Miles away, a huge crowd gathered in front of a tiny plushie booth.
“Form a line!” One of the newly-hired bodyguard’s voices boomed, hoping his stellar performance would earn him extra.
“Me next, me next!” A teenage boy scurried up to the front, holding out his hands.
“One… alone.” Katie told Frankie.
“I can see that.” She answered, not the slightest bit of anxiety in her pupils. “Here.” She offered the boy a carefully-calculated reward. “Try and cheat us, and one of my men will see to it that you’re thoroughly pulverized. Make it out in under six minutes, and you’ll get a bonus from the staff outside.”
“You don’t hafta tell me twice!” He exclaimed, dashing off towards the closest exit.
“Er, next!” Katie called over the crowd, Umi watching her worriedly as she leaned against one of the stall’s supports, hoping no one would notice her as the previous owner of the booth stood in front of her, offering parting gifts to any children upset about their parents forcing them to leave early.
“I really don’t approve of this…” the lifeguard remarked, hoping for a response from either of the siblings. But as they worked, Katie now submitting to Frankie’s mad plan, she could no longer get through to them.
“The crowds are getting smaller and smaller…” Katie spoke under her breath, trying to keep track of everyone coming to the booth. “Frankie… how much money do you have left?”
“Plenty.” She said, handing off the next gift. “Hey, I quit worrying. Shouldn’t be too hard for you to follow suit, don’t you think?”
Katie mumbled a “yeah” before getting back to work, trying to parse her thoughts under the chaos. It was no use. She couldn’t figure out why she was so uncomfortable all of a sudden, like the two of them had switched brains.
The more the park shrunk, the more the line grew- that’s how it went for the first and slowest hour. But after that- a much different situation formed. As people left faster and faster in larger and larger groups- both the crowds around town and the people waiting in line diminished drastically. Soon enough, they were just picking up the scraps, with forty or so people waiting to get their severance pay from their vacation. Even Frankie was surprised as to how well her plan was working. It was to the point where the locals themselves happily packed their bags and left town for a free paycheck. Any stragglers were quickly swayed when offered an under-the-counter bonus, and the few that complained were satisfied much the same way.
As the timid girl stared at the shrinking wad in her left hand, she was almost mortified by the amount of power she possessed. Just as a large family came up to see what they could get with their three children in tow, however, a woman’s voice, crackling with fury, broke the fascination.
Ms. Ezra Pearlman strode up to the counter, her guard pushing aside those in line as she stared over the counter with the most terrifying face Frankie could imagine.
“Just who is responsible for this establishment…?”
Frankie nervously raised her hand.
“That… would be me, ma’am…”
“I never spoke with you. Did you agree to this?” She shot to the owner and permit-holder of the original booth, who just nodded as he stuck his hands up and slowly took cover behind the counter.
“Umi? Is that you?” Sky noticed their trusty coworker behind where the man had been.
“M-Ma’am.” Frankie swallowed hard before managing to speak to the appointed owner of the park. “This is a… perfectly legitimate business, I swear.”
“Not without my approval it isn’t.” Pearlman growled, leaning over the counter. “You’ve gutted my profits for the day… why, I should have you gutted yourself…”
“P-please.” She shivered, her fear catching up to her. “Just… er, I can make up for it. Take this. See?” She offered the woman half the money she had left.
Ezra howled with laughter.
“That pathetic clump? You couldn’t pay back what you owe with all the cash you already gave out to my guests.”
“Er, I… uh…” Frankie stuttered, running out of options. She looked at Katie, but she had nothing.
“Is she with you? I’ll have you both kicked out. Then all this will have been for nothing.”
Umi’s ears perked up.
“B-but… ma’am, I…”
“Shut your trap. One more word out of you… and I’ll kick your face before I kick you out.”
…I wanna be here!”
“WHAT DID I JUST SAY TO YOU?!”
Ms. Pearlman’s trickery-enhanced foot flew through the air, ready to turn Frankie’s face into a swimming pool- before it was caught in a tanned, gentle hand.
“I apologize, ma’am.” Umi spoke, her hand painfully dissolving into fleshy goo. “I enabled this guest to commit this crime. It was my fault- not hers. Please, punish me- but let her stay. She wasn’t right, but… she’s earned it.”
Flabbergasted, awestruck, and maybe just a little humiliated- Ezra took her foot off her worker’s hand, instantly reverting it back to normal.
“You… you’re fired!”
“Yes, ma’am. I understand.”
Katie gasped, as Frankie’s eyes just widened.
“N-no!” Katie grabbed at Pearlman’s suit. “You- you can’t! Just kick us out instead! Umi doesn’t deserve this!”
“It’s okay, Katie.” Umi breathed. “Listen… you won.”
Umi straightened herself back out, standing at eye-level with Ezra.
“Thank you for making such a gracious consideration, ma’am. Me nor these girls will visit this park again, I can assure you of that. Just… let us have this one day.”
“Guess I’ve got no choice- you three are the only guests I’ll have left at this rate. You better spend whatever you got left playing games. I hope you waste every penny.”
She stepped away, motioning to her squad.
“Let’s go back, everyone. Let their customers do as they please… it won’t be happening again.”
Sky looked at Umi one last time. As she smiled slyly at them, they felt oddly inspired.
As the crew zipped away, Millie and Sandra stood in line, and were still paid to leave the park, along with everyone else there. As far as Frankie could tell… she’d accomplished her wish.
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