Old was not the right word to describe her. She was more ancient then that. Her dark skin was covered in wrinkles, every inch of it. She had a fragile set of gray hair that hung around her shoulders, appearing almost unaffected by gravity. She wore simple, dark, clean robes, although a few golden bracelets hung from either arm. She sat on a throne made of flowing blue energy which concealed the object underneath. Her big brown eyes stared down at Derek.
“Derek Wheeler,” she said through dry lips. “You are the first to come here in an age. The last person to make it all the way here was... I don't remember.”
“Why did you bring me here?” he asked.
“Because Derek Wheeler, you are special.”
“I'm just a worker-”
“No you are not!” The Fortune Teller said very suddenly. “If you were just a worker then you would have died in the Well Well, or or been killed by Cornwell, or died of the plague by now. You are bold, brave, moderately intelligent, and most importantly you can take a hit. Speaking of which...” she waved her had through the air and the pain of Derek's boils increased a hundred fold. But after a second it was gone. He looked at his palms. All of the boils had simply disappeared. The pain in his legs was gone too and he could stand up strait. His legs were fixed.
“How did you do that?” he asked, stunned.
“In this place there are many technologies of the ancient world. Most were made to kill, but some were made to heal. I can heal any injury save instant death, although I am the only one that can do so, although you might be able to use it with the right training.”
“Why? Other people could learn couldn't they?” Derek asked.
“No Derek Wheeler, only a controller may learn. You see, there are a few people in this world, one in a thousand, in a million more like, who have hidden potential. They can dream of the future, communicate with one another across vast distances, and in some cases they can manipulate objects with only their minds. Some call them physics, but the Old Masters called them controllers. They thought controllers could be turned into the ultimate soldiers, and in the Last Days they were desperate enough to try. They took controllers and forced them to breed with one another, creating more powerful offspring. They repeated this until they had an army of controllers at their command. They turned them into warriors that could not be beaten, designed weapons only they could use, devastating weapons. These soldiers were locked in endless conflict with one another, and ultimately brought about the Flood, the Roar, and the End. The controllers were annihilated. Mostly.”
“How do you know all of this?” Derek asked.
The Fortune Teller laughed like one does when confronted with an uneducated child. “I was there. I watched the world burn and freeze. I watched all the lights die.”
“But, how?” Derek asked, “That was a thousand years ago at least!”
“Derek, our kind can sustain ourselves for thousands of years and extend our lives far beyond what is normal if we capture the mental essence of another controller and use it as sustenance. Using a special procedure it can be distilled into liquid form. This liquid has special healing properties even for those that are not controllers. It is called nectar.”
“The Well Well,” Derek suddenly realized, “All those people floating in that silver stuff, they were controllers! That's why the Well Well heals people! The water is actually nectar! That entire place was a distillery for it and... it was yours.” He pointed an accusing finger at the Fortune Teller. “Your name was on the door... I had my first vision of this place there... and that crazy guy told me to come here! Did you kill all those people because you wanted to live forever? What kind of sick person are you?”
“They volunteered,” The Fortune Teller said sternly. “I was the leader of a small offshoot group of controllers who wanted peace. When the End became imminent my fellows volunteered to keep me alive and secure hopes for peace in the future. They sacrificed themselves. Whether it was good or evil of me to allow them to do so is another matter entirely. Whether any actions of the past are good or evil are irrelevant, as we cannot go back and alter them. Sacrifices must be made to secure peace.”
The justification seemed sound to Derek, although not completely. “So all those visions, all the weird stuff that's happened to me since I left the Sphere, that was all you?”
“Yes,” the Fortune Teller said. “The first strike in the woods was one of my servants testing to see if you were powerful enough to complete the challenges ahead. I have sent them to places ahead of you as well, to assist.”
“But how did you know where I would be? How did you know what would happen?”
The Fortune Teller's eyes flashed and she delivered a sly smile. “Seeing the future has it's advantages Derek.”
Derek grinned as well. But then he came to his most important question, “Why did you bring me here? Why do you need me?”
The Fortune Teller's good humor instantly disappeared. “There are other controllers still alive Derek. Aside from you and me there are likely three others. The most powerful, and the most pressing concern you know as the Defender.”
Derek was hardly even shocked by the information. It made good sense. The Defender had ruled for eight-hundred years, his lifespan alone meant he had to be a controller. “Why is he a concern?”
“He has gotten nectar the past eight-hundred years by forcing those with minor controller powers to reproduce and so create more powerful controllers to harvest. You are the result of one such forced union.”
