Peter walked through the campus, looking around. It had always been his dream to go to college, but with the way his grades had been and the way his friends treated him, he knew it was only a dream.
He was too dumb for that. He always would be.
Looking at his watch, Peter sighed and sped up his pace. Michael would be picking him up from the parking lot by the computer lab in half an hour.
As Peter walked towards the computer lab, he saw a room that was locked up. It looked like it held all sorts of weird machines. (Wonder if they've got a brainwave therapy machine,) Peter thought. Then he laughed aloud. Stuff like that only existed in movies.
The sky opened up suddenly, soaking Peter to the skin in seconds. He breathed an irritated sound and ran to the lab, finding the door unlocked. "Odd," he mused, but went inside anyway. At least it was dry.
His eyes narrowed as he looked around. The lab was laid out in such a way that he'd only seen in movies -- when someone was plotting murder. Bare wires, frayed wires.... this place was a disaster waiting to happen!
Peter's inherent sweet nature couldn't let this slide. He moved to the side of the room, bending down to unplug the main plug as his moccasin-ed feet balanced precariously on a pile of frayed wires.
Suddenly a jagged bolt of lightning struck the main wires leading to the lab. Peter's fingers had just closed over the plug when the current hit his feet. His hand completed the circuit, and he was frozen in place for an agonizing five seconds, his head thrown back and his eyes and mouth wide in a silent scream of shock.
The college's main computer whirred and buzzed, then all its terminals, one after the other, went dark. As each one darkened, Peter's eyes glowed for a fraction of a second.
After the last terminal darkened, Peter was flung across the room by the sheer power of the current. His heart beat erratically for a few moments, and then settled into its familiar rhythm.
As Peter sank into unconsciousness, his last thought was Michael...help me...can't turn it off... Then all was dark and silent except for the rain pouring down and the white-topped cherry- red GTO coughing to a stop outside the lab, the horn blowing impatiently.
When Peter awoke, Mike was standing over him. "You okay, shotgun?" Mike asked.
Peter blinked. "I think so...what happened?"
"Man, you got thrown across the room by something," Mike said, helping Peter to his feet.
"Oh...the wires," Peter said, blushing. "They were...they looked dangerous, so I thought I'd fix them."
Mike sighed. "Peter, don't scare me like that, okay? I didn't know if you were gonna be okay or what."
Peter nodded slowly, trying to regain his balance. "Okay, Michael. I'm sorry."
Mike inclined his head towards the doorway. "Come on. Let's go. We've got a sound check at the Vincent Van in twenty minutes, and we're gonna be late."
"Not if we go sixty," Peter said without thinking.
Mike turned and blinked at Peter. "What?"
"The Vincent Van's only twenty...well, fifteen-point-five miles away. If we go sixty miles per hour, we should be there well within our time limit," Peter said.
Mike folded his arms, leaning across the doorway. "You wanna explain how you just did that?"
Peter turned a shocked look on Mike. "I'm not sure..."
Mike wanted to debate the point, but they were late already, so they went on.
Micky and Davy started to tease them for being late, but one Look from Mike and they stopped. They had their sound check and played the gig. To their own ears -- and to those of the crowd – they played better than they had in a very long time.
After the gig, the new manager came up and handed them four envelopes, congratulating them on a job well done. Peter rifled through his envelope and without looking up, asked, "If we did such a good job, why are you stiffing our pay?"
"Peter!" Micky hissed, shocked.
Peter looked at Mike. "Michael, he promised us $180. That's $45 apiece. My envelope only has $30."
Davy looked in his. "Mine too."
The manager laughed. "You can't do your math, Peter. After taxes, that's correct."
"But you never said anything about taxes," Peter shot back. "You hired us for $180. Flat."
"If Mister Barron says it's taxes, it's taxes!" the new assistant manager shot. As Mike wavered, he added, "Besides, who's more credible? Mister Barron, who does the best he can by you, or the dummy of the group?"
Mike looked at the guys, and the guys looked back at him. Then they nodded in unison and turned to Mr. Barron. "Peter," they all said at the same time.
"Listen, man, what's the big deal?" Mike said in an easygoing tone. "It's only sixty dollars. I'm sure you make more than that from the kids who come here to hang out."
