Chapter 19: Midnight Margaritas
Artemis grasped the mess in his hands as he might grasp a fiberglass filled sandwich. The idea of eating what Gig had fixed him repulsed him to his very core. The tortilla had been filled with beef, chicken, cheese, Pico de Gijon, beans, and Mexican rice. The combination was what got Artemis, he did know something about Mexican food, meaning he had seen it in a restaurant once, and couldn’t believe that Gig had combined all of these flavors into one tortilla. Artemis looked around the room for guidance. Everyone was eating their fajita in their own way. Gig gracefully held his in his right hand and guided the fajita with his left into his mouth; none of the filling fell out at all as he did so. How talented, Artemis thought. Blossom next to him, despite being a girl, was less elegant with her food. She ate the fajita with small bites so quickly it looked like she never even swallowed. Nos, and Fro were also less talented than Gig. As they ate they quickly realized that they had not held the back end of the tortilla and half of the filling dropped out, some on their lap, the rest on the plate. Nerv had brought over a fork and knife and began eating his like he was the queen of England not missing any sauce and leaving just half a mouth full on the side of his plate. Cross had done the same, though her fajita was twice as big. She began dissecting it as if someone else had prepared it for her, someone who she didn’t trust. Artemis looked over at Spin. Artemis was visibly appalled at what he saw. Spin ate so quickly, with large hungry mouthfuls of meat and salsa, that she might as well have been from a house with eight large brothers; she was ruthless. However, as Artemis watched, he realized that there was a method to her madness, after all, very little fajita filling dropped onto her plate.
Artemis looked at his own fajita, a mass of food without any care for the individual tastes of salsa, meat, and beans. Artemis took a bite. When he had seen the Mexican platter at the restaurant he had noticed how the beans, rice, salsa, and meat were separate and accounted for. He now realized that when it was together that the difference in spices, textures, and heat complemented each other into a taste that he would recognize forever as fajita. He swallowed as the spicy food, with which he was unfamiliar, caused his face to turn slightly pink, his eyes to water, and his mouth to feel like it is on fire.
The talking commenced about thirty minutes after eating had begun. Artemis had finished two fajitas and was quite full. Spin was on her fourth, three bites per fajita, unlike Artemis’s eight bites. The room was once more filled with laughter and talk. Artemis decided it was time for him to address Spin.
“Sierra, huh, pretty fast talking back there; you really got me when you told me I was going to die.”Said Artemis, he attempt to remain calm and not ambiguous seeming to work, her defenses were relaxed. Spin smiled lightly, though to Artemis it seemed painful.
“I enjoy seeing people out of their comfort zone. I figured that would keep your interest long enough for me to get into your head; it was much more difficult than I thought it was going to be.” Artemis fiddled with this idea in his mind for a moment. It had worked perfectly; he had been scared out of his wits.
“And what does that accomplish?” He Asked. Suddenly the lights flickered as Nos got up and began playing with the light switch. Gig put on some loud music. Though Spin looked slightly annoyed, she smiled all the same; it looked so painful to Artemis that he almost didn’t want an answer.
“It gave me an idea about your character. Now I know how you react to that kind of stimulus.” Spin sat back and recited some of the lyrics to the song it seemed as if she was unable to quell her ability to memorize songs. Artemis shrugged; however, it was forced. Spin bit her lip and shook her head. She had noticed the forced shrug. Artemis was being too obvious. Because he wanted information on the girl who had made this spectacular plan, he knew he would need to appear less ominous than he usually did.
“So . . . what do you think so far? Any questions?” The room had grown slightly quieter with Spin’s voice; apparently she didn’t talk that much. Artemis turned around and looked at one of the pictures behind him.
They were of teenagers, each of which was smiling and laughing. Below each, there was also an oil candle. Spin’s face dropped for a moment as if in shock.
“Those are former members of the Extendes,” explained Spin, “All of those guys have either died or disappeared.” Spin picked up her light green colored drink and took a sip. Spin’s hand hesitated above the coffee table hesitated as if she were about to touch red hot coals. She quickly picked up Artemis’s drink and, handed it to him. “You were able to take the fajitas; I’m impressed. I didn’t think you’d survive.” She looked away as if embarrassed that they were talking. Artemis had to admit that he was surprised; it was as if she felt bad about slapping him earlier and was making it up with a compliment.
“Thanks, I’d … ” But Artemis was cut off as Gig’s strong left hand grabbed Artemis’s arm and pulled him upright.
“Time to please the Pepper Gods, Artemis.” Artemis heard Blossom laugh in the background.
