hen Hogan's vision returned, all he could see was "Bacon Cheeseburger - 89¢".
He was back on Earth, at the very same spot he had been in when the original lightning bolt had taken him away. He stood at the door of a fast food restaurant, where he had run for cover during the thunderstorm. The rain was now starting to die down, obviously its purpose having been served.
No longer needing the shelter, and not having much of a mind for bacon cheeseburgers, Hogan turned around and headed back home. Home, he thought. I never thought I could get homesick.
During his walk back, he wondered if all those powers he had developed earlier were still inside of him. While walking down one of the residential streets, he came across a parked SUV. He looked around, checking to see if anyone could see him, and squatted down, his hands grabbing under the back fender. With a clean thrust, he lifted the back wheels completely off the ground. He giggled, slowly setting the car back on the ground.
Ten minutes later, he had reached the front lawn of his house. It was a modest residence; being an only child to a single mom meant that Hogan had to be modest about many luxuries. He sighed, and opened the door. "Mom?" He walked past the entry way of the kitchen. "Mom, where are you?"
"I'm right here, Hogan," a female voice called out to him.
Hogan walked into the kitchen to find his mother seasoning some pork chops for dinner.
"Oh, Mom!" He rushed over to her, giving her a bearhug. "Oh, God, I'm so glad to see you."
"Uh... I'm... glad to see you too, Hogan," his mother replied.
Suddenly, Hogan remembered - all that time spent in Ki'rathia amounted to only a few seconds on Earth. He quickly broke the hug. "Oh. Sorry."
"I shouldn't be expecting a call from the principal later, should I?"
"Oh, no. I was just... worried about the lightning. It hit pretty close to here, you know."
"I heard." Hogan's mom went back to her work. "So, how was school today?"
"Oh, it was... interesting," Hogan answered. "I learned a lot. A whole lot."
"Really? Like what?"
"Like... uh... Palmer's... theory of... connec...tation. You know, important stuff."
"I can imagine." She smiled, looking back at the chops. "Oh, by the way, some girl called right after school. I think her name was Nadine or something."
"Nadine?" Hogan asked, swooning a bit. "Nadine Crawford?"
"Yeah, I guess. She wanted you to call her at home when you got he-"
By the time his mom looked back up, Hogan was gone.
Hogan quickly picked up the phone in his bedroom and dialed Nadine's phone number. A cheery voice answered. "Hello?"
"Hi, is this Nadine?"
"Uh, hi, this is Hogan."
"Hogan, hey! How's it going?"
"Fine, just fine. What did you want to talk about?"
"Well, I was wondering... I got two tickets to see Red Robin Hood in concert next Friday. Did you want to come along?"
Hogan glanced at the calendar on his wall. The full moon was that day. "Oh, shoot. You know what, I'm gonna be busy."
"Busy? Whatcha doing?"
"Oh, you know..." Hogan replied. "Saving the world."
Nadine laughed. "You are a riot."
"Yeah, that's me." Hogan fished for words a little. "I'll see you in Mr. O'Halloran's class tomorrow?"
"Sure. See ya!"
"Bye." Hogan turned off the phone. He'd had a crush on Nadine since 4th grade, and now he had to blow her off.
He stewed in his room for a while. His thoughts were preoccupied on finding the talisman. That thing could be anywhere, he thought. What if it's in Africa or something? No way I'd find it in time. He remembered Ilgaira saying that it would find its way to him, but the full moon was a week away and he'd still have to go to school and pretend nothing was going on in the meantime.
The second problem was figuring out who A'nake's host body was. Billions of people on this planet, and I've gotta find the one with the talisman. He wondered if A'nake had any interest in the realm of politics; maybe it would plant itself into the president's body. If the ceremony could work on television, then all he'd have to do is make an address to the country and that would be it. Maybe A'nake would get really nasty and invade his mother's body. Or even Nadine.
For once, Hogan actually wished he had homework to do so he could take his mind off this situation. Unfortunately, Hogan lost his binder when he was sent to Ki'rathia, so there was little else for him to do besides sit and think about his predicament. When he was called to dinner, he ambled into the dining room looking like he had been taking tranquilizers.
"Hogan, what's wrong?" his mother asked. "You seem so... forlorn about something."
"Well, it's hard to explain. I mean, I want to tell you about this, but I can't. Even if I did, you wouldn't believe me."
"Now, Hogan, that's not true. You know you can talk to me about anything. Now tell me, what's going on? Someone offer you drugs or something?"
"No. Worse." Hogan sighed. "Have you ever felt like you were searching for a needle in a haystack? I mean, seriously. There was something important that you just had to find, but it's impossible to find it."
"Everyone feels like that sometimes. It's part of growing up. And sometimes, it's bet when you don't find it, because then you learn to live without the thing you're looking for." She took a bite out of her dinner. "What are you looking for, anyway?"
"I can't say. It's a secret."
"A secret, eh?" His mother chuckled. "Well, it can't be my birthday present."
"No, not that. It's just... something special."
"Ah, I get it. It's for that Nadine girl, isn't it?"
Hogan blinked, then decided to run with it. "Uh... yeah."
"I know you've had feelings for her for a while. Don't worry; if she likes you, it doesn't matter if you buy her anything or not."
Hogan smiled a little. "Gee, thanks."
After dinner, Hogan was back in his bedroom, lying on his bed, flipping through channels on his television. He settled on MTV, where he saw a feature on Red Robin Hood, the group that Nadine was going to see on Friday.
"The sassy, spunky pop group is currently in the middle of its national tour," the voiceover on TV explained. "They've been on the road for two weeks now, promoting their new debut album, Charm."
Hogan chuckled. Yeah, Charm. Like the one I'm looking for.
"Heather Chisholm, the lead singer of the band, is excited about the prospects of playing concert halls."
The next shot was that of Heather. "I hope to see a lot of people out there," she said. "I hope that when we roll into each town, he can pack the arena."
Hogan surveyed the image of the pop singer. She was the standard type: shoulder-length blond hair, blue eyes, cherry red lipstick, sparkly earrings. She was wearing a green velvet top, and a necklace with a round charm in the middle.
Hogan looked closer. As the charm flashed into view, he saw it - there was an inscription around its rim written in Ki'rathian. He didn't have enough time to make out what it said, but at this point it no longer mattered.
"I want everyone to come on out and see us," she continued. "'Cause we're gonna give you guys a show you'll never forget!"
A chill swept through Hogan's body. It suddenly became incredibly clear: if A'nake could sell out the concert, that would mean thousands upon thousands of people who would fall victim to the ceremony.
Hogan scrambled off his bed to his desk, located his phone, and quickly punched in a phone number. It rang one and a half times, before someone picked up.
"Oh, hey Hogan!"
"Hi. Listen, do you still have those Red Robin Hood tickets?"
Coming Monday: Hogan makes it to the concert, but can he get the talisman away from A'nake in time?