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Keep Digging

"The thing about a hero is, even it doesn't look like there's a light at the end of the tunnel, he's going to keep digging, he's going to keep trying to do right and make up for what's gone before, just because that's who he is." – Joss Whedon

Oh, Jesus. Luther Jared Penn looked over at four teenagers with attitude entering through the southeast entrance of the Weiss Salvage Yard. Luther stared at his ace in the hole he had bought off the black market. An achievement in occult science, the wormhole implosion device did exactly what its name implied. It imploded wormholes.

It had taken him years to find the California-Miskatonic wormhole and this piece of techno-mysticism didn't come cheap. Another bill for Gimel. Previous owner, one Herman Kandel, Jr., found it among his father's belongings after his uneventful passing in a rest home in East Texas. According to the journal of the old man, Herman Kandel, Sr. lost his sister sneaking the thing out of Nazi Germany.

It wasn't exactly something one could find at a swap-meet. Generally speaking, Luther didn't approve of mixing science with magick. Too many variables. Leave it to a Nazi to have a head so full of garbage he couldn't grasp how insane this whatsit really was.

Even if this device worked, it stood a fifty-fifty chance of detonating everything within a mile of it. Before the kids had arrived, Luther had planned on getting on his motorcycle and burning rubber until his tires melted off. Luther couldn't do that now.

Worse yet, he couldn't switch it off either. A temperamental piece of junk, the wormhole induction device had a fixed countdown sequence. Once activated, nothing on Heaven and Earth could switch it off without triggering an explosion. The entire operation would have been as smooth as a baby's butt if not for those meddling kids.

Luther could try to scare them away but, if they didn't run far enough, it would not make a difference either way. "Three unmarked graves." Gimel's threat no longer mattered anymore, not if Luther, his sons and their friends died here in this crappy abandoned salvage yard. What difference would it make if they died now or later?

Luther took three whole seconds to make his choice. Luther unlatched his helmet and ran out from behind a rusted-out Ford F-150. "Alex!" His eyes wide with disbelief, Alex looked over at him. "Moses!" Too focused on his spell, Moses did not look away. "You gotta get outta here!" At last, he broke his concentration.

The white guy in the group tugged on the shirt of the only female present. "It's him." The girl nodded as Luther waved his arms in as many gestures as he could think of. They needed to haul ass out of here or end up in a mushroom cloud.

"We don't have much time!" Luther looked down at his wristwatch. They didn't have any time at all. He watched in horror as the wormhole implosion device went off in concert with Moses' spell. In seconds, a wave of blue light swallowed all of them up.

Alex understood now the arrogance such a destiny could weave into a person's soul. What message could this half-mad street preacher have that superseded his own? People did need to prepare for Apocalypse but not by repenting sins or listening to the rants of a sun-baked idiot. People should start arming themselves for the final war between humanity and those who would crush their civilization into a fine paste.

Before too long, Alex arrived at the welcome mat to Luis' front door. Alex rang the doorbell three times, once followed by a pause, then twice in a row. Luis had once thought of it as a code, a way to distinguish Alex from inconvenient people such as Jehovah's Witnesses and door-to-door sales reps. It was Alex's way of letting old Luis know that he still cared enough about him to remember the games they used to play.

Alex missed him as he languished in a bout of quiet desperation. Mr. and Mrs. Lanza, Luis' paternal grandparents, answered the door. "Hello, Alex," Misses Lanza greeted him with the usual warmth and hospitality. Alex visited twice a month on a somber pilgrimage to the fossil remains of one of Alex's most cherished friendships.

Each time, Alex hoped that he would arrive to a Luis rejuvenated and ready to pick up where they left off. Instead, Alex arrived to disappointment and second-hand hostility. Alex asked the obvious question. "You just missed him," Mr. Lanza replied, the full weight of his words threatening to break his jaw. Luis never left home. Ever. Neither of his legal guardians saw this in a positive light and who could blame them.

Luis had fallen on hard times. Perhaps, he could no longer stand the sight of his home. Perhaps, he had run away for real this time. "He said he was headed to the park," Mr. Lanza offered with a note of suspicion in his voice. "Didn't say which one."

Luis Lanza sat on the park bench. Luis yearned for those better days when his parents still lived and the idea of death thrived only in the part of his brain dedicated to concepts he had no direct experience of. Who knew how many years these children had until they realized that death could come for anyone anywhere at anytime?

