Today, somewhere on the road between Iowa and New York:

Sally had always liked red cars. Red cars, especially red sports cars, were a symbol of everything that made a person go “Yeah!” to her. You had your speed, you had your power, you had your coolness, you had the looks. Sure, making so much out of a car was perhaps a little shallow, but somehow, red sports cars were something to be happy about in Sally Blevins’ world. Back in her Morlock days, she would sometimes go above ground with fellow Morlocks Erg and Ape. Ape was just going along for the ride, and as he was not very smart could always be persuaded to do anything. His ability to change his shape into any object came in handy for what she and Erg always went to do: joyriding, They would go up in the night, look for a nice set of wheels, and then they would take it for a spin. Erg was always the one driving, as Sally didn’t get her drivers licence until she was in college. But still, they had tons of fun, just driving fast cars through almost empty streets, playing loud music on the car-stereo and singing obnoxiously loud while making complete idiots of themselves, risking capture or worse. Erg never cared so much, and Sally just enjoyed their little trips so much, she never really thought of the danger.  Ape on the other hand, was always terrified of getting caught. He used to hide on the backseat of any car they ripped, in the form of a blanket, calling for Erg to please slow down. Yet every time they asked him, he came along willingly. Sally guessed he didn’t dislike it so much after all.

Riding shotgun in a red car, a corvette, to be exact, Sally wondered whatever happened to Ape. After the massacre, all the surviving Draindwellers, as the little Morlock-tribe Sally and Erg belonged to was called, had moved in with X-Factor. It was a nice time for all of them, even though they were all dealing with the incredible loss they had endured during the Mutant Massacre. After a while, Erg, Tarbaby and Ape moved back into the tunnels. She had heard about what happened to the Morlocks afterward, how they had been wiped of the earth by some crazy Mutant, only to return later, again having suffered an insane amount of casualties. She knew Erg was still alive, and powered, as she had seen him at Xavier’s. The others? She didn’t know. She hardly knew Erg anymore either. The man at Xavier’s was nothing like the guy she had sung all those classic rock songs with while speeding through the New York streets.

“Can we at least change the station?” Joe asked from the back of the car.

“Why? Is there something wrong with this?” Derek Moseley asked, while keeping his eyes on the dark road ahead of him.

“Being the redneck sheriff of a backwater town may be your excuse for liking non-stop country music, but if I hear one more song about some bloody cowboy who’s stupid dog got shot, I’m gonna puke all over your car, okay?” Joe answered.

“I think he means it, Derek.” Sally said.

“Hm…” Derek grumbled, never taking is eyes of the road, and changing the station with one hand while keeping the other on the steering wheel. He cycled through some talk-radio stations, and finally settled on a Classic Rock Station. A couple of guitar chords led into the thumping base of Golden Earring’s Radar Love.

I’ve been driving all night,

My hands wet on the wheel,

There’s a voice in my head,

That drives my heel,

It’s my baby calling,

Says I need you here,

And it’s half past four,

And I’m shifting gear

***********

Several years ago, under New York City:

“Skids? Skids??? C’mon girl, time for dinner!!” Tarbaby was calling into a side tunnel where Skids usually stayed.

“Coming, coming!!!” Skids called back from the little alcove where she slept. She had been skating along the tunnels all morning, and had returned to take some rest in what passed for her bed: an old mouldy mattress on top of some wooden pallets. She got up, and headed towards the side chamber where Annalee and her children lived. When she arrived, all the other Draindwellers were already there. There was Ape, the child in a man’s body who could change into any shape, Annalee the empathy and older lady taking care of the two little children she called her babies, Caliban, the white skinned man with bulging eyes that could find other mutants, Tarbaby, the African American man whose skin stuck to anything and Erg, the angry young man who could unleash and absorb energy. At the middle of the table sat Leech, the green skinned little boy who nullified all of their powers. Skids loved Leech, as he was the one who could turn of her force field so she could eat, bathe and change her clothes. Of course, she always made him turn around for those last two things. Everybody was pretty sure Leech was a young boy, but the massive deformities that accompanied his mutations made it impossible to be sure. Then again, all of the Morlocks had at least some deformity or ugly mark. Erg was missing an eye, Tarbaby was usually covered in a black sticky substance, Ape’s facial features were decidedly simian, Caliban looked almost alien and Annalee was just very ugly. Of all the morlocks, Skids was the only one who looked beautiful, as she could tell by the way Tarbaby and Erg always looked at her. Skids didn’t care much for her beauty though. It never brought her any happiness, and made her an outcast among the Morllocks, many of whom prided themselves on their deformity, and some even had Masque, a Tunneller and confidant of their leader Callisto, make them more deformed.

“Eat everybody! I took much troubles to get us this food!” Ape said, as he pointed to the spread on the table, which was indeed very nice.

“Good chow, Ape. Where’d you geddit?” Tarbaby asked.

“Ape knows place, place up top, where people throw away food. Food very good, but people throw away” Ape answered proudly.

“Goodness gracious! Ape, you went up top to get this? Oh dear, you poor boy, the things that could have happened!” Annalee called out, and turned to her children who were sitting at a small separate table “My babies, you never go up top, you hear? Stick down here, where it’s safe!”

“Yes Mom!” both children answered between bites.

“Oh yeah, sure! Put some more fear in them, so they’re safe to eat cast-off’s, leftovers and food that’s gone bad for the rest of their lives!” Erg cut in, silencing the table.

“Well, it’s true, isn’t it? We’re living of societies scraps down here, right?” Erg asked.

“I think Ape has done a wonderful job getting us this food. Thank you Ape!” Skids said.

“Thank you, Skids! Ape like you!” Ape said, as they continued their meal.

“Howd’ ya geddis stuff through th’ alley?  Lot of folks there’d rob ya, passin’ by with so much food!” Tarbaby asked.

“Ape know shortcut, through tunnels.” Ape said smiling, thinking himself very clever.

“Well, you can all say whatever you want, I’m enjoying this food but I still don’t think it’s smart going up top!” Annalee said.

“Caliban thinks Annalee is right. Caliban has been up top, and Caliban didn’t like it.” Caliban said.

“Whatever. Let’s eat!” Erg said, and so they all did.

After dinner was finished, Skids, Tarbaby, Erg & Ape left together. When they came to a junction in the drains that would lead them all to their separate living spaces, Erg spoke up.

“So, Ape, you wanna show us where this way upstairs of yours is?”

“Ape told you. Way leads through tunnels” Ape answered.

“Well hello-oo! Of course it does. Tunnels are al we have here!” Erg answered annoyed.

“I think he means through the Tunnelers Tunnels” Skids said.

“The Tunnelers!! Holy hell, Ape, are you out of your mind?” Erg said, “It’s one thing to get your food stolen in the Alley, but the Tunnelers? Man, those bastards will kill you as soon as look at you!” Erg said.

“Ape can disguise. Ape can move through without Tunnelers seeing!” Ape said.

“Ape, ya know I like ya an’ all, but the tunnelers are bad news. You best not go there ‘gain!” Tarbaby said.

“He’s right, Ape. The Tunnelers are dangerous. I know Masque would like to kill me when he gets the chance. He thinks I don’t belong with you people. I’ve seen him look at me in the Alley. That guy is insane!” Skids said.

“Yeah, Ape! You’re an idiot! Oh wait, that’s old news!” Erg said.

Ape looked down, embarrassed about the criticism he received. Tarbaby noticed, and patted him on the back carefully, as not to stick to him.

“Oh, will you look at that! The two dummies!” Erg said.

“Shut up, Erg! Just shut up! At least Ape was brave enough to head up top to get us he best meal in months! And there’s nothing wrong with being kind to your friends!” Skids shouted at Erg.

Everybody was quiet after that. Erg threw an angry glance at everybody, and stomped of. Sally said goodbye to the others, and also left, after which Ape and Tarbaby also went their separate ways. The tunnels were once again silent.

************

Today, at an all-night gas station between Iowa and New York:

“I don’t care what you say, Sally, I still think that sheriff is a creep!” Joe said, sitting on the hood of Derek’s red corvette as Derek had gone inside to pay for gas and pick up something to eat and drink. Although he had left is identity as Toby Jacobs behind in Harington, he still looked like a little boy instead of like the demon he was.

“Why? Because he found out about our little scheme?” Sally asked.

“Well…. Yeah… Why else?” Toby asked in return

“Let’s see… He set me up to kill my father, he just handed me a huge box of cash that belonged to dear old dad, he wasn’t freaked out at all by you being a demon, he caught me digging up the body of a dead little boy and didn’t freak out, he is extremely interested in both of our stories, and has volunteered to help us find the Blob without a second thought. On top of that, he mysteriously lost his wedding ring.” Sally said

“Lost his ring? Uh… well, okay, all that, too. Don’t you think he’s a creep?”

“Of course I do! But he’s also very willing to help me do what I need to do, and that is go to Mutant Town, find the Blob, and ask him whatever happened to the Inferno-babies!”

“But you don’t trust him, do you?”

Sally just stared at Joe with a look that spoke volumes.

“Okay, okay… Just so as we’re clear… I bet that guy was onto us from the moment we first discussed the plan” Joe said, as Sally wondered how Sheriff Derek Moseley had found out about her and Joe.