"In the end is beginning." Luther Birnam's deep voice rained down from the high platform, charging the air above a wide semicircle of cadets. "In the beginning is end." Standing in white graduation gowns, the handsome young men and beautiful young women blazed with pride. "Today, you end your life as a Loner, and begin your new life as a Leaguer!"
Excerpted from Suck It Up by Brian Meehl Copyright © 2008 by Brian Meehl. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
The cadets erupted in cheering applause.
The last student in the arcing line clapped with just enough enthusiasm not to be noticed. For the ten months Morning McCobb had attended Leaguer Academy, being invisible had been mission number one. It wasn't easy. It never is when you're the class freak.
At sixteen, Morning was younger and skinnier than his cookie-cutter classmates. While their gowns swelled over the bodies of hunks and hotties in their late teens and twenties, Morning's robe hung from his bony shoulders like it was still on the hanger. Even his hair was different. The male cadets had coifs that never moved from their last mirror check. The women had wavy manes that bounced to perfection. Morning's hair resembled a patch of wheatgrass small animals had recently bedded down in.
As the cadets continued to whistle and fist-pump, Morning's dark eyes scanned the line. They reminded him of dogs straining at their leashes. He wished he had the X-Men superpowers of Banshee. He would strafe the cadets with a sonic blast, stunning them into a hypnotic trance so Mr. Birnam could finish his speech.
Unfortunately, Birnam tossed them another bone. "Today ends your long night as prisoners of darkness, and begins your day as masters of light!"
The roar of approval was doubled by the throng of teachers and visitors jamming the grandstand. The sound bounced around the great cavern inside Leaguer Mountain like bottled thunder.
Adding his token applause, Morning realized the powers of Banshee weren't enough. He needed the skills of the supervillain Dr. Chronos. Wielding his powers of time-compression, he could fast-forward the commencement to over. It wasn't that Morning wasn't excited about graduating. He was. The sooner he got out of Leaguer Mountain, the sooner his classmates would stop rubbing his face in the dismal truth. While they looked like perfectly chiseled Abercrombie models, no amount of pumping iron would ever make Morning buff. No surge of hormones would ever change his face from boyish to manly. He was stuck with peach fuzz and a body that was more stick-of-gum than stud. And there was nothing he could do about it. Ever.
That's how it was with vampires. Shape-shifting allowed, aging not.
Of course, Leaguer vampires didn't call it "shape-shifting" anymore. In Vampire Vocabulary and Leaguer Lexicon class, Morning had learned that "shape-shifting" belonged to the dark ages of the twentieth century. All vampires who belonged to the IVL-the International Vampire League-had word-shifted to the more scientifically accurate "cell differentiation." CD, for short.
The crowd hushed as Birnam raised his hands. "To commemorate your journey from darkness to light, I will now present your diplomas. When you hear your name, demonstrate the mastery of your powers by ascending the platform in one of the Six Forms. After receiving your diploma, you will then descend in the only incarnation you will ever need again: a Leaguer among Leaguers."
Morning's stomach flopped like a landed fish. He dreaded this part of the ceremony. Yes, in CD 101, he had stumbled through the Six Forms of cell differentiation and managed to pass, but it was like being the worst kid in gym. He never knew how he was going to screw up; he only knew it would probably end in humiliation.
For Morning, this wasn't the worst part of being a vampire. The worst part was the irony of it all. As a kid, he had dreamed of an accident transforming him into a superhero. Like the spider bite that turned Peter Parker into Spider-Man. Or the lab accident that mutated Jon Osterman into Dr. Manhattan. Unfortunately, Morning's little snafu involved a vampire bite. And yeah, being a vampire came with a few superpowers, but it wasn't exactly a skill set you used for saving people.
Mr. Birnam called the first name. "Dieter Auerbach." A brawny young man jogged forward. After a few strides, his white gown billowed, and a sleek gray wolf darted from under the falling robe. The wolf trotted toward the tower.
"Our first graduate has chosen the Fifth Form: the Runner," Birnam announced.
The wolf broke into a lope, surged forward, and leaped onto the lowest platform protruding from the spiraling tower. With flawless grace, the animal sprang from platform to platform. When Dieter's wolf landed at the top next to Birnam, the crowd rewarded him with applause.
Birnam held up a long, rolled diploma. The wolf spun and CDed back into human form. Dieter was now sheathed in skintight, black underarmor. The glistening material accented every muscle in his flawless body.
The sight of underarmor gripped Morning in panic. He pulled at his gown, peeked underneath, and sighed with relief. Yes, he'd remembered to put on his black Epidex.
One of the things Morning was thankful for was that he had become a vampire after Leaguer scientists invented Epidex. Before Epidex, when a vampire CDed there was no way he, or she, could take their clothes with them. When they CDed back to human form they came back butt naked. Of course, there were still some vampires, known as Loners, who practiced all the old ways, and could care less if they ran around naked. Loner vampires streaked, Leaguers didn't.
In Leaguer Science, Morning had remembered enough about the history of Epidex to manage a C on his final. Epidex was invented when a vampire scientist asked, "If human skin is an external organ, could an artificial skin be invented that became both an external and internal organ?" After many failures, a Leaguer egghead invented Epidex. Somehow, Epidex combined a carbon-polymer blend with nanotechnology into a living tissue that fed off the electrical current that flowed through all bodies. And somehow, when vampires CDed, the big electrical surge it created transformed the Epidex into an internal organ. It stayed that way until the vampire switched back to human form and the Epidex re-externalized. While Morning knew his less-than stunning summary of Epidex wouldn't earn him an A, he thought he at least deserved a B because of his clever conclusion: "Epidex is the underwear of underwears."
From the Hardcover edition.