The Powers: The Not-so-super Superheroes

The Powers: The Not-so-super Superheroes

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781908195838
Publisher: Little Island Books
Publication date: 05/01/2015
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Kevin Stevens is a U.S. native now living in Dublin. He is the author of The Rizzoli Contract and Song for Katya. He contributes regularly to the Irish Times and Dublin Review of Books. Sheena Dempsey is the author and illustrator of Bye-Bye Baby Brother!

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Smoke on the Water

JP rushed into the sitting-room.

'Dad's head's on fire!'

'Again?'

Suzie threw her book aside and leapt to her feet. The sharp, crinkly smell of burning hair drifted from the kitchen.

'Fly to Mum,' she told her brother. 'Tell her we need a cloudburst. Inside the house. Now.'

Feeling the chaos, Pucker had become a blurred, barking circle, teeth gnashing wildly an inch from his tail.

'Go, JP,' Suzie said. 'Go!'

He crouched, extended his arms and squeezed shut his eyes.

'Outside!' Suzie shouted at him, hands fluttering. 'Take off outside.'

Too late. JP aimed for the open window but took off at an angle and crashed into the wall. His head bashed off the framed front page of The Irish Times, hung proudly by their mum five years ago. LOCAL SUPERHEROES RESCUE IRISH ECONOMY. The Powers' first big headline. A week later the economy had plunged into recession.

In a crash of glass and splitting wood, JP fell on top of whirling Pucker. Howls. Flying fur. A painful grinding sound.

Suzie ran into the kitchen. Wide-eyed, their dad was flapping uselessly at his face with a tea towel. Smoke and flame spurted from the top of his head, leaving scorch marks on the ceiling. In his green sweater and tartan trousers he looked like a giant cigarette lighter.

'Aaaargh!' he screamed, but it was his annoyed scream. He wasn't in pain. He liked fire. When he could control it. Twice that summer he had nearly burned the house down.

'The sink, Dad. Stick your head in the sink!'

Ted didn't hear her. Or wouldn't listen. He was not the best listener, even when he wasn't on fire.

'Dad.'

Now he was doing a Pucker, tearing around the room, flailing his arms and shaking his head, making things worse. Actually fanning the flames. Flakes of burning paint dropped from the ceiling. Smoke billowed, thick as tomato soup. It was like a war zone.

In the sitting-room JP threw Pucker aside and brushed himself off. Their mum, where was their mum? Of course – at the garden centre. Where she always was. Two minutes by air. Then he remembered his cape. He could not fly straight without it. Where was it? He stuck his head inside the kitchen door and peered through the smoke.

'Suzie,' he shouted, 'did you cake my tape?'

'Cake your tape?'

'Take my cape.'

'Forget about your cape – go and get Mum!'

All four burners on the stove blazed. The room was like a furnace. This was what happened when their dad tried to light the gas burner with a snap of his fingers. Zing. Blip. Whoosh. He thought he was so cool. Afterwards he would wink at the kids and blow smoke from his finger like it was the barrel of a pistol. A gunslinger making a cup of tea. When he wasn't exploding into flames.

JP sprinted away. Using telekinesis, Suzie made Ted slip on the tiled floor and tumble headlong into the kitchen sink. She unleashed the taps, tripled the water flow and bent the stream upwards so that it doused his head and put out the fire.

Eyebrows smouldering, gasping for breath, he staggered back and fell into a kitchen chair.

'Holy smoke,' he said, rubbing his charred chin. 'That came out of nowhere.'

'Oh, really?' Suzie said. 'Like one of Mum's lightning bolts?'

'Suzie, pet, sarcasm doesn't suit you. If you had powers, you'd know how hard they are to control. Would you mind putting on the kettle? I'm as thirsty as a llama.'

Over the sizzling of Ted's hair came the sound of scrabbling claws, a panicky thumping, growls and panting. Pucker exploded through the door, tearing across the kitchen like a squall of rain, slipping and sliding on the wet floor and knocking Suzie's legs from under her, before he squeezed through the pet door and disappeared into the back garden with a strangled howl.

