Chapter – XXVI
“Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m glad you guys dragged me out.” Cat said after taking a sip of her drink, some sort of lightly fizzy blue drink that Mike had mixed for her. It was her second one, and after another sip she realized that she never asked what it was. “By the way, did anyone happen to catch what the name of this was?” she asked.
“I think he called it a ‘Pan-Galactic something or other’ and said that he thought you’d appreciate it.” Max said.
A grin split the slightly tipsy girl’s face. “I do appreciate it!” she said with a laugh. “I think I could kiss him the next time I see him.”
“Okay, I think you’re relaxed now. Maybe you should switch to water.” Peter said, gently taking Cat’s glass from her. “I don’t want to have to stop my sister from making the Bigfoot hunters think there is an urban Sasquatch.”
“Okay MOM,” Cat said. “I’ll have my glass of water, but then I’m finishing my glass of deliciousness. After all, it was invented by the president of the galaxy. It’d be rude to just dump it out.” And she flounced into
Peter said nothing but just released a long-suffering sigh. He kept telling himself that sisters are a blessing, but he wondered what he could possibly have done to deserve a blessing like Cat. As Peter contemplated these mysteries of the universe and the divine sense of humor, he followed his sister back into the kitchen to make sure she got her water and didn’t take a detour over to where Mike had been pressed into service as the bartender.
“Well, at least we managed to get Cat to relax.” Max said to Tom and Robin after the siblings left.
“Now what do we do to get Peter to relax?” Tom asked.
“Pardon me, I just wanted to come over and say ‘hello’”.
Robin jumped just as she was getting ready to give a sarcastic answer to Tom’s rhetorical question. “Goddamn you’re quiet. Hey Victoria, I’m kinda surprised to see you here.” she said instead.
“My apologies.” Victoria said “I was planning on staying home and meditating, but our RA told us about this little social function and she didn’t want to come alone.” The thin girl was dressed in a plain black dress, with her familiar gloves covering most of her arms.
“Hey, I don’t think we met before, I’m Tom, Tom Porter” Tom said, holding out his hand.
“Victoria Bennett, pleased to meet you.” She replied taking his hand gently.
“If you don’t mind my asking, why are you wearing the gloves?” Tom asked.
“It’s okay. The gloves help to prevent accidents,” Victoria answered. Then seeing the looks of confusion she realized that she was going to need to elaborate some. “My ability allows me to… read objects by touching them, like a telepath reads minds. Well, sometimes when I’m not being careful, I accidentally get stuff. Especially if it’s very strong.”
Her voice trailed off an she gazed into space.
Eventually she said “I decided to start wearing the gloves when I picked up this old wooden cooking spoon. I saw a young mother beating her children with it. I saw their fear though their eyes, felt her anger at some little kid stuff. More than that, I felt her hatred of them because that she thought they ruined her life, I knew she secretly her resented that they had long, full lives ahead of them.” She shuddered slightly at the memory. “It’s what drove me to become a hero.”
“Well that’s a mood killer. I think I’m sorry I asked.” Tom said. “Anyone else want another drink? Mine seems to have evaporated.”
“If you’re going, I’ll have one. And be a gentleman and get Vickie a drink too” Robin said.
“I’m good,” Max said “Besides, I think I need to find the bathroom anyway.”
“Yo Slick, come on! There are ladies present.” Robin said.
“Where?” Max replied half a smile tugging at his cheek.
Rather than respond, Robin raised her middle finger in Max’s direction while Victoria chuckled quietly.Tom simply shook his head, glad that Robin was sniping with someone else and the somber mood had been broken.
Danielle Malone had started out with Tom and his friends, but as the night wore on she started feeling a bit restless. They were really nice and fun, but this was the first time she had ever snuck out. She had, in her mind, taken a flying leap into freedom and teenage rebelliousness, so she might as well make the most of it. So when Grace, the amazonian hostess, asked if anyone wanted to join in some drinking games and Erik agreed, Danielle asked if she could tag along.
