She was the kind of cute that became really, really hot when you were around it for long enough. For me it took like…a half hour or so. Not sure how long it took everyone else. Hat was skeptical. So was I, but I mean…that didn’t mean I didn’t want her on the team or anything. I could protect her and everything. That’s what I was good at. And it would help to have someone who always knew what was going to happen. That’s what I thought.
It was difficult to argue with the fact that she would be invaluable to the team. At least in theory. She didn’t do much to sell herself to us, but I guess she just sort of…knew that we were going to do what we were going to do and so she knew that we were going to be okay with her being on the team.
“I mean…I don’t doubt that she can do what she can do,” Hat said crunching into an apple, “I just don’t think that it’ll add anything for the fans, that’s all.” The whole ‘fans’ bit was always a bit of a joke, but we WERE gaining a following with subscribers and everything and It was hard to argue with him about that. Yeah, she was hot, but she didn’t dress flashy or anything and she wasn’t exactly engaging. And the way she would lip synch or whisper along with a conversation like it was an old song she’d heard since she was a smaller girl…y’know…kinda spooky. And then there was the general overall sense of slightly whimsical boredom that she seemed to constantly carry about her. Not exactly fun and more than a little easy to feel like a fool there for HER amusement and not ours.
“She’s going to get in the way,” Springfire said with her eyes faintly glowing. “Just because she always knows what’s going to happen…that doesn’t mean that she’s going to help us out with it or anything like that. She doesn’t exactly have to do that. She doesn’t have to care because she already knows whether or not she will.” She had a point. This girl knew what was going to happen like…always. That’s got to be some weird next level consciousness that keeps her from ever really being able to relate to anybody. She can’t engage with other people because she already knows whether or not she will. No genuine connection emotionally so what about empathy? Still…we were already reacting to her like she was what she was saying she was because the assumption even with all the reservations was that she was already a part of the team.
That part made me mad. ALL of us had to prove ourselves at least once before we were on the team. That part made me mad, so I nudged her in a moment of cruelty and told her she’s not on the team. She just chuckled and rolled her eyes. Then leaned-in and kissed me on the cheek before announcing to us all (fans and team alike) that there was about to be an alarm. Would’ve seemed kind of strange if we hadn’t already been introduced to her and…then…kind of weird BECAUSE we met her before and knew that she was acting a lot more showy now. Still…would have kind of been weird if she’d just…said that to mess with us and then sat back down like nothing. I only had a few seconds to think about that before the alarm sounded.
We all scrambled out to the Fringe. Camera drones started to show up right away for subscribers. Platinum subscribers would arrive shortly thereafter in their personal armor. Always did. Didn’t have to know everything that’s going to happen to know about that. Always happened. That’s half of what we were there for. The other half was grinning out of the shadows at us with sharp teeth and little glowing-red eyes. You could hear them breathing. You could feel them surrounding us. A few of them were still decimating a Fringe hovel. Angel and Bash already scrambled out to try to look for survivors. A few cameras followed them, but most people subscribe to see us do our extermination thing.
Out in the distance there was the respiration of those little demons that began to sync-up. We always let them do that. Hat says it’s because it lets the subscribers know things are about to start…figures maybe he can get sponsorship or something. “This creepy pre-fight respiration brought to you by Exit Cola” or whatever. I don’t think it’d ever work. We just fought these little demon things around the edges of everything. It’s not like we were an offensive extermination team or anything like that. It’s not like we were big time. Anyway…they all link their breathing up and fling themselves at us.
Swings and slices and bashes and things. The little girl can defend herself. It’s a bit like watching a kung-fu movie with her. Always knws exactly when and where they’re coming as they screech themselves at her with razor talons and teeth and tongues. She was good. No question. Would have to wait until later to get a real good look at what was going on…and then an explosion from the hovel. Something combustible in there and Angel and Bash…can’t lose them, right? Medics are hard to come by. They can take care of themselves best of all. They need to…
But then there’s another explosion and the little girl lights up. Suddenly she’s like…projecting a 3-d holo-imax display of everything that is going to be happening. And we can all see it for one dazzlingly flashy sequence. It’s all like an old Escher painting or something. Time and every possibility s stretching off in between every angle in a weird fractal space and we’re all in the center of it seeing it all exactly the way she does. You can hear the Platinum members freaking out. We all know everything that’s going to happen because we’re near her and she knows there’s danger. Good thing too. Building collapse of the Hovel could have killed Angel and wounded Bash, but we knew exactly when and where to go to pull them out in one piece.
From there it’s all clean-up and the big Escher fades out. And we’re all laughing. And you close your eyes and you can just FEEL the subscribers exploding. Looks like we’re going big time soon. She puts her arms around me… and tells me that it’s too bad she’s not on the team. Then she winks. It’s pleasantly unsettling. Then there’s the celebration and it all washes away.
By Russ Bickerstaff
Russ Bickerstaff is a theatre critic and author living in Milwaukee, WI.