G'day I'm sure with all the reviews I'm spreading around you're wondering if its Pot calling the Kettle black. This is your chance to decide! I like criticism, I like reviews! Hit me with your best shot!
w w w . g e o c i t i e s . c o m / s k y h i g h e r g u i d e
Yep, hardly subtle when it comes to advertising. No worries.
I would like to apologise in advance for the swearing, but I like to think it is in context and there will be no casual swearing , unless it fits the character, actually one character in mind. (Devious smirk) Yes, she is my way of venting my frustrations but isn't based on anyone in particular. Promise.
That's that, enjoy!
What a Landing!
Erin sat on the culvert, tapping one foot idly as she waited for the bus. She wore the blankest, most bored expression achievable without illegal narcotics.
On the surface there were thoughts about stationary, pens and making the right kind of friends, but beneath it were, not so much thoughts as messages, slightly alien. Altitude, wind direction, rising thermals.
A car backfired in the next street and after a long moment, she stirred, shaking out her hair and honed her hearing for any other vehicles. None.
Her parents had been surprisingly vague about getting to her new school. Fair enough as she hadn't inherited these talents from them. She didn't expect whoever was in charge to comfortable with mere mortals being in on the secret.
She spied a bird far off, outlined against an odd, frothy grey cloud and considered blinking again, but decided against it. She really didn't like how often she used her powers, it just encouraged her parents. Neither they, nor her tutors knew their extent. Or she for that matter.
It was another reason for attending Sky High, to test her safe limitations so she wouldn't hurt herself or others.
That and some unwritten law that even adolescences with the absurdist of 'powers' had to complete one year at a specialized school.
The same irritation welled up.
This constant annoyance nagged her since her parents had found out about her powers a few months prior. She still cringed at the screaming match that ensued the next morning.
Erin, who rarely done anything which warranted more than mild disapproval had been genuinely frightened by her mother. Amber had ranted and shouted for over an hour about how special and talented and lucky she was to have inherited them, and that she should have started school last year even if there weren't outward signs. A voice like rabid dog boomed from a woman who was usually bright, bubbly and empty as a cheerleader.
To father and daughter, a year behind wasn't much damage done in the circumstances, but mother had been vehement about staying with her age group.
Since the argument, which Erin unconsciously named D-Day, she had been put through her paces by two old family acquaintances just so she could catch up.
But it had been her dream, she reasoned, Living through the child and all that.
Even though there were times when she hugged her mother's neck she expected to hear noises of the seashore whistling from her ear, she loved her.
Erin was one of life's cynics. This didn't depress her, always looking towards the worst side of human nature, but it gave everyday commentary a little bit of spice.
She sighed drearily.
Except now. All the double entendres in the world didn't make her feel better. She did not want to do this. It wasn't so much irritation now, but frustration.
While ridding the world of Mega Death Rays and Cataclysmic Meteor Strikes was all well and good, there were still the more normal, human problems to contend with. Leukaemia, poverty and deforestation for instance. Even if she could only help in some small way, maybe discovering the enzymes found in some rare African beetle's digestive tract that could induce cell apoptosis in amphibians, it would be more worthwhile than this and-
This line of work rarely offered long term security. Employers were all for providing pensions but were extremely reluctant when it came to life insurance.
She related much more to her father whose profession as an honest, successful, and above all safe statistician reduced most of life's mysteries into columns and numbers. He had stood behind her mother out of his wife's line of sight on D-Day, the most agreeable man on the planet, with a sympathetically sad smile.
Sad because he hadn't been trusted with the secret.
Noi was Indonesian by birth but they both shared same thin face, with the same faintly suspicious expression, baring the same olive complexion and almond eyes. They had the same oily black hair which her father probably trimmed short for that reason. Erin didn't dare keep her hair shorter than her shoulders otherwise she would almost certainly be mistaken for a boy. Her clothing didn't make the distinction any easier.
She looked lazily at her choice in wardrobe and stewed over last night. Preparing her 'outfit' for this morning had been the epitome of everything that she had in common with her mother.
Just what did you wear to a high school for superheros? Besides capes and masks. A good deal would be physical education, so something that allowed flexibility, but not baggy so I'd trip over it.
She had eventually settled on a polo shirt, mismatched with the lurid green basketball shorts of the Australian Boomers. They made her legs look like chocolate dipped paddlepop sticks but it would do. She wondered humorously if she should put her knickers on the outside so she could fit in.
