Interlude 1

Director Sage, this is the Control Centre. We have a request from Agent Visionary to speak to you. Has this been authorised?”

I look down at the speaker on my desk and push the button to speak.

“It has been authorised.”

Okay, Director. I’ll patch you through now.”

It was unusual. Despite the specific order to allow them to connect me to Visionary, they still had to ask. It doesn’t hurt to double check, I assume.

For the time being, I try not to allow my senses to be overwhelmed. I remove the blindfold from my eyes and blink, and look at the world around me. I see the present, earthly and solid, surrounding me. I feel the wood of my desk against my fingertips, the warmth of the air on my skin. I feel attuned, anchored for the time being.

I still feel it around me, clinging and chewing at my thoughts. It’s horribly pervasive.

Director Sage, this is Agent Visionary. Can you read me?”

“I can.” Her voice is refreshing. Of all my agents, I know she remains the most composed, even in times of stress. “Tell me what you’ve found.”

I ask her out of curiosity, and allow my senses to be dulled slightly. It’s not so much as a sight, though. To explain it like that would be squandering the experience. I always explain it like I have an extra set of eyes in the back of my head, and I can see through them. To others, they simply have no reference of understanding. When I say I see these things, I only say it because otherwise, explaining is tiring and time consuming.

And I’ve foreseen it as a better way to just reference it as a sight.

I don’t need her to explain. I already know. She’s in Aven Court and she has met Shaun Larson. We’ve known about Shaun for a very long time. All Farborn are registered onto a database. A Farborn such as Shaun requires extensive monitoring, for very obvious reasons. Were he to fall in with the wrong crowd, were his parents raised in squander, so many factors that are a necessity in sculpting a life to adjust a human being.

It’s a wonder we all function as a race, if you were to see it as I do.

I was aware these paths would converge to this point long before the presence of the Eldritch was brought to the NFU. Gentle nudges, like steering a car to keep it in the lane. Making certain that the edges don’t fray and unforeseen effects.

We’ve encountered a young man, about 18 to 20 years old. I have legitimate reason to believe he is Farborn.”

“You know this for a fact.” I let something in. It slips in between flickers of attention. I see what caused such a realisation. She’s too far away for a perfect glimpse.

I see violence and destruction. I grow slightly concerned.

I remember seeing this particular chain of events. Not the worst, not the best. I shall have to sculpt more accurately in future.

Yes. He managed to kick a Girallon-class Eldritch through a lamp post. The lamp post snapped in half, then he jumped from a first floor window to the pavement.”

I slip my blindfold down over my eyes. I keep my eyes closed because what I see blends in with my actions in the present. I have to focus. When I see around me, I see the actions specifically around me, and finding individual strands so far away from me is taxing.

I see it all around me; individual actions that cause such massive changes. The irrational, the unlikely, the improbable, the impossible. I prune them, shift through the chaff. I study the aftermath, the cause itself. I see it; the Eldritch smashed through the wall, and I see Shaun himself, ejecting it through the gaping wound where his house was.

I move forward through these and foresee the different effects that may follow from Shaun’s actions. I see the time where Visionary attacks Shaun over a perceived sleight. I see the time where they attempt to restrain Shaun’s father, and are met with Shaun venting his fury onto them. I see Jason’s head removed in a single blow. Anger, violence, blood.

The strongest of these I see is a minor verbal dispute. Alex calms Shaun down, and they speak on level terms. I see flickering wisps of time fluttering around them; Shaun reacts this way because Alex doesn’t treat him any different for his abilities. I see these weaving backwards down time, through all the prior events leading to such a single moment of relief.

Upon doing which, he then stomped it so hard his foot physically went through it, and managed to cracked the pavement beneath it.”

I stay focused and discard them. It’s so easy to get distracted. Each action has an impossibly large number of actions that fracture from it, and looking at it from the other perspective sends my senses through years of causes. It overwhelms me at times, just how many minute and individual changes contribute to everything. From breathing a second out of time, to the slightest decibel of how loud your voice is.

