Mason sill stood, planted, in front of the door.
I tried my best to make him move. The guy was a stubborn as me. “You can’t keep me here.”
“Try me.” His response was rock solid, just like his stance. I saw no way around unless I risked going head first into him. Maybe I had a shot? And maybe penguins could fly too. I was delusional.
“What do you want from me?” I asked him.
Something gleamed in his eyes, something animal and hungry. Mason looked me over once and thought for a second. I could see the wheels turning in his head and it scared the hell out of me. I had a feeling of where this was going and I didn’t like it one bit. I didn’t quite get it, but there wasn’t any need to get it because it disappeared as quickly as it came
“You brought them here. This might disappoint you, but you can’t keep running. This city was built with rules and order. You disrupted that, so fix it.”
“How can I fix it? I don’t control them.”
“Find a way. You know them.”
“I know what psychos they are. I was tortured for years in a tiny, black room. In that same room I slept and spent my time cursing the very day I was created. Which, by the way, doesn’t that bother you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I was made. Doesn’t that bother you at all?”
“Why would it?”
“I don’t know. It’s not every day you meet someone who’s not human.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised. Besides, you're more human than anyone I've met before.” It seemed like a confession he was not planning on verbalizing. Obviously the guy has never expressed anything other than passion filled anger. I've heard stories of the things this particular Black has done. Men have died by his hand. Countless of them.
I didn’t ask what he meant. I left it at that, and picked my bag from the floor before threwing it over the couch. A coat of dust lifted and I winced. I should really clean more around here.
Mason was right. I needed to stay and face the Kovras. There must be a way to stop them. They are not all powerful and they are definitely not the only creatures in this world with forces greater than theirs. I looked over at Mason and wondered what he was. No way in hell was he human. I always thought the Dusk family were ruthless tyrants. I’m guessing everyone thinks that, but now I wonder if we were all wrong. If so? Then Benny and the others are way in over their heads. What they will be facing is anything but human. No doubt blood will be spilled if the Lower Level and Underground make a move.
I knew working for Benny was a stupid choice. I felt like I owed him for giving me all I had, but that is no reason to take advantage of me. What would happen if I told Mason the plan to overthrow the Dusks? Benny and the others would be killed along with me. There is a reason the Dusks have lasted this long and I don’t think it’s because they have enough money to hire bodyguards. In fact, I don’t think it even means that they have money at all. They have power, real power, like the Kovras, if not worse. It's settled. I'm sticking with my new plan. Play my cards right and hope I live to see a few more years.
“So tell me about your creators.” Mason spoke up and I snapped out of my trance. I hadn’t realized he was waiting for an answer and I had to take a few seconds to let his words sink in. About my creators?
“They are three witches, decedents of the Stanic clan. They’ve pretty much been around for decades. Possibly even longer. Kai, the leader, is a bit of a mad scientist. She obsesses over living creatures, especially humans. She wanted to create life. Think of her as Dr. Frankenstein, and I? The Frankenstein monster. I’m her third creation and also her best result, her only result as I've mentioned before. I developed an ability to adapt. I learned fast and when she noticed, she entered a bit of a panic. That’s when the beatings started. I was around twelve years old in humanoid years.”
“And in human years?”
“Eight months old.”
“How long after that were you held captive?”
“Years in human time. My growth process slowed down after I was five months old of being created. Soon when I looked like a well developed twelve year old, my aging regulated to that of a human. When I reached nineteen in human years, the process slowed even more. I guess Kai planned to keep me around for a long time."
“Did she give you the scars on your back?”
That hit a nerve. Every urge to throw myself at him came bursting out. I reacted before I could reason and as a result, I felt the hard floor against my back. My throat was gripped and nearly strangled by Mason’s large hand. I kicked and struggled but he held on pretty strongly. I could barely squirm around. I settled for words.
“If you knew half the things I went through you wouldn’t ask that question.” I croaked, every word spilling venom.
“That’s just the thing isn’t it? I have no idea what you went through. It’s only makes sense that I ask.”
“No. You shouldn’t pry into people’s personal business.”
At that moment there was a knock on the door. I was released and Mason went straight for the door before I could even get up. I tried stopping him, but I was dragged with him. I yanked and pulled in vein. When he opened the door, Hobs stood at the other side with a folder tucked under his arm. My eyes popped open and, for a second, so did Hob's. Then there was this bitter smile across his lips and a fiery spark that dilated his eyes.
“You forgot this at Benny’s.” He fearlessly stepped into the manor and stretched the folder out to me. We he completely insane? Mason and Hobs looked at each other as if there was a game of stare or death between the two. I sure knew which Hobs wanted to accomplish. So after snatching the folder I moved past Mason to push Hobs onto the porch.
“Thanks. Tell Benny I’ll get his paper work done as soon as I can. Also, tell him that he needs to stop being lazy and do it himself. I can’t be wasting my precious time taking care of his bills and such.”
There was a hint of admiration in Hobs’ next expression. He appreciated my ability to come up with a lie, while I felt like throwing up just by being in the middle of this. He smiled at me, that obnoxious smile that made me question the attraction I had for him.
