Peter touched down on the verandah of Valerie's townhouse and cut off the blue glow in his eyes. He stepped forward and tapped on the glass of her patio doors.
Valerie's back was to him, and she was on the phone. Whoever she was talking to was irritating her, and she was gesturing to emphasize her words.
She can't hear me, Peter thought. How am I going to let her know I'm here? A moment later, a slow grin spread across his face. He looked beyond Valerie to her desk, where he could see her pencil holder and the edge of her desk calendar. He concentrated on them, and his eyes began to glow again.
The calendar rose from Valerie's desk to a vertical position in front of her eyes. A pencil rose from the holder and wrote on the calendar, in Peter's distinctive handwriting, Hi, Love. Turn around.
Valerie froze. Ever so slowly, she turned around, eyes wide with surprise. When she saw Peter standing there, eyes glowing, hands in his pockets and a wide grin on his face, she got an Oh you... look on her face and made her excuses to the person on the phone. Hanging up, she moved toward the patio.
Peter held up a hand, as if to say, wait... and returned his attention to the space beyond her. Valerie turned around to see the pencil go back to its place, the calendar return to the desk, and the sheet Peter had written on pull off, crumple itself up, and fall into the wastebasket.
Valerie turned back to see Peter nod his satisfaction as the glow died, revealing his beautiful dark blue eyes. Chuckling, she unlocked the door and let him in. "You ready?" he asked.
"Almost," she said, pulling her hair back into the ponytail she knew he loved. "That was the hospital," she said conversationally.
"Ronnie's improving. They said he's starting to remember being Falconman. It's tearing him up, realising he almost killed me."
"And blinded Micky for two days."
"That doesn't bother him. He's flamed that he almost lost his one possession." She spat the words out. "He still doesn't see me as a person."
Peter touched her shoulder and smiled warmly. "I do."
Valerie sighed, smiling at Peter's loving kindness. She kissed him on the cheek. "...I'm ready."
Peter got her jacket and held it out for her. "You'll need this."
She slid into it. "Top of the car stuck down again?"
"Nope. We're not taking the car this time."
Valerie fixed him with a you-must-be-joking look. "We're going to walk? All the way to the restaurant?"
He smiled at her. "We're going to a quiet little restaurant in Oakland."
"Oakland?!" She gaped at him. "Without a car? Peter, what are you..."
He laughed. "How quickly you forget, milady." He held out his arms. "Or don't you want to spend twenty minutes cuddled in my arms?"
"You're... going to fly there? Carrying me?"
"Cheaper than gas."
"Peter, you'll wear out!"
He shook his head. "My thinking perch is over one hundred miles out to sea. And I've flown round trips of over a thousand miles before. Flying twenty minutes down to Oakland with one hundred and five pounds in my arms won't tire me." He smiled at her. "Besides, you'll spend part of the ride flying by my side."
Valerie smiled at that, closing her eyes and shivering with pleasure. When they flew side by side, she felt the air caress her face and arms the way it never did any other time. Held up by only his firm grasp on her wrist, she felt as though she could fly under her own power as well.
Once, she had even believed it for a split-second and had squirmed out of his grasp so she could go higher. Drunk with the feeling of unsupported flight, she had forgotten it wasn't she who could fly. Only Peter's quick telekinetic grasp on her had kept her from falling until he could reach her.
It was three whole weeks before Peter had even taken her in the air after that, and another month before he'd trusted her enough to fly by his side again. Valerie hadn't spoken to Peter for a week after he'd refused to take her up. It was only after Davy had reminded her to be thankful that he loved her enough not to endanger her and that she had something special with him that she'd forgiven him.
After all, Valerie Cartwright was the only woman in the entire world who had a boyfriend who could fly under his own power.
Hours later, when they returned, Peter set Valerie down on her patio. A quick kiss and goodbye, and she walked inside. She had a meeting in the morning and had to get some sleep. Peter hovered, watching her go. When her bedroom light snapped on, he turned to fly back to the Pad.
Suddenly, something hit Peter in the shoulder with a loud thock! He gasped in pain and felt a warmth spread through his body.
"D...dru..." he stammered, and fell to the ground. The sedative that had been shot into him took effect and Peter slid into unconsciousness.
At the Pad, Mike's eyes widened and he stood up, pushing away from the table with a jerk.
"Mike?" Micky asked. "What's the matter?"
"It's Peter!" Mike gasped. "His... his thoughts! They just... stopped!"
That brought the others to their feet. "Stopped?" Davy gasped.
"Like a switch was thrown!" Mike cried. "The last coherent thought I got was pain... and half a word... 'dru--'... and then he was gone!"
Glass shattered as an object was thrown through the patio door. Smoke suddenly started pouring from it. Micky threw a shield up around the three, but some chloroform-laced smoke had already filled their lungs.
Davy was the first to fall, then Micky. When Micky's shield collapsed, Mike took a heavy dose of the tranquilizer and the three sagged into unconsciousness.
Peter opened his eyes to find himself strapped onto a table. He looked over to see his three partners. Davy and Micky were awake. Mike was not.
"What's going on?" Peter snapped.
"We're being held by a man named Curtis Colby," Davy informed him. "He's aware of our powers. He says he wants to experiment on us."
"We told him to forget it," Micky said. "But we're waiting till Mike wakes up to make our escape. We'll need his lasers." Peter nodded, glaring toward the door as Colby and another man walked in.
"Ah, you're awake," Colby snarled at Peter. "Good. I need you awake for what I have planned."
"What are you talking about?" Peter snapped.
"Ever the leader," Colby sneered. "I like that. Your lover's father fired me for no good reason. I'm going to punish him for that --through his precious little girl."
"What does that have to do with us?" Davy demanded.
"She loves this flying freak," Colby grumbled. "Well, I'm going to take him away from her." He smiled at the others. "And you two are not going to stop me. That's why I captured you all. You will be powerless to interfere."
"Let's go, Monkees!" Peter shouted, activating his telekinesis.
Micky and Davy snapped their bonds, and a knife flew across the room to begin cutting Peter's. Micky and Davy surged forward, lunging at Colby --only to be knocked unconscious by a powerful surge of electricity.
Peter was so stunned by the same shock that his telekinesis cut out. The knife fell to the ground.
Colby walked over to him, setting the small electricity generator down on the table as he did so. "Now, Mister Tork," he sneered, "time to say goodbye." Colby took a vial of glue and dropped one drop onto Peter's lower lashes. Still stunned, Peter could neither move nor resist as Colby gently closed his eyes, sealing them shut.
Peter was blinded; his telekinesis effectively neutralized.
Peter felt himself being moved to another table, and strapped down tight. With his right hand he felt the edge of the table. He heard the sound of another body being moved beside him. "Begin!" he heard.
No... he thought as he felt the table begin to spin. Faster and faster it spun... Pain surged through him. He'd never felt anything like it in his entire life. He heard himself begin to scream.
Then he heard another voice screaming --- Mike's.
"Enough!" Colby barked. "Hurry --get him off the table! Get the other two on and merge them as well! We've gotta get out of here --tonight!"
Him? Peter thought. Merge?
He found he could open his eyes and he did so. The table-like machine he was strapped to was now tilted vertically. Something seemed --wrong. He was now strapped down in the middle of it. And Mike was nowhere to be seen.
No... suddenly rang in his head. Peter... can you sense it?
"Mike?" Peter whispered. Then his eyes flew open wide. He had spoken with a Texas accent.
And then he knew.
"NO!" he screamed as the technician reeled backward in surprise. He reacted without thinking, unleashing a maximum-power laser surge from his entire body.
The machine melted beneath him and he fell off it into Colby's arms, thrown off-balance by the heady sensation of being two full inches taller.
"Fascinating," Colby whispered, sticking a needle into Peter's arm. "He's the average of their heights... and he has at least one of their powers..."
Peter sank into unconsciousness again. His last thought was a shared one with Mike.
No... not merged... please... not again....
Micky and Davy revived at about the same time. They were in a jail cell, and night had fallen. A man stood by the window, looking out of it. From the profile, they could tell it was Mike.
