Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Blue Nexus #14--Training Days

          The black pavement and constant dashed lines all blurred below, turning the road into one long streak with a yellow line dividing it. The sky was open, showing off its great blue expanse above. The wind rushed by but everything was just as loud as normal, and the tires rolling against the pavement were just as audible as they normally would be.
            However, there were few cars that were actually on the pavement. Of the ones on the road were five police cars and one van speeding away, moving much quicker than it should normally be moving. It had words in green and orange spray-painted on the side, but the font made it difficult to read. The back was open and two people were kneeling down in it, one sitting next to a small, round cannon and the other gripping tightly to the side with their eyes leered upward.
            The cop cars sirens were no longer wailing, seeing as there was no point. The entire road was closed to make way for the chase, which was actually leaving East City heading north instead of south. Normally, car chases were going toward the small town to the south of East City, Adelita, but this time. The scenery wasn’t too different though, as the road was still open and there was hardly anyone on it to begin with.
            From above, two beings speedily descended, still keeping their great speed. They were coming all the way from Adelita, and had made a quick stop in East City to assess the situation. It was only when they were spotted that the chase began, and they were teasing the van by allowing it to get so far out. There wasn’t civilization for a long stretch, too, and it was doubtful the villains even knew that.
            Of course, the two beings were East City and Adelita’s guardian angels, Blue Nexus and Shindari, the woman’s true alien name, despite her rarely showing her red alien form. Of the two, she was the one that actually underwent some kind of a costume change. Instead of fighting in her street-clothing, she took to fighting with a tight, shirt-sleeved red shirt with red pants and keeping her red hair tied up in various ways, depending on her mood. She also had red gloves and shoes, swearing off boots as they inhibited her ability to fight. Blue Nexus kept the same garb as he did when he first appeared over six months ago.
            Kyle Raiden, the Blue Nexus, descended lower to the car, having dealt with several car chases in his day. This one was vastly different than normal. He was actually going at a much more maintained speed since he actually had control of his flight nowadays. It was akin to walking for him now. Plus, whereas the normal car chases had regular human thieves in them, this one had actual super-villains.
            Well, super-villains was perhaps a stretch for them. Kyle had heard of each of these guys as a group, but never really paid much attention to them. They were on the bottom of the Zanderia’s Watch List—which often comprised of powerful super beings like Goloth, Morpho, Leley, and Gargador—and were often the butt of a joke as to who would actually have to deal with them. As it so happened, they robbed three alien artifacts from one of East City’s museums to probably sell them to more evil, corporate people, so Kyle was called into duty.
            His relationship with Brenda brought her along for the ride most of the time. They weren’t dating, despite Kyle always wanting to ask over the last six months, but they may as well have been dating. They only thing they hadn’t done that most couples would do is kiss. Kyle didn’t really have eyes for another, but an inherent crush on Mira—a classmate of his—seemed to be all that inhibited him from asking out Brenda. That, and the fact that inter-team dating seemed a bit strange.
            Kyle was now level with the van, and had the cannon pointed right at him. Both the man by the cannon and man on the side were glaring and pointing at him. The man in the passenger seat turned around, yelling obscenities at him.
            “Please pull over,” Kyle ordered, raising his voice so they could hear him.
            The man by the cannon placed his hand on it, then swiped his hand over it. Then, the man on the side spat into it, and when the cannon fired, a silver ball shot out at Kyle, who materialized his lance and swatted it at the ground. He twirled the lance in hand, and shot upward to be ahead of the van. Brenda pulled up beside him.
            “Strange combination,” she said, her hands beginning to glow red. “Shall I?”
            “May as well, they’ve gone pretty far as is,” Kyle said, nodding.
            Brenda smiled, then shot forward. Kyle remained flying over the van, keeping steady with it so he could land on it. Brenda way ahead of them, created a red barrier, then sloped it. Kyle heard the driver shout but they were driving way too fast, and flew into the air.
            When they were high enough, Kyle punched his hands through the roof, then took hold of it and flipped them over. The van, upside down flying through the air, continued going at its speed. Brenda then created a red box around it, trapping all of them in it, and threw them at the ground.