She tried her hand at a game that involved trying to bounce a ball into some cups with beer in them that were arranged around a glass full of beer. It turned out that she wasn’t really good at those games. Her ball kept bouncing off the cups’ rims and her inexperience led to her having to down the full glass a few times, in addition to her own partially filled cup. After a couple rounds of that, the decision was made to start up a beer pong tournament.
Danielle’s quickly decided that she really didn’t like the taste of beer that much, and already having had to drink far too much of it for her liking, she gracefully bowed out.
Or at least she tried to.
A couple of the other drinkers threw some barbs her way, but Erik taking notice with extreme prejudice, backed up by a sharp “Enough!” from Grace, silenced them quickly. Even more than the freshmen, the sophomores lived in a world where appearances were deceiving, but there was still something intimidating about a young man who looked like a professional football lineman. They also knew that even though Grace rated just out of the top five in the combat rankings, she was still somebody you crossed at your own peril
After a stop off in the bathroom, Danielle headed to the kitchen to get a drink. There she saw Cat and Peter bickering, as siblings do, about something. Danielle overheard something about the legitimacy of a shot glass of water being a glass of water. She may never have had a brother, but she still knew better than to interject herself in their squabble. So she just got a full sized glass of water for herself and headed for a quiet spot to drink it.
By this time most of the partiers were either in the dining room waiting their turn in the drinking games, in the kitchen, or in the small postage stamp of a back yard. So it was easy for Danielle find an empty seat on the end of the couch in a corner and set her water down on a the end table, making sure to use a coaster.
Max was was already sitting in an adjacent chair. She greeted him and the two made small-talk, but mostly they watched the other people at the party enjoy themselves.
Her peace was only short-lived as John Johnson, who had just been eliminated from the beer pong tournament by the team of Erik and Grace, walked unsteadily away from the table. He said something to his partner, a statuesque blonde that Danielle remembered from their class, after the match but she simply responded with a hand to the face and turning away.
A look of frustration and pure rage passed his face before he turned away and headed towards the living room. There he saw the Danielle sitting on the couch, hands folded in her lap, looking at the party through sunglasses. Looking to redeem his pride from his failure, although it was really her mistake, he headed over to the solitary young woman sitting in the corner.
Sliding onto the couch next to Danielle, John moved to put his arm around her, though he kept it on the back of the couch.
“Hey, ‘sup?” he said, the stench of bad beer lacing the words. “You’re that girl from class. I’m John” He tried to drop drop his voice into a deeper register, but it only succeeded in highlighting the alcohol induced slur.
“Uh… Hi.” Danielle said, her body language closing off by the second. Under normal circumstances she probably would have left and found Tom and his friends for the safety in numbers, but the beers she had quickly downed were taking their effect, and she was just fuzzy enough to stay where she was.
“Can you believe that shit? I was carrying that team, and when I asked her if she wanted to have a good time, that tall bitch just dissed me.” He said, cracking a beer he had grabbed on his way over.
“Hey, don’t you think you’ve had enough?” Max asked, but his well intentioned question fell on deaf ears.
“Listen this party’s getting kinda lame. Why don’t we find someplace soft and see what happens?” John asked, trying to peer into Danielle’s eyes.
“No, thank you.” She said, shrinking back into the couch cushions.
“Oh come on baby, you want the Johnhon” he said, sliding his hand onto Danielle’s shoulder.
“What do you think you’re doing!?” Max said, raising his voice slightly “She said no, so back off.”
“Fuck you, last place bitch.” John said, beginning to slur his words badly. Turning back to Danielle and sliding his other hand onto her leg.
“get off…” she said in a small voice. When John only leaned in, Danielle shrieked “NO!” and brought her arm around, landing a solid blow to the side of John’s head with the back of her hand. His head rocked back with the sound reminiscent of an aluminum baseball bat hitting a ball and her other hand pushed him halfway back across the couch.
