The sharp thunder of gunfire roared through the room.
The kid Andy had been trying to wake up bolted upright in bed. "What's happening?" he asked, scared and confused.
"Get down!" Andy ordered, pulling the kid bodily out of bed. He wasn't exactly sure why you did that, but he knew that staying down as important when people were shooting at you. At least, that's what they always did on TV. Staying in a low crouch, Andy moved over to the window and peeked out through it.
He couldn't make any sense of what was happening outside, but it looked like a scene straight from hell. Strobes of violent light and bursts of murderous sound continuously assaulted his eyes and ears, and even through the faint window he could make out the shrieks of the damned souls. All that was missing was the brimstone and a tall man in a top hat twirling his mustache with a pitchfork.
"Move!" Andy ordered the kid, grabbing his arm and dragging him to the door. "Get to the nurses station!" Andy pointed down the hallway. Finally getting the idea, the kid grabbed the crutches off the wall outside his door and began to move under his own power. Andy quickly turned and ran for the next door down the hallway.
"Cool!" the kid in that room exclaimed as Andy entered. "Hey!" he greeted Andy, looking over his shoulders. "Look at this!"
"Get away from the window," Andy ordered, abruptly remembering to stay low. "Those are real guns!"
"They aren't shooting at me," the kid shrugged. "I wanna watch."
The mere idea of watching the fight outside, for fun, made Andy's stomach churn. "Come on," Andy ordered, grabbing the kids arm.
"Shove off," the kid matched actions to words and shook off Andy's grip with a shove. "Wow, cool!" he exclaimed as a brilliant light began casting shadows over the room.
Andy's butt hit the floor hard, and as he glared as he bounced on the ground. "I said, move!" Andy snarled, reaching out with his mind.
At the last moment, he realized what he was about to do and diverted the push, sending it hard into the window instead.
The reaction was gratifying. The kid who'd shoved Andy squealed before throwing himself backwards, twisting around to crawl out of the room. "Oh don't be a crybaby," Andy complained, picking the kid up.
"You're right, they're shooting at us!" the kid blubbered in abject fear. Andy glanced over at the window and resisted the urge to laugh. Well, that was one way to solve the issue.
"Go to the nurses station," Andy pointed down the hallway. "Oh," he commented as he noticed something. Running back into the room, he riffled through the dresser long enough to find a clean pair of underwear and a second set of pajama bottoms. "Here," he thrust the clean clothes into the kid's hands. "You'll want this."
Pulling the wheelchair off the wall, he helped the kid into it before moving on. It took only moments for him to handle the next room; Bobby was already up and moving for the nurses station before he got there. "I heard what you told Derek," Bobby shrugged. "Shouldn't you be heading for the nurses station too?"
Andy shrugged back. "I got told to get people moving," he said, a note of pride in his voice.
"Well, I'm moving, I'm moving," Bobby told him, hobbling down the hallway on his cane.
Andy had reached the end of the hall, and the ruined restroom off it. He reached out with one hand to touch the damaged stonework, then turned to trot off to the nurses station himself. Before he quite finished turning, he heard what sounded like someone crying. With a sigh, he walked through the hole in the brickwork that had been left by his fight with Eric. The ground underfoot squished unpleasantly, a reminder of the fact that he was walking in his socks. Andy wrinkled his nose at the smell and the feel of the ground.
Inside, a man in the uniform of a guard had built a small pile of rubble up so that he could press his nose against a window. His dark black hair gleamed in the light coming in from outside, and he reached up to wipe his face with his sleeve.
"Are you OK Mr. Guard?" Andy asked hesitantly.
"Whose there?" the guard spun around, handing dropping to his side. Andy frowned. He'd seen a few of the guards walking around the building before, but they mostly stayed at the gate. Andy let his eyes unfocus and roam around the room.
"We're all supposed to go to the nurses station," Andy answered helpfully. "I'm just making sure everyone goes there."
"You're that snot nosed punk who tore this room apart," the guard frowned.
