Street Brats Continued

/ By Kattik [+Watch]

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[b Day 1]

The room was dark and quiet. It was unnerving to the young Reader who relied on her sight and hearing so strongly. Kept alone in this damp cell, Jesse had no idea what was going on outside. There was a faint red light near the corner of the ceiling, making Jesse believe she was being watched by security cameras, but aside from that there was nothing connecting her to the world outside this cell.

Instead, she tried thinking back to the hours that led to her isolation in hopes of reading something she hadn’t noticed before. At first she thought she could rely on her fellow captives for support, but as time went on she realized how hopeless that was. Brynn was a mess - a mere shadow of the spirited girl she used to be. Roland had broken her spirit beyond repair and if she did manage to survive this ordeal, she wouldn’t dare linger around long enough to help Jesse. Especially since she still hated the Silvertongue and her friendship with Baxter. No, if Brynn miraculously did escape, it would be without Jesse.

Xana was a more likely ally. She had certainly proven her desire to help her half-sister over the past several months, but Xana was an opportunist. She was selfish and rational, much like her father. If she weighed the pros and cons of saving Jesse by pissing off her much more powerful older brother, the answer was clear. Jesse was on her own.

She knew Roland had intended to use her as leverage against her parents and since he still hadn’t come back to her cell to threaten her into working for him, she had to assume her parents agreed. Martyn and Lisa loved the Street Brats, in their own way, but they wouldn’t risk their daughter. Unfortunately, that also meant they wouldn’t ask the Brats for help. They wouldn’t be able to free her alone.

That just left Logan and the other kids. The ones Jesse insulted and pushed away. It was doubtful they’d forgive her, and even more unlikely that they’d risk another rescue attempt after she so cruelly rejected their last efforts to get her back. So that was it. Her last hope, gone. All that was left was to sit and wait. But if Roland thought he’d found a submissive or cooperative captive, he was grossly mistaken.

[b Day 15]

The cell door opened, making Jesse wince away from the offending light. Having been kept in the dark for so long, her eyes took far longer to adjust. When they finally did, Jesse was a little surprised to see a much smaller silhouette than what she’d grown accustomed to. Stepping over the untouched plate of food left from the previous day, the smaller figure came to kneel in front of Jesse, not pleased to see the young red head in her current condition.

Jesse was ghastly thin and far too pale. She hadn’t seen daylight in over two weeks, nor had she consumed any more than a few sips of water the entire time she’d been captive… though the latter was her own choice. Her brilliant red hair was matted and patchy, with strands falling out from her poor condition. Her skin was covered in grime and dust; her nails were chipped and bloody...

[#ff00ff “You look like hell, sister.”] Xana’s voice broke the unforgiving silence. It was sarcastic and uncaring on the surface, but Jesse could hear the concern bubbling beneath the surface.

[#aa0000 “You’re working with him.”] It was more of a statement than a question, having read what she needed from her sister’s expression. Jesse’s eyes narrowed into a glare; disgusted at the very idea of her sister taking orders from that beast.

[#ff00ff “Only enough to grant me visitation rights. It’s been over 2 weeks, Jesse. Roland said you haven’t eaten anything since you were locked in here. Haven’t said a word to him either. You know, this hunger strike isn’t going to help. He doesn’t care of you starve yourself to death; it won’t get you anywhere.”] Xana had never been overly compassionate, so her words came out more bitter and harsh than intended, but fortunately, the sisters had always been able to say more with their eyes than with their words.

[#aa0000 “He clearly cares a little, since he sent you in here to convince me to eat.”] Jesse shot back, recognizing the confirmation in her sister’s eyes. Xana pulled out a granola bar from her pocket and offered it to Jesse, unsurprised when the other made no move to take it.

[#ff00ff “Fine. He thinks you could be useful. So he has a reason to keep you alive; what exactly is your reason for dying? Think about it Jesse. Your mom and dad helped him take down half the city to keep you alive. Last time your father lost someone he loved, he nearly lost his mind. You really want to do that to him again? And what about Logan…”]

[#aa0000 “Shut up.”] Jesse’s icy tone brought the argument to a grinding halt. Jesse still wasn’t ready to deal with the fact that she’d severed all ties with her best friend and now would never have the opportunity to fix it.

[#ff00ff “Dying here and now is pointless, Jesse. You’re not a hero, not a martyr, you’re not dying to protect someone or to change anything. You’re hurting the people who care about you for no reason at all.”] Xana said, tossing the granola bar at her before getting to her feet and turning towards the door.

[#aa0000 “Then what am I supposed to do?”] Jesse whispered, hugging her knees tighter to her chest, looking far smaller and child-like than before. This small act of defiance was all she had! She couldn’t fight or escape on her own, she couldn’t hurt Roland, she couldn’t protect her family! All she could do was die hungry, depriving Roland of the satisfaction of breaking her! Now Xana was telling her it was all for nothing?

[#ff00ff “Play the game.”] Xana replied over her shoulder, sparing one last glance at her sister to convey the rest:
[i Play the game. Make him think you’ve surrendered. Eat, live, grow stronger, get smarter, and bide your time. Play the game until you’ve been dealt the right cards, then turn the tables on that bastard and make him pay. Play the game and win.]

Xana left the cell, letting the guards slam the door shut behind her, leaving Jesse once again in total darkness to think about what she said. Hours later, after much soul searching and planning, Jesse reached out for that granola bar and took the first bite of food she'd had in two weeks.

[i Play the game.]

[b Day 62]

This time when the door opened to shed some light on the young captive, she wasn’t quite as frail, but she seemed even more pale than before. Months without sunlight had given the girl’s skin a ghostly complexion, but her eyes burned as bright as ever as she glared at her captor.

[#996633 “I have a job for you.”] Roland said. His hair was neatly cut and he looked sharp in a fine tailored suit, creating a stark contrast to the ragged girl in front of him.

[#aa000 “I’m not on your payroll.”] Jesse snarked in return, her voice a little worn from misuse, but still able to carry all the venom she intended. Roland grinned, seemingly amused by her continued defiance.

[#996633 “You could be. I am a businessman, Jesse, I’m prepared to pay for your services. You help me with a few favours and I’ll offer you a few comforts in return. A hot shower, perhaps? A room upstairs, away from this cold, dark cell? Sound appealing?”] Roland offered, watching Jesse’s reaction closely, but he couldn’t read as much on her as she could on him. This wasn’t a bargain, it was a test. The job he had surely wasn’t worth all of that, but Roland wanted to see if she was able to be bought. A small favour, easily outweighed by the prize just to see if Jesse would surrender and do as he asked. She wanted to spit in his face. Despite how her eyes stung from the prolonged darkness, how her body ached from the cold hard cell, how her fingers and toes had been numbed by the icy conditions that seemed to get worse over the last couple months. A hot shower and a chance to escape the dark seemed like paradise in comparison to this hell, but Jesse’s pride was stronger than her desire for comfort. She was tempted to lash out, spit in his face, muss up his perfect suit, and prove her defiance, even if the action got her killed it would be worth it to deny Roland the satisfaction he craved! But a voice in the back of Jesse’s mind made her reconsider.

[i Play the game.]

If she could earn herself some favours, eventually gain Roland’s trust, she could find a way to escape. She just needed to play the game long enough for him to let his guard down.

[#aa0000 “I won’t agree to anything until I have all the information. What exactly do you want me to do?”]

[#996633 “One of my staff has been stealing from me. I want you to find out who. In exchange, I’ll move you upstairs to the cell Xana had you locked in - with a proper cot, blankets, fresh cloths, a hot shower, and a chance to escape the dark. You’ll still be locked up and supervised, but it’s a drastic improvement to this.”] Roland offered, sensing her hesitance leaving her.

[#aa0000 “And if I found the thief? What would happen to them?”] Jesse asked, not sure she wanted someone else’s murder on her concience.

[#996633 “Banishment to the Underground. Rules must be followed Jesse, but I see no need for unnecessary bloodshed. So? Do we have a deal?”] Roland asked, extending his hand to her to seal their agreement. Jesse took a deep breath to ground herself before she nodded, extending her own hand to - quite literally - shake hands with the devil.

[i “Play the game.]


[b Day 389]

Jesse’s favours had earned her more and more comforts over the course of the year. She now had her own room. She still had a guard posted at the door, but at least she now had some privacy. She had set some ground rules with Roland and the businessman agreed to her terms - Jesse didn’t sense that it was just an act, so the man must at least believe he’ll keep his end of the deal. First: nothing sexual. Roland had employed Jesse’s mind and her words, not her body. So she at least felt safe that way. Second, nothing she knew about her parents or the other Brats was on the table. She insisted she wouldn’t be used against them and he agreed to that too. Although this time, Jesse was fairly sure it was because almost all the Street Brats were presumed dead. Finally, Jesse asked that Xana and the other Heartley siblings be left alone so long as they didn’t actively try to interfere with Roland’s plans. Just because Jesse’s family was gone, didn’t mean her sister deserved to lose her family too.

Roland was a little more reluctant with the final demand, but the temptation of having a skilled Reader and Silvertongue at his side outweighed his distaste for his siblings. So he agreed - if they stayed away, he would leave them alone. This also led to the release of Roland’s sister Jadyn who, like Jesse, had been living in captivity for over a year. As far as Jesse knew, Jayuden didn’t go back to the others. Probably too ashamed of the part she played in creating those bombs in the first place.

The tasks grew more challenging and more consequential. Jesse was well aware that Roland was still testing her - not her skills, per se, she had already surpassed his expectations there - but her morals. She was often deciding the fate of strangers and helping to shape policies that would have greatly affected her Street Brat family had any of them survived. But she couldn’t refuse or she’d lose all the trust and freedom she’d gained so far. She had to stay strong and stay in character. She had to keep playing the game.


[b Day 1126]

Jesse fixed her hair in the mirror, knowing she was supposed to be able to pass as a member of the Privileged community for this event. Roland needed her to read the crowd and find out whether there were any Lack sympathizers among them. The council was hosting a vote soon to divide the city further into four main social classes: the Privileged - wealthy and powerful people who would control the city. The Wealths - financially well off, yet lacking the power and respect of the higher class. They would take over the working sector and keep the city running through respectable professions. The Lacks - menial labourers responsible for the less desirable work that is far beneath the ruling classes. And finally, the UGS, or Underground Society - those banished from the city so they wouldn’t pollute it with their violent, thieving, criminal ways. Unfortunately, were Jesse not still a captive of Roland, this was the class she would be in along with any other Street brats who managed to survive the blast.

Not that she looked the part now: her fury red hair was tamed and styled with expensive products that made it feel like silk. Her features were accentuated by high quality makeup and powders, her clothes custom tailored and selected purposefully to show off her beauty as well as mark her as a member of the upper class. She was far from that grimy little street urchin who cowered in the dark, dirty cells below. Jesse hardly recognized herself, though, that did make this easier. It was hard to reconcile the things she was doing now with the loyal Street brat she used to be. Easier to pretend she was still just playing the part.

Truth was, this hadn’t been an act for a while now. Jesse was no longer just trying to lull Roland into a false sense of security. She liked the rewards she received for a job well done and her motivation for escaping only to return to the life of an UGS just didn’t seem worth it anymore.

[#996633 “Beautiful. You’ll certainly convince those idiots downstairs. Do well tonight and I’ll schedule another visit with your parents. It’s been several months since you’ve seen them.”] Roland offered, but the sentiment didn’t bring the same hopeful gleam it usually did.

[#aa0000 “No, I’d rather you didn’t. My mother spends the entire visit searching my eyes for any sign that her ‘little girl’ is still in here. My father won’t be able to hide his disappointment that I’m throwing away my morals and my life like he almost did as a child. Sometimes I wonder if they would have preferred that I stayed locked in that cell. At least then they could pretend there was still a chance of ‘saving’ me.”] Jesse replied, growing tired of the looks on her parents faces the few rare occasions she was permitted to see them. Better to avoid them altogether, then maybe they’d finally move on with their lives.


[b Day 1825]

It was 5 years to the day since the explosion that broke the city apart. To honour the occasion, Roland was hosting a large event for all the Wealths and Privs to mark how far the city had come and to celebrate the “rise from the ashes” that led to this new social order. Jesse was charged with crowd control and personal security for roland. She was to be at his side the entire evening, reading everyone she passed and warning him of any impending threats. These last few years, Jesse’s role had changed dramatically: from prisoner to leverage to slave to employee, and now she had found herself in the position of Roland’s partner. Her talents were irreplaceable and it certainly didn’t hurt for Roland to have a stunningly beautiful young woman at his side.

It was quite clear to Jesse now that she was no longer just [i playing the game]. She wasn’t a prisoner seeking an escape, she was a Priv earning her keep. She hadn’t seen her parents in over two years, not had she seen her half-sister. The last time Xana had visited, she was so disgusted with Jesse, she stormed out and hadn’t been back since. But Jesse didn’t need family. She had everything she could ever want right here: freedom, power, wealth, security - Roland wasn’t cruel to her anymore. He treated her with respect and accepted her opinions on important matters. He never tried to hurt her or threaten her and she gave him no reason to. Her loyalties had changed. She wasn’t a Street Brat anymore.

Bonds not Blood. The Street Brat motto did still make sense to Jesse, but the years had twisted its meaning. Bonds were far more important than blood - that was true - but Jesse didn’t have Bonds to the family anymore. It had been 5 years. Anyone she knew was either dead or had grown into a different person, just like she had. Even if she did still know and care for the children she’d been raised with, those children were gone now. Those bonds no longer existed. The Street Brats had grown into strangers to Jesse, just as she was no more than a stranger to them. The Bonds didn’t exist and the Blood had never been important. So Jesse could only conclude that the Street Brats weren’t family anymore.

As fate would have it, her new found apathy for the brats was about to be tested. Jesse stood beside Roland, dressed in an elegant green dress to match her eyes and express her status. She was doing as she was told, reading the guests as they entered and keeping an eye out for any concerns. Her eyes drifted across the crowd as various groups approached Roland for a business-like handshake and formal greeting. But her focus returned to her partner as new group of guests introduced themselves.

[#773366 “Mr Heartly, It’s nice to see you again. I’d like to introduce my daughter, Charlie. And this young man is her fiance, Rylan Pierce. They’re visiting me from Hawbury this week.”] A graying man with a prominent mustache announced as he shook Roland’s hand. The girl looked uncomfortable, but in a way that stated she just detested parties like this as opposed to any personal vendetta against their host. The young man, however… He went from pointedly avoiding eye contact with Roland to locking on an unwavering gaze with Jesse, clearly shocked to see someone he recognized.

[#996633 “You seem rather entranced with my assistance, Mr. Pierce. Have you two met?”] Roland asked, shooting a pointed look at the young man who instantly fumbled like he’d been caught red handed.

[b “Uh, no Sir. I don’t think so. No.”] Jesse couldn’t have let the issue drop with that, but the Evenwoods had an uncanny ability to cause trouble in settings like this and she wasn’t about to let Rylan mess this up for her.

[#aa0000 “That’s not true. We know each other quite well, don’t we Rylan?”] Jesse stated, seeing a flare of panic in the man’s eyes.
[#aa0000 “Of course, that was before you took a fake name and tried to pass yourself off as a Wealth.”]

[b “What are you doing?”] Rylan questioned in alarm, now quite aware of the eyes on him. His fiance gripped his hand a little tighter and her father seemed completely taken back by the announcement.

[#aa0000 “I don’t believe you had the opportunity to meet him before the explosion, Roland, but this is Rylan Evenwood - the only remaining son of Carlos and Hayden Evenwood of the Street Brats.”] Jesse said, blowing Rylan’s cover. The young inventor was now visibly tense, looking ready to make a run for it at any moment. Street Brats were known criminals with a death sentence on their heads! Jesse was going to get him killed!

[#996633 “So this is the last of the Street Brats? The rest of your criminal family was buried under that explosion. It seems like it would be in the best interests of this city to send you down there with them To finally put an end to that cursed Evenwood bloodline once and for all.”] roland threatened in a low tone. He wasn’t interested in causing a scene, but the looming threat that hung on his every word was enough. Surprisingly, Jesse stepped in to offer another suggestion.

[#aa0000 “Curious… Rylan tensed, then relaxed. Almost like he was relieved…”]
[b “No, I didn’t, I…]
[#aa0000 “There’s no reason to be relieved. Roland just stated that your parents and the rest of the Street Brats were dead. Even if you already knew that, I would expect to see guild, sorrow, acceptance… not relief. Not unless you [i wanted] him to believe that you were the last of the Evenwood bloodline.”] Jesse stated, reading Rylan’s expression to find the confirmation and fear she was looking for.

[b “Jesse… don’t…”]
[#aa0000 “But you’re not the last of your bloodline, are you Rylan?”]
[b “Jesse, please! Don’t!”] Rylan begged. Jesse was a Silvertongue, surely she could explain this in a way that kept his secret safe and didn’t blow her cover! But the more she spoke, the more Rylan came to realize that this wasn’t an act. Jesse was really going to betray him!

[#aa0000 “You have nothing to worry about Roland. Rylan won’t cause you any trouble. He’s got a child at home and he knows exactly what could happen to that child if he dares to challenge you. So he’s going to keep his head down and follow your rules, even if that means turning his back on everything his father fought for as a Street Brat. Because if he doesn’t, he really will be the last of his bloodline.”] Jesse threatened, letting the look of horror and betrayal cross Rylan’s face. She was right. His daughter was only a few months old, he couldn’t risk her safety for a family he thought was dead. Jesse’s threats were real and chilling to the core. His cousin - a girl he once trusted with his life, now threatened to take away his own child!

[#996633 “In that case, I hope you enjoy the rest of your night, [i Mr. Pierce]. I trust you’ll be on your best behaviour. You know what will happen if you don’t.”]
  ImnIslandGirl / 11d 15h 53m 58s
Different city, same shitty living conditions. After leaving the Brats, Rylan knew he needed to get out of the city completely, so he stowed away on a bus until he reached a neighbouring city called Hawbury. Rylan was huddled up under the awning at the back of a run down cafe, pulling his tattered hoodie tighter against him to block out the chill. He had left San Francois to start a new life, but with no real education beyond his first couple years of high school, no money, no work experience, and the fact that he was still just a kid - opportunities for honest work were limited. The man who owned the cafe let him sweep the floors at closing in exchange for a hot meal, a strong cup of coffee, and a few dollars a day. It wasn’t great, but it kept him fed and warm until closing. How his parents were able to go from living like this on the streets to owning a house and keeping stable jobs was beyond Rylan, but he didn’t have any other choice. He couldn’t be a Street Brat anymore.