I’m distracted even now.

I wait until she’s finished and put her on mute. Just for a small while, whilst I organise what I’m experiencing.

These come to me so quickly. I have viewed years in minutes, and it still doesn’t phase me. After all these years, it is a magnificent transition, a beauty in itself. And I always marvel at it, every single time.

I start again, and refocus on the events. I see that the least violent of options have come to pass. It’s a great relief. He shows an impressive talent to calm himself. He speaks with Alex and they discuss his powers. Along these strands, I see Shaun’s father again. Angry, clearly.

Visionary has been waiting for me. I unmute the comm. I don’t want her to think I’m ignoring her.

“Are you in Aven’s Close?” It doesn’t take any special senses to assume that such a pause makes it seem like I’m using my powers.

She pauses. I smile.

Yes. Did you see that?”

I quickly peer into probable events. Things yet to happen, things that can be altered and changed. I glance through threads, counting them along my way. I seek to know, and visualise the path where Shaun is on our side. I do this as I reply to her. I see the necessity of less savoury tactics to guarantee his complicity. I see echoes of what may happen afterwards, trim down these events and answers. I look at the single strand left at what must be done. I see along the way what I must say, what words to craft at this point in time.

Even then, there’s no certainty. A single action can come along and throw these cause and effects into discourse.

“We are aware of him. Visionary, this Farborn is of importance to us. Bring him back to NFU headquarters. Use whatever means at your disposal to achieve this. Lie if necessary. Urgent priority.”

She waits again. I see it before me; it solidifies. I briefly glimpse her reaction, and mouth it in time with her words.

Affirmative.”

A brief mote emerges. Visionary paused, because she is uncertain on how to progress. The web becomes clearer now, yet branches form from this point. Other points where she can follow down. I see only one thing in common, regardless of what she offers him; Shaun must be the one to suggest it. I move these out of the way and apply them to the other visions, and see it all aligns, and all is correct.

It fills me with the greatest relief imaginable. And I don’t mean that lightly.

“He will follow if he believes it’s his own idea.”

Willco. Thank you, Sage. Agent Visionary, out.”

I turn the comms off. There are a few disastrous results in the future should I offer her even a goodbye. It’s easier to trim these down by merely avoiding the circumstances to begin with.

I glance again into the cause and see the offshoots. Whatever happens is entirely out of my hands. It’s a weird sense of powerlessness but it’s understandable where it comes from. Most of them end up with Shaun in my office. So many different ways it can happen; anger, threats. I even see my death in a very few, extremely obscure lines. They are like the weakest root of a tree, easy to wither away, yet as there is a distinct, even infinitesimally small chance of it happening, I will always see them.

I’ve seen my death many times over the years. Many more times than I care to recall.

I pull the blindfold off and look again at my surroundings. Using my sight wards off a lot of what I’ve seen. As I’ve mentioned previously, it anchors me to the reality around me instead of the hypothetical actions and reactions, the delves into the past and the dredges of where events have come from. It gives me something concrete to focus on.

To say it’s entirely ignored is a lie. It just helps me to keep my focus, and filters out a lot of noise.

I pull out a laptop and turn the power on. Even now, I see minor refractions, skirting the edges. Utterly trivial changes, like the direction of where my finger is as I push this button, what changes in the seconds it takes for me to open up and send an email.

I begin to tap my foot. The sound sends these distractions skittering away.

I send an email to the Head Director of the NFU. Head Director Messenger, as he’s called. It wasn’t my idea to give every Fargraced in the organisation a name, though it does have interesting results down the line. I tell him that Shaun has been found by our agents, as predicted, and that there is a high probability of him meeting with me. I ask if this is permitted to do so.

Whilst I can have events fall into such ways with careful guidance that this is guaranteed to happen, asking is polite. Not everyone has my awareness. I see many more times where he agrees, rather than disagrees. They overwhelm such a refusal from him.

