Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chapter Thirty - Wounds

"Everyone has scars, whether they are physical or emotional, there's really no difference between the two. Both are painful reminders of something that happened that should have been avoided, whether it's a scar obtained by burning metal from an explosion, or a scar in your mind as a harsh thought of what could have been but had been lost. Some last a short time, some fade over a long time, and some stick with you for the rest of your life."


Annabelle, deep in thought, opened her eyes to see Tom standing in front of her. He had a worried look on his face, but she nodded assuredly to let him know she was okay.

"I'm fine, Tom. I've just been thinking of things." Annabelle smiled, she didn't want to tell Tom about the dream she had, he had enough going on with the upcoming eclipse. Still, she couldn't get over what she had dreamed about. It had been a week since she had it and every once in a while she would turn around thinking Gabriel was nearby ready to pull one of his goofball pranks, then she realized he wouldn't, he'd never do it. That made her sad, but the idea of her daughter Keera being there for real helped her cope.

Annabelle had lived a strange life, with evil alien witch-unicorns, supervillains, and other things that normal people would or could only dream about, she attributed this to her unique heritage, as "normal" people were usually not from outer space or an alien planet. Still, the dream she had was about as normal as she could imagine, and while she strived for that, she would not trade her family for it, especially considering how everyone took the time out of their night to tell her how much they needed her as she slept.

After standing for a minute or two, Annabelle walked through the living room of her home, looking at all the wonderful people she called her family. Scarlett was "ooh"-ing as Mirabelle did a magic trick in front of her, Kelly was chatting with Tom, and John and Keera were joking around about something they whispered to each other with smiles on their faces. To Annabelle, this wasn't a normal family, but it was a great family.

After finishing his chat with Kelly, Tom walked over to Annie, making sure, again, if she was alright. Annabelle nodded and said "I do have a bit of a headache from the blast a week ago, but I'll be fine, don't worry. I'll just take a bit of a walk to get rid of it."

"Would you like someone to go with you?"

Annabelle shook her head, and said "I'll be alright, just need a walk. Besides, everyone aside from me is busy today. Kelly and Keera are going to the top of the mountain, John and Mirabelle are going to the library to research the Genie lamp, and you and Scarlett are going to look for wedding stuff... a little hint: pick a lot of red items." she said, sarcastically.

"Ya I got that." Tom said jokingly. "Just... PLEAAAAASE be careful."

Annabelle smiled and leaned in close. "Don't worry, I will not let anything happen to me. Besides, I've already endured enough in my life, what more could possibly happen?... you know what don't answer that."

Annabelle then left after smiling at Tom, walking down the street.


"You're worried about her, aren't you?" Scarlett asked, sitting in the passenger seat of Tom's car as they made their way through the town. The roads were easy to navigate, it being a Saturday, and Tom had decided that the back roads were more a proper choice to drive on.

"Who? Annabelle? Of course I am! She needs me, and the family right now when she's going through these troubling times. I am trying to see where she walked to but this city is so covered in flora it's hard to pick out what's a bush and what's her. Don't uh... don't tell her I said that. Anyway she needs me, like I need her."

"It's more than that, Tom. I know it, I know you. You love her." Scarlett had never been one to skirt around the point, always going straight at with her her hands at it's throat. "I know this because I see you when she's around, it's the same look, the same body language in John's face when I walk into the room. I noticed this a long time ago when we were teens, and made my move, now we're shopping for wedding cakes. Why didn't you make your move, Tom?"

"Well, there are so many things to think about, you know, with the things going on and all that stuff and such and whatnot."

"You're pushing the question away, cuz. It's a simple question, that SHOULD warrant a simple answer."

"I don't know if I'm good enough for her." Tom said, bluntly. "She's is literally out of this world, and I'm just... stuck on Earth." 

"Tom, you're good enough for Annie. You don't see that but I do. You are a wonderful person! Besides, have you ever ASKED if Annabelle thinks you're not good enough for her? I mean seriously. I know the answer is 'no', I know you two are perfect for each other. 'Tom and Annabelle' is about a common phrase around the house as 'peanut butter and bananas, with chocolate syrup'."

