The Fifth Life: Reckless Rail

You. Guys. Suck.

Really? Only one person got the western reference?

A Fistful of Dollars! Clint Eastwood? "Get three coffins ready…my mistake. Four coffins." Go YouTube it: "get three coffins ready." Enjoy. And then watch the movie!

Uncultured swine, the lot of you.

Personally, I think Lou would use a Ghostrick deck and try to turbo out their boss monster's win condition. You can also go YouTube that. Look for RANK10YGO[Rata]. Now, is this something of an Easter egg for an upcoming arc or something later in this story? Maybe, maybe not, but I have started watching the Netflix Castlevania, and it's giving me a lot of ideas for Lou's magic.

And for the Chaos War.

Remember, that comes after this story and Sea Devil.

Disclaimer: I don't own AC or PJO

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Inspired by historical events and an over-active imagination, this work of fiction was designed, developed, and produced by a single-cultural team of one religious faith and belief, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

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By Kaylock's words, his train now belonged to the Assassins and their growing gang of Blighters. The train offered a mobile base of operations, and also transportation around the city. It came with its own conductor, a Scotswoman named Agnes.

As for the Assassins, well…

"Did I do something wrong again?" Peter asked. He was not blind to the cold shoulders he was getting from his big sister and brother.

The twins fixed him with a sour look from the corner of their eyes. They acted like he'd slighted them, but in truth, they were downright scared. Peter was a better shot than both of them put together, his years of extensive ranged training showing when he fired twelve bullets from the hip and killed twelve people. On top of that, Kaylock.

The twins had given it their disjointed, inharmonious all, and nearly died. Jacob's hand had healed by now, leaving only a faint scar between his fingers, and Evie's arm no longer stung, but Peter? Peter was just as healthy as he ever had been. He'd taken Kaylock by himself and practically dismantled the brute of a man, then ended him in the most brutal way the twins had seen anyone day to date.

Yes, as far as their eyes had seen, Kaylock's head getting ripped off his shoulders by a steal beam off the side of a moving train had been the ugliest, goriest, most gruesome way they had ever seen anyone die.

And Peter made it seem like it was no bigger a deal than a trip to the market for some fruit.

"I think," Henry said, "that Jacob and Evie are still just processing things, hm? Their first gang war, their first victory over a London Templar, and now the door is open to us all. We have much to discuss, and many plans to make. Right, Jacob? Evie?"

"Yes. Quite true," Evie nodded.

Jacob glanced over and grabbed Kaylock's rope launcher. He put it to his gauntlet and started eyeballing it. Evie nudged him, and he looked over his shoulder.

"I'm not doing anything until this gets fixed."

Peter's eyes lit up at this opportunity to help his brother. "I know a guy that can fix it!"

Peter was so excited that he grabbed Jacob by the arm and yanked him out of the moving train. It wasn't moving very fast so neither was hurt, but still. Before Jacob could get mad that he'd just been yanked out of a moving train, Peter was already on the move.

"I'm going to wring his little neck," Jacob grumbled.

"There'll be time for that later," Evie said, coming up behind her brother with Henry in tow, both of them having jumped out of the train themselves.

Evie helped Jacob to his feet, and Jacob leveled a glower at Henry, saying with his eyes, I blame you for this.

Henry offered no response, just steps passed the twins to follow after Peter.

Evie shrugged at Jacob. "You wanted the launcher fixed."

"Not to be yanked out of a train!"

"At least this you didn't derail this one."

"That was not my fault and you know it!"

"Mm-hm, sure. Just like it's not my fault the lab blew up. Anyway, we need to get going before Peter runs all the way to the Channel before realizing we're not behind him."

"Maybe he'll drown if we take our time."

"Jacob."

"What? Just a vain, fleeting fantasy. Just a glimpse at a better life for us both. Father would totally be on board."

Evie hesitated. "…we're wasting time. Let's go."

Jacob chuckled as he ran after his sister.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Peter knocked animatedly on the door after having another quick smoke and a drink because his lungs closed up on him from all the running. The other three Assassins joined him at the door before it opened to reveal a man.

"Aleck!" Peter chirped in greeting. "This is Evie and Jacob, my big brother and sister, in that order."

Henry found it to be funny, while the twins scowled at their brother's head.

Aleck laughed. "Well, good to meet you, Mr. Evie and Ms. Jacob."

"No," Jacob said. "No, no, and more no. I am putting a moratorium on this right now. Refer to me as a woman again, and they will never find your body…Aleck."

"U-Um, right."

Evie bopped Peter on the back of his head, and he turned around to stick his tongue out at her, prompting her to reach for him, only for him to jump away, closer to Aleck.

The inventor raised a brow, because the look on Evie's face was anything but playful. "So…what can I do for you today?"

Jacob handed over the rope launcher. "This was damaged in a scuffle earlier. It shoots-"

"A rope gun!" Aleck cried. "It shoots a hook a fair distance attached to a strong length of rope, and the gears here are powerful enough to pull even a grown man along, giving he has the strength to hold on, of course. But, oh…it's damaged. I can fix this!"

Aleck, brimming with excitement, hurried back into his shop, and Peter happily beamed at his siblings, proud that he been able to come through for them. Well, for Jacob. Evie hadn't really expressed interest in getting the rope launcher fixed.

Jacob sniffed and turned his nose up at his little brother, brushing past him into Bell's shop.

Peter pouted, and pouted even deeper when Evie walked past him too without even a sideways glance. Henry frowned as the twins once again brushed their brother aside after he'd just ran all this way to help fix the rope launcher. Henry went up to Peter and gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

Inside, Aleck quickly whipped up not only a fix to the rope launcher, but an improvement. Instead of being some bulky gun, now it was a little piece that fit neatly on the underside of the siblings' gauntlets. Having only the one launcher, Aleck could only make the one new and improved rope launcher, which Evie gladly took from Jacob's hands and fit to her own gauntlet before her younger twin could break it.

"Actually, your arrival is most opportune," Aleck said. "All day, I've been intercepting poppycock propaganda from Starrick's lines about Soothing Syrup and what not. Now, I've been working on a plan of our own to combat Starrick's monopoly, our Free Press Association. I have fuses on top of Big Ben that will connect a new telegraph line, but, ah…"

Aleck indicated his wrapped-up hand.

"We're at a bit of a handicap."

"Leave it to me," Evie said confidently. "Just show me where on Big Ben you need the fuses, and I'll take care of it."

Mr. Bell smiled. "Oh, you will not find me too proud to accept, Ms. Frye. We can take my carriage, only if you would be so kind to hold the reigns, though."

Evie nodded, and caught Jacob's eye as she left. She turned her chin with a haughty and triumphant hm under her breath. Jacob glowered after her, because where she had weaseled her way out being within a hundred feet of Peter, he was stuck with the blasted little goblin. And the disapproving, scrutinous stare of Henry Green, who could very easily send a letter to the Council, and that would be the end of the Frye twins.

They were in direct violation of orders, after all.

"Cool. Now we can get started," Peter said.

Jacob furrowed his brow. "Get started on what?"

"Taking this borough," Peter answered with a slightly tilted head, making his braid shift. "I mean, that's still the plan, right? Use the Rooks to beat the Blighters and take the London underworld out from under Starrick's feet? I know the map. There are some Blighters operating around here."

Jacob looked like he was trying to swallow a lemon at the thought of directly working with his little half-brother.

"A good strategy," Henry said. "One of the Templars near here is Leopold Bacchus. I will go get Sergeant Abberline. He should be here with a coach by the time you two clear out the area. May the Creed guide both of you."

