All the adjustments to the weapons were taking longer than Dom had originally anticipated. He had to keep ordering new parts, and then order other supplies from Hadrian and his other suppliers. It also didn’t help that they were getting a consistently larger group coming to their nightly meetings. This required him to order more food and provisions to meet the needs of their cause. The biggest problem with this though, was that more shipments and arrivals to the warehouse made things more suspicious. Or at least that’s what Dom thought.
Tonight’s meeting though had everyone there. He was surprised they hadn’t been discovered yet. With this many people arriving, he knew he would have to schedule everyone to come and go at different times. It was already suspicious enough having this many people working for him during the night shift. Time sheets were posted throughout the basement informing people when each person needed to leave specifically so as not to rouse suspicion.
Ane was up front conducting the discussion for the night. So far the topic was mostly about safety and how to alert anyone if you were in any sort of danger. She was currently explaining and answering questions about the key chains. Between the original five—and the council that Ane had chosen over the past several weeks—they had decided on an official or unofficial name.
It came in handy that both Ane and Minari were very eloquent public speakers, or else they would run into huge problems. D00m was busy passing out key chains using her very… sporadic method, which was mostly throwing them at people when they weren’t paying attention. So far, that had caused four black eyes and only two random cuts. But otherwise she was doing a good job.
Glancing at where Sola was, he could see she was busily sitting at the command center that had been set up for herself and several other council members. Over the weeks they had added walls into the basement, which gave them all sorts of rooms to work with. Right now there was the command center, which was full of computers and many large screens full of data. Bunk rooms for those that couldn’t return home, and of course the main lounge room.
Dom had made sure the gun range was even more soundproof, which helped when he had to have the new recruits test their weapons. So far though, many of them had no talent whatsoever. Keeping his eyes on Sola, he watched as she was chatting with several of the other council members as they all were going over their data. Things were moving much faster than they had the previous week. It was stunning to think two months ago it was just himself, Minari, Ane, Sola and D00m. Now they had close to thirty people showing up. And apparently there were more to come from the use of word-of-mouth.
Each day Dom was expecting to hear that they received a phone call from some foreign country wanting to aid them, or maybe supply them with things. But there was nothing so far. Some of the other council members were hoping for the same. Sola said she didn’t have the right equipment to get any sort of satellite feeds from other countries, so at the moment she was stuck with using what she had—which right now was a powerful AM radio. He had promised her that he would work towards making her a more powerful one, or just up and get to work on a new satellite for her.
Watching her, he could see she was wearing the hat he bought for her, as it hadn’t quite warmed up yet. With all these people, Dom was forced to turn on the air conditioner to make sure that the overall basement did not overheat and ruin several of the high tech machinery. Currently, he was sitting over at the workbenches where he and several others with mechanical experience were suiting people with their armor and adjusting them properly. Most of the new members though were over with Ane hearing about the basic plans and what to do. Crossing his line of sight, he saw Minari talk to Sola about something from a large piece of paper that looked vaguely like a map. They were pointing to several points before Minari looked up, her eyes locking with Dom’s. His face flushed red and instantly he turned his eyes to someone that had been trying to get his attention for the past ten minutes.
Smirking, Minari observed him for a moment before winking at Sola and then heading back to her computer and own set of monitors. Sola was confused for a minute, not sure what that meant. Processing the possible things it could mean, she shook her head, and resumed talking to someone that was asking her a question about some data they had found.
Several hours later, the basement was empty all but for the leaders. They were all lounged about, relaxing after a long night. It did not help that many of them had to return to their day jobs in a few hours. Having sent his techies home, Dom was busy at his workbench alone, wanting to perfect the current things he was constructing. Sola lay stretched out with the girls, letting her body relax from being on her feet all day.
“You know Sola, I think Dom has a thing for you,” Minari said, propping herself up on her elbows on the bunk she had claimed as hers for after hours. In reality she had a room here, and so did Ane and Mizzy, but right now she was too exhausted to head in the direction of the bedrooms.
“And you say this, why?” Sola inquired, raising an eyebrow.
“He was ogling at you for like, ten minutes today,” Minari said, laughing.
“Well, he asked me out a while back, but with things happening so fast, we haven’t had the time to go on a real date,” she answered, shrugging. “It’s really no big deal.”
“It so is! If he likes you so much, he should want to go on every date possible with you,” Ane said, sitting up now.
“We are both way too busy to have any sort of love life right now. I bet if we asked him, he would say the same thing,” Sola objected, hugging herself. Her eyes wandered over in his direction where she could see him steadily at work.
“Then you both need a break,” Minari suggested.
“No. Things are just getting usual around here. If he and I took a break, then we wouldn’t be able to help maintain the flow of things,” Sola said, shaking her head. She definitely didn’t like the idea of either of them being gone for even a night, despite the fact they didn’t need to worry. There were plenty of people around that could help run things, but both of them always objected and demanded that they remain around. It was after all Dom’s home, which he had first opened to Sola and D00m.
“I call a vote!” Minari looked around at the small group, a smirk on her face. “I suggest that both Dominic and Sola go on a date tomorrow evening while the rest of us hold down the fort. Those in favor say ‘aye’,” she said. Not even a moment after she finished, the whole group gave their answer.
“Aye!” Four voices said in unison.
“Than it’s settled. Sola, you and Dom will go on a date tomorrow and have the night off,” she said, crossing her arms.
“That is so not fair! You didn’t even bother to take my vote or his!” Sola protested.
