Castle Roland

Unexpected Reactions

by Rilbur

In Progress

Chapter 7

Published: 8 Apr 14

"Schoolwork?!" Andy complained.

"Yes, schoolwork," Fred nodded firmly. "Just because you happen to have special abilities doesn't mean you get out of normal, everyday things like school."

"But... but..." Andy did his best puppy-eyes look. Bad enough to be away from his family, but he couldn't even get away from school out of the deal?

Fred raised a single eyebrow. "Child," his voice was amused, "I have received puppy eyes from children with literal dog eyes. You'll have to do much better than that."

Andy blinked in confusion. "Literal dog eyes?"

Fred shook his head. "Literal. L, I, T, E, R, A, L. Literal. Meaning non figurative, or exact to the definition. You were making figurative puppy eyes at me, an expression designed to evoke the memory of puppy eyes. I have had that attempted by children whose face and eyes were structured closer to a dogs than a humans, to such a degree that their faces appeared canine, and their eyes were essentially indistinguishable from certain breeds of dogs. Right down to the fact that they couldn't see the color red."

Andy blinked. "They couldn't see red?"

"Correct," Fred nodded, then proceeded to explain, at length, how eyes worked, and why those kids had eyes that worked differently.

It wasn't until the lesson was over that Andy realized he'd been had -- again. They didn't cover exactly the material that was in his lesson books, but Fred had managed to keep Andy busy with discussions about science, while interjecting vocabulary and occasional bits of reading and even math.

Andy growled as he packed up the books Fred had dropped on the desk. "You cheat," he complained.

"Lesson one: life isn't fair," Fred told him flatly. "Lesson two: get over it."

"But- but-" Andy tried to complain. "That's not right!"

"We don't live in a perfect world," Fred shrugged. "We live in the world that is, not the world we wished would be."

Andy shook his head. "That's not right."

Fred laughed. "I think you just repeated yourself. It's not fair, it's not right, what's the difference here?"

Andy frowned unhappily. "But what about what those other guys were teaching me? That I had to be fair to the normals around me?"

Fred nodded. "That's right. Life isn't always fair, but you have a responsibility to try to be fair to others."

"But you just cheated!" Andy complained.

Fred laughed. "No, you decided what I did was a cheat. All I did was make your school lesson more interesting. A matter of perspective. From your side, so very not fair. From mine? A much easier approach than trying to bring down the iron hammer of authority. You didn't resent me half as much, so we got more done than we would have otherwise."

Andy frowned. "You're doing it again," he realized. "You're teaching!"

"Believe it or not, Andrew," Fred told him seriously, "most of what I do with you is teaching. We don't have time to waste, so even your 'fun' time has to do something productive. We do your schoolwork not just to keep you caught up, but because it helps keep you grounded in reality. It helps provide a sense of normalcy that's been taken from you."

"Now that we've done schoolwork, I'm moving onto the next stage of your lessons. Some might call it basic philosophy. We'll touch on what some would call ethics and morality. You're going to call it something else entirely before we're done."

Andy cocked his head sideways. It was rather obvious that Fred wanted him to ask, so he decided to humor the man. "What am I gonna call it?"

Fred leaned forward and smiled. "The bane of your existence," he answered Andy. "By the time we're through, you're going to know where the box is, and you're never, ever, ever going to even dream of restricting your thinking to inside it."

"Huh?" Andy asked. "What box?"

Fred laughed. "I'm referring to a phrase adults use. 'Thinking outside the box.' The box is how you'd normally think about a situation, the options you'd automatically choose from. Thinking outside the box means reaching outside the obvious and normal solutions, outside the self-imposed rules that most people use."

"Someone pulls out a gun and points it at you," Fred told Andy. "He's standing there, at the door. How would you defend yourself?"

"Um..." Andy thought for a moment. "I guess I could use my powers to... throw him out of the room?"

"That works," Fred nodded, "but you just hurt him. Do it without hurting him."

"What?" Andy complained. "He's pointing a gun at me! He's gonna try and hurt me!"

"An it harm none, do as ye will," Fred recited. "Here's where ethics and morality comes into play. Who is stronger: you, or the man with the gun?"

