Moving in was surprisingly easy. Probably had to do with the fact that everything I owned could still fit in a backpack.
"So, what should we do with the car," I asked.
"Why wouldn't we keep it," Joanne asked.
"Well, we have no idea if Sam had some sort of tracker. Also, it's a stolen car. If the police investigate Sam's disappearance, they might try to look for it. So, I think we should divest ourselves of this car."
"So," Gabe said. "I guess we scrub it down for fingerprints and just drop it off in some random neighborhood?"
"Or we could drive it back to Sam's house," Daniel suggested.
"No," I said. "Sam's house may already be monitored."
"Could we drive it into the river," Gabe suggested.
"No," Daniel responded. "The police would fish it out."
"That would be so cool."
The discussion was getting off track. "We'll wipe the car down. I'll put on gloves, drive the car, wipe it down again, and leave it in some parking lot somewhere. Sound like a plan."
"Sounds a lot like a plan," Gabe said.
"Very well. I will see you all shortly."
"I'll go with you," Joanne said. "I'll keep you company."
I was sort of taken aback. "Thanks."
Joanne and I had just scoured the car for everything from fingerprints to individual hairs to Gabe sticking a piece of gum under the seat. "Every day that passes with further degrade whatever evidence remains," I said, as I removed the car's license plate. "The car could conceivably remain here for months unnoticed."
"So, now I guess we take the subway back to our new home. If we're lucky, we'll be able to get back without encountering a mob of people who hate us."
We walked over to the nearest station, and got our CharlieCards. It was five twenty-three on a Wednesday, so there weren't many seats available. The two of us stood in silence. For someone who ostensibly came in order to keep me company, Joanne was being awfully quiet.
When we transferred to a different line, I struggled not to think about all the different ways to levitate a train. Magnetic, or air jets, or perhaps if you had a fine-tuned- No. I needed to do a better job minding my mind.
We got onto a train, and eventually, got off at the appropriate station.
As we began our walk back, Joanne tapped on my shoulder. "Can, can I ask you a question?"
"How are you so smart?"
I didn't know what to say. 'Well, I have this disease called M.A.D.N.E.S.S. Perhaps you've heard of it' didn't seem like the ideal response. "What do you mean?"
"You and Daniel. You can do so much. You can kill someone with a sample of his DNA. He can get a million dollars out of nowhere. You know the human body well enough to operate on yourself in the mirror, and he can take the cube root of a sixteen digit number. I could never do something like that. Can most MADs do that sort of thing?"
"No," I said. "Different people have the disease to different extents. You've probably heard of the six-tier classification system. It's not an intelligence scale. Frankly, it's not an intelligent scale. But it does illustrate that different people are further gone than others. I'm a level four, Daniel is a level three. That means we exhibit abilities far beyond the best neurotypical scientists in several different disciplines. It also means that we both have a high probability of killing someone by accident." A part of me wondered if there was a better way to classify MADs. It would probably require quantifying SHUT UP. Here I was, zoning out in the middle of a conversation. A conversation discussing my proclivity for zoning out, no less.
"So, what level am I."
"You may have lucked out, and been a level one. You seem to be able to control it. Do you think about science when you don't want to?"
I think I did an admirable job of hiding my jealousy.
"What about Gabe?"
"It's hard to say." I lowered my voice. We were starting to encounter people who might take the wrong sort of interest in a conversation about MAD taxonomy. "Before he knew about it, he was exhibiting low-level symptoms. He seems to have gotten a lot worse since he found out." I tried not to blame myself. It was only a matter of time until he learned. But still, I shouldn't have just dumped that information on him so casually. So, is there a way for me to ask him if he wants to know something without telling him that thing? This was actually part of a more general set of cryptographic-
"So, what can a level five MAD do? Or level six?"
"Have you heard of Xingxi Yu? The Chinese MAD who sank an aircraft carrier? She was the first person to be diagnosed level five. Jackson Romero can slice through steel with lasers he fits in his wrists. As for level six... Oberon can make himself invisible. Prometheus built a hydrogen bomb in his basement. Lucas Halloway engineered a mind-altering virus that infected three million people in four hours."
