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Aberrant: 2011 - It's Oh So Quiet


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Brittany awoke on a balmy Montana morning at around half past eight with a spring in her step and a smile on her face. None of this was uncommon for her, but today was nevertheless special, and not like she told herself that every day, in its own right, was special unto itself. Today she was going to meet two new novas, one of them being one she'd wanted to make friends of for quite a while, despite their protest.

She was glad she'd joined that opnet site she'd heard about. In just the few short months since she'd joined, she'd met and gotten to spend time with close to a dozen other novas she'd never have known otherwise, and she was pleased to see that her expanding repertoire of contacts now included several very influential novas who also happened to be truly fascinating and wonderful people. She greeted Montana's big sky in her plain cotton nightshirt, an old BDU jacket her father had given her years before. Her eufiber was without a doubt more comfortable and versatile, but it could never match the sentimental value attached to this threadbare old jacket. When her father was deployed to Iraq when she was twelve, he'd worn this same jacket, and when he returned home, he gave it to her, telling her it'd keep her safe when she slept, the same as it did him. It was hard for something you buy off a rack (or in this case, a notoriously adorable Puerto Rican's finely-sculpted body) to beat that. She yawned, stretched, and padded in her bare feet out to the kennel on her parents' ranch property, and shoveled out two heaping scoops of food for the family's two dogs, a pair of lovable mongrels her father had named 'Tecumseh' and 'Stonewall', both German Shepherds. She patted them affectionately, letting them jump up to lick at her face and bark merrily, before strolling back into the house to shower, taking off her nightshirt and carefully placing it back in its place of reverance in her closet.

She checked her wireless mail and homepage in the shower, taking careful note of what pages on the site were receiving the most hits, and skimmed the comments that had been left behind. Benny, her webmaster, was doing a good job of filtering out the less well-mannered fans, she saw, briefly reviewing the queue of expunged materials. She welcomed everybody to her site, of course, but like campers leaving behind litter, she had no compunctions about doing some judicious pruning to maintain the beauty and welcoming environment of her personal space. Another twenty hate mails from Focus on the Family, or people claiming to support them. At least three or four of the names she recognized, as they'd mailed her before, and were publicly high figures in the organization. She knew plainly why these people seemed to hate her so, which simply made her feel bad for them. If not for the fact that they ruin so many lives with their judgments and fears, she would have nothing but love for them. But as it stood, morality had pitted them as enemies, and she regretted it.

Dialing a number in Havana, Brittany toweled off and slipped on her eufiber colony, still in the form of her nationally-recognizable uniform, and snatched her goggles from her dresser top, the only part of her outfit not made of eufiber and, she had found quickly, an essential component of self-propelled flight. The phone rang three times, and a soft-spoken woman with a distinctly oriental accent picked up. Brittany had contacted Sue Yin, from the forum she visited, to take her to New York that day, and she was calling to confirm her appointment. Flow was courteous and professional, telling her that she and her daughter would be seeing LiberTeen in about an hour. Brittany smiled, thanked her, and hung up, sauntering off to the kitchen for a morning cup of coffee and a little breakfast, where she met her father and mother relaxing at the kitchen table. She gave her father a kiss and got a bowl of cereal, making polite chat with them while she ate. They told her to be careful in New York, advice that was neither needed nor bound to be heeded, and Brittany reminded them of something she'd said many times since her eruption, that wonderful things infrequently happened to the careful.

Commencing her morning, Brittany answered some mail, posted on her personal forum and the forum she visited, and contacted Benny briefly to make sure he'd received the latest updated. Sue was set to meet her at the end of her street shortly, so she threw a mess of things into a small backpack she strapped under her cape before running out the door.

Flow met her in short order, a beautiful little girl quietly in tow. Brittany greeted her warmly, impressed with the woman's stark and austere beauty, and did her best to present herself professionally. The cost of the trip was already in Sue's bank account, so after introductions were completed, they were off, reality sliding - flowing - away from the moist dawn air of Montana and giving way to the hustle and bustle of downtown Manhatten, in the courtyard in front of Project Utopia headquarters. Brittany thanked Ms. Yin for her assistance and told her she'd call her when she was ready to return. With almost forgetful revelation, she pulled off her backpack and opened it, squatting down to her knees so that she was eye level with Sue's daughter, and produced a stuffed white tiger from the bag, which she offered with a nervous smile and a glance towards the mother, hopeful that she'd not overstepped some boundary of propriety.

