The group's car runs out of gas and they meet a strange man. The Search Party investigates an abandoned factory.
Jordan had informed the budding search party of Rosington's indirect assistance through a private investigator. They met with the investigator, Florence Carnation, who told them he had spoken to the employees of the Silivia Cognitive Science Center and Plant Empire. None of them had much to offer, all saying the attack was a complete surprise to them. They exchanged phone numbers and he left as clueless as he arrived.
Dexter thought he had a lead: security software at a Wellington Robotics plant near Skipton could give them Chris' last known coordinates. It was not guaranteed to still be active, but its location deep within the facility's central core meant scavengers were unlikely to come across it.
"So this is it?" Lisa asked.
The group stood in front of the Wellington factory, Lisa at the helm of them, wearing a black beanie and dressed in a dark blue top and worn black jeans. She held a silver canteen in her hand.
Among the decaying ruins of the factory, the band of travelers heard nothing but an eerie silence. All of the windows on the building were shattered, the west wall had completely collapsed, and holes had started to form throughout the roof. The walls that remained standing were very charred. The smokestacks on top were long defunct, and much debris was surrounding it as a whole.
"Yep," Dexter said. "This is it."
"It's aged well," Savannah said. She stood behind Lisa and surveyed the ruined factory in front of them. She wore a dark coat and had her hands in the front pockets.
"Are you sure what we're looking for is still here?" Lisa asked, looking back at the group.
"Yeah," the roboticist responded. "It looks pretty bad from the outside, but I doubt the central core has been ransacked. It was built to last."
Jordan tugged at his red jacket, adjusting it tighter around his shoulders. His right foot was firmly placed on a small piece of the broken wall that was no larger than a dinner plate. "Well, let's not get our hopes too high up. But... whatever you say."
"Let's get this over with already," Savannah said. She marched up to the remains of the door and turned the knob. The lights flickered back to life, and a ruined lobby could be seen. The insignia of Wellington Robotics remained above the reception desk, albeit faded from age.
Dexter pointed to a hallway on the left. "I'm pretty sure that's the way to the core."
He began down the path, the others following close behind. Despite Dexter's assurance that the core was likely still intact, the interior initially appeared just as battered and ruined as the outside.
Florence, a scruffy blonde gentleman in a blue overcoat and fedora, surveyed the factory. A beaten-down reception area with beams from the roof above impaling the desk and jutting out of the floor.
Jordan slightly strayed away, looking into a room titled "Employee Living Quarters." Inside were several tables and beds knocked over, along with empty bookcases. "Looks like this place has been looted. Be careful, who knows what we could run into here," he stated upon returning to the group.
"I thought that was obvious," Lisa commented.
The group continued through the ruins, finding much of the same for some time. Eventually, they began to come across a strange assortment of items: clothing, unopened cans of food, bedsheets, and a notebook. Dexter retrieved Baptiste's pistol from his pocket, in case the potential inhabitants of the abandoned factory proved hostile.
Aaron stepped past Dexter, holding his weapon in his two hands. A long, strange metal rifle with a glass shell behind the barrel, identifiable as an Alchemilia coilgun. "Looks like a catwalk through that door. It'll be a long fall down. We should go one at a time."
The group went through the door and onto the platform before the catwalk. The room was big and empty, debris everywhere, the floor was littered with broken parts, most of them charred and black. The catwalk was long and looked unstable. The group exchanged uncomfortable looks. One by one, they stepped onto the catwalk and walked across. It creaked at the weight of their steps. They managed to get to the other side, unharmed.
As they prepared to walk further, Lisa noticed a man sitting in a corner not far from them. He appeared to be of Halan descent, wore a green hoodie and had ripped denim jeans. His hair was black with red tips.
"Hello?" She called out.
"Are you guys here to evict me...?" he stammered, slowly standing up. "I'll grab my st—"
Florence turned on his heel, his posture stiffening as he heard the man. "Ah!" He smiled, shooting a worried glance at his compatriots. "You wouldn't happen to know your way to the central control station of this place, sir...?"
