Hurt & Comfort

Book 11: Creating Comfort

©2019 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 11: The Stratagem

"How did you know about the Meerkats? Are you some kind of telepath?" Slash asked as he approached the new arrival.

//No. He's not a telepath. I'd be able to sense it if he were. There is a telepath in the area keeping watch, but he's kind of watching everyone, not us specifically.// Jesus said thoughtfully.

"That's probably the professor. Don't worry too much about him. He just does that to make sure that everyone's safe." Matt helpfully supplied.

"Who are you?" Lisa asked the stranger imploringly.

"He's our other roommate, the one sharing a room with me. He never introduced himself." Slash said as he looked at Brian inquiringly.

"It doesn't matter. You wouldn't have remembered me anyway. Part of my mutant ability is being forgettable."

"How did you know about the Meerkats?" Slash asked firmly.

"Why don't you guys take Beau to class and let us handle this?" Lisa hesitantly suggested.

"Oh! Yeah! Thanks Lisa! I really appreciate it." Beau said quickly with Slash and Seth following closely on his heels as he hurried toward the door.

"Are you guys sure you don't want us to go with you?" Clark called after them.

"No. I'd actually feel better if you'd stick around here and help take care of this." Slash called back in response.

"You got it." Clark assured him.

* * * * *

Once the trio had exited the gymnasium, Dr. Hoffman firmly asked, "So, Brian, what exactly is it that you're doing here?"

"I'm in this class group. I showed up for the first day of class just like everyone else. This is where I'm supposed to be, isn't it?" Brian finished with a self-satisfied little smirk.

//Lisa, I think we just found someone that you can test your strength on.// Jesus said malevolently.

"It would be irresponsible of me to endorse or encourage such behavior, even in jest." Julia said firmly toward Jesus; then she turned to Brian and added, "As far as I can see, they're a team and you're a member of their class. If you want to become something more to them, you may need to put forth some effort."

"I'm not the kind of person that people want to get to know. I already know that. They'll include me on their team because they're going to need me. It's that simple." Brian told her firmly.

"Does that mean that you expect us to kick you off the team as soon as we can manage without you?" Lisa asked curiously.

"I can't get a sense of things that far in advance, but yeah, probably." Brian reluctantly admitted.

"What do you have to contribute to the team?" Matt asked reasonably.

"To put it simply, I have the ability to influence scenarios to work out the way I want them to." Brian said uncomfortably.

"So you're like... a god?" Louie asked hesitantly.

"No he isn't! He's nothing like a god. He's a liar!" Quaid said vehemently.

"I never said I was a god. When I'm using my ability, I can see different possibilities and push things to go a certain way." Brian said carefully, then looked Quaid in the eyes as he added, "But for some reason, I can't see or influence you at all."

"Good." Quaid said firmly as he matched Brian's gaze.

"Did you cause what happened to Marc?" Lisa asked in a low, dangerous voice.

"No. I had only been there a few minutes when that happened, I didn't even have a chance to get started." Brian said seriously, then thought to add, "But later, I used what happened to Marc to try to draw you together to form a team."

"Why? What do you get out of it?" Julia asked darkly.

"I don't even know if I can describe it. All I really got of it was a glimpse, just a peek at a moment in one possible future." Brian said as he looked longingly into a distant place of memory.

Clark, John, and Ronny shared looks of concern at what he was saying.

"What I saw was a future worth working toward. I saw me, getting to be part of the team. What the team gets out of it is someone who can push things to work out in our favor." Brian carefully explained.

"So, since Marc got shot, you've been causing things to happen?" Matt asked to confirm his understanding.

"Not everything, I showed up when I had to so that the preferred future could happen. From there I influenced things to go a certain way to help the team... well, the team that we will someday become." Brian hurried to explain.

"What did you do?" Julia asked cautiously.

"Not that much, really. Mostly I just gave a little push here and pull there to get people to where they needed to be, then amped up the stress on Slash and Seth to cause their mutant abilities to manifest a little sooner than they might have otherwise." Brian said carefully.