"Eric did most of it," Andy complained. "I was just defending myself."
"Defending yourself. Right. And that destroyed this room. And created a huge hole in the lawn," the guard sneered.
Andy stepped back, grabbing the edges of the hole in the wall to pull himself back out. Glancing up and down the hall, he noticed absently that everyone had already gone. "Hey, they're gonna leave us behind," Andy prompted the guard. "Lets get going."
The guard's grip on his weapon tightened, and then the guard froze. Slowly, his mouth stretched into a smile that didn't touch the anger in his eyes. "They're all gone, aren't they?" he asked softly.
"Well, not yet, but they're going," Andy pointed out. "Come on!"
"Stay right there!" the guard ordered as Andy turned to leave.
Andy didn't like the situation, but an adult was an adult. As much as he wanted to run screaming, if he did, Fred would probably drop any number of nasty comments before putting Andy back on the watch-while-taking-a-dump list. Not worth it.
"Yes?" Andy asked, trying to be cheerful.
"Come back in here," the guard ordered, fingers flexing on his holster.
"I think I need to go to the nurses station, Mr. Guard," Andy tried again.
In one smooth motion, the guard undid the restraint on his holster and pulled his pistol, snapping it up to point right at Andy. "I wasn't asking," the guard snarled.
Gun. Right. Given the choice between dump list and dying, Andy knew exactly what he'd choose. Getting shot was not on his list of things to do this summer. In fact, not getting shot was pretty high up on that list.
"Alright, alright," Andy said, trying to act afraid. "I'm coming, please don't shoot me."
"Oh, I won't shoot you kid," the guard's grin grew wider. "Not unless you try to run. Now get in here!"
Andy shifted his weight as if he were about to step forward, and the instant the guard relaxed, struck out with his mind. The guard tried to pull the trigger, but the bullet whined harmlessly past Andy's ear. Too close for comfort, but a miss was as good as a mile.
Andy reached out and slapped the brick wall. It wasn't as easy as the concrete. Reaching far enough out to do what he wanted was difficult, forcing him to push, hard, against his limits. But suddenly the walls around the guard began to bend, rapidly, even violently reaching out to envelop him.
Two more shots rang through the room before the walls responded to Andy's need by ripping the gun out of the guard's hand. From the scream of pain this provoked, Andy figured he was in a lot of trouble with Fred now.
But the guard was held in the air in a prison of brick. "Why?" Andy demanded angrily, trying to hold back his tears. "Why did you want to hurt me?" Somehow, someway, this was Eric all over again. Andy knew it. And maybe if he could get a hard answer now...
With another touch, Andy did even more damage to the walls, extending a platform to walk on. He didn't really want to step back into the muck. He reached down and stripped of his socks, using the clean tops of them to wipe off the bottom of his feet.
The brick floor he'd formed was icy smooth, and as he stepped onto it his feet slid away from under him. The impact cracked the thin surface of the brick platform he'd formed, but he reached out to touch it again. The cracks vanished as he thickened the platform, roughing the surface of the brick up enough to provide traction.
"Why?" he asked the cursing guard again, sniffling. "Why me?"
"First it was the car, and then those men hated me just because I was an augment," Andy complained. "Then the camp, where I was surrounded by idiots all night long. That was bad enough, but then the airport. When some of them found out I was an augment, they just wanted to kill me. Why? Why?"
The guard was struggling against the brick prison that held him, and Andy noticed the fear was back. No more anger, just fear. "Why?" Andy asked again, wanting, needing, an answer.
"Fear me!" something rumbled, a noise that seemed to shake the room, and the brick holding the guard began to drip a thin, yellow liquid.
"Why did Eric hate me? Why did he have to hurt himself?" Andy asked, crying outright as he slammed his fist into the brick walls holding the guard. "Why?" Andy sobbed again, falling to his knees, not noticing as the lights cut out.
"We really should be helping with the fighting outside," Night Whisper complained before blowing gently on his supersonic whistle. "Corridor clear."