"Oh, uh, right this way." The man led them down the catwalk and down a ladder to the ground. "I'm Hiroshi Ueno, by the way. I kinda live here."
"Nice to meet you, I'm Savannah," Savannah said, smiling slightly. "And they're Lisa, Jordan, Carnation, Wellington, and Fontaine." She pointed at them and the group, except Lisa, muttered hellos.
"Cool? So what are you all doing here?" Hiroshi asked.
"Just looking around," Savannah replied. "Have you been here long?"
"Well, a few months. You see, I'm half-angel. I grew up in Skipton and things weren't so bad until recently, when they figured that out. But yeah, I'm here now, I guess. I've been trying to get a job but no one wants to take me," he sighed, running his fingers through his spiky red and black hair. "Once these started showing," he turned around, revealing a small pair of wings sprouting from his hoodie, "I started getting all kinds of hate."
"So... you're one of them," Lisa said. She turned away from the man and whispered slowly to the others. "It would be wise to keep your guard up now. He's a Nephilim, who knows what he'll do."
"I'm sorry about Silivia," Hiroshi said, "but that wasn't us. Nephilim aren't angels. We aren't the bad guys."
"You haven't faced the suffering that we have for three fuckin' centuries," Aaron spoke, his voice becoming colder.
Florence put his hand on Aaron's shoulder, shooting him a sharp glance. "Come on, let's just finish what we came here for."
"Alright, man," Aaron responded, stepping back to let Florence take the lead.
"Wait, what did you all come here for?" Hiroshi asked again.
"We believe there's something in the central core that could help us locate a missing android," Dexter explained.
"If you want help, I can take you to the building's caretaker," Hiroshi replied. "You'll find them at the core. They help with repairs and whatnot."
Hiroshi took the party through the long hallways of the facility. Concurrent with their progress towards the central core, they noticed the walls and rooms were becoming less ruined and untidy. Repairs had been made, and a particular section of the wall appeared to have been entirely repainted.
When they finally reached the core, the fully-intact doors slid open to reveal a man with a broom casually sweeping. Likely the caretaker Hiroshi had spoken of, he had neatly combed red hair and light green eyes. He wore a dark blue jumpsuit with the Wellington Robotics insignia on its top left.
The man turned towards the group and began to speak in a monotone voice. "Greetings, I am Charles Wellington, Wellington Robotics Android #1. How can I be of assistance? Please offer your names."
Dexter regarded Charles for a moment. He turned back to the other party members, grinned smugly, then turned back. "I'm Dexter Wellington. My friends and I want to use this facility's systems to locate Android #9, who's currently missing."
"Wellington Robotics Android #9, otherwise known as Chris Wellington," Charles replied, processing Dexter's words. Going to the tracker, he input "Wellington Robotics Android #9." After waiting a few minutes, the result popped up on the tracker. "Android #9's last known coordinates are located at the Wellington farm in 19 TP."
"19 TP?" Savannah asked. "That was centuries ago. Do you have any recent coordinates of Android #9?"
"I am not programmed to give that information," Charles replied.
"Alright. Can anyone get me a spudger?" Dexter sighed. "You all might want to look away while I do this. I'm gonna be opening up Charles' head."
A half-hour passed. Dexter had connected a wire from the back of the android's exposed metal head to a computer terminal. From there, he could break through the multiple layers of security for direct access to the internal files.
He searched for any information on Chris: there was no tracking information past 1 TP, but there were a few videos. Each was titled "MEM: Training" followed by a date. Out of curiosity, Dexter opened one.
In the video, a dejected man, clearly Andrew Wellington, was entering his lab, where his androids were laying motionless against the wall. Andrew appeared strange-looking for a man in his 30s, his red hair already turning gray in some patches and he had a lined face. There were nine androids against the wall, with some resembling humans exactly and others being more generic. Four of the androids appeared to resemble women and the rest resembled men. Andrew turned his attention to the tallest of the androids, Charles.
"Android #1," Andrew said. "It's been a while since you were awakened. You might not recall, but I am your father. Your new goal is to hunt down this man-" Andrew whipped out a picture of Gabriel Alchemilia. "With your brothers and sisters."
