Hi-Five

Tag: online novel

Season 1:10 ‘Our Demons’

Before we can tout a small victory they come at us with a crushing defeat.

The article details an INTERPOL mission gone wrong. Six agents were tipped off about a potential theft at the Louvre last night. They arrived a few minutes late on the scene to catch the perpetrators on their way out. A firefight ensued and cost five agents their lives.

Someone knew we had knowledge about the string of robberies across Europe. They had also managed to secure photos of us at ‘Bossa Nova’ last night. It was easy to tie the two things together and make us look selfish and uncaring. But in some way, the press is right.

I sit on the floor and read the article twice. A single woman gunned down all five agents. “From what I saw, it looked like her hand fired the bullets which ultimately killed the other agents.” No doubt she is a robot.

Thinking of the possible connection between Progenitor Labs and this incident makes my head hurt. Could the stolen technology have been an elaborate ruse to set this exact scenario into motion?

“Dude,” Jason says before nudging me with his foot. I look up at him. “Why’re you up so early?”

“I heard something at the door. Look at this,” I hand him the paper. He glances over the article.

“What could we have done?”

“We could’ve saved them, instead of doing nothing until two in the morning.”

“You were too busy going deaf and fighting robots to save them. Don’t let this get to you.”

“I’m going to get the girls. We need to have a meeting.”

I get up and retrieve Janice and Sam from their room. Janice might have only been half-asleep, but Sam is shuffling behind us, still rubbing her eyes. I ask them to look at the article, and Janice snatches it from my hand.

“Jeez,” she says after reading the headline. “Well, there’s only five of us. What could we have done?”

“If even one of us was over there, we could have saved those agents,” I say.

“Desmond, what if we sent Sam over there and this robot turned out to be fireproof too? What would you say then?”

I look at the floor and rack my brain for a response. We know so little about this group. Before we can tout a small victory they come at us with a crushing defeat. There must have been a virus in the robot files we analyzed earlier.

“Well, what can we do to make this right?” I ask. Chase comes in from the bathroom.

“What’re y’all talking about?” he asks.

“Ugh, can you put some clothes on?” Janice says. He’s only in his boxers.

“Dudes, we can’t be doing this now, we’re barely put together,” Jason says. “Let’s meet up in the lobby in an hour and head back to base.”

Sam is drifting in and out of sleep on my part of the bed. She looks so serene for someone who can breathe fire and sprout wings. Jason places his hand on her shoulder and tells her to get ready back in her room. The girls leave to get changed.

We assemble in the lobby five minutes ahead of schedule. Our flight home is delayed for an hour. I really need to look into alternative means of transportation. Airport seats are some of the least comfortable things in the world, outside of airplane seats. The pseudo-leather cover sticks to my legs even though I’m wearing pants. My damaged ear makes hearing the already garbled announcements over the loudspeaker impossible. All I can do is keep my eyes on the screen above our gate and hope there aren’t any other delays.

The flight itself is painless. We’re the first plane to takeoff and there’s no shortage of soda on the beverage cart. Once we get back to The Hive, I ask Janice to debug the command console while the rest of us come up with a plan.

“What if we send two people to France and the other three to Sweden?” Sam proposes.

“I really don’t think we should split up. It seems like that’s what he’d want,” Janice says.

“A press release won’t cut it this time. Looks like we’re going on tour,” Chase says.

It’s decided, we sleuth out the criminal in France before kicking more robot ass in Sweden. We’ll have to work fast in order to respond to the first crime in a timely fashion, and before anything else happens. This time we’re chartering a jet to take us there.

“So, how old are all of you?” Sam asks. There’s not much else to do outside of talking at forty-thousand feet.

“We’re eighteen,” I say.

“Twenty-three,” Chase says. Same as Janice.

“Cool, I’m twenty-one.”

We talk about other parts of our lives before all of this started. Jason and I didn’t have as much to contribute since we hadn’t been outside of our neighborhood much. Janice studied computer science at school and designed websites as a freelancer in the time she wasn’t hacking databases for her dad. Sam was at the tail end of studying art history and anthropology with the hope of exploring Oceania. They all seem so much more experienced than Jason and I even though they’re only a few years older.

Our plane touches down on time in Paris. Twenty hours have passed since the incident last night. Chase suggests we talk to the INTERPOL agent on the case for a lead. It would be easy to chalk it up to a distraction created by Progenitor Labs, but we have nothing to back up the claim outside of the nature of the criminal. The agent agrees to allow me into his memories of the incident to see what I might find. It isn’t pretty.

Next Chapter.

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Season 1:8 ‘Get Dangerous’

Scream your fucking lungs out for Hi-Five.

