“No, I didn’t.” I’d been following the whole thing obviously, but not through the news.
Well, a little through the news, but mostly through the Michigan Heroes Alliance’s emails. The various states’ Heroes Alliance groups had come out against it.
Still, I’d originally heard about the change last spring. I wondered what took them so long.
Courtney barely gave me time to finish my sentence. “I thought they’d do something eventually, but not without more warning.”
“You should be okay, right? You keep your shape even without taking it, and you’re making your own power juice anyway.”
She started to say something, stopped, and then said, “It’s not that simple. They’re going to watch who purchases certain ingredients now, and I’ve been… experimenting. Plus being able to use my powers is just better.”
I thought about what she’d said. “Experimenting?”
She shook her head. “Nothing weird. I wanted to find out what I could do.”
“What did you find out?”
“A lot. I can control what’s going on inside my body more than I thought. For example, I can change how sensitive my fingertips are, and I can stop alcohol from making me drunk.”
“Huh. Do you think you were metabolizing it faster, or did you make it so that your system didn’t get affected by it at all?”
“I’d say I metabolized it more quickly. I felt it, but not as much.”
“That’s cool. I wonder how much you could control your body chemistry? If you think about it, you might be able to control moods, or maybe make yourself focus more deeply than normal people, or give yourself perfect recall, or I don’t know—lots of stuff.”
“Not if I go to jail. Nick, I’m officially a criminal now. I’ve got a huge stash of juice hidden at my mom’s house, and I can’t let her find it. Even if she doesn’t care what I’m doing, she could go to jail if someone else finds it.”
Her hands moving nervously as she spoke, she said, “I know. I know. I’ll figure something out, but this is that last thing I need right now.”
I knew I could do something. I could hide it in HQ, or even in Grandpa’s house. The problem was that I’d have to get it to her whenever she wanted more, and then I’d be storing a controlled substance.
Right, I told myself, as if the League HQ’s contents didn’t violate a bunch of laws even without power juice.
Then it occurred to me that she wasn’t asking for help at all.
She sat in the chair by her desk, staring down at the floor. She wasn’t crying, but her voice had a little bit of a tremor sometimes as she’d talked.
She’d probably called me because with Keith out of her life, I was the only person she could talk to about this. She’d called me for comfort, and I should probably give her a hug, or put my hand on her shoulder, or something.
Except honestly, with Courtney looking like an idealized version of herself, I didn’t feel comfortable with that.
I could have said something, but nothing came to mind.
As I tried to formulate an idea for what to do next, the sound of keys and voices came from the hall.
The room’s door opened.
Two girls entered. The first one, the one holding the keys, had to be Michelle, Courtney’s roommate, the one with the country music shrine next to her bed.
She wasn’t much taller than Haley (short), had dishwater blond hair, and smiled as she noticed the two of us.
“Sorry Courtney, I hope I wasn’t interrupting?”
Courtney said, “No,” and if she was annoyed, she didn’t show it. “Michelle, this is Nick. He’s a friend from high school.”
Michelle smiled at me, “Hi Nick, when I opened the door, I thought you might be her mysterious ex-boyfriend.”
Courtney shook her head slowly, “That will not ever happen.”
Michelle gave a short laugh, and turned to the girl behind her, “Everybody, this is Melanie. I just met her in my freshman composition class.”
Taller than Michelle, Melanie had hair so blond it was practically white, and she seemed a little thin–the kind of thin where you worry about her health, not the kind that people compliment.
Then I recognized her. She’d gone to my high school’s prom with Logan, a guy who, after taking power juice, turned into a monster and tried to eat everyone in the school.
Worse, she’d taken it too, and she had telepathy or something like it.
Melanie’s eyes narrowed as she looked at me. “I know you from somewhere.”
“Uh, yeah… Central High’s prom.”
Her eyes widened. “I was so wasted that night.”