"Yes, father," Charles replied in his monotonous voice.
"Do I have any upcoming activities?" Andrew asked.
"Yes, father," Charles replied, ripping a calendar off of the laboratory wall and reading it. "You have to get some more food."
"Good, good," Andrew replied. "Charles, I will leave you in charge of waking up your brothers and sisters."
"Yes, father," Charles answered. "Caroline, Cheryl, Chris, Hannah, Hayden, Helena, Liam, awaken."
"Yes, brother," the other androids replied in unison.
Charles took out Andrew's punching bag. "Punch!" The other androids took turns punching the bag. Charles then took out a ball and said "kick!"
However, things began to get out of hand with the androids from that point. Caroline kicked the ball out of the lab, with the other androids scrambling after her. Chris ended up taking the ball, but would not give it back to Caroline and instead ran outside, only to fall into a ditch. Suddenly, Chris' watch began to beep. The other androids began to beep as well, and some of them turned their limbs into weapons.
"Trap for Alchemilia activated. Time to annihilate." The other androids all said together, walking single file out of the lab.
"Error...error...no human DNA detected in impact site," Charles said. "Must search whole area." The androids walked back into Andrew's lab and began destroying walls, except Charles.
Charles stood at the ditch and used his strength to try to fling Chris away, unable to recognize him due to the trigger mechanism. Chris, capable of thought and reason, grew angered at this and attacked Charles. This fighting continued until Charles managed to smash Chris' legs and left him stranded in another ditch. "Threat annihilated," Charles went back into the lab, but was interrupted by Andrew's return. "The store was all out of my materials, but..." He then noticed the lab in disarray and that Chris was not among the other androids.
"What the hell did you damn droids do?" Andrew asked angrily. "Where is Chris?"
"I left him outside in a ditch," Charles answered nonchalantly.
After retrieving Chris and cleaning him up, Andrew began to address Charles again, visibly angry.
"What were you thinking? You almost destroyed Chris again! Charles, I disqualify you from my service. Your final mission is to go back to the Skipton factory, and never come back here again."
That's all they were for? Dexter thought. All these sapient machines were meant to do was track and kill one man?
He closed the window and went back to the parent directory. Dexter looked around a bit longer for anything related to Chris only to again come up empty-handed. He turned his attention to the control interface, which was unsurprisingly protected by a dedicated firewall.
Another hour passed as he switched between watching the memory files and attempting to break into the control interface. When the firewall was finally put out of its misery, he found the settings were much more primitive than those used by Alchemilia. Dexter thought of how long he had spent designing the Lepton series' ownership failsafes as he swapped out the name and identification photo of Andrew with his own.
Instead of Chris' location, the search party departed with a new member.
Only the sound of waves crashing upon each other could be heard. The sky rested in a locked pattern of endless gray. Televisions, solar panels, radios, and other pieces of torn up technology bopped along. Atticus stood on a small, circular metal platform that rocked slightly in the rough waters. Heavy rain beat against his shoulders with the rhythm of a drum as he pulled the hood he wore tighter over his head.
"I'm glad you were able to meet me here," a strangely familiar voice said. Atticus looked around, blinking the droplets of cold rain out of his eyes as he saw a figure staring away at the ocean. "To the heart seeking freedom, this is nothing but a prison surrounded by water." Atticus pulled his hood down with gloved hands, relaxing as he listened to the voice. He felt eager to hear more.
"I'd like to see what lies beyond," he responded.
"Then open your eyes," Pitter-patter, pitter-patter, the rain continued. "Come in from the cold, Atticus — arise, mighty apostle."
Feeling wet drops of snowfall on his face, Atticus awakened to find himself seated in the back of Blackmore's car, alone. He rubbed his eyes and noticed a somewhat large clearing in the trees around him, with the rest of the group sitting around a small bonfire.
"What's going on? Why did we stop here?" Atticus asked after walking over to them.
"About time you woke up," Samuel spoke, flipping a large map over. "Car's out of fuel, so get ready to start walking again."
