In fairness to Sean, he didn’t try to claim credit for taking them out. He didn’t have to. The cameras lied.
Good visuals are crack for news crews. Explaining that Daniel mentally blasted Spike and Skewer into unconsciousness is hard to show on screen. Bashing them together in the air looked great even if it didn’t do anything to them.
Not that Sean got all the credit. Punching people into walls also made for great footage — as did shots of Jaclyn and I shattering the ice around us, or Vaughn blasting Payback with a lightning bolt.
Cassie and Haley barely appeared except on those stations that ran the fight straight through.
Another reason Sean got more public exposure had to be his completely public identity. News crews stopped by his house after the fight. He must have done five interviews that night.
All of which meant that by the time school came around the next day, everyone had heard his side of the story and wanted more.
Crowds surrounded him at lunch and in the hallways between classes. It seemed like I could hear his voice everywhere I went.
Stuck behind the cluster of people surrounding him, I had no choice but listen while he recounted what happened the night before. Echoing what he’d said in more than one interview he said, “I don’t really believe in secret identities. Heroes ought to say who they are instead of being anonymous. We should have to follow the same rules as everyone else. That’s the great thing about the juice. It allows anyone to be a superhero, not just an elite few.”
And that, of course, was total garbage. Whether ten thousand people have powers or thirty thousand, it’s still a vanishingly small percentage of six billion.
The people around him lapped it up. Sean didn’t even get that kind of attention before he got kicked off the basketball team.
For me, it made for a long day.
Whether or not it was true, I felt like half of the school was watching me. Everyone knew about our fight.
During lunch, I thought I heard someone wonder what Sean was going to do about me now.
I wondered myself.
I didn’t worry to the point of being constantly distracted in class, but it passed through my mind.
When the bell rang at three, I walked to my locker with relief. With the school day over, my life was my own — except that it wasn’t really. I had to go to Lee’s studio so that the new League could learn to create organized mayhem instead of disorganized mayhem.
While I started putting my books into my backpack, I heard a relaxed, low voice next to me say, “Nick, let’s talk.”
Dayton leaned on a locker just to my right. Flecks of rust and tan paint fell on to his blue letter jacket and from there to the floor.
I stood eye level with his shoulder. His biceps were almost as thick as my thighs. I’d successfully taken him down last time, but I didn’t feel like testing if I could go two for two.
I looked up toward his face. “Hi.”
“So… uh… You’ve been training in the martial arts, right?”
Trying to figure out where this was going, I said, “Yeah.”
Dayton gave a nod and a small smile. “I noticed that when you… beat all three of us. What style do you use?”
“No style. Have you ever heard of Jeet Kune Do?”
Dayton shook his head.
“That’s Bruce Lee’s style. It’s not the one I’m learning, but it’s similar because like Jeet Kune Do, it’s not a style. It’s just a philosophy. My teacher’s way of thinking is that you take anything that works.”
Including automatic weapons, but I didn’t mention that.
“Got it,” Dayton said. “I’m looking for something like that. You didn’t see it on TV, but I was at that fight with Sean and the Heroes League. When I take the juice, I’ve got total control of my body and total access to all my memories. So if I watch a martial arts movie, I can do anything they did, but only until the juice wears off. I’m thinking that if I train in some martial art, I’ll be able to pull stuff out of my brain that I never even knew I learned.”
That sounded possible.
“I go to the Grand Lake Martial Arts Academy, but you probably won’t get my teacher. He’s a jazz musician, so he spends a lot of time touring.”
That’s what the bio on the Academy’s website said anyway. It left out the possibility that Lee might be a dragon, supernatural horror or lost god.
“Are the other teachers good?”
“I don’t know. I’ve only worked with him. If you don’t like the other guys though, there’s a bunch of studios in town.”
“Right, I should look around. Man, it would be a much cooler power if all of the benefits didn’t fade after a couple hours.”
With the hall now mostly empty, Sean, finally alone, walked up and stood next to him.
“Dayton, we’ve got to go.”
He looked down at me. “Nick, if you’re wondering what I’m going to do next, forget it. It was one stupid fight. I’ve got bigger things to worry about now.”
The lockers rattled as they walked away.