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Toe

“Relax, T,” grins Alex as they squeeze shoulders crowdwise. “We’re among your people.”

“Toe wasn’t short enough?” asks Daniel. “It’s T now?”

“I reject all nicknames that do not reduce aggregate syllable count,” says Tyler.

“These are not my people,” says Toe, a little gray.

“Remind me when we got our WonderCon badges, Daniel?” Alex grins wider.

“Why, just after last year’s WonderCon, Alex.”

“Attending a con with nerds doesn’t nerdify me,” grunts Toe. “I enjoy Star Wars. Star Wars is mass American pop culture.”

“Granted,” says Alex, “but the lightsaber on your belt, T, that puts you over the line.”

Daniel

They crash through the door at the top of the stairs into the stock room of a department store, wherein the background music is, for some reason, Rage. Daniel grabs a PA phone from a startled clerk and shouts “run away” before Hugo’s axe bites through its cord. Tyler kicks Hugo’s knee and his next swing goes wild, and the four of them are scrambling away from the giant and his gang, straight up the escalator bannister. “Weapons,” pants Alex, “need weapons–”

When Hugo and the mooks arrive a few seconds later they’re poised in stance, calm and ready, umbrellas high.

Daniel

The broken links ricochet, ping and thud, knocking ninjas cold.

“Wait a second,” says Alex. “Wait!” The remaining ninjas hesitate. “That was impossible,” he says flatly.

“We do that a lot,” says Toe.

“No, we’re improbable. But Daniel just snapped that chain in about eighteen places at once. Strings don’t break like that.” Daniel grins and shrugs; Alex looks around. “Somebody back me up?”

Tyler frowns. “Well it’s not a string, is it? Each link has discrete velocity, integrity–” The bravest ninja decides to leap forward, sword up, screaming. He gets his legs broken.

“Quiet!” Toe scolds. “We’re having science time!”

Toe

Toe trips.

“Oh shit,” says Tyler. Daniel and Alex spin around, facing out, searching the trees and buildings.

“What?” says Dylan, helping Toe up. “It looked like you just tripped.”

“You don’t understand,” mumbles Toe, pale and wild.

“We never trip,” says Alex.

“Not since this whole thing started,” says Daniel.

“Are you guys joking?” Phillip looks back and forth between them. “You have to say if you’re joking–” But he watches Alex take up a stance and there’s no power in it. Nothing. He looks like a teenager playing Matrix.

“It’s gone,” Daniel whispers. “The Liquid Kung Fu is gone…”

Tyler

Tyler drops the last of his ninja on the pile and wanders over to where the guys sit, on a ledge.

“Ooh,” says Daniel, as Dylan does something complicated that causes two ninja to kick themselves in the face.

“Yeah, she showed me that yesterday,” says Phillip.

They grow quiet again. Dylan blurs up past the limit of visual tracking, and her own pile grows steadily larger. Daniel passes Tyler a bag of popcorn.

“Nice. Who brought this?” He takes a handful.< "I was thinking, is there ever a reason not to have popcorn?" says Toe. "And I was like, nah."

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.

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

“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!

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