There was a rapping on the door and before she could sing out to come in, her mother already glided through the door. She froze abruptly in midstep with a despairing cry.
"You aren't wearing that, are you?" she had said with a pleading look.
Canadian born, although later settled in Australia were she met Noi, Amber was a glamorous caucasian. Beach blonde curls framed baby blue eyes. She had a head of height over her husband and the kind of curves her daughter never dreamed of. She had spent her youth modelling in small time clothing catalogues, then as a fashion designer but had happily settled into secretary of Noi's booming trade.
She also completely failed to conceal the- costume; there was no other word in Erin's considerable vocabulary, behind her back.
"Mum, no," she complained equally pleading. She pleaded because standing up to her parents was not one of her highlights and if Amber applied enough pressure she would cave in like a poorly shored shale mine. Life was always easier if you simply agreed and played by rules adults set.
Her generation would get to choose the retirement home in the end.
"Come on Rinny, you'd look so pretty," her mother crooned. She then dangled it in front of her hopefully, jiggling it as if that would make it more appealing. Erin stared at it, a combination of shellshock and being blinded by the sequins. "Why won't you wear it?"
There were many reasons why she wouldn't, nay, couldn't wear it.
She resented the longing she felt settle into her gaze. It went against everything feminists burned bras for, but she knew it would be nice, in some alternate universe, to fit into it, even flaunt it.
Such an outfit had been made for a body with more oomph to it. A… body… like Amber's which could poke someone's eye out on a cold day. In fact, it was thus anatomy that seemed to hold the entire thing together. Just looking at the tiny synthetic shorts made her crotch cringe.
Still, for how old it was it was in amazing condition.
In fact, had it been dry cleaned?
She didn't wonder how Amber managed that, Amber had connections. Amber was all about connections, about friends and acquaintances and people who owed her favours. Every time one of her old schools attempted to raise money with bake sales and sausage sizzles she would be at the forefront, calling Harry to see if he would donate the meat, and Sally if she'd provide bread rolls, and before you'd know it people were calling her to give beetroot and tomatoes and potato salad.
This had merely set rolling a whole other set of connections that had probably lain dormant for a long time.
"Because it wouldn't fit me," she had said finally, hoping she wouldn't press the matter. She laid her choice over the chair of her desk which was still crowded with old assignment notes and book references from civilian school. Her mother hadn't given her enough time these holidays to sit down let alone tidy up.
"Oh, we could take a few things in!" she chirped, giving the bust an embarrassing pat.
Luckily common sense and a few laws against indecent exposure won the argument, but Erin hated the disheartened slump to Amber's shoulders as she padded out. She knew that once she left the room it would be lovingly stored in her mother's closet with a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and family photos of the delicate nature.
Erin didn't really mind that she had big shoes to fill, only that they were bright, glittery and had been constructed with the intention of breaking ankles. They weren't so much footwear as they were architecture.
Of course she had known immediately when the news was announced that her parents had an alternative agenda when moving to America two years ago even if they hadn't known about her powers. Amber, a blabbermouth at heart, was unusually defensive because it was where her mother died, Erin being only five at the time, and her father always spoke of it with faint distaste, mostly in association with crime rates.
Erin, whose analytical mind preferred to think in terms of evolution, speculated this was why the country spat forth superheros with the determination of a spawning salmon.
And like a salmon, Erin had stated dryly, she had made a pointless migration tens of thousands of kilometres which would probably end in her demise.
But it was an opportunity, something both parents repeated constantly. And opportunities shouldn't be left to slip through fingers.
It was just that her 'super' powers couldn't really do much in the way of superheroing. There was no such thing as a 'Fair 'Nuff' Hero, or at least not for very long.
She sighed heavily again. She had such a strong sense of pride and she knew that even if she loathed it she would still try for A's.
She would do her best. She would achieve.
Her mind attempted another difficult, optimistic step forward.
It would give her, perspective.
Although it was quite difficult to have perspective when you were dangling from chains above a pit of mutated crocodiles and a supervillain cackled about melting the icecaps.
Or as a pile of slightly greasy ash.
It was at this point, wondering if it had been worth the trouble of listing herself as an Organ Donor on her drivers license that the bus trundled around the corner.
It didn't stand out as far as American buses went, which Erin thought of as yellow shoeboxes on wheels, but just what had she been expecting? Jet boosters and futuristic silver fins?
It bumped a little too near to the curve for comfort and she gained close inspection at the scaled paint as she scrambled out of the gutter just in time. What drew her attention was that the bubbles in the coat above the tire rims were heat blisters. As the door flung open with a clatter she brushed it curiously with her fingers, and it came off in flakes against her fingers.
