How do I feel about boats? “I dunno, they’re boats?” I wasn’t sure what Chloe was talking about, but my she had peaked my curiosity. “I guess they’re okay, why?”
“Last summer my family went on a vacation on a shipwreck hunting vessel.” A look of sadness crossed Chloe’s face and found itself quashed by her determined look. “They were looking for some ironclad that was sank in the civil war.”
I reached out, touching her shoulder. I wanted to do more to offer comfort, but I wasn’t even sure what I could do without making things more awkward than they already were. “If this brings back bad memories…”
“No, it’s not that. The opposite, in fact.” The shimmer of her power in her eyes only added to her beauty. “It was a happy memory, and now I have to wonder if there was some sinister motive behind it. I know Mom and Dad donated a lot of money, enough that the captain and crew were willing to turn a work vessel into a pleasure cruise for a weekend.”
“You think there’s something dangerous about the ship?” I wasn’t sure what value a hundred and fifty year old ship would have to a supervillain, but you heard stories of people digging up ancient ‘magic’ Artifacts all the time.
“No. At least, not something to put on a costume for. I think they were just looking for display pieces for museums or Dad’s personal collection.” Chloe seemed certain enough. “What I mean is, it’s not a cheap operation. We’re talking a dozen employees, all that fuel and food and water and other supplies. I remember them saying something about how it could take years to find the ship. They have to use all this complicated sonar and send down cameras or divers every so often just to rule out false positives caused by mud, coral, or rock formations.”
Now I was starting to see her point. “So you think I could do it better?”
“So much better.” Chloe’s smile returned. “The way they talked, it sometimes took weeks to search even a single square mile of the ocean. It took seventy years to find the Titanic, and they knew almost exactly where it sank.”
“Seventy years? I think I would just give up at some point. Do your parents expect to live that long?” The way Imbued worked, I wasn’t ruling it out.
Chloe shrugged. “Well, it wasn’t like they were looking the whole time. And it’s a lot easier to search the coast of Georgia than the middle of the ocean. Technology’s better and the ocean’s more mapped than it was back then, too. The captain said something about it being a five year expedition. I do know they haven’t found it yet, and it’s the kind of thing that costs millions of dollars.”
And suddenly I’m a lot more interested. “You think my power’s worth that?”
“Can you see a passenger jet in the air with your power?”
“I haven’t really tried.” I looked up at the sky and focused on my power. Our garage was old enough that everything was made from wood, so aside the odd bracket or nail, I had an unobstructed view. It didn’t take long to spot one. “Yeah, I can see them. They look kinda like a fish skeleton through my power.”
“So we know you can see metal from miles away, through solid objects, and in complete blackness. Light conditions or being buried in mud can’t beat you. And finding an ironclad would be easier that spotting a plane for you; planes are smaller, fly way higher than the ocean is deep, and aren’t built like floating tanks. The only way you could get a false positive is if you find the wrong shipwreck. Or stumble across Atlantis.”
She’s right, everything she said makes total sense. I only had one question. “How much can I make off of this?”
“I’m not sure.” Chloe’s excitement started to fade. “My parents never really talked about money, and everyone I could ask is their friend or debtor. They might tip them off on how your powers work. I bet it’s at least a couple hundred thousand.”
“And that’s just for one shipwreck?” Even if I cut her estimate in half, that was enough to cover Bea’s medical expenses and Nanna’s bills, with enough remaining for a substantial college fund. “I suppose we can count someone else finding it before your parents as a bonus victory?”
Chloe looked away. “But that’s not why I’m doing it.”
Open foot, insert mouth. I put my hand on her shoulder again. “I know. You have no idea how much this helps our family. Thank you so much.”
She looked back at me. “I owe you at least that much. And don’t tell me I don’t, I’m not the kind of person who shirks her debts.”
“If this works out, I’ll be the one that owes you.” The only downside I could see was I’d be tempted to not even bother with medical school. I wasn’t sure how many sunken ships were out there, but if it was as lucrative as Chloe implied I could see it as a career. “I don’t think I ever would have thought of finding shipwrecks in my life.”
