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Chapter 16 - Troy

~Summer 1530, day 11 – Organisation’s hideout~

Jordan sat against the perpetually humid wall of his cell, staring at the wall opposite to him, trying to guess precisely how long each crack in it was. As he worked on his accuracy to determine the length of random things, the door in the hallway opened, and yet more unknown footsteps came toward him, those ones fast and impatient. Associating personalities to footsteps had become one of his favourite hobbies.

Jordan turned to the hallway to meet Rey’s condescending gaze. Rey unlocked the door with a key he had gotten from Delzad and grabbed Jordan by the shoulders to stand him up. He then started relentlessly and austerely searching his person.

Things happened too fast for Jordan to react appropriately, so he just let out a little laugh. “Can I help you?”

“Shut it, worm,” answered Rey as he continued to search Jordan’s clothes.

“Ok, whatever you say.”

Rey found Jordan’s cellphone, still with enough battery left in it to last another day. “What is this!”

“That is uh, a cellphone.”

“I can’t believe you weren’t searched earlier for something like this!”

“Me neither, honestly.”

“Have you called anyone!”

“I tried, but the signal sucks here. The phone would ring once and then the call would end.”

“You worthless maggot! Did you call for help!”

Jordan wanted to answer only the truth, to avoid pushing Rey’s enmity toward him any further, but his brain was hardwired to respond with stupid remarks when put in a stressful situation. “I called for a pizza.”

Rey sent out a burst of electricity through Jordan’s phone, frying it completely. He then grabbed his prisoner by the collar with both hands and pushed him on the wall. “Do not get on my nerve, or I will end your miserable life.”

“That seems like it’ll be hard to do.”

“You think I’m not capable of killing you?”

“No, I was referring to the ‘getting on your nerve’ thing.”

Rey punched Jordan in the face, giving him a bruise that already began to swell. “You’re an insufferable, annoying, pathetic purposeless man! If it were up to me, you would already be dead!”

Jordan covered the bruise on his face to attenuate the stinging it caused. “Did I do something to upset you so much?”

“You’re being protected by Delzad, I know it. He’s been doing everything he can to keep you alive, to the detriment of the organisation and our goal, all for the sake of his own virtuousness. His place on the council is wasted. I should be the one to sit at that table.”

“I honestly don’t understand why I’m such a key factor in your organisation. All I did was overhear half a sentence without context and now my life is the subject of debate among your superiors. This all seems a little excessive, don’t you think?”

“You shut your mouth! Don’t pretend to understand the situation!”

“I don’t!” exclaimed Jordan exasperatedly.

“You overheard some potentially crucial information, and so did your friends. A party will be sent to capture them. Just like you, they will not escape.”

“This is nuts, my guy. You might as well kill the entire world if you’re that paranoid about someone hearing you sneeze.”

“I would if I could! None of you deserve to live for what you’ve done!”

“Now you’ve lost me even more.”

“The whole human race is nothing but leeches, sucking on the power of others before disposing of them like dirty rags.”

“That seems a bit hypocritical.”

“Not another word out of you! I’ll kill you the second I get the chance, and then I’ll do the same to your friends, especially the stupid pear-headed one! I’ll have my revenge on him!”

“Pearson?”

“I don’t care what his name is!”

The door to the hallway opened and the voice of an irritated man followed. “Can you shut the fuck up!”

It was Troy, waltzing down the hallway, ready to fight off Rey to obtain a moment of quietude.

Rey left the cell and locked it behind him, glaring at the red-haired man approaching him. “Troy… Mind your own business.”

“It is my business when you’re screaming so loudly that I can hear across the fucking building.”

As the two men were arguing on the other side of the metal bars, Jordan had his eyes, wide and incredulous, glued to Troy, who had not yet noticed him.

Troy continued to berate Rey. “You want to kill the whole world? Are you kidding me? You can’t even win a single fight. Sending you to the Woodburt Fighting Tournament was one of the biggest suicide moves I’ve ever seen the old bastard pull.”

“Do not disrespect the master and the council with your vile words!” Rey snapped back at him.

“I’ve never seen someone with a foot fetish so intense that they’d need to lick the boots of a dozen old fucks twenty-four seven. I’m not one to judge but can you at least keep it to yourself?”

“You think you’re funny? All you do is trash-talk everyone all the time.”

“Mostly just you because you’re insufferable as shit.”

“You’re a useless leech, rotting the organisation from the inside with your attitude and your hatred of us all. I can’t believe the council let you join us, especially after you made it clear that you had a selfish goal.”

