“Shit, you’re right,” I said, almost heaving after taking the first mouthful of my lunch. “This food is awful.”
Morris chuckled as I spat out a mouthful of bacon back onto the plate. How can you mess the texture of bacon up badly?
“I warned you,” he smirked, wagging a finger.
“Isn’t there a place with good food here?”
“Other side of town,” he explained. “this is one of those diners where the food doesn’t need to be good. It’s either eating here or starving.”
The emphasis was correct. The diner wasn’t packed, there was a smell that I hoped wasn’t the food and the staff were clearly minimum wage or part time. It didn’t take much to tell that the place let itself go because of the sheer monopoly it had on selling cooked food to eat.
I smiled at the idea of buying fish from the place. Naivety only goes so far before it becomes stupidity, and buying a guaranteed dose of food poisoning is crossing that line.
The other guests weren’t much. A man in a coat, sipping coffee. Somebody driving across the country. Some college goer abusing the free wi-fi with her boyfriend, who is actually eating food and not throwing up. Still, it’s a diner that could serve thirty, and only has six people being served.
“So Ryan,” began Morris. “I hear you are going into Biohazard’s park, right?”
“Yeah,” I responded, taking a sip of coffee.
“Didn’t expect a vet like you to still risk your life.”
Morris flinched and rubbed the back of his head breaking eye contact. I noticed he had a bald spot.
“Sorry, old joke,” he replied.
“What’s the joke?”
“Don’t want to say…”
“Come on,” I pressed. “I’m not going to bite.”
“Well it’s a saying in the police forces,” he explained with a little hint of embarrassment. “What’s a cape with PTSD called? A veteran. Everyone who used to be a cop or still is knows the joke, and thus you get capes called stuff like ‘vets’.”
I smirked at that. It’s a funny joke.
“So it’s just cop lingo?” I asked, followed by “You used to be a cop?”
“That’s true. I worked for about seven years before I quit and came here,” Morris stated. He took another sip.
“I don’t know why you’d quit one job and do the same thing but with capes.”
“Lots of NHN agents used to be cops. Since capes started appearing, police got cuts globally whenever they get a chance to enforce the law legally.”
Morris took a moment to think.
“You should know this, Ryan.”
“I didn’t pay attention in school,” I admitted, shrugging my shoulders. “At least, not about capes.”
I remember that costing me from day one. Considering how Sacrifice acted on my second meeting with her, we got off relatively lucky. Well, at least Ricky, Michael and Maxine did, anyway.
“So I guess there’s some irritation about capes from cops, right?”
“Yeah, there is. It’s like most cops think people randomly selected shouldn’t have power over others. Actually, most people have those issues, remember the conscription debates in the UN?”
“I heard about it a little, but it was glossed over.”
Morris gave an inquisitive look, which I responded to with a shrug. It was true. Most negative things that aren’t related to civil rights are glossed over in schooling.
“Anyway Ryan, speaking of staying informed,” Morris said. “You did your homework on Biohazard, right?”
I did, but not enough. The information on Biohazard and the park was surrounded by mystery and suspicion, and that’s from the NHN itself. One story tells of tribes of monsters, another talking about giant robots. The only thing that was consistent was that Biohazard was not alone in his park; he had an ally who was immune to his powers, somehow.
But that’s not why there is going to be an expedition. The situation in Biohazard’s area has always been stable, but there is pressure from congress to reclaim it, especially after the near total victory against Texas. The victory that was celebrated while I-
“Ryan?” Morris repeated, looking a little concerned.
“Sorry,” I replied. “Sometimes I…”
I let the sentence drift off. It’s become less of an issue. I used to have complete flashbacks, vivid remembrances of those three years of hell I endured. They’ve all but disappeared, hiding away in my dreams, or glimmers of my memories appearing, if only for a second.
God knows what’s happening with Samantha.
I sighed and downed the rest of my coffee in one gulp. “We should be going.”
Morris groaned and got up as I did, following me as I left the diner. We already payed for the terrible food and ok drinks at the till, and we had a schedule to keep.
“Don’t push yourself, Ryan,” Morris lectured. “You have the expedition, then two more towns to visit.”
The expedition. The first time I’ll be part of a team in three years. I thought about it intensely for a while as I walked back through the streets, noting more and more crowds as we hit the main street. Morris’s phone beeped and he opened it up before shooting a look of concern.
“Morris?” I asked.
“The convoy was hit. Super tech. It jammed our signals and was silent.”
We both took a second to stare at each other than ran for the trailers and cars. It appears we were reminded why there were two capes in Meeker. They were there to stop the local supervillain, who has technical powers.
“Shit, how’d we forget?” I asked.
“It’s a cape called Forget-me-not,” Morris explained, looking it up on his NHN issued phone. “Anorak countered her powers, which is building stuff that alters awareness and memory.”
I dived around a small crowd and found my way next to Morris in the bustle, running as fast as he could.
“You mean that she went off the grid and we just forgot?” I asked, realizing it was rhetorical.
I’ve dealt with this before, maybe she’s attacking because I smoked her out by accident.
“It’s only her, right? Nobody else?” I asked Morris.
He checked his phone. “No, just her.”
Good, I thought. I can handle this.