Rylan wasn’t usually one to eavesdrop, but the urgant tone and panicked cries from across the street caught his attention. He couldn’t hear all of it clearly, but he did pick out the odd word: San Francois… destroyed… explosions… thousands dead…
It was enough to bring Ryl;asn to his feet and lead him out to the road where the two strangers were crowded around the screen of a smartphone.

[b “Excuse me, I… no wait! Please! I don’t mean any harm, I just… you were talking about San Francois, right? I have family there… Can you tell me what happened? Please?”] Rylan asked, noticing the instant wariness that spread across the strangers’ eyes when the little street urchin approached. Different city, same classist bullshit. But something in his anxious expression seemed to soften them to his plight and the young woman told him what she knew.

[i [#00ff00 “There was a series of explosions. Some reporter said it was some kind of terrorist attack by a group called the Street Brats. Nearly the whole city was destroyed, not a lot of survivors… I’m sorry, kid. I hope your family is ok.”]] The woman said with a grimace before being ushered away by her friend. Rylan couldn’t move. Nearly the entire city destroyed? Not many survivors? What about the Street Brats?! Everyone was at the safehouse, most were injured... what if it was damaged by the explosions? What if his family was trapped? Hurt? Dead?! Rylan fumbled for his communicator before he remembered he’d left it behind. His next search was for his cell phone but it was dead… not a lot of phone chargers on the streets of Hawbury. Rylan hurried over to a nearby payphone, slipped a quarter into the slot and dialed his father’s cell phone. Nothing.
Another quarter to call his mom… nothing.
A third coin to call Uncle Nic… nothing.
A fourth to call Caleb and Larry’s emergency line… no answer.

By now, Rylan was starting to panic. His family never turned off their phones in case of emergency. Why wasn’t anyone answering?! Rylan was now out of change as he frantically searched for one more coin to make one more desperate call. He reached into his pocket and clasped his hands around a coin that was a little larger than the others, bringing it out into view only to recognize it as the coin Logan had given him the day he left!
Rylan pressed the coin and waited with baited breath, praying Logan could respond… he didn’t.

Rylan had no way of knowing that the explosions had wiped out the communications towers so that no radio or cell signals would get in or out of the city for the next several months. He just stood staring at that coin as his vision blurred with unshed tears.

[i No. They aren’t dead. They can’t be. I need to find them!]

There were no busses or trains to San Francois in the midst of a crisis, so Rylan had to make the journey on foot. After a long, painful, and terrifying 6 hour walk, he finally arrived at the edge of a decimated town. Sirens rang and smoke filled the sky.Buildings were destroyed, streets were caved in, and entire blocks had sunk into the underground. Exhaustion and soreness was forgotten in the rush of panic to find his family, and Rylan took off sprinting through the treacherous, crumbling streets towards the safehouse. He was a few blocks away when he turned down an alley to see a motionless figure propped against a wall, covered in dust and debris.

The man’s clothes were tattered and bloodstained, especially around his abdomen, with dust and grim covering any exposed skin. His matted blond hair hung down covering his eyes, but there was an odd expression… almost one of relief, on the man’s features. It was that odd exp[ression that caused Rylan to take a closer look at the mysterious man, only for his heart to nearly stop when he recognized who I was.

[b “Oh my god…. Seth? Seth!”] Rylan fell to his knees beside one of his father’s best friends and eagerly checked for a pulse, feeling a crushing weight of guilt and remorse when he felt nothing beneath his fingers. By now Rylan was desperately clinging to his denial, willing himself to believe that his family was alive and safe, but seeing Seth lying lifeless in front of him made it easy for those dark doubts to seep into his mind. Rylan didn’t even realize he was crying until a droplet fell from his face to Seth’s cold hand.

[b “I’m gonna come back for you. I’ll bury you in the Street Brat cemetery, right beside your sister. You’ve always wanted to be at her side again… I’m just… I’m so sorry I wasn’t here, I…”] Rylan felt the grief building in his chest, cutting off his air and making it harder and harder to speak. He said a last, silent goodbye to his uncle before turning back towards the safehouse, terrified of what he would find.

Screams of pain and fear, roaring chaos, the blame-filled furious shouts of the family he’d abandoned… any of that would have been preferable to this… this deadly silence that settled over what little remained of the safehouse. Rylan sprinted to the rubble, fighting his exhaustion to try to shift the heavy slabs of debris in hopes of finding some signs of life beneath. After a monumental struggle where Rylan’s limbs just couldn’t take any further strain, his devastated mind finally remembered that he was an inventor - he had tools for this! Rylan switched on his vision in his fake eye, programming it to scan for heat signatures, sound vibrations, miniscule movements, or any other signs of life. When he found nothing, he checked the settings again, adjusted the sensitivity, scanned back over the area five, six, ten times! But there was nothing… it wasn’t because of his invention… it was because there were no signs of life left to find.

In the years that followed, Rylan would remember very little about what happened next. He remembered the raw ache in his throat as he screamed and cried into the devastating silence of the night. He remembered how he pushed back all signs of rational thought and continued to dig until his fingers bled. He remembered the bone-chilling cold as he knelt in front of the building hours later, letting the freezing rain soak through to his soul, staring blankly at all that remained of his home. At some point, he found himself in the graveyard, peering down at the names of all who'd passed before: Niki, Carlos, Max, Nola, Sarah, Lynn… Alex…
He etched Seth’s name into a piece of wood he’d taken from the safehouse and buried the man beside his twin sister. Rylan knew he should make graves for the others: his mom and dad, his aunts and uncles, his cousins and friends… but if he made the graves then he’d have to admit to himself that they were truly gone. That he had abandoned them to die in that city. Rylan couldn’t face what he knew was the truth. So he let himself pretend they were just lost - maybe his father was so angry at him for leaving the family in their time of need, that he never wanted to see Rylan again? Even feeling rejected, abandoned, and hated seemed better than the alternative: everyone he loved was dead.

The next thing Rylan knew, he was standing on the bride at the edge of the city, peering down into the raging, ice-cold waters that seemed the perfect echo for the storm inside his soul. Jack once fell off this bridge… so did Niki. The family all thought they’d died, but it takes more than this to kill a Street Brat. That was why Rylan came prepared.

He activated a setting on his robotic arm, extending a sharp, glistening blade that was soon pressed firmly against his neck. One swift cut… he’d be dead before he even hit the water. Good… Rylan was scared of drowning. It would be easier this way; much easier than living at this point. Rylan felt the bite of the blade against his skin when a voice called to him, making him hesitate.

[#880088 “You survived all of that… and you’re just going to end it here? Seems a little pointless, doesn’t it?”] Rylan turned his eyes towards a young girl around his age, with multi-coloured streaks in her hair. She wore a blackl leather jacket and ragged jeans, but it was clear her attire was more of the ‘fashionably rugged’ as opposed to the tatters Rylan and the other street kids often wore.

[b “I didn’t… I wasn’t there. Came after and saw… Why does it matter to you anyway?”] Rylan snapped back, not lowering the blade from his neck. What could this girl possibly understand about his life? He had no life! Not anymore! He just wanted it to be over.

[#880088 “You came back to this shithole? Oh, I get it… you had family back there, right? Did they…?”]

[b “Shut up!”] Rylan snapped before she had a chance to finish. He couldn’t say it outloud himself so he sure as hell didn’t want to hear it voiced by someone else.

[#880088 “So they didn’t. They didn’t make it and now you think you should die too. That’s a little selfish, don’t ya think?”]

The accusation confused Rylan enough that he removed the blame from his neck, leaving behind a deep but not lethal cut that would likely scar.

[b “Selfish? Selfish was leaving them behind. Selfish was not being here when they needed me!”]

[#880088 “And I bet the last thought they had was ‘Gee, I wish that cyborg kid was here to die alongside us!’ Face it, man, if they cared about you like you obviously care about them, they’d be glad you survived. If I were you, I would be a little more reluctant to throw that back in their faces.”]

She was blunt, harsh, and a little cruel, but she did have a point. Rylan may be the last street Brat left and if he died now, the legacy his father fought so hard to protect would die with him. It was the kind of tough love he’d come to expect from someone like Logan and Rylan had to admit, it was comforting to hear. He might never get the chance to be chewed out by his best friend again, so it was kind of nice to hear that same brutal honesty from someone else.

[b “What are you doing here then?”] He asked, retracting his blade and turning to face the oddly rebellious looking teen. She obviously wasn’t a street kid, but she clearly didn’t bel;ong in high society either. The simple fact that she’d stumbled upon a suicidal kid with a robotic arm, false eye, and deep scarring across his face and none of that even seemed to phase her, made Rylan think there was more to this girl than meets the eye.

[#880088 “My mom’s a paramedic. Called in to help whoever they could find. Name’s Charlie Atson.”]

[b “I’m Rylan Ev… um… Pierce. Rylan Pierce.”] He answered, not thinking it particularly safe for him or his new friend to know his connection to the Street Brats, given that the whole city believes they were responsible for all of this. Using his grandmother’s maiden name seemed like a safer bet.

[#880088 “Alright then Rylan. There’s an emergency post pretty close by - they’re offering shelter, food, hot coffee, a dry place to stay… how about we check it out? Get you cleaned up a bit, you’re a mess.”] The girl offered and Rylan couldn’t figure out why she would be going out of her way to help him out.

[b “Why would you help me?”]

[#880088 “Help you? No, man, you’re helping me! It’s boring as hell back there! You seem… well, interesting. Besides, I’ll take all the good Karma I can get.”] She offered with a shrug. Rylan wasn’t sure. He honestly couldn’t see himself living through another day of this agony. Everyone he knew and loved was gone and what’s worse, he was fighting the guilt that he’d abandoned them just a few short weeks before! His father had begged him to stay, Carla had pleaded for him not to leave her alone, even Logan tried to convince him not to go, but Rylan left them anyway. Maybe if he’d been there, he could have helped in some way. Maybe he could have saved them. Charlie was right about one thing: dying now would be selfish, but not for the reasons she thought. It wasn’t because his family would want him alive… they probably hated him for turning his back on the Brats like that. It went against everything his father stood for! But dying now would be taking the easy way out. Ending the suffering he knew he deserved. Maybe if he lived, he had a chance to do something with his life that might make up for his mistakes in some small way. He’d never earn his father’s forgiveness or his pride, but maybe he could find a way to lessen the shame just a little.

Rylan climbed back onto the safe side of the railing and numbly followed Charlie back to the emergency post. With the truth finally settling in his soul, Rylan reached into his pocket and took out the coin Logan had given him. That coin represented his last tie to the family, his last hope for reconnecting with them, but it was time to face the cruel reality. They were gone and Rylan was never going to see his family again. So with a final throw of his exhausted arm, Rylan hurled the coin off the edge of the bridge to be lost to the rapids below, letting it - and everything it represented - sink to the depths forever.
  ImnIslandGirl / 26d 15h 44m 2s
[b “Still no sign of him? He’s alive, Elliot. You’d know if he wasn’t. That pit in your stomach when Alex died… the same pit I got when I lost Maddi… a father knows when his child is gone. The fact that you haven’t given up tells me he’s still out there somewhere. You can feel it, can’t you? That kid… he’s stubborn and thick headed, just like his dad. But he’s also resourceful, smart, tough… he’s a survivor Ell. You’ll see him again. I know you will.”] Nic said, walking in to see his brother and catch the tail end of his conversation with Larry.

The last seven years hadn’t been kind to Nic. Now 55 years old, the man was starting to show it. His damaged knee had never fully recovered, forcing him to walk with a bad limp, even with the customized knee brace Elliot built for him. But it wasn’t just the physical damage that had haunted him over the years. Losing Maddi took a lot of the life from Nic’s eyes, but he kept himself going, not wanting to abandon his wife, son, or grandchildren. Those twins were everything to the man now - his last reminder of his daughter.

Nic was no longer eager to lead. He’d take whatever assignment his brother gave him, but he’d had a talk with Elliot years ago stating he couldn’t fill in as leader ever again. It took too much of a toll on the aging man.

[b “In the meantime, you can always borrow one of the twins. Zach’s definitely got his hands full with those two. I’m starting to think it's karma for how rebellious you and I were as kids. Carlos is probably looking down on me right now and laughing his ass off, thinking I deserve every bit of it for how much trouble I used to cause him.”] Nic said, flashing his brother a familiar smirk to show his best effort at lifting Elliot’s spirits. He turned back to watch the scene by the water as the twins badgered their father.

———

[#55AAEE “Was not, you liar!] Lizzy argued back, engaging in the typical banter between the two. The twins were almost always together, but unlike Tarik and Tori, or Seth and Sarah, these two weren’t always on the same page. Lizzy had grown up with a bit of an attitude , and was constantly bickering with Emmett or trying to get him in trouble. She loved her brother, but was usually far more keen on competing with him and picking fights than being the partners in crime the other Street Brat Siblings had proven to be.

[#55AAEE “Hey! No fair! Dad!”] Lizzy tried to keep that annoyed look on her face, but it broke into a fit of giggles as Zach threatened to drop them in the water. She playfully struggled in his grip, cheerfully squealing as he pretended to drop the twins before placing them safely on the ground.

[#55AAEE “See! I told you it was Emmy!”] She said, turning to her twin brother with a mocking look and a sing-singy tone.
[#55aaee “You’re gonna get in trouble! You’re gonna get in trouble!”] She teased, purposefully messing with his hair just to be annoying. But aside from her attitude and her bickering, Lizzy did have one other major weakness - getting too wrapped up in the situation, she had the unfortunate habit of running her mouth and letting slip bits and pieces of information that she wasn’t supposed to.

[#55aaee “But Caiden’s not here, he snuck out hours ago! I mean… he um… oops.”] Lizzy admitted before slapping her own hand over her mouth. Getting her own brother in trouble was one thing, but tattling on Caiden wasn’t something Lizzy intended to do. The kids had all been scheming the night before, each taking on their roles. Ashlynn wanted to sneak out and steal supplies, Noah was supposed to distract the adults in the warehouse so they wouldn’t notice the kids gone and the twins were to keep their dad distracted on patrol so he wouldn’t notice Ash and Caden sneaking out. Caiden had his own reasons for going to the market that he knew his Uncle T wouldn’t approve of, so the kids were going to cover for him while he was out.

-
[#ff6622 “Woah, Tigan calm down! He was right over there with… oh, damnit Ashlynn!”] Jack called out, noticing his daughter was also nowhere to be seen. He probably would have been more worried except that this seemed to happen a lot. It’s not necessarily that Jack and Lily weren’t attentive parents. On the contrary - they adored their little girl! The issue was that Ashlynn was a perfect mix of Lily and Jack, meaning she was amazing at sneaking off undetected. She was a talented thief like her father, but had the cunning of her mother - poor Jack didn’t stand a chance! Fortunately, whenever she escaped the watchful eyes of Lily and Jack, she usually had her big brother Logan looking over her shoulder. More often than not, she’d wanted home behind her brother with a sweet little grin that would melt Jack’s heart and somehow keep her out of trouble. That kid had her dad wrapped right around her finger.

[#ff6622 “Alright, we’ll split up and look for them. I’ll head towards the border, you take the…”] Jack’s plan was abruptly cut off when Hayden’s voice sounded over the comms. She sounded irritated and a little out of breath as if she’d been fighting… or maybe still was.

[+red “Tigan, get to the trading post. I found Caiden. I’ve got my hands full at the moment, so you’re going to have to come get the kid.”]

[#ff6622 “Come on, man, lets go!”] Jack encouraged, heading out with Tigan. The trading post wasn’t too far, but it was expressly forbidden for the kids to go alone. It was a dangerous place where many of the lower classes and gangs went to trade and gather supplies. More often than not, the adults couldn’t get in and out without a fight, but for the kids they were easy targets. Jack knew this place like the back of his hand, having spent most of his time scouting out the place and robbing supplies. He and Logan were probably the only Brats who could navigate the complicated layout of the trading post with any sort of efficiency, so it didn’t take long for Jack to lead Tigan towards a large open area, beckoned by the young, childish chanting of: [i “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!”]

When they arrived on scene, they could see two distinct fights going on. The first was Hayden, easily holding her own against multiple opponents who were trying to swarm her. Despite getting older, the agility fighter hadn’t slowed down much at all and was easily able to hold her own. Unfortunately, it locked her focus on her own fight, so she wasn’t able to intervene with the brawl going on a few paces away.

Nine year old Caiden was in the middle of a large circle of kids, spanning anywhere from 8-15 years old. His blonde hair hung down over his eyes, almost long enough to reach the seven year old burn scar that left a permanent etching from just under his left eyes right down to his jaw line. His other eye was darkened by an impressive looking bruise and his lip was starting to swell, but that didn’t seem to take away from the cocky smirk on his face as he danced around the three other kids who’d entered the circle with him. The other boys all looked to be older than Caiden, but had far more bruises from this fight then he did. Three against one didn’t seem like favourable odds, but it wasn’t the numbers that worried Jack. all three boys bore the same tattoo on their shoulders, marking them as newly initiated members of one of the gangs that hung around the trading post. In fact, they were the same tattoos that marked the shoulders of the men Hayden was fighting. Clearly the older members of the gang didn’t want her interfering with the younger ones’ fight.

[#aa0000 “You’re going down, Street Brat!”]
[+purple “Bring it on, you big baby! I’ll kick all your butts without breaking a sweat!”] Caiden challenged back, unknowingly provoking a couple more kids to step up to the fight as well. If Tigan didn’t pull him out of there, he was going to get himself swarmed!
-----------------
Balancing their old life with the new world wasn’t easy. Caleb and Larry had somehow found themselves on the Wealth side of the divide, earning themselves some relative safety and stability, while still trying to help the Brats from a distance. It wasn’t easy - the explosions took out many of the city wide security and even a few remote towers, creating huge gaping blindspots across the destructed city. It was a tense few weeks trying to locate everyone and make sure they were safe, but once they had, it was decided that Larry and Caleb were safer and more useful where they were. Especially with a newborn to look after.

Much like Larry, Caleb never really thought of himself as the fatherly type. He had very little to do with the Brat kids when they were little, mostly because he couldn’t communicate with them until they were old enough to read or learn sign language. But he owed it to Seth to look out for this little girl. Thankfully Larry was there for support and the younger man was pretty much a natural! He took in that little girl like she was his own and Caleb couldn’t be prouder.

