Spanish Inquisition Title

In which it is told how Johnny Fonda and his intrepid leader Blaire Ravenwood, who may or may not have kind of a thing for him maybe, did dance, then how Johnny clean'd himself yet again, encounters the simulacrum of a friend's cellphone call and a hefty pair of sweater puppies, then sleeps again, albeit briefly. Also how he played "Gears of War" on co-op again.

8:06 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 3F UCEN, Biskind University

Johnny wasn't a coffee fan, but when his nose caught the odor, coming from...the Arby's area? – he went to it. Maybe that was the hangout.

Near Clint's Cafe, on the university center's third floor, is a massive table area that a pink neon sign calls "The Union," and Arby's is just beyond The Union's heart.

Johnny could see Blaire even from outside the Union. She was unselfconsciously dancing to Dion and The Belmonts' "A Teenager in Love."

Holy shit, she's dancing to somebody! Some guy! She's more discreet than I thought! That was Johnny's heart trying to tell itself why it stopped.

Until both Johnny and his heart noticed Blaire was alone in the Arby's.

He grinned. Blaire's eyes were closed, like if someone were watching, she didn't want to know, and like she was pretty sure someone was watching. Johnny suddenly felt great for being in pyjamas and shoeless. Maybe he should've had a gun on him, but it was as if it were an either/or choice: go barefoot or carry a gun. Johnny would rather go barefoot.

Johnny was glad he was in pyjamas because he was able to sneak close to Blaire soundlessly. Once he was close, instead of appreciating how Blaire moved, in a cute girly/boyish way in a somewhat loose red My Brain Hurts t-shirt and ugly pink paisley shorts, Johnny studied her.

Then he joined her, close but not so close she'd feel him. For a little while he mirrored and complimented her, but then he got bored and did hand jives and Dave Chappelle's Tyrone Shuffle.

Which was about when one of Blaire's lieutenants, across the stairwell down in Clint's Café, caught Johnny's eye. She was drinking coffee, reading a newspaper and now, shaking her head at him. He wondered how high a percentage of his skin could flush red.

Blaire either felt that or her lieutenant looking over there. So then, upon his embarrassment, Blaire turned around him and started laughing.

"What? Were you recording that?" he asked.

"No, it's just...I didn't know you danced. I thought you didn't."

"Oh, I dance. I'll dance the dance all night long, Pepito." With an odd Spanish accent at the end. "It's great to hear you laugh like that but I find myself speechless because of it."

She laughed more. She'd set up a little table in the center of the room with a few chairs around it; the coffee grinder was on that, along with a coffee machine, fixins and massive styrofoam cups stacked upside down with a napkin under them. She pushed a chair to Johnny even though before that it was closer to him than her. "Come on, I'll fix ya some coffee."

"I'll gladly sit with you, and find out whatever you're gonna tell me, but I'm not gonna drink coffee."

Why the hell'd I phrase it that way?

"You got a problem?" she asked, kidding.

"Yeah. My weight."

She stared at him, figuring it was a joke. Then she noticed it wasn't. "You're anorexic."

"Oh, right, just label me," he said, sitting. She sat too. "I'm not even skinny enough to look that way."

She stared at him. If hot coffee came in cans, he would've shotgunned one to know why she was staring at him, and what she was thinking.

He asked, "Were you a ballet girl when you were young?"

"Yep." Taking a big swig. It must've bur – Yep. She grimaced. They laughed.

"I can't help but notice you've got a pretty nice body under your...sheets," he said. And she laughed. "Did you start feeling ugly in the sixth grade or something?"

"Not really. I just...it's like, nobody wanted me, so I should dress comfortably, right?"

"Well, since you're asking me. No. And yes. If I had my way you'd...nothing Carhart." She laughed.

"To answer your question," Johnny said, "I think you'll find people like you. There's a someone for you, if you thought there wasn't. And there'll be plenty of subterfuge along the way." She chuckled. "My point is, people as smart as you are rare, so don't give up."

"Do you know any local singles like that?" she said. She leaned toward Johnny, spoke in a lower tone like she was really thinking about that but not really, and like it was illegal.

He leaned in too, then spoke in a normal voice. "No. Just me, baby."

Fuck.

When one person's about to kiss one other person, their body goes through a universally recognizable physical shift, as when one commits to something. Johnny didn't know what the hell to do when he saw that in Blaire. He opened up so she could plant her lips on his, if that's what she were going to do, but he was too confused to lean in more.

