“Stop right there, Gaia,” BlackJack said. He stood in the center of the street, both hands on his hips, while pedestrians fled the scene along both sidewalks. His black and red harlequin costume billowed in the wind; the bells on the ends of his jester hat jingled.
Moments ago Gaia erupted from beneath the police station; it was demolished in an instant. She then began violently strolling down the street. The Earth Goddess lashed out at innocent bystanders using whip-like vines.
BlackJack had never dealt with Gaia, his normal hero job was across the country. Everyone talked about how unstoppable Gaia was, but he hoped his unique approach could make a difference. He took a trip to Gaia’s city hoping for an encounter, and she appeared on his first day in town.
“Hola, Borracho,” Gaia smiled at BlackJack. Her greeting made BlackJack tilt his head curiously, but she kept speaking. “I hope you’re just passing through,” she said. BlackJack knew enough Spanish to know that ‘borracho’ translated to ‘drunk’; but, he had no idea why she called him that.
“Are you drunk?” BlackJack asked. He was hopeful because that would make his job a lot easier. “Why did you say that?” Gaia laughed and shook her head.
“You’re Unique Soul #25, El Borracho,” she said. “You’re like me. I’m-,” her explanation was interrupted by BlackJack.
“We’re nothing alike!” he shouted. Gaia rolled her eyes. Three vines twisted themselves together and whacked BlackJack across the face like an open-handed slap. BlackJack was genuinely caught by surprise; though he tried to stay calm and ignore the sting. He wanted Gaia to think he let her get a shot in. But, unlike being able to see the probability of things in a normal fight; he never saw it coming. A kernel of doubt took hold in the back of his mind.
“Oh shut up. I’m not comparing us, you dolt. It’s the same as if I said we were both mammals,” Gaia said. She glared at BlackJack as if daring him to interrupt again, but he did not say a word. She continued.
“I’m #37, El Mundo.” BlackJack’s high school Spanish kicked in again and he recognized her as ‘The World’. Her powers made a lot of sense all of a sudden; and, it made him wonder. If he was like her, what were his powers? Being drunk? At 28, he’d never come close to being drunk.
“So, what does that mean?” BlackJack asked. He noticed that the last of the pedestrians were almost out of the way; it was time to start his plan. He decided on using the street lamp behind her to bring her down. She seemed talkative and he was sure he could keep her attention long enough. It just needed a little help.
As the final bystander ran away, BlackJack changed the odds around his escape. The portly man tripped over his own shoes and stumbled forward into a parked motorcycle. He brought the cycle down, then scrambled back up to keep moving. He did not notice that the gas cap hit the edge of a concrete curb in the just the right way to pop it off.
“It means,” Gaia said. “I know everything about this Earth. And you
can manipulate probabilities.”
“What?” BlackJack asked. At that same moment, they both heard the sound of breaking glass. One of the cracked windows that Gaia lashed out at finally collapsed. The electric sign that was on the window fell forward and rolled toward the street; it was stopped by the fallen motorcycle. Then, after a bright crackle, it started to spark.
BlackJack never told anyone how his powers work; most of the time he explained it as “luck manipulation”. He could change the probability of anything happening to 100% most of the time. As long as there was a chance of it happening at all. The fleeing man only had a 5% chance of tripping, but BlackJack tipped the scale, and aimed his fall.
“Why are you surprised?” Gaia asked. Then, she grinned. “I told you, Preston,” BlackJack flinched when she used his real name. “I know everything about this Earth.”
A single stray spark from the sign landed in the motorcycle’s gas tank. It exploded with a boom and the motorcycle was sent straight into the base of the light pole. Then, the damaged pole fell forward towards Gaia’s head. She took a single step back just in time avoid certain death. The light pole crashed into the asphalt.
“I know all about your abilities, Preston. And, I’ve made a decision to help you learn about them too,” she said. When she spoke, BlackJack felt a sudden, intense chill run down his spine; but, he couldn’t place the cause.
“For your first lesson, take a look around and see if you can guess what my decision was,” she smiled. BlackJack looked around at the cars first; his eyes went wide.
When Preston used his ability it produced a list of numerical probabilities sorted from most to least likely. The man he tripped earlier could have gotten away without tripping, or he could have been lashed to death by Gaia.
Preston looked from car to car, then up at lamp posts, building signs, anything he could see. The only possibility on every object read: “Lashed to death.”
For a moment he hoped that it meant the cars would be lashed to death, but every new possibility made it clear that that was the only outcome. BlackJack hung his head; his bells jingled one last time.