Monday, September 30, 2013

Page 260

I need a couple hours to take care of this soul,’ said Garovel. ‘You should head back home. The sun will be up soon, and you’ve got school.

Alright...’ Before starting the motorcycle, however, he stopped himself. ‘Actually, I think I’ll see if Colt shows up first.

The reaper did not answer.

...Garovel? Okay. See you later, I guess.

After a few minutes, he decided to circle the block a couple times. After an hour, he was about to text Colt again when a familiar voice caught his attention.

Found him.

Hector turned and blinked at the long-faced reaper there. “Bohwanox! What are you doing here?”

Helping someone find you.


Colt rounded the corner. “There you are.”

Hector looked between them, struggling to ask the necessary question.

Bohwanox got there first. ‘Yes, Colt can see me. I resurrected him after Geoffrey killed him.

Colt cocked an eyebrow at Hector. “What the hell kind of baby carriage is that?”

“Ah--uh--” Hector released the iron around the children, taking them both into his arms. He immediately handed them over to their father.

Colt looked even more confused as he took them. “Where’d the metal go?”

“It’s, uh...” Hector scratched his helm as if it were his head. He looked to the reaper for help.

I’ll explain later,’ said Bohwanox.

Hector gave a grateful nod and eyed Colt again. “Why’d you reschedule the meet again, anyway?” he asked. “I thought you were hiding from the police.”

“Reschedule? What are you talking about?”

“Your text. We agreed to meet at noon tomorrow, but then, uh... you, uh...”

Colt’s brow lowered. “I don’t follow.”

Hector exhaled a curt breath and pulled out his phone. He showed the conversation to both of them.

“...I didn’t send any of those first texts there,” said Colt. “I’m not sure what--” And the realization hit him. It left his mouth hanging open, and for a moment, he merely stared at Hector, speechless.

Page 259

The next two people were trapped in a broom closet. They’d presumably tried to take shelter there, only to have a massive line of shelves fall and block the door. Hector cleared it easily enough. One of them couldn’t walk, so Hector hoisted the man over his shoulder and carried him all the way out of the building.

Police officers were waiting for him at the entrance, and Hector was briefly afraid they would try to get in his way. Instead, they took the injured man off his hands, carrying the guy to an ambulance.

Another officer offered to take the twins away as well, making Hector deliberate a moment before deciding to run away with them. He leapt over the police line and ducked into a narrow side street.

Under cover of darkness, he listened for Garovel’s next orders. When none came, he asked the obvious. ‘See anyone else trapped?

I’m double-checking, but I think that’s everyone.

Really? I thought there’d be more...

I imagine the power station doesn’t have a large night crew. And I bet a lot of the place is automated.

So... all the people made it out safely?

Well. No, unfortunately not. There’s a fire near the far end of the building. Looks like some poor guy burned to death.’

Hector frowned and sighed. ‘I could’ve... if I’d...

I don’t think it was possible to save everyone here, shitty as that sounds. You’d need to have been ridiculously powerful, and you’re already stronger than normal, given your age as a servant.

Hector had no response. He waited for Garovel to finish up searching. The reaper made a third pass to ensure no one had been missed.

Looks like there was only one casualty,’ said Garovel. ‘Firefighters got a couple people out, too.

I guess that’s... something...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Page 258

Hector went to move a block, but the others all shifted as soon as he touched it. The pinned man winced in pain. Hector took a step back.

Hmm.’ Garovel floated around the scene. ‘It’s more of a mess than I thought. You’ll have to take it slowly. Follow my directions carefully.

The reaper pointed out each individual block to move in sequence. Hector tried to be both gentle and quick, but it still took upwards of ten minutes before he reached the last chunk of concrete. Hector lifted it off the man’s leg, allowing him to crawl free.

Before the victim could thank him, however, another tremor shook the room, and all the metal beams overhead shuddered. One fell straight for the man. Hector leapt up and swatted it away, feeling his own arm snap in the process.

“Can you walk?” said Hector, hearing more beams creaking and bending.

The man scrambled out of the room instead of answering.

Two more beams fell at once, and Hector caught them both on iron shoulders. The floor cracked under his feet.

And for a moment, as he struggled under the weight, he could see the twins’ faces. “I can’t believe you’re not crying.” He shrugged the beams off and sprinted for the open doorway. The rest of the room collapsed behind him. He shielded the children from the flying debris.

Through the dust, he saw them again. They both just stared at him, more curious than upset. He looked for Garovel, but the reaper had already disappeared in search of more survivors.

Hector couldn’t help smirking at the kids. “Not impressed by loud, dangerous things anymore, is that it?”

The girl started crying, and the boy soon joined in.

“...I jinxed it.”

Found two more people,’ said Garovel.

Show me where.’ He frowned at the kids. “Just a little longer, you two. I know it’s scary.”

Page 257

The kids fit tightly enough into their iron carriage that they did not jostle as Hector headed toward the police line. The uniformed officers saw him spring out of the darkness and bound over the hood of a vehicle. He could hear them radioing it in but paid them no mind.

Aside from a few blown out windows, the front of the building was still more or less intact, but the inside was another story. A team of rescuers with shovels and hatchets spotted Hector immediately. They shouted at him, but he didn’t stop to chat. He followed Garovel through a side room and down a flight of concrete stairs.

Halfway to the basement, however, he found the narrow staircase blocked.

It’s safe to punch your way through,’ Garovel said from the other side.

Hector made an iron bubble around his torso, ensuring the children were completely enveloped. He reached into the rubble with metal hands and ripped open a path for himself. Splintered wood, crushed plaster, and torn metal all tumbled down the steps, and he kicked it out of his way as he reached the basement floor. He opened the iron bubble again to make sure the children had air.

This way.

He passed through a corridor and then two more rooms, seeing holes in the ceiling and huge cracks in the walls. The floor trembled, and he had to stop running for a moment to keep his balance.

There he is.’ The reaper pointed toward the next room over, where Hector could see the entire ceiling had caved in.

“Help!” came a yell from beneath the pile of wood and concrete. “Someone!”

A network of metal beams hung above the man, all torn and bent, some even dangling as if ready to fall on top of him.

Both his arm and leg are pinned,’ Garovel explained. ‘Hurry and lift those blocks there.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Page 256 -- XXIX.

The kid’s probably just busy.’ Colt hung up and scratched his beard, eyeing the phone up and down. ‘Bah. This thing doesn’t have SMS. I gotta find another cellphone so I can text him.

How long is that going to take?

Colt abruptly noticed the mobile phone store at the far end of the street. ‘Couple minutes, I’m guessing.

Chapter Twenty-Nine: ‘Forth unto ruin...’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

Hector pulled the motorcycle around a corner and shut the engine off. From afar, he could see floodlights lining the street, trying to light up the otherwise pitch dark rubble. Teams of emergency services already surrounded the collapsed building.

Garovel proceeded on while Hector waited beyond the police officers’ line of sight.

Maybe I should go with you,’ said Hector. ‘For all we know, Geoffrey could be in there.

He’s not,’ said Garovel. ‘If he were that close, I’d be able to sense his presence.

You’re sure?

Sure as I can be. If I scream for help, come save me.


Relax. I’ll be cautious.

Before silence could return, however, he realized that his phone was beeping. He reached around the children attached to his torso and read the message:

r they safe?
“What the...?” He squinted through his helm. The ID of the sender was different from the one earlier. Hector asked why and waited for the response.
new phone. r they safe? lets meet
Hector’s face scrunched up. He could chalk the repeated safety question up to fatherly concern, but he couldn’t understand why Colt suddenly wanted to reschedule again. Garovel interrupted his train of thought, however.

Hector, there’s someone trapped in here.

Shit.’ He forewent his questions for Colt and simply typed the address of the power station into the phone.

And Garovel was suddenly there in front of him again, reaching for his shoulder. ‘Follow me. I don’t think the rescue team will find him in time.

He started running as he hit send. ‘Okay.

Page 255

Colt raised an eyebrow. ‘You know about that, huh? How long have you been following me, anyway?

Since Hector helped you and your kids escape from that underground mansion.

I see.

The reaper tilted his shadowed face at him. ‘You don’t strike me as the type of person who wants to improve society. No offense.’

