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|One night in November, after Football season had ended, Andrew and Carrie headed to McDonalds to meet the football team for supper.
“It’s really great that the O.D. team won the Championship,” Carrie said.
“Yes, Ralph and Connor really helped the team along with their ideas for plays,” Andrew agreed. “That helped us blow away the opposing teams in every game.”
“A feat that would not have been achieved without your size and strength,” Carrie reminded him. “Don’t forget that. It will look good to the University of Miami as well.”
“Oh I won’t,” Andrew assured her. “I bet we’ll get enough reminders when we set foot in there,” he added, pointing to McDonalds. He pulled the car into the lot and parked by the curb. “Are you ready to go in?”
“Oh yes,” replied Carrie. “Let’s go.”
Andrew opened her door, helped her out, and then put on his 3XL football jacket. Then they went into the restaurant. The football team noticed Andrew and Carrie and motioned them over. Ralph stood up as they approached.
“Would you like my seat?” he asked Andrew.
“Thanks man, but you were here first,” Andrew said.
“But I’ve already been sitting too long, and now I need to stretch my legs,” Ralph said.
“In that case, thank you,” said Andrew, sitting down.
“Lets hear it for the MVP,” Steve said, raising his glass to Andrew. The rest of the team followed his lead and toasted Andrew.
“Thanks guys,” Andrew said, wiping his eyes, “that’s quite an honour.”
“You’re not crying again!” Connor teased. “Still an old softie, I see.”
“Not on the field,” Andrew protested. “There, I’m more like a freight train!”
“That’s why we won the City Trophy this year,” Steve said. “Don’t look now, but here comes the Coach with yours.”
Andrew turned around and saw Coach Everson come into the restaurant with the trophy. He set it on the table and said, “Here you are Andrew. Once we added your name to the school trophy, we made you your own. Congratulations.”
“Thank you very much,” said Andrew, standing up and shaking the Coach’s hand. “This is quite an honour.”
“It was my honour to coach such a phenomenal player,” Everson said. “I don’t think we’ll see your kind again. Let’s hear it for Andrew, boys, the 2004 ODCVI MVP!”
Everyone raised his or her glasses once again to salute Andrew. Andrew grinned and flexed for everyone, caught up in the spirit of the occasion.
For the next couple of hours, the team sat in McDonalds, going over their last (for some players) high school football season.
When it came time to pay the cheque, Andrew got up to pay, shooing the other guys away when they tried to pay instead.
“It’s time I pulled my weight around here,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.” He went up to the cashier and said, “I think we’re ready to settle up now.”
“No, no, put your money away,” the cashier said. “We should be paying you, for bringing the City Championship back to OD. Way to go man!”
“Thanks,” Andrew said. “But I insist on paying my way.” When the cashier shook his head, Andrew said, “If you don’t take it, I’ll just force the money into your hand.”
The cashier finally accepted the money, but not before adding, “That’s why people love you, man. You haven’t let the fame go to your head. If fact, you’re so modest, you’re the most down-to-earth guy I know.”
“Thank you very much,” Andrew said. “Well, I’ll get back to my table now.”
He turned and saw the entire team behind him. “Or maybe we’ll all go home now.”
“Be sure to come again,” said the owner, shaking the hands of each team member as they passed by. “We’ll get around to making a team special one of these days.”
“That’s very flattering,” Andrew said. “Thank you very much.”
Outside the restaurant, Andrew endured the usual round of backslapping, high-fives, and handshakes from the team. Then he and Carrie went to get into his car, when the owner came running out with Andrew’s trophy.
“You almost forgot your trophy sir,” he said to Andrew.
“Well, thank you very much,” Andrew said. “That was forgetful of me. And you don’t need to call me sir: the name’s Andrew.”
“After this year, everyone’s bound to know who you are,” the owner said. “But I think anyone of your size deserves to be called sir.”
“If you insist,” said Andrew, grinning. “But not when we’re alone, okay?”
“Sure Andrew,” said the owner. “See you around.”
Once Andrew and Carrie were in his car again, Andrew said, “This has been quite a day: getting the trophy, and having fun with the entire team tonight.”
