Hi-Five

Tag: Webfiction

Season 1:7 ‘Club Night’

Who says everything has to be done the same way our parents did it?

Sure enough, the headlines all featured a story about our relationship to The Guardians Society. None of them mentioned any names. Either mystery man decided to leave those details out, or reporters were holding on to them for a follow-up story.

I was the first one to get up. Ingot and Dragonette slept in a different area of the barracks. Jason was still snoring in the bunk above me when I rose to look out the main windows. It was seven and the sun was just coming up on the other side of the city.

The tile is cool on my bare feet, but not cold. I make a cup of tea and sit on the floor in front of the window. A few people are up and out early. Some of them might be heading home after working a night shift, or getting to work early for a meeting. I’ll probably never know what it feels like to be woken up by an alarm clock for an early meeting with a client in China or some other far-flung place on the map. The rest of my life will be dedicated to watching over everyone.

My tea is almost cold on the first sip. I must’ve lost track of the time.

“Dude, have you seen the papers?” Jason asks. I turn and get up to reheat my tea. “He wasn’t kidding about giving stuff to the press.”

I just shake my head and pace back to the window. Chase and Janice are up too.

“Can we issue our own news story?” Janice asks.

“Sure,” Chase replies. He goes over to the command console and accesses a direct connection to the prominent media outlets of the area.

“Who would’ve thought Sam would be the last person up,” Jason says.

“Not everyone has a superhuman body,” Janice replies.

“Bow chicka wow wow,” Chase adds. She groans in response.

Chase types away with a swift deftness while the rest of us watch in silence, his foot tapping all the while. He crafts a very diplomatic response to all of the articles. The stories weren’t scathing assaults on our character or ability to uphold our responsibility.

“One last thing guys. What do we call ourselves? We need to establish an identity,” he says.

“The Mighty Defenders?” Jason says. He sounds less than confident in his suggestion.

“Sounds like we sold out to a fast food chain.”

“Fantastic Five?”

“There’s bound to be copyright infringements in there somewhere.”

“Alright, shut up, shut up, it’s done,” Chase says. He’d already submitted it to all the papers in the city.

“Wait, you called us Hi-Five? What’s that even mean? You know how many drug use jokes are going to spring from that?” Janice says.

“Eh, it’s fine I guess.”

I don’t say anything. It’s not like a label is going to change the task at hand. Within minutes, the press blogs and websites are covered with our response to the mystery source. Now we’ve got our foot in the door.

“Alright team, breakfast and then we storm the castle,” Chase says.

“Do you think our parents ever did anything normal, like as a group?” Jason asks.

“What, do you want to go bowling or something?” Janice replies.

“I mean anything. Do you think they ever just turned off the hero switch for a night and went out to dinner or something?”

“My dad went to a bar with Captain Crypt once. He said it was kind of like getting a beer with a character Stephen King scrapped from one of his novels. But he still had fun, I think,” Chase says.

“Yeah, stuff like that. We should be doing things other than just beating people up and chasing down stolen art.”

As much as I hate to admit it, he has a point. We’re still kids. Everyone else in our age group is going to spend this summer in an inebriated stupor of aspirations and alcohol. We might be battling a giant mech holding the stock market hostage. Who says everything has to be done the same way our parents did it?

“Fuck it.”

Chase sprays his milk over the front of the fridge.

“Dude, Des what’d you just say?”

“You’re right. We don’t have to do everything the way our parents did; we don’t have to pretend to be adults. We should be swearing and getting drunk and beating the shit out of robots in some underground Swedish lair.”

They’re silent for a few moments. Chase cleans the milk off of the fridge. Then Janice speaks up.

“How do you expect to use your powers if you can’t think straight?”

“I’m not saying that, I mean we should be able to be ourselves on top of being heroes. There are just different ways of being heroes.”

“Hell yeah, I’m down. We save the world, party, rinse, and repeat.”

“Whatever, let’s just eat and get going,” Janice says. Samantha walks over into the kitchen and yawns.

“What’s going on?”

“Boys,” Janice says with a roll of the eyes. Sam makes a bowl of cereal and goes to sit beside her.

We suit up and pinpoint the first location for Progenitor Labs. The name sounds damn nefarious. Our mystery guy must think he’s pretty slick. His attitude was condescending and full of arrogance in his thirty second video.

Our destination is Miami, Florida. Nine o’clock on a Thursday in downtown Miami. The streets pulse with heavy bass and drunken catcalls. Neon lights flood the air with harsh hues harkening back to a once revered golden age.

“Well, at least we sort of blend in,” Mach says.

“Why would some creep have a medical facility in downtown Miami?” Dragonette asks.

We walk down three blocks to the address listed for Progenitor Labs.

“Hold the fucking phone,” Jason says.