Ms. Yin and her daughter eased out of the landscape, and with a radiant smile on her face, Brittany reshouldered her bag and strolled into the reception office of Project Utopia headquarters. The warm-looking, professional woman behind the counter, who clearly recognized her if the glint in her eye and slow smile was any indication, asked what she could do for the young nova today.

Brittany suppressed a nervous giggle as she took in the scenery, the magesty of even this simple receiving room almost overwhelming her. This was the Project Utopia headquarters! She could scarcely belive she was actualy there! She sighed to herself, hoping that maybe someday she'd find it in herself to be noble and strong enough to walk these halls herself. Doe-eyed, she turned back to the receptionist and happily annouced "I'm here to see Summer Astovik, 'Solstice'?"

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"OH!" A chubby hand reached for Summer's crimson-hued cheek. The portly woman's grip was like a vice as she clutched Summer's flesh and pinched it tightly, tossing the poor teenage idol’s head from side to side. "Nana's so proud of you! A member of Team Tomorrow and you're passing all of your classes."

Summer hoped (if she was lucky) the obese woman, who was her aunt, would burn enough calories from speaking that she’d would slip into a cardiac arrest and die. However, luck was rarely on Summer's side. "Daaaad, get her off me." She mumbled out of the corner of her mouth.

"Cordelia we didn't expect you until next week." Her father, Alistair, spoke up in an attempt to distract her long enough to loosen her interest (and grip) on Summer. His young daughter cringed slightly as his hand rested on her shoulder. "Since you're here, we were about to sit down to breakfast... Care to join us?"

"Nah! I won't be staying long. Some wetback in one of my plants was caught embezzling. I have court in about an hour and a half." Her voice was deep and evil. Cordelia had spent most of her life smoking cheap cigars and drowning herself in whiskey. She had always been loud, rude, out-spoken, and all in all a total bitch. Summer loved this woman. Not that she would ever admit it.

"Here kid, I got you something. To commemorate kickin' ass in the Utopian market." She looked behind her to the gaunt, rather weary looking old man who was several years younger than Cordelia but one could never tell by his over-worked expression. "OATES! Oates, you worthless... where the hell did he go off to?"

"Here Madame." Oates replied, his voice weak and dull while raising a white box. Cordelia opened it and produced a small adorable shih-tzu puppy.

“This is for you Summer. Isn’t she cute? Congratulations, and good luck to you, eh kid?”

Summer held the puppy and cradled it lovingly. She hated dogs, especially ones as ugly as this, but the masquerade continued. “I love her, thank you Nana!” Her mega-watt smile burned a hole of faux appreciation straight through her unsuspecting aunt’s heart. Jeeves, the Astovik’s family butler, spoke out over the crowd gathered in the entrance of their Utopian penthouse from his place near the kitchen doorway.

“Miss Summer. You have a guest downstairs in the lobby.”

Her cue to escape was almost heaven sent. She slipped out from her under her father’s grip and carrying her puppy shimmied her way through the blockade of family and servants and into the hallway. Ugh, I hate that woman. Oh, crap that’s right, Brittany is visiting me today.

Air molecules around quickly began to gather as she strolled into the stairwell. Gingerly she skipped down a few before coasting up and over the railing and softly descending to the ground floor with her natural flight far faster then the elevator would have carried her. The gathering molecules grew heavier and heavier as Summer converted ambient quantum particles into a chilling cold. The puppy never had the opportunity to ‘yip’ before it was completely flash frozen in the teen starlet’s arms. “Sorry, only room for one bitch in the house. Toodles.” She grinned evilly as she thoughtlessly tossed the puppy to one side. She was already several flights down by the time she heard the poor animal shatter it but was like a symphony to her cruel ears.

By the time she reached the lobby ‘Solstice’ had already adjusted her eufiber into her selected ‘costume’. Unlike Brittany however, Solstice never did take into consideration how unwise it was to fly in a skimpy pleated skirt with out something to preserve modesty. The heels of her boot echoed through the quiet lobby and her approach was nearly impossible to disguise. The crimson skinned nova brushed her long icy blue hair over her shoulders before coming to a stop and crossing her arms over her chest. “When you said ‘spend the day together’ I didn’t think you meant literally.” Solstice gave the young, and incredibly attractive, Liberteen a quick once over. “Nice cape. How many aluminum cans did you save up for it?”

