“Hey, Mirage. Olivia. Whatever you want me to call you. What’s up?” I said, greeting the short blonde.
“Ha, Olivia or Liv is fine. And actually, I have a favor to ask you.”
“Oh?” I asked, cocking my head. “What can I do for you?” She reached out and grabbed my shoulders, standing on her tiptoes.
“I’d like for you to talk to Jason for me. There’s something I need him to do, but he’ll be suspicious if I- No, that’s not right,” she said. I opened my mouth to s-
“I’d like for you to talk to Jason for me. There’s something I need him to do, but he won’t do it if it’s me ask- No, that’s not right either.” I opened my mouth to s-
“I’d like for you to talk to Jason for me. There’s something I need him to do, but I’m too shy- not quite. Closer, though. It’s a good thing you’re so dumb, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do this, no matter how much physical contact. Shame I’m not a mind-control specialist, huh?” I frowned.
“First of all, I don’t like being called dumb. Second, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She patted my cheek endearingly.
“I know you don’t. I know. Don’t worry about it.” I opened my mouth to s-
“I’d like for you to talk to Jason for me. There’s something I need him to do, but I’m too nervous to do it myself. Can you help me out?”
“Sure, of course! What do you want me to?”
“Well,” she said, “It’s kinda complicated. It’d be easier to just show you… mentally. I need you to empty your mind, then completely open yourself to my will.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
“Okay, I’m ready.” To my surprise, she grabbed the back of my head and planted a fully-fledged, tongue-included kiss on my lips.
“Huh, that’s an odd thing to say, Oliver,” he said, narrowing his eyes.
“I mean, its not like you to ask me that.” Jason stopped taking off his costume, and shrugged his jacket back on. “You’re my friend, and one of the most loyal people I know. You wouldn’t ask me if I’m confident in my abilities as a leader. You’re the sort of person who would simply trust that I know what I’m doing. Why the sudden doubt?” /Aww… that’s nice of him to say… if only I knew what was going on!/
“I… I have no idea what you’re talking about. I must have just zoned out. Last thing I remember… I was talking to Olivia about … something?” He stared at me.
“Do you think she influenced your mind?”
“No! She wouldn’t do that, would she? Besides, I’d remember it, wouldn’t I?”
“She would do it. And there’s no guarantee you’d remember it. She’s fairly proficient at mind control, I’ve recently discovered. She’s probably strong enough to wipe your short term memory, or make you a puppet. And worse, most likely.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I want you to stay away from her for now, okay? Until we figure out what she’s after. Just trust me on this one, okay?”
“Sure. Whatever you say, chief,” I said, frowning a bit. /I’m starting to see why he hates psychics…/ He nodded.
“That’s more like you, buddy.” His face suddenly went grim. “Oliver. Without looking behind you, just go to your room. Go now. Pretend everything’s cool.”
“That won’t work,” I heard from behind me, “I can read minds, you know.” Jason swore.
“Go!” He shouted, pushing me. I tried to leave, but my body locked up. I felt an arm curl seductively around my shoulder and heard Olivia say,
“Once a connection has been made, it’s always easier the second time. It’s even easier with weak minds like his.” Jason pulled his half mask over his mouth.
“I don’t know what you’re planning, Mirage,” Zeta said, “whose team you’re on, or what you want. But you can’t mindfuck me like you did Everest.”
“You’re right. The same methods would get a fraction of the result. But that’s enou-”
“Uhhhh… my head…” I heard. I shook my head, trying to clear my vision and my headache. I was lying on a roof, in full costume, being helped up by Zeta. He was groaning too.
“Jesus. What happened?” he said, rubbing his forehead.
“Dunno. Last thing I remember, we were talking about something in the kitchen,” I shrugged.
“Yeah. Me too. Hmm. A supervillain?”
“Maybe… oh, hey, XYZ.” /I feel like I should be panicking, but… well, if Jason isn’t bothered, then I shouldn’t be./
“Wha- Oh,” he said, blushing, then zipping his zipper. “Oops. That’s never happened before; I never forget my zipper.” I grinned.
“First time for everything. Speaking of time” I said, checking my watch, “It’s 5:00. We have another hour of patrol before we can head back. It is our day, right?”
