The Walls Of Sparta


Robyn François Villon Debois wondered why people continued to put faith in key locks when people have been beating them since the middle ages. He could have used any one of the half dozen credit cards his friends had in thier wallets. He, himself, had a debit and a library card that would have sufficed, but he wanted to add some excitement.

His true mission was simple, break into the room where Monsieur Leclerq kept the answer key to his infamous return-from-the-holidays-scantron exam. Robyn and the just about every student of Saint Nicholas Juvénile Académie (Saint Nicholas Juvenile Academy), and even the teachers, thought it was unfair for Leclerq to administer an exam not even a month after the students returned from holiday. Since Leclerq had refused for the past decade to not give the exam, despite all pleading from his student and ruining the grades of some legitimate struggling students, Robyn felt a bit like the real Robin de Bois (Robin Hood).

Robyn knew the exam was the day after next and while Leclerq had announced it last Friday, everyone knew he often left things to the last minute. A week was plenty of time to learn Leclerq's routine. Right now he was due back from lunch at his favorite cafe a few blocks from the school and he would walk down the main hall to the teacher's lounge to refill his thermos with coffee.

Robyn stood just few meters down from the teacher's lounge. He was leaning casually against a row of lockers as he read through a novel Leclerq had assigned on the off chance something went wrong. His watched beeped and he silenced the alarm as he looked down the hall.

"Au dernier." He said to himself.

He looked to the three football players, around the corner and out of sight from Leclerq, awaiting his signal. He nodded so slightly and began walking toward Leclerq, book in his hand as he pretended to read. All of the students in the hall went about their day as normal, but they all knew to not hinder Robyn in the slightest. To the untrained eye, it seemed Robyn was the luckiest kid in the world as he narrowly avoided bumping into student on their way to class or lockers, students shoving each other, even the janitor moved his cart ever so slightly so he walked right past it.

Then he braced himself and threw his shoulder into Leclerq's waist and they both went down.

"Faire attention où on vas!" Robyn sneered as he turned to face Leclerq. "You stupid son of a . . . " He trailed off to give the impression he hadn't know it was Lequr. "Monsieur Leclerq!"

"Ravi de te voir à travailler sur vos d'études, pour une fois, Debois" Leclerq stood up and reprimanded sternly. "Although I suggest you refrain from doing so while walking."

"Oui, monsieur." Robyn nodded, making sure to act cowed. "It won't happen again."

"See that it doesn't." Leclerq looked around and the few students watching quickly went on. "Otherwise, we shall see how many lines it takes for the message to sink in."

"You dropped this, monsieur." Robyn handed over the thermos Leclerq had dropped. "Lucky this was empty."

"Thank you, Debois." Leclerq seemed annoyed at having to thank Robyn. "Now, don't you have —"

Suddenly there was a loud roar and a loud crash.

Everyone turned to see a couple of the school football players kicking a ball between them, shouting at each other to pass and cheering when they lodge the ball in a locker, everyone but Robyn. Robyn used that opportunity to slip his middle and forefinger into Monsieur Leclerq's back pocket and retrieve his wallet. He learned early on not to use his thumb because there was less chance of someone feeling one finger rather two. If he used his thumb, his middle and forefinger would both be too close to be felt.

He quickly flipped open the leather wallet, wishing he could take one of the dozens of fifty franc notes, and removed Leclerq's faculty ID card. He'd have a new one by the same time tomorrow and no one would question it. Teachers were always losing them. He slipped the card into his pocket before he threw it at Leclerq's feet, making sure he bounced it off his shoe so it wouldn't make a slapping sound when it hit the floor.

He tapped Leclerq's shoulder, "Monsieur, you dropped your wallet."

Leclerq whipped around. "What?"

Robyn pointed to Leclerq's feet.

"Oh, Merci." Leclerq picked up his wallet and didn't bother looking inside like Robyn had expected. "Get to class."

"Oui, monsieur!"

Leclerq turned to give the wannabe football stars a verbal lashing and no doubt give out some detention. Robyn nodded his thanks before turning the corner to the filing room. They knew to keep thier mouth shut if they wanted the answers to Leclerq's exam free of charge. Normally Robyn sold the answers for five or ten francs a copy, depending how serious the exam and thus the effort it took to steal the answers, but Robyn had promised them free copies if they did not rat him out as well to keep them out of it should he be caught. It was only fair.

