The next day we stepped out of school and into a media circus.
Sometime between last night and that afternoon, the reporter’s story had been taken up by the Associated Press and a video of Keith’s transformation had gone viral. Reporters stood at the bottom of the steps. Vans with satellite uplinks parked alongside the sidewalk. Photographers and cameramen stood waiting.
We’d known that they’d be there. The principal had made an announcement over the PA system. While he couldn’t forbid us from talking to the media while off of school property, he discouraged us from doing so. He also called most of the people who had been at Keith’s demonstration into a class room just before the end of the day and said more of the same. As he put it, he didn’t want us to embarrass ourselves. I’m sure it had a lot more to do with not embarrassing him, but he didn’t say that.
They actually tried to slip those of us who’d been there out a side door. It turned out to be a better idea in theory than in practice. We came out the back of the school near the track, but the cars were still in the front of the school. The kids who caught the bus in front of the school had to run because now they had to get around the school first. That worked out well for the administration because they definitely weren’t going to stop.
Most of the people who’d seen it didn’t take the bus. They walked, biked, or drove.
So we all walked out the back. Ahead of us lay the track. Next to us stood the gym, an addition built in the 1960’s. When we got around it, the reporters stopped talking to the students coming out the main entrance and mobbed us.
Had the school sent us out with everyone else, the people the press wanted to interview would have been needles in a haystack. As it was, we were a haystack made out of needles.
A reporter from ABC walked up to Sean and Dayton started asking questions. “Care to talk about what you saw yesterday?”
I glanced over at them, and, kept on walking with Cassie and Vaughn.
Vaughn had been looking over at Sean too. “He’s going to spend the whole interview telling them that he’s the next Guardian or something.”
Cassie shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s get out of here.”
A hand grabbed my arm. I stopped myself from using a thumb lock and moving his hand somewhere else.
The man’s eyes widened and he pulled his hand away. I knew him. My grandfather had worked on his equipment once or twice. As a hero, he’d called himself Soulfire. He’d retired three or four years ago. Now he was just Shane Smith, journalist. The guy couldn’t have been much older than thirty.
“I know you,” he said, “you’re the kid that was telling Keith not to drink the juice, right?”
“Guess so,” I kept on walking with Vaughn and Cassie.
He and his cameraman kept up with me.
“So what happened?”
“Nothing that you haven’t seen on Youtube. It’s all there.”
We headed toward the street, crossing in front of News 10’s van. Checking the main entrance to the school, I noticed the crowd watching us and that the reporters that had been interviewing normal kids were turning our way.
“What about you?” Shane stayed with me. “Did your test show up with any kind of powers?”
“No,” I said, which was technically true.
“What about you two?” He smiled at Vaughn and Cassie.
“Nothing worth mentioning,” Vaughn said.
Cassie just said, “Come on.”
He didn’t follow us across the street, but he did push his business card into my hand.
* * *
Daniel dropped by on the way home from track practice, stayed for supper, and we went up to my room with the idea that we might get some homework done.
We did a little of it between conversations.
I sat at my desk with my calculus book out. He sat on my bed, having finished most of his advanced algebra.
Looking up from the book, he said, “I’m surprised you didn’t visit Keith at that hospital” — making him the third person after my mom and Haley to say that.
“I don’t know. He’s not really a friend. The only thing that we really have in common is that we both know more about superheroes than anyone really needs to.”
“Still,” Daniel said, “you don’t want the guy to feel forgotten.”
Conversation lapsed, and we actually did some homework.
I finished my calculus homework and started on an essay for my composition class — started in the sense of brainstorming ideas, not writing.
The phone rang.
I ignored it.
Moments later though, my mom opened the door.
“Nick, it’s for you. Another reporter.”
I took the phone.
“Nick, this is Leah from the Grand Lake Sentinel. I interviewed you about Keith Wilson last night. Someone broke into his hospital room about half an hour ago and beat him unconscious. I’d like to get your reaction.”