As Adam took off the necklace and handed it to me, Daniel thought at me, This is a good sign. In my dad’s stories, this is the kind of thing that should have provoked violence and I don’t sense any coming except in the least likely of futures.
I took the necklace and looked at the buzzer. I’d been right to think that it looked like one of my earlier designs, but it wasn’t one of them. I’d made them available to other people at points, but I didn’t think I’d done so with the model this appeared to be a copy of.
Keon had the skill to do it. He’d been at Stapledon before Adam disappeared and so had other techies.
That might be worth looking into, Daniel thought at me. If someone’s been producing buzzers and people have been using them, we might have a group of potential allies that we don’t know about.
Good point, I thought back. As the resident super genius, I should have thought of that one. You’re stepping on my turf.
I felt Daniel’s amusement through the link, Remember that comment while you commune with ancient, supernatural entities with your mind.
He wasn’t wrong. That did seem like something that should be happening to the group telepath, especially if he happened to be named “The Mystic.” Annoyingly, I hadn’t had lessons with Kee lately. It seemed like she was busy—which was interesting since I hadn’t heard from Lee recently either.
Kals stopped about six feet from Adam, “I’m going to start by testing you with tones and commands in both English and my native language.”
I felt Daniel’s concentration turn toward Adam and heard not only my buzzer go off, but those of everyone on the team.
Tara laughed, “Step back everyone. Nick, how far?”
I thought about how much noise the buzzers would make if everyone in a group had one, and said, “Fifteen feet back from here should be good enough. We can go back to the table if we want to be paranoid.”
“Let’s be paranoid,” Cassie said, waving everyone back.
Katuk didn’t move, “I use a different method.”
As several pairs of eyes turned toward me, Jaclyn said, “He’ll be fine.”
I nodded as we all backed up, finding that Haley had slipped her hand into mine and was leaning against me as we sat down in our chairs next to the table.
Since watching Adam get interrogated wasn’t particularly romantic, it didn’t take much to come up with another reason she might want the comfort of human touch.
Ahead of us, Kals continued to talk, her words fuzzy because of our buzzers. Adam listened, sometimes nodding, sometimes joking.
As Adam grinned at something he’d said, Kals talked to me through her implant, It’s looking good so far. I’m trying a series of tones that are used in nonverbal commands. I would have tried more of them with Colette, but we didn’t have time.
Not wanting to distract her, I didn’t reply as she made noises that might have passed for singing if she wanted. As I watched, my implant filled in details. Motivators could sing the nonverbal commands if they wanted to, but more often hid them between words in sentences, indicating where a verbal command began and where it ended.
As Kals made noises, Adam responded with the kind of banter some supers actually used in fights, “Hey that almost sounded like a word,” and “Ribbit? You sounded like a frog.”
Kals said, “I did not sound like a frog,”, but she also smiled a little.
Was he trying to flirt with her?
Daniel said, Yes.
Maybe that kind of thing worked for some guys. It didn’t seem all that clever.
She’s not as distracted by him as you’re assuming.
Kals made a high pitched noise that reminded me of anime girls and even though Adam seemed just about to make a joke, he froze instead.
Then he shook his head and said “Oh, shit. They got me,” while stepping back and breathing heavily.
At the table, Jaclyn and Izzy got back out of their chairs while Katuk stepped between Adam and Kals.
In my head, Daniel said, That’s a good sign. If they’d done a good job, he wouldn’t be able to recognize anything was wrong.
Kals stepped to the side of Katuk, telling Adam, “Picture in your head what you think of when you hear this noise.”
Then she repeated the noise again. Adam froze again, but after a moment he took a series of deep breaths, closing his eyes, possibly to imagine better.
Kals looked over at Daniel where he sat at the table, “Do you see anything?”
“I wish this was a surprise,” Daniel said, “but I’m seeing the people from the Coffeeshop Illuminati along with Bullet—only not at their HQ—at one of the bases Stapledon uses. The one in Nebraska. It seems to be from a few years ago.”
“Whoa,” Vaughn shook his head. “That’s not good.”
Adam looked around the group, mouth hanging open, “I didn’t know! I thought I was clean.”
“It’s not that bad,” Kals said. “It’s not even working right. That should have put you into a receptive mode for more commands, but it lasted only a few seconds.”
I thought about it, “Back on Hideaway, you tested if my buzzer blocked everything. I think this one might partly block some of the stuff I missed. Do you think that might explain anything?”
Daniel’s voice in my head said, From what I’m sensing, it works. He pops out of what she’s doing as she finishes the phrase that puts him into it.
Kals smiled, “I think that’s it. I’m going to try to erase the command. Julie, come here. This will be easier with two of us.”
I hoped it worked better for Adam than it had for Colette—or my cousin Ana, for that matter.