“Fucking cunt ass bitch!” John shouted “My fucking nose!” Sure enough, blood was already flowing from his broken nose. Without another word he made a disgusting sound and spit a bloody ball of mucous at Danielle’s face.
Her hand moved in front of the glob almost faster than the eye could see, flashing bright silver and flowing into a wide sheet. The flying ball of incredibly sticky mucous hit the silver shield that used to be Danielle’s hand and slid off onto the couch.
“What the fuck is going on here!?” Grace shouted, striding across the dining room and living room like an African Valkyrie. Mike, who had come around from the makeshift bar, was following close behind.
Both John and Danielle, her hand returning to normal in an instant, had frozen in place at Grace’s dramatic intervention.
“John’s drunk,” Max said, explaining the situation “he tried to force himself on Danielle, and she hit him.” Before he could continue, Danielle caught Max’s eye with a panicked look. On pure instinct he continued “When he tried to spit his gooey stuff at her, I got my hand in the way and it slid off my shield”
“That’s it! I’ve had enough of your bullshit. Out!” Grace said.
“Fuck you…” John replied and started to suck in a breath.
“No.” Mike said. His voice had taken on a steel edge that cut through the room like a knife. Rather than offer any threat, he held out his arm, palm up. His brilliant green eyes flashed brighter, and St. Elmo’s fire raced down his arm and coalesced a green ball in his palm. The ball floated briefly over his palm before flashing over to hover just beside John’s cheek. He didn’t risk moving, despite the heat radiating from the ball of green fire like a miniature sun.
“You’re done. Go back to your dorm and sleep it off. Last. Warning.”
His eyes wide in terror, John edged away from that ghostly green ball of fire and got off the couch. With the whole party watching, the ball escorted him to the door and he left.
“I’m sorry.” Danielle said, sounding almost like a young girl.
“It’s not your fault sweetie” Grace said. “He’s an asshole. I didn’t see it, but that must have been one hell of a punch. You busted his nose up good.”
“Come on.” Max said, and lead Danielle back into the dining room where Tom, Robin, and the rest of their friends were.
After the freshmen left, Grace looked at Mike and said “So, what are you going to do?”
Mike sighed and ran his fingers through his short hair. “I’ll talk to Dean Smith in the morning. He didn’t break any program rules, but the professors should know.”
“Okay, just so long as he isn’t going to get off easy.” Grace said. Then she looked down and said “Fuck!What am I going to do about my couch, that shit is hard already.”
“I can try to burn it off.” Mike offered.
“Nope. Not gonna happen. Remember when you tried to dry me off after swimming on Spring Break? You almost burned my bathing suit off. Not gonna happen to my couch.”
“I’ve gotten a lot better over the summer.” Mike objected. And besides, that wasn’t exactly an accident, but this wasn’t the time to mention that.
John Johnson was a mess as he made his way back to campus. He had blood flowing pretty freely from his nose, his cheek was throbbing in pain and he staggered slightly down the sidewalk. He was still drunk, but he never would admit how hard Danielle had hit him. The back of her hand felt more like sledge hammer as it hit his cheek.
“So, what do we have here?” A voice asked from the shadows behind John.
“Looks like we got us a baby super.” another voice answered.
Cold fear racing down Johns’ spine did the sobering work of a cold shower, a night’s sleep, and a pot black coffee. Slowly he turned to face the voices in the shadows behind him. At first all he saw as a glowing orb in the darkness and readied himself to fight for his life. Then two young guys, not much older than him stepped out. Each one was bulging with muscles and were covered in wide variety of crude tattoos. They both also wore matching black head wraps.
“That boss was right to have us watch here.” Said the one whose eye had been replaced with some kind of glowing red prosthetic.
“You got some juice kid?” Maybe you want to be a hero?” The other one said with a sneer “Why don’t you talk to us instead.” That last wasn’t a question.
“Yeah, we insist.”