“There you are. Clean bill of health,” Yousef said, sitting back and pulling the large mirror away from Jack. Jack smiled, reaching up to rub the back of his neck. He was sitting in an elaborate dentist's chair, studded with polished quartz cubes and topped by an elaborate silver ring currently sitting a few inches above Jack's head. “No more pesky mental influences worming their way through your minds.”
“That's a relief,” Jack said, shaking his head. “I must admit, the last few days seem a bit… fuzzy, now. Does anyone else have that feeling?”
“Oh, yes,” Blossom said with a sigh of relief. “I thought maybe that was part of having a robot brain. I'm glad it's not just me.”
“No, your brain is lovely. Normal. Fine,” Yousef said, readjusting the mirror. “Solomon may have been a total jerk, but he really knew how to brew a mind-control potion. Pretty impressive alchemy, really.”
“And I think you'll be happy to know that Prita and Marcy are making a full recovery,” Oliver announced, snapping his cell phone closed as he stepped into the lab. “We have SEA psychics giving them a full debriefing, but it seems that this particular plan was entirely Mr. Friedman's. He's given a full confession, incidentally, if one that puts as much blame as possible on the events of the last few years.” He shook his head, leaning his cane against the desk and taking a seat. “I'm going to stand by my theory – he grew used to a certain standard of living, and convinced himself that he deserved that standard. From there, it was a small step to betraying villains and convincing himself that he was making money returning superhero tools to the world, and desperation dealt with the rest.”
“Nice guy,” Roland drawled. “I'm kind of sorry he folded so fast, I would have liked to hit him a few more times.”
“I'm happy he went down,” Blossom said. “I was about to start hitting you, and I wouldn't like that.”
“Really? I think it would have been Pipes' dream.” Roland smirked at Catherine, who smiled wanly in response.
“Speaking of Piper, I think you'll be happy to know that the… incident… at the base has been taken care of as well,” Oliver said smoothly.
Catherine looked up at him. “Taken care of how?” she asked after a moment.
“The official SEA report indicates that Solomon attempted to take control of Piper, in order to use her to kill Chronovore and ensure that his story would hold up. Fortunately, she regained control with Invictus' help, and the two of them defeated him.” Oliver smiled broadly. “Further details are classified to people of my level and higher. The Director-General agreed that there was no sense burdening the media with the full story – in addition to dragging you through the mud for no reason, it doesn't reflect very well on our security staff.”
Catherine frowned thoughtfully. “I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that, sir. I messed up, badly. You can't just sweep it under the rug…”
“Catherine, I assure you that it is nothing like that,” Oliver interrupted. “Obviously, we need to give you some specialized training to help you control your flute further, but this situation was an abnormal one.”
“And how often are we likely to deal with abnormal situations around here?” Catherine asked.
“Quite often. So give me some credit for knowing how to handle one,” Oliver replied. He patted Catherine on the shoulder. “It might surprise you to hear this, but you did extremely well under very trying circumstances that we didn't expect. You are skilled enough to regain control in the middle of a pressure-filled situation, and to turn around and safely use your powers almost immediately afterwards with no ill effects. If anything, this incident has given me greater faith in your status with the team than ever.”
“I'm glad someone thinks that,” Catherine said sourly.
“I think that!” Blossom said. Catherine looked over at her.
“Alright, fine, I'm glad that two people – don't even start,” she said, as Jack and Roland began to open their mouths. “Just… is there anything else you needed, sir?”
“Nothing whatsoever,” Oliver laughed. “Take a break. You've earned it.”
As the others headed out in various directions, Catherine reached up to tap Roland on the shoulder. “Talk to you for a second?”
“Sure thing. What's up?” Roland said, stopping and turning.
“I just… I wanted to thank you. For talking me down like that.” Catherine shivered, looking away. “What happened last night was exactly what I've been afraid of since I got this damned flute.”
“What, you mean you saving everybody?” Roland said with a smile. When Catherine looked up, he pointed out, “If it weren't for you, Solomon would have mobbed me with his brain-whammied squad, and I wasn't talking any of them down. Someone could have been pretty badly hurt. I might even have died, if he flipped out that far. So from where I'm standing, you saved the day.”
“Well, from where I'm standing, you did.” Piper grinned. “Thanks for having my back, Roland.”
“Whenever you need me, Pipes.” Roland said. He started to turn away, and then added, “Oh! I almost forgot! I got you something.” As Piper watched with a raised eyebrow, he jogged over to the counter by the testing machine and pulled out a small white box, bringing it back to her.
Catherine looked at Roland dubiously, and then down at the box. She opened it cautiously. After a moment, she looked back up at Roland. “A pie.”
“Lemon merangue,” Roland confirmed, trying to keep his face serious. “And the writing, see..”
“Yes, 'Welcome Back', very nice,” Catherine said slowly. “I don't think I've ever seen frosting writing on a pie before.”
“Well, I was going to get you a cake, but then you'd be the Caked Piper, and it just doesn't sound right…”
On her way down the hall, Blossom stopped as she heard a loud smacking sound. She turned around in time to see Piper stalking away. A smile kept threatening to sneak through her angry glare. A moment later, Roland stepped around the corner, looking slightly forlorn, but with a faint smile on his face as well – along with a large quantity of lemon merangue.
“What happened?” Blossom asked in confusion.
Roland shook his head, his grin returning. “Pied by the Piper,” he laughed.