Quick Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or the world they inhabit. They were created by the fabulous people at Zombie Orpheus for their equally fabulous RPG, Masters of the Metaverse! Be sure to tune in to Twitch.TV/zombieorpheus every Monday at 6PM PST to see more!
Butch’s phone buzzed. He reached over and picked it up off the bed. A text from Molly, she was running late and would have to meet them at the party tonight. Butch sighed and tossed the phone back onto his pillow. Fantastic, now he’d have to ride to this thing with Bombshell and Hex. The three of them alone in a limousine, nothing could possibly go wrong with that.
Looking himself over in the mirror, he couldn’t help feeling more than a little ridiculous. This party was going to be stupid, he knew that already. It was a sham, clearly just some made up event.
“I mean who would actually allow a twelve year old to give a speech?” he asked his reflection.
It wasn’t right. This whole thing felt off. And pointless. But he was still going. Why not? Why not spend the evening with a bunch of people who didn’t mind that they were living in a cage? Sure, he could make small talk around the cocktails and pretend that the world wasn’t a lie.
What was wrong with him? A year ago, things had been different. A year ago he’d been driven, determined. A year ago he’d had a purpose. Now he felt like he was sleepwalking. Things were good weren’t they? He was married, that was good. To Molly. Who apparently was able to leave the house now. And hold down a job. Where did she work again?
A disappointed moan from the doorway interrupted his train of thought. Hex glared at him with her arms folded across her chest. She looked pointedly at his outfit of jeans and a KID TITAN t-shirt, complete with sports jacket to make it fancy.
“That’s what you’re wearing to my party?” she asked.
“You couldn’t wear anything nicer?”
Butch considered, “I’m sure I could. But every time I do it ends up being blown up, shot off, burned, or irradiated. Honestly, I don’t think the dry cleaning bill is worth it.”
He walked toward the door, pausing at Hex’s shoulder.
“I mean, this party isn’t even real any way.”
Hex groaned, “You’re so annoying. Why are you obsessed with this?”
“Why aren’t you?” Butch gestured toward the window, “Why isn’t anyone? Why did we find out the biggest lie ever and then decide to just keep it to ourselves? Hmm? Why did we do that? Does that make any sense at all?!”
“I have a video recording of our decision making process if it would be helpful to see it.”
Bombshell had appeared behind Hex, materializing out of swarm form looking like someone who was very excited to be nominated for an award.
“Oh my God.” Hex fumed, “You guys are going to make me late for my own party. Which is totally not cool, by the way. Can we just get into the limo? You can be creepy conspiracy man in the car just as easily as you can in your bedroom.”
Butch shrugged, “Lead the way. We definitely do not want to be late to this very important social engagement. It’s not like there’s some massive coverup happening over anything important. By all means let’s get there before the shrimp cocktails are gone.”
“I will happily give you my shrimp cocktail if there is a shortage.” said Bombshell, cheerfully, “I do not require nutrition and therefore would not be able to enjoy it.”
Butch stared at the two of them for a moment before growling under his breath and stalking out to the waiting limo. Because apparently they took limousines places now. And went to parties. He slumped into his seat and turned toward the window. Hex set up shop across from him, whispering to a floating bow tie that had recently appeared. Somehow that was less concerning then the fact that his wife wasn’t coming home from work yet. But at least Molly was happy. Wasn’t she?
It was ironic that Molly was happy now. Her dad had always hoped for that. Maybe that’s what he’d meant when they’d confronted him, when he had told Butch that he failed. Maybe he had hoped Butch would help Molly find her way back, back to being the happy girl she’d been at the start. Butch remembered the first time Dr. Migraine had gotten in touch with him after Molly had left. It had been his birthday, not that anyone had known. His uncle was doing a press junket and was out of touch, HAL wanted to know what the definition of birthday was, and there was really no one else. So he’d resigned himself to a quiet day at home alone, stewing in his newly single outlook. And then the phone had rung.
“Happy birthday my boy!”
They’d gone to lunch at the Sentinel City Diner. Butch had had a turkey club and Dr. Migraine had had a cup of coffee. They didn’t talk about anything in particular, especially not Molly. At least not until the end. Right before they had parted ways, Dr. Migraine had put his hand on Butch’s shoulder and looked deep into his eyes. With a sad smile he’d said, “You two were good together.” He’d looked like he wanted to say more but he just gave Butch’s arm a squeeze and walked off. So maybe it was for the best? Molly was happy now.
Molly was happy? Molly didn’t really do happy. She never had, not after her powers had started growing. Even when they were first dating, it was always Butch who had seemed more excited to see her than she him. Maybe that had been part of the problem. He’d given her his whole heart, all his emotions. He’d never hid anything from her. And Molly? Well, she’d kept him at arms length, never fully letting him in. He’d understood of course, her powers made it difficult, but if he was honest, there had always been a part of him that had felt like he hadn’t been enough. His love, his heart, his feelings, he’d given them all to her willingly. But they hadn’t been enough, and they hadn’t been wanted. Not really. But that wasn’t true any more was it? Because things were better now. Molly was happy. He was happy. Right?