"Heyah!" She looked up with an embarrassed smile and wiggled her fingers, yellow flecks still on their tips. "Are you sure you're going on the right bus honey?"
Erin had long ago come to terms that she looked young for her age. Either that or they didn't think she spoke English. She could take the patronising tone so long as corrected themselves afterwards and didn't mention the time old adage that involved big things and small packages.
She was convinced that it was because of that saying why so many short people were bitter.
She'd better speak before he assumed she was the latter.
"G'day, Sky High, right?"
"Oh, uh, sorry 'bout that. They'd chew me a new cakehole if I let a citizen on the bus, you know? Climb aboard."
"Thankyou very much," she smiled politely, hitching herself up the guard rail and preparing for any commentary on her accent. Instead he extended a meaty hand.
"Name's Jack Carson," the plump bus driver tipped the sunglasses perched on top of his blond head. "A word of notice, when the bus is full I'd grab your bag and try and hold onto your lunch."
She gazed down the aisle, and Jack tapped the steering wheel impatiently behind her.
Not feeling confident enough to pick a seat next to someone, she shuffled about halfway where she could have one all to herself. In the middle she had a fair view of the other students. They ranged from fourteen to maybe eighteen in some cases and as she dropped into the seat she stared warily like a scientist that has discovered a fascinating new virus.
But it was safer to keep these observations too herself.
A mild concussion was the worst a civilian could do.
Spontaneous combustion was a whole other kettle of fish.
Mindful of the bus driver's advice she crossed her legs and lifted her knapsack into her lap. It felt too light to be getting an education, even if said education probably involved how to shout witty catchphrases as you punched someone.
Her mother on the other hand thought starting a new school was fun and exciting for different reasons entirely. It was a chance to reinvent yourself, to make new friends and to climb the social ladder, to get hip with the popular kids. In other words, connections.
Her gaze swept critically from one kid to another.
A girl spun gossamer webs of rainbows between her fingers. Lightning crackled around her friend's fingers like wedding rings. A boy, so pale he looked anaemic kept scratching his back where she glimpsed feathers. Sickle thorns erupted from another kid's arms when his girlfriend tickled him. A sullen thundercloud, no bigger than a toy truck, hovered ominously over nerdish boy's head. Its owner's grin reminded her of a pre-schooler who'd eaten all the glue when no one was looking.
She let out a deep breath through her nose. There were so many obvious jokes it would have been demeaning to make them.
"Hey, mind if I share a seat with you? Some friends," the boy then shot a feigned glare at the boy behind her, sprawled across his with wolfish grin. "Are inconsiderate assholes."
Erin nodded unthinkingly and shuffled down to let the boy join her. He offered an absent smile then leant over to talk to his friends, Anaemic and the gangly one beside him with an accent that was probably Scottish.
At least she wasn't the only who's parents had fell for the pamphlet that read 'The Best Super Hero Education!' If her experience with Mighty Man was any guideline she could only speculate it meant everything from Beginners Guide to Spandex and Advanced Pose Striking, followed by a hundred laps and pushups.
More kids, ranging from timid to malicious filled up the last remaining seats as the bus bumbled along, or tried to. On the eighth stop, girl who suffered from a severe toothache and a funeral didn't walk down the aisle. It was most definitely a stalk, possibly leaning towards a skulk.
And she glared.
A death glare in fact.
The kind of glare supposed to suggest a number of messages.
You are unworthy.
Touch me and I'll kill you.
Make me angry and you will be standing in a puddle of your own urine. You will have a nightlight in every room and live in fear of running out of batteries. You will welcome death.
What it in fact conveyed was that its owner read too many books and took literary licence far too literally.
And upon spotting this unique glare, a chain reaction began in Wolfish. By the time Toothache stood above him, still glaring, it was in full swing. Wolfish's smile was now goofy and lopsided and he shuffled eagerly allowing her in beside him.
Now Erin had a clear view of her, and she looked like she had tumbled head first through a tackle shop. There were enough fishnets to suffice an industrial trawler, and if there wasn't fishnet, there was tattered black material. Black was a major component of her personality.
The bus heaved down the busy street.
Then the nasal snorting began, low, sick, phlegmy. There was no doubt it heralded something contagious and also hinted of pussy red boils and embarrassing swelling.
And it was Wolfish, who had breathed comfortably only moments before.
Using her peripheral vision, she strained madly to watch what happened.
