djkaktus's Proposal III
rating: +977+x




— - —


In a room devoid of light or sound, a man sat at his desk and read. There was a time when the darkness would have impeded him — but that time had passed. Now, he found it comforting. Colors distracted him from his work.

He turned to the next page of the report — despite not needing to ‘see’ the words to read them. Old habits, he supposed. With each successive sentence, his calm gave way to cold, calculated purpose.

The door opened. A blade of light pierced the room, illuminating the man and his desk. It cut across his forearm and highlighted an old burn scar. He instinctively moved his hand out to cover it.

He looked up. A woman stood at the doorway, hesitating. It was only then that he realized his face was twisted with rage.

He forced himself to relax, acknowledged her with a nod, and motioned her in.

She took two steps forward and spoke: “You’ve heard?”

“Yes.” He closed the report. “Do we know who yet?”

“Not yet.” She moved to approach, but stopped — as if a wind forced her back. “Whoever found the Pinnacle did so with the use of mnestics, and there’s a limited supply. We’re looking.”

“And the Contract?”

The woman didn’t respond.

He sighed. “Felix?”

“We didn’t find him. If he fell, or was pushed, he might still be falling. We have to assume the worst.”

The man stood, his eyes fixed on the backs of his own knuckles. “I don’t understand how this could happen. I don’t understand who would do this. Who could do this. Do they even know what they did?” He looked up at her. “This is bad.”

Her expression did not change. “The rest of the council has been alerted. I just came here to make sure you knew.” She took another step forward; her hand fell to his desk. “Maybe… maybe if we just-”

“Whatever you were about to say, don’t.” His voice was flat; something trembled just under the surface. “Whoever they are, they got lucky.”

She frowned. He could see the weariness in her face. There was something she wanted to tell him; there was something she wanted to say. Instead, she just closed her eyes and nodded.

He reached for her hand upon the desk, taking it into his own. His palm was like worn, scraped leather. Hers was ice. “I know you’re tired. I know. God, I know. I’m…”

He forced himself to stop. He took a breath, turned her hand over, and traced the scars along her wrist and forearm. She looked so frail, now. “We can’t stop now. We can’t give up now.”

Her eyes were still closed. “I know.”

“Go, now. Go back to the Garden. You know the way in. You’ll be safe there. I'm going to call up the task forces and we’ll figure out what this is. I’ll call you when it’s clear.”

She squeezed his hand back. At last, her eyes opened. “What about you?”

He smiled. “ I just need to figure some things out, and then I’ll come for you.”

He came around the desk and held her; she held him back. After a few moments of silence, she turned her head up to his. “I—”

The phone rang.

He grimaced. His grip on her loosened. “I’m sorry. I…”

Her expression hardened. She released him, nodding. “I know.” Without another word, she turned and left him alone.

He reached for the phone.


— - —


The Accountant.” Anthony found the title amusing. “Do they only have one?”

Olivia laughed. “That’s a lot of math. He must be some sort of uber-nerd.”

“A dire nerd,” Adam offered, his eyes never leaving the screen of his laptop.

This comment drew blank stares from Olivia, Anthony, and Calvin.

“You know, like a dire wolf? From D&D? Or Game of Thrones? Or…” Adam looked up. He immediately scowled, then went right back to typing. “Fuck, you people are old.”

Anthony took a drag of his cigarette and eyed Calvin from across the room. “Alright. So, how are you planning on finding all these fucks? I doubt they’re just hanging out at the local pub. They’re probably holed up somewhere with enough anomalous ordinance to make Mordor look like the Shire.” He gave Adam a look, who — without raising his head — lifted two fingers in appreciation.

Calvin nodded. “Yeah. This is where it gets tricky. Our mystery agent wrote a lot about the Overseers, and a little bit about where they live, or where they’d be hiding, but a lot of it is situational and might not be helpful. That’s why we’re going after the Accountant first. He’s the one who pays the rent. Take him out, and the list of possible safe-houses gets that much smaller. ”

Olivia leaned back in her chair. “Perfect. We just need to find this first one, then. The first one of these gods-on-Earth that know we’re coming for them. Do you even have a plan?”