The Moreau twins stood guard on either side of the locked door that separated Robyn from what he called his late Christmas bonus. They looked almost exactly the same to everyone and somehow shared the exact same classes. To help people tell them apart, Nathan wore a dark blue tie instead of the school's regulation black and Ethan wore a dark red. Since even the teachers had difficulty telling the difference, they decided to let the slight uniform infraction slide. Now they wore black ties, in case a teacher should come down the hall and Robyn needed a distraction. Robyn never understood how or why, but he never mistook the twins for one another and they were delighted someone actually paid attention to, what were obvious to them, the blatant differences between them.

They all nodded to each other and took their positions. Ethan stood a few meters down the hall while his brother took the other end, the one Robyn was coming from, and watched for any adults or rats that might try to stop Robyn.

The hallway was full of students rushing to class or grabbing books for their next class as stream of dozens of conversations bouncing all over. Robyn was grateful for the chaos. There was plenty of cover and witnesses, but no one would pay him any mind and it would stay that way for the next minute and a half before the bell rang.

With a practiced hand, Robyn slid the card into the vertical crack between the door and the doorjamb. Then he tilted the card so the side closest to him was almost touching the doorknob and he felt it slid in a bit more. To be safe, he put his weight against the door and it moved the slightest hint back and card slid father in. He placed a hand on knob and allowed himself a slight smile before bent the card in the opposite direction as he simultaneously turned the knob.

The door opened so easily, he would have sworn it wasn't even locked if hadn't checked it five minutes ago.

He slipped inside the small room, a large closet with locked filing cabinets shoved against the walls really, and closed behind him. He had told the twins knew to knock if they spotted Leclerq or another teacher. He checked his watched, perfectly synched with the bell schedule, and saw he had barely a minute to search several filing cabinets for Leclerq's answer sheet without making it obvious he had done so. It was forty seconds more than he needed.

He could never put it into words, but things called out to him whenever he did things like this. He knew he should have found a way to find out exactly which cabinet held what he wanted, but he didn't. At best, it was like he was a rescue ship following a distress beacon. He couldn't do it on command, but he knew not to ignore it when he felt it.

Right now that beacon was scream from the filing cabinet o his right. Smiling, he pulled the top drawer. To his surprise, it didn't budge and he tried again. That was when he looked to the side and saw a padlock held each of the drawers shut. He should have expected that sooner or later someone would catch on or suspect someone was sneaking the answers.

"Merde!" he cursed under his breath and he checked his watch. He still had about forty seconds, but that was cutting it close. "Crève la gueule ouverte, Leclerq!"

He reached into his pocket and produced a couple of paperclips and a couple of coins. He really wished he hadn't spent the last of his money playing cards over the weekend instead of buying the set of picks from that pawnshop. If he had time and the right tools, Robyn's heart wouldn't be pounding in his ears like it was now. He could still pick the padlock with the paperclips if he wanted, but it would take time he didn't have. He resolved to buy those picks the first chance he got. In the meantime, he would have to "cheat".

Since he wasn't dealing with France's First National Bank, he might be able to rake the lock. Instead of traditionally pushing the individual pins of the lock one at time, scrubbing or raking the lock was a technique that theoretically could push all the pins into place. Theoretically, he could pick a lock just by raking it once or twice, but generally raking will only set some of the pins and Robyn would need to individually set the remaining pins.

He wasn't sure why, but Robyn did something he normally didn't do as bent and twisted the paperclips into the proper shape. He offered a silent prayer to whatever god was patron to thieves and the like. It might have been his mind playing with him, but he thought he heard a slight whisper and a there was a sparkle of golden light when he shoved the bent paperclips into the padlock and yanked them out while turning.

Whatever god or gods Robyn had silently must have heard him because the lock sprang open like he had used the key. He quickly removed the padlock and used every iota self control from yanking the drawer out of the cabinet. Robyn then took a deep breath and began searching for Leclerq's folder, cursing his father for giving him dyslexia on top of ADHD. With only seconds to spare, Robyn found Leclerq's answer sheet, or sheets rather. Using a disposable camera and grateful he had turned off the flash, Robyn quickly snapped two photos of the each side of the three sheets.

Robyn jumped when he heard a knock on the door and Ethan's hushed voice. "Dépêcher, Monsieur Bond."

