Four years ago, a lab outside of Eon City.
Drake Rogers, on the table.
It didn’t hurt. That was what surprised Drake the most about his condition – he had been thrown around, pummelled, and electrocuted quite thoroughly, but nothing hurt.
In fact, he couldn’t feel anything below his neck.
At first, he had assumed that the doctors had tied him down. Then he thought that maybe they had given him an anesthetic. The truth dawned on him slowly – especially since the doctors didn’t seem to want to tell him – that he was paralyzed.
That damn kid, he thought. His opponent hadn’t really been a kid; the target had been in his early twenties. But Drake, who was in his thirties, saw him as a kid – a stupid kid who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and by sheer accident was now the strongest being on the planet.
As if echoing his thoughts, a voice came from the doorway. “Sucks, doesn’t it?” Jaunt asked him.
The man in the suit strolled in as if he owned the place – which he probably did. Drake didn’t even know which hospital he was in, but it looked as fancy as the other facilities that Jaunt owned.
“What… do you… want?” Drake managed to croak out. Breathing enough to speak was difficult, since he was on an artificial respirator.
“The same thing you do,” Jaunt said. “I want you up and about, able to take on your enemies.”
“You… did… this…” Drake pointed out.
Jaunt shrugged. “I can see why you think that,” he admitted. “It was my hit that you were taking out, my order to kill any witnesses, my order to track the witness down when you failed to kill him.”
“Your… drug… made him… a… monster…” Drake said. “I… killed… him… the… first… time…”
“You shot him,” Jaunt said. “You buried him in a shallow grave, and left him for dead. But you obviously didn’t kill him.”
“I… shot him… in the… heart…” Drake said.
Jaunt smiled. “And then buried him right over a chemical runoff,” he said. “Then lightning strikes the ground where he’s buried, and poof! Suddenly there’s a new, more powerful being running around.” He shook his head. “All of that experimenting with the Fourth Gens, and the answer was right under our noses. We have a true Fourth Gen, with no aversion to sunlight, who has god-like powers.”
“Can’t… control…” Drake said. “He’s… insane…”
“We’re working on a fix for that, too,” Jaunt said. “I have my top doctor figuring out a serum for him; we’ll have him back to his old self in no time.”
“What… do you… want… from me…?” Drake asked. He was getting tired of Jaunt’s blathering.
“Simple,” Jaunt said. “No experiment can be called a success unless we can duplicate the results.” He moved over next to Drake’s bedside. “I want your consent to give you the serum, and then shoot you with a bolt of lightning.”
It sounded crazy. Drake would have said no – except what did he have to lose? He knew about the Fourth Gen serum, and how it had nasty side-effects in all of the other subjects. But he was facing long-term paralysis, and that scared him more than dying.
“Do… it…” he said.
Jaunt smiled again and walked out of the room, calling behind him, “It’s already begun.”
Drake twitched his cheek in a ghost of a smile, the first since he had woken up from the fight. He would get his revenge for what the kid did.
David Perry would get what’s coming to him.
* * * * * * * *
Eon City, present day.
David Perry, AKA Earthborn.
“Wake!” came a squeal from next to David’s side of the bed. “Wake, Daddy, wake!” There was a slight tugging at his sheets as his two year-old daughter tried to get him up.
“Sweetie, our daughter’s calling you,” Amy mumbled from behind the sheets.
David looked at the clock. Of course baby girl’s calling me, he thought. “It’s nearly eight,” he said, nudging Amy to wake her up too. “I’m up, munchkin,” he told his daughter.
He groaned as he climbed out of bed. He put his daughter in her booster seat at the table and got breakfast ready for the three of them.
“What time does your patrol start?” Amy asked, yawning as she came out of the bedroom.
“I’ve got the afternoon shift,” David told her, kissing her good morning. “Starts at twelve and goes until about eight.”
“I have to work the evening shift,” Amy told him. “I’ll call my mother to see if she can babysit tonight until you get home.”
David grinned at her. “I love you, you know that?” he said.
Amy smiled back at him, still tired. “You say that every day,” she told him.
