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This is #28 of Endangered and is titled Surrounded by the Unseen Foe. It is part 4 of Volume 3 and was released September 29, 2015.

SynopsisEdit

Situations at the mall turn from bad to worse when a sudden hostage situation takes place. With many lives hanging on a thread, Reyes finds himself stepping into the role of a hero, where he must dig deep into his dark past and demons to try and stop this situation without turning himself into what he fears most: himself. However, with his step-daughter among the hostages, the actions of Ethan Brash may change those plans. Meanwhile, Ryker takes Daniel on a trip down memory lane.

Surrounded by the Unseen Foe Edit

13 YEARS AGO, 2000

It wasn’t the best neighborhood in the world, but hey, no neighborhood was perfect, right? That said, this wasn’t the worst neighborhood in the world, but it wasn’t perfect. Some good people there, some cartel members there. Some nice structures here, some graffiti's structures there. Still, to the residents there, it wasn’t the worst place in the world, although it wasn’t very safe. Oh, Tecpan de Galeana. What a town it was, full of many stories. Full of people who are on their way long road to fortune.

In one of the many houses, which looked particularly normal on the outside, sat a boy. No older than fifteen, this child seated himself in the living room, focused on the text book on his lap. He seemed like a good looking young man, but that has been damaged to the bruises and cuts that run alongside his face, the most notable being the eye that seemed to match his black hair.

“Can’t even defend yourself…” The elderly lady mutters from the kitchen behind him. Like her young boy she looked like shit, but in a much different way. Scrawny, bloodshot eyes, missing teeth and dark veins. Oh, it doesn’t take much wonder to see what was wrong with Sophia Young. “You didn’t even get one hit on him?”

“He was surrounded by his friends.” Reyes attempts to defend himself don’t seem to impress her. “There was nothing I could do.”

“You could stop being a bitch, that’s what you could do.” Lighting up a cigarette she sends a glare over to her son, who continues to do his homework like the student he was. “Coward like your old man.”

It takes all the willpower in the world not to defend his father, but Reyes bites his tongue. After-all, he knows exactly what talking back to his mother means; another bruise to go with the black eye. So, like the good child he was, Reyes keeps his mouth shut as he does his homework, allowing his mother to continue her rants about how useless he was. How she wished she didn’t need to take care of him. It was no secret that she didn’t want Reyes, but due to his father’s occupation, he wasn’t safe with him. So he was left here, where she took the anger she felt towards the father to his splitting imaged son.

The attention placed on his homework was broken once the knock on his door was heard. He was prepared to open it himself, but his mother was quick to grab his shoulder. “Go to your room.” She told him as she walked past.

“I don’t wanna go to my room.” Reyes moans to the uncaring bitch that was his mother. “My show is about to come on.”

“I said go to your room!” Reyes was reluctant to move, and it was in that reluctance that his mother’s cold hand slapped him across the already damaged face. Reyes’s reaction time was cut shorter as she began to slap him twice across his face. “When I ask you to go to your room, you fucking go. Got it, puta?”

Reyes remained silent whilst grabbing his books to leave, even enduring another slap to the back of his head. “Don’t you fucking cry on me.” His mother threatened the child with a sigh as her innocent son made his way to his room down the hall. He felt the cold eyes of that bitch follow him to his room, not leaving until he closed the door behind him. For the abusive bitch she was, she at least didn’t want her son to see her customers. The ones who use a woman’s desperation for money.

Sitting on the sad excuse of a bed, with it’s ragged sheets and dirty pillow, Reyes was still for a moment. His only movement was the frozen stare off into nowhere for a good few moments, until seemingly out of nowhere, Reyes slams his hand onto the bed, giving off a grunt whilst doing so.

As the moans from the other room begin to seep through the walls, Reyes turns towards the radio at his bedside. A present from his father a few years back. One Reyes still holds dear. After-all his father has always been a bright spot in the endless abyss of his life.

Not wishing to be bothered by the acts of his mother, Reyes flips the on switch of his radio to drown out the noise. At first he turned his head towards the books below, but was as the radio became clearer, his attention spiraled to that of the news broadcaster’s voice.

“Three bodies were found today by the zocalo. No suspects yet, or an official cause of death, but the gruesome details suggest it was far from quick. One man’s stomach has been reported to being cut open to show his intestines, while another was found to be missing his right eye.” As the gruesome details are continued to be listed Reyes can’t help but listen.

Death. It was a horrifying subject for the young boy. The entity that couldn’t be outran. In just a mere moment the world around you simply vanishes and you’re just...gone. That’s it. With the snap of a finger everything you are, everything you fought for, is gone from this earth. In a neighborhood like this, Reyes couldn’t help but wonder if one day he will be one of these bodies on the news. It was a fate Reyes wanted to avoid, but one that always ate at him in the back of his head.

When will his day come?


“Smoke?” Lara hands out a pack of smokes to Dre, who casually shakes his head. “More for me, then.”

“Have fun with lung cancer.”

“Oh, I fucking will.” Lara gives a chuckle as she lights up the small cigarette in her hand, giving herself a well deserved smoke. As she blows out the smoke, Lara rests down against the pillow, adjusting the covers over herself as she does. While she smokes Dre just continues to lay himself down, slowly taking his breaths whilst doing so. “Tired?”

“You take a lot of me.” Dre gives his casual smile to the charming Ms. Drake while sitting himself up, giving himself a nice stretch whilst doing so. The two couple, both naked underneath the thick plaid covers, definitely know how to take the wind out of each other. Both, of course, are naturals in their kind of fun.

As much fun as having sex with Lara was, it never could satisfy him for long. Of course, as they’re having it, he is definitely satisfied; however, once done he is soon brought back to here. This ruined, cruel world that he now lives in. One that shows anyone no such mercy. No matter what kind of facade he puts up, no matter what he tries to do, the reality always comes back Dre.

Finishing up her cigarette, Lara turns her eyes back to Dre, who continues to daze off into the empty space around them. “Hey, toss ‘em over.” Lara, following a quick snap of her fingers, points over to her clothes, which sit in a crumpled up ball at his side. Dre follows her orders, tossing the giant ball over to her.

Slipping back into her clothes, Lara continues to notice the looks that escape from Dre’s eyes. A look she has been seeing a lot of lately. His big, brown beautiful eyes lack the confidence and hope they used to. At least, the ones they had back before all this. Lately all she has saw was the eeriness of depression.

She is reluctant to ask what is wrong, however. While not without their talks, the relationship between Lara and Dre is much more sexual than emotional. Friends with benefits, you could say. Of course, that is something she has been wanting to change. After years she finally wants to change from the loose lifestyle. A change that is hard to overcome for her, but one she is willing to try and do. “What’s up with you?”

“Nothing much.”

“Come on, don’t bs me.” Lara stands to her feet to finish pulling up the dark, tight jeans. “We both know something up.”

“What gives that away?”

“You look hot and depressed, not hot and hot.”

“That is quite the observation.”

“I have keen eyes. Like a detective, or a hawk. A hawk detective.”

“A hawk detective? I don’t think that’s a thing.”

“Is now.”

“According to who?”

“According to Lara fucking Drake, that’s who. Don’t question her.”

“And why not?”

“Because she controls your sex life.”

“Alright, you made your point. You’re a hawk detective.” Lara and Dre snicker from their conversation, as the former continues to straighten herself out, getting ready for the day, while the other continues to be a lazy bastard underneath the covers. Lara turns back to him once done, the question still burning in her mind. “Seriously, though. What’s up with you?”

Dre wasn’t one to drop his smile, but seeing that Lara was the persistent one, he gave in. “I just feel...scared, ya know?”

“Of what?” A stupid question it sounded like, but in this world, there as so much to be scared of. Ryker, the infected, and God knows what else. Dre bit his lip as his question, as honestly, he didn’t know how to put it into words.

“I--I don’t know, if I’m being honest. Everything maybe? I wake up and I just feel afraid.” A horrible feeling it was, for mixed in with his depression was the fear. Fear of infected, fear of Ryker, fear of death. “I can’t even tell you of what, anymore. Shit just piles up everyday.”

Lara knew what he meant. Almost each day now they had a new challenge to deal with. They were supposed to be getting ready for the new years. Optimism was supposed to be here at this time, not fear. As Lara just gives the small nod of her head, Dre looks up at her. “Why is it that you’re never scared?”

“What?”

“You always have that--that beautiful smile of yours, and a snarky joke to go with it. It’s like you don’t get scared.”

“Who says that I don’t?”

“Then what are you scared of?”

A good question indeed. Lara strokes her chin searching for the answer. “I mean, clowns are pretty scary. They got those big red noses and--and the smile.” Her reply didn’t seem to help Dre’s claims as he simply just looked down, as if thinking about his own fears. Lara never really thought about her worst fear, if she’s being honest. She knows she is scared of something, she has to be, but she can’t pinpoint it. She always avoided fear with a smile.

“Being alone, I guess.” Lara finally answers. “I’m scared of ending up alone.” Alone was something that Lara could honestly say she was scared of. Not being alone as in listening to music and not talking but...alone. Where no one was there for you, and all you had was yourself. That was something she doesn’t think she could handle.

As she looks at Dre, though, a thought pops into her mind. If their relationship is just sex, and all she does is have a smile on her face, is that the only reason like her? Because she’s hot and funny?

What if she was already alone but just couldn’t see it?


“See anything?” Reyes asks over to Joel, who stands at the roof’s edge, sniper grasped in hands. His eyes scan through the scope, making sure nothing is out of the ordinary. Not even by the slightest. He can’t be to sure, especially not now.

“All clear.” Joel lowers his rifle, and instead takes back to sitting on the lawn chair, rifle still in hands. With infected, mobsters, and who knows what else out there, one could never be to unprepared for anything. Joel knew that well. After-all, he knew just how they thought.

Joel glanced over to Reyes, who remained silent in his chair. His leg said all that Reyes couldn’t say from his mouth, as Joel was quick to see how the leg continued to shake nervously. Didn’t help that his eyes slowly moved around the area, constantly checking the area for more men of Ryker. “Crazy shit we in, huh?” Joel asks calmly to his friend--bit of a loose term--who continued to be cautious.

“Damn right.”

“You ever in this type of situation before? Like, ya know, fighting some sort of war.”

“Not really, no. Had enemies for sure, never turned into anything like this.” Reyes briefly recounts the days of his life he likes to avoid. “You?”

The question seemed to bring a dry chuckle out of Joel. “All my life, man. Same shit, different day, ya know?” Joel continues to stare towards the skyline of Philadelphia in the distance. “You see, growing up, I was always different from the others. The outcast, if you would. People didn’t like that, no. Especially not where I grew up. Lived in those--white rich neighborhoods, and there if you ain’t a snob then you ain’t shit. Was always me against the world.”

“You grew up rich?”

“Yeah, boy. Hard to believe, right? Me, some fuckin’ street kid, grew up with the moola.” Joel chuckles at the thought himself. Was a strange thing to believe indeed. “Ended up running off and joined up with Oscar.”

“And how’d that turned out?”

“An outcast joined up with a bunch of outcasts. Turned out great.” Joel remembers those days. The days where he was lost in the streets of Philadelphia, looking for purpose in life. A purpose that came in the form of a street gang, one that had plenty of connections to powerful people. He joined young and stupid and came out like this. “Turned into who I was always meant to be. Came with a price, of course.”

A price that took his soul in exchange for a glimpse of purpose. “I got into conflict with the Rykers a few times, as I’m sure you remember.” So that’s where the name sounded familiar. He knew he heard the name Ryker before this day. The gang he was ever so kindly recruited to help with.

“So you know how the man works?”

“Wouldn’t say exactly. Dude’s a tricky bastard. I know how the street gang worked, but that was only one part of his little empire. If it were up to me we would be sneaking on him right now before he suspects a thing.” Joel notes the uneasy change in Reyes’s body language as he speaks. “What do you think we should do?”

Reyes pauses for a moment, allowing the awkward silence to fill the air. “I--I just think we should try to avoid all of this.”

“Why that?” To answer Joel’s question Reyes points out into the distance towards the ruined city. The one now dominated by the beasts. “‘Cause those things.” Reyes speaks. “It’s bad enough we got those things trying to kill us. Last thing we need is for all us to lose our minds and kill each other too. We all just people so wasting our time over bloodshed is useless.”

A typical Reyes answer, preaching about how violence isn’t good and how they all need to stop, like he is some sort of zen. “World ain’t full of sunshine and rainbows, man. Shit happens.”

“I know it ain’t, but still. All I saying it’s useless, ya know?” Reyes notices the smirk of disbelief that grows on Joel’s face. “What?”

“It’s just that--man you can be the biggest hypocrite sometimes.” That’s a word that caught Reyes off guard, but before Reyes could ask more, Joel continued. “You preach about avoiding violence and shit, but yet with just a snap of a finger, you just as bad as me.”

“How so?”

“Do you know what happened a few days ago? We fucking tortured someone, man. You tortured someone. Then, you held your gun up to one of Ryker’s men. Let’s not forgot about that hitman too. Remember him? Dropped him right into the infected. And, of course, we got those riots, which we started.” Joel is quick to remind Reyes of his sins. “Stop being so self righteous, stop flip flopping your little morals, and just accept who you are. Honestly, man, you could be a lot worse.”

Reyes, naturally, didn’t express any emotion, but Joel’s words cut deep. He’s all for one talking about not using violence and judging others for using it, but yet when his life is in danger, he throws them aside and doesn’t give a shit. Sure, it sounds stupid. Who wouldn’t throw morals aside when their lives are threatened? However, if one talks about taking the high ground, shouldn’t they actually use it for themselves? If not then what does that make them?


13 YEARS AGO, 2000

Oh, high school. What a horrible fucking place it was. Seriously, what was the point of it? Was it supposed to prepare you for the future? If so, did a pretty shitty job. Doesn’t teach what taxes are, voting, how to write a resume, banking, applying for loans, buying a house…..but holy shit, good thing Reyes is learning about the pythagorean theory! What would life be without it?

Sitting himself in one of the stranded classrooms of the Prepa 6, Reyes paid no attention to whatever the mathematics teacher was trying to teach. Instead Reyes took a focus to his small notebook where he wrote whatever doodles came to mind. Stupid, yes, but much more entertaining than whatever his teacher was trying to talk about. Because, oh man, Reyes didn’t have enough middle fingers to give to math.

However, a bright spot in this usually dull class came when his eyes saw her. Her. An angel in a country full of scum. A sight for sore eyes. Liza. Oh, even the name of her made him smile. A girl his years, she had beautiful dark hair with lovely soft eyes. If appearances weren’t enough, her personality was just as beautiful as her, a feat hard to imagine in his eyes.

Unfortunately, his ability to never talk to her gave him a lost chance. For she has landed herself in the arms of another boy by the name of Ashton. Oh, Ashton. A faggot he was in Reyes’s mind. The boy walks around with his posse, acting as if he is the toughest kid in the world. Him and his friends rule the halls of their school, and unfortunately for Reyes, Ashton seems to enjoy beating on him the most. Something about hurting the defenseless just seemed to give people pride about themselves. People like Ashton, his mother...they all deserved to pay.

His twisted thoughts were cut short by the ring of a bell, signaling that the wretched class be over. Throwing the notebook until his shoulder bag, Reyes departed from the room and into the school hallways, where some happiness filled the students as that bell signified that it was the end of the day. Time to head home. While most kids were happy with that, it was something Reyes dreaded. Home wasn’t safe, school wasn’t safe, the streets sure as hell weren’t safe. For this poor kid it was just picking his poison. No mater where he was he was just an outcast. This damned bastard didn’t belong anywhere.

