Warnings: Violence. Angst. Profanity. Terrible French accents. Excessive typos. More profanity. Mild slash. Lots and lots of excessively detailed blood and guts. Enjoy!

Rope binds Christophe's hands behind his back. Fibers twist into the soft flesh of his wrists. Blood drips over his fingers and pools on the ground next to his feet.

Forty other children shiver in line next to him. Most of them are crying.

The blond kid standing two people away from Christophe says nothing, just stares straight ahead. Christophe doesn't know what about him makes him stand out – maybe it's the fact that he doesn't seem affected by the hell around them.

Christophe looks at the ground.

A huge bonfire crackles and spits out flickers of orange flame, igniting the night sky before fizzling away. Smoke burns in his nose, weighing on his arms and legs, clinging to his mud-spattered and ripped clothing.

Christophe is six years old.

The pound of heavy footsteps meet his ears, and he looks up. A man in a business suit walks into the clearing and stands next to the fire. A dozen guards flank him, as if the children could do anything to hurt him. These new guards join the armed men already in the clearing.

Christophe has been standing in the cold for an hour. The fire hasn't done anything for the chill. He hasn't eaten in several days and it's been longer since he's slept. He really does not give a damn what the man in the suit has to say, he just wants him to get it over with so this can all end one way or another.

"You are all here," the man in the suit says after a few seconds of consideration, "because your parents sold you to us for a two million U.S. dollars."

Christophe has suspected as much. His mother and father bought a new house right before these guards dragged him away and stashed him and Owen on the airplane, then on the train with all the other pathetic children. They've been-living with dirt-poor poverty in France for the past few years, even since his mother gambled away the last of their savings.

So they finally sold their own sons.

"We are here to train you," the man in the suit continues, "for a very specific type of job. We will train you in a special school so one day you can help us out with this job you've been trained for."

It sounds better than digging breakfast out of a trashcan, but after being manhandled for the past several days, Christophe isn't about to let his guard down. He glances down the line to see how Owen is holding up. His twin brother just hugs himself and shakes. He has always been the weaker one; Christophe's always had to watch out for him.

"Unfortunately-" The man stops talking and takes a second to survey each of the children. "We only need ten of you. The other thirty are useless to us. We are going to decide which ten we're going to keep right now."

"How-" a little boy starts. The soldiers shift and the little boy stiffens.

"Morons," a hispanic girl mutters next two people down from Christophe. "Why'd they buy forty of us if they only needed ten?"

The man in the suit hears her. "The other thirty will serve as an example," he says.

"Para que?" the little girl spits.

At the end of the row, about five down from Christophe, is a little girl in a sunflower dress and ratty blonde pigtails. Tears pour down her cheeks. She quivers in place.

The man in the suit crouches down in front of her. "What's your name, sweetie?" he asks.

"Mandy," she whispers back. "I want my mommy. I want her. I really do-"

The man shakes his head. "She's a tosser," he tells a soldier.

All of the children hear as the soldier grabs her and drags her into the darkness beyond the bonfire. They all hear a blade shink! into flesh. Then Mandy doesn't say anything else, and the soldier comes back into the clearing coated with blood.

The little boy who's next in line starts sobbing. He's American. He begs, "God, please, save me, God, I'm sorry, don't let him hurt me."

The man in the suit shakes his head. "He's a tosser, too."

There are no "keepers" until they arrive at the boy two people away from Christophe, the blond haired one who has stared straight ahead this entire time. All of the children are shivering by now, but they daren't run – whenever one of them tries to move the soldiers start forward with their guns clenched.

"What's your name?" the man in the suit asks.

"Gregory." The blonde-haired boy looks him right in the eye. He has an English accent and dark blue eyes. Fucking brits.

"I see," the man in the suit says. "And what do you think of all this, Gregory?" He crouches in front of him, so close their noses almost touch.

Gregory doesn't bat an eyelid. "I'm thinking there must be a more efficient way to do this."

The man in the suit laughs. He turns to look at his soldiers. "This one's a keeper for sure!"

The little boy next to Christophe screams for his god to help him. They don't even bother to drag him away. They just stab him right next to Christophe. Blood spatters over Christophe's clothing. The little boy's cries for mercy echo in his ears. It's the first time someone's lifeblood has ever splattered over him. (It won't be the last).

The man in the suit stands in front of him and opens his mouth to speak.

Christophe trembles with fear and anger and horror, but he still manages to spit in the man's face. For a second, neither of them move. Then the man brushes away the spit and looks at Christophe with more than a little surprise.

"You're a fucking cocksucker," Christophe snarls in heavily accented English. "Burn in hell, bitch!"

The man in the suit laughs again. Christophe is pronounced a "keeper." The tiny Asian girl standing next to him is not. She begs in a language Christophe does not understand.

