Kora stared at the keychain tchotchkes in her palm.
A second ago, they had been a full-blown sword and shield, complete with runes and shimmering auras. Now, they were tiny representations of their former selves.
“What the hell?” She held the keyring with her index and middle finger, dangling it up before her 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. One hour on, twenty-three hour cool down.”
“You sure about that?” Peter asked.
“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 pronpted. “You think of something?”
Instead of answering, she marched over to his desk and grabbed a baggie of dried zen zaps. She crunched them down and snapped her fingers. Her pupils bounced outward in a quick dilation, 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. Kinda like life bars in a fighter versus fighter video game.”
“Oh shit.” Peter maowed down some zaps. “Okay…cool. I see them too.”
Kora breathed a sigh of relief. “So all we have to do is wait for the bars to charge back up.”
“Well we don’t know for sure,” Eun said. “We’d have to run a—”
Suddenly, the door to Peter’s room banged open. The three 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 came to a halt and shimmied its frame—the vehicular equivalent of a man snapping his lapels. A segmented kickstand extended from its circuitry-lined gear assembly. The bike leaned sideways, propping itself up. Its central holopad lit with Bitefighter’s semblance. The extradimensional creature took a knee, scribbling busily on his light-formed whiteboard. He held it up for all to see.
KORA IS CORRECT. RECHARGE FOR TWENTY-THREE HOURS. USE WEAPONS WISELY.
Kora looked again at her keychain, lying in the center of her upturned palm. “Damn,” she muttered, “what a pain in the ass.”
“Just means we’ll have to be strategic,” Eun said.
Kora and Peter spoke at the same time: “I hate being strat—” Then they locked gazes 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 WILL TRANSFORM UPWARD WHEN TIME IS RIGHT. OTHERWISE, I WILL STAY AS BICYCLE. IF YOU NEED ME TO TRANSFORM, 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 an icon of an amanita muscaria mushroom.
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, you had seven gears, but only six had numbers. 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.”
BF smiled extra wide, displaying an impressive row of pointed fangs.
“Not gonna say?”
He shook his head from side to side, 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 said. “Dee’s still out there, remember?”
“Oh. Yeah.” His eyes turned distant. “Senior prom…we have to do something before senior prom…something with magic, maybe?” He looked tentatively at Kora. “Maybe we could subdue or kill her before she—”
At that moment, his computer lit up with a notification. The social media group known as “Atherton’s Chimps” was abuzz with activity. Apparently, a new student had just arrived. A plethora of messages was 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 student was Dee Sonay.
“Holy shit.” His mouth dropped open.
He turned to Eun and Kora.
“Guys—I think it’s time we concentrate on school.”
Eun and Kora, typically ready to roll their eyes, didn’t say a word.
They simply nodded in agreement.