I receive a reply within the minute. He agrees, and congratulates me. We have a good relationship. He appreciates what I’ve done and all I’ve sacrificed. He’s still wary of me. I know how to earn his trust entirely. I saw it, a single strong thread down the line, where everything is starting to converge together.

I muse on the Head Director’s name. Messenger is fitting for what he does.

If Shaun does join the NFU, what would his name be?

I open up an online dictionary and begin to look through names related to his powers. Tank. Force. Unstoppable. Unmovable. I close my eyes and strum down the threads, seeing which if any of the dozens that I eventually pick out, would he like the most.

There is not a single one he likes.

When I see a definite answer such as this, it begets a curiosity in me. I feel the events filter through, and glance down the lines of the past. It seems Shaun is not fond of superheroes.

I’ll adjust a few plans accordingly.

It’ll be nice to finally meet him, face to face. I’m sure it’ll be a pleasure above all things, but with somebody in my presence, I can scan them far more intimately than from miles away.

And I have foreseen it to happen.

Director, Visionary and Shaun have arrived.”

“Very well.”

I really do like my receptionist. Victoria, Torie as she prefers, hasn’t had much of a noteworthy life. You can’t expect everyone to have great achievements and for all intents and purposes, she’s an average person who is above average at her job. It does help that I can see the skeins that led her to this moment, all the decisions and choices and results of her labour. Extremely useful as far as figuring out who is trustworthy based on their past. It takes some judgement of character, and a little peer into the effects of what they do in the future, to truly figure out if they can be trusted.

I’m not omniscient, by all means. Some guess work is required, but not enough to pose any risks.

The door begins to open, and I sit with myself ready. The door itself is a wonder. Artifex designed it himself, after a little coercion and reminding him of our contract with him. It could withstand attacks from a Girallon-Class or even a Hecatonchire-Class Eldritch and survive in-tact. It has also been designed to resist all but the most proficient of individuals to gain entry. It’s mechanically activated by certain individuals with biometrical access. The walls are similarly reinforced, with the added benefit of being sound proof, as to not distract me more than needed.

For all intents and purposes, I sit in a bank vault.

I took my blindfold off a few minutes ago to adjust my senses. There’s still the trickle of visions, and I tap my foot lightly to remain here and now, though even then I can feel myself aligning several seconds before events that are starting to exist. I can see them entering the room after the doors ponderously open. I see them enter the room and sit down, and also I see backwards from that point. I can sense it as an effect, and can trace it back to the cause. The further we move from the point of origin, the more I perceive. Each action has several hundred reasons that merge together into one point, one second of time, and each of these a hundred more beyond. It is perhaps a blessing of my abilities to manage this many different things at once without my brain overloading and burning out.

Shaun doesn’t trust me because Visionary doesn’t know my name. He’s a fairly perceptive young man.

I made sure there was a pair of chairs specifically suited for them today. Comfortable and relaxing to sit in, without being too comfortable to forget that this is a meeting. Shaun walks first; his curiosity gives him resolve, he wishes to see what I want from him. He is suspicious of me, and I can find that perfectly reasonable. Visionary follows with him as well. Where he is more bold, less restrained by the organisation and seeing me as his superior, she is respectful of the hierarchy and mindful that I may have further plans for him and herself.

He studies me, sees my clothes, scans them for faults with scrutiny. I can perceive that he knows I’m called Sage for a reason. Truthfully, the attire is a little bit extravagant but it sets the right impression. It makes people have an air of doubt around me. The image is important. It conveys knowledge, wisdom, gives off an air of uncertainty and mysticism. From everything I’ve seen, it largely remains true.

I couldn’t help but to smile. He’s a refreshing change from the suits and ties and corporate faces of the NFU.

“You came. I’m glad.”

Shaun physically seats himself now and the image I saw of them in the future skitters out of my faculties. I have to raise my hand and motion for Visionary to do so as well, and she complies in a professional manner.

“When they said Sage, they weren’t kidding.”

