“What the hell happened, Alan?” said a man’s voice.
Krieg didn’t recognize it. The downside of trying to spy on Alan Killjoy from the mobile armor he’d built was that he had to do the spying from outside. The suit might be able to render itself effectively invisible to cameras and heat sensors, but it couldn’t fit through the damn door. Not that it’ll matter when I break through the wall.
Krieg was rather proud of himself. He’d managed to build a device capable of back-tracking the subtle radiation trail Alan, aka the Seer, left when he pinged specials to see where they were. His grandfather had known Alan would be keeping tabs on their whereabouts, so he told Krieg to try to build something that could block Alan’s sight and find him in turn. He’d also instructed Krieg to build it into a weapon that could take on the varying specials no doubt protecting Alan.
His grandfather didn’t expect Krieg to be the one driving the weapon. But Krieg decided he needed to ignore his grandfather’s aversion to letting him get his hands dirty just because he was ten. No one could use his machine better than he could and these Black Rain bastards were threatening him and his family. If he killed Alan, then Black Rain would have a much harder time tracking them in hiding.
But when he’d arrived, it became clear that Alan was in an important enough meeting that Krieg decided to postpone his assassination a few minutes to listen in longer. He just wished the person Alan was speaking with would move in sight of a window so that he could use facial recognition software.
“What do you mean, what happened? Haven’t you read the reports? We have at least a dozen operatives keeping an eye on the situation.”
“No, you have a dozen operatives. No one else on the board knew there was even an operation planned. Everyone was under the impression that we completely tied up everything relating to Sunlight City. Now I’m hearing from informants in the army and the police that everything’s gone insane. General Hargrave is dead and the ones who did it just surrendered, claiming they’ll tell them everything they know about Black Rain. So again I ask, what the hell happened?”
“Why did you think I would know?” Alan asked serenely.
“Because you know everything! From our conversation the last few minutes, you also planned this operation, but even if you hadn’t you’d have known about it.”
“Oh Alistair, I hardly know everything. If I had that kind of power, there would be much less need for bloodshed. Though you’re right, I did plan this operation. And I also know it went exactly according to that plan.”
“How could this possibly have been your plan? My source on Hargrave’s task force said they weren’t even able to prove that Sunlight City’s destruction was anything but a horrible accident. The best they got was a statistical abnormality with time stamps that could have been the result of corrupted data. They had nothing, much less anything on us. Now they have a prisoner who knows any manner of things, pointing a finger straight at us.”
“Well, I do recall warning the board to take on new identities when we were officially dissolved as a group the first go round. But as to how it’s going according to plan, that’s rather simple. The exact sequence of events that occurred were required for Lilly Butler to receive her gift. Unfortunately, she died in the process, but we’ll see if we can’t fix that.”
“Lilly Butler?” Alistair asked. Interesting, Jared’s sister?
“Yes. Sister of Jared Butler, the one who shot General Hargrave, though it was Reacher who made him pull the trigger. Jared is a remarkable young man; his gift gives him one of the greatest potentials of anyone I’ve ever seen. But his sister is far more important to me.”
“So… all of this… getting us exposed, it was all to get some girl to gain powers she can’t even use because she’s dead. Is that what you’re telling me?”
“More or less,” Alan said calmly. Krieg sometimes had difficulty picking up on the emotions of others, but even he noticed the total lack of concern Alan’s voice had despite Alistair’s tirade. “Though again, I don’t intend for her to be dead for long. Kevin Knight should be delivering her body here within the next few hours. Tasha Knight should be retrieving our asset Booster and then Booster and our new recruit will be taking it from there. I believe her codename is Transfer. Have you read her file yet?”
He can bring back the dead? Krieg wondered. Grandfather definitely didn’t inform him of anyone with such an ability.
“Why is this girl so important?” Alistair asked incredulously. Krieg was decidedly annoyed that Alistair was ignoring the question about a girl who could resurrect the dead.
“Because she is the cure,” Alan answered.
“The cure to what?” Alistair asked.
“Anything. Everything. Disease, war, hunger, death, life. She will be the flowing river, from which nothing may escape.” Alan answered.
