Carisa Maldonado was a little girl when the UFO came.
She didn’t understand what was happening. It didn’t hurt, but she was scared anyway, and she screamed and cried. They’d talked to her, but it hadn’t sunk in at the time.
She got a little older. She looked up some of the words they’d used. “Black hole”. “Conduit”. It hadn’t meant much, but she felt like she had done something.
They came for her a second time. She’d fought and struggled and shouted. It hadn’t worked. They’d done something to her - changed her - but by the time the strength was hers, the UFO and its occupants were long gone.
She could crush anyone who crossed her. She could break anything that upset her. And she realized to her frustration that this meant she was less free than she’d ever been.
Her family was always watching.
Anything that broke was her fault. Anyone she hurt was blame she’d have to carry. She had to be cautious. She had to be polite. She had to take it.
She really didn’t like taking it.
The glowing alien was so polite, it was extra annoying. Why did the team have to take one of his kind?
“Hello. My name is Scraaseetotabobah.”
He’d even bowed. Gawd.
“Your name is Bob.”
“My apologies. My name is Scraasee–”
“I am not calling you anything but Bob,” she’d announced.
The others on the team had looked at each other, and at her, but by now she was done caring about what they thought. She was a god damn super-chica, and she would wear peoples’ dislike as a badge of honor. Let them have their little looks and share their little whispered conversations. When someone had to punch a mountain, they’d still come crawling back to her.
“Think of it… like a nickname,” Kinetica had told the alien, apologetically. “We give nicknames to people. It’s a way of… making friends.”
The space chump had the gall to smile. “Very well. Please call me Bob. My friends.”
No me estoy haciendo amigo de este payaso.
I am not making friends with this clown.
“Do you know why we would have taken A10 before you, Keri?” Blackbird asked.
“It’s not because she’s more powerful,” Keri replied flippantly.
“It’s because of that attitude. We know you’ve been abrasive toward some of your teammates. You’ve had things to say about Transcendent because of their alien origin. You have power. But you’re not a team player.”
“Well that’s because I’m stuck with a shitty team!” she shouted.
“The Junior HHL is one of the most promising teams in the country,” Blackbird said quietly. “We’ve made sure of that. Funding, training, and careful screening of new recruits. In your case, you got in despite your attitude, not because of it. If you think you’re better than them because you’re more powerful–”
“I’m better than them because all the shit I’ve put up with! They are a bunch of privileged whiners who pretend to play nice, and then stab me in the back. ¡Manda cojones!”
Blackbird sighed. “If you don’t like them, then why don’t you quit?”
Keri had no answer she could say out loud.
Because being alone is worse than being with those assholes.
Whenever she wasn’t letting her anger get the better of her, life was pretty good. She didn’t think about it much.
She was a minor Instagram influencer. She’d taken up costume design, and was good at it. She’d sit in the restaurant, poké bowl beside her, laptop in front of her, and create a costume. The colors flowed out of her mind, through her fingers, and onto the screen, creating patterns that would catch the eye. Then she’d shovel cubes of fish and spoonfuls of rice into her mouth until the next moment of inspiration hit. Then she’d post the results - or make them, and model it. The numbers flowed in.
This was what she felt she wanted. Recognition. Adulation. Celebration. Attention.
She could be angry later.
She always was.