Reyes continued to drown in his fucked up life for the next several minutes on his walk home from school. Head down, hood up and hands in slave, Reyes attempted to be invisible from the world around him. Sadly, no one could be invisible forever as familiar voices began to echo from behind him. Voices that Reyes feared with his life. Voices that signaled the coming of pain.

“Young!” Ashton’s voice came into the distance, prompting Reyes to turn and face the man, who is surrounded by his lackeys. “You left so early, amigo! We were barely able to find you.”

“I--just wanted to get home. Got homework.”

“Homework?” Ashton continued to give a prideful smirk as he threw his arm around Reyes, acting as if they were old friends. “Look at you, man. What a good fucking student.” Ashton gave a friendly, soft punch to his arm to go with his compliment. “You wanna know what’s weird though? I mean, it’s something I personally find disturbing, as do my buddies back there?”

“What is it?”

“Well, it’s just that...you’re obviously this good fucking student but yet you can’t seem to figure out one, tiny little thing.”

“Which is…?” Reyes left his question dangling for an answer while Ashton continued to give a smile of thorns. Reyes knew what was coming, however. He always knew what to expect from Ashton.

“That you don’t ever look at another man’s girl.” A sudden gut punch from Ashton left Reyes coughing for air as the laughter of Ashton’s friends filled the air. “It’s a pretty simple rule to me. When a dude get’s a bitch, the bitch is his. It just don’t go to another dude!” Reyes anticipated the next strike from Ashton, which came crashing into his face.

Reyes knew what came next. It was obvious with a crowd like this. After-all, the mindless dogs always follow Ashton’s lead. So as the crew surrounded Reyes he knew exactly what to expect, all the way down to what kind of bruises he will be coming home with.

-----

It wasn’t as bad as Reyes was expecting. Hell, if he was being honest, he thought he got off good this time. One black eye, a bruised lip and some yellow bruises on his hip. Really, could be a lot worse. Still, even with that said, this beating felt just as bad as the rest. Maybe not physically, but oh man, Reyes didn’t care. That anger still crept it’s way around his black heart.

Finally arriving home, Reyes made his way inside the demonic building. Some would expect their mother to care for any injuries for their child. Hell, especially if the child was assaulted! Most would call parents and sue the school! Reyes had a different type of mother, sadly. For when she saw his bruised appearance, all he got was a scoff. Not a smile, not a worrying expression. No. A fucking scoff of annoyance.

“What happened to you?” Sophia casually asks as her son crashes down on the couch, resting the bruised head against the couch’s arm. The badly bruised Reyes didn’t want to respond but he knew the consequences of not responding to the wicked witch of the west.

“Just a fight.”

“Against who?”

“Same people. Ashton and his friends.”

“You get a hit on them?”

Oh, how Reyes wanted to lie and say he did. For fuck’s sake, maybe his mother would show appreciation for him if he did! Instead, Reyes decided trying to appease her was a waste of his precious time. “No. I couldn’t.”

“Not even one?” Reyes shook his head. “Then it wasn’t even a fight, it was a beating. Pathetic.” Sophia shakes her head while going back to her business in the kitchen. Reyes couldn't see it but he knew those eyes of darkness were scolding him. “You’re fifteen and can’t even stand up for yourself! Do you know how sad that is?!”

“I spend all these years,” Sophia continues to rant to the uninterested Reyes, “trying to teach you how to defend yourself. But you can’t even do that! I knew you wouldn't be perfect but I never imagined you would be such a disappointment. Seriously, look at yourself. Fucking useless. Should have gave you to your father when I had the chance.”

Here we go again. Like always Sophia continued to rant about the lack of oxygen Reyes was to this earth. It was a rant the child was used to hearing at this point in his life but one that never seemed to hurt less. Every word that exited her lips was as a fire to a stick, slowly burning Reyes from the inside. At first the fire felt bad, blaming himself for being such a weak child. Then that was turned into something much more powerful. Anger. Oh, anger. A burning, dark, wild rage builds within Reyes as he lays on the couch, listening as the bitch spoke about him as if he was trash off the street.

“I’m not trash.” The simple words that Reyes mutters to himself make their way to the ears of Sophia. “Excuse me?” She calls over to her child, expecting him not to reply back like the spineless creature he was. Oh, how she was proven wrong in only one mere second.

“I said I’m not fucking trash!” Reyes shouts back at her with a vengeance, knowing full well what she would do next. He watched as his rage transferred over to her. As her eyes turned from annoyance to that of rage, Reyes couldn’t help but feel the emptiness in his stomach grow.

Oh, it’s clobbering time.

Immediately regretting the decision Reyes tried to run to his room, but his injuries left him slow enough for Sophia to grab him before he even reached the end of the room. Grabbing her son by the shoulders, Sophia quickly pushed him into the wall, an act that was followed by a back-handed slap. As the mark of her knuckles sank into his cheek, Sophia grabbed his cheeks with her bony, clawed fingers. “You don’t have the right to speak like that to me. I’m your mother!” Reyes did his best not to stare into her frightening eyes of horror, afraid of what he might find. “You’re mother!”

“Do you know what I’ve done for you? What I am doing for you? I wasn’t always like--this! I took you in after he left, I gave you a life and provided for you! Do you know what I had to do?!” Sophia slams his head into the wall. “You--you did this to me! And you repay it by being a spineless, weak, disrespectful child!” Sophia could practically smell the fear that oozed from Reyes’s body, and oh, how she enjoyed that fear. Payback for the things she did to provide for him. She gives him a life and he has the nerve to let others stomp on it. She never felt more disgusted by someone.

Still, even she can see how scared he is. She only likes to punish until he gets the message, and it seems he did. So, Sophia lets her child go, looking away from his pathetic eyes whilst doing so. “I don’t want to see you for the rest of the night.”

With those words said, Reyes makes his way from the living room in a panic, all the while she watches him go, disappointment in her eyes. Like usual, she expected him go go cry in his room like a child.

However, the antithesis happened. For once Reyes shielded himself from her by slamming his door shut, crying was not what came to his mind. Sure, he was terrified at the thought of what she could do to him; about how she could end up anytime she wanted. However, it was that fear that made him feel something else. It was that inescapable truth that he won’t ever get free himself from the bondage of these...monsters until he does something. Tired of the constant suffering, Reyes only strives to do one thing in his life.

Reyes wants his vengeance.


Despite being only a medium sized mall, Franklin Mills was lucky enough to have more restaurants than the food courts. Instead it held home to some very nice, small, beautiful restaurants. Admittedly, Lara hasn’t really ate in some of them, but if all of them looked as nice as the one she was in right now, then it would be a miracle indeed.

Currently sitting inside one of the many restaurants, Lara finds herself alone at a side booth. As usual Lara seems to be just as playful on her lonesome than with a crowd. For she continues to lightly kick her feet together while messing around with her own, admittedly tiny, fingers, all while a beautiful smile is formed on her lips. To many they would assume that Lara Drake is just her usual self: the care-free, laid back girl who just wants fun in her life. That’s her after-all, right?

Taking a sip of the water in front of her, Lara eyes the area around her. A decent crowd, full of many people. Some she recognized, some not so much. However, there was one face that stood out immediately, and that was the face of Vicky, who was making her way through the door just as Lara’s eyes caught her. “Someone’s late.” Lara greets Vicky with a smile as she sits across from her. “And, no, it’s not the Mr. wearing-my-hat-backwards-makes-me-cool over by the window.”

“I know, I know. I just lost track of time.”

“You do realize that me, Lara Drake, was here before you? That--that speaks a whole lot.”

“You are the girl who slept a whole twenty four hours once.”

“And what a damn fine sleep that was. A straight day. Like, a whole fucking day. That is one of the things I am most proud of.”

“You’re proud that you’re a lazy ass person?”

“I believe the words I’m looking for are damn and straight.”

“That is the thing you are most proud of in your life?”

“Well, a close rival is that time I ate, like, fifty hot wings.”

“Fifty hot wings? You?”

“Indeed.”

“You’re like fucking one-hunnert pounds.”

“A hunnert and twenty, thank you.”

“Still, how the hell does someone your size eat so much?”

“I jog.”

“You jogging?”

“You don’t know what I do in my spare time. Maybe I do jog.”

“Do you? Do you really?”

“Okay--maybe I don’t jog.”

“I believe that translates to ‘I don’t jog and I’m a lying bitch’.”

“Such vulgar language! Was their any need for--for the ‘b’ word? Come on, think about the children!”

“What children?”

“You know, the children.”

“No, I don’t know. Are there even any children here?”

“Sarah?”

“I mean like kid kid.”

“Kid kid?”

“I don’t know. Under twelve.”

“To be honest, I don’t know. I never saw ‘em. Maybe the author is just a sociopathic bitch and doesn’t care about the little ones.”

“What fucking author?”

“You know, the author! Because we’re all in a story, man.” Lara does her best to give a stoner impression as she says the most fourth wall breaking, most stoner-ish line she has ever given. The stoner impression of Lara gives Vicky a chuckle.

“Seriously, what are we talking about?”

“To be honest, I don’t know.”

“How did we even get here?”

“Something about time because, oh yeah, I beat you here!”

“Oh, so back to this conversation.”

“Yeah. I beat you, suck it, bitch.”

“Lara, why such vulgar language? Think about the children!”

“Considering all the flesh eating monsters mumbo-jumbo going on, I’m sure a bad word is the least of their worries.”

“But you told me off for having the vulgar language? I think you’re being a hypocrite.”

“I did say such a thing, yes. But now I realized that their already so traumatized by those thing-bobs that language doesn’t even matter.”

“Wow, what a way to make this depressing.”

“What can I say? I like morbidness-ness.”

“Dark Lara is dark…..I like.”

“Dark Lara has more.”

“Hit me up.”

“Okay. This is offensive, though.”

“How offensive?”

“Like, offensive offensive.”

“Scale of one to ten?”

“Hmm….a solid nine.”

“Solid?”

“Like solid solid.”

“Oh shit, I better prepare my easily offended heart than.”

“Okay. What is worse than finding a worm in your apple?”

“Finding out your best friend and boy are fucking?”

“Damn, that’s pretty bad. But no. The holocaust!”

“Wow.”

“I told you it was a solid nine.”

“Yeah, but damn what the hell. I wasn’t expecting that.”

“That was the idea.”

“I mean, damn, aren’t you jewish?”

“Yes, but the level of shits I give about offensive jokes is currently at zero.”

“We have a badass over here.”

“Lara-fucking-Drake. Remember the name.”

“Hashtag Lara for president, 2014.”

“Is the spot vacant?”

“Do you think President Dumbo survived?”

“Damn, harsh.”

“Dumbo as in big ears, not dumbo as in dumbass.”

“Makes much more sense, and I mean he does have the secret service so….but hey, if he didn’t, I’ll gladly take the job. My first decree is that if you look at me wrong, then you will be cutted.”

“Cutted? That’s not even--Lara, you’re a UPENN student, for fuck’s sake.”

“I heard some kid say that once and thought it sounded cool.”

“No, Lara. Just--no. What was this kid’s name?”

“Nathan, I think.”

“Don’t be a Nathan, Lara. Never be a Nathan. Please, follow my advice.”

“Such wise words, Vics. Thank you. You have truly changed my life.”

“I’m glad my wisdom could be of service.”

“Seriously, it was Morgan Freeman type shit.”

“Morgan Freeman? That’s high, like fucking high up there.”

“Exactly.”

“I never felt so special, Lara.” Vicky pretends to shed a fake tear while both girls laugh to themselves. Such a nice, light hearted moment. Truly special, considering what is going on around them. With infected monsters and dictator like mobsters, a small innocent laugh is a thing not to take for granted; especially one between two friends.

As the laughter faded into oblivion, Vicky’s eyes caught wind of the beautiful pair on Lara. It was in that moment that she saw something. Something that was unusual for the typical go-good Lara. Sadness, a feeling Vicky assumed Lara was immune to. “What’s up with you?”

“Nothing much. Just being me.”

“Come on, don’t bs me.” Vicky is quick to say warmly to her friend, hoping not to come off as cold. “We both know something up.”

“And how do you know that?” Lara’s question prompts Vicky to point at her own two, clear eyes, all with a charming smirk.

“Eyes speak wonders.”

“So do my lips, and at the moment, they’re saying ‘nothing is wrong’.”

“Come on, you can talk to me. God only knows how many times I bothered you with my bullshit.” Oh, many times indeed. Vicky was a baggage of emotions, while surprisingly, Lara was more or less the closed off one, at least when it comes to private stuff. “Come on, hit me up.”

“I don’t think you wanna hear about my shit, to be honest.”

“What? Of course I do. I’m your main girl, Lara, I wanna hear everything.” Lara knew Vicky meant well, in fact she trusted Vicky completely; with her life, in fact. Still, Lara just wasn’t good at opening up. Strange, considering Lara is a major extrovert, but hey, people are strange.

Lara bites her lip, whilst also kicking her feet again, trying to think of how to start. “I just--I don’t know. You ever just, like--not like yourself? Like, you just sit down and think about your life and who you are, then realize that you hate it?”

“What? Lara, you’re amazing!”

“Am I? Tell me, what do you really know about me?”

“What do I know? I know you’re funny, charming, loyal, caring, and my friend.”

“But what do you know about my life? Do you know my fears? My desires?” Lara notices the moment it takes for Vicky to think, which all but answers her questions. “Exactly.”

“Lara--”

“No, don’t try to explain it. It’s not your fault, it’s mine. All I do is have fun.”

“So?”

“So? All people see me as is this fun person. Just some pretty little white girl who likes to party! That’s all I am to people. ‘Oh, that Lara, she’s good for a fun time’. That’s it. A fun time. Am I more than just some person who you hang with for fun?”

“I mean, that’s a great trait Lara! You cheer people up.”

“But I’m more! I’m--I’m more than just this.”

“We know you are.”

“Then why am I not treated like that? Guys see me as a fun person to serve their wet dreams. Girls see me as some girl to just have a good time with. I’m an actual person, Vicky. I have dreams, fears, regrets. The last few days I realized that all that defines me is sex and parties.” I had so much focus on trying to have fun, that I missed what was important about life.”

“Which is?”

“Living. Having connections with people, having dreams, makeup for my mistakes. These past few years I didn’t do any of those. Life is passing my right by….and I didn’t care because I was to busy fulfilling my--my sexual needs. Do you know how sad that is? I haven’t been a person, Vicky. I’ve been a whore. That’s what I am. I sell myself to others and to partying to feel better about myself. Up until recently I never saw just how alone I really am.”

“You’re not alone.”

“Then why do I feel like I am? Look, if I died today, would you mourn? Like, really mourn? Or just be sad that you can’t have some fun in your spare time anymore with me?”

“Are you kidding me? Lara, I would fucking mourn. I love you!” Vicky hopes her words help Lara, but she still sees the depression and insecurity eating her alive. If only Lara knew how much she meant to Vicky.

“I--I’m just tired, Vics. Tired of being me. I want to change. I wanna become someone--real.” Lara hangs her face in shame while Vicky stands to her seat. She watches as Vicky sits next to her and throws her scrawny arm around her, allowing Lara to rest her head on her shoulder, all while Vicky holds her close.

“Listen to me, Lara. I love you, alright? You’re my best friend, and you always will be. If you want to change, then I am right behind you, as I always will be. I’ll follow you anywhere, because you’re than just fun. You’re my sister.”

