a strange combination of several scenes that happened at different times. i wanted to bridge the gap between disheartened to determined, and i wanted to show how Wade got his fifth Demolition Girl.

warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. the Greater Good™. Diet Angst™. language: pg-13 (for bulls*** and g**damn).

pairing: defunct Nate/Wade bromance.

timeline: 2560-ish.

disclaimer: recognizable characters and terms belong to respective owners. i just made the AU.

notes: 1) i've noticed that several people of genius-level intelligence don't see themselves as smart-they see everyone else as stupid. 2) "fab" in this case is short for "fabricate," as in "genetic fabrication facility," where the Network grows new bodies at incredible expense. 3) delta, omega, gamma, and psi are Greek letters frequently used as variables in math and physics; specifically, these are the variables you would use for quantum physics equations. 4) "Netcon" = "Network Concordat." 5) "Sysadmin" = "System Administrator." 6) Charon is the name of Hayden's private military group; it's also the name of the ferryman who brought souls across the River Styx. 7) "DOD" = "Department of Defense." 8) the UF has a Chancellor instead of a President. 9) "SecDef" = "the Secretary of Defense." the three major heads of the US armed forces are abbreviated in similar fashion (but in all-caps, if you want to be nitpicky), as "SecNav," "SecArmy," and "SecAF"; these abbreviations are used like proper names (e.g. "I've got SecNav on the phone for you, sir."). i imagine the UF would have carried these terms over for the sake of convenience. 10) "demos" here is short for "demographics," specific groups of people as defined by factors such as age, sex, income, occupation, sexuality, etc.

visit The Fateverse Glossary (lex-munro. livejournal. com/64465. html) for terms, concepts, Nodes, and important people.


Recruits

"You're brilliant, you know."

Wade's heard it a million times since he started studying physics.

You're brilliant, you're brilliant.

Bullshit. He's not brilliant—everybody else is stupid. It's the only explanation, since universalized resonance theory just makes sense, and everything else in chronogeometry follows from there.

Wade shrugs as he writes out a quantum entanglement calculation on the surface of the table. In his old body, he didn't have to write out most of his calculations. This brain isn't broken in as well, doesn't have the right connections. It remembers how to play five musical instruments, how to butcher a human body for consumption by hogs, eight ways to compromise physical evidence, how to hotwire a car with a screwdriver. Oddly, his handwriting is unchanged.

The other guy patiently sits across the table, hands folded. "It's why the Network Concordat finally gave in to the Sysadmin on the point of erase-first brainslides. It was rough finding a useable iteration. Maybe in the future we'll just fab a new body for you. It wouldn't be cheap, but we can do it if we need to, and it would be worth it, because you're brilliant. Your mind—the way it works—is a one-in-billions precious resource."

He finishes a simplification before he looks up.

Their visitor this time isn't some well-meaning Mr. Popularity like the Cartographer; he's a nerd, a programmer-tinkerer-whatever with huge glasses and a level of scruff that suggests he's been trying unsuccessfully to grow a beard for about a month.

Wade starts to sketch a map of known proximal leylines. Curves on a spray of dots. "I figured AskaniCorp didn't make me one of their senior chrononeurologists for nothing. I'm head of experimental chronometric physics, too."

"We—the Network, I mean—have been working with advanced chronometric physics for almost eight hundred years now, and our most skilled Theorists can barely follow your work. You've reconciled quantum mechanics with the demonstrable properties of the unified field and vibrational string matter in less time than it takes most of our scientists to complete their preliminary studies."

"It just makes sense," Wade huffs, going over the numbers from yesterday's chronometric scan in his head and doodling out the trendlines over his leyline sketch. "You just have to know the right math, that's all. And you have to realize that the math most people use for physics is one huge special case. What's the point of you sitting there telling me I'm brilliant?"

What's the point of anything? His best friend is a seven-foot-tall vegetable because he was stupid and stubborn and wouldn't just wait even though Wade knew that if they just held out a few years, the Network would give them the green light anyway. Nate never listened when Wade said he just knew things; he listened when Wade had seen it in a movie or read it in a book, he listened when Wade had heard it from some guy at the coffee shop, but never if he just knew it.

He starts a sequence extrapolation, works through the numbers with feverish intensity. He bends close over the grey lines, until his vision is full of deltas and omegas, with a gamma here and a psi there. Just shapes, from this close. Curls and points. The abstract appearance of everything calms him a little.

