He hadn’t been easy to find.
Constance had a feeling Ahava wanted it that way. If she had been him (which, clearly, she was not), if there were three people she would want not finding her after school, it would be herself, Quintin, and Luhanna, and not just because they were a sharp and effective crew.
But she had made him a promise – three promises, because Constance always did things in threes – and she was going to keep it, despite the world ending, despite what he had done to her (and to their daughter, and to the girl that came after her, and to her friends), despite the complete waste of space he could be. Despite that, or because of it, or superseding it.
Between the three of them, three years out of school, they had resources that, she thought, Ahava probably hadn’t planned on. Not that Ahava really planned on much – not yet. It might be that he would, when they were done with him. They called on every friend and every owed favor, every family member they could find, sent out feelers to every network they knew, bribed those they could and blackmailed those they couldn’t bribe. It took another three years, but Constance had nearly expected that.
They found in him the ruins of Vegas, in Aphrodite’s temple, stoned to the gills, giggling, a blond girl face-down in his crotch and a redheaded slave-boy oiling his shoulders. His Mask was down, his blue skin and green hair showing, his eyes luminescent. He wore nothing except a piece of beefcake armour, probably something he’d made himself.
“The hunters are coming,” Constance greeted him.
“They won’t get in here,” he yawned, not yet realizing who she was, who they were. “They never do. The guards stop them.”
“And when the guards are gone?” Quintin asked. “Then what will you do?”
“Find more guards? I don’t know, this is Aphrodite’s temple. Let her deal with it.”
“Aphrodite has been dead for three years, Ahava,” Luhanna murmured. “Her temple is in ruins, all but this little nook. Your slaves keep it for you, but your slaves are human. Eventually, they’ll get bored, or the food will run out.”
It was, Constance noted, Luhanna’s voice that got his attention. Somewhere in the back of her mind, that bothered her. She put that aside for later, as her former Keeper looked up at them.
“Connie? Lu? Quint? What are you guys doing here?” She was pleased to note that fear, at least, got through his haze.
“We came to bring you a present.” She spoke now, because this was her quest.
“A present?” He pushed the slaves away and stared at her, a little needle of comprehension sinking into him. “Con… Con, that bullshit promise you made?”
“That bullshit promise I made,” she agreed. “You have twenty-five minutes to pack up anything you can carry, and anyone who wants to come with you. You’re leaving with us.”
“Where?” He didn’t, she note, argue that he was coming. He’d never been stupid, at least.
She smiled grimly. “Out into the real world.” Or what was left of it.
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