Henry left before Jacob could protest.

The older Frye turned his head just enough to see Peter smiling at him.

It wasn't a patronizing smile, or a haughty one—hell, there wasn't a shred of any kind of negativity to it. Peter was honestly well and truly happy to have this time to be with Jacob, and Jacob just couldn't stand it. He was a bloody annoying nuisance that talked way too much and was just…stupid.

Peter was stupid.

"Come on!" the boy chirped. "The closest Templar is Martin Church—he's hold up in Lambeth Place, just south of here—a-and after we kill him, we can head to Echostreet Alley—it's one of the Blighter strongholds like Spitalfields was! Then we can move up and get Bacchus—did you know that in Roman mythology, Bacchus is the god of wine? The Romans adopted him from Dionysus after they beat the Greeks! But we know that's not true because all those gods and stuff were just Precursors that the humans worshipped as gods."

Truth be told, Jacob hadn't heard anything past Lambeth Palace. He'd tuned Peter out and let the kid's mouth run as he followed him through the streets of Lambeth, on the opposite side of London from Whitechapel. He hoped Evie and Bell got done soon, and Evie found him, and rescued him from Peter.

Before Jacob knew it, his feet had carried him to Lambeth Palace. What broke him from his daydream was the prick in his mind that changed his vision, Peter's Communal Sense breaking through to activate Eagle Vision. In the palace walled-off courtyard was where Martin Church was making his rounds. There was a carriage with a horse ready to go, some big piles of flowers to hide in, bushes, trees, and up along the palace roofs were a couple of snipers. There two entrances/exits to the courtyard, both of which had Blighters standing around.

"Alright, this'll be easy," Peter said, suddenly serious. "I'll go up top and take the snipers. I'll use one of their guns and kill Church. You go over there where that carriage will run if things go sideways, and be ready."

"No," Jacob exhaled through his nose. "You're going to go up top and take the snipers, and I'm going to cave in Church's face and send a message to all the Blighters here that Jacob Frye is in town, and his Rooks are coming for them all."

"But—the Creed? Hide in plain sight? Never compromise the Brotherhood? And there are innocents around—they could get hurt."

"Creed Schmeed," Jacob dismissed. "These are desperate times, Peter, and that means we can bend the rules a little in order to get the results we want. Trust your big brother."

And Peter smiled a great big smile.

"What?" Jacob raised a brow.

"This is the first time you've ever called yourself my big brother."

Oh, shit.

Now Peter was going to hang on to that until the end of time. However, he'd instantly caved when Jacob had said that, so maybe some of that positive affirmation could be used in the future to get him to shut up and obey. Jacob would remember this and pitch it to Evie.

"Right. Now get going."

Peter nodded happily and started climbing while Jacob just waltzed right up to the front gate.

"Ello, gents."

"Who the fuck are you?"

"The health inspector. You both smell unfit for work."

Jacob's Hidden Blades popped out from her wrists, and he killed them both right there in the street. He let them drop and moved in, just walking across the courtyard, drawing all the attention due to his gait and the fact that he looked like he should've in a factory somewhere, not the palace.

Jacob took a quick glance up and saw Peter waving at him, having killed the two snipers. He just gave a strong nod, feigning approval.

Identifying Church was easy enough, since he was the one wearing the refined black outfit as opposed to the red, ragged clothes of the Blighters. Jacob readied his brass knuckles behind his back, under his jacket. He eyed Church, the man's back to him, but he turned around, saw Jacob, said, "Oh, sod," and ran in the opposite direction.

"Bollocks," Jacob cursed.

He got three running steps before a gunshot sounded, making Jacob wince. However, only Church dropped dead, a hole in his skull where bone and brains used to be.

Seeing the leader die gave the Blighters a pause, and Jacob just went with the moment.

"Listen up! I am Jacob Frye! My sister is Evie Frye. Together, we are the leaders of the newest gang in town, the Rooks. We took Whitechapel, and no we're going to take Lambeth. You lot can either join us, or you can die. Your choice."

There were a few second of pause as the Blighters considered it, before they all came to a consensus.

"Kill him!"

"Shoot him!"

"Cut out his tongue!"

And one enterprising individual said, "Shoot him and cut out his tongue, and then shoot his tongue!"

Jacob gave that man an odd look, and then got to work on beating this handful of Blighters to death with his brass knuckled hands, with Peter firing the odd shot to kill someone trying to get behind Jacob. Between the brothers, a total of eleven people died within five minutes.

Peter dropped down to join Jacob, discarding the rifle.

"That was smart," the boy said. "You didn't mention me, only Evie, so now the Templars will only be looking into you and her, which makes me the wildcard they don't know about, giving me more freedom to move and act since they can't plan for me."

Jacob stared at Peter with an expression between a grimace and grin. "…yes."

Peter smiled and bounced a little in place.

The two went to Echostreet Alley, the Templar stronghold, and cleared it out, and then they made their way to where Leopold Bacchus was at, under an entrance to the Lambeth sewers that was guarded by patrolling Blighters.

"We're bringing this one in alive," Jacob announced.

"Yes, that's the general idea." Peter blinked.

"You take care of the guards up here. I'll slip down and bring Bacchus out."

"Sounds good to me."

"Good. Get started."

And Peter got started. He went to town with all those throwing knives of his, tossing them while on the run, never missing a mark. The poison the blades were coated in ensured death no matter where they punctured, but that didn't stop Peter from scoring throat shots.

Jacob was once again disturbed that his stupid, motor-mouth, nuisance of a brother was such an effective and efficient killer. He was a crack shot with those guns, and took Kaylock down all by himself. What would Jacob and Evie do if Peter snapped under their abuse and came after them…?

Jacob pushed the thought out of his head and went down in the sewers, easily retrieving Bacchus to bring him out into the light. Peter had gone above and beyond, and had called his creepy horse Rem for use to easily transport Bacchus from here to where Henry said the drop point was.

"I'll drive," Peter said.

"No."

"Yes. My horse. My carriage. My reigns. I am driving."

"Not if your big brother says otherwise."

"Uh, not in this case. I'm driving."

"No, I am driving."

"No, you will be walking."

"Ladies, ladies, please," Bacchus said. "No need to argue for my sake. There's plenty of me to go around."

Jacob bopped him hard on the head, knocking him out.

"I hope you didn't just kill him."

"Nonsense. He's only unconscious."

"And hopefully not suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while he's at it."

Jacob's mouth set into a thin line. "We should move with haste so that he receives the proper medical treatment."

"Agreed. With me driving."

Jacob decided that he could've just taken the reigns from his diminutive, effeminate little brother, but he refrained on account of the newfound time-sensitive nature of this encounter. Jacob loaded Bacchus into the carriage and joined Peter upon the perch.

"Walk on, Rem. Good boy."

And Rem started off.

Minutes later, they were unloading Bacchus from their carriage and into the police wagon.

"Thank you for bringing him in alive this time," the sergeant stressed, looking at Jacob.

The elder Frye brother just held his hands up.

Abberline nodded at Peter and cracked the reigns, setting his horse in motion for the station.

"Let's get back to Aleck's. He and Evie should be done by now," Peter said.

Jacob didn't bother arguing this time, and just let Peter drive back to Bell's workshop off the River Thames, right across from Big Ben. There, the brothers discovered they actually had to wait on Evie, because she went to go procure materials for their growing operation. While waiting, Bell revealed that he'd found the stuff necessary to make two more rope launchers, which Peter and Jacob happily fixed to their gauntlets, though Peter had to put his launcher on his right gauntlet, since his left was already full.