"Are we still going to the ferry?" Chris asked.
"There's no other option but to," Samuel began. "Trust me, the situation looks worse than it is. We'll make it there if we're diligent."
Samuel closely examined the map he held in front of him. "Going anywhere but directly north is suicide. I know everyone's been through a lot, but we have to push through. Aiola will be in our sights soon."
"Once we're there, I know a perfect place for us to go. It's one of the safest places in Aiola, perhaps even Euclid," Li added.
"That's a good idea, Mister Li," Chris said. "But it's still weird that Melissa's disappeared, I want to find her somehow."
"She doesn't want us to find her," Blossom interjected. "As I said earlier, she wanted us to keep going forward. She's probably already dead."
"Way to be positive," commented Li.
"How can we be positive when it's so fucking cold out?" Marshall whined. "Besides, we're miles from where we — er, where she left us. She wanted out and I don't really blame her. She's gone and she's not coming back. And we're not going back to find her."
"Guys, remember what we learned," Samuel explained. "The world's shaped by those who take action. We can't keep dwelling on the past. Let's focus on ourselves, and try our best to survive. Melissa's made her choice, and I'm confident she would have wanted us to push on."
"Are you sure you guys know the way to the ferry?" Chris asked.
Samuel looked up from the map. "Doubt it. With weather like this, you really think anyone knows? We're just hoping the map's correct, hopefully we find somewhere to stop soon."
Blackmore, standing against a tree with snow piling on his head and shoulders, broke his silence by throwing a small phone across the clearing and into a rock. "We're fucked. This is the end."
"What?" Blossom asked.
Blackmore craned his neck around to look at her. "Are you fucking joking? What's wrong? What's wrong is that we're heading towards the worst blizzard in the last century and we're up shit creek without a paddle. If the cold doesn't get us, the Coalition will and they lead the fucking continent in grisly executions."
"No, Blackmore. I have faith in us as a team. All that training everyone went through for three months certainly were not for nothing. We can make it to the closest town and get some gas there," Li stated firmly.
"Come on, Blackmore," Samuel interrupted. "Everyone knows we're in a bad spot right now. Panicking won't do anything. Just try and keep the faith, or all is truly lost."
"He is right, Sam. This is demon territory, dead center of it. Who knows what'll be out here. See what we can take from the car." Li ordered.
"Is anybody out there?" The voice of a man calling out surprised the group and they looked towards the source in unison. Near the edge of the clearing, a white-haired man moved in an awkward and stilted way, using a hiking stick to seemingly guide him. He appeared to be young, but wore dark goggles and had a scarf wrapped around his mouth and most of his face.
"No, obviously," Marshall replied sarcastically. "What were you saying, Mister Li?"
"Very funny, but I cannot see, so perhaps have a bit of compassion." The man replied, tapping his goggles. "Lost my sight a while ago."
"My name is Chris Wellington," Chris said, standing up and approaching the man. "Pleased to meet you, Mr-..."
"Chris!" Blossom called out. "Don't be so opening, we don't know this man. He could be anything."
The figure walked closer to the group, pulling his scarf down and directly addressing them. "Are you a band of travelers? I am also a traveler myself — though I have lost my ways."
"Well, that's something," Samuel told the man. "You looking for help?"
"Yes... especially after what I've been through," the man answered. "My name is Zade Santello."
Blackmore looked at Zade and scowled. "We're full."
"Is that so?" Zade asked. "Despite my blindness, I can assure you I am not useless. What I lack with eyes, I rely on my senses."
"Go bother someone else. We ain't got shit," Blackmore grunted.
"If you don't want me to come along, so be it. I'll just continue on my own — but be careful. Blackwell Forest is unkind, even to those who call it home. Watch out for the beast, it's impossible to outrun," Zade answered.
"What beast?" Atticus asked.
"The beast, Atticus," Li repeated, chuckling.