One of Wolfish's eyes which had miraculously become lazy, was as loose as a rolling marble and to accompany the hitching breath a daub of mucus dribbled from his nostril.
Toothache glared again, and Erin had to fight her body's laughter. She knew a professional shitstirrer when she saw one; glaring insults and threats only encouraged them.
Wolfish dropped a conspirator's wink with his lazy eye.
"Fuck off, loser," Toothache sneered rudely, watching the snot swing like a suspended mountain climber with disgust. "Unless you want to end up as charcoal!"
"Hnugh, hnugh," Wolfish laboured. "Hnugh, Want a gummie bear? They're nice and warm from being in my pocket!"
He proffered bag full of congealed sugar embossed with fingerprints. The hand that held them had a rash as savage as a barbarian hoard, pillaging and burning as it went. If you watched closely you could see it gain ground over the first knuckle.
"I'd hnugh, hnugh, reach for the bottom ones, hnugh, I've sucked some of the ones on top." This time he scooted the grimy bag right under her nose and she scuttled back with a revolted squawk! She only saved herself from hitting the aisle floor just in time. She hauled herself upright, snatched up her bag and snapped her fingers under the packet.
The gummie bear torch leapt up!
Wolf let go just in time and it splattered on her shoes.
She snarled and kicked it down the aisle before wedging herself bodily on the back seat with Mr Thundercloud.
"Quit it!" Jack yelled, not taking his off the road but darting glances at the review mirror to see why the kids cackled like hyenas. One student doused the fire with a icy beam.
"Enough horsing around," Jack growled again. Erin's gaze darted out the window where the last house had disappeared and ahead lay a steep gully. The road just stopped. Just in time she saw huge boosters unfold from what she had mistaken for baggage compartments. "And I suggest the newbies hang on."
The tongues roared to life and erupted into a hot white gout inside the boosters. She felt the air concussion smack the sides deep beneath her skin just as thick harnesses laced her chest and the bus lurched almost vertically into the air. The ground fell away, her stomach with it. As her gourd rose to her throat she threw her head between her knees on reflex, but reflex didn't take into account a steel enforced bus seat not 40cm away.
Pain coupled with giddy confusion blossomed between her eyes, but at least it took the focus from the rollercoaster in her belly. And the inertia had levelled off in the mean time.
Erin leaned her throbbing head against the window which hummed under the changing pressure. Metal groaned faintly but the bus despite reason felt safe.
"Aww mate," she groaned. She rubbed her ears as pressure bubbled inside, which gave her the same uncomfortable cringing feeling as nails on a blackboard. She could never stop rubbing her ears until it passed.
Conversation seeped back into the bus. She recognised other new kids as they gawked out the window as clouds swept like liquid nitrogen mist over the bus or chattered shrilly to the person beside them. Most wore a combination of excitement and seasickness.
Erin rubbed her ears again, waiting hopefully for the pop as pressure equalised.
"Heya, you okay?"
She twisted over her shoulder to see Wolfish grinning again. His eye was once again tethered and his nose cleared up, but the rash just started to disperse, pulling in on itself like ink being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. Her eyes were nailed to it in delighted fascination.
"Oh that," he confessed unselfconsciously. He stabbed his thumb at his chest and beamed. "I'm the Super-World's answer to AIDs!"
This time she was forced to wretch her gaze away from the receding rash on his neck to his face to see if he was serious. He was. It was an open face, Italian, or maybe Hispanic or something along those lines, framed by longish, crimped brown hair. There wasn't a blotch or blemish on it, which made her very self-conscious of her crop of pimples by her temples she kept hidden at all times in spite of her mother's lectures.
She considered his declaration carefully with curiosity. "So you destroy immune systems? Wow!"
"Nah! Can't destroy immune systems, but I can make 'em go into hiding. My parents kinda got the hint when I accidentally asked them to fill out sick notes in advance."
Laughing heartily, she asked "So your parents are superheros?"
"Yeah, although gramma, ma and pa did expect to inherit their powers," Wolfish shrugged with eyes bright. "They all kinda specialise in water, triple whammy, so you can see why I had over thirty sickies under my belt."
"Well, that stunt you pulled with Toothache over there was hilarious! I could barely stop from laughing when you said you'd licked them already! Who was she?"
"Bah, new kid. We get them offensive goth transfers like the plague. I'm Astaire Wrinser, by the way."
"Astaire, huh? Tapdance much?"
"Nope, proverbial two left feet. You?