"I think the phrase is 'peanut butter and jelly', Scarlett. Sorry I corrected you."

"Oh well, um... I was just thinking of something that I like. I've been looking at a lot of food lately. Maybe pre-wedding jitters or something." Scarlett then stopped herself. "But that's beside the point. My question for you is... have you ever wondered what it would be like to have settled down with Annie, to marry her and have a few kids? Have you ever wondered that?" 

Tom sighed, looking out ahead of him. "All the damn time..."

Kelly and Keera were taking turns looking at the Mausoleum through a telescope on the hill, as they had planned on it. Kelly, trying to lighten the mood, tried to talk to the teen but she didn't seem to talk back much.
"You're not very chatty today, are you Keera?" Kelly asked, looking over at her. Keera was busy looking at the mausoleum, watching in case anyone came or went inside with a stern look on her face. Since she didn't respond, Kelly continued talking. "It's just like the other night all over again."


"...Well I went into Annabelle's room while she was sleeping, and talked to her. Told her what was in my heart. I didn't get a response, just like with you just now."

"Oh well." Keera said with a harsh tone in her voice. "Guess the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, in any respect whatsoever."

Kelly was the one confused this time. "What? What do you mean by that?"

Stopping herself from looking at the telescope, Keera backed away from it to look Kelly in the eye. "You know what's really funny? The whole time I was watching my mom sleep the other night, worried about her, trying to get her to wake up... I noticed a few things parallel to my own life. Just, you know, certain things. Like explosions. She was caught in an explosion in the past as she said, broke her arm and spent nearly three months in the hospital."

"And here it happened once again, but this time she didn't get that injured, did she? She didn't lose an eye, or have her face scarred. No, she didn't, but she could have. She could have had her entire body scarred! She could have been paralyzed! Her life could have been taken from her because of ANOTHER DAMNED EXPLOSION!! Just like the one I was in!!!"

Keera stopped herself. That was it: She was worried about losing Annabelle, just like everyone else, but in her case the worry was intensified because of Keera's own life experiences, including the explosion at the movie studio.

"Keera, I don't know what to say." Kelly said, worried. "I really don't. You have been through so much in the short time you've been alive, we all have, that sometimes it's hard to realize what matters."

Suddenly Kelly reached in for a hug, and Keera fell into her arms crying. "I can never see things clearly, I can never realize what's happening. You need two eyes to do it."

"I am so sorry for everything that's happened to you, Keera. You didn't do anything to deserve your injury. If I could go back in time and put myself in your place I would. I would do anything for you."

Suddenly Kelly looked up and saw someone off in the distance heading inside the mausoleum. Using her a camera attached to her telescope, Keera snapped a picture of him just as he stepped inside.


Jacob Thompson smiled as he walked down the stairs towards the center of the tomb. Dr. Vu, who was looking at a fully-assembled star-shaped stone, heard him walking and turned to face him.

"I love what you've done with the place. Very... dark, very... evil-lair-ish." Jacob chuckled as he opened a new gate into the tomb's main area. "Could use a throw pillow though. Maybe a few curtains."

"What do you want, Thompson?" Vu asked, looking at him with an angered look. "I am very busy here."

"Yes but are you really?" Jacob walked over to him with a smirk. "Or is it your robotic companion over there who is more busy than you?" Jacob noticed the robotic orb floating in the center of the room was pulsating brightly, like it was busy doing something.

"Vazir is currently adding to the tomb. We need a base and he is building it. He already built a holding area for our enemies."

"That's good! Real good... I may have use for a holding area. I have plans to bring a guest, someone who is perfectly capable of undermining out plans. She's had a victory against a Benefactor before, and I want to see her face personally when we open the tomb, get the lamp, and use it for our own purposes. Just so I can know that she knows she lost."

"That doesn't seem too hard to do. Apparently the last benefactor was defeated by a pair of love-struck teenagers. I can't say he didn't deserve to be imprisoned and blown up. It's his faulty device that gave me this scar."

