I listened from a roof top while the police talked to people, and the specialist paramedics who drove the Box sedated Laser Guy (he’d begun to wake up). Cassie talked to them. Donna told the police everything, even showing them Rod’s room inside her house. They came out carrying the bag of money he’d stolen from Chuck’s Pizza.
That was nice. It made it feel the whole night of pointless fighting had been worth something. I didn’t think three or four hundred dollars had been worth the risk I might lose control, but he didn’t deserve to get away with it either.
Daniel appeared before the Box drove off. I didn’t have to see him to recognize him. Everyone on the team who can fly sounds different. Rachel doesn’t make any noise at all, but aside from her, Daniel’s the quietest. He sounds like a soft breeze.
With the total confidence of someone who’s been trailing his dad around for years, he asked the police if he could step into the Box, and they said yes without question. Nick thinks that the reason so many people listen to Daniel might be an unconscious effect of his powers. He might be right, but it might just be that Daniel expects to be listened to. I’m not sure Nick gets how important personality is.
I heard him step out a little bit later, and then the Box drove away. The police drove away soon after that.
I sat on the roof, feeling sore. The adreneline rush of the fight had faded, and all the scrapes and jolts my body had taken since I’d changed hurt. My mind didn’t feel any better than my body. I’d finally had the chance to think. I’d bitten into Laser Guy’s neck. I’d thrown him into the street, and into a van. I’d deliberately slashed him with my claws. With any normal person, I’d have been holding his intestines in my hand—or maybe one of his kidneys.
I’d been lucky—really, really lucky—that he wasn’t normal. He was a freak—like a lot of people I know. Like me.
I’d asked Grandpa about coming out of the Change once. I’d wanted to know if you could get stuck in it forever, and just be this animal thing. He’d said, “Don’t worry about it. I call it the Change, but it’s not really a change. Doesn’t matter how deep you go. It’ll still be you in the end. You’ll come out of it.”
I’m sure he meant to be comforting, but it didn’t feel that way as I sat on the roof of somebody’s house, my arms curled around my legs. Because if it was me all the way down, it meant that whatever wanted to rip Laser Guy’s throat out was me. And even if I didn’t like hurting people, and didn’t want to scare anybody, part of me craved it, and enjoyed hunting humans as prey.
I mean, I knew it wasn’t an outside force, but I didn’t want it to be there, deep down inside me, forever.
So that’s what I was thinking about when Daniel started talking directly into my head.
Daniel: Are you okay?
Me: Can we switch to communicators? I don’t want anyone in my head right now.
Daniel: This will be short. Cassie’s wondering if you wanted to ride back to HQ with her since you don’t have the car, and I thought you might want to find out what I learned from Rod.
Me: I guess.
Daniel: He’s from Syndicate L. He’s not in Syndicate L, obviously, but they gave him the lasers and the glasses.
Me: For free? They looked expensive.
Daniel: He wanted to get in good with them, and they were willing to hand out free hardware if he shot one of us.
Me: That’s sick.
Daniel: I got the feeling he might not be the only one.
Me: (a sigh)
Daniel: Well, at least we’ll be looking now. Anyway, Cassie wants to get going. You know where her motorcycle is.
I rode back to HQ with Cassie, and after that, we went to the all night Chinese buffet on State Street (but not in costume or anything like that. That would be weird). Cassie was hungry, and when I thought about it, I realised I was hungry too.
Cassie drove me home on her regular motorcycle, the one Nick fixed up last winter. My parents opened the front door before I even got in the house. They’d been calling me since I left the restaurant, but I’d turned off my normal phone, so I didn’t know. Dad was really angry about how I’d scared them, but everyone calmed down eventually. They always do.
I texted Nick around eleven-thirty, and he wasn’t busy, so I called him. I told him the whole story, and he listened. He didn’t tell me what I’d done wrong, or start asking for technical details on the lasers (like I’d know them). He asked a few questions, but nothing annoying. In the end, he said, “I wish I’d been there.”
I wished he had too.