Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Meta Corps: Dream of the Youth (Part 6)

Chapter 7

             “I totally can’t believe that you got the gauntlets, Sarra. What would have possessed the powers that be to have Lora choose you out of everyone else on planet Earth?” Cindy asked as she spun her bottle of diet soda in her hand.
 Sarra shrugged.
 “Apparently, the powers that be wanted me to be awake at all hours of the day and night. It’s kinda nice.”
 Lora chirped up.
 “Helena said that EnWol live off sunlight and have a forty eight hour battery. That keeps them charged up in case of a blackout or underground fiasco.” She said.
Sarra snorted.
 “It helped when mom and dad yelled at me when I was supposed to be asleep. Lora got off scot-free with destroying the windows last week, yet poor old sissy has to help pay the damage. There goes my own apartment…”
 The three sat in the Meta Corps indoor courtyard, waiting for Helena Christophers to call them in for a training session. The modern courtyard had a glass ceiling and a center plateau where some simple concrete benches sat among fourteen trees in a grid. The walls had orange stripes aligned with the columns.
 During the week, Sarra had perfected her Crimson Cherry outfit. She adopted a pair of low-rise pants, a tank top, gloves that extended to her elbows, and a choker. The outer layers matched her purple hair and the skintight t-suit became cherry red. Lora was pressed to try some variety for identities sake, but she liked the base uniform that came with every new EnWol transformation.
“You’re not upset, are you, Cindy?” Lora asked.
Cindy shook her head.
“I’m a little let down, but yikes Lora. I don’t know if I’m ready to be a hero on the field, now that I’ve thought about it. I want it, but I also think that I would have fallen, like, hard if I got them now. I’m more peeved about Sarra getting them instead of anyone else really.”
 Cindy stretched out to put her beverage on the ground.
 “It’s still way stupid. How did they think that you could be, like, a good hero, Sarra? You’re a lazy coot that’s only used your powers for relaxing.”
Sarra cocked an eyebrow.
 “Coot? A coot is the male equivalent of a biddy, Cindy.”
 Cindy rolled her eyes.
 “Whatever, what do I know?”
 Sarra nodded.
 “Excellent question…” She muttered.
 Lora got ready to settle a quarrel and sighed with relief when it did not come.
Sarra looked at her waving fingers; the tips stretched a little bit as they were thrown out. She felt like she had grown up easily worn out and wrapped up in rubber bands all the time. After the gauntlets had changed her, Sarra felt supple, flowing, and free. She clenched her fist, her fingers digging into her palm. Despite the appreciated liberation, Sarra neither knew what was wrong, nor know how to ask about it without looking weak.
 Sarra pointed at a hovering, cross-legged Cindy with her chin.
 “You’re the professed expert on heroes, Richards,” said Sarra. “I’m just happy that I didn’t have to relearn how to walk right out of the box.”
 Cindy nodded.
 “EnWol just work right. You can still do whatever you already knew how to do after the gooey thing. That’s good for your guitar playing, I bet.”
 Lora giggled and hugged Sarra from behind.
 “Sarra’s a melomaniac. Of course it would, Cindy.” She said.
 Sarra sneered and phased out of Lora’s grasp. Lora went through a watery Sarra and onto the floor. Sarra reformed and cocked her eyebrow.
 “A professed and hopeless melomaniac, thanks.” She said.
 Lora stood up and frowned. She stared at her hands and then her sister, too intrigued to complain about Sarra’s new way to be rude.
Lora sounded half-distracted. Sarra was a little disappointed that Lora had not reacted as she had hoped.
 Cindy grinned.
 “Gaia, I totally wish that I could do that.”
 Lora inched over to Sarra; her hand was up as if she were hesitant to touch her sister. Sarra took notice and faced her.
 “What’s your problem? Is it that I escaped your hug?”
 Lora jumped, coming out of her entrancement.
 “I’m just…” Lora smiled. “I’m just in disbelief that you got to be stretchy.” She shrugged her shoulders in time with the last two syllables. Lora took Sarra’s hand to reassure her and squeezed it a little to test the sponginess. Sarra pulled her hand away.
