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   Chapter 18 Roadtrip of Dead Ends (And the One and Only Tessa Kingston)

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 17486

Updated: 2017-12-05 19:04


Sometimes a faux superhero gets desperate. From the mayor“s thin leather booklet and the deranged red-inked scribblings, I find a little information. Superhero names slashed through. Red Comet. X“d. Black Ice. X“d. All the superhero names I can pull off the top of my head, x“d, x“d, x“d.

When I flip the page, “Crown City“ is printed in neat script at the top of the brown page, and the only name scrawled on the page is “Guardian.“

"Hey, Kai," I say, swiveling around on the carpet. Last night, a new twinge of pain flared in my side, and that means Dad“s making me sit this day out. It also means my friends are skipping for "moral support," though I doubt my marrow or muscle tissue care, and I doubt this is their only motive.

"Hmm?" He“s flipping through a torn comic, flopped on his stomach with his ankles criss-crossed in the air. One lock of hair is twisted around his forefinger.

"Can I borrow your car?"

He rolls over on his back. "Why?"

"To drive to Crown City?"

"No."

"No?"

"No." Kai never denies me outright, except when it comes to his car. His eyes have gone wide and he“s dropped the comic, clutching his hands to his chest. "That“s, like, a hundred miles inland. Please don“t make me give it to you. You already broke my car once."

"Fine." I rub my face, smearing my nose with red ink. "Finn, do you know who Guardian is?"

"Pshaw." He“s chewing the wireframe of his glasses, tapping at his phone with his pinkie. The greasy remnants of a burrito lie half-wrapped in tinfoil on his lap. "And you call yourself a reporter. He“s only Crown City“s greatest superhero."

"Crown City has superheroes?"

Finn curls up his lip and throws back his head like an overaggressive show-pony, blonde hair flying out, green eyes rolling like marbles. He finishes the burrito, crosses the library, and flings the door open in one huff, because that“s just the guy he is. But I know enough. Another superhero. Another vault of possible answers. I bolt into my room despite the pain and shove a change of clothes, my costume, and a book in my canvas bag. I“ll be there for a few hours, I decide. I“ll talk to Guardian, warn him, maybe learn what the heck is going on. The crying with Percy has eased my apprehension; I feel better. Even though my ribs sting, I feel a lot better.

"Monet?" Kai sways to his feet as I race toward the open door. His black eyes flutter innocently, the comic pressed against his chest. "You“re leaving me alone, too?"

"If you don“t see me in the next forty-eight hours, file a missing person report."

"Huh?"

I slam the door shut, drawing in puffs of the fresh ocean breeze, already speeding toward the nearest bus stop.

***

Twenty bucks can take you pretty far if you know how to spend them. My eyelids half shut, my face pressed into the window pane, I watch as the lights expand and the buildings draw farther up and up and up. Silver Dollar is no city. It“s a patchwork of whitewashed shanty houses by the seashore that calls itself a city, but Crown is the real deal. Even when I lived inland I never saw such sights, towers so high they cut the sky. As the sun creeps higher in the noon sky, I swing off the bus with a thud with nowhere to go and no place to sleep.

And no plan. I had two hours at least to think of one, but I didn“t. I got nothing, except to stand in a back alley and wait for someone to press a gun to my face, but even that might not work. I don“t know how busy this Guardian is. I mean, I know I don“t stop muggings—which I need to get on chop chop, now that I think of it. I“d hate to steal his attention from someone who needs it.

I trail my fingers on the window of a McDonald“s, and with the few crumpled dollars in my back pocket, I buy myself an Egg McMuffin and slump in front of one of the many flat screens. Between bites of gooey cheese and egg, I watch the flash of pictures flip by. A girl in a mask, sixteen, Tessa Kingston, saved another teenager from an armed gunman.

Sounds like a pretty cool girl to me. More so, a superhero girl.

Three minutes. I sit at a McDonalds, watch the media blitz over Tessa Kingston, and make a plan in three minutes. She“s my age, so she goes to high school and there“s a big one nearby. With ketchup and a brown napkin, I draw up my plans.

