mobile was there for the inevitable call from Mom telling me that, ‘hey Hanners, super sorry, but I’m not going to be home anytime soon’. For clarification, it was currently 2:30 in the morning, and there had been zero prior communication from her. As you can guess from my tone, this was not an uncommon occurrence.

“Oh, woman up, Hannah. Boo hoo, my mom stays out late working, my life is so hard. Also, I have no friends and no life.”

You know very well that's not the issue here.

“Then why are you whining about it? Deal, and move on.”

That's your helpful advice? ‘Deal’? Lemme guess, your advice for dealing with depression is ‘stop being sad'. OCD? ‘Just stop doing that stuff'? Gosh, you're really helpful.

“You know, if all you're going to do is snipe at me, why are you even bothering to-”

I took a swig of one of the cups of tea, and grimaced at the bitterness. Twice now, I'd absentmindedly ducked down into the kitchen and made myself a cup, only to come back to my desk and notice the cup or cups already sitting there. Like I said, tired. At the same time, though, I was strangely awake, buzzing, even. I was having no trouble keeping my eyes open, and when I wasn’t typing, my fingers had started tapping patterns into the wood of the desk with no input on my part.

“Mmmm. And I’m sure that has absolutely nothing to do with the five mugs of way-too-strong tea you’ve had in the last hour?”

Five?

“You actually remembered to take two of the cups back, surprisingly.”

Well, I guess that explained that. I was tired enough to start having a spotty memory. Wait. I got rid of you.

“Yeah, I’m having none of that. I have things to say, darnit. The revolution will not be silenced!”

If you start singing Les Mis, I’m going to start taking anti-psychotics.

“Do you hear the people whine? / Moaning about their sorry lives / it is a sad pathetic lonely sight for those who witness it.”

I’m not joking. I will go to a doctor, and I will say ‘whatsup, doc? I hear voices, can I have some drugs for that?’ and they’ll say ‘sure thing, kiddo’.

“Nah, you love me. ‘sides, we’re not actually crazy, so the meds would just make you all weird.”

You’re not allowed to be right. I’m too tired to be making coherent sense.

“Yeah, well, we’re just that good. Speaking of, meaning completely unrelated, first night in costume! Wanna talk about it.”

Yes. I do. With an actual person. One who wasn’t there the whole time, and isn’t just a voice in my head who already knows all the details.

“Well, too bad, ‘cause you’re stuck with me.”

I sighed. It was… a mess, frankly. I mean, I hadn’t even intended to go out properly. And then everything just snowballed from there. The mugger, and then Fog… jeez, Fog.

“She was a real b-word, huh?”

I know! She was just so… unpleasant. Man, Sabi’ll be crushed when I… if I tell her.

“So you’re gonna tell her?”

…I’m not sure yet.

“Mmm. Anyway. The Outliers?”

Yeah, that was just weird. I didn’t even know there was any significant vigilante presence in the city. There wasn’t much on the Outliers. Before yesterday, the name had only come up in the news once or twice, off-hand mentions that could only be related to the group if you already knew the connection was there. Since about a year and a half ago, there had been a drop in petty crime and lower-level superhuman conflict; not majorly, but definitely noticeable. Seeing as there had been seemingly no cause for it, it had just been factored into sociology papers and reports about the decline of the superhero and all that type of crud. Some people on the boards that I’d found while archive-diving speculated that there was a group of street-level heroes responsible, but the theory had never gained much credibility. New Chicago has never been well inclined towards that sort of thing; it’s the city with the largest Tower presence, considering their namesake is actually built here, and 9/11 is still strong enough in the memories of the locals that they get a lot of goodwill automatically. As such, vigilante justice, which had a highly varying acceptance rate in various cities and states, was held in very low regard. So to find out that there had been not just one vigilante, but a whole group of them, operating for over a year was a bit of a shocker. The boards were getting pretty heated, and I’d stayed far, far away from that whole clustertastrophe.  

“You seemed pretty eager to trust them.”

Well, they were they only people that night who acted with a modicum of decency. I mean, they were better to me than the actual hero, for heaven’s sake!

“And absolutely nothing to do with the fact that that Skew lady was pretty hot?”

Oh my god, will you ever grow up?! No, no, and no. Obviously not. They saved that guy from being killed, and helped me out. I think they’ve earned at least a little trust.

“But also because she was hot?”

If I say yes, will you shut up?

“You know I won’t. So what’s next, then? Hint; the answer is sleep.”

No, it isn’t. I spun back to the computer, pulling up an online map. The next step is this place. I tapped the location I’d marked, the abandoned Disciple base, pondering. I’m not exactly sure if I’ll be able to find anything, but it’s the only lead I have.

“It’s pretty slim, alright. But, and I’m definitely not hinting at anything here, but are you really going to walk into that place running on no sleep and way too much caffeine?”

No, I’m not. Partially because I’m going to get at least a few hours of sleep, but partially because… I grinned as an idea hit me.

“Ugh, just say it already, I know you’re dying to.”

I have a cunning plan.

“You’re the worst.”

Same person.

“Shut up.”

I shut down my computer, then stood, stretching with another yawn. I picked up my phone, and checked it to find the expected message still hadn’t arrived. I sighed, and double-checked my messages, but there was nothing since Sabi a few days ago.

Speaking of trust…

I hesitated for a second. Then, before dropping the phone onto its charger and trudging off to bed, I tapped a message into the screen and sent it flying off into the digital ether.

TO: Sabah ANDERS

"hey boo. can we talk?" 

"Heroes stuff.”