I am not a good man,’ said Colt. ‘A good man would regret a lot of the things I’ve done, I think. But I’ve known good people. Or at least, people who deserved a lot better than what they got. And I figured that I could do things that good people can’t.

Things, huh? Care to elaborate?’ said Bohwanox.


We are going to be spending a lot of time together. It would be best if we learned to get along.

I think we’ll get along just fine without knowing every little thing about each other.

You’re not curious about me, then?

Tell me whatever you want. I’m not stopping you.

Hmm. So you’d prefer a business-like relationship.

Hell yes.

Bohwanox paused. ‘I’m okay with that. As long as you don’t disobey me.

Fine.’ Colt stopped, looked around the open street, and then eyed Bohwanox another time. ‘Look, I know you’re against it, but I really need to steal a car if I wanna make it all the way back to Brighton by morning. How about if I steal it from someone who deserves it?

I suppose that would be okay. But can you actually find someone like that?

An hour later, he had a car. Annoyingly, Bohwanox made him drive the drunken idiot home first.

Next, Colt found a pay phone.

Calling Hector?

Yeah. I memorized his number in case of emergencies.

Quite prepared, aren’t you?

Not enough, obviously.’ He listened to it ring.

A few beats passed. ‘He’s not picking up,’ said Bohwanox.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Page 254

Then let’s hurry,’ said Garovel.

Hector gathered up the children.


Walking all the way back to the motel from the port had been irritatingly slow. He’d wanted to just steal a car--as apparently Geoffrey had thrown Colt’s into the water--but Bohwanox wouldn’t allow it.

Yellow tape lined the parking lot, but after waiting for the last squad car to leave for the night, Colt was relieved to discover that his room had not been ransacked by the police. His money, clothes, and travel supplies were all safe.

I suppose this means the cops weren’t able to identify you,’ said Bohwanox.

“Could be that someone heard gunshots but no one actually saw me.” Colt exchanged his torn shirt and pants for fresh ones, finding a lone shark tooth in the collar as he threw the old clothes away. “That, or the cops here are just stupid--which is honestly more probable.”

I thought you’d think more highly of the police.

“Not in this fucking country.” He gathered his things and headed back outside.

Then why did you even bother becoming a police officer in the first place?

Because I thought I could be useful,’ said Colt. It was the dead of night, so almost no one else was on the street, but he decided to keep their conversation quiet anyway. ‘Tried the military for a while, but it was all training and bullshit. Had to spend all my time with a bunch of dumbasses, and we never even left the country. Got back to Brighton, which was up to its eyeballs in criminal shit, and the law was doing absolutely everything it could to help the assholes get away with it. So I started using the law to fuck them over every chance I got.

And that’s when the Rofals took notice?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Page 253

Hector looked at the twins in the darkness, still asleep in their makeshift beds. ‘But... what about the children?

Do you think you should stay?

His expression strained. ‘I don’t know... people could be hurt out there, right? Trapped under rubble or something?

That they could.

He stood and ran a hand across his face as he started pacing across the room. ‘What do I do? If someone’s dying over there, and I could--agh--but I just--!

Take the kids with you.’

He watched Garovel float back down through the ceiling. ‘What?!

You could be gone for hours, depending on how things go. Shouldn’t leave babies unattended for that long.

But it’s fucking dangerous!

You’ll keep them safe.

He was incredulous. ‘You can’t know that! What if I fuck things up again?!

Hector,’ said Garovel. ‘I know you still lack confidence, but there is no doubt in my mind that you will protect them. Need I remind you of all the people you’ve already saved?

He looked at the floor and frowned.

I do need to? Okay, well, let’s see. There’s Bohwanox, me, Colt, these same children, me again, those people from the apartment complex the other day, Lynn, Roman, Mehlsanz, the fucking Queen of Atreya, me a third time--oh, and that girl from your first night as my servant, remember her? Come on, there are so many that I can’t even remember them all. And guess what? You’re stronger now than you’ve ever been.

I... ah... but if they get hurt...

They’ll always be in danger of getting hurt. But right now, one of the safest places they can be is by your side. Just don’t use them to reflect bullets, and I think they’ll be fine.

Hector was silent.

Garovel waited, and then said, ‘How about I go scout out the situation first, then?

He looked up. ‘N-no. I don’t want you going anywhere without me, either.

I’ll be careful.’ The reaper moved toward the wall.

No, you’re right. I’ll... I’ll keep the kids safe... and I’ll keep you safe, too.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Page 252

For a while, Geoffrey merely sat and watched the house.

“What should I do?” he mused. “Hmm. I do not want to just rush right to the good part. It has to be something special. Obviously, I need to make him watch his reaper die, but what else? Umm... oh! The children! Of course the children! I couldn’t make Mr. Colt watch them die, so I can make Hector watch, instead!”

Geoffrey furrowed his brow and folded his arms. “But wait. He is much stronger than Mr. Colt. Removing the children from his possession without killing him first could prove difficult... Maybe if I lure him away from the house...? Well, let me think. It is the middle of the night... and he is rather protective... How can I get him to leave without taking the children with him? Hmm...”


Back in his room, Hector sat practicing with metal, trying to improve his speed in the creation of gauntlets again. He’d found an old stopwatch and decided to time himself. After a few attempts, he discovered that he had managed to shave a whole second off the process.

“Only another fourteen and a half minutes to go,” he mumbled.

He was about to give it another try when a distant pop interrupted him. A small tremor passed through the room, and the light from his desk lamp flickered and died.

“What was that?”

An explosion, if I’m not mistaken.’ Garovel flew up through the ceiling.

Hector waited in the dark. ‘The power isn’t coming back on...

It’s not just your house. Several blocks just went completely dark. I think we can assume the blast came from the power plant.’

What do you want me to do? Should I go check it out?

I’m thinking so, yeah.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Page 251

But at the same time, Geoffrey knew that he could not let things draw out too much. There was one insurmountable obstacle that would surely end all the fun sooner or later. His grandfather.

Damian was rebuilding the family business. Hector was an active hindrance to that effort. Their clash seemed inevitable. And obviously, stopping Damian was no kind of option. So the more he thought about it, the more Geoffrey realized that even if he didn’t exactly want Hector dead, he certainly didn’t want someone else to get the kill. That was, after all, why he had told Feromas and Damian nothing before coming here. If Hector had to die, then Geoffrey had to be the one responsible for it. Simple as that.

He saw Hector pull out a cellphone and begin texting. Colt’s phone started beeping soon after. The message read:

where r u?
Geoffrey thought a moment and then wrote back:
sry. cant make it. reschedule for tmrw?
There was a long pause. He returned to watching the reaper as his patience began to wear thin, and then Hector’s next message read:
fine. but tell me what happened
Geoffrey pursed his lips as he considered what to write next. “Ah, here we go...” He wrote:
geoffrey attacked me but i got away. hiding from cops now
He laughed to himself. “And people think I’m not smart.”

Hector sent one more text, suggesting they meet back up in the afternoon, to which Geoffrey agreed, and then Geoffrey watched them leave the park. Hector was too difficult to follow in the darkness, but the reaper was clear as day.

Geoffrey kept his distance, bounding between rooftops, splashes of red carrying him along as he maintained his view. And it wasn’t long before he saw the reaper slow. He looked through his binoculars again and watched the reaper disappear into a two-story house.

“So that is where you live,” said Geoffrey. “Interesting.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Page 250

Hector soon arrived at Nelson Park. He saw no one immediately around, save a young couple walking by the entrance and an occasional passing car.

“It’s pretty dark,” said Hector. “You mind helping me find him from the sky?”

Sure thing.’ Garovel flew above the trees, which were dense enough that Hector had trouble following where the reaper had gone.

But, uh... stay in my line of sight, please...

Yes, Mother.

Hector moved toward the center of the park, where there was a manmade pond with a small fountain. He stopped under a tall lamp along the main footpath, but he decided not to sit on the bench there.

Hmm,’ Garovel said after a few minutes. ‘I don’t see him. Do you?

No. Guess we’re waiting...


Nestled behind a tall air vent on the roof of an apartment complex, Geoffrey found his spot. It was rather far, but he could see practically the whole park from here. He pointed his binoculars at the moving glimmer in the sky, and he saw the reaper. Hector’s reaper.

