The Sidekick

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Chapter 6 - The First Day

As the sun beamed into Jet’s room, lightly showering the dust that had collected in his absence, the unexpected light stirred Jet awake. At first, Jet groaned and rolled over. Then he realized he was feeling the sun on his face in the morning for the first time in five years.

Throwing his blankets off of himself in a crazed cacophony of coloured covers, he bolted upright and ran to the shower. After dealing with the temperamental water temperature of the bunker, a hot shower at home was the single greatest sensation Jet had ever experienced. Quickly tossing on some clothes with little thought to fashion, Jet ran down the stairs to the first floor. He jumped up on his way down the stairs and ran his feet along the wall in the process. He hit the floor with a loud thump and then dashed to the kitchen.

Operating on muscle memory, Jet knew exactly where to find Quinn’s cereal and milk. Pouring himself a bowl, Jet hungrily devoured it. The sooner he was done all his morning routines, the sooner he would be able to go out and be a superhero he figured. The moment he was done he stood upright, his chair screeching along the floor behind it as he shoved it back. He looked to the oven clock for the time, and all of the momentum drained from his body.

It was six in the morning.

Jet stood there blinking for a few moments, and then he slowly pulled his chair in close and sat back down. He wasn’t sure what to do. Paladin hadn’t assigned him any more homework. He had nowhere to train. No movies to watch. Jet sat and contemplated for a few moments.

Roughly an hour later, Quinn emerged from his room and saw Jet’s face planted on the table, snoring loudly. Quinn chuckled to himself and walked over to his nephew. He gently placed a hand on his nephew’s back as it raised and lowered with his breathing. For just a few short but sweet seconds Quinn enjoyed having his nephew at home again.

Then Jet woke with a start, bolting upright in place and nearly scaring Quinn to death. Quinn backpedaled and crashed into the back counter as Jet’s momentum knocked the chair backward, sending him sprawling backward onto the floor.

“IS IT TIME TO PUT MY COSTUME ON?!” Jet yelled as he tumbled.

His eyes came back into focus as he took in his surroundings, and judging by Quinn’s housecoat, it was not yet that time.

“Wait...is it still morning?” Jet asked.

Quinn panted heavily with one hand over his chest, as he tried to mitigate the shock Jet had caused him.

“It’s 7 a.m.,” Quinn answered.

Jet let out a whining noise and covered his hand with his face.

“It’s time to get ready for school,” Quinn said.

Jet separated his fingers to peek at Uncle Quinn with one eye.

“What?”

Quinn’s smile returned and he stood up straight, regaining his composure.

“You’re going back to school today,” Quinn said.

Jet looked up at the roof in confusion. Then his eye practically exploded open as he rolled upwards. He jumped to a standing position and looked at his Uncle.

“I get to be an actual superhero, and I’m going back to school!?” Jet exclaimed.

Quinn looked from side to side and nodded in confusion. Jet spread his arms out wide and stared around the room, almost like his world was shaking.

“Best. Day. Ever!” Jet shouted as he ran back up to his room to prepare a backpack.

Quinn was left standing in the kitchen by himself. He listened to Jet running around upstairs with the excitement, his feet pounding against the floor with the energy of a hyper puppy.

“I didn’t think teenagers were excited for school,” Quinn mused to himself.

A short drive later Jet and Quinn had pulled up to Brian Pichelli High School, a large building with an exterior comprised primarily of brown bricks. Thin tall windows dotted the outer wall and a few outdoor spaces lined the outside. Jet looked at it wide-eyed, unable to believe he was finally able to go back to school.

“You know,” Uncle Quinn began to say as he pulled them into a parking spot. “I don’t remember you being so excited about school when you were little.”

Jet thought back to his childhood and remembered being yelled at for not sitting in his seat, having a hard time following instructions, and the most common complaint directed at him as he had a hard time focussing. From what Jet could remember, he felt towards school like most kids did. You didn’t want to go to it.

“Well, I don’t know if its the school stuff I’m so excited for. I mean Paladin was teaching me stuff in the bunker. But I’m just so excited to meet other kids again. It’s been me and Paladin for years, I can’t wait to try and make some new friends!” Jet proclaimed.

Jet unbuckled his seat belt and opened the car door to jump out. Quinn smiled and shook his head.

“Ever the optimist,” Quinn remarked.

The two walked in through the large front doors of the school and through the foyer towards the school’s office. A large open room that sprawled out into multiple different hallways, Jet noticed the school’s coat of arms was painted onto the floor beneath him. He then looked around and saw a couple of students noticing him, while others seemed too preoccupied with what they were doing to give him any mind at all.

After a brief meeting with a counselor whose name Jet didn’t grab, Jet was shown around the school. He promptly forgot where all his rooms were as he walked back into the foyer with his Uncle Quinn.

“Alright, I’ll pick you up at the end of the day,” Quinn said. “Then maybe after that you can walk to school, it’s not a far walk, maybe half an hour.”

“Yeah, sure!” Jet said, eager to meet some of his classmates. Then he began to feel slightly uneasy, and Jet looked around nervously.

“Is this too soon?” Jet asked though he wasn’t sure why he did. He was so excited to be back in a social setting. But he couldn’t stop talking. “I mean, I got out of the bunker yesterday. Like maybe I need some more time to get used to being outside and stuff.”

He was stopped short by Quinn who put a hand on his shoulder.

“Jet, you are the most talented, thoughtful and determined person I have ever met. If anyone can survive high school, it’s you,” Quinn said.

Jet let out a nervous sigh. and then nodded.

“Thanks, Uncle Quinn, I’ll see you after school,” Jet said.

Just as he said that the school bell rang, and the school burst into motion. Jet blinked and Uncle Quinn was gone. He looked at the schedule in his hands and realized truly how quickly he had forgotten where to go.