“Are you going to be weird at the party?” asked Hex.
Butch glanced up, “Me? Weird? No. What could I possibly do to be weird at a fake party being thrown by sheeple?”
“I could compile a list of possible behaviors that would be considered weird in this social situation.” said Bombshell, opening her mouth wide.
“Please don’t.” Butch raised his hand, “Just don’t print out anything okay? Because I don’t really have the emotional strength right now to deal with it. Or dry it.”
Bombshell closed her mouth and shrugged, “Very well.”
Hex looked like she wanted to say something more but they had finally arrived at the gala. Butch was momentarily lost in pink fluff, sparkles, and fur as she exited the limo. Sighing, he climbed out and entered the building.
Fifteen minutes later he was standing next to the bar when Hex marched up and took a glass of champagne. Her triumphant look was erased seconds later as Bombshell appeared from seemingly no where and took it.
“You do not need this. You are too young.”
Hex shot daggers at Bombshell’s retreating back and began whispering to the floating piece of menswear by her side. Butch groaned to himself as she flounced back to their table.
“Great party isn’t it?”
Turning, Butch found himself face to face with a man who was more teeth than brains. A quick reflection reminded him that this was The Mandible, a C Level superhero who was known for a mildly effective bite attack and a slightly more effective career as a talk show host on the Nova Network.
The Mandible looked startled momentarily before recovering with, “It is!”
Butch chucked wryly, “How can you tell? I mean how can you tell that this is a great party?’
“I’m asking how you can know with absolute certainty that this is a great party? I mean, we’re all living in a zoo which no one seems to be bothered about and my memories are not really adding up about certain things. But everyone is telling me that this is fine, this is okay. This is the world and this is normal, and I’m being creepy and borderline psychotic. So I mean, if everyone else thinks the world is fine and it’s clearly not, then how do you know that this is a great party?”
Butch held up a finger, “Hold that thought.”
Turning around he caught a glimpse of Bombshell and Hex wrestling for various glasses of champagne.
“Stop it.” he barked, “Stop it. Stop it!”
Bombshell froze and smiled her most winning smile at him. Hex took this as an opportunity to head off to the ladies room with a poorly concealed glass in her hand. Butch sighed heavily and turned back to The Mandible who seemed to be forcing a hard reboot on his small talk ability.
“It’s fine.” Butch shrugged, “You don’t want to see it. Yes, you’re right. It’s a great party. Thank you for telling me. I’m going to go now.”
He walked off toward their table without waiting for a response. He slumped down into a chair and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his sports jacket. He felt something inside and pulled out a pen, probably left over from a previous stake out or client interview. He began doodling on his napkin while Bombshell instructed the wait staff to only serve Hex milk.
The Mayor walked up grinning from ear to ear, “Alpha Squad, I’m so glad to see you all! Hex, we are so excited to hear your speech tonight.”
Butch snorted, “Yeah, tell us all how exciting it was to get disqualified from the show because you were accused of murder.”
The Mayor blanched briefly before recovering her smile, “Excellent. I can’t wait!”
She made motions as if she had just recognized someone she knew next to the ficus by the podium and walked off.
“You’re living a lie.” Butch hissed after her.
“Oh my God could you stop it for like two minutes. You’re totally ruining my moment.” Hex said, swaying ever so slightly in her seat.
Butch looked up, “I’m sorry that my relentless focus on reality is harshing your buzz.”
Before Hex could respond, several waiters flanked the table and deposited the evening’s meal. Butch looked down but couldn’t bring himself to eat. He doubted his stomach would take it and he knew his brain wouldn’t. He pushed bits of food around the plate for a while before turning back to his napkin. He was surprised to see that he had drawn a fairly passable portrait of Teddy Roosevelt. He began filling in the rest of the presidents in a miniature version of Mount Rushmore. Pretty good for having never seen it in person, he thought. He’d never made it out there. Had he?
The sound of feedback brought his attention to the main stage where The Mayor was introducing Hex. Butch continued doodling absently as he watched the young tween approach the podium.
She smiled and the room seemed to fill with light pink sparkles. Several members of the audience gasped in delight while others murmured appreciatively. Hex cleared her throat and began talking. Butch was only half listening when she caught his eye and held it.
“Yeah, so it was super fun to watch my friends get murdered and learn that we’re being encased in a dome.”
A shot rang out and Hex crumpled to the floor. A horrific animal scream pierced the room as the rest of the guests began running for cover. Bombshell went down into a defensive position as Hex’s wounded body floated over to them. Butch sighed heavily. Guns are not a superpower.
“HAL give me a visual overlay, show me anything that moves over the speed of sound in the next ten seconds. And cut out everything else visually, I don’t want to see anything other than that.”
Butch’s vision tunneled and then went black. He could hear the people running and screaming, hear Bombshell working on Hex, hear the beating of his own heart, but he saw nothing. He didn’t see one of the waiters stumble into their table, sending cutlery flying. He didn’t see the napkin he’d been doodling on flutter to the ground. He didn’t see that the random scribbles and marks flowed into letters and then words, things he’d written without even knowing it.
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