Still one of my first tries writing in english, so if I made any mistakes, please bear with me.
If you like the story, please drop a review to let me know what you think.
In hindsight, Tasha wondered how it could have taken so long for her to find out about the kids' conditions.
There had been small hints from the beginning. Most of which could be blamed on them spending pretty much all their lives in a basement. Controlled environment or not, that had not been healthy.
It had been so clear from the start. Yet Tasha only started to suspect anything was amiss once Leo became partly bionic.
Contrary to popular belief, Tasha had not been all that mad with Douglas for turning Leo's arm into a machine. A fusion of biology and machine to be exact, but she knew how much Leo's arm had been damaged. She knew he would have lost it, or at least wouldn't ever have been able to use it again.
So, was she mad at Douglas for sparing her son that kind of pain?
She was, simply put, afraid. Afraid of what might happen to Leo now that he als had a huge mark on his back.
So it was only natural that she had slowly started paying more attention to her son's condition, wasn't it?
It started almost immediately. Leo thought his bionics were awesome, and secretly Tasha couldn't agree more with him. She wasn't a tech-nerd like her husband, her brother-in-law and the latter's youngest son were, but there was something calming about the fact that Leo now could lift cars and throw energy balls around. She didn't like showing it too often, but the kids' abilities brought out a giddy side of her she didn't know she still had.
Just like that, Leo started using his bionics as much as he could, yet he often managed to forget he had them. It took some time and a lot of trial and error, but eventually he got the hang out of his powers. Tasha was not sure if Leo himself noticed the complications at first, but soon, he couldn't ignore them any longer.
"Adam? Could you, uhm, maybe help me with something?"
The oldest bionic looked up from where he was sprawled across the sofa with some comic in his hands. „I don't know, can I?", he asked mockingly. Tasha had simply rolled her eyes at the usual friendly banter. She often had the impression that the kids were trying to make up for all the drama and snarking contests they missed out in the years spent in the lab.
"I just feel… off, somehow. My arm. It feels kinda strange? I thought that you, also having super strenght and all that, could maybe help me?"
At this, Adam had laid his comic away and turned to face Leo, his expression uncharacteristically serious. "What about it?", he asked.
Leo was still fidgeting nervously, his eyes darting around to make sure no one else was there. He didn't notice Tasha lovingly watching from the shadows. "I'm not sure. It feels weak somehow, even though I'm stronger than ever. It feels as if I slowly lose part of myself?" He chuckled nervously, clearly expecting Adam to mock him for being sentimental or weak. Yet all Adam did was frown. As time passed without an answer from Adam, Leo made to speak again but was interrupted by Adam waving him off. The older bionic was clearly thinking about something quite hard. It had been the first time Tasha had ever seen Adam this careful with words. He usually just said what was on his mind.
When it came, Adam's response surprised her yet again. "You feel as if part of you is missing. As if it's not really yours to control. Some small part of your brain realizes that it might have full control over the arm, but it changed. It's not the arm you remember. If something is wrong with the body, the brain will react immediately." Adam chuckled slightly. "The brain's like a hoard of dogs, all ganging up against a cat within their group, you know? They chase the cat out because it might be part of the group, but it doesn't belong. And so they lose the cat. By the way, did you see how fast the neighbor's cat ran when Bree used her vocal manipulation to bark at it? That was funny!"
With that Adam rose and patted Leo on the arm. "I gotta go, there's some party going on and I've been invited. Hey, you want to come too?"
Leo had juststare at Adam for a sheer endless amount of time before nodding, still totally dumbfonded.
Afterwards, Tasha had started paying more attention to the other kids as well. The first one on whom she could really notice something had been Bree.
The girl had sat in the kitchen area, absently munching on a toast while she wrote with someone on her phone. What ruined the otherwise perfectly normal picture was her left foot constantly tapping against the table's counter with super speed. Or the way her eyes would sometimes flicker around the room too fast for normal humans to follow. For a moment Tasha had wondered if maybe Chase's bionic sense would have been able to clearly detect his sister's movements. But if the boy could, wouldn't he have gone insane by now? Bionic or not, he still had sensory overloads every now and then. He would usually get grumpy during that time and complain about migraines, but they luckily always went as fast as they came.