"Do you want an untrained class three or four augment running around without supervision?" Fred asked, shining his flashlight up and down the hallway as he searched. "Battle zone or not?"
"Angel Blade will be fine," Fred said tightly. "She's taken hits before."
"She's down, and you're in command Silver Star," Night Whisper pointed out. "You need to be out there, not in here."
"Red King is healing her, and Black Pit is your next in command," Fred replied. "Focus on the here and now. If he was hurt, this next intersection is where we're likely to find him in."
Night Whisper pulled his whistle back up to his lips, then let it drop. "I think I hear him," he said gently. "Quiet."
"Quiet?" Fred turned to frown. "I thought your sonar sense worked-"
"My sonar sense isn't what I'm using, now shush," Night Whisper hissed. "Crying," he said after a moment. "Very quiet. Hard to hear over the noise outside, but there."
"Swift Shadow, can you give us a few moments of quiet?" Fred asked.
The radio cackled to life. "Sure thing," Swift Shadow said. "I was getting tired of making Angel Blade repeat herself. It was becoming repetitive."
Fred rolled his eyes as quiet once again asserted itself upon the night. "This way," Night Whisper said firmly, breaking into a run. "Try to be quiet," he added with a smirk.
Fred shook his head as he followed, knowing that trying to match Night Whisper's stealth was futile. None of Fred's augments let him move in complete silence while at a full run.
Fred sighed when he saw Night Whisper stop in front of the restroom Eric and Andy had ruined earlier. "I swear, if he picked this moment to go in there and have a nervous breakdown..." Fred muttered to himself, then noticed the new damage walls. Specifically, the sudden lack of walls were perfectly good brick had been earlier.
"I suspect this breakdown was triggered," Night Whisper replied, pulling out a flare and tossing it into the room.
Fred resisted the urge to retort that he wasn't talking to the man. It wasn't Night Whisper's fault that he heard basically everything.
"Triggered how?" Fred asked as he caught up. "Oh great," he growled. "Who are you?" he asked the man caught in the brickwork. The flare cast harsh shadows and made the already ragged brick look even worse.
"Please get me out," the man begged. "I'll tell you everything."
"Everything?" Fred asked, eyebrow raising as his mental radar twigged. Maybe this wasn't just a random breakdown. "Night Whisper, you deal with the man. I'll see to Andy."
Fred put the man out of his head as he stepped out onto the new brick floor. Andy showed real potential he thought as he looked over it. Sure, Andy's restraint might need work, but he'd had this augment for less than a day and he already showed real skill in it's use. Hopefully they could get the kid's talents under control sometime soon.
"You OK, kid?" Fred asked, kneeling down next to Andy.
"Go away," Andy sniffed, curling up tighter.
Fred resisted the urge to reach out and shake the kid. As annoying as it was, 'leave me alone' was a normal reaction. Between Eric's outburst earlier and tonight's assault, Andy's mental state was clearly fragile.
"I need you to tell me what happened," Fred stated.
Andy pulled his head up long enough to look at Fred, eyes wide. 'Why do you keep asking more of me than I can give?' his wide eyes seemed to say before he curled back up.
"Silver Star, I'm not going to be able to get this guy loose," Night Whisper reported, touching Fred gently on the shoulder.
Fred sighed. "Is he in any danger?" Andy twitched at that. Fred zeroed in on the twitch and raised a finger to cut off any response. "If he's in danger, I'll have to get Andy to let him go. I'd really rather not have to do that before Andy is ready," Fred said, ostensibly to Night Whisper, but he made sure that Night Whisper saw him cross his fingers behind his back at the last phrase.
"I think he's in there too tight," Night Whisper said after a moment. "His breathing is alright, for now, but we really do need to get him out as soon as possible. If Andy's not up to it, we'll have to get someone else to cover for him. I can't teleport him out."
"Damn," Fred looked at the mass of brick. "If you can't teleport him out, I probably shouldn't try blasting the brick."