"Close but no cigar," she answered happily. "I'm new at this school thing. My parents only found out a couple of months ago when mum found me."
"So you knew before, and you didn't say anything?"
"That's different, I was profiting from it with lots of nice cushy sleepins. So you didn't want to come here?"
"Ha! Well, no, not really. More like I wanted to get an education."
"This is an education," Astaire prodded with the same infuriating smile, but it was infectious. The problem was Erin had never tried to put words to the feeling of dissatisfaction.
"In what? How to wear your underpants on the outside in ten easy steps?" she tried with an easy smile. She was thinking of Mighty Man, whose geriatric decline hadn't changed a lot in the upstairs bedroom, but a crease had formed between Astaire's brow.
Above their heads a speaker crackled with static and Mr Carson tried to carry his voice over his charges saying that the bus would reach their destination in five minutes.
"Superheros' aren't meatheads you know. The world needs them."
"But the world also needs dentists, park rangers and people to look after the elderly."
The debate was cut off as a shout, low but suddenly rising in panic carried over the banter of the bus. "Ooooooohhhhfaaaaahh-"
"Oh for Christ sake, Scoddy!" Astaire exclaimed, attempting to relieve the tension that had crept across the conversation. "Voice finally break, huh?"
But things weren't all that they seemed, a hushed hysteria was rippling away from Scod who sat on the window side with Anaemic. Around her kids were leaning out of their seats regardless of Mr Carson's frantic orders.
Dark brooding clouds similar to that one earlier swarmed around the bus like a hoard of bees.
Small as she was, and a veteran escape artist of childhood, Erin squirmed out of her harness and stood up, sidling down the aisle until she had a clear view of Mr Carson and blinked.
The clouds held his full attention and she could see his lips moving in silent curses. "No, this isn't right!" came out so faint she could barely hear. She then realised that the air had a faint buzzing feel to it and the hair on her arms stood up in unison. Her vision switched again and focused on the windscreen wipers. No flimsy rubber ones were this but thick and dependable, just right for a rocket powered school bus.
But before her eyes the inch thick wiper began to smoke and the arms were corroding with a noxious green coat. And there was blue! If she stared hard enough wispy blue tendrils snaked excitedly around them.
Something caught her eye.
Gaining with tremendous speed in the bus's side mirror was a blazing blue comet.
"What the hel-!"
A blast of green exploded opposite her body and suddenly the bus was rocked by a blow.
No, it was clobbered.
The reinforced steel wall just in front of Scod was torn wide open and concertinaed as easily as can of sardines!
Sparks leapt from the dash board, crackling. The bus was engulfed in strobe light flashes and the seat harnesses were lashed back into their holding clips.
Anguished metal and children both screamed and shrieked and were tossed like a salad! They scrambled away from the window in blind panic. The only thing that stopped several members being torn away in the screaming wind was an older girl, her arms wide as she bolstered a bright green shield stretched across the gap.
The bus was flung into a wild roll, everything vibrating crazily from the crash.
The students themselves were hurled against the other wall with a united thump. They slid down, cowering on the roof of the capsized bus.
The girl sustaining the force field hit the glass with her shoulder. The barrier stuttered.
Meanwhile the bus's system tried to right itself. It rolled upright like a half buoyant barrel but jerked from side to side.
More children screamed, thin, trailing wails as a melee broke out in desperation to reach the safer front end of the bus with Mr Carson. Wind ripped and clutched through the hole. Friends fumbled as one would slide towards the gaping hole. Hand clasped hand as those fortunate enough to be tangled safely in the bus seats pulled their friends after them.
"Scod!" Scod's fingers scrimped and scraped as he slid backwards, eyes as empty as teacups. Concussion, but still some deeper part of the brain told him to grab. And scream.
Bai, whom Erin had mentally labelled Anaemic, shoved his way past a knot of hysteric girls, his wings unfurling instinctively, but uselessly. Clambering over a seat, he reached Veronica sitting on the bus floor with her legs wrapped around a seat and preparing another barrier in her upturned palm. He gestured, shouting over the sucking wind but she shook her head. Her breath came in tight breaths and her eyes glazed with frightened tears. Not for dying, but the decision they both had been taught.
Sacrifice the few to save the many.
Bai's gaze locked on his friend. Although Scod's fingers laced tightly around the leg of a seat, his legs dangled out into space. What was worse was that realization was flooding back into his face.