"The man with the gun!" Andy protested.

"Really?" Fred asked. "I suppose he's stronger than me, too?"

"Well, yes!" Andy agreed. "It's a gun!"

Fred shook his head and jumped to his feet. "Andy, if he points that gun at me, it's because I let him do it. I can create a shield to block the bullet, I can knock the gun out of his hand, I can send him through the nearest wall before he can even aim the stupid thing. I am stronger than him."

"I want you to remember a phrase," Fred continued, pacing the room. "It's a very simple phrase, deceptively simple. There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people. I don't expect you to understand that yet, not really, but you need to learn it. You are going to live that statement the rest of your life."

"It doesn't refer to the fact that some people are augments and some aren't, either," Fred added. "It refers to something even more simple. Put a gun in the hand a pacifist, or some punk kid who barely knows which end the bullet comes out of, and it's not that dangerous. The weapon isn't dangerous, it's the person who uses it."

Fred stopped pacing and pointed at Andy. "You are a person. You are also a weapon. If you don't want someone else to point you and pull the trigger, learn to control your abilities. Learn to be dangerous, because without control, you are a danger to everyone around you."

"I'm sure they repeated similar things to you at the BEST camp, and you're going to get tired of hearing it, but you are going to have to do this. In the end, I can't do more than point you in the right direction." Fred shook his head. "The best, the strongest, the deadliest of augments have learned that sentence by heart, and live it. I don't care if you classify level five, a level one augment can still take you down if you don't understand this. Take you down and laugh at how easy it is."

"It's not how strong your powers are," Fred crouched down by Andy. "In the end, this entire speech boils down to one thing. How strong you are," Fred lightly tapped Andy's chest. "Because there are no dangerous weapons. There are only dangerous people."

Andy frowned. He didn't understand it, but at the same time... Something about the speech just sounded right. "I'm dangerous."

"Yes," Fred nodded. "What we're doing right now is helping you become more dangerous, because by becoming more dangerous when you do it on purpose, you become less dangerous because you won't do it by accident."

Andy looked at the door. "So why can't I hurt the guy?"

"If you have to, if you have no other choice, you can," Fred told him. "But it's the method of last resort. It's best to avoid hurting others if you can. Plus, lets be honest. He's not a threat to you. Why should you hurt him when he can't hurt you? So. Defend yourself."

Andy pursed his lips in thought. "Pull the gun out of his hand?" he suggested.

"Good idea, but if he's holding onto it too tight you might just pull the trigger for him," Fred pointed out. "Or if you use more of a yank, you might break his hand. Next idea."

Andy frowned, looking around the room. "I don't know," he gave up.

Fred reached into his jacket and pulled out a pistol. His hands ejected the clip and worked the slide with practiced ease. "This weapon is now unloaded," he informed Andy, then placed the emptied weapon on the table. Pulling a single bullet out of the clip, he showed it to Andy. "You see the tiny circle in the center? There's an internal mechanism on the gun that hits this to fire the bullet." Fred put the bullet back in the clip, then picked up the gun. In an instant he had it in pieces, and showed one specific piece to Andy. "This is the firing pin. If this hits the bullet, then the bullet fires." Fred quickly pulled out another piece. "The firing pin doesn't do it on it's own, though; this piece is called the hammer. When you pull the trigger, the hammer snaps forward, hitting the firing pin, which hits the primer, which fires the bullet."

Fred reassembled the weapon, slid the slide back into it, and then hid it in his jacket again. "Interrupt any part of that process, and the bullet doesn't fire. What happens if you pull back, hard, on the firing pin, while counter bracing the gun with an opposing force? The gun feels normal, but when they pull the trigger, nothing happens."

"Or I could do that with the hammer," Andy's eyes lit up as he caught on. "Or even the trigger, just keep the trigger from moving!"

"Yup," Fred nodded. "Now, I want you to come up with two ideas of your own. Remember, the goal here isn't to prevent him from firing, it's to keep him from hurting you without hurting him."

Andy looked around the room some more, seeking inspiration. The heavy oak dresser gave him an idea. "I could throw my books at him, make him duck."

"And if he doesn't duck?" Fred pointed out evenly.

