Chapter 187

                The room was quiet, still, empty of any movement save for Nick’s controlled breathing. Even Eliza and Jerome were under strict orders not to bother him. Days like these, when his friends were caught up in their trials, were one of the few windows he had to work in with virtually no fear of distractions. And that was necessary for today’s task, because Nick was pushing himself in a way he’d never succeeded with before. Not on his own, anyway.

                It had taken him a long while, but he’d eventually managed to dig up and sift through nearly every bit of information available about his former classmates before their HCP arrival. The process had been tedious and ultimately inconclusive, which some part of him had expected. Whoever their mole was, they were good. Good enough to slip past all of the HCP screening processes and continue feeding Globe information even when the teachers were looking for just such a leak. It stood to reason their documentation and history would have been carefully crafted to ensure it didn’t draw any attention. Still, Nick had found a few things here and there. Not enough to prove anything; however, it was adequate to give him a few suspects. The trouble was, to push on from here meant getting more hands-on, and Nick needed to get this right on the first try. If he chose wrong, he might spook the real mole and drive them into hiding, costing Nick his chance to pump them for information.

                That was part of why Nick had resorted to more desperate measures. Part, but not all. The deal he’d made with Ms. Pips meant more than his freedom; it also meant he wouldn’t be able to use Vegas resources for much longer. When the break came, it had to be clean. Being raised by his aunt, who happened to have a few charges that never stuck lobbed against her, was one thing. Children didn’t get to pick their caretakers after all. But if he was connected to Vegas post-college it might dent his political aspirations, and that was unacceptable. Besides, he doubted she’d even be willing to give much help. Not until he had something to offer in return, anyway.

                Nick needed to replace the resources he was losing; he needed to grow more personally capable to offset the lack of assistance. That was why he was staring at a list of names, breath coming slow and steady, as he tried to let his mind drift back to that night in May. The power he’d had then was out of his grasp, Nick understood that perfectly. He’d been juiced by an extremely powerful enhancer; no amount of effort would lift him to those levels again. At the same time though, that didn’t mean his power was incapable of growing stronger. The sudden influx of accurate intuitions over the past few months were proof of that. Nick needed to do more than control the polarity of luck, he had to start shaping the outcomes, if only by a small amount. Because today he didn’t want to choose a name that would lead him to a great career opportunity or introduce him to a lifelong friend, even those would both be instances of good luck. He wanted to find the mole.

                The golden lines were still there in his memory, blurry but distinct. Nick could remember how it all felt more than anything. The certainty, the surety, the ability to see where it was all going and coming from. If he had full access to that world, Nick would be a force of nature. Not unstoppable, he’d been in and around the HCP long enough to know that was lunacy, but quite powerful nonetheless. Today he was trying to tap into some of that power, just a fraction. Whatever part of him had developed in the experience to allow for the intuition, he was hoping it had more room to grow. Otherwise, he’d have to resort to slower methods to flush out his mole, and time was a quickly dwindling resource.

                Slowly, Nick lifted a coin from his pocket and held it out, hands steady and unwavering. His eyes were glowing freely, sunglasses folded neatly on the side of the desk. They were the only item on the wooden surface, save for the piece of paper with Nick’s suspect list. People who had the capability to pull off the mole’s duties. He’d have added motive to the equation as well, if he could have found any. Unfortunately, either there wasn’t such evidence on paper or the mole’s documentation was too cleanly altered. Nick was betting on the latter.

                He pressed the edge of the coin into the center of the list, still holding it between his fingers. Nick reached out with his mind, digging as deeply as he could into the parts of his brain that felt more alive when he used his power. How long had he tried to crush these sections out of existence, tried to push them away, make them not real? Vince thought he knew what it was to fear his power, but at least when he hurt someone it was clear. With uncontrolled luck, any bad thing that happened to people Nick loved might be his fault, and that made it so much more terrifying. He’d never trusted his power, not really. Even post-procedure he’d viewed it as a tool, a neat trick that was occasionally helpful, but nothing to be depended on. Globe had called him out on that, and he hadn’t been wrong. A little luck here and there was enough to bluff his way through the early years of the HCP. His friends were moving on soon though, into a far more dangerous world. If Nick wanted to follow them, even from the sidelines, he needed more power. It was time to turn the part of himself that had always been an enemy into an ally.

                He put all of his thought and energy into those pieces of his mind that tingled with power. Instead of hammering them into submission or trying to corral them, he let the feeling wash over the rest of him. It wasn’t easy, he’d been trying for hours just today, but part of him always instinctually pushed the sensation away. This time, however, felt a little different. Whether it was practice in control or simple fatigue, Nick’s mental walls didn’t spring up with the same enthusiasm as usual. The power coursed over him, through him, to whatever intangible presence out there governed things like luck.

                In his mind, Nick imagined finding the mole. He pictured a golden line that led from him to that achievement, knowing it would have consequences and accepting them as part of the bargain. Nick blocked out everything else, down to the sound of his own heartbeat, until the line filled up every piece of his considerable mind. Only when that was done did his fingers make a quick, flicking motion.

                The coin spun on its edge, circling the page in gradually growing outward spirals. Nick watched, yet paid little attention. His focus wasn’t on the show but rather the outcome, and he intended to keep his concentration until the very end. The coin was losing rotation, slowing down bit by bit. Nick held that golden thread in his mind, willing the power to lead him there with everything he had. He needed this, his friends needed this, and depending on how accurate Shelby’s visions were the entire world might need this.

                When it happened, it was easy to miss. Nick wasn’t even sure if it was actually visible or just an aspect of being in tune with his power. There was no mistaking it though. The coin was starting to wobble in an empty space of page, meaning it would come down without telling him anything. Then, in the span of a blink, a brief spark flashed on its side, driving it toward a new direction. A spark as golden as the lines Nick had seen, or the color currently glowing in his irises. No longer wobbling, now in mid-fall, the coin skittered across the page and came tumbling down directly on top of a name. The first name on the list, in fact. It lay there, flashing no more sparks or golden light, as if daring him to doubt what he’d seen.

                With a long flow of breath, Nick released his focus. There was no guarantee this had actually worked. Even if the spark was real, it could very well have been his power manifesting in a way that didn’t give him what he wanted. Still, it had felt right. Like he was a little closer to that night in May than he had been before. This would be a test. If the name was right, then he could trust that power a bit more next time. If it wasn’t, then Nick had to accept his ability for what it was. He did feel somewhat encouraged that the coin had picked the top name, though. That was who he’d have put his money on for their capability alone.

                Nick reached down and carefully plucked his coin from the page. “Looks like Adam and I are going to have a chat.”