Randall Smith stood naked in his bathroom. A reflection glared back at him. He had been good looking at one time, but now his appearance was gaunt, for lack of eating, and lack of sleep. He lived alone. He made excellent money. Day in and day out, the numbers on his screen dissolved into meaningless powder. He ordered people to do things and then took credit for it.
At night he traveled. His ability was teleportation. At first he had used it liberally, wasting time in the most exotic locations he could think of - he practically daydreamed all day about the things he'd do, the places he'd go. It was a gift.
It'd only taken a few months for him to feel like he was wasting it. It was just like all the money he was making. It was going towards nothing. He could give it all away and nothing in the world would change.
Then he'd made his mask, and bought his gun, and started the plan.
The shadows under his eyes were pronounced. He pinched his cheeks in one hand, running a thumb over his lip, where a small white scar cut away the symmetry of his face.
ONE YEAR AGO
Plane rides were part of the job. He was being paid major money to sit still, in peace, for hours at a time. Flying private. Who could complain about something like that?
Smith's fellow passengers were other Δcorp employees. He had been brought along with more senior management. To them, he was only a peon, even if he had the power to lord over his own associates. He spent a good deal of time working to impress them, but for the most part, he stayed quiet, secluded, staring out the window.
Pittsburgh was just below. He sighed whenever he thought of it. She hadn't wanted to move to Pittsburgh with him, despite the opportunities it would bring. Years, gone, just like that. She was on the other side of the States now. And all it would take was a plane ride like this one to connect them - but she wasn't even willing to try.
Stop, he thought to himself. Forget her. You're only hurting yourself.
He had to think about the future now. His future.
There was a conversation going on in the cabin. The bosses, smiling, laughing. He murmured something in assent with a small smile, mind elsewhere. He'd give the world to be anywhere else.
Then, a crunching noise. His brow furrowed as turbulence shook the cabin -
- then the plane started to disintegrate around him, like he was in a dream. The floor, the walls - there was no depressurization, because it all just turned into rust-colored dust -
- everyone falling -
- and he was gone.
Officially, Randall Smith had boarded that plane and was feared dead for a number of hours - no body found in the aftermath of the Chromewrecker incident.
Δcorp was thankful to find him alive and well, having made other travel arrangements to Pittsburgh.
Lucky me, he'd say. Can you imagine if I'd been on that plane with the others?
It'd begun before that, the first time he had visited Pittsburgh with her. That was three months or so before the plane crash - before 'Chromewrecker.' He didn't think about the plane crash nearly as much as he thought about this.
He and Anais, out together at night (he'd not wanted to walk home at night. He'd wanted to take an Uber). She was wearing a nice dress and he was wearing a corduroy sweater. They were slightly drunk, which in retrospect made them easy targets, though she was more buzzed than he was.
Nothing dramatic happened. They were lucky, was what everyone said. Nobody got seriously hurt.
Randall had noticed that they were being followed by someone a block back and put his hand on Anais' back. Slowly but surely - unavoidably - that person had picked up the pace, and was right by them. Being mugged was frightening, particularly at knife-point. He knew to run from a knife, but he had Anais to worry about, so he put his hands up and handed over the money.
He knew not to go for the knife. He watched the blade's tip quiver in the moonlight. Anais had let out a small gasp and covered her mouth.
Smith did everything right. He put himself between the man and her. He put his hands up and fished his wallet out of his pocket, then tossed it over.
For his trouble, he got punched in the face, and the man ran. It was a good solid punch, and it'd sent him to the sidewalk. Anais screamed and he busted his lip (scar was still there).
"What do you think he looked like?" he remembered saying, no, screaming at the cop, rubbing his lower lip. He'd feel bad about that one later - but not as bad as he felt when she glared at him. As if, she was thinking, this proved anything! It wasn't like he was a bad person for just pointing out the...the obvious.
"What? What?" he sputtered. "I mean...come on."
They never found the guy, of course. The officers said they were fortunate they weren't hurt, and to 'watch out next time.'
That one stuck with him, and buried itself in his brain. Especially after she left him. She said it was because of the space, and that she didn't want to move to Pittsburgh, but he knew the real reason why. He'd been emasculated in front of her. He was unable to protect her. And Pittsburgh - the scum that held innocents like him at knife point - was to blame.
Watch out next time.
He'd show her. He'd make all the money in the world, and nobody would ever be able to touch him. She'd be sorry she left.