Charge, The

Always Fights with the Boys


By Chip Masterson

Detective Salas and Officer Cole had brought over a load of lumber to repair the Henderson's home after Danny's last tantrum. And when I say "brought over," I mean in a big flatbed truck. Of course, unloading it took no time at all.

To their surprise Danny wasn't merely an explosive-strength prodigy; he was a martial arts master in a variety of forms and could chop wood with his hand as cleanly as any saw blade. He went to work measuring and sizing the two- and four-by-fours to replace the remnants of the peach tree with which the house had been hastily held up. He didn't need a tape measure either: his eye was right on to a sixteenth of an inch.

In the vividly plaid living room the sofa creaked beneath Cole while Salas leaned against a wall. The Hendersons sat in matching wing chairs upholstered in green and brown. Salas cleared his throat while sounds of Danny creating precise supports with quick blows came in through the window.

"We need to understand more about Danny's development."

Mr. Henderson sat up straight. "Well, as I think Scott has filled you in already, he was walking at six months and talking in complete sentences inside a year. By the time he was two he was reading and performing simple arithmetic, and was starting to play the piano, as much as his little fingers could reach. By the time he was five he could play any sonata by Beethoven or Mozart at sight. His hands were small for the large chords but he could move them so fast the notes sounded almost simultaneously.

"He could also perform a full army training regimen of calisthenics by the time he was four, and could do pushups or pullups, even one-armed, until he got bored with it." His eyes seem to possess pride mixed with the faintest bit of, what? Emasculated envy?

"Once when I was going to market and had left him with a babysitter, he wanted to go along. I told him to remain at home. He hadn't entered kindergarten yet, we were a little afraid to enroll him; he was almost six. Well, he came running out of the house as I pulled my Buick out of the driveway. I was looking behind me, at the street of course, when all of a sudden the car stopped. I revved the motor and the car wouldn't move, so I turned it off and got out to see if there was something under the tires. My word, it was Danny, holding onto the front bumper with a stern look on his face that froze my blood. `I want to go,' he said."

"What did you do?" asked Salas.

"Well, I... I know it was wrong but I let him come along. I was afraid, afraid of my own baby boy." Her eyes misted and she dabbed at them with a man's handkerchief. Mr. Henderson spoke next.

"Then there was the incident up at Fawnskin. I -- we don't talk about that but an account was written down by our nephew Lloyd, who was present for the -- the events. You can read it if you like." Mr. H. nervously pushed a yellowed envelope toward Salas, who nodded but didn't take it.

"That's when he was six," Mrs. H. continued. "For about a year after that he was the best, quietest boy around and never used his strength for anything more than opening jars of mayonnaise. But just before his eighth birthday his uncle Picker, my brother, took him to one of those tractor pulls and he caused a bit of a stir there."

"Picker's friend Carey was running his Deere, called it Big Bicep. The distance to beat that day was 690-odd feet and Carey had a bad piston so his big red and yellow tractor crapped out at about 400. Danny had gotten all whooped up and when Carey's engine blew blasts of black smoke and stopped cold on the track, Danny got a sort of panicked look on his face. Picker says he asked what happened next, and when he heard Carey had lost, he took off down the stands and jumped onto the field.

"Picker had stopped the motor and they were fixing to unhook the load, about five tons I believe, when Danny ran up and grabbed the tractor's front axles where they stuck out. He pulled backward and tugged the whole thing, tractor and all, out of its rut. The crowd gasped and he heaved again. His t-shirt started to rip out down the seams where his back swelled up. He pulled again and got the whole thing moving and all you could hear in the whole stadium was his breathing and his shirt and pants tearing apart. He kept pulling backward and started to get some speed so he was soon trotting, his feet sinking deep into the broken earth and the tractor's huge rear wheels bouncing up as the load slid down the track. The crowd broke out in roars and he pulled past the 690 mark and kept going. Pulled it all the way to the end of the damn course and was going so fast the crowd had to clear out of the stands there. Practically a stampede. But Danny dug his feet in and the soil trenched beneath `em and he then stopped all that weight just inches from the Valvoline ad, spraying all those people with dirt. `Course they assumed it was a stunt. Everyone forgot the tractor wasn't even running."

"So there was no notoriety from it?" Cole's eyes flashed intensely.

"No, none," Mr. H. said. "I realized I had to find out of the way diversions so we went out to those abandoned factories and started working out with the scrap metal and some hydraulic lifts at an old auto shop that I was able to get working again. By the time Danny was ten he could stop the lifts before they extended all the way and pull them down until the engines burned out and the pistons burst apart. And yet he only weighed about a 115 lbs. His biceps then pumped up from about 10 inches to above 14 inches around. His chest was about a 38."

"Still big measurements for a ten year old," Salas said, ruminating, "and almost unheard of to have those measurements at that body weight. The strength is so disproportionate."

"What intrigues me," said Cole, sipping his lemonade, "is how Danny seems to get stronger with the challenge. The power he pitted against me was mind- boggling. I'm a big guy. Danny trussed me up like a thanksgiving turkey." He laughed, still more amazed than embarrassed.

