You need to be patient, dad always cautioned her. She was damn tired of hearing about his so-called wisdom. His talk of patience did nothing to save mom. He kept asking Cad to have some faith, that Guide and the others would contact them before too long but these past two weeks earned her nothing but more resentment. With the new mayor making everyone’s lives a living hell and dad’s constant inaction Cad thought it better to put her fate into her own hands.
She believed it ludicrous how much trouble the mayor caused in just a few weeks. Even the more safer sectors of Old Beacon felt the impact of his merciless actions. Enger acted like a general tyrant, raising taxes and pushing around everyone that so much as looked at him the wrong way. Sometimes he ordered his goons to shoot people just because they smelled or bothered his eyes. Whenever his thugs found time they travelled to the poorer dregs of the city and kicked around its inhabitants like soulless animals. Cad’s mind pulsed blankly with anger as she watched some of these bullies harass one of the townsfolk and fill the air with maniacal jeering.
Two of the vandals pushed the old man around while the rest broke his shop windows. They spitted in his face and then shoved him onto the ground as he whimpered and hollered in pain. Cad’s stomach rolled in disgust. These people deserved no respect or quarter from her. As she stood there glaring at them in the middle of the street one of the men with a messy brown pompadour saw her and began walking over with a threatening look in his eyes.
The mayor’s son. He was just as bad as his father. Tommy’s already killed several innocent people without any sort of punishment for his actions, all because of his relationship with the mayor. Most of his victims consisted of helpless elderly people and that fact made Cad’s blood boil even more. She took a few rocks and chucked them, running off as one hit a bully square in the head and another scratched part of Tommy’s face.
“You bitch!” Tommy barked. The one with the head wound collapsed into a heap as he tightly clutched his dribbling, bloodied wound. The other thugs began chase, struggling to keep up with Cad as she jumped and strafed through various alleyways and roads connecting Old Beacon. The smell of metal and old rust filled her nostrils as she paced her breathing, careful not to scratch herself against the dilapidated metal panels covering the buildings around her. Her sneakers kicked dust into the air and dirtied her blue overalls as she ran. Her long, tangled blonde hair whipped around with her movements while sweat stained her white T-shirt and rawhide gloves. She hoped the thugs would get lost from the labyrinth of corridors and roads but they remained undeterred.
A sense of dread gripped her spine as she rounded another corner. She neared home but that gave her no comfort due to dad. The road ended into a small area with nothing but a rusted garage door and a thick, metal door beside it. Cad stopped herself in the middle of the dead end and faced her pursuers. The air around her felt warm as her body recuperated from the run, with sweat trickling down her dirtied face and the blood in her veins surging throughout her body. Even though the thugs managed to keep up with her they looked completely overwhelmed from the marathon. Hoarse pants belted from their mouths as they coughed raggedly with dry throats, the sounds of their fatigue bouncing against the rusted tin panels covering the tall, ramshackle buildings around them.
“You idiots look pretty tired,” The fifteen year old chided with a victorious grin. Her orange eyes remained unfazed as Tommy took out a makeshift dagger.
“You stupid shit.” Tommy tried to yelled those words but they came out ragged. “Your folks won’t recognize you when I split that face in fucking two!” With huffing breaths he stormed towards her intimidatingly, knife in hand and pointed straight at her. Despite the obvious disadvantage Cad felt at ease about her chances against them. She prepared another taunt but the door behind her slammed open and a deep, commanding voice filled the area.
“Cad!” Grim stormed over to her, ignoring the thugs as if their existence meant little to him. While Tommy maintained his threatening pose his lackeys flinched when the voice boomed. The giant of a man resembled a tank, with six foot of thick muscle dressed in loose blue jeans and a white T-shirt. The black bandana with skulls wrapped loosely around his bald head complemented his gloves and boots, and his face almost resembled a bulldog with honey brown eyes. His gaze switched to the thugs as he approached Cad and gently ushered her behind him.
