a dupe jones
(incomplete but getting there
rated R and NC-17 in one or two chapters so far
Disclaimer: I don't own any part of Roswell: the TV show, the book series, or the town.
Summary: The New York Royal Four, better known as the Dupes (but don't call them that to their faces), have received a message from "out there". But hold the press! That's not the latest news. It just ain't easy being a king or a synesthete. (A what?)
Zan was bored. It had been the same thing every night for a week. He and Rath would go to the Black Juice around 12am and talk bull all morning with guys they knew. All kinds of girls would circle Zan like sharks, often voracious in their attempts to claim his attention. Rath would end up fighting and Zan would have to restrain him from using his powers. Of course Rath would occasionally become reckless enough to down a shot glass and then Zan would have to almost carry him home half comatose. He watched from across the room as even now Rath was getting louder and more animated talking to some preppy college football types who were as out of place as two priests. Yeah, he’d have to intervene again. The whole Black Juice scene was tired.
But the night before last something weird happened here. As soon as Zan walked in the door strange vibes hit him. Rath said he didn’t feel anything and, before Zan could stop him, he plunged into the crowd without giving it a second thought. Typical. He couldn't tell what the source of the vibes was from where he was standing, so he would do two things: get Rath out then find it. The first goal wasn’t difficult since once again Rath had wasted no time getting a drink. It must have been potent sutff 'cause he was already slumped in a corner, head lolling. No one was paying him any attention. Rath wasn’t stupid. He just knew that when he messed up, ‘King Zan’ would take care of everything like he always did. When Zan took him to the coatcheck (as if the Black Juice’s clientele would pay a buck for that), the tall blond stationed there, who was mindlessly chewing her orange-tipped micro-braids stood almost at attention. With a Pepsodent smile she let him leave Rath just inside the doorway.
The Black Juice was ultra packed even for a Saturday night. Zan could feel the ‘vibrator’ moving around one side of the room. It even seemed to dance to the house music beat at times. He eased past the writhing bodies on the dance floor and the smashed goons licking spillage off the bar counter. Every time he thought he was close to it, when the sensation would become acute, the source would move. Then all of a sudden it disappeared completely off his radar, just like that. So he went back for Rath, deftly avoiding braidy-blond’s shiny orange lips, and jetted.
As he made his way to the crib, lugging Rath’s dead weight, Zan wondered if he was supposed to know what that feeling meant - if this was just one more thing their protector failed to tell them about. He couldn’t figure out what the h*ll kind of plan it was to assign Korn to protect the Royal Four. Korn’s name was actually Drakorin and he didn’t like the nickname. But since they’d spent the first seven months of consciousness outside the pods as little kids trying to fend for themselves, Zan figured they could call him any friggin thing they wanted. He was a young, rather nervous shape shifter with no sense of humor. He always reminded Zan of a socially functional dope head. Korn had told them a lot about their identities and history, but he was holding back just as much. Some things just didn’t fit. If Rath had previously been his trusted second in command, why’d he rarely agree with him about anything? Why didn’t he wholeheartedly trust his sister Lonnie if they had ruled so well together on Antar? She hadn’t done anything specific, but the fact was Lonnie was as sneaky as sh*t. How could he have had such a great passion for Ava back on Antar and married her instead of the other chick his parents had chosen for him in order to secure the desperately desired peace between Antar and Bhorduin, two of the five planets between which the fiercest battles occurred? She was cute but she left his pulse slow. Frankly, Zan thought their protector was full of sh*t half the time, and he was sick of him – even though he was usually nowhere to be found.
Two sharks in stiletto heels broke from the pack to try their luck. They whispered suggestively in his ear, thrusting their considerable endowments in his face. His gaze flicked over them indifferently. Zan had been with one of them once, but getting off wasn’t at the top of his ‘to do’ list these days. Besides, Earth girls were boringly easy – at least the ones he’d met. When the girls began to intimately rub his bare chest exposed by a black leather vest, he waved them away.
The girls pouted but slinked reluctantly away, knowing it was no use. Zan was either interested or he wasn’t. They never had to guess if the party was over before it began.
As his watchful eyes moved around the dim room barely illuminated by tiny wildly flashing lights and filled with music loud enough to melt his ears, Zan contemplated the summons they received yesterday and two days before that. All these years with no word from “home” and all of a sudden the E.T.s want the teenaged Royal Four, who were still clueless as far as he was concerned, to represent at some meeting. On top of that they wanted to do something to him, the nature of which had yet to be unexplained, to make sure he was the king. They must be nuts!
He saw that it was time to get Rath who was wearing that sick anticipatory look, signaling impending mayhem.
“Yo, let's go.”
Rath grinned at him and turned to his companions. “Hold up a minute.” To Zan, “Yo, you want in on this? They’re talking cah-ray-zay and I’m getting ready to stomp ‘em good.”
“We gotta go.”
“Go? Go where? We don’t gotta go nowhere, man. Why you always so uptight?”
“'Cause you never are. Why you always want to show off what we are?”
Rath got loud. “It don’t even matter if you don’t answer the summons.”
Zan stepped close to him, putting an arm around his neck, and spoke succinctly. “It matters ‘cause I say it does. Let’s go.”
Rath wanted to argue him down but he learned a long time ago how near impossible that was. And since he’d taken that sip of beer, he wasn’t up to the attempt anyway. So he turned to the beefy squares. “Gentlemen, some other time if you’re lucky. Peace out.”
Outside, they found Lonnie waiting for them against the wall far away from the light. “What do yous get in there besides STDs? Free meals?”
“Ooo, waiting for me, baby?” When she blocked Rath's attempt to kiss her, he added, “Come on, you know we can’t get sick. And that’s perfect ‘cause some of them mucky twat hoes are tight.”
Lonnie smacked his lingering hand away from her. “And ‘cause you just a nasty freak bastard. What’s up with yous? Yous been coming here every friggin night for a week.” Her lips twisted mockingly. “Hm. Is this where the summit’s gonna be, Zan? What are yous doing in there?”
“Dayummm! She’s definitely your sister, man. Why don’t you check it out yourself instead of ball bustin’? Yous don’t want me to have no fun and you won’t answer the summons. What the f*ck do yous want??”
“Chinese,” Zan said. “Where’s Ava?”
“Chick is home sulking. You must not be handling your biz, brother.”
Zan was preoccupied with watching for something – he didn’t know what – when he answered, “Sounds like you worrying about it more than me.” His sixth sense or whatever had been pricked on and off since that morning, a totally different feeling from the one he’d had in the club. All these friggin unexplained sensations were getting on his nerves. Something was coming. Whether it was good or bad, he couldn’t tell. But since he disliked the unknown, it was bad by default. Let the boogieman jump out so they could stomp him already, damn.
Lonnie stepped close to him. “I worry about a lot of things, brother. I’m just concerned that you don’t. I’m not spending my life stuck in the sewers of a primitive planet when I was made to cream.”
Rath massaged her neck with one hand. “That’s what I’m saying. Zan, if you don’t represent at the summit we’ll never get no answers.”
Zan smirked. “Why not? We got that protector you love so much.”
Rath jumped in front of him. “Man, why you playing? This ain’t no joke. I’m sick of stealing just to eat, and I’m sick of living like a rat. Some Royal Four we are! Living in sh*t!”
Lonnie picked at her nails, looking bored. “Cut the drama. Let’s just chill ‘til we eat. I’m mad hungry.”
Zan said nothing while Rath tried to stare him down for a few seconds. They went underground and Zan paid their fares as a sub approached. Lonnie clucked her tongue. “Check you out – putting tokens in the little slot. Aww! Where’d you take them from?”
“I bought ‘em.”
That caught Rath’s disgusted attention. “You bought ‘em?”
“I bet it’s worse than that,” Lonnie said. “You sold another painting that you actually painted, didn’t you? Psh! Why you insist on acting all limited like a human is beyond me – really beyond me, brother.”
Rath shook his head. “Man, that is sick.”
Zan ignored all their little barbs. He didn’t have time for their bullsh*t; he needed to stay alert. In Chinatown they bought food with money Lonnie stole yesterday. They ate there and Zan brought some back to the pod crib for Ava, who snatched the bag without speaking and plopped down in a corner with her back to them. Rath laughed, going over to lean on her, singing in a falsetto voice, “ ’After the love is gone! What used to be right is wrong!’ ”
“Get off me, fool!”
Lonnie's pupils rolled almost up into her head as she stared at the shorter girl before turning to Zan. “We need to talk about the summit.”
He sat down on the plush, if tattered, armchair and closed his eyes, wishing he could just bail. “So talk.”
Rath came back over and on and on they hammered at him. Zan figured he should let them get it all out because he was about to close the topic once and for all. He opened his eyes. “Okay, my turn. We don’t know enough to go to no summit. And friggin Korn ain’t made an appearance for like two months, not that he’d make a difference anyway. How did they know how to contact us? Why does Kivar, of all people, basically know exactly where we are? Aren’t we supposed to be a secret from our enemies? I mean, who are these people, things, whatever? What is really going down on Antar? Let’s face it. We don’t know sh*t about sh*t. And I ain’t gonna be moved around like a chessboard king about to get checkmated. And neither are yous. F*ck that! And this, my royal peeps, is the end of the discussion. Peace out.” He turned to Ava and said, “Let’s walk.”
