The morning was tolerable, Tarik had a good hearty breakfast of waffles, scrambled eggs and toast. He washed it down with a tall glass of orange juice. He sat in a small diner at a table by the entrance right in front of the window. There was only a few patrons inside this early in the morning, and mostly were truck drivers. Tarik came into the city before sunrise after hiding his motorcycle making his way in by foot. He took another sip finishing off the glass of orange juice. Glancing out into the street his mind not really focused on the occasional car headlights that drove by. He felt that ache that always made him feel that he needed to do more, it reminded him that the killers of Deacon Marino and his father were still out there somewhere. He closed his eyes a moment lowering his head taking a deep breath to keep from feeling overwhelmed over this fact. In time he’d find them both, but he had to live, he needed money to survive or so he believed. “Focus on the current job!” he told himself. He felt guilty that he couldn’t even remember what his father used to look like, there was only portions of his face that could be recalled, it was his smile that seemed to be locked in Tarik’s memory the best, or the deep reassuring tone of his fathers voice. It remained forever in Tarik’s mind, it had to be enough, time wiped everything else away. He hadn’t taken any gifts of the Shroud agents that he’d confronted and killed thus far, somewhere locked inside him was Deacon Marino, and Judge Moses both and the moral things that they had taught him. His gift was the art of stealing others gifts and that bothered him some. But today that would change. Any gifts that he came across, Shroud or gifted, and if the gifts suited his cause? Then the gift would be Tarik’s without question. He needed to acquire more power if he was to find the killers of his father and Deacon Marino, but he knew he had to be selective and find the right gifts that would be a good addition. A van slowed down in front of the diner pulling into the parking lot. Tarik took notice seeing Joe was sitting behind the wheel. He stood up and dropped down some money on the table by his empty plate to pay for his meal and tip. The waitress walked up as Tarik watched Joe exit the van. “Keep the change” he said walking toward the front door. Joe opened the door, Tarik walked out eyeing the van. “Impressive” he said walking up beside it checking out the body work. “2014 Dodge Grand Caravan fully loaded!” Joe said proudly walking up behind Tarik.
“No shit?” Tarik responded. “How’d you pull that off?” He looked in the van seeing no keys yet the van was running. This was the doing of Joe’s gift no doubt.
“I walked onto the sales lot after midnight and drove off with it, you said to get a van. So we might as well drive in comfort!”
Tarik glanced over his shoulder at Joe with a derisive stare. “So you broke spiritual law?” He then snickered. Joes face turned pensive.
“I didn’t use my gift for me. I got it because you said you needed it and that it would be better for the trip!” Joe said. Tarik turned facing him with a smart look on his face.
“If that’s what helps you sleep at night…” They stood there a moment silently before Tarik broke the silence. “I’ll drive, where are your daughters?”
“I came here first to get you, they aren’t far from here” Joe said. Tarik slipped into the driver side closing the door.
“Let’s get them and be on our way!” Tarik said. He snickered again thinking about how hypocritical Joe was, it was something convenient for him. He broke Spiritual law no matter how much he’d like to deny it.

