Hector woke up to the feeling of wet cloth on his forehead. His first instinct was to move quickly into a defensive position but he found that his limbs were heavy and he was far too tired. What had happened? Slowly, details of the night became clearer, a groan escaped his mouth. He was an outcast. He could never go home – Lucas had almost pummelled him last night. So how had he escaped?
He took a few deep breaths and gathered enough strength to sit up. He was in what looked like some sort of abandoned apartment. It only looked abandoned because of the serious lack of furniture – Hectors guess was that whoever lived here didn't stick around long enough to bother with the luxurious side. Aside from the lumpy couch Hector had been lying on and the bathroom he could see through a bright blue door, the place was bare.
Why was he healing so slowly! It was torturing him, the inability to get up and do something about the situation, find the easiest exit, points of weakness in the building – anything. I wish Ariadne or Jason were here, he thought as he swung his legs off the couch and onto the bare floorboards, I wouldn't be such a damn mess. Just then, he heard a soft cough from outside the door and a fumbling for keys. Trying to stay as quiet as possible, he forced himself to stand up and stumbled to the bathroom, hiding behind the door. He was in no fit state to fight but he was going to die fighting.
The door opened and whoever the intruder was put down a bag – groceries? He heard the person breathing, first steady, even breathes. Then, he guessed when the person realised Hector was missing it turned to small gasps and then a sigh. "Hector." The person called – it was a woman. Hector grabbed hold of the bright pink toothbrush that was resting on the sink and snapped off the end, feeling satisfaction as hearing the plastic break – he at least had some of his strength. Then he rushed the woman, got behind her and pressed the toothbrush to her carotid artery. "Hector! It's me – Daphne."
"Daphne?" Hector repeated. Then he felt the woman in his arms change and morph. No longer was an old woman in her fifties with grey hair trapped by him, but it was Helen's mother. He let her go and threw the toothbrush on the floor. "Sorry."
She smiled kindly, "It's okay. You have been through a lot it would only be natural to be a little jumpy." Instantly, Hector felt drawn to her, felt trust between them. He sat back down on the couch and was handed a chicken sandwich. "Sorry, I didn't know what kind you would like so I figured a strong boy like yourself would need your meat."
A ravenous hunger tore through Hectors stomach and he ripped the sandwich open devouring it in seconds. But it wasn't enough. He needed more – he needed Noel. An ache for his family rattled through his heart. He had ruined everything. What have I done? The damage is permanent – I've been banished. I would just have to focus on the present. "What happened? Where are we?"
"After Lucas and your family nearly killed you, Helen and I saved your life and I claimed sanctuary for you." Daphne explained as she delicately picked apart her sandwich. She was very much like Helen but she had an understanding of the world and its bad parts that Helen could maybe never had. But Helen had helped saved him – Helen the princess had saved his ass. He felt something like gratitude and knew that she had earned his respect. "As for where we are, we are in London, England."
"London?" He had been here once, when he was thirteen for almost six months when they moved again. "Why London?"
Daphne looked at Hector with an honest, innocent face which Hector's instincts told him to ignore but he found himself believing every word as she said it. "I need you to get me something Hector. It's something that will help you and me and every scion, rouge and outcast on the planet. I can't get it myself, but in return for my help I feel as if you owe me this one favour." Straight to business then, he though ironically. Usually he was the one pushing for results but now he was being pushed.
He did owe her, not that he would admit it but he was indebted to her and Helen – he owed them both his life. Besides, what else does he have to live for? He had lost everything. His only trouble was that he may have to wait a further day to heal fully before being able to complete the task – not everyone could heal like Helen. "What do you need?" Daphne's smile was radiant. She pulled out an envelope and handed it to Hector. Inside were several photographs of a memory stick. Small and red with a silver cap. The only thing that set this particular memory stick apart was the smiley face drawn on it with a very long beard and moustache. "What do you want with this?"
"On it is the location of the man who delivers Tantalus' mail. It was found by a man who worked for me, an outcast. But he was killed before he could get it to me. He left me an encrypted email telling me exactly where is it. All you have to do is get it for me." He turned the envelope over and found an address written on the back 'Safe, London Bridge'
"What's Safe?" Hector asked.
"I will show you." She said and she helped Hector to his feet and to the window in the kitchen. She pointed out a vast white modern looking building with a glass centre. It was on the river bank – it looked like the kind of building that had some serious security. "Safe is a private security firm in that building on floors 3 – 6. It is full of ex Special Forces agents and military rejects; tough to get into unless you happen to be three times as strong and three times as fast as them. The memory stick I am looking for is in a safe on floor 4. That's all I have got but it's enough. Break in; break the safe and get out in ten minutes and you should be fine. It's not like they would miss it."
Hector noticed how eager she was for this memory stick and became suspicious. "Why can't you do it?"
She sighed almost wishfully, "I want to do it myself but I am on a flight out of the country in three hours. This is the kind of thing to better do at night."
Hector felt a hollow loneliness in his chest – he was going to be alone. Truly, fully alone. "Where are you going?" He asked trying to sound as nonchalant as possible. He felt abandoned.
"A Rogue called Orion needs me. You know what? I think you two would really get along well. I will get you a phone and add his number and mine. It's better not to give you any contact with Nantucket. Even Helen. Not while you are still healing." Daphne said. Then, from her inside jacket pocket, she withdrew what looked to be a plane ticket. "This is yours – in one week you can join me state side. Far enough away from Nantucket not to be tempted but close enough to not feel so alone. Bring the memory stick with you." Her voice changed, got sweeter, softer. More caring, like a mother. He quickly pushed any thought of motherhood to the back of his mind, he couldn't break down in front of someone like Daphne. "Don't worry. Everything is going to be fine. My daughter is going to rid us of the furies once and for all and then this whole mess will be over. Rest for now." Was all she said and then she left. Hector sat down and thought about how quickly he was expected to be up and ready – Daphne must really want that memory stick.
He let himself slump on the couch and try to sleep, hoping that when he woke up, the whole Outcast thing would just be some horrible dream. But he knew that it wasn't true. He would just have to have faith in Helen's abilities as the Descender – it was his only hope.
Just as he closed his eyes, a thought crossed his mind. A whisper from some past Hector that said 'is she here?'