“Your power’s actually pretty fun to think about.” Chloe’s eyes lit up, figuratively this time. “I love thinking about cool ways to apply abilities. Too bad mine’s so boring.”
“You call flying and ripping concrete apart with your bare hands boring?” I had to admit I couldn’t think of a good, nonviolent, way to make money off a power like that, but for sheer ‘cool’ factor I was hard pressed to come up with better. Every kid wanted to fly, and it was pretty rare for Imbued to get that power. Maybe I can give her a few ideas. “Your forcefield protects your clothes, right? Or things your holding?”
She nodded. “As long as I’m concentrating on my power.”
“I want to test something.” I was already working a strip of metal, thinning it out to a wire thinner than a fishing line and a few feet in length. “Hold this. Be careful, I don’t know if it will cut you.”
She took the wire from my hand. “No, seems fine.” She held up the string, looking closely. “You know, there might be a market for you in jewelry, too. I’ve never seen metal worked this fine before; it’s almost like hair. People would pay good money for stuff like this, precious metal or not.”
“I did look into that, seems like the sort of thing that takes too long to find customers.” I constructed a sword while she was examining my work. I made it almost as sharp as the string Chloe as holding. “Can you protect it with your power, without it cutting you?”
She looked at the weapon I made. “Oh, I think I see what you’re thinking.” Her light extended along the wire, followed by some tentative yanks on the wire. “Looking good so far.” She didn’t wait for me to ask before holding the out in front of her with both hands.
Gently, I tapped the wire with the sword. As thin as it was, even that light hit should have cut through. Instead, the sword stopped just as if I hit a brick wall. “Did that hurt?”
Chloe smirked at me. “Give it a real whack.”
“I just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t cut off your fingers.” I brought the sword up and swung down harder, though nowhere near full strength. There was the spark of metal against metal. It was the sword that chipped.
Without warning, Chloe wrapped the wire around the sword and tugged. Bits of sword dropped to the concrete floor. I wanted to yell at her that she might have hurt herself, but didn’t.
“That is awesome!” She smiled at me. “You can make weapons and I can make them unbreakable!”
“You can already rip apart metal with your hands, I don’t think you need weapons.” Her smile vanished. Damn. “But you can use it for, umm, nonlethal stuff. Like using a bedsheet to stop bullet fire or something. ”
She blinked. “You’re right! I can be one of the ones that gets to wear a cape!” Even I knew that capes had been out of fashion for decades, but Chloe seemed happy about the idea. “Or maybe I can do a sort of ribbon thing! I can’t wait to start designing my costume!” She hopped up and hugged me around the neck. “You’re a genius!”
I savored being close enough to smell the mix of ozone with her perfume. Part of me wanted to stay like that forever. “I guess it’s just easier to think of ideas for other people.” If she kept thanking me like this, I’d have to spend more time thinking of ideas for her. “Maybe tomorrow we can go somewhere and do some power testing?”
“Bea wanted to take me out again.” Damn. “But I think she’ll understand if I cancel.”
Yeah, I bet. “Speaking of, we’re going to have to figure out what to do about our story. Nanna might let you stay one more night, but I think that’s the limit. She’ll want to take you to the church or a woman’s shelter tomorrow.”
Chloe slipped away from me. “Actually, I think I can talk her into letting me stay here.”
“Do you secretly have some kind of mind control?” I was not yet convinced she didn’t.
“Just leave it to me, but I’ve gotta go get changed first.” She turned at ran toward the door. I followed behind, much more slowly. I wasn’t nearly as athletic as Chloe even without injuries. By the time I got in the house, she’d already vanished. I waited in the living room.
After a couple minutes of waiting, Chloe came down from Bea’s room in much more modest clothes. Now that I could make the comparison, I decided I she looked better this way. It served to highlight her intelligence, determination and general confidence. Where the prior outfit just showed off her figure.
Bea followed behind; she stayed true to her ‘figure’ design theory, with a too-small top and pants that had to be cutting off circulation to her legs. Not for the first time, I wondered why she bothered dressing like that at home. There was no one here for her to impress.