“It was quite an achievement,” Carrie agreed. “Steve won the trophy last year. I imagine you and he might get some academic awards at Commencement next fall.”
“Perhaps,” agreed Andrew. “We have already received academic scholarships for University, as have you and Sarah. By the way, did Ralph really give me his seat because he needed to stretch his legs?”
“He gave you his seat because he really respects you,” Carrie replied. “You are the big man in town, and everyone reveres you. Your large size is also intimidating, so people go out of their way to accommodate you, and give you what they think you want.”
“I don’t want to scare people,” Andrew protested. “That’s part of the reason I try to be kind, gentle, and modest.”
“I know,” agreed Carrie. “That is part of the reason I love you. However, there is no way to disguise your size. It scares some people, even though they try not to show it. So they cover it by offering you free meals and drinks, and other products.”
“I see,” said Andrew. “Well, not to be ungrateful, but I am getting a little uncomfortable with all this attention. I thought it would be different when we went down to Miami, but everyone down there seems to revere me just like up here. When will it end?”
“I don’t think it will,” Carrie said. “You’re a Sports Star now. But if you have trouble handling the attention, don’t forget that I will be right here beside you to help you.”
“And you have been a great help throughout all this,” Andrew said, putting his huge arm around her gently. “Thank you very much.”
A few days later, Margaret called Andrew and asked if he would like to come over to her cottage to catch up. He said yes, and then he called around and found out that Carrie, Steve and Sarah could also come.
So, on the last weekend of November, they all met at Margaret’s cottage.
“We’ll all go see Commander Marge at the Haunted House first,” Margaret decided. “I’m sure you and Steve will want to thank her for her assistance in helping you reach your maximum potential.”
“Yes we will,” said Andrew. “If not for her Gravity Chamber, I might not have been able to get into the University of Miami.”
“Yes, going to University is one of the final steps to growing up,” Margaret agreed.
“Some of us grow WAY UP,” Sarah said, looking up almost a foot into Andrew’s eyes.
“Yes, Andrew could be called a giant among men,” agreed Carrie.
“Thank you,” said Andrew, though Margaret saw a flicker in his eyes.
As the three other teens walked ahead, Margaret slipped back to talk to Andrew.
“What’s going on?” she asked him. “What was that flicker I saw in your eyes?”
“I’m sorry,” apologized Andrew. “But lately, I have found that the mention of my physical attributes makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t know why.”
“Maybe your modesty tries to keep the attention from going to your head,” Margaret suggested. “Then you won’t get caught up in the attention, show off, and lose the respect that your modesty generates.”
“You read my mind,” Andrew said. “That’s it exactly. It is also to make sure that I am the kind of respectable athlete that the University of Miami will appreciate.”
“That’s right, that would help,” agreed Margaret.
“But I am having trouble resisting the attention,” Andrew said. “I am afraid that if I start showing off, I won’t be able to stop. Then I would become a bully, and people would hate me.”
“They would be too scared to hate you,” protested Margaret. “Besides, you are naturally shy and modest. You could never be a bully. You’re too nice. Just try to have some self-confidence, so that you can show people you appreciate their attention. You don’t want to appear too modest, or people might think you are ungrateful.”
“Okay,” agreed Andrew. “Maybe when I am one-on-one with people, then I could be modest, separating the public and private personas.”
“Good idea,” said Margaret. “By the way everyone, we’ll spend the night in Marge’s private section, and then spend the next night at my cottage. Then we can get ready for the final encounter with Alexander.”
“Well, I guess I will have to accelerate my workouts then,” Andrew decided. “Then I will be ready to take care of Alexander.”
“Yes, and I have made enough modifications to my car to destroy his base from the air.”
“Good, he deserves it!” snapped Andrew.
“Is that a hint of hostility I detect?” Margaret asked, grinning. She looked over at Andrew’s face and saw that it was tight with fury. “I’m sorry I asked,” she said, as her grin faded away quickly.
“I apologize,” said Andrew, letting out a slow breath through clenched teeth. “It’s just that he has tried to kill us so many times, I just want to snap his neck like a twig!”
“You don’t want to do that,” Margaret admonished him. “I have some better plans for dealing with him.”
