I'm back with another chapter!

As you can tell by how long it's taken, the updates aren't gonna have much of a consistent schedule lol. I'd say a new chapter will drop every 1-2 months, but it could be earlier or later. Things are all over the place in my life at the moment and the time I have to write is a little limited. But rest assured, this isn't gonna be abandoned! I have some cool ideas and I'm just itching to get them written out.

Before we begin though, I just wanna throw out a MASSIVE thanks to the reviewers of the last chapter! Reading all the positivity put a huge smile on my face and it really made my day. I don't know what I've done to deserve such kind words, but I cannot express my appreciation enough :)

Chapter Two:
Something Sinister

Lucy was sat alone at the kitchen table, flicking through a copy of today's newspaper. Unsurprisingly, with how much the media was obsessed by their recent achievement, she and her husband had nabbed themselves the leading headline. There she was, pictured on the front, stood alongside Gru as they apprehended Ember.

Interested, she read through some of the article, replaying the experience in her head. Then, she leaned back and shifted her gaze across the kitchen, which was adorned in the orange light of 8 AM. Even after sleeping on it, yesterday's events were still eliciting a seemingly infinite smile from the AVL agent. It obviously wasn't her first success, but that feeling of victory never seemed to grow old, no matter how many big-time villains they put behind bars.

It was here where little Agnes came bolting into the room, Margo following shortly behind. The two young girls speedily launched themselves into the booth seat, startling their mom for the second day in a row.

"Morning!" They cried in unison.

"Oh! Uhh…morning, girls!" She looked between them both, offering each child an endearing smile. "Y'know, you gotta stop scaring me like that. Otherwise, I'll have to start getting ya back."

She gave Agnes's side a poke to accompany her playful threat, prompting the girl to laugh and pull away.

"Sorry. We didn't mean to." Margo replied, chuckling. It was here where the eldest sister spotted the bold headline, plastered across the front of her mom's reading material like a grand trophy. "Wait, are you guys in the newspaper too!?"

"Sure are!" Lucy allowed the girls to gleefully seize the paper from her, which they both accordingly gawked at. "Me and your dad are like, A-List celebrities at this point."

They giggled, keeping their eyes glued to the article. The AVL mom watched them as they read, proudly smiling for the umpteenth time. It was startling just how much enjoyment she was reaping from her daughter's delighted reactions. She'd seen it a million times before, but like victory itself, it only got better with frequency.

It also surprised her just how enthralled they were. This was nowhere near the first time Gru and Lucy had seen a run of villain successes, nor was it the first time they'd gotten newspaper coverage. Take what happened with Balthazar Bratt, for example. The media went crazy with reports on the two agents, crediting them with not only stopping Bratt but also saving the entire city of Hollywood. Even Dru got some attention, and he was a man who usually ensured villain anonymity.

Maybe it was the events before that 80's-themed attack that was now giving them such delight. She could still recall the distraught look on their children's faces, when the two parents announced that they'd been fired from the AVL. Clearly, it had been equally as upsetting for them as it had been for her and Gru. Now that they were back to tip-top form, maybe it was a sense of relief, that their parents' jobs weren't going anywhere.

She kind of had to thank Ramsbottom for that. Even with their good performances, Valerie likely would've found a way to get rid of them again by now. Though, she considered, it was wrong to speak lowly of the deceased.

"This is so awesome!" Agnes's eyes were so close to the article, it was a wonder she could read anything at all. "Thirteen stupid bad guys stopped by MY mom and dad!"

Lucy warmly grinned at the littlest, especially when she spun around to elatedly smile back at her.

"Well, speaking of thirteen…" She began, turning towards Margo. "You excited about your birthday soon?"

"Oh, uh…" The twelve-year-old glanced to the side, then shrugged indifferently. "Yeah, I guess."

Don't get her wrong, she was excited about it. Like anyone, the notion of a day all about her thrilled her somewhat. She just didn't know exactly how to celebrate it. Her main idea was to hang out with her friends, but even there, she wasn't sure what they could all do together. Her parents had suggested throwing a big party, kind of like what they did for Agnes's. But even though she'd never had one of those before, that's not how she wanted her teenage years to start.