“I’ll make sure to tell him." Hobs said.
“Tell him he owes me. Big time.”
I closed the door and turned to face my remaining problem.
“I guess I have no choice. I’ll stick around, I’ll help. But so help me, Mason. I will kill you if the Kovras get me. I didn’t spend all this time running and hiding just to be handed over because you wouldn’t let me go. Anyway, my guess is you'd hunt me down if I tried running now”
“You’re not wrong.” He nodded, his fire blazed eyes staring down at me.
“Fine. Come by tomorrow and I’ll tell you as much as I can. You’re way in over your head if you think you could take on the Kovras, but it’s your funeral.”
“Good. It’s a date.” He said it too quick and looked sorry about saying it as well.
“Woah! Wait no it’s no-”
The door slammed shut. He was gone and I was left dumbfounded. Date? And what was that face about?
“I’m done. This city is full of nutjobs!” In frustration, I hit the kitchen island with the folder. It made a slap sound and some of the papers spilled out. I caught them in time before they fell to the floor. I gather them into a neat pile and browsed through them.
The folder contained an unbelievable amount of information on the Dusks. It had profiles on all of them but not nearly enough to make out their weaknesses. Though it looked like a lot of information, I realized most of it was pictures and a list of allies and enemies. The enemies list was considerably longer than the allies’ one. I looked through the brief profiles and flipped straight to Mason.
There was even less about him than all the rest. Apparently he was the most recent addition to the family. He is also an alchemist. He’s not blood related, none of them are. This really did my head in. I never knew they weren’t related. I assumed they were since they all called themselves by the same last name. I looked through the list of the people closest to them. It started with every member of the Dusk family in order of hierarchy, then it continues with those simply close.
1. Robin Dusk
2. Darius Dusk
3. Mason Dusk
4. Armani Baily
5. Tyron Blithe
6. Sam Morell
7. Loon Leroy
It went on. Not all that many when you compare it to the other list. I schemed it in curiosity. When I saw my name at the very bottom I lost it. I’ve been having a habit of that all day. I’m not an enemy! I don’t even want to be involved. What I do want is to get my little ass out of this dump.
I had never insulted the city. Especially not the Lower Level. This place has served as a good hiding place for a while now and I didn’t really want to blame it anyway, but I was desperate to leave. I was stuck. Like cattle ready for grabs. I was just waiting for the butcher. I wonder? Would I die quickly with the butcher knife coming fast and hard down on my neck or would I be skinned alive? Animal cruelty is rather common here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kai picked up on it. A special treat for her runaway lamb.
There was no shaking the thoughts. I showered and went to bed with all of them rumbling in my head. If I could make the whole world shut down for just a few seconds, maybe I could forget the fact that I’m on the run and I could enjoy a good sleep. That would never happen, so I settled for music.
“J 0.3, grab the blueprints on my desk please.” Katzune spoke from behind a gasmask. She was concentrated on an experiment where she combines a chemical, one I did not remember, with the essence of a love potion she had recently made. Kat was all about feelings and all that. She never really told me why she was obsessed with emotions and feeling.
I retried the blueprints for her and handed them over.
“This should make the feelings part of you function correctly. You’ll be able to fall in love and feel all kinds of emotions. Isn’t that exciting?” She was undoubtedly excited enough for the both of us. At that time I wasn’t sure. All I remember was that empty, hollow feeling that never really bothered me until Kat was able to make me feel.
“So? How do you feel?” Kat has asked me. The rest of the sister, Kai and Karen, were standing around. They watched, observed and took in the fact that I was becoming “perfect.” At least that’s what I thought they thought. Kai got paranoid, as usual, and though that giving me feelings would be giving me a sense of freedom that I did not deserve yet. I was always forced to prove myself and often the Kat and Karen tried helping but even they were afraid of kai. She left me as I was though. When I demonstrated signs of dislike towards her is when she began to feel the need to keep me on a leash. I couldn’t get out of their mansion and soon enough I couldn’t get out of my own room. I was getting smart. I was growing fast. I was stupid enough to stand up to Kai once and that ended up in chains and the punishment of a lifetime. Key word? Lifetime.
I’m not very sure how long I stayed up playing violin. I do know that I fell asleep with my cheek against my bedroom window and when I woke up it was because the sun was shining its way through my eyelids. A yawn escaped me.
"Get ready. Today we have to attend a meeting."
"Yikes!" I fell right off my spot and collided with a pair of arms. I looked up to see Mason raising an eyebrow at me. There wasn't a trace of laughter, which is good. Nearly falling face down on the floor is no joke. Hurts like a butch actually.
"Do you make a habit of injuring yourself?" Mason asked, arms tight around my waist.
"No. It so happens you bring out the worst in me." I told him before finding my own feet. I dusted off invisible dirt from my thighs and cleared my throat. "Wait. What? Meeting? How-" I stopped myself from asking how he got in here. That would be a stupid question. He already knows I'm a humanoid. No need for him to think I'm glitching or something.
"Yes. With my family."
Crap. Oh crap. Mother of...