 “Yeah, fine. What the world wants to know is why you aren’t, Pink Lemon.” Sarra spat the name.
 Lora shook her head without an answer.
 “Hey Sarra, she doesn’t have be stretchy if she doesn’t want to.” Cindy said.
 The two sisters stared at her. Sarra laughed and then scowled. Her laugh did not sound right; it was like hearing a recording of her own voice.
 “It’s nice to see a hero sticking up for their kin, but if I’m not mistaken, you’re a meta hero nerd and not a sports nut like I had thought. If that’s true, than wouldn’t you already know that if everything went right, Lora would now be cookie dough?”
 Sarra looked at her sister with a sly smile.
 “You know, sis, the opportunity might still be available.”
 Lora bit her lip, thinking of the idea with mild disgust. Sarra smiled.
 “Wouldn’t you Pink? You’re as sweet as cookie dough, so why not live like it?”
 Lora slowly shook her head. Sarra smirked.
 “Well I had it done and look at what happened. Bite the bullet and become stuffing, I guess. Maybe you could have a chance at being a better hero than me.”
 Cindy clicked her tongue and waved her hand.
 “Oh, what-ever, Sarra. Stop being a brat.” Cindy said. Sarra glared at Cindy and saw Helena walk up from behind.
 “You stop being a valley girl. You sound like your IQ matches your height in inches.” Sarra said. Cindy made a face.
 “Can you believe her?” Cindy whispered to Lora. Lora shook her head and pursed her lips.
 Helena smiled as Sarra approached her.
 “Alright, Sarra, you’re going to be the first one up, since this course is for cryogenic EnWol. We’re going to have to get a different course for Lora.”
 Sarra smiled at her cohorts and floated away.
 “Good luck, Sarra.” Lora called.
 Helena glanced back with a supermodels smile and Sarra ignored her sister.
 “Okay Sarra, if I understood properly,” Helena started as they left, “You are a black belt in Karate, and so your reflexes should be as good as they can get for someone your age.”
 Sarra nodded, both her grin and brashness spread wide.
 Helena studied Sarra, feeling defiance ooze from her. She toughened her tone and stole a glance at the balconies behind Lora and Cindy.
 “You should know then that we are here to check and see how far being an EnWol will take you.”
 Helena motioned Sarra to follow her and, they disappeared into the building.
 “Good riddance.” Cindy said. She uncrossed her legs and leaned so far back that she flipped over. She smiled.
 “I call that my mermaid dive.”
 Lora nodded with a chuckle.
 “Very cool. Umm, hey, what did you mean by good riddance, Cindy?”
 Cindy sneered.
 “I think that your sister is stealing your thunder.”
 Lora stood up. She wobbled slightly as her heels left the floor. She balanced on her toes and held her arms out. Cindy stretched over to grab the nape of Lora’s costume and help her up a few inches.
 “Don’t fight the flight.” She said.
 Lora giggled and thanked her.
“Umm, okay so, EnWol help each other out; that’s why they come in pairs. That’s worked super so far, but Sarra is that crazy cards thingy and, like doesn’t want to cooperate. With her, umm… attitude getting in the way, she might push you away. Push her back and get your thunder back. Embrace the Pink Lemon name like Florence did.”
 Lora shook her head.
 “I don’t think that Sarra would be that bad, Cindy. Maybe a little, but she might get better.”
 Cindy smacked her forehead.
 “Lora, no! There you go doing what Sarra told you again, bonus points for her not even being here. Too nice, too trusting, too much of a doormat, like, total barf, Pink.”
 Lora looked at her friend, mildly perturbed. Cindy sighed.
 “Know what, think about this. After being hit by something big, a more solid EnWol can be stunned. When that happens, they can shatter and it takes a little bit to recover for some mind reason. What if you were stretchy like Sarra and that happened to you. What would she do?”
 Lora shrugged.
 “She would tell me to wake up and move the fight away while I’m pulling myself together?”
Cindy made a face.
“So not what I had in mind, but maybe, I don’t know. My point is that Sarra might be a brat and leave you in the dust. If she’s keeping you from doing something by doing it herself, you do it anyway. Except don’t steel her thunder either, okay?”