Robyn chuckled to himself as he set everything like he had found it. How could have he had missed it? Tailing Leclerq to learn his routine, finding and exploiting a point of weakness, putting together a team to execute the plan, and now photographing the documents instead of simply taking them. Throw in a drop dead gorgeous partner, and chase throughout the city to retrieve the film after it was stolen by a rival team, and Robyn would be smack dabbed in the middle of spy thriller, like James Bond.

The bell rang just in time and Robyn smiled to himself as all the noise by students rushing to class perfectly hide the noise of the door closing behind him. He nodded to the twins and patted his breast pocket where the bulge of the camera was barely visible. Once school finished it would be a quick trip to friend who would devolp the film for a free copy.

The twins nodded and disappeared among the crowd. Robyn had a free period so he wasn't worried about being late. He decided to spend it in the library and finish last night's homework for Leclerq's class. The way his grades were lately, he might have a hard time passing even if he stole the answers to all of the exams.

He was looking for books in his locker when he heard a voice say in English, "Ever consider trying the MGM Grand in Vegas?"

Robyn closed the locker and saw that some kid, about sixteen or seventeen, was leaning against the wall of lockers. He was taller than Robyn, but so thin he looked even taller. He wasn't a student or not yet. His long hair was tied back in a ponytail and was streaked with silver highlights. Other than a long scar than ran from his left eye down to his left cheek, his sunglasses kept his face hidden. Instead of a uniform, he was wearing a white shirt tucked into a pair tan cargo pants under an unzipped tanned leather jacket. Rather than shoes or sneakers, he wore long sandals that wrapped up his leg and disappeared under his long pants.

"Of course you'll need to put together a much bigger crew than those twins. You'd need at least a dozen guys doing a combination of cons. " The stranger pretended to think. "Off the top of my head, I'd say you're looking at a Boeski, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever."

"Huh?" Robyn was all he could say.

"No English?" He asked again very poor accented french. "Parler anglais?"

"Very little." Robyn held two fingers a centimeter apart."Un peu."

"And I don't speak french." The stranger frowned. "That's gonna make things difficult."

"Comment t'appelles?" Robyn paused for a moment and said in heavy accented English. "I am called Robyn." He held out a hand.

"Nice to meet you, Robyn." He smiled and firmly shook Robyn's hand.

"New student?" Robyn asked.

"Visiting." said the stranger. "I'm looking for someone."


"I'm not sure yet." Robyn didn't like the way he was looking at him. "I need to make sure of few things."

"Try the office." Robyn suggested, doing his best to be polite since this stranger was doing the same, which he hadn't expected from someone who was clearly a tourist. "They can help."

"I don't have a name." said the stranger. "Sans nom?" He seemed annoyed. "Or a photo."

That made Robyn go on guard. Well, a bit more than he was. How could he look for someone without knowing the person's name or what he looked like? Then there was the fact he just appeared out of nowhere without a sound. While his English could use some work, Robyn felt that this person had witnessed him steal the answers to Leclerq's exam.

Then he did something strange.

The stranger, who Robyn had realized still hadn't given his name, sniffed the air. Although he didn't lean forward or anything like that, Robyn had the feeling this guy was sniffing him. It was like a wolf sampling the scent of a fellow wolf.

"Maybe . . ." the stranger whispered, almost to himself. "Just maybe . . ." Then gave Robyn a nod and said before he walked away, "Au revoir, Robyn."


No matter how many times he did it, or where, Artie never felt more right than he was hunting. While he tried not to think about his time in the Amazon Jungle, the times he spent hunting hunting for food with hardly more than knife weren't in that category. While he did not have ADD like he knew countless other demigods did, he liked to think that everything would quiet and focus when he was on the prowl, and he was definitely on the prowl now.

Robyn was completely unaware that Artie was on his trail amongst the crowded street of Cours Layfaette in city of Lyon, France.

It was like his senses went into overdrive. He had been feeling cold ever since Maine, but now on the hunt he felt quite comfortable. Everything and everyone around him seemed to go out of focus. They were important enough to see and not bump into them, but his prey held all of his focus. He could hear the clamor of people talking a hundred conversations at once mixed with laughter and car horns, but it was all muted. All except the steady beat of his own heart pounding in his ears. Dozens upon dozen of odors and scents crossed his path, but only his prey's demigod scent mixed with his cologne was occupied his mind.

Keep the scent. Artie's instinct told him. The scent can't be hid.

Then the world of hunter and prey was shattered when Jacob tapped his shoulder. "You alright?"