“It doesn’t matter. Either way you both would have lost,” Ane countered, also grinning like Minari. Grumbling Sola lay back on the bunk she was currently residing on.
“You know, right about now would be when we’d all burst into song and dance if this were a musical,” Minari said, a wild grin spread across her face. “It would probably something along the lines of how much she’s in denial.”
“Shouldn’t we be going to bed? It’s late,” she said, trying to keep her mind off the whole date tomorrow night. A date that Dom didn’t even know about…. Oh was this going to be a problem when she told him over breakfast. Getting up, she leaned against the bed post.
“Yeah, fine, mommy. Its bedtime,” Minari fumed, forcing herself up and towards her room. Luckily she and Ane did not need to return home anymore as they had moved their stuff about a month ago when the meetings really started to pick up. Along with the move, Ane had also resigned from her day job, which made it super easy now that she didn’t have to pay rent for her apartment. Instead, any money she had went to help buy provisions for those down here, and of course other supplies that Dom requested.
Shuffling past Sola, Minari headed towards her room where she promptly closed the door behind her. Ane followed, hugging Sola goodnight before disappearing off to her own little abode. Mizzy bowed slightly to Sola before heading to her room next to Minari’s. She was always right there when her mistress needed her, so it was expected that they would be near each other. Looking over at D00m, who had moved from the bunk room to the command center, she noticed that she was listening to some radio. It was nice to have her around as she was able to watch the security cameras and do more listening while the others slept. As long as there was either Monster or Rock Star in the fridge, D00m was happy. Strolling over to her friend and roommate Sola stopped behind her and looked at the screen and station she was listening to.
“Hear anything of interest? I can imagine there wouldn’t be too many pieces of news to hear this late at night,” she said, pulling out a swivel chair and taking a seat.
“Weather reports, mountain snow advisories and of course the usual points of interest. But so far nothing that could help us,” D00m said, relatively calm for once. It seemed she wasn’t her normal, vibrant self that was incredibly energetic. This was a surprising change than when Sola normally saw her.
“Something on your mind?” Remaining silent for a few minutes as they both listened to the station’s blurb of commercials, she looked to Sola.
“It’s been unusually quiet. Even for the party, it’s been too quiet. A part of me is worried they might be on to us,” D00m said as her eyes scanned the security screen. Nothing had changed so far, so really there was very little worry that they would need to pay much attention to it. Dom had done a great deal of updating the security system so that if anything suspicious was occurring outside, they would be alerted to it way ahead of time.
“All of the usual things have been occurring outside though. People are still getting arrested for doing nothing. Or rather, more of them are,” Sola said, correcting herself.
“Aren’t you at all suspicious what this is doing to the people? If more people are arrested, they’ll have taken in almost fifteen percent of the city,” explained D00m, looking at Sola with a very serious expression on her face. “Doesn’t that disturb you at least slightly?”
“Well, yes. But we can’t protect all of them. If they’re going to join us, they will once we make our move. People have to see that it’s okay to show resistance.”
“Then what are we waiting for?”
“A miracle, D00m. If even another country could acknowledge that we need help, then someone will want to do something about it. But for right now, we have to twiddle our thumbs and hope for the best,” Sola whispered, reaching over and patting her friend’s shoulder.
“If we don’t make a move soon, I’m going to go nuts. This is driving me crazy being so limited here,” she said, changing radio stations.
“We all need a break. But if we even slow down now, the train will lose momentum, and then where will we be?”
“Sitting ducks,” D00m said, laughing as she shook her head. They laughed together before it faded. Laughing felt really good; it had been a while since they had been able to share a good time like that. Getting up, Sola patted D00m’s shoulder again.
“I’m going to bed. Wake me if you find anything,” Sola said, heading towards where Dom was still working. He seemed to have an incredibly large stamina for his lack of sleep. A few more days like this and he would probably collapse in exhaustion; and that was not something they needed right now. They needed all hands on deck. Even if just one of them got sick, it was important to make sure people didn’t lose sight of the goal. Approaching him, she placed a hand on his shoulder. Turning around he lifted up the blow torch mask as the torch was shut off with a loud pop.
“Hey, going to bed?”
“Yeah, I was just coming to see if you were headed that way too. You know, since this will be your sixth all-nighter in a row,” she said, hands in her pockets as she spoke.
“It’s fine. I really just need to get this done so that we could make more tomorrow… Or would that be today?” Sola took note of the large, dark circles under his eyes that seemed to make him look almost dead; or a lot like Uno.
“You don’t have to do this all by yourself. Let your other techies finish it. Right now, you need sleep,” she said, reaching up and removing the mask.
“No really, I’m fine, Sola. You should get some sleep,” he said, moving to take the mask back. She held it just out of his reach to see how much of a fight he would put up if she forbid him to continue working tonight. Trying to reach around her, he was having little luck as she was easily keeping him at bay.
“Dominic Michael Knight, you are not going to complete this project tonight. It’s nearly five in the morning,” she said, making sure the mask remained out of his reach. Too exhausted to try anymore, he dropped his arm and leaned against the workbench.
“Fine,” he said, taking off his gloves and apron. Dropping them on his stool, he sighed. Grinning that she had won, she set the mask down and led him by the hand towards the bedrooms. Stopping briefly at his, she opened the door and entered. Like the rest of the basement, this room was impeccably clean. Either D00m cleaned this room too, or Dom actually did a bit of the picking up too. Either way, it was nice to know that he wasn’t a slob. And, going into his room like this did give her more of an opportunity to see what else he had closed away from everyone.
