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  1. September 2017 Bedlam City Culver's As Esperanza dug into her Mint Brownie ice cream cone, Anna Cline lined up her pills and took them, one after the other. Maybe biologically she was a good thirty years younger than her age on the calendar - but thirty years off 82 wasn't so young in the grand scheme of things. That was why she'd taken the tomato soup with her ButterBurger, and why she was drinking the unsweetened tea. (She and Espy were splitting an order of cheese curds. She wasn't ready to give up on flavor yet.) When she'd finished with her medicine, Anna smiled at her erstwhile protege. "It ain't much of a congratulatory dinner, but it's what you deserve. I didn't get my GED till I was-" "fifty-six years old and in stir," Esperanza finished with a smirk around green-stained lips. "You've told me that story a thousand times, Anna." It was good to see the kid smiling, Anna reflected, even if it was at her expense. From what she remembered of raising a teenager, a full lifetime ago, that was usually how it went. It was late outside, and out the front window Anna could see cars moving by on the Interstate, heading down the peninsula. The fast food restaurant had the anonymity that came with the tourist crowd of the Labor Day weekend coupled with highway traffic. A dangerous place for their mutual enemy to start trouble. "It's a good story, honey," said Anna with a smirk of her own. "You know," she commented quietly. "I've been thinkin'. I've got some money comin' my way, and if I spend it right, I could get us a place here in town." That news was startling enough that Esperanza stared at her from over her cone, the ice cream in her mouth stopping any immediate response. "If that's still what you want." Smart thinking would have had them get the hell out of this crappy little town and find help for their mutual problem - but that would have meant abandoning Esperanza's family, the city where Anna'd been born, and probably ticked off the lady who lived in the hat Esperanza was keeping in her backpack. While Esperanza was thinking about that, another small group came through the restaurant's doors, Anna's eyes briefly flickering to them.
  2. August 2017 Downtown Bedlam Anna Cline's (Temporary) Apartment Anna woke up in bed, taking a moment to take in the situation. Even with the slow fading of her powers over the last few decades, the situation was easy enough to take in a moment or two. She was in bed, in the apartment where she and Esperanza had been staying the last few weeks. The girl had dropped out of high school after the incident with the Hammer of Justice, and Anna herself had left behind the apartment she'd actually rented under her own name. She could have taken Espy out of the city, dropped her in Freedom or even back in Florida, but Esperanza had said she didn't want to leave her ma or just run away from the man who'd abused her, so they'd stuck around and technically lived as fugitives. They'd moved every couple of weeks, paying cash with the money Anna got from the drug pushers and lousy pigs she took down as Lady Horus, and for the second time in her life, Anna Cline was taking care of a kid. She'd made a lot of plans, bringing home books from the Bedlam library, making sure Espy kept up with her studies so she could get herself a GED and get somewhere other than this one-horse town Anna had tied herself to because it was better than doing nothing with her life. The kid was smart, the kid was strong, but you didn't get anywhere in the hero world unless you had an education. Of course, it would have been easy enough for her to teach Espy to steal. Or encourage it, anyway, her sidekick certainly hadn't shown any hesitation about picking locks or swiping things for her mentor, and with her skills and smooth tongue she'd have made a fine little apprentice thief. Espy reminded Anna a lot of herself as a kid, and for that matter a lot like her boy, a which was why she tolerated the backtalking, the light fingers, the lying, and the outright complaining a lot more than a lot of mothers of her generation Of course, that didn't mean there wasn't stress now and again - stress that came from searching for a murderous vigilante who wanted her dead, lying to her son and her family about why she was in Wisconsin, from wearing the helmet of a god and hearing the whispers of the shadow of a goddess who could only tell her that the great trial was coming soon and that she needed to be ready. And Anna was ready, she had been ready from the moment she'd put on the helm, a queen taking on the likeness of the goddess she'd always known herself to be. She'd never been really good at waiting. It sometimes made her - She blinked a few times, thinking about the night before, and the bar, and thinking about being old and outliving all her friends, and all the things she'd never done in almost eighty-three years of living, and sat up, automatically pulling the sheet up to below her shoulders. Espy was knocking on her door with the double rap-rap she'd taught her, the Helm of Horus was safe in the bedroom closet, and there was another woman in bed with her. Well you knew this was going to happen, Anna, you were stone-cold sober last night, her inner voice chided her. "Just a minute, honey!" she called, rising to her feet and digging around for her clothes faster than a woman of her apparent age should have been able to. "That's, uh, sorta my foster kid," she admitted to Nicola as she pulled her dress down over her head. They'd gotten each other's names but not much beyond that. "So you may wanna..."
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