Enry was squeezing, wrenching, and throttling him. Capin’s slick black cape, a sentient symbiotic being, had bunched itself around its host’s shoulders and neck. Somehow Psyche had swapped their consciousnesses, the only question was, how long would it last, and will Enry have choked the life out of him before the effect fades. Wolf’s mind flashed, but the visions were not solely his own. Bits and pieces of what had to be Capin’s memories were playing randomly in his head. His peripheral vision began to fade, as he slumped to the floor. Great, he thought, I’m going to die here in the basement of a mental hospital, and it’s not even going to be my own life that flashes before my eyes.
A short distance away, his body writhed. He could imagine the sensory overload Capin’s mind must be experiencing. Wolf had had the luxury of the spiritual attunement when he’d received the powers, like they’d been there all along. But things hadn’t worked out that way for Capin, thrust so unexpectedly into Wolf’s head. He wondered if Capin was reliving some his own memories. If we make it through this, things are going to be a little awkward, to say the least…
Capin doubled over and crumpled to the ground, hands covering his head. Even as his knees struck the tile, it was like gunfire in his ears. His hands over his ears did nothing to lessen the noise. He caught sight of Psyche blew him a kiss as she walked out the door. He’d never experienced something so clear. He could have counted every stitch along the zippers. The smell of leather filled his nostrils just watching her face crease in a smile before she disappeared through the door.
His teeth ground down against each other. It was almost too much to bear. The once dim lights that hung down on cables and kept half the room in shadows now burned at his retinas. They clenched closed, blacking out the hot white lighting and leaving him with the noise. It was too much to distinguish anything.
The creaking pipes running water above them blended into the echo of Psyche’s heels against tiling. Breathe. The smell of bleach turned in his stomach. Breathe.
There in the darkness under the overwhelming din he caught fleeting images. Strange faces with a vague feel of familiarity. The visage of a beautiful young girl. She turned to face him, her long hair rolling off her shoulder. She looked on him with an air that could be mistaken for nothing but love. Capin could feel himself try and shake it off. It wasn’t his. Suddenly it was all buried in rock.
The shock sent his eyes open. “Wolf!”, he called out to the man that should have been there, close by. The voice that rang in his ears was not his. And the man that was several feet away was not Wolf. It was him. The light was still almost blinding. His jaw tightened and his eyes squinted, trying to filter some of it out. He watched as his own body struggled against the friend that had protected him for so long.
Through Capin’s ears, Bluewolf could only hear muffled sounds. If truth were to be told, the total lack of sensory perception in this body was as frustrating to Wolf, as he was sure it overwhelming to the mind that now occupied his own body. The more his vision darkened, the more memories seemed to appear, only to fade within seconds. He saw a conclave of some sort. A wizened Oriental man, his mouth moving… koke- kokezaru, Wolf finally managed to hear. That image was replaced by one of an inky black pool. Shimmering and undulating, like black mercury. A hand, Capin’s, reached out and cautiously touched the surface. Instead of the finger puncturing the liquid, the liquid seemed to flow up, covering hand and arm, chest, legs and head. Smothering.
Relax. Wolf heard the words in his head, but they were of two separate voices, overlapping each other. Capin’s Oriental teacher and the Indian Shaman from so many years ago. Relax. There it was again. And then it clicked. The more he struggled, the harder Enry fought to suppress. Relax. Enry knew him, knew he wasn’t a threat. The scrambling was as much a shock to Capin’s cape as it had been for he and Bluewolf, and it could only react. Relax. He did so, finally, slipping into unconsciousness. His last conscious thought, I promised Abigail…
For all the sensory overload, the sounds in his ears, the smells, even that antiseptic hospital taste, an empty feeling pumped through his veins. Like a man cut in half. For so long now he’d lived with the feeling of Enry all around him. And now it was gone. Beneath all the clamor, there was a gaping hole. And it was strangling Bluewolf.