She shrugged, getting up, while Rath barked out his indignation. “I don’t believe you, man! We been talking ‘til we blue and that’s all you got to say? That you’re afraid? You don’t want things to change. You want the friggin sewers. You don’t want to go home! What the h*ll kind of king are you, Zan??” As Zan walked away, taking Ava by the arm, Rath said to Lonnie, “It can’t be him. I’m the friggin king!”
Feeling a jolt of adrenaline, Zan stopped and without turning around held up a hand. A green bubble surrounded Rath where he sat and carried him suspended about a foot in the air to the other side of the room. Lonnie slowly stood up, gaping at the sight.
“Man, stop playing!” Rath exclaimed. “What the h*ll is this?”
Zan put his hand down and the bubble disappeared, dropping Rath to the floor in front of him. “This is I don’t want you to get confused, brother. Know this. I am the man. I’m the man!” He put a finger to his temple. “The proof is I think with a cool head. Are we on the same page?”
Rath looked mutinously above his head.
“I said are we on the same page?”
“Yeah, man, we are. Whatever.”
Ava was smirking at Rath as she followed Zan out. Rath breathed deeply. “We gotta do something about him.”
“Chill, yo. Let me think.”
“Why didn’t he tell us he could do that, huh? Why he ain't taught us, huh?”
“Who knows why Zan does what he does these days?”
“Well, that’s your brother, Lonnie. You don’t know how to put him in check?”
Lonnie sat back down, unperturbed. “Don’t worry, Number Two. We’re getting off this lame planet soon.”
***** ***** *****
The hairs on Syndara Morgan’s neck rose when she felt the dingy green aggressively bathing her left side.
“Ay, Dawdek! Man, where you been? I know you ran out of chucky beads before now,” exclaimed her brother Mack, standing on the cash register’s side of the counter.
“You’re not the only game in town.”
“But the best one. That's why you’re back.”
The other guy smiled rather gruesomely and said, “Ten bucks, right?”
“For some weak sh*t, sure man.”
Dawdek handed over fifteen dollars and received a small pouch without change. “How’s about throwing this little girl in with it? I could get these for nine at the Talisman.”
“Don’t be crude, man. This is my sister.”
Mack’s blond good looks froze. “See you ‘round, Dawdek.” It was a dismissal. Syndara shuddered inside at the dull red emanating from Hanson Dawdek to mix with the slimy green. He glared at Mack and then raked his eyes over her. Immediately the ugly colors faded with his exit.
“His shade of green is so disgusting! Why do you hang out with that creep, Mack?”
“I don’t. But I ain’t gonna stop him from spending his money here. Anyway, I notice you see that green with any guy who’s ugly and broke. And Dawdek ain’t got two pots to piss in.”
“I’m not kidding. It’s not just ugliness. He’s bad news, and this is a sick job you got. I can’t believe you.” She made a face, looking all around the store. “I’m helping you get another one ASAP ‘cause I’m never coming in this motha again.”
“Give it a rest. You coming home for Thanksgiving or what?”
“I’ve only been away a few months.”
“So? They want to see you.”
“I need to be away from the parents, all right? I can give thanks for my blessings and theirs right here.”
“You can’t still be mad about the divorce.”
Syn looked down, turning a jar of wheat germ over and over in her hands. “It’s not right,” she murmured in a low voice.
“I gotta take these boxes in the back.” She slowly followed him into the storage room. “Not everybody believes what you do, Syndara. Not everybody thinks they’ll go to hell if they don’t deny every earthly pleasure known to man, woman, and dog.”
“Don’t even try to front, Mack. You were an altar boy for as long as I can remember until you graduated and then you spent two friggin years in the seminary. So please. Don’t pretend you’ve seen the light of hedonism.”
“Okay, Sister Michael Margaret Mary. I just have one question. Is that your order’s new habit or did someone accidentally cut your skirt too tight and ten inches above the knee before piercing your bottom lip? All this while you were performing devotions, oblivious to the world of course.”
“Screw you, Mackenzee.”
“What’s screwed is you sulking like a brat and trying to punish two grown people for minding their own business. That’s what the divorce was. Just like your decision to travel halfway across the USA to live on your own at age eighteen. Granted, you picked the city I lived in – "
“Lucia and Wheat live here, too.”
“ – but I know you don’t think that was the hit of the year. Anyway, your alcoholic father, anorexic mother, and even your seminarian-turned-occult-shop-manager brother were amazingly supportive. Now you pull this sh*t. You should be ashamed. Move. This is heavy.” He brushed past her, carrying two hefty boxes full of ouija boards and bicolored black and white wigs.
“You can keep your wheat germ. I’ll buy my own,” she called down after him indignantly.
Syn stomped out ofthe store, taking the jar with her anyway.
----- ----- -----
Later that night she sat cross-legged on the bed in her apartment with her best friend Lucia, eating the Haagen Daz she brought over.
“So, how’s that fine brother of yours? What are his colors, Miss Synesthesia?”
“When are you gonna stop making fun of my unique sensory perceptions? I can’t help it if you can’t see people’s colors or taste sounds.”
“And I can’t help it if I wear the 80’s style better than Madonna.” Lucia held up her wrists, shaking about a thousand bracelets, none of which matched the design of her thick gold ‘Boy-Toy’ belt or pink sequined skirt short enough to get her arrested. “Now come on, did he ask about me?”
“Why would he ask about you? That would be so nasty, you dating my brother.”
“No, it wouldn’t. Mmm, I just love that Brad Pitt look he has. Plus, he’s got a nice ass.”
“Sometimes he is an ass. And ill! Do you mind not lusting after my brother around me please? It makes me squeamish.”
Lucia laughed. “You weren’t squeamish Saturday night when a certain someone was pushing up on you.”
“Ha-ha!” Lucia nudged her. “Go, Syn! It’s about time. I was starting to think Roman ruined your love life forever.”
“No, I’m just taking my time. I’m not even interested in being tied down like that. I mean, guys are nice to you at first – trying to woo you and everything, talking that sh*t they talk – "
“ – and then – BAM –suddenly you owe them the panties on demand.”
“Tell me about it.”
“It’s a shame ‘cause I really liked Roman but I had to tell him…look, I’ll let you know when it’s time. You don’t tell me. What’s wrong with these boys?”
“I don’t know, girl. I just pick and pluck through the barrel ‘til I find some fruit that’s not too bruised. If you’re too picky, you’ll be digging for years. I don’t have that kind of time.”
“Um, you’re eighteen like me. What’s the hurry?”
“No hurry. I mean, if I just want someone to hang out with, he doesn’t have to be perfect. He only has to have a good bod, a tolerable face, pronounce and spell my name correctly (what is so difficult about saying ‘Loo-sha’, and writing L-u-c-I-a??) and most importantly, he can not work my nerves. I get enough of that at home. But we digress. Roman’s out. Enrique’s in. Caught you a hot Spanish fly! Whoo-hoo!”
Syn smiled. “Stop. I don’t know. He seems all right.”
Lucia rolled her eyes. “ Please. He looks too good. That’s why I’m not all on it.”
“Hm. I gotta see him in the daylight first. How can you tell he looked ‘too good’? It was almost pitch black in there. I don’t know why I let you talk me into going to that stank club for the third time.”
“’Cause I’m your friend and you know the place is relatively harmless. And don’t worry. When it comes to guys, I see what I need to see. But the place is done. I’m tired of it. Now as I was saying, Enrique’s a no-no. See, an average looking guy is a humble guy. Gorgeous guys have too many special needs – like being worshipped and playing you for a fool. I need someone to cater to my special needs for a change. No more David Lipinskys for me! But anyway, I think you might have hurt Enrique’s feelings a li’l bit though.”
“Why you say that?”
“Well, a couple times while he was talking to you, you were looking all around – in the dark, mind you – for what, I don’t know. What were you looking for?”
“I don’t know. It was the weirdest thing! I felt like I was aware of someone that I never met.”
“Why am I friends with you? I can’t take this paranormal stuff. What color did you see during this ‘awareness’? Are you sure it was a person?”
Syn shook her head thoughtfully. “I’m not sure, but what else would be hanging out in the Black Juice? And I can’t see colors during loud noises.”
“Well, was it a good feeling or a bad feeling?”
“It wasn’t bad. It was just…like a pull, a magnetic thing, like I was supposed to be where it was.”
Syn thought about the incident while Lucia stared at her a few moments before shaking her head as if to clear it. “Okay, that’s enough of the weird for tonight. Let’s move on. Too bad Wheat decided to practice with that prima donna band of his – like I’m not good enough to front them with this voice.” Lucia belted out and held a soprano high note while Syn held her ears.
“All right, Kathleen Battle!”
Lucia grinned. “I guess we’ll just have to eat his share of the Haagie.” She flicked on the TV right in the middle of a ‘Friends’ episode and bounded off the bed to get the goodies.
Syn watched the tube without really looking at it. She thought of the times she’d felt that pull before. They were nowhere near as intense as the other night, yet still memorable. The first time was on the uptown ‘A’ train about six weeks ago. Although she looked carefully around, she knew it was no one in the same near empty car with her, but maybe in a car or two in front of her. She didn’t have time to investigate because she’d reached her stop. The other time she was in Chinatown, but it was very faint then. She didn’t see any colors either time. Syn didn’t know why she hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. As she popped open the pint of chocolate Lucia tossed her, she decided to stake out the Black Juice for a couple of nights to see what might…come up. She smiled at Lucia who was digging blissfully into the butter pecan and who didn’t know yet that she was coming too.
