It’s difficult to see the good in people sometimes. We open ourselves to the chance of getting hurt badly when we chose to believe in someone. The truth though is that despite their immense capacity to harm us or let us down, other people are rarely as simple as “good” or “bad”.
As the kidnapped day workers and I drove away from the Brotherhood’s HQ in a stolen truck, I tried to remind myself of that for one important reason. We still had the doctor with us. He’d been essential in sneaking our way out of the facility since he’d be able to convince the guards that the men had all received their “treatments” and that they didn’t have to check the truck (and thereby find me hiding in the back too).
The doctor wasn’t a nice guy. He’d been involved in brainwashing hundreds of men and sending them off to murder thousands. There was a fairly easy argument to make that the world would be better off without him. The catch was, I’d made him a victim of his own formula. One dose from one of his own syringes had sent him into a drugged stupor that gave me close to total control over him.
At the time it had been necessary, but as we drove safely away the question arose of what we were going to do with him? I knew the guys from Fairbanks island would have been fine with pitching him off a cliff into the ocean. That would have been the simplest answer and the safest. The dose of the mind control drug would wear off in less than a day, according to what the doctor had said when I questioned him on it. Giving a second dose to extend the duration was possible, but introduced the risk of inducing a stroke. The longer the dose was maintained the greater the risk of a stroke occurring.
That meant that it would be kinder to throw him off a cliff and let the ocean take him than it would be to keep him under my control. Neither option was acceptable though. That’s why when we reached the street with Detective Shurman’s office, I had the doctor get out with me.
“We’ve got forty five minutes before things start to burn.” I told the day workers.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get our folks out.” one of the guys said.
“Get everybody out. We don’t know who the Brotherhood kidnapped and drugged, but we know there’s a lot more of them than there are of you!” I said.
“Don’t worry. We’ll pass the word.” the driver said. He cranked the truck back into gear and with a nod, peeled rubber in the direction of Fairbank Island and their homes.
I watched them leave for a moment, still pondering what to do about the doctor, before I looked up and saw that the lights were on in Shurman’s office. In theory anyone could be in there, but a little butterfly of hope brightened my heart. I wanted to run into the building right away but first I knew I had to take a leap of faith.
“I need you to do one more thing for me. Go to the police station. Admit what you’ve done and provide them with the details they’ll need to believe you.” I told the doctor. The suggestibility period of the mind control drug was fading rapidly. Whether my command stuck depended on a lot of things, with the biggest factor being his will to resist it. If he was truly unrepentant for what he had done, if he really couldn’t see the impact that his actions had on the people he come into contact with, then he might be able to fight off the compulsion to turn himself in that I’d planted. On the other hand, if he knew that what he had done was wrong, and if any part of him wished for forgiveness, he’d march right into the police station and get them onboard like I would never be able to.
I watched him hesitate. He rocked back and forth on his heels for a moment before nodding slowly and turning to walk away. I looked for any sign that he was faking or that he was going to break the suggestion and run in the other direction. I couldn’t see them, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. If he was planning to run and escape from the consequences of his actions though, he would at least do so knowing that someone had given him the chance to live, rather than making the easy choice with a defeated enemy.
I watched him for one more breath, then gathered myself together and headed up to Shurman’s office.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. Maybe just to see Way, or maybe Kari waiting for us. Instead what I got was Way, Kari, Eddie Stone and Tiny Royals all looking over a large leather bound ledger that was on the center of Shurman’s desk.
“It’s not gibberish, it’s a code.” Way said as I walked in the open door.
“I’m seeing a ghost!” Tiny tapped her on the shoulder and pointed at me.
Way looked up at me and smiled as soon as she recognized who I was. I smiled back, warm happiness washing my aches and pains away for a moment. Then she noticed my general state of being and frowned. I winced and shrugged, promising in the gesture that I’d explain it all later. She narrowed her eyes, requesting that later being sometime very close to the present. Even without dream speech we could communicate a lot it seemed.
“Not a ghost, despite the Brotherhood’s best efforts.” I told the assembled crowd.
“I thought you said she got shot?” Stone said.
“She was. Right in the head.” Tiny replied.
“He’s right.” I said, waving at my bandages. “But I’m tougher than I look.”
Technically that was the truth. “The Amazing Jin” was lot more fit and a lot healthier than most eighteen year old girls could claim to be. It wasn’t why I’d survived being shot in the head. That was almost entirely due to magic, supplemented by the Brotherhood’s medical care as they tried to get me patched up enough to survive their interrogation formula.
“Where have you been then?” Stone asked. I could see Way’s frown turn into a smirk as the gangster voiced the questions she wanted answers to as well.
“I was enjoying a little visit with the people who burned down your club.” I told him. “Does the name Cranston Smythe ring a bell for you?”
“The architect? That son of a…” Stone started to say.
“Yeah, he’s the head of the local chapter of a bunch of whackos who call themselves the Brotherhood of the Dragon. He was the one who brought you into the deal wasn’t he?” I asked.