“Piss off,” Tommy barked with an angry but hoarse breath. “You want a face graft too?”
“If I can help it, no,” Grim said calmly. “I’m sure we can come to an agreement of some sort. You want money? Every man has his price.” His voice seemed to envelope the small quarters even at such a low volume. As the group looked to each other Cad gave Grim a wide-eyed stare of disbelief.
“Are you serious?” she growled with restrained anger. “These guys were about to kill an old man!”
“Playing hero every chance you get isn’t going to help others in the long run.” Grim saw her glare from the corner of his eye but made no note of it. “These people will get the help they need but you need to be patient.”
Cad looked away with a scoff as she crossed her arms. The echo of his words grew louder like some endless, agonizing taunt. Cad desired nothing more than to put him in his place but a part of her held back like a quiet voice yearning to climb over the cries of loathing.
“Cough up the cash and we’ll bust,” Tommy finally said. “But if we see that bitch around here again we’re gonna give you a little visit.” All of the members pressured their glares against Grim but he remained stalwart. He and Cad both knew Tommy well enough to look underneath his words for the deception. The former mayor of Old Beacon never realized what hit him when the old man looked away from Tommy. All it took was a turned back and some body weight for the knife to go clean through. Grim knew the weight of his foolish decision as he threw a thick stack of dollar bills towards the mayor’s lowly son.
“There,” Grim said flatly. “Now go.”
Tommy grabbed the money with a greedy clutch and wide eyes. “Holy shit!” he barked out as he counted it. The others huddled around him with the same, avaricious looks only the filth of the wasteland knew. Five hundred dollars easily compared with millionaires of the old world and now they possessed such wealth for all of their desires. Cad already knew the money’s fate however: Whores, alcohol and overall nothing productive in the end. The thugs cheered blissfully while splitting the money but Tommy held a smile of sin on his face.
“You know what?” he chimed with a now empowered tone. “Greedy people like you need to be sorted out. All this money by yourself? Fucking shit like you don’t deserve money like that!” He tapped his chest with two fingers. “My dad’s gonna hear about you, and he’ll sort you out.”
“Just take your money and fuck off!” Cad glared at Tommy but he simply laughed alongside his buddies. The impalpable rage strangling her chest escaped the crew as their jeers echoed down the road and faded away in the distance. “Great,” she started with a deeply sardonic tone. “You know all the right choices, don’t you dad?” Cad held a low degree of confidence for him but letting the criminals walk away without so much as a subtle threat sparked a slew of new disappointment within her. As much as she hated him she knew dad’s intelligence matched those of engineers long past. She gritted her teeth and strained with all of her might to find some answer for his inactions against the oppression all around her.
Grim understood her frustrations but she never knew of the plans in motion beyond her resentment. The people of Old Beacon knew Grim but only under the guise of his armor. Enger’s pride blinded him to the truth of his actions and Grim wished to exploit this weakness. He met with some of the more loyal guardsmen of the city and worked out a plan but it could only be executed unless two of his comrades returned from their missions. Grim felt uneasy about their safety but knew the plan could work even without them. The worry presented itself as he tried to assure Cad with a gentle tone. “Anne, if you just had some faith –“
“Faith!?” Cad shouted with unbridled rage, cutting him off. “Mom had faith in you and you weren’t there for her!” Her vision went red as she poured out all of the stifled resentment sitting in her chest. “Even as she bled to she had faith in you. Even when all the shit hit at Blackbell she still thought we were going to make it!” Anne gestured across the small area. Grim felt the rusty, tin walls marking his grave. “Now look. Mom’s dead and we’re hiding out in some shithole just waiting for your friends to tell us it’s ok. It’s been weeks.”
Grim’s entire body numbed as his throat struggled to choke down a lump. He looked at Cad, mind empty of any possible words other than feelings of regret and anguish. She deserved every right to be angry, to hold onto her grudges against him for as long as he lived. He entrusted his family’s lives within the hands of a close friend but only he and Grim’s two children survived the onslaught of the small, isolate house. Even though the giant warrior avenged her the wound oozing from his mind rattled his mourning heart with more pain.