"Can you make my mutant thing do something?" Louie asked hopefully.

Brian seemed to be about to answer, but then appeared to notice the collective mood of all those watching him.

"I can't make your mutant ability work..." Brian began to say and noticed the collective mood darken even further.

"...but I can tell you a little bit about how you'll eventually be able to use your ability as part of the team." Brian hurried to explain.

"Hold it right there. Before you do anything that can't be undone, we need to go back to your 'glimpse' at a possible future. I need to know if we're talking about time-travel or fortune telling or anything else that's going to cause a temporal paradox or anything like that." Matt said firmly.

Julia did her best to minimize her reaction to the suggestion, but was still visibly shaken by it.

"I'm not completely sure how it all works. It just does. As far as I know there's never been a problem with anything like that." Brian said frankly.

Matt looked at him uncertainly for a long moment, but finally ended up giving him a slight nod to proceed.

"Louie, your main ability is to bestow abilities, like what you've done for Jesus." Brian carefully explained.

"So I can't have any powers of my own?" Louie asked with disappointment.

"You can, just probably not in the way that you're thinking." Brian said slowly.

"Do ya think you could maybe just go ahead and tell him about it before he explodes?" Ronny asked in frustration.

"It's not like your ability." Brian said to Ronny, then explained, "There's a lot more to it than just squirting out a gravity field in one direction or another."

"What is it then?" Ronny demanded.

"If Louie and Jesus will work to synchronize their efforts and with a little 'push' from me, we should be able to create a combined being who'll be everything that Louie dreams of." Brian carefully explained.

"Wait." John demanded, then dubiously asked, "Combined being?"

"Yeah. It's just like it sounds. They'll become something that's neither human nor rat, but component parts of a thing that's bigger than both of them."

"That sounds like something that's two or three steps beyond dangerous." Clark said firmly, then asked more reasonably, "Can we not play word games right now? Tell us exactly what's going on."

"I'm already saying more than I should. Just because I anticipate something, doesn't mean that it's going to happen the way I expect it to. I'm just saying that according to my ability, based on what I've seen and what I can speculate, I can see the likelihood that Louie and Jesus will find a way to empower themselves." Brian said carefully.

"How?" Quaid asked simply.

Brian looked at him with surprise, then cautiously said, "I don't know. What I see is from the outside. I don't know what they feel. I can just see what happens when it works."

"What does happen when it works?" Ronny asked simply.

"They just sort of become one... thing. Combining them releases a frightening power that could actually go totally out of control and cause more of a problem than if they'd done nothing. That's why I pushed Matt to bring Clark, John, and Ronny. Originally it was just going to be the new Wagner students doing this."

"I remember that." Julia said with surprise, then looked to Brian and continued, "I distinctly remember thinking that having the more experienced students included in the power assessment might end up providing both a physical and emotional benefit."

"The truth is, we couldn't do this if they weren't here." Brian said frankly.

"Do what?" Ronny cautiously asked.

"Combine for the first time into their fighting form." Brian answered simply.

"That doesn't sound like a very good idea." Clark said honestly.

"They can be great! I promise!" Brian hurried to assure him, then continued on to qualify, "It just might take a little time to get the bugs worked out."

"Well, that tells us... pretty much nothing." Ronny said frankly.

"Hold on. If you can control how things work out, why are you here telling us all of this? Shouldn't you be working behind the scenes?" John asked curiously.

Brian seemed to be frozen in place, uncertain how to answer.

//If he did that, he would have to continue to do that. Circumstances would conspire to remove his other options. This might well be the only chance for him to escape a future lived out entirely in a windowless room.// Jesus said seriously.

"Really?" John asked Brian in a whisper.

The devastated expression that Brian suddenly wore was more than enough of an answer for any of them.

"I know what isolation feels like. For as long as I have any say in it, you'll have a place on this team." Matt said firmly.

