"I bet he escaped from the psych ward," Remi mused, fascinated by Thane's story. "He sounds like one of those savants, people who can do one thing better than anyone else on the planet but lack in their connection to reality."
They were at his locker in the school hallway during lunch, two days after Thane's mad dash to catch the bus and lightning strike. Remi had been glad to see him and drawn out everything that had happened since he left school on Monday, and he'd just finished telling her about Brennan Tayler. "Here's your backpack, Flash," Remi said, smacking him in the chest with it. Thane gave her a quizzical look, and she colored. "He's a comic book guy. Wears all red, runs so fast he's hard to see." Thane kept looking at her until she punched his arm. "Cool people like comic books."
"Sure," Thane said, smiling a little. It felt good to be doing something normal after the last few days. He stretched the fingers of his right hand, thinking about the hospital and Brennan again.
Remi noticed. "Let me see it?" Thane held out his previously injured knuckles for her and she stared at them like a jeweler inspecting a diamond. "There's nothing here. No bruising, no swelling, nothing. Are you sure you even hurt it?"
"Yeah," Thane answered. "It was broken. He fixed it."
"I wonder why," Remi mused, reaching out and taking his hand in both of hers. Thane stiffened, unsure, but Remi was too deep in her thoughts to notice. She rubbed his knuckles with her thumb, trying to feel for any inconsistency. Thane felt his face going red and was about to pull away when something inside his hand moved.
Remi froze-- she'd felt it too. Their eyes met over his hand. "What is that?" she asked him. He shrugged, pulling his hand out of hers to look at it himself. He pushed his finger down in the space between his second and third knuckles, and felt that same something hard roll away. It was so small he never would have noticed it on his own. He pulled his hand up to his eyes, and Remi stood on tiptoe to get a closer look. They both leaned in, trying to see any evidence of what they were feeling under Thane's skin.
The bell rang, startling them both. Thane and Remi realized their faces were only inches apart, and sprang back. Snickers around them in the hallway let them know their display had not gone unnoticed.
"New girlfriend, Thane?" Ben called from a few lockers down.
"You could do better, new girl," Jeran said, flexing his muscles. "I could show you a lot more than that weak loser." Thane's face colored, but Jeran walked off laughing with his buddies. Jeran was an entitled prick, the star of the second worst football team in the state. He wasn't smart enough to be the quarterback but as a wide receiver, you only had to get the ball somewhere near him and he would catch it. Tall and muscular, girls flocked around him and grownups loved to talk to him. Thane wanted to punch him hard enough to make it impossible for him to smirk for at least a week.
"Don't worry about those idiots," Remi started, but Thane spun around and left her behind. From the moment Mr. Hoffman introduced them, Thane had failed at his one cardinal rule. When he was with Remi everybody saw him.
Thane was one of the first into the room. Ms. Rasmussen didn't look up as he entered, engrossed in some magazine. He managed to slide onto his stool in the back row without exciting note or comment from anyone. He took out his notebook and pretended to read it as the rest of the class arrived in twos and threes.
Remi's voice, laughing and chatting, stabbed his ear and he couldn't help glancing up. She was walking in with Jeran, smiling at him and shaking her head so that her dark hair bounced. As they came in, Ms. Rasmussen's attention was diverted by Remi's giggle and she smugly observed them. "Know your way around now, sweetie?" she asked Remi in a satisfied voice. Remi gave her a half smile, but did not respond. Jeran flashed Ms. Rasmussen a grin calculated to charm, then turned to Thane and transformed it into a self-satisfied smirk.
"Thanks, Jeran," Remi said, and walked back to sit with Thane. Jeran's face darkened as she walked away.
"I found your girlfriend lost in the hall," Jeran swaggered down the aisle towards him, voice dripping with false sympathy. "I told her you were unstable." Thane was clenching his teeth, jaw taunt, and Jeran bent down in his face. "It's okay, loser. If your dad doesn't wake up, I'll take care of your hot mom, too."
Music blossomed in Thane's mind as his fist connected with Jeran's jaw. There was a crunch and a sizzle and the smell of burnt flesh as Jeran fell backwards and the second bell rang. Jeran landed on the floor, as surprised by the sucker punch as Thane was. Jeran sprang back up, blood in his mouth and rage in his eyes and oddly, a bright burn on his jaw. He moved at Thane.
"That is enough, Jeran!" Ms. Rasmussen snapped. Jeran hesitated, and then lunged for Thane. Ms. Rasmussen grabbed Jeran's shoulder and spun him around, her eyes flashing and her breath quick. "Get out of my class."
"What?" Jeran was stunned. "But Cressa--"
"You will call me Ms. Rasmussen. Go to the nurse's office, then the principal's. Now." Her voice had gotten softer, colder, and somehow so dark that Thane repressed a chill.
