All of it, all of this great competition between the greatest thieves in the world was about one thing: prophecy.
The prophecy said the best of the thieves would be instrumental, if not absolutely necessary, to stop some great evil threat to the world.
As preposterous as the idea was, he had found himself wishing for it to be legitimate because that lead to only one of two possible outcomes.
One, he was the great world evil, which would not be without its irony, but he would be able to live with it if it meant burning the world to cinder.
Two, he was this ‘veritable best’ thief and instrumentally necessary to stop the great evil. This would provide the greatest satisfaction, most especially since he could then stand and do nothing but observe as the world was dealt its ultimate destruction.
This world, which had had the gall to criminalize him, even call him Mad, after everything he had sacrificed for it? This world deserved nothing else. And it would be an absolute delight to be a part of it.
“Win win win…”
Of course that was all inconsequential; he did not put stock in prophecies. His goal was the protection of the Shadow Conclave. Upon coming out of competition, the victor, he would undoubtedly be able to put his grandest of plans in action, consequentially provoking damage of unprecedented proportions to most of the world’s communities. The Shadow Conclave’s protection would see to its success.
He dropped a hugger noise mine in front of a door, after having used his portable lock mechanism to lock it again. It deployed on its own, ready to attach to the next person to step on it. Both devices were of his own design and manufacture so they both, of course, worked perfectly.
“On to the next infrastructure,” he whispered in delight.
His eyes, badly burned behind the cover of his eye-goggles, or more accurately, eye-monocles since they had different features, looked up at one of the gaslight balloons. He held on to his dark top-hat, the only remaining thing from his days as a prestigious member of the Academy of All-Knowing All-Certain science, looking at the luminous existence. It would take but a flicker of a finger to extinguish it.
“If only the world was like that.” It was motivation that had driven him on the previous competition, and was still the driving force of his present participation.
His previous endeavor to win the Conclave had gone terribly awry, mostly due to a lack of foresight on his part. He did not anticipate the prohibition to harm his competitors. Having packed naught but devices meant to incapacitate or kill, he found himself stripped of his would be advantage.
He walked to the next door and opened his right palm, which was as mechanic as his entire right arm and left leg. These appendages, built by himself, were gold-plated and imbued with the very best that his scientific knowledge of present day technology could conjure up, pistons and gears and armored plating making up their worth. A hole opened in his palm as he pressed it against the lock.
Despite the fact he had lost the previous Shadow Conclave, he was certain he would be called to participate yet again. He solidified that certainty by stealing the entire contents of the art museum of Parishn. After which he burned it all, of course.
He smiled in amusement, pushing open the door with ease. He walked onward, his metallic foot sounding hard against the wood. His gentleman’s suit, complete with bow-tie and jacket, would be dark and handsome if it wasn’t for its overuse and lack of maintenance. It scraped against the clock he had strapped to his chest by cables that connected it to his right arm, around his chest and back and over his left shoulder.
He found the resident, a man, in the bed. He looked groggy, not really sure what was going on.
“Good evening, sir, do show me the kindness of not raising your voice.” He aimed his right arm at him and a small gun barrel peaked out of the top of his wrist. Non participants were, after all, fair game.
The man suddenly shivered and pushed himself out of his “bed” – a too grandiose term, he felt, to use on what was little else than a thick sheet on the ground…
The man collided against the wall and nodded fervently.
“This night, I shall be relieving you of either your valuables,” he told him, “or your valuables and your life. Your life is only worth how much time you save me. I will give you three seconds to decide.”
As was usual, the man only needed one.
“By the way, if it concerns you, and it should, you have the pleasure of meeting Goldshmidt,” the Mad Genious smirked from behind his cloaked face, since only his nose and mouth were visible through the cocoon of bandages that wrapped his face. “Falk Goldshmidt”
He edged the man onward and thanks to his cooperation, it took but five minutes to acquire all valuables. For that reason, Falk did allow the man to live.
He left the house with satisfaction. Why waste time sifting through cupboards and closets and drawers? A waste of time, to be sure, not that he did not have mechanisms to unravel the worth or presence of metals, technology he still used, but a guiding hand expedited the matter.
He walked along pleasantly, hearing a couple of his mines sounding off yards away. They were not only getting competitors jailed but also diverting any law enforcing agents well away from his path. He used the sirens to direct his way and, as planned, it had kept him well away from the patrolling officers.
He considered it was odd he had not met with another competitor. Though he was not simply walking in the light, he was making little effort to keep himself hidden and the noise would surely be diverting whoever wasn’t producing it…towards him.
