Usagi walked along side Ices dragging along lethargically. The long flight was catching up with her. The heat didn't help either; she kept trying not to choke on the thick hot air that rolled into the closed walls and doors of Phoenix International. She looked longingly at her suitcases and sighed. She would have to wait to change until they got to where they were going. God what she would not give for a cold shower due to the sweat that drenched her. Ices, on the other hand, was completely comfortable and walked briskly with a jump in her step. She seemed almost perky and the red curls that framed her face bounced around her, only adding to the atmosphere of joviality. Unable to bear it anymore,
Usagi finally had to demand an answer. "Ices, is it always this hot here?" Ices turned and winked at the other girl, while taking a deep breath of the musty desert air and nodded. "It's home. I love it here; where else can you lie out and get a tan 10 months out of the year?" She put on her ten thousand kilowatt smile for Usagi and just winked at her again. Ices knew Usagi would just have to suffer through the heat for the first few days, but after awhile she would grow used to it. Instead of allowing Usagi to moan and complain, she just let it go and kept on walking, knowing full well that Usa had no other choice but then to follow her. Usagi noted the brief silence and just tagged along. As they stepped through the terminal doors and out next to the arrivals lane, it finally occurred to Usagi that she had no idea what was about to happen. "So where are we going anyways? And who is this friend you were talking about earlier?"
"Oh, Cel will be here shortly," said Ices.
As if on cue, a 1976 black Mustang convertible pulled up and zoomed right into place in front of Ices and Usagi. A girl with her brown hair in a high ponytail that reached down her back stepped out of the car. Her eyes were hidden by deep black square sunglasses she wore. The only thing Usagi could really make of her was that she was slim and tall - she easily towered three inches over Ices' and Usagi's heads. There was also an air of coolness and aloofness that surrounded her as well - the complete opposite of the warm and open Ices.
"Took you long enough," said the brunette as she approached closer to Usagi and Ices.
"Well, why don't you just fly the damn airplane yourself next time?" demanded Ices.
"Fine, next time I will," said the brunette.
"Oh, shut up, already and come over here and give me a hug," said Ices.
"No probs, sistah!" said the brunette. She pulled off her glasses in one swoop, and ran up to Ices and clenched her in a hug. "God, long time no see, Ices! You're looking great by the way. I love what you've done with your hair!" Usagi stood and watched the banter of the two friends in amazement. She had always been close to her friends, but never in a manner like this. What amazed her more however was how cool the brunette had acted; yet when she took her glasses off, light and warmth beamed from her brown eyes. She clearly had a good heart, but had amazing control over her emotions. Ices awed her as well, but for totally different reasons. Sure the goodness was there, just like in the brunette, but she could tell Ices had this amazing sense of deduction. She had known the brunette was bluffing, and had called her on it. Usagi knew then, that whatever she had gotten herself in for - well she was in for one hell of a ride.
"Oh god, where are my manners?" said Ices suddenly, pulling away from the brunette. "Cel, I hope you don't mind, but I picked us up an extra roomie on the flight from Tokyo. Her name is Usagi, but just call her Usa. She had no where to go, so I said she could come with us. Usa, this is Cel by the way. It's her ranch we'll be staying at."
Cel stepped forward and offered her hand. "Nice to meet you, Usa. You're going to like it here I think. How are you coping with the heat?"
Usagi knew that in order to fit in with these two characters she was going to have to step up to the plate and act tougher. She firmly grasped Cel's hand in a solid handshake before replying. "Going okay. Not quite used to the heat yet, but I'll survive. Nice to meet you too, by the way." "Well, I'm sure you've seen enough of the wonderful airports and planes. How about we get out of here and grab some food? I don't know about you lot, but I'm starved." "Food?" Usagi piped up. "Where's the beef?"
Cel and Ices just turned to each other and laughed. "Girl, I think you're going to fit right in," said Ices. She popped the trunk on the convertible and helped Usagi with her bag. Then both climbed in and Cel started the convertible. With one burst of the engine, the girls were off and speeding out of sight.
Cool air rushed through Usagi's hair as her blond ponytails streamed out behind her head. They were rapidly getting all tangled, and bits of her hair were whipping into her face. Cel looked into the rearview mirror and watched Usagi struggling to get control of her hair. "What's with your hair?" Cel asked loudly over the roar of the engine. "Why the two meatballs?"
"These are remnants of something I hope to get fixed shortly. It's just a little too out of hand."
"Well, Ices can take care of that for you back at the ranch. Until then, here," said Cel as she chucked a baseball cap back at Usagi.
"Thanks," she said, now undoing her hair carefully and shoving it through the back of the baseball cap in a pseudo ponytail.
"No probs. Hey, I need to stop and get some gas, okay?" said Cel suddenly as she whipped off the Interstate.
A few miles later Cel pulled up into a Texaco. She didn't bother to open her car door, and instead climbed up and over. "Shall we do our usual Ices?" she asked while winking.
"But of course. Would I expect anything less from you Cel?"
Usagi eyed the two other girls in wonderment. She knew something was amiss, but what?
"Usa, why don't you go get us a bottle of vodka, some OJ, some chips and chocolate? It's still a fair ride from here to the ranch," said Ices.
"Sure," said Usa. Cel handed her some money and Usagi was off and on her way.
"I'm going to go have a quick smoke," said Cel. "Ices, will you do the honors?"
"Yes, m'am," said Ices with a devilish grin on her face.
By the time Usagi had bought the requested items, Ices was almost finished pumping gas and Cel was walking back over with a cigarette still in hand. Usagi noticed that Cel was looking up and into the store. The poor clerk was overwhelmed at the minute by about five customers.
"Shall we?" asked Cel.
"But of course," said Ices.
"Get in the car now Usagi," ordered Cel in an authoritarian voice.
Usagi didn't ask and knew that right then was not the time to question. Ices set the pump on the ground, with the automatic filling option still on. Gas poured on onto the ground as Ices quickly dived in for the car. Cel was already there and had started the car.
"What are you two doing?" asked Usagi. "Aren't you going to pay for the gas?"
"Hell no, and you'll see," said Cel. She passed Ices the stub of cigarette. "You said you wanted to do the honors."
"Here we go," said Ices, nodding her head with certainty.
Cel stamped on the gas peddle and the clutch and the car took off, wheeling Usagi onto the floor of the back seat. She managed to sit up in time again as the car turned around the pump and to see Ices flick the cigarette over her head and onto the gas that was spilling out on the ground. She noted with certainty that the poor clerk still didn't have a clue. Not five seconds later they were speeding down a back highway. Usagi looked back and saw flames now all over the concrete and surrounding the cars. Cel and Ices turned and gave a quick glance backwards and just laughed. Usagi was horrified and just continued to stare while Cel turned on the radio and began to sing at the top of her lungs. However, none of them expected the next part.
Not thirty seconds later, a sound like dynamite exploding erupted.
Cel pulled the car off the highway and turned around. "Oh shit," she muttered.
Ices just laughed.
Usagi was pale still although movement finally started to come back to her. "What the fuck was that?" she exclaimed.
"One of Cel's usual stunts gone awry. Girl, I think you better get on the road and start driving as fast as you can for your ranch. Pray to god that they didn't have a video camera either."
"You two are fucking maniacs. I'm getting out of here."
"And pray tell, where would you go?" asked Ices.
That remark shut Usagi up. She stopped her complaining as she realized she had no right to pass judgment. "Just what prompted that, exactly though?" Cel shook her head and turned the car back on and started to drive again. "Believe me, I had my reasons. The owner of that place raped a friend of mine. He had it coming. I just didn't quite intend that. And no, Ices, I'm not that dumb. The old shmuck never installed a video camera anywhere," she said defensively.
"Oh," said Usa quietly.
"Don't worry about Cel. She'll be fine in a few hours. She just never intended for anyone to get hurt by her stunts. Welcome to our lives, Usagi. I told you you would be in for an adventure and have a chance to point your life in the right direction." Usagi nodded then look back then sighed and slumped down in her seat looking at the dusty road as it flew by under the tires. She had no where to go if she left Ices and Cel. Not that she had had any intention of doing such; but still, they had just blown up a gas station. Ices said that she'd be able to point her life in the right direction; but how did any of them know what direction their lives would take? She had no clue; that was for sure. Although deep in thought, suddenly her eyes caught sight of something that rumbled off the side of the road which caused her to grab Celís shoulder.