Calvin gestured to his right. “I’ve got Adam.”

Adam leaned away from his computer. “Oh, yeah. Right. Yeah, I can find him.”

Anthony snorted. “This’ll be good.”

Adam ignored him: “The Accountant is, as far as we can tell, a mathematical prodigy who specializes in statistical analysis. He’s a data-sponge — he soaks up information, analyzes it, and finds hidden correlations no one else can see. Everything he does, he does based on these invisible relationships. His entire route — what he wears, what he drinks, his day-to-day activities — they’re all based on predictions derived from these correlations.”

He turned his screen around to show the others. Several tabs were open in his browser; the current one was a graph of current stock prices. “Now, I probably don’t need to tell you what a person like this could do in stock markets. He analyzes data faster than computers; he can predict the boom and bust of a Fortune 500 based on a goddamn train schedule. And although his ability to see these correlations is anomalous, the correlations themselves aren’t — they’re just impossible for anyone else to understand or decode.”

“Alright,” Anthony said. “But that doesn’t tell us how to—”

“Train schedules,” Olivia cut him off. She was focused on one of the unopened tabs on the screen. “In Tokyo?”

Adam grinned and nodded. He opened the tab, revealing a translated train schedule. “The journal mentioned it. I’ve been having Alexander crunching numbers for a few weeks—”

“Alexander?” Anthony narrowed his eyes.

“It’s the name he gave his laptop,” Calvin replied. “What did you find?”

“Basically, there’s some sort of weird correlation between international housing markets and train schedules printed in Tokyo on the fifth day of every third month,” Adam said. “And based on how deliberate this guy is, I’d be willing to bet money he goes to Tokyo himself to examine those schedules the day they’re printed.”

“Hang on.” Olivia leaned in to examine the screen closer. “You said this guy is able to make predictions based on correlations no one else can see, right? Wouldn’t that lead him to realize he shouldn’t be where we expect him to be?”

Adam cocked his head. “Are you asking me if he can see into the future?”

“Well, yeah. Isn’t that basically what this is?” Olivia turned from the screen and focused her attention on Adam. “If he’s able to magically see connections no one else can, isn’t it possible some piece of information he’s encountered will tell him that we’re coming? Or even who we are?”

“I don’t think so,” Calvin said. “I mean, the numbers can be wrong.”

Adam shook his head. “No, she’s — well, mostly right. The numbers can’t be wrong. They’re just data. He can’t know anything for sure, though. He just makes predictions, and those predictions have varying degrees of certainty. That’s the hiccup, here: He can know there’s a 75% chance that today, someone will attack him. He can know there’s a 30% chance it’ll be five people, a 25% chance it’ll be four people, a 20% chance it’ll be three people… so on.”

Anthony massaged his brows. “Look, do we really need to take a probabilities course to kill this guy? I get that he’s smart, but last time I checked, train schedules don’t stop bullets.”

“But bullets won’t stop someone who isn’t even there,” Olivia replied. She turned back to Adam. “So, basically, he can predict extremely complex systems based on seemingly random bits of data. Right?”

Adam nodded. “Right.”

Olivia gave them all a very crooked grin. “In that case, I think I know exactly how to beat him.”

— - —

The black car pulled to the side of a street in the Tokyo financial district. The man who stepped out was so extraordinarily unremarkable that, under normal circumstances, even his lack of remarkability failed to generate a remark.

His high end tailored suit and dark glasses blended with the well-to-dos of the region; his skin was a shade of amber-gold. Despite being aware of the time, he checked his wristwatch, closed the car door, then took three steps down the sidewalk. The vehicle drove away.

The Accountant was a man of precision. He slept for exactly seven hours; when he woke, it was on the hour. Each footfall was calculated — each step predetermined. He made no mistakes, took no chances, and accounted for every significant possibility.

That’s why, when he first noticed the young man approaching him from across the street, he took immediate action. The man was in his 20s; short hair, open coat — Slavic, if he had to wager a guess. Based on the color of the man’s shoes, the Accountant determined he was here to kill him. Based on the current market price of peaches, the Accountant determined he was not alone.

