What do I do? I’m just one kid with a busted arm! Do I go running off for help? Or do I go running in to help? Fermat’s thoughts flitted through his head like lightning. His feet did a little noiseless tattoo on the concrete as he turned in a circle, looking for someone, anyone. I could run to Maplewood or Oakwood, but by the time I found help and made them understand me past my stutter … I need Alan!

Suddenly the new watch caught his eye. That’s it! Mr. Tracy said use it in emergencies and this is one! I don’t need IR but maybe John can link me to Alan!

His fingertips, encumbered by the cast, fumbled with the button Mr. Tracy had pointed out would activate the watch. He blinked in surprise as the wide LCD screen blanked out, replaced by a tiny picture of John Tracy, blond hair slightly green in the display. His mouth was moving, as if he was talking. Fermat frowned, puzzled. Scanning the face of the watch, he noticed the button marked, “Alarm”. Let’s see what this will do.

“…ermat, come in! What’s your emergency!” John’s voice sounded very loud in the night’s quiet.

Fermat looked around before calling softly, “John, can you hear me?”

“Yes! Finally! What’s the emergency, Fermat?”

Fermat hunched over to protect the little screen from prying eyes–not that there were any around. “There’s a g-g-g … bunch of older b-boys nearby bullying a-a-a … someone! I n-need Alan!”

John frowned. “Didn’t Dad tell you how to communicate with each other?”

Fermat’s eyes grew wide behind his glasses. “No! It can d-do that? C-Cool!”

John rolled his eyes. “Okay. I’ll email the instructions to you and Alan as soon as I can. For now, I’ll buzz Alan and connect you. Stand by.”

We can use these to talk to each other? Sweet!

Alan moved through the crowds in the auditorium, looking for his friends while renewing acquaintances from the previous year. He caught Miss Gerrick watching him; he gave her a nod before turning away. Suddenly, his watch vibrated. His arm felt as if an electric shock had gone through it.

“Agghh!” He shook his arm before grabbing his wrist, doing a little jig in surprise. He glanced around; people regarded him with anything from looks of puzzlement to frowns of irritation. Smiling sheepishly, he gestured to his wrist. “Uh … spider.”

He hurried from the auditorium, ducking into the nearest restroom to shut himself in a toilet stall. The usual display had been replaced with a message that blinked, “Incoming Transmission”.

What do I do here? Let’s see what happens if I press … this.

Fingering the button his father said would signal John, he was surprised to see his older brother looking back at him. “Hey, John! What’s up?”

“Fermat needs you,” John said, his tone businesslike. “I’ll link you to him now. We’ll talk more later. Transferring, now.”

John was replaced by the fish-eye image of Fermat’s pale face, looking gray in the lack of light. “Fermat, where are you? What’s wrong?”

“I’m on the walk b-b-between Oakwood and M-Maplewood, Alan!” Fermat’s near whisper sounded louder than it should to Alan’s thinking. “There are s-some older b-boys, or maybe even m-m-m … adults, holding s-s-s … come quick, Alan! I gotta g-go help!”

“Fermat! Wait!” Alan’s cry was too late. Even though Fermat’s face disappeared, the picture didn’t stop. It swung crazily around, light and dark objects whipping past, indistinct. He heard Fermat call out to someone, but couldn’t make out what he was saying.

Damn! Gotta go help. But I’ll pick up some backup on the way out.

Alan slammed open the toilet stall door, running for the hallway. He ducked under the arms of a couple of seniors entering the restroom; they gazed after him in surprise as he slipped past. Hurrying into the auditorium, he scanned frantically for any of his close buddies. Finally, he spotted Jason and Ralph. Making his way through the crowds to them, he pulled on Jason’s sleeve.

“C’mon. Fermat’s in trouble!”

Jason frowned. “Trouble? What kind of trouble?”

“Don’t know yet.” Alan figured it was too hard to explain at that point. He yanked on Jason’s arm. “Come on!”

The three left in a hurry. Alan brought up the rear at first, glancing back to see if anyone followed. He then took the lead, breaking into a sprint and speeding through the covered courtyard between the cafeteria and the rest of the Student Union building. Jason found it hard to keep up but Ralph matched Alan stride for stride as they pounded up the walkways.

As they reached the space between the two dorms, Alan slowed. He motioned for his back up team to be quiet. Crouching low, they crept up on the scene, hearing low voices beyond the bushes. Waving his hand at his followers, he drew them together and hissed, “On three.”

