Warning: This story contains serious mind control, skewed-telepath-priorities, probably what amounts to psychological torture, all that fun Cadmus stuff, as well as medium level violence, and somewhat unavoidable office difficulties.
Mild spoilers in regards to who/what Jim is as of Season 2. I adore Jim. To death. Almost literally.
Cadmus is freaky, guys. Really freaky.
Chapter warnings: mind-twisting.
Nervous murmuring from the gnomes preceded Luthor's arrival. Dubbilex sent out soothing thoughts through the psychic web between them to quiet their humming unease. He remained physically at work, casting his mind towards the upper world to investigate.
There, through the eyes of a gnome crouched on Desmond's desk (poor little brother), Dubbilex first saw the man called Jim Harper. He was tall, broad, yet moved with a carefulness at odds with his size. Harper looked at everything as if slightly lost as he trailed after Luthor into the office. Wariness drifted off the man in waves, but he came forward anyway.
Dubbilex did not much care for Luthor, but the bald man was an improvement over Desmond, at any rate. Luthor spoke to Jim Harper in charming tones (though he called him "James"), an odd significance suffusing his words, weighting certain ones so they fell strangely. Dubbilex drew back, startled, when he saw those innocuous words refract about inside Jim Harper's mind, twisting and switching subconscious thoughts as if hitting triggers. There was something…wrong in Jim Harper's mind, something Luthor turned and molded with each carefully dropped phrase. Harper did not even know. That made him dangerous.
Before Dubbilex could trace exactly what had changed within Jim Harper's mind, the gnome feeding information skittered a step back as a flustered attendant burst through the door. "Doctor Desmond, we need you down on Sub-level six."
"I told you I was not to be disturbed!" Desmond's eyes darted between the gnome on the table and Luthor. He did not even look at his assistant.
"But, sir…the specimen's neural evolution just changed paths, and if this trajectory isn't dealt with now it might negatively impact-!"
That did not bode well. Leaving most of his attention on the office, Dubbilex reached out to the gnomes on the sub-level near the project. They reported no danger, only that the Match seemed to be displaying unusual aggression levels. It discomfited Dubbilex. He had always known his elder brother to be different, special in some way more than any other genomorph, but more recently Dubbilex had felt there was something wrong, something off in the Match's mind that no allowed difference could account for.
"There's no need to be angry." Luthor's voice was smooth, yet it cut through Desmond's snarl effortlessly, fixing everyone's attention on the man in his impeccable suit. "This project is of great importance to me, Dr. Desmond, and so I see no reason to risk its success. We can delay our meeting for the moment, can't we, Mr. Harper?"
Jim Harper stirred, glancing uneasily from one man to the other. "Of course." Desmond's outburst disconcerted him, and Dubbilex could hear suspicion begin a subtle hiss in Jim Harper's thoughts, as he watched the significant looks passing between Luthor and Desmond. It seemed Jim Harper was not a fool.
Luthor smiled a bright, nonthreatening smile with all his teeth, the kind that set Dubbilex's whiskers on edge. "It's settled then. Dr. Desmond, I think I will accompany you to check in on the project's development."
Desmond nearly dropped his files; he caught himself, but Dubbilex felt the twitch in his ligaments. "Mr. Luthor, that is hardly necessary. We can't leave…!" His phenomenally failed attempt at subtlety indicated the third occupant of the room, who had already heard a dangerous amount. Harper noticed the gesture, tensing as if to step back.
Dubbilex frowned. Desmond was a fool. Now they would have to keep Harper.
Luthor stood contented in his small smirk. "Don't fret, Doctor. Our new associate will give us no trouble, I have no doubt. He's a good man." He gave Harper a passing glance, his thoughts clinking like gears and coins, decidedly assessive, as of property. Like the looks he gave Dubbilex, his insides a web of a thousand sharp gold points.
Dubbilex paused. Harper wasn't trying to leave. Even his wariness moved with strange slowness, taking far longer than it should have to develop into recognition of danger.
Desmond grumbled and tapped his teeth. He wanted to talk to Luthor about proper contingencies to control the newcomer, plans tinged with frustration, tense and hateful in his mind. Luthor remained formidably serene, and pleased. Stepping towards the door, he forced Desmond to give ground to maintain the illusion of agreement. Luthor reveled in Desmond's anger in the cold, distant fashion of a g-elf hunting a target.
Pausing at the door, Luthor spoke to gnome still perched on the table. "Wipe what he heard of Project Match from his mind, and hold him until we return."
