About: In Anti-Heroes Book IV: Power Play, the looming threat of the mysterious Devil Man and his horde of gargoyles draws near Sky City, and the kids learn they need to work together, both Supers and Geeks alike, if they have a hope in hell of defeating their enemy. But that’s only if they can keep from killing each other first!
Excerpt behind the cut.
“What the hell is this?” Jinx said, ripping a sign off the frosted door of their Superhero 101 class. On a sheet of yellow parchment were the words inked in calligraphy: GO TO THE REAR ENTRANCE.
Isaac tore it out of Jinx’s hands and looked it over while the rest of their crew crowded at their backs. The Supers lagged behind at an acceptable distance, everyone dragging their feet on this, their first day returning to Superhero Mentoring 101—with a new teacher none of them had ever met, no less.
Not a one among them was in the mood. The Geeks were still shaken from their encounter with the gargoyles in Witch World the day before, and the Supers were pissed that Mr. Snodgrass was forcing them to return to class alongside their nemeses.
Serena and Nikki jostled each other to see the note while Isaac smirked. “Hey, Blaine, it’s for you, man,” he said, and flung it at the smaller boy standing a few paces away.
Blaine plucked nervously at the long, retro-style 80’s rocker coat he wore. He claimed it was part of his Super costume, but Isaac was pretty sure Elton John had worn a similar coat on one of his tours. He picked up the note, read it, and muttered a few detention-getting words that Isaac didn’t even know the boy knew the definitions of. “Creep, I’m gonna sink your sorry ass,” he said, raising one booted foot menacingly as he prepared to open a sinkhole beneath them all.
Amber shoved to the front and snatched the paper away. “Give it here, shortcake.” She bunted Blaine away with a professionally executed hip throw, then looked it over. “The hell does this mean?”
“Zack knows,” Zoe informed them all as she dogged Amber, precariously carrying a tall stack of books in her arms. They were partly hers and partly Amber’s. When in a bad mood—which was to say all the time—Amber used Zoe as a beast of burden, seeing how the little half-alien girl could carry ten times her own weight.
Zack flinched noticeably at the sound of his name, his feelers drooping despondently. He thought a moment. “There’s a bus waiting in the parking lot to take us to the Sky City Training Facility.”
“The Sky City Training Facility?” Amber croaked with excitement.
“How does he know that?” Jinx said, looking bemused.
Amber looked smug. “That’s his power. Zack can predict things a few minutes before they happen. And Zoe reads minds.”
Jinx looked at Amber and blinked at the twins. “Lame.” He headed down the hallway toward the rear entrance, his crew in tow.
True to what Zack had said, a school bus was indeed waiting for them, parked at the curb with the door open and the motor running.
“Field trip!” Nikki cried excitedly, clapping her hands and jumping up and down like a game show contestant. The rest of the kids piled in at a more sedate rate, many muttering less enthusiastic things under their breath.
They were the only ones on the bus.
Serena stopped short at the back of the vehicle and Amber slammed into her, nearly driving her to the floor with her sheer power. “Watch it, headcase,” she said irritably as she took a seat next to Harrison.
Oh, that girl! Serena thought irritably as she stared longingly at the boy who had popped her kissing cherry.
Harrison shrugged apologetically at her as if to say What can you do?
One of these days Amber would meet her match, and then she’d be sorry! Serena was even thinking about being that match, but before she could say or do anything to forward that aim, her attention snapped back around to the bus driver. She recognized him. It was Phillip, from her family’s house!
She waved to him, but he didn’t acknowledge her. Instead, he focused on the road ahead of him as he closed the door of the school bus and let off the brake with a hiss of steam. She stared until he turned his head—somewhat mechanically—and offered her a blank nod. He must be another one of those clockwork creatures, she thought. She searched his mind for some recognition, but he had the brain of a true automaton, programmed for only one purpose. He was definitely not the Phillip from the house, though he was a Phillip…or whatever those clockwork creatures were called.
It didn’t make her feel much better about the trip, but, she figured, if Phillip was behind this, he only meant well, or that was the impression she had gotten from him. Maybe he was taking her to see her family in Witch World. Maybe some of them were alive, somewhere. It was a long shot, she knew, but she couldn’t help herself. She couldn’t help hoping.
She started down the narrow aisle, looking for a seat. The Supers and Geeks had divided the bus in half, Supers on one side, Geeks on the other. On the Geek side, Nikki was sitting with her brother. That left Jinx alone in his seat. Serena thought about taking the seat behind him, but she knew that was childish—and cowardly. She had no reason to hide from Jinx! So she plopped herself down into the seat beside him instead and smiled.
He looked out the window as the bus pulled out of the school parking lot.
“Your hair looks nice,” she told him. “I like the cut.”
Jinx dug out his cell phone and checked it for messages.
“Is your dad still giving you a hard time?” she asked, remembering how Jinx’s dad just wouldn’t leave him alone sometimes, calling him on his cell to taunt him whenever the mood struck him, which was typical of the devil, she supposed.
Jinx ignored her.
“Look,” Serena said, “I don’t want us to be mad at each other anymore. Can we just…I don’t know…call a truce? Agree to disagree on things?”
Jinx put his phone down in his lap and said in a soft voice, “James.” Since the Supers were currently trying to throw cheese puffs at Nikki and Isaac, and both were ducking while the Supers booed them and called them cowards, she didn’t think anyone had heard him.
“James,” Serena said. “What does that mean?”
“My name.” He looked over at her with his stormy amber eyes. “My real name is James. Jinx is just something they called me when I started going to kindergarten because I was so clumsy back then. But my real name is James. I wanted you to know.”
Serena smiled when she realized he was struggling with apologizing. “That’s a nice name. I like that.” He waited, and she finally realized what he was waiting for. “Oh…mine’s still Serena. It’s always been that. I’ve never had a nickname.”
Jinx—James—smiled a little in return. “You look like a Serena.”
“Do you know what a Serena looks like?”
He shrugged and blushed, then looked away and busied himself with his phone. “I guess she looks like you.” Then he frowned. “So are you seeing Harrison again? Did he ask for another date?”
So that’s what this was all about. Serena bit her lip and told the truth. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t like him.”
“Of course you don’t,” she said. “He’s a Super. But maybe you would, if all of you stopped hating all of them all the time.”
“They hated us first!”
Serena bit her lip. “Do you have any idea what the high road is?”
“No…is that something in class?” Jinx said grumpily. “I’m failing history.”
Serena felt her heart fall a little. “You know, I could tutor you, if you want.”
Now he looked angry. “I don’t want to be tutored by an Eggs Benedict!”
“Benedict Arnold.” She sighed, realizing this was useless, and sat back to ride the rest of the way in silence.
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