"Are you going somewhere?" Lisa asked Matt with concern.

"I'm just here to help you guys get started. Once you're ready to stand on your own, I'll get out of your way." Matt assured her.

"That being said, we should probably get started." Julia interjected.

"Right." Matt agreed, then thought to say, "Actually, before we get in too deep, all of you need to know that starting tomorrow we'll be meeting here at seven am for our defense training before classes. Tuesday and Thursday after classes, I'll be having driving lessons with Clark, John, Trey, and Slash. You guys be sure to remind me to tell him when he gets back."

"Can I take driving lessons too?" Lisa asked suddenly.

"Yes. Monday and Wednesday, Lisa, Beau..." Matt trailed off, then look to Brian and asked, "How old are you, kid?"

"Seventeen."

"Wanna learn to drive?"

"Yeah! Can I?"

"Sure. Just meet us here after classes today."

"I'll be here!" Brian happily announced.

"Good. When Marc is up to it, he'll be joining the Monday Wednesday class." Matt said with a quick glance at Lisa, then continued to the group in general, "Today, instead of you going to your regular classes, we're going to do our best to measure your offensive and defensive capabilities."

"Is it going to hurt?" Louie asked timidly.

"It shouldn't." Matt began to say, then amended, "Not much, anyway."

Matt's words didn't seem to help put Louie at ease.

"If you keep Jesus in your backpack while you're being tested, then you should be fine." Brian told Louie quietly.

"Are you trying to get them to activate their mutant ability?" John asked curiously.

"I'll do that in a little bit. Right now I'm trying to see that Louie has everything he needs when he needs it." Brian said frankly.

"If that's what we're doing, then I suppose we might as well do it." Matt said as he gestured toward the middle of the gymnasium.

"What do you want for us to do?" Louie asked cautiously.

"To start with, why don't you and Clark spar for a minute?" Matt casually suggested.

"You want Clark to hit me?" Louie asked fearfully.

"No. I want for him to fire his optic blasts at you... at low power, of course. I don't want for him to hurt you."

"I don't want for him to hurt me either. So why do this at all?" Louie asked indignantly.

"Because next time it might not be a friend helping you practice. If someone is really trying to hurt you, then you'll need to have these skills ready to call up at a moment's notice." Matt explained.

"Keep Jesus with you. Work together... with each other... for each other." Brian quietly added.

"Are you going to be doing your mutant thing on us?" Louie asked Brian uncertainly.

"Yes. I'll help you take your first step, but after that, it's going to be up to the two of you as to how it ends up going." Brian carefully explained.

"Do you need to do anything to get started?" Matt asked Brian cautiously.

"It'll help if I can sit down."

"Go ahead." Matt said simply.

Brian took a worn pack of playing cards out of his back pocket and a handful of various gaming dice out of his front right pocket before sitting cross-legged on the floor.

"Clark, are you ready?" Matt asked quietly.

"Yeah." Clark said as he stepped forward.

"Louie?" Matt asked cautiously.

"I guess so." Louie hesitantly answered as he glanced to see what Brian was doing.

At just that moment, Brian rolled the entire handful of dice at once.

"Jesus?" Matt asked to confirm.

//I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do, but I guess I'm ready to do it.// Jesus anxiously responded.

This time it was Matt who glanced downward.

Brian was placing playing cards, face down in a pattern on the floor before him. He finally turned one of the cards over to reveal that it was the three of clubs. Brian then looked up at Matt and gave a firm nod.

"Ready? 3... 2... 1... Begin."

* * * * *

The first move was Clark's.

He let loose an optic blast that was easy for Louie to sidestep.

"Jesus, listen to Louie. Amplify his reactions." Brian called out as he pulled three cards off his deck and placed them face down in a pile before him.

//Louie, is that okay with you?// Jesus asked cautiously.

"Just do it before he hits us!" Louie said in panic as he dodged another relatively easy to spot optic blast in his path.