"Well, he's always been a quick learner," his mother said. "Could it have to do with that?"

"I think he means Danny is like that Hulk Hogan on TV," added his father.

"You mean the Incredible Hulk," I said, feeling uncomfortable correcting them.

Salas shook his head. "This is different. The Incredible Hulk was a comic book character who, when angry, grew in size and strength and kept getting stronger. However, when the fit passed, he returned to his smaller, weaker size. Danny gets incremental bigger each time, as if the pump his muscles get just stays as the basis for further growth; but he gets geometrically stronger, and that strength subsides a little with the loss of adrenaline but for the most part stays with him. Frankly, I've never seen anything like it."

"I think Mrs. Henderson is right," said Cole. "Just as his mind assimilates knowledge and at the same time forges the neurological connections, his body learns strength as his body is stimulated to exert it. A teenager's mind isn't fully formed yet, and the emotional parts develop faster than the judgment parts. What we're seeing in Danny is this off-balance development, but to a magnified degree: and the hormones, including testosterone, which are starting to move through his body are fueling the fire."

His parents looked crushed. "So he's a freak," said his father.

"No, he's not," said Salas. "It's a gift, a genetic blessing of factors he needs to learn to discipline and develop. We have no idea what's in store. The way he's developing, he could fully mature in a couple of years. But if his mind and hormone's take the next eight to then years as with any other kid..."

"And he just keeps getting smarter and stronger..." added Cole.

I gulped. "Then by the time he's a man he'll be the nearest thing to a god we've ever seen."

"At least in the last few thousand years," said Cole.

The discussion went on about the original sources of gods and heroes in ancient times, and how they were probably guys like Cole and Salas and Danny. I kind of lost the thread for awhile until I noticed the chopping had stopped and Danny was in the doorway, covered with sawdust and sweat.

"Yap yap yap," he said. "Don't you guys ever get tired of it? It's not nothing you know, even, just stuff you speculate about. Borrrrrringgggggg."

"Here, let me show you what I meant about Jesus' miracles," Cole said. He handed Danny his half-full glass of lemonade. "Danny, heat this up."

"Gross. Microwave's in there, lazy," he said, pointing back over his shoulder with his thumb. A rich network of veins worked across the dense fibers of his forearms as he did so; his biceps pressed out on both sides to accommodate the movement.

"No, Danny," said Cole, standing up and nearly hitting the ceiling with his head. "I want you to do it. Concentrate."

Danny's face lit up excitedly: he'd never thought of that before. Even when he brought the tree back to life. Eagerly he gripped the glass and we crowded around to watch. The ice cubes tinkled around...and got smaller. We watched the water swirl into the lemonade. It changed color slightly. I glanced at Danny's face and his eyes focused intently on the glass. His mother gasped and his father blinked. I looked back and saw bubbles forming on the bottom and sides. Soon the bubbles started to rise, and the acrid smell of boiling lemonade followed the steam that rose from the surface. "My lord," his mother exclaimed, sitting back in her seat and fanning herself. She was flushed from the heat coming out of the glass. I looked back and saw most of the liquid had boiled away, leaving a hard browning film--and the rim of the glass beginning to soften and melt.

"That's enough, Danny," said Salas.

Fervently, Danny said, "I wanna melt it." An edge of the lip collapsed inward and the blackening glass cracked across the bottom as the top continued to wilt.

"Danny," said Salas. "When I say stop, it means stop." Danny looked up through the bitter smoke. Salas added. "It's not because I can beat you, because you know I can't. It's because I'm in charge. And you promised. Because it's important for you to learn from me."

Danny's jaw set in mild disappointment and he lowered his hand. "Put that in the sink," said Cole. He pulled a thread of glass off his skin like it was dried wax as he went into the kitchen. "Notice it didn't even turn his hand red," said Cole, quietly. "That's how gods are created. It's what we've got to work very hard against."

"I was doing a little research on-line," Mrs. H. quivered. Eyes opened. "I read where teenagers' brains don't all develop at the same time, that they part that controls emotions and makes rational judgments is the last part to fully mature. The brain itself has not created the pathways and such to allow judgment to be learned. We assumed that since Danny's growth has been so, well, phenomenal, that everything would come together at once for him."

Salas nodded. "It looks as if in some ways he's maturing at no greater rate than any other boy his age."

"It'll make our task more difficult," added Cole. "If he's got the strength of a Sherman tank but no control over his rage or enthusiasm, or the ability to reason for himself different means of achieving an end, then standard authoritative signals aren't going to mean much to him."

CRAAACK! The sharp sound got everyone's attention. "Whoops!" Danny called out from the kitchen. He came in carrying a 5-gallon Sparklett's water bottle he'd compressed end to end until the thick plastic split around the middle, where the blue became opaque white.

"That's coming out of your allowance, Danny," said Mr. H. sternly. Danny's grin subsided and everybody tensed up a little.

"Oh, awright," said Danny as he shuffled off to the trash. Mrs. H. fanned herself and glanced beseechingly at Cole and Salas.

"Please start immediately," she said. "I can't take the stress." Mr. H. put a hand on her shoulder as Cole, Salas and I went out back to finish up the restoration.

