Snake-Boy and Aeroboy tumbled semi-painfully across one another, onto the grass. The flaming football shot out of Aeroboy’s hands, bounced a couple of times. A half-dozen other heroes landed more nimbly behind them and ran past, scrambling for the football. They didn’t notice Snake-Boy.
“Hey! A snake-boy!” Aeroboy shouted.
“Hello,” said Snake-Boy.
Aeroboy struggled up onto his knees to get a better look. He grabbed Snake-Boy by the shoulder-snakes, lifted him up enough to look at him even better still. Snake-Boy got the sense that Aeroboy was not the smartest hero.
“It is, it really is a snake-boy!” He jumped up, waved his arms in the air. He shouted to the other kids, “Hey! Is this part of the game? What am I supposed to do with it?”
One of the Action Five — the one they called “the Professor” — walked over. He touched his chin with his thumb and forefinger. He took off his glasses. He cleaned them on his shirt. He put them back on. He looked and looked and looked at Snake-Boy with empty, half-shut eyes. Apparently — Snake-Boy thought — he was not all that smart, either, despite his name.
Finally the Professor said, “I’ve never seen an invasion of just one snake-boy. They always come in, like, a horde. Makes no sense.”
“I’m not invading,” said Snake-Boy. He got up, dusted off his knees.
“Shut up,” said Aeroboy. He pulled Snake-Boy close, boy-face to snake-face, snake-breath to chewing-gum smell, then shoved him away, just far enough to punch him in the jaw. Twice. Left jab, right jab. “Nasty snakes. I hate’em.”
Snake-Boy jumped forward. His shoulder-snakes hissed. His actual mouth hissed. His eyes went wide and bright.
More of the heroes from the sky hovered close. Non-flying kids from the stands started running over.
“That hurt,” said Snake-Boy. “Consarn it!” He had learned his curse words from The Great Hunter. “You blasted booby!”
Aeroboy pushed his hands into Snake-Boy’s chest, but didn’t shove. Just stood there, holding Snake-Boy at the ends of trembling fingertips, far enough away from him that the shoulder-snakes couldn’t reach. “I’m so sorry.” said Aeroboy.
He kicked Snake-Boy in the groin.
Snake-Boy’s shoulder-snakes shot high into the air above his head, like signal flares. Four more snakes grew out of the sides of his torso, lower down. They snapped and tensed in the direction of Aeroboy. Snake-Boy stopped them. He calmly stepped forward. His eyes glowed, hypnotic and golden.
Aeroboy blinked. He stopped laughing. He went still.
“That’s not where my balls are, idiot,” said Snake-Boy. Every one of his appendages — shoulder-snakes, torso-snakes, arms and head — reared back, ready to strike a deathblow.
“Ahem,” said Lady Dogface, from behind Snake-Boy. She tapped his shoulder. “Chuck? A quick sidebar? Pretty please?”