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Crate and Pallet

Captain Zip was as good as his word -- work started at "5 ayem sharp." Megan was glad she'd thought to stop into the Stars n' Garters for coffee that morning, even if she couldn't bring herself to eat anything. It enabled her to be bright-eyed and cheerful in taking Zip's gruff and often incomprehensibly muttered orders.

She lifted and hauled and wrangled any number of awkward loads that needed to be packed into the back of the truck, efficient of both space and offloading order. It took her three tries to pack the truck correctly. She was apologetic.

Zip champed briefly on his unlit cigar, then said, "Took the boy more'n ten tries to get it right," and swung himself into the driver's seat.

Megan fit into the passenger seat -- just barely. The fact that she was wedged into place worked for her as she discovered that Zip was an utterly unprincipled and untalented driver. When they reached their first destination, she was awestruck that the truck hadn't disintegrated around her from the sheer physical forces at work on it during transit. There were several new scratches and paint streaks on the bumpers, however.

Contents may have shifted during flight, Megan thought as she carefully opened the rear doors.

It wasn't hard work, and besides the pulse-pounding intervals between deliveries, it didn't occupy too much of her conscious thought. Her boss was undemanding. Zip crouched over the wheel, chewing on the cigar, scowling at the road, wrestling the big truck around as if he were trying to get a grip on its throat -- if he could only find its throat. He never got out of the truck, but left the paperwork to Megan and the receiving person at each destination. Megan had a lot of time for thinking.

Foremost in her mind was what to do about that phone number. The relevant side of "the vat" was folded neatly in her back pocket even now.

When they stopped for lunch, Zip paid for her food. He waved off her not-very-energetic protests. "Job perk," he said. "I know the pay's shit, sunshine. Least I can do."

Of course, the food wasn't very expensive, or even good. The Gold Stars fast food chain was pretty extensive here on the east coast. Megan's mother had complained about it, but never complained about the monthly trademark checks that had been coming for the past ten years. The Amazonburger was one of the best-sellers on the menu.

Megan ordered the Jane Liberty chicken nuggets.

As she was finishing her Bombshell shake, Zip looked at her over the edge of his newspaper. His eyes were quintessentially dark and beady, and a bit menacing when one couldn't see the rest of his face. Then he folded back the newspaper and shoved it over to her. "I thought you said you weren't in spandex."

She looked down at the headline: "The New Amazon? Meteor Hits City!" The small photo was clearly taken by one of the ace photogs at the Wonder City Reflector: color telephoto action shot of a woman lifting some sort of armored goon over her head with one hand while holding up some broken part of a building with the other. She had pale skin, long red hair streaming photogenically in the breeze, and a green tanksuit-style costume with thigh-high boots. Megan, who was used to seeing photos of herself in scale, suspected that Meteor was even taller than she was. The article, however, described Meteor as "around 8 feet tall."

Megan shoved the paper back at Captain Zip. She took a last drink from her shake and stood up. "You're just going to have to believe me when I say that it's not me. Also? I'm a few shades darker than Meteor."

Zip looked at the photo, then back at Megan. "Oh. Ah. Didn't really look at the photo. And, well, your mom's white, and you look like her, so I thought you just got a good tan out there in the desert..."

Megan ground her teeth. "I assure you it's congenital."

Zip stood up. "Huh. Everyone's been wondering who your dad was for years. Your mom didn't tell anyone."

"She didn't tell me either." She gestured to the door. "Can we get going now? Still got half the truck to do."

He tossed the paper in the trashcan with the scraps of lunch, following her.


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