Peter quite literally flew across the Pad to answer the ringing phone. "Hello?"
"Hi, Pete!" came the surprising voice on the other end.
Peter touched down and cut off the glow as he grinned. "Hey, Mick. Where are you?"
"At the bus stop, 3rd and Maple. And Pete... This ain't Micky."
Peter chuckled. "Okay, you're not Micky. Who are you?"
Suddenly Micky came down the stairs, grinning at Peter. "Morning, Pete. Who's on the phone?"
Peter's jaw dropped. He pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it for a second, then put it back. "Listen, who is this?"
"David," came the answer. "David Michaelson."
"David Michaelson?" Peter repeated. Micky whirled, halfway to the refrigerator. He came over and motioned for Peter to give him the phone.
Micky spoke into the receiver. "David M? Yeah, it's me. No, I hadn't told them what name we decided on. Today? Sure, I'll come getcha. Third and Maple? Be there in an hour. Yeah, I know, I missed breakfast. Gotta feed my face." He laughed. "Sure. See you there. Bye, bro." He hung up and leaned into the staircase, grinning.
"David Michaelson?" Peter repeated again.
Micky smiled at him. "The clone. Roma brought him here when we came, obviously."
Peter did a double take. "The clone? The blinded one?"
Micky's grin wavered. He had only regained his own sight three days earlier after being clawed by a temporarily mutated Ronnie Farnsworth. Peter's question hit just a little too close to home. "Yeah, we decided to rename him David Michaelson. He's been living at a home to teach him how to adjust, and he's writing poetry. Just before we left on the quests, he'd had several poems published."
"And now he's here."
"Uh-huh." Micky resumed his aborted trek to the refrigerator. "He wants to visit awhile on his way to his new place. I'm going to pick him up after breakfast."
She leaned back from the viewing pool and shook her head. No, they would not do. They were evil, yes, but not powerful. She needed both to succeed. She drew a long-fingered hand over the pool, altering the view.
There they were: the hated four. Using their powers for good as always. She cried out in exasperation, and swiped the pool again.
The scene altered. There they were again, four powerful men -- using their abilities to harm and hurt. A huge smile of contentment broke across her beautiful face. She gripped the sides of the pool, freezing the view. Yes... Perfect!
Closing her eyes, she began to chant.
Micky pulled the Monkeemobile up in front of the Pad. He had tested David M. on the way there, asking him things only the real David would have known. Satisfied that David M. was the clone from their world, Micky filled him in on the goings on: the merge, the quests, how they were stuck, everything. As Micky turned off the car, David M. ran a hand through unruly curls and whistled.
"That's a lot to absorb! No wonder you haven't called me!" Micky doubled over the steering wheel laughing, as David had intended. David asked, "You mean to tell me Pete hasn't lost it since the merge? He never had a hair trigger, but I remember a few times..."
"Me, too," Micky said. "It's eerie, seeing him so calm. Hey," he said suddenly, a wicked grin spreading across his face. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
David M. was grinning too. "Seeing as how we're the same person, I probably am." He opened the door and got out. "Let's see if we can make him lose it, just to see what the deep, dark secret he's hiding is."
Micky grinned, getting out and taking his blinded double's arm. "Let's!" And the prank was on.
The doubles walked into the Pad. Micky led David M. to the kitchen table and puttered about, getting some soup ready for them.
Peter came downstairs, calling over his shoulder, "Yeah, yeah! I'm not a short-order cook, Mike!" He smiled. "Hi, Micky." Then he looked over the man's shoulder. "Excuse me, David. I thought you were Micky."
Micky smiled at him. "You saw which one of us could see?"
Peter's grin wavered as his cheeks turned pink. "Something like that."
David M. smiled. "Mike's upstairs, huh? Where's Davy?"
"Where else?" Peter chuckled, raiding the refrigerator for some juice. "On a date."
"Speaking of which," Micky said, beginning the prank with these words, "don't you have one tonight?"
"No," Peter said. "Tomorrow. The fifth. Valerie's out of town tonight with her father. Something about however-many-great-aunt Betty's will."
David M. seized on the words. "Something about? Your photographic memory failing you, pal?"
Peter closed his eyes and shook his head, grinning. "No, I just didn't hear what she said. She told me she'd tell me all about it over milkshakes tomorrow night."
Micky squeezed David M.'s shoulder. It was coming along nicely.
David M. nodded. "Pete, Micky's been telling me about some of the changes that have happened the last few weeks."
Peter looked at him. "Oh?"
"Yeah." David M. grinned. "I mean, getting shuttled to a whole other dimension is enough of a shock! Man, that's one time I was glad I'm blind. The passage must have been very disorienting."
"Not really," Peter said. "We did it ten times. Eight on the quests, once to Roma's dimension, then here. It's nearly instantaneous."
"Except the time Mara pulled us apart and knocked us out," Micky said, touching his scarred left shoulder and wincing at the memory.
"True," Peter agreed, draining his glass and TKing it to the sink.
David M. figured now was the time to push it. "Yeah, but what about the baggage you carried along?"
Peter blinked at him. "Baggage?"
