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Chapter X

07/05/10

Chapter X

            The electrostatic hum of computers echoed off the bright white walls of Dr. 253’s lab.  He called it a lab, but it was more than that.  Located a half mile under his home, the lab was more like his real home than the building above ground.  He did everything there, and would spend days, if not weeks, in the cold comfort of science.  Science, and his need to feel as if he were a part of the world. 

            The ego mad super-scientist was more of an outcast than any of the other heroes.  He had the fans and adoration.  His own fan club and followers that ranged from beautiful start struck women to intellectual nerds that followed his every achievement and recited his theories and papers, with feigned understanding, like sports fans rattling off player’s stats.  In terms of popularity, he was ranked just under Colonel Courageous.

            He was the uber-mind that made the implausible possible.  It was his superior intelligence that made him so popular.  It was also that same thing that made him so lonely. 

            Being the smartest man alive, the smartest man in history, had its drawbacks.  It was hard for anyone to relate with him, at least not on a personal level.  His gift was his curse.  Unlike other heroes who could choose whether or not to use their powers, or learn how to control them, Dr. 253 couldn’t turn his mind off.  He couldn’t force himself to not think.  He wasn’t able to take things at surface value or enjoy them for what they were.  He tended to see people who weren’t as smart as him as being beneath him.  Unfortunately, this was everybody.  There was no such thing as having a causal conversation with him.  He would always take conversations to an intellectual level; a level high above the average person. 

            His yearn for some kind of understanding or mental affinity was what compelled him to create the drug Euphoria.  Euphoria was the rage among hero parties in the 80’s, but died down in the early 90’s.  The drug was all natural and unlocked the subconscious mind, opening it up to new perceptions and multilateral thinking.  It had a slow build and equally slow decline so the user wouldn’t experience an immediate high or crash.  Euphoria allowed him to converse with people who, if only for that period of time, had a vague understanding of what he was saying.  In the end, it wasn’t real, and his words vanish deep inside the listener’s subconscious to be forgotten like a bad memory.  He abandoned the drug and tried to find comfort in his loneliness. 

            Euphoria resurfaced years later as a synthesized street drug with hallucinogenic and addictive properties.  Since it was never mass marketed, and had only been made and distributed by Dr. 253, he deduced that someone from one of the many parties had attempted to recreate his genius and failed.  What they created was close enough for them to sell and did so.  Dr. 253 had given a few minutes thought to going after them and crushing their operation, but street crime was beneath his genius, and he left it for the police to deal with.  

            Dr. 253 found his life devoid of passion, humor, love, fear, and companionship.  At times he wished that he could be like everyone else, just for a few minutes, so that he could weep at how pathetic he was.       

            Like most nights, the Dr. reclined in his gyroscopic chair, with his noise eliminating headphones on.  A micro recorder was attached to the underside of his bottom lip, digitally dictating his theorems.  His right hand typed binary code on the touchpad built into the chair’s arm, while his left casually brushed the alternating multi-textured sensation sphere.  The sphere moved against the motion of the user, and shifted the texture of its four quadrants every fifteen seconds.  It helped to keep the Dr. from focusing his mind on just one thing for too long. 

            Through the headphones Dr. 253 listened to the music of deep space.  The Dr. had launched several satellites and deep space probes over the past 20 years.  He used many of them to record the movements of space.  The satellites cast a radio frequency web over the stars and planets.  He caught it all, no matter how grand or minute.  Planetary shifts and regular rotations, stars flaring bright, meteors hurtling through the vast void were all silent to the naked ear.  The radio web captured the changes and disruptions in the vibrations and translated them into sound.  The Dr. listened to the sounds in the same way that marine biologists listen to whale sounds.  It soothed him.  Comforted him.  The sounds allowed him to feel like he was part of something bigger than he was.  It allowed him to feel inferior.  Much like himself, space was cold and silent.  It was empty, but had a voice begging to be heard.  Dr. 253 heard it.  If only it could hear him back. 

            “Aaargh!” Dr. 253 screamed.  Sound, like a white hot needle drove itself through his ears and into his cortex. 

            The satellites had picked up a low frequency transmission and beamed it directly into his ears.  Had it been received in any other manner, it would have been translated as signal interruption or background noise.  But, from the satellites, it was amplified and reconfigured.  Through the sub-space receiver it was turned into a jagged piercing thread of white noise that drove itself into the center of his brain. 

