“So, then on Wednesday, there were these two losers selling drugs on a street corner.”
“How do you keep finding these guys?” One of the upper classmen, Joel something, was on the edge of his seat. Proverbially speaking, since we were standing outside the school. It had gotten cool enough that even at noon I could see his breath. “Do you have some kind of psychic crimedar?”
I smiled, hoping it came off as enigmatic. “That would be a trade secret.”
David took the opportunity to pipe up. “That would make sense. A power to find them, and they can’t hurt him when he does. That’s a pretty good synergy. That’d probably rank him as an Esper three and a half, depending on just how good the power is.” David stopped to look at me expectantly, and so did Joel.
Muwth’s rank was a high four, if the internet was to be believed. There were presidents on multiple continents who owed her their lives. “That or I’m just really lucky. Or I can read minds. Or I’m part of a top secret government conspiracy where I’m fed information by undercover gang operatives. Maybe I’m so deep undercover that I don’t even know I’m working for the feds.”
It was kinda cool how I had the jocks and the geeks hanging out together. Seems all you needed was to use superpowers to beat people up. Who knew?
Cassie leaned against me. “You may as well just give up.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek and then pouted. “He won’t even tell me. And I can do things to persuade him that you can’t do.”
“Wouldn’t stop him from trying.” Amy, the girl that argued with David about my powers before, pointed at David. It was a very effeminate gesture, heavy on the wrist motions.
“Shut the hell up, Amy!”
Turns out she was David’s sister, and she spent most of her energy annoying the guy that annoyed me. Which made her one of my favorite people. When I became famous enough for it to matter, she was going to be the first person I gave signed merchandise to.
“I can’t tell anyone, it’s part of the superhero code. Only the bad guys get to monologue about their brilliant plans.” It was true in the movies, at least. I didn’t have much real world experience on the subject. “Good guys wait until some Hollywood guy offers to pay them for their life story. Now where were we?”
Alex spoke up. “You were saying something about some guys selling pills on a street corner. I didn’t know dealers still did that.”
“Yeah, surprised me, too. So anyway, there were two of them outside this dance club. The bouncer was just standing there watching, so I’m guessing this was a regular thing. And then I walk up and say ‘I’m here to steal your drugs’. They look at me for a second, then the buyer runs off. The one dealer just swears at me, and then the other guy throws a punch. After that the fight doesn’t last very long.”
Longer than I’d like to admit. I still didn’t know how to really fight. Dad promised he knew a guy who was in the Rangers who could teach me to fight for real, but that hadn’t happened yet.
“What a bitch.” I wasn’t sure who in the crowd said that, but it got a few laughs.
“The really funny part is if they didn’t attack me, I couldn’t do shit about them.”
“Seriously?” Same voice as before, this time I got a look. Heavier set guy, didn’t look all that athletic, but did look tough.
“Yeah, there are laws about that. Stopping a mugger or rapist, I’m good. But for nonviolent stuff like drugs, the most I can do is stand there and talk shit. All they had to do was ignore me.”
“Like, nothing at all?”
“Yeah. I can’t do anything unless someone’s in danger right away.” The big guy seemed a little too interested, but it wasn’t like I was giving away secret knowledge. Anyone who ever talked to a lawyer about superhumans would know all this. “I mean, beyond the stuff anyone else can do. Like take pictures and call the cops. Starting a fight means going to jail. But if someone else starts a fight and I finish it, then it’s called self defense.”
The big guy smiled. “So then what happened?”
I smiled back and shrugged. “Not much. The other dude just ran away after his buddy knifed me and it didn’t work. Then the cops showed up to take my statement and the perp.” And the footage from my cell phone. Those safety goggles with built in camera need to be my first purchase. “Probably ratting out the rest of his crew as we speak.”
“Which ones did you bust, the cheddars or the street apes?” And this is what it sounds like when the fun is stuffed in a barn and that barn is set on fire. At least now I knew why the big guy was so interested.
“Umm, I wasn’t really paying attention to that.” Yup, I realized it sounded stupid the moment I said it. “I think they were just college kids trying to make an easy buck.” That excuse fell flat, too. The dealers clearly weren’t new, which meant they were part of some gang. And in this area, that meant Los Fieles.
“Nah, esé, they were ours and you know it.” Yup, fuck my life. “We ain’t seen you go after any of your own kind. Funny how that’s workin’ out.” And now I’m being called racist by a bunch of gangbangers. Huzzah.
“Maybe ’cause we take care of our people. No need to call the exterminator if there aren’t any fucking cockroaches around.” The big guy from before pushed through the crowd to the gathering of Hispanics, followed by a couple other skinheads.
