Yeah, I still exist. I just exist in a very busy state at the moment.
But it’s Thursday and we can put all that aside for the sharing of a good ol’ Blank Mastermind backstory blip, right?
Of course we can.
So, here we are. Chronologically pretty soon after that last story bit I posted, we have the instance in which Charles Fernsby and Dallas Knight are first given their superpowers. From Charles’s POV since I’m still experimenting with that.
Plus an appropriate collage:
And here be the story!
“This is a big day, boys.” Derrick Mansley smiled at the two of us as he held open the door to one of the rooms, all painted in white. “This is the day you both become superheroes.”
Dallas swallowed and hung back, waiting for me to enter the room first.
I caught his eye and gave him a reassuring smile. This was what we were here for, after all. I stepped through the door first, looking around to take in the surroundings.
There were no windows aside from a single skylight in the ceiling. Everything was white and sterile. And an odd . . . chair-looking thing sat off to the side. I looked at that the longest, trying to figure out how it worked.
I didn’t succeed in figuring that out all the way, but it was a pretty safe guess that it was something that had to do with giving us the superpowers.
Dallas’s quiet steps sounded behind me, then the professional clacking of Mansley’s dress shoes and the thump of the door closing.
Another door on the other side of the room slid open out of the slick, white wall and a few white-coated men and women came in. All of them went off to mess with the equipment or the tubes of liquid nearby, but one woman gave us a smile and strode over, clasping her hands.
“Charles Fernsby and Dallas Knight, I presume?”
“Yes ma’am.” Dallas and I chorused at the same time in completely different tones. Mine accompanied with a smile and said more casually, while his said with almost military stiffness.
The woman stuck out her hand to each of us in turn. “My name is Melody, and I’ll be the head technician on this project of giving you your powers today.” Her smile widened. “I hope you both realize what an honor it is to be involved in such a groundbreaking project. All around the country today, there are over four-dozen other men receiving powers as well, but you two are at the heart. This is the base of operations sending instructions to all our other outposts.”
I did already know all of that. Though a lot of my excitement could be more interpreted as nervousness, since this was . . . well, a new thing.
I just nodded. “It’s quite . . . remarkable. Though I do wonder if . . .” I glanced over at Mansley. “If this is the first time, have these had any periods of testing before now?”
“Oh, no need to worry, Charles.” Mansley smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “We’ve tested before. It’s perfectly safe.”
Dallas cleared his throat and spoke up quietly. “Tested on humans?”
Derrick Mansley’s smile faded just slightly and he gave a slight cough. “Rats. But they worked perfectly and any risk is very slight, I assure you.” He gave a nod to Melody, who nodded back and looked back at us.
“Well, I’ll assemble the injections and we’ll be ready to go in just a few minutes, sir.” She strode off to one of the tables where the other white-coated lab hands were working with a few test tubes.
“Thank you, Melody.” Mansley clasped his hands behind his back, redirecting his attention to the two of us. “I won’t pretend that this procedure will not be painful for the two of you. But it will be brief. The injection process takes under a minute. And after that, the rest is purely electronic. It might give a little of a jolt because they will take effect so quickly.”
I winced just a little, but nodded in understanding.
Dallas wasn’t looking at Mansley. His piercing green eyes were narrowed slightly, busy scanning over the chair contraption in the corner.
Mansley raised an eyebrow as he looked over. “Did you have a question, Dallas?”
Dallas jumped slightly, straightening up. “I . . . no, sir I . . .” he stopped. “Actually, yes. How do the injections work?”
“Ahhh the injection apparatus,” Mansley smiled a little and looked over lovingly at the chair like it was his own child instead of something that looked like it had come out of a medieval torture chamber. He looked back to Dallas. “Well, it’s a little bit of a complicated process. See, we have to make sure the injections make it through your body more evenly than not, right at first. We’ve been working on one that works through just one injection, but it’s not developed yet, so we’re going with this. In this machine, the needles are in small pads that are adjusted per body size and . . .”
He stopped and frowned thoughtfully at the ceiling before glancing down at Dallas again. “It’s a little like . . . have you ever seen the movie ‘Captain America’?”
Dallas was silent for a second, just looking at Mansley. He spoke hesitantly, “ . . . yes.”
Mansley smiled again. “Right. Well it’s a little like that. The needle pads going down and giving multiple injections. Only we don’t need the radiation chamber to activate the nanites. It’s only the much less difficult process of flipping a switch. Do you see now?”
I was still watching the scientists fill the tubes with a silvery liquid that looked disturbingly like mercury to me. “So it gives super strength. This is like government-approved steroids?”
Mansley chuckled and shook his head. “Charles, these nanites we’ll be injecting you both with are perfectly safe, there’s no need to worry. No side-effects. No visible bulging of muscles or change in appearance. Just a difference in performance.”
