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Aberrant: 200X - A Rumble of Thunder

Reese K. Kincaid

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The sun hung high in the sky, surrounded by thick white clouds. A scent of summer had crept into the gentle breeze, along with a sweltering seasonal heat.

Reese had moved far away from his usual training ground, walking from the bamboo grove upstream to the tall tumble of rocks which had created a natural waterfall on the edge of his mansion grounds. The fact this waterfall was on the grounds had in itself raised the price of the land by thousands of yen, but its presence had been what sealed the deal.

He sat crosslegged upon a stone at the water's edge, eating a bread roll dipped in honey, listening to the flow and crash of the waterfall, and the lesser sound of the twin cascades downstream. Trees lined up behind him, part of a small wood that lined a good portion of the stream, with lush undergrowth thick with flowers and woodland animals. In this quiet between training times, Reese could hear things moving in the undergrowth or settling in the trees, birds taking wing or coming in to land.

It had taken some time to get used to his post-eruption senses. Since then he no longer experienced so-called 'white noise'. Many a thing was too loud of course, but in a crowded street he never lost perception of individual voices, and for those closest he even picked up words.

Reese had been training more than usual since Michael's visit. He knew that he was pushing into what he would once have termed 'overtraining', where the body could benefit little from the experience and injury became a likelihood rather than a mere risk. But a Nova body lacked the weaknesses of a baseline one, and Reese could train for days straight if he liked at no risk.

The basic truths did not change, though, and his training regimen had become more intense to adapt to his new body without altering much at the fundamental level. Once he had hung from trees by his arms to help increase his upper body strength, so now he attached hyper-dense weights to his feet so that the exercise still applied. Once he had run for hours to increase his stamina, so now he ran on the surface of the water, burning quantum and pumping his muscles to run as long as possible without falling beneath the surface. Same form, same principles, different specifics.

He finished his bread and closed the small faux-wood warmbox the others were kept in, then rose from his rock and waded out into the water.

In the center of the heartpool, with the waterfall at his back and the water up to his hips, Reese moved into stance. He remained there, feeling the water pushing past him, rushing around his legs and hips, running through breath exercises.

Reese began his first kata. He moved against the water's current, slow and measured, without a hint of tremble in his limbs. His actions were as the slow grace of nature, the unhurried tick of time, each flawless at a level beyond words. When punches came, they were a blur, accompanied by a sharp cry and a spray of water. He would hold the pose until the water settled once more, and then return to the slow and measured movements he had perfected.

He threw a great, scything kick that created an arc of water. Returning to stance, he brought his hands together and slapped them down against the surface of the water. The motion was so fast a human eye could not have caught it, yet so soft that it made a ripple no greater than would the landing of a single leaf.

Twenty minutes passed, with Reese running through a half dozen full katas, when he paused. He thought he heard the bushes move.

Reese straightened up and turned toward the noise, frowning. For a moment, he saw only the unbroken line of undergrowth, and then one of the bushes shook. He snapped to the bush, and saw her instantly.

"Kiku? What are you doing?" He began to wade toward the shore.

His eldest daughter rose up from where she had been hiding and moved to the water's edge. She looked as lovely as ever, young and fresh and beautiful, but with a growing mournful tinge enhanced by her straight black hair. The way she wore it reminded him of the angry ghosts of Japanese legend. A year, two at most, and Reese suspected she would be deep in depression, else be angry at something, the world, him, or nothing in particular. Kiku wore a light white shirt and grey trousers, both designer silk, embroidered with dragons and other beasts of legend. They looked tight on her.

"Nothing," she said, though would not meet his eye when she said it, and shifted her weight from foot to foot.

Reese reached the shore and shook his legs out. The water ran off the eufiber quickly, but his legs dripped and left puddles where he stood. "Nothing? An odd place to pick for it. Don't you have a room to do nothing in?"

