The machine let out a sustained, high pitched tone.
Hana reached over B and turned it off, then turned to Jason. “Thank you.”
A short time later, the two stood outside the room and watched as hospital staff did what was necessary.
The young man seemed more cheerful than Jessica would have expected. She opened her second set of eyes, the ones only she could see, to check her assumption. He was surrounded by a pale yellow aura, dim enough that she’d normally consider it irrelevant but it was completely clear. A normal person’s emotions were never like that. There was always at least a few streaks of conflicting color.
She touched the button and the intercom crackled. “Good morning Jason.”
He looked directly at her, as if he could see through the one way glass.
“Jessica Healer?” he asked.
“I suppose I should have expected this when I was instructed to meet you in an interrogation room.”
“I don’t think that’s what they’re actually called. There’s usually some sort of euphemism involved in these things.” she said, making sure to color her words with a bit of amusement. She’d have to be careful, balance out the impersonal nature of their interaction as best she could.
The operative shook his head. “No, I understand. My difficulties have all dealt with an inability to properly control my behavior while in the grip of strong emotion. Counseling commonly involves such and you cannot be expected to risk death in an attempt to help me. At least, not without at least rudimentary precautions.”
“Essentially correct. I’m glad you’re being so understanding.” she said.
He shrugged. “It is not so different from my previous experiences. Mother insisted that I wear a blindfold during my sessions in childhood.”
Jessica didn’t answer at first. “Did you find those sessions… useful? Productive?”
“I was too young to judge and do not recall them clearly enough to say now. I believe my mother was unsatisfied as they did not continue for long.”
Neither spoke for a few moments.
“Where should we begin?” Jason broke the silence.
“Normally, I’d suggest we spend some time getting to know one another, build a rapport before any discussing anything substantial. In your case, I don’t think that would be useful.”
“No. There are two people I trust and in both cases it is the result of action, not mere conversation.” he agreed.
“Very well. Then let’s just dig in. Is there anything you’d like to tell me? Something you want to get off your chest?” she asked.
The yellow faded, was replaced by a very, very pale red. The same level of fear, nervousness really, that she’d associate with an abstract concern in most people. In Jason’s case, it probably indicated something just short of terror.
“Jennifer Awesome is essentially enslaved by her power. It forces her to constantly seek the esteem of those around and aware of her. Further, it is capable of manipulating events and individuals, including her, in order to do so.” The red took on a silver tone as he spoke, his rising shock mirrored on his face.
“How- how did I say that? I’ve tried- tried to explain it. Hector, Robert- it always came out garbled or…”
Silver and red to blue, hope.
“I am an empath, receptive and projective. Right now, I’m suppressing my own responses.” she explained. “At this distance, with your previous… regard for Operative Awesome, her power will not act to keep you from speaking to yourself. It does not seem to… perceive- for lack of a better term- individuals incapable of the response it’s seeking.”
Blue and silver, wonder. “You’re… you’re like me?”
“For a time. It’s… difficult for me to maintain. As of now, I am one of four people employed by the Citadel that is functionally immune to the ‘Awesome’ effect.”
All the colors cut out. She’d never seen that before, not without chemical intervention.
“You, me, William Power and… who? Another Null I presume, someone I have not heard of.”
“No, not you.” she corrected, her tone as gentle as she could manage.
“Oh.” he said, very quietly. A bit of black crept in. “I suppose… I should have realized. My… my emotional state. It’s been changing, ever since…”
Hard to be sure at this range, but she thought she could see tears in his eyes. The black was growing.
“Her power did this to me, didn’t it.” he said. It wasn’t a question.
“We don’t know. It’s possible. We’re not entirely clear on her limits. But-” She cut in just as the black started to flare. “But! It seems unlikely. If anything, the effect’s gotten stronger since you left her. That could simply mean that her ability set something in motion, made a fundamental change in you that remained even after you left her presence. More likely, there’s something else happening that we don’t understand, something to do with your own Empowerment.”
The black was still there, but fainter.
“Can you… fix me? Make me… make me the way I was?”
She thought about what her life had been like since Bruce spoke to her, told her what she’d have to do. It wasn’t… wasn’t unpleasant, not really. It wasn’t… anything.
“No. As I said, it takes a constant effort on my part to maintain this state. I can’t do it to someone else at the same time, probably couldn’t do it at all. The only reason it’s possible for me is that I can feel my own emotions more easily than others.’ I’m always aware of what I’m feeling and why.”
“Then what is it that you wish to do?” he asked.
“I can’t take your feelings away, can’t make you… numb.” Thank god. “But I can help you learn to deal with them. What you’ve been going through… From what I’m sensing, you aren’t experiencing strong emotions. If anything, they’re significantly weaker than most people’s. You’ve simply never needed to learn how to deal with them.”
“If… if that is all that I can get, than I shall take it. But… is there no one who can do as I asked?” Jessica closed her other eyes. She didn’t want to look at the colors that went with that.
“I… I don’t know for sure. It’s… maybe. Are you willing to try it my way first? Just… just give it a few weeks. If we don’t make progress… I’ll see what I can do.”
Jason didn’t answer as he visibly thought about it. “Very well.”
She let out a breath. “Good. In that case Jason, this is what simple happiness feels like.”