A/N: This is set a little after the end of Elite Force and heavily based on the final scene of one of my favorite books, "A Wrinkle In Time." Enjoy! Let me know what you think!
Bree can hear Douglas and Adam talking, but the sound keeps washing in and out like bad radio reception. … almost didn't make it off Lithios… need to rest… That's Douglas, but his voice blurs back into a senseless rumble.
Bree… okay? She…
… have to get back…
The world topples and swirls around her and Bree tries to get her head screwed on straight. She remembers everything, she's just having trouble stacking it all up in her head in a way that makes sense. Chase. The students. The… thing.
Some of the haze clears and she tunes in enough to hear her brother. "I don't get it," Adam says. "Why would Chase say yes to that thing?"
"Because," Douglas says, "he's the smartest man in the world. Which means he's the only one dumb enough to think he could take on Triton by himself."
It was supposed to be a fun class trip. Granted, the last time they went to space, it was supposed to be a fun family vacation, and that went colossally off course. They were careful this time, though. They planned. Mr. Davenport even added to the rebuilt space port a brand new state-of-the-art artificially intelligent security system.
It's just that no one expected that state-of-the-art artificially intelligent security system to pick up the signal from a sinister alien entity floating through space and become an electronic vessel for evil incarnate.
That kind of put a damper on the trip.
"Why do you keep calling it Triton?" Adam says.
"Because it picked up the code from the Triton App and is using it to control people," Douglas says. "And I can't think of anything better to call it. And we can't just keep calling it it."
"It took Chase," Bree says, her voice sounding warped to her own ears. "It took Chase."
Douglas glances at her and so does Adam, his arms held out like he might need to catch her. "You should sit down," Douglas says. "Sometimes people have tricky reactions to teleportation, and we went pretty far. Plus I know this planet has breathable air but it's not exactly like Earth's."
Braced against Adam, Bree shakes her head like she's trying to get water out of her ears. "We have to go back," she says, trying to juggle the zillions of thoughts in her mind. "Jeez, we just left him there! We have to go back."
Douglas opens his mouth to speak but Adam cuts him off. "That's what I said," he tells Bree. "But he won't listen to me."
"We need to be smart about this," Douglas argues, and he starts going on about contacting Skylar, Kaz, and Oliver, about getting Mr. Davenport to help. Bree tunes him out again, lost in the horror of the place they just left.
Triton took the security system, seeded its way in, and then began to take the students, one by one. They stopped talking, they stopped laughing. It happened in an hour, and Douglas and Chase couldn't figure out how to fix it. Leo grabbed Taylor and Logan and tried to find a way to shut off the security system without shutting off the life support.
And the students, now the thing's drones, converged on Adam, Bree, and Chase. And Chase somehow decided that the only way to stop Triton was to willingly submit.
I can fight him from the inside. He sounded so cocky, so calm. Guys, don't worry. I'm the smartest man in the world. I'm not gonna let some freaky alien turn me into a zombie.
But they watched, and they saw Chase give himself up to Triton. They saw his eyes turn green, and not in any way they'd seen before. His eyes glowed like the light was coming from deep, deep inside him, and it chilled Bree to her core. It wants to talk to you, Chase told them, and he led them to the center of the spaceport.
The glass dome electrical hub of the security system hummed with a pulsating energy, a terrible thump, thump, thump that drilled into their brains. The thing— Triton— owned the energy. It was the energy. It owned the students. It was the students. It owned Chase.
Adam kept whispering to him, asking him when he was going to fight back and set the plan in motion. He didn't realize, didn't lose faith. Right up until the thing wearing Chase's face turned and shot him a very un-Chase smirk and said, "There will be no fight. We were wrong about it. It doesn't want to harm us, it wants to expand our minds. Give in, dear sister, dear brother. Just give in."
Bree shivers at the memory and wraps her hands around her elbows. "We don't have time to scrounge up backup from every corner of the galaxy," she snaps at Douglas. "Chase is there now and he needs our help. And we need to help Leo and Taylor and all the students."
"Us being Triton drones won't help anybody," Douglas says, clinging to his own authority and logic. "Bree, Adam, I'm sorry. I am. I know you want to help your brother. But going back to Lithios won't stop anything."
Bree crosses her arms. "It'll stop Adam doing that."
