Lab Rat Part 4

Posted: January 14, 2011 in Fiction, Test Subject

I plop down on the curb with my drink and my half slice of pizza. I bite off an indecently large chunk and chew while I think. If nothing goes down, I’m going to have to do things the boring way. I may not be a legit hero or anything like that, but if I’m gonna test out these powers, I’d like to earn some good karma along the way. If the guy who sells me my beer is actually short on protection money, maybe I can dissuade the bill collectors. Otherwise I have to use Ally’s “scientific method,” wherein I risk my life just to test the limits of each ability.

I’m just finishing the last of my drink when the nicest car I’ve ever seen on this block comes to a stop out front of the convenience store. People with shiny black Lincoln Towncars don’t just decide to come to my part of town. I’m not cool enough not to stare, so I don’t try to hide it. I watch as two guys in expensive looking suits and ties get out of the car. Both have hair slicked back, and one of them is wearing a sweet set of Ray-Bans. Seriously. It’s Eleven at night. I roll my eyes. The suits look up and down the street before they walk into the store.

I can feel heat rushing to my limbs. My heart hammers out a measured but absurdly hard pulse. There’s the adrenaline. I smile, but it’s humorless. I take a few deep breaths to control the sudden jitters that the rush always brings on, and I thumb the injector button. The great thing about choosing to engage is that the adrenaline blunts the pain of having chemicals that alter the fundamental rules of how the body works squirted into you. The downside is that it still hurts, even for the umpteenth time.

I stand up as the fire races up my arm and spreads into my chest. As the wave reaches my other extremities, it dulls into non-existence. I check my hands. I don’t look different. No problem. Most of the time, there aren’t any visual cues. Ally says the whole point is to have an ace up your sleeve anyway.

I take a step into the street. As my foot hits pavement, I feel the shock of impact through my body. It’s not pain, per se. I set my mind to trying to describe it as I cross the street. Without quite meaning to, I’m bounding toward the store like a gazelle. I stop at the door, but take another unintentional hop. I grab the door handle for stability. I gently pull open the door, and the bell dings to herald my arrival. Smooth.

I’m committed now though, so I half skip up to the counter behind the two suits. The checker is making a big show of how scared he isn’t; his arms are crossed and he’s got his mouth held in such a way that I’m positive he’s biting the inside of his cheek. Ray-Bans leans over the counter and tries to talk low so I won’t hear him. The other turns toward me. “Maybe you should shop somewhere else tonight, kid,” he tells me.

“Why? They out of Mountain Dew?” I ask him. The guy gives me a hard look. I know he’s balling a fist at his side without even looking. My mouth has earned me that knowledge. I think I’ve figured out what I’m made of at the moment though, so I let my grin crack wider.

“Look, kid,” he says. “If I were you I’d go shop somewhere else.” The threat is plain as day in his voice.

“I got nowhere to be. You wouldn’t be the first guy to buy lottery tickets in front of me.” I tell him. I’m pretty much positive I know what’s gonna happen next, so I lean ever so slightly to the left to give myself proper angles. He doesn’t give much in the way of warning when he takes his swing, but I know when someone is about to punch me. I may have mentioned that I earn it on occasion. His right fist hits my face, probably as hard as I’ve ever been hit. It would have lifted me off of my feet even if I weren’t altered. As it is… well, there’s no way he could have been ready for my response.

I go flying backward and to my left. I tuck myself into as tight a ball as I can manage. I hit the shelving and bounce like a dodgeball. From the shelf, I fly to the back of the store. Glass cracks at the impact, but I rebound off of the line of refrigerators and head back toward the counter. One last bounce off of the opposite shelf, and I plow into Ray-Bans’ back so hard he goes face first into the cigarette shelves behind the cashier. The kinetic energy transfer is enough to let me stop. I waver a bit as I stand up again. I hear Ray-Bans groan, and the other guy starts swearing.

“What the fuck are you?!” He’s yelling. “What the fuck was that?!” The suit who punched me rambles on in this vein as I turn to face him and get my bearings.

“Hit me again,” I tell him. “For science.” I give him a smile that shows no hint of humor. I’m getting pretty good at that look. He’s fiddling in a pocket and comes out with a pair of knuckle-dusters. I try to figure my angles again. I’m gonna have to remember this moment next time I hear my old man tell me I waste too much time at the bar. Billiards practically trained me for this moment. The guy swings again, a vicious uppercut that hits me right below the sternum. I hurtle into the ceiling, and then back to the floor. I get a foot out as I’m going up, and I catch Knuckle-duster on the chin with my boot. Rubber or not, it boosts him backward into more shelving. He slumps to the ground, and I hit the ceiling and floor four or five more times. It’s tough counting when you’re airborne like this. Jesus, I’m dizzy. I shake my head to try and reset my balance. Images finally merge until I’m only looking at a single version of the world.

I look over at the store clerk, whose jaw is hanging like a porch swing. “I need some zip-ties,” I tell him. He disappears into the back. I check the injector. Three minutes left. Man, that didn’t take as long as I thought it might. I fish around in Ray-Bans’ pocket and get out the keys to the Lincoln. I hit the trunk button. The clerk reemerges with a fistful of zip-ties. “Give me a hand with this, huh?” I tell him. We maneuver the suits around until we’ve basically got them hog-tied, and then we load them into the trunk of the car. “Listen. Call a tow truck. I’ll be around here every night for the rest of the week in case they come back, but you should tell the police about this kind of shit too. They ‘re here to protect and serve, you know.” The clerk nods silently.

I got kind of carried away last night, so you get a double-stuft post! Julian is home from Utah, and he’s looking as smiley and handsome as ever. His mom is convinced he’s going to crawl soon, and I don’t doubt it for a minute.

In other news, I’ve been re-reading Steel. It was the first story of any substantial length I’d ever attempted, so it has a special place in my heart. I’m coming to find that I’d write the whole thing differently if I were to do it again though. If I were to continue where I left off with that one, I’d have to make some serious revisions. I think I can do better the next time around.


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