– Eleanor DeMontfort – ‘Ecstatica’ –
– Monday – 17:22 Eastern Time –
Eleanor deMontfort was exhausted.
This was the good type of exhausted, though. The type that you get when you’ve spent an extremely productive afternoon with your friends, catching up and doing a little retail therapy. Pyra had arranged for them to start their adventure at Café Nova in Atlas at midday – which she was late for – and then they were to meet up with Harv and Alexa on the streets of Founders Falls ready to shop till they dropped.
Pyra’s late arrival at the Café had meant a missed lunch, and a quick dash for the train before the reckless spending could begin in earnest. Pyra immediately targeted the fashion stores of the shopping district like she was undertaking a meticulously planned military assault. Roughly an hour in, there had been some dissent in the ranks, when Alexa and Harv insisted that they visit at least a few stores that sold something other than clothes. Pyra had fought that notion for a few minutes, but had finally been forced to relent and let them take some detours into the other retailers Founders Falls had to offer.
Alexa immediately made a bee-line directly for the closest video store and spent a small fortune on the latest movie releases. The Femmes had access to a huge virtual library of streaming movies, but Alexa’s passion was having a physical library full of the films. There was nothing better, she maintained, than perusing her shelves to find the movie she wanted to watch, and then clutching the box excitedly as she popped the disc into the player.
Searching a streaming service just wasn’t the same.
It was something Harv understood well, because she had a similar passion for books. Thus, for the next half hour, they watched as the woman with the codename ‘Scrapper‘ rummaged through the bargain boxes of a little bookstore she found.
Eventually they all had shopping bags that were getting heavier and bank accounts that were getting lighter, and so – after they managed to drag Pyra out of Icon and away from Carson the proprietor – they headed back to Atlas Park in time for an evening dinner at Café Nova. They were all starving after missing lunch earlier in the day.
Eleanor slumped down in one of the chairs. Harv and Alexa did likewise, while Pyra was avidly talking on her phone and pacing back and forth outside the restaurant, enthusiastically describing something with huge flourishes of her hands and arms.
“It’s Carson. Again,” Harv shrugged. “Pyra is just negotiating the specifications and cost of her latest bespoke outfit. She wants us all to go clubbing tonight, incidentally. Apparently Pocket D has a guest DJ tonight… I’d tell you who, but for the life of me I can’t remember who she said it was.”
Alexa lolled her head back over the seat and stared at the ceiling. She groaned.
“Do either of you ladies remember what it is like to be that young and full of energy?”
Harv laughed at Alexa’s response while picking up her menu to peruse the options.
“Well, Pyra’s only four years younger than me and only…what? Seven years younger than you, Ecs?”
“Hey!” Eleanor looked at Harv with mock annoyance. “I’m not a day over…ahhh, who the fuck am I kidding? I’m getting too old for this…”
She laughed gently and tilted her head sideways to look at her other friend.
“Which brings us to Lady DarkForce…” she continued. “How many years do you have on her, Alexa Darke?”
It was a loaded question, one that cropped up from time to time. Alexa raised her head from the menu and regarded her friends with a raised eyebrow.
“I wondered how long it would take for this to become the topic of the day again…” she said wearily.
“Well,” Eleanor said with a pout, “answer the question and I promise we’ll stop asking it. I mean, you look about what…twenty-five. But, Kaite-Anne, your daughter, is twenty at least. So, that puts you in your forties. So, you’re certainly older than me…but by how much? What we want to know is how old you really are?”
“And how you stay looking young?” Harv added.
“Ecs…I swear to you, hand on heart, that I’m twenty five. Kaite Anne is my daughter who came back in time from the future!” Alexa said, but her sly smile betrayed her.
“That’s a lie!” Harv shook her head and laughed.
“How do you know,” Alexa asked, “that I’m not telling the God’s honest truth?”
Harvest Moon looked uncomfortably shifty for a second.
“Oh, my God, you asked Kaite, didn’t you?” Alexa said gobsmacked.