Bree nods at her brother and Adam, getting the cue, immediately begins flicking Douglas on the ear repeatedly. "Ow, ow, quit it," Douglas yelps, but Adam just speeds up the pace. Douglas clutches a hand to the side of his head. "Fine! Fine! I'll take you back. But don't come crying to me when the scary lava lamp starts using us like puppets."
Bree and Adam hold hands and Douglas hangs onto both of them before hitting a button on his watch. The planet they're on winks out of sight and suddenly, stumbling on the floor that suddenly rises up to meet them, they find themselves back on Lithios at the port.
"Chase and Triton are this way," Adam says, pointing and barreling forward. Bree starts speeding down the hall but skids to a stop when she hears voices coming from the custodial closet beside her. She tries to open it but the door's locked, so she nods at Adam. Using his strength, he yanks on the doorknob until the lock breaks and then pulls open the door.
Clustered in the supply closet, Leo, Taylor, and Logan all look up at them, frightened. Leo leaps up and faces Bree and Adam. "Are you really you?" he says, peering cautiously into their eyes. Behind him, Logan and Taylor sound like they're singing "Yankee Doodle."
"I'm me," Bree promises, pulling him in for a quick hug. It's fear and comfort and friendship and family all rolled into a tight two-second embrace. "Are they okay?"
Leo looks over at Logan and Taylor. "We figured out that if you're singing, it makes your thought process less linear, or something. Anyway. It makes it harder for that thing to get into your head." Logan nods emphatically as he and Taylor keep up the tune.
Bree can tell what they're combatting; she can feel it. Triton sits like a slimy film over her mind, coating everything she thinks and making it hard to focus. She can feel how easy it would be to slip up, to give in. The pressure would be gone, the panic would be gone… She shakes her head and focuses on the song. Yankee Doodle, keep it up. Yankee Doodle dandy.
"Douglas has been calling it Triton," Adam says.
Taylor rolls her eyes. "Doesn't he know that if you name the sentient energy being trying to control and torment us, you're just gonna get attached?" She goes back to singing, Leo joining in.
"Okay," Bree says. "Adam, stick with them and see if you can find anyone else holding out. I'm gonna go find Chase." Before Adam can argue, she zooms away, leaving her brothers and teammates behind as their voices echo in her skull. Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.
Bree runs into the great room, the deafening pounding of Triton squeezing her brain. She sees it, a slithery glowing thing pulsing in the pod where the security system operated. It's a dome in the center of the room, kind of like Davenport's nuclear magnetic resonant spectrometer back on Earth. She sees the way it pushes and pulls like the tide, trying to drag her down.
And then she sees Chase.
He's sitting beside Triton, head bent like he's trying to solve an equation in his head. "Chase!" When he looks up, Bree kind of wishes he would have kept his head down. His eyes look even worse now, not just glowing green but completely filled by the eerie glow, no iris, no pupils. Just Triton. Bree swallows. "Chase, I know you're in there."
Chase-who-isn't-really-Chase stands up, smiling at her. "Of course I am," he says, voice lilting and light and all wrong, wrong, wrong. "And you could be, too. Join me, dear sister. Join me and know power, intelligence, success."
Bree shakes her head, feeling the power of Triton crush down on her mind. It reminds her of being trapped in the trash compactor, but she can't run and she can't fight. She doesn't know how. What did Leo say? Don't think linearly.
Well, her mind's been pretty scattered her whole life. It's nice to think that might finally come in handy. I bought new lipstick last week. I need to help Chase. I've been to the Eiffel Tower and it was beautiful. I need to help my brother. "Teen Fiancé" got cancelled a year ago. Chase needs me.
"Aren't you scared?" she asks Chase, shouting across the empty room. "Shouldn't your Commando App have gone off? Seriously, where's Spike when you need him?"
Chase's lip curls. "'Spike' is a useless glitch," he intones. "No finesse, no real power. Just brute strength and aggression. Physical strength means nothing to Triton."
"So it calls itself Triton now?" Bree says, trying to think straight. Her mind usually works fast, just like the rest of her, but now it's achingly slow. "Doesn't it have a real name?"
"It likes Triton," Chase says. "There's power in the name Triton."
Bree pants; Triton isn't just worming into her brain, it's working its way through her body. She can feel her breath fall into its dreadful rhythm. If she gave in, the tightness would be gone, the pressure would evaporate, she could run. "How's that?" she says, because as long as she's talking to Chase she's got a task to focus on.