"There's a beast that roams this forest," Zade began. "Few have survived to tell the tale of it. It's called Crolak, and details of it are scarce. It has a lanky-looking body with snow-covered skin and very long-rake like claws. It might appear weak, but it's very fast and intelligent. Most of the time, one cannot even hear it when it's around them. It's why I lost all of my friends and my sight..."
Blackmore sat down on a snow-covered rock, listening. "...So a demon?"
"Yes," Zade answered.
"We must head north. Demons aren't the only thing to be wary of around here. All sorts of creatures and plants lurk. My knowledge of Muné is limited, so I hope Mister Santello can provide some assistance navigating," Li said.
"That I can manage," Zade said.
The group made it further into the Blackwell Forest, eventually coming to an area where various pockets of woods and hills filled with snow could be seen.
"How large is this area?" Blossom asked, stepping out from the covers of the trees.
"I am not sure. Even when I could see, the Blackwell Forest always seemed so vast to me," Zade replied.
Blackmore shivered in the cold, rubbing his hands together. "Are we going to be able to find our way back? I don't want to leave my car back there..."
"We're not going back," Marshall glared at Blackmore and Chris.
"Car's lost cause. We must push forward," Li said, fiddling with the harmonica hanging from his neck.
"Just be careful out here," Zade warned, walking forward with his hiking stick.
The group warily continued into the forest. In addition to the density of the trees, a fog surrounding the area made it hard to see. Some started to feel small pieces of ice hitting their necks as they walked.
Zade walked them past an icy pond surrounded by logs coated in rime. After a brief cough, Samuel spoke. "How close are we to 'Crolak', Zade?"
"We're getting colder... which in this case, means we are getting closer. Crolak is capable of emitting thick, cold white mist from its mouth to make it hard for others to see," Zade answered.
"It's a blizzard, it's supposed to be cold. Why should we even trust you? You're probably some senile man who wandered away from his forest tribe. Or a demon. One of those — what are they called?" Marshall grew wary of the newcomer.
"Skinwalkers," Samuel answered.
"By 'colder', I wasn't referring to the weather — I'm aware that there's a blizzard out. It's that as we trek further, the atmosphere feels more and more unnaturally chilling and bleak down here. I'm feeling the same sense of uneasiness I had when I first came down here," Zade answered, ignoring the rest of Marshall's questions.
Zade took a few more steps, being careful with his steps. As he headed forward, a quiet cackling could be heard. Zade instantly stopped moving to hear better.
"...No," Zade uttered, hearing the cackle again. This time, it was a little more audible than before. Zade quickly staggered back towards the group, alerting them.
"Guns out now," Samuel announced.
"Don't have to tell me twice," Blackmore responded, pulling one of his sub-machine guns from his coat. "You still have the gun I gave you, Atticus?"
"Yeah, I do," Atticus replied, lifting it upwards and into Blackmore's line of view. He placed his hand on the trigger and prepared for Samuel's direction.
Li lifted his cane in a defensive position. "Watch yourselves."
Chris aimed his gun-hand. "Back up, guys."
Zade then held tight on his hiking stick, raising it like a club. "I may be blind, but that doesn't mean I can't recognize danger when I hear it."
The cackling grew louder and more booming, before turning into laughter that echoed through the trees. While no creature could be seen yet, something could be heard climbing down from high above the branches.
Coming out of a nearby tree, a tall creature leapt down to the ground and landed perfectly on the ground like a cat. While it was still a few feet away from the group, its appearance could be seen clearly. Its eyes glowed dark purple, its arms were as long as its body, with very long sharp claws and pale-white colored skin which camouflaged it well with the snowy atmosphere. It was Crolak.
The beast stood there for a bit observing the group, baring its fangs before moving towards them slowly in an unnatural hovering stance.
Blackmore slipped his finger onto the trigger of his gun and began firing directly at Crolak's head. The beast swiftly ducked from most of the bullets before getting shot in the shoulder.
Seizing upon the distraction, Li lunged at the monster and swung his cane forward. As the cane made sharp contact with Crolak's ankles, it let out a howl and knocked the old man aside in a rage.
Blossom instantly broke from the group and proceeded to run towards Li. "Blossom, stop!" Atticus called after her, as Crolak began to set its sight towards the two.
