Ironically, he had started out in the middle of the ocean as well. His base had been a beautiful building placed in the shallow places of the water, near where the reefs blazed with color, with huge glass windows that the fish swam by. A reverse aquarium, his daughter had liked to call it, but she had simply been a child and had loved the inane elements of life far too much. Leonis had enjoyed fish as a child as well, and he had found his daughter’s antics rather amusing. But by the time he was old enough to be a father, he had lost his enamourment with the smaller things of the world. His goals were bigger, everyone knew that, and that included his daughter. Anna had willingly gone from the windows to the training rooms where she would work on controlling her telekinesis, though she always had insisted on grasping Leonis’s larger hand in her tiny one as she did so until she had turned ten. From then, she had made the journeys alone, despite the fact that she was clearly afraid. For some reason, she had a fear of the bowels of their base.
Bitterly, Leonis looked out to the horizon from his boat. He could finally see why. When the water came crashing in, there was nowhere to go. It was only being by the edges, by the escape subs, that would allow one to escape if a natural disaster or whale or, say, a missile sent by an enemy, hit the base.
I never should have built underwater. Leonis knew that now.
The small boat gently rocked beneath his feet, and Leonis felt nausea that wasn’t related to seasickness. Marie had always been one that suffered from seasickness. They had tried going on a tour of the world by boat, once. It hadn’t gone well. The memory was painful. And Leonis could hear the screeching call of seabirds above him, and it reminded him of Anna’s small voice. He almost expected to see her running up and down the deck, laughing in exhilaration from finally being outside.
No. They’re dead. Leonis had to accept that. He had to go on, to rebuild from here...he had to keep moving. He was a genius. Geniuses didn’t just give up when their plans went wrong.
He collapsed to the deck. No. It was over. With Anna and Marie dead, even he had to admit that it was over. It wasn’t just his plans that had turned to dust. It was his life! His family, the joy of his world, was gone! It wasn’t just that he had lost the telekinetic Anna, he had lost his daughter! His wife! His world!
Where did a man go from there?!
There was another ship growing in the horizon, and Leonis wondered if he’d been waiting for it to come by and end it all. Leonis wondered if he wanted to die. He wished that it were still twenty years ago, before he had met Marie, when he had been one-minded with a single goal in life. Back when he was young, back when he hadn’t known what love felt like. Just shoot me, he thought without the slightest hint of irony. The genius, the manipulator, the pirate—that man was gone. All that was left was Leonis Essel, an empty husk.
He watched as the boat grew closer. It wasn’t a military one, but it was adorned as one, heavily armored, and it dwarfed his small dinghy. His chest erupted in pain as he remembered Anna, always so small compared to him and to her mother, even when she had been a teenager. He let out a small gasp that was more of a sob. He felt as though his organs had been ripped out and strewn across the ground. Somewhere under the shimmering blue water, there was probably coral. He should never have gone down there. He should never have entertained the wild idea of letting Anna take over the world. He never should have put his family in danger.
The ship pulled up alongside him. Leonis ignored it, waiting for the spray of bullets to hit and for his life to finally end. He didn’t deserve to see Anna again. He wouldn’t see her. Leonis had never believed in hell, but he was going there, he was going there for killing his child, his little girl, the light of the world and of his life.
Across the waves, a small life raft detached from the ship. A single man floated over. His blonde hair was apparent from far away, and Leonis couldn’t even muster up a glare.
Sorren was unsmiling as he pulled up, uncharacteristic for him. He didn’t ask permission to get onto Leonis’s boat, simply stepping on as easily as if he were crossing the street. You didn’t ask permission from old friends, or old enemies (and which was which didn’t quite matter anymore).
“Couldn’t have brought a gun,” Leonis flatly replied.
Sorren remained expressionless, and Leonis wished that he would smile or joke because then he would have the right to lash out, to hurt this evil man that had murdered his daughter and destroyed his home, but no, Sorren was a good man, a kind one, better than was meant for this world, and he understood the weight of the situation and he didn’t put salt into a hurt man’s wounds. “Leonis, you’re going to have to come with me.”
“How very professional of you.” Leonis had always been the professional one back in school, Sorren had been the wild man, but of course having a wife had changed both of them and now Leonis could barely remember how he and Sorren had been friends. Twenty years of chasing and fighting could do that to a friendship.
“It’s my job.”
“I’m well aware,” Leonis sneered. “Your job has cost me much already. I suppose it was only a matter of time before it came to this.”
“Leonis, I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry as well,” Leonis said, looking away from the blonde man and into the horizon. The sun was still bright overhead. Leonis felt as if it should have been setting, so that the world could be set aflame and could burn away along with everything he had cared about.
He heard Sorren drop to the deck beside him. “You know why I did it.”
“Of course I do,” Leonis said carelessly. “Though I have to admit, I thought you would never throw away your morals.”
“I didn’t want to kill her. But you three—you were dangerous.”
Of course they were dangerous, Leonis had trained them to be that way, he had built his life so that he would be a danger, and when nature had blessed him with a daughter that had greater telekinetic powers than he had ever seen, he and Marie and made the decision to train her to be a great force.
“You knew it, Leonis. You wanted her to rule the world someday. You were raising her for it. Your whole family, it’s what you do, it’s what you’ve always done. You were proud of it, Leonis.”
He and Sorren had met back in university. Leonis had been one of the precious few with telekinetic powers, though it had been years since he had really used them. Leonis had put more stock in his other mental abilities, which had always seen him through. Sorren had been another young genius, thought without Leonis’s abilities. They had gotten along. Then they hadn’t.
“That doesn’t justify anything you did,” Leonis said, knowing that he was lying.
“I know,” Sorren said shakily. “I know. Anna was sixteen, and I’m a monster. I know that.”
Sixteen, Leonis thought, Marie had always laughed at the fact that Anna, small-boned and loud-voiced and always their little girl, was already sixteen years old. Leonis had always said that it didn’t matter how short she was as long as she could move things with her mind. Sixteen, Leonis thought, because Anna would always be sixteen, she would never get any older, she would just become part of the coral like she had used to wish.
“Are you proud of yourself?” Leonis flatly asked.
“No. Of course not, Leonis, you know that. I would never be proud of what I just did.”
The horizon line remained constant despite the rocking of the ship, and Leonis could almost see Marie unhappily retching over the side while he comforted her and held back her hair. “Then why did you do it?”
There was a long pause. Leonis looked upwards. The sky was blue, save for a few white-gray clouds, and the sun was a bright white ball overhead. Ignoring all of his instincts, he stared straight at it, forcing his eyes open. It was blinding, and he could only keep it up for a few moments. There were white spots on his vision when he looked down. Leonis didn’t care anymore. He deserved it.
“I did it,” Sorren finally said, “because of what she could do. What you could do.”
Leonis remained silent, waiting. Anna hovered in his peripheral vision, she was grinning and she had her eyebrows furrowed as she always did, and then Marie came up behind her and gave her a one-armed hug. She held out her hand, and Leonis wanted to reach out for it and hold onto her forever. And then there were only red lights, the sound of the warning, and then a huge crashing noise and just some screams and the automatic ejection button went off, sending Leonis crashing to the surface in a boat in a bubble while the base behind him was crushed inwards.
“I did it,” Sorren continued, “because I believed that when she was older, the three of you could really take over the world. You knew it, Leonis—you wouldn’t have been so arrogant if you didn’t know for sure what she could do.”
“What do you care about the world?” Leonis asked. “The world was never your friend. All that you could do was complain about things, how the world wasn’t fair, how you’d kill every damn politician if you could.”
“Times change,” Sorren answered. “People change. You changed, I really hope you realize that, and it wasn’t the best thing ever to find out that my best friend had gone completely power-mad and was training his daughter to be the Littlest Dictator. I did it because the world can’t afford another crazy power-mad dictator. I did it because we can’t afford any instability now, not with the state of things. And I’m sure you’ve realized that if a telekinetic person did anything, really, anything, then it would taint the name of telekinesis forever. Did you want that, Leonis? Did you mean to do that?”
Leonis opened his mouth to deliver a scathing retort, and stopped because really, he couldn’t remember what he had meant to do, and his eyes were still partly blinded, and Anna’s laugh was in his ears. “I don’t know what I meant,” Leonis declared in a dead voice, lying again.
“Oh.” Sorren went silent. He always reacted to surprise like this, he could pretend to be an adult but Leonis knew that at heart, he was just a nice man that couldn’t handle a few realities. “I almost wish that you did.”
