The back of Melissa’s head itched. She glanced around the bus stop where they were her usual classmates were gathered around to wait, then motioned for Zack to back up a step.
He gave her a weird look, but did as she requested. Milo stood there impassively as they waited for the bus, hands on his back pack straps, his usual absent minded smile on his face.
A second later, a wrecking ball flew through the air, taking Milo with it.
“Isn’t that a song?” Mort inquired absently, one hand shielding his eyes from the sun as they watched how far Milo was flying. “Came in like a wrecking ball-?”
“Don’t start.” Bradley sneered. He pushed his glasses higher on his face, motioning towards Melissa. “Bet you a bag of chips that he doesn’t get in until first period.”
“No bet.” Melissa shook her head. “I got carrot sticks that say he won’t make it in until third period.”
“Third period?” Bradley looked surprised, then intrigued. “Alright, I’m in.” Melissa walked over and they shook hands.
Really, it was all too easy sometimes. And Milo would need the food for lunch when he got back, if she could wrangle enough people in on the betting.
If not, there’d be chips and carrot sticks.
“Third period?” Zack commented quietly as she stood next to him again, looking intrigued.
“Yeah.” She stuck her hands in her pockets. “Which means he’s missing today’s ‘surprise’ pop quiz. Hope you did your math homework last night.” Melissa smirked.
“No way!” Zack protested. She patted him on the shoulder with a commiserating look and his expression fell. “Aw, man.”
“So what’s delayed Milo this time?” Melissa leaned over Zack’s shoulder to try to peer at his screen. He gave her a slightly annoyed look for invading his personal space, but moved the phone so she could read it too.
“Runaway truckload of watermelons.” Zack read outloud. “There may or may not have been an escaped cantaloupe or two involved as well.”
“Aaaaaand?” Melissa drawled sweetly, fluttering her eyelashes a bit.
Zack sighed, digging into a his jeans pocket before pulling out a candy bar and handing them to her. “A giant ink well in the shape of Napoleon Bonaparte.”
“Hah!” Melissa took the candy and shoved it in her jacket pocket. The sweet taste of victory.
“That doesn’t even really make sense.” Zack grumbled. “A giant inkwell in the shape of a Squid or an Octopus, they make ink, it makes sense. But not a former French ruler.”
“Don’t look at me, I didn’t make it.” Melissa shrugged and walked away, her hands tucked in her pockets, no longer interested in the conversation.
“No, but you did pick that particular thing to bet on.” Zack pointed out as he followed her. “The chances of that exact thing happening are… About as improbable as it happening to Milo.”
“Don’t know what you want me to tell you.” Melissa brushed it off. “I’m just lucky that way, I guess.”
“Huh.” Zack gave her a thoughtful look, but let her change the subject.
“I didn’t think they made tiny fedoras in platypus size.” Zack said, reaching into his pocket and handing her a dollar without even looking.
“I gotta admit, that was pretty impressive.” Melissa didn’t bother with gloating this time as she put the money away. “That tail whip really knocks a punch.”
“Good thing he did.” Milo agreed, shaking out the umbrella he'd pulled out of his bag to shield himself, Zack, and Melissa with. He was having a rather mellow day for him, there hadn’t been any unexpected trips at all. “If he hadn’t hit that self-destruct button, the school would have been turned into… What was that? Pudding?”
“Tapioca.” Mort corrected from a relatively safe distance away. He had a slight smear of whatever it was on his shoe “... I think.”
“It’s not as tasty as it looks.” Bradley growled, covered head to toe with the gunk.
“I’m not trying it.” Melissa said quickly. Limits had to be drawn somewhere. She raised her voice, catching her classmate’s attention. “Alright! Time to pay up! Who didn’t have ‘Semi-Aquatic Mammals’ down for today?”
“Seriously.” Zack muttered. “I gotta stop betting against you.”
“What can I say?” Melissa gave him a winning smile. “Never bet against the house.”
“And what makes you the house?” Zack asked, one skeptical eyebrow rising up nearly to his hairline. For a guy who was as laid back about Milo’s weirdness as Zack was, he was disturbingly observant.
“I had fedora!” Savannah piped up, waving an arm and Melissa scurried off to collect bets, aware of Zack’s watchful gaze on her back as she did so.
Milo gave Melissa a worried look, but didn’t say anything, for which she was grateful for. Milo had his problems to deal with, she had hers.