Geoffrey grinned. “Aha. I thought it might be you two who helped Mr. Colt.” He panned down across the park. “Now where is Hector...?”

He saw the dark figure below a streetlamp. Geoffrey touched the sore lump on his chest. It was no more than an occasional nuisance, so he had never bothered to get it looked at by a doctor, contrary to Desmond’s wishes. Rather, Geoffrey enjoyed the feeling, enjoyed how it reminded him of Hector--his very special friend.

Honestly, he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to kill Hector. Thinking about all the potential hostilities that they could have, the violent clashes and innocent casualties and long sessions of torture, Geoffrey couldn’t help but smile. Hector seemed like someone who could amuse him for a very long time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Page 249 -- XXVIII.

Maybe it IS impossible,’ said Garovel. ‘Obviously, a good family wouldn’t just take them without asking any questions. Maybe we could explain somehow or find some other way to pull it off, but... at the moment, nothing springs to mind.

“Ugh, geez... and what’s the third option?”

As Garovel was about to answer, however, Hector’s phone began beeping. It sat inside the coat on his desk, and they both turned to look at it there.

Chapter Twenty-Eight: ‘Beware thy shadow...’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

Hector checked the messages. The conversation read:

unknown_sender: delroy. 8133 sampson st. life/death. keep them safe
user: r u ok?
user: what happened?
unknown_sender: im fine do u have the kids?
“He actually answered,” said Hector.

That’s a relief. Ask him what happened again.

Hector did so. They didn’t have to wait long for the reply.

a lot. easier to explain in person. lets meet up asap
“Hmm.” He showed the message to Garovel.

There’s no reason to tell him where you live. Pick somewhere else.

“The cemetery?”

Eh, that’s too close. You know that park west of here? About two kilometers or so?

“Uh... Nelson Park, right?”


“Okay...” He sent the message.
ok heading there now
Hector’s brow receded. “In the middle of the night...? Geez. I guess he’s eager to get his kids back. I suppose I would be, too, if I were him...”

He wasn’t sure if he should sneak out through the window. It seemed like a bad idea with two babies in his arms. He knew his parents both had early starts in the morning, especially his mother, so he checked downstairs and was relieved to find that they had both gone to bed already.

He slipped out through the front door with the children, bringing the baby supplies just in case. As he approached the motorcycle, he made a fresh iron carriage for them.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Page 248

Hector thought about asking his mother the same questions that he’d asked his father, but that seemed wrong, somehow, like subjecting them to some kind of secret test. Then again, it was also frightening, the idea that she might answer differently. He honestly wasn’t sure he wanted to know if his father had been lying in some way.

So he stayed quiet. And soon enough, his mother was gone again.

His eyes fell upon the children another time. “Garovel... what do you think I should do with them?”

Tough to say, really. We don’t know if it’s even safe to put them into foster care. Presumably, Colt would’ve done that if he thought it was best for them, but who knows?

Hector frowned. “We’re lacking in information again...”

Yes, we are. I suppose that means we shouldn’t make any hasty decisions, then.

“But... sooner or later...”

Yeah. You’ve bought yourself a few days, as far as your parents are concerned. For now, I think the only thing we can really do is wait. Hopefully, Colt will get back to you soon.

“I guess so...”

But it’s worth thinking about what we’ll do if Colt never comes for them.


The way I see it, we will essentially have three options. Option one: we put them into foster care. Obviously, that could be dangerous, but even if we can’t eliminate the danger, then we could at least mitigate it by placing them in different homes.

“Wha? Separate them?”

I know it’s not exactly ideal. But twins suddenly showing up in the system is a dead give away to anyone who’s looking. It would be far safer for them if we split them up.

“I don’t like that option at all...”

Fair enough. Option two: we find them a new family on our own.

Hector gave the reaper a slanted look. “How the hell...? That sounds impossible.”

Friday, September 20, 2013

Page 247

Hector focused his mind, felt his soul there, and pushed it into the iron. “Garovel,” he said. “Come here for a second.”

The reaper floated over, and Hector poked him with the tip of the blade. Garovel flinched. ‘Hey. Careful with that thing.

“Aha. It really works...”

Congratulations. Now stop stabbing me.

“Stay there for a minute. There’s something else I need to try.” He scooted away and sat on his bed.

How did I become your guinea pig?

“Just don’t move...”

I liked it better when you were terrified of hurting me.

He tossed the dagger. It phased through the reaper with no effect. “Bah...”


“So... I can focus the iron with imaginary strength like it’s an extension of my body... but only if I’m touching it, apparently...”

I see. You wanna be able to focus iron at a distance, the same way that you can create it at a distance.

“Yeah. Then I could throw things that’ll hurt reapers. Or trap them in cages, maybe.”

You and I aren’t synced enough, but that’s definitely possible.

“Good to know at least... because if I can’t do that, then... I don’t know how I’ll ever manage to catch an enemy reaper. You guys always stay out of reach... and even when you do get close, you’re so damn quick...”

True. That was the whole problem in Sescoria. But it’ll be a while before you can pull that off. Projecting your soul will require significantly more control than you currently have.

“And you said before... there’s no way to speed up the syncing process?”


He practiced with iron a while longer, until he heard his mother return. She showed him how to change a diaper, and he made sure the children were fed before putting them back to bed.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Page 246

“Eh, don’t be,” said Samuel. “Bothersome as you were, it was still kind of fun, in a strange way. And besides, you really mellowed out after you turned two or so. It got a bit boring then, actually.”


“Yeah. Potty training you was a breeze. Same with teaching you to dress yourself and tie your shoes. Never made a fuss about your food anymore.”

“Y-you wanted me to be more difficult...?”

“I don’t know about that. Boring can be a good thing.” He started back for the door.

Hector frowned. He had another question, and he had to struggle to get it out. “Dad, uh... why didn’t you and mom have any other kids?”

He turned and tilted his head. “What’s with all the sudden questions?”

“I, ah... just... I don’t know, uh...”

The man took a moment to scratch his cheek. He eyed Hector again. “No big reason. Neither of us loved the idea of having more kids, and your mother really hated being pregnant.”

“But... you both... I mean, just now, with the babies... you both seemed like you were kinda... enjoying yourselves.”

“Not sure what gave you that impression.”

“I... ah...”

“You shouldn’t try to read so much into things, Hector. You’ll drive yourself crazy.”

And his father left.

Hector gave a quiet sigh. He exchanged glances with Garovel, who looked as if he had something to say but remained silent.

Alone again, he watched the kids sleep for a bit before deciding that he should make use of his downtime. He wasn’t about to leave the children unattended, but there was something he had been meaning to practice with his iron.

He sat in the middle of the floor and made an elongated chunk of metal. He gave it a pointed tip, and suddenly it was a dagger, though still very primitive. But that wasn’t his goal.

Page 245

His mother frowned. “Are you sure this friend of yours didn’t just abandon these children?”

“...He’d die before doing that.”

She raised a doubtful eyebrow. She put her hand up to the baby girl, who grabbed it. Smirking, she looked at Hector again. “Where are the supplies?”


“The baby supplies. Surely, your friend gave you a bag. Bottles? Powder? Diapers, at least?”

“Uh... um...”

“Ugh, wow. Okay. Looks like I’m making a trip to the store tonight.”

Hector blinked. “Ah--I-I’ll take care of it... It’s my responsibility.”

“Pfft,” said Vanessa. “What does a sixteen-year-old know about taking care of a baby?” She grabbed her coat by the door. “I’ll go get the essentials. Back in a jiffy.” She kissed her husband and was out the door.

“I’ll make some little beds for them,” his father said. “Won’t exactly be a crib, but it should suffice for the time being.”

“Uh, but--you don’t have to do that--”

“Oh, they’re still sleeping in your room. Don’t you worry about that. You can handle the midnight crying and feeding, thanks.”

Hector followed him to a hallway closet, where the man retrieved a set of fresh blankets. And with a pair of large laundry baskets, the beds were complete.

“This cop friend of yours must trust you a lot.”


“There’s really no one else, huh?”


In his room, they found a nice spot by the foot of the bed. And as they placed the children in their new beds, Hector saw a gentler expression on his father’s face than he could ever recall.