Dazed, Suzie lay on her back while her dad muttered to himself. 'Let's see now: thin flame, low heat, fin-ger SNAP – high heat, super grill, slow hand CLAP. Or is it the other way round?'

Suzie stared at the ceiling. Was that more smoke? Was her dad on fire again? But there was no smell. Was it – it couldn't be – storm clouds?

Suzie scrambled to her feet and looked out the window. Her mum stood on the footpath, clutching a bag of peat moss and holding a new spade over her shoulder like a rifle. JP was beside her, pointing at the house and jerking his head like a puppet. His clothes were torn, and bits of wood and glass clung to his hair.

'It's out,' Suzie yelled. 'The fire's out!'

But her mum couldn't hear her through the double glazing, and she had that funny look on her face that meant she was bringing on the weather. Let it be a sprinkle, Suzie commanded, but she couldn't get her weather-resistance power going in time.

Blinding rain. An enormous crack of thunder. And then a ragged spear of lightning lit up the kitchen like dynamite and blew Ted's sweater off.

Head wobbling, he blinked at Suzie and brushed burning fibres of fabric from his chest. His hissing hair stood up in soaked spikes. The rain spilled over the appliances, dripped off the counters, splashed onto the floor, where teacups floated like little boats.

'I take it that's your mother outside,' he said.

Suzie nodded, wringing water from her sopping clothes.

'Well,' he said, 'we'd better get changed. It looks like the chipper for dinner.'

CHAPTER 2

The Power of Love

Ted and Clare had been warned. But love is stronger than any superpower.

They had met at the Dark Knights Super Daze convention in London. This was back in the 1990s, when Ireland's only known superhero was a leprechaun named Myles whose power was the ability to pick winners at the races. He was soon barred from every racecourse and betting shop in the country. But by then he was rolling in gold, and he retired to Florida, where he married a weather woman from Fox News and grew fat and lazy.

'And not once,' said Ted darkly, whenever he spoke of Myles, 'did he exercise his power for the good of the country.'

Clare had been talking to Wonder Woman at the Astral Projection booth when Ted walked by. He heard her Dublin accent and waited for her. At least that was how he told it. Clare would later claim that he had been smitten by Wonder Woman.

'You're the one who smited me,' Ted would counter.

'Smote.'

'Smote?'

'Smite, smote, smitten.'

'I'm the pup and you're the kitten.'

'Don't be talking nonsense.'

'Is it nonsense to say that Wonder Woman doesn't hold a candle to you?' Ted demanded.

'You held a candle to her.'

A candle? More like a blowtorch. So flustered was Ted when Clare first spoke to him that flames shot out the cuffs of his duffel coat and lit Wonder Woman's cape on fire. When Clare had tried to generate a localised rain storm, her temperature control went wonky and the Warrior Princess of the Amazons was frozen in a solid block of ice.

It was a scandal. They were barred from the exhibitors' hall.

And officially warned.

It was written, clear as kryptonite, in the bylaws of the International Superhero Association: 'Emotional involvement of heroes with mutually contraindicative powers is banned without exception under penalty of expulsion from the association and suspension of all superheroic privileges.'

Mutually contraindicative. A fancy way of saying their powers went ballistic when Ted and Clare were together. They should not get involved. Or get married. And children? Don't even think about it. Who knew how they'd turn out?

But what could the two of them do? Love was in the air – as well as flames like Hallowe'en bonfires and great jagged flashes of lightning and hailstones the size of grapefruit. And that was just when they looked at each other.

They married a month later in Dublin City Hall. When Ted kissed the bride, the thermometer hit forty and the wedding flowers drooped on their stalks. They honeymooned in Gotham City (Batman refused to meet them – he was treasurer of the association) and two weeks later moved into a semi-detached house in Castlerock. An average couple in an average Dublin neighbourhood.

Well, not exactly. Oh, if their neighbours only knew what was in store! The flash floods. The burning trees. The County Council van swallowed by a giant crack in the road.

