1.2

Gargoyle 1.2

5.16.2024
The morning saw Steve explaining to Mary and Ernal that he would no longer be able to work for them. The old woman hugged him with tears in her eyes and offered sage advice that didn’t really apply to his new career. What would she have said if she knew exactly the kind of work he would be doing?

His next errand was to pack up his apartment and arrange a moving service to bring some of it to the office. The rest would be taken to a donation centre. That was all done by noon, so he grabbed a bag and headed over to the office early.

Blaithe’s phone was busy, but thankfully Yew heard the buzzer and opened the door. The man was puzzled to see him so early, but was grateful for a hand completing the renovations. At three thirty Steve took his bag up to the third floor to select a room. All five were the same size rectangles, three on the northern side of the building and two on the southern side with the showers. After taking a look into them all Steve left his bag in the northwest room. It was also closest to the fire escape. He put his hand on the scanner beside the door but it just beeped at him and wouldn’t lock.

Four o’clock rolled around at the same time Blaithe did. Oak was driving his car again. Everyone went up to the meeting room on the second floor. A projector was produced, displaying images of the target and important information about the area. Folding chairs were passed around. Blaithe was a thorough man, and Yew and Oak were both clearly experienced as well. They asked sensible questions and examined the situation from multiple angles. Ghoul could easily flee as easily as he could fight. While he was not an exceptionally deadly combatant he was almost impossible to contain. How do you threaten a guy who you probably can’t inflict pain on, and who seems to have no real regard for the societal norm? How do you defend a person who is effectively immortal?

“So, I suppose I’m going to have to ask it since we’re working together. What are your guy’s skills? Any special talents, superpowers?” Steve asked.
“Good idea, why don’t you start.”
“Well, only physical stuff for me. A little extra strength, a little extra speed, some durability. It’s a good thing I’m so good looking because that’s really all I’ve got going for me. Some hand to hand experience, you’ve all probably heard about my career in the pits. Some experience with weaponry and gear I’ve learned from some soldiers I used to work with.”

Oak was next, “Fifteen years in the infantry, then another ten as a mechanic. I can drive anything with wheels, fix most of them too.”

“You have a power?” Steve asked.

“He makes the best barbecue chicken I’ve ever tasted.” Blaithe interjected. “Believe it or not, I used to be a security guard. A few years ago.”
“A few years? Hah, and this happened how many years before we were born?.” Yew laughed
“Don’t make me give you a time out, boy. Anyways, I’ve got about thirty years martial arts experience, fifteen years contracting with the Forest. Been to almost everywhere worth going, and done almost everything worth doing.”

“Some of us haven’t been around forever. Had some family connections so I joined Forest right out of highschool. Six years with them so far. Learned the whole package.” Yew shrugged and leaned back in his chair.

Steve didn’t fail to notice how they’d deflected his question about powers. Now probably was not the best time to push the issue, especially if it would just stir up shit right before a job.

Aside from all that, the main hurdle would be the circumstances of when and where they would find Ghoul. Blaithe’s sources were vague about most of the details, but apparently they could be accurate down to the second about when Ghoul could be intercepted.
“This is where it could get messy. At 18:35:04 Ghoul will cross under the Flynn street overpass. That is our best opportunity, we will have a thirty second window of opportunity to extract him. He must be removed from whatever vehicle he is in and transferred into one of ours. Almost guaranteed to be trackers. Escorts and armament are unknown, other than what will fit into a cargo van. The same as the one that Oak will be driving. I want you with him, Steve. Yew and myself will be taking the car. Mahogany has already been briefed, he will be in position on the overpass and ready to disable the vehicle.
“Disable how?” Steve asked.
“My information is that we cannot inflict too much damage without spoiling our chances of recruiting Ghoul. As such, our only real option is to stop the van in a nondestructive manner. Mahogany has opted for an unorthodox method which he believes will be sufficient to stop the vehicle. As the target passes under the overpass it will be snared. Oak will be ahead of the target, letting it come to him, Yew and myself will close in from behind to cut off any retreat.”
Steve wasn’t entirely sure how a moving vehicle could be ‘snared’, but now he wanted to see what they had in mind.

After a short break the group reconvened in the armoury, where they were each given uniforms and handheld tasers.
The uniforms were black and grey and came with thin black masks that covered everything except the eyes and mouth. Watches were double checked and synchronized.

The drive was filled with the old familiar tension. Oak talked almost nonstop as he drove. Grand tales of the glory of his younger years when working as a contractor was fresh and new. Back when putting on a mask was daring and the rules of the game were still being decided. Back when the world was still reeling from the discovery of superpowers.

The fake leather upholstery creaked as Steve gripped the seat. He breathed in the smell of stale sweat and old tobacco and thought about how many other people had sat on this seat and prepared for battle. How many of them had come back?

Shaking off the negative train of thought Steve rehearsed the plan in his mind. He imagined the screech of tires as Oak slammed on the brakes. Out the side door. Taser at the ready, approach the target. Open the door, grab the kid, drag him back to the van. Probably wouldn’t be that easy, but it would be nice for a change. With the way the world works there’d probably be a horde of Vikings in with the kid.

“We’re here.” Oak began gently slowing. Up ahead the overpass could be seen. Very few vehicles were on the road. Coincidence, or something else? Steve climbed back to look out the rear window. His watch showed 18:33:38. Once again he surveyed the vehicles nearby, blue minivan, black pickup, white sedan. None of the vehicles he could see behind him matched their intelligence. He looked in all directions for vehicles approaching from odd places. Was this bad intelligence?
18:35:01 they passed under the overpass, and no sign of a white van transporting Ghoul.
“See anything?” He asked Oak.
Before the old man could answer a body fell from above and smashed through the windshield. Glass splattered in all directions and all three men screamed. Oak and the new occupant flailed wildly, sending the van careening across the road. Steve scrambled forwards, but a sudden swerve sent him face first into the side window. Pain exploded in his nose. With one hand he grabbed the newcomer’s leg and hauled him into the back of the van. With the other hand he stabbed his taser into the man’s neck. A moment of uncontrollable seizing passed before the man slapped the taser away. Terrified blue stared at Steve, chunks of glass and a smear of blood sprinkled through blonde hair.
“Ghoul?” This is ridiculous, an informant can tell the exact second when Ghoul would be in this spot, but misses the fact that he’d come through the windshield.
“Who are you! What do you want!” The boy screamed and tried to crawl away.
“We’re here to rescue you from…why did you jump off the overpass?”
“Giant guy threw me. Pulled me right out of the car. Some other guys with masks were kidnapping me. Are you with them?”
“No.” I hope not, Steve thought. He pulled off the mask, wincing as it rubbed against his nose. “Are you okay? Hurt?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“That’s great, now one of you take the damned wheel before I bleed to death!” Oak yelled. Cuts covered his face and hands, bleeding liberally.

Switching seats in a moving vehicle is a tricky proposition, if there had been more traffic the van would have crashed into something as they swerved back and forth. Thankfully Steve got into the driver’s seat without dying in the process. Oak retreated to the passenger’s seat to bandage his wounds.
“Where are you taking me?” Ghoul asked.
“Our office. The boss wants to meet you, he has some information for you. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”

A few minutes later they were pulling into the garage under the office. Blaithe and Yew had caught up to them and were directly behind.
Oak slid out of the van and Yew helped him over to the first aid kit.
“Thank you, Steve, I’ll take it from here. Ghoul and I have much to talk about.” The two of them disappeared up the stairs leaving Steve alone with the two contractors.

