Targets: Part 17

Allen opened the door, and said, “Kerri, please come in.”

If you follow comics, you’ll get the impression that all women with superpowers are long-legged, wasp-waisted, supermodel types with massive–

Never mind.

None of the girls on our team (or any of the grown-up women I’d met) looked like that, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that their telepath didn’t either.

Between the tan suitcoat, matching skirt, and short, brown hair  she looked like a random, middle aged, office worker.

When she talked, she used a level, professional tone that I might have associated with a doctor if I’d been in a hospital.

“A teenager.” She stated. “No known powers. Part of a group that includes the Mystic, a telepath who may have taught him how to resist mental probes. Is there anything else I should know?”

Allen said, “Can you do it? You said he might resist. I might be able to get another telepath. Ray, didn’t you say one of your allies could read minds?”

“One of the immortals can, but he just started. I think you’d be better off without him.”

Allen walked back to his chair and sat down. “What about you? I thought you could copy her powers.”

“Easier said than done. There’s still skill involved. I’m trying to limit myself to people whose abilities are easy to understand. Kerri, do you think you’ll need help?”

She shook her head. “I’m not seeing anything in him yet that worries me.”

And that, of course, worried me.

Lee had had Daniel modify my block, and work up something similar for everyone else on the team. Daniel had liked the idea. He’d had some ideas he wanted to try, but until Lee said something, I hadn’t been excited about the idea of Daniel making changes in my head.

After years of being friends with Daniel, I knew what mental contact felt like, and if I couldn’t tell she was doing it, she had to be very skilled or very talented. Either way, it didn’t bode well.

About the time I’d begun to worry about her abilities, I did feel something.

The lightest touch of presence, the kind of touch Daniel used when he wanted to get my attention, but not talk, pulled at me.

Unlike my past experiences with mental invasion, I didn’t find that my memories had passed outside my conscious reach, or attempt to defend myself physically.

She hadn’t triggered it.

Both inside my head, and through my ears I heard her say, “He’s been worked on by at least three different people, and all of them were competent. Trying to get into his memories won’t be easy. It can be done, but I’m going to have to be careful.”

“Careful?” Allen snorted. “Why? They’re not going to leave a mindwipe trigger in their techie.”

“Allen,” Ray said, “she’s right. Telepaths put the damnedest things in people’s heads.”

“There’s more to worry about than mindwipes. Some people’s minds are genuinely dangerous. Even in this one, I’m seeing effects from a fourth force.”

“What kind of force,” Ray asked.

“I… don’t know. Not human, and I’d say, not intentional. Something big. I don’t know how big.”

Allen looked over at Ray, frowning. “What’s that big, and would you recognize it if it came here?”

Kerri shook her head briefly. “I don’t know. It’s outside my experience.”

Allen said, “I don’t like this at all. Poke around inside and get out. Make it quick. We’re wasting time now.”

Ray’s phone beeped. He pulled it out of its case. “I get so bored of calling these people. One of these days I’m just going to skip it.”

He smiled, and winked at me.

Normally I might have felt fear in that moment, but I didn’t then.

I felt detached. I’d been feeling more and more detached the further Kerri got into my brain. I wondered if it was because of Kerri, or if this might somehow be Daniel’s new defense.

“It’s Ray again. Don’t kill your hostages, and pass it on to the others.”

He hung up the phone, and put it back into the case hanging off his belt.

“This looks promising,” Kerri said. “Whatever cluster of memories I’m sensing now has ties to others in different parts of the brain. I’m about to tap into–”

She began to scream. Except for the briefest moment at the beginning, it didn’t take place in my head at all.

I became more conscious of where I was when she hit the floor, and the screaming stopped.

Ray and Allen got up from the table, racing around it to reach her.

Ray made it first, slapping her in the face. “Back to reality, Kerri. Come on… Do you hear me?”

Looking up at me from where he knelt over her, “Nick, if you’re doing this, stop now, or I’m calling back and giving the execute order.”

“I’m not!”

Well, I knew I could talk at least. How soon before I needed to run or fight?

I heard a loud hum, the hum of electrical connections being made, many crackling noises, and the smell of burning electronics.

And, oh yeah, the lights went out too.

21 thoughts on “Targets: Part 17”

  1. Lee is awesome.

    All beings whose influence alone can shatter the human mind are awesome but he more so than most others. I’m kinda waiting to see what happens if Ray tries to copy his powers.

  2. Pretty freaky hearing that you have had a number of people fooling around inside your head, but Nick copes with it well, at least for now.

    Hmmm, is all of the electrical action caused by the intrusion in Nick’s head, or are there other supers around? Rachel? Lee? Daniel?

    PS Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, both to you, Jim, and your readers.

  3. Belial, that is a very scary idea.

    Jim – if you haven’t yet, you may want to check out Whateley. http://www.crystalhall.org/stories.html

    It’s a superpowered mutant kid’s school story collection that’s been going on for around six years. Multiple authors; some meh, some amazing. Very deep setting and characterization, and pretty fun overall.

    Possibly worth some sidebar’d-ification.

    I was reminded of it ’cause Ray’s new power is kind of like Mimeo, a recently created ‘copycat’ character – who is also debatably the most dangerous character in the setting.

