Poe felt like he slammed into a wall of noise the moment he stepped into the pizzeria. The loud laughter of children melded perfectly with the cacophony of video game sounds and the normal murmur of a restaurant. It was so packed, he considered taking his order to go; but, he gave a quick glance around the place first. The short, lean man wandered to the counter while searching for a seat.
He counted at least three separate children’s parties before he spotted an empty table. He thought a whole empty table was odd in such a crowded restaurant, then he noticed a mostly empty table next to it. A familiar green-haired woman sat at the table alone. Her purple and black hoodie pledged support for Gravewatch, a popular roller-derby team. She was about halfway through an extra-large pizza. The table on the other side of her was also empty.
Poe placed his order, then took a deep breath and walked toward her table. It made perfect sense now; he realized why the place seemed so crowded. Everyone chose to sit closer to the walls of the restaurant. Away from her.
“Evening, Mia,” Poe said pleasantly as he sat down across from her. Her jade eyes flicked up just long enough to confirm her suspicions, then they fell back down to her node on the table.
“Hey, Poe,” she said flatly as she played a game on the glassy rectangle.
“Just, ‘hey’? That’s all I get?” Poe asked playfully. “No death threats?” Mia raised an eyebrow; a stern-faced mother came from somewhere to stand next to Mia. She clenched a cake knife in her fist and glared at Poe.
“Are you back at the B.A.A.?” Mia asked. Poe leaned back, shook his head and showed his palms.
“Nope still retired.” At his words, the angry woman’s face changed to confusion. She glanced around wondering what she was doing there then shrugged and wandered back to her child’s party.
“Then, you don’t get death threats,” Mia replied.
“So…what are you doing here?” Poe asked. Mia looked up at him and tilted her head.
“What are you doing here? Is this your Earth?” she asked. Poe nodded eagerly.
“Huh,” Mia said. She leaned over the table and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Well, if you’ve got any family I suggest you move them to another Earth. For a couple of weeks at least.”
“Why?” Poe asked. He did not have any family but Mia didn’t need to know that.
“It’s not public knowledge yet, not sure if it will ever be,” she said. “The world leaders sold out to Sharp Development. Next week your Earth becomes an official server. You know what that does to Zeros.”
“Since when do you work for Sharp Development?” Poe asked. He was disappointed with the news about his home Earth, but even if he wasn’t retired, it was out of his purview. If the world leaders willingly made a deal with Dana Sharp there was nothing the B.A.A. could do. Mia half-smiled at him and her jade eyes softened for a moment.
“Since my nemesis retired and all his replacements were pathetic.” Mia gave a light giggle. “It’s kind of funny. All it took was me getting bored to get out of the business.” Poe nodded.
“Did Sharp Development cure your boredom?” he asked. Mia grinned.
“Every day brings something interesting.”
“Is that right?” Poe asked. After a silent moment, he looked into Mia’s eyes. “Can you put in a good word for me?”