People knew about the Blackbell incident but not many believed it, thinking it just another strange legend travelling on the wasteland winds. Grim knew it was better that way despite all the woes he and his comrades endured just to destroy the organization. The incident deserved to be buried beneath the wastes, at least until the Black Sparrows recuperated from their wounds. They held the only shred of untainted truth that caused the destruction of the old world. As soon as they went into hiding various underground networks caught word of their exploits and began hunting them down.
Cad knew all this but forgiveness never graced her sights. Months of running, fleeing and hiding, always worrying where the enemy hid and watching the ever changing shadows for the enemy. Her patience along with her faith and hope died with mom. “Charon and Dove have been gone for days. Guide hasn’t given us any kind of signal and we’re here sitting on our asses watching the world turn.” The creak of the metal door jarred both of them from their dispute. Junior peeked out from the shadows, his ruffled blonde hair trickling down from the top of his head and over his deep blue eyes. They smiled gently to ease him but the child remained motionless.
Cad sent her father one last heated glare before speaking her last words. “You want me to have faith? I hope you die.” With the remaining verbal dagger stuck through Grim’s heart Cad turned and waved happily to Junior with a fake smile on her face. She carefully picked him up from the edge of the door and closed it behind her, leaving the towering man crumbling from the relentless assault of words. His cold, sweat streaked body stood motionless in the middle of the small dirt lot. Only his eyes moved, slowly wandering for some consolation to his shame even though he knew none existed. He tried with all of his might to win Cad’s love and trust but after his ultimate failure as a protector of the family he already knew the answer. He dishonored his family, shamed his ancestors and felt the regret of his dead wife weigh down on his shoulders like a mountain.
His feet walked on their own as they moved him away from the dead end. He felt like hours passed until he stumbled across the same old man Cad saved, now laying dead in a pool of his own blood in front of his vandalized shop. Shards of glass littered across the windows and the once barely stocked front shelves showed nothing. Grim’s stupor hid itself just to show him the grisly scene like a sick and cruel joke. When he realized who the old man was his spirit became nonexistent. The sound of distant chatter lured him away from the scene and he eventually found himself in Old Beacon’s bazaar.
The voices of travelling citizens gave the broken giant some comfort. They sounded almost oblivious to the looming despair slowly clouding the city. Stalls and tents dotted the large, open space and created makeshift lanes for passing residents to browse goods. Several rest stations littered throughout the plaza and people who walked around to simply enjoy the scenery found them to ease their sore feet. He knew he deserved no comfort and forced himself to continue despite the aching pain coursing through his bones.
“That sour look of yours is unbecoming of such a commanding presence.” Belle waved slightly from a stand constructed of various bits of wood. Her dried and worn chestnut hair seemed rife with stress, lacking care or management based on the split ends. Her skin looked sickly pale while her tired brown eyes carried bags underneath them. Grim looked at her like some apparition but reality heaved its way back into his mind. When he approached her he noticed her swollen belly underneath her shoddy and stitched yellow dress. Why the pregnant woman decided to be outside perplexed Grim but he felt curious of what she offered.
“If you allow me the courtesy,” she said as she slowly organized her tarot cards. “Perhaps I can ease whatever plagues your mind.” She collected her deck and pressed them between her palms, praying with closed eyes. He felt no desire to humor her but he sat down anyways. The crate held firm even as his weight made it creak loudly.
“How do you find the faith to pray when you know of the decay all around you?” Grim never looked away from her even as she calmly opened her eyes. “How can you possibly raise a child despite knowing they will break their backs to survive?”
Her gaze sunk down in thought. “This life is filled with despair,” she began quietly as she placed the cards down with an uneasy hand. “When I found out I was pregnant I cried for hours. For this sort of life parents have nothing to offer other than unconditional love. Do all parents not desire to see their children grow strong?” Her eyes dotted across the deck. Grim knew the expression like his own.