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Oh, my, but she is pretty, Brittany told herself as the arrogant click of Solstice's heels brought soft malice to the lobby floor. Summer brushed her off with some remark, but the fact that she'd shown up at all said plenty to Brit. She was a little afraid her trip out would be wasted, but she was prepared for that eventuality, too, and suddenly emboldened to see that Summer had actually deigned to show up, she smiled broadly and genuinely, smoothing her precariously short skirt.

“Nice cape", she spat, scrutinizing her, with something barely more than harshness in her expression. "How many aluminum cans did you save up for it?”

Brittany giggled slightly in return, folding her hands in front of her at the knee and bowing slightly at the waist. Summer was being mean, no doubt about it, but Brit had known that coming into this. The young nova hadn't come here today to avail herself of Summer's hospitality and cheer; she was a miserable little shrew, and somebody would have to be blind or an idiot or both not to know it. But somewhere, beneath all the hostility, Brittany had glimpsed something more, something soft inside Summer, and it was something she thought was worth trying to draw out. If that meant enduring her barbs with good cheer and obsequiousness to show her that she earnestly wanted nothing from her but her friendship, it was worth paying. "Summer!", she smiled back. "I'm so glad you came! You look really nice today", she told her, giving her a rather pregnant once over of her own, and knowing that she hadn't lied one bit. "As for my costume", she grabbed a corner of her cape, lifting it as if in inspection, "I went to Tiffany's and asked for the trampiest thing they had in stock, and this is what they came up with. Apparently you beat me there, huh?" The jibe was obviously in jest, and she hoped that Summer would appreciate her showing the tiniest bit of edge, or at least respect her a bit. Letting her cape drape elegantly across her back, Brittany pursed her lips in a wry little smile that invited challenge. "Really", she smirked, "you look great. You ready to go?"

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“Uhh, not yet. I’m still trying to figure out if that was a joke or an insult. Were you saying I’m a tramp, or were you trying to make me laugh by insinuating that you would be able to afford something from Tiffany’s?” He face wore a mock expression of confused laced with venom. “Anyway, I gotta get ready still, I’m so totally not ready to face people looking like this.” She waved her hands down her angelic frame. “Hello? So not guy friendly. Hang out for a second while I ‘powder my nose’ an all that.”

---,--‘-{@ @}-,--‘---

Summer’s body spasmed violently as the luminescent blue powder shot through her nasal cavity and set fire to her throat. She locked her tongue in place against the back of her mouth in an attempt to not choke or cough. She grabbed the handicap railing along the wall of the bathroom stall she was in, knocking her make-up case over as she did so. Like all the times before, the pain was agonizing but only for a moment. As the pain subsided the accompanying hyped up energy and stamina quickly began coursing through her veins. Her node was on fire and she had grown addicted to the euphoria that SOMA granted her.

A few minutes later she was dabbing some water on her face and making sure none of the tell tale signs of what she had been doing were showing on face. Thankfully she had enough to last her awhile and that thought made her comfortable. It was starting to get more and more difficult to ask her father for it and his ‘fees’ were starting to cost her a fortune in excuses to her instructors.

Her eufiber shifted and reshaped itself launching a shiver up her spine as it moved everywhere over her body. She flipped her hair back and began securing it as her eufiber finished shaping itself to appear as sky blue leather pants and corset top similar to the one Brittany wore. No way (nuh uh, not a chance) was she going to allow that little redneck tart to have guys looking at Liberteen more often than her so it did very little to keep her cleavage in check.

---,--‘-{@ @}-,--‘---

Brittany perked up a bit as she heard the sounds of Summer’s heels once again clacking against the smooth floor. She noted that apparently Summer had thickened the heel, possibly shifting the eufiber into more ‘functional’ footwear. Still trampy, it seemed but at least now she was at less of a risk of breaking her neck.

“Alright,” She said rather blandly through freshly glossed lips. “What exactly did you have in mind? Part of my training says I have to spend at least some time during the week with those less fortunate than me, and you’re an easy ‘A’. So, where do poor people hang out?”

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Summer looked just fine to Brittany, but she wasn't going to contest her. Solstice looked like a fussy, high-maintenance type, like she'd known most girls who'd come from money to be, and she'd likewise found that trying to fight them was a Sisyphean endeavor. Instead, she nodded politely and waited patiently as Summer disappeared into the lobby bathroom, emerging a few minutes later with her already trim eufiber into a pair of tight pants and a bustier somewhat like her own, only a bit more cut. She knew instantly where Summer was driving with the clothing, which made her suppress a giggle. This could be a fun game for Summer and I to play, she told herself, making mental note of several small alterations to make when Summer wasn't looking.