He counted to three with his fingers and the trio rushed out of concealment. Ready to shout, Alan was suddenly brought up short by the sight of Fermat, unharmed, supporting a disheveled and upset Qaeshon. He put his hands up. His tone was casual. “Oh, hey, Fermat.”

Ralph shook his head. He detoured around his fearless leader. “Kay! What happened?”

“They tore up my orchestra jacket!” Qaeshon stifled a sob of anger and frustration.

Jason made a turn around the site, inspecting the scattered and shredded papers strewn all over the grass. “Oh man! They tore up your music, too.”

Ralph put a hand on Qaeshon’s shoulder. “How many were there and what did they want?” He gestured at Alan. “Go get Mr. Magnuson. He’ll want to see this.”

Alan nodded, taking off full tilt back the way he’d come. On the way, he found Lee Sugimoto and Xavion Lewis talking in front of the Birchwood dorm, where the Lewis brothers lived.

Alan slowed. “Hey, Xavion! Kay’s been attacked…”

“Where? Where is he?” Xavion demanded, concern coloring his voice. “Show me.”

“Can’t. Gotta get Mr. Mag!”

“I’ll get Mr. Mag.” Lee offered. “You show Zave where Kay is.”

Alan nodded. He tapped Xavion on the forearm, leading him off to find his younger brother. A quick glance back showed Sugi running toward the security office.

As they neared the spot, they could hear Ralph gently questioning Qaeshon. “So, you didn’t recognize any of them?”

“No.” Qaeshon sounded calmer now that he was surrounded by his friends. “They were at least seniors, if not older … Zave!”

“It’s all right, Kay.” Xavion approached his younger brother. “I’m here.”

Qaeshon backed away from him. “You! You had something to do with this! I just know it! I wouldn’t join track so you set these guys on me!”

Xavion’s mouth dropped open. He shoved a thumb at his shoulder as he sputtered, “Me?” He shook his head sharply. “No way! I had nothing to do with this, Kay! Sure, I’d like you to join track, but I know how much you love music. If I couldn’t persuade you on my own …” He gestured toward the torn shreds of music. “Kay, I’d never do this to you. Honest.”

Alan’s eyes flicked from brother to brother. He quickly stepped forward, putting himself between the two young men, body facing the elder but looking over his shoulder at the younger. “Kay, calm down. It’s cool. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”

He turned his head back to speak to the elder brother. “Zave, maybe you’d better see what’s keeping Mr. Mag, huh? It’s getting late and we don’t want to be caught outside after curfew.”

Xavion glowered at Alan before his shoulders relaxed and he nodded. “I’ll see what’s keeping Mr. Mag.” Turning, he strode out of the clearing, breaking into a run as he went in search of security.

“Thanks, Pinky.” Qaeshon put a hand on Alan’s shoulder. He sighed, crossing his legs at the ankles to sit down heavily. Looking up at his friends, he gave them a half-hearted smile. “I was glad to see you guys show up but not as glad as I was to see the Brain over there.” He motioned toward Fermat. “He came running around the corner, yelling at the top of his lungs. By that time the guys were already taking off, yelling at me, dissing me. But the Brain made them move a little faster, I think. He sounded like some sort of–I don’t know–horde or something.”

Fermat blushed and shrugged. “H-Had to d-d-d-d… act.”

Ralph squatted so he was eye level with Qaeshon. “What did they want?”

Qaeshon shook his head slowly. “I dunno. They kept going on and on about what a wimp I was, playing music when I could be going out for a sport. Kept talking about how lame the classics were and maybe if I could play rock I’d be worth something.” He lowered his head and picked at the grass. “Those are the kind of things Zave says to me sometimes. That’s why I thought he might have put these guys up to it.” He paused, running his sleeve over his eyes. “I’m damn glad I didn’t have my violin with me. No telling what they would have done to that.”

“Yeah. I’m glad it’s safe, too.” Alan crouched down. “Listen, Kay? I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but I don’t think Zave had anything to do with this. He seemed too shocked about it when I told him.” He put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I know all about brothers and their reactions. I can usually tell if mine are pulling my chain or are really being real, y’know? Well, except maybe for Gordon. He’s got wide-eyed innocent down pat.” He squeezed the shoulder. “Cut him some slack and let Mr. Mag work on this. He’ll find out who did it.”