“But things are as they are,” she continued with a weak breath but optimistic tone. “If we allow despair to fill our minds we will only acquire despair in return.” She looked into Grim’s eyes and smiled. “The family’s faith is walked with blind eyes. But in due time all actions will be seen for the weight of their worth.”
Grim’s face relaxed for a moment. He knew that statement well ever since it etched a place in his heart after Cad’s birth. The path of nurturing a family remained as twisted and confusing as life’s road, but with slow, thoughtful meditation regrets and sorrows turned into wisdom. As a father Grim knew he needed his patience more than ever and the weight of Belle’s words rekindled the dying flame of his spirit. A calm, peaceful silence permeated between the two until the blare of Grim’s radio disrupted it.
“Hey faggot!” a voice blurted out. Grim’s spine went cold as he tore the radio from his pocket and answered.
“Who the hell is this?” Grim struggled to remain calm. Only the Black Sparrows communicated through this particular radio frequency and the foreign voice worried him.
“Remember me, dog face? I came back to teach your greedy ass a lesson but you weren’t around.” Tommy’s crude mannerisms grated Grim’s ears. He gritted his teeth in anger but calmed himself before responding.
Since Grim left to deal with his woes Tommy led a band of thugs to kidnap Cad and Junior. All of the guardsmen held resentment towards the mayor and his son, especially when they found themselves being replaced with hired mercenaries that gave no care about the people of the city. Even though Enger’s band of mercenaries grew large enough to replace the guards he wanted to hold some sort of use for them. So he stationed them on the outskirts of the city to deal with the sandstorms and isolation with a scant supply of necessities. Along with waiting for his comrades this particular move put a hole in Grim’s plan to free the city. But he remained undeterred for the guardsmen put their utmost faith in him and the stories behind his moniker.
“By the way,” Tommy continued. “How much do Black Sparrows fetch on the Black Market these days? Fellas?” He kept the radio transmitting but spoke away from it. Grim’s face twisted into a burning expression of unbridled anger. He saw complete red for just a moment until his mental faculties guided him to safety.
“Well whatever,” Tommy resumed speaking into the radio. “Three’s probably gonna get us a whole bunch of hooch!” The radio’s channel filled with a mass cheer but then faded away for another voice to take over.
“Just so you know you Sparrows sell for a million per head.” Mayor Enger chuckled darkly. “I have to say, you made this day better. I get my own little toy play town and enough money for the rest of our lives. Though unfortunately it seems like you and your family are pretty much fucked.” He clicked his tongue with mocking compassion. The spiteful gesture fueled more of Grim’s rage. “But, you know, it’d be a real shame if you didn’t get some sort of fighting chance, so here’s the deal: If you can rescue your kids from the front yard without dying then you’re free to go! How’s that sound? Pretty good, eh?”
Enger knew little of Grim despite knowing his affiliation with the Black Sparrows. Along with that he understood little of the group or their plight to bring hope to this anguished, crying world. He never knew of a true father’s sorrows, of the pain knowing that all children born in this wretched wasteland found little chance to ever have a childhood. Grim only wished to give Cad and Junior something to believe in, to know what it meant to hope even though despair grew all around them. A bit of boxed anger shook and screamed for release in his mind but he suppressed it. Instead he collected himself, blinking several times to ease away the anger clouding his eyes and then spoke flatly into the radio. “And what’s the catch?”
“Well,” Enger paused while a tap rapped from his fingers. “I’ve got several dozen armed men watching out for you from the manor. Look, even I know only one man can do so much, you know? I wouldn’t blame you for running, but even if you try I’ve got other guards watching the exits of the town.” He laughed. “Oh, did I forget that? Well, sorry.”