Shaun speaks with a slightly dry tone, hints of sarcasm. His image of himself is quite incredible. There has been no physical challenge for him, so he has had no worries of his own abilities. Something crawls into view; a perilous situation, where others are frozen by fear. Shaun stands ready, to act where others wouldn’t. Even against odds that appear unbeatable. There is triumph awaiting him.

I think it was his attitude and the vision of what may be that made me smile a little more. I look to Visionary to avoid staring at him for too long. One of the downsides of what my perceptions are is that I sometimes stare ahead blankly, as my senses are drawn elsewhere.

“It’s important to look the part.” I tell them quite openly. Shaun and I share some eye contact, and he notices that they’re green. He likes them. I’m drawn back to his victory waiting for him now. The amalgamation of actions is becoming more concrete and solid, and I see flickers of colour. Burning whites, greens, flashing sirens of blue and red.

“Did you wear these clothes before or after they called you Sage?”

An inquisitive nature, just like I’ve seen in hindsight. With no restrains and no fear of physically being hurt, Shaun can ask the probing questions that others don’t, out of fear of what it may do for them socially. I don’t even need to concentrate on my powers as they coalesce into important points waiting for us all. Strands raise to the future again. Amidst the struggle that others face, Shaun tries to speak and settle the conflict diplomatically.

I laugh. I try to make it sound genuine but I know a lot of people may find it aloof. “I like your sense of humour.”

The room goes quiet for a little while. I let my guard down, and slowly the effects of this meeting come into view. I see what I have to do to ensure these actions fall into place, and every detail of which flood into my mind. I trace up and down like a musician strums a harp. Much like a harp, each time the string is plucked, it sends shimmers and waves. Everything is so interlocking and even the smallest action can cause a proverbial hurricane across the world.

I shimmer through, going backwards one last time, and dredge from the point I saw to where we are now, and I see that Visionary is watching Shaun, to study how he reacts to myself. It appears that I lost my senses for the moment. But I see what occurs, that I’ve been staring through Shaun whilst smiling at him. It’s a very honest, disarming comment to follow. Time catches up with me and I realise what point we’re at when he speaks, and drags me to the present.

“Sooooooo. Did I actually need to be here for anything? Like, did you want me for anything important or to like, have two older women stare at me creepily for half a minute?”

I laugh again. Visionary doesn’t know how to respond. She’s worried and afraid. Would such a comment react badly upon herself, that she couldn’t keep her guest under some sort of control? Perhaps a realisation that it’s true, or that neither of them are aware of what I am. Even her, for all she does to keep an air of secrecy over the true nature of her ability, feels underwhelmed by what I may potentially be witnessing. Something she deeply respects about me. Respects and fears.

“Very funny. Sorry, I’m sorry, Shaun. I have a lot to keep track of.”

I look at Visionary after dropping such a comment. Shaun doesn’t look at her, but she notices what I’ve said and freezes in place. I’ll be honest, sometimes I just do it so see her react to it. As long as what I say doesn’t have a negative effect on our further relations. Gladly, I do a quick check over the surface, and all seems well. There is a strong bond of trust still present.

“Thank you, Visionary. Shaun.”

Nodding, I put my hands down onto the table. The feel of wood livens my dulled sense of touch, covered up by visions of before and after.

“Visionary, if you would wait a moment. Shaun, if you would step outside until Visionary is done speaking with me? I will have to say goodbye for the moment.”

I nod to Shaun. I nod a lot. It’s a habit. I briefly see a flicker of who else will be with him, and remind myself to mention him. The link between now and the effect of this strengthens slightly.

“Disrespect not meant. Yuhong will give you a full tour of the building afterwards. Tether is in today. You are acquainted.”

He’s slightly concerned about the silence. Not much was said and he rightfully suspects that something is going on that he isn’t aware of. It’s a reminder of perspective. He gets up slowly and shows Visionary and myself that though he isn’t aware of precisely what’s occurring, he’s aware that it is. He doesn’t wish to be taken for a fool, and wants us to know he still remains cautious about the NFU.

