“Let’s start with brainwashing. You went to that well pretty quickly when pitching ideas, with the surety of someone who knows it can work. I wonder, Crispin, have you ever employed such a technique before?”
It didn’t escape Sherman’s notice that despite talking to Crispin, Globe was looking at him. Strangely, there was no fury or anger in those eyes, not like what he’d seen when the Heroes had gotten near he and Crispin before. No, Globe was looking at him with sadness; maybe even pity.
“I have nothing to say to you,” Crispin spat out.
“Not a lie, so that’s something, but unfortunately not an acceptable answer either. You’ve done horrible things, both in person and by using people to carry out your will, and I need to know how much of it is on you entirely.”
Globe paused, flexing his fingers slightly. “I originally learned how to manipulate brain chemistry like this as a therapy tool. Going back into previous events, gently and with a friend, can offer closure, especially in my former line of work. Sometimes you need to see that there was nothing anyone could have done to change an outcome, other times you need to see your failure and accept it so you can grow. Either way, I learned that memories are powerful, dangerous things. And I suspect a man like you has some truly awful ones festering in the back of his mind.”
Another flex of the fingers and Crispin’s eyes fluttered shut. He began to twitch, softly at first then more vigorously. A sheen of sweat appeared across his face as it twisted into an unfamiliar expression. Was that… fear? Sherman had never seen Crispin show fear before, not once in their years together. Just when it seemed that Crispin was about to cry out, his eyes popped open and darted around the room. The sound of his heavy panting was all that filled the barn for several moments.
“How did… how did you know…”
“I didn’t know anything,” Globe replied. “You’re the only one seeing things. To watch along with you I’d need another Super to bring me in, that’s a power I haven’t learned how to replicate yet. All I’m doing is digging for the things you’ve got buried deepest. That was the one closest to the top, by the way. The next one will presumably be worse. So then, how do you feel about the brainwashing question? Up for an answer?”
It was a valiant effort, but Sherman knew Globe was wasting his time. Crispin was a stalwart, unwavering man of incredible conviction. Unless Globe grew suddenly comfortable with actual torture, Crispin would never crack, not just from seeing his own memories replayed. But Sherman was, not for the first or last time that day, wrong.
“A few times. Never for anything on a grand scale like I proposed, I was still trying to find a Super who could produce lasting results. It’s hard though, the human mind is a naturally resilient thing. Most can’t keep control for more than a day, and pushing someone past their moral lines fractures things earlier. Even with my enhancements, eventually the subject’s mind would either break the conditioning or crack entirely. I always kept them as assistants so I could chart how long the effects lasted. Sherman is the longest success so far, he’s been in my thrall for nearly five years.”
“What?” That… that couldn’t be true. He’d been with Crispin for that long, sure, but he’d never met any Super with brainwashing abilities. Sherman had come over to the Sons of Progress after hearing Crispin speak, his words touching the burning spark of revolution in Sherman’s soul. Together, they were going to pave a new world, one where those with power never had to be ashamed or fearful of the humans who were their lessers.
“See, even now he’s fighting the truth.” Crispin nodded in Sherman’s direction, and suddenly Sherman’s knees started to go out from under him. Before he could properly fall, Joan was there holding him up. This wasn’t right. This couldn’t be right.
“Can you free him?” Globe asked.
“I’m not the one who messed with his brain, so no. And before you ask, the Super I used is dead, so they can’t either. If they were still around, I’d have put more Shermans into production years ago.”
Joan put her head just above Sherman’s shoulder so she could look Crispin in the eyes. “Bullshit. If the Super was dead then he’d be free.”
“If a Super breaks the pavement, then dies, does the pavement reform?” Crispin shot back. He was recovering, feeling bolder again. That was probably not going to end well, and despite all that he was hearing Sherman still felt concerned for his employer. “The reason Sherman has lasted this long is that the Super didn’t just exert some influence, they remodeled Sherman’s mind itself. New memories, new feelings, all formed physically in the neural pathways. True, the Super could never have managed such a feat on their own, but they had my enhancement increasing their potential. You see, that’s what I bring to the table, entirely new possibilities. Imagine what you and your people could do with someone like me in your corner.”
Trapped, exposed, and utterly helpless, yet Crispin was still trying to turn the situation to his advantage. Sherman felt a swell of admiration for his employer, followed immediately by a sense of disgust for himself. Where were these warm feelings coming from? Crispin had just admitted to using him as a puppet, yet his brain continued to tell him that they should support the man no matter what. Slowly, gently, Sherman began to weep as the confusion overtook him.
“I’ve seen what you do with your power.” Globe released his grip on Crispin’s head and walked around to the other side of the couch, hunkering down to look him in the eyes. “You hurt people. Use them. Corrupt them, or control them if that fails. You gather an army to slaughter children. And do you know the worst of it? If I handed you over to the DVA, it would only be a matter of time before they made you a deal. Enhancers are so rare, and you’re so powerful, it would be inevitable. They’d start using you, a little at first, only in emergencies, then more and more over time. With every use, you’d get more leverage, until you were either free or living in a place so nice it would be a moot point. The right thing to do would be to kill you, right here and now, for all the pain you’ve caused.”
“Then why haven’t you done it?” Crispin snapped.
“Because I don’t think it’s my place. You have no idea how close you came to making it my place, Crispin. If things had gone a little differently that night in May, if that boy’s luck hadn’t kept so many safe, you might have accidentally killed my son. Had that happened, this would be a very different, very brief, conversation. But you didn’t, so I’m not the one who wants your blood the most. I’m going to hand you over to a Hero, Crispin. One of the few good ones I know I can trust. One with more reason than anyone to want you dead. He gets to decide whether to tear the worthless life from your body or turn you over.”
Rising from his crouch, Globe walked behind Crispin and set his hand back on the man’s skull. “Eventually, that is. He gets you, eventually. First, you’re going to tell me everything I need to know to finish off the last of the Sons of Progress. Every agent, every ally, every asset. It’s all going to be torn down. The world needs to see what happens to those who fuck with the HCP.”