Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I woke up and didn't know where the hell I was. It was dark. I shifted a bit, and felt all gritty. I groped around and found that there was some kind of fine powder all over me. The hell?

I got up and fumbled around. This seemed to be the back room in the office; I recognized it because what I was sleeping on felt like the old leather couch from there. I switched on the light. Man, I felt weird--lightheaded, and my legs were all rubbery under me. This was the back room, all right; I staggered out to the main office.

Greyghost was there. "What's this crap all over me?" I asked him.

"Metal dust," he said. "It's been coming out of your pores. I believe your system is ridding itself of your inhuman abilities."

"Really?" Blinking in the light, I pulled a penny out of my pocket.

As I was in the process of swallowing it, Greyghost said, "I don't think you should--" but it was too late.

I coughed and choked and gasped and got the penny about halfway down my throat before I barfed all over myself. I spit the penny into my hands. "Well, that's great," I said.

Greyghost nodded at the bathroom at the back of the blue room. "Go get cleaned up," he said. "Then we'll talk."

I hosed myself off as best I could, cleaning off as much of the yack and the metal dust as possible. My shirt was a dead loss, but I had a couple of spares around. When I came out of the bathroom, Greyghost was sitting at the table.

I sat down at the table, on a side adjacent to his side. "I guess I messed up."

"It wasn't unexpected."


"Have you not noticed that most of the individuals who acquire inhuman abilities eventually become criminals?"

"Yeah. But--"

"Have you ever considered why?"


He sighed. "I'm not a scientist. So this is just a theory. Yet I think it holds water.

"Consider the human brain. It does many things, not all of which are well understood. Scientists can, I'm sure, point to different parts of the brain and tell us what their functions are. Now. What part of the brain was responsible for controlling your flight ability?"

I didn't know.

"There is no such part," he said. "How could there be? First, this kind of flight is all but impossible. Second, the brain evolved over millions of years, and you only gained your ability last month.

"Therefore your brain was being asked to do all of the things it normally does, and at the same time to defy the laws of physics in a completely new way. And it couldn't. You became irritable. You couldn't focus on details. You became impatient with complexity."

"I thought I was just having a bad few days."

"Mm. Almost everyone who gains such abilities suffers these problems. I don't, and Perseid doesn't, and nearly all of us who work as auxiliaries to the law don't. But most do, and you saw for yourself how easily it can lead to criminal behavior."

"So how come you're so lucky?"

"I don't know."

"That wasn't all of it, though," I said. "It was also... It was like..."

Greyghost nodded. "I know. The other thing that happens is that we can lose human perspective. When we gain these abilities, we become intellectually aware, subconsciously aware, even physiologically aware, that we are no longer strictly human. We become fascinated with our new secret, and we dismiss the concerns and priorities of people. If we aren't careful, this can lead to contempt for humanity or even to megalomania.

"This is why I suggested you spend time with your friends, and at the poker game. I didn't want you to lose touch."

"I guess that makes sense. So that's why you--"

"Yes. I don't enjoy the game of poker itself, but I highly value the time I spend with my friends. My relationships with Ingrid, with Cruickshank, with you... It's impossible for anyone to associate with all of you and be contemptuous of human beings."

Wow. "But you wouldn't..."

"Have you ever heard the story of how I received my inhuman abilities?"


"Mm. I was at a party. I am not the most social of men, but I attended this one. Many notable artists were there. Several of us fell into discussion in one of the smaller rooms, and one man explained to us his theories of life and art and consciousness. He believed in the use of powerful psychedelic drugs to promote artistic inspiration. The rest of us were more skeptical than he had hoped, and he became angry. Later that evening, he secretly dosed our drinks with such a drug.

"It gave me a vision. A nightmare vision, of an endless black void that I was falling into, forever. I thought I was lost. Then I became aware of a source of power in the void, and if I grasped it, I could lead myself out. I did so, and when the drug's effects wore off, the power remained.

"Dennis, I can still see that void all around us. It's waiting. All I'm trying to do in my life is to use the power I found to hold that darkness back. But the power itself is a thing of darkness."

"That's just a metaphor, though, right? It's just images that you had when you were stoned. There's, you know, no actual void."

"So I tell myself. But... In any case. You're aware of the nature of my inhuman abilities."

"You can detect lies, see in the dark, and when you're in the dark you can sort of merge with the shadow and you get a lot stronger and faster."

"Mm. That isn't the extent of my power, though. Within me is power I've never touched, power I don't even understand. I don't dare use it. I can't imagine the consequences, and I don't know what I would become.

"So it's important to me that I retain perspective."

"Huh. Hmm. So how come you're only telling me all this now? It probably would have done me more good a couple of weeks ago."

He shook his head. "You were in no condition to hear complex new ideas. You couldn't have listened."

I thought about all this. "I guess I owe Icecap an apology. And Prowl."

Greyghost shook his head again. "It's all part of the job for them. Simply, this is what we do--we try to minimize the amount of trouble caused by people in your situation. Prowl's been following you for the past few days, with one of my signaling devices, because we knew that something like this was likely to happen. Although I had some hope that your abilities would wear off before it did."

"Oh. Yeah. Good call, by the way. But how did you know my powers were temporary?"

"Typically, inhuman abilities gained independently are permanent, but those gained secondhand, like yours, are more ephemeral."

"Okay," I said. "I guess that's all of my questions."

He nodded, and stood up. "Good, then. Go home and get some rest; you've got a lot of work to catch up on in the next few days."

He's all heart, I thought as I sipped some water and he headed for the door.

"Dennis," he said at the doorway. I looked up. "Congratulations."
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