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[Plot Thread 2.1] Fear and Loathing


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TW: Violence, minor mutilation, religious hate.


March 20th, 2020


Demonic Stormers are threatening our world and our SOULS!

Christian spiritual warriors must stand up to this Satanic invasion! Join the Garrison today!


Below the garish printout were tear-tabs with the phone number to the Faith House, a large residence just off campus that had been left with a trust for Christian-based groups on the Penn campus to use. Across the poster was spray painted Είμαστε θεοί! in bright blood red letters. Neither Donald nor Renata needed Google Translate to tell them what it meant - they’d seen the graffiti around campus for nearly a week now and already knew. “We are gods!”


There was another Stormer on campus and it was Not A Good Thing. It had started with a rash of thefts, trashed dorm rooms, and petty scares when coeds were walking alone outside. A month ago the leaders of the conservative Christian group The Garrison had been alone in Faith House working on similar posters and pamphlets to litter campus bathrooms with. They were now both in ICU units and phrases like “long-term arrangements” and “managed expectations” were being quietly murmured to exhausted parents. Even if the two twits had tried to exorcise Donald’s entire dorm building (“To make sure his demon didn’t try jumping into another student’s body,” Merideth had explained with a sincerity that made everyone in the Dean’s office wince), they hadn’t really deserved what happened to them. Something had been born that night, ugly and twisted and hateful, and it left the word ΦΟΒΟΣ spray painted across walls, ceilings, floors throughout Faith House. On Merideth and Gregory, it had been carved into their skin over their hearts.  


In the week following, a half-dozen other Garrison members were attacked, though none were beaten to the extent of Merideth or Gregory. After that week though, the assailant spread out to other students: some were attacked, others chased around campus by illusions and just dread until they found a group of people or collapsed from exhaustion. Campus moved to a mandatory buddy system, then a mandatory five+ group system. Even the boys traveled in packs to the restroom now. Anywhere they’ve found a lone victim, Phobos has left their signature; as the campus has locked down more and more on providing targets for the attacker, those that do tempt fate have been found beaten. 


The first death was Darren Evans, a Garrison member beaten to death with the large Bible he’d been carrying away from the meeting. Garrison meetings had been made secret in time and place after Meredith and Gregory were found, with current low-ranking members taking on the title of “Scouts” for the organization to bring those interested to the clandestine meetings. Darren had just been promoted to “Lieutenant” and had been gifted the bible in the meeting. Campus was closed the day of the funeral; some parents were already pressuring the Dean to close the school until the murderer was caught. 


Donald stared at his door. When he’d left for class in the morning, he’d cleared off the religious tracts, pleas for help with everything from schoolwork to apparently a “Stormer case” of the crabs (ewww), and just a large marker-drawing a dick on the wood. Typical morning at this point, really (the dick drawings weren’t even new or unique to him - they were drawn on all the dorm rooms down the hall, each one in a different color. Apparently someone had gotten to Walmart over the weekend and restocked).


What was new now was the bold sharpie covering most of his door: 


Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

John 4:6-7


The penmanship was even passable, given the doorness and sharpie pen of it all. 


Sighing, he pushed his way inside and dropped his backpack next to his desk. When he turned to flop onto his bed, he found two crisp black envelopes laid carefully on the bedspread. One read “Donald” in flourishing emerald handwriting that put the door to embarrassing shame; the other had “Mask” written in the same handwriting but in scarlet ink. On the back, pressed into the black wax seal, where the letters ΦΟΒΟΣ.

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Donald was tempted at first to just dump these in the shredder (which had become necessary to buy in the weeks after the Storm) and make a point of his contempt for this psycho. Everything Phobos had done was sick, sadistic and pointless. Merideth, Gregory and their followers were just nuisances, nothing more. The "exorcism" was one big joke, eye-roll worthy and move along.


Once Phobos started going after the Garrison, and other students, now things became terribly serious. Campus security asked Donald to help look into the attacks, but all the sensory transformations, the animal kingdom tricks Evo duplicated, came up dry. He and Renata as "Mask" had put their heads together, done their own sweeps. Nothing.