    Cheers!
    Don

  4. For some reason, the first thing the thing in Nick’s head made me think wasn’t Lee, it was some kind of alien tech brain implant, all Jack Hawksmoor-like, maybe put there by the original Rocket… but I suppose that’s not the most likely explanation.

  5. Ah444444444441 ha, we know that Nick’s grandpa salvaged an alien space +ship. Perhaps Lee is one of the Heralds of Cthulu mythos that somehow Nick’s grandpa made a deal with. A touch of that in someone’s head can make any telepaths day terrible…. Actually in a superhero RPG game we have going here, we put that to good use ( our telepath went insane after trying to mindread a cthulu monster )… after he got mostly over it he bought a power. This new power placed a mental trap in an allies head triggered if anyone did a mental issue to them which put the aggressor into a mental entangle ( left them powerless and screaming with visions of the cthulu thing in their head ).

  6. Another great episode. I think that the power outage and sparking at the end has to be more than coincidence. Am I right?

  7. Well Kerri did say that Nick had at least 3 people set up defences in his head, shouldn’t come as to much of a shock to Ray that she tripped one. Or even stumbled onto a well hidden one and paid for it. Sounds like someone might be teleporting in, or they just got hit with a type of EMP bomb and it overloaded the grid of that building.

    I can see Ray wanting to only work with simple powers at the moment, learning telepathic control takes years of pratice.

  8. Yeah, Ray is definitely right about skill and copying powers. Those copycat-type supers always annoyed me because they were almost always portrayed as good as the original – which is, frankly, ridiculous.

    I mean, even increasing your strength by a significant level totally changes your balance and the way you walk. Muscle memory would not only be useless but work against you. And that’s only with strength, the third simplest type of power ever (toughness and regeneration being the first and second respectively)

  9. Parahacker: I’m aware of Whateley though I haven’t read much of it. I probably ought to look at more and should add it to the sidebar. I actually advertised in their forums for a month or so. I’m pretty sure I’ve still got people who encountered it there reading now.

    WA_Side: Nick’s not too freaked out about hearing that people have been in his head because knows each one of them. He might even be relieved that it’s a smaller group than it might have been.

    Belial666: I try to make things at least semi-realistic. I imagine Ray’s already touched someone with powers you have to learn and found it complicated.

    Captain Mystic: Could be…

    Happy New Year, everybody.

  10. My first thought was that something had led to Nick’s acquiring the techie skills he has. Like, if his grandfather salvaged an alien ship, then the tech led to gramps getting brain power. Nick’s proximity to said item while hanging around gramps would then lead to him getting the same benefits.

    Now I’m suspicious that Nick’s latent techie powers are being unlocked, here.

    On the topic of Whateley – I’ve been reading it on & off for six-ish years, still check in every Sunday for story updates. It’s not for everyone, though, due to subject matter (For example: Transgender stuff doesn’t bother me, but the way some fiction handles it really bugs me sometimes) wildly varying quality of writing (not to name names, but some of the stuff is almost painful to read) and some Mary-Sues in the cast really grate.

    What Whateley does well, though, is create the feel of a fully realized, detailed setting. It makes more consistent sense than the professional comics do, and it’s really interesting to see how it all comes together.

  11. Technomancer? Technokinetic? There’s a term there I’m not remembering. But if he had some latent ability like that in his family, it could explain the abilities with machines. If it was being unlocked now, maybe he turned on the telepath blockers Ray keeps around on overdrive.

    However, as I’m usually wrong, this means it definitely isn’t what I just typed.

  12. Then again one guy who legitimately has a pre-established ability to control machines is in town and with the League, so the power outage just might be him telling the electrics to take a breather.

  13. I can see Lee as the fourth influence on his mind. It’s probably a combination of his own presence and the training he’s given Nick. But the other three? There’s Dan and his father, but who’s the third telepath? I don’t remember another one being mentioned. As always Jim, you have us biting our nails over the weekend.

  14. Hmmm…good call Mazzon. Your Occam’s Razor has cut my Gordian Knot. It might be said resident tech empath who’s going to drop the Sword of Damocles on Ray, using his abilities to simply redial and/or trace the signal. Then, have Bossy-Girl, the superpowered speaker, command the person on the other end to keep them alive while little miss teleportator gets people where they need to be to save everyone. Deus Ex Machina, indeed.

  15. What’s happening to Kerri sounds a lot like what happened to that (government?) telepath who tried to read Lee.

  16. The three telepaths who’ve mucked about in Nick’s head would be Daniel (obviously), Daniel’s father (who is an active telepathic superhero), and Daniel’s grandfather (who put the original “block” on the parents in place, and who was named as being responsible for Rachel’s inability to use her powers unsupervised before she turned 18). We also know of at least one other telepath who’s been in Nick’s head — the mayor. While he was shown to have little effective skill, he still might have left traces.

    As for the booby trap, that seems almost definitely to have been a tiny “copy” of Lee’s chaotic thought patterns implanted by Daniel. That’s my guess, anyway.

    Hg

    1. Yep. That’s true. I wasn’t sure whether I should break in and point that out myself or not. But yes, three generations of telepaths from the same family have been in Nick’s head.

      The rest of Hg’s speculation remains to be seen.

  17. I’m doing a re-read of the archive, and I can’t believe how consistently people underestimate the league.

    1. Well, even though their grandparents were famous, they’re still teenagers. I think it would be easy to assume they’re riding on their grandparents’ fame.

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