Kiku frowned at him. "I prefer the open air," she said, tone haughty. "And the stream sounds nice."

"It does, at that. Did you walk?"

She nodded.

"Quite a long walk. Takes me about an hour, and my strides are longer." He studied her, and wondered why she seemed so nervous. She offered no comment. Just made a little affirmative sound and nodded, staying near the treeline. "You're home early, if I'm not mistaken. Or have I lost track of time? Did Takako send you for me?"

"No. Um, school's out today." She said, but blinked when she did, and he thought he saw a minute tremble in her lower lip.

Reese sat down on the same rock he had been eating on. He gestured at a place beside him. "Want to share my rock?" He picked up the wambox and gave it a vague shake in her direction. "I have honey rolls."

Kiku smiled, then nodded and came over.

They shared the remaining rolls in silence. Something had happened at school. Reese had heard of no scheduled school trips, and there were no national holidays or anything else to explain her being at home. Given her behaviour, her reticence, he had the feeling she may have been sent home by her teachers.

"So why were you watching me?" Reese said. "Or do you often watch and I've never noticed?"

"No, nothing like that. I just," Kiku shrugged. "I don't know. I can go if you want."

Reese smiled. "If you want to watch, that's fine. Why not join in, though?"

Kiku looked at him, eyes wide. "Me?"

"Don't see anyone else here." Reese looked about. "No, just you and me. Yes, you." He gave her a little jab in the arm, no harder than a baseline poke, and much softer than most would have been. He knew his own strength, and had worked hard to bring it absolutely under control.

Kiku giggled, but rubbed her arm anyway. "I'm not much of a martial artist."

"Could be if you wanted to be. Your school reports said you were quite good."

She gave him a look. "Have you seen the other girls in my year? You know that little huff noise you make when you don't approve of something but won't say?"

"No," Reese said, narrowing his eyes a little. "What noise?"

"That noise you always make when you hear something that annoys you but you won't say what it is."

"I make no such noise."

"Yes you do. It sounds like this," and she made a little 'hmpf' sound. "Well, manlier, I suppose. But you make that noise."

"I do not," Reese said, frowning. He turned away and looked at the water, with a sense of familiarity dawning on him the more he thought about the sound.

"Anyway," Kiku said, "you used to make it all the time when I said I'd like to be a model." She paused, and he knew what she was waiting for.

Reese folded his arms across his chest. "I'm making no noises. Continue." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her smiling.

"Well, that's reaching for the stars compared to my classmates. Miho wants to seduce a rich man and be a trophy wife, Yuri's trying to get something working with our school's top baseball hopeful... you get the idea. It's all fashion and early marriages to people richer than them. So yeah, I'm the best at martial arts." She gave an exaggerated shrug, then whispered, "It's not much of a compliment."

"I'm the teacher in the family. I'll come and watch one of your classes some day and see for myself."

"You won't!"

"Will. Who's going to stop me? I'll punt them over the horizon." He could not keep himself from smiling, though. Kiku looked like she really wanted to be angry, or upset, or something, but his mirth was infectious, and she leaned against his shoulder. "Gods, that'd be a funny image," he laughed out loud, then, imagining some skinny teacher hurtling into the distance, clutching their behind.

Of course, the reality would not be funny at all. Reese had never needed to kill a man, though he had come close before. A couple of times after he had become a star some crazies had tried to attack him and his family, once at a first screening of '12 Sons of Kwai Lin', his second movie and first in the Chinese market. They'd been nationalists, enraged that someone who had become so associated with Japanese martial arts would 'prostitute' himself to the 'Chinese dogs'. It had made for some rather spectacular footage, to say the least, and for a while had become an asian OpNet meme, particularly the shot of him stopping one of the attackers by palm striking him in the chest. Reese had found it all quite distasteful, but when he saw the expression on the man's face... he had smiled a little. The Japanese did like their Novas, and gaijin though he was, he had become one of 'theirs' over time.