“Hey Milo, hey Zack.” Melissa greeted her friends at the bus stop. Bradley and his crew nodded in acknowledgement, and she nodded back, then was happy to ignore them for the moment.
The back of her head prickled, and she glanced around, before peering at Milo and pulling out her phone. “You’re going to need a new backpack. I’ll set it up with the brothers.”
“Really?” Milo tugged on the straps of his bag. “I thought it was holding up quite nicely. But if you say so, okay.” He gave her a small trusting smile that warmed her heart.
Zack’s suspicious look was back and she sighed quietly to herself, focusing on her phone. That was a conversation she didn't want to have. Zack was a pretty cool guy, but not all bizarre hereditary conditions were as easy accepted as the Extreme Hereditary Murphy’s Law condition that Milo had.
For one thing, it was kind of hard to dispute the chaotic bad luck that followed Milo around.
She got a text back nearly right away. “They finished a new prototype last week.” Melissa read out loud. “We can pick it up after school, or they can drop if off if you think jet packs would be safe today.”
Milo tilted his head to the side. “Probably best to pick it up.” He concluded. “If my backpack’s gonna go, it'll probably be something catastrophic level. Something to look forward to later!” Milo grinned broadly.
Zack chuckled fondly. “If you say so. Should put a warning label on you: ‘Adrenaline Junkie'.”
“I wouldn't go that far.” Milo demurred, but Melissa noticed the gleeful twinkle in his eye. Zack noticed too and chuckled fondly. Milo was more than a bit fond of the adventures he had.
“Right-o.” Melissa agreed, typing out the message. “We’re set to pick up a new bag after class. If worse comes to worse, Zack and I can pick it up by ourselves, I don’t think Zack’s met them yet.”
“Probably not.” Zack agreed. “I haven’t met a lot of people in town yet.”
“Great!” Milo grinned back. “You’ll like them, it’s hard not to. And hopefully the worst won’t happen and we can all go together.”
Of course, Milo being Milo, the worst happened.
“I’ll catch you once the swarm disperses!” Milo called as he was carried away by a half dozen water buffalo, his torn backpack flying through the air and landing at their feet.
“I think it’s technically called an ‘obstinacy of Buffalo’.” Zack mused as he waved in acknowledgement.
“An ‘obstinacy’? Really?” Melissa questioned as Milo disappeared into the distance. “Would have thought ‘herd’ would be the correct term.”
“That too. There’s a couple of different names for groups of buffalo. Obstinacy, herd, gang, troop.” Zack knelt down and picked up the backpack before standing back up again. “Sat next to a poster on the wall of unusual names for groups of animals in a class at my last school. Did you know a group of buzzards is called a ‘wake’?”
“Now you’re just being morbid.” Melissa couldn’t quite hide her smile as she turned and started heading in the opposite direction, towards the Flynn-Fletcher household. Fortunately it wasn’t too far, the three of them having had just gotten off the bus to the neighbourhood.
“Maybe.” Zack smirked, following after. He jogged a couple of steps until he was next to her again. “Actually, while we’ve got a moment, I’ve got a question for you.”
“Of course you do.” Melissa deadpanned. As if she hadn’t been able to see this one coming a mile away. “Another time, maybe. Or-”
The back of her head itched, and she sighed. “... Or I guess now’s the perfect time to get the answers you’re looking for.” She muttered with a feeling of resignation, echoing the words she had just foreseen herself saying.
“See? That.” Zack pointed at her, his voice cracking slightly in irritation. “How is it you almost always know what’s going to happen before it does?”
Melissa rubbed her head. “Okay, keep in mind this isn’t easy for me to talk about. The only other person I’ve ever talked to about this is Milo. Even then, not often.”
“Is that why the two of you are so tight?” Zack asked, his voice gentler.
“Kind of.” Melissa shrugged a shoulder. Hanging out with Milo kind of helped hide her ability, since he was walking distraction. That wasn’t the only reason she did so, but it was a nice perk. “Milo’s not the only one with an unusual hereditary condition, although there’s not many out there that are quite as visible as ‘Extreme Hereditary Murphy's Law condition’.”
Zack snorted. “You can say that again. I never saw anything like Milo’s luck until we moved to Jefferson County.”
“Yeah, well, the whole Tri-State county seems to be a bit of a magnet for it. The brothers we’re going to go see have something too. Not entirely sure what their quirk is, but it’s just as visible as Milo’s is, if not more.”
“Now that’ll take some doing.” Zack chuckled for a moment, then turned serious. “So what’s yours?”
