Fortunate Soldier

Samantha walked at a fast pace along the crowded sidewalk. The bright sunshine encouraged throngs of shoppers to visit the downtown district that day. She felt glad for that when she noticed a black Suburban with tinted windows at the end of the block. She paused and looked behind her; she bobbed and weaved her head trying to find the perfect line of sight. She saw the first black Suburban was still parked at the intersection she just passed despite the green light. Samantha covered her head with her grey hoodie and turned into the first door she could.

She walked into a busy pizzeria. Dozens of green and red tables were filled with three or more guests. Several waiters and waitresses dressed in white and green t-shirts floated between the tables. An older man with a grey beard and a kind face walked up to her. His nametag said, “Mundo”.

“Sorry, Miss. We’re full, the wait is-” he paused and looked her up and down. “Oh,” Mundo chuckled to himself. “Sorry again, didn’t recognize you.” He tilted his head toward the back. “You can have one of the tables in the back. Follow me.” He started walking toward the kitchen; Samantha shrugged to herself then followed him. At this point in the day, she felt like nothing could surprise her.

She managed to stop a bank robbery earlier in the day; she got a bullet in the arm for her troubles. The pain wasn’t too bad, but then her body pushed the bullet out while the paramedics tended to her and an officer interviewed her. Everyone saw her wounded arm heal after the bullet fell out.  Samantha saw the officer reach for his cuffs and she bolted.

“HEY! SHE’S A FREAK!” the officer shouted to two men in black suits. Samantha saw them run to their cars; the same Suburbans that chased her into the restaurant.

“What can I get you?” Mundo asked. He led her into a smaller dining room with a handful of mostly empty tables. There were a few customers but they all seemed happy to mind their own business; the room was as quiet as a library.

“Water please,” Samantha said as she sat down. Mundo smiled.

“For you, it’s on the house. What do you want?”

“Couple slices of pepperoni?” Samantha asked. She did not know why she was being given a free meal but she did not want to abuse it. Mundo shook his head.

“No slices, we only do whole pies here. I’ll get you a medium. Drink?”

“Cola, please.” Mundo nodded and disappeared back into the kitchen. Samantha gave a quick glance around the room to look at the others. Three men, each sitting at a table alone; and, two women sitting at a single table chatting together. Samantha felt like she was breaking some unspoken rule about the place by staring and turned her attention back to the table in front of her. She stared at the red-dyed wood while she wondered what her next step was.

After several minutes Mundo returned with her drink. He set it down, then looked at the room.

“Anyone here on the lam?” he asked. Samantha looked around and saw all five hands go up. She felt better about being honest and raised her own hand too.

“Sorry. Anyone here trying to avoid the authorities from this universe? Got some suits asking questions out front.” While Samantha wondered what he meant by ‘this universe’ she did not notice that everyone else dropped their hands. Mundo looked down at her and smiled.

“How attached are you to this universe?” he asked.

“I… what?” Samantha was puzzled. She heard snickers coming from behind her but was too confused to care.

“Got any family? Loved ones?” He asked. Samantha shook her head. She could have elaborated about being raised in an orphanage but felt that it wasn’t the time for that.

“Great, this is easy,” he looked past Samantha. “Can one of you give her a ride out of here?” he asked the other fugitives.

“We’ll do it,” Samantha heard a woman’s voice behind her. She turned and saw the two women walking toward her.

“Give her the talk, too. She doesn’t know what she is,” Mundo said. Both women nodded.

“Number?” one of them asked.

“34,” Mundo replied. The other woman wiggled her fingers at the air. A tall, black portal opened next to them and they walked through.

“Sorry you didn’t have time for the pizza,” Mundo said as he shooed her toward the portal.

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