Jet spent the next five minutes frantically searching the school for his classroom. After asking a few students he bumped into which way to go, Jet found himself arriving in his English Language Arts room a few moments after the second bell went.

The desks were lined up in rows and columns and the walls were covered with posters of Shakespeare. The teacher, a shorter portly man, stopped talking as Jet walked in. Jet stood awkwardly at the doorway and looked at the classroom, filled with students who all slowly turned to look at him.

“Um, sorry,” Jet said. “I got lost.”

The teacher looked at Jet for a moment and then nodded.

“Right right you’re the new student. Grab any free seat,” he instructed.

Jet eyed the classroom and noticed the only free desk was one directly in front of the teacher. Clearing his throat, Jet worked his way slowly towards that desk and feeling very loud as he pulled out the chair Jet sat in the desk.

The class proceeded then as normal as Jet could figure it did, with the teacher discussing Shakespeare. A few times, Jet thought he would get to participate in the discussion but didn’t feel confident at the last minute as he hadn’t read Macbeth yet.

The class seemed to last an eternity and be over in an instant. The bell went and Jet had to get up to find his next classroom. As he scrambled to find his next room, he realized he never even had a chance to learn anyone’s names in the room.

Jet then walked into his next room, this time just under the wire of the bell. This room was almost identical to the last, white brick walls, with only minimal windows to allow in outside lighting. If it hadn’t been for those windows, it would have shockingly felt like being back in the bunker again. The only real difference between this room and his English room was instead of Shakespeare posters there were posters of Math equations and Math related memes adorning the wall.

To Jet’s surprise, there was a familiar face in the room. Sitting in the middle of the room, taking the break between classes to look at his phone, was Alan.

“Hey!” Jet proclaimed upon seeing him.

Alan didn’t immediately acknowledge Jet and Jet hurried over to the available seat next to Alan. Only then did Alan finally look up from his phone and his eyes widened.

“Hey…” Alan responded in confusion.

Jet was all smiles as he sat down next to Alan. There was a brief pause as Alan stared at Jet in confusion, and Jet glared at Alan happily.

“I didn’t realize you went to school here…” Alan commented quietly, seemingly nervous.

“Today is my first day!” Jet exclaimed.

“Really…” Alan muttered to himself. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked around the classroom for a few moments.

“Look, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone about my, my uh, superpowers, I guess. No one knows here and I want to keep it that way,” Alan said quietly to Jet.

Jet shrugged his shoulders and nodded.

“Okay, sure. I mean I get it you gotta protect your secret identity and stuff,” Jet said.

“Yeah, sure,” Alan agreed half-heartedly. “Can’t let people know.”

Jet missed the audio clues in Alan’s tone and leaned in closer to whisper to him.

“Actually, I’m going to be heading out soon with my own costume, so next time people won’t recognize me!” Jet said excitedly but quietly.

Alan nodded and raised his eyebrows with an uncertain smile on. Jet then had to lean back in his own seat to let a student pass, and by the time he did Alan was opening his binder and preparing his math notes. Jet looked forward and saw the teacher preparing for class, and Jet did the same.

For the remainder of the class, Jet didn’t have a chance to talk to Alan, as the class was filled with Jet attempting to scribble down the notes the teacher was leaving on the whiteboard. When the class was over, Jet felt exhausted and didn’t even think to talk to Alan as Alan hurried out of the room for lunch.

With his lunch in tow, Jet walked into the cafeteria to find more people than he had ever seen milling about. He looked from table to table, trying to pick a seat but found they were almost all full. Seeing an occasional free seat, he’d ask to sit there but be told that they were holding it for someone else. Feeling slightly dejected each time, Jet eventually gave up on eating in the cafeteria and walked into the foyer.

Sighing quietly, Jet sat on a bench in the foyer and ate his lunch alone.

After lunch ended, Jet’s next class was chemistry, which Jet really didn’t understand. He spent the whole class scrambling to write down notes and trying to figure out what was happening. The day ended with gym, which should have been perfect for Jet to meet some new faces and show off his athletic ability, but the classroom was writing a test as part of the fitness unit they had just finished, leaving Jet to sit around awkwardly and collect his gym strip to finish off his day.

When his Uncle Quinn came to pick him up, Jet was feeling a little hollow. Quinn saw right away that Jet was feeling off, and he reached into his center console. Pulling out a CD, Quinn gave it to Jet to put in his car’s stereo. Jet read the cover of the CD and saw it was a band called The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, with the CD title reading Devil’s Night Out.

“What’s this?” Jet asked as he took out the disc.

“They’re a hardcore band, or more technically I guess a ska-core band from the ’90s,” Quinn said. “I was big in the ska scene when it first started but fell off the bandwagon when the genre fell apart as well.”

Jet eyed the CD with some apprehension. He could see it was well-loved, but before Jet could ask more questions Quinn kept talking.

“Through it all, though, I’ve always enjoyed the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Whenever I feel down, or happy, or somewhere in between, the Bosstones have a song for my mood,” Quinn finished. “Now put it in, and listen to the second track.”

Jet shrugged his shoulders, not knowing Quinn was passionate enough about anything to be passionate about this one band. Jet put the CD in and skipped to the second track. It was a bizarre blend of horns and classic rock mentality that Jet wasn’t really sure what to think of. It seemed to be just pure noise, especially when the coarse singer finally started to sing, and Jet was a little put-off. But as the song went on and it talked about what life used to be like and what it was at that moment, Jet found himself connecting to it. Looking at the back of the CD, he read the title of track two, ‘Howhyz, howhym.’ Jet nodded and continued to listen to the song, as he thought about the turns his life had been on.

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