“I…” She stammered for a second. Why was this so hard to talk about? If Zack hadn’t run from their adventures already, he probably wasn’t going to run now. She took a deep breath and let it out, pushing the words past her tongue in a hurry. “I’m slightly clairvoyant.”
“Say what about a ‘Clarinet’?” Zack gave her a confused look.
“No, clairvoyant.” She snapped out. “I can see the future. Sometimes. Immediate area only, no more than about six hours into the future, and no I cannot tell you what the winning lottery ticket it is, it doesn’t work that way.”
“So how does it work then?” Zack tilted his head at her. He didn’t look like he believed her quite yet, but he wasn’t discounting what she was saying either. Which, if she was being honest, was better than what she expected.
“Are you familiar with Greek Myths?”
“I’m gonna assume that ties into this somehow.” One of Zack’s eyebrows rose. “And yeah, a bit. We had a semester of it in my old school. Zeus, Hades, Hercules.”
“Right.” She nodded, reaching up and grabbing her backpack straps like Milo did. Having something to hold on to was reassuring. ”Apollo and Cassandra-?”
“Uhh….” He thought it over for a moment. “Apollo tried to get freaky with her, she said no, he cursed her. Something about being able to see the future and no one would believe her?”
Melissa nodded. “Close enough. Mom’s name is Cassandra, so was her Grandmother, and Grandma’s Mother. There’s a lot of Cassandras in Mom’s line.”
“Cassandra as in ‘Oh that’s a nice name’ or Cassandra as in ‘can see the future but no one believes them’-?” Zack waved a hand to emphasise his point.
“Cassandra is my middle name.” Melissa shrugged a shoulder. “So kinda both, but mostly the latter.”
Melissa watched Zack out of the corner of her eye, watching him think it over for a moment. She hadn’t seen this far. It seemed to take ages before he took a deep breath and spoke.
“So that’s why you’re the house.” He finally sounded out. “Because you only bet on things that you foretell. And because of the curse, no one believes your prophecies. That way you never lose.”
“It happens once in awhile.” Melissa shrugged. Not that often though. “There’s some guesswork if it’s more than about a minute into the future.”
“Which is how you avoid the worst of the Milo-isms, you have your own personal alarm.” The corner of Zack’s lip curled up in a pleased smirk. “Nice.”
“As long as I don’t verbally try to tell anyone, I can warn other people too.” She smiled, and made a small shooing gesture. “Motioning works though.”
“For which I thank you for.” Zack gave a small bow that made her laugh before he turned serious again. “So is this why you forget things too? See the future, forget the past?”
“Eh, probably.” She shrugged. “I try not to think about it too much, to be honest. Makes my head hurt.”
“Fair.” Zack agreed, then stumbled, coming to a stop as he stared upwards. “...When you said the brothers have a visible quirk, did you mean-” He pointed up.
“They are fond of amusement park rides.” Melissa agree, staring upwards. It was some sort of large moving robotic arm, with what looked like a spinning mobius strip on the end, a small cart containing happily screaming kids. “They go any faster and they’re gonna break-”
A bright flash of blinding light and the feeling of an abrupt pressure change cut her off. Both she and Zack threw their arms up to protect their heads, until the ringing in their ears faded, then slowly blinked and looked around.
The amusement ride was gone.
“-The rules of physics.” She finished. Probably a good thing, with her phobia of rollercoasters.
Zack made a muffled squeak of alarm. “Are they okay?! Are they like, gone gone?”
“Nah. This happens all the time. They should be fine.” She assured him, pulling him towards the house on Maple street. “C’mon.”
Melissa didn’t bother with the front door, knocking on the side gate instead. “It’s open!” A nasally voice called.
“Thanks Phineas. Hey, Ferb.” Melissa called in greeting, opening the gate and ushering Zack in. Five kids and a platypus were climbing out of a roller coaster car, not a scratch on them.
“Melissa! Got your text!” A redhead boy with a triangular shaped face waved at them. “You’re in luck, we just finished a new prototype for Milo a few days ago!”
Ferb, whose blocky silhouette strangely resembled one of the buildings downtown, ran off.
“What’s up with their heads-?” Zack leaned in to whisper, and she stepped on his foot.
“Thanks, Phineas.” She smiled at the younger boy. “Milo would be here, except he got carried off by Water Buffalo.”
“No worries! Although you’ll have to let us know how the probability nullifier works on this version. Ferb thinks it’ll be the most Murphy Effect cancelling yet.” Phineas beamed at them. “Oh, is that the previous backpack?”