Brittany had no idea how literally Summer had meant it when she said she had to "powder her nose", but when she returned, she'd noticed something different in her bearing, something easy to miss, like she'd only now just woken up. Brit smiled angelically as Summer eyed her with calculated contempt.

“Alright,” She said rather blandly through freshly glossed lips. “What exactly did you have in mind? Part of my training says I have to spend at least some time during the week with those less fortunate than me, and you’re an easy ‘A’. So, where do poor people hang out?”

"Well", Brittany smirked, "I guess since you don't have any farms here in New York City, we could go shopping at Tiffany's, maybe stop by the Renault Gallery for a while, and I was thinking about Bunker 8 later on. Oh, and I also made lunch reservations at Masa, if that's all right." She was watching for surprise to register on Summer's face, or something close to it. Tiffany's explained itself, but the Renault Gallery routinely was a few hundred dollars just to get past the front door. Celebrities hung out at Bunker 8, which had a habit of only admitting nova clientele and their lackeys, lately. And Masa could run five hundred a head for lunch alone. Brittany had done her homework, and if a little splurging was what it was going to take to finally sell Summer on her not being trailer trash, then it was no great sacrifice.

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Huh? Wait. What? Summer's mind refused to grasp the places Liberteen just rattled off. Bunker 8? How did she manage to get us into Bunker 8? Summer had been trying to get through the door of Bunker 8 for quite sometime. The problem was that no one there liked her attitude and every time she attempted to go the 'management' always had some new excuse why they didn't want to let her in.

"Oh. My. Gawd! You can get us into Bunker 8?" She said, her voice was laced with excitement as the euphoric energy drive of being hopped up on "The S" was beginning to kick in through her system. “I’ve been trying to tell Daddy that I just sooo totally need to get in there, I mean the place is supposed to totally awesome, but let’s face it Brittany, without me, it’s just aweso. Daddy just doesn’t understand.” She amended her statement with a roll of the eyes and a wave of her hand as sighed heavily brushing away the annoying invisible father who just didn’t understand.

It was easy to tell that Summer was getting ‘pep’ from somewhere, but cold water and a new outfit sometimes do that for a person. The two beautiful novas walked from the lobby to the busy New York streets. People outside had to stop and stare. Two celebrities on the streets of New York were certainly nothing new, but woman as gorgeous as Solstice and Liberteen. Solstice was hoping to cause an accident again to day, but no luck. Liberteen seemed to give off this aura of ‘nothing bad can happen’ and it was a bit annoying to the crimson skinned, angst ridden nova woman standing to her right.

“Let’s do Tiffany’s first!” Solstice blurted out a split second before quantum forces gathered around an embraced her in an explosive effect that set her body ablaze. Brittany instinctively raised one arm to shield her eye from the effect and took a single step back. It was obvious Summer was showing-off. Her icy-blue hair became fiery filaments as they shifted into the yellow-orange hue of flame. Her crimson skin followed suit and her eufiber all but attuned completely absorbing itself into her new form. Wreathed in an aura of nimbus flame she stood ‘naked’ on the sidewalk. All that remained of what Summer was just a moment before was her pure-blue eyes enveloped by searing heat.

“I’ll race you there.” Her voice was resonant and alien, sounding like the crackling of a thousand fires.

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Well, Brittany blinked in slight shock back at Summer, that certainly seems to have gotten a reaction. Solstice's speech was getting a little frenzied and manic, and it probably would have made Brittany a bit uncomfortable if she wasn't worldly beyond her years. Novas are an eccentric lot, she figure, and she immediately jumped on the logical connection between someone being comprised of polar opposites and being, well, bipolar, essentially. Still, Summer seemed happy and eager to spend the day with her, and - dare she say? - a little bit impressed, and that was about as much as Brittany had hoped for. Her thought process ran its course just as Summer was finishing her raving about Bunker 8.

"...I mean the place is supposed to totally awesome, but let’s face it Brittany, without me, it’s just aweso. Daddy just doesn’t understand."

It was a cute joke, and Brittany giggled at it, but in the back of her mind she was wondering what she might be getting herself into. Getting herself and Summer on the list for the club had actually been pretty easy; all it took was a polite phone call to Bunker 8's floor manager, who seemed pretty thrilled at the prospect of having "THE LiberTeen?" at his club. Technically, she was too young to drink, of course, but that's hardly a barrier against having a good time.

