The Museum was only fifteen minutes from closing when they arrived. The Doc bounded up the stairs two and three at a time, leaping towards the entrance as fast as he could as Susan rummaged for change to pay the parking fee.
“Leave it!” He shouted back at her, his voice carrying surprisingly loudly given the distance and how hard he’d been running. She sprinted to catch up with him as best she could but he was a powerhouse. She only caught him at the turnstile because he paused to cram a fistful of dollars into the donation box before moving in.
“We shut soon!” The woman called from the entrance booth, but the Doc only gave her a cheery wave and kept on running with Susan drawn, apologetically, along in his wake.
The Doc was well ahead of her, out of sight, by the time she reached the genetics exhibit, losing him amongst the giant plastic helices, posters about heritability and the stuffed examples of ring species. Susan wandered, a little lost, they were almost the only people in here, the last few visitors filtering away as the time to closing counted down over the intercom.
Flustered she turned this way and that, looking for the Doc in every shadow until his massive mitts closed on her and dragged her back into an exhibit, huddling her down behind a string of ape-men that roughly delineated the ascent of man.
“Seems as good a place as any,” he grinned, he seemed to be enjoying this far too much, the game, the chase, even though people had died. She was tempted to say something to him but knew it would be futile to try and sway his opinion. The man was as stubborn as he was… interesting.
The museum closed, the lights went out and they were alone in the dark. She was bored and, frankly, she needed to pee. Every time she went to open her mouth the Doc hushed her, pressing a finger against her lips in a manner she found patronising. She took a deep breath to remonstrate with him and he clamped his hand over her mouth. She bit down, hard and he scowled at her, pointing to the exhibit hall ahead of them.
Two shadows moved, a pair of low rent security guards on their night shift. Chattering about television as they shone their torches left and right. Nothing for them to really be worried about so she bit him again, harder, then stopped. There was a ‘plink’ noise as something bounced and rolled along the floor. One guard went flying, treading on something, his feet flying out from under him, shrieking like a little girl as his arms flew out and caught his partner in the temple, both of them falling down with a sickening ‘thump’ and laying still upon the ground.
What were the odds? She didn’t know, couldn’t think to calculate but this whole thing had been a long series of coincidences, extreme chances and strange circumstances. This was just another in the list and she was beginning to get numb to it.
Whoever it was that had thrown that bauble now stepped into the exhibit hall, a stalking shadow, tall and somehow freakish, his long coat sweeping around him.
“Doctor, show yourself!” The man’s voice was harsh, filled with contempt, hatred, a seething animosity that twisted his voice and his features. “I know you’re here,” he snapped his fingers and the lights came back up with a flicker and a crackle. Another coincidence? In the light the man was revealed, a gaunt, skeletal figure with a strange, wedge shaped head and a pronounced widow’s peak, a pinched mouth and a permanent sneer.
The Doc waved his hand downward, telling her silently to hide as he drew himself up to his impressive height and strode purposefully out of the stand, between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthal Man.
“Here I am. As you wanted. You’ve killed people to get me here. So why don’t you tell me who you are and what you want, why you’ve done all this. Why would you do this?”
The man folded his hands neatly behind his back and that sneering face broke into a smile, it didn’t look like it belonged there. “A man who calls himself ‘Osmium’ has the temerity to ask me my name? Well, you can call me Augury,” He ran his hand down the great, plastic double helix that dominated the exhibit. “As to why? It’s because of this. You’re an abomination Doctor, an unnatural thing, every advantage you have you’ve been given but an artificial thing such as you cannot evolve, cannot change. Only given the natural order can we succeed and progress as a species.”
The Doc frowned, deeply. “That was not my choice. I can hardly be held accountable for what my parents did to me before I was even born.”
“True, but you do remain an example of the process and, given your exploits, a temptation for others to follow in their wake and a key that others might seek to replicate the process that they invented.”
“And your stake?”
Augury pulled a ball from the helix model and without looking, tossed it back over his shoulder. Miraculously it hit a strut and stuck in place. “I am a mutant, a product of nature. You are artificial, a tool, a device, an unchanging machine. You’re not even human while I – and those like me – am the future. I must prove my superiority over you.”