 Lora nodded.
 “Of course, Cindy. Sarra is… a challenge though.”
 Cindy patted Lora’s shoulder.
 “Hey, if you can be more assertive when dealing with bad guys, than it’s worth it.”
 Lora nodded.
 “I guess. You know, I’m surprised that you two aren’t more friendly, Cindy.”
 Cindy scoffed.
 “Well, just because we both liked to roll in the mud and poke at bugs when we were seven doesn’t make us best buds. That reminds me too, I want to know how you’ll do out on the battlefield. How will you fight the bad guys?”
 Cindy poked Lora’s shoulder. Lora looked up at the skylight.
 “I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it but I’m not sure about the overall situation. I still feel sick from defending myself from that… that drug addict from last year.”
 Cindy grimaced.
 “Yeah, the DTC guy, I remember that jerk… that guy… that thing.” Cindy spat. She stretched her arms out to shake Lora twice. “You roughed him up pretty good, didn’t you?”
 Lora grimaced.
 “He needed fifteen stitches on his cheek, Cindy. His ribs were broken and so was his arm. It took all I could to talk Daddy out of suing him. Poor guy...”
 Lora whined a little. Cindy chuckled.
 “Lora, didn’t, like, everyone tell you not to feel that way? The crap that guy took made him into an animal, and you defended yourself beautifully when he was becoming more powerful, and… stuff.” Cindy stuck her tongue out at her stumbling.
 “Umm… Everyone told you that you should be grateful for your black belt. That jerk wanted your purse, and you said no way, buster! What better attitude for an EnWol than to be kind and kick butt for the greater good, right?”
 Lora nodded, a sad smile gracing her face.
 “I guess so…”
 Cindy held her arms out.
 “Then why so glum? Lots of metas have the chance to be heroes, but very few can be in the top of the tops. Lora, you should be excited about this, I mean, I would kill to be in your shoes.”
 Cindy looked a little perplexed, a connection formed in her head.
 “This goes back to Sarra too. Now that I think about it, she’s probably enjoying this too much. She said that she’s a better hero than you are too, well bullhonkey. I don’t know the Queen as well as you do, but I know her well enough to see that she’ll enjoy the spotlight while pretending to ignore it.”
 Lora looked in the dirt. She bent down to pick up a leaf and fiddled with it. Cindy pressed her lips together. Cindy sighed and threw her head into her hand.
 “I’m not sure if I’m getting through to you, chica, but you know what, you’re going to need to get over feeling sorry for yourself, both for hurting people in self-defense and standing up to,” Cindy bopped her own head, “hey-what-do-you-know, your younger sister. Gaia knows that you’re way too good a person to sock random people.
 These guys you’ll face are bad, Lora. The horrible, wicked, and evil sort of bad, not so great and hunky that it’s bad, bad. They aren’t going to care if you tell them to stop, or that you don’t want to hurt them. They’re like Sarra, but… you know, bad. Bad, bad, bad worse and stuff. Evil.”
 Lora looked up at Cindy with her hard-to-refuse puppy-dog gaze.
“No one’s perfect.” Cindy said. “Why not prove it by kicking bad guy butt? Hey, I know what I said too about refusing things so that you don’t get into more trouble, but this is pretty different.”
 Lora looked at her boots dangling back and forth. She just barely whispered the word ‘okay’ and nodded.
 Cindy smiled.
 Lora followed up on Cindy’s smile.
 “I promise.”
 Cindy lightly backhanded Lora’s shoulder.
 “Hey, you always look at the positives to any situation, so are there any perks for being Ms. Pink?”
 Lora looked up and saw some birds soaring in the sky. She gave a genuine smile and her heart fluttered with the birds.
 Cindy laughed.
 “Oh yeah. I could not agree more! I’ve been flying since I was a least six months old, so I am a pro.”
 Lora nodded.
 “I believe you too, Cindy. It’s a shame that you can’t come along to show me the ropes. I want to improve my flying skills.”
 Cindy sighed.
 “Yeah. I’m sorry about that, Lora. I’m trying so hard to, like, cram everything that I know about super heroing that I can into you until you go.”