The manager frowned. "I don't appreciate being told what to do by anyone, least of all four out-of-work musicians."
"Well, we don't appreciate being lied to," Micky snapped. "Least of all by some pompous windbag like you."
Mr. Barron stiffened in displeasure.
"Not to mention the fact that you committed breach of contract and we could sue you," Peter said.
"Hey, that's right! You gave us a contract for this gig, legal and binding!" Mike added, wondering what in the world had happened to make Peter so self-assured...and so knowledgeable about legal matters.
"Breach of contract? Says who?" Mr. Barron asked indignantly.
"Says the state code, paragraph ten, section C. 'The parties involved in a contract will...'" Peter began.
"And you don't wanna have to deal with our solicitor, man," Davy added.
"Who's that?" Mr. Barron asked, looking perturbed.
"Me," Micky said, angling a thumb towards his chest.
Mr. Barron coughed and turned scarlet, digging into his pocket and forking over the sixty dollars. "There. There's your filthy money. But if you expect to be able to play here ever again, forget it!"
Mike pocketed the money. "Thank you, Mr. Barron. You're all heart." He turned and headed for the door.
"It doesn't matter," Peter said to Mr. Barron. "The walls here are old, and given their structural integrity, they'll collapse in a matter of weeks anyhow."
Mr. Barron's mouth fell open, and Peter turned and followed the others out the door.
Once in the car, Mike turned to Peter. "Okay, shotgun, out with it."
"Out with what?" Peter asked, frowning.
"Oh, no! That space cadet act ain't gonna work no more! Not after what I saw in there!"
"Michael, what are you talking about?" Peter's frown deepened. "And why aren't we in there getting our pay?"
"You...you...you...homminahomminahommina..." Micky stammered.
"Mike, he...he doesn't remember any of it!" Davy said incredulously.
"Not remember any...how could he...?" Mike trailed off. "Peter, what's the last thing you remember?"
"I was trying to convince Mr. Barron to give us the money he left out of our envelopes," Peter said. "Then...I guess I spaced out."
"Spaced out my eye," Micky said skeptically. "You were quoting breach-of-contract laws word for word and talking about structural integrity."
Peter's brow furrowed. "But I don't understand. I don't know anything about any of that."
Mike frowned. "Peter, ever since I picked you up, you've been...different. You know about stuff you got no reason to know about, and you've said stuff you wouldn't ever have said before. Wanna explain what's going on here?"
"I can't, Michael," Peter said softly, his eyes wide. "I don't know! There was a blast of lightning in the lab and ---"
Micky suddenly leaned forward. "Lab? What lab?"
"Down, Micky," Davy chuckled.
"No, hear me out! I'm not playin' around now!" Micky said, turning back to Peter. "What lab?"
Peter and Mike both turned and frowned slightly. "The main computer lab at CSU Malibu," Peter said. "Why?"
Micky went ash-pale and sank back into the seat. "Mike, we gotta keep this under wraps, cause if I'm right, the establishment may be coming after Peter."
"What are you yammering on about?" Mike demanded.
Micky met his eyes. "Mike -- the main computer bank at CSUM was wiped clean last night. There were three encyclopedias, an entire legal and medical library, an arts library...all of it. Wiped clean by a lightning strike last night. They don't know where the information went." He met Peter's huge eyes. "But I think we do."
Davy looked skeptically at Micky. "You mean, all that stuff Peter said in there..."
Micky nodded. "Yeah."
Peter blinked, and then he smiled.
"What're you so happy about?" Mike asked, mind racing. Great. This was just great. (Not only do we have to deal with finding a different place to play, now we've gotta keep Peter in hiding because he's some kind of computer?) This was an added complication that Mike really didn't need right now.
"This means I'm smart," Peter said, smiling at Mike. "I mean, really smart, like I always wanted to be!"
"You're probably the smartest person in the country right now," Micky said.
Davy looked at Peter for a minute. "Hey, Peter! What's the quadratic formula?"
"Quantity negative b plus or minus the square root of quantity b- squared minus 4 ac, end quantity, end quantity, divided by 2a," Peter rattled off. Then he blinked in surprise. "Is that right?"