His room was surprisingly devoid of anything that would mark it distinctly of being a boy’s room. The only true items she was definitely not surprised in seeing was a few video game consoles; otherwise it was bare of any posters. Sola had at least expected a cheerleader poster or maybe a Sports Illustrated calendar somewhere. Alas, the only items that mainly adorned the walls were several large bookcases full of hundreds of titles that maybe even the library wouldn’t have.
“Um, shouldn’t I be the one in my room?” He asked, breaking her from her revere.
“Oh…” Sola said, looking at him before grabbing his pillow, a blanket and then the lone childhood relic he seemed to have: a stuffed animal penguin. “No need,” she said, returning to him and leading him into her room across the hall. Compared to Dom’s room, Sola had a large pallet of color that made it look like a giant flowerbed.
Closing the door quietly, she handed him the penguin. It took her a minute to set his blanket in the corner by the wall while she spread his blanket over hers. He stood there, watching her; looking very similar to the living dead: vampire or zombie. Seeing that all was set up, she disappeared into his room and grabbed a sweatshirt and handed it to him. Not even needing to be told, Dom pulled on the sweatshirt and moved to where Sola dragged him to. She forced him to sit and then move to his pillow. Doing as he was told so as not to upset her, he lay quietly as she tucked him in and then moved next to him.
“There. Now go to sleep,” she said, reaching over and shutting off the light.
“I think I might just be slightly confused,” he said, still trying to comprehend what she was doing.
“Assuming that you haven’t slept in days, I’m sure it’s not easy for you to fall asleep. Thus, I’m trapping you in here with me. This way, if you get up, or even attempt to, I’ll wake up and hurt you if you don’t return to sleep,” Sola threatened, cuddling up next to him. She had friends she used to do this with, and now that she was so comfortable with Dom and the others, she was able to finally relax. Not hearing him protest, she waited a few minutes and heard his breathing even out and slow as he had finally fallen asleep. Now all she had to do was tell him about their date tonight at breakfast.
* * * * *
Much to Sola’s relief, Dom was still sleeping when she awoke around seven hours later. She was sure everyone was looking for her, and him; he was normally the first person awake anyway. It must be odd for the others to not find Dom or Sola up and going about their tasks. They may have tonight off, but not the whole day. There were still tasks they needed to get done. Looking up at him, she smiled seeing that he was resting peacefully. Slipping from her bed, she tucked him in and gathered her clothes. Quietly leaving her room she headed to the bathroom all the girls shared where she showered and changed, getting herself ready for the day.
Upon exiting the bathroom, she put her clothes in her laundry hamper. She smiled, seeing that Dom was still resting, probably regaining all the lost hours of sleep. Closing her door with a soft click she turned and nearly bumped into Minari, Ane and Mizzy who were standing behind her, arms crossed with silly smirks on their faces.
“Jeeze! You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that!” Sola said, glad she hadn’t screamed in fright.
“What’s with that goofy smile on your face, Sola? Hmm?” Minari asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Did you have a magical night?” Ane questioned, leaning forwards a bit.
“What the..? Are you insinuating that we…?” She watched as all three of them nodded.
“It would explain the grin plastered on your face,” Minari said. Pushing passed them, Sola moved towards the kitchen where she poured herself some hot water and then added a tea bag.
“Look, believe what you want, but I am not sleeping with him. After you all went to bed last night, I went to make sure he got some sleep also. So I dragged him to bed,” she explained, adding a bit of honey before she headed for where her workstation was. Boy did “dragging him to bed” not sound like the right way to put that. But honestly she could think of no other way to describe the whole incident.
“Uh huh. Sure,” Ane said, not believing a word. It was incredibly suspicious that Dom wasn’t in his room, and Sola had this giddy expression on her face.
“He’s more exhausted than all of us combined… Minus D00m, of course. If he didn’t sleep last night, he could have collapsed and then where would we be?” She looked at all three of them, seeing that none of them objected. “So don’t go assuming we’re sleeping together,” she said, reaching over and checking the notes that had come out from the small printer at her station. “Now if you could please keep it quiet, I would greatly appreciate it.” Nodding, she turned and sat down, examining all the new data. Exchanging glances, the other three moved away from Sola, heading to their own desks where they got to work analyzing the most recent reports.
Thankfully everyone obeyed Sola and remained fairly quiet so that Dom could rest. Luckily none of the interns were expected to return or show up until nine or ten at the earliest. Every so often she would go and check that he was still sleeping, and much to her delight, she found him resting peacefully. From her vantage point, he looked like a small child, a tiny glimpse into what he was as a kid.
At around noon or so she finally found him lying awake, a very confused but rested expression on his face as he stared at the ceiling. Smiling, she went and sat on the edge of the bed.
“Good morning, sleepyhead,” she said, reaching over and patting his shoulder.
“Morning,” he answered, sitting up. In the elbow of one arm he was still grasping the stuffed penguin. She could tell it was definitely his comfort item; something that no matter the age, everyone had that made them feel safe.
“Did you sleep good? Well rested?” He nodded, still trying to figure out what had happened, or at least she assumed that. This was probably the only time she had ever seen him look so speechless. Most often he had something to say, or a question to ask, but for just this once, he was quiet. “Do you want me to go get you anything? Coffee, tea, milk?”
“No, its okay,” he said, his voice very quiet. For being well rested, he sure was different. Most of the time, Sola had seen him with only four hours of sleep, and not seven or eight.