“Of course!” Derek said, realization hitting him like a bullet. “That's why my parents were such a mismatched couple! The Defender must have forced them together so they would produce me or my sisters! So that we could be... harvested so that he could live...” he trailed off.
The Fortune Teller nodded to confirm his deductions. “I can sense your sisters faintly Derek, but they do not have the same power that you do. I can feel the Defender's power waning. He needs to distill your mind, or else he will wither and die. That is why he has hunted you with such vigor.”
“That's why he sent the Leviathan and Cornwell after me. He needs me to bring back his power.” The idea of the Defender, which Derek had revered from so early in his life, doing something so selfish and cruel made him want to change the subject. “What about the two others?”
“One I do not know for sure. Her presence is unlike any I have ever felt. I can't know if she is a controller or just trying to imitate one. The other is strange as well... he seems to fade in and out of power, and whatever thoughts I receive from him make no sense. They are strings of words without any meaning. Of course the five are not the only ones left. They are simply the most powerful. The girl outside, Zoey, can see the future, albeit fuzzily and without all the details. The man Joshua, he can move small objects with his mind, which is why his bullets never miss. I considered him a candidate for this task once, but he was not even close to powerful enough, and overly unstable. That is why I chose you, Derek Wheeler, to find the Ark.”
The Fortune Teller got up from her throne and moved to a table that rose from the ground. She limped, and appeared in dire need of a cane. “Help an old woman,” she said, reaching out an arm. Derek grabbed it and steadied her, allowing her to tap a few buttons on the panel that allowed five holograms to spring up on the table. One was a clear image of the Sphere, standing tall over the waves. One was a fleet of gigantic ships that Derek assumed was the White Fleet. Another was a much larger version of rockets Derek had seen, with two huge fiery engines. One was a floating city made of what seemed to be bubbles. The last towered over all the others, a vast black shell like a beetle's, offering safety to everything underneath.
“There were five attempts to make civilization survive the Roar,” the Fortune Teller said. “Two were largely successful, the Sphere and the Survivor Fleet,” she continued, indicating the two holograms. “Project Mars was constructed but never launched. It is now buried under the ocean and unreachable.” The rocket device faded from the table. “The Atlantis Complex had the necessary equipment built but the necessary power could not be generated.” The bubble city faded. “Which leaves only one left to discover. The Ark.”
“What is it?”
“I do not know much. I do know it has a massive shell that can withstand a nuclear blast. Under it's shell there is DNA from every animal species possible, a cloning machine, and experimental terraforming equipment. I need the animal DNA and the cloning machine. I would say to get the terraforming devices, but they are clearly useless, or else the Flood would have been beaten back.”
“And you want me to find it?” Derek asked, “But what help can I be? You have agents all over the place, can't they get this stuff for you?”
The Fortune Teller shook her head slowly. “No. The land in which the Ark was placed is unmapped and my servants can not enter it. They are struck down by controller power whenever I attempt it.”
“Controller...” Derek said. “That means one of the others is in this land. Where is it?”
“It is somewhere in the Scheldt,” the Fortune Teller said. “I cannot be more exact then that.”
“Right,” Derek said. He did not know why he excepted the quest so willingly. Perhaps it was because for the first time since he left the Sphere, which seemed like such a long time ago, his life had a clear direction. It was the same feeling he got when he put on his Great Foundry uniform for the first time. This was what he was supposed to be doing. And the Fortune Teller had answers for his questions. That alone was enough to get him to side with her. The thought of the Sphere made him think of another question, one that's potential answer filled him with anger. “Right after I got out from the hospital in the Sphere, a radio talked to me, told me not to leave the Sphere. Was that you?” The Fortune Teller was the only person he could think of that might have done it.
“No Derek,” she said. “I foresaw that you would leave the Sphere of your own accord.”
“Are you sure you didn't?” Derek said. His mind had also brought up the sabotage on the crane.
“Derek, I saw you leaving the Sphere and being persecuted by the Gens. But foresight is a tricky thing. I did not see what chain of events would lead you there, and I was reluctant to impact them. A controller's subconscious mind sees the future. To this day I do not know how, nor does anyone I think. It was another force that compelled you out of the Sphere, or compelled you to stay, as the case may be. I-”
There was a muffled boom and the ground suddenly lurched under the two of them. The Fortune Teller fell backward, and slammed into the ground. There was an audible CRACK! Derek, steadier on his newly healed legs, stayed upright. “Fortune Teller?” he called. There was no answer.
There was another muffled boom and the ground shook again.
