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Baker's Dozen – Chapter 11

Written by argonaut :: [Friday, 30 December 2016 20:34] Last updated by ::

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BAKER’S DOZEN

by Argonaut


CHAPTER 11

Cindy's fist struck the meteor with the force of a pile-driver, multiplied a hundredfold. A ton of rock exploded into a shower of tiny fragments that fell blazing through Earth’s atmosphere. Off to Cindy’s left, Darcy vaporized another meteor with a blast of her heat- vision. The meteors were falling thick and fast; the two girls flew back and forth, smashing them, burning them, determined to let none of them pass …

Bobby took the last slice of pizza from the box on Kenny’s lap and slumped back against the sofa cushions. Cindy was sitting beside him, leaning forward, her eyes fixed on the screen on the living-room wall, her thumbs moving rapidly across the controller as she sent her avatar zigzagging among the meteors. Darcy was sitting cross-legged on the floor by the sofa, intent on directing her own avatar through the deadly swarm.

The four of them were supposed to be beta-testing a new video game Darcy had brought over, but the boys quickly realized that it was no use trying to keep up with the girls’ super-fast reflexes, so they just sat back and watched as Cindy and Darcy progressed from level to level.

Only one meteor remained. Darcy’s avatar lashed out with a mighty roundhouse kick that shattered the meteor and ended the game.

“Well?” said Darcy. “What do you guys think?”

“Not much of a story-line,” said Kenny. “But the graphics are pretty impressive.”

“Yeah,” said Bobby. “You two looked great.”

“We should,” said Cindy. “Darcy and I spent a whole afternoon posing for the animators.”

Darcy handed Bobby a business card. “So would you guys go to their website and give them some feedback? If you fill out the questionnaire, you’ll get a five-dollar rebate when the game comes out.”

“And a dollar from every sale helps provide clean water for a village in Africa,” added Cindy.

“Okay,” said Kenny. “But could you leave the game here so us ordinary mortals can try it out?”

Cindy stood up, smoothing her skirt. “Well, this has been fun, but I’ve got to be in Miami in fifteen minutes. Thanks, Kenny. Tell your sister I said hi.”

“Just a moment,” said Darcy. “What about that WWE slam in Evansville next month? I can get free tickets, but I need to know how many of us are going.”

“I’m in,” said Bobby.

“Me, too,” said Kenny.

“I don’t know,” said Cindy doubtfully. “Aren’t some of those wrestling matches fake?”

“No,” said Kenny. “They’re all fake.”

“So what’s the point?”

Bobby and Kenny looked at her blankly.

“It’s kind of like a soap opera for guys,” explained Darcy.

“I think I’ll pass,” said Cindy. “I’ve never been to one of those. I’ve never even seen one on TV.”

“Hey, you never played a video game before tonight, either,” said Darcy.

“Yeah,” said Kenny. “How do you know you won’t like it if you don’t try it?”

“Come on, Cindy,” said Bobby. “I’ll let you pick the next movie.”

“It’s my turn anyway.”

Two movies, then.”

Cindy regarded him appraisingly for a moment. “Three,” she said.

“Deal!” said Bobby, resigning himself to a month of chick flicks.

“So it’s a date?” said Darcy.

“I guess so,” said Cindy. “But I really have to go now. Good night, Kenny. Good night, Darcy..”

Cindy and Bobby stepped out onto the porch. Cindy went down the steps and turned, looking up at Bobby over the railing. Bobby leaned down to kiss her good-night. It was a nice change from having Cindy stoop for a kiss.

“So what’s in Miami?” Bobby asked..

“The police there got word that a big shipment of illegal firearms is coming in tonight. The Chief asked if I could lend a hand nabbing the guys.”

“Well, be careful,” said Bobby -- and immediately felt foolish. Cindy was super-strong and bullet-proof. What did she have to be careful of?

Cindy smiled. “Hey, I just spent an hour fighting a dinosaur, a mad scientist, a robot army, and a meteor swarm. I think I can handle a few gun-runners.” She rose from the ground until her face was level with Bobby’s, then nuzzled him lightly on the cheek. “I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow,” she said. “Good night, Bobby.” She turned and flew off into the night sky.

Bobby was gazing up at the spot where she’d disappeared from sight when Darcy came out of the house, adjusting the red sash around her waist. “Good night, Kenny!” she called over her shoulder. “Good night, Bobby,” she said as she hopped down the porch steps.

“Good night, Darcy.”

Darcy took a few running steps down the flagstone walk and leapt up into the sky.

Bobby went back into the house to get his jacket. Kenny was standing by the sofa, frowning at the screen of his phone.