“But it is super strength, correct?”
“Among other things for you, yes.” He nodded, rubbing a thumb and forefinger over his mustache. “Flight is the other main one. Slightly enhanced healing. Invulnerability is a little glitchy, but you might have that as well.” He gave Dallas a look and didn’t say more.
I caught the drift of slight doubt and tilted my head. “That applies for Dallas too, right?”
Mansley looked up at me, his eyebrows up. “For Dallas? Oh, no. He’s . . .” he laughed a little. “When was the last time you saw a hero and a sidekick with the same powers? No, his will be different.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dallas’s brow furrow.
I frowned. “Then what will his b- . . .?”
“Director Mansley, we’re ready.”
Mansley put his hands together. “Excellent. Charles, you’re first up.” He put a hand on my back and guided me up towards to chair.
I opened my mouth, then closed it again. Mansley would probably just tell Dallas what his powers would be. Because obviously right now he didn’t want to tell it to me.
And whatever it was, it would be tested and good. It wouldn’t have been approved by Director Mansley if it wasn’t.
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves and stepped up onto the platform holding up the chair. A man in a white coat nodded and gestured for me to take a seat. I nodded back and turned, awkwardly settling myself into the stiff, cold chair.
A little bit like a dentist’s chair. Only less cushioned. And a lot more contraptions on the sides.
From where the chair was, I could see the rest of the white room. All the scientists still bustling around everywhere. Mansley standing with his hands clasped behind his back and watching expectantly.
And Dallas, looking very worried.
Even though I’d only known him a few days, I’d gotten the impression that three-quarters of his facial expressions were just versions of worried. But this was especially anxious looking.
I gave him another reassuring smile and a quick wink. It made me feel a little better to see his concern lessen a fraction.
The lab hand up next to the chair made a quick circuit around me, lowering what Mansley had called the “needle pads” down over my arms and chest. A few more over my legs. And then a few more white-coated people came up to attach the silvery looking liquid containers to the sides, hooking up tubes.
And then everyone stepped back.
I’m a doctor. I don’t have any problems with needles. But all this was . . . I’ll admit I was having a little bit of trouble keeping my breathing even.
I murmured out a quick prayer.
“Director Mansley, we’re ready to inject.”
Mansley again gave a single nod. “Go ahead.”
And Melody pressed a button on the side.
There was a small metallic sound and I couldn’t help a gasp of pain as the needle points stuck in all over my body. The machine whirred and the silver liquid started to drain down out of the tubes. I clenched my teeth together hard, wincing. Not making any more sound than just the gasp at the beginning took a huge amount of effort. I just ended up holding my breath and squeezing my eyes closed.
It’ll be over soon. It doesn’t last that long. Mansley said under a minute.
It felt like an hour. A groan escaped my mouth before I could stop it as the needles pulled out of my skin.
I opened my eyes to stare at the ceiling through my watering eyes. My chest heaved after involuntarily holding my breath that long.
It was over. I felt very sore and shaky. And definitely not a lot like a superhero. The thought crossed my mind that that might be something close to a torture method.
I briefly wondered how Angela would react to seeing all the needle pricks all over my body later.
The sound of applause made me jump. I looked down to see Mansley and Melody clapping enthusiastically. A few lab hands joined in. Dallas’s extremely worried look had returned.
The man who’d helped me get hooked up pulled the needle pads up from the sides and reached a hand over to help me stand.
I definitely needed it. I almost fell over as I got up. Thankfully the pain from the needles was fading away, but I still felt shaky and a little weird. And there was a strange, metallic taste at the back of my throat now.
My legs shook under me but I got down from the stand alright and half-limped back over to Dallas and Mansley. Mansley clapped a hand on my shoulder, smiling broadly.
“You’ve done it, Charles. Good job.” He nodded and gestured to a few seats along the wall. “Take a seat if you wish. It’s Dallas’s turn next and this shouldn’t take but another minute.”
I nodded, taking another labored breath. “Thank you. I’ll . . .” I gave Dallas a look. “I can stay standing, thank you. It’s not that bad.”
Dallas’s gaze didn’t move from off the chair.
Mansley nodded. “Right. Well, up you go, my boy.” He gave Dallas a pat on the back.
Obediently, Dallas moved up to the platform. His expression was set in stone like some statue of a martyr. He laid himself down on the chair without any help. I noticed that the scientist up by the stand had to adjust the pads a lot further down to reach Dallas. Similar, smaller silvery tubes were hooked to the sides of the chair.
I winced for him as they pressed the button.
Dallas jerked as the needles sank in and bit down on his lip hard, staring up at the ceiling.
The liquid slowly drained down out of the tubes and color slowly drained out of Dallas’s face, but he still didn’t move beyond clenching his fists.
Just when I was starting to get very worried, the liquid was gone and they stopped. The needles pulled up out and Dallas visibly flinched again, sucking in a shuddery breath.