"Definitely not," Night Whisper agreed. "If Andy can't get him out, we're going to have to wait on construction crews to get here with drills or something. He also claims his hand is broken, but I can't confirm or deny."
"How his hand get broken?" Fred asked.
"The freak just tried to rip it off!" the man panted at them. "Get me outta here!"
"Why exactly would Andy be trying to rip your hand off?" Fred asked. "Andy!"
Andy looked up and wipes his face with his arm. "I was trying to get his gun," he told Fred. "I didn't want him to shoot at me again."
"Again?" Fred asked softly. "I see. Can you get him out?"
Andy looked down at his hands, then at the mass of brick he'd curled against. "I..." he shook his head. "There's not enough weight," he said after a moment. "I used most of it up to do this."
"I see," Fred frowned. "Can you do it with less weight? Maybe just loosen the grip it has on him, or split it into pieces?"
Andy frowned, looking at the mass again. "They'd be big pieces," he said after a moment.
"Black Pit, I think I need you in here," Fred snapped over his radio. "With Angel Blade down, you're our only strength augment."
"Hey, what am I? Chopped liver?" Swift Shadow complained.
"Pretty much," Fred snapped, turning around and walking a few steps away. "Fine. He's the only augment we've got with enough strength to handle huge chunks of brick breaking away. I'm not that strong, that's for sure, so neither are you."
"I'm a bit busy," Black Pit complained.
"Are you telling me that Swiftbolt and Green Growl aren't enough to keep control out there?" Fred asked.
"There are a lot of guns here," Black Pit pointed out. "We're searching them as fast as we can, but I'm basically the entire fallback plan if things go sour."
"The entire fallback plan?" Fred complained, then realized what that meant. "Don't tell me. If they misbehave, they get buried under a ton of dirt."
"That's if the stone leaves anything but jelly," Black Pit agreed. "I'm not particularly happy that they hurt Angel Blade. They know it."
Fred winced. "Okay, not what I wanted to hear," he pointed out. "Listen, I know you care for her-"
"Don't worry," Black Pit cut him off. "I'm not trying to horn in. I know-" The man's voice cut off. "I know you are her husband. I don't like it, but-"
"Black Pit, shut up," Fred cut him off in turn. "Listen, we've all heard it a dozen times. If I thought it would be an issue, you'd be on another team already. Which, by the way, is exactly what is going to happen if USDT decides her second in command can't handle the idea of her being injured. Read me?"
"Loud and clear," Black Pit groused. "Fine. Green Growl can spray them with acid if things go south. That'll play real well on the news, especially if Swiftbolt does his one man electric chair routine afterwards!"
"Fine, fine," Fred told him. "Get your job finished. I'll try and keep things going here." Fred turned and found Andy back on his feet, both hands pressed against the rough brick encasing the prisoner. "And what exactly are you doing now?" Fred asked.
"I'm making it looser for him," Andy told him.
"I also suggested that instead of trying to break the entire mass open, he should consider just breaking open bits we can grab and lift away," Night Whisper added. "No need to demolish the entire mass, just break the part over the shoulders and we should be able to just about slide the guy out."
"Clever," Fred nodded. "Is it working?"
A series of loud cracks answered him. With a pop, Night Whisper teleported to the top of the mass and began lifting away large chunks of brick. In moments, he was slowly lifting the man out.
"It hurts!" the man howled as he was dragged out.
"Yes, well, it stinks too," Night Whisper complained. "Don't worry, there are doctors to spare around here. And maybe they'll even be able to treat you once someone figures out what happened to the emergency generators."
As if in response, the lights snapped back on, causing the shadows in the room to multiply. "Figures," Night Whisper snorted. "Alright, I've got you," he told the man before vanishing into thin air. "I'll even loan you a clean pair of pants," Fred heard Night Whisper offer from behind him, as he helped the man down the corridor.
"Alright, lets get you out of here," Fred grabbed Andy and pulled him away from the brick. "You've worried enough people for one night, but..."