As excitement lit Solstice's already glowing eyes and she nearly dragged Brittany outside, both of the young women were reminded of what power they had over the minds of mortal men. Apart, they drew attention; together, they drew mobs. The men and women alike standing stock still outside the Project's downtown headquarters simply couldn't take their eyes off them. Summer flaunted her assets cockily, reveling in destroying the fantasies of lonely men with the stark, harsh reality that they couldn't have her, knowing full well she'd show up in most of their fantasies for weeks to come. LiberTeen won the rest of them, plus a few converts, with her spectacularly executed "friendly girl next door" smile and gentle, princess-like wave of her hand. She didn't show it, but she knew she'd be making plenty of masturbatory mental cameos in the following weeks, herself, and took secret pleasure in knowing that.

"So, wh--"

"Let’s do Tiffany’s first!", Summer enthusiastically called, making spectacle of herself as her body ignited into a human statue wrought in living flame. She caught Brittany by surprise, who took a half-step back and covered her eyes from the bright corona engulfing Summer's body. "I'll race you there", she smiled, manic, her voice no less changed by her transformation than her looks.

Brittany smiled and nodded once to confirm before, with a catlike bend of the knee, she took off straight up into the air, leaving only a whistle of air and a gaggle of awestruck, heartbroken bystanders behind her.

She didn't pay attention to see if Summer was keeping up or if she was even trying. She knew Summer would be right on her tail, so she didn't once bother looking back. She figured she was about to lose this race, but that suited her fine. Once she'd cleared the first set of giants that made up the Manhattan skyline, she dipped forward and narrowed her body into an air dart, zipping toward where she remembered 5th Ave. to be.

Flying thankfully took little in the way of concentration, so she took their race as an opportunity to make the alterations to her outfit that she'd listed in her mind: first, she hemmed up her skirt about three inches, pleated it and "starched" it to make it flare out, leaving the soft curves of her cheeks peeking out the bottom of her skirt to anybody who was more than a couple feet away, and a good deal more to anybody at eye level. May as well get rid of the modesty skort, too, she giggled to herself, leaving her bare beneath her skirt. At this point, she was only upping the ante, so there was no need to go all out yet; she dropped the front of her bodice by a single, tantalizing inch, just enough to be considered vaguely scandalous. The tabloids would have a hell of a time with this, she told herself. But hey, everyone had to make a living, even sleazy, rubberneck voyeurs who chase celebrities, and she'd already been scandalized plenty over the last couple months.

With an aerial pirouette, Brittany directed her body to a perfect vertical angle and, face-first, went into freefall, a wry little smirk on her face.

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"Hey! I didn't say go!" She grumbled audibly as she launched off after the all-American nova teen.

The flames that danced around her refused to be snuffed by the velocity. She made a sound similar to a jet engine as she streaked through the streets of New York blazing through the sky at breakneck speeds in an attempt to catch up to Brittany. Deep inside she commanded her node for more, more power, more speed. Her node heeded her mental push and faster she stormed down the streets.

A jet of flame trailed off behind her as she darted quickly through an alleyway streaming up and down effortlessly through the narrow passageway dodging fire escapes and other assorted obstacles. People cheered as she launched through the opposite end, she knew the streets of Manhattan a bit better than Liberteen and knew that this route would no doubt place her in the lead.

With a sudden hot fury Solstice streaked out from the a joining intersection almost ramming Brittany in the process. It was easy to tell that Summer was the competitive type, even if that meant hurting, or cheating her opponents. Down the avenue the nova teens shot as on lookers cheered and honked their horns knowing full well what a nova race looked like (especially in Manhattan where they were common).

A numbing pain launched trough Solstice’s head as she continued to push the limits of her power to their peek. The SOMA had already launched her node into a frenzy and pushing her strength for all it was worth quickly placed too much stress on her ability channel quantum. The flaming form she had took strobed in and out, confusing Brittany slightly as she noticed her opponent begin to slow and ‘twinkle’ out.

Dizziness gripped young Summer and she cautiously floated to the ground. By the time Liberteen had the opportunity to make a U-Turn (turning at maximum speed in the crowded streets of Manhattan was never advisable) she noticed Summer supporting herself against a car fumbling through her small handbag for something. She obviously appeared to be in a great deal of pain.