As it turns out, Progenitor Labs is a chain of nightclubs. We stand and stare at the squat black pyramid which shimmers under the surrounding neon signs. People are streaming in and out of the front doors. There’s a bouncer.

“Shit, I didn’t bring an ID,” Mach says.

“None of us did. I didn’t think it’d be a damn nightclub,” Ingot says, “well Gemini, or whatever your name is, you’re getting your wish.”

“Des, can’t you just make him think we’re 21 or something?”

Here’s where telepathic domination gets tricky. Jason’s idea really is a good one, but it isn’t as simple as he makes it out to be.

“Well, when I change someone’s memory I have to take out the thought and replace it with an altered copy. But I have to hang onto the original. It’s kind of like the matter cannot be created nor destroyed principle.”

“So where do you put the thoughts?” Dragonette asks.

“Uh, I kind of have to keep them. It’s actually really creepy because my memories start to branch out and integrate them into existing thoughts. I don’t do it often.”

“But you’ll have this memory anyway,” Jason says.

We walk up to the bouncer and he asks for our IDs. I cross into his thoughts with ease. Each new idea vibrates to the front of his head like an electronic bassline. I take his thought that we’re clearly underage and not allowed inside and replace it with the opposite. The original is tucked into the back of my mind.

“Welcome to Pro Labs,” he says.

Next Chapter.

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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 1:4 Spark

School offers little respite from the weekend’s events. Felix picks me up to walk over together. Astro barks to announce his arrival. I grab my things and organize them into my backpack.

“So when do you think you’ll hear from him?”

“I don’t know. It could be next week, it could be next year,” I say, “or never.”

“Oh come on, it won’t be never.”

Felix kicks a pebble down the sidewalk. We glance up at a bus moving past. The cool breeze whisks my hair in front of my face. Our tease of warm weather from a few days ago is over.

“Felix, why do you keep pressing me on this?”

Two months before my birthday he started slipping in questions about how I felt. At first it didn’t bother me, and it was probably good for me to start thinking on the subject. But it grew tiresome. Each day meant I had to endure another inquiry.

“Because you’re my friend, and it’s a big deal.”

“But it’s really not that big of a deal.”

“Yes it is, that’s your problem. You want to dismiss this as nothing, like get a turkey sandwich instead of ham for lunch, but it’s more than that. This sort of thing changes lives.”

“I guess. Maybe I’ll understand once I meet Jacob Baxter,” I say.

“Hopefully. I’m just looking out for you, is all,” he says.

Felix had been there for me in times a lot tougher, and weirder, than this. My parents have hit a few bumps in their marriage, nothing serious, but I have a hard time handling those sorts of situations. He always picks up the phone on the first ring, even in the middle of the night, and listens to anything I have to say.

“Thanks,” is all I say in return.

We have ten or so minutes to spare before classes start once we get to school. I can’t prove it, but I can tell everyone is looking at me. They all know I got my letter and a whole part of my life, which remains a mystery for most, has been unlocked. There’s this feeling of a gaze locked on my head.

“How’s it going Livia?” Glen asks. He’d been walking behind us. For how long, I don’t know.

“Fine. Just getting to class,” I say. He introduces himself to Felix.

“So Glen, you’re on the track team?” Felix asks and points to Glen’s shirt.

“Oh, this is my brother’s shirt. I’m on varsity soccer here.”

It’s strange, but I’m impressed. Before just now I didn’t know our school had a soccer team. My eyes dart between his smile and the outline of his chest against the shirt fabric.

“Alright. What position?”

“Striker.”

“Sorry, but I’ve got to get to class,” I say and wave goodbye. It looks like Glen has something else to say, but I turn and hurry down the hall.

The bell rings just after I sit down. Geometry at eight in the morning has never been pleasant. Our teacher is nice enough, but even she seems stuck in a fog at this hour. She drones about Pythagoras’s theorem and other properties of triangles. I hand in my homework at the end of class. We only have four minutes to move between periods.

By sixth period, I’m ready to go home. Felix and I only have two classes together. I don’t have any friends at school aside from him. There’s the girl I called once about social studies homework and the guy who always borrows a pencil for tests in Spanish. Those are the only people I talk to in my classes.

“I thought today would never end,” Felix says. We always meet by the big tree at the edge of the faculty parking lot before walking home.

“How many days until summer?”

“I think twenty two, maybe less,” he says, “but we’ve got all that graduation stuff.” I sigh and roll my eyes. I’m glad to be graduating, but it means sitting through a rehearsal and then the ceremony itself.

We walk home and talk about nonsense. He loves hearing about Astro. I could ask him about Glen, but why would I? He’s just some guy who I ran into the other day and might have heard about me from one of his friends. Probably the guy from Spanish class.

“Whose car is that?” Felix asks. There’s a dark blue sedan parked on the curb outside my house. I’d never seen it before.

“I’m not sure. Maybe someone for my parents,” I say.