Bai threw his head around towards the front looking for Astaire but found something worse. The impact had bashed Jack's head against the glass and he lolled bonelessly. Two students yammered as they pushed buttons. One sat on top of Jack's prone body working the pedals and the other read from a scrappy paper book, the manual.
Finally caught sight of Astaire's fuzzy hair, struggling to unknit himself from his classmates. Another student, the rainbow girl, had secured her classmates with huge knotted ribbons of colour like seatbelts. His shouts were drowned out as he hurled himself at his bonds, screaming at Lisa to let him go but she shook her head inside a gossamer aura.
Only one other was still down his end of the bus, twined under another seat and rubbing her head.
Bai tapped Veronica, pointing at himself and shaking his head, then traced his finger through the air just before the concertinaed metal. She tried to argue but he darted forward.
She threw up the barrier in his wake.
He glanced again at Scod, his white knuckled grip was slipping…..
Bai screamed, lunging for his friend and was caught immediately by the sucking wind. He was pulled onto the seat that had sustained Scod and only flaring his wings could he wedge and save himself from being tugged after Scod into the air. He gazed over the razor teeth of metal that had been exposed by the ripped metal, his biceps straining.
Clinging to a seat right on the edge he was torn with indecision as his best friend's body dwindled away through the dispersing clouds.
A small body suddenly thudded against his, thumping him closer edge like a half-popped cork.
"What they hell are you waiting for!"
Pressed against his shoulder was the kid! That, that little Asian girl who was hiding under the seat! Her long ponytail streamed away from her as she elbowed her way onto his shoulder for a better vantage.
"You can fly-" The words trailed off. "Oh gawd your wings would be torn clean off!"
No hesitation. She flopped bodily over the back of the seat and dropped into the clouds.
From the other end of the bus, the students watched in shock. Astaire's eyes bulged as Erin flung herself through the cavernous hole, but didn't have the time.
"Let me out Lisa!"
"You can't save Scod now!" she screamed back, looking exhausted as more and more power was drained into the rainbow ropes. Only one thin string looped around her waist stopped her from sliding back.
"This isn't about Sc-od," he croaked, his voice cracking. "I can fly the bus!"
"How the hell do you know how to fly the bus!"
"I read it in the library! In case we ever got hit by a goddamned meteor in the goddamned middle of nowhere on a CLEAR! GODDAMNED! DAY! Now shut up and let me out!"
In shock Lisa released the RainBow cinched around his shoulders and he was slammed into the first seat. His head missed the steel bar by millimetres but the worn foam padded seat wasn't much consolation. He grunted, and weaved between the other tethered kids watching with wild eyes.
"Out of my way!" Astaire snapped, wobbling along the aisle and sidestepping an unconscious First Year. At the helm was good old Sam, a sidekick but cool as a cucumber in any situation and a new kid poring frantically over the driver's manual. He didn't trust the RainBow around his waist enough and was gripping the open glove compartment with one hand.
"Astaire," Sam said jovially, but with a hint of anxiety. Beneath him Jack stirred, groaning but didn't wake up. "You say you can drive this thing?"
"Why the hell are we level? We need to go up!"
"Best I can do is keep it level. Frig! That storm wasn't natural. It's gone now but it ate up the paint like acid and caused a short circuit."
"Lisa and Ronnie can't keep up forever and neither can we. People are going to ask questions if a bus falls from the sky. We need to get to Sky High!"
"Maybe some of the guys that fly to school will send help."
"Have you seen any? I bet they avoided the storm. Just move over and take the manual. Lisa! You okay back there?"
"Just peaches, Astaire!"
"We're going to go up very quickly, make sure everyone is tight! BAI! VERONICA! HOLD ON!"
Bai was on their side of Ronnie's barrier, and both flashed a thumbs up.
Sam scooted off their bus driver and Astair switched, settling on his pudgy girth. He stretched his legs and found the pedals, accelerator, clutch and brake, as well as a forth one, small and unobtrusive. On the panel before him were a number of switches, clocks and button, just like the illustration in the book.
"Ready?" he asked Sam through gritted teeth. Without waiting for an answer he flipped three of the switches, tugged a lever and the bus groaned under him. He undid the lever sheepishly and pulled the one next to it, slamming the clutch to the floor and mashed down the forth pedal, the ascendant.
The bus jerked straight up almost missing the vertical plane altogether! Several students broke into spasmodic coughing to keep down their breakfast while more fainted. Hair and faces peeled back, they screamed.