Danny had an evil glint in his eye. The three of them went to work and I tried to figure out what I could do when Danny, in a kind of confidential tone, turned to Cole and said, "He got a hardon watching me in action. More than once." He lifted a huge stack of boards and placed them on his brawny thirteen-year-old shoulder; flexing his bicep, he made the stack rise up, balancing it with his hands while his mouth hung open a little. Right at me.

"I did not!" I screamed. My face felt hot and my vision tilted about ten degrees and literally went kind of red. "You're a fucking little liar, you brat!" My fists clenched and trembled. Danny dropped the boards and walked toward me, really slowly. One hand rubbed his crotch while the other formed into a fist.

"What'd you call me? A liar? I'm gonna make a liar out of you." And putting his hands behind his head he started bouncing his biceps and wiggling his hips.

Salas called out warningly, "Danny. Leave him alone."

Danny winked and went over to the men. "Just let him stand there and watch us. He'll be tenting in no time."

My head felt like it would burst. It was such a lie! It was just that once, and never since. My face scrunched up like I was gonna cry so I yelled out "You're a liar, you little bastard!" and ran around the side of the house. I could hear Danny laughing at me as I got in my car and tore off.

Officer Cole visited me a little later. My father wanted to whup me for being in trouble with the law but Cole assured him it was about someone else and that I was being extremely useful to them. "Aw, a snitch, is that it?" he sneered as he shuffled off down the hall.

Cole explained that a hard-on at my age didn't mean a thing no matter what caused it. Also that it was a normal sort of occurrence when faced with the sort of power these guys wielded. And a bunch of other stuff to reassure me in my manhood... and keep me playing on the team. He ended by saying they wouldn't let Danny pick on me anymore, and Danny understood that. Sure. Maybe he won't say nothing, but from the look he'll get in his eyes I'll know exactly what he's thinking. And there's no power on earth that can stop that.


There aren't many jocks at a science school but what jocks there are have brains and brawn, and the ego to go along with it. That ego was threatened when someone as young as Danny, a thirteen-year-old, outperformed and out-thought them in every class. Sometimes ego can't distinguish between the need for humility and a sense of humiliation. These guys felt humiliated by the little over- sized sweatshirt-wearing kid. Four of them decided to put Danny in his place one day. Show him the pecking order.

Josh, Joe, Keshawn and Larry surrounded him one Sunday when nobody was around. Danny showed up secretly to tutor one of the tenured professors in advanced string mechanics. The old guy, married, grown kids and everything, seemed a little in love with Danny. Maybe he was just dazzled by Danny's mind and confidence, but I caught him feeling Danny's arm through his sweatshirt once. Danny usually didn't let anyone at school touch him. I think he was teasing the prof. But nothing ever came of it.

Danny was leaving when they ambushed him. One of them actually knocked Danny's books out of his hands, like they were in junior high. Danny only carried them for show, a sort of camouflage. Danny let them fall and blinked at them, wide-eyed.

"Listen, little Braniac, we're sick of the way you're always showing off and embarrassing the profs," said Larry, the biggest guy. Kind of ugly, he was 240 pounds and benched twice his weight. Got his undergrad at Oxford in something. Emotionally he was Danny's junior. Well, he was that in other ways as well.

"I'm sorry," said Danny. His little face puckered up.

"Look at the baby cry," said Josh. He was on a full academic scholarship because of a paper he wrote about something, and he could hurl a football from endzone to endzone with dead-on accuracy. If he wasn't so smart he'd be playing pro ball.

"Boo hoo hoo," said Keshawn, who then pushed him. Danny stumbled backward and fell on his ass, and started to cry. Keshawn was practically a human computer squatted 800 pounds. He could calculate all sorts of equations in his head, but Danny made him look like an abacus with one of the little thingies missing.

Joe was the mean one. He started pushing Danny's head. I hung back a bit; I was Danny's transportation for these things. For everything, lately. I knew Joe had made a mistake, and Joe didn't often make mistakes, on the court or in the classroom. He had the biggest axe to grind because he was the one of the shining stars of the campus--until Danny showed up.

He kept pushing the back of Danny's head. Danny let it flop around and then suddenly went rigid; Joe tried to push and jammed his little finger.

"Shit!" he cried, and instantly kicked at Danny's little body. Danny simply caught the foot and pulled it to his side. Joe instantly fell on his ass. Danny let go and hopped up onto his feet faster than they could blink. "You're gonna pay for that!" Joe frothed.

Immediately Larry reached down and caught Danny under the arms. He lugged Danny into the air, grunting: Danny was about fifty pounds heavier than he looked. But Larry was a strong man: and putting his back into it, he spun Danny around a couple of times and let him fly like a hammer at a nearby wall. Danny hit the wall--with his feet. There was slight tinkling sound as bricks shifted from their previously mortared positions and Danny somersaulted backwards and landed on his fucking hands--and balanced there. He did two quick hand-stand pushups, then launched himself into a back flip. He landed flat on his feet with no stumble, a feat any gymnast would be proud of. That's what made them think he was a gymnast: and only that. That's why they continued their attack.