They all beg. In the end, it's only the ones who do not beg who make it. The genders are not balanced – eight boys and two girls are left alive – but it doesn't matter, because Owen is not one of the survivors.

That's the night Christophe decides God is a fucking faggot.

XXX

The alarm goes off right just as I click the dial right to the third number of the combination. My gloved hands clench over the lock and I yank on the handle. The safe door groans and opens.

Alarms annoy me. They're loud and they never fucking shut up.

I wonder if the alarm went off because the wrong person touched the safe (i.e., me) or because someone's on the video cameras and they noticed a random teenager covered in mud with a shovel strapped to his back and a coil of rope wrapped around his right arm.

I would imagine random teenagers don't spend much time in the hallways of the Super Adventure club's mansion.

I reach into the safe and pull out the sheaf of files. There are at least three dozen thin folders. I know what they should contain but flip through them just to make sure, shuddering when I see the pictures of cheerful children. Zimbabwe kids in one file, Fillipinos in another, Australian bush children in a third – each kid has a list of information next to his picture.

Fucking pedos. I tuck the files under my shirt and take a drag from my cigarette. The alarm is still blaring, but since no one's arrived yet . . . they're probably cowering in their beds like the cocksucking pussies they are.

Then I heard the barks.

My head jerks up. My hand goes to the wooden handle of my shovel.

Fucking dogs! I fucking hate guard dogs!

I take off at a full sprint. My shovel bangs against my back as I run. Adrenaline spurts into my bloodstream and my senses go wild. I absorb everything at a million miles a minute - the harsh pants of the guard dogs behind me . . . the slap of the tiled floor against my combat boots . . . police sirens screaming half a mile away.

A dog claws at my legs. Shit! Shit! Another one bites at my foot. Fuck! I slide my shovel from the strap holding it against my back and slam the metal blade against its head. A satisfying crack! rings through the hallway.

My left hand keeps the files under my shirt. My right swings my shovel as I battle the dozen dogs surrounding me. My cigarette falls out of my mouth sometime during the fight, but I duck, scoop it up, and jam it back between my lips without breaking rhythm. Blood runs down my legs and the dogs' canines rip my pants and green t-shirt.

I smack their leader down, and they slink back. I lean against the wall, struggling for breath, watching the half-dozen remaining mutts with wary, narrowed eyes. They crowd around me, growling, but don't attack, not yet.

Then the police burst into the hallway, screaming for me to throw my hands in the air.

XXX

"Mr.-"

"Dupont." It's a lie, of course, but it sounds stereotypically French enough for him to stop bothering me about it.

"Mr. Dupont. Right." The police officer adjusts the clipboard on the table in front of me. I take a drag on my cigarette. I don't know if it's regulation for me to smoke in the middle of a police station, but they haven't stopped me yet so I don't care.

"We just want to know what you were doing in the Secret Adventure Club's hiding place."

I let out a frustrated growl. "Fighting zome guard dogs, what deed it look like I was doing?"

He stares at me for a few seconds. "You do know it's private property, right?"

"I don't care if it's zere fucking private property. I was still fighting ze guard dogs there. No amount of ownership can change zat fact."

He lets this pass. "Fine, Mr. Dupont. Why were you there?"

I shrug.

He tries to lock gazes with me but I keep focus on his forehead. "Mr. Dupont, you're what, fifteen, sixteen-"

"Seventeen."

"Right. Seventeen. Where are your parents? I'm sure they must be very worried-"

I let out a short laugh. "Trust me, Monsieur Police Officer, I am sure my muzzere is in no way concerned. Now. You 'ave ze items you seized from me when you took me in, oui? I can explain my reason for trespassing if you bring zem to me."

He's so thrilled to get a positive reaction out of me that he doesn't even doubt the intelligence of his actions. He calls for my things, and a few minutes later another police officer brings my rope, my shovel, and the files I had tucked under my shirt. Oui. They drop them on the table and exit the interrogation room.

"Well?" the police officer says expectantly.

"You see," I say, then whack him over the head with my shovel.

He goes out, crashing to the floor. "Take that, cocksucker," I mutter. I wrap the rope around my shoulder and arm and smash the glass window into the main hallway with the shovel blade. I leave the files on the table. It's enough incriminating evidence to put the Super Adventure Club under lock and key for a long time, which was all my client (her name being Akna) wanted, anyway.

The police officers shout when I leap into the main hallway of the station. I club my way out of the station, using my shovel as a battering ram.

Once I'm out of the office and on the street, I duck into an alley. They run after me, of course, but I start to weave my way down the maze of backstreets that hide in Vancouver, Canada. Three cops scream and run after me, shouting for me to stop.

Oui, assholes, that always fucking works.

