The Lone Prospect: Chapter Two

Chapter One Pale Cookie! Chapter Two Pale Cookie! Chapter Three

The Lone Prospect
Chapter Two

Two or Three Days Earlier
Thursday: Jasper, Colorado
June 1st

Brand leaned closer to the table. His nose almost hit the glowing green projection that rose from the table’s surface. The motion made his black leather vest, covered in patches and a few studs and pins, gape open. His dark brown hair fell across his face and was slightly gray at the temples, feathered at the ends. His two-day growth of beard on his square jaw was going gray too.

He studied the map more, the holographic three-dimensional illusion pulsing to his sight, the edges sparkling where dust hit them. If he squinted he could barely make out the grain of the wood table underneath it. He flicked his gaze to the right, his eyes a muted gray. “What is the puppy doing?” he asked, his tone mild.

Ashley jumped and shifted on her feet. She hadn’t been paying attention to Brand, though one of his prominent patches read President and thus he was her boss in a manner of speaking. His attention, she had thought, had been on the map in front of him.

She shrugged a shoulder, using the motion as an efficient gesture to move her mass of dark red curls towards her back. She wore a black leather vest, though it wasn’t nearly as decorated as Brand’s. They both shared three patches and had silver pins in the shape of a star on their collar corners. With her hair behind her back, it revealed the white and maroon patch that read Sergeant-at-Arms.

Her mind scrambled to come up with an answer to Brand’s question. The puppy had to be the stranger that was in town. “Being nosy, mostly. Doing the tourist thing. Checking out our diners, buying the local newsfeed. He’s got a cheap hotel room downtown. Went to church on Sunday, met Padre. Seemed surprised to find one of us in the position of clergy.” Ashley stopped talking and licked her lips, cursing herself internally. Brand had been at church. He would know that already.

Brand’s lips twitched upwards into a smile. Ashley had noticed the boy’s presence, and his surprise. Good. “We Heathens need our chaplains too,” he said.

Ashley relaxed a little. “Did you want me to have the deputy shake him down?” she asked. Stir up the boy was what she meant, see what he wanted or if he would move on.

“No.” Brand waved a hand over the projection and the map moved. “Not necessary. We’ll give him a few more days. It’s not like we’re hard to find.”

Being easy to get to was a different story entirely. The streets that led to the Club weren’t set up in a logical grid pattern. They had been deliberately built like a maze. There wasn’t a direct way to get from downtown to the club. Call it an old lobo’s paranoia.

And it hadn’t been Brand’s paranoia but his grandfather’s that had shaped the town streets. A trait that had been passed from father to son. Because every time someone rose up to protest the mess of streets and wanted to sort it out into something easier, it always seemed to get lost in committee until the next citizen protest.

Besides, the puppy seemed to be behaving himself. Even if he hadn’t come to them and put forth an introduction, seeing it was the Heathens’ territory. Brand wasn’t going to worry about him yet. Not unless the pup made motions to making a more permanent mark without talking to him first. Brand could afford to wait. Though the pup’s lack of manners disturbed him.

The door opened and a waft of air pushed in behind Savannah, pushing her scent and her identity towards Brand and Ashley.

Ashley’s eyes narrowed and she jerked her attention to the door, stiffening.

Savannah ignored the challenging posture. She bounced over next to Brand, pushed his hair out of the way, and kissed his cheek. “Hello, Grandfather,” she said.

Brand turned his head and grinned at her. “It’s my favorite granddaughter,” he said and wrapped an arm about her shoulders, hugging her. It was made easier by the fact she was probably close to a foot shorter than he was.

Savannah rolled her dark green eyes. “Once again, I am your only granddaughter. As a point of interest, my aunts and uncles only gave you grandsons.”

“Much to my detriment.” Brand kissed the top of her head, through her short black hair. The light was almost too low to see the purple in it.

She wrinkled her nose. A metal stud was set in the side of it. “They haven’t taken to the life as well as I have.” She wore a vest, it wasn’t as decorated as Brand’s, but wasn’t as plain as Ashley’s either. Her patch read V. President. She looked down. “What’s this? Terrorists? Pirates? Scary Chinese businessmen?” She sounded far more eager than was necessary.

Brand grinned. “Just a regular doctor who got himself kidnapped by a dictator’s army.”