The nightclub is packed. Bodies sway and crash into each other. My boots stick to the tile floor with every step. A cluster of strobe lights flash from the DJ booth on the other side of the establishment.

Guys, we have to use telepathy or we won’t hear anything. I open up our only possible line of communication.

Well fine. Ingot doesn’t seem too happy with the idea.

Chase, we’ll lose you if you start running.

I don’t think I can run in here as it is; oof. He bumps into a pair of dancing girls.

I look around for a door or some passage which would lead into a basement. There’s no way he made the video in this room. Everyone starts jumping as a high energy track blares out of the massive speakers. It’s a wonder these people aren’t deaf. The sheer volume clouds my thoughts, making it difficult to maintain the link.

Jason and Dragonette take to the left side of the room while the rest of us head right. The only bar in the club is jammed with thirsty customers. Some guy in a tight shirt and even tighter jeans rubs up against me. Dissuading him with my thoughts would sever my connection with Jason and Dragonette. I try and put a few other people between us. He seems to lose interest and wanders off into the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight, we have a few unexpected special guests in our midsts,” the DJ announces, “scream your fucking lungs out for Hi-Five.”

Everyone goes wild. Spotlights cast down onto the three of us, and two more shine down across the room.

How did he know we’re here?

Well maybe the bouncer told him, I didn’t exactly make him think we were someone else.

In any case, our cover is blown.

“And what would an introduction be without meeting our B.A.S.S. Heads?”

This is bad.

Isn’t a bass head just someone who likes loud music?

No, the way he said it, he means the experimental audio-tech weapons. Blasting Audio Sonics Systems. Ingot has her experience with them at the forefront of her thoughts, so I share it with the group.

These robots look like humans, but their heads are powerful devices meant to concentrate audio. She once watched one explode a watermelon.
Shit.

Two slim figures rise from the tops of the speakers. They’re coated with a slick seafoam colored gloss and have convex spheres in place of heads. Each one moves with a sort of confident seduction in their steps. Not saying robots are hot.

A lot of people make their way towards the exits. This must be a semi-regular occurrence for so many people to know what’s about to happen. Either way, it confirms our suspicions of Progenitor Labs being a front for illegal tech.

You guys ready?

I’m going to cut the link. Though I won’t be much use against robots. You guys fight, I’ll look for our mystery man.

To top it all off, the DJ starts playing “Everybody Get Dangerous”. Both bots hop down from the speakers and start blasting at us. Tiles shatter and fly up into the air. I dash for the far wall and watch the rest of the team spring into action.

Mach speeds out of the way of a shockwave. The pulses of sound distort the air as they throb forward to their targets. Each one is preceded by a reverberating noise. Then something in the room bursts. I can feel the vibrations in my feet and chest as I make my way across the room. Ingot hurls a few of the support structures surrounding the DJ booth at the robots. These ones must be plastic too.

Dragonette unleashes a jet of flames, coating the robot further from me. The unit walks out of the fire without so much as tarnished paint, and positions itself to launch another blast. Our mystery man was thinking far ahead when he orchestrated all of this. There’s no sign of a door on this wall. The only place we haven’t checked yet is behind the DJ booth; a logical place for a secret exit.

Getting behind the booth will be impossible until the robots are taken out. Two of us are useless in fighting them. Ingot clamps one in place by constricting its feet with metal from a door frame. Jason charges in from the side and decapitates the robot.

“You have to crush the head to destroy the audio unit,” Ingot shouts.

It’s too late. One last shockwave escapes before he smashes the head between his hands. The blast churns through the air and misses me by a hair before shattering half the bottles in the bar. Looking through it was like staring up from the bottom of a pool. My left ear stings with a harsh ringing.

I can see Jason’s lips moving, but his speech is garbled. He rushes over to me while Mach and Ingot finish off the other robot. Jason’s words come into focus as he gets closer.

“Desmond,” he says, “you alright?”

I’m not sure.

“I think it got my ear,” I say. My voice sounds louder than normal inside my head. Like I’m shouting even though it’s a normal speaking volume.

“We’ll worry about that later. Let’s go find our DJ,” Dragonette says.

The club is empty save for two scrapped robots. As we had expected, there’s a door behind the booth leading to a narrow set of stairs. I can see their lips moving, but I don’t know what everyone else is saying. Jason will serve as a better set of ears.

“Do we just go in?” Ingot asks.

“Ladies first,” Chase says.

Dragonette descends the stairwell and pushes open the door at the bottom. The rest of us follow when it looks safe. The room is about the size of a subway car. It must be under the rear fourth of the club.
“Where’d the DJ go?”

I shrug.

“Well, those two pods, I think, are used to charge the robots we crushed outside,” Ingot says. Jason grins at the comment. “And maybe this computer can tell us something.” She walks to the large computer on the back wall. It’s flanked by two grey pods.