Like someone threw a switch, everything and everyone came rushing back. Every sight, every sound, and every sound resumed its regular state for Artie. Robyn scent became dulled and muted among the crowd and Artie winced when they passed a construction sight in full swing.

"Artie?" Jacob placed a hand on Artie's shoulder. "Earth to Artie."

"I'm fine." Artie grunted.

"You didn't look fine a second ago." Jacob glanced at Robyn. "You looked you were about pounce on the guy like a gazelle."

"I'm not that hungry." Artie forced a wry smile. "Not yet anyway."

"Funny." Jacob rolled his eyes. "You sure this Robyn is our guy?"

"More or less." Artie sighed. "I can't exactly tell by his scent."

"That's a first."

"Not really." Artie looked annoyed. "That's the problem with children of Hermes. They don't have distinct scent per say."


"Its hard to explain." Artie paused. "Luke liked to say children of Hermes were kind of a jack of all trades kind of demigods."


"As far as I can tell, all half bloods sort of have their own signature smell. I think its what monsters pick up on when they smell us. When I first met Percy, he smelled like he spent a day at the beach. Annabeth and her siblings all have a faint hint of olives." Artie held Jacob back as Robyn waited at crosswalk. "Beckondorf and his cabin smell like hot metal while Silena her cabin smell like overly sweet perfume."

"And we Apollo kids?" Jacob asked.

"Honey Rosin."

"Really? i expected sunlight or something like that."

"So did I, but it makes sense once you realize you apply rosin to both kinds of bowstrings. I've seen your dad's cabin use it a lot when they make bows and when need to play instruments like violins and stuff."

"Alright, I get it." They resumed walking and Robyn still had not caught on. "So whats the problem with Hermes' kids?"

"I never really learned what a regular child of Hermes smelled like." Artie explained. "Its because Cabin Eleven is where all the undetermined half bloods go. So you have unclaimed children of all the gods, even the ones that don't have thrones on Olympus like Hestia or Iris, mixed in with genuine Hermes kids. I only spent a month there before I was claimed and moved out."

"But you can tell that Robyn is half blood?" Jacob looked a bit concerned. "No doubt about that?"

"Yeah." Artie nodded. "But he might not be the one were looking for."

"Anyway to check?"

"Anyone can learn to pick a lock and be good at it with practice." Artie said. "But there was one thing I noticed that Cabin Eleven, Luke in particular, was better at than anyone else."


"At least until I came along." Artie winked.

"I don't get it."

"I'll give a you hint." Artie was grinning like a fox. "What's the most famous like from Top Gun?

"I feel the need — the need for speed!" Jacob said instantly.

"Exactly!" Artie nodded and looked at the construction site they just passed. "But this scene is going play out a bit more like Casino Royale."

"And now you lost me again."

Artie rolled his eyes. "Just don't try to follow us. At least not the way we'll be moving."

"And how will you guys be moving?"

"Oh gods," Artie covered his face in exasperation. "I think I'm begging to understand why our parents don't always get along."

Despite having a small fortune in his hand, small for a fifteen year old student with no real job, Robyn felt uneasy. It wasn't guilt, that much he knew. If he didn't feel guilty when he was eight and planted a stolen bicycle in his mother's boyfriend's home, then he definitely didn't feel guilty stealing answers for an unfair exam from a teacher who seemed more interested in torturing than teaching students. He thought he maybe someone was following him, but he told himself he was being paranoid. It wasn't like he had stolen military secrets or robbed a bank, the last one was tempting though.

He stopped outside of the photography shop where a friend that worked with his father would develop the film ahead of the day's regular customers for a free copy. Not only was it fair, but Robyn knew that he would help himself to copy anyway and could rat him out without being blamed himself.

He wasn't sure why, but Robyn examined his reflection in the window. Nothing had changed since waking up this morning. He still had a mop of curly black hair that hung in his brown eyes no mater how often he combed it. According to his mother, Tatienne Debois and probably the sweetest and most well tempered mailperson in all of France, he looked very much like his father. He had the exact upturned eyebrows, the same sarcastic smile, and a gleam in his eyes that gave the impression Robyn was always up to no good that she had fallen for.

Tatienne had never told why exactly, but Robyn's father left not long after he was born. He had gotten over the sting over the years since it was all too common this day and age, but the least the useless fils de salope could have done was send some money over the years. Between the rent of an apartment in an expensive city, Robyn's tuition, food and clothes for two people, Tatienne Debois had a very difficult time more often not.

