The three-year-old with brown eyes and blonde hair clutched the teddy bear tighter. "Daddy? Why do you suds up your face every morning?"
Mike chuckled as he slid the razor over his cheek. "It's all part of bein' a man, Christian. It's called shavin'."
"Oh." Christian's voice dropped a little. "You gonna be workin' late t'night?"
Mike sighed. He turned to his son and gave a gentle smile. "I can't answer that, Chris. It depends on what the director has in mind."
"That's your boss, right?"
Mike nodded, the smile growing as he looked over Christian's head, his eyes filling with love.
A gentle hand touched Christian's shoulder. He turned and smiled. "Mornin', Mommy."
Phyllis chuckled. She crouched beside Christian and kissed him, but addressed Mike. "He's dropping the 'g's off his 'ing' words again. He's been listening to his father's accent too much."
Mike bristled, but his eyes were laughing. This was an old tease, and they both enjoyed the game. Once upon a time, it had been cruel, but now it was a game of love. "So the boy talks like a Texan! Let 'im! --Didn't do me no harm!"
"He bothering you, Mike?" she asked, going serious as she stood up.
"Naw --let 'im stay." Mike punctuated his words with a wink.
Phyllis laughed. "Hey, just because I made a crack about your accent's no reason to pile it on!"
Mike laughed as well, kissing his family. "I love you both," he whispered, holding them close.
Phyllis sighed, enjoying the embrace. A few months before the plane trip, Mike had become infatuated with a woman friend of Peter's. However, he'd gone to Phyllis and told her before things had gotten out of hand. Thanks to counseling and a sincere desire to save it, their marriage was on track again, more solid than ever. There was no longer any question in her mind or his of their love for each other. "I love you too, Shotgun," she whispered, holding him tightly. "Hug me as only you can..."
Mike smiled and his arms expanded, wrapping around her three times, enfolding her securely in an elastic embrace.
When Mike arrived at the studio, Davy and Peter were huddled in a corner, whispering. Mike said hi to the crew, then walked over to his partners. "Hey, guys! Waitin' for me?" he teased, smiling.
Davy turned a serious face to him. "More than you know, Mike."
The smile vanished. "Huh?"
"Camera's broken," Peter said. "If I created a diversion, could you..."
Mike nodded. "Go for it."
Peter slipped deeper into the corner and looked up. His eyes glowed. Psychedelic colors assaulted the crew. As one, they looked up. "Great!" one groaned. "First the camera, now the lights are goin' crazy!"
In the confusion, Mike stepped to the broken camera that Davy pointed out. He touched the back of it with the palm of his hand, and his elastic fingers slid inside. A slipped wire was swiftly located and put back into place, and he slid his fingers out. Mike nodded at Peter.
Peter nodded back. His eyes stopped glowing, and the light show stopped.
"Great job, guys!" Micky said.
The others looked around. No Micky. "Where are you?" Davy whispered.
Micky shimmered into view behind Davy. "Boo."
Davy jumped and rounded on Micky. "Don't do that! You're gonna give one of us a heart attack doin' that! By the way, where've you been?"
"Car broke down!" Micky flared. "I just got here!"
"Hello, boys!" came a cheery voice.
Peter dropped his head and shook it slightly. "Oh, no..." he whispered so low only Mike, who stood beside him, could hear. "Not her...."
Susan Jacobs, the reporter who had rescued them from the island and had become somewhat of a shadow to them, walked up, smiling. "Wow...what a light show. Mister K. called me in to interview the crew behind the scenes today." She smiled larger, tucking a strand of honey-coloured hair behind her ear, brown eyes shining. "It would seem I've got another story on my hands though!"
"Really?" Peter challenged, his head snapping up. "And that would be what?"
Mike lay a hand on his shoulder. Peter especially had developed a severe dislike of the reporter -- going so far as to call her "Lois Lane with a little Peroxide" -- and Mike had taken it upon himself to keep the dislike under control. He didn't want the telekinetic to lose his temper.
