Crystal glanced up at Harry, frowning at the insult. "I'm not stuck," she retorted.
"You've been working with the same rat for a week now."
"It's Number 29. I only have one left after this. Have to make it last." Crystal flipped her auburn ponytail and resumed prodding a rat with what looked like the smallest flashlight Harry had ever seen. It was like a needle that shot a hair-wide beam of light.
"What are you trying to make him do?"
Crystal looked up again, exasperation in her voice. "If you must know, I'm trying to create a time warp."
As per usual, Harry experienced a complete vocabulary failure.
"I'm trying to apply Einstein's theory of relativity in order to slow down time in the experience of the patient, so that she has extra time to make decisions and react, and to the rest of us it looks like she has reflexes faster than the speed of light."
Brenda entered the room with an armful of bottles and boxes - all of which sported heavy warning labels. Harry rushed over to help her. "Suicidal much?" He asked as he very carefully set down a bottle marked "Extremely corrosive. Do not expose skin or eyes to vapour."
Brenda winked. "If you want cool gadgets that can stop bad guys in their tracks, you have to fill them with nasty surprises."
"Ha!" Crystal's triumphant cry caused Harry to look up in alarm. The rat on the counter in front of her scurried around a little too fast for Harry's taste. It was like someone had hit fast forward. Crystal tried to snatch it up before something funny happened, but the rat was too quick. It leapt off the table (thankfully it couldn't fly) and shot towards the corner where Brenda and Harry stood.
A high, whiny sort of moan escaped Harry's throat. He could deal with flying rats, but this one creeped him out. He tensed his legs, prepared to kick the little beast if it came too close. Later, he remembered that the rat had super reflexes and probably would not have strayed into the path of his foot.
"Stop that patient!" Crystal shouted, seeing that it was heading for the door, which was propped open to let in the warm spring breeze. She lunged into the air with cat-like speed and grace and dove for the little high-speed monster just before it reached the threshold. "Gotcha!"
The rat managed to scuttle out from under her, crossing the finish line, seeming to accelerate further as he tasted the air of freedom. Crystal rose back up into the air, hovering overhead of the rat, trying to calculate a better strategy.
For lack of better options, Harry followed them outside, aware of how slow and cumbersome his footsteps were compared to the effecient speed of the scurrying rat and the poetic dance of Crystal's flight.
Crystal appeared to be trying to call some trained commands, an attempt to verbally convince the rat. If Number 29 hesitated, it wasn't visible in Harry's time zone.
Brenda pounded past him, wielding one of her handmade weapons. "Use this!" She shouted and tossed the modified gun to her friend.
Crystal shot forward to catch it, then back again to get in range. She hovered upright above the rat, who had found deeper grass, and now scurried through it, the only visible giveaway being the trail of vibrating grass. Without even asking Brenda what the weapon did or how to use it, Crystal aimed and pulled the trigger. Harry closed his eyes. Brenda ran towards the scene.
A fwoosh sound reached Harry's ears: his first clue that the innocent hyperactive rat had not been shot dead.
Crystal, who had dropped lightly to the ground, bent to examine her subject, then held it above her head in triumph. Number 29 was wrapped tightly in a titanium-fiber net, wriggling wildly but completely tamed. Brenda examined her work with a critical eye, turning the rat over to see how tightly the net had wound. Crystal grinned. "I'm gonna keep an eye on you, Twenty-Nine," she warned it, pulling out her notebook.
Harry smiled grimly when they were all back inside and Twenty-Nine, now renamed Slowpoke, was running in crazy circles safely inside a high-security cage. "I would perhaps monitor his caffeine intake, I think."
"I'm having trouble with your power," Crystal admitted to the little dark hotel room. She heard Brenda's bedsheets rustle a bit.
"I can't find a way to have such a strong electrical gradient while still keeping a balance that will ensure your safety during thunderstorms and with balloons and carpets."
"I don't need lightning springing from my hands," decided Brenda after a moment of thought, "just a small current."
Brenda could almost hear the wheels turning in Crystal's head. These wheels creaked from overuse.
"I've got it." Crystal sounded wide awake, despite the late hour. "I'll use the electrical current of your nervous system, being careful when adding the extension not to paralyze you in the process, but from there it should be simple to create a moderate current, even control its strength to a degree so you won't be accidentally frying everything you touch. And if you need a stronger jolt, you can rub your hands together to build up the friction and create a lightning-esque electric shock. Does that sound reasonable to you?"
Brenda was already asleep.