Kora stared vexedly at the keychain in her palm. A second ago, it had been a full-blown sword and shield, complete with magical lights and shimmering auras—the same weapons that Atriya had given her. Now, however, they were tiny representations of their former selves; still a sword and shield, but reduced to a pair of key-ring tchotchkes.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” She held the key-ring with her index and middle finger, dangling it up like a dead mouse.
“Um…fuck.” Peter wrinkled his brow. “Atriya wouldn’t have given you a bum piece of gear, right? I mean you were waving them around for close to an hour…”
Eun’s eyes lit up. “They need to recharge. One hour on, twenty three hour cool down, and then you’re good for another hour.”
“You sure?” Peter threw her a skeptical glance.
“Not really.” Eun shrugged. “But it makes sense, right? I mean…”
Kora muttered, “If we could examine these artifacts at an aetheroscopic level, then—”
Eun palmed the center of her forehead. “Duh. Of course.”
“What?” Peter asked. “You think of something?”
Instead of answering, she marched over to his desk and grabbed a baggie of dried zen zaps. After stuffing them in her mouth and crunching them down, she snapped her fingers. Her pupils bounced outward in a quick dilation, then shrank back down.
“Okay,” she said. “My perception is Slideways. There’s a bar above the sword and one above the shield…” She pointed at the air a few inches above the sword, then moved her finger a couple degrees left, pointing at the air above the shield. “They’re mostly black, with just a little bit of green coming in from the left-hand edge. Kinda like life bars from a fighter versus fighter video game.”
“No shit.” Peter maowed down some zen zaps. “Okay…cool. I see them too.”
Kora did the same and breathed a sigh of relief. “So all we have to do is wait for the life bars to charge back up.”
“Well we don’t know that for sure,” Eun said. “We’d have to run a—”
Suddenly, the door to Peter’s bedroom banged open. The three teens started in surprise, but there was nothing to worry about—it was just the Bite Mobile, now in bicycle form.
“Holy shit,” Peter breathed. “You scared me, buddy.”
The bike came to a halt in the middle of the room and shimmied its frame—the vehicular equivalent of a man snapping down his lapels. A second later, a segmented kickstand sectioned out from the nub on its circuitry-lined gear assembly, and the bike leaned sideways, propping itself up. Its central holopad lit with the holographic incarnation of Peter’s dead dog and Kora’s deceased velociraptor.
The extradimensional creature took a knee, scribbling busily on his light-formed whiteboard. Once he finished, he held it up for all to see.
KORA IS CORRECT. RECHARGE FOR TWENTY-THREE HOURS, it read. USE WEAPONS WISELY.
Kora looked again at her keychain, lying in the center of her upturned palm. “Damn,” she muttered, “that’s a pain in the ass.”
“Just means we’ll have to be strategic,” Eun said.
Kora and Peter simultaneously blew out a sigh. They both began speaking at the same time: “I hate being strat—” Then they locked gazes and burst into laughter. Eun grinned wryly at them.
Peter turned back to the bicycle. “What about you? Is this your default form? Are you done being a car?”
Bitefighter shook his mohawked head. He scribbled another message onto his whiteboard.
MORE VROOM REQUIRES MORE ENERGY. I WILL TRANSFORM UPWARD WHEN TIME IS RIGHT. OTHERWISE, I WILL STAY AS BICYCLE. IF YOU NEED ME, CLICK THE GEARSHIFT INTO MUSHROOM. He laid down his whiteboard and pointed to his right, at the bicycle’s luminescent shifter-switch. It had seven gears, six of which were numbered. The seventh was marked by an icon of an amanita muscaria mushroom.
Peter nodded. “Gotcha. So you’ll turn into a car if I click it into eighth?”
Bitefighter gave him a double thumbs-up.
“I noticed when you were a car, you had seven gears, but only six were numbered. The seventh was an amanita icon, just like the one you’ve got right now.”
“So what happens if I shift you into seventh? When you’re in car form, I mean.”
Bitefighter’s expression turned mischievous and sly. He smiled extra wide, displaying an impressive row of pointed fangs.
“Not gonna tell me?”
Bitefighter shook his head in an exaggerated motion, a gesture that was charming in its childlike obstinacy: Nuh-uh. No way, Jose.
Peter’s eyes turned speculative. “I bet it’ll be cool as shit.”
“Peter, we need to focus on the matter at hand,” Eun said. “Dee’s still out there, remember?”
“Oh. Yeah.” His eyes turned distant, ticking back and forth and staring at nothing in particular. “Senior prom…we have to do something before senior prom…something with magic, maybe?” He looked tentatively at Kora, then at Eun. “Maybe we could subdue or kill her before she—”
At that moment, Peter’s computer lit up with a just-posted notification. The social media group known as “Atherton’s Chimps,” (the not-so-subtle name for Atherton’s informal online network of students) was abuzz with activity. Apparently, a new student had just arrived.
“What the fuck?” Peter clicked the notification; now there were dozens of them, all from Blake and his meathead buddies. A plethora of generic messages were popping up, all along the lines of Please welcome our newest student to Atherton High! But that wasn’t what caught Peter’s eye; it was the name.
The name of the newest student was Dee Sonay.
“Holy shit.” Peter’s mouth dropped open. Dee Sonay. Dissona.
He turned to Eun and Kora.
“Guys—I think it’s time to focus on school.”
Eun and Kora, who were typically ready to roll their eyes or tell Peter to shut the fuck up, didn’t say a word.
They simply nodded in agreement.