“I mean it every day,” he said, pouring her a cup of coffee and sitting next to their daughter to help her with the cutlery.
Amy came over and kissed his forehead before sitting down next to him. “I love you, too.” she said. “It’s nice to have a decently quiet morning for once.”
No sooner did the words come out of her mouth then an alarm rang, coming from the bedroom. David winced, getting up as Amy took his spot next to their daughter. “You just had to jinx it, didn’t you?” he teased, going to the bedroom to answer his com.
“Earthborn, we need you,” Agent said, sounding urgent. “There’s a powerful Third Gen tearing up downtown.”
“Can’t Granny take it?” David asked, pulling on his uniform.
“I’d ask her, but it’s calling you out by name,” Agent said.
“I’m being requested?” David asked, pausing for a second as it sunk in. Finishing with his uniform, he added, “Most bad guys tend to hate it when I show up.”
“Union Square,” Agent directed. “Get there as soon as possible. I’m also sending Granny and Nightmare as back-up – we’ll need our heavy hitters on this one.”
“Roger,” David said, and Agent hung up. David went back out to the kitchen to let Amy know.
“Be careful,” she said. “We’ll be watching the news.”
David gave her a mock salute and kissed their daughter goodbye before heading out the door.
It took Earthborn only a few minutes to get downtown. That was one benefit of his powers – he could travel faster by tunnelling underground than he would in a car. It had taken him more than a year to get a handle on his powers, but now they were a part of him. Dale’s serum helped keep the crazy under control, and as long as he used his lightning powers sparingly he wouldn’t go mad again.
Which is why he gave an exhausted sigh when he saw the bad guy shooting lightning bolts out of his hands.
“Hey, Earthborn,” Nightmare greeted as he ran up to join them. “He’s got the same electric powers as you; I think that’s why he’s calling you out.”
“Not possible,” Earthborn said, shaking his head. “Maybe similar to mine, but that’s not my power.”
“David Perry!” the electric villain called out. “Or do you go by ‘Earthborn’ now? Come over here and face me!”
“He seems to know you by name,” Granny said, landing her dragon on his other side. “Friend of yours?”
Earthborn shook his head, drawing rocks up to cover him in his usual armor. “I don’t recognize him,” he said.
The villain had scars all over his face, and his brown hair was shaggy. He shot a bolt of lightning in Earthborn’s direction, but he missed, hitting a parked car behind him.
“Who are you?” Earthborn called. “What do you want with me?”
“Oh, you don’t recognize me?” the villain called back, giggling maniacally. “You did this to me, you know. Four years ago, you went on a rampage trying to destroy the city, and I tried to stop you.” A cold, sinking feeling rose in Earthborn’s stomach as he began to realize who this was. “You beat the crap out of me, as ‘a warning to others’ if I remember right. Well, now it’s my turn. We’re on the same playing field now.”
“Drake?” Earthborn asked.
“Ye-es,” Drake said in a mocking voice. “But so much more handsome than the last time we met, don’t you think?” He gave a mocking bow. “Even with the Fourth Gen serum, the same serum that brought you back from the dead, it took four YEARS for me to recover from that fight,” he said. “And what’ve you been up to?” He started walking forward, making the air around him crackle with electricity. “You got a girlfriend. And had a little kid. And started working a cushy job as a Watcher in the Asylum. All while I was eating out of a TUBE!”
Drake threw a bolt of electricity, but it again went wide of Earthborn. Nightmare had to dive out of the way. “What’s he talking about, Earthborn?” she asked. “He took Fourth Gen serum? But he doesn’t look like the rest of us – he’s out during the day with no cover.”
“Cliff notes version: his name is Drake Rogers,” Earthborn told her and Granny. “I thought he was dead. He tried to kill me four years ago – he did kill me four years ago – but he buried me with a chemical, that might have been Fourth Gen, and lightning struck, and I woke up with my powers.”
“And you beat the crap out of him?” Nightmare prompted.
Earthborn shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t remember much about that,” he said, this time loudly enough for Drake to hear. “The electricity I shoot messes with my head; more so back then before I could control it.”
