This looks as good a place as any, Amy thought as she dragged the half-conscious Dalia through the street. The girl had woken up after she’d gotten her out of the club, only to throw up and groan all the way.
Amy had no idea where Dalia lived, and something told her that it’d be stupid to risk Basil walking in on her and his drunk, sparsely dressed friend, even if she was just putting her down on the couch or something. Her reputation wouldn’t do her any favours. Though it probably would be very funny. But then again, Basil had been weird lately, especially yesterday, and she thought it best not to agitate him any more than absolutely necessary.
So she’d decided to get the girl someplace warm, with something to eat and drink. And the nearest place she found was the “Dionysian Grill”, which sounded quite promising, food-wise. They probably didn’t offer all the other kinds of fun the name promised. And what a shame that is.
She reaffirmed her grip on Dalia, one of the girl’s arms over her shoulder, and took her inside. The place was set up more like a real restaurant than a fast-food restaurant, with someone standing at the entrance, waiting to assign tables. Everything was made of wood, except for the huge open stainless steel kitchen, where a team of cooks were preparing some big amounts of food. Good thing I came hungry.
Their entrance got some attention from the other patrons – two gorgeous girls in party clothing – though Dalia’s state also drew frowns of disapproval. The woman at the entrance looked confused, for a moment, and before she could gather herself and throw them out or anything, Amy poked her mind with some good old pleasure.
It was really funny, how little it took to control most people. The pleasure signals entered the woman’s brain, and her mind worked them into her reality to make them make sense. Thus, she felt happy to see them, and was quite open to giving them a secluded corner, where people couldn’t see much of them (just in case Dalia made a scene). Amy ordered two glasses of cooled water with lemon lemon juice and sat down next to Dalia, keeping her telepathy up so she’d notice if someone was listening in on them.
“How’re you feeling?” she asked the dizzy girl. She only got a groan in response, as Dalia put her head down on her folded arms. Amy giggled. “First time getting drunk?” Another groan, and Dalia put two fingers up without moving her hand. “Second? But first time since… the change?” A barely perceptible nod. “Stupid you. You’re not used to this body yet, you should’ve taken it easier,” Amy admonished her, thinking back to her own first contact with alcohol after her manifestation. It had been… unique. She had been very careful not to get drunk again. Of course, she couldn’t share that, so she gently patted the girl’s bare back (she was wearing a really nice dress – if only she wasn’t such a hack with make-up, she’d have been positively ravishing).
Footsteps came closer, and a young girl who would not look amiss in their company came up with two glasses of water (with extra lemon slices on top) on a tray.
“Vasiliki?” Amy asked with surprise, looking the girl up and down – she was wearing a light blue skirt with white trim and a pure white shirt and blue tie. Apparently the uniform here, and a nice one to be sure, giving Amy all sorts of ideas…
“Amy? Dalia!? What happened?” The Greek girl put her tray down, looking alternatively at them.
“I picked her up at a club – she overdid it with the drinks,” Amy said back in a low voice – but Dalia still groaned. “I didn’t want to take her to my place, I don’t know where she lives, so I took her to the nearest place where I could get her fed and watered – and which has a bathroom.”
“Good thing you brought her here,” Vasiliki replied, putting the drinks out in front of them onto paper saucers, then handed them the menu. “Look through the menu, tell me what you want – it’s on the house.”
“Thank you very much dear. And may I say, that uniform looks absolutely fetching on you,” Amy said in response, putting just the tiniest amount of innuendo into her voice, and was rewarded with a pretty blush.
“I’m flattered. You don’t look half-bad, either,” Vasiliki said and hurried off with her tray.
“She’s fun to tease,” Amy whispered to Dalia, and got an affirmative grunt in response. “Do you know any of her preferences?” A groan, then, “Boys only.” Such a shame. “So, why the drunken party girl act? I didn’t take you to be that reckless. Who knows what dastardly villain could have picked you up!”
“Head hurts… no talking, please…” Dalia sighed, raising her head to take a sip from her glass, making a sour expression when the taste hit. “This is awful.”
“It helps, believe me,” Amy said as she took a short draft herself. “Food will help even more. And going to the bathroom. You’ve got to get it all out of your system.” She looked through the menu, picking out something to eat. I’ll have to remember this place.