“…okay then. I’m not even going to try to understand what this was about. If one of you could tell me sometime what just happened. Yeah.”

I watch him as he leaves and walks away. One day, I will tell him. I’ll bide my time. Whilst he leaves, I check something quickly as I watch him intently. One other use of my abilities is hypothetical situations. I can study a desired outcome in my mind and discover the steps that could be taken to achieve such a result. The information is fractured and splinters from that point. It takes concentration to see the extreme circumstances and remove them out of the equation, looking for the most likely of probabilities. Even then, every time I ask, there are some eventualities that can come to be, no matter how far away they are.

In this case, I’ve long studied Shaun and his powers. I’ve been designing contingencies in mind, in such the case that Shaun either goes rogue or turns against the NFU, and pitted our best agents in our mind to deal with him. Whilst such an event is extremely unlikely, it’s a constant worry in my mind. It’s much easier to scan these ‘what if’ scenarios with the person present, and see which answers provide fruit and which ones are dead ends.

All that I question are dead ends.

Not a single contingency that I would have had in place would be sufficient to even cause a stalemate. I’m deeply concerned by this, but I don’t show it to Visionary. I told her that this was the nature of the visit, and it appears she hasn’t informed Shaun of it, like I asked her to.

The only contingency that still remains uncertain, with no answer of whether it’d succeed or not, is the Null contingency. That she makes such things totally void from my powers is a source of frustration when it comes to making contingencies.

Visionary finally speaks, and I’m drawn back to my office. “What did you see?”

“A great many of things. Many useless contingencies we have in place.”

I see uncertainty in her face.

“Useless?” She leans forward in her chair. Curiosity, worry, scepticism. “Why would they be useless?”

I can’t be entirely honest with her. Not entirely. If I told her that we had little in place to handle Shaun in such a dire set of circumstance, other than a total gamble, it would cause us to stray down an entirely different path. One which I cannot allow or afford to happen. I phrase my words carefully.

“The majority would not work. Many are simply not needed. The further away we are from now, the more convoluted it becomes. They are entwined, tangled. They tug at each other, snag at the seams.”

That’s not entirely true. It is true in the way I described but not to the scenarios I sensed panning out for myself only. These ends weren’t tangled, they were cut away. The question that I posed had no possible answer. The situation of Grandmaster beating or stalemating Shaun in a fight, for instance. Nothing. The answer didn’t exist, because such an answer couldn’t possibly exist. There are rarely such certainties. To see one, humbles me.

“I see.” She doesn’t. She isn’t sure where to go from this point. It’s clear to me, she desires to know what Shaun would require to join the NFU. That is the cause of her next question. “And what will he need for now?”

I was already aware of what was required but I quickly took a gander to confirm. There have been snags, abrupt changes in how events proceed. I need to be diligent and take nothing for granted. As foreseen before, the answer is simple. Even common sense would point it out to you, but Visionary is allowing me to confirm her own thoughts.

“The path can be started easily. Offer him again.”

“You’re certain?”

“Certain. He is a normal, teenage boy. Security is all he wants.”

She nods and bows her head. Culturally polite way of saying goodbye. She means to leave. I wouldn’t stop her but the formality of being the director means she’ll leave once given the order to. “I would like to request to leave, and begin the tour.”

I nod, smile and wave my hand to give the correct impression. I do enjoy her company; she’s a very business minded lady and has the conviction to do what is needed. There is a truth behind her desire to aid the NFU. Even though she’s aware that she can’t lie to me, in such terms, she’s never tried to. I have a respect for her for that.

“Dismissed. It’s been nice meeting you again, Visionary. We should do this again.”

I chuckle a little to myself as she leaves. It’s like an inside joke to myself. She wasn’t aware that I knew we’d meet again soon and what steps would be taken to get to it. I see anger, concern and worry in the future for her. Righteousness boils her blood, and even her demeanour is cast aside for the moment to make sense of what I allowed to happen.