"Match your breathing, match your movements, become one." Brian called out, then took another card from the deck in his hand and placed it face up. It was the seven of spades.

"Keep it going, Clark. You're doing fine." Matt said firmly.

"I feel like total trash doing this." Clark said irritably.

"I know. But it's for their own good. They need to be able to dodge an attack." Matt said firmly.

The sound of dice being rolled drew the attention of some of those gathered, others had their attention drawn by Brian quietly saying, "Uh oh."

"What?" Julia began to ask when she saw Louie step into the path of Clark's optic blast.

"Sorry!" Clark yelped as he immediately stopped the blast.

Louie reflexively grabbed his shoulder with the opposite hand, then looked at Clark with anger smoldering in his eyes.

"I thought you were moving the other way." Clark tried to explain.

A guttural growl erupted from Louie, then he seemed to vanish.

The next thing anyone knew, Clark was pinned to the floor with Louie's hands around his throat.

"Get off him Louie. He didn't mean to hurt you." Matt said as he took a step toward the pair.

In the blink of an eye, Louie seemed to vanish and Clark was left clutching his throat and looking around for any sign of a threat.

"That could have gone better." Brian said as he turned over another card.

"What's happening?" Julia demanded to know.

"Unfortunately, Louie's primal self is in control. I was actually hoping that Jesus would end up being the dominant personality." Brian said as he flipped over several cards in succession.

"Up there!" Ronny said as he pointed at the ceiling.

"That's not Louie." Lisa said quietly.

"It's part Louie." Brian corrected.

"It's like a black blur, like it hasn't settled on a final form." Julia said cautiously.

"Jesus! I need for you to step forward and take control of this. The only way you're going to be able to protect Louie is to take control and protect him from himself." Brian called into the air.

"Guys. As much as I don't want to do this, we have to protect the weaker members of our team. If he threatens any of them, do what you have to do." Matt said regretfully.

"How? They move so fast I can't even see them." John said frankly.

"I might be able to optic blast them if I really try." Clark said quietly.

"Only if they attack and only as much as you have to." Matt said firmly.

"Jesus! Listen! The only way to protect Louie is for you to take control. He's your motor, but you're his driver." Brian implored him to understand.

"I am the driver." The black blur of a monster slowly responded.

"Yes! You can have all of this strength at your command and Louie can live his dream of being a hero if you're strong enough to contain his rage." Brian fought to explain.

"I am the driver." The black blur repeated.

"That's right. Now that Louie's safe, you can separate and become yourselves again. You can be you." Brian said as he simultaneously placed a card face up, across the three of clubs, the new card being the jack of clubs.

The black blur dropped from the ceiling, then crouched before the group, seemingly trying to decide what to do next.

"I'm probably not the one who should be welcoming you to the team, but I'm really glad that you're going to join us, Vile Kricket." Brian said as he stood.

The misshapen black blur turned its head in an odd expression of apparent curiosity.

"Vile Kricket?" Ronny asked dubiously.

"You have a mutant name, don't you?" Brian asked in return.

"Yeah. I'm Crush."

"They're Vile Kricket... Actually, when they're separate, Jesus is Vile and Louie is Kricket, but that's mostly just so that we'll have something to call them on the radios when we're out in the field." Brian rambled.

"So, do you think that you're in charge of this team? What gives you the right to hand out mutant names?" John asked curiously.

"No. I'm not in charge. But because of my ability, I know about some things that the rest of you don't." Brian said frankly.

"Do you already know what my mutant name is?" Lisa asked cautiously.

"I know what it could be." Brian responded.

"What happened? Did I hurt anyone?" Louie asked as the blurry black coating that had been covering him finally fell away and seemed to dissolve.

"I think you surprised us more than anything else." Ronny said honestly.

"Yeah. I don't think you'll have to worry about Clark shooting optic blasts at you anymore." John said with a grin in Clark's direction.

"Did I hurt you?" Louie asked Clark with concern.

