Disclaimer: Worm belongs to Wildbow. Also, this fic is an omake of the excellent Security! by ack1308.
I came to slowly, struggling to throw off an overwhelming sense of disorientation. My vision was cloudy, but the sound of running water at least gave me a clue as to my location. I could also hear a great deal of hustle and bustle, human noises, in the distance.
A river, maybe? A stream, more likely. It's too quiet, nearly drowned out by the sounds of passersby, though none of them seem to be very close. Their voices… They were speaking English, but with some sort of accent. British? Australian? Something like that.
Another one of my senses began to go haywire: my nose picked up the stench of someone who hadn't bathed in quite a while. I swiveled my head in the direction it seemed to be coming from and heard a low growl. My vision started to come into focus, and I beheld a homeless man and a dog, walking in my direction. The man looked concerned.
No. Hell no. This can't be who I think it is. I invoked my only power of real consequence, recalling the interlude where Zion met Kevin Norton for the last time. It was raining when it happened then, sure, but I had no idea if this was the same day. There was no sign of Lisette. But the stream, the bridge, the cobblestone path… It matched up.
I reached for my phone. I realized it wasn't functioning.
Light began to surround me. I didn't dare move as Zion descended.
Norton must have assumed I was struck dumb with disbelief. He seemed vaguely surprised himself. As he should be, since Zion usually came when he was alone.
He launched into his speech. It was almost word-for-word the same as in the story. Of course it is. He's been rehearsing for who knows how long, reciting it to himself, because he's realized how important the phrasing would be. One unfortunate word and it would be the end of the world.
If only he knew.
Norton seemed to have finished. In the book, Zion had fixated on leaf while Norton was explaining things to Lisette. This time though, the man had said his piece before Zion decided to look elsewhere. The golden being promptly turned… to look directly at me.
Well, it was a good try, at least. Although really, I should have at least made a run for it at the end. Now, Zion only needed to use his ability to see some of the possible futures that awaited me to find out that I was actively working to shave off about three thousand years of his lifespan, a problem that he could easily remedy with my death. I had to admit, I was afraid to die. The thought that all my work, all the people I'd saved or reformed, was for nothing, weighed heavily on me as well.
But the golden man didn't move, didn't raise his hand to command an orb of light to strike me. He continued to stare. The expression on his face didn't change, but the aura of sadness about him seemed to. Now I was getting a different reading off of him. It was almost… expectant?
Norton spoke, jolting me out of my bewilderment. "You ok, mate? You speak English?"
I numbly turned towards him, afraid to make any sudden moves. "Yeah, I speak it."
"Looks like he's interested in you," Norton said, sounding mildly intrigued by that possibility. "He usually only shows when I'm alone, y'know. Maybe he was looking for you."
"You think so?" I asked weakly. It wasn't out of the question, actually. Zion has Contessa's power. Not mention who knows how many others. His real weakness, I knew, was his lack of creativity, and curiosity. He could have have hunted me down the moment I arrived in this world, and ought to have, if he was really using that power, or actively investigating any threats against him. But for the moment, he was just following Norton's , the first independent decision he had made, after deciding to follow Norton's advice in the first place, had been choosing to try destroying the world rather than saving it. And even though the Nine had been neutralized, it would only be a matter of time before Zion did the same thing this time around.
I dared to meet the golden man's gaze. His face was unchanged, but the impression he gave off grew stronger.
Expectation. I could almost hear it in entity-speak.
What is he expecting? Does he think I'll try to stop him right here, alone? Or, could it be he's still trying to play the part of a hero, and he's gonna wait for me to make the first move? Could he not be aware of my plans at all? But then why was he fixating on me? It wasn't like I could effortlessly fix his problems as I'd done with so many other people, aided by knowledge they couldn't know, couldn't imagine-
An idea began to form in my mind, perhaps the craziest I'd had since I'd decided to try and fight the end of the world instead of running as far from this crapsack world as possible.
Maybe it was impossible. But then again, Zion's partner had done all the thinking for him, and after that, he'd taken orders from Norton. It just might be that he'd never considered what I was about to suggest.
"Zion," I began, "You want to continue the cycle, right? You want things to go back to the way they were meant to be." The golden man continued gazing at me, motionlessly. In the corner of my eye, I could see Norton staring too.
"Your partner can't come back. At least, I don't know how it could happen." As I said this, the aura around him projected a despair so intense that I winced unwillingly. Well, at least he's paying attention. "But there's another solution."
Doubt. Incredulity. Skepticism even.
"It's true," I began. I didn't want to stay in dangerous territory any longer than I had to, but apparently he needed convincing. "Remember when you broadcasted concern for your partner, on your way here? You partner signaled Confident in reply."
I couldn't get much of anything off of Zion now. I hastily continued.
"Your partner exchanged shards with another one of your kind. There are others out there, others who don't form up in pairs, like you did. They're less closely related to you, and it would be harder for you to communicate with them, but you'll be able to exchange shards. To grow, and get on with your life."
It seemed like he was considering it. At least, I hoped that he was, and I wasn't just projecting in my desperation.
"I mean, it would be nice if you follow through with Kevin's suggestions before, about the Endbringers, but if you ever get tired of what you're doing - if it doesn't satisfy you any more? Then take my advice. There's no need to end your days on this rock."
I couldn't think of anything more to say, and I couldn't get a read off of Zion any more. Without any warning, the golden man flew up and away with a burst of light. My hands were shaking as I reached for my phone once more.
"I never told you my name," said Kevin Norton, half to himself. "Nor the golden man's."
I spoke to him as I texted a question to Dinah. The response came back almost immediately.
Well, that's a little better at least. I think. But then, I received more texts.
10% that it ends in 1 year
5% between 1 and 2
Drops off a lot after
I relaxed completely, for the first time since I'd gotten to this world. I realized I was shaking, even as I was overwhelmed by relief.
Norton was only more confused by what I'd absently told him. "That still doesn't make any sense," he complained. "And you still haven't explained how you knew that he's really called Zion."
"It's a really, really, long story."