Jacob sneered at Vu, then said "Jack Toomes was an older man when he fought those, as you say it, 'love-struck teenagers'. He was old, weak, pathetic. I am much, much younger."

"Besides, I was thinking of someone else." Vu said. 'Someone I want to find in Starlight Shores. Thomas Jameson. He refused to help my father when he needed it. I want revenge."

"Thomas Richard Jameson is dead." Jacob replied. "But guess what, I know where his son is... you know, 'legacy' and all that stuff. You can take revenge on Thomas Jameson by taking revenge on his son. And I know where you can find him."

"Tell me!" Vu said. "Where is he?!"

"No no no. First I must make a... fair trade." Jacob smiled, and turned around to face a table. "But what could you possibly have that I want?! Maybe one of these weapons here? Ya I'll take this as a pre-payment. But what else? What could I possibly- OOOOOH. Ya, this will work." Jacob picked up a golden-colored potion, holding it in front of him.

"That's a potion called Midas Touch." Vu said, "It will let you turn anything you want to gold. For inanimate objects it permanent. For humans it's temporary. At least that's what the witch who gave it to me said."

"Midas touch. I love that story. In the story, King Midas wished for the ability to turn whatever he touched into gold... it was part of his greed. Unfortunately for him, every single person he touched turned to gold, and his food turned and his drink as well, he died of thirst and starvation and he died alone. I personally think he was an idiot. He should have made things a bit more specific. Yes, this will do fine. A little birdy told me Tom's at the market. Well, I saw him there myself before I trotted over here. But take care... you know the love-stuck teenagers you mentioned? Tom's one of them. He was strong then, can't imagine how he is now."

Vu smiled, finally realizing that his revenge was going to be obtained. He turned around to ask Jacob more about Tom but was shocked to see him gone, with the midas touch potion. He then took his communicator out and contacted Tobias Corvan.

"Ya?" Tobias said, groggy. It seemed to Vu that he woke him from a sleep.

"Go to the marketplace here in Starlight Shores. Bring a video camera to transmit an image to me. And be quick."

 Annabelle was sitting on a bench at the park, still trying to get her head clear when she heard someone walk up to her. She turned her head and saw Deacon Jones, still apparently upset from the conversation they had about a week before. Annabelle hadn't talked to Deacon since their encounter in the beach house, but ever since then she was going over the whole angered tirade against him in her mind, and the conversation he had with his twin sister afterwards.

"Do you mind if I... sit here, Miss Kethin?" Deacon asked, politely. Annabelle silently nodded and gestured herself towards the empty seat, signifying that he could. "Listen, Annie, I again am so sorry about everything that happened in Bridgeport. I assure you, it was Jack Toomes who manipulated me!"

"He manipulated a lot of people." Annie said, "You, me, Tom. He made us all think he was a friendly sort. I saw him as a good friend."

Deacon looked off in the distance, upset. "Then his death must have some kind of effect on you, like it did me. He may have been evil but I still saw him as a father for five years."

"I don't think he's dead." Annabelle sternly said. "I've seen him 'die' in two different explosions before, this third one... it wouldn't surprise me if he showed up alive in Sunlit Tides or something, drinking on the beach laughing at everyone who thought he actually went to the land of Smithereens by way of a meteor impact. Dr. Vu was revealed to have been alive just recently and he too 'died' in an explosion. Hell... I should have died in an explosion, almost five years ago."

 "Why didn't I? Why did I have to live with the wounds for three months? Why didn't I... kiss... it doesn't matter. That's the past, this is the present, and I must look to the future."

"But they found his body. DNA tests prov-"

"I don't think he's dead." Annabelle said again. "He's a crafty son of a b-"

"Anyway..." Deacon said, interrupting her. "I wanted to say, again, Annabelle, that I am really, really sorry for the way I acted in Bridgeport. That was not the person I am, I never wanted to be that."

Annabelle stood up. "Well, to be honest I wasn't having the greatest of days myself when we met again a week and a half ago. Tom... Tom blamed me for causing someone he cared about to die, and we didn't talk for a month. But that's behind us now. My point is that I too apologize. I don't think I would have acted that way towards you if that hadn't happened. I'm better than that."

