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It's been a crazy day. We haven't had regular classes because Career Day preempted everything. The session I was really looking forward to was the one where Dr. Kent Cognon, a university botanist, was going to come and talk to us about science and academic careers. Unfortunately, he got stuck out of town, and the university sent a replacement, Dr. Bertram McKenzie, an English professor in his 80s who doesn't like science, doesn't like high school students, doesn't like much of anyone.

And then a mad scientist named Dr. Vladimir Gevaudan tore through the roof in an airship and, thinking he was Dr. Cognon, shot Dr. McKenzie with some kind of taser.

Everyone bugged out, and I was able to get changed into my Calypso costume, just in time to run into el Phantasmo, who's probably a student here at Robert Kanigher High School. We found out that Mad Doctor Gevaudan had dropped a forcefield over the school, so no one else would be able to help us out.

And the Chrome Cobra radioed in to tell us that Dr. Gevaudan's taser was some kind of genetic remixing device that probably turned Dr. McKenzie into a mind-controlled monster. Worse than that, she ordered both of us to clear off and wait for the mad scientist and his unwilling monster stooge to leave the premises to make sure we didn't get hurt.

So that's where things stand right now.

"Phantasmo, I'm sorry, but I'm not going along with this," I say. "I'm not a real big fan of the Cobra anyway, to be honest, and I think she's dead wrong. I'm gonna do what I can to stop Gevaudan and save Dr. McKenzie."

"Well, I think the Cobra's pretty cool," says Phantasmo. "But I'm not keen on the idea of hiding from a mad scientist and letting him just turn some old hostage into a monster. I'm assuming she's trying to keep you out of harm's way -- I can probably take point on this, if you'd rather stay out of his way -- I'm pretty sure my ghosts can handle this guy."

"Like I'd let anyone push me out of this?" I say. "Let's go bust this guy up."

"Not too fast," he says. "No need to charge in blind. I'm sending some ghosts into the room invisibly -- Esther and Roland, do me a solid, alright?" Two swirls of vapor detach and solidify a little -- one is an elderly woman with her hair in a bun, the other is a middle-aged bald man. "I need you guys to turn invisible and head into the room with the airship crashed through the roof. Find out who's there, how many hostages, how many monsters, and give us a general layout of the room. Can you do that for me? Thanks."

Both of the ghosts fade away into nothingness, and Phantasmo says, "Give 'em a couple minutes, and we'll have a better idea of which door to go in and how much trouble the whole setup is going to be. I'm going to have the ghosts run interference -- if Dr. Gevaudan uses some kind of taser weapon, he may waste some shots on the ghosts instead, and they might be able to block the taser darts, too."

"What if they can't block the darts?" I say. "The Cobra said he used those to turn people into monsters."

"Then I'll get out of the way and let you go first," he says. "You are bulletproof, right?"

"Bulletproof enough to bounce taser darts," I say. "I've been doing that since my first night on patrol."

"Congrats, kiddo," he says. "At least half the superheroes in this town are at least a little bulletproof. Still doesn't mean you should get overconfident."

One of the ghosts, Roland, the bald guy, suddenly materializes next to us. Phantasmo looks at him, a bit surprised.

"Have you guys finished checking out that room already?" Phantasmo asks.

"No," says Roland, his voice deep and airy and distant. "The man inside has equipment that can detect ghosts."

The door to the classroom -- and half the wall on that side of the building -- blows apart like a bomb hit it, and there's a huge, bellowing monster thundering down the hallway at us.

Let's slow things down a little bit, okay? What's coming at us? Well, I've got to assume it's Professor McKenzie, but it definitely looks nothing like some old, snooty, 80-year-old white guy anymore. He's big -- like 12 feet tall, way muscular, hairless yellow skin, three fingers on each hand, no eyes, nose, or ears, just this big, screaming mouth full of flat, straight teeth. There's some kind of metal skullcap fastened onto the top of his head, and incredibly, he's still wearing some of his suit -- who knew Sansabelt slacks could stretch like that?

He looks completely ridiculous and completely terrifying at the same time.

