Three for All
(Part 3)

by  Todd Martin

Hey Robert! Wait up! I cringed inside. There I was trying to stash my books in my locker and beat the three-fifteen rush off campus when Bart Allen flags me down. Donut get me wrong, I like the guy, but at this moment I had other pressing matters to attend.

Actually Bart's pretty cool in an attention-deficit-disorder kind of way. Cool enough that I let him beta-test my top-secret, personal project. He was the only one besides my family that knew about my as yet untitled computer game. Most people's first impression of Bart is not fit to repeat and I confess that the first time I met him I wanted to slap the smack out of him. I just had to get used to the notion that his mind, like his body, was always switched to high speed. In fact that's what made me want to hang out with him, oddly enough. Some minds run deep like mine. Others run extremely fast and that's Bart all over. I look at a problem and intuitively know the answer. Bart reaches the same conclusion, at about the same time, by considering each and every one of the alternatives.

Kind of screwy, I know.

So there I was trying to make a dash for the house and my Pentium pet and here comes Bart. At least I knew that whatever he wanted wouldn't take long!

Berto, what's the rush? You're usually still bugging Mr. Yokum in the computer lab. Not today Cisco, I've got to get home and check my email. I'm waiting on word from a possible buyer for my secret you-know-what.

How in the world would you sell that? Oh! Not that, the other thing! Say no more, say no more. A nudge is as good as a wink. Am I right? Am I right?

Quite right my good man. I'll let you know if it's good news. Call me or stop by the house.

I don't know, Uncle Max and I are supposed to go down to Orlando this weekend to see the Braves in Spring Training. The game is sort of snoresville but I love the way Mark Wohlers pitches. Gonzo!

Okay, see you later.

Cool. See you.

Now I just had to make it out the door and to my new car without anymore hold ups. At least the car was new to me if not really new. My 69 Volkswagen Bug wasn't fast or macho but it was dependable and parts were cheap. I'm really the new part. At just two months past my sixteenth birthday, everything about driving was new.

The next hurdle was at the door to the student lot. The school cheerleaders were doing some fund raising for the Junior-Senior prom. They had turned the exit into a tollbooth. In order to escape the school we had to buy a spirit button with a picture of the school mascot on it. I made my way into the line with the totally hot brunette, Susan. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. I fished fifty cents out of the front pocket of my cargo pants and moved forward in the crush of shuffling kids. Just as the guy two ahead of me paid up and had his button pinned on by this teenaged goddess, more cheerleaders showed up to help handle the crush. A blonde came over to help Susan. Her name was Kimmy or Buffy or something that ends with 'e'. Just my luck, my button was pinned on by Buffy (or Kimmy.) Don't get me wrong. Blondes can be attractive and Kimmy (or Buffy) was pretty but I really was hoping to get close enough to smell the scent of shampoo and sunshine in Susan's beautiful brown hair, like last week.

Back I the Bug I unclipped my school totem from my black marvelous 3-tour shirt and added it to the growing menagerie staring down from the headliner. If they keep this up that prom ought to be something special. I wondered if I'd ever find someone to go with next year. Maybe if Susan had a little sister yeah right. As if. I fired up the little four cylinder and smiled at the barely muted exhaust growl that was the product of last month's pay from the local Builder's Barn and last Saturday's sweat in Uncle Frank's shop. Sometime in the next couple of months I would be able to afford a stereo so that I'd have something to listen to besides the motor and tiny AM radio.

I eased out of my space and toward the exit of the parking lot. At the boundary of school property I barked the tires in third gear like the two cars in front of me had. Childish, juvenile, pointless & cool. At any rate I should have been paying more attention to the road but in my mind I was already home and downloading my email. I was being a little over-dramatic when I thought that my whole future rode on this contact but only a little. Besides, I am sixteen and everything's dramatic when

You're sixteen so the experts say. If I could get a buyer for my

Game-ware, I could write my own ticket. Today's email was supposed to have a response from a guy whose handle was At first I thought it was pretty funny because over in Atlanta they have a gorilla named Willie B. I hoped this guy wasn't monkeying around with me.

Most of the rest of my email would be chunks of encrypted data disguised as innocuous spam. These were what "Willie p" had asked me to retrieve as proof that I knew how to make computers sits up and begs.

