For the record, I did try to apologize to April. It was just that she never acknowledged the card I sent. She didn’t come around the booth anymore, and we didn’t have any classes together now that I’d finished my gen ed. I even checked her bench a couple times, but she wasn’t there.
I decided to move on, made myself a vow not to let this whole crappy superpower turn me into a complete jerk. To that end, I put up with a few more of Larabee’s experiments—his stealth field was a spectacular failure, and I still have some marks from where the shock got me. Actually, he was pretty good to me after that one, since he thought he’d killed me there.
He renewed his efforts to remake the ooze, and I got to extend my wardrobe a little. Sure, the effect wasn’t perfect, not quite the same as the first time, but it worked. The better part was that it didn’t smell. At least… not as much.
I also got a new laptop as a thank goodness you’re not dead gift, and Larabee and I worked out a compromise. Since my new school schedule kept me out of the house for most of Tuesday, he got that as naked day. I worked, went to class, and ate at the diner, and by the time I got home, he was usually asleep or in his lab, so I didn’t have to worry about having to see him.
I became determined to find a practical use for what I could do, and that was how my short career as a police informant began…
Clayton rubbed his hands together. This hobo thing had some actual use every now and again. True, it was hard to look the people who really lived this way in the eyes—not just because he was faking it, but because they were so… broken. They’d lost everything. Sometimes it was their choice. Sometimes it wasn’t. They had disorders or memories, and they couldn’t find a way past them. Some of them chose it. Some of them liked to have this life where they belonged to nothing and no one, they thought they deserved it.
He was just here because no one paid attention to him like this. He would shift to one of his older forms, put on some ratty clothes, and then he walked around the streets like a ghost. These were interesting times. It wasn’t just because of the social commentary he was gathering about this experience—he had some people try to give him money even if he didn’t ask for it, he had others who shouted at him to get a job, and he had a few cops that wanted to put him in shelters every time they talked to him or somehow always seemed to have an extra coffee or doughnut, but everyone was different. They treated homeless people differently, and he wasn’t sure he could keep using this disguise, even if it was perfect for what he’d decided to do.
He was not a hero—though Larabee kept saying he was—and he didn’t really have that useful of a power, but when he disguised himself, he did all right. He heard things. He passed them along. Maybe it was helpful. Maybe not.
It was a better use of his time than sitting at home complaining about his power, which he had vowed not to do anymore. He would live with it, make it worth having somehow. Right now, he almost had it, but then he thought about what he was doing and how little it changed, and it wasn’t enough. He couldn’t help the people he met. They were good people, most of them, and they would share things with him and tell him stories, and yet none of them would accept help from him.
Oh, and that was the other part of it. While the cops found him helpful, this security guard was more of a bully, and anytime he was working and Clayton happened to be within fifty feet of his building, he came out and harassed him.
“I’m going,” Clay said, moving on. He didn’t want to get beat up tonight. He’d been hoping that he would find something to share with the police, to make his time here useful, but he didn’t think that was going to happen tonight.
“Did I say you could go?”
Clay looked back with a frown. “I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t even on your property.”
“Yes, you were.”
“No, I wasn’t,” Clayton insisted, thinking he sounded about five even though he was sure he was still in his adult form. He was getting tired of maintaining it, though, so it was time to go, not just because of this bully. He’d been getting better at holding forms for long periods, but it left him pretty tired in the end. Maybe he should call Larabee and see if the man would pick him up. It was naked Tuesday, so probably not, but it might be worth a shot.
The security guard grabbed him, slamming him up against the wall. Clayton winced as his back hit, every little point of impact feeling like it was already bruised. He wondered if this form bruised easier than his other one. Maybe. It wasn’t something that he really wanted to test.
“Okay, now I touched the building, but that wasn’t my choice,” Clay began. “You made your point. I’m going to go now. Okay? Okay.”
He’d never actually managed to work in a time to go learn any martial arts, but he should have. He was really regretting that right now. Why didn’t he know anything? He needed to be able to defend himself. Granted, it would kind of blow his cover—though some people assumed homeless men were always troubled veterans, so that wouldn’t be too unbelievable.
“I hate seeing your kind around here.”
“What? Old people? Homeless ones? You’re kind of a creep, just so you know,” Clay told him, getting smacked against the wall for that comment. He groaned. This kind of thing wasn’t something he could take for much longer. He was not meant to be a punching bag. That was not his ability.
Wait. He could… switch ages. While the guard had his coat, he could easily slip out of it if he was small. That worked for him. It meant showing someone what he could do, but who would believe it, right? As long as there weren’t too many stories about a man becoming a kid or a kid becoming a man, it should be safe enough to do this every once and a while.
He shifted into a smaller kid—about eight, he figured, was best—and the security guard stood there, looking at the coat in his hand. “What are you, you freak?”
Clayton couldn’t explain that if he wanted to, and he knew better than to stay. He started running.
“Get back here, freak! I’ll get you! I’ll find you, and I’ll dissect you!”