Black Box

Endings and beginnings.

In which we say goodbye.

After fishing Eugene out of the lake – and discovering he is suddenly much weaker physically – the group realizes the Triplets have given them a huge boost in psychic power. The others don’t seem to be noticeably weaker, although Phia is walking a bit more slowly than normal. Recounting what she learned from the Triplets, Vanessa declares that she needs to go back to Toronto to save her mother. When the question is raised as to how they might find her, Suzie describes the map the Triplets showed her. She suggests that they should be able to “break the chain” at the Toronto node.

To try to get a better sense of what’s going on in the city, Phia calls Sgt. Fields of the Toronto Police Department. He urges her to stay out of the downtown core, as there has been some sort of bio-weapon attack. The army is apparently on the way. Phia promises the good sergeant that she’ll stay safe.

The group piles into the Impala that Suzie obtained, and Pete starts driving for the downtown core. On the way, Suzie calls her father for help. Ignoring his demands that she stay out of the city, she asks if he has any explosives handy. After a long silence, and a hurried explanation on Suzie’s part, he agrees to have one of his minions drop something off at Suzie’s favourite park.

The highway becomes increasingly crowded as they near the city. At Pete’s suggestion, all but Phia link up and are able to lift the car into the air. To keep anyone from noticing them, Phia spends all her concentration in projecting a mass hallucination that they are only a bird.

Once over the city proper, the group starts to see groups of people being corralled by trios of dead-eyed psychic puppets (drones). When a trio of drones is able to get in a triangle formation around a group, the runners suddenly became docile and are escorted towards the downtown core. Although none of the runners seem to notice the flying car, a few of the drones start to look up. TK punches start to batter the car. Realizing that the drones are able to detect the group’s psychic process, everyone throws up a screen (with Suzie screening Phia). The attacks quickly stop.

Stopping off at Suzie’s favourite park, the group picks up a suitcase with six Molotov cocktails. These, combined with two shotguns Vanessa was able to grab from a pair of highway patrolmen, make up the entirety of the group’s physical arsenal.

Eventually, Suzie’s radar directs the group to Yonge & Dundas Square. The streets have been ripped up around the Square, and the drones are directing their captives to lie down in the resulting trenches. Suzie is able to pinpoint three people with a higher level of psychic power – a tall Thin Man, an older gentleman with Watery Eyes, and a Little Girl in a pink dress.

As the car circles above the Square, the Little Girl points up at it. Quickly realizing that she was able to penetrate the group’s shields – and is likely therefore the most powerful – Suzie yells at Pete to hit her with the car. He flat out refuses, and aims for the Thin Man instead. Dropping the hallucination around the car, Phia focuses her ability on an ally for the first time and orders Pete to hit the Little Girl. Pete veers away from the Thin Man and towards the Little Girl, who puts up a shield. Realizing that the car may be destroyed by the impact – seriously injuring everyone inside it – Phia drops her command. Not soon enough, however, and the car crumples against a monstrous TK shield. Everyone goes flying. Vanessa shields herself and Eugene; Pete (well aware of the attack on his mind) shields himself and Suzie, leaving Phia with her own pitiful shield which shatters upon impact with the ground.

The Little Girl is throne back by the impact, but she remains standing. Pete, Suzie and Eugene are all unscathed, but both Vanessa and Phia are slow to get up. Trios start to converge on the group. A curb-stomp battle ensues, during which (some) of the group does their best to minimize the loss of innocent life. They are eventually able to kill the Thin Man and Watery Eyes, leaving only the Little Girl standing.

Leveling one of the shotguns at Little Girl, Suzie scans her mind to see if anything is left to save. She finds that the Little Girl is disappointed, that she knows she has failed and won’t see her reward. Digging further, Suzie is able to see part of the plan: the people in the trenches were to become cognite deposits, a power source for something or someone. With nothing else left in the Little Girl’s mind, Suzie shoots her in the face.

With the three leaders dead, the drones drop like puppets with their strings cut. None of the people in the trenches wake up. Vanessa searches frantically, and is able to locate her mother. Suzie does another scan and finds there is something holding on to her, trying to pull her down into the ground. While running her scan, Suzie is assaulted with a vision of a mob of drones trying to break down the door to the Resistance. After breaking the news of her mother gently to Vanessa, Suzie tells the others what she saw. They call Terry once more, and find out where the Resistance is located so they can come help.

Vanessa and Suzie depart to find somewhere to house Vanessa’s mother until she can come back. Pete, Phia and Eugene are to go to Toronto Island Airport, to pick up a plane and pilot to get them to the Resistance. As they prepare to leave, Pete pulls Phia aside and coolly informs her “I know we need you to get through this, but after that I’m going to fucking kill you.”