The two girls could not have looked more different, and in many ways they could not have been more different. The only trait they seemed to share was the ability to talk me into doing just about anything, no matter how bad I thought the idea was.
Chloe made it down the stairs while Bea followed behind. “Okay, so where’s your grandma?”
Case in point. “I heard her in the kitchen, getting ready to start supper. Are you sure you want to do this?”
Chloe’s eyes flicked over to Beatrice. “Yeah, I think it’s for the best, at least right now. We’ll figure something better out this summer.”
Which was to say she’d have her debut as a hero, and I’d have my first boat ride in the ocean. For whatever reason, I’d never been to the ocean despite it only being a couple hour drive. Right now, however, it was an all or nothing play. If Chloe’s plan didn’t work, it would be all that much harder to keep Chloe close. I could admit to myself it wasn’t entirely for her sake that I was worried.
“Yeah, you’re right.” I didn’t like it, but she really was right. Chloe having to answer questions to a shelter would make things awkward and likely get the state involved. From there, the house of cards came crashing down. Most likely in a way that involved her parents blaming me for the whole mess. Chloe would likely run away before allowing that to happen, and that was yet another set of potential complications.
“Hey!” Bea stuck her head between us. “No scheming without me. I’m better at it.”
She’s not wrong. “Chloe thinks she has a way to get Nanna to let her stay here.”
“Well, I think it’ll work.” I ignored the jealousy that it was Beatrice that Chloe was nervous and shy around. “Domenic’s told me a few things. Besides, we’ve got nothing to lose if it doesn’t.”
“Well, this I’ve gotta see. No one ever makes Nanna do anything she doesn’t want to do.”
We followed Chloe only as far as the doorway to the kitchen. “Mrs. Lyons?”
Nanna turned to look at her, then at me and Bea waiting in the doorway, then back to Chloe. “Oh lawd. You betta not be pregnant.”
I smacked Bea’s arm when she started snickering. This was bad enough without the peanut gallery making it worse. To Chloe’s credit, she weathered Nanna’s glare better than Bea or I would have.
“No, ma’am. I assure you I am not. This is about my current circumstances, no one else’s.” She reached into her purse and pulled something out to hand to Nanna. Nanna realized what she was holding only a moment before I did.
“I don’t want charity, child.” And now she’s managed to insult Nanna. Well, there goes any hope to salvage-
“Neither do I.” Chloe didn’t waver for a moment. “You know I need somewhere to stay, and a way to get to school. This is rent. Five thousand, you can count it. That’s enough to cover this summer, right?”
Nanna hesitated for a moment. Good sense dictated that she refuse, but it was no exaggeration to call that money a life saver. She’s thinking about it, this might actually work.
I stepped into the kitchen. “She can use my room.” If looks could kill, Nanna’s would have gone back in time and murdered me when I was six. “I can stay the garage, it’s warm enough and I’m the only one who uses it anyway.”
Grandpa used it for woodworking and other projects, and Nanna never had the heart to sell the tools. I’d need to move a few boxes, but it would be comfortable enough, and might even make studying easier without Bea running around being a nuisance.
Bea came in and wrapped her arms around Chloe from behind. I bit down the jealousy yet again. “Please? We’ll take care of everything, you won’t even know she’s here.”
“Ah should take my broom an’ run you outa here fer good. All three of ya.” Nanna’s face softened, and I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. “You figure out where y’all are sleepin’, I don’t care.” She directed her glare at me again. “Except that. You better wait ’till you ain’t livin’ under my roof.”
I’d be a whole lot less annoyed about how nothing was happening if people would stop assuming that it was. “Yes, Nanna.” I didn’t bother to argue; she wouldn’t believe me if I tried.
“Yes!” Bea shouted. “Come on, we’ll unpack your stuff.” She was already dragging Chloe out of the kitchen. Chloe gave me an apologetic look, but didn’t try to stop my sister from all but carrying her off. “I always wanted a little sister.”
Real subtle there, sis. I looked back at Nanna. “Thank you.”
“Just git. Dinner’s in two hours, I better not see you ’til then.”