Mindbender

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Consensus

Committees don’t get shit done. Take it from someone with years of experience working with committees.

Take a simple operation, anything, be it changing the color-scheme of your website, or adding a simple report. Actual amount of work to implement? One hour. Actual amount of work when the committee is involved? Nine-thousand hours of committee, and it’s still one hour of actual work to implement.

Which is why I was really glad we didn’t have a committee. We had a consensus. My consensus. I liked to think it would let us move faster than the opposition.

“Spider,” I said. “Can you send them off on a false trail?”

“How do you propose I do that?”

“I don’t know. You’re the expert.”

“I can intercept their communications. Should make it harder for them to make a decision.”

“Do it, then. We’re getting out of here.”

“They have helicopters, Lance,” she warned, and now that I concentrated I could hear them, humming above.

“Because nothing can ever be easy. Tanks, too, I imagine.”

“Yeah. Those are on the way.”

I had been joking, but nope, she wasn’t, they actually were sending tanks.

“Now I know we have to sleep together,” I muttered.

“What was that?”

“Nothing. Just saying you fucked us good on this one, Spidey.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I had much choice.”

“Might I remind you that the only reason Fuckface here is in my hands is because you wanted me to capture him? That it took an awful lot of trust on my part to do that for you? That because of this, everyone thinks I’ve mind-controlled him to be my puppet, thinks I ordered him to kill all those people, and I now either have a life sentence as a lab rat, or a death sentence from a bullet in the head?”

She didn’t say anything, just looked morose, and her thoughts were similarly self-incriminating.

“Now, if I’d killed him, they might have considered me a hero. Funny, huh, how things work in the real world?”

“We don’t have time for this,” she said.

“You always say that when I start making a point. I’m on to you. Don’t try to bullshit a mindreader, capice? Yes, we do have time for this. You can pilot that helicopter right into the earth if you wanted. Am I right?”

“Well…yeah. It’s got a satellite uplink.”

I nodded, trying to throw together some kind of plan as the sounds of the chopper got closer.

“You have no right to be upset about anything I’ve done to your brain at this point, Spider,” I said. “But I’m still pissed off at you.”

“I know,” she said, “I’m sorry. I already said I’m sorry.”

“And that makes it all better? Tell that to your kid. Take a moment to soak it in, how shitty it is to pull a guy out of anonymity, ask him to do you a favor, saddle him with a liability, and then fucking hang him out to dry for it.”

She was really hating herself, because she hadn’t allowed herself to think about it like that. She’d only been thinking about her kid. She wouldn’t even meet my eyes, but I wasn’t done.

“You set me up, big time. That this wasn’t the original plan, and that you actually didn’t intend to fuck me over at the outset? That you have a child you love more than anything? These are the only things that kept you from spending your life as a vegetable like Fuckface over here.”

“Can I get you anything, Boss?” he asked, right on time. I ignored him.

“Yeah,” she said, unable to say anything else.

“So I’m going to get you out of this mess. I’m going to get us all out of this mess, and then, Spider, you are going to owe me big time.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, you’d better agree. Now, let’s get down to some motherfucking business, okay?”

I wasn’t going to admit it to her, but I felt more alive than I had in weeks. Right now I had a pretty good feeling that we were surrounded, and that chatter was going on over walkie talkies, and aerial feeds from the helicopter were being fed to the units stationed around the perimeter. The perimeter…of wherever they were. I just wanted to say ‘perimeter’.

There were suits in Washington watching the live feed, I figured, watching the whole thing, biting their knuckles, coffee cups cooling in their hands, while some rather powerful and influential figure, maybe even the POTUS himself, made the call “Do it.”

A few seconds later she said, “They are on the move. They’ll be here soon.”

“Okay, get that chopper down. Make it look like a simple malfunction. Let’s not kill anybody if we can help it yet.”

“Done. What else?” Overhead I could hear a whine that sounded like a sick helicopter.

“Great. The next thing you’re going to do is stand by the window.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I want them to see you first. And if they have orders to shoot first, and ask questions later, I want you to get shot first. It only seems fair, considering.”

She looked scared, and shook her head.

“I’m not giving you a choice, Spider,” I said, and she rose to her feet and gave me a look of such hate that I flinched. Then she positioned herself in front of the window.

There was a powerful thump that shook the ground, and the sound of something large and formerly airborne crashing to the earth nearby.

“Good work,” I said.

“Thanks,” she said through gritted teeth. “You fucker.”

“Now now,” I said. “Take your medicine like a good girl. You came here to screw me over. You didn’t know if I’d live or die. You didn’t care at all, no matter what you thought about me. You just thought you’d live with the guilt, and console yourself with having Keith back and moving away somewhere that no one would ever find you.”

There was no point her arguing her motives with me, so she just shrugged.

“Pretty good double-cross for a villain, though.”

Ohhh that pissed her off. She glared such hatred at me, and the vibe was downright poisonous.

“Gooood,” I said to her, changing my voice. “I can feel the hate flowing through you. Give in to your anger.”

It’s like church, or a funeral. Sometimes the most inappropriate times make things the most funny. She blinked, caught the reference, and it was a beautiful thing to watch unfurl in her mind.

She wanted to be angry. She really did. She tried. But it was like I’d just pushed the boulder down the hill. Maybe I could have stopped it with my superhuman mental strength, but I didn’t want to.

Her eyes popped open in disbelief, initial impulse in her mind was shock, the first requisite of humor: “Did you just say that?” Followed by the rushing realization that he did, indeed, just say that, at a completely inappropriate and inconvenient time.

Then her face exploded, and she burst out in stress laughter: hysterical, rich, feminine laughter. Her hands went to her waist, wrapped around her middle, trying to hold herself together as the laughter deepened, turning into high-pitched shrieks that were really just the audible manifestation of her trying to breathe. She looked up at the ceiling as tears clouded her vision, and she tried to blink and wipe them away. I just grinned like an idiot, making soft giggles, and appreciating myself entirely too much to be modest.

In that moment, with the ice broken, we were both almost cool with the fact that she had totally fucked me over, and in return I’d totally fucked with her brain.

When she finally caught her breath she grinned at me and said, “I hate you.”

“I know,” I said, voice warbling as I struggled to deliver the line from my quivering lips. Just to make sure she caught the reference I sent her a quick mental clip-art of Han Solo getting ready to go down into the carbonite.

It set us both off, and we both laughed again. She needed the table with the cigarettes on it to steady herself this time, and then I tripped while laughing and stumbled back onto the floor of the bathroom, landing hard on my ass and sending a shock of pain into my tailbone.

Which turned out to be pretty fortunate, because that was the awkward time when the feds decided to make their grand entrance by blowing the glass out of the window.

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