“… and this whole week I was kept on a pointless job where I didn’t even do anything,” Sophia complained to her new friend, who actually managed to be smaller than herself. “Just to keep me out of stuff involving Kourtney!”
The most convenient meetup for the two of them was of course Corner Coffee, which certainly got its business more from its location than its branding. Izzy sat with her knees folded under her to better reach more of the table. With the height of a small child, most amenities in New Bay were not made for her. The few boosters Corner Coffee had were taken up by actual children and a pair of martians.
“That sucks,” Izzy said, commiserating with her new friend. “This week hasn’t been so bad for me since I dealt with some pests that were bothering my routes. But being on call for emergency repair for so long sounds dull. At least it’s better than a disaster happening, right?”
“…Yeah,” Sophia admitted, propping herself up on the table between them with an elbow, “Though there was one big incident, it didn’t involve damage to major roadways or anything like that. Just a park, and it didn’t need emergency repairs.”
“I’m gonna be honest,” Izzy shrugged, “Ever since coming here I’m not even sure what counts as a major incident anymore. Like, I arrived among a ton of portals and monsters, but some crazy scientist lady also turned half a block into cheese and they barely reported it.”
“Yeah I heard that crap wasn’t even edible. At least it didn’t work on living people.”
“I’d rather just avoid it entirely, if I had the option,” Izzy shook her head. “Which I basically do.”
Sophia drummed her fingers on the table. “You know the worst part of the whole on-call thing? My phone was cut off from the internet so I basically just spent the whole time in the… company gym.” She sighed. “I know that looking up some of the crap that happened will make me angry, but I’m going to do it eventually regardless.” Her eyes wandered over to a television screen in the corner of the shop, muted and showing the news with subtitles. “Ah, dammit.”
Izzy’s eyes followed her. “Oh, the incident with Shooting Star and Gloom. I heard everyone survived that, at least.” Sophia just glared at the screen. “You really don’t like Gloom, huh?”
Under her breath, so low nobody should be able to hear her, Sophia muttered. “They’re both the worst…”
For the moment, Izzy pretended not to have heard her. “Maybe you should distract yourself with something not work related, since it’s your day off?”
“Work related?” Sophia blinked, “Right, yeah. I guess…” Her eyes still idled on the screen where the reporter flashed a large picture of Kourtney.
The subtitles continued to report what the woman on screen was supposedly saying. “This is not the only attack on Shooting Star’s fan’s by supers this week. The other incident involves an unknown dwarf and a mercenary named Mage. Full details are too violent to show on screen, but there were over a dozen critically wounded in the vicious attack.”
Sophia’s eye twitched. Izzy looked over her shoulder once more. “What? Oh, that.”
“… You got in a fight?” Sophia’s anger flared.
“Well, it wasn’t really like-” Izzy tried to deflect anger she thought was at her. “I can explain.”
“I’m gonna-” The first thing to break the ceramic coffee cup in Sophia’s hand, followed by the table in their booth, followed by Izzy’s mug. The clattering of a napkin and sugar packet holder followed. Sophia looked down at the table, clenching her teeth. She took a slow, deep breath. Then she looked over at the staff. “Sorry. I’ll pay for that.”
Outside, a few minutes later, Sophia for the moment hadn’t had to pay for the broken table. She was going to make them let her, because their excuse that it must have gone bad was definitely untrue. She was quite aware she broke it, and her smaller size just made it look impractical despite her fitness.
Still, for the moment it was best not to hang around in there. Instead, she was hanging around nearby, making faces at her phone. “She called you a dwarf. I’m gonna get her canceled for that.”
“… I don’t even have a beard,” Izzy said. “I’m not… fat, am I?” Izzy looked down at herself.
“Don’t go getting any sort of body dysmorphia now,” Sophia said. “She probably meant human dwarf, which is still not PC.”
“… There are human-dwarf hybrids?” Izzy asked. “Wouldn’t they be way taller than me still?”
“Sometimes humans are just born very small,” Sophia said. “Not just… short like me.” She pulled up some pictures on her phone.
“Oh,” Izzy said. “I don’t think I’ve seen any.”
“It’s not very common among humans, and now that New Bay has a lot of others you’re less likely to pick it out,” Sophia said. “You’ve only been here a few months, right?”
“True,” Izzy said. “Hey, you seem… really mad. Should you be handling a phone right now? They’re kinda expensive.”
“Don’t worry,” Sophia said. “I can control myself.” It was just one thing to know that Shooting Star’s fans had been harassing one of her friends. Now it was two? Actually, now that she thought about it she might have heard about another incident. “Wait… you know Mage?”
“Turlough and I… used to be friends…” Izzy said cautiously.
So she already got and lost a friend while here? But why? No… that wasn’t necessarily right. “You knew each other… in the other world.”
“When we were younger,” Izzy said. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“But he fought alongside you…” Sophia pointed out. “Wouldn’t that make you still friends?”
“… he just likes fighting,” Izzy said. “And he owed me a favor.” Though he had also said that fighting didn’t count.