Josh walked over and leaned over him, trying to intimidate Danny with his height. "You stupid little monkey. You think you can flip your way out of all this muscle? This muscle's gonna put you in some serious hurt." He flexed his arm, which he claimed was 19 inches but was probably 17.5, with a wicked peak. The muscle pushed his long, loose sleeve back up toward the shoulder and trapped it there. A thick vein crept up from his big lobed tricep and branched out like fingers across the peak. He looked at it with pride, then snorted at Danny in contempt, nodding his head as if to say "That's right, take it ALL in."

Danny stared right back up at him, eyes bright, and then grabbed his shirt with one hand, whipped him up off the ground, spun him around once and hocked Josh against a wall ... on the other side of the quad. A hundred feet away the wall took Josh's breath (and there was no tinkling sound this time) and he slid to the ground, eyes wide, gasping. This just made Joe angrier.

"You little freak. I'm going to kill you!" Keshawn and Larry looked worried and tried to grab Joe's arms but he shook them off and ran toward's Danny to punch him. Danny deftly dodged his blows, though Joe had been a welterweight champ. Danny moved so fast he simply seemed to reappear. Finally he got bored, yawned and grabbed Joe's furiously jabbing right. In a flash he threw Joe over his head and onto his back. And quickly jumped on top of him.

Danny's knees clamped against Joe's ribs and kept Joe from inhaling. Joe's arms thrashed but Danny grabbed them and effortlessly held them to the ground. This brought his face inches from Joe's, which tried to head-butt him. Danny's neck held and it only hurt Joe, who tried to cry out but Danny's knees squeezed that athlete's chest tighter. Joe's arms struggled but couldn't rise, and the more he bucked with his hips the tighter Danny squeezed. Joe's eyes popped wide open as he heard himself cry out in pain.

Larry and Keshawn saw Joe's face redden, veins bulging in his neck, as Josh stumbled over to join them. Joe's struggles weakened and Danny started squeezing his wrists, making his fingers writhe and his eyes water. And like a python constricted him farther. Spit began to fly out of Joe's gaping, purple mouth. His three friends grabbed at Danny and tugged and nothing happened. Each dug his feet in and pulled, yanked, strained, and the only thing that moved was Danny's sweatshirt beneath their fingers. They looked at each other in disbelief at what they were feeling, his iron-hard musculature hidden beneath the thick cotton: arms that bulged in all directions, shoulders and traps that spread like marble down to thick pecs and knobby rhomboids. There was nothing they could do to help Joe, whose eyes rolled up into his head.

"Who's gonna kill who NOW, you turd?" Danny whispered into Joe's ear. Joe was panting like a wounded animal. Finally I screamed, "Stop, Danny, don't kill him! He's not worth it!"

This was the first time the jocks even knew I was there. They all turned to stare and Danny slowly turned his head at me with disgust. Like a dog shaking dry after a swim, Danny threw the three off him and they stumbled backward, going down on their asses. He gave one last pinch with his knees that made cartilage pop and then climbed off Joe, who immediately turned on his side, sucking the wind and drooling into the dirt. Danny stood over him, put one foot on the jock's side and flexed beneath the sweatshirt. Mounds of muscle filled the loose cotton, a bare hint of power it contained.

It might have all ended there but for the seriously wounded pride of the jocks. His face bunched in impotent rage, Larry picked up a good sized decorative stone and hurled it at Danny's head. Danny heard the whistling in the air and turned swiftly. The stone hit his right bicep and bounced off--in three directions at once.

Danny grinned. My stomach curdled. This was a challenge Danny would not throw down. There was a picnic table nearby, planks mounted on steel pipe bolted to the concrete. Danny reached down and pulled. The thick pipe groaned, crushed inward beneath his boy-fingers, and the bolts burst loose of the concrete. He slung it at them overhand, past them, over their heads. And started walking toward them.

To my immediate, though brief, relief, Salas and Cole appeared on the scene. They had stopped by Danny's house to pick him up for their regular Sunday exercise session at the trainyards, where Danny was being schooled in discipline. Instead of bursting his power in all directions, they had him bending rails into elaborate, tight curls, curves and the shapes of cartoon characters; dismantling and reassembling old locomotives without tools or bending or breaking pieces; matching the slow-building resistance of an engine without overwhelming it. When he lost his patience and beat the front of the big engine in, they made him restore it, including the paint. Patience and endurance. But I digress.

Both big law enforcers came bounding into the frame from behind Danny, seeing the trouble. I said a silent prayer that died in my throat. Det. Salas and Officer Cole each grabbed an arm but forgot to secure their balance. Instinctively at their touch Danny clapped his hands together, crashing their heads against each other in a sickening crack. Their denser bone structure protected them where ordinary men would have died; but they awoke, much much later, with mild concussions, a first for each of them. Courtesy of Danny Henderson.