“Um... w-what was I like? As a baby, I mean.”

“Oh, you were horrible,” he said. “Cried all the time. Couldn’t take you anywhere without making a scene. Really picky eater, too. Annoyed the hell out of your mother.”

“Oh... s-sorry.”

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Page 244

As he neared his house, Hector kept trying to think of how he would explain the children to his parents. He considered trying to sneak them in, but that didn’t strike him as very practical, considering the kids could simply cry and alert his parents at any time.

He left the motorcycle in the cemetery again and carried the children to the house in his arms.

When he entered, he found his parents in the den. His mother was sleeping against his father’s shoulder. The man saw him and the children, and Hector could see the thought process taking place on his father’s face.

The man gently woke his wife. They stood and approached him together. “Hector,” his father said, “why do you have two babies in your arms?”

You got this under control?’ Garovel asked.

We’ll see,’ thought Hector. “A friend of mine is having, uh... kind of a... a family emergency. He needed someone to look after his kids. And, um. I’m sorta the only person he could rely on...”

His mother cocked an eyebrow. “Who is this friend?”

“He’s a cop...”

“A cop?” she said. “How did you become friends with a cop?”

“Ah... a school program thing. He and some others were doing... like a... seminar type thing...”

His father folded his arms. “And that was enough for him to entrust you with his children, was it?”

“I, uh... well, I sorta got more involved than the other kids did. Visited the police station and... yeah.”

“Uh-huh,” she said. “And what sort of family emergency are we talking about here?”

“I’m not completely sure about that, myself... but he needed my help, so...”

“How long does he want you to look after them?” his father asked.

“Uh... a few days, maybe? That’s sorta unclear, too...”

Samuel and Vanessa Goffe exchanged looks. Then they both eyed the children another time.

Page 243

But it may be difficult to explain why those two never returned,’ said Feromas. ‘Perhaps it would be better if Geoffrey simply stayed in Brighton with us.

Damian gave a shrug. “Eh. Geoffrey can do what he likes. He’s old enough to make his own decisions now.”

“Grandpa, who are you, exactly? Why were they so afraid of you?”

Feromas answered before Damian could. ‘No offense, Geoffrey, but you don’t seem very good at keeping secrets. I think you already know more than enough.

“And besides,” Damian added, “the porcupines would be upset if I told you their baking recipes. Very stingy creatures, they are.”

Geoffrey blinked dully.

Well, at least he’s lucid when it matters.

Sour-faced, Geoffrey left them alone. He returned to his room and tossed his keepsakes of Colt on a bedside table. When the coat hit wood, however, it made a hard sound, harder than mere cloth should have made. He rifled through its deep pockets and soon found a variety of objects. A few coins, some spare bullets, bubblegum, a handkerchief, a granola bar, a flick knife.

And a cellphone.


Hector ended up getting pulled over by a highway trooper on the way back to Brighton. After taking a moment to absorb the sight of the motorcycle and helmeted person with two babies wrapped in metal, the uniformed officer seemed to have difficulty explaining precisely how illegal and stupid the whole thing was.

Hector, of course, was even worse at explaining his circumstances--not that there was any way he could have talked his way out of it. At length, he made the officer’s gun an iron paperweight, broke through his handcuffs, and apologetically destroyed the radio in the trooper’s car.

Garovel suggested he slash the vehicle’s tires as well and then call a tow truck for the guy, but Hector thought that would be overkill. Disarmed and without backup, the trooper did not seem particularly interested in pursuing him any farther, so Hector let him be and rode off toward Brighton again.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Page 242

Geoffrey looked between everyone again. “Why did you all go quiet?”

Because your friend Ozmere recognizes me,’ said Feromas. ‘Isn’t that right?

You are Feromas...

I am.

And is this...?

His name is Damian Rofal, now. But he is the same servant, yes.

Ozmere floated back toward the door, and Moss stepped in front of him. ‘L-look,’ the reaper said, ‘I have nothing but the greatest respect for someone of your caliber. We have no quarrel with you.

“That’s too bad,” said Damian.

No, please! St--!

Damian raised a hand. There came a sudden flash and a great crunch as Ozmere and Moss were both obliterated.

Wide-eyed, Geoffrey could see the air visibly distorted in the spaces where their bodies used to be. A shockwave passed over Geoffrey as the air refilled the vacuum, and all that remained was a thin vapor. After a moment, that too disappeared.

It took Geoffrey a second to even begin understanding what had happened. “Grandpa, what the hell?!”

“I’m sorry, Geoffrey. I know they were your friends. I should have told you before not to bring any members of Abolish here.”

“Why did you kill them?!”

Because no one can know that Damian and I are still alive,’ said Feromas.

Geoffrey eyed the empty space again. “But! What did you even do to them?!”

“I reduced them to little more than dust particles,” said Damian. “Though, I suppose in the reaper’s case, there is genuinely no trace left, as there was no body mass in the first place.”

Geoffrey just stared at him.

“If you like, I don’t mind you going to Sescoria to play with the other members of Abolish,” the old man said, “but they can never know of what happened here. In fact, don’t even tell them that you have a grandfather.”

Page 241

Yet another shark drew close, and Colt punched it back into the darkness. ‘Well. I am grateful to you, just so it’s clear.

Don’t be,’ said Bohwanox. ‘That’s not why I revived you.


Nice place you got here,’ said Ozmere. Moss followed close behind as usual, marveling silently at the mansion’s spacious corridors and ornate woodwork.

“Thank you.” Geoffrey had kept Colt’s heart and coat both. Even if the whole affair had proved a disappointment, he could at least expand his collection of souvenirs.

He was a bit surprised to see the mansion’s halls full of people again. He hadn’t even been gone a week, but apparently, his grandfather had been busy. Most of the people were obviously new hires, as they did not scurry out of his way whenever they saw him coming. One of the lackeys even bumped into him. The guy made a face, as if about to say something quite rude, but when he saw Moss’s hulking form stop behind Geoffrey, the mook seemed to think better of it and apologized instead.

The three of them found Damian and Feromas in the main study.

“Hello, Grandpa!”

“Hello, Grandson!” Damian returned a smile, which waned as he saw Geoffrey’s guests. “And who are they?”

“My friends! Ozmere and Moss. They’re from Abolish! Neat, huh? I am going to go with them so that they can help me get stronger. There are a lot more members in Sescoria, too! Ozmere said they would feed an entire town to me. Can you imagine that? An entire town!”

Abruptly, Geoffrey noticed the tension in the room. Damian’s face held none of its earlier mirth, and Ozmere’s expression was one of confusion. Even Moss had become attentive, and for a time, no one said anything.

Feromas broke the silence. ‘Dozer or Morgunov?

Ozmere hesitated. ‘Morgunov.

More silence.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Page 240

Colt swam up to the water’s surface, where things were no calmer. Waves kicked him up and tossed him around like a pool toy.

If you want to talk to me, then just think the words inside your head,’ said Bohwanox.

Gah! Fuck you!

Good job. Also, there’s another shark behind you.

Colt could barely turn in time to see the dorsal fin disappear. He couldn’t feel the jaws clamp down on his leg, but getting dragged back under was informative enough.

He sent the shark flying out of the water. ‘I don’t have time for this shit!

Are your children still safe?

Hopefully, yeah. They should be with Hector, unless something went wrong.

Ah! Hector, huh? That’s good, then. I had to keep my distance while Geoffrey was chasing you, but Hector is the reason I was keeping tabs on you in the first place.

Hey, which way’s the shore?

Bohwanox pointed.

The reaper was clear as day to him, even in the nightly waters. Light seemed to make no difference, despite the fact that Bohwanox was an already dark figure. To Colt’s eyes, the reaper seemed not to have a face, being entirely obscured by a pitch black cloak. Even the hands and feet were hidden.

Colt started swimming, staying under the waves. The current fought him, but he plowed through. ‘So Hector is your servant, too, is that it?

No, no. Reapers can only have one servant. Hector’s reaper is named Garovel.

Hmm. I guess now I know where the kid’s inhuman power comes from.