She nodded. The map looked like portions of the African jungles. The African continent was home to many dictators’ armies. Many were fighting wars that were centuries old and they couldn’t remember how they started, as their lands had been fractured into the size of postage stamps on the maps. This made it extremely perilous for visitors of any sort, whether they were there for politics, economics, or to do good works.

In the early twentieth century, there were two wars that were considered ‘World Wars’ by Western historians who believed that Europe was the land that the rest of the world revolved around. After these two wars, due to the extensive loss of the young men, war became something to be feared for over one hundred years. People no longer wanted to fight wars. Many armies were disbanded or forbidden or shrunk in size from fictional budget cuts. Folks went to war over more abstract concepts, terror and drugs. It stopped being good to actually win a war.

The world had seemed to stabilize. The boundaries were established. An uneasy peace reigned. Diplomatic and economic sanctions were used against those who threatened this order instead of military action. There was no place left to explore, nothing to conquer. The lines on the map were invisible walls.

It was too good to last.

Like a volcano, the pressure built under the surface. In the aftermath–the loss of communication, the lies–no one was really certain how the war had started. Most claimed it was a fight in the Middle East that spread north to Europe and south to Africa, and then exploded to the Americas. Then the East supposedly tried to defend their economic interests but really saw an opportunity to gain land. The end left no land untouched. It had changed everything.

The Great Third World War, the Cascading War, it didn’t matter what people called it. It had changed the political and physical landscape of the entire globe.

Two hundred years later, there were still lands that had not recovered and boundaries that had never stabilized. Technology had not only been lost, some of it had been rendered unusable due to atmospheric conditions. There were no standards. Technology that worked fine in one land might not be supported in another. Countries that did manage to quickly form and create stability for their people began to expand their reach and tried to colonize those that didn’t.

Some things never changed. There were the rich. There were those that felt called to do good works. There were the tourists. And between the dictators, the drug lords, the crime families, the freedom fighters that may or may not be distinguishable from the terrorists and the pirates, the innocent and sometimes not so innocent got caught in the crosshairs.

And that is where the Heaven’s Heathens came in. Rescuing those that could pay and sometimes those that couldn’t was how the Heaven’s Heathens Motorcycle Club made their money.

Security was in big command. Security meant survival. It meant the next generation would carry on. Security meant being able to leave your possessions, come back, and find them still there. Security meant not having to be afraid of the dark and those that lived in it. They provided security, private security, Heaven Has Mercy, a corporation within a corporation, headed by Brand.

It was a way for their pack to thrive rather than merely survive. One had to be a member of the Heaven’s Heathens to be an employee of Heaven Has Mercy, but one didn’t have to be an employee of Heaven Has Mercy to still be a Heathen. While not every member of her grandfather’s pack was part of the security company, there were charters where every member, prospect or of voting age, was in security.

Plus, it was fun. The wolf’s hunting instinct was difficult to ignore. And rescuing lost souls was a good outlet for the instinctive urges to seek out prey and sometimes kill it. Better to let it out than bottle it inside and pretend to be human like other packs did.

Savannah’s eyes roved over the map taking in points of interest. “Did I hear about a puppy?”

Brand kept his voice mild. “New boy in town, don’t worry your head about him.”

She looked up. “You say that and I always worry.”

Brand looked down his nose at her. “Let Ashley do her job and you do yours, Savannah.”

Savannah glanced at the other woman, acknowledging her presence for the first time. Ashley smirked at her. Savannah raised both eyebrows. She looked back at Brand. “And that is?”

“Rescuing idealistic young doctors from the clutches of evil dictators.”

“Ahh,” Savannah nodded slowly. Brand was going to give her team this job then. “It’s going to take me at least two days to fix that hunk of junk you call an all-terrain hover transport that Quincemeat trashed on the last job.”

“It’s Quinn!” Someone shouted in the other room. Savannah had forgotten to shut the door.

Savannah ignored Quinn. “Three, to get it done right.

“And it wasn’t my fault!” Quinn protested.

Brand ignored Quinn this time and nodded at Savannah. “They haven’t sent a ransom yet.”

Savannah winced and her face softened into lines of sympathy. That usually meant they were working the doctor to exhaustion. “Right. I’ll get on it.” She bussed Brand’s cheek again and walked towards the door. “Skyler! Eberron! We’ve got a transport to fix,” she yelled.

Brand spoke up from behind her, “Quinn should help too.”

Quinn looked up from his chair and scowled. The motion was partially accentuated and hidden by his mustache and goatee, a goatee he thought made him look sinister. He ran a hand through his short black hair. His brother, Dana, poked him in the shoulder. Quinn edged away from him.