David M. nodded. "Micky told me about the... fusion, is it?"
Peter understood what he meant. "Merge. When Mike and I merged into one mind."
"I bet that made it extra hard."
"What do you mean?"
David pressed the advantage. "Aren't you two people now?"
"No. Just me. What are you getting at?"
David smiled. "You are so different now. So much like him."
Peter's blue eyes flashed. "I can't help that, David."
David stood and Micky guided him so they both stood in front of Peter. "Sure you can," David said. "You just reverse the merge."
"What?" Peter gasped.
"You obviously wanted this," David said. "Or you would have dissolved the link, not merged."
"David," Peter said slowly, "the merge was an accident."
Upstairs, Mike suddenly sat bolt upright and slammed his book shut. "Oh, no," he breathed.
"Sure it was," David said. "But we want you and Mike like you were before."
"Yeah," Micky added. "It wasn't as spooky. We all know where we stood."
And, for the first time since getting powers, Peter lost his temper. "What in the world do you expect me to do?" he exploded. "I didn't ask for the freaking merge! I didn't ask to have part of Mike in my head for the rest of my life! And there is not one blasted thing I can do about it!"
Micky looked at his double, whose sightless eyes widened. Even before the merge, "blast" was as close as Peter ever came to cursing. Hearing that word now, they realized just how far they had pushed him.
Mike came barreling down the stairs. "Peter, no!" he gasped.
But he was too late. Peter was too far gone. "I can't link us up again! I can't fuse our minds together and make everything all better! This is what I am now! This is who I am!" Mike ran toward Peter, whose eyes had begun to glow. "AND THERE IS NOT ONE BLASTED THING I CAN DO TO MAKE IT LIKE IT WAS!! NOTHING!!!!"
Peter's blonde hair began to swirl like he was in a windstorm. Mike reached for him, and suddenly found himself airborne. Peter's out-of-control telekinesis slammed Mike backwards into the opposite wall. Mike managed to shield his head, and remain conscious as he was dropped unceremoniously to the ground.
"Peter, stop it!" he shouted.
Micky shoved David M. to the ground. "What is it?" the blind poet screamed above the noise of Mike's impact.
"It's Peter!" Micky gasped. "His power... I've never seen anything like it!"
Mike had gained his feet. He staggered toward Peter. "Peter, STOP IT!" he yelled again. "Control, man! Get control again!"
Peter was trembling. Small objects began to lift into the air and swirl like they were caught in a tornado. Then, suddenly, the couch lifted into the air.
"Lord above," Micky gasped, and it was a prayer. "I had no idea he was so powerful...."
Peter's glowing eyes flicked toward the doors to the verandah. The small objects kept swirling, but the couch crashed to the ground, upside down, inches from Mike.
"Peter, DON'T!" Mike yelled as Peter's trembling grew worse. Suddenly every instrument and every amplifier were swept to one side by an invisible hand with no more effort than one would sweep dishes off a table.
"Stop it, man!" Mike cried, taking a step toward Peter. The glowing eyes focused on Mike. Peter's expression was that of a man who'd lost all touch with reality, who had only one focus: escape.
"Peter!" Mike screeched as he felt his feet leave the floor again. "Micky, protect me!" he yelled.
Micky formed a shield around Mike as Mike was slammed into the ceiling. Micky cried out from the pain of impact.
"What's happening?" David M. cried.
"A small war," Micky cried. "Between Peter and... himself!"
"Micky!" Mike yelled. "Get me out of his line of vision!" Micky moved the field --and Mike encased within it --to a safe spot behind Peter. He brought Mike gently back to the ground.
Mike raced over and lay his hands on Micky and David M.'s shoulders. "Mick, shield us. I think he's going to--"
One of the glass doors to the verandah exploded. "PETER!" Mike screamed. "PETER SNAP OUT OF IT!!!!"
Peter lifted from the ground and flashed out of the ruined door. In seconds, he was out of sight. Everything that had been held in the air crashed to the ground. Some very sharp knives just missed the three huddled in the invisible field.
After a couple of minutes, Micky dissolved his field and the three rose to very shaky legs.
"What..." David M. took a step forward.
"Freeze, bro," Micky said. "There's glass and knives and junk everywhere." He led David M. to the staircase and sat him down on a relatively clean step. Then he turned to Mike. "I had no idea... So that's what happens when he loses his cool."
"That was mild," Mike said, picking his hat out of a pool of broken glass. "You should have seen what happened the first time he really cut loose with his telekinesis."
"When was that?" David M. asked.
"Right after we came back from the island," Mike said. "He was upset at how his life had turned upside down, so he went where he couldn't hurt anyone and lashed out."
"What happened?" Micky asked.
Mike grinned shakily. "He went to a deserted island and caused so much damage that every nation in the world was scrambling to deny they had detonated a nuclear warhead on the island. They never found out it was Pete."
"How'd you find out?" David M. asked.
"The merge," Mike answered curtly, kicking at some of the debris. "...We'd better get started. We've a lot of cleaning up to do."
"You know him inside out," Micky said. "Where's he gone? What's he gonna do?"