That was where Robyn came in. Between things like selling test ansers or homework here and there and participating, and expertly cheating, in secret poker game held in the school basement on off periods, Robyn helped where he could. His mother never asked where the money came from, but she knew her son. She knew he couldn't stop him, it was his nature like his father's had been, but she did ask to keep it quiet. Robyn took it to mean nothing big like grand theft auto or grand larceny. He also knew she might chalk selling test answers to boys being boys, but she wouldn't if he started selling drugs on the corner. Not that it ever occured to him. He had standards after all.

He took out the camera from inside his coat and stared at it like he was having second thoughts. Robyn was about to enter the shop when suddenly he heard a very loud screech. He half jumped half turned to see a hawk with brick red tail feather perched an old bicycle rack. He looked around and saw no one but him had noticed the bird of prey and unless he was imagining things, it continued chirping as if asking him to come closer.

"Vous êtes. . . parlant. . . pour moi?" he asked unsure as he approached.

"I'll take that!" cried a voice as blur rushed past him.

Robyn instinctively jumped back and turned to see the same strange kid that had approached him after he stole Leclerq's answers. He was still the same clothes and had zipped up his jacket in response to the chill in air, but he had traded his sandals for a cheap worn pair of sneakers.

"Vous!" Robyn cried. "Comment. . . vous me suivez?"

"Sorry about earlier, Robyn." said the stranger. "I forgot to give you my name." He gave Robyn a slight nod. "My name is Artie."

"Artie?" Robyn repeated. "Are you following me?"

"Drop something?" Artie grinned as he dangled Robyn's camera that held the pictures of Leclerq's answer sheets.

"Façon dont vous avez fait . . ." Robyn patted all over his coat and realized that Artie must have snatched the camera right out of his hand when he blured past him. "Redonner!"

"What?" Artie cocked his head. "I don't speak french. Try English."

"Va te faire foutre, trouduc!" Robyn snapped. "Rends-moi ma caméra et lache-moi la grappe!" Robyn's temper tended to flare up when something came up that could potentially cheat him out of his hard risked pay. "Nique ta mÚre et qu'elle me enseigner l'anglais!"

"I don't understand a word you're going on about," Artie said in a britsh accent as he quoted Shoot 'Em Up. "But I know exactly what you're saying and I refuse to apologize."

"Tu commence à m'enmerder!" Robyn growled as pointed to the camera. "Give. Back!"

"Oh this?" Artie seemed to have just noticed he was holding. "I'll make you a deal."

Robyn had enough of talk and lunged for the camera, but Artie seemed to become a blur and Robyn missed by a mile. He turned to see Artie now standing where he had been only a second ago. Robyn tried three more times, each one faster than the last, but he couldn't even touch Artie who seemed able to teleport just out of reach.

"How about a game?" Artie suggested after Robyn paused to reconsider his approach. "You win and I'll give this back."

"Game?" Robyn's gaze narrowed, sensing a trick.

"Yes." Artie nodded. "If you can catch me, attrapez-moi, I give this back." Artie shook the camera so Robyn would understand. "Deal?"

"If I catch you . . ." Robyn sounded like he understood. "You give back caméra?"

"Qui!" Artie nodded. "I swear on the river Styx."

Like a lot of what Artie was saying, Robyn didn't understand the bit about the river Styx, but he could swear he heard thunder boom the moment Artie said it. He didn't know what Artie was playing at, but he couldn't risk losing the camera and the potential profit it held. The landlord had increased the rent on their home and with everyone and their mother using email, Robyn's bosses had significantly cut her hours. Even though he was failing math, Robyn knew an increase to expenses was especially bad when your income decreased at the same time.

"Qui." Robyn nodded.

"Great!" Artie tossed the camera to the hawk which took off with it. "Tobias will hold on to it so I don't drop it." Artie sunk into ready position. "At the count of three?"

"Une. . . deux. . . trois!" Robyn pounced.

Like before, Artie practically melted into the air and he missed. Robyn stumbled and turned to see Artie take off like a rocket down the block. He cursed under his breath took off in pursuit through the crowd. Somewhere in the back of his mind, the only bit not spouting all of kinds of profanity at Artie, he was though that the crowd might slow down Artie significantly. Unfortunately, he was wrong. It was like Artie could see and weaved through people all without slowing down. If someone saw him coming and stopped short, Artie wouldn't miss a beat and effortlessly adjusted accordingly. The way Artie moved, Robyn was beging to suspect that Artie was a traceur, or someone that practiced parkour.