Soon, the group of five reached the large clearing that contained the Haunted House. Only the original section was visible, so the rest was obviously cloaked. Moving to the front door, Margaret raised her hand and knocked. The door was opened almost immediately.
“Well, this is quite a surprise,” said Commander Marge. “Hello everyone.”
“Surprise?” asked Andrew. “I thought you were expecting us.”
“You’re right, I was,” Marge agreed. “I just lost track of when you were coming, so I didn’t expect it to be you when I opened the door. Please come in. How are you all doing?”
“We’re fine,” replied Margaret, as they stepped inside. “I see we are actually in your Private Section.”
“Yes, when I am expecting guests, I try to reveal the actual location of the house,” Marge said. “Then we cloak the rest.”
“It has been about one year since we have last been here,” Margaret said. “Have there been any changes made since then?”
“No,” replied Marge. “We have the skylights, every system is refit with new parts, and Norman (the hologram) can be projected anywhere in the house.”
“I see,” said Margaret. “How are your relations with the Transylvanians progressing?”
“They are coming along quite well,” said Marge. “Would you like to see the proof?”
“Okay,” agreed Margaret. “Where is this proof?”
“Follow me and I will take you to it,” said Marge.
She led the way down the hall, and everyone followed her. They headed across the Lobby to the North Stairs. Then they followed all the halls to the Helicopter Room in the Witches’ Section.
“Well, here we are,” Marge said. “The proof is in here.”
“The Transylvanians assigned a fleet of helicopters here?”
“Very good Andrew,” remarked Marge. “You’re either a mind reader, or a very smart individual.”
“Well, I’m not a mind reader,” replied Andrew modestly.
“Still as modest as ever,” said Marge with a faint note of disapproval. “You should say ‘thank you’, accept compliments, and take pride in your abilities. Just don’t let it go to your head.”
“Very well, I’ll have to work on that,” agreed Andrew.
“Okay then,” Marge said. “Is everyone ready to take a flight in one of the Transylvanian helicopters? We can compare it to one of our helicopters in simulated combat.”
“That sounds good,” replied Margaret agreeably. “Let’s go then.”
So the six of them took a Transylvanian helicopter up into space and battled with Marge’s personal helicopter. The contest ended in a draw, with both helicopters registering simulated crippling damage.
After the flight, they had supper in Marge and George’s Private Section, once George arrived from the Central Command Centre. Then Marge took them to the Command Centre, to explain the functioning of their weapons, after the refit.
“The laser beams are split by mirrors to form intense packets of energy to use as torpedoes,” Marge said. “This allows an almost infinite torpedo supply, and prevents accidental detonations.”
Once it was 10 pm, the shift change occurred, so Marge and George took their guests to the Private Section for bed. However, Andrew could not sleep, so he headed to the Warlock’s Weight Room to work out. It also had the Gravity Chamber inside, as well.
Along the way, he found the dim natural and artificial light a little unsettling. He knew there were 48 creatures guarding the house, and the memories of their appearance made him uneasy. But he soon reached the gym without incident, and entered. Once inside, he found it too dark to see anything. Andrew felt around for a light switch, and accidentally hit the conversion switch instead.
The walls suddenly dropped into the floor slots, and the tables came up in their spots. The flashing red lights came on too late for Andrew to see the table coming up beside him. He was knocked off balance, and slid across the table onto the floor with a grunt.
“Rats!” he screamed in frustration as he got up again.
The gym door suddenly opened, and one of the Warlock guards came in. He had glowing red eyes and long fangs, as well as black claws.
“What are you doing in here?” he asked Andrew, as he came over to the switch panel.
“I came to work out,” replied Andrew, forcing down his nervousness at the guard’s appearance. “I tried to turn on the lights, but I guess I hit the wrong switch.”
“I guess so,” said the guard, as he pressed a switch on the wall.
“What’s going on?” asked a voice, as the tables lowered again.
Andrew turned to see George behind him.
“This man pushed the wrong button while trying to turn on the lights,” replied the guard. “The error activated the red alarm lights, bringing me here to investigate. I’ll leave the walls down.”
The guard left Andrew and George and returned to his post.
