Tarik and Derrick seemed to talk for many hours with ease, and about any subject matter. For Tarik this was a blessing, to him Derrick didn’t seem like the average Gifted, stuffy acting and always quoting spiritual law was how the Gifted acted around Tarik. Instead Derrick was always curious, asking questions and adding comments to the answers Tarik provided that either approved or disapproved with what was said but never in a combative manner that would make Tarik feel that he had to defend himself. The day went by smoothly and without confrontation from the Shroud. There was always the threat that anything could happen unsuspectingly, after all the Shroud controlled everything of importance. Law enforcement was unwittingly run by the Shroud with certain officers’ high ranking and low that willingly worked for their masters. Certain officers were alerted to how Tarik looked, his skin color and bald head. His height and shape of his frame. Tarik knew not to feel too laid back, whenever he saw a police officer he made sure to not bring attention. As of yet the Shroud hadn’t openly declared him public enemy number one but he was considered to be so. Perhaps Lord Apex was just waiting for his own agents to find Tarik without making it public. People might ask questions later if Tarik was captured then disappeared while in custody. Tarik knew that it was only a matter of time before the right Shroud agent found him bringing a really good fight, he’d slain several already, and with each new agent came a more skillful and powerful gift. Take the Seekers for instance, Tarik was baffled by them. They were faster and stronger than he, and he wasn’t able to siphon their gift. It truly troubled him but it was also very odd. Something about the Seekers didn’t feel right, he could sense it. There was something else to them that really irked him, something unnatural. It was past midnight now, the glow of the street lamps whizzed by with a repeated blurred haze. The soft low growl of Derrick’s stomach caught Tarik’s attention. He made sure not to notice, he knew full well that Derrick only had two loaves of bread and beyond a half empty jar of peanut butter. It wasn’t hard to tell that Derrick was trying to save those two loaves for when he was truly starving. Derrick shifted uneasily in his seat trying to mask his hunger, leaning against the driver side window he closed his eyes taking a deep breath trying to get some rest. They drove past a sign a mile back welcoming them into Darby Creek Colorado, a small town of thirty thousand people. Buildings and stores to snare travelers became more frequent on both sides of the road, Tarik eyed the neon sign of McDookies golden pillars and decided to pull in to grab something to eat. “You hungry bro?” Tarik asked Derrick while pulling into the drive through. “I’m good thanks” Derrick said eyeing the menu board as if he could eat the sign. This was one of the problems Tarik had with the Gifted. They had abilities to help them live good lives yet could not use their powers to aid in making their lives better thanks to spiritual law. He recalled all too well many a time that he and his father starved if his father couldn’t find work when he was a boy. That was just plain stupid to Tarik. The Gifted may have labeled him a half light but at least he never had to worry about where he was going to sleep or what he was going to eat. To be starving meant one might be too weak to fight against a Shroud agent. To not get a restful night’s sleep meant that one might be too exasperated to even fight. None of that made sense to Tarik no matter how much Judge Moses tried to preach to him. While Tarik looked over the menu a female voice came over the speaker on the menu board.
“Thank you for stopping at McDookies, may I take your order?” She asked. Tarik rubbed his chin the light from the menu board reflecting in his eyes.
“Yea could I have two number eights please both with a sweet tea please” Tarik said.
“Two number eights with a sweet tea? What size would you like sir? Small, medium, or large?” She asked. Tarik knew that he was hungry, just as hungry as Derrick maybe.
“Make them both large please” Tarik said. Derrick noticed that Tarik ordered for two but said nothing. His pride would not let him. His hunger easily beat back his pride in hopes that the second number eight was for him.
“Your total is fourteen thirty six, please pull up to the drive through window sir” The woman said. Tarik pulled up without saying a word or even looking at Derrick. Stopping at the drive through window a short Hispanic lady smiled and slid the window open, Tarik reached into his pocket pulling out his wallet. While opening his wallet Derrick spotted that Tarik was by no means lacking cash, Tarik flicked though the bills until he found a twenty pulling it out he reached over handing it to the employee. She quickly broke change then handed him the two large tea drinks which he sat on the cup holder in the center of the van. While they waited for the food nothing was said between Tarik and Derrick, but the growling of Derrick’s stomach would burst in from time to time. Derrick finally reached back grabbing his bag. He was too hungry to feel foolish to ask for something to eat, his pride was stronger than his hunger after all. “Hold up…” Tarik said to Derrick, the lady at the drive through started handing him the bags of food. “Here” he said handing Derrick one of the bags, Derrick rose his hand declining. The aroma of the hamburgers and fries filled the van making Derrick feel intoxicated with the scent of food. Tarik thanked the woman then drove off. “Dude just take the damn bag, you’re insulting my hospitality!” Tarik said feinting shame and impatience. He knew this would be the only way Derrick would eat. If it was one thing that Tarik had learned about Derrick, it was that he never wanted to offend. Derrick reached out making sure to fight the urge to grab the bag quickly looking desperately hungry. He finally grabbed the bag opening it slowly, Tarik reached down pulling out a handful of fries stuffing them in his mouth not paying attention to Derrick who finally gave in and madly opened his hamburger wrapper. He took a large bite of the sandwich savoring the flavor, a hamburger never tasted so good.
Derrick was quite new on his journey when he crossed paths with Tarik, he hadn’t yet experienced the true hardships of surviving, not like many of the Gifted had been living. His life had been relatively easy, that was the cause of him wanting to get out and see the world, inspired by the heroic actions of the Shroud hunter. Thus far he still didn’t even know that Tarik was the legendary Shroud hunter, Tarik wanted to keep it that way. How would Derrick act or respond if he knew that Tarik was the Shroud hunter? Would he be considered the half-light that others of the gifted fold named him? It troubled Tarik that he enjoyed Derricks company or that he even valued it. When the time was right he’d tell Derrick, just not right now. At that time Derrick could make his decision. “Thank you” Derrick said talking with a full mouth of food, Tarik kept his eyes forward, he didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. “No prob.” Tarik replied grabbing his beverage sipping on the straw. Tarik caught sight of an ATM on the left side of the road and after a second thought he slammed on the brakes before making a hard left peeling out causing Derrick to brace in his seat by placing his elbow on the driver side window. “Dude…!” Derrick protested. Tarik pulled up near the ATM then got out of the van walking over to it. “What are you doing?” Derrick yelled out of the van. Tarik walked up to the ATM machine. “Just checking something real quick!” Tarik said looking over at Derrick. He waited a few moments until Derrick went back to eating his food before he turned placing his hands on the kiosk. At first he didn’t think Joe’s gift of hacking and controlling electronic devices would be of any use, and he only initially absorbed Joe’s gift because he didn’t feel like walking back to the city. Joe had used his gift to start the van without the use of keys also hacking and bypassing the vans security. But after passing the ATM Tarik got to thinking about how easily and quickly Joe came up with the bounty that he had to pay Tarik for him and his two daughters. No Gifted could come up with money that fast. Tarik wanted to test his hunch. There was a slight flickering sensation in Tarik’s hands as they touched the kiosk, the screen lit up with matrix codes dashing across it, not even seconds later money came out of the cash slot. Tarik glanced quickly over at Derrick who wasn’t paying attention. He took the money counting it excitedly before an afterthought came to him. Touching the screen he felt his hand flicker briefly, he hacked into the security system erasing the video footage of him standing there then shut the camera down altogether. Quickly walking away he pulled out his wallet putting the money inside it before opening the door. Derrick looked over at him curiously.
“You have a bank account?” Derrick asked. Tarik took off making a U turn on the road driving back in the direction that they were originally going.
“Yea…” He said without looking at Derrick. Derrick gave a thoughtful look as he stared out in front of him.
“Judge Santiago said that it would be foolish and dangerous to have one. He said that it might leave a trail for the Shroud to follow” Derrick replied before grabbing his beverage sipping from the straw. Tarik was a bit annoyed by hearing that. He was starting to realize that Judges were part of the problem and not part of the solution. They always preached spiritual law and how one should not break it.
“There are some Gifted who put their kids in school including my dad. And I can never remember my dad ever giving our real names. We always had fake identifications, mostly all gifted carry fake ID’s.”
“I have heard that Judges are now proclaiming that we should teach our children what is needed academically so that they need not go to school with humans.” Derrick said, he took the last bite of his sandwich.
“What does that have to do with having a bank account though? As long as you use a fake ID you’re good to go.” Tarik was feeling pretty good right now, he knew that he had unlimited money at his disposal. He thought about if he should charge the Gifted anymore for his services but decided that since they still looked down on him they deserved to pay for it. Derrick had been talking but Tarik wasn’t listening until he heard a question. “What’s that?” He asked, Derrick didn’t seem to mind that he had to repeat, his stomach was feeling too grateful at the moment.
“The Judges are proclaiming that we should all live an honest life, that fake ID’s should be a thing of the past. My question was you don’t agree?”
“No I don’t agree!” Tarik said sharply. “Those fuckers are sitting on high not doing a damn thing to help us, yet they want to tell us how to fucking live?” He nodded his head in disgust. “And then they want to tell you to do things that make your life even harder? Yea… they can keep their rules for all I care!” Tarik was flustered gripping the steering wheel with both hands slightly twisting his hands forward then back. He was completely annoyed by spiritual law. He thought about Joe and how Joe used his gift to steal money from the ATM machines, there was no doubt that’s what he’d been doing. The entire trip not one time did he seem concerned that there would not be enough money, to Tarik that was something uncharacteristic of a Gifted but he didn’t really care because he’d already gotten paid for the job. The thing was why should Joe have to worry about how he was going to feed his daughters? He had the ability to take care of them why should that be wrong? The only problem Tarik had was that Joe was a hypocrite. He judged Tarik for being a half light, and for making money by use of his gift yet he was stealing money by use of his gift, not to mention Joe stealing the van too. It was all starting to bother Tarik more than usual.
“I can say I have a problem with Judges on how they act coldly toward us, as if they are better or something. But I do agree with spiritual law, and well, Judges do teach us how to use our gifts.” Derrick said interrupting Tarik’s train of thought. Through the discussion they’d driven through the small town making their way out to open road again. Tarik caught sight of sign that stated a rest area was a few miles up. He decided that they would pull over and get some sleep for the night and start back at it in the morning. He was too angry right now to continue driving and he felt that if this conversation continued he and Derrick might get into a heated debate. Rest would do them both good.