"Beats me," Davy said. "I hated math."
"Peter, you can't just go around doing that," Mike said.
"I can't help it, Michael," Peter said.
"I know," Mike said. "But somebody's gonna suspect something. I mean, you don't exactly have a record as a child prodigy or anything. People are gonna get suspicious if you start knowing too much."
Peter let out a frustrated sigh and leaned back against the seat. "Great.... so now I'm not stupid, but now I can't be smart either! Geez, why can't I ever do things halfway?"
"Cause you wouldn't be you if you did," Mike grinned, putting the car in gear and pulling out of the parking lot.
The next day, Babbitt came pounding on the door. Peter answered it and smiled. "Hello, Mister Babbitt, what can we do for you?"
"You know what you can do!" Babbitt roared, elbowing his way in. "I want my money, or out you go!"
"We paid you on the twelfth," Micky said from the bandstand.
"Yeah, for September!" Babbitt snarled. He put a finger in Peter's chest. "I want my money!"
Peter's eyes flashed quite visibly, and then he said calmly, "We paid you on the twelfth. We are paid up. It was not for September. You have been coming by every seventeen days demanding a full month's rent. We have paid you on this schedule and we now only owe you rent for next month." He removed Babbitt's hand. "Which is due on the fifth -- two weeks from now."
"Now you hold on a moment...."
"Are you aware, sir," Peter continued in that same eerily calm voice, "that your behavior is that of a slumlord and you could be prosecuted under California law for this?"
Babbitt's mouth opened, then closed, but he made no sound. "Fine," he said finally. "The fifth." With a dazed look on his face, Mr. Babbitt turned and left the house.
Micky tapped Peter on the shoulder. "Hey, Pete, wake up."
Peter blinked, and then he looked worriedly at Micky. "I did it again, didn't I?"
"Yep, you sure did," Mike said, running a hand through his hair.
"Call me crazy," Davy began.
"You're crazy," the other three said in unison.
Davy shook his head. "Fine. Thanks. Anyway, what I was saying is, we're not going to be able to hide this."
"Oh, really? I never would've guessed," Mike said wryly.
"I think I see what you're saying, Davy," Peter said slowly.
"I'm sure you do," Micky said. "You can probably figure out what he's gonna say before he says it."
"What I was thinking is, Peter's smart. I mean, we can't hide that. Even Mr. Babbitt knows," Davy said.
"And he's not the smartest chip off the old block himself," Mike said.
"Exactly," Davy said, nodding in confirmation. "So we go on like normal, but Peter goes on however he does, because we can't stop it."
Peter wet his lips nervously. "I-I've been thinking about something."
"What's that, Peter?" Micky asked curiously.
"I was thinking...maybe...could I go to school?" Peter asked hesitantly.
"What for?" Mike asked tiredly.
Peter's face fell. "I've always wanted to....and now....."
"But what would you major in?" Mike asked. "Suppose this wears off - - how would you use that education if it goes with the rest of this? We'd be throwing our money away...."
"Hey, Peter, where would we get the money?" Davy asked.
"I-I don't know," Peter admitted. "It's just that..." His mouth scrunched up as it did when he was particularly upset about something. "You guys don't know what it's like to not be smart...you've never had that problem. It's hard to watch everybody around you learn things and know that you're too stupid to get it." He looked at the ground. "This is the first time I haven't felt that way in my life."
"So teach yourself," Micky said thoughtfully.
Peter turned to look at Micky. "What?"
"You heard me," Micky said, looking interested. "Teach yourself. If you can really understand things, you don't need a professor to teach you. Read a lot. That way, if it goes away, you're not stuck up a tree at college, but you've learned a lot of stuff anyway."
"Hey, that sounds like a good plan," Mike agreed. "What do you think, Peter?"
Peter nodded, smiling. "That sounds like something I could do."
"Smashing," Davy said with a smile. "You're going to be the smartest guy since Albert Einstein."
Peter blushed. "Wow...that's...thank you, David."
The next morning, Peter went to the library and returned with five books. He set them in a corner and did his share of the chores, then took one and retreated to the window seat and began to read. A few minutes later, he was in Micky and Mike's room, poking around in a drawer.
