No ordinary hero (Keepers of justice # 1) (2 page)

Chapter Three


X and Stretch are on the couch, fingers mutilating their Xbox controllers. The Game Room is packed. Rock music plays from the stereo and someone put on these funky lights that make the room shine
with rainbow colors. Wait, that’s not it. The rainbows come from Prizm, our newest recruit. Eleven years old and annoying as heck. His power is so useless he might as well be normal.

girls at the foosball table. The Elemental Triplets. One’s queen of water, another’s master of air (seriously, she chokes the juice out of you when you’re in her way) and the other’s goddess of Earth. They all dig me.

“Stop staring
!” H
O splashes water on me.


I head over to my buds. Stretch’s got his legs folded pretzel-style, which is kind of cool if you’re ten. Now it’s annoying. I throw his legs off my spot on the couch and plop down near him. “Pool table’s free,” I say. “Arcade, too. Who’s up for some game?”

is game,” Stretch says, smashing his controller buttons. “Check it out.” He passes it to me.

Ah, the game based on our League. Word has it that parents waited in line for hours to buy the game for their kids on release day. We got ours for free, though, if you can call it free. X put his name on the waiting list five weeks ago, and the three of us only have it for a week.

Stretch chuckles. “Stone looks constipated.”

’s like that all the time. He’s one of the Elites, the guys who are always called for missions. His whole body turns to stone, making him stronger than a bulldozer.

“Any of the
non-Elites make it on the game?” I ask.

“Fat chance,” X
mutters. “Your dad’s on it.”

Of course. I wouldn’t expect him not to be.

“Dude, we made the news!” Stretch says. I glance up at the big plasma screen on the wall. Sure enough, the news reporter is talking about tonight’s events. Oh, man. There we are. Stretch in his yellow uniform and matching eye piece, me in green, and X in black. We’re all covered in ashes. I have no clue what happened after I blacked out, but I can see it all on the screen. X’s got my arm over his shoulder as he carries my limp form. My mask is totally askew, but at least my face can’t be seen, only my chin and a little bit of my cheek. Uniform’s torn where the fire got me. Stretch has the kids folded in his body. He hands them over to a fireman as a lady with a microphone rushes toward X and Stretch (and my unconscious self). We dart away.

After a miraculous rescue, three teen Keepers were seen fleeing the scene,” the news reporter says. “Stretch, X-Ray, and Samson’s son, Kale, who appears to be injured. The victims are identified as twelve-year-old Casey Martin and her little brother, Jamie. They are being treated for minor injuries.”

“So cool,” Stretch says.
“Our first act of heroism. Let’s toast!”

We clink our soda cans. “To the Keepers,” I say.

“So.” Stretch stretches his hand toward some pretzels on the refreshment table. “We in trouble?”

I shrug, leaning back on the couch and crossing my ankles. “I’ve got an assignment.”

Stretch sneezes. Next thing I know, my butt is on the floor. “What the hell, man?”

“Sorry, dude.” He runs a hand across his nose. “Allergies.”

He can’t control himself most of the time. Head hits the ceiling when a cute girl passes, legs shoot out the windows when he’s got a fever. And worse of all is when I’m sitting right next to him and he sneezes, his arms spring outward, sending me tumbling to the unknown.

Dad calls it teenage hormones. X and I are thinking of giving him a permanent name change to Unpredictable Sneezing Bastard.

X says, “Furball’s here.”

short girl with spiky-red hair steps in front of us, scowling down at X. She’s got teeth so sharp she’s scary. “My name’s

Stretch slams his hand over his nose and mouth. The thing that sucks more than Stretch’s inability to control his power is that he’s allergic to the star of his dreams.

“Hold it, man,” I hiss to Stretch. Too late. My butt’s on the floor again, X’s legs are flipped over the couch’s armrest, and Furball’s in her panther shape, baring her teeth. Growl.

morphs back to her human form. “Seriously, you should see the nurse,” she says, then heads over to the Elemental Triplets. More like Stretch needs to find a way to live in the same house as Furball without taking the place down.