“And you have so much more control over it now?” Drake asked, still coming towards him. “I think I’ll test that.” He shot another lightning bolt at Earthborn, this time using an enormous amount of power to strike everything in a city-block radius.
The street had already been cleared of pedestrians, but there were police officers in the line of fire. Earthborn stomped the ground, and every living being in the strike zone was surrounded by earth to block the lightning. Unfortunately, that also included Nightmare, Granny, and Herschel, which meant the fight was now one-on-one. “Neat trick,” Drake said. “But how about this?”
He had come close enough to lunge for Earthborn, tackling him to the ground even with his rock armor to protect him. Drake used another huge burst of power to shoot lightning directly into Earthborn, breaking through the armor and hitting him in the chest in a constant stream of electricity.
“Hurts, doesn’t it?” Drake asked through gritted teeth as Earthborn lost control over the rocks surrounding him. The armor completely broke apart, showing Earthborn’s face as he directly absorbed the electricity.
Then, a surprising sound rose above the roar of Drake’s lightning:
He looked down at Earthborn’s face, as his victim laughed with his eyes wide and staring. His bright red eyes, which shone with the same manic glint that Drake often saw in the mirror. And Drake then knew that he had made a horrible mistake.
“My turn,” David said, grinning as Drake’s electricity ran out. He punched his arm upward, throwing Drake off of him with a giant fist made from the rocks littering the ground. Drake screamed as he was pummelled without mercy, as David stood up in a shower of sparks. “You tried to kill me,” he accused. “Twice now. So I have no reason to let you live to try again.”
He shot lightning at Drake with a lot more accuracy than Drake had demonstrated. As the energy flowed around them, he also picked up any loose gravel from around them, and pulled it together into a giant, compacted ball of dirt.
Nightmare had just managed to dig herself out of the ground trapping her when she saw David slam the giant chunk of earth onto Drake’s head. The bad guy was buried, but David didn’t stop his onslaught – he hit Drake again and again, even after he fell unconscious from the beating.
“Earthborn!” Nightmare called, watching with horror as her teammate acted like a villain. “Earthborn, stop! He’s down!”
David turned towards her, and she saw her own red eyes staring back at her. “Earthborn isn’t here right now,” he said, an insane grin spreading over his face. “In fact, he’s been keeping me suppressed for years. I think it’s my turn to come out now.”
Nightmare didn’t know what else to do, so she called Agent. “Are you seeing this?” she asked into the com.
“Granny’s buried, along with her dragon, and David’s other personality is free,” Agent summed up. “Yeah, I see it. I’m calling all hands for this one. In the meantime, try to bring him in – that’s the only way we can help him now. Use any force necessary.”
Nightmare didn’t think; she sent out a wave of her power at David. If she could give him a mild heart attack, then they could get him back to headquarters before he hurt anybody else.
“Oh, Rina,” David said, still calm and unpanicked. “The Nightmare Child. There’s a big drawback to your power – for it to affect me, I’d have to fear something.” He raised his hands, pulling up spikes of rock from the earth. “And what could I possibly have to fear? I’m a god,” he said. He used lightning strikes on the ground around her to emphasize his point. “I’m the god of the earth. I’m the god of lightning. The god of storms. The god of death.” He pointed at her. “Your power doesn’t work on me.”
Nightmare stopped wasting her time with her powers, and ran towards him to take him down the old-fashioned way. “I don’t want to hurt you,” she said, “but I will if I have to.”
David yawned, cocking his head to one side. Nightmare managed to land one punch, and it didn’t even phase him.
She never even saw the spikes as they impaled her from behind.
* * * * * * * *
All hands on deck.
“What the hell, Agent?” Natalie demanded as soon as the elevator doors opened. “First my brother, now David? Any other secrets you’re keeping from us?” Natalie and Frank entered the room together, where Granny, Haley, and Reiki all waited with Agent for orders.
“How’s Rina doing?” Frank asked.