"Mike?" Micky frowned. The man turned to look at them, his face cast in shadow.
"You're awake," Peter's voice said.
Micky looked around. "Pete? Where are you?"
"I'm here," the voice said again.
This time Davy frowned. "Pete," he said, "your voice sounds strange. Are you all right?"
Davy's frown deepened. His power gave him an instinctual sizing up of people. "Mike... you're smaller."
"He's what?" Micky gasped.
Davy nodded. "He's six feet even. He's lost two inches off his height. Mike, what's going on? And Peter... Where are you???"
"That's what I'd like to know," Micky said, looking around. "Did they make him invisible? There's only the three of us in here. And why does his voice sound so strange?"
"I can answer all your questions in one second," Peter's voice said. "Brace yourselves, okay?"
"For what?" Micky asked.
"They... did something to me. It's... well... you just have to see it." Mike raised his hands to either side of his face. "Ready?" Peter's voice asked. Then Mike's hands glowed with pure white light.
Davy and Micky's eyes widened and their jaws dropped. Neither could believe what they were seeing.
Mike stood before them --a Mike with deep blue eyes and a birthmark over his upper lip. He smiled worriedly --a crooked smile with deep dimples. "You see?" he said, and it was Peter's voice. Micky and Davy realized why the voice sounded strange; it held Mike's Texas accent. "This is why I told you to brace yourselves."
Micky stammered, "He... merged... your bodies."
"As your minds merged a few months ago," Davy gasped.
The man nodded, sadness in his blue eyes. "He tried to merge you two, as well. But the equipment was destroyed when I realized what had happened to me, so he stuck us all in here."
"Why didn't you stop him?" Micky snapped. "You two are the most powerful ones!"
"My telekinesis is neutralized if I can't see," the man said. "And my light is useless when I'm out cold. There was nothing I could do."
"You did it again," Davy said. "You called yourself 'I' instead of 'we'."
The crooked, dimpled smile appeared again, but it was a shaky one, and disappeared quickly. He did not answer.
"What... what do we do now?" Micky asked. "I know we escape, but... how do we make Colby reverse this? What do we call you in the meantime? What if we can't reverse it?"
"One question at a time!" He nodded. "I've been thinking about what we can call me. Physically, I'm more Mike than Peter, but I don't want to reject any part of me. Call me Michael. Michael Tork. As for making him reverse this... I heard them talking about skipping-out overnight. They could be anywhere by now. We have to find him before we make him reverse it."
"But the equipment should still be here!" Micky said. "And I can reverse the..."
Michael was shaking his head. "No, man. When the merge was done, and he woke me up, I was so startled by what I sensed had been done that I involuntarily let out a full-body laser blast. I melted the machine."
A cold chill seized Davy and Micky. "Then.. this can't be reversed," Davy whispered.
"Oh it can be reversed, all right," Michael said. "We just have to find the idiots and have them rebuild the machine. But first we have to get out of here."
Michael focused on the door to the cell. His eyes began to glow blue. He raised his hands to shoulder height, and they began to glow red. Between the telekinetic burst and the lasers, the door never had a chance. It fell open with a crash.
"You could do that anytime!" Davy snapped. "Why didn't you?"
Michael grinned. "I was waiting till you woke up. Come on!" He rose into the air and glided down the hall. Davy shrank to six inches tall and perched on Micky's shoulder as they followed Michael.
"What are we gonna do?" Davy whispered in Micky's ear. "We've been through a lot together, but this..."
"I know, man," Micky whispered back. "This is so surreal. I don't even know what to call them... him... Man, I can't even tell anymore if it's Peter and Mike, or just..."
"Just Michael Tork," Davy said. "Yeah, me too."
"Dave," Micky whispered. "I just had a terrible thought... What if this is permanent?"
"I heard that," Michael said. "Look, we're not even gonna think permanent. The four of us... three of us... whatever..." He chuckled, and it was Peter's laugh. "We'll get through this. We'll find him, and make him undo this." He turned glowing eyes to them and flashed a devastating smile. "Believe me, I want to be two people again. This is a little... unnerving."