Susan could bear it no longer, she stood up and cupped her hands around her mouth, calling to the Doc. “It’s no good Oz, he’s insane. He’s not listening to a word you’re saying.”
Osmium bristled as she showed herself, but the odds were Augury already knew she was there. His massive six-digit hands curled tight until the knuckles were white. “Maybe he’ll listen to REASON.” The Doc twisted with that unnatural speed he’d shown before, that sledgehammer fist moving in a blinding blur towards Augury’s face. Impossibly Augury moved, the very slightest amount and the Doc’s fist went wide, missing him by a hair and smashing into the podium upon which the helix stood. The blow was so powerful that it collapsed, scattering balls in all directions and Susan had little doubt that the Doc had shattered his own fist with that mighty blow, though he didn’t flinch.
“My mutation,” continued Augury as though nothing had happened “is that I can prognosticate. From a set of starting information I can see the permutations, the possibilities, everything that is going to happen. Like a chain of dominoes, events one after another. I have seen this fight, I know exactly what you and your little friend there are going to do. I have seen it all before.”
The Doc snarled and swung out with his booted food, a blow that would shatter rock if it connected but Augury merely flinched back and gave the Doc’s foot a tap with his own, skeletal hand, overbalancing the bigger man and sending him tumbling to the ground.
“It’s futile. You’ve already lost.”
Susan’s mind churned, ran, there was something about the Doc, he was a patronising bastard but he was smart, remarkable, unique. She realised that for all his insistence, all his attitude and bravado in this instance, he was screwed. Augury was right.
Or was he?
The Doc stumbled to his feet again, nursing his broken hand, clenching his jaw in frustration. His indomitable will wouldn’t let him admit defeat, even when he was apparently fated to lose and he lifted METHOD, hoping – against the odds – to crack Augury’s skull, a man to whom everything was a game, a puzzle, the mere numbers of probability, of chance.
“Wait!” Susan shouted out.
The Doc’s fist halted just before swinging, Augury’s smug face waiting for a blow that never came.
“There’s a paradox! He thinks he’s superior to you because he’s a natural mutation and you’re made.” Susan strode forward, picking her way through the balls and struts that now littered the ground, her finger jabbing, accusative, into Augury’s face. “But your mutation, your ability, you see everything as unbending fate. A chain of events following an inevitable pattern. If that’s the case then what’s the difference between you? Everything merely unfolds according to mathematical certainty. You’re just as engineered as he is!”
Augury’s face fell. “What?”
“Turn your talent on yourself and tell us what you see.” She spat and watched as his eyes glazed over, twitching left and right as the numbers swam in his head.
The Doc wasn’t one to wait though and his fist, suspended in time during Susan’s diatribe, snapped out and cracked into Augury’s skull as doubt flickered in his twisted features. He collapsed like a bundle of coat hangers, his nose spread over his face as the Doc stood triumphant over his unconscious body and shook out his hand, cradling his broken fist against his chest.
“Thank you Susan,” he said after a moment, with a great weariness and a genuine humility and sincerity. “I couldn’t have beaten him without you.”
Susan just nodded and supported him as he staggered, the pain finally cutting through his will. “You were the same. Both Newtonians. I remembered what you said, back on the flats.”
“Not any more.” The door opened before them as they stepped out into the cool night air and the glow of the city lights.
“A man who can admit he’s wrong?” Susan laughed as she helped him down towards the Corvette.
“I’m a scientist Susan, first and foremost. You test a hypothesis and if it is wrong you revise it. That we beat him… well, that demonstrates that the universe is too complex and random to be predicted in this way.”
Susan nodded as they reached the car. “Perhaps I’d better drive?”
The Doc nodded and then smiled in the streetlight, looking down at his massive six-digit fist and lifting it to his mouth, kissing his knuckles. “METHOD…” He laughed, deep and booming and slid into the passenger seat. The roar of the engine herald of further adventures to come.