Creve Coeur, Giselle
“Dad, I’m here now,” Markus chokes as he tries his best to hold back the tears. Markus knew that he couldn’t keep the tears from flowing, however, the effort was as doomed as an ancient levies’ effort to keep back a rising tide.
“Come closer, son,” Markus’s father, Grayson Killian, weakly beckons as he reaches outward with a shaky hand. Grayson’s hand waves around randomly as he blindly searches for Markus’s.
At one point, Grayson Killian had been the most feared bounty hunter in Coalition space. His most famous quarries included a handful of rebel Fulcrum leaders and even a few wayward Coalition governors, all of whom were deemed too dangerous to pursue by the Coalition’s Space Corp. But that didn’t stop Grayson. Nothing stopped that man.
What made Grayson even more terrifying in the eyes of those who knew of him was the fact that he didn’t take just any job. Despite being a gun for hire, he was highly selective in who he chose to go after. He held himself to a strict code of conduct: he would only chase down those whose crimes warranted death. Because of this cut and dry guideline, Grayson saw his line of work as an honorable and righteous one.
A call, Markus knew, that his dad deemed worthy enough to pass along to his children.
Markus takes his father’s hand in his own and he holds it firmly. As he does so, memories of his father’s former strength flash before his eyes. There was a time that Grayson Killian could crush filled cans of food with his bare hands—those days had long since passed. Now Markus knew that his father even struggled to bring a glass to his lips to drink on his own.
Chuckling, Markus remembers why his father had crushed the canisters of food. Grayson wanted to make sure that there would be no temptation for Markus and his siblings to eat the food three months later during their accolade trials. By then, the food would all be gone. What wasn’t spoiled would have been eaten by the rodents.
Three months later, Markus and his siblings were sent out to prove their worth to their father. All that was given to them were a few crushed cans of spoiled food and one or two tools. That was when everything became abundantly clear to Markus and the others; they were entirely on their own in the world. There was no depending upon their parents or anyone else to keep them alive, it was down the just them.
And that’s how their yearlong test began. Those who survived would pick up the family trade.
Clearing his throat and wiping his eyes with his sleeve, Markus takes his father’s hand. Letting out a shaky breath, he dutifully reports, “I’m right next to you.”
“I always knew I’d go blind someday, you know,” Grayson sighs as he looks toward his son.
“It was all that drinking, I warned you,” Markus’s mother, Maridell, scolds from behind Markus.
“It may have been,” Grayson chuckles as a playful smile itches at the corner of his mouth, “Or it was your lousy cooking.”
Maridell lets out a condescending laugh before she quips, “I doubt you could have done better with what I had on hand.”
Letting out a long sigh, Grayson cedes, “Be that as it may, I never thought I would have to be blind this long. I thought I would have died by now.”
Looking his father in the eyes, Markus pushes down the urge to shudder. Staring back at him are two orbs that are nearly completely white. Years ago, his father’s eyes had been a deep blue—just like Markus’s. Now his eyes exposed something inside of his father that only reminded Markus of death.
“Remember what you needed to tell him,” Maridell urges. She likely saw that Grayson’s time was quickly coming to an end as well. After so many years of being inseparable, Maridell knew Grayson better than anyone else could dream. Markus knew that his mother knew the ins and outs of everything that his father had done. He was sure that his mother would take most of those secrets to the grave.
“Yes, yes,” Grayson mutters. With his free hand, Grayson pats down the bedside table and he eventually finds the object that he was searching for. He pulls it close to his heart and holds it there for a few moments. As he holds it close, Grayson’s blind eyes shoot around the room, like he is looking around at a crowd of people that are preparing to beat him to death. The look on his face reminded Markus of a man who knew he was going to die, but he just didn’t know when.
“What’s that?” Markus asks after several sickening moments of watching his father’s fear. It wasn’t that Markus hadn’t seen fear before, after all, fear was just part of the territory that his job brought. Having spent a lifetime hunting people down, Markus knew the look of fear when his target knew that their flight was over. What broke Markus’s heart now was seeing that it was his father, a man who never showed fear, lying there quivering like droplets of water on a hot pan.
“It’s… it’s a list.” Grayson answers simply as he fumbles around with the cylinder in his hands. After a few seconds, he finds the screw top and he opens it.
“What of?” Markus presses.
“Your next targets,” Grayson replies as his characteristically stern face returns, if only for a moment. Scowling, he then instructs, “Everyone on this list needs to answer for their crimes.”
“Their crimes?” Markus asks as he takes the tight roll of parchments from his father. Some of the pieces of paper are yellowed and brittle with age while others seem to be very new.
Nodding once, Grayson affirms, “Yes. My inheritance to you is a mission that might just change the tide of this war…”
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