            The red box smashed onto the ground, keeping the car and people within it intact. The cannon and some ash spilled out of it, as did some boxes and a few of the alien artifacts they were keeping in cardboard boxes. Kyle and Brenda landed in front of them, Kyle twirling the lance with practiced ease. He was thankful for Phoenix, a fellow established super-hero, for helping him learn how to use the lance.
            “So you made that with the Nexus powers, huh?” asked Phoenix.
            They were down in Riverville, a town also on the East Coast where Phoenix often found himself causing trouble trying to stop super-villains. They were in an old warehouse, apparently his former base of operations. He was wearing his blue uniform. It was the same exact thing as the red one that he met Kyle in, but, only the color was different.
            “Yeah, not entirely sure how, but it’s still pretty cool,” Kyle said.
            “And you think I can teach how to use a lance?” Phoenix asked.
            “Riko says you’re the best weapons guy I should go to. Plus, I’m still shaky on how to actually fight besides just punching things really hard.”
            Phoenix nodded. “That’s how Riko is. It works, but, that’s because he’s super strong and can snap a mountain in half. You, on the other hand, have no idea how strong you really are. Comes with the youth.”
            “Hey, I’ve been at this for two months. I think I know what I’m doing already.”
            “Apparently not enough to learn how to use a lance.”
            Kyle shrugged. Phoenix smirked. He too shrugged and his wings folded onto his arms, turning into powerful armor running down his arms and his upper back. The two talons folded then transformed into tri-spiked short-staffs that he twirled in his hand. Phoenix put them into two slots on his utility belt.
            “First rule of thumb is to actually know when to use your weapons.”
            “And you don’t think training with me is a good time?” Kyle asked.
            “Second rule of thumb is to know how capable your opponent is.”
            “Am I not capable?”
            Phoenix laughed. “I’m sure you can poke people with it. But, how well do you actually fight with it? Can you counter attacks? Take people down in rapid succession? How many times have you used it since you got it?”
            Kyle looked down, folding his hands behind his back and rubbing the top of his boot into the ground. “Not too much, I just take it out sometimes to try and practice.”
            “I thought so. Well, may as well gauge your strengths with it. Come on, attack me.”
            He waited a second before making his attack so Phoenix would have time to brace for it. Phoenix may have been a better fighter, but Kyle’s strength and speed were much higher than Phoenix’s, meaning a slip up could be fatal.
            Kyle drove the lance forward, then swung it around his back, taking hold of it with his right hand, and swung forward overhead again. Phoenix avoided the attack quite easily. Kyle came at him again, this time holding the lance half-way and swinging it like a sword before trying to smack Phoenix with the butt end of it.
            To counter, Phoenix took hold of the opposite end, pushed it forward, scratching Kyle, then jabbed Kyle’s wrist and kicked him away, dropping the lance as he did so. Kyle got right back to his feet, holding out his hand. The lance flew into it, Kyle adjusting so to hold it at a better angle.
            The one who was sitting next to the cannon attacked first, holding a flint in one hand. He rushed at Kyle, and as he did so, scratched the flint against his hand. The glove, flammable but safe apparently, caught fire and the villain jabbed multiple punches at Kyle, who was dodging them like they were nothing.
            The villain, Kyle remembering call Flint for obvious reasons, pointed his hand and was trying to use it as a weapon of sorts. Kyle spun the lance around, deflecting Flint’s hand before smacking him in the side of the head with the weapon. He swung it overhead, bringing the back end of it down, crashing it onto Flint’s shoulder. The actual flint dropped to the ground. Kyle stabbed right through it, then with the lance in the ground, used it as a vault to leap forward and kick Flint right in the chest, knocking him to the ground.
            Lazily he tried to get back up, but Kyle jabbed him in the face with the blunt end of the sphere again and that was that.
            The sound of someone puking warned him for Toxo, the one who spat silver poison. Kyle sliced through it, and the pure energy of the Nexus disintegrated the poison instantly on contact. Toxo, he knew, would not be as good a fighter as Flint was, as his attacks were ranged to keep his enemies away while Flint relied on close-combat, or the cannon.