“That would make things easier, wouldn’t it?” Leonis agreed. “Then you could simply shoot me in the head.”
“Do you know, they expected a fight? They sent me because we’re friends, because you were less likely to kill me on sight.”
“I’m not going to fight,” Leonis admitted. “I don’t have any weapons. I don’t have any energy. No reasons, either.”
Sorren was silent a moment, and then said with a bit of irony in his voice, “Leonis Essel, out of reasons? I must have come across a poorly-made clone.”
“You killed my reasons.”
“I know.” Pause. “I’m sorry.” Sorren’s apologies tasted like blood and like the grits Leonis’s mother had made him for breakfast every day for nine years, or like seawater and like strong whisky, and they made Leonis’s head spin with anger and with confusion and with more sadness than he deserved to feel.
“We are no longer young men,” Leonis decided. They were both nearing fifty, but age meant little in their world. He caught Sorren’s small, jerky nod. Sorren’s daughter, Samantha, was about nineteen by now, and his two sons were around ten and fifteen, if Leonis remembered correctly. Young and intelligent and enjoying the sun. Anna should have been like that.
“There’s still a place in the world for us,” Sorren assured him in a confused voice.
“That’s not what I meant,” Leonis said. “There is always a place in this world for a genius. But we are no longer young.”
“Again with the whole insisting you’re a genius.”
“I am a genius.” Leonis’s vision was returning. Sorren was wearing a blue suit. It was impeccable, crisply folded, all sharp edges and silvery cuffs. Probably tin or some other metal, as silver had been nearly impossible to get a hold of for sixty years. “That’s undeniable.”
Leonis met Sorren’s eyes, and knew that Sorren was thinking the same thing that he was. “I’m sorry,” Sorren repeated. “I did it for—for them.”
“We all do things for our children.”
Leonis knew in Sorren’s look that Sorren didn’t believe him. Sorren had never believed that he wanted the best for Anna. But Leonis had always just been trying to help Anna, help her grow, help her reach her full potential. He had always wanted the best for his little girl.
“I guess that I just wanted them to live in a world where they could be safe.”
“And we’re unsafe,” Leonis deduced. “All telekinetics.”
“Do you remember the last day?”
There were many last days. Perhaps Sorren was thinking about the day before Leonis had taken his family onto the base. Sorren had invited them over to dinner. “We’ll have pasta,” Sorren had promised, “the fancy kind.” Leonis had refused, of course. Sorren had looked so offended. But Leonis knew that Anna needed a new place for herself.
“Do you want to come over for dinner?” repeated Sorren, as if they were still young. “Do you know, I still wonder what would have happened if I could have convinced you?”
“Nothing but trouble for your family.” Leonis didn’t care about Samantha. He didn’t care about Sorren. They could have been investigated by the government, for all he cared. Anger rose in him, the righteous anger of a man bereft, the bitter anger of a man who could have had it all. “You should be glad.”
“I’m not. Believe me, Leonis...if we could go back…”
For the first time, Leonis realized that if he could have seen the future, he would have changed everything. Anna was worth more than his dreams.
“I’ll drink to that,” Leonis said dryly, standing up from the deck. Sorren rose with him, holding out a hand—
But then the rigging of the small ship swung around, despite the windless day. It slammed into Sorren’s head and jerked to a halt right in front of Leonis’s nose. Leonis’s face broke into a bitter sneer, and he concentrated, jerking Sorren’s body upwards. It had been a long time since he had done this. But he was a genius. And geniuses didn’t forget anything.
Sorren wildly flailed as Leonis brought him higher, but he grabbed onto the mast, breaking Leonis’s concentration. In that instant, his body was once again a toy of gravity, and he could barely keep himself from falling hard to the deck. But he righted himself, dropping and landing on his feet, and then he was upon Leonis in an instant. Leonis didn’t fight. He had lost a long time ago.
“I’m sorry, Leonis,” Sorren said, pulling out a gun from a holster that had been covered by his midnight-blue coat.
“I’m sorry, too,” Leonis admitted, before arranging his features into an appropriate glare.
“I hope you see Marie and Anna again.”
“Go to hell.”
Sorren gave him a jerky nod, somewhere between I know and I’ll see you there. There was a look in his eyes that was something like grief, and he mouthed something that Leonis couldn’t make out, and pulled the trigger.