“Huh. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow,” he says and waves goodbye.

I walk inside and set my bag down next to the door. Astro doesn’t greet me at the door.

“Mom? Dad?” I call out.

“In the living room,” my dad answers.

The two of them are sitting on the couch facing me, and across from them is someone who looks about my age.

“Someone showed up to see you today,” dad says. My heart skips a beat and I can feel my face getting hot.

He gets up from the chair and faces me.

“I’m Jake,” he says.

Season 1:4 ‘The Mess You Left Behind’

And how do we explain the lack of bodies, or the pile of bullets?”

“Now what?” Mach shouts from across the warehouse.

I walk over with Dragonette and Ingot to meet up with the other two.  We never set a goal for the mission outside of recovering the stolen materials.  None of us had suspected the guards would be robots.  Ingot looks down at the scrap heap and then shrugs.

“I guess we could take a few parts back with us,” she says.  “Otherwise we might just want to call the cops about the stolen stuff.”

“We might not want to let on about the whole robot aspect of this,” Dragonette says.

She had a point.  The cops are expecting to recover these stolen parts from a low level organized crime operation.  Dad always stressed the importance of keeping public suspicion to a minimum.  Any scenario can be blown out of proportion at the fingertips of a seasoned journalist.  This would be our first lesson in damage control.

“Alright.  Let’s get these scraps and any other unrelated tech into a shipping container,” I say.

“Sure, and then how do we get it home?” Jason asks.

He had a point.  We could just strap it to his back and have him walk halfway across the country.  After his little performance I think he deserved it.

“Maybe we could hide most of it for now.  Out in the desert somewhere and take a few samples back with us.”

“If you carry it, I could try alleviating some of the weight,” Ingot says to Jason.

We load up one of the smaller containers with all of the robot parts and the two computers they brought with them.  Ingot changes the frame of the container so it props itself up enough for Jason to get underneath.  He hoists it across his shoulders and lifts.  It rises from the ground and the frame reverts to normal.  Jason’s muscles bulge under the weight.

Ingot opens a hole in the wall of the warehouse for Jason to pass through.  We trudge out into the desert until the warehouse is out of sight.  With a heave, the container is set onto the ground.  A cloud of dust kicks up from the impact.

I’ve never really seen the moon before, not like out here. The last streetlight we saw was maybe six miles behind us. A nest of stars crowd around the moon and cast a pale light down into the desert. Sand particles dance and flow through the air like sprites in the moonlight. The red container rests on the sand. It feigns blending in with the surroundings.

“Someone’s going to notice a red shipping container,” Dragonette says.

“I’ve got an idea.  Get the parts out of there for a few minutes,” Ingot says.  Jason is still catching his breath.

“I didn’t know I signed up to be the team’s pack mule,” he says.

Come on, just help us.

Can’t you lift it with your mind or something?

I shake my head.  My telepathy only lets me manipulate the thoughts of others.  There are two or three metas which are telekinetic, but I think they operate out of Asia and Europe.  We’re not the best team for crowd-control scenarios.

Ingot focuses on the container once it’s emptied out.  The metal screeches and bends as it forms into a new shape.  After fifteen seconds, we’re staring at the beat up chassis of a red van.  There’s definitely enough space for all of the parts.

“Grab one of the robot heads and a computer,” Ingot says.

“And then lets get out of here,” Mach adds.

I stay back and watch Mach and Jason load the parts into the rusted out van.  At this point I’m exhausted from the highs and lows of the fight.  None of the others seem to be worn out.  Despite his complaints, Jason has never been fatigued in his life.  Now’s as good a time as any to call the police and apprise them of the situation.  I take out my cellphone, but there’s no service.

Back at the warehouse I find a landline to dial out on.  The others stow the parts in the trunk of our rental car.  Mach and Jason joke about fighting the robots while Dragonette and Ingot watch.

“Police will be here in fifteen,” I say after grouping up with the rest of them.

“Do we wait here?” Ingot asks.

“Well, they’ll probably want a statement or something,” I say.

“And how do we explain the lack of bodies, or the pile of bullets?” Jason asks.

“I think you absorbed most of them,” Dragonette says.

“Just leave the talking to me, you guys go clean out the warehouse.  Melt the bullets into a stapler or something,” Mach says.

It turns out he’s a management consultant in normal life.  Or he used to be one for a year before this.  I trust he’ll be able to handle the cops, and it means I won’t have to answer any questions.  Mach waves to us before we trudge back into the warehouse.

Cleaning up is easy.  The bullets are melted down into two staplers and set in the side office.  Dragonette breathes fire up at the ceiling so Ingot can warp the structure back into shape with ease.  Jason and I sit against a steel support pillar.  Mach bolts into the room to let us know the cops have shown up before he speeds back outside.

 

Next Chapter.

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