Suddenly there was a noise from the TV. Artemis turned his head, as did everyone else in the room, and looked at the screen. Gig gave Artemis the look of: “maybe later.” The words “Incoming Transmission” in green glowing letters were accompanied by an annoying beeping noise. Artemis’s mind was working; this must be from the other team at their Secondary Base. Just as suddenly as the words appeared, the Extendes at the Primary complex began yelling at the screen.
“Wolfy! Wolfy! Wolfy! Wolfy” Yelled Blossom, her voice carrying over a few blocks.
The screen was filled with an image of a young man with brown hair and eyes, a squashed face, and slits for eyes.
” ‘ Sup guys. Coming to you live from Secondary . . . .” Artemis’s ears almost popped from the screams. He looked over at Spin to see her out of her seat and saying “Wolfy!” though softer than the rest. The most emotion he had seen from her yet. The music increased in volume. It was the base that got Artemis to cover his ears. Was this some kind of party? He thought.
Secondary looked like a normal house with a kitchen behind the living room and a hallway to the side going to the bedrooms. Artemis saw Sky in the background eating along with two girls. Suddenly someone screamed from the back of Secondary.
“IS THAT ARTEMIS!?! Let me talk to’em, let me talk to’em, let me talk to’em!” A girl with long golden brown hair, green eyes, and dark tan skin came running up to the T.V. in full sprint. She pushed Wolf out of the way, causing him to fall over, his image veering off the screen. A faint “wuh” sound came from the direction in which he had fallen. The girl’s face enveloped the entire screen. She was quite pretty. “Hi Artemis, I’m Vicious! Nice to meet you, I heard you got slapped? How d’you feel?” Artemis grew red, as the music still played in the background, the song’s guitar solo beginning.
“Well, few people have the fortitude to slap me.” He didn’t need to say anymore.
“You guys get your food alright? Hope it wasn’t cold.” Vicious smiled at Gig.
“We got our food just fine, Gig, thanks!” Vicious squealed loudly. “Now a toast!” Artemis felt Spin move behind him. She emerged moments later with small glasses filled with a gold liquid Artemis could only recognize as alcohol. Everyone smiled as the glasses were filled and raised.
Spin handed Artemis a glass filled with the alcohol. Artemis watched as the same was happening in the Secondary complex. Cross was complaining about the illegality of the drinks.
“I know this is a tradition, but must it be Tequila?” Blossom shoved a glass in her hand giving her a dirty look. Cross shut up fast.
“Now, we have a toast to all those who have lived, laughed, and loved in the shadow of their own being. We toast to all those who now live thanks to our efforts as a team to educate and protect the minority of minorities, the Extendes.” Everyone raised their shots in silence and downed them in one quick moment. Artemis did the same, figuring he would need it, not that it was traditional. Nerv leaned over and turned on a song. It was a fast paced rock song with loud yelling lyrics Artemis didn’t recognize. “Was this their theme song or something?” Thought Artemis. The party started again just as it had ended. Spin sat back down and began talking with Blossom looking more relaxed than before. Gig grabbed Artemis’s shoulder…
“Well Artemis, this is Secondary,” he led Artemis over to the screen where Vicious, Wolf, Sky, and another girl were. Gig gestured to the screen. “These guys are kind of like our brothers from another mother.”
“But doesn’t the fact that the team is split up like this mean that you would be weaker overall?” Gig nodded.
“You’d think so but actually no, Wolf why don’t you explain? He’s head of Secondary.” Wolf put his fajita down expertly the ends not letting anything fall onto his plate.
“We couldn’t have everything at Primary; what happens if it’s taken out? We have this system in place to ensure our survival. We’re the, for lack of a better title, cyber command center for all Extended operations, while Primary has all the munitions. Two such facilities in different places means if one is taken out the other can survive or at least escape.” Artemis nodded, understanding the reasoning.
“And who made this plan of action?” Wolf had picked up his fajita and had taken a rather large bite, making him unable to answer the question, so he simply gestured with a free hand in Spin’s direction. Artemis didn’t dare turn around. “I see,” Wolf finished his bite and began introducing the secondary group to Artemis. “Well you’ve already met Vicious, epic huh? And Sky, so you only need to be introduced to Studded, she’s sitting on the left couch there.” Wolf gestured again with his head and took another bite. Artemis picked up his drink from the coffee table and took a sip. Surprising, he thought, he tasted tequila in this. “Tomorrow I’ll send you the confidential files you’ll need to make your decision. I’m the IT guy around here, if you haven’t figured that out already. Or at least that’s what ‘they’ call me, in reality I’m the lead hacker slash programmer, the equivalent of Foaly, well without the resources, and hooves.” Artemis nodded.