Before the line went dead Enger let out another loud and arrogant laugh. Grim’s face showed no pain, only eyes filled with resolve for what he must do. He knew the guardsmen at the city exits only tolerated Enger’s commands for a chance to finally assassinate him. Unfortunately that moment presented itself only for him and the box of suppressed rage he prepared for release upon his enemies.
“So fate stood correct,” Belle said calmly as she gently caressed her belly. “Such strange things the cards tell me. Perhaps one day you will give be the honor of telling your fortune, but for now more pressing matters desire your attention.” Her smile gave Grim some comfort. Despite whatever the cards foretold her they both knew the winds of change stirred. As he vanished behind the small crowds of people Belle looked over her deck and shook her head. “You will meet a friend of a friend of your lover. How farfetched!”
When Grim got home a note dangled from the broken steel door. “Do what you must.” Simply written by Guide. He always knew about a problem before it started. Grim shook his head as he flipped the note over just in case something else was on the other side. “We’re alright. Go kick some ass!” Charon. Knowing the young man and Dove travelled safely with Guide gave Grim’s heart the final bit of assurance it needed. He crumpled up the letter and threw it away, then gazed around slowly for something unseen.
The small house barely held anything besides two beds, a small desk and a storage crate with some food and water. A thick wall of concrete separated the house from the garage but Grim knew his heavily armored truck awaited inside just in case they needed to escape the city. While not in use Grim kept his armor locked behind a hollow wall and he felt thankful that the kidnappers knew nothing of its presence. As he geared up Cad let out a grunt of irritation while Mayer Enger crudely ripped the duct tape sealing her mouth.
She put up a fight all the way from home to the manor. She spitted, cursed and kicked them at any moment she found, and even though they restrained her with rope and tape she always hatched a way to piss them off. But now it was impossible to annoy them any further as she gazed at the dilapidated manor in front of her. Dozens of mercenaries lined near the open or broken windows and even more sat behind the sandbags laying near the entrance. Void of any cover save for a flagless pole the courtyard acted as a dead shot for even the worst sniper. This whole situation seemed impossible for just one man and her heart sank because of the thought.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Enger said with a vile grin on his face. “Money certainly talks, doesn’t it? I even hired some extra mercenaries with the money your father gave us. Rather generous of him to donate such sums, don’t you think?”
“Fuck you,” Cad said half-heartedly as she kept her eyes on the ruined stone ground. Junior struggled with his binds behind her but the ropes gnawed at his flesh.
“I’ll probably hire some nice whores with all the money you three will fetch me.” He bent down and smiled sinisterly at Cad. “Shame you’re young, but that doesn’t stop most people. Though, the people interested in you care if you’re alive. Believe me, I’d like nothing more than you sell your body for profit but that’s just –“
Crack! Cad smashed her forehead against his nose. He buckled backwards and a buzz of pain wormed through his backside. He clutched his bleeding nose and, with a stifled grunt of anger, glared at Cad with all the worth of his measly body.
“Little bitch!” he cried out nasally. He wiped away some blood from his upper lip before snorting out any remnants from his nose. “A fighter to the end. It’s almost embarrassing. You should’ve acted like all those people down there. Maybe you wouldn’t be in this predicament if you did!”
Cad fell silent. She looked to the ground but then smiled pridefully at Enger. “Giving you assholes a hard time is a part of my blood. Enjoy the broken nose.”
Enger prepared to backhand her until the radio in his suit pocket came to life.
“Enger!” Grim bellowed. “Let me speak to my daughter. Now.”
How the hell did he know he was near her? Enger brushed the thought away as he plucked the radio out and switched it into freeway mode. He dropped the device near Cad and then sneered at her. “Enjoy your last words. I’ll be watching from the balcony. Wouldn’t want to miss seeing the blood run out from your faces.”
The yard fell silent. Cad stared at the radio with a heated glare, expecting nothing but another lecture about patience or faith. When the radio came back to life his voice sounded unfamiliar to her.