Andy shrugged. "I make certain to stop them before they hit him?" he suggested. "But he'll have to duck."

"Never make the assumption that your enemy has to do what you want him to do," Fred pointed out. "But I'll accept it as your first solution."

Andy frowned and looked around the room some more. "Um... throw my bag at him... no, that's the same thing, isn't it... umm..." Andy chewed his lip for a few moments. "What if I stop the bullet?" he asked.

Fred raised an eyebrow. "A bullet moves extremely fast. You'd probably have an easier time lifting the dresser or desk and using it as a shield."

"Oh," Andy frowned. "I can't hurt him, but..." Andy shook his head. "I give up."

Fred took a deep breath. "Andy, you threw a car across the street not to long ago. Do you know how much a car weighs?"

Andy shook his head. "Lots?"

"You can pick that dresser over there up," Fred told him. "You might not be able to throw it across the room fast enough to block the shot, but then again, you might."

Andy looked over at it hard, and Fred snapped his fingers. "I didn't mean to try it right now!" he laughed.

"I wasn't," Andy smiled. "Just thinking about how much it weighs. It's gotta weigh a ton!"

"And a car doesn't?" Fred pointed out.

Andy opened his mouth to argue, and then closed it. "The car hurt."

"You've been using your powers more freely since we got here," Fred commented. "In fact, I think you told me that the pain had died down to a 'good hurt', like picking at a scab."

Andy looked over at the dresser. Fred had a point. It hurt, but it was like picking at a scab. Manageable. Controllable. Reach out, he didn't just think about the dressers weight, he... tested it. "I think..." Andy murmured, almost to himself. "Yeah, I think you're right. I could pick it up. Slow and easy..."

"Andrew," Fred cut in, "I believe you're supposed to refrain from using your powers."

Andrew blinked and the dresser shivered as it settled back to the ground. "Sorry," Andy apologized. "I didn't mean to actually pick it up."

Fred smiled. "Well, seeing as how you managed it, how difficult was it?"

"Actually, pretty easy," Andy admitted. "Once I stopped thinking about how heavy it was, I just reached out and... knew it wasn't that heavy."

"What do you mean?" Fred asked.

"I... weighed it. With my mind. Before I tried to pick it up," Andy admitted to his transgression without realizing it.

"Try and weigh me," Fred suggested, "without picking me up if you please." Fred pulled a small device out of a pocket and started tapping on it's screen, focused intently on whatever it said.

Andy looked at Fred and tried. He reached out, almost tested Fred, but every time he was just about there the pain started, warning him that he was actually picking Fred up. He kept getting closer, but never quite got there. "It's hard," Andy said after a minute. "I'm almost managing it, but it's hard to not follow through."

Fred hesitated for a moment. "That's interesting," he said softly, almost talking to himself. "Very interesting." Looking up at Andy, he smiled. "The EEG cap your wearing let me watch your brain waves. It isn't exactly the most accurate of devices, but it can be very educational."

"In your case, it clearly recorded two separate sets of signals. One as you tried to weigh me, and then another that cut in suddenly. Each time you recognized the second signal, and you immediately ceased both." Fred made a few thoughtful noises as he looked at the data. "Not sure if it actually means anything," he admitted with a shrug, "but we'll have to test it more. The good news is that your telekinesis definitely shows on the EEG, which will make biofeedback training effective."

"And that means?" Andy asked.

"It means that it'll probably be easier for you to gain a better degree of control," Fred shrugged. "But we're wandering far afield. You suggested stopping a bullet in the gun. That isn't a working solution, so you still have one more to do."

Andy looked around the room in frustration. He'd already covered throwing something at the man with the gun, what else could he do? He couldn't pull the gun away from the man, he couldn't throw the man, that pretty much covered everything!

"Remember what I said about the box," Fred reminded him, sitting down. "You're thinking inside it. Think outside it. I've stated your goal, you have to defend yourself. Now, break it down, what does that mean?"

Andy frowned and turned the statement over in his head. "I need to keep him from shooting me."

"Close," Fred agreed. "Very close. But try and break it down further. What exactly is your 'win' condition here? What are you trying to prevent, as precisely as you can state it?"

