The material his uniform was made of was designed to breathe very well, but the humidity in the Peruvian jungle was so high that it made no difference. Harry could feel the moisture from the air sticking to his skin underneath it. The Major Justice uniform Jason had been storing in his basement was the tan colored desert design, which did absolutely nothing to help him blend in with the rainforest. That didn’t matter though, as Walter was almost certainly inside their heads already.
“If he’s reading our thoughts right now, how in the hell are we supposed to take him down again?” Harry called up to Jason who was at the head of the group.
Jason called back, “If we go at him all at once it shouldn’t matter. Reading six minds at once doesn’t mean he’ll be able to react to them all at once. He’ll be overwhelmed.”
“I thought these things prevented him from getting inside our minds,” Antonio said, pointing at the Extro-Neuro Blocker on his head.
“They only prevent him from controlling our minds,” Amara clarified. “He can still read them.”
The nearest the jet could get to the location of the cave was more than a three hour hike away. Finally, Harry thought he could see the cave’s entrance just a klick or so ahead of them.
When they arrived at the cave entrance, they huddled together to go over their makeshift plan one more time.
“That camera is looking right at us,” Sammy said, pointing at a small camera wedged between two rocks just above and to the left of the entrance.
“Doesn’t make much difference—he’ll know we’re here anyway,” Harry pointed out.
“I need you all to walk inside and wait for him to confront you,” Jason told the team.
“Is that all?” Eric retorted. “We go in and confront the bad guy while you stay out here and have a spot of tea, yeah?”
“Of course not,” Jason countered, unappreciative of Eric’s sarcasm. “From here it looks like the roof of the cave is covered in shadows. I’ll be going in from above.”
Sammy questioned Jason’s plan. “But if he’s in your head…”
“Hopefully when he sees all of you and realizes he can’t control you it will be enough to distract him while I move in on Bryan,” Jason explained fiercely. He took a great deal of care in crafting his mission plans, so he never appreciated when the others started questioning them.
“How are you going to get up there unseen?” Amara asked him.
Jason pointed to a small opening near the top of the cliff. “I think that opening goes into the same cave.” He reached down to push something on his glove. Red bars suddenly illuminated up the back of it, accompanied by a high-pitched electronic charging sound. He reached down and did the same thing to his boots. He then jumped up on the rock wall—his gloves and boots sticking to the vertical surface.
“I’ll wait until he’s preoccupied, and then I’ll climb in and find Bryan.”
The plan seemed sketchy at best, but once Jason had his mind made up there was no way to change it. It was go time.
The five of them left Jason behind and slowly stepped inside the giant cavern. Surrounding them was nothing but damp stone. The cave was completely empty, except for a lone figure in a long black trench coat on the far end of the cavern. The mysterious figure was currently facing away from them, but was well aware of their presence.
“Took you long enough,” Walter’s voice echoed off the cave walls, causing the team to stop in their tracks. The villain spun around and gazed in their direction with his glowing purple eyes. The lapels and collar of his long black coat were also his signature color purple.
The cavern was dimly lit, making Walter’s purple eyes appear that much brighter.
The villain continued, “I see you’re new cranial accessories there are preventing me from taking over control of your minds. I assume have Mister Bankman to thank for that.”
“I think I already know what your response will be,” Amara said concisely, taking a few steps toward Walter, “but I’m obligated to offer you one chance to surrender yourself Walter. You can’t possibly take all of us by yourself.”
Walter raised a finger before speaking. “That is where you’re wrong Amara. I could quite easily bring all six of you to your knees if I were able to control your minds.”
Harry looked around at the others. Walter must not have realized that there were only five of them standing there—Jason was right about him being distracted.
“Oh shut up Walter,” Eric blurted in frustration. He always hated when villains felt the need to monologue before a fight. “You can’t bloody control us so stop the act, will ya?”
“Oh but I can,” Walter replied. “I just need—as four of your countrymen once put it—a little help from my friend.”
Walter pointed up to a small ledge high above where he was standing. Perched atop the ledge was a young boy dressed in a black coat similar to Walter’s.
Bryan reached out with his left hand and Harry saw the Extro-Neuro Blockers being ripped from the heads of his four team members. Amara reached out to try and catch the device as it was flying away from her but was too slow. Harry watched as all four devices floated through the air until they came to rest in Bryan’s left hand.
The boy’s expression then turned dark and angry as he slashed his right hand in front of his body, ripping large pieces of rock down from the cave ceiling and bringing them down on top of the heroes.
The team quickly scattered, doing their best to avoid the falling rock.
“Now!” Walter shouted, reaching out with both hands, “I shall invade your minds and make them my own!”
Harry watched as the other four members of the team stood up from where they had dove to the ground to avoid the falling rocks. They moved in unison to the center of the cavern. They looked like a mindless bunch of zombies.
Harry picked himself off the ground and began charging at Walter. As the one person Walter couldn’t control it was now up to him to stop the madman.
Harry continued charging from Walter’s left. He looked to Bryan, expecting the boy to use his telekinesis to try and prevent him from reaching his boss. Instead, Walter noticed Harry coming for him and moved his left hand so that it was pointed in Harry’s direction.
