Charge, The


By Chip Masterson

I hate that dork Scott but I had to help him pass Math 2 so he could stay on the football team, which was important I guess. Still, he kept the other jocks from picking on me so it wasn't so bad. He was just so goddam handsome and well-built that it, well, it made me angry. I don't know why. When he smiles and his face fills with that confidence, it makes me want to hit him.

So it caught me off-guard when he asked me the other day to do him a favor. His usual cockiness seemed a little off. I gotta babysit this big baby on Friday but I've been doing it for weeks and I gotta get out. If you'd take care of it for me it'd be a great help. I'll set you up with any cheerleader you want."

"Well, okay," I said, wondering which cheerleader I'd pick. I really didn't want to, babysit I mean, but what the hell. It was almost time to graduate. It was time I got laid. I guess.

But what was that other look in his eye, the one besides relief? If only I'd asked him about it.

I still had my senior thesis in physics to finish so I could graduate with honors and I thought I'd do it at the Hendersons if I could get Donny or Danny or whatever to shut up and watch TV. Of course he had to nose around.

"Whatcha working on, braniac?" the 12-year old asked me. At least they said he was 12, but he looked taller, and somehow more filled out.

"Unified field theories, if that means anything to you." I felt very superior. I had after all read all of Hawking and had a pretty good grasp of superstring theory.

"Yeah, well you screwed up right there." And then he spewed out a string of equations so fast I couldn't keep up. He had to be parroting or even making it up but from what I could catch, it almost made sense.

"You've been watching way too much PBS, little boy." He then fixed me with those gray eyes and I felt something shift inside.

"Gee, Mr. Pukehead, you must be really smart. You go down to the college to show off your awesome braininess?"

"As a matter of fact I've already gotten Advanced Placement credit for my full freshman year's science courses. I have access to the physics lab there."

"I'm bored. Show me the lab. Please?"

Well, there was an experiment I'd been meaning to run. I may as well do it tonight as anytime. All right, kid, saddle up."

The brat was so giddy all the way over he kept bouncing up and down in his seats so hard I thought the shocks would break. We got up to the doorway when I remembered I'd forgotten my cardkey. Dammit. Sorry, I didn't say that. But we can't get in."

"Oh yes we can." Danny reached up to the panel where he card key went and his fingers gripped the upper corner. Before I could say anything, his fingers tightened like a claw. The muscles of his forearm ran like cables down to his T-shirt sleeve, which was pushed back by his swelling biceps. I guess I forgot to say stop," so entranced was I by the sight of all that muscle on this boy. The sleeve to his undershirt actually filled with his muscle and as I looked up, the steel plate--well, there was a slight bend in it. The kid was bending the steel plate back! I heard a slight grinding sound, which I realized was the screws being pulled out of the brick: the brick screw channels were breaking away! Soon the steel plate was bent even farther back and his other hand was braced against the wall. That sleeve too was stretched tight as triceps any 16-year-old would be proud of stuck out from the side of his arm in striated ridges of tensed rock. That seam split as his biceps bulged, ripped right up to the arm-pit, and he grunted once. A screech was forced out of the steel as it bent back past the point of no return. His fingers worked their way down the side and continued to peel the steel back, dragging screws out of brick and rolling the metal over itself like a wrapper. Then, he stood up and breathed. His chest now filled the shirt that stretched against his swollen back muscles and around his shoulders before falling uselessly down to his waist. My eyes were glued to the ripped sleeve as the other hand reached inside deftly pulled wires apart and spliced them back together. The door slid open. Voila," he said. And walked in like he owned the place.

I'd never seen such a display of raw power, and from a kid! I followed him in as he swaggered down the hallway. What machine shall I break first?"

"L-listen," I said, maybe we'd better leave."

He turned around and said Oh, we're not leaving. Not until I say so." I walked back to the door and reached up to grab the security phone. In one swift move he was there and ripped the phone out of the wall. Then, pressing his hand against the door, he began to drag it shut.

