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I’m Who I’ve Got To Be

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She had been rescued by Show Pony in the middle of the night. She had wandered around the desert for a few hours, trying to figure out where she was supposed to go.

Her mother had shoved her into the desert, told her to keep running and not look back.

“Save yourself,” she had whispered. “I’ll hold them back.”

And she did, at the cost of her life.

She’d packed her a little backpack, had led her to the edge of the city. A pack of Dracs had followed them out, and she had told her to run.

So she did.

But she didn’t manage to run far enough to avoid seeing her mother get shot straight in the heart. The red that splashed in the air, the silent thump as she crumpled to the ground, the hum of electricity buzzing in the air-

It fueled her legs to run as fast as she could.

But her small legs could only carry her so far and for so long. Adrenaline pulsed through her veins but it wasn’t enough.

They had escaped during the night, so the sun was not a problem. But the chills from the desert night caused her to shudder in the cool air.

She eventually rested, practically tripping over her own feet, and collapsed to the ground as her lungs burned and her legs ached. She laid there, staring up at the stars, watching the lights flicker in the inky sky.

Her mother told her there used to be infinite stars that dotted the sky, but light pollution and smog from the city blocked out most of the twinkling lights. She squinted, trying to ignore the ache in her heart that throbbed at the thought of her mother, trying to see the lights she described.

Stars were finite. There were barely any visible in the sky.

The roaring of an engine caught her attention, and she saw a light slice the night in two. She scrambled out of sight, moving behind a large cactus, praying to the Witch that it wasn’t a member of BLi.

It wasn’t.

A brightly clothed person sat on a motorcycle, which had slowly crawled to a stop nearby. She held her breath, weary.

“I saw you babydoll,” they called out. “Do you wanna come out?”

Their voice was like honey, sweet and smooth. She frowned but peaked her head out from behind the cactus. For some reason, she trusted that whoever the person wasn’t going to hurt her.

They noticed her, and she took in a good look. They were dressed in blue spandex and a white crop top. A blue helmet obscured their face, and their hands were cocked on their hips.

“Heya sunshine,” they greeted. “Is it just you?”

“Yes.”

“Where are your parents?”

The sound of a laser piercing the silent night caused her to recoil. She settled for a shrug.

They nodded. “I see. Do you need a place to stay?”

She considered their words. She wouldn’t survive out in the desert without shelter, or food or water. At the moment, she had none of those things. But they seemed to.

“Yes.” She crept toward him. “Please.”

“Alright then. My name’s Show Pony, and you?”

She hesitated, before shaking her head. They seemed to understand what she meant despite the fact that she wasn’t even sure what she meant. “That’s fine, little lady. Now hop on so we can head to a pretty cozy radio shack I call home.”

She did as told, and wrapped her arms around their waist.

The engine revved, and she listened to the hum of the motor as dust clouds formed.

 

She lived with Show Pony for a week or so, under the care of Doctor Death Defying and Cherri Cola. Show Pony had introduced them to each other, and since she wouldn't give up her name, they decided to refer to her as "the Girl".

They took care of her, and she appreciated all that they've done.

She listened to Dr. D's broadcasts with wonder and loved to watch him make his daily talks. It was easily her favourite part of living with them; listening to him talk in riddles she couldn't understand and fiddle with all the knobs at the station sparked her curiosity.

Eventually, late one night, when she was supposed to be sleeping, she listened in on a special broadcast. She stood behind the door to the sound booth, watching as Dr. D slid the knobs into their proper places, searching for the right frequency.
Show Pony and Cherri Cola had gone on a late night run, and she and Dr. D had been left all alone.

"Calling the Fab Four right here at Dr. Death Defying's home base," he singsonged. "I need you to head over to my location as quick as a jitterbug. I've got a proposition you four are not going to want to miss out."

His message, while rather vague, was relatively straight to the point. There was no secret message in hidden code as far as she could tell. And she knew who the Fab Four were; at this point, who didn't know of the flamboyant group of teenage rebels who miraculously became popular and a symbol for the fight against BLi?
But why would he call them so out of the blue?

