Happy Family

When the Past Began

The room was part of a huge building, headquarters for the mob in Asper. It was coolly furnished with wooden fixtures and a large table on carpeted floor. At one end of the table, blue swivel chairs were replaced with a much larger jet black one; the head of the table. An indigenous Australian sat alone to the right of this.

Behind him, a door silently swung open, a forty-ish man padded in with a knife in his hand. He crept up behind the aboriginal. The knife glinted at the black man's throat. He yawned.

The knife wielding man's lips curled, and he retracted the knife. He moved around the table and relaxed in the black chair. "I coulda just killed you, Drevon," the man commented, fishing for a reaction. He flicked his thumb over the blade.

Drevon lazily swung the chair around to face the other man, smirking. "But then, Orion, you'd be left with a thug for second in command," Drevon pointed out.

Orion put his head to the side, "Is that a challenge?" he observed in warning, irritated.

Drevon paused, then asked, "I heard you have a new secret project. What's that all about?"

Orion smiled and leaned forward. "Assassins," he announced proudly.

Drevon turned a sceptical look on Orion. "That's not secret project material," the second in command argued. "Sure it's a delicate process, there's always trouble with assassins, but why all the hush?"

Orion looked as smug as the cat that just caught the canary. "'Cause, there'll be no trouble with these ones…" he paused for effect, "They're three years old."

Drevon blinked. "Three year olds can't assassinate." He stared up at Orion. The forty year old's smug pride was answer. "You didn't…" Drevon whispered in half awe, half horror.

"I did," Orion replied simply.

Drevon was still with shock.

Orion continued talking, "It's a good idea too. You can teach kids anything when they're that age. All the skills they'll need will come to them as naturally as breathing. Best of all, we'll have assassins that won't stab us in the back!"

"Three year olds? I'm not even going to begin to point out all the flaws in your plan!" Drevon scoffed, unable to help himself.

"That's 'cause it's perfect," replied Orion, his voice as thin as a razor blade and just as sharp.

Drevon's eyes widened. "Okay, I will. For one, three?! How are they 'sposed to kill people when they can't even dress themselves?"

"They're not going to kill people at three," Orion retorted contemptuously with a hard tone, "What on earth gave you that idea? They'll be in training 'til I decide they're ready," Orion explained.

A grin grew on Drevon's lips. "Can I help you with their discipline?" he asked.

Orion's face shut down like a trap. His face was blank. "You'll not touch them," he ordered. His voice held no emotion, like his face, and somehow that made him scarier. "I know your tastes. My assassins are not for that purpose."

The endless grey in Orion's eyes captured Drevon's and he found himself unable to look away. The moment was held until shakily Drevon nodded. The gaze dissipated and Drevon shivered.

"I can feel it. This is the beginning of something great."

In a darkened holding room within the headquarters, eight children were enwrapped in despair. There were four boys and four girls, averaging three years, scared and desperately wanting to go home. They were spread out along the walls sobbing quietly into their knees.

Outside, Orion arrived eager in anticipation. He wiped his expression of curiosity; the first impression was important. He strode into the room and glanced about. At his entrance, eight grubby faces looked up from their misery. Their eyes were red from crying.

"Stop blubbering," he commanded. Immediate silence occurred accompanied by a sniffle.

"Do you know where my mummy is?" a small boy ventured.

Orion scowled and held his hand up. "When I said 'stop blubbering' I meant 'make no noise,'" he corrected darkly.

The boy started bawling, which set the rest of them off.

"Silence!" Orion roared.

They stopped, and then began again louder.

Orion's expression would have been priceless to anyone who knew him. He picked up the nearest child to him, a little red-haired girl, by her shirt collar. "Quiet," he hissed in her face.

Her eyes grew as wide as pool balls, and she struggled furiously to get out of his grip. Orion dropped her with a disgusted look. Horrified, he ran his gaze over all eight children. They were all crying their lungs out… except one. A little girl with dark hair had only tear tracks. When he continued staring at her, she looked up and fixed him with a defiant stare.

The cacophony of howling resounded in Orion's ears. "Why won't you all shut up!" he yelled. The noise level didn't change. Frustrated and angry, Orion stalked back through the door.

"You idiot," remarked the mob boss. He raised an eyebrow at the hapless drug dealer. "If you're stupid enough to give the mayor's daughter an overdose, you deserve whatever's coming to you."

The young man went a sickly white colour. "Orion," he begged. "I didn't mess up! I gave her two hits and she took them both!"

Casually, Orion stretched in his black seat. "She was an addict in withdrawal," he pointed out. "You should have known she'd take both." He observed the man's desperation with hidden amusement.

"I'll do anything if you help me!" the dealer pleaded, hurling himself on his knees before Orion. "The mayor wants to kill me!" He stared at Orion with wild eyes.

"And you should know I only keep those who can keep themselves," Orion continued, as if the man had said nothing. Orion's lips curled. "Plus, this is quality entertainment," he added carelessly.

The reckless dealer flung himself at Orion and tugged at his arm wildly.

Orion turned an emotionless gaze on him.

The dealer flinched, and skidded along the ground at a backhand from the mob boss.

Orion stood over the dealer. He was pressed into the ground by Orion's boot on his chest. "I don't allow scum to touch me." He walked off towards the door. Then he turned back. "Be happy you're as good as dead," Orion commented. "It saves you from death at my hand."

Orion opened the door to see that Drevon was approaching. "There's been an incident," Drevon explained.

"What?" Orion bit back his anger.

"Your sister and brother-in-law were murdered in a drive-by." He examined his boss curiously for reaction. For weakness.

The mob boss's face was blank, emotionless. "Was there a claim?" he demanded.

"Not yet, it only happened an hour ago." Drevon paused. "The twins…" he began edgily but trailed off.