“Okay,” I say when we’re back in our seats, Stretch holding a tissue to his nose. “This is how it went down in the CR.”

I tell them about Premonition’s vision, about the girl erupting like a volcano and wiping Earth off the solar system. They stare at me like I told them the world’s about to blow up. Wait, I just did.

Serious?” X asks.

I lean back on the couch again, fold one leg over the other and stretch out my arms. “Yep. And guess who’s the perfect man for the job?”

“Container I bet,” Stretch says, bouncing in his seat. “She’s going to use her power to make Volcano Girl keep in all that lava, right?”

“Your dad?” X says.

Morons. “No, you idiots. Me. I’m the man for the job.”

They laugh. Stretch’s
head folds into his neck and X slaps his thigh. O-kay. Was not expecting that reaction. Though I kind of had that reaction myself, it’s not funny when they laugh at me.

Speed passes by. The only reason I
catch sight of him before he dashes out of the room is because he trips over Stretch’s outstretched leg and cartwheels to the floor. “My man, Speed,” I say, grabbing his arm and pulling him up. “Just the guy I need.”

“Make it fast,” he says, jumping around like he’s holdi
ng in his pee. He’s not really—he jumps around like that when he’s at normal human speed. He can’t take it.

“All right, all right. You see
those papers over there?” I jerk my thumb toward the stack on the table. “Read them and tell me what they’re about, and I’ll give you my snack stash. Deal?” The guy loves his candy bars.

“No way, man. Your dad told me not to read anything for you.”

Seriously? Dad would really do that? Like he really thinks I’m going to cheat by using Speed? As if he doesn’t know his own son!

guess he does. Damn. “You scared of my old man?” I ask. “Pssh.”

“Uh, considering that it’s either here, or back in the loo
ny bin my parents dumped me? Uh...yeah.” He takes off before I get the chance to blink, leaving such a strong wind that Stretch’s body falls back like taffy.

Geez,” he grumbles, pulling himself back together.

Chapter Four


: Lindsay Moore

The first few pages are filled with calculations and estimates and all this other scientific
stuff. Three weeks ago, when Premonition had his first vision of Earth blowing up, the date was set for next year. But it’s been pushed up to April of this year.

What’s th
is chick got against our planet?

Hey, what’s that?” A red light shines on the papers.

“Go away, Pri
zm,” I mutter. “Busy.”

Most of the kids here share bedrooms. I didn’t until Pri
zm came into the picture. No one knows how he got here, not even Prizm. Lightning found him passed out in front of our building.

“Can I help?” he asks, the colors on my paper changing to green.



I continue reading about Volcano Girl’s history. Born fourteen years ago on a rainy night, she killed her mother right after delivery. Her dad followed next. She lived with her grandmother for a little bit, but she didn’t take care of Lindsay properly. Left her starving most nights. So she got dumped with a foster family who never made her feel welcomed or loved. After a few years, when she was twelve, her aunt and uncle took her in. She lives with them now.

Bouncing noises. I look up. Pri
zm’s throwing a small ball against the wall, coloring it as he plays. “Can’t you see I got all this stuff to read?”

His head jerks up, but I can’t see his expression because of th
at worn-out cap he’s always got on. It hides his eyes. “This is my room, too.”

no kidding. “Fine. I’ll go somewhere else.”

I grab my papers and take an elevator to the hospital
wing. It’s the only place in this mansion where I can be alone. Turning quickly down the hall so Healer won’t catch me and demand a check-up, I rush into a large room. She lies there. Her blonde hair runs down the pillow like the waves of an ocean. Eyes are shut tight. Hands are flat on the bed.


I step closer to the bed. “Hi, Mom.” I swallow the lump in my throat. Grabbing a chair, I sit down. “I know it’s been a while since I visited.” I push a fake laugh through my lips, holding the papers out to her. “Got some homework.”

She’s been lying her
e for eight months. Ever since that bastard put her in a coma. It was a mission—so dangerous that kids weren’t allowed (not that I’m ever allowed on most missions). A master mind controller set out to kill all the world leaders.