"Yeah, we hear ya," a voice drawled. She frowned deeper. Usually, Dr. D wore headphones when he broadcasted so others wouldn't listen in on their conversations. Maybe with Cherri and Pony out and her supposed to be asleep, he felt comfortable leaving it on speaker? "What do you need, Doc? You don't really expect us to drop everything and hustle over to you without a reason, tight?"

"Fun Ghoul, you don't expect me to make you drop everything and hustle over here without one, do you?"

"It wouldn't be the first time."

Dr. D chuckled. "Maybe so, but I already told you: I have a proposition to make, but I need you guys here in person to make it."

"Well, that's going to be a hard one. We'll see if we can pencil you in between "slaying some Dracs" and "suffering from dehydration". Those are very important events, you know."

"Oh, I'm sure it'll be hard to reschedule the usual 'listen to Party Poison's terrible taste in music while they rant about something petty' which takes place in between those two."

"A real shame. I'm sure they can make it up on the drive to you. I'll give Party the memo and we'll head on over, Doc. We'll probably be over by noon, as long as Jet doesn't oversleep. But this better be good."

A smile crept on the doctor's face. "You better believe it is. I'll see you soon."

He slid the knobs down and readjusted the board. She slipped away from the room, soaking in the conversation. What was the proposition he had?

 

It was noon the next day, and true to the Fun Ghoul's words, they arrived. She peered out from the inside of the shack at the worn down van covered head to toe in drawings and glued on pictures and paint.

A group of brightly coloured teens made their way towards the shack, and she watched as they drew nearer. A boy with curly hair like hers and an eye patch, another boy with bleached hair and a stony face, a third boy with greasy black hair and tattoos crawling over every visible surface, and a fourth with cherry red hair, cocky attitude in their step, and a penchant for using their hands while they spoke.

She watched as they came inside, shaking the dust off their clothes and laughing as the redhead told a story. Show Pony had gone out to greet them, and had come back inside with them, grinning dumbly as they chattered.

"It’s been a while," the black haired boy said. "And I gotta say, I missed this place. Did you redecorate?"

"The new junk you see around here was mostly Cherri Cola's doing. You know how he is, that hoarder." Show Pony glanced at Jet Star and cocked an eyebrow. "Well well, you look different. Let me guess- you got a hair cut?"

Jet Star- the one with curly hair- laughed. "As if. And if you're really referring to my eyepatch, it's not an interesting of a story. Just a supply raid gone wrong."

"Nasty Dracs, hm?" Pony shook his head. "Well, alls well that ends well."

"Hey, who's she?" The redhead was glancing in her direction, and she hunkered down on the couch. "I know we haven't seen each other in a while, but having kids now? I never really thought of you as someone who'd commit."

Show Pony scoffed. "The day I tie the knot is the day I get dusted. You know I couldn't deprive other lucky crash queens just for one person."

"Yeah, you're about as likely to stop flaunting yourself to the general public as Poison is," the black haired teen said, elbowing the redhead- Poison- as he spoke.

"Anyway, that's the Girl." They grinned at her and motioned for her to come closer. Hesitantly, she moved away from the couch. "Meet the Fab Four, the illustrious rebels that roam the deserts in search of messing with BLi in the best ways imaginable. That's Fun Ghoul, Kobra Kid, Jet Star, and Party Poison."

A chorus of "how do you do" and "nice to meet you" met her ears. Fun Ghoul tilted his head and cocked an eyebrow at her.

"The Girl? Do you not have a proper name?"

She did, but that was the old her. She shook her head. "I like 'the Girl'."

He nodded. "Fair enough."

"I hate to cut this short, but Dr. D's awaiting!" Cherri Cola interrupted, appearing from the hallway nearby. He flashed a grin at the teens before gesturing at the man next to him. Dr. D sat in his wheel chair, a tired grin on his face and a mischievous glimmer in his eyes.

“Hello friends, I’ll get right to business. I’m sure you’ve been aquatinted with the Girl, right?” He glanced over at her and sent her a small smile.

“Yep,” Party answered, popping the ‘p’.

“Fantastic. Then here’s the situation: I want you guys to take her with you.”

A pause. What?

“Huh?” Jet Star raised his eyebrow.