Andy chewed his lower lip some more as he thought about it. It was almost like some kind of riddle he was expected to solve. "I need to stop the bullet from hitting me."

"Alright," Fred nodded. "I'd use a different word than 'stop', however; that might imply that you need to actually stop the bullet. Try 'prevent'. Your goal is to prevent any bullet from impacting you."

"Now that you've defined your win condition, define your defeat condition," Fred continued. "How do you loose? What does each step in the process involve?"

"Well, the guy has to pull the trigger," Andy said, "oh, wait, he has to aim the gun first-"

"Backwards," Fred suggested. "Follow the event chain backwards from the moment of defeat, that'll help you identify each step."

Andy frowned as he thought about it. "The bullet has to hit me. So first, he has to shoot it."

"So as soon as he shoots it, you're hit?" Fred pointed out.

"Well, yeah," Andy agreed.

"The bullet just magically teleports from his gun to your body?" Fred argued.

"Well, no," Andy conceded, "but it happens too quick to do anything about."

Fred nodded. "True, once the bullet is in flight it's too late to do anything about it. But does that mean you can't interfere with that step?"

"Huh?" Andy asked.

"Lets put it another way. We discussed throwing things at him. What happens if whatever you threw got in the way of the bullet?" Fred suggested.

"Oh!" Andy's eyes went wide. "Or I could push before the bullet gets there! Then it has to pass through the push!"

Fred nodded slowly. "I didn't think of that. Your ability is unusual; most telekinetics just have extra 'hands'. I can only describe what you do as generating fields of force, so you're probably going to be able to do things they can't. The opposite may well prove to be true as well." Fred tapped on the device he'd pulled out. "Hrm... lets see, lets assume a bullet speed of a five hundred meters per second, bullet weight of, oh, ten grams... lets be generous and give you a one meter area to effect... two thousand newtons..." Fred hummed happily as he punched numbers into the device.

Fred blinked in surprise. "Well now. Well, well, well."

He looked up at Andy. "You might be able to deflect a bullet in flight. I'll give it to you until we can do more experiments. I don't think it'll actually work with a handgun at short range, but until we get some hard numbers it's impossible to be more certain."

"So, we've covered chucking things at the bad guy, and deflecting his bullet. Want to go for the extra credit and come up with a third one?" Fred smiled. "If you manage it, I won't mention anything about the dresser to Nurse Summers. I won't lie about it, but I won't mention it."

Andy glanced around the room again, desperately. "Put stuff in his way?" he suggested, hesitantly.

"I think that was one of my ideas, actually," Fred pointed out. "Try something new." Andy scratched his head and thought as hard as he could. "Andy," Fred added, "your goal is to not hurt the man while defending yourself."

Andy frowned as he turned that over in his mind. He couldn't do anything mid-flight. He couldn't do anything once the bullet was fired. He'd already covered breaking the gun somehow. He couldn't throw the man out of the room- Oh! "Can I do stuff to the man as long as I don't hurt him?" Andy asked. "Like, make his gun point the wrong way?"

"I think I will allow that," Fred nodded after a moment. "Describe how you'd do that?"

Andy frowned. "Well, push the gun sideways, not hard hard, but hard enough that he can't get it to point at me?"

Fred mulled it over, head bouncing from side to side as he turned it around in his head. Andy giggled at the sight, the agent obviously trying to be silly. "I think ..." Fred dragged out. "I think I will accept that," he nodded, grinning broadly. "Now, lets go for item number four if you can. No promises on what you'll get for it, but I'm sure I can come up with something."

"Like a slice of cake?" Andy suggested.

"I think that ship has sailed," Fred told him. "But maybe you can get something else with dinner, instead of being denied desert."

Andy looked around the room, thinking. The dresser, closet, and bed didn't offer any new inspiration, and looking at his desk all he could come up with was variations on throwing things. A look out his window, however, managed to give him a little inspiration. A strong wind was blowing outside, and he'd already noticed a tendency for his abilities to create wind when he moved stuff.

"How about wind?" he asked. "If I blow the air in the room right in his face, it's gonna make looking at me hard, like trying to stare upwind when it's windy outside."