Under all that weight rattling his brain, Wolf’s body got to its feet. The man’s body moved with an amazing sort of ease. The weight of the suit was practically non-existent. Capin had trained his whole life to get himself into peak physical condition, and Enry had helped him push those limits. But moving in Bluewolf’s body, it was obvious that he was beyond that.
The cape had wrapped around Capin’s neck. Kneeling over his own body a chill ran through his spine. He gripped the cape as it tightened around its host body, digging in. He could see the cowl choking off his air supply. “Aaron,” the name rolling off his tongue like second nature, as if it were his own. Capin kept the voice quiet. He was sure his ears were already bleeding.
“Damn it, come on.” He gripped the tuxedo by the lapel. The touch alone seemed to give Enry some odd reassurance. It was enough to release its grip around the throat.
Through the inky black of darkness shone a speck of light. Moving steadily towards him, it began take shape. A pale blue wolf stalked him. No, not a wolf, but an Indian in shaman’s robes. No… a monk, wrapped in pale, shimmering garb. It is not your time. You still have much to do. The voice had that same overlapping quality, and the monk’s mouth hadn’t moved. The old man simply folded his hands into the sleeves of his robes and smiled.
It began like a gentle breeze, picking up ever so slightly, and then dying out. Another breeze, this one slightly stronger, continual, building up more and more until it seemed a gale had sprung up from nothingness. Gasping for breath, Bluewolf stared out as Capin’s eyes snapped open. It was odd seeing his own face and knowing it wasn’t in a mirror. “Well, this is just odd.” Odd indeed, hearing himself talk in another man’s voice.
‘Bluewolf’ helped ‘Capin’ to his feet. Enry hung loose from his shoulders as he leaned against the examination table. He reached a gloved hand up, tugging at the bow tie, trying to loosen the tailored collar. “Why do I get the feeling I won’t be wearing formal wear for a while once we figure out how to reverse this?”
‘Bluewolf’ smiled, Capin’s usual smile looking somewhat off on the wrong face. He patted the cape that hung off his shoulders, looking it over. He hid it in his expression, but there was a definite separation anxiety. “Probably for the same reasons I won’t be doing any jousting any time soon.”Whether he knew it or not, he was still whispering. He looked himself back in the eyes. “You all right?”
The corner of Capin’s mouth shot up, “Psyche escaped, several young girls are dead, and our brains have been scrambled. All right doesn’t really cover it, but yeah. The question is, how long is this,” he gestured back and forth between them, “going to last?”
‘Bluewolf’s’ head shook. “I wish I could tell you.” Behind the visor he winced a bit. He was getting used to the uncomfortable noise. That alone was disquieting. “Still, as unsettling as this,” he mimicked Capin’s gesture, “is right now, there’s a scared little girl waiting for you to come back.”
“Technically she’s waiting on you.” Wolf frowned beneath Capin’s cowl. “You also have a lunch date with Sparky tomorrow, out of costume. Looks like we’ll have to make it a threesome. In addition to that, I need to foil an assassination attempt on one Detective Pope by the new and ‘imposter’ Blindside tomorrow night.”
“It’s not as if we got into this business for the leisure time.” ‘Wolf’ headed toward the exit, stepping over the door laid on the ground. “Let’s start with grabbing Abigail and getting her out of here. She’s been here too long, and I want her out ASAP.” He stopped and shook his head. “And by I, I’m thinking I mean both of us.” He tapped his finger against his temple.
‘Capin’ chuckled as he passed through the ruined doorway, “Just make sure that you’re the one to open her door, otherwise you’re going to have a killer headache.” He noted the quizzical look ‘Wolf’ was giving him, and wondered if that was, in fact, how he looked when he had questioning thoughts.”I gave her a comm link set for alert. Told her-”
‘Wolf’ cut him off, “That if anyone but me shows up to get her, to… activate… it,” he trailed off. Both heroes exchanged a concerned look.
