Sir Roland Parks was a man of the highest degree. Born and bred in the noble states in the overseas east, he was often found perusing his garden with his courting mistress, Amelia, in their fine home beside the coast. The man was thick and strong while his companion was slender and fair.
"There's a party tonight," he reminded her. "Don't dirty your dress, Amelia."
She picked a flower. A thorn cut through her glove into her thumb. "Ouch! Oh, I've hurt myself."
Roland put the thumb in his mouth and it healed over. "There now, much better." They then proceeded to gather as many flowers as his dear Amelia wanted.
"I love this old house… When we return from our honeymoon," she giggled, "do you think we'll still live here?"
"Of course we will! Why shouldn't we?"
"I heard the servants talking last night. They think we're up to something — something of bad breeding," she giggled again.
"Whatever for? Just because we've both been married before and sleep in the same bed, they think we're being naughty?" He bopped her on the nose.
"I think we should have a chat with them. They think this horrible old witch is seducing their naïve master for his riches."
"But, Amanda, you're the rich one."
She smacked her hand over his mouth, her eyes wide, and searched for anyone in the halls. "It's Amelia… Richie darling."
"Oh, right. I forgot."
They both giggled, as no one was around to hear them, and he kissed her. "What is this, our second or third wedding?"
"Sh, darling! Someone may hear you."
"Don't worry, they'll know it was only you — you horrible old witch."
He was just about to kiss her again when a maid ran up. She looked flustered, holding a silver tray with a single piece of paper on it. "Message for you, sir!" she panted.
He glumly took it and read it over. "Who sent this?"
"What's wrong, Roland?"
"Who sent this?" he snapped.
"A-A man from the door, sir! He won't go away, I've been trying for hours, but he refuses to go until he's seen you."
They sighed, Amelia looking much more worried than Roland, and he agreed. "Make sure he's properly checked before you let him in. If I'm shot…," he warned. That was warning enough, and the maid ran to get the stronger gardener and farmer from the back rooms where they were drinking.
"Do you think it's safe, Roland?"
"Of course it is. Who else knows who we are? We have new faces, new names, and we're four thousand miles from our last known sighting."
"Personally, that only makes us more suspicious," she whispered.
Roland led his pretty darling to the meeting room where he would wait for this fanatical visitor. A few minutes passed and a very young man — maybe twelve years old — was tossed into the room. He stayed on his feet, but only just. Then he glared at the two men who threw him until they shut the doors.
"First things first," Roland said. "Who are you?"
"My name is Jericho, sir."
"Who sent you, Jericho?"
The boy's face went a little red. He was a bit of a filthy boy — poor, but poor here in the East meant he was wealthier than most in the West — and grabbed his dirty black hat in his fingers nervously. "M-My master. He said you had work for him, and he did what you asked, but he needs the money now, before he'll turn in what he's found."
Roland and Amelia glanced at each other warily. "I see. And, do you know how much I am paying your master for what he does?"
"Quite a sum."
The boy gulped. He was in the East, but he was still a servant, and a servant who went out all day to get something the master wanted, only to return empty-handed, was sure to get a whipping. He wasn't sure he was going to get that thing his master wanted now.
"But a strapping young lad, like yourself, you're bound to be a good boy."
The three of them stood in Roland's library. The shelves and very walls were decorated with gold — something he had in abundance. He reached up and took out thin a red book, hardcover, filigreed with gold, and handed it to the boy.
"This ought to be enough for your master."
The boy sneered as he looked over it. "Um, sir, I think there's been a mistake. My master wants his money, not literature."
"For a servant, you speak unusually well."
"My mum taught me, sir."
"Well, then, can you read as well?"
"Then read that book."
The boy opened the cover and his eyes went wide. The cleverness of the wealthy was what kept them rich. The book was filled with Eastern notes, bound in to be torn out at will. In the meantime, they were safely hidden on what could be a normal Eastern man's bookshelf.
"Th-This much, sir?" he gasped.
"Can you tell how much that is?"
The boy calculated in his head. Thirty pages with four hundred notes each… "Twelve hundred, sir?" he gulped.
"That's right! Clever lad, you are."
Amelia smiled. "Darling, may I?"
"Oh, if it pleases you."
She pulled out another note, a smaller one, just for the boy. "I'm sure you've come a long way. This will make sure you have a nice meal before you go back."
The boy thanked them fruitfully, put the book carefully in his ragged bag, and returned to his master at top speed.
"Oh, children. They're such a joy, aren't they?"
"Yes, I'm sure," Roland said, not as lovingly.
"Darling, I thought you wanted children."
"I've seen them through too many hardships to want one of my own to be brought into this world. Besides, with all the ones I've saved, can't I at least consider myself a family man?"
"But one of ours… To have a child that belonged to us…"
"We have many children, darling, we should be happy with what we have. For now." He bopped her on the nose again.
Over the next few days, very little was seen of the naïve master and his bewitching mistress. They spent more time in the gardens and fields where no one could find them than they did in the house.
On the fourth day, yet another visitor came for Sir Roland Parks. He and Amelia met him once more in the drawing room, but today, the doors were locked from the inside. The servants heard the bolts close and knew their master was up to something. Some snuck back, others didn't want to think wrong of their master and stayed away.
A shot was fired on the inside. Amelia screamed. All servants, for and against their master, ran to the room and beat against the doors.
When they were finally opened, no one stood inside. The servants were stumped, but none noticed that the shelf of books had been disturbed, or that it was sitting almost two inches further right than it should have.