"Mister Li! Are you okay?" Blossom asked, ignoring Atticus' call. Aiming at the beast, Atticus unloaded a barrage of bullets, covering the area in a flurry.
Quickly jumping upwards, Crolak managed to grab a tree branch and leap upwards, climbing high into the tree. Descending from the tree, it threw itself at the group, swinging its arms and slashing its claws at Atticus' legs. Zade ran up and swung his hiking stick at the beast, landing a hard blow on the back of its head. Turning to face the group again, Crolak cackled mockingly.
In response, Chris positioned his gun hand and tried to shoot at it as many times as he could.
The beast then danced around a bit, dodging the bullet rounds, before one managed to hit its left arm. The beast yelled in pain, before snarling at Chris. In retaliation, it opened its mouth and released a stream of thick white mist around the area, making it difficult for everyone to see. Crolak hopped into the mist, blending in.
"It has summoned its mist — there's no telling what can happen now," Zade warned. While he couldn't see the mist, he could tell it was there due to the sensations around him.
"Guys!" Blossom called out, standing above Li, who was still on the ground. "He's hurt pretty bad! He doesn't think he can stand up. I need some help over here."
Samuel ran in Blossom's direction, his black trenchcoat billowing in the wind as the white mist slowly thickened. "There's not much time, let's help him up."
Marshall followed, dropping the suitcases he was holding. He grabbed Li's cane and took it over to him, hooked it over his arm, and lifted Li's right side.
"You can't do much without a gun," Samuel told the two. "The other three should be able to finish the job. You know what'll happen if it rushes at us though, right?"
"We die," Marshall replied.
Bursting out of the mist, Crolak returned, bellowing as it ran towards the trio gathered around Li. Ramming itself against Marshall, it caused him to trip and fall over. With him down, it turned and slashed its claws at Samuel and Blossom. The creature cackled sadistically as it then stepped on Li with one of its feet, baring its fangs as it gave off a wicked smile. Stepping off him, it raised both of its arms in the air, its claws shining.
Zade charged it, swinging his hiking stick around and blindly hitting the monster.
With her gun out of ammo, Blossom slammed the weapon against Crolak's side, throwing it slightly off its course. Taking the chance she had created, she threw herself against it, colliding her shoulder with its body and calling out to the others.
"It's attacking over here now!"
Crolak then staggered back hissing and reeling, before Zade came in, batting his hiking stick at the beast's head three times. Crolak grabbed Zade, slashing its claws at his legs and, in a feat of strength, hurled him at Chris. The beast then let out a roar and charged up again, ready for the next attack.
Taken aback by Zade landing on him, Chris lifted him off and turned to face Crolak. He aimed his gun forward, attempting to nail it between the eyes.
Crolak disappeared into the white mist. A few moments passed with nothing happening, before the beast leaped out from its white mist and jumped up high, screeching loudly and preparing to pounce at Chris, coming in very fast and aiming to deliver a killing blow.
As Crolak came in for a landing, Chris slapped it hard with all his strength, then shot towards its chest.
The shot blasted straight through its chest, shooting it through the heart and killing Crolak almost instantly. Its lifeless body then fell onto Chris.
Chris threw off Crolak and looked over at Li, lying unconscious. "Is he alright?"
Samuel got up from the ground and walked over to Li. His hands shook slightly as he moved to place two fingers on Li's neck. The others had followed Samuel, watching him intently.
Though it was faint, there was a pulse.
Samuel lifted Li's arms and wrist, looking at them briefly. Li did not respond.
"We have to get medical attention. He has a lot of cuts and possibly a fractured wrist. He's alive, though," Samuel eventually said.
"Where are we going to get help for him though?" Atticus asked. "We're lost out here."
Samuel gave a heavy sigh. "Who knows?"
Atticus swallowed a lump in his throat and looked up at the sky for some respite, and his eyes met with a burst of red light that he remembered well. Silhouetted by the blinding crimson in the night sky was a creature. Not a demon, but a limber, winged humanoid. Visions of the angels back in Silivia flashed through his head. Atticus looked down, feeling a headache, to see his comrades all entranced by the same sight.