"No. You just moved so fast that I didn't have a chance to react. I don't know what your mutant ability is exactly, but you're really fast." Clark finished with a smile.

"I remember some of it, but it's like something that I dreamed or saw on TV a long time ago." Louie said uncertainly.

//I remember all of it, although for me it was like trying to move in a vat of syrup.//

"Have you ever been in a vat of syrup?" Quaid asked curiously.

//No. But I can imagine what it's like.// Jesus responded.

Quaid nodded that he could accept that answer.

"How about we call Louie and Jesus' defensive training done for today and move on to Lisa?" Matt asked cautiously.

"Why don't you do Brian first?" Lisa immediately asked.

"Would you mind?" Matt asked Brian cautiously.

"No. I don't mind trying. I don't get to show off very often." Brian said as he gathered his cards and dice.

"John? Do you think you can spar with Brian without really hurting him?" Matt asked curiously.

"Yeah." John said, then flicked his Zippo to light it.

"Ready? 3... 2... 1... Begin."

* * * * *

"John? Are you okay?" Clark asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Why?" John asked as he held a gelatinous fireball in his hand.

"You're supposed to be testing Brian's defenses."

"Who?" John asked curiously.

"Brian. That guy over there." Ronny said as he pointed.

"Who is he?" John asked as he stared at Brian uncomprehendingly.

"He's one of the Wagner students, one of the Meerkats." Clark carefully explained.

"And what did you want me to do?" John asked uncertainly.

"Throw that fireball at him." Clark said slowly.

"Why? Did he do something?" John asked dubiously.

"No. You're supposed to be testing him to see if he can defend himself." Clark fought to explain.

"Clark, why don't you do it?" Matt asked cautiously.

"Do what?" Clark asked obliviously, as he looked around.

"Ronny?" Matt asked quickly.

"What?" Ronny asked as a strange, uncomprehending look filled his expression.

"Stop it!" Quaid said as he walked up to Brian and punched him in the shoulder.

"Ow!" Brian said as he clutched his shoulder and backed away.

"It's okay Quaid. He was just showing us what his ability can do." Matt gently explained.

"It's no fair using mind tricks on people who can't fight against them." Quaid firmly declared.

"Sometimes that's true. But if there was someone here who wanted to hurt Brian, then I'd want for him to use his mind tricks to protect himself. He has that ability for a reason, so it's up to us to help him learn how to use it to his best advantage." Matt said seriously.

"What happened?" John asked as he looked around quizzically.

"You and Brian just sparred and he mopped the floor with all three of you." Lisa finished with a chuckle.

"He what?" John asked, looking to Matt for an explanation.

"He mind-whammied you pretty good." Matt verified.

"That was weird." Clark said slowly, then continued, "It was like that feeling when you forget something and you know that you forgot it, but you just can't quite remember what it was."

"That's what my ability mostly is. The rest of it's just guessing what's going to happen next and nudging it to go ahead and happen or not." Brian quietly explained.

"So you don't really have any defenses in a hand-to-hand fight?" Matt asked curiously.

"No. Quaid could probably take me out without much effort." Brian timidly admitted.

"Probably?" Quaid asked dubiously.

"Ease up, Bruiser. Brian may not have big muscles, but he took out three of our heavy hitters single-handed. That's pretty good in anyone's book." Matt said frankly.

"Thanks." Brian said quietly, obviously taking Matt's praise to heart.

"But you're going to need to learn how to use your fists, too. Every now and then you're bound to run into someone like Quaid, who can't be mind-whammied. The team will do their best to defend you, but you're going to have to do your part." Matt said firmly.

"Okay. I will." Brian said in the tone of a vow.

"Lisa? Are you ready to try?" Matt asked cautiously.

"No. But I probably have to, don't I?" Lisa asked anxiously.

"It's what we're here to do. We can't really move on to the next step of setting up defenses for the team until we have a better idea of what you have to contribute." Matt carefully explained.