He plows right through the ghosts who are trying to protect Phantasmo. I'm close enough to get in the way, but not strong enough to completely stop him. Still, I hit him hard enough to deflect him a little -- Phantasmo still gets hit, but not as hard as he would've. He goes one way, I go another, and McKenzie goes another.

We're all back on our feet pretty quick. There's no way I'm strong enough to handle McKenzie right now, but I'm definitely not in a mood to get my head stomped on again. And even worse, I see Mad Doctor Gevaudan coming out of the classroom with his taser gun.

"Ghost shields, Phan!" I hiss at him. "Taser darts incoming!"

The ghosts are in the way so fast, I suspect he didn't even have to give them an order -- they were just looking out for any threats to him. Gevaudan shoots his taser gun, and a cluster of four darts lodge inside three of Phantasmo's spirits, looking weirdly cloudlike and solid at the same time. The darts spark, and all three of the ghosts suddenly dissipate into nothingness.

"Ghosts, get him, get the gun, hold him down," Phantasmo shouts, and the whole horde of spirits swarm all over Gevaudan, throw the gun to the floor, and levitate him off the ground. He still gets off another shot with the taser -- he misses Phantasmo completely, one dart fizzles another ghost out, one hits the wall, and one each bounces off of me and Dr. McKenzie.

"Dr. Cognon!" shouts Gevaudan. "Destroy them!"

Well, it's just rude that Gevaudan still thinks Dr. McKenzie is a completely different guy, but that doesn't stop him from jumping to his feet and charging at el Phantasmo. But I was kinda ready for that by now, so I fly at him as fast as I can and slam myself into him full force. He stumbles and falls flat on his face.

Nice start, I gotta admit. But Phantasmo's right -- I can't be overconfident. I doubt I can handle getting into a straightforward fistfight with him right now. So I better fight smarter than he does.

And right now, fighting smart has gotta mean fighting dirty, so while he's on the floor, I get behind him and give him a good kick in the huevos. Or where his huevos used to be located. He makes a grunting noise when I kick him, but doesn't react the way a dude getting his ballsack crunched ought to, so I guess his transformation either eliminated his original equipment or moved it somewhere else in his body. Hey, I wasn't sure it'd work, but I had to give it a shot.

While he's getting back to his feet, I kick him in the ribs a couple of times, but he doesn't seem to mind too much. He swings a backhand at me, but I duck underneath his arm easy and punch the inside of his knee. He staggers -- good, gotta remember to try hitting him harder there -- and makes a grab at me. Instead, I grab his arm and flip him head over heels. Hey, judo classes pay off!

"Phantasmo, get away from here," I tell him. "Go get Gevaudan's gun somewhere safe so he can't grab it if he gets away from your ghosts."

Listen to me giving the orders! Phantasmo gives me a nod and says, "Watch yourself, Calypso. I'll try to find the controls for the forcefield."

As Phantasmo picks up the taser gun and runs into the smashed-up classroom, Gevaudan shouts, "Forget the girl, Cognon! Get the boy! Get my gun back!"

McKenzie lurches to his feet and hits me with a roundhouse that knocks me all the way to the other end of the hallway. Crud, I knew the good luck couldn't last forever. I'm not too bad off, thank goodness -- it was a good hard punch, but nothing like what I got from Penny Dreadful a couple weeks back.

McKenzie starts to run into the classroom after Phantasmo, but I'm more than fast enough to intercept him, and when I hit him at my top speed, the momentum is enough to push us all the way back down the hall.

"Dammit, Cognon, leave her alone! I command you!"

He gets back to his feet faster than I expected and pushes past me. I grab at his arm for another judo-throw, but he lifts me off the ground and flips me into -- and through -- a bank of lockers.

He's heading for the classroom door again, and I find myself saying, "Shakespeare stole all his best work from other writers!"

He whips around at me, his jaw dropped open in shock.

"His love sonnets were totally written for some 12-year-old boy!"

He twitches like I slapped him. His fists are clenching and unclenching.

"He hasn't had a best-seller in centuries," I add. "So Stephen King is a better writer!"