“You came to work out tonight?” asked George, turning on the white lights.
“Yes,” replied Andrew. “I couldn’t sleep and I find that workouts help me relax.”
They headed for the Weight Room, under the stage.
“What setting do you normally train under?” George asked, as they walked through the Gravity Chamber doorway.
“I normally train under Setting Number 2,” replied Andrew, “which simulates 2 times Earth’s gravity. Then the 1000 pounds of available weights take me to my limit.”
“That is very impressive,” said George. “You match the strength of the Goblins, the strongest creatures in this house. Even I am not as strong as you.”
“That’s okay,” Andrew assured him. “No one I know is. I guess the adrenal enhancement coincided with my final growth spurt to allow me to put on as much muscle as I did.”
“I believe you already had abnormally high levels of testosterone and adrenaline anyway,” said George. “That is what the doctors from the Space Station and our own Doctor Franklin told me.”
“I see,” said Andrew. “Not to criticize, but aren’t my medical records supposed to be confidential?”
“Yes,” replied George. “But I didn’t know if you knew their content, so I found out for you. Remember, you asked me to, before the tour ended this past summer?”
“Oh right, I had forgotten,” said Andrew. “So basically, the medical reports say I am some kind of Superhuman?” he asked, grinning.
“You could say that,” George agreed, quite serious. “Just don’t forget to use your powers for good, not evil.”
“I won’t forget,” said Andrew, “and Carrie already came up with a good winter community assistance program I could create. Shall we start on the Ellipticals now?”
“Okay,” agreed George. “I hope all this talk about you is not embarrassing.”
“Actually, it is,” said Andrew. “But I suppose I had better get used to it. If the football fans are any indication, people will be talking about me for years to come.” He grinned and added, “I guess that’s the price of being a football star.”
After 30 minutes on the Ellipticals, Andrew and George stepped off to do their weight training. Margaret came in at that moment.
“Hi there,” she said. “Couldn’t sleep either, could you?”
“No we couldn’t,” replied George. “But I feel tired now, so I am going to go back to bed now. Goodnight, Andrew and Margaret.”
“Goodnight,” they both said, as George left the room.
“I feel a little tired since I came in here,” Margaret remarked to Andrew.
“That is probably because the Gravity is set to 2 times Earth’s,” Andrew informed her. “That is the level I need to reach my limit with the heaviest weights now.”
“Now that is amazing power,” Margaret said in amazement. “You have to dial up the Gravity to make the weights heavy!”
She followed Andrew over to the barbell rack, and watched as he picked up the heaviest barbells, which were 200 pounds.
“Do you do this a lot: work out at night?” she asked him.
“Sometimes, when I can’t sleep,” replied Andrew, curling the 200 pounds in each hand without any visible effort. “I have read that working out reduces stress. I must admit, since we will be facing Alexander soon, I am more stressed and angry than usual.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” remarked Margaret. “That’s a lot of weight you’re curling.”
“Not my maximum, but thank you,” said Andrew. “It feels too light. Do you mind if I turn the Gravity setting up to 3?”
“No,” replied Margaret. “But I guess I should sit down until it returns to normal.”
“Yes,” agreed Andrew, adjusting the dial. “Not may people can lift 3 times their own bodyweight, which is what Setting 3 feels like. Of course, I can lift about 6 times my own weight, so it won’t bother me too much. But it will make the barbells approach my limit, about 600 pounds in each hand.”
He picked them up, and began curling them again, this time with some effort.
“I guess I got the level right,” he said, sitting down. “I will dial the Gravity back down for the bench-press.”
Margaret watched him curl for a while, and then he stopped, breathing heavily.
“Do you mind if I take my shirt off?” he asked. “It’s getting hot in here.”
“No,” replied Margaret, “I’ll just turn the Gravity Setting back to 2.” She went to stand up, but couldn’t move. “Uh, Andrew, a little help please.”
“Oh sorry,” said Andrew, coming over and effortlessly helping her up. He helped her over to the switch, and she returned the Gravity to Setting 2. Then she could once again walk unassisted back to the weight bench.
“It’s amazing that you can walk in that Gravity effortlessly,” she said, as Andrew took off his t-shirt.
