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Brought to you by Ben Wray

“Okay, what about exceptions?”

“I need your exceptiona-” but then Kay’s rudely interrupted.

“Notimetoexplain!” Mario grabs her and spacetime rearranges itself in a flash of light. They’re just in time for the closing words.

“Omnia mutantur, nihil interit,” solmenly quotes Toe. “Death is but a door, time is but a window…”

“Is he quoting Ghostbusters 2 or 8-bit theater?” asks Jake, but Dylan kicks him, hard, and he shuts up.

Everybody’s there. Zach, Rob, Asuka’s doctor, Zaganza, Shelly, your favorite character not already mentioned… everybody.

Then Millicent’s paw thrusts triumphantly out of the ground suck it Brendan I win forever.


“This is Dylan we’re talking about,” says Daniel. “Dylan. The girl Dylan. You know? Our friend Dylan?”

“I saw what I saw,” says Philip. “She was hurting them after they gave up. Not for practice, or to test herself. For fun.”

“I’m with Daniel,” says Tyler. “It’s not like she’s suddenly turned evil.”

“Did I mention she started smoking?”

“Oh shit she’s turned evil,” says Tyler.

“I used to smoke,” Toe scowls.

Everybody takes the tiniest hint of a step back from him.


“What are you guys talking about?” says Dylan, ambling up.

The silence hums, taut as a violin.


“I liked it!” says Alex, as they push out the back exit.

“Everyone liked it, nobody’s saying they didn’t like it,” says Tyler.

“IT WAS A 112-MINUTE STROBE-LIT CINEMATIC ORGASM,” Daniel announces to the parking lot. Behind them, someone whoops.

“Are you getting orgasms confused with epilepsy?” says Phillip.

“Are you not?

“It was really, really a lot of fun,” says Tyler. “Particularly considering that nothing was at stake and the girls didn’t get enough screen time.”

“I just can’t believe they gave Toe’s part to Michael Cera,” says Dylan.

“I’m not Michael Cera!” says Toe. “I’m Michael Cera?”


The Chosen Ones are bruised and dull-eyed: their knuckles are blood-blackened and their nostrils are white. Their muscles slide over each other like great rusting cables, smooth but shrieking. Their battle is joyless. This is the cost of the death of a friend.

Only Dylan still moves with their old pinwheeling grace, but if there’s joy in her movements then that joy is savage. She flickers, and blood blooms from the bodies of nameless men (her knuckles are smooth; red ribbons chase her knives). She’s fire and the means of walking amid fire. She is the temptation of revenge.


The guards hover an inch from the surface of the lake, but as soon as they touch it they’re doggy-paddling, hapless. Tyler doesn’t even body-check them. He just skates around, tripping.

On the shore, Daniel’s eating popcorn. Toe kicks an irritated rock.

“I don’t get it,” he mutters. “I bet we could do that too if we could–I mean, where’s his weight distributed? What’s holding him up?”

“Tension,” says Dylan, too close to his ear.

Tyler leans down to brush wave-tips with one finger, and his sandals slice a glittering wave from the arc of his turn.


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.


“No,” says Toe quietly. “Let me see.”

Dylan punches him, but somehow doesn’t connect. She stumbles.

“You’re stronger,” he says. “Faster. But I’ve been doing this longer.”

Toe turns her next punch into a sine wave. Dylan understands the circuit and pulls through, then kicks off the wall. It should break the hold and jam his shoulder into its socket; it doesn’t.

Instead she ends up with her arms crossed, palms back, Toe’s hand flat against her wrists. He looks at her knuckles.

“Ash?” he mutters. “That’s what it is?”

Their faces are very close. It’s unfair, how slow he’s breathing.


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."


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.