It isn’t my brightest moment. It had to be done.

I take out my laptop from my desk and lay it on my desk, and strum my fingertips on my desk as it exits from sleep mode. I note the strange curiosity that after speaking with Visionary, I’m yet again sending out another email to the Head Director. I already know the answer but he has yet to give it.

I send him a quick email. I inform him that Shaun has agreed to a proposal in the future from Visionary that he wants to go on a shift. I check quickly and probe down the lines for when he’ll attend, and it becomes clear that it’ll be tomorrow. I note it down for him as precisely as possible.

Messenger has always trusted my judgement and if I tell him with certainty that something will transpire, he shows no doubt in me at all and allows it to go ahead. I’ve managed to scan for why this is, and all that I can see is a pure, unfettered trust in me.

He’s an excellent judge of character and he knows I have every desire to aid the NFU.

I tell him that I’ll require a special authorisation and that whilst it’s in my power to allow, I wanted him to know prior to it happening. Visionary’s team will be the only team to answer that call. They need to be able to handle a major incident. I cast my senses to that pivotal moment and see with Shaun’s assistance, they can overcome what befalls them. No casualties, no injuries, and further events set in motion.

I send it, worded as concisely as possible.

Head Director Messenger normally trusts me without doubt, without question. I know that today, that will change for once.

He responds back within the minute.

Director Sage.

I require you to confirm that if such events take place, I have guaranteed safety of my operatives.

Kind regards.

I wait. I’ve previously sensed how it plays out but I won’t let it be taken for granted. I briefly check once again, and see nothing has changed. I write back to him after a delay, to give him the impression that I’ve taken more time to investigate than I actually had done.

Head Director Messenger.

I can confirm that none of our agents shall be injured or hurt due to my actions and that it is for the greater benefit of the NFU.

Many thanks.

I send it to him. He sends me a reply. He’s always a prompt individual.

Director Sage.

You have my authorisation. I have trusted and always will trust that you have the best intentions in mind.

Don’t let the NFU down.

Kind regards.

I smile again, satisfied. I open up the control program for the Control Centre that all Directors have access to. Though I don’t know the precise controls required, my abilities allow me to see what’s required of me to do what I wish to do. I edit the settings that have already been put in place, and alter the requirements for Visionary’s Team. I set them from regular incidents to major incidents, save, and close everything down.

I briefly extend my reach from the present and see if everything that is needed, is in place. I find safety in knowing that I’ve done all I need to do and everything is in order. I press the button on my intercom to speak to my receptionist.

“Victoria, would you bring me a cup of tea, please?”

Of course, Director. Right away.”

She normally makes it just a little bit too sweet for my tastes. Today won’t be an exception either.

“Thank you for the tea.” I smile to Victoria as she brings me another mug full of tea, putting it down on my desk. If there’s one downside to my powers, it’s knowing how things taste before I get to try them. The satisfaction of a fresh hot cup of tea is a little dulled.

Such is life.

“You’re welcome, Director. How long are you planning on staying? It’s already past midnight”

I see a drip fading into my periphery. Visionary will be here in 2 minutes after her shift. She sends the young men to play pool and bond together, and alleviate the guilt on Tether’s mind. The girl will be fine though but he doesn’t need to know that just now. Guilt is an important part of any process. Because he feels guilt, he’s aware that hurting people and violence is bad. At the end of the day, that’s a very right thing to feel. Negative emotions have to be experienced as much as positive ones.

I look up at her from my mug and smile a little wider. “Thirty minutes. I’m expecting Visionary to arrive within the next two minutes. When she does, just allow her to come inside. Authorisation isn’t necessary.”

“Oh… yes, of course, Director.” She has a lot of confusion in her voice, and she seems to accept it. She’s gotten used to it by now. She bows her head politely, and I wave to her as she walks away to go back to her desk. She’s checking Facebook on her phone though. The downside of being in my position is that I require her at all times if I’m ever in my office for security reasons, and for the obvious reason of letting people inside. Offering her double overtime for a few hours was enough incentive. And because she’s so helpful, I don’t mind her checking Facebook and turning a blind eye.