Evie eventually returned. "Why was the Echostreet Alley stronghold full of corpses already?"

"Oh, that was me and Jacob!" Peter said. "While you and Bell were out, Jacob and I were getting started on taking Lambeth. We killed Martin Church, wiped out the Blighters in Echostreet, and delivered Leopold Bacchus into custody!"

Evie blinked, not recognizing those names. "Good…job?"

Jacob's eyes were wide and bloodshot. He looked decidedly haunted.

"Thank you again, Ms. Frye," Aleck said. "With your help, we can now defend the principle of free speech and impartial news!"

Evie nodded and smiled.

"Free is fair," Jacob said, nerves frayed from being in so much proximity with Peter for a prolonged time—the kid just could not shut up—, "but free and brief is far better."

Aleck laughed. "Haha, Frye, such a caustic whit."

Peter blinked. "What?"

"And on that note, we must be going," Evie said. "Take care, Mr. Bell."

"Oh, good fortune to all three of you! Call on me anytime!"

The Frye siblings took their leave from one of the greatest inventors of all time.

Peter was already bouncing before the door shut, his previous confusion totally gone.

"Alright!" he exclaimed. "Now that we have our new rope launchers, we can move faster across London, which means we can take Lambeth all the quicker—Jacob and I already cleared out three of the objectives here, so we've only got six more to go before we can start another war with the Rooks behind us. We need to—mm!"

Jacob clamped his hand over Peter's mouth. "Shut it."

Evie stared down her nose at her little brother. "We're heading back to the train station to debrief with Mr. Green and plan our next move."

Jacob removed his hand.

"Okay," Peter said.

With a grin, he took aim with his gauntlet and flexed his wrist. The grapple fired with a light SHNICT and found purchase on the ledge three stories above, and then the gears pulled hard. Peter yelped when his arm was yanked on with so much force that he was lifted off the ground. He almost smacked into the side of the building, but he was fast enough to get his legs positioned to save himself from injury.

His feet touched, and he pushed. The gears pulled, he braced his feet, hit the building, pushed, and repeat until he got to the top.

Peter was breathing heavy. "That's something to get used to."

The twins joined Peter shortly, both smirking at him because they hadn't had near as much trouble in their ascents. The twins pointed and fired across the street, their ropes becoming lines that they pulled themselves across, leaving Peter to stare at them, before looking at his wrist.

"It fires a line from right here on our arm…how the bloody hell does a line end up back there?"

Peter took aim and fired, and was left endlessly confused at to how a length of cable whose origin point was the underside of his arm somehow produced line that went behind him to anchor to the wall.

And were all the line for this thing was being stored at. That spindle in there was not very big.

Shortly enough, the siblings were on their train, where they found Henry talking with a…man(?).

The twins went a bit stiff when they saw this character, for they recognized him from Henry's drawings. In person, he looked even more questionable as a man. Clean-shaven, with a soft jawline and rounded eyes. He spoke in a light voice with an American accent, making it difficult to discern if he was just an airy-voiced man, or a woman trying to lower her voice. A black bowler hat adorned a head of short, bushy brown hair, and the man wore a white shirt with a black tie, a black waistcoat under a black jacket, gunmetal-grey trousers, and polished leather shoes. And glasses.

Seriously, the twins honestly could not place whether this person was a man or a woman, which they supposed was the point. In Henry's words, Ned was truly a woman, but was living as a man. They didn't really see the point in that, but nothing was true and everything was permitted, after all.

Peter's eyes lit up. "Ned!"

Ned turned and his eyes also lit up. "Peter!"

He opened his arms and Peter went running into them, embracing Ned for a few seconds too long by the twins' count before they separated.

Peter pointed at Evie, "This is Jacob," and then he pointed at Jacob, "and this is Evie. My big brother and sister."

Henry smiled behind his hand as Peter did it again, while the twins both exhaled an unamused rush of air from their noses.

"So I've heard," Ned said. "Well, can't stay long, unfortunately," Peter pouted at hearing that, "just came by to inspect the new wheels and talk with Henry real quick. Lots of stuff to do around London now that things are beginning to move in our favor. I'll see you later, Peter."

"Bye, Ned! Be safe!"

Ned grinned at Peter over his shoulder as he exited the train, still parked at the station.

The twins shared a look. They did not want to think about what had just happened, and what it could mean, so they put the whole interaction out of their heads.

"Let's return to finding the Piece of Eden," Evie said, which was enough to galvanize Jacob into a previous state of mind.

"Piece of Eden? Evie, we need to be working together here, taking London back from Starrick one Templar and borough at a time. We need to be focusing on targets."

"We can wash London in an ocean of Templar blood, but it won't mean a thing if Starrick gets the Piece of Eden before us and undoes everything we accomplished," Evie insisted.

"Uh, guys?" Peter tried to break in.

He was ignored.

"Which is why we need to move now," Jacob returned. "We take out Starrick's henchmen, and then him before he gets the Piece, then we don't have to worry about it. We need to keep with our momentum. We have Whitechapel, and we've started on Lambeth."

"Time is not on our side, Jacob," Evie stressed. "We don't know where the Piece of Eden is, what it is, or how close the Templars are to locating it! That's too many variables. Once we have the Piece ourselves, we can use it to our own advantage, particularly towards the endeavor of freeing London."

"Guys!" Peter tried again, a little louder.

He was once again pointedly ignored by the twins.

"That's if it even does anything useful, and if you can figure out how to use it without it killing you. When Ezio used his Apple, it drained his life. When Connor used Captain Kidd's ring, it only sometimes worked. The Sword of Eden that Arno encountered stopped working after he killed Germaine. Evie, these things are old and broken. They don't even work half the time! Just silly fantasy and fairytales that we need to put behind us, and look to the future."

"The future of the Rooks?" Evie asked flatly.

"Yes!" Jacob exclaimed. "Think about it: our own force of vigilantes, our own Brotherhood, here in London, fighting for the people from here to India!"

"Your full of it," Evie scowled.

Jacob glowered at his big sister. He opened his mouth to retort, but Peter said, "Guys!"

Finally, they both rounded on him, frustrated and angry, and Peter gave them the perfect vent.

"WHAT!?" they shouted in Peter's face.

Peter stumbled back with a flinch. He would've fallen, if not for Henry's strong hand grabbing him by the shoulder to steady him. Peter sent a grateful look at the London Mentor before facing his siblings again.

"I-I was just going to say that…uh…there's enough of us here that we can do both….I mean, Henry and Evie can focus on the Piece of Eden, and you and I can focus on London. We've already started here in Lambeth…"

Well, the thing was, Jacob didn't really want to work apart from his sister. Despite their, bickering and antagonism, they really did love working together, and they did love each other. That was the root cause behind their anger right now, the fact that the other didn't want to do what the other wanted, and they were splitting apart because of it.

Why couldn't their hardheaded little brother/big sister just see reason, dammit!?

"I thought that's what the plan was," Peter continued. "After we took Whitechapel, we were going to split into two teams. Eden Team and London Team."

"That's right, Peter," Henry said, staring at the twins. "Evie and I will pursue the Piece of Eden to ensure the Templars don't get it first, and you and Jacob will pursue London. Ned just gave me a list of Templar activities across the city—cargo transports, smuggler ships, trains—and here is a list of Templar targets to look into. Here in Lambeth, and beyond. Aleck mentioned Starrick's Soothing Syrup. A good place to start, I imagine."