Teenagers weren't little kids. It was the period of life where they started high school. From there, they were expected to act a little more maturely. If there's one thing she'd been fighting for throughout her childhood, it was to be perceived as mature.

"Thought about some gift ideas yet?" Lucy questioned.

And this was the perfect chance to carry that on.

"I don't mind. I'll be happy with whatever you and dad get me." She gave a little polite smile to accompany that. However, it was here where she noticed the odd lack of black and grey adorned former villains, inciting her to briefly look around in confusion. "Actually, where is dad?"

This too made Lucy glance across the room.

Every single morning, Gru always liked to be around the kitchen, to greet Margo and Agnes when they woke up. He also ensured to make a visit at around 11, when Edith and Jack eventually dragged themselves out of bed. He not only did it to ensure they had breakfast and to give them a great welcoming in the morning, but also to brighten up his own spirits before a long day's work.

That's why it was particularly strange that he was nowhere to be seen.

"I dunno…" She rose from her seat, offering the two girls a quick smile. "Lemme see if I can find him."

If he wasn't in the kitchen, then there's only one other place he could really be…

Down in the lab, Gru was stood at the main table, his eyes scanning one of the many blueprints Dr. Nefario had drawn up. They were stamped with so many annotations and confusing algorithms that he wasn't really taking anything in. Yet, he couldn't help but try. The idea of another shrink ray had tickled him to such an extent, that he wanted to know everything about its design and how it worked.

Guess you need to be well-versed in extremely convoluted and practically unreadable technological blueprints to do so.

It was here where the aforementioned elderly scientist rounded the corner, a set of wires and an empty motherboard in hand. There was a rather blissful smile on his face, while he admired the rare scene of peace and quiet. Dru and most of the minions were yet to wake up, and the silence in the room made that perfectly evident. Gru watched with a puzzled frown as he moseyed towards him.

"Should I bother asking how all this works?"

The doctor placed the wires down on the table and replied with a small shrug.

"It's simple, really." He began. "That schematic in your hand is for the hyper core motor, that will provide the shrink ray with an extended bank of recyclable power to ensure its main operating cores can function without short-circuiting the wiring. The rest of these blueprints are for the assorted cores that will use hyperdranium and heptohermanic energy to breach cells and particles, where they'll adapt their genetic information to eliminate unrequired variants of electrons or-"

"You have answered my question!"

Gru held out his hands like he was trying to physically halt the scientist, to cease the explanation before his brain exploded.

Over the years, he had really tried to understand Nefario's intricate designs, but the old man's technological expertise vastly surpassed his own. Apart from soldering and some intermediate computer programming, most of it went far over his head. Although, he reasoned, that's mostly why he'd sought out Nefario's employment in the first place. He would deal with all the complicated technical stuff, while Gru would concentrate on actually conducting the evil heists.

It was kinda nice to reminisce about that for a moment…

Grinning nostalgically, Gru set the blueprint back down and used his hands to lean over the table, just like he used to do in the villain days.

"What is de plan for today then, doctor?"

"Nothing much. Just gettin' a start on some short-term goals." Nefario replied, as Dave the minion appeared from his left and presented him with a mug of coffee, which he took graciously. "Me and the minions are gonna rummage around and find some ol' scrap that can be repurposed. You and Dru can purchase material for the shrink ray's casing."

Gru raised a suspicious eyebrow. "Purchase material?"

With Nefario's warning yesterday, regarding the morality concerns he may face as an AVL agent, he could never have anticipated the use of that first word.

"We only need a resupply on steel. It's probably easier to just buy it at a store." Nefario could see the visible confusion on the bald man's face, a fact that slightly puzzled him. His villain days weren't that long ago, surely he could remember some of the base principles? "Not everything has to be stolen, Gru…"

"U-uh, yes, of course! Obviously..." He rapidly blinked and stood straight again, trying to forcefully shift himself out of that conversation. Thankfully though, the distant excited yells of his brother did much of that for him. "Well, if I'm only driving to de hardware store, I may as well just do this on my own."

"Really?" Nefario quickly questioned, doubtfully cocking his head to the side. "Your brother harped on about this shrink ray collaboration all night, I don't think you're shaking him off that easy."