Mike looked at the ruined door. "He's gone to his thinking perch --the one spot he can be truly alone. He's gotta sort out a few things and get control over his telekinesis again."
"That's why he can't lose his cool," Micky said shakily. "He could kill someone! Mike, I never knew he was that powerful!"
"I only found out through the merge," Mike said. "He's afraid of his power's dark side. You just saw a taste today. I could sense his struggles; he held back a lot. He'll be all right once he calms down."
"But after the merge," Micky said, "he seemed so much calmer..."
"I gave him some help," Mike explained. "There's a hothead inside me, too."
David M. grinned. "Yeah, I remember when you put a fist through Kirshner's wall. Talk about hotheads!"
"I taught his subconscious some of the control techniques I've learned over the years," Mike finished as he picked up some of the kitchen debris and dropped it into the sink.
"But... Mike..." David M. said. "If Pete's that powerful... then he lied to us on the island."
"When he said his TK wouldn't work to get us home?" At the twins' nod, Mike said, "That was no lie."
"But..." Micky began.
"Look," Mike said. "Jacobs Rock is about 500 miles from California. Flying alone, yes, he could make it. Flying one of us to the mainland, yes, he could do it. Flying you, me, and Davy? No, he couldn't. He didn't know Micky could fly when he said that."
"Like I didn't know he could when I said I couldn't bring us back," Micky nodded. "But when we found out..."
"We had other things on our mind, bro," David M. said.
"Hey, you weren't there!" Micky said.
David M. grinned. "Yes I was. Sort of. I hadn't been created yet, remember? My creators gave me all your memories up to the point of my creation --and you gave me three false ones, as I recall. Yeah --I remember the island very well."
Mike grinned at Micky's addled expression. "Where's his thinking perch?" Micky asked, changing the subject.
"You can only get there by flying," Mike said. "I can't take you there if I wanted to."
"I can fly," Micky pointed out.
Mike's brown eyes were steel as they met Micky's. "I am not tellin' you where it is. He needs to be alone more than he needs his friends right now. Give him the time he needs. Don't make me make that an order."
Micky studied his eyes for a second, then nodded.
Peter flew over the ocean so fast his face began to hurt from the heat. He was still shaking badly. The abandoned lighthouse in the distance grew larger and larger. Finally Peter touched down on top of it, then sagged to his knees in despair. His eyes finally stopped glowing.
I could have killed them, he thought. I could have killed them or myself! The tears began. He collapsed onto his stomach, sobbing out his pain and anger. Help me, God, he prayed. Help me keep control of this demon inside me! I don't want to hurt anybody! Please help me! Please! PLEASE!!!!
Ever so slowly, the anger subsided. But the guilt would take longer to erase. Peter sat up, wiping his eyes. He knew what he had to do.
Whispering a prayer of thanks and a plea for strength, he lifted off the lighthouse and headed back to the Pad.
"You two did what?!?" Mike shouted. "Of all the irresponsible, stupid, boneheaded..."
David M. and Micky sat on the spiral steps, heads hanging. "Mike," Micky said. "We didn't know that would happen. We just wanted to see Pete lose it once."
"Yeah," David M. said. "We didn't know he was so powerful. We thought it would be a shouting match and that would be it."
Mike rolled his eyes and shook his head. Micky pressed, "But if you two hadn't kept secrets, it wouldn't have happened at all! Why couldn't you just come out and tell us he was that powerful? Why have you two kept secrets from the rest of us since the merge?"
Mike met Micky's eyes, challenge for challenge. "Admit it, Micky. Would you have believed Pete is so powerful? Would you have believed I still have a tenuous empathic link to him? We don't intend to keep secrets, it just turns out that way!"
"Well," Micky asked, "are there any more secrets, Mike?"
Mike sighed and nodded. "We absorbed a great deal of each other's personalities. I am Mike Nesmith, but a large part of me is Peter Tork. He thinks I came out of the merge unscathed, and he was the only one to be altered. His photographic memory still tortures him with scenes of my life, my childhood. He sees them as if they were his memories. That's incompatible with his own memories, and at times he feels like he's going mad."
David M. whistled. "Then... how does he cope?"
"We're dealing with it together. We're the only ones that can help each other. You guys can be supportive, but we're really the only ones who can sort this madness out."
"How do you cope?" Micky asked.
Mike smiled a little. "I'm the lucky one. My very less than photographic memory filtered out most of Peter's past. I have my memories, and his only since he joined the group. I have the easier task." The brown eyes suddenly flashed flint, and the strong jaw set angrily. "But you two pushing us helps zilch! Next time you get such a boneheaded impulse, put it in the garbage where it belongs!" Mike stood, sighing. "Come on, let's see if we can get this place back in shape."
Manipulating his force-fields like an extra set of hands, Micky cleaned up the knives and swept up the glass. Mike told him to lay it all in a pile at the base of the door.
"Why?" Micky asked.
"So we can fix it when Pete gets back."
Micky frowned at him, but obeyed. Then he helped David M. work on the kitchen while Mike straightened up the living area.
"Come here, twins," Mike teased, "and give me a hand with this!"
Micky took David M.'s hand and led him to the living area. David M. chuckled. "Twins," he giggled.