"Don't worry about it. I try to put what happened in the past behind me, and look to the future. Not too many do that.", Deacon said. "Besides, you are talking to me now, that's got to amount for something."

"Yeah it does. Heh. Look, to make it up to you, and maybe for a chance to get to know the real you, maybe we can go out to lunch or something, as friends. Or... get-to-know-each-other...ers." 

Deacon smiled. "Ya that sounds good. Let us go and get something to eat."


 At the public library, John and Mirabelle were looking at random books in the basement. They hit a wall with information on the Genie Lamp, only able to find a copy of the same book Keera had. Rather than give up, however, they decided to explore the rather unused portion of the building.

"Nope, not one book here." John said, flicking his fingers across the dusty books lined on the old shelves. "I kinda hoped that we could find one bit of new info but nope. It's like the universe hates us. The universe is evil sometimes, evil evil evil."

"Just because you can't find something without a computer doesn't mean the universe is evil, John." Mirabelle said, "Mean-spirited, maybe, but not evil."

"No! I tell you... Thi-this one time the universe leaned in close and told me to take over the world for it." John chuckled, and so did Mirabelle.

"You always have found a way to make me laugh, Johnny." Mirabelle said. "Well, Annabelle at least." You always made her laugh. I've only been around for a couple months."

"No. You've been around a lot longer than that." John replied. "Everything Annie's done, you've done. All her accomplishments, all her feelings, all her happy days and sad ones. You just haven't been able to express your own feelings until the teleporter purpose."

"You mean... accident, right?" Mirabelle was a bit confused. "That teleporter accident that created me. It was an accident."

John shrugged. "It was... unintended, but I call it a purpose because it's the opposite of an accident. I had it's purpose to the family, because it gave you life. It gave Annabelle someone to relate to, it gave me a new sister, it gave Scarlett someone to help plan the wedding with, it gave Tom someone to goof off with, it gave Kelly someone to love, and it gave Keera someone else to look up to. It was a purpose, Mira. I don't want to call it an accident."

Mirabelle wiped tears from her eyes. "I never thought of it that way. Ever since it happened and I look at myself in the mirror, I always thought of myself as just a reflection of Annie." She looked over at an old mirror sitting on the floor.

"I never actually thought of myself as a real person until you brought it up. Thank you, my... my brother."

John smiled, and hugged his sister. "Just like I told Annie, I'll always be here for you, my sister." They then went back to looking for information on the genie lamp. After a few moments, John said "you know what, I think we should use one of the computers upstairs to find information. That would be more helpful."

Mirabelle chuckled again and the two walked upstairs, Mirabelle placing a book back into a shelf before. When they were upstairs, the book fell out, causing one book to fall onto another, and then another, before finally one book fell down and hit a switch behind it. Suddenly the bookshelf pulled back, and revealed a small room to no one. Inside were magic wands, a crystal ball, a lectern, and a cauldron. After a few short seconds, the bookcase slid back into place.


Vu was standing in a different room in his base, a recently constructed holding area sitting next to him. Suddenly, the television hanging from the wall came on, and Tobias' voice was heard in it. "I'm at the market like you asked. Is this the guy?"

"It's Jameson. Thomas Jameson!" Dr. Vu smiled as he looked at the video. Tom was standing outside the market, waiting for someone. "Corvan, bring him to me. I want to have a bit of a word with him. It's part of his father's legacy."

"But... what if he resists? He looks pretty strong." Tobias responded, worried. He had never been in an actual fist fight, preferring to strike from a distance.

"You have that weapon I gave you, right? If he doesn't go calmly, threaten him! Just bring him to me. I want him to watch as I use the genie lamp, and holding him in this cell for a week will be fun."


Corvan nodded and closed the comm, then took out the weapon Vu mentioned. It was a crystalline device that glowed brightly, something Vu and his group had received from the M.I.A. Aurora Dawn. Tobias thought it was a magic wand, but he thought the notion of magic weapons was an idiotic concept despite the fact that he was looking for a supposed genie lamp.