"SHUT UP! SHUT UP!" Astaire scanned the dash, he only vaguely knew what to do next, but they didn't know that. Tentatively he released the ascendant and jerked the gears down into an unlabelled sixth gear. Finally he released ascendant and the turbos spluttered. The bus slipped in terrifyingly midair and the students were jerked against their bonds!
Astaire screamed with them and slammed his foot down on the accelerator. The engines gunned!
"AHHHHHHHH!" The students shrieked like the choir of hell as they rocketed into the air. Phenomenal G forces messed with Astaire's head and beside him Sam groaned, struggling to remain conscious himself.
Coming to his senses, he eased the ascendant and the bus's angle lessened to one that didn't turn their brains into cheese.
"Sam! You there buddy?"
"Go through that manual! How do you work the map? I have no clue how to get to get to school." He was actually impressed that Sam's fist still bunched the crinkled paper. There was a tense moment of flapping pages but finally as his head dipped to his chest, Sam's hand flopped blindly on the consol and slapped a button.
From the ceiling extended a monitor with two green dots on a grid, one moved away from the other.
"Hold on!" Astaire turned the steering wheel to full lock and the bus whined angrily. He was scared the bus would splinter into pieces under the pressure. Maybe it would but he had to at least get them close to the school! Then the teachers could take over and he could curl into the foetal position, but not until he guided the bus.
He glanced at the monitor, the dot representing the bus blinking furiously despite making a beeline for Sky High which would be sailing placidly through the clouds.
"Sam, what's it doing now?"
"Gyah, wha…." Sam mumbled, slouched against the rainbow restraint.
Damn, gone. Oh well, they were almost there, right through the cloud cover and they'd be on it.
"Okay guys," he said with feigned jolliness over the motionsick moans. "Now for the smooth landing, just through the clou-WHAT!"
His eyes jerked up to the monitor and the two green dots overlayed each other but there was nothing to be seen except clear blue yonder.
"Astaire! What are you pulling?" Bai shouted from the back. Astaire turned for a sharp retort but Bai and Ronnie had their noses pressed against the glass. Fumbling with a button, the side mirrors adjusted to point down and to his horror the floating island of Sky High was directly below.
"Its okay!" he assured, spinning the wheel. "We can do a U-Turn."
"No, we can't," Sam grunted raking back his hair and pointed. Following his gaze he saw both of the girls, Ronnie and Lisa ready to collapse. "It's now or never, champ. Hopefully we'll come out with full brain function and an average of three limbs per person."
Astaire laughed. Trust Sam to chuckle nervously in the face of death. "Lis? You hear? A little while longer, two minutes tops but we need these rainbow seatbelt thingies to hold. Got it?"
"Then someone's….someones shouting me lunch today."
"If we come out alive," Sam muttered. "I'll shout you every day for a month, and a slice of mudcake once a week." That was enough. The belt around his waist blazed briefly, almost a solid spectrum.
Astaire gave the wheel a savage jerk and released the ascendant pedal.
The bus plummeted! Astaire shrieked with the rest as gravity took over. Wind roared over the bus and its hood burned red! The air around it was red! Embers cascaded past the windows!
To fast! Too goddamned fast. He yanked the gearbox into reverse and slammed on the accelerator.
Sky High loomed.
The turbos on the rear of the bus were tortured into a new angle, grinding and squealing. Hot blue flames licked down the sides. It slowed them, but students howled in pain as the metal conducted the simmering heat. Out of the corner of his eye saw a blonde slam her palms against the wall and a sheet of ice rippled outward, steaming and hissing.
"THIS IS IT!" One last time Astaire yanked the gearbox into third, reeled the wheel, and prayed.
On the ground below, students walked serenely to their first period.
Some hearing an odd whistling sound glanced over the side or around them, but no one looked up. They were as high up as they could go and still breathe easily so nothing ever came from above.
One student, dressed in orange adjusted his glasses. He couldn't possibly seeing what he thought he was seeing.
A bus ablaze hurtling towards the oval.
"Maj. Zack. Can you look at this for a moment?"
"Yeah, wassup Ethan?" his fluorescent friend grinned. The grin faltered.
'Holy moly! Will! Wiiiiiiill!"
The other students turned towards the yelling and followed their gaze. A shadow was pooling on the grass, and shrinking rapidly.
A bus. It was falling. Towards them.
Squeals and wailing rang across the school yard that was usually silent between classes. Kids ran away, others came to see what they were clamouring about, teachers stuck their heads out of classrooms.
To their disbelief, what was essentially a yellow brick tumbled through the air, wind roaring along its sides and stripping it clean of its paint. Battered metal gleamed white hot and its tires exploded like grenades splattering the ground and sizzling.