Except me, Luis thought as one of the parents scooped up her daughter in response to his creepy stares. How many had he stayed up praying for death to end this life and bring him into the start of a new one? Nobody answered. Something down there enjoyed watching him suffer, separated from the one woman he loved.

"Luis? That you?" Luis looked up. Alex was staring down at him. Though they once had a friendship that stretched through the years, Alex felt like someone from a previous life, a half-remembered ghost. "Your grandfather told me that I would find you here." Alex sat down right to him. "I honestly didn't think I would." Alex sighed.

"We need your help." A groan escaped before Luis could stop it. Four months had passed since the last time they had spoken to one another. Nothing in Alex's first words to him even acknowledged that long terrible vacuum in the slightest degree.

"I needed your help once before." Luis looked over at Alex. "I needed you to give me and Abby your blessing. When you didn't, she decided that she didn't want me anymore. Not if it meant betraying you. Does your jealousy know no bounds? Would you rather Abigail end alone than in the arms of another man? Even if you knew that the man would have treated her right no matter what? You sicken me."

Alex smiled a bitter half-smile. "The feeling's mutual, friend. You think you are this gallant knight who lost his true love to that greedy bastard king but that's bull-crap." Luis' muscles tensed. "You want Abigail even though she still had feelings for me. You want everything you can't have. Hell, you want your parents to read you bedtime stories even though they have been hamburger meat for over a decade now."

Luis didn't know what happened next. Luis' fists smashed into Alex's ear. Alex shook it off. It happened so quickly no one in the park had even noticed it. "I did not come here to try to patch things up between us." Alex handed Luis a newspaper. "Moses has a theory about SR and wants to form an expedition to the Miskatonic."

SR. Sumatran rabies. The "disease" originated on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia about two years ago. The little-known plague had garnered international attention after elements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed its presence among the survivors of the Siege of Trevena. How a disease quarantined in Southeast Asia had spread to the West Coast defied explanation.

Luis shook his head. "Count me out, friend." Luis got up from his spot on the park bench. "I don't mind the monsters and demons but I draw the line at diseases." Luis often wondered what kind of life he could have had with Abigail Vennard if Alex had not returned from the Miskatonic Desert. Luis Lanza had lived the dream. And, because of his "friend," the dream died before he could enjoy what he had with Abby.

"I'll go …" Abigail Vennard said to Alexander Julius Penn, ellipsis implied by her tone of voice. "… on one condition." Abby placed a hand on Alex's right shoulder. "No romantic subplot." Alex didn't have the slightest clue what that meant. "If you try to talk to me about 'us,' I will ignore you. I will walk away, even if that means I have to walk right off a cliff to do it. ¿Comprende, amigo?" Alex nodded. "Good. Bye."

Abby slammed the door. While he could appreciate her angst, most folks had the decency to let these things evolve organically. Not Abigail. Abby needed all the control when it came to matters of the heart, a personality flaw he had only begun to suspect in her. Alex began walking the six blocks back to Hadrian Wallace's house.

Only recently had Alex started to appreciate the sheer amount of screwed-up damage their world-saving ragtag team possessed. Abby/Alex had a romantic non-history so complex even the saving of the one by the other from a demon couldn't fix.

Luis barely left his house anymore except to watch children play like some creepy predator on America's Most Wanted. Moses, the most powerful wizard ever, had just endured a prolonged demonic episode. Because of that, Moses couldn't get his mojo rising. Hadrian Wallace, the only one not hampered by a severe emotional problem, spent more time on solo missions than contributing to a group dynamic.

An insipid "Will They Or Won't They?" couple, a depressed angry shut-in, an impotent wizard and a hyper-competent Wolverine ersatz. Not exactly his idea of an award-winning dream team of saviors. Amazingly enough, most of these problems started with his father four years ago. Back when Dad started cheating on Mom.

It started like every stereotype of the situation. Strange lipstick on the collar. Weird phone calls at night. Mysterious condoms when Mom religiously used the pill. Then, a year after it started, Dad hit the road for good, confessing all his sins in a three-page Dear Jane letter to Mom and leaving his family to fend for themselves.

Before then, Alex Penn could always fill any holes in his heart with regular calisthenics and Moses' amusing rants about world mythology. As Dad withdrew from the family, Alex started to consider how badly he needed something more than that. Alex started looking Abigail's way. At the time, Abigail was that female friend most guys ignored in favor of cheerleaders or (for the less socially adept) drama students.

With his brother Alex transfigured into Cupid's dartboard, Moses had drifted further into his world of magic and mystery but never quite regained that peace of mind he had from the man who used to call him the next Einstein, even though he had only a cursory knowledge of physics. Sad and frankly pathetic efforts to find any real meaning in a life spiraling into chaos wrecked havoc on the world around them.