"There is something I've been keeping from all of you. I put off telling it, always thinking I'd get around to it eventually... that beast made me realize that I don't have forever to keep putting it off."
Magnus was alone in a hospital bed. He could hear nothing beyond the monitor's constant beeps. They were getting slower now, closer to normal. He had accepted his fate. He would stand trial for the confrontation at Manta and Salinger arson. The conviction was inevitable. Magnus could snitch if he wanted a lighter sentence, but no matter how much he gave them he would still be locked up.
"My father was sick and I was unemployed. I had a personal job offer from Gabriel Alchemilia. Back then, I didn't know any better. I was so desperate I might've done it even if I knew."
Years ago, Magnus had gotten involved with a girl named Penny Yearling. Neither of them said much about their relationship to their friends or family. Penny was well-off, making good money from Alchemilia Corporation, while Magnus made just over the bare minimum from extra-legal means.
They married during an especially cold month of Tuiscos, 300 TP. It was a short, private affair attended only by the bride, groom, and a local minister. Penny did not take Magnus' surname.
In Tuiscos 303, the couple's first and only child was born. He was given the same name as his great-grandfather, Marshall Rooke. The boy was to receive his education from Alchemilia's education androids at Penny's request. For seven years, all was well.
"The job was exactly what I needed. I rose through the ranks, all the way up to executive. I was Gabriel's closest friend. That was when I discovered the truth. The unspeakable horror beneath the surface."
A man with a wicked smile and mad glint in his eyes stood over Salinger. The man's companions all had their weapons pointed directly at the police chief, but he appeared to be unarmed. As Salinger desperately begged for his lives of himself and his family, Magnus pulled a bottle and cigarette lighter from his coat pockets. He lit the small bomb and threw it onto the ground.
The next day, the Silivian branch of the Svatovid congratulated themselves on a job well done. Magnus tried to keep his attention on the television while avoiding the noisy revelry of his fellows. The news was about to report on the arson. He needed to see it. If asked, he would say it was because he wanted to know how much the public and police knew. This was not untrue, but seeing his actions reported on as a major story was more important to him.
Before the report even began, there was a breaking news interruption. It was not the Salinger arson, but instead an attack on Remnant Rock. Magnus heard the name of his son as one of the perpetrators.
"I begged Gabriel to put a stop to it. He refused, said the greater good justified some minor evil. Resigning right there and then was the only option."
Penny had been arrested by Alchemilia, who claimed she had organized an assassination attempt on one of their chairmen. There was no trial. She was sentenced to life imprisonment in a company-owned holding facility. Her husband and son were forbidden from visiting. Marshall would be Magnus' sole responsibility to take care of. He would also need to go through public schooling rather than a full android-provided education.
Marshall had vanished in — Nialus? Had it been that long? — with no trace left behind. His father had never expected he would next hear from him after he and his associates (which included the governor's son, of all people) destroyed Alchemilia's base of operations. He broke down in tears.
He wanted to find his son, wanted to help him and his friends however he could. The boss had only one stipulation before he was out. "A favor for a new friend of ours," he called it. "A simple security job."
"When Fontaine told us we could deal a crushing blow to Alchemilia, I was reminded of something I tried not to think about. The things I saw in my tenure as executive never stopped. This was my chance, I had to take action. It had to be me."
Not for the first time, Magnus wondered whether he would ever see his wife or son again. He went through several possible reunion scenarios before quickly dismissing all of them. It was useless. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep.
|Season One:||Catching Smoke • White Room • Bare Trees • One Night in Gladea • Ceasefire • Hide & Seek • The Hounds • Reunion • In Somnis Veritas • Carpe Diem • Primo Victoria • Don't Fear the Reaper|
|Season Two:||Crumbling Castle • Roaming King • Safe Haven • Marked Map • The Less I Know the Better • Riding the Wave • Centuries of Damnation • House of the Rising Sun • The Master • Everybody Plays the Fool • Loyalty|