With some prodding, her erstwhile ward picked out something to eat, and the next time Vasiliki came by, they gave her their orders. “Alright, sit tight, I’ll be back soon!”
They spent their time waiting, quietly, until Vasiliki came back balancing two whole trays loaded down with food, abusing her supernatural sense of balance. She put them down, and there was quite a bit more than they had ordered.
“I’m taking my break, and I thought I’d join you – unless that’s a problem,” she explained when she saw Amy’s questioning gaze.
“Oh no, no problem at all!” Amy replied, arranging her food properly in front of her. Dalia simply pulled it all close and started eating without another word.
Vasiliki joined them, and they ate quietly for a few minutes. It was really good. Not real five-star food, but it was better than any fast-food joint Amy knew (she knew a lot) and better than most restaurants she’d been to (she’d been to a lot), too.
Dalia had to go to the bathroom several times, as her body processed the alcohol faster than was normal.
“So, Dalia, what’s wrong?” Vasiliki when she finished her main course, and turned to her salad.
“Why you think something’s wrong?” Dalia asked, slightly slurring her ‘s’ and ‘r’ sounds. She only got a deadpan look in response. “I just thought I’d party a little, you know? Have some fun, now that I’m hot, you know?” Her face was an awful mess, pale and sweaty, with dark rings around her eyes making her make-up look even worse than before.
“Don’t be like that, I’m sure you were plenty cute before,” Amy threw in. Self esteem issues, huh? That explains a lot.
Dalia snorted in a decidedly unladylike manner. “I was a fat, half-blind loser with permanent bed-hair. Nothing cute about it,” she replied between two mouthfuls of salad.
“You shouldn’t look down on yourself so much,” Vasiliki said. “Even if you weren’t conventionally attractive, that’s no reason to have that kind of attitude towards yourself – lots of girls our age have body issues, it’s nothing to feel bad about!”
“Says the girl who’s looked like a supermodel even before she manifested,” Dalia snarled.
“You did?” Amy asked, curious. This was the first time she was meeting someone else who’d been pretty before, like her!
Vasiliki shrugged. “I didn’t change, outwardly, all that much. My skin cleared up, otherwise, I’m pretty much the same as before.”
“How interesting. Did you know that, according to current theory, the Adonis trait is sparked by body image issues? That’s why so many metas, especially women, look like they’re out of a fantasy – they adapt to their beauty ideal, meaning, our culture’s beauty ideal, as they see it apply to themselves.”
“Thus the big…” Vasiliki looks at Dalia’s less-than-modest bust, then back at Amy’s face.
“Thus the big girls, yes,” Amy affirmed. “It’s also the reason why most metahumans – male and female both – don’t have body hair anymore.”
“That’s about what I’ve read so far, though my books had a more long-winded way of describing it,” Vasiliki said. “What about you, Amy? You certainly look like you could already be a metahuman.”
“Are you asking if I’m secretly a meta?” Amy replied, a little bit uncomfortable, and a lot amused.
“N-no, I guess Basil would have told us, and if not, then you probably wouldn’t, either, but I mean… you certainly look the part,” she pulled back. Now, even Dalia was actually paying attention.
“I guess I’ve just been blessed with good genes. Or I might be one of those zero tier metahumans you hear about lately. They’re supposed to not even notice their manifestation,” Amy continued, steering the conversation away from her.
“Yeah, what’s up with those? I asked B-six, but his explanation made no sense to me,” Dalia said, slowly brightening up.
Vasiliki immediately got what Amy called the ‘Lecturing Expression’ – she saw it a lot on Basil. No wonder he likes her.
“Zero tier metahumans are an only recently recognised phenomenon – though they might have existed long before, unnoticed. They generally exhibit low-level enhancements to their physical abilities – not high enough justify a proper rating – as well as exceptional health, fertility and beauty – consistent with Adonis-types, and they may also share their generally longer lifespan,” she pontificated. “They generally seem to, for lack of a better word, slip into their manifestation – no known case remembers manifesting, or when exactly the changes began, as they seem to take a while to set in.”
“So… basically, they’re just prettier than normal, and nothing else?” Dalia summed up.
“And healthier. That’s about all of it,” Amy concluded. “And since we’re talking about manifestations already – I’ve been meaning to ask, how did you two manifest? Would you mind sharing? Basil insists on not telling me your stories.” He’s so… annoyingly loyal.