Ingot clicks around on the console for what feels like an hour. Chase taps his foot and looks around the room. Every other wall is blank. All the code and windows flying across the screen make no sense to me. My ear still hurts.

“I didn’t find much, but it looks like the headquarters for Progenitor Labs is in Sweden.”

“So we’re done here?” Chase asks.

“Guess we just head home,” Dragonette says.

I can sense the enthusiasm in Jason’s thoughts. “Dudes, we’re in Miami and we just crushed two pieces of illegal tech. We should be out partying.”

“I’m kind of tired,” Ingot says.

“Come on. It’ll be fun,” I say.

Next Chapter.

Season 1:6 ‘International Man of Mystery’

This is our first true crisis as a team.

Dragonette and I sit in silence on the couch. Reading someone’s mind is kind of like navigating a hedge maze. I never know where the next turn might take me. She knows which memories I had touched since I exited in a hurry.

“Listen,” I say, but then Ingot interrupts.

“Guys, you’re going to want to take a look at this.”

A few of the files from the robot’s hard drive are up on the monitor. Notes on each of us and photos of the events from last night. It looks like they only had enough information to identify us and our powers.

“So someone reads the newspaper, what’s the big deal?” Dragonette asks.

“Don’t you think it’s weird that they were programmed to anticipate only our arrival? There could have been seventy other metas, or regular cops, showing up at the warehouse.”

“Is there anything on where they were made, or who programmed them?” I ask.

“Nothing so far. They’re all made from plastic to negate my ferrokinesis.”

“Seems like we’ve got fans,” Dragonette says. She goes to sit back on the couch.

Ingot taps away at the console and opens a few more of the files. The robots were only programmed to protect the stolen cargo and anticipate our arrival. Without warning, all of the windows shimmer and turn into one large monitor.

“Did you do this?”

“No.”

“Desmond, Jason, Samantha, Chase, and Janice. Welcome to the big leagues. I admire your first foray into the heroic lifestyle.”

Our photos fade in and out on the screen; high school yearbook pictures, college graduation, christmas cards. Then a tall figure standing in a plain white room appears on screen. His face is concealed by shadows despite the harsh lighting.

“At this point you’ve cracked into one of my drones. Feel free to read a little bit about yourselves. You might find it boring, but I’m sure the press would eat this all up.”

The screens click off. Light streams back in through the windows.

“This seems bad,” Ingot says.

“You think? Some creep knows all about us,” Dragonette says. She gets up from the couch and paces by the window.

“Progenitor Labs. That’s what it said in on the doorway,” I say. It’s a trick I’ve used before; reading my own mind to revisit something I’d just seen and get a closer look.

Chase and Jason are back from their training. If I had to guess, I’d say Jason tried to lift the heaviest thing he could muster and Chase ran a couple thousand laps somewhere. They look a little worn out. The three of us look at each other before Dragonette speaks up.

“We’ve got a situation.”

“What’s up?” Jason asks. The video won’t play again, so Ingot explains what had happened.

“Field trip,” Chase says.

“Guys this is serious, who knows what else this person plans on doing. I mean, I’d rather not have a robot army showing up at my aunt’s house,” Ingot says.

“Well I don’t think we can stop him from releasing this stuff to the press now,” I say.

This is our first true crisis as a team. Mystery man seems like a normal, maybe a little strange, person who happens to have a lot of resources. Someone could’ve followed us after the press release and noticed a slip of the lips. Or our parents were being watched. Either way, our origins would come to light sooner or later.

“So are you Desmond or Jason?” Samantha asks.

“Why can’t he be Chase?” Chase interjects.

“Please, it’s too much of a pun for your name not to be Chase,” she says. His shoulders droop at the retort.

“Desmond,” I say.

“Well knowing your real names is easier than thinking of you both as Gemini.”

“I named them Brains and Brawn,” Janice says.

“I’d been thinking of them as thing one and thing two,” says Chase.

The three of them laugh. Jason and I just stare at each other; he shrugs.

Brawn wouldn’t be bad if I went solo.

We’re Gemini.

Yeah. But why are we Gemini?

We work together. Or at least that’s what mom and dad said.

“No telepathy during the team crisis,” Samantha says.

Janice pulls up the three office locations for Progenitor Labs; two in the United States and the other in Sweden. My memory provides no detail which would rule out any of the locations. There’s also the possibility of a secret site built for the purpose of harassing us undetected. All of the robot’s files have corrupted themselves beyond repair.

“We can’t just launch an attack on this guy. He’s probably got this plotted five ways to pluto,” I say.

“Not a planet,” Chase adds.