Micky and Davy smiled. There was Mike's talent for understatement.
Michael suddenly pulled up short and hovered, looking around.
"Michael?" Davy asked.
"I'm lost," Michael admitted quietly. "None of this is familiar. This must be a part of the castle he didn't take me through." He chuckled. "Got so involved talking I forgot to pay attention to where I was leadin' us!" He pivoted in midair and headed back the way they came.
Despite the situation, Davy and Micky laughed. "And that's Peter," Davy laughed.
Michael was more powerful combined than he was as two. A heavy stone door collapsed under a telekinetic/laser assault and the three of them glided in.
"This is it," Michael said. "The lab."
Micky touched down beside a piece of slag that was as tall as he was. "This must be the machine," he said. Michael moved beside him, and Micky couldn't suppress the double take. He had to look down to see Michael's eyes. Michael was indeed only six feet tall --one inch shorter than Micky. Micky swallowed hard. "Davy was right," he said. "I'm the tallest now."
Michael smiled up at him. "Don't get used to it," he warned, distractedly looking around. "It won't last." The smiled faded a bit as his concentration moved toward the machine. "He said I was the average of our heights. Peter was five foot ten, Mike was six foot two --so I ended up six feet even." He crouched down to examine the mess.
Micky and Davy's eyes locked as Davy grew back to his normal five foot three. Already Michael referred to Peter and Mike in the past tense. Michael sensed the pause and looked up at them. He caught it then... and paled.
Michael's mind was a flurry of activity. "No," he said blankly, more to himself than them. He grew frightened as terrifying possibilities flooded into his mind. Then he shook his head, sending brown hair flying. He put his hands to his temples, as if to block his thoughts. "No, I won't think that way! I am Peter and Mike --both! They aren't dead, aren't gone forever!" He stood up. His fear was taking over and he didn't notice that his eyes had begun to glow. He clenched his fists and spoke through gritted teeth. "I won't stay this way forever! I won't!!"
Micky raced in front of him, hands up. "Michael! Your temper!" He and Davy each held Michael's arms in comfort and control.
Michael's blue eyes widened in shock and stopped glowing as he tried to get ahold of his temper. He was near tears and shuddered involuntarily, remembering almost too late that he was telekinetic and had to control his temper or disaster could result. "...Thanks, man," he said shakily. He half-sat on the edge of a nearby table. Micky patted him on the shoulder.
"It'll be okay, Mike... Peter..." Davy whispered. He looked up at Micky with concern.
Micky had his arm around Michael's shoulders. "Don't lose it, pal. Remember, we're a team. We'll do this together."
"That's right," Davy said. "We're with you, man. Right down the line."
Michael smiled at them, wiping his face on his sleeve. "Thanks guys. Thanks." He sniffed. "Then let's figure this dag-blamed thing out." He nodded at the machine. "That's it. That's what did this to me."
Micky whistled. "You melted it good. How much power was in that laser?"
"All I had," Michael said. "Augmented as my powers are, that was a lot."
"Augmented?" Davy said.
Micky nodded. "The telekinesis and light feed into each other. Both powers housed in one body... He's more powerful than either of them ever was."
Davy's eyes widened. "And Peter's powers were..."
Micky nodded. "Peter was incredibly powerful. In his own way, so was Mike. Now... Now each power is augmented by the other. Michael is more powerful than either because he's a fusion of both."
"You're suddenly taking all this very calmly," Davy said.
Micky grinned. "Believe it or not, all I want to do is run up the hill screaming. I feel like we're caught in a bad science fiction movie!"
"Yeah," Michael said. "It's either stay calm or lose it altogether." There was the smile again. He looked at his pals warmly. "And I can't lose it now." He then turned his thoughts back to the task at hand, absently scratched the birthmark on his lip --a nervous habit of Peter's that had made the transition. "Can you get anything from that?" he asked, indicating the lump of metal before them.
"Yeah," Micky said, kneeling beside the slag. "A headache." He stood up, brushing dust from his knees. "I can't make heads or tails of this. Our only hope is to find them."