"The twins?" Orion fixed Drevon with a questioning stare. "What about them?" he asked.

"They're on the second floor… You're their guardian now."

Orion's face was frosty cold. "Find out who did it," he ordered his second in command. "I'll deal with the children."

The elevator dinged and Orion walked out. Warily, he took in the two children holding hands. They looked the same age as his assassins. The twins were un-identical, a boy and a girl with green eyes and soft, blonde hair. They looked lost, sitting on a couch together. When they saw Orion standing by the elevator, they stood up uncertainly.

Orion walked up to them and bent down to their level. "Hello, I'm your uncle Orion," he introduced himself.

Lost in his own world, the boy ignored his uncle. The little girl frowned in puzzlement. "What's an uncle," she asked.

"You know Attrian there is your brother." Orion explained, pointing to her dazed twin. "Well, I'm your mother's brother; which makes me your uncle."

"Mummy doesn't have a brother," she said, confused.

Her brother continued to stare into nowhere.

Orion scowled, bored with the pointless conversation. "What your mother doesn't have, Cecilia, is a life," he commented cruelly. "She did have a brother before she died."

Cecilia didn't understand what her uncle had said, but she did understand the tone. Her lower lip trembled.

Something of what was going on must have reached the boy, because he shook himself and was finally aware of his surroundings. He put an arm round his sister. "Do you know where our mum is?" he asked Orion pitifully.

"Your parents were murdered," Orion half growled, his patience wearing thin.

Both children wore blank faces.

The mob boss gritted his teeth and searched for synonyms. "Dead, killed, gone away, never coming back," he told them.

Cecilia and Attrian gazed at each other in hurt confusion. They didn't understand why the man was being so horrible. "I don't like you…" whimpered the blonde girl.

Orion set his jaw. This was getting him nowhere. Judging by this experience, and the one with his assassins, the tactics used for adults clearly didn't work on children. He smiled at the twins and they lost their victimized look. "Do you like chocolate?" he asked innocently.

The twin's eyes lit up. "Yes!" they exclaimed.

Smugly, Orion half smirked. "If you be nice and quiet and stay out of my way, you can have as much chocolate as you like…" he enticed.

"I can be quiet!" Attrian insisted, his green eyes alive.

His sister sized him up competitively. "I can be quieter!"

Maybe some tactics worked.

The phone rang. Orion picked it up.

"Orion," came Drevon's voice from the other end, "we've had a claim for the murders of your sister and her husband. It's bad. The group claiming is the 'Taipans' from the town of Rellin."

"We can't go up against them…" muttered Orion. "Did they say why?"

"Yeah. Apparently your brother-in-law killed their boss's son."

"Idiot," cursed Orion under his breath. Absently he twirled the phone's chord around his fingers.

"They want you to give up Cecilia and Attrian too."

Orion set his jaw and thought. "No. While annoying, family does have it uses, and those two are the last of mine left. Find a boy and a girl with blonde hair and green eyes. Put them in a safe house and leak the information," he commanded finally.

"I'll put Senshai on it." Then, "What are you going to do about the twins? You can't take care of two children, you have more chance with the assassins," he joked, but there was a real question in his words.

Orion frowned in recognition of this truth. "So I won't take care of two, I'll take care of one…" he decided on the spur of the moment, "What's the name of their dad's old gang?" he asked.


"Send Attrian there, it'll be good for him." Orion sounded pleased that he had at least gotten rid of one brat.

"What about Cecilia?"

"I can't send her off to the gang… Sending males is one thing, but I can't send a little girl... I think I'll keep her. She could be a useful model for dealing with the assassins." Orion hung up the phone without warning. He relaxed back in his chair, deep in thought.

This time Orion entered the holding room with a carefully acquired, sombre expression placed over his features. The children hadn't moved. They weren't crying anymore, just dully staring at the ground. They raised their heads hopefully to see who had come into their prison. Seeing Orion they flinched back, scared. He smiled reassuringly at his assassins to be and they lost their fear. "The reason you're all here is because your parents died in an accident," he explained sadly.

The children grasped that this was a bad thing, but like Orion's niece and nephew, didn't understand.

"I'm terribly sorry for your losses," Orion bit his lip, then looked happier; "I'm going to look after you now. We'll all be one big, happy family! You've lost your parents, but you've gained a new family; a father and many brothers and sisters."

Orion paused and watched the children cautiously look at each other in a new light. He thought of something and smiled genuinely. "To help you adjust and forget your old life, you're also going to get new names."

A boy frowned. "I like my name."

Giving the children new names was Orion trying to give them new identities. In his eyes they weren't children anymore, they were his assassins. New and different creatures. "Superheroes get new names when they become superheroes. So you get new names when you become part of this happy family," Orion tried to convince them.

The boy struggled to work out the logic.

Orion walked closer to them and motioned for them to stand up. They did so. "My last name is Skadleen and as my children your last name will be a simpler version: Skando," he announced.

He walked over to the group of four boys. They stood in a row, with sad but almost excited expressions. The first boy had black hair and serious, dark brown eyes. Orion examined him and came up with the name "Othor."

The next one was smaller than the rest; Orion named him "Francis."

"Phinduur," and "Banter," were the other two boys.

The four girls were left. They huddled together in a group. Orion came up with the names, "Callir," "Krandel," and "Terriann," who was the red-haired child Orion had threatened earlier. The mob boss came to the last child left, the dark haired girl, the one who hadn't bawled.

Her bright blue eyes watched Orion steadily.

He thought for a moment, "Dyshika Skando," he named her.

She smiled. "Dad."

AN: So... I'm not sure how I did with this, but it's up now. I wrote this a while ago and gave up on it after a bad comment. I'm not sure If I'll write anymore of it, but I figured I might as well put this up.

Shadowed Echo