“Oh shit!” Derek wheeled around and saw Fate running into the room, followed closely by The Other and Good and Evil. Zoey, Clooney, Kurt, and the doctor were behind them. It was Fate that had uttered the cry. “The master has been hurt!”
“She just fell over!” Derek said, shouting because of the sudden alarm present in everyone. There was another muffled boom, and pieces of masonry fell from the invisible roof.
“Here, you're a controller right?” Fate asked, “Heal her! I think she's dying!”
“I don't know how!”
Fate was panicking. “Get her into stasis before she dies you big thugs!” The remark was directed at Good and Evil, who picked up the Fortune Teller and carried her into one of the dark corners. “She'll survive, but not for long,” Fate said grimly. “Not long at all if we can't defeat this attack!”
“What?” Derek asked, now also in a panic, “Who's attacking?”
“The Leviathan Derek,” Zoey said, fear in her eyes. “The Leviathan and Colonel Cornwell.”
“De came out of novere,” Kurt said. “A big ship vit giguntic guns. An army of zoldiers too, and tanks zat float on ze vater. Ve got dovn here just bevore zey reached us.”
“That's the Leviathan all right,” Derek said.
“What do we do?” Zoey asked.
Derek suddenly realized that everyone was looking at him, waiting for him to give them the answers. “I don't know,” he said truthfully. “I don't even know what I was doing when I led us here! Every since I left the Sphere I've only ever had a fuzzy sense of what I was supposed to do!”
“All right then,” Zoey said, her voice ringing with authority. “Now in school I learned a little bit about Sphere tactics. They have a very inflexible command structure. If we can take out their primary leadership, they'll be thrown into disarray.”
“Their leaders will be on the Leviathan,” Derek said, “No way we can sneak on board, and sinking it is next to impossible.”
“There are many of impossible things in the this world Derek, but no ship is unsinkable,” Clooney said, offering a small smile.
“Za troopz had explozives vit dem,” Kurt said, “Za're going to uze dem to blow a hole to get in here, but if I vere to shteal some ve vould have someting to vork vit.”
“That's a start,” Zoey said, “But before we do anything else we need a way to move around without getting slaughtered. Fate, is there any other way around the city?”
Fate didn't answer for a few moments as he watched in the direction Good and Evil had carried the Fortune Teller. “Yes,” he finally got around to her question, “The old sewer system is still quite intact, we use it to get around all the time. It's two hundred feet underwater and flooded, but we have the necessary gear to navigate it. You can go to any building in the city from it.”
Throughout this entire exchange the ground continued to shake and explosions resonated throughout the large room. Derek could imagine the Sphere troops setting up explosives on top of them, ready to blow a hole through the roof and come down right on top of them.
“You're forgetting something,” the doctor spoke up for the first time. “There are thousands of the bastards out there and there are what, seven of us? Even if we do kill their officer core and they're thrown into disarray, they'll still be more then enough of them to get to us eventually. Unless any of you have a private army to call upon, our best option is surrender.”
“Oh I can handle that boys and girls,” Fate said, suddenly much more upbeat. “We may not have a private army, but we got one that owes us a favor.” He turned to the Other. “You can get 'em right?”
The Other got a big grin on his face and nodded. “Ls yvzs,” he said.
“So it's a plan,” Zoey said. “Clooney, Kurt, and Fate will go through the sewer to steal the explosives from the troopers. Doctor, you'll say here in case somebody gets injured. The Other will contact you guys' little army and get ready to attack. Me and Derek will scout out the Leviathan and figure out it's weak point. Any objections?”
“Could I go with the bomb party?” the doctor said. “I'd rather not be left here,” he added, eying the corner Good and Evil had disappeared to.
“Ok, anything else?” Zoey asked.
“Here,” Fate said, pulling a dozen assorted knives from his cloak.
“I prefer not to carry a weapon,” Clooney said instantly.
“Take one anyway,” Fate insisted. “These are tracker knives. In the handle of each one there is a readout that tells you were the other ones are. If we're going to split up it would be a good idea to take them so we can meet back up.”
Derek looked at his load out. Five green dots pulsed on it, exactly where the five other people were. “Cool,” he remarked.
“Lets go,” Zoey said decisively. But then she hesitated for a moment. “Other?” she asked. “I don't know you that well, but I hope I can trust you with this. If you think at any time, under any circumstances, you have a tactical advantage over the enemy, you attack, got it?”
“Now, let's go,” Zoey said, and Derek saw a glint of danger in her eyes.