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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 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…”



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!”


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.


“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.”


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?”


“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!