“Yeah. But it’s going to be slow going until Crane gets attacked. The only thing we’ve had to deal with since he gave his message is those tinkerbots.” I looked at him curiously. He slapped his forehead. “Oh, that’s right, you haven’t been at one of those. King occasionally releases a small, foot or so high robot that builds other things. It builds more robots, which build more robots, and so on. They’re weak, but you need to take them out quickly, before there are enough of them to start building weapons. Apollo and Selene accidentally let one group of them build a small cannon. It demolished an entire building. Just keep an eye out.” I shuddered.
“Let’s hope we don’t run into any. I just want to go back to the base and sleep off this headache.”
“Agreed. Let’s get moving.”
“Wake up! Wake up! Get your fat fucking asses up!” I groaned and turned over. From outside my room, I heard all the other members of the team stumble out of their doorways and grunt at each other and their alarm clock, Rune, in the hallway.
“Go to school and let me sleep,” I muttered into my pillow. Luckily for me, I had graduated from high school last year, and was just sticking around for the team. All the others had stuff to do during the day. Diana and Will went to a small private school to get their senior year in, while everyone else went to South Haven High School.
“You know, for someone so mad about being weak, you seem to take training rather lightly.”
Almost everyone, that is.
“I need my beauty sleep, Alex.”
“With that ugly mug? Not likely.”
“You’re composed enough to be witty. Not wearing the mask, then? How’d you get in my room?”
“Maybe I walked in with it, then took it off. Ever think of that, Sherlock?”
“Yeah, you took it off. Cause that’s always worked so well before.”
I heard him shifting around. Hiding my face, I grinned. “There’s a trade off, Crane. The weaker the power, the more sane we stay. Compare me and Diana to you and Jason. Apollo, to a lesser extent. I’m quite comfortable as I am, thank you very much.”
“Then leave.” My grin faded. “I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now,” he continued, “This isn’t a place for weaklings. Not this town, not this state, not this world. Zeta told you your options. Become strong, or leave. This team isn’t for people who can’t even control their own powers.”
“It’s a temporary thing! I’ll fix it soon! I just need to train a bit more!”
“Which brings us right back to you, being asleep, in bed, while everyone else is up.”
“Fine! Fuck! Don’t know why you’re getting up early, you don’t have school either.”
“I have an assignment. I’m doing some grassroots destroying. You’re being a lazy piece of lard.”
“I’M GETTING UP!”
“Ninety-nine… One.. Hundred!” I let the weights drop with a clang, just as Exile and Apollo walked into the gym. Apollo walked over and nodding at me, picked up the dumbbells I had just dropped. Frowning, he put them back down, then walked over to a rack and picked a pair seven sizes up.
“Why are you lifting so light? Literally, everyone on the team can go much heavier than that. You should be trying out the ones we can’t even get our fingers under,” he said. I sighed.
“I can probably tell you two this… just don’t tell Zeta, okay?”
“Sure,” Will replied with a shrug.
“No promises. I will if I have to,” said Sarah, folding her arms.
“Well, I can’t control my powers.” Instantly, I regretted opening my mouth. Their faces instantly went cold and stony. “No, they work fine while I’m fighting! I just haven’t been able to activate anything outside of combat!” Sarah frowned, thinking.
“Fine,” she said at last, “I won’t tell Jason. But if you don’t fix it soon…”
“Where is Zeta, anyway?” I asked, looking around, “He’s usually here by now.”
“He’s getting lunch with a friend of his. John, his name is. Frankly, he gives me the creeps,” Will said, “He seems normal half the time, then I turn around and he’s staring at my back like he’s going to eat me.”
Sarah sighed. “That’s the point. All of Jay’s closest friends are… off. You never met Cyner, because he disappeared before you came, but he was similar. Not quite so hostile, but he always made my hair stand on end. Gave off this… aura, I guess, of being on a different level than all of us. I’m not really describing it well, but it was like standing next to a reactor. I don’t know how to describe it better than that. Jason is the same way sometimes. I remember, one time, back when we were freshmen, some upperclassmen were picking on him. One of them pushed him in the hallway, hard enough to make him fall over. I expected him to jump up and attack the guy. Then I looked at Jay’s eyes.”
She paused, taking a deep breath.
“I thought there was going to be a death count. I thought he was going to start killing people with his bare hands and teeth. He looked less like a person and more like… a wild animal.” I recoiled a bit.
“He’s… he’s not that bad, is he?”
Will nodded, ignoring me.
“I know what you mean. I’ve seen him fight. It’s brutal. He fights like a rabid dog. And one day,” Apollo continued, a determined look in his eyes, “he’s going to have to be put down.”