"You can test her strength right now, but if you try to test her fighting ability, it's not going to work." Brian reluctantly interjected.

"Why's that?" Matt asked cautiously.

"It's the same as you trying to test Louie by himself. He can't really do his best without Jesus to back him up." Brian said uncomfortably.

"So are you saying that she needs Marc to be here before she can fight for real?" Matt asked curiously.

"Not exactly. But please trust me when I say that she can't do it right now. Later, when things have come together, she'll be able to take on your heavy hitters and give them a pretty good workout." Brian said seriously.

"But not now?" Matt asked to confirm.

"That's right." Brian said confidently, then added, "You can still test her strength. That won't change. But you'll have to wait for later to really test her skill."

"So be it." Matt finally conceded.

"How do you want to test her strength? Are you going to wrestle her?" Ronny asked with a grin.

"You and me need to have a talk about how to treat a lady." Matt said with a grim look at the boy.

"You treat a lady just like you treat anyone else, don't you?" Ronny asked curiously.

"What d'ya say, Doc?" Matt asked Julia hopefully.

"Go ahead. I'm interested in what you have to say on the subject." Julia said with a barely restrained smile.

Matt looked askance at her, then turned his attention back to Ronny as he said, "It's not right to wrestle girls. It has nothing to do with their strength, but with what you might be forced to grab onto to get a good firm hold. You don't grab girls that way unless you have no other choice in the matter."

Ronny seemed to be processing what Matt was telling him for a moment before turning to Julia and asking, "Is that right?"

"I think what Matt told you is a good way of looking at it. Sometimes you don't get much of a choice in the matter, but when you have a choice, it's best to avoid it." Julia said seriously.

"So how are you going to test her strength?" John asked curiously.

"Come here and I'll show you." Matt said with a mischievous grin.

After a moment of hesitation, John stepped forward until he was face-to-face with Matt.

"Do this." Matt said, then demonstrated crossing his arms and holding them with a firm grip.

"Okay." John said hesitantly as he did as he was told.

"Lisa. See if you can do this." Matt said as he lifted John off the floor with one hand.

"Couldn't we just use the gym equipment in the dorm room?" John asked as he fought to maintain his balance.

"I didn't think to check it out, but I'm guessing that Lisa's ultimate strength is probably beyond the upper limit of most commercially available equipment." Matt said as he gently placed John back on the floor.

"If you need things to be heavier for a few minutes, I can help you with that." Ronny suggested with a grin.

"That sounds like a good idea. We'll do this for now and later on we'll probably try that in training." Matt said with a smile in his direction.

"Do you mind?" Lisa asked John timidly.

"No. Go ahead. I'd like to know just how strong you are." John said honestly.

"Okay. I'll try to be gentle." Lisa said before following Matt's example and easily lifting John off the floor using only one hand.

"You're not even trying, are you?" Ronny asked curiously.

"He's not heavy, if that's what you're asking." Lisa said simply.

"Do you think you could lift a car?" Matt asked cautiously.

"I can pick up the back of a car one-handed, but I haven't tried to pick up a 'whole' car before. I don't know, I probably could." Lisa said thoughtfully as she slowly lowered John back to the ground.

"What about your grip strength? Can you crush things fairly easily?" Matt asked curiously.

"My hands aren't shaped the same as yours, but most of the things that I can grip, yeah, I can crush them like they're nothing." Lisa confirmed.

"Brian, are we going to have to wait for Marc to get out of the hospital before we can test Lisa's skill?" Ronny asked curiously.

"No." Brian answered simply.

After waiting a moment to be sure that more of an answer wasn't forthcoming, Ronny slowly asked, "Then when will we be able to test her skill?"

"I know some things that I can't tell you. Okay? I know it sucks but that's how it is." Brian said firmly.

"All we're asking is for you to tell us when Lisa will be ready to show us what she can do." Ronny said reasonably.

"I don't know everything and some of what I do know, I can't tell you."

