A/N: Chapter 1 rewritten - enjoy!

As always, please read and review! Thanks! :)

- Lenni

1. The Beginning

March 5th, 2155 at 1:54 AM

Gavin was cranky.

No, scratch that.

He wasn't just cranky. He was irritated, sleep-deprived, peeved, and – the cherry on top of it all – ready to strangle the bastard whose voice was echoing throughout the compound and pounding against his head.

He muttered to himself and flipped over onto his stomach, the springs in the mattress underneath him creaking in protest against his weight. Sleep would once again be within his grasp if he could just have a moment of peace.

"Gavin! Where the hell are you?!"

Trying to sleep, you asshole.


Go away.

"Damn it, Gavin!"

Gavin let out a roar of frustration as he shot up in bed. Using that momentum, he threw himself off of the bed, landing on –

Oh, shit.

- his back.

Gavin grunted from the impact his body made with the cold, concrete floor. Reaching out into the darkness, he groped for the legs of the cot he'd just fallen from and pulled himself up so that his upper body rested against it. He blinked against the darkness, allowing his eyes to adjust to the outlines of the sparse furniture in the room. A rickety desk stood in the corner of the room, a few stray papers laid out on top of it. Wooden chests rested at the foot of his bed and the other one beside his, which he focused his attention on as he regained the wind that the fall had knocked out of his lungs.

A small head, its body covered by the bundle of sheets on the bed, rested on a pillow. The pale, blonde hair that covered it fanned out across the mattress. Clouded, deep chocolate brown eyes peeked out from underneath wispy eyelashes and regarded Gavin sleepily.

"Did I wake you, Penny?" he asked quietly.

She shook her head as she pushed her sheets away and sat up, revealing a young girl dressed in a tattered night gown that hung down her body like a curtain. She reached out a small hand to flick on the rusting lamp that stood on the bedside table between the two cots. A damp glow cast itself across the floor, just barely illuminating Gavin's long, tired face and the dark, scratchy stubble that covered his jaw.


The loud voice grated against his nerves and he groaned, running a hand through his dark, graying hair. Looks like I'm not going back to sleep, he thought.

He stuck out a rigid hand towards Penny. "Legs, please," he said.

Penny slid off her bed, her nightgown riding up the back of her legs as she did so. When her bare feet landed on the ground, the nightgown fell down heavily to the floor and dragged behind her as she shuffled over to the chest at the foot of her bed. With her small hands, she lifted two long, metal contraptions from the top of the wooden chest with ease and cradled them in her arms, bringing them over to Gavin who had not moved from his spot on the floor. She dropped them into his waiting arms, which immediately sagged under their weight; he almost dropped them as they teetered, threatening to tip over.

"Careful," he said gruffly, regain his hold on the pieces of metal. Penny, in response, looked at him wide-eyed, her lips curled into a small pout. Gavin fidgeted slightly as he set the two long, thin masses of wires and gears on the floor. "Don't look at me like that," he murmured.

Penny perched herself back on her bed and watched as Gavin pulled the pieces of metal parallel to each other. He fingered the faded leather straps that hung off of the prosthetics and his muscles strained as he struggled to pull them closer to the stumps that made up his lower body – the things he once called legs. Penny, noticing the way his muscles bulged and the vein that popped out of his forehead, leaned forward to help. Gavin shot her a sharp look, however, and she immediately returned to her bed, wrapping her blanket around her.

He was going to do this himself, damn it.

Finally, once the prosthetics had lined up, Gavin rolled up his ratty pants and tied them tightly to his body; the fit was snug – custom made, just for him. He ran a hand across the cool metal, humming to himself in satisfaction when the gears began to click to life, whirring and clanking against each other. He willed the right leg to bend, which it did easily and without protest. Without a second thought, he bent the other leg and sprang up, bouncing lightly on the balls of his feet. Good as new, he thought wryly. He bent down to push his pants back over his legs, hiding a majority of the metal. Penny's gaze followed him.

"Go back to sleep," he ordered. Penny curled down on the mattress and brought her sheets up to her chin as Gavin walked up to the bed to run a callused hand down her silky hair. "And I give you permission to beat up Liam tomorrow, if he shouts again."

Penny merely nodded; her eyelids were already beginning to droop. She brought her sheets closer to her face and drifted back to sleep.

Letting out an internal sigh, Gavin walked fluidly to the iron wrought, prison-like door. He pushed down on the handle, but it barely budged. Bewildered, he looked the door up and down and tried to jiggle the handle again. The door remained steadfast and he silently cursed to himself. Gripping the handle even tighter, he concentrated, and within seconds the door clicked and squeaked open on its rusty hinges.

Nudging the door closed behind him, Gavin made a mental note to fix it before striding down the dimly lit corridor to the main quarters. The clanks his feet made against the concrete floor of the hall echoed in the cramped space, mixing in with the sound of dripping water in the nearby sewage pipes. Grime clung to the corners in which the floor met the walls and where the walls met the ceiling; a festering odor, one he had long grown used to, wafted into his nose.

And he called this cesspit of a place home.

As he stomped his way into the large square room, the first thing that his eyes fell upon was a new chair in the sitting area. The rotting, wooden thing was placed haphazardly among the other chairs that encircled an old television tucked away into a corner of the room; its antennae stuck out like those of an insect's. A large, beaten up leather couch sat among the chairs and squarely in front of the television. The floor underneath the chairs and couch was covered in a gaudy rug that had turned dirty from years of misuse.

With one more cursory sweep around the room, Gavin took in the rusty kitchen appliances and stained counters installed sloppily in the opposite corner of the room. Unwashed pots and pans littered the sink and the counter surfaces, born from neglect and laziness. Not too far away from the counters stood a long, wooden table, surrounded by folding chairs that threatened to fold in on themselves whenever someone took a seat on them.

But since when had they started using the bodies of unconscious girls to decorate the table?

A younger man, who was standing by the body, scowled as Gavin approached. "Where the hell were you?" he snapped. He towered over Gavin, ash covering his light brown hair and his body smelling faintly of smoke.

Gavin wrinkled his nose at his companion's appearance. "Sleeping, of course. Normal people are usually doing that at two in the morning." He landed his scrutinizing gaze on the unconscious girl; the edges of his vision began to brighten and he felt a light pounding in his head. The girl's red hair, which was covered in ash and slightly singed at the ends, fanned out across the surface of the table. Her forehead was wrinkled in distress – no surprise, of course, considering the burnt skin that covered the entire right side of her face. Her pants and sleeves had been rolled up to reveal smaller, less severe burns that were scattered across her arms and legs; however, they were mere blips on her skin compared to the red, fleshy mass on her face.

"A Marked?" Gavin asked, pushing up the sleeves of his sweater and exposing his arms. What looked like three, long gray-colored gashes stretched across his right forearm. "What happened to her?"

"When I was out, I –"

The gears in Gavin's leg began to click and snap furiously as he felt his body temper rise. "When you were 'out', Liam?" he bit out through gritted teeth.

Realizing his mistake, Liam seemed to shrink within himself, losing the presence his six foot two inch stature usually gave him. "I –" he protested, but Gavin cut him off.

"So you found this girl while you were 'out'?" Gavin asked, growling the last word.

"She was barely conscious in a burning building!" Liam shouted, straightening up as he went on the defensive. "What, was I supposed to just let her die?!"

"Quiet," Gavin hissed, remembering the sleeping Penny a hearing distance away. His hand went to rub at his temple and he took a deep, steadying breath that did nothing for his frazzled temper. "And you thought," he said, his voice low and gravelly, "that it would be a good idea to bring a complete stranger down here?"

"She's a Marked though!"

Gavin slammed a hand down on the table, grazing the barefoot of the girl. "That you found up there!" he said, struggling to keep his voice down. "Maybe you don't realize this Liam, but –"

"Damn it Gavin, stop being so paranoid!" Liam exclaimed, interrupting the older man and forgoing his previous command for quiet. "Okay? She's a Marked. She's one of us. Right now, she could be dying and you're too afraid of your own ghost to even do anything about it." He glared at Gavin, who met his gaze with the same look of silent fury. When Gavin did not say anything in response, Liam stepped around him and walked towards the corridor Gavin had come out of minutes before. "Where's Valentine?" he asked over his shoulder, his voice still tinted with the irritation that had manifested itself during their argument.

"She left," Gavin replied snippily. He looked sharply at Liam, who had stopped midway between the kitchen area and the entrance into the hallway.

"What?" Liam asked, turning slowly around. "Where'd she go?"

"Healing run in the next Province over. She'll be back in a few days." Gavin removed his hand from the table, allowing his eyes to sweep over the girl's burnt body again. His legs twitched and he grunted to keep them in place. His fear was telling them to leave, to go back to bed without a second glance. But he'd remained here for forty years, dedicating his life to the care of others, for a reason, hadn't he?

With a frustrated sigh, he willed his legs toward the kitchen counters. He wrenched open the cupboards hanging over them, and fumbled through the mess of chipped mugs and plates to find the first-aid kit – which had a fine layer of dust over it – he had stashed there. Bringing it back over to the table, he set it down by the girl.

Liam, who'd sat down on a folding chair, asked Gavin, "You're going to fix her?"

Gavin flashed a glare at him and knocked his metal leg against one of the table's. "She's a human being, not a machine." He flipped the lid of the kit open and sifted through its contents before pulling out a new roll of gauze. "Wet some towels for me," he ordered.

Liam, who'd just gotten comfortable in his seat, groaned as he heaved himself out of the chair. He all but ripped two towels hanging from a nearby rack and brought them to the sink, where he ran them under the water. He tossed them to Gavin, who caught both in one hand. Gavin then set to work cleaning up the girl's wounds. He dabbed lightly at the burns with the wet towels before wrapping them in the gauze, mummifying her arms and legs. He gingerly taped a bandage to the burn on her face, making sure not to jostle her, and lifted the hem of her shirt lightly to confirm he'd gotten to all the burns. Satisfied with his work, he began to pack everything away.

"That's it?" Liam asked; he'd been watching from behind Gavin.

"It's much as I can do," Gavin said. He placed the kit on a nearby counter and returned to the table. "We will have to wait for Valentine to come back. At least she'll be able to alleviate the pain and prevent most of the scarring." He quickly backtracked. "That is, if this girl's even staying that long anyway." He moved to hoist the girl up into his arms, but Liam had already beaten him to it. The younger man gathered her up, and her arms hung limply in the air as he brought her over to the frayed couch. After he placed her down, he propped a stained pillow underneath her head, which lolled to the side.

With a resigned sigh, Gavin dropped down into a folding chair by the table; his legs whirred and clicked in protest at the sudden movement.

"You wouldn't have been able to lift her," Liam explained, jumping up onto the table the girl had been originally resting on. The legs of the table wobbled underneath him, threatening to give out.

"Don't think you're getting off the hook that easily," Gavin growled. He leaned over his knees as he regarded Liam, who'd crossed his arms across his chest indignantly at Gavin's accusatory tone. "What the hell were you doing up there, anyways?" Gavin asked.

Liam grunted. "Couldn't sleep."

"Sure you couldn't," Gavin scoffed. The last time Liam had complained of sleep troubles had been years ago; the moment his thick head hit a pillow, he was always immediately out. There could only be one reason Liam was struggling with insomnia.

Without a warning, he reached up to grip the collar of Liam's thin t-shirt, scrunching the fabric tight in his hand. Before the younger man could say a word, he took a deep, shuddery breath and yanked the collar down, ripping a large strip of fabric off the front of the shirt and revealing Liam's broad chest and flat abdomen.