"It will only take me like, forty minutes to drive to de store. Besides, where is de fun in buying steel?" As Dru's shrieks, as well as his footsteps, got closer and closer, Gru gave Nefario a commanding nod. "Just keep him busy. It will be much easier if I do this without him."

And it honestly would be.

The last time they'd gone to a store, Dru seemed obsessed with causing as much hassle as humanely possible. When it came to large public spaces, Gru never thought he'd meet anyone with as much hunger for aggravating innocent shop-goers as Edith. Considering the absolute pile of mess the man had caused in the superstore while trying to shoplift some raisins, Dru was giving her a run for her money.

Gru was up for some evil deeds with his brother, but going to a store together? No chance.

So, spinning around, he darted himself through the lab and over to the elevator, in a frantic attempt to escape before Dru caught sight of him. However, right at the perfect moment, Lucy came descending into the room. She watched curiously as Gru scarpered towards her, not giving her much time to process his hurried expression.

"There you are! The girls were wondering where you-"

"Shh, shh, shh!" Gru jumped into the elevator with her, not paying her more than a microsecond of attention. "Don't talk so loud!"

"What are you-WOAHH!"

Before she even knew what was happening, Gru slammed the elevator's 'emergency ascend' button and sent them flying back into the house, at a speed that was significantly less than comfortable. Because of this, they'd managed to just avoid Dru, who launched himself into the room like a bullet train only a second later.

The way his head darted around to briefly scan every direction with vigor was akin to that of a dog. Come to think of it, Nefario considered, Dru held a lot of similarities to canines when concerning their absurd excitement to mundane activities.

As Dru dashed his way over to the table, Nefario released a preemptive, fatigued sigh. "Morning, Dr-"

"MORNING!" He practically dived into the nearby swivel chair, spinning around on it like an out-of-control carousel. "I am so, so excited, doctor! Today is going to be such a great day!"

"How so?" Nefario questioned.

Dru's spinning abruptly stopped. "Ain't it obvious!? Me and my brother are villaining together again! Since he's been focusing on all that AVL nonsense, we haven't villained in ages!"

"I don't think you can use the word 'villain' like that." Dru replied to Nefario's grammatical critique with an odd expression of both confusion and joy. With that, the scientist had to immediately question why he even bothered. "But, uhhh, if I'm being frank…I don't think today's gonna be a heck of a lot of fun, Dru."

"What are yoo talking about!? A day of villainsome behavior is always fun!" Filled with joy, Dru chose to give his chair another hearty spin. Yet, when he caught a glimpse of the wall-adorned clock, he prematurely brought himself to a stop. "Wait, isn't Gru supposed to be down here by now?"

Dr. Nefario huffed slightly in preparation. Having been partnered with the blonde for almost a year now, he knew how difficult it was to keep Dru contained. If Gru hadn't darted off so quickly, the old man almost certainly would've rejected his request. Putting his hands behind his back, he began his pointed explanation.

"Look, Dru. Today is just a day of simple preparation. Gathering small materials, finalizing plans, trying to decern what can be recycled, etcetera." Dru's energetic expression wasn't falling, proving that he probably wasn't getting the message. Regardless, Nefario continued. "The, uhh, as you say…villaining will have to wait until tomorrow. For now, we just need to stock up and get ourselves ready. You and Gru don't need to do anything really."

However, at that moment, it did fall. Shaking his head, Dru leaned forward in his seat and gave the doctor a frown, pointing an accusing finger in his direction.

"No, no, no, yoo told me last night that yoo had a job for us." He stated, without an ounce of doubt in his voice. It was true. Nefario had told him that there was a plan for them today. As he'd said, sticking by Gru's wishes here was pretty darn difficult. "I don't care if we're just sitting around de lab all day! Me and Gru will do it together, as villain partners should!"

Leaping from his seat, Dru paced for the elevator, making Nefario instinctively launch himself forward. The old man's fragile legs weren't going to keep up with him, but due to his almost chemical reaction, his body seemingly felt it was worth a try.

"W-wait, where are you going!?"

"To get my brother!" Dru replied, turning his head back as he walked. He was soon at the elevator, which he recalled down with the nearby button. "Mr. Bald is probably still lounging around in bed."

"No, no, no! Come back!" Dru completely ignored him. Already frustrated, Nefario loudly huffed again and failed to control the surge of ire. "Look, he's…he isn't here!"

