SEASON THREE Justice Rising
SUPERBOY: GODBORN #3 Serene
The Acropolis ♦ Unknown
Superboy's mind went dark and quiet, like he was sitting in a theater and the commercials had just ended. He felt an urge to turn off the cellphone he didn't own.
A flurry of light broke the darkness by piercing his retinas. A hundred lines, infinite in length and color, burrowed so deep into his skull that he wondered if he could ever get them out. Each line reverberated with its own, unique sound, brilliant in its construction and infatuating in its brilliance. He couldn't possibly explain what he was hearing to any sane person. How did one describe the sound of yellow? It was like the dull hum of a dead neon sign, or the buzzing of a congested bee.
He couldn't expect anyone else to understand. They couldn't hear a pin drop in the other room. Couldn't count the snowflakes in a blizzard. Couldn't feel a breeze brush against someone else's face. Some of the researchers he talked to marveled at it, claiming he was lucky to have such a gift- but what'd it matter if he didn't have anyone to share it with?
The mind machine's startup process ended almost as abruptly as it began, the light snuffed out and darkness allowed to creep back in to fill its place. The dark was different now, though, because Superboy could move in it. Even if he couldn't see anything, he still had control.
'Where to go this time...' He mused, mentally unfurling a picture catalog of every place he'd ever visited, seen or conjured up from the depths of his imagination. It wasn't exactly a premium selection, considering the furthest he'd ever been from his bedroom was the other side of the compound. There were a few that managed to catch his eye.
For whatever reason sound always manifested before anything visual. Less data for his noggin to load, he supposed. It meant that, for a few, short microseconds, he was able to hear a robin harmonizing with a nearby brook, and the sound of wind passing through leaves. All of it came into view shortly after. Superboy was standing beside a stream flowing down a sparsely wooded hillside, one of his feet partially submerged in the water. He didn't notice until he caught sight of it- the simulation updating to provide the sensation of water running over his boot. He didn't step out of it; instead he held it there, waiting until he felt it seep through the material. It made the inside of his shoe squish when he stepped back. It was as obnoxious as it was wonderful.
"Playing in the water, are we?" Doctor Spence asked from just behind him. She was sitting on a large rock that hadn't been there previously, one leg crossed over the other. She didn't look up from the notes she was penning in her lap when she spoke.
Superboy looked back over his shoulder with a halfhearted grin. "Not something I can do every day."
"There's a sink in your bathroom."
His smile dropped and he turned away from her. "Yeah. Guess so."
An uncomfortable silence followed, filled only by the artificial sounds of nature. If he concentrated, he could just barely make out the buzzing of the lights that formed the building blocks of everything around them. It was the only thing he could hear when he tried to focus on the brook, the trees or the birds.
He wondered if the real thing had its own background noise. Surely, if it did, it'd be a chorus of whole, new sounds. Perhaps there was no buzzing at all. What did the wind, isolated all on its own, sound like, without the imperfections of audio recording devices, or the hum of distant machinery to obscure it.
Spence was the one to speak up first, her voice cutting and authoritative even here: "How have you been feeling since the test?"
"Fine, I guess." He shrugged, "Tired. Healing's tiring."
"How tired?" She probed, a brow raised. "You tend to bounce back from these tests quickly."
"First one that's really made me sweat, if we're bein' fair."
Spence jotted something down and offered up a minute smirk. "And since our last session? Has anything changed?"
Chewing on his cheek as he chewed on the question, Superboy took a moment to answer. And when he did he spoke slowly, choosing his words with care, "Nothing too important." He could feel a spark in the back of his head, like someone was poking him with a live wire. A sound followed it, too, not unlike the popping of static electricity.
It was the machine's way of telling on him every time he lied. There was no great reaction from the doctor, but Superboy could see a slight twitch near the corner of her mouth. She was quiet, like usual. She was waiting, like every other time he'd heard that sound. He knew for a fact that nothing was going to happen until he gave her what she wanted.
"I've been...gettin' stronger, I guess. Lot stronger, lot faster, than before. Packard's been sayin' that if I keep it up-" the words caught in the back of his throat as he felt that stinging at the base of his skull again. It was a little harsher now. Not enough to be truly painful, but there was noticeable discomfort in his expression as he shifted how he stood.
And again he stopped to think.
"Y'know that was true, right?" He grunted, annoyed. "I mean, how's that thing s'posed to know when I'm lying, anyway? What even is a lie? Does it go off my subjective interpretation of the truth, or yours, or is there some sorta complex algorithm based on my heart rate and breathing that-"
"-Answer the question, Subject Thirteen." Spence stopped him, glaring at him from behind iced over glasses.
Superboy kept his back to her as he bent down by the stream, reaching into it to pluck out a stone smooth enough to skip. He gave it a toss and it sunk straight to the bottom, much to his chagrin. It looked a lot easier on paper. "Don't know how to."
No shock followed, this time. Spence shifted how she sat, uncrossing one of her legs and letting the clipboard and pen fall down onto her lap, hands resting on top of one another. "Where did you see this place? I haven't been to every part of the Acropolis but I'm fairly confident we don't have a room like this."
"Um...A magazine. Picture in a magazine."
"And where did you get that?"
His jaw tightened, and he stood back up to his full height. "It was given to me."
"By who?" Spence snapped.
"Why's that matter?" Superboy shot back. He turned halfway around to look at her, that sting in his head growing sharper and louder.
"Answer the quest-"
"Its just a stupid magazine, who cares?!" He hadn't noticed it, but his voice had been getting louder and louder as they spoke.
Doctor Spence stopped. She was staring daggers into him, a hand clutched tight 'round the board on her lap. There was an ever so slight quiver on her lip yet her voice was as icy and controlled as ever. "I need you to answer my questions, Thirteen, so that the test may continue."
"It was Tana, alright?!" Superboy was shouting now as he took a step toward the doctor. "I was bored out of my mind and I asked her to get me something to read, and she stole some...stupid tech mag from the staff lounge for me. It doesn't matter, I'll give it back if you want, but I don't see why you care-"
"-You had one of our staff steal something for you and you thought that unimportant?" Spence couldn't help herself but scoff.
Superboy returned it, throwing an arm up in the air. "She said nobody'd even notice, none of you ever pick those things up. She figured, y'know, it wasn't a big deal-"
"-whose idea was it to-"
"-and it isn't a big deal, its more ads than content, really, and even the content is basically just ads too-"
"Whose idea was it, Thirteen?" Spence repeated, unwilling to raise her voice to match his. He stopped trying to talk over her, exasperation coloring his every movement as he started to pace around beside the projected stream.
"Mine, I guess?" He rubbed the back of his head, thoroughly annoyed by the sharp, consistent pain. "Maybe ours would be more accurate." He tried to correct to dissipate the psychic feedback, to no avail.
Spence cocked her head to the side, picking up her pen once again. "How close would you say you are to miss Westfield?"
He shrugged. "What's close mean? I don't exactly have a lotta friends here."
"Ah, so she's a friend?"
"Is she? I'unno, Doc, ask her." Superboy turned away again.
Spence began to write something down. "And...when did this start? How long after our last session?"
Superboy threw up his hands. "Don't remember! We say hi when we pass each other, she talks to me like, y'know- not at me. Maybe, I'unno, I like that- sue me."
"And you think you deserve that?"
"What?" Superboy stopped, glancing back at her. "Deserve what, doc, huh?"
Spence didn't answer, pressing on through the clone's incredulous look with another question. "Do you think this relationship has anything to do with what happened in the test chamber?"
Every inch of Superboy tensed up, like someone had stretched him taut until every single muscle was near its breaking point. His head was low, eyes locked on the flowing water down at his feet and his ears tuned to the sound of a million photons of light buzzing and humming all around him. It was such a stupid question- one so stupid he wondered if it really deserved to be answered. Of course, he'd have to answer eventually. That was how this thing worked. She asked him questions, he answered. Some, growing part of him wondered what would happen if he just kept his mouth shut.
He went to speak, only to pause when he noticed Spence look up and into the horizon. Her mouth was moving yet no words were coming out, and the coolness that usually colored her expression was rapidly melting into concern. Superboy couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her look concerned, so he felt somewhat justified in the spark of panic in his chest.
"Uhh, Doctor Spence? What's going on?" He eventually deigned to ask, afraid he'd crossed a line.
"There's been an incident." She answered, glancing between him and something he couldn't see beyond the simulation.
"An incident? What kind of incident?"
Spence stood up, a wave of darkness washing over the scene as she did. "The only kind of incident that gets our attention, Thirteen. Metahumans."