Sophia looked at her phone, “Wow this… is a huge controversy.” Her thumbs were preparing scathing comments for the public view. She would have a wider reach if she posted with her super persona, but that would also show her biases… and maybe get her in trouble with a certain glasses-wearing executive. Still, she could call out both the ‘dwarf’ comment and ‘violent orc’. Sophia could hardly believe this new channel was sticking to their guns, considering the other angle she was watching for the same battle. This Channel 72 had like a billion views! Alright, not that many- Even superhero controversies had things like this on the regular- but the unedited version was at least five times as popular as the other… though it seemed any other station couldn’t get the rights to the clips.
“He does love fighting,” Sophia admitted. “Seems like he tried to watch out for you though.”
“Should you really… watch that?” Izzy said, standing on her tip-toes not getting her any closer to an angle on the phone until Sophia crouched into a wall-squat. “You don’t need to-”
Blood sprayed from a thigh as the uncensored video continued to play. Sophia’s face only showed discontent, not disgust. “Hard to believe anyone pitched this as you attacking them. You’re freaking adorable.”
“Uhh… thanks?” Izzy wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that.
“You’re pretty good. Ever think about becoming a merc-”
“I don’t want to work around Turlough,” Izzy quickly cut her off.
“Right. What happened between you two? I know you said you don’t want to talk about it, but you’re my friend.” The next words were once more whispered at a level that should not have been heard over the sound of the phone. “And he is too.”
“Does he cause a lot of collateral damage?”
“Not as much as me- I mean, as much as some people I’ve seen,” Sophia barely corrected herself.
“You’re… not working in repair.”
That was the point where Sophia had to choose between doubling down on her lie, or revealing her status to someone she only met recently. A civilian… but not one unconnected. And it was really more of confirming it or lying about it, because Izzy was convinced. “We should… talk at my apartment.”
Sophia’s apartment wasn’t terribly far from their meeting location- everything in the area was pretty quick to get to. Otherwise, she wouldn’t hang out at Corner Coffee. It was good, but not go-across-town good.
However, in addition to not having many choices of beverage, there were other reasons to not bring her new friend over. Like the shelves of TRPG books in her room. Sophia nudged a few stray rulebooks under the corner of the dining room table as she passed. Non-work related friends could know her hobbies, but it was weird to reveal them around someone from a type-F world.
“So… yeah,” Sophia said. “I’m Great Girl.”
“… Sorry,” Izzy said. “I don’t really… know any supers or anything.”
“Mage didn’t talk about me?”
“Like I said, we’re not really… friends now. Haven’t been in… over a decade.”
“Oh. I guess showing up here during the whole portal thing was a weird coincidence, huh?”
“… Not really. I was looking for Turlough. I was just… too late,” Izzy didn’t want to look Sophia directly in the eyes, and Sophia couldn’t blame her. “I guess our friendship wasn’t that great to begin with. I mean, there was hardly more to it than punching each other, or occasionally other people.”
Sophia wasn’t sure how to respond to that. As far as she was aware, that was exactly Turlough’s favorite kind of friendship. “So what went wrong?”
“He grew taller, I didn’t, and we got in a fight.”
“I just wanted to hang out with someone my size and… level of maturity, maybe. At least he knew what he wanted. I’m pretty sure I haven’t figured that out yet.” She shook her head. “And now I’m just drifting around as he came up with some stupid promise to Gate me back home.”
“… Gate’s a freaking ninth level spell,” Sophia commented.
“Uh… I guess it would be nineteen or twenty with the actual system you have going?” Sophia frowned. “Mage is strong but not like… that strong. How long before he could learn that?”
“He said three levels. I guess that might be years, but that’s better than never going back. Than being here.”
“Is it really so bad?” Sophia said. “I guess you’ve got home and family-”
“I just don’t like being so close to someone who used to be my best friend, and isn’t my friend at all,” Izzy said. “But after he learns it, I don’t know if he could actually cast it. He said he’d try, and he’s too stubborn to not do his best. I just hope he doesn’t hurt himself doing something stupid.”
Silence reigned for a while, as both people were quite aware that Turlough was exactly the sort to hurt himself doing something stupid.
“… When did he say it was three levels?” Sophia asked. “Because he levels up pretty fast.”
“A few weeks ago, maybe?” Izzy said. “I’m glad he’s leveling up now, but it could still take a while.”
“… You might underestimate how much fighting he gets up to,” Sophia declared. “I… might have to talk to him about this.”
“Don’t,” Izzy said. “I don’t want to… mess up your friendship. He’s going to try something. Maybe… he’ll even be successful, and send me back. Or at least get me away from this place to die halfway. That might be better.”
“… We need to get you a therapist.”
“A what?” Izzy tilted her head. “I feel like I’ve heard that term somewhere…”
Sophia wasn’t quite sure how to explain that. This whole situation with Izzy and Turlough seemed like it would need a lot of work. How would he react to her bringing it up? Ugh. What a pain.
Sophia also had a whole smear campaign to run against at least a couple news stations that should know better. Or… maybe she would wait for Calculator’s things to go through. Nah. Sophia latched onto #StargirlSucks which seemed to be getting a lot of traction from some video influencer with a portal power and added her own comments to the storm of words. They were gonna tear down the system! Or at least get someone fired.
If only that someone could be Kourtney, but that was a pretty big ask.