He'd been there for at least 10 seconds. The guy awkwardly between the doorway and the coffee machine. He looked awfully familiar to Johnny. Very short black hair, tall, bulky, borderline overweight. When Johnny and Blaire looked at him simultaneously, he mumbled "I'm just gonna get some coffee" and did.

Johnny looked back to Blaire. She was staring back at him already. He wanted to say "We're too similar" or "it'd be too good" or anything. If she was as similar to him as he thought she'd feel terrible for a little while.

Instead: "I'm gonna go take a shower."

8:41 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 1F UCEN, Biskind University

He felt really glad when he got a gun from his room that Ronnie was still in it, on the couch, and he felt almost as glad she was still completely asleep. His P99 in one hand, clothes and toiletries in another, he'd struck a deal with a nearby guard – Yes, Johnny'd definitely hook him up with Jackie, Johnny's girlfriend's blonde friend, if the guard would definitely not leave that post until 9 a.m. – to make sure nobody could hurt Ronnie. Johnny's room was pretty far-back into the student organization center's offices, but a door into the student organization center was less than 10 feet from the skywalk to the HUNK building. Anybody could run in, take the second left, go back a ways, and kill Ronnie. Nobody had keys around here.

When he was drying off from his shower he made sure his P99 was loaded about five times. He felt like somebody'd walk in on him.

8:10 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 3F UCEN, Biskind University

Blaire asked, "Are you sure? Most'a the guards aren't awake, and they don't guard the first floor." Where the showers were.

"When I feel dirty...I'd rather be soapy, naked and wet and hafta defend myself than feel all sweaty."

"Maybe you are crazy."

8:41 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 1F UCEN, Biskind University

It was still the best feeling ever, and it was still worth the risk.

Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" started playing. Johnny's arm reflexively snatched up his RAZR from his miscellaneous stuff pile.

Lucia.

"Yo."

"Hi, Johnny!"

"To what do I owe this extreme auditory pleasure?" Johnny asked, in his best David Carradine voice.

She laughed. "Just checkin in. I know you were at school late, and I just woke up."

"Did I call you?"

"Yeah. The last time was...I dunno, pretty late. I'm glad I trained you to sleep as little as I do."

"The apprentice always surpasses the master. I sleep less than you, Lucia."

She laughed. "True dat, ho. SO...are you gonna give me stuff today? Oh, I wanna hang out with you too."

"Right."

Giggle. "Seriously, though; We wanna hang out with you...You don't have, like, mid-terms, do you?"

"No. Those're in December."

"Why were you so busy last night?"

"I've been makin money for you, mommy."

Faux-fearing it'd be a small sum: "How much?"

"Mad money. I was there like all last night. Actually I'm still there. I go into some class with, like, someone attractive, I finish em off good 'n' quick, then somebody else – in the same hall – is like 'I see you baby shackin that ass' and –"

She was laughing too hard for him to continue.

"So you see my dilemma," he said, when she cooled down. "If I can sneak out today I'm gonna take you to Saw III or something. In addition to your presents. Your presents tainted by my trade."

She laughed. "What else're you gonna do for me, bitch?"

"What, other than Saw III?"

"Bitch, what else are you gonna do for me?"

"Oh, the things I'll do to you..." In kind of a throaty, lewd tone. She giggled. "I mean, I'll give you a freebie, however you like, y'know, standard procedure stuff." Like he, bored, were speaking with pimp candidates, and had explained that so many times he couldn't think of a new way to do it.

"So...Do you know if you're busy tonight? I want my money."

"I knows it, mommy. You'll get yo money. I'm just a po boy." Laughs. "I'll call you later and report in, okay? On my earnings, I mean."

"That's right."

He realized he was naked in an empty locker room in a college campus that was killing itself, his hair still damp. It was kind of cold, too.

"Y'know I just took a shower. Guess what I thought about."

"...Sex?"

"Nothing. Cuz I don't enjoy it anymore."

She laughed. "I'll talk to you later, Johnny."

"Bye."

"Bye."

He slipped and fell, somehow, with just enough awareness of it to say "Shit!" before he hit the room's tiled floor.

8:45 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 1F UCEN, Biskind University

For Johnny, it felt wondrous to finally slap some lotion on his arms. He was part-dresses, but shirtless and his arms were driving him insane, dammit. Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion is proof that God exists, even if I don't believe in It.

Belle & Sebastian's "Is it Wicked Not to Care?" started playing through Johnny's cellphone.

Who the hell could that be?

