Alone We Stand, Together We Fall Apart

Bingo: Writer's Choice

August 30, 2019

It had been nothing but total coincidence. A small but beloved New York pizza chain just happened to open up another location in the Bay just a couple of weeks prior, just in time for a good portion of San Francisco to lose its collective minds. Nora had seen the news articles about Artichoke Basille's new outpost and made a mental note of it for the next time she craved a real, genuine New York slice but didn't have the time to make the journey all the way out to Berkeley for something so familiar. And given the season, college students were bound to be returning to campus soon and Nora was more than happy to dodge those swarms if she could.

When all hell broke loose — figuratively and not literally like it had in recent months — and Joseph's alter ego seemed to be caught in the middle of it all, if not causing some of those fires, she put two and two together in the aftermath and made a point of making a night of it, asking him to keep Friday night open but without giving him a specific reason. Her only instructions for the evening had been in a cryptic yet casual text message earlier that afternoon: Meet at It's Your Move Games in Oakland at 8 PM. Don't eat dinner!

Oakland, and the Temescal neighborhood specifically, seemed to be having a busy night, but that was to be expected: the weather was decent as always, and it was one of the last Fridays of the summer. She was glad to have opted for a Lyft rather than drive or take BART so that she could shut off her brain for a few minutes and leave the navigation to someone else. The Lyft driver pulled up to the pinned destination and Nora thanked her and wished her a good night as she climbed out of the car and smoothed out her skirt. The storefront was just a few doors down and she wandered over to take a peek at the shop's collection, noting that there seemed to be some kind of game night happening on the other side of the glass window. Not wanting to interrupt, she opted to wait outside, and without any sign of Joseph yet, she fished her phone out of her pocket once again to pass the time while she waited for him to arrive.

Friday – she had asked him to keep Friday open and he had, generally losing track of almost everything throughout the week except that when it seemed to flow right by him, head down to his work throughout most of it save for the early week date with Nora and an outing for drinks with Own who seemed to have quite a bit on his shoulders. There had still been no reason though. No telling of what they were doing and no clues as to where they were going, and he knew he hadn’t asked, but he expected there was intention in it being a surprise in the first place and who was he to ruin a good one of those? It was only when the text came through that he had some idea – at least he thought he had some idea – that there would be games in the mix, but without really knowing what he was getting into, board games wouldn’t have been his first guess.

Still, he took off with plenty of time to deal with traffic – not that he was actually doing it so much as the poor Lyft driver that had to – and get to the location on time, perhaps a few minutes later than expected coming out of one of the busier sections of San Francisco. He had considered flight an option. All he would have to do was soar up into the sky high enough for people to mistake him as a giant bird instead of an actual human being, avoiding all the traffic in the process, but there was still some risk factor involved that he wasn’t particularly gunning for which kept him on the ground where he couldn’t actually be pointed out. With a thanks and a tip in cash, Joseph stepped out just a few store fronts down from where Nora stood.

"Hopefully didn’t beat me by too long," Joseph said in his approach, giving her a light hug before his attention turned to the game store itself and those inside, just visible beyond the window amiss the merchandise and game library that was inside. His first time being in any sort of place like it, he was never the less curious about what was inside even if, for now, it was just an outside view. "Would have flown, but it still seems a safer bet not to."

"Not at all," she replied, returning the hug in kind. "Sometimes going the normie way is just easier. Don't have to worry about hiding or keeping a cover." Nora had learned her lesson about using her powers liberally while out in the open. Though she was fairly cautious about them in general and only used them around those who were familiar with her abilities or were otherwise in the know, cabin fever had struck while she was stuck in the reality show house for a month and she hadn't used her best judgement back then, opening herself up to speculation about whether she was a super while on national television. Not one of her brightest moves by any means.

She gestured to the storefront behind her. "So...this isn't where I wanted to take you," Nora started. "But it seems kind of cool and might be fun to check out sometime." The tables near the front of the shop were filled with people who were playing a few different games and she had noted the large selection of board games displayed on one of the walls. "It has all the makings of a good game night. Anyway, we're like a block or so away from the other place."

Nora started to walk in the direction of the pizzeria, carefully dodging someone who whizzed by on a scooter and yelled out an apology as they did so. She grinned, hardly bothered by the near run-in when someone was clearly just having fun. She turned her attention back to Joseph. "I don't know if you saw the news about this place, but after last week, I figured you could use it. How was your day?"

He hadn’t had any close encounters yet. No, he didn’t have any of Warren’s uniforms and yes, there were people who had spotted some sort of firebird during the last week, but as soon as the ring was on his hand, there was a uniform present and accounted for that had covered up quite a bit – though he had to admit that something even similar to spandex didn’t leave much to the imagination. Anything that happened after was because of some member of the Red Lantern Corps and not the namesake of a multimillion dollar company unless someone knew better. Because of both of those things, the lack of uniform and lack of anonymity, flying was just going to have to wait until he was sure he wasn’t going to be landing on a busy street to cause a commotion immediately; and the Lyft driver hadn’t been terrible either.

"It would be a curious choice if we were to roll in there and interrupt someone’s game," Joseph said, wrinkling up his nose a little bit which pushed his glasses up a bit more onto his face. "Not the best first impression," he said; and, apparently, it wasn’t game night which gave him a moment of pause while his brain caught up with what she was saying and why the game store had been the choice location to meet up at. There was still something surprising. It was just a matter of what. "But you’re right, it does. Those places always have some interesting board games I’ve never heard of, but fun in the Warren household didn’t really revolve around board games and real life Monopoly also ends in someone trying to toss a board over."

"Oh?" Curiouser and curiouser Joseph was becoming while they started walking, casually stepping out of the way of the guy rolling around on the scooter without any fuss. There was no reason for it. "I didn’t," he said, shaking his head. "The news was widely avoided in the last week except for when I was more normal and couldn’t really bring myself to do anything else." At least the news had been interesting, definitely not a slow Friday when there had been a battle within the city. "A little exhausting, but I’ll shake that off eventually. Just need some food and something that isn’t as boring as technical specs and contracting," he said. That was hardly an interesting conversation never mind facet of his work. "How was yours?"