BOOM. He tackles me, and we both go through the wall.

I may still be the weaker person in this fight, but Dad's been spending the last couple of weeks showing me how to fight stronger opponents -- and even better, McKenzie's reaction shows that Gevaudan's mind control isn't absolute.

I shuffle out of McKenzie's grip and kick him in the stomach when he gets back to his feet. I'm kinda hoping his transformation just shuffled his testicles higher up into his abdomen, but I get no more reaction than I did before. And worse, I just gave him the opening he needed to punch me in the stomach.

Even then, I'm lucky. I'm not very heavy, so nearly all the energy in the punch goes toward knocking me backwards against a wall, so it doesn't even hurt me very much. But it disorients me for a few seconds, and by then, McKenzie grabs me, swings me around, and slams me onto my back. And then he punches my face.

And see, here's the thing. He's got this giant, yellow, monster-sized fist, and it's actually larger than my head. So when I say he punches my face, I don't mean he punches me in the jaw or the nose or the eye. I mean he punches my entire face.

And then the son-of-a-bitch does it again. And again.

I am having such a damn feeling of déjà vu.

There's broken floor tile everywhere, the desks are getting bounced all over the place like an earthquake, one of the classroom whiteboards falls off the wall, and my head is about 20 punches away from discovering whether the science building has a basement.

And this pompous old English professor freak just keeps punching my entire face over and over and over. He is going to bruise my entire face.

And just like that, I get mad.

And then, I remember that I can fly.

When his fist goes up, I fly up a little to get out of the hole in the floor, but then I skid off to the side. He misses me completely and buries his hand in the floor. I fly so fast, I smack into another wall hard enough to knock the other whiteboard onto the floor.

But I'm already hovering off the ground by the time he's pulling his fist out of the crater. And when he turns toward me, I kick him in the chin.

He's stronger and heavier than I am. But he's not that strong. And he's not that heavy. He goes airborne and crashes into a corner. Goddamn, that felt good.

He starts to get up, and I fly in there and throw two hard punches into the sides of his knees. I'm not strong enough to break his knees. But it hurts like hell, and he falls forward, landing on his hands.

He still tries to make a grab at me -- like that's gonna work when that's all that's holding you off the floor. But I'm getting tired of this crap. And I'm still good and mad.

So I start hitting him in the face, as hard as I can, as many times as I can. Bam, bam, bam, bam, BAM! And he's feelin' that, too, I can tell -- feels damn good to get to let loose and throw some good hard punches.

"Are you going to let that community-college science major tell you what to do, Professor?" I shout at him, still slamming my fist into his face. "He probably never read a decent book in his life! He got through college with a C in American Lit! Don't tell me you can't fight off a low-watt science-major brain! Don't tell me you're gonna let him dominate your brain like that!"

He makes a noise, partway between a dog's whine and a human cry, and fumbles for the metal skullcap on top of his head.

God, of course! You can't change a guy's DNA so much that a metal hat grows on his head!

"Cognon!" screams Gevaudan from the hallway. "You must obey me!"

"Apologies in advance, Professor," I tell Dr. McKenzie. "I'll try to get this done as fast as I can."

I hover above his head, take aim, and slam my fist as hard as I can into the top of the skullcap. McKenzie and Gevaudan both scream, but a corner of the skullcap comes unglued from his head. I grab the edge of the skullcap and pull as hard as I can.

Both of them scream even louder -- probably some kind of neural link between Gevaudan's brain and the skullcap -- and I think I start screaming, too, partly 'cause I really don't like hurting the poor guy this much, partly because his screams are really way louder and more painful to my ears than any human scream, and partly because everyone else is screaming, why shouldn't I join the fun?

It doesn't take as long as I was afraid it would. It's just metal, and I haven't run into any metal yet that I can't bend. Thirty seconds to a minute of pulling, and it finally pops right off.

Back in the hallway, I hear Phantasmo yell, "The forcefield's off!" just before the door of the building slams open and multiple people start running down the hall. And then Dad charges into the room, followed by the Cobra, Hypothermia, and the Star.

"Get away from her, you freak!" Dad yells. "Get away, or I'll pound you!"

"Don't lay a hand on him!" I hear myself yelling back. "Or I'll pound you right back!"

And that goes over better than I thought it would, mostly because Phantasmo starts laughing like a loon back in the hallway. Dad, Hypothermia, and the Cobra stay kinda tense, but the Star grins, slaps Dad on the shoulder, and says, "See, everything worked out. Someone sure did a good job on teaching that girl how to be a superhero, know what I'm saying?"

And I guess things kinda mellow down after that. Thank goodness. Way too stressful a day anyway.

It's not all good news. In fact, I guess a lot of it is pretty bad news. The main thing is, they don't think there's any way to turn Dr. McKenzie back to normal -- Mad Doctor Gevaudan's genetic switcheroo formula is apparently a one-way transformation only. Iota shows up to get the taser gun to see if he can figure out a way to reverse it, but he doesn't act like he's real hopeful about it.

It's really kinda depressing. I mean, McKenzie's a little bit of an asshole -- okay, he's really a huge asshole, judging by that condescending-asshole performance for Career Day -- but it's awful that he's stuck looking like that for maybe the rest of his life.

So Hypothermia and Iota give him the bad news, and he calls his department chair on a borrowed cell phone and tries to get him to understand what's happened. While that's going on, the cops cart Dr. Gevaudan off in their metahuman-proof paddy wagon, Dad lifts the airship out through the ceiling of the classroom and flies it off to police HQ, and we get word that school's been cancelled for the rest of the day, so at least I don't have to worry about having to go back to classes. Oh, and Cobra and Star get into a quiet but really intense argument with the SWAT team captain -- obviously about what's going to happen to Dr. McKenzie.

McKenzie ends up slouched over in a corner of the classroom just under the hole that the airship tore through the ceiling. He looks pretty miserable, and everyone's basically leaving him alone for now, so I go over to talk to him.

"Dr. McKenzie?" I say. "I wanted to apologize for, well, for hitting you so hard earlier."

He glares at me for a moment -- I think he's glaring, it's hard to tell with a giant monster that doesn't have eyes -- but then shrugs and says, "I don't think you have anything to apologize for, young lady. In my current state, and with that mad scientist controlling me, I don't think you had any options other than manhandling me. I treated you quite roughly as well, I'm afraid."

"And I'm also sorry for insulting Shakespeare. I was trying to figure out some way to get you out from under his mind control, and that was all I could think of."

"Hmph. I'll accept your apology. And I'll trust that it was done for the greater good. But don't do it again. Literature is quite important to me."

"So I gathered," I say. "Could I ask about -- well, sir, are you even going to be able to read anything anymore? You move around mostly normally but I don't know if you can actually see..."

"I haven't tried yet," he says. "Do you have anything I could read?"

I grab the nearest textbook and hand it to him. He flips it open and says, "The number of mitochondria in any cell varies by organism and even type of tissue. While many cells have only one mitochondrion, there are others that will contain thousands."

He closes the book and says, "None of that made a bit of sense to me, but it appears I can read. I've no idea how, since obviously, I have no eyes. It does seem, however, that I'm not seeing most colors. Everything seems fairly monochromatic. Maybe a bit of a blue tint to everything. Very strange."

"I bet Iota and Hypothermia will want to check you over to see if you have a radar sense or some other exotic sensory ability," I say. "I bet they're both pretty interested in metabiology. They'll probably write a paper about you."

"Scientists, bah," he harrumphs. "Always writing papers filled with numbers and diagrams. You can't call that writing. It's more like drawing. Scientists are idiots."

"Well, the important thing is that you'll be able to continue being a college professor, right?" I say.

"Thankfully, I do have tenure," McKenzie says. "As long as I can prove my credentials to the university, tenure should solve everything. Mercy knows what I'll do if they decide to remove me from the department."

"Well, there's always superheroing," I say. "I'm sure the Chrome Cobra will want to start talking you into making patrols soon enough."

"I'm 84 years old," he says. "I'm much too old to be gallivanting about the city getting into punch-ups with super-criminals."

