Charles Meriweather held Lilly’s hand as he guided her to their next task. Only The Seer knew him as anything other than Reacher, but he never thought of himself as anything other than Charles. Their code name for him was appropriate, but he chose not to forget who he really was.
And that’s why he was doing this. Not for the money, not for power, but because he remembered his life before becoming Reacher. He remembered gaining his powers and hearing other people’s thoughts for the first time, unable to control his abilities. He remembered being unable to separate himself from the hatred his parents held for him, the hatred they held for his abilities. The fear of what he could do and the abuse he suffered as a result.
They’d been right to be afraid of him, he supposed, since in the end he’d reached into their minds and made them slit their own throats. Their hatred wasn’t of him specifically though, it was of anyone who had powers. An invasive fear that caused his mother to abort what would have been his baby sister because she couldn’t handle the idea that her daughter might end up a freak too. She was ignorant of the fact that being siblings scarcely increased the general odds of receiving an ability, and only slightly increased the chances of surviving it even if they did.
So when Alan found him those many years ago and told Charles his plan, Charles agreed to be a part of it to the very end. Now here he was, minutes away from completing his part. All he had to do was keep this girl’s trust a few more minutes. They stopped in front of a heavy oaken door.
“Ok Lilly, on the other side of this door is a man. He’s a very bad man, who hates people like us, just because we’re different. So we’ve tied him up for our safety. But you can take away his hate. In fact, you can take away the hate of everyone.”
“Everyone?” Lilly asked in surprise. “I know you showed me how to take away the power afflicting that girl, but can I really take away something like hate? And from everyone?”
Reacher could feel her unspoken question of whether they even should if they were able to. “Yes. We will give them a gift and they will see the error of their ways.”
“What sort of gift?” she asked him.
“The gift of understanding.”
She was still hesitant as they entered the room. He could feel the fear of the man tied up in front of them. She walked over and put her hand on the man’s. Charles set his hand lightly on her shoulder.
“You’re sure this is okay?” she asked him.
“It’ll be just fine. I’m going to show you what to do again, is that okay?”
She nodded and he felt her try to relax as he reached into her mind. There was a slight involuntary resistance and then he was in. Alan had told him that if she knew what he was going to do Lilly could have wiped away his powers with a thought. Considering he’d shown her how to do something very similar just a few minutes ago, he had no doubt that was true.
But now that he was boosted and already in her mind, it was a simple matter to blind her to what he was really doing in her head, altering her perceptions of time and dividing her consciousness. He worked for a few minutes, preparing everything that would be required later and to make sure his tinkering could not be undone by anyone.
Finishing, he turned to the task at hand. He helped Lilly pull her power to the fore and thrust it into the man before them. It didn’t stop there though, spreading from that man to everyone who thought like him. Everyone on Earth who hated the Gifted, everyone who was so afraid that they might do violence against them, all of them were now connected to the river of Lilly’s power.
Lilly didn’t understand her own powers the way Charles did. Alan had told him before she’d even gained them. It was why he’d helped with the destruction of Sunlight city, to ensure she’d gain this gift. The man in the chair before them jerked on his seat and slumped over dead, just as hundreds of millions of people around the world were. The girl finally realized something was horribly wrong, but it was too late for her to do anything about it.
“What happened?” she sobbed. “What did I do wrong? Why is he dead?”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Charles told her. “You tried to give them a gift of understanding, just like I said. Most of them just aren’t able to accept it. And you should know firsthand what happens if you can’t accept the gift.” Absolute horror spread across her face as she finally connected the dots. *So innocent and naïve. I wish we could have done this without misleading her. But I really can’t imagine a better outcome. *
“You mean, my power, I can…”
“Yes. Your power is, at its essence, in its fullest state, to give or remove abilities from others. Of course, if someone without an ability is too old or too weak to receive one, your power results in instant death. Those raised to hate us who are young enough to survive receiving a power will survive at roughly the current acceptance rates, maybe less given the age component. On average I think that’s climbed to around one in eighty or so, though many are in countries with a rate of only one in a hundred and fifty or less. I’m afraid that’s the cost of hating our kind institutionally. Perhaps the survivors, once they know what it feels like to be one of us, can learn not to hate us so much given they will now be among our number.”
“All those people. I killed all of those people. I thought I was helping and I… why, why did you do this?” she asked, tears flowing freely down her face.
Charles thought about trying to explain to her. He thought about telling her it was for every punch he endured, for his aborted sister, for every child with a gift born to parents who hated them. But at the end of the day, there was a simpler truth.
“They hated us first, so I hated them back. But I’m the one with powers, so they can all go fucking die.”