            The Dr. tried to climb out of the chair, but couldn’t.  His body wouldn’t respond to his commands.  Instead of lifting him from his chair, his arms and legs began to shake uncontrollably.  His head jerked back repeatedly, and his eyes rolled back in his skull.  Dr. 253’s body jerked with such force that he was thrown from the chair and onto the hard cold stainless steel floor. 

            The sound continued to stream into his mind.  It traveled with a rhythmic pulse that was forcefully hypnotic, like a baseball bat dipped in chloroform.  Dr. 253’s mind raced.  He thought of space.  Cold.  Harsh.  Empty.  No, not empty.  Angry.  Vindictive.  Evil. 

            Suddenly, it was over.  The sound stopped.  The Dr.’s body settled, and he was still on the cold brushed metal floor.  Blood trickled from his nose and ran down his cheek.  He could hear the tiny splashes it made as droplets hit the floor. 

            Dr. 253 reached up and slowly removed the cushioned headphones from his ears.  The padded rings of the headphones were warm and wet.  He dropped the headphones on the floor and reached up and touched his ear.  Blood. 

            The Dr. tried to sit up, but couldn’t find the strength.  The room swirled around him like rings around a planet.  He was dizzy to the point of nausea, and found it almost impossible to focus his thoughts.  He tried to stay conscious, but his mind told him no.  Who was he to argue?  It had never led him astray before.    

******

            The pounding on the front door of the Reinhart home couldn’t have been timed any better if it had been planned. 

            Charles lumbered down the steps and to the front door.  The knocking on the door was constant and too forceful to be anything but trouble.  Charles’s hand had just grabbed a hold of the knob when a voice on the other side of the door bellowed. 

            “Mr. and Mrs. Reinhart!  We know you’re home!  It’s the police!” 

            Charles opened the door and stared bleary eyed at the off-the-rack suited detective that stood on the front porch.  His bloodshot eyes blinked against the early morning sun and tried to focus on the eight other officers that stood in the street controlling the crowd, and the twelve SWAT officers that flanked his house along the perimeter. 

            “Charles Reinhart.” the detective stated.  He looked up from Charles to Jonni as she cautiously made her way down the stairs.  “Jonni Cordalis Reinhart.”

            “I’m detective Rivers.”  The detective introduced himself.  “We’re here for your daughter Celia Cordalis.  We would like for the three of you to accompany us down to the police station.  We would like to talk to you about the incident at Raven Meadow High School yesterday afternoon.” 

            “She’s not here.” Charles said in a defeated tone.  

            “Mr. Reinhart.  We would prefer to talk to you about all this down at the station.  If you would, please.  I’d prefer that we do this without incident.  Not one here wants a repeat of what happened yesterday.” 

            Charles looked the detective in the eyes.  It was evident to anyone looking at his haggard appearance that he hadn’t slept in over 24 hours. 

            “She’s. Not. Here.” 

            Jonni joined Charles at the front door.  Her appearance wasn’t any better than his.  Her hair was piled up on top of her head, with errant stands sticking out all over.  Her makeup was matted and her eyes were puffy. 

            “She ran away sometime during the night.” Jonni said.   

            “Mr. and Mrs. Reinhart, if Celia’s here…” the detective started. 

            “She gone!” Jonni screamed.  She started crying again.  Charles put an arm around her and pulled her close. 

            “Understood.  You’ll for give me if we don’t take your word for it, and have a look around ourselves.”  The detective motioned to the SWAT officers.  Two of the men moved to his side, while the remaining officers tightened their position around the house.   The two SWAT officers stepped on the porch and motioned for Charles and Jonni to step outside. 

            Charles looked down at Jonni and nodded to her.  Charles and Jonni walked outside and to the waiting officers.  The officers stepped to them as they moved closer and separated them from one another. 

            “Charles!” Jonni cried out.  Charles looked at her and stayed calm.  He let the SWAT officer lead him away. 

            “It’s okay, Jonni.  Just let them do their job, and then we’ll try to find CeCe.  It’ll be okay.”  The SWAT officer guided Charles to a car and gestured for him to get inside. 