"Because," Chase says, "the name Triton scares you. And there's power in fear."
Scared? She's not scared. At least, she doesn't have to be. Bree can be brave. Bree can be brave for Chase.
She lunges forward, as fast as her legs can carry her, toward the glowing hub at the center of the room. She brings her fist down, smashes against it as hard as she can. Her knuckles sting but she keeps going, she keeps trying, until Chase uses his molecular kinesis to easily flick her away. She lands in a crouch and quickly stands up, ignoring the way her back and shoulders hurt.
"See? I told you," Chase says, sounding cruel and arrogant. Sure, Chase can be a little egoistic and condescending sometimes, but never cruel. Not like this. "Physical strength means nothing to Triton." His gaze shifts and he smiles. "Although it can have its benefits."
Bree turns to look where he's looking- and her heart sinks. Adam strides in, eyes glowing green, Leo restrained in his arms. There's no sign of Logan or Taylor.
"Adam!" Bree shouts, but her big brother doesn't even flinch.
"He can't hear you. He's with us now," Chase says. "He's with Triton."
Leo's still fighting, still struggling against Triton even as he struggles to escape Adam's grip. "Yankee Doodle went to town… went to town…" He's fighting a losing battle and Bree can tell. "Riding on a… ngh… Yankee Doodle went to town riding on a…"
Bree turns toward Leo and sings with a desperate hitch in her voice, "To the left, to the left, everything you own in the box to the left."
Leo picks up on it and starts singing too, just as desperate but still in control. Still Leo. "In the closet that's my stuff, yes. If I bought it please don't touch."
Chase laughs, and Bree hates it because he sounds so much like himself. Triton should talk low and gravelly like Spike, or warped and strange, anything to help remind her that Chase isn't Chase, that he's a puppet for someone else. "This is your plan?" he says. "Save the day with a song? Is there a dance to go along with it? Are you going to use the power of love?"
"... you must not know about me, you must not know about me…"
Bree keeps trying to keep her thoughts scattered, but that makes it hard to come up with a plan. Beyoncé. Going to concerts with Leo. Going to concerts with Caitlin. Mission Creek. Tasha. Mr. Davenport. Douglas.
"Douglas!" Bree whirls around; in all the terror and excitement she forgot about him. Douglas made it to the great room, but evidently collapsed under the pressure of Triton. Instead of being a drone like Adam and the students, he just sits curled up, shaking slightly. "Douglas?"
"There's too much hate in him," Chase says smugly. "For you. For all your failures."
"No," Bree says, not tearing her eyes away from Douglas. "No, no he doesn't. He doesn't hate me." Doesn't he? Her scattered thoughts collect to crush her and Bree tries to think about something else, anything else. Leo's still singing.
"I could have another you in a minute. And in fact he'll be here any minute, baby."
"Don't worry; hate is good," Chase assures her. "Triton feeds on it, gets rid of it. It's a waste product, see, like CO2. You and yours give off so much nourishing hate and Triton uses it and converts it into power."
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard, Chase."
"Mr. Davenport hates you."
Bree shrinks backward even though she knows it's a lie. Isn't it? "No, he doesn't."
"Every day he looks at you and he remembers the monster that Douglas made you," Chase rolls on. "Every day he remembers how you carelessly destroyed your chip and ruined everything. Mr. Davenport hates you, Bree."
Bree drags in deep breaths, trying to think, but the tide that is Triton threatens to pummel her into oblivion. Lipstick. Chase. The Eiffel Tower. Beyoncé. Chase. Teen Fiancé. Caitlin. Concerts. Chasechasechase.
"Tasha hates you," Chase continues. "Oh, maybe she doesn't know it now. But she will. When you return to Earth alive and well, only to tell her that her precious baby Leo is gone forever, she will realize how much she has always hated you."
"Leo… what?" Bree gasps, struggling to form a coherent sentence. It's like drowning. Or, no, it's like suffocating in the void of space. She realizes with a chill down her spine that Leo's been silent for over a minute. She doesn't need to look to know that he's gone, gone, gone, his eyes as green as Adam's.