They had tried to control him but when faced with taunts and prideful boasts, something feral awakens in Danny. Like a lion, he smells blood, and stalks it. His eyes gleam and a little smile plays on his lips. He knows he can outsmart them, anticipate every move. His breath becomes shallow, his heart skips, his body tingles. Like a big cat with trapped prey, he toys them: sometimes revealing that he's one step ahead, throwing them into panic that saps their reserves; sometimes he lets them get the upper hand so that he can stand up to their most powerful attack and laugh. He drank in the smell of their adrenaline, as the bigger, allegedly stronger opponent(s) pumped up against him, only to meet his solid rock. It isn't just the thrill of the hunt: it's the dawning look of dismay, the growing desperation, the mistakes and finally the all-out assault that cannot possibly win against his sheer muscle force. These things feed him and leave him hungry for more.

When the jocks saw Danny manhandle these two huge men into unconsciousness and not break a sweat, they panicked. A dark stain appeared in the front of Josh's jeans (he'd felt a fraction of the power in Danny's arm, after all). Danny picked Joe up by the scruff of the neck and tossed him over to his friends, bowling them all over. Keshawn helped Joe stagger to his feet and they took off toward the parking lot. Danny laughed and looked at my slack-jawed face.

"You think I pick on you? Let me show you what it means to be picked on by me." And he walked after them, knowing their fumbling would give him ample time to draw things out.

When we got to the lot, they were just piling into a BMW 850Ci; I can imagine how many times Larry dropped the keys. Danny disappeared so I just took a position near a low wall to watch the unfolding spectacle. I prayed it would end with some harmless horse-play; my memory of the night of the three GTOs burned in my brain. The car backed out of its spot and Larry paused to change gears. Always a mistake.

Larry gunned the engine and the wheels emitted squealing white smoke and a spray of pebbles. The cloud almost obscured a thirteen-year-old boy who with one hand pulled back against the car's thrust, holding the struggling machine in place. Twelve cylinders strained to perform their accustomed zero to sixty in 6.3 seconds: except that it was now 20 seconds and they were still at zero, a long way from the top speed of 250 mph. The guys inside looked around while Larry started to pump the gas pedal. The car tried to jerk free and the bumper cracked away from the car. It gained that inch. Danny's other hand came down on the trunk, crumpling the metal under his fingers and restraining it again. The car began to buck wildly, scrambling to feel its power eat the road beneath it. Instead it ate into the road and the white smoke began turning dark and burnt. Danny let go.

The car fishtailed uncontrollably down the parking lot. Larry tried to brake but the car spun; he turned the wrong way and the car flipped, sparking until it crashed into an Eddie Bauer Explorer. The alarm went off and Danny was there, wrenching the hood open and disarming it like a pro. Then he walked over to the capsized Beemer, kicked it out into the parking lot and hopped on top of it.

The guys inside untangled themselves and SLAM! Danny jumped and drove his legs into the belly of the car. The windshields crackled and creased outward and the windows shattered. The guys covered their eyes as small scratches bled all over their faces. SLAM! Danny hopped and drove his legs down again, his thighs and calves piledriving the car flatter. Steel rumpled and flared, the rear windshield popped out while the front one merely bent in two. SLAM! And the roof met the tops of the doors. The front windshield was wedged in place on one side but squeezed out on the other. They guys were yelling and beating against the doors. The doors didn't care about their weight-lifting, adrenaline-fueled fists. Danny's legs had permanently warped them into place. He walked to the front of the car and it rocked down under his weight. He stepped off and it rocked back some.

The guys went silent; they couldn't see a thing and they were all crammed together. The seats had broken backward and they were largely immobilized within the crushed car. Danny knelt down and with one arm teetered the front end of the car up into the air. Through the tiny slit between the roof and hood Larry and Josh could see Danny squatting there, holding the engine compartment above his head, staring at them with amusement. The car lifted more, the trunk scraping against the pavement, as Danny stood. He walked the car up until he held it at a 45 degree angle.

"What you gonna do, you freak?" Josh cried. He was in tears and his sweat mixed with the smell of his piss. Danny reached down and pulled off his Nike and sock. With his toes he grabbed hold of the roof. With that one hand he pushed the car up and pulled down with his leg, wrenching the tortured roof back. The windshield fell out as the gap widened. The steel whined as it opened to him. "Get out," he growled.

"What about Joe and Keshawn? They're trapped back there, man!" Larry was terrified, torn between needing to run and trying to believe he wanted to help his friends. "OUT!" Danny commanded, igniting their involuntary obedience reactions with the power of his voice. Without a word Josh and Larry squeezed through the hole and crawled over the asphalt, scraping their hands and knees. "Now watch," he said, and they froze, shivering.

Danny looked the hulk over intently, gauging its weight, its gravity, its balance. Lowering it slowly onto his back, he cocked his arm and tilted it's rear end up. The chassis groaned from the strain of supporting itself in this position as Danny's back and arm pulled it off the ground. Supporting it like this, with his other hand, he grabbed the roof and began peeling it off.

The Beemer swayed only slightly as he held it up in midair, forcing the roof metal until it sheered off. The sound of metal ripping, so unnatural, such a violation of the laws of physics, always makes me dizzy. With a sustained pull he folded the roof open and then with a jerk ripped it off so that Joe and Keshawn fell out of their prison onto the ground. Keshawn tried to pull Joe away but he'd recovered from the death-grip of Danny's just-barely-teenage thighs. He glowered with fierce rage, hurt pride and all the testosterone his balls could pump out.