Ava covertly watched Zan through her lashes. They had walked about five blocks up Broadway without speaking. She didn't know what this was about, but she was glad he brought her along. She was rarely ever alone with him. She wondered if he was finally gonna do her. Ava was sick of Lonnie and Rath's insinuations about how good it was between the two of them. Why didn't Zan want her like that if they really had the hots for each other in their past lives? And if she asked herself if she really loved him, she couldn't definitely say yes. She definitely wanted him. She even respected him, but she didn't really know Zan. He never let any of them too close to the person behind the leader.
"Yo," he said breaking into her reverie.
She glanced at his profile, then turned away frowning, feeling like a cornball. Why should he excite her so much like he was something new? She saw him every friggin day. But still...she knew for a fact that several girls had enjoyed his attentions - briefly - and she was mad jealous that she hadn't been one of them.
"What's your malfunction?"
"You can't be hanging out alone. It ain't safe."
"I just need to chill by myself sometimes. I was at the crib. Ain't nothing gonna happen there." She hid a little smile, pleased that he seemed to care, even if it was only the 'Leader of the Alien Troops' kind of caring.
"Why you need to chill so much all of a sudden?"
"Tck! The rest of y'all do it. Why not me?"
"That's different. No more hanging out alone. That's it."
Ava bit back some sharp words just in time. What the h*ll difference did it make what she did? They all treated her like a little dork anyway. Sometimes she felt like leaving them and forgetting all the destiny sh*t Korn had pumped into them.
"Ava, man, you listening to me?"
"Yeah, I'm listening."
They walked on in silence. Broadway was still alive south of Houston at 3am. Zan stopped to talk to some old head punk guys he knew. And of course, out of the friggin blue, a couple of punk girls came drifting over with the dumbest come-on lines she'd ever heard. Ava wanted so badly to reach out and burn their ugly hair, but she wasn't too good with her powers. Anyway Zan would go ballistic if she did, so she just watched them with looks that really could have killed if she were Lonnie. Now that was one creep scary b*tch. No lie! Anyway he insisted they only use their powers when necessary or when no one else was around. Most of the time Zan really wasn't any fun. He said 'no' more times than a career virgin with a tight frame. She watched him now, deep in conversation, but she knew part of his brain was constantly on guard, aware of their surroundings and who was standing where.
Finally he motioned for her to come on. On their way back home, Ava kept staring at her favorite burger joint as they passed by it. She was debating whether she wanted a Monterey Jack enough to bother saying anything when she tripped on the uneven pavement and feel on her knee. She screamed through gritted teeth as she lay on her side unable to move it.
"Lay straight on your back, Ava." Zan hunkered down and placed a hand on it for two seconds. "You a'ight?"
He pulled her to her feet. "You need to watch where you going. What's the matter? You hungry again?"
"You know it. That Chinese goes right through me no matter how much meat's in that jawn."
He smiled wryly. "A'ight."
He took her in and bought her what she wanted. And he didn't even rush her like the others did because she always ate a lot and always ate slow.
***** ***** *****
A couple days later Korn showed up. It was about 11am and three of the Four were asleep. Zan insisted that at least one of them be awake at all times to guard the others. It was Lonnie's shift. Korn came up behind her.
"You gotta do better than that if you trying to sneak, Korny," she drawled without turning.
Korn came around to face her. Lonnie looked him up and down. His taste in looks wasn't bad, but nothing really to write the home planet about. For all of the ten years they'd known him he normally appeared in the shape of the last person he killed, some slender preppy dark haired Joe College type - or so he claimed. She doubted that 'cause that would mean he hadn't burned anybody for ten years. Even though he seemed to bounce from nervous, whiny weasel to stern, steadfast guardian in the blink of an eye, Lonnie sensed a mean streak in him that she could relate to. She smirked up at him from her usual spread-eagled position on the couch.
"How the h*ll are ya, Korny? Have a seat."
He stared blankly at her without moving. "Wake up the king."
"You're such a winsome guy." She held her hand over the case holding a CD until Eminem's voice threatened to crack the very ground beneath them.
"Yo!" Ava shouted, sitting straight up with her eyes shut tight and her hands over her ears.
Rath leaped up. "Whooo-Hoooooo!" And he started break dancing, spinning agilely on his neck like an 80's revue gone mad.
Korn shoved his hands in his trench coat pockets, his shoulders slightly hunched as he tried to keep from covering his own ears. Thoroughly annoyed he walked over to Zan who hadn't moved from his prone position. Zan stared up at him and casually raised his hand in Lonnie's direction. The music stopped.
"Soon maybe your home planet, Zan - in the form of space dust - if you don't answer the summons."
Zan sat up slowly and rubbed the back of his neck. Ava blinked and turned away. She didn't feel like being turned on as usual by the sight of his bare chest. All she wanted was sleep. They'd all been out extra late that morning.
Zan looked at the clock. "You must be crazy coming up in here this time of morning, talking some bullsh*t."
Korn sighed with exasperation. "Representatives from the four other planets are ready to talk now. They want peace. Even Kivar wants to cut a deal." His eyes flicked over to Lonnie briefly. "The death toll increases daily - by astronomical numbers. At this point no one will really win the war and everyone knows that."
Rath played with his hockey stick. "See, Zan. We gotta go."
Zan looked from him to Lonnie and Ava. "How you know about the summons?"
Korn shrugged. "I'm your protector. I'm supposed to know about these things. So why haven't you answered it?"
"Maybe for the same reason you haven't answered the f*cking question I just asked you. Don't play with me, Korn."
"The orb, Your Highness."
"The orb, My Highness? Really? Well, then you already know why I ain't answered the summons."
"I'm sure I don't--"
"Yo," Lonnie broke in impatiently, "your little communicator ain't where you showed us no more, Korny, so E.T. can't phone home."
The shape shifter turned sharply towards her. "What do you mean, the orb is not there? That's impossible! It's secured."
Rath made a goofy face. "If that's secured, no wonder Antar is all f*cked up." The ball he whacked just missed Ava's head.
"Fool, watch what you doing?"
"Sorry, baby," he said innocently, twirling the hockey stick like a baton. "What I don't get is, why would they try to hide something from outer space in the basement of friggin Bloomingdale's, man?" He laughed. "That's some stupid sh*t, ain't it?"
"Well, this is the same task force that left us in the sewers, Mohawk. Bloomingdale's. Sh*t, why not attach it to a pothole at 42nd and Broadway?" Lonnie said, smiling as Korn's demeanor changed form guardian to weasel.
"Oh no no no! This can't be--I can't--then this changes some things, Zan. I'm afraid the time for talking might be over in light of this...new development--which I'll check out personally of course, but another emissary's been sent as a...back up if the summit doesn't happen as planned. This other emissary--its mission is to physically remove a king of Antar--alive preferably--from this planet."
"It?" Ava said uncertainly.
"You saying 'a king' like there's more than one legit," Rath said.
"Don't forget the back up set of the four of you, the duplicates."
"Ah yeah," Lonnie drawled, "the much debated dupes."
"Debated maybe, but real nevertheless. If Zan One doesn't go to the summit - and it must be the original Zan hybrid that attends the summit - then either Zan One or Zan Two will be removed from this planet. Whichever can be reached first." Only Lonnie's eyes moved as they exchanged a glance with Rath, then slowly rolled to Zan.
"Removed to where? Why?" Ava demanded.
Korn gritted his teeth. "Away form here. I don't know where or for what purpose right now, okay? But I can find out." Then he swallowed, turning to Zan. "I do know that this second emissary will grab you on sight. You could be on a crowded bus or on the toilet." Korn looked around at the others. "In case you're all wondering, once the king is taken, all loose ends on this planet will be...eliminated."
"Whoa, Korn," Rath sputtered. "What are you saying, man? We're the Royal Four."
"Well, now you can see why this meeting is more important than you think. Emissary Two is probably now close by and may or may not have found you yet. If it has, it's doing nothing but watching your movements and waiting for a signal, which because you've been uncooperative, it may be receiving as we speak. Your only advantage is that you might be able to sense its presence. It's a shape shifter of some kind so it can be destroyed - if you get to it before it gets to you. So with these uncertainties in mind it would behoove you--"
Rath mockingly mouthed the word 'behoove' at Lonnie.
"--to answer the first one, the representatives' emissary, in the affirmative as soon as possible."
"But we just told you--" Ava piped in until Zan motioned for her to stop.
Korn shifted nervously under Zan's prolonged stare.
Korn's chest lowered as if he was holding his breath. "Good! Your Highness, there may be a peaceful end sooner than we think. You'll be revered forever for this. I know it seems too risky to come out in the open, but it's the right thing to do." He looked around at each of them. "It's what you all were made to do. I will return immediately after you attend the summit. Good luck!" Then he was gone.
"So wha's up, brother?" Lonnie asked. "You know that orb ain't there. Korn must really be on crack if don't remember what we told him a minute ago."
Rath looked quizzical. "Yeah but you ain't say nothing 'cause one of yous got the orb. Right?"
"Nah, nobody's got the orb," Lonnie answered without taking her eyes off Zan. "You ain't got no intentions of going to that meeting, do you? You gonna let all our people die."
"What? Man, yous don't have it?? Korn!!"
"Enough!" Zan said. "I can answer the summons and I can go to the summit. But that can wait a couple hours, no matter what the shape shifter said. We don't need Korn and yous don't need to worry about the orb. We need to sleep, yo. I'm taking over the watch."
"That's okay, brother--"
"I'm on watch. That's it."