Focusing back on Bree, Tasha noticed the other minimal movements, all in an unhuman speed.
"Bree, honey, are you all right?"
Bree immediately stilled. "Oh, hey Tasha. I'm fine, why are you asking? You look worried, is everything alright?"
With a slight note of concern Tasha ignored the slight slur of the words as Bree's speed made it's way into her voice. Bree herself had also noticed. "I'm sorry. I'm fine, how about you?", she asked, her voice now back to normal. Yet her hands still fidgeted so fast they left a blurr behind.
"I'm concerned about you, Bree. You are moving the whole time, and your super speed has shown a lot. What's wrong?"
Bree stared for a second before smiling wildly. „I'm just a bit anxious, I guess. Been a couple of crazy weeks now, haven't it?"
The fastest human alive dodged Tasha's eyes. „I'm on edge, and it shows. It's no big deal", she insisted. Tasha scrutinized her for a moment before nodding ot off. "I meant to ask you something though. I overheard Leo and Adam talking a few days ago, and it sounded strange. They talked about a strange feeling in their bodies, how it felt as if part of them didn't belong to it. I don't want them to know about me listening in, so if you could maybe tell me something about it...?"
Bree stared at her for a moment. "It's complicated? I think I know what Adam means, but why would Leo feel that way? I mean, he's bionic too, and Mr Davenport always insisted that it was normal that teenagers don't feel too well in their bodies, but we're all sure that it is about our bionics." Bree forcefully stopped her rambling and finally met Tasha's eyes. "Sorry. What was it about?"
Tasha explained what she had heard that other day and watched as Bree hesitated in the same way Adam had done back then. "I guess it wold make sense if Leo felt his arm. I mean, our bionics might align with our muscles, but they are connected to our central nerve system thing? They have to, in order for our bionics being able to work. If that wasn't the case, we couldn't control our bionics with our thoughts at all. That's also the reason for our glitches, that's what we think anyway. Well, Chase does, I couldn't really follow his logic." Bree took a deep breath and again hauled herself back to normal speed. "It's like people getting an implant or screws into their bones. At first, they feel it all the time, then the awareness of it starts to fade until they don't really notice it anymore. The thing about our bionics is that while we are used to them, they are still something the human body wasn't exactly made to bear. At first we thought it was a design error, but it seems as if our bionics actually work too good. That's why we can practically always feel them. It's like an itch, or pins and needles, we have to move, and we have to move while using our bionics. I can't explain it any better than that."
Tasha regarded Bree with newly found admiration. "So not using your bionics is taking a toll on you?"
"Mr Davenport thinks we're all just overreacting. But yeah, that's it. After about a quarter hour, it get's physically painful to sit still. And all our abilities have to be used, or else the pain won't stop. We're good at hiding it", she hastened to add, "and we can go about two hours completely without actively using bionics before it gets too hard. Using one ability within that time gives us another quarter hour. The second we can use all our bionics, at least for a moment, the pain stopps."
Tasha stared at the bionic in front of her. This brave girl, always smiling and enjoying life, talking about ignoring excrutiating pain just so she could enjoy a normal life. "And Donald can't do anything about it?"
Bree started fidgeting again. "He doesn't really know. Please don't tell him? I mean, it's not that bad. Adam can use a fragment of his strenght to carry something that wouldn't require it at all and I can yctively manipulate my voice to sound like, well, me. So it's only like an itch. Adam has it worse, his powers are all rather destructive, so he can't go around just casually setting things on fire. Now that the world knows about us, it's easier, he can show off a bit and feels better afterwards. Win-win situation."
Bree stopped her speech there and kept staring at Tasha. The woman could barely believe what she heard. "And haven't you tried anything to fix this? Even if you didn't want Donald to know, couldn't Chase do…" Tasha trailed off. "What about him? His super intelligence is always on, so he gets a free pass, doesn't he?"
Bree visibly winced. "No, he doesn't. It's worse for him, that much is obvious, but he doesn't talk about it. Never did." She played with a string of her hair and stared into the direction of the lab where said younger brother most likely resided just now. Tasha thought about it for a moment. "His senses? He does get those overloads. And he sometimes seems to lose himself to a world we can't see."