"I want you to understand why the Netcon wants you to be a Theorist."

"I understand. They'll want me to move to the Core, they'll offer all the best facilities and all the assistants I could want. But all I need is my brain, a pencil, and a chronometric scanner. And my friends. So I'm not going anywhere."

"I'm sure you aren't planning on it. But the Sysadmin doesn't want you to be a Theorist."

He snorts. "Republican prez with a democratic Congress?"

"Not exactly. He sees something the Netcon doesn't. Tell me, Wade—"

"Dr. Wilson," he corrects. "I got my Ph.D. in chronogeometry six years ago—Masters thesis on gravitic induction of quantum tunnels, Doctoral thesis on the effects of quantum entanglement on branch absorption."

"Tell me…what would happen if someone killed the head of AskaniCorp today?"

Wade puts his pencil down. "That a threat?" "Pure conjecture. A hypothetical."

Wade thinks. "Today. It'd be public, so there would be a drop in stock stability, a loss of confidence in AskaniCorp's security measures. Even if we caught the guy, we'd be screwed for at least two months. Marx would probably become the new CEO, he'd make a show of hiring out our security to a separate firm. I'd advise Charon, he'd listen. The place would lock down like a fortress, but the DOD would already have canceled half their contracts for security reasons. Private investments would stabilize, as long as AskaniCorp still had the public backing of the Network. I give it six months before stocks fully recover, two years before the DOD gives us new contracts."

"That's very precise, Wade."

Irritated, Wade flicks his pencil so that it goes flying across the table.

The visitor casually leans to the side and lets the sharpened wood pass by without hitting him. "Victoria Hand is the name of the current Secretary of State, yes?"

"Yes."

"How would you go about turning her into the Chancellor of the United Federation?"

"First you'd have to kill the current one. Then you'd have to get SecDef out of the way, probably by character assassination. After a vote of no confidence in his position as Vice-Chancellor, she'd be Acting Chancellor until the next voting cycle, but she'd have to be voted in properly to get most of the powers of office. Key demos that would vote for her are single moms, lesbians, territorial rights campaigners, civil liberties groups, teachers… She'd have to go public with whoever her latest girlfriend is, show off the stability of her home life. Probably campaign for mutant welfare. Look, whatever-your-name-was—"

"Dr. Hammer, Programmer 001. Call me Weasel—all the Wades I've ever met have. Have a look at this, Wade." And he slides a piece of paper over.

There are two columns of writing.

Stocks tank 2mo+. DOD cancels ½ contracts. New CEO Marx. New security Charon. w/ Network backing, 6mo to stock recovery, 2yr to new DOD contracts.

Assassinate Chancellor. Publicly discredit SecDef, vote of no confidence. Hook single mothers, lesbians, teachers w/ stable public relationship. Hook territorial rights and civil liberties w/ campaign plan focused on mutant social welfare programs.

Wade snorts. "You don't really think you can impress me with that, do you? So you knew what I was going to say…so what? We're Goddamn time travelers."

"I didn't know what you were going to say," says Weasel. "These are the prevalent chains of events under those hypothetical situations, according to chronometric scanning. You did that without a scanner."

Wade doesn't just believe Weasel—he knows that Weasel is telling the truth, the same way he knew how the scenarios would play out.

"It just made sense," Wade manages after a moment. "So. What, I'm a portable scanner?"

"You have nigh-prescient intuition. All your experiments work because you know what's going to happen."

He feels slightly unbalanced. He wishes he still had the pencil, so he could fidget. "Okay."

"The Sysadmin wants you to use that intuition for a very important job as a field agent."

"Very important job," he echoes numbly.

"You know enough about chronogeometry to realize that some branches of the timestream have a widespread effect on the overall stability of the timestream. And you understand that they can become incredibly unstable, and that the easiest way to stabilize many of those branches is by completely destabilizing other branches."

He doesn't like where this is going. "Yes," he says, because he does understand that. "Pruning and absorption, removing some of the vibrational signal-noise."

"The Sysadmin wants you to use your intuition to destabilize specific branches of the timestream as quickly as possible."