Stunned, Phia hangs back long enough to notice a group of police dressed in riot gear entering the Square. Leading them is Sgt. Fields, who stares at Phia in bewilderment. Speaking quickly, and for once reticent to use her abilities, Phia convinces Sgt. Fields that she is working for the government and cannot be detained. She explains that some bio-chemical weapon has indeed gone off (at which point one of the other officers hurriedly covers his mouth), but has since dispersed. She asks Sgt. Fields to get EMTs to take care of the people affected by the weapon, then quickly takes off.

Getting a plan and pilot is the easiest task of the day, and the group quickly finds themselves at the Resistance. Meeting them at the secret runway, Terry explains the situation. Drones have been trying to break in for the last few hours. There are a few actual psychics (Terry estimates three or four, which Phia pins down as three) who keep popping up when the Resistance forces try to make a head-on attack. As they approach the rear of the building, the group sees an eerily familiar site – the suit of a White Knight, unoccupied on the ground. A number of techs are grouped around it, and triumphantly exclaim that they’ve got it working again.

Blackwood – leader of the Resistance and devourer of brains – welcomes the group back. After a terse discussion as to who will be piloting the White Knight (and the various risks involved, including paranoia and an inability to remove the suit), Terry is strapped inside. Suzie is struck by a premonition that she will never see Terry’s face again.

Suzie suggests the group take advantage of the fact that Eugene & Phia no longer need line-of-sight to use their abilities. It is decided that the group will be stationed in a hallway near – but out of sight – of the horde of drones. With Pete and Vanessa helping her, Suzie will use her radar to pinpoint the location of the actual psychics, who Eugene & Phia can then attack. In the meantime, Terry will pull double duty as bait and a distraction, and also take out as many drones as he can.

The plan goes off without a hitch. Suzie, Pete, Vanessa, Eugene & Phia link up together for the first time. It’s easy; easy to link together, easy to snuff out their enemies. Suzie gets a hint of the massive presence she recognizes as T-0, which flinches when the group joins together.

Finally, after the last drone has been killed, the group is escorted to the Triplets. Stepping over broken bodies, skirting pools of blood and gore, they do their best to convince themselves that so many deaths were necessary.

Once more in the Triplets’ inner sanctum, the group links up and reaches out to them. The Triplets are very weak. Eugene asks once more “how do we stop it”, to which the Triplets reply “go to Arizona”. Vanessa asks “how can we help you”, and if the Triplets still want to die. They are quiet for a moment, perhaps considering the question. Eventually they admit that, while their time is done, they may still be needed. They give the group an image of the desert, two days from the former site of the Department. In the desert is a cave that runs deep underground. “Destroy the source, and all of us will fade in time”.

Finally, the Triplets show the group how to turn psychics off – it requires that they all be connected and working together. It is immediately obvious that reversing the process would enable the group to activate new psychics. The Triplets warn them that some people make better candidates than others, but yes it is possible.

Breaking contact with the Triplets for the last time, the group realizes that Blackwood is standing in the room with them. Phia sends a psychic message to Suzie, asking if they should turn off his psychic ability. Considering it, Suzie gets a premonition that “it won’t be that easy”. She shakes her head and mentally informs Phia that they’ll deal with Blackwood later.

Without any discussion, it becomes clear that Blackwood and Terry will accompany the group to Arizona. The flight is tense, as no one is entirely sure what will happen when they get there. Sitting by herself, Phia stares out the window and has an unbidden thought: “when the time comes, it should be you”.

Leaving Terry to stand guard at the cave’s entrance, the group and Blackwood begin the descent into the earth. It is a long and arduous journey, Pete ends up carrying Eugene much of the way. Suzie quickly turns off her radar, as it is overwhelmed by T-0’s presence. Hours after they began, and unknown meters underground, the group enters a large cavern. Their flashlights can barely penetrate the gloom, but they can hear a strange rustling sound around the edge of the cavern. There is a sense of power, and a rushing noise as all the loose rocks in the cavern fly upwards and start to spin. Their impact against the cavern walls sends off sparks, illuminating the space enough that the group is able to see a figure hanging above them.

It is, or was, human – with an over-sized head and small withered body curled beneath it. The group is reminded of a fetus, hanging from the cavern ceiling with a stalactite through the back of its head. T-0.

Leaving Blackwood to the side, the group links together and tries to negotiate with this man turned god. T-0 informs them that he created them to be rulers; that he raised them above all his other children to see what they would do. When Phia argues that they didn’t command any psychics to take over Toronto (or New York, or any of the other cities they saw news reports about on the plane ride here), T-0 seems unmoved. He declares that the actions of all psychics are because of his wishes. That he demands new cognite, and so will have it. The group may rule, or not, as they choose, but they cannot hope to impinge on his wishes.

