By the time CJ Hastings was reading at a ninth grade level, Mai Li said, “You can stop showing off now.”
“Look who’s showing off,” CJ said, waving his hands at the bank of jury-rigged electronics. Mai Li had the desktop linked to the laptop to create a dual screen and both her cellphone and Mom’s smartphone linked to something that only showed gibberish on the smart’s screen. The electronic typewriter was tied to all of them and acting as a printer.
The corner of her mouth turned up for a nano then she got serious again and said, “Look, I have to leave home.” She leaned back in the desk chair. “I’ve learned as much as I can here. I need more education and I can only get it by going to college.”
“Why do you have to do that? Can’t you do it all on line? I seen it on TV – you can get a degree from home…”
She snorted. “While that’s true, I don’t want a degree from Bob’s
“What do you want to do?”
She shot him a sidewise look, bit her upper lip, took a deep breath and said, “I want to make more people like me.”
“What, formerly brain-damaged, snotty smart-asses who cuss all the time?” CJ leaned back. He wasn’t sure he should have done that. But he wasn’t sure he wanted Mai Li to leave either. If he wasn’t going to do it, no one would. Mom was too nice and the doctors at the U thought they were too great to do it. Someone had to let her know she had roots.
For just ten nanoseconds, CJ thought she was going to murder him. The rage that flashed over her face twisted the muscles and blazed from her eyes like glowing Klingon photon torpedo tubes in the old STAR TREK movies he liked to watch. He was in the crosshairs. He was going to die if she let her rage get the better of her.
“Better me than the rest of the world,” he whispered as she locked her unblinking gaze on his face. Her hands jerked up toward his neck. CJ could hear Mom in the kitchen. But his sister could have his neck snapped in less time that it took him to cry out. It looked like Mai Li was about to do it.
She put her hands on his skin.
The rage died and her hands fell away. The photon torpedo glow faded and she finally blinked. She whispered, “I almost killed you.”
“Why did you do that?”
“‘cause people aren’t gonna always think you’re the smartest out there. And they’re gonna be jealous. Like Dr. Chazhukaran at the U. He’s gonna wanna kill you just like you were gonna kill me.”
“You’re gonna blow all of them out of the water with your brains. You think smart people are gonna like it that all you had to do was get a shot and ‘poof’, you’re a super-hyper-major-genius-babe?”
“I’m not a super-hyper-major-genius-babe!” she stared at him then added softly, “Am I?”
CJ nodded. “Yeah, you are. And you’re irritating as hell, too.”
She reared back, her hand coming up to backhand him. He closed his eyes, leaning away from her but not retreating. She didn’t hit him. Finally, she said, “So you’re saying I better get used to people acting like my little idiot brother?”
CJ snorted, grinned and nodded. “Probably worse ‘cause I know I’m retarded. They’re gonna think they’re more of a genius than you ‘cause they made you.”
“You’re not retarded,” Mai Li said, turning from him to the computer. She started typing at light speed again.
“What are you doing?”
“Shut up and leave me alone, idiot,” she snapped.
“What?” CJ exclaimed.
She turned, flashed a smile at him then went back to work. “Call me a smart-ass, will you?”
CJ rolled his eyes, scowled, shook his head and left the room. He couldn’t help though that as soon as he had his back to her, he was smirking. “And I can read,” he said.