I didn’t remember much about my previous life. When I’d awakened in that pile of ash and rubble, I wasn’t aware of much. I just knew that I had to kill the bad guys, I had to take care of my sisters, and I really needed to get a healer to fix up the gigantic hole in my head. Close to where I’d awakened, I found a motorcycle for which I had the keys. It was black with white stripes, matching my jacket, and it handled like a dream.
I wasn’t crazy though. I loved my bike, but I would give it up in a heartbeat if it was the only way to protect my sisters.
Still, as the only remnant I had of the man I used to be, it meant a lot to me. I’d once spent a few days driving around on it, hoping that it would give me flashbacks to my younger days. It didn’t work, and because I wasn’t watching the gas, I ended up having to walk 20 miles back to civilization.
I’d now been riding for 7 hours, and I was getting kind of tired. I couldn’t take a break if I wanted to stay on schedule though. Sometimes I really wished my sisters were capable of driving.
I wasn’t expecting Lightning Bee to be a very dangerous opponent. As such, I didn’t think it was necessary to bring some of the older girls, like Dot or Zelda, with me, and I definitely wasn’t expecting him to be durable to the point where I’d need to ask Kayla for help. Kayla really could be a brat sometimes. She was the only machine gun in the family, and that combined with her being one of the younger girls led to her coming with me only if she was “in the mood.”
Instead of any of them, I had Erica and Carolina with me. They were a pair of pistols whose birthdays were coming up. For whatever reason, many people thought that wielding dual guns was impossible, and even those who knew it wasn’t, thought it to be impractical. Maybe other people couldn’t do it, but I certainly could. Whoever I was before had clearly practiced doing it a lot, because it was second nature to me, be it pistols, assault rifles or what have you.
Where are we, Bang? And when can we slaughter a gang? Erica asked.
The guy from whom I’d rescued Erica frequently used her to scratch his butt. She’d been pretty traumatized by all of the times she was stuck in his ass-crack, and so she only spoke in rhyme. She could get pretty wild
sometimes, and that’s another reason why I’d brought Carolina; she was good at keeping her calm.
Don’t worry, Carolina responded. We’ll be in Bluejay within the hour, and there’s been plenty of crime popping up there. Right, Bang?
I nodded. “We’ll be there even sooner than that. Just remember that we’re not coming all the way out here to fight thugs. You two both know that we don’t deal with the insects of the world, we deal with the diseases. Right now, Lightning Bee is a dangerous one for the “world.”
There’s a super villain in Bluejay too. Will we be killing her as well?
“Nope. So far, aside from killing an actually murderous super villain, all she’s done is steal stuff. That doesn’t warrant putting her down. Lightning Bee is far more cancerous to the world than she is. It’s a good analogy, really. No matter how much destruction super villains do, excluding Perses, superheroes will always be a bigger problem.”
I wasn’t sure why I thought so negatively of heroes. I hadn’t even been around at the same time as they were. For all I knew, maybe I used to be a villain. If that was the case, I could only hope that the work I’d been doing was serving as my redemption.
Even if I wasn’t sure why my hatred was so fierce, I did have my reasons for not liking the idea of heroes. They were glory hounds who were too obsessed with their own image to ever risk getting involved in affairs which were the slightest bit political. They had the power to change the world for the better and all they did was play games with villains.
I’d actually given Lightning Bee the benefit of the doubt at first. I thought maybe he’d be different from the heroes of the past, and maybe he was just starting out by fighting street crime. But then he’d started quoting people like Chronometer and Darling in interviews, and he made it clear as day that he worshiped the ground they walked on. He made it clear that he saw them as paragons to be looked up to, and not irresponsible cowards.
On top of all that, there was a deeper reason for my hatred of heroes. I didn’t know what it was, but it was there. It had been there from the moment I’d awakened.
Welcome to Bluejay City. Erica read the sign right outside the city limits. It’s not very pretty.
What are you talking about?This place looks beautiful.
Erica sniffed the air. I smell royalty’s curse. The nurse only made things worse.
Rhyming unfortunately wasn’t the only idiosyncrasy of Erica’s. She also frequently spat out gibberish. I’d thought of bringing her to a therapist, but between not having enough money for even a single session, and most people being too close minded to believe that a gun could need therapy, that wasn’t really an option.
Riding into the city, I saw that some things had stayed the same, while other things had changed. There were still tall skyscrapers and a few obscenely huge estates present. The Negative District was in a far worse state than it had been the last time I was here, and a really great bar I remembered had been replaced by some place called “Mighty Mike’s Mexican Metropolis.”