"What are you lookin' for?" Mike asked, coming out of the shower and toweling his hair dry.
"Notebook," was Peter's succinct answer.
Mike went to the other dresser and picked up his wallet. He drew a five dollar bill out and handed it to Peter. "Go buy some. And something to write with."
Peter hugged him briefly but tightly. "If you were a girl right now, I'd kiss you!"
"Well, I'm not, so don't get any ideas...." But Mike was grinning, as Peter had intended. "Get gone, shotgun."
Peter returned with four notebooks and one drawing pad and a box of pencils. He pressed Mike's change into his hand and put the extras away, then retreated back to the window seat.
Mike smiled to see him taking notes on the book he was reading! "What'cha got there?"
Peter raised the book so Mike could see the cover. 'American History, volume one: the Native Americans and first colonists'. It was a college-level text.
"Wow," Mike said, raising an eyebrow. "Any good?"
Peter nodded excitedly. "It's really interesting! They have the rest of the volumes at the library, so I'm going to go back and get those once I'm finished with this."
"Well, I gotta tell ya, one thing you aren't lacking is ambition," Mike said.
"It's so easy!" Peter said. "I mean, when I read it, I understand exactly what the person who wrote it was trying to say! That's never happened before."
"What else you got there?" Mike asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
"Oh...biology, math, literature, and Spanish," Peter said excitedly.
Mike blinked. "Spanish? What do you need Spanish for?"
"Nothing, I guess...but if I can speak it, that might be fun." Peter smiled. "Tu eres un escéptico, Michael."
"Huh?" Mike asked, nonplussed.
Peter's eyes widened. "But I didn't even read...I just flipped through it!" He put down his history book and picked up the Spanish book, hands shaking slightly.
"What'd you say?" Mike asked.
"I said you were a skeptic," Peter replied, looking in the glossary in the back to make sure that was what he said.
Mike nodded. "I guess you're a whole lot smarter than even you thought, Peter..."
"What makes you say that?" Micky asked, coming in with a cup of coffee in his hands.
"Peter just skimmed a Spanish book and spoke it at me," Mike said.
Micky did some fancy juggling to keep from dropping the cup on the hardwood floors. "Peter did what?" He looked over at Peter. "Hablas español?"
"Si," came the immediate answer. "Pero ya que cuando hablais español?"
Micky grinned. "Mi abuelita me enseñara." To Mike he said, "He asked me since when did I speak Spanish, and I told him my grandmother taught me."
Mike nodded. "I speak a little...."
Peter beamed. ”I'll teach you!"
Slowly, Mike turned. "You mean that, shotgun?" At Peter's enthusiastic nod, he began to smile. "Might be fun."
Peter's smile seemed to light the very room.
Davy ran into the room. "Guys! Turn on the TV!"
"Why?" Micky asked.
"Peter was right! The Vincent Van GoGo just collapsed!"
"The-it-what?" Mike asked, temporarily at a loss for words.
If Peter had been any paler, he would've been transparent. "Was anybody hurt?"
"No, the guy on TV says it collapsed in the middle of the night," Davy said.
Peter shook his head. "I don't want this...if that's what it means...I don't want this."
"Peter, you can't just give it back," Micky said.
"But it collapsed! And I knew it was going to, and...People could've been hurt..." Peter trailed off, looking disconsolate.
"Man, all you did was tell the manager about it. C'mon now. You can't save everybody," Mike said.
"But I didn't even try," Peter said. "I knew it was going to collapse, and..."
"Peter, it was up to him to do something about it, not you," Micky said. Then he grinned. "Besides, the way you demanded our pay, do you really think he would've listened to you?"
Peter smiled tentatively. "No...I guess not."
"You've got that right," Davy said.
Just then, the phone rang. "Hello?" Mike said. "Yeah, just a second." He cupped his hand over the mouthpiece. "Peter, it's for you."
Peter took the phone. "Hello?"
"You knew." It was Mr. Barron, sounding utterly defeated. "How did you know?"
"The walls...were..." Peter trailed off uncomfortably. "I just...did."
"I'm sorry I didn't listen to you," Mr. Barron said, sounding utterly miserable. "You told me what was going to happen, and I didn't believe you."