“I think the Girl would do a lot better spending her time with you. Cherri Cola and Show Pony aren’t always around since they’re my messengers and for supply raids, and God knows I can’t protect her all on my own. I’m not exactly a fighter.” He waved at his wheelchair. “Plus, there are things I think she would really benefit from learning from you.”

“You’re kidding?” Fun Ghoul crosses his arms. “I’d love to let her tag along and all, but Doc, you know how dangerous all of our missions are, and I doubt we have the resources to take care of her.”

“I have complete trust that you’ll be able to take care of her. You guys have a long history with surviving insurmountable odds, and I know you’re crafty enough to make ends meet.”

“So that’s it?” Cherri Cola didn’t seem too pleased with what the doctor was preaching. “You just want to hand her over to them?”

“I already gave my reasons.”

“It’s bullshit.” Cherri sighed as he leaned against the doorframe. “You know damn well they couldn’t take care of her. They can barely take care of themselves.”

“Not true!“ Fun Ghoul interjected. “We’re doing fantastic, thank you very much.”

“Weren’t you just saying you didn’t think we’d have enough supplies to take care of her?” Kobra Kid mumbled, and the Girl perked up at hearing him speak for the first time.

“Well, I changed my mind!” He crossed his arms. “Look at us! We’ve survived so much bullshit, I’m not even sure we know how to die or fail. We get by protecting each other, and I don’t see why we couldn’t handle another body.”

"I love kids as much as the next guy," Jet Star began hesitantly, "but this is kind of sudden, doc. And we don't exactly have much experience with children."

Show Pony smirked and looked ready to open their mouth to make a smart comment when Cherri Cola gave out a loud sigh. "I can't believe you just want to shove her to the side like that. We've just given her a home and you want to take that away from her?"

"It's precautionary," Dr. D simply said. "They'd be able to protect her much better than we could. I'm not exactly as spry as I used to be, and you two are always on the move."

"Safety my ass. You can't exactly claim that when you can't even trust them."

Kobra Kid's eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about?"

"Yeah," Fun Ghoul frowned. "Why can't you trust us?"

Cherri Cola sent an obvious glance at Party Poison, who remained strangely silent during the entire debate. "Oh, you know why. Do you really want to just hand over a kid to someone as damaged as them? They’re too broken to be able to care for her.”

There was a long pause. Kobra Kid's eyes were storming, and he looked every bit as venomous as his name suggests. Jet Star crossed his arms and Fun Ghoul was clenching his fists. They all looked ready to hash it out, but this time with their fists.

"Well," Party suddenly began, glancing down at the girl. Nobody had looked her way since the debacle started, and she was surprised to see their soft expression. "Y'all can argue all you want, but my crew and I'd be happy to take her in. We'll do our best to protect her, and while it might get dangerous out there, that's just the desert. You can't do much about that except prepare for it. We have enough supplies for a fifth person, and the more eyes, the better."

"I'm glad to hear." The doctor sent Party and the Girl an almost smug smile.

"I'm not." Cherri Cola shook his head. “It’s a bad idea. They’re too volatile and not at all emotionally ready to take care of a kid. Plus, with the stunts they constantly pull, it’s way too dangerous for her to be near them. BLi has a personal target on their backs, and Witch knows its too dangerous for her to get caught in the crossfire. We all know Korse is focused on them, and he will stop at nothing until he gets them. You can't expect her to actually be safe with them when Korse will send armies after them. And with their track record...”

He used ‘they’ to refer to the group, but with his eyes focused solely on Party Poison, it was glaringly obvious that he was using it in the singular.

Kobra Kid noticed, and his eyes flashed. Slowly, as if every muscle moving was calculated with absolute precision, he stood to his full height. It was hard to read his expression, but his eyes gave him away. He was livid.

“If you have something to say about them, then say it to our faces.” His voice was eerily calm, yet each syllable was drenched in venom. He jerked his head in the direction of Party as he spoke, who remained oddly silent.

Cherri Cola’s eyes narrowed. “Can you really blame me for worrying about the safety of the kid with them? You know their past just as well as I do. You can't exactly trust them, let alone with a child. You're putting her in unnecessary risk just being near them.”

Show Pony stepped away from the wall they was leaning on, running their fingers through their hair. “Guys, maybe you should cool down.”