Melissa was a very intelligent child and proved it from a young age. She started learning sign language even before she could speak and usually communicated with her fathers silently. By the time she was old enough to type, she was learning how to code and Caleb liked to foster those skills by giving her easy little tasks or chores so she’d feel like she was contributing. He found out early on that if Melissa was busy helping the family, she was less likely to sneak off and get into trouble. Little lissa was the perfect example of nature vs nurture: all the intelligence and skill set of her adoptive fathers, with the eye for trouble and natural stealth of her biological father.

All of this lead to Melissa being a rather quirky kid. She didn’t really fit in with the other wealth children, so she didn’t have many friends. Instead, she was often found on her own, typing away at her computer or pulling some elaborate prank. She’d often talk aloud to herself, sometimes even making up worlds that not even her fathers understood. But despise her odd habits, Lissa never ceased to make Larry and Caleb proud.

Caleb smiled at Larry’s kiss and turned to touch his partner’s cheek with his three-fingered hand. He pulled up one of his video feeds to show Lissa sitting on the roof cross-legged with her custom laptop resting on her knees. On a second screen, he showed how he remote hacked her computer to see what she was working on. Melissa had managed to find the old training program Caleb had designed and challenged Larry with on the very first day the boys met! At the time, Caleb was impressed that Larry had made it all the way to the final level before the program eventually beat him. But it was a true testament to his skills. Melissa was about half way through - not as far as Larry had been on his first try, but considering Lissa was only 7 years old it was incredibly impressive to watch her typing madly at the codes with her tongue stuck comically out of the side of her mouth in deep concentration - muttering to herself the whole time.

[#00cc00 “It’s 258 - 517 LX 552 over the hex of the 935… Will you shut up and let me concentrate! I’ve almost made it to level 6!”] Lissa said aloud to no one in particular, speaking in half gibberish and half amusingly telling herself to shut up. All of it causing the mute hacker to beam proudly at his daughter as he shared the video clip with Larry.

-----------------

It was Tori’s greatest fear that she would pass on her illness to her son, but with the circumstances surrounding his brih, it wasn’t a surprise. Tori’s weak spells had grown worse over the course of the pregnancy and she took a very sharp decline after the explosions. The stress of the fire, the damage from the smoke inhalation, mixed with the soul crushing grief of losing her best friend and the sinking reality that Viktor didn’t even care enough to check to make sure they made it out alive… Tori ended up on bedrest for most of her pregnancy, which was difficult to do with the city in such a state. Thankfully, her cousin Elliot found them a place to stay and Tarik and Lily kept her well treated. Even so, Noah was born prematurely in a very dangerous and traumatic birth that had left Tori in a coma for three months.

She was lucky that her brother had stepped up to be such a big part of Noah’s life. As the years went on, Tori grew stronger and ws finally getting back to her normal self . She still had the occasional dizzy spells, but nothing compared to what Noah now dealt with on a daily basis. Although, it seemed his condition did little to slow Noah down.

[#ff00ff “And it's a good thing he did, or you would have passed out in your hiding spot and then we never would have found you.”] Tori replied with a raised brow, taking her twin brother’s side in this.

[#ff00ff “I think I’m going to have to talk to Elliot and see if he can craft some sort of tracker for Noah - one that activates if his pulse starts to drop. Of course, that will only work if he wears it. Heaven knows how many trackers he’s lost over the years.”] Tori said to Tarik, shaking her head. But as much as it was a hassle, she couldn’t help but grin. Tarik was hardly any better at that age - the only difference being that Tarik hadn’t had the weak spells!

[#ff00ff “I took half a dose this morning and I feel fine. Maybe it’s time we cut my prescription back a little? Supplies are thin and I want to make sure there’s enough for Noah. The older he gets the more rambunctious he gets, and his weak spells will only get worse.”] Tori worried. She would much rather go without her own meds if it meant having enough for her son, but she knew her condition seven years ago had really scared her brother and he wouldn’t be willing to risk taking her off her meds completely. Since the last fight Tarik and Tori got into led to Tori running off and sleeping with a man who later abandoned her and his own kid, it was safe to say that Tori officially learned her lesson.

It was about that time that Tori could hear Tarik’s distant calls for Caiden and she fixed her son with a suspicious look.

[#ff00ff “Noah, you slept over with the other kids last night. Was Caiden planning on running off again?You know better than to keep secrets like that from us, Noah. It’s dangerous out there and Caiden could get really hurt if he’s by himself.”] Tori told her son, trying to appeal to his protective side so he wouldn’t think she just wanted him to tattle on the others. She knew Noah would never snitch on his friends, but she also knew the consequences of sneaking away from te family. She couldn’ count the number of times she, Maddi, and Tarik had tried that and nearly got themselves killed!
  ImnIslandGirl / 68d 13h 56m 55s
Seven years had passed since the day go the bombings. It should have been a day that froze time for the city. A moment of remembrance of the devastation that occurred so its citizens and the world could reflect and hope for it not to happen again. Of course this wasn’t the case. The city didn’t look back. In weeks it had started its regrowth, building over the old as if it was an abandoned grave. Each building climbed high, with each district representing its new found social class… the Underground a grave for those who perished seven years ago, and a final resting place who did not fit into the promising structure of the city.

The Street Brat’s had split many times over the decades but never with such a class divide. They may have lived different lives but never with so much impact. Not only did the Brat’s had to navigate the soul crushing reality of their losses seven years ago, they were raising the next generation and that came with its own challenges…

For those who lived on the Fringe, Elliot had stepped up once again as leader with perhaps a little too much stubborn ferocity. After returning back to the base to see his brother crushed over the death of his daughter and the chaos surrounding the family, Elliot couldn’t forgive himself for not being there. Seth’s last words was that he was the spirit of the Street Brat’s and because Elliot had forgotten that, he wasn’t there to lead in the most vital moment. It took awhile, his depression certainly hadn’t cleared, but he had stepped up to take the reins. First he found them all a safe place which in Street Brat style, wasn’t much… an abandoned dock with an empty warehouse, with no direct running water or electricity provided from the city. Elliot spent the first year getting it up to a liveable standard, whilst having to set out a rota of who would go steal supplies, who would be on guard duty… it wasn’t easy when all of them were marked as terrorists, but Elliot had learned from the best. His parents had survived the streets without the basic necessities their entire upbringing. Surely he could keep this family safe for once? Hell, he had failed for long enough.

Of course whilst finding the strength again to be a leader it didn’t mean that Elliot had completely found himself. He still hadn’t given up looking for his son, often reaching out to Larry or Caleb to see if anything had been found. Elliot was currently sat on his desk, a small black and white cat on his lap with his phone balanced between his cheek and his shoulder as he worked away.

[+green “Still nothing? Not even a sign he must… no, thank you Larry. Look, keep yourself, Caleb and Melissa safe. No it’s… no. It’s not safe for us to meet you yet. Larry shush, it’s ok. I know you’re trying everything to find him but either he’s gone or he doesn’t want to be found. Don’t risk your safety for us. Ok? Yeah… I’ll… I’ll speak soon.”] Elliot put the phone down with a heavy sign, placing down his tools and stroking his human hand gently across the cat on his lap.



[+green “What did I do, eh?”] Elliot whispered, closing his eyes for a moment as he silently hoped that it was that his son didn’t want to be found. It was a tough ideal to wish for but the only other option was that Rylan had died in the bombs as well.

———

Which led to the loss that had happened that day.
Zach had never truly recovered that day. Then again, no one with the Smaulders name truly did. In true Zach style he took up Nic’s offer and took the family name, changing from Dawson to Smaulder. Then he never really grieved… at least in front of the family. Nic was crushed and Zach made sure as much as possible he was there for his father-in-law, as did Starla, who distracted herself with the twins. It was a vicious circle of distraction but it seemed Zach had never given himself time to fully grieve the loss of his fiancé. If he did, he was scared he wouldn’t recover…

By the water, Zach had been enlisted to patrol by Elliot but decided to use the opportunity to take a twins on a walk. It was never a walk with the two… they were the children of the joker and the courageous. It certainly shown in their personalities.
Whilst they walked, Zach stopped for a moment to admire the sunrise. His expression hadn’t changed in seven years… he always carried that playful grin on his face but his eyes always carried a hint of sadness and longing. 

[+blue “Daaaaad!”] Emmett called, poking his dads shoulder. As Zach turned around, Emmett had run to the other side and waited until Zach looked forward again before splashing a handful of water at his fathers face.

[+blue “Gotcha!”] He called before running to his sisters side.

[+blue “It wasn’t me, it was Lizz!”]


Zach wiped his face down with his palm, looking down at his soaked t-shirt before stepping up to the twins and picking them both up with his arms. 
[+grey “Oh year? Well, I heard a boys voice and I know your twins but… I don’t know… maybe Lizzy is just really good at putting on a voice? Well, there’s only one way to find out!”] Zach played, stepping up to the waters edge and holding them both over, playfully threatening to drop one of them in if he didn’t get the truth!


[+grey “Which one was it!?”] Zach asked them both, acting as if his grip was slipping on both of them.

[+grey “Which one?”] He asked again, causing Emmett to wiggle in his arms.


[+blue “Ok, ok it was me!”] Emmett finally admitted and just as he did, Zach let his arms loose enough on both of the twins to pretend they were about to drop in before catching them last minute and putting them back onto dry land.

[+grey “I’ll get you back! Listen, why don’t you go find Caiden. I’ve got an hour left on patrol and then I’ll be back, ok? I love you both. If you see Grandad Nic on the way, give him a nudge from me.”]

———

Larry was sat in the inner city, putting down his phone and rubbing the bridge of his nose. While he and Caleb were the luckier of the two, it still hurt Larry that he couldn’t be there for his family. It didn’t stop the hackers from doing what they could from a distance and Larry worked tirelessly to do the best he could for the Brat’s.

That didn’t mean he didn’t work tirelessly for his new family either. Whilst he wanted to keep the Brat’s safe, the moment Caleb ran into their home with the pain of loss yet carrying their new family member, Larry didn’t hesitate to welcome Melissa into their family. If his boyfriend had made the decision to bring Melissa home, Larry would support in every way he could. He never thought he would be a father figure, nor did he even think he was capable of raising a child but as with the true nature of the Sanders, it certainly didn’t stop him putting his heart and soul into giving Melissa the best life possible.

When she grew older he and Caleb had brought her into learning their world. Signing, coding, hacking… it got to the point where Larry was having to change his password every week just to keep on his own guard!

Stepping away from his desk, Larry walked towards Caleb and planted a loving kiss on his cheek.

[+brown “That was Elliot… I told him the news. I’ll look again tomorrow. Where is she?”] Larry asked, looking around the room for Melissa.

-----

Tigan had never forgiven himself for the that day. Nic was right, he should have been there. He promised Kira and not only did he fail to be there in Caiden’s hour of need, he stopped Nic from saving his own daughter. That truth had haunted Tigan for the whole seven years, so much that it changed him as a person. When he wasn’t watching Caiden and only when he knew someone could look after the kid, usually his sister, he went to his families tradition of letting out stress… training. Elliot had made him a makeshift punching bag hanging off the edge of the dock, which was now shredded and beaten and barely hanging onto its stitches. Elliot had also redesigned Tigan’s prosthetic hands to give him more range of movement.



He was now stood on the edge of the dock, a sweat growing on his brow from the hours of training he had already done before sunrise. It didn’t matter how much of a lecture he had received from his sister. He needed to get it done and be strong enough to protect Caiden… if it wasn’t the punching bag it was a sparring session with Jack if he was pissed off enough! When Caiden got up Tigan was usually urging the kid to train more with him. If Caiden was ever on his own again, Tigan was determined the kid would be able to protect himself long enough. At least until Tigan could get to him.

Though that didn’t mean Tigan had his eyes on the ball all the time. Such as now… the kids had a sleepover during the night in the twins room. Tigan wiped the sweat from his head and stepped away from the punching bag, switching his prosthetics from his training ones , to the newly designed ones from Elliot.

Stepping into what had been their new home for years, Tigan opened the door to Caiden’s room, only to find an empty bed
.
[+brown “Shit… Caiden? Caiden!?”] Tigan called in panic, sprinting out the room to see Jack.

[+brown “Jack, fuck… have you seen Caiden? Seriously, have you seen him!?”]

------

[#e4803a “I’m gonna tell mum and daaaaaad. I’m gonna tell them! Logan snuck out again last night!”] A little blonde hair girl cheered, skipping down the street with a full rucksack filled with stolen groceries. 
[b “And I’ll tell them that I had to save your ass from the cops again! What did I say about not taking things and leaving it to me Ash?”] Logan snarled back, carrying his own larger rucksack and multiple black rubbish bags filled to the brim with the bits he managed to collect before his little sister had caught the polices attention. Elliot had set Logan on collection for the early shift, which meant actually going to all the shops he could get to in the city and grabbing as many of the essentials as he could; food, drink, medical supplies… it seemed his event with the cult hadn’t put him off this thieving but it wasn’t his only motive. Logan had been meeting up with Henson and Erlina, eager to keep his connections and boost up his skills but it seemed his little sister had other plans… she decided to sneak out from the little sleepover she was having with the others and follow Logan early hours.

[#e4803a “Well I’ll tell them that you swore at me again and then you’ll really be in trouble!”] Ashlynn threatened with a rather too sweet smile, pulling her tongue at Logan who looked like he would have smacked her across the back of the head if his hands weren’t full!
[b “Snitch. How about we call it even and I won’t tell mum or dad you snuck out with me? Now go and find your little friends or something and annoy them…”] Logan pointed to the distance, watching Zach get splashed with water.

He loved his little sister, he really did but that didn’t mean he didn’t grow up with jealousy. Jack loved his daughter and there was a connection there that he and Logan would never have. Even Lily seemed to connect with Ashlynn differently. He was glad his sister got to live a semi-normal life but she had friends, she had two loving parents, she had somewhat of a stable life… Logan had lost his friends… he hadn’t even heard from Jesse… Rylan was gone…. Apart from looking after his sister and stealing, there wasn’t much else to his prospects.

Logan stepped into the main base, dropping the goods down and unpacking them, giving a half smile as Lily stepped over to help.
[+orange “You’ve always been a good boy.”] Lily smiled warmly, giving Logan a kiss on the cheek and laughing as he shrugged away.
[b “I’m not a baby anymore!”]
[+orange “You always will be to me! I’m just sorting breakfast. It’s good you got what you did… where’s your sister?”] Lily asked, to which Logan just nodded with his head to outside the window, not bothering with the full energy to explain.

———

Tarik stepped into the room with Noah under his arm and a tray of medication in the other. The young boy was in the midst of another weak spell, inherited from his mother. Tarik had done everything he could in the kids younger years to try and beat the weak spells from developing but unfortunately with their circumstances, he didn’t have the access to medicine to finish his work. He was still able to create the medicine needed to keep Noah and his mothers condition in check, but he was far from a cure.

[#0c92b0 “Maybe one day you’ll learn that playing hide and seek in a confined space BEFORE your breakfast and medication will cause this.”] Tarik sighed, throwing the kid on an arm chair with what seemed like little care but the truth was, this was a daily routine. Noah’s hyperactivity and cockiness always made his weak spells kick off, so it wasn’t that Tarik wasn’t being caring, it was just the routine by now!

Grabbing a cup of orange juice he handed the tablet to the kid with the drink and waved over to Tori.

[#0c92b0 “Time for you and mummy to have your medicine together. Come on, on the count of three. Show me how quickly you can get it down… three, two…”] Tarik challenged knowing too well it would help Noah take his medicine. In record time the child gulped it down and within seconds his weak spell started to dissolve. The colour returned to his lips and his glazed over eyes returned to focus.
[#1c8768 “You cheated! Mum, Uncle Tarik cheated. He started to look for me before counting to ten…”]

[#0c92b0 “Yeah… maybe mummy can speak to you about sitting down when you first wake up. How you doing sis? Oh, don’t forget to take your medication as well.”]
  Kattik / 69d 14h 5m 21s
Nic stepped over to the young man and placed a firm, supportive hand on his shoulder.

[b “If you want the Smaulders name, son, it’s yours. With or without a wedding. You have no idea how proud it would make me to have you share the Smaulders name.”] Nic told him, giving Zach a proud smile. It was one last happy moment before Nic’s world fell apart.

With the force of the blast, Nic was knocked off his feet. The adrenaline kicked in with a fierce drive to protect his family. Elliot wasn’t back yet, which meant that despite Nic’s promise to never take over as leader again, this family needed someone to take charge!

[b “Starla, get him out of here! Take the babies outside, I’ll get Maddison. Lily, once you get Ashlynn, help Tori outside! I want everyone clear from the building in case of a second wave! Move!”] Nic shouted out, turning back to his daughter and madly working to unhook her from the various machines. But as he worked a piercing scream broke through the chaos and Nic realized there was one member of the family still inside! Little Caiden was shrieking in pain as well as fear and Nic cursed himself for sending the little boy to his room earlier - closer to the source of the blast! It was then that Nic had to make the most heart wrenching choice of his life - get Maddison out or go find Caiden. They were both helpless, defenseless, but Caiden was panicking and would likely get himself into even worse danger if he wasn’t reached. So Nic ran his hand through Maddi’s hair and placed a kiss on her forehead.

[b “I’ll come back for you, Sweetheart. I promise, I’ll come back for you.”] He told her before running off in the direction of the screams. Nic found Caiden in his room, backed into a corner with flames all around. The ceiling above the young boy’s head looked dangerously close to collapsing. Nic didn’t have time to delay - he dove througvht he flames, feeling the heat eat away at his exposed skin. He grabbed the little boy, and held him close to his chest as he turned to leave, just as the ceiling above finally gave way. Nic let out a hollar as a burning piece of wood collided with his back, but he made sure Caiden was safely curled into his chest and shielded from any further harm. Nic barely managed to get outside when he felt his injured knee giving out. But there wasn’t time to stop. He had to go back for Maddison!

[b “Lily, take him! I gotta go back! Maddi! MADDI!”] Nic shouted, turning to run back into that burning building, when he felt a strong arm wrap around his chest and hold him back.

[+red “Nic, you can’t! The building’s about to…”] and just before the words were uttered, the entire roof caved in. The floor fell through and the entire safehouse crumbled in on itself, sinking into the underground.

[b “NO! MADDI! I HAVE TO SAVE HER! MADDI! NOOOO!”] Hayden held tightly to the father as his agonized wails filled the air. She knew there was no chance now. No one could have survived that, never mind someone in a coma. Maddison was gone and Nic had just watched his little girl - his whole world - go down in flames.

-
The explosions shook the street, causing Caleb to instinctively curl around the baby in his arms, protecting her from the blast. His wide eyes matched Elliots as the three stared at the devastation that surrounded them and let the heavy dread settle in - the first blast came from the safehouse!

