“Do you really think it’s gonna work?” Cassie asks.
Nick is a little surprised to see her at first.
“How did yo---” he starts, catching himself as Cassie looks at him incredulously. “Right. Watcher. It still creeps me out when you don’t call first.”
He slips on a pair of gloves, shrugs his jacket into position on his shoulders, ties a scarf around his neck, and walks out into the busy Hong Kong street. Cassie keeps step with him.
“So do you think it’s gonna work?” She asks again.
“That’s not very encouraging, Nick.”
“Can’t you tell if it’s going to work or not?”
“No. Thinking about it just gives me a headache.”
“Then maybe it’ll work.”
“Again, not encouraging.”
“If you can’t tell, then they can’t tell either.”
“They’re better than I am.”
“Don’t sell yourself short kid,” Nick says gesturing at a nearby noodle shop. “Lunch is on you.”
“Lunch is always on me,” Cassie says rolling her eyes.
“Look, you’ve had years of practice. You’re way better than when you started. Heads or tails.”
Nick quickly flips a coin into the air as he sits down, force pushing on either side of it causing the coin to spin rapidly, the air warping from the effect.
“Tails,” Cassie says before it lands into Nick’s palm tails up.
“See?” he says smugly, pocketing the coin and calling a waiter over.
“But that was a tiny frame of reference. It’s easy for me to look that far ahead. I can’t look a week ahead to a complex branching event like your dumb ass plan.”
“It’s not a dumb ass plan. It’s a brilliant plan.”
“It’s an insane plan.”
“Doesn’t make it not brilliant.”
“And what happens if their Watchers see through it? Figure out how to beat it?”
“Anything with shrimp,” he says to the waiter, turning back to Cassie. “You really think even the best Watcher is going to be able to read eight opposing operations happening simultaneously? It’s too much information. It’s too muddled.”
“But what if it isn’t?” Cassie says, waving off the waiter.
“What if your dumb ass, insane plan doesn’t work and they see through it?”
“You think we need one more? Make it nine? Alright, we’ll get one more.”
“Nick, you’re not listening to me!” Cassie yells, her voice faltering. Looking around self consciously at the heads turned in her direction she leans in and whispers, “What if it doesn’t work?”
Nick looks at her. Sees her eyes watering slightly. Her hands balled into fists. Her brow furrowed. He reaches across the table and gently wraps a hand around one of her fists.
“Look, Cass. Your mom brought me to you. And I’m going to bring you to her. This will work.”
“How can you know that?”
“Because I believe.”
“In you. In us. In your mother being the best fucking Watcher in the world. Think of this as her plan. Not mine.”
“It’s still a dumb ass plan.”
“You got a better one?”
“It’s a dumb ass plan,” she says, calling the waiter over to take her order.
“She is going to do that head rub thing and I fucking hate it,” Cassie frantically whispers to Nick. The room is small. A fairly old and currently unused classroom, desks arranged in a semicircle facing a desk in front of an empty blackboard. A young brunette with dark eyes surveys the room from a tattered doorway and walks towards Cassie and Nick.
“She’s the best Pusher in the world we need her if we’re going to pull this off keep your shit together,” he quickly whispers. Kira slides easily into Nick’s arms giving him a warm hug hello.
“Hi Nick,” Kira says. She pulls Cassie into a quick hug as well, pulling back and tousling her hair. Cassie wrinkles her nose as if smelling an unpleasant odor. She slips past them to take one of the open seats. She is soon followed by a dark haired, middle aged man with dark eyes, a nice suit, and a confident step.
“Hey Hook,” Nick greets him, shaking his hand.
“Good to see you, Nick,” he says, taking a seat next to Kira.
Another dark haired man appears in the doorway, much younger, though; face of a twenty year old, the manner of a teenager, and the eyes of an old man. He looks around the room, assessing it like someone who thinks they might need to leave in a hurry. Nick gives him an inquisitive look as their gazes meet. He pauses for a moment, nods, and then takes a seat farther back from the semi circle. Cassie sit back onto the desk in front of the blackboard.
