No one knows when it started, when the intricate array of neurons and electrical impulses and emotions that constructed Chase Davenport began to fray, began to break apart and reform all twisted and off-center. Might have been when he was stranded, airless, on Lithios for precious minutes. Might have been when Giselle Vickers melted his chip and robbed him of his bionics.
No one knows when it started, but the breakdown ultimately culminated in Chase coming at his creator with a laser bo and a terrifying look in his eyes.
"What happened?" Bree yells, running into the training room. They're supposed to be leaving tonight, back to Centium City. Leo even tried to make a nice dinner for all of them, Davenports reunited.
Adam glances at his sister, his eyebrows knitted together in concern. "I don't know." Chase's limp form is draped over his shoulder. "It's like he snapped. Went after Douglas like a maniac…" Awkwardly, he adjusts the body in his arms so Chase is slung over him in a fireman's carry. "I had to knock him out, didn't know what else to do."
"The infirmary," Bree says, pointing down the hall beside the hydroloop. She marches behind Adam, wondering the whole time if Chase is about to startle awake and attack them. "You think it was Spike?"
"I don't know," Adam says. "But… I don't think so. He was talking. He sounded like Chase."
"What did he say?" Bree nudges him and points him in the right direction as they head toward the infirmary.
Adam just shakes his head.
Once in the med room, Adam lays Chase down in a cot as gently as possible. A second later, Leo and Douglas come sprinting into the room. "I called Donnie," Douglas says, out-of-breath and sporting a black eye. "He should be here any minute."
"What happened?" Bree asks, whirling on Douglas. "Did he seriously just attack you unprovoked?"
"Unless me sitting quietly working on software was particularly 'provoking,' yes!" Douglas says, hands thrown up in irritation. "One second, he seemed perfectly fine. And then he lunged at me, gave me a shiner, and whipped out that giant lightsaber of his."
Leo stops inspecting Chase to look back at Douglas. "Tell them what you told me," he says. "About what Chase was saying."
"Oh, right," Douglas says, huffing. "Well, it was more like raving. He said he had to 'stop it at the source.' And I said, 'What do you mean?' and he said 'Raauuurghh!'"
"Uh-huh," Bree says, looking back and forth between Douglas and Chase.
Leo feels his forehead like he's checking for a fever, and he pulls back Chase's eyelids a little to have a look. "It doesn't look like he's infected with any kind of virus," he says, but he sounds unsure. "Maybe he forgot you're a good guy now?"
Douglas rolls his eyes. "Or he forgot that he's a good guy."
Somewhere below them, the hydroloop speeds to a stop. They hear thudding footsteps, and then Donald appears in the doorway. "Hey," he starts, but cuts himself off when he sees his brother's face. "Holy… what happened to you?"
"Your son went nuts," Douglas says, sinking into one of the vacant cots.
"Oh, so when he gets into MIT he's your son, but when he freaks out and whales on you he's mine, got it," Donald jibes, moving past Douglas and elbowing Leo out of the way so he can get a look at Chase. "What happened?"
"You raised a juvenile delinquent, that's what happened," Douglas mutters. When he sees Donald's face, though, he straightens up. "He came into the training room, was quiet for a minute, and then he started attacking me. Oh, and he, uh, he said something about 'stopping it at the source,' whatever that's supposed to mean. Then Adam pulled him off of me and knocked him out."
"Uh-huh," Donald says, his hands drifting lightly across Chase's eyes, his forehead, his throat, like he's checking for damage. "Bree, could you please go get the bionic suppressor cuffs?"
Bree jerks her head up, confused. "Why?" he says, an edge to her voice. "We don't even know what's going on."
"Which is why I want the bionic suppressor cuffs," Donald says without looking at her. "I want to know what's going on before we give Chase a chance to make Dougie's right eye match his left." Bree hesitates, looking at her little brother so still on the cot. And then she vanishes in a blur before returning with the cuffs. "Thanks." Donald loops them around Chase's wrists, careful not to make them too tight. "Don't worry, they won't affect his intelligence or sensory abilities, just the offensive ones like molecularkinesis and his laser bo. Now we just wait for-"
But they don't have to wait long. Chase jerks awake suddenly, gasping like he was underwater. Donald jumps and Douglas surreptitiously gets up and walks to the other side of the infirmary, away from Chase. "What…" Chase says, eyes swiveling around the room. "What happened?"
"That's what I wanted to ask you," Donald says, sitting at the edge of the cot. He looks like he could be a normal dad tucking in his normal son for bed. He looks like that, but for the handcuffs. "Douglas says you attacked him."