"I'm sorry," Andy whispered, slumping into Fred's side as they walked out. "I just... I did what you told me, I got everyone out. Then I heard the guard in there, and I thought it was a kid or something, and then he was crying, and then he was-"
"Shush," Fred reassured the boy. "We'll talk about it later. After a good night's rest." Hopefully by then the kid would be in the shape to explain things slightly more coherently.
Andy yawned at his eggs. "Didn't get enough sleep?" Night Whisper asked, squirting ketchup all over his.
"After the events of last night, I doubt any of us did," Fred pointed out harshly. "Pass the salt."
"Hey, just because you're in a bad mood doesn't mean you have to spread the wealth," Green Growl complained.
"My apologies," Fred sighed. "It's just... frustrating."
"I can keep an eye on the kid today," Night Whisper offered. "He and I got along well enough last night."
Fred sighed. "Thanks."
"If it were my wife in ICU, I'd probably be snappy too," Night Whisper shrugged. "Especially since you stayed up all night watching."
"What's wrong with her?" Andy asked hesitantly.
The entire team looked at him, then at Fred. He hesitated for a moment, then shrugged. "She got hit by the shrapnel pattern from an RPG. Her legs were essentially shredded by the blast."
Andy frowned at the unfamiliar terms. "RPG?" he asked. "Shrapnel?"
"Rocket propelled grenade," Fred sighed. "In this case, someone modified the warhead so that when it detonated, it threw a cloud of razor sharp metal into everything around it."
"Ouch," Andy winced. "At least it wasn't a bullet!" he added positively. "Cuts aren't that bad."
Fred grunted, and Night Whisper dropped a hand on Andy's shoulder. "Think of it this way," Night Whisper told him, "each piece of metal was driven outward with all the force of a bullet. So it was like being hit by a couple thousand really tiny bullets, all of them razor sharp so just moving them around cuts her up worse."
Andy winced. "Ouch," he complained. "That's kinda like what happened to Eric, isn't it?" he added after a moment. His stomach churned at the thought.
"That's right," Night Whisper agreed. "Red Queen was able to stabilize her, but Angel Blade isn't bouncing back. They actually got another doc out here with a healing augment, but-" Night Whisper cut off and looked at Fred. "I'm sure she'll be alright," he tried to reassure the man.
"The second doc has a powerful healing augmentation, and she's just soaking it up without any signs of improving," Fred snapped. "Don't give me platitudes."
"Sorry," Night Whisper shrugged. "So, any news on the terrorist groups?"
"The local police were quite pleased to take custody of them," Green Growl said. "Apparently, one of the two groups was actually fairly well known, and a pain in the posteriors for the local constabulary. An intelligent, well-trained militia that's brought ATF down on the county three or four times a year for the last decade, never quite crossing far enough over the line."
"And the second?" Swift Shadow asked.
"The second couldn't possibly have been here last night," Green Growl snorted. "Such impeccable alibis that the police almost couldn't book them with the IDs they gave. Solid, well established alibis that we actually can't disprove. Other than the fact that we caught them red-handed, that is." Green Growl snorted again. "The good news is that most of them are outsiders, and since they were responsible for killing so many 'homeboys', the police have a real ha-" She coughed, looking at Andy. "The police have a real hatred for them," he continued.
"So they're going to jail?" Andy asked.
"Oh yes," Green Growl nodded. "Even with the police hating augments, they really want to put that militia group out of business. And the other group... well, the police wanted the militia out of business, but dead is another thing entirely. Can't put both groups away unless they make us the heroes of the piece."
Fred snorted. "How long will that last?"
"Oh, it won't last," Green Growl agreed. "The Church of Purity is all over this, and half a dozen special interest groups aren't far behind. That reporter last night is going to bury the Eric story for us, but..." Green Growl shook her head sadly. "Well, burying the Senator under the weight of his own lies is one thing, actually making us look good over the events of last night? Not a chance. Her network is jumping back and forth on the two issues so fast it's actually starting to develop it's own spin, on top of the spin coming from CoP experts, the senators staff, and the aforementioned SIGs." As she listed each group, the woman them off on her fingers and then tossed her hands up in frustration once she'd finished.