Doing as he'd initially requested, Dru shifted his attention from the elevator and fully turned back around, right as it descended for him to step onto. Despite the fact that it had granted his attention, the scientist quickly regretted his yell, especially when Dru raised a puzzled eyebrow.

"What do yoo mean?"

Nefario simply stared back at first, unsure how to respond. Whatever he said here wasn't really going to help. He wasn't sure how Dru could so easily provoke such uncontrollable frustration in the doctor, but one's thing for certain, he really needed to work on it. Lowering his head, he decided that a little bit of honesty could probably help out here, despite how much it went against his villain mannerisms.

"I only need a resupply on steel. I was going to ask you and your brother to fetch some from the store for me, but…" He paused when he realized how he could actually lie himself out of this, making a slight smile emerge. "That's all been sorted now, so there's no need for-"

"He's gone to de STORE!"

Like an unpredictable time-bomb, Dru's energetic smile reappeared and he raced into the elevator, which he promptly rode back up to the house. Nefario almost choked out a million different words simultaneously to halt him in his tracks, but before a single one could pass his lips, the blonde was already gone.

Left shocked into silence, the scientist blinked and stared into the empty elevator shaft for a few seconds.

However, with a shrug, he soon turned around to get back to work.

"Welp, heaven knows I tried…"

Waker was currently in a tough spot, in a location he compared with the dark pits of hell. One he always vowed to avoid. In an effort to preserve anonymity, he chose to keep his head low, trying not to attract any attention from the surrounding pedestrians. It was imperative that was avoided. Since right now, he'd never felt so embarrassed to be sat in this revolting place…

Public transport.

It made him want to vomit. A villain like himself was way too esteemed for the imperfections of a bus. For fifty minutes now, he'd been staying silent and leaning far back into the seat, trying to hide away within the crowd. If any of his fellow villain brethren saw him right now, they'd jeer him straight out of the profession. Honestly, if he could have things his way, there wasn't a chance he'd be here. But, since he could barely afford to pay rent at the moment, purchasing a car wasn't really on the cards. For the foreseeable future, the bus was just gonna have to do.

It was necessary, he considered. Heading halfway across the city and acquiring this information was a crucial part of his plan. The Government Archive For Declassified Documentation, or GADD for short, was a large facility that housed exactly what he currently needed. All the declassified findings from the AVL regarding the IVB's takedown.

Some had been made available online, through the government's website, but some of the more disturbing ones had to be formally requested from the facility. Unfortunately, those were the exact ones he desired. He hated the idea of stepping foot inside a government building, almost as much as he hated setting foot on public transport. But, if he one day wanted to afford a lavish car, getting this information was essential. Since Freedom of Information laws covered his ability to legally acquire them, there shouldn't be any issues there.

After what felt like years of being surrounded by innocent civilians, the bus came to a stop, only a short walk from the GADD. Pacing off the vehicle, he strolled down the street and casually walked into the facility, trying to act as innocent as physically possible. With the way he mindlessly trudged around with a very loud whistle, it was safe to say he was acting anything but.

Meandering towards the front desk, he approached the brunette receptionist, who politely addressed him with a professional smile. He almost scoffed in her face. He couldn't imagine how anyone would be happy living a life like this, wallowing in a dead-end office job with little life goals or ambitions. It was both pathetically sad and absolutely hilarious.

"Hello. How may I help you?"

Waker cleared his throat and craned his neck upwards, displaying how much more important he was.

"I request a copy of every single document relating to the International Villain Brotherhood's takedown. I also request that you bring them to me at a hurried speed, lowly office worker, for I am a busy man who has no time to lounge around."

The receptionist raised an eyebrow. She took a few seconds to silently study Waker, to check if he was just joking. Surely nobody could lack that much self-awareness. However, when he responded with an impatient frown, she had to swallow back the urge to break out into surprised laughter.

"Yes, I…I can get you those documents, that shouldn't be a problem. But sir…" She pointed to the man's sleeve. "I think you might've leaned in something."