“Got bullied. For years,” Dalia said, shrugging – and wincing immediately, as another ice pick of pain stabbed her brain.
Let me help with that, Amy thought, gently prodding her mind, emitting a soothing sensation. She didn’t want to enter her mind fully, so this was all she could do without risking notice.
“It got really bad, and I… I was considering suicide, I guess. I got really low,” Dalia continued, which gave Vasiliki a wide-eyed look. But before the other girl could respond, Dalia continued, “And well, I was… I was taking a walk, thinking about stuff, and there was some festival going on, and I bought this ticket for a lottery that was going on there. I decided, if I won, I’d keep going, if not… well, you know.”
Wow. I did not expect this, Amy thought, feeling honestly shocked.
“And that’s when it happened – suddenly, everything was standing still, and then the stand exploded into light, and there was this beautiful star,” the girl continued, apparently oblivious to how her audience felt, an enraptured smile spreading on her drawn face. “I felt I had a choice to make, and I decided to… to live. I took the star, saw some weird visions I can’t make sense of – something about stars and suns and a huge snake – and then I woke up and I was standing there, and the owner of the stand called out my number! First time I ever won something! That’s how I got my leather jacket – it fell off its hook, just when I was trying to decide what prize to choose. And well, I guess you know the rest. Played the lottery, went out to kick butt and take names, ran into B-six and Vasiliki here…” She looked at the two them. “That’s my story. What’s yours?” she asked towards Vasiliki.
To Amy’s surprise, the girl blushed. Ohh, did she manifest due to something naughty? There might be more fun in this girl than she’d thought…
“I’m not sure… my manifestation seems rather, uh… trivial, compared to yours,” she said, looking down at her empty plate.
Dalia snorted. “C’mon, you can tell me! I won’t hold it against you, you know that!”
C’mon, share, girl! Amy reached out, gently sending some relaxation her way. The girl’s shoulders visibly relaxed and she looked up at the two of them (they’d somehow ended up sitting in a triangle).
“It’s really… um, promise me you won’t tell anyone, alright?” she asked in a small voice.
“Of course!” the other two replied in unison – then looked at each other and giggled, which prompted another flinch of pain from the younger girl, followed by her emptying her glass. Vasiliki called for another one, then put her hands on the table, lacing her fingers together.
“It was summer, really hot, and all my friends where on vacation, so I… I kinda… sorta… got myself a joint-” she began, but was interrupted by a torrent of giggle (interspersed with groans of pain) from Dalia.
“Y-y-you got a joint? You got high? Oh God, I think I’m either completely drunk or unconscious and dreaming, because this… this is…” She broke out into giggles again.
Vasiliki rolled her eyes, waiting for her friend to calm down, while Amy just watched them with amusement. They were so cute, Basil really needed to seduce them and start his own harem. It was the only sensible choice.
“May I continue?” Vasiliki asked, obviously annoyed. When Dalia finally got herself back under control, the dark-skinned girl (those perfect Greek features with that Mediterranean dark skin looked really yummy) took a deep breath and continued her tale, “My family has a cabin in the Abershy Forest, near the foot of the mountain to the West. I went there, set things up and lit m-“
“Set things up?” Amy interrupted, sensing unnecessarily complicated preparations (you learn to do that when you grow up with Basil Blake). “Do elaborate, my dear!”
“Uh, I fired the fireplace up, even though it was high summer, and I put an old, thick blanket over the couch I’d be sitting on, and I opened all the windows and turned on the ventilation. I stripped naked, put my clothes in a bag, the bag then under the same blanket. My plan was to take a shower right afterwards, then burn the blanket – our fireplace is big enough for that – and so avoid the smell sticking ot anything.”
Amy bit her lip, refusing to break out laughing and seem like she was ridiculing the younger girl. Even Dalia resisted, barely – though that might have had more to do with her groaning in pain as another headache attacked her (Amy could only soothe it, not make it go away).
“You know, you and Basil fit together quite nicely,” Amy said, making Vasiliki blush again. Maybe she’s interested? Well, of course she’d be, Basil is a real sweetheart! (In Amy’s mind, at least, Basil was a girl magnet. So far, she’d seen no reason to assume otherwise).