Peter looked absolutely crushed when Jacob failed to restrain his groan.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Things picked up in earnest for the Assassins. Evie and Henry investigated the Precursor artifact, while Jacob and Peter tackled the Templars.

Well, Peter did most of the work. Jacob just stood there on a building and watched, claiming he was providing backup, taking out some of the Blighters that Peter didn't get to. Divide and conquer, as it were. Only Jacob…just stood there. And Peter knew it, but didn't say anything about it.

Amidst all the killing going on, there were also disturbing reports of a demon.

Spring-Heeled Jack was his name.

"Should we do something about this?" Jacob asked Evie on the train.

"Something about what?" Peter asked, walking into the car.

The twins looked at him.

"Spring-Heeled Jack," Evie said, and Peter froze. "Do you know something about him, Peter?"

"…only that he's apparently a ghost and likes to scare people. He never actually hurts anybody though, just scares them."

"You don't say," Jacob said flatly. "You seem to know a lot about Jack."

"I've been living in London for the past year."

"Ah…right."

"Charles Dickens is in a tavern close by, though. He wanted me to join the Ghost Club, or whatever, so I could help him track and stop Jack, but I'm busy with real thing. Like Templars? Yeah. You guys can go, though. Have fun!"

With that, Peter, who just walked in, just walked out.

"Odd," Jacob said shortly.

"Very odd," Evie agreed.

"Think Peter is Jack? Acting out some weird fantasy?"

"Only one way to find out. Let's go find Mr. Dickens."

The twins found Charles in a nearby tavern, just like Peter had said.

"Tell me," Charles said, "do you believe in ghosts?"

Jacob said "no" at the same time Evie said "yes."

Charles hummed. "I am skeptical myself, yet reports come in nightly about people saying they were attacked by an age-old spirit of malice that calls himself Spring-Heeled Jack. If the key to predicting the future does indeed lie in the past, then that means Jack is on the prowl as we speak. If you two would be so inclined as to join the Ghost Club with me, we would greatly appreciate your help in this matter."

The twins didn't see why they had to be members of the Ghost Club in order to investigate supernatural assaults, but whatever. They accepted and followed Charles outside the tavern and into the London night, where they quickly happened upon a terrified woman.

"Ma'am, what happened?" Evie asked, concerned.

"It was horrible!" she wailed. Glowing eyes, huge claws…and his laugh. Luckily, he was frightened away by some other passersby, but somebody has to do something before he attacks another!"

"Not to worry," Jacob said with a grin. "That's what we're here for."

Dickens decided it was best to wait back at the tavern, and so he left the twins to their investigation. They used Eagle Vision to scan the area, and when they saw a citizen shining in gold, they went to him, and found just in time to witness him fall under attack by a masked person, a short masked person, just barely over five feet tall.

They wore white trousers tucked into black boots, and tucked into the trousers, a belt around their waist, was a black shirt with white tassels going along the front to create the image of a ribcage. About their shoulders was a cape that went down to their ass, with the bottom of the cape cut into a pattern like bat's wings. The cape also came with a high collar that framed the person's face, and covering their face was a demonic mask.

Narrow, slanted eyeholes, horns sprouting from the temples, and the mouth was carved into a sinister, fanged grin.

Spring-Heeled Jack.

The supposed demon had his hands raised high, showing off the claws that adorned his fingers.

"Ahhh! Get away from me!"

"Hahaha!"

"Hold it, right there!" Evie shouted, drawing her cane sword from the confined of her tailcoat.

Jacob donned his brass knuckles.

The twins charged the diminutive monster, only for Jack to throw a bomb at their feet that erupted in smoke, stinging their eyes, choking their lungs, and disorienting them.

"It's never that easy with me!" Jack cackled as he ran off.

Jacob gave a big cough and cleared his lungs. "If that really his Peter, I'm going to wring his neck," he growled.

Evie joined him. "Not if I get him first," she also growled, similarly irritated at having a smoke bomb thrown at her.

"Going to stop me?"

"No, I'm going to it and make it hurt more."

"Sounds like we're in competition, then."

"Sounds like it."

The twins ran off, using their sixth sense to follow Jack's trail. They could see his footprints shining gold along the ground, and they could see his claw marks going up the sides of buildings.

Jacob looked at Evie when they saw that.

"Artifice," the eldest Frye said.

Using their rope launchers, the twins traversed Lambeth until the trail led them to a small warehouse.

"A heavily guarded warehouse," Evie noted. "I wonder what they're heavily guarding."

"Let's find out, shall we?"

They weren't Blighters, whoever they were, but that didn't stop Evie and Jacob from clearing the area of the people—cultists of some kind, judging by their garb—and when they were done, they gathered by a ladder on the side of the warehouse that led down to the sewers.

"After you, sister dearest," Jacob said with an extended hand.

The smell of the London underbelly was not-so-gently wafting up from the entrance.

Evie rolled her eyes. "Sometimes you are just as much of a girl as Peter is."

"I resent that!"

Evie jumped down the entrance first, landing with barely a bend in her knees. Jacob landed behind her after she moved out of the way. Down here, they saw a chamber filled with barrels and boxes, tables lined with stuff, and a few more of the cultists. After the twins killed them, smoke violently erupted around them as Jack appeared with a mad cackle.

"The scum of London are as bad as animals, and we treat them as such!"

The twins fought Jack through the smoke though it wasn't much of a fight. In this instance, they were synched, unlike when they fought Kaylock two weeks ago. But, Jack was nowhere near the Templar's level of strength and skill, and he was defeated in seconds. The smoke cleared out, and Jacob yanked the mask off Jack's face, revealing some guy.

"Spring-Heeled Jack…hugh…will never…agh…die…"

The demon might not, but this guy did.

"Not a demon after all," Evie said.

"And not Peter."

"At least, not this one. Look."

In this lair, there were several costumes of Jack, all in different sizes. There were more masks, more boots, more knives, more smoke bombs, and the claws on Jack's fingers were just gloves with blades attached to them.

"Do you really think Peter is behind this whole Spring-Heeled Jack thing?" Jacob asked.

"It does seem rather extreme, and out of his character," Evie said with a hand to her chin. "However, we both know how strange he is-"

Jacob demonstrated that by wringing his hands, sticking his tongue partway out of his mouth, and going, "Flgh! Flgh! Flgh! Flgh!"

Evie smiled in spite of herself as her brother mimicked the noises that Peter made when he was having one of his little episodes. "Yes, that. But it seems to serve no purpose. He scares the people of London and accomplishes what? Nothing, seems like."

"Maybe there is no goal to it. Maybe he just thinks it's all harmless fun."

"Hmm…maybe."

"What do we do about it?"

"Nothing, for now. Not until we have more evidence, if there is any, that Peter is behind the recent Spring-Heeled Jack attacks."

Jacob smiled. "…Jaco attacks?"

"Shut it."

Jacob chuckled. "I take it we don't mention anything, either."

"That's for the best. We don't to spook him."

"Of course not."

Ladies and gentlemen, the Frye twins. With zero actual evidence or any valid reason, they suspect that their little half-brother to be the culprit behind a series of random attacks on random people of London.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

As Jacob and Peter worked together, they cleared Lambeth of the Blighters, and also tracked down Starrick's righthand man in the area, the source of the Soothing Syrup that was leaving people with worse diseases than before they took the medicine, yet also very addicted to the tonic, one Dr. John Elliotson, who worked out of the Lambeth Asylum.