“Anne,” he began with a soft, gentle tone twisted in slight sorrow. “I know I haven’t been a good father to you and Matty. I know you’ll never forgive me for mother’s death and I just want you to know I’ll never forgive myself either. All I wanted was to give you two something to live by, something to hope for despite all your hate towards me. I realized I am failing but I want you to know that I will never stop trying because you two are worth that much to me.”
Cad’s throat lumped up. Her mouth struggled to move and her eyes burned with incoming tears. Was this really dad? The commanding voice she remembered became nonexistent as Grim’s words sunk into her mind and heart. He no longer existed as dad and instead spoke to her as father. Despite exhuming all her rage against him he still pleaded for her attention. She knew she blinded herself from his efforts, trying to distance herself away from him ever since mother’s death. Amidst all this fear and loathing an absent corner of her mind flickered to life. She remembered, seeing the powerful tower of a man from the crack of a door, crying in his shame, grieving for his errors and cloudy future.
“What are you going to do?” Her voice strained with uncertainty as tears trickled down her cheeks. Junior whined a bit and rubbed his back against hers, trying to ease the discomfort tearing her body apart. She looked back and gave a weak smile but her pained eyes exposed her strife to him. Still, against all odds of the situation he continued nuzzling her with his face. The five year old seemed to hold more faith than her and that tugged at her heart.
“Anne,” Grim responded with the same, loving tone of a father. “I know I’ve let you down but this is one day where I will not.” His words came with a confidence only a skilled warrior held for his weapon of choice. Yet afterwards he paused, almost feeling anguished to continue. “What I’m going to do may shock you, but I must know – I need, to know….” Grim sighed. She heard the strain of his voice as he finished his sentence. “Do you have faith in me?”
Deep in her heart, even after all they endured, all the running and hiding the quiet voice in her mind held complete confidence in him. She sniffled away some tears and cleared her throat before she responded. “Only if you still have patience in me.” She smiled embarrassingly at the hubris of her past. She finally saw patience beyond all the frustrations plaguing her from mother’s death. The meek voice in the corner of her mind opened up against her hate and loathing, giving her the ultimate gift to ease her pain and see her father for the beliefs he stood for. She choked down a sob and clenched her eyes as a mix of relief and regret pulled at her body. If this moment truly heralded her end she believed it better to finally confess against her anger than die with a grudge.
“Thank you.” Grim made his presence known as his loud, thundering boots ascended the stairs to the manor yard. Cad stared with wide, puffy eyes as her armored father approached her and Junior. The metal wraps around his shins and forearms covered his thick, black armor alongside plates of thin composite steel concealing his legs and arms. A dense, bulletproof collar surrounded his neck and a tinted, full-view visor awaited its withdrawal from the top of his helmet. He hunched forward slightly as he lugged a tall and metal crate behind him but his face showed no exasperation. A quaking thud filled the empty yard as he dropped the crate beside him and glared at the mansion and its inhabitants.
The megaphones hanging over the mansion’s two columns came to life. “Are you really that stupid?” Enger said with a dumbfounded look on his face. “I thought you’d make this a lot more difficult. Color me surprised.” As he organized the gunmen to fire Tommy sauntered out and joined his dad on the balcony.
“This moron serious?” Tommy laughed loudly. “What a fucking joke! He’s as stupid as the other mayor.”
“Enger!” Grim bellowed. He barely exerted any strength but the voice echoed throughout the yard and mansion. “You have committed countless atrocities in such a short span of time. You have ruined families, destroyed lives and burdened this town with your vile ilk. For your inhumanity I will make you into a prime example for those who would dare oppose the Black Sparrows!” His dire expression never left even as the whole mansion boomed with laughter.
Enger only responded with a scoff over the loudspeakers. He readied the order to fire as Grim’s visor fell shut and he crossed his arms and legs, planting himself in front of Cad and Junior. With his whole body as an indomitable shield for the two he knew any chances for a bullet to hit them fell to zero. Anne’s eyes slowly adjusted with the shade but she became breathless when she noticed the symbol etched onto his back. In bright white a shield and sword came together with flowing wings stretching across his shoulders. Only one word existed beneath the glorified symbol which resurrected a confidence long lost in Cad’s heart. Faithful.