In what seemed like slow motion, it struck the ground like an earthquake. The floating of island of Sky High rocked in mid air like a seesaw, but that couldn't slow the furious momentum of the bus. It skipped like a stone, flipping and somersaulting, before striking the ground solidly, what was left of the turbines hurling shards of glowing metal across the green sports oval and burying its tail deep into ground.
Students dove for cover inside the nearest building, the library and its famous façade, pouring into the gym like ants fleeing a giant shoe.
Still it couldn't stop.
Glowing and sizzling it gouged a deep crevasse in its wake.
It headed straight for famous front steps of Sky High, and the students that hid inside.
The department heads of Science, Physical Education and Hero Support rushed across the churned up grass and a sparkling comet blazed above them but it seemed nothing could save the historic building.
"Stronghold! Get out of the way!" bawled Tommy Boomer, aka Sonic Boom. His co-workers staggered, half deafened but the skinny figure it was aimed at braced himself. There was no way he could stop the pelting vehicle that was suddenly on top of him!
The back end of the bus was punched in, groaning and squashing like a softdrink can as the momentum petered away and finally came to a standstill.
Everything was silent, except the faint popping of cooling metal.
"Yeah Will!" shouted the red head who had looked on confidently. With that cheers erupted from the students, rushing in for a closer look at the wreckage or to clap the teenager who'd saved the day on the back.
The staff of Sky High still rushed to mark the damage. Scrambling down and up the other side of the gully, Dr Medulla huffed to Mr Boy, "I'm a mad scientist! I'm not expected to run!"
Suddenly, a figure cleared the gully in a flying leap, landed heavily but took off again, pounding across the turf, his face a mix of fear and fury. That damned bus driver. Everyone knew Jacko couldn't land a model airplane let alone a rocket powered bus.
Students clustered around the bus, quiet and morbidly curious. It felt profane to break the silence. Could anyone survive it? No sounds came from with in and the dark clothed boy held his breath.
"Get out of my way!" Warren snarled crunching the glittering glass under his boots. His old reputation still held strong and they backed away clearing a path. He stood before it, his face carefully blank. Heat still radiated of the crumpled metal.
"Priss?" he shouted, breaking that sucking silence. Nothing answered back and without a moments pause he leapt up the side of the bus, gripping the hard the shattered window panes. Those close recoiled in sympathy, almost imagining the whiff of cooking flesh but Warren only grimaced and pulled himself onto the roof where a hole gaped mockingly. More visions assailed his mind, kids being ripped through it, one in particular.
He dropped through the gap, the metal ringing under his combat boots and through the rectangles of light streaming through the window frames, a soft, barely perceptible green glow.
He barely noticed the golden sparks coalescing beside him into Principal Powers. She let out a loud sigh of relief and shot a sideways glance as Warren. While his attire hadn't changed since last years homecoming, his attitude had.
"We'll make a hero of you yet Mr Peace," she smiled, stepping carefully between the glass slivers towards the glow.
To her amazement, the two dozen students looking exhausted and shellshocked, but were protected by the bright green bubble, young Veronica Carver at its centre. Her heavy lidded eyes lifted to the principal, then slid shut and the bubble vanished dumping its cargo roughly on the floor.
Warren crossed the gap in long strides and gently lifted Priscilla to her feet. He still wore a gruff expression as stubborn as any goat, but he took her hand and led her back to the gap.
"Your hands!" she gasped, lifting them into the light where they were gooey with busted blisters. Still smiling gratefully, she brushed them with a frosty coat. "I thought you'd be immune it."
"Evidently not," he smirked, and helped her up into the sunlight.
"Is everyone alright in there Sarah?"
Principal Powers hesitated, sweeping her gaze over the rest of the crashees who were still finding their sense of balance. "No one's dead, but they look like they've been through a hurricane."
"And it's still better than some of Jacko's landings," someone muttered shakily and his classmates giggled with relief.
Coach Boomer appeared from overhead and offered a hand down, one by one pulling the students out.
"Wait!" Astaire moved through the group and Coach Boomer regarded him warily as his epithet of Class Clown was deserved. But now that the terror was over, his face was crushed. Bai, appeared at his shoulder, his wings crumpled, also looking heartbroken and weary. "Two kids, Scott Hamish and a new kid. Called Erin. They, they fell out, seven, maybe eight miles up."
"Scod had invisibility, and the girl said herself that she couldn't fly."