The young man jolted, glaring at him in surprise.
“Wha-what? Hey, who’re you?”
He finally pushed his poncho out of his shoulders while his gun arm aimed at the boy who had the gall to not recognize him.
“You tinker with that thing like you know what you’re doing, and yet you fail to recognize the greatest inventor in the world?!”
The boy obviously failed to even recognize his gun arm as a gun arm because his reaction was to raise an eyebrow and, without a worry in sight, pronounce a very dubious, “what? You?”
His mood worsened considerably.
To hell with stealth.
He shot the kid in the arm. The sound of the blast echoed back and forward across the hall, along with the yell that followed.
“Ahhhhh!” He dropped whatever menial box he had been playing around with and stepped back to the wall, gripping at the wound. “Whyyyy?? Who are you?”
“I am Doctor Goldschmidt, you insufferable well of infinite ignorance!” It felt good to terrorize, he was in power again, but his mood just worsened further due to his need to explain himself. “Falk Goldschmidt!”
“Uuuh…ok? What do you want?”
The kid did not know who he was. He almost shot him in the head right there but with stealth out the window, he needed to know where to go as soon as possible. He contained himself, his mood worsening to unfamiliar levels.
“Who are you with? Who owns these installations?”
He shot at the ground, startling him further.
“Do you wish to die, boy??!”
“No! That’s why I can’t say, please! Jus-just go that way.” He pointed to his right, Falk’s left, “it’ll take you to the main office – the boss is there, as it happens. He is, please don’t kill me!”
The boy had finally dropped the shell of indifference, tears were welling up in his eyes as whimpering took over his breathing.
Falk scoffed. The kid would still be useful.
The boy followed his instructions, the Mad Genius grabbed one of his noise mines and put it on his back.
“Wha-what is this?”
“Speed mine,” he activated it, “once it starts making noise, it will blow if it stops moving.”
He triggered it. The alarm started sounding and the boy yelled in fear, darting off in a run through the hall Falk had come from. He smirked, pleased, and followed the way that had been pointed out to him.
It was a lie, of course, the mine was a sticky bomb on a timer, and the boy would luckily kill someone important with it, as well as rid the world of his stupid existence.
He considered what he was doing, however. Everything felt like a trap, but at the same time, it didn’t. He was certain no one knew he was there, nobody outside the main group of the Shadow Conclave.
He should maybe leave the base with what information he had, it would make much of a difference to all the other members. The question was, what did he benefit from it?
They didn’t know who he was, these people, and what they did know were insults. They had potentially placed Lisa to arrange his secrets, the thought of having to kill her made him all the angrier.
Nothing fared as badly, however, like the fact they thought he was under control. Call him crazy and write him up to die. No words of warning, no major plans to deal with him, nothing. They assumed he wasn’t an issue.
That stung most of all, although, he was about to knock on their door and shoot them down, so his mood had a mixed rise and drop, overall remaining moreover at the same level.
He had to hide inside a room so some strong-looking men could run past him, chasing the noise, but otherwise his walk was uneventful.
After a few minutes, the sound now long gone, and he was facing some stairs. He climbed them for what he guessed were three floors and then walked one more corridor to face with a door which looked prominently wider than all the others.
He smiled. “Finally.”
Falk approached and pushed it open like he owned it. He held on to it mid-way as he landed eyes on about five men with double-barrelled pistols that were twice the size of pistols, all locked and aimed.
He considered closing the door and running, he could drop a mine and—
“Come on in.”
The familiar tone of voice struck a nerve, as did the guns cocking while their sites were on him. He would not close the door faster than they would pull their triggers. He didn’t believe what his brain told him that he was hearing, who he was hearing, so much so that curiosity drove him to fully open the door. Beyond the fact that he was not, of course, afraid.
His eyes gyrated into full zoom, he wanted to be sure he wasn’t suffering from some kind of trick. Behind three other soldiers, stood a black man with grayed out hair, half-leaning on a cane.
“Good of you to finally show up…Falk.”
There was no trick.
“Griff,” he scowled, connecting dots he never even knew were there.
His mood hit an all-time low.
The Mad Genius wasn’t feeling much like a genius. That made him feel ravenously upset, to such degrees that he did not find anything to say. He wasn’t afraid – Falk could never imagine himself dying. Indeed, part of him was thoroughly convinced he would one day find a way to stop his aging – so his stance was more intimidating than anything while he waited for Griff to say something.
Griff lightly pointed at him with his hand still on the cane as if making a passive observation.
“You killed the Dark Runner.”
The statement, nevertheless, darkened the room. He could tell the name meant something to all those men with the guns, something dearly missed. His eyes, fake as they were, showed no reaction, but his brow raised somewhat in surprise. His arms turned and hugged behind his back.
“Really?” Griff settled. “You’re surprised?”
“I am not surprised you know,” he finally spoke, somehow downward, “I’m surprised you care. You are certainly aware I did not assassinate him, correct? I would have been disqualified.”