Fred shook his head. "No harming him allowed, and you're talking about causing him harm. Plus, he's wearing shades to protect his eyes anyways."

"Oh," Andy slumped, then smiled. "What if I take away his glasses?"

Fred frowned. "What do you mean?"

"When my dad takes off his glasses, he always blinks for a bit before he can see," Andy suggested. "He says it's because the lights too bright."

Fred smiled. "I think I'll accept that one."

Andy cheered. "I want cake, I want cake!" he suggested.

"I told you," Fred cut him off, "that ship has sailed. I'll look into getting you something with dinner, but I don't think they have any cake left."

Andy smiled. "I'm sure they still have Eric's slice," he suggested. "He didn't get his cake either."

Fred laughed. "I'll talk to Nurse Summers, but no promises. For now, it's just about time for another physical therapy session. Give me a fifth idea if you can."

Andy looked at Fred, pained. "I already gave you four!"

"And number five might just be the ammo you need for that slice of cake," Fred suggested.

Andy almost screamed in frustration, once again looking at everything in the room as if expecting an answer to jump out at him. "What do you want me to do?" he asked. "I've already said everything! All that's left is hiding behind my bed!"

"Good answer," Fred nodded. "Taking cover might not stop him from taking a second shot, but it buys you time to come up with something else. I'll accept it, gladly."

Andy felt his jaw drop. He hadn't even been serious. Hiding behind your bed never worked. Just watch the movies, the bad guys always found you!

"Well, you managed that quicker than I expected," Fred continued smoothly. "Lets go to your physical therapy session, it wouldn't do to be late to this one. The doctor would be quite angry."

"Oh," Fred added as he turned towards the door, "it was suggested that you might want to use your canes this time. Instead of the wheelchair."

Andy looked down at the chair and smiled. If they were gonna let him out of it, he sure wouldn't complain! "Last I saw my canes, they were at therapy," he pointed out.

Fred shook his head. "You need to learn to pay more attention to your surroundings," he smiled. "What was directly to the left of your door as you walked in?"

Andy frowned. "Huh?" looking at the door he shook his head. "There's a coat on the hook there."

Fred opened the door and reached around it. A moment later there was a clicking noise and when he pulled his arm back, he held a set of adjustable canes, already set to something approximating Andy's size.

"You've grown in strength, it looks like," Fred commented, closing the door. "I wonder if you've grown in control. I'll handle Nurse Summers, I want to see if you can put these on yourself with your telekinesis. Just take it slow and easy."

Andy shook his head in surprise. "OK," he answered, smiling. "I'll try."

Andy narrowed his eyes and concentrated on the canes. "Wait," Fred cut in. "Concentrate on every step. Feel your way and describe it verbally."

Andy looked up at Fred for a moment and nodded before turning his attention back to the canes. "I'm... kinda reaching out for them," Andy said, concentrating on each step. "I'm pushing, kinda gently so I can control it."

"I can feel that," Fred commented. "I think you're catching part of my hands, as well as the canes."

Andy frowned, struggling with words to describe what he was doing. "I'm trying to make my push smaller, but it's easier to just push harder than to push smaller."

Fred nodded. "Sounds like a control issue to me. Go on, 'push' harder then."

Andy trembled slightly as he increased his efforts. Throwing cars and people around was easier than this. "I'm pushing harder now," Andy said, as the canes began to wobble a little in Fred's hands.

"Earlier, you said you weighed the dresser," Fred commented. "Did you weigh the canes first?"

Andy shook his head, and in his moment of distraction the push flickered. For a moment it failed, and then he overcompensated and the canes jumped a foot before he could react.

"Stop!" Fred barked as he caught the falling canes. One of his hands accelerated abruptly as he moved it, causing him to almost smack the cane aside. Fred took a deep breath, then smiled at Andy. "Good job. You may not have maintained complete control, but you didn't completely loose control, even when distracted. And when I ordered you to stop, you stopped. It took you a second or two longer than I'd prefer, we'll work on that, but you didn't argue or try to bring it under control. You stopped on command. Good job."

Fred put one of the canes aside, and then held the other up. "You never answered my question."

Andy looked at the cane and then at Fred. "Um, what was it?" he asked after a moment.