“I’m looking forward to your report.” Said Artemis realizing how official he sounded considering he was a hostage. Wolf’s face looked tense for a moment. “What?” Asked Artemis defensively. He had the right to say he was looking forward to his information, didn’t he?
“It’s just that you sound a lot like Spin when she talks; very formal and serious like we’re armed military personnel. You just sound like her too, huh.” Wolf was lost in thought for a moment.
“Wolf may I ask you a question?” Wolf’s ears perked up, and then sunk.
“If you must . . . ” He said in an uncaring tone.
“What am I drinking?” Wolf smiled causing his slits for eyes to become indistinguishable from wrinkles on his forehead.
“A margarita, and if Spin made it you had better slow down. She makes them a bit strong for my taste; I don’t know about you.” Artemis nodded and withdrew back to Gig. If anything, he knew a lot about the culture of the Extendes. They lived and breathed in fear, they could kidnap a millionaire genius right under the nose of his protector, and they could throw a hell of a party afterward.
It wasn’t long before Artemis began feeling a bit tipsy. The light green drinks that everyone had been having were margaritas. There wasn’t much to say, but there was much to sing. Blossom pulled out the karaoke machine about two hours later, after much drinking, dancing, and video game playing. Artemis had been forced to try out guitar hero, his untrained fingers fumbled with the multi colored buttons and the button that represented the string, both of which had to be pressed at the same time in order for a note to sound. It was all very frustrating for Artemis as the Extendes watched him mishandle a rather easy rock song. Artemis sat down after three songs realizing that he might want to cross musician off his list of future professions. The Extendes seemed to be glad that he had attempted the song at all.
“We’d never get you to do this sober would we?” Asked Gig. Nerv nodded his head as if saying, “Not bad,” and Blossom was still cheering and gave Artemis a high five.
“Probably not. I’ve never had tequila before; it isn’t bad, though it creeps up on you a bit in the end.” Said Artemis who was now completely relaxed and fell into the couch, throwing his right arm over the armrest. Spin had had two Margaritas already and looked a little tipsy.
Nerv finally stood up with his arms spread out wide as if he were about to hug a grizzly bear.
“I bid you all a good night! I’m going to bed. This is too much for me; you’re all . . . just . . too . . . much!!!! When Nerv left the whole party seemed to rupture at its seams. Blossom and Cross had been nodding off and staggered off to bed blindly in the now pitch-black night. Nos and Fro left together with a faint farewell to all, and Spin said goodbye to Gig and the rest of them after she was already out the doors.
Gig held his liquor well, but even the mighty grow weak under such an influx of juice. It was the blind leading the blind as Gig led Artemis back to his room. Gig was holding half onto Artemis and half the wall as they both tripped over each other’s feet, howling at every moment.
“You’re alright Artemis, ya’know?” You’re pretty cool.” Artemis, though he understood the informal meaning of the word, and would never mention this to anyone, felt slight honored that Gig would say that. Artemis had never been a member of a group like this with people his own age having parties, dancing, and playing video games, but that wasn’t really it. He enjoyed the fact he was a member of a team, a group to which he belonged and needed to belong to. He had never felt this before, but as he thought of acceptance into this troupe, he felt a chill run down his spine, something few emotions would cause. “You know what you need to do?” Asked Gig, being serious but laughing all the same.
“What’s that, get you some stronger stuff?” Asked Artemis, Gig shook his head violently.
“Nah, I’m good. You want to talk with her, don’t you? You want to talk to Spin one on one.” Artemis admitted he did quite a lot, but she seemed to hate him, though he wasn’t sure why.
“But she hates me,” Gig repeated the motion with his head.
“No, she’s wrong, you do want to talk to her, right?” Artemis propped Gig up against his door frame; it was so dark that night that Gig had trouble finding the handle. Gig’s fingers, so large, found and grasped the handle wrenching the door open. Artemis stopped halfway in the threshold.
“When and where could this confrontation take place?” Asked Artemis, fully aware now. Gig smiled.
“She wakes up at five every morning, makes a cup of tea, and goes over there.” He gestured diagonally to the opposite side of the complex near the corner building located. “Those two rooms,” he pointed at the catty cornered doors,” have openings on either side which we use as escape routes.” He pointed to the one on the opposite side of the complex now. “She goes on the right side every morning at about 5 just before dawn and thinks; follow that path and you’ll find her alone.” Artemis was bewildered by this information; he would finally have a chance to confront the leader of the Extendes. Now was his chance, he could ask her anything and everything that was bothering him. Now was his chance to find out who exactly had duped him.