"Welcome to High Society," Warren said to Hal and Tessa. Madrox was elsewhere, keeping a low profile. Mutations were not a crime in this world, but Madrox's unique ability would make him a target for prejudice. "We're at this party to make friends. The people to look out for are Tony Stark, Lex Luthor, and Bruce Wayne. They're the largest shareholders of New York, Metropolis, and Gotham's biggest corporations. It's a stroke of luck we made it to the guest list, so try and be polite."
Warren stifled the urge to adjust his collar; he was used to much more expensive suits, and his wings were sore. He picked Lex Luthor as the first man to approach. There were two reasons: Warren was in Metropolis, Lex Luthor's city, and the bald man was easiest to spot in a crowd. "Mr. Luthor."
Lex turned with an air of disinterest. His bodyguard took a step forward, but Lex held him back. "What can I do for you, Mister..."
"My name is Warren Worthington. I've acquired a few patents that might interest you." Lex continued did not react, so Warren continued. "For example, I read that your company was competing for a non-lethal sidearm for the Metropolis Police Department. I happen to have a patent for a weapon that exceeds the requirements."
"I wish you luck in your endeavor." With that simple dismissal, Lex turned away from Warren and returned to what he was doing. Warren started to follow, but the bodyguard stopped him.
"He was distracted," Warren explained to Hal. "He wasn't paying attention to me, something else had his eye." He looked around the room. "Probably Lois Lane or Superman," he added more quietly.
Warren searched the room again and picked out Bruce Wayne. Gotham was closer to Metropolis than New York, and Bruce Wayne was more likely to invest in a new business than Tony Stark. Bruce had a supermodel on his arm as he spoke to other prominent businessmen. "Mr. Wayne."
Bruce blinked at him absentmindedly. "Hello, how are you?" He shook his hand.
"Mr. Wayne, my name is Warren Worthington. Are you busy?"
"Bruce, please. Not with anything important. What can I do for you, Mr. Worthington?"
"Warren. I'm interested in starting a company, but I'm afraid I don't have any references. Banks like references." He gave Bruce an easy smile that made the supermodel sigh, and Bruce politely laughed. "If you would be willing to vouch for me, I can finally get on my own two feet."
Bruce smirked. "I'm sympathetic, Warren, I really am, but I can't let everyone who needs help put me down as a reference. Especially a virtual stranger."
"I understand, Bruce. That's why I'm also offering to give you a handful of exclusive patents. Tessa here has the details."
Tessa stepped forward, her arm looped through Hal's. "Hello, Mr. Wayne." Bruce gave an expected, flourished greeting in response. "Mr. Worthington has acquired several patents that might be of interest to Wayne Enterprises ..." By the end of her pitch, Bruce Wayne looked very interested. He responded by giving Warren his business card and the card for Bruce's associate, Lucius Fox.
"Now I make my presence known and smile to as many people as possible," Warren told his companions. "If you two want to leave, feel free. I was raised in this kind of atmosphere, but it's still an acquired taste." They took him up on his offer.
Hal and Tessa walked down the sidewalk towards the Park. "I don't think I told you yet, but that dress looks great on you." Her dress was more of a gown. It was solid blue, a shade that suited her complexion. "You should wear a dress more often."
"They don't suit me," she said stiffly. "You don't enjoy that tuxedo, either."
"True." They continued on a few steps. "I think you look nice, though."
A light pink rose in her cheeks. "Thank you." She smiled at him. "My Mutation makes it easy to compartmentalize what I did on the battlefield. I'm lucky to be able to adapt so quickly."
"What do you mean?"
Tessa stopped walking and took his hand. There was so much more to the woman than Hal realized. "For twenty years, while you were hopping universes, I was fighting wars. The Middle East isn't a safe place, and at first I was thrilled to move to America. Then the Mutant Registration Act passed. One hotspot to another. It's strange to think that's what I've done most of my life, yet today I'm starting a business with my comrades and new boyfriend."
Hal grinned to hear his title from her lips. "I don't think I can give up traveling worlds forever. I'm ... you are lucky." Two decades was a long time. He was so used to dimensional travel, using his Mutation, that staying too long on one world was a frightening concept. At the same time, part of him felt like staying was the right thing to do, that it was what he and Tessa deserved. "I wish I could just settle down."
"Warren and Madrox need us right now. Once they're established, we'll try and find a telepath so we can establish a link between our Mutations." Tessa hesitated. "There's a problem. I haven't found a single reference to human telepaths. There might not be any."
Hal shrugged. "So find a nonhuman one."
Tessa laughed. "Simple answers are always the best. Martian Manhunter." Hal did not know who she meant, but kept his smile. He was reminded that she enjoyed her share of comic books, despite her earlier denial. "This world is going to work out for us," she promised.
"Estranged Son Returns to Build Empire," read the headline. Warren Kenneth Worthington III was the center of attention, a man who suddenly appeared on the corporate stage. He was a home-schooled wonder who owned enough patents to rival any company in the Fortune 500. Worthington Industries grew to a hundred-million-dollar corporation seemingly overnight. With official standing came freedom for Hal and Tessa. It was time to plan their first departure, and that meant finding a telepath.