“What deal?” Stone asked. He did a good enough job feigning ignorance that I couldn’t be sure he hadn’t actually forgotten what he was supposed to be involved in.
“The redevelopment deal for Fairbanks Island.” I said.
“Oh, yeah, that thing. What of it?” he asked.
“It’s not particularly important now but that’s why he was planning to kill you.” I said.
“Not important?” Stone asked.
“Yeah, he’s got a lot of other reasons to want to kill you at this point. Starting with the fact that the Night Warder rescued you.” I said. I looked around the room and noticed her conspicuous absence. “Wait, where is she?”
“The Brotherhood got her.” Way said.
“Yeah, we got down to the ground floor of the building she’d brought us to and there were a bunch of guys waiting there. The boss was still out so she tucked us into a closet and went to lead them away. She didn’t get too far from what I heard though.” Tiny said.
“They killed her?” I asked. Her death would be terrible news, but the alternative was possibly worse.
“No, I smelled that knockout gas from before. I think they captured her.” Tiny said.
“I found them a little while after that I believe.” Way said.
“What happened with the task you were working on?” I asked.
“The assassin was ahead of me. I managed to stop him from killing off the driver, but he got away. I headed over to join up with you after that, except you weren’t there. Then I found these two who informed me that you’d been killed.” she said.
That would have been when she woke up on my world on went to look for me there. I was already off rescuing Peri at that point though so instead she’d talked with my Mom.
For some reason the thought of that sent shivers down my spine.
“Reports of my death were reasonable mistakes on the part of those who made them. If the bullet had hit just a hair’s breadth closer to center I’d have more than just a scratch on the side of my head and a killer headache.” I told them. Way and Kari knew what that really meant.
Freak strokes of luck can and did happen on Earth Glass, but when they happened to one of us it’s because we demanded that they occur. There were limits on that sort of thing though. The shot that had “scratched” me, really had come close to missing. If it had been a dead center hit, I probably couldn’t have convinced the world to let the Amazing Jin survive it.
“Where you get the bandages?” Stone asked.
“The Brotherhood patched me up. They wanted to question me.” I said.
“And then they let you go?” Stone asked.
“Oh please, they tried to keep me tied up. Does that seem like even a vaguely wise idea with a professional magician?” I said.
“So they’re going to be coming from you then?” Stone said. He looked like the shark that had scented prey swimming towards it when he asked the question.
“Yeah. We have bigger problems though.” I said.
“They’ve already burned down my club, what are they going to do next?” Stone asked.
“Burn down Fairbanks.” I told him.
“What? That’s impossible.” he said.
“They’ve spent all last night, and maybe longer, making an army to do it. I saw the facility and I saw the drugs they were using. These guys may be evil and crazy, but you’ve seen that their damn effective too right?” I said.
“What are we going to do?” Kari asked. I could see the fear rising up in her eyes. She’d been the one to put the fateweaving together that was driving this. If Fairbanks wound up burning she’d feel like she was responsible for the lives that were lost even if she was working to prevent that as hard as she could.
“There’s over two hundred drugged up guys ready to burn the place down in a little over half an hour. That’s too many for the cops to handle.” I said. “But there’s someone who’s got an army big enough to take the Brotherhood’s zombies on.”
I looked over at Stone and met his gaze directly.
“Are you kidding me? What’s in this for me?” he asked.
“A lot of things Eddie. You could say it’s about revenge. You could say its about showing people who’s the real boss of this town. Or you could make a lie you’ve been selling for years into the truth.” I said.
“Lie? What are you talking about.” he said.
“You’ve been selling ‘protection’ to the people in Fairbanks for years now Eddie. This is a chance for you to make that real. You can step up here and really be a protector. Make the world better for some people.” I said.
“Pff, ain’t nobody does that for free.” Stone said.
“So go with revenge, or go with showing ‘em who’s boss then. Either one of those should work fine right? But when you do, pay attention to how the people look at you when you save them. See how that makes you feel.” I said.
“Its gonna make me feel like a chump.” he said, but from how he broke eye contact with me and turned away I could see I’d planted a seed there.
“If we’re gonna do this, we need to leave right now boss.” Tiny said.
“Think we can get the boys together in time?” Stone asked.
“Yeah, just gotta make some calls.” Tiny said.
“Then we’re outta here.” Stone said. He grabbed a hat off the desk, gave a nod to the three of us who were staying behind and marched out the door, with Tiny trailing behind him.
“Are they going to be able to stop the arsons?” Kari asked.
“I think so. I think that’s why they are still stuck in the fate weaving.” I told her. “The big question is whether we’ll be able to find Guy McIntyre to end the fate weaving and rescue Madelaine Deckard before she wakes up and breaks the world like an eggshell.”
“Well, I think we can focus on the rescuing part of that.” Kari said.
“Why’s that? Without McIntyre, the fate weaving will continue and things will just keep getting more dangerous.” I said.
“That’s the problem. We can’t find Guy McIntyre because he never existed.”