Qaeshon sighed again. “Yeah, okay, Pinky. I’ll cut him some slack.” He held out his fist. Alan, Ralph and Fermat each tapped it with his own. There was a rustling, heralding the appearance of a figure carrying a bright flashlight. The boys all turned to see who it was, those still standing squinting in the light.

“So, looks like we’ve had a bit of trouble here.” Mr. Magnuson, head of campus security, strode into the clearing, accompanied by Xavion and Lee. “Who’s going to tell me what’s been going on?”

Mr. Magnuson questioned all the boys thoroughly, confiscating the ruined jacket and sheet music scraps. He was still talking to Qaeshon when Jason gestured for Ralph to join him. The pair pulled Alan and Fermat aside. Jason folded his arms and glared at the two buddies.

“Okay, Pinky. Spill. How did you know about all this? You said Fermat was in trouble. How did you know?”

Alan and Fermat glanced at each other. Neither of them seemed to know what to say. Alan was about to open his mouth to reply, “Uh, lucky guess?” when Fermat jumped in. He held out his right arm. “This!”

Now it was Ralph and Jason’s turn to exchange glances. Jason frowned, puzzled as he studied Fermat’s arm. “What?”

Alan frantically nudged Fermat but the younger boy ran with his own idea.

“The w-w-watch! Isn’t it c-c-c … great? It’s a t-t-two-way wrist r-r-radio!”

Ralph and Jason closed in on Fermat, looking at the watch as well as they could in the dark. “It’s cool-if that’s what it is.” Ralph took Fermat by the wrist. “How’d you get it?”

“F-F-From my dad! W-We’re b-b-b-beta testing it f-for him.” Fermat glanced over at Alan as if asking for support.

Alan nodded slightly before he stuck out his own arm. “Yeah. Tracy Industries wants to be the first on the market with them. Pretty soon they’ll replace cell phones.”

Fermat frowned at him over their friends’ heads, informing Alan he’d gone too far in his explanation. He responded with a slight shrug as if to say what’s done is done.

“Wow! That’s pretty cool!” Jason finally looked up from scrutinizing Alan’s watch. “I’m gonna tell my folks I want one.”

Alan hemmed. “Welllll … it’ll be a while before they’re on the market, y’know, and only if beta testing goes well. So it won’t help much to ask for one now.”

“R-R-Right!” Fermat chimed in. “It could be a y-y-year or more before they’re in p-p-production. M-M-M … Closer to t-t-two or th-three.”

“Oh, okay.” Jason nodded in understanding. “Tell me when they’re ready to buy, though. I really want one!”

“Sure!” Alan knew full well that the watches would probably never be used outside his family.

“Hey, guys!” Ralph glanced at his own watch. “We’d better get moving. Curfew’s in five minutes and lights out is in twenty.”

They all looked back at Qaeshon, still talking to Mr. Mag, Xavion by his side. Lee noticed and joined them.

“You ready to go, Tracy? Mr. Mag said he’d give Kay and Zave special permission to stay up late and talk to the locals when they arrive.”

“Yeah, I’m ready.”

The two roommates started off. Alan turned around, walking backwards as he pointed at his friends with both hands. “See you guys at breakfast. Fermat, look for me. I doubt Kay’s going to be awake for it.”

“R-R-Right!” Fermat pointed his one good hand back at Alan, who turned around again, following Lee out into the quadrangle.

“C’mon, Jase.” Ralph gave his roommate a nudge. “See you tomorrow, Brain.”

“O-Okay. Later, g-g-guys.”

The two boys left; after a moment, Fermat followed their cue. He hurried to Maplewood. Once in the elevator, he slumped against the wall, feeling tired and sleepy. When he reached his floor, he stumbled to his room, putting his good hand up to the scanner lock.

The door slid open, revealing Andrew John Trumbull lying on the top bunk, reading from a novel. He was already wearing his pajamas; he glared at Fermat with a raised eyebrow.

“Where have you been?” he asked, a touch of superciliousness to his voice.

Fermat returned the glare before pulling his own nightwear from his armoire. “H-H-H… aiding a f-friend. N-N-Not that it’s any of your b-b-business.”

“I hope coming in this close to lights out won’t be a habit. I like to go to bed early.”

Fermat didn’t reply. He took his clothes into the bathroom and changed, fumbling with the pajama pants and happy he could ease his button-down shirt over his cast. The five minute warning sounded as he dealt with the last button. He stuffed his dirty uniform into the mesh bag before proceeding with his usual bedtime routine. When he left the bathroom, he made a mental note to put his laundry bag out for pick-up in the morning. He wondered if he should mention to Trumbull about laundry day.