“Oh my god, not this speech again. Get some new material, man.”

“One day, I’ll have my way with you. After I get my revenge on that man I fought in Saint-Tacos, that… Pearson.”

Troy stopped a second, his brow shooting up. “Pearson? Did he have a funky-looking head, by any chance?”

“What’s it matter to you?”

“Just answer the question before I rip out your eyeballs.”

“Yes, he did. He looked like a deformed freak. I was too caught up in my emotions back then, and I let him beat me.”

“Pearson… So, the prisoner, the one who’s related to the man in Saint-Tacos, who is it?”

“You have an eyepatch on one eye, not both. He’s staring you in the face, dumbass.”

Troy turned his head to look inside the cell, in which Jordan now stood close to the bars separating them, his eyes unblinking in shock.

The two young men looked at one another intensely and perplexedly, before simultaneously pointing at each other and shouting the other’s name.

Troy grabbed the bars of the cell. “What are you doing in here!”

Jordan responded on the same excited, confused and afraid tone. “What are you doing here! Why are you with these people!”

“It’s a very long story, but I swear it’s not what it seems!”

“It’s ok, I believe you! You’re crazy, but not insane!”

“Thanks, I guess!”

“Why are we shouting!”

“You guys are beyond annoying,” said Rey.

“Why did this prick come see you?” Troy asked Jordan.

“Oh, just a routine check-up, I suppose.”

Troy noticed the bruise on his old friend’s face, and his broken cellphone on the floor. He turned to Rey and grabbed him by the shirt. “What the fuck did you do?”

“Oh, piss off,” retorted Rey.

“Did you hurt him?”

“Does he look hurt to you?”

“I will inflict upon you the pain you caused him tenfold, you shitdick.”

“Be careful, Troy,” smiled Rey with a sick expression. “If you cause too much trouble, you’ll lose your chance to find your dearest friend.”

Troy let out a disgruntled scoff and winced, before pushing Rey away. “You did what came to do, now leave.”

“I hope you’ll take the time to indulge in your little reunion. It might be the last chance you get.”

Before Troy’s anger had the chance to get the better of him, Rey left the prison room while continuing to chirp his red-haired rival.

“So…” awkwardly said Jordan to kill the silence. “Long time no see. It’s been what, five years since you left? Maybe six? Cool eyepatch by the way.”

“Yeah, it’s been a while. I’m sorry for just leaving like that. I had to find Meredith.”

“Hm. No luck so far, I suppose?”

Troy sat down against the wall opposite to the cell and sighed. “No.”

“Can I ask why you joined these people? It was to help you find Meredith, that much I can gather, but I’m not sure I understand how it would help.”

“It’s a long story. I’m not sure I quite get it myself, to be honest. I’ll tell you once you’re out of this hole, I promise, but for now, I don’t think it would be wise for me to share too much information relating to the organisation. I would probably be kicked out or killed. Either way, I’d lose all the progress I’ve made until now.”

“I understand. I’m not gonna push it, then.”

“Thanks, man. So, how is everyone? I hope getting mixed up with an underground group of criminals didn’t cause too much shit.”

“Well, I probably have it the worst, considering I might die.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Yeah, sorry, it’s a way to deal with the stress, y’know? Anyway, apart from the obvious going on right now, I’d say they’re doing ok. A lot has happened since you left.”

“Really? I guess it’s been so long, it’s not surprising.”

“Mhm. Cooper adopted more children. Well, adults, but you know what I mean.”

“Seriously, he’s still doing that? What are they like?”

“Well, there’s Kireina, who came in the family about a year after you left. Pearson was the one to bring her back though. She had lost her husband a bit before Pearson met her. She had lost her will to live; she was basically dead, on her own, a walking corpse, if you will. Now, she’s feeling much better. She’s super kind, like the nicest person ever, on par with Meredith.”

“Woah, she must be something if you’re willing to compare them.”

“And I’m not just saying that, it’s true. A bit later, a guy named Kevin joined us. He had been disowned from his rich family for being kind of a recluse and refusing to show interest in their family business.”

“What a bunch of pricks.”

“Yeah, he was only a means to an end to them. They never treated him as a son, so when Cooper found him after he had left his house on his eighteenth birthday, he had trouble understanding Cooper’s kindness.”

“Must have been alienating.”

“He’s still very much a shy guy, – he barely speaks to anyone – but he at least has a proper family now.”

“I should have known the old man was gonna continue to adopt people. I hope I can meet them someday.”

“Me too. Maybe once I’m out of here.”

“Yeah, and when Meredith is back with us. What about you, what’s new with you? You still work at that grocery store?”