“It felt a bit heavy actually,” said Andrew, “as if I was lifting 1000 pounds as I walked. But these muscles can handle it.” He flexed his bulging biceps and grinned. “These guns can handle anything.”
“How much can you bench?” asked Margaret, amazed at the huge muscular figure in front of her. “It must be over 1000 pounds!”
“It is actually around 2000 pounds,” Andrew corrected her. “At least I think it is.”
“That is about the weight of a car!’ gasped Margaret in amazement.
“Is it?” asked Andrew innocently; knowing Margaret had no idea about his final football season. “I guess you’re right. We’ll have to find out if I can lift a car sometime. Right now though, I am ready to try this 900 pound bench-press, which will feel like 1800 pounds in this chamber.”
Margaret stood behind him, as he lay on the bench, ready to use her magic to catch the weights if he slipped.
“That is an awful amount of weight you are pressing,” she said. “Is that your maximum?”
“Not quite,” said Andrew. “But I find it easier to do a bit less, especially since I could not find enough plates in here to go up to 1000 pounds.”
“You must be immensely strong to speak normally while benching so much,” Margaret stated, watching Andrew move the bar up and down.
“Well, I don’t like to brag,” said Andrew, “but I am the strongest 18 year old I know. This weight does not feel as heavy as the last time I was in here. Perhaps added stress has increased my strength, by increasing the output from my adrenal gland.” He loaded 10 more pounds onto each end of the bar and tried benching that. “That’s better,” he said, speaking with some effort now. “I want to keep pushing myself.”
Once she knew that Andrew could manage by himself, Margaret went into the gym to practice her magic. Andrew showered and changed, and then joined her. However, once he entered the gym, he could not find her anywhere.
“What’s going on?” he asked, as he saw the floor moving down. Then he realized that he was floating up in midair. “Uh, Margaret, if you’re doing this, I must admit that heights and I don’t mix.”
“I’m sorry,” Margaret said, appearing out of thin air in front of him. She lowered them both slowly to the ground again. “I was just practicing for the Alexander encounter. I didn’t know you were scared of heights.”
“I have concealed that fact when out with the guys at Amusement Parks,” Andrew explained. “I have quite a reputation as a fearless athlete to maintain.”
“Is that why you showed no fear when Alexander had you at gunpoint a few months ago?” Margaret asked. “You kept walking towards him, even though he could have shot you!”
“He did shoot me,” Andrew reminded her, “four times. But my muscles were dense enough that the bullets just lodged in them, without penetrating into my internal organs. Then I just crushed the gun into a useless piece of scrap metal, and knocked him out with one blow.”
“Yes, I remember that,” said Margaret. “So why do you conceal your fear of heights around the guys? I’m sure they’d understand.”
“Maybe,” agreed Andrew, “but reputation is of paramount importance at my age. My athletic achievements have earned me a “tough guy” image based on respect and admiration. A fear of heights could be seen as a weakness in that armour. You won’t tell anyone will you?”
“Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me,” Margaret assured him.
Later, they headed to their rooms for bed.
As they reached the Private Section, Margaret turned to Andrew and said, “I’m glad we had this talk. I hope it was helpful to you.”
“It was,” agreed Andrew. “It’s good to tell someone my fears without them seeing them as weak. It is such a burden sometimes, having to keep up the fearless jock act. Not that I would trade it for anything. I actually enjoy it immensely, though I try to act modest.”
“I see, “said Margaret. “Well, goodnight Andrew.”
“Goodnight,” said Andrew, as he opened the door to his and Carrie’s room. “See you in the morning.”
He went into the room, stripped down to his boxers and climbed into bed with Carrie.
“There’s my huge muscleman,” Carrie murmured. “How was your workout?”
“It was great,” replied Andrew. “I benched the equivalent of a car again. Though Margaret doesn’t know I can actually lift a car yet. I’m planning to surprise her later.”
“Good for you,” said Carrie. “Well, let’s get to sleep. We have a lot of planning for Alexander to do tomorrow.”
Andrew agreed, and put his huge arms around her. Carrie snuggled up next to his massive chest and they both fell asleep.
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