“I guess I’d better be go--” Bobby was saying, when Kenny held up his hand for silence.

He peered at the phone for a few moments longer, then put it back in his pocket, a worried look on his face.

“That was Libby -- one of Nicole’s friends,” Kenny explained.

Bobby nodded. Nicole was Kenny’s older sister -- a senior, editor of the school newspaper, honor-roll student and short-listed for class valedictorian. She’d already been accepted at Columbia, where she planned to major in journalism.

“They told my parents they were going to a movie,” Kenny went on. “But Libby says they went to a party at Kappa Nu.”

“Animal House?” said Bobby, surprised. Kappa Nu -- familiarly known as “Animal House” -- was a fraternity house on the campus of Huxley College, on the outskirts of Middleton. It was a notorious party house. Neighbors had complained about the noise and drunken shenanigans that erupted from the house every Friday and Saturday night, but to no avail. Since most of the college’s varsity football players were members, the administration turned a blind eye on their antics -- even when a freshman girl reported having been assaulted at one of their parties a month ago.

“That doesn’t sound like your sister,” said Bobby. “She’s not exactly a party girl. Besides, she hates that place.” He remembered a scathing editorial Nicole had written for the school newspaper, blasting Huxley’s administration for stone-walling on the sexual-assault charges.

“Don’t you get it?” said Kenny. “She went there to do some undercover reporting -- like she’s Lois Lane or something. Anyway, Libby was getting a bad vibe and she tried to get Nicole to leave, but you know how stubborn my sister is.” Kenny was putting on his jacket. “My parents won’t be back from that charity auction until after ten o’clock. I’m gonna go get Nicole. Could you come along? It might take both of us to drag her out of there.”.

Bobby reached for his own jacket. “Sure thing.”

Fifteen minutes later, Kenny pulled up to the curb along a tree-lined street of Victorian houses -- a once upscale neighborhood fallen into decay. There was no mistaking the Kappa Nu house. Broken furniture, empty pizza cartons, and beer cans littered the unkempt lawn, and karaoke music poured from the windows, its throbbing bass beat punctuating the night air.

Kenny and Bobby got out of the car and began walking toward the house. A young man with the broad shoulders and thick neck of a football player was sitting under the porch light, on a wooden chair tipped back against the wall.

“Too bad the girls left,” whispered Bobby. “We might need some back-up.”

“Aw, we can do this,” said Kenny. But he didn’t sound very confident.

The boys went up the sagging wooden steps and headed for the door. The bouncer held up a brawny arm to bar the way.

“Sorry, guys. Members only.”

“We’re just here to pick up my sister,” Kenny explained.

The bouncer scowled. “Didn’t you hear me? Members only. So unless you’re a Kappa, or a hot chick -- hey!”

While he’d been talking, Bobby had slipped past him and opened the door. He grabbed Kenny by the arm and pulled him inside.

The room was dark and crowded, loud with throbbing music and raucous laughter and pungent with the mingled aromas of marijuana smoke and spilled beer. Bobby and Kenny skirted the wall. Hoping that the darkness and the crowd would conceal them from the bouncer who’d charged into the room after them. They craned their necks and squinted through the haze, looking for Nicole.

“There she is!” Kenny shouted in Bobby’s ear. Bobby looked where his friend was pointing.

Nicole was on a battered sofa by the far wall, pinned against the cushions by a boy in a football jersey. Bobby could see her frightened face over her assailant’s shoulder as she pushed frantically against his broad chest. One of his hands was on her thigh, pushing up the hem of her dress; the other was pulling a strap off her shoulder.

“Hey!” shouted Kenny, pushing his way through the crowd. “Let go of my sister!” Bobby was right behind him …

A pair of strong hands grabbed the boys by the collars of their jackets. “You guys are so out of here!” the bouncer growled, dragging them back toward the door.

Bobby squirmed around, twisting his neck to get a clear view of Nicole. His hand reached under his jacket and between the buttons on his shirt, groping until his fingers made contact with the card on the lanyard around his neck.

“I wish she was super!” he blurted, his words inaudible over the din.

“Look out!” Kenny shouted.

The boys jumped back as Nicole’s assailant flew past them, knocking down a couple of the other partiers before hitting the wall with a heavy thump and sliding to the floor. Boys shouted and girls screamed as another young man went staggering backwards after him, then another. The crowd surged back from the sofa, leaving a wide clearing at that side of the room. Someone turned on the lights as Bobby and Kenny shoved their way toward the front of the crowd.

Nicole’s voice rang out over the beat of the karaoke machine. “Would somebody please turn that down?”

