Tactile

Homecoming

Tim examined the mangled fork Kon showed him as a visual aid to his story. To be completely honest, it was a little troubling to the young Boy Wonder. What the Superboy described seemed to be a form of psychokinesis. That in and of itself was not difficult or worrisome, the part that made the little Robin pause for pessimistic considerations was that psychokinetic abilities were not part of the kryptonian power-set. That meant that the ability had to come from his human half –from Luthor.

Looking at it from that angle, it made sense. Through out history, there have been humans documented to have various abilities that fit under the psychokinetic umbrella. Eusapia Palladino, an Italian medium from the turn of the century was said to possess the ability to move objects without touching them. Nina Kulagina was a Soviet psychic during the Cold War had even earned herself a critical mention in a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report in 1978 as a 'psychic spy'. So, it was perfectly plausible that the demi-kryptonian's new power was the burgeoning of some latent ability inherited from his human donor.

"Has Lex ever –to the best of your knowledge- exhibited any such ability?" Asked Tim.

"Not that I know of." Kon answered in all honesty. "Look, I don't know where it came from or how I got it, I'm just… I thought I should tell someone and you'd probably figure it out anyway. You bats always do."

Tim continued to scrutinize the bent and twisted fork, its wilted prongs contorted in every which way, the handle bent in half and the quark-screwed end. After a prolonged silence, the Robin asked, "When did this start?"

The Superboy opened his mouth to reply, then closed it again without saying anything. He paused and Tim could see him thinking, the wheels in his head turning. His eyes darkened noticeably when he reached a conclusion. But when he finally did answer the Boy Wonder's question, it was a disappointment to hear, "I don't know."

"Well, do you at least have an idea?" The Robin pressed. He was ninety percent sure that the demi-kryptonian did, in fact, have an idea of when he'd started exhibiting these powers. If they could identify when it started then they would be one step closer to identifying the cause –and if not the cause, then at least the catalyst that allowed for it to manifest.

"No idea." Kon assured him.

And Tim was sure he was lying. He glared at the Superboy, giving the older boy his best facsimile of Bruce's 'bat-glare' as he could. It was a technique he'd seen the Caped Crusader use on the Man of Steel more than once with an almost perfect success rate. The Big Blue Boy Scout would crack under the intensity of the Batman's gaze and spill whatever information he was originally trying to hold back –no matter how trivial. Sadly, Tim did not yet seem to be as adept at it –he had not been a Robin for very long, after all. Either that, or Kon was far more resistant to the glare then his 'big brother' –he did work under the Batman almost from the moment he was 'born'.

However, after a prolonged silence, the demi-kryptonian did say, "You don't believe me."

"I'm trained in how to read body language and micro-expressions." Began the Boy Wonder. "I can tell that you're hiding something."

Kon missed one… two… three beats before admitting, "I am hiding something." He said candidly. "But it's not just my secret. So, I'm sorry, Tim, but that's all I'm gonna tell you about that. Only know that it probably has nothing to do with my new power."

"Is that your way of telling me to drop that avenue of investigation?" Asked the little Robin, meeting the Superboy's eyes.

"This isn't an 'investigation'." The demi-kryptonian replied, offering a crystal-blue stare of his own to match the Boy Wonder's. "We're just two friends talking. Tim, please don't treat me like one of your cases."

"Sorry, Kon, I'm not trying to. But I get hit by an invisible force and then you tell me you think you're developing a new ability… I gotta ask questions."

"Alright." The Superboy begrudgingly agreed. "Just, please don't get carried away. Remember, I'm your friend, not an experiment or case-study."

"Okay, Kon, I understand. But, can we just try a couple of things?" Tim assured him. He pushed off the kitchen counter on which he'd been leaning and dashed upstairs. When he came down again, his utility belt was slung over his shoulder. The Boy Wonder withdrew from one of the pouches a robinrang. This he held flat on his palm. "Can you lift this?"

The demi-kryptonian just lifted an eyebrow instead.

"I figure its better to use my 'rangs rather than your Ma's antique silverware." He explained. "Now, come on. Do what you did outside just now, only this time hit the 'rang and not me."

Kon wasn't quite sure if the Robin had actually understood him. This felt suspiciously like an experiment just seconds after he finished explaining that he did not want to be experimented on. But, at the same time, the Superboy also understood that he would have to play around and experiment a little bit with this new power of his if he was going to learn to control it and, in the future, use it. So, he begrudgingly agreed to Tim's request.

Closing his eyes, the demi-kryptonian tried to reenter the state of mind he was in just minuets ago outside. He exhaled slowly, trying to connect with his atman, or 'inner self'. Tim did promise an increased self-awareness with their yoga training.