The three of them turned the couch back over and pushed it to its place. Then they moved to the bandstand. David M. set up Micky's drums while the other two set up the rest of the instruments.
At one point, Micky was pushing an amplifier while Mike was pulling on it. The heavy piece of equipment had apparently decided it liked its new position, because it would not budge!
"Man," Micky grunted, "I wish Davy was here!"
Mike had no sooner agreed than the amplifier rose into the air. It turned right side up and settled in its accustomed place. Mike grinned at Micky. "Cool! Why didn't you think of that before?"
Micky's eyes widened. "Mike, that wasn't my fields."
But Mike was looking over Micky's head, smiling. "I know."
Micky turned. Peter stood in the frame of the ruined door. He looked haunted. "Peter," Micky said for David M.'s benefit.
"He's back?" David M. asked.
Mike stepped around Micky and took a step toward Peter. Peter looked at Mike, and all the pent-up emotion of the flight home burst from the blue eyes. Fury at the 'twins'. Shame over his actions. Deep, deep regret. And a glance that held the unspoken question: Will they forgive me?
Mike didn't say a word. He just looked at Peter for a long minute. Then Mike held out his arms. Peter sobbed with relief as he flung himself into his best friend's arms. Mike held him as the blonde man's shoulders heaved again and again. Mike met Micky's eyes and nodded an order. Micky took David M.'s hand and led him upstairs.
Still holding Peter, Mike sat down on the bench by the bandstand. After a few minutes, Peter sat up, wiping wet cheeks, tears still pouring from red-rimmed eyes. He looked at Mike and chuckled.
"Thought you said you couldn't remember my childhood."
Mike smiled. "I can't. That just seemed... right."
"Dad used to do that when I was upset. He wouldn't say a word, he'd just let me cry. That's how I knew I was forgiven. He never said it was unmanly to cry. Never."
Mike's smile turned wistful. "You were lucky, man. I never had a dad."
"I know." Peter stood up, composing himself. "Do I need to say I'm sorry?"
"For throwing me all over the Pad?" Mike leaned against an intact door. "Nah, I understand. But you do need to take care of some unfinished business."
Peter looked up the stairs. "Yeah. I know. But the door..."
Mike held up a hand. "Will keep till you make your peace. Besides, you can't fuse glass together. And I won't till we're all friends again."
Peter grinned lopsidedly. Mike's smile vanished as he saw his own grin on the dimpled face. Peter looked upstairs again. "Be right back." His eyes glowed and he shot over the railing. Touching down, he entered the bedroom and closed the door.
Mike shook his head. "Man," he breathed, "that stupid merge..."
"So just who are you, lady?" the man with the blonde hair past his shoulders and flashing brown eyes demanded.
She smiled at them. "My name is Mara. I am a creature of the dark, just as you are."
The man with the black ponytail's eyes widened. "The Dark Lady?" he gasped.
The blonde grabbed him around the throat and threw him into the wall. "There's no such thing, Stupid!"
"On your world," she said, "that is the name I am known by."
"Michael was right, Pete," the Brit with the crew cut pointed out.
Pete's eyes glowed brown, and the Brit ended up on the other side of the room. "Never question me, Dave!" he snapped. "Or did you forget what I can do to you?"
Dave threw his hands over his face, shrinking two feet in his fright. "Yeah... I forgot..."
The man with the headful of brown curls laughed. "Get 'im, Leader!" he crowed. "Do it!"
Pete threw an arm across his chest. "Rein it in, George," he ordered. "You'll get your chance soon enough. Come here, Stupid!" Michael picked himself up and staggered toward Pete. Pete grabbed him by the back of the neck. "Pick him up and remind him to keep his place."
"Y-Yes, Leader," Michael stammered. He stretched an elastic arm out and wound it around Dave, bringing the very short man to his feet and drawing him into the ranks again. "Grow, please," he whispered. "And behave?"
Dave returned to just over five feet, running a hand through the crew cut and nodding. Michael retracted his arm.
"Good boy," Pete said, addressing the taller man as if he were a dog. He squeezed the neck so hard Michael winced. "Now get over there and SHUT UP!!"
Michael nodded frantically. Pete let him go and he joined the other two. Pete then addressed Mara. "Well, Lady... what do you want?"
Her beautiful, but evil, eyes narrowed. "Revenge."
"On who?" George asked.
"There are four men in another dimension. They are your duplicates, down to your powers... except the Stupid One has different capabilities. They have defeated me three times. I want you to defeat them for me."
Pete grinned coldly. "And what's in it for us?"
"For them? My undying gratitude. For you?" She stepped forward and gave the evil man a deep kiss loaded with promises. He broke the embrace and smiled Peter's gentle smile, distorted by his own evil lust.
"Send them down," he said. "And we'll... discuss terms."
Mara smiled. She made an arm motion and the other three vanished. Then Pete drew her into another passionate kiss.
The arduous task had been going on for over an hour. The glass in the door reached halfway up. Peter's blue glow flickered as another piece rose shakily into the air.
"This one, pal," Mike said. "Then we'll stop for now."
Peter nodded. He steered the piece of glass to its place in the 3-D jigsaw puzzle his temper had created. Mike hit the glass with a laser, fusing it in place. Peter sighed. His glowing eyes closed and he massaged the bridge of his nose.
"That's not hard," he said, "but it's repetitive!"
"Bored?" Micky asked. "I'll take your place. My fields are almost as good as your telekinesis."
"Yeah," Pete said, "but your fields can't take the pounding Mike gives the glass. You'd get a migraine and a half. Besides, I caused this mess... I'll clean it up."
"'Ello, all!" Davy crowed, coming through the back door. "How was your... WHOA!!! What happened to the patio door? Jason escape and attack us? Another mutated creep? What?"
Mike grinned. "Pete lost his temper."
Davy turned wide eyes to Peter. "You did this?"
Peter grinned shakily. "Among other things. Thank God nobody was hurt."
"Believe me," David M. piped up, "I'm doing just that!"
Davy looked over at him and did a double take. "Say what?"
David M. leaned over to Micky. "Let me guess. He did a double take."
"Of course," Micky laughed. "Hey, it's nearly time to go."
David M. fumbled for his jacket. Micky found it and put it in his hands. They said their goodbyes and left.
"Ready?" Mike asked, taking a step to stand beside Peter. He raised his hands, fingers interlocked and index fingers pointing, till they were shoulder level. Peter sighed. He squared his shoulders and nodded. His eyes began to glow blue. Another piece of glass rose from the pile and was fused into the door --- which blew inward, knocking all three down.
"Hey, c'mon, Pete!" Davy chided.
"That... wasn't me!" Peter gasped.
The trio turned, and three jaws unhinged. Davy looked into his own face, as the guy hovered just outside the window. "Me?" he stammered. "Flying? How?"
"The Dark Lady," the Brit with the crew cut snarled.
"Dark Lady?" Peter repeated. "Mara?"
"That is the name she said," the black-haired man with the ponytail said softly as he hovered beside the other two, also under his own power. Instantly the curly-haired man whirled and backhanded the ponytailed man, sending him spinning. "Shut up, Stupid!" he snarled.
"Hey!" Mike yelled, gaining his feet. "There's no call for that!"
The man whirled to him. "You shut up too!"
Peter stepped up beside Mike. "Don't talk to him that way!"
"You're not Leader!" the man with the curls snarled. "You don't order me around!"
Davy gained his feet and met his altered double's eyes. "They're... evil!" he gasped.
The double sneered a grin at him. "Good guess, shorty."
Mike shot Peter a quick look, conveying a plan with his eyes. Peter nodded quickly and snapped, "So I'm not Leader! So what? I look like him, I sound like him!" He was guessing this based on the evidence of the other three before his eyes. "I'm leader of this bunch! And I'll order you around all I like!"
Instantly the curly-haired man roared and lunged at Peter. Peter let him hit a telekinetic deflecting field, and they began to wrestle.
"Yeah!" the crew-cutted Brit yelled. "Get 'im, George!"
Mike took a quick look. The small flyer was engrossed watching the others wrestle. Mike shot a glance at Davy and jerked his head toward Davy's double. Davy nodded quickly --he'd keep his double busy if necessary. Mike slid out the ruined door and down the verandah steps. His own double lay on the beach, sobbing. Mike touched his shoulder, and the man jerked as he whirled.
"Easy," Mike said. "Take it easy. I'm not gonna hurt you."
His double was trembling, looking up at him with huge brown eyes. Mike looked into those eyes, and knew. "You're not...like them, are you?"
His double nodded quickly. "I..." he stammered, "I... I have the gifts, too. I'm... just like them."
Mike smiled, crouching beside himself. "I meant your personality. You're gentle... kind. What are you doing with these jerks?"
"They... found me... in Texas... Took me in... weren't afraid of me... Didn't care that I can stretch all over creation..."
Mike nodded at him. "You're elastic?" The man nodded. "I used to be, too. My powers were altered a few weeks ago. My name's Mike. Mike Nesmith. What's yours?"
"M-Michael." He smiled crookedly. "Actually, it's Robert Nesmith. But they call me by my middle name."
Mike nodded toward the beachouse. "I gathered the curly-headed one is named George. Who's the Brit?"
"Dave. And the other one, Pete, is Leader. ...If we call him other than 'Leader', he b-b... he beats us."
"You're afraid of him," Mike said.
"He's so powerful... he can do just about anything with his telekinesis..."
Mike scowled, temper flaring. Just like Peter... only evil. "We can protect you. Leave them. Come with us."
"I..." Michael met his eyes. "I... can't."
Suddenly the two evil duplicates flew out of the beachouse. "Come on, Stupid!" George hollered. "We've got a challenge!"
One last 'I-want-to-believe-you-but-I'm-afraid-to' look at Mike, and Michael shot into the air and followed the pair. Mike sighed and went back up the stairs.
"Well?" Davy asked. "Did he fight you?"
Mike shook his head. "He's been beaten. Repeatedly. His spirit is completely broken."
"Who beat him?" Peter said, telekinetically putting the room back together.
That startled Peter. "I did?" he gasped.