More applause from the scientists. The same unfastening of the apparatus as they’d done with me, and the man offered Dallas his hand.
Dallas just lay there for another second, closing his eyes and taking a few deep breaths. He muttered something under his breath, then opened his eyes. He pushed up out of the chair by himself, shakily stood to his feet and walked back to Mansley and me.
“Excellent job, boy.” Mansley gave him a similar pat on the shoulder like he’d given me and approvingly smiled down at him. “You did very well.”
Dallas swallowed hard. “Thank you, sir.” His voice still came out a little raspy sounding, but he was managing to stand up straight almost better than I was.
“That leaves just one last step to be done.” Mansley gestured to the door. “If you’ll both follow me, I’ll show you the most impressive installment in the facility.” And with that, he strode for the exit.
I moved close to Dallas in case he needed steadying and followed after Mansley. Surprisingly, my soreness had mostly worn off and I was able to walk better than I expected. Dallas still limped, but he didn’t seem to need help walking.
Out the door we went, back into the wide, windowed hallways. It took some fast walking to keep up with Mansley’s stride as we went down one hallway, then another, taking turn after turn until we arrived at a door that . . . had no doorknob.
I blinked at it for a second, coming to a stop.
Mansley just pressed his thumb against a pad next to the door and it slid open. He smiled at us. “Right in here.”
We stepped in right after him. I stared at what was in front of us, blinking a couple of times.
What on earth . . .?
It was a whole wall filled up with switches. Each with a small nameplate above it and a red light next to it. As I looked closer, the nameplates held the names of the states. So that meant . . .?
Dallas had walked closer than I had, his face showing awe and fascination with the display in front of him. “So these are to control the powers of all the heroes in all the states? To turn the nanites on and off at will from the control center?”
“Smart boy,” Mansley approved. “We’re working to condense it a little, but this is the large scale version we’re working with right now.”
I was busy looking at the big switch off to the side. An unlit bulb was to one side of it. “And that?”
“The master switch. Will turn on and off all the powers at once.” He looked at his watch. “And the signal should be coming in any second to . . .”
The bulb blinked on next to the switch, glowing bright red.
“Ahh, there it is.” Mansley clasped his hands behind his back and strode over to the switch. He stood there dramatically for a second, looking between the two of us. He reached out and settled one hand on the grip of the switch. “Are you two ready to be the heroes Utah needs you to be?”
Dallas and I both stood at attention. I gave a solemn nod after exchanging a look with my new sidekick. “We are.”
Mansley smiled. “Well then it’s time to flip the switch.”
He gripped it tight and pulled the handle up until it clacked against the top. Every switch on the whole board immediately slammed up to match the position and a loud bell noise filled the room.
The shock wasn’t as big as I expected for me. A few goosebumps up my arms. Enough of a jolt to make me jump. But nothing beyond that.
Well that wasn’t so bad . . .
I looked over at Dallas just in time to see his eyes roll up in his head. He tottered and started to fall backwards.
“Whoa!” I dove forward and caught him just before he hit the ground.
Passing out? I hadn’t even gotten lightheaded. My heart beat faster as I checked him over, checking that the pulse and breathing were okay before staring at Mansley.
“What was that?”
Mansley just blinked and tilted his head, frowning thoughtfully. “Something . . . I didn’t think would happen.”
“His powers . . . whatever they are . . . were tested, right? Did this happen any time then?”
Mansley half closed one eye, still squinting at Dallas’s limp form. “Well, not exactly . . .”
Before I could ask what in heaven’s name that was supposed to mean, Dallas sucked in a breath. His eyes flickered open again and he blinked a couple of times, frowning at the ceiling.
The panic I’d barely even noticed clamping around my chest eased a little and I let out a breath. “Hey, Dallas. Are you feeling alright?”
Dallas just blinked again, looking confused. “I . . . what . . .”
“You fainted for a minute there.”
The same look of mortification I’d seen when he misspoke my name on our first meeting crossed his face and he paled a shade.
And then suddenly there was a flash of blue and I wasn’t supporting him anymore. He was gone.
I stared at my empty hands for a second before launching to my feet. “Dallas?”
“Over here . . . M-Mr. Fernsby . . .”
Dallas was standing off on the other side of the room, staring at his hands They flickered and glitched like some bad computer program for a few seconds, then there was another flash of blue and he appeared a few feet closer to me.
Confusion on his face, Dallas looked up to me. His expression shifted again to blank shock, his mouth falling open.
And it was then that I realized I’d launched up a bit higher than usual when I had gotten to my feet.
I was flying.
Mansley let out an incredulous laugh and clapped his hands together. “Boys, I’d say our project is a success.”
Hope you all enjoyed seeing that bit of backstory!
Have a great Thursday, everyone. ❤