They were thoroughly ignored.

“I know it better than you do, and you should know that they’re not going to snap like you always think they will!”

“You can’t promise anything. You can’t promise that they won’t relapse! That they won’t betray you!”

“You have no right to accuse them of that fucking bullshit.”

Jet Star and Fun Ghoul were trading looks. It seemed that they were just as confused as the Girl was. What were they talking about?

“Even if you disregard their past, do you really want to trust a person who frequently hallucinates around a young child?”

“That’s not their fault-“ Jet interjected, frowning.

“So what? It’s a liability and a dangerous one at that! We can’t-“

“Alright!” Party Poison clapped their hands and stood up, silencing the growing argument once again. “Clearly, this is getting us nowhere, and it’s just dragging up shit that does not need to be discussed in front of a seven-year-old quite yet. So I’m going to fix it, since I seem to be the only adult here.”

Cherri scoffed, and Kobra sent him a warning glare to keep quiet. Jet and Ghoul shared another look, eyes suspicious as they watched their leader.

Party’s attention suddenly shifted down to her again, and she looked up, surprised. “Alright kiddo, this is your future we’re talking about here, so I think it’s only fair if you have a choice. Do you wanna stay with Cherri, Pony, and the good Doc, or do you wanna come with me and my gang?”

She felt all eyes become drawn to her, and she was startled at the question. She hadn’t been expecting anybody to want her input.

She frowned and kicked at the floor. Show Pony and Cherri Cola has been real nice to her while she was here, and she was certainly thankful for everything they and Dr. D had given her. And yet...

Something tugged at her to go with the Fab Four. It was as if she knew she’d be better with them, that her destiny involved them and she needed to chase it. She belonged with them.

And if there was one thing Dr. D had drilled into her during her stay, it was to trust her instincts.

“I want to go with you,” she finally answered. Jet Star grinned, Fun Ghoul cheered, and Kobra Kid gave a snide glance toward Cherri.

Party nodded solemnly and put a hand on her shoulder. “Then it looks like the Fab Four have become the Fab Five.”

“Seriously?” Cherri was certainly not pleased. “You’re going to let a seven-year-old dictate this kind of decision?”

“The girl’s already chosen where she wants to go,” the doctor rumbled, finally giving his input. “If she doesn’t want to stay here, I certainly won’t force her to. And as I’ve said before, she’ll be in good hands.”

Cherri looked like he had more to add, but a swift elbow from Show Pony cut him off. Show Pony gave them a warm grin. "Well, I know how busy you four are, so maybe you should head on out. Cherri and I have a run to make, and it's nearly time for the doc to make his daily announcements. I'm sure the Girl's in good hands."

"I'm not," Cherri muttered, and he was elbowed yet again.

Fun Ghoul pursed his lips. "Sure, sure. We should probably give the Girl the tour of her new home, I suppose."

Dr. D waved his hand. "Then, by all means, get her adjusted. She'll be staying with you guys for a while now."

Jet Star glanced at the Girl and offered her a small grin. "Let's head out, okay? I'll show you to the van."

She nodded. "Alright. Bye Dr. D. Bye Cherri and Pony. I'm awfully glad for the time I spent here."

"No problem, kiddo," Show Pony said with a smile. "Keep in contact, alright?"

“Right."

Jet Star steered her away from the group just as Dr. D began to head back into the recording room, but she listened to the murmurs of a new conversation as they moved away. Even as the voices faded, she could still make out the sound of Cherri grunting and a soft smack.

"Jackass-" it was Show Pony's voice- "there was no need to make such a fuss!"

"Well, we should have been in on the loop of his master plan."

"Just because you're pissy over not knowing shit doesn't mean you need to start shit," Fun Ghoul growled. "And what the hell were you even talking about with Party?"

"It's nothing," Party soothed, but there was an edge to his voice. "He just said some things out of anger, that's all. Now, I know the drive to and from here is hell, so let's get this show on the road so we can get back to the diner before hell freezes over, hm?"

The voices died off as they stepped outside, and the Girl couldn't help but feel excited. She had a feeling her time with this group was going to be interesting. Something was going on here, and she wanted to get to the bottom of it.