Lonnie rolled her eyes and lay down. Rath gave Zan a warning glance and lay down beside her. Ava curled up near Zan and was the first to fall asleep. About two hours later the room was full of snoring and Zan said to Lonnie, "You can't fake-snore no better than that?"
"Tck!" Her alert eyes opened wide to glare at him and then she finally turned over, letting sleep claim her.
Lonnie was the first to awaken late that afternoon and as she feared, Zan was gone. Damn!
Around 11 that night Zan was at the top of the Empire State Building. He sometimes went there alone when the city was lit up, and it felt like he was in another reality. He looked with an artist's eye at the scene, but the sense of peace he usually felt there eluded him.
It was clear to him that Korn couldn't be trusted anymore whether he was too stupid, too out of his mind, or too much in the pocket of their enemies. The New York Four were expendable and probably always had been. They were probably just decoys and now they were in danger. But after observing Lonnie and Rath earlier a thought occurred to Zan that really shook his equilibrium. Maybe it was only the king who was in danger.
There were too many questions the answers to which couldn't be anything but bad news. No one was supposed to know about that orb, yet it was missing. If Korn or one of the other Three took it, why did they and why were they lying to him about it? And if none of them took it, then who did and what was the thief doing with it? It was more than just a communicator.
A feeling in his gut told him what Korn said about the second emissary was true. Maybe that's what he felt in the Black Juice and in a couple other places. Maybe this emissary was stalking them - him. And since no one knew that he definitely had no intention of going to a summit where anybody could try to kill him or that he had no way of responding to the invite anyway 'cause he didn't have the friggin orb, he had the upper hand temporarily. But Zan felt like time was running out. It seemed like a good idea to find the second emissary, before the motha found him, and kill it. 'Cause he d*mn sure wasn't going to be taken - 'alive preferably' - off the mothaf*cking planet.
***** ***** *****
It was a little after midnight. Lucia glared at Syn who was bobbing her head and tapping a foot encased in a thigh length black leather boot to the thump of a Linkin Park baseline.
"Syn," Lucia screeched, attempting to be heard, "why did I let you talk me into this again? Do you see him? Do you see?" She thrust a finger in 'his' direction.
A tall lanky boy sporting a crew cut leaned down into her ear. "See who? I can't see nothing."
"Wheat, watch your drink! Don't spill it on me!"
Lucia grabbed him and Syn by the arms and marched them over to a slightly less noisy corner.
"Nooo, look you spilled beer on me, Wheat! D*mn!" Lucia was brushing at her red silk blouse fringed around the short sleeves with red glittery shimmies.
"Sorry if I ruined your shoot, Twiggy, but this is the risk of frequenting a place like this - a place where...You. Can't. See. Sh*t."
Syn was barely paying attention to her friends. She was edgy. This was the fourth night in a row that she and Lucia had come to the club. They coaxed Wheat into coming this time so that he could be their ride. It really sucked whenever Lucia's car broke down, which was often. Syn thought maybe she should forget about the whole thing until it happened again somewhere else. After all, if she were meant to know, one day she would know. Besides, her inheritance from Grandma Sena hadn't made her a millionaire or anything, and the Black Juice wasn't all that cheap. But...she was almost obsessed with the memory of that other night. She fingered her black rosary bracelet.
"I know you ain't praying for the souls in here," Wheat said after a swig of beer. "There ain't enough 'amen's' in the world to help these mothas."
Syn smiled. "Not praying this time. It matches my outfit."
Lucia pursed her lips. "You drunk already, Roebuck Wheaton? You know very well the girl's got more rosary bracelets than I got clothes and accessories put together."
"Tolja 'bout calling me that." Wheat held his cup over her head and Lucia grabbed his wrist.
"No! No, Wheat, okay I'm sorry!"
"Touchy, touchy. See Syn, this is what I didn't want to happen. I didn't want to run into David and watch him crawl all over that thing he dumped me for!"
Wheat smirked. "Tawny Lovell ain't just a 'thing'. She's a very good thing, so I heard, and generous if you catch my drift. Guess Davy was tired of waiting for you to give it up. I thought you were over the dude anyway. He ain't all that."
"I am over him. Go chase some females. You're working my nerves right now."
"Nah, not me. These chickens are diseased up in here."
"Whatever. Syn, I can't believe this. It's not jealousy. It's just weird and yucky. Look at the way he's touching her. He used to do the same thing to me." Just then, David spotted them from halfway across the room and his face froze up. "Ol' phony. Bah!" Lucia rolled her eyes and flung up her hand as she twisted with a flourish on her four-inch heels, her red skirt billowing out prettily. "N E way...Wheat, gimme a sip. That's Heineken, right?"
He thrust the cup at her and said, "Earth to Syndara. What are you looking for? You looking all around like the FBI on a stakeout. Why is it so dark in this club, man? You can't tell what you're dancing with until you take it home and then it's too late." Lucia handed him an empty cup. "Oh, you are so ignorant."
"A-heh. Excuse you. Ask somebody else if they would like a drink next time you send one of your 'of age' friends to the bar for you. Okay, chico?"
"That is it. I gotta get away from you. I got my cell phone. Yous call me when yous ready to go."
"How do you like that?" Lucia said, watching him disappear into the crowd. "Syn, this is the fourth night and nothing's happened. Maybe the other night was a fluke. Y' know, a sensory overload or something. Maybe your wires just got crossed with another synesthete like you. Wait, let me get this hair thing." She pinned a lock that had escaped from Syn's upsweep.
Syn sighed with disappointment and spoke into Lucia's ear, "Let's go to the Blue Room. It's too noisy here to talk."
The adjacent Blue Room was almost as dark as the main dance floor but wasn't as stank, in Syn's opinion. Fittingly, it was illuminated by soft blue light and had its own bar. There were mix-matched chairs everywhere surrounding small round tables individually illuminated by little silver lamps in the centers. Gratefully the girls sank down into two huge puffy chairs in a corner and quietly savored taking a load off.
Finally Lucia looked over at Syn's outfit with interest. "Hmm, dressed to kill tonight, aren't we? Ultra short black leather jacket, black leather bra, the quintessential skirt of the same material. But the absolute piece de resistance are these funkadelic shiny black thigh boots! Oh yes, I need to wear this outfit to Jennifer's party next week."
"Tck! I'll think about it."
"Oh please do. And isn't that my ruby navel ring?"
"It certainly is not." Syn laughed. "Would you stop browsing through my clothes while I'm wearing them in public? Thank you."
"Well, I just...Ooo, Syn, look! I didn't know Mickie was tending bar in here tonight."
"You know what that means."
They grinned at each other.
"I'll be right back!
Syn watched Lucia strut away, admiring her ability to tip on those needle thin heels of hers. A guy approached Lucia while she was chatting away with Mickie at the bar. Syn could see she kept giving him one-syllable answers. Suddenly he stooped all the way down and Lucia punched him hard in the head. Syn was over there in two seconds, her hand already wrapped around the switchblade in her purse. But a very large bouncer already had the guy, struggling to get to Lucia, in a neck clamp. The creep's eyes were full of malevolence. Syn saw a maggoty shade of yellow emanating from him and smelled rotten eggs at the sound of his obscene threats. Mickie was screaming obscenities right back until the bouncer took him out.
"Bastard! I keep telling them they gotta keep him outta here, but he's like the owner's cousin's friend or some sh*t. They wait about a week after one of his little performances and then let him in again. G*ddammit!" She turned sympathetically to Lucia. "First round's on the house for both of you. Be right back."
"Lucia," Syn exclaimed, holding her friend's arm. "Are you okay?"
Lucia patted her short straight hair of which not a strand was out of place. "Oh I'm fine as wine."
"What did he do?"
"I told the worm 'no' once and I don't like to repeat myself. So like a thief he thought he could just take the goodies."
"F*cking freak asshole. Unbelievable!"
"Understatements both. Maybe I should stop wearing red. Shees! Oh now, don't look at me like that. I am fine. I have an Italian father, a Puerto Rican mother, but I'm a natural blond. Honey, I was born cool as ice." With slightly trembling hands, she took the tray of drinks and a bowl of Chex snack mix that a smiling Mickie handed her.
"Don't drop my Sweet Nina Long Island Ice Teas. I made them with extra special care this time. Do not gulp them down. I'm warning you! See, I gave you little glasses of ice on the side. Use 'em!"
They walked back to their seats.
"Oh my g*d, this is so not watered down, Lucia. I gotta pour this on ice."
"Whoo-hoo! Must be 1000 proof. Ice is right."
The time passed uneventfully for them, thank goodness, while they sipped their drinks and laughed, watching some of the locals act out. Then something in the air changed. Syn felt a slight vibration. She leaned forward unconsciously.
"What is it, hon?"
Syn's eyes were wide. "I think it's happening again. Just follow me and don't talk at all, okay?"
"Ohhh-kay. You're the boss lady. Whoo, do I feel funky!" Syn took a giggling Lucia by the hand, pulling her along.
In the main room again they stood along a sidewall and the sensation increased steadily by degrees.
"Oh I meant to - hic - call Wheat. Too loud here. Be right back."
Syn grabbed her hand. "Wait--"
"I'll really, really, really be right back. We gotta go home. I'm done." Lucia tipped carefully away.
Syn felt a small panic rising. The curiosity and sense of adventure that filled the past few days waned quickly to almost nothing. Now she just wanted to be home and safe and bored. She pressed her back against the wall, her breathing becoming shallow as the sensation took on a more definite form. Although she couldn't yet locate the body it came from, she could see a rich ocean of purple edged with gold. Then it became a pure sharp magenta wave that washed over her. It ended up wrapping itself around her securely like a blanket and squeezing her gently like a steady pulse.