"Rippa na gaikokujin," Reese said, tasting the words. 'Honourable outside person' in a literal translation.

"Father?" Kiku asked, looking at him oddly. "Why did you say that?"

"No real reason. Just thinking. I do that, my mother used to say it was a bad habit, but I disagree. I think it's a wonderful habit, and I expect you to pick it up forthwith," he added, and gave her a little touch on the nose.

They were quiet for a while after that, but it was a pregnant silence, formed of things unsaid and questions unasked. Reese felt sure that Kiku knew he suspected there was more to her presence here than she had said. She had always been empathic and perceptive, and he had never been the best at hiding his feelings.

"You're pretty boring to watch," Kiku said suddenly.

Reese blinked a couple of times. "Why, thank you. It's good to know I have my daughter's love and support in everything I do."

"It's not that! It's just... well, you're a bit slow. You're not very Nova-ey."

"Nova-ey?" He gave her a scathing look. "Nova-ey? Is that a word, now?" Kiku wilted a little, and Reese softened his tone. "Just because things don't explode when I look at them doesn't mean your father's some shrinking violet."

Kiku straightened up again. "I know that. It's just, I always imagined you'd be really fast when you trained. Like you are in the movies."

"That's the movies. I always insist on having proper training scenes in there, even when I'm a villain, but those end up on the cutting room floor for the most part. The eruption is never the same twice. I can't fly, or teleport, or make flowers grow with a touch, or even leap buildings in a single bound. I can break things, though," he said, and nodded. "You want to see something impressive? A little impressive." He raised his hand in front of her, thumb and index finger an inch apart.

Kiku gave an enthusiastic nod.

Reese rose and headed out into the water again. "Back up a bit." He headed toward the waterfall, looking over his shoulder now and again. "Bit further," he called, and then, "no, further than that."

"If I go much farther I won't be able to see you!" Kiku complained.

"Should have brought binoculars, then."

She only answered that with a frustrated hiss.

Reese rolled his shoulders, then swept his hands up and down in front of his chest, palms together. He bowed his head at the waterfall, then stepped into the flow. It pounded down upon his shoulders and head, ran in rivulets down his cheeks and dripped from his chin, chased the lines made by his sculpted muscles.

He glanced toward the shore, and saw his daughter watching from the treeline. That looked safe.

Reese focused, then moved his palms apart and touched fingers to fingers. He rotated his hands, moved them through different configurations and shapes in relation to each other. Then he again pressed his fingers together, let out a great kiai shout, and slammed his hands downward. Not at anything, and they struck nothing, but when his arms straightened out there was a sudden quantum flash, and a wave of raw force erupted outward.

And for a moment, there was no waterfall.

The water that had been falling exploded outward in a dome, launching over a hundred feet into the air to come pattering down in a sudden storm of rain.

Reese slipped out from under the waterfall before fresh water could come from above.

He headed for the shore again, not slowed even a little by the water, and rubbing his tingling wrists.

Kiku watched him. She was wet, now. Her hair had been blown backward by the shockwave and now lay down her back, dripping water. Her eyes were wide, her mouth a little open. All around, the trees were rustling and shaking, and many of them had lost leaves or even branches in the case of the closer ones.

Reese shook a little water off, and let his eufiber flow up and coat him in his usual simple white gi top. He raised his hands a little. "Well?"

Kiku blinked a few times, then took a shuddering breath and nodded. "Not bad."

He gave a little 'hmpf' before he could stop himself, and winced. The moment broke, and Kiku sniggered. "That was the first time I've ever made that noise," he said, beginning to walk past her in the direction of home. "Ever."

"Sure, father," Kiku said, falling in beside him.


On the way back, though, the conversation turned a little more serious. They were making their way along the well-cut trail through the woods, keeping the stream in sight but surrounded on every side by the dimness of the wood, with the trees growing close enough to form a soft canopy above that reduced the sun to slim fingers of light cutting through the leaves.