“Anyway, we need to see what his next move is and learn from it. We might get another clue. And we’re not splitting up until we know who we’re dealing with,” I finish.

No one offers a counterpoint. For now we resign to wait and see what our mystery man has in store. As a precaution, we stay in The Hive instead of returning home. He probably knows where we live. He probably knows where The Hive is too. We don’t have apocalypse-proof windows at home.

Mom and dad never had to face a crisis like this. Or at least, they never spoke about one where the identity of our family was in danger. Our garage was crushed by a giant robot two summers ago. That was because the fight happened to spill over into our neighborhood. Those bent on world domination or revenge against metas have heavily favored robots for the past five years. I think Jason and I will be able to fend for ourselves.

 

Next Chapter.

Season 1:5 ‘Hotel California’

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.

Season 1:2 ‘Legal Adult’

My letter arrives at nine that morning.  I’m one of the “lucky” ones to have my eighteenth birthday on a Saturday.  It’s delivered by a special courier in a dark khaki jumpsuit.  I expected something a little more futuristic; maybe a robot or an email.  The government always seems to prefer the old fashioned way, and the National Bureau of Genetic Profiling is no exception.  It sounds Orwellian, but it’s just a bunch of computer nerds and psychologists in an underused federal building.

Astro had woken me up earlier to go for a walk.  He pulled me through the hushed neighborhood down to the school.  I let him run through the football field and pee on one of the goalposts.  A dew laden fog hung in the early morning air.  He sniffed about with fervent ambition before bounding back to where I was sitting on the bleachers.

Mom made tea while we pined away the last anxious hour.  Chamomile helped to calm my nerves.  There was always a fresh pot waiting on the counter each weekend morning.  We chatted about school and the puppy.  Mom and I were close, but not on the level of sharing clothes and talking about boys.  She’s my mother, not a character in a late night sitcom.

Then the doorbell rang.  We stared at each other, neither one having had thought this moment would actually come.  Dad greeted the delivery man and signed for the envelope.  I watched from the kitchen.  He came over, kissed me on the head and wished me a happy birthday, then set the letter down in front of me.

Sitting and staring at the envelop reminds me of the story of Annabelle Augustine.  She had been preparing for this moment since she turned sixteen.  Annabelle registered her genetic profile as soon as she was allowed to, and filled out every questionnaire available.  The matching program works off of genetics, user responses, and census data.  There’s no exact documentation on how everything is weighted.  After rounds of testing and then the first national deployment, the Bureau has accepted a two percent margin of error in the program.

Annabelle spent countless hours dreaming about her match.  She hoped he was cute, like most girls do, but the tagline “Love for Everyone” always got her stomach to flip.  The government was promising, and delivering, a prince charming for every little girl.  Finding your soulmate has a way of smoothing over a lot of a person’s flaws.  Being second generation matches means our genetic profiles are closer to ideal than our parents’.

A week before the big day, Annabelle went out shopping.  A lot of girls buy a new dress or set of makeup.  Annabelle went out looking for the perfect gift for her match.  At first she found it difficult to decide on any one thing.  Then it dawned on her, she just had to buy what she would want if she were a guy.  I’m not sure if the logic in that approach really checks out.  She purchased a leather bracelet with a fishhook shaped clasp and a blank greeting card.  Annabelle published the contents of the card the night before her birthday.

I know we’ve never met, but it feels like you’ve been alongside me every step of my life.  Hopefully you like the gift and we can meet soon.  This is like the first step in the rest of our lives.  I’d like it if you kept walking alongside me, only now I’ll know you.  I’ll be able to reach out and take your hand.  If I stumble, you can help me back up, and I’ll do the same for you.  It sounds like a lot, but we’re meant to be together.

See you soon,

Annabelle

She stayed home from school on her birthday.  Annabelle waited alone in her apartment for a knock on her door.  Her dreams, though they didn’t come easily, were filled with glimpses of her soulmate.  What she pictured he would look like and what he might say.  Nine o’clock came.  She stood by the door and waited to hear the sound of footsteps in the stairwell.  Ten o’clock came.

At eleven o’clock there was a knock on her door.  She felt an immense sense of relief.  Maybe there had been a lot of matches in her area that morning.  A man wearing rounded glasses handed her an envelope before rushing down the steps and out of her building.  She watched him peel off the curb from the window.

Annabelle was the third person who had ever been rejected from the matching program.  The tagline was changed to “Love for Everyone*” after she made her story public.  Reading through it, especially the aftermath, was tough.  A few people called for the termination of the Bureau, but since then there hasn’t been another incident.

I know there’s a match inside my envelope.  Someone will read my name and address in their letter; maybe they already have.

“Well, aren’t you going to open it?” my mother asks.

 

Next Chapter.

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