“Rachel can’t know about this,” Sabrina said, almost aggressively. Very out of character for her. I closed the other windows, focusing on the recording.
Zoe glanced over at the camera, smirked almost imperceptibly. Fuck. I should have known she’d notice. She noticed everything.
“I won’t say a word,” she told Rachel, her eyes leaving the camera. Interesting.
“Okay,” Sabrina said, looking around nervously. “I think we were wrong about my power. And you’re the only person who I think might understand.”
If Zoe was at all interested, she didn’t show it. If anything, she looked bored. It was a telltale sign she was actually intensely focussed. That would have been my cue to focus too, if I wasn’t already.
“What happened?” she asked, at least maintaining polite interest. I didn’t think Sabrina could see through it.
“I got into a fight with Ami,” Sabrina said. “Even with your power, I was losing.”
Zoe nodded. “She’s incredibly dangerous. In terms of offensive power, she probably tops me. Speed and surprise are the only way to get the upper hand.”
I made a mental note of that. Any information on the weaknesses of another superhuman was invaluable, and I had Ami pegged as an extremely powerful opponent. I was glad we hadn’t crossed paths yet.
“Well, like I said, I was losing,” Sabrina said. “And then something happened.”
Sabrina took a step back, and shifted. I’d seen her do it before, when she activated Zoe’s powers. I knew that it gave her the same strength, speed and toughness, and at least some portion of Zoe’s enhanced mental processing. It didn’t seem to bring any of Zoe’s accompanying cunning or emotional intelligence, though.
This time, though, it wasn’t Zoe’s form that she took. Judging from the context of the conversation, I could guess who’s it was, even if her transformations weren’t complete. She grew a little shorter, her skin took on a different tone, her hair grew straighter, her figure more petite. Her face shifted and changed shape. Her eyes, though difficult to see on camera, seemed to have turned a shade of light purple or pink.
Zoe took a step back, overacting surprise. Ironically, I could tell she actually was taken completely by surprise, and wanted to look like she was overacting intentionally. Not sure how I knew that, but I did.
“You have her powers?”
Sabrina nodded. “Like this, I’m not as strong as when I use your power, or as fast. My senses aren’t as sharp, but they’re all still better than, you know, normal. And I have her telekinesis, but I don’t know how to use it.”
I updated my mental file on Sabrina. In terms of potential, her power had just skyrocketed. How was she doing it? Was there a limit to how many powers she could replicate? Could she combine them? What about my power, could she copy that? Charlie’s? If she did try to copy Charlie’s power, would it be the one Charlie had taken from me, or the one she’d had before that?
Despite the massive increase in power I was applying to her, I didn’t consider her any more of a threat. Her motivations were too simple, too naive. More importantly, they didn’t conflict with mine. The chances of us ever needing to fight…
Well, in that scenario, I still felt like I had the upper hand. She didn’t know anything about the things I created, and even if she did, I was always making more. She’d never be able to stay ahead. Conversely, I was well aware of what she could do, and could plan against it. Maybe I’d never need to use any of it, but it was always better to be prepared.
“It’s weird,” Sabrina was saying, in the recording. “It’s like having an extra sense, one I don’t really understand. It’s very overwhelming. Like being aware of everything around me, all at once. And being able to move it? It’s like growing an extra arm, or a dozen extra arms.”
“And you have no idea how you were able to do this?” Zoe asked, sounding almost desperate.
“None,” Sabrina said, shaking her head. She was lying. How did I know that she was lying?
Zoe knew she was lying, too. The two of them stared at each other, not saying anything. I was prepared to fast-forward the recording when the sound of a cleared throat startled me, and I pulled the earphones out of my ears. Zoe was standing above me.
“What do you think?” she asked, not bothering to ask me what I was doing.
“Nothing you don’t already know,” I said, though I suspected it was a lie. Did Zoe suspect something about that?
“The question I need answered,” Zoe said, impatiently, “is whether her power originated here, or from home.” Her impatience didn’t seem directed at me, it was more general frustration. Something about Sabrina’s revelation was making her nervous.
“In your world, the superhumans, they’re all the result of technological advancement, right?” I asked, not entirely sure how I knew that for sure. It felt right, though.
“All of us,” she confirmed. “We’ve no examples of anyone naturally born with any sort of supernatural ability. Here, on the other hand…”
“We don’t have that kind of technology yet,” I followed on for her. “And other than Wendy being here, somehow long before you, there’s no explanation for people with superpowers. And yet, my knowledge is clearly not natural, Miss Murder has an ability you’ve never seen before, and Sabrina might be the most dangerous of us all.”
Dangerous was a stretch, and Zoe knew it. Still, the point stood. I contemplated briefly bringing up Charlie, but it would do more harm than good. She would ask more questions than I was willing to answer.
“Is there any precedent for any of this?” she asked, already knowing the answer. She had full access to the Internet and the ability to read and process information a lot faster than any human.
“None that I know of,” I said. “I know my, er, ability intensified after Impact Day, though. And it’s been growing steadily stronger. Perhaps your presence is some form of catalyst?”
Could Charlie’s power be growing stronger, too? The idea hadn’t occurred to me before that moment. Well, it wasn’t like there was any way to test it, anyway.
“There are too many unknown variables,” Zoe said, irritated. “Keep studying Sabrina. I won’t tell her. Just share anything you find with me.”
“Of course,” I lied. “In fact, I have a few ideas about that. I want to test her, put her in new situations. That would be a lot easier for you to make happen than me.”
“I’ll make it happen. Meanwhile, how do you feel about your new body? Everything working as expected?”
I grinned, flexing my fingers to demonstrate just how mobile I felt. “I feel alive again. And I’m already brainstorming ideas to push it further, see what else I can change.”
“Why?” she asked, almost accusing me, though I wasn’t sure what of. “What do you want, Rachel?”
I stared into her eyes, trying to figure out exactly what she meant. I knew she didn’t trust me, but if she’d figured out what I was actually working towards, she wouldn’t be asking the question, she’d just kill me on the spot. Which meant she was asking about something else. Suspicious, but not about anything specific, maybe. Paranoia was in her nature.
She didn’t care about this world, so she wasn’t worried about what I’d do once she left. Was she worried about me following her? Or was it because she wasn’t planning on leaving, and wanted to know how much of a threat I’d be?
What could I say to convince her there wasn’t an issue, when I didn’t know what she was planning? Something benign, non-threatening, passive…
I shrugged. “I’m a tinker. Building things, improving things, that’s motivation in itself. You’ve given me a whole new toolset, and now I want to see how far I can push it.” I paused for effect. “Once I’ve made myself worth it, of course. Your work comes first.”
Would she buy it? I could feel her scrutinous gaze, her keen perception analysing every micro-expression, every subtle change in inflection. Could she tell that I was lying?
“Mason would love you,” she said simply, walking away. “I pray the two of you never meet.”