 Lora rubbed Cindy’s back.
 “It’s okay Cindy; I appreciate your efforts here.” Lora said.
 Cindy shrugged.
“It should be for the best. I haven’t finished school yet, so that doesn’t help too much. The problem is that the hero part of Meta Corps doesn’t care if you can move the Earth from its orbit with a thought; you have to have graduated high school, be 18, and prove that you’re comfortable with your powers. I don’t have any of those.”
 Cindy lazily twisted her waist left and right and her arms stretched out a little to coil and uncoil around her. Lora chuckled and floated up.
 “You seem pretty capable with your powers to me.”
 “Thanks, but it’s nothing special. Lots of meta grew up with their powers and can do basic things; it’s the hero stuff that gets you. Hey, I promise that when I am qualified, I’ll fly up to ‘Frisco and help you along. I think that we both need each other to be heroes, both EnWol and meta.”
 Lora nodded.
 “Well, it’s a good thing that my family and I will live so close to the Hero Corps headquarters.”
Cindy nodded. She brought her arms back to normal and grinned.
 “Some super boyfriends would be great too.”
 Lora laughed without a second thought and waved her hand.
 “Oh, totally. That sounds wonderful, Cindy.”
 Cindy giggled.
 “Man of steel, woman of rubber; strong personalities to fear! Roar!”
 The two shared a laugh together, relishing in the moment for as long as they could.
 “Oh, Cindy-bee, I’m going to miss you.” Lora said.
 Cindy relaxed some and looked at the tiled floor.
 A thought brushed Cindy’s mind. She caught it before it would flitter away.
 “You know what Lora, I’m not perfect either. I just got like, so friggin excited about you and the gauntlets that I just got ahead of myself. I didn’t even think what you wanted to do when it’s over. What do you want to do?”
 Lora looked to the sky again for inspiration.
 “I want to go to school and get some kind of diploma in either literary studies or creative writing. Afterward, I was thinking about maybe writing some columns in some magazine for starters and see where it goes from there.” She said.
 Cindy nodded.
 “Cool, cool. I guess I got shoehorned into being a hero, unless no one minds that I have super collagen. I don’t know what I’ll need to get there though. Some sort of study of crime and how it works along with some bad guy subduing training.”
 Lora nodded.
 “That sounds right. I wouldn’t know where to start helping you there though.”
 Cindy shrugged.
 “I’ll figure it out.”
 “Oh, well good luck.” Lora said.
 Cindy smiled and thanked her. Lora bit her lip and felt her heart flutter harder than it had previously. She started to sweat.
 “Cindy, I think that aside of my being a columnist, I hope that, well…The really big thing for me is, umm, after I get situated with being EnWol, find a nice boy, and move on… I would really just love to be a mother to someone.”
 Cindy nodded.
 “Lora, that that makes a lot of sense. I support that decision.”
 Lora smiled, a dreamy look caressing her face.
 “Yeah. That would make it all worth it.”
 Cindy looked around for something. She sighted her nearly forgotten diet soda bottle and stretched out to grab it. Lora stole a glance.
“Oh, the diet soda again Cindy.”
Cindy snickered.
“I know what you said, but I can’t trade in my soda, Lora. Meditating makes me impatient.”
Cindy studied it and shrugged.
 “Well anyway, here’s some sugar substitute to a happy future.”
 Lora chuckled and balled her hand as if she had a drink.
 “Some sugar substitute for a happy future.”
 The two clinked plastic bottle and fist and giggled.
The doors exploded with a frost bitten rage.
 Sarra flew out and slid on the ground, leaving a reflective trail in her wake. Lora and Cindy got out of her way as she collided with the bench. She glided over the top, splitting in two.
 Helena flew out of the ice-covered room.
 “Sarra! Calm down! This sort of recklessness can get others killed!”
 Cindy and Lora exchanged glances and looked back down.
 Sarra, with blotchy chrome patches, reformed in two seconds. She puffed up her body and screamed. Helena flew up.
 “What is wrong with you? Calm down!”
 Sarra growled and ignored Helena. She jumped up into the air and her fists produced a blue glow.
 Helena frowned.
“Great Gaia’s grapevine! Lora, Freeze her!”
Lora glanced at Cindy and back at Helena. She pointed at Sarra.
 “Freeze her?” She asked.
 Helena waved her hand.
 “I don’t know what she’s going to do with her ice! Do it, freeze her!”
 Sarra looked at Lora and aimed one of her fists at her. Cindy gasped and moved to get in the way of the flurry. Lora saw Sarra’s eyes for the briefest of moments, there was something behind the fury, but she was not sure what.
 Sarra released her ice and Lora ducked down to evade the attack. She kept her eye on Sarra and produced her own arctic blast. Lora’s beam encompassed her sister, and she grew a strong, one-inch thick casing. Sarra’s frozen form dropped from six feet up like a stone.
 “Whoa!” Cindy said. “Good shot Pink Lemon!”
 Lora flew down and looked at her sister.
 “Is she alright? What happened?” Lora looked at Sarra’s face; she was livid.
 “That was one of the worst things that she could do.” Helena said.
 Lora screwed her face up.
 “How come?”
 Helena sighed.
“Think about this, Lora, she can survive the encasing without a problem, but can you? Can Cindy?”
 Sarra’s prison rocked back and forth slightly. Lora put a finger to her chin.
 Helena continued.
 “Ice kills, Lora, and EnWol do not kill. Period.”
 Cindy made a wet sounding scoff.
 “Talk about being a mother to someone, Pink.” Cindy took a glance back into the training room. “¡Ay, caramba! Hey Helena, like, what happened in there?”
 Lora looked inside the room. All of the equipment was covered in ice.
 Helena crossed her arms.
 “Cindy, what’s the first thing that I taught you? Before finding your elastic limits, before showing you how to fly? The very first thing.”
 Cindy answered without hesitation.
 “Look and listen. Failure to do so may not only hurt you, but the lives of innocent people. This includes listening to the one that’s training you.’
 Helena nodded.
 “That’s right. Being a hero is not just jumping in, but it’s also paying attention to your surroundings and using your observations to right all wrong on the scene. Safety comes first for the innocents, the bad guys and you, even if you are an EnWol.”
 Cindy chuckled and gave a salute.
 “Drilled and on top.” She said. Cindy noticed that Helena and Lora were looking at Sarra.
 “Umm, guys, I don’t think that she can hear you.” Cindy said.
 Helena nodded.
 “Yes she can.” Helena stretched her arm and clapped it on Lora’s shoulder. She did not look up from Sarra’s frozen gaze.
 “This goes for you too, Lora. Even if you can’t stretch, being an EnWol means that you need to protect everyone and everything from harm, literally. Meta Corps can’t handle the pressure and lawsuits from damaged property, ruined lives, or an unjust murder. Unlike the police, we are unable to kill in self-defense since the meta and EnWol are more powerful and more accountable.”
 Sarra’s expression softened to look like her mouth was hanging open a little. Helena wrapped her palm around Sarra and the ice started to melt.
 “This is very big stuff ladies,” Helena continued. “It’s not something to mess around with. People get mad at the smallest slip-ups, and then that’s all that they focus on. Our research for enhancing humans by way of meta relies on our good reputation. One little mistake could set us back years. It behooves you three to pay attention, save those in need and be responsible.”
 Lora nodded and Cindy laughed.
 “Hey, it’s all I want to live for. Do it right or, like, not at all.”
 Helena nodded.
 “In this line of work, yes. Of course, the exception lies in the case of evil that’s physically larger than the tallest building in the area. The property damage is negated, and the city evacuated in order to stop it. Damage caused by the hero in that case is pretty much glossed over.”
 Cindy poked Lora.
 “Hey, how do you feel about that? It shouldn’t be a problem for you, but some things still go crazy. Are you up for it?”
 Lora gulped and nodded. Cindy smiled and patted Lora’s back.
 “That’s good; you have my support, Lora.”
 Lora smiled and watched as Sarra left her prison through a small opening as silver ooze. She reformed and yelled at Lora for doing what Helena told her to do.

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