Donald Davenport struggled to open his eyes. His head was pounding in pain and the light was too bright, but from what he could hear going on around him he knew he had to push himself back to awareness. When he finally managed to open his eyes what he saw before him was a scene from his worst nightmare.
Douglas, his deranged and somehow no-longer-frozen brother, managed to infiltrate the lab; Donald couldn't remember all of the details. It also wasn't clear how Douglas suspended him above Leo's "mission specialist" console neatly trapping him and giving him a bird's eye view of the unfolding scene – probably some sort of electromagnetic field - Donald could see and hear everything but couldn't move a muscle, not even to speak. Everything Douglas had managed to do in the time while Donald was unconscious was rapidly spiraling from bad to worse.
Right off the bat it was clear that Douglas was in control of Adam's bionics. Donald leaned casually against the console in front of the sleeping capsules. He was holding a device similar to the remote control they'd destroyed in the past, inputting commands that Adam responded to immediately, which at the moment included capturing his little brother. Bree was struggling to free herself from a set of handcuffs that were attached on one end to a rebar pipe inside the rock wall; Adam obviously punched his way through to attach one cuff and managed to get the other cuff on Bree before she could speed away. Meanwhile, Chase was trying to evade Adam without causing any damage to his older brother; Adam, under Douglas' control, did not have the same inhibitions.
Donald winced as a thundering crash accompanied the collision of a training barrel with the wall just above Chase's head near the lab's double door entrance. Chase dove for cover behind a console. Douglas laughed as he called out, "Good thing for you, Chase, I'm not completely accurate using my new toy."
"He's my brother! Not a toy!" Chase yelled back in anger.
"Oh Chase," Douglas responded, as though speaking to a very young child, "that's all any of you ever were…expensive toys. Or in this case, an expensive weapon. And now I finally get to use them the way they were meant to be used." Douglas' expression was self-satisfied and an ugly gleam lit his eyes as he followed the action around the lab.
Chase, using his super senses could tell exactly where Adam was even if he couldn't see him, and using his smarts could calculate Adam's trajectory so that he could move to a new spot before Adam arrived. While Adam stalked past Bree and the rock wall behind the big computer console, Chase stayed low and with a diving roll hid behind the far side of Leo's station. By the time Adam strode into the space near the doors Chase was out of sight. But since Douglas was the one controlling Adam and he knew where Chase was, he simply gave a signal to Adam by remote which had Chase on the move again.
"You know, I've been thinking about this, ever since our time together on the mountain, Chase," Douglas said as though he was picking up the lost threads of a conversation. "Things that you said about 'family'…right here in this very lab…before you froze me…" Douglas was becoming increasingly agitated and his voice rose in anger.
Douglas turned slightly toward the side, took a deep breath and spoke to himself, "Think calm thoughts, think calm thoughts…" It was a habit Donald recognized from their childhood.
Donald struggled to move against the invisible bonds that held him while Douglas was distracted, but his efforts were wasted.
Douglas straightened up and sent Adam after Chase again. Once again he continued talking. "I've thought a lot about family – the one I was born into and the one I created and I realized something…you've got something in common with Donald that I never anticipated."
Chase paused where he was; ready to make a break for cover closer to the capsules, but unable to help himself from listening to Douglas. Chase glanced at the man who once called himself "father" to the three bionic teens and Douglas stared at Chase with a look of utter loathing that chilled Donald to his core. "It's the smart ones that betray you." Donald growled.
Chase was so caught up in listening to Douglas that he didn't respond to Adam's approach. Only Bree's cry of "Chase!" snapped him out of it.
Chase whipped around. Still in a crouch, he sideswiped Adam's legs. While Adam was off-balance, Chase stood and ran toward the capsules. Adam quickly got back on his feet and stalked toward him. Chase maintained the distance between them walking backward, but this time he didn't try to hide. "Adam! Adam! You don't want to do this!" he pleaded.
"You disappoint me, Chase," Douglas fiddled with the controls on his remote, pretending not to watch the situation with eager interest. "You should know that he's got no free will. Not anymore."
Chase kept walking but his face took on a determined cast that Donald knew so well. "You can't take him from us. Not like this."
Douglas held out his hands wide before him and nearly took a bow. "I already have."
Douglas chuckled, this too was familiar to Donald; it was the way Douglas laughed when he came up with a particularly nasty way to hurt someone. Once again Donald struggled against his bonds, but it was useless. As though Douglas could sense his struggle, his brother turned to him and smiled. "Let's try something new, shall we?"
