(CW: nonconsensual medical experimentation, mind control, torture)
"Hey uh, maybe we shouldn't just piss him off and then turn his powers back on?" (Set in the Blackburn Prometheus facility.)
<PRO> Neurological Imaging Lab 2 - Blackburn Research Facility
Just one of many laboratory spaces on the second floor of the facility, this one has recently been cleared of some of its bulkier equipment, leaving a computer terminal, an EEG machine set up on a wheeling cart, a sturdy modular chair with a large number of restraints, and not a whole lot else. Two guards flank the door below an LED sign lit up in green with the words "Suppression In Effect". A slender young white man in a lab coat and neatly pressed shirt and slacks stands at the computer terminal, typing and muttering to himself. He has warm brown eyes and one of those faces that looks perpetually about to break into a smile.
There are a few plastic chairs against the wall of the lab near the terminal, where Katie Messer--dressed in a lab coat and only slightly untidy gray pantsuit--sits beside Jamie, who looks even more cowed and colorless than usual. She has an arm looped through his and occasionally looks up from an issue of Behavioral Analysis in Practice to chat quietly with him. Finally, though, she looks up at the other scientist in the room. "Do you actually need us here for anything, Doctor Halifax?" Her eyes dart significantly to the green light over the door.
"Almost ready," Halifax promises without looking away from his screen. Only five seconds after this declaration, he strikes the enter key with unnecessary force and flourish. "Ready, Mister Kelvin?"
Jamie jerks his eyes up from the linoleum floor, looking poleaxed, but he nods.
"Good." Halifax steps over to the EEG setup, tweaks a few settings, and starts the scan. "Ready, Mister Allred?"
In the room's one sturdy chair, Flicker has been -- not doing much, really! The thick restraints around his ankles and wrist may have something to do with this. There's a large number of electrodes stuck onto his freshly shorn head, and his fingers curl tight against the arm of the chair. For a time now through these preparations his eyes have been closed. They don't open again at the sound of his name, and he gives no answer.
Halifax doesn't wait for Flicker to answer -- perhaps he isn't expecting one -- and picks up a small red foam ball. He goes to Flicker and pries one of his hands loose, stuffing the foam ball into his grasp and then stepping back to his console. "Mister Kelvin, you know what to do," he says, tapping something on his screen and then the PA button on the wall. "Take it down, Mister Winston."
The light above the door flashes yellow, the text display changing to "Suppression deactivating in 5 seconds" and counting down to 0 before turning red and reading "Suppression OFF." The guards have drawn their sidearms and trained them on Flicker.
The moment the grid deactivates, Jamie's power flows over Flicker, not suppressing it again, but ready to do so. There's a tentative, wavering quality to the contact. Messer has slipped her hand into Jamie's and is gripping it tight, but she's looking at Halifax. Halifax pays neither of them any mind and watches his screen instead. "Good. Now, Mister Allred, teleport the ball across the room, into the test space." Presumably, he's referring to the square of empty floor marked out with yellow tape.
Flicker says nothing, again. He tenses visibly -- when the grid turns off or when Jamie's power grips him; it happens so quickly it's hard to say which. He doesn't open his eyes, either. He does turn his hand over -- just slightly. Opens his fingers, lets the ball fall to the floor. Curls his hand back into a tight fist, resting it back face down on the chair's arm.
Halifax doesn't seem surprised. "Mr. Kelvin. Put the ball in Mr. Allred's hand again and make him carry out my previous instruction, please."
Jamie hesitates, but Messer gives him an encouraging smile and a gentle nudge. He shoves to his feet, picks up the ball, and goes to Flicker, keeping his eyes down. His hand squeezes the ball convulsively, the grip of his power fluctuating in time: digging in and then almost letting go.
Halifax frowns at his readings. "Are you doing that, Mr. Kelvin? Just do as I said."
"Sorry," Jamie mumbles, taking Flicker's hand -- his own shaking badly -- tugging his fingers apart and tucking the soft red ball against the other man's palm. Then he takes a step back, and another two, licking his lips and only daring to glance back up at Flicker.
Flicker's head bows at that flex of power, his teeth clenching. He does open his eyes at Jamie's touch, lifting them to the other man's only quickly. Then dropping. He reflexively curls his fingers tighter, at first, his fist squeezing up hard. His shoulder curls in, his gaze darting to Halifax. To the guards. Back to Jamie. His eyes lower again, grip easing only enough to let Jamie situate the ball.
Jamie's power surges through Flicker's, clumsy and alien but delicate in its exploration. Nothing happens outwardly except that Halifax's chart registers a flurry of chaotic activity. Jamie's shoulders hunch in and he shakes his head. "It's too dangerous -- I can't...aim it."
Halifax narrows his eyes at Jamie, then looks back at Messer, skeptical.