Waker glanced down to survey his arm, and sure enough, a large blob of purple chewing gum was smudged deep into the fabric. The man practically screeched and pulled his head away in disgust, almost like he was trying to escape from a deadly substance. How could that have gotten there!? It must've been across the side of his seat on the bus. Maybe he shouldn't lean so far back next time…

The receptionist rose from the seat to collect a copy of the IVB documents, all while handing Waker a small mocking grin. He growled in response, having to avoid the urge to jump over the desk and show her exactly where she should shove that smile. Openly attacking someone in a government building was probably ill-advised, especially when he really needed those documents.

"It's okay…" He whispered to himself, breathing in to try and calm down. "She'll suffer in time…"

Heading back home after another lengthy and incredibly painful bus ride, all while having to deal with on-lookers laughing at his gum-stained shirt, Waker re-entered his flat and slumped down into the seat beside the table, the IVB documents in his grasp. Taking a moment to massage his fatigued forehead, the man sighed and placed the papers in front of him, eager to scan each one for useful intel.

He already knew a fair amount about the IVB. They were hell-bent on furthering the villain profession, and through dedication and malevolence, they were really beginning to push things forward. Before their demise, he'd heard countless stories of their visions, one surrounding a world ruled by villainous dictators and kept in line by deeds of destruction. The main tactic was the utilization of brainwashing, which through relentless endeavors, they'd managed to get working.

The first document was nothing too special. It detailed their initial rise in power, mainly surrounding the boss's commitment to unremitting evil. An interesting factoid was that he wasn't the IVB's first leader. Another unnamed villain was behind the company's establishment nearly twenty years ago, but while he was in charge, they didn't really find much success. The best thing he'd done was hire his assistant, the man who'd take over for him when he passed.

After heart complications had taken the first man in command, the IVB boss that everyone grew to fear took hold of the company. It was clear that he held many aspirations. He quickly expanded the headquarters, adding the dormitory floor for their hired villains to ensure they could significantly increase the number of employees. Then, he got in contact with as many notable evildoers as he could, particularly people who held specific talents in areas he found desirable.

This was when he got his biggest idea. Kidnapping and training prisoners from young-offender institutes, who could be raised into formidable forces of evil. If they focused on finding the strongest talents by weeding out the weak inmates through fights to the death, they could have a whole roster of terrifying threats to humanity. Of course, that wouldn't be easy, but a little added dash of brainwashing could certainly help.

This was when he got in contact with a man who held some very unique talents. He was difficult to track down, as he was ridiculously good at keeping himself hidden. But, after one of his famous heists helped blow open the lid on his identity, he'd found him.

Doctor Simon Joshua, Ph.D.

Waker's eyes widened. That man, Dr. Joshua, was the one who'd invented the brainwashing ray gun…

The IVB boss sought out his support, purely since the acquisition of his device was an imperative element in the kidnapping children plot. Though he was initially doubtful about joining the organization, he instantly agreed when he was offered an undisclosed amount of cash, which must've been a lot if he'd had a change of heart so fast.

For a while, things were going swimmingly. The IVB had conducted over five annual kidnappings across multiple young-offender prisons, and on each occasion, they'd found a talented kid who was quickly thrown into training. They'd all helped in intimidating hundreds of villains into joining the corporation's ranks, and through that, the IVB appeared unstoppable.

That was until a set of complications had arisen.

There was a fundamental mistake in the doctor's device. Any modifications made through brainwashing would be reverted exactly five years after the procedure. They initially thought it wouldn't be a problem. They could just knock them out and repeat the brainwashing when everything was undone, to ensure they were still committed to the IVB. Unfortunately for them, one of the kids went completely rogue. He turned on them, choosing to fight against them alongside AVL agents Gru and Lucy.

The boss, in a bout of rage, had sent out multiple hits on people. He wanted the traitor kid dead, he wanted the Gru family dead, and he wanted the AVL destroyed. Additionally, and this was most surprising, he wanted Dr. Simon Joshua dead. If that man's device had worked the way he claimed it did, the IVB would never have been in that predicament. Hence, he needed to pay.

Catching on to what was happening, the doctor had escaped the headquarters and returned to his hidden state, managing to steer clear of the boss's assassination attempts. Since the IVB's collapse, nobody had heard a word from him. Both the AVL and the government had sought to track him down, but the man had covered his tracks sufficiently.

