Actions

Work Header

The Technopath's Webb (formerly the Tracker and the Tech)

Chapter Text

                Carl Webb sighed after checking his watch and stepping out of the elevator on the office floor where he worked with his coworkers. The dark haired, green eyed man in his late 20’s, whose lean, muscular body stood about 6’3, knew that he was late. Technically, it being 9:05, he was only 5 minutes late, but he knew that at least two of his coworkers would still give him hell about it.

                Carl’s teammates didn’t disappoint him on that score. The first thing that one of the man’s coworkers, Bill Harken, said to him as Carl passed the super-strong African American’s office was: “I see Mr. Webb has finally decided to grace us with his presence. This is the third time this month that you have been late, sir. Is this because you just like to make a grand entrance? ‘You can relax everyone, the seer of all things is here! You can all go about your business now!’”

                Carl chuckled dryly. He knew from the larger man’s joking tone that he was just trying to have fun with him, just like he did with all of his other coworkers. Bill was, after all, known for having a somewhat bad attitude and inappropriate sense of humor. He was the closest thing to an office asshole that Rosen’s group had among its ranks. But everyone put up with the man, not just because of his Alpha gift, but also because they knew that, when the chips were down, Bill was an extremely loyal man who would always have his team members’ backs. Besides, the black man’s experience that he had received in the FBI made him invaluable in the field. Even so, it somewhat rankled Carl that Bill still seemed to be threatened by his presence, and his particular Alpha ability, even though Mr. Webb had been working with Dr. Rosen’s team for almost 3 months now.

So the skinnier man still felt a need to comment on Bill’s remarks. “We’ve already been over this, Bill, sometimes I have to drop Charles off at his school when my wife has an art show in the early morning, and he’s still not used to the ‘traffic’ in this city. And you can cut it out with this seer business already .As you know, I can’t see the future. I’m just good at finding certain people that Dr. Rosen wants found. I’m part of the team, like you. I hope you can get used to that soon.”

                Bill, already seeming to have gotten bored of this conversation, which he and Mr. Webb had already had about 6 variations of, just nodded and turned back to the paperwork on his desk. “Yeah. Yeah. Whatever, man. But some of us have work to do, and if you don’t mind. I’m going to get to it before you and I get caught in another web of conversation.”

                Carl ignored the bad pun and nodded while faking a smile. “Sound like a good idea. I’ll go get to work now, too.” Bill just nodded while the second newest recruit to Dr. Rosen’s team (Carl had joined up just a few weeks before Hicks had done so) continued walking towards his office near the back of the building on this floor. The man said a quick hello to both Cameron Hicks and Rachel Pirzad, the former of which nodded politely from his office, and the latter of which waved enthusiastically at her coworker from her seated position at her desk while reciting a quick “Hello!” back before going back to her huge pile of paperwork.

Carl smiled, he and Hicks were still getting used to each other, despite having one very important thing in common, but, out of all his coworkers, Rachel was probably the one he got along with the best. Like him, Rachel had a somewhat shy and quirky personality, and saw the world differentially then most people did. For these reasons, she and Carl had become fast friends within the first couple weeks of Mr. Webb’s employment for Dr. Rosen. Carl was glad to have the quirky red-head as a friend.

                As Carl continued going towards his office he almost literally ran into another one of his co-workers, Gary Bell, who had stormed out of his office right in front of the taller man, visibly agitated, but still holding his hand up in the air to manipulate the electromagnetic frequencies that only the gifted autistic Alpha could see. “You were supposed to be here at 9AM! Everyone is supposed to be here at 9 to greet each other, then start work! But now it’s almost 9:10, and I have to greet you now because Dr. Rosen says that it’s not socially acceptable not to greet people when they walk in the room, and it will probably be at least 9:15 before I can start working! You’re throwing my entire schedule off, and I may have to cut my lunch break short, so I won’t be able to watch sports center for Bill and tell him the scores of the games he can’t watch! I’m looking for when those games are and…no, the first one doesn’t start till 11, so I can’t tell him now…Not that he deserves my help if he’s the one that keeps stealing my sandwiches which my mom makes for me. He said he hasn’t stolen any since that first one, but I don’t know if I can trust him after he did before…” The young man suddenly put his hand down and gave Carl a suspicious look. “You haven’t been stealing my sandwiches, have you?”

