I stopped by HQ the next day after cross country practice, knowing that I could squeeze in twenty minutes without my parents wondering where I was.

Daniel’s dad had left an email at my official, government-supplied account. Don’t ask me where he got it. Between being city prosecutor, ex-military intelligence, a telepath, and Daniel’s dad, he has resources.

The email advised me not to talk about punching the mayor (like I would) and said that we should meet soon to talk about the public relations end of the situation.


I saw another email, this one from Isaac Lim, letting me know that I should call him about some things that they’d found at Magnus’ house—nothing urgent, but I should definitely call.

I wanted to, but I had a bad feeling that that would take a lot longer than twenty minutes.

That got me back to the real reason I’d stopped in—the roachbots. Despite calling Isaac in, I’d left a few roachbots around to monitor the house and I wanted know if they’d been able to send anything back.

They had.

Most of the pictures showed Isaac’s people tearing apart the lab. One showed Dark Cloak materializing inside after all of Isaac’s people were gone. The last few showed three people in dark clothes sneaking into the house and removing something from a safe in Magnus’ office.

I couldn’t see their faces, but it made leaving the bots there completely worth it—well, except for the fact that I knew nothing about them.

I walked home still speculating who they were.

When I came back after supper, Vaughn was there.

He sat at the main table, hair wet because he’d probably just taken a shower, books lying next to a monitor. A chemistry textbook lay open in front of him.

“You’re here a lot lately,” I said. “I thought you were basically grounded forever.”

“Me too,” Vaughn said, “but I realized something lately. I realized that I can go anywhere I want. I mean, what are my parents going to do about it? They’ve taken away my bank account and car and shit. So what’s left?”

“Aren’t there supposed to be conditions where you can earn everything back?”

“Oh yeah,” Vaughn said. “Sure. In a year.”

“A year?”

“One year clean and they give back my car and my bank account. Just in time to leave for college.”

“Shouldn't there be some sort of graduated system,” I said, “where you get more back the longer you go?”

“Heh,” Vaughn said, “That’s what your dad said too. Trouble is, they tried it before, back when I was using. I went right back to everything the second I got my bank account back.”

“But you’re not using drugs anymore,” I said, thinking, “Right?” to myself, but not saying it out loud.

“No.” he said, “I’m clean. My grades are good. I’m not going to parties. I’m doing everything they want. So I figure screw them, I can fly. I don’t have to stick around the house if I don’t want to.”

This didn’t seem quite like the best way to prove that you’re responsible and should get your stuff back early, but I suspected that this wasn't about being rational.

“So what are they doing about it?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Vaughn said. “It’s just like when I was using. I pretend I’m not ignoring them and they pretend I’m not doing anything wrong.”

They’d have to be pretending pretty hard given that his mom had recognized Daniel, Cassie and I our first time out. Of all of us, Vaughn was now the person most visibly using his powers. His mom had to have recognized him.

“Oh hey, I’m probably going to be on the news again tonight,” he said.

“Yeah? Another bust?” I sat down at a command console and got ready to call Isaac Lim.

“Nope. Interview on the evening news. You should do higher profile stuff and get some press attention.”

“I don’t need more attention.” I clicked on Isaac’s name and a bar on the screen began to read “calling.”

“What are you up to?” Vaughn leaned over toward my screen. “Top secret FBI stuff?”

“Not top secret,” I said. “I’m still following up on the contact list from those phones.”

“Cool. I’ll listen in.”

It’s safe to say that that wasn’t the reply I was hoping for, and was about to say that it was private, but then Isaac answered. His face appeared on the screen and he said, “Hi Nick. And this is?”

“Vaughn,” I said, clicked a button, and moved the picture over to the big screen, making Isaac's face twenty feet tall. It wasn't private, but, at least that way Vaughn wasn’t looking over my shoulder.

“Red Lightning’s grandson?” Isaac’s expression as he looked Vaughn over wasn’t hostile so much as appraising.

“Well, this concerns you as much as anyone else,” Isaac said. “We’ve had people translating the books from Magnus’ house and they claim to describe how to create the ‘drink of gods.’ From our records, it appears similar to what Red Lightning was brewing."

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About the author


Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.

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