Behind the bookshelf, Amelia hugged the newcomer. "Oh, Pilot, I can't believe you're here!"
"Did you have to shoot me, though?" Roland whined. "I'm really rather delicate — it still stings."
"Oh, hush, you big baby, it's already healed over. You want someone to hear you through the walls?"
Karlsford — or rather, Pilot — hugged Amelia back. Amelia — or rather, Amanda Sonta — was giddy with glee at the sight of another FALCON member. Sir Roland — or rather, Richard Locke, Locker — had been the one to earn her hand all these years, though he was still sorely tempted to punch Morgue in the face for shooting him and hugging his bride-to-be. Amanda wouldn't like that, though, so he resisted.
"I heard about the case and passed news on to Morgue."
"Yes, he's already contacted us."
"This makes four!" Amanda cheered.
The three of them made their way down to the basement, where the remains of the FALCON base had been relocated. It may seem strange that a 'base' could be moved, but it really wasn't when considered that the FALCON was a ship. It wasn't a space ship, though it was space-worthy, and it wasn't an ocean ship, though it could survive underwater. It was an airship. Not an airplane — those were long outdated primeval machinery — but rather like a fighter plane.
The FALCON was sleek in design, white, and looked strangely like a steel bird. It was developed by the military, and then stolen by the now-deceased leaders of FALCON. Almost twelve years prior, there had been fifteen members of FALCON who lived aboard the vessel, committing numerous crimes of pleasure and wealth, but at the death of their leader, severe damage to their ship, and, for some, many years in prison, FALCON had ceased to exist.
"When did this post come in, Amanda?"
"Four weeks ago."
"The girl's been watching the scanners day and night," Locker said proudly.
"I thought for sure HAWK or EAGLE would take it, but none of them touched it. I inquired, giving a false name, and they eagerly gave me the information."
"A tribe in the Cassiderin."
"Aren't they… cannibals?" Pilot gulped.
"Of course not. The military got to them, they're not allowed to anymore."
"You say it so easily," he cringed.
"You should hear her speak of other things," Locker said proudly. "She's just as shy about everything."
Pilot didn't want to know and changed the subject. "I hate to bring this up this late in the game, but… how are we supposed to make a transportation without the FALCON?"
"Obviously, the only reason I put out the call is because the repairs are finished."
"But the military—"
"When did we ever go to the military for repairs?" Locker scoffed.
"Our usual source—"
"Our usual source is what sold us out to the military! You trusted him?"
"Being known as a military snitch hasn't helped his business," Amanda grinned.
"And how did you pay for it?"
"The same way we paid for this house."
Locker looked around him at the rather dark and lifeless underground room. "Oh, yes, it's wonderful."
"You know what I'm talking about."
"The last Sir Roland Parks was a wealthy, cold-hearted man. He died in solitude with only an old nanny to watch him. She's blind now. I came here a few years back to speak about a… business matter with the man, and she thought I was him. Didn't know the old man had died, not many knew of the old man outside of his namesake, so I picked up the tradition, got new servants, and just recently, my dear little darling mistress came to visit me." He put his hand on Amanda's shoulder. "We've lived off his wealth ever since."
"You won't believe how bored rich people get," Amanda said. "We had the most fun looking through the house and finding booby traps, where he hid his money, it was all so much fun!"
"And it doesn't bother either of you that you're living off a dead old man's life savings?"
"No," they said in unison, for living like this was the way of the FALCON.
"How on earth did you get here, Pilot? I know you don't have money of your own."
"As it happens, I have." He proudly pulled a few notes from his pocket. This isn't all of it, naturally, and I'm sure my wealth isn't to be compared to yours, but my dear old father died — cursing me, naturally — and I got in on the fight for his money."
"He didn't have much, though."
"That's why you joined FALCON in the first place," Amanda laughed.
"Oh, the sour old man had a lot more than he let on. I fought with a few strangers for it, but I earned his belongings while another man earned the house. I intended to torch everything, but I noticed that the mattress was unusually… heavy."
"He didn't!" Amanda gasped.
"Oh, yes, the sour old goat did. It was packed with gold notes. I found them in his mattress, his pillows — he even filled a box of three-year-old ice cream in the freezer with them!"
"And yet you're reduced to this," Locker nudged, pointing to his acid-stained clothes.
"I've been putting the money to good use, unlike some people. There's a heavy slave market in the acid cities."
"You have slaves?"
"In the last three years since I gained favor with The Boss, I have bought more than seventy slaves from him. Nearly half of them had to be killed off, but the other forty or so were safely transported to the Tribes to the north. They're still waiting there for us to come out of hiding."
"Why did they need to be killed off?"
"The slave-market is different than it used to be. I've learned The Boss's ways. He finds a few attractive young women — bed pillows, no doubt — cuts out their tongues, and hooks them on old-day drugs. Only a man like himself would know how to make those, so even once they've been sold, they'll kill to get back to him for more."
"And you haven't tried weaning them?"
"Oh, I've tried. I must have near twenty scars from those girls trying to claw my innards out. Shooting them is the only way to make them stop. …So, instead of living a life of leisure and luxury like you two bums, I've been hard at work."
"And managing a house of nosy old woman workers who think I'm a witch, flighty gardeners and farmers that would love to catch me alone, and hiding our precious FALCON from the military for nearly twelve years while having massive, secret repairs done — on our own dime — is leisure?" Amanda scoffed.
"Just like the good old days, huh?"
"Good old days that just might be coming back sooner than you think."
(Author's note: PLEASE review and tell me what you think! I cannot stress this enough!)