                Carl sighed, then smiled. He was used to Gary’s antics by now. The transducer’s personality had been a little annoying at first, but it hadn’t taken long for Carl to understand how to get along with the autistic individual. The time he had spent with Charles had given him plenty of experience in associating with people with child-like minds. People like Gary needed routine in their lives, and they tended to see even the slightest breaks in procedure as suspect. Also, being somewhat egocentric(but not necessarily vain), Gary sometimes fell into the trap of thinking that people who broke a rule, no matter how small the rule was, or how unintentional the deviation from it, did so on purpose in order to throw off his schedule. The slightly older man had long since learned that he had to explain himself to Gary when he messed up, or the transducer would assume that he had broken a rule on purpose.

He had also learned to humor the young man, no matter how outlandish Gary’s propositions, or in this case, accusations, occasionally where. “No, Gary, I haven’t been eating any of your sandwiches. I always get a salad from that place down the street at lunchtime, remember? So I don’t need your food.”

Mr. Webb knew better than to suggest that Gary grab something healthy to go on his lunch breaks, as well, so that no one could steal his food. The somewhat child-like man had made it clear before that he preferred to eat his mom’s sandwiches in the office break room during his lunch hour from exactly noon to 1 PM every day. As in almost every other aspect of his life, Gary’s lunch hour was part of his strict daily routine. “And I am sorry that I messed up your schedule, Gary. But we’ve been over this before. Sometimes I have to drive Charles to his special school on the edge of town, and we have to pull over and take breaks because he isn’t used to being around so many people and I need to help him calm down. Occasionally that whole process makes me late for work. But I am sorry about that, and I’ll do my best to be on time from now on. Are we okay now, Gary?”

                The younger man, hand now back in the air, reluctantly nodded. “Yeah. We’re good. We’re okay, just as long as you don’t come into work late again.” The transducer started to walk away, then quickly turned around. “Oh, and Dr. Rosen says that we are going to have a meeting in an hour in the meeting room.” The man moved his hand slightly to the right and added. “Oops, sorry. 59 minutes. The time just changed.”

                Carl said “Thank you!” to Gary while the younger man was already walking back towards his office. The transducer, without turning around, waved back as if to say “you’re welcome.” And Carl was happy with that. He knew that was as close as Gary got to being polite when his mind was on other things.

                Just before Carl stepped into his office, he was met in the hallway by Nina (she had given the group a last name, but Carl wasn’t sure if Theroux was her actual last name, or just another lie, like the ones the “pusher” often told others about her past), who had just gotten out of her morning therapy session with Dr. Rosen. The woman smiled in a teasing manner and pointed at the sunglasses that Carl had always worn to work since the first time he had met Nina. “Still rocking the shades, are we Mr. Webb? You know, if you keep doing that every day, a girl might get the impression that you don’t trust her.”

                Carl sighed, then rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses. “Nina, we’ve been over this already. I trust you with my life when we are out in the field, and I know you are a valuable part of this team. I’ve even begun to consider you a friend. But no. I don’t trust you not to push me. From what Dr. Rosen had told all of us, your ability is like a drug for you, and sometimes you just can’t seem to stop yourself from using it, especially when you see something you really want. So until Dr. Rosen says you have it all under control, the shades stay on.”

                Nina frowned at him, making Carl feel slightly guilty, as he did every time he and the dark haired woman had this conversation. He had figured out by now that it sometimes hurt the woman’s feelings when people didn’t trust her because of her Alpha ability, or the ways she had used that ability in the past. And Carl knew that, despite the fact that Nina was somewhat vain and occasionally selfish, she did care about her friends and teammates, including himself, and that she often put helping people above following rules and procedures. Carl, who had a similar set of priorities, admired that in the woman. He also liked that Nina had befriended Rachel and taken the younger, less confidant woman under her wing, even allowing the red head to move in with her.

Even so, Mr. Webb knew that he couldn’t risk allowing Nina to have the opportunity to get inside his head. If the woman gave into temptation and pushed him, one of the most potentially powerful Alphas on the planet, according to Dr. Rosen, the results could be disastrous. Still, Carl was glad when Nina’s frown disappeared as she laughed her teammate’s comment off. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know his whole spiel. ‘Pushing someone for personal gain is wrong, Nina! And you need to control your ability, not let it control you!’ I get it okay? But can we at least be civil with each other and greet each other properly? Good morning, Carl.”