He gave Elliot a desperate look, wanting nothing more than to follow him and Tarik back to the others, but with little Melissa screaming in his arms, he knew he had to put her safety first! Seth’s dying wish was for Caleb to protect that belittle girl, so Caleb had no choice. He just hoped Elliot would forgive him.

With Elliot and Tarik rushing back to the safehouse, Caleb made his way through the demolished streets until he reached the few blocks of wealthy houses that surrounded their apartment. It seemed that these few blocks had been spared the devastation, so Caleb was relieved to see that Larry wasn't hurt. But was he prepared for what was about to walk through that door? Caleb and Larry had been partners for years, but they were still just newly a couple. Now Caleb was about to show up at his door, a complete emotional mess after losing his best friend, and now the appointed guardian of a baby girl! But if these factors were enough to tear their relationship down, there wasn’t time for that now. The hackers would need to tap into any camera footage they could find to try to locate their family and see if there were any survivors. After all, Larry’s brother and his family were caught right in the middle of all of this!
-
Jack had never been so grateful that he couldn’t feel pain - despite his injuries, he didn’t let it slow him down. He ran after Tigan and Logan, sparing a moment to glance over his shoulder at Finn, but instead of seeing the magician following along at his heels, he saw a horrified look in Finn’s eyes and a staggering step backwards.

[#ff6622 “What the hell are you doing? We need to go! We need to help them!”] Jack cried.

[+purple “I… no, I can’t… I… I need to go.”]

[#ff6622 “What?! Are you fucking kidding me? Stop messing around, we need your help!”]

[+purple “I can’t… you’re on your own.”]

[#ff6622 “Don’t you dare abandon us now!”]


[+purple “I’m sorry…”]


{#ff6622 “FINN! You fucking coward!”] Jack shouted, but the magician simply turned the other direction and disappeared into the night. Jack couldn’t waste anymore time. Next time he saw that treacherous coward, he’d rip him to shreds, but for now he needed to find his family!

The scene Jack arrived at was utter chaos. Tori was gasping for air, in the midst of one of the worse weak spells Jack had ever witnessed. Nic was screaming in emotional pain, weakly fighting Hayden who was the only thing stopping him from rushing into that demolished building. Jack saw Zach, Starla and the twins, but with no sign of Maddison he could only imagine what happened. A quick glance showed that Lily and Ashlyn were safe, but that Lily hadn’t gotten out unscathed. Jack took a step towards his family when a cry caught his attention. A terrified young Caiden was hovering near Nic. The boy was covered in soot and ash, the left side of his face sporting a small but gruesome burnt hat would scar him for the rest of his life, but most staggering was that he was alone. Togan was frozen! Jack ran to his best friend and roughly shook him, trying to snap him out of his days.

[#ff6622 “What the hell, man? Caiden needs you! Don’t just stand here! Go to him!”] Jack snapped, practically dragging Tigan forward until Caiden caught sight of his hero. The little boy ran straight for Tigan, burying his face in Tigan’s shirt as he sobbed in fear and pain.

[+purple “Unca T!”] The little shout seemed to catch Nic’s attention. The man had gone from agony and denial to a numbness Jack recognized as pure loss and despair. But he hadn’t been prepared for Nic to round on Tigan.

[b “You… where were you? You just left him and… Fuck, Tigan! You were supposed to protect him! He was [i your] responsibility! If you had been there to save your kid, I could have saved mine! My little girl is dead and you… you have no right to be a father!”] Nic’s words were born of guilt and pain, no one could blame him for lashing out, but unfortunately, Tigan was taking the brunt of it. Hayden intervened, forcing Nic back away from her brother and over to his wife, son, and grandchildren.

[#ff6622 “I gotta check on Lily. Tigan, take care of Caiden. You gotta patch up that burn on his face, man. And then we’ve gotta get some place safe. The explosions are still going off, we need to get out of here.”]

———

[#ff00ff “You son of a bitch!”] Xana hissed, unable to hide her reaction like the others. It showed her immaturity, despite being a talented Reader and far more independent than many of her cohort, she was still just 14 years old and watching her city blow up, possibly taking her brother with it was pushing her to her limits.

Lisa kept quiet, but her eyes were fierce. She was painfully aware that she hadn’t had an opportunity to truly fix things with Lily and now her best friend could be dead! Her brother and sister in laws, her friends, family, all of them could have been lost in that explosion, meanwhile the bastards responsible was still threatening to take even more. Lisa was glad Martyn spoke when he did, because she wasn’t sure she’d be able to hold her tongue any longer.

[#776677 “To be honest, Martyn, I have no desire to kill your daughter. Quite frankly, I’m impressed with her. She’s proven to be quite resilient, even after everything I’ve already put her through. I see a lot of potential in her. Enough that I’d rather invest my time in training her than in killing her and wasting all that talent. So as long as you and Lisa do as you're told, your little girl has nothing to worry about.”] Roland said, glancing at the screen that showed young Jesse huddled in the dark with no ability to see, hear, or speak. Roland was an expert at targeting people’s weaknesses, yet even after he’d silenced the little brat, she’d tried to help Bryn and Jayden escape - leading to Roland locking the three girls up separately.

[#776677 “Bartering with your daughter’s life… well, it wouldn’t be the first time, would it Martyn? From what I heard, you tried to trade your own daughter away when she was just a few hours old. Even after all these years, I bet some part of you is relieved you don’t have to look after her anymore.”] Roland taunted, wanting the dangerous Silvertongue off his game as much as possible. Roland knew better than to underestimate the man, but maybe if he targeted the doubtful father’s weakest link, he could get away relatively unscathed.

[#776677 “No, I’m far better than my father. My father was narrow sighted, arrogant, and far too greedy. He took what he wanted without thinking of the consequences. I’m sure your wife could tell you all about that… although I can’t really call that [i taking]. Sounded to me like she was quite willing.”] He said, darting his eyes towards a stone faced Lisa.

[#776677 “I’m not underestimating you, Martyn. I know very well what you’re capable of, which is why I’m not so eager to give up my only leverage against you. But I also know you’d never risk any harm to your little girl, and there are far worse things I can do to her than kill her. So you’ll help me with the council, then you’ll do your best to keep any surviving Street Brats away from me. And in exchange, I’ll grant you and Lisa a modest life as Wealths in the new social structure as well as an opportunity to see your daughter a couple times a year. But make no mistake - Jesse belongs to me.”]
  ImnIslandGirl / 77d 19h 47m 58s
It was really telling that Zach wasn’t doing too well when he didn’t throw a joke in at his own expense when Nic told him the family was lucky to have him around. He appreciated it, he really did and unknowingly it was what his uncertainty had been desperate to hear for years! Of course he knew hoc much the family cared and loved him. That was why he was so determined to give Maddi the best life she could live. He wanted her to see the happiness that was surrounding her every waking minute and how much they had to look forward to. He was the lucky one. He found a family he never had. Though all he could do was nod in a silent ‘thank you’ as Nic made his point.

[+blue “The mask… it’s not to hide from you or anyone else… I know you all know I’m not doing ok. I have to put it on for me. I’m not strong or brave and when my emotions hit me, it’s dangerous. When Maddi first met me I was hours away from giving up again. I have to put on a smile because I scare myself with what can happen if I don’t.”] Zach explained in the deepest truth he could reveal. Maddison was the only other person who knew how close he had come in the past to taking his own life. He had told her parts of his story with his old family; not that they could be called that.

His eyes drifted over to Maddison with a loving yet broken look. Tears rimmed his eyes and there was a silent message that anyone who looked at him would be able to read. Zach was begging her to wake up. To be strong like she always was and fight her way through the darkness and come back to her family.

[+blue “I wanted the Smaulders name because I loved Maddison but also this family, you and Starla, you’ve always been there for me. I just want to be here for when she wakes up. I know this must be hard on you too… I shouldn’t… Heh… you’re right. She will keep fighting and she’ll be ready to punch me when I tell her that she picked the wrong time for a nap! Ha! You hear that Maddi? You can’t keep hitting snooze on your alarm!”] Zach laughed, finally cracking his first smile from the genuine comfort provided by Nic and the hope that Male everything would be ok.

Then there was a bang, smoke, an intense heat that burnt his skin and before he even knew how to react, the ceiling crashed down behind him.
Zach opened his eyes and he was laying on his back, his ears ringing. He could feel something wet and sticky on his face. Blood? He was coughing with the dust brimming from his lungs. The little bundle in his arms was screaming. There was more screaming. Chaotic.
Zach blinked away the haze from his eyes to see Starla sprinting over the rubble to help Nic to his feet. She was shouting. Grab the baby? She was telling Nic to grab the baby…

Zach crawled up to his feet , turning to see the other Brat’s instantly running to action. Lily was pulling herself from a small cave in. Alive but certainly sporting a series of injuries as she staggered towards the crib where Ashlynn had been asleep.

[#ac84b8 “Zach! Get Emmett out of here!”] It was Starla’s voice and as he stood there in his daze the woman ran towards him and grabbing his shoulders with her burnt hands and pushed him towards the door.

[#ac84b8 “Move it!”] Starla commanded with enough force that it made Zach’s feet automatically move. His eyes kept turning back to Maddison but every time he stopped another brat’s hands landed on his shoulder and pushed him towards the exit…

Outside the Street Brat base and not too far away, Tigan was helping Jack when the explosion took place. Logan instantly went to run ahead but his own injuries caused him to fall back as the shockwave hit them. Tigan was strong enough to keep him and Jack on his feet but as the wave cleared and he saw the smoke, his chest tightened in panic.

[+brown "Caiden!"] He screamed and would have sprinted but his eyes hardened on the orange glow coming from the grey ash cloud. The building was on fire. There was very little that could make Tigan stop in his tracks but even he couldn't stop his body from violently shaking and for his breath to hitch in his throat. He couldn't move. He should have been running to protect that little boy and he was frozen on the spot!

———

[+green “Your last prank? What happened to all the times you swore to haunt me and never let me rest if you went first? You’re promising me a few years peace.”] Elliot choked a laugh out at his friend, watching as the life drained from him. There weren’t many Brat’s who would be able to get Elliot to laugh in their dying moments but if there was one person he could count on to do that it would be Seth!

[+green “I know you’d never betray the family. The Brat’s have always been your priority… you’ve always been loyal.”] Elliot said proudly but there was a pain in his voice. How many more family members did he have to lose because of their loyalty? In fact… how many more did he have to lose altogether? He lost his daughter, his son, Lynn, his sister was missing and now he was watching his best friend fade before his eyes.
Elliot made sure that he took the letter. He knew how much Tigan had been fighting to look after that kid and if there was anything that was going to keep him going, it was whatever Kira had written on that blood stained parchment.
Tarik had seen his fair share of death in the Street Brat’s and close calls but this one was ripping him up just as much as Elliot! He was a chemist but there was no miracle drug to bring someone back from the dead. 
[#286080 “I’ll keep them safe. And err, I’ll leave the sense knocking for Tigan, it’s his favourite past time. I’ll tell Lily. Just expect her to knock some sense into you one day…”] Tarik grinned back, trying to show Seth that his final moments weren’t coated in despair. He always had a way of bringing light into the room and that never faltered, not even as he was drifting into his final moments with shortening breaths…

[+green “She’ll be waiting for you. Say hi to Sarah for me. I’ll see you both again…”] Elliot whispered as he watched the life leave Seth’s eyes. Despite the torture of watching his best friend go, Elliot smiled in return in Seth’s final moments and squeezed his friends hand a little tighter. With a few fallen tears he rested Seth’s hand over his chest and gently closed his eyes, allowing him to rest in the peace he had fallen into. He had played his part for the Brat’s and now he hadn’t lost so much. He was gaining the time with his sister that he had lost for so many years…

[+green “Tarik, can you help me bring the body back? Caleb, we can get Melissa looked over when we…”]

Elliot never got to finish his sentence. His eyes widened as he watched a plume of smoke in the distance and within seconds a shock wave travelled in their direction with enough force to throw Elliot off his feet! As his back slammed into the ground another explosion occurred, this time sending crashing rubble from a nearby building hurling in their direction. There was a scream from Tarik but he pulled himself up to his feet, sprinting to Elliot and pulling the leader up to his feet.

[#286080 “The base, it came from the base! The initial blast! Tori… shit, I have to get back! Tori! The others!”] Tarik panicked, his cheek burnt from a nearby flame but the damage didn’t matter. He had to get back to his family and the look in Elliot’s eyes went from one of mourning to one of a mixture of panic and determination! He had already lost so much, he couldn’t lose anyone else!

———

Inside Heartley industries, Viktor looked exhausted just having to step into the place. What started as an opportunity to annoy his sister with Finn was now turning into a mission to save whatever there was left worth saving… it wasn’t what he signed up for and he was desperate to get out of this mess, but he had to play the game to put an end to all this and get out of Roland’s hair. The sooner he could do that, the sooner he and Finn could go with the original offer he should have taken and get out of the city once and for all.

Martyn on the other hand didn’t falter. His face was set like stone. Emotionless. Fearless. There was nothing that was shaking the man’s demeanour as he stepped into the office and saw Roland in front of him. The man was exactly what he expected. He was exactly like Gordon. Martyn could sense every oozing ounce of cunning, tenacity and psychopathic tendencies this man was capable of. There was no remorse, no emotion… he was an empty vessel with only his own desires to fulfil. Without communicating it or giving a hint away Martyn knew this would be difficult to Lisa but they had to come here to finish this, whatever the cost. Even as he glanced up at the screens and saw his daughter, despite the internal desire to rip this man apart with every word he could lacerate him with, he held his tongue.

Then the bombs went off and there were very mixed reactions.
Viktor took a step forward, clenching his fists and staring at the screens with wide eyes. His brother was out there! He didn’t know if Finn was alive! Even some of the guards stared in a mixture of awe and shock.

Martyn however stayed completely still.
There wasn’t a flicker of movement.
His eyes simply stayed on Roland, listening to the man’s next set of demands. 
Only Lisa would have known the true turmoil going on inside Martyn’s mind but the reader would never slip. Not when he was inches away from destroying Roland in seconds.

[+red “You want to be careful with what you bargain with Roland. When you take everything away, there really isn’t much room for negotiation. For all I know, all I have left is Jesse. If you want to take her away, be my guest. Though I’d be careful… my little girls survival may depend on my cooperation, but your future is decided on my little girls survival. As they say in chess… check.”] Martyn responded, staying chillingly still given the circumstances but his eyes told Roland everything. If the man really want to try that threat and to carry it out, by all means he could… Martyn wasn’t a fighter. There was no way he could physically protect his daughter from execution but there was an aftermath that Roland was gambling to play with.

[+red “So here is how this goes. My daughter, lives. So long as she stays alive you have me and Lisa at your disposal to persuade the council. I know how this works. Either way, we both have to fulfil each others demands. They say you're a strategist. So far I’m only seeing an amateur. Your father made the same mistakes.”]
  Kattik / 79d 12h 40m 46s
As Zach attempted to joke, Nic walked over to Elizabeth’s crib, running a bandaged hand through the tuft of hair on her head, mainly so Zach wouldn’t feel like he was being watched. Nic could tell without looking that Zach’s typical grin was missing and it saddened the man to know how hard this was for his future son in law.

[b “Don’t take it personally, Kid. It’s a father’s job to think no man is good enough for his little girl. You’ll see once Lizzy gets older! But truthfully… you’re a good man Zach. Maddi’s lucky to have you. We all are.”] Nic told him honestly. But no amount of positive reinforcement could make the current tragedy slip away. When Zach tried to pass off Nic’s concern with a typical [i ‘I’m fine’], the man turned back to him looking entirely unconvinced. He was relieved when Zach finally started to open up. Nic couldn’t do anything to help so long as Zach kept it all bottled up, but some of his fears out in the open, Nic walked back over to Zach and put a steady hand on his shoulder.

[b “Zach, you don't have to silence yourself in front of me. That mask you wear in front of the others… you don’t need it with me. I know you and Maddi aren’t married yet, but… as far as I’m concerned, you’re already my son. You gave Maddi the courage and strength to overcome everything she went through with Gordon. You were there for her when she needed you most and this… Zach, you couldn’t have stopped this.”] Nic told him, understanding that helpless feeling as he too felt the weight of not being able to protect his daughter from this fate.

[b “Even if we knew about the second baby… even knowing the risks, Maddi wouldn’t have chosen any different. She would have done anything to protect Emmett and Elizabeth. And she will keep fighting as hard as she can to get back to you, Zach. Until she does, Starla and I are here for you. We’re your family now. You’re not alone.”] Nic promised him.

-

Caleb was usually not everly emotional, but he couldn’t seem to hold back the tears that were welling in his eyes. He held the infant - too small and too quiet for a healthy baby - and desperately tried to keep that blood from draining any more life from his best friend. When Elliot and Tarik arrived, Caleb looked at the two with one last hope, silently begging them to do something… ANYTHING… to save Seth’s life, but that resigned look on Tarik’s face crushed any last hope he had. Seth seemed unsurprised - as if he could feel his life fading and already knew there was nothing that could be done. But the thief didn’t look scared. Instead, as Elliot took his hand, Seth forced himself to give one last impish grin, showing he was at peace with what was happening.

[#227733 “Come on Ell… you d-didn’t really think I’d l-let you die f-first, did ya? C-consider this my l-last prank!”] Seth said, feeling his body grow heavier with the effects of the bloodloss. His body was shutting down, it wouldn’t be long now.

[#227733 “I know, Ell… I know you’d n-never abandon family. You c-can’t blame y-yourself… They… they tried to make us call you… they wanted t-to use us as b-bait, but we… we sabotaged them every chance w-we got… Ell, you d-didn’t find us because we d-didn't want to be found… I wasn’t g-gonna betray my family… my b-brother…”] Seth admitted, showing that it wasn’t a lack of effort on Elliots part. Seth and Kira did everything they could to make sure they weren’t used as bait. They didn’t want to be responsible for their family getting hurt or captured.

[#227733 “Kira, she… she wants Tigan to look after C-caiden… She wrote him...h-here…”] Seth stuttered, straining to move as he pulled a bloodstained piece of crumpled paper from his pocket - a last letter from Kira to Tigan explaining how none of this was his fault and that she trusted him to take good care of her son. With the letter now in Elliot’s hands, Seth turned his eyes to Tarik.

[#227733 “You keep an eye on your sisters, alright? And next time Jack screws things up with Lily, you knock some sense into him for me, ok Kid? Lily… tell her goodbye for me, ok?”] Seth said, finding it harder and harder to stay awake. He forced his eyes to stay open a few more minutes, returning to Elliot’s as he grinned a bloody grin and promised to watch out for the Brats who had already passed.

