The date is July, 30XX, Monday. It has been a while ever since Hector saw any action or mission from the Harmony. Perhaps the times of peace are finally upon us. Hector follows his routine like any other day, though, after the incidents of the New Year, Beeanca hasn’t been the same anymore. Her juvenile behavior and cockiness had taken a sudden decrease, to the point where she was almost emotionless and indifferent whenever she was working at the café. Well the girl did went through a traumatic event for her. Having the one thing she couldn’t obtain definitely pulled out of her reach must’ve broken her glass bubble definitely. As much as Hector still somewhat cared about her, be it because she was a employee or simply because she was a workmate, he still couldn’t bring himself to say anything to her.
Yet, work at the café was coming along just as nicely. Day after day more people would come by, and the ones who came always returned. Hector took the time to try and remember the faces of all customers, it not only saved time with the orders, it also build empathy towards the client. Heinman, the café owner, liked that attribute of Hector very much, his selflessness. GGs often would go to the café at later in the night to unwind from a day at work. Hector loved to listen to stories. His 3 firm beliefs where “Not do unto others as you would not have done unto thee”, “Remember the past, learn with the present and be ready for the future” and “No matter how dark a night is, the sun always shine at the end”. Even the GGs who oftenly could be seen as “evil” in conversations topics around the Harmony weren’t so different. Most of them were young kids wanting to either prove they could be better, do better and others were adults who desired to protect the weak.
One day though, a client started to appear. Never named, whenever he ordered something, he asked to be put under the name Cloak. Given though, he was always wearing a dark brown, drapped and really old cloak over his head and body. A foul stench came from him. Luckly or not, he only came when the store was about closing. Hector could not open the doors for him, but he would always have a warm bowl of soup and bread for the man. Hector grew interested on the mysterious Cloak. Little could be detected about him. He paid usually in coins, nothing big. Cloak never took long with his soup though. He devoured it with insatiable hunger, and thanked Hector before leaving, god knows to where.
Around the end of July, Hector had received a bigger payment. Heinman said it was to mark the start of something big, though he hadn’t told Hector what it was going to be, Hector knew it would surely be soon. With the extra money, Hector decided to pay attention to the two girls that would shine his day no matter when, Sarith and Nicole. Sarith more on a fatherly manner. The little girl seemed to lack a parent figure, and Hector always wanted to be a parent. Why, It would be in the October of this year that Hector would be at the brim age of 36-7 years old. Sarith was a nice luff of fresh air to him, though…it made so long since he saw her. He beat himself up for not spending more quality time with her as he wanted. He knew Anne was friends with her, so he wouldn’t mind much. As long as Sarith weren’t a prosthesis, she would treat her with utmost care. Hector planned well, and finnaly decided on a 3-day weekend trip with her and another person to an amusement park. The tickets were very disputed, he had to reserve for December. But the anticipation of seeing that little face beaming with joy would be worth the wait.
Ah…as for Nicole, his shining star? Well, he had carefully though of everything. Starting with a romantic weekend at a fancy hotel far from the Harmony and Neocity hustle, to a whole 7 day week of traveling around the world with her. He loved traveling, doing new things, and whats best than to do it with the person that finally was able to save him from his past? Ah, yes, Nicole was the word his lips could not utter without forming a smile. Everything was very costy, but money should never be in front of memories. After all, money vanishes, memories stay forever. The next week sure wqs busy for out good lad. But it was about to get much, much busier. It started after an incident. One where Lavvy, the mighty leader, had her torso almost ripped apart. Hector, of course, was worried about her, but it wasn’t until she herself ambushed him at a late night at the Harmony cafeteria that he knew how deep the rabbit hole went.
Lavvy(with a unusual serious tone, emerging from the back of a table hidden on the darkest corner of the cafeteria): Hector, There are a few things I’d like to discuss with you. In private, if possible.
Hector(with a jump of scare and a pounding heart and a trembly voice form the scare): My goodness Lavvy! If you wanted to scare me out of my socks you did! But we do are alone, at night, this is as private as anywhere else dear. Although I am already anticipating you, if this is about training, I am out.
Lavvy(scratching the back of her head): Well, it IS about training, but not the usual kind… You know…have you even seen Katie lately? – The sudden realization hit hector like a train, he hadn’t noticed but she was gone for a good 6 months by now – By your expression I gather you only noticed now. She went missing Hector. Missing in action. I fear the worst, but she is a strong woman. I need a replacement, Hector. I need you.
Hector(trembly pulling a chair to sit, his hands trembled with a mix of fear and anxiety, until he brought them together as in a praying position. Resting his head on his hands): B-but, Me? Lavvy, I am the most inept to this! I shun any type of violence remember? You yourself are the one always trying to train me! Call Sharon, Riley, hell, call Anne! They are better, stronger than me. I am just a green insect! I can’t possibly – Lavvy interrupts him with a sounding slap on his head, that brought him down from the chair
Lavvy(with a steady angrier voice): Hector, put your godamn big boy pants for once and listen you good-for-nothing pacifist, green legged rat. It’s precisely because you are a pacifist that you are the one made for this job. Only you always though of a plan where nobody absolutely got hurt, not even the GGs. You are the only one I can trust to put the safety of everyone else above a stupid kill count or bravery boast. You. Are. My choice. Not anyone’s else, not yours. Mine.