I punched in the override code and then the open code on the doorpad and the door slid back into its slot. But then I heard a another ripping sound. I looked down to see his back pressed into relief against his t-shirt, and a split starting to open between his shoulder blades. I heard a whine and saw he had both hands against the door and was pushing it closed. I entered the open code again and the door locked and tried -- tried! -- to open. I could hear the hydraulic valves filling and pumping, but I saw a smile on his face as one hand reach around the end of the door and pinched it. The hydraulic groaning built and creaked as Danny hands worked the impossible. His other sleeve shredded and his fingers were actually pinching the metal of the door, compressing the steel! The door strained against his pull and opened a little more. He started thrusting his left arm into the door while his right hand squeezed and pulled against the mounting groan. With each thrust a small crease formed in the door that grew deeper and deeper as his pushes got harder and harder. With a final sickening screech the steel security door shuddered and stuck, bent into a V in its frame.

"Stop it!" I cried, and put my hands on his shoulders to pull him away but he was like iron, like some bronze statue come to life. The terrible groaning built until something exploded, cracking the brick wall in a zig-zag down the morter. But the door was useless: it was too closed to squeeze through and too horribly creased where his left arm had plowed into it. He turned to me, bathed in sweat and glowing with strength and life.

"It's you I'll stop next." He giggled, a high child's giggle that sent me running down the hallway to the elevator. I pushed the button as he started walking toward me and the freight elevator opened first. I got in and punched the top floor. The doors closed and up I went.

I picked up the security phone but found it was dead; he must have done something when he hotwired the door. Below I heard the grinding of the inner doors being forced open. Then a jolt. He must be grabbing the cable. But the elevator has a load of 6000 lbs.! We continued to rise but I heard a soft sighing. I punched the top button again, and again, but the sighing rose into a creak as Danny put his back into it. I had to see this. I popped the top and climbed onto the roof of the car and looked below.

Three floors below Danny had wrapped the cable around one hand and with the other was pulling! His feet weren't lodged under anything. His lats spread out like stealth bomber wings and he contracted his biceps into hard round peaks. The massive lift system began to labor against the counter-pressure, the weight that grew heavier and heavier with every foot the car rose. A loud crackling filled the shaft as winches and pulleys overloaded with the stress. Still the car tried to rise up but his forearms and biceps exploded with power. His body was now twice the width it had been and he was shaking and screaming a low, gutteral howl that rose to match the crying machinery. His face radiated with the hunt and roared over popping sound as bolts started to blow. I could feel the car trembling, still struggling to rise, but my stomach fell as the car sank! He drew breath into those pecs and hauled the cable in and the shaking car rattled on its track but sank down. Again he breathed, again those flared and again the striving car gave way. Foot by foot Danny struggled and strained and worked. I heard a screech of metal as some steel girder bent beneath the load Danny's arms were placing on the twisting cable. I was back to the second floor and got into the doorway, my thin desperate arms straining at the inner doors. Somehow, using my whole body I got them open and was through when the strain became too much. A final rending scream sent the entire carriage down into the shaft. A boom sounded as it landed, but not on the bottom: Danny had jumped into the shaft, down to the basement, and caught it.

Shaking with relief that I wasn't on top of it, or god forbid in it, I heard his unbroken voice shout: Here's what you get for fucking with me!" With a snarl he shoved the car back up. I watched the carriage hurtle past me, the counterweights flying behind it and snarled cables rushing behind it as it flew up, up, up to the 12th story and hit roof with such force it lodged there. Now, where's my braniac?" I ran.

The building was a maze and I knew I could hide out but I looked behind me and he was in the 2nd floor doorway, his chest heaving with pride. His t-shirt was now a series of rags hanging from the collar that stretched around his impossible neck, swaying over a muscled body I'd never seen the like of. Faster than a flash he was on me, tackling me and knocking the breath out of my body.

"These computers think they're so smart. I'll show them someday. But now my bloods up. Where's the cyclotron?"