The gunfire began. Countless bullets showered Grim as Cad strained to keep her senses with her. She pulled herself closer to Grim’s towering back as she wrapped herself as well as possible around Junior. A thick, blinding layer of dust kicked across the three and enveloped them alongside the pelting of stone and dirt. Even though death loomed just over a broad back she remained confident of her father but also unaware of Junior unknotting the rope.
Ever since joining Blackbell the armor became a part of him. Even without it many knew him as a juggernaut of protection and annihilation. Any enemy that survived his mercilessness lived to spill tales of Grim, the Reaper of the Wastes. But those he protected knew him as the Shield of Faith from the symbol of undying hope inscribed upon his back As the bullets easily bounced off or snagged onto the front layer of his armor Grim remained aware of the demand to summon both monikers.
The ring of bullets finally left the air. A hail of victorious laughter beamed from the mansion with a mix of insults and jeers. When the dust cleared a vicious pause halted their celebration. Grim slowly stood up, the force of the barrage lathering a thick layer of dark smoke across the face of his armor. A few crushed bullets slid off from his visor as it came up and exposed his undaunted face. His eyes opened and a growl so low but powerful shook the foundations of the mercenaries that they stood frozen in shock.
Junior wiped away some of the dust cluttering his eyes as he finished untying Cad. He patted her on the shoulder and it pulled her away from her shock. When did he get free? She stopped herself from thinking about it any further as she took Junior and sprinted away towards the edge of the stairs, safe from harm but leaving Grim to enact his vengeance in peaceful isolation.
Enger felt a wetness surrounding his pants as the final specks of dust clear away from Grim. The juggernaut opened the metal crate with the slam of his fist and produced a large minigun into the open. He shot Enger a gaze so vengeful and menacing that it caused the mayor’s heart to stop beating for a moment. The mercenaries all around him struggled to reload as fear crept through the ranks. Some of them abandoned heart and attempted to make a run for it but the efforts fell too late. A mind curdling roar thundered across the manor as the minigun’s spinning barrel buzzed alive and began coughing out thousands of bullets from its muzzle.
The whole mansion went deaf with destruction. The very first dozens of bullets caught Tommy and shredded his entire body into pieces. Enger flung himself to the ground as the endless stream of relentless gunfire skewered every mercenary in the mansion. Blood, bone and infrastructure splashed all around them and the anguished cries of the troops fell out of sound. The weight of the attack caused the mansion to creak loudly in pain and then finally give way as it jerked everyone downwards. Even though the structure partially collapsed on itself Grim continued letting his minigun sing its song of terror.
After expending thousands upon thousands of bullets within the short gap of time the rapid clicking of the weapon finally signaled its emptiness. Grim dropped it into its casing and slammed it shut, then began walking towards the buckled mansion. Thick dust danced across the front of it with holes and gaping openings trailing across the windows. Some behind the sandbags survived but those that did remained helpless to do anything other than watch their organs and blood spill away into the ground.
As Grim passed the sandbags one of them found the gall to grab his metal laced boot. The giant lifted it and utterly smashed the mercenary’s head in, then gazed into the manor and roared. “I HAVE ARRIVED FOR YOUR SOUL!” His bellow shot through Enger’s horrified and maimed body. A cry of utmost terror shot out of his mouth as he struggled to crawl away. Blood stained his suit and trickled down his head while pulsing, relentless pain coursed through his broken nose and arm.
Grim snatched one of Enger’s leg and dragged him across the floor. Splinted wood and dust stuck to his suit as he wailed and cried with unbridled cowardice. Grim took him to the flag pole and began tying the rope around Enger’s leg.