'We have a responsibility,' Ted said from the start.

'You can't be handed such a gift,' Clare said, 'without giving back.'

So they gave back. Or tried to. True, they had been suspended by the association. But they lived in Ireland, where superhero laws were fuzzy, to say the least. Or ignored.

Those early stories were now part of family history. The time the Irish football team played Spain in the World Cup, and Clare sent a puff of wind to help a Damien Duff shot towards goal. The wind went the wrong way and pushed the ball away from goal. Ireland lost on penalties.

Or the snowstorm of 2004. Ted was walking down O'Connell Street in his green-check lumberman jacket and fire-engine-red wellingtons when he saw a minibus full of schoolchildren sliding on the icy road and heading towards the Liffey. On came the afterburners and a super-whoosh of flame. The ice melted and the children were saved, but Ted had trouble turning off the fire and reduced the brand-new Dublin Spire to a mound of molten stainless steel. Cost to rebuild: five million euro. Angry shouting in the chamber of Dublin City Council: priceless.

The economy, the banks, the summers of endless rain. Was it the Powers' fault? They didn't think so. The country begged to differ.

When Suzie was born her parents counted her fingers and toes and watched her day and night for signs of strange behaviour. But she was perfect. And as far as they could tell, she had no powers. Two years later JP arrived. Another bundle of joy, though he did tend to sleep above the covers – a metre above.

After the Spire incident the Gardaí sent a representative to Castlerock with a message for the Powers: 'Thank you so much for the help. We appreciate it. We really do. But could you please leave civic control and crime-fighting to the police? That's what we're paid for.'

Ted and Clare nodded and smiled and said, 'Of course,' but when the guard was gone they shook their heads.

'How can we expect them to understand?' Ted said. 'They're normal.'

'We're the Powers.'

'We're super.'

'Super-powered.'

But they did their best to be good citizens. They ignored their powers for a while and concentrated on raising the children. Suzie played with her stuffed animals, wrote fairy tales and had imaginary friends. Started school. Liked to read. No flames. No thunderstorms.

And JP? Well, when he was distracted he might float in the air like a day-old balloon, but a gentle push and he was back to earth. They just needed to keep an eye on him. And everything was fine. Until his first day in junior infants.

His proud parents brought him to Castlerock Primary School, just as they had with Suzie. He looked so cute in his grey trousers, bottle-green sweater and striped tie. Their little man. His hair sticking up at the back, as it always had. A faraway look on his face, as if he was dreaming he was a bird soaring among the thin clouds high above the earth.

Until Ted and Clare hugged him and said goodbye.

And it dawned on JP that they were going to leave him there. By himself. All alone. When he had never been away from his parents. Ever.

He cried. He screamed. Ted and Clare felt miserable. They tore his hand from their grasp and handed him over to the teacher. They walked away from the classroom, almost crying themselves. It had not been like this with Suzie. She had loved going to school. Couldn't wait to get out of the house. But poor little JP. How would he manage?

They reached the car and stood in the street, unable to leave. Back in the classroom, JP had stopped crying, but something was happening inside him. Some roiling, churning, bubbling centre of energy that made him feel as if he was going to explode. His legs started to tremble and his arms to flap, as if with a life of their own. His teacher frowned. There was a rumbling sound.

Ping, boing, zoom. Off he went like a shot off a shovel, bouncing off ceiling, blackboard, desktop, and through the classroom window with a starburst of glass, flying skyward at a forty-five-degree angle as Ted and Clare looked up from below, open-mouthed. There was a loud boom as he broke the sound barrier and swept across the sky in a wide curve and headed back towards the school. And downwards. Towards the car. At a thousand miles an hour.

Clare had no choice. They needed deep water. Now. And nothing is as powerful as a mother concerned for her child. The heavens opened. What took the Bible forty days Clare produced in five seconds, and JP landed with a big splash and floated into his mother's arms, no worse for wear.

Of course, the neighbourhood didn't look too good after the flood, especially when Ted tried to dry out the school and burned it down. The children cheered and headed home, but the principal wasn't pleased.