"That's...it's..." Peter was at a loss for words. "Nobody got hurt, and that's the important thing."
"Right," Mr. Barron said, still sounding hollow and listless. "I'll just have to build the place again. Tork?"
Peter bit his lip, fearing what might come. "Yes?"
"Tell the other fellows in your band...I'm sorry." And with a sigh of loss, Barron hung up the phone.
Peter looked at the receiver in his hand disbelievingly.
"What'd he say?" Micky asked.
"He apologized for...not believing me," Peter said, furrowing his brow.
Mike chuckled. "Guilt trip all around, I'd say. Peter blames himself, Mr. Barron blames himself, and nobody was even in the building!"
Davy chuckled. "It's a good job Mr. Schneider doesn't blame himself."
"Oh, I don't know," Micky said. "He's been looking a little depressed lately, I think..."
Mike shot him a Look, then they all turned at an odd sound. Peter was on the ground, holding his stomach, laughing hysterically.
Some of the tension that had been building all day was eased.
Peter came in from a swim five hours later, holding something small, triangular and grey. "What've you got there?" Mike asked.
The flat voice they'd come to associate with Peter's 'computer- brain' came out. "The oral ossification of a fish order---"
"English, Einstein!" Mike chuckled.
Peter looked at him. "Shark's tooth." He held it up. It was still bloody.
"Is that...your...it's all..." Micky gagged, covering his mouth.
"No, it's not mine, Micky," Peter said. "I wasn't attacked. I extracted it myself so that I could study the..."
"Hang on a minute!" Mike interrupted. "You're telling me you fought with a shark to get his tooth?"
Peter shrugged. "I just finished a book on dentistry, so I knew how to extract it without causing the shark any pain...besides, I've been studying sharks too..."
"Since when?" Davy demanded.
"Since this morning. I got some new books from the library," Peter said placidly.
Mike shook his head. "Peter...you gotta be more careful, okay? I mean, a week or so ago, you would've been scared to even look at a picture of a shark...just because you're smart doesn't mean you're invincible."
Peter turned pale. "I didn't even think of...I...I'm sorry."
Micky looked seriously at Peter. "We need a bassist, Peter, and I don't think a shark could do it."
"No, fins don't lend themselves to finger picking," Peter agreed, heading to the bathroom.
Davy looked at the bathroom for a minute, then shook his head, speaking in a whisper so that Peter couldn't hear. "Man...I miss those little 'Peter' things he used to say...where he didn't understand what you said, stuff like that."
"Yeah, me too," Mike said softly.
"Me three," Micky said. Then he grinned. "Maybe I ought’a take over being the dummy."
Mike looked skeptically at Micky. "You're too much of a smart- aleck."
"Yeah, probably," Micky agreed cheerfully.
Peter came home that afternoon fuming. "Whoa!" Davy gasped as a book went whizzing past his head. "Peter, what is it?"
"The library failed me," he growled, flopping onto the couch.
Micky blinked. "How could the library fail you?"
"They don't have any books on how to speak Vietnamese!"
Silence. Mike finally asked, "Vietnamese? Wh-why would you want that?"
"So I can figure out what the people on the news are really saying!"
Davy spoke first. "You know, Peter, ever since you've been smart...you've been really..."
"Different," Micky finished. "I mean, you don't trust the people on the news...you wrestle sharks for their teeth, for crying out loud!"
"It's like the Peter we knew before is gone," Mike said slowly.
Peter stared at them. "How can you say that? I'm still...I-I'm still me."
Davy looked at the floor, and so did Micky. Peter looked at Mike, trying to make Mike understand. "Mike...what...?"
"I'm sorry, Peter," Mike said, "but the fact is, you're just not the same."
The old Peter would've burst into tears; everyone knew that. But this wasn't the old Peter. This one got mad. "Well what do you want me to do, Michael? Get rid of this stuff in my head?" He jabbed a finger into Mike's chest. "Well, I'm not going to! I like being smart! And if you don't like it --- tough!" He grabbed his jacket and stormed out the back door, heading to the beach to calm down.
Micky blinked. "Well....wow."
