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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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The Young Paranormals Christian Association had provided a youth hostel for paras coming to Wonder City since 1964, the bronze plaque in the lobby proclaimed. A glance around the lobby told Megan that the YPCA apparently hadn't been redecorated since then: a couple of square, grimy, orange couches were shoved against the chipped plaster of the walls and the indoor-outdoor carpeting showed signs of having been green once upon a time. The reek of chlorine from the distant swimming pool stung her eyes.

The man seated on a stool behind the counter peered at her over his reading glasses. "Can I help you?" He was wearing a blue and white tuxedo-styled uniform nearly as wrinkled as his face, with a golden half-cape tossed over one shoulder.

"The woman at the YWCA sent me," Megan said, fumbling briefly for the slip of paper in some vague search for legitimacy, then giving up.

He nodded brusquely. "Fortunately, our ladies' rooms aren't as occupied as the gentlemen's rooms," he said, giving her an approximation of an encouraging smile.

"That's, um, great," she said. His nametag read: Hi! I'm Mr. Metropolitan!

"Runaway?" he said.


"Are you a runaway?" he repeated.

"No." She watched him scribble on a form. "Do people really tell you when they are?"

"You'd be surprised what people tell you sometimes," he said with a sigh. He snapped the form onto a clipboard. "Please fill out the top section, and don't write in the shaded areas."

She sat on one of the orange couches and discovered that the cushioning had long since disintegrated. A spring jabbed into her thigh.

A few minutes later, she handed the clipboard back to Mr. Metropolitan. He glanced over it, and she watched his gaze come back to the top of the form. "Megan Amazon?" he said. "Not the Amazon's daughter?"

Megan repressed a sigh. "Yes."

His face rippled into a sea of a thousand wrinkles around a smile that showed surprisingly strong white teeth. "I liked Maggie an awful lot. Saw her at the old gang's Christmas party every year. Great kid. I can see the resemblance." He opened a cabinet under the counter and selected a key. "I hope she's doing all right?" he said, holding the key just out of polite reach.

"She was fine when I got on the bus 22 hours ago," Megan said.

"Good to hear," he said, handing over the key. "No battles indoors. We have a hot button to the Gold Stars. Third floor, turn right, all the way at the end of the hall. Quieter there," he said, winking.

She summoned all her energy into a smile. "Thank you, Mr. Metropolitan."

"Call me Ira, sweetheart," he said.

She managed to nod before hoisting her backpack and hurrying to the stairwell. She took the stairs 3 at a time.

Locked into the tiny cubicle, she sat down gingerly on the single bed that was too short for her. "Well," Megan said to the beige cinder blocks. "Here I am."


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Wonder City Stories

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