Indeed. And you’re quite fortunate, by the way. If Geoffrey had consumed your soul, I wouldn’t have been able to resurrect you. I was just going to leave and tell Hector what happened until I saw that your soul was still intact.

Page 239 -- XXVII.

Garovel gave a nod. ‘I suppose that’s all that matters at the moment.

Hector didn’t get on the highway yet. It had been blocked on the way into the city, and he doubted it had been cleared already. Instead, he followed the street beyond the city limits and waited until he saw the open country before getting on the larger road.

The kids took a while to adjust to the ride, crying for a good half hour before settling down.

Do you, um... do you think this was Geoffrey’s doing?

Garovel was slow to answer. ‘That might explain why we haven’t seen him in Brighton. But you’d think Colt would have mentioned Geoffrey in his text.

I don’t think he had much time, seeing as he never replied. And... if it was Geoffrey, then Colt might’ve been worried that I’d go after him instead of getting the kids to safety...


With a clear, open road ahead of him and a setting sun over the horizon, Hector eyed the children another time. They both stared back at him, chubby-cheeked and curious.

Hector frowned inside his riding helmet. ‘Garovel... what the hell are we gonna do...?



“...Agh? Hmm? What’s happening?”

“Easy there. You’ve had a rough day.”

“Where am I? Who are you?”

“You’re dead. My name is Bohwanox. And there’s something I’d like to ask you.”

Chapter Twenty-Seven: ‘O, implacable father...!’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

Colt opened his eyes. Dark waters greeted him. As did a shark, its teeth already digging into his chest.

Oh yeah,’ said Bohwanox, touching Colt’s shoulder. ‘The current carried you into shark-infested waters, by the way.

Colt would have yelled at the reaper if he could. Burning aches shot through his body, regrowing muscle, restoring flesh faster than the shark could tear it away. He punched the fish in the nose. It released him but didn’t flee, and after a moment, it lunged for him again. He kicked the beast with all the strength he could muster, and it torpedoed into the murky blackness.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Page 238

The place was a mess. Toppled shelves and scattered clothing riddled the floor. Hector stopped in the center aisle, looking around. ‘I don’t see anyone.’

Garovel floated ahead of him. ‘There was obviously a struggle here. Did everyone run away? You’d think there’d at least be police officers here.

“Wait...” Hector heard a faint squeal. A baby. He followed the sound to the back of the store.

Two shelves had been pushed together, leaving only a small crack between them. Hector pulled them apart to see the twins there.

He really left them here for you...

“I’m afraid of what that could mean...” Hector took them in his arms. They started crying louder as he carried them back out to the motorcycle.

What do you want to do with them?

“Uh...” Hector eyed the bike again. “First things first... how the hell do I carry them both on a motorcycle?”

Make yourself an iron carriage around your chest.

He sat on the bike with both arms full, and then did as Garovel suggested. The metal formed from his back, grew around his torso, and gradually enveloped the children, freeing up Hector’s arms.

They didn’t like it and kicked against the metal, so he expanded it out a bit, giving them slightly more space. They had enough room to move their arms and legs a bit, but their bodies fit snuggly into place. Then he added a pair of tiny iron helmets, as well as caps for their knees and elbows.

He pulled out of the parking lot again and started back the way he had come.

You’re going to take them home with you?

What else can I do?

Hmm.’ Garovel paused. ‘I suppose that will be fine for a few days. But is that a long-term solution? We don’t know if Colt will be coming back for them.

Well... I don’t know... but he asked me to keep them safe, so...

Page 237

Well, at least you got to kill him,’ said Ozmere. ‘He was a wanted man, right? Imagine if someone else had gotten him before you.

Geoffrey just pouted.

Ozmere frowned as well. ‘I suppose I could go find the body, if you want, but we really should be leaving now. You’ve made quite the stir here. We need to get you back to Sescoria where Abolish can protect you.

“Really? But I was holding back. I only killed a few dozen people.”

Yes, but that is more than enough to make national news. And if it makes international news, then the Vanguard’s aberration hunters will definitely come to investigate.

“Well, if that is the case, then I might as well just devour the entire city before they get here. There are at least a hundred thousand people in this city, right? That should make me quite strong, yes?”

No! If you do that, they’ll send their very best warriors! Which would ruin all of our plans for Atreya!

“Bah. Fine then.”

If you want to eat an entire city, then we’ll arrange that for you somewhere safer.

“Mm, okay. Oh, but before that, I need to go back to Brighton and tell my grandpa that I will be leaving with you.”

Your grandfather, huh? What’s he like?

“He has a reaper, too, actually. Why don’t you come with me to meet him? He is a lot of fun. I am sure you would like him.”

Hmm. Alright. Lead the way.


Hector pulled into the parking lot and hopped off the bike. He eyed the address on the far corner of the building and double-checked Colt’s text message:
delroy. 8133 sampson st. life/death. keep them safe
He left the engine running and ran inside the outlet store. Garovel followed.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Page 236

“By the way--” The red shadow expanded out, much larger than Colt had ever seen, and shot back behind Geoffrey, disappearing over the side of the ship. After a moment, it returned. With Colt’s car. “I believe you forgot this.”

Colt’s eyes widened at the sight of the vehicle there, held in place as if stuck in a crimson tree.

Geoffrey smiled. “And I must say, Mr. Colt. I am surprised at you. Pleasantly surprised. You left your children in your car, didn’t you? Were you hoping they would distract me long enough to let you get away?”

The red broke through the car door and filled the backseat. It pulled out the bundled blanket, holding it up to see. The blanket flapped open. There were no children inside.

It took Geoffrey a moment to process, confused blinking turning to abrupt rage. He glared at Colt. “What did you do with them?!”

And Geoffrey caught a grenade with his face. The explosion knocked him back, making him release both Colt and the car at once.

A gaping hole in his chest, Colt still managed a bloody smile as he fell into the rolling waves.


Geoffrey scowled through the smoke as it cleared. He ran up to the guard rail and looked out. He couldn’t see the man in the water.

Ozmere and Moss approached from behind.

What happened?’ the reaper asked. ‘Did you get him?

The anger dissipated from Geoffrey’s face and became a frown. “I did get him, yes.” He brought down one of the red tendrils. Colt’s coat hung from it, dripping with blood. Geoffrey peeled back the cloth to reveal the man’s still-beating heart. “But he was not supposed to die that quickly. I wanted to torture him much more, first.”

Aww. I’m sorry.

“And he hid his children from me, too! How did he do that?! I was going to make him watch them die! But no! Mr. Colt, you were a real bastard!”

Page 235

Colt drove onto a footpath. Dock workers lined the water, hoisting crates and tanks up via pulley. They yelled at him as he passed, and he spared them a couple gunshots--not hitting them, just getting them to flee.

He looked for an area without people. He saw an empty cruise liner and decided to abandon his car in front of it. Hopping the rope and running up the stepped path, he found the entrance shut, so he riddled it with bullet holes and kicked it open.

“Mr. Colt!” came Geoffrey’s not-so-distant voice. “Where are you running, Mr. Colt?! Isn’t it about time we brought this little chase to an end?!”

Colt knew Geoffrey was right. He was out of options. Even if he could somehow steal the boat, it sounded like Geoffrey was already on board. Colt ran for the bow of the ship.

Rows of chairs and small tables surrounded a covered pool. Colt approached the edge of the ship and climbed up over the guard rail. The waters must’ve been a good ten meters below him, and the way they crashed against the hull certainly did not look inviting.

He gathered his courage and jumped.

And he stopped in midair. Pain exploded throughout his body. The red shadow had pierced his chest and leg, holding him in place.

“No, no,” said Geoffrey, turning Colt around to face him. “Let’s not turn this into a swimming competition, Mr. Colt. That would be so tedious.”

The pain was worst in his chest. Colt could feel the shadow there, tearing through muscle and bone, coiling around his heart. He screamed, and the shadow wrapped around his mouth, too.

“Shh. Come on, Mr. Colt. I need you to listen. You can still hear me, can’t you?”

