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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 knocks the board up onto an edge stand–a nerdy trick, but it lets him dodge a low sweep. He kicks the board into that mook’s chest, catches it on the reflect and ducks. Another swing misses; Daniel puts the board on his feet and rolls back into a flip, letting it catch a second ninja’s chin. Ball bearings rattle, and he turns a landing wobble into a nose stall.

Dylan’s watching. He notices, and pauses long enough to grin. “Ta dah!”

She raises her eyebrows, then broadsides an incoming goon with somebody’s Harley.

“Four wheels beats two wheels,” Daniel mutters.


Hugo bellows a laugh. “How many of you do I have to throw off?”

“You came into my home,” says Daniel. “You threatened my family.”

“I also killed your friend,” says Hugo.

“Sure,” says Daniel, “that too.”

The sword comes up lower than Daniel expected, so he changes plans and runs up the blade. Putting his knee in Hugo’s face feels good.

Hugo screams with his mess of a mouth and brings it up again. This time Daniel steps aside and touches the point on Hugo’s wrist that opens his fingers. The sword flips up, way above them, end over end.


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."


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.”



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!”


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.


“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!