"I mean your double. The leader of the group. The most powerful, and the most evil, according to Michael. By the way, what 'challenge' did they mean?"
"They're to meet us on the beach at midnight," Peter said. "We convinced them that was a better place to fight, and to wait till Leader got here."
Micky walked in. "Man!" he gasped. "I leave for half an hour and the place gets ripped up again!"
The others filled him in as Peter telekinetically unscrewed the damaged patio door and lay it down on the bandstand. He and Mike repeated their repair job. This time, since the thing was horizontal, it took only a fraction of the time.
"Looks good," Micky said as Peter lifted the door back into its place and telekinetically replaced the mountings.
"I love the swirls in the glass," Davy said.
"That's from the lasers," Mike said.
"So now what?" Micky asked. "There are doubles of us out there that share our powers. How do we deal with them?"
Mike smiled at him. "You've been in this situation before. What would you suggest?"
"Rob had powers, too," Micky pointed out.
"Yeah," Peter said, picking up the phone. "But we're all overlooking something. You saw how powerful I am, Micky. There's another 'me' out there that's just as powerful, and evil as he can be."
Having witnessed just a bit of what Peter's powers could do unchecked, Micky shuddered. "Who are you calling?"
"The paper," Peter said. "I'm getting some help. Yes, I'd like to place a full-page ad, please? Ready? 'Your absorbing talents are needed at the Pad. You know where to call. Mind-Mover.' Got that? Yes, full-page. Yes, evening edition. Okay, great." He hung up the phone and turned to the others. "Now we wait."
Several hours passed, then the phone rang. Peter vaulted for the stairs and picked it up. "Hello?" He smiled. "Yes, I placed the ad. You can? One hour? Great, here's what we need you to do..."
At the appointed time, the Monkees gathered on the beach. Mike suddenly pointed into the air. "Here they come."
Four figures emerged from the night, each flying under their own power. Mike and Davy wondered to themselves if inside them was untapped flight. Then both shook their heads, recalling that Mara had given their doubles that skill. The four landed in front of the Monkees. Three had sneers on their faces. Ponytailed Michael couldn't meet his double's eyes. Mike understood.
"Ready?" Brown-eyed Pete, the Leader, snarled.
"I have a suggestion," Peter said.
"That wasn't in the plan!" Pete yelled.
"Still, it's in your interests to hear it," Peter insisted.
"He's lying!" George snarled in Pete's ear.
"Yeah, let me at them!" Crew-cutted Dave took a step forward. Davy automatically took a step back.
Pete's hand flashed across Dave's chest, stopping the Englishman. His brown eyes narrowed as they bored into Peter's blue ones. "In my interests, hm? What did you have in mind?"
"Instead of all of you attacking all of us, I propose single combat. One on one."
Pete smiled cruelly. "The idea has... possibilities. To the death. Winner take all."
That was a possibility they had not considered. Peter met Mike's eyes. Mike scanned the faces of Davy and Micky, who nodded. Then Mike looked at Michael. Michael's face had gone pale, but he nodded. Mike nodded at Peter.
Peter met Pete's eyes again. "Very well," Peter said. "To the death."
"I pick the champions," Pete said.
Michael stepped forward. "Leader, let me? Please?"
"This should be amusing," Pete snarled. "Well, idiot?"
"S-Since you are the most powerful of us," Michael stammered, "would it not be a good idea for you personally to dispatch the champion they choose?" He looked at the Monkees. Forgive me, they read in his eyes. I have to know who's right, he mouthed to Mike.
Mike nodded. I dig, he mouthed back.
Pete grabbed Michael by the ponytail and shook him. "For once in your life," he bellowed, "you have a good idea!" He flung the human rag doll away and grinned, "I accept. Bring on your champion!"
"I'll do it," Peter said. He took Mike's arm and they stepped aside. "It's going according to plan," he whispered.
"Yeah, the evil ones are so predictable," Mike agreed in a whisper. "...Where is she?"
"Hidden. But how are you gonna tell who's who up there?"
Mike pointed at the gold bracelet Valerie had given Peter. "Let me have that." Peter surrendered the chain, and Mike used his lasers on it. He reshaped the bracelet into a very thin golden choker, which he welded closed on Peter's neck.
"What are you doing?" Pete bellowed.
Peter turned, smiling. "Just something so the spectators can tell who's who up there." The choker glinted in the moonlight.
"No more delays!" Pete's eyes glowed brown and he shot into the air. "Come, Tork!"
Peter's eyes glowed blue and he shot after him, leading him over the open ocean, but still where they could be seen.
The battle began. First Pete lunged and grabbed Peter by the shoulders, fingers groping for his neck. Not again, Peter thought, telekinetically pushing him away.
Then Peter found himself paralysed by Pete's tekekinesis. "Two can play that game, goody-two-shoes," Pete laughed.
"Really?" a soft voice said behind him. Pete startled as female fingers caressed his shoulder. "Teach me that game."
Pete turned his head slightly, to see a young dark-haired, green-eyed woman move up beside him. "Who are you?" he snarled.
