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Category Archives: The Chosen Ones

Less and less about kung fu.

Toe

“There must be a way up!” says Toe, slamming one fist against a column. “This is stupid! We’ve got these powers, let’s use them! It’s just a problem we have to solve.”

“I’ve got an idea,” says Tyler slowly, staring up at the stone pagoda. There are purple flashes in the clouds. “We can get one of us up there. But only one.”

There’s a solemn pause, broken only by Daniel’s quiet cough.

“Not bitch,” says Tyler.

“Not bitch,” says Alex hastily.

“Not bitch!” yells Daniel, at the same time.

“Not–hey!” says Toe, snapping around, off guard. “Guys! No fair!

Achin

Achin drops to her knees, her eyes dull from the drugged ash-wine. Behind her, the rest of the Heavenly Choir does the same, voluntarily or at the hands of the guards.

The emperor is propped up before them, pale, like a thing already dead. The soothsayer Quan-ti turns from the fire and nods to the bard, who bends his head to his lute. The Choir begins to sing; Quan-ti, smiling, approaches their leader.

He draws the short bronze knife across her throat and moves on; behind him, the emperor flushes with health. Achin’s voice dies in gurgles. The blade keeps singing.

Alex

Alex is trying to play a song. The rhythm of it is a little off: it’s a syncopated pop-rock riff turned backwards. Down-and. Down-and. Down-and and down-and. Almost everything involving his hands is easy now, which makes the difficulty of finding this chord surprising, and worthwhile.

He picks up the phone when it rings–he wants to be interrupted, so he can say something biting.

“Hello?” he says. He can’t make out what’s on the other end, exactly: is it laughter or chimes?

“Hello?” he says again.

His face changes. You can see him forget the guitar.

“Dylan?” says Alex. “Hi?”

Dylan

“The fuck!” explodes Toe.

“Can’t believe a girl beat you to it?” Dylan says, airy.

“It has nothing to–” starts Tyler.

“Faust deserved to die.” She stares them down, willing herself to be hard. “For Alex.”

“Was it hard?” asks Phillip quietly.

So fast, he’s so fast, blade flickering out from his sleeve. But she’s fast too, heel of her hand snaps out to break it with a cheap-toy spang but the short edge is still coming, one chance, one weapon, the broken blade flipping away. She’s fast, has to be, has to catch it–

She shrugs. “He was candy.”

Toe

Toe estimates their speed at about 40, but the cars are still packed from the traffic jam and they’re keeping up. He bounds off a Corolla to an old Geo hatchback, just long enough to spring out again, aiming for a red Cherokee luggage rack. Which suddenly changes lanes.

Panicking, he flails away from the asphalt and the sixteen-wheeler bearing down on it–and Daniel crashes into him, midair spin, fling and Toe slams into a pickup bed.

He scrambles up to see Daniel slide along the trailer’s edge, grinning nervously, the grind plates on his soles kicking sparks from the corner.

Alex

Hugo laughs an ugly, wheezy little laugh, shakes Dylan once by her collar, and throws her off.

Alex is two seconds ahead of him. He’s at the tower, then running up the wall, counting on horizontal inertia to pin him against it just long enough–

At one second, Dylan is thirty-three meters up. At two, it’s thirteen, and she’s only getting faster.

Alex knows that the right upward vector might reduce her momentum enough to keep them alive. He’s six strides up. Seven. Eight: he exhales and launches himself backward, headlong into gravity, first and most visceral human experience of acceleration.

Toe

“Pebbles.”

Daniel recoils. “Oh, that’s just–”

“Not that Pebbles! Pebbles when she was older,” retorts Toe. “She and Bam-Bam were in a band, with some other kids…”

“Oh.” Daniel squints. “Yeah…”

“They solved mysteries. Dino was probably involved. You know, like every Hanna-Barbera cartoon, but Pebbles had it all over Daphne.”

“I don’t know, man, I still say Betty.”

“And think about this,” says Alex, sticking his head into the room. “Fred’s cereal is named after his daughter. Right? And what do you do with cereal?”

“Wrong!” shouts Toe. “Wrong wrong wrong!”

“Every morning!” Alex crows. “Paging Doctor Cement Freud!”

Phillip

Phillip’s finally got them all eating with chopsticks. Well, almost all.

“So Phil, you’re Taiwanese,” says Toe, filling his mouth with danzi.

“First-generation,” replies Phillip.

“How come”–Toe swallows–”you’re a Chinese Studies major?”

“Well, those aren’t the only classes I take,” he replies. “But yeah, that’s my focus, because Chinese history matters to Taiwan right now. Most Americans try pretty hard to ignore the situation.”

“But Daniel’s Chinese, and he doesn’t even speak the language. Either of them.”

Daniel grins. He’s using a fork. “My family’s Chinese. I’m American, man. The rest of the world can eat fruit and cake.”

Dylan

Somewhere to the north, a long train is rattling over a cast-iron bridge: the river’s carrying the sound, and Dylan catches herself running in time to it. Step clank breathe clank step.

She chooses broken streetlights and dark alleys; it’s too late to be out running alone and she knows it, wants that, is looking for trouble. She slows to walk and turns another blind corner. Three steps in, she’s found what she wanted–there’s a scrape on pavement behind her, then in front.

Dylan hasn’t looked up yet. She grins, feeling the edge of her palm tense into a blade.

Toe

MACHINEGUNDICLES SAVES ORPHANS, blares the headline; the blurry photo shows a towering silhouette, chin like a cliff and one arm a Gatling gun from the wrist up. Toe slaps the paper on the counter.

“That all for you?” booms the clerk. His nametag says MAX HINES-UNCLES.

“Could I get some Tylenols?” Toe and Tyler are trying hard not to laugh.

“Sure.”

“Thanks. Hey, you hear about Machinegundicles?” He pokes the paper. “I heard they totally found out his secret identity.”

“Oh, I doubt that,” Max says smugly, and accidentally sweeps the painkiller shelf clear with his huge, cylindrical, black-gloved left hand.

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