Tobias walked up next to Tom, snarling. "Dr. Vu wants to make your acquaintance, Mr. Jameson. Please, walk slowly towards the alley, I'll have him teleport us. And don't make a noise, or I'll kill you."

Caught off-guard, Tom turned around. "Who are you?" he asked. "What's this about? What does Vu want with me?!"

"You'll find out. Now, the alley. We wouldn't want a panic raised by vanishing here, do we?"

Tom looked at the weapon. It was pretty violent-looking, and he didn't want to be splattered against the wall, but he also didn't want to be brought before a known criminal who was thought to have been dead before. After a few seconds of going through plans in his mind, he inwardly smiled. "Okay, but can I at least ask my cousin to let me go with you? She has a bit of a temper and I'm here with her helping her find a wedding cake, and really I don't want to make her upset or worry. Don't worry, I won't tell her what's going on."

Tobias thought this over, and nodded. "Okay. But make it quick. And if you tell her..."

"Don't worry." Tom smiled, he realized this man was of lesser patience or intelligence, and those could easily be manipulated. "Now she's right over here. Hey Scarlett!" Tom yelled at Scarlett to come over, and she did.

"What's up, Tom?" Scarlett asked, "Who's this?"

Tom turned back to Tobias. "This is... uh... Carl. I was talking with Carl here and he mentioned that he saw you walk in with me. Don't worry, he's not wanting to flirt with you, but he just told me that you look a bit like a... what was it you said, Carl, a "complete clown wearing all that red."? I told him it was none of his business-"

Before Tom could finish his sentence Scarlett reached over and punched Tobias in the face, knocking him to the ground and out cold. Tom grabbed the weapon off the ground and ran with it with Scarlett, who was still angered. "So what's REALLY going on, Tom? You wouldn't tell me that just randomly." she asked.

"That man works for Dr. Vu I think, who wants me for some reason, I don't know why and I frankly I don't want to know. You just saved me, Red."

"So what's that magic wand looking thing?"

"I don't know," Tom replied, "But it looks familiar. I think I've seen something like this before. I do know one thing: it's a weapon, and I think it's a dangerous one. We have to get home, tell Annabelle about this."


Tobias Corvan walked down the stairs and into the main room of the tomb headquarters. Vu, who was busy talking with Vazir about something, turned around and looked at him, noticing that his face was covered in blood and his eyes were bruised.

"The hell happened to you?" Vu asked.

"I don't want to talk about it. Let's just say that Tom Jameson is far more intelligent than we predicted. And his cousin packs quite a punch for having such a small frame."

Vu hissed. Suddenly Jacob Thompson appeared in the center of the room, right where he had vanished before, and smiled. "So you couldn't capture Tom. Oh well, guess we can do things my way now. Besides, I know how to get revenge on him, and you don't even have to touch him..."

Tom, still shaken a bit from his encounter with the villain, walked into his house with Scarlett, where the two saw Deacon standing in the living room. Annabelle, who was talking with Deacon, turned around to look at the two.

"What happened to you?" Annabelle asked, noticing a small bruising on Scarlett's fist and Tom's worried look on his face.

"Someone tried to kidnap me today! It was that guy I told you about, Tobias or whatever his name was. He told me Dr. Vu wanted to meet me! I tricked him, Scarlett punched him, and we ran. He dropped this when he fell, it's like a weapon or something." Tom took the wand and showed it to Annabelle and Deacon. "I think it's a magic wand, like you know, a witch's weapon!"

"Nightmare." Annabelle said. "Tom, you said Andy told you about the whole Genie thing, a clue at least. She knew about it because she was part of Nightmare! She was working for Vu all along! Why didn't I see this?! She gave him magic wands, who knows how many she had!"

"But she couldn't have been the benefactor." Tom said. "Someone else was pulling the strings! Someone who wants that genie lamp! Someone who wants to use it to take over the world, to subjugate- that's it!"

"What's it?" Annabelle asked. "What are you talking about, Tom?"