Jeran crumbled. He fled from the room, the door banging as he ran through it. Ms. Rasmussen came to stand in front of Thane and rested the tips of her fingers on his arm. "Aren't you a hero for defending your mother's honor like that!" She was sweet, but her green eyes glowed with something Thane didn't recognize. Greed? Insanity? She tugged at his arm a little, and he stood up. "Why don't you come up here and take Jeran's seat? He won't be needing it."
Thane obediently gathered his things and went with her to the front. Remi followed him. Ms. Rasmussen seemed delighted. She even clapped her hands to get the attention of the class, which was completely unnecessary as every eye was already on her.
"Change of plans today, everyone! We're going to be doing hands-on experiments instead of a quiz." Her announcement brightened the feeling in the room considerably. "Put away your books and keep out your notepads. You'll need to take good notes. Every team will need a Bunsen burner, a holding tray, one five hundred milliliter beaker, one hundred milliliter beaker, safety glasses for each of you, a thermometer, and a pair of tongs. We're going to talk about thermodynamics!" She seemed gleeful, as manic as Thane had ever seen her.
Thane got up and gathered the implements since Remi wouldn't know where they were. He felt awful for ditching her in the hall. Carefully holding as many of the implements as he could in his arms, he set them down gently on the table in front of Remi and spread them out.
"I stole his playbook," Remi whispered. Thane attached the Bunsen burner to the short tube that rose out of the center of their rectangular table. "I thought we could do some creative play changing."
A rush of gratitude warmed Thane. Having a friend had perks. Ms. Rasmussen continued to give instructions. "...and be sure, girls, to keep your hair away from the flames. I'll be around to make sure that the gas lines are connected. Place the holding tray about six inches above the flame and fill the larger beaker with water from the sink..." Remi grabbed the larger beaker and followed the line of students back to the sink. Soon all the students had their beaker of water in place on the holding tray and were turning the burners on, seeing the waving yellow and orange flame tighten into a straight blue and purple one. "Open the air hole to only about half, we don't want it fully on. We're just heating water."
The lean, tall woman walked around the classroom checking each burner to ensure that the gas lines were attached correctly and the flames were high and hot enough. She came to Thane and Remi, bending to peer closely at their set up. "I think you need to lower your holding tray slightly," she instructed, and Thane made the adjustment. The corner of Ms. Rasmussen's mouth twitched, and then she moved on.
Her foot slipped, the thin heel shooting into the air, and she flailed her arms. With one hand she grabbed the side of a table, and the other grabbed Thane's left arm, pulling his wrist directly across the open flame.
"Argh!" Thane grunted, jerking his hand back. There was a shiny red mark along the underside of his wrist as wide as two fingers. He stared at it as his teacher regained her balance and turned to him.
"Oh, Thane, I'm so sorry," she gushed. "Someone spilled some water on the floor and I slipped! Let me see it," and she jerked his arm towards her. Her green eyes studied the red welt for a slow heartbeat, and she appeared... pleased. But only for a moment. Her face was full of concern and contrition when she looked back at him. "It's not badly burned. Run cold water over it. As for the rest of you," she whirled to face the class, her beautiful features twisted in fierce and dangerous anger, "be more careful. This could have been a serious accident. If you spill any liquid, clean it up immediately. I could've broken my ankle and poor Thane," she looked down at him and her tone quieted, "poor Thane could have lost his hand. Well," she said, her voice returning to normal, "back to work, everyone."
As the flames burned and the students adjusted their safety glasses, Ms. Rasmussen pulled a box off the shelf behind her desk. It was dusty, and she smiled and held it for a moment. Then she wiped it off and placed it on her desk. "In this box I have several pieces of Field's Metal. Has anyone ever heard of it?" She paused, but no hands went up. "It is a most impressive alloy. It's a non-toxic mixture of bismuth, tin, and indium. There are many alloys that melt at low temperatures, even though the metals they are mixed from require much higher temperatures to melt in their pure form. These low melting point metals are called fusible alloys."
Several of the students were scribbling furiously, as Ms. Rasmussen was not writing on the board. Instead, her hands were resting on either side of the open box as she was intently watching the beaker and the flame in front of Remi and Thane. Remi was one of the desperate note takers-- Thane couldn't take his eyes away from the chemistry teacher, like a bird staring at a snake. His heart pounded against his chest and his palms felt sweaty. Something was wrong.
She reached her hand into the box and drew out what looked to be a silver straw. "Each of you will be given one of these Field's Metal wires. Place your thermometers into the water and the metal wire into your smaller empty beaker. Using the tongs, hold the smaller beaker partially submerged in the boiling water. Record at what temperature, both Fahrenheit and Celsius, the metal begins to melt. I will pass out molds to each team for you to pour your liquid metal into, and you will time how long it takes the metal to re-harden."
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Genre – New Adult Urban Fantasy
Rating – PG
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