It had been in the middle of the prana flow exercises that it happened and Kon tried to recreate the same sensations. Outside he'd been standing in virabhadrasana, but that pose seemed a bit impractical given the enclosed kitchen area. Instead he assumed tadasana. The Superboy inhaled as slowly as he had exhaled, turning his mind inward and trying to follow the same channels through which his prana had flowed before. When he had a flimsy belief that he actually knew what he was doing, Kon exhaled again and extended his field of awareness beyond the perimeter of his physical body.

Keeping his eyes closed, Kon focused only on what he could feel through this new tactile sense. Slowly… very slowly, he did not want to accidentally smack Tim again, he continued to expand. The grouting between the floor tiles needed to be ripped out and replaced. There were thin-spots on the ceiling that would need repair before the summer was over. Finally, his field came in contact with the tips of Tim's outstretched fingers.

"That feels weird." Said the Boy Wonder.

"I'm trying to concentrate." The Superboy reprimanded.

He stopped expanding his field and instead turned his attention to shaping it. Trying to mold it around the Robin's hand and lift the robinrang up off of it. Originally, Kon imagined his field as a bubbled, now he tried to envision it as a glove. A giant invisible glove with long tendril-like fingers with which he could grip the 'rang with. There was just one problem, he couldn't seem to differentiate between what was Tim's hand and what was the metal throwing weapon. He opened his eyes in frustration, his tendrils drawing back, the field receding like low tide on a full moon.

"I can't do it." Kon groaned.

"Sure you can." Insisted the Boy Wonder. "You did it with the fork before. You just need more practice. Let's try again."

The Superboy reached out with his real hand and plucked the 'rang from the Robin's hand. "I can do this." He said. "I can pick it up and move it like normal. But with this new power… I can't tell what's you and what's the robinrang."

"Oh, well that's easy!" Tim smiled. "We just have to train your telekinetic sense to differentiate between skin and metal… and other materials."

"Do you think other telekinetics have this problem?" The demi-kryptonian asked.

"Donno. I guess that would depend on what the telekinetic ability is based on. Your TK feels kinda like a physical but invisible something. But M'gann's for example; I've never felt it when she uses her TK on me. It could be that your power is more corporeal based, while her's is metaphysical."

Kon bristled at the mention of M'gann using her powers on other members of the Team. It was a concern of his, but he did not want to worry Tim with it.

"Physical versus mental." Kon translated, running his hands absentmindedly over the 'rang. Feeling its weight and the contours of the metal. He handed the weapon back to the Boy Wonder. "Let's try again."

Tim held the robinrang in his hand.

Kon once again reached out with his bubble of extra-sensory awareness, morphing the field's shape into tendrils when he once again felt Robin's hand. He felt up the boy's arm and under his hand. The demi-kryptonian ran a tendril around the circle of metal covering his palm, then wriggled it underneath, snaking it between what he thought was skin and metal. He repeated the motion with a second tendril on the opposite side, then a third, then-

"That tickles!" Tim exclaimed and dropped his hand.

But to both their astonishment, the motion was not punctuated by the sound of the robinrang clattering to the kitchen floor.

"Kon, Kon! Open your eyes!"

The Superboy did as he was told and sure enough, he saw the circular throwing weapon hovering in empty air between them. Except the air wasn't empty. It wasn't visible to the naked eye, but the demi-kryptonian could clearly feel the tendrils of his field holding the 'rang.

"I'm doing it!" He exclaimed, suddenly grinning like a fool. "I… I've got telekinesis! …Sort of. All I had to do was touch it with my physical hands for a bit, get a feel for it."

Tim looked thoughtful. "Hm, so there's a tactile aspect to your power. Its not quite strait-up telekinesis. Its…" now it was his turn to grin like a fool. "It's TTK!"

"What's the extra T for?" Kon asked.

"Tactile telekinesis."


They spent the entire rest of the morning 'experimenting', or more accurately playing with Kon's new power. There's just something about boys, whether they be only children from suburban nuclear families or ageless clones made from the combination of human and alien DNA, that just makes them want to break stuff as a method of trying out new toys.

The remainder of the porch railing was ripped out with a violent CRAH-shk.

Tim whooped and clapped his hands. "That's awesome! Now do something else!"

"All I have to do is touch something and I can use my TTK to manipulate it."

"I know." Replied the Robin. "I was there when we figured that out."

The Superboy went over his mental checklist of maintenance he still needed to do on the farm. The barn was infested with termites and need to be torn down, so he focused his attention on that.