“Well, in my defense…” Harv shrugged innocently as Ecstatica guffawed loudly. “Rogue mentioned it as a theory a while back and as we had no better ideas, I thought I’d at least ask. We know time travel is possible, we’ve seen it before.”
It was at this moment that Pyra wandered over, her conversation with Carson done.
“What’s so funny?” she asked with a quizzical look at Ecstatica who was laughing so hard breathing was becoming difficult.
“Harv asked Kaite if she was a time traveler,” Alexa said with a hint of amusement.
“Ah,” Pyra’s face dawned understanding. “Rogue’s time-travelling-daughter theory. It seemed oddly like one of Rogue’s less hair-brained ideas. So, yeah, we asked Kaite. She denied it. Said she sprang forth from your very womb twenty years ago, somewhere in Louisiana. From the mouth of the babe herself.”
“That proves nothing!” Alexa scoffed.
“It proves that you’re keeping a secret from your friends. That is what it proves,” Eleanor said as she recovered from her giggling fit.
“Everyone is entitled to secrets,” Alexa shrugged and then changed the subject. “Speaking of which, what do we all think about the new girl? Now there’s someone with secrets.”
“I take it you’re referring to Sarah?” Pyra inquired.
“She’s going by the codename Starstorm now. I did a little research… Starstorm also happens to be the name of a top secret classified British Intelligence project,” Alexa replied.
“Well, we know she’s ex-MI6, that much is on her record. She’s not been particularly secretive about it.” Pyra interjected.
“Has anyone quizzed her about it yet?” Ecs asked.
Harv shook her head, as did Alexa.
“I haven’t had much interaction with her so far. Harv and I were busy this week with that Superdine thing in Kings Row.” Alexa shuffled in her seat to get comfortable.
“SuperTrolls,” Harv confirmed with a nod.
“But I think Pyra has spoken to her a little, though,” Alexa finished.
The young fire blaster nodded enthusiastically.
“Yeah, we’ve spent some time together. She’s real nice. She didn’t really go into much detail about her MI6 background, but what she did say she wasn’t particularly secretive about,” Pyra expanded. “I think if you talk to her about it, she’ll open up as much as I guess she can, what with it being all spy stuff. She’s been really busy lately trying to get through her Security Level Certification. I asked her if she’d like to tag along to today, but she was at City Hall… I could tell you something juicier, though…”
Suddenly the girls in the group were all ears, their curiosity piqued.
“What?” Ecs asked.
“Well… I think she’s really into Rogue,” Pyra whispered conspiratorially.
“She hasn’t said as much, but I can see the signs. You should have seen her when she first met him, and whenever we talk, she drops his name into the conversation. I think she’s a smitten kitten.”
“Not anymore…” Eleanor said quietly.
The other three women looked at her, their eyes all asking the same question.
Tell them the juicy gossip.
“Okay,” Eleanor leaned forward. “I saw them here earlier, while I was waiting for little Miss Lateness here.”
“Hey!” Pyra objected. “I was unavoidably delayed!”
“Well, they were sitting having a drink and…” Eleanor paused, suddenly feeling a little uncomfortable talking about this, “I heard her open up to him about her…arm.”
“Her arm?” Alexa furrowed her brow.
“She has a prosthetic,” Pyra explained. “Pretty cool one, if you ask me.”
“Yeah,” Eleanor said angrily, “and Rogue, fucktard as he is…”
“Hey!” Pyra interrupted. “I know you have issues with him, but he’s my best friend.”
“Well, your ‘best friend’ let her open up about her arm…” Eleanor retorted, “and then said – to quote – ‘just like Robocop or the Terminator‘.”
“Ouch,” Alexa said with a wince.
“Yeah, that’s not a great look for my guy,” Pyra admitted. “He does have this tendency towards putting his foot in his mouth.”
“What is it about that man…?” Eleanor muttered.
“Well, you should know Ecs,” Pyra arched her eyebrow at the scrapper. “Of the four of us here, you’re the only one who has slept with him…”
“Yeah, and what a disaster that was,” Eleanor frowned.