We passed someone holding a sign that said 'Screw the Mooks.' Another one with what I assumed was an effigy of Oberon. I could only imagine how he would react upon seeing the straw replica of himself. 'They cower before me. Do battle with empty statues of me, and think themselves clever when they are victorious.'
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. It wasn't Joanne. "Have you heard the news? President Walsh is a fucking mook!"
"When did this happen?"
"Well, a few of us have suspected it for years, but the story broke yesterday. The mainstream media still hasn't picked it up, but..."
I walked away, doing my best impression of someone who didn't think that guy was an idiot.
By the time Joanne and I were home, at seven nineteen, Gabe and Daniel were already watching the march on their phones. It struck me was a little strange. "You know that it is happening literally outside, right?"
"Yeah, we figured that out on our own," Gabe said. "But it's more convenient to watch the livestream."
"It is interesting to hear what they have to say," Daniel observed. "Although it is also unnerving."
"So far, we've heard from a governor, a bishop, two presidential candidates, and four idiots. And we're only on the fourth speech."
"You know, Gabe, one day you're going to offend someone."
"No, impossible. My sense of humor is the very reason I'm so universally beloved."
I started watching. It was interesting. It was also unnerving. Every couple of sentences or so Gabe would mock them in some new and creative way. And by new and creative, I mean he kept thinking of new ways to call them idiots. At one point, he had to get out a thesaurus.
Eventually, the speakers devolved from powerful politicians to obscure blowhards. And then, after a long string of obscure blowhards, came a blowhard I had actually heard of.
"My name is Cynthia Reynolds," she said, "and my ex-husband is a MAD."
"At first, it was the little things. Instead of doing the dishes, he'd stand in front of the sink, staring ahead."
"Probably wishing he hadn't been married," Gabe commented.
"Hush," Daniel responded.
"He would disappear for days at a time. He started stealing. He got a job on Wall Street, that let him take millions of dollars a year. Every day he would brag, naming the number down to the penny. Eventually I asked him where all the money was going. He said he it wasn't for me, wasn't for anything I could understand."
"Oh my god," Gabe said.
"Yes," Daniel answered.
"I knew he was planning something big. He started muttering to himself. Eventually, I had no choice. I called the police on the man I used to love. I had him put away. It took a lot of strength. To admit that my husband had become so evil. For a long time, I blamed myself. Maybe it was my fault he became a MAD."
"So I have a message for anyone out there who is protecting someone they think they love: The person you loved is gone. They have been replaced by something that doesn't know morality. They are a monster in human form. And if you can get them put away, you're doing everyone a favor."
The crowd cheered. Daniel walked out of the room.
I found him staring down what looked to be two very long wires. "Do you know what a railgun is?"
"Of course. Using electromagnetic forces to accelerate an object to high velocities. Why is one aimed at your face."
"Because the woman I used to love called me a monster in front of a live audience of two hundred thousand." For someone contemplating suicide, he was remarkably calm.
"Are you planning to fire it?"
"I don't know. I don't care if I fire it. My wife has made it very clear she would be happy if I fire it. She why not?"
"I would be sad if you fired a railgun at yourself. So would Gabe. So would Joanne. You have three people who care very much if you fire a railgun at yourself. And what does your ex-wife have? A bunch of money she never earned?"
"She is remarried with an infant child."
Well, that was awkward. "Sorry. Just sort of assumed... for the sake of rhetoric..."
"I understand. It was a valiant attempt at a good point."
Daniel walked over to me. Which meant he was out of immediate danger. "This may seem surprising given my current personality, but before I got sick, I considered myself a very loving person. Cynthia was the world to me."
I hugged him. Is it okay to hug someone who is pretending to be your father while he is talking about his ex-wife? I thin so. "Are you going to do this again? Should I disassemble the railgun? Should I be keeping an eye on you?"
"Probably not, yes, and yes."
Together, we took the railgun apart. "When did you make this," I asked.
"I was showing Gabe some basic electromagnetism. Took apart a television and made this."
Of course. I started working out how all the components I was seeing would fit into a TV set.
I told Gabe and Joanne what happened. We would watch Daniel. We would monitor his condition. Meanwhile, they would monitor my condition. And I would be checking in on Gabe's condition. And Joanne would be examining her own condition. We are four very messed-up people.