A moment later, the room was silent. Tense, expectant, everyone was watching Nicole as she stood smoothing her disheveled hair and adjusting the strap on her dress.

Bobby stared along with everyone else. At home and at school, Kenny’s sister favored a casual look -- baggy sweatshirts and loose jeans, her light brown hair tied in a loose ponytail or an untidy bun. Buit here she was in a little black dress that showcased a cute figure and a pair of shapely legs, her hair falling loose over her bare shoulders.

Damn, thought Bobby, gaping. Nicole’s hot. Who knew?

She waited until everyone was quiet before speaking. “I’m sorry, ladies,” she said. “But this party’s over. I’ve got something to say to the boys. So shoo -- shoo!”

Muttering, the girls began gathering their belongings and filing out the door, looking curiously back over their shoulders. Nicole waited until the last of them had left the room and shut the door behind her. Then she strode forward, the boys stepping back to make way for her as she went up to her assailant,. who sat slumped against the wall, nursing a bruised shoulder and gazing fearfully up at her.

Nicole reached down and grabbed the boy by the front of his shirt. Hauling him effortlessly up onto his feet, she pressed him back against the wall and brought her face close to his. His eyes were wide with fright; sweat gleamed on his forehead.

“That’s the thing about this town,” she said. “You never know whether a girl might be super.”

Releasing him, she returned to her spot in front of the sofa.

“All right, guys, listen up,” she said. “Dean Strickland might be too gutless to do anything about this place -- but I’m not. You know about us supers, right? We’re super-strong and super-fast, we’re bullet-proof and we can fly -- but did you know that w’ve got super-vision and super-hearing? Yeah. Well, then -- from now on, I’ll be keeping an eye on you boys. I can’t watch all of you 24-7, but you never know when I might be checking up on you -- or you -- or you.”

Her pointing finger darted from one boy to another..

“And if I ever catch any of you doing anything like this again, I’ll be back ... but don’t expect me to be quite so gentle next time. And just so you don’t forget --”

She stepped over to a table where an empty beer keg stood amid a litter of plastic cups.

She picked it up and tossed it lightly into the air, catching it deftly between the palms of her hands and crushing it into a misshapen metal pancake.

“There,” she said. “I doubt that you’ll be getting your deposit back, so keep this as a reminder of what I said. Just remember -- what I did to this keg is nothing compared to what I can do to you!”

She let the flattened keg drop to the floor with a heavy thump.

Stepping over to the karaoke machine, Nicole scanned the playlist and entered a selection. The driving beat of a Blondie song poured from the speakers as Nicole began dancing toward the door, turning this way and that, her finger sweeping the room as she sang:

“One way or another I’m gonna see ya.

I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha.

One way or another I’m gonna find ya.

I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha.

One day, maybe next week,

I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha ...”

Still singing, she stepped out onto the porch and shut the door behind her. Bobby and Kenny were waiting outside.

“What are you doing here?” she asked Kenny.

Kenny shrugged. “Just wanted to make sure you didn’t do something stupid.”

“Don’t worry. None of those guys got hurt any worse than they would’ve been during football practice. But I think I made my point.”

“Do Mom and Dad know you’re at a frat party -- dressed like that?”

Nicole rolled her eyes.. “Sheesh, can’t a girl dress up once in a while? Besides, there’s nothing wrong with this dress. Bobby likes it. Don’t you, Bobby?”

Blushing, Bobby averted his eyes.”Uh -- yeah,” he stammered. “It’s very -- uh, very chic.”

“There, you see? And speaking of Mom and Dad -- do they know you’re out after curfew?”

Kenny took his phone from his pocket and checked the time. “Oh, crap.” Nicole turned her head and narrowed her eyes, casting her super-vision toward the other side of town.

“Relax,” she said. “That charity auction is still going on. You’ve got time to get home before they do. Want me to give you a lift?”

“No, thanks,” said Kenny, walking down the porch steps.

“What about you, Bobby? Door to door service.” She winked. “I’m sure Cindy wouldn’t mind.”

“Uh -- thanks, but I’ll -- I’ll ride with Kenny.”

Nicole shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

Bobby hurried across the lawn and got into the car.

“Dude,” he said, shutting the door. “Your sister cleans up nice.” Kenny grunted.

“So how long has she been --?”

“About a month. Mom and Dad and I were the only ones who knew about it. She wanted to keep it secret until she graduated, on account of the school’s ‘no supers’ policy.”

“Well, she let the cat out of the bag just now.”

“Yeah, but lately she’s been talking about fighting that policy -- maybe getting someone from the ACLU to sue the school. You know how she is once she sets her mind on something.”

He put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb.

“And now she’s got super-powers. God help us all.”

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