Logs:Strategic Telepathic Reserve

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Strategic Telepathic Reserve
Dramatis Personae

Dawson, Hive, Steve, Cerebro


<< Nothing alarming about that at all. >> (Part of Final Boss: Xavier TP.)


<NYC> Montagues - Soho

Montagues harkens back to the day when SoHo was filled to the brim with artists, with its mismatched furniture, all plush and decorated heavily with carved wood, but remains trendy enough to keep its newer patrons by making sure that furniture is clean, in good repair and inviting. The antique tables all have been reinforced to seem less creaky. The real draw of the cafe is the smell: fresh roasted coffee mingles with perfectly steeped teas. Spices from crisp pastries mingle with the tang of clotted cream but don't overwhelm too much the scent of chalk on the menu boards.

It is early. Hive doesn't look pleased with that state of affairs, not entirely awake yet where he slouches in his customary seat at his customary table. His scowl is customary, too, etched deep into his face as he glares at his computer -- faaaar too many emails accumulated from over the weekend that he is currently flicking through on the holo-projected display softly glowing on the tabletop beside him. His elbow is on the tabletop, cheek smooshed against one curled fist; it only pulls his already sleepily half-lidded raccoon-shadowed eye even further closed. His work attire today is extreme-casual -- sturdy beaten-up workboots, faded old jeans, a brown tee shirt featuring two hedgehogs staring curiously at a third who has upended a can of blue paint over itself.

Settled across from Hive, Dawson, in contrast, looks offensively chipper. His clothes (short-sleeved white button-down, khakis) are crisp and neat, his eyes are quite devoid of shadows, his arm is a brilliantly colorful splay of feathering ranging from pale grey to glossy yellow-green to iridescent purple-red, Ryan's song "Safer" is playing -- only the chorus! -- on Very Peppy loop in his head, his foot bopping along beneath the table.

He nudges a large mug of coffee closer to Hive. Sips from his own orange juice. Flicks on his phone through his schedule for the day (what minor backlog exists in his inbox, if it could be called a backlog, has already been neatly sorted, cataloged, starred for response.) Then his texts -- work, volunteering, church group, training, request for dinner -- << Hey, we free Tuesday? >> Sort of an idle checkin, he's already tentatively adding it to their schedule.

Steve is also working, neatly dressed in all black -- a short-sleeve button-down, plain-front slacks, and a half apron with a small, tasteful Montagues logo in one corner. He's just finished wiping down recently vacated tables and is circling back around to pick up a just-completed order from the kitchen. << Gosh that smells good. Dammit, man, you just ate. You can hold out till your break. >> Scoops up the plate of eggs florentine and bowl of oatmeal topped with fruit and whisks both over to Hive and Dawson's table. "Here you go, gentlemen." He smells powerfully of fresh-roasted coffee. << Poor man looks like he's about to collapse -- does he need more coffee? >> "If there's anything else I can get you, I'll be right behind the counter."

"Ngh, who's asking." The grumble is perfunctory; Hive's psionic over-the-shoulder peeking has answered the question even as he asks it. He sits just a little straighter. Reaches to nab the coffee cup, dragging it closer. His mumbled thanks might be to either Dawson or Steve with the arriving food; it's hard to say. He's scanning over a new email as Steve arrives, taking a slow sip of the coffee.

from: Sysadmin <cerebro@xaviers.edu>
to: Hive <hive@rangphuengdesign.com>
date: Fri, Aug 14, 2020 at 16:20
subject: Request for Assistance

I am forwarding this to you on behalf of a student in need of assistance. I have not identified you to each other in an effort to afford you both some privacy, and will anonymize your reply if you choose to give one.



Forwarded message:

"I am sorry for this out-of-the-blue contact. You don't know me but I have reason to believe that a telepath is tampering with the minds of many of the students (and possibly staff) at my school. I might be wrong, but I might not be. I imagine that a stronger telepath -- or at least an independent one -- is one way to try and find out. If you are willing, we could use some help."

His fingers tighten around the cup as he reads it, his eyes narrowing sharply. There's a mental flex that stretches out, prickling raspy-sharp against Steve's mind but ultimately reaching to curl itself over and around Dawson in abrupt protective enfolding. Wrapping over, drawing close; there's very little preamble at the sudden firm thrust that binds them together in a quick-flooding rush of worry and --

"-- what the fuck." Out loud. Brows lifting, head lifting as he sets the cup down with a clunk. "You know about this?"

"Oh, thanks!" Dawson's comes brighter and clearer than Hive's, together with a warm smile and an unvoiced wash of fond amusement at Steve. << -- was not so formal last night. >> A faint flush, a pleasant heat of memory soon displaced by an entirely different thrust. His fingers click against the table in a startled twitch, breath hitching. The smile drops sharply from his face. Just starting to pick up his spoon, he drops it back to the bowl, clattering there at the same time Hive's cup hits the table.

In their mind, a reflexive affront at even being asked. But a new question surfacing, pulling their eyes back down to Cerebro's email -- << did he know? >>

"You're very welcome," Steve replies, cheeks flushing in sympathy -- and then in earnest recollection himself. << Rogers... >> The warning voice in his mind is touched withe menace. << Oh boy, here we go again. Number 1 Ruiz, 4 at-bats, 1 run scored, 1 base hit... >> He's just turning to leave when Hive speaks again. His eyes flick down to the food reflexively, thinking he might have brought out the wrong order. << ...It's how you always take it? >> He's far more alarmed when Dawson drops the spoon. << Something's wrong. Very wrong. >> Still, he says calmly, "What the matter? Anything I can do?"

