Marcus had managed to resist, but I didn’t know exactly how.
If Daniel had been there, he could have told me. Better, he could have helped. Well, maybe. A telepathic link might have opened him up to Evil Beatnik’s influence.
Obviously Marcus had had more control of his body than Evil Beatnik had, and a considerably weirder physiology. That couldn’t hurt.
“What do you want?” Evil Beatnik asked.
My brain, instead of useful information, remembered that that had been the question that one of the major villains in the TV series Babylon 5 constantly asked people. The reply that I’d most liked (”To live just long enough to see your head on a pike as a warning to future generations that some favors come with too high a price”) didn’t seem appropriate for the moment.
For one thing, Evil Beatnik didn’t have a physical body.
I tried to think of a way to resist. Daniel and I had talked about resisting mental control, but neither of us knew anything about magical possession.
All I knew was that I didn’t have a plan, and that part of me was thinking about the question–even if the rest of me felt ready to panic.
What did I want? Not having him in my head neared the top of my most immediate needs, but not according to the part that he controlled. I wanted Haley to be there with me, but Vaughn had been right—Sydney, and Camille both had a lot going for them. And if I were honest with myself, so did Dixie Supergirl.
I had no shortage of honesty flowing through me just then.
“Girls,” he muttered. “They always want girls.” More loudly, he said, “That’s a good place to start. We’ll find you a solid chick. Chicks like me.”
My wants didn’t stop there.
I wanted to know how he could influence me despite Daniel’s work on setting up mental defenses. I wanted to know more about the fusion reactor in the League’s jet/spaceship. I wanted to know how the gate system worked. Why did we have to be prevented from leaving Earth anyway? If I could come up with a substitute, or a way to hack into the system without anyone noticing, we could go anywhere.
I had ideas for the next Rocket suit.
I could see it in my head. I’d improved the normal Rocket suit to hold more roachbots, and moved controls into the system after fixing it this summer. Still, some things I wanted to do could only be included in a full redesign.
I wanted to go back to HQ, get in front of a computer, and pull up the CAD program. The computer chips available now blew the ones Grandpa Vander Sloot designed the Rocket suit’s systems around away.
“Nick,” Evil Beatnik said, “let’s get back to the girls.”
I wasn’t sure why. Girls were irrelevant to integrating the roachbot’s control systems better into the helmet display, not to mention increasing their range.
Admittedly, Kayla was back at HQ, but while I didn’t have anything against her, I wasn’t interested in her in the way he seemed to be going for.
I knew I needed to talk to Kayla for some reason though.
“Nah,” he said. “She’s square. You can do better. Why don’t you head over to the power plant, dig?”
Mentally, I ran through my pre-flight check list, and then turned on the rocketpack, slowly lifting off.
Below me, Marcus shouted, “Rocket, are you sure?”
“Don’t listen to him,” Evil Beatnik said. “Everything’s cool.” From the tone of his voice though, it seemed like he might be a little nervous about taking to the air.
Of course, he probably didn’t know a thing about flying the Rocket suit. I tried not to even think about my next move. He’d shut it down before, but maybe with flight to distract him…
On my palm, I clicked open a connection to HQ, “Tell the news crew, he’s got me!”
“On it,” Kayla said, and then the connection clicked off.
“What did you do? You told them!”
And they were going to tell everyone, including other beings that the League’s reports said were always watching for spirits of chaos.
Rising above the park, and the river, I found myself level with the News 10 helicopter. They pointed a camera at me.
That’s not all I saw either. I saw the world through Evil Beatnik vision. I’d like to write that I saw every atom, felt the spinning of electrons around billions of nuclei, sensed how the world stayed together even as other forces tried to pull it apart.
That would have been true, but not quite. I didn’t sense it on a scientific level. I sensed order all around me. I could see translucent shapes everywhere, strange creatures somehow gaining power from the roads, the University buildings on either side of the river, the organized gathering of resources that kept every civilization working…
And I knew they were hostile, and that I was surrounded.