“Riiiight… and the frequency is set rather high.” ‘Capin’ said, tapping his ear beneath the cowl.
“Great. I already feel like my ears are bleeding.” His attempt to lighten the mood met with some success. ‘Capin’ laughed.
“Hey, at least my body didn’t try and kill you.”
“He wasn’t trying to kill you.” Wolf’s face grinned back at him. “If he was, you’d be dead.” They continued down the corridor, side by side. “In all seriousness. After lunch, we need some heavy research. As nice and handsome of a guy as you are, this is feeling a bit too permanent for my tastes.” Capin winced behind Wolf’s visor as trace memories made themselves uncomfortably known. It was just as if he was worried about her as Bluewolf would be. “And this doesn’t just affect us.”
Wolf’s thoughts immediately went to Kaye. This was definitely going to be hard to explain to her. At least she would be holed up in the Strategoi safe house for a while. Another woman suddenly came to mind. Her black hair was cut short and her dark eyes and bright smile radiated warm feelings through him. She was dressed in a tuxedo shirt and dark pants, a waitress where Capin – Ryu – worked, but had since moved on. Capin was right, this didn’t just affect them. He’d have to take a few days off, probably without pay… at least Capin would. Hopefully they would have figured out how to reverse things by then, he’d not get fired, and they’d all be able to laugh about it in the future.
‘Wolf’ stepped up to the door, peeking through the door. The scene he was expecting was there with a harsh crispness. Abigail Burton was a huddled gray mass in the corner, still turning the smooth disc in her hands. ‘Capin’ tapped him, holding him back a moment. ‘Wolf’ paused, turning halfway. Capin’s gloved hand reached up gripping the visor and pulling it off. “I forgot,” He said with a wink, wrapping his hand around the turning it slightly. It was an unnecessary but he wanted to give her a bit of warning. Abby’s head shot up, her fingers gripping the communicator tightly. “It’s ok, Abigail,” Wolf’s head popped in, “It’s me.”
The door opened the rest of the way and the little girl ran for him, her little legs carrying her with incredible speed. ‘Wolf’ caught her and hefted her up. Her eyes seemed to well up a little as she wrapped her arms around him, burying her face in his neck. “Who keeps the best promises?”
‘Capin’ stepped forward from the shadows. Normally the real Capin would know there was someone behind him by the nagging feeling in his veins. Instead he could hear his original body breathing closer to him. That, and the girl’s hold tightened around his neck. “Abigail,” he said turning toward the tuxedo clad man. Abby turned in his arms, keeping an eye on the stranger. “I want you to meet my friend, Capin. He helped me find you.”
She hesitated but smiled. “Hello, Abigail.”
“Now to get you back to mom and dad.” He turned to ‘Capin’ and gestured the way they’d come with his head. “I suggest the back door. Maybe she left us the Limo.”
The Lupine hero in dapper duds nodded and led the way back down the hallway. He knew the way, just as if he’d been the one walking behind Mistress Psyche. And he was getting the odd feeling that he might get fired again, which wasn’t possible. “We’re here.” ‘Capin’ jogged up to the door, checking through the wire mesh window. The limo sat there under the thin dull lights. “And car’s still there.”He checked the handle, but it was locked. ‘Capin’ paused a moment, before kicking the doors off their hinges. Instinctively, Enry slipped up between the doors, severing the deadbolt and pushing them open.
“Have you ever ridden in a limo, Abigail?”
She shook her head, completely intrigued by the animated cape that hung from Capin’s back. “No.” ‘Capin’ was checking that the doors worked. Leaned into the front seat for a moment, before heading to meet them halfway.
“I’ve only ridden in one once before, myself.”
“No keys,” ‘Capin’ started, getting ready to take the girl from ‘Wolf’s arms. As the thought struck him, Enry rolled out from around him and reached for the girl. As odd as the moment was, it felt like the most natural thing. Just as if he’d moved his own arms. “You’re going to need to ‘hotwire’ it.”