She'd never felt anything like it before in her life.
Everywhere bodies were jerking frantically to the wild head-banger music. The only people who were motionless were she and the guy standing just two feet away from her against the wall. She didn't turn her head to see for certain, but she felt his maleness - and a lot more. It was clear to her by the warmly intense suction pulling her body towards his that he was the one. It took considerable physical effort on her part not to stumble over into him. He was ground zero of the whole experience threatening now to make her faint with a real sensory overload.
Oh my g*d! What is he?
The desire to see his face was almost too great to bear, but even greater than that was her desire to get the h*ll away. Despite the fact that he wasn't looking at her, she could tell she had his complete attention by the way the magenta was flowing into her skin. He was after something and wasn't going to just let her walk away. A spurt of adrenaline freed her petrified limbs and before she could break into a dead run like she planned, she was quickly pulled back against a hard body as soon as she pushed away from the wall. She gasped aloud, her head falling back against his shoulder, and he placed a hand on her neck. His arm around her bare waist flexed, pressing her closer and she could feel his heart beating as fast as hers.
After an eternity he spoke into her ear, "Move and I'll end you right here."
Syn hoped that her trembling didn't count. His deep voice, rough yet smooth as butter, ran through her, marking her inside. His warning was frightening, true, but she knew she wasn't in the presence of evil - not with the taste of spicy hot apple cider in her mouth...
Zan barely got the words out past his tight throat. They had lost meaning and were just a product of his thoughts before he approached the wall to stand next to her. He hardly knew what he was doing now. Her little body curved into his, burning him with her heat. He stood still with her like that for he didn't know how long. The sounds of the club came to him from far away like muffled echoes down a tunnel, as his body seemed to configure itself to hers, their hearts beating in time together. She fit perfectly into him, as if she was the missing piece of his puzzle or the answer to the first question he ever asked but never got the answer to. He didn't want to move, even as he tried to distance his brain from how right she felt.
His hand stirred on the soft skin of her neck, finding her pulse there and lightly rubbing circles around it. Her soft whimper fascinated him. He wanted to hear it again and started to…Wait, yo…he had to get control. And he would have if she hadn't touched him, her hand lightly sliding along his forearm at her waist. A frisson of familiarity went through him. This wasn't the emissary - no, not making him feel this way. She couldn't be ‘cause he didn't want to let go of her, so the natural thing to do was…He turned her slightly towards him, cupping her jaw line. He couldn't see her face and it didn't even matter. Zan brushed his lips against hers and heard her soft gasp but was unprepared for the jolt of bliss that went straight to his head and then through the rest of him. What the-? As he turned her, unresisting, completely around in his arms, she sucked her breath in sharply when he scraped the palm of his hand against her navel ring. He barely noticed and without pausing to look at her, brought his mouth down on her closed one. Her hands slid slowly up his arms to grip his shoulders but she wasn't letting him in. And Zan had to get in.
“Open your mouth,” he commanded roughly against her lips as he tried to urge them apart with his, his hands roving up and down her back and pressing her firm bottom, molding her to him.
“Please,” she managed to whisper breathlessly, briefly turning her cheek to his mouth. He sucked her lips back to his. He knew what she wanted. But he didn't know if he could be gentle with her right now, whoever she was. The need to possess her, this faceless girl in his arms, surged through him as if she was as necessary to him as his next breath. Sh*t, what was she doing to him? Her lips parted slightly again, to say something perhaps. But as if he were starving, he wasted no time tasting her fully. Zan groaned, immediately overcome by her potent flavor…peaches. Oh, he loved him some peaches! Right now he could eat them…all night. He dug his hands into her thick hair, loosening the pins holding the silky dark mass in place as his tongue mated with hers, leaving no part of her mouth unexplored.
In her head Syn felt like she was alternately sky diving and drowning. It was scary but it felt so right, as if she was created to be with only him like this, at this moment, forever. It was mad crazy, but she couldn't stop! Her arms slid around his waist, up his back and all the way down in open invitation, mimicking the way he had caressed her, and demanding that he lose himself in her as completely as she was lost in him. And she was definitely lost. Ooo…or had she been found at last? With an uncontrollable passion bordering on violence, they kissed on and on in the dark until her hands took hold of the front of his vest, ready to pull him to the floor to complete what they started, when a tiny glimmer of sanity ripped a little tear in her blanket of magenta and grew. She pulled back a little between each kiss, now attempting to draw breath and maybe express a coherent question. “Oh…I…” There was a rushing noise around them and her unknown captor paused his eager feasting on her to look toward the commotion. Too late. A tide of people knocked into them shouting and screaming, disconnecting the two of them and smashing against the wall with raucous cheers. With a functional piece of her mind Syn stumbled back even further out of the way, trying to get her bearings. The air was thick now with the odor of whiskey breath and sweat…but the taste of his wild strawberry kiss was still in her mouth and on her swollen lips as she licked them feeling bereft and vulnerable without his warmth.
Someone grabbed her arm.
“Man, did you see that?” It was Wheat with a frantic Lucia beside him.
“Oh Syn, I'm sorry! It took Wheat sooooo friggin long to answer his d*mn phone.”
“I turned it off for a while. Sue me.”
Lucia turned away form him, holding a hand up to his face. “Like that makes some kind of sense. Syn, are you all right? I saw the Slamming Pr*ck coming and thought, ‘Oh my g*d!’ I knew I left you somewhere over here—"
“The what?” Syn shook her head, trying to get back to a lucid state. She felt like she was just regaining gravity.
“A bunch of guys get really drunk, and they're so drunk they think slamming their bods into walls is fun. It’s a new rave thing,” Wheat offered, steering the girls towards the exit. “Anybody got a coat or hat to pick up or steal?”
“Ay, slow down, thug!” Lucia demanded. “These heels get a little higher after I get my mint julep on.”
“Nobody told you to ‘mint julep’ a couple of Sweet Ninas.”
“Oh, I only had one!”
Still smirking Wheat turned to Syn with a startled, “Damn, Syn. What the h*ll happen to you? Your hair is shaped like Gumby’s head all chewed up.”
Lucia poked his side. “She probably got to grind through about five songs with some of them hard bodies in there while I was squatting with diarrhea in that nasty 'ladies' room, trying to reach you on the friggin phone. Now can we go! I'm really and truly done.”
A relieved Syn climbed into the roomy back seat of Wheat's great-grandfather's 1978 Chevy.
“I swear, you need two lanes for this monster.”
“Lucia, don’t go there unless you wanna be left on this corner to hook your way home.” He pulled off with a screech of tires.
“Blah, blah, blah…gimme some of them Skittles.”
“Just pass ‘em, Roebuck.”
“You are so lucky I’m driving right now it’s not even funny. You just wait—“
While Wheat and Lucia kept up a steady banter, Syn put her head back and watched the Manhattan lights endlessly fly by leading the way across the bridge finally to a more subdued Brooklyn. Wheat dropped them off at Syn’s apartment. Lucia fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. Syn, of course, lay awake thinking about the one she had joined with, whose face she never saw. Yet she…knew him. She touched her lips often. It had been a feverish dream, one she wished were true. But Syn was practical and she didn't really like being that out of control. He was a complete stranger and she had been more than ready to...! Syn moved restlessly. She preferred to see things as they were, not as she wanted them to be. And what she wanted right now was too sublime and probably as impossible as feeling a certain color after it’s moment had passed. Finally, facing her window and watching the dawn come, she prayed as usual for her family and friends, for peace among all people and peace within herself. And she prayed for her stranger, whoever and wherever he may be.
----- ----- -----
When the wave of revelers hit them Zan put his hand out, shocking a couple guys who fell to the floor. Then he quickly checked himself ‘cause he felt like putting down the whole crowd, everyone who had just separated him from her. He shoved people out of the way, checking the floor to make sure she hadn’t been trampled. Nothing – not even the guys he dropped. He was minimally satisfied that he hadn’t killed them with his unrestrained reflex. Where was she? Sh*t, who was she? He couldn’t feel her anymore. He searched the entire club. Where the h*ll had she gone? As soon as he had walked into The Black Juice he felt it. The emissary or something else was in the joint. His senses led him straight to the wall across the room. And there she was – sending strong, warm pulse waves through him and acting like she didn’t know he was there. He stood near her to see what she would do. She was as aware of him as he was of her and that told him she wasn’t the alien stalker because she hadn’t snatched him off to La La land or bitten his head off. Suddenly he felt a little burst of energy from her and knew she was preparing to make her move, whatever that would be and he was ready…or so he thought. The moment he put his hands on her he was caught. She wrapped him up tight and he didn’t want to get loose. If anything, he wanted to get more ensnared in her. And now Zan felt like a part of himself had been cut off.
The air outside the club was bordering on cold but it didn’t bother him. It was just what he needed. Why was he getting so worked upover swinging a little episode in the dark with some strange chick? As if he hadn’t done some sh*t not even mentioned in the Kama Sutra. It was just a kiss, for crysakes! That’s all. He probably would’ve just done her against the wall for the h*ll of it and jetted. He walked a little faster down Broadway, looking more intimidating than usual to passersby, as he tried to convince himself. Well sh*t, what was there to convince? His Luke Skywalker problems hadn’t gone anywhere, not to mention he wasn’t sure he could even trust his own family. He had to focus on staying alive and more specifically – what the f*ck he was gonna do now. He felt like he needed to rethink everything, like he was slipping or something. Not good. So he would lay low for a few hours in a calm spot where he could get his sh*t together again. Having decided that Zan slowed his pace and felt his stress level drop little by little. He had nearly arrived at his chosen chill-out destination when suddenly an appetite for peaches assailed him and wouldn’t leave his head.
