I couldn’t think of a person I’d least like to hear say those words, but it didn’t really matter what I thought.
Sean, still limping a little, but off the crutches he’d been using since our fight, pushed through the crowd. The fact that Dayton, Sean’s much larger friend, walked with him undoubtedly helped with the pushing.
Ignoring Vaughn, he said, “So what do I do?”
“Just hold out your arm.” Keith put drips of each liquid on Sean’s forearm.
The “body” drip turned a light blue. The mind drip turned a very, very light red. The energy drip turned a very dark red almost instantaneously — just like Vaughn’s had.
Keith looked up from Sean’s arm and said, “You ought to get together with Vaughn. You’d be unstoppable.”
Sean glanced over where Vaughn had been, looking a little confused. Cassie had managed to yank Vaughn back out of the circle.
“Whatever,” Sean said. “Let’s see what Dayton can do.”
Dayton held out his arm. The “mind” dot turned so blue it was almost indistinguishable from black, and the “body” dot turned a solid blue. The “energy” dot stayed clear.
“Jody should have been here.” Dayton said. He looked down at the dots on his forearm again. “Does this stuff stain?”
Sean looked around the crowd, “Anybody got kleenex?”
No one volunteered any.
Sean wiped the liquid off with his hand.
“Hey,” Keith climbed up into his Caravan and stood on the floor, hanging out the side door.
I looked around. The crowd had grown to about thirty.
He waved for everybody’s attention.
“As cool as the test is,” he said, “I’ve got something even cooler. We’ve made power juice. Not all the kinds, but I made one and it works.”
He pulled out another water bottle from his backpack and started to unbutton his shirt.
Someone in the crowd whistled and a few people laughed.
If I had to use three words to describe Keith, I’d use “tall, skinny geek,” so obviously he wasn’t doing this out of an urge show off his body.
If he were, he was seriously overestimating his looks.
“Watch this.” He chugged the water bottle.
A thought nagged me.
“Keith,” I said, “did you come up positive for more than one ability?
“Didn’t you say you were supposed to mix them?”
“I’ve tried it already. I know what I’m doing.”
At that moment, his body started to change. His muscles started growing. His chest widened. Even his thighs widened, straining at the confines of his pants.
He stepped off the van which rocked as he moved. His foot hit the ground with an audible thump.
He held up his arm and flexed it, showing off muscles that were uncomfortably well defined.
Then something cracked. Keith moaned in pain. His bicep didn’t look right, mostly because biceps are generally straight. After the cracking noise, his bulged in the middle.
He dropped his arm and peered at it.
Courtney grabbed his other arm, “God, Keith, what happened?”
I didn’t hear Keith’s reply.
Next to me, Cassie had called 911. “… looks like he broke his arm. You know that power juice they’re talking about on the news? He was using it. So if you’ve got specialists in metahuman medicine, call them in.”
She at least had kept her head.
I couldn’t say the same for the rest of the crowd. Kids were pressing in on him, asking Keith brilliant questions like, “Are you okay?” Other kids were snapping pictures with their cellphones. A couple more kids had their phones to their ears. I wanted to believe that they were calling 911, but to judge from the chattery quality of the conversations, I guessed they might be calling friends.
I wished Alex were here. It would be a lot better if we could just heal Keith and get it over with.
Vaughn must have been thinking along the similar lines. When Cassie got off the phone, he whispered, “Could you heal him if you dropped a little blood in his mouth?”
“Life’s not a TV show, Vaughn. It’d be more likely to kill him,” Cassie said. “My blood doesn’t play well with others.”
* * *
You don’t get out of a scene like that easily. After the ambulance took him away, and the police asked everybody a few questions, Cassie drove Vaughn and me home.
I thought that it would end there. Maybe at most I might get a call from the police asking for a few more details, but it didn’t.
I managed to finish my homework before supper.
After supper I planned to read the pdf and see if I could figure out what just happened. Specifically, I wondered if there were anything in there to confirm my suspicions about why Keith’s arm broke, and whether he really knew enough to interpret the test. More importantly, did Vaughn’s result mean that he was massively powerful? Worse, did it mean that Sean was just as powerful?
I sat on the couch in the family room and opened up the pdf on my laptop.
Dad sat in his chair with his laptop open, a pile of books laying on the carpeted floor next to him. He typed furiously, paused to open a book, closed it, and started typing again.
The phone rang.
Dad leaned over to the end table and picked it up.
“Yes,” he said. “He’s here. I’m his father. What’s this all about?”
He listened for a while
He had an odd expression on his face as he handed the phone to me. “It’s a reporter. She’s asking for you.”
The reporter was named Leah and worked for the Grand Lake Sentinel, our local newspaper. She’d apparently talked to the police, and several students had named me as someone attending Keith’s brief moment of power.
I didn’t give her much, confirming a few things others had said.
After that I hung up.
“So, did you take the test?” His voice remained level, but his expression made me uncomfortable. He looked anxious.
“It came up empty, Dad. I don’t have superpowers.”
“Good. Nick…” He drew a breath, paused, and then went on. “I told you about the former teenage hero I helped. The one who killed his girlfriend’s murderers and whose parents got him into therapy? He’s back at it. His mother called me last week while we were in California. She wanted to know if I’d heard from him, and I haven’t. I have no idea where he is.”
Dad put his laptop on the floor.
“Nick.” He looked me in the eye. “He could end up just as dead as she is. Tell somebody if any of your friends starts using that stuff. Becoming a superhero sounds glamorous, but there’s another side to it, and it’s not pretty.”
I knew that he couldn’t know that I was the Rocket. The original team’s block had seen to that. But I still wondered if he could be aware of it somehow, deep down, and this concern was the way it came out.
On the other hand, with my dad being my dad, I knew that he cared about his clients. It could easily just be what was on his mind.
“Dad, believe me, if I find out that someone’s using this stuff, I won’t be able to ignore it. I’ll do something.”
I didn’t say exactly what I’d do though. That meant I’d avoided lying, more or less.