            “I’ll make it ok.” Charles said before the car door was shut. 

            Jonni was placed in a separate car.  She wiped her eyes and tried hard not to cry.  She looked out the dull backseat window and at their home.  The detective waited for the SWAT officers to clear the house before entering. 

            Jonni thought about Charles’ promise.  He had never failed to keep true to his promises.  She could count each promise he had made and how he had kept everyone; everyone, but this one.  It wasn’t his fault, and she wouldn’t hold it against him.  Charles just didn’t know what he was up against. 

            Charles sat in the cold metal chair and waited for the police officer to begin his questioning.  The chair was stiff and unrelenting.  For the third time in less than an hour he contemplated turning into Wooly Mammoth just so he could bend the metal into something more habitable for the human frame. 

            Charles knew that Jonni was in a room not too far away about to go through the same thing he was.  He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table, and took a sip of water.  Across from him, the interrogating officer leaned back in his cushioned office chair and started the questioning. 

            Interrogating Officer 1:  Charles.  You don’t mind if I call you Charles, do you?  Charles, how long has Celia had abilities? 

            Charles:  I don’t know.  Yesterday was the first time I’d seen her do anything.  Judging by the lack of control, I’d said she didn’t know herself. 

            IO 1:  So, yesterday was the first you’d learned about it? 

            Charles: Yes. 

            IO 1:  What about Jonni?  How long has she known? 

            Charles:  Jonni seemed just as surprised as I was.  We were both finding out at the same time. 

            IO 1:  She seemed surprised, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t know. 

            Charles:  Officer, my wife and I have no secrets.  I know you think you know her because you’ve read her book, or have been told things from it, but whatever you think you know – I know more.  And I’ve known them longer than you have. 

            IO 2:  Jonni, how long has Celia had abilities? 

            Jonni:  I don’t know.  I didn’t think she had any until yesterday. 

            IO 2:  So you just found out yesterday? 

            Jonni:  Yes.

            IO 2: Was this before the incident at the high school?

            Jonni:  What?  No.  That’s when I found out.  When-when things… I found out at the high school yesterday. 

            IO 2:  Okay.  How long has Charles known about Celia’s powers? 

            Jonni: He found out when I did, at the school yesterday. 

            IO 2: Just calm down, Mrs. Reinhart.  I’m just trying to get all my facts straight.  You do understand that I have to ask these questions? 

            Jonni:  Yes.  I’m just anxious to get out of her and find Celia. 

            IO 2:  I’m sure you are.  As a parent myself, I can understand how you feel.  So, where is Celia, Jonni? 

            Charles:  I don’t know, and neither does Jonni.  The sooner we can get out of here we can try and find her.  She needs our help.  

            IO 1: I’m sure she does.  Can you tell me why she needs your help? 

            Charles:  What?  Are you serious?  She a young girl, scared and confused, and now she’s got these powers she can’t control. 

            IO 1: Okay, I understand.  You’re afraid she might hurt herself, or someone else with her powers? 

            Charles:  Yes.

            IO 1:  Because she can’t control them? 

            Charles:  Yes. 

            IO 1:  You used to be a hero, Charles.  Why didn’t you teach her how to control her powers? 

            Hour 3

            Jonni:  We didn’t know she had them!  I just told you that.  If we had known about them, if she had told us, we could have helped her. 

            IO 2:  If she had told you.  So, Celia knew about them?  She knew she had special powers? 

            Jonni:  No! 

            IO 2:  But you just said, Jonni, ‘if she had told you.’  That denotes that she knew about them. 

            Jonni:  No.  I don’t know.  It didn’t seem like she knew.  They just seemed to happen all of a sudden.  She was scared.  I could see it in her face.  She didn’t know what was happening. 

            IO 2:  So, judging by the look on her face, you assumed that she didn’t know she had abilities.  Couldn’t it be that she knew and that scared look on her face was because she had lost control?  Isn’t that a possibility? 

            Jonni:  No.  I mean, I guess, but…  If she had known, she would have told me.  We could have helped her. 

            IO 2:  You can still help her.  Just tell me where she is. 

            Hour 4

            Charles: sigh  I don’t know.  I carried her home yesterday.  Jonnie dressed her and put her to bed.  We were going to talk to her about everything in the morning.  Jonni went to check on her during the night and she was gone.  That’s all I know. 