"Big question is," Michael said, "where?"
"Malibu Beach," Davy said suddenly. He turned, a sheaf of brochures in his hands. "Home."
Michael took one of the brochures, eyes widening in delight. "Davy's right! These are all for Malibu Beach! But... why there?"
"Maybe to throw us off," Micky said. "Who'd think for looking for them in our home neighborhood?"
By the time the Monkeemobile pulled up outside 1334 Beechwood, dawn had broken. Babbitt was picking up the garbage some kids had pitched into the yard. He looked up at the car and grinned.
"Hi, boys!" he called cheerfully.
"I don't think I'll ever get used to Babbitt being nice to us," Micky said as he shut off the car.
"He loves money," Davy said. "We paid him almost five months rent last month. Long as we keep that up, he said he'd be nice to us till we gave him the whole amount for the house!" Davy reached into the back seat and poked Michael's leg. "We're here," he said.
Michael sat up, pushing the hat off his eyes and blinking in the sunlight. He smiled at Babbitt. "Hi, Mister B!"
Babbitt waved back at him. "Hi yourself, Mike!" He peered closer and frowned. "Hey... your eyes... Where's Peter?"
"Around," Michael said, sliding into the house. "See ya, Mister B!"
Babbitt frowned deeper. "Something screwy going on here... Peter's the only one who calls me Mister B!"
Davy grinned. "See, Mister Babbitt... Mike's acting like Peter to prove he can do it!"
The half-explanation was enough. "Oh. Then where's Peter?"
Micky grinned, pushing Davy up the stairs. "You might say he's a bit... absorbed."
Davy shot him an oh-man-that-was-bad look.
Michael was already spreading the brochures out over the kitchen table when the others walked in. "Come on," he said. "We need to look these over! We don't know all about this dimension's Malibu Beach. They could be anywhere!" He passed one to Micky, one to Davy, and even lay one in Mister Schneider's hands to hold while they looked at the rest.
Suddenly the phone rang. Michael was first to it, and picked it up. "Hello?" The dimpled grin split his face. "Valerie! Hello!" Then he frowned. "What do you mean, what's wrong with my voice?" Then the blue eyes widened. "No, honey, don't... but..." He slowly lowered the phone, eyes glazing in horror. "Yeah... I love you too." He replaced the phone in the cradle and turned to Micky and Davy. "She's... coming over. She wants to see if I'm okay." Micky and Davy looked at each other as Michael went on, "I... I can't let her see me. The shock might..."
Davy was instantly on his feet, hand raised. "Now wait a second. You're selling Val a bit short. Remember how reluctant you... Peter... was to tell her about the telekinesis? She handled that very well."
"Yeah," Michael admitted, "but this is a little... different."
Micky stood. "Different how? You've just changed. Valerie's adjusted to Peter suddenly being a genius, a telekinetic, and heck, even an alien! If she can accept that, I'm positive she'll adjust to this."
"Besides," Davy put in. "On the outside chance this might... might be permanent, you need to face it sometime."
"But it's not permanent," Michael insisted, "and I don't wanna face it today!" His voice rose like Peter's always did when upset. He looked ready to cry.
Davy realized what was going on. "You're scared," he said. "You're bloody terrified! You're scared to death she won't love you anymore!"
"And you're scared you're gonna be stuck like that forever," Micky finished.
Michael sniffed, grinning. "You guys sure you're not linked?" he quipped. "Or at the least, telepathic?" They all laughed, and there came a knock on the door. "That's her," Michael said, all color draining from his face. His blue eyes looked even more huge and his birthmark was much more prominent. Micky lay a hand on his trembling shoulder and nodded at Davy, who opened the door.
Valerie came in, smiling. "Hi, guys," she said. "I just called, and Peter sounded so strange, I had to come over." She set a casserole dish on the table. "Momma made you guys some chicken Kiev for tonight. She said it might help you through the club concert."
"The club concert!" Micky groaned. "Man, we forgot all about that!"
"I'll cancel it," Davy said, heading for the phone.
"Cancel it?" Valerie asked. "Why?" She came around the table and headed for Micky and Michael. "Why is Davy acting so..." she began, addressing Micky, who released Michael and stepped back.
Valerie's large brown eyes swiveled slowly to look at Michael. She didn't say a word, she just scanned the lank form up and down. Then she looked into his eyes --and looked and looked.
Still not saying a word, she touched his left upper lip, then his cheek, then the corner of one of the large blue eyes. Then she gently ran her hand up into the thick light brown hair, tracing the flip over the left eye and the gently sloping sideburns. Michael didn't move, he didn't speak. He just looked at her.
Valerie slid her hand along Michael's shoulder, and took his hands in hers. She stepped back and looked at the way he was dressed, blue jeans, black button-down shirt, brown moccasin boots, and a belt with the buckle left of center. She raised his hands and studied them: Peter's two golden pinkie rings and Mike's ever-present wedding ring. Long, slim fingers on hands with a gentle yet surprising strength in them.
She looked into the blue eyes again. "Say something," she said softly. Trembling slightly, Michael shook his head. "It's important," she said. "Please. Anything."
He shook his head again, but couldn't stop the words from gasping out. "Valerie... I didn't want you to see me..."
"Like this," she finished. "I understand. ...Who did this to you?"
Anger etched itself onto her beautiful face. She shook her head in disbelief. "To hurt you. And me. He used to work for Daddy. He knew I love you."
"He... neutralized my powers... I couldn't..."
"He knew about your powers, I bet, from Jason. They used to live in the cells right down the hall from each other." She suddenly threw her arms around him. "Peter... I'm so sorry. This is all my fault. I had Daddy fire him because he hit on me."
Michael hugged her, tears of relief flowing. "No..." he said. "This is nobody's fault but Colby's. We're going to find him and make him reverse this."
Valerie released him and smiled into his face. "Do you need the resources of Cartwright and Company?"
Michael smiled. "That depends. Are you offering them?"
"You know I am. Your voiceprint should still work --if you can eliminate the accent." She frowned. "The retinal and fingerprint scans, though... I don't know about those."
Michael's grin turned almost diabolical. "Leave them to me. I've disabled that machinery before --I can do it again."
"Oh?" Davy said. "We didn't hear about this!"
"And you never will," Valerie said firmly. "Peter was doing a little piece of detective work for my father. Very hush hush." She turned back to Michael. "What about your powers?"
"They're here," he said. "Both of them. Intact."
"And whose personality is dominant?"
He smiled crookedly. "Both of them. Intact."
Valerie's eyes widened. "You mean... I'm talking to..." He nodded. She smiled a little. "And... you're calling yourself 'I'. It's the 'link' all over again, isn't it?"
"Déjà vu all over again," Michael cracked.
Valerie smiled and hugged him. "I don't care what you look like, what you call yourself. Part of you is still the man I love, and that's all I care about."
He hugged her back, tears spilling into her brown hair. "I love you, baby," he whispered. He tilted her chin up and mouthed, "Both of us in here do, different ways."
She smiled and mouthed back, "I know." Then she kissed him.
Davy smiled and socked Micky's arm, and they gathered the brochures up. Micky then glided both of them up the stairs, giving Michael and Valerie a chance to be alone for a while.
Michael and Valerie walked hand in hand through the halls of Cartwright & Co. They paused outside the main nerve center.
NAME said the voice from the computer.
"Valerie Cartwright," Valerie said.
VOICEPRINT MATCH. STEP UP FOR RETINAL AND FINGERPRINT MATCH.
Valerie stepped forward and placed her hands on the panel. She held perfectly still while the laser scanned her eyes. At the same time, she and Michael thought how pale it was compared to Mike's lasers.
IDENTITY CONFIRMED. YOU MAY PROCEED. NAME?
Michael stepped forward and cleared his throat. "Peter Tork."
VOICEPRINT CONFIRMED. STEP FORWARD FOR RETINAL AND FINGERPRINT SCAN.