Time to get stalkery.

***

I“ve finished my book and am halfway through the reread when I identify the pale, brown-haired girl as the one in the news shorts huffing down the stairs. Finally. She must be one of the theatre kids, because I hear the kids chatter about a play as they run down the steps. I shadow her. Her excitable friend“s car, all of it. I“ve pulled my cloak and mask over my street clothes and follow on the rooftops, hopefully a cool, creeping shadow of edginess in all black.

When darkness falls, and she returns to her house, a rickety old thing in the midst of futuristic buildings, and I“m at her window.

No posterboard this time. Just pen on napkin and a lot of punching glass and praying it doesn“t shatter on contact. Blinds ruffle. I catch a hint of dark eyes through the plastic.

"Hey," I say. "Hey?"

I hear a thump. The blinds fall back into place. I drop my penned-up napkins and watch th

The girl looks tired as she stands up and stretches out her limbs, hints of blue and purple peeking out under her eyes. But she also seemed determined, like she was going somewhere in that all-black outfit she didn“t want me to know about.

"Why ask me, though?" she asked suddenly, breaking me out of my trance. "Why not hunt down Guardian and ask him about all this?"

"I saw you on a tv in a McDonald“s." I shrug. "And since you“re a teen, I figured it would be easier if I just waited by your school and followed you home."

"You saw the whole incident with the building being cut in half, huh?" she sighs, slightly annoyed. "Classic." She crinkles her nose.

Does it not even surprise her that I stalked her all the way from her school to her house? I“m beginning to wonder what has happened to this girl if this is routine. "Um. No. Gunman. Mask. Wait!" I stop pacing. "You can cut buildings in half? Are you a superhero?"

"The old gunman thing? They“re still running that...? Wow, news really does never get old..." She seems half-impressed, nodding her head up and down slowly as if I was totally calm as well and not totally freaking out in her room.

"That“s old? Well, that“s really cool, what you did, I mean. I guess you“re not a superhero then, after all, huh?"

"You thought I was a superhero?" She trails off a bit. I think she might laugh or something like before, but she stays silent, almost as if running the idea over in her hand. "No but... Thanks, I guess? I may bash a certain Superman-wannabe for it, but it takes a lot of guts to do what you guys do... And I bet powers kind of suck sometimes, right?"

"No problem. And...thanks. Yeah, I guess it is a little weird, this superhero stuff. It“s mostly just fighting other superpowered people, I think, but I“m kind of new to this. There“s probably a lot more to it I don“t know." I edge toward the window. I was hoping she“d be a hero. Someone else to share the burden of psuedo-spandex and beating up people who want to beat you up.

Then, Tessa smiles at me.

Not one of her sarcastic nods or annoyed lip-twitches, but a real, genuine smile that tugs on the corners of her mouth.

"I think you“re doing just fine, Onyx." She gets up, brushing non-existent dirt off her pants. "So... I“ll call you if I ever get superpowers, yeah? Or if I smell a political powerhouse plan brewing, of course." She winkedsat me with an upturned grin still plastered onto her features.

"Yeah, do that." With the last of my crumpled napkins, I jot down my name and number with the pen perpetually tucked behind my ear. I edge back toward the window. "And sorry for stalking you home."

"It“s no problem..." Tessa said, looking down at the napkin with a grin, "Monet Jackson." She shrugs. "I“m kind of used to it by now."

I slide up the window and return the wink. "Yeah, just don“t tell anyone my “secret identity.“"

"Don“t worry." She grinned. "My lips are sealed."

I clear the open window with a smile.

***

Shoutout to @LightenTheShadows for co-writing this crossover with me. Ever since I started reading "Spandex is Mandatory" I“ve wanted Tessa and Monet to meet, and it means a lot that LightenTheShadows would take the time to make that a reality. Her novel is one of my favorite Wattpad superhero books and if you“d like to read more about the one and only Tessa Kingston and her superhero hijinks in Crown City, make sure to check it out in Spandex is Mandatory on LightenTheShadow“s page.

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