If Alex had his way, he would disown them all. He did not need friends. Even his space cadet brother provided more warmth and compassion than the lot of them. As soon as the brothers found a new place, his "friends" would get Dear John letters and The New Round Table would only meet when the world needed them to.

Moses Penn stared at Dad as the ripple of blue light passed through them. Impossible. Moses had dreams about what would happen if Dad ever returned. Most of them consisted of everything going back to the salad days. That wasn't happening.

Moses looked at the sword with the golden hilt strapped to his belt and another sword strapped to his back. It began to add up but the answer to so many mysteries burned his brain just to think of it. Letting black knight equal Dad screwed with his cognitive engine like a paradox fed into an artificial intelligence. "Does not compute."

You can say that again, Moses agreed in the privacy of his own mind. While Moses struggled to understand, Alex had the look of someone struggling not to understand. Alex didn't want to confront what his eyes were seeing. Did his emotional absence followed by physical absence have something to do with the Romeros? At this point, it seemed like an absolute certainty like the pull of the moon causing the tides.

Since Moses hadn't completely checked out of this bizarre situation, he had his feelers out. He heard the noise before anyone did. "I think I heard something." Moses hadn't meant that sentence to sound so spooky. He had heard a sizzling noise of sorts.

Moses started to notice the area surrounding the Weiss Salvage Yard. All the nearby buildings and streets looked just as abandoned as the junkyard itself. Weeds the size of bushes split the sidewalk in half as lean yet muscular feral cats gathered by the dozens to hunt rats the size of Chihuahuas. "Jesus Christ, look at this place."

Moses Penn imagined watching himself stumbling about this obviously post-apocalyptic setting on a TV set. He would have chimed in about how people in those situations never figure it out on their own without somebody explaining it to them.

Moses understood why. Even if he wanted to believe they had arrived into the future and witnessed the entire world overrun by Romeros, Moses couldn't wrap his head around it. A coastal metropolis of millions abandoned to weeds, cats and rats.

The wise-ass sitting in his living room mocking his disbelief. Of course, he did. He had no stake in the world of the show besides an hour of entertainment. Moses had to live in this world even if that smarmy mouth-breather changed the channel.

Moses Penn needed somebody to explain how the world had gone Mad Max. Everyone drew their weapons as a figure emerged. Speak of the Devil, Moses thought as he raised the Staff of Merlin over his head, ready for a throw-down. Come get some.

The group followed the shadowy figure. Nine strong, they all wore the same black raincoat with ominous hoodie. "As I live and breathe." The man in the middle pulled back his hood, revealing a twenty-something-year-old Luis Lorenzo covered in enough scars for his face to qualify as a piece of outside art. "My god, qaleghqa' 'oH QaQ 'e', Alex." Moses recognized Klingon, the fictional language of hardcore nerds.

Alex smiled. "Thank you. I mean, qatlho', right?" Alex shook his head. "My Klingon's a little rusty." The two shared a laugh and a hug. Even after everything that had happened between them, Alex and Luis carried on like old friends. Moses looked over at Dad. His stare caused a domino effect, inviting the stares of the others. "I would appreciate having this conversation somewhere safe. In English, perhaps."

Luis nodded. The other members of his group drew back their hoodies, showing off their own collection of facial scars. "I apologize for the get-up." Luis tugged on his raincoat. "The Romeros have problem gripping the material and it keeps their bodily fluids from getting inside of us." Moses asked him how he knew to call them Romero.

Moses Penn didn't recollect ever telling Luis Lanza his name for them. "After Detroit fell, we led a team into the Wallace residence. We printed up everything you wrote about their kind and distributed copies throughout the city. It saved our lives."

The familiar roar of a Romero split the sky. Thus ended their conversation. Four of them donned rain coats. While it made them like back-up dancers in a music video about falling rain, they needed them. Dad passed on his free raincoat, citing his biker leather as protection against "any inter-species infectious agents."

While Moses pumped Luis for information, Alexander Penn waited patiently for a chance to talk to his father, Luther Penn, the disappearing act who would put Harry Houdini to shame. From the snippets of conversation he heard between Luis and Moses, they had crash-landed in the early winter of 2024, exact date unknown.

The Romeros, with the help from a host of human-hating creatures, had wiped out four-fifths of the world population. The remaining twenty percent languished in fear. Emperor Tanner of Sacramento had started a campaign of infanticide to keep down the number of babies in the shelters strewn throughout "his glorious empire."

Luis' tent city was in the park where he had punched him in the ear eight years earlier. Alex stared up at the guard towers positioned around the perimeter. A shot rang out from a guard tower; a feral cat caught a bullet in his eye. "I fought my entire life to prevent all this from happening." Dad looked over at Alex. "I sacrificed everything and what did it get me?" Dad stared at the city. "Death and destruction."

Alex tugged at Dad's shoulder, something he had done since he were ten. "Why did you leave us?" Suddenly, Alex realized that he didn't want an answer. He wanted revenge. "Why did you leave us like that? You never called. You never wrote. You never gave us any sign that you ever cared about us." Alex's lungs groped for air. "Mom, you let Mom die." Alex bashed his fists against his back. "You let her die!"

Dad grabbed Alex. "I know you hate me. I hate me too. I'd have given almost anything to return to you guys. But they wouldn't let me. And, if I had tried to, they'd have killed me, they'd have killed you, they'd have killed Mom." Dad sighed a bit.

"But not a single day went by when I didn't think about going back." Dad then locked eyes with Alex. "So hate me all you want but you ever imply again I let her die …" Dad's grip tightened around Alex's arms. Then, just like that, Dad released Alex.

"Trust me, son, when you rule the world, you will find out that not all of your decisions will meet the gold standard for moral hygiene. It will get dirty. You will have to have enough strength to keep going even when you can't see a light at the end of the tunnel. Even when everything you do only seems to make things worse."

Somewhere in this chit-chat, Moses Ambrose Penn had done the impossible. He had learned pretty much everything he needed to know about twenty-six-year-old Luis Lanza's Romero-infested world. Moses really didn't need that much information.

The Romeros flushed civilization down the toilet. Humanity fought back and made an even bigger mess of things. Eight years later, these lonely pockets of society lingered on the brink of collapse despite exterminating almost all non-humans.

None of that really interested Moses anymore. Luis interested Moses. In his time, Luis could barely summon the resolve to leave his house. Now, he had a whole chain of command answering to him ala John Conner from The Terminator. "What happened to you?" Moses asked out of the blue. "You're not the Luis I remember."

Instead of getting offended, Luis laughed. Moses' eyebrow nearly jumped off his face. "I guess I'm not," Luis said with a smirk. "Good thing too." Luis took in the area around the tent city in the converted remnants of a park and its neighborhood.

"I do not think that Luis would have lasted all that long." Luis shook his head. "I did what everyone did at first: I curled up into a fetal position and I gave up what little hope I had left." Luis smiled. "I remembered something my dad used to tell me."

A look of nostalgia came over him. "He said, 'Do not live without hope. When you find yourself without it, dig deep inside yourself and find some. And if you still can't find any, keep digging until you have summoned the strength to face another tomorrow and another and another …' It goes on like that." A tear rolled down Luis' right eye. "So I picked myself up. Each day, I found the strength I needed to get by."

An aura of greatness engulfed Luis. At that point, he could do nothing other than stand in awe of this juggernaut and his resurrection from a life of overwhelming despair. "So, it took the end of the world for you to realize that the world did not have to end?" Luis returned his smirk of one of his own. "That's absolutely amazing, Luis."

Alexander Julius Penn couldn't explain this strange feeling washing over him. This felt like paralysis but he could move and talk and interact with his environment. Unlike paralysis, he could feel, except, now, he could only feel the cold from his long-lost father. The man who used to go to all his games at the YMCA and cheer him up was gone, replaced by a soldier who shunned him even as he tried to embrace him.

Alex dreamed about what he would do if he ever met his father again. Much of the earlier fantasies involved kicking him in the balls for cheating on their mother. As Alex grew convinced that Dad had never betrayed Mom in that kind, Alex started to imagine more civil reunions. Alex had hoped Dad would return with some airtight explanation for his trespasses and the four of them could start over as a real family.

Instead, Mom had died at the hands of an invincible killer from a previous life. Dad had a good reason for the things he had done, even for why he lead them to think he had cheated on her but none of that mattered. Mom died believing the lie. In her last moments, she thought of the only man she ever loved and how he betrayed her.

Alex stumbled blindly into a tent and put him head down on what he thought was a pillow. He didn't realize for several moments that he had come to rest in a woman's lap. "Ahem." Alex's head sprung up off the ground. That lap belonged to Abigail Vennard. Of all the tents in this refugee campsite, she had to walk into hers.