No, he decided. Trumbull’s a smart kid. He’ll figure it out. The boy in question had already pulled his blanket up, nearly covering his head.

The lights went out just as Fermat pulled the covers down. Snuggling in with a sigh, he closed his eyes. If I’d rushed in when I first heard them, maybe those guys wouldn’t have torn up the music. Then again, maybe they would have turned on me. Why is it so hard to know what to do?

Alan looked forward to his strength training class with Mr. Beccara. He’d done some with his brothers over the summer and expected to continue at the level he was at when he left the island. To his frustration, the first class merely introduced the class to the equipment, and today, Mr. Beccara discussed the major muscle groups.

“You have to know what muscle groups you’re working before you start, because each exercise we’ll be doing will target one or more of these groups.”

Mr. Beccara clicked his computer’s remote; a chart appeared on the smooth classroom wall. It had two male figures on it, one a front view and the other seen from behind. They looked as if the skin had been stripped away, showing only the muscles. Using a laser pointer, he began to circle the major muscle groups and name them. Alan looked down at the corresponding paper handout. He sighed, starting to fill in the names as Mr. Beccara indicated where on the body they were. He glanced up from time to time to check his spelling.

This is boring, he thought. I want to get to the gym!

Fermat found himself dealing with an unexpected problem in Pre-Engineering. Despite the fact he could type almost as fast with one hand as two, he was far less accurate. Like his father, he was a perfectionist in many areas, especially research or design. It galled him to have things typed inaccurately; he felt compelled him to go back and correct the spelling in his notes. However, his perfectionist tendencies didn’t necessarily apply to his personal hygiene or the way he dressed. He glanced down at his shirt cuff at one point to notice, in an offhand way, that he had a glob of ketchup smeared there from his lunch. The observation occupied a split second of his thought, and then he was back to taking notes, the little fact tucked away for a later, exasperated realization.

Their last period class could not have ended any sooner. Alan itched to run back to his dorm to change for the track tryouts. Fermat felt drowsy from the warmth of the classroom and effects of his painkiller. So when the final bell rang, Alan crammed his books into his backpack, folding and crumpling the papers he received that day. Fermat slowly filled up his book bag and put his computer in its case. He plodded out to the hallway where Alan waited, bouncing up and down impatiently.

Alan grabbed Fermat’s book bag. “Come on! I’ve got to get to the tryouts!” He rushed down the hallway to the stairs, waiting for Fermat to catch up and motioning for him to hurry.

The younger boy felt like he was moving through molasses; he couldn’t put on enough speed to suit the eager Alan. “Alan! W-W-W … Hold up!”

Alan stopped again, glancing back before jogging to where Fermat stood, leaning against the wall. “Hey, are you okay?”

Fermat nodded. “Y-Y-Y-eah, I’ll be f-f-fine.” He paused. “Listen, I’m j-j-just slowing you d-down. I’ll t-t-take the book bag and you g-g-go on.”

“Are you sure?” Concerned, Alan frowned as he handed over the book bag.

“Y-Y-Yeah. G-G-Go on.” Fermat waved a hand. “I’ll f-f-find someone to h-h-h… assist me.”

With one last, worried glance back at his friend, Alan hurried off, sprinting toward his dorm so he could change.

Fermat leaned up against the wall, sighing heavily. He took off his glasses to rub his eyes; when he put them back on he found himself meeting the gaze of Andrew John Trumbull. His roommate looked him up and down. Fermat straightened, pulling himself to his full height, an eyebrow rising behind his lenses. Trumbull shrugged, following the dwindling crowd out of the building.

The tired teen settled the strap to the computer case so it crossed over his sling before hauling the heavy book bag into his tired grip. He took a few steps away from the wall only to be nearly run down by Qaeshon.

“Hey, Brain! What’s up? Where’s Pinky?”

“H-He’s off t-t-to t-t-track tryouts. I was s-s-slowing him down.”

“Well, you look pretty whipped if I do say so myself.” Qaeshon took Fermat’s book bag. “Hey, I owe you for last night. Let me help you haul this back to your room before I talk to Mr. Giotta about my music and coat.”

The two of them walked out of the building, toward the Student Union. “So, you got much homework?”

“Not too m-m-much.” Fermat shook his head. “I th-think I m-m-might call my d-d-d … father. Just to t-t-touch base.”

