Of course, he was dealing with highly intelligent individuals, so he wasn’t at all surprised when the Mole slumped back in his chair.
“What exactly happened inside the vessel, Falk?”
“I recruited the aid of the Circus Freak and the Eye.”
“The Clown?!” She reacted insulted.
“He was a successful diversion, girl. The Eye made sure we found their leader, and together, we offered him the support of the LBA. We explained our goal and pledged an alliance.”
“And he said no,” the Architect guessed.
“He called us inferior, he called me obsolete,” he forced his smirk to retain, struggling but failing, to not show unbridled anger. “So I shot him in the head and then made my escape. The Eye fell short of doing the same.”
“You caused the Eye’s death,” the Mole shook his head, “seriously?”
“I don’t like your tone, Mole.”
“Well, I don’t like the fact you killed a friend of mine.” For once, the man had actually shrugged.
“We have to be understanding,” the Architect broke in. He had turned half-sideways and was tapping his fingers on the table. Patiently. His mind calculating things he thought Falk didn’t know about. “They are in the right to believe themselves superior. Whether that is true or not is, in the end, pretty moot.”
“Not to me,” Falk snarled. “They need to know better and if that can only come with their destruction, then so be it.”
“So you’re a lackey of the Shadow Conclave, now? You’d make enemies of us?”
He glanced at the girl, trying to remember her name. It was foreign and rare and obscured by a myriad of stage names, so saying it would shut her up. He had never cared enough, but there was not enough knowledge in the world to overflow out of his mind.
It was in there, he just had to snatch it.
“Oh, be quiet, Jufeng,” she opened her eyes in shock, “why are you even here?” She glared angrily but he didn’t react, she wasn’t worthy of even a gloating smirk. Plus, he was too angry himself.
“Falk. I apologize for using these words, but this is madness.”
He looked back at the Architect. Was his the mind behind which everyone had rallied? Was that why he was there? He glanced over at Mole whose stance and disposition indicated the presence of an easy smile, and yet, were deprived of it. He looked placid. Amanda was turning a lighter on and off, for some reason staying well out of the whole discussion. Of course, nobody could tell where he was looking, his optics stayed fixed on the Architect.
“I agree, you are mad, because you have set yourselves on a collision course with me.”
“Falk. You are a brilliant man, but respectfully, still just a scientist.”
Falk leaned back in sudden insult.
“Excuse me?” His voice came out as if fighting through barbwire he had just swallowed.
“You cannot hope to prevail against our efforts, we are organized now. Minds of tactics and strategy will always–”
Falk stood up in a rage, punching the table so as to shut him up.
“JUST A SCIENTIST???!!”
The tension in the room shot up to outer space. Amanda and the Mole were then very tellingly making an effort to continue looking, respectively, disinterested and absentminded. The Architect and the Magnificent Magician switched to a more active stance, one which would enable them to jump out of the way should Falk try something.
“How long am I supposed to stand by as these ignoble misjudgments are spouted in my face!? I am the greatest mind on the planet, you buffoon! A builder! A builder like you considers himself my better??” The Architect squinted his eyes, himself offended. “Yes, a builder. I can build things too, things far beyond your meager grasp of mathematics!”
The Mad Genius was not done.
“I am a scientist, yes! I am an engineer! I am whatever the void I want to be!” He pointed his mechanical arm at him, finger stretched outright, “insult me again, Pesach! I will kill you. Pursue your efforts to aid those beasts who had the gall to call me obsolete, who have insulted all of us! And I will bring your mighty organization crumbling around your ears, and then I’ll kill you!”
He stood there, allowing for silence to impact his words, but the Architect wouldn’t have that.
He slammed his metallic arm on the table, veritably breaking the hardwood like it was paper thin.
“I WILL HAVE MY VENGEANCE, SIR!” He pointed at him again. “ AND YOU SHOULD BETTER FOCUS ON NOT BEING ON THE RECEIVING EEENNDD!!” He managed to yell that all without his voice growing thin or changing pitches.
Almost within seconds, Amanda let out a pleasurable moan, very much ruining it all.
“Damn it, Amanda!” The Mad Genius complained, with a jolt of his head.
“I’m sorry! It’s just–auch, all that virility overcomes me. I can’t help it.”
The Magnificent Magician looked at Amanda like she had admitted to sleeping with pigs. The actual animals.
“You’ve got issues, Amanda,” the Mole said in the opposite direction than her, disregarding the fact Falk was trembling with rage.