"There's this guy I met at the museum the two times I went there. Jacob Thompson, he was this reaaaly creepy guy and he was just brimming with evil. He told me that if he could get his hands on the genie lamp, he'd wish for the subjugation of the human race. I bet you anything he's the Benefactor.

"Did he look anything like this?" Kelly walked into the house and nodded to Deacon, acknowledging his presence. She then placed a USB port from her camera into an electronic frame on the wall nearby.

Seconds later an image flashed onto the frame. "Yes! That's him!"

"Keera and I took this picture outside the mausoleum earlier today. He walked right into it with a smile on his face. You don't walk into a tomb with a smile, I don't care who you are! Anyway I took this picture and posted it against the Federal Database of Criminals with zero matches. Either this guy fell to Earth recently or he's so perfect at what he does he doesn't know know how to make mistakes."

"Okay, what is going on?!" Deacon asked, worried. "What's this about a genie lamp and all that?!"

Annabelle breathed in a bit before saying "When we were living in Hidden Springs Tom fell in love with someone who literally had another side to her. The woman told Tom to come to Starlight Shores before she died and when we did we eventually found out that a group of supervillains are trying to find a genie lamp to possibly take over the world with, one of them being a Chinese scientist who was thought to have been killed  nine years ago. One of them is also a new benefactor who replaced Jack Toomes when Tom and I defeated him and sent him to prison. We found out that the tomb containing the genie lamp is protected by magic and the only thing that can open it is if someone puts a star-shaped keystone into a wall on the day of a total solar eclipse. That's all we know for now."

Deacon froze for a few seconds. ".......................what?"

Tom then said "This kind of stuff happens a lot in our lives. I don't even understand half of it."

"So... villains with genie lamps? How can you possibly fight against that?!" Deacon finally asked after taking it all in for a bit. " I mean, if the new Benefactor is as bad as Jack Toomes then... how?"

"We are still working on a battle plan. Our main objective is to stop them from reaching the lamp. We may have to destroy the key stone." Tom said, "but they must have it under lock and key at this point."

Kelly then interjected: "Well Davis Cambridge told me he could muster up some policemen, and contact the National Guard. But who knows when they can get here."

"We still have a week." Annabelle said, "That gives us plenty of time to formulate numerous plans should one fail. We just need local support. Deacon, I trust you now, can you tell us anyone who might be able to help around here?"

Deacon scratched his head for a second and said "Avalon. There's this owner of a casino who started this huge corporation. No one really knows who it is, as no one's seen them but I heard that they are in town tonight to oversee something with the Casino."

"Then I'll go there and chat with this 'Avalon'." Annabelle said, "Tom you want to come along in case there's trouble?

"Of course."

"But uh, yeah. You can find Avalon at the casino. I dunno who it is so try not to expect a warm welcome." Deacon said. "Now I gotta go, I gotta get home before my sister worries."

"Alright, Deacon. Be careful. The closer we get to the date of the eclipse the more trouble all of us could face, even you as you used to know the Benefactor Jack Toomes."

"Okay, thanks." Deacon said, then left the house.

When he was gone, Tom leaned in close to Annie. "Do you really trust him now?"

Annabelle nodded. "I do. I don't know why but I do."


"Cassie!" Having returned after visiting the Kethrins, Deacon walked into his house, yelling out his sister's name. He heard her groggy voice coming from the other room and figured that she was taking a midday nap. Realizing his mistake for waking her, he said "Oh, sorry to wake you." half-heartedly and decided to sit down on the sofa to watch some television. He then heard a beeping noise, faint as it was. Shrugging it off as ambient sound, Deacon continued to watch television.

Then he heard it again. And again. Deacon stood up and looked over at a coffee maker sitting in his kitchen that he swore he had never seen before. After a few seconds of thinking it over, he walked over to the machine and looked at it, hearing the beeping noise getting progressively louder and louder and faster. Suddenly a realization came over him as he ran to his sister's bedroom.

Cassie was looking through her clothes, trying to find something to wear when Deacon smashed opened the door. "Deacon what are you-"


The two siblings took off out of the house towards the street, with Cassie still wearing her sleepwear. After a few seconds of running Deacon heard the beep stop. Suddenly the entire house violently exploded, sending debris flying across the block.