That Phobos intruded into his room wasn't that surprising. Everyone knew where it was, and Donald hadn't felt any need to put up more locks or protection. Who was going to mess with someone like him? Now, Evo's body rippled as he went through the cycle of transformation. No sight, sound, smell of anything wrong. Donald sighed and tore open his envelope. If this egomaniac wanted to reach out to him and Renata, this might be their only way of catching and stopping Phobos.

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Dearest Brother,


We have come to the cusp of a new era. The birth of true greatness and divinity. All births are bloody and you and I both know that humanity will not quietly make way for their betters. For the giants that now live among them. For the new gods. They will fight and war will come. It has already begun. Join me. Join your siblings. Take your rightful place as heralds of this new order. Together we shall make this world grander than base humanity ever could. 


Show me your power. Show the meek and weak and teach them their place is now beneath you. Teach the merely human that awe is fear and you are due both. Do this and I will know you have accepted my invitation and the truth of your divinity. I will know it is time for us to meet. To stand side by side with all the new gods that have risen from the Storm. Deus novos!



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Donald dropped the letter, rolling his eyes. Yep, it was pretty much villain-classic nonsense, and Phobos thought Evo might join him? It reminded him of the rumors after the big party in October, that said Karrie was forming a team, like SWAT for stopping bad-guy Stormers. Well, no sign of one. Honestly, Donald didn't even remember who he heard it from, just that he did. That fling with Emily, for obvious reasons, dominated his memories there.


Anyway, Phobos was here and his problem. And Renata's. Thus, he found his computer and messaged Ren on Skype. Need to talk. RE: Phobos. Unfortunately, the maniac expected a show of some self-sucking ubermensch behavior, rather than conveniently offer a date and time. Odds were Renata's letter would be the same sort of shit.

Edited by Gabe OOC
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Renata's reply came back almost immediately. Donald could almost see her in his mind's eye, loitering outside somewhere, maybe after a run or workout session...waiting for the sun to go down so she could suit up and hit the streets again.


Usual place. asap.


Donald knew where she meant. The place they'd gone to 'train' with their powers before, and had visited a few times since, when the opportunity was there. She always showed up masked, if not in her actual 'costume,' just in case someone caught a glimpse of her with the famous Evo.


This time was no exception. When Donald arrived, he spotted her there...which meant she probably had already been close. She had a new ski mask on, grey this time, and a lighter blue windbreaker than usual, but otherwise was quite recognizable. And as usual, no one else was around.


Renata saw him there and came over. "You got a lead?" she asked hopefully. She'd been banging her head on every known report of this Phobos' activities, but without any official status or access to information, she'd hit nothing but walls. Who he was, what his powers were, what he wanted...other than the obvious... He was a mystery. One she wanted to solve. One she wanted to stop.



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"I got a letter from Phobos." Donald bluntly summarized. "One for me," he passed over the offending document, "and one for you." The still unopened letter addressed to Mask came over as well. "Probably the same nonsense as I got, but can't hurt to check. Of course, he's not going to meet with us without an incident to make it look like we've bought into his delusions of godhood."

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Renata took 'her' letter and opened it, then scanned it over quickly.


After a few seconds she lowered it and scowled deeply enough that Donald could tell she was doing it even under the mask.


"I'm gonna have to do it," she muttered. "You can't, so it has to be me. Damnit." She shook her head. "I'm not going to hurt anyone. Maybe I can just...I don't know, be a big enough asshole without that. Scare people, do a little property damage...shit."


She looked away. "Really wish there were supercops we could take this to. It's one thing to be undercover, it's another thing to just...do shitty things without anyone knowing why, and hoping that they'll forgive you when it all shakes out and you can say, 'I was only doing it so they'd let us in and we could bust 'em.'"

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"Yeah." Donald agreed wholeheartedly. "But there aren't, and if we go to the police before hand, we have no way of ensuring Phobos doesn't find out and disappear. Anyway, people are scared enough that they'll probably let it slide if we pull this off." It wasn't a prospect that Donald approved of, since Ren was right - it's a shitty thing. "I know how it sounds, but do we have any other options?"