It wasn't confirmed -- Peter wouldn't admit to them he'd done it -- but shortly after Peter had flown off the boat and returned, every nuclear power in the world had begun to scramble to make it plain that they had not detonated a bomb on a tiny, uninhabited island. The devastation was total.
If Peter was indeed that powerful --- if that would happen if he lost his temper --- Mike did not want him to lose his temper in front of him or anyone else!
Susan waved her hand, large brown eyes widening as she smiled. "The mysterious light show! A lot of mysterious things happen around you four now...."
Mike spun Peter around, bending him over. The telekinetic's teeth were grinding and a slight glow was beginning to show. "Excuse us," he told Susan. "Peter's not feeling very well." He whispered, "Get it together, Shotgun!"
"She drives me crazy..." Peter hissed.
"She drives us all crazy," Mike whispered back. "But you've gotta keep hold'a your temper!"
"You do the same," Peter whispered back, the glow in his eyes dying.
Mike nodded and squeezed his shoulder.
Just then the director walked over. "Miss Jacobs, you'll have to wait in the back. Now that our camera's working again, we've got a show to do!"
The Monkees changed into the outfits needed for the episode. They sat in a circle on the floor and a female extra sat between Peter and Davy. A bottle lay on the floor in the middle of the circle.
"Action!" the director yelled.
"'This isn't going to work,'" Peter sighed, reciting his line. "'It always goes to Davy.'" He lowered his head to get a better look at the bottle --and to shield his eyes from the camera's gaze.
The girl spun the bottle. Peter telekinetically made it point to Davy. Davy kissed the girl.
"'Try it again,'" Mike recited. "'Davy, maybe you'd better leave the room.'"
As per Peter's earlier request, the camera focused on his hand. As he reached down, the bottle twitched. Suddenly it soared into the air and stuck onto the door beside Davy.
Peter managed to cut off the glow just before the camera panned to catch his expression of resigned defeat. "'See?'" he recited, brown eyes dull. "'It always does that!'"
"Aaand... cut! Great job, guys!" the director cheered.
Peter turned away from the others and popped out the pale red contact lenses that turned his newly-blue eyes brown on screen. He turned back to hear a crew member say, "Man, those people manipulating the wires get better every day!"
The director grinned, looking at Peter. "Yeah, they do." He walked over and held out his hand, winking at Peter. He had been the one to suggest the red lenses -- he'd noticed Peter's blue eyes the minute they'd walked on the set. They'd had to reveal their powers to him and to Mike's family -- but so far, noone else knew the powerful helpers who'd recently arrived in Hollywood were the Monkees.
Especially not Mister K. If he found out, he'd use them -- make a mockery of their powers and destroy what little anonymity they still possessed.
Peter lay the contact lenses in the director's palm. The director nodded and called, "That's it,
people! Last scene of the show's in the can! Take a well-deserved break, and we'll
see you Monday!"
Mike snagged each of his partners backstage and handed each one a light blue bundle. "Phyllis decided since we've got powers, we should hide our identities," he whispered. "So she made us these."
They got changed and met in the narrow hallway between their dressing rooms. Each skintight outfit was light blue, accented in black. Each had light blue pants with black lines down the side, black belts, and black boots. Each had a light blue mask that covered the top half of his face.
Davy's outfit had a t-shirt collar outlined in black, with a black square at the base of the collar. The black arrow on his right arm pointed up, and the one on the left pointed down. He looked at his friends and chuckled. "Neat!"
Micky's had a boat collar outlined in black. The black outline reached all the way to the cuffs. At the base of the collar was a black circle. "Hmm," Micky mused, adjusting the mask.
Peter's had a V-collar outlined in black with a black rectangle at the point. On either sleeve was a black four-pointed star. He just smiled.
Mike's had a V-collar outlined in black. The outline stretched all the way to his cuffs. Another strip of black stretched from the collar all the way around under his arms.
Micky sighed. "Let's get out of these before..."