He struggled, tasting blood in his mouth. The pain was maddening, but he was determined to keep his focus until the end. With his right hand, he could still feel his rifle.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Page 234

Hector rummaged through his bag until he found it--the burner phone Colt had given him. At Garovel’s behest, he hadn’t taken it with him to Sescoria. The reaper had posited that if Colt were to call while they were in the capital, then there would be nothing Hector could do about it; therefore, it was better to leave it here in Brighton, where it would not get destroyed if things went badly. Certainly, one of the reaper’s more prophetic suggestions. Garovel had to remind him to recharge it as soon as he had returned home.

There was a single text message, received less than two minutes ago. Hector read it.

He immediately grabbed his bag and bolted out the door.


Another row of cars blocked the way, and Colt was forced to turn again. Nearly an hour had passed since the clothing store, and he had been drawn into a losing game of cat and mouse. Much as he tried to find a way around, the minions were slowly forcing him toward the port.

He knew their plan, but there wasn’t much to be done about it. They obviously wanted to corner him against the water, where he would have nowhere left to run unless he intended to commandeer a boat; but if that were even an option, it would probably just be an even worse trap.

Colt just wanted to buy time for Hector. Delroy was nearly two hours away from Brighton. The kid had texted him back, but Colt hadn’t found the opportunity to stop and read it, much less reply. His hands were busy trying to prevent a car crash as he weaved his way through the streets.

He could often see a silver-white car in the rear-view mirror, along with a big, red hand waving hello from out of the driver’s side window. Colt would lose him, only to see the car reappear a few minutes later.

At length, he ran out of road. The Gulf of Emerson filled the horizon, and only a long shipyard lay between Colt and the turbulent waters.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Page 233

Hector thought about simply refusing Nathan’s offer--Garovel even gave permission--but he couldn’t bring himself to. He worried what his new group of friends thought of him, what with how he always made it difficult for them to help him with anything. So he went to school.

But before even his first class finished, Hector had to leave again. Garovel had found him a nice, heaping plate of early morning gang violence--and not even that far away from Calman High, either.

It was a group of ten or so guys, all pretty young, and masked with scarves and hoodies. They’d been raiding a rundown apartment complex, terrorizing the residents with knives and handguns. Without incurring injury, Hector bound them all in iron and stole their weapons. An elderly tenant offered him an apple pie. He quietly refused, of course.

Garovel was quick to find more people in distress. There had been a spike in violent crime over the past couple days. The police largely attributed it to the Rofals, but they also seemed keen to blame Hector, even if they couldn’t determine how just yet.

And now, having not slept more than a total of four hours in the past three days, Hector finally lay in bed again. It was the middle of the day, but the nights tended to need him more, anyway.

Through the growing fog that was his fatigue, he could still feel faintly wondrous at the lack of pain throughout his body. It was a welcome change, to say the least, though he did not expect it to remain that way for very long.

Sleep was a warm cloud, unconscious bliss. And then a voice broke through.

Hector, wake up. Your cellphone is beeping.

His eyes slit open. “Cellphone...? Who would be--?” He sat up.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Page 232 -- XXVI.

The other officers pulled up next to the smoldering vehicle, and Colt mowed them down without hesitation, giving them no chance to retaliate. In a matter of seconds, the last two cars were both riddled with bullet holes.

He paused with a smoking gun barrel, waiting to see if the puppets were really dead. After a moment, he was satisfied.

Colt slung his rifle over his shoulder and grabbed his kids. He knew this victory wouldn’t last. As long as Geoffrey was alive, the minions would keep coming; or worse, Geoffrey would show up himself. In fact, the latter seemed far more likely. No doubt, this was a game to Geoffrey--it always was. Geoffrey would want to kill him personally, but not without tormenting him first.

To Colt’s mind, all options were bad. Fleeing, fighting, hiding--they all ended with him and the children dead. All except one, perhaps.

He entered the clothing store, ignoring the screaming people. He shed his cap and glasses and started searching for a new coat. And then he pulled out his cellphone.

Chapter Twenty-Six: ‘Thy desperado’s heart...!’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

Hector shambled into his room and collapsed onto his bed. It had been a long night, and the following morning had not been much better.

Garovel had found him a triple homicide in progress, and while Hector did manage to successfully prevent any deaths, the intended victims never realized they were in danger to begin with. So instead of being grateful, they thought Hector was some kind of blood-soaked monster, and thus, he had to spend a few extra hours evading and hiding from the police.

By the time he made it home, he had already missed the school bus. He intended to just skip, but one of his friends decided to pay him a morning visit. Apparently, Nathan lived quite close by and wanted to offer Hector a ride.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Page 231

A car was coming from the other direction, and Colt swerved up onto the sidewalk. He hit the brakes and pulled the wheel hard to the right. The vehicle spun back onto the street as Colt shifted to neutral and hit the gas again. He could hear the kids crying their lungs out, but he was glad for it. He didn’t have time to glance back at them, and silence would’ve been far more worrying.

He kept going straight for several blocks. He could see people on the street who seemed normal, at least insofar as not staring blankly at him as he passed, but he could also see flashing lights in his rear-view mirror. He turned right and soon saw more flashing lights bearing down on him, so he quickly turned left again.

They were building a net around him, he knew. Or maybe they already had one. There was no telling how many people Geoffrey had after him, but the bastard had obviously come prepared.

Colt decided it was time to change tactics. A clothing outlet came up on his right, and he turned into the parking lot. He stopped in front of the entrance, exited the car, and looked over the small crowd of people. He couldn’t tell if they were possessed or just confused, so he raised his gun and shot the store’s giant neon sign. When they shrieked and started fleeing, he figured they were normal enough.

His pursuers entered the parking lot as Colt popped the trunk of his car. A long, black case lay inside, and he lifted it open to pull out his emergency fallback--an assault rifle mounted with an under-barrel grenade launcher, already prepped for immediate use.

The first police car stopped in front of him, and he saw Geoffrey’s minions stupidly pointing their weapons at him instead of exiting first. A grenade ripped through the cabin before they could fire.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Page 230

Colt bounded up the outdoor staircase and unlocked the door to his room. He barged in and grabbed his sleeping children. They both awoke and stared at him curiously as he wrapped them together in the same blanket and heaved them into his arms. Combined, the children were actually quite awkward and heavy, but Colt had ample strength for the task. He shifted most of their weight onto one arm in order to free up the other for his gun.

Everything else in the room was abandoned. He hurried back down to the parking lot.

The one puppet whom Colt had not killed was back up, his smashed-in face still just as vacant amidst all the blood.

At this distance, Colt wasn’t confident that he could get a headshot with only one hand, so he shot him in the chest instead. And when the guy dropped, Colt walked up and blew his brains out.

Stephanie and Thomas both started crying.

“Sorry about the noise, kiddos.” He fastened them into the backseats of the car before jumping behind the wheel and driving out of the parking lot.

He got on the highway. It didn’t really matter where he went, as long as it led out of the city, so he chose west. After a minute, however, he had to slow down.

Traffic was deadlocked ahead. He could see a massive pileup of vehicles and an overturned 18-wheeler.

Colt growled. He doubted the coincidence. He backed up, cars honking at him as he pushed them out of his way. Then he drove over the median in the road and started back the other direction. He exited the highway, searching for a small street out of town. Before long, he had to stop again.

A line of three police vehicles blocked the road. Six uniformed officers exited their cars in perfect unison.

Colt switched to reverse and slammed his foot on the gas pedal. Gunfire pierced the windshield, making him duck his head and squint as he turned backwards onto a side street.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Page 229

Colt saw the idiots from earlier, gathered around his car and looking up at the motel.

“Hey,” said Colt, a bag in each hand. “Get the fuck away from my car.”

They all turned at once. Their expressions were utterly vacant and lifeless. “Aha,” said the one on the right. “You look different, Mr. Colt.”

This was, abruptly, much too familiar. Colt remembered these expressions from that night in the Rofal mansion, the faces of mindless puppets. And of the few people who knew his name, only two called him ‘Mr. Colt.’ The first was Geoffrey, and the second was Hector. And this was most definitely not Hector.

Colt scowled. “You look much more different than I do,” he said.

An unnatural smile crossed the puppet’s lips. “Just wait there for me,” said Geoffrey. “We will have a proper reunion in a few minutes.”

Colt slowly set his bags down on the wet pavement. There were three of them. Reaching his gun would require two swift motions--unzipping his coat and pulling the weapon out of its holster. This was why he didn’t like underarm carrying, but these days, he couldn’t very well keep it holstered at his hip for everyone to see.

