The office was stale, and it reminded her of every bad movie she’d ever seen in the way it presented itself. Austere. Perfectly clean, like a team of robots came in every fifteen minutes to scrub any last bit of what might be left behind by the people who passed through. She wondered, as she sat and waited, what the walls would say if they could talk.

She smiled then. Thinking about talking walls while waiting to see your new psychiatrist had to indicate some really serious problems. They’d be studying her for years.

“Ms. Masters? You can come in now.” The voice belonged to a short, rather plump little man with wire rimmed glasses and what could only be described as perfect hair. The glasses were an obvious nod to John Lennon, and he seemed about the right age, give or take. The hair…she had trouble looking away. Things weren’t going well and she hadn’t even hit the couch yet.

“So. Your first visit.” He smiled, but it never quite reached his eyes. A perfunctory sort of icebreaker, she assumed.

“Yeah, first ever actually. To be honest I’m really not sure why I’m even here.”

“Ah, yes well, I believe you’ve come because your employer feels you might benefit from my help.” There was that smile again, only deeper this time, wider, but still fake.

“I guess.” She managed. He was right, at least on the face of things. Claire had dropped the bomb on her a week ago. Company policy, insurance wanted it, the whole spiel. It didn’t matter really, in the end. The result was the same. She was in the last place on Earth she wanted to be, and there was very little she could do about it without upending her life even more than it already had been.

“Well, why don’t we get started, eh? Let’s talk about some of the things you’ve been going through lately.”

It took everything she had not to laugh out loud, but he was stone cold serious.

“How much has my employer told you about me, doctor?”

“Only that you’re employed full time, your job carries a high degree of stress, and you’ve recently had some trouble coping with being back at work after…what appears to be some sort of accident.” He was flipping furiously through the file in his lap, trying to find some sort of interoffice memo or referral. “I swear I have that sheet here somewhere…”

“Hmm. Ok. And how long have you been handling this sort of thing for NasTech?”

“What?” He looked up suddenly, as if she’d shocked him out of his reverie. “Oh! No, I think you have the wrong idea Ms. Masters. I don’t work for NasTech, or anyone else for that matter. I’m in private practice. Your office called and scheduled your appointment, as well as taking care of all the billing, but beyond that my relationship with your company ends.” He was smiling again, as if her question should have been obvious. She wondered how long he could hold that silly grin when she hung him out the fiftieth floor window by his feet.

Calm. Relax, she told herself. Use what little technique you’ve managed to learn from Tommy while you still can. The last thing she needed was to help him redecorate. They still weren’t done fixing her apartment after her last episode a couple of weeks ago, no need to pay for someone else to go through the same nightmare.

“So, what, we’ve got the whole doctor patient confidentiality thing going, right?”

“Absolutely. I can’t tell anyone anything at all about what we talk about, unless I strongly believe you’re going to hurt yourself or someone else.”

“Seems like there still a bit of wiggle room there, huh?”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Well, what you reveal, and to whom, seems largely based on your own opinion, at least the way I’m understanding it.”

“Ms. Masters, I’m here to help you, that’s all. I know this is a strange thing, and your files states quite clearly that you’re uncomfortable with people in my profession, but if you don’t open up and talk to me I can’t help you.”

“So what do you want to know?”

“Well, we could start with your reluctance to interact with therapists.” The smile was gone now as he suddenly became all business. “You’re visibly uncomfortable just sitting in the room with me. Why?”

“I’m a private person. I always have been.”

“That’s all well and good, but everyone needs someone to talk to.”

“I have that. I have friends, some of them very close, closer than family. Trust me doc, I get all the talking I could ever need.”

“Ah, but that’s the trap, isn’t it? You talk with your friends, but are you really open with them? Do you tell them everything, talk about the things that really matter, or do you hold back for fear of driving them away?”

It wasn’t a totally out of bounds question when she sat and thought about it. She’d been friends with Tonya for as long as either of them could remember, and they shared everything, or at least had, until the island. Since she’d come home…things were just different. Everything was.

“I have trust issues, doctor. I don’t trust easily, and even then it’s hard for me to ever really fully place that sort of faith in someone.”

“And why is that, do you think?”

“Because every thing I hold back is one less weapon that can be used against me.”

“And do you believe everyone is going to attack you, to use these things you share against you in some way?”

“I’d love to say no, that I believe in basic human decency and all that, but if we’re being honest here, yeah. I think eventually everyone has the potential to use what you give them to hurt you.”

“This has happened to you recently, I take it?” He had a pen now, and was taking notes. She saw it, and almost stopped, but in the end she figured why not. She was already here and the time was paid for, might as well make the best of it.

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“In what way?”

“My best friend, Tonya. She’s awesome, she really is the best. I…got lost recently. It wasn’t an accident, more like a kidnapping really. Anyway, I was gone for four years. Tonya took care of my son for me. She’s been raising him all this time.”

“How does that make you feel?”

Like shit! How the hell do you think it makes me feel! There it was again, boiling up just under the skin, like an itch she couldn’t scratch. She could feel her eyes getting warm, the anger rising like a pot boiling right at the edge.

“Bad. Very bad. And yet happy, grateful even. Who just takes on a kid that’s not theirs like that? It’s about as selfless and wonderful as I can possibly imagine, and yet I want to tear her head off and kick it down the street every time I even think about it.”

“That’s…that’s very graphic Ms. Masters. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, good to get that out, but do you often have these urges to ‘rip people’s heads off’, as you put it?”

“You have no idea.”

“And how often would you say you feel this way?”

“Lately? All the time. Ive always been the punch it first type, even as a kid. Since I got back, it’s almost uncontrollable.”

“Are these violent acts directed only at your friend Tonya, or are there others who make you feel this way?”

“Several others. Tonya’s new girlfriend, my boss, several other friends from time to time. Pretty much everyone I’ve come in contact with since I arrived home again, except my son.”

“This new girlfriend that Tonya has…do you see her as a rival for Tonya’s affection?”

“God no! I’m straight. Emily and I have…history, that’s all. She was dating someone years ago, and he left her for me. It wasn’t a pretty breakup. He was my son’s father.”


“He died, five…no, nine years ago now, give or take. Emily has always been around, been more or less part of the family I guess. I just didn’t expect her to be that close is all.”

“Uh Huh. Let’s talk about your time away. Four years is a long time to be gone. You were taken and held captive?”

“More or less. It’s a long story, doc, and you really want to be careful about asking questions you don’t want the answers to.”

“I’m here to help Ms. Masters, asking hard questions is how I do that. You have to trust me, and let the process work.”

She stared at him for a long time then, without a word, trying desperately to see into his soul, to find out what sort of man he really was. There were people she knew, out there in her world, who could take his mind apart and put it back together again on a whim, but even then she’d never really be sure if she could trust him completely. Giving him too much was dangerous and she knew it. But she couldn’t go on the way she had been. She needed help getting a handle on things, and she needed it soon. Tommy was great, and his whole neo-mystic Eastern meditation was helping, but it wasn’t enough. There was only so much inner reflection she could stand.

“Fine. You want to talk about where I’ve been? I was trapped on a tropical island by a former teammate of mine who was looking to collect a lifetime of payback all at once. She subjugated a tribe of natives, stole my powers, and tried to kill me with them.”

“Powers?” He managed, looking up from his notes.

“Yeah, you know, flying, crushing cars with my bare hands, the whole thing. What, they fail to mention that in the file?”

“Yes…uh…no, no, it’s fine please continue.”

“Anyway, I spent most of my time there running from dinosaurs trying to eat me, ducking a tribe of bow hunting cannibals, and communing with a volcano goddess in an attempt to find something I could use to put me back on a remotely level playing field with Glitch. In the end I did find an equalizer, took that little bitch down, and made my way home, only to find that I’d been not only lost geographically but also displaced in time. Stuck in a damn nexus of some kind where time flows differently. I only spent weeks there, but years passed out in the real world. My friends have all moved on to other things, my best friend and her girl friend are raising my kid, and I barely even recognize him anymore.”

“Wait…what? Dinosaurs?” He was sputtering now, but he’d stopped with the note taking, so she figured why not go for broke.

“And to top all that off, guess what? You know the new powers I mentioned, the equalizer? Well turns out they didn’t fade when my old powers returned. They’re still there, and they’re anger based. When I get really pissed off I burst into a freakin’ lava goddess, torch everything anywhere near me, and generally terrify anyone in sight. So yeah, it’s been a rough couple of weeks.”