“Rina’s in recovery,” Agent told them. “Dale says she’ll be fine. Her accelerated healing kept her alive, and Dale’s doing all he can to fix her.”
“She wouldn’t have been in that position in the first place if you had just told us about David’s problem,” Natalie growled.
“I know,” Agent sighed. His knuckles were white on the handle of his umbrella. “I messed up. I didn’t want you all worrying about this, or trusting him any less as your teammate.”
Natalie shook her head, keeping her eyes locked on Agent. “This is why you sent him home early from the party,” she accused. “Why Dale has to check us all out after every little thing, even when we’re fine.”
“Partly,” Agent said. “Dale also worries over all of you.”
“Let’s not get off-topic,” Granny said. “David is now out there causing havoc in our city just like any other Third Gen who lost control of his powers.” She patted her bag, asking, “How do we stop him?”
“How did this happen?” Frank asked. “I mean, I always thought the guy was just a really strong Third Gen. But that Drake guy was talking about ‘Fourth Gen’ – isn’t that what gave Rina her powers?”
“No more lies,” Natalie warned. “No more half-truths. If we’re going to stop him, we need to know everything.”
Agent sat down on a stool at the kitchen island. “David was an accident,” he told them. “From what he told me, he witnessed an assassin – Drake Rogers – kidnapping a hit, and was taken alongside; Drake doesn’t leave witnesses alive. Drake shot him in the heart and buried him and the other guy in a field. Somehow, lightning struck the spot where he was buried, and David woke up with his powers.”
“And the other guy?” Haley asked.
“No idea,” Agent said. “I was put on David’s trail as an afterthought, only once his alter ego started running rampant. Anything before that you’ll have to ask him.”
“Assuming we can get close enough to him,” Natalie muttered. Out loud, she said, “I’ve never seen someone that strong. Even Rina doesn’t have that much power.”
Agent shook his head. “She does,” he told them. “Rina can drive hundreds to panic at once if need be – she just doesn’t usually need to in the Asylum. Accident or not, David is a Fourth Gen like her – and Fourth Gens were designed to be single-person armies.” He leaned back against the kitchen island, adding, “Elementals like David are usually strong enough when they’re Third Gens, but they usually can only manipulate one element – and they have limited control. Eighty percent of Third Gens who suddenly lose control over their powers are elementals.”
“But they don’t usually go crazy,” Natalie argued. “They just cause storms, or fires, or something, but they don’t mean to do it.”
“To our knowledge, that would be because of David’s electrical powers,” Agent said. “His other personality only comes out when he uses too much lightning.”
“So let me get this straight,” Haley said. “This ‘other personality’…” She shook her head. “Nope, not calling it that. This ‘Dark David’ that we have to go fight now – he’s that way only because he uses his lightning powers? Then how is fighting going to help?”
“It’s not.” Dale walked in from the elevator. He seemed exhausted, with eyelids that would barely stay open and shuffling feet. He held a case in his hand, presumably to give to Agent.
Granny was the first to ask, “How’s Rina doing?”
“As well as can be expected,” Dale told them. “Thank god for her natural healing ability – without that, she’d have been dead before I got there.”
Agent nodded. “Dale, you were saying?”
Dale shook his head to clear it. “Right,” he said. “I’d recommend avoiding a fight if you can. All you need to do is stick him with this.” He put the case he was carrying down on the kitchen counter, opening it to show the team five syringes. “It’s a concoction of my own making,” he explained. “Right now, he’s suffering from tachycardia due to heightened adrenaline levels. That’s why Rina’s powers wouldn’t work on him – he’s naturally in the state that she was trying to cause. His electrical powers target the dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters in his brain, causing his behavior change, lack of inhibitions, and delusions of grandeur.”
“So he’s drunk?” Natalie asked.
Haley shook her head. “No, more like he’s been overdosing on Ritalin, right?”
“Ritalin, methamphetamines, and alcohol all rolled into one giant shock to his system,” Dale confirmed. “His powers cause a ton of stress on his body, which is why he loses control just by absorbing some lightning. The stuff in these syringes’ll bring him out of it – and then you’ll have one massively hung-over Fourth Gen to deal with.”