"Which means..." Ronny said in a leading tone.

"Which means that I don't know exactly when Lisa's going to be able to show her stuff. It might be later today, it might be sometime tomorrow. A few different things have to fall into place first." Brian said seriously.

"Is there anything that we can do to make it happen any faster?" Clark asked curiously.

"Beau's part of it, so if he were here, it might speed things up, but I can't really say that for sure." Brian said hesitantly.

"What does Beau have to do with my ability to fight? We're not going to be doing some kind of combination thing like what Jesus and Louie are doing, are we?" Lisa asked anxiously.

"You won't be combining with Beau." Brian said carefully, then turned to look in the direction of the door that they had entered through.

The others followed his gaze and fell silent as they waited.

The faint sound of a door opening was heard, then the sound of footsteps.

"You guys weren't waiting on us, were you?" Slash asked uncertainly when he noticed everyone looking at him.

"No. Did Beau get to his class okay?" Lisa asked hesitantly.

"Yeah. No problem. What's going on here?" Slash asked curiously at the strange mood that he and Seth had walked in on.

"Brian, Lisa, Jesus and Louie were all able to show us some of their talents. If you two wouldn't mind giving us a quick demonstration of what you've already learned, we can get to the business of developing some defensive strategies for your group." Matt said seriously.

"I don't know if I can make mine work again, but I can try." Slash said uncertainly.

"I can have one of the guys attack you, if you think that would help." Matt offered.

"Let me try it without the attack first." Slash said slowly.

"Whenever you're ready." Matt said simply.

"Did you guys get to use any mutant abilities?" Seth asked quietly.

"Yeah. We'll have to show you when we're done with testing." Lisa said excitedly.

"Louie's was great." Quaid happily added.

"I can't wait to see it." Seth said honestly.

"Okay. I'm ready to try." Slash announced.

"Whenever you're ready." Matt said encouragingly.

"Okay. There." Slash said as he made a dramatic pulling motion in the air, opposite where the group was standing.

As everyone watched, the air became darker and darker until a black fog was floating, nearly six feet across.

"Can you control it? Shape it? Maybe make it move?" Matt asked cautiously.

"I don't know. I think I can move it." Slash said, then the cloud of darkness began to float away from the group, toward the door.

"It's a good start. We'll be sure to try to do different things with it." Matt said seriously.

"Yeah. I'd really like that." Slash said happily.

"Seth? Lee told me that you've awakened a new ability. Would you be able to show us?" Matt asked cautiously.

"Sure. Are you ready?" Seth asked happily.

"For what?" Clark asked uncomfortably.

"This." Seth said as a flash of darkness seemed to erupt from his horns.

"What..." Clark began to ask, then realized that he wasn't in the gymnasium anymore.

"Why did you shift us to a quasi-dimensional husk?" Quaid asked curiously.

"Mostly because it's the only place I can get my ability to take me." Seth answered honestly.

"From what Lee said, him and Andrew are going to work with you to see if you can expand your ability." Matt said seriously.

"Good. I really want for my ability to be able to help the team. I don't know how useful this really is." Seth said frankly.

"I can think of a few times when it would have been nice to have a convenient back door that I could summon up out of nowhere." Matt said honestly.

"Come to think of it, so can I." Julia added with a smile at him.

"Is everyone ready to go back?" Seth asked as he looked around in the strange blue-gray light from his horns.

"Yeah. I think now that we've taken stock, we need to decide what we're going to do with what you've got here." Matt said seriously.

"Shouldn't Beau be included in this?" Slash asked cautiously.

"And Marc?" Lisa timidly added.

"We won't make a final decision without them." Matt assured her.

"Then we'd better get to it." Seth said before allowing another flash of his blinding power to flare from his horns.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Note:

Brian seems to be a bit difficult to figure out.

I understand why he has to be careful what he reveals. He could cause unwanted effects if he were to just put things into the picture, IE things that might have outcomes that wouldn't be good.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher