As she stood underneath the neon sign for the diner, Kya nodded to herself. The man in gray had been right, she knew that this was the place she needed to be. The large glass panes from waist height to the ceiling of the restaurant were scratched and had a discoloured plastic film on them. The orange metal panels below the windows were faded, but surprisingly clean from any graffiti.
Kya looked at the double doors, with their large metal handles dividing the otherwise glass door as they went diagonally from two feet off the ground to the top of the opposite corner. She pulled open the door, and was surprised at how light it was as she flung the right one wide, hitting a cracked rubber stopper that prevented her from potentially damaging it.
Inside, pictures of celebrities were hung over each of the seating areas, and almost everything felt like it was pulled from two or three decades ago. The floor was covered in large black and white tiles, both with a noticeable wear pattern. A quiet but upbeat song was playing in the background, creating a nice atmosphere.
Kya knew that she probably wouldn’t be able to hear it if the diner was full, but the only person she saw in the entire restaurant was the tall woman behind the counter.
The lady, whom Kya assumed was probably less than a decade older, stared at Kya with a smile on her face as she wiped down the long metallic counter. Half a dozen large red stools were bolted to the floor in front of her.
“Come in and sit down. Is there anything I can get for you, Kya?”
“Wait, how did you know my name?” Kya said.
There were slight creases in the woman’s skin, and Kya couldn’t help but notice some lines forming around her mouth and brown eyes as she grinned. “You would be surprised the things I know.”
Sitting on the stool directly across, Kya looked the woman up and down. She inspected her clothing. It was just simple blue jeans, and a t-shirt, nothing like what she had expected. Her hair was a natural looking dirty-blonde, pulled back in a messy ponytail. Despite not seeing anything that should make her apprehensive, Kya couldn’t shake the feeling that she should be on guard.
“My name is Marge.”
A flicker of recognition shot through Kya’s mind at the name.
Marge slid a tall glass under a drink dispenser and pushed a button. Quickly, a dark liquid filled the glass. “Root beer?”
“If you’re Marge, who is Gennie?” Kya shot an offending look at the drink before turning her gaze back to Marge.
“I’m hurt!” Marge said with a chuckle, her voice had a raspy yet melodic tone to it, like someone who liked to sing her heart out. “I was sure you’d be looking for me.”
On impulse, Kya shrugged, unwilling to volunteer too much information to this woman until she was given reason to do so.
Marge walked to the edge of the counter and flipped up a piece of it, sliding through and closing it behind her. She walked to the front door, and flipped over the small paper sign from open to closed. As she locked the door, she turned to Kya and began to walk back. “When Callidus gave you your gifts he told you to come and find me. That’s why you’re here.” She smiled again, and tilted her head to the side a bit. “Isn’t it?”
“Who is Callidus?”
“Oh, that’s right. You never asked his name!” Marge laughed melodically. “Don’t worry, it wasn’t high on my priority list either.”
An uneasy feeling crept into Kya’s body, and she wrapped her arms around her stomach in hopes of settling herself. Her vision flickered in an all too familiar way, and darkness surrounded her.
“The Supers aren’t quite what you expected, are they?” Marge asked gently.
Even though her lack of vision let her know she could not be seen, Kya shook her head reflexively.
“It’s alright, it gets better.”
“How would you know?” The tone of Kya’s words was hard and on edge, betraying Kya’s feelings.
“You’d be surprised-”
“Try me.” Kya’s vision returned and she glared at Marge.
“What did your searches reveal about First Gens?”
“Almost nothing.” Kya blurted out before she could stop herself.
“Just more questions?”
Kya nodded once, then stared out the window.
“Come with me. I’m sure Callidus will be eager to see you.”
Despite the strong desire to run away, Kya set her jaw, clenched her teeth, and followed Marge to the back of the diner.
“You really would have liked that root beer.” Marge said. She opened a door at the far end of the kitchen and it led out to an alleyway.
The alleyway was mostly clean, other than a ten foot tall mural of shadow figures, much like the ones Kya had seen on the bus during her trip to the diner. As Kya followed Marge across the four lane street, her heart rate started increasing.
Marge’s expression went hard as she looked at Kya. “We have to be careful past this point. There shouldn’t be a patrol for the next ten minutes, and the security cameras can’t see this spot. But around here it’s always best to be on guard.”
“Yep.” Marge glanced around. “There isn’t a whole lot of love in these parts.”
The bushes quickly got thicker as they went off of the beaten path. Beyond a row of evergreens there was a chain link fence, three times taller than either woman, and it was partly pressed into the branches.
Kya watched as Marge grabbed the fence and pulled herself towards and then along it, her entire body coming in contact with either tree branches or the metal fence. “Are you coming?”
“Where are we going?” Kya pulled herself towards the fence, and continued to follow Marge as they sidestepped slowly along it, crawling under branches. A small opening in the fence, thanks to a strong tree that likely pushed it to its breaking point, was open only a few meters away. Kya realized that no one could see this opening from outside of the thick forest of trees, and she followed Marge through.
After only a few feet, the forest cleared, and Kya looked down into a small valley.
“Bet you didn’t know this was here?” Marge said. Her breathing was strained and the rasp in her voice was far more noticeable.
Feigning confidence, Kya stood up straight and took in her breaths as normally as she could. “Do that often?”
“If you tell me I’d be surprised-”
“You’ll hit me? We both know you won’t.” Marge took a deep breath through her nose. “I like it here. It feels more like home than anywhere else I’ve been.”
Kya looked down at the walled encampment below. A tall, thick stone wall surrounded over a dozen small single family houses. A large main building that reminded her of a school or a hospital was nearer Marge and Kya, while a large planted vegetable garden, and a baseball field were further away. Despite being fairly bright, several spot lights lit up both the interior and exterior of the walls, and swept from side to side. Kya could see a few people along the wall, their uniforms were black and red and they looked to be carrying assault rifles. “What is this place?”
“The public think that it is a quarantine zone. The military call it 1GNE, but the people that live here call it New Eden.”