That latter change made me especially upset since I desperately needed a drink. I didn’t actually have any money on me, but I was pretty sure I could persuade any bartender to give an old man a drink on the house. That wouldn’t solve the issue of not having eaten in two days, so I parked my bike and walked into an alley with a dumpster at the end of it.
Bang, do we really have to go in there? The last time I went in a dumpster, a dead bird got caught on me.
Erica giggled. Pretty birds falling over. They could have used a four leaf clover. She giggled again.
Whatever you say, Erica.
“Don’t worry guys.” I put them down on a box. “For a while now, my dumpster diving has been done alone.”
I hopped in, hoping for the best. It was mostly filled with assorted non-edible trash, but I did find a Styrofoam box with some hair covered seasoned fries inside. It would have to do for now.
As I started crawling out of the dumpster, I saw a young, blond woman staring at me from down the alley. She was wearing a gray top, a black leather jacket, tight jeans, and a pair of indescribable shoes.
She walked towards me and spoke. “Hey there. Weird question I really didn’t think I’d be asking today. Why are you in a dumpster?”
I answered truthfully, holding up the Styrofoam box. “Getting fries.”
“Ah. Well, believe it or not, that’s not what got my attention. Is that bike yours?,” she asked, pointing at my bike.
I nodded, completely getting out of the dumpster. She hadn’t seemed to notice Erica and Carolina. It was pretty dark out so that was probably the reason why.
“Wow,” she said, cuffing her mouth with her hands. She put them down and had a huge smile on her face. “You have a 1970 Fierce Scrambler. You’ve clearly modified it quite a bit but here it is.” Her eyes widened. “Let me buy you a drink. If I decide you’re not crazy or dangerous, maybe you could give me a ride.”
Was she coming onto me? Was this cute, 20-something hitting on me? I had no memories of having sex with someone I wasn’t paying, and here I had the chance to change that, if I played my cards right.
I whispered softly enough that the woman couldn’t hear me. “Hey guys. Any advice?”
Erica responded. The eternal partner shapes the world. Burn, burn, until you two are curled.
Something about this city must have been getting to Erica’s head. Nothing she’d said since we got here had made sense. I needed to finish my mission soon.
Hookers are one thing, Bang. But what, you want to make this girl into a one night stand? Tsk.
She walked right up to me and extended her arm. “I guess before I buy you a drink I should introduce myself. I’m Eve.”
I shook her hand. “I’m Ba…” What was my name again? Rather, what was the name I sometimes went by? It had been so long since I’d had to have a conversation with anyone but my sisters. I just went with the first name that popped into my head. “I’m Malcolm.”
“Nice to meet you.” She turned around and gestured with her arm for me to follow her.
Carolina whispered. Wow, this girl sure is trusting. I mean I know what she said, but if I didn’t know how cool you were, I might be a bit scared.
I shrugged my shoulders. I grabbed Erica and Carolina, putting them in the inside pockets of my jacket, and followed Eve into a nearby bar.
The place looked as standard as any bar could. It did have two plasma TV’s on the walls, so that was something, but it sure as Hell wasn’t as good as…that other bar I really liked. My memory had been starting to go for awhile, but now I couldn’t remember things that I really enjoyed. What would be next? I’d start forgetting my sisters’ names? No, that could never happen.
“Hey there everyone!” Eve shouted to the bar’s patrons.
“Eve!” A few guys shouted.
Erica cackled. Look at us, the popular puppies at the dog show. Her voice went deadpan. I can see the blood of her beau.
Really starting to freak me out, sis.
Erica cackled again. Yo-yo, yo-yo, yo-yo. The parrots fly to Tokyo.
Hearing her like this hurt. I couldn’t just let this be a fun trip to a bar. I had to make some progress in finding out Lightning Bee’s true identity.
Eve spoke loud enough for the whole bar to hear. “Everyone, this is Malcolm, owner of the sweetest bike I’ve ever laid my eyes on, and you all know how great mine is.”
They cheered and a few guys clinked their glasses. Either they really liked Eve, or they were really drunk. Or both.
I followed Eve to the bar, each of us taking a seat on a stool.
“Hey Joe. Two scotches.”
“I mostly just drink beer.” I said in response to her order.
“Well tonight, you drink scotch.”
The place was pretty crowded. I heard people talking, singing, telling stories, and over all of it, some really bad modern pop music was playing.