                Carl grinned. “Good morning, Nina.” Truth be told, being on a first name basis with his co-workers had been a little weird for Carl at first, since everyone had called each other by their last names at his old job, but he had quickly grown to like the slightly more laid back way things were done in Dr. Rosen’s group. Before Carl walked into his office to start on some paperwork, he also added. “I’ll see you at the meeting then.”

                The dark haired woman smirked good-naturedly. “You bet. I’ll see you at the meeting…shades.”

                Carl rolled his eyes again and closed the door, so he didn’t hear whether or not Nina punctuated her last sentence with a laugh or not. ‘Well…’ Carl thought to himself. ‘Time to get to work!’ Carl started on the pile of paper on his desk. The man was able to put a sizable dent in his workload by the time he got up to go the team meeting with Dr. Rosen, which Carl was only just on time for, with only 1 minute to spare.

                The older, gray haired man greeted each member of his team individually before he started the day’s briefing. “I’ve just been going over some intel that I received this morning. It seems that a known Alpha, named Skylar Adams…” Dr. Rosen pushed a button on the remote in his hand, and the projector at the front of the room displayed a picture and the usual biographical info on the brunette (with streaks of dyed blond hair) Alpha. “Who has the remarkable ability to build almost anything out of everyday items. She had her apartment broken into, and was attacked by unknown assailants. From physical evidence that the FBI has been able to find at the crime scene, it appears that Miss Adams was able to escape from her pursuers by using some sort of explosive trap she had set. However, it does not appear that any of her pursuers were killed in the explosion…”

   Nina visibly held back a gasp and interrupted Dr. Rosen with a barrage of questions. “Is Skylar alright? Where is she now?! Do we know who is trying to attack her?” Carl, Cameron and Gary all looked at Nina with surprise at the woman’s concern for the other Alpha, but everyone else already knew of the Pusher’s friendship with Skylar.

Dr. Rosen sighed. “We don’t know where she is, Nina. That’s one of the things we’ve been assigned to find out. But from the evidence that the FBI has been able to gather so far at her old place, she hasn’t been physically harmed. I know you and Miss Adams were friends, and rest assured, we will do everything we can to find her before her pursuers do, to bring her to safety. Then we can find out who tried to attack her and why. That is our mission, after all. Luckily, we have an advantage that Miss Adams’ pursuers don’t. Isn’t that right, Carl?”

Carl snapped his focus from the projector screen toward Dr. Rosen. Truth be told, he had zoned out slightly for a moment while looking at the image of the young woman on the projector screen. The woman reminded him so much of something familiar…that he couldn’t put his finger on, it was surreal. And it wasn’t so much how the woman looked as the tattooed girl actually didn’t look all that much like anyone he knew…except for her eyes. Although Skylar’s facial features clearly radiated anger and defiance (towards whom, Carl couldn’t say), her eyes were different. Her eyes were…for lack of a better word…kind. They just had a way of pulling you in… just like his spouse’s eyes had always done to him. Thankfully, preoccupied as he had been, Carl had still managed to catch the main points of the briefing, as well as the sentence directed at him. So the younger man managed to stammer out awkwardly “Urm…yes. Miss Adams’ ability sounds pretty distinctive, I’ve never heard of another Alpha that has that power. So I should be able to help find her without too much trouble if you can give me a starting location. Where was the woman’s dwelling again?”

Both Lee and Carl ignored Bill and Gary as the former chuckled about Mr. Webb using such and academic word as “dwelling”, causing Gary to comment (obviously mistaking the large man’s slight for confusion) that the word meant the same thing as a home, and a bunch of other dictionary definitions no one paid attention to. Dr. Rosen told Carl the location of Skylar’s living space. And then everyone got quiet as Carl closed his eyes and announced that he was “getting into his zone”, or focusing his abilities to track an Alpha over large distances, in this case, Skylar. Usually this process took some time, from a few minutes up to half an hour, because Lee had only recently taught Carl how to use his ability this way.