“Good idea. I had to talk to mine last night about the whole incident.” Qaeshon grimaced. “He wasn’t too happy about the extra expense even though it wasn’t my fault. He was happy I was okay.”

Fermat nodded in agreement and sympathy. Yeah, I’m sure I’ll be hearing from my dad about using the new radios last night. He turned to Qaeshon. “D-D-Do they know who d-did it?”

Quashon shook his head. “Nah. Mr. Mag said it was too soon. But they hope there were fingerprints left on the music or something. At first they were kinda bummed we trampled all over the place, but I think they found footprints farther away.” He made a face again. “Mr. Mag says that investigations like this take time and not to get my hopes up. Bullying isn’t on the top of the police department’s list.”

“Your d-d-dad gonna d-do anything?”

Qaeshon shrugged. “Replace the coat and the music. Check in with the cops every so often. He tells me not to run around campus alone at night anymore. Can’t help doing that sometimes, though.”

“I-I know.” It suddenly occurred to Fermat that he had been walking around alone that night too. Suddenly, the small campus that he had considered safe didn’t feel as safe anymore.

Alan ran to the athletics field, making his deadline with just a few minutes to spare. Coach Evans stood with a number of seniors–including Lee Sugimoto and Xavion Lewis–talking to a small group of underclassmen. Alan joined them, watching as Lee pointed him out to Coach. The older man didn’t even break stride in his lecture as he made a mark on his electronic clipboard.

“Okay. Lewis here will lead you in some warm up and stretching exercises for fifteen minutes. Don’t skimp! Stretching and warm up are extremely important no matter what sport you’re into. When the fifteen minutes is up, he’ll direct you to whichever area of track and field interests you. Either myself or Mr. Becarra will be watching and judging your performance. Before you ask: no, the final cuts won’t be made today. Now, follow Lewis.”

Alan hung back as Xavion led the aspiring team members out to the grassy oval within the track. Coach Evans looked up. “I’ve got you, Tracy. Get out there and warm up.”

Alan grinned. “You got it, Coach.” He hurried to catch up with the rest of the small group.

Xavion led the group through some calisthenics and stretches. Alan felt right at home; his brothers did these with him before any exercising or running. He’d had it drilled into his head that warming up was integral to getting the body ready for action, keeping it from injuring easily. As a result, the fifteen minutes flew by and Alan had worked up a healthy bit of sweat. Xavion then directed two thirds of the group over to the track’s starting line, where Mr. Becarra waited. The rest of the boys, five in number, were asked individually what they planned on doing.

“High jump and pole vault,” Alan said when asked. “Oh, and cross country, too.”

“Over there for the jumps, Tracy.” Xavion pointed down the field to where the vaulting bar and the foam cushion for landing had been set up. “Cross country is tomorrow. Make sure you tell Coach that you’re interested.”

“Okay. Thanks!” Alan jogged down the field toward his goal. As he did, the first set of sprinters came barreling around the oval and down the straightaway.

“There you are, Tracy,” Coach Evans said as he approached. “I want to see this little jumping maneuver that Sugimoto says you have. You ready to show me?”

“Uh, yeah. I’m ready.” Alan’s palms suddenly becoming a bit more sweaty.

“Sugimoto measured the distance to the top bunk in your room so the bar is set just a couple of centimeters below that. Let’s see how you do.”

Alan pulled back at an angle to the bar, trying to get a feel for how far back he needed to go. It was easier in the dorm; he had a wall or door to stop him. When he felt he was back far enough, he took a deep breath and began his run toward the bar.

He knew he was in trouble before he even got to it. He had started too far out; it had taken too many strides for him to approach the take off point. As a result, his stronger leg, the one that he was used to pushing off with, wasn’t in position to propel him up as high as he needed. It was too late to stop, so he tried pushing off with the other leg. He twisted in mid-air, watching as the bar passed before his face before falling with a graceless thump onto the foam cushion.

Bouncing back up, he clenched his fists in frustration, muttering a cuss word under his breath. The coach made notes on his tablet as Alan strode up to him.

“Please, Coach. Let me try again. I’m better than that. I do this all the time.”

Coach Evans gazed up at him. Alan saw his reflection in the old man’s sunglasses. “Can you tell me why you weren’t able to do it this time?”

“Yeah, I can. I got too far back and the leg I usually launch with wasn’t in position when I reached the bar.”

