Changing into costume on the roof of a pizzeria isn’t a good idea, but it’s better than changing in the parking lot.
After everything that happened during the end of my junior year, maybe I should have been wearing my costume under my clothes all the time, but I didn’t. Summers are hot, and we were already into the middle of July.
I stayed low, pulled my costume out of my backpack, and stuffed my clothes inside, hoping that no one was working late in one of the old, brick buildings across the street.
I pulled my costume’s pants most of the way on before the Change hit.
I’ve asked Nick what I look like when I change, and he didn’t know. He said that one second I look like me, and the next I look like me with claws, and fangs—and he doesn’t always notice the fangs. I don’t know if he’s right, or if he’s not very observant. But honestly, given how much he misses normally, I’d be surprised if he were right.
Even if he were, it feels different from the inside.
I felt my hands and feet grow wider and more claw-like while muscles and bones throughout my body changed shape and grew. My shoulders broadened, and I grew a little.
Very little—five feet tall to five foot two. I’m probably the only person who noticed.
It hurt, and felt good at the same time. It’s always reminded me of the way I felt after a hard gymnastics practice, but a hundred times more intense.
Pushing my feet the rest of the way down the pantlegs was a little harder after the Change, but it was better than if I’d still been in my street clothes and shoes.
I’ve lost more pairs of shoes that way than I like to think. Not to mention shirts.
But the physical change isn’t everything. It’s the smallest part of it. My senses felt like the world had exploded around me. I could smell and hear everything for blocks, and the darkness around me turned into twilight.
I could hear the robber’s fans whirr as he ran. He smelled of excitement, a little fear mixed with triumph, and some sweat.
To a small, but now stronger part of me, the fear smelled good.
I pulled the backpack on my back—no sense in leaving my clothes and purse on the roof—and ran a few steps, jumping across all four lanes of the road, and grabbing the corner of the old brick building on the other side.
Then I pushed off, landing on one foot, balancing on the windowsill a few feet below where I’d first caught hold. I crossed that side of the building by leaping from one windowsill to the next, never touching a sill with more than one foot.
When I reached the far end of the building, I jumped to the next, hanging onto the wall, and listening.
I recognized the sound of his footsteps. He’d run out of the alley and into the parking lot in back. His heartbeat stayed slow and steady.
I pulled one of the grappling guns off my belt, and fired it down the alley, hitting near the top of the building. Then I swung out, clicking the release and retract button when I passed the building’s end.
I put the gun in my belt while falling, choosing to dive into a roll, and somersaulted until I stopped behind a old car. There couldn’t have been more than ten in the parking lot, and I hid behind the rustiest Buick Regal I’d ever seen.
I didn’t need to see him to know what Laser Guy was doing.
He’d stopped moving when I hit the ground, but the lasers’ fans became louder. He’d taken them off standby, or upped their power. The direction of his breath changed slightly. He had to be moving his head to look for me.
His heart beat a little faster, and the smell of his fear became stronger.
“Who is it out there? Are you from the Heroes League?”
I didn’t say anything.
“Because if you are, good job. You’re on top of things. The syndicate said it’d take weeks to get your attention, given what I was planning to do. So which one of you is it? Night Wolf? Night Cat? Captain Commando?”
While he talked, I noticed that the fans were getting louder yet, and that his voice’s direction stopped changing. He was aiming his voice directly toward me.
I jumped away as the fan noise spiked. Then the air crackled with heat, and the Buick’s metal body boiled.
Glancing toward Laser Guy as I flew through the air, I saw that the lenses of his sunglasses glowed. Nick would have already been guessing how they worked.
I landed behind a dumpster.
It smelled of rotting meat, vegetables and mold. My stomach turned.
So, I threw the dumpster at him.
If I had to choose one word to describe his face, I’d choose surprised.