Gift? No, curse is more like it. But if I have to hear one more time that my ability is a gift I think I’ll scream.
“Seriously, James, that sorta gift is a huge responsibility. Don’t waste it.”
“Argh,” I say and roll my eyes.
There’s nothing else to say. I spent the last eighteen years keeping my curse a secret. My mom was sure once the government caught wind of it they’d exploit it and use me. Or worse, experiment on me, trying to figure out what makes me tick. I couldn’t argue with her.
The idea always gives me pause, wondering who I can trust with my secret, and has kept me from being myself and making real friends. I mean, there’s Lily, my cousin who’s only a couple hours older than me, but other than her I’ve been a bit of a loner.
I guess Derek counts, but he’s been that persistently strange friend who, despite my secretive ways, has stuck by my side and defended me against bullies since the third grade.
We’re two weeks from graduation, and after all these years he finally found out my secret.
“You know I’m right, bro.”
“Listen, Derek, you can’t tell anyone. Got it?”
Derek raises his hands in mock surrender. “No, dude. I’m a locked box, a prison no word escapes.”
“This is serious.”
“Totally. But you gotta admit, it’s pretty awesome. I knew something was different about you. I knew it. How long have you been able to control electronics?”
I study Derek, considering all the ways this could go wrong, but he’s been there for me through a lot. If I can’t trust him I don’t know who I can.
“It’s not really controlling electronics, but I can access data, read it. Change it. And I’ve been able to do it for as long as I can remember.”
I motion for him to follow me into my bedroom where I’ve got my laptop open on the desk. It only takes a second for me to access my secured account and start changing the basic settings without lifting a finger.
“Sick,” he says with more than a little awe in his voice.
“Have you done anything, uh, off the books?”
“Are you serious? No, dude. I try to stay away from the limelight. If the wrong people find out, I’m the next government lab experiment.”
“James, man, you’ve got to be kidding me. You could stop terrorists, topple evil government regimes, get endless dates with hot babes.”
I can’t help but laugh. I’m getting a vibe from Derek that makes me think the guy wants to live vicariously through me.
“It doesn’t work that way.”
He flops down on my unmade bed and tosses dirty socks in my face.
“Who else knows about your power?”
“It’s not a power. I’m not a super hero.”
“Whatever you say, bro.”
“My mom, my cousin Lily, and now you.”
I watch his eyes grow wide. “Wow, you are serious.”
“I’m dead serious. My dad disappeared the month before I was born. My mom thinks it was the government. He could be alive for all I know. I’ve waited a long time to finally find out, but my mom cannot know. Got it?”
“Yeah. You brought me in on this for a reason, Electro Dominator. I’m your man. What can I do to help?”
“First off? No weird nicknames.”
“Uh, got it. What about Tronimator? Like, as in electronics domination?”
“No, D. Just James.”
I stare at him for a second. I can only hope he’s taking this seriously. When the moment passes in silence I give up trying to read him and pull out the shoe box full of old articles about my dad’s disappearance, a few random pictures and an old journal of my dad’s I swiped from my mom’s room last week.
It’s nerve-racking watching him sift through the bits of my life that have been hidden for too long, but Derek doesn’t disappoint.
“Wow. I’m in man. This is some crazy shi-take mushrooms. Hey Lil.”
I swing around to see Lily leaning on the door frame.
“JJ, you were supposed to wait to tell him until I got here. I wanted to watch his face.”
“Sorry, Lil, but you were late, and I’m on a schedule here.”
“You sound like my dad,” she says and sits in the computer chair, giving herself a good spin in the process.
“Well, sometimes I’m all business, too. Listen, we’ve got two hours before they close and the security guards change shifts. Lil, you know what to do.”
“Derek, I need you to use your climbing skills to scale the elevator shaft and grab a disc from an office safe on the thirty-fourth floor.”
I watch Derek sit forward in a flash. If his eyes were wide before, they’re bulging now.
“I’ll control the cameras, the elevator, the door locks and the safe. You just get in there and get the disc.”
* * *
“I can’t believe you talked me into this,” Derek whispers over the headset as he climbs the shaft.
“You know you like a challenge,” Lily replies.
“Focus guys. You’re distracting me. Lily, do you see any movement on the thirty-fourth?”
“No, JJ, but the other elevator is heading down from the fortieth floor. The security guards are all busy eating their Rocky Rocco’s in the video room. Are you sure the screens are on a loop?”
“Yeah, and I’ve disabled the sensors in the shaft. Now everyone quiet. This isn’t as easy as it seems.”
* * *
Hours later we all crowd around my laptop, the only light in the room blaring at us from the screen.
The disc slides into place and the data explodes across the screen. All I can hear is my heartbeat in my ears as I search through mountains of schematics, personnel files, secret documents until I find it: the one thing I need.
SO much I had to leave out of that to fit it in 1000 words! I can just imagine all the rest, though. AND I bet you can, too. What a fun super power that gift would be. But then again, maybe not!
Happy New Year, my friend!