Who Wants To Live Forever
Abel stared at the platter in front of him. A full continental breakfast , the sort you find at a really good hotel. He was starving and wasted no further time waiting to dig into his meal.
“Think I’ll start with the bacon.”
Alex was still asleep and Paul, who was sitting across from him had said to let her lie in.
“She had to use her power over a fairly long distance, that can really take it out of her.”
He had been informed they were in the English countryside but had not managed to pry a more specific location from Paul. Looking out of the tall windows in the dining room all Abel could see was the sprawling mass of greenery that encompassed Paul’s estate. The gate wasn’t even visible from the house without binoculars. The only thing blemishing this beautiful sight was the occasional guard who was kitted out in a black uniform, usually carrying an assault rifle.
“Why do you have guards?”
“Hmm?” Paul responded like this not because he had not heard Abel but because he was slightly confused. Abel took this on board and elaborated.
“Well you wouldn’t be living so openly if were afraid of people marching up to your front door. That’s why you have Alex, if anyone tried to attack you she’d whisk the both of you across the globe before anything could happen.”
“That’s a pretty cynical view of my relationship with Alex, don’t you think?”
“Are you telling me I’m wrong?”
Paul put down the yellow copybook he had been reading from and took a sip of his tea before answering to give himself some time to word his answer correctly.
“While it’s true Alex could use her power to get us to safety there are those exceptions I talked about.” Paul managed to sidestep Abel’s latter question whilst begging to answer the preferable former.
“The reason she can do that is because my ability allows me to negate anyone sneaking up on me. I know where all players are at all times so that prevents anything like that. But I am not aware of the exceptions, for instance yourself. Presumably another Joker exists and if that person wanted to they could sneak up on me.”
“Fair enough.” Able didn’t really care, he assumed Paul must know what he was doing if he was still alive. If Bastien only had 3 jacks and those more powerful than him hadn’t gotten to Paul then he mist’ve been doing something right.
“And of course if someone without a power was hired to kill me I’d have no way of knowing.”
Abel had been so preoccupied with the idea of the people with powers that he hadn’t even considered the danger normal people might pose.
“Oh shit, yeah. What’s happening back in Ireland? How are they reporting what happened?”
“I’m not sure, I’ll have someone find out though. Since you left without taking anything I’d assume you’re being treated as a presumptive victim.”
There was a pause as both men took some time to enjoy the sustenance they had available, Paul sipping his cup of tea whilst Abel finished off his breakfast.
Paul finally put down the notes he had been reading from up until now. This got Abel excited.
“So have you got anything?”
Paul had asked Abel to recount exactly what happened while he was preparing the breakfast earlier. He wanted to try and figure out Abel’s power and what was different about the Joker card in comparison to the rest of the deck.
“So let’s go over what we know for certain. The Joker card is an exception, your tattoo has appeared on your arm whereas everyone else has one on the back of their hand. The card originally belonged to your father and since he gave it to you he must’ve been aware of the cards nature, at least to a degree. And your power must have offensive capabilities because you managed to kill Bastien. Since you weren’t aware of your power though it must be active passively”
Abel just nodded. Everything Paul had said seemed to be right and he didn’t want to waste any time getting to the point.
“So what is your power? From what you told me the only thing that makes sense is a healing power of some sort. From what you described you should have died during that fight.”
Abel was about to respond to this but Paul continued before he could.
“But what’s odd about that is that it wouldn’t fit with you harming Bastien being that healing is a defensive power. On top of that there was a person before who had a healing power and, well, I’m talking about him in the past tense. He could heal any of his own injuries but if he was taken out in one hit, like he was, then the healing never kicked in.”
“So do you have any ideas as to an answer to this?”
“Well yes, actually.” Paul answered in a way it seemed he was somewhat offended someone might think he didn’t have one.
“The reason I was at all aware about exceptions is because I was lucky enough to……”talk” to the man I just mentioned.”
Abel was wary of the pause Paul had taken and the way he had seemed to choose the word talk. The look on his face told a lot more than his words had seemed to but Abel didn’t want to stop the conversation to ask about it. Answers were more important to him right now so he put it to the back of his mind.
“His name was Brian and because of his power he had lived for quite a long time. The man claimed to have been born in 1919 but he didn’t look a day over 20. He told me of a man he had met with a Joker card much like yours.”
Paul refilled the cup of tea he had by now long finished before continuing.
“He had met this man whilst fighting in World War 2, they had been in the same battalion. This guy was apparently deathly afraid of the Nazi’s. He was Jewish and they’d heard bits and pieces about Germany’s treatment of the Jews as they moved up through the southern part of Italy.”
“He was a part of Operation Torch?”
“Exactly right. Anyway one night this squad of men were playing a game of poker during some down time, using liquor to bet. That’s when Brian notices that this man was dealt a card with the same black back as the one that we all received to obtain our powers. He tossed the card because it was a Joker and it was therefor useless to him in the game. According to Brian, after this night every time his squad was sent into battle they never encountered a single German soldier.”
“So how does that relate to my situation?” Abel asked slightly impatiently.
“Remember when I said the cards manifest a power from our desires? Well what would this mans desire have been? For the war to be over? For it to never have started? To be back at home and not on the front lines? Why didn’t the card grant him a power that would make any of these things possible?”
“I’m guessing you have an answer for this.”
“Less of an answer and more of a theory. The Joker is an exception. The other cards fulfill our desires but perhaps the Joker sates our fears. That man feared the Germans and so the Joker took them away.”
Abel knew exactly where Paul was going with this and such he started to feel conflicted.
“So that leads us to this question Abel. How much are you afraid of dying?”
Paul’s tone shifted sharply as he asked that question to something much more somber than before. A heavy silence hung in the air as Abel tried to process this, what did this mean for him going forward.