Johnny cleared the lotion off his hands, onto his elbows and pant legs, as Isobel Campbell sang on – "I know the truth awaits me/But still I hesitate because of fear."

"Hello?" Johnny answered.

"Johnny Fonda?" a vaguely familiar, friendly voice replied.

"Who're you?" Johnny asked, without a tone.

"Richard Branson."

"Uh...oh." He made a note to keep his voice low.

Sounded like Richard thought Johnny would say more than that.

"Uh...So...That meeting I told you about is definitely...real. That's why I called you. I thought I should tell you that at the meet I'm gonna have Blaire eliminated."

"Oh are you?"

Richard sounded like he was smiling. "Yeah. I mean...If it works for you, stay...under, with them, but you're still welcome here. Elise misses you, like, a lot." A giggle.

"Are you sure you should kill her? Blaire, I mean. There're...The way this group works they'd prob'ly be fine. They might also just revenge-attack you and their weapons are better. Or they might involve me, and that'd blow my cover."

"I don't think it'll come to that."

"What makes you think that?"

"I prob'ly shouldn't say."

"Whatever. Keep in mind you're putting me in a position from which I may hafta kill people in your group."

"I know." A beat. "I know you think getting rid of Blaire may not be the best thing to do, but I guess we disagree there."

"What's the plan for after you kill her?"

"I'm going to extend my hand in friendship. Hopefully whoever steps up there'll accept that."

"Why do you wanna absorb The Waves?"

"Well, not exactly absorb, but...The HUNK Building's not great for what I wanna do–"

Johnny bit into Richard's unease, his reluctance to speak. "You wanna move to the university center?"

"Yeah...That and the obvious absorbing their resources."

How can I get outta this? Johnny wondered. I can't just hang up, can I?

He swallowed his feelings. He said "Ah," a part-sigh.

Richard sounded like he smiled. "Yeah."

A beat. Johnny picked up the lotion tube.

"Well, I'll let you go," Richard said. "You just keep lyin."

"Oh, I will," Johnny said, popping open the tube's cap with a thumb.

9:02 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 3F UCEN, Biskind University

"You take long showers, honey," Ronnie said.

"You take long...shut up."

She laughed. She, covered in the softest, fluffywuffiest jade green fleece blanket he'd ever seen. Soft light bled through the white vertical blinds in the room, creating a beautiful earthtone hue in the room Johnny felt like he was outside.

He remembered about a day ago when Elise was in a position a lot like Ronnie's, laying stretched-out on a couch in indirect light. He felt like he didn't deserve to be anywhere near an image like that, although he was.

But it's not for me.

"How'd you know I was showering. Did you watch?"

"I should have. You didn't hear somebody throw up, did you?"

Knowing where she was going. "Nope."

"Then it couldn't've been me." She waited like he'd prompt her for more. Maybe his expression was enough; She continued, "I ate some breakfast with Blaire and that Ona chick and some other people. I thought she – Blaire, I mean – sent you on a mission or somethin."

I slept with Ona. Uh-oh.

"Oh," Johnny said.

"So then I learned of your cleaning. Do you get, like, obsessive about that?"

"Yep. It's not that I have an unflinching ritual or routine like some people do, but...if I feel dirty, it sorta overrides everything else."

She grinned. "Really?"

"Yeah."

"Wow. Maybe you're...genetically predisposed to be that hot."

"I'm hot are I?"

"Yes, you is."

"Was that deliberate, or are you just that tired?"

She smiled after a second. "I can't tell."

He wasn't sure what to do next. He'd only come in to check on her but he'd kind of hoped she would ask him to sleep with her. I guess she'd be more likely to tell me to. The jerk, he thought, with a grin.

That seemed to inspire her. "Lay down."

He thought.

"Before I do that, do you want a drink or anything?"

"...No thanks."

"What do you want?"

A perfect Caught! expression. A sigh. "Green Mountain Dew."

"I thought you were a Dew fan."

"Are you one too?"

"No, but I was once."

Before he could complete the thought: "Are you too cool to be one of us?"

"Yep."

He started leaving.

"Johnny!" To stop him.

He turned around.

She continued: "You gotta kiss me first. And...please don't make me get up."

"Baby," he began, in his David Carradine voice, "if I wanna make you get up, I'll make you get up." He started walking toward her. "If I wanna kiss you, I'll kiss you. If I wanna tear your clothes off and ravage you or carry you to the top of a building and shout that feeling emotions scares me, but that I'm pretty fond of you, I'll do that too." Ronnie laughed throughout, but seemed to hear every word he said and love it.