----- ----- -----
Lonnie lay there, staring up at the crystal chandelier, wondering why anybody would put one as large as that over a bed. Freaks. At first she got a kick out of being there, but now… She hated feeling uncertain and out of place. She needed to be in total control of every situation or she went nuts. It had been a mistake to come here. Some of Rath’s impulsiveness must have rubbed off on her, making her weak. She turned her head to stare at the empty champagne bottle and an empty bottle of pills. It was nice to know that there was a way they could enjoy alcohol without passing out. But so what? Lonnie rolled her eyes and fixed them on the chandelier again as she contemplated her fork in the road. The ends were sharp. Somebody was gonna bleed and it wasn’t gonna be her. But she had to think everything through. She just wasn’t sure which way she wanted to roll and no one was gonna friggin rush her either. She turned her head the other way. Especially not him, no matter how good he was. When his hand stirred and began to caress her bare stomach, she closed her eyes, biting into her bottom lip. And oh, he was good. She could feel his eyes on her now, intense eyes that either put her on the offensive, taking no prisoners, or put her body beneath his (or on top – depending on her mood.)
“You'd better be careful, Vilandra.” He stroked her cheek. “This is either the beginning or the end.”
She turned her head, casually knocking his hand away. “Even if it’s both it don’t matter.”
He waited a beat, his eyes narrowing. “Well?” he demanded with an edge.
Lonnie smirked at him. “I don’t give up the 411 just ‘cause you do me good.” She raked a hand through his curly hair. “But try an encore and see where it gets you.” He sat up abruptly and she chuckled. “I don’t have to remind you of the magnitude of this situation. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting. Even you can get burned by this and there is no turning back.” He ignored the warning glitter in Lonnie’s eyes as he got dressed.
“You ain’t even gonna shower?”
He smiled slightly buttoning up his shirt. “No, I like the smell of you on me.”
In a stony silence she went to wash up in the fancy bathroom. When she came back out, she noted without surprise that he was gone. Lonnie packed her bag, of course stripping the room of everything that wasn’t nailed down, and jetted, heading uptown towards Bloomingdale’s.
Lucia absently watched the sunlight that filled Syn’s small cheerful kitchen. “You ever get homesick?”
Syn, covered with a frilly granny apron, looked up from the stove. “Well sometimes. You know my parents have several issues that made it real easy to move fifteen hundred miles away. But…I still love them. Mack keeps asking me about Thanksgiving, but I don’t know. He doesn’t know I had a real nasty argument with Mom right before I left.”
“You need to patch that sh*t up, girl. You lucky to have your Mom around.”
Syn studied Lucia’s downcast face. Oh d*mn. She’d forgotten that today was the seven-year anniversary of Lucia’s big sister’s death. Rachel had been their age at the time. Syn hugged her.
“I’m all right. I just still really miss her.” Lucia’s wave of grief passed as quickly as it had come – for now. Then she turned her full attention to her friend. “Okay, don’t think I didn’t notice, Syn.”
“Huh? Hold up. Let me do this first.” Syn concentrated on flipping a large pancakewith two thin spatulas and smiled with satisfaction when it landed perfectly on the other side.
“That one’s mine, right? Okay, I was way too tired last night to get the scoop. But Wheat was right about your hair, you know. It looked like you’d been worked over. What happened?”
“It was very…unusual,” Syn said hesitantly. She carefully lifted a pancake from one of the pans onto Lucia’s plate.
“No, I want the one you just turned. Please!”
Syn exhaled loudly.
“Thanks a bunch. Okay. So don’t stop there, ho! Spill!”
Syn suddenly felt a little shy about the incident. “Well…I finally met the person giving off those vibes – sorta.”
“He – “
“He? Well, this is getting good. Go ahead.”
“I’m trying, thank you! Anyway, he was standing right next to me and the feelings were so strong that I got scared. I was gonna run, but he grabbed me and – “
“Did the s.o.b. hurt you?” Lucia had the avenging angel face on. “‘Cause we can go back there and yank that fool’s vibrating ass.”
“No, no, Lucia. Will you let me tell it?
“Well, I’m listening.”
“He kissed me.”
“Oh my g*d! Was it good? What’d he look like? Better than Roman or Enriqué or that yummy brother of yours?
“Well, I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, Syndara? You kissed a guy without getting a good look at him? His mouth could have been crusty. Girl, you gotta look for these things! Was there tongue action?
“It just happened - !”
“Oh my g*d!”
“It was dark. I was drawn to him and it just felt so right. Plus, his kiss tasted like strawberries. You know I love strawberries and I’ve never experienced that before - so it didn’t matter what he looked like.”
“Maybe he just ate some before he ‘bumped into’ you, Syn.”
“No, he didn’t. I can’t explain it. It was something about him that made him taste like strawberries and that meant it was…right to kiss him.” Syn had to laugh. “I’m not crazy! I know this doesn’t make any sense. Here, hold your plate up.”
“Mmm, this looks so good. Thanks. Well, maybe I should meet Mystery Dude and get a taste myself so I can understand what you mean, hm?”
“I don’t think so,” Syn replied with an only half-playful glare.
“Just kidding. Whoo,look at you! All jealous and don’t even know what boy looks like. Mm! He sure put the mojo on you. But don’t say it doesn’t matter what he looks like. If he was Quasimodo, you’d hesitate just a li'l bit, so lets keep it real, k? So did yous talk at all? I mean, what led up to this fruit-flavored Kiss of Kisses?”
“He told me he was gonna ‘end me’ if I moved.”
“Hmmm…since when do death threats turn you on?”
“Tck! Of course it wasn’t that. Look, you’d have to be there to understand.”
“Well, then what - ?”
“Let me sum it up for you.” Syn poured syrup as she spoke. “We kissed until that drunken crowd of goons nearly trampled us. We got split up and at that point you and Wheat walked up. We didn’t exchange names or phone numbers. We each don’t even know what the other looks like. I’m sure he couldn’t see me. I’ll probably never meet this guy again. I’ll…It was a fluke. It was hormones. It was the Sweet Nina. Strawberries or no strawberries, it wasn’t real. It was just…this Twilight Zone occurrence. Weird and amusing enough to record in my diary later. End of tale.”
Lucia chewed and nodded slowly. “Reeeally? Is that why you have pancake flavored syrup on your plate?”
“What?” Syn snapped before setting the Aunt Jemima bottle down next to the pool she just made. “Ohhh, sh*t – “
“You don’t mean any of that. All those feelings you said you had – they must mean something. Why don’t you go back, see if you can find him, and drag him into the light, please, so you and I can see what kind of fish you caught?”
Syn cast her an irritated glance and dumped her soaked pancake in the freezer garbage bag. “I thought you didn’t like ‘all this paranormal stuff’.”
“I don’t. But this is sounding romantic – weird, but romantic - and I’m all about the romance.”
Syn sighed before sipping her strawberry tea, considering the suggestion. She got the feeling she’d be asking for trouble if she went looking for him. But oh what a sweet trouble it could be! Mm. It was true she wanted to see him face to face, but she wasn’t going back to the Black Juice this week. She had too much to do. However, Syn believed in a flexible kind of fate. A contradiction? Sure. Nothing was really fixed but what will be, will be.
[center]----- ----- -----[/center]
That night in the basement of Bloomingdale’s Rath paced and Lonnie, picking her nails, weaved from side to side without moving her feet.
“Yo. He said he’d be here by now. I don’t trust that li’l pipsqueak.”
Lonnie’s eyes began to follow his restless movements.
“What we gotta do? Wait ‘til this motha opens in the morning? Where is he??”
“Will you quit pacing? He’ll be here. Just chill.”
“Yeah well, he said he’d be here with the friggin orb at 12:30am and here it is d*mn near two oh-f*ckin-clock. I coulda been at the club, man. This ain’t no way to do business.”
Suddenly a voice came from nowhere. “Ha! Pod Boy, please. What business do you know how to do – except creep out the locals in this city of slime?”
They turned quickly to find Nicholas standing there. “F*ck you! You late.”
“Such a charmer you have here, Vilandra.”
Lonnie rolled her eyes. “Cut the crap, Nicky. You got the communicator or not?”
Nicholas handed it to her. “Now, are you remotely capable of getting him to at least meet with the emissary? He needs to see something in the Zan Kapol shar-Kelos Hod hybrid’s brain – such as it is.”
“You a smarmy li’l dude. You know that?” Rath sneered.
“I know something relevant to the situation at hand. I know that the representatives of the four other planets aren’t available to you anymore.”
Lonnie stepped close to him. “Don’t f*ck with me, Nicholas.”
Nicholas smiled with guile and admiration as he looked her up and down. “I’d really love to actually.”
Rath stalked towards them. “What you say, man??”
Lonnie pressed a hand to his chest, holding him back. “Rath, chill. We ain’t got time for this. Look, Nicholas, the shape shifter told us about this other emissary who was gonna get ill if Zan didn’t meet with the first one.”
She sighed impatiently. “Korn said this dude was gonna try to wipe us out if Zan didn’t step up.”