"My friends call me Mel," she said in a sultry whisper. "And I love powerful men." She grabbed his face and kissed him on the lips. Pete's base natures took over. He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her closer.
Then his eyes flew open in panic and he grabbed at her wrists to break her grip. Mel --Mirrydor --opened her eyes, which were now glowing an intense brown. Pete's glow began to flicker. Peter gasped in relief as movement returned to his limbs.
Mirrydor suddenly released Pete and yelled to Peter, "You have twenty minutes before his strength returns!" Then she retreated to safety.
"Thanks, Mirrydor!" Peter yelled after her, giving his evil double a roundhouse right.
"I don't need telekinesis to take care of you!" Pete yelled, lunging at Peter. They grabbed each other and a bizarre mid-air wrestling match ensued. They were tumbling, yelling, and hitting so fast that nobody on the ground could tell who was who. But those on the ground noticed something neither combatant did.
"Man," Michael gasped, "they're falling into the water!"
Suddenly both combatants disappeared beneath the waves. There was silence for a few agonizing seconds, when nobody came up. Then a blonde man shot from the water, gasping for air. But which one was it?
Micky grinned. "Peter!" he cheered. "It's our Peter!" Indeed, the golden choker was plainly visible in the moonlight.
"Micky," Peter gasped, "Air bubble!"
Micky surrounded the hovering man with an invisible bubble. Then Peter kicked backward and dove headfirst back into the ocean.
"What is he doing?" Dave gasped. "He won!"
"He's going back to save your Peter's life," Mike said.
Michael frowned at him. "But the agreement was to the death."
Davy smiled. "That's the kind of person Peter is. He won't let anybody die if he can help it."
Michael smiled in admiration, then the smile turned introspective. Mike recognised the look and grinned. Perhaps....
Peter suddenly shot out of the water again and back to the beach. "He's gone," he announced.
Three jaws unhinged in shock as the Monkees looked sadly at Peter. "Sorry, man," Mike said.
Peter shook his head. "No... you don't understand. He's gone! I can't find him anywhere!"
"This is bad," Micky breathed. "If he's still out there..."
"Oh, he's still there," George snapped. "Bet on that! He'll find us, and we'll whip your sorry..." The curse word that followed hung in the shocked silence it caused.
"That goes double for me!" Dave snarled. The two of them shot into the air and flashed away.
Mike looked at his double. "What about you? You gonna join your friends?"
Michael smiled at him. "I just have. If the double of the cruellest, most heartless man I've known will risk his own life to save that vicious man... Well, there may just be hope for somebody like me." He sighed and frowned. "Only... what am I gonna do now?"
Micky smiled and lay a hand on the thin shoulder. "First we're gonna get you something to eat. When was the last time you had a good meal?"
Michael blinked at him. "What's a good meal? Leader said I was fit only for the scraps he gave me."
Mike shook his head, fury blazing from his eyes. "Peter," he breathed, "if your double shows up again, remind me to permanently blind him."
Peter answered, "You've got a deal." He was livid, but trying valiantly to control it. Mike had told him, but he hadn't dared to believe it. His double had been that cruel, even to his own men....
Michael devoured the meal like he hadn't eaten in a week --which he hadn't. Then, after politely asking permission, he stretched his arm out and took seconds off the stove. The sight of a second "Mike" using Mike's original powers made all four Monkees smile.
Michael reacted to the smiles badly. "Did I do something wrong?" he asked, startled for a moment. Then he realized. "Oh... you're not elastic anymore. I forgot. Do you want me to not use my powers?"
The thought had never even crossed Mike's mind. "No, of course not! I'm enjoying seeing someone else's limbs stretch all over creation!"
Michael smiled, shoulders sagging in relief. Then he went back to the feast.
"His body language is so familiar," Davy whispered.
"It ought to be," Peter whispered back. "It's that of my character from the show."
That made them blink. "You mean..." Micky gasped. "Mike's real-life double is exactly like the make-believe you?!?"
Peter nodded. "He's been verbally, physically and emotionally abused non-stop for the last few years of his life. He's more intelligent than the celluloid Pete, but emotionally he's the same. The way he's been treated has made him hypersensitive to other people's emotions and reactions."
"Maybe if he had somebody to care for, that would help," Mike suggested.
Micky grinned. "I know just the somebody." Micky dialed a quick number on the phone and held a hushed conversation with the person that answered.
Half an hour later, there came a knock at the door. Micky looked through the peephole, grinned, and answered the door. David M. came through, cane tapping. "I hear there are two of you, too, Mike," he quipped.
"Yep," Mike said. He lay his hands on Michael's shoulders and led him forward. "Michael Nesmith, this is David Michaelson. He started out as a clone of Micky."
Michael's eyes widened. "A clone! Wow!"
David M. grinned and held out his hand. "I'm a lot more than that now. I'm my own person. Nice to meet you."
Michael took the proffered hand and shook it, eyes widening. "You're... you're..." he stammered.
David retracted his hand and chuckled. "The word you're groping for is 'blind'. Yes, I am. And before you ask, it's a very long story."
"And you'll have all the time in the world to hear it," Davy said.
Michael frowned. "I don't understand."