He knelt by her head, by the couch. He didn't know what to think of the look in her eyes.

9:06 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 2F UCEN, Biskind University

Just after he left the 3F-to-2F staircase, Johnny saw Ashley with two friends. She saw him before then, though. By the time he remembered who the tall blonde hugging him was, she'd already pulled back, smacking her lips on his cheek as she went. It was really pleasant, scarily so.

"How are you? You were walking fine," she said, "and you didn't wince when you hugged me." She had her arm in a sling.

"Well, I'm too cool for petty wounds like those."

"This's got to be Johnny," one of Ashley's friends, a redhead, said, coming closer to him. Ashley's other friend, a brunette, came closer too.

"Well, it is," Ashley said.

Johnny asked, "Are you okay?"

"Sure I'm okay," she said, with a giggle. "Have you seen Ona?"

"Yeah," Johnny said, "and she's completely fine. So're her daughter and the other kids."

"How'd you know that was her daughter – the blonde one, right?" He nodded. "Yeah, her. How'd you know? Did she introduce you?"

"Nope. I...kinda just guessed."

"Pretty good guess," Brunette said. "Oh, I'm Tammi." Stuck a hand out.

He shook it. "Hi, Tammi."

Redhead's hand was already out. He was really glad he wasn't nervous; otherwise his hands might've been sweaty. "I'm Penny."

"Hello, Penny."

A grin.

"Hey, Johnny," Ashley called. He looked to her, but in a way that said if the other girls said something, he'd look back to them. "If you ever want my muscles for a mission or anything, lemme know."

"I will. If you want my muscles, by the way, and I assure you they're way more considerable than yours, let me know too. That's for help with anything, cuz I can do anything."

Laughs.

"Really?" Penny asked.

"Yeah," he said. "I'm...I don't even care."

More laughs.

"You're so cute, Johnny," Ashley said.

9:11 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 3F UCEN, Biskind University

"Is that for yo baby's momma?" Ona asked Johnny, probably 20 seconds after he got Ronnie's Dew from a broken-into vending machine.

"Kinda."

She smiled. "Hey – some people are gonna play Gears of War in a little while, in Clint's Café. I think you should join in." He shrugged. "How'd you get two copies of it, anyway? I thought it wasn't out yet."

"...Long story."

She smiled again. "You mysterious hunk, you." He smiled wider. "So...can I count on seeing you at the Gears of War thing?"

He had trouble talking. Finding words. "You don't...want me around. I'm a leper."

"No you're not. You're hot, and you're funny, and you're smart, and I wanna bite your ass–"

"Thanks, but...I won't do that to you." He sounded depressed even to himself.

"What?" Without the slightest idea what he was talking about.

"Me. I won't...ruin it."

"What're you talking about?" Ona asked. Genuinely confused.

"I'm feeling sorry for myself."

Ona stared at Johnny for a few seconds. He liked just looking into her eyes, her looking back into him. The intimacy.

"You're crazy, Johnny." She looked around. "Look at that girl's ass," she said, pointing to a nearby girl whose ass, he would've sworn, reached out and held his eyes so they'd look at nothing but it. The girl was close to Johnny and Ona – close enough to hear that, in the wide-open echoey UCEN, but walking away from them. "Look at it. You can do anything, honey."

"I can fly," Johnny said, staring at nothing but ass muscles contorting. The girl, as Johnny'd noticed in his peripheral vision earlier, had kind of an alluring stride, but she knew she was the subject of admiration now, and that affected her, for Johnny, very pleasantly.

Ah. She likes it.

The girl looked behind herself, knowing exactly where her onlookers were. She glanced at Ona, then her passionate dark eyes looked into Johnny's.

"You can fly."

9:14 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 3F UCEN

"Have you seen Jackie yet?" the guard near Johnny's room asked him. In the tone, Johnny knew, meant he had to see the girl soon, before the guard obsessed over her and irritated Johnny about it. Has he ever dated anybody before?

"No. As soon as I do, though, she's gonna get it."

The guard laughed and failed trying to top it with "From me though, right?"

Johnny stared at the guard blank-faced for a few seconds, wanting dearly to say nothing, to point out to the guard how stupid that was. Maybe he's just excited. Maybe he really thought that was funny.

Whatever it was he threw that out and pretended he just hadn't heard the guard. "Oh, right," he said. "I'm kidding, of course. As soon as I see her I'm gonna hook you up."

9:15 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 3F UCEN

He almost laid right next to Ronnie when he handed her the drink. Her "Thank you, baby" almost physically made him do it, in fact.

It seemed like he wasn't supposed to somehow or maybe she didn't want it.

So he emptied his pockets, on the other side of the tiny room from Ronnie as she sipped her Dew.

"Are you gonna lay with me?"

I thought you were never gonna ask that.

The cliché echoed in Johnny's brain, a titillating tintinnabulation that kicked up his heartbeat like a fire starting.

But he calmed it. Turned around to face her and smiled. She was staring straight at him. She patted the spot behind her. His, evidently.

"Are you?"

"It sounds really nice."

She set the drink down below her, on the floor.

Getting into the spot was tricky but he loved the incidental contact with Ronnie. It awakened a need in him for that kind of contact he'd forgotten about since he slept with Ona, but that felt like ages ago.

She started to shift a little, soon, like she wanted to move but wouldn't say it, so she'd plant the seed and move much more in about half a minute.

"Do you wanna move?"

"Yeah. Can I lay on you?" Like she'd been thinking about it.

9:17 a.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 3F UCEN, Biskind University

"I really like cuddling with you, Johnny," Ronnie said, from atop him, her tangled in him, him tangled in her, to say nothing of her curly, ticklish locks. "I know there's not, like, a reason to mention that, but...I love cuddling with you."

"That's pretty nice." He didn't know what else to say, holding her. Kind of holding her, anyway.

He looked down at her breasts. He could kind of see them, the three-button neck of her shirt open, her tank top's u-neck cut that low, but it wasn't about that. Commenting about how they felt mushed against his chest she said, "Your boobs're really squishy."

"They're not too small for you, are they?"

No, he wanted to say, but she wouldn't be satisfied with anything automatic, and it meant he could inspect them as he pleased. Naturally, as he inspected as he pleased, she didn't lean back or move, or make it easier for him to cop a feel in any way.

"Oh, don't move or anything."

She laughed like she was nearly asleep.

"No, they're good. What cup size're you, double E?"

"No, you goof. E."

"Oh, E, right. Well in that case, I'm afraid they're much too small."

She was too tired to do it well but she pretended to be upset. "What." Like if she had energy there'd be an exclamation point. "Your liar."

He didn't say anything. He pulled at her enough for her to lay back down on him.

"They're not pancakey, are they?"

"What?" Maybe...no, that was a really self-conscious tone.

"Like...Are they pertinacious enough?"

"Do you mean 'perky?'"

"Yeah, that." Falling asleep atop him.

"Well...To establish it, I've never seen them, because you're a jerk who'd throw up on me."

Again, half-assedly: "What."

"So, without ever having seen your breasts, it's hard to say whether they're perky. I guess...somewhat. I could tell how big they were through a sports bra, so that says somethin."

"I'm not...You could tell they were...big? I thought that shirt made me small. And fat."

"I never said that. As for small, I'm just that good."

He felt her jaw move on his chest like she grinned, but he didn't look. It made him want to giggle. "You're just that familiar with boobs." She adjusted her hands on him as she spoke.

"Yeah. I don't even care."

She didn't really react. Stroking her softly, he said "Go to sleep" the same way. "And don't angst about your looks."

12:31 p.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 3F UCEN, Biskind University

"Did I just sleep?"

Ronnie'd definitely moved. She was on her knees by the couch but he was still on it. She also looked pretty awake.

"Yeah."

"Didn't feel like it."

He sat up. She stood like she might help him stand.

He looked at her breasts, rubbing his eyes, then immediately hated himself for letting himself.

Inspired, he said, "Do you really worry about yourself that way?"

"Yeah."

He thought a little.

"Have you flashed anybody since you grew those?"

With a grin like "How the hell would you know?" she said, "I don't think so."

He didn't speak, but his expression must've asked it for him.

She blushed a little, cutely. "No, I haven't. I've never been close to people like that. I didn't flash anybody before, either."

"In that case, then, Dammit, you're gonna make me the first person to see em-proper."

She semi-pulled him up, he semi-stood up.

Grinning deviously, Ronnie lead Johnny close to herself, draping her arms over his neck. He could feel her breasts pretty well at that distance without his hands, which he wrapped around her waist.

"Johnny, you're gonna be the first guy to see my breasts."

12:41 p.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 3F UCEN, Biskind University

"You make such a cute couple," Jackie said, sitting by Sara, with Ronnie and Johnny, in The Union, a large wood table sitting area.