******************************************

She walked with a proud stride, she was beautiful to the eyes. Her hair was very long pulled back into a long ponytail draped halfway down her back. She was dark brown, her eyes and hair coal black. She wore loose black clothing that flowed along with her stride. She wasn’t a tall woman, in fact she was only five foot two inches. But in all her beauty and small stature she was very deadly. She lived a life of poverty as a child growing up in India, and she would’ve been forced into the sex trade had her gift not flourished. She found that she could touch a man and burn his skin. At first she couldn’t control her gift so she always wore gloves. A Shroud agent came across her when she was sixteen and offered her a place among them. It was Shroud instructors who taught her about her gift, and they also taught her how to use her incredible speed and agilty as well. Her name was Z, it wasn’t her real name, it was a nickname given by her instructor because he said she had a low attention span and always seemed to nod off during training, the nickname stuck, she preferred it over her real name that only reminded her of a broken past. Now she was twenty four and at such a young age she was a Shroud Master. Her touch not only could burn skin but also kill. And her speed was almost unmatched among the gifted, this made her dangerous. She rose up the ranks quickly by getting more than her fair share of gifted kills. She had amazing tracking skills and until Gryphon came along the Sovereign had intentions of having her cloned. She was once the favorite of the Sovereign, now it was Gryphon who had his attention. For this she despised Gryphon which was why Lord Apex chose her for the new task at hand. The hall went onto a patio that opened up to the outside into a large back yard. This was one of Gryphons mansions, in particular it was his newest. He bought it so he would have a place closer to the main Shroud headquarters in New York. Gryphon stood out on the lawn shirtless with a pair of blue jeans on and no shoes. His wild frizzy hair was down covering the sides of his face. Z stopped looking out seeing him, his back was turned. He was looking up at the sky taking in the beautiful scenery and curious designs in the clouds. From atop the second story patio she stood a moment watching him, she couldn’t see what all the talk was about, why did he deserve the Sovereigns praise? Why did Lord Apex despise him so? She decided to see for herself. She leapt over the railing landing smoothly on her feet taking off quickly toward Gryphon who remained looking upward. She was silently and instantly upon him, her fist stretching out ready to strike Gryphon in the spine. To her it wasn’t an underhanded move to attack him while his back was turned, he was a Shroud Master, he should have known better. Her fist reached Gryphon and inches from him his toes gripped the grass as he side stepped spinning around to face her, she completely missed her target. Z was startled by his speed, he saw this by the reaction on her face.
“I picked up yer scent miles from here, and I felt yer intent when ya stepped out onto the patio” He smiled at her. “By tha looks of you I’d say Lord Apex sent ya? Git outta my yard for I skin ya where ya stand!” Gryphon replied with laughter. It was an insult to Z, she stood obstinately showing him that she wasn’t to be disrespected.
“I am Shroud Master Z! I was sent with orders from Lord Apex himself! Do you dare to challenge his authority?” She said firmly. Gryphon nodded his head in discontent.
“That introduction sounded more like a bloody Japanese anime movie! But ya got skill, I like yer style, not ta mention I’d be lovin a roll in the grass with the likes of such a splendid specimen!” He smiled widely, it disgusted Z to see such arrogance.
“Lord Apex has ordered you to be more aggressive in finding this half light that has been hunting our ranks!”
“My boys have been, they ain’t found him yet lassie!”
“Let me be a bit more clear in my words! The Sovereign is equally disappointed in your clones lack of finding this trouble maker! Therefore he has handed down new orders for you!” After Z spoke the two locked eyes for a moment in silence. Gryphon calmed crossing his arms.
“I’m listening…” He said cooly. Z smiled wickedly knowing that in a way he had to submit to her.
“You are to lead a small army of your clones personally to hunt down this half light trouble maker! Bring back his head so that the Sovereign may see that the task is completed!”
“Fair enough” Gryphon replied, he started to walk away.
“I have been ordered to accompany you to help assist in the downfall of the half light!” Her smile grew. Gryphon tuned his face furious.
“What? I don’t need you tagging along!”
“I won’t be! I will have my own small army of your cloned flunkies to lead. Lord Apex doesn’t trust such an important mission to just you! This half light needs to be quickly snuffed out! He has no regard for the gifted’ laws, and he has no desire to remain hidden in plain sight as is the Shroud way. Lord Apex already has the human law enforcement in search of him, if he is found before we do, the easy part will just merely be one of us getting to him to end his miserable life!”
Gryphon balled his fists. “It is the will of the Sovereign, I obey!” He said firmly. Gryphon didn’t like this, not one bit. It had the foul stench of Lord Apex attached to it. Of course the orders were handed down by the Sovereign, but Lord Apex had tainted it. He knew there was something brewing, some twisted plan against him. That’s why Z was supposed to come along, not to assist in finding and destroying this half light, there was something more. He didn’t know how but his gut told him that Z was to find a way to bring him down. His face lightened, he accepted the challenge, and like always he would succeed putting mud on Lord Apex’s face.

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