"Did you weigh the canes first?" Fred asked.

Andy shook his head. "No," he admitted. "Should I?"

"Try it," Fred suggested. Andy nodded, and again concentrated on the cane. "Wait," Fred ordered. "Each time we do this, you look right at the object, your eyes narrow, and your chin drops a little. I think you even push your head forward, actually."

"I'm not going to complain about looking right at the object at the moment, but the rest of it -- do you need to do it?" Fred asked. "It's best to break a habit before it becomes one, and I haven't seen you do those all the time."

Andy stretched his neck for a moment, and then took a deep breath. Concentrating on some relaxation exercices the doctors had taught him, he deliberately leaned back in his chair and looked at the cane. Maintaining awareness of his body while pushing at the same time was hard, but slowly he got into the swing of it, and avoided doing anything more than simply looking at the cane. He reached out and weighed it, and slowly it lifted out of Fred's hands, much easier to control.

"You had tighter control that time," Fred commented as the cane spun lazily in the air. "Can you keep it from spinning?"

Andy shifted his push slightly, but all he managed was to create a faster spin in the opposite direction. When he tried to correct that, the cane began to wobble, as well as still spinning.

"Alright, fine control is limited. Start moving it to yourself," Fred ordered. "Slowly."

Slowly, almost infinitesimally, the cane began to drift towards Andy as he added a new push. Andy blinked, and the cane dropped to the floor.

"You alright?" Fred asked.

"Yeah," Andy nodded, "sorry. I was just surprised. When I started pushing it towards me, I didn't change my first push, I just added a new one."

Fred nodded in understanding. "We'll test how many separate pushes you can do at once later. For now, try to limit yourself to just one or two. Now, gently, pick the cane off the floor."

Andy reached out and lifted the cane again. It didn't raise as evenly, coming up in fits and jerks. "Oh," Andy exclaimed in realization, then reached out and weighed it. Instantly, the cane smoothed out as it floated up to eye level.

"What went wrong?" Fred asked calmly.

Trained by his mother to always look at whoever he was talking to, Andy looked directly at Fred as he answered, "I forgot to weigh it first," he admitted, feeling a little sheepish. As he talked, he added the second push, a little stronger this time, to move the cane towards him.

Fred took a sharp breath as the cane began moving without Andy looking at it. "Control, it's always about control. Stop the cane."

"Sure," Andy shrugged, looking back at the cane. It began to wobble, but slowly slid to a stop, then began to back up slowly before Andy stopped pushing.

"Andy, did you notice what you just did?" Fred asked before Andy could try and correct it again.

"I stopped the cane," Andy shrugged. "It's starting to hurt more."

"Alright," Fred nodded. "That's enough then. Put the cane on the floor, gently."

Andy weakened his push slightly and the cane began to fall. Impatient, he reduced the push even further, and the cane fell faster. Suddenly, it was falling too fast and he had to push harder, trying to stop it. He over corrected, and it began to rise for an instant, then he began pushing it down again. The cane jerked sideways as his second push didn't quite hit it head on, spinning dangerously in the middle of the room.

"No!" Andy shouted, putting his hands out to physically grab the cane. Unfortunately for him, he got his hand out just far enough to touch it, and the spin brought it down against his finger.

"Stop!" Fred ordered, charging forward to grab the cane himself. Andy didn't hear him, rocking back in his chair and clutching his hand, convinced he'd destroyed it. His sudden surge of anger caused the cane to bend in the center, metal screeching as discordant forces twisted and bent it.

Fred knocked it aside and walked through Andy's push, grunting as it twisted at him. Andy felt him wrench the forces aside this time, and rocked forward in his chair as he felt the energies he'd been pouring into the push backlash against him.

Then Fred was there, hand on Andy's shoulder, and most of the pain stopped. His hand still hurt, the needles in his brain went away instantly, as did the fire searing into most of his skin.

"Let me see the hand," Fred said gently. Andy slowly relaxed, and let Fred pull it away with his free hand. "If I let go of you, will you maintain your own control?" he asked.

Andy nodded. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

"It's alright," Fred reassured him, slowly rotating Andy's hand around to examine it. "It looks like a minor strain, but I'll ask one of the doctors to look at it when they have a moment," he said when he was done examining the hand. "What happened? Why did you loose control?"