"Oh, boys!" rang from where the hallway curved to the left.
"Uh-oh!" Micky gasped. His eyes widened a bit.
"Micky --what?" Peter gasped as the four turned invisible.
"Shh!" Micky hissed.
Ann Perkins, director's assistant, came in with Susan Jacobs in tow. "Boys? Boys!?! Strange, I thought they were here..." She walked away.
"...any idea where they could be? This is important..." Susan's voice faded out as they walked out of hearing range.
As soon as she was gone, the Monkees shimmered back into view. "Important indeed," Peter said, shaking his head.
"Dolenz," Mike gasped, "What did you do?"
Micky giggled. "Mass invisibility. You didn't want anyone to see our uniforms, did you?"
"That's unnerving, Mick!" Davy groaned, a hand rubbing the back of his neck.
Mike took off his mask. "Let's get out of these before they come back."
Ann did come back, alone, just as they emerged from their dressing rooms in their street clothes. "Mike!" she cried. "Here you are!! I couldn't find you earlier!"
Mike shot a teasing glance at Micky. "Sorry, Ann. Couldn't be helped. What's wrong?"
"Phyllis called. She's nearly in hysterics."
"Hysterics?" Mike gasped. "What's wrong?"
Peter's hand went to his mouth. If this was what they'd been trying to tell them earlier... His eyes closed and Micky lay a hand on his shoulder to calm him.
Ann raised large eyes to Mike's face. "Mike....it's Christian. Your son's been kidnapped."
Denial --- agony ---- shock --- anger ---- all those crossed Mike's face in the space of a moment. The four words any parent -- especially a famous one -- fears had just hit his ears.
The others watched the play of emotion across his face... and it echoed theirs. A week after their island adventure, their studio physicals had come up. While they'd been successful in hiding their powers, each had gotten news that had rocked them.
Each one of them was now sterile. The four knew it had to be from their intense radiation exposure. Each of them had grown close to Christian after that doctor's visit.
Christian would be the only child of the Monkees.
Finally, Mike's jaw set in grim resolve. *I'm different from any other parent,* he told himself firmly. *I'm one of the Monkees. I have powers. I can do something about this!*
"Call my wife," he told Ann. "Tell her I'm coming home --when I have my son!" He spun on his heel and strode into his dressing room.
Mike sat alone in his dressing room, staring blankly into the mirror. The shock had returned, along with a consuming worry. Christian... what was happening to his son.....
Mike jumped to his feet. Behind him, the room was seemingly empty. "Dolenz! How'd you get in here?"
Micky shimmered into view behind him, reflected in the mirror. He was in the costume Phyllis had made. For once, his ready smile was not there. "Davy picked the lock."
"What gives you the right..."
Micky's eyes were gentle. "Friendship."
Mike let out a low growl as he flung the door open. "Get out, Micky! This is something I'm doin' alone!"
Micky just shook his head, then jerked it toward the door. Frowning, Mike looked out the door.
Peter and Davy stood there, also in costume.
Mike shook his head, backing up a step. "Why are you all in uniform?" he cried. "This isn't your fight! This is my fight, he's my son!"
Peter's eyes glowed. A chair slid across the room and struck Mike's legs, forcing him to sit. Peter leaned over Mike, hands on the chair arms, blue eyes boring into Mike's brown. "Now you listen to me, Nesmith. We're more than musicians and actors --more than friends! We're partners! We're like family! Y'see, it is our fight."
Mike glanced at Davy and Micky, who nodded. Mike grinned and shook his head.
"You guys... what can I say?" He stood up. "Let's go, Monkees!"
Two hours later, Micky hovered beside a phone pole close to Mike's house, a wire-tap to his ear. He heard Phyllis gasp, "Wh-What?"
Then a voice, obviously disguised, growled, "You heard me. Two hundred grand for the kid! Instructions will follow!" Then 'the voice' hung up the phone.