"You don't really look 84 now. And you can dish out the punches just fine."

"Well, yes, I suppose that's true," he says. "It all seems unlikely, though. I've never even thought of such a thing before."

"I think you'd better start thinking about it, sir," I say. "It's definitely something you could do now, and the Cobra will probably start pressuring you about it."

"She'd best leave me alone, or I'll swear out a complaint!"

"Like that'd do any good," I say. "Anyway, it's not like you have to make an immediate decision. You can even decide you wanna just be a professor. Lots of metas don't do the hero-villain thing at all. But spend some time thinking it over."

"I'm sure I'll have no choice about that, will I?" he grouches. "I'll have to purchase a whole new wardrobe as well, and probably some new furniture. And I'll wager that this Chrome Cobra won't assist with that, will she? Nor will that mad scientist. What did he want with me? Why did he keep calling me a Cognon?"

"Oh, he thought you were Kent Cognon, the professor you were substituting for," I say. "As far as I could tell, he was angry because Dr. Cognon got a grant that he wanted."

"And for that he blew up a school, attacked me, and turned me into a monster? Ridiculous. Scientists are ridiculous."

"Well, he was a mad scientist," I say. "I figure a sane scientist would've been more sensible."

"Tell me when you find a sane scientist," he says. "All of them seem to -- oh, what now?!"

There's a flash of bright light in the middle of the room, and when my vision clears, there's some guy standing there wearing blue jeans, a red flannel shirt, a blue domino mask, an old straw hat, and this big old high-collared blue cape.

"Hey, it's the Seventh Son!" says Phantasmo.

"Good grief, Seven, you're showing up all the time lately," says the Cobra. "Aren't things busy enough for you down south?"

"Come on, Cobra, it does me good to get outta the sticks every once in a while to see the big city," he says.

"So what's up?" Cobra asks. "Some new emergency going down?"

"No emergency," he says. "But I've got some news I need to discuss with super-people, and this was the largest collection of you guys in the city right now. Buncha cops around here, aren't there?"

"This is a crime scene, mister," says the SWAT captain.

"Well, shoot," says Seven. "We'll take it to another room, then."

He says some word that really doesn't sound completely rational, and the Cobra, Phantasmo, the Star, Hypothermia, Dr. McKenzie, and I find ourselves in the empty auto shop classroom on the other side of the school.

"Dammit, Seven, you can't go teleporting people around like that!" says Cobra. "We could've just gone out into the hallway, you know?"

"Cops snoop, Cobra," he says. "Better to have some serious privacy. I don't know all y'all, do I?"

"Fine, I'm pretty sure you already know Star and Phantasmo," she says. Seven pumps Phantasmo's hand, while he and Star upnod each other. "This is Dr. Kelvin Mauro, who goes by the name Hypothermia."

"Mr. Seven, please pardon me -- I usually avoid shaking hands with these giant iceberg mitts," says Hypothermia, waving an oversized, jagged-ice hand at the Seventh Son.

"Understood, Dr. Mauro," says Seven. "I read your article in last month's Popular Science, by the way. Right fascinating stuff -- hoping you might be interested in giving a short talk about it at one of the upcoming Council of Thaumaturges meetings?"

"Ahh, sure," says Hypothermia. "Never thought it'd be something you mages would want to hear more about, but I'll see if I can trim it down to a 20-minute talk."

"Great, I'll e-mail you the details," says Seven before turning to Dr. McKenzie and me. "I don't recognize these folks at all."

"Right, this is Calypso," says Cobra. "She's only been on the job for the last three weeks. She helped stop the guy who was trying to channel that Mot character about a week back."

"Ma'am," he says, tipping his hat. "Mot's bad news -- the Council appreciates your help with that."

"No problem," I say, feeling a little overwhelmed. "Nice to meet you."

"And this is, um, Professor Bertram McKenzie," says Cobra. "He teaches English at Goodwin College here in the city. I don't think he's a superhero right now. He was attacked by a mad scientist this afternoon and, well, this happened to him."