            Toxo continued to shoot out strings of silver poison toward Kyle, who sliced through them like he was cutting down paper-thin trees. He continued to advance toward Toxo, who he could tell was panicking. He took a second to breathe, and that was that. Kyle took the lance in hand and threw it straight through Toxo’s shoulder, impaling him instantly.
            Phoenix batted down both of Kyle’s attacks with his two short staffs, then elbowed Kyle in the face. Kyle was quick to recover, though, jabbing Phoenix as he took a large step to knock him off his feet, then crashed the spear into his side, forcing Phoenix to the ground. Phoenix rolled and was instantly back up.
            “Impressive,” he said. “You’ve improved a lot in just a couple weeks. Can’t wait to see you doing that sort of thing out in the field.”
            “Yeah, it’ll be a good way to keep enemies on their toes,” Kyle replied, holding the lance behind his back. “They won’t know how I’m coming at them.”
            “That’s the fun part, isn’t it?” Phoenix said. He said, down, trying to catch his breath, and wiped some sweat off his brow. “You’re a quick learner, I’ll tell you that much.”
            “Hey, I’ve got a question.”
            “Go for it, kid.”
            “Shouldn’t you be teaching me out to use non-lethal weapons? I mean, this thing is pretty pointy, it could kill someone on accident. And I know the Zanderia has a no-killing policy most of the time.”
            Phoenix laughed. “Yeah, we do enforce that pretty hard. But, that’s the point of training. You’ll learn how to use it without killing someone. I mean, look at these.” He raised the two short-staffs. Kyle noticed that the points on those were pretty darn sharp too, and could probably catch onto someone’s clothing or skin pretty easily. Phoenix continued, “Know how many times while I was making these I wondered if I was going to kill someone? Knock on wood but I haven’t had a single fatality from these yet. It’s all about knowing where to put it and how to use it. You could probably throw that lance there through someone’s shoulder without killing them. And if it’s a super-villain, well, I doubt the police would be too mad at you for doing that sort of thing.”
            “Yeah, I guess. I just don’t want to kill anyone, you know? I’ve got all this power, and now I’ve got a freaking lance.”
            “Well you seem to have a lot of control. And from what I’ve heard about your new pool of energy, that’s pretty impressive. You keep training and you’ll be able to probably go in and out of your little super Nexus state easily. By the way, you wouldn’t happen to have a name for that, would you? You or that other Nexus character?”
            “No, not yet, but we’re working on it.”
            Toxo spat more silver acid at Kyle, who shoved out his fist, and a fist-sized energy beam eradicated it. Kyle punched again, and this time an energy ball appeared and knocked out Toxo. Kyle whirled around, watching Brenda toy with the other two super-villains. One was shackled to the ground while the other was being chased by a red square. The police pulled up. Kyle punched through the air again, and an energy beam ripped through the sky and ran right in front of the mobile target, freezing him.
            “Time to go,” Kyle announced, pointing to the cops.
            “Ah, yup,” Brenda said, her eyes glowing red. The red square turned into a cube and enveloped the scared-stiff villain, and she moved her two enemies over to the police, who were making their way over to the super-heroes.
            “Dang, didn’t think it’d be so easy to beat up on these guys,” the head policeman said.
            Kyle shrugged. “Eh. I don’t even remember the name these guys have.”
            “They call themselves the Ravagers.”
            “Well that’s a dumb name. Who the hell have they actually ravaged?” asked Kyle. “Puppies, kittens?”
            “Small banks,” the policeman corrected.
            Kyle’s face became as red as Brenda’s hair. Brenda strode up to them, dropping the two now unconscious super-villains.
            “Here you are, decent condition,” she said. “They should be fine by the time you’re done with them. Oh, and watch out for Toxo.”
            “He shoots acid, right?” asked the policeman.
            “Yeah, probably best that we take him,” Kyle said. “Come on, buddy, let’s go.”
            The police gathered up the other three villains and said their thanks and goodbyes to the super-heroes. Kyle and Brenda stood over the unconscious Toxo. Kyle yanked the lance out of his shoulder, then made the lance go away.
            “I took the last guy, now it’s your turn,” Brenda said.