"You alright?" Abigail asked. How would he ever attain that mythical status of "alright" when his father had become a stranger? He had promised Abby no romantic subplot. Even though his heart could benefit from the comforts of a companion, Alex would not break his vow. He turned to leave her tent. Abby grabbed his arm. "Stay."

The tent containing Alex Penn and Abigail Vennard as it bounced back and forth to primal rhythms of love. Moses Ambrose Penn wondered if he had done the right thing. Abigail, a real person, had not reached some improbable epiphany and conveniently realized her love for Alex Penn. Such things only happened in fiction.

Then again, one could say the same thing about love potions. Moses, released from his demonic geas of needing an invitation to enter a human residence, had put some strands of Alex's hair into her cereal. The more she ate the hairs, the more she would yearn for Alex as soon as she drank the potion. After the Alex hairs reached a saturation point, he spiked her coffee with chocolate, snake's blood and rainbow root.

To make matters worse, Alex did not agree to any of this. Alex would not have agreed to it. Alex would rather wait until the end of time for his Abigail to return his affections the old-fashioned way then allow the greatest wizard of all time to grease the gears of love. As far as his brother knew, Abby had just come around on her own.

That gave Alex plausible deniability. In truth, Moses Penn couldn't really see anything wrong with what he had done for his brother Alex. If anything, Moses could kick himself for not thinking to do this earlier. Before all that needless melodrama.

Ever since Nisroc flew off with his Energizer battery, Moses experimented a bit with low-power high-preparation spells. Such things did not require him to blast his still-beating heart into the mix but they took ages to get revved up. That portal he had opened had taken him almost eight hours of meditation to gather his strength.

Looking around this wasteland pockmarked with the dying remnants of the human race, Moses didn't like their odds of getting back home. While mythology told many tales of lost wanderers traveling forward through time, sometimes as far as a century into the future, Moses couldn't think of any stories that detailed the return.

"Hey," Hadrian Wallace interrupted his brooding. "You okay?" Moses nodded and lied. "Excellent." Hadrian had adapted quite well to the surroundings of the post-apocalyptic San Uriel, California. According to him, Bad Future storylines like these always ended with the displaced travelers going back to their own time and figuring out a way to avert the timeline. An optimistic and naïve viewpoint on their situation.

Luis Enrique Lanza signaled to the guards to let the caravan approaching from the northwest to pass. He had dreaded this sit-down for some time. His people had survived Romeros, demons, fairies and monsters only to face the greatest threat in one of their very own species. The Hispanic man dressed like a Chinese emperor in his silk robe stepped forward. "It's good to see it again, General Lanza."

Luis hated that title. Dominic Augustus Valdez knew of his hatred for grandiose titles amid severe times. "Do not call me that. If any general of the armed forces on this planet had survived, he would have the right to that title. Not me." Old Dominic acted as if he had made a careless mistake in addressing him as General and not a calculated effort to demoralize his stalwart adversary. "You mind if we step inside?"

Due to his pull with the members of the camp, Luis' tent had originated as a gazebo, making his living arrangements something of a palace compared to the tents around it. Father Valdez sat cross-legged on the floor of the tent, shunning the use of a chair. Luis returned the gesture in kind by sitting on the floor. "Let us cut to the chase. Our people cannot live divided. We must unite and make this compromise."

What he called a meager compromise was insanity. "Compromise?" Luis didn't care if he could see his contempt now. "You want my people to worship you. I cannot ask my people to do that. They sacrificed too much to abandon the very beliefs that gave them their strength." Luis shook his head. "What happened to you, Dominic?"

Dominic cracked his neck. "I used to stand at a street corner. I would preach. Though I believed in the Lord's wish to save souls, I did not think in my heart that He would let the world to do that." Dominic smiled. "And do not think me insane. I know I'm not a god but this world needs someone to believe in and I cannot be that as a mere mortal."

A sigh flew out from Luis' lips. "Tell your people my answer has not changed." Luis locked eyes with Father Valdez. "You may see me as the King Herod to your Jesus Christ but I consider religion a private matter of the heart. I cannot impose upon any beliefs they have not arrived at through their own conscience. The world has left them with many questions and I cannot pretend to have all their answers."

Dominic's chuckle had grown into a guffaw and evolved into roaring laughter. "I know you too well." Swords clashed and guns fired. "My adviser said, and I quote, 'Sending an army to attack under a banner of peace would make me unpopular with my people.' When I tell them how you tried to have me killed, they will see the Army of the Elder Sign as liberators." Dominic got up from the floor. "Farewell, old friend."