Mike sighed. "I don't know what to do, guys...I just thought maybe if we confronted him...he might...snap out of it."
"He's not gonna snap out of it," Davy said resignedly, "because he likes being this way. He doesn't realize that anything's wrong."
Micky scrunched up his face in a thoughtful expression. Mike took one look at him, and then did a double-take. "Oh, don't do that," Mike said. "You look like Peter when you do that."
Micky nodded with self-satisfaction. "Exactly."
Davy blinked. "What?" Micky grinned.
"I'm thinking it's gonna take a little shock therapy to get our old Peter back..."
"Hey, after what just happened, I'm listening," Mike said, leaning forward with some interest.
Micky smiled. "Okay. Here's what I'm thinking..."
When Peter got back to the house, an unusual sight greeted his eyes. Micky was lying on the couch, a bag of peas on top of his head. Davy and Mike were sitting guarding him like twin sentinels.
"What happened?" Peter asked.
"He tried that sliding down the banister bit," Davy said. "Cracked his head."
"He fall off?" Peter crouched beside Micky. At their nod, he reached for Micky.
Micky had deliberately smacked his head against the wall, so there was a bump. He hissed and opened his eyes, to see Peter probing him.
Peter nodded. "You've got a bump there. Do you feel dizzy? Disoriented?"
Micky shook his head slowly, then nodded. "Just a bit dizzy."
Peter checked his eyesight, by having Micky track his finger. "Well, looks like you might have a slight concussion. You'll be okay with rest."
Micky smiled at him vacantly. "Thanks, Micky."
Peter did a double-take so violent he fell off the couch. Mike and Davy appeared to be as surprised as Peter was, but they exchanged a wink when Peter wasn't looking.
"Wh-what do you mean?" Peter asked, climbing back onto the couch. He felt as if the bottom of his stomach had just dropped out.
Micky's eyes filled with puzzled innocence. "What do you mean? All I said was, thanks, Micky..."
"But you...I'm...you're..." Peter's breaths were coming a little faster than they should. This was not possible!
Micky's mouth scrunched up. "I'm the dummy. I know."
Peter's mouth fell open; he remembered how many times he’d felt that way. "No, that...that wasn't what I meant."
"It's okay," Micky said, smiling naively. "I know I'm not...very smart..."
"Buh...enh?" Peter said, still breathing hard.
Micky sat up, giving Peter a puzzled look. "Are you sure you're okay, Micky?"
"No," Peter said, backing away and feeling unaccountably guilty. (Well, not unaccountably. His psyche probably created this to compensate for the fact that you've changed so much since your accident...)
(Oh, shut up,) Peter hissed mentally to the computer in his head. He didn't want to be fed dry psychological analyses right now; all he wanted was to see Micky being Micky again. (And I guess...I guess to do that, I have to be Peter,) he thought.
(But you can't.)
Peter closed his eyes. (Sure I can. I mean I can't have changed that much...)
(You're a better person now. You're never going to be that dumb idiot again.)
Peter suddenly let out a wail and ran. Mike ran after him and found him curled up into a small ball in a small cave half-in the water, running his hand along the sharp scales of the small shark that was swimming by his perch. "Pe...Peter?"
Peter sniffled. "Mike..."
Mike looked at Peter for a moment. "You're crying..."
Peter laughed, swiping at his eyes. "I know." He shook his head. "I don't want to be stupid, Michael, but I-I don't want Micky to..." He couldn't finish the sentence. "And he hit his head and he thinks he's me! And it's because I'm not here, or not the way I used to be, and I don't know what to do about it except be dumb again, but..."
"Hold it right there, Peter," Mike interrupted, holding up a hand. "Breathe."
Peter nodded, taking several deep, shuddering breaths. "Mike...I have to give it back, don't I?"
Mike pursed his lips. "Yeah, I think you do."
Peter nodded. "Okay. I-if it'll bring Micky back, then I...I'll do it." He looked up at Mike. "I couldn't stand not being friends with you guys anymore..."
Mike hugged him quickly. "You'll always be our friend, Peter."
Peter shook his head. "No, I'm not. This me isn't your friend. You look so sad when you look at me and --" He stopped as the shark bumped his leg. He reached in and petted the head carefully, so as not to cut himself on the sandpaper scales.