"That's right," Chase smirks. "You can't save them. Adam and Leo hate you—"
"I hate you!" Bree yells, feeling suddenly electrified with the feeling. "Triton, thing, whatever the hell you are, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you more than anyone's ever hated anything." She feels invigorated. She feels strong again. "I hate you." She feels powerful. "I hate you." She feels intelligent. "I hate you." She feels successful.
Almost too late, she realizes that it isn't her own power she's feeling. And the pressure vanished from her brain not because she fought it off, but because she gave into it. The floor swims before her vision and she glimpses how easy it would be, how peaceful, to just let Bree Davenport slip away. She could give in. She could join her brothers and this whole nightmare could be over.
"No." Bree mumbles it into the floor. "No," she says more loudly, pushing herself up to a standing position. She can't give in. Because when all else fails, when literally everything else goes to crap, she can't. Hating Triton might feel good for a while, but it's what the thing wants. And Chase was right— it feeds on hate, turns it into power. Hating Triton won't save her brother. "Can I just ask you something?" she says, feeling weak and empty and tired. "Why Chase? I get why you would want to control an army of bionic people, but why Chase specifically? What's so special about him?"
Bree knows what's so special about him. He's nerdy, he's gentle, he's kind. He leads fiercely and he loves with his whole heart, never looking back. She knows what makes Chase special. But she wants to know what Triton thinks.
"Triton requires an avatar," Chase says. "A vessel to operate in the physical realm. And this bionic brain… it's unlike anything or anyone else. Triton can return to Earth and reach billions of beings, control everything. This mind, it has the capability to do that."
Triton would use Chase to literally take over the world. Maybe other planets, too. Maybe Caldera. Maybe the whole damn universe. And Chase can't do anything about it.
But Bree can.
"Chase's problem," she says loudly, digging her nails into her palms to keep herself grounded, "is that he's always thinking too linearly."
Chase-not-Chase shrugs. "Humans all have their flaws."
"Yeah, Chase has a lot of flaws," Bree says. "But I love him anyway."
Chase rolls his eyes, purses his lips, shakes his head. "How sweet," he says. "How quaint."
Triton mocked her for singing to Leo, asked her if she meant to use "the power of love" next. Well. It's not like she has any other options left. "I love you, Chase." And as she says it, she realizes suddenly that it doesn't matter if it works.
It doesn't matter if she can save Chase, it doesn't matter if she can save any of them. What matters is that this might be the end of it all. This might be the last time Bree's mind is her own. Any second now, Triton could take her as its puppet, could venture back to Earth, could take over the planet with Chase hopelessly trapped within it.
So if Chase can hear her, if it's her last chance to say it, she needs him to know. She needs him to know that she loves him, and so does everyone else. "I love you, Chase. Leo loves you. Adam loves you. Douglas loves you." It strikes her that Chase isn't the only one trapped under Triton's influence, that her other brothers might be silently screaming, imprisoned in their own skins. "Leo, I love you so much and I'm so sorry. Adam, I love you and I know you tried your hardest. Douglas, I never know whether to tell people if you're my uncle or my dad, but I know you're family and I know I love you." She turns back to Chase, who looks mildly revolted. His eyes glow more insistently, frighteningly. She knows she could never love Triton, for all its power and control, for all its horror.
But she can love her baby brother.
"Chase, I love you," Bree calls into the abyss. "I love you. I love you. I love you."
"Stop it," Chase says, breathing hard. "Stop it."
"I love you."
She thinks about watching Marcus take out Leo back by Douglas's old lair, and tears gather up in the creases of her eyes. She thinks about finding Chase lying on a table in Giselle's hideout, far too still. She thinks about Adam plummeting through Earth's atmosphere as his vitals drop to zero. You can love someone even if they're already dead; she remembers.
She can love Chase even if he's already gone.
"I love you," Bree says. "I love you, Chase."
The hub containing Triton flickers and darkens, flashing from green to red. But she's not watching Triton; she's watching her baby brother.
Chase blinks furiously, the green in his eyes fluctuating in size, shrinking inward and then expanding, over and over. He rubs his forehead like he's fighting a migraine. "Chase," Bree says. "I love you." It looks like he's having trouble breathing; he huffs in and out. She remembers how Triton put pressure on her lungs, forced her to breathe in his rhythm. She doesn't feel that now, though. It's like Triton is tied to Chase and Chase is doing what he said he would do.
Chase is fighting him from the inside.
"I love you, I love you, I love you." It doesn't matter that she's thinking linearly now, because what she's thinking matters so much. "I love you, Chase. I love you."
And suddenly he's sprinting, throwing himself across the floor, scrambling as fast as he can to get to her. Triton in its hub glows brilliantly, terribly red and then lets out an inhuman mechanical scream before the light vanishes and the glass shatters. The green in Chase's eyes is gone, replaced by familiar hazel.
"Bree!" he shouts, colliding with her. "Bree! Bree!" His arms wrap tightly around her and Bree starts crying full-on as they hug. Chase keeps mumbling, "I love you too, I love you too, I'm so sorry" and Bree can't stop the waterworks. Dimly, she's aware of Leo and Adam collapsing on the other side of the room, and she knows they'll wake up a little achey, a little shaken, but wholly themselves. "I was so stupid," Chase mumbles, still clinging to her, tethering himself to his big sister. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I was so stupid. I thought I could take it on by myself."
"You're not stupid," Bree argues, chafing a hand up and down his arm because he's real, he's alive and he's himself. She laughs. "Okay, maybe you're a little stupid. Don't scare us like that again."
"I'm sorry," he says again, voice thick with tears. "Bree, you saved me."
"Yeah, I know," Bree says, smiling and crying at the same time. "I'm awesome."
Douglas comes to and hoists himself up on wobbly legs after a few moments. He spots Bree and Chase hugging and crying and meanders over to them. "Kids?" he says, surveying the room— Adam and Leo unconscious, Chase back to himself, the security system hub irreparably shattered. "Let's go home."
They go back in the shuttle, all the kids woozy and confused but not much worse for wear. Taylor keeps apologizing to Leo for not being able to hold out but he's not holding it against her. "I got put under, too," Leo explains. "Even the queen herself, Beyoncé, couldn't save me."
Taylor gives him an odd look but doesn't question him.
Bree clambers into a spot between Adam and Chase, hugging them closely to her. "I was so scared," she admits to her brothers. "That thing was talking about using Chase to take over the world, I thought… I really thought today was gonna be the day none of us make it."
"Aw," Adam says, patting Chase affectionately on the shoulder. "I knew Chasey would never go over to the Dark Side."
"That's not…" Chase starts, about to explain the intricacies of electronic alien possession and neural energy manipulation, but he just shakes his head. "You're right, Adam. I'd never leave you guys." He hugs Bree into his side and says in her ear, so quiet only she can hear it, "Thank you." He looks like he's about to cry again.
Bree knows how important control is to Chase, how much the Triton App always scared him, how he feels about the Commando App. "Anytime," she says, hugging him back.
They don't go back to the island right away. They stop the shuttle above Mission Creek because Douglas says he needs a drink and there's no alcohol at the academy. Everyone's pretty shaken up and not against a few hours of coddling from Tasha (she's taken to sending care packages to all the students, not just Leo.) They all disembark and head toward the house.
Mr. Davenport runs out to meet them. "Hey, guys," he says, completely nonchalant. He still has no idea what went on on Lithios. "How was the trip?"
Bree runs up to him and hugs him as tightly as possible, soon joined by Leo, Adam and Chase. Davenport looks confused but not necessarily upset. "I love you," Chase says, which really surprises Davenport because Chase isn't usually so forthcoming.
"I love you guys, too," Davenport says, wrapping his arms around his kids. A few hours ago, Triton was using Chase to tell Bree how much Davenport hated her. She shudders at the memory and clings tighter to her father. "Everything okay?"
"Nope," Douglas says, strolling past the teary group hug. "I mean it is now, but it wasn't. It was so bad. Where do you keep your whiskey?" And he walks inside, followed soon by the bionic students.
"I love you, Big D," Leo says. "You are irreplaceable."
Bree snorts and Chase and Adam look confused. "I guess I have to tell everyone what happened," she says. "I'm gonna need a drink." Davenport shoots her a look. "I mean a soda! Jeez." They all laugh and head inside.
Chase stands in the front yard just a moment longer, staring up at the stars twinkling in the night sky. Lithios is up there somewhere. And somewhere is the planet where that entity originated. Triton had offered him knowledge, power, all the power he could ever want… It didn't matter, and it never would.
His family loved him. That was worth more than the world. It was worth more than the whole universe.