Maria entered the nightclub to the sound of a bass drum pounding. She took a moment to adjust to the dim lighting and the loud music, then walked to the bar. This is more like it, she thought. There has to be some action here. Reaching the bar, she got the bartender's attention. "Miller on tap," Maria said, shouting to be heard over the music. The bartender nodded, the poured Maria's beer into a glass. Maria paid for the drink, then pushed away from the bar.
Taking the beer, Maria threaded her way through the crowd. Party time! She drank a swig of her beer, then sat on a convenient stool. The crowd's younger than it used to be. I wonder if they'll notice I'm older? She watched the crowd. Some of them won't even care.
Nasty followed Jackson's truck into town, then split away as soon as she recognized landmarks. She threaded her way through the streets to get home. At the apartment, she slipped inside, trying to avoid her mother. A quick shower later, she dressed in her favourite black t-shirt and jeans. Risking a peek, she checked to see if her mother was home. Good. No need for her to ask questions. Eric's waiting for me. No, something's wrong there. Better call him.
Nasty left walked into the living room. She picked up the phone and dialled Eric's number. The phone rang once, twice, then was picked up. "Hello, may I speak to Eric, please?" Nasty said.
"It's me. Hi, Nasty."
"Hi, Eric." Nasty felt herself blush. "Um, is it still alright if I come over to your place?"
"Okay, I'll be right there. Bye." Nasty hung up the phone. That was . . . there's something not right. Damnit, what's the problem?
Maria drained the remains of her beer. She scanned the room, looking for a suitable candidate - one who was with his friends, but not a girlfriend. Several possibilities existed; all Maria had to do was approach one. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Which one to try first? Decisions, decisions. Oh, even better. That one's coming to me. This is too easy.
"Excuse me," Maria's visitor said, "but my friends and I noticed that you're alone. Are you waiting for anyone."
You, honey. "I was supposed to meet some friends here, but I guess they couldn't make it."
"I hate to see a woman alone on a Friday night."
I was hoping you'd say that. "So, are you here alone, too?"
He pointed behind him. "I'm with some friends. You're welcome to join us."
"I'd love that. My name's Maria."
"Hi, Maria. I'm Jared." Jared led Maria to his friends. "Maria, this is John, Laura, and Skeet."
Paydirt! I just have to see which one the chick's with. Maria shook their hands. "Hi. Skeet?"
"Nickname," Skeet explained.
"There's a long story behind it," Jared said.
"And one Maria doesn't need to hear," Laura said. "Trust me, Maria, it's long and not very interesting."
"You had to be there," Skeet said. "Here alone?"
"Maria was stood up," Jared said.
"How awful," Laura said. "Is he close?"
"Close?" Maria said. "Oh, no, nothing like that. Just a friend. We were supposed to celebrate a special occasion for me, but I guess she couldn't get away from work."
"What sort of occasion?" John asked.
Oops. Way to go, Maria. The guys'll run away if they know you have a daughter half your age. "My younger sister finally moved out into her own place."
"She doesn't live at home?" Jared asked.
"She and Mom don't get along. You don't want to hear about my family problems, though. What do you guys do?"
"We're celebrating the end of our first contract," Skeet said. "Our company got a bonus for finishing early."
"Yeah, we own our own consulting firm," John said.
"Ever hear of Cyberstar?" Laura asked.
Maria shook her head. "Not really."
"I told you guys we needed to advertise," Jared said.
"We're not putting a banner on the moon," Laura said. "Sheesh, Jared."
"The moon?" Maria asked.
"Never go into business with geeks, Maria," Laura said. "Another round for everyone? Maria, what will you have. It's on us."
"Thanks. Miller Draft." Can I choose them or what?
Nasty pulled to a stop in front of Eric's home. She shut down her motorcycle, then just sat staring at the house. Eric's waiting. Why am I still out here? Nasty removed her helmet. Why am I here? We're not seeing each other. As far as I know, he barely sees me as a friend. I don't even have the damned essay with me. I should go home. The door opened, and Eric came out, waving to Nasty. Too late to back out.
Dismounting, Nasty walked up the steps. "Hi, Eric," she said. She tried to smile. "How are you?" Lame, Natasha. Really lame.
"Come in," Eric said. "My parents are still home."
His parents? "That's okay. I forgot the essay at school. I'll remember it. I can go get it now if you want."
