“You don’t have to come with me,” Hank grunted. The air inside his head seemed to buzz. There was a heartbeat to the air around him… it seemed to scream that something was wrong with the world. With this Zone 1, at least. There was a sick corruption. Hank could almost say it. Out there, there was a monster.
And it took his brother.
Did someone call my name?
Hank shook his head, dispelling the wisps of the dream that still seemed to cling to him. Instead, he turned his glare on the man next to him. Ezekiel shifted uncomfortably, not meeting his eyes.
“I know I don’t. It’s just… look, you are one of the only people I’ve shared my secret with. About… about-”
“I get it, git on with it,” Hank growled.
Ezekiel flushed. “Well, yes. And you were pissed, obviously, but you didn’t… you didn’t treat me any different because of what I am. What I-”
“What you are doing is dancing around the point. Just shut up, and follow me,” Hank said, but a lot of the bite was out of his words. For all that he detested the other man, he was strong enough to be useful if things went South. Which Hank expected they would. His Soul Skill insisted upon it. There was something wrong with the world. He needed to fix it.
He had watched Ezekiel this past month, while they had head over to Zone 32. All the man had killed in that time were monsters, with alacrity too. Even the defenders of Donnyton commented on his dedication to the cause. Almost every day, he could be found out and about, searching for monsters to kill.
They were walking down a dimly light street in West Providence, moving quickly. Ezekiel was struggling to catch up as Hank prowled forward. Likely under the effects of his Soul Skill, his very gait seemed to lengthen. Each step he took covered almost a meter and a half, and it was quick and smooth. Some instinct told him that this was close to becoming a Skill, the way he walked, and it made him chuckle.
Or he would have, had his memory not been haunted by his niece Jane’s tear filled face.
Abruptly, Hank turned to the left and walked up the steps into an apartment building. Ezekiel followed close behind. After entering the building, Hank paused, casting his mind around. What was his apartment number again…?
But his feet were already moving, taking to the stairs and up. Hank sighed with relief. Jesus, this developing Skill of his was convenient as hell. If this meant he no longer needed to remember addresses…. Hank wondered idly if it could remember names and birthdays.
Hank stopped walking. He was in front of a door: 432.
There was no noise for several seconds, and Hank frowned at the wood. Kicking it down might be a little too extreme, but he also didn’t intend to stand out here all night. On the other hand, it was rather late… But this man wasn’t the type to sleep through the vibes that Hank was throwing off. More than anyone else Hank had ever met, this man was perceptive enough to spot fat caterpillar in a forest at night.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
There was the sound of some quiet swearing within the room, and then the noise of a man pulling himself out of bed. What, did he think Hank would give up after the first few attempts? How often do people casually come to his door after 2 A.M.
The door opened, revealed a haggard face. There were large bags under the man’s eyes as if he had trouble sleeping recently. And as Hank peered at his face, he saw that this man had witnessed a monster. Whatever he had seen had shaken him to the core. Previously, Hank had some doubts whether he could convince his friend to come with him. But this look in his eyes made him change his mind.
Iii aaAMmM CCCAAALLLLLLEEEDD fear.
Thaddeus Hatch, the Spartan Shock Trooper, would join him on this quest. Something had broken his confidence, and those insecurities would drive him forward into the unknown.
“Heya,” Hank drawled, some of his good cheer returned, despite the situation. It was a good thing that Thaddeus had his pride smashed to pieces. It made him something of an ass.
“How did you find this address? I never come here. It’s only for…” Thaddeus trailed off. Then he sighed. “Well, fuck, it’s good to see you though. You finally give up being a Sheriff?”
Hank smiled. “In a sense, ya. But there are still varmints needin’ rustled. That’s why I came to you. This one is gonna be rough.”
“...rough.” Hank confirmed, in a soft voice. The two men looked at each other. They both remembered a time before, where both had been the first batch to become Tier 3 Citizens, and they had fought monsters and politicians to make a better world for people. That had only been hard. It hadn’t been rough since…
The first night. The first week. The chaos. The raw animalistic violence of humans when culture was stripped away.
Thaddeus nodded, and the two men shook hands.
Ezekiel fidgeted. “Will someone tell me… what we are doing though?”
Hank laughed. “Just follow. I have a feeling these feet of mine will lead us there.”
Frowning, Randidly looked up at the place where his hovel had once stood on the edges of the steelworker's town. There was now a tea shop there instead. Randidly tried to remember how many days it had been since he had been home, and had a lot of difficulties parsing things out. It couldn’t have been much more than a week, could it…?
But now there was a tea shop where his home was, a nice looking one at that. Even at the late hour, there were several candles burning warmly in the windows, shedding light onto the street. The shop was in a nice spot too, on the corner of one of the busiest roads in the growing town. Randidly remembered vaguely that most of the town’s people had been excited to put their buildings next to where he lived. So why…
The tea shop wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the walls of it were covered in graffiti.
Feed your cunt to the monsters.
Fuck you whore.
Unity is DEATH.
Don’t drag us down wit u.
Randidly looked at the graffiti for a long time. The once clean white walls were stained with crimson paint. The walls seemed to take on a cartoonish hue in the darkness of the night. The words could only be vaguely seen in the light from the windows, but they were there before Randidly’s eyes. Clear as day.
Next, Randidly became aware that he was being watched. Down the street, in the windows, people were gathering. They peered down at him. With his high Perception, he could feel their uneasiness and uncertainty as they looked at him. Abruptly, Randidly realized that they were waiting to see what his response to this was. They had done it while he was away, but this wasn’t aimed at him…
That made Randidly blinked. He had been flabbergasted for several minutes as he looked at the walls because he thought this was a personal attack. But it wasn’t. It-
The door opened. Maude stood framed in the doorway, a stately expression on her face.
“Ah, Mr. Baloo. Apologies for the state of this place… I suppose I’ve been a little too distracted by other matters to properly clean.” Her voice was calm and she was… polite. That made Randidly blink.
She gestured inside. “Would you like to come in?”