“I do,” laughed Jordan. “Well, I did. I think I might have lost the job. I overheard my boss talking to one of this organisation’s people. His name was Mars, I think?”

“Not that psychopath. I hate him as much as I hate Rey.”

“Yeah, and I can see why. The guy’s a serial killer!”

“I know… If I could have, I would have thrown his ass over a cliff the day I met him.”

“I totally get it. Anyway, that’s how I ended up here. Apparently, I might have overheard some iffy information, even though I swear I didn’t. I had a colleague with me at that moment, too, but she got away thanks to Pearson and Cooper.”

“Can I ask you what your boss’ name is? I forgot after all this time.”

“Hm? Sure, I guess. It’s Eric. And my co-worker who got roped into this is Sara.”

Troy gave Jordan a more serious, funereal look. “Jordan, I have to tell you. I spend some time around the council, and so I hear things about missions the organisation does, even though it doesn’t concern me.”

“Ominous but keep going.”

“Your boss, Eric, is dead. He was killed by an assassin sent out by the organisation after he had divulged some confidential information. At least, that’s what I heard. His wife and kid were killed as well.”

Jordan listened in horror as his friend delivered the soul-crushing news. “No… Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man…”

“Sorry, dude. I know it’s fucked up.”

“This is all my fault.”

“What? Why would it be your fault? Don’t make yourself feel guilty for something you had no control over.”

“But it is because of me. If I hadn’t followed Eric into the secret underground passage, I wouldn’t have overheard anything, and I wouldn’t have made Sara’s life a mess, and Eric wouldn’t have said anything, and no one would be dead, and none of this would have happened.”

“Ok, that’s enough, stop it. If you think your boss wasn’t gonna die anyway, you clearly know nothing about the people who run this organisation. They kill every single person who stands in their way, no matter what they might debate among themselves. There’s maybe two somewhat reasonable people in the council, but their voices land on deaf ears anytime they speak about the misery they cause. If your boss was related to the organisation by force, they were going to dispose of him after he had stopped being useful to them. None of this is your fault.”

“But… why did they need him?”

“Beats me. It had something to do with the underground, that’s for certain, since it’s connected to the grocery store. I don’t know what’s in there, though.”

“I think I need some time alone to think about everything.”

“That’s ok. I’ll be back to visit you when I can. And I swear I’ll do what I can to get you out of this place.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it.”

Troy got up and bid his long-time friend farewell once again, before leaving the room, letting Jordan alone to marinate in his thoughts.

~Summer 1530, day 11 – Woodburt City outskirts, Western Country~

As the day went on, Pearson and Cooper drove closer to Woodburt City, in the vicinity of the signal that had been emitted from Jordan’s cellphone the night prior. They stopped at a sorry-looking gas station to fill up the tank of their trusty rusted ride to give it a bit more life for the continuation of their journey and continued along a craggy road running through a glade. Eventually, the road became a dead end as the glade faded away into a thick layer of trees.

Cooper parked the car on the side of the road where no one would see. “According to the signal we got in the police station, Jordan should be around these parts, likely underground,” he said.

Pearson agreed, albeit somewhat pessimistically. “I doubt there’s gonna be a door in the middle of the woods with a big sign welcoming us in their secret base.”

“No, but we won’t get anywhere unless we search for an entrance.”

“Keep in mind, there might also not even be one. All we know is that the signal came from around here.”

“If that ends up being the case, we’ll just dig until we hit something.”

Pearson nodded in agreement and the two men ventured into the forest in search of their kidnapped family member.

The wound Pearson had suffered while fighting Mars had begun to heal, and the pain it originally caused slowly faded away. Luckily for him, it was not as deep as it had felt at first.

A short and uneventful while passed as the two men searched in vain for any signs of a secret base they did not even know how to look for. However, soon, as fate would have it, Delzad conveniently approached them from within the woods.

It took only a fraction of a second of confusion for Pearson and Cooper to realize who currently stood before them, the usual sorry, saddened expression permanently glued on his face.

Before Cooper could get angry, Pearson spoke. “If you’re here, we mustn’t be very far from where you hide yourself.”

“Where is my son!” shouted Cooper, warning Delzad with the tone of his voice of the lengths he was willing to go to get Jordan back.

“I’ve actually been looking for you,” calmly said Delzad.

“Well, here we are. Are you here to dispose of us?”

“I’ve been sent once more to capture you, but yes, I have been given permission to kill you if the need were to arise.”

“Tsk! Are you gonna pretend like you don’t want to kill anyone again?”