He took a step to the left. A crowd of businessmen had just emerged from a nearby diner; this put at least fifteen people between him and the would-be assassin. One of the fifteen was Japanese — in his mid-50s. He walked with a slight limp and was going bald. This meant the second assassin was in the third story window of the small wine-shop across the street.

The Accountant adjusted his watch, reflecting sunlight off its surface and into the window. The sniper was briefly blinded. Now that neither assassin could see him, he moved to enter a nearby office building.

“Fuck. Glare,” Anthony growled into his mic. “You see him?”

Adam fought his way through the crowd, shaking his head. “No. Lost him. He’s anticipating everything we’re doing. I think — he’s gotta be in that building with the blue glass. Heading for it.”

Olivia peeked out from around the corner and touched her ear-piece. “Calvin, should I go in with him?”

There was a brief pause before Calvin replied: “Yes.”

Olivia jogged toward the financial office. Adam pushed his way through several more people to follow her.

The interior was a sprawling three-story lobby framed with marble. A grand staircase extended up to each level, with glass elevators providing an alternate route. Adam’s eyes darted between the various levels.

“Which level?” Adam asked.

She yanked Adam by the arm and pulled. “Neither. This way.”

The two of them took off toward the far-end of the building. An emergency exit led to an alleyway out back. Olivia shoved the door open and stepped through; Adam followed. As soon as they stepped outside, they were greeted with the sound of muffled gunfire.

“Shit!” Olivia shoved Adam between two dumpsters; she soon followed him, dropping to a crouch. She flipped out her compact mirror and held it out, using the reflection to search the alley ahead.

Two men in suits stood where the alley emptied out into the street. Between them, the Accountant checked his watch.

“Hm. This will work,” he announced. “We’ve got about a minute before I leave to catch my train. So, what can I do for you?”

Olivia examined the reflection in her mirror. Adam squinted at the image, frowning. “He’s just standing out in the open,” he whispered. “We could just—”

She reached to touch her ear-piece again. “Calvin. Do we go for it?”

Calvin’s reply came almost immediately: “No.”

Olivia looked to Adam. “Keep him talking.”

Adam nodded. He turned to the side of the dumpster and hollered: “You’re the Accountant, right?”

“You know, I do have a professional title. And a name, if you’d rather—”

“We know who you are,” Adam yelled back. “We’re here to kill you.”

“Yes, I’m aware. Well, here I am. Go ahead. Take a shot.”

Olivia gestured for Adam to keep going.

“Uh-huh. But do you know why we’re here to kill you?”

“Twenty nine seconds. You’re very likely the ones I received word about, just this morning. You’re responsible for terminating our contract with Death. I presume you want to murder me over some sort of ideological quibble.”

“An ideological quibble?” Adam’s voice nearly hitched up an octave. Olivia reached to touch his shoulder. “You know how many corpses your organization is built on top of? How many people die every day just so you fucks get to run the show?”

“I’ve never killed anyone. Of course, I’m certain you’ve killed a few. How many? A dozen? A hundred? Did you bother to learn any of their names?” the Accountant asked. He checked his watch again. “Were any of them children? Just curious.”

Adam jerked against Olivia’s grip. She squeezed him, hard. “Don’t,” she whispered. “He’s trying to get a rise out of you.”

“Fuck him,” Adam growled. His grip on his pistol was tight enough to force the blood out of his knuckles. “Like he hasn’t killed—”

“Well, if you’re not going to try and murder me, I suppose I’ll just have to leave early,” the Accountant said. Again, he looked at his watch. “Seven seconds.”

“We’re going to miss our chance,” Adam hissed. “I’m going to—”

“No, Calvin said—”

Adam was already lunging to his feet — and Olivia was lunging to tackle him. Her arms slammed into his legs, forcing him to buckle. In the next instant, a deafening pop rushed out to fill the alleyway. A fist-sized crater appeared in the dumpster behind them — right where Adam’s head had been.

Wisps of smoke swirled up from the hole. Adam and Olivia both stared at it, their backs pressed against the other dumpster.

“Shit,” Adam whispered.

“Sniper,” Olivia replied.

“One,” the Accountant announced. “Everyone down.”

Several more pops echoed out through the street — accompanied by distant screams. Olivia and Adam caught the sound of glass shattering; the popping sounds were followed by additional gunfire.

Anthony’s voice boomed over the earpiece: “I’m covering you. Go.”

Olivia and Adam ran for the door. In the distance, they could hear the sirens — along with the squealing rubber of the Accountant’s car as it drove away.

— - —

Sometimes, the Accountant wondered what it was like to live in uncertainty; to exist in a world where you could not predict the most likely outcome based on the data in front of you. He imagined it was a dreadful, unbearable state — like being trapped in a nightmare where nothing made any sense. The thought often prompted a feeling of tremendous pity.

He felt no pity at this moment.

As he approached the boarding station, he checked his watch and revisited the alleyway in his mind. He had replayed the events that unfolded there twenty three times; each time, none of it made sense. None of it fit the model.

He correctly predicted the arrival of the two assassins; he also correctly predicted the arrival of their comrade. But his models had shown that, by standing out in the open and addressing them, there was an overwhelming likelihood that at least one would emerge and be immediately struck down by his stationed sniper.

Nothing was truly certain, he knew. Every rule had its exception; every absolute hid a sliver of doubt. Everything he understood was merely an approximation of something he did not.

But the chance of both assassins emerging from this conflict unscathed were, by his calculations, comparable in magnitude to a tornado arranging a deck into a house of cards — then back into the same ordered deck. It was beyond ‘unlikely’; it was nothing short of miraculous.

Was that what he had witnessed? A miracle of probability? An event as rare and near-impossible as the emergence of life itself?

He stepped on-board the train, providing his ticket. He moved to one of the private rooms, sliding the door aside and taking his seat. As the city began to slip past, he ran through the model for the twenty fourth time, then decided that he would simply need to let it go.

The sliding door rattled open. A not-quite middle-aged man with dark, faintly greying hair stepped in, taking the opposite seat. He casually reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a revolver, aiming it squarely at the Accountant’s heart.

The Accountant stared, uncomprehending. This wasn’t possible. This couldn’t be possible.

Two miracles? In one day?

“How?” he croaked.

Calvin reached into his pocket with his other hand, withdrawing a small, unremarkable coin. He perched it on top of his thumb and proceeded to flip it, before snatching it out of the air. He then showed it to the Accountant.


The gears in his head started to turn. “You…”

“You’re good at predicting complicated systems," Calvin said, "but only when they behave the way they’re supposed to. You can’t predict them if all their decisions are inherently unpredictable.”

“But how did you know I would be—”

“We overheard you say you had a train to catch. There were two train stations nearby. So I flipped a coin.”

The Accountant closed his eyes and smiled. “How utterly boorish. You got lucky.”

“Yeah. But it worked, didn’t it?”

“So it did.” His eyes opened; he focused his gaze on Calvin. "Well. Now you've got me here. What do you want?"

Calvin laid a piece of paper in front of him and pulled out a pen. He slid them across the table between them towards The Accountant.

"Names," he said. "Locations. All of the rest of them."

The Accountant sighed. "You want me to give up the names and locations of the other Overseers? What — do you want their PIN numbers, too?"

Calvin tapped the revolver on the table. "This probably isn't the time to get smart."

The Accountant sat back in his chair and loosened his tie. "I'm not going to do that. You used a funny trick to put me in a compromising position, and that's clever. But now that we're here, I know exactly how this plays out. Why would I compromise my associates when you're just going to kill me either way?"

Calvin shrugged. "There's a difference between being shot and being dragged behind this train."

The other man swallowed. "That's barbaric — and either way, it's not particularly likely. We're not too far from our destination, and there will be too many people around. The way I die is at the end of that gun."

"That doesn't bother you?"

The Accountant rolled his tongue across his teeth. "Of course it does. I haven't thought about the idea of dying in such a long time, and to now be sitting here looking at it, it's nothing short of horrifying. But I'm not going to beg for mercy from a terrorist." He leaned forward. "Do you truly understand what it is you're doing?”

Calvin didn't answer. The Overseer sighed.

"Go ahead. We both know what you're going to do next."

Calvin squeezed the trigger.

- BACK -

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