Since parkour, or le parcours, had been invented in France Robyn was very familar with it, but had never actually practiced. It had been slowly gaining popularity since the late 1980's and Robyn had begun to see more and more of it. At first, he just seen it as a new exercise fad which he didn't mind. It beat laps around a track any day, but he never thought it good for anything other than to impress the girls who just seemed to melt for the athletic types.

As if to erase any doubts Robyn might have had, Artie did something only a skilled traceur, or someone possessing an inhumane amount of agility, would even consider attempting. Robyn thought Artie had only two choices. With heavy traffic on his right and directly ahead, Artie either had to turn left and run down the block or stop and wait for traffic to stop. Instead of doing either, and with recklessness that Robyn could only call insane, Artie sort half jumped half ran up onto fire hydrant which gave him enough of boost to step on to the roof of a parked car.

If the crowd had been ignoring Artie and Robyn's little game of cat and mouse, they certainly stopped to gape when Artie began crossing the street without waiting for traffic to stop or touching the actual street. Despite the fact Artie was getting away with what amounted to his pay, Robyn slowed to a dead stop and gaped as Artie leaped from roof to roof of cars speeding down the street. Robyn was beyond sure that just the mere fact Artie was practically playing live action Frogger would have gotten his attention, but the way he did it helped a great deal.

There was no official move set for practicing parkour, but something told Robyn that the way Artie moved was a bit unorthodox. Rather than hopping, much like Robyn would have imagined how it was done, Artie basically dropped to all fours and sort of sprang to each car, barely touching it before he sprang to the next. It sort of reminded Robyn how at how large cats, like lions and jaguars, pounced on thier prey.

It was just as well Robyn did not follow Artie move for move. While it did stop everyone to watch, it also made all the drivers to slam on their brakes. Luckily that meant Robyn could cross the street the normal way, but Artie didn't come down to his level. He saw Robyn sprinting towards him and he smiled before scrambling up a lamppost.

"Mon dieu!" Robyn cursed when he saw Artie push off the post hard and caught the edge of the fire escape on the adjacent building. "Il est fou!"

Robyn barely crossed the street when he saw Artie reach the roof and looked down. Robyn expected Artie to take off, but he just leaned on the ledge and watched Robyn patiently.

Robyn ignored him and ran to the ladder. He tried tree times, but he just couldn't jump high enough to grab and pull down the ladder. He cursed loudly and looked to Artie made a stranger gesture. He made two fingers walk up his other hand and press off. Robyn shook his head strongly and Artie took the camera from his pocket. Then he dangled it over the edge and Robyn got the message, try what Artie was suggesting or he would drop the camera.

Robyn responded with a very rude gesture, but Artie laughed it off. With nothing to lose, Robyn ran as fast as he could at the wall. Instead of slowing down or stopping, Robyn's continued running and he sort of scrambled up a few feet up the wall. By some weird instinct or an insane idea, he pushed off the wall and twisted his body midair. He was so surprised when he caught the lowest rung of the ladder, he almost slipped.

He hung there for a moment, trying to comprehend how exactly he had done it, and laughed hard.

"Great, kid. Don't get cocky." Artie doubted Robyn had seen Star Wars, but he'd get the point. "Come on, I'm growing old here."

Robyn ignored Artie's words, or insults it was hard to tell for sure, and made it up to the roof as fast as he could. When he reached the roof he saw Artie was in the middle of the roof and he was stretching.

"Glad you made it." Artie twisted his hips.

"Give back camera!" Robyn snapped.

"Not yet." Artie straightened. "That was just the warm up!"


Artie just chuckled and took off again, sprinting to the edge of the roof. On instinct, Robyn took off after him. He realized that he should pay attention to his surroundings and perhaps try to anticipate what Artie what might do. The problem was this only occurred to him the second Artie jumped off the building and followed a second after. He thought he and Artie would plummet the four floor to ground below, but they both sailed into a large balcony with wide open doors. He briefly took note he had just jumped from the roof a building into a stranger's apartment.