Now, when you heard the word "asylum," the first thing that may come to mind is Arkham Asylum from the Batman franchise. That's a pretty good initial idea, but also a bit off. Lambeth Asylum was the kind of asylum that ghost hunters would visit in the modern day, the kind of place in which the brutal and monstrous medical practices of the day, that were thought to cure the mentally ill, were put into action.

Lobotomies.

Electric shock therapy.

Ice baths.

Straight up beatings.

Not to mention rape.

These were the days in which the mentally ill didn't receive treatment so much as torture.

So you can imagine why Peter was literally shaking as he glued himself to Jacob's arm on this dark, rainy London night.

Peter knew he was weird. His flitting episodes when he started getting excited about anything—his hands and arms flailing and shaking, his bouncing, the noises he made out of his mouth—his strict adherence to whatever routine he made for himself, and all the distress he felt when that routine was interrupted, his attention lapses, his propensity to dress up when he felt overwhelmed, etc. Peter was self-aware of his oddities, and he was aware of how much his big siblings hated him for whatever he had done to them in the past.

Peter was scared that Jacob was going to find some way to leave him here and let the doctors have him.

"Please don't leave me here," Peter said in a quiet voice, water dripping off his leather poncho.

"I can't even get in there with you hogging my arm," Jacob returned flatly.

Peter reluctantly disengaged, though he was still shaking, but not from the cold.

"Relax," Jacob rolled his eyes. "I'm not going to leave you. So long as you don't slow me down, anyway."

Peter shook his head so fast it was a wonder his hat didn't come off. "Uh-huh. Never going to slow you down. I promise."

Jacob nodded. "Good. Let's go."

Th Asylum was a restricted area, of course, but not the grounds around the building. The two Assassins just went up to the side and fired their rope launchers, scaling the Asylum in seconds to reach the roof. From there, Peter closely followed Jacob up to the base of the Asylum's belltower, where the service door had been left open.

The Assassins entered and descended the stairs until they were at the two-level foyer, the second level lined with fully stocked bookshelves. And the whole place crawling with orderlies. Armed orderlies, with guns and batons. Just like the London police.

"Elliotson will be performing an experiment right now," Peter said. "We need to get past here and to the observation area to make sure of that."

Jacob rolled his eyes. "Yes, I know that. Do you have any other useless information to share while we have the time?"

"It's a bad idea to fire our guns in this place."

"Obviously."

Jacob got moving before he needed to commit himself to the Asylum from going insane because he spent too much time with Peter. Said nuisance was practically glued to his brother's hip the whole time they snuck through the halls to the observation area, a room above the auditorium where the Templar was performing a grizzly trepanation experiment before a group of studying doctors.

For those that didn't know, trepanation was the practice of drilling a hole into a person's head to treat brain injuries. While modern tools and techniques had refined the practice, the 1868 version of trepanation involved a nasty tool called a trephine, which was a length of metal with a t-shaped handle, and at the end of this length was a big, saw-toothed, hollowed cylinder.

Currently, the bad doctor was jamming that thing around inside of an awake man's head.

Peter could only stare with an open mouth, horrified and unable to look away.

The man on the table, twitched and jerked, his face contorted into one of sheer agony as Elliotson poked around in his brain, until with a bad yank, there was a large spurt of blood and the man went still, his eyes rolling into the back of his head.

Elliotson yanked his trephine out with another spray of crimson liquid.

"Well, as you've just witnessed, the application of too much pressure can sometimes result in…unexpected outcomes. Unfortunately, it appears that I've ruined the organ."

He did not at all sound guilty or remorseful that he'd just killed a man on his table. He sounded as broken up about it as if he'd stepped on a bug and noticed the guts on the bottom of his shoe. Just mildly inconvenienced.

Elliotson went over to the phone in the wall and pulled the string. "Send up a cadaver."

A voice came through. "At once, Doctor."

Elliotson went back to lecturing his students, talking about the corpse.

"Jacob, what are we going to do?" Peter asked.

There was no reply.

Peter's head whipped back and forth, and adrenaline pistoned through his bloodstream, accelerating his breathing and his heartrate. Jacob was gone. He was missing. Peter was alone. But Jacob had said—he said he wouldn't—he promised-

Peter felt his lungs start closing up as his asthma started to flare. Oxygen started coming in lesser and lesser quantities, something that a person having a panic attack did not need. Peter's shaking finger fumbled with the straps to the pouches on his belt, his wheezed breathing cutting into his ears amidst all the other sounds in the asylum.

All the screaming, the shouts, the manic laughter.

Where was Jacob!?

Peter finally managed to produce his herbs and a match. He tried to strike the match, but the stick broke. With a strangled groan, Peter fumbled with all of his matches, dumping his whole supply on the floor. He started striking match after match, wheezing and choking, breaking each stick until only a few were left.

Peter pitched himself forward and rolled all over, totally losing it as he freaked out. He was alone—in an asylum —Jacob had promised he wouldn't leave him—but he did—he was having an asthma attack—and he couldn't get the matches to light. Peter's heart was thundering hard in his chest, approaching lethal levels of speed.

Peter was panicking so hard right now that his heart was literally threatening to burst, and the fact that he could barely breathe was not helping things.

Peter fumbled back through his belt, vision blurry from asphyxiation, and he grabbed at the vials of alcohol that he drank for his asthma. His trmebling hands juggled them and four of the five he carried with him fell and broke. Peter managed to pop the lid of the last vial, and he guzzled it. Then he threw off all pretenses of pride and sanitation and started licking the alcohol off the floor.

He started feeling better.

"What's all this in here!?"

Peter screamed. Without even thinking about, he flexed his wrist and fired his rope launcher. The grapple shot straight through the orderly's eyeball and out the back of his head. Then the pulley kicked in, yanking the body over to Peter, who screamed some more at a corpse being dragged over to him.

In his panic, he ended up just yanking his gauntlet off, and then wheezed even harder when he realized that there was a body laying on top of his herbs and matches. With adrenaline-infused, Precursor gene-enhanced strength, Peter flung the body through the ceiling and the roof of the asylum.

He grabbed the first intact match he saw and dragged it across his poncho. It lit. He grabbed the herb and held it over the flame, with his nose above the herb. It caught fire and started burning, giving off the vapors that Peter needed. With the smoke, the mucus closing his airways cleared, and his lungs opened back up.

Just in time, because the sound of a body crashing through walls attracted lots of attention.

Peter's asthma might've been going away with the smoke and the alcohol, but he was still in a panic over Jacob leaving him alone in this place that terrified. Reacting instead of thinking, Peter ripped his guns out and opened fire, killing the few orderlies that barreled into the observation room, and then shooting through the walls to kill the other orderlies trying to take cover.

Peter popped the tops of his revolvers, heart still beating a hundred miles an hour, and reloaded. He flicked his guns back into place, fiddled with a smoke bomb, tossed it through the door, put his gauntlet back on, and went running through the obscuring smoke after taking a deep breath.

Peter had no aim or goal. He wasn't worried about finding Jacob or the Templar. Like a caged animal, he just wanted out, and he didn't care about how violent he had to be to get out, or about how much damage he did to himself and others.

Since he had come in the one way, Peter's brain locked onto that one specific way, totally disregarding the windows, and that's the way he went. Wide-eyed and scared, Peter was running, shooting anyone he came across, be they orderly or visitor. It wasn't a long run from the observation room back to the stairway up the steeple, but it was a bloody one.

Peter had killed eight orderlies back in the observation room, the first with the gauntlet, the other seven with twelve bullets—not his best statistic—and then he ended up killing another thirteen people, ten orderlies and three civilians, before he finally made it back outside into the London rain.

