The Lives of Tao

CHAPTER ONE

ENDGAME

I once wrote “Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he.” The humans refer to that stronger being as God. I was referring to myself.

Huchel, Genjix Council – Eastern Hemisphere, the Quasing of King Solomon

The five most egotistical personalities in history. Go.

“That’s easy. You, Genghis, Alexander, Napoleon, and Kathy’s nephew.”

The one at Cambridge?

“He reminds me every time I see him.”

Not a bad list, but I think Genghis Khan’s inclusion is well deserved.

“Patting yourself on the back? I guess listing you and Genghis is a bit redundant.”

Hardly. We should move to another spot. Our view here is obstructed.

Edward Blair looked at the sandy blond-haired woman in the charcoal suit sitting across the bar. Their eyes met, and a hint of dimples appeared on her face, accompanied by a small suggestive smile as she tugged on something around her waist and signaled the bartender. “The view’s just fine where we’re at, Tao.” Edward swirled the golden brown liquid in his glass and sipped with confidence. He kept his gaze on her and winked. He was rewarded with a wink and a slight blush before the bartender arrived and blocked his view.

We have more important things to do than play this silly game.

Edward finished his scotch and ordered another. “Oh, I forgot. We’re talking about how great Genghis was. Fact is, buddy, his work has been duplicated and expanded upon, just look at Alexander. And last time I checked, Mongolia plays a pretty insignificant role on the twenty-first century world stage.”

Alexander is an unfair comparison. It is easy to build an empire when you inherit an army.

“Well, by size, the old British Empire won. At least they’re still around. So there you go, bigger and longer. Size and durability count after all. Ask my wife.” Edward turned away from the bar and looked out the window at the dizzying array of lights emanating from the streets below, a complex grid of bright lines reaching out as far as the eye could see. The night sky was growing darker as large rolling clouds smothered the moon and the stars.

He could feel the gentle swaying on the ninety-fifth floor as strong winds battered the John Hancock Center, rocking it ever so slightly. Springtime in Chicago half a klick above the ground was unpleasant at best. “Good thing we didn’t glide in,” he muttered, taking another sip of scotch and feeling its warmth spread through his body. “You’d think criminal masterminds would choose more isolated bases of operations than the top of skyscrapers. What happened to the good ol’ days when they lived on deserted islands in the Pacific?”

Resorts and skyrocketing beachfront property prices happened. Besides, criminal masterminds are people too. They need groceries and cable like the rest of us. It also does not let us get cute with our plans.

Edward leaned forward and his eyes followed one of the metal beams that crisscrossed the building. That much was true. Sneaking into a base on top of a skyscraper in the center of a metropolis was just as difficult as infiltrating a remote island. Security on the ground level was tight, and the weather made an air drop too risky. Short of blowing up the building, Edward had limited options in their rules of engagement other than through the Signature room on the ninety-fifth floor, one above the Genjix base. “What about Napoleon?”

What about him? He should not even be on the list.

“He was crowned emperor. That’s worth something.”

Anyone can bestow a title upon