Kora stared at the keychain tchotchkes in her hand. A second ago, they had been a full-blown sword and shield, aglow with runes and shimmering auras. Now, they were tiny versions of their former selves.
“What the hell?” She held the keyring with her index and middle finger, dangling it up like a dead mouse.
“Um…fuck.” Peter scratched his temple. “Atriya wouldn’t have given you a bum piece of gear, would he?”
Eun’s eyes lit up. “They need to recharge.”
“You sure?” Peter asked.
“Not really.” Eun shrugged. “But it makes sense, right? I mean…”
Kora muttered, “If we could only examine them at the aetheroscopic level…”
Eun palmed the center of her forehead. “Duh. Of course.”
“What?” Peter prompted.
She marched to his desk, grabbed some zen zaps, and ate a handful. Her pupils expanded, then shrank back down.
“Okay,” she said. “My perception’s Slideways. There’s a bar above the sword and one above the shield.” She pointed at the air above the sword, then moved her finger a few degrees left, indicating the air above the shield. “They’re mostly black, with just a little bit of green coming in from the left. Like video game life bars.”
“Oh shit.” Peter ate some zaps. “Okay…cool. I see them too.”
Kora sighed, relieved. “So we just wait for them to charge.”
“We don’t know for sure,” Eun cautioned. “We’d have to run a—”
Suddenly, the door to Peter’s room banged open. The teens started in surprise, but it was just the Bite Mobile, now in bicycle form.
“Holy shit,” Peter breathed. “You scared me, buddy.”
The bike trundled in. A segmented kickstand extended from its circuitry-lined gears, and it leaned sideways, propping itself up.
The central holopad lit with Bitefighter’s semblance. He took a knee, scribbling busily on his light-formed whiteboard, then held it up for all to see.
Eun is correct! Recharge for 23 hours! Use wisely!
“Damn,” Kora muttered, “Pain in the ass.”
“Just means we’ll have to be strategic,” Eun said.
Kora and Peter simultaneously said, “I hate being strat—” then locked eyes and burst into laughter. Eun grinned wryly.
“What about you?” Peter asked Bitefighter. “Are you done being a car?”
Bitefighter shook his mohawked head. He scribbled another message onto his whiteboard.
More Vroom requires more Energy! I transform Up when time is right. Otherwise, I stay Bicycle. If you need Transform, click Gearshift into Mushroom. He pointed at the bike’s glowing gearshift. It had seven gears; six had numbers. The seventh had an icon of an amanita muscaria.
Peter nodded. “Gotcha. So you’ll turn into a car if I click it into seventh?”
Bitefighter gave him a double thumbs-up.
“When you were a car, the gears looked exactly the same—six had numbers. The seventh was an amanita mushroom, just like the one you’ve got right now.”
Bitefighter nodded. Yes. Correct.
“So what’ll happen if I shift you into seventh? When you’re in car form, I mean.”
BF smiled extra wide, displaying an impressive row of pointed fangs.
“Not gonna say?”
He shook his head, a gesture that was charming in its childlike obstinacy: Nuh-uh. No way, Jose.
Peter’s expression turned speculative. “I bet it’ll be cool as shit.”
“We need to focus on the matter at hand,” Eun reminded. “Dee’s still out there, remember?”
“Oh. Yeah.” His eyes turned distant. “Senior prom…gotta stop her by senior prom…something with magic, maybe?” He looked tentatively at Kora. “Maybe we could kill her before she—”
His computer lit with a notification. The social media group known as “Atherton’s Chimps” was abuzz with activity. Clusters of messages were popping up, all along the lines of Please welcome our newest addition to Atherton High! But that wasn’t what caught Peter’s eye.
The name of the student was Dee Sonay.
“Holy shit.” His mouth dropped open.
Dee Sonay. Dissona.
He glanced back at Eun and Kora. Their faces mirrored his.
“Guys—I think it’s time we focus on school.”
Eun and Kora didn’t reply. They simply nodded in agreement.