“Ok, well that sounds creepy and ominous. Would you like to elaborate?” ask Alistair.
“I’d like you to wait and see. Have I ever steered you wrong before, Alistair?” asked Alan.
“No, you haven’t. But the board is going to want a better explanation than ‘don’t worry guys, he’s trying to create a flowing river that’s the cure to life.’ You know, on account of that makes it sound like you’re crazy and trying to destroy the world. You’re not… right?”
“No, just change it. Speaking of, would you care to join us outside your suit? And yes, I am referring to you, Krieg.”
What the hell?! There’s no way he can see me. I should be shielded from his power, sight, infrared. Does he have sensors monitoring the displacement of air molecules or *something?
“Nothing so fancy, Krieg. It’s just that I can predict the future of any gifted individual I choose to focus on. Seeing as you and your grandfather played such a big role in my plans, I focused on you a lot. Of course you would build your little toy and come to try and kill me. And of course you would listen to my conversation at this exact time. I saw what thoughts you would have in response to me speaking to you and I saw that you would fail.”
Bullshit, thought Krieg. Like you can stop me.
“Bullshit” said Alan simultaneously. “Like you can stop me.”
He fired a rail gun shell at Alan, which exploded out of his suit at a speed of Mach 6, so fast it generated a burst of plasma out of the arm of Krieg’s suit. It slammed through the windows and the entire side of the mansion exploded. But despite the wall being blown away, the interior of the building was relatively unharmed. How did he do that?
“How did he do that?” Alan said, within a split second of Krieg thinking it. Krieg could now see Alan’s expression through his cameras. Alan was in his late thirties, one of the oldest of the empowered. Right now he was dressed in a fluffy black bathrobe. His companion appeared to be a little younger, though still older than any of the specials Krieg had ever met.
Ok, asshole, let’s see you take another one.
“Ok, asshole, let’s see you take another one.”
Now you’re just being annoying! Stop copying me, thought Krieg angrily.
“Now you’re just being annoying! Stop copying me!!” Alan shouted. Krieg fired another round straight at Alan’s face. The metal slug hit an invisible barrier and collapsed in on itself. The barrier reminded him a lot of his own defense shield.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” Alan said, breaking from mimicking Krieg. He took a moment to write something down on his notepad and hand it to Alistair. “We’re basically in a stalemate, don’t you think? Wouldn’t it be wiser to just come down for a little talk? I arranged things so Alistair would be here with me right now. I’m not sure your Grandfather ever knew his actual name, but he might have told you about Black Rain’s Shield and Sword.”
Shit, the Shield and Sword? Guess I’ll get to push the machine to the max after all. Krieg didn’t know if gramps knew Alistair’s real name or not, but he’d given him a description of a young man with blond hair, blue eyes, and the ability to use electromagnetic energy to block and attack with. Krieg built his suit specifically to be able to fight someone on Alistair’s level, or at least at the level his grandfather knew about.
Krieg thought through his options. On the one hand, it was quite clear Alan was able to predict his thoughts as he claimed. Presumably that meant he knew Krieg would fail to kill him here, or he wouldn’t have left himself so exposed. On the other hand, if he knew Krieg would corner him no matter what, then raising the probability of Krieg surrendering without a fight would be his best course of action. It all depended on how far ahead he saw what Krieg would do and how absolute his power was.
Since Krieg didn’t know the answers to those questions, it didn’t make sense to lose only because he gave up. He had to admit to himself he was curious what Alan’s plans for Lilly Butler were, or how Alan planned to bring her back to life. But in the end, Alan was a threat to him and his family and this might be the only chance he’d get to kill the man.
He fired several missiles, all of which exploded harmlessly on the invisible barrier Alistair was erecting. He shifted his momentum so that Alistair couldn’t back-track his location, but a split second later the leg of his suit ripped away as a blade of energy shot through it. No way, he can’t possibly have predicted where I’d be! But Krieg knew it was more than a lucky shot.
Alan clearly wrote down what coordinates he’d be at on the piece of paper he’d given to Alistair. What was worse, Alistair shredded through the suit’s shield like it was tissue paper. Krieg had built his armor specifically to fight someone like Alistair and Alistair was ripping it apart in a single hit.