[#227733 “Ell… you’re the s-spirit of the Street Brats… don’t… don’t ever f-forget that… and d-don’t be sad...“] He said, resting his head back as his breathing grew shallower and his eyes a little more unfocused.

[#227733 “I finally get to see Sarah again…”]

That final through brought a genuine smile to Seth’s face. After 20 long years living without his twin sister, the thought of reuniting with her brought Seth a sense of peace that Street Brats so rarely managed in their last few moments. Even as the light faded from Seth’s eyes, that smile remained.

------------------------

Xana was feeling awkward - like she was intruding on something she shouldn’t be. The silent conversation between Martyn and Lisa was private, but the young reader could see it all regardless. She saw the hidden concern in martyn’s eyes and the returned longing in Lisa’s. They were both so worried about their little girl and it made Xana feel even worse about what happened. She had promised to keep her big sister safe and now Jesse was in more danger than ever because of Xana’s family ties! To make matters worse, there was very little Xana could do to contribute. She was still scared of Roland despite how she tried to hide it. Usually being able to read someone gave her comfort that they couldn’t surprise her, but with Roland it was even more intimidating to see just how many plans he had going on all at once! The man was a genius and he always had a contingency. Lisa and Martyn had every right to be worried about their daughter’s fate.

[+red “Martyn, are you guys going to be ok if I leave you? It sounds like this is going to be more of a fight with words than with fists, and you know keeping my temper in check isn’t exactly one of my strengths. Besides, if this creep does plan on targeting the family, I’d feel better knowing they’ve got an extra fighter close by.”] Hayden suggested, not wanting to leave her brother unprotected, but Hayden had learned over the years that just because Martyn wasn’t a fighter, didn’t mean that he wasn’t just as ruthless. He could more than take care of himself and with Lisa at his side, they would be a force to reckon with. She’d likely just be in the way if she stuck around. Besides, she was anxious to get back to Elliot.

[+red “Call me if you need me, alright? This Roland bastard deserves to get his ass kicked and I’m more than happy to help with that. Stay safe.”] Hayden told him before hurrying back towards the safehouse and leaving the readers and silvertongues to meet their opponent.

Once inside, the group was met by the guards who seemed to have been expecting them. Once grabbed for xana’s arm, but quickly backed off after receiving a cutting glare from the young blonde. If looks could kill, anyone who fell under Xana’s stare would be six feet under by now. Lisa, on the other hand, was calm and reserved, looking almost bored with the display. She didn’t want to give Roland or his lackeys the satisfaction of seeing her flustered.

They were led into one of the larger offices that Roland had claimed as his own. Xana hissed under her breath as she saw her hard work and tireless efforts of renovating and rebuilding Heartley Industries crumble under her brother’s possession. But she held her tongue - partially because of Martyn’s orders and partially because there was no sign of Jesse yet and she didn’t want to put her sister in any further danger. Roland was standing by a large digital display board that was showing a map of the city surrounded by several images from traffic cameras. He didn’t know exactly where the Street Brat safe house was, but he was fairly certain they weren’t too close by. Everything aside from a limited couple of blocks belonging to the city’s most wealthy will be destroyed in the explosion, so he was quite certain the Brats would fall with them. The map showed several red dots scattered throughout the city, representing multiple explosives planted in the underground. Roland had used Bryn as leverage to force her gang to work for him and plant the bombs where needed - hidden so that the Street Brats had no chance to find and disarm them.

One of the screens was split into three, each with a live stream of his three hostages: Jayden was confined to a room with a workbench, but she was currently sitting on the floor, painfully wrapping a severely burned hand. It seemed she had done something her brother hadn't approved of, so as punishment he threatened her ability to keep inventing. Bryn was locked in a room with a bed, looking bruised and battered as she hugged her arms around her knees and hid her face in shame. The third camera was night vision - depicting a dark room designed for sensory deprivation. Jesse was a reader, so Roland had deprived her of her ability to hear or see anything around her. Her mouth was still stitched and there was a dehumanizing collar around her neck that kept her chained to the wall like an animal. Jesse made no effort to remove it, so it was clear she’d already been punished severely for any show of disobedience. The sight of her daughter treated this way was almost enough to break Lisa’s mask!

[#776677 “Well, well… I’m not one who’s usually surprised, but I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting this. I was sure Viktor and Xana would have found some way to fuck this up.”] Roland said, seemingly unimpressed with the infamous Silvertongue and Reader in front of him. He wsized up Martyn and Lisa for a moment before turning to Viktor, expecting some kind of impulsive retort from his brother. It was best not let Viktor start in with his manipulative words, especially when he was backed by a second talented Silvertongue, so Roland decided to throw the group off their game right from the start.

[#776677 “I see Finn isn’t here with you. He’s back with the other Street Brats, I assume? Pity… he might have been useful.”] Roland mused before reaching for a remote and pressing a button without a moment of hesitation. The results were utter chaos…

One the display, every red dot suddenly lit up, showing a bomb had been detonated. The camera views were rocked by horrible destruction as huge bombs planted all over the city erupted, taking out roads, buildings, parks… basically sinking the entire city into the underground! Roland turned down the volume, as if he was annoyed with the sounds of screams and sirens that suddenly erupted over the speakers. But what would be most chilling to the Street Brats is to see that one of the bombs had been located right beneath the safehouse! There were so many Brats still inside - including the injured and the babies! Hayden was on her way back there right now and could easily have been caught in the blast! Finn was likely also trapped in that fiery mess! For all they knew, the Masons had just lost their entire family and the Heartley’s might have just witnessed the death of their brother!

[#776677 “The council will be calling an emergency meeting soon to discuss how to handle this [i unfortunate tragedy]. At that meeting, I will be proposing a new social structure that protects the rich and powerful and banishes the scum of this city to the underground where they belong. You, Mr. and Mrs. Mason, will ensure the council agrees with my proposal. After all, the only family you have left now is your little girl and Jesse’s survival depends entirely on your cooperation. The same goes for Jadyn, so Viktor, Xana, I expect you both to fall in line unless you want yet another worthless sibling to meet the same fate as Finn.”]
  ImnIslandGirl / 81d 16h 47m 2s
It would have usually been the perfect opportunity for Zach. Little Caiden putting on the brave superhero act would have opened a world of jokes, tricks, and ego-boosting comments for the new father to crack. No doubt he would have revelled in the chance to watch the kid full of confidence from his comments. Instead Zach gave a half-smile, the most he could muster, and was secretly thankful for Nic’s intervention. It should have been the easiest part of his day but instead he felt that additional weight on his shoulders. He never thought he would be doing this on his own... sure Starla and Tarik had chipped in, now Nic was stepping up but he never imagined waiting for Maddison to wake up.

[+blue “Not surprised Maddi had a set of lungs on her. She’s been a fighter all her life... and hey, be careful old man... I might have to remember that compliment next time you see me as the street kid you have to keep an eye on.”] Zach remarked teasingly but again his mouth never slipped into that usual cheeky grin he carried. Instead it felt weighted down, barely lifting for long enough for it to be registered by anyone else.

Then came the question he had tried to hard to avoid.

There was a lump in his throat, a build-up of repressed emotion crushing down on his chest.
[+blue “I’m fine.”] Zach spoke in what should have been confidence but instead came out nothing more than a whispered choke.

Lowering his eyes to the floor, he felt a tear roll down his cheek.
Even Zach’s positive strength couldn’t hold him up with this.

[+blue “Maddi gave me a reason to stay alive y’know? I was ready to give up all those years ago... I was the street kid who was a coward, being used by every gang, scarred with... well... not that I could call them family but my... anyway, I was losing everything and just when I thought there was nothing else, she reminded me...”] Zach spoke but the moment he realised how much he was throwing it all at Nic, he bit his lip to silence himself and shook his head.

[+blue “She’s just been my world for so long... the twins deserve to see her. Hear her. Then I feel like I should have done more. I should have... I dunno... something... she always put herself at risk to protect those she loved and now she’s... there’s nothing we can do apart from wait... I promised you I would keep her safe and I failed.”] Zach confessed just as Emmett’s cries finally stopped and he settled into a gentle slumber. Zach held his son a little closer, resting his head gently against his sons and closing his eyes.

[+blue “I’m scared Nic. I’m really, really scared. I can’t do this without her...”]

-

[+brown “Caleb? Hey, what’s... hold on!”] Larry called after his boyfriend but as Caleb pointed to the screen, he saw the untold story. There wasn’t a moment of hesitation between radioing out to Elliot and focusing the camera on Seth’s condition. Caleb had made it in time but the scene in front of him on that monitor crushed his heart. He knew how much Seth meant to Caleb, how much he meant to the rest of the family... they had been looking for him for so long but they were too late. Even Larry could tell that from watching on the screen. It wasn’t long that after he told Elliot of the situation, that he could see the Street Brat leader and Tarik rushing through the streets...

Moments later, Elliot came bursting through the door and didn’t stop until he was right by his best friends' side.
[+green “Tarik! Check him over. We’ll get him back, radio for medical supplies... Caleb, who is...”] Elliot started to command, setting out his orders in true Street Brat fashion until his eye settled on the small child in Caleb’s arms. It didn’t take the leader long to form the connections... He watched Tarik review the wound and share a saddened expression with Caleb. The hacker had done well to put pressure on the wound and keep Seth breathing until now but there wasn’t much more that could be done. Tarik very gently swapped places with Caleb, using a more sterile cloth to keep Seth was immediately bleeding out and silently promising he would check the child's condition.

[+green “Tarik. No. We don’t...”] Elliot started but he could see that familiar set look. It was the same one Lynn carried when she knew the end was coming for a Brat. She would fight as long as she could but there was the occasion when she would make a Brat’s passing as comfortable as possible... it was rare for any family member to have that opportunity and it seemed Tarik had settled that he would do what he could.

Elliot wrapped his human hand in Seth’s and looked at his best friend, silently pleading with him to find some strength but also exchanging years of history and memories only linked between the two in a single stare. They had survived so much. Near-death, heartbreak, hidden secrets, dark truths... Elliot thought that Seth would be the one to outlast them all, to keep the Street Brat spirit alive. Hell, there had been so many times when Elliot had forgotten what it meant to be a Street Brat and Seth had pulled him back to his purpose. Just when Elliot’s world was crumbling around him, he was now losing his best friend...

[+green “You really pick your times Seth... I was meant to be before you, remember? We talked about this.”] Elliot choked out, attempting to find the humour they used to share but instead felt his hand trembling in his friends and his eye welling up with tears.

[+green “I was looking for you. I didn’t give up I just... I was too slow... you have to know I didn’t forget about you Seth. I didn’t stop thinking about how we could track you down. You’ve got to know that. I’d never abandon family.”] Elliot spoke desperately, needing his friend to know that all this time he was left to suffer wasn’t because they had wanted to leave him behind. Elliot would have searched every inch of the city if he could! Now he was knelt by Seth’s side, fighting for breath as he was still recovering from his injuries, wondering why he didn’t take the risk sooner...

[+green “If anyone has forgotten up there you remind them, Bonds not Blood. You always made sure no one forgot that, especially me. You pulled me through Seth. You should have been our leader... you never let the family motto down. Not once.”]

———

There wasn’t much that could make Viktor fall in silence but even he knew he was no match for Martyn and Lisa. He was used to using his skills to getting people to sleep in the same bed as him, not for actual negotiation. Viktor had been determined to avoid the life his father had built up, though it seemed those bridges were enforced with concrete and steel. There was a lasting legacy that wouldn’t be destroyed for a long time and unfortunately the Heartley name cursed their family. The lifeline for his lifestyle had been cut short and it looked like he wouldn’t be back screwing around in bars and clubs anytime soon... instead he would be forced to screw with his own bloodline and the bruises on his face already confirmed the consequences of that.

[+purple “Sorry, I didn’t realise you were our mother.”] Viktor cracked back to Lisa, rolling his eyes and leaning back in the chair.
[+red “What you don’t realise is that she’s actually going our biggest threat. I’d be careful... you may think you can have fun with my brother but you certainly have only tipped the iceberg with the consequences for your actions. Watch your tongue.”] Martyn warned, letting Viktor know that Lisa had told him about what had happened with Tigan without having to say a word. There may have not been any physical change to show that Martyn was angry but the tone in his words were enough to stop anyone in their tracks.

[+red “Then we stick together. We make sure he doesn’t do anything to separate us as much as possible. He’ll have done his research about us. Viktor, Xana: we expect you to be useful. You must know the smaller traits than can rattle your brother... if Jesse can do it, we expect you can.”] Martyn added to Lisa’s thoughts but didn’t allow his concerns to show on his face. Lisa would be able to see. Jesse was their world and to know she had suffered already was enough to propel him into action. He never should have trusted anyone else to keep his daughter safe. Now he just had to hope that Jesse was using her skills to protect herself...

Heading out he allowed Viktor and Xana to lead the way. Roland had to believe that Viktor had done his part and was bringing the family directly to him. Just before they got close, Martyn sped up his pace to get in front of Xana and Viktor and stopped directly in front of them to stop them in their tracks.

[+red “If you don’t have anything to say which will help or save the situation, keep your mouth shut. I also suggest you strongly follow Lisa’s advice and work together. This man isn’t to be messed with and we all need to be in sync. Xana, you read Lisa and I and communicate it to Viktor. We’ll do the same. Viktor, work with me with your words... don’t let Roland win.”] Martyn instructed and surprisingly he got an agreeable nod from Viktor, who instinctively ran his hands across the bruises on his face.

Without any need for further instruction, Viktor took the lead and headed into the building,
quickly identifying one of Roland’s guards.
[+purple “Did what my dear gentle handed brother wanted... got him his present. Where is he so I can bring him his new friends? Sorry I didn’t have time to gift wrap them.”]
  Kattik / 82d 15h 29m 46s
Seth felt like his legs were going to give out beneath him, but he forced himself to keep walking. The deep wound in his abdomen bled sluggishly but the internal pain was immense. Seth knew they’d likely punctured his kidney or liver with that bullet which meant his chances of surviving this were slim to none, but it wasn’t about him anymore. It was about that bundle wrapped in a torn shirt that had been fashioned into a sling around his chest. That tiny infant, merely weeks old, that had known more pain in its short little life than most adults! That helpless child whose skin was stained with her own mother’s blood and her father’s tears. The baby that hadn’t made hardly a sound since the guards discovered her and nearly beat her to death. Seth wasn’t even sure if she was still alive… he could feel the tiny flutter or a heartbeat and the subtle rise and fall of her infant chest, but in his dazed mind he wondered if it was all just an illusion born of a desperate father’s last hope to save his child.

The escape had been harder than he expected and with much too high a cost. After nearly losing the baby once the guards discovered her, Seth, Kira, and the baby’s mother, Lauren, decided the only way to ensure she'd survive was to get her out. Seth’s skills as a thief have him the best chance, but that meant leaving Lauren and Kira behind as the distraction. They were supposed to be ok… he was supposed to get the baby out, find the Brats, and go back with an army to free the women. But everything had gone so wrong…

Seth made it to the ruins of the old safehouse - still lying in ruins after Dylan’s attack had destroyed their home and killed Lynn and Alex. It wasn’t safe here anymore and it definitely wouldn’t have the resources Sweth needed, but it was the closest place he could get to that would still be watched by Caleb and Larry’s security system. Seth had long since lost his comm and knew this was his best chance to get help. So he found the old camera and practically collapsed against the wall, peering up into the device with a desperate hope that somehow the Hackers were still keeping tabs on this location. If not… Seth didn’t think he had the strength to keep going and all of it - the blood, the pain, the loss - would be for nothing.

[#226699 “C-caleb… please…”] Seth whispered, crying out to his best friend in one last hope before he passed out, still bleeding, against the ruins of the old safehouse.
-
Caleb sprung from his computer with a panicked expression, feeling his heart nearly beating out of his chest! He’s been scanning old cameras around the city, doing his once-daly sweep and hardly paying much attention when he caught sight of his best friend passed out and covered in blood by one of their old, compromised safehouses. Seth and Sarah had been friends with Caleb since they were kids! They brought him to the Brats, they gave him a home and over the years became his family. To see Seth in this state after being missing for almost a year struck an instant panic in the mute hacker’s eyes. Caleb wasn’t an overly emotional person - he guarded his feelings well with almost everyone, only letting his closest friends and family see him at his most vulnerable - Larry included. So he had no doubt his boyfriend would understand the true gravity of the situation just by witnessing the expanse of Caleb’s panic.

[i “Larry, get Elliot and a medic to meet me at the old safe house!”] The hacker signed to his boyfriend as he rushed out of the door. Normally, Caleb would take a supportive role, stay behind his computer and send the others in to help, but this time he was terrified they’d lose Seth before anyone could reach him! He hardly gave Larry any explanation, but left the camera footage on his screen so the other man would know what was happening.

When Caleb found Seth, the man barely had a pulse! Caleb moved his hands to put pressure on the wound, only to find a small bundle strapped to Seth’s chest containing a baby! The poor thing was about as rough as her caretaker and Caleb silently pleaded with the universe to get Elliot and a medic here in time to save them both. He moved to shift the baby out of the way when he felt a weak hand grip his wrist and he brought his eyes up to meet Seth’s.

[#226699 “Caleb… take her…? Please man… she’s… She’s my daughter, I… her mother’s dead… and Kira… Kira’s gone… you have to take care of her! Please Caleb! Please! Promise me!”] Seth begged. Caleb wasn’t good with loss. It was why he hadn’t really let himself get too close to anyone after Sarah’s death - aside from Larry. He didn’t want to admit to himself how badly Seth was injured, so he kept that denial alive and convinced himself that everything would be ok once Elliot and a medic arrived. Insead he focused on the shock of the new information - Seth was a father, his daughter was barely a few weeks old and already nearly an orphan, Kira was dead, and Seth didn’t believe he was going to make it.

Caleb shook his head, trying to give Seth a reassuring look, but the thief wasn’t buying it. He shifted as much as he could, pulling back the torn fabric to show his friend more of the baby that was clinging to his chest. Seth had never seemed like the fatherly type, but even after just a few short weeks with this tiny child, it was obvious that Seth’s only remaining goal before he died was to get her someplace safe and give her the best chance of a good life.

[#226699 “Melissa… her name’s Lissa… please Caleb, promise me! Promise you’ll take her… promise…”] Seth struggled to get out, not relaxing until Caleb pulled the baby from the sling and cradled her with one arm whole applying pressure to Seth’s deadly wound with the other. Caleb had no idea what he was doing, but that simple exchange seemed to put Seth’s mind at ease. As if just knowing the baby was now safe somehow made this all worth it.