"While I'm glad she hasn't tried to sneak in to see Eric again, I'm surprised they're letting his story die," Fred's tone turned the statement into a question.
"Their particular form of journalistic ethics," Green Growl shrugged. "It's fine to spin, it's alright to spout outright lies, just don't feed them provable bullshit without proper warning." Green Growl took a deep breath, then looked at Andy. "Pardon my french."
Andy smiled at her obvious embarrassment. "I've heard worse," he managed to force out without laughing.
"I'm sure you have," Night Whisper laughed. "Anyways, Fred, what was up on the agenda for today, training wise?"
"More rehab sessions," Fred said quickly. "A couple of therapy sessions. No exact schedule. The staff loves the idea of doing his augment training side-by-side with the rehab. From what I can tell, they're even worse sadists than some of the BEST rehab experts I've dealt with."
"Ouch," Nigh Whisper exaggerated a flinch. "That's nasty."
"Yeah, well, the kid does pretty well at it," Fred said casually. "He was actually able to maintain the physical exercises and maintain concentration on what I was asking him to do. I've got him pegged for some kind of mental empowerment, probably class two or three coordination."
"That's awfully quick to be issuing any judgements," Night Whisper pointed out.
"I don't doubt that it's quick," Fred shrugged. "I might even be wrong, but you need to know what I suspect. I've already told you about the TK and molecular manipulation augments, but you'll need to keep an eye out for more. He's got at least one more hidden away somewhere that hasn't come up yet."
"I see. So one empowerment, and two augments so far?" Night Whisper asked.
"He's got some kind of sixth sense thing going on," Fred shrugged. "If you aren't careful, he'll pick up on the slightest deception. It might be chance, but yesterday when a kid tried to run a wheelchair over him, Andy managed to glance over his shoulder just in time to see it coming and skip out of the way."
"Hrm, could be chance," Night Whisper suggested as Andy's jaw began to drop. What on earth was Fred talking about?
"I've got an instinct, and twenty bucks says it's more than just chance," Fred shrugged. "He definitely twigs on lies, even if I don't know how that connects to detecting when someone is about to do something. When we were in the airport, he definitely kept an eye on two of the guards that I happened to know where less than friendly towards augments, but he might have just been aware of their body language. No proof."
"I don't take that bet," Night Whisper shook his head. "I swear, you've got some kind of empowerment detection ability or something."
Fred shrugged. "I've been wrong before."
"Not often enough," Green Growl pointed out.
"Can I visit Angela?" Andy asked, trying to change the subject. It wasn't that they were saying anything bad, really, but... hearing them talk about him like that was kinda bad.
"Sure," Fred nodded. "You can come with me long enough to look in on her."
"It's not likely to be pleasant," Green Growl tried to suggest, but Fred raised a single eyebrow at her.
"It's not meant to be," he informed her curtly. "Besides, he'll want to visit Eric as well."
"I hear they tried letting him wake up earlier," Red Queen commented.
Fred frowned. "Only for a minute," he said flatly.
"That bad?" she asked.
"Worse," Green Growl answered for Fred. "Sandwoman's touch gave him a night's sleep, but he woke up just as insane as he went under."
"I thought her sleep made you calm," Night Whisper frowned.
"It did," Fred cut the conversation off. "Calm and insane is still insane. Complete and utter psychotic break. No hope for treatment."
"Ah damn," Night Whisper pushed his plate away. "Suddenly I'm not hungry."
Andy managed one last bite of his eggs, but he had to push his plate away too. Eric was his fault. Now he'd be locked up in a nuthouse for forever. "Do you know if they'll allow visitors?" Andy asked. "You know, wherever they send him?"
The table fell silent. "What exactly do you think is going to happen to him?" Fred asked slowly.
Andy shrugged. "A nuthouse somewhere?" he asked.
