A girl in a cropped pink letterman jacket embroidered with the words “DIE YOUNG” holds the roof access door open for you and says, “Welcome to Heaven.”
The girls are standing on the concrete, backlit by the setting sun. This is the first of two images that will stay with you forever, so it’s important to get it right.
Shaved head. Angry. Stands with her hands jammed in the pockets of her white windbreaker like she’s trying to push through the seams. Permanently pouty. She’s the kind of person you couldn’t imagine taking out the trash, unless she was “taking out the trash.”
She’s staring at you. They’re all staring at you, but somehow her stare looks especially intentional. She’s sitting on an air conditioning unit, legs dangling against the metal, wearing shorts and a tank top with aviators hung down her chest.
She smiles when your eyes meet.
Six Thousand Four Hundred Eighty-Six.
Scary. Looks like she’s named after the number of hearts she’s broken. Or the number of hearts she keeps in jars under her bed.
The one in the pink letterman. The one who wants to die young.
Older than the others by maybe a decade. Late thirties, possibly. Ginger pixie cut. Military-style jacket and the kind of boots you really don’t want to be kicked with.
That’s just what they call her. You don’t know what it means. Looks the most normal out of all of them. Blonde-ish brown-ish hair down to her stomach, a dress with a bee print, and sneakers.She looks a bit like she came here straight from her job as a part-time cashier at a trendy young-adult boutique at the DekaMall the next block over.
“You have a job,” says Zero. She has a low voice. Maybe you expected her voice to be higher because she’s small. Wisely, you keep this to yourself.
“Yes,” you say.
“What is it?”
“A safe in my old house. There’s about four-thousand in cash, plus jewelry. A wedding ring. Maybe some stamps? No one remembers exactly.”
“Five-one-two Broadway Avenue. Do you need the zip code?”
“No,” says Zero, giving you a look.
You shrug it off. Back when the city was inhabited it had fifteen zip codes. It was worth mentioning.
“It’s to the east,” says Six Thousand, staring down into the glow of her phone. “A bit north.”
“I know the area,” says Beetle. “It’s your standard apartment suburb. Easy walking.”
Zero nods. Her eyes dart towards the city, as if to confirm that the sun is setting at an appropriate pace. She looks distracted.
Maybe they’re on a schedule. Maybe they have more clients to meet with. You’re not sure. All you know about them is that they can get things from the city.
“Fifty percent is our usual rate,” Zero says, eyes still on the skyline.
“That’s fine,” you say. You have no idea if this is a great deal or a massive rip-off, but you’re also not really in a place to negotiate. It’s not as if there’s a Yelp page for illegal retrieval teams. “It’s on the third floor. Apartment 302. Should I write it down?”
Zero looks at Six, who walks over and hands you her phone.
You meet her eyes for about half a second and barely escape with your life.
“Just type it,” Six says.
You know that feeling when you’re standing on a ledge and even though you’re as likely to suddenly collapse as you ever are, you can’t stop thinking about falling? That’s how you feel about dropping Six’s phone right now.
Your fingers don’t shake, exactly, but you’re also pretty sure you don’t usually type this fast.
“Tomorrow,” says Zero, who uses words like they’re a nonrenewable resource. “We’ll send you an address.”
You get the feeling that you’re dismissed.
You nod and walk back to the door.
You turn around.
Cygnus has slid off the air conditioner and is jogging towards you.
So, Pixie, all casual in a jacket. I always liked how kid-like and open Pixie was so I went for a mascot hoodie to play up that sense of youth. And what better a mascot than Doop?
I really wanted to include her wings but I logic bombed myself out of it trying to figure out how the jacket and her blouse would have to be cut to allow the wings to come through, then wondering about how pliable they’d have to be to fit underneath the clothes then how they’d be able to support her weight if they were that flimsy and how the hell did Angel wrap his wings around him to wear regular clothes anyway?
And to think, all of these started with a Emma Frost’s going out pompadour and a fur-trimmed jacket. Think I’ve got Magik and…Juggernaut left in the pipe.
*Doop drawn by Mike Allred
PS > Microns > Graphite