Andy frowned. "It, well," Andy struggled to explain it. "It was too slow, then it was too fast, and when I tried to stop it I guess I overdid it-"

"Stop," Fred cut him off. "Take a deep breath. Calm down a bit more. Now, slowly, step by step. Step one, you started letting it drop."

Andy nodded. "Yeah. But it was going too slow, so I let it drop faster."

"At which point it was going too fast," Fred nodded. "So you tried to correct that."

"Yeah," Andy agreed. "But I overdid it, and it started to come back up, so I started pushing it down."

Fred took a deep breath. "And you messed that up, right? You pushed sideways?" Andy nodded. "I see. At which point you tried to regain control by grabbing the cane, which caused it to smack your finger. You were hurt, and started pushing even harder."

Andy shook his head. "Not just harder," he admitted. "It was like... my pushes split."

"You lost control," Fred told him. "What happened first was you didn't anticipate what was going to happen, and then you overreacted in an attempt to gain control. It started a chain reaction that left you with an injured finger, and destroyed hospital equipment."

"This is why we wanted to keep you at the BEST camp for a while longer," Fred added as Andy sniffed and tried to blink away some tears. "We expected stuff like this to happen. It's normal."

"I'm not normal!" Andy snapped angrily. His confrontation with Eric had reminded him of that much.

"Look at me," Fred said firmly, grabbing Andy's chin.

"You are a perfectly normal eleven year old boy who just happens to have some wonderful, incredible abilities," Fred told him. "Not everyone sees you that way, but when you look in the mirror, I want you to see just that. A normal boy, with special talents that most can only dream of having."

Andy wrenched his chin free. "I"m not normal," he repeated. "Even if I weren't an augment, I'm still a cripple."

Fred's voice was firm. "You might be temporarily handicapped by your illness, but I assure you it is a temporary illness. The doctors at this hospital are very, very good at what they do. They can, and will, heal you."

Andy shook his head. "You can't know that."

"There is a difference between knowing and believing," Fred admitted, "but I believe. And I want you to believe too. Give them a chance, because they can help you heal but in the end true healing is up to you."

Andy looked up at Fred, not certain if he knew how to believe, after so long, that there could still be hope for a happy ending. Fred let him think for a moment, then took a long step backwards. "I think I understand what happened here," he said. "You tried to approach this like you would running. The harder you run, the faster you run. If you don't run as hard, you slow down to a new speed, then maintain it. The effort you put in is the speed you get out of it."

"What happened here is that your telekinesis revealed a poor understanding of Newtonian physics." Fred groped with his hands as if to find a way to explain. "I'm sure you've heard of Newton's Laws of Motion. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction is the most famous of them."

Andy nodded instantly. Sure he'd heard that phrase. "This is an instance of the first and second laws. The first law is that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force," Fred continued. "In this case, there were two forces being applied. One was gravity, the second your 'push'."

"When you weakened your push, the second law came into play. The forces were imbalanced, your push less than gravity's pull, and so the cane began to accelerate. Not just move, but accelerate. Accelerate meaning to go faster. If it accelerated at an inch per second, then the first second it would be moving one inch, the next it would be moving two, and the third it would be moving three."

"When you reduced your push again, you expected it to drop to a new speed and stay there. Instead, it's acceleration increased, quickly dropping it. You tried to stop that, and..." Fred shrugged. "Well, from there on out you saw what happened. You tried to regain control, and wound up panicking. You should have stopped, not tried to regain control."

"Now," Fred stepped away and pointed at the cane, "I want you to pick that back up and try it again. Get it right this time, mister!"

Andy giggled at the deliberately over the top tone and pulled himself upright in his chair. "Sir yes sir!" he snapped a sketchy salute, even as he reached out and picked up the cane. It rose to eye level, and Andy grinned as he made the now V shaped cane do a little pirouette in the air.

"That's enough!" Fred barked. "I didn't ask you to play with it."

"Sorry," Andy frowned, gently lowering it to the ground.

This time, he managed to control how quickly it dropped, and slowed it down to touch the ground as gently as a feather.

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