But Skylar was different. Almost as soon as Carl had closed his eyes and focused on finding the technopath (a term he had just invented in his head for what Skylar was, due to her particular ability), a strong feeling and a bright white light seemed to shine behind his eyes, acting as a beacon for him, pointing almost directly to Skylar’s present location. The technopath had a very strong and unique Alpha presence indeed, more so than any Alpha that Carl had ever been asked to look for, with an energy signature who he felt drawn to with a strength that was only matched by one one other person that Carl had ever met. And that bothered the man a lot. Still, this meant that Carl was easily able to pinpoint Skylar’s approximate distance from his present location within a matter of seconds, and it wasn’t that far. Carl opened his eyes. “She’s in this city, or near it, anyway. She couldn’t be more than 20 square miles from our present location. It’s hard for me to pinpoint anything else with too much accuracy but…given how close it feels like the woman is, and the approximate direction I felt she was in…I think she might be in the Lower East Side.”

Lee’s smile betrayed a mixture of delight and surprise at the speed of Carl’s projection, then turned to the transducer, who was already waving his hand in front of his face, obviously manipulating the electromagnetic waves that only he could see. “Gary, can you confirm if Miss Adams is in the Lower East side Borough at this time?”

The transducer nodded, then raised his hand excitedly in the air after several minutes. “Yep. It looks like Carl was right, Dr. Rosen. I just spotted her image from a traffic camera on the Lower East side Borough.” The transducer turned to Carl with a distrustful look. “Hey, you told me before that your abilities weren’t accurate enough to pinpoint an Alpha with that level of precision from a distance, and you’ve never been able to find an Alpha that quickly before. Have you been holding out on us, Carl? What else can you really do?”

Dr. Rosen raises his hand in the air in a calming gesture. “Now, Gary. You remember what I told you about jumping to conclusions. We can’t know what’s been happening with Carl here until all the facts are in…”Lee turned to Carl after the transducer had reluctantly nodded his assent of what Dr. Rosen had said. “But I am curious how you found Miss Adams so quickly, Carl. Have your abilities getting stronger of late? Did you eat something different for breakfast this morning? What’s different about you today?”

Carl tried and failed to suppress a blush after all eyes turned to him. “Actually, there’s nothing different about me, Dr. Rosen. Skylar’s Alpha signature, as you call it, is just very…” Carl took on a very contemplative look as he decided how to word the powerful surge of energy that Skylar’s ability created in his person. “distinctive. I probably could have spotted the woman if she was in China without too much more time or effort. I can tell you that there is no one else on Earth that has her particular ability.”

Bill, either misinterpreting Carl’s blush and contemplative look or choosing to make a joke out of it, laughed. “It sounds like somebody is very…interested in Miss Adams, Mrs. Webb better watch her back!”

That earned Bill a glare from everybody else in the room except Dr. Rosen and Gary, while the latter shook his head in confusion. “I don’t understand. Do you mean that you think that Carl is attracted to Skylar? Like physically? Because that wouldn’t be right! Carl, you’re already married! You shouldn’t be thinking of other women like that!”

Carl rolled his eyes, but kept a friendly tone in his voice when he spoke to Gary, who obviously didn’t know any better than to question his devotion to his wife. “Relax, Gary, Bill doesn’t know what he is talking about, he’s just blowing smoke, like he often does. All I meant was that Miss Adam’s ability has a very unique Alpha signature that is very powerful, distinctive, and easy to spot.”

Gary nodded in understanding. “Oh, okay. That’s okay, then. But what do you mean, ‘blowing smoke’? I don’t know what that means…”

Lee cleared his throat. “If we could please get back to the matter at hand. Time is an important element here, so we need to finish this meeting quickly! Bill, Cameron, I would like you to go in the van with Carl, Nina, and Rachel. Carl will tell you if Miss Adams goes to another part of the city, Rachel will help zero in on the Alpha’s location, and Nina will…convince the young lady to come with us, for her own safety, if she tries to resist. And she very will might. As some of you might recall, Miss Adams has problems with anyone she perceives to be an authority figure, but we need to bring her here, or we can’t protect her from whoever is trying to hurt or abduct her. Gary, I want you to stay here with me and monitor Miss Adams movements through the traffic cameras, and keep the team updated on her location. We need to get to her before her pursuers do.”

Nina sighed. “I really don’t feel it will be necessary for me to push Skylar, Dr. Rosen…”

The doctor interrupted her. “I hope not, Nina. And I know I’m putting you in an uncomfortable situation here, because Skylar is your friend. But I’m hoping you will be able to convince her to come willingly, so that we can protect her. I think that would be for the best, don’t you?” Nina nodded reluctantly, and Dr. Rosen took that as a confirmation and continued. “Very good then. Now all of you know what you need to do. I suggest you get onto your designated tasks. Time is off the essence, after all.”