Crossing the yard, the demi-kryptonian placed a hand on the barn-door. Feeling the contours in the grain of the wood, sensing the termites wriggling and crawling around inside it. Kon walked all the way around the building, never taking his hand off the side. Feeling each individual board and panel that made-up the exterior. When he came back around to the front, the Superboy grinned a wicked grin at the Boy Wonder. "Watch this."

Kon turned his back to the Robin, faced the barn and once again assumed virabhadrasana, (which, coincidentally translated as the 'warrior pose'), bringing his arms together in front of him. He exhaled slowly, extending his tactile field, slithering his tendrils around the barn. Then, with the unnecessary exclamation of "Ha!" for accompaniment, the Superboy spread his arms dramatically and the entire front portion of the barn was ripped out.

"Whoo!" Tim clapped.

The demi-kryptonian turned back around and smiled before turning his attention back to the rest of the still standing barn and proceeded to rip-up the rest of the walls. "Ya see, my TTK is tactile based. Once I get a feel for something and can grip it and move it or break it without even touching it."

"I know." Tim said again, becoming annoyed. "I was the one who told you that."

The tin roof came crashing down to the ground, the only piece of the barn still intact. Kon walked up to it, and began running his hands over the smooth metallic surface.

"The way my TTK works-"

"Oh my god! I will robinrang you in the face!" Shouted the Boy Wonder, standing from his seat on the porch, one hand drifting threateningly into a pouch of his belt –a belt he wore over a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt, it was an odd bit of fashion. "I know how your tactile telekinesis works. You can stop explaining it right now!"

Kon did stop. But not because of the Robin's not-so-empty-at-all threat, but rather, because his JLA comm buzzed.

…As did the Boy Wonder's.

In unison both boys' hands flew up to tap the comm buds in their ears.

"This is Superboy. Go ahead."

"This is Robin. Go ahead."

Both were expecting to hear the worst. An earthquake has rocked the pacific coast and a large chunk of California has fallen into the sea. Yellow Stone finally erupted; the US is fucked, come help with the evacuation. Terrorists have bombed the World Assembly; all the major world leaders are dead or in critical condition. Stephanie Meyer has published a new book. After all, what besides a tragic disaster would call them both in at the same time? Especially considering that the Superboy was supposed to be on sabbatical.

But it was none of those tragic and destructive events. No. Instead, Nightwing's voice came over the channel, clear and chipper, brimming with optimism and good humor. "Watchtower just received a transmission from the Kuiper Belt. A Green Lantern shuttle is on its way in. You guys, the Leaguers that went to Rimbor are almost home!"

There was a loud chorus off cheers from the open channel! With many exclamations of…

"Whoo-hoo!"

"Finally!"

"Batman!" –This one came from Tim.

"Wonder Woman!"

"Uncle J'onn!"

"This means you gotta clean out the Batcave, 'Wing." –That was Batgirl.

When everyone had made their celebratory noise or noises of appreciation, the Nightwing continued. "It'll still take them several hours to travel from the solar system's outer rim to here. We've placed their ETA at roughly around four AM tonight –or tomorrow morning, if you wanna be technical about it. Touch-down is planned to be on the beach outside Mt. Justice –same place they took off from. That is all."

Nightwing clicked off.


After Nightwing clicked off Kon informed Tim that there was some stuff he needed to do at the Fortress before Clark got home. "Feed the pets, water the plants, ya know, that kind of thing."

The Boy Wonder gave him a skeptical glance. He knew perfectly well that the Superman had a small fleet of robots to do those things for him. Kon was lying and that bothered him. But on the other hand, he considered the mess Dick had made of the Batcave in Bruce's absence and decided it was probably just something like that. Kon had made a mess of the Fortress of Solitude and needed to clean it up before the Man of Steel returned. He didn't have to lie about this, though. The little Robin was very good at keeping secrets.

They went their separate ways, with Tim going to the Cave and Kon to the Fortress.

Now that Clark was back, the demi-kryptonian wasn't sure if he would still be able to come and go from the Fortress as freely as he had been. He certainly didn't know when he would be able to come back for another dose of the stimulant without his big brother realizing what he was doing. In retrospect, Kon realized that this hadn't exactly been the most well thought out plan he'd ever had. But he would have to worry about that later.

Kon opened the pharmaceutical closet and pulled out the bottle of stimulant. He measured out another double shot, but before the glass could touch his lips, Number 2 appeared by his side.

"I really must advise against this." He said in that obnoxiously polite synthetic voice Clark programmed him with. "Continued use of a compound that was not designed for you is clearly having adverse effects on your person. I ask that you please turn the bottle and your glass over to me and report to Number 12 in the infirmary for testing and –if necessary- treatment."