            IO 1:  So, your wife was the last person to see her before she disappeared.  Is that correct? 

            Charles:  I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying? 

            IO 1: Well, your statement just now was that Jonni went to check on her and she was gone.  You didn’t go with her to check on Celia, correct? 

            Charles:  Correct.

            IO 1:  So, you don’t really know that Celia wasn’t still in her room at that point.  It’s possible that she was still in the room at that time, correct? 

            Charles:  Hold on now.  Jonni went to check on her…

            IO 1: We’ve established that part, Charles.  But, since you weren’t there, you can’t speak for absolute certainty that she wasn’t in the room at that time.  For you to say anything other than that would be a lie, wouldn’t it?   

            Charles:  So that’s how we’re gonna play this? 

            IO 1:  I’m not playing anything.  I’m just trying to help Celia.  I can help you, too, if you’ll let me. 

            Jonni:  What do you want from me? 

            IO 2: We just want to know where Celia is.  If you would tell us, then we can get her and get her the help she needs.  Will you tell me where she is?

            Jonni:  I can’t. 

            IO 2:  Why?  You sent her somewhere, right? 

            Jonni:  No, I didn’t.  I don’t know where she is.

            IO 2:  So, Charles is the only one that knows?  He didn’t tell you where he sent her?  Don’t you think that’s unfair?  I mean, keeping a woman away from her daughter.  Her only child.  What kind of man is he? 

            Jonni:  What are you saying.  I don’t understand.  We don’t know where she is.  She just ran away. 

            IO 2:  Okay.  I’m sorry, Mrs. Reinhart.  I didn’t mean to upset you.  I can sympathize with how difficult this situation must be for you right now. 

            Jonni:  Thank you. 

            IO 2:  I realize that you only want to help her.  Can I ask you another question? 

            Jonni:  Yes. 

            IO 2:  Well, you’ve been around superheroes.  You wrote a book about the years you spent in their company, both public and private. 

            Jonni:  Yes.

            IO 2: I’m sure during that time, you probably learned a lot about people with abilities and what it takes to control those abilities.  And your husband, Charles, he used to be a hero.  He certainly knows how to control his powers, and could probably teach someone who didn’t know anything how to use their abilities. 

            Jonni:  Yes.  That’s why we need to get out there and find her.  Help her before she loses control again. 

            IO 2:  I agree.  My question is, with both a mother and father – excuse me, step-father – with the knowledge to help her, why do you think she would still runaway? 

            Jonni:  I don’t know.  I don’t know. 

            IO 2:  Mrs. Reinhart, is it possible that your husband has had unwanted physical contact with your daughter?   

            Hour 7

 

            Charles:  What?  I don’t have to take this. 

            IO 1:  Mr. Reinhart, please sit down.  No one is accusing you of being a terrorist, or even raising a terrorist.  I’m just trying to cover all of the bases here.  When ever there is an incident of violence in our country, especially in the schools, we need to make sure there aren’t any underlying currents of violence or malicious activity that we haven’t investigated.  You need to understand that someone with your step-daughter’s abilities make her the prime choice for terror agencies.  The father of the girl your daughter got into the fight with is an interpreter for the United Nations.  I hope you can understand why we’re taking this so seriously.  All the metal detectors and trained dogs in the world can’t detect a person with special abilities.  In the wrong hands, she could be a major threat.  You said it yourself.  She’s dangerous. 

            Charles:  This is insane.  And, I never said my daughter was dangerous. 

            IO 1:  Okay.  I apologize for implying that your daughter was connected with terror originations.  I was just trying to illustrate that these types of things are possible.  Everyone believes that it could never be their child, until they see them in handcuffs on the news. 

            Charles:  You’re an asshole. 

            IO 1:  Let’s back up for a moment here.  How old did you say Celia was when she first started to display her powers? 

            Jonni:  Can I go?  Please?  My daughter is out there somewhere.  I need to find her. 

            IO 2:  I know.  And I’ll be more than happy to take you to her.  I just need you to tell me where you said you’d meet her at. 

            Jonni:  I didn’t tell her to run away.  She just ran.  Why do you keep asking me the same questions over and over again?  I don’t know where she is! 