"You don't do that often, though, do you?" Kiku asked, quite out of nowhere.

He knew what she meant, though it could have been construed as a non-sequitor. "No. I focus on control, Kiku, not on flashy displays of power. If I want I can break just about anything. It takes no skill to do that, that's just... horsepower at work. Skill lies in technique, technique in control. It takes skill to break something clean in half, of course, which I can do," he said, and trailed off.

Kiku leaned forward as they walked, to see his face. "And?" She said.

Reese shrugged. "And I think at times people get too wrapped up in what Novas can destroy. I don't want people to look back on me and think of me as a Nova who destroyed things, for money or for any other reason. I want them to think of me as a good father and worthy husband. I don't care about anything else." He turned to Kiku and stroked her haid, pushing locks of it back in front of her shoulders, the way she had been wearing it before. "But I'll destroy things to keep you safe, if I must."

He paused, and held up a single finger. "Give me a moment."

Reese moved into the undergrowth, sliding through and around bushes and branches, barely disturbing any of it. He bent to the ground, listening hard, until he heard the tiny scratches of a mouse. His hand darted out and he grabbed it up, closing his hand around it. Then he headed back to his daughter.

"Father?" She seemed confused. "Are you all right?"

"Yes. I just feel I need to make this clear to you. Stand right there. Power, you see, can easily be misused. A closed fist can destroy," he said, and threw a punch right at her face, stopping an inch from her nose.

Kiku gasped and jumped back, looking frightened.

Reese studied her, expression blank. He turned his fist over, and unfolded his fingers, revealing the mouse in his palm, looking a little confused and beginning to study its new and strange surroundings and elevaton. He looked down at the mouse. "But the closed fist can also protect the weak and defenseless." He leaned down and let the mouse loose again, then brushed a little dirt off his hands. "I see power misused all the time. Or used for the sake of being used. I prefer to use mine when its warranted."

"This really bothers you, doesn't it?" Kiku said, moving to his side again, as they continued on their way. She seemed a little on edge, but relaxed quickly. "You've been on edge since that Utopia man came to visit. Is that why you spend so long out here?"

He sighed quietly. "Maybe. The issue of my power and how and why I use or don't use it has been thrust at me ever since I erupted. It's hard not to think about it. And Michael said some things... It doesn't matter."

"I've been thinking about mother again," Kiku said, her voice soft, and quiet, and sad. "He talked about mother, didn't he? About finding who tried to kill us."

"Yes," Reese said.

They said nothing else, all the way home.

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Kiku was not the only one in a less-than-wonderful mood. Hanako came back from school in a sullen state, and said very little all through dinner. Rather than attempt to force a jovial mood, Reese focused instead on a kind of dignified silence, letting them all enjoy the quiet, even celebrate it.

That night, Reese went to tuck Hanako into bed. He waited in her room while she brushed her teeth and got herself ready.

The children's rooms were just as they liked them. As a result, Hanako's was a little less traditional than the rest of the house. Much of the furniture was still built into the design, with wardrobes hidden behind the walls, and suchlike. But she had a western-style bed with Hello! Kitty pillows and sheets, and a brown-furred teddy bear handed down from Kincaid to Kincaid, and from Reese to Kiku and from Kiku to Hana.

She liked to paint, though she had yet to move beyond the simple childish designs one might expect of a nine year old. Unsurprisingly, she liked to paint cats. Or at least, black blobs she called cats. The desk was low to the ground, in front of thick soft mats easy to kneel on, with all the painting equipment in a hidden drawer.

Hanako came pattering into the room and jumped onto the bed. She was wearing a white night-dress with no pattern.

Reese sat down on the edge of the bed and picked up the teddy. He remembered hugging him when he was a boy. There was a weight of memories in this toy. He smiled vaguely, remembering happy times. Reese had left Mr. Bear behnd when he was in his early teens, and started trying to prove himself to his family, his father, and the world in general in no specific order. Things had gone so, so wrong with his brothers since then.

"You ready to be tucked in, Hanako?" He said, smiling.

"Yay!" She flung her arms around him and he lifted her off the bed.

Hanako giggled as Reese flung her legs up high and mock-slammed her onto the bed.

"You are vanquished!" He said. "And with the slam of sleepiness, I consign you to bed."

She slipped under the covers, smiling up at him. Unlike normal, she didn't put her arms out for a hug, though, or for Mr. Bear.

Reese put him on the bed, facing her. He made Mr. Bear dance a little, as if the toy was waiting for something. Hanako didn't say anything, though. "What's wrong? Has Mr. Bear done something wrong?"

"No," Hanako said, "he's just stupid."

Reese mocked horror. "How can you say that!" He hugged Mr. Bear. "Don't you listen to her. She's a cruel girl, picking on you like that."

"I'm not cruel!"

"Oh, what are you, then?"

Hanako pouted. "I don't know."

Reese began to tuck her in, slowly. She was about to say something, he felt, and if he just waited a little longer...

"Daddy," she said, "Kiku got into a fight at school. The teachers were really mad at her and sent her home. The girls were really horrible to her, she said. Why were they horrible to her? Why are they horrible to anyone? Some of the girls at school are nasty to me, too. Are they all rotten inside?"

Reese stroked Mr. Bear's fur thoughtfully, reaching over to dim the lamp beside Hana's bed. "Children can be cruel at times. As Mr. Bear is finding out. Maybe they don't know that what they're doing is nasty. Or maybe things are wrong in their lives, and they're taking it out on people who don't deserve it." He lifted Mr. Bear and made him dance, to emphasize the point. "It doesn't mean they're rotten inside. People can lash out at times."

"They shouldn't!" Hanako said, brow clouding now. "What should we do?"

"Oh, I don't know. What does Mr. Bear think we should do?" Reese twitched a finger, and made the teddy jump forward and hug her. "There we go. It's all simple to a Mr. Bear, isn't it?" He smiled, and ruffled her hair.

She was not mollified though. "Daddy, Mr. Bear's just got fluff in his head. He doesn't think anything."

"How do you know that? You've never looked deep into his eyes and felt that maybe he's looking back, just wanting a hug?"

"Well... no. Should we open up his head and see the fluff?" She had a pouty, sullen look now, like she didn't want to admit he had struck a chord.

"Oh, I don't think you'd want to do that." Reese subtly made the bear lean back, and angle to stare into her eyes. She giggled. "Would you want to hurt this face? Would you want to cut his head open and see his fluff?"

Her eyes softened after a moment or two, and she hugged him fiercely. "No!"

Reese laughed and stroked her hair. "Good girl. That's why Mr. Bear's wise, even though his head's full of fluff. If more people's heads were full of fluff, maybe the world would be nicer." He hid his hand behind the teddy, and gently prodded his head, to make it seem he nodded. "Don't focus on other people so much, Hanako. Worry about yourself, and don't get sucked into other people's negativity. And if you do that, you never know, maybe they'll get happier."

He gave her a kiss on the brow and tucked her in with Mr. Bear, then turned off the lights and wished her good night, before stepping out of the room and sliding the door shut.

As he had been doing for several days now, Reese headed downstairs, into the garden with his flute, to sit alone and play a while. The music came out somber and thoughful, as it always did, reflecting in pure sound his meditative thoughts.

Kenneth Stark. Why did Michael have to bring up Mariko's murder again? He had laid that ghost to rest. He could neither forgive Ken, nor forget this crime. But he could not punish him, either. Revenge hurt everyone, helped no-one. It had not helped Ken any, for sure. He had sought to murder his old nemesis, and instead had made him a Nova, one of the most physically adept in the world for sure, and easily one of the best martial artists in the world. A rather brutal bit of cosmic irony, given the entire genesis of Ken's hatred had come from Reese being better at the martial arts.

Reese kept wondering what Ken Stark was like, now. He would be pushing fifty, and Reese had heard on the grapevine that Ken had married and sired a child. A son. He would be, what, ten now?

It would not have softened him. Leland Stark, Ken's father, had been a master of psychological abuse, and all of Ken's ugliness had come from him. One day, Reese knew he would meet that boy, and see hate in his eyes. No child of Kenneth Stark would ever be allowed to like Reese Kennedy Kincaid.

He ended his tune with a long, rippling note, and used his fingers to set it spinning atop his index finger. All of Kenneth's power had been turned to ruining Reese's life, and eventually to ending it. What had that done him?

Reese watched his flute spin, easily keeping the balance on his finger, then catching it out of the air. "Power. What's it good for?"

"Satisfying a woman, for one," Takako said as she came out behind him and stroked her hands down his chest. "Hey, Reese."

"Hello, Takako," he said, leaning back to kiss her on the lips. "I'm sorry I've been so..."

"Upset? Stoic? Miserable?"

"Don't forget handsome, talented, and brilliant."

"Oh, how could I ever," she said, and kissed him on the head. "You should never let him come to visit you. He always upsets you."

"Maybe it's because there's truth to what he says," Reese said. But which parts were truth? That was the hard part. "Or maybe it's because he reminds me of issues I've left unsettled, for one reason or another."

Takako moved round to the other side of the table and sat down facing him. "So are you going to run off and settle them now?"

Reese shook his head. "No. There's nothing good to come from that quarter. It's an old crime now, and it had no follow up. He's happy to let ghosts lie, I think, and so should I. Kiku says she's been thinking about her mother again, though, and..." he raised one hand, and let it fall, "I don't know. I don't know what I should do, what I should say."

Takako studied him. She was a little over thirty, still young, fit and beautiful, but he had not married her for that. She was a martial artist, a good one, a master of aikido and jujutsu, and skilled in several other martial forms as well. And wise, emotionally. Reese would not have made the same claim of himself.

"You know who did it, don't you?" She approached the topic gently, like a sniper taking aim from a far-away position. "You've never talked about it, but I always had the feeling you knew."

He nodded. "I know."

"You've never told Kiku, though. Why not?"

"What good would it do? Besides it's not like I have proof. I just 'know'. Now there's damning evidence if ever I heard it," he said. "This is how cycles of hate start. I've been handed the scripts for too damn many revenge epics to let my family history turn into one."

Takako ran a hand through her long black hair. Hanako had not inherited her mother's hair. Hanako's was quite thin by comparison, unmanageable, where Takako's was silken and soft. More like Kiku's. "Yet it still bothers you."


"So what will you do about it?"

"Try and put it out of my mind, and concentrate on the things that matter until it leaves me be," Reese said, smiling at her.

Takako grinned and got up. "Okay then, my hero. Let me do something to take your mind off such worldly matters." She slipped into his lap, and pressed close to him. "Come up to bed."

Reese smiled, and felt a stirring down below, deep in his belly and up his spine. "Well, what kind of man would I be to decline that command?"

And he did not, in fact, decline it.

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The night was dark, and full of terrors.

Ishimura had stayed on late, ostensibly to do an inventory of repair work for the stables and to clean the tea house. A good enough reason.

Now he crept towards Hanako's room, a cloth in one pocket and a bottle of chloroform in the other. He would knock her out, sneak her away from the mansion into the night, and that would be that. Yes they should kill Reese, take the other daughter too, but Hanako was the one born after his eruption. She was the anomaly.

He wondered at how he could fool himself. Only one anomaly reigned here. Reese Kennedy Kincaid. A Nova who had completely resisted ten different versions of the sterility cocktail that had made Novas unable to breed. They had even custom-made one designed just for him, and his body had laughed it off.

