Dechs Kaison sat behind the grand mahogany desk in his office, staring into the empty glass that still smelled of scotch. Instinctively, he reached for the flask in his coat pocket, then patted absently at his shirt, taking note that his coat was hanging on the rack by the door. If he was going to go that far, he might as well take another two steps to the minibar. With a frustrated grunt, he propped his feet up on the desk and glanced over at the fish tank. The two Indonesians were as beautiful and lazy as ever, floating about slower than even the minute hand on his gold Movado timepiece. Who would be first to arrive?
The sound of a sliding door was followed by the heavy footfalls of an armored boot; a reflection of red and gold appeared on the glass of the fish tank. Deathgrind was only ten minutes early today. His voice boomed, even from behind the mask, "I appreciate you making time to see me on such short notice."
Dechs planted his feet back on the ground and leaned forward in his chair, resting his chin in his hand and his elbow on the desk. Surprised, he wondered aloud, "Short notice? You gave me a week."
"I did? I could swear I only asked you yesterday." There was a genuine confusion in his voice. Then, after smacking the side of his helmet, Deathgrind offered, "Ugh, it must be the mender's disease. The search for her cure has given me side effects."
"Temporal distortion among them, I take it? Explains why I haven't been able to get a hold of you."
When Deathgrind nodded in reply, Dechs extended his open hand toward the leather chair across from himself. The heavy cape was tossed over the chair as Deathgrind slumped into it, displaying no small amount of fatigue. He did not even turn his head when the door opened again, perhaps only because he could already hear the old doctor mumbling as he shuffled into the office.
"I came by as soon as I could. What do you need?" George spoke with a faint shortness of breath that was overpowered by concern. Blood was spattered on the surgeon's sleeves, but had since dried.
"A glass of Glenlivet, thanks. Deathgrind will have his on the rocks." Dechs was holding his empty glass outward, tilting it back and forth in the air. "He'll need a straw, as well."
"I was under the impression this was about a patient, Ace." His tone turned coarse, particularly as he spoke the name 'Ace.' For all his frustration, George still took the glass back to the minibar.
"Relax, it is. Deathgrind has a unique case for us and I wanted you to hear the situation from him. Scotch first. Priorities, George."
George handed the iced glass to Deathgrind with a polite smile and nod. After sitting down, he placed the glass Dechs asked for on the edge of the desk, just outside of comfortable reach. George still smiled, albeit far less politely. George caught a brief glare from Dechs before watching him pick up a fountain pen to twirl between his fingers. Turning to face the guest in the room, George inclined, "So, what can you tell me about the case?"
"She's a mender, capable of healing a lot of things on her own, but she needs her own mending. It's as if all her internal organs are out of sync with each other. Lungs are too old, kidneys too young." Deathgrind drew some of the liquid up through the straw and behind his mask. "And it keeps changing."
"All of her organs, eh?" George was intrigued, even excited. He turned to his employer before speaking again, "Reminds me of the old days. She might even be as much work as you were."
"Really now?" Deathgrind had twisted in his chair to face the doctor. Meanwhile, Dechs narrowed his eyes and discretely dragged a line across his throat with the fountain pen he was twirling. Deathgrind persisted, "Dechs was a patient?"
"No no. I just mean..." the word trailed off as George thought of something to say, "Well, can you imagine how much work it took to get him this personable?" George burst into a believable guffaw that Deathgrind shared.
"Funny." Dechs broke the sound of laughter, "But I think you've got your work cut out for you now. Find any material you can on temporal afflictions and start looking over the scans Deathgrind brought. We'll schedule the mender to come in as soon as she can get here."
"Thank you, Dechs." Deathgrind produced a tiny red USB drive from a compartment within his gauntlet and handed it to George. "You too, George. I appreciate your collective expertise."
"We'll do everything we can." George hastily left the room.
Once the door closed, Dechs dove forward and used the fountain pen to hook his glass and pull it close. "Before we get to your test results, I want to ask how your half of the near perfect machine is coming along." While waiting for a reply, he gave the glass a turn, wafting its aroma before he took a sip.
"I've been preoccupied with the mender of late, but with you handling that, I could be ready for a live fire test run within the week."
"Excellent! We can watch it from my place." He drained the rest of his glass before changing the subject. "Anyway, your results. They're not at all what I expected. I was convinced you had a mutation that would be easy to spot, but that's just not the case. Everything about you appears completely human."
"So you have no explanation for my unnatural aptitude?"
"I didn't say that. I have a theory." Dechs watched more scotch travel through the straw for a moment, "Human DNA is riddled with flaws that hold us back, randomly dispersed throughout the genetic code and passed along every generation. I believe you just lucked out. Call it accidental eugenics. I mean, the odds are against it, but with six billion people living in the world and more born every day, someone had to miss all the flaws."
"That sounds a lot like evolution to me. What does George think?"
"He doesn't even know I ran tests for you. I respect how secretive you are, especially with your identity."
"You have a good mind to protecting information."
"Years of practice." Dechs grinned, then stood up and took his glass back to the minibar. "I'm still thirsty. You?"
Shaking his helmet as he stood up, Deathgrind refused, "Thank you, Dechs, but I should be on way."
"Oh no, you really shouldn't!" A nasal voice called into the room as the door slid open, and at the same time Deathgrind crumpled back down into his chair. He gripped tight to the sides of his helmet and writhed violently, helpless and silent.
In the doorway stood a man dressed as a nurse and bearing the most arrogant of grins beneath his sapphire blue eyes. His head was enormous, prominently so because it had been shaved clean. He strutted into the room, a menacing scowl finding its way to Dechs, and with his nasal voice, announced, "I've overloaded his senses. Every sound he's heard in the past week, every smell and taste, all compressed into a five second loop and bombarding his mind. That you do not experience the same is by my grace alone."
In response, Dechs raised his hands to about the level of his chin, palms openly displaying a lack of hostility. He spoke calmly, "I don't care what you're here for, Brain Boy." He paused, staunchly crossing his arms, then continued, "I am going to give you one chance to walk out of here unharmed."
"Mister Kaison," the psychic began with an annoyed tone that quickly faded to one of disinterest, "spare me your threats. I know all about you and I'm frightened by neither your connections nor your money. I am only here for information your patient likes to keep secret. Give me ten minutes in his head and let me leave. No trouble. No regrets. It's the safe bet." He finished his sentence with a heavy punctuation, emphasizing his poor use of casino lingo.
"Assaulting a client, and now you're mocking me. I only regret giving you the chance." Dechs moved his left foot forward, breaking his crossed arms to chamber his right fist.
"You gamble that I do not have the concentration to hold you both?" His eyes flared with a violent, piercing deep blue light. Dechs immediately halted his advance. "You will soon regret far more." At this, Dechs began to convulse, gripping the side of his head with one hand and across his gut with the other. A painful growl escaped from his mouth as he bent over and barely staggered forward.
Through a contorted face and clenched teeth, Dechs let out a shout that gradually failed to no more than a whimper, "Rrrrraaaah! Oh, the pain! Dear, sweet lord, save me! I want my mommy." Suddenly, the convulsions stopped as Dechs threw his right fist into the psychic's stomach. He stood up with a broad smile on his face and asked, "You said you knew all about me, right?"
The psychic, at first slumped and gasping from the sucker punch, slowly rose and tried to make a sound. It could have been a word, the beginnings of a spell, or no more than a cough. Without waiting to figure it out, Dechs drove another fist to the man's nose. He staggered back into the mahogany desk in the center of the room, knocking over a few pens and the monitor.
"You mean to tell me that you know I play poker in the city of goddamn heroes and villains, but think I haven't found a way to deal with psychics?" The last word carried a harsh inflection as Dechs closed distance to the psychic again. Before he could connect another attack, though, Dechs found himself staring up at the ceiling and out of breath. The psychic had recovered with a fast sweep, then pounced atop Dechs trying to choke him. Though the fight for control was now physical, it was clear that the psychic still had the edge. Despite his predicament, Dechs grinned up at his assailant.
"You smug bastard! What is it now?!"
There was the briefest moment of silence just then as the psychic realized the whole of his situation. His eyes, once narrow and seething with rage, now exploded with an abject terror. His mouth drooped open and gaped, replacing teeth that were clamped tight against each other in fury. The moment was over before it began, when a polished red and gold gauntlet collided with the back of his large skull. The force was enough that his body made a complete forward roll, landing him flat on his back, unconscious at best.
Dechs rolled to his knees and quickly checked for a pulse, "Good, you didn't kill him."
"Oops." Deathgrind groggily replied.
Rising to his feet and fixing his tie, Dechs snorted, "Don't be so modest, I know you're smart enough to preserve your leads. Wait here, I need something from the lab."
While Dechs began his descent, Deathgrind stumbled back to the desk and leaned against it, rolling his neck and then casting his gaze back to the middle of the floor. He considered the still breathing scum that lay on the floor, a hunter now turned prey. Deathgrind had no shortage of enemies, but this one was in no way familiar. Perhaps it was just an overpaid contractor; he would have to find out. Although true that it was more valuable alive, it would be no less valuable with a broken rib or five. He mused for a moment, devising excuses to crush a finger or dislocate an elbow. Was that a twitch just now?
In the end, Deathgrind decided to postpone his anger until it came time for interrogation. For now, he gleaned what information he could. The attacker wore no mask, presumably to blend in with the hospital staff, but aside from off color scrubs, there was no disguise to speak of. The identification tag attached to the shirt was blank. As Dechs returned to the office with a circular steel device in hand, Deathgrind commented, "I'm surprised he got past your security with such a poor disguise."
Dechs approached and then sat down beside the psychic, "He's a damn strong psychic. Truth be told, I felt him even through my safeguards. I'd wager he could have walked in here all but naked and convinced everyone he was me, but he wanted to conserve his energy. Even a half ass disguise makes influencing minds to disregard him easier." While he spoke, Dechs slid the circle over the psychic's head, tightening it down around his temples with a latching mechanism.
"Whatever that is, you should fix it in place with fluted, heavy bore screws." Deathgrind suggested.
Laughing again, "This crown will emit electrical shocks at random intervals between one and ten seconds apart. The battery will last three days." Dechs walked over to Deathgrind and handed him what looked like a pistol grip. "This is a deadman switch. Hold it to prevent the shocks so he can coherently answer your questions. If he attacks, you'll let go and he gets lit up. Expect him to try it once, and only once."
"So, that's it then? You don't want a part of this?" Deathgrind scooped the psychic off the ground and heaved him over shoulder in a fireman carry.
"I have one condition. What happened here is that this poor bastard couldn't overpower your mind. That's the story I want told, so when you're done with your questioning," Dechs paused while he walked over to his minibar to pour himself a double, "kill him."
Without a word, Deathgrind spun on his heel and strolled off, whistling a particularly upbeat old tune from a children's movie. There was an abnormal motion to his step that caused the psychic to bounce into his shoulder with every other step.
"Off to work he goes," smirking to himself, Dechs swirled the scotch in his glass and inhaled the scent deeply, "Hi ho, hi ho."