Pavelec’s fists were balled up at her sides, and SMS could see the gears turning in her head as she sorted through the events of the past day, everything from the initial meeting with Innis up until his betrayal. SMS didn’t blame her for being fooled: he’d had no idea what was really going on himself, and he was supposed to be Innis’s right-hand man! Then again, Cyber had been undercutting that status for the last few weeks. SMS wondered what else Innis had been hiding from him lately.
Making an effort to curb her emotion, Pavelec looked for more explanation. “So what about Levi St. Laurent? What’s his role in all this? How long have you been working with him? I assume the Laurentians are working for him…”
Innis chuckled. “I have to be honest: that was one part of this that caught me a little off guard. Where did you make the connection to St. Laurent? Did a little martyr let the name slip? That’s what happened, isn’t it? Hard to manage that Quebecois zealotry… They really love to name their cause. Luckily you were too busy to properly follow up, but I bet you felt like you had a significant clue on your hands after that, didn’t you? The Specials Unit thinks it knows so much about St. Laurent. You’ve got that big sting in the works and everything… I’m afraid you’re all in for a bit of disappointment, though, Mia. See, I am Levi St. Laurent. Or should I say ‘Je suis’?”
Now SMS was really shocked. How could that be true? How could Innis have been managing a completely different criminal identity, on the other side of the country, no less, without SMS knowing about it? And this was no recent deception: it must have been going on for years if the Laurentians were established enough to have access to the kind of equipment they were using, and to be conducting coordinated attacks here in BC.
“Truth is, Mia,” said Innis, apparently not yet done with revelling in his victory over the RCMP agent, “I’ve had the inside track on you for months. All your plots and machinations… It all hinged on you knowing more about Carton and the others than anyone else did. You kept things under wraps pretty well, for a while, but I managed to put it all together. I think you know what your biggest mistake was, don’t you?”
Pavelec took one threatening step towards Innis, but half a dozen guns were instantly levelled at her chest, and she halted.
“You hide it well,” Innis continued, “but I know that night haunts you, the way it haunts everyone who’s taken on the burden you thought you could shoulder. The way it haunts Caleb Merton.”
Pavelec was slowly shaking her head now, and grinding her teeth back and forth. Something inside her seemed to be slowly snapping.
“You handle it better than anyone else I’ve seen,” said Innis, “but there are still signs. The attitude change you underwent, for one. You weren’t always this callous, were you? This insensitive? Demanding? Heartless, even? I could go on, but I’m sure most of these word have come up a few times around the water cooler at work.”
“No, you’re wrong,” said Pavelec through clenched teeth.
“Am I? Well forget the personality shift. Even without that it was obvious what you’d done. Want to hear the real secret? It’s a little trick I learned over several weeks of observation: you blink too much.”
Once SMS had heard it, he couldn’t help but notice. Pavelec’s eyelids really were overactive. He’d attributed it to some tic or twitch and tuned it out, but was Innis suggesting that something else might be behind it? What was he getting at?
Innis was grinning, obviously pleased with himself. “I was almost disappointed to catch that symptom. It made the diagnosis too easy. There are other signs, of course, but you’re a unique study. I was pretty confident I was right about you, but I had to get to Carton to confirm my suspicions. Imagine my delight when I found out about his little bookkeeping quirk. An oddity he and I share, interestingly enough. And there on the page, guess whose name I found? You should consider using a pseudonym, Mia. I find them quite handy, myself.”
The missing piece fell into place, and suddenly SMS understood what Innis was saying. Pavelec had been to see Walter Carton at some point. She had taken on his gift, spent a night glorying in the rush of flight and impossible strength, and come back down to earth the next day. But where Caleb had been shattered, his mind utterly destroyed by the experience, Pavelec had kept herself together relatively well.
Ian went on: “It must be nice not having to sleep, so you can avoid the nightmares.”
Pavelec’s barked a rueful laugh. “Avoid them? My entire life has been filled with nightmares, from the very beginning. My nightmare is every dark, still moment spent lying under a ticking clock, wondering why the entire world has shut down around me and trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong, why I can’t close my eyes and sink inside myself like everybody else. No, I can’t avoid the nightmares. Every realization of what I had and what I lost burns me up inside. See, the thing about nightmares is that they end when you wake up. But I’m always awake, Ian. I have nothing to wake up from. I can’t escape. Might as well embrace it…”
“I understand your thought process completely,” said Ian. “So of course I can’t let you go through with it. You’d be too powerful, Mia. Speed and mass control from Olivia, shapeshifting and lightbending from Hank Garva… That woman in Tampa gives temperature manipulation and telekinesis, right? And those are just the ones I know you’ve been in contact with. There’s at least one more out there.”
Fire leapt from Pavelec’s eyes. “Don’t you touch them!” she shrieked. “They’re mine!”
Innis shook his head. “I’d be happy to let you keep them, Mia, if I thought your use of them could be controlled, or at least predicted. But it’s just the nature of their ‘gifts’: there’s way too much instability involved, too much chaos. And you know I don’t like chaos.”
Pavelec’s voice dropped nearly to a whisper, her anger tinged with a hint of fear. “What are you going to do?”
“If I can’t control them or their clients,” said Ian, “then they aren’t useful to me. And if I can’t use them, then I definitely don’t want anyone else to use them against me. So, SMS, by way of apology for keeping you in the dark, I’ll let you do the honours. Take this”—he handed Pavelec’s gun to SMS and gestured towards Olivia—”and remove our little wildcard from the equation for me.”