Liam's mouth immediately fell open and his hand shot up to wear the collar had dug into the back of his neck as Gavin had yanked it down. "Hey!" he exclaimed, "my shirt –"

"I'll get you a new one," Gavin snapped. He swept a scrutinizing eye over Liam's chest, where red, wispy shaped Markings ran diagonally across it, like a fire that was permanently ablaze on his body. He slapped the area, the sound vibrating throughout the room, and Liam immediately recoiled from his touch. "It's fading," Gavin observed, noting how the once brilliant red Marks were now a faded red – they could just barely be made out against Liam's skin.

"Don't touch me," Liam muttered, shrugging out of the now ruined shirt. His nose wrinkled as he balled it up before throwing the frayed fabric to the floor.

"When's the last time you used your gift?" Gavin asked, ignoring Liam's warning.

"It's none of your business."

"Actually, it is." Gavin leaned into Liam, his eyes boring holes into the other man's. "Now tell me before I have to kick your ass."

Instead of answering, Liam let out a frustrated groan. Without saying a word, he raised his right hand and snapped his fingers together. A small flame, the size of a marble, materialized in the air, dancing in the space between his pointer finger and his thumb. It jerked in the air, but never touched his skin. The red wisps on his chest seemed to glow bright red before returning to their previous dull color. After a few seconds had passed, he waved his hand dismissively, and the flame disappeared in small wisps. "Happy now?" he bit out.

Gavin's eyes flitted to where the flame had once flickered before shaking his head, the previous irritation he'd felt before no longer muddling his thoughts. Placing both hands on the edge of the table, he pushed himself away and bent to pick up the shirt Liam had thrown to the floor. He tossed it onto a nearby counter; it'd serve as a rag for now.

"No," Gavin said, finally responding. "Both you and I know that's not enough. If you don't use it regularly, you'll –"

"I used it when I found her, okay?" Liam snapped, cutting Gavin off.

"So you were the one that did that to her then."

"No!" Liam snarled, snapping at the accusation. He slammed a fist against the table "I saved her life, god damn it! Why does everyone always have to accuse me of –"

Before he could get the rest of his thought outs out, however, a sickening crack filled the room as the table leg closest to Liam snapped and buckled. The table tipped over and Liam lurched forward, knocking his head against the chair Gavin had been previously sitting on. He moaned, but made no motion to move; instead, he remained lying in his bed of splinters, clutching painfully at the side of his head.

"Great." Annoyance flashed across Gavin's features. "Not only do I have to get you a new shirt, but now, I have to find a new table too."

Liam moaned again in response, rubbing at the area that he'd hit. "Screw the table," he said under his breath.

"Being a drama queen again, Liam?"

Liam, who'd continued to stay incapacitated on the floor, refused to look up at the sound of a third, joking voice. Gavin, on the other hand, wasted no time in hurrying over to the third man, who was standing at the front of the couch. He bent over at the waist and his thick, mid-night black hair flopped into his eyes, which were still groggy with sleep, as he scrutinized the unconscious girl on the couch. He wore a rumpled pair of sweatpants and a white wife beater that clung to him like a second skin.

The dark-haired man looked up as Gavin approached. "Where's she from?" he asked.

"Liam brought her in," Gavin said.

"Ah," the other man said, his voice tinted with realization. He straightened up and peered down at Liam from over the back of the couch. "You found her when you went out?"

Liam muttered something under his breath before flipping onto his side, facing his back in the direction of the two other men.

Gavin's eyes narrowed in suspicion as he took in Liam's actions and his gaze briefly flickered over to the dark-haired man, who'd been watching Liam with an amused grin on his face.

"Emmett," Gavin said, his voice clipped. The other man, who was a only a few inches taller than Gavin, looked down at him in surprise. Gavin continued. "How do you know Liam went out?"