Looking up into her best friend’s eyes, Lara can’t help but give a warm smile to her. The two have their differences, they had their arguments and they can both be bitches. With those said, Lara could never ask for a better friend than the girl who sits with her right now. Victoria Cummings is her greatest friend, and well, is her sister.

As the two friends conceal each other, this act doesn’t go unnoticed by Reyes, who finds himself over by the bar, drinking the cold soft beer that sits in front of him. Watching the two young girls, it makes even the cold front of Reyes warm up. Reyes never really had a close friend like that, nor any friends really, so it was touching to see such an act.

As Reyes looks away from them, he continues to look around the restaurant, watching the people that sit in peace. A peaceful sight, and one that was much needed to Reyes, showing him how peaceful and good life can be. So he takes a sip of his beer with a smile.

A smile that transcends into worry only a minute later, sadly. For in the corner booth, he watches as a group of four men stand up to their feet. Each were shady in their own right. One was dressed in a fancy suit and glasses, acting as if he was still ‘all that’. Another was dressed in run down clothing, with a look of hatred and anger in his face. Reyes wasn’t one to judge on appearance, nor does he mean to be a jerk, but he sure is worried.

That is soon turned into fear once each pull out a well concealed weapon from their pants. Black, shiny, metal, pistols, each fully loaded, with more clips visible in their pockets. Reyes’s quick instincts had him diving behind the bar just as the sparks went flying.

Reyes tried not to look as it happened. For in just a few mere seconds four men shot around the cafe with no remorse or hesitation. Bullets filled the room as the peaceful innocents fell from their seats, falling onto the floors beneath them where no mercy was shown upon them. Screams made their way into Reyes’s ears as he continued to hide, not wishing to see the bloody massacre that was happening behind him.

But oh, those screams. Damn those screams, for Reyes continued to shiver as death surrounded him. He could almost hear the blood of the victims landing on the floor, slowly spreading across to make a pool of blood. Slowly the man takes deep breaths as he continues to deny what is coming for him.

As he panics behind the counter, he catches two girls crawling into the kitchen. The same two girls he was watching earlier, no doubt. Quickly, Reyes peeks around the counter, instantly meeting eyes with a now dead woman, whose face has been resorted to nothing but the matter of brains and blood. He would puke, but instead watches as the four men finish off other survivors, no remorse in their eyes. Monsters in the flesh.

However, to his curiosity, he notices them leave a few alive. Five or six maybe, a small crowd of people. A crowd which they continue to flash their guns too, but yet, refrain from pulling the trigger. Any attempt of thinking about why was ruined when a voice rang out.

“Hey we got a live one!” The suited man, whom he recognizes as a man named Drake, yells, flashing his pistol over to Reyes, whom only froze as they each flashed their pistols at him.

This particular yell was heard by Lara, who has since made her way into the kitchen with Vicky. The two young women shield themselves behind a counter, fear in their blood and bones as they hear what is going on out there, which of course leads the rest to their imagination. She heard someone get tackled, and from what she can hear, the sounds of glass being smashed against people’s heads.

“What the fuck...what the fuck….” Lara continues to mutter while sitting there, holding in the fear that is taking over her body, all while Vicky sits next to her. Fear lies within her, but in her eyes sits fierce determination.

“You okay?” Vicky asks her friend silently, to which Lara nods with a fake smirk, per usual.

“Yeah, I’m okay.” Lara assures her friend, who proceeds to go back to trying to get a peek out the door and look at their could be killers, while Lara turns to something else. Something much worse, oh, much worse indeed.

For Lara adjusts her eyes to the fresh, bloody hole that now sits on her hip. The hole that acts as a greeting from death, a dear friend she may end up meeting in the incoming hours.


Forests are a beautiful place, are they not? Sitting amidst the urban areas of the civilized world, they represent areas that we have yet to take down, and my oh my, thank God we didn’t. For nature, in all reality, is one of the most stunning events on this planet. With it’s rivers, plant life, animal life, and much more, they really are a great, beautiful place.

However, what happens when a forest meets a spark? A small spark. A spark is something that doesn’t belong in a forest, and for good reason. When a spark hits a tree, when a spark hits the plants, a flame is formed. When a flame is formed then comes the fire. The uncontrollable, mass destructive, raging fire that spreads through the forest like a plague, tearing down all that stand in it’s path.

A forest fire is how James would explain this situation. For when a massacre takes place in a safe environment, mass chaos ensures. Fear spreads into the hearts of the people, prompting them to run and scream, in search of their beloved safety, when sadly, it may not come. Luckily for James the fire has been halted, but oh by the end of the night that fire has a chance of burning everything down.

Standing outside the restaurant, James does his best to keep his posture whilst staring through the window. Hard to believe James ate in this particular place just a few days ago. The once peaceful, pleasant cafe has since turned into a fresh graveyard. Hiding the horror behind his eyes, James eyes the bodies that remain visible through the window. The bloody, fresh bodies lay all over the floor, the light barely out of their eyes yet. The blood of his people splatter the walls and floors, marking death’s territory.

His blue eyes make their way to the room’s center, where few survivors have been forcefully gathered in a circle, each on their knees with bonded hands. To top off this horrendous sight were the four men that stand amidst the bodies, each with a fresh smoking gun grasped in their palms, and to go with it were smirks on their faces. One in particular, a man James recognized as mall citizen Rob Jerkman, intensified his smile once meeting James’s eyes as if he was mocking the man.

“What the fuck is going on?!” James is brought out of his glare with Rob by Ethan, who finishes joking over with his gun in hand and a fire in his eyes. “We under attack?”

“Seems that way.” James’s words reach Ethan as he gets his first shot of what is going on inside. “I don’t know what happened. I just heard shots and--saw this.”

“Why did they leave some alive?” Ethan questions upon noticing the hostages in the center of the room. “What’s the point of starting a massacre and not finishing one?”

“I don’t know. They’re up to something.”

“Yeah, no shit. What’s the plan?”

“I don’t know yet.” James continues to eye every area he can in the room, hoping that something will shoot him an idea to save the hostages. “They’re not killing anyone right now, so there has to be a reason for that. I say we find out why.”

“What could they possibly want? Not like we have much shit to give.”

“I know.” James’s thoughts attempt to break down what is going on, despite the stressful environment around him. After-all, it’s not easy to think when surrounded by terrified people and a hot headed detective; luckily for all, however, James was used to thinking under pressure.

As James continued to do what he did best, Ethan sent his head in a swivel, inspecting the crowd around them. If one thing was clear it was that usually there was a mole in these type of situations, or at least someone who knew more than they let on. So Ethan’s eyes searched around, hoping this mole would come into sight. Instead, all he saw were shocked citizens and a few familiar faces. He caught a glimpse of Joel’s usual smug face, as if he knew something like this was happen, a calm, but worried Lisette, who was ready to help Ethan in anyway, and a glimpse of Michael and Haley, each in complete shock at the situation before them, like the rest of the crowd.

Ethan wasn’t a smug or prideful man, but a part of him wanted to say “I told you so”. If Ethan’s gut was correct, than the shooters were men of Ryker, the madman who Ethan tried to convince everyone they should fight against. He warned that there was no peaceful solution, he warned them that this would happen, but they did nothing. Now look at them. Defenseless, down in numbers, defeated in already one battle. If people didn’t see the truth now than they sure as hell should now. They need to strike.

It was in Ethan’s silent rant that his eyes went back to the poor, defenseless, innocent souls that have been hurt by their lack of action. The slain souls and the ones now held in chains. In particular, Ethan watched those in bondage, afraid of what may happen to them by the end of day. It was then he began to recognize the prisoners. One of them being a bruised, but very much alive, Reyes; another one, which shocked Ethan more, was a beautiful young woman. Blonde hair, Latina skin and innocence in her blood, Ethan was surprised to see Anahi bonded as a prisoner.

“Mr. Brash!” The voice of a young man called Ethan’s attention. Turning to his left, Ethan noticed a familiar young man approach in a hurry. McCoy Davis. Ehtan didn’t know him well, only the fact that he was a friend of Vicky’s. “You’re Mr. Brash, right?”

“Yeah. You’re McCoy, right?” McCoy nods to his question. “What’s wrong with you, kid?”

“I just wanted to see if she was okay.”

“Who?”

“Vicky.” Who knew only word can make a man’s day go from bad to horrendous. “She--she was there with--with Lara.” McCoy speaks in such a panicked rush that he needs to stop every few words.

“Wait. Vicky was in there? That restaurent!” McCoy’s nod prompts Ethan to grab the young man by the shoulders. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, man. I’m sure!” In one swift moment Ethan released McCoy from his grip, instead pulling back out his sidearm. Without a single ounce of hesitation Ethan turns back towards the restaurant, a fiery, burning rage in his dark eyes. With one great breath, Ethan settled his sights on the bastards inside, his finger itching on the trigger.

“What’s wrong?” James was quick to pick up on Ethan’s subtle change in behavior, and more importantly, concerned about his trigger happy finger.

“My daughter’s in there.” Ethan speaks in such a growling tone that it takes a moment for James to process what he spoke. “My...Vicky is in there!”

“Ethan--”

“They’re all dead. I’m going to fucking kill all of them!”

“Calm down!”

“Calm down? Calm down?! If you’re girl was in there would you calm the fuck down?!”

“I wouldn’t be an idiot!” James, speaking in a passive voice, gently rest his hand on Ethan’s chest to stop his momentum forward. “If you go in there, people will die. You, them, innocents. We--we need to stay calm and fix this.”

“We? It’s because you decided to do nothing that we’re in this situation right now!”

“If we fought back then your daughter, and countless more, would have been dead!” James and Ethan’s eyes meet, and oh boy, the stares they are giving could kill a man. “Just breath.”

“Get your hand off of me.”

“Ethan--”

“Let go of me!” Being a hot headed man who let his emotions dictate himself, Ethan was always the kind of man to go practically blind in stressful moments. So, when someone tried to prevent him from saving his family, he didn’t react to kindly, whoever the person was. Which led to what happened next.

In his blind rage Ethan collides his into the face of James, much to the shock of everyone around them. Stumbling back from the surprise hit to the face, James quickly regains his footing, taking note of the raging hulk that was Ethan. Ethan was a friend and all, but no way was he gonna let Ethan cause more deaths than needed. So, as Ethan approached to walk past James, the latter made his move. In a quick instance he grabbed the gun and laid a punch into his friend’s stomach. Briefly distracted by the hit James slammed his elbow into Ethan’s right arm, prompting him to drop the pistol, which James quickly took as his own.

Of course, Ethan didn’t see this as a noble act, instead as an act of war. Hitting James in stomach, Ethan proceeded to tackle his friend to the ground. His attempts at hitting James once more in the face were ruined by James blocking his approaching first with his arm, whilst using the other to lay a smack against Ethan’s stubborn head.

Any more attempts at a brutal fight were halted by Lisette, who surprisingly, threw her arms around Ethan’s head, putting him in an affect headlock. “Ethan. Ethan, listen to me. This isn’t changing anything, okay. People’s lives are at stake.”

“My daughter’s life is!”

“And it’s not just hers, Ethan! My friend is in there, other people’s friends, maybe family, are in there! We need to calm down and think about the bigger picture.” Lisette, armed with her naturally soothing, accented voice, attempts to speak words of wisdom to the hulk. An act that was near impossible in his current state, but one she was going to attempt nethertheless. “We will save your daughter, okay? But we need to save everyone, not just her. Okay?”

It was hard for Ethan to agree. How could he? How was he supposed to stand aside and remain calm while his daughter’s life as at stake? Hell, what if she was already dead and he was letting her killers remain alive. He wasn’t just a cop, he was a father, and no father would sit aside when the life of their child depends on it.

However, looking around him, Ethan knows he is causing more problems than necessary. After-all, if Vicky wasn’t in the lineup, would he be acting like this monster? He knows the answer and it is something he can’t say he is proud of, but also something he isn’t ashamed of. Still, it was more likely he would get Vicky killed, if she wasn’t already, in this state.

“Fine.” Ethan speaks with visible sadness. Releasing Ethan from his lock, the officer stands to his feet, where he hesitates before extending his hand to James. James is quick to accept Ethan’s hand, quickly being pulled back onto his two feet.

With Ethan dealt with, James is quick to focus back on the situation at hand. Pacing and giving scratches to his head, James struggles to come up with solutions while Ethan resorts to leaning against a nearby wall, trying not to let loose on his rage once more, instead leaving all the thinking to James. Not as if James minded, he always was a stubborn dude who didn’t approve of help. “What we need is a way in there.” James thinks out loud whilst continuing to pace.

Turning towards Lisette, a lightbulb flips on in his thick head. “Lisette, right?” James calls the nodding woman. “You’re--small.”

“Yes, thank you for noticing.” Lisette gives a natural chucklish smirk to his seemingly random sentence.

“Do you think you’re small enough to fit into the air vents?”

“Air vents?”

“They run along the mall, and from what I’ve seen, they should be big enough to hold someone small enough.” James points along the roof to prove his point of the air vents, trying his best to show their invisible path. “If my hunch is correct, there should be an exit cover for the restaurant, which can get you right in there. You think you can sneak in there?”

“Oh, I think I can.” Lisette, despite being one of the nicest people you may ever meet, sure was a shady and stealthy person. Of course she could sneak into the restaurant no problem. However, there was one obstacle. “How exactly do I get into one, though?”

“That--yeah, there’s that. There has to be a reachable entrance somewhere….I don’t know where, though.”

“I’ll check around and find a way in. You stay here and deal with--this.”

“Alright, sounds like a plan.” After a quick glance around to check up on everything, especially the still silent Ethan, who continues to lean against the wall, his blurry eyes staring off into the distance, Lisette made her way from the now crowding hallway.

Swiftly making her way down the halls, Lisette throws her strategic mind to the lethal test. Sneaking through an air vent was easily, it was only finding a possible entrance that gave her trouble. If she wasn’t on the clock here it wouldn’t be a problem, but with a clock ticking down, she didn’t have much time to search.

Where would that search even begin? Not as if air vents were open to everyone, and hell, she hasn’t studied the mall well enough to know where to find one. So, with a lack of the precious element of time or layout of the mall imprinted in her head, she didn’t know what to do. Still, Lisette was quick to brainstorm, and as it so happened, she got a particularly interesting one after her eyes noticed someone. Someone who tried to conceal himself from others, hiding in shame behind a dark hoodie. Someone whose once favorable image has been replaced by his true shades of cowardness. Jonathan Walsh stands nearby, head down and buried in his hood, whilst trying to get a look at the situation going on ahead. Not as if he could help, or frankly, do anything.

Making her way over to him, Walsh seemed to notice Lisette. Judging from the way his eyes seemed to explode in fear, Lisette assumed company was not his strong suit, especially not now. “Mr. Walsh?” Lisette asks with her natural, confident smile, hoping to get on Walsh’s good side. Walsh, who quickly hushes her, turns to make sure no one is nearby. “Everything okay?”

“I--I’m just trying not to be seen, is all.” Lisette is quick to pick up on some slight cuts on Walsh’s face, but skips around the subject. After-all, people can be cruel, and she doesn’t want to remind of him their cruelness. “What do you want, madam?”

“I need your help.”

“That’s something I don’t hear a lot.”

“Why’s that?”

“You know why.” Walsh continues to dart his panicked eyes around the room as he responds to her. “What could I possibly help with?”

“Well, I’m sure you heard about the incident by now.” Franklin Mills, despite being an average sized mall, wasn’t exactly some big city like Philadelphia, so word tends to travel fast down these halls. “James and I might have figured out a way to help out, but I need your help.”