Bree nodded. "That's what we think, too. Remember that one time Chase had to leave during the schoolday because he was sick? Don't tell Mr Davenport. He was jumpy, always misjudged the closeness of people. That was the only time he ever admitted this thing. He could hear the heartbeats of people who were on the other side of the school. Can you imagine how loud it must have been for him that day? When the bell went off, he more or less collapsed." Bree gathered her thoughts before continuing. "With Adam and I it's rather easy. Our bionics are changes to our bodies first and foremost. Chase's abilities are all psychic. Even that magnet thing does not turn his body in a magnet but rather lets him create a magnetic field around him. If his concentration were to falter ever so slightly, he would instantly experience some kind of backlash. That's why he loses his cool so fast, everything that grates on his nerves is incredibly painful. Mostly it's just migraines or concussion-like symptoms, but he tends to get really sick after a long day." Again Bree searched for the right words. "Seriously, don't talk to him about that either. He always gets upset. Where was I? While it is needed to use our bionics a lot of time, we also tire out. Adam and I can take a break, activate them when we want to. Chase's bionics are so heavily entertwined wit his neural system that he physically can't deactivate his bionics. He would have to take out his chip completely and then go through the pain of having it entertwining with his nerves again when he puts it back in. Again one thing that Adam and I don't have to worry about."
Tasha didn't know how to respond.
The next time Tasha had seen Chase, she paid even closer attention. To the slight frown upon his face, the hard set of his jaw as he pondered over some problem. His shoulders were hunched forwards and he seemed to try to shield himself from the world unconciously.
As always Chase immediately noticed he wasn't alone in the living room anymore. He looked up and gave Tasha a quick wave. She smiled at him warmly. "Do you want a snack?"
Chase hesitated for the fraction of a second before confirming.
They spent the next few minutes in companionable silence until Tasha joined him on the couch with some sandwiches. He smirked. "What happened to the no food on the sofa rule?"
"It's comfortable and the others are not here. So sue me."
Chase took one of the sandwiches and turned it around a bit. A slight movement in his left eye told Tasha he was scanning it. What for she didn't know nor did she particularily care. While she also loved Chase deeply, she didn't have the same connection with him that she had with the others. Chase tended to stay in the lab, she tended to stay out of the lab, end of story.
"So this doesn't have anything to do about what you and Bree talked about a few days ago?"
Tasha nearly choked on her food. "How did you know?"
"I heard. I mean, come on, does everybody really forget that I have super senses?"
"But the lab is soundproof."
"Nothing's soundproof but vacuum. It's a bit distorted and I normally can't hear what's going on upstairs, but sometimes I do. So why are you so fixated on this thing?"
"Because you kids are family. I don't like watching you auffer through this. But if we are already talking about it, can't you do something about the whole pain thing?"
Chase had never looked so defeated in all the time she knew him. Not when he was nearly killed by an avalanche, not when he saw the lab's ruins, not even when he recovered from the whole event with the Triton app. "Because I can't. Everything i could try would make our bionics unreliable. So we keep going like we always did and hope that this whole thing doesn't blow up in our faces."
Tasha nodded solemnly. "What about Leo? Will he have to deal with this?"
Chase shuddered at the thought. "No. He will feel his bionics. He will have to use them regularily, but he will also have to train the muscles underneath. He could have the worst case of pins and needles a couple of times, but that should be about it."
Tasha leaned back and thought the whole situation over. "You guys spent a lot of time analyzing this, didn't you?"
The youngest bionic laughed. "Yeah, it's hard not to." He sobered up almost instantly. "The bigger problem is that we can't allow ourself to casually use our bionics the whole time. If you always carry weights when you go for a run, you'll get so used to the weight that you won't notice it anymore. Which would mean a lot more glitches for us."
Tasha nodded again. "By the way, I haven't seen you glitch that often since we met? There's Spike, but he's not really a glitch, so other than your senses I really didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, whereas Adam and Bree seem to always glitch in the worst possible way."