I make my way into a park, heaving, gasping for breath. The officers are only a few hundred feet behind me. My combat boots scuff dark soil. I twist around a tree and snatch my shovel from behind my back. I dip it into the earth below my feet.

Digging is the one thing that makes people realize there's something supernatural about me. My muscles move in a blur of action. White light glows around me as I work. Every inch of me sings. In less than a second, I've already got a hole five feet deep.

"Jesus Christ!" I hear one of the officers scream, but by the time the words leave her lips I've already started on the tunnel, angled downwards and west-bound. "How the fuck-"

A bullet fires over my head. My tunnel extends five feet by now. I take a second to pack the dirt in behind me.

The darkness swallows me up. The silence hums through me. Earth coats my arms and legs and clothes. Alone. Fucking beautiful.

My muscles churning, my lungs burning for sweet air, barely managing to scrape out enough into this chemical-caked earth . . . I start to make my way through the ground.

XXX

I find my backpack where I left it, which is two miles outside the Super Adventure Club's mansion. I rifle through it to make sure nothing's missing.

My laptop, the charger, and the portable satellite broadband are in place. I have half a dozen different maps stashed in the front pocket. My first-aid kit is almost empty, but it was that way when I left it last night. A few packs of cigarettes nestle in the bottom of the bag, and I fish one out.

The front pocket also holds seventy-two dollars, most of it in ones. That's it and I'm out. I have seventy-two dollars to make my way to Ms. Akna's reservation to Alaska. Then she'll pay me the five hundred I'm owed, which is enough to live on more a month or so. It wouldn't cost so damn much if I didn't have so many expenses from trying to cover my ass. The last thing I want is for some moron to get a picture of me, splash it all over the internet, and have the Yardale school capture me the way they've been trying desperately for the past ten years.

After I get my money from Ms. Akna . . . well, I have about two hundred requests waiting for me in my work email inbox. I'll select another job, scope out the target/request/whatever, and make my move. Then I'll have enough money to survive for the next couple months.

Sounds like an amazing plan to me.

I hoist my backpack over my shoulders and start back for Vancouver.

XXX

My picture is splashed across a thousand billboards. My sulky scowl stares down at me from every sign, every telephone post, every inch of space.

Once I step from the side streets and make my way to the bus station. Sixteen people recognize me in the nine seconds it takes me to realize I'm fucking everywhere.

I don't know when they took my picture or how they pasted it to the framework of Vancouver in the three hours it took me to dig from the park to my backpack, crawl through my tunnel back here, and saunter through the mostly-deserted streets. My crimes are scribbled across my wanted pictures. All the local authority knows about me is that I'm a trespasser. They have no way of knowing about the robberies, the assassinations, or the frequent beatings I give crime-lords (when I'm hired).

Someone from Yardale must have seen me at the police station. Maybe the Vancouver Police put a request out with my picture, looking for someone who knew who I was. I know Gregory's still searching for me, and he may have Maria and Chase's aid. They would have been on it once they saw the picture.

They will rip apart the world for any hint of my trail.

I duck into an alleyway. For the second time in the past twelve hours the sirens scream into my ears. The park is a mile away; too far to sprint. I slip down the alley.

"Stop!"

I turn to see a bunch of Canadian motherfuckers pointing motherfucking machine guns at me. Their cars spill into the alleyway behind me.

"Put your hands in the air!"

I whirl and run. Bullets spew behind me. Something slams into my right leg, but panic has already flooded through me and scoured away any possibility of pain. I slip into the shadows, my breath heaving in and out of my lungs, every inhale a struggle. I creep behind a dumpster. The police officers race past, yelling, "Where'd he go?"

"Fucking . . . cocksuckers," I wheeze out, to no one.

I grip at my wounded leg automatically. Blood stains my already shredded pants and soaks between my fingers.

I curse in five different languages while I yank my first-aid kit out of my backpack. My fingers tremble but I grit my teeth and wrap a length of gauze around the wound. It still hurts like fucking hell but I don't have any other choice. I can stay here and eventually be caught and taken back to Yardale, or I can run.

I've never been one to give up. Viva la resistance, right?

I crawl to my feet and stagger down the alley. I use my shovel as a support. Clang, clang, clang as it hits the pavement.

A train station looms in front of me. Fucking excellent. I comb my hair out my eyes to semi-hide my appearance. Needn't have bothered – the guy selling the tickets is stoned out of his mind.

I buy tickets on the first train to leave and barely manage to board in time. I slouch back in one of the seats and lean my head against the wall. I think I'm going to Denver, although I'm not sure.

A smile crosses my lips. Denver. Colorado. South Park.

Been a long time since I was "home."

