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.” I grabbed my own shoulders and squeezed them a couple of times, just to reassure myself that they were again as firm as they’d ever been.Flambeaux and Deep Six were next.With his flame turned off, Flambeaux was a very pleasant-seeming fellow with a wide grin and a shock of white hair.Deep Six was still in his costume -- a diving suit complete with a bronze dome helmet that covered his entire face, but I assumed the twin brothers would be identical.“Pretty good, fella,” Flambeaux said.“Yeah, that was sweet.” Deep Six’s voice was hollow and resonant in the helmet.“I’d never have tried anything like that myself.”“Well,” said Flambeaux, “not unless you count that time Miss Sinistah--”“Oh, shut up.”“Thanks guys,” I said.“Your support is appreciated.Weird, but appreciated.”As they wandered off, the next member of the sudden Pro-Shift Society came up to me.“Hey there, Goop,” I said.As I’d noticed back at the Arena, he wasn’t affecting me.As soon as his boss was around I took on the consistency of runny Jell-O, but I wasn’t getting an erg of power from the second-string Gunk.“Um.” I said.As unnerving as the effects of the Gunk’s powers were on me, the Goop’s lack of energy was starting to make me even more ill at ease.I tried to sound pleasant.“So.you heard about the kid, huh?”Goop approached me, his body squishing around, making a sound like a water balloon.He walked up until he was staring me in the eye.Then he raised both arms and, with a squish, dropped a hand on each of my shoulders.“I’m proud of you, little guy,” he said.Then he jerked his neck a little, blinked and added, “Proudproudproud!” He pulled me into a decidedly unsolid hug.Then he gave me a sloppy kiss on the cheek and walked away.I’ve got to profile that? I thought.“Dude!”I didn’t even have time to turn around before I was practically concussed by Animan and the Conductor, both beaming like they’d just seen their little brother hit his first home run.“Spectacular!”“Rock!”“Five-star performance, man!” Animan pulled me into a friendly headlock while the Conductor drummed “Charge” on my temples.“Thanks, guys,” I said, breaking free.“Hey, Conductor--”“Ted,” he said.“What?”“My name.It’s Ted Ossian.If anybody calls you a rookie after that stunt I’ll personally hand ‘em their ass.”“No you won’t,” Animan said.“Yeah, I won’t,” Ted grumbled.“But they’d deserve it.”“You rule, brother,” Animan said.“I’d give you my name, but nobody uses it anymore.I’m just Animan.”“Animan it is, then,” I said.Unable to contain my smile, I shook their hands and embraced them as though we were meeting for the first time.“Yo, Shift!”I turned and saw LifeSpeed coming up behind me, his mask pulled off his face and his lips tightened in a grimace.“Morrie wants to talk to you now, Josh.”“Hey, don’t take any crap from him, man,” Animan said.“Yeah.You did the only thing you could,” Ted chimed in.LifeSpeed managed a grin.“And you pulled off a hell of a show in the process.Let’s go, buddy.”Much as I’d enjoyed my prior visits to the office of Morris Abadie, I could positively feel the outpouring of love when I walked in that afternoon, what with the blackened gaze boring straight into my soul.Actually, what I felt was the Rush from Mental Maid’s powers, stronger than I’d ever felt it before.Was she angry? Pleased? Was I disrupting whatever scheme she had or playing right into her hands?The power was so intense that even the source I was drawing it from was feeling more diffused, as if Mental Maid’s powers were not confined to her body.It was almost as though they were bleeding into Morrie.I tried, just for a second, to reach out and try to feel my way through her powers, to understand them, the way I had with some of the others, but it didn’t do any good.Didn’t matter much anyway.I didn’t have another chance to try.The look I was getting from Morrie cut me off from any bold moves I had left in me.“What,” he said.“The hell,” he continued.“Was that?” he finished, giving me a sensation of deja vu.As he fumed, Mental Maid glared.“I saved that kid,” I said.“I’m not making any apologizes for that.”“Somebody else could have saved the kid.”“Nobody else was in position.”“That wasn’t your call! Do you know how long Flux and LifeSpeed have been doing this sort of thing?”“Yeah? Are they coordinated enough to use their powers like they’ve got one brain? And what were you thinking, sending someone as unstable as First Light into a combat situation?”“If that kid hadn’t touched her, she would have been fine.”“Well I guess if you don’t bother to plan.”There was a crackle and I dropped into the chair across from Morrie.My limbs froze into place on the arms and my jaw snapped shut.I was still able to look from side to side, though, and I saw Mental Maid’s eyes shining that damnable purple glow.“I am going to talk,” Morrie said.“You are going to listen.” He was leaning over his desk now, his cigar resting between his index and middle fingers sending tendrils of smoke up to circle his head like a halo.His eyes flashed and he over-enunciated each word like a pissed-off father who has tried every other method to the point of exhaustion in his quest to drill a point into his son’s thick head [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]