The Bad Guy Wins in This One - Chapter Twenty Four (Hargrave)

“What do you think, Raphael?” Hargrave asked, lowering the binoculars from his face. Mr. Klein did likewise.

“He’s skilled,” Raphael said. “But I’m still not sure why we are here.”

“I’m investigating the existence of an organization whose only screw up so far is fabricating a video a couple minutes off. The only reason any of my own people think I’m not completely paranoid is that Jace also thinks something is off about the videos. Unfortunately, he cannot seem to articulate what. Besides all that, the Redarctic government has tried to assassinate me more than a few times. I’ve learned to be a tad cautious when weird things come out of Redarctica. And Director Levitt has pointed out this is weird.”

“A young millionaire coming back from the dead with surprisingly comprehensive paperwork, now openly stating to officials he has powers. What could be weird about that?” Raphael asked dryly, tilting his head to the side. “They supposedly went into Redarctica without any abilities, and then two people on the same bus come back with them. What are the odds of that?”

Hargrave could have quoted the exact odds of that, but instead he felt it sufficient to state “Not good, not good at all. And astronomical when considering that young millionaire was on a bus with the twin of a girl who blew up a city. That is at least three people with powers in a country that doesn’t let the Gifted get across their border.”

“Three? What makes you think the Rhinefield twin was gifted? The correlation among identical twins is at best a couple percent. That’s a lot higher than the overall population, but hardly conclusive.”

“The bus blew up…” Hargrave said matter-of-factly.

“Oh…right.” It might not technically have been proof, but Raphael would give that one to Hargrave. Even two Gifted would be worth giving attention to given the circumstances, though Raphael was surprised by Hargrave’s personal attention to the matter. Then again, last time Redarctic agents had tried to kill him he’d been on vacation with his family. He’d somehow used his powers to create an avalanche, killing over a dozen enemy agents and only a couple of unfortunate ski attendants.

Raphael knew he felt guilty about the ski attendants, and was even more prone to hyper vigilance than he’d been before. But that incident had happened several years ago, and Redarctica was on much better terms with the Consolidated States than it had been. Would they really try to use their own citizens against them?

“Steven Foster took multiple forms of martial arts. An all-around athlete, he was proficient in Muay Thai, Ninjutsu, Krav Maga, and boxing. He won several tournaments in his disciplines, especially excelling at boxing. It is entirely plausible he would be as good as what we just saw… and yet, I do not think that is Steven Foster.”

“How can you be sure?” Raphael asked.

“I’m not sure. But even from here, I can recognize the head-butt was a perfectly executed Muay Boran technique, not just a desperate last ditch attempt at winning. You would be hard pressed to find a Muay Thai school in the C.S. that teaches Muay Boran. His attempts at Krav Maga were well performed, if ineffectual against Diego’s abilities. But the few boxing moves he tried were sloppy in comparison. I would understand if someone who supposedly spent the last several months in a hospital were not at their peak using combat techniques. I’m a little less clear how a hospitalized high school student maintains nearly flawless ability in techniques taught to Redarctic special ops while losing a lot of skill in what was his best style.”

Raphael furrowed his brow. He often wished at times like this that he had the ability to sleep, shutting out the world just for a little while. It would be nice to have a pleasant dream or two. He fervently hoped that Hargrave was being paranoid. But the reason President Robins was giving him so much leeway with the Black Rain investigation was that Hargrave’s seemingly paranoid delusions had a perfect track record of turning out to be true, literally 100% of the goddamn time. And the last thing they needed right now was for Redarctica to start making moves against them.

“I had the sneaking suspicion they would turn up here. I’m surprised they didn’t wait a while, but joining Blue Skies is the most logical way to get at me, if that’s what they’re here for. Anyways, I suppose we should get down to our other business. I believe this is what you want to discuss?” Hargrave handed a folder to Raphael, who took it hesitantly. The Black Rain investigation status report. So many papers to read through just to tell me they haven’t made much progress.

Want to is such a strong way of phrasing it, but I suppose we should. President Robins ordered me to brief her on where we stand tomorrow, so I’d best get started understanding it myself.” He sighed. It was going to be a long day.