"You two are gonna be roommates," Mike said, smiling. "He needs somebody to dictate his poems to, and you need something to do and somewhere to live."
"Sounds like a perfect match to me," David M. said. "What do you say, hm?"
Michael grinned. "Yes. I say yes!" Then he sighed. "But I can't call myself Michael Nesmith. That name's kinda taken." The others laughed.
"I've been thinking about that," Mike said. "How about using our first name and shaving the N-E off our last name?"
Michael frowned. "You mean... call myself Robert Smith?"
"Not Robert. Just Rob."
Peter grinned at Mike, as Davy and Micky's mouths opened in recognition. They remembered that Rob Smith had been the name of the rebel leader in Quest Four --the one who had been instrumental in helping Mike and Peter adjust to the odd circumstances resulting from the merge. To give this emotionally damaged man that name was to show they saw great potential in him.
Michael smiled. "I like it. Rob Smith it is." He turned to David M. "So... when do we get going?"
"Right now." David M. showed Rob how to hold out his arm so that David could grip it and know where to walk. They said quick, sad goodbyes and left.
"I hope they'll be all right," Micky said.
"They'll be fine," Peter said.
"Yeah, he'll do right nice," Mike said, thickening his accent on purpose and making everyone laugh.
"I do wonder what happened to the others, though," Davy said.
A mental voice like a friend's laugh said, They are here.
All four Monkees whirled. "Roma!" they gasped as one.
Roma smiled at them. The two that did not fight are trying to regroup. They will not succeed for some time.
Peter stepped forward. "Roma.. . my double...."
Is alive, Peter. Don't fret. Peter closed his eyes in relief. He had not killed. Your double is with his mistress. He and Mara are trapped in her dimension. When next you meet, his powers will be less. Roma smiled at them. You have done well. I offer you a chance to return where you began.
Mike's eyes widened. "You mean... we can go home?"
I mean you can return home --if you wish to. You will be stepping into the shoes of the Monkees that took your place.
"Are they like us?" Peter asked.
Roma produced a screen out of the air. Witness. Scenes began to play on the screen.
The Monkees saw themselves, but they knew they were seeing the Monkees of the fictional world they were standing in. Peter's impaired intelligence was ample proof of that. They saw Jason attack powerless Monkees, and Roma --not Mara --pull him out of that world into this one. Then they saw Mara contact him. They saw Roma also bring David M. into this world, so he could be with Micky.
"Phyllis?" Mike wondered.
Thought that Mike was you. I tried to explain, but she was sure. She refused to come.
Mike shook his head, tears coming to his eyes. Peter lay a hand on his shoulder.
They saw those Monkees go on tour, and begin filming a second season.
"Hey," Davy cheered, "we got renewed!"
Then they saw the four TV Monkees get involved with the psychotropic drugs of their world.
"No," Peter gasped strangledly as all four paled. "They DIDN'T!"
Would you like to see their future --and yours if you return?
The Monkees then saw fights. Phyllis, holding another child in her arms, and 'Mike' were fighting severely. After a third baby came, Phyllis left him. Mike dropped his head. Peter hugged him, eyes riveted to the screen.
They then witnessed the end of the Monkees. First Peter left, then Mike, then the others just drifted apart. The screen went dark and disappeared. In the pregnant silence that followed, Roma repeated her question.
Would you like to return?
"They got into the dope," Davy said. "I can't believe it..."
"The show ended," Micky said. "They couldn't do it the same..."
"I still end up alone," Mike said, gaining his voice. "First her... then you guys..."
"We're better off here," Peter said. "I can't speak for you guys on this one. But I'm happy here. I'm in love. I want to stay."
"I like it here, too," Micky said. "For the first time, I'm confident in my abilities and comfortable behind the set. I'm staying."
Davy shrugged. "'Ey, somebody's gotta uphold my Casanova image." He grinned. "All kidding aside, I don't wanna get into the junk they did. I might end up a drunk thirty years down the road! I'm staying too."
"I can't lose you guys," Mike said. "You're more than friends to me. You're my family. No, I'm staying here."
Peter smiled at Roma. "It seems to be unanimous," he said. "We're staying here."
Roma smiled and nodded her head.
Mike stepped forward. "Roma... what about the Phyllis of this world? Where is she? Were we ever married?"
You were. She was not from this land you call America. After your only child was born, she received a call from her homeland and had to return. The hardest thing that Michael did was let her go. The child went with her. As yet, they have not returned here.
"Will they? Where did they go? Can I see her?"
That is forbidden by the Mores of her land. Michael knew that and wept many nights. You will see them again, however. Roma touched Mike's cheek. She never has lost her love for you. Believe that. If she were able, she would be here.
"Where is she?"
Roma's eyes filled with sadness. I am unable to reveal that, Robert Michael. I must respect the customs of her land. She still weeps from loneliness. I can tell you this, however --she is queen there.
Mike started. "Queen?" Roma vanished, smiling. Mike smiled too. "She still loves me. And I'll see her again." For the first time since arriving, pure joy was in his eyes. A weight lifted from the other three to see it.
"Welcome back, Mike," Peter said. He smiled at the others. "Welcome home to us all!"
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