He approached a pricey looking house. He thought to booby-trap the lock with an alarm but soon noticed it had windows and one of them was wide open.
“Blasted, is it an oriental practice to invite criminals into their homes?” Of course it was a second floor window so that was a tad unfair, but it still frustrated him. “These people need to be properly educated in home security.”
He lock-picked the door and opened it. Unless there were children in the house, he was going to kill the residents. Maybe that would teach the entire city to properly lock their windows. At the very least, he would save some future child from suffering due to their parents’ negligence.
As soon as he entered through the door on the ground floor, he heard a yell coming from upstairs.
“Up and against the wall, damn you! How many of you are going to visit me today, huh?!”
It seemed the house had already been visited. Still, the situation presented a uniquely fortuitous opportunity. He raised his hands and climbed the steps up to the upper floor.
The man was holding a ridiculous-looking rifle, that probably only had one bullet, it likely was older than any of them. The thief was holding out his hands, looking a tad alarmed.
“Now calm down, mister, there’s no need for violence, I’ll just be on my way, alright?”
“Well that is so unbecoming of such a world-renowned thief,” the Mad Genious called attention to himself. The resident, a bit unshaven and balding, quickly turned his head and jittered, thinking about where to aim the gun. It all but confirmed he only had one bullet.
“Who are you?! Who are all you people?!??”
“We, sir, are thieves.”
“Shut up, man, go away,” his competitor pleaded, but his fate was sealed as far as the Mad Genious was concerned.
“Thieves? You two together?”
“No we’re not! What?!”
Falk gave his competitor a quick look from top to bottom, recognizing the devices covering his feet and some of the things sticking out of his backpack. He made a quick deduction as to who it was and felt quite delighted at his conclusion.
“I am the Mad Genious, papers would tell you…and my friend here is the Dark Runner.”
“What?!” The athletic and blonde overgrown teen reacted in shock. “Look, I’m a thief but I’ve got no intention to hurt you, I just want to go, ok?” He was sweating, but then so was the house owner.
One more little push.
“Yess…” the Mad Genious employed a suspicious tone of voice, “we just came here to steal, not to hurt…” he massaged his mechanical wrist, seeing the man’s eyes jittering towards it. Nervously. “So just relax and me and my friend will both–”
The Mad Genious’s heart jubilated at being interrupted. He usually hated it, but the sound of gun-powder igniting was glorious, but more importantly, victorious. The Dark Runner’s body bounced off the wall in thunderous shock, blood gushing from him, and then trailing him.
He was on the ground, gurgling his way to death. The home owner ignored it and quickly turned the gun towards Falk himself.
“I know you! I know your name! You’re a murderer!”
“I am a teacher,” the Mad Genious corrected with an evil smirk, “and a very well studied one at that. For instance, I am well aware that that gun can hold only one bullet, which you were already lucky enough not to have backfired on your face.”
“You’re wrong, you dunno jack! I’ve got a bullet for each limb o’ you!”
His heart now darkened, hurt and struck in its wound. His smirk faded into a grin, a crazy grin that stretched his bandages, tightening them enough to show the uneven burnt skin and bone behind them.
The old man stepped back.
“Oh really? I am wrong then?! I’m wrong, is what you’re saying?”
He marched towards the man who held the gun, obviously paralyzed by fear. “It is you who are wrong, you who know nothing!”
Falk grabbed hold of the gun’s barrel with his prosthetic hand, an empty click sounded out in return.
“Oh but yes,” he smacked the man across the face with the butt of the rifle and a woman’s voice came from his room, a yelp she was unable to shush. He glanced inside and, in one moment of clarity, noted no signs of them being parents. That in turn allowed him get in a good mood again.
“I really am a teacher, and I delight in ridding any and all existence of their ignorance. Unfortunately, and you must trust my judgment on this, for I am always right…” he aimed his hand at him, the small gun barrels appearing from the top of his wrist, “you are nothing but ignorance personified. Why else would you claim me? To be wrong?”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry please, you were right, ok? I was wrong, I was–”
The Mad Genious shot the man in the head with a frown of disgust.
“You were wrong to injure the reputation of Falk Goldshmidt, yes you were. And you,” he turned to the woman, “you were wrong to announce yourself. But rest assured, I am certain you will serve your city as well as your husband did.”
The woman shrieked for but a moment before being silenced by a shot to the throat. And as she bled away, along with her husband and one of the thieves most likely to win the competition, the Mad Genious walked back down the stairs.
Despite his great victory, he felt disgruntled. Angry.
“Brainless rejects…I have no doubt being a lesson to your city will be the greatest achievement of all your lives…”