Chapter 15: Little Genius
I’m sitting on one of the comfortable leather black seats of STRIKE with the wig in-between Dale and I. Dale is sitting behind Serge’s driver’s seat while I sit fiddling with the guard uniform, considering whether or not to take it off because I was uncomfortably hot with my jeans and white top underneath. However, I choose to do nothing for the moment and just listen. I am being ignored as they converse while driving away from the Preventative Care unit.
“A stop over first, huh?” Serge responds to Dale, who is reclining in his seat with a somber look on his face.
“School’s over, we’ll give Casey a ride home,” Dale suggests lightly.
“Doesn’t he usually walk home, boss?” Serge asks, carefully and rightfully so. Dale instantly becomes impatient, leaning forward with a growl vibrating from the back of his throat.
“I’m quite aware of his activities, now drive us to Quarter Gate High School,” Dale commands this while I sit back and quietly assess his quick anger with narrowed eyes.
“High school?” I ask, I can’t contain myself. I was far too curious, “But Casey is just a kid, he looks about, what, eight?”
“Nine,” Dale turns to me and corrects my statement.
“So… high school?” I repeat, raising my brows.
“He was born intellectually superior,” Dale explains arrogantly, “Now watch that mouth of yours kitten, did I say you could speak?”
I instantly blush. However, it is from anger, not guilt.
“Well, I wasn’t aware I had to sit quietly in a corner and only speak when I’m spoken to!” I snarl back and I’m swiftly taken aback by the ferocity in my own tone. I could only put it down to frustration. My back was still tense and my shoulders sore from my recently restrained arms.
I was touchy.
A silence descends between the three of us. Serge gives me a cocked, questioning brow through the rear-view mirror while Dale doesn’t hesitate to react. He grabs the wig from the middle seat, throws it into the front and then unclips his seat belt.
I shuffle back into my seat further, suddenly filled with nervous anxiety because I had no idea what he wanted to do.
With one move he is in the middle seat, right next to me, and his arm snakes out around the back of my shoulders until his palm is cupping the back of my head, forcing me to face him. The touch makes my spine tingle, because I was never used to anyone setting a hand anywhere near or on my head.
My whole life no one had been able to.
Dale changed that.
“If I wish it, sweet thing,” he growls, strangely calmly, “You won’t make a noise, you won’t move, you won’t step out of line and you won’t defy me. You’ve come into this position unknowing of who exactly you’re dealing with. Don’t provoke me into teaching you a lesson you won’t forget.”
I go quiet, my body trembling with his words. My soul was agitated by his tone and his arrogance. He treated me like I was subordinate. I knew he was the Lord of the Underworld but I was trying to help him, so I wanted some respect.
“Somehow, I doubt you would have let me join, nor rescued me, if you didn’t appreciate something about me,” I respond, carefully choosing my words.
Dale blinks and a smirk slowly firms as his hand curls through my hair like he is simply burrowing through a bed of soft feathers. His purple eyes sparkle as he gazes over my defiant features.
“Girls,” Serge hisses under his breath from the front seat, “This is what happens when you bring them too close to us! Nosy little whiny sooks.”
“Shut up, lightening,” Dale doesn’t break his gaze with mine, pausing to gaze into my eyes a few moments longer, “This one’s different.”
For some reason my breath catches in my throat and my eyes cannot break away from his intense scrutiny.
Luckily, I don’t have to be the one to try.
Serge breaks the moment by accelerating and turning a corner too fast.
“Pollies,” Serge growls, interrupting.
“Where at?” Dale looks over his shoulder as do I. I can’t see anything out the back window.
“Gillet street closed, a big fire burning,” Serge explains, “Igniters.”
“We call them Sparkers on the west side of FC,” I joke, amused by his higher class vocabulary. Igniters or Sparkers, same thing, were people who either contained the ability to set things on fire by their touch, or combusted any flammable substance just by standing near it. It wasn’t a cool Gift; it was the most feared and uncontrollable mutation.
“An Igniter is the only term I’ll go by, doll,” Serge snarls back and then goes quiet. For a moment I ponder what he just said and then I realise. Serge is an Igniter! Of course!
“But you have control over –” I begin to speak but Dale lifts a hand and places it over my mouth, clamping my jaw shut.
“What was that, sweet thing?” Dale asks me, while smirking at Serge.
“Appreciated, boss,” Serge growls, relieved I didn’t get to prod any further.