Emmett's brown eyes widened at the question. "Um…" He tapped a finger against his leg as his eyes wandered around the room. "I might have been the one who helped him."

"What?" Gavin barked.

Emmett, as his fight or flight instinct kicked in, chose flight; he darted around to the other end of the couch, almost tripping over Liam as he came to stand behind a kitchen chair. "Hey, I was just trying to help him," he said defensively. "He couldn't sleep, what was I supposed to do, just let him –"

"This isn't the first time, is it?" Gavin's eyes had now narrowed into slits.

Emmett hesitated, considering his words; it was no matter though, Gavin already had an idea of what the answer would already be.

"Well," Emmett began, "it's not like he got into any trouble the other times…" He trailed off at the sight of the murderous look on Gavin's face.

Since Liam had woken Gavin up, he'd remained relatively calm – for him – throughout the entire exchange. However, while he'd kept his cool, Gavin had a short fuse. The sight of the girl with the fiery red hair had lit it; now, it had finally reached the end of its rope.

It didn't take long after that for Gavin to unleash his fury on the two other men.

"Right, and you were just going to keep helping him sneak out until something bad did happen to him?!" Gavin roared. His legs began to hiss and scream as irritation clouded his mind, and one, with a mind almost of its own, stomped against the floor, almost threatening to crack the concrete had a rug not been there. "I haven't been raising you two for the past twenty or so years just so you could go gallivanting off to God knows where in the middle of the night! Do you need me to remind you, to show you what happens when you let your guard down for even just a minute up there?"

"No," Emmett quickly responded. "You –"

"Damn right!" Gavin snapped. "There's a good fucking reason that I only let you all up there during the day. And you," he snarled, pointing an accusatory finger at the still comatose Liam, who refused to meet his gaze. "Not only is it bad enough that you've been regularly sneaking up to the city, you had to bring back a stranger like she was a stray little puppy you found on the streets! You still have that habit, hm? Well, news flash – Sylvia is gone, we don't need –"

"Gavin!" Emmett exclaimed, breaking off Gavin's rant. His eyes darted nervously to Liam, who'd gone stiff during Gavin's reprimand of him. Liam's eyes had taken on a faraway look as he stared at the wall. His nose flared slightly, but he made no other indication he'd heard Gavin's harsh words.

Emmett's gaze drifted back to Gavin, whose face had turned red at the exertion. "Calm down," Emmett said quietly. "We – I know you're upset… but yelling at Liam won't make things any better."

Silent, Gavin met Emmett's stare. He remained standing for a few moments, but finally, with a deep shuddery sigh, he dropped into a nearby chair, cradling his head in his hands. "Well, whatever it is," he said, his voice weary from the same old song and dance, "you're twenty-two years old now Liam. It's about time you started acting your age instead of indulging in this teenage angst bullshit. If you want insomnia, fine, be my guest. Just don't expect that I'm going to let you go above ground to deal with it. Got it?"

"Got it." Liam's voice, which dripped with sarcasm, travelled up from his position on the floor. "If it'll make you happy, how about I just light the fire in the stove for dinner every night?"

Gavin scowled. "Don't smartass me, boy," he said. "Now get up and stop feeling so sorry for yourself."

"No," Liam said stubbornly. He glowered at the older man.

"Hey guys…" Emmett's voice drifted over to the other men. He nodded towards the entrance of the corridor, where Penny, who'd been taking in the entire scene, stood with wide eyes. Her tiny frame began to shrink back into the shadow of the hallway under the pressure of the men's stares.

"Great," Gavin said, throwing up an exasperated hand. "Now you've gone and woken up Penny, you jerks."

"You were the one yelling," Liam muttered.