Dana opened his mouth big and wide into a parody of a grin and laughed at him. “Ha, ha,” Dana said. Dana also had a goatee, though his hair wasn’t as dark as his brother’s.

Quinn reached over, grabbed his brother, and rubbed his knuckles on the top of his head, messing Dana’s brown curly hair. “At least Savannah asked for my help. You don’t know one end of a wrench for the other.”

Dana ducked and the two started throwing lighthearted slaps at each other. “I’m not the one who wrecked the transport, genius,” Dana retorted.

Savannah rolled her eyes and turned to where she’d last seen Skyler.

Skyler laid flat on her stomach on top of the bar, her head turned and her eyes closed. Her cheek was pressed into her sometime boyfriend, Cole’s, jean-covered thigh. He ran his tan fingers through her brown kinky hair, untangling the knots. She didn’t move and made no motion towards moving, her oval face slack in relaxation.

“Skyler,” Savannah growled.

Skyler whined. She was being pampered.

Cole snickered.

“We are on a timetable.” Savannah crossed her arms. She looked around. “Where’s Eberron?”

Quinn and Dana stopped slapping at each other and looked over at her.

Cole spoke up, “Where Eb always is when you can’t find him.”

Savannah slapped a hand over her eyes. “Of course,” she muttered.

Skyler carefully rolled over, using her elbows to prop her body up. She reached up with one hand and wrapped it around Cole’s neck, pulling him down to kiss her.

“Hey, no smoochies on the job,” Quinn protested.

Cole flipped him off. His eyes were locked with Skyler’s. All Quinn could see was the top of Cole’s head and his long dark brown hair that he kept spiked upwards.

“Yeah, you’ll make Savannah jealous,” Dana added.

“Oh for the love of—do not drag me into this,” Savannah said and headed towards the door. “Quinn, go get the transport open and prepped.”

Dana frowned at Skyler and Cole. They hadn’t stopped kissing. “Forget Savannah then, you’ll make me jealous!”

Quinn scowled. “What about Skyler?” he asked Savannah.

“She’s got five minutes to make-out with Cole.”

“That’s not fair.”

“And then I’m sending Eberron to sling her over his shoulder and drag her.” Savannah opened the door and went through.

Skyler made a noise in her throat and pulled away. “Hey!”

The door shut behind Savannah.

Skyler narrowed her eyes and glared at it. “I don’t need to be dragged.”

Cole rubbed his nose on hers. “Stop wasting our five minutes.”

Skyler grinned and turned her head back to him.

In the other room, Brand sighed and reached into his vest pocket, pulling out a hard candy wrapped in gold foil. “Sometimes I forget that we’re supposed to be a big, bad motorcycle club,” he said and unwrapped the candy. He stuck it in his mouth and sucked on it, enjoying the buttery sweet taste.

Ashley looked at him. “Sir,” she said.

Brand shook his head and didn’t say anything. He focused his eyes on folding the candy wrapper into a star. Fixing the transport would keep Savannah, and those most likely to do something about the new puppy, busy the few days it would take to sort out what was going on with him. Word was spreading about him, as the boy wasn’t going out of his way to be inconspicuous. And fixing the transport would keep Savannah from sticking her nose into it.

He hadn’t missed the tension between his granddaughter and their sergeant-at-arms. Brand used his fingernails to crease the edges of the star. Ashley wouldn’t be able to learn her job unless Savannah actually let Ashley do the job. Brand wondered if his father had ever had to deal with these problems.

Satisfied that the edges of the star were crisp and sharp, he stuck the star into his pocket. Now if the puppy would actually do something than sniff around, at least one of his problems would be headed towards resolved, at least for the moment. There were always problems when one was in charge of a werewolf pack.

 

Gideon looked out over the water of the duck pond and all the ducks swimming in circles, occasionally looking at him in hopes of more food. The wind tugged at his hair and it tickled at his neck. It was longer than he was used to it being, having not bothered getting a haircut since he’d left home and not buzzing it short since he’d left the military. Gideon shifted the lollipop he was sucking on from one side of his mouth to the other and looked down on the bench at the duck sitting next to him. The duck tilted his head.

“What?” he asked it.

The duck didn’t say anything.

Gideon sighed and fed it another piece of popcorn. “I’m not a coward.”