[i “I promise.”] Caleb mouthed the words, watching a sense of peace and eternal gratitude spread across Seth’s face. With his goal reached, his child safe, and his message delivered, Seth was finally able to stop fighting. His condition worsened before Caleb’s very eyes and now even the hacker could see there was no chance of his best friend recovering. It was no longer about saving Seth’s life - that shop had long since sailed. Now it was about Elliot getting here to say his last goodbye before Seth joined the ranks of all the fallen Street Brats.
  ImnIslandGirl / 88d 19h 56m 37s
Nic wasn’t fooled by Zach’s brave face as they walked into the room. He didn’t become the Street Brats’ best strategist without being observant to those hidden details, and despite the effort Zach made to hide his true emotions, Nic could see the tear tracks on his cheeks and the way his smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. Still, he didn’t call attention to it, at least not in front of Caiden. He could appreciate the young father’s need to stay strong in front of the kids, especially with Caiden having to overcome his own traumas at such a young age. Fortunately, the toddler seemed more easily fooled.

[+purple “You think I could be a superhero too? I pwomised Unca T that I’d be stwong and bwave and pwotect the babies! Is that why Emmy is cwying? Was someone mean to him? Tell me who and I’ll beat ‘em up!”] Caiden said, curling his tiny fists in a show of protective violence that could have only been picked up from watching Tigan. Nic would have to talk to that kid later about being a better influence on the little boy! Instead, Nic ruffling the kid’s hair and caught his attention.

[b “Fighting isn’t always the best answer, little man. I think Emmit is just a little grumpy. What helps you when you feel grumpy?”] Nic asked, hoping to teach a more passive approach.

[+ purple “Umm…. oh! My stuffed puppy! I snuggle him when I’m scared or mad and then I feel better!”] Caiden answered, already seeing where this was going. No one could say he wasn’t a smart kid for his age.

[+purple “I think I have some other stuffed animals in my room! I’ll go get one for Emmy! And Lizzy too, so she doesn’t feel sad!”] Caiden said, eager to help as she darted out of the room and across the hall to the room he shared with his uncle, leaving Nic and Zach along for a few minutes with the babies.

[b “The boy’s certainly got a healthy set of lungs, that’s for sure. You know, Maddi used to scream like that when she was a baby. I was just a kid back then… I still didn’t even know if I wanted kids and I sure as hell wasn’t ready to be a father. Up until Starla, I’d ruined almost every relationship I had and I was so scared I wasn’t going to be a good dad. Hell, Maddison’s 22 years old and I still feel like that sometimes. But that girl grew into someone I can be so proud of, and she attracted a good kid like you, so hey, I couldn’t have screwed up too badly, right?”] Nic said, stepping over to zach. Nic was still in rough shape and was hobbling around with a bad limp since the damage to his knee was likely permanent, but he reached out a gentle hand and brushed it over the baby boy’s head in a soothing gesture.

[b “How are you doing, Zach? Really?”] Nic asked, wanting Zach to know that he could be open and honest with his father-in-law. Nic cared about the boy and it killed him to see Zach going through all of this alone, just as much as it killed him to see his daughter lying there in her coma.

———

[#ff6622 “Yeah, you know, because breaking my hand, getting my chest slashed through with a scythe, and then losing half my shoulder wasn’t enough of a punishment - I still need to have my ass kicked by my best friend and my wife.”] Jack shot back sarcastically, but said nothing to throw Logan under the bus. That kid had been through enough and if what Jack heard in those cells was any indication, he was already feeling guilty about this whole mess.

[#ff6622 “Besides, you’re one to talk. How many times have you gone out on a simple supply run and got in way over your head?”] Jack dug back, starting to feel the familiar draining feeling of the blood loss and now just trying to keep his mind off the fatigue that was setting in.

[#bb00ff “Jeez, someone’s touchy! Look, just because my brother fucked you… um, fucked [i with] you…”] Finn said, trying to cover his slip when he saw how Jack glared at him, but it didn’t help to get him out of trouble.
[#bb00ff “...doesn’t mean you gotta take your frustrations out on me! And you shouldn’t be pissed at Vik either, the guy can’t exactly help it. Look how we were raised, man! At least Viktor doesn’t take anything that’s not willingly given. And as for the double cross… dude, that’s on you! You saw how much your friend Tori was in to him and you knew it was all bullshit from the start. It was your choice not to tell her. You could have…”]

[#ff6622 “If you don’t shut the hell up, I’m going to take the curved blade of that scythe and shove it up your ass so we can see how you like being screwed by someone who’s not being straight with you.”] Jack threatened darkly, not even knowing the whole story yet since he was gone when Finn and Viktor had arrived, but he could see the anger in Tigan’s eyes and knew it took a lot to push him to that point. Clearly this guy and his brother did something to deserve it.

[#bb00ff “Fine! Damn, you guys are cranky! Here Kid, let me help. Did you like what you saw back there by the way? You know, I could teach you a trick or two if you want? It’s a good way to impress the ladies!”] Finn offered to Logan as he helped to support the kid, but still didn’t escape Jack’s cutting glare.

[#ff6622 “Don’t take the bait, Logan. Magic is nothing but distraction, deceit, sleight of hand, and misdirection. A good thief can do all four without the need for applause. This guy’s nothing but a clown.”] Jack pointed out, not wanting this guy to play any part in mentoring his son. Finn was no more talented than Jack or Seth were at theft, he just made a bigger show of it. Jack hoped to teach his son that it’s about the subtlety of the craft and that a good thief is undetectable, rather than have him learn to crave that spotlight. For a Street Brat, the safest and most effective method was to be invisible when the situation called for it - not to bring down the house with a high stakes performance of smoke and mirrors.

[#bb00ff “A clown? No, I’m an attention whore - big difference! Clowns have uglier shoes.”] Finn teased, not seeming fazed by the threats so eventually Jack just ignored him and refocused on Tigan’s efforts to stop him from bleeding to death. The amount of blood was a little staggering and Jack realized that in his haste, he’d probably cut a little too deep or at least sliced an artery. Either way, Lily was going to be pissed, but at least he might have spared Logan the loss of his hand.

[#ff6622 “I told Caiden to watch the clock to give him something to do and to make him feel important. I wasn’t actually expecting him to get it right. Hell, we were out for a diaper run, we weren’t supposed to get into any trouble! And don’t worry, I’ll make sure the kid knows this wasn’t his fault. The bigger issue is this cult… seriously, Tigan, it’s messed up! These guys were worshiping one of Jessica’s novels like it was some kind of religious text. What the hell was your brother thinking publishing those books?”] Jack asked, not even realizing how bad the extent of the problem since he hadn’t heard about Tessa and Demitri’s trouble at the hospital yet.

[#ff6622 “Logan, when we get home, you should call your brother. Baxter might not admit to being a Street Brat, but I doubt that cult will see the difference. He needs to be careful if he’s out there on his own. And Tig… you and Hayden should watch your backs. These guys focused a lot on Logan and I being brothers. They said they wanted to [i test our bonds] or something crazy like that. I think that means it’s the siblings that will be targeted: the Evenwoods, you and Hay, the twins… trust me, you don’t want these bastards to get their hands on you.”] Jack pointed out and they made it to the safehouse. To add to the frustrating events of the night, they still hadn’t managed to grab the supplies, so they didn’t even have anything to show for their efforts. But considering what they’d just been through Jack was just glad he and Logan had survived!
-------------------------

Lisa’s expression perfectly matched Martyn’s as she stood casually behind his chair with her hand resting very lightly on his shoulder, taking in every tiny detail of the two Heartley siblings. Lisa and Martyn seemed to pass information to each other almost seamlessly - with a small motion of Lisa’s hand to tap or squeeze his shoulder, or a shift of her eyes to give him a second’s glance to convey what he needed to know. To others in the room, they’d have to be paying an incredible amount of attention to the two in order to even pick up on these non-verbal cues. The Heartley’s however, were a very different story. Be it a lack of practice working together or a lack of trust between them , they seemed to have a lot of trouble communicating. Xana was a talented Reader and could see almost as much in the Mason’s as Lisa could see about her. Viktor was skilled with his experienced Silvertongue, taking a far more arrogant and expressive tone than Martyn with nearly the same level of skill. Unfortunately, the two weren’t working well together.

When Martyn’s attention was fixed on Viktor, Xana did little to intervene. She easily could have poked holes in Martyn’s words, being able to read both of the Silvertongues would have given her everything she needed to lessen the severity of Martyn’s accurations and defend her brother’s conscience. A reader’s job was to take what they saw and either strengthen or weaken a Silvertongue’s words and she had the ability and the skills to do it. Unfortunately, it seemed that Xana was allowing her bias to get in the way: she was guilty about Jesse, and fearful of the Mason’s, not to mention a little judgemental and disapproving of her brother’s ways. Lisa wouldn’t have let such trivial things colour her abilities and, as she always preached to Jesse, held that a Reader is only as good as they are impartial. Xana didn’t have the bond with her brother to know how badly Martyn’s words would affect him, nor the confidence to argue Martyn’s words in favour of Viktor’s, meaning he was pretty much on his own. But he wasn’t the only one.

Lisa could see the open wounds in Xana’s soul when Martyn targeted her, placing the blame for Jesse’s current predicament firmly on the little girl’s shoulders. She could see the accusation hit hard and perhaps even a little off the mark, as Xana’s reaction was more about disgust than shame. She didn’t put power before her sister’s well being, even if that’s what it looked like to the rest of the world. In fact, she took the power as a means to protect the people she cared about, but didn’t dare let the others see that. Unfortunately, she had no way to effectively convey that without getting herself in more trouble. Her Silvertongue brother had a better chance at defending her, but he either didn’t know or didn’t care about her true intentions, leaving her one her own to defend herself.

[#ff00ff “That’s not what I…”]
[+green “Don’t.”] Lisa interrupted her daughter before her defense could go any further.
[+green “Trust me, Xana, anything you say right now will only make things worse.”] She said cuttingly, but Xana was smart enough to see the warning in her mother’s eyes and took the advice to stay quiet. In the end, both Heartley siblings were rendered silent and the Masons had clearly proven why their partnership worked so well over the years. Lisa took her coat from Martyn and passed him a knowing glance - she was well aware he was showing the two more mercy then he normally would, had had no doubt it was as a favour to her for her daughter’s involvement. Whatever leverage Roland had over Viktor, it was likely the same with Xana. Still, the two had a lot to learn and a long way to go before they could ever come close to the efficiency and accuracy of Martyn and Lisa’s partnership.

[+green “And while you’re at it, you need to learn to trust each other. What just happened was an embarrassment. A Silvertongue and a Reader who don’t trust each other or even try to protect one another… you don’t stand a chance.”] Lisa pointed out.

[+green “There’s a fresh cut under Xana’s eye and fierce bruising on Viktor’s jaw. Assuming it was Roland, it seems he’s got a habit for targeting a person’s strengths to leave them feeling helpless and defenseless. Knowing that, I doubt he stopped just with stitching Jesse’s mouth. It also means, he’ll likely try to separate us. Don’t underestimate him.”] Lisa advised her husband, wanting him to fully understand what they were walking into. She hadn’ had a chance to read Roland directly yet, but if he’d already shown this much control over Viktor, Xana, and Jesse, then he shouldn’t be taken lightly.

[#ff00ff “Roland wanted you brought directly to him. He’ll have people watching the Council members to make sure you don’t get to any of them first. He’s a strategist, like Nicholas Smaulders, only he’s not bound by any sense of morality. Jesse’s the only one I’ve seen that has ever actually gotten under his skin.”] Xana pointed out.

[+green “That’s because Jesse has the advantage of being both a Reader and a Silvertongue. Martyn and I can handle him together. You two might actually stand a chance against him as well if you’d learn to rely on each other. Individually, you’ve both got the skills, but you’re useless as a team.There’s far too much mistrust and resentment between you two. You’re family, start acting like it.”]
  ImnIslandGirl / 92d 17h 37m 53s
Zach was sat on the edge of the makeshift cot the Brat’s had put together, gently placing Elizabeth down whilst still rocking Emmett back and forth, who hadn’t stopped crying. To anyone it would have looked like a normal parenting scene for a single father. A man just doing the best he could for his children. Though with his back turned to the door there was a look of exhaustion, fear, and upset on his face. Tears still laced his eyes as he rocked Emmett back and forth, though every hushed whisper was filled with love… shaky, terrified, love for his son.

All he could think about was how he wasn’t strong enough for this. He wasn’t meant to do it alone. What would Maddison think that he had not even been by her side!? Though as Zach had been with the twins he had witnessed something more core-shattering… he had seen the news and the clips of the hospital and he had seen the one person who he had been hiding away from for years…

It seemed the world was determined to swallow all the happiness that was left.

Though as Caiden walked into the room, Zach sucked back his own sadness and allowed that confident smile to grow on his face as he spun around.
[#0e7181 “Well if it isn’t the bravest kid on the block! Heard a lot of stories about you. You’ll be making Tigan the sidekick since you’re the superhero now kid.”] Zach laughed, quickly wiping the tears away that had stayed on his cheek by brushing it against his shoulder.

[#0e7181 “I just need a super power to make this little guy go to sleep! He gets his voice heard, that’s for sure. You’ll certainly have a loud friend growing up.”] It was a complete switch. For Zach, he had only ever shown his true emotions in front of Maddison and for years that had been nothing but happiness!

———

[+brown “Oh you’re in for one hell of ass kicking when we’re home.”] Tigan clapped back, not even pulling back on the threat or limiting any intention that he actually would. Bleeding out from cultists or not, Jack was the only person he knew who could turn a basic shopping trip into whatever this nightmare was! Of course Logan kept himself quiet and despite the circumstances, even he couldn’t help but glance at his brother with the slightest smug expression… he could always count on Jack to burden the anger when it was Logan who had been a little shit.

As Finn did his performance and the purple smoke exploded, Tigan protected the boys until they dwelled into a deeper area. It would certainly keep the cultists distracted for now and there was already chants about how this was a ‘calling’ from the Street Brat’s echoing in the distance. Though as soon as they were in a safer distance, Tigan spun around to Finn without any pleasantries on his face. In fact his fists curled up tight and he looked ready to break the guys neck!

[+brown “I wouldn’t play cocky yet. We’re far from even, you just saved yourself one less broken bone.”] Tigan warned, not prepared to show the Heartley any relief or safety. 

[+brown “Now be useful and support Logan. Try anything and I’ll break the rest of those fingers.”] 
Logan looked like he was ready to collapse but was being as stubborn as his father with trying to stay on his feet. Tigan would have helped the kid but his concern was also on Jack who had lost a lot of blood! The guy might not have been able to feel any pain but that was exactly the danger Tigan was aware of. The guy could collapse with the lack of awareness of his own injuries! Ripping the sleeve from his t-shirt, he pressed it against the now gushing wound on Jack’s arm where Logan had been stitched.



[+brown “You trusted a toddler with the time? You fucking idiot! You could have been killed! It was a good thing Lily was up to her eyeballs to notice…”] Tigan started but as he did his phone buzzed with Lily’s name appearing on the screen with a message asking if everyone was ok.
[+brown “We best get you two back home before we get in more trouble.”]


———

There were many things Martyn could argue against but Lisa’s perspective on his sister was right. Hayden was impulsive, fiercely aggressive when provoked but she was loyal and protective. She would rather walk danger away from her family, even with the risk of her own life, than to bring the danger towards Martyn. So when she appeared at the door with their new guests, Martyn wasn’t missing a beat. He could sense the foreboding and whatever news they had to share, he hoped they were prepared to answer his questions… if there was a God, they better pray their answers were good enough. That’s if Martyn had the patience to listen…

Sat on the chair opposite Viktor, Martyn was sat back with one leg crossed over the other and his hands wrapped around his knee. You would think nothing more from the image that he was a man ready to listen, which in essence, he was. It was the look in his eyes that changed the image. It wasn’t comforting, nor one of interest. It was a stare that was ready to interrogate every vowel and tear every syllable that left their lips.

Viktor on the other hand was leant forward, his elbows rested on his knees and the palm of his hands pressed against one another staring back at his fellow silver-tongue. He had no intention of speaking unless he had to, allowing Xana time to answer her questions. Catching a glance of her pleading look, he creased his brow and shook his head. There was no point in trying to hide it, he knew he was being read but what the hell did she want him to say?

[+purple “Look, I know you can ready so whatever… little darling sister here didn’t have any control, alright? You think we’re bastards, you haven’t seen my brother…”]


[+green “Now Viktor, that’s where you are wrong.”] Martyn interjected after listening to the exchange. He hadn’t moved for the entire conversation and now he was only tilting his head slightly and shifting the weight in his shoulders.

[+green “I think you are nothing more than pathetic leeches sucking onto whatever false-enjoyment or false sense of entitlement you have. The problem with that is you’re living exactly what your dear fathers reputation created only you are shadowing it with your own lies. However, it doesn’t mater what we think, does it? I’m sure we all have our own demons to reflect and our own morals. Isn’t that right Viktor?”] Martyn asked, watching the young man wince in front of him. Roland sounded exactly like Gordon, so no doubt the man had left his own mental scar on his brother… it was an easy attack but one that seemed to have stung Viktor more than he would have liked to have admitted.

[+green “As for you Xana… your only safety right now is that you're my wife’s daughter. However I must say I really hope that power you seek so affectionately is serving you well. Those shiny walls and daddy’s inheritance… I hope it was worth every stitch in Jesse’s mouth.”] Martyn’s voice didn’t falter. There was no rise or fall in emotion. It was still. Frighteningly still.

[+purple “Alright asshole, enough.”] Viktor spoke up, staring Martyn back.
[+purple “Yeah I lied, so what? You guys aren’t exactly the easiest to talk too! I was welcomed to being slammed into the wall multiple times and not in the way I usually like! Look, we can help each other or not but if you want to be a bastard about it, then fuck it. I’ll take my leave and you guys can deal with whatever follows.”] Viktor retorted but there was a further sting with Lisa’s reading. He ran his hand through his hair not even bothering to try and speak his way out of this. Maybe Finn was right… they should have ran away when they had their chance.

[+green “For a silver-tongue you might want to polish your vocabulary.”] Martyn sneered, finally standing up and grabbing his coat from his desk whilst also grabbing Lisa’s and handing it to her.