"We do," Ronnie said, gesturing with her speech, leaning into Johnny with her arm around her boyfriend.

"You better hang onto him pretty tight," Sara said.

Ronnie got closer like it was part of a joke, but invisibly tightened her grip too, looking at him as if to say "You wouldn't...are you mine, Johnny?"

"I will," Ronnie said.

"Oh!" Johnny said, looking to Jackie. "I made a deal with a guard I saw – you're totally gonna try goin on a date with him." A beat as he studied Jackie. "I–"

"Sure, I'll try it. It's cute, but I wish he'd take the initiative a little," Jackie said.

"Were you gonna say somethin, honey?" Ronnie asked. He was getting used to how close she was, his hand on her waist, contorted by how she was leaning against him, but something prevented him from completely trusting their proximity.

"No." He looked to Jackie, remembering what he'd been thinking about. "He's okay-lookin, but he sounded like he's never been on a date before."

"Is he...nice?"

"As far as I can tell yes. I'm sorry I said I'd get him a date with you, by the way. You don't have to go or anything, but...I didn't notice how much of a jerk I was till now."

"She doesn't mind, Johnny," Sara said, putting her hand on Johnny's on the table to illustrate it. "Nobody could mind a hook-up somebody as hot as you makes."

"I'll prob'ly end up marrying him like a year after college anyway."

They laughed.

Must've been a cue. That was when Johnny noticed Ona, off to the side, approaching.

"Johnny!"

"Hi, Ona!"

Ona made like she wanted to hug Johnny. He panicked. He couldn't do anything unless Ronnie let him go – not while still being nice. But Ona committed to hugging, so he couldn't just stand her up like some "I'm too cool to be seen with you, girl I slept with" guy.

Ronnie let him go like "What other choice do I have?" but didn't make a face about it, as far as he could tell. Johnny stood and hugged Ona, exaggerating his motions a little to help her out incase she felt stupid for starting to much earlier than him. The hug helped his panic subside, but felt good in general, too. He couldn't help but think – Did he smell like himself, or Ronnie? What about now? Would he smell like Ona?

"Some of us're gonna play Gears of War in Clint's Café later," Ona said. "I thought we could definitely use someone of your considerable muscles."

Is that who Ona is? He felt Sara and Jackie looking at her like "She's such a dork. Johnny's not like that, is he?" He freaked out a little as he asked his reflexive question, accidentally changing the subject. Ronnie didn't seem to be thinking about Ona at all, just that she didn't want him to pay attention to the other girl.

He asked Ona, "Have you talked to Ashley lately?"

Took Ona a second. She giggled. "Yeah. So do you wanna go?"

Yes.

He looked to Ronnie and company. "I'm okay with it."

"Yeah," Sara said.

To Ronnie, Jackie said, "Let's show off how good your man is at everything."

Ronnie said "Okay" excitedly.

"Yes," Johnny said.

"Where'd you get the two copies of that game, anyway?" Ona asked.

"What do you mean?"

"This one guy said it doesn't come out until November sometime. That was after he told me both copies were yours." Like he was supposed to laugh at it. The folks around him, including Ona, did, but it completely didn't occur to him until she started speaking again, but he thought it would look weird if he laughed then so he swallowed it. "So where'd you get the copies of it?"

"What do you mean?"

"This one guy said it doesn't come out until like November seventh. Are they downloaded?"

"No, that's why the booklet and stuff's so good. I just...know people."

Ona grinned.

1:36 p.m. Saturday, 28th October 2006 – 3F UCEN, Biskind University

Johnny's Gears of War avatar had just died. He groaned. One started massaging his back, saying "It's okay, baby" like he was about that old, doing everything exaggeratedly. She made him rock back and forth, massaging that hard.

"I'm on my way," Dave said, meaning "to revive your avatar, if I can." Same guy Johnny'd played with earlier. They were playing the game on co-op again, from pretty much where they'd been before. Earlier, they'd been on different teams and against one another, but their teammates started arguing with one another, and were playing splitscreen versus mode now, whereas Dave and Johnny were playing splitscreen co-op.

One worked his shoulders mercilessly. Dear God.

"Whoop!" Ona said, stopping. Johnny wasn't sure what she meant.

It was Blaire. Maybe Ona meant "Looks like you're about to get a job to do."

"Got a mission for me, Blaire?" He turned to ask it and saw Ronnie with Jackie and Sara watching him and Blaire.

"Yep."