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  • 4 weeks later...

Renata hesitated, then shook her head.


"Yeah. Look. I think if we're going to do this, we can't just wild west it, you know? That could go seriously wrong. Like, if I start throwing stuff around, scaring people, what if the police show up? There may not be supercops, but there's cops, and if we're going to try to do something we should at least try to get them involved. It's still a risk. They'll probably tell us not to do anything at all, and that they'll handle the investigation."


She rubbed her cheek, already imagining that scenario and feeling a little surge of anger over it. It was a real possibility, but...it was the right thing to do.


"We gotta try though. He knows what you look like, so you can't go to the police. I'll go alone, see if I can get the department's help or...or cooperation or even just see if they'll look the other way. You...I don't know, maybe see if you can make contact with him? What do you think?"

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"I have no idea how to do that." Donald replied. "I'm not sure how you're going to get them to believe you without revealing who you are, but we do have to try." Honestly, the cops would be idiots to say they should do nothing, given the police wasn't any good as it stood anyway... but hey - it's not like movies would use that bit again and again if it had nothing to do with real life, right?

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Renata shrugged at that. She didn't know.


"If I have to tell them who I am...then I will," she decided. "This is more important than me wanting to keep my privacy. People are dying."


She looks at Donald then and tilts her head consideringly.


"Can you change how you look though? Disguise? Like I did for that party, but less...cringy."

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Donald rolled his shoulders, and then changed. His face morphed, his body mass shifted... and became a picture perfect copy of Tom Holland. He raised his hands and dramatically uttered, "With great power, comes great responsibility." Donald changed back, more serious now. "I can do that. The problem is, I haven't exactly broadcasted that I can, so Phobos might not make the connection if I raise a ruckus while shapeshifted. What did you have in mind?"

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"No no, I just meant...you could disguise yourself and go to the cops. Crazyface wouldn't know it was you then. You do that, and that means I don't have to go public. Instead, I'll get masked up, go get into some kind of big, public fight with some local talent criminals. Not overly violent or threatening people, just...noticeable. The kind of thing he might think would lead to my big coming out party. That way I have his attention, and he won't notice Spiderman or whoever sneaking in to see the police."

Edited by SalmonMax
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  • 2 weeks later...

"That sounds like a good idea." Donald agreed, brightening up just a little. "I suppose then, fingers crossed, that the cops are willing to be understanding and not make things worse. I'll set something up tomorrow and message you about the results. That sound good?"

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Renata nodded.


"Yeah. Let me know when you're going to go, and give me maybe...an hour's lead time so I can get some kind of distraction going."


She clapped Donald on the shoulder. "We'll meet tomorrow after you get out, lets say. Compare notes and all that."


"See you then."

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  • 6 months later...

The nurse, Alice Gross, came into the room to check the patents vitals. It was a little after ten thirty at night she was running behind in her rounds which is why she was so late. Merideth Mason, age twenty, such a shame. Alice did her usual, checked blood pressure, pulse, temperature, all the same no change, all the monitor read outs were the same, such a  shame, she was a pretty girl with her whole life ahead of her and now would probably never wake up. Alice turned to get the chart tablet from the end of the bed and gasped flinching back.


Beckett didn’t’ react at all. She had not when the nurse had come in, she  had said nothing or made any movement to attract attention while the nurse did her thing and she still didn’t move when the nurse turned to get the charts from the end of Merideth’s bed.


Alice stifled her surprise scream before it escaped her lips, “Honey, you shouldn’t be in here, visiting hours are over at nine.” The girl in the chair hadn’t moved. She was dressed in dark clothes but her pale face was clearly visible, then her eyes cut up from the bed and looked into Alice’s. “I know. But I heard they would be sending her home tomorrow, I needed to say goodbye.”


Aww the poor girl, “Well you can stay until I’m done but then you ‘ll have to go so say goodbye to your friend, hun.”