Again he gave into a weird instinct and rolled in, as did Artie. Without either of them pausing, he and Artie shot to their feet, but Artie crossed the room and was out the door just as Robyn was halfway to the door. In the time it took Robyn to cross the room, he realized that Artie was toying with him, almost testing him. Something told him Artie could move much faster that he was and was intentionally slowing himself so Robyn could follow. He clearly was testing Robyn, but he didn't know why. It was probably to recruit him for some team which annoyed him. Artie could have just asked instead of this strange impromptu game. In the end, he decided to beat the kid at his own game. He pass this test, retrieve him camera, and then decline any offer Artie made.

With that in mind, he poured on the heat and began to copy Artie move for move. He leaped over boxes of furniture left in the corridor and used the metal pipes that ran down the edges of wall to turn easier, just like Artie did. Artie must have sensed his intentions because he began to use more complicated maneuvers. Once, he vaulted off a small radiator sticking out next to door and, grabbing a pipe that ran over the door, flew through the open window over the door into another apartment. Knowing he could get seriously hurt if he hesitated, or thought too much, he barreled through and managed to pull it off.

Before he could think of what he had just done, he saw Artie leap the balcony and he followed. Luckily for them both, there were some thn pipes or thick rigid cables to slide down. Robyn did his best to ignore the fact he was sliding down the side of a building with nothing but his hands keeping from a very painful, and possibly fatal, drop the ground. After what could have more than half a second, he followed Artie when they reached the balcony of another apartment one floor below.

Robyn felt the adrenaline high beginning to wear off and the burning his chest, not to mention muscles that had this kind of work out in a long time, and really wanted to catch his breath. Unfortunately for Robyn, Artie was smiling and the crazy son of gun had barely broken a sweat. To him, this was probably a good work out while Robyn felt like his legs and arms were on fire.

Like before, Artie sprinted from the room and Robyn followed, albeit a bit slower than he had been. He chased Artie to a stairwell and silently begged Artie not to go up. Either Artie knew Robyn was on his last leg or he was feeling winded himself, Artie began running down the stairs. To Robyn's surprise, Artie simply ran. No jumping and running along the handrail or occasionally running along the wall. He simply rushed down the stairs like any normal person would.

As Robyn followed, he saw they were in a dirty and dimly lit stairwell. Judging from the musty smell, over abundance of dirt and dust, piles of trash from hobos, he had chased Artie into an abandoned apartment building. It definitely explained why all the doors and windows leading into and out of apartments were open and locked. Not only that, Robyn was sure that there would have been far more screaming and yelling if he had chased Artie through occupied homes.

"Sommes-nous fait?" He coughed. Robyn really needed a drink.

"Some what?" Artie asked. He sounded a bit winded, but nowhere near like Robyn. "English, Robyn, if you can."

"Finished running?" Robyn's voice sounding gravely.

"Getting tired?" Artie chuckled.

"Qui!" Robyn snapped. "Es-tu sourd?!"

"Relax." Artie stopped running, turned to face Robyn, and smiled. "Once we reach the bottom, we're done. Hopefully Tobias led Jacob to this place."

Robyn leaned on the hand-railing and caught his breath. He probably would have tried to tackle Artie and take his camera back by force, but he was just too tired. All he could muster was muttering insults and whine in a language his cause of misery could not understand.

"Parlez français!" Robyn panted and gulped. "I no understand."

"Alright." Artie pointed down. "Bottom is finish line. Fin?"

Robyn looked over and saw they were still at least ten floors up with two flights between each. Robyn really wished he hadn't done the math. Still, he might be able to make it to the bottom if Artie didn't decide to up the crazy again.

Then, like he had read Robyn's mind, Artie smiled wolfishly, "Meet ya at the bottom!"

Before Robyn could protest, Artie vaulted over the railing. Robyn leaned over to see Artie catch himself on railing one level below and across the gap. Robyn continued watching as Artie pushed off and twisted mid air to do again the railing below and across from him. Robyn realized, provided Artie didn't slip and fall, Artie would reach the bottom floor in minutes. Knowing he'd have to follow in the same manner, Robyn groaned.

"Vous ennuyez-vous là-haut?" He looked up to ceiling to whatever higher power had sent Artie to torment him.

Taking a deep breath and mustering up what strength he had left, Robyn turned and leapt over the railing. He landed where Artie had a moment ago, but he landed too high and the force drove the air out of his lungs. He did manage to hang on and not fall. He paused to catch his breath and pushed off like Artie had. He twisted mid air and his hand actually touched railing, but his hands slipped and he found himself futility grabbing empty air as he fell. Several times he tried to catch and grab something to stop his fall, but he was falling too fast and he was panicking which made his movements jerky.

