“You’re alive,” Rachel commented, as I stormed back into the room. She sounded surprised.
“You’re different,” Zoe added.
I’m better, I wanted to reply. After all, I had Gabriel’s power, now. The last part of the fight was a little hazy, but I had his power. That was all that mattered.
“I got what I wanted,” I said, shrugging.
“You killed him?” Rachel asked, putting down the circuit board she was fiddling with.
“No. We came to an understanding.”
“That sounds more like him,” Zoe said, surprisingly easy to convince. “Done with the distractions now?”
Not even close. Your pathetic mission to get yourself home is at the very bottom of my priority list, you monster. I need to find Haylie, then destroy Charlie.
“In a manner of speaking,” I said cryptically.
Zoe twitched, a clear sign of irritation. She was having a harder and harder time hiding it. Or maybe I was just getting better at spotting it. Either way, she was easier to read, which was an advantage for me.
“Oh, what now?” she asked, mimicking Rachel and putting down the bundle of wires in her hands.
“I believe I owe Rachel a debt,” I said, my rehearsed lines flowing easily. Rachel gave me a curious look.
“I was… angry, before,” I said, and it almost sounded genuine enough to convince me. “I’m sorry.”
“Apology accepted,” she said, her confused expression nearly managing to mask her scepticism.
“Now, I want to help you.”
“Your side project,” I said.
“Side project?” Zoe asked, her focus sharpening on Rachel.
“The Celestial,” Rachel replied, answering Zoe and confirming my inference.
Zoe looked exasperated. If I was being fair, I couldn’t really blame her. She’d been stuck here for months, and despite trying to keep herself, kept getting swept up in all of the chaos this city seemed to be embodying these days. Unfortunately for her, I wasn’t interested in being fair.
“I think we should bring him down,” I said. “He already found us once.”
“We don’t have the resources,” Zoe argued.
“On that, I disagree,” Rachel said, stepping away from her desk. Zoe rolled her eyes.
“You obviously have some plan in the works.”
“Purely conceptual,” Rachel assured her.
The two of them stared at each other, and the tension was obvious. Their ability to work together was being pushed. Maybe something to distract them would be good for everyone?
“Between the three of us, we can do anything,” I said, trying to channel the naïve optimism I’d been pushing before Veronica had died. They both bought it.
“I’m listening,” Zoe said, though her tone suggested otherwise. We both looked at Rachel, who hesitated for only a moment.
“Alright. Here’s what I know,” she said. “The Stars are the most dangerous gang in the city. Not the largest, but they’re the best equipped, best organised and they have the advantage of prescience.”
“Prescience?” I asked, unfamiliar with both the word and the application.
“The Celestial can, for all intents and purposes, see the future.”
“Impossible,” Zoe said immediately.
“Lot of that going around,” Rachel said dismissively. “But to be more specific, he sees possibility and probability, so he always knows where to be, and where not to be.”
Well that just sounds unfair.
“How the hell do you fight someone like that?” I asked, feeling confident she had a plan, or at least a theory. That was her whole thing, right?
“He’s still limited,” Zoe said. “He has to be.”
“Right you are,” Rachel agreed. “His precognitive abilities seem unreliable when it comes to people like us.”
“Us?” I asked, feigning ignorance. It was new information, but I wasn’t nearly as clueless as I wanted them to think I was. “You mean like, superhumans?”
“Precisely,” Rachel said. “At a guess, I’d say our abilities create an exponentially greater possibility output, and he can’t keep up.”
“Convenient,” Zoe said, almost muttering it. It was a little out of character for her.
“I have a theory about that too, but we’ll save that for another time,” Rachel said. “Let’s focus on what we can do.”
Thankfully, they were both saying exactly the things I needed them to. They were happy to focus on the Celestial, who would bring me that much closer to Haylie.
“Alright,” Zoe agreed.
“His entire network has one very obvious weak point,” Rachel said.
“Him,” I chimed in, surprising both of them. I smiled nervously, almost childishly. Their focus returned to the discussion.
“And how, exactly, do we get to him?” Zoe asked, back to sounding exasperated.
“He’s not well guarded,” Rachel said with a shrug.
“How do you know?” I asked, prompting.
“More people knowing where he is makes him vulnerable,” Rachel explained. “He trades in information. He knows how dangerous it can be, so he relies on his assassin for protection.”
As if for impact, she rubbed her palm, the one that had been cute wide open after her last fight with Miss Murder.
“Didn’t she nearly kill you?” I asked, skirting the edge of provocative. Rachel shook her head.
“One on one, she’s dangerous, but I survived, and I was already at the end of my rope. Between the three of us, we’ll be fine.”
I couldn’t bring myself to take Miss Murder seriously as a threat. With the possible exception of Rachel, her power seemed like the least threatening thing to me I could think of. I mean, teleporting? She didn’t have superhuman speed or strength, just a knife. Even if she could take me by surprise, she couldn’t cause any serious damage, and I doubted she was fast enough to stay ahead of me, especially with Ami’s power.
“You’re assuming my involvement,” Zoe said, almost petulantly. Rachel bristled.
“I told you, it’s all hypothetical.”
You’re getting off track. Focus on moving forward, not whether it’ll work. It doesn’t matter if it works, so long as it gets me close to him.
“So how do we find him, then?” I asked.
“We start at the bottom,” Rachel said. “Go out into the street, snatch one of his lieutenants. Pump them for information, rinse and repeat.”
“How delightfully crude,” Zoe remarked.
“If you’ve got a better idea…”
“I do, as a matter of fact,” Zoe said shortly. “I’m going to stay here, and keep working on the Gate. If you want to waste time on this, fine, but leave me out of it.”
“Happily,” Rachel snapped. “Sabrina, come with me. We don’t need help, especially for this part. If you can provide the muscle, I can come up with a solution to this.”
“I’m all ears,” I said, as she led me away from Zoe.
Next Week: There Are Far Worse Things I Could Do To Him