"Cel, stop the car!" She said frantically.
Cel startled, slammed the brakes to the floor board, causing Ices and Usagi to fly forward. Ices caught the dashboard to her sternum and shot a look back at Usagi.
"What's wrong with you Usa?!" She asked frowning at her new friend.
Usagi felt slightly embarrassed and ran a hand through her bangs, "I thought I saw something on the side of the road."
Cel half turned in her seat and raised a brow, "Something? Can we elaborate some please?"
Usagi shook her head and undid her seatbelt sliding from the car. ďI'm not sure but it looked like a body," she said, then turned and ran back the way they came.
Ices glanced at Cel.
Cel glanced at Ices.
Then the other two girls jumped from the car and followed after the blonde who was now kneeling next to a 'lump' on the side of the road. They hurried toward their friend then stopped short and stared in horror at what appeared to be a small child. A horribly beaten and scarred child, red blisters covered the little body. Her face and body were swollen from the heat. From what they could tell, the poor child had to be a girl, by what remained of her clothes. Usagi moved closer to the girl, crouching in the red dust off the road and looked down at the child before her. She heard the other two approach and turned tearful eyes toward them while one hand stroked the childís hair. "She's dead. She can't be any older than my little sister and she's dead. Why?" Ices knelt next to Usagi and put a hand on the other girls shoulder, "Its part of the world. Usa people die everyday. Car wrecks, plane crashes, terrorist bombings," she shook her head. "Itís the circle of life." Usagi pulled away from Ices and glared at her, "How can you say THAT?" she finished with an almost hysterical scream. "The world isn't supposed to be like this. Our children are not supposed to die before us, and especially not like this - not alone, tossed on the side of the road like trash!" She was sobbing now; she couldn't help it. Her mind couldn't begin to understand why a person a human being would treat someone like this. Cel who had been silently till now examined a mark on the girlís upper arm. She touched the mark, and then looked at her own arm which bore a similar mark. A low growl hissed out from her throat through her teeth. "She's branded. It wasn't an accident." She glanced at Ices then to Usagi. "We have to leave her here. But I can assure you that we will payback the person who did this." Ices gasped at Celís words. If a person was branded it meant they grew up in an orphanage, but not just any orphanage. It was the same one that Cel had been raised in - one owned by G-tech, Inc. It was where orphaned children were used as lab rats until they died, were killed, or escaped like Cel had. G-tech was a place of nightmares, and the whole reason behind why Cel and Ices did what they did.
"NO! We can't leave her here like trash!" Usagi said defiance shinning in her sky blue eyes.
Cel looked at Ices
and Ices looked to Usagi.
ďSorry in advance," Cel said as she pulled back her right hand in a fist and let it fly connecting with the younger womanís jaw.
Usagi crumbled to the dirt, her head resting on a tumble weed. Ices lifted Usagi into her arms and followed Cel back to the car. Sirens could be heard in the distance. The two girls climbed into the black convertible and drove off leaving the body of the girl behind. Ices and Cel knew what Usagi didnít Ė there was no choice in the matter.
A little while later, Usagi groaned from the back seat and opened her eyes, only to close them again at the bright light from the sky. A few moments more and then she sat up slowly shaking her head. "Please tell me you didn't leave the child there. Please tell me that you picked her up," she said her eyes still closed and every word causing pain to shoot through her jaw.
"We had no choice," Cel said in an emotionless voice her eyes fastened on the road a head of them.
"You always have a choice Cel!" Usagi argued starting to get angry.
"Not in this," Ices said, half turning to look at Usagi.
"Please believe us, Usa. We had no choice. If we had picked up the girls body, then we would have all been in more danger than we are now," Ices tried to explain.
Usagi shook her head and leaned back in her seat staring at the sky over head. "If you can please explain some of this to me I wouldn't be so upset."
Cel knew that Usagi deserved an explanation for that. She looked at her through the rear view mirror until her eyes locked with Usagiís.
"It all starts with a company named G-Tech," she began.