Carolina groaned. This music is apestoso basura. I can sing way better than this girl.
Eve was being so nice, I really didn’t want to know if she was someone who didn’t see the life in guns. As such, I was satisfied with the fact that all of the noise seemed to be drowning out my sisters.
When our drinks came, we clinked them, and drank. It wasn’t terrible. It was certainly better than those awful watery beers, but it was no top quality craft beer.
I asked what had been on my mind before. “Why are you being so nice to me? I mean I know you like my bike, but still.”
She smiled. “I make decent money and I’m from New York. When I see someone scavenging for food, I feel like I need to help. I don’t buy every homeless person I see a drink; I usually just give them a few bucks, but most of them don’t have a 1970 Fierce Scrambler.”
“Well, thanks. People don’t generally do me favors.”
“Don’t mention it.”
I couldn’t believe I was actually enjoying the company of another person. Carolina was right; I couldn’t make this girl into a one night stand. She was way too cool for that. I wanted to know more about her. There was one thing in particular I wanted to know, and maybe if I was lucky, her answer would help me out.
“So what do you think of Lightning Bee?”
She coughed on her drink. “Um, I really don’t like talking about superheroes. I’m just not that interested in them.”
I nodded. She didn’t want to talk about it and I would respect that. At least she’d just made it clear that she didn’t blindly idolize them.
“So do you have a place to stay? Here or otherwise?”
“I have an apartment out in Mississippi. I’m just here on business.”
“Oh.” She looked surprised. “I’m sorry. I thought from the fact that you were getting fries in a dumpster that you didn’t have a job. What do you do?”
I’d been fortunate enough not to have scared her off so far. I couldn’t tell her that I went around, killing the scum of the Earth, and that I didn’t actually pay the rent for an apartment, but just had a deal with the landlord that I’d make sure no trouble got started in or around the building.
I nudged Carolina, hoping she could give me some advice on what to say.
She whispered. She knows you love motocicletas. Just tell her you work at an auto shop.
“I work at an auto shop,” I told Eve.
Everybody lies. Erica said. Everybody dies.
“That’s pretty cool. I just work as a receptionist for Panda corp. It’s not what I’d like to be doing, but business school is all my dad would pay for.”
I was terrible at reading non obvious social cues, but I could still tell that her dad was another topic she wasn’t fond of discussing.
“There’s got to be something about your job that you like.”
“Eh. Not really.” She took another chug of her drink. “I can tell you the worst part though. Having to put up with the CEO’s daughter whenever she comes to see him. She’s this brat named Raina, who I swear is that one bitch from every high school movie ever made.”
I’d never watched any high school movies, so I just nodded. My absence of sex with women who weren’t hookers wasn’t for lack of trying. Still, I did know the basic rule of “listen more than you talk.” I also knew I wanted more than just sex with her.
“So if you work for an auto shop, what business do you have here?”
Once again not sure what to say, I nudged Carolina once more.
For the second time, I parroted what she said. “The business isn’t work related. I’m actually here just looking for someone. He’s being pretty difficult to find, and if I don’t find him soon, bad things are gonna happen.”
“Ooh, I’m so scared,” she playfully said as she finished her drink. She knocked the bar, signaling that she wanted more. “But,” she said, being serious again, “if you need to find someone, I happen to know a PI.”
“Really?” I asked, surprised.
“Yup. His name is Carter Myers. He’s got a website so you can look him up later. Trust me, he’s definitely not your average PI.”
“Thanks,” I said, really meaning it. I’d almost forgotten that I was trying to get intel.
The second her drink came, she chugged the entire thing. She pulled out her wallet and paid what she owed. “Finish up. I’ve decided that I can trust you, so we’re going for a ride on your bike.” She got up and started walking out of the bar.
Bro, are you gonna let her tell you what to do?
Big brother became a bitch. The dead seagull’s buried in a ditch.
I finished my scotch and followed Eve out. When we reached my bike, I said. “You’re gonna need a helmet.”
“Now where am I gonna get one of those?” she asked, not being serious again. She walked past a few cars to a bike, where she picked up a black helmet. “What? You didn’t hear me mention to everyone in there that I rode? Come on. Let’s ride.”
We got on my bike and drove off, Eve holding me in her arms. For a brief moment, I was able to forget about my work. I was able to forget about knowing nothing about my past. I was even able to forget about Erica’s worsening condition.
How could I worry about any of that when I’d just made my first friend?