Would they ignore him so? Now more than ever, he thought Amanda was the traitor. The way she had diffused his threats had been, he hated to admit, truly expert.
“Very well. It is perfectly clear we are not to expect your assistance.”
“He’s a lapdog of the Shadow Conclave now,” the Magician spoke again, and that was the final straw.
The only ones who really knew she had crossed the line were the Mole and Amanda. He could tell by the way they twitched. Sort of simultaneously, his wrist flipped down, and a small cannon protruded from his arm, aimed at the Magnificent Magician.
“Me? The lapdog?” She froze in fear. “Right now, I am the only one in this WORLD who acts according to no wish but my very own! According to my own design! Except for the leader of the LBA, and of the Shadow Conclave, I am the only one who follows no one’s bidding!”
The Architect made a swift arm gesture to cut off the Magnificent Magician. He looked at Falk knowingly, having noticed what he had said.
“The Shadow Conclave has no one leader. They are a council.”
“Ha! Please,” the Mad Genius mockingly begged, “spare me any more of your ignorance.”
He saw Amanda shift her stance at that comment, and that was how he knew. It had taken hours, but finally, he had achieved his real objective. He had never have followed Amanda otherwise, and met with those fools, but it had all been for that surprise revelatory moment in which he would make sure whether Amanda was to suffer his vengeance.
He had to admit, to his very own personal shame, that the disappointment of him being right… hurt him. He realized that, for once, he really wanted to be wrong.
“I am no longer Led By Anarchy,” he retrieved his gun, having lost the thirst for ending the girl’s life. He felt bitter then, not angry. “I am led by Falk Goldschmidt.”
He had not sat back down since he had gone into a rage, so he simply turned his back to them and walked away.
“We are enemies then, Falk,” the Mole let him know.
“That is your problem. Not mine.”
“What’s to stop us from killing you right now?” the Magnificent Magician asked, with the kind of tone a sore loser uses. He stopped at the door, and slightly looked back at them.
“Ever wondered how these mechanical limbs of mine are powered?”
He didn’t see the look of realization on the Mole’s face, but he was confident he had shown it. He knew exactly what Falk was talking about, but for the sake of the rest, he added:
“Kill me and find out.”
Then he gestured along.
“But enough. Let’s go, Amanda. I am eager to taste your cordon blue.”
Amanda lifted her head in interrogation. She looked at the others, then back at him.
“I’d love to…but I am Led by Anarchy, my dear. Stay with us and I’ll cook whatever you want.”
“No,” the Architect coolly said, fast as fast could be. “His choice is made. I will not open myself to betrayals. Leave, and stay out of our way.”
Falk looked towards Amanda. A reminder: she couldn’t see his eyes, but he could see hers. Was she aware he was onto her? Or was she, simply, truly loyal?
“Hmpf.” He turned and walked away. I will do it later.
The Mad Genius had been created by that invention, the energy source that would come next to electricity, produced by the reaction of hurting matter so hard and so minutely, at the particle level, that it split apart in one burst of protest that produced a ridiculous amount of energy.
The accident had not deterred or changed him in any way, people had.
His understanding of the universe was centuries ahead of everyone else, so much so he would never have developed any kind of psychological fatality like growing terrified of fire, or explosions, or most of all, science.
His limbs? Someone would one die digging them up from his grave, centuries in the future, and be appalled and confused.
“How did this exist back then?!”
Or they won’t find anything, because someone will have made the mistake to end Falk’s life while he’s still attached to them, thus triggering their self-destruction.
And oh, could his tiny particle reactors self-destroy. The Mole was most likely explaining all of this as he had, of course, been present at the worst moment in Falk’s life.
If he tried, he could remember it very clearly. The roads of snow around him disappeared to show an amphitheater as he recalled the hundreds of colleagues that were sitting down, expectantly waiting for his presentation. He remembered the explosion too, when it had gone all wrong, and seeing most of them too weakened by it, or dead, to run away. The ones who could, like the Mole, did not look back.
He didn’t look at them for long, either, he looked at his creation, to try and understand what had failed. If he died without understanding, it would be worse. He saw the leakage and understood.
“What am I doing?” He stopped in the middle of the snow, suddenly aware he had lost focus to think of the past. He retrieved his self-ejection pod, which was contracted into an easy-to-carry panel, and threw it on the ground. He also noticed he was surrounded by about four LBA members, none of which he recognized. Two of them, he was sure, were mercenaries.