While he’d been thinking Paul pricked him with a needle breaking the skin on Abel’s left hand.
“Sorry I just wanted to confirm at least part of my theory.” He said this now looking at his own hand which was bleeding. Looking back at his own hand there was not a speck of red to be found.
“This is….this….” Abel searched for a response but could no find one that accurately captured what he was feeling. Could he no longer die? Was he OK with that? Could he even be injured anymore? All these questions and more swirled around his head which seemed it couldn’t decide which one he wanted to tackle first.
“It’s a lot to take in at once isn’t it. Unfortunately you still have a fair bit to be told about the rest of your situation and we can’t even be sure about your power anyway. Although at least surviving shouldn’t be very hard for you.”
Paul gave a bit of a dry laugh at this.
“I’m going to do a bit more research. I’ll give you some time to digest this before bombarding you with more information.”
“Alright…seems fair.” Being able to focus on this conversation instead of the questions helped Abel regain his train of thought.
“I’ll tell Alex about my theory and send her down to you. You’re going to want to take her up on her offer when she presents it.”
With that Paul left the room presumably to go wake Alex. Abel was left alone to contemplate the conversation he had just had.
Alex came down about half an hour later, wearing the same sort of tank top and shorts she had yesterday only this time they were black. Her hair was wet, she was clearly just out of the shower.
“Come on. I’m going to teach you how to fight”
She beckoned towards Abel to follow her downstairs.
“Oh so this was that offer Paul mentioned. That’s a bit boring, I thought he meant something else.”
“Hmm?” Alex feigned ignorance at Abel’s words giving him a chance to gloss over them.
“Alright, alright, fine. I’m coming.”
Following Alex down another one of the mansions signature long stairways they arrived at a room with padded flooring and all sorts of gym equipment.
“So did he tell you about Bastien’s group?”
“No we didn’t really get that far.”
“*sigh* He never gets to the fucking point does he?”
“Well he is a bit long winded at times.”
“Yeah, he can be. Alright well just take my word for it that you’re going to want to know how to fight.”
“I think I can do that pretty adequately actually.”
Alex seemed somewhat surprised at this answer.
“And what makes you think that?”
“He told you about his theory right?”
Alex nodded. “Yeah he did.”
“Then you should know I literally can’t be attacked, the stronger any opponent I face the the easier it’ll be to defeat them. I just need to get up close and personal.”
Alex had her arms folded and it seemed she was listening intently.
“You’d be better off teaching me how to avoid restrainment than how to fight. That’s the only threat I can think of.”
Alex seemed to be giving some serious thought to this as she had furrowed her brow to a worrisome extent.
“Am I wrong about that?”
“No I guess you’re not, we’ll just tweak our training program then.”
Alex gave Abel a wry smile.
“Tweak it for my benefit or yours?”
“What I’m not allowed to have fun while I’m teaching you?”
“After the conversation we just had you should be aware that I’m the one doing the teaching here.”
“Is that so?” Alex said this as took at some gloves from a closet in the corner of the room.
“How about this?” She said. “If I can restrain you for 10 seconds I win, if you manage to stop me from doing so you do.”
“And what do I get when I win?” Abel was just joking around so he was surprised when she gave a serious answer.
“I’ll let you sleep in the proper bed tonight, I’ll take the mattress on the floor.”
“It was a bit of a shite mattress to be fair.”
“So it’s a deal?”
“Sure.” The second Abel responded Alex made her move, disappearing from his sight.
“So you’re going to fight dirty, huh?!” He shouted this hoping it might throw her off but mere milliseconds later he had been knocked off his feet and was being restrained from behind by Alex.
“I guarantee you won’t engage in a fair fight as long as you live.” She was using her arms and legs to prevent Abel from moving his. Counting in his head he was at 5 seconds. Thinking as quickly as he could Abel bit down viciously on his own tongue.
“Hmf!” A muffled sound of pain came from Alex’s sealed mouth and she raised her hand instinctively to survey the damage. Using this moment while he could Abel used his now free arm to throw Alex off of himself. He then smashed he funny bone against the wall to incapacitate her without causing serious injury. The pain only lasted a moment for Abel before it dissipated.
“What the hell?!” Alex said clutching her elbow.
“Well you were right about one thing. I’m going to live forever and I’ll never have one fair fight in all that time.”
Alex lay on the floor defeated. Abel went to grab her a bottle of water from the fridge in the gym part of the room.
“I guess I underestimated you” Alex said as he tossed her the bottle. “Not even that, I never had a chance to begin with did I?”
“Was the last part really necessary?” She said pointing to her now read elbow.
“You would’ve gotten back up if I didn’t right.”
“I could’ve just broken one of my fingers, would you have preferred that?”
“Of course not!” She said this through a laugh that Abel had not been expecting.
He sat down near her and cracked open a bottle of water for himself.
“You came at me from behind on purpose didn’t you? Trying to use your “feminine charms” to stop me fighting back.
Alex’s face went slightly red as she subconsciously clutched at her chest before pulling back.
“Of course n-”
Alex was interrupted by Paul who had come downstairs in search of Abel. She looked an odd mixture of relieved and disappointing at the sight of him.
“We should continue our discussion from earlier, time is of the essence.”
This confused Abel. Paul had up until now been giving him plenty of time to digest everything. Why was he suddenly pressing the issue.
“Look if you think I’m worried about getting back home as quick as possible or something like that, I’m not. You can take your time explaining everything to me, I don’t think I could take much more right now anyway.”
“I really can’t waste any more time in regards to this.” He was speaking in a slightly less composed manner than usual.
“Why not?” Alex interjected with a question, seemingly perplexed.
“I’m not worried about his schedule. ” He said pointing at Abel. “It’s me that’s running out of time.”
End Of Chapter 4