“Trippy,” Frank noted. “Next question: how do we find him?”
“He dove underground just as I dug myself out of that shield,” Granny added. “He could be anywhere by now.”
“There has to be some place he’d go,” Agent said. “Even in his current state, he’s still David – he’d still have a place in mind, somewhere to hole up.”
Natalie crossed her arms. “And do you happen to know where that place is?” she asked.
“No,” Agent admitted, pulling out his cell phone. “But I know someone who does.”
* * * * * * * *
David and Amy’s apartment.
“Thanks for watching her, mom,” Amy said, pulling her shoes on as she headed out the door. “Bye, sweetie!” Her mother babysat often, so the toddler was at peace with her mother leaving. That, and she was distracted by a coloring book.
As the door shut behind her, Amy’s phone rang. “Hello?” she greeted, answering it as she headed to her car.
“This is Agent,” came the voice on the other end of the line. “I need your help.”
“Good to hear from you too,” Amy said dryly. “How’s the kid? Oh, she’s fine – sleeping through most nights, finally. Other pleasantry stuff.”
She could almost hear Agent biting back a sarcastic retort. “There’s no time for that,” he said instead. “We need to know where David might have gone.”
“I’m not sure how I can help you,” Amy told him. “He’s been on patrol all day, since you called him in early.”
“You haven’t seen the news?” Agent asked.
“I have a two year-old daughter who is starting to repeat everything she hears,” Amy pointed out. “Of course I don’t turn on the news around her.”
“David was in a fight this morning,” Agent told her. “He had to use his lightning powers.”
Amy stopped in her tracks. “You don’t mean…?” she asked hesitantly.
“His other personality came out, and he ran off before the rest of the team could get there,” Agent confirmed. “We need to know where he might have gone.”
“Um… try the tunnels,” she said. “He likes being underground. Otherwise, he might have gone to the fields.” She named the farmland outside the city where David had first gained his powers.
“Thank you,” Agent said. “Call me if you think of anything else.”
“Of course,” Amy said. “But if you do find him, won’t you need me to talk him down?”
“You have done it before…” Agent considered, “but no. I think the team is up for this, and David would never forgive me – or himself – if you got hurt.”
“Right,” said Amy. “I’ll be at work if you need me,” she added, just before hearing the click of Agent hanging up the phone. “Dumbass,” she muttered under her breath. She got into her car to go to work, trying not to worry about her superhero beau.
* * * * * * * *
Tunnels under the city.
Trying to find Dark David in the dark.
“How the hell are we supposed to find him down here?” Trick asked Shadow. “This place is a maze!” She shone her flashlight into a suspicious-looking corner.
“Outlier and Reiki went to check the fields,” Shadow said, “so you and I get to check the tunnels with Granny.” Shadow didn’t need a flashlight; he could tell what was in the shadows without looking.
“No offense,” Trick said, “but why us? My illusions only go so far against his powers, and you’re more stealth than strength.”
“Stealth would be easier if you stopped talking,” Shadow pointed out. Seeing the look on his friend’s face, he added, “We’re here because Reiki’s power works best out in the sunlight, and he works better with Outlier than any of us. Granny’s our hard-hitter down here if we need to fight.”
Trick bit her lip, peering into the shadows around them. “This place gives me the creeps,” she said. “Further down we go, the more I feel like something’s watching us.”
“If they’re watching, they’re not attacking,” Shadow said. “Beyond that, I’d prefer not to think about it.”
“Mm-hmm,” Trick agreed. They walked in silence for a bit, listening for movement in the darkness.
A shuffling sound alerted them to Granny riding up behind them. Her wolf sniffed at the ground, whining softly. “Louise smells something,” Granny told them. “I think – ”
The ground erupted around them. Shadow and Trick were knocked backwards, and Granny was cut off from the other two by a wall of dirt. Trick jumped to her feet, coughing, and shone her flashlight on where Dark David stood.
“That was a warning,” Dark David told them. “As I’m sure Rina told you, I don’t have to miss.”
