Krayer felt his life flashing
before his eyes. It wasn't a pretty picture. There were so many regrets,
and he was not accustomed to feeling sorry for the paths he'd
chosen. He had done what he had to do in his life, and for that reason,
he felt he owed no explanations to anyone.
But something was wrong
here. Deadly wrong.
He was sure he was about
to meet his Maker.
He was hurtling through
space, not quite himself, not quite anything at the moment, just disembodied
photonic energy. That particular sensation was not what was troubling
him. He'd experienced it many times before, and after the first few
he'd gotten over the disconcerting uneasiness of existing as trillions
of separate conscious bits of energy. He'd more than mastered the
ability to keep his existence coordinated while in this flux between
the here and now and the then and there.
But now all of the many
parts of him were cascading down the disintegrating matter lines,
and his coordinated control was slipping away, and his chances of
rematerializing were growing slimmer.
He'd plotted the matter
lines himself. There was no way that he could have made this error.
Someone had sabotaged the mission. And he was to suffer the eternal
"Calm yourself!" Krayer
commanded the trillions of specks of consciousness that together made
him who he was. He felt the self-assurance washing through his existence.
The calculated, collected, calmness that he knew so well.
He set his mind in motion,
plotting, calculating, deducing...He drew upon the knowledge and the
reasoning resources he'd honed and perfected over a lifetime of honing
Then, without a Plotter,
without any tools at all, he reconstructed the matter lines. Of course
he knew it was a one-way ticket. Whoever had done this had removed
any chance of his return. Certain death was surely awaiting him there.
He could feel it.
But he knew his coordinates.
He knew his destination. He knew himself.
In the blink of an eye,
Krayer was standing in a field, at the exact coordinates he'd originally
planned to be, completely whole, completely calm, but 200 million
light years from home.
Krayer felt a wave of
proudness surging inside -- He hadn't really been sure he could rescue
himself under those circumstances. But he quickly stifled his emotions.
He didn't deny this surge
of self-worth because of his stoic nature, although his refusal to
allow himself to feel anything may have initiated this response. But
it was not behind the murdering intensity that put it to rest.
It wasn't because he was
stranded so far away from home, either. No place had really ever been
home to him, and so one place was just as good as another, even
if this particular place was on the other side of the universe.
It wasn't because he had
figured out who had done this to him. He had known who it was as soon
as he felt the matter lines disintegrating as he sped through space
towards his destination on Earth. He knew right away that it was Barek.
He had watched Barek's
face for months, but he had detected nothing. Not until he was no
longer himself, as his hopes for rematerializing had begun to disappear,
and he was able to see his life from an infinite scope of perspectives,
did it all become so obvious.
In that moment of clarity,
he saw behind all the veiled gestures. He saw beyond all the words
of admiration. And he was certain without a doubt that Barek
knew all about Krayer's relationship with Drea, Barek's wife.
It was a simple revenge,
and an ingenious one. Krayer had to give Barek credit for that. Barek
had performed more than a work of technical genius, he had done
it all without Krayer even suspecting. He had worked his plot into
the Master Plotter's program, masked and hidden in a way that even
Krayer's cold, meticulous reasoning had not detected. A true masterpiece
of deception, for which Krayer could only feel admiration and respect.
No, that was not what was now sending a shiver through Krayer's existence
His fear was due to the
case suctioned to his chest. The black case was small -- small enough
to fit into his fist. But it was big enough to destroy this entire
planet, this entire
galaxy. And it would. In two days.
And he was stuck here
Krayer had often faced
death during his life. But he had never feared, for he was in tune
with his Fate.
He had the gift of Vision.
Earlier in life he hadn't realized that it had been the key to all
his mercenary successes. He just knew that in those other instances,
death was not awaiting him. Not yet. But now he felt the black box
near his heart, and he knew without a doubt that death was finally
It seemed so ironic that
he should die for love, the Achilles heel he'd always been so careful
to deny before. He knew that Fate had tried to teach him all his life
to be hardened to kindness and love, and not to let anyone near. It
had tried to ready him for that moment when love's arrow would try
to pierce his Achilles tendon.
But he had ignored his life lessons. And he had been tricked not once
but twice, and for this irony, the greatest of all his sins, was he
His first sin was falling
for Drea. He could not understand now, so far from her grasp, how
she had bent his will, made him putty in her hands. He had been but
a slave to her, and he had gladly risked his life so many times for
Then Barek had broken
down his walls of protection. Barek had doted on him, treated him
like the father he had never known. Barek had helped him climb from
wanton mercenary to Master Plotter. Barek had nurtured all the raw
energy that burned inside him and helped him to focus it into a power
that seemed invincible.
Then he discovered, just
a few short months ago, that Drea was Barek's wife, and he felt hatred
for himself. How could he do this to the only two people he had
ever loved. How could he not have known?
But the predicament brought
him to his senses for the first time in a long time. He quickly assured
himself that it was Fate's just punishment for his allowing either
of them get close to him.
Krayer's thoughts returned
once again to the foreign soil that was to claim him. He took a deep
breath of the strange air, and he suddenly realized that the
deception was so much greater than he had thought.
It wasn't just a simple
plot of revenge -- They had planned this from the beginning!
Was it not Drea who had
brought him into the Circle in the first place? Was it not because
of her that Barek was introduced to him? And it was Barek who brought
him before the Council. Convinced them that Krayer was the only one
who could find a way to cross the universe in time to stop a future
that the Visionaries had foreseen. A future that promised destruction
for their kind, destruction, if another race of life was allowed to
Barek, a Visionary himself,
had seen Krayer's potential, had known that he was the chosen one.
And had used love and kindness to manipulate him from the start.
What a fool he had been
to think that he was invincible. He was just a pawn in some terrible
political plot. All his power and talent were only the means to carry
out this horrific act of genocide.
Anger swept through him,
turning into self-hatred. He felt his control slipping away. His emotions
were running wild. He felt dizzy. He felt sick. His life flashed before
his eyes for the second time as consciousness evaded him, and he passed