For those of you who may be wondering, I decided to combine chapters 4 and 5 because chapter 4 was originally very short. Also, Sheen's grandmother doesn't speak English, so the translations of everything she says are in parentheses.
"SHEEN! Wake up! Sheen, come on, you gotta snap out of it!"
Jimmy was frantic, to say the least, when he saw one of his two best friends pass out cold on the floor of his underground laboratory. The poor boy genius panicked like there was no tomorrow. If he didn't do something soon, Sheen might not have a tomorrow!
"Goddard, quick, help me!" With assistance from his faithful canine companion, Jimmy was able to hoist Sheen's limp body onto a metal table. "Oh man, what do I do? Goddard, options!"
The first suggestion in neon green lettering blazed across the pop-up screen on the robotic dog's chest: Reverse the process.
"I can't, Goddard," Jimmy sighed. "I didn't design the Alterna-tron with a trait reversal feature."
The screen quickly changed for the next suggestion: Revive him with one of your other inventions.
"Negative. If I do anything else to his brain right now, I could kill him!" cried the desperate boy, glancing over at Sheen. He still wasn't moving.
Another screen change and a flash of neon green: Pray.
Jimmy considered this for a moment. "Couldn't hurt. Okay, um…God? If you make Sheen wake up, I swear I'll never ever tamper with anyone else's brain for the rest of my life!"
Not three seconds had passed when a low groan could be heard coming from the table. Sheen stirred and slowly opened his eyes, blinking rapidly against the lab's bright fluorescent lighting. Jimmy released the breath he didn't even know he'd been holding, and looked up at the ceiling in awe. "Whoa…you're good."
He rushed over to the metal table where his newly awakened friend was now sitting upright and gazing around the lab with an odd look on his face. "Sheen, you scared me half to death! Are you okay? I'm really sorry, there's no way I could've anticipated something like this happening! Well, maybe if I had run a few more preliminary tests to make sure if—"
"James, calm down. I am perfectly fine and you really should stop rambling. It's unbecoming to a young gentleman of your intellectual stature," said Sheen coolly.
Jimmy froze and stared at the black-haired boy. "Did…did you just call me James?"
"Well, that is your name, isn't it?" he replied in a somewhat condescending tone.
"Yeah, but my mom's the only one who calls me that, and only when she's mad. Are you sure you're feeling okay, Sheen?" said Jimmy hesitantly.
"Once again, I am fine. Perhaps you should allow others to call you by your rightful name as well. Honestly, a nickname like 'Jimmy' is a bit childish, don't you think?"
Jimmy frowned. "I'm eleven, so technically, I am still a child. Besides, I happen to like my nickname."
"I see. Well, this has been quite entertaining, but if you don't mind, I'll be going now." Sheen moved to get off the table, but Jimmy placed a hand on his arm to stop him.
"What are you talking about? I have to see if there's any way to get you back to normal."
Sheen scoffed. "Don't you get it, James? I am normal now. There's nothing you need to do. Unless of course, you can get me home faster so I can change out of these ridiculous clothes."
"W-what?" Jimmy stammered. "You're wearing your favorite Ultralord shirt, black jeans, and high-top sneakers, just like you do every day. What's wrong with that?"
"Those are the weird, immature, hyperactive Sheen's favorites. The mature, calm, normal Sheen does not wear such juvenile things as Ultralord T-shirts and—" He checked inside his pants and grimaced. "—glow-in-the-dark underwear."
Jimmy's jaw nearly hit the floor. The Sheen he knew would never turn down anything that had to do with Ultralord, let alone call him juvenile! There was definitely something wrong here. "Okay, I don't think this was such a good idea, Sheen. You should lie down and let Goddard scan your vital signs."
The taller boy rolled his eyes and slid gracefully to the floor. "I told you already, James, I'm fine. By the way, I do appreciate everything you've done. I feel like a new man," he said, shaking Jimmy's hand in a businesslike manner. "Now if you'll excuse me, I should be heading home for dinner." He turned and left without another word.
Jimmy was stunned. What in the name of Einstein's ghost was going on here? It seemed as though the experiment had been a success with the exception of Sheen's temporary loss of consciousness. It was exactly what he had asked Jimmy to do for him, but still…a mature, indifferent, non-Ultralord-obsessing Sheen just didn't seem right. The young genius turned to his robotic dog with a sigh. "I don't know about you, boy, but I have a bad feeling about this."
The sun shone brilliantly the next morning as Jimmy strolled outside after breakfast. He was still worried about the possible side-effects Sheen's transformation might have caused, but there wasn't much he could do for the time being. He decided to take a walk to clear his mind. Stepping off his front porch, he got an all-too-familiar warm feeling in his chest when he noticed that Cindy appeared to be coming back from walking her dog Humphrey.
She looks happy. Maybe I can actually talk to her while she's in a good mood, he thought, making his stride across the street as casual as possible. He cleared his throat as he approached her. "Morning, Cindy."
The blonde turned at her name. "Oh, um, good morning, Neutron. What are you doing out so early?" She raised an eyebrow as she released her dog from his leash to allow him back into the yard. "Don't you usually have an experiment to endanger the town with by now?"
Jimmy rolled his eyes at her subtle teasing. "Funny. Surprisingly enough, I decided to abandon the lab for a while and get some fresh air. That all right with you?"
"Fine by me. It's a free country."
"Coming back from walking Humphrey?"
"Gosh, Neutron, you give new meaning to the word 'genius'."
Jimmy checked his watch, smirking slightly. "Not even 8:00 yet and I've already been burned twice. That's gotta be a new record."