“Earthborn,” Trick started, but Dark David cut her off.
“I’m not Earthborn,” he said, shaking his head. The air crackled around him with electricity, reflecting on his red eyes. “That goody-two-shoes keeps pinning me down. I keep trying to come out to play, but I’m forced to watch from the sidelines.”
Trick glanced to where Shadow lay on the ground. He looked unconscious at first glance, but Trick could see the shadows starting to envelop him. She had to keep Dark David talking.
“Okay, so if you aren’t Earthborn,” she said, “then who are you? We’ve been calling you ‘Dark David’, but…” she trailed off, shrugging. ‘Not sure if you already had a name.”
“‘Dark David’,” he mused. “I like it. Who came up with that one? You?”
“Haley, actually,” Trick said. “She thought ‘other personality’ was too much of a mouthful.”
Dark David laughed. “True that,” he said. “So I’m Dark David. Pleasure to meet you.”
“Why did you stab Nightmare?” Trick asked.
He shrugged, taking a step towards her. “I felt like it,” he said.
“Are you going to stab me?” Trick looked around, as if she would see the ground coming at her. Dark David gave that cold laugh again.
“If I wanted any of you dead, you would be,” he told her.
“So what do you want?” Trick looked for Shadow in her peripheral vision, but she couldn’t see him any more. She took a step away from where he had been, hoping that Dark David wouldn’t notice.
“I just want my freedom,” Dark David said. “How would you like it if someone else was possessing your body, and you could see what they were doing but weren’t able to move on your own?”
“That’s what it’s like for you?” Trick asked, taking another step. A scratching sound came from behind the wall that Dark David had thrown up.
“Granny’s trying to break through,” Dark David said dismissively. “And it’s a bit more complicated than what I just described, but that’s the gist of it. I remember – ”
Shadow jumped onto his back, trying to stick him with the cure. Dark David roared, shaking Shadow off with a massive bolt of electricity. Trick’s flashlight flickered, dimming with the electricity pulsing through the air. “Shadow?” she asked. “Shadow!”
Her light barely made out the form of her friend, lying prone on the ground. The shadows fell away from him – he was truly out this time, and Trick was alone.
“That’s Dale’s serum,” Dark David said, looking at the needle he pulled out of his shoulder. Shadow hadn’t managed to inject him before getting thrown off. “You were trying to trap me again!”
Trick pulled her own dose of the serum out of one of her coat pockets. Glints of blue flashed in the darkness, showing her where Dark David was even as her light dimmed. “David, you need to come with me,” she said. “We can help you; don’t you want to see your family again?”
“That’s not my family,” Dark David yelled, his voice echoing in the tunnel. “That’s not my life! I just want my freedom!”
“You remembered something,” Trick prompted, trying to get him talking again. If he ran from the tunnels, they might never get another chance to catch him. “You were talking about how it feels to be stuck inside your own head…”
“I won’t let you take me!” he shouted. “Let… me… go!”
“I don’t have you!” Trick said, confused. She crept closer to him as she spoke. “I just want to talk.”
“Let me go!” Dark David roared again. As Trick got closer, the light from his electricity showed her enough to see what he was talking about: Dark David’s legs were encased in mud, trapping him from the waist down.
She didn’t wait any longer. Trick dove to him, sticking him with her needle and pressing the back end to get the serum into his system. Dark David yelled again, trying to shake her off until the serum took hold and he collapsed.
The mud fell away from his legs as David groaned. “Wha… what happened?” he asked, groggily.
Trick breathed a sigh of relief, just as Granny’s wolf punched a hole through the wall that had been separating them. “Is everyone alright?” Granny asked.
“Yeah,” Trick called back, hearing Shadow get up as well. “Radio Agent – we got him.”
* * * * * * * *
Back at Asylum Headquarters.
“I am so sorry,” David groaned again, his face in his hands. “I should have told you all before; I really thought I had it under control.” Agent had just finished debriefing him as Dale checked over the team.
“You did,” Dale told him. “But even my serum can’t take as much electricity as that Drake fellow gave you.”