            “Oh, fine,” Kyle said. “I’ll try to be quick about it.”
            “Not too quick. Don’t want to make a time jump and screw everything up, now do we?”
            Kyle shrugged. “Can’t be that bad. How much damage could a small wormhole on Earth do anyway?”
            Brenda laughed and began to float, moving south. “Meet you at the pool in a couple hours?”
            A lump formed in Kyle’s throat. Oh boy, Brenda. Bikini.
            “Yeah, uh, yeah,” he said. “Be right with you.”
            The red woman smiled and burst off, leaving a small red light where she was. Kyle grabbed Toxo and began to float as well, looking southeastward. He knew exactly where he wanted to go but wasn’t too fond of going there. He’d only ever been four times, once with Brenda and once with Riko, and he hadn’t liked a single time he went out.
            Kyle shot toward the Bermuda Triangle, where the super prison of the Zanderia resided. It was an underwater island connected to small, invisible string of islands that was hidden in dense fog that no pilot would ever be stupid enough to fly through. It was created shortly after the creation of the Zanderia, and Kyle had actually never heard about it until he became more familiar with the ways of the Zanderia.
            Thankfully, there weren’t too many super-villains in there, but the ones that were all creeped him out and made fun of him a lot, always mocking his status as the new guy. They didn’t know a thing about what was going on outside, so they had no idea Kyle stopped a giant doom ball from swallowing the Earth six months ago.
            Toxo was still unconscious when they arrived around an hour later. Kyle hung in the dense clouds. He reached behind him, holding Toxo by the shirt with one hand, to pull out his communicator. He fiddled with it until he was at its GPS setting, which was unmarred by the cloud coverage and somewhat distorted magnetism of the Bermuda Triangle. He was right atop it.
            Kyle let go his conscious holdings allowing him to stay up and plunged into the water, keeping a tight grip on Toxo as he did. When he breached it, he looked around, and through dark waters saw a boxed-up facility. Several tubes were coming out of it as air-holes that stuck out of the water so the prisoners could breathe. None of them could escape through the tubes, and even if they did, they were too far away from anything to swim ashore.
            His aura covered Toxo so that the villain could breathe underwater. Kyle flashed his communicator across a small, infrared scanner, and when it shone green, and air-lock opened up, water flooding in. Kyle stepped into it, and when the doors closed, several small holes sucked up all the water.
            “Welcome, BLUE NEXUS,” the automated voice said.
            “Good afternoon, Benny. Where’s the nearest glass cell?”
            “How reinforced?”
            Kyle, now dragging Toxo, moved into the main hallway. There were no prisoners here, just a few tables and chairs and what not in case multiple members, or guests, of the Zanderia were there for inspection. The real prison began beyond the titanium, laser-sealed doors that only opened at the behest of the Zanderians, and nobody else.
            “Well this guy shoots acid and has average strength for a man in his thirties, think you can come up with something?”
            “Admit him to Cell 34.”
            “34? We don’t have that many people in here.”
            “No, but it’s a cell I’ve always wanted to see someone admitted in. My cameras are always looking at it and there is never anyone there for them to study.”
            “Suit yourself. 34 it is, Toxo.”
            Kyle placed his communicator on the scanner, then held his bracelet up to the scanner once it was greenlit. Finally, he did his retinal test, and was allowed in.
            Instantly he was greeted by cat-calls and horrible names. The walls containing the prisoners were thick, but the air-holes allowed them to shout. Names were planted on all of the cells so Kyle knew exactly who was saying what. On more than one occasion he wanted to rip open a door or two and just wail on the prisoners, but the urge was always suppressed when he realized he only had to be there for a few minutes at best.
            “You sure this place is actually safe?” Kyle asked.
            Riko chuckled. “I helped build it and seal it. Trust me, it’s safe. It’s been running for quite a few years now, too.”
            “How do you feed them, and keep them alive and stuff?”
            “My buddy Benny, that’s how.”
            “An artificial intelligence Eclipse created. He has times synced up to create meals for all the prisoners here. Some are more specific than others, but it doesn’t really matter.”