“Everything okay? You seem a bit lost for words,” Sola said, studying him. “Maybe more dazed or addled is the right word….”
“Thank you,” he said, holding the penguin between both hands. He was staring at its face, looking at its unblinking dark eyes. Continuing to observe him for anything else, she tilted her head.
“It was no big deal. I know you would have done the same for me,” she said, continuing to smile.
“Everyone would have sent you to bed, no matter how much you complained. I just… never had anyone really force me to go to bed like that,” he said, looking up from the toy at her. Their eyes met for several moments before he shifted his gaze elsewhere.
“Well, I wanted to make sure you were well rested. Exhaustion makes you look like the living dead. I’m sure people thought you were a walking corpse,” she said, laughing lightly. Her joke had at least cracked a smile on his face, which made her happy. “You see… the others demanded that you and I go on a mandatory break tonight. So we have the night off to go on a date,” Sola said, sort of saddened that she had to tell him her ulterior motive. Dom watched the expression on her face, seeing that she blushed as she continued to avert her eyes from meeting his.
“Oh,” he said, before laughing. “Good then. I was hoping we would get to go on our date,” Dom said, grinning from ear to ear. Staring at his face, Sola didn’t know whether to be gleeful that this had happened, or somewhat disappointed that he had figured her out. Or that he was incredibly glad about this predicament.
Dom got up from Sola’s bed and moved to stand before her. Leaning forwards he kissed her forehead lightly. Her face became redder, making her almost the same color as a fire truck. Taking her hands in his, he smiled.
“Where would you like to go to dinner?”
“Wherever you want to go,” Sola said, shrugging. She didn’t want to seem picky or difficult.
“Sola. If there was one restaurant you could pick and have dinner in, which one would it be?” Dom inquired, raising an eyebrow at her. There was always at least that one place that someone wanted to get into. And easily one could if they knew what strings to pull. Having prepared himself for this sort of situation when he first asked Sola to go on a date with him, he had called several major restaurants in the area and reserved a table at each one of them for the past two months. That might have been why his personal account seemed so off in terms of bills scheduled to be reduced from the account automatically.
“I really don’t care,” Sola stated, looking at him seriously.
“There has to be something,” he said, trying to encourage her to think harder.
“Dominic. I really do not care,” she said, proving her point. He nodded, hearing the inflection in her voice that she was getting annoyed. Releasing her hands, his swung to his sides as they stood for a moment in the silence.
“Then seven? We’ll go grab dinner?” Nodding at the time, she got up.
“Seven it is… Now get out,” Sola said, pushing him towards the door.
“What? But my stuff is in here,” he said, gesturing to his blanket, pillow and now penguin.
“I know. Just leave it in here. You need to get up and make yourself presentable for the day. I don’t want my boyfriend to smell gross. So you better shower again tonight too,” Sola warned, pushing him out of his room and into the hallway. Shutting the door behind them as they exited her room, she stepped passed him and towards the direction of the command center. “Go on. Go get dressed. You have work to do!” Smiling as he watched her walk away, he turned and entered his room. It was another twenty minutes before he joined the others out on the basement floor.
The first thing Dom ever did was check in with the others as they overviewed their data and various readouts. Some of it he didn’t need to know, but it was always good to stay informed. Ane was busy probably where her desk was set up, going over what the next lesson for the recruits would be. Minari was wandering about checking on the other council members that were doing their various tasks. From where Dom was standing, he could see she was chatting with Aldorel, the economist and resident medical technician, or also known as the doctor.
Returning to his workbench, Dom resumed what he had been welding several hours before. Putting his mask on, he lit the torch and got to work. He had barely started when his phone on his belt buzzed. Not getting very far, he shut off the blow torch and lifted up his mask to answer the call.
“Hello?” Nodding several times, he hung up. “Great,” he groaned, taking the mask off. From where Sola was, she could tell something was wrong. Grabbing the jacket that hung on the coat rack by his bench he headed for the stairs. Curious to know what happened, Sola tailed him to head him off.
“Everything okay?” She asked, stopping at the railing just as he started to go up.
“We’re just having a few problems upstairs. Something about our shipments and another with a machine,” Dom explained. “I may have to put old Betsy down,” he added, pretending to tear up. He gave her a quick peck on the cheek before continuing his ascent into the factory.
On the main floor, many of his employees were on their break, eating lunch. A lot of them had been working there for ten or more years—having started working for his father. Heading towards his foreman, Thomas, he ducked under several large portions of the equipment to where he saw Thomas standing observing one of the machines. Tom had watched Dom grow up in this factory and after the death of William Knight, he treated Dom much like a son.
“What’s the problem, Tom?” Dom inquired. Thomas was his father’s right hand man, and had quickly become Dom’s mentor for a time after he first took over the factory. “Is it Betsy?”
“It’s Betsy. She caught fire a bit ago. Not big, but she’s gettin’ be a problem. We managed to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but next time I don’t think that will work,” Tom clarified as he and Dom examined the older contraption.”I think it’s time to put her down, son.” Scratching his head and then running his hand through his hair, Dom sighed.
“I know. I just can’t stop thinking that this was the first machine dad bought for the factory,” he said, shaking his head.
“Yup. I remember when it first came in to the shippin’ dock. He had the biggest grin on his face. Grabbed you straight from your mamma’s arms and swung you around this beauty like it was your first car,” Tom said, laughing. “But this is about time to say good-bye.” Nodding, Dom reached over and ran his hand over the name plate his dad made for it. Taking a tool from a box, he carefully removed it. His fingers had cleared off a small bit of the soot from the fire.