"Professor, real sorry to hear about that," says Seven. "Hope you don't mind sitting in on a superhero briefing?"

"Bah, like it makes a difference to me," says Dr. McKenzie. "Nothing any of you say makes a bit of sense to me."

"Fair 'nuff," says Seven. "So here's the deal, and y'all can feel free to spread the news to the other local heroes later. Metro City's gone through several incidents recently -- the rogue Time Patrol assault, the Thrug invasion, and the Emperor Charming incident, in particular -- where y'all were largely cut off from the rest of the world and handling major catastrophic events by yourselves. The Council has decided to assign one of our associate members to Metro City to power up some gate spells if y'all ever need some more outside help, along with, of course, general crimefighting duties."

Cobra shrugs. "Sounds fine to me, Seven. We handled all that stuff fine before, but we don't mind having some more heroes on the job, as long as your guy can pull his own weight. When's he moving in?"

"She, actually," Seven says. "Hang on, I'll teleport her in for a short introduction -- she'll need a few weeks to get moved in here, but we want her to start getting to know y'all."

There's another bright flash of light, and the person who appears in the room is a tall, thin Japanese woman wearing a fancy silver and blue costume with a short, frilled skirt, puffy sleeves, a red bow at her neck, and a silver and blue crown. She has amazingly pink hair worn in long twintails.

"Silver Protector Kumiko!" Phantasmo and I shout together.

"Oh god," she groans.

Seriously, when I was in elementary school and part of junior high, everyone I knew, both boys and girls, watched the Silver Protector Kumiko anime series. I bet I could go find my old Kumiko dolls in the back of my closet somewhere. Having her show up here is like -- I have no idea how to describe how awesome it is. Maybe if President Lincoln just showed up out of nowhere to say hi, or Michael Jackson, or Pikachu.

"Autograph?" Phantasmo and I ask.

"No!" she says.

"Kumiko..." Seven says, rolling his eyes at her.

"Fine, but not now," she says. "I haven't even gotten over getting assigned out here. Give me some time to adjust."

Phantasmo and I simmer down, but it's kinda hard.

Kumiko spins and enthusiastically shakes the Cobra's hand. "Ms. Cobra, it's really a thrill to meet you. I've been following your exploits for years. As for the rest of you," she says, turning toward us and giving a small, half-hearted wave, "Hi, nice to meet you, I'll get to know you all better once I'm moved in, okay?"

"Ah, okay," says Star. "We're glad to have you here. I'm the Star --"

"Really, Seven, can I go back home," Kumiko says. "I've got far too much stuff to pack."

"Yeah, fine, go ahead," says Seven. He says another of those weird, non-rational words, and Kumiko disappears in another flash of light.

"I'm sorry about that," says Seven. "You'll need to be patient with her. She was not very happy with this assignment, and we haven't given her a lot of time to get used to the idea of having to move across the country. Also, guys, she is not a big fan of that cartoon, so try to keep the fan stuff to a minimum, okay?"

"She had better be something other than a reluctant media starlet," says Cobra. "If all she's bringing is a bad attitude and a silly costume, I'm going to send her back to you in pieces."

"She's got the stuff, I promise," says Seven. "She's been a hero -- a successful hero -- since she was 14. And I'll tell her to watch the 'tude, or she'll get reassigned to the Council base in Antarctica."

"Antarctica isn't so bad," says Hypothermia.

"Our Antarctica base is a stealth operation," says Seven. "Anyone assigned there has to be mystically transformed into a penguin."

"Ahh, yeah, that would suck," nods Hypothermia.

"As long as she knows not to diss our heroes," grumps the Cobra.

"She'll be fine once she gets to move into an apartment," says Seven. "You're always too hard on the newbies. Am I right, or am I right, Calypso?" he adds with a wink.

"Mmmmaybe a little," I grin.

"Whatever," says the Cobra. "Are we done here? I'd like to be done here."

"Sure, we're done," says Seven. "I'll keep ya in the loop on Kumiko, okay?"

After the Seventh Son vanishes, Dr. McKenzie says, "Does anyone know a taxi service I could contact? I rather doubt I'll fit on the bus anymore."