Chase blinks. Bree, Adam and Leo watch as the gears in his mind whirr, clicking information together. "I… did," he says. He seems calm, not upset, and definitely not "raving mad." He sits up slightly against the pillow behind him. The cuffs don't seem to bother him. "I intended to take out Douglas."
His family stares at him. He says it so simply, so matter-of-factly. "Was it Spike?" Bree asks.
Chase stares at her. "I deleted my Commando App."
Donald shakes his head, trying to keep calm. "What, why?"
Chase turns to look at him, his eyes way too steady and calm. "It was destructive," he explains. "So I eliminated it."
"I didn't even know he could do that," Leo mumbles.
"Neither did I." Donald sounds actually frightened, but of or for Chase, they don't know. "Chase, why did you attack Douglas?"
Again with those calm, calculating eyes. He looks like Chase- this definitely isn't the Triton App. His eyes are their normal hazel, and his face isn't twisted into an angry grimace like Spike's, or like the time Chase was infected by Douglas's murder virus. "I had to eliminate him, too," Chase says, sounding like he's explaining a math problem to a group of fourth-graders. "He created bionics. He had to be eliminated to stop the bionic problem."
Bree bristles. "What do mean 'problem'?"
Chase looks at her. "Our mission," he says, "is to protect humanity. Bionics by our very existence, though, bring destruction. To normal humans and to each other. Take Leo for example." He speaks tonelessly, robotic. Leo looks uncomfortable at the mention of his name. "S-1, a bionic, injured Leo, a human. He became bionic and in turn injured S-1."
"Her name is Taylor," Adam says, his usual happy-go-lucky attitude melting as the afternoon drags on. His brother sounds like a stranger.
"It's a cycle of destruction," Chase explains. "So I had to eliminate Douglas. Stop the bionic destruction at its source."
Quietly, Leo lets out a sigh as he understands.
Well, he understands a little.
"Guys," Donald says quietly, looking at the kids. "Can you give us some time alone?" As expected, the three of them shake their heads no. "Fine," Donald says, turning back to Chase. "Chase. When did you decide that bionics are destructive?"
Chase blinks. "I didn't decide, I simply evaluated the danger and completed the necessary action," he says. "And after eliminating the source, I will eliminate the bionic race and make the Earth safe." He says it with all the inflection he might use to say After I finish my coffee, I will rinse my cup in the sink.
Leo looks distraught. "What are you talking about?" he says. "We're your family."
"Leo," Donald warns, shooting him a look. He turns back to Chase. "When did… when did this evaluation occur?"
"February third, 2016."
The kids don't get it, but Douglas does. "That's the day he got his upgraded chip."
"If that's when you realized… um, evaluated… the bionic problem, why did you wait over a year later to go after Douglas?" Donald asks, feeling lost. He can handle Chase tired, Chase sick, Chase depressed, Chase angry, Chase stubborn, Chase cocky… but this is new. This barely even feels like Chase.
"My… data… was corrupted," Chase says, sounding a little unsure for the first time since he woke up. "Faulty information kept interfering with my mission."
Donald nods, trying to think faster than his mind wants to move. "Okay," he says. "Chase, I'm going to help you complete your mission, alright?" Adam looks like he's about to argue but Bree and Leo quiet him down. "I just need to make sure there's no more… faulty information. I'm going to leave but I'll come back."
Donald stands up, and only then do the kids notice his hands shaking.
Out in the hall, Donald pulls Douglas and the kids into a loose huddle. "So what's wrong with him?" Bree asks. "Is his chip malfunctioning? Why's he talking like that?"
Donald pinches the bridge of his nose before shaking his head and focusing on Bree. "His chip's fine," he says. "That's actually the problem. It's working too well."
"What do you mean?" says Leo.
"I mean the chip… well, Chase… realized what every robot in every scary sci-fi movie realizes at one point or another," Donald sighs. "People are dangerous. We're a danger to each other and the world around us. Chase must've zeroed in on bionics and came to the logical- and that doesn't mean correct, just logical- solution that he needs to get rid of everyone bionic."
Bree shakes her head. "I don't get it."
"Oh good," Adam says. "I'm not the only one."
Donald grinds the palms of his hands into his eyes. "His super intelligence was so advanced it took over his human side," he explains.
"So he's a robot?"
"No," Donald says. "He's still Chase. He's just… different. His super intelligence is the most dominant thing about him right now, and it overpowers his emotions, his morality… every other aspect of his personality besides pure logic."
"Okay," Leo says. "So how do we fix him?"