“Yup.” Zack handed it over.
“How Milo manages to break them, I don’t know.” The dark-haired Isabella added with an amused look, looking over the torn straps. “We gave one to Buford, and he’s yet to break the first one.”
“The inside is most comfortable!” A small voice piped up from behind the largest of the kids. Zack leaned to try to see who was talking, and Baljeet waved from behind Buford.
Ferb showed back up with a new brown backpack, trading with Phineas, who held the new one open. Ferb then apparently shovelled all the stuff from the old one into the new. “Ferb’s a genius at getting everything to fit in there.” Melissa informed Zack, who watched the seemingly impossible flow of items move from one bag to the other with wide eyes.
Zack nodded silently in sceptical agreement.
“Ferb added a new feature to the bag too!” Phineas gleefully informed them.
“More than an anti-Murphy probability nullifier, and a pocket dimension in a bag of holding?” Zack carefully ventured as a vespa scooter fell out of the old bag and into the new bag. A motorcycle helmet followed after.
“Well yeah.” Phineas grinned. “The caution tape on the back is now reflective!”
“Nice.” Melissa praised. “That’ll come in handy.”
Ferb gave the back another shake, a few more items falling through, then leaned into the new bag, rummaging things around, his legs sticking out into the air. The bag shouldn’t have been able to hide much past half of his head, but he clearly fit with room to spare. After a few seconds, he popped back out and gave them a thumbs up, before wandering off with the old bag.
“Here you go.” Phineas handed it over.
Melissa took it and smiled. “It’s lighter than before. Thanks for doing this for Milo, guys.”
“No problem! It’s an interesting conundrum to try to solve.” Phineas assured them. “We’ll analyse the old bag and use the data to increase our safety protocols, so it’s a win-win for both of us.”
“Awesome.” Melissa nodded. “See you next time!”
“Later!” Phineas waved. “Safe travels! Say 'hi' to Milo for us!”
"Will do!" Melissa waved as she walked back out, Zack shadowing her.
“Okay. I see what you mean.” Zack said quietly as they walked down the driveway. “No one knows what their quirk is?”
"Either probability or engineering based, possibly both." Melissa shrugged.
"Huh." Zack thought it over for a moment, then nodded. "Alright. So now we need to find Milo, get his new bag back to him, and then head home."
"Not a problem." Melissa smiled, noticing a dust cloud in the distance. "Get ready to toss the bag."
"Wha-? Oh!" Zack straightened as he noticed the obstinacy of water buffalo barrelling past him. "Nice one." He smirked.
Melissa smiled, but didn't mention that probability tended to work in people's favour around the Flynn-Fletcher household. Not always the most predictable of ways, but good ways.
They spotted Milo hanging from the horns of one of the water buffalo, looking a little ragged, but no worse for wear. Milo spotted them and waved. Zack waved back, then threw the backpack at him, Milo catching it by one strap. He dug into the bag for a moment, then pulled out a lasso, and looped one of the nearby water buffalo, pulling him off the one he was stuck on, and away from the obstinacy.
A minute later, and Milo was sitting calmly on the water buffalo's back, somehow having turned the lasso into reins, walking the buffalo up to them. "Hey! Thanks for getting my backpack for me." Milo smiled, looking happy to see them. "The reflective stripe is a nice touch."
"You can thank Ferb for that." Melissa informed him. "They say hello."
"I will indeed." Milo agreed cheerfully, and Melissa had no doubt that the brothers would have a nice text later that night from Milo, thanking them.
Zack eyed the water buffalo for a moment, then glanced up at Milo. "Is this gonna be our ride home?"
"Might as well." Milo shrugged, then held out his hand. Zack mulled it over for a second, then took the offered hand, Milo helping him climb up the side of the giant animal. "Lucky thing we ran into each other, isn't it?" Milo chirped, holding his hand out for Melissa.
"Oh, I knew we'd run into each other sooner or later." Melissa smirked, and Milo grinned, eyes sparkling in muted amusement.
"Waaaaait." Zack gave her a suspicious look as he helped her sit behind him. "Great. Now I'm wondering how often you say stuff like that to sound mysterious, as opposed to you actually seeing something."
"And you'll never know." Melissa said smugly, settling down as Milo prodded the water buffalo into action, ambling back towards their neighbourhood. "But who knows? Maybe someday we'll find out you've got some sort of odd hereditary quirk too.”
“After all, you hang out with us."