"Uhm...Peter, are you sure that's safe?" Mike asked.
Peter smiled. "I'm sure. He's pretty tame." He tapped the fish's head. "Take off now, Cotton. I'll be okay. Thanks."
A second bump to his leg, and what appeared to be a deliberate wiggle that looked like a wave, and the infant Great White Shark swam away.
Peter stood, brushing sand and shells from his soaking wet pants leg. "Let's go. I've got to go back to CSUM computer lab and --- Michael? What are you gaping at?"
"You...talked to the fish," Mike said finally.
"Shark. He's a great white, actually, but he's just a baby," Peter said automatically, and then he clapped his hands over his mouth. "Sorry."
Mike shook his head. "No, that's okay. But, Peter...it was like he...understood you. You been reading shark language books or something?"
"No," Peter said with a quizzical frown. "I just...knew what he was doing, that's all."
"And you're not psychic or anything?" Mike asked carefully.
"I don't think so," Peter said, sounding extremely skeptical. "Anyway, let's get going."
"Okay," Mike said reluctantly, pointing at Peter, "but if you talk to any more animals on the way, I'm calling the newspapers."
"Don't do that," Peter sighed. "I don't need any more trouble."
They went into the pad, and Mike shot a thumbs-up to Davy and Micky, who grinned and nodded.
Peter told Mike, "Come with me. I'll need your help."
They drove in silence all the way to CSUM, where Peter picked the lock and they went inside. "What do you want me to do?" Mike asked.
"Blow the fuse box," Peter said, pulling out a knife. "Once I get all the rigging set up, blow the entire fuse box. The current should reverse the effects and send the information back into the computer."
"And if it doesn't?"
"I'm no better off than I am now." He began to fray wires.
Mike licked his lips. "I hope you know what you're doin', shotgun."
Peter smiled at Mike. "Of course I do. I've got an entire computer database up here, remember?" He tapped his head. "Anyway, let's go."
Mike nodded. "Okay..." Mike waited for what seemed like forever, his heart in his mouth, while Peter set about readying the wires. Then, Peter nodded to him.
Mike closed his eyes, and blew the entire fuse box. There was a bright flash of light, and Mike heard Peter scream. There was a thud, and when Mike opened his eyes again, he saw Peter lying on the floor.
"Peter? Hey, Peter?" Mike asked, rushing over to Peter and shaking him by the shoulders. "Peter?"
Peter opened his eyes groggily. "Did it work?"
Mike shrugged. "I dunno, man. What's the square root of 2?"
Peter thought about it, his forehead wrinkling and mouth scrunching in the old familiar way, and then he shook his head. "I don't know."
Mike whooped in triumph. "Neither do I! You're back!"
Peter hugged him, celebrating with him, and then whooped out, "Gracias a Dios! I'm back!"
Mike pulled away, staring at him, stricken.
"What?" Peter asked, and then he realized what he had said, and his face fell. "Oh."
"I don't get it," Mike said. "Peter, what's the second paragraph of state legal code regarding...?"
"Mike, slow down," Peter said, eyes going wide. "You're giving me a headache."
Mike blinked. "That doesn't make any sense...unless..."
"Unless what?" Peter asked.
Mike grinned. "Maybe you're just good at languages on your own, shotgun...maybe the computer didn't have anything to do with that."
Peter's jaw dropped. "You think so?"
"One way to find out," Mike said, grabbing Peter's hand and pulling him to the car. "We're going to Chinatown."
"But...but I can't---"
"If you're good at languages, maybe you'll be able to pick up a word or two."
Five minutes after they arrived in Chinatown, Peter could speak Chinese as if he'd been born in Beijing. "I don't know what to say," Peter said, still speaking Chinese to Mike.
"Huh?" Mike asked. "My Chinese is a little rusty, Peter...you might wanna speak English to me."
"Oh," Peter said, blushing. "I said I don't know what to say. This is...weird."
"But it's pretty cool," Mike said. "Guess you're not the dummy after all, huh?"
Peter's smile could've provided enough electricity to run Chinatown
for a week.
Return to The Realm