            Riko and Kyle entered the hallway. Apparently only twelve cells were occupied, and there were dozens more where that came from. Like the meals, some cells were more specialized than others, to suit how best to contain the villain. Kyle and Riko didn’t bring one with them that day, Riko was just inspecting something. Apparently Benny sent out a distress signal, but there wasn’t anything there at first glance to indicate something was entirely wrong.
            “Oh, that’s convenient,” Kyle said.
            “HEY whose that fresh meat?” someone cried out with an Australian accent.
            “Bet he couldn’t handle what I’ve got!” another villain shouted.
            Riko pounded on the wall, sending a shockwave down the hallway. Instantly, the villains quieted down.
            Kyle’s mouth was agape. He didn’t even have to say anything and that was the result he got.
            “If you ever bring someone down here, just know that all you gotta do is toss them in their cell, tell Benny to lock it up, put their name on the door, and get out. Ignore these losers. Remember: they’re here to stay, you’re here to visit.”
            Toxo sprawled out onto the white tiled floor of the cell. Kyle sealed the door shut, then gave Benny the command, and heard the air tubes open while the door tightened fast and closed shut. The glass tinted so that it was only one way: the visiting way. The villain would have no idea who was on the opposite side, but Kyle could see everything they were doing.
            He turned to leave, ignoring some of the names and shouts of the villains who were pounding hopelessly against the reinforced walls of the prison. They were now, with the addition of Toxo, at twenty-five prisoners. They were well dispersed around the prison. Kyle had a hand in taking down six of them at this point. Oddly enough, Toxo was the first one taken down without the help of Hood Nexus.
            Kyle shook his head in confusion when he thought of his Nexus ally. He and Hood Nexus were together a lot but sparingly was it in combat. Most of the time it was just in training. Over the last six months, Kyle’s strength within the Nexus grew tremendously because of Hood Nexus. He learned the hard way what it meant to mess up attacks. Phoenix was pretty light compared to Hood Nexus regarding training.
            Yet through it all, Kyle never learned who the man under the hood was. His voice was somewhat familiar, but after hearing it so often, Kyle figured it was just becoming a normal voice. They trained in various places between East City and Adelita, and often broke many things around them in the process.
            It was also Hood Nexus who taught Kyle the technique of punching energy blasts. Kyle saw it during their battle by an asteroid against Black Nexus but never really got the chance to ask how it worked. He did find it to be a practical ability, since throwing a punch felt more natural in a fight than just standing there and allowing energy beams and balls to fly out of his palm, but it was also required a slightly greater amount of exertion on his part.
            Sadly, Kyle didn’t really learn much outside of fighting skills during the six months. He did learn that Hood Nexus was much stronger than him in his base form without the energy pool, and even learned Hood Nexus didn’t have that ability yet. But there was no further knowledge shed about his parents or how he was supposed to get his own Nexus bracelet, some information he was dying to know about.
            Sighing, Kyle launched out of the prison, making sure all the doors were shut and that Benny was all good. He was on his way back to his house—he needed to change into suitable attire after all—and it would take only about thirty minutes or so to get there from where he was. At his average speed, he could be around the world in about a school day. Thanks, yet again, to Hood Nexus, who had him do laps back and forth like shuttle-runs across the United States in flight. It was the strangest exercise he’d ever done.
            Which was saying something, since his lacrosse coach was a weirdo.
            He broke out of Blue Nexus before he hit the ground, tucking and rolling into his backyard. It hadn’t change a bit since Gargador attacked it the first day he got his Nexus bracelet. The only thing different was that now his lacrosse practice gear was out for him to do a little extra working out before the season started. All the training he did for it last year paid off, so he figured that this year wouldn’t be any different. Besides, the former captain, Brian, had graduated, and he would be viable for the captain’s spot.
            Kyle changed into a bathing suit, white-shirt, and flip-flops. He studied his hair, trying to remember the way Brenda liked it. When he couldn’t, he found a one-size-fits all hat with a  videogame logo on it and placed it on backwards.
            “I’m going to the pool, grandparents, probably be back by dinner or something!” he shouted as he grabbed his skateboard and left his house.
            Joining him at the community pool were Kip and Luke, both of whom were standing by the gate waiting for him. Kyle could already see Brenda lounged out, trying to get a tan. She was a decent coloring already, why she needed a tan was anyone’s guess.
