Chapter 360 In the Future (2)
"Vanguard's power?" said Aldrich, stunned. "Adam inherited it? How?"
"The exact parameters for how Vanguard's power is inherited are not well known," said Beta. "Adam insisted that he received the power due to vague qualifications such as his 'force of will' and 'obvious talent', but those are difficult to measure at best and highly dubious at worst."
"Yeah, that sounds like something he would say," said Aldrich, smiling internally. Even in the future, Adam had been just the same. Confident beyond his britches. Optimistic. He was a good choice to have that kind of power; at the very least, he would have used it for good.
"He was the best we had, both in terms of heart and in terms of power," said Mel. "But we can't rely on Vanguard's power showing up now if it hasn't showed up already."
"What do you mean already?" said Aldrich
"In our timeline, by this time, Adam already possessed Vanguard's power, albeit, his mastery over it was highly limited in this early stage," said Beta.
Very interesting. And odd.
Emrys stated that Vanguard's power would likely manifest six months later. But in the other timeline, that power had already manifested? There were a few possibilities for this. Emrys was just flat out wrong. Or Aldrich had changed the timeline somehow.
Or, potentially, Emrys was being misleading.
"It wasn't until things got really bad that Adam's power ramped up," said Mel. "At first, he and Elaine were just doing their best to survive and rise up the ranks in Blackwater without powers. Close to our graduation, though, was when A.I.I made a sudden attack.
There was no warning in our timeline. No initial attack like the kind A.I.I. pulled on the Judicata. It was a blitzkrieg rush where A.I.I. infiltrated with stealth bots to take the academy down and fish the Scrapheart out.
During that chaos, Adam's frame broke down and he was shot through the heart. But before he died, Vanguard's power showed up.
We managed to beat back A.I.I.'s machines, but it had already succeeded in taking the Scrapheart back with it. After that, it only took a year for the world to fall into complete and utter shambles. Once the Panopticon and Delta were taken over and a Flame Arc created, it was basically just game over from there.
Adam never had the time to unlock the power to its full potential like Vanguard did."
"The attack happened close to your graduation, you say? What was the exact date?" said Aldrich. "If you do happen to remember, of course."
"I do. It's a day that's burned into my memory. October 31st," said Mel.
That was the day that Aldrich received his power in this timeline. And it would have been the very same year, too.
Again, the thought flickered in Aldrich's mind as to whether he was the one that inherited Vanguard's power, but then again, his power was so incredibly different from Vanguard's that it was hard to imagine.
"What did Adam's powers look like, by the way?" said Aldrich.
"Punch hard. If there was an enemy that was too tough, then punch harder," said Mel.
"I see." So, the power was the same as it had been for Vanguard. This made Aldrich believe that he, in fact, was not Vanguard's heir with his host of vastly different abilities. But the coincidences, so many of them, tangled together to form an ever complicating web of mysteries that just spawned more and more questions.
What was most infuriating was that he felt like if he had just one more answer, one more explanation, he could unravel the entire thing like having a skeleton key to a complicated lock.
The mysteries of his birth. His abnormal absolute existence. The circumstances of his power. Everything seemed so close to him, yet so far.
But even if his curiosity ached to answer all these questions, he had to hold off until this Blackwater issue was resolved.
"The variables are greatly in our favor this time around," said Beta. "For one, Blackwater is already heavily fortified by the Italian and Japanese prongs due to A.I.I. having to reveal the nature of its existence with the Judicata attack.
I still cannot calculate why A.I.I. decided to use its available surprise attack on you, Aldrich Yang, but it has given us a significant preemptive advantage."
"A.I.I. wanted me to help them rule the world," said Aldrich. "More specifically, I'm betting it was Ikon that reached out to me. I refused, of course."
"Alpha would have never authorized such a rash decision," said Beta. "I am calculating with over 90% certainty that this was an irregular decision generated by a clash of wills. Your abnormal existence is already proving to be a great benefit, Aldrich Yang.
Though, unfortunately, it did come at the cost of Supermind, the only psionic Alter capable of locating Ivan's mind."
"Supermind was instrumental in letting humanity survive as long as it did," said Mel. "In our timeline, once A.I.I. used the Scrapheart to shut down Delta and unleash weaponry and bots that wiped out a massive chunk of the population within days.
Supermind put a temporary halt to it by restoring his powers as much as possible, using global telepathy to locate Ivan's mind and lock it down. He basically entered into a psychic fight with A.I.I. at that point, stalling them to give humanity some time to organize.
Too late, though. Even though Supermind stopped A.I.I., the damage done to the planet caused the Voice to release the Titans. We never got the break we needed. Eventually, Supermind's power amp ran out, and not even he could win a three versus one in psychic space against three strong wills."
"I see," said Aldrich. Ikon reaching out to Aldrich did, indeed, waste the surprise initiative they had, but at the same time, it knocked out Supermind who no doubt was a threat to A.I.I. as a whole. The attack on the Judicata, then, had two primary goals.
The first being, of course, securing Aldrich's allegiance. But the second, and almost equally important, was assassinating Supermind.
Without Supermind, even if Aldrich defended Blackwater, it was going to be very difficult to find A.I.I.
Unless, of course, he used the Scrapheart for himself.
Supermind had sacrificed himself to ensure that the world was safe. Aldrich would not let that death, the death of one of his favorite heroes, go to waste. In the future, Adam and Elaine had fought and died for the world as well.
They might have been different worlds, not knowing a single thing about Aldrich, but they had faced suffering and hardship and pain nonetheless. He would honor all that.
He would take the world over. Make sure it was secure under his control. He owed it to everyone that had fought and died for that kind of peace.