Chapter 1 - Jeremy
"Dear diary," Jeremy Gentle dictated into his app on his tablet in his bedroom. "Today, I became a superhero." Jeremy stopped, uncertain. Was that the best way to start his journal? Might as well just tell the story. He needed to sleep. He had a big algebra test tomorrow at Maryville Middle School.
Yesterday, school went as usual. Same old seventh grade. Same handicapped kids in the same class. Same problems transferring to the toilet from my wheelchair. Nothing new.
Oh, I take that back. I had one new, bad thing happen— I fell during physical therapy. There I was, between the parallel bars, halfway done. I tried with all my might to take another step. I couldn't. My muscles screamed, at their end. My legs collapsed, and I hung like a marionette from the gait belt, held by my therapist, Fred Bernstein.
For once I was glad I was a skinny, twelve-year-old. I don't even weigh eighty pounds. I gave up completely and flopped bonelessly. I might as well be on the floor, I thought. And then I was.
"What?" yelled Mr. Bernstein. "Jeremy, are you okay? The belt must have slipped. I'm sorry about that!"
"It wasn't your fault, Mr. Bernstein."
"Here, let me help you up." He picked me up and put me in my electric wheelchair. "Now let's see that belt. Ah, this little pin popped off. Bad design. I'll complain to the manufacturer."
I made it through the rest of my otherwise boring day with no problems but a few bruises on my arms and face. With CP, cerebral palsy, you have no reflexes to break your fall. After that, all I wanted to do was get home and play in my science lab with my new equipment.
My parents, Denise and Bradon Gentle, both have good salaries from their jobs as an occupational therapist and Certified Financial Planner. When I showed interest in math and science in elementary school, they bought me lab equipment for experiments. Over the years, they kept adding to it as my interests changed and grew. Eventually, I had a whole room in the basement of our home as my lab. My dad bought me a new set of super magnets yesterday. I experimented using magnetic fields on living creatures and tested them on my pet hamster, Dancer. He seemed to get a little dizzy, but I saw no other effects.
I read up on bioelectromagnetics on the internet and discovered not many experiments had been done on frequencies above 300 hZ. I rigged up a modulator to test a variety of frequencies. I could hardly wait to try it with my new super magnets.
I assembled the magnets into my variable frequency circuit. I was just about ready to try it when I heard “Jeremy! It's time for dinner.” It was my mom.
My parents make a big deal out of eating together and discussing the day's events. It was interesting, hearing about Dad's job in finance and Mom's in occupational therapy. I didn't have much to say, as usual. I excused myself and left as quickly as possible.
I tried the new arrangement on my hamster and got him dizzy again. Then I thought of adding the power of my capacitor array. That would give a sudden burst of magnetism.
I connected it to the circuit and released the twenty-five thousand volts it contained. It knocked me out! Later I found out the whole house went dark.
"Are you okay, Jeremy?” asked my Mom, shaking me awake.
"Uh, I think so.” I slumped in my wheelchair, as groggy as my hamster.
"We lost power for a few minutes, and then we thought to check on you."
"I'm sorry about the outage. I ran an experiment with the new electromagnets, and I must have overloaded the home circuits."
"That doesn't matter," said Dad. "Are you okay? Do we need to call the doctor or the ambulance? You were out when we came in here."
"I think I'm okay," I repeated. I stretched and sat upright. "Don't bother calling the doctor. Let me see what happened to my experiment. The capacitors all discharged correctly," I commented, checking my instruments.
"What does that mean? You know we don't know as much as you do about electronics," Dad said.
"Oh, it just means I used all the stored power for my experiment. I discharged the capacitors into the new magnets you bought me."
"Were you tormenting your poor hamster again?" asked Mom.
"No, I just wanted to see what would happen with more current. I found out. It knocked me out, and I wasn't even in the center of the magnets. It must have caused a power surge that tripped the house's circuit breakers."
"Are you sure you feel okay?” asked Mom.
"Yeah, I'm just tired. I think I'll go to bed."
"That's a good idea," said Dad. "Let's see how you feel in the morning."
The next morning I felt great. I wriggled out of bed and dressed, as usual, crawling around my carpeted floor. My legs were hopelessly spastic, but my upper body was strong enough to drag me around my room.
After packing my chair's pannier with my school supplies, I pulled myself into my chair. Getting in and out was a long, painful process. I picked up my phone, preparing to leave my room, but it slipped from my hand to the floor.
Crap. Now I have to climb down again. Desperately, I bent over and tried to reach the phone where it lay, tilted against my bed. Not quite.
With a burst of frustrated anger, I said, “Come here!" And the phone zipped into my hand.
Wow. That never happened before. There was a pencil on my desk, across the room. “Come here,” I said. Zip! It smacked into my palm.
I experimented. I could make my bed far more efficiently than from my knees. I even tidied my desk.
"The bus is here," called Mom from the kitchen.