He waited a moment before turning to the two.
“What the fuck was that? Did you guys know that was going to happen?”
“Do I look like I knew it was going to happen? You think I get myself cut up for fun?” Oak snapped.
“Blaithe didn’t mention anything about it.” Yew added as he used tweezers to pick glass out of Oak’s face.
“Shit. I’m sorry.” Steve rubbed his nose carefully, it was on the way to healing but still hurt.
“Driver’s supposed to be the safe one…” Oak muttered, and winced. Yew tried to keep him still but the old man shook him off. “Let me see what happened to my van.” The windshield was smashed, the hood was dented, one of the wipers was sticking straight up. Glass littered the interior and blood splattered on the seat and dash. Oak moaned and closed his eyes, sounding as pained by the sight as by his cuts.
“Where did Blaithe get that intel anyways?” Steve asked.
“Looking Glass and Timekeeper. At least that’s what he said.”
The two had been operating together for many years now. Separately they weren’t very major, Looking Glass could send his consciousness through space, to see and hear things without physically being there. Timekeeper had some ability to warp time around him to a minor degree to change how time behaved. When the two worked together they synergized to create a potent effect, looking through time. However the more time they distorted the more vague things got, certain details could be missed. After a while it was less seeing the future than it was making an educated guess. Nevertheless they charged a premium for their services. In a feat of amazing customer service, they could even predict when a client would contact them, and sometimes even pre-empt the occurrence by contacting the client first. That raised an interesting paradox, since they were viewing an event that only happened because they knew it would happen.
“Makes sense. They aren’t perfect. Have you heard from Mahogany? I’m interested to learn how he knew to throw Ghoul from the overpass at that exact time?”
“I…don’t think he knew. More likely Looking Glass was able to see how Mahogany would react if in the right place at the right time.” Yew looked decidedly uncomfortable with the subject.
“What about during the briefing? You guys dodged the issue of powers, why?”
“Nothing to talk about. Don’t have any.” Yew shrugged.
“Oh.” Now Steve just felt like an asshole for pressing the issue.
“It’s okay. After all it wouldn’t be fair if we were this good looking and had powers on top of that.”
“Right. Well I’m going to go take a shower.” Steve shook his head and trudged up the stairs. He was going to need to talk to Blaithe.

Steam from the shower almost entirely obscured his reflection in the mirror. His nose was a rainbow of pain, red and yellow deepening to purple and blue bruising. He stared at it for a minute, thinking that he wasn’t really in any position to be angry at Blaithe for hiding information. He stuck a bandaid on it and got dressed. Time to go see if the kid was sticking around.

When he got down to the main floor Blaithe was at the stove, frying ground beef. Yew at at the counter chopping a tomato. Oak was on the couch with a bottle of beer pressed to his face. Ghoul was nowhere to be seen.
Blaithe glanced over, “Making tacos, you want one?”
“Sure. How’d it go with the kid?”
“About as well as could be expected. No matter what you tell yourself, hearing it from someone else never hurts any less.”
“So he’s gone?”
“Up in his room. He decided to stay for the time being.”
“Mission accomplished.”
“This was the easy part.”
“That’s usually how it goes. Is he coming down to eat?”
“I was thinking you could bring a taco up to him. Give you a chance to get to know each other.”
“Ok. Oh, I just remembered, are the handscanners working?”
“Yes, we can get you set up on them after dinner.”

Steve carried two plates of tacos up the stairs. He found Ghoul in the southwest room. The room was still unfinished, raw drywall and bare of furnature.The kid was sitting in the corner looking at a small picture from his wallet.
“Knock knock. Room service.”
“Oh, thanks.”
“I wanted to introduce myself, properly this time, I’m Steve.”
“Lucky. Or at least that’s what she called me.”
Steve set the plates down and then took a seat. “Who’s that?”
“My mom. Well, not my real mom. But she raised me, you know? At least she used to.”
“Yeah. Is she…?”
“Dead. She got shot by the guys who took me.” He didn’t sound very upset about it.
“Shit. I’m sorry.” This kid was all kinds of messed up.
“It’s okay. I’m used to it. It’s what I do, adapt. Not the first time it’s happened anyways.”
“You mean the Chinese family? I heard you learned to speak Chinese in like three days.”
“Sixteen hours. Took me forty one hours to learn English.”
“That’s pretty impressive.”
“Was impressive, can’t do it anymore. Seem to have outgrown it.”
“Huh. So what did Blaithe tell you about the group here?”
“Chosen ones, save the world.”
“That it?”
“Mostly.”
“Did you see the other rooms? The one beside mine has a bed at least.”
“I saw it.” He glanced around the room. Walls not painted, dust from the drywall sprinkled on the floor. “This is all I need.”
“Well, let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”
“Find the people who shot my mom.”

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1.1

Gargoyle 1.1

5.15.2024
Steve hefted the last bag of flour onto the shelf and adjusted it to line up with the others.  When he was satisfied he stretched and tried to work the kink out of his back.  His spine popped a few times and he sighed.
The stock cart was empty, so he pushed it out of the aisle and into the back room.  The store wasn’t very large, just a few aisles of groceries, a small back room, and one cash register.  The two owners were the only full time employees.  Steve was one of two part time workers.  The pay was mediocre, the work was easy, and the location was secluded.  Exactly what he needed, nothing flashy, nothing that would attract too much attention.
“Mary, mind if I take my lunch?”
The woman at the register nodded and waved him out, so he grabbed his bag and went out the back door.
He had just bit into a sandwich when he noticed someone approaching down the alleyway.  An older man, athletic, maybe fifty, hair shaved to stubble, well fitted clean black suit and well worn boots.  Groundpounder with a promotion, or big wig slumming it?  He triggered every cop detection instinct that Steve had.  His right arm was held slightly further away from his body than natural, reflex left over from wearing a holster?  Each step he took was measured, efficient, and balanced.
A last quick bite of the sandwich to conceal a series of covert glances in all other directions.  An unremarkable car was parked on the other side of the alley, directly underneath the ‘No Parking’ sign.  The windows were tinted but he could see the faint outline of the occupants.  What a coincidence.  The door back into the store was an option, but Steve suspected there would be someone waiting in there as well.  Better to deal with the one out here than a potential group in the store.
“Evening.” The man said as he stopped about fifteen feet away.
“Something I can do for you?”  Steve set the sandwich aside, something told him that he would not be able to enjoy the rest of it.
“As a matter of fact, yes.  I have a proposition for you.”
“I’m listening.”
“My name is Blaithe Baggwell, and I want to hire you.”
“I have a job, speaking of which my break is almost over.”
“Not this,” he waved towards the store. “I’m talking about a real job.  I’ve got work for you.”
“What work?  I’m qualified for a surprising variety of menial tasks.”
“Let’s not play these games.  Are you available to discuss terms, or not?”
“Sure, why not?  Some other time, I’ve got to get back inside.”
Blaithe’s hand reached into his jacket, and Steve’s blood rocketed through his veins like lightning.  The man held out a white business card.
“If you want the job, come to this location and we can formalize the agreement.”  Blaithe smiled, and it was grim sight.  “I think you’ll appreciate what I have in mind.”
Steve accepted the card, wary for the classic bait and switch that would leave him wearing a handcuff.  It never came.  He pocketed the card without looking at it and tossed the remnants of his sandwich into the garbage.
On the way back into the store Steve saw an imposing man, wearing a similar suit that did very little to conceal his physique, leaving through the front.  The doorway was built for mortal men, so he had to turn sideways to fit his massive shoulders through the door.  He spared a glance at Steve, dead eyes that saw nothing worthy of concern.  Definitely not cop eyes.
“What the hell is with these people?”  Even as he said it, a grin was forming. He’d go to this meeting, he could use a little fun.
Saint Street had once been known for its churches and funeral homes and museums.  These days the churches had turned to working full time to support the homeless and transient, who in turn kept the funeral homes busy. The circle of life in all its wretched glory.
The downward spiral of the economy had resulted in many vacant buildings.  Blaithe had arranged his meeting in the husk of an old video store.  The side door was unlocked, as his card had mentioned.
Steve approached the door cautiously, heart beating quickly with anticipation.  In the distance dark shadows slumped in doorways and awnings.  Possible watchers, but it was unclear if that would be a good thing.  He resisted the urge to check his knife.
The door opened with only a faint creak, revealing the dim light shining from an interior room.  Steve chuckled a bit as he walked into the room marked ‘Adult Only’.  A few old posters for adult movies remained on the walls.  Blaithe was leaning against the wall, examining an old VHS dust cover.  A black briefcase stood on the floor next to him.
“I like your office.”
“I try to keep things informal.  Shall we talk?”
“Go ahead.”
“I am in need of trustworthy employees, of which you would be first.  If you accept, you will oversee the other members of the team.  I will supply you with the necessary equipment and training.”
“I’m…not much of a leader.  I don’t really do the whole human resources thing.”
“I don’t need bureaucrats, I need warriors.  Leading from the front, not tied to a desk.  Your strength will do quite well in that capacity.”
“How many in this team, what backgrounds, what duration for the job, and what pay?”
“Four other permanent members, a few temporary additions as the situation requires.  I will allow you to oversee the selection of the others from my recommendations to ensure a functional group.  “Depending on how several factors play out this job could last up to five years, minimum of two.  All living expenses will be covered by myself, transportation will be provided, and forty percent of all gains will be distributed among your team.  Fifty thousand starting wage.”
“It’s a start.”  Steve pondered it, it was a lucrative offer.  Almost too good, considering the potential gains depending on the jobs they would be doing.  “Why two to five years?”
“My estimations are based on the relative experience of the others and how long it will train them to a suitable level.  A maximum timeframe of five years because if we aren’t successful by then we’ll all be dead.”
Steve blinked, “Care to elaborate?  Dead how?”
“The exact methods are unknown, and ultimately don’t really matter.   Dead is dead. The Harbingers have arrived.”
“Let me get this straight; the Harbingers of the Apocalypse?  The same ones conspiracy theorists have been losing their shit about for the last fifty years?  The same ones who have never had a confirmed sighting or any definite proof of their existence?”
“Yes, them.  I cannot reveal my source, I hope you understand.”
‘Great, another end times nutjob’, Steve thought.  Damn would the old man be disappointed when the world kept spinning, like it had after the countless other doomsday prophecies.  Still, in the mean time Steve would be happy to take his money.  It might even be fun.
“Sixty thousand annually, ten thousand up front.”
“Acceptable.”  Blaithe opened his briefcase, withdrawing a handful of file folders.  “These are my other possible candidates, for your appraisal.
Steve took the folders and quickly glanced through them.  The initial impression was the complete lack of established powers, no big names for anything important.  Amateur hour.  Nonetheless, good choices aside from the fact that they were just as likely to kill him as anyone else.  One caught his eye, because he knew her personally.
“Wait a fucking minute.  You want Katherine Red on the team?  You do realize she’s completely crazy, right?”
“I feel that with the right leadership she can be controlled.  We will need powerful combatants.”
“Have you heard about our past together?  She almost ripped out my eye with her fingers!”  Steve pointed at the scars around his right eye.
“I am aware, and my observation has led me to believe that Ms. Red will be manageable under a leader she respects.”
“Respect?  You think she respects me?  She beat my ass into the ground.  I was in the hospital for a month, I was dead for like two hours.”
“You’re alive now, and that’s what is important.  Ms. Red is, as you said, lacking control, and I have a feeling that you were holding back.  Were you not?”
“Of course I was holding back, it’s a pit fight not a fight to the the death.  Not like that changed anything for her.”
Katherine Red was a formidable fighter, biting and clawing her way around the lower ranks of the pit fighting circuit.  Sometimes literally, as Steve’s face had experienced first hand.  She had the raw power to make it big, but she was a loose cannon.  The more she was hurt the faster she healed.  The stronger she became the more uncontrollable she was. It became a vicious cycle of rage and violence.  She was a liability, a major one.
Blaithe crossed his arms, “If you do not think she’s a good choice, there are others we can choose.”
“Hell, I’d rather be behind her than in front of her.  Maybe this whole Harbinger thing will appeal to her sense of crazy.”
Steve recognized one of the other recruits, but only through rumours.
“Ghoul is in the game?  I’ll be honest here, no way I’m going into the dead zone to pull his creepy ass out.”  Word had been circulating for years about a boy who lived in the dead zone, the poisonous and toxic and radioactive wasteland left over in the charred rubble of the neighbouring city. The zone was all that was left of the old city, which had been a thriving metropolis until one of the Forerunners appeared and tore through it.  The world had fought back, winning the battle but losing the city in the process.  Some parts still burned almost twenty years later.  If the stories were true, Ghoul had grown up in there, where even heroes feared to go.  A child running around naked and eating rotting corpses and garbage, not even paying attention to the fact that the entire place was one big deathtrap designed to kill a monster that could destroy cities.  If the stories were true, the kid was as close to immortal as could be found, the downside was that no one could get to him in the dead zone.  About fifteen years ago he had come out, been adopted by some Chinese folk.  The family was dead by the end of the week, poisoned by some toxin he had brought with him, and Ghoul ran back into the dead zone.  No one really wanted to go in and get him out.  After all, you wouldn’t want someone like him angry at you, not if you had to live on the same planet.  Powers on the scale of his tended to come in packages, though he had only displayed supreme resistance, no one really wanted to find out if he could also create radiation by rubbing his hands together.  For all that he wasn’t a credible threat to most people since he spent all his time living in his own private city, he was a tourist attraction.
“He came out a few years ago, with proper decontamination protocols this time.  He lives over in Greenshire.”
“Huh?  Bit posh for a dumpster diving naked kid.”
“I’m told he wears pants these days.”
“How do you plan to get him to join up?”
“I know who his father is.  His birth parents.”
“Yeah, that’d do it.  Care to share?”
“You can ask him after he joins. He is our first priority, others have learned of him and are after him.  We need to find him first.”
“When do you want to get him?”
“Tomorrow night.”
“Just the two of us?”
“My associates will be accompanying us, they will meet us at the car.”  Blaithe looked at his watch, “We should get moving.  I want to show you the office tonight.”
The two left the video store, parked outside was a nondescript sedan.  An elderly looking black man in the driver’s seat, and a young Asian man in the passenger’s seat.  Blaithe and Steve got into the back.
“This is Oak driving, and that is Yew.  They will be accompanying us tomorrow.”  The two men looked back and nodded.  Yew smiled in a friendly manner.  Oak started to drive.
“The gentle giant who was in the store yesterday, he one of yours?”
“Ah, that would be Mahogany.  I would have brought him along for an introduction but he disagrees with vehicles, and keeps a busy schedule.”
“I can imagine.  So where is this office?”
“It’s on Wood Street, we’ll be there shortly.”
“I’m sensing a trend.”
“It was outside my control.”  Blaithe sighed.
“So, why delay on picking up Ghoul?  You have a pretty solid hook.”
“Ah.  His exact location right now is unknown, however I know where he will be tomorrow.  That’s our only opportunity.  Going door to door in Greenshire is not really a viable plan.”
“Makes sense.”
A few minutes later the car stopped in front of an old three storey office building.  It was built in a utilitarian style, grey cement with only a few narrow windows covered with metal grilles. Oak used a remote on the rear view mirror to open a bay door and reveal a ramp leading down into an underground parking lot.
The interior was a testament to paranoid Cold War architecture, barren concrete laid thick and reinforced with steel rebar.
The parking garage was empty other than a white panel van occupying one parking stall near the stairs in the southeast corner, and a collection of cardboard boxes beside it.
“How many people in this operation of yours?”
“At the moment, you and I.  Oak, Yew, and Mahogany are only helping out until we get more members on the team.”
“Do you own the building?”
“Yes, bought and paid for long ago.  The vehicles are mine as well.  I–” Blaithe was cut off as his phone rang, he swore quietly and got out of the car before it stopped completely. “Excuse me, I need to take this call.  Yew will be able to show you around.”  With that he went over to the far corner of the garage to talk in privacy.
The rest of them got out of the car, with Yew motioning towards the stairs.
“Welcome to Yew Scenic tours, I will be your guide this evening.  It’s nice to meet you, the old man was starting to get grouchy all by himself.”
“Yeah, good to be here.  Steve, though I suppose you already know who I am.”
“A bit, mostly just what we heard around town.  Still, it’s good to have an introduction.  This lovely area is the parking garage.  First floor is mostly storage right now, going to be setting up the kitchen and some meeting rooms soon. Second floor is being set up as a gym and armoury.
Third floor is living quarters: five bedrooms, washrooms, and showers as well.
“Pretty big place for a team of five and the boss.  Anyone else going to be living here?”
“Maybe.  B’s got a lot of plans, too many for me to keep track of. Oak and I will be in and out for a few weeks until we get the renovations done.
“Right.  So what’s your take on this whole Harbinger thing?”
“Well, it sounds crazy, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  He may be a little strange, but he’s right more often than he’s wrong.  All I can say is that something’s going to happen.  Maybe the Harbingers, maybe something else, but if the old man think’s it’s coming then the smart bet is to get ready.”
“Can’t argue with that.  How do you guys know each other?”
Yew grimaced, “Co-workers, of a sort.  Oak knows him best, I only caught the tail end of it.  They worked together a lot ’bout ten years ago, doing some swashbuckling off the map.”
“The tree names, those assigned?”
“Yeah, non-disclosure, confidentiality, et cetera.  No carry on baggage allowed on company time, in-flight peanuts will be provided.”
“What jobs do you do?”
“Sightseeing tours.  Birdwatching. Babysitting.  The Forest does it all.”
“Don’t think I’ve ever heard of any Forest before.”
“It’s a bit of an old boys club, friends of friends and all that.  Don’t do much domestic work, but Blaithe pulled some favours.”
The two had reached the second floor, and Yew indicated a metal door with a biometric hand scanner mounted on the wall beside it.
“This is the armoury.”  He scanned his hand and opened the door.  Steve whistled appreciatively.  The room was the size of his apartment, currently empty gun racks lined one wall, a stack of a dozen ammo cans huddled in the corner, and workbenches occupied the other two walls.  A group of eight lockers stood in the middle of the room with benches beside them. Ammunition components, not even opened yet, were stacked against the walls.
Overall the room was still fairly barren, but Steve knew enough to recognize multiple thousands of dollars of equipment was already inside.
“Yes please.”
“I thought you might like it.  Now, if you come this way I’ll show you the rest of the place.”  Yew had to drag Steve from the room.
The third floor was almost completely empty, with only one room furnished.  While Steve was eyeing premium room choices, Yew’s cellphone beeped.  He glanced at it, the nodded towards the stairs.
“That’s all for now, boss wants you in the garage.  I need to get back to work and turn this house into a home.”
Blaithe’s briefcase was opened on the hood of the car, papers spread around.  Steve glanced at them and shuddered.
“Joy.”
“Indeed.  This is your contract.  Starting here is your terms of employment, there is your compensation package, including the ten thousand dollar advance.  This is a list of horrible ways you will suffer if you break the contract.  Standard stuff.”
The process of reading through the contract, signing and dating each part, and then digitizing it for transfer to the Corporation was a tedious but necessary one.  Verbal promises were good and all, but when you were putting your life on the line it certainly helped to have written documentation with a third party to verify that your boss did actually agree to pay you, rather than merely stating you would get paid without specifying how or what or when.
The Corporation handled the storage and security of contracts, collecting a fee for their services, and acting as arbitrators for incidents of contract disputes.  They take their duties very seriously.
When the paperwork was completed and both men had transferred their copies, the two traded contact information.  Blaithe used his phone to send Steve the ten thousand dollars.  In seconds the money had changed hands and transferred from one bank to the other.  The days of trading briefcases of cash were long gone.  Too many contractors had been robbed, or claimed to have been robbed, during the early days.  Steve knew that quite well, it had been a good way to make a quick buck if you were desperate enough.
“That is all our business for today.  Oak can give you a ride home if you require.  We will be leaving to acquire Ghoul tomorrow at eighteen-hundred, be here at fourteen-hundred.”
“I’ll find my own way, thanks.”
Steve left the office and started walking down the sidewalk.  After perhaps twenty minutes his phone chimed and he stopped to check it.  A new email had just arrived, confirming his status as a Contractor, along with a copy of his Contract, and links to information pages about contractor conduct.
Excited, he pulled out his wallet to check his ID card.  Underneath his name, in bottom left corner, was the word that he loved and hated so much.  CONTRACTOR, in blood red capitals.  Those desk jockeys in the corporation did good work, and the ability to wirelessly update ID cards had significantly reduced wait times.  Unable to hide his grin, he pocketed his wallet again and set off with a bounce in his step.  It was time to go shopping.
Looking around his small apartment, he saw his few possessions with new eyes.  Bags of clothes and a few boxes, lying in the same spots they’d been in since he moved in over a year ago.  The dust fallen thick on top of most of the furniture.  Could he even say he lived here, or was this just a place between jobs?  Clothes he unpacked only to set aside and repack because he always ended up wearing one of two duplicate outfits each week.
“What happened to my life?  I got out, I had plans.  Why did I think I could do this?” He asked the room.  His reflection stared at him from the computer screen, it didn’t know either.  “Guess it’s too late for that now.  We’re back in the game.”  As he turned away he spotted the reflection in the screen crack a sly grin.
Finally, on the last day he would be here, he opened one of his boxes.  Dust danced into the air, swirling in time with their ceiling fan.  Even beneath the scent of dust he could smell the sour old sweat and the earthy mud.  Underneath it  all was the old synthetic smell of lubricant and solvent and the fleeting stench of old blood that lingered even after being scrubbed away.  He brought a bundle of cloth to his nose and inhaled,
“Smells like home.”

Index and Update Schedule

I will be updating this with links to chapters and interludes as they become available.

Each Arc is anticipated to be 7 chapters long.  The story is planned to be composed of 7 arcs, the first one going live on 10/4/2013, and with the final chapter being posted on 9/5/2014.  After that point, I intend to see what I can do about getting it all organized together into something resembling a book or pdf.

The interludes are separate from the main story, and are not my primary focus.  I hope I’ll be able to post them regularly on the Monday of the second and fourth weeks of every month, but I’m not making any promises.

CHAPTERS

Arc 1

1.1 due 10/4/2013 https://gargoyleserial.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/1-1/

1.2 due 10/11/2013 https://gargoyleserial.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/1-2/

1.3 due 10/18/2013 https://gargoyleserial.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/1-3/

1.4 due 10/25/2013 https://gargoyleserial.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/1-4/

1.5 due 11/1/2013 https://gargoyleserial.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/1-5/

1.6 due 11/8/2013 https://gargoyleserial.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/1-6/

1.7 due 11/15/2013

Arc 2

2.1 due 11/22/2013

2.2 due 11/29/2013

2.3 due 12/6/2013

2.4 due 12/13/2013

2.5 due 12/20/2013

2.6 due 12/27/2013

2.7 due 1/3/2014

Arc 3

3.1 due 1/10/2014

3.2 due 1/17/2014

3.3 due 1/24/2014

3.4 due 1/31/2014

3.5 due 2/7/2014

3.6 due 2/14/2014

3.7 due 2/21/2014

Arc 4

4.1 due 2/28/2014

4.2 due 3/7/2014

4.3 due 3/14/2014

4.4 due 3/21/2014

4.5 due 3/28/2014

4.6 due 4/4/2014

4.7 due 4/11/2014

Arc 5

5.1 due 4/18/2014

5.2 due 4/25/2014

5.3 due 5/2/2014

5.4 due 5/9/2014

5.5 due 5/16/2014

5.6 due 5/23/2014

5.7 due 5/30/2014

Arc 6

6.1 due 6/6/2014

6.2 due 6/13/2014

6.3 due 6/20/2014

6.4 due 6/27/2014

6.5 due 7/4/2014

6.6 due 7/11/2014

6.7 due 7/18/2014

Arc 7

7.1 due 7/25/2014

7.2 due 8/1/2014

7.3 due 8/8/2014

7.4 due 8/15/2014

7.5 due 8/22/2014

7.6 due 8/29/2014

7.7 due 9/5/2014

INTERLUDES

Interlude 1 – Blackeyes https://gargoyleserial.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/interlude-1-blackeyes/

 

Interlude 2- Samurai https://gargoyleserial.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/interlude-2-samurai-pt-1/

Introduction

Update schedule is as follows:
Starting on Friday, October 4th, 2013 and on subsequent Fridays I will be posting a regular update for the main story.  The story is scheduled to have the final chapter be posted on 9/5/2014.
Then, on the Monday of the second and fourth weeks of the month I will be posting an interlude, to explore and expand tangents that might not necessarily be occurring at the same time as the main storyline.  These interludes are generally not going to have any sort of order, chronological or otherwise.  I plan to use them show the perspectives of other characters, to provide background information, and other miscellaneous content that doesn’t fit in the main storyline.

 

Read the following page for some information about this blog and the story.  https://gargoyleserial.wordpress.com/about/