Waker was hanging off every word of the document. His eyes were magnified as he read it at an up-close distance, trying to absorb every ounce of detail that he could. If he wanted to evolve his plans away from stupid treasure hunt traps, which he still can't believe he thought was a good enough idea to warrant weeks of preparation, then he needed brainwashing. For that to be achieved, then it was obvious he required the doctor's help. Yes, his procedures may wear off after a few years, but in this particular plan, that shouldn't matter. Besides, maybe he's found a way to perfect it by now…

The issue here was tracking the man down. If the AVL were struggling to locate him, how the hell was he going to find someone so evasive? The document said that the IVB boss had used one of his 'famous heists' to finally get his identity, but what famous heist was it referring to? If he found that out, then maybe he had a chance of getting hold of him.

Sitting back in his seat, he considered some of the most famous villain heists to occur over the last ten years. There was, of course, the stealing of the moon, but that moron Felonious Gru was behind that one. Surely, it had to be something else. What other big crazy heists had happened? Waker had to hold back the urge to growl angrily. Why couldn't he remember any of them? It was like his mind had gone completely blank!

That's when it clicked.

He remembered reading about it in the newspaper as a child. It might not be the one the document was referring to, but the only way he was going to find out was if he dug a little deeper. He could still remember a fair amount about it, but it shouldn't be too difficult to get some more information…

It was, of course, a very…flamboyant heist.

Disregarding the fairly strong wind flying through the air, today was a really sunny day. Hence, to spend some time outside of the house, Margo and Edith had strolled down to the park to play a little bit of soccer. Since lunchtime was fast approaching, they weren't planning on staying for too long, but regardless, Lucy had insisted on giving them about a billion goodbye hugs.

Edith had agreed to tag along mostly since she wanted to get her head away from last night's news. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't stop thinking about villains and her future in the AVL. Unfortunately, her attempts at distraction with soccer weren't really helping. The entire time, her gaze would end up swaying off in deep thought, and due to the lack of concentration, her ability to kick the ball was beginning to suffer.

After her sister sent it flying over the crossbar for the seventh time in a row, Margo turned to her and rose a brow.

"Edith, we're gonna lose the ball if you keep doing that." She criticized. The tomboy replied with a frown. "It ain't like you to miss this much. What gives?"

"Dunno." Edith shrugged, trying to act like she didn't care.

Truth was, she really did care. She'd gotten pretty good at soccer over the past few years, and coupled with her worry, it was deeply angering her that she couldn't land a single shot on target. But still, she wasn't about to start yelling at Margo. What problem would that solve? After receiving such a nonchalant response, the eldest sister put her hands on her hips and returned the frown.

"Well, I'm not getting it again." She motioned her head behind the goal, where the ball was still bouncing away down the field. "It's your turn."

Rolling her eyes, Edith frustratedly huffed and traipsed away, not really bothered about speedily chasing after it. If she brought the ball back over, she'll only just miss and hammer it far away again, so what was even the point? Turning her head back as she wandered past the goal, her tone of voice grew almost depressed.

"I think I'm just gonna go home…"

"What? Edith, we've only been here for like, ten minutes." Margo watched after her little sister with a somewhat concerned expression, not remembering a time where she appeared so unenthused about playing soccer. "Anyway, you can't walk home on your own. Mom said you gotta stick with me."

Edith assertively frowned, throwing her hands up in the air with indifference. "I don't care! Who's gonna stop me!?"

The tomboy began to pace away in the total opposite direction to the ball, marching off in a big sulk. Uncertain what was provoking such an aggressive response, Margo stepped forward and called out, hoping to stop her before she disappeared.

"Edith, wai-"

"Hi, Margo!"

However, at that very moment, Avery appeared from seemingly nowhere at her left, beaming at her best friend gleefully. Margo blinked in surprise when she heard the sudden voice, but when she turned to face the similarly aged girl, the exact same gleeful smile spread to her.

"Oh! Hi, Avery!" Momentarily forgetting about Edith, she quickly spun around to converse with her. "What's up? I haven't seen you in like, forever!"

"Yeah, I know, sorry. Just been pretty busy, I…I guess." Avery began to rub the back of her neck guiltily. Margo caught the impression that she was trying to hide something, but since she was way more excited to finally see her friend again, she chose not to question it. "Uhh, what've you been doing then? Ain't it your birthday soon?"

"Yeah, a few days!" She replied enthusiastically. Avery smiled, happy to see her so excited. "I can't wait to finally be a teenager!"

"Pfft…that's so cute."

Another voice appeared from behind them, startling both girls somewhat. They turned to find Lauren, Chester's brother, watching Margo with a judging frown. The goth girl had refused to speak to her since Jack had pushed her brother in that lake, only offering her vague hostile expressions when they passed each other. Unsurprisingly, she was staggered when she realized that it was her who was talking.

From what she'd noticed, Lauren was a very bad influence on people nowadays. Most kids in her school who befriended her became a lot more rebellious, opting to skip classes and break rules on frequent occasions. She'd formed a little gang there, who went around throwing insults at people and bullying those they considered beneath them.

Margo knew she didn't like her before, but over the last few months, she was just getting worse and worse. At least a while back, she was somewhat sensible. Recently, she'd become some form of thug. It didn't help that her brother was an absolute idiot as well. Returning the judging frown, the soon-to-be teen crossed her arms, unfazed by the way she was mocking her.

"What ya gonna do for ya little birthday?" Lauren continued, her tone getting even more condemning. "Gonna have a tea party? Maybe get a bouncy castle? That's so pathetic."

Margo shrugged, not letting those words upset her. She'd heard a lot worse insults in her life, after all.


"So! You're a weirdo!" Lauren yelled, taking a step forward dauntingly. Margo bravely didn't budge, especially when these attempts at bullying were laughably mundane. "When I turned thirteen, me and my friends broke into the school hall and drank on the bleachers. That's how ya celebrate ya birthday!"

"Wowww, so you trespassed? That's so cool. Is this supposed to impress me or something?"

Margo was absolutely sure, when she spied her deathly enraged look, that she was going to punch her. Even though Lauren tried to act thuggish and intimidating, she wasn't really that strong. With all the bullies the bespectacled girl had faced through her school and the orphanage, Lauren didn't scare her in the slightest…

Up until the rest of her gang appeared.

Suddenly, six other gothic girls marched from behind and surrounded Lauren, a few of which had ill-advised tattoos of black tears on their faces. Margo glanced around at each one, and once she realized how outnumbered she was, she immediately regretted sticking up for herself. She wasn't really the giving-in type when it came to bullies, but this was simply too intimidating.

She kind of wished that Edith had stuck around. Even if she was younger than her, she knew her sister probably would've round-housed kicked one of them by now.

"Why are you still hanging around with this loser?" Lauren turned to Avery, who throughout the confrontation, had kept herself nervously quiet. But, when the goth's attention focused on her, she snapped to attention. Eyes widening, she frightfully looked between Lauren and Margo, evidently unsure of how to respond.

After a few seconds of silence, Avery lowered her head and gave an unsure shrug.

"I dunno."

Margo focused on Avery with a surprised expression, clearly hurt by that response. However, she was even more hurt to watch her wander over and join the goth group, only offering the twelve-year-old a short, guilt-ridden glance. Looking away from Avery, Lauren smiled mockingly at Margo. Since she used to hang out with them both, she knew just how close they were. Or now that Avery had joined her gang, how close they used to be.

"She's with us now, she ain't your friend no more. Wanna know why?" Lauren stepped right into Margo's face, which with the added news of losing her best friend, finally seemed to intimidate her back a little. "Cuz you're a weirdo. Enjoy your little tea party alone."

Turning around, the gang laughed and began to walk away, leaving Margo to sadly watch after Avery. Her former friend glanced back for a second, but out of fear of Lauren noticing that she was looking at her, she turned away and ignored her pained expression. Margo dropped her head sorrowfully. Guess that explains what Avery was trying to hide…

That hurt a lot more than a punch ever would've.

Edith was wandering down the street on her own, her head arched downwards. In frustration, she was kicking a littered coke can across the sidewalk, a frown plastered to her face. The more she thought about her fading AVL dreams, the more it annoyed her. She must be overthinking this, right? As Jack said yesterday, there was always one lunatic out there who wanted to hurt people.

Hopefully, they'd still be around when she grