Trials: Part Thirteen

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Arte couldn’t resist collapsing into the bed. It had been ages since she had a bed that she could call her own. First she had been staying in hotels, then she moved to motels. Just before this, she had moved to couch-surfing, but had run out of good will with friends.

Ashley’s parents kicked her out the second they could. They didn’t outright stop associating with Ash, but they definitely didn’t approve of the relationship, as they had outright stated on numerous occasions. Since the apartment wasn’t in Arte’s name, as Ash made more money by a longshot, they were able to remove the stain on their legacy with ease. In one day, Arte had to move all of her things she wanted to keep into a storage unit, and move out.

She wasn’t reckless, so of course she had money saved, but it could only go so far. The payments on the storage unit were probably about to start not going through. It wasn’t like she could’ve kept that job for long anyways, living out of a hotel, but she knew Ash was still out there so she had to at least try to find her.

Arte’s own parents had stopped speaking to her entirely, once she had come out, and they were all happier for it. She realized what she was thinking about, and redirected.

She needed a job. She couldn’t get an engineering job, as she was still a semester short. Then the thought came to her mind, Jude had to make money somehow, so perhaps she could be a hero too. It was something that had come to mind, as it would with any actual human being granted superpowers. If it came to it, she could get another retail job or something of the sort. It was Ash that was the priority here, not her comfort.

She recalled the party that Ash had thrown for her when Arte had quit her last retail job. She had bought loads of party poppers and some cheap wine. They were still finding bits of confetti in the apartment for ages afterwards.

Arte found herself laughing. The laughter grew and grew, until it eventually began to turn to tears. She considered the idea that she was holding onto an impossible hope, based on the fact that they couldn’t find a body. That just meant she had been abducted, which could be even worse. She tried to banish the thought from her mind, but it kept coming back, with more details every time.

She heard a loud crack, and jumped. She saw the metal man from earlier, with a piece of the door in his hand, hanging from the still intact door knob. She quickly tried to hide her face, and wipe her tears.

He stared at her for a moment. “Why are you sad?”

Arte debated what to say for a moment. She didn’t just want to dump on him, so she decided on a brief version of events. “I’ve lost someone close to me, and I miss her.”

He moved towards her, and moved in to embrace her. She tensed up, but was surprised to find his touch was gentle. “I lost my best friend. It was sad. He said he had to go, and that I wouldn’t see him again. Maybe we could be friends, since we both lost our friends?”

Arte laughed. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

The man smiled from ear to ear. “Jude wanted me to tell you that dinner is ready.” He got up and almost ran out the door.

She looked around the room, in hopes of finding a mirror, but found none. She cleaned her face up as best as she could, and followed the man out of the room.

She returned to see Jude clearing three spots at the kitchen table. At each of the spots was a plate of chicken and macaroni, one of the plates having more than the other two. She took a seat and Jude gave her some water. The TV was playing in the background. It was a news piece about an upward trend in supernormal crime.

“Deven, turn off the TV and come have dinner with us!” Jude called into the den. He then turned to Arte. “So, Arte. Is the room fine?”

“Oh yeah, totally.” Arte nodded and stared down at her plate. “I was thinking about something, and I’m sorry if this is rude or forward or whatever but… How do you afford such a nice house? What do you do for money?”

Jude forced a smile. “Well, it’s a little complicated, but long story short I work for the government and they pay me a salary and let me live here. There’s even an equity plan if you can believe it…”

“So they pay you to do superhero stuff?”

Jude was silent for a moment, then sighed. “Well, it really looks like they’re paying me to not do superhero stuff…”

“Oh…” Arte looked down at her plate again. “Well, it’s just that I could really use a job, and that’s why I asked what you did. Do you think that they’d hire me?”

Jude laughed a little. “Well, not unless you have superpowers.” He looked up from his plate at her, and suddenly stopped eating. “Wait, do you have powers?”

Arte sighed, “Yup.” She got up from her seat and began to do some hand gestures. A light formed at her fingertip and she began to draw the frame of a square in midair. Once she was finished she grabbed it. It was hard and faintly warm. She tossed it over to Jude, who examined it for a moment before placing it on the table.

“Wow, wasn’t expecting that.” Jude nodded. “In that case, let me tell you a bit more about my job.” He got up from his seat and rolled up his pants leg, revealing his ankle monitor. “I’m basically on house arrest. I can ask permission to go anywhere, but I get the feeling they’d really rather I not. So I’ve basically been stuck in the house for the past two weeks. I wasn’t given too much of a choice about taking this ‘job’, really. They told me I was encouraged to recruit more supers, though, so if that’s something you feel like you could live with, then I guess you’re welcome to it.”

Arte’s jaw dropped a little. On the one hand, she really needed the money, and she doubted a part time job would cover it. On the other hand, this wasn’t exactly going to help her find Ash, given that she’d be stuck at home. Although, now that she thought about it, she had basically exhausted all the leads she had and turned to Jude’s blind friend. The government likely wouldn’t take kindly to a super, even one who didn’t get their powers from the light, living in their house intended for their superhero prisoners without an ankle monitor. Then again, she couldn’t risk a lead coming up and her not being able to explore it. She had to try to hide.

“I think, if it’s alright with you, I’ll just look for a regular job, and not be on house arrest.”

“Fine by me. We could use someone around here that can freely leave the house.” Jude smiled and took his seat again.

Arte followed suit and began eating. She immediately gathered that Jude was not exactly a great cook. The food was alright, but it was quite lackluster. Unfortunately, she also didn’t know how to cook, and she wasn’t gonna turn her nose up at a free meal.



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