A girl in a tight t-shirt and tighter pair of shorts in bright garish colors jogged by, her long blonde ponytail swung back and forth. She saw him and smiled, doing a double take at the duck.

The duck chomped down on the popcorn.

Gideon adjusted his sunglasses and turned on the writing program. He needed to write a letter to his mother. He’d already written one to his father. Short and functional in the mode of ‘Hey Dad, I’m well. Love, your son.’ The angry words he and his father had shouted at each other before he’d left home still echoed in the back of his head and clogged his ears.

In front of him, projected from the corners of his sunglasses, a light blue rectangle appeared. He searched his pockets for his stylus.

The duck made an inquiring sound at him.

Gideon paused and narrowed his eyes at it. “No. I don’t have more food. I’m giving you popcorn,” he said, and found the stylus in his back pocket. He could have called up a keyboard and typed a letter a letter to his mother. She preferred a more personal touch and had told him so roundly the one and only time he’d typed a letter to her while in the service. He’d never done it again.

‘Dear Mom,’ he started.

“Don’t know how much I should tell her,” he said to the duck. “I don’t want to worry her.”

The duck poked his bill into Gideon’s thigh. Gideon found another piece of popcorn and fed the duck.

“Okay, I’ll tell her enough of the truth that it won’t seem like a lie.”

The duck poked him again.

Gideon growled but fed him another piece of popcorn. “I take it bribery doesn’t work well with you.” He went back to his letter.

‘Did you get my last postphotos? The auto barely made it through the Bad Lands.’

“She wouldn’t like me out in Nomansland,” he told the duck.

‘It overheated and I limped into what is left of the historic town of Wall. The Bad Lands are worse today than they were over two hundred years ago. I guess the war did that. They say that a lot of the missiles that were headed for the oil fields were intercepted or brought down there instead. The people of Wall shell out a meager living off of tourists like me.’

“Should I tell her it was stupid? No. She probably already knows that. Maybe I shouldn’t tell her at all, but I already sent her the pictures.”

‘The mechanics are more like vultures. They helped me fix the auto by cannibalizing a few of the other autos that people have driven through the Bad Lands and, from the sounds of it, never made it past the town of Wall or didn’t manage to make it through at all. From the sounds of it, I got pretty lucky.’

“I really would have avoided them,” Gideon told the duck.

The duck quacked at him, obviously not at all believing Gideon.

Gideon glowered at the duck and fed him more popcorn. “I would have,” he muttered. He’d managed his timetables really carefully and gone through that portion of Nomansland when it was light out. He’d heard the stories about the people who lived there. Except for the breaking down part, he figured he hadn’t done too badly. He was alive and in one piece. And he’d heard stories about the Bad Lands and wanted to see it for himself.

He eyed the duck. “Are you done?” He went back to the letter.

‘They didn’t charge me that much to fix the auto, but I did most of the work and I guess something about me put them off from trying to gouge me for money. That or they don’t have much use for it.

The countryside became a lot nicer once on the other side of Wall. The closer I got to Colorado, the nicer it became. They had a cursory guard shack on the border. They let me through without any fuss. I made it safely back to civilization. Skipped Rapid City. It looked a bit too high-rise and citified for my tastes. I headed deeper into the Black Hills. It’s pretty country here, mountains, trees.’

The duck quacked again.

Gideon wrinkled his nose. Demanding ducks. He picked up another piece of popcorn and tossed it into the air.

The duck’s head snapped out and caught it. The duck gobbled the popped kernel down and then eyed Gideon again, waiting for more.

Gideon obliged it and set out several more kernels in the hope of being able to add more to his letter. He added a paragraph about the places he’d seen that were considered part of the western plains and the animals that inhabited them—the bison, the antelope, the birds. He’d gone up to see what remained of Mount Rushmore. He hadn’t spent all his time in Jasper. He promised his mother pictures later. Then went back to the meat of the letter.

‘You remember that small pack I told you about when I was in Texas? I know I’ve been talking about a lot of packs and places. They helped get me out of cultural differences type of trouble.’

Gideon grimaced. He didn’t want to go over that again with his mother. It was hard enough to write about the first time. He’d glossed over quite a bit too. Now to get to the information he hadn’t mentioned.

‘It turns out that they’re an offshoot of a bigger pack. They weren’t looking to add any new members, but they did tell me about their main pack here in Colorado. I’ve come up here to look into it. It’s not one of the ones Dad and I yelled about.’