Nicholas laughed. “Ah, for once Drakorin has made himself useful. First of all, you should’ve had a clue that you weren’t the real Royal Four when they dumped you underground on this forsaken ball like so much refuse. And if the little bells didn’t go off then, they should have as soon as that wastoid finally showed up claiming to be your ‘protector’. It’s sad really.”
Rath was almost at the end of his short rope. “F*ck that! We real enough. You standing right the f*ck there looking at how real we is. Yo, Lonnie, why we dealing with this fool?”
All traces of humor left Nicholas face and it became a cold mask. “Because you don’t know what the f*ck you’re doing, Mohawk. You think I don’t have better things to do with my time than lead you around by the nose? If it were up to me we wouldn’t be dealing with you test tube rejects anyway. You were a stupid idea from the very beginning – all eight of you – which is a sure sign that the House of Kapol has lost it and that someone with a viable vision of the future should be – and is – on the throne now.”
Lonnie held Rath back again and smiled. “Well, Nicky, you must not have better things to do ‘cause you here. Everybody in this big ol’ universe wants something. We wanna go home. And you want…?” She raised her brows.
Nicholas stared at her face and warmed up just a little. “Just get him to take the test within fourteen days. Like I was saying, the reps aren’t available right now. The Five Planets are calling a two week cease fire for the Holy Days.”
“Don’t ask me. I’m not into that mumbo-jumbo. Just have the ‘king’ ready to receive the reps when they come back in fourteen days. They will expect to meet with him within an hour of their return. And then - . Vilandra, stop picking your nails. Listen to me. There will be no other contact with you if he doesn’t show. Then the second emissary – I guess that’s a less alarming word for it – will be activated. And believe me, my dazed and confused space children, you don’t want that.”
Lonnie rolled her eyes way up. “Yeah yeah okay. Um, next time you decide to take the orb, give us the heads up, k?”
“How many times do I have to say that I didn’t take it?”
“Look, li’l man,” Rath spat out. “Either this is the same one you stole from here or you stole it from somewhere else. Either way, since this has one of the Kapol symbols on it, you ain’t supposed to have it – you being a f*ckin traitor and all. All I gots to say is, I’m watching you…Nicky.”
“You, um, do that, k? I’ve gotta go. Just don’t screw this up. You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose but this sh*tty life you’re living…in the sewers no less. G*d! Anyway, don’t call me, I’ll call you.” His gaze lingered on Lonnie, then he was gone.
Lonnie pressed the orb into the spot on the wall where they originally saw it. It lit up briefly, went dead, and then became invisible.
“Where is Zan anyway, yo? He been gone since we seen Korn.”
“He’ll show up. My brother’s a responsible guy. He’ll be back soon,” Lonnie said, lightly tracing the edges of the orb that she could no longer see.
“He better or things are gonna get kinda precarious around here.”
“Don’t worry, be happy. Let’s go.”
“I wanna go to The Razor. It stays open ‘til six.”
“No, Mohawk…I want some. Now.”
Rath leered at her look of invitation. “Word?”
She linked her arm in his. “To your motha.”
All was quiet for a good five minutes after they left and then suddenly…
…a bunch of boxes full of clothes near the orb’s wall were shoved violently, some landing sixty feet away, accompanied by a string of vicious cursing. Clothes were strewn everywhere. Zan jumped out and began pacing the floor like a trapped animal, looking all around with eyes glittering with frustrated rage. All these years of being together, of being a f*ckin family, didn’t mean sh*t to these mothaf*ckas! He was about to put his fist through the friggin wall. “Sh*t!” But instead he laced his fingers behind his head, shutting his eyes tight and trying to think of something else besides different ways to kill them. They were busy meeting aliens behind his back and making plans – about him! And not just any aliens either. Nicholas! Zan was so enraged at the thought he was almost nauseous with it. Nicholas’ real name was Deshamos Sartor and he was as treacherous as the worst f*ckin snake. He had been a trusted and valued member of the Antarian court. Now he was with Khivar Sorhl Daumeyn, that mothaf*cka. Oh no, Zan couldn’t think about the crown thief right now or he might go permanently ballistic. But Lonnie and Rath. It was unf*ckinbelievable! But a voice whispered inside him, Was it really? And where the f*ck did Ava fit in all this – if she fit at all? Bad memories of events long ago, memories he hadn’t forgotten but locked away inside himself, came through the red haze to the forefront of his consciousness . He squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t want to remember...
They had huddled together, back to back in the squalor of an unfamiliar place, fiercely attempting to fend off the hands that reached for them with intentions they could not name but could only feel were horrible. It was a time just after they broke out of the pods too soon. That vulnerable time when walking took effort and before they learned speech. They had no protector and no powers, only each other. That’s when they had first bonded . But then…
Zan braced himself against some pipes running low against the wall, willing the memories away and trying to get a grip on his anger. Okay, what the f*ck are you gonna do now? What do you want? Inexplicably he had a flash of his hands plunging into a luxuriously thick head of hair and lips that clung sweetly to his in the dark. He coldly shoved the image away. He didn’t have time for no Mickey Mouse bullsh*t. Turning his thoughts to his ‘family’, it was clear that he wanted nothing more than to f*ckt heir sh*t up but good. Yeah, but you need a plan for that, ‘king’. Well, he didn’t have one. He had nothing. He didn’t have anything or anyone.
When his heartbeat slowed and the violence in him cooled down enough for him to think clearly, he approached the spot where Lonnie placed the orb and stared at it. He was tempted to snatch it down and smash it. But no. He’d go back and pretend he knew nothing. ‘Cause the truth was he really didn’t know anything except his peeps weren’t down with him anymore – if they ever had been. No, he’d see how they acted and what they said. He had no choice but to take the sh*t one step at a time – within two weeks or less.
[center]----- ----- -----[/center]
Ava had some real misgivings about what she’d done. It was plain stupid. She looked down at the orb in her hands. She just didn’t want to go back to Antar. She didn’t want to be in a war or be a queen or any of that sh*t. She wanted to stay on Earth with Zan. Lonnie and Rath could do whatever the h*ll they wanted. Scottie could beam them up and they could rule the whole friggin universe. Ava loved New York, but not the sewers although she was used to them. There was no reason she and Zan couldn’t live a little better - get a nice apartment aboveground in Manhattan and live like real people instead of a bunch of half ‘n’ half alien life-forms hiding out and waiting to be ‘summoned’ to more than likely die a second time. Thanks but no thanks. Ava handled the orb gingerly and watched it glow every time she moved her finger over the symbol at the center. Still, taking it was too risky. Anyway, with her luck Korn would get a replacement or something. Ava sighed looking blankly around the room. She hoped Zan would come back soon; she was getting worried. Something wasn’t right. Uh-oh, someone was coming. She hastily hid the orb in her bag thinking, damn, she should have just dropped it in the Hudson River but something made her keep it. Yeah, a “Lonnie finding out and killing her” something. Dumb,dumb! Ava thought, watching her two least favorite aliens stroll in. Why couldn’t one of their pods have been the leaky one instead of hers?
“Avaaaa!” Rath came towards her with outstretched arms. “Feel like a three-way tonight?” Then he laughed at the look on her face.
Lonnie moved close behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. He turned quickly and they started to kiss crudely, open-mouthed, tongues writhing like snakes. Ava left them. She’d watched their wild humping one time too many. She went down a few corridors, then up some steps to a cramped little spot she found where she could get some sleep or just chill whenever the two freakazoids got it on. They never cared if she or Zan were there. It probably turned them on. She dug into her bag and played with the orb again. Hmm, too bad it wasn’t a little longer and a lot thinner…
Lonnie lay back, arms stretched above her head, staring blankly at the ceiling while Rath looked down at her, his face contorted, and rode her like racehorse. Rath was pretty good most of the time but his stuff wasn’t working for her tonight.
“Ahh, Lonnie… d*mn, it’s good! Your sh*t is soooo wet…Uh!” He was slamming into her like he wanted to break the thing in half, the muscles of his ass bunching in spasms with the effort. Well, she had been wet before they started but …she knew she’d be screaming by now if it was Larek. He’d better friggin contact her soon and take care of his biz between her legs – which she now wrapped around Rath’s waist trying to feel something besides irritated. She closed her eyes and sighed, grabbing Rath’s hair and pretending it was medium blond, short and curly. Yeah, she was feeling something. Come on, do me! That’s right. Larek! Don’t stop. “Don’t’stop! Don’t - !” Rath messed up by sinking his teeth into her shoulder. Larek never did that. The other one did, but she didn't want to think about him. “G*ddammit, Rath, you - !”
A round rubber object hit Rath in the head and his temple bumped into Lonnie’s.
“What the - ?!”
“Stop f*ckin. I wanna sleep.”
Lonnie and Rath whipped their heads around.
“Zan,” Lonnie said, roughly pushing Rath out of her.
“Where you been?” Lonnie asked, wiping the stickiness fromher inner thighs with Rath’s shirt.
“D*mn!” Rath exclaimed, snatching it from her and shaking it. Then he smirked. Boy, was it soaked! “Your timing is way off. You know that, right?” he said, still trying to catch his breath.
"Whatever. Where’s Ava?"
“In one of her holes somewhere. She took the hint – unlike some other peeps.”
“Well, I’m back now,” said Ava walking in without her bag, looking anxiously at Zan. She wanted to be around when he came back, and felt relieved that he was standing there now – even if his expression was nasty. She moved to her own bed. She wasn’t gonna say nothing else ‘cause he was clearly in an ugly mood.