[+green “Then it looks like we are taking a trip to the council. Together. Xana for your sake I suggest you work with your mother and help me and Viktor. I suggest for you Viktor, you try and be an adult for once. It’s time to grow up out of your delirium and accept reality.“]
  Kattik / 96d 13h 13m 4s
It was amazing how quickly a toddler could change their tone. One minute Caiden looked like he was about to cry and the next, he was beaming with determination after just a few short words from his uncle.

[+purple “I’ll keep ‘em safe, Unca T! I’ll be weally stwong and bwave! Jus’ like you!”] Caiden promised, proving that although Tigan was new at this, he wasn’t half-bad. Caiden had already shown he was a pretty resilient kid, and with his hero watching over him he was finding a way to stay tough even without his mom.

[b “I’ll keep an eye on him, Tigan. Hey Caiden, why don’t you and I go find Zach and the twins? You can tell Emmitt and Elizabeth all about your Uncle Tigan the Superhero.”] Nic chimed in, regrettably too injured and weak to help find Jack, Nic could at least be useful at keeping an eye on little Caiden and lessen the responsibility left on Zach’s shoulders. Besides, it was about time he checked in on his future son-in-law.

-

Like his son, Jack’s attention was grabbed by the puff of purple smoke, but with far less confusion and far more annoyance. He’d come across Finn’s type before and had no patience for the magician. Still, Jack knew how to capitalize on an opportunity when it was given to him. He quickly separated him and Logan and was scanning the room for something he could use as a lock pick, when his cage door was ripped from its hinges and a familiar hand curled around his throat.

[#ff6622 “How about we get out of here and back home BEFORE you kick my ass? Otherwise these cultist bastards might ruin your opportunity.”] Jack shot back, knowing he was in for a shitstorm once they got safely back home. But this time he could honestly say, he hadn’t really done anything stupidly reckless to warrant this kind of response. Sure, he fought his way in instead of running to find help, but his son was in danger! What else could he have done!

Jack grabbed another one of the discarded scythes and helped to fend off any of the cultists that slipped by Tigan. He had less strength than normal in his injured arm, but since he couldn’t feel pain there was nothing stopping him from getting a few good slashes in. As he, Tigan, and Logan backed towards the exit, Jack spotted the magician responsible for this chaos appearing on top of a stack of crates, giving a flourish of his hands and throwing out his arms in a grand gesture.

[#bb00ff “Ladies and Gentlemen, you have been a delight! But now, sadly, this is the end of our show. You have been a wonderful audience, but alas, I must leave my adoring fans with one last adieu. But hey! Why go out on a whisper, when you could go out… with a BANG!”] Finn gave one last bow before snapping out his arm and releasing several tiny explosives, each thaterrupted at staggered times, deploying coloured smoke and sparks that lit up the warehouse with a fireworks display, giving the Brats more than enough time to slip away while the others were distracted by the display - either in awe of the show or in fear of the close-quarters explosions steadily going off inside the building!

[#bb00ff “I don’t know what all of the fuss was about. That wasn’t so hard. So, Tigan, are we even? Did my award winning performance win my brother a stay of execution?”] Finn asked, appearing in front of Tiga in a puff of purple smoke, walking backwards so he could hold the conversation while still making some distance between them and the cult.
———
Lisa was seated in front of her laptop watching reruns of news broadcasts showing clips from the riots. Her attention was focused on who seemed to be the ring leaders from these chaotic groups, making notes of what she observed in her notebook so she could pass the information along to Caleb. So far she’d managed to pick out a few of the leaders, but the major threats seemed to be rather adept at dodging the cameras. She had just caught a clip that scanned the hospital scene, triggering a wary vibe when the camera passed by an Officer Dawson, but before Lisa could read too much into the guarded expression, there was a knock at the door.

[r “Hayden might be, since she’s arrogant enough to think she could raise her fists and protect us from anyone she led here. But she wouldn’t risk that unless it was an emergency.”] Lisa replied honestly, unsurprised when the door opened to reveal Martyn’s headstrong sister. It was the other guests that made Lisa’s eyes narrow. She didn’t waste more than a second’s glance at Viktor before honing in her piercing gaze on her estranged daughter.

What followed were several long, painful seconds of silence. Both readers had fixed their gaze on each other, locking their eyes in an almost telepathic exchange. Neither showed anything in their expressions, but somehow they were still able to convey what they both wanted. After a long pause, Lisa’s eyes narrowed to a harsh glare and Xana’s fell to the floor in what could almost be shame .

[+green “Tell him.”] Liosa ordered sharply, already knowing what Xana was going to say about the fate of her sister. To Xana’s credit, she wasn’t as much of a coward as people may think. Despite knowing exactly how badly this could turn out, she bravely met Martyn’s eyes so he’d know she was being honest - but was careful to keep emotion out of her expression so he wouldn’t assume she was trying to manipulate him.

[#ff00ff “Heartley Industries was attacked by my older half-brother, Roland. He threatened to blind me, so Jesse turned his attention on her. I actually thought she might break him for a moment… I’ve never seen Roland so much as flinch, but Jesse’s words did have an effect. Roland realized it too, so he…”] Xana stopped, flickering her glance towards Viktor in a rare request of support. There were few Xana feared more than her step father. She’d been on the other end of Viktor’s silvertongue before, but it always came with the safety net of knowing he’d never cause any permanent or severe damage. Martyn was an entirely different story, and she was about to admit that, not only was his daughter tortured, captured, and deprived of her greatest defense, but that it was entirely Xana’s fault!

[#ff00ff “He stitched her mouth shut… she cant say a word. Roland needs a Silvertongue to help him convince the council to reform the city.”] Xana finished, but her speech didn’t seem to satisfy Lisa.

[+green “That’s why they’re here. Their brother ordered them to find you and either take you out of the equation or enlist your help in tearing down the city.”]

[+red “What? You didn’t tell me that! Viktor, you lying snake! Did you come here to hurt my brother?”] Hayden growled, clenching her fists at her sides and stepping up beside Martyn and Lisa.

[+green “Of course they didn’t tell you, Hayden, you never would have brought them here if you knew the truth. Besides, I have a feeling Viktor has other plans. You hate your brother. He reminds you of your father - only smarter, more strategic… You know you can’t stop him on your own, so you’re looking for help to bring him down. But it’s not that simple, is it? He’s got leverage over you… something you care about, and if you act against him, that blood will be on your hands.”] Lisa pointed out, reading Viktor like the pages of a book, and feeding Martyn the context he was unable to see in Xana and Viktor’s guarded expressions.

———


Tessa was still struggling to ease her breathing. It would have been enough of a challenge battling her crushed lungs, but with her fear still eating at her, Tessa was starting to think she was going to pass out! The voices were muddled by a persistent ringing in her ears that was more from the tresumas then from the cave in, but her surroundings snapped back into focus as soon as she felt those shaky hands on her face.

Tessa brought her own hands up and placed them over Dem’s, ignoring the pain in her injured limbs. She allowed that contact to ground her, focusing on his voice like it was the anchor that held her to this world. Once she had taken a few seconds to calm herself, she tentatively took a shallow few breaths so as not to put any added strain on her lungs.

[+blue Dem, I’m ok… really… I’m alive.”] She said, trying to reassure her partner and control the strain in her voice at the same time.

[+blue “You didn’t… Dem, you didn’t do anything wrong, it wasn’t your fault. I knew it was a risk to try to move that beam, but I’m glad you did it, Dem. I just… I needed to get out of that small space and you got me out. The rest… it doesn’t matter.”] She told him, not sure if he’d believe her, but the truth was that Tessa had been far too desperate to escape. Even if that beam had killed her, it would have been better than the drawn out torture of being strapped in that tight space.

When the comms buzzed to life, Tessa exchanged a frightened yet determined glance with Demitri. Her damaged chestplate would make her vulnerable - turn her into a liability and a burden for the already-weakened Brats. She wouldn’t be able to protect them or herself very effectively, and knowing her stubborn and self-sacrificial brothers, that would put the injured Elliot and Nic back in unnecessary danger if they felt the need to protect her.

The only way to fix the damage and reverse the burden that came along with it, was to surgically repair or replace the chest plate. Unfortunately that would take both a skilled surgeon and a talented inventor to make it work. Unfortunately, Lynn was dead, Kira was missing, and Lily was exhausted, over worked, and currently looking after her baby, not to mention the long list of injured Brats. Tori had the skills, but she’d been gone all night following the trauma of putting her best friend in a coma; the poor girl couldn't take much more . As for the inventors - Rylan could have handled it with some light instructions from Lily or Tori and probably done most of the work himself. But Rylan was gone and it didn’t look like he was ever coming back. Elliot was the only remaining choice, but he had an intense fear of blood. The first time he helped Lynn with the chestplate, he’d only managed because she did most of the work and kept him away from the blood as much as possible. Tessa had just gone through her deepest fear, she wasn’t about to demand the same of Elliot! Especially after they just fought. Besides, if Elliot wasn’t able to fix her and Tess ended up dying on the table, her brother would’ be abl;e to recover. He had enough guilt to deal with already. He didn’t need this. So the choice was easy: they couldn’t go back.

[+blue “Elliot, we’re ok. We ran into some trouble at the hospital, but nothing we couldn’t handle.”] Tessa said, doing her best to keep her voice even and avoid deep breaths that wouldn't send her on another coughing spree. Over the comms, she was sure Elliot would notice the strain in her voice, but she hoped he’d just chalk it up to being stressed.

[+blue “Look, we’re being followed. It’s not safe for us to go back to the Brats. We’ll stay with the gang for a few weeks until we’re sure it's safe to return. I’ll send one of our stealth teams with the blood we collected. Stay safe, Elland tell Carla she can join us if she wants to. And if she doesn't… I understand.”] Tessa replied before passing the comm to Demitri, not wanting to argue with her brother. He wasn’t going to be happy about this, but what other choice did she have?
  ImnIslandGirl / 98d 18h 38m 38s
Tigan was just about to storm out the door like a raging bull dragging Finn along, until Caiden’s little voice broke through that sea of red he could see. He spun around on, his expression turning from one of a man ready to rip the world to shreds to instant panic! Caiden looked like he was about to burst into tears!

[+brown “Ugh, no! No! Not at all! No you’re the reason Jack’s going to be ok! You did such a great job! I um… I just got a little panicked because er, yeah you see…”] Tigan bumbled his way through quickly rushing over to the toddler and putting his hands on his shoulders.


[+brown “Don’t you worry, I’ll bring Jack back and maybe you can teach him a thing or two about time and attendance. You do me a favour, you just keep a close eye on Zach and the twins, stay close, keep them safe and I’ll be back.”] Tigan promised, needing Caiden to be with someone and he shot Zach an apologetic look. Poor guy was already going through so much but the guy just smiled and nodded, not even showing a glimmer of upset for having another child in his circle. Tigan ruffled Caiden’s hair before rushing back to Finn and instantly snapping back, shoving him harder.



[+brown “Yeah well, Viktor’s already found out where these hands can go and if you want to find out the more painful way, I suggest you shut your mouth.”] Tigan growled, not even willing to have his patience tested at this point. The guy was lucky he wasn’t heading towards this with a black eye already for his cocky attitude. Of course Tigan left with the usual promise to his sister that he would be fine and nothing would go wrong. Only when they arrived, fuck… Jack and Logan had been in some messed up scenario’s but they certainly knew how to outdo themselves every single time!

Logan as turning pale in his cage. He was a fighter, stubborn, not willing to be put down easily and he certainly wasn’t the type of kid who liked to show weakness. However as his hand was stitched to Jack’s flesh his energy was being zapped away with the trauma. The boy looked like he was about collapse! That was until Jack sliced his own flesh from his shoulder, causing him to lift his hand in front of his face to see the dangling skin still stitched to his hand. If there wasn’t so much going on around him, he probably would have vomited there and then from the sight but a puff of purple smoke distracted him.

[+orange “What the fuck is actually going on!? This isn’t fucking real. This is fucking fucked!”] Logan screamed out, grabbing the sickle and using the tip to quickly pull at the black thread attacking Jack’s skin to his hand. It was painful but with the adrenaline he was able to remove it without the pain swarming his mind. He had no idea what was even going on anymore and he was starting to think maybe he did die on that cross and he was in some sick version of Hell!

[+brown “Jack, Logan, stay still!”] Tigan ordered, wasting no time in his fighting. Finn was doing his part, which made every attack on Tigan’s part that much easier! Every sick freak that he got near had their neck’s snapped or had a punch land on them so strong it sent them out cold in seconds! When Tigan’s family was in danger, there was barely anything that could stand in his way and if they did manage to scathe his skin, it would be the last thing they did. Within moments Tigan was at each of the boys cages and with his sheer strength, he grabbed the door and pulled so hard that they snapped from their hinges. You would have thought he would have reached for Logan first to get the boy to safety but instead he grabbed Jack by his neck and ragged him out, slamming him against the bars.

[+brown “You literally came SHOPPING! For diapers! Why can’t you just stay out of trouble for once?”] He snapped, almost wanting to throw a punch at Jack for getting into this mess in the first place. He shouldn’t have been shocked but the scene was so messed up he couldn’t believe what he was seeing! They were lucky to have Logan nearby with the scythe because as Tigan let out a brief moment of frustration, Logan was quick to climb out and slice a few of the bastards who were sneaking up behind them.

[+orange “Can you save killing each other for later? Or at least until after mum rips us a new one for this?”] Logan asked, not wanting to wait around for another second longer.

[+brown “Finn, one last distraction to get us out of here! Quickly!”]

———

Deep down town in an office located far away from the Street Brat’s current location, Martyn and Lisa had been hidden for weeks now working relentlessly to protect the Street Brat legacy, protect their names, defend them… it hadn’t been easy. There had been more losses than victories and it seemed that every time they got closer to protecting that legacy, the city rained down on destroying it. It had been exhausting work from both parties with very little sleep and very little rest. The Brat’s themselves had been through hell and probably questioned what Lisa and Martyn had actually been doing but without their work, the family would have crumbled a long time ago…

Martyn was pacing around his desk. His sleeves were rolled above his elbow, his top button undone, his eyes carrying bags from lack of sleep and his face more unshaven than usual. He was currently on the phone to a publisher, attempting to clear some of the chaos.

[+red “I can remove that book deal in a second. We have plenty of other publishers determined to take those pages… I would highly recommend you lowered your tone and remembered your place. You said you would write a publication to stop those mimicking the Brat’s or at least attract their fandom to something else. Yes. I know. End of the week? No. Tomorrow. Goodbye.”] Martyn hung up on the phone and sat down on the edge of his desk, staring blankly at the wall in front of him. It was a never ending battle…

Then there was a knock on the door. Strange. Their location was secret and the Brat’s who did know were warned not to arrive. Not that it ever stopped the Brat’s before from following orders.

[+red “Lisa… you don’t think they are foolish enough to…”]

Then the door opened to reveal Viktor, Xana, and Hayden. Martyn’s facial expression didn’t change but his sister and Xana would have been known exactly what he was thinking.
What the [i hell] where they doing here.

[+red “Xana you best have good reason why Jesse isn’t with you.”] Martyn stated bluntly, knowing he would have Lisa by his side to read any bullshit.
[+red “Hayden we spoke about coming here…”]

[+purple “I wanted to speak to you. Nice suit, looking crisp for an exhausted man. More style than my brother! You at least know how to colour match.”]

[+red “I don’t do formalities or politeness and quite frankly I’m too tired to play games. Unless you are of use, you’ll leave.”] Martyn shot Viktor down instantly, his pinpoint stare just as cold as his tone.

[+purple “Well then clearly you don’t give a shit about Jesse then. Wow, heartless much. Heh… fair enough.”] Viktor played back, taking a risk. Martyn slipped off the edge of his desk, grabbing two chairs and playing them in the centre of the room. He sat in one, knowing Lisa would be right by his side and he pointed to the empty seat.

[+red “You want to play silver tongue then let’s play. Xana, you read, so let’s make this fair. You stand behind him, we’ll talk… I’m sure if we lose our interest, Hayden can fix things quite quickly. However my first question is for Xana, not you playboy.”] Martyn cut in seeing Viktor already wanting to open his mouth.


[+red “Why are [i you] here without our daughter?”]

———

[#2b82da “Of course you can do this! Tessa, I know you to be many things but not stubborn to survive? Don’t be like this now!”] Demetri warned her, following Baxter’s instructions. It wasn’t the easiest… unable to see all Demetri could do was feel his way around the beam. He had no direct idea how to adjust the weight, what he was exactly balancing against or how much of the beam was against him. Baxter was only a kid himself, so he was relying on Demetri to use most of his strength.

[#063646 “Alright focus! On the count of 3. 1…2…3!”] Baxter called, bending down and hoisting up from his heels but Demetri hadn’t got the beam in the right position! It was a little off his shoulder, meaning the moment they both hoisted up the beam was already slipping! He might have been able to adjust in time but as the debris crashed down it meant that both the boys fell back!


[#2b82da “TESSA!”]

[#063646 “The beam! Demetri, directly in front of you, grab it and lift! NOW!”] Baxter ordered, not having time for Demetri’s panic of thinking they probably killed his wife! Demetri was fast to act, grabbing the beam and giving it the second attempt. As they started, time time having to deal with even weight, the tears were falling down Demetri’s face. For all he knew they were lifting this to pull out a corpse! He should never have stayed. He should have gotten help. He was useless blind and now because he was stubborn and determined to be the one to save his wife, he was the one who got her killed!

He never expected to hear Tessa’s voice but it was the drive he needed. He let out a choked sob, using the last of his strength to help Baxter lift that beam a little bit higher as he listened to Tessa crawl from under the debris.
[#2b82da “I’m so sorry! Damn it Tess I didn’t…”]

[#063646 “Demetri, snap out of it! She’ll actually die if you don’t stop it! Hold it together!”] Baxter hissed impatiently, watching as Tessa made her escape before he placed the beam down first. He wasn’t risking Demetri slipping again, so with a deep breath he ran forward and tackled Demetri towards their exit. Almost instantly the rest of the debris crashed behind them, blocking anyone from the hospital from getting to the Underground and vice versa. They were seconds away from being buried alive…

[#2b82da “Where is she? Damn it get me to her!”] Demetri ordered and with a disgruntled huff, Baxter dragged Demetri to Tessa’s side.

[#063646 “She’s alive. Now hurry this up. We can’t stay down here long. Luckily this is only the connection tunnels so we’re not deep in Hell but for a blind man and for a walking injury, it’s deep enough. So yeah, hurry up.”] Baxter told them both, taking a step away and watching the perimeter.

Demetri sent forward his hand, gently feeling Tessa’s skin and tracing up to where he could feel her face. His hand, usually steady enough to shoot a bullet directly between someones eyes was shaking like a leaf. Just like Tessa his own breathing was hitched but it wasn’t from injury, it was from sheer panic!