Protected by the aura of terror emanating from his magic sword, Alex watched the fights unfolding around him. Alex's father had unsheathed the sword on his belt as well as the sword on his back. Dual wielding like a D&D paladin, Dad ripped apart any soldier within arm's length. For a man who used to decry violence as the recourse of the weak-minded, Dad tore through the battlefield like a humanoid twister of hard steel.

Armed only with the Staff of Merlin, Moses crushed skulls and kneecaps as the cocky soldiers tried to score a kill against the combatant armed only with an old stick. If only they had known that the really old stick could really break bones. Moses Penn twirled around and quickly closed the gap between himself and Dad, standing back to-back.

Then, he saw it. Luis Lanza of 2024 circling a man dressed like Fu Manchu. Luis' machete against the faux Chinaman's claymore. Their lips moved, indicating some sort of preamble, verbal combat to preface physical combat. Luis shook his head as if to shake his words away. Against a lesser combatant, an unguarded go-for-broke charge with a machete might have worked wonders. Mexican Fu Manchu looked bored.

Suppressing a yawn, the flamboyant man stepped to the side and sliced his claymore through his arm. "No!" Alex ran up to Luis with Excalibur unsheathed. The Hispanic in the silk robe turned around, unprepared for Alex's surprise attack. Excalibur had already punctured the right lung. The claymore of the man fell to the ground. Blood soaked into the silk. "Time to die!" Alex raised the sword over his head.

In the blink of an eye, night turned into day. His wounded enemy turned into an oak tree. All this took place before Alex could stop his downward thrust. Therefore, instead of killing an injured foe, Excalibur cleaved an oak tree in half. "What in the Hell?" Alex asked no one in particular as he pulled the sword free of the defeated tree.

All the while Hadrian was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. "See," Haddy said. "What did I tell you?" The children and adults in the park stared at the five walking armories with weapons covered in blood. "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, but, unfortunately, on behalf of Shakespeare In The Park Productions, we must cancel today's performance of Hamlet." Groans came from the crowd. "See you tomorrow."

The group gathered at Hadrian's for a post-post-apocalyptic after-party. Moses Ambrose Penn walked up to his father on the front porch and tugged on his shoulder as he sat on the swing. "It's okay," Moses reassured Dad. "Alex gets steamed; he will cool down." Dad smiled. Moses had forgotten what one of Dad's smiles looked like.

Dad had always considered him wise beyond his years. Of course, that depended on which years one counted. For someone who had lived in one form or another since the fifth century, Moses had a rather mediocre supply of wise words.

In truth, it did not matter how many wise words one knew. Only the ones you lived by really mattered. Luis Lanza, in eight years, had turned the words of his dead father into a full-on adamantium shield against the forces of despair in a dying world.

"I guess you'll have to disappear again." Alex had told him about his troubles with the Order of the Solar Temple. One of their elders, a smart-ass named after the Phoenician letter for G, had forbidden him from making contact with his sons by pain of death. Of course, what Gimel didn't know couldn't hurt anybody, much less kill.

To keep up the ruse that Luther Penn had not broken his vow to the Solar Templars, everyone would have to act like none of this had happened. No Facebook updates. No blog entries on MySpace. No Tweets on Tweeter. Anything that could track back to Dad could end in torture and execution of those who knew his secret.

"Hey, Dad," Moses said as Dad turned to walk away. Moses swallowed the lump in his throat. "Can I ask you for a big favor?" Dad's famous eyebrow, the one Moses had inherited, arched. Moses could only hope this plan of his would actually work out. Moses could only hope. "It's for this friend. He needs hope and I know just the thing."

Luis Enrique Lanza mumbled something about going to the park. Despite how it turned out last time, Luis wanted to make another attempt to explore the outside world. Luis had this strange dream. Going to that park felt as natural as breathing. He couldn't explain the feeling. As if his destiny waited for him at that homely park.

As he turned the knob, Luis noticed a package sitting on his welcome mat. Luis bent down to pick it up. Scrolled in large-print red letters, the package read: KEEP DIGGING. Anxious to see the contents, Luis ripped open the odd package.

Inside resided a sword. Luis touched it. The crimson glow engulfed his right hand and ran up the length of his arm. "Awesome." Luis pulled the blade free of the box. This was amazing. Luis twirled the blade through the air and barely missed a couple of walls. Luis stared out the front door. "Thanks," he said to nobody. Luis Lanza locked the front door. Luis retreated into the backyard to practice with his new sword.

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