Hive's thoughts expand slowly, heavily, careful tendrils taking their time in unfurling. Stretching towards possibilities from the hopeful (a misunderstanding, wildly off base) to the calamitous (an ongoing active malice on the part of one of the world's most powerful telepaths). Waffle on where among these they ought to root themselves.

Through this careful deliberate thought, an erratic brighter flutter-dance. Darting-weaving through the slowly descending roots. Flitting from << who do we think sent --? >> to << He wouldn't have been dumb enough to try something with us >> to << not there enough to notice if he -- >> to << Who could we ask everyone we know might already be... >>

Two pairs of eyes turn to Steve in tandem.

Hive nudges a chair out with his foot. "Dunno," he answers, even while Flicker says, (a little gruff), "sit."

His fingers swipe at the table, pushing the email over where Steve can read it. << Tell you one thing I want to avoid, >> in Steve's head his dry voice lacks some of its usual pain but is still a heavy rough thump, << and that's aggravating a telepath who's almost as powerful as we are. >>

Twinned with it, Dawson's voice is softer. << But if there's some truth to this -- >> He doesn't finish this, but his concern -- quiet but strong -- fills the space between them.

Steve almost steps back when Hive and Dawson look at him. Almost. << Oh, they're just hiving. (But something spooked him -- them.) >> He sits when bade, almost automatically. Reads what he is shown, too, rapidly. His reaction is not as immediately horrified. << What does that mean? It can't be the accidental overhearing and such Hive does, they wouldn't be near so alarmed. >> Pale blue eyes go wide-wide. << Mind control? Or something worse I don't even know about. Dawson -- is fine, he's got -- but what about Matt. Or Gaétan? My god, Jax! >>

He reins in his racing thoughts, suddenly very conscious Hive can hear them all -- must hear them all, while he's still dealing with this. << Calm down, Rogers. Just talk to them. But don't talk talk. >> He licks his lips. << You said almost as powerful. You are stronger, then -- like this student says. >> It's not a question. << Can you tell if another telepath has been in someone's mind? Does it leave -- traces? Perhaps you can investigate before confronting him. >>

In their mind a rustle, a shiver sighing through the solid canopy Hive has spread around them. << We're stronger. >> Even mentally, this is grumbled. He reaches for the cup of coffee, takes a large drink.

Dawson, empty-handed, swallows in time with it. << Sometimes. >> Reflexively flicking down the image that rises -- Hive's body glassy-eyed, vacant, even thinner than usual.

Hive lowers his cup. Under the table, one leg bounces restlessly. << If we go poking in someone's head, we can tell if someone else has been prying. >> To Steve the inflection in his next words is casual; internally it comes with a fierce tightening of the strong mental grip between them, somewhere between protective and possessive. << -- definitely notice if anyone touched our head as soon as we were together. But -- >> His hands curl tighter around the mug. His teeth grind, slow.

"Usually wouldn't notice, he doesn't make a habit of poking around in most other people's heads uninvited," Dawson supplies, for him. His leg had been bouncing -- in time with Hive's, but now it stops.

Steve's eyes flick uncomfortably between Hive and Dawson, watching them drink, together. << Same person, now, >> he reminds himself. << Nothing alarming about that at all. (Oh gosh, but I'm very alarmed.) >> But he nods at the confirmation, wrestling his mind back into more disciplined workings. "I think the first step has to be checking on the people this student thinks it may have happened to." He folds his big hands together on the tabletop. "If it turns out he's right, finding out who among the teachers you know are unaffected will be important -- for putting together a team." << Would putting together a team even help? You don't know shit about telepathic warfare, Rogers. >>

"-- Sorry." A twinned apology, a small downward flick of two pairs of eyes, a faint flush rising in pale scarred cheeks and smooth tan ones at once.

Hive's teeth grind slowly; he shifts in his seat, slouching lower and picking up his fork to skewer a slice off his food. His eyes pull towards Steve; in their mind a memory, Jax and Ryan in the small hours of the night poring over a glowing holographic compound schematic.

In their mind a thought -- other telepathic branches, thorny and sharp in harsh contrast to the protective strength of Hive's mental presence, scratching their way into Jax's mind and sending out their own poisonous new shoots there. Dawson sits up a little straighter. Shakes his head minutely. Softly between them: << We know a lot of people who've been at war. >>

"Kkksh." Hive's hiss is sharp. What follows is less thought and more feeling; roots withering and dying. "Let's fucking hope we're not going to war." He swipes his computer display back to himself, gritting his teeth as he starts to write. << Right. I can look into -- who. What. How bad. >> His brow furrows. The brief sick twist of worry that comes after kills his appetite before his first bite. << -- don't know there are any teachers unaffected. Not really sure what that Plan B would look like. >>


from: Hive <hive@rangphuengdesign.com>
to: Sysadmin <cerebro@xaviers.edu>
date: Mon, Aug 17, 2020 at 7:27
subject: Request for Assistance

Sure. Where do I find you?


from: Hive <hive@rangphuengdesign.com>
to: Sysadmin <cerebro@xaviers.edu>
date: Mon, Aug 17, 2020 at 7:27
subject: That Kid

On a scale of 1-10 how badly DO you regret being a discorporated psi ghost? Just feels like this might be relevant to my life soon.


from: Sysadmin <cerebro@xaviers.edu>
to: Hive <hive@rangphuengdesign.com>
date: Fri, Aug 17, 2020 at 7:33
subject: Re: That Kid

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 right about now. I'd have taken care of this myself if I could. It may be his house, but it's my body. I've let these kids down.

Thank you.