Where There's Smoke...
"Empty the register! And you, Fuck-o! Hand over the wallet!"Fuck-o?
While Drake tried to contemplate the term, he stared down the barrel of the robber's glock. As he looked at the gun's wielder, he couldn't help but think about the wanted posters that would be up on the walls at local police stations. The man was morbidly obese and dressed in dirty blue overalls. The pantyhose he wore over his face hardly distorted any of his features and certainly did nothing to hide the great bushy handlebar mustache that looked like a large furry caterpillar had died on his lip. The Walrus Bandit
, Drake finally decided to himself. Surely that would be an apt moniker.
Drake's gaze was steel and the fact that his eyes were two different colors usually gave people pause as soon as they noticed. It seemed as though the crook was in that expected state of mild shock just now as he looked on at Drake's crimson and azure irises. The young man reached back behind himself, his black lather jacket making some noise at the material rubbed against itself. His fingertips slid into the back pocket of his blue jeans and retrieved a well worn wallet. Drake's movements were slow as not to give The Walrus any reason to act irrationally. He slowly opened it up in his hands and started to retrieve the money within. As he looked down, he could see his student ID nestled in one of the clear card sleeves for easy display.
The Ashford Institute for the Gifted. His picture showcased a goofier version of himself who thought it would be funny to rear back one side of his lips and make a silly face before the camera snapped the photo. When Drake realized he was different, this was the institution he ran to for insight, training and sanctuary. The world has a history of fearing change and the rising mutant population didn't help matters. People young and old began to discover latent supernatural abilities. Some could control their powers better than others. The institution was designed to shelter those wayward, special souls and teach them how they, too, could learn to master their unique abilities and, even more, use those gifts for the good of the world.
At least, that was the sales pitch.
"Easy, friend," Drake said as he opened the back half of the wallet and exposed what amounted to $37 in paper bills. "There's not a lot there, but it's literally all I've got." The Walrus looked at the wallet with disappointment but quickly snatched it up anyway before returning his attention, and his aim, to the clerk.
"Hurry up, I said!" You could just tell that if the pantyhose weren't there, this man would be spitting everytime he talked. He had a sort of speech impediment you often see the morbidly obese when the fat in your cheeks start shrinking the available space inside of your mouth. The clerk nervously obeyed. The peach fuzz mustache that he displayed so openly was evidence toward the fact that this poor soul was young and he certainly wasn't getting paid enough to put up with these sorts of shenanigans. Beads of sweat had already formed on the college aged employee as he shuffled to get all of the money from his open cash register into the bag that The Walrus had provided.
Oh, right. That
. Drake furrowed his eyebrows. It was a voice he was all too familiar with and one that no one else in the store could have possibly heard. That raspy, gravelly, abhorrent voice belonged to a hitchhiker in his mind. The entity within had made itself known for about a month now, though it never offered an introduction. Drake had done some independent research and even sought the aid of his abnormally gifted friends, such as a young woman named Aya, in order to find out who the alien consciousness was and what could possibly be its intention. Truth be told, it was the driving force behind Drake's abandonment of Ashford's Institute. He needed answers and they couldn't provide them so now he was out on his own chasing shadows and hoping for clues.
Despite it's intrusion, the voice did have a point. Drake could feel his hands curling into fists. The clerk, a nervous mess, finally offered the filled bag back to The Walrus with hands that shook like leaves in autumn. The bandit snorted and snatched it up with his free hand before starting to make his way toward the store exit. The only thing in his was was Drake, himself.
"Listen, I know I'm giving you mixed signals," Drake began, his emptied wallet still in his hand being crushed between his balled up fingers as the temperature of his skin began to rise. "But I'm going to need my money back. And also, toss the kid back his bag."
The robber took a small step forward and turned his glock sideways, mimicking a Hollywood gangster grip. "You best get movin', boy, before I start puttin' holes in ya!" a mirage-like aura began to form around Drake's shape as the heat rose around him, venting out of his pores.
"Final warning." Drake's statement was simple and to the point. It wasn't a threat, it was a matter of fact.
"Eat a dick, Fuck-o!" It was an odd choice for one's last words. Before The Walrus could pull the trigger and make good on his promise, Drake fired first. His empty hand shot out as he extended his palm to face the crook. At it's center erupted a horizontal tornado of flame that grew in mass the more distance it traveled.
The face pantyhose was the first victim, almost instantly disappearing one the fire had kissed it. The Walrus' face was the next to feel the burn. His skin boiled in an instant before the flame rendered it nonexistent. The bloodied musculature beneath scabbed and browned immediately. The bandit wanted to scream out in pain, but even oxygen was no match for the targeted inferno.
While it only took a couple of moments to melt off the face of the would-be robber, Drake could only imagine it must've felt like an eternity. The body fell forward with a hard thud when the crooks knees hit the ground. The second half of his tumbled marked its end once The Walrus' charred head hit the tiled floor with a sickening splat.
Drake casually walked over to it, pinching his nose to try ans escape that horrid burnt smell, and grabbed the bag of money as well as the small set of once folded bills that were now in disarray on the ground. He tossed the bag back to the cashier, who looked like he was frozen in sheer terror. He took his own money and replaced it in the wallet that was still within his grip before turning and pointing out the window.
"So this was kind of awkward, huh? Anyway, I was coming in here to say I needed $15 on pump 5. Seeing as how I helped stock this robbery, I was wondering if there might be some sort of reward involved. Like maybe I can fill my tank for free?" Drake's question ended with his shrugging in hopes that his playful innocence would garner him some charity.
"Y-you're a-a..." The cashier was so terror struck that he couldn't even get the words out.
"I'm-a running late. Are you going to help me or not?" Drake's eyebrows dropped and his cool, calm demeanor quickly changed to that of annoyance. The shift was not lost on the clerk.
"Y-yes, of course. I'll take c-care of it." With a crooked smile, Drake turned around and waved a dismissive peace sign in the air, pushing opened the glass door of the gas station and heading toward the love of his life: his black old school Harley Fatboy
. He'd need to gas up and get back on the road before the clerks called the cops and had this place swarming with flashing lights. He needed to keep a low profile and, so far, was failing miserably. Nevertheless, as soon as he topped of his tank, he would keep heading north to search for answers. One way or another, he was going to figure out what this was inside of him and how to get rid of it.