Momentarily ignoring the fact that T-0 is hanging directly above them, the group debates what to do. There is concern about whether they are in fact able to do anything against a creature of such power. At this Blackwood laughs, saying only that T-0 is lying. Suzie quietly reminds everyone that T-0 flinched when they joined together for the first time.

As the tenor of the conversation moves towards turning T-0’s abilities off, Phia worries about the fact that this would end their abilities as well. In the face of the rest of the group’s combined reminder of how much trouble T-0 caused, Phia eventually agrees. The group focuses their abilities and, after expending almost all of their energy, are able to shut T-0 down. With a sickly slurping noise, he slips off the stalactite that had been holding him up and drops in a boneless heap to the cavern floor.

Seconds from collapsing themselves, the group is stirred into action by Blackwood’s laughter. He nears T-0’s body, and they can almost see him begin to devour what’s left of his consciousness. Pete & Suzie empty their guns at Blackwood, while Phia demolishes T-0’s skull. Through their combined attacks, Blackwood drops dead.

Silence falls for a long moment. The group are all incredibly weak, and can sense they have all lost access to most of their abilities. Stirring enough to find her phone (which miraculously still has coverage), Vanessa calls her mother to see if she’s woken up. Suzie has another premonition that “it’s not that easy”, and tells Vanessa that her mother isn’t awake yet. With T-0 dead, and no one to counter what he had done, all the comatose victims are stuck.

Their eyes drawn up towards the cavern ceiling, the group gets a sense of hunger. The earth wants someone new, another source for psychic power. Avoiding eye-contact with Pete, Phia says “We all know I’m not getting out of here alive anyway.” Turning to Vanessa, she adds “I’ll wake your mother up, I promise”.

The rest of the group immediately starts arguing, to try to keep Phia from taking T-0’s place. After letting them speak for a minute, Phia simply reaches out to the earth to take her. Vanessa & Pete both rush to stop her, Vanessa mere seconds behind in reaching to offer herself instead. But it is in vain as the stalactite drops and impales Phia in the back of the head, then drags her up to the ceiling.

Her mind floods with knowledge and sensation, suddenly she is connected to every human on the planet – both psychic and non. True to her word, she wakes up everyone who had been affected by T-0’s drive for new cognite. Within minutes Vanessa’s phone starts to ring. It’s her mother, in the hospital, asking what happened. Vanessa is able to calm her down and promises to call back.

With the civilians restored to normal, Pete quietly asks Phia to come down. She refuses, simply stating that there must be a source in order for the group to keep their powers. She has to stay, or else they’ll never be safe.

With no way to change her mind, the group leaves the cavern. The walk back to the surface is slow and silent. At the cavern entrance, they discover Terry, having taken his mask off, looking confused. Scooping him up with minimal explanations, the group returns to the plan and flies back to the Resistance. Vanessa & Suzie have a promise to keep to the Triplets.

When they arrive, however, they are stunned to find one woman and two men sitting in the Triplets chambers. Awake and totally without psychic ability. Phia had shut them off.

The group filters back to Toronto and tries to resume their lives. Eugene finishes the semester at York, then appears at Vanessa’s school, resume in hand, and asks if the science program needs a new teacher. He becomes a favourite of the students, and only occasionally uses his abilities to keep someone on the straight & narrow.

Suzie returns to her practice. She uses her abilities only when necessary to read what her patients can’t, or won’t say.

Pete retreats from the others. He dedicates his life to survivalist training, and ends up traveling the globe to deal with rogue psychics. As the years pass, however, the number of other psychics drops dramatically. After which he focuses his energy on other injustices, never staying in one place for long. Every once in a while, when he finds himself in civilization and passes by a bookstore, he can’t help but buy Sophia Walker’s one and only novel (a #1 Best Seller for a number of weeks after her death was reported).

Vanessa continues teaching. She eventually marries and has a daughter of her own. Some four years after T-0 died and Phia took his place – and a year after seeing a single psychic outside of the group – Vanessa calls everyone together. After stilted small talk, she encourages her daughter to show them her special trick. And a salt shaker lifts off the table.

Quotes without context

“Let your daddy do this for you, what do you want blown up?”

“Great, we’re just going to have to come back here and do it again!”
“You just broke my heart!”

“Your father is acting really weird”
“He’s gone outside”
“There’s a thin man here”
“He’s unconscious, we’re at the hospital”
“Everything’s fine”
“Buy milk”

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