“Insects,” the sphere began to grow, enveloping him in an iron capsule that grew and formed in abrupt and noisy spurts of movements. “You have become a hive of insects.” The thing closed around him.
He grabbed hold of the handles on the wall that had the big panel that worked as a visor and held on as it trembled violently, the thrusters turning the ground to water as they pushed the makeshift flying machine up into the sky.
He closed his eyes, he had too much to think about. The Mole would tell them about his limbs, and he would suggest that they either guarantee the beast’s success within a week or prioritize getting rid of Falk, because, by the end of the week, he will surely have made all the tech he has provided the LBA with…obsolete.
The Mole would not be wrong. He would be wrong, of course, in assuming Falk would share the scientific advancements with the Shadow Conclave, but Amanda would know that part to be false.
He would be a priority of Griff’s, he was his real opponent in all of this, so the LBA, no matter how powerful and dangerous, had to be considered merely a playing piece. For him to manipulate.
Falk would play Griff’s game Griff’s way, and he would beat him, and that way, teach him the folly of his intellect.
His machine followed a sonar back to a secret workshop of his. He could expect assassins to show up after him in the next few days, and until it was all over, and he could expect a certain…undermining of his opinions and contributions to Shadow Conclave meetings.
It was imperative, however, to do two things: one, to surpass enemy expectations through sheer intellectual superiority. Falk had committed all the names and entities that he had seen on the lists, back on Griff’s base, to memory. Griff would not expect that. Second, of course, to confuse and perplex.
He was going to show up at the next meeting of the Shadow Conclave like nothing even happened. He was not going to contact the House of Magni, he was not going to oust him to any part of the Shadow Conclave.
He didn’t feel he needed to. But if he did need anything, it was to find out what other parts there were to the Shadow Conclave. He had never been interested, but now, there were maybe better entities to be aware of than just the Magni woman.
Final two points were to get LBA to focus on the Shadow Conclave, and vice-versa, and to kill Amanda.
His arm was beginning to hurt, as was his spine, due to all the trembling and violence of motion as inertia tried to keep up with his movement. The floor was also rushing up towards him, or at least that’s what should be just below the layer of green plumage that the forest presented. It would be embarrassing to be wrong about that assumption.
Smaller thrusters worked to level the vessel according to the mechanical requirements set by both the sonar receptor as well as the gravity-assisted gyroscope, so that it mathematically knew both its way to the target and which way was down.
The large thrusters only turned on again to slow the descent, and with the assistance of the secondary ones, guided the spherical vessel into a rocky landing that nevertheless hit the target, a small clearing next to a metallic cottage.
He waited a few minutes for his leg to stop shaking, it would be disreputable to go around with a wavering step, people might think there is something wrong with his fast-extraction vessel, or worse, with his mechanical leg.
The fact no person was around for tens of miles didn’t seem to bear relevance.
He eventually left and went inside the cottage. The inside was a veritable mess, as one would expect of an eccentric inventor with twelve different workshops and a very tight schedule within which to spread chaos and violence across the world. He stood at the door for long seconds, calculating a path to his desk with the least likelihood of having him step over one of his ongoing inventions, or even parts he would, for certain, find a use for. Some day. For something.
He ended kicking a few things aside, carefully, and made his way to the chair. There, he grabbed some books that were in the place he wanted to temporarily inhabit, and carefully added them to another stack. In the grand scheme of things, the books retained their exact same height, even if they were now on top of other books that went all the way to the ground.
He sat down and pushed aside a new pistol modifier he had been working one two weeks prior, it was a thing that would finally make archers utterly obsolete, due to the amount of ammo it could carry. He opened the drawer on the desk and dug through the mess of scribbled papers and crumpled blueprints, looking for empty space. He settled on the back of a scroll where he had written down his latest mathematical developments on his essay about particle physics. Work in progress as far as research was concerned.
He spent many hours, without pause, transcribing everything he had read while on Grif’s base. Every contact, every affiliation, every state of their relationship to the Tech guild. While he did so, his mind occupied itself with how exactly he would get to Amanda. How exactly he would keep the Mole off his back. It took him a bit, for example, to fully remember, with full certainty, which workshops they were aware of.
Everyone had allies, everyone on every side of the fight, except for him. He had no one.
Well, neither did the Circus Freak but, unlike the clown, and unlike anyone else in such a situation, Falk wanted, and was going to, accomplish much.
He was going to save the world from the beasts. He was going to defeat his opponents. He was going to kill his offenders.
And then he would cause all that remained in the world to systematically implode.