Michael stepped forward and placed his hands on the panel. A quick look at Valerie, then he looked straight ahead. There was a ruby flash, then...
RETINAL PATTERNS AND FINGERPRINTS ARE THOSE OF MICHAEL NESMITH. YOU ARE NOT PETER TORK.
"Wanna bet?" Michael said. His hands glowed white and his eyes glowed blue. The sudden influx of light made the computer howl. "Shield your eyes!" Michael ordered. Valerie threw up her hands as the light intensified. With an electronic scream, the computer sparked and fizzled. The doors slid open.
Valerie shook her head. "Well, we'll have to replace him. Again."
Michael shrugged, grinning, as they went inside. "I told you I could disable it. Again."
Valerie sat at the computer and began to slowly hunt and peck in commands. "Ooh," she moaned, "this could take forever."
"Here, let me," Michael said. Valerie surrendered her seat and Michael cracked his knuckles as he sat down. He placed his hands lightly on the keyboard and began to type very fast and very accurately.
Valerie smiled. "How did you learn that?"
He grinned up at her. "A computer keyboard isn't that different from a piano keyboard. They're both a matter of striking the right keys to produce the desired results." He smiled. "Ah! Here we go."
She slid a finger along his shoulder. "So tell me... have your musical skills merged as well?"
He smiled at her. "Yep. Though they weren't all that different to begin with."
"Do you still have Peter's photographic memory?"
His smile turned shaky. "You know the thing makes me nervous. Yes, I still have it."
"Good," she said, jabbing a finger at the screen. "Put that in it."
He looked at the screen and the dimpled grin grew till it threatened to split his face in two. "Jackpot!" Then he shut down the computer. "Come on."
"Got it?" she asked, following him.
"Got it." He knelt beside the ruined computer. "Now to make this look accidental..." Telekinetically he unscrewed an access plate. Then three pinpoint laser blasts frayed three wires, making the damage look like the result of an electrical fault. Michael then telekinetically replaced the access plate and the two of them left the company.
In the car, Valerie looked at Michael. She thought for a moment, then turned in her seat to face him. She rested her elbow on the back of the seat casually, trying to keep him at ease. "Peter?" she asked. "I'm curious about something."
"Shoot," he replied, eyes still on the road.
"Since you told me you had this photographic memory, I've noticed you've seemed... ashamed of it. Why?"
Michael shifted position and smiled nervously. "Well, I guess it has to do with the fact that it makes me... different."
"So does your telekinesis. I mean, you can even fly! That really sets you apart, and you don't seem to be ashamed of it."
"Of course not!" Michael said. "Powers are used to help people! But if you use a photographic memory, you're either seen as a showoff or a know-it-all. That's why I asked the writers to make me dumb on the show, so nobody would suspect I have one in reality."
Valerie smiled at him. "You're using your photographic memory to help now."
He smiled at her, then went back to watching the road. "Yeah, I guess I am. Thanks, honey."
Valerie smiled and touched Michael's ear softly. They drove in silence for a second, then she said, "Something else. You told me both your personalities are dominant, and I'm talking to you both."
"Yeah, that's right."
"Then why do I get the distinct impression that you are Peter? I sense Mike's here, but I feel that I'm talking to Peter. Only to Peter."
Michael could not answer her. He did not know the answer himself.
Valerie went on, "When we were with the others, it was mostly Mike... till right when you hugged me. I could almost sense the shift, like Peter came to the fore then." She lay a hand on his leg. "And it's been Peter ever since. Peter the leader, Peter the take-charge type..."
"Peter the coward," Michael said. "Peter the one who wants to run and hide, but there's nowhere to go. Peter the one who's trapped inside his own body."
Valerie squeezed his leg. "Peter the man I love," she said softly. "Peter the one who does not back down from his responsibilities."
Michael fell silent and just drove for a few minutes. Valerie could almost sense the tension within the merged man's mind. It was almost like there was an argument going on in there.
Suddenly, with a jerk, Michael pulled the car over to the side of the road. He put the top down and said, "Be right back." He kissed her lightly on the forehead and, eyes glowing, shot straight up into the air.