The coach looked over at Lee, who stood impassively nearby, and then nodded his head. “Okay, Tracy. Just as long as you didn’t choke. Go ahead and give it another shot.”

Alan smiled grimly, nodding. He measured back from the bar this time, getting a better feel for the distance he needed. He took a couple of deep breaths, drawing the air in through his nose and letting it out through his mouth. He stood still for a moment, and then ran toward the bar again.

This time he knew he had it. His leg was positioned just right and propelled him upwards. Time seemed to slow as he turned in mid-air again, presenting his back to the bar, feeling his shoulders slide over it without touching, with the rest of his body obediently following. He got a tiny glimpse of his own feet, about to hit the bar and possibly dislodge it. Throwing his hips downwards, he propelled his feet up, coming down with what seemed to be an agonizing slowness onto his rump, creasing the thick cushion. He slapped his arms down as if he were being thrown by Scott during a judo class, and suddenly, it was over. Time resumed its normal speed and Alan found himself bounced up a bit by the spongy pad. He glanced over at the coach, who was nodding slowly, a small smile on his lips.

Coach Evans nodded in approval. “Not bad, Tracy, not bad. We’d have to work on technique a little, but overall, a decent jump.”

Alan grinned. I may have just found my sport!

For Alan, the rest of the tryouts weren’t quite as triumphant as his high jump. When asked if he knew how to pole vault, he had to admit he didn’t, so the coach waved him aside to let the experienced boys through.

Alan was surprised that some of the newer boys were trying out for the pole vault. Wonder what kind of middle schools they went to?

Coach Evans wanted all the boys interested in the field events to try out for the long jump and triple jump. Alan didn’t do as well with the latter; the coach looked pleased with the former. Alan passed on the shot put and discus throw; however, he did try his hand at the javelin. He didn’t think he’d done too badly, but it was hard to say.

By the time tryouts were done, the afternoon was darkening into evening, and the field’s lights came on. Mr. Becarra brought the weary runners over to the smaller group gathered around the coach.

“Now, boys, tomorrow there will be two more events to try out for: cross-country and hurdles. I want to know who’s interested in trying out for those events. Cross-country first.”

Several boys, including Alan, raised their hands. Mr. Becarra helped the coach with the names of those who wanted to sign up. The coach repeated the process with those interested in the hurdles. When that was finished, the coach spoke to the group.

“It was very evident to both me and Mr. Becarra that you were all trying hard today. You should be proud of the effort you put forth. It’s going to be difficult for us to make our final selections. However, if you don’t make the cut, don’t let it get you down. Instead, take your energy and enthusiasm and put it to good use in one of the school’s other extracurricular activities.” He paused. “You’re dismissed. I’ll see whoever’s trying out for the remaining two events here tomorrow at three-thirty, sharp.”

Alan rotated his shoulders as he walked back to Chetwood. He wanted a shower and clean clothes before eating dinner.

“Hey, Tracy!”

Alan turned as Lee and Xavion came up on either side of him. Lee grinned. “You did great today, Tracy.”

“Is it true that you jump like that to get into bed every night?” Xavion asked, a bit of challenge in his voice.

“Well, yeah. Unless I’m sick or something.” Alan shrugged.

“I saw you from across the field. I was im-pressed.” Xavion paused, rotating his own shoulders. “You’ll be a great addition to the team.” He glanced down at his feet before meeting Alan’s eyes. “Thanks for helping out Kay last night. I’m glad you were there when he needed you.” His mood changed and he threw a comradely arm around Alan’s shoulders. “Now, what’s this name Kay has for you? Pinky?”

“Pinky?” Lee’s grin widened as he saw Alan squirm at Xavion’s use of the name. He slid an arm around Alan’s shoulders from the other side.

Alan glared at Xavion. “Where’d you learn that?”

The older boy looked off into the distance, smiling serenely. “Oh, a fellow lab mouse let it slip last night while we were talking with Mr. Mag.” He glanced down at Alan, speaking directly into his ear. “So, is it true?”

“Well, uh, yeah,” Alan mumbled, his face getting red. “Fermat is the Brain, and I’m … uh … Pinky.” He pointed at each of the seniors in turn, raising his voice. “But only my friends can call me that.”

“Hey, we’re your friends now, aren’t we … Pinky?” Lee smiled slyly as they stopped in front of Chetwood

“Narf!” Xavion burst into laughter.

Alan sighed heavily and nodded. Oh, God. By tomorrow, everyone will be calling me ‘Pinky’. I think I’d rather die.

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