Donald opens his mouth and then claps it shut. "I… don't know," he admits. "His super intelligence was always designed to grow, stretch and evolve, just like a regular non-bionic brain. And he's not a robot. We can't just reprogram him."
"He thinks we're a threat," Bree says. She sounds angry but Donald knows that's her way of covering up how scared she is. "He thinks it's his mission to destroy us."
"I'm not going to let him do that," Donald promises. "Now, you can come in and sit with me, or you can go back downstairs. But I need to figure out his thought process." There's a pause, and then they all nod and look at the infirmary door. "Okay. Just try not to react to the things he says. It might be hard."
They go back in.
"Chase, I'm back," Donald says, slow and cautious like he's talking to a toddler who might go flying off the handle at any moment. "How do you feel?"
"Feelings are irrelevant," Chase says mechanically. "I am operating at 91 percent capacity."
"Good," Donald says, feeling out of his depth. "Now… am I correct in assuming you have a mission to protect the world?"
Chase processes it. "Yes."
"And bionic humans are a threat to the safety of the world and the completion of your mission."
"Adam Davenport is a bionic human."
"And yet when he tried to stop you from completing your mission you didn't fight him." Bree breathes in sharply, watching the game of wits unfold in front of her. "Is that correct?"
Chase winces twice, like he hears something none of them can hear. "That's correct." He looks uneasy suddenly, like the paradox Donald presented him with can't be processed with his bionic brain.
Donald stares at his adoptive son, his nephew, the boy who used to tell him animatedly about going to the moon and analyzing the rocks there. "Why?"
Chase's bionic eye flares to life as his brain tries to make sense of the question. "Faulty information," he says, voice strained. "Corrupted data. Adam Davenport needs to be eliminated but Adam Davenport needs to be eliminated but Adam Davenport needs to be eliminated but Adam Davenport needs to be eliminated but I won't hurt my brother." Chase's eyelids droop suddenly and he falls limp against the cot, jerking slightly.
"What's going on?" Bree says over Donald's shoulder, panicky.
"Seizure," Donald mumbles, hands fluttering over Chase's limp body. "Just wait it out… it's okay, buddy. You're okay." He keeps mumbling to Chase, who doesn't respond.
Adam looks mortified. Bree reaches over and clutches his hand. "C'mon, Chase," she whispers.
Finally, Chase opens his eyes again.
And lunges at Adam.
"Hey, hey," Leo yells, restraining Chase as best he can. Chase still has the cuffs on but he doesn't seem to care. He shoves as hard as he can at Leo. The creepiest thing is is face is completely blank, calm. His eyes are zeroed in on Adam and his fists are clenched, his nails digging into his palms.
Donald helps Leo force Chase back against the cot, where he keeps writhing, his eyes never leaving Adam. "Alright, get out," Donald says, looking from Douglas to Adam, Bree and Leo. "Everybody out."
This time, they listen.
An hour later, Donald comes to find the kids and Douglas in the cafeteria. He looks exhausted, his face drawn. He joins them at a table, looking wary. "He's asleep," he says quietly. "We need to talk."
No one knows when it started, when the intricate array of neurons and electrical impulses and emotions that constructed Chase Davenport began to fray, began to break apart and reform all twisted and off-center. But they know it was triggered by the introduction of the updated super chip to his nervous system. And they now know, finally, how it affects him.
"We can't just make him a new chip," Donald says, hands clasped in front of him. "His neural network has changed too much. Any other chip we give him, his brain will just update it back into this pure-logic state again."
"Then can't we just take his chip out and leave him be?" Bree says, anxiously fidgeting with her fingernails. "I mean, he might be mad, but normal Chase is better than brainiac Chase. Or… creepy logic Chase."
Donald sighs. "Except he won't be 'normal,'" he says. "It's like… Leo, do you mind if I disable the bionics in your arm, just for a minute? Just to explain something?"
Leo glances at his arm, at Donald, and then nods. Donald stands up and goes to the nearest console before plugging in a few lines of code and hitting a switch. Leo flexes his arm. "Yep, back to puny," he says, his half-grin not hitting his eyes. "What's the deal?"
Donald grabs two ten-pound weights from the floor. "Hold this," he says, holding one toward Leo's left arm. He takes it, stooping a little but managing a grip. "Now hold this," Donald says, putting the other weight in Leo's right hand. He drops it immediately, jumping back.
"Sorry, that… that's too heavy."
"I know," Donald says. "Your left arm developed normally, and with all your training, you actually- amazing as it is- have some muscle mass there. But over on your right arm, you've relied on your bionics for so many years that your body doesn't function the same without them."