"You're gonna pay for this, Henderson!" The others tried to warn him but were all too afraid to speak. Something inside Joe pushed him. "I'm going to kill you for this!"

Danny raised his eyebrows in amazement--and delight. He glanced up at the CAR he had balanced above him, and stood upright, carelessly letting it crash to the ground. It hit the rear end of a Vega and crushed it. Danny merely wiped off his hands and strolled toward Joe.

Keshawn backed away; it was his turn to piss himself. Joe almost hyperventilated in his rage. Danny stepped very close. "And how are you gonna do that?"

Joe just glowered, his face finally breaking a little, as he took in the scene of destruction wrought by Danny's kid muscle. God, I hoped this would end here. I'd give anything. But Joe was bent on his suicide course.

"There's gotta be something that can beat you. And when I find it, I'm gonna run you down like a dog in the gutter."

Danny giggled. "I haven't met ANYTHING I couldn't handle. Manhandle, boyhandle, kid-muscle. Did I ever tell you about the time I bent a 747 in half?"

He was lying--I think--but it didn't matter. They were both fueled by rage and hormones and nothing could prevent this show-down. It was Keshawn he finally spoke.

"Joe, let's get out of here. We can straighten this all out tomorrow. When we've cooled off."

Danny snapped his head at Keshawn and he practically fell backward. "Too late. I'm going to kill all of you. For your insolence. Right now. Better .... RUN!" he barked.

Josh and Larry took off. Keshawn grabbed Joe and strong as he was, he could barely budge him. But Joe was nearly crying with fury, and finally Keshawn dragged him off. Danny took off his other shoe and sock, pushed up his sleeves and watched them flee him. And knew exactly where they were going.

There was one part of the physical plant that was protected against armed assault and, deeper within, nuclear attack. At least, it was built that way in the fifties. That's they only place they'd think they could stand a chance. Danny was gone. I vaguely remembered where it was, and ran as fast as I could. To witness the final spectacle.

By the time I got there, winded, it had already begun. There's one of those large garage-type doors of linked aluminum bars that rolls up on a track; it seals off the loading dock. The real security was inside; from the outside, it looked like an ordinary building. Danny got there just as the door had almost closed: and stuck his middle finger underneath it. He had it about six inches from the ground, resisting its pressure with one finger.

The simple motor was no match for the cords that writhed in Danny's forearm. It soon petered out with sparks and the sprinkling of small parts onto the concrete floor. Danny sent the door flying back up its track, breaking out the stops and clattering back onto the floor. Up a small flight of stairs the guys stood gaping, still pressing the CLOSE button. They ducked behind the steel door and, apparently, braced themselves against it.

I had to laugh despite my twisting stomach. Did the four of them think they could hold back a racing BMW? Then how did they think they could hold a door closed against Danny? And that's it: they weren't thinking. They were scrambling. And Danny loved it.

Danny vaulted up over the pipe railing of the cement stairs and looked at the door; listened to the scuffling feet on the other side. He looked the wall over, and rapped on it in a couple places, then tested the springiness of the door with his fingertips. With his other hand he suddenly WAILED on wall beside the door. His knuckles met the hard concrete--and sunk in. Loose scrabble fell. His fingers dug into the wall and started spitting chunks of concrete out. Another BLAM of his fist got through the rebar reinforcement layer, widening the crater as the force of the impact blasted bigger chunks out. I hid around the corner and poked my head out just enough to see him HAMMER the wall for the third--and last--time. Pulverized concrete and distressed rebar flew past the boys as they continued to brace the door, staring in awe at the huge hole that opened in the foot-thick concrete wall. Danny stuck his head through, smiled and said "Heeeere's JOHNNY!"

Josh screamed like a girl and the boys all gaped. Danny pulled his head back out, prying loose a chunk of wall behind him, and reached his arm through. Grabbing the knob, he PULLED and the door started popping. With a quick jerk he bent the door in the middle and the hinges broke. The door teetered but somehow held. Danny pulled his arm back through and then just walked into the door as if it wasn't there. It fell with a clatter and his feet trampled it, bending it back and denting its surface.

The guys were gone. Torn between survival and witnessing the sort of power that defied their imaginations, they eventually chose their own skins. Now Danny was in the bureaucratic maze portion of the building; but his hearing could pick up their feet, their whispered cries, their pounding heartbeats. He practically scented them.

If you're wondering, I saw most of this, but security cameras filled in the portions where I had to seek shelter from shrapnel. Cole and Salas got hold of the tapes as part of the cover-up. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Danny followed them deeper into the building. The series of closed doors meant nothing; he could feel the vibrations of their feet, for one thing, and he knew the layout from having seen the plans, though he'd never been granted clearance. He tended to grant that himself. Card-key or number-pad locks offered no challenge. He either battered the door in or, if he felt like it, ran his fingers so fast over the keys in possible combinations that he overloaded and burnt out the circuits. Just in case they were watching. They needed, like that guy in "Jaws" said, a bigger boat.