“Well, from what he told me…” Pyra began before she was interrupted.
“All. Lies!” Ecs said firmly. “We were both very young and wanted very different…experiences.”
“I really wish you two would just bury the hatchet,” she said. “It makes things awkward sometimes when we’re all out together.”
“I’m sure it’ll blow over…” Eleanor shrugged.
“It’s been ten years!” Pyra exclaimed. “Rogue said it happened when you were both in your early twenties. I think he even referred to you as…’one of the hottest women he’d ever laid eyes on’. And that, too, is a direct quote.”
“Well…I can’t fault his taste,” Eleanor admitted.
“So, what happened?” Alexa pushed.
Ecstatica sighed and lolled her head back for a moment musing whether to tell all. Finally, she decided that ten years was probably enough to let the truth come out.
“Okay, okay,” she capitulated. “Michael Reynolds – he wasn’t Rogue back then – had just signed with the Paragon Panthers and I had just been in Playboy…”
“You were in Playboy!?” Harv exclaimed with a disbelieving shriek.
Alexa nodded, “She still has the Bunny outfit…”
“I’m not ashamed of my body,” Ecs chipped in. “I had not long got my level 50 certification and was the new hot young scrapper around town. At the time we’d just set up the Femme Fatales and money was…tight. Playboy were doing a Super-Powered Special and I was asked to pose.”
“So, you did it for the money?” Pyra asked.
“Actually,” Ecs considered, “while the money was great, I was pretty flattered, too. I found the whole thing pretty exciting, if I’m honest.”
“Famke, however,” Alexa said, “was not impressed.”
“Yeah,” Ecs pursed her lips. “She said it was a bad example to set the girls we’d set up the Femme Fatales for. Couldn’t really argue.”
“And that’s why Ecs is the ‘forgotten founder’,” Alexa finished.
“I did have to keep a low profile for a while as regards the SuperGroup, but it was my money that bankrolled the Atlas Park building for a while.
“Anyway, I was at a party at the Playboy mansion and the Paragon Panthers arrived. Rogue was their golden boy media darling. So, you put a twenty-four year old single athlete in the same room as a twenty-four year old single Playboy model and…the outcome is inevitable. We fooled around for about a week, before it all went sour.”
“OK…” Harv prompted. “We’re going to need more detail than that…”
“Well, we were in bed the one night and, in the heat of passion…” Ecs paused, “…he asked if I knew any other Playboy models.”
“He wanted a threesome?” Alexa laughed.
“I was genuinely insulted,” Ecs said.
“Hold on…that is not the way Rogue tells this story,” Pyra interjected.
“Oh?” Ecs cast an unamused look at the young girl.
“His version says that in the throes of passion that night you asked him about whether he could hook you up with the rest of the team…”
“That’s not…quite…true.” Ecs stammered as the recollection of events flowed back to her.
“Do I hear the merest hint of hesitation in your protestations of innocence?” Pyra laughed.
Ecstatica mused for a second before deciding the best course of action was to come clean.
“I may have retorted to Rogue’s request by saying I could possibly hook him up with Miss September if he could hook me up with the rest of the Paragon Panthers,” she said, quickly adding. “But it was a joke!”
“Well, he says he was very offended,” Pyra giggled. “I think you were his first love…”
“Don’t even joke about that,” Ecstatica said. Though, she had to admit, a part of her was intrigued by the thought.
“Oh, I think the feeling’s mutual,” Alexa giggled. “I mean the arguing and fighting…basically, it’s the verbal equivalent of pulling the pigtails of the girl you fancy, and you always reciprocate Ecs. Why is that?”
Her friends were laughing, but Eleanor’s smile was forced. A nerve had been struck and it left her feeling uncomfortable.
In truth, there was someone she liked, but it wasn’t Michael Reynolds. Yet for all her claims of bravado and confidence, she was shy when it came to relationships. She was thirty-four and had not had a steady or close relationship in her life, just a series of short dalliances and one-night-stands.
She wondered… was she even capable of having a loving relationship?