"Uh-huh," Leo says, setting the weight in his left hand back down by the training equipment. Donald flips his bionics back on. "And that's what Chase is like?"
"Yes," Donald says. "Only for him it's even more prevalent because it's his brain, and his whole nervous system. And because he's had bionics for his entire life. Removing his chip, especially after it's become so integrated with his system over the past year… I mean, he wouldn't just be 'not smart,' he might not remember how to breathe. His memory wouldn't hold anything. I don't even know what exactly would happen because no one else's bionics are quite like Chase's."
"He wants to kill me," Adam says suddenly. "But… but he doesn't want to want to kill me, right?"
Donald rubs a hand over his face. "Something like that," he says. "The logical part of his brain is yelling at him to take out every bionic human. That's you, Adam, Bree, Leo, and the whole academy. And there's a part of him, definitely, fighting that, but it's losing. And every time he tries to counteract his own logic his brain fritzes out on him. I don't know how to fix this. I don't know how to fix this."
Bree reaches over and rests a hand on top of Donald's, but of course she doesn't know what to do either. None of them do.
But Chase does.
When they file back into the infirmary later to check on him, Leo's the first to realize what's going on. Chase's bed empty, the cuffs discarded on the floor. And across the room, Chase stands facing the window holding a scalpel up to his own neck.
He turns when he hears them come in. "Chase!"
"What are you doing?"
Chase turns around and looks at his family, his bionic eye flashing on and off like a warning light. "Faulty information," he says, sounding winded. "Corrupt data. You. Bionic humans must be eliminated bionic humans must be eliminated bionic humans must be eliminated no I won't I won't hurt them." Before even Bree can reach him, he slices the scalpel down and, in one swift movement, carves his own chip out of his neck.
ONE YEAR LATER
Naomi's there to greet them when they show up, all chubby cheeks and wobbly little legs. "Bee!" she squeals when Bree lifts her up. Adam makes silly faces at her and Leo ruffles her hair, tugging one of her curls lightly so it sproi-oi-oings back to her.
"Where's Mama?" Bree asks, setting Naomi down in the living room.
"I'm here," Tasha answers her, popping up from behind a counter. "About to get dinner started. That is, if somebody doesn't ruin the little one's appetite with Girl Scout cookies."
Adam looks up guiltily and hides the box of Thin Mints behind his back while Naomi makes grabby hands for it. "No idea what you mean, Tasha."
She rolls her eyes at him and goes back to cooking while Adam manages to sneak Naomi a cookie. "Your father's upstairs with Chase."
They all nod and head toward the stairs.
Chase's room is big, decorated with a real bed and heavy curtains and tons of original artwork by Naomi, hung up carefully with Scotch tape. Chase sits in a cushy armchair by the window, engaged in an animated conversation in sign language with Donald, who's perched on the edge of the bed.
"Oh, hey," Donald says softly when he notices Adam, Bree and Leo walk in. "Chase, look," he says, signing as he talks. "Your brothers and sister came to visit. I told you they would."
Chase's eyes focus on each of them individually and then a small smile lights up his face. He pulls out his tablet and starts messing with it as Donald beckons for the kids to come all the way into the room.
Carefully, Chase pulls up the photo database on his tablet and matches each face to a file. Bree, he signs at her. Adam. Leo.
"If you need help translating," Donald says, "I can-"
"No, we're good," Bree says. "We've all been practicing." She sits on the futon next to the armchair and signs to Chase. You're getting good at names.
Hard to remember. Head gets full. He taps his tablet then and smiles. It helps.
"I wanna talk to him," Adam says, squeezing next to Bree. Hi buddy.
Chase looks down at his tablet and then back up again. Hi Adam, he signs. Watch more Shark Boy?
Leo sits beside Donald on the bed and watches as Chase actually laughs at some joke Adam signed to him. "Has he told you why he did it?"
Leo asks the same thing every time they visit.
Donald wraps an arm around Leo and hugs him close. "He doesn't need to," he whispers, watching Bree and Adam sign I love you to Chase, watching Chase sign it back to them. "I know why he did it."
Downstairs, Tasha calls them all for dinner.
A/N: This came out a lot differently than I thought it would, but I hope y'all liked it. Chase's bionics are so weird and I think there's a lot to be explored with the effect his bionic brain actually has on him as a person. Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading.
Oh, and if you're wondering, at the end Chase has basically lost the ability to form and retain memories for long periods of time. He's also partially deaf. Talking/listening is difficult for him because a.) the part of his brain that produces verbal speech is damaged/not accessible without his bionics and b.) without his supersenses active he can't hear very well.