“I’m just glad you’re back to normal,” Rina said from her own bed. She had nearly finished healing, but Dale had wanted to keep her under observation. “Seeing you beat the crap out of that guy… that was scary. You weren’t you.”
“I’m just glad you’re okay,” Agent said to her. “If it had been anybody else…”
“I don’t think he would have done that to anybody else,” Natalie mused. “He said in the tunnels, ‘If I wanted you dead, you would be.’ He had plenty of chances to kill me or Frank, but he didn’t.”
David shook his head. “He doesn’t think that way,” he explained. “The other guy acts on impulse, not rational thought. It was a stroke of luck that the lightning he threw at Frank only grazed him – if he’d gotten a direct hit, Frank would be dead now.”
“I don’t know,” Natalie shrugged. “In the tunnel he just seemed more… sad, I guess, than anything else.”
“Don’t fall for it,” David said. “He said what he thought in the moment you wanted to hear. He’s not stupid – talk of ‘freedom’ and such gets people to empathize with him. Then, when you let him go, he’d have terrorized countless others.”
“How much do you remember?” Agent asked. “Do you know where he was in the hours before we caught up?”
David shook his head. “I get the feeling that I ran into someone,” he said, “and that I tried to destroy something. But I don’t remember details.”
“Well, anyways,” Natalie stood up, stretching as she walked to the elevator. “Thanks for holding him down.”
“What?” David asked, looking up at her.
“Thanks for holding him down for me,” she said. Seeing the blank look on his face, she added, “You know, covering his legs in mud so he couldn’t escape, distracting him enough that I could stick him with Dale’s serum… that was you inside his head, right?”
David furrowed his eyebrows. “Natalie, when he has control, he has complete control,” he told her. “He’s still me, he just acts different. I’m not ‘inside his head’ any more than he’s inside mine – it’s not a separate personality, it’s more like being bipolar. Or, you know, really, really drunk – I might not remember much when I sober up, but it was still me.”
“So assuming he wasn’t holding himself down…” Natalie started.
“…I don’t think you were alone in the tunnels, Nat,” Agent said.
* * * * * * * *
Zatvor Penitentiary, medical center.
“You were supposed to get me out of here ages ago,” Skadi accused the man in the suit. “Where’s my brother?”
“He’s safe,” Jaunt said. “You’ll see him shortly.” He turned back to the patient in the full-body cast. “As for you, I gave you the powers of a god and you still failed spectacularly.”
Drake couldn’t speak. If he hadn’t had Fourth Gen serum, he would be dead – as it was, he could barely move a finger.
Knowing this, Jaunt continued. “I’m terminating our relationship. You got yourself into Zatvor, and you can get yourself out. Skadi here was useless to me until she was healed,” he added for her benefit, “but soon she’ll be able to take her place with her brother.”
“‘Soon’?” Skadi asked, crossing her arms. “How soon?”
She was looking better than when she had gone into the prison. Color had returned to her cheeks, and she was gaining weight to a healthy point.
Jaunt nodded at her. “Some other things need to be done first,” he said. “I have other pieces in place, but money only goes so far when setting up a jailbreak from the most secure prison in the world.”
“How soon?” Skadi repeated. “Ballpark figure.”
“Two months,” Jaunt said. “That should go pretty quickly, all things considered.”
Skadi raised her eyebrows, but said, “Could you at least give a letter to my brother?” She reached under her pillow and pulled out some papers. “I didn’t know where to send them.”
“Fair enough,” Jaunt said, taking them from her. “It’s not an easy place to reach.” He clapped his hands together, forming a portal for himself to step through. Pulling a mask over his face, he stepped through the portal. As the portal closed behind him, Skadi fell back into her bed. The red lights on the cameras turned back on, and she knew that she was being watched by security again.
How does he do that? she wondered idley. She thought back to the other times Jaunt had checked on her progress, and how each time he managed to turn the cameras off before portalling into the room. It was a mystery she was trying to figure out.
After all, there wasn’t much else to do with her time.
* * * * * * * *