It ended badly. For him and Mom. She was so brave, Dad said. So determined to stop him, because she thought her telepathy was as strong as his. She was wrong. He trapped her in her own mind. Dad’s been searching for a cure.
Healer’s tried to help her, all the telepaths here have tried, but it’s no use. She’s gone forever.

Healer says talking to her might help, but no one really believes that. I do it, anyway. “Want me to read to you, Mom?”

I continue where I left off. Volcano Girl’s in high school now, living life like a normal teenager. There’s a whole bunch of info on her history. I can’t read all of this! Skipping to the last page: according to Brain’s research, there’s only one way to stop the explosion.

There’s a
creak at the door. I turn around. Dad stands there, eyes on Mom. He always gets that look on his face. Like he’s about to cry. I’ll always remember the day he held her limp body in his arms and howled, the tears splashing down his cheeks. I never saw him like that. No one did.

Instead of celebrating
the defeat of the mind controller, the League mourned the loss of our co-leader, and I lost my mom.

A lump as big as Jupiter form
s in my throat. I cough. “Thought I’d read to her. Skimmed the pages. I didn’t get to the end yet.”

Dad walks into the room,
pulls a chair close to me and sits down. “That’s all right. I want to discuss it with you. This girl’s past is very important to understanding her.” He takes the papers from me. “She’s not aware of it, but she has an extremely dangerous and unique ability.”

is it?”

“As you
know, emotions have a direct effect on one’s ability. In Lindsay’s case, her negative emotions build up inside her, which cause her power to build up as well.”


“Have you ever been so angry you felt like you were about to explode? Lindsay’s negative emotions—pain, sorrow, anger, depression—accumulate until she will ultimately explode. She will emit powerful energy, enough to wipe out the entire planet. Think of her as a bomb, on a higher magnitude.”

A human bomb? What the hell?

“Dad...this is crazy, even for us! How could one person blow the whole Earth up?”

He shows me the paper
s that talk about VG’s childhood. “The girl’s had a hard life—one disappointment after another. When she was a little girl, she was practically alone in the world, had to fend for herself. She lives with family now, but they don’t always treat her well. With minimal joy in her life, things will get too difficult for her to bear and one day that will be the end.”

I don’t say anything. I mean, what am I supposed to say?

“That’s why we need you,” Dad continues. “She despises herself more as the days go on, thus building up more negative emotions. Premonition first estimated the explosion date to be a year from now. But it’s worsening. She’s worsening, and we can’t waste any more time. I need you to befriend her—”


“Someone needs to be there for her. She needs to learn that not everyone is out to get her. She needs a friend.”

No. It’s got to be
a mistake.
is the assignment I’ve been waiting all my life for? To help some girl with her self-esteem issues? “Sorry, I’m out.” I stand up.


“This is BS! All you guys get to do the cool things while I have to play nice with some girl I don’t care about? Forget it!”

Dad shoots to
his feet. The chairs and tables and Mom’s bed shake. Oh, no. He’s pissed. “This is serious, Kale. I wouldn’t ask you to do it if I thought you didn’t have it in you.” He moves close to me and puts his hands on my shoulders. “There’s more to this than making a girl feel good about herself. This is about saving the world, your time to shine. I want her recruited here as fast as possible. She must be monitored at all times. I want her to earn your trust, and for you to help her learn to enjoy life.”

I gape at him. This is too crazy. I need to leave.

“Where are you going, son?”

“I don’t know.” I’m at the door. I really thought my new assignment would be kickass, but it sucks. I’m going to have to go undercover to try to
befriend this girl so she won’t blow Earth up. Thanks a lot, Dad.

I need you to accept.”

I turn to face him. “That’s funny. Before it sounded like I didn’t have a choice. Besides, you never told me why it has to be me.”

He’s quiet for a bit. Then he says, “Sit down. This may be difficult to process.”

I sit down and look at him.

He takes a breath and lets it out. “We’re still learning as much as we can about Lindsay. There’s another component to her ability. We believe other people’s abilities fuel her ability. She absorbs their ability, slowly killing them over a period of time. As they weaken, she strengthens. That’s how she killed her parents. Minutes after she was born, as she was getting accustomed to her new world, her ability was fresh and unpredictable, and very powerful. Her parents were killed on the spot. The strength of her ability weakened over the next few days, but the damage was already done, unfortunately.

