“Well… Where are you meeting?”
Keith said, “Nowhere much. The school parking lot. It’ll be quick.”
He grinned at me. “I’ve a majorly cool demonstration of what I found out.”
I wanted to ask him about it, but he must have read that off my face.
He started walking down the hall toward at the stairs. “Come on, let’s go. I’ll show you when I show everyone else.”
* * *
Ten people stood around his vehicle, a rusty, maroon Dodge Caravan. I recognized a few, but I really didn’t know any of them except for Keith and Courtney. A couple of them were in Science Olympiad, but not during the years that I was involved. I think a few of them were juniors, but a couple of the girls looked young enough to be freshmen.
He opened the van’s side door and dumped his trombone inside. Then he took off his backpack, rested it on the carpeted floor and took out three water bottles — the nice kind — aluminum.
“So here’s what I’ve got. Oh man, this so cool. This stuff will tell you if you’ve got the potential for powers and what kind they are. I’ll drop a little bit on your arm and it’ll turn color. The darker it gets, the stronger you are.”
“Like with allergy testing?” A red-haired girl standing to the back of the group asked. “I thought we’d have to drink it.”
Keith said, “How are we going to see what color it turns then? Pump your stomach?”
Courtney said, “Hey, be nice.” She punched Keith. “Why don’t you tell us what each one does?”
“So what you’ve got here is three areas of power — energy, mind and body. It turns red if you can make things happen outside of you and blue if it’s all inside.”
A boy standing directly in front of Keith said. “What if it’s both? Like what if I’ve got mind powers and I can make things happen inside and outside?”
“It turns purple.”
“It’s not very precise,” I said. “Mind, body, and energy? Those are really broad areas and they probably overlap. Energy sounds like it would cover teleportation portals and lightning blasts. They’re totally different, but then there’s something like telekinesis. That might fit in energy and mind.”
Keith didn’t look bothered by the question. “You’re overthinking this. The juice comes in six different varieties. If you’ve got powers in more than one area, you mix them and there’s special instructions for some powers.”
“I don’t know. Nick. The pdf’s a few thousand pages long. I didn’t read all of it — just the interesting parts.”
“Let’s not argue,” Courtney picked up one of the water bottles. “We could be the next generation of heroes –”
“Or villains,” one of the freshman girls said. She and her friend giggled.
“– so let’s have someone try it. Nick?”
She put an eyedropper in the bottle and said, “Why not?”
I couldn’t see any way to avoid it without making a big fuss so I held out my arm.
“Cool.” She dropped a small dot of each of the three bottles’ liquids on my arm.
The dot for “mind” and “energy” turned slightly blue, but only if you were willing to use your imagination. They were just one step past clear.
“You’ve got nothing, Nick.” Keith leaned over my arm. “You’ll have to leave the heroing to people with real powers. Who’s next?”
I wiped the stuff off my arm with my hand, relieved and disappointed at the same time. It might have been cool if I’d had some kind of power. As it was, when I wasn’t wearing a version of the Rocket suit, I had pretty much nothing. Sure, I knew how to fight, but it’s not like you’re going to take out someone who can turn themselves into living flame with a well placed kick.
I consoled myself with the fact that most of the other people were as badly off as I was. Worse, actually. In a most cases, all three dots stayed clear without even a hint of color.
I moved to the back of the group as Courtney and Kieth put drops on people’s arms. I considered leaving, but decided not to. First of all, I wanted to see whatever demonstration Keith had. Second, if any of these people had strong potential for powers, I wanted to know.
“Allison,” Courtney said, “look at that.”
The “energy” dot had turned red while the “body” dot had turned noticeably blue.
Allison didn’t seem all that impressed. She looked at the dots for a moment, then pulled a tissue out of her purse, and wiped her arm.
“So what can I do?” After looking around for a second, she put the tissue back in her purse.
“That’s the fun part, Allison. It could be anything.” Courtney started dotting the arm of the next person. “But don’t worry about it. Keith’s already started brewing the different kinds of juice.”
Keith looked up from the arm of one of the girls I’d pegged as freshmen. “Come on, Courtney. That was going to be a surprise.”
“After this?” She waved her eyedropper at the group. “People would only be surprised if you didn’t make it.”
The girl elbowed her friend. “Look, Kelsey!” Each of the three dots had turned solid blue.
I wondered what that meant, but didn’t really get to think very long.
Vaughn pushed past me into the group. “Hey, Keith what are you doing? Selling illegal allergy tests?”
Keith laughed. “It’s power juice. You know, from the news?”
“I thought you had to drink it.”
“It’s the test for what juice will work on you.” He took Vaughn’s arm and put a drop of the “energy” test liquid on it.
It turned so deeply red it was almost black.
Keith stared. “That’s unbelievable. If you were using the juice, you’d be a frickin’ god.”
“Vaughn,” Cassie said. I hadn’t noticed her standing next to me.
Vaughn watched Keith put the “mind” and “body” drops down. The mind drop turned a slight red and the body drop turned a slight blue.
“Nick, help me get him out of here,” she whispered to me. She began to push through and tried to grab Vaughn’s shoulder.
Keith looked at her. “You’re Cassie Kowalski, right? Want to find out if you’ve got powers?”
She said, “No,” which isn’t especially rude on the face of it, but her tone said, “Talk to me again, and I turn you into paste.”
From behind me Sean’s voice said, “I’d like to try it.”