Ah. So he never intended to leave Jim Harper to his own devices. The gnome obeyed, latching onto Harper's mind before the man's eyes could widen at the shock. His body bent subtly, held rigid and still with the characteristic sharpness of those incapable of thought.
Dubbilex would extend his mind down to the sublevels soon, nestled in a different gnome's mind to listen to Desmond and Luthor discuss Match's approaching completion and final release from his pod. An event that thrummed with excitement, in the making longer than Dubbilex had existed. And yet sorrow stayed him a moment, a tiny core in the gnome as it closed its stranglehold on Jim Harper's mind. Gnomes rarely reacted in complex emotions on their own, and never without reason. Dubbilex had never felt a gnome wish not to act on another's mind.
Curiosity, then, had him reach out to Jim Harper directly. Nothing beyond.
The man was startlingly clear. Sections of his consciousness had a sort of transparency, as if Dubbilex could look straight down to his core. Undeceiving, forceful motivation to trigger firm action. Dubbilex believed that to be named "honesty" in human speech. And yet, too, Harper's mind held constant, strange pain, gaps in his memory and even his mind that spoke of prior encounters with psychics or at least of mental trauma. These dark scars fractured the clearness of his identity, their jagged pieces obscuring corners of his mind. Probing there, if done clumsily, could cause damage. Dubbilex drew back from them. Not worth exerting the effort now. He did not feel sufficiently threatened to warrant cruelty.
Jim Harper, even unable to think or move, felt of briskness and a sort of hushed warmth. A soldier. Yet a kind one. An oxymoron Dubbilex had never before encountered, especially not with so marked and battered a subconscious.
He had also never been forced into psychic stasis before. Dubbilex could tell that much. Jim Harper was no telepath, had no extrasensory powers at all, no ability to free himself, or even understand the attack, but even so he resisted the gnome's hold. He feebly struggled as it scattered his thoughts, folded his memory back on itself and fused it there, like a scar, so he could not see it clearly.
And yet, most strangely, though on some level he must have felt the futility of his actions, though Dubbilex could practically taste the sharp, dark tang of fear, of powerlessness, Jim Harper kept resisting. Under severe psychic stress, most humans caved. Staggered. Yet Jim Harper held, unable to stop the gnome, but unwilling to bow to it, even as his subconscious creaked and groaned. And this was the source of the pain clouding the room in a reddish haze.
No wonder the gnome countenanced sorrow. They had not been programmed with moral compasses, yet all the genomes had since develop decency. They were not cruel without reason. And this was a form of torture only psychics could fully appreciate.
Down below, the gnomes reported Luthor's arrival to inspect the specimen, Desmond in tow. Luthor did not appear pleased. Dubbilex had moments to revert his attention down below; he could hear the footsteps on the tiled lab floor.
Yet, he did not like that his gnome-brother was sorry. That would not do.
He reached out again into Jim Harper, trying blunt his intrusion to something soft, soothing. Like he would lull the g-trolls to sleep after a day's work, calming their nerves. If the man continued to uselessly fight a psychic he could not defy, he would only bring himself suffering, possibly even permanent damage.
Hush. Don't struggle. Harper could not process thoughts now, and so Dubbilex commanded through sensation. He inserted the influence as gently, as kindly as he could, slid beneath Harper's weakly raised walls. Let go.
For a moment Harper stood rigid, cornered, Dubbilex's insertion isolated and dimly rejected by his consciousness. As if at some fundamental level of identity, far below thoughts, he sensed it did not belong to him.
But if the gnomes could control him, it was even easier for Dubbilex, whose mental capacities far exceeded theirs in complexity. Still exuding soothing emotions, he bent Harper's will, already held in a chokehold by the gnome, in line with his own.
Harper could not sink to his knees, even as Dubbilex bowed him. Desperate, short sparks of fear dragged behind him.
Dubbilex did not let it unnerve him. This was the only way. Otherwise he would struggle ceaselessly, and further harm his mind. Scars cluttered Harper's insides already, wounds Dubbilex lacked the skill to unwind. Dubbilex knew how Desmond would establish his authority, and the consequences if Harper continued to resist. Dubbilex would not watch it. He pressed harder.
He never stood a chance. Jim Harper broke with a faint, red flash of pain. The wound Dubbilex gouged open knit into a slim scar, free of suffering and outside memory. It would not disturb him.
Dubbilex left Harper silent and still under the gnome's control, pressing reassurance and patience into the man's mind. Fearless, painless, Harper accepted the sensation as if it were his own. It was better this way.