Beckett shook her head and stood up. “She isn’t a friend. We grew up together in Castlerock, but she didn’t like that we shared a name. She thought I was a freak. Maybe I am. Anyway, she didn’t deserve this, and nobody gets better in Castlerock, so I came to say my goodbyes. I’ll go now.”


And she did. Alice stared at the closing door for several moments after the short stocky girl had walked out. She had finally recognized her when she crossed through the light and decided not to say anything. Would not want to cause a star athlete any problems, not these days.


The next day…


Renata finished the practice race and was catching her breath and hi-fiving the rest of the team she had beat her best time by almost 4 seconds. And everyone was congratulating her. She took a deep breath and felt the sweat trickle down her back glowing in the exhilaration of the run.


It was late in the afternoon; classes were over, and the track was busy with students doing their own personal practices and exercises. In the center of the track on the grassy part a group was playing field hockey, Renata recognized some of the players as being on the school team but most appeared to be pickups. The  track team was the only official group currently on the track and had priority over the rest it was a good feeling, but today as good as she performed, Renata was distracted. Donald was supposed to have called her by now, hell he should have called her last night when he went to the cops, if he did go like he was supposed to.


Suddenly, out of the corner of her vision she felt more than saw movement, something streaking at her fast. She didn’t think about where she was or anything that is how distracted she was she just reacted. She didn’t turn didn’t duck her arm just shot up and the ball, it was afield hockey ball made of hard plastic, slammed into her hand. It stung. Only then did she turn, the other track girls closest to her just whooped and hollered still high on their own endorphins they didn’t even notice that she shouldn’t have been able to even see it coming, and the rest of the people on the field and the trak had been too far away really to see anything clearly.


One of the girls from the hockey game was jogging over, “Sorry about that I’m a lousy shot glad you saw it coming. Good catch!” She took the ball when Renata tossed it to her and without another thought the girl turned and jogged back to the game that’s when Renata saw a different girl on the filed looking at her. She recognized her, who wouldn’t, short and stocky but still pretty, with incredible muscular legs visible due to her shorts, it was Beckett James, star goalie for the Nittany Lions, Penn States woman’s Hockey team.


Renata could tell by the way she was looking that Beckett had seen what everyone else had missed.



this picks up the day after your last series of posts from the start of this thread. so we are still only six months after the storm which places us in march  


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  • 3 weeks later...

Renata paused where she was, feeling a weird sense of exposure quicken her heartbeat and pinken her cheeks. Even at the long distance between them, her eyes and Beckett's met.


Take it easy. You don't know what she saw, or what she thinks. Go over and talk to her.


Yep, it made sense. Perfect thing to do. She found herself hesitating though, and for much more mundane reasons. Hockey wasn't Renata's sport per se, but she'd been looking into maybe getting into it once upon a time. It was a kind of uncanny feeling seeing someone in person who you'd only seen pictures of before. There weren't a lot of woman athletes who got into articles, so the ones who did stuck out. The fact that Beckett was her kind of pretty made it even more awkward.


Jesus, Ren...get a grip and go talk to her. You don't have to ask her out, just see what she thinks she saw...




Putting on what she hoped was an easygoing smile, Renata broke into a jog across the field, waving at Beckett as she went.


"Hey," she called. "You're with the Lions, right?" Ren slowed to a trot as she got closer, then stopped within conversational distance and nodded and offered a hand. "I'm Renata. Nice meeting you. Didn't figure I'd be seeing any celebrities out here today."

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Beckett with a word telling the other girls to play on, had cut away when the girl waved her over, shoving her hands into her hoodies pockets, she walked unhurriedly toward to meet Renata half way


9 hours ago, Renata Hodges said:

"Hey," she called. "You're with the Lions, right?" Ren slowed to a trot as she got closer, then stopped within conversational distance and nodded and offered a hand. "I'm Renata. Nice meeting you. Didn't figure I'd be seeing any celebrities out here today."