“Alright. If you could run the rest of the orders through Bonnie and Clyde, I’ll order another machine,” Dom said, turning his attention back to Tom. “What’s the deal with the shipment?”
“Ah. We didn’t get this week’s cardboard, and the delivery company hasn’t come by to get the tubes for that place in the west,” he said, gesturing to all the crates before them full of tubes. Each crate had two shipping addresses on it: one to get them to the customer, and one that would have the crates sent back to the factory.
“I’m assuming you’ve called already,” he said, staring at all the crates. His mind was more on the new machine than the unsent order. Betsy was a work of art almost; one of the first poster tube machines ever made. It had done the majority of the production for over a decade, and in the past ten, it shared its duties with the two newer workhorses, Bonnie and Clyde.
“Indeed I did, Dominic. They mentioned somethin’ about their truck havin’ broken down,” Tom said, seeing that he was distracted. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure it’s all taken care of. I already have them sending’another truck. And I was able to secure us some cardboard from a few local vendors until our regular shipment arrives,” he said, not wanting to put more pressure on Dom. He was the only employee that knew why there were more “employees” on the night shift than need be. Granted, every older worker that Dom trusted because they held such loyalty to his father and family knew of Dom living in the basement and the inner workings of the newcomers.
“Thanks Tom. I’ll make sure you’ll have that new machine here by the end of the week. I don’t want to keep you from the wife and kids,” Dom said, smiling up at him.
“Nonsense! The kids are off at school and the wife knows you’re like another son to me,” he said, patting Dom on the back. His mind started to wander as the two fell silent, at which point he thought of the recent girl that had taken roost in Dom’s basement. He tried to remember when the last time was he saw Sola on the main floor. She had been keeping an eye on things while Dom was gone; she was one of the few women Tom could tell Dom had an interest in. “How’s Sola doin’? You treatin’ her right?” Dom couldn’t control the blush that spread across his cheeks.
“She’s doing well. We’re both really busy lately, so we have had very little time to date,” Dom explained. “Although we were given the night off, so we’ll be going out tonight. Apparently everyone voted for us to go out…”
“Take her to a nice restaurant. One where you have to wear a tie,” Tom suggested.
“Don’t worry. I have a few in mind,” he said, holding up a hand so that Tom wouldn’t continue. “I have to get back to work, and you need to go eat lunch,” Dom said, heading to the staircase down to the basement.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m goin’,” he said, moving towards the table where the employees took their breaks and ate. Descending the stairs, Dom reentered and went straight for his desk. Shedding his jacket as he passed by the workbench he pulled out a binder from the bottom drawer and flipped a few pages before coming to a stop at the equipment company’s page. Dialing the number for his representative he chatted quickly, explaining the situation. The person assured him the replacement would arrive on Friday as he requested. Hanging up he got up and went to where Sola was in the kitchen eating her lunch.
“How’d it go?” She asked, looking up from the newspaper she was currently thumbing through.
“Could I see the accounting books? I have to make sure we have enough to replace Betsy,” he said, hands shoved in his pants pockets. Staring at him for a few moments, Sola got up and headed for her own desk where she grabbed the account books she kept for the group, or the “Rebel Alliance” as they so chose to call themselves. Flipping to the most recent entries, she handed it to him.
“So you do have to replace her?” Sola inquired, crossing her arms and leaning on the edge of her desk. Dom’s eyes scanned the page, looking for all the numbers he needed to know. They would tell him whether they were making enough money to replace the production device, or if it would be a waste of time. Closing the book, he handed it back to her.
“She caught fire today. I figured she would die in a spectacular way, just not like this… exactly,” he said, shrugging. Taking the book back, Sola replaced it on the shelf and continued watching him.
“Well, when a woman calls it quits, she calls it quits. Granted, Betsy was a machine, so I don’t really know how they would stand on the whole issue,” Sola said, hand to her chin.
“I’ll get you the receipt once I have it myself. It’ll arrive Friday,” Dom said, kicking an imaginary rock on the floor.
“Alright. Well get it to me when you can,” she said, noticing the awkwardness.
“You don’t have to dress up too nicely… if you don’t want to,” he said, trying to find the right words to say. Confrontations like this with the opposite sex were not his strongest suit at all. Dom preferred the world of creativity than in this very unsure emotional one.
“You don’t have to dress up too nicely… if you don’t want to,” he said, trying to find the right words to say. Confrontations like this with the opposite sex were not his strongest suit at all. Dom preferred the world of creativity than in this very unsure emotional one.
“Oh, okay. Where are we going to eat?” She was curious where he had chosen as she did leave the whole decision up to him.
“One place is fancier, and the other is more casual. It depends on what you wear, and what I wear that will determine the whole entire eating situation,” Dom said, feeling incredibly embarrassed that he couldn’t make up his mind.
“Okay… You could just choose you know,” she said, raising an eyebrow at him.
“Yes. Yes I could. But I wouldn’t feel right picking when you didn’t voice any opinion. What if I picked a place that made you sick? Or that made me sick? That could ruin the whole evening, and then I couldn’t be your boyfriend because I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror,” Dom said in one breath. Blinking at how fast he was talking, Sola stared.
“Wow. . . Just… wow. Have you had any caffeine today?” Reaching across the table she felt his forehead to see if he had a fever at all. It brought relief to her to find that he felt perfectly normal.