Down the street, Jacob Thompson smiled as the Jones house collapsed to the ground.

"I hope he's dead."


"As I said before, some scars last a short time, some fade over a long time, and some stick with you for the rest of your life. And there are others that you thought were hidden and long gone, but some days they just... resurface. These old wounds never heal."

 "Yeah you can find Avalon at the casino. I dunno who it is so try not to expect a warm welcome." 

Deacon's words rang through Annabelle's head as she stepped into the main casino entrance, with Tom not too far behind. Annabelle looked around to see the place was empty, and this did not surprise her as it looked like it was being remodeled. The empty, dark room gave off a vague, almost ominous feeling, and Annabelle was a bit worried about continuing on. Despite this, she looked over at Tom who smiled back, and that gave her the confidence to keep going.

After a short walk, Tom and Annabelle finally reached the main office of the casino, suspended above the place with only a flight of stairs to hold them up seemingly. Annabelle sighed, then gestured silently to Tom to stay behind. She didn't want this "Avalon" to feel threatened for any reason, she just wanted to talk to whoever it was and two people barging into the office would have given the owner a start.

Annabelle carefully walked up the stairs and opened the door into the main office, which was a surprisingly blank room. There were no pictures hanging from the dark gray walls and the only thing of note were the gray, black, and white seats as well as a desk off in the distance, which had someone sitting at it. Annabelle couldn't see the person's face but saw that it was a woman wearing a somewhat futuristic corporate outfit.

"Office hours are closed. The casino is in repair from the damage caused by that meteor impact a week ago." The woman said. Her voice was very familiar to Annie, but she couldn't put her finger on where she'd heard it before.  

"The meteor impact hit the police station..." Annabelle replied, she couldn't help but notice the woman's gloved hands tense up when she started to speak, . "It didn't even fly over this casino. What's the closing really about... Avalon?"

The woman sighed, and said "Normally I pass myself off as Avalon's 'secretary' but we both know you are smarter than that, Annabelle."

"Whoa, wait a second... how do you know my name?!" Annabelle blurted out, "Who are you?"

"Is it really that hard to figure out? I thought living with Kelly for all these years would have helped you to attune your investigative skills. Guess I was wrong. I was wrong about a lot of things, that's why I devoted my life to charity and helping others." The woman then leaned close as Annabelle walked forward, blocking her face behind the computer screen. "I used to be a wandering soul, with no where to go or no one to talk to, but I decided to make myself useful for this place, this blue marble that is what I am forced to call home. Rather than hate humanity, I have embraced it... I have become a greater person because of that."

Annabelle finally walked in close enough to see the woman's face, which made her own face freeze in shock.



 Lucky Palms, Nevada

The Dry Gila was a small watering hole on the outskirts of the desert. Not too many people were known to scurry off to the place as there were other, more well-known venues on the "Road to Nowhere", including numerous ones in Strangetown a few miles up. Still, the owner of the place, Roland Baynard, was optimistic that he would get at least a few customers.

It was one of those average days for Roland. He was busy tending to his bar, ready to serve drinks of alcoholic and not-so alcoholic nature, when he heard a loud engine of what sounded like a motorcycle drive in to the parking lot.

Roland wasn't expecting customers this early in the day, and it surprised him when a single teenager, no more than fifteen years, walked into the bar and sat down.

"I need water." The teen said, his voice raspy and thrown out, presumably because Roland didn't see a helmet with him and driving through the desert without one would do terrible things to someone's throat with all the dust and sand being kicked up. Without charging the teen, Roland gave him a glass of water.

The teen drank the water and nodded to Roland, thanking him silently. He then stood up and started to leave, getting a few bottles of water from a fridge and paying for them.

Worried about the teen, Roland asked "What's your name, kid?"

Upon hearing the question, the teen turned around to face the him, "My name is Gabriel." he said, then turned and left, but not before saying something that made Roland wonder. The teen then jumped on his motorcycle and drove away, leaving Roland scratching his head.


"...I don't have a last name."