After meeting him in a chat room for game-ware types he identified himself as a rep for one of the big software companies but one that didn't usually do games. They were branching out into game-ware but didn't have any way to judge how good my game was so he wanted me to prove how good I was. In order to do this, they had set up several sites around the web and I was to hack into these. He called it "ice breaking." My entry was to be undetectable and my paths untraceable.

This I could do.

Then the instructions got a little tricky. To prove I had been on the inside I was to copy large chunks of encrypted code. To prove I was unnoticed I had to export it past all the security watchdogs. To prove it was untraceable I had to find someplace to stash the encrypted data for at least five days. My mission took place in the wee hours of the morning last Saturday. Total time expended was approximately two hours of skull sweat. One hundred and twenty hours of cold storage ended at 2:09 AM this morning. Since then the data had been taking a random walk around the world-wide-web and at 3:45 PM it would land in my inbox looking for the entire world like email advertising. My favorite part was the cold storage. I had found several multi-national corporations with, super-computers and cached my blocks of data inside their programming. One them even claimed to be on the moon! The lengths that some corps went to were hilarious.

Turning into my neighborhood something rocked the Bug on its springs like being passed by an eighteen wheeler on the freeway. Either a freak wind had come up or Manchester's own teen hero had just passed me. I wondered what Impulse was doing way out here in the burbs instead of in town where the action was. Winding through our subdivision I passed Bart's house on the way to mine. I guess I should have offered the guy a ride but I never thought about it. Of course he had never asked for one and he knew I drove right by his house going to and from school. I wondered how he got home. He probably had to ride the bus like everybody else that doesn't have a car. Ha Ha! Loser!

I pulled into our driveway and off onto the grass to leave room for Dad's car. Knowing how manic Dad is about the lawn we'd need to see about getting an extra slab of concrete poured. The grass had started to grow back from winter everywhere except my designated spot in the yard. I switched off the motor and climbed out of the car. As I approached the screen door I could see Mom moving around the kitchen, frying catfish and singing along with the radio. It was tuned to a country station that was playing the Dixie Chicks, "Wide Open Spaces." I entered at the verse and when the screen door slammed she stopped and grinned and said, "Hi honey. How was school?"

"Fine Mom. What's with all the food? We don't eat this much any two nights of the week."

"Frank's coming over. I imagine after dinner he and your father will go out and fool with that ski boat in the garage. Those boys are about to bust wanting to put that thing in the lake but it's still too cold to ski."

My "uncle" Frank has been Dad's best buddy since they were in school and Best Man at his wedding. Still single and regular here at the Jackson home when there was a home cooked meal to be had. Frank Walls was a Deputy with the county Sheriff's Department and would probably talk his way into being the boss over there one of these years. He has the degrees in criminal justice from Jacksonville State University and the voters around here love a hometown candidate. I think he was waiting for the current Sheriff to retire; Frank would never run against one of his friends.

"Call me when it's ready. I've got some work to do on the computer."

"Did you mean to leave it on all day Robert? I walked by your room and thought that you had forgotten to turn off your alarm but it was that computer clinking and chirping."

"Yeah, Mom. You didn't turn it off did you?"

"What? And risk the wrath of kin?"

"Thanks Mom. 'Live long and prosper.'"

I should have realized that Mom was setting me up for one of Star Trek puns, I thought as I tossed my keys on the bed and wiggled the mouse to get rid of the screen saver. The email icon was flashing to indicate new messages. Suddenly nervous, I glanced around the room for reassurance. The posters of Evan and Jaron, Jimi Hendrix, Young Justice, Marvelous 3, Teen Titans, and Johnny Lang and Kenny Wayne Sheppard were in their accustomed places. I looked again at the pictures of the teenaged super heroes. Indulging my fondness for brunettes, my eyes picked out Wonder Girl with her tough girl leather jacket and hard body in spandex. She could apprehend me anytime! All that and she had a great smile too. She probably has pretty eyes but with those goggles hiding her face it's hard to tell. I read someplace that she's just about five feet tall. I guessed in a year or two she'd hit that growth spurt and start looking more and more like Wonder Woman. Wonderful!

I shook my head to clear it. As if a computer geek from Alabama had chance with an honest-to-Zeus junior goddess like Wonder Girl. Dream on.

Yep. I guess I do.

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