We got to the outskirts of the town, where a few small houses, flat ranch-styled things with their weathered wood sides blending to near invisibility in the darkness, and got off the roads.

“If we cut through some of these yards, we should be able to come up the hill to the apartments across from the bar. They have roof access, so we can pick some of the weres off,” Sylvie said.

Most of the houses either had their lights on in the front of the house, there they might have their televisions on, or were dark, either abandoned, or maybe just sleeping peacefully, with the latest monthly bloodbath over. We crept through, our feet light on the chilled grass, with our bows drawn and arrows notched.

The yards came in varied stages of decay. Some were kept nice, with a view fire pits, lawn furniture, kitschy decorations hanging from trees and walls. It looked like dogs dug small pits into the lawns which the owners tried to fill with rocks and dirt to discourage return diggers. Those houses often were the ones to have their televisions turned to a movie or bright, vibrant show that made reality that much more…dreary. I watched The Wizard of Oz when I was very small once; I remembered Dorothy starting in black and white or sepia like old photographs, and then suddenly everything was so colorful it almost looked fake. The tv screens were Oz, but Sylvie and I were in a much colder Kansas.

Trinity shrugged, a small smile playing over her lips. “One of the things they promised me as a perk of joining was a way to get into MEPPA’s administration departments when the team retires.”

“That’s what you’ve wanted for a few years, isn’t it?” Romy said, her low, gravelly voice cracking with excitement.

Trinity nodded, her eyes lighting up. “There are so many programs for internships, but they’re so competitive that I might not get in without this on my resumé.”

Romy’s ears tilted forward. That, of all things, was hard to believe. Trinity got upset that she only had a 4.0 average last semester; Trinity missed Dean’s List at Central University only once, and then only by a hundredth of a point, and then only because she had caught a nasty cold from one of her classmates and had a fever of 102 degrees the night before the final.

When Romy looked back up, she caught her mother watching her, her eyes softly focused and face looking ten years younger. “Liebling,” she said, her voice catching. “I just want you to do what’s best. I will be proud of you, whatever you do. I will worry no matter what you decide, but I’ll support you, the best I can. If that means going into town and finding those offices to shake down the person in charge to make sure you’re kept safe, you had better damn well believe that’s what I’m prepared to do.” 

Romy felt a small lump form in her throat, in response to the extra glisten in her mother’s eyes, and the thickening of her German accent that accompanied powerful emotions. “I know, Mutti.” She slid from her chair and wrapped her arms around her mother’s shoulders, burying her face in her mother’s flowery-scented hair, tugging her body close to her own, as though she could tuck her mother away and keep her safe from the things that frightened her forever. Her mother returned the embrace, planting soft kisses on her cheek and the dimple in her chin.

"I mean it, I’ll go down there and rough them all up," her mother continued, laughing to hide the soft sniffle. She began to pet Romy’s ears, smoothing them down like she had when Romy was just a child—her pup, she was called.

Romy looked at her mother carefully then, trying to parse her narrowed eyes and lifted shoulders. “Yes,” she replied, drawing out the word as if testing if it were the right answer. Her mother said nothing, but her shoulders did drop just a little. “I mean, I am always a little wary of signing contracts, but…” she trailed off, swirling the mug in her hands. “I am sure they have things that we cannot know, since we have not yet agreed officially to join yet, but.” She stopped there, unsure of what came on the other side of that ‘but.’ There was always something on the other side, wasn’t there? Some clause or fine print. There had to be, with so much money on the line. Marc himself had said something about reputations, hadn’t he? The weight of the Bureau behind them getting them nearly anywhere in life they could ever hope to be? With that kind of promise as the selling point, they would have to deliver, but they would also have to expect greatness in return. Or something else, perhaps. If not greatness, then…?

Before she handed the card over, Romy looked it over. The paper wasn’t standard card stock from a Kinkos. It was thick, and the subtle creamy color showed in the small textures of the paper where the shadows and light played. The embossed letters felt bold beneath the pads of her fingers. It was very simple, but very tasteful. It must have been expensive.