“No caffeine. Just too much sleep and maybe a bit of stress from all this money that we’re spending and all the problems we keep running into,” he said, sounding like he might start hyperventilating. Seeing this, Sola immediately went to the wall and pulled open the cabinet that they kept for these such reasons. Looking through it she grabbed the paper bag and brought it to him. Dom took it and started to breath into it, trying to calm himself.
Aldorel, having heard this going on, approached and raised an eyebrow. Sola saw her and smiled lightly and mouthed the word “Stress” to her. Nodding that it was just a minor thing, she moved on to her station where she checked medical records and the mental status of any brain washed victims. After a few minutes of breathing through the bag, Dom slumped into a chair and returned the bag to Sola.
“You okay now?” She asked, looking at him like she would a little kid.
“Yeah… I’m better. I haven’t had to use that method since my dad passed away and I had to take over the business,” Dom said, appearing to be staring past Sola and to some point far away.
“I can imagine that would be traumatic to know that you suddenly had to take over the family business,” Sola said, refolding the paper bag and replacing it in the cabinet. Realizing they could be having this conversation tonight, she stopped herself from asking a question that was on her mind. “Come on bag boy. Back to work. Once you concentrate on something else I’m sure you’ll be able to pick a place. To let you know I’m going to dress a bit fancy tonight. If that will help you in your decision making,” she said, grabbing him by the hand and walking with him towards her place in the command center and his workbench. Pushing him in that direction she saw him walk off, probably dazed or still in thought.
Dom reached his workbench and stood there for several minutes. After a time he finally seemed to snap back into his own head and return to work on whatever it was from last night and from before he got that phone call. Every so often Alyssa caught herself staring off at him, observing how he worked and built many of their weapons, armor and other devices. A few of those times, she was interrupted by someone clearing their throat—that someone either being Minari or Ane. This caused her to blush profusely and frantically return to her work.
As the day seemed to stretch on forever, the clock finally hit six in the evening, which was when both Sola and Dom were forced away from their places to go get ready. Ane and Minari sat in Sola’s room with her, helping her decide what to wear while D00m and Uno provided the same support for Dom. Once they were both showered and at least in their undergarments, the helpers began to magically transform them into dates for tonight.
D00m stood behind Dom as he sat on a stool in the bathroom so that she could make his hair look different. After combing it several times and not liking any of the ways his hair sat, she finally grabbed some hair gel and gave it a bit of a mohawk or shark-fin sort of deal instead. Liking how that turned out, she finished and stepped back to examine her work. Right now he looked pretty good, but they still needed to find some right clothes for him. Together they returned to his room where they went through his closet to find anything. Finding a suit, she found the vest and handed it to him along with a blue with white striped dress shirt. He slid on the shirt and buttoned it up, followed by pulling on the coal black vest. Frowning, she knew it needed something else. Turning back to his closet she found a dark red tie that just suited him perfectly. His pants on the other hand were some black dress slacks that weren’t from the suit, surprisingly enough. Once the whole attire was together, Dom stood before the mirror. Glancing at his watch he grabbed his phone, wallet and keys and headed into the kitchen where he said he would meet Sola.
Coming out of Sola’s room, Ane and Minari joined D00m and Uno against the counter and refrigerator as they all anticipated Sola’s arrival. Dom was shaking in his shoes, which made him feel like he was going to hyperventilate again. At the start of a date, that would be a bad sign. All he could hear right now was his own heartbeat, which seemed to get louder as the seconds ticked by. Finally his heartbeat was drowned out by the noise of the door to her room opening. For a second, he thought his heart had stopped; and he definitely thought that when she stepped out and approached him.
“You look dashing,” Sola said, stopping before him. The touch to his hair added to making him look rather handsome, and not to mention she adored the style he wore. It suited him so well.
“You are just stunning. If my jaw could just remain on the floor, it would,” he said, staring at her in the dress. Much to Sola’s surprise, he was staring at her face and not just at her chest.
“Aw, they’re so cute! Like a little married couple, only this is just the first date!” Ane said, smiling in glee.
“Before you know it, we’ll have some little troublemakers running around here,” Minari said, laughing with Ane. Dom blushed while Sola shot them a glare of death.
“Come on; get out of here you two. You have reservations in fifteen minutes. We can handle it from here,” a rather serious sounding D00m said. Since she was going to be taking over for both Dom and Sola she had gotten her act together—which seemed to astound everyone that she wasn’t vibrating or bouncing off the walls.
Holding out his hand to her, the two of them left the warehouse hand in hand just as the workers upstairs were getting off. Upon seeing this, Tom whistled loudly in catcall fashion. It made him glad to see Dom was taking a break and getting the opportunity to go on a proper date. Opening the car door for her, he then went around to the other side and climbed into Ane’s car. He mostly walked everywhere anyways, so he had requested to borrow Ane’s car if he swore to vacuum out the inside and wash the outside by hand for a whole month.
Starting the car he drove off towards the restaurant he had picked out and made the reservation for. The drive was not entirely too long, which surprised Sola. Normally all the high-end establishments were towards the city center, while they were still more in the industrial sector. Pulling into a parking spot, Dom quickly got out and walked around and opened her door. Getting out, Dom and Sola walked for maybe a few blocks before Sola finally saw that they were in the Broadway district. Leading her up some stairs, he then opened the door to a restaurant that she had heard raving reviews about.