Oh crap oh crap oh crap. This was gonna end in bloodshed. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have much problem with gangs beating the shit out of each other, but right now it’d look like I was supporting goddamn Nazis. And the worst part is, it wasn’t even close to true. I’d only stopped six crimes so far. One rape, three muggings, a purse snatcher, and some punk robbing a gas station with a crowbar. And the lowest of the low of drug dealers.
I moved through the crowd to get between them. “Know what? Fuck you both! I’ve busted one gangbanger. One! And I didn’t even know it at the time!” I glanced between both groups. “But don’t let that fool you. Go tell your buddies that if I catch any of you, I will kick your asses. In fact, how about we cut out the middle man? You pick a time and place, and I’ll be there.”
The big guy crossed his arms. “You’d like that, just round us all up to be arrested.”
Yes, yes I would. “They’re called boxing waivers. Makes the fight legal, just don’t bring anyone who has a warrant and the cops can’t do shit. We can film it and throw it on Vidme. Teenage superhero kicks Nazi army ass. Sounds like viral video material to me.”
“You wouldn’t be saying that if you didn’t have powers.”
“And you wouldn’t be sucking Crucible’s tits if he didn’t have powers. I’d say that makes us even, but I clearly got the better deal.” I turned away from him, back to the Los Fieles group, stepping close enough that I could smell their ring leader’s cologne. “I make you the same offer. When I find your people, I will take them down. Don’t like it? Then get your army together and try to stop me. If you have the cojones.”
I turned and walked away before they could say anything else. Fuck, this is bad and getting worse.
Cassie caught up to me inside the school. “Did you really have to do that? They’re going to have to try something now.”
I sighed and turned toward her. “That’s going to happen sooner or later no matter what. If I didn’t pull that stunt, it would have been right then. But someone is going to call my bluff eventually.” I hesitated, this was going to suck. “You might want to avoid being seen with me for a while.”
Cassie did not look happy at all.
“It’s true.” Thank you, Alex, for backing me up. He’d approached when I was too busy looking at Cassie. “Just being in this school is a challenge to their control. It’s like having a cop right there in the classroom. The second you showed your powers, this was bound to happen.”
That didn’t exactly make me feel better, but at least I didn’t have to explain it to Cassie. I took a breath and asked the obvious question. “What do you think they’ll try to do?”
Alex stood there for a second. “Depends on how smart they are, or if they talk to their bosses first. The dumb move would be going after your friends or family.” I tensed up. Anima said that supervillains wouldn’t try that, but we didn’t exactly talk about ordinary gangs. “But if I were the one planning it? I’d try to get you expelled.”
“They can’t do that!” Cassie insisted.
Alex shook his head. “Sure they can. Los Fieles already started it by accusing Zach of secretly helping Lightbringer.” He looked at me. “You were stuck between doing nothing and making it look true, or making an enemy out of both gangs by going after them as well. Either way, they won that round.”
“Are you saying I could have found a better way to do it?” Woulda been nice to know it before this started.
“No, you handled it about the way I would have.” Well, that’s a relief. “Nothing short of predicting the future and not being there when they were could have stopped that scene from playing out like it did.”
“So what’s the master plan?” Cassie asked, glancing over at me. “How do they get him kicked out of school?”
“It’s not that hard. All they have to do is start a few fights. No tolerance policy means both of you get a detention and notes to the parents. A few days later, same thing happens with a different student. After the first couple times, the other gangs will have a couple of their people doing the same thing. Accuse you of whatever they think sounds good, like racial slurs. Even if the teachers believe you, eventually the school’s just going to decide you’re a lightning rod for trouble and it’s easier to get rid of you. I’ve seen it happen before.”
The actual fuck? “That is such bullshit!”
Cassie was right there with me. “Yeah, how is that even fair?”
I rubbed my eyes. “To quote my father: life isn’t fair.” Is this enough crap to justify a second surge, or am I still paying off the debt for the last one? Whatever force existed by behind my powers, whether God or my own subconscious mind, didn’t see fit to answer. “Is there anything I can do to fix this?”
Alex shook his head. “I can try to arrange some stuff, talk to Coach Murray, ask the team to keep their eyes open for anything suspicious. Maybe if you get a camera to record going about your day to day business, that might help. But all we’d really be doing is buying time. If you start now, you might be able to transfer schools before they can force you out. That way you save face.”
“No. Fuck that noise. Using the entire population of Norway. On the White House lawn.” I’ve done enough running away for one lifetime. “I’ll be taking plan C instead.”
“What’s plan ‘C’?” Cassie asked the question, while Alex just studied me.
“I get a real rep together. All I have to do is be scary enough that the gang leaders would rather abandon the school than risk me coming after them.” I already had the basics of that, with Anima around as backup. Any situation that showed us working together should be enough to make people think twice. All I needed was something big to happen.
Later, I’d decide the Buddhists were right. The universe only exists to teach us it’s wrong to want things.