A Short Breakdown of Major Changes in Keeping Grounded (so far)
  • The System has changed to Metahuman Protection Project & Employment Agency (MEPPA); no more vague government threats and shadiness, but a civilian agency with more real-world motives and politics
  • Trinity Zhen no longer back-seat devil’s advocate/naysayer/opposing force. She is Romy’s roommate and long-time friend, who shows doubt and caution, but isn’t cold
  • MEPPA employees have been reassigned to different departments and given new job descriptions that will make more sense for managing the team and to accomplish their goals
  • Romy’s last name no longer Brannen, but Zingel
  • Romy’s mother no longer called ROMY’SMUM, but actually has a name (it’s Nadja)

She knocked on the door and Isa answered, her bright orange lips parted as she looked from Mama, to me, and back to Mama. Her eyes widened; she knew what was worse than a fury from those old myths.

arrutter:

GHOSTIE GOO [ LISTEN ]

a mix celebrating OLIVER MILLER, team seven’s most hipster ghost and all around pop punk enthusiast.

i. RUNS IN THE FAMILY amanda palmer // ii. HURT nine inch nails // iii. COFFEE AND CIGARETTES never shout never // iv. GIRLS/GIRLS/BOYS panic! at the disco // v. BOATS AND BIRDS gregory and the hawk // vi. READ MY MIND the killers // vii. LET’S KILL TONIGHT panic! at the disco // viii. SUGAR WE’RE GOIN DOWN fall out boy // ix. GIVE UP THE GHOST radiohead (brokenchord rmx) // x. DEAD IS THE NEW ALIVE emilie autumn // xi. GHOST ingrid michaelson // xii. A LITTLE DEATH the neighborhood // xiii. YOU’RE SO CREEPY ghost town // xiv. HELP I’M ALIVE metric // xv. NEW PERSPECTIVE panic! at the disco // xvi. CAN’T STAND IT never shout never // xvii. KILL YOUR HEROES awolnation // + one bonus track

arrutter:

GHOSTIE GOO [ LISTEN ]

a mix celebrating OLIVER MILLER, team seven’s most hipster ghost and all around pop punk enthusiast.

i. RUNS IN THE FAMILY amanda palmer // ii. HURT nine inch nails // iii. COFFEE AND CIGARETTES never shout never // iv. GIRLS/GIRLS/BOYS panic! at the disco // v. BOATS AND BIRDS gregory and the hawk // vi. READ MY MIND the killers // vii. LET’S KILL TONIGHT panic! at the disco // viii. SUGAR WE’RE GOIN DOWN fall out boy // ix. GIVE UP THE GHOST radiohead (brokenchord rmx) // x. DEAD IS THE NEW ALIVE emilie autumn // xi. GHOST ingrid michaelson // xii. A LITTLE DEATH the neighborhood // xiii. YOU’RE SO CREEPY ghost town // xiv. HELP I’M ALIVE metric // xv. NEW PERSPECTIVE panic! at the disco // xvi. CAN’T STAND IT never shout never // xvii. KILL YOUR HEROES awolnation // + one bonus track

arrutter:

SOUNDS OF SEVEN [ LISTEN ]

a mix celebrating team seven, keystone city’s newest metahuman heroes

i. THE ROAD OF TRIALS austin wintory // ii. HUMAN christina perri // iii. BALLAD OF A POLITICIAN regina spektor // iv. PINK CHAMPAGNE ariana grande // v. #THATPOWER will.i.am feat. justin bieber // vi. FREAK LIKE ME halestorm // vii. DIRTY DEEDS DONE PIG CHEAP pig twatter 2 // viii. I WANT MY INNOCENCE BACK emilie autumn // ix. SOBER [INSTRUMENTAL] pink // x. JESUS CHRIST brand new // xi. ALL THESE THINGS THAT I’VE DONE the killers // xii. BAD REPUTATION joan jett // xiii. UNSERE RETTUNG oomph! // xiv. THNKS FR TH MMRS fall out boy // xv. GHOST american authors

arrutter:

SOUNDS OF SEVEN [ LISTEN ]
a mix celebrating team seven, keystone city’s newest metahuman heroes
i. THE ROAD OF TRIALS austin wintory // ii. HUMAN christina perri // iii. BALLAD OF A POLITICIAN regina spektor // iv. PINK CHAMPAGNE ariana grande // v. #THATPOWER will.i.am feat. justin bieber // vi. FREAK LIKE ME halestorm // vii. DIRTY DEEDS DONE PIG CHEAP pig twatter 2 // viii. I WANT MY INNOCENCE BACK emilie autumn // ix. SOBER [INSTRUMENTAL] pink // x. JESUS CHRIST brand new // xi. ALL THESE THINGS THAT I’VE DONE the killers // xii. BAD REPUTATION joan jett // xiii. UNSERE RETTUNG oomph! // xiv. THNKS FR TH MMRS fall out boy // xv. GHOST american authors

“I’m not asking to change the world!” Sylvie shouted. “I’m not saying we have to undo what happened when the weres exposed themselves, I’m just saying that these pieces of shit took over my town, and I want to get it back!”