Despite it being on the higher-end of price and quality, the theme was characters from various Broadway plays. Each waiter or waitress was dressed up as a protagonist or antagonist. Just looking around the room, Sola could see Glinda the Good, Sweeney Todd, and Snoopy among a few of those serving tonight. Some of them would break into song, or quote lines from the play, but either way, this place was a theatre major’s dream.
“H-How’d you get a spot for this place? It’s usually booked months in advance,” Sola asked as a waitress who was currently dressed as Elphaba from Wicked led them to their table. Helping her into her seat, Dom sat in the chair across from her.
“That’s my secret,” he said, winking at her. Accepting the menu from Elphaba, he ordered himself water, Sola ordered a Mr. Skepper. They did have the option of wine, but they knew better than to order something like that and know they still had to drive back and possibly return to work. Knowing them, they were going to even if people protested.
“So… I’ve had this question for a while, but I was wondering… How did your dad die?” Before he had a chance to answer she added, “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I am putting you on the spot.” Laughing he shook his head.
“No it’s fine. It really doesn’t bother me anymore,” he said, reaching across the table and patting her hand.
“Okay… I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t crossing any boundaries.”
“None at all.”
“Good. Now spill.”
“My dad died doing what he loved,” Dom said, shrugging.
“Poster tube making?” Sola raised an eyebrow at him. He laughed again at this point.
“No. He died while being out protecting what he believed in. Remember, I said my dad was an activist?”
“Oh… Right. But you never said he loved it,” she countered.
“Well, he did. Being an activist came second to his family and the business. He was out one time, protesting against the killing of whales,” he started. Sola thought back to when she heard about all these major protests.
“How long ago was this?”
“Ten years? So I would have been, almost sixteen,” he said. “Anyway, he was out there with some of his mates that were part of his crew. Together they were trying to intercept a ship that was headed straight for this pod of whales. Just as they were aiming to shoot at one of them my dad pulled his boat into the way. Before anyone realized it, he was hit with a harpoon.”
“Yeah. He lived for maybe a few more minutes before he finally passed away… all the blood loss,” Dom said, his eyes concentrating on the center of the table.
“How long was it before you got word of what happened?”
“It was maybe… fifteen or twenty minutes. Not as long as some suspected we were told. A week later, we were at his funeral. All of his employees and fellow activists all present,” Dom said, grabbing his glass of water and taking a long drink.
“I remember hearing about that… We talked about it for several days in Speech and Debate class,” she said, shaking her head. “I didn’t think I would ever meet that man’s son.”
“I’m not famous,” he said, smiling at her.
“Neither am I.”
“Exactly. We’re just two regular people on a date... getting to know each other,” he said, as they made eye contact. The waitress approached, looking between the two. They placed their orders and then resumed their conversation.
“This is nice… being out of the office,” Dom said, taking a bite of the salad that was brought to them.
“Those walls were starting to drive me crazy. I swear I would have hit a recruit if I had to hear another dumb question,” she said, stabbing a cherry tomato. Dom grinned.
“You know, you can go upstairs to the factory if you’d like a change of pace. Tom loves you. He’d probably teach you how to run some of the machinery so that you could get out any pent up rage,” Dom suggested, taking a bite of a cucumber.
“Would he really?” Sola said, perking up through a bite of lettuce.
“Probably. He told me he misses seeing you upstairs. It’s not as cheery up there unless you’re there,” Dom explained.
“Aw, how sweet of him. I would have figured him for more of an innuendo sort of man,” Sola said, smiling at Dom.
“Oh, he’ll whip out some of those too. But thankfully he knows that you and any other of the women are welcome to tell me if you think its sexual harassment. Granted, Tom has never gotten in trouble for what he’s said. Most the girls laugh with him,” Dom said, setting his fork down. Their salad was removed and replaced by their dinner entrees. Sola took a bite of her pasta, and grinned as she found it to her liking. Happily she munched away at it, loving the taste and smell. “How’s your dinner?”
“This is amazing! I have to figure out how to make this back home,” she said, studying the taste and ingredients.
“I could just get you the recipe. The chef is a great friend of my—“
“Actually my mother’s. She used to be a local food critic,” Dom explained.
“Wow. Your family sure was active.”
“Tell me about it. Now tell me about yours?”
“Mine? What’s so special about my family?”
“You know tons about my parents. I know nothing about you,” he said, pointing his fork at her.
“Can I try what you ordered? That was my second choice,” she said.
“Way to swing that subtle brick on changing the subject. But sure,” Dom said, stabbing some noodles and bit of chicken. He went to just pass it to her but instead Sola just bit it off his fork.
“Oh my God. This is delicious too! Man, now I need the recipe to both!” Dom laughed.
“I’ll be sure to get both, don’t worry,” he said, before he resumed eating. It made him giddy on the inside knowing she had eaten from his fork.
“My parents are both hard workers. My dad was an aid to the king, and my mom is kind of like a social worker,” Sola said, taking a bite from her plate.
“Now that is pretty cool. Or was,” Dom said, sipping his water.
“Well, now he works for the new government. Sure, he doesn’t like it, but it at least pays the bills,” she said, shrugging.
“And right now that is pretty important. I’m sure it’d be harder without a great job like that.”
“Yes well, it’s not always that simple. He’s sworn to keep so many Fed secrets he could probably write a novel,” Sola said, drinking more of her Dr. Skepper.