Gavin ignored him as he got up from his chair and came to stand by Liam. "Penny, come here," he ordered, his anger from before disappearing at the sight of the little girl. He waved the young girl over to them. Penny's nightgown swished around her legs as she covered the distance between them with her small strides. Gavin knelt down so that he was eye level with her, and she stretched her arms out to embrace his torso, burying her head into his sweater.

"There, there," Gavin murmured, patting the soft hair on the top of her head. "Did mean Liam wake you up?"

A deep rumbling emanated from Liam's chest as he let out a groan of frustration. Penny, as if just realizing he'd been lying there, looked sharply down at him. She then switched her gaze to Gavin, her eyes alight with curiosity.

"He can't get up," Gavin explained. "You should help him."

Penny glanced thoughtfully back at the glowering Liam. Her brow knotted together as she considered his paralyzed state, and before Liam could protest, she clamped a tiny hand around his wristed and pulled, yanking him towards her like a ragdoll. Liam shot up bolt right, shock etched into his features. Penny beamed at him, and in response, he pulled his lips back in an attempted smile, which, in the end, looked like a painful grimace.

"That must have been emasculating," Emmett joked.

Liam narrowed his eyes at him with contempt. "Shut up," he muttered. His ego had just been shamelessly bruised by an eight-year-old; it couldn't really get worse than that.

However, the moment was cut short when a loud gasp from the sitting area had everyone snapping to attention. Their heads whipped around to watch as the mystery girl clamored upright on the couch. Penny clutched at Gavin like a baby monkey, unsure of what to make of the newcomer.

The girl, whose hair stuck out in odd angles from her head, reached a shaky hand up to her bandaged cheek, and she took sharp intake of breath as she felt the damaged skin through the gauze. She choked out a sob and wrapped her arms around her knees, bringing them tightly against her chest. She burrowed her head into her arms, which shot right back up when she realized they were bandaged.

"Hey," Emmett called out to her.

She let out a strangled cry as she fell off the couch, disappearing momentarily from their line of sight. A loud thud met their ears, and the room remained silent for the few seconds in which no one moved.

Liam squinted at the area the girl's head had poked out from as he moved to his feet with the intention of walking towards her. Gavin however, placed a forceful hand on his chest and shoved him backwards. With a grunt, Liam landed in a folding chair, which threatened to buckle beneath his weight, much like the table had. Gavin's eyes flashed with a warning, but as his eyes remained trained on Liam, he failed to catch Emmett, who'd ambled over to where the girl had fallen.

As he stepped around the couch, he was met with the blue eyes of a deer caught in headlights. She scrambled backwards from him, stopping when she hit the wall.

"Calm down," Emmett said, his voice soft. He covered the distance between them and knelt down in front of her. She made a move to slither away from him, but his hands shot out and gripped her wrists, careful for her burns. She still winced from the contact, however, and she squirmed in his hold. Her red hair flew around as she shook her head, trying to make sense of her surroundings.

"Emmett." Emmett shot a glance over his shoulder at Gavin, who had just spoken. "What are you doing?"

"Hold on," Emmett said, returning his stare back to the girl, who'd stopped moving.

She looked at him with wide eyes, and her lips quivered slightly. "Wh-who are you?" Her voice came out raspy and hoarse.

"Emmett," he responded, taking in her disheveled appearance and wild eyes. While Gavin had said it maliciously before, she did look like a lost little puppy. "And who are you?"

Her eyes, which had been darting back and forth between him and the others behind him, widened as she considered his question. She ducked her head slightly and her look became downcast. She swallowed noisily and blinked rapidly.

Finally, she whispered, "I don't know."

March 5th, 2155 at 2:05 AM

"Sir, there's a messenger here from Princeton. He says he has news. Would you like to see him?

The faint moonlight that bathed the study fell upon the old man who had just spoken. His wispy, white hair lightly covered his head and the wrinkles on his forehead, around his eyes, and near his mouth told the story of a man that had seen much in his life. The stiff blazer he wore hung awkwardly on his body, as if it was only a costume he'd temporarily borrowed. The cane he held in his right hand quivered slightly from the pressure he placed upon it.