James. James, James, James. Oh, James fucking Benjamin. That’s a name that has burned it’s way into the darkest pits of Walsh’s mind. Walsh was never a violent man, but James sure did make him angry. Walsh accepted James into paradise with open arms, he pretty much saved James’s life, and what does James do? Harass him, demean him, humiliate him in front of Ryker and his own people. James was the man who ruined Walsh’s life and took it for his own. He was the over confident, prideful man who pushed Walsh out of the spotlight of his own family mall.

Why would Walsh even consider helping that man? Hell, if anything, James failing to save people could help Walsh push himself back into the spotlight. An excellent way it was to get people back on his side. “I need to get into the vents,” Lisette continues, “and I need you to show me a way in.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“What’s in it for you? Oh, Johnny, the world is in it for you!” Lisette was one who knows how to read people well, and oh, how she read Walsh. After-all, his type were easy to read. A man coming from a background full of torture towards him, where people constantly put him down, all he wanted was to prove people wrong. So, he started up this mall to try and show he wasn’t a useless nobody, but oh, how James Benjamin took that from him. Now all Walsh can do is shed tears about his fallen dream, all while hoping that...someone would just accept him. “Imagine it. It wasn’t James or Ethan, but you who managed to help save those hostages? You could be a hero to these people, John. You can earn that praise right back.”

“For helping you find an air vent?”

“No, no, no. For so much more! For helping me save innocents from harm. Once I tell people know how you helped me save them, they will feel grateful towards you. They’ll love you.” Words cannot describe the transition that forms from Walsh’s eyes. The blue oceans turn from agony into to hope, as if he was a young boy staring up at that one precious toy that’s in his reach but yet so far away. “So, c’mon, John. Help me out here, please. I need you. We need you.”

“Yeah--yeah, of course. I remember there being an entrance on the roof that should be able to suit you.”

“Great!” Lisette claps her hands with a gleeful smile. It was a sad thing for her to admit, but the pride she feels right now is melting her. It was easy to feel that way after manipulating a man to her will. Sure, she felt sorry for the man, as she knew that this act would bring nothing to the desperately wanted to be accepted Walsh, but at the same time it only took a few empty words to bend his will. Oh, words. Such a gift they are, correct? Fuck the pen and fuck the sword, words are the most dangerous weapon a man can have. Especially when they come from the likes of Lisette Arroyo, one of the most charming and deceiving ladies known to this planet, all hidden behind a smile of kindful lips. Oh, some may bite like dogs, but it’s the kiss of angels that stings the most.


Frankly, this was a situation he never imagined he would be in. Hell, this is the type of situation no one thought they would be in. His whole life he lived the life like one of those one percenters; he lived in a lavish penthouse overlooking the city, drinking on his champagne in his comfortable seat while being served by the people hired to protect him. By night he rolled into nightclubs, buying friends with his blood soaked cash, getting a drink of hard cold beer and meeting a beautiful lady to ease his troubles with. Sure, life got tough when he had to do unsavory things, but all in all, Daniel Brown was the nightclub prince of Philadelphia.

Holy shit do they fall, for look at the prince now. Chained in a cage like an animal. Stripped off his hair and the clothes on his back, Daniel is reduced to the likes of a naked baby, crying for help that will not come. For, this baby has to learn to accept responsibility for its mistakes, right? It cries and cries and begs for any kind of help to come, but no one can hear his screams. Not even the people reduced to cells with him bother to listen, instead huddling in their fear, thinking of their own past lives. Daniel’s cellmate, a younger more muscular man named Lucas, remains mostly silent except for his famous glare that he shoots around. The cell across from him held prisoner to another two stripped monkeys, Jess and Casey. Jess was a young woman in her twenties, who was almost scared of everything at this point, as was the twenty year old male Casey.

All four of them, despite never communicating, each shared one thing that sort of bonded them; they were all resorted to animals locked in zoo cages, where the guards can come at laugh of them. They mocked them as they threw their trash; some admired Jess for her body, but of course she too was treated like trash. This was their new life.

Huddling himself to his corner of metal bars, Daniel tries to think of something happy. Anything really that can help him through this torture, although it’s not as if there was much happiness in his life. Only one bright spot, and thinking about her was more depressing than it was happy. So, there Daniel sat, a weeping mess begging for someone to hear his cries.

In due time his cry was answered by the most noble man of them all. The confident, the charismatic, the all loving Gabriel Parker! Gabriel approaches the cell with a charming smile that could melt hearts, or since this is Gabriel we’re talking about, shoot a bitch dead. After a quick swing of the keys around his index finger, Gabriel opens up the cage for the prisoner. “Good afternoon, Mr. Brown. Ready for a field trip?”

“Where am I going?” Daniel asks in a scruffed voice, as it’s been hours since he’s had his last drink. With his chapped lips and dry tongue, Daniel’s voice wasn’t a strong suit today. Unfortunately, his question is ignored by Gabriel, who simply unlocks his chain and drags Daniel out of the cell by his foot, forcing Daniel to ask again. “W--where am I going?”

“Hell if I know.” Gabriel tosses a plastic bag at Daniel’s feet. “Throw those on. Last thing I wanna do is look at Daniel Jr.” The plastic bag only contained a simple ripped black beater, dark gray and black boxers and a pair of flip flops. Not much clothing by any means, but much better than being exposed. Upon throwing them on Daniel has no time to ask more questions for the cold end of a gun barrel presses against his back. “Walk.”

Daniel does no such complaining, immediately following the man’s instructions. It was a silent walk, as Daniel was too afraid to ask where he was going; hell, he was too afraid to find out where he was going. Ryker had a personal vendetta against him, one that has lasted a decade, so the thought of what Ryker would do to him has been on Daniel’s mind ever since Gabriel found him in that closet.

In due time, Daniel was led outside the doors of their new base of operations, a place Daniel now recognizes as none other than the Philadelphia Airport. It’s a place Daniel has visited quite a few times, but it has since been turned into Ryker’s own base of operations. Guards are posted every entrance, almost every entrance is blocked, the airstrip is cluttered with vehicles and even a few planes.

What Daniel spots the quickest, however, is the single car that sits near the exit of the lot. It’s not particularly fancy, being a simple old, worn down car that looks like it came from the early 2000’s. It wasn’t the car that caught his eye the most, however. Oh no, it was the man in front of it. Leaning against the car was Ryker, fitted with a tight black shirt, bulletproof vest, jeans and a dark pair of boots. Ryker looked like he was ready for war, and the revolver tucked into his holster only furthered this.

Ryker spoke no words, instead speaking with his eyes. Eyes that send fear into Daniel’s heart with just one quick glance. The eye contact was broken once Gabriel tossed Daniel into the backseat, who landed with a hard thump on the seats. They paid no attention to his annoying moaning, and instead, Gabriel shut the door. “Sure you don’t want me coming, boss?” Gabriel questions his leader. “Can get dangerous out there.”

“I’m fine, but thank you, Gabriel.” Ryker glares through the dim car window, watching the pathetic worm inside. “But this is something that has to happen between the two of us.”

“If you insist.” Never one to question, Gabriel departs from the car. Although, he does give one line of advice to Ryker. “We’ve come too far in our operation, boss. Don’t let personal matters take it all down.” It was a very simple line, and was a line that Gabriel lived by. Nothing personal ever got in his way. Nope, Gabriel was the man who threw everything aside when it came to the mission, for better or for worse.

Ryker heard the words, yet surprisingly, said nothing to them. Just a deep sigh, and with that, then gets into the car, ready to bury this hatchet with the Browns, at long last. This weary, bloody hatchet has took it’s toll for too long.


Tick tock.

Ticky tock.

Tickedy tick tick tock. It’s the sound of the distant clock that radiates most throughout the room. A silly little clock it was, sitting in near the back of the restaurant and looking like it just came out of the 80’s. Still, despite being very much worn down, it catches Reyes’s limp eyes, who stares mesmerized by the constant moving of hands, followed by a tick. It’s noise is generally low but to Reyes it fills the whole room, even blocking out the sounds around him as he watches the clock, listening to the endless ticking that reminds all who lend their ears that time continues to run. Oh, time such a precious force. It’s like a line that has no beginning, meets no end, and like all endless lines, crosses over everyone. People were always victim to time, and with time comes death. Two forces no one could escape from meant hell on earth.

The ticking of death fades out as Reyes is drawn back into reality. A hard reality it was, one no one hopes they won’t have to experience. For there the mighty Reyes sits, kneeled onto the sticky red floor, a fresh bullet wound in his shoulder. Holding the injury with one hand, and feeling his own blood melt between his warm fingers, it wasn’t surprising that Reyes was feeling lightheaded. Of course he didn’t pass out. No, the images of the bodies around him burn his eyes and smash a hammer into his stomach, giving him all the energy needed to stay awake.

It is here that Reyes turns towards the gunman, ironically his saviors yet also the murderers of dozens. Four of them there were, each identically with their almost stereotyped appearance. There was the well suited, dark shaded sunglass wearing, money bags man who went by Drake, who took the form of the prideful, dumb witted, rich person. Next was the muscle, something that was visible due to the next man appearing shirtless and the crazy look darting around his eyes. Reyes wasn’t sure on his name, but judging from the tattoo that reads “Red”, Reyes went with that name. Then, there was the elder, slightly overweight man who beared the name Rob Jerkman. Being a cocky, wise cracking man who likes to act like he is in charge, Jerkman seemed to be the one in charge of this operation.

Then, however, there was the fourth. A tall, slender man, this person stayed mostly silent, more or less just watching them then actually threatening like the others. Reyes recognized this man as Mick, a young man who has been silent and drifting in Franklin for the past few weeks.

Reyes’s eyes went to the other hostages around him, all of them most definitely scared for their lives. There was one, however, who caught Reyes’s eye. No one other than Anahi of course, who like the others, is forcibly kneeled onto the ground. However, unlike the others, Anahi tries not to exert her fear in a visible fashion, instead doing her best to hold it in behind the fear stricken eyes. Reyes notes carefully how Anahi breathes very softly, as if she isn’t trying to burst her racing heart, while hiding her fear behind her eyes.

She can do something. She’s a trained police officer, who was once regarded as an up and coming captain during her early days. She could escape the binding, steal the pistol from the scared Mick and shoot down all four robbers before anything else could happen. Yet, she kneels there, trying to keep calm. This situation was too much of her--reminding her of a past she tries to run from. Four men hold hostages and it’s up to Anahi to try and save them….it’s a situation she’s been in before. Needless to say it didn’t end well the first time and left an impression on Anahi.

Noticing how Rob and Drake seem to be discussing something important in the corner, and with Stardust doing who knows what, Reyes turns his eyes to Mick, who is the only one guarding the hostages at the moment. “It doesn’t gotta end like this.” Reyes attempts to speak to Mick. “It ain’t too late to put those guns down.”

“Shut up, man.” Mick speaks in a soft turn, as if he was insecure of those whole situation. If anyone could get some common sense into their heads, maybe it was this youngblood.

“Nobody else has to die today. You can still put these guns down and this can end peacefully.” A non-violent outcome was really all Reyes wanted to this horrible situation. It was almost clear that this wouldn’t be the case, but Reyes had to try, right? After-all, he was just trying to talk sense into these guys. It doesn’t have to end worse than it began. “You don’t have to do this.”

Mick locks eyes with the still pleading Reyes, but instead of being smart and listening, simply points to the graveyard surrounding them. “Look around you, man. You know it can’t end like that.”

Reyes’s eyes refuse him the opportunity to look at the death, instead keeping his eyes on Mick, who continues to shift uncomfortably. “What’s the point of all this? It didn’t have to be like this.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Neither do you.” Reyes’s remarks earns him a new bruise on his cheek, contrary to the butt of Mick’s pistol. Whacked across the face by the pistol, Mick hopes that the mark will put an end to Reyes’s remarks. It’s something Reyes seems to understand, as the threats against his life prompt him to remain silent, subduing to Mick’s will, something that pleases the man.

Leaning back against the restaurant wall, Mick sees the situation is calm enough for him to take a quick small. Hostages are quiet, his partners are discussing their next plan, and no one outside has attempted to make their move yet; as calm as things will be, from his point of view. So why not have a brief moment of relaxation? He’s been stressing about this operation for days so a nice moment is all he really needed.

With his pistol tightly held in the one hand, Mick takes a smoke with the other, giving the stressed mind some clarity. That is for only a moment, for just as he exhales a nice wad of the beautiful gray mist, he sees his partners making their way over to him. “What’s the plan?” Mick asks Drake and Rob, the two leader type men who planned most of this, while Red and himself just rolled with it.

“Nothing big. I’m gonna go discuss terms with Mr. Benjamin, and you all stay here until we’re good to go.”

“You sure it’s safe enough to go out there?” Mick questions Rob. “I mean, they ain’t’ gonna open you with open arms.”

“I have guns to his people’s head, so they don’t got a choice now, do they?” Rob, replying with his usual snarky attitude, hands his gun pistol to Drake as assurance to show he won’t attack out there. “I’ll be back. Be ready to roll.”

With that said, Rob departed to the front doors. Hands in his pockets and humming the tune to Singing in the Rain, it was obvious Rob was confident in how this operation would turn out. He’d explain what’s going on to James, give the warning as instructed then waltz out with his partners. Simple as hell, right?

So, just like that, Rob casually opens the door to the cafe, much to the shock of the now dim crowd outside the cafe. Many of the people watching jump back in either fear or awe, probably both, as Rob strolls out of the cafe, their eyes intensifying at the sight of the man who just massacred a cafe. James, who had previously been sitting on one of the benches to collect his thoughts, instantaneously stood on his feet while the tamed dog of Ethan was quick to grip his pistol; luckily, or unluckily, James made sure Ethan didn’t do anything impulsive.

Approaching Rob, James and the former meet face-to-face in the midline of the hallway. The two forces clash with their eyes, each staring each other down, acting as if they own the room. “Mr. Benjamin, correct?” Rob smirks through his beard.

“Who are you?”

“Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Rob Jerkman! Ironic name, right? It’s okay you can laugh.” Rob’s attempt at snarky, light hearted conversation doesn’t interest James in the slightest. Instead James just stares Rob down, hoping to get a read on this man, but James never was good getting those.

“What do you want?” James skips straight to the point at hand, much to the chagrin of Rob, who was hoping to toy with James.

“Are you always this straight to the point? I mean, c’mon man! No small talk? Nothing?”

“You just walk into my home, shoot my people and then want small talk? No. You’re going to tell me what the hell you want and what gave you the right to shoot innocent people.”

“My right? It’s my right as a citizen of America! Freedom motherfuckers! Mothafuckin’ freedom! So I put on my good ol’ bald eagle shirt, pulled out my little gun and shot them. I had a gun, and they didn’t. It’s not my fault they couldn’t defend themselves.”

Rob watched as the vein’s slowly became darker from James, becoming visible to Rob’s eyes. The focus in his eyes turned to anger as his hand was formed into a fist of fury. “I got your people at gunpoint and you want to hit me? Be my damn guest, man. If you get in the right spot you might be able to spot as my boys pump lead into ‘em! How does that sound, huh? You want more of them dead? If so hit me right here!”

James would love nothing more than to hit this man in the face. Not only does he deserve a fist down his throat, but how James would love to unless some good old stress on him; it’s been building up with this whole leader thing. Then James remembers that lives are on stake here. Everything that happens to them is on his shoulders, and so, James releases the fist, much to Rob’s disappointment. “Why are you doing this?” Is all James asks in a defeated, yet stern, tone. He knows he is in Rob’s palm here, but he also knows there is a way to break out, especially if the cocky little shit’s grip is loose enough.

“You know why. You know who our boss is, you know he ain’t idiotic. Did you really think he’d leave you all alone?”

“Ryker.”

“Ding ding ding! Bingo.” The pieces quickly fall together into who these men are and their plan. “You don’t just take over a place without studying it, inside and out. He’s had us here for weeks, watching as if we were just normal people. We studied this place, we studied the people to watch out for, we studied everything, watching from the shadows while you acted like everything was gonna be okay. I bet you didn’t expect that one, right?”

James keeps his sudden shock behind a straight face, even if he feels like a helpless dumbass now. “Why attack us now?”

“Because you forced our hand. You tried to declare war on us, remember? You were gonna train us in secret? You thought Ryker would never find out? I mean, good plan and all, but you announced it to everyone! Once we heard we talked to the boss and he gave us this job as a message.”

“A warning, right?”

“Indeed! You see, no matter how strong you think you are, we’re stronger. You got a few boxes of guns, Ryker has truck loads. You got a group of fighters, Ryker has hundreds. You can’t beat him. No matter what the situation is you’re outmatched beyond your comprehension. Don’t be thinking us four are the only men he got in here either, because oh believe me, it is not. There are more of us, lurking, watching. Maybe it’s that guy over there in the sweater. Maybe it’s that sweet old lady you pass in the mornings. We’re everywhere, James, watching you’re every move.”

James can’t help but look around the hallway, eyeing all those who watch. James doesn’t know almost all these people. He just knows that they were able to walk in here scott free, and oh did Ryker use that to his advantage. How could James lead if he didn’t know who to trust? Anyone could be one of Ryker’s pawns. What if Ethan was one? Lisette? Joel? Reyes? Hell, what if Michael was one? “You feel it, don’t you? The paranoia, the desperation feeding at you. Breaking you down until you realize the simple truth: you are nothing. You’re not even a piece on the chessboard, man. You’re--you’re like a fucking checkers piece! You’ve lost, man. You lost before Ryker walked in those doors.”

Rob watches the emotions that flood through James’s face. It goes from confident, to surprised, to denial, anger, and then finally desperation. The desperation upon realizing he is at rock bottom and only kneeling down to the king can prompt an escape from it. “Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why leave hostages?” Rob continues on with his sly smile, feeling a river of pride of seeing James pretty much fall before him. “You see, you’re gonna get a car and some supplies for me and my boys, and just maybe I’ll spare some of them.”


“Do you know how it started?” The simple question came as a surprise to Daniel, for the ride has been nothing but the awkward, bitter air that fills the car between them. Daniel turns to Ryker, who continues to focus on driving whilst breathing out his heated air. “The conflict between your father and I.”

“..No.” The old man was never one to speak openly about his affairs, ever so more frustrating when the devil got his due; for Daniel was left in charge of this business with almost no solid information. The only information handed to him was those written down or witnessed by his men.

Ryker gives a mere dry snicker to the comment. “Ah, it figures. The bastard always was like that, wasn’t he? Always so secretive.” Ryker reminisces about his former rival whilst continuing to drive the car down the fallen streets. The ones filled with life and joy, now filled with nothing but despair and pain. Similar to the two men who sit in the car, no? “It all started twenty years ago. You see I wasn’t always this--multi-million business man. We all start somewhere, and for me it was here in the depths of this city. I was born here, raised here. Not in some penthouse or mansion--but in a small apartment in South Philly. Grew up with rags on my back, eating whatever canned good mom could bring home that night. You see we had a big family, with tons of brothers and sisters, so I turned to other means in order to provide for the family.”

“Over time, the family grew. I had a lover, I had a daughter….I needed to support for them, and I was to deep into think about leaving. You see over the years I had managed to take control of that little street gang I once joined, and I made it into a well equipped army. We dealt in extortion, drugs, anything that got us money. Oh, and money we got. Money and power are what decide what kind of man you are, and as those two increased, more people took note of me. The suits thought my little gang could be useful, or if in the right situation, dangerous. They always kept an eye out for me, but it wasn’t until the war that your father feared me. You remember the war, right? The great Philadelphia mob war?”

A brutal war indeed, one Daniel remembers well. The Philadelphia Mafia was infamous for it’s bloody wars, each involving power hungry men striving for the throne. Of course Ryker refers to the war in the 1990’s, the one Daniel’s father was heavily involved in. After the arrest of current leader “Little Nicky”, two sides broke out for control: Young Turks, the group that had itself more like a street gang led by Joey Merlino, and the new boss John Stanfa, which acted like a traditional Sicilian mob. Oh, oh boy, how did that war get deadly. “I was recruited into the Young Terks,” Ryker continues, “while your father sided with Stanfa. You’re father and his mass paranoia led him to believe that I was trying to play both sides, in hopes of getting the claim of Boss for myself; a claim he himself strived for. So he began to watch me like a hawk, and thus, our rivalry was born.”

Daniel remains silent in his handcuffs whilst Ryker continues his remisincinting of the past. “I never cared for the title, really. All I wanted to do was provide for my family, and if that meant more power, than so be it. As long as they were okay, I was perfectly fine. Life went on, despite the deeds I did.” Steadily the car came to a halt whilst Ryker remained still, staring blankly out of the window into the cluttered streets of his city. His usual stone cold eyes were filled with water and redding whilst staring blankly outside, as if he was watching an imaginary timeline of what could have been in his head. “But then she was taken from this word. My sweet baby girl. Gone, just like that.” The words came from his mouth as if a man had just shot him in his kidneys. Every word was nearly stuttered and noticeably low volumed whilst he tried to conceal the wave of emotions he felt. The anger, the sadness, the emptiness…..all of it directed to the man in his backseat.

“After that I wasn’t the same. All I felt was….this burning, deep hatred within me. I hated everyone, I hated everything, and all I wanted to do was take out that anger. I was reckless, selfish, a monster…..I drove away my own my beloved and her child. I never felt so lost in my life. What did I want? Nothing, and that nothing manifested itself as power, and so I got that very thing. In my anger I became one of the most powerful men in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t enough! I wanted more. I was as a phantom of my former self, just drifting to get feeling back into him.”

“In due time that all changed. I met a man who helped me see a purpose bigger than myself, a purpose that could save millions. Which leads us here.” Ryker pulls his car to the curb with ease. Once in rest position, Ryker simply sits in the driver seat, his eyes drifting to the location on their left. It was a location Daniel couldn’t see in his current position, but judging from Ryker’s expression, it was a haunting place, full of demons of the worst sort. The demons of their past.

Taking a breath, Ryker reverts his attention to his coat pocket, using his gloved hand to pull out the small, but very useful, revolver. A dark revolver that seemed very old for it’s time, it was a gun most wouldn’t use today, but also one that held a spot in his heart for the first gun he ever shot. He shot it at his friend’s shooting range, and boy, does he remember the thrill in his veins from shooting at those Pepsi cans.

It’s a thrill he is missing now as he holds the gun in his hands, his mind wondering to what he should do with the weapon. Shall he pull the faithful weapon once more on this fine day? Shall it claim a new victim? Ryker knows not, so until further notice, he slips it back into his coat pocket whilst turning to his prisoner. “If I am to be the savior this city needs, then I need to bury this hatchet.”

Taking a deep breah, Ryker emerges from the car, quickly yanking the weakling out of his back seat. Landing roughly on the lightly-snowed street beneath him, Daniel attempted to grasp for the fresh Philadelphia air, but Ryker was not having that. The elder man, gripping Daniel by the back of his shirt, yanks him onto his two feet, giving him no time to rest. Staggering onto his feet, Daniel briefly looks back at Ryker, wondering how challenging it would be getting the gun that sits in his pocket. Maybe he could blindside him? It’s not like Daniel could take Ryker on in a straight fight, as Ryker was far superior in that category.

“Walk.” Daniel follows Ryker command, turning away from the man and making his way to their location. It was one Daniel knew well, for it too was a mark from Daniel’s past. A place filled with mistakes, regret, and much importantly, a message for what is of his future. Before Daniel is a graveyard; a mist ridden, dirty, ransacked graveyard. Oh, Daniel knew what was coming next.

Silently the two enemies make their way through the graveyard, each awaiting the dread that awaits them. After-all, what else was there to feel in times such of these, when confronting the past we tried so hard to bury. But the past was inescapable, as unfortunate as it is. The deeds of yesterday never left us, no matter how fast you may run it always ends up by your side, ready to continue it’s adventure with you. With past comes the pain that constantly attaches itself to you. Not pain of the body, but of the soul, a soul that has long been left behind; a phantom pain.

“Here.” Daniel promptly stops at the man’s command, but averts his eyes from the highlight of their visit. He turns from it, from her, as the pain was too much for his heart to carry. “Look at it.”

“No….”

“Look at it!” Daniel doesn’t budge. Finally, Ryker rips the revolver from his pocket, promptly smacking Daniel’s face with the aging weapon. Falling onto his knees, Ryker uses his hand to turn Daniel towards the sight that is like a thousand imploding suns.

There in front of Daniel sits her grave. The grave of the fallen angel, the one who was too good for him, for this forsaken world. Isabella Ryker, a beautiful light in the dark tunnel. September 27, 1982 - March 2, 2003. Even the sight of her name sends the normally on the fly, cocky, confident Daniel into a silent, ruined mess. He sits there on his knees, locked eye and eye with the name. He wants to cry but finds the willpower to hold it in. It was a challenge, though. For as the images of her beautiful blonde hair and green glowing eyes came back to his head, along with her charming smile that melted even the hearts of monsters, had Daniel trying not to mourn once more. The beauty on her outside was nothing compared to her inner beauty, however. In a world where Daniel was treated like trash on the curb, Isabella was the only one willing to pick that trash up and repair it. She showed such kindness to him, a kindness he never experienced. She actually cared for him; she was someone who loved him. Love. She wanted to be with him at all times, and he her. That’s all he wanted….to be with her.

“You feel it now, don’t you? I feel it too.” Ryker stands behind him, he too watching the grave with such emotions. “She didn’t deserve this.” Ryker kneels down to Daniel, leaning right into his ear to speak his next slew of words. “This is on you.”

“No.” It’s the only word Daniel knew how to mutter, and oh, was it not the word Ryker wanted to hear. For with just one word a bomb explodes in his eyes.

“How did she die?” Ryker, holding Daniel by his neck, demands with a venomous tone. It was a question that Ryker has wanted answered for ten years now. Ten years he has gone without knowing her true death, which led his mind to fill in the blanks. What were her final words? Her final thoughts? How did she feel while laying in that alley all alone, bleeding out slowly? Did she think her father would save her? Oh, how his imagination toyed with me. “Tell me.”

“She got--mugged. It was a mugging.” Daniel spits another lie from his mouth, a trait that was usual for the fallen king. “We both know that. I don’t know who.”

“Yes you do!” Ryker screams at the boy, nothing but rage in his voice.

“It was a mugging!”

“No!” Ryker smacks his cold hand against Daniel once more. “Tell me the truth.” The truth, what a funny concept; one that Daniel never was fond of. For what was truth? Most would know that question, but to Daniel, it was just another ideal that can be twisted to his will. Why have truth when you can multiple truths?

So, imagine how difficult was it for Daniel to actually think back to that fateful night. The night that led to the downfall. It was a truth he has long since tried to forget, even accepting that the mugging as the truth, but he now looks at truth in the eyes and has no choice but to accept his past. “We--we were gonna run away together.” Daniel, closing his weary eyes, speaks. “That was our plan, to just leave this life behind us.”

“Why?”

“We didn’t want this life.” Daniel has to admit, it’s been a long time since he has truly thought about the events of this day. “We were nearly out of the city when he found us.” Ryker needs no explanation for who this he was. The way Daniel speaks about him like he was a devil only adds to Ryker’s suspicions. “He was furious--at me. He said I betrayed him and--he just shot her.”

Daniel looks over to Ryker, who stands there with such raw emotion that even Daniel felt bad for the father. However, what he mistook for sadness was actually anger, and within a mere moment’s notice, Ryker had his hand around Daniel’s neck. “Do you know why he shot her?”

“To get back at me!”

“Partially.” Partially? Isabella was killed because Daniel disobeyed his father, and that is that. That is truth, and truth is law. Daniel walked Isabella blindly to her deathbed. “After she met you, she began to spend more time at your home, correct? It was during this time that she met someone. Someone whom she fell in love with, someone who she’d do anything for.” Ryker puts a folder in Daniel’s hands. Immediately the folder was off-putting Daniel, but due the the topic of conversation, Daniel was re-affirmed that the last thing wanted to do was open this mysterious folder.

Still, with Ryker practically forcing it down his throat, Daniel opened the cover. Right off the bat Daniel was met with an image that he would wish that could be erased from his memory. For on this image was his dear Isabella embracing another with her lips. Who was this mysterious man? Well, have you ever met the devil? “Your father used her naivety for his own benefit. He convinced my daughter that he loved her, and so she obsessed over him. She was his hidden love…”

“No.”

“As time went on, he used her to spy on you, did you know that? She reported to him all that was needed, watching you like a hawk.” Ryker tosses Daniel the young woman’s diary for proof of her treason. “She may have been your friend, but she only stuck because her love demanded it.”

“You see,” Ryker continues, “I always had a feeling Robert was behind her death, and now I know why he did what he did. Not only did he want to send a message to the both of us, but Isabella tried to run away from him. She knew too much, I suppose.” Ryker briefly moves his glasses to rub the water-tained eyes of his. “I--I don’t know what she learned, but he killed her. Your father...killed my baby girl.”

Ryker was silent for the next moment, embracing the relief he now holds with the truth of her fate. It was af the weight of the world was removed from his frail shoulders. With his now free shoulders, Ryker smacks Daniel across the face, a yell of rage let loose as he does. Daniel yelps whilst falling to the dirt floor that covers him from his friend’s body. “This is on you!”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“This is on you!”

“I didn’t do anything!” Daniel’s another attempt at protecting himself from blame is shut down by Ryker, who gives yet another hit across the face.

“She became your friend, she only met him because of you. She spied on you for him. It was you that convinced her to run away! It’s on you!” Ryker knows that most his claims are events that are beyond Daniel’s control, but the blame had to go somewhere, and Robert was dead; so to Daniel he turned. To this young man, abused by all kinds of devils, is the man he too decides to abuse.

“You took her from me!” Ryker lets loose the rage of his loss at the equally infected Daniel, who continues to stare at her grave in pure shock; the revelation that Isabella spied on him for his father has hit him hard. What did she tell him? Was there any real conversations between them? These thoughts continue even as the cold, metal barrel presses against the back of his head.

Ryker holds his revolver to Daniel’s head, itching to pull that trigger. With one trigger pull the last of the Brown family will fall, the last of Isabella’s killers will fall. The only thing that keeps Ryker from pulling the trigger is one, tiny fact: Daniel isn’t Robert. Ryker wants to, and he honestly tries, to see Robert in Daniel; he wants to see the coldhearted devil in this young man, he wants to see the man who killed his daughter. Instead he just sees this cowardly, pathetic, abused young man. His feelings towards Daniel, surprisingly, are that of confliction. He sees the bastard he turned into, he sees the coward, and he sees the young man that led to Isabella’s death. Yet, he also sees the young man that would hang out with Isabella, the sweet child who was always shy of others, the boy scared of his own father. He hates Daniel, but at the same time, he pities him.

So there he stands, holding the gun to this kid’s head. Oh, the choices; oh, the damn choices.


13 YEARS AGO, 2000

Today was the day. The day to end all suffering. The day he dares to defy them.

Of course, it felt like any other day. Some routine as usual, of course. Reyes awoke from his slumber, brushed his teeth and ate his cereal. He got dressed in his usual attire of a black hoodie, red polo shirt, tan pants and some Nikes. He sure didn’t look any different, nor did he do anything different.

But yet today felt like the beginning of a new age. Adrenaline oozes through his veins, his heart pumps continuously, and his heart is nervous for the upcoming events. Not fear, not sadness, not anger. Just nervous. Which he had every right to be, especially if he goes through with his plan.

A plan that all depends on one object. One vital object that Reyes has yet to put into his bag. Reyes knew where it was, and in fact, he was staring directly at it. This object was one very close to Reyes’s heart, for it was a gift from his dear father. “To defend yourself” is what Carlos told him the night he gave his six year old son a blade. “To make sure no one ever messes with you.”

Reyes never put the knife to good use yet, but today that could all change. After years of being treated like shit, today was the day Reyes could finally stand up to those who stomp on him. After today no one would ever mess with him again, but first, Reyes needed to put that knife into his bag. “You can do this.” Reyes gives himself a silent pep talk before putting the knife into his bag. No turning back now.

Reyes departed from the room and walked down the hallways. His head was down, as if he was expecting his mother to harass him like usual. Walking into the living room he prepared himself for such action, but instead, finds that Sophia passed out on the couch. He initially wondered why but the white powder on the table seemed to answer that question for him.

Reyes paid no attention to the sleeping bitch and was ready to walk out the door until a spark caught his attention. Reyes turned towards her, this time noticing something intriguing on the window side. A cigarette, but oh, not just any cigarette. A lit, flaming cigarette, sitting next to the curtains. Sophia probably forgot to put it out, not shocking.

Due to its close relationship with the curtain, it was very possible that his lone cigarette could hit the curtain, and in turn, burst the worn out butterfly curtains to erupt into flames. It would be a damn shame, especially if Sophia was still asleep when such an act happened….

Reyes watches the cigarette’s small flame, knowing very well what this small flame could do. Running low on time to get to school, Reyes should leave, but of course he could also be a good son and put it out, saving his mother from who knows what kind of trouble. That would be the right thing to do, after-all.

So he decides not to move it and continues on his way.

-----

School was a drag, as usual. Always was, always will be. Not much good Reyes can say about it, for various reasons. He hated the system, he hated the kids, and in turn, they hated him. He was an outcast, hell, even the teachers knew that. Yet, they did nothing. Helping kids socially isn’t in their paychecks, so why would they help?

Reyes walks down the halls of the damned place, focusing on what is to come. No more sorrow, no more pain, no. Just good ol’ fashioned vengeance. It was about damn time Ashton got what he had coming to him, and Mr. Young thrived for the opportunity to do what needed to be done.

For his vengeance to work he needed Ashton to mess with him, but surprisingly, Ashton hasn’t done so yet. Maybe there was another kid on his list, maybe he didn’t want to mess with Reyes today, but whatever the reason, he hasn’t come. Normally Reyes would be happy, but today he needed Ashton to hurt him. He was upset that he wasn’t getting bullied, as silly as it sounds.

Knowing that looking for Ashton himself would be too suspicious, so Reyes continued on with his day. From period to period he continued, waiting for the big bad wolf to eat it’s prey. Reyes assumed it was inevitable, but as time continued to tick away on the clock, Reyes has to admit he got worried. Reyes picked up the courage to do his plan today, who says he will have the same courage tomorrow? It had to be done today.

Hope was slipping away from the young man that his quest for vengeance would begin. It wasn’t until after math class that hope returned, for as he was walking down the halls, he heard the voice. The mid-level, prideful, obnoxious voice. “Reyes!” Reyes can hear Ashton from down the crowded hall. “How you doing, man?”

Reyes remained frozen whilst Ashton and his friends made their way down the hall, acting as if they were approaching one of their dearest friends. Ashton, with his arms open and smile wide, seemed like that caring friend who just wanted to cheer you up, but oh how was it different. “I’m fine.” Reyes replies reluctantly whilst making sure his gift was safely in his pocket.

“Good, good. School good?”

“...Yeah.”

“Really? You passed that Anatomy shit? I mean, if so, congrats because we didn’t.” Ashton threw his arm around Reyes, rubbing his scruffy dark hair while doing so. It was disgusting, honestly. Not only does Ashton bully Reyes, but then he tries to act like he thinks of Reyes like a friend. Reyes knew the truth about him, though. He may have had money, he may have had popularity, and he may have had the skill, but he didn’t have confidence. No, no, he felt inferior to everyone else. So what does he do? He tries to be better than everyone. He needs to believe that he’s the best person in the room. In order to do so he hits, he teases, he does whatever the hell he needs to do because that’s just what he does. He’s pathetic, as are the people like him. They all deserve to rot in hell, and boy oh boy Reyes is gonna make ‘em.

“Answer me, man! Come on, it’s not polite to be silent. I thought we went over this.” Ashton gives his charming, cocky little smile, but it didn’t intimidate Reyes today.

“Fuck you.”

That sure caught him off guard. “Excuse me?”

“Fuck you.” Ashton sure was impressed at what Reyes was speaking to him; the bastard must of got some balls. This new found confidence in Reyes, however, was not something Ashton liked. Only one person could have confidence.

“Fuck me? The hell you smoking? No, no, no. That’s not how it goes. No.” With a good ol’ laugh, Ashton swings his fist deep into Reyes’s stomach, forcing him to hunch over in pain. “Fuck you, man! Fuck you!”

“Telling me off, who does this kid think he is.” Ashton laughs back to his friends, who in turn laugh along with him. After-all, they’re just his lackies, doing what he says. They’re worse than him, lacking any identity of their own and scrambling onto his.

The sight of Ashton laughing at his pain gave Reyes all the initiative he needed. Feeling the knife in his pocket, Reyes took one mere breath; the last breath he would take before his life changed forever. For, as Ashton was laughing, Reyes struck with such haste and fury that no one could have seen it coming.

Reyes lunged his blade into Ashton’s stomach with so much force that the two teenagers tumbled onto the floor. Shock spread around the room like a wildfire as Reyes kneeled over Ashton. With the now red knife in his palms, Reyes could practically taste Ashton’s red blood that soothed on his hands. At first he wanted to hurl, but as the blood made his way through his fingers, he smiled. He smiled even more so seeing Ashton coughing up a fit.

Everyone has already ran off at this point, leaving the joyful Reyes to sink the knife in a second time, this time listening intently to Ashton’s pain. He felt the knife slipping into his intestines, he heard Ashton’s whimpering, and oh how good it felt. For years this kid tormented Reyes’s life but now…..now Reyes is the one on top. He is the boot, Ashton is the ant. How the tables have turned!

Unfortunately, his moment of glory was torn down by the sudden arrival of a security officer, who quickly tackled Reyes off of Ashton. Reyes lands roughly on the floor, forcing him to take a sudden gasp as his knife flings away. Any attempts at getting his knife back were ruined once the much elderly, stronger man held Reyes to the floor, denying him the chance to finish his work.

But hey, Reyes didn’t need to finish it, for in his mind it is already done. With Ashton’s blood on his hands and the bully whimpering on the floor in pain, Reyes never felt this happy in his life.

Cry bitch, Reyes thought to himself with a smile.

Fucking cry.


3 YEARS AGO, 2010

The far cry of thunder rumbled out into the distance, releasing a flash of teal into the clouded, dark skies. Standing in the midst of a bar parking lot, Reyes watched the thunder with a curious eye. His father was always one of those type of people who would whip out the cliched “a storm is coming” lines, and it is here that those words ring around his head. Reyes, after-all, had inherited some of that from his father in the past few years.

Of course, the storm has already come in Reyes’s life. It’s been ten years since that fateful school day. Ten years since his life changed forever. The day didn’t end as he initially envisioned, but considering where he is now, he isn’t complaining. First and foremost, he was expelled from the school and was planned to be placed in the Juvenile system, but his father had different plans. Carlos picked Reyes up from the school, under the promise to his principle that he was going to bring him to the system, but of course Carlos had no such intentions. Using his many connections, Carlos convinced people to let Reyes go, and thus, Carlos took his dysfunctional son out into the world; with no intention of helping him, of course.

Carlos Young, while a loving father, was not a good man by any means. Being a mid level ranking officer in the Cartel, Carlos is not the man too look up to. Drugs, murder, extortion of people, you name it and Carlos has done it. Whatever the will of Don Tucan is, Carlos gets it done. In due time, this was the motto for Reyes. Carlos forced his son to finish his education, and initially, asked for Reyes to get a life. He wanted his son to get a lover, have kids, live a normal life. In a nation corrupt as this, however, it was impossible. So his father agreed to let his dear son join the cartel. All hail Don Tucan!

For the most part Reyes has just been extra muscle for some low ranking people, but in more recent years, his hands have been rubbed in the mud. He’s done the deals, he’s pulled the trigger, and he will no doubt do it again. Sure, this isn’t the best way of life, but it’s a life where Reyes feels at home. He’s in a brotherhood of murders, thieves and criminals; and he couldn’t love it more.

There was one more event that happened on the fateful day. An event that changed Reyes’s life almost much as being taken in by Carlos. That lovely cigarette just so happened to roll slightly to the right and towards those curtains. The spark and the curtain met, and thus, a flame was born. Up and up they went, encasing the entire home in flames; Sophia didn’t even noticed. They engulfed her in seconds. Rest in peace, bitch; rest in fucking peace.

“Hey, Young.” A feminine voice drawls Reyes out of his thoughts and towards the woman on his right. Late twenties and what a beauty she was, but you’d be a fool to let that beauty blind you. For this woman, as harmless as she looks, was the devil; you could practically feel the hellfire blazing from her eyes. Say hello to Gloria, the scariest woman you’ll ever meet. “Pay attention.”

“Sorry.” Reyes returns his eyes to the door as he leans against the wall with Gloria. Due to her reputation, Reyes has to admit that he is scared to be near her; she’s only here to observe Reyes for his mission. A mission he is doomed to fail if he doesn’t pay attention. Of course, he is probably just over thinking it, it was a simple mission really. Someone is in a blood debt he refuses to pay, so blood must be spilt.

After minutes of silence with the devil, Reyes sees the bar door’s open. Soon exited out a middle aged man with dark eyes and a receding hairline, most likely brought on by stress. This was him, no doubt about it. Reyes has studied the picture for hours, after-all.

He watches as the man walks down the stairs, approaching the car that parks a mere two spaces away from Reyes. With Gloria’s eyes on Reyes, and his target moving away, Reyes knew this was the time. He felt inside his hoodie pocket, making sure his trust blade was there, before making his way to his target. Thomas Gordon, get ready to meet the creator.

Thomas continued to walk like it was a normal night, having no idea that this would be the last walk he would take. He looked like a peaceful man with his smile, slightly overweight body and hawaiian shirt. He’s like that lovable uncle you’d get a drink with. Shame what’s about to happen.

“Excuse me, Mr. Gordon.” The last memory of Thomas’s life is turning towards the hooded man, who is quick to lunge a blade into his heart. Thomas tumbled over onto the damp ground, Reyes ontop of him, continuing to hold the knife in place as he does. Hitting the floor with a giant thump, Thomas’s last breath was a faint scream that was blocked out by another shot of thunder, leaving Reyes all the more time to finish his target. “Carlos says hi.” With that said, Reyes re-plunges the blade into the bleeding chest multiple times, each time gaining a new spot of innocent blood on his hands.

Once the deed was done, Reyes yanked out his blade to expect his work. His chest looked as if it was ripped open, and oh, was it such a sight. With a smile, Reyes couldn’t help but truly admire his work. Now, holy shit, does it take a fucked up person to admire this, but here Reyes is, smiling at the body of an innocent man. This abused young child has turned into one of the darkest criminals Mexico has to offer, and he does it all with a smile. A dark, twisted smile. Reyes Young, ladies and gentleman! The future voice of reason to Franklin Mills!


Reyes continues to kneel to his captors, watching with his cold eyes as they walk around the room, acting as if nothing happened. They just massacred some innocent people, but hey, no big deal. Just life for ya, right? Gotta do what you gotta do. With guns in hands, and an obvious lack of morals, these men posed a threat to this mall, but more importantly, the hostages. Each hostage is all frightened and panicking in their own right, even Reyes. Behind his calm eyes is a terrified man, not ready to see his end. Then again, who is ready to meet death in the eyes?

Reyes looks to his side, noticing the immense fear in the eyes of Anahi Cruz. Her eyes widened, her chest beating, her mouth open, and her fingers twitching. This is odd, especially considering the kind of girl Anahi is. “Hey, it’s gonna be okay.” Reyes whispers to her. Their eyes meet but she doesn’t seem to hear me. “Hey, look at me.” Anahi focuses on him. “Breath. Just breath, okay? We’ll make it.”

“T--that’s not it.” Anahi briefly stutters whilst kneeling there, giving him a shake of her head. “That’s not it.”

“Yo! No talking!” Mick says over to the two, prompting Reyes to turn away from the girl he desperately wants to help. This situation needed to end, but despite Reyes’s pleads, these men weren’t gonna back down. Of course there was another way, a way Reyes would rather not turn to. He could always try to steal that gun from the weak Mick and end this. It’s an option he considers, it’s an option the demon inside him roots for; but what would it show about Reyes? He doesn’t want to be a killer anymore, he wants to set himself apart from that old person. To preach that rule then break it for his own self gain wouldn’t be right. There had to be another way.

That way seemed impossible to a certain two people, however. Tucked away in the kitchen, hiding behind the shelves, were a two pair of girls who knew there was only one way this could end. Vicky knew it, she embraced it, and she was ready for it. She wasn’t gonna cry, she wasn’t gonna lean onto someone else for protection. No, she was strong. Vicky isn’t weak, and she sure as hell won’t act it.

Vicky scans the room for anything useful. Of course, being a kitchen, there was plenty of use in these items. The knives, in particular, will come in handy for the inevitable fight, but they won’t do much good up against guns. They’d be dead before they even got close to the gunman.

Vicky turns her eyes towards Lara, sits in the back of the room with a surprisingly straight face. No jokes, no optimism, none of the Lara Drake-y stuff. Just fear of what is too come. She may have hid the wound from Vicky, but with her paling skin, it was only a matter of time before Lara has to take that breath. A breath that Vicky was determined to make sure Lara didn’t take; she doesn’t know the injury Lara holds, but she still won’t allow them to hurt her.

Taking a sigh of frustration at the bleakness of their situation, Vicky turned her attention towards the door; but unfortunately, she heard footsteps. Small, but not very subtle, footsteps coming right for them. Followed by the obnoxious laugher of Drake. “Fuck.” Vicky turns towards Lara, who has heard the laughter as well. “Hide.”

Quickly Vicky dove onto the floor whilst her best friend concealed herself behind a trash can. Not the best hiding spots, but hey, gotta improvise, right? So there Vicky kneeled behind the island, turning her head around the corner to find Drake looking through the kitchen. Holding her breath she watched as Drake strolled on through, trying to find something to eat. After-all, holding people hostage got tiring. With Drake approaching her position quickly, Vicky does her best to move around the island…

...but of course, luck fucking hates her. For as Vicky attempts to crawl around the corner, she misses the broken glass that sits just ahead of her hand. So upon moving her hand forward…..crack.

Fuck.

In a swift move Drake turned in her direction, quickly locking eyes with the young white girl across the floor. Their eyes lock as Drake raises his pistol. Vicky initially showed fear, but quickly reminded herself that she couldn’t be a coward, so that fear turned into force determination. “Who the hell--” Drake is cut off by screeching. He turned to his left, watching as Lara Drake exited her hiding spot, hands up clear in the air for him to see.

“Hey, hey...take it easy, man.” Lara holds her bloody hands so he knows she isn’t trying anything funny. Slowly Lara approaches Drake, who keeps his gun set on both the girls. “I don’t mean any harm.”

“Shut--shut the fuck up.” Drake turns to call for his friends, but Lara is quick to respond.

“Wait--wait. Please, just listen to me.” Lara pleads with the man in a last resort effort. “You want someone? Just--just take me, okay?”

“Lara--” Vicky tries to cut in but Lara holds her finger up to Vicky. “Please,” Lara continues, “let her go. Take me, hurt me, kill me. Just let her be.” Lara knows begging may not work, but she has to try. No way in hell will she let them hurt her friend, not when she can do something about it. Funny how Lara claims herself to be a nobody, but here she is, risking her life for Vicky. “I’ll beg, I’ll do anything. Do whatever you want to me, but please, just let my friend go.” Lara was willing to do anything for Vicky, no matter what it meant for her pride or dignity. Lara was nothing and she was willing to treat herself like such--but to her, Vicky was everything, and she wouldn’t let anything happen to her everything. Lara may have the popularity and fun--but Vicky is the strong one, the intelligent one, the one who means more to this world than herself. All--all she is some party seeking slut, but Vicky is much more.

Drake locks eyes with her, wondering what he can do with her. If she is willing to do anything…..they might have a compromise here, after-all. A devious smirk enters his face as Lara continues to slowly approach. “Please don’t hurt her.” Lara uses almost all her energy to beg, and it is taking an effect, with her paling skin and watery eyes. If this was her last hooray than she is damn sure gonna go out saving Vicky.

Lara’s deal was growing on Drake, and it was very clear to Lara, as she saw his defense go down. Now in arms reach of the man, Lara drops the small piece of glass from her sleeve. Gripping it in her hands, Lara uses the last of her energy to swing the glass at Drake’s neck. She knew it wouldn’t kill him, but it would buy Vicky enough time to do something, at the cost of one important thing; Lara.

Once the initial shock of the glass slipped away, Drake whacked his pistol across the beautiful woman’s face, and with zero hesitation, pulls his trigger. One, two, three. Three times he pulls his trigger, and three fucking times the small, sharp, gold bullets fly across the room until coming at a stopping point at Lara’s stomach. In only the blink of an eye Lara could feel her stomach torn apart by these bullets.The force of these bullets have Lara fly backwards in shock, where she has a rough landing on floor.

Time seemed to slow for Vicky, who watches her dying best friend lay on the floor, only for her assaulter to turn his sights on Vicky herself. In a span of one second Vicky’s eyes turn from shock to pure, unheld, relentless anger. Oh, Drake made a mistake alright; he under-estimated Victoria Cummings.

Grabbing the pan of frying grease to her right, Vicky lets loose a powerful, blood wrenching scream that puts the infected to shame. Vicky watches with pure vengeance as her throwing pan releases the frying grease onto Drake’s face. Drake screams in pure agony as the skin on his face melts to nothing, leaving him powerless to the young woman. Sliding across the table, Vicky slams her elbow into his stomach, giving her all the opportunity to rip the pistol from his hands. No hesitation was given to Vicky’s choice. Just like that, the fury ridden Vicky unleashes the clip into Drake, each bullet giving her satisfaction as the bastard falls to the ground.

Vicky spent no time in getting back to her friend. Kneeling down at Lara’s side, Vicky examined the injuries with horror. Four bullet have entered Lara’s body, leaving her stomach filled with her own blood, whilst her face now holds home to a bloody gash left by the pistol whip. “Lara--Lara, look at me.” The fastly growing teary eyed Vicky shakes Lara with force. “Look at me!”

“It’s okay--it’s okay.” Lara does her best to speak a full sentence but this is all that is audible for she is thrown into a coughing fit. Lara thought she has experienced until pain until this moment. Her stomach has exploded into a fit of pain that can only be described as having a rat ripping your stomach open and crawling around inside. So, there she lays, too weak to scream in pain, and thus is forced to hold it in as she rolls on the floor in immense pain. “It’s--okay, Vics.”

“It’s not okay. It’s--fuck!” Vicky presses her palms down on the bleeding stomach in a hopeless effort. “Don’t you die on me--you’re not dying. You hear me? You’re not dying! Look at me!” Lara’s watery eyes lacked focus as they stared off into space, prompting Vicky to keep trying to conceal the blood in a useless effort. “You--you…” Vicky can’t even bring herself to finish her sentence for she explodes into tears, leaving her unable to speak fully. “Please, don’t do this too me. Please.” Vicky holds Lara close, praying to a God she doesn’t believe in that she doesn’t fade away. “Lara? Open your eyes, Lara!” By this point Vicky is a wreck. There she sits, holding her dying friend in her arms and there is nothing she can do, except state the very obvious truth that sits before her. “It should’ve of been me…” Vicky can’t help but cry. “It should’ve of been me!”

Vicky’s mourning is interrupted when Red runs into the room, pistol in hand, fury in eyes. She figured this would be the end. Once he saw Drake’s body he would shoot Vicky down with an army of bullets, right? Vicky knew this, but hey, if she was gonna die then she was gonna die with her best friend. So, Vicky turns towards Red, her red eyes reminiscent of both a mourning woman and a fiery devil.

Instead, it wasn’t the end. For before Red has the chance to even point his gun at her, the air vent above him kicks open. In an action movie like event, Lisette lands on the floor, landing swiftly like a ninja. Red’s initial shock of what the hell just happened leaves the speedy Lisette all the time she needs to whack him twice over the head with a nearby pan. Incapacitated with a massive headache, Lisette shoves Red out of the way and gets ready to deal with the two remaining men.

It appears one man is already down, however. For outside, Rob is quick to turn towards the diner in confusing, wondering what the hell is going on. For three seconds flat his guard was down, and that was all Ethan needed. Once the man’s head was turned Ethan ripped out his pistol and spent little time debating his morals before shooting. Rob’s final memory was turning around to find Ethan’s gun to his head. Before anything could be done two bullets rip through Rob’s head, killing the man who thought he was everything in a mere millisecond.

Assuming Lisette was inside, Ethan rushed for the door in vengeance, with the surprised James quickly following. A panicked Mick, noticing both a fast approaching Lisette and Ethan, throws his arm around Reyes’s neck. Using his free hand, Mick fires off some shots before running to the back of the room, which held home to a respective male and female restroom. Seeing no other choice, Mick ran in there with his one hostage, leaving him free from the free for at least a few minutes.

While James and Lisette focus on uniting the hostages, Ethan rushes into the kitchen on Lisette’s word. In a speed fast for a man his age, Ethan enters the kitchen in a panic. He first spots the dead body of Drake, the knocked out Red, then finally, the main event. Seeing her made his world brightening up, but of course, it wasn’t perfect. For there Vicky was kneeling by her friend, covered in her blood. Ethan didn’t know Lara well but Vicky cared for her and that’s all the fuel Ethan needed. Not only was she dying, but oh, Vicky was nearly killed as well.

As Lisette ran in with James and some people to help move Lara, Ethan turned towards his eyes to the still breathing Red. Breathing….after all he’s done. Bastards like him were denied breath in Ethan’s right. Ethan glared down at the man, nothing but hatred towards his kind of people. Now, they always could capture Red alive and question him, but Ethan was the rash type. Lifting his gun Ethan fired one shot to the head with no haste, no remorse, none of that shit. No, Ethan fired that shot with vengeance. A vengeance all of Ryker’s men will experience.

-----

“Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck!” Mick is quick to enter a pure panic in the bathroom. Like….seriously, what the fuck just happened? Everything was going perfectly and then, boom, it all starts falling apart. Everything is gone. His friends, his mission, and he is sure as hell he won’t be getting out of this alive. This was it for him. Just--fuck. He knew this job couldn’t end well, but not like this. He’s trapped in a fucking bathroom with only one hostage. “Fuck!” Mick lets loose his rage on the nearby mirror, shattering it to pieces with one punch.

Reyes watches from his position on the floor, his tired eyes just trying to make sense of this new situation. Three dead, hostages saved….and now just them. Maybe it was a good thing? Mick was the least confident of the four shooters, so there was a chance here Reyes could convince him to end this. “Breath, man.” Reyes attempts to calmly speak, even though he has to admit, his heart is beating faster by the minute. “It--you can get out of this. Just turn yourself in. Put the gun down and end this.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Yes you can! Your friends are dead, man! The rest is on your shoulders! You decide how this ends, so please, just give up.”

“I can’t!” Mick yells to his hostage. “You think I don’t want too? I don’t--I don’t want to die! But--I can’t surrender.”

“Why?”

“Ryker doesn’t take failure! It’s do the job or don’t come back! If I surrender he won’t try to save him, and you’re people will question me--but I don’t know shit! They’ll kill me, he’ll cast me out….this is it. There is no going back.”

“You’re right, we can’t go back. But we can go forward.” Reyes is doing his best to counter, but Mick seems to be too far gone to even listen to his words. “I know what it feels like to be in your position. I am--was like you once. I got caught in your kind of position, but dude listen to me, you can escape this. You’re not your past. If you put that gun down, there’s a chance here you can leave and start over.”

“There’s no escaping, not from this.” Mick denies Reyes. “Even if I escape this...the stuff I did, the people I killed, it will always be with me. You can’t escape that pain.”

“Yes, you can! You can leave, start over and help people. Make up for the past by being helping others. Protect them, guide them. People like us, we’re not our past, we’re what we choose to do with it. We can let us defy us, but we can also let it drive us.” Reyes not only spoke to Mick, but this was him trying to convince himself that this was truth. For years Reyes has struggled with the guilt his actions has left him, always telling himself that he couldn't escape it despite his ambition. Ironic that Reyes now sits here, trying to convince someone of what Reyes has denied for so long. “This--this isn’t it. It’s not over--it’s not over!”

“We’ve all done things. I sure have, you have, everyone has done something. Some more drastic than others, but we all have demons in our lives. We don’t do things because we’re evil--but because we’re afraid. We don’t gotta let that fear control us, though! No--no. We can overcome it! We’re not our fear! Don’t let it control you!”

“What are you afraid of?”

Reyes nods towards his gun. “Pain. My whole life I’ve been scared of people hurting me--fuck, death is apart of this, too. My fear of losing my life, of people hurting me….it led me to do things. Unthinkable things. But these years I wanted to be more than just some thug. I didn’t know what, but now I know. I want to help people. I’m--I’m trying, and I am going to continue to try. Because I’m not afraid of what they may do to me. I’m not letting that fear control me anymore. So, man, let me help you. Don’t let that fear control you, don’t be someone you don’t wanna be! I believe that if we all not let our fear control us--fuck, we could change the world! So believe me when I say that nobody has to die today. We can stop this.”

Reyes pours his heart out to this man in high hopes that he would listen. He could lower his gun, maybe give some answers, then leave. If the man truly wanted to be a better person than he can, the only thing standing in his way is himself. Reyes stares into his opponent's eyes, attempting to plead with the man.

Mick hasn’t totally rejected Reyes’s optimistic pleas, but yet can’t bring that optimism into his own heavy heart. After all he has done, Mick can’t imagine a life without this guilt, this pain. He doesn’t want to live with these, but at the same time, this is the only way he can live; thus, forced onto an endless cycle of hating what he has begun, but too afraid to change it. “I admire your views, but man, that’s not how life works. There aren’t any good men. Everyone is out their themselves, so no matter how much you try, you’re gonna fail. If--if you get out of this alive, there’s gonna come a day where that stance is gonna get you killed, because the world won’t share your views. You just gotta accept the world for what it is, especially now with those things out there. It ain’t a pretty place.”

“I know what happened and I know what’s going on. I know what the world is--but I also know who I am. Maybe you’re right and I’ll die, but I’ll die as a man I’m proud to be. I know people out there won’t share my compassion, but that’s why it’s so important because it separates us from them.” Reyes speaks with confidence, something shocking coming from him. It’s about damn time Reyes accepted his past, but instead of dreading on it, uses it to push himself further.

As Reyes speaks to Mick, he uses the man’s distracted gaze to move his hands around the wire binding him. With a few more twists and turns, his hand slips free of the loose sharp wire, giving him all the freedom in the world to choose his next move. He wants to stand by his actions and be the man he always wanted to be, but what if he doesn’t? He can already feel the fear taking over him. Kill him. He can practically hear the voices as if they were next to him. Sophia, Carlos, Gloria, and even Ashton whisper into his ears with their own versions of truth. Let it out, Reyes. Kill him.

Shoot him.

Save yourself.

Reyes shakes their voices away. No, no. They won’t control him, not anymore. He is gonna do this his way, the way a good man would do this. If he wants to be the hero, then it’s damn time he be so. As Mick turns his head to try and focus his attention on what’s going on outside, even taking a sigh as if he knows he won’t make out, Reyes makes his move.

The skills taught to him by the cartel come in handy as Reyes jumps onto Mick, throwing his arms around the man’s neck. As expected Mick gives struggle, throwing his arms around and squirming to shake Reyes, but Reyes remains firm. With every second he continues to press his arms further against the man’s neck, knowing that in due time he could easily knock out the man.

In contrary to what Reyes thought, Mick was tougher than he thought. Swinging his elbow into Reyes’s stomach, Mick shoves Reyes against the wall, but Reyes too was quick. After-all, Reyes always had quick reflexes, so blocking Mick’s attempts at punches were easy enough, simply sticking his arm under his fist to push them aside.

Headbutting Mick in the face, Reyes makes a fast dive for the gun, followed by the nose bleeding Mick. Both men wrestle upon their landing, each getting some good hits in as they wrestle for the weapon that could finish this whole conflict. But that’s where the difference lays between the men; Mick is going full out and wants to finish this, whilst Reyes holds his strength back for he simply wants to end it.

Letting loose a powerful grunt, Reyes swings his fist against Mick’s face, effectively knocking him away to buy a few seconds. Gripping the scornful weapon, Reyes turns towards Mick, almost ready to take that headshot before telling himself otherwise. This brief reluctance allows Mick to bull rush Reyes into the mirrors behind them.

Jolting to the sudden pain of having glass in his back, Reyes is left vulnerable to another hit by Mick, but the latter’s victory is short lived for Reyes smacks the pistol across his face. Struck by the fatal weapon, Reyes spends no time in kicking his dazed opponent to the ground. Mick turns to stand but is met by the pistol’s face, and behind it, a trained member of the cartel.

Their eyes lock for a brief moment, acknowledge that this is the end, one way or another. Still, despite the victory Reyes holds, he doesn’t take his killshot. “Just do it, man.” Mick accepts his fate, but yet, Reyes doesn’t. Oh, how easily he could pull this trigger, and he is sure that the inner darkness in him would be satisfied for his fear has claimed another victim. After-all, if he spares Mick, who's to say he won’t retaliate down the line? The easiest way to do this was to just take that killshot, here and now. Fuck morales, this is survival.

Reyes doesn’t want the easy way, though. He understands that to be the better man he can’t just snap his fingers, and that it will be rough road to cross, full of bumps, climbs and falls. But it’s a road Reyes is willing to take.

So, Reyes aims at Mick’s leg and pulls the trigger back. A bang and some smoke later Mick was screaming to the fresh new bullet wound. A wound that is going to leave him unable to walk properly for a while, but also one that spares his life. “No one else has gotta die today, man.” Reyes cocks the pistol to remove the one in the chamber, the removal of the clip immediately following. Placing the empty gun on the floor, Reyes stares into the eyes of the ever so hopeless Mick and shakes his head. “No more.”

With nothing left to say to the criminal, Reyes turns his back, making his way out of his former prison and out back into the open, where he knows that he can make a difference to this constantly falling world. Reyes isn’t a criminal, not anymore. He’s a man wishing to make a difference in the world, and thus, a damn near respected person.


3 YEARS AGO, 2010

“Do you know this man?” The officer’s simple question was followed up by sliding a photo across the room. The two detectives watched carefully as Reyes looked down at the photo, his cold eyes meeting the photograph of the happy old man Reyes met a few days ago: Thomas Gordon. Of course, the day Reyes met Thomas was the day his blood was spilt on the curb.

“No.” Reyes leans his metal chair on it’s back two legs. “I don’t remember seeing him ever.”

“That so?” The officer leaned forward in attempts to intermediate Reyes, but the young man just expresses no interest. After-all, this whole situation was pointless. Sure, they might have some evidence that Reyes murdered Thomas (eye witness, apparently. Gloria’s on her way to deal with him already), but the fact still stands that Carlos will be here any minute to get Reyes out of this. Their charges wouldn’t stick and this whole night will mean nothing to him soon enough, so why bother?

“I mean, maybe I saw his face in the area, I don’t know. He doesn’t jump out at me, though.” Reyes eyes the clock at the top of the room. “Look, I don’t know this dude.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Really? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint.” This officer is one who has been on the duty for many years now, so he has seen all the types of criminals Mexico has to offer, including such as Reyes Young. The kids like Reyes were nothing more than people who have been wronged in life, and in turn, decided to wrong others, never thinking about how it relates to them. Of course, this offer knows just what buttons to push. Staring into the eyes of Reyes, who has made his once emotion filled eyes appear cold, the officer figures out his hook.

“So you don’t know him, then?” Reyes shakes his head at the officer’s, answering to the name of Travis, question. “That’s a damn shame. We’ve been trying to get leads on his killer for days now.”

“Why?” Reyes curiously asks. “Was he anyone special?”

“Anyone special? No, no. Just some normal ol’ dude. Church going, dude, ya know? Hard worker, too. Worked as teacher during the weekdays and bus driver for weekends. Even helped run a homeless shelter. Good dude, a shame what happened to him.”

“Had some kids too.” The second officer speaks up from his chair. “We spoke to them few days ago. Great kids. Young too. Only about ten, I think. Maybe nine, I don’t know somewhere around there.”

“Good kids, now crying themselves to sleep at night due to this.” Travis laments. “Lost their mom few years back so he was all they had. You know, he might have not been special to the world, but he was the world to those little girls. Now he’s dead--just like that. No particular reason for it, either.”

Reyes does his best not to look into their stares, instead focusing on the dirty table below him. He’s never really thought about his victims before. “I’ve got nothing to say.” “That’s what I don’t get about this, if I’m being honest.” Travis thinks aloud to his friend and their prisoner. “This whole cartel thing. Why can’t you just sell your shit and walk away? Lots of shit gets sold without guns going off. I don’t get it. What is the point of dropping bodies? That’s some terrorist shit right there.” Travis continues to lament about the mystery of the cartel business. That damn business has their workings on every street corner, ruling these streets with an iron fist, leaving trails of blood after them. He fights to try and stop them, but it’s hard to stop the puppet master.

Travis continues to stare at Reyes, who averts his eyes away. Reyes keeps his eyes cold as ice, but how the heat is making them melt. For years Reyes has worked as Cartel muscle, asking no questions when ordered to deal with problems. He’s killed people, he’s beaten people--he has done much irredeemable things. He’s done this all without even thinking who he’s done it too. Now, as he thinks about this fallen good father, the memories rush through his ways. How many good, pure people has he killed for no reason? What if these people were like him? Just shy, lonely people trying to find purpose in their lives?

Hell, why does he even do this job? He doesn’t care for money, nor does he particularly care for the cartel’s business. He does, however, enjoy inflicting that pain on others. He can’t be sure as to why, but oh does he feel a smile when he strikes people down. After-all, after years of being abused by others, who wouldn’t want to strike people down? His whole life people have done nothing but treat Reyes like shit, like he was nothing, but now he holds the power of letting someone live or die in his hands; and such a choice it was. A choice that has always made him happy….until now.

“I don’t got anything to say.” Reyes mutters from his soft lips, but Travis doesn’t take that answer and instead sighs.

“How do you think the world works, kid? We’re all just empty, emotionless beings to you? A man just died and you acting like it doesn’t matter. What if it was you, huh? Hell, continue down this path you’re on and I can guarantee it will be you. I’ll report for duty and find your body shot up in an alley one day. Maybe I’ll shrug my shoulders, say “I told him” and take another sip of my coffee. Maybe even once I find your killer, sit him right where you are, and then ask him these same questions. What will he say? He’ll say the same bs you are. You’ll be just like Thomas Gordon, except you won’t have no kids to leave behind will you? No good deeds? Just some runt off the streets.” Travis’s words sting Reyes to his soul but shows no emotion to the officer of the law. “Anything to say to that?”

Any response Reyes plans to say is cut short when the door opens to a tall, dark haired man, whose eyes match Reyes, as does his smooth latino skin. Wearing some jeans and a dress shirt, along with sunglasses and hat, Reyes immediately recognizes this man as Carlos Young. “I talked to your boss, and my son’s done here.” Carlos tosses the note from Travis’s boss in front of the officer. “Come on, son, we’re leaving.”

“Be my guest, he’s free to go.” Travis watches as Reyes stands to his feet but can’t resist himself to say one more thing. “Do you see what I see?”

Reyes walks out of the police station without saying anything more, but yet, his mind continues to linger back into that damned room. What does he see? What kind of question is that? Making his way out into the parking lot, Reyes looks over to his father, who like always has his arm around Reyes and is telling him he did good, despite the unfortunate small mistake. Carlos always was one to praise his son despite his mistakes. Yet, Reyes lets this speech slip to the back of his head as he continues to think about this evening.

“Dad?” Reyes asks his father whilst stepping into his blue pick up truck. “Why do we do what we do?” “What do you mean?” Carlos spoke in his usual soft mannered voice.

“Like, why do we do--this?” Not knowing the words to describe it, Reyes simply rolls up his sleeve to point out the tattoo he now holds for the cartel.

“Son, don’t let those suits get to you.” Carlos points to some of the police officers outside.

“They ain’t much difference from us, except their job is to stop us, while ours is to keep them from doing so.”

“They didn’t get to me. I just--I’m just wondering.”

Carlos looks at his son with his soft eyes, and takes a sigh. People usually do question their lifestyle, but he hoped it wouldn’t be Reyes. “We were forced too.” Carlos speaks with some anger hidden in that soft voice of his. “There are people in this world who see themselves as gods. People with money run rapid, and you see, money buys all. They look down on us and see us as things to them--but we’re much more. You see, society forced us to do this. No one will help us, but everyone will try and stop us, so thus to crime we turn. Those suits may despise us, but they made us.” Carlos speaks with a passion, as if he fully believes this. Society deems there must be criminals, and thus, the poor unfortunate souls are forced to be pushed into those roles for survivor. Doesn’t matter your reasoning or your feelings, you’re labeled a criminal and that’s it.

“Why do we kill people?” Reyes asks another question out of curiosity, to which his father looks at his son dead in the eyes and speaks the next phrase in a blunt, simple way. It’s a phrase that would repeat itself many times throughout Reyes’s life.

“I know you’re compassionate, son. But compassion is not common in this world. Our enemies won’t share that feeling and they will use that against you. You do what you gotta do to survive, don’t you dare think about others. People in this world are out for themselves, so you should be too.”


And thus the world was still. Everything, everyone, nothing, all frozen imagery, nothing but blurry images to her. Her whole world, her life, has been frozen to the fiery woman, leaving only one sight that is worth a damn. Sitting on a bench in the hallways, Vicky watches her best friend dragged off on a gurney for last minute medical attention. Lara Drake, the lively, charismatic, optimistic woman now nothing more than an icy body. Sam tried to make the sound situation not sound dire, but Vicky knows the truth. Lara was….gone. In just one second her best friend, hell, her sister has left this tortured life. All because she failed to protect her.

The blood-soaked Vicky simply stares forward with a fiery, yet cold, glare that could put anyone to fear of this young woman. Her bloodied fingers twitch, her hair hangs in her bloody face, and a piece of glass has stuck itself onto her skin. Combine her appearance to her eyes and you don’t see Vicky. No, you see what the product of revenge. The learning for revenge, for death, the learning to get back at those who wronged you. You see a demon, and that friends, is what Vicky is on her way too.

“How are you?” Ethan tries to ask his family, but all he gets is the same silence from Vicky, who now shifts her eyes around the room. She watches the survivors of the horrifying massacre embrace their families, while Anahi continues to sit in the graveyard, still trapped in her trance. She notices the people who mourn their losses, such as Dre, who is being treated by McCoy over in the corner. Then, however, she notices a beautiful sight; the three dead bodies of those bastards. Sure, one has been taken in by James, but oh...the sights of those three give her such satisfaction.

“I’m going to kill them, Ethan.” Vicky finally speaks in a whisper to match her demonic appearance. “I’m going to kill all of them.”

Most fathers would dissuade their daughter from this course, but Ethan wasn’t most fathers. Instead, he put his arm around Vicky and pulls her in closer, all while he too holds the devil in his eyes. “We will.” Ethan reassures her, and oh, does he mean it. Fuck this peace shit, this is war. They are going to pay, ahd the father-daughter duo of Ethan and Vicky intend to make them. “We’ll get our vengeance.”

As Ethan persuades Vicky to give into her darkness, there sits another duo of people just a mere feet away, in the corner and out of sight. Unlike the father and daughter, this duo is much more depressed than angry. This is visible in Dre, who continues to sit on the floor in pure denial. It’s like he was hit by a thousand buses and forced to walk home, except much, much worse. The endless pit in his stomach won’t go away, nor will the hole that tears his heart into pieces.

“Dre,” McCoy sits with him in an attempt to help his friend, “it’s gonna be okay.” McCoy doesn’t know if it will be okay if he is being honest, but he knows that he is going to do everything he can to support Dre, and that means keeping him optimistic. “Just--think of all the great times you’ve had.”

McCoy’s attempts at helping Dre were useless as Dre didn’t even pay attention, instead focusing on yet another person he loved that was taken from him. First his parents...now her. For all the fear he had earlier he didn’t expect Lara to be a victim in anything. No, he always thought she would be the one to survive it all and crack a joke while at it. God, he didn’t express it enough, but Dre loved her. He wanted more with her….and now she’s gone.

As Dre mourns her loss, his eyes lock with Vicky across the room. He knows what she is thinking, he knows what she wants to do, and he knows she is gonna ask for his help. She was gonna ask Dre to help him get their revenge. Dre never was the one to want violence….

…..but he never nodded his head faster than he did in that moment.


The scene was horrific. Not one for the weak to see at all. No, no, no. Gruesome bodies, crying victims, terrified survivors. Franklin Mills truly has hit a major tragedy today, one that will determine the course of their actions for the foreseeable future. That is, of course, his boss decides to kill them all.

Their fault. Really, it was. They wanted to fight his boss, the savior of this city? They should have known they were in over their heads, but that’s what happens when you put ignorant assholes in charge; they lead you to destruction. Pathetic, all of them. He doesn’t know what Ryker sees in this mall, but hey, he wouldn’t dare complain after what Ryker has done for him. For when he was lost in life, dying to his wounds, Ryker extended his hand and offered him redemption. A redemption he was ready to take.

Tired of watching the civilians mourn, the man departs from the crowded hall, instead choosing to dwell deeper into the heart of the mall. With everyone too busy mourning the cafe massacre, the rest of the mall was noticeable empty; not like he was complaining. He loved the loneliness, in fact he embraced it. When society pushes him away, he decided to keep pushed away.

Entering into an empty hallway, devoid of any people, the man rests against the wall, taking a brief smoke whilst pulling out his trusty-walkie talkie. As usual he made his routine call to his boss, ready to send today’s report.

“Boss, this is Joel.” Joel Ramsay speaks into the walkie-talkie whilst putting out his smoke. “Do you copy?”

“I copy. How’d it go?”

“Mick was captured, rest were killed.”

“And you?”

“Don’t worry, boss. My covers still intact.” Joel smirks at his own success. Oh, how well he did. In just a few mere days he entered the mall and has worked himself into James’s inner circle, on the behalf of Reyes, due to his knowledge of fighting gangs in the past….if only they knew. “Despite our losses, the mission was a success. They got the message.”

“Good, good. Use this time to get closer to them and report back to me tomorrow. I want a full update on their plans, and especially how Mr. Benjamin is doing.”

“Sounds good, sir. Joel out.” Tucking the walkie-talkie back into his pocket, Joel departs back to the crowded section of the malls, ready to “help” out anyway he can. Oh, Joel knows how to play the role, doesn’t he? They’ll never see what’s coming, that’s for sure.

On the other side of the walkie-talkie, and halfway across the city, Ryker places the walkie-talkie down, putting his focus back onto driving; now with a dear smile. He found it hilarious how Franklin Mills thinks they can beat him, when in all reality, Ryker has them outsmarted in every category. Hi-fucking-larious.

Ryker turns towards the beaten, muddy, bloody Daniel in his backseat and smiles like a true gentleman, making his sure his prisoner is still breathing. After today Ryker would throw Daniel in his cell to rot, for after-all, Ryker got the closure he needed. He’s ready to move her to the back of his mind, and thus, allowing him to focus more on his mission more. His mission of saving this dear city! A mission he will succeed in for Ryker was sent by forces beyond salvation; he was sent by the all mighty, servant of the powerful.

Continuing to hold his smile, Ryker is ready for what comes next in his plan as he drives off into the the ruined landscape of Philadelphia, the sun continuing to shine as he does.

World on fire with a smoking sun, stops everything and everyone. Brace yourself for all will pay….

Help is on the way.

Issues of Endangered
Arc 1
Volume 1

1 - Ruined 2 - Father of the Year 3 - Party Girl 4 - It's Been Over 5 - One Wrong Move 6 - Lost 7 - Reporter 8 - Lost and Found 9 - Talk 10 - Brown 11 - Confront 12 - Calm Before the Storm

Arc 2
Volume 2

13 - Chaos 14 - Old Friends, New Enemies 15 - State of Emergency 16 - Just Watch the Sunset 17 - Trust is Weakness 18 - The Riots are the Worst 19 - The Riots are the Worst, Part 2 20 - Not Even the Apocalypse Can Stop Us from Shopping 21 - The Sixth Sense 22 - A Game of What If? 23 - Pain is the Alpha and Omega for Addiction 24 - You Can Never Change

Volume 3

25 - It Not a Small World After-All 26 - Ghosts From the Past and the Demons That Follow 27 - The Coward, The Opportunist, and the New World 28 - Surrounded by the Unseen Foe 29 - Lost Souls 30 - City of Brotherly Love 31 - The Truth Will Set You Free 32 - A Sacrifice of Blood 33 - This Isn't a Video Game 34 - P.T.S.D 35 - A Helping Hand 36 - No Mercy

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