Fred closed his eyes as if in pain. "I can't," he managed to mutter. "I just can't. Not now."
"What's wrong?" Andy asked.
"They won't allow visitors," Green Growl explained gently. "The... nuthouse... we have to send him to is way out in the middle of nowhere, and it's pretty dangerous, so they don't allow visitors. At all."
"Oh," Andy swallowed heavily and blinked away some tears before they could fall. "I bet he'll miss his dad."
The table cracked under Fred's grip. "Sorry," Fred muttered, holding the two pieces as steady as he could.
"Andy, I bet you can repair that," Night Whisper suggested, pointing at the long, ragged crack that ran across the table.
Reaching over, Andy placed his hand squarely across the gap. Instantly the weight was there, and he began weaving the two parts back into one. "Is that as easy to activate as it looks?" Night Whisper asked.
"Huh?" Andy asked, confused.
"You just... reached over and started doing it" Night Whisper pointed out. "No real effort or anything?"
Andy shrugged. "More or less. Just find the weight, touch, and form."
"Damn," Night Whisper edged away. "Be careful with that kid. If it's that easy, you could really hurt someone."
Andy looked down at his hands. "It's OK Andy," Fred smiled, reaching over to take one of them. "We're not afraid of you. We're just afraid for you. You could get into a lot of trouble if you use it accidentally. Imagine if you used it on someone."
Suddenly, the memory of what he'd tried to do with Eric surfaced in Andy's head. "I don't think so," he said slowly. "I..." he looked around the table, then ducked his head. "I kinda tried to use it on Eric. When we were fighting."
"Oh," Fred leaned back. "Well, you didn't do anything to him, so..."
"Yeah, that's right," Andy said. "I mean, I tried. But... I couldn't find the connection. It was like the walls last night, but... worse. I could make the connection with them, I just had to push it. Eric... the more I pushed, the less connection I had."
"That's... interesting," Fred said slowly. "But hardly probative. Eric does have the ability to resist Augments. A very limited ability, from what I've seen, but he has it."
Andy shook his head. "My push just kinda... slid away from him. But I couldn't... I couldn't connect when I tried to use the weight."
"I didn't catch that little detail in debrief," Fred muttered to himself. "Too busy worrying about Eric's ability to protect himself."
"Wood, brick, concrete, the kid's pretty flexible," Green Growl said thoughtfully. "I'd say inorganics, except wood is definitely organic in nature."
Fred slid a knife across the table at Andy. "Can you shape that?"
Andy picked up the knife and smiled. "What do you want?" he asked.
"Surprise me," Fred requested.
Andy rolled the knife in his hands for a moment, thinking. First he collapsed the knife inward, until it formed a shining silver sphere, then he began to blow it up. In moments, he had it as large as a soccer ball, a sphere defined by shining silver rods that let you see the emptiness inside.
"I was under the impression you hadn't trained that ability yet," Green Growl asked.
"We haven't," Fred answered. "Good job Andy."
"Good?" Green Growl asked. "Incredible!"
"So we can add metal to the list," Fred commented as Andy let Night Whisper take the ball. "Well experiment later."
"Brick was hard," Andy commented. "This was... easy!"
"Brick is hard," Night Whisper commented. "How was the concrete?"
Andy frowned. "About as hard as the wood was, I think."
"What is so different about brick?" Fred asked, looking at the other members of the Defender team.
"I don't think it's brick that's different," Swift Shadow suggested. "Andy, when you said brick, you were referring to the brick walls, right?"
Andy nodded. "Yeah, it was hard to get them moving."
"And once you had them moving?" Swift Shadow asked.
Andy thought about it a moment. "Well, it got easier, yeah."
"I had some tests run on the brick mass you cut that... traitor out of," Swift Shadow commented. "The brick itself had actually been merged with the cement. The material was homogenous."
"And wood, finished wood like we have floating around here, is pretty darned close to homogenous," Fred nodded. "I see where you're going. What can we test on?"
"Give the boy some food," Green Growl suggested with a smile. "Let him play with it."
