What we learned later that evening, the scrambled mix up work Mo did as a conduit shared a lot of information between the three of us. Mainly, my mother was not going to leave Mo or I alone together for too long and apparently a lot of the preliminary training was no longer needed. Mom shared the knowledge of her struggles on how to leap, flash and buffer to both of us. Granted, Mo won’t benefit from anything except the buffering aspect, but nevertheless, she now knows how it works.
I was now fully aware of the limitations and the precautions to leaping. I knew how to regulate my body or harness my ability to use it. Flashing was different. If there was a comparison, leaping was like using a shotgun on a target at point blank range; flashing was using a high powered rifle from a hundred yards away with the precision of a sniper. The more I practiced, the better my scope and the steadier my aim.
My attempts last night were a little hit and miss. My first attempt put me in the backyard, naked again. Awesome. The nudity followed on all attempts up to #11. I had to make Mo close her eyes as I was closing in on my target area. Mom was one thing, girlfriend (when I get the chance to ask her someday soon) is entirely different.
Good ol’ number 11. I flashed from one point of the kitchen to the backdoor. All my clothes still on! I paraded around gallantly.
“Is that your sock?” Mo pointed out on the floor.
“Yup,” also feels like my underwear are on backwards too, “but still, all the main areas are covered!”
A slow clap from both in the peanut gallery didn’t make me any less proud of myself. In fact, I wished I could have been shown during our conduit session just how well my mother did on her attempts. I bet there were some doozies in there as well.
This morning, I made my way out of my room like a vampire from a crypt, the light seeping in from the hallway was blinding in a smear of fluorescent blues, yellows and oranges. As I adjusted my eyes to the single light overhead beaming at me with a penetrating 40 watts of sunlight, I heard the door down the hall open and Mo come walking out.
And I am fairly certain that if there ever was a moment outside of a road accident, a zombie film or my death bed, Mo was seeing me at the worst possible time of day. I must have looked like a kid who just finished crying then got thrown into a pillow fight with dodge balls in the cases instead of feathers.
“Hi,” I roughly manage.
“Good morning.” Her perkiness was adorable and made me fairly ashamed to have to put her through looking at me at the moment. How does someone wake up looking like that? I must master those secrets.
As she walks by me down the hall past me, she sniffs a little and I think sweat started forming immediately as I’m sure that my activities last night and stewing in them all night have left me pretty ripe.
“Don’t you smell manly,” she mentions with a wink as she leaves me alone in the hallway looking like a lost old man in the super market.
My insides smile where my mouth forgets to follow. And for whatever reason in my head, it seemed like the good idea to smell under my arms. Whew, I’m glad she’s not offended, but I am going to hose this musk off.
After a rigorous hose off, I throw on my favorite jeans, a throwback AFI t-shirt from my mom’s era (the one with three rabbits in a circle) and head downstairs for some breakfast and to prepare for the day.
My red sneakers no sooner touch the ground level when the doorbell rings. Cautiously, I look around for Mo who I see heading up the stairs at the back of the kitchen. My mom has no doubt gone to work already, so I timidly approach the door. A quick wave in front of the reveal pad and the thick wooden door becomes transparent on my side revealing an older man in a familiar purple delivery uniform (I order a lot of stuff online). He has a single envelope in his grasp.
I key the code to unlock the front door and as it slides away, the man greets me with a hearty good morning. He dispenses with small talk and sticks to pleasantries as he asks for me by name and then has me sign for my letter. He turns and promptly leaves as he came, wishing me a good day.
Safely inside and behind a locked door, I proceed to the kitchen and mentally call to Mo that the coast is clear. As she lightly traipses down to the kitchen, I am already in the midst of unsealing the envelope.
I open up the slit the pull tab created and shuffle the contents out. A simple photograph was inside. It was a picture of a park that I used to play soccer in when I was younger. On the back there was a time of 8:45 scrawled in marker. Underneath it said flash with your friend here.
“Well, that’s optimistic of them now isn’t it?”
“I guess they know you have the capability?”
As I look at the nearest clock, it reads 8:32. “Think we should try to be early?”
“I assume they would appreciate it more than fashionably late. Plus, what if we have to run the rest of the way in case you miss?” Her coy grin is somehow infuriating and captivating at the same time.
“You think I’ll miss?!”
“You are rather new at all of this. Plus, you’d be carrying a passenger.” Her wink seals my gushy heart in a box and she now has it. Great, I’m a sap.
I snag the closest breakfast bar from the kitchen and stuff it in my front pocket. I motion for her to take my hands and as I begin prepping my concentration for where we need to go. I think back to the times when we were kicking that white and black pocked ball around in the cool spring morning. I can still remember hearing the birds returning from migration and swooping down to the creek that ran by the field.