Hal and Tessa were technically under employ as consultants, and their home was bought and paid for by Worthington Industries. The building had originally been a three-story warehouse. Half the interior was living space, converted from offices. The second floor contained a quartet of dormitory-style rooms and a restroom, while the top floor was a full-fledged apartment. There was a lounge, kitchen, and dining room at the base of the stairs, with doors leading outside and to the warehouse proper.
The storage area was where the building earned its upkeep. It was designed to be a training area for metahumans. Mutants were not yet in the public eye, but Warren believed in Xavier's Dream. He would willingly take up the mantle of Charles Xavier to protect Mutants – natural-born metahumans. Even if no one had yet heard of them.
"We need to talk," Tessa told Hal. It was one year after their arrival. The warehouse, 335 Sheridan Street, had been finished for several weeks, and Worthington Industries was a prominent business.
Hal smiled, suspecting the subject. One year was longer than he had spent anywhere, short of his original home. He was ready to leave. "Are we ready to contact Martian Manhunter?"
Tessa nodded, but her hand was held up to forestall his enthusiasm. She was not entirely successful. "Before we do, there are a few things we need to make clear. To start Worthington Industries, we stole a lot of patents. The ones we used were either expired, or filed by personal friends, but not everyone would see our actions as moral. In order for Martian Manhunter to help us, we have to explain the truth about everything. He can't think our motives are less than pure."
Hal blinked a couple of times. Using his Mutation for interdimensional thievery had never occurred to him. Now that she mentioned it, then temptation would always be there so long as he had a place to call home. That meant he needed to make a unilateral decision on the matter, and install precautions to prevent him from giving into temptation. "You're right," Hal finally said. They had to tell the Justice League everything. "It isn't even a matter of Martian Manhunter trusting us. I don't want to become a thief, Tessa."
There was a measure of pride in the smile she gave him. "Then your purpose hasn't changed? You still want to map out the Multiverse?"
"Exploration is part of the human spirit," Hal said in a paraphrase of a Star Trek episode. He supposed that Captain Picard felt similarly before his first voyage about the USS Enterprise. "Yes, that's what I want. What about you?"
Tessa did not directly answer his question, but there was no doubt in her response. "It's time we contacted the Justice League."
In the Sheridan warehouse was a transmitter that connected to Worthington Industry's fledgling communications satellite network. Tessa used the console in their shared apartment to send a transmission to the Watchtower, the space station that served as home to the Justice League. Hal did not hold his breath as he waited for his girlfriend to make an appointment to see the Martian Manhunter.
The Watchtower was one of the more impressive places Hal had seen over the years. In all his travels, Hal had never been to space. It was marvelous to see stars without the Earth obstructing his view. More impressive was the size and technology of the Watchtower itself. The station was larger than Hal had imagined.
Contrarily, superheroes and aliens did not even make Hal bat an eye. He was used to seeing both from the countless worlds he had visited. Even though all were duplicates of Earth, a lot of variation occurred on that one, small planet.
J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter was a green-skinned alien with a humanoid silhouette. He was one of the more exotic denizens aboard the Watchtower, yet far from the strangest creature either Hal or Tessa had encountered. "Ms. Niles tells me that you are dimensional travelers. Do you have any proof for this claim?"
"Only in our memories," Hal replied. "The nature of my Mutation – my metahuman ability – is to change the quantum signature of matter. When I cross into a new dimension, it almost feels like the entire universe changes and I stay still."
The Martian was thoughtful. "Perhaps there is a way. If you really are from a different reality, then there should be subtle differences in your DNA and any parasitic organisms in your body. With your permission, I would like to run a few tests."
Hal and Tessa readily agreed. The tests were conducted in the medical bay and involved a device not unlike an MRI. J'onn poured over the results in detail before he turned his attention back to his visitors. "There is enough evidence to support your claim with physical data. You requested my assistance. What is it you require?"
Tessa explained the nature of Hal's Mutation and her proposed solution with a psychic link. "I can maintain a link with my telepathy, but I lack the power to create a permanent rapport between our minds. That is why we sought you."
"There is great danger in your proposal," J'onn told them. "A permanent rapport will leave your minds constantly connected. You will not be able to choose what thoughts and feelings are transmitted in moments of strong emotion. If one of you is hurt, it could debilitate both of you."
"Will we also share intense pleasure?" Tessa immediately asked.
J'onn gave the slightest nod. "Of course. There are other dangers. A telepath can use the rapport against you, to gain entrance to or control of both your minds." He paused to let the weight of his words offset Tessa's question. "Take time to consider the ramifications. I will return shortly." The Martian Manhunter left them in the medical room to discuss their decision.
"I've been to worlds where telepathy became so widespread that they had to invent psi-dampers," Hal told Tessa. "We can use a device like that to prevent telepaths from infiltrating or manipulating our minds." Tessa did not respond, so Hal decided to make another point in favor of the rapport. "I liked your question."
This time Tessa gave the slightest smile. Her compartmentalized mind sometimes made it difficult for her to express emotion, but the small gesture was enough for Hal. "I gave Warren a psi-damper patent, but it would also block the rapport. This is your dream, Hal. I agree that it is worth the risk, even if it takes a long time to find a way to shield our minds." She used her telepathy to notified J'onn that they were ready.