"I… can't", Chase whispered. "If some of my apps glitched, I could literally kill Adam and Bree without meaning to. I can't hurt them with most of my abilities, but they wouldn't stand a chance if I were to accidentally snap their necks with their molecular kinesis. Or I could take control over them without wanting to. It's not really better than being controlled by the Triton app. And the force field or my laser bo? I can't let them glitch."
Tasha regarded her son – nephew? This was getting confusing – sadly. "Is that why you are so afraid to lose?"
Chase winced and stared at the ground. "I guess", he murmured.
Afterwards, Tasha started paying even closer attention to her charges. She noticed the way Adam would sometimes move extra carefully when he was around her, Leo or Donald. The way Bree's movements sometimes became jerky and stiff as if she was forcing herself to move slowly while her speed was active. The way Chase tried to subtly block the world out. It pained her seeing the children that way. They were tied down, boxed in by invisible boundaries. This was no way for children to live.
She wasn't Tasha Davenport for no reason. She watched Leo flexing his arm absentmindedly and vowed to do something about this.
"I feared something like this might happen, but it seems the kids are extra careful around me. I'll try fixing this. Somehow." Douglas ran a hair through his spiky hair. Never before had Tasha seen the man so upset before. "Thanks for telling me."
Tasha smiled at him encouragingly. "Well, they didn't want Donald to know. But they didn't say anything about you."
Douglas smirked and turned towards his small workplace. "Oh, I like this side about you. You know, Donny's an inventor with a speciality in – simply told – machines. I at least started studying medicine, so there are some things I know about the interaction between the kids' biology and the tech, some of which he wouldn't believe to be possible." It was the first time Tasha heard Douglas talking about his rivalry with his brother without bragging how much better he was.
Douglas pondered the new information before continuing. "The biggest problem is – and this is all only theoretically for now – that their abilities will grow stronger. I don't know how that will affect this specific problem. What they told you about it sounds like a muscle being forced to remain in an uncomfortable position for far too long. You know what? I'll talk with them and maybe we'll find some solution for this. Or at least alleviate their pain slightly."
It didn't work.
Chase spent the next few weeks ranting that of course it didn't, he had tried everything already.
Knowing their problem, some of the kids' strange antics suddenly started making more sense. It became a regular occurance that Tasha found the youngest bionic outside in the back of he garden, sitting in front of the small fountain and meditating to clear his head. She knew that he normally preferred the relatively calm and soundproof lab, but he just had to get out of there sometimes.
Bree spent pretty much all of her time outside, enjoying the feeling of not being confined. Of being able to move around as she pleased, now without having to fear discovery.
Adam preferred staying the living room where he wouldn't have to worry about accidentally breaking something irreplacable.
She was just glad that Leo didn't get more than the random sensations in his arm. She would have hated seeing him this way.
Yet she was glad that the kids obviously knew what they needed. They also watched out for another. They knew when one of their siblings was in dire need to get rid of their pressure and usually cut them some slack during those times.
So that's how they got into this situation.
Tasha watched as Adam tossed Chase across the room with his super strenght. Instead of crashing directly into the wall, the younger boy used his molecular kinesis to cushion his impact. A whooshing sound alerted her to Bree who had speeded up from the lab to get a look at whatever her brothers were fighting about this day.
Up until a few weeks ago, Tasha would have scolded them for being careless with their powers, but now she saw the many things she missed before. The straight set of Adam's shoulders told her how much of his strength the oldest had held back. Chase got back up with nothing but a small scratch from the impact and the slight bruise of Adam's fist. Bree stood completely calm and stared at them. "What were you guys fighting about?", she inquired.
Chase grinned ever so slightly. "I beat Adam in a game. Again."
Said bionic crossed his arms. "Only because I let you win."
"Sure you did."
The rest of their strange little family had entered the room and watched, clearly amused.
Tasha stepped in before a small round of bickering could turn into something that would destroy the house. "Adam, stop tossing your brother. And you two, don't provoke him. If you're done now, we can eat."
Bree sped to the table and grinned up at her family.
And if throughout the meal Tasha noticed Adam balancing his plate on one finger or Chase moving his knife and fork ever so slightly using his molecular kinesis, she didn't comment on it.
If this were the griefs she would have to endure to keep this wonderful family, than she would all to happily oblige.