“What did I tell you, Ava?"
“Well, they was doing it, and I ain’t feel like watching no live porn tonight.”
Zan ignored them all as he stripped and dropped down on his bed. He didn’t respond to any of the rapid fire questions launched at him about the summit or anything else.
“Well, d*mn! He gonna cock-block me then sleep. I guess I’ll take the first watch ‘cause my sh*t is messed up.”
“Yeah, it is,” Lonnie muttered, rolling over.
“Excuse you?” Rath snapped.
“We’ll talk later, Casanova.”
Rath shook his head. “Boyyyy…everybody’s a smart ass tonight.”
Minutes later everybody seemed to be asleep while Rath played Donkey Kong, cheering silently every time he scored.
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Syn’s phone rang, jerking her awake. “Hello,” she murmured groggily, face down in the pillow.
“Heyyyy,” returned an overly cheerful but familiar voice.
“I hope this isn’t who it sounds like.”
She heard raucous music and drunken laughter on the line andin the background. “Sorry…I’m sorry…Let me…I just wanna…um. Can we get back together? You and me, y’ know."
Syn sat up. “Roman?”
“You must be completely out of your mind calling me at somebody’s…” She glanced at theclock. “…at somebody’s 3:58am talking some nonsense.”
He tried unsuccessfully to stifle his laughter. “I know. I know. I’m sorry. But I couldn’t get up the nerve to say nothing before. I miss you, Syn. Let's get back together. None of these other hoes mean anything to me. I wanna be with you. Plee-eease!”
“I do not talk to drunks and I don’t talk to nobody at four in the friggin morning. Good-bye!” “Awww, baby…”
Syn had just tuned over angrily in bed and stopped shifting the covers when the phone rang again.”
“I love – hic – you. ”
Syn slammed the phone down then took it off the hook.
[center]----- ----- -----[/center]
“Well, are you gonna give him another chance?”
The girls were lingering near a hotdog stand in front of St.Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village.
“Are you kidding me?” Syn began with her mouth full, pausing to swallow. “You were the one so happy I was over him and talking to other guys.”
Lucia was staring down at herself and chewing as they walked slowly towards a bench. “Maybe we should have changed out of these clothes. The candy striper look just isn’t me.” She sighed. “Maybe if it was goldlamé…”
Syn shifted the book bag on her shoulder and sing-songed, “Hello? Real world calling Lucia Gotti.”
“That’s me! L.G. Don’t make me call Papa John, and I ain’t talking about the pizza man either.” It was a running joke that Lucia was related to the mob boss of past fame. “Well okay, yeah I was glad ‘cause it seemed like you were just pining away for him. He was a jerk that one time, but before that he was good, right? Maybe you should listen to what he has to say. It’s not like yous have to be exclusive again. And speaking of amour…what’s going on with Enriqui-qui-qué, huh?”
“First of all, yeah, Roman was nice but he was used to girls offering before he even thought about asking. When I didn’t follow suit, he had a problem with it - more than once. Plus, that was d*mn rude calling me like that last night! And second, Enriqué is sweet and all, but …when he took me out last night he talked an awful lot about his so-called ex-girlfriend, Gabriela. So, ah, I’m thinking a reunion is eminent.”
“Aw dag. Well…he was gorgeous.”
“Gorgeous and still taken. I’m not one to come between true love or true obsession. I don’t need the drama.”
“I hear you. Been there, done that.”
They sat in silence, eating. It had been a long morning of classes at NYU followed by three hours of volunteer service at the hospital. And the day still wasn’t over for Lucia who had to meet with her voice coach, the eccentric Madame Zeehandelaar.
Syn laughed. “Is that even a real name?”
“It’s on her drivers license. But no, Zee Zee’s not gonna work my nerves tonight. I got something for her if she tries ‘cause I’m too done today. Do you know last week she had a number one royal fit when her nephew came downstairs and started talking to me? Oh, Syn, she carried on like a Byberry revue! Screeching and screaming about her broken concentration. But she was in the kitchen making coffee at the time! That lady…I just don’t know sometimes. She’s a great coach but…”
Syn had stopped listening because someone’s color had crept up on her. It was sharply pointed at her face. She was being watched – or stalked – by a slimy green uniquely mixed with a dull red. Dawdek. “Let’s go. I want to stop by Mack’s new job,” she said, looking around and not finding the culprit.
“Aww, I can’t go see him! I gotta go back across the bridge to deal with Madame Cra-Zee,” Lucia whined, trying to keep up with Syn who was walking briskly towards the subway entrance at 14th Street. “So he quit the managerial position at one of Satan’s gift shops, huh? Where’s he working now?”
“Um, I don’t know where he’s working. He just gave me the address and said it was a surprise.”
“Ooo, sounds intriguing!”
They reached the platform and the downtown train was approaching. Syn was breathing more easily now that the colors had faded.
“Syn, what’s the matter? You looked scared. What were we just running from?”
“I felt this ugly person’s ugly colors. He was watching me I think.”
They stepped into a near empty car.
“Some creep named Hanson Dawdek.”
“Never heard of him. What did he do?”
“Well, Mack knows him from his neighborhood and he patronized Mack’s occult shop too. There’s just something really horrible about him. But I’m not gonna worry about it unless a pattern of him popping up develops. Let’s not talk about him anymore.”
“About who?” Lucia answered, patting her friend’s hand. “Well, here’s your stop. Call me after nine. I should be home by then. I wanna hear all about Mr. Mackenzee Brad Pitt Morgan.” She batted her eyes, her face full of dreamy longing.
Syn laughed. “You silly!…All right, Lu. See ya.”
The subway doors swished closed.
Syn walked over four blocks to the address Mack quoted over the phone yesterday. It turned out to be a three-story barn of a place, painted neon yellow-green with floor to ceiling windows. Way up near the roof was the name of the store made of four-foot high, bright red metal, shaped into the name “Artislife” in calligraphy. She walked in and immediately saw Mack behind the counter, facing a long line of twenty-something art students and some hang-tough hippies mixing it with the William F. Buckley types. Smiling, she waved and caught his eye. He waved back and motioned for a clerk in a nearby aisle to take over for a minute.
“My little sis!” he said, walking over and hugging her liked he didn’t just see her a week ago.
“Mack, you are so sneaky! When and how did this happen? Why didn’t you tell me until last night?”
He put an arm around her shoulders while they strolled around the first floor. “What can I say, kid? It’s me. Robby lost the shop. It turns out he owes money to everybody in New York State. So I called up one of my old seminarian professors who’s teaching at your NYU. I felt kinda funny ‘cause I hadn’t spoken to him in two years. But screw it. I needed a d*mn job!”
“You sound like you were thirty seconds away from being homeless. You know I’d have helped you out. You’re my brother.”
“I know that, Syndara. But this ain’t no city to live in unemployed. I’d go back home before I went out like that. So anyway Father Gibb hooked me up good. His niece owns this store. She’s kinda cute too.”
“She’s like kah-POW! Oo-la-la!”
She hit his shoulder lightly. “Silly!”
“Yeah well, I gotta get back behind the counter. I’m not the manager, but I make as much as I made at Whimsies ‘n’ Such. So it’s all good minus the headaches.”
Syn hugged him again. “I’m so glad, Mack.”
“Yeah. So why don’t you browse around. There’s more than paint and brushes here, y’ know. We got just about anything you can think of to decorate a home – especially up on the third floor. Check it out. I’ll see ya later, k?”
The store directory listed ‘Kitchen Crafts’ on the third floor. Hmm, is it possible they had something useful like teakettles? She started up the steps. Wheat had burnt to a crisp her lovely little pink rose teakettle a month ago and she hadn’t found another one like it yet…
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Zan was strolling through SoHo feeling really out of wack. He needed to do the only thing that would restore the balance inside him, but he’d run out of supplies. A whole day had passed and his anger was still simmering to the point that he might tip his hand and they’d know he was onto them. He stopped in his favorite art store, Kaegan’s, but they didn’t have the drawing paper he used in stock, which didn’t make any sense. There was a first time for everything, but this was just plain sh*tty. So Kaegan’s wasn’t his friggin favorite no more. He went to two other places and it was the same d*mn thing. It was like something in the cosmos had it in for him today. Zan decided to try this other place. Artislife. It always looked too phony to even consider – like a McDonald’s kind of art store. But if they had what he wanted…epic.
He was about two blocks away when something woke up inside him and started to get happy. He was anticipating something and didn’t know what it was. Aw, d*mn, what weird alien sh*t did he have to deal with now? He wasn’t ready, but he kept walking. Que sera, que sera. What will be, will be. One block away from the store the vibrations started and slowly changed into a warm pulse. He stood stock-still. Oh sh*t, his Peach Kiss was here! She was somewhere nearby. And it was daylight so he could finally see that face. Zan was annoyed by the weird fear flooding his abdomen. The closer he got to the Pee Wee Herman Playhouse of an art store, the stronger the stroke of the pulse got. He hesitated at the entrance. He was trying to be objective ‘n’ sh*t but it wasn’t working. He was excited and not just in his mind ‘cause judging by the outline of his pants, anybody looking would know. And he wasn’t even thinking about getting off! He took some deep breaths and thought about making it with a wildebeest. Right on time his shaft became a dangling rope. Zan smirked and shook his head as he entered the store...
The Writer...the agony, the ecstasy!
[ edited 2 time(s), last at 19-Oct-2001 12:22:46 AM ]