Snowbird combed her fingers through her bright white hair, as she descended the stairs. A warm smile spread across her face and she leaped into the kitchen, for a moment seeming to float across the floor. As her feet touched the cold white tiles of the kitchen, she exclaimed, “Hello, dear.”
Hugh, having his bowl of cereal, looked up from the screen of his laptop, “Kecho. Sleep well?”
“As always,” she stated, pirouetting as she opened the cabinet and took out a box of cereal, “Did you sleep at all?”
“That’s a cruel question,” he said, looking back at his computer screen, “Cruel as the night.”
“I don’t understand why you get so worried,” she said, pouring just the right amount of cereal into her bowl, “It’s been ten years. The government has forgiven us for our membership to the Outcasts. This sort of thing happens all the time in our work--dissidents becoming heroes. So what’s the trouble?”
“The trouble’s that I can’t be as optimistic as you,” he said, turning around to look at her beautiful form as she poured her milk. She was quite slender, yet muscular. Her every movement seemed to him like a dance. He realized how precious she was to him. Her movement alone made life worth living, just like her conversation, just like her kindness, just like her sense of humor. The fact that he got all of them at once...
He got up and walked towards her. As she was putting the milk back in the fridge, he put his arm around her waist, “My pessimism’s a flaw. But at least I have you around to balance me out.” He kissed her neck. No matter how many times he kissed her, each time he was shocked by how good it made him feel.
“Nothing to worry about,” she said, smiling, as she kissed him on the forehead. He let go of her and she brought her cereal to the table. “After all, we were just crazy kids. We didn’t understand what we were doing. We didn’t realize what exactly it meant to be an Outcast.”
“If only everyone understood the Outcasts, understood what they were about,” he stated, dragging his finger across the scar on his right hand, “At least we were able to get out. We were one of the lucky ones.”
“All the more reason to be happy, no?” she asked, dipping her spoon into her milk. The cereal and milk mixed in her mouth, as she let the spoon slip out between her lips.
“I guess one good thing came out of my time there.”
“Don’t tell me you believe in all that revolution garbage. Really, Hugh, I thought we’d gotten past that. I thought we’d grown older.”
“I could never agree with the Outcasts, what they’d done, what they’d planned on doing. No, what was great about them was that they allowed me to meet you, Kecho.”
Snowbird blushed, “You’re too good to me, Hugh.”
He grinned as he leaned in towards her, “I think you’ve got something on your face,” he said.
She felt the right side of her cheek, looking for the blemish. “What?” she asked him, wide-eyed.
“Me,” he said, leaning in closely. His lips met hers. He wasn’t sure their lips would ever part again. He liked it that way.
Alex Gryzlov sat in his office in Gryzlov Towers, looking out over the great city he called his home. This week, it didn’t feel so great. His identity had been revealed to Project Redemption, two of his old friends were in jail, and another two were dead. He slouched in the chair wondering when they would come for him.
He heard the door click open. He swiveled around, reaching for his rifle before he recognized the woman before him.
“Ms. Byrne,” he said, shifting his hand away from the rifle, “I’m surprised to see you here.”
“Your security didn’t want to let me in. I changed their minds.” She sat down in the seat before him.
“Are you here to arrest me or just to brag?”
“Neither,” she said, “I’m here to ask for your help.”
“Know Alex Gryzlov is The Hunter. Yes. I had my theories for a while--The Hunter’s targets had grown too convenient for you--but it was Sting’s testimony that sealed the deal.”
“Then why aren’t you arresting me?”
“Because you’re more useful to me outside of prison than in it,” she said, her soft blue eyes locking with his green ones, “And as a telepath, I’m useful to you, as well. I can wipe the mind of anyone who sees the connection between Gryzlov and The Hunter. In return, when I ask you to go on a mission for me, you don’t ask questions. You go.”
He sighed, looking at the name plaque on his desk, which had his name written in sparkling gold. It said, “Alex Gryzlov.” He’d abandoned his identity as the Hunter. It was gone, forever.
He spoke up, “I’m not the man I once was, Ms. Byrne. I do jobs sparingly, for strategic gain. My blood lust is lost. The crazy Hunter of yore is gone. Now, I’m just some guy who dresses up in a costume. I’m a fraud.”
“Aren’t you all?” she asked, “Now look, Gryzlov. I don’t care about who you were or who you are now. What I do care about is that you have the skills and experience I need.” She slid a file across Gryzlov’s desk, “You’re the solution to an awkward situation the government has gotten itself into. There’s a bulletproof target who needs to be taken care of. I want you to treat him like your prey. I hope you understand the gravity of what I’m saying. You need motivation? This job does involve personal gain for yourself, because it’ll make me happy enough with you to not arrest you. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Ms Byrne,” he said, “I’m just not sure I’ll be as effective--”
“Don’t care,” she said, turning around, “And Gryzlov?”
“Call me Julia.” With that, she opened the door and walked out of the office.