SOMA + Failed attempt to Maxx power. Someone has a killer headache and a free point of temp taint! Had she botched I would have considered a heart attack... hee!
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A flicker of warmth lapping at her tail told Brittany Summer was trailing her close. After their near collision, Summer had briefly shot into the lead, but to her own surprise, Britt had made up the distance and then some in short order. Solstice undoubtedly knew the Manhattan city streets better, but it looked like her competitor had a slight edge in terms of speed, in spite of Summer's more risky maneuvering. For a moment, Brittany giggled to herself, wondering if Summer was getting distracted seeing up her skirt. She knew she'd been for the moment that she'd been overtaken. What fun! This day was turning out to be a lot more rewarding than she'd guessed it would be, already!

Like most things, though, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Panic shot down Brittany's spine as she turned back to see Summer staggering across the pavement in halt, resting up against a nearby car. Something had gone very wrong. By the time she'd noticed Summer's heat absent from her rear, it was too late to catch her. She lurched upward and doubled back above the city street before darting down to the ground next to Summer, worry and fear creasing her otherwise angelic features.

She ran from where she landed and braced Summer's body in her arms, doing her best to support the other girl. "Summer!? Summer, are you okay!? What's wrong?" The activity around them had ground to a halt as people who had been cheering a moment earlier stopped and looked in pacified awe, some of them having enough presence of mind to start taking photos or video with their phones. Brittany felt a misplaced rush of hot anger blush her cheeks. She nearly screamed at a nearby onlooker who stood nearby, smiling stupidly and watching the scene unfold through the screen of his flip-phone. "You! Call an ambulance!", she chastised him, but the little man was too stunned to act. It was television to him.

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"NO!" Summer shouted, rather paranoid. “I mean, it’s okay Liberteeen. Seriously. Nothing big.” She looked at the man dialing 9-1-1 and he snapped his phone shut. She looked at Brittany with a rather scared and sorrowful expression. “I-I just pushed myself to hard, that’s all. I really wanted to win.”

Liberteen supported her as she attempted to stand on her own. “It’s happened before. I’m okay. Honest. The doctors said that until I get a good understanding of my abilities I shouldn’t over tax them, but, I was really having fun.”

“How bout we walk the rest of the way, kay? It’s only another block.” She placed her hand on her forehead and although Brittany did not see what it was, Solstice popped several small pills in her mouth that she had removed from her purse.

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Humbug, Brittany thought to herself. Something's wrong. Brittany wasn't a very experienced nova, and she knew better than to presume that her very limited experience was representative of how nova powers behaved, and there was nothing about Summer's powers seemingly burning out on her that should have made her suspicious. No, what struck her as odd was the way Summer wrote it off. She seemed chastised by her overexertion; even humbled. That didn't track with what Brittany knew of Summer. Either she'd worn down her defenses and past her thorny armor of egotism and elitism very quickly, or this was a snowjob, plain and simple. Brittany knew the safe bet was on the latter, but this wasn't the time or place to call her on it.

Genuine concern was reflecting in her eyes as she helped Summer stand on her own two feet, giving a passing though to how marvelously warm to the touch she seemed. She smiled a bit apologetically as Summer finally managed to reclaim her bearings, "It's okay, Summer. I'm sorry if I was playing a little rough. I just wanted to have fun... I'm glad you were." Summer seemed to be managing fine on her own now, and Brittany smiled at her a bit less reluctantly.

"How bout we walk the rest of the way, kay? It’s only another block." Summer patted her cheeks and forehead. She was probably flushed, although you wouldn't know it.

Brittany nodded. "Sounds good", she said, giving Summer a gentle, consolatory sidehug before taking off with her down the street. For a moment, the pair walked astride each other down the block, drawing stares from all around, and things seemed to light up considerably. By they time they reached the expensive store, the past moment's unpleasantness seemed all but forgotten. Brittany rushed ahead, opening the door for Summer, and smiled. "Today's on me", she said. "I want you to be happy, Summer, so don't worry about cost, and don't exert yourself, okay?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

It wasn't long before Brittany realized the fatal mistake she had made. Telling the spoiled rich girl "It's on me." while going shopping at Tiffany's. Within the hour Summer seemed to be feeling incredibly well and it seemed as if she was about to drive Liberteen into bankruptcy.

Their arms were filled with Tiffany's trademark blue bags and boxes and Summer was still on the prowl for a set of earrings that would match her unusually colored eyes. “Gawd this is so cool Brittany, I’ve had like absolutely no people to chill with since my node did the flaky pop an all. Seriously, if feels so good to be out of the…oh… wow…” Her attention suddenly seemed completely diverted as she pressed against a glass case staring intently as a pair of shimmering sapphire earrings. As the salesman worked on getting the earrings out for Solstice she turned to Brittany. “So, like what gives? I know when someone is being nice for no reason, and you girl, reek of it.” She turned back to the counter and held the earring to her ear as she gazed into a circular mirror.

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Summer lead Brittany over to the jewelry cases with the avant, carefree stride only known to the truly spoiled rich. I've made a huge mistake, she gulped, her eyes going wide as Summer plucked a pair of sapphires from the case. If this kept up, Brittany would have to put back even the few meager purchases she'd made for herself.

"So, like what gives? I know when someone is being nice for no reason, and you girl, reek of it." Solstice regarded her coolly as she preened, holding the earrings up to look at herself in the mirror.

"Honestly?", Brittany blushed slightly. So she was made. That was okay. No sense in not being honest, anyway. The truth wasn't ugly, in this case. "Summer, you're not stupid. You know that a lot of people think you're cruel, elitist, catty... And, well, it's because you are."

Summer shot her a look of venom and began to open her mouth, but Brittany cut her off.

"But I don't think that's all there is to you. And...I'm sorry if this sounds mean, but to be honest, I don't think anybody's ever given you a thing in your whole life without expecting something in return, even if that's just all the pressure they're putting on you to be something you're not. And even though it's hard to see sometimes, I really don't think that you are a terrible person. I think that you've been screwed over by everyone you've ever met. So I'm not being nice for 'no reason'. I'm being nice because I wanted to show you that I care about you and want to be your friend no matter what anyone thinks or what it costs, and that I will freely give to you, not out of obligation or because I'm trying to leverage it against you, but because I want you to be happy. All you have to give me in return is whatever you want to give me freely, and I promise you, I'm never going to keep a ledger or put a price on you."

Suddenly very shy, as if shamed by her own honesty, she turned her head away from Summer, who still wasn't even looking at her. Brittany had said more than she had meant to, and she suddenly realized that. "I'm sorry, Summer. I just want to be your friend, is all. I'm not going to attach conditions to that."

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Summer half scoffed. She was just involved with her earrings as she was with her conversation with Liberteen. "Pshh." She finally said with matching facial expression reflected back to her from the mirror she was looking at.

She laid the earrings box down on the counter. "Shall I box them for you ma'am?"

"Nah." Was her reply and she moved along the line of glass cases. "What makes you think, Brittany, that need friends? The harsh reality of life country girl is the people do expect something in return. They always want something maybe not right away, but they will someday."

The pair walked on, and Liberteen knew there was a hard battle ahead of her. "Face it Liberteen," Summer spun around and made eye contact with her. "You're living in a dream, a fantasy where everything is all sunshine and roses and you too damn ditzy to wake up from it." She arced her blue bag filled arms as if trying to symbolize she was speaking of the entire store, or world, in general. "Just because you fuck the world Blondie doesn't make people like you, it makes you a convenient phone call on a lonely night. And you think I need friends, or am compensating for something? Puhlease."

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As Summer's eyes caught hers, Brittany stopped short, her eyes bulging, and for a moment, she felt very much like a deer in headlights. As summer berated her, she listened attentively, forcibly halted, and gulped. "You know, Summer" she quietly began, "You're a lot smarter and sharper than I think anybody gives you credit for."

Summer turned away with a dry expression on her features, leading the charge and leaving Brittany to tag along and express her rebuttal. "To be fair, Summer, I really haven't slept with all that many people, you know. And no, I don't see the world through rose-tinted shades. As if I don't hear that three or four hundred times a week." She rolled her eyes wearily, taking on one of Summer's affectations for a moment. "I just don't believe in throwing up my hands and giving up when I see the world do its worst. I do something about it. Even if that means being disappointed over and over again, because the small successes make all the failures worthwhile." It was clear Brittany believed what she said, and she was doing a pretty good job on not making it sound like just another sales pitch. Still, you don't change a person's mind overnight, at least not any sane or functioning person.

"There's such a thing in this world as 'enlightened self-interest', Summer. Nobody really ever does anything for truly selfless reasons. I just want to make the most people happy that I can." She paused, switching gears slightly, genuinely curious. "Don't you ever get lonely?"

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