Abigail tensed for a moment as the cape reached for her, but the moment it touched her she relaxed. It was warm. Soothing. ‘Wolf’ let go and she was lifted over into ‘Capin’s arms. She even giggled. The cowled man looked down at her as she did, giving her a big smile. The signs of a normal little girl were already breaking through.
He slid the girl into the back as ‘Wolf’ got behind the wheel then climbed beside her. In the front seat, ‘Wolf’ removed a short stick of metal with a black grip from his forearm compartment. Slipping it into the ignition, he squeezed the grip at the end and the sparks shot out from the keyhole. He turned it and the engine fired up. He reached up to the visor and pressed the garage opener. Sweet success. He popped the visor back on. The engine purred as he slipped it into gear and eased it around and out onto the street.
Abigail Burton looked up into the lenses around ‘Capin’s eyes. His arm was tight around her shoulders. “Are you a real super-hero?” Her eyes were wide. “I’ve never met a real one before. My mom says that you’re not real.”
‘Capin’s lip curled up on one side. “Super-heroes are definitely real.” He looked down at the dirty tuxedo shirt he was wearing and then back up to where the real Capin was sitting in the front. “I’m more like a magician.”
“If you’re not a super-hero, how do you make the cape go?”
He winked. “Magic.” The car stopped then the soft engine died. ‘Capin’ looked up, forgetting the windows were tinted. “I think you’re home.” He reached over and pulled the door handle and let it pop open. A tall, white, house stood behind a wide snow covered lawn. Abigail’s face brightened like a Christmas tree. She climbed over him, completely forgetting that he was there and ran up the lawn to the front door. ‘Capin’ got out and ‘Wolf’ was already standing there.
“I need a drink.” ‘Wolf’ sighed. “And a nap.”
The sky was beginning to lighten as Capin and Bluewolf sat in the leather-upholstered chairs of Aaron Matthews’ den. ‘Wolf’ had suggested that they drop the limo off with his contact at GCPD. They met with Lt. Madison, glossing over the details of who ‘Capin’s’ new partner was, though Madison kept giving ‘Wolf’ sidelong glances. The two heroes also clued him in to the events that had taken place at the Hospital, and Madison gave them all assurances that he would have an investigative team turn the place upside down, and a forensics team turning the limo inside out. After they parted, Madison headed directly to the Burton residence, to explain that a team of undercover agents had been responsible for Abigail’s rescue, and to try and get as much information from her as he could. DeLucci was still on the loose, after all.
‘Ryu’ had called his boss at home, explaining that he had to leave town for a few days because of a death in the family. Steve hemmed and hawed for several minutes, reminding him over and over that for all his problems with punctuality that he really didn’t owe him any favors. Finally, he said they would manage, but Ryu would definitely be on thin ice when he returned to work. ‘Aaron’ had been listening in on the other extension, and simply shook his head and sighed when the conversation was through.
“I don’t suppose you’d have an opening for a line cook in your company cafeteria?” They had changed out of costume, ‘Aaron’ looked a little uncomfortable in a sweatshirt and jeans. ‘Ryu’ had simply taken off his jacket and tuxedo shirt, Enry flowing over him to appear as a simple black t-shirt.
‘Ryu’ poured them both a glass of Scotch, handing one to ‘Wolf,’ which he readily accepted. He chuckled, “I’d have to check your references.” ‘Wolf’ snorted, taking a long sip from his glass. His eyes widened and he let out a low whooo. “Sorry, should have warned you about that. I’m accustomed to the acute sense of taste.” He flopped down into the chair; eyes heavy lidded, and let out an explosive breath. “What I’m not used to is the fatigue.”
‘Aaron’ nodded, taking a smaller sip of his drink. As much as he thought he should be tired, he realized that he wasn’t. “Tell me about it.” We need to figure out something soon, before I get too comfortable in here.