I was quickly learning Serge hated to be questioned; about anything. Dale then rests a hand on my knee, eventually letting his hand go from my mouth only after he has warned me with his eyes.
I stay quiet, instead my annoyed eyes focus on his large hand resting so comfortably on my knee. It was making me sweat, which is not what I needed wearing so many layers of clothes. I start to feel touchy again. His hand on my leg is welcome though; human contact was what I often craved.
Here it was.
I was desperate for it, it seemed.
I was curious about that too; my own wants.
I’m thinking so deeply about my desires and curiosities that I zone out of the conversation that Dale continues to have with Serge. It was boring talk about recruiting Misfits anyway and where to find them.
I only come back to reality when the car jolts to a halt and the engine turns off. I raise my head and look out the window. Teenagers wander outside the gates of Quarter Gate High School, located in the richest part of town. The Quarter Suburbs were well off, wealthy and cleaner than the rest of Frankincense City. Which meant they didn’t have shit and piss running down every gutter… just every third or fourth.
“Where would he be at this time?” Serge asks while thinking to himself, “Already walking?”
“Try going down one street,” Dale suggests, so Serge switches on the engine once more and we roll out. Dale’s fingers start tapping on my leg. I could be reading it wrong but it was almost a nervous rhythm.
I was probably reading it wrong.
I lift my gaze and find Dale glancing at me, his eyes softer and his mouth not in a smirk for once. I open my mouth to speak but I quickly close it.
“What is it, Diamond Spy?” he asks, “You’re a bit too hot and sweaty in that suit?”
“That’s about right, boss,” I shrug, my tone still touchy.
He squeezes just above my knee, a bit tight, making me yelp.
However, now Serge pulls off to the curb again, this time in front of a blonde headed boy crossing the street. The boy tries to dodge the car but Serge pulls ahead, almost side swiping Casey.
“Watch it,” Dale growls and Serge shrugs.
“He chose to run,” Serge explains himself simply. I watch curiously as Casey takes a step back, glaring at Serge before stomping to the passenger door and opening it.
“I don’t want a ride,” Casey snaps, looking into the back he spots Dale and gets a bit of a fright, “…you know this, dad.”
“Get in,” Dale speaks quietly and Casey shrugs off his backpack and plops it in front of the seat before climbing in and shutting the door.
“Good, lad,” Serge compliments the kid while Casey crosses his arms over his chest and glances over his shoulder at Dale and I.
“Oh, hey,” Casey murmurs, before glancing at Dale once again, “Why did you come pick me up?”
“Because I’m your guardian and I like to see what you’re up to,” Dale explains in a low tone with impatience, “How was school?” Casey rolls his eyes and then thinks before answering.
“I learnt that the walls around FC are made of diamonds, which I never knew. I mean they didn’t specifically say diamonds but what I ruled out in my mind from their generic answers made it pretty obvious that diamonds are the material. Oh, and apparently 50 years ago, people use to still watch television series about drama, of all things. So weird. People were so stupid back then,” Casey turns in his seat, getting comfortable.
“What about maths and science class?” Dale asks.
“Boring,” Casey sighs, “I want to go home then read and eat my guts out.”
“What do you like to read?” I ask. Casey instantly looks over his shoulder again, his eyes lighting up with the first show of real happiness.
“Comics, do you read?” he asks.
“No,” I answer him, “My fingernails cut up the pages. What year level are you in?”
“Year 8, but school is still easy,” he glances at Dale and answers him before anything is even said, “I’m not going up another level, I told you people just look at me funny or don’t take me seriously or don’t appreciate I beat them in every test.”
“You have to own your intelligence and be proud of it,” Dale reminds him with a warning.
“It’s good that you push me but I like to have fun –”
“Then don’t question what I teach you,” Dale uses a parental tone, shutting Casey down instantly. I’m a little shocked as I see Casey simply give up and slouch back in his seat while Serge watches me speculatively.
“You got something to say, Alyssa?” Serge asks me.
“I’m Alyssa now, am I?” I snap.
“What do you have to say, sweet thing?” Dale prompts me, daring me to answer.
“Casey is very smart and intellectually older. He is very impressive. Socially, he is nine years old. Nine year olds don’t study, they have fun,” I say this joyfully and with feigned respect. Dale takes note of my attempt to get across my point and my anger, which was obviously sugarcoated.
He knew I wanted to insult the way he dealt with Casey.
Dale wasn’t happy.
Luckily Serge was focused on navigating through traffic.
“Noted,” Dale murmurs quietly and Casey flicks on the music.
I relax, wrongfully believing I am safe with a kid in the car.
I feel Dale move into me, leaning down, his lips against my ear as he growls, “A well fed kitten shouldn’t forget the hand that feeds them. Otherwise, they’ll end up on the streets… or locked up indefinitely.”
I remain silent and Dale pulls back. For the rest of the drive, to Dale’s satisfaction and Serge’s delight, I am quiet.
All the while, as they believe I am subdued, I am actually sitting silently while my guts roll and twist.
This Gang of Shadows had a hierarchy, a food chain.
I was welcomed into the top ranks containing 4 men and an unknowing child.
Dale wouldn’t welcome me into their midst unless I was of value.
I still believed I was valuable and mostly appreciated by them. However, smart words, a sharp tongue and keen ears seemed to be the key to gaining more respect. Right now, I was confused about my position.
They accepted me.
I belonged somewhere.
Next I wanted to be seen as an equal.
I think about this the whole ride back.
Serge parks in an underground carpark of the Black Lair Clubhouse and as we exit the car, I wait by the boot and listen for further instructions.
Dale and Serge have quietly conversed together by the driver’s side before coming to meet me at the back of the car. Casey is simply waiting by me with an impatient look in his eye.
“Let’s go, I’m hungry,” Casey growls.
“Go on then, kid,” Dale nods his head towards the elevators, “You don’t need my permission to go inside.”
“Whatever,” Casey turns and heads for the elevators with a skip in his step.
“Watch that tone,” Dale growls out after him.
“It’ll be gone when I’ve eaten and you know this!” Casey calls back without looking over his shoulder.
I wait, leaning on the boot with my eyebrow raised and my arms crossed over my chest. At least it was a little cooler in the underground carpark.
“Do you all live here?” I ask, curious.
“Questions,” Serge lets some electricity crackle from one hand to the other, making me wince from the heat I feel through the charged air, “How many are you going to rattle off, doll?”
“As many as I require,” I answer, calmly and stoically.
“Someone’s developed a bit of an air of assumed authority,” Dale states mockingly while Serge doesn’t break his menacing gaze from mine.
“I’m sorry my basic questions offend you both so much,” I snarl back, deciding to shake things up a bit.
I look over my shoulder and see Casey has gone up in one of the elevators. So, I quickly grab the buttons on my jump suit and start to undo them, male eyes quickly focus on what my hands are doing, “Are you going to both stand their gawking all night?” I ask as I pull the suit over my shoulders, down my hips and over my knees. Once it’s off I kick it up into my hands, where my nails slice right through the material as I hold it close to me. I was now comfortable with my ripped jeans and white top as the only layers adorning me, “Or are we going inside to talk about something useful like what we’ll be doing next?”
“Somewhere private inside sounds good to me, doll,” Serge smirks and takes a step forward, holding out a hand for me to grab.
“Good,” I ignore his hand, turn and walk my way to the elevators, “I want to find out what is really expected of me.”
“When did she become so bossy and defiant?” Serge growls low under his breath.
“She’s always been like that, beneath her soft words,” Dale replies and I can feel his eyes burning through my back even though I’m looking straight ahead as I walk, “Now she’s just testing her place. Don’t fret, kitten, we’ll show you, very soon.”
A shiver runs down my spine as I come to a halt by the elevators and press both buttons.
They both come to a stop behind me.
“I find it curious why this doll agreed to such a bargain with you,” Serge adds, quietly to himself. He was referring to my agreement to please them all.
In this moment, I was also questioning my choices.
Dale reads my mind and ends up confirming my personal question, in a way I find embarrassingly degrading… but also true in some sense of the word.
“Many kittens are just looking for three basic things,” Dale speaks low and I look over my shoulder to catch his purple gaze, “A home... milk... and a bed they’re welcome to be warmed in.”
“Unless you have any objections, doll?” Serge adds.
I’m so focused on their choice of words that I jump out of my skin, my nerves on edge as the elevator arrives and the doors jolt open.
Serge and Dale walk me into the constrained space of the black metal themed lift.
My heart is in my throat as the doors jolt back shut.
There was no where to run.
I had been too slow to answer.
And now there was no escape from what was to happen next.