Harry suddenly felt a sharp pain in his head—so intense that it dropped him to his knees. He cried out in pain as he brought his hands to his head. He had never felt anything like it.
“Did you still think you were immune to me?” Walter asked him, amused by Harry’s false sense of invincibility.
Before Walter could continue with his evil lecture, Bryan spoke from up on the ledge. “We’re missing one.”
Walter stopped what he was doing and began counting off the team members.
“What would I do without you Bryan?” He asked rhetorically. “Now if you would be so kind as to find me the bird.”
Bryan again lifted his left hand, this time directing it at the cave’s ceiling. Harry looked up just in time to see Jason’s ENB fly into the teenager’s hand. The young telepath then lifted up both of his arms before dropping them back down to his sides. A shadowy black figure dropped from the ceiling and crashed into the ground with a deadly force. Harry could only hope that the padding on Jason’s uniform had been strong enough to save his life.
Thankfully Harry was able to hear the sounds of Jason sputtering and gasping for air after hitting the solid ground. Unfortunately it took only a few seconds for Walter to take control of his mind, and soon after his fall Jason was standing with the rest of his teammates, the same blank look in his eyes.
Walter then turned his attention back to Harry, sending another wave of intense pain through the human half of the bionic marine’s brain.
“But how?” Harry cried through his teeth.
“So glad you asked,” Walter replied. “You see, that day you tried to kill me—when you had my neck firmly in your grip and you began to squeeze with all your strength, cutting the air off from my lungs—well at that moment you showed me my true potential. At that moment—as I became more and more confident that I was about to die—my survival instincts kicked in, making me more powerful than ever.
“You see at that moment I was able to reach into the human half of you mind. Yes, the robotic part tried to kick me out, telling your human half that what it was experiencing wasn’t actually being generated from within your own brain but from some outside force like a virus—but I found that your human half ultimately prevailed. That’s because the human brain is far more advanced and far more powerful than any computer, and in the end your bionic half will always listen to your human half.”
Walter clamped down harder on Harry’s brain in demonstration of what had just explained. Harry fell over on his side—the pain was almost unbearable. He could feel the computer half of his brain trying to shock the human side out of it, but Walter’s grip was firm. Harry felt himself beginning to lose control of his human side, relying on his bionic systems to keep him from giving in completely.
Walter continued to speak in a calm and casual manner. “As you can see, unlike the others I’ll never actually be able to gain enough influence over your mind to fully control your actions because your bionic body depends heavily on your internal CPU to operate it. But what I can do is implant…let’s call them suggestions…into the human half of your mind, and your human half will then convince your bionic half to interpret those suggestions as fact. Once that process is complete, you’ll perform whatever actions I wish of you out of your own free will. You will accept me as your master.”
Harry began breathing deeply as he lay on his side, unwilling to move. All of the pain was concentrated in his brain—the rest of his body felt fine—but he found himself unable to function. Walter walked over to where he lay helpless and bent down to look into his eyes.
“Is that all a bit confusing for you to understand? Let me show you…”
The pain in Harry’s mind suddenly changed from a sharp pain to a dull one which actually relieved some of the discomfort. He got back to his knees, suddenly feeling very dizzy.
“It is very important that I capture you,” Walter told him. “What you and the Assembly have done—it has hurt the safety of this planet.”
Harry shook his head. The man was certifiably insane.
“I alone possess a will strong enough to do what is necessary to protect the people of this planet.”
Harry managed to keep his head long enough to push out a few words of his own.
“You’re still sore about being kicked out of the group, aren’t you Walter?” he said wryly.
Walter gritted his teeth and clenched his fist, knocking Harry back down to the ground.
“You and the rest of the Assembly must submit to me,” he continued forcefully. “You must surrender to my will, and help me to hunt down and destroy ALL of the other super humans. It is the only way to keep the world safe from evil. You must see that!”
Harry’s consciousness clung to the bionic half of his brain, it’s programming telling him not to listen to Walter’s words—that the man was a power hungry lunatic. But his human half felt differently. It told his bionic half that every word Walter was saying was true—that they were putting the world in danger by assuming the role of its protectors. Walter was the only one who could truly protect them.
Suddenly it seemed so clear. He had been ignorant to think that super humans could act as the planet’s saviors. What Walter had done on the island wasn’t murder—it was sacrifice. No longer would he allow powered individuals to be given false titles such as “superheroes,” raising them to an undeserved status at the top of world culture. From now on Harry vowed to do whatever he deemed necessary to allow Walter to stand alone and protect the citizens of Earth by whatever means necessary.
“Good,” Walter whispered, releasing his telepathic vice-grip on Harry’s mind. “Now you will follow the others back to the detention cavern for safe keeping.”
Harry looked over at the rest of his team. They were all now standing near a spot at the back wall of the cavern.
Harry looked at Walter with an eerie sincerity in his expression. “I can’t believe you were right all along.”
Walter flashed a wicked grin at his brainwashed foe and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay, my new sidekick.”
“Bryan!” Walter shouted up to the boy. “Open the tunnel door!”