That’s why it’s vital that no one with powers comes in contact with her. It’s probable that would accelerate Earth’s explosion. ”

I feel my eyes and mouth wide
n. Dad continues, “It’s important for her to come here so she won’t fall into the wrong hands. But seeing that our Tower is full of people with abilities, that’s impossible. That’s why I’ve appointed you to recruit her. You’re going to attend her public school. Your mission is to teach this girl that there’s more to life than death, destruction, and despair. We hope that once you succeed, Lindsay will trust you, be filled with happiness and hope, optimism, love, and will be able to join us here at the League Tower. Of course she will feel negatively at times, being that she’s a teenager, but overall we need her positive emotions to outweigh the negative. Once those negative emotions are suppressed, she will no longer be a threat to people with powers. Because Lindsay is not aware of her power, she cannot control it. She needs to be trained to control her emotions so that the negative ones remain dormant. With training and therapy, I do hope she can live a normal, healthy life.”

“Hold on a sec.
Are you saying someone needs to constantly make her happy in order for her not to blow up? Am I gonna have to babysit her my whole life?”

He shakes his head. “You’re not listening to me, Kale.
Although I do hope this friendship you create with her will last a lifetime, no. You know that strong emotions, particularly negative ones, can cause a person to not have full control over his abilities. Because Lindsay doesn’t know she has this power, she cannot tame it. Your first goal is to lessen her negativity, and she will no longer be a threat to us here. Without training or counseling, she will regress and be a danger to those with powers. That’s why it’s vital for her to be in a positive environment.”

“And if she doesn’t want to live with us or train? She can blow up the world any time.”

“That’s why, once you recruit her here, we will explain the dangers of her ability and we hope she will feel at home here, with people who care about her.”

Dad raises an eyebrow
at me, probably wondering if I’m getting any of this. I think I am.

I hold up a finger. “Question. Why not kill her?
Or try to contain her ability or tranquilize her or something?”

“Brain believes she is immortal. If anyone
tries to kill her, it will cause Earth’s destruction as well. Flying her into space isn’t an option either, because we don’t understand fully the energy inside her and how it will react as she leaves the planet or when she enters space. She could very well destroy the universe.”

Holy crap
! The universe?

She cannot be contained or tranquilized,” Dad continues. “Her ability would absorb it and that will accelerate the explosion as well.”

I stare at him. He expects me to do this?
? Out of everyone in the League?

“That’s why our only solution is to send you
,” Dad says, as if reading my mind. “You’re the only one here without an ability. I don’t trust anyone outside our League.”

Wait a minute.
Only solution? So that means...I have to succeed. “Can’t you send someone else? Like maybe someone without powers? You know, like an adult?”

“Lindsay would respond better to
someone her own age. We have tried sending adult recruiters after her, but Lindsay doesn’t trust adults, because she has been burned by too many. Don’t worry, we’ll help you. You will not be alone, but we’ll discuss that later.”

I’m still gaping at him.
Dad clears his throat. “Another thing,” he says. “I want you to have a few sessions with Dr. Evans. He’ll brief you and train you on how to attend public school as a regular teenage boy. You don’t have much experience working with civilians and I need you to be prepared for anything.”

Dr. Evans? The League shrink? “But I don’t need counseling or preparation. How hard can going to public school and befriending a girl be?
All I gotta do is be nice to her, right?”

“I want you to be emotionally and mentally ready. I need everything to go as smoothly as possible. We have no room for errors.”

Great, that’s just awesome.

Do you accept your assignment, Kale?”

I swallow. How can I accept this mission? Me, the
loser of the League with no powers. How can they rely on me to succeed? I look at Dad. His eyes are worried, yet filled with trust and hope. Maybe I can do this? He did say I’ll have help, so maybe this isn’t as bad as it seems? I can’t let Earth blow up. I’ve got to try.

“I accept.”

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