            “Damn, dude, I always forget how good Brenda looks like that,” Luke muttered.
            “Yeah, good job,” Luke congratulated, opening the gate.
            Kyle, the one behind the pack, shut it for them. They were unaware that Brenda was Shindari, but were aware that she and Kyle had gotten pretty close lately. Kyle wanted to tell them about her identity, but there was hardly a time where it seemed appropriate. Besides, she finally got a secret identity. It would be a heck of a welcoming for that if he ruined it.
            The three boys set their towels down on two plastic chairs on either side of Brenda. She folded her hands across her belly. Typical of Brenda, Kyle figured, for her to be wearing a plain red bikini with sunglasses that had a red outline.
            At least I change it up, Kyle figured, since he hardly ever wore blue to move the suspicion away from him. He liked to think he was akin to Phoenix in that regard.
            “Water’s great,” Brenda said.
            “You went in already?” asked Luke, removing his shirt. He tossed it back to the chair.
            “Half of me did,” Brenda said.
            “Didn’t know you could swim,” Kyle muttered.      
            “I can fly but you don’t think I can swim?” Brenda asked when Kip followed Luke, but he kept his shirt on.
            The pool was vacant all except for a couple of other, younger high school boys and girls on the opposite end of the pool. They were over by the deep-end, near a water slide, while the two super heroes and their friends were on the shallow end, near a hot-tub.
            Kyle sighed and removed his shirt, Brenda checking him out as she did. She smacked his butt as he walked away, Kyle’s face turning red and he looked back at her angrily.
            “What the hell?” he seethed, and stole a glance over to the high schoolers that were now pointing at them.
            He nearly jumped in the water before realizing how stupid that would be if he jumped into such shallow water. Instead, he took a large step into the water. Kip and Luke were going in the more conventional way.
            “Did she just smack your butt?” asked Kip when Kyle’s splash faded.
            “She’s weird like that.”
            “Is weird really the right word?”
            Kyle leaned against the wall, looking over to the open trunk of pool-toys. When he was younger he would often play with the squirt guns, but as he got older, he gravitated to the squirt cannons, blasting Kip and Luke straight in the face or back to screw with them. Better days, he thought.
            One of the girls on the opposite side squealed very loudly as she rolled down the slide, tumbling into the water as the other girls clapped.
            “Freshmen, I know it,” Luke said.
            “Do you really or are you just guessing?” asked Kyle.
            “No, they really are freshmen,” Luke said. He seemed to want to say something, but bit it back.
            “Do you see them in the halls?” asked Kip.
            One of the girls looked at Luke, whispered to her friend, then stared at him a little longer. Luke gulped.
            “Does she hit on you at school?” asked Kyle.
            “Well there was this one time she walked up to me, told me I had a good taste in books, told me I was cute, and yeah,” Luke said, shrugging. He leaned against the wall besides Kyle. “Least I’m not getting my butt smacked.”
            “Make fun of him again and you might,” Brenda said, keeping her gaze fixed on the sky. She shifted so her right foot was sticking out, and her big toe was pointing right at Luke.
            “Whoops,” Luke said, and looked to Kyle and Kip for guidance.
            “Hey man, I haven’t got her figured out yet, don’t look at me,” Kyle said.
            He watched as one of the high school boys walked over to the trunk and pulled out a volleyball. He spiked it into the water, and the ball bounced right over a girl’s head. She yelled at him in a joking manner, even though if she had been hit, she would probably have a major bloody nose and the pool would turn purple.
            Though, despite the imminent danger they were all in from the vicious volleyball, Kyle felt extremely at ease. Partaking in joking conversation and just being able to sit quietly around the community pool was such a rarity for him. He was facing a multi-fronted war, after all.
            College applications, super-villains, his romance, dealing with school, and training (of both the super and lacrosse kind) were all taking up his free time, and he didn’t even have a job yet. To say he was rather stressed would be an understatement, but he never really felt that way. Having almost literally carried the weight of the world on his shoulders put things into perspective. Not that he didn’t try as hard, but, he knew that if he failed at test it was nothing like staring down the likes of Black Nexus. He would rather go the four hours with the SAT than have to be in the ring with Black Nexus for four hours.