And with that settled, everyone but Gary and Dr. Rosen departed the meeting room and walked toward the elevator to begin their assigned task to help rescue Skylar Adams from her pursuers.


 

30 minutes later….

Skylar Adams grabbed the money with an impatient glare to the man who had just bought one of her inventions, and ran away from the men in black suits who were pursuing her. As the technopath ran down the busy street, she was looking for an escape, any escape, from her pursuers. Suddenly, a large white van pulled right in front of her and stopped in the middle of the road. Skylar immediately turned around to run away from whoever was in the van, since they were obviously looking for her as well, but the woman soon saw that the men in black suits were pursuing her from the only other path that was open to her.

Before Skylar could come to a decision about which direction to run in, the technopath heard a door to the van behind her open, and then a familiar voice called out from the vehicle. “Skylar, get in!”

Hearing the voice of Nina, one of the few people that Skylar had come close to considering a friend, the young woman quickly made a decision and dashed inside the van before her pursuers could reach her, and Nina closed the door behind Skylar.

After everybody was seated, and the van was safely out of the reach of Skylar’s pursuers, the technopath looked around the vehicle. In addition to Nina, Rachel and Bill, who she had already become acquainted with the last time she had met Dr. Rosen, and the latter of which Skylar did not like very much, there were two men in the vehicle that Skylar didn’t recognize. Both men had dark hair, but that’s where the similarities ended. The man driving the vehicle, next to Nina riding shotgun, was the more muscular of the two, but he was also the short one, and he kept glancing suspiciously at Skylar out of the corner of his eye every few seconds in a way that made the techno path nervous. The taller, slightly less muscular, trim man seated immediately to Skylar’s left, however, was the one that freaked the talented woman out the most, despite the fact that Skylar found his physique physically appealing. In addition to the fact that the man was wearing sunglasses on a very cloudy day and was the only one wearing a suit while the others were wearing street clothes, the taller man was also craning his neck as far to his left as he could, as if he was desperately trying NOT to look in Skylar’s direction at the moment.

Rachel said “hello, again.” and extended her hand forward so Skylar could shake it. When the brunette hesitated for only a moment to do so, the red head pulled her hand back and looked down sheepishly in embarrassment. Deciding she really wasn’t sure she wanted to know what the man in sunglasses’ bizarre behavior was about, Skylar frowned and asked about something else. “I don’t suppose there is any chance you could drop me off at a greyhound bus or train station, is there?”

Nina sighed. “Sorry, Skylar. Dr. Rosen wants us to bring you in, just for a little while, to talk to you and keep you safe until we can determine who is after you and why. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Skylar rolled her eyes. A “caring” prison guard was still a prison guard in her book. But all she said was: “Fine. I’ll talk to the man. But I really need to get going soon, I’ve got some important business to take care off.”

Bill sighed. “Look, whatever ‘important business’ you may have, it’s just going to have to wait until Dr. Rosen’s done talking to you, okay? So the sooner you cooperate with us and tell us who is after you and why, the sooner we can help you, and you can go on your way, alright?! Until then, you aren’t going anywhere.”

The man in front nodded his head in assent to what Bill had just said. “I’m afraid he’s right, Miss Adams. If you want to go home, you’ll have to cooperate with us. But Dr. Rosen has helped me a lot over the past few months, I’m sure he can help you too. I’m Cameron Hicks by the way.”

Skylar rolled her eyes at the man’s name and demeanor. She could already tell she didn’t like the guy, but it was the man in sunglasses to her left, who was still refusing to look at her, that Skylar was still on the fence about. On the one hand, the stranger’s present demeanor freaked her out a bit. On the other hand, she had always liked men who were a little mysterious, and he certainly wasn’t bad looking, as far as she could tell so far. Deciding she wanted to learn more about him after all. Skylar turned toward the only person in the vehicle she hadn’t been formally introduced to yet and spoke. “So, what’s your story, what’s with the shades, why won’t you look at me, and could you, or anyone else, please tell me how the hell you all found me so fast?! I’ve gone through a lot of trouble to try to stay hidden!”