As Mo clasps both of her hands in mine, we immediately flash. I’m not sure if it was the startle and jolt of her touching me or if it has anything to do with being Gemini. Regardless, we were standing in an abandoned soccer field.
“Whoa!” I exclaim. “That was unexpected.”
“No shit,” Mo says as she is looking down. Conveniently, her pants are missing. Luckily for her, the large sweatshirt she was fashionably sporting covered most of her thighs. Unluckily for me.
“I did not do that intentionally.”
“Uh huh,” she says calmly. Afterwards she shrugs her shoulders and continues to the gate in the chain link fence leading to the field.
She handles a moment that I would normally be mortified in and simply rolls with it. Yup, I might be smitten. Or full of smit. I’m not sure how this works.
I pat my front pocket and realize the other thing I left at home. “Oh, man. I left my breakfast bar at home too.”
“The goose bumps on my legs mourn your loss, Carter.” Never looking back, she begins to walk forward. I admire this girl.
As I catch up and apologize again, her smile forgives me. We make our way through the gate and it’s nearly time as we notice a large SUV making its way toward us. I’ve seen enough spy movies that this is where the thick-necked guys get out and shoves us in. I brace myself with a grin as the vehicle approaches. And the grin leaves my face as the SUV passes us.
A corresponding shrug between us both has me wondering what we should expect. As I look down again, the digital number changes from 8:44 to :45. A pssst sound comes from behind us.
Parked along the curb, a man in an older station wagon sits in the driver seat. Oh, hell no. This is not the awesome ride I was imagining. Although, how did that junker drive up on us without even knowing it?
“You two should get in so we can start.” The middle-aged man with the circular glasses, nasally tells us.
Oh, please do not be –
“I’m David Nelson. I’ll be teaching you today.”
David. This is the sensei, Jedi master we will be learning from. It looks like a powerful sneeze might take this guy out of commission. He looks like he’s both shorter, skinnier and not to mention older than I am. I was expecting some brooding unnatural-looking presence before me, with an eye patch or a scar on his face or facial hair. But no, I get nerdy David Nelson – Trainer. God, I bet he has business cards that say that too.
“I’m Carter. This is Mo.”
“I know who you are, stupid. I called you here.”
Oh, and he has a lovely bedside manner as well. “Okay, so are we hopping in your sweet ride or are we training here?”
“You don’t see me getting out, do you?”
This may possibly be the longest day of my life. Not only is this guy a gem to look at, he is a class 1 asshole as well. Mo and I start making our way around to the passenger side of the car. I reach for the handle to ride shotgun.
“Nuh uh, you’re in the backseat. The lovely lady can ride up front.” With you, Creepy McGee? I already know arguing that point will get me nowhere, but I’ll have an eye on you, buddy.
We take off down the street and David goes through parts of town I’m unfamiliar with. The wharf district once housed vast amounts of commerce that used to arrive by boat. Shipping logistics started dying out as aqueous magnetic transits (AMT’s) docked at airports. Air carriers developed AMT’s using the earth’s magnetism through water to levitate and move.
Large warehouses and empty buildings lined most of the streets. The property was still considered commercial until the city would appropriate it as residential. It was something I heard in the news, a large project to rezone the district to make affordable housing. That’s because most of the city’s vagrants and poor were squatting in the empty lots. It was also used by various gangs, crime organizations and general riff-raff to keep anyone at bay until it could be torn down and rebuilt.
Now we were having a nice mid-week morning drive through it. Lovely.
“So, we’ll be training today. Together at first then separately.”
Thank you that was a lovely detailed syllabus for today’s activities. And where are we going? If this guy was following a route it must in the shape of spaghetti in a bowl.
“Okay, change of plans. Individual training first.” Super, we must be getting close to our destination. If so, I’m not sure why he’s speeding up. “Do you remember the soccer field, Carter?”
“Yah,” we literally just came from there 15 minutes ago.
“Good, meet us there after your first lesson.” And with that, he grabs Mo by the wrist and they flash. Suddenly, I am in a car’s backseat without a driver, barreling towards a red brick building.
“Holy – ” that was the first part to the last thought I had racing through my head as I approached a wall going 50 miles per hour. From there I flashed out with enough time to spare. And no, not back to the soccer field. I had glanced at the water beyond the building and apparently my subconscious thought it was a nice landing pad.
As I swam up through the frigid cold water, I gasped for air as I recalled how to tread water. It took a few seconds to remember how to flash out of there, thinking I needed a solid surface to start from.
I went back to the building I nearly collided with moments before and saw the steam rising from the engine. The front half of the car was pushed in past the driver’s seat turning it into a snub-nosed station wagon. The car probably never looked better. It would be some small satisfaction if it was indeed David’s car. That asshole.