“Wait!” Enger pleaded as Grim finished securing the rope. “I can pay you! You need money for your family, right? What about information? I’ve got information too!” His efforts fell on deaf ears. Spite filled his mind as anger slowly ran across his face. “I knew you were a Black Sparrow! The people after you know your face! How long do you think you can last before you’re crying in a puddle of your own blood!?”
Grim clutched the rope as a contemplative look graced his face but it vanished as quickly as it arrived. He glared into Enger’s bloodied face and caused him to gasp in both rage and shock. “Have some faith.” Grim yanked hard on the rope and reveled in the mayor’s yells of pain. They never ceased as the leg’s muscle and sinew strained to keep together against the pull of gravity. Once he got to the top Grim let the mayor flail around for a minute or two, then let go of the cord and listened as Enger’s high-pitched cry heralded his death. The loud crack of the mayor’s neck finalized the end of this madness and Grim breathed a sigh of relief.
Cad peered from below the stairway and saw Grim looking down at the floor, seemingly dejected. A bitter silence surrounded him as Enger’s last words echoed through his mind. Grim knew the truth of the words but a calm voice assured him to steel his faith. If hope acted as a bitter lie then he would rather believe in it instead of giving in to hopelessness. As Cad and Junior started worriedly at him he knew some truth thrived within the lie. He walked towards them, sluggishly, fatigued by the events of the day with the torture of his regrets still fresh in his mind. Before he found a moment to speak Cad punched him in the leg.
“Stop,” she said resolutely. “It’s fine, alright? I’m the one who should be sorry.” Cad crossed her arms and looked away ashamedly. “I’m sorry,” she said again. Her sincere voice touched Grim and he only smiled, carefully petting her head for such a tremendous difference in physique and size worried him. Then Junior came up to hug the leg Cad punched, and Grim’s smile broadened as he lifted Junior onto his shoulder and let him bask in the dramatic difference in height.
A small bout of happiness sifted through his chest until a commotion rolled from the stairway. He quickly concealed his face with his visor as dozens of men armed with rifles looked at the three with calm eyes of closure. Based on the havoc he wrought the word of battle must have registered across the outskirts of the city. The men made a lane as an old and grey bearded man with a grizzled face approached Grim and his family. His navy blue jacket swayed softly in the wind as he tipped his captain’s hat and his cocked eye looked over Enger’s deformed corpse.
“So they’re all dead,” Hennison stated, low and hoarse. The weight of saying those simple words ushered comfort across the guards as their postures relaxed. Grim simply nodded and gestured to Enger.
“He’ll trouble you no more. I’m sorry we did not act sooner.” Grim felt a pang of guilt stir through his chest but Hennison slowly shook his head.
“Were it not for you it might have taken us years to throw him out.” Hennison gave Enger’s corpse a glare of wretched hatred. A long battle awaited the captain and his guardsmen and Grim’s change of plans spared the city of all that strife. “You’re as your moniker says. Old Beacon thanks you for putting hope back into his city. You’ve given us a head start on making it back into what it used to be: A beacon of hope.” The two crisply saluted each other as a roar of celebration came from behind Hennison.
Grim, Cad and Junior made their way back home and prepared the heavily armored truck for departure. The home only stood as a temporary haven and with the ruckus they caused the organizations hunting them would find them unless they left. Grim enjoyed life in Old Beacon and a yearning pleaded him to stay just in case more trouble arrived. Though with Hennison as mayor Grim knew the town fell into good hands. The captain lived in Old Beacon his whole life and prevailed against plenty of woes both business and private. He carried the humanity and discipline to handle whatever came his way and led with the loyalty of his fellow guardsmen as support.
Grim and his family departed the city with the faith knowing that life became easier for some people of the wastes. Although Hennison and his troops never saw face underneath the heavy armor they respected the Black Sparrow for the legends surrounding him. In return he gave Hennison and his troops a token of remembrance for when the days became bleak. As Grim’s symbol flew atop the flagpole they knew the Shield of Faith left yet another tale for those of the wasteland to hear.