“I assure you I don’t. I was actually hoping to bargain with you.”

“Why would we ever bargain with you!”

Pearson put his hand on his older friend’s shoulder. “It wouldn’t hurt to hear him out. We can make up our minds afterward.”

“Thank you,” said Delzad, trying to ignore Cooper’s deathly eyes.

“Jordan, the man you seek, is still alive and well. Against both yours and I’s wishes, he is being held as a prisoner, awaiting a potentially fatal fate.”

Pearson’s brow shot up. “Against your wishes?”

“I’ve talked to Jordan a few times now. I’ve come to know him a bit. He is not a man who deserves to be held prisoner and certainly not one who deserves to die.”

“So, where are you getting at?”

“The organisation operates on a flawed set on morals. They claim life to be a sacred thing but will act as judge, jury and executioner against anyone who stands in their way. They say they do not want death yet are its apotheosis here on Earth. They locked Jordan away in order to lead futile debates regarding his fate, despite it being sealed from the beginning, all this to make themselves feel more morally right once they pass judgment.”

“Are you saying he’s going to die!” shouted Cooper.

“If nothing is done, he will eventually be put to death, that much is categorical. It’s only a matter of time before they decide the wait was long enough.”

“We have to do something!”

“I agree. I propose that you let me capture you. I will take you to the cell where Jordan is being held. Once there, I will inform the rest of the council of your capture, after which an execution will be ordered, on my suggestion. As a member of the council and as the one in charge of your capture, I will ‘carry out the execution’ in private.”

“What will you really do?” asked Pearson, heavily skeptical of Delzad’s offer.

“I will teleport the three of you to safety. You will then never again involve yourselves with the organisation, be that intentionally or not.”

“Are you serious right now? You expect us to accept such an obvious trap?” asked Cooper. “Why would we ever believe you?”

Delzad could see the worry in Cooper’s eyes, so much he could almost feel it. Those eyes, he knew them well. “I too, had a son, once. And a wife. I know all too well the feeling of loss. You are exactly as I was back then, full of anger and fear. I did everything I could, yet I was still powerless to prevent their deaths. When I was finally reunited with my family, it was already too late. I had been chasing ghosts the whole time.”

Cooper began to understand the constant sorrow petrified in the stoical man’s pale eyes.

Delzad continued. “When I see you chasing Jordan so desperately, I can’t help but see myself in you. I don’t want you to experience the same trauma I did back then, not if I can help it.”

“Why are you doing all this?” asked Pearson. “Aren’t you betraying your organisation?”

“As long as I haven’t betrayed myself, I can live with the consequences of my actions.”

Cooper had calmed down after listening to Delzad. “What about the girl who was with Jordan underground? His co-worker. She overheard the same thing as him. Will you scour the continent until you find her and take her life? Because she’s gone, somewhere out of your reach, so while the three of us would enjoy peace, she would be forced to stay on the run forever.”

“It’s unfortunate for her, but yes, she will likely be hunted down until she is found. I’ve made you my offer; it’s everything I can do. Whether you accept it is entirely up to you.”

“This still seems like a trap.”

“I will give you some time to think about it more clearly. Hopefully, you’ll come to the realization that I’m being truthful. Until then, I bid you farewell. I will be back here in a few days. I’ll make sure Jordan is not harmed in the meantime.”

As was typical of him, Delzad vanished into thin air, leaving abruptly, as if he had never been there.

Cooper clenched his fist and grit his teeth, not in anger, but in indecisiveness. “What are we supposed to do now?” he asked, a bit of desperation creeping through his weak voice.

“If we’re to trust him, we have a bit of time to decide,” said Pearson.

“Do you? Do you trust him?”

“No, I don’t really. He’s the one who kidnapped Jordan in the first place. However, I don’t think he’s our enemy. He’s doing too much to keep Jordan alive, even going so far as to risk his position in his organisation. If they find out what he’s doing, who knows what will happen to him.”

“Lately, it seems I often turn to you for answers, kid. I’m sorry, it shouldn’t be like that.”

“Hey, come on. I’m twenty-seven. I’m old enough to give advice,” smiled Pearson playfully.

“What a mess I’ve become,” laughed Cooper nervously. “Alright, let’s think about this man’s offer and we’ll make a decision together. We will save Jordan no matter what.”

“Now, you’re talking.”

The two men regained a bit of hope, knowing they were inching closer to Jordan. They returned to the car and drove toward the closest motel outside Woodburt, where they would stay until Delzad’s return.


Submitted: May 23, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Thomas Vlasblom. All rights reserved.

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