As soon as I caught my breath, I told him it was in the basement. Let's go then." With that that he picked me up and carried me across his shoulders back to the elevator shaft. I could feel the surging strength ripple across his shoulders as he held me in his iron grip, and then he leapt into the darkness. When we landed, his thick corduroys ripped along the seams as his thighs took the shock. Still holding me with one iron hand, he opened the doors with the other and pulled us both up. With one hand. I directed him to the giant machine as the steel of his muscles digging into my soft bony flesh.

I explained the cyclotron could simulate up to 6 G forces. After what I'd just witnessed I thought I knew what he was going to try to do: stop it, or keep it from moving.

"6 is all, huh? Let's see what I can do." With that he went down into the room. The end of the blade was so high he could barely reach it with his palm. He jumped up and slapped it. A hollow bong echoed through the chamber. Again he jumped up but this time hit it with both hands. A louder peal issued but nothing happened. He walked over to the hub.

Climbing up on the mechanism he placed his hands against the blade and pushed. Rippling muscles shown through the rags as his back spread wider and thicker with the strain. Slowly the mammoth machinery started to move. Slowly the immense blade turned one revolution, then another. It started going faster, and faster, until the needle on the control board started to waver. And rise. By now he was riding on the blade and kicking with his feet, and the blade spun faster. The needle rose up to 1 G. Then he climbed down.

The blade spun above his head but started to slow. He walked out to the end carriage rode, and jumped up again. He hit it. It spun back up to 1 G. It came around again and he jumped and hit it. Each time it came he jumped, and pounded his fist against the steel. The rhythmic booms echoed in the chamber and the needle rose to 2 G forces. By now it was spinning so fast his leaping was a blur. If it hit him coming around it would certainly kill him. But he kept a perfect rhythm, his quads now bursting his cords around his legs as he rose again and again to pound the machine faster and faster. 3 Gs. The whoosh it made grew louder and even through the gathering speed I could see the funnel forming where his hand hit the hardened steel. Boom. Boom. Boom. 4 Gs. 5 Gs.

The entire spectacle was a blur but he continued with a lightning speed. It was now going too fast for him to sink and rise again so he did double duty: On his way up he struck it and kept going. It came around again as he fell, and he hit it again. It spun once above his head and he was off again. It was now whirling at 6 Gs, its maximum capacity. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.

The needle of the gauge was now pressed against the far side, quivering. Boom. He was making it go faster. And faster. Faster than it was designed to go. Boom. Boom. Boom. BOOM. Now a slight wobble seemed to affect the blade. It must be up to 7 Gs. Maybe even 8. And still it went faster. I saw a hairline crack in the reinforced concrete around the hub, and an all-too familiar sound of steel beginning to warp under monstrous pressure. By now the carriage at the end of the blade was battered in, and he was working his way down the blade. Boom. Boom. Boom-boom. Boom-boom. The thick formerly straight steel warped into deepening crazy angles. Axles lost their lubrication and gears started to grind as the force grew and grew. The cracks around the hub spread and the inch-thick rebar beneath began to buckle. And bend. Boom. Boom.

9 or 10 Gs of force were turning this mighty instrument into his toy. With a final BOOM! Danny hurled himself up toward the control room where I was and burst through the glass. Just then the concrete shattered and the entire mechanism flew into pieces of twisted steel flew into the reinforced walls of the chamber. On and on it went, twisting around and raining shrapnel that battered the walls into broken chunks and dust.

Danny was slightly bloody with some cuts, but radiant. I bet I got it up to 11!" he said as the tortured metal raged into pieces below us. Sirens sounded and I new the police would be coming soon.

"We've got to get out of here," I said.

"There are tunnels, right? There are always tunnels."

"What about my Hyundai?"

He just patted his shoulder. Hop on. I'll get you home faster than that bucket of bolts. You can tell them some guy stole your car to come here, that he was a huge monster who overpowered you. He'd have to be bigger than you, right?"

So I climbed on his shoulders and directed him through the maze. •

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