Hector(staggering to get up): B-but… What…what even can I do for the harmony? What can I even achieve as a general?
Lavvy(sighing): Not saying it’s gonna be easy, you green legged bastard, but you WILL go under a special training. Our enemies grow stronger, and so do we. I have already achieved a new level like Hadrea. And you, must learn to achieve that as well. Capische?
Hector(silently nodding): I suppose…if it is to protect everyone…Yeah, I can do this.
Lavvy(patting on his shoulder): Good. Make room in your agenda, your intensive training starts as soon as I think you are ready. You do communicate with your parasite right?
Hector(with a very blank expression): I call him Mattis…He reads my memories…does that count?
Lavvy(pressing her forehead with her fingers): You will need MUCH more free time for training Hector…a lot more…
Hector certainly was shocked from the revelation, and more than certainly, his new responsabilities. They almost felt overbearing on the first week. Heinman was supposed to tell Hector what the big news was on that Friday, but seeing Hector state, he decided for a day when the lad was a bit calmer. The week was very odd as well. GGs at the cafeteria complained of a sudden increase on hostile infected roaming the slums. They seemed to be too organized to be random and too spread out to be a simple group. Hector made his own assumptions, but if the rumors were true, even the trained GGs were having a hell of a time to take care of them. Hector could not let this situation go unchecked, and he decided to investigate himself. On the next mission, it would be his very first one. He needed a hostage to interrogate. He preferred if this could all be dealt with with peace, but trough what the GGs said, it wouldn’t be the case. He needed muscle for the work, and the harmony had plenty to spare. Although he made clear when giving the rules that safety of the members and of the hostage were priority. Even going as far as asking to interrogate the hostage himself.
The week proceeded violently though. The cases were spreading too much. Cloak hadn’t been around as well. Hector feared the man had been a victim of the quarrels. Little time passed until a group from the Harmony obtained success. They captured a brown rat infected. As Hector prepared to leave the job for the day, Heinman told him to go to his house tomorrow, a Sunday. Hector knew it must’ve been something serious if he wanted to talk on a Sunday. Hector noticed the health of his old companion rapidly deteriorating as well. More than often Hector was left taking care of the shop as Heinman had to retire to his house earlier. Hector arrived at the base. Thanks to a few infected digging habilities, a make-shift interrogation room had been made for the prisioner. When Hector entered the room, the rat nose was immersed on a sweaty sock and his ears looked damaged. Maybe from the fight. Hector made himself ready with a bowl of warm chicken soup and a few first-aid items.
Hector(taking the sock out of the rat nose, who promply grunted. His eyes still closed by a piece of black cloth.): Sorry on how my companions treated you. But they couldn’t take risks. – Hector shoved the bowl under his nose, the warmth of the garlic and ginger unclogged the rat’s nose from the fetid stench. His primal nature emerged as he scarfed on the piping hot soup without even being able to see it.
Rat(between munches): Yeah right. Ya’ll beat me up and kidnap me here for a meal? Could’ve just offered ya know? – he snickered as he ate the food.
Hector: You see, sir. The problem is, your group of rowdy friends is putting my group of rowdy friends in danger. As well as my clients. I would like you to stop.
Rat(licking his lips after finishing the soup): HAAAA! AS IF! You idiot think we are just a small group? A bunch of hag tag hoolingans? We are a bigger thing than you! Than any of your stinkin friends here! Chief knows better, he knows we are the evolution, we will rise, we will overtake both GGs and you guys if we need! You’ll see, as soon as I leave here I’ll tell chief about this place, then we’ll raid it GOOD, WE’LL SLIT EVERYONE’S THROAT HERE! – he kicked and made a racket. Hector’s patience was somewhat disturbed by his words, but as much as he wanted to punch the fellow between his nasty big teeth, he had to remain calm.
Hector: I don’t suppose you could tell me your…Chief, identity, could you? You seem like a smart guy, the kind of second in command…
Rat(boasting): Damn right I should be second in command! But that fuckwad wouldn’t acknowledge me and my grit! I deserve a cloak as well! I – Hector stopped the rat with a swift bump on the bowl, making a loud noise.
Hector: So, your symbol of hierarchy is a cloak? And you all, all the incidents follow one leader?
Rat(getting up): Are you dumb or what? Yeah we are! Chief will guide us to the supremacy we deserve! We don’t need to be lowly humans ever again! Now, take this damn blind off of me so I can look at your frightened face!
Hector at this time, merely motioned for Lavvy to “dispose” of their guest as she saw fit. Knowing our good leader, it was good that Hector would be far away before the disposal started.
He couldn’t sleep that night. There was way too much in his head to sleep. The Heinman’s important message, the existence of a big group of organized hostile infecteds, Katie disappearance, the special training Lavvy would ensue on him…Honestly, the only things holding his mind was the promise of a weekend with Sarith and a whole week with Nicole. Though those things would only happen in December. A man must have something to strive for, after all.
Morning of the Sunday. The first thing Hector did was go to Heinman’s house. It was a beautiful house. Two stores, quite simple for a place that was mainly skyscrapers on the monotone white color. The house had grass edges and beautifull flowers adorning its windows. As Hector knocked onto the door, a electric voice came from the doorbell – “Enter, it’s the same key as the store” – Hector recognized Heinman’s voice, although much weaker. Hector had starter carrying a spare of the store keys in the event Heinman had to leave early. As he entered the house, he could see the old man had a few family pictures around. Most where very old though, and as they progressed to recent days, the amount of people in them would disappear, until it was only Heinman. But then, the amount of people started going up again. It was Hector, Beeanca, and everyone else who worked or was a common client from the café. Hector slowly climbed up the stairs. Something told him he knew what would come. The salty taste already on the back of his throat.
Hector(viewing Heinman on the bed, very weak and frail, his voice quivered): Hi, old chap. You are looking strong as a bull today, hum? Hahaha…
Heinman(chuckling very silently): No need to mask it my good lad… We both know whats about to happen hum? I called you here, because, well… My family you see, most of them have distanced themselves from me. They have their own dreams to follow, and I respect that, but… I was lonely… Specially after my wife parted… I put the café because it was her dream, you know? And through her dream, she lived on, lad. And I met you, the blondie lass and a few of my trusty year old clients. You all started to became the family that turned their backs to me, boy. And you, you remind me of myself, when I was your age. – he coughed violently, a bit of blood stained his white sheets – Don’t worry boy. I cant feel anything anymore.. Suppose that’s a bright side, hahaha. Well… Lad, without much more addo, please, sign those papers on the table, this one right besides my bed. I am leaving the café and this house to you lad.
Hector(with his throat clogged and watered eyes): Don’t be a fool, old chap. You cant give this to me, what about your family? And you look fine, medicine works wonders nowadays, you’ll see, I’ll find a good medic for you and- Hector was interrupted by Heinman’s hand lifting.
Heinman(smiling peacefully): Why lad? Because you have been much more my son than the one I actually had. I know I can trust you to not sell the café for money, nor this house. You love antiques as much as me after all, else you wouldn’t waste your time with this old coot, hahaha. But, don’t be sad lad. I know my time is now. I lived a good life. I can’t wait to join my dear wife in the after life, you know? She was very solitaire, she must be feeling very lonely, right now. Just like I know you have people you wish to spend all the time together, am I right lad? – Hector choked as he tough of Sarith and Nicole. – Yes, you do have dear ones, so you understand lad… Hector…my time is over lad. You were a son to me, the son I wish my son had been lad. – Heinman holds Hector’s hands on a final handshake – Firmer boy, I can’t part if you give this limpy handshake. Now, that’s more like it. Don’t cry for this old man lad, I am going with a smile, so do me a favor, smile as well. You are the proud owner of a busyness now. Goodbye…dear old chap.
And so…silence fell on the small house. The clock tiks not louder than a heartbeat, and only one heartbeat to drown it’s sound. The young man got up. Papers in hand and tears adourning his cheeks like strings of crystal. He at least could bring himself to smile, even if for a brief moment, enough to utter – “ Goodbye, old chap…” the heaviest words he had to say.
The following days were dark. Hector’s looked awfully spend emotionally. The paperwork to move the busyness to his name was tricky, since he still had to have a fake ID, but he managed. Heinman had though of everything, changing even Hector’s living address to his own house. Hector had an official allias to go by now, Heinman’s Heir. Even the GGs and other clients of more time seemed saddened by the news, he was a good man, and a very good friend. A few of the closest ones dedicated a toast to him. “For the good times, the good memories and the good ale”. Hector spend more time on the office now, looking to the clients from afar, always handwaving, but unable to maintain that contact he so cherished before. Though, Cloak started appearing again, at the usual time, right after the store closes.
Hector(closing the store, with a bowl of soup): Hello Cloak, here, some soup.
Cloak(taking the soup, drinking in one gulp voraciously): … Kill me.
Hector( confused): Pardon?
Cloak( a snarl being made in his voice): Kill. Me. I know who you are, kill me. You’ll regret if you don’t.
Hector(brushing it off and getting angry): Look sir, I have treated you so far with politeness because you hadn’t given me a reason not to, but keep this insanity and I’ll have to stop treating you well! I am not on the mood for games.
Cloak(throwing a knife right besides Hector’s head, who instantly defended using his arm insect shells, who were able to catch the knife into it): I know you, Hector Olivier… You are a strange man… There are two of you, but only one registered… Funny isn’t it? It’s like…you don’t belong here… No records of birth, no records of parents, nothing. You are a ghost, an illusion, Hector Olivier. And your chance to be a real boy just got discarded by you… HAAAHAHAHAHAHA! See you another day, Olivier!
The cloaked figure runned into the night. Hector didn’t had any doubts now, Cloak was the Chief the rat had spoken of before, but why him? Why did Cloak targeted specially Hector? He couldn’t know he was a general, nor that he was from harmony! What was going on? Something was certainly off, that’s for sure… The next weeks had promise of being darker and darker, as if storm clouds were gathering…