“I- I don’t know about that,” the girl deflected, looking away. “A-anyway, I smoked the joint and, well… you hear about people manifesting on drugs, right? Just having a bad reaction to them, or actually overdosing, or stuff? Well, in my case, I had a really good reaction to it – I mean, it was glorious,” she said, and the same enraptured smile that had been on Dalia’s face before appeared on hers now. “I… I just stood up and walked out the cabin, strolling around the forest, totally aiml-“
“Naked? You took a naked stroll through a public forest?” Dalia asked before breaking out into torrents of giggles again. Even Amy had to fight hard not to join in. I would’ve liked to see that.
Now Vasiliki was blushing from her scalp down to her throat (and probably deeper, but that outfit showed too little cleavage), but she continued resolutely, “At some point, the scenery changed – I was in a forest that looked like it came right out of a dream – vibrant colours, rolling hills, gargantuan trees with large roots – like in those Japanese movies with the wolf princess or the giant bugs – and more, and I… I come to this spring, and I kneel down to drink, and then she appeared.”
Now her gaze was positively blissful, and Amy leaned in closer, more curious than ever. She’d heard about people meeting strangers, fantastic and real figures during their manifestations…
“It was Hecate. I mean, the Goddess. She appeared as three beautiful, identical women in dark green chitons, with magnificient golden girdles. And she talked to me, in three voices, about… about some prophecy, about five lights I had to find and three suns and another, something she called the Black Sun. I still can’t make heads or tails of it, but then she asked me if I wanted to accept it, and the three put their hands together, holding out this star… and I took it, waking up back at the cabin, completely sober again.”
She looked at them with a smile, but Dalia seemed thoughtful. “You know…” she began. “I think, the visions I saw… there were five stars, maybe it was about the same thing?”
Vasiliki got a thoughtful look, and so did Amy. “There’ve been cases of people witnessing fragments of the future during their manifestation… Doctor Despair claimed he’d dreamed of DiL’s attack on Los Angeles, though it hadn’t made any sense to him at the time,” she said. How curious.
“I can… I can’t remember, right now, but I’m sure I’ll be able to, once I’m back to one hundred percent,” Dalia groaned.
“I’ll keep it in mind. We should ask Basil, too, maybe he saw something as well?” Vasiliki offered.
“I’m sure he’ll love a new riddle to solve,” Amy contributed. “But now, another question I’ve always been meaning to ask you two – why’re you vigilantes? Why didn’t you join the heroes, if you want to fight the good fight?”
They both thought it over, and Dalia answered first, “It just kinda worked out that way, and I thought it’d be fun to stick with these two.”
How very… you. Amy turned to Vasiliki, as did Dalia.
The girl looked down at her interlaced fingers again, looking… ashamed. “I… I wouldn’t make a good hero, I think. They’d probably lock me up,” she explained.
Amy’s eyebrows rose up. Interesting… “Why, what have you done?”
“It’s not what I’ve already done, it’s what I’m going to do. What I plan to do, once I get the chance… and the power to do it,” she continued. Before either of the others could dig deeper, she explained, “I have… had a cousin I was very close to. She was a superhero – well, more like a super-environmentalist – and she… she was murdered.”
Ahhh… “And you want revenge?”
Vasiliki nodded. “She was… like a sister to me.” There were tears in her eyes. Dalia surprised them both when she slid over to her, putting an arm around Vasiliki’s shoulders.
“It’s alright, teacher. We understand. And for what it’s worth, I’ll help ya get your revenge, when the time comes,” she said, trying to be comforting (though her breath probably ruined part of the effect, judging by the way Vasiliki was trying not to breathe in.
Oh, this is so much fun.
“Now, can you tell us who your sister was? And what asshole killed her, I need a name if I’m gonna help you track him down!”
“It wasn’t a man. And my cousin’s cape was Lupa Maior,” Vasiliki explained, her voice wistful. “She was a really sweet girl, just barely an adult, and she only really patrolled forests and nature parks, hunting poachers and the like.”
Oh. Crap. Amy knew that name.
“And the monster who killed her was Mindstar, that twisted bitch,” the girl continued, her face twisted by raw hatred. “And someday, I’m gonna twist her face back onto her neck, like she did with Estephania!”