His father didn’t know that many packs anyways. Gideon had stumbled across more small family style packs than his father had fingers and toes in his travels. He looked at the duck. “I’m looking.” He said. “No harm right?” He looked back at his letter.

‘They make their home in a city named Jasper.’

The duck poked him with his bill again.

Gideon sighed. “Just looking, I’m not hurting anybody by looking. I can’t–” He reached over, grabbed a handful of kernels and plopped them in front of the duck, who pounced on them before the others ducks could see and take them. “I’m curious.” He finished and decided not to finish the rest of his previous sentence, no matter how much it would be true if he said it aloud.

It hurt too much to say aloud. Saying it aloud meant he would have to actually acknowledge it. He couldn’t go home. There was no place for him there. Farming had never felt right to him. He wasn’t great at it and there were too many boys in one house to make staying at home peaceful, especially now that he had training in how to use his temper in what the military considered a constructive fashion. His father had made it clear if he walked out of the house and left home, that he would not be welcome back. He shifted the lollipop again and sucked on it, hoping the sweet would clear the bitterness of his memories.

He missed the military. Gideon reached up and touched his dog tags under his t-shirt. He missed the camaraderie and the brotherhood. He missed always having someone to hang out with. And he couldn’t go back there either because of that blasted IED trying to take out his knee.

As far as he could tell, the knee was as good as new due to werewolf healing. But now, it was in his medical record and it wasn’t going to leave and the military had funny requirements. They’d refuse without looking at it again. It wasn’t like another country’s military would take him either, something about conflicting loyalties.

He hadn’t planned on being injured. He hadn’t planned on coming home from the military on a medical but honorable discharge. And he certainly hadn’t planned to have a fight with his father that would end up with them screaming at each other.

He’d seen, or at least he hoped he’d seen, that type of camaraderie that he’d loved in the military in that pack in Texas. There had been a sense of ‘we are all brothers and sisters together for one cause.’ They were something of a family pack, close and jovial. But he knew that not everyone had been related. And in a way, it had hurt to be able to see that closeness and not be able to join them, but there was the hope too that this pack, their main pack, would be the same way. They had gotten the attitude from somewhere.

He hoped he’d be able to belong here, like he had in the military and that he no longer did at home. He wanted the brotherhood back. He wanted it back so bad it hurt. And he would never be able to say it aloud and if he tried to explain it to his mother, he had a feeling she would never understand. She had never been part of something like that, the reliance of one’s peers, knowing that someone always had your back.

He pushed the feelings away and went back to his letter.

‘I’ve been here about a week. The place seems a bit too good to be true.’

“And that’s it,” He said to the duck. “I don’t know. This place looks good.” The next part he could say to his mother.

‘The people are friendly. It seems more like a town than a city. Would you believe there aren’t any advertisements? I haven’t had a cup of brand name, overly syrupy sugary coffee out of a shop since I came here. There aren’t any chain restaurants or hotels, strip malls, or any malls at all. Everything is either a boutique or family run or both. I’m staying in this big old drafty bed and breakfast run by an old biddy that lives there.’

“It’s crazy, you know, duck? I’ve looked for a bad section in this town. I’ve tried. I’ve found poor and I’ve found ritzy and I’ve found college town, but I can’t find any pimps or drug dealers or anything more hazardous than a cigar and liquor shop.” He’d read the local newsfeed every day. “Do the cops deal with anything more dangerous than domestic disputes?” he asked the duck.

The duck’s head jabbed out and Gideon hastily fed it more popcorn.

“I like the candy store though,” he muttered. He could list off a bunch of places that were extremely tempting reasons to stay–bakery, ice cream parlor, old fashioned one screen movie theatre. “I can’t decide whether or not to stay here because of food,” he said. “Good food, but it is food.”

The duck poked him again and Gideon rolled his eyes. “Yes, being fed is important,” he said and found more popcorn.

He wrote a short paragraph about the candy store and the other stores he’d been in, the amount of trees in town, anything he thought would interest his mother.

He continued to talk to the duck as he wrote, “And this place is nice. I mean, it’s really, really nice. There are jobs. Not that I’d know what I’d do, my main talent doesn’t exactly look good on a resume for a hardware store.”

He scowled and shifted the lollipop in his mouth again. “And shouldn’t have someone approached me by now? They have to know I’m here.” He kept running into them everywhere. “They ought to know I’m here. I deliberately went to their church.” The church had had a pack symbol on the sign and it had intrigued him.