A harsh grating sound echoed up from the end of a long hallway. We'd reached the first security lock. Built in the fifties to withstand an armed invading force. Of course, they hadn't prepared for the sheer muscle force of Danny's arms.

A ten-foot-round steel door closed, driven by a thick piston behind it. It had almost covered the distance between the far wall and the thick sill where it would--or would have, under normal circumstances--come to rest. Danny sped in a flash and placed one hand against it, grabbing the inside of the vault-like jamb with the other. The grating stopped; as did the door.

For a moment nothing happened. Danny balanced on one foot, his calf beginning to fill the sweats he wore, and with his other heel shattered the floor beneath him. Placing that foot in the hole he shifted the balance--the door hadn't been able to move--and widened the hole with his other foot. Bracing them against the side of the hole, he began to fight back. With an evil smile on his face.

It was silent for seconds more. Finally I heard Keshawn inside cry, "Why won't it close, man?" and Larry screamed "Look!" That's when they saw his fingers inside the steel-framed jamb. A medium-pitched whine rose from behind the piston. It sang high, then deepened. Josh looked at a pressure gauge.

"It was barely registering before," he yelled, "and now the needle's half way up! And rising! The door's trying to close, man, but HE WON'T LET IT!"

Danny was now breathing more heavily, and sweat began to stream out of his golden curls. His arms had pumped to fill the sleeves of the sweatshirt, which stretched not only over the flexed bicep of the arm that pulled on the wall, but also around the straight arm pouring his kid power into the door. His bare forearms throbbed, red and snaked with veins. His lats pressed against the sides of the cotton and dragged it across his mounding back and swelling pecs. His thighs had grown so much they pulled the sweats up over his calves, which split to make any Mr. Olympia past, present or future drool with envy. The whining grew into a deeper sound.

They didn't know how Danny could hold out, but Danny was just getting started. This was just like one of those locomotives. I looked around for oil/hydraulic cables that might burst with the pressure but couldn't see any; then I heard the humming: the power was electromagnetic. The vault-like door was fueled by power that could increase immensely higher. But Danny reveled in anything that tried to challenge his might. And the bigger and stronger it thought it was, the more Danny dug in.

The door still hadn't moved one way or the other. Through the deepening hum of the door straining to dislodge the blockage, I heard a rip: and saw Danny's thick sweatshirt tear apart from the middle of his back down, up and across the lats. His traps and neck has swollen so that the fabric of the thick collar frayed against his throbbing veins. A savage bicep burst through the top of his extended arm, splitting the gathered fabric in zig-zags; his forearms has swollen so the sleeves couldn't push down around them, and the tricep of his bent arm exploded the dense fabric into tatters. The stretchable cotton across his thighs had reached its limit and failed as they slowly pumped back and forth inside the shattered flooring. Concrete crunched to powder and rebar sagged and bent. The oversized clothing now hung in rags around his red, bulging body. His musculature would make any professional bodybuilder or strongman weep. And he hadn't even begun to fight back yet.

A piercing shrill note came out of the walls and Larry screamed "The needle! It's in the red zone!" The pressure gauge must really be feeling Danny's muscle now. His fingers dented the solid steel jamb the vault door would have secured itself inside, if only it could have. I noted hairline cracks running away from the steel frame and realized that even if the door could shut, it would never be secure again. Not without some major reconstruction.

But Danny wasn't finished with his deconstruction. He was gonna show these jocks what man-strength was all about. He took one step forward: and grunted. A horrid dark scraping sound grated in the air: and I could see a little more of the room inside through the gap. Danny's hand against the door depressed it slightly, there was a little bowl where his arm met the solid steel. Through that hand he felt everything the machine had to give, sensed every vibration that told him what was giving, where it gave, which gear or sprocket was reaching the limits of its forged strength. And with each out-of-kilter vibration, invisible to the eye, he grinned. And shoved into it.

My heart pounded in my chest and it was hard to breath. Danny took another step and the massive wall at the end of his arm moved backward half as far. A series of loud hard pops accompanied the lugging whir as the giant motor strove against an adversary too powerful, a force that took its greatest onslaught and beat it back with an assault more powerful still.

I could now see all four guys, frozen solid in awe. Danny's arms were now stretched out in both directions. He'd left the hole he'd battered into the floor and now his toes actually dug footholds into the solid concrete. He had the upper hand and he was going to make this machine pay for trying to outmuscle him.

It was almost heartbreaking, the rattle of that vast electromagnetic generator furiously grinding against the bone, blood and muscle it couldn't match. Danny hadn't lost so much as a millimeter of ground and now he had both hands on the door itself, toes bracing in the crackling floor. The piston groaned. Rivets began to shoot out as the pressure Danny generated into the mechanism could find no room to expand without cracking the entire works open. And still Danny's body throbbed, his arms swelled even bigger and the sweat poured down the striations where it almost steamed from his heat. He turned his head and looked at the "jocks."