“But that could be a great asset… To us at least,” he said, shrugging. “But it’d be best if we didn’t. I’m sure if he did divulge any, your dad would be taken and brain washed; probably your mom too. And then they would come searching for you,” he said, working out the straightest path to their group getting discovered.
“We’ll use other means of getting in to crack the government,” he assured her. They fell silent as they finished their meals and Dom sent a note back to the chef. Dessert arrived from the kitchen; a note attached informing them that they would get the recipes in an e-mail in a few days. Sitting quietly sharing dessert, Sola’s eyes drifted around the room, watching the other couples. She focused in on one particular couple that definitely had an amazing amount of chemistry—she could tell just by how they looked at each other. Continuing her observance, she saw that the man got down on one knee and held out a ring to her. Noticing that Dom was watching, not really phased at all, he then turned back to the dessert they shared and was looking at the small chocolate cake they were currently sharing.
As the couple, and the rest of the establishment celebrated the engagement, Sola looked across the table at Dom. He was examining his dessert, going through what each portion was made of. In a quick second, her hand flew across the small space and smacked him on the side of the temple.
“Why can’t you be that romantic?” She said, gesturing to the couple on the other side of the restaurant. Dom blinked, obviously confused at this sudden outburst.
“What did I do wrong?”
“You weren’t romantic! This is the perfect place to propose to someone and here you are bringing me here on our first date? What are you going to do if we are going to get married? Work this backwards and ask me on the main floor of the factory?” She fumed, suddenly frustrated that this was not working out like those harlequin books at all.
“But… you picked this place, and said you were going to dress all nice and that was how you helped me decide,” he said, rubbing his head. He set down his fork and stared across the table.
“You’re not supposed to do the nice restaurant first. You’re doing this all in reverse order,” Sola said, staring at him.
“Look, if I was going to propose to you, I’d be way more creative than asking you in a fancy place. That’s the most cliché way ever. At least give me that credit. I’ll make it interesting and surprise you,” he said, looking at her. “So please don’t fret. You’ll start to hyperventilate, and I don’t have a paper bag around to aid you.” Sola pouted for a moment before nodding and sighing in content.
“Okay. I guess that does make sense,” she said, taking a final drink of her soda. Dom took the check from Elphaba and placed some money in it, mentioning for her to keep the change. Getting up from his seat, he and Sola left the little bistro and headed outside. For it being towards winter, it was surprisingly warm outside. They walked slowly down the sidewalk, chatting and laughing at various jokes. As they neared a corner, Dom stopped and pointed up at the constellations. Luckily they happened to stop under a streetlamp that was having poor electrical connections, so it was thankfully dark. Just as Dom opened his mouth to say something, his and Sola’s phones rang. Pulling his out and reading the name, he flipped it open.
“Yeah?” The voice on the other line sounded rushed and in a panic, which both of them picked up on since Dom had turned up the volume so that Sola could hear too. She decided not to answer her phone anyway since it was from the same place. “Ane, slow down… Okay, we’ll be there right away,” Dom said, hanging up.
“What happened?” Sola had missed parts of the conversation in Ane’s panic.
“Something they found. She’s flipping out about it and I think they want us there to help. All the recruits are being sent home,” Dom said, putting his phone away. He took her hand and the two of them hurried to the car. Driving quickly down the road, Dom pulled into the backside of the warehouse and was easily lowered down into the parking area to hide Ane’s car. They entered, not entirely sure what was going on.
Looking around in the basement, Dom and Sola both saw that it was empty; a complete mess as people must have scrambled around quickly to leave. Walking through the chaos, Dom headed straight for the command center. Upon entering, he could see that every council member but he and Sola were there.
“What happened?” She asked, looking around at all the faces that were concentrating so deeply on their screens.
“GFU and the Ritters are starting to up their tactics. Every citizen that has even the slightest thought against the government, or even says so casually gets arrested and taken away. They have records of hundreds upon thousands of people saying things like this. It’s like an arrest to take everyone away in one sweep and replace them all with brainless lemmings,” Minari said, glancing up from her screen.
“So we have to move fast,” Ane added.
“How fast are we talking here? Jet fast? Supersonic fast? Millennium Falcon fast?” Dom inquired, wanting to clarify the definition.
“Falcon fast. Millennium that is. If we want to get things done, we have very little time to do so,” Aldorel interjected.
“I didn’t realize we had a time limit,” Sola said, not sure why this was suddenly coming into play.
“They’re building a device that will restrict what people read, watch and listen to. It’s a massive satellite that can alter any signal so that you will only get the results the government allows,” Ane clarified.
“Can I see those on the main screen?” Dom said, stepping towards the large projector screen they had to share information with everyone.
“See what?”Aldorel said, looking at him.
“I want to see the plans. The blue prints of that satellite,” he said, loosening his tie and grabbing one of the laser pointers. All the information he asked for suddenly appeared on the screen as he asked. Reading through the measurements he ran his hand through his hair. “What’s the time line you suspect?”
“Twenty-six months at the longest… and twenty at the least,” Minari said, reading the information off her screen. Dom shook his head. He knew those estimations were too long.
“Dom, what is it?” Sola was suddenly standing next to him. Flicking on the laser pointer, he pointed to the measurements of the satellite and then to some other data on the blue prints.
“Thirteen months,” he said.
“What?! There’s no way they could build that thing in just over a year,” Mizzy objected.
“They can, and they will. All these parts have already been built. It’s a matter of assembling them. And once they have a large group brain washed, it’ll be easier to make sure they have plenty of workers,” he said, looking at the astounding amount of data before them.