Author's Note: It's been a long time since I've written. Longer still since I've written actual fanfiction. As such, please don't be too harsh. Constructive criticisms are appreciated, full out flaming…is not. This chapter will be very short, as it's merely an introduction. More to follow.

The first hints of sunlight were beginning to mingle with the night, chasing away the stars, when the man appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, right outside the town's limits. Beneath his mask, he finally allowed himself a smile.

The movement felt foreign to him. It had been so long. Two horrible years with no smiles. No reason to want to. But it was still programmed into him. He had, after all, achieved his goal. He had arrived at the right place, but more importantly, at the right time. There would be people he would have to maneuver around carefully to get to what he wanted, but he was confident. He could do this. …He simply had to.

"All I'm saying is Julie and I never did get to go to the mall," Gwen said, gesturing a bit too wildly with her soda, "You guys still owe us one."

"Oh, c'mon, Gwen…the mall is so boring," Ben groaned from the backseat. Julie frowned at him.

"But Gwen's right. We never got to go, and I still have those gift cards. Besides, you guys can watch the monster truck rally on tv. It'll be on station nine all week."

"Yeah, and there's also a shopping network," Kevin pointed out from the driver's seat. "So you girls could be doing your thing at home, too."

"Didn't we agree this time that all four of us would choose together?" Ben said, trying to get everyone to calm down. "I'm sorry, Kevin, but I think they're just going to outmaneuver us. It's just gentlemanly to let them have it."

"Whipped much, Tennyson?" Kevin rolled his eyes and studied Ben in the rear view mirror.

"Not at all," Ben crossed his arms. Julie gave a small laugh.

"Relax, Kevin…Ben's just trying to make up for the fact he broke my tennis racket last week."

"..and it's working!...right?" Ben asked uncertainly.

"Maybe after you buy me a smoothie and help me find a gift for my mom's birthday."

"And then I'm off the hook?"

"Then you're off the hook," Julie agreed.

"All right, Kevin, let's get going," Gwen said, buckling her seat belt. "The longer we stick in one place, the more likely we are to get shot at, and it would be nice to have a night out where that didn't happen."

"Speak for yourself," Kevin grumbled as he turned on the engine. "I'm not sure I'd mind a crisis if it pulls me away from shopping."