Douglas slipped a mini-microphone over his ear. "Voice command," he instructed.
By this time, Chase was nearly a quarter of the way around the lab. He'd passed the spot where Bree was tethered to the rock wall. Adam moved at an equal pace and was nearly past Bree's capsule. Douglas yelled, "Attack!"
Adam sprang into motion and Chase braced himself for impact. But Bree screamed out, "Stop!" in Douglas' voice, and Adam froze in mid-step, right in front of Bree.
"Get him!" Douglas growled.
"Get him!" Bree repeated, pointing at Douglas with her free, left hand.
Adam responded instantly to each new command, practically spinning in a circle. "You forget, Princess, that I still have this." Douglas waved the remote in the air. With no warning, Adam spun around once again and side-armed Bree right across the face. She collapsed against the wall, unconscious; the only thing keeping her upright was her handcuffed hand.
"NO!" screamed Chase. A force field, larger than Donald had ever seen Chase produce before, flew from his hands and flung Adam off of his feet. As Chase ran over to check on Bree, Adam climbed to his feet. Chase straightened and stood protectively in front of Bree, but then Donald noticed something in Chase's stance that was disturbing.
No, no, no! This is bad! This is WORSE than bad!
Somewhere between checking on Bree and turning to face Adam, Spike had arrived. If Chase was in Commando Mode, all of the restraint that he'd been using up to this point would be out the window. With Douglas controlling Adam, the brawl could end up being a death match.
Chase made the first move, which surprised Douglas. When Chase ran flat out at Adam, grabbed him around the waist and used his momentum to slam the bigger boy against the center capsule, Douglas was taken aback. "What's this?" he asked aloud. He sounded delighted.
While Douglas busied himself at the capsule console trying to figure out what had gotten into Chase, the battle continued. Adam flung Chase against the console where Douglas was reading intently. Douglas waved them away, "Not here, boys…Daddy's working."
Adam launched a punch at Chase's face, but Chase evaded it causing Adam to smash the console instead. Douglas stamped his foot impatiently at being interrupted. "Adam!" he ordered, "take the fight over there!"
Adam obeyed tossing Chase like a Frisbee across the lab and following right after him like a well trained dog. Douglas gave his attention again to the readout on the console, ignoring the destruction going on behind him. "Huh. This commando response is a glitch?" He turned to Donald. "Sometimes the best things are happy accidents. Who knew?"
Douglas turned back toward the console and read the data while he mused out loud. "I had every intention of coming in here today, taking back Adam and Bree and leaving Chase with you." Douglas looked up where Donald was suspended and smiled. "Leaving his body, actually."
Douglas' eyes squinted as his anger returned. "It would serve him right after the way he tricked me. Just like you…just like you…" He took a deep breath and stared ahead. "You think you're so smart and you passed that right on to Chase. I thought maybe after you had to bury him you'd learn your lesson."
A crash got Douglas' attention. He turned toward the far end of the lab where the battle still raged. Although Chase had quickness and an eye for strategy compounded by the aggression and fearlessness of Spike, he still was no match for Adam's strength in hand-to-hand combat, especially in a no-holds-barred fight. Donald was dismayed to see that although the boys' mission suits were intact, they both were bleeding in unprotected areas.
An errant pipe flung by Chase crashed into Leo's station and Donald heard a whimper float up from underneath. Oh God, Leo! Has he been hiding under there the whole time?
Donald's heart was in his throat as Douglas headed that way, but he was totally absorbed in the fight between Adam and Chase and walked right on by. In his mind Donald prayed that Leo would be able to get some help, but he knew that the help Leo usually went for was either suspended in mid-air, unconscious or fighting it out.
Chase's original strategy of keeping his distance from Adam would've served him better; now that the battle had been engaged he was on the losing end. Douglas watched with morbid interest until finally Adam had Chase pinned on the floor, his left hand on Chase's throat keeping him immobile, with his right fist raised to deliver a deadly blow.
"Stop." Douglas commanded.
Both of the boys were breathing hard and Chase continued to try and break out of Adam's hold. "Change of plans," Douglas announced cheerily. "Get him up."
In one motion, Adam climbed to his feet and lifted Chase off the floor with his left hand around his younger brother's throat. Chase didn't have enough strength in his hands to break Adam's grip, and he didn't have the length in his legs to get any leverage against Adam's body. Adam obediently followed Douglas back to the capsules. Maybe it was his imagination, but Donald thought Adam wasn't responding as quickly to Douglas' commands as he had before.
Movement from across the lab caught Donald's eye. Quietly so as not to draw attention to herself, Bree climbed back onto her feet. She avidly watched Douglas and the rest of her appeared to be still as a stone. Donald squinted and looked closer; even in her sleep, Bree was never that still. Bree pulled her chained wrist high enough to cause tension along the cuff around the rebar. She was moving her wrist back and forth almost too fast for the human eye to detect. Donald's heart soared – with enough friction, Bree could cause enough heat to melt the handcuff in the wall and free herself.
"Stand there just a minute while I fix this…" Douglas motioned to Chase's capsule. Adam carried Chase over to the capsule platform and opened the door to the center tube. Adam stood impassively with his hand loosely circling Chase's throat, but at least he'd put the smaller boy down so he could breathe. Again, in the blink of an eye, Donald saw Chase change. A moment before he was struggling against the hold Adam had him in, and now he was using Adam's strength to help keep him upright.
Intuitively Douglas sensed the change as well. "Are you back here with us, Chase?" he asked casually looking around Adam's broad back to get a view of the smaller boy.
Chase was still struggling to breathe and didn't respond. It didn't bother Douglas; he was always his own best audience. "That was an impressive display. It was so impressive, in fact, that it might make you worth keeping."
"I figured when I came here today I'd be leaving with 'The Hustle and The Muscle'. Why would I need a bionic smart guy when I'm the smartest guy I know? Especially when the so called 'smart guy'" Douglas used air quotes to emphasize his sarcasm "is the one who will stab you in the back" he glared at Donald "or freeze you in your tracks."
Douglas' fingers flew across the capsule console as he talked. Bree continued to work on the handcuffs. And Leo… hopefully Leo would stay hidden.
"But you've showed me something new today, Chase, and never let it be said that I won't try new things. Hey, aren't I the guy who put untested bionic chips in genetically engineered humans?"
From his vantage point, Donald could see the changes in calibration his sociopath brother was making to Chase's capsule. It galled him to admit it, but when it came to programming, Douglas was a certified genius. He had no intention of fixing the commando glitch – he intended to make it permanent and wipe out everything that made Chase who he was.
Donald tried again to do something, anything, to help, to move, to communicate! He willed Chase to look at him but Chase's attention was someplace. Surprisingly, Chase wasn't focused on Douglas. He was fixated on something happening just below the place where Donald was suspended in mid-air. A spot below Leo's station. Exactly where Leo was hiding.
Chase's eyes cut left toward Douglas, but he was absorbed in his calculations. Adam was impassive, waiting for the next instruction. Chase's gaze cut right, back to where Leo was hiding. Donald could see him moving his hands. He was trying to show Leo something. Donald strained, but he couldn't move his head down to see what was going on right under his feet.
A loud clap got everyone's attention. Douglas was finished. He rubbed his hands together in satisfaction. Donald's pulse started to pound in his ears. Time was running out. Everything was falling apart, literally right in front of him.
"With a push of this button I can wipe out your programming and make that glitch I just saw your default setting." Douglas gloated.
Chase's eyes widened at the implications. "No!" he choked out in horror. Donald's heart clenched.
"Yes!" Douglas taunted.
Chase managed to pull away from Adam, but there was nowhere to retreat but further back into the capsule. Adam had his left hand on the frame and his right hand on the door. But he didn't look right to Donald. He looked weary.
"Oh! Oh! I want to try this first…" Douglas was like a kid on Christmas with a new toy as he picked up the remote controlling Adam.
"Adam, please," Chase pleaded. "Let me out."
"How small can I make this pulse?" Douglas asked himself as he fiddled with the controls.
"I can't be Spike…I can't be Spike permanently." Chase swallowed hard. "Please Adam, you have to let me out."
Donald was dismayed to see blue motes of energy gathering around Adam just like they had the first time he unlocked his hidden power. Chase saw it too and his eyes went wide. Adam was shaking his head, and now he was using the door and the frame to hold himself up instead of keeping Chase in.
An intense blue light burst out of Adam directly into Chase. It was a much smaller blast than the one that had leveled Douglas' secret lair, but it had exactly the effect Douglas was looking for. Chase collapsed unconscious against the back wall of his capsule. Adam was driven to his knees by the backlash of the blast.