Micky pulled the tap and floated down to the others. "Got it! The call was made from a phone booth near the southern edge of the city!"
Davy blinked. "You got all that just by listening to the call on a wire?"
Micky grinned. "Sure! I could hear traffic, and the call came in on a northbound line!"
"Why do I even ask?" Davy groaned. Despite the situation, the friendly banter made the others smile.
At the Nesmith house, a detective put an unlit cigarette in his mouth and fumbled with his lighter. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Nesmith. There's nothing we can do without endangering the child."
"Mebbe ye cain't do anythin', Carlson," a baritone with an extremely thick Southern accent rang out. Carlson, surprised, swallowed the unlit Winston. Phyllis turned to the window and broke into a huge grin. Clad in the uniform she had made, Mike knelt on the windowsill. The others were coming up behind him. Mike smiled and hopped inside. When he spoke, his Texan accent had thickened so Phyllis could barely make out the words. "But we're a diff'rent matter. We're th' Fantastiks! Miz Nesmith, we'd like t'talk t'ye --alone."
Phyllis walked over to them. She chuckled, relieved, whispering, "You are all laying it on with a trowel!"
Micky grinned at her. "It keeps anyone from recognizing our voices," he whispered. Then he asked in a Cockney accent, "What were 'is demands, Miss?"
Phyllis glanced from one to the other. She saw the determination on their faces. *Oh my stars,* she realized, *they're serious!* "Two hundred thousand... small, unmarked bills... in a satchel at the corner of Fifth and Ross at two this afternoon."
Mike nodded. "Good. Here's what we want ye t'do." He gave Phyllis the details.
Phyllis agreed, then slipped deeper into the corner with Mike. The other three formed a human shield, backs to them, shielding them from Carlson's eyes. "Mike..." she whispered. "Showing up in costume --with a plan! You guys are serious, aren't you? You're really going after Christian?"
"Yes, we are," Mike said, caressing her cheek. "And we'll bring him home safe."
Tears of pride, relief and fear leapt to Phyllis's eyes. "Oh, Mike... be careful! If anything happened to you..."
Mike wound an arm around Phyllis's shoulders and drew her into a passionate kiss. Soon, he broke the embrace and retracted his arm. The others slid out the window, leaving him for last.
He hopped onto the windowsill and thickened his accent again. "Ye'd best git back, Miz N. An' don' worry. We'll git yer boy back."
A wink; a small, crooked, little-boy smile --- and he was gone.
Two-o-five PM. A nondescript brown car drove down the parkway. On the front seat beside the driver was a nondescript brown satchel.
And the satchel was moaning quietly.
Inside was $200,000 in twenties --and two inch tall Davy. *The pickup went off without a hitch,* he groaned to himself. *But... oohh... I'm getting seasick!*
Micky, invisible, was flying two feet above the car. *Hard to keep up,* he said to himself. *Hope our kidnapper reaches his destination soon, or Davy and I are bound to do something we'd both regret-- after we got over the satisfaction!*
The car came to a stop outside a warehouse. The man picked up the satchel and swung it jauntily, whistling. Davy dug his fingers into the leather and willed himself not to throw up. At long last, the satchel was set on a tabletop. Davy took a deep breath of relief.
"Got the money?" he heard a deep voice growl.
"Right here." One of the leather sides caved in as the satchel was thumped, striking Davy in the back. He glared at the side as it returned to normal.
The six kidnappers looked at each other and grinned. "How's our meal ticket?" the money delivery man asked.
"See for yourself." Another gestured, to where Christian was tied to a chair. "Now what?"
The leader grinned. "Now we dye that pretty blonde hair and take him to another city! Think o' the scams we can pull!"
A second man came up beside him. "Yeah! Perfect!"
Micky shimmered into view between them. He caught Christian's eye, lifted a finger to his lips, and blinked out. Suddenly the leader and the man beside him were seized from behind, their heads banged together. They sagged, unconscious.