Fred grabbed a muffin half off his plate and tossed it to Andy. "Can you shape that?"
Andy called up the weight, and formed the connection. It wasn't that hard. He formed the connection and tried to reshape the muffin, but while the dough itself rapidly shrank down and rounded out to a 'proper' muffin shape, the seeds on top just popped off.
At a gestured command from Fred, Andy tossed the muffin back. "Night whisper, if you don't mind giving up your new playtoy, perhaps Andy can make me a knife again?"
In a moment, Andy had the sphere compressed back down into about the right shape. Night Whisper let Andy borrow his knife long enough to get some of the details down. For a final touch, Andy focused on making the edge nice and sharp.
Fred took the knife and looked at it. "Impressive," he whispered. "He even got the serations right," he commented to the group as he reached out to feel them with his thumb. "Ouch!" he exclaimed, yanking his digit back with a look of shock. "OK, this knife doesn't go back to the kitchen. Someone could loose a hand."
"That sharp?" Swift Shadow asked.
"Sharper," Fred said, running the blade lightly across his tray. The knife left a long, clean scratch through the plastic. "You could really hurt someone with this thing," Fred shook his head, then carefully sliced the muffin in two. Grabbing some butter, he spread it out over the muffin.
"You are not seriously going to eat that?" Green Growl asked. "We have no clue if it's safe."
"No, I want Andy to try and make it one piece again," Fred handed the muffin over. "Did you notice the lack of crumbs? Or the rather smooth texture? When he shrank it down, he somehow merged the air pockets inside it into the material of the muffin itself. It's not hard as a rock, but it's not like normal bread. Not anymore. Oh, and Andy, I want you to make it one piece evenly, across both faces. Squeeze the butter out. And no using your telekinesis. That's cheating."
Andy tried, but... the pieces didn't budge. Sweat began to bead on his forehead, but the harder he stared at the muffin in his hand, the more he sensed that nothing would happen.
"I can't," Andy admitted. "I need to shape them. I can't just move them without pushing."
"Then poke a hole through the center," Fred suggested. "Use that for leverage."
Instantly Andy had the two pieces merged, the butter barely disturbed other than the hole he poked through the center. "Remember, I want you to squeeze the butter out," Fred commented. "Don't just push it out by making the connection in the center larger, just bring the two pieces together. And don't connect with the butter."
A moment later, the butter squeezed out between the gaps in an abrupt burst of warm, golden liquid that sprayed Andy's face, clothes, and the table in front of him.
"Not what I was expecting," Fred used a napkin to dot at his shirt. "And that butter is actually warm."
"Mechanical action," Green Growl said tersely. "Strong mechanical action to warm something up."
Strong, and suddenly ravenous. "Can I go back for more food?" Andy asked.
"I'll get you some," Green Growl ordered. "They won't give me any gruff about diets."
Everyone at the table laughed as the large woman wandered off. Andy had heard one of the servers comment that the woman could use a diet. Green Growl's response had been... fun to listen to.
"Alright then, I think that's enough experiments for one breakfast," Fred said, looking at Andy's shirt. "I hadn't expected that, and I probably should have. Night Whisper, after the kid and I visit the ICU, you can take over training for the day. I think we've established that once he brings up his abilities, the kid had near-perfect control over what he does with them. So focus on making certain he brings them up when he wants to."
"Oh sure, leave me the 'fun'," Night Whisper complained, finger-quoting the word, then froze. "Oh. I suppose I'm getting the better bargain, at that."
"Yeah," Fred agreed, standing up abruptly. "I'm sure you'd love to swap places with me."
"I'm sorry-" Night Whisper started to apologize.
"Don't," Fred cut him off, then took a deep breath. "I'm going to go for a quick walk. I'll be back before the kid finishes his second course." Fred stalked off as Green Growl brought back two trays heaped with food.
"What's eating him?" Green growl asked as she slid the first tray in front of Andy.
"Don't ask," Night Whisper sighed.