"Is she gone?" asked Val, who's friends called him C.F. for reasons all too well remembered.
Krupta shrugged as if to say, "how the hell would I even know?"
The two of them glanced to Mark, who's friends called him Leg with the harmlessly cruel accuracy found primarily among children. Mark looked thoughtful but passive. He was generally apathetic to his compatriots' fear over their physical well being. He had been through worse, he would survive worse many times yet to come. Mark's life was charmed, in its way, because he always had his eye on the bottom line. If she didn't want to go to the dance, Mark didn't lose a limb. If he didn't get into that school he wanted to attend, he still got to keep both eyes. Mark walked taller and with less visible reason, because he knew better than most adults how to tell threat from nuisance. He was not a dark young man, whatever his calm might have suggested. He was no fatalist. But he generally had some food and a book with him, and felt little pressure to rush through life. "Sid needs to talk to the eleven. We can wait awhile. It's Friday." There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Mark would comfortably wait until Monday if he thought it would improve the situation.
Sid, who's friends called him Sid because that was his name, nodded miserably beside Mark. He DID need to talk to the eleven. If he missed another day of class, he would be held back, and even with just one week of school remaining, it was too much to risk. The eleven would certainly know about the Missing, and the risks were of little consequence.
They had thought it sounded like a good plan, back at the beginning. Invisibility. Who doesn't want to be invisible? Sometimes. Invisibility is power. Ask someone, choose a power, like a comic book character, what do you choose? You want to fly? You'll get over it. It's nice enough as things go, but you quickly realize that flight doesn't buy you a lot that money can't. Super strength? Regeneration? Destructive beams of force? All cute when the cops come after you, but until then, you look pretty silly with no Doctor Octopus, no Penguin. But invisibility, now, that's power.
It was Mark, of course, who first suggested it. Val found the book, and had been first to take the leap, but it was Mark who reminded them what power was. It was Mark who saw the bottom line. "What about walking through walls, Leg? You could go anywhere!" Yes, but you could teach yourself to walk through walls, with tools and patience. You couldn't train yourself to disappear. Not really. Mark knew about tools and patience. And so they all chose the same. Four friends with one terrific secret. And they destroyed the book. They didn't know who wrote it, but it was the only copy. It was handwritten in something dark. Nobody looked too closely, but they were pretty sure you didn't write books like that twice.
The problem was that without the book they lost track of some of the details. And sometimes you couldn't turn it off. And sometimes you really had to turn it on. And when single malt scotch made your father even more of an asshole, you sometimes had to sit at an empty desk, and mum the hell up during roll call. Because that's a secret. And so you either get separated from your friends, or you sack up and go to the eleven. That's not a choice, that's just how it is. And Sid Sr. was not a Vodka man. The irony was that Sid had wanted less than anyone to go with the Missing. Sid had been rather a proponent of something that let you break things. Something that maybe let you break people. Just once in a while. And Mark had taken him aside and quietly talked to him about patience. And tools. And so he stared back at the parts of Val that were not eyes, and waited for someone to speak. Waited for his time with the eleven.