After school, huh? Fine! Not like she's going to class anyway. She just prowls around, finding unoccupied rooms at Gardner during the regular classes, plays on her phone, polishes her plans for total domination, that sorta thing. Nono's advice was good. This is a fact-finding mission, not a date. This makes sense and helps her with some of her concerns. She does have one big problem left, though: the advice from the boss. Relate to the hero. But she hates him. Kid Kelvin made her look stupid, blew her off, kept just not showing up, over and god damn over again. He's irresponsible and it makes her look bad for picking him as a nemesis. Plus, he's personally obnoxious. Every time she sees him, he's got that bored, vacant look on his face, like he's got better places to be. No you don't, dorkface! You're stuck in school like the rest of the lemmings! Anyway. The boss's advice has always been good. And he's been good about answering questions. She opens the secure app and sends him a message. She puts her phone away, more confused than ever. Kid Kelvin is standing out front, still looking bored. "Hey." Hmm. We're still upholding our cover, so... "Hey yourself." This is an intel mission. We're supposed to learn about him. Common places he can be found, that sort of thing. So: "So where are we going?" "Y'like barbecue? You okay eating pork, no religious or allergy stuff?" "Sure. Spicier the better." He chuckles. "Yeah, I agree. Fine. Meet you here." He writes down an address on a slip of paper and hands it over. "It's the Halcyon Hog Pit. Eastern style. See ya at 7." Perfect! That leaves a few hours to go track down Nono Rodriguez again, prepare a suitable cache of explosives and tracking devices, scout escape routes, the whole hog. So to speak. Nono came through with a decent shirt-and-skirt combination that isn't too far from her size. This coffee-shop bathroom isn't great, but it's functional, and the primping and makeup don't take more than forty-five minutes. That's enough time for Samir to rig the claymores. Nono has been alternating between cooing reassurances ("you look great, hon") and worried warnings ("please don't try to kill anyone"). She keeps furtively trying to do something with her camera-phone, probably signal someone or take a picture, and Hot Mess keeps having to find new and increasingly ridiculous excuses to disrupt that nonsense. But it seems to work out. The other henchman, Pierre, pulls up in the car with the "Uber" sticker in the window. Say what you will about the century's Internet economy and the crushing effects of government-mandated capitalism (the boss sure does), but it makes a hell of a cover. Hot Mess waves goodbye to Nono and gets underway. This state has some kind of weird thing about barbecue. Apparently there's two varieties, Lexington and eastern-style. Whatever. By the time she's finished with all this girly-girly nonsense and ready to roll, by the time she's double-checked and triple-checked the holdout pistol and grenades and tracking devices in her purse, she's actually hungry. Pierre will be on standby for a quick getaway if the date goes very well (she manages to defeat Kid Kelvin right then and there) or very poorly (the cops show up, AEGIS paradrops in, her date gets boring or grabby). And..... he showed up in his regular school clothes. Fuck it, why does she even bother? The first several minutes of the date are the second worst part of the evening. It's the usual nonsense. Kid Kelvin is still acting bored, and he's trying - god dammit, he's really trying , if you know what I mean, haha that was a joke, kill me now to get me outta this shit show - to make some kind of conversation. He just sucks at it. She tries to tease information out of him, and he just keeps bringing it back to her. "What classes do you like", "who's the teacher you hate the most", the most boring high-school nonsense you could ever ask for, and she spins the same web of lies she fed into the Gardner computer system via the boss's hacker contact. Finally, though, things turn around a little. He says something, almost shyly, like he's not sure how it'll be taken. And it's weird, because he has resolutely not talked about his role as a superhero so far. Data points, data points! Oh yeah, what did he say? It was uh, it was: "Y'know, I was supposed to meet a girl at a restaurant for a date awhile back. It got attacked by a villain. Too bad." Well duh it got attacked, that was the point of inviting you to the restaurant. But that's not the point. Hot Mess has a lot going on in her exciting and dynamic life, but there's a brain inside that skull and it's working full time. He wants to know if I'm the girl he was supposed to meet. Well yes, that would be the logical conclusion of the lie, so full steam ahead! "Oh, yes. Well, I asked a friend of mine to ask you, so.. that might have been me." He nods to that - of course he would, he thinks he's so smart now, like he solved the riddle, I'm the shy girl who can't get up the nerve to ask out the great Kid Kelvin, fuck you and your attitude-- "Wish I'd made it. I mean, the date'd be ruined, which is bad. But I'd have got to meet that unknown villain. Y'know, not many people in this city like hearing this, but villains can be really neat, interesting people." Skreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech. "Te-tell me more." "Well... Take King Winter, that guy who fought the Gale family." And who you've done your best to convince the world is probably your dad, though you never come out and say so, ya big wuss. "Sure, he tried to destroy the world with a huge ice comet. But they don't talk about when our government almost did, when we were rivals with the Russians and had nukes. And they thought they had good reasons. Why didn't anyone ask him his?" "Okay?" "Then there's that guy up north, the guy who can grow and stuff. All kinds of anti-government stuff, but who has he really hurt? Who has he killed? No one." He's talking about the boss! OMG OMG OMG. Wait, he's still talking. Reel your shit in and listen. "And y'know, he's made some interesting points about our fucked up political situation..." She wants to shout it. She settles for a gleeful "Yes! There's more going on than we're told." "Yeah. And some villains are willing to pull back that curtain, and expose the hypocrisy and lies. For example...." The two have been talking for ninety minutes. Just, y'know, talking. And eating. Lots of eating. Lots and lots of eating. But mostly talking! What the fuck? The barbecue has been amazing . Whatever generations-long family-recipe bullshit these North Carolinans buy into for their smoked pork, it's working. And the sides, god damn. Sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, some kind of weird aioli sauce from the planet Saturn that's too good for human mouths. It's new to her, because she's used to ketchup and it's all mayo and weird tasting oddly shaped bits of meat but it works . She's stuffed, and she's going to have to waddle out of here. Hope Pierre can tie her to the roof rack or something. On that note! Hot Mess glances at her phone. Coded message from Pierre - security window closing soon, AEGIS surveillance birds will be overhead. Time to go! "Listen, I should get going," she says. "Yeah. Hey, this was really good. We should do this again." "Yeah, let's," her mouth says, apparently too full of mind-control mayo and hypnotic spices to let her brain take charge. This is when the worst part of the evening happens. He leans in, close, like real close, and kisses her. His mouth tastes like spicy seasoning and pork. Then he pulls away. And before she can regain any sort of equilibrium or initiative, he's out the door. What? God dammit. God DAMMIT. GOD DAMMIT HE HUMILIATED HER AGAIN. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK - inhale, you need air - FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK. She spits, and wipes her mouth off with a napkin. Ugh. Ugh. I need to vomit. I'll vomit in Pierre's car. No, I'll vomit back at the hideout, I have my mineral water there. And a bubble bath after. There's one consolation. At least Kid Kelvin walked out the door, carrying a tracking device she planted on him. As long as Samir is on the job, she'll know where he goes. Who he sees. Where he lives. And then, then, yes, oh yes, it'll be time for revenge. Which is a dish best served... hot!