Thinking of signs, that was something he should tell his mother. She might get a kick out of it. He put a few more kernels of popcorn next to the duck and turned back to his letter.

‘All the signs here are carved out of wood and painted. If there are any lights on them, they float in the air after dusk. It almost feels like a town ordinance. None of the buildings are more than four stories tall above ground, but below ground is another matter. I guess there can be up to three stories underground before the rock became too hard. And the sidewalks roll up at nine o’clock. It feels safe here.’

“It feels too safe,” Gideon muttered and looked around at the pine trees and the neatly trimmed grass without any clippings. He shifted in his seat. “Do they have anything to do with that?” he asked the duck.

“It seemed like a good idea when I came here. Now? I don’t know. I’m not a coward. I’m not afraid. I’m not sure,” he said to the duck. He fed it the last kernels and decided to finish his letter.

‘I like the town. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I’ll write you more when I figure it out.

How are Haddie and the boys? Is the farm doing all right? Did you ever get that quilt done for the Johnson’s baby? Never did hear how that turned out. Hope you’re feeling well. I love you and miss you.

Your loving son,

Gideon’

He saved the letter and repressed a bit of uneasiness. “I wish she’d write me back,” he muttered and put the stylus away.

He hadn’t heard back from her since he’d left. It was his father that was mad at him, not his mother. He didn’t expect to hear from his father, but he’d thought that his mother would write to him.

It wasn’t exactly like the mail went to a physical post box anymore. You went to the office. They called up the personal set of data in the ‘cloud’ that was your box, and since he was traveling, he had it on a roaming setting. If he did get to stay, he’d make a permanent port at the local post office and not have to worry about bothering the postmaster every time he needed his mail. He shut off the writing program and sighed.

The duck poked him again.

“I’m out, duck,” Gideon said. He picked up the bag and turned it upside down. A few crumbs fell out. “I’m out of ideas.” He muttered.

He reached up and touched his tags, then dragged them out from under his shirt to worry at them with his fingers. He wasn’t out of places to go. He wasn’t sure in what direction he should head next if this didn’t work out.

“It shouldn’t be that frightening.” But it was. This was the first place he’d been that he’d seriously considered staying. He’d liked the pack in Texas and had been disappointed when they said they weren’t looking for new members, but not disappointed enough that he would have stayed in their town despite them saying no.

Mainly, because they’d pointed him this direction and given him hope that maybe here was a place to belong.  Something inside him had pushed him forward still and been happy with a concrete direction.

“He’s just the leader of the whole group and if he tells me I have to go, I have to go.” Gideon sank down. Hope was a hard thing. He didn’t want his hopes dashed. Part of him didn’t want to leave now that he’d arrived. He was close, so close he could taste it.

“Mother is going to have a fit. They’re bikers, he said. He wasn’t sure entirely what that meant, but his mother had always said the word with a tone of disapproval and his father had called them murdercycles for as long as he could remember. “I don’t want to go, but if I don’t join, I can’t stay and what if they don’t want me?”

The duck poked him again.

Gideon ignored it and closed his eyes to soak up the sun. “I mean, bikers? Bikers? Why bikers?”

The duck tilted his head, the eyes narrowed on their target. The head snapped out and the bill opened and bit down on Gideon’s finger.

Gideon’s eyes snapped open. “Ow!” he said, and he reached over, grabbed the duck around the body and threw it away from him.

“Ungrateful avian!” He sat up and shook his finger to try and get the blood flowing in it and then examined it carefully to make sure he wasn’t bleeding. “Fine. I’ll go. I’ll go talk to Brand and see if he’ll let me join,” he told the duck. Ducks were almost as mean as chickens.

The duck quacked at him and rushed at him.

Gideon’s hand reached out again and once again grabbed the duck around the body. He threw it away from him again.

The duck flapped its wings and landed several yards away. They glared at each other. Gideon stood up and grabbed the popcorn bag. What the hell? It couldn’t be as bad as a battle right? No explosions, no bullets whistling past his head? And if this place didn’t want him, maybe he could get a recommendation for somewhere else.

He walked away from the pond and looked back over his shoulder at it. The duck looked back at him and finally waddled off to find food someplace else. Gideon sighed. Yeah, he and the duck knew that he didn’t want to find somewhere else. He was tired of running.

Chapter One Pale Cookie! Chapter Two Pale Cookie! Chapter Three
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