He nearly killed me just now. Pretty certain my mother will not be very appreciative of that. I look myself over and realize that I flashed with all my clothes intact. I’m fairly impressed with that alone. The fishy smelling water squishes around in my shoes as I walk and I notice a distinct difference. I missed a sock again. Dangit! Why just one sock?
As I furiously squish my way from the accident, a hard thing to do, I think of the spot where Mo and I arrived earlier and suddenly I was there. David and Mo were leaning against the chain link fence looking right at me as I stomped over with my most furious look of angst.
“You almost killed me, you asshole!” Granted I forgot to apply the brakes to my mouth, but it was true.
Without missing a beat, he continued on as if I didn’t say anything. “What was your first lesson?”
Mo was stifling a mad case of the giggles, which actually did upset me. If I reacted a few seconds later I would be a two-dimensional version of myself. Still, as water began chaffing my inner thighs, I wanted to know David’s logic behind everything.
“How to react when I’m in danger?” Bravo, dick.
“No, it’s don’t piss off your trainer the first day. No matter how nerdy he may look, he will still know more than you.”
My fury radically shifts into embarrassment as it is apparent David has both my ability and Mo’s wrapped into one. So, everything I was thinking to myself went out as if I said it aloud. Great move, Carter. I thought I was buffering my thoughts?
“Your buffering skills are at a Kindergarten level, Carter. We need to push you through to high school by the end of the day or else whatever tomorrow brings may get the better of you.”
“Well, I just learned them yesterday, so I guess I consider that progress.”
“Well, you are going to have a rude awakening if you find yourself in the same vicinity as anyone with your mother’s ability. They will pluck the thoughts from your head and the car incident will seem like a picnic.”
I don’t know what to think now. I want to apologize still and ask him to take it easy on me. I’m still a kid in my book and this goes beyond the scare of leaping naked into the past. This was someone coming after me for some unknown reason and it is supposed to happen in less than a day.
“Carter, by the time we’re done today, you’ll be ready to shield, defend and if necessary fight. We’ll teach you both the basics of your gift, the main ways to control it and harness it when you’re apart and how to utilize it best when you’re together.”
Something tells me that this is going to be a grueling day.
David smiles, telling me that it most certainly is. “For now, you need to clean up your mess.”
“What mess?” I’m curious.
“Your station wagon mess.”
Aw, man. How is he assuming I do that?
“Put the car where you originally landed. But get your sock out of it first.” Okay it’s cute when Mo pokes around in my brain box, it’s creepy when David does it. I think buffering needs to be the first chapter in our lessons.
“I just got out of the water. I think I have seaweed in my shorts still.”
“So, just move the car.” Oh, right. That’ll be easy. “It is easy, just think of where you want it and focus on moving it and not your body. You managed to pick up on flashing within an evening. Point-flashing shouldn’t be too hard.”
“I had Mo pumping my mom’s experience into me first.” I’m not sure I want to have her and David practice her conduit powers on me just yet.
“We’ll get to her conduit training later. For now, try it on your own and meet us back here in 15 minutes.” David walks to me hand outstretched as if to shake hands and mend our differences. As I touch palm to palm, I immediately flash to some unknown rooftop in the wharf district. I can still see the water. He did this on purpose. What a tool.
It takes me a few flash attempts to get back to the spot where I ran full speed into a building, but it was still there, steaming away like a metal accordion.
After placing my hand on the car, I tried channeling the way that David was describing. I focused on putting the car in the water. I thought about the car to the water, the car to the water. The next moment, well, something was in the water. It was me. Crapdamnit!
A few attempts later I was making progress. I moved the car itself along with me about five feet away from the building. Nearly 10 minutes have passed and I was still plodding along trying to put the car in the bay.
Finally, after a few dozen attempts, I push my frustrations out and yell within my mind at the car to just get in the damn bay! And suddenly, the car and all of its connected parts are gone and as I look out, I briefly notice it hover above the water before crashing down. I smile from ear to ear as it slowly sinks into the murky abyss.
A quick flash and under 15 minutes later, I go back to the soccer fields, accomplished.
“Got it.” I triumphantly announce. “Who’s car was that?”
“Your principal’s,” David replies.
I am not sure whether to be frightened or elated by that statement. Happiness wins over as I can’t help but smile larger.
“Hence why you needed your sock,” he states.
And my smile vanishes. I already know what he’s going to say next and I simply hang my shoulders and shuffle slowly toward them. “Aw, really?”
He nods his head slowly enough to recognize. “Unless you want them finding a clue if they discover the car. You had better retrieve it before a current pulls it out of the bay.”
Man, training sucks.