Wade swallows thickly. "Okay, you're a Programmer, not a Theorist, so I don't expect you to know this—complete destabilization of a branch would result in collapse. When a timeline collapses, it phase-levels. All matter in it is instantaneously converted into energy. In effect, everything dies in a new Big Bang, and an entirely different universe begins."

"He's told me."

"Then he knows he's asking me to kill billions of—"

"He's asking you to preserve the sentient life forms in over a billion distinct time branches—where each planet capable of supporting life could have populations in the billions or trillions. Reset a few, or the whole thing could reset itself."

Wade feels sick. "The needs of the many, huh?"

"You used to be a soldier for hire. You killed people for a living."

"But I never pretended I had the moral high ground while I was doing it," Wade growls.

Weasel folds his hands together. "If you don't do it, we'll get somebody else who won't be as good at it. All our calculations are aimed at the highest prolonged overall stability—the highest number of lives preserved. And the faster a timeline is demolished, the less chance there is of something else destabilizing. More than that, Wade…it has to be someone who's suffered. It has to be you, because of the way you lost your body, and the way you lost your friend. If it's necessary for a good man to die, he should be killed by someone who knows how important one person can be to another, someone who acknowledges the value of what he's destroying, so that it never gets taken for granted."

"Oh," Wade says.

Oh.

Slowly, Weasel takes his glasses off, polishes the lenses on his labcoat, puts them back on. "We could get someone else, Wade, but I doubt we'd find anyone who truly understands like you do."

"Whole timelines," he breathes, slightly overwhelmed. "Where would I even—I couldn't do it by myself, even if we used brainslides to get me into native bodies. I'd need a team. Four—maybe five people? Capable people. Dangerous people. Anaheim, El Paso, Nessa…"

Weasel slides over another piece of paper.

Neena Thurman. Inez Temple. Vanessa Carlysle. Elektra Natchios. Theresa Cassidy.

"Who's—"

"You'll see," says Weasel.

"And you're sure it's gotta be me?"

"When is it right to kill a child?"

"Never," Wade answers reflexively.

"Even to save whole timelines?"

Wade glares at Weasel. "Necessary and right are two different things. A guy hits the point where he has to steal the medicine his baby needs to survive, that doesn't make stealing right. Just necessary."

Weasel smiles faintly. "Yeah," he says. "I'm sure it's gotta be you." He pulls a black glass sphere out of his pocket and sets it on the table between the two pieces of paper. "This is Ragnarok—you're its Keeper now. It can give you any information you need on how to use it. You've got a week to put together your team, and then we'll send you on your first assignment."

When Weasel has left, Wade sets Neena to work finding Theresa Cassidy. By the next day, he's sitting across a table from her. She's very pretty, he notes absently. All five of his girls are very pretty. They're like a hooker catalog—blonde, brunette, redhead; tomboy and girly-girl; long-walks-on-the-beach and taking-apart-a-V10. Everything a guy could want (unless you're into little people, but if Nessa can do furries and big strapping men, she can probably do midgets).

He snorts to himself. At least the scenery will be nice while he's off destroying whole worlds.

"So, I heard this was…a job interview, of sorts?" the redhead says uncertainly. Irish accent. Very cute.

"'M I making you nervous?" Wade asks.

"Not you, sir. Interviews always make me nervous."

"You know who I am?"

"Dr. Wilson, aye? One of the ones who's been working with the Network. The Savior's best friend."

Even though she meant it neutrally (maybe even as a compliment), it stings. He hides his flinch well (he thinks). "Yup. What are your feelings on assassination?"

She frowns. "Isn't that sort of thing in my work history, sir? Political assassination's one o' my specialties."

"Didn't ask what you do. Asked what your feelings are."

"There's an up-side and a down-side to killing anyone, really. Sometimes, it's just what needs to be done. I s'pose I don't let myself think much on it, because I'm careful about choosing my employers."

Wade flips through her file. Nessa said she's one of Charon's best. "You'll do," he decides. "As of today, you're a member of the Fidelis Network's Timeline Demolition Squad. Over the next three days, you're getting a crash course in things like chronometric entropy and time paradoxes. Then we all leave on our first assignment."

"Leave?" she echoes.

"For a different branch of the timestream," he clarifies. "Another universe."

And her emerald eyes twinkle, and she looks like a little kid at Christmas. If the other four take it this well, maybe the job won't be so rough after all.

.End.