"Seen enough, girls? Well, you ain't seen NUTHIN yet." Setting his teeth into a fierce grin, he moved in for the kill.

His thighs pumped, the floor caved in beneath them. Cracks ran over to the banks of computers and control panels and they tilted as the floor gave way beneath his stomping teenage feet. The piston gave one last-ditch effort to close with a piercing wail and Danny was stopped in his tracks. And slid back an inch. And another. Joe cheered, dementedly, pumping his biceps as if he were doing it. Danny's grin straightened out into rage: his eyes seemed to turn red and his upper lip quivered. His chest swelled, pecs bunched inches within his arms, and he let out a roar that drowned out the noise of the frantic machine.

Danny put his head down and charged. The piston, three feet thick, bent upwards with a deafening squeal and Danny kept charging and roaring. Spit sprang from his lips, mixed with blood where his teeth bit them. The huge piston bent further, then crinkled into itself as Danny SHOVED. Huge thuds within the walls opened cracks; steam and smoke and flames jutted out. Danny rammed the door home, driving the twisted steel into the wall. The ceiling cracked. Sirens exploded with terror and Danny kept driving the compacting steel deeper into the wall, mashing it beneath his hands.

When he could push no further without bending the laws of physics he began pounding on the vault door with his fists. The door rang, dented, dented and rang. Fissures opened up in the metal as Danny overstressed and outgunned what was supposed to have withstood an armed attack. Danny's guns punished it, denting and cracking and pounding it in rage. Finally he stuck his fingers inside a crack and began to pull. His back bulged into new life, his shoulders striated into perfection. The crack widened, the door sounded like a tortured bell as steel ripped apart and Danny screamed, "Die! Die! Die!" The crack bolted upwards and the steel tore open and two halves of previously solid feet-thick steel fell against the crackled walls. Danny stood back, panting with sweat, and pumped his biceps at the foundered machinery.

"Fuckin' kid muscle man! Eat my muscle force, you pile of junk!" I fell on my knees watching those hard biceps peak against the torn and mangled mass of technology.

Danny walked out of the hole in the wall and discovered the guys had fled. He laughed, hard, and wiped the sweat from his eyes. "Where did those babies go now?"

I could barely speak but his eyes commanded a response. "There's another level, deeper. It's suppose to be nuclear-blast proof."

Danny giggled. "It's not Danny-proof."

"I think they realized that. So they went the other way. Up."

"Up? What are they gonna do, fly? Not without these wings." And he flared his impossible lats bigger, then bigger, then bigger yet.

"There's a kind of helicopter up there. Not a regular one, just something they're experimenting with. It's very light and collapsible but can hold four people. It's just not very stable, so it can't fly very high. But it's really fast."

"We'll see about that."

Danny didn't have time to thread his way out of the building so, like the fucking Hulk, he went up to the wall, raised his hands over his head and blam! It caved before him. I heard him Blam! Blam! Blam! all the way out, the concrete and brick pulverized and raining down in pieces. I ran out after him. The guys were just a speck. But Danny had seen them.

They were flying out toward the ocean. Danny had to catch them before they got there. Even he can't walk on water. (Yet.) He took off, and leapt up at them.

I've never really seen him jump like this. It was beautiful, the way those calves and thighs mocked gravity, sending him higher and higher each bound. I wondered that he couldn't catch them right off; it must be some sort of fatigue from the battle royal he just won. I'd never seen that yet either.

They couldn't fly higher due to wind conditions. I could hear them crying to each other as they realized Danny was gaining on them. Leap after leap drove him closer, he stuck his hand out, slashing at them. He'd spring, claw, then land running, sprint ahead and take off again. They reached the end of the paving, before the sand, and with one final lurch Danny's thighs crammed him into the air. With one hand he grabbed the `copter and grinned up at them. They were over the water now, and really scared. A couple tugs brought them dangerously off-balance: even with no bracing, Danny's contractile force could have pulled them out of the sky. Joe, finally broken with terror (turns out he couldn't swim!), screamed "Please don't kill us! Please! Please!"

Danny gave one more tug that had them scrambling to hold on. "I'll let you live on one condition: from now on, you're my pack of bitches, and I'm the big dog. You'll do whatever I want, whenever I want. Now bark like bitches to show me you mean it!"

They hesitated, and Danny tugged again (still hanging on with one hand). Whether they thought about trying to pry his fingers loose, or something, I'll never know. But Joe howled like a cur. Larry barked next, and Josh joined in the chorus. Keshawn, in tears at the degradation, let out high yips . Danny let them continue until they were well out to sea.

"See you bitches in class tomorrow. And I want my seat waxed when I get there. And I may get there early. Bub-bye, bitches."

And he dropped into the ocean. The two-hundred foot drop made a splashed like an Apollo capsule landing. They turned the little helicopter around, but Danny beat them ashore anyway, raising a plume like a speed boat. He was home eating a rare porterhouse steak before they got back to the ruins of the lab.

Salas and Cole managed to cover the whole thing up and keep it off the news. Danny, again, would have to pay for the damage. But since it was millions of dollars, something more than docking his allowance would be needed. I wonder what they have in mind for him to do. •

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