Season 1:5 ‘Hotel California’

by P WIlliam Ross

It’s easier to cooperate with friends than it is with strangers.

Mach handled all of the officers’ questions.  They taped off the warehouse and started investigating straight away.  Apparently we had happened upon the stolen technology after intercepting one of the homing beacons by accident.  It sounded plausible enough I suppose.  The police bought it.

“Well I’m ready to sleep for the rest of the week,” says Jason.  Mach agrees.

I hadn’t participated in the fight outside of watching it from Jason’s perspective.  An hour of meditation should help to calm my mind.  Otherwise, we’re all in good spirits.  Nothing blew up, no one died, and the public will sleep in ignorant bliss.  Today was a win for us.

“I was planning on studying the robot parts tomorrow.  Maybe a little downtime would be good,” Ingot says.

We rent two hotel rooms near the airport for the night.  As nice as it would be to get back home, there’s no real hurry.  Guys are in one room, girls in the other.  The carpet is splotched with a geometric pattern in complementary colors.  None of the furniture matches, but the bathroom and sheets are clean.  We had to change out by the car before entering the main lobby.  It’s not unusual to see metas, especially in populated areas, but they never check-in to hotels.

“That was some first day on the job,” Mach says before diving onto the closer bed.  “I’ve never had to fight a robot before.”

“You seemed pretty good at taking them apart,” I say.

“I’ve assembled my fair share of Ikea furniture.”

Jason goes into the bathroom and locks the door.  After a few moments he turns the water on for the shower.  I laugh at Mach’s remark to keep him from suspecting how distracted I am from the conversation.

You feeling alright?

I’m fine.  Just taking a shower.

You’re checking yourself out in the mirror.

Dude, quit watching me.  I’m just tired.

Well if you want to talk about anything just let me know.

“So is he your brother or do y’all just look alike?”

“We’re twins.  I don’t know how much we’re supposed to talk about ‘normal’ life,” I say.  It was never made clear how much we should know about each other.  I don’t think mom and dad knew much about the rest of their teammates.

“Heck, you already know what I did for a living before this.  I don’t see why we should keep secrets from each other.  My real name’s Chase Tucker.  Call me CT if you want,” he says and sits up to offer a handshake.

I try to read his thoughts before replying.  Again, everything is moving very fast, but I don’t come across anything malicious.  If we’re going to be a team then we need to know more about each other.  It’s easier to cooperate with friends than it is with strangers.

“Desmond Healy,” I say and shake his hand.  “Jason’s my brother.”

Now I feel like I’m working with a real person, someone with a life, instead of just another metahuman. Granted we’re a rare breed, but seeing them all the time on the news makes everything so one dimensional. I start noticing all the little ticks about Chase. His right leg is almost never still and there’s a bit more scruff on his face than when we met a few days ago.

CT and I talk for a while longer, waiting for Jay to finish in the bathroom.  He’s only a few years older than us and just as inexperienced.  We’ll need a miracle to help us if we ever end up fighting a villain.  For someone with such a fast thought process, Chase is very collected when he speaks.  It’s as if each word is considered and chosen with care.  He’s not as terse as Jason when it comes to making conversation.

All of us decide not to pursue another mission before Ingot finishes analyzing the robotic head.  Back at The Hive we use the time for training.  Jason and Mach leave to work on their respective physical talents outside.

“So how does a psychic train his power?” Dragonette asks.

“I’ve never thought of myself as a psychic.  More like a mental dominator,” I say.  She gives me a questioning look.  “Anyway, I can meditate and read my own thoughts.  Or break down the mental barriers of others.  Either way works.”

“Can you practice on me?”

“I guess I could.  That is, if you don’t mind me in your thoughts.”  She shakes her head.  We take a seat on the couch and I ask her to relax. My heart beats faster, from either fear or excitement. It’s unclear.

All of her surface thoughts come across as grey images flowing into each other.  She’s thinking about the carpet from the hotel and walking into the desert yesterday with the shipping crate.  The way I’ve always broken through surface thoughts is by taking something which has the potential for more connections and approaching it from a new angle.  I concentrate on her memory of Jason lifting the container and find a connection to the time we first met.

Her next level of thoughts feel hotter.  It’s the kind of dry heat which makes my eyes sting.  This memory has a few aspects of color, but nothing stands out aside from Jason and our parents.

“You’ve got nice eyes,” Jason says to her.  The phrase triggers a powerful leap to another memory.  I manage to maintain a hold over the connection by refocusing my thoughts and increasing the clarity of the memory.

Most memories are foggy, and the old ones are no more than a few snatches of words and a smell.  By heightening each individual aspect, and making a few guesses, the full experience can be recovered.

This thought is searing hot and blazing with color.  She must be fifteen, maybe sixteen, and feels distraught.  A school bell rings.

“I’m sorry Sam, but it’s not going to work.  I kind of just thought we were friends, y’know?”

She looks up at the guy talking to her and says, “How can you say that, after everything we’d done?  We kissed and –”

“Sam, don’t, we should go.  I’ll be late for class again,” he walks away.

I start leaving her mind.  This is all too personal for me to be getting into.  But before I go I can hear a memory of him echo, “You’ve got nice eyes.”

Next Chapter.