My leg hurts like hell. The bleeding has mostly stopped, although every few minutes a sluggish clump of crimson oozes from the wound, staining the gauze red. I have to take the bullet out, but I can't do it on the train.

I shift my shovel around to my stomach so I can lean back and close my eyes. It is incredibly dangerous to sleep right now. Anyone can see me and recognize me. Gregory could be staking the train out this very second.

Ah, hell. I'm tired. At this moment, I don't fucking care.

XXX

I stumble off the train at about five PM. Dusky sky swirls around me. It's snowing. It's always snowing in Colorado. I shiver in my thin t-shirt and ripped pants.

Then I lurch to the closest alley, hide behind a dumpster, and proceed to rip out the bullet in my leg with my pocketknife. For the record, I only scream twice.

Blood gushes around my finger. Panic churns in my stomach. I slap more layers of gauze over the wound. The energy ebbs from my body. I close my eyes.

Somehow, the bleeding stops, and I'm left in the middle of Denver, Colorado, with only two packs of cigarettes left.

I smoke four cigarettes while I sit there, too tired to haul my ass up. Then it starts to snow. Shit! It's September! Shit!

Footsteps echo down the alleyway.

I open my eyes. A teenager about my age stares back down at me. I can tell even from sitting down that he's a lot taller than me, but skinnier. His hair and clothing is black. He draws on a cigarette and inhales the smoke in my face.

I watch him with narrowed, wary eyes, pull my last cigarette from the pack, and struggle to light it with trembly fingers. I should probably eat something, but I don't have the food on me or the willpower to go buy some.

"I thought I'd sensed another one," he says casually. "But I didn't realize you were so injured. Or a kid."

My eyes widen, then narrow again. I grit my teeth and glare at him. "What ze 'ell do you want, cocksucker?"

He smirks. "Nothing in particular. I was going to kill you, but seeing as I doubt you're an Angel, I think I'll leave you to your injuries."

"Angel? Why would you zink I was an angel?"

He rolls his eyes. "You're not doing a very good job of suppressing your magic, you know. If you want to bullshit me you're going to have to come up with a better lie than that."

I digest this for a few seconds, then say, "I'm not successfully repressing?"

He shakes his head with a grin. "Nope. I can smell you from two miles away. This is my territory, by the way, and I don't take well to unwelcomed visitors."

"My apologies," I mutter under my breath. The damn cigarette refuses to light. So I'm not repressing my magic well. No wonder it's been so easy for Gregory to trail me for the last ten years.

"What are you, zen? Because I do not smell any magic from you."

"Unlike you, I can actually repress decently."

"Fuck you."

"I don't go for the short types."

I glower at him. His smirk only grows.

"So what are you? You can't be an angel, unless they suddenly developed red blood instead of blue. But you smell exactly like one."

I groan. "Fuck ze fucking fucker who gave me zis fucking fucked-up magic!" My wound hurts like hell. "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!" The last expletive turns into a scream and I growl in pain before managing to bite down on the agony.

"You mean God." His eyebrows arch together.

"Yes, I mean zat faggot."

The cigarette slips from my fingers. I fumble for it, but the teenager in front of me, sighs, picks it up, and pulls out his own lighter to light it up with.

"Here." He pushes it between my lips for me. For some reason, I flush red.

I shiver uncontrollably as I smoke. The teenager just looks at me for a few seconds.

"So, what are you?"

"Fuck you," I mutter again. I take a long drag on my cigarette and lean back against the wall. I know I'm probably killing my lungs by smoking half a pack in less than an hour, but I've always been certain that even if I do get lung cancer, I'm much more likely to get axed in the head by one of the bitches at Yardale.

"You're not an angel because you're bleeding red. But you also happen to have an enormous amount of heavenly magic, which means you must somehow be an agent of God."

"I do not work for zat cocksucker!" I sit straight up and glare at him. "Never 'ave, never will!"

"That's probably why you're not using your magic to heal your wound." He ignores my anger.

That and I have no idea how to use it. "I've had much worse. It was only in my leg."

"Yet you're still bleeding out."

"What do you want, 'ellspawn?" I spit out.

He arches an eyebrow, but doesn't comment on my accusation. It really wasn't too difficult to figure out. He speaks of God with indifference, yet he also claims to possess magic. There's only one other place he'd acquire such power. I wonder idly if he's a demon or something much worse.

"I'm mostly curious. Usually when I encounter heavenfilth, I kill them. But you're of heaven and you're not. So what are you?"

"I'm 'uman." I lean back again. The blood loss and fatigue suddenly swamps me and my vision blurs. The frost clings to my legs and the snow flakes flock to my clothes and powder my bare arms.

"Go away, asshole." I mutter.

"Aw, you're about to pass out, aren't you?" he groans.

I hate to prove him right.

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