"If he thinks it's too dangerous, it's too dangerous," Messer says, her tone firm and reasonable. "Mister Allred, carry out Doctor Halifax's instructions, please. I'm sure it'll be safer and more pleasant for all involved, and the sooner we get the data, the sooner you can get out of that setup."
Flicker exhales, long and shivery. His fingers relax together with this, the ball once more dropping from his hand to the ground. He looks briefly back to Halifax, his brows lifting at the man's skeptical look. "You honestly hadn't thought through the danger of someone who's never tried this before teleporting that at random?" Slowly, his fingers curl back into a fist. His head tips back, eyes fixing up on the ceiling. "It would certainly be safer for all of you, that's true."
Halifax looks back to Messer. "You said he could control other mutants' powers. Are you sure he's not just being obstructionist? That one --" He jerks his head at Flicker. "-- can be a bad influence, I hear."
"He can, but some tasks are more complicated than others," Messer says evenly. "Jamie, would you be so kind as to give the ball back to him and then come here?"
Jamie picks up the ball and wraps Flicker's fingers around it again, his trembling hands lingering just a fraction of a second longer than necessary this time, though he still doesn't meet the other man's eyes. This done, he obediently takes his place at Messer's side.
Messer leans close to Jamie and whispers something in his ear. Jamie's eyes go wide and desperate, meeting Flicker's -- but only for a fraction of a second before they go blank and glassy. His hold on Flicker's powers tightens abruptly, shutting them down altogether. "I think it would be safer for him, too. Don't you, Mister Allred?"
Flicker presses his hand gently up into Jamie's touch as the ball is transferred again.
But drops the soft red ball back to the floor the moment Jamie's eyes go blank. His jaw has tightened again. "Were you planning on hurting him? I'm certainly not."
Halifax raises his eyebrows, impressed. "Can you just tell him to make Allred throw the damned ball, now?"
Messer shakes her head. "No. Jamie thought it was a bad idea." She moves in front of Jamie and stares right into his defocused eyes. "Mister Allred will have to do it of his own accord." She leans in close again and speaks into Jamie's ear. His face twists and a soft whimper escapes him. "I think he may find it's not worth making Jamie suffer for his pride."
Flicker's face twists, as well, its snarl of scarring pulling down with his brief grimace. He turns his eyes back upward, looking away from Jamie and the others. His mouth presses shut tight, his fingers clamping hard onto the arm of his chair. "She's keeping me suppressed," he says levelly, "I couldn't do it even if I wanted to."
Messer strolls across the room to Flicker, stooping to pick up the red ball and then, so very gently, settling it in his hand again. "It will keep happening until you cooperate," she promises.
"Hey uh, maybe we shouldn't just piss him off and then turn his powers back on?" Halifax says, hesitant for the first time that day as he watches Messer return to a still-whimpering Jamie.
"He knows lashing out is going to make things far worse for them both," Messer replies, not even looking at her colleague. She whispers in Jamie's ear and he relaxes suddenly, swaying on his feet. The convulsive grip of his power eases and he groans, lifting both hands to rub at his temple. She settles a hand on his thin shoulder and bids him sit, still cooing sympathy at him.
Flicker takes a breath, his teeth grinding down harder as he squeezes against the squishy red ball. His eyes fix steadily on that marked-off square. This time, there is a very brief flutter of dissonance from the signals his complicated cap of electrodes has been sending Halifax, another fluctuation as his powers activate. But it's only a second, quicksilver and then -- no more signals at all, baseline or otherwise.
No more wireless brain-scan headset on him, either; just shiny patches of conductive gel that linger on his now-bared shaved head. He uncurls his hand, lets the ball roll where it pleases as he drops his -- also bare -- wrist to his lap, this time, closing his eyes as he wraps his fingers against his knee.
Halifax watches his readings with great interest as Flicker responds, and it takes him a moment to realize why his chart is throwing errors. He reaches over and slams the emergency lockdown button on the intercom panel -- the light over the door immediately flashes to green as the suppression grid kicks in -- though he doesn't look all that frightened or upset, actually. "Well, that took longer than I expected," Halifax tells Messer. "I really thought he'd destroy more than that."
Jamie cries out something that might have been "No!" as the grid severs his link to Flicker. Messer shushes him and wraps an arm around his shoulders, gathering him closer.
"Did you get the data you wanted?" she asks Halifax.
"/Some/ of it." Halifax is typing again. "But I didn't get any readings from /after/, obviously. I guess we'll bring the techs in to prep him again."
Messer nods. Her bright blue eyes snap to Flicker, and she maintains the gaze, cool and collected, as she leans to murmur into Jamie's ear. He looses a quiet gasp and writhes in his seat while Messer gets up, pulling Halifax aside for a whispered conference.
Flicker isn't watching Messer's cool staredown. Not watching Jamie, either. His eyes stay closed, his grip on his knee easing and his expression oddly tranquil in its state of semi-repose.