"That's a neat little trick! I'm going to have so much fun cataloguing all the things I can make you kids do!" chuckled Douglas.
"That's what you think!" announced Leo.
Donald squeezed his eyes shut tightly willing Leo to vanish someplace safe. Don't be a hero, Leo! For once be a frightened, selfish kid who runs away from danger, not toward it.
"Oh," Douglas rolled his eyes, "I should've figured you'd make an appearance, Dooley."
He waved his left hand in Leo's direction, dismissing him. "No exoskeleton armor this time? And I know you have no bionics. What are you going to fight me with?"
"Knowledge and keen observation!" Leo announced confidently. "And a great deal of luck." he muttered as an aside.
Douglas snorted and turned his attention back to Adam. "Close the door." he commanded. "Let's finish this and go home."
Adam stood up slowly. He leaned heavily on the door frame, but didn't bring the door closed. He stood facing the crumpled form of his little brother and ignored the instruction.
"Close the door and step away." Douglas repeated.
Adam's head slowly dropped. Donald could see the tension in his shoulders increasing. He was fighting with everything he had not to give in to Douglas' commands.
"I knew you were stupid, Adam." spat Douglas as he strode around the capsule console toward the oldest bionic teen, "but even for you this is ridiculous." Douglas shook the remote in Adam's face. "I control you're bionics. I control every muscle in your body!"
"You don't control his heart," stated Leo from somewhere below Donald.
Douglas spun to face Leo with his arms outstretched. "The heart IS a muscle!"
"Not that heart. Look at him." Leo stepped into Donald's line of sight as he moved toward the capsule console. "You can't control his completely human, non-bionic, big brother heart."
"What?!" Douglas was exasperated.
"You can make Adam fight Chase, they do that all the time…but you can't make Adam kill Chase." Leo stated like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Like he was moving underwater, Adam took a slow step backwards; the door to Chase's capsule remained firmly in his grasp. His head was still down and his body was shaking with tension from head to toe, but he did not release the door. Douglas glared angrily at the remote in his hand and turned all of the controls as high as they would go.
"Let go of that door and close the capsule!" screamed Douglas.
Adam's breathing was ragged and strained, but he took another step back in defiance of Douglas. Douglas didn't notice Leo taking off his watch and laying it on the command console. Leo glanced to the right at Bree who waved her now free right hand at him.
"Eddie! NOW!" Leo yelled.
Leo's watch, containing travel-sized Eddie, lit up. The power grid around the capsules went out and the console went black. Bree made a dash toward the capsules and seized Chase. Leo grabbed a hockey stick from under the console and swung it like a bat at something under Donald's feet. He heard a metallic crunch, and then suddenly he was in free fall.
"NOOOO!" Douglas wailed. "Dooooley! You ruin everything!"
In a rage Douglas ran around the powerless console aiming for Leo. For the first time in what felt like hours, Donald had the ability to do something, and it gave him great pleasure to punch his conniving, desperate, crazy brother in the face. His nose gave a satisfying crunch as it broke and he fell to the floor. Douglas glared at Donald from behind his bloody hands. It was like he was daring him to finish the job.
Before Donald could react, a squadron of Davenport Industry security personnel burst into the lab from both entrances. They quickly secured the Douglas and took him away. Donald couldn't even contemplate what level of security they'd need to hold him this time, but it was the last thing on his mind.
With the remote he secured from Douglas in his hand, Donald approached the capsule where Adam was crouched. The oldest bionic teen was still trembling in reaction to what he'd been through. Donald dialed back all of the command levels on the remote but with no power and nothing up and running he hadn't had time to reprogram Adam so he was his own master once again.
Donald crouched so he was face to face with Adam. "You're okay, Adam. I'll fix this and you'll be back to yourself in no time."
Adam shook his head in the negative. "Chase."
Bree approached cautiously. She had Chase slung on her back in a modified fireman carry; he was still unconscious. His arms were draped loosely around her shoulders and she was holding him in place with her right hand. Donald's gut clenched when he saw what looked like a bloody bracelet danglling from her wrist.
Adam spoke again. "Chase first."
Donald nodded, he understood. Adam wouldn't abide being treated knowing Chase needed help too. Solemnly, Donald handed the remote to Adam. As Donald stood, Adam eased himself to the floor, but he didn't let go of the door to Chase's capsule.
Donald placed his hand on Adam's bowed head. "I'll fix this. I'll fix all of it. I promise." He only hoped it was a promise he could keep.