Terry Pines strolled through the downtown district with a smile on his face. The Saturday crowd gave him plenty of opportunities to play with his ability and, the sun shone brightly for the first time in weeks on this particular Saturday. The crowd moved from store to store, losing and gaining individuals as everyone went about their own business.
“Lies told today,” he focused on the thought, then numbers appeared over everyone’s head. He enjoyed watching that stat in real time. He heard an argument nearby and turned to watch a couple in the middle of a heated discussion. The “10” above a man’s head ticked up to “11” while he yelled vehemently at the woman, with a “3” over her head, who seemed to not be listening. Terry chuckled as he walked by, and tried a different stat. “Number of people killed,” He looked around the sea of “0”s and “1”s floating above everyone’s head and chuckled. It surprised him at first, of course. However, once he realized that people have no grasp of how their actions affect others he realized all the extra ones and occasional twos don’t matter too much.
Terry turned a corner at the end of the block and began to consider his next stat. As he let the power fade he caught a glimpse of a number ahead of him fade out.
“What?” the surprise caused him to speak aloud to himself. “Number of people killed.” He focused on the stat again, and there it was. “999 999 999” in dark red letters floating above a short woman’s head. She was bald, but a red tattoo of a skull decorated the top of her head. The woman turned into an alley out of Terry’s sight, and his steps grew larger to catch up to her.
“She did have almost a billion kills.” Terry’s mind reminded him before he turned into the alleyway. He looked around at the crowd flowing by, then up at the sun. “Broad daylight. Tons of people. I’ll be fine,” he decided. He stepped into the alley and saw the short woman ahead of him between two large buildings. The alley stretched about 90′, and the woman was almost at the other end.
Terry did not know how to follow her down the alley without being obvious, but she made a sudden sharp turn into a doorway on the right side of the alley and disappeared.
“This is stupid.” Terry reprimanded himself, but his legs carried him through the alley towards the point she disappeared through. He reached an open arch in the side of the building to his right and peered in. He caught sight of a different woman, pale and thin, wearing an elegant white business suit. She sat alone at a small picnic table in what looked to be a small garden. A black and red cat sat on the table facing Terry through the doorway.
“Come in, I’d like to talk to you,” the woman in white said. Terry looked up from the cat and realized the woman stared directly at him too. “You’re special, aren’t you?” she asked with a friendly smile.
Terry’s eyes went wide and he leaped through the door. He felt different his whole life, and his ability confirmed it. Somehow he knew there was more to learn about himself, but he never knew where to start. The moment he stepped through the door, something changed. The air around him felt different. He looked up and noticed the woman and the cat both had numbers floating above their heads, even though they did not before he stepped through the door. “118 999 881” hovered in black numbers above the woman in white and “999 999 999” hovered above the cat.
He turned in a hurry, but his body rammed into the wall behind him.
“OW!” he fell backward and landed on the soft grass, but he rolled over quickly to stand up. “Don’t hurt me!” he said and pressed himself back against the wall as if he could force himself through it somehow.
“Hurt you? My dear Pino, I’m here to help you,” The woman in white stood from her seat, and slowly closed the gap between her and Terry. She stopped five feet away from him and held her palms up at to show she meant no harm. “You have no idea how much you’ve just helped me,” a broad smile overtook her face, showing her perfect white teeth. Terry remained pressed against the wall.
“How’d I help you?” What happened to the door that was here?” Terry asked. The woman gave a slight chuckle.
“Those are actually the same answer. Come, sit.” She cocked her head to the table, then walked back to her seat. Terry relaxed slightly. He was trapped for the moment, but she did not seem to mean him any harm at least. He took a deep breath then sat in the chair opposite the woman; in front of the cat. The moment he sat down the cat stood up to hop off the table.
“I work with unique individuals, like yourself. All of them have some sort of ability,” she winked at Terry but continued to speak. “But along with that, there are certain,” she paused for a second, then continued. “Tradeoffs, or rules I guess you could call them. I don’t have the time to go into too much detail at the moment, but let’s just say that you helped me break one of those rules. And as a reward, you’re going to get upgraded!” The woman in white smiled and stood from her seat. “Janet, if you please,” she said.
“Who’s Ja-” The short bald woman touched the back of Terry’s neck and he immediately lost consciousness.