Micky reappeared and began to untie Christian. "All right, Christian, let's..." White-hot pain exploded behind his eyes and he dropped with a loud cry.
"Micky!" came from the satchel, which began to shake. It suddenly blew apart as Davy returned to his normal height, then exceeded it by two inches.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the wall suddenly blew in. Peter glided in, carrying Mike. "Whoo!" Peter gasped. "TK-ing a solid wall is hard!"
"Christian!" Mike called, dropping down as Peter soared toward the knot of kidnappers. "Are you all right?"
Christian was shaking Micky. "Yeah, but he's asleep!"
Peter and Davy each took one kidnapper out. One aimed a gun at Mike. Mike quickly stretched out his arm and took the gun out of the man's hand, then struck him with it.
"Hold it right there, freak!" The lone kidnapper still standing held Christian off the ground as a shield, gun to the boy's head. "Y'seem t' care for this brat! Make one move and I swear I'll shoot him!"
All froze. Mike looked right into Christian's eyes -- and found no fear there. Only trust, irritation, and love as he looked at his father.
Peter focused on the gun. His eyes began to glow.
At that moment, Christian took his rescue into his own hands. He kicked both feet backward, catching the kidnapper right between the legs. The kidnapper gasped and fell to his knees, dropping Christian.
Christian ran to Mike, who scooped him up in an elastic hug.
"You brat!" The kidnapper gasped, raising his gun. He pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened. Peter had telekinetically frozen the firing pin.The other kidnappers' discarded guns flew to the lone conscious one. They struck him across the head, and knocked him out.
Micky groaned and sat up. "Wh-what's going on? Did we... Did we get him?"
Peter smiled. He cut off the glow in his eyes and watched as Mike hugged Christian and father and son began to cry. "We got him."
Hours later, the Monkees met in the Nesmith's attic. A trunk sat open in the middle of the room.
"You're sure?" Phyllis asked, holding Mike's hand.
"Uh-huh," Davy replied, nodding as he sat on the window and watched.
Phyllis shook her head in disbelief. "But --- the way you went after Christian!"
Peter picked up a large folded blue bundle and shook his head. "Phyllis, we all appreciate the thought, but being super-heroes just isn't for us. Thanks anyway."
"Even if we did have trouble seeing through the masks," Micky put in from his vantage point in the rafters.
Peter looked up and chuckled. "Get down here! What're you doing up there anyhow?"
"Seein' if those eggs hatched yet. They're still there!" Micky reported as he touched down beside Peter.
Peter smiled, shaking his head. He dropped the bundle into the trunk and slammed it shut. He locked it telekinetically.
"Well," Micky sighed, jamming his hands in his pockets. "Christian was our first case as the Fantastiks..."
"And hopefully, our last!" Davy chimed in.
Mike grinned and squeezed Phyllis's shoulders. "I agree with Davy! After all, the four of us have enough problems just being the Monkees!"
"Hear, hear!" the others cheered.
One of their problems was sitting at a desk typing her latest story. Susan Jacobs sighed and looked over her copy. The interviews went well, and the article was her usual polished job.
But something was missing.
She tapped the pencil against her teeth and frowned. Mister K. and the director had wanted her not to mention the psychadelic light show earlier that morning at the studio. She understood Mister K's reasonings --- the man was obsessive about keeping a tight rein on his show and its stars -- but Jim F. was one of the best directors in the business, with a reputation of caring deeply for his actors and cast. Why in the world did he --- who often disagreed with Mister K. -- suddenly become as passionate about this story not breaking?
Who was he trying to protect?
Susan looked up at the photo taped to her desk and tapped the pencil against it. "That answer's obvious, Suze --- he's trying to protect them. Big question is --- Why?"
She sat back and gathered her honey-coloured hair into a ponytail, tying it off with a knot in the hair itself. "Weird things have been happening since that island. Again, the question is -- Why?"
Leaning forward, she regarded the picture with deadly serious large brown eyes. "....and what are you hiding, Monkees? What are you hiding?"
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