“You’re certain you saw it?”
“As clear as glass, sir. When the bus lurched, he practically shoved his palm in my face.”
“And did he use it?”
“Yes, Aaron. His mark. Did he use it?”
Taken aback, Aaron answered slowly. “He’s only a child. I hardly think–”
“That’s just it. You hardly think,” hissed Declant. “Only a child means nothing. That’s exactly when Otto realized his mark’s potential.”
“Then we stop him,” said Aaron quickly, hoping to dissipate any thought of insubordination.
But Declant wasn’t having it. He dragged his hand through his blonde hair, muttering something to himself. He looked awful. Unusual. Bags under his eyes; hair limp; body hunched. Three-hundred-and-sixty-four days of the year Declant looked poised and polished. Tonight, he looked as overworked and under-slept as any one of his sycophants did. Which, though he’d never admit it aloud, gave Aaron the smallest sense of victory.
“…and there hasn’t been one in years,” continued Declant to himself. “He’ll destroy any chance I’ve had…”
He mumbled the rest so quietly, Aaron focused his attention instead on the room. Lit by an enormous fire burning in a grate, Declant’s office radiated heat; yet all Aaron felt was the chill of his boss’ attitude. Cold and stiff, Delcant was a perfect reflection of the rest of the room. Sharp arches peaked in every corner while tall dark pillars filled the spaces in-between, making the room feel endlessly tall. Bookshelves stacked high with books, globes and framed maps wrapped every wall except for the back, which featured a circular window that overlooked the city. And situated in front of the window was a grand ebony desk where sat Declant in a leather wingback chair.Somewhere in the distance, a clock chimed eleven thirty and rain tapped melodically against the glass, causing Aaron’s eyelids to droop.
“So,” said Declant, “how will we do this?”
Aaron remained quiet. The young boy on the bus flashed in his mind–small, tan, stark blue eyes. Nine maybe? It seemed impossible that this child was the keeper of potential ruin and destruction. But his mark was unmistakeable. A sliver of fear shot through him even now as he remembered it.
The Destructor Mark.
Aaron sensed Declant’s icy blue eyes surveying him from across the desk. “Sir?” he asked, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
Slowly, Declant swiveled in his chair, clicking the top of his pen. Like a hologram, his eyes never left Aaron, even as his body moved; and yet, the slightest hint of perspiration glistened on his forehead. He was still only human. Regardless, Aaron knew better than to show anything but stoicism, so he waited, his face a mask. Just like he’d done when Declant had two of his staff members imprisoned for insubordination. And when he announced his wife was on her death bed. But it took every ounce of concentration for Aaron not to react to what came next.
“Kill him,” said Declant, plainly.
Aaron’s throat swelled shut.
“It’s the only way.”
The only way. Five other ways flashed through Aaron’s mind. None of them included killing a child. Declant’s glare intensified, so Aaron quickly found his voice. “Of course,” he said. Satisfied enough with this, Declant relaxed his stare, stood and sauntered over to a cabinet nestled between two of the bookshelves, where various sized glasses and bottles were filled with burnt amber colored liquids. As he mixed together a dark concoction, the gleam of power in his eyes grew. Aaron knew that gleam. It happened once before when Declant won office the second time in a row. Leadership was an elixir that drugged him early on. There was no stopping him.
He took a short sip from his glass. “It’ll eliminate the risk from the start,” he said, as he swirled the liquid. “Any older and he may be unstoppable. So do it quickly. And Aaron, I know no reminder is necessary if you do not obey me.”
Yes. He’d be killed faster than the boy on the bus.
The boy on the bus. His small face was burned into Aaron’s memory. How could he be the holder of such potential evil? He may or may not use it. But Declant dared not risk it.
With a deep breath, Aaron squared his shoulders. It was business. He didn’t know the boy. He didn’t have to care. He owed his life to Declant, not this child. The moment he felt the tiniest bit of guilt permeate his mind, he must force it out like it was poison.
He stood. And with a short nod, said, “I’ll do it.”