Then he collided with something, but not the floor. He did hit the floor, but whatever he hit first had taken all of the impact. It was like he had just tripped instead of thirty foot drop. Whatever he had hit had been solid, but soft at the same time like a padded mat. Robyn thought he heard Artie calling to him, but something large and strong picked him up off the floor.

Suddenly he was looking at a one-eyed giant. It was the first thing he could think of. His hands were so large, Robyn seemed like just like large stuffed animal in their grip. The hands were connected to arms thick as telephone poles and were scarred and muscled. The giant was very ugly with crooked teeth in a vicious snarl and long healed scars decorating his face. While he had two ears, two arms, and two hands, he had only one eye. Not that he was missing an eye because of an injury. This monster had a single large mud brown eye directly in the middle of his head.

"Les dieux ne favorisent-vous!" the giant grinned smugly.

"What?" Robyn struggled. The giant hadn't bother to pin his arms to his side. "You speak french?!"

"You think you so smart because you sneak up on me?!" The giant laughed. "Me eat you and me be smart one!"

"ROBYN!" echoed a voice that Robyn knew was Artie. "CATCH!"

"What?" The giant began turning to find the source of the voice. "Who is that?"

Suddenly, something sparkled in the dim light by the giant head and Robyn snatched it out of instinct. He looked down at his hand saw he was holding a couteau suisse, or what the world knew as a Swiss Army Knife. Okay, so now he had a knife that reached an impressive fifty-eight millimeters (2.3 inches) to fight an two meter and half tall muscled giant. It would be like trying to kill an elephant with needle. Even if he hit something vital, he'd just make the elephant angry before it killed him.

He adjusted his grip slightly as the giant continued twirling around like ballerina while he looked for the source of the voice. His thumb brushed a button and suddenly the Swiss Army Knife grew and changed color. Faster than he could blink, Robyn was holding a real knife, a dagger. It wasn't much. The blade was hardly longer than his hand, about twenty centimeters, and sort of had a simple triangle shape. The blade wasn't made of plain steel like the Swiss army knife had, but was a kind of dark gold. The words celestial bronze popped into his head the second he noticed it had a slight glow. The hilt was 'T' shaped with a leather grip and a small ball at the butt to prevent his hand from slipping off.

Robyn, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, sank the blade into the giant's hand as hard as he could. He buried it in the space between the giant's thumb and index knuckle. Like a child that had picked up a wild alley cat, the giant howled and instantly dropped Robyn.

Much to his surprise, Robyn landed on his feet. More to his surprise, he wasn't scared when the giant brought down his massive fist and he rolled under the monster's legs. A wild idea came to him and he slashed at the giant's ankles. The monster twisted trying to backhand Robyn like a fly, but Robyn rolled out of the way. It was lucky because he didn't want to think how the monster's arm went through the concrete wall like cardboard might have felt.

Like it was a cartoon, the giant realized his arm was stuck and he began to shove and pull. Robyn knew he should probably run, but he charged with the best battle cry he could make and sunk the knife deep into the back of the giant's right shoulder. The monster howled in agony, but managed to yank his arm free along with dried concrete and plaster. Robyn probably would have died then and there, but he was reminded that he wasn't alone.

A loud scraping sound came from above and both the giant and Robyn looked up to see a tattered sofa totter shatter the wooden handrail and speed toward them like a rocket. Robyn saw the monster smile and, not only catch it, tore it in two with powerful roar. However, the roar was caught short and Robyn realized why a second before the monster did.

Artie had jumped right after he pushed the couch and sunk his weapon, a strangely shaped short sword made of such pristine silver it was almost white, right where the giant's heart was. Still sort of able to move, the giant growled weakly while it dropped to its knees and his arms moved toward Artie. Artie twisted the sword sharply and monster's eye seemed to go blank as the rest of him toppled over and crumpled into golden dust.

"That's you all over, Tom" Artie said quoting Miller's Crossing. "A lie and no heart." He picked up Robyn's dagger and held it out to him. "Here, Robyn, you're going to need this."

"Qu'est-ce . . . ce . . ." Robyn's voice trembled with his hand as he took back the dagger. "Qu'est ce que c'était?" He pointed to the small pile of dust.

"A cyclops." Artie sighed and looked thoughtful. "Okay, now how do I charade cyclops?"

"Un cyclope?" Robyn asked.

"I guess somethings are universal." Artie chuckled and nodded. "Qui!"

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