The Superboy turned to glare a challenge at the android. "Make me."

"I cannot." Answered Number 2. "You know it is not in my programming to challenge you physically."

"Then quit your bitching and leave me alone."

"I cannot." Number 2 said again. "The Master left instructions to 'take care of Kon-El' in his absence. I must fulfill the command to the best of my ability within the set limits of my programming. Now, will you please hand that over to me and report to the infirmary?"

"Get bent." Kon thought about using his new-found ability on the robot, but decided against it. Number 2 might be annoying and naggy, but that wasn't really his fault –it was Clark's for programming him that way. In a way, Number 2 (and all the robot at the Fortress for that matter) reminded the young genomorph of himself. Instead of using his tactile telekinesis on the robot, Kon just shot the stimulant, as he'd come to do.

He regretted it the moment the last drop passed his throat.

The Superboy was once again seized by pain, not only in his arm and chest this time, but his entire upper body. Chest, both arms, neck and back throbbed and pulsed with pain. His heart was once again hammering against his chest as if trying to escape his ribcage. He was short of breath, air refusing to fill his lungs as he fell to his knees gasping. He still held the shot glass in his closed fist and it shattered at he hit the ground. He was lightheaded and dizzy and found himself trying to fight passing out. Then everything went dark.


"Sir, he cracked another containment pod."

"Incredible!"

Kon groaned as he began to slowly regain consciousness. He hated sleeping. If it wasn't nightmares about having his brain opened and passed around like slices of turkey at Thanksgiving dinner, then it was memories of Cadmus. Every time he closed his eyes, they were there.

The Superboy sighed and instead turned his thoughts outward. He was naked. Someone had stripped him of his T-shirt, pants and boots. There was a warmth all around him and he felt almost weightless, as if suspended in a liquid.

'Solar matrix.' He thought. The robots must have put him in to recover almost as soon as he passed out. 'Thank you, Number 2.'

Kon-El opened his eyes and, sure enough, he looked out on the Fortress' infirmary from inside the vaguely egg-shaped matrix chamber. The medical room was a wash of gold, his vision colored by the chamber's membrane. Kon hovered, suspended in the matrix, but it wasn't liquid he was submerged in –at least, not as contemporary terran scientists understand the state of matter called 'liquid'. It was actually a non-newtonian gas made from distilled solar particles that behaved as both a gas and as a liquid. The purpose of the matrix was to act as a way to maximize solar intake to allow for accelerated healing.

Placing his hand on the membrane, Kon tapped lightly. "Okay," He called. "I'm awake. Let me out."

Both Numbers 12 and 2 looked up from where they were studying a screen displaying the Superboy's current bio-stats.

"I cannot." Said Number 12. "We have not yet completed our evaluation of your condition. Increased blood-pressure and irregular heart-beat are attributed to the udoliv-stimulant you have been administering yourself. However, tests indicate irregularities in brain activities. Increased levels of-"

"You looked in my head!?" The demi-kryptonian's question came out as more of a snarl. "I don't like people messing with my head, Number 12! Let me out of here –right now!"

"I cannot." Repeated Number 12. "Further testing is necessary to explain these anomalies in brain-wave activity. In a way, it is fortunate you began self-medicating and went into crisis. We never would have discovered this otherwise."

Kon glared at the android through the gold-tented membrane of the solar-matrix. He did not like being held against his will. He did not like being tested or experimented on. But most of all, the Superboy hated people –be they friend or foe- playing around in his head. "Let. Me. Out. That is a direct order!"

"We cannot." Number 2 took up the conversation so that 12 could continue his work unimpeded. "The Master's commands circumseed those of Kon-El. We must 'take care of Kon-El' before we can 'let you out'."

His crystal-blue eyes narrowed dangerously at the robot. The Superboy had become increasingly annoyed with the super-android's increased hovering and mother-henning over the past few days, but this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. He was done dealing with Number 2 and the rest of the Fortress' robots. Sure, it wasn't entirely their fault, Clark programmed them, they were victims of their creator just as much as he was. But their creator wasn't here.

Kon shifted his gaze from Number 2 to the console at the base of the matrix. He scanned the controls until his eyes found the membrane release. The demi-kryptonian never spent much time in the infirmary in general, and even less time around the matrix. But Clark had taught him how it worked and how to use it –just in case the worst should happen. The Superboy had touched the controls. He tried to remember the specific feel of the membrane release control. Its shape and texture, the size of the button and how much pressure was needed to activate it.

"Anomalous activity increasing." Number 12 announced, but the demi-kryptonian wasn't listening.

Kon reached out with his TTK, extending a tendril of his field through the membrane, like a wraith through a curtain, and pressed the button.