            IO 2:  Okay.  You’ve made that quite clear.  I believe you. 

            Jonni:  Thank you. 

            IO 2:  Jonni, why didn’t you get Celia help when her powers first developed? 

            Hour 10

            Jonni:  I can’t keep answering the same questions over and over again.  I’m tired, my daughter’s missing, please just let me go home. 

            IO 1:  Jus one more question, Charles.

            IO 1/2: Who is Celia’s father?

            Charles: I don’t know.

            Jonni: pause  I don’t know. 

            IO 2:  Don’t know, or won’t say? 

            Jonni:  What does this have to do with anything? 

            IO 2:  Well, according to your book, which you’ve sworn on several occasion is the absolute truth, you were known to carouse with both heroes and villains.  Is Celia the daughter of a known villain? 

            Jonni:  No. 

            IO 2:  So, you do know who her father is? 

            Jonni:  I’m though talking to you.  I want a lawyer. 

            IO 1:  Must be tough, with your wife’s well publicized past.  You helping to raise a child that’s not yours.  Probably the kid of one of your former teammates.  Hell, for all you know, Celia could be Mr. Extraordinaire’s kid. 

            Charles:  You don’t want to cross that line. 

            IO 1: It’s true, right?  Unless you’ve lied to me.  If you don’t know, then she could be anyone’s daughter.  

            Charles took a deep breath.  He stood and started unbuttoning his shirt.  Charles took off his shirt and pants, folded them neatly and set them on the table.  The interrogating officer watched, puzzled by Charles’ bizarre behavior. 

            “What are you doing?’ the officer questioned. 

            “These are my favorite pair of jeans, and my daughter, Celia, bought me that shirt for my birthday three years ago.”  Charles placed his hands on the table and looked directly into the officer’s eyes. 

            The interrogating officer couldn’t take his eyes away.  He tried to look calm and unimpressed, but inside he was both amazed and scared.  Charles transformed into Wooly Mammoth right before the officer’s eyes. 

            Charles’ hands stayed on the table, palms flat against its surface.  His torso extended upward, dragging his arms with it.  His broad yet elongated body seemed top heavy, as if he would topple over at any minute.  Charles’ arms and legs started to bulge as the muscles thickened and stretched. 

            The officer could only stare.  He was caught in the awesome fascination of the unbelievable transformation.  As Charles’s mass increased, his hands pushed into the metal of the interrogation room table.  The metal whined as it was forced to conform to the outline of Charles’s hands.  The final stage of the transformation came, as hair began to sprout all over Charles’ body.  The hair grew in long coarse strands that flowed downward like watching wheat fields in a strong wind. 

            In just over a minute’s time, Wooly Mammoth stood before the interrogating officer, his hands depressed in the metal table.  Wooly Mammoth pulled his hands free and ripped his boxers from around his waist.  He turned to the chair behind him.  He lifted the chair off the floor and bent the back of it backwards.  He grabbed the rear legs and angled them back.  Charles put the chair back down on the floor.  He sat down in the rearranged chair and sighed.  If only he had done that when he first thought about it nine hours earlier. 

            The interrogating officer crossed his arms and tried to regain his composure.  He ran his tongue across the front of his teeth and addressed Charles. 

            “Is that supposed to intimidate me, Mr. Reinhart?  We’re all aware of who you are and what you can do.” 

            “No.”  said Charles.  ‘This is.”  Charles stood from the chair and reached across the table.  He grabbed the edge of the table that was in front of the officer with his right hand, and pulled it towards him while at the same time pushing the other edge with his left hand.  Charles squashed the table across the middle, making it look like a giant metal bowtie.  He then proceeded to fold the table in the middle, and crush the long ends together. 

            Charles continued to bend and fold the table.  Creaking metal cries shrieked through the air, until the table was the size of a basketball.  He took the metal basketball and placed it in the officer’s lap.  Charles then turned and walked back to his chair.  He sat down and looked past the officer to the two-way mirror behind him. 

            “My wife and I would like to go home now.” 

            The interrogating officer looked down at the metal ball in his hands, and back up at Wooly Mammoth. 

            “Thank you for coming in today, Mr. Reinhart.  If we find out any information about your daughter, we’ll be sure to let you know.”

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