[#2b82da “I almost killed you! Please tell me you’re going to be ok. I didn’t… I thought I could help, I thought I could… I don’t mean to be a burden and I don’t want that burden to be your death!”]

[+green “Tess, Demetri can you hear me? Are you ok?”]
Elliot’s comms broke through just about on Demetri’s ear piece. It was crackled, distorted but now they had to make a decision. Go back to the Brat’s or find safety elsewhere.
  Kattik / 109d 14h 1m 25s
[+purple “Unca T, did I do bad?”] Caiden asked, his big eyes wide, glistening with unshed tears as the little boy realized that he was probably the reason for his uncle’s sudden outburst. He thought he was helping, but what if he had it wrong? What if he made things worse?! He was only 2, but already he was showing that self-blaming trait of the Street Brats when things were out of their control.

[+purple “You’ll bring ‘em back, wight? You’ll be a superhero and stop the bad guys! Won’t you, Unca T?”] The little boy asked, desperately hoping for some reassurance that his mistake could be fixed. If anyone could save the day, it was his Uncle Tigan! Caiden idolized the man!

[#bb00ff “Whoa, easy there, big guy! Geez, you’ve got one hell of a grip for a guy with no hands!”] Finn said, ever the comedian when his life was on the line. Finn wanted to tell the fighter that if he wanted someone to kiss his ass, he had better luck with his brother! The threats against himself weren’t too worrisome - Finn had tricked his way out of messier situations in the past, but the offer to dig Viktor out of the hole he’d buried himself in was appealing enough.

[#bb00ff “Alright, alright! I’ll give you a hand… looks like you could use one.”] Finn said, muttering the pun under his breath since he knew he was just poking the angry dog at this point.

[+red “Tigan, you be careful out there, alright? Jack may be a reckless pain-in-the-ass, but he wouldn’t risk Logan. If they’re in trouble, it means that someone is good enough to take down two trained thieves and they shouldn’t be underestimated. Don’t worry about Romeo, I’ll keep an eye on him.”] Hayden reassured her brother, turning her attention back to Viktor.

[+red “Elliot’s right. I’ll take you to Martyn, but only because he and Lisa will be able to see right through your bullshit and figure out why you’re really here.”]

[#ff00ff “I’m coming too.”] Xana chimed in - after all, the only reason Roland let her out was to help Viktor with the Masons. Besides, as terrified as she was to face her mother and step-father, she knew she owed them an explanation. She and Jesse had been working with them from a distance and staying in fairly close conduct until Roland arrived. They deserved to know what happened to their daughter.

[+red “If you’re coming, you’re walking in front. I’m not going to risk you shooting me in the back of the head again.”] Hayden hissed, finally releasing Viktor and shoving him towards his sister.

[+red “I’ll be ok, Ell. But we’re not leaving you with much of a defence here. Maybe you should call Tessa and Demitri back? We could use them to guard the base while me and Tigan are gone. And they’ve been gone far too long for a blood run anyway. Stay safe, I love you.”] Hayden told him, planting a tender kiss on her husband’s lips before grabbing her gear and heading out with the Heartley’s.

-------------------------

[#ff6622 “I might have to resort to bribery… If I’m returning to a pissed off Lily Sanders, I might just prefer to take my chances with the cult.”] Jack joked back, shooting Logan a grateful smirk. He knew what the boy was doing and he was relieved. If Logan was still strong enough to be making jokes, then there was a good chance they could still get out of this. He just had to keep the boy’s mind on that strength and confidence instead of letting it wander back to misplaced guilt.

[#ff6622 “Logan, take it from someone who has blamed himself for every damn thing that went wrong in his life: Sometimes things are out of our control. I told you to get your hand free. You did your best to escape and the cross tipped. That wasn’t on you, Kid. Blaming yourself for things like that… it's dangerous Logan. I convinced myself that I was nothing but a screw up - that everyone I loved would have been better off with me dead. It made it far too easy to take stupid risks and sacrifice myself for no reason. I’m working on it… I really am trying to change. But I can’t have you falling into that same trap, alright? I promised you I’d fight to survive this, so I need you to promise me that whatever happens - you're not going to blame yourself.”] Jack insisted. He never understood how Logan could have ended up so much like him. It wasn’t like he was the kid’s biological father, and Rick sure as hell wasn’t in the habit of dwelling in guilt. But if Jack had one job as Logan’s father, it would be to make sure his son had a better life than he did. To make sure he appreciated the good things and didn’t drown in the fear of it all being ripped away from him. That he’d realize he deserved to be happy - something Jack still struggled with at times. But maybe if he could successfully teach his son, maybe the lesson would finally sink in for Jack too.

When the deal was made and Jack felt that hand on his shoulder, he gave his boy a genuine, proud smile. Despite how bleak things looked, he was starting to believe they could do this - they could survive this hell and come back stronger for it. Jack severely underestimated the lengths these monsters would go…

[#ff6622 “No! No! Leave him alone! Get the hell off! You fuckers!”] Jack spat, fighting as much as he dared until he felt the tug at his shoulder and his eyes widened at the pain on Logan’s face. What was he supposed to do? If Jack fought too much, he could tear into Logan’s hand! The kid was 14 years old, he didn’t deserve to lose the use of his hand!

As Tigan and Finn got closer to the warehouse, Caleb was able to use their devices to hack into the surrounding area, finding a layout of the building to send to Larry. The cameras didn’t help much in terms of showing them what was going on, but they did narrow down the location - there was only one room not covered in the camera footage, so that must be where the Sanders were being kept. Caleb’s suspicions were confirmed as Finn and Tigan snuck into the warehouse and heard Logan and Jack being tortured by those cloaked bastards.

[#bb00ff “Alright, since you clearly don’t trust me to actually help you, how about this: I’ll cause a distraction and give you time to free your friends. I can get myself out, just make sure you get scarface and junior out of there before these freaks lose interest, alright?”] Finn offered, not bothering to wait on Tigan’s approval before he slipped away.

He could still hear Jack’s furious screams and Logan’s painful shouts as he made his way unseen to the center of the altar - set up to be his perfect stage.

[#bb00ff “Ladies and gentlemen! Freaks of all ages! I can see I’m interrupting a ritual of sorts but trust me, it’ll be worth it! You see, I am a master of my craft, unlike you amateurs. I mean, really… that has to be the most pathetic attempt to saw someone in half that I’ve ever seen!”] Finn announced, motioning to the remains of the teenager who’d long since bled out.

[#bb00ff “As for the Houdini act you’re trying over there… I don’t like your chances.”] Referring to the impossible escape they’d set up for Jack and Larry.

[#bb00ff “But I’ll tell you what - I'll share my secrets with you free of charge! All you gotta do is catch me first.”] Finn flashed a wide, cocky smile. As one of the cultists ran for him, lunging at the magician, Finn didn’t move an inch. Not until the man fell right through him as if he wasn’t even there! Finn’s image flickered in the light, revealing that it was nothing but a hologram - an illusion - and that the magician was hiding somewhere in the warehouse! But before he could even reveal himself, a puff of purple smoke erupted by the altar and suddenly the giant cross came crashing to the floor, causing more than enough havok to give Tigan a chance to reach his friends.

Jack took full advantage of the distraction. With most of the cultists trying to find the source of the chaos, there was only one still holding him. He shot out his free arm, striking the cloaked man in the gut before swiping his scythe, and in one fluid motion, he slashed it against his own shoulder, slicing a deep layer of his skin off right where Logan had been stitched to him, freeing the boy without any further damage. Jack would need treatment before he bled out, but since he didn't feel pain and he knew rescue was on its way, he knew he had a good chance of surviving it.

[#ff6622 “Logan, take this! Kill any bastards that lays a hand on you!”] Jack insisted, passing the bloody sythe through the bars to his son as he peered around for Tigan, knowing his best friend had to have had a hand in this!

--------

Tessa could hear the desperation in Demitri’s voice and couldn’t blame him. If roles were reversed and he were asking her to leave him there in the midst of his fears, she would have felt the same! But Tessa couldn’t move, could barely breathe! She couldn’t get out herself and there was no way Dem could get her free when he couldn’t see what was going on. The wrong move could pull the entire load of rubble down crushing them both!

[+blue “Dem, I… I don’t know if I can do this!”] Tessa sobbed, clinging to his hand with her broken fingers. The pain in her hand was almost reassuring considering the rest of her body was growing numb under the weight of the debris. She let a few tears stream down her face, well aware that no one was there to see them. Despite Demitri’s insistence that he wouldn’t leave her, Tessa couldn’t help but think of the possibility that she wouldn’t survive this. She hadn’t made things right with Carla… that poor girl was going to live the rest of her life knowing the last thing she did was fight with her mom. Nic would think Tessa died hating him and Elliot… maybe her death wouldn't hit him as hard as Nic’s
S would have, but it still would hurt him deeply. She was his baby sister after all and their last conversation was filled with disappointment, resentment, and blame. Once again, Tessa had ruined almost every relationship she had in her life and had no time or method of fixing them before it was too late.

As the drilling started, the loose dirt and gravel fell down onto Tessa, making her squeeze Dem’s hand tighter in fear. The problem with digging from the surface was there was no safe way to stabilize the building. In an effort to rescue the people buried down here, the rescuers could accidentally end up killing them! She was just about to insist that Dem take his chances and get out of here before he suffers her same fate, when she heard another voice. Help had arrived. But what could a 13 year old do to get them out of this?

Tessa felt a flare of panic raising when Demitri’s hand left hers and she clung to that flashlight like it was her only lifeline. She closed her eyes and tried to quell her fear. Moving from the collapsed building to the confined space of the underground didn’t seem like much of an improvement, but if she could get to safety, then so could Baxter and Dem and Tessa would do anything to protect her husband and her cousin’s child.

[+blue “O-ok… but you two better be right behind me!”] She said with a shaky voice as she prepared to face her fears. It was the best plan they had at the moment, but unfortunately having a blind man and a young boy lifting the beam came with its own risks. Dem couldn’t see how the rubble was shifting and Baxter wouldn’t have the muscle mass to compensate for what he did see! As they lifted, Tessa painfully pulled her limbs free of the twisted metal and concrete that remained, feeling broken bones shifting under her skin as she started to crawl. But shifting the beam, caused the material on top of it to shake loose and with a loud groan, a heavier piece of debris fell down on the beam sudden enough to force Baxter and Demitri to loose their grip. The beam fell back down just as Tessa had raised herself to her hands and knees, causing a fierce impact to her back and crushing her ribs against the uneven ground beneath her. The flashlight dropped from her hand and Tessa tried to scream in pain but the dented metal plate covering her ribcage restricted her lungs too much for her to get enough air! For a few panicked seconds, it must have seemed to Baxter and Demetri that the sudden cave in crushed Tessa to death!

Tessa knew she had to push through her fear and get her breathing under control. If she couldn't let Dem know she was ok, the love of her life would think he’d accidentally killed her! So resorting to very shallow, short, rapid breaths , Tessa clenched ehr exposed, broken hand into a fist so her rescuers could see that she was still alive, and tried her best to answer back. The one good thing was that the shifting rubble had freed her trapped limps a little, making it easier for her to crawl out.

[+blue “D-dem! I’m o-ok… St-still h-here…”] Tessa wheezed, coughing painfully with the dust and debris in the air. This time when the boys lifted the beam she was able to roll out from under it and slip down into the hole that led to the Underground. It was a rather uncoordinated, painful landing that knocked the air from her lungs, but also helped to forcefully clear thm of the harmful first and particles she had inhaled during the cave in. Tessa rolled to her back and leaned against the edge of the tunnel to wait for Dem and Baxter, refusing to go a step further without them. She was safe, but in a great deal of pain. Her chest looked grossly distorted, almost concaved from the warped metal beneath her skin, and she had definitely pulled several muscles in her back. But aside from that, Tessa was damn lucky! A few broken fingers, a sprained wrist, and a dislocated shoulder were nothing to complain about, and the rest of the bloody lacerations and heavy bruising would heal in time. The metal trauma of almost getting killed by her fear, however… that would be hard to get over.
  ImnIslandGirl / 110d 19h 18m 17s
[+orange “Should I tell her you said that if we get out of this mess or are you going to find a way to bribe me to keep me quiet?”] Logan clapped back, mostly to try and show his dad that he was still finding some strength and he hasn’t given up yet. It was the curse of the Sanders. When so much chaos happened in their lives eventually they caved in. Logan had been through Hell the last coming months, they all had! He was surprised that he was able to hang on for as long as he had but he could feel that fine wire snapping. Now his purpose was right in front of him. Jack didn’t want to die and they both wanted to get home for that little bundle of joy who had so much potential in front of her. It was the potential Jack and Logan could only dream of.

[+orange “I shouldn’t have let it tip… anyway we’re here. I get it, you’ll always be here for me, you’ll always protect me but that’s not what I want or need! I know you’ll have that impulse but what I need is a family who is intact and for once I might just have that if we get out of this! Can you remember the last time we worked together as a family unit? It’s the one thing keeping me together. I have to be honest with you because if I keep telling myself I’m fine, I’m going to crash. I’ve lost everything else. I never thought I would say it but I need my family.”] Logan admitted, allowing some vulnerability to show as he grabbed the fabric and placed it on the back of his neck. It certainly wasn’t going to stop the blood flow but it would slow it down.

With Jack’s deal placed on the table, Logan stared up at the metal bars of his face for a few seconds before reaching out to Jack as much as he could and just getting close enough to rest his hand on his shoulder.

[+orange “Deal.”]


Though their peace ended as multiple hands held Logan’s in place through the bars and on Jack’s shoulder and more of the cultists wrapped a chain around Jack to hold him in place.

[i “You both seem stronger together. This is what they have called us to do. Carlos and Tenica are signing to us that you need to be bonded. We shall help you, children.”] One of them spoke up, pulling out a large sharp piece of metal resembling a needle with a thick piece of black wire attached to it. Logan tried desperately to pull away but with his other injured hand and blood loss he didn’t have the strength! These sick fuckers were trying to stitch the brothers together!

With Logan’s hand in place they started to stitch his flesh to Jack’s, forcing Logan to practically have his face crushed against the bars as they pulled him as close as they could to Jack. With each piercing stab of the metal and thread, Logan hissed out in pain, his blood dripping down Jack’s arm. If they finished the job the only way Logan and Jack were getting out of this was if one of them managed to rip away from the other. With Jack unable to feel pain, it meant Logan was in one for hell of a torturous experience, especially if they wanted to get out of their cages. No doubt these freaks had that in their twisted minds anyway.

[+orange “Jack! Fuck! Don’t let them finish, it’s ok! Just fucking pull!”] Logan begged, terrified to lose the function of another hand but also whatever other sick plans they had. They promised they would get out of this together, even with the risk of flesh and bone… little did they know that help wasn’t far away…

------


Viktor knew better than to argue with Hayden, as much as it was taking his whole energy to play his role whether she doubted it or not. He was worried for the girl and didn’t want to see her suffer but it took two to tango! If she had some deep rooted medical history it was equally up to her to communicate to him. Sure he put on a character but Viktor was as open and honest as he could be and that night he couldn’t count on his hand how many times he asked if it was ok and if she was sure. He wanted to defend himself, especially with how much doubt was in his mind after Roland’s words but it would probably earn him one hell of a beating.

At least he thought it was his words that would until Xana made her announcement. He kept his composure, allowing his mask to fall into shock and concern but his eyes told his sister everything.

[+purple [i “Annnd your point is?”]]


Viktor was never bothered about being a father. In fact it was the one consequence of his life that linked him to his father, which left a bitter taste in his mouth but… he always asked! He always made sure they consented and that it was a good time on both parties. He never guaranteed that he was going to stay around and he never promised it was a lasting relationship. So if they wanted to risk those consequences he couldn’t pause his life for a kid, right? At least that’s what he thought until his recent meeting with Roland. He looked at Finn with a sheepish look, hoping at least one of his siblings would back him up on this! Before he could however, his eyes switched to Tigan and Caiden.

[+brown “Hey buddy it’s alright it’s… Jack told you… oh for fuck…I mean…”] Tigan hissed, staring at the clock for a few minutes to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. There was an instant panic in his eyes and his hands were gripping tightly by his side. Part of him wanted to yell at Caiden but it wasn’t the kids fault!
[+brown “Next time don’t listen to Jack, alright kid? I’ve clearly knocked too many brain cells out of him over the years.”] Tigan growled but with the scene playing out in front of him and Tarik fussing over his sister and a lot of anger getting directed towards Viktor, there was one way to test if these brothers had any loyalty.

In two strides he made his way across the room, grabbed Finn by the collar of his purple shirt and had him pinned against the wall next to Viktor.
[+brown “You really fucked with the wrong family. So this is how this is going to work. You’re coming with me and you’re helping me find Jack and Logan. Try and betray me, I dare you. Your dear brother might have had his fun with me in one way but I have plenty of other ways of letting my steam out and you really don’t want to find out what that is, alright? So if you come with me and help me out, I’ll try and stop Hayden from ripping your brother limb from limb.”] Tigan warned and without giving Finn much of a choice, he threw him towards the door and shoved his back to get him to start walking.

[#af944b “Tigan? This is Larry, look we just had a distress signal from Logan’s earpiece. I’ve just managed to get the coordinates. I’ll send you a message now with the location. I can see your with a stranger? Finn Heartley? I can trace his phone, I’ve sent him the location too. If Jack’s in danger, when you get him out, knock some sense into him for me.”] Larry spoke into the earpiece from his new location with Caleb.


[+brown “Don’t worry Larry, I will. Hayden I have my ear piece. I’ll let you know what I find. If he’s going to see Martyn, keep an eye on him! We don’t let these out of our sight. Caiden, I’ll be back soon.”]

[+purple “Look, I know I messed up but Hayden you want more problems on your family while they’re ill, then keep me here but otherwise I need to speak to Martyn. You can come with me, like your brother said.”] Viktor tried to explain but Tarik was already losing his nerve. He was sat next to his sister wishing he could comfort her but instead he was trying to batch up more medicine! Who knew how long this was going to go on for!


[+orange “After what you did to Tori? You think we can trust you?”]


[+green “We can’t…”] Elliot spoke up from the distance, the first time he had as a leader. He limped forward, looking at his wife with a confident look.
[+green “But he’s right in the sense we can keep an eye on him. If anyone can point out his bullshit, it’ll be Martyn. If anyone can punish him for his bullshit, it can be Hayden. Take him Hay, go make sure your brother is alright.”]
  Kattik / 112d 20h 55m 24s
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