I went down to the bus more excited about school than I ever had been before.
At school, I tried different things. I secretly moved chairs and other blockages to my wheelchair out of my way. In therapy, I tried to move my limbs with my newfound power. Success! At least I didn't fall or get exhausted.
"That's great, Jeremy," said Mr. Bernstein, his voice rising in excitement. "You got all the way through the parallel bars. Do you think you can go back?"
"Let's try it." Going back was even easier. I got the hang of moving my legs with my mind.
"This is a breakthrough. That's it for today. We may be able to get you out of that wheelchair!"
"Fantastic!" Driving out of the room to the bathroom, I got another idea: could I actually pick up myself with my thoughts? Why not try? Focusing on my whole body in my chair, I imagined myself lifted up in a sitting position from my chair and onto the toilet.
At first, I thought I had failed, for I felt no difference from sitting in my chair. Then I realized I was looking down at the toilet from a height. I eased myself down on the toilet.
I was so excited I could hardly go. I was like Magneto of the X-Men! I wondered how much I could pick up. I tried to lift my electric wheelchair. It weighed more than two hundred and fifty pounds. Slowly, carefully, I made it float an inch, then a foot, then two feet off the floor.
I felt no strain. The chair hovered there as easily as if it were suspended from a cable. I lowered it and levitated back into my seat. I had study hall now. I wonder what my limits are?
"Miss Smith, could I have a hall pass to the gym? I've got some new PT I want to try," I said to the study hall teacher.
"Sure, Jeremy. Physical therapy is always a top priority." I went to the weight room next to the gym. No one was there during the school day. Moving the pin holding the weights, I set the bench press machine to three hundred pounds and lifted it with my mind. Up it went like a balloon.
I added forty-five-pound iron plates to the machine. Three-forty-five, three-ninety, four-eighty! All rose like soap bubbles in a breeze. One more plate to add. Five-twenty-five. Nothing. It was like I had no power at all. Replacing the forty-five-pound plate with a twenty-five, I tried five hundred even. It stirred, moved up one inch, and stopped. So that was my limit.
I wondered if I could make my wheelchair fly. I concentrated, and it slowly rose, with me in it. I moved around the weight room, circling faster and faster. Then I heard someone coming. I set myself down with a clump.
"Hi, Jeremy,” said Mr. Finney, the PE teacher. "What brings you here?"
"Uh, I had a good day in therapy,” I said, thinking fast. “I wanted to see if there were any weights I could lift."
“Good for you. Did you find any?"
"Yes, but I'm tired now." There. I satisfied him, without really lying at all. And I was tired, from all my concentrating.
I had another study hall at the end of the day. I had one more experiment to try. After getting another hall pass, I went outside to the batting cages used by our baseball team. They had speedometers to measure the pitching machines.
Looking around and seeing no one, I turned one on remotely with my mind. I was gaining finer control. With a pen, I could write well using just my thoughts.
I picked up a bat and ball. I floated the ball to the pitching machine and the bat over the plate. Using my mind, I pushed the ball toward me. Zip! It went over the plate. I swung and missed. It was way faster than I thought.
Looking at the speed readout, I saw eighty-eight mph. Woah! That's a major league fastball. I hadn't even tried my best.
I repeated my experiment, trying with all my might. One hundred and one. I tried again and again, but I couldn't beat that.
I glanced at my phone. It was time for the bus. I'll never get there in time. But, what if I flew?
If I skimmed the ground, people wouldn't notice I was flying. I did it and got to the bus stop faster than a person could have run. I wonder what my top speed in my scooter was? Why not try it on the road?
"Hey, Mr. Williams!” I called out when my bus driver opened the door for me. "I won't need a ride today. I've got another ride home."
I waited until the bus pulled away and then slowly moved down the sidewalk to the front of the school. I sped up on the sidewalk until I matched the speed of the cars in the street. It was great! I didn't have to worry about curbs or bumps, as I just sailed over them.
Since I didn't have to worry about stopping to let off other students, I went straight home and arrived ten minutes earlier than usual. My mom got off work first and would be home in half an hour. How fast could I go?
I skimmed to the end of our street, where it dead-ended into the freeway. I hopped over the fence and traveled on the green grass margin next to the road. I matched the highway speeds of the cars and then surpassed them. I zoomed home and flew to my lab. Literally.
I had an accelerometer in my lab. I tested it by swinging it in my hand. The electronic readout on the remote dial on my lab bench fluctuated between .1 and .3 g. Now, how much acceleration could I generate with my mind?
I zoomed the instrument from my hand to the wall and back again. No apparent acceleration. I repeated it, going faster and faster. Nothing.
Puzzled, I sat and thought. How could there be no acceleration? I must be affecting the whole instrument, every atom of it so that it detects no acceleration at all.
I was still thinking through the implications of this when my mom came into the lab.
Jeremy stopped dictating. That was enough. He'd have a lot more to say tomorrow.