Beckett looked at the offered hand a moment before pulling hers out of her pocket and taking it. Like a lot of things Beckett was embarrassed by her hands, they were what is unkindly referred to among the popular girls as 'man-hands', big, thick, muscular with short fingers and shorter nails, which Beckett did not paint, adding to the image.


Renata noted the powerful grip as the short stocky girl shook her hand and the quick way she ended the shake after only a seconds contact and shoved the hand back into her pocket.


“Renata,” Beckett repeated the name slowly lingering on each syllable as if savoring it, “pretty name.” She gave Renata an appraising look and a fleeting smile. “That was a good catch, surprised you haven't tried out for softball. And yeah, I'm Beckett, goalie for the Lions. But you already knew that.”


Beckett smiled up at Renata and the smile made a world of difference as her face went from dour and uncertain to warm and attractive. And this time the smile didn't get put away.

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"Yeah," Ren agreed with a grin. "And softball...I dunno, I like sports where I'm not sitting waiting to do something for half the game, you know?"


Well, she's not freaking out or accusing me of being a superhuman so...I guess we're good?


She looked over at the others on the field for a second, then at Beckett. "So...you here to play something, or meet someone or something?"

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"Nah, not really," Beckett shook her head. She looked back at the girls playing then at Renata, she seemed to be weighing things, then she came to a decision. "Just burning some excess energy," she grinned again, it was impish and infectious, "you want to go somewhere? Get a coffee or something?"


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Renata found herself echoing the smile without even thinking about it. How long had it been since she'd just...talked to someone? About normal things? In the back of her head she knew there were things to do, including following up with Donald and working out the next step of this shaky-ass infiltration plan.


There was time for coffee though. Right?


"Yeah," she said, "that sounds good right now. Ever been to Ground Zero? It is my current coffee obsession."


Renata gestured in the direction of the hole-in-the-wall indie coffee place then segued the gesture into a beckoning for Beckett as she started moving that way.


"So," she asked as they went, "You taking any classes here?"


Ren had no idea how old Beckett was, though she seemed of similar age. She was pro though, so that'd probably make a full schedule hard...but that didn't rule out taking a few courses here and there, she figured.

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Ground Zero was located on E, 126 Paterno Library, where a Starbucks had been before the Storm. While the outside was still Starbuckish in looks, the inside was a throw back to the original coffee house craze of the nineteen fifties, sixties, and seventies. Long plush roomy and comfy booths, with low tables lined the walls and surrounded a wide floor with a scattering of vintage wooden tables and chairs. The front window had been covered and booths were set up there as well. The standard Starbucks counter was goon replaced by and oak bar  and the modern coffee machines were replaced by vintage coffee and espresso machines or at least very good replicas.


The lighting was low and shadows were everywhere but there were big candles in colored glass bowls at each table. There was small stage, empty right now, where entertainment would set up during the evening.


Renata and Beckett came in and they both hesitated not too sure if a booth would be too intimate or a table to nonchalant. The place was fairly crowed for this early but there was an empty booth at the front which was more well lit and open. That is where they settled.


The waiter, a guy their age and probably a student, came and took their order, coffee, and a bagel For Beckett, while Renata ordered a Mocha, with some creme on top, and cinnamon on the cream. The waiter, whom Renata had seen in here before gave both a warm smile, lingering for just a second on Renata before he left to fill their order.


“I think someone has an admirer,” says Beckett.


Velma had landed in Philly a little more than a month ago and it took her less than a week to realize this was not the place for her.


For starters just before her arrival the city had endorsed a local Nova, what the media were now referring to those Stormers who displayed crazy powers you previously could only find in comic books as,  called Captain Shield. A very law and order fellow who could create force fields and he was already making a name for himself as a first responder. She hadn’t been sure the city would except the competition from an outsider.


Secondly, the courier services in this town were so divided into closed cliques along political lines as to make it almost impossible to break in and there were virtually no independent couriers.


Disgruntled she had called Mark, her ex, and asked what she should do, should she go back to Frisco?