So my weapons are worthless, my cloak is worthless, and my shield is worthless. Well screw you Alan, I can improvise. Krieg shot up above the mansion and concentrated all of his fire on a single point of the roof as another energy dagger sliced through one of his antigravity units. They were going to knock him out of the air, but he planned to make his fall count.
He cut the power of his remaining antigrav and set his rockets to propel him downwards. There was nothing left of the roof of Alan’s mansion. If there was anyone in there who wasn’t behind Alistair’s shield, they were certainly dead. He saw Alistair staring calmly at the sky, tracking his jets with his own eyes, no need of Alan’s coordinates anymore.
Joke’s on you, Krieg thought as he flashed blinders as bright as lightning. Alistair’s aim was off this time in the face of the blinding light, barely clipping the left arm of Krieg’s suit. Krieg brought the right arm down onto Alistair’s shield, rerouting all of the power he could from his own suit’s shield into that single point.
Krieg’s suit shredded to pieces around him as his overloaded shield created a gap in Alistair’s defenses. The energy threatened to tear him to pieces, but his personal shield managed to last long enough for his small body to drop through. He slammed his small fist into Alistair’s unguarded stomach. The energy of his personal shield hit Alistair like a sledgehammer and the man flew backwards into a wall, collapsing into a heap on the floor.
“Impressive,” Alan said. “You can see something happen in your head a hundred times, but it’s rarely as fun to watch as seeing it in person.”
Krieg looked up to see Alan with a revolver. Alan fired in short succession, tight bursts slamming into Krieg’s shield. The bullets ricocheted off, but Krieg’s shield didn’t have enough energy left and the last bullet’s impact short-circuited it. Krieg was unharmed but defenseless. You’ve got to be kidding me. He wins by a single bullet? After all that?
Alan pulled an energy projector out of his robe and moved the robe aside enough for Krieg to see he was wearing a full suit of armor underneath. He also had several grenades attached.
“It wasn’t just by a bullet, Krieg. Execution is often the hardest, you see. I can predict with near certainty the results of my actions, but I can only assign probabilities to my actual ability to perform. The probability of me being able to fire in the precise locations needed to finish off the rest of your shield without harming you was approximately 63%. The probability of you killing me if I failed without a contingency plan was 82%. So I brought some insurance. I don’t want to kill a child, no matter what his intellect is, but it’s more important to my plans that I stay alive than for you to. The overall probability of me winning in this encounter was 99.987%. Or thereabouts. I’m not actually as good at the math of it all as General Hargrave would be. But most of the time I don’t have to be. Any situation I set in motion and do not have to interfere with I can be 100% certain of the outcome. Or at least, that’s how it used to be.”
“Used to be?” Krieg asked, kneeling on the ground in exhaustion. He hated to admit it, but he’d lost. He had some small measure of satisfaction from beating Alistair before losing, though he was pretty sure the man was just unconscious. There were soft moaning sounds coming from his direction.
“Yes, used to be. Jared Butler’s abilities are adapting to mine. The signals that used to tell me his future are fading. In time, the only thing I will know about Jared’s future will be what I remember about it. That might make for an interesting encounter, but by the time it happens it won’t matter. I’ll have already accomplished my most important goals.”
“Goals involving his sister?” Krieg asked. Since his life didn’t seem to be in immediate danger, he might as well try to mine the situation for information.
“Indeed,” Alan said pleasantly.
“What are you trying to do?”
“Didn’t I already say? I’m going to change the world. Would you like to stay and watch?”
“I’m guessing I don’t have a choice?” Krieg said.
“I’m afraid not. Now I really must attend to poor Alistair over there. Please be a good boy and sit over down,” Alan said, gesturing to a chair behind him.
“I’m sure you won’t get into any trouble. Quite sure. I’ll bring you hot chocolate in a little while.”
Krieg sighed. Getting my ass kicked really sucks. Especially to someone who is nicer than my grandpa. But despite his disappointment, part of him couldn’t help but look forward to the offer of hot chocolate, as he was sure Alan already knew.