“I wanted you to go through,” he explained with a small shrug, “because I wanted you at the meeting. I know the part you played in his death.”
Realization dawned on the Mad Genius. In reaction, he turned on his tracker by pressing lightly on the base of his fake elbow. He spoke to cover the noise of the small switch.
“Because you wanted me here.”
Griff waved his arm half-way in presentation, confirming the truth in his deduction.
“The Dark Runner, at the time of his death, had already passed the round. I felt sure he was the best.”
“Clearly, that was not the case.”
“Clearly not,” Griff smirked, “but neither are you.”
“Judge is still out on that,” Falk defied.
“No,” he shook his head, still calm and collected, “you killed my son. I brought you here to kill you.”
“Your son? I…failed to see the family resemblance.” The boy, he remembered, was fair skinned. He didn’t say it as an apology however, it was a simple statement.
“You didn’t look close enough,” Grif offered in a grunt, half-offended.
“Hm.” Probably an adoption. The Mad Genius looked around in appraisal, “I have to say you are more capable than I gave you credit for.”
“’Re you referring to the fact the secret organization competing with the Shadow Conclave is, at the end of it all, the Tech Guild itself?”
He looked stared back at Griff.
“Kidnapping you and the others was one of many actions we took to pass the appearance of competition. Exclusive competition, as in, people don’t think they’re tied together. The truth is, I tied them together, as I plan to one day tie the whole world together.”
The Mad Genius scoffed.
“You plan to take over the world? How quaint.”
“You’d think that,” he said with a frown, “everyone would. I took a lesson from the Scavenger’s Teens a long time ago.”
“So you would take advantage of this invasion? Of the death of powers and the fall of governments.”
“The invasion is the priority, I’m not insane.” Like you, the tone of voice seemed to translate. “But essentially? Yes. I’ll continue using my position in the Shadow Conclave to the benefit of my own organization. The Tech guild will unite the lands, and I will rule it all from behind the kings and presidents that we put in place.”
The Mad Genius regarded Griff.
“Uninspiring, and far from what I was referring to before.”
“What? What’re you talking about?”
Falk leaned his head patiently.
“Do try to follow, old man. When I said you were competent, I was referring to the fact you went through all this trouble to ambush me.” The original Dark Runner, co-savior of the entire world, looked insulted and impatient. “You give me due credit, so you are smarter than I gave you credit for. But this web of shadows and deceit you are administrating? Uninspired.”
“Your ego really is just…baffling,” Griff stated spitefully.
“It is in the exact measure,” Falk smiled. “Trust me, I know, I’m an engineer.”
“No, I’m an engineer.” He pressed against his staff making a small barrel protruded from it. “You researchers think you’re so above others, that you’re going around with intelligence that’s unmatchable.”
“I make no claims for others,” Falk shrugged, “but me? I’m–”
Falk’s smile dropped.
“You might very well be the most intelligent man on the planet, but you’re not smart. Not at all. That’s why there’re no scientists holding power. Any kind of power.”
“I do no—”
“They’ve never held a throne,” Griff interrupted, looking at the side, “they’ve never led others. They’ve never taken power, they’ve never been in power. They never will. Your intelligence is only shadowed by one thing and that’s your sheer egomaniacal stupidity. You’re not smart, you’re not interested in being smart – you even see it as a fault. Because of that, you have no impact on the world.”
“We invent the world,” Falk said quietly, the same way a predator grows quietely.
“No,” Griff scoffed, looking back at him, “you invent things, and the best you can hope for is that whichever of the smart people that maybe take an interest in changing the world with them, will pay you for them. And they usually don’t.”
Griff then did what no one had done for many many years. He looked down on the Mad Genius.
“I’m an engineer, sure…but I’m so much more. It’s a skill, not who I am and not what defines me, and definitely not what dictates my life. My achievements. My goals. Intelligence? Knowledge? They’re all means, not ends.”
The Mad Genius laughed then.
“One can—“ a loud thump sounded as something hit his neck, through the bandages, thoroughly interrupting him. His eyes gyrated and extended and contracted as his nerves went haywire, his body tensing up, and then they all stopped as he fell down.
“I’m not interested in what you have to say,” Griff told him, returning the cane to normal with another squeeze, “I’m not the least bit curious about what you think. As far as you’re concerned, the only question that is relevant – for anyone really – is how much pain can I make you feel before you die.”
He gestured at the soldiers
“Take him and strip him. Remove his mechanical limbs, too. And careful about that, he’ll have built safeties.”
With the threats, with the impending doom, the Mad Genius was still not focused on any of that. Again, the consideration he might actually die did not register his mind. He would figure out a way out of his predicament.
No, what occupied his mind, fully and completely, was anger: indignant, unprecedented anger. For being ignored. For being interrupted. For being dismissed.
Griff, the original Dark Runner. He was the leader of what were probably the two most secretive and powerful organizations in the world, which were working every other to his favor. He thought he knew everything. He believed he had nothing else to learn.
The Mad Genius would teach him otherwise.