            The skies were still clear that afternoon. The last few days were somewhat cloudy. It made for perfect pool weather. Kyle leaned his head back, trying his best to relax in the optimally temperate waters of the community pool. Kip and Luke seemed to be doing the same, just floating along in the waters.
            The gates creaked open, then closed. Loud chatter filled the air, almost like a buzzing noise. Kyle’s eye twitched. It wasn’t just chatter, it was worse. The devil’s speak.
            Kyle pulled his head back down, and saw a group of only four girls making enough noise to fill the pool, whereas two groups of people weren’t making half that noise. Kyle recognized three of the girls but could only name one, and that one was Sandy. He groaned.   
            Sandy clung to him for the remainder of the semester last yet but seemed to finally distance herself from him this year. Instead of the impassioned looks he was used to, she was giving him more concerned looks. Ever since he returned from the Black Nexus battle, too, she seemed a little different. Like she was keeping a secret from him.
            If it was that she liked him then that secret was out a long time ago. Still, something seemed different about her. Not only in her personality but also in her physique. Her muscles weren’t particularly visible but you could tell she’d been working out. She was wearing a bikini so Kyle could really see what kind of workout progress she’d made. She was sporting a six-pack now, probably a well-earned one at that considering how brutal the girls lacrosse coach was, and her arms and legs were very toned. Her shoulders looked pretty muscular, too. Kyle had seen this physique before—sometimes on lacrosse players but they tended to be rather bulky—on the kids in the school’s archery club. But as far as he knew, Sandy wasn’t involved in the club.
            He could hear her voice very well. That much hadn’t changed. It wasn’t an ugly voice, but it also wasn’t one you wanted to be stuck listening to all day long. Kip and Luke took notice of her appearance. Sandy wasn’t fond of the fact that they were friends with Kyle and she wasn’t as good of friends as him.
            Sadly, Mira was not a part of that group. It was just other chatterboxes. Kyle looked away just as Sandy was going to look over to him, so to avoid the obligatory wave and hello. He knew it was rude, but he wanted to relax, not dabble in uncomfortable—and forced—small talk.
            “Ah, great,” Kip said as he put his head into the water. Luke sunk lower, and a shadow overcame Kyle. He looked up to see Sandy leaning down over him. Kyle, blushing, looked away.
            “Hey Sandy,” he said.
            Behind Sandy, Brenda stood up. Kyle saw that she had a fist clenched. The way Sandy was standing was probably not a good sign for Brenda. Kyle groaned. Great, Brenda the super being was going to put the beat down on Sandy. What a fantastic pool day.
            “Hey Kyle, how are you?” she asked. She stood up, then squatted down, awfully close to him.
            At least she smells, Kyle thought. The other three girls were busy fiddling with their stuff and applying various lotions all over their body. Kyle looked away, and back to the water.
            “Pretty tired, water’s kinda draining me,” Kyle said.
            “The water?” asked Sandy.
            Another shadow overcame Kyle, this one he knew was Brenda’s. She was standing right behind Sandy, probably inspecting her. Brenda was not too fond of Sandy herself but knew she was harmless. Why she was so close now was strange.
            “Yeah, I mean, it’s relaxing and calming and it’s been a long day, so it makes me kinda feel like taking a nap,” Kyle said.
            “Oh,” Sandy said, and ran her hand through her hair. She bit her lip. “See because I just got off of watching something on TV that would make a little more sense for you being tired.”
            “What, one of those paid programming exercise shoes?”
            “No, a car chase. North of East City.”
            “Why would that make me tired?”
            “Well it would tire me out.”  
            Kyle curiously turned to Sandy. “What do you mean it would tire you out? Are you implying you were in the car chase or something?”
            “No, I’m implying you were in the car chase. I know Kyle. I saw you and that hood guy six months ago. I know you’re the Blue Nexus.”

Next time: Kyle's identity is out! Will anyone else find out, and how's he going to be able to keep it all a secret? Find out in "Blue Nexus #15--Bleacher Report"

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