"I doubt you'll fit in a taxi either," says the Star. "Maybe we can hire a truck?"

"I'll fly him home," I say.

"I think I'm much too large for you to carry, young lady," he says.

"No way, sir, I'm more than strong enough. It'll be easy."

"Well, I may actually need transport to my workplace to talk to my department head," he says. "And then to my home. And then to somewhere I can get clothes that fit."

"I can take you at least a few places," I say. "But I'll have to go home before too long..."

"Atlas and Miss Mega can help with that, too," says Phantasmo.

"We should call Wheelman," Hypothermia adds. "If anyone can find a car that can handle you, it'll be him."

The Cobra is on her helmet-phone. "Defender, how are your discretionary funds? I've got a charity case you may be interested in."

"I won't take charity!" McKenzie shouts at her. "You can't make me take any charity!"

"Dammit, you can't buy your suits off the rack anymore, old man!" Cobra shouts back. "You are going to need some expensive tailors, and you can't afford them on a professor's salary! And those damn pants won't last much longer! Defender, stop laughing!"

"This would probably be a good time to get going," I say to Dr. McKenzie. "We want to get you to the university in time to talk to your boss, right?"

We take our leave while the Cobra is still arguing with Defender. Dr. McKenzie has gotten a lot heavier -- he might weigh a half-ton, but I can still carry him pretty easy. He's actually a bit too wide for me to get my arms around, so we fly with him hanging on to my hands.

"I've never seen the city from here," he says. "It's quite remarkable."

"You should see it at night, with all the skyscrapers lit up downtown," I tell him. "It takes your breath away."

"Do you suppose I can fly?" he asks. "Or make super-jumps around the city?"

"I don't know. It's probably not something we'll want to test right now."

"True," he says. "I wouldn't relish the idea of landing on someone."

We fly on for a bit in silence, then he says, "I won't ask you to wait for me once we get to the college. The meeting with my department chair may take a while, and I've already been enough bother to you today."

"Sir, I think you definitely need me with you for this. You look nothing like you used to -- I need to be there to help vouch for you to your boss. Besides, I promised to fly you back to your house, too. Either Atlas will fly you around after that, or Defender will hire some tailors to come to your house to take your new measurements."

"Well, I do appreciate it," he says. "You seem to be an uncommonly polite young lady, especially considering the sad state of the rest of your generation."

"Watch it, sir," I say. "I was kicking your ass only an hour ago."

"Hmph," he grumbles. "Well, I've been thinking a little about what you said about being a superhero. Not much, mind you, and I may still prefer to teach classes. I've actually got experience doing that. But I'll have to worry about a costume and a codename. And -- good lord, I haven't even called my family yet! What in the world will my daughters say about this? What if they keep the grandchildren away?"

"Let's worry about one thing at a time, sir. You've got a whole city full of superheroes who'll be glad to help handle some of these crisises."

"Crises," he corrects me, and I consider dropping him.

"Once we land, I'll make some calls," I say. "We'll find some people who can help you out. And maybe your boss and your kids will surprise you. They might want to help just as much as the heroes do."

"Well, we'll see, won't we," McKenzie says. "My next classes will certainly be interesting, won't they? I'll wager the slackjaws in the freshman level course will pay a bit more attention during my lectures now, don't you think?"

He laughs kinda like you'd expect to hear from a delirious moose.

And I start thinking, carrying a college professor turned into a 12-foot-tall eyeless monster by a mad scientist, trying to figure out what his life is going to be like, and still able to laugh at the mental image of what he'll look like in a custom-tailored tweed jacket, trying to lecture students on English literature, while a bunch of superheroes scramble to get him new clothes, while planning on how I'll be talking to a fancy college dean in a few minutes and telling him, yeah, this giant monster really is your cranky professor, and I know 'cause I punched him in the face numerous times and he only really reacted when I made fun of Shakespeare...

Well, I start thinking Metro City won't ever be Detroit, and my classmates may be idiots, and the food may be tacky, but in its own way, it's a pretty cool place to live. It'll be fun getting to help save it every few months...

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