From that day on, the lid was off. Now they were a superhero family.

CHAPTER 3

Hit the Road, Jack

Ted had destroyed the kitchen once too often. And now he claimed it was Clare who had destroyed it. So she led him out to her beloved garden and sat him on the bench beneath the maple tree. It was her 'time out' corner, where she sent the children when they were bold.

'You're under stress,' she said.

'No, I'm not.'

With his eyebrows burned off he looked forever surprised. His head was wrapped in a bandage. As he spoke, curls of smoke puffed from his ears.

'You need a break,' Clare said. 'We all do. A break from Dublin. From being super.'

'I told you we should have replaced that cooker.'

An occasional thumping echoed from above. Pucker snuffled in the bushes, searching for a cat or bird or fox that he would never catch.

'It's not the cooker, Ted. Let's go to West Cork. Anna is always saying we can use their caravan in Baltimore.'

'You mean where that famous gold cross was stolen!'

'Ted, for a holiday. Besides, those gold treasures have been stolen from museums all over the country, not just from Baltimore.'

'But we could catch that gang.'

'That's not what the guards think. Remember when you roasted that famous archaeologist?'

'How was I to know he wasn't stealing that chalice?'

'He's the director of the National Museum!'

Ted shook his head and tugged at his bandage. 'The nation depends on us, Clare.'

'The nation can do without us for a week.'

'And what about your garden?'

'I've thought of that. I'll set the weather for the time we're away. Every day will be a perfect mix of steady sunshine and ten minutes of rainfall.'

A scream of frustration came from the house. Suzie burst through the sliding doors and stomped across the lawn.

'I'm upstairs,' she wailed. 'At my desk. Trying to study. And JP is practising flying. In his room.'

'I wondered where that unholy banging was coming from,' Ted said.

Clare raised her hand like a lollipop lady. 'Hang on a minute, Suzie. Study? School's been out for two weeks.'

Suzie set her hands on her hips. Put on her righteous face. 'Well, school wouldn't have closed early if someone hadn't insisted on lighting the barbecue on sports day –'

'That place was a fire hazard,' Ted shouted.

'Now let's not get into all that again,' Clare said. 'So the classrooms won't be rebuilt until September. The same thing happened to JP's school and that turned out fine.'

'But I'm going into secondary school in September, and it's a big change, and Fiona told me what books I have to read for first year, and it's very competitive, I want to be prepared, and ...'

She stopped talking, out of breath. From the first floor of the house came a dull, steady pounding. Pucker tumbled from the hedge, leaves in his ears, frantically scratching his ribs and howling.

Ted and Clare looked at each other.

'You're right,' Ted said. 'We need a holiday.'

The family car was a ten-year-old Ford Fiasco that Ted refused to trade in. It had a dodgy clutch, flapping fan belts, a broken exhaust and a leaky fuel line. But he loved that car. He didn't even mind when it broke down.

Which it did as soon as they were on the M50.

Ted whistled and popped the bonnet and said things like 'must be the solenoid' and 'carburettor's dirty again'. Clare got out and stood in the hard shoulder with her arms folded. She stared at the steaming engine while Ted rooted through the boot. Traffic whizzed past. JP was under strict orders to stay in the car. Suzie's ears were plugged with headphones and her nose was in a book. On the seat between them Pucker squirmed and whimpered.

'I thought we had warning flares back here,' Ted said.

'We don't need flares. It's broad daylight.'

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Powers"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Kevin Stevens.
Excerpted by permission of Little Island.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Thanks,
Chapter 1: Smoke on the Water,
Chapter 2: The Power of Love,
Chapter 3: Hit the Road, Jack,
Chapter 4: Good Day Sunshine,
Chapter 5: Hound Dog,
Chapter 6: Dazed and Confused,
Chapter 7: Ship of Fools,
Chapter 8: After Midnight,
Chapter 9: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother,
Chapter 10: Won't Get Fooled Again,
Chapter 11: Riders on the Storm,
Chapter 12: Who'll Stop the Rain,

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