The walls of the study were lined with shelves filled neatly with books. The wall opposite the dark, mahogany door, which the old man was standing in front of, was a floor-to-ceiling window. It offered a sweeping view over the city, which was covered in shining, steel giants that loomed over dirty, empty streets. The yellow moon hanging in the night sky was like a bright dot painted onto a canvas of black.

A large desk stood in front of the window, casting a shadow upon the carpet. The regal, leather chair behind it swung slowly around, revealing a looming figure that filled the chair not only with his body, but with his presence as well. Blonde hair, illuminated by the moonlight, covered his head. Deep-set eyes stared out at the old man, and his thin lips were set in an emotionless line. Every angle of his face was squared, giving him a refined yet rugged look. His suit and tie were pressed and ironed, as if he'd been sitting there motionless for the entire night; yet, his face betrayed no weariness.

"Bring him in," he responded in a deep, silky voice.

The old man turned and pulled the door open, hobbling his way slowly out of the study.

After he'd left, the man in the chair slumped slightly in his chair. His hands, which had been clasped tightly in his lap, reached up to rub at his temples. He released a loud sigh. He'd been waiting all night for some kinds of news – this had better be good.

Not a moment later, the old man limped back into the study. If at all possible, his blazer looked even lumpier and more awkward on him. Behind him shuffled in a tall, gangly man with chocolate brown hair that flopped into his dark, beady eyes which shifted quickly from side to side; there was a twitch underneath his right one. He wrung his hands nervously, and his shoulders and back were hunched over, as if to shield himself.

This must be the messenger.

"That will be all," the man in the chair said curtly to the older one.

The old man nodded and backed out of the study, inching the door softly shut behind him.

"Alright," the man in the chair began, turning his attention to the nervous messenger. "What do you have for me?"

"Richard –" the messenger started, with a breathy voice. Richard cut him off.

"That will be Mr. Caesar to you," he snapped. He offered the messenger a smile, though it was devoid of emotion and joy; something more sinister danced on his lips. "Shall we begin again?"

"M-my apologies, Mr. Caesar," the messenger stammered. "I w-was out of line."

"Yes, well, get to it, if you please. You don't want to keep me up all night now, do you?"

The messenger quickly shook his head. "No sir," he responded; his voice remained meek but it had lost the stammer from before. "We lost sight of the target. She was trapped in a burning building, but there was no trace of her after the firefighters had –"

The sound of shattering glass by his ear immediately snapped his mouth shut. The nameplate that once stood at the edge of Richard's desk was now gone; what remained of it lay scattered around the messenger's feet. Richard had shot up from his seat and the back of his legs had pushed his chair away from him; it bumped against the glass of the window. Richard's hands went to rest on the surface of the desk as he leaned forward, the corners of his mouth twitching. However, the same hostility that he'd betrayed through the tossing of the nameplate was not present in his current expression.

"What?" he asked the messenger, his voice dangerously steady, like the calm before a storm.

"We couldn't –"

"Stop with the excuses!" Richard hissed. "Your incompetence makes up for nothing." He pulled his chair back to its original passion and lowered himself slowly into it. He eyed the messenger, who had ended up cowering against the wall.

"Find her," Richard ordered. "Fast. Make sure that none of my time has been wasted, do you understand?"

The messenger nodded mutely and quickly, his head snapping up and down.

Richard resisted the urge to sigh at the pitiful sight as he waved the messenger away. No doubt this was the son of a Mayor; Richard would never have hired such a sniveling excuse of a man.

After he messenger had left, knocking against the edge of the door as he rushed out of it, Richard relaxed into his chair and loosened the tie around his neck. He rolled his head around on his neck, ridding it of the tension that had begun to form in it. A sadistic smile wormed its way onto his face as he silently contemplated the area that the messenger had just been standing in.

This had just gotten a lot more interesting.