Peter was heaving hard.

Mind totally disordered and with a truly broken heart that Jacob had really left alone in the asylum, Peter practically dragged himself through the rain to Waterloo Station in Southwark, north of Lambeth, where the train was sitting for Jacob's mission.

When he got to the train, the few Rooks onboard greeted him, but he barely waved at them. His jaw was slightly agape, and his eyes were wide and haunted. He made it to his private quarters on the train, his room, and he did what he always did when he felt like he did now.

Peter took off all his clothes and gear, gently rifled through his closet, and picked one of the dresses he'd made in the past year. A black one, simple, functional, with puffed sleeves, a bit of white lace around the collar and around the bottom hem, and a little bow sewn into the middle of the chest. Peter put it on and collapsed onto his bed.

The only reason Peter enjoyed dressing up was because of Jacob and Evie's little stunt a few years back. It had been Jacob's idea that to finally get Peter to stop bothering them was to publicly humiliate him into never wanting to be around them again, so he and Evie stole a dress and made Peter wear it around the bureau. However, it backfired entirely because Peter didn't make the connection that his siblings were being malicious. He had well and truly thought he had finally done something good and they finally wanted to spend time with him.

Because of the dress, he thought that was what it took, and so he got really good at sewing and made dresses that he thought were the key to getting his beloved siblings' attention. But then Jacob finally blew up and told Peter the truth about the whole dress thing, but the damage was done.

Dressing up became Peter's coping mechanism. When things got to be too much for him, like before when his father screamed at him and he finally snapped, punching the man, and like tonight, with Jacob breaking his promise and abandoning Peter in a place the elder Frye knew his little brother was scared of. Peter couldn't take it, and so he needed to find his comfort zone.

Now, if the Frye twins had taken Peter fishing and then tried to drown him, Peter would've become the greatest fisherman on the planet. If they had swimming and likewise tried to drown him, Peter would've become the greatest swimmer on the planet. Whatever thing you could substitute in for the Frye twins to have done to Peter, it wouldn't have clicked in his brain.

He was just happy to have been there, and would've latched onto whatever for that grasp of happiness.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Ned Wynert arrived on the train, a storm cloud surrounding him.

He grabbed the nearest Rook. "Where is Peter?"

"H-He went into his quarters, s-sir! Hasn't left s-since!"

"Thank you."

Ned briskly walked through the train to Peter's door, and he gently knocked. "Peter? Are in there?"

There was a faint, muffled, "Mwuuuuh…"

"May I come in?"

"Yeah…"

Ned opened the door. "Oh, boy," he muttered, seeing Peter's discarded clothes and gear, him on the bed in one of his dresses, a death grip on his pillow.

Ned had been informed about what happened at Lambeth Asylum, that one of the patients had gotten loose and went on a murderous rampage, but Ned connected the dots. Somehow, someway, Peter had freaked out and panicked. Probably had something to do with Jacob.

Ned sat on the bed, and Peter raised up to fling himself into Ned's arms. He got cozy, situating himself over Ned's lap while he rested his on head on the manly woman's shoulder.

"He left me," Peter whispered. "He promised he wouldn't leave me alone in there, but he did. I turned around and he just gone. Ned, he left me. He left me. He left me. He-"

"Shhhhh," Ned soothed, rubbing circles on Peter's back. "It's okay. I'm here now, and it's okay."

"I'm glad you're here."

"I'm glad you're here too."

Peter ended falling asleep in Ned's arms.

A few minutes later, the train's whistle sounded and the wheels got to moving. Ned's eyes narrowed. The train would only get going after Jacob arrived, which meant he was now here. Ned gently laid Peter down and shut the door behind him.

Storming through the train, crossing the gap from car to car, Ned made it up to where Jacob and Evie were in the midst of discussion. Henry was absent.

Ned heard snippets when within earshot.

"…Jack attacked the Asylum. Was Peter with you the whole time?"

"No. I told him to stay with me, and when I turned to look, he was gone."

"You told him to stay with you, and he disobeyed?"

Ned advanced, his steps becoming louder with his increased speed. The twins turned to look, and Jacob got punched so hard in the face he flew several feet down the aisle before crashing on his back.

"Fuck you, Frye!" Ned roared. "Peter told me what happened, how he begged you not to leave him alone in a place he was terrified of, how you promised him, and how you broke that promise! You left Peter alone in the asylum!"

Evie's jaw was all the way open as she stared at Ned in total disbelief. Then she looked at Jacob.

"Jacob Frye, that had better not be the truth or I swear to God, I'll-"

"I thought he was with me the whole time!" Jacob insisted. "We made it through the asylum, got to the observation room, watched Elliotson poke around some poor sod's head, and then I tapped Peter on the shoulder. Let's go, I told him, and you know how he is. I just went along my way, thinking there was no way Peter would ever just not do what I told him to do."

"You know he has attention issues!" Evie returned.

"What do you care?" Ned broke in with a snarl. "I know damn good and well that both of you couldn't care less if Peter was ran over by this very train. You'd both be happy if that happened!"

Jacob cringed while Evie stood stiffly.

"Not true," she said.

"Bullshit. I want to make something clear to both of you, right now. I don't care why you both hate Peter so much, but that changes today. I can't believe you'd really abandon him when he begged you not to."

"I didn't-!"

"Shut up! And you," Ned rounded on Evie. "Pretending like you care. Both of you can go to Tartarus! If I hear again about either one of you doing something to Peter that fucks him so hard in his head that he resorts to wearing a dress to cope, you will be facing my syndicate."

Ned lowered the collar of his shirt a little, and while Jacob was at a total loss as to what the tattooed Greek letters meant, Evie had some study on the language and recognized those characters. She even knew what they meant, too.

Amazon.

Ned let his shirt back into place and stormed back down the train to Peter.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"I made something for you guys," Peter said a few days later, after things had cooled.

The twins shared a look, both mentally readying themselves for whatever thing Peter had done this time.

"Let's see it, then," Evie said.

With a hesitant smile, Peter handed over the wrapped boxes in his hands, one to Evie and the other to Jacob. He stepped back and let the twins unwrap their presents, and his smile got a little bigger and a little more hopeful when they got to the goodies inside. The twins' breath actually hitched in their throats at what Peter had made for them.

Jacob held up his gift, a sleek and well-maid black coat with a nice hood sewn into it. There was also a belt in there.

"I call that the Outdoorsman and the Dark Leather," Peter said proudly.

Evie held up her gift, a tailcoat like the one she preferred, but with thicker patches across the chest and back. There was also a new cape in there.

"I call that one the Defender and the cape I decided to call the Hunter's Mantle." Peter shifted on the balls of his feet. "Do you…like them? Are they okay?"

Goddamn, they were fucking amazing.

But it was a pathological thing for the twins, instilled in their youth by their father, to always be against Peter. But Ned's words also rang loudly in their heads.

"You did good, Peter," Evie said. "Thank you."

"Yeah. This is great. I always wanted a black jacket to blend in with the shadows of the night. And a new belt."

Peter literally jumped with a cheer. "Yeah! I'm so glad you like them!"

Peter hugged Evie around her neck, and went over to hug Jacob around his neck. The twins kept their cringes off their faces, and managed to keep their smiles sincere. Enough.

Peter jumped back. "I've got tons more designs though, so I'm going to keep working until I find the perfect outfit for you both!"

And with that, Peter ran off to start working.

With him gone, Evie dropped her new coat. "This is garbage."

"Speak for yourself," Jacob said, honestly in love with his threads.