"It's okay, Nasty. I can look at it at school Monday."
"Okay." Nasty followed Eric inside. Take it easy, Natasha. You've been waiting for something like this for awhile. Don't blow it.
"Do you want anything to drink?" Eric asked.
"Just a Coke, thanks."
"Yeah, to drink. Coca-Cola." Huh?
"Um, Eric, I'm not feeling so hot right now."
"I could turn the heat down if you want."
"Are you feeling okay, Eric?" Nasty asked. Why is he acting so clueless? This isn't normal for him.
"I'm feeling fine, Nasty."
"I'm not. I'm really sorry, Eric. Maybe we can try again next week?"
"Sure," Eric said.
"Thanks." Nasty smiled. Maybe by then I'll know what the hell is going on. She opened the door, never looking away from Eric. "I am really sorry, Eric."
Nasty closed the door softly. Dangling her helmet from her left hand, she shoved her right hand deep in her jacket pocket. Damnit. I blew that completely. He was mine, damnit, and I turned him down. What is with me? Nasty leaned on her motorbike. Desolate, she took a last look at Eric's home. She put her helmet on, then mounted the bike. Maybe next week, Eric. Nasty gunned the engine, then headed home.
"Sir, I really need to take some time away from the conditioning," Subject 4 said. "The girl is fighting me every step of the way."
"Are you telling me that you can't handle the mind of an adolescent?" the Coordinator said.
"Teenaged girls were always hard to figure out."
The Coordinator laughed. "You have a point. Why do you think she's resisting?"
"This may sound strange, but it seems that the girl has a strong sense of herself and low self-esteem. She believes that she doesn't deserve her boyfriend, so she pushes him away."
"Subject 13 has low self-esteem?"
"She's defiant on the outside," Subject 4 said. "Inside, she's constantly questioning herself. I haven't been able to look further inside her mind to find out why. Thirteen takes up all my time with her resistance."
"Do what you can. If she's asleep now, let her be until morning."
Maria woke up, her head pounding. She flipped over on her stomach, trying to will the headache away. The pounding continued. Slowly, Maria realized that it wasn't her head that was pounding. There was someone at the door. With a groan, Maria rolled out of bed. As she shuffled out of her bedroom, she noticed extra lumps in her bed. Huh? Oh, right. What's his name again?
The pounding continued. Maria squinted in the daylight. She slipped on a robe then made her way to the front door. Though the peephole, she saw two burly men in coveralls. Maria opened the door. "Yes?"
"We've got a delivery for you. A table."
"I didn't buy a table."
"It's from your daughter, a Natasha Giuliano."
"Natasha?" What did she do now? "Wait a minute, okay?" Maria unlatched the chain on the door. "What table?"
The head mover looked at the invoice in his hand. "We have here a coffee table to be delivered to this apartment at this address. You want it or not?"
Maria stood aside. "Bring it in." She watched as the movers brought in a brand new coffee table. They set it down in the middle of the living room.
"Want the old one taken away?"
"Yeah, sure. No use to me bust like that."
The movers took the broken table out with them as they left. Maria's guest stumbled into the living room wiping the sleep from his eyes, a bed sheet wrapped around his waist. "What's going on?" he asked.
"Someone sent me a present," Maria said. I'd swear Natasha had the table arrive here now, but there's no way she could have known I'd have company. What is his name? Odd one. Skeet, that's it. "Want some breakfast, Skeet?"
"Sure. Just tell me one thing."
"Where did I leave my pants?"
Name: Natasha Teresa Giuliano
Birthdate: October 23, 1983
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Various scars along arms and torso. Several healed
Mother: Maria Francesca Giuliano
Generation and limited projection of an undetermined energy. Range is limited to contact. Subject 13 shows high pain resistance, though this may be due to her previous injuries. Further testing is indicated, once Subject 13 has been conditioned.
Subject 13 has shown a short temper, causing several injuries to attackers when her power first manifested. She should be kept isolated and sedated until conditioning is complete. Have Subject 4 assist. Searches on Subject 13 show several arrests for assault, though only two convictions. There are also hospital records (see file:\\FS16735-1\Subjects\13\Hospital.pdf) detailing the extent of Subject 13's previous injuries.
[End Issue 13]
Next Issue: Nasty continues with her training.