Reese was a breeder.

The thought sent a chill down Ishimura's spine. He had stared at Reese's file, growing more frightened by the moment. A breeder, with a three, four hundred year lifespan at this point, with serious chances of it growing over time. On his own he could have dozens of children, hundreds potentially. And what if a cure could be derived from his cells? His body had to have resisted the cocktail somehow. What if there were antibodies in his blood somewhere?

Ishimura had not been sleeping well of late. He often woke from nightmares where he had been trying to throttle Reese, and the Nova had just been watching him with cold, judgmental blue eyes, until the time came to wake, and Ishimura never saw the blow that he knew had killed him. Those dreams scared him, but the ones that disturbed him where the ones where he raped Kiku.

Those dreams sent him to the shrine to pray. He rationalized it of course. She was fifteen and beautiful too, all agreed, with womanly attributes growing more prominent by the month.

There could be no real rationalization, though. Just band aids placed over a gaping wound in his psyche. Ishimura hoped it were a passing oddity, something that would disappear in time. He had not felt arousal when he brought Kiku home from school that day, though he had felt like maybe he ought to make her disappear en route. Perhaps it was just his mind being strange in the dead of night, and it meant nothing in truth.

Didn't every man dream of rape once or twice in their lives? He thought he had read an article about that. It meant nothing. Just stress, showing itself in an odd way.

He crept over the wooden floor on socks alone, each step slow and careful. No noise. He knew Reese had slept with Takako. She had taken him to bed and ridden him like a stallion. It would not tire him, of course, but he would likely stay in bed with her long into the night until he grew bored and headed out by the balcony. Then he would pace the grounds a while, before settling in the garden or heading out to the bamboo grove.

The front of the mansion would be free, he could sneak Hanako out to the waiting car and be long gone before he knew what was happening.

Bloody gaijin. It was all their fault. Reese with his beautiful daughters and that weird American who kept delaying and delaying. Ishimura knew he could get a promotion if he pulled this off. They were putting him under ridiculous pressure. Any man would begin to crack under it!

He made his way to Hanako's door. Rested his hand on the frame. Began to ease it back, then opened it.

At that moment there came a sudden, distant rumble of thunder. Ishimura gasped. A summer storm? Rain? Perfect! It would cover up the...

"Daddy?" Hanako called.

Ishimura's heart raced. His mouth went dry. Now. It had to be now. He fumbled for the cloth in his pocket.

"I'm here," came a soft-spoken, firm, calm voice from off to Ishimura's left.

He turned, and saw him striding through the darkness towards him, his eufiber molded into a long crimson dressing gown and boxer shorts. Reese. Reese who should have been outside by now. Reese who should not have been here. Reese who could kill him with a flick of his wrist.

"Ishimura," Reese said as he came to the door, then, in a soft voice, "what are you doing up here?"

For a moment his brain froze in abject terror. But then he spoke, and his tone was clear, and calm, and respectful. "I was just coming to check on her, sir. She did not eat much of her food today and I thought she might be taking ill. May I ask why you are up, Kincaid-sama?"

Reese frowned. The dim light that came in from the windows threw his handsome features into stark relief, making them a mixture of fine shapes and deep, impenetrable pools of shadow. "I had a strange feeling," he murmured. "I can't really put a word to it. Just... strange. Anyway," he clapped Ishimura on the arm, "I'll look in on her, and see if she's running a temperature. Go on home to your family. I doubt I'll be getting much rest after this."

He swept by Ishimura into the room, and closed the door behind him.

Ishimura retreated, weak-kneed, panic swirling in his mind. The implications of what Reese had said were horrifying. Could he be showing precognitive signs? If he did, and they developed, how could they ever get to the children?

He almost ran from the mansion. Almost.

Time was running out. He had to keep his cover ironclad for just a little bit longer. And then the Kincaid clan would be wiped out all at once.

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