The town of Stormville had seen better days. It wasn’t much of a town; it has six banks, eight Waffle Houses and at least 14 gas stations. Most of the people who lived here at been living here all there lives. Robots and other Townies came in to settle but it was really because of the ESP War waging in New Bernard at the coast. Stormville as a result became more than just a down home country alien resort; it became a haven for supernatural and otherworldly refugees.
Benny and Kito were driving to the local Pump N Stop. Benny was tired, more so than normal. Kito had already fallen asleep while Peeps sat between them. The bug-eyed Traigaphon was enjoying the latest issue of Vogue. How or why Traigaphons were so interested in fashion was beyond Benny. While he and Kito worked, Peeps lived in their car. For all extensive purposes, it was his home. His bed was the back seat, his clothes were in the truck and his entertainment was all in his head. Some old Mercurian was giving away Traigaphons at the local grocery store and Benny just had to one have. He named him Peeps because of his huge eyes.
Benny drove the brown Sedan into the Pump N Stop. Most of the other patrons were either getting gassed up or buying Beer for the upcoming Manic Monday celebration. Benny’s brown Sedan used to be red a few years ago, until he was one of the few to survive the Great Storm led by Big Joe and Flawless Invention. Now his red Sedan was a brown Sedan. It reminded him of that great and horrific event; it kept him sane. “Let’s go, Peeps.” Benny picked him up.
Kito got out of the driver’s side and attempted to lock the door. He grunted when he remembered the lock was broken but he kept trying to lock it anyway. The weary ninja was nothing if not a creature of habit. He straightened his katana and proceeded to follow Benny into the gas station. One of the patrons came out and looked at them. It was Old Mama Hess, and she immediately started to wave her cane at them. “Robot lovers!” she squealed, “ESP faggots!”
“Oh, would you give it a rest, Mama Hess?” Benny grunted, walking past her, “I just got off a 13 hour shift. I don’t have time for this shit, please?”
“You press your hands in the oil! You must have tasted it! You are a traitor to you own kind!”
The old woman threatened to hit Kito with her cane but then he immediately grabbed the hilt of his Katana behind his back. “I’m warning you, old woman!” he screamed, “You strike me with that thing and I’ll have your head!”
“Radical Hate! Radical Hate!” she screamed repeatedly.
“Kito, ignore her insane ass.” Benny called back, “Get in here.”
The ninja walked into the gas station as the woman kept walking; screaming her inept poetry of robots and homosexuals. Benny put down Peeps and then he immediately scurried to the bathroom. The weary worker made a mental joke that Peeps probably urinated more than Mama Hess. The worker walked over toward the counter to see the available food. It was a mixture of burritos, stuffed breadsticks, crab rolls, dead greens, and hotdogs. Benny calmly started to fix himself two hotdogs; heavy on the mustard. His philosophy was, if it wasn’t hot, it really wasn’t worth eating. “Hey, Benny.” Someone said in passing.
The worker looked up and recognized one of his other neighbors; Tommy Cameroon. “Hey, Tommy.” Benny said, bagging his hotdogs, “What’s the good word?”
“I’m just glad Manic Monday is coming up.” He sighed as he fixed himself a tall Mellow Yellow from the fountain station, “I need a day off.”
“I heard that. Me and Kito just got off a 13 hour shift.”
“You still working at the Factory?” the man said with a raised eyebrow.
“It pays the most.” The worker said as he started to fix his own fountain drink.
“They still let the Infected work in the weapons lab?” the postman inquired.
“Is that a polite way of asking me if your wife is okay, Tommy?” Benny then stared at him.
“You know what? Forget I asked.” Tommy said, taking his drink and went to go pay for it.
Benny just sighed and shook his head. Tommy’s wife, Lula was part of a group of women known as the Infected. They were the ones among the thousands kidnapped by the Great Invader back in 2000. Exposure to his psychic energy turned their skin a pale yellow and their blood a light green. Doctors had been spouting from magazines for years that the only thing wrong with them was the color change; they were not contagious nor were they going to give birth to the Great Invaders spores. Benny knew one particular Infected and he took pity on her when he saw her every Friday. It make things worse when one of them was getting paid for work but they couldn’t buy any food because no one would go near them.
Talking with Tommy reminded him of her. The worker then walked over to the front door, then picked up a basket. He started to put in breads, fruits and vegetables, then included a tall bottle of Blue Water and even a few candy bars. Kito walked over, after finally getting the Sushi Machine to work. “I swear to Buddha, if he doesn’t fix that thing, I’ll have his head.” The ninja groaned.
“Kito. Calm down. We got four days before we’re back in the shit. Let’s just get our food and relax. Sound like a plan?” Benny asked.
“Yeah. Yeah, let’s chill outside. Maybe the cool air won’t prompt me to take somebody’s head.” He said, picking up a small bottle of Blue Water.
“You and decapitations, man.” The worker chuckled, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you get off on it.”
“I do, so shut up.” The ninja said, walking up toward the counter.
By the time Benny loaded in the last of the special food, Peeps had made his way out of the bathroom. He walked over toward the worker and gently pulled on his leg with a bright smile on his face. “Get done peeing, Peeps?” Benny asked him.
Peeps shook his head in agreement.
“Pee in the sink?” the worker asked.
Peeps shook his head again with a bigger smile.
“That’s my boy.” He patted him on his smooth, bald head, “Iced coffee and a Ho-Ho, right?”
Peeps jumped up and down briefly; clapping his hands for his excitement. Benny walked over and got a large, clear plastic cup for the ice coffee. He walked toward the dispenser and began to fill it up with the iced coffee mix. It wasn’t really coffee; it just had coffee flavor. It didn’t change the fact that it was Peeps’s favorite drink. Benny paused when he heard his little Traigaphon whining. He looked over to where he was pointing. It was the pastry rack and there wasn’t a single Ho-Ho. Benny capped the coffee drink and walked over to where he was in shouting distance of the Martian check out clerk. “Hey, Mobosage!” he called, “Where are the Ho-Ho’s?”
“No Ho-Ho’s.” he replied.
“Excuse me?” Benny coughed.
“No Ho-Ho’s. They embargo.” The Martian grunted.
“What?” the work said in disbelief, “Since when the hell do they embargo Ho-Ho’s?”
“Since they look like Saturation Bombs.”
“Are you shitting me?” the worker said in major disbelief.
“No, I not shit you. Now you buy food or you complain?” the Martian grunted.
“Can I do both?” he said, sarcastically before looking at little Peeps, “Well, Peeps . . .no Ho-Ho’s for the foreseeable future. Anything else you want?”
Peeps was depressed. He was looking forward to a Ho-Ho but he knew there wasn’t going to be any. He then pointed up toward the super pack of Peanut Butter Cups. Benny took the candy, put it in his basket and walked up toward the counter. Mobosage started to ring it up and as he did, the worker helped himself to put it in separate bags. After he was done, Benny took out his wad of money and paid for the food. “You factory workers make too much money.” Mobosage hissed.
“Then why don’t you come worth with us, you Martian piece of crap?” Benny shot back.
“I not get ten foot near that oil. Mama Hess is right about you.”
“Stuff it.” The worker grunted as he took the bags and made his way out of the Pump N Stop. Peeps followed behind, sipping his iced coffee the whole way.
Outside, the friends sat in their Sedan while small drops of rain came down on them. Tito was eating his sushi and drinking his Blue Water. Benny was enjoying his hotdogs and his fountain drink, while Peeps sat in the back; nibbling on his peanut butter cup like a squirrel would a nut.
Benny was looking forward to a long sleep. Him and Kito would be off for four days and he fully planned to sleep for at least one of those. He took another sip of his drink, then licked the mustard off his fingers. “It’s Judy.” Kito whispered.
Benny looked at his friend, then toward the rear view mirror. Like always, Judy was walking up in her white robe. The Infected were under orders from the Authority to wear white robes for two reasons. One, to tell them apart and two, no one was allowed to attack an Infected. The white robes made it easy to see if someone tossed garbage at them or threw mad cow blood onto them. Benny reached below and picked up the bag of food. He rolled down the window and then Judy bent low to speak to him. “Hey, Benny.” She smiled.
“How you doing, Judy?” he said, handing her the bag.
“My feet hurt.” She said, stating the obvious.
“I’m sorry,” was all Benny could say.
“You don’t have to be sorry for anything.” She said, handing him the money for the food, “God bless you in taking pity on me and my sister.”
“Judy.” Kito whispered.
“Hey, Kito. You doing okay?” she smiled.
“Could you . . . . uh . . . . .could you give Bethany my best?” the ninja whispered.
Judy then smiled brightly. She paused for a moment to wipe her tear and then shook her head. “I’ll tell her that, Kito. You two take care now.” She said, as she began the long walk back home.
Benny sighed. He should give her a ride home but Judy would insist she didn’t. Along the way to District 14 was an Authority Checkpoint. Benny would be fined 80 thousand dollars for giving her a ride. He didn’t care because he thought it was bad enough that the Infected were shunned; they weren’t allowed to own cars either. Kito took a deep sigh and finished drinking his Blue Water. “Give Bethany your best?” Benny looked at him, “What was that about, Kito?”
The ninja sighed as he put his mask back on. “She was hovering outside the women’s bathroom at work.” He whispered, “They other girls wouldn’t let her use the restroom.”
“Jesus.” The worker exclaimed, “It’s gotten that bad?”
“Yes.” Kito said, leaning his head back, “So, I threatened to kill the lot of them for being so dishonorable. They let her use the bathroom at that point.”
“Wow, that’s . . . . . a noble thing to do, Kito.”
“It was the least I could do for her.” He whispered, “Such a sad . . . .sad existence.”
“Well,” Benny sighed, sipping on his drink one more time, “We got the food to Judy. Let’s go home.”
“Benny.” Kito whispered.
Benny put the car back in park then looked at what his ninja friend was looking at. In the distance toward their right was a new bundle of clouds. The clouds were a bright yellow as if the Good Lord himself took a leak and saturated the lot of them. With seconds, the seeds started to drop from the clouds in abundance. A cool chill went down Benny’s spine as he knew this meant only one thing.
“Lefty Zapata has come back.” He stammered a whisper.