He unzipped his coat, and they all lunged for him. He rolled to his right. The gun came free. The safety switched off.

One of them had Colt’s leg. “Go ahead and try to run!” he said for Geoffrey. “It’ll be more fun for me that way!”

Colt smashed his face in with the butt of his gun. The other two fell to a bullet each, one in the neck, one in the forehead.

He stood. There were buildings all around. No way to tell who--or what--had seen that just now. He threw the baby supplies in the back of his car and ran for the motel.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Page 228

Colt picked up a carton of milk last. He had been trying to wean the twins off baby formula and onto normal milk, as they were already thirteen months old. All the parenting message boards suggested mixing formula and milk together in order to ease the transition.

He made his way to check-out. The clerk commented on him wearing sunglasses indoors, and Colt ignored him. As he exited the building, a brisk afternoon wind caught him across the face, and he pulled up his coat’s tall collar. He started walking to his motel.

The city of Delroy was not known for its impeccable weather, and the past few days had only furthered its reputation for gray, drizzling skies. Colt had come to this coastal town in hopes of finding someone who would sneak him out of the country via watercraft. So far, he had found no prospects.

Trying to get out of the country had been one problem after another. With the bounty on his head, keeping his identity a secret was almost impossible; whenever he brought out the two infants, all attempts at secrecy flew out the window. And at that point, the people whom he had approached would either refuse to help him or try to take the bounty for themselves.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the recent chaos in the capital had only made border patrols even stricter. Colt was starting to wonder if he would have to just stow away on a freighter or some such thing. Certainly, if he had been by himself, he would have done that already.

He reached the edge of the alley that led into the motel’s rear parking lot and stopped. He peeked out from behind the corner’s black-and-red brick, checking the area. Caution had kept him alive these past three weeks, and he wasn’t about to forget it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Page 227

They spent considerable time near the local police station. Garovel wanted to scour for information, and after a while, they learned of an apparent resurgence of activity in the Rofal family.

I doubt they’re talking about Geoffrey,’ said Garovel. ‘He doesn’t seem like the very organized type.

Who do you think could’ve stepped in, then?

No idea. Perhaps we should follow up. I heard someone mention there being a suspected drug den a few kilometers from here.

Tell me where to go.

Soon, Hector had another ten thousand troas in small bills. He considered dropping it off at a homeless shelter or some such place, but Garovel told him that stolen drug money would attract dangerous attention to whomever he gave it.

Part of him expected to see Geoffrey pop up out of nowhere again, but even after a few days of attacking various Rofal cash houses and business fronts, Hector never saw the aberration.

He did not enjoy wondering where Geoffrey was.


Jeremiah Colt looked over the wall of baby food another time. His cap and sunglasses hid his face pretty well, and his dark beard was finally starting to come in.

He’d already bought diapers, baby powder, and a fresh bottle for Stephanie. Some guy with a mohawk had smacked her old one out of Colt’s hand when he asked about the nearest place to find milk. Perhaps the guy was just trying to impress his friends, but when Colt saw the bottle land in a pile of dog shit, he made the guy swallow his own teeth. The guy’s friends weren’t very forthcoming with information, either, but Colt eventually found the local grocery store on his own, anyway.

Baby food was perhaps the trickiest part. Stephanie seemed to like applesauce, but only certain brands, and Thomas’ preference still seemed completely inconsistent. Compounded with varied pricing and purported nutritional value, Colt always ended up spending a good twenty minutes trying to decide.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Page 226

The most valuable ideas, however, came from the actual work--seeing and experiencing the process of melting metal down and making casts for the armor. Apart from simply enjoying himself, Hector began to conceptualize the creation of his iron differently. He tried making it into a process as well. Rather than merely visualizing some iron shape in his mind, he instead visualized it being melted down from a powder and then reformed and cooled into the desired shape.

And to an extent, it actually worked. It took longer to form something, but when the iron appeared in his hand, it was a quite passable cube. He did it again with a sphere, then a pyramid, then a rectangular prism. Garovel made him try for an icosahedron, and after finding out what it looked like, Hector struggled for about half an hour before Garovel started laughing at him, at which point he gave up and flipped the reaper off.

Practical experience also seemed to help. Hector made a concentrated effort to take criminals down using mainly iron. If firearms were a factor, he made them into iron bricks first, and then went about binding the attackers’ limbs. If a victim or witness was involved, then Hector escorted them to the nearest police station along with the subdued perpetrator.

Unfortunately, it did not always go smoothly. More than once, he accidentally broke a criminal’s arm or leg, even when all they had done wrong was a bit of burglary. Garovel tried to only focus on murderers, but those were not nearly as easy to find, even with the reaper’s ability to see deathly auras.

Most murders are crimes of passion after all,’ said Garovel. ‘And in those cases, I won’t see an aura of death around the victim until maybe a minute before they die.

That kinda sucks, Garovel...

Hey, it’s the best I’ve got.

Page 225

Hector’s time with Lance was decidedly less nerve-wracking, however. Working with metal somehow made things easier, perhaps because Hector felt it was more immediately useful. He couldn’t simply take the armor that he worked on with Lance, of course, but there was something about the process of making it. Ideas arose almost involuntarily.

Even before getting started, he took inspiration from Lance’s gauntlets. Replicating them from scratch was still beyond him, but he realized that he didn’t have to do that. Instead, he ventured to a hardware store and purchased a pair of thin, well-fitting gloves. From there, he created an iron framework for them. Rather than making a simple coating, he began by materializing multiple rings around each finger. Then he filled in the gaps, excepting the joints, and suddenly, all of his fingers were covered with iron, yet he could still move them, just like real gauntlets. Nothing held the metal together, however, so the pieces slid right off when he put his hands to his sides.

And that was the trickiest part. He had to form tiny spikes in each piece, all with corresponding holes, so that they would interlock and stay in place.

Then, it was only a matter of covering the forearms and the backs of his hands with metal. The palms were left bare so that he could still make a proper fist, but at that point, he looked at his work and smiled. He had actual gauntlets. They might not have been as intricate as the ones Lance made, but they were probably more comfortable thanks to the gloves. And they were functional. Mostly. Coating the forearms in iron rendered him unable to remove his hands from the gloves.

He annihilated his work and started over. Garovel told him to use it as a form of practice, to concentrate and see how quickly he could correctly form all the individual pieces. And it was far more difficult when he pressed himself for speed. Interlocking all the pieces was of course the most agonizing part. Even after hours of practice, he was still taking upwards of fifteen minutes to form everything correctly.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Page 224 -- XXV.

You’re surprisingly opinionated about this,’ said Garovel.


No, it’s fine. I understand. But those club people still seem like a bunch of dicks to me. And having sex in the clubroom was a stupid thing to do, anyway.

They’re not dicks,’ said Hector. ‘They’re just... very protective of each other. A lot of the kids in that club have pretty rough home lives. So they rely on each other a lot. And the two people I got expelled... from what I’d overheard, um... they were having sex at school because their families didn’t want them seeing each other anywhere else.

You learned that much about them just from listening?

Y-yeah. I mean, I could kinda... infer some stuff, but yeah.

Hmm. Well. I’m sorry you weren’t able to become friends with them. But if you had, then you and I probably wouldn’t have met.

Hector paused a moment. ‘If only.

Fucking cheap shot.

Chapter Twenty-Five: ‘A maelstrom doth brew...’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

Between school, metalwork, getting tutored, meditation, and beating the tar out of criminals, the next few days were a juggling mess. School tended to take the worst of it, as Hector would show up in the mornings and then employ doctors’ notes to skip out on the rest of his classes. After the events in Sescoria, he had nearly forgotten about the box of excuses that his mother had given him, but now he was quite thankful for it.

He was also relieved that the first tutoring session was with Gregory. Hector wasn’t sure he could’ve handled it if Sheryl or Janine had shown up. Having someone else in his room was terrifying enough, but having that someone be a girl was an impossible notion to him--and realizing this after the first session, he arranged for the second to be at a burger shop instead.

Page 223

Hector proceeded outside through the front of the school. ‘But, um... anyhow, to make a long story short, uh... I mean, I wasn’t going to tell anyone about what I saw... but I kinda... ended up telling Ms. Trent.