“No,” he said, and she could see him shaking his head in her mind even though he was two thousand miles away. “Go north to Penn state, there’s a whole city built around it and just for it. Outside of New York, L.A. and Boston, it has the highest per capita number of couriers in the country and they get paid a high rate. The place is a paradise for our type. But there is a lot of competition.” They talked about  a few other things and then said goodbye.


V had taken his advice and headed to the strange yet aptly named State College, Pennsylvania and found a city literally built to service the school and a very busy always in demand community of couriers who didn’t care that she was from someplace else since most of them were as well. She had been here almost a full month now and had found a good job, a place to live, and even made a few friends. What she hadn’t found was a chance to do her other thing. At least not yet.


It was early evening when Velma took a late express job to pick up and deliver a package to a Professor Carlyle who was at a coffee house called Ground Zero. When she arrived to make her delivery she saw what looked like a Starbucks with darkened windows form the outside but when she went inside it was almost like she had entered a wayback machine.






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Mark was a really good guy and skilled courier to boot. If she believed in marriage, Velma really might have said yes when he proposed. But she didn't, so she hadn't and that had made things awkward enough to have this big move bubbling at the back of her head for years until the Truck happened.


Competition? She thrived on it. Give her enough time to learn the secret map of a city and no one, absolutely no one, was going to beat her at getting something from Point A to Point B in a short period of time. Add in the sprinkle of recognition that the timely delivery was done by a 'Nova', whoever the hell had come up that buzzword, and Boom. She'd have the client recognition and the courier street rep and small business loans to make Big Deal Bike Couriers more than a growing folder worth of drafts in her apartment. And then, once that was humming? Maybe she'd give the Thing with Mark another try. Her siblings were managing the whole spouses and kids and life savings package, so maybe the Olsen relationship curse was just in her head. God knew she'd hit it enough times to not think 100% straight.


But that was the future and this was now, much as the retro coffee bar was trying to make the brunette courier think now was then. She looked behind her as the door closed, confirming her bike and helmet were out there and shifted her heavily-reinforced backpack on her shoulders. Laden with a box full of what felt like paper files to her experienced judgement, the 5'2 stormer was clad in sturdy biking leathers, scanning the room for her client with dark eyes. Mostly students, some locals, a handful of tenture-age types, but no client at a center of a group discussing whatever high brow thermo-dynamic biology  literature BS was so very important.


Sigh. This was why she hated couriering to non-offices. No front desk with someone to sign off on her delivery so she could call it in and bounce off to the next run. There was an understanding there, a mutual let's-not-waste-each-other's-time convenient. Nothing for it. Sweep the place and then call the dispatch office.


Velma headed into Ground Zero, head on a swivel, gazing fixing on a stocky brunet girl for a moment she swore she'd seen on TV somewhere... Then it clicked. No, an article in the school paper she'd read for research. Beckett James, star player on both the universities' hockey and softball team. Small world. Or not so small considering where Velma was. She scoffed to herself and left the girl to her conversation, hunting for her target. 

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“I think someone has an admirer."


Renata chuckled at that and shook her head slightly. "Well, someone's out of luck," she murmured to herself as she took a sip of her coffee, and sighed happily at the rich smell, the mix of tastes. It was a damn fine thing, the first coffee of the day. A sweet little dopamine hit.


Then she noticed a woman in the coffee shop who was looking around with a searching stare. She had a leather riding outfit on, and a bigass backpack. A little older than Renata and Beckett, but still good looking. Short too. Cute. Her eyes came to rest on Beckett and paused.


Renata leaned forward and said in a low voice, with a teasing grin. "I'm not the only one with an admirer." Then tilted her head towards the biker chick without looking at her.

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Beckett looked and saw the bike currier and then gave Renata a questioning look and silently mouthed "Her?"


Renata nodded as she took another sip of her drink. 


Beckett took a second look at the leather clad woman and wondered if that sort of outfit would be  good as a uniform, it looked awfully tight but then they did ride bikes fast and long distance so it must be somewhat limber. 


"Hey," she called to Velma, "you in the leather. You lost?"


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