“No way,” I said, wondering how he’d gotten his powers activated. It wasn’t exactly a casual thing. The League had the first known working device to do it. It hadn’t been hard for me to make it work, but I’d had the benefit of my grandfather’s documentation.
I knew that the government had their own devices. From the news and personal experience, I knew that criminal organizations also had them. I wasn’t aware of anyone outside of those two groups owning any, but almost everything they needed was available on the internet now.
Corporate devices couldn’t be far away if they weren’t already out there.
Jaclyn’s mind obviously went along the same track mine did. She put down her hamburger, and said, “He can’t still be using power juice his uncle brewed. It’s illegal, and they wouldn’t allow him into the program, would they?”
“He’s not,” Courtney said. “I asked him.”
Shaking her head, and taking a deep breath, she continued. “I think I had the worst flight of all time. I got on the plane, and I couldn’t find a seat because my mom drove me to the airport and she was late as usual, and so there were maybe two or three seats left on the plane. I went to the first seat that was open. It was next to a girl who was saving one seat for her boyfriend, but the other was free, so I sat there.”
Courtney stopped, and took another breath. All conversation near us had stopped. We were all listening.
“Just after I sat down, they told everyone to get into their seats because the plane was about to start moving toward the runway. She’d given me the window seat because she didn’t know when her boyfriend would be back from the bathroom. So when her boyfriend sat down, and leaned over to kiss her our eyes met. And guess who it was? Keith.”
Haley said, “No…” Jaclyn shook her head.
“I was stuck with them for three hours.”
Vaughn and Cassie laughed out loud. Izzy did too, but not until after Courtney smiled.
Daniel’s face held a hint of amusement, but no surprise. That was the hazard of overhearing the punchline before it happened.
I laughed too, but flashed back to the original question, “So how did Keith’s powers get activated?”
As nice as it was that he had powers, strength and toughness weren’t exactly uncommon among supers. Maybe after being triggered, they’d be more impressive than I remembered, but I doubted that the program would run him through the power impregnator just to recruit him.
“I’m getting to that,” Courtney said.
Leaning forward and lowering her voice, she said, “His girlfriend, Zoey, is a compound kid. She didn’t have any powers, but last year as you remember, the government made an arrangement to run supers’ kids through their power impregnators. Keith was dating her by then, and she convinced them to run him through too.”
Vaughn shook his head. “You know what’s funny? People complain about rich people getting favors from government. They’re not all wrong, but it’s not like the government hands us weapons. Worst case scenario, we get more money and more influence, right?”
Jaclyn looked at him. “You’re not making me feel sorry for you.”
In a more serious voice than normal, Vaughn said, “You know what I mean. I’m saying the government doesn’t pay us off to get us to be quiet like they paid supers off to keep them from opposing the way the government’s handing out powers.”
Daniel nodded. “It’s a good point.”
None of us said anything. Then we remembered the food we weren’t eating.
Haley speared a piece of avocado with her fork. “He didn’t know about us, did he?”
“No,” Vaughn said, “and that guy is going to freak out when he finds out. He was some kind of fanatical cape watcher, right? Didn’t he drive to another state once to pick up debris from one of Guardian’s fights? That should be a warning sign that you’re getting way too into it. I mean seriously, it’s trash.”
Courtney looked up from her plate. She said, “I was with him that time.”
Vaughn blinked. “There was more than one time?”
Courtney said, “Look, I don’t make fun of your hobbies.” Then she paused, looking around the room, and continued, “But it does seem a little silly now.”
Izzy straightened up in her chair. “It’s not silly. It’s something we shouldn’t forget. We may have gotten used to doing the impossible, but we can’t forget what it was like before we could. When we do, we take a step toward believing we’re better than normal people, and we know where that goes.”
Everyone did. Supers took over countries, and it never went well. It always seemed to begin in dictatorship and end in war. In stable countries, supers stayed out of politics, or at least it seemed that way.
Vaughn looked across the table at her. “I wasn’t saying that, Izzy. And Courtney? I wasn’t trying to make fun of you—just him. I’m sorry, okay?”
Courtney waved it away with her hand. “Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing I haven’t thought myself. For the future, I’m going to be a fan of fictional superheroes only. I’m less likely to ruin it by meeting them.”
“Hey,” I said, “didn’t Keith have a huge—“
“Hard on?” Vaughn suggested.
“I was going to say ‘crush’,” I said.
“Close.” Vaughn shrugged.
“Crush,” I continued, emphasizing the word, “on Portal?”
Courtney said, “Yes? It was kind of cute. It might have bothered me if he had any chance of meeting her.”
“Well, she’s right over there.” I pointed toward the table behind us.
Brooke, and her boyfriend Alex sat next to each other. With sun-bleached, blond hair, and tan skin, Alex looked like the California surfer stereotype. Brooke’s curly, dark hair reached past her shoulders. If female surfers had a stereotypical look, I wasn’t aware of it, but I’d feel okay saying she fit. She was tanned and in good shape. Both of them practically glowed with health.
Brooke noticed me pointing, and waved back.
Courtney gave me an evil grin. “That’s her? I want to be a fly on the wall when he realizes it.”