“Alright,” Nick says, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “I guess you all pretty much know why you’re here, but might not all know each other. Kira, Hook, you guys probably remember each other. Charles---”
“Charlie,” Charlie cuts in.
“Charlie,” Nick continues, “this is Kira.”
Charlie cringes ever so slightly, as if not wanting to be forced to recognize her presence in the room. Nick isn’t particularly surprised by this. Even the Division agents who make it out of memory training in one mental piece come out of it with a healthy distaste for Pushers.
“Kira is probably the best Pusher in the world. This is Hook. An ex-Division agent, world-class Shifter. And I don’t think you’ve met Cassie, our Watcher. Everyone, this is Charlie, ex-Division agent, our Sniff.”
Charlie nods his head to no one in particular, feigning as much boredom as possible.
“I’ve brought you all here today because tomorrow we are going to break into a heavily guarded Division facility and break out the most powerful Watcher in the world.”
Nick takes a breath and watches everyone’s reactions. Kira wears a characteristic smirk, an expression she gained along with the confidence boost being the best at anything gives you. Hook’s face is considerably more incredulous, but contained. Just a raised eyebrow, but raised high enough to tell Nick he’s three sentences from calling him crazy.
“Are you fucking crazy?” Charlie asks.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad, Nick thinks to himself.
“Possibly, but that’s beside the point,” he responds. “We’ll also be doing this in parallel with nine other operations at the same facility.”
“So we’re doing this with help?” Hook asks.
“Oh, no, they’re not directly helping us. It’s every man for himself.”
Charlie sighs loudly and slinks back into his chair, his eyes clenched tight as if to fight off some terrible pain. He says with strain in his voice, “So we’re going to break into a heavily guarded Division facility that no one has ever actually successfully broken into, with nine other teams in our way, to nab a person who is probably public enemy number one for these fuckers?”
Hook shifts in his seat as if offended and responds, “The underground has had countless successful operations against Division in the past.”
“But not against heavily Watched Division facilities,” Charlie says, “and you know why that is? Because they’re fucking Watched.”
“That,” Nick says, “Is why the nine other teams are there. Future washout.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Charlie asks, incredulous.
“It’s what I call it,” Cassie interjects, pushing herself off the desk she had planted herself on. “When there’s too many possible futures it all gets kind of washed out.”
Charlie stares at her confused. Hook looks curious. Kira still has that smirk. It gets on Cassie’s nerves. She goes on like she’s got something to prove.
“When I first started seeing the future it would come in flashes. It wasn’t until I started honing my abilities that I realized that what I was seeing was the most probable future. I think it’s the easiest thing to see at first. But once you get the hang of looking for futures it’s really more of a bunch of probabilities. Every event has multiple possible outcomes, each with their own likelihood, each of those outcomes has its own set of possible subsequent outcomes, and each of those outcomes has more and so on. Some outcomes at the end of the chain are just more likely than others. Usually at any given time one is considerably more likely, but sometimes you can tip the favor by ensuring certain events come out a certain way. Unless there are too many events in the chain. Either the event gets too complicated and random or it’s too far out. Then you start getting too many possible futures, and none of them are more likely than the others. It all washes out.”
“Flip a coin once,” Nick explains, “You can figure out what the outcome will be. Flip a coin 50 times in a row it gets harder to figure out what the outcomes of all those flips are.”
“So nine other teams puts too many variables into the equation,” Hook says. “They can’t figure out how to tip the scales in their favor.”
“Exactly!” Nick says, all too pleased with himself.
“Probably,” Cassie says rolling her eyes. “I’m not sure how strong my abilities are relative to other Watchers. There aren’t a lot of us that have avoided Division, and the ones who have tend to be pretty good at hiding. I’m pretty sure the only reason I didn’t get black bagged as a kid was because they thought I’d be dead by now.”
“Alright,” Charlie says, leaning forward. “So what is the plan, then?”
“Well,” Nick says, hesitating. “There isn’t one.”
Charlie slumps back into his chair.
“You gotta be fucking kidding me,” he says, exasperated.
“This isn’t sounding like a great operation, Nick,” Hook admits.
“Look,” Nick explains, “If we go in with a plan all we’re doing is reducing the randomness making it easier for the Watchers to work against us. All we can do is prepare as much beforehand for every possibility.”
“So how do we know this is going to work?” Kira asks. The room goes silent for an uncomfortable second as if everyone was surprised that she could talk at all.
“Well,” Nick explains. “You know how Watchers can’t tip the scales in their favor if the futures get all washed out?”
Kira nods affirmation.
“Well, I’m pretty sure Cassie’s mom can. She’s the one we’re breaking out,” he explains to Charlie.
“How do you know she’s that good?” Charlie asks.
“Well,” Nick explains, “She orchestrated the escape of Kira here, my meeting Cassie, our take down of one Division’s top agents, and the theft of one of their most valuable drug formulas about fifteen years before any of it actually happened. I figure she can probably look out another five years.”
Charlie’s mouth gapes open for a moment before he catches himself. Everyone in psychic circles knows about that Hong Kong incident. Agent Carver was a scary story psychics told their kids at night. When the news of his death came rippled out it was like the boogeyman had dropped dead. Charlie nods once.
“So how do we prepare?” Charlie asks.
“We’ve got exactly one item of hers. We won’t know where she’s being kept,” Nick says as he draws a diagram of the building on the blackboard, ”And they might move her, so we’re going to need you to give us live updates on her position once we’re inside. Kira, you’re going to be the one getting us in there. We can be prisoners, employees, agents, doctors, I don’t care, as long as we can get past the first set of guards here.”
He marks two places on the diagram.
“Without sounding the alarms yet. Once we get here we’re going to start encountering high level security technology. Hook, we’ll need you to be forging key cards and possibly fooling eye scanners on site.”
Hook passes a hand across his eye, the iris turning blue, and says, “Good thing I wear contacts.”
“Cassie will be on high alert watching for changes in possibilities as the other nine teams get into things.”
“And what’ll you be doing?” Charlie asks.
“Seeing as how I’m basically the muscle, hopefully nothing.”
The guard slams into the wall, the concrete cracking from the impact. Nick falls to one knee panting, the strain of so much Moving taking its toll. The scene is chaos. Nick kneels in a hallway next to collapsed electrical wiring running into a partly ruined ceiling. Lights all over the facility flicker, some burnt out entirely. Cassie runs to his side, using herself to support him back to his feet.
“Still think it was a good plan?” she asks.
“Don’t be jealous of my genius, Cass,” he groans, wincing as he gets back to his feet. “It’s unbecoming.”
Hook rushes past them and several collapsed Division guards to the guard slumped against the wall at the end of the hallway, having just been put there by Nick. He kneels down, wiping blood from a wound in his forehead to keep it from running into his eyes. He pulls out a laser and starts shining it into the unconscious guard’s eye. Charlie and Kira come up next to the Cassie-supported Nick. Charlie clutches a handkerchief in his hand, his gaze far away. Kira clutches a gun in one hand, the other arm hanging awkwardly loose at her side.
“Should be coming up around the corner,” he says, his voice strangely distant. “Not sure she’s alone. Link is weak. Fuzzy.”
“There’s probably two men in there already,” Cassie says. “One Division. One not.”
They walk over to the still kneeling Hook to find looking intently into the guard’s eye. A door to their left remains sealed, a scanner to its side blinking suggestively. A crashing noise bursts from behind. Everyone but Hook turns in surprise to see a middle aged man in a nice, Division quality suit lying on a pile of concrete rubble that used to be a wall. Three people step out from the newly formed whole. A huge, muscular woman steps forward ahead of a tall, hunched over man clutching the hand of what looks to be a kid, not more than 12 years old. The woman grabs the head of the Division agent, and with a quick motion snaps his neck. She walks back and takes the kid’s other hand. The kid looks blankly in the direction of the awestruck group for a moment, and then the three of them just disappear.