The man in sunglasses turned his head toward the front of the vehicle, while still not looking directly at Skylar, and opened his mouth to speak, before Nina cut him off with a laugh. “First of all, the man you are trying to talk to is the one that found you. Well, mostly. Gary, who has a gift for monitoring all information that moves through electronic signals, who’ll you’ll probably meet later, helped, as did Rachel. But it was ‘shades’ here who got us in the ballpark with his ability to zero in on any other Alpha on the planet. And he wears those silly looking glasses of his because…”

Now it was Carl’s turn to cut Nina off. “Because I work with you. And thanks for giving away all of our secrets, Nina. That was really nice of you.” The man’s voice, which was dripping with sarcasm, made Skylar smile despite herself while Nina said something about “relaxing” and “you really don’t trust anyone, do you?” to the man in the sunglasses. It was easy to see from the smiles on both “shades” and Nina that the two were just engaging in a playful verbal sparring contest that they had gone through several times before and would likely repeat many times in the future.

However, as fun as that spectacle was to watch, Skylar still had words to say to ‘shades’. “So, you’re the one in the group who doesn’t trust anyone, huh?” Carl just shrugged in response, causing Skylar to smile thinly. “Well, I guess you’re smarter that you look.”

Carl chuckled. “Well, it’s better than looking smarter that you are, I guess.”

Skylar nodded, but her smile quickly vanished. “I suppose so. It’s still freaky the way you refuse to look at me, though, and you’re still a government flunky, if you’re working with Dr. Rosen. You’re still using your ability to find Alpha’s for him and recruit them, or throw them into that hellhole at Binghamton, just so the so-called normal people, with their closed little minds, can feel safe from us. You all work for ‘them’, whether you realize it or not.” The technopath’s words came out with a sneer.

The whole van suddenly got quiet, other than several people in the van coughing loudly. It took several seconds for Carl to reply to Skylar’s words, and the barely controlled angry tone in the man’s voice made it clear to Skylar that she had crossed a line with him, although she couldn’t tell what it was. “I have my own reasons for working with Dr. Rosen. And I’ll have you know that I don’t always agree with the way the government deals with Alphas either, but at least I get to help save innocent lives. You see, Skylar, I don’t make a distinction between ‘normal’ humans and Alphas, like you seem to. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ We’re all just people in my book.”

Before Skylar could make a snarky reply to the effect that is just what a true believer disciple of the overly idealistic Dr. Rosen would say, Rachel meekly spoke from the back seat in a voice so soft that Skylar could barely hear it. “Carl’s wife isn’t an Alpha, Skylar.”

                Bill didn’t say anything, but he glared at Skylar, letting everyone else in the van know he was also thinking about his non-Alpha wife at the moment.

The technopath’s eyes widened in realization as she spotted the ring on “shades’” left hand for the first time. “Oh. I didn’t realize. I’m sorry….” Skylar’s words came out in a stammer as she realized that she had, once again, said exactly the wrong thing to the wrong person, as she had done so many times in the past.

The man shrugged. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” But the man’s tone indicated that he was still a little upset with Skylar as he added. “And as for the reason I’m not looking at you. Your alpha signature is very distinctive and…strong…for lack of a better word. Looking right at you actually hurts a little, and I felt like it almost blinded me when you got into the van. But I’ve been adjusting the focus and sensitivity levels on my ability since you entered the vehicle and I think that I should be able to look at you now. Yes.” The man finally turned towards Skylar. “That’s much better.”

The man briefly took of his sunglasses, allowing Skylar to see a glimpse of the man’s green eyes. “You feel better now?” Skylar nodded, even as she noted that Carl’s emerald eyes brought out a strong feeling in her person that she did not have time to identify before the man quickly put on his shades again and turned back toward the left side of the vehicle, as if he had been burned by something. Skylar just assumed that it was because he still couldn’t look at her too long without her Alpha ability adversely affecting him, but she was wrong. Carl had turned away because the look in Skylar’s eyes once again reminded the man of his wife in that moment, as the same care and concern for other’s that Skylar tried to hide from the world underneath a mask of anger and cynicism was obviously present there, for anybody who knew where to look for it to see. And Carl, who had seen that same kind of light in another person’s eyes every day for years, definitely did.

The man continued speaking as he stammered out. “My name is Carl Webb…by the way.” The man awkwardly held out his right hand toward Skylar, without looking right at the technopath, and Skylar reluctantly shook it briefly. After that, Carl once again resumed paying attention to anything but Skylar in the van and keeping his head facing left, and the rest of the occupants in the vehicle all remained silent as well.

Skylar sighed. This was clearly going to be a long ride to Dr. Rosen’s offices.