Evie huffed. "I'm an Assassin. I use stealth and avoid comprising myself and getting into fisticuffs. This thing," she kicked the Defender, "is made for fighting. Just look at this…armor…or whatever it's supposed to be."

Jacob shrugged. He shed his current jacket and put on his new Outdoorsman. "Hmm, not bad, not bad, but I think some other wardrobe modifications are in order."

Evie rolled her eyes. "You are such a woman."

"More so than you, and you actually are woman. Bringing shame to the whole sex, you are."

"And so are you, Misses I need to have my whole outfit match by new coat."

"Blah blah."

Evie rolled her eyes. "I'm stepping out. There's bound to be something I can do besides waste my time here with you."

"Watch out for strangers!" Jacob called after his big sister.

Evie soon found something to do. Back at the Lambeth Asylum, things were something of a mess. Since the official story is that a patient had broken loose and went on a murderous rampage, killing so many orderlies, civilians, and Dr. Elliotson, the asylum was closing. Also with the death of Elliotson, overall health in the borough was decreasing.

While the Soothing Syrup ordered by Starrick and created by Elliotson had been an addictive and mind-addling drug, it had also been a medicine that did its job in fighting ailments. Jacob had destroyed the distillery, ended the Syrup and the Templar's hold, but he had also destroyed the only tonic in the whole borough.

The Templars had a monopoly on medicine, and had only been making Soothing Syrup.

No Syrup, no medicine.

No Templar, no one to make the medicine, either.

So, Lambeth was quickly becoming diseased. But at least the people were free of the tonic's addictive properties. Kind of.

At the asylum, Evie ran into a familiar little face.

"Clara! How do you do?"

"I do well, Ms. Frye. And you?"

"Well as well," Evie smiled. "What brings you here?"

"My children, miss. They've been falling ill as of late, and I need medicine for…for them…"

Clara swayed and then coughed.

"Are you alright?" Evie asked stepping forward.

Clara waved her off. "Fine, fine. Just a little…unghhhh…"

Clara's eyes rolled back and she fell over.

"Clara!" Evie shouted, jumping forward to catch the girl. "Help! Is there a doctor nearby!?"

The nearby door burst open, revealing a woman doctor. "Bring her inside. Quickly!"

Evie scooped Clara up and did that.

"What's wrong with her?"

"False tonic, I'd wager. Since Dr. Elliotson was murdered, fake medicine has been running rampant through the district! This one can recover, as can the others, but I need the proper supplies."

"I can help," Evie nodded. "What do I need to get?"

The woman handed Evie a list. "The more uncommon ingredients are being stolen and sold at auction."

"Got it. Thank you, Miss…"

"Nightingale. Florence Nightingale."

"Right. Thank you, Ms. Nightingale. I'll have back shortly."

"Thank you, miss."

Evie was on the move. She bought what she could from nearby shops, but things got dicey for those rare ingredients. True to the good doctor's words, one of them was literally being auctioned off.

"But it's so expensive!" a desperate man complained.

"Ah, yes," the peddler said. "Well, ingredient are rare at present. And really, is money more important than your child's health?"

"I—please. This all the money I have. Take it."

Evie was so incensed by this that she went up behind the peddler and conked him on the head, startling the poor father.

"Keep your money. I'm taking this to Ms. Florence Nightingale. With it and the other ingredients I have, she will make the medicine you need."

"Oh, thank you, miss! God bless you!"

Evie smiled earnestly as she could at the notion of being blessed by a being that didn't exist.

She was running again, this time locating the pharmacist that was supposed to be delivering the other medical supplies to Nightingale. He was surrounded by Blighters. Evie tossed a smoke bomb in their midst and got to work, slaying the five men before the smoke cleared.

She had to find the pharmacist again.

"Oh, a woman! My sincerest apologies, madam. The smoke erupted, and I though you were Spring-Heeled Jack."

"Jack is dead." Evie rose a brow.

"Spring-Heeled Jack can't die, miss. He said so himself when I saw him just last night!"

"…you don't say." Evie filed that away for later, and focused in on what she was doing here. "I'm here to collect the supplies for Ms. Nightingale."

"Of course. They're in this cart here."

"Yaw!" a Blighter cracked the whip and the horses started running.

"That cart?" Evie pointed.

"Ah, yes…"

"Of course, it is."

She took off running after the cart.

"Please be careful!" the pharmacist called after her. "Those supplies are fragile!"

Evie took that to heart, so when the gunshot rang out loud and clear, and the Blighter's head jerked to the side with a spray of blood and some bone fragments, and the cart went sideways, you can imagine how hard her heart stopped when that cart smacked into a lamppost.

Evie had to hijack her own carriage to catch up to the horses, then jump onto the cart and get control over them. Luckily, the only real damage was some scraped wood on the side. Everything else was fine.

The culprit behind the shot dropped down from above via a launched rope.

"You didn't actually like it, did you?" Peter asked sullenly. "The Defender."

"I did—do. I do like it, Peter. I just haven't had the chance to change into yet. I was called away immediately—and this is not important right now! Peter, you almost destroyed this cart! These are fragile things that the hospital needs to make a medicine that'll actually cure the sick. Clara's life is in danger, and you could've gotten her killed. If this cart had flipped over…be more careful next time. Think before you act."

"Okay."

The dismissal was clear in his voice, leaving Evie to blink. Was he forcing her off the cart, or…? Well, no. He fired his rope launcher and vanished back into the London night.

Evie's eyes narrowed as she watched her brother leave.

Jack was back, huh?

This required a chat with Mr. Dickens.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Thank goodness you're here!" the man exclaimed when the twins walked into the tavern. "Impossible as it may seem, Spring-Heeled Jack has returned! We must act quickly before the unthinkable happens!"

The twins shared a look and followed Dickens outside. It wasn't long before they found the action.

"Get away from me, you monster!"

"HAHAHA! What's the matter!? Afraid of Jack!?"

"Stop right there!" Evie shouted.

The twins ran at Jack, but when they got close, he burst into smoke. They heard his distorted voice come from above, on the rooftop.

"I am a ghost! A fiend! A terror in the night!"

The twins fired their rope launchers and scaled the building, but Jack was already on the move. On the opposite side of the street, in fact, already on another rooftop. The twins had to duck behind the chimney when Jack shot at them with his rifle.

"Peter's cutting it rather close, don't you think?" Jacob asked.

"A little, yes. Think he's actually gone insane and is trying to kill us?"

And Evie was not joking.

She and her brother looked at each other. They and their father had been immeasurably horrible to Peter, abusing him mentally, emotionally, and physically. Perhaps it had finally taken its toll. Maybe Peter really had finally snapped and gone crazy. Maybe this was his new outlet, dressing as a demon and scaring people.

So why did the twins feel afraid?

Why did they feel fear in the face of the possibility that Peter was actively trying to kill them now?

What did they have to fear from that nuisance?

The twins nodded at each other and fired their launchers, ziplining across the street to the other buildings. They chase after Jack for a few rooftops, before there was a sudden burst of smoke at their feet, disorienting them, but not so much that they couldn't fend off the two Jack's that attacked him.

The scuffle was brief, with the half-blind twins almost killing their attackers. Before they could strike the fatal blows, the Jacks vanished in more smoke.

"What in the bloody hell was that!?" Jacob demanded.

"Peter rounded up some of the Rooks to help?" Evie proposed.

Jacob growled.

"I am the Terror of London!" Jack shouted at them from across the rooftops.