“How come you didn’t see that coming, Cass?” Nick asks in shock.
“I... have no idea,” she says, staring at the lifeless Division agent.
“Got it,” Hook says. He stands up, his irises now a greenish tint of amber and walks over the scanner placing his eye against it. It beeps a bit before the door pops open. The group rushes through, following Charlie’s directions until they finally come upon a room where Charlie suddenly stops. Inside a woman lays in a hospital bed, a plethora of tubing running into her arm, her expression distant. Two men stand on either side of the bed facing each other. One has a nice suit, his hands in his pockets, and a shit eating grin. The other has one gun in his hand pointed at the suit, and another hanging suspended in mid-air against his temple. Neither of them visibly react to five new people entering the room.
“There is currently enough cyanide in that tube in her arm to kill an elephant,” the suit states nonchalantly, “And the only thing keeping it from entering her bloodstream is my brain, so I would suggest that you don’t try anything stupid.”
Nick glances over at Cassie, but finds her expression unperturbed. She doesn’t look worried. It gives him confidence. Confidence enough to start considering his options. The IV tubing seems to be attached with a rather strong adhesive. Trying to take it off would probably take off several layers of skin and possibly a couple bones out in the process. And as much as Nick hates to admit it, he’s never been great at the subtle stuff. The best he can do is that coin trick, but that took him a week to get down in the first place. No, the tubing is too risky.
“Well, I guess we’ll all just go home, then,” Nick jokes. The suit’s grin only widens.
He probably can’t take over blocking the cyanide either. That’s also pretty subtle work, and he doesn’t even know where in the tube it is.
“I believe that all I have to do is wait for enough reinforcements to arrive to kill you all before you can move.”
Perhaps he could cut the tube with something. But that would require knowing how far to cut it. There might still be enough cyanide to get in her system. Too risky.
He could maybe just kill the guy. Burst a blood vessel in his brain. Stop his heart. But he doesn’t have any practice with that kind of thing. He’d probably give himself away, and then pop goes the cyanide.
“We may not have been able to predict this future, but that doesn’t mean we won’t still win.”
Actually, he can pull that tubing out. He practiced it beforehand just in case something like this happened.
“We’ll always wi---”
It all happens at once. The air around the tubing warps and flies out, the second man knocks the gun against his head just far enough off that the ensuing gunshot grazes the back of his head, Kira’s gun goes off, two shots, and the suit goes down. It takes a moment for the dust to settle for everyone to figure out what just happened.
“Wait,” Nick thinks. “How did I pull that tube out without---”
He looks at Kira.
“You just had to know you could,” she says with a shrug. Her head turns and finds that Cassie is staring at her. Kira smiles, sincerely this time. Cassie nods in begrudging thanks. Kira locks eyes with Nick, nodding towards Cassie inquisitively. Nick merely looks confused and Kira rolls her eyes.
Cassie goes to her mother’s side, grasping her hand. The distant look rolls toward Cassie, and a moment of lucidity washes over her face in a beaming smile.
Nick bustles around a kitchen, frying eggs, pulling a whistling tea kettle off the stove, getting mugs out of a cupboard. Cassie creeps out of a bedroom quietly, closing the door behind her.
“How’s she doing?” Nick asks. He pours the water into the prepared mugs, dipping the tea bags to speed up the steeping, and passing one to Cassie.
“She’s coming to,” Cassie says. She cups her hands around the mug and pulls it in close to her chest, as if huddling around it’s warmth. “She keeps congratulating me. It’s like she knows something I don’t.”
“Dunno. It just seems likely.”
Nick grabs an egg filled frying pan and slips the eggs out onto two plates filled with bacon and toast. He places one plate in front of Cassie and says, “Breakfast at Chez Grant is served.”
She sets down her mug and stands as he starts putting the hot pans in the sink, turning the stove off. As he turns around she slips her arms around him and pulls him in tight.
“Thank you,” she says. The hug catches him off guard, but he soon closes his arms around her as well.