"Sorry. I know ever since we became 'friends' or whatever, I was supposed to calm down with the insults, but it's hard."
"No need to apologize. You wouldn't be Cindy without the sarcasm, and besides, I like you fine the way you are…" blurted Jimmy without thinking. His face burned red about two seconds after realizing what he'd just said. "Uh…so anyway, I guess I'll be going now. I wouldn't want to interrupt any plans you might have had, so I'll just—"
"No!" Cindy shouted, then blushed as she caught herself. "I mean…no, wait. I didn't really walk Humphrey for all that long this morning, and I could still use a little time outdoors before I go inside and do anything." She fingered the hem of her green tank top, glancing at Jimmy.
Hoping he'd interpreted this signal correctly, the young genius drew a deep breath. "Do you want to take a walk with me, Cindy?" He winced, fully expecting a barrage of insults and yelling. What he didn't expect was a warm hand slipping into his and a soft smile gracing the blonde girl's face.
"I'd like that, Jimmy."
His blue eyes lit up. "Did you just call me by my first name?"
Jimmy grinned. They headed off to nowhere in particular, although they would probably end up at the Candy Bar with the rest of the group later that afternoon. For that moment though, they were the only two people in the world.
That same morning, at the Estevez household, things were completely normal…which, in turn, was really weird. Sheen had risen at 6:00 a.m., made his bed, showered, ironed his clothes, taken out the trash, fed the cat, made coffee, read the business section of the newspaper, and was cooking breakfast before his father had even come downstairs.
Miguel Estevez wandered sleepily into the kitchen to find his son zipping around doing ten things at once.
"Mijo, where's the fire? And what are you doing up so early on a Sunday?"
"I'm making breakfast, Father. A man needs his energy, you know."
How a twelve-year-old suddenly became a man, Miguel would never know. He was also curious as to why Sheen had suddenly started calling him 'Father' instead of 'Dad', and also why he was dressed in a plain gray T-shirt and black sweatpants instead of his usual green Ultralord pajamas. However, seeing as the grandfather clock in the hall had only just struck seven o'clock, he settled for blaming the boy's odd behavior on hormones. Sniffing the air, he smiled in recognition. "Huevos rancheros, huh?"
Sheen nodded curtly, loading three plates with the spicy delicacies. "Naturally, Father. Would you happen to know if Grandmother has woken up yet? I'll bring her plate up to her after we're finished."
The burly man raised an eyebrow, curiosity slightly overpowering his fatigue. "Why so formal, mijo? Are you practicing for something?"
"No, Father. I just feel like being more mature, that's all."
Definitely hormones…Miguel thought before digging in. He sighed inwardly at the taste; Sheen had his late mother's talent for cooking. He glanced at his only son fondly, who had just sat down to his own plate after placing his grandmother's in the microwave to keep warm.
They sat and ate in companionable silence for the next ten minutes, punctuated only by the birds chirping outside the window, and the cat purring from her place near Sheen's feet. Soon enough, Miguel rose, put his plate in the sink, and clapped a hand amiably on his son's shoulder. "Thanks for breakfast, Sheen, but I have to get going. The new shopping center isn't going to build itself." He was the foreman of the town's construction company, and they'd just been assigned a new project downtown.
Sheen merely nodded again, mouth full. He watched his father leave, before putting his own plate in the sink to be washed later. Grabbing his grandmother's plate out of the microwave, he found a serving tray next to the toaster and walked carefully upstairs.
Belen Estevez hadn't been able to walk much over the past year, due to arthritis in her knees. Her eyesight was dim as well, but she could smell the delicious breakfast her grandson had made before he even got to the end of the hallway.
"Gracias, Juarerra," (Thank you, Juarerra.) she said croakily, having just woken up.
Sheen rolled his eyes inwardly at her long-standing preference of calling him by his middle name, but nevertheless arranged the tray across her lap and gently helped her sit up to eat. "Siempre, abuela." (Anytime, Grandmother.)
The old woman raised an eyebrow and looked at him. Rarely did Sheen ever leave off the affectionate suffix "-ita" when addressing her, especially in the morning, when she was used to a big hug and Sheen's ramblings about what he had planned for the day. "¿Es algo mal?" (Is something wrong?)
"No, nada. ¿Por qué usted pide?" (No, nothing. Why do you ask?)
"Se pareces diferente hoy. ¿Se siente bien?" (You seem different today. Are you feeling all right?) she asked, misty eyes crinkling in concern.
"Sí, estoy bien." (Yes, I'm fine.)
"¿Estás seguro?" (Are you sure?)
"Sí. Debe comer antes de que consiga frío, abuela." (Yes. You should eat before it gets cold, Grandmother.) Sheen replied, slightly impatient.
She waved a hand dismissively, before taking a bite. "Sí, sí, yo sé. ¿Por qué estás tan formal hoy?" (Yes, yes, I know. Why are you so formal today?)
The boy shrugged nonchalantly, glancing at his watch. "Pienso que es el tiempo para mí de comenzar a actuar más maduro." (I just think it's time for me to start acting more mature.)
"No te apures para ser un hombre, mijo. Goce de su joventud para mientras puedes." (Don't rush to become a man, my child. Enjoy your youth for as long as you can.)
"Sí, abuela. Llámeme por favor cuando le acaban así que puedo llevar la bandeja abajo a la cocina." (Yes, Grandmother. Please call me when you're finished so I can take the tray down to the kitchen.) He patted her arm quickly, before leaving to get dressed.
The old woman gazed at her grandson's retreating back with a sad smile, shaking her head before returning to the food in front of her.
Much love to Tygrressatheart, my best buddy and beta reader. Reviews are always appreciated.