The twins started the chase once more. Sometimes they got close to Jack, and then he'd vanish in a burst of smoke, reappearing a distance away somewhere else, making the twins use their rope launchers to close the gap. That wouldn't have been so bad if Jack hadn't been taking potshots at them.

He even shot Jacob one time.

The younger twin groaned when a bullet tore through the middle of his arm, and he dropped to the street.

"Jacob!"

"Keep going, Evie! I'll be fine in a minute!"

Jacob popped some medicine, and he could already feel the tingling in his arm as the damage was undone.

Evie chased after Jack, and she almost caught him. He was within arm's reach, and she was about to dive, but she managed to stop herself before she ended up flinging her body off the side of the roof. The reason for that was because Jack was running full speed for the edge, and when he got there, he jumped. Jack sailed through the air and landed in a run on the rooftop across the street.

Jacob came running up behind his sister, his expression as slack as hers.

"Um…how did Peter manage that?" Jacob asked in a distant voice.

"He must have…rigged his rope launcher. And there might be chemicals in the smoke bombs he's using to make us hallucinate."

Jacob looked at his big sister, and she looked back at him, her eyes pleading with him to validate that theory, because she was just as lost frightened as he was.

"That must be it," Jacob said after a pause.

Evie nodded. "Yes. He must be testing it on us before he uses it on the Templars."

"Is that why he's been shooting at us? Why he shot me? We're target practice?"

"Something like that. Let's get to the bottom of this."

For some reason, they were both afraid of what might be at the bottom. Was Peter really trying to kill them?

The twins chased Jack across Lambeth, eventually making it to Waterloo station. The twins were following from the rooftops while Jack had taken to the ground. However, at the base of the station, Jack shot straight up and landed upon the triangular roof of the station. The twins fired their launchers and yanked themselves along to join Jack on the roof.

Jack ran up and down across the triangular slopes of the station's architecture, the twins running after him, until he poofed away, reappearing on Waterloo's pinnacle. His back was turned when the twins finally got close.

Despite all the running and climbing, neither of them were out of breath.

"It's over now, Peter," Evie said. "Give it up and come back with us so we can get this sorted out."

"She's asking nicely," Jacob growled, grabbing his brass knuckles and kukri knife.

Jack chuckled. "You really think I'm your little brother…"

The demon turned and crossed his arms in an X over his chest. The twins' felt their blood freeze at what they saw on Jack's hands. The fake Jack from last time had been wearing gloves with blades fixed on them. This Jack…he had no gloves. Long, curved claws were sprouting from the tips of his fingers.

"Long have I stalked the streets of London…" Jack said menacingly.

Then he attacked. He rushed forward, his feet leaving the ground and staying suspended. He body slammed Evie and knocked her away, landing, and he swiped at Jacob. The Assassin jerked to and fro to avoid those claws, and when he raised his kukri to block one swipe, the force behind Jack's blow knocked Jacob's blade from his hand, sending it skittering across the glass.

Jack kicked Jacob in his stomach and sent him away, then turned to Evie, who had just gotten back up with her cane sword in her hand. She drew the blade and attacked. Jack met her halfway, and ducked to avoid the swing aimed for his neck, the straightened and leaned aside to avoid the barbed cane.

The pattern repeated as Evie attacked with her dual weapons. She swung and Jack dodged with ease. Jacob got hi kukri back and returned to the fight, joining his big sister. However, despite their assault, Jack dodged and stepped around them as if this were no harder than walking across the house.

After a quick maneuver, the twins ended up shoulder to shoulder. They lunged together, kukri and short sword. Jack flipped forward, and mid-flip, he grabbed the twins by their forearms. Continuing his flip, still with his grip, Jack spun over the heads of the twins and landed on his feet, bringing his upper body down, bringing the twins off the roof, over his head, and flinging them both hard.

The twins both smacked off the edge of Waterloo's highest length of rooftop to ricochet into the glass below. Evie slammed and stopped with a groan, while Jacob hit the glass and it cracked. The blow also knocked out his wind, leaving his gasping for air, while the cracks got bigger and bigger, until the glass gave way.

Jacob let out a silent scream as he fell, but a clawed hand shot down and grabbed him.

A train went roaring past on the tracks below.

Jacob's diaphragm unlocked and he sucked in precious air, then looked up at the grinning face of Jack's mask. "You…saved me?"

"I'm not through with you yet."

Jack hauled Jacob up and over his head once more, and let him go. Jacob spun through the air, gaining altitude, and saw Evie. She gave him a thumbs up. Jacob peaked and started falling. He pulled his new gun, a new revolver, and fired at Jack.

"No human weapon can harm me!" Jack shouted as the bullets seemingly struck him and then vanished.

Jacob tossed a smoke bomb when he landed with a grunt, striking Jack in his chest with it. Evie rushed into the smoke, and Jack grabbed her and tossed her out of the smoke. Evie slammed into Jacob, and they both went down.

Jack approached them at a sedate pace. "I am a ghost…a fiend…the terror of London…"

His claws were splayed at his sides, his eyes glowing like goals in his mask.

Evie grabbed her own gun and emptied the cylinder at point-blank range into Jack, but the demon kept approaching, laughing. Jack came to stand over the pile of twins, raising his claws above his head. Before he could bring them down, Evie pitched forward, tackling Jack, but he just backpeddled and wrapped his arms around her waist before putting his back into it, raising Evie off the roof, then pitching forward to make it so that Evie crashed right atop her head.

And then Jacob was there.

He grabbed Jack's mask and ripped it off his face.

The twins both scrambled away as Jack's face was revealed. The demon grinned at them, revealing two rows of pointy teeth. His eyes were just fiery pits, his skin grey like a corpse, but that visage…the image of Peter Frye grinned at the twins.

"Not quite Peter, you see." Jack puffed into a smoke cloud, his mask vanishing from Jacob's hand to reappear back on his face at the opposite end of the station. "Spring-Heeled Jack will never die!"

Jack jumped off the edge in the posture Assassin's used for the Leap of Faith. The twins ran to the edge, but there was no sign of Jack. Nor were there any landing zones like a deep enough body of water or a pile of hay or flowers.

Jack had well and truly vanished. Again.

That didn't matter to the twins, however. Oh, no. They were preoccupied with far more pressing concerns, like why a genuine demon was wearing their brother's face.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Back in the tavern with Charles Dickens, the twins were trying to enjoy the strongest drink the place had.

"Thank to you, the repuation of the Ghost Club has grown tremendously! We are a beacon of reason in a world beguiled by superstition."

"I believe we encountered one genuine demon," Evie said quietly, haunted by what she'd seen.

"Can you be certain?" Charles challenged. "That's the question. One might surmise that the spirits that haunt us are simply our deepest fears, manifested as apparitions…"

The twins' grip on their mugs got so tight that the metal threatened to warp.

Their deepest fear…

They weren't afraid of Peter turning on them…were they?

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I really must start shortening these chapters. Makes the update gap much shorter.

Like I said at the beginning AN of this arc, it was entertained that Peter was going to be Spring-Heeled Jack. This is a homage to that idea. I thought it was a whole lot of fun, Jacob and Evie unmasking Jack to reveal Peter's face.

And how about Jacob, yeah? Abandoning his little brother in the asylum and then lying about it.

Three cheers for Ned, the only person behind Henry to have accepted and bonded with Peter. How is their relationship going to turn out, hm?

Also, keep an eye on my book. I'm going to lower the price from $19.99 to $4.99, after reviewing the sales and speaking with some market majors. So if you paid full price and want your money back, let me know and I'll work out how to give refunds through Kindle Store.

Fav, Follow, and Review please!