'Matrix field dissengaed.' The Fortress' computer announced.

The golden glow faded. Gravity once again took hold of the Superboy and he drifted down to stand on his own two feet. The membrane melted around him. Kon stepped out of the matrix.

His clothing was folded neatly and placed on a recovery bed. He pulled his pants on without bothering with underwear.

"I ask that you please return to the solar-matrix." Insisted Number 2. "It will take Number 12 only a moment to get it back up and running. We have not yet completed-"

"Bite me!" Kon snarled, as he pulled his shirt over his head. He grabbed his boots, intending to put them on during the ride on Sphere back to the farm –or to the Cave. Clark was supposed to be arriving home tonight-morning. The Superboy quickly realized he had no idea how long he'd been out. He didn't know what time it was. What if he'd already missed Clark's arrival? "What time is it?"

"It is oh-three-hundred hours according to Eastern Standard Time." Answered Number 2 obediently. "Now, would you please-?"

"I have somewhere I have to be!" The Superboy stormed out.


Everyone who had a mentor or loved one that traveled with the party to Rimbor was already gathered by the time the Superboy arrived.

It looked like they went all out for their 'Welcome Home' party. The beach was lined with tiki torched, a narrow stretch of sand sported a snack table and a smaller drinks table sporting both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Everyone wore their masks and uniforms, but Nightwing had added a pointed party hat to his costume, as had Wonder Girl, Rocket, and M'gann. However, neither Batgirl or Robin deigned to wear one, it seemed.

M'gann was the first to notice his arrival. "Where have you been?"

Robin rushed over to him next. "We were getting worried about you when neither 'Wing or Mal could raise you on the comm. What happened?"

"I… was sun bathing and lost track of time." He lied.

Someone came up behind him and placed a paper party hat on his head, punctuating the action with a snap of the hat-string under his chin. It didn't hurt, but it did make a loud –and rather obnoxious- noise.

"Sunbathing?" Nightwing cast his eyes up at the inky dark sky. A silent, but no less clear, way of saying, 'We don't believe you. But I'm not gonna call you out on it right now. Expect to be grilled later after things have settled.'

Yes, all of that was conveyed in a single upward tilt of the chin.

Then someone shouted, "Ah! There they are!" And the Superboy was instantly forgotten.

All eyes turned to the stars and sure enough, there was a bright green light vaguely shaped like a space shuttle descending towards the beach. The Lantern shuttle seemed to descend at an agonizingly slow pace and every one standing on the beach quickly grew impatient, they were all anxious to see their loved ones again. Finally, the ship landed and dissolved, the energy drawing back like a green curtain to reveal the Rimbor party.

"Uncle J'onn!" M'gann exclaimed and rushed forward to hug her uncle.

"Wonder Woman!" Cassy did the same, only slightly more reserved than the martian girl.

"Icon!"

"Batman!"

"Batman!"

"Batman!"

The Nightwing wrapped his arms around the Dark Knight in a hug. Received only a dangerous bat-glare in return. Let go quickly. No other members of the bat-clan attempted to hug him.

Kon crossed the beach at a much more controlled pace, closing the distance between him and his genetic-parent and pseudo-big brother.

"Welcome home." He said, placing a hand on the older man's shoulder.

Clark did the same, likewise setting his hand on the young clone's shoulder. "Its good to be home."

…And that, right there, was as close to a hug as they ever would get.

They were silent for one… two… three beats. Then the Superman raised one quizzical eyebrow and asked, "Are you okay?"

Kon dropped his hand. The demi-kryptonian's happy mood deflating instantly. "I'm fine."

Clark just continued to stare at him and Kon knew he was being X-rayed. The narrowing of Clark's eyes, a slight blue glow to the irises, and most notable of all, a slight tingling on the Superboy's skin gave him confirmation that he was, indeed, being examined.

"Your heart beat's irregular." Said the Superman after a prolonged pause. "Are you worried about something?"

"No." The demi-kryptonian insisted. Then he added, "I'm just excited to have you back."

Clark paused a moment longer. Then decided to accept that flimsy excuse. He did just get home and wasn't to anxious to tackle another new drama just yet. "Me too." He said. "I can't wait to get home. I haven't had breakfast with my wife in what feels like ages."

Then the Superboy exclaimed, "Carp!" His hand flying to smack himself in the forehead in the fashion of 'Hello, Megan!' –a habit he had developed during his four-year relationship with M'gann. "I forgot to call Lois and tell her you were coming home!"

Clark only sighed in sudden exasperation. "Its alright. It won't be the first time she breaks a baseball bat on my face for sneaking in through the window."


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