Ah. Damn, Hector.

Yeah... I-I tried not to tell her, but... uh... Ms. Trent already had her suspicions, I guess... and... she sorta cornered me... and I just... I don’t know. I couldn’t lie about it. And I should have...’ He shook his head. ‘I really fucking should have...

Garovel gave a sympathetic shrug. ‘You just told the truth. Why does everyone in the club hold that against you?

Because... Katrina and Jamal were both expelled, and now they have to repeat a year.

Oh. Yikes.

I hadn’t, uh... I hadn’t actually done anything wrong, so... they couldn’t kick me out of the club, but...

They ignored you until you just left on your own.

Pretty much...

Is that when you decided to kill yourself?

Hector sighed. ‘When you put it like that... it sounds even more pathetic...


It’s fine...

Well. They sound like the kind of friends you’re better off without, anyway.

He shook his head again. ‘Garovel, no offense, but... you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

The reaper raised an eyebrow at him. ‘What?

I’m sorry, but... that’s the sort of thing that people only say when they already have friends that they’re comfortable with. It’s not the same when you’re rejected and completely on your own... “Just find new friends,” people say. “Friends who will treat you better.” Yeah. Right. As if that’s so fucking easy. I mean, that’s the whole problem to begin with...

Hmm. I see your point.

And besides... isn’t it still better to, y’know... try to accept your friends for who they are? Faults and all? I mean... it’s not like I’m perfect, either...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Page 222

Lance gave Hector the address and then ventured off again.

Garovel floated over his shoulder. ‘Looks like you’re going to be a busy man from now on.’

I, ah...

This is basically what you’ve always wanted, isn’t it? Having friends to spend time with and so forth?

Hector glanced at the reaper, then back down at the address. ‘Y-yeah...’ He couldn’t help smiling. ‘I just never thought it could actually happen...


Ms. Trent poked her head out of her office. “Hector,” she called out. And he thought he was in trouble until she added, “Glad to see you’re back.”

He gave a blushing nod.

And then he was alone again. He looked across the other club members, wondering if any of them were going to approach him, but when none did, he decided that he had satisfactorily fulfilled Garovel’s request to make an appearance. He started for the exit.

Hector,’ said Garovel. ‘You said you’d tell me your history with these people.

Fine...’ He took a breath as he entered the hall. ‘Basically, ah... well, one thing you have to understand about the kids in the club is that, uh... they’re very... well, they’re very close-knit. They, um. I mean, I wouldn’t call them a clique, exactly, but... they have some of those qualities, I guess.

Go on.

And, uh... there’s this couple. Katrina and Jamal. They’re sort of like the group’s leaders. The alpha couple. And, um. One day, I, uh... I kinda... I mean, I... ah, man, this is... just...

Hector, c’mon. Spit it out.

I, uh... I saw them having sex in the clubroom.

Garovel stared at him a moment. ‘Uh. Huh.

Yeah... I mean, I just walked in on them and... yeah...

What did you do?

I ran away. Which... probably wasn’t the right thing to do. They’d seen me. So... maybe I shoulda just talked to them, but... I... that... there was just no way...

I can imagine.

Page 221

A bit hesitant, Hector retrieved the helm from his bag and put it on the table.

“Whoa,” said Lance. “This is really smooth, too. Cast iron, isn’t it? You have access to a furnace, too?”

He wasn’t sure how else to explain it, so he just said, “Y-yeah.”

“Are you gonna add some ornamental lines to it?”

“Uh... m-maybe.”

“What do you think about making a full suit of armor?” said Lance, and Hector blinked. “It’d be a pretty big project for just one person, but between the two of us, I think it’d be manageable. Maybe enter it into a competition or something.”

“Uh... that, uh...”

“If you don’t want to, that’s fine. I was just thinking of making some greaves next and got to wondering.”

“Ah, no... I mean, uh, sure. That sounds... pretty cool.”

“Yeah? Awesome. I was thinking we’d make various parts independently and then piece them together later.”

“Hmm.” Hector scratched his forehead. “But, uh... well, that could be a problem if we don’t, um... correlate our measurements or whatever.”

“Ah, you’re right. Maybe we should make the breastplate together, then. Once that is done, we can take proper measurements and then split up to make the smaller stuff like the gorget and pauldrons and such.”

“Gorget is for the neck, right? What’re pauldrons for?”

“Shoulders. There are lots of other parts to choose from, too. Vambraces for the forearms. Couters for the elbows. And tons of others. We could probably spend the rest of the school year making all the different things.”

“I see.” Hector eyed the gauntlets again as a quiet thought struck him.

“We can get started tomorrow, if you like. Just come over to my uncle’s place after school. He’s got lots of scrap metal we can melt down and use.”

“Ah, o-okay...”

Monday, September 2, 2013

Page 220

To Hector’s surprise, he was not hounded with questions from the other club members as soon as he entered the room. He received an occasional glance and nothing more, which stirred a mixture of emotion in him. On the one hand, he was all too glad to not be the center of attention again; but on the other, it reminded him of lonelier days, of that old feeling in his chest, as if his heart were being slowly squeezed.

This shit again,’ said Garovel, shaking Hector out of his morass. ‘They were worried about you when they thought you’d been injured, but I guess that’s worn off now.

It’s fine. In fact, it’s probably better this way.

Okay, Hector, it’s time to tell me why the hell they’re ignoring you like this. It’s annoying me, and I want to know.


Lance entered the clubroom, saw Hector, and immediately started walking over.

Aw, dammit, c’mon!’ Garovel pointed a bony finger at Hector. ‘You’re gonna tell me before we leave here today!

Okay, fine...

“Hey, Hector,” said Lance. “I was starting to think you’d quit the club again.”

“No, I’ve... just been, ah, busy.”

“Mm.” Lance smiled. He put his backpack on the table and rummaged through it. “Have a look.” He pulled out a pair of gauntlets.

Hector’s eyes widened. The ornate lines along the interlocking finger parts were particularly impressive, he felt. The fingertips were all pointed, almost like claws, and he could see that Lance had used more than one type of metal to achieve the varying tones of gray. “Wow...”

“Told you I could do it.”

“You sure did...” He went to pick one up, then confirmed Lance’s nod before inspecting it more closely. “How’d you get the metal so smooth? You couldn’t have just used a hammer.”

“No, I used my uncle’s furnace and molded all the big pieces from a melted state.”

“That’s really awesome...”

“Thanks. What about you? Did you ever finish your helm?”

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Page 219

“How is your plan going, by the way?” Geoffrey asked.

Well, Prince Gabriel has been cooperative, though he doesn’t know the full extent of our plans, of course. The King, though, has been resistant. To his credit, he didn’t concede any ground until Desmond ripped his arm off.

“Ooh! Can I have the arm?!”

Um. I’m not sure what we did with it. Sorry.


If you’d stayed, you could’ve torn it off yourself.

“There is no need to rub it in.”

I’m pretty sure we’ll have to kill the King sooner or later. You can still come back and be a part of that, you know.

“Hmm. Let us find Mr. Colt quickly, then.”

They visited the diner first but found no useful information. Geoffrey immediately wanted to kill the last person they talked to out of sheer disappointment, but Moss hoisted him over his shoulder and left the diner.

It would be some hours before they finally found a candidate. The elderly receptionist of a ratty motel paused to think a moment when Geoffrey asked about a man with two babies.

“Hmm.” The man smirked. “Perhaps if I had something to refresh my memory...” He tapped the wooden counter in front of him.

“That will not be necessary.” Geoffrey looked at Ozmere, who nodded. He grinned as the red shade poured forth.

The man’s scream died in his mouth, and his eyes hollowed out into flaming shadows.

Geoffrey could see the memories. An entire life--dimensioned and complicated, sad and happy, regretful and grateful.

It bored him.

He searched for the face he wanted to see, as simple as if the memories had been his own. “Ah!” said Geoffrey. “Hello, Mr. Colt.”

Do you know where he went?

“I know who to ask next.”

Lead on, then.


Hector made it to the end of the school day. He was anxious about carpentry club, as he figured it to be the only other place where his absence might have been noticed.