I take the mug and hold it in my hands. The warmth is comforting, and I take a small sip. It’s still very refreshing. Still a little bit too sweet. I’ll miss that part.

And so, I wait.

The doors wind open, and Visionary comes inside. I can see something strong in her eyes, even from over here. A determination, both in her stare and how quick she walks over. Her hair is slightly messy and she hasn’t gotten any of the dust out of it right now, but she stops at my desk. I raise my head and smile to her. She’ll speak first and secretly I’m not looking forward to this.

“Director, permission to speak informally and speak my mind.”

I nod once, softly. The doors behind us close and grind, cogs and machinery clicking and locking into place.

“Go on.”

Fire crackles in her voice. “Sage, I mean no disrespect by any of this, and I wish this to be totally off the record. But, you know I wanted it to be just between us. You let me in, knowing I would come to talk to you, and what I wanted to talk to you about. So, I’m safe to assume that you knew exactly what was going to happen today, before any of us were even aware of what was going on.”

I keep smiling, softly. I just allow her to speak. Saying anything wouldn’t be wise.

“With all that said, what were you thinking?!” She says, slamming her hands down. I blink, it’s as much as I can flinch, and I see her eyes drawn to me to see my reaction. “We didn’t know what was going to happen. We were the ones fighting tooth and nail in a situation out of our control. And I don’t care if you knew Shaun could handle it, and if this was premeditated, and it fits some sort of scheme you’ve been helping to unfold. Don’t you ever, ever, put me in a position where I have to have two untrained, sceptical young men in a life or death situation.”

She brings her hands up. My smile’s gone from my face, and I watch her closely.

“Because I know, they would have been safe, because seeing your authorisation to put them in a major incident made me consider the possibility that you knew, that we’d be safe at the end of it, but we don’t have your certainty or your powers. This is not how I want the NFU to be. I don’t want this moment to be the thing that I remember the NFU for. And I certainly don’t want to be the one to tell them why you thought it was acceptable to put them in that situation.”

I’m still quiet. She catches her breath for a second, and looks at me with her eyes narrowing.

“You haven’t said anything, and you know why.”

Now is the time I need to speak. I hold the mug of tea with my fingertips meanwhile.

“If I said anything before now, you’d be much angrier.”

“This is a lesson you needed to teach them, or something like another… pawn to be moved across the board.”

She chose her words carefully, especially the reference to chess.

“The truth?”

I see her eyes open a little more. Normally I don’t allow her to be privy to such things. This is off the records though.

“The truth is, yes. It was a lesson. It was a situation that you had no control over, with unexpected circumstances. I needed to show all three of you, that you can’t ever be in control. Things won’t be easy, and you have to change to meet circumstances. That’s a very important lesson. Shaun learned that it’s acceptable to hurt somebody if it means they don’t hurt somebody else. Alex learned the grim truth of somebody being hurt by him, on purpose. And even you, learned that sometimes it’s okay to speak against those in authority when you believe what they’ve done is wrong. Something you’ve never done before.”

She stands there, not so much realising what I’m saying but accepting how everything fits.

“The other truth is more plain and obvious. You were the only team able to take that call. You, out of all the teams, even Grandmaster’s team, were the only ones who would have entered that situation and done that well. With minimal loss or injury or death, to yourselves or anybody else. It happened because you were the best team, the only available team there. It just so happens, that it also taught you something as well.”

I let go of my mug of tea and spread my arms a little to the sides.

“A very useful coincidence, but a coincidence all the same.”

“There aren’t any coincidences with you, though.”

Her words have some bite to them and she’s right, in a way. I can’t disagree with her.

“Knowing the script doesn’t make a play less of a work of art. Seeing it performed twice doesn’t ruin the first time. It’s just a different appreciation.”

She stares at me. I see her lips frown beneath her mask.

“You of all people should know that. When Aberrant swung his swords at you and you used your powers to see it, did you dodge them any less quicker because you knew it wouldn’t hit you?”

“That’s not the same.” She says. I briefly let some insight flicker into my perceptions. She disagrees because she wants me to explain why I allowed this to happen. I’ll indulge her with my justification.

“No, perhaps not. I knew what would happen if I told you the outcome or even hinted that I was aware of what may come to be. A measure of safety in yourself and Shaun and Tether, and events happening very differently. Dominoes falling down that need to stay up. Future events, which are more pivotal than you realise, that need to be. Even this event. I don’t want you to be mad with me, Visionary. I understand why you are, and I believe you’re right to be.”

She seems surprised by this. Her surprise comes from me admitting that she’s right instead of denying it. Such surprise stems from the past, where she never heard anybody who she considered an authority figure to admit their mistakes, and…

I got myself distracted. The conversation pauses awkwardly for a second. I carry on.

“I knew you’d come in here and be rightfully angry. I’m aware of how everything has, and will, happen in this room. I didn’t want it to pass but for me, it was an inevitable moment that I can’t avoid. There will be many others that you’ll never know about as well, and be glad that you don’t have to know.”

I can see the relief in her, so I decide to wrap up the conversation quickly. She herself wants to leave too, concerned for Shaun and Tether.

“You have my word that if such a situation occurs again, I’ll consult you first on the matter. It was wrong for me to keep you in the dark, even if I tell you it’s justified, and for that, I’m sorry, Yuhong.”

Surprise, shock. I used her first name. It feels personal to her this way. I really do hate to use people’s own personalities against them but in this case, it’s another necessity. I’m aware of her desire to appeal to her authority figures. She has a suspicion that I may know, waiting in her future, but can never confirm it. She never does forget it though.

She smiles under her mask and that makes me smile.

“I understand, Director.”

“I appreciate that you do.”

“I’ll have to go and make sure my team is well.”

“Visionary, as a word of advise. I’d like to suggest that the paperwork required for today’s incident be moved to a week’s time. Don’t burden Shaun or Tether, or yourself, with it. Just make sure they go home. They’ve had enough for today.”

Visionary bows her head. “Thank you, Director. See you tomorrow.”

“Wednesday. I have tomorrow off.”

“Of course.” She leaves, and I briefly delve backwards. I see the anger and righteousness in her as she entered and contrast it with the satisfied, calmer Visionary that’s now leaving my room, with the door sealing behind her.

I reach for my tea again and take a longer sip. The conversation was just long enough that my tea cooled for exactly the right amount of time. It’s the perfect warmth, and I give the brew no mercy as I drink it down quickly. I get out of my chair, adjusting my robes with one hand and press the door release on my desk, and walk out of the room.

Victoria notices me as I come out, and I put the mug on her glass desk with a clink.

“Thank you for staying behind, Victoria. I’ll make sure you get paid for tonight. I appreciate what you do for me.”

She smiles back at the compliment and discretely puts her phone into the handbag underneath her desk, assuming I hadn’t seen or known about it. She gets up and follows me as we both get into the elevator, and she presses the button for us to go to the ground floor.

Part of me is happy. The meeting with Visionary signifies the end of something and the beginnings of many more. I let my senses be swarmed for the moment, and Victoria abides my silence next to her comfortably. The path has become stronger, even now. Lies and Triumph. Slaughter and deception. The justified, the vengeful, the destitute and the one with the strength to hold it all together. I see annihilation, the fallen and the risen.

And the tragedy, is that this is the only path of causality that will save us all.

Ground floor.”

Victoria steps out first. I follow after her, and here is where we part ways. She turns to me and smiles, and waves.

“Goodbye, see you on wednesday, Director.”

“Goodbye, Tori. Have a good evening.”

I turn and walk down the corridor, to get to my car. The driver is waiting for me, and has been doing so for the last 17 minutes.

It’s been a funny sort of day today.

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