Fifty Percent Off Everything
rating: +38+x

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"All right, fixed his face." Felicity thought it was a pretty good job, if she did say so herself. The eyes weren't quite right, and the hair was a little patchy, but with a hat and some sunglasses, Ruiz's own mother would swear he was still alive. "How's he looking, Tanks?"

Tanksy, the Tankie Banksy, grunted and kept his eyes on the road. He was the only one with a driver's license. (Felicity could drive. But she never got around to taking the driver's test, and her learner's permit expired like six years ago. She kept it around for slipping latches and pushing white powders into neat little lines.)

"Yeah, I agree. Perfection. So, next stop, Battery Park?"

Casio, the 3D printer in the back seat, whirred to life, laying down filament at a speed that would have your average 3D printer aficionado creaming their jeans. She produced a one-twenty-fourth scale model of Felicity getting beaten by several police officers, while the Statue of Liberty looked on from across the waters.

"The cops won't even see me. I've got an invisibility cloak. Borrowed the technique from that lady with the non-euclidean textiles."

The model dissolved and was absorbed back into the printer. She started printing again. This time, the tiny Felicity was getting jostled by a mass of tourists, her invisibility cloak lost beneath the crowd's feet.

"Do you have any constructive criticism, or are you just striking down my ideas like a toddler smashing a block tower made of my ideas?"

A crescent moon, complete with cartoon face sticking its tongue out.

"It's actually waning gibbous tonight."

A raised middle finger.

"Fuck you too, Cass. Ok, we wait for nightfall. Tanksy!"

Tanksy, the Tankie Banksy, grunted again. He was sick of New York traffic.

"To Times Square! We're gonna go to Olive Garden."

The Times Square Olive Garden was a miserable place, made more miserable by the people. The tourists, Midwestern moms with hordes of children, Korean retirees in "I <3 New York" bucket hats, British honeymooners regretting choosing here over Mallorca; the employees, bitter chain-smoking line cooks with bad tattoos, faux-chipper college students considering moving back in with Mom, middle-aged mothers working three jobs to pay for their kids' medical bills; and, perhaps worst of all, the locals, chain retail store assistant managers on forgettable second dates, post-divorce accountants treating themselves to a nice lunch, smug bespectacled twenty-somethings live-tweeting their experience for their hipster friends.

Carla assumed that the newest walk-ins were the latter. (She, being one of the secret architects of a global conspiracy, was in none of the typical categories, though she was an employee on paper.) A scruffy white guy in an army-surplus jacket and a Che Guevara hat; a chick who kind of looked like Scarlett Johansson playing an art school drop out; another guy in a Mets cap and sunglasses, clearly either stoned, hungover, or both, half-asleep in the booth. They'd also brought a 3D printer in with them. She decided to ignore it.

"Welcome to Olive Garden! My name is Carla, and I'll be your server today. How are we all doing?"

"Fan-freaking-tastic." She really did look a lot like Scarlett Johansson. Carla was pretty sure that Scarlett Johansson wouldn't ever come to an Olive Garden; but this particular Olive Garden was the modern omphalos, the navel of the world, and stranger things had happened within its quaint faux-stucco walls.

"Great! Can I start you off with something to drink?"

"I think we're actually ready to order. Tanks?"

"Yeah I'll get the chicken parm and a Mountain Dew." He passed Carla the menu. There was some kind of pamphlet folded up inside, a cheap photocopy with a big hammer and sickle in one corner. "The workers of the world have nothing to lose but their chains, comrade. Read that pamphlet."

Carla nodded, and pocketed the pamphlet for later perusal. Or, more likely, disposal. "Sure thing! And uh, what'll you have, miss?"

"I'll get four of the chicken fettucine alfredos and a gin and tonic."

"… Four of them?"

"I'm a growing girl. I'm not trying to reverse-engineer the recipe to start my own competing fast-casual Italian restaurant chain, that would be ridiculous."

"Right. Ok. Anything for your friend there?" Carla pointed at the other man, who hadn't so much as twitched in his sleep since they came in.

"Hmm? Oh, no, Ruiz is a breatharian. He subsists only on sunlight and oxygen. New fad diet, you understand. But…"

The 3D printer started printing. Carla stared at it in confusion. "Uh, ma'am, is that plugged in? I'm afraid we can't let you plug in anything larger than a laptop."

"Oh, don't worry, she's hooked up to a car battery." Before Carla could object to that, the printer finished; a margarita glass, in green filament, stood on the platform. "She'll have a margarita. Thanks!"

"Yeah, sure, OK." Carla grabbed the menus and hurried away.

Felicity dug into her pasta with gusto. Ruiz had passed his first field test; the waitress had no idea that her breatharian friend was a corpse. And the chicken fettucine alfredo would be easier to reverse-engineer than she'd anticipated. "Looks like everything's coming up Felicity."

"Don't talk with your mouth full."

"Yeah, ok, dad." She flipped Tanksy the bird. "How's your chicken parm?"

He shrugged. "It's the product of the global capitalist hegemony. But other than that, you know, it's alright. Hey, hey, no, ask first." He parried Felicity's roving fork with his own.

"Property is theft!"

"Proudhon was a bourgeois individualist and also that's not what he meant."

As Felicity was lifting her stolen bounty to her lips, she heard something that made her blood go cold.

"Mommy! Mommy! Look, it's Black Widow!"

Tanksy was already giggling, and Casio was no doubt printing the Avengers logo or a little spider or some equally unpleasant reminder of Felicity's misfortune.

"Oh, wow. Sorry, do you think we could get a selfie? My daughter is a huge fan."

Felicity sighed, and gazed across her gin and tonic at the approaching family. They were wearing matching t-shirts, which told all who cared to look that they would Never Forget September Eleventh. (Tanksy also owned a t-shirt with that message on it; his, of course, was in reference to the 1973 Chilean coup d'etat.) "I'm not Scarlett Johansson."

"Oh no!" The woman who'd ruined Felicity's day sounded appropriately contrite; but instead of leaving her alone, as she would in a just world, she continued to talk. "Wow, you really look just like her. Sorry, you must get that a lot."

"Yeah, well." Tanksy had the sort of shit-eating grin that indicated he was about to spill Felicity's darkest secrets to a total stranger. At this point, there was nothing she could do. "She thought Scarlett was really hot in The Prestige, you know, that one where David Bowie plays Nikola Tesla? This was, uh, freshman year of high school?" Felicity nodded, and lay her face down in her chicken fettucine alfredo. Tanksy was on a groove now. "So then senior year, she decides, hey, getting facial feminization surgery's expensive, I'm just gonna use my mad plagiarism skills to steal her face."

"To plagiarize her face, there's a difference." Felicity's voice was muffled by the pasta. It was nice and warm, a loving embarrassment-proof cocoon.

"Whatever. Anyway, Iron Man 2 had come out already, but Scarlett wasn't a huge deal in the MCU, you know? And then a couple months later, Avengers happens. And the rest, as they say, is history."

"Um." The child was clearly slightly dazed, as if she'd just been shaken in a paint mixer. Tanksy tended to have that effect on children and other small mammals. "You… You stole Black Widow's face?"

Felicity lifted her face, dripping with parmesan, and gave her best death glare. "Yes. And I'll steal yours too if you don't stop bothering me." The kid shrieked and ran, and her mother followed after. "Hey let's get out of here, huh?"

Cass had already melted down the scale-model Avengers Tower; she printed a thumbs-up. Tanksy nodded his assent.

"Hey! Lady!" Felicity waved vigorously at their waitress as she wiped the pasta from her face. "Can we get the check?"

Carla stalked over to the table from hell, check held before her as a shield. She slapped it down in front of the Scarlett Johansson impersonator. "Ok. Please, pay, and get out."

"Sure thing! Oh, wait, I've got a coupon. Well, I've got a few coupons." She rummaged in her purse for a moment and pulled out a ziploc baggie full of various newspaper clippings, printouts and promotional flyers. "So this one's for my friend's chicken parm, here's one for the margarita, this one's a manufacturer's coupon for the Mountain Dew, it's my birthday today so this one gives me an entree for free, this one's good for thirty percent off the whole thing, Cass is only three so this one means she eats for free, this one is a ten-dollar rebate, and this one's a groupon." She presented the stack to Carla with a smile.

"I…" Carla was rendered speechless. She was pretty sure that this was bullshit. "Let me talk to my manager."

Todd, her manager, was up front by the register. "Hey, Carla, what's up?" He saw the stack of coupons. "Oh, Christ almighty. Lemme see those." He ran them through one by one; against all logic, each one scanned. "Shit. Uh. Well. I don't know how they did that. But here's the new receipt."

Carla stared at it. She had faced down Mafia hitmen, foreign dictators, dark sorcerers and worse without blinking; but this, this frightened her. She turned away without saying a word, and went back to the table, fire in her eyes.

"Your total," Carla said, dripping venom from every word, "Is five dollars and thirteen cents. Congratulations."

The woman smiled. "Awesome! Hey, Tanks, looks like yours came to eighty-seven cents. You got a buck?"

He reached into one of the pockets on his jacket and pulled out a thoroughly crumpled dollar bill. He smoothed it out, and handed it to Carla. Someone had vandalized it pretty thoroughly; Washington had a big bushy beard, and there was a website scribbled across the bottom.

"Make sure to check out that site. It's my podcast."

"Jeez, Tanks, we're supposed to be undercover." She winked at Carla and produced two crisp hundred-dollar bills. "Sorry for being a pain. Keep the change. Have a nice day!" She grabbed the 3D printer, and her buddy heaved their hungover friend over his shoulder. Carla was still staring at the bills as they left.

"They're counterfeit, aren't they."

"Yyyyyyyyep." Todd had called her into the back office. "I mean, some of it's my bad. But, Carla, you gotta check any bill over a twenty."

"I'm sorry, I know, it won't happen again."

"No, it's fine. I just…" Todd sighed. "The bills I understand, but what kind of person counterfeits coupons?"

"A real asshole, Todd. I'm taking my 10 minutes." She went out back to the dumpsters, and pulled out her phone. The woman was still an enigma, but the man had given her the name of his podcast. She dialed, and three hundred miles away, an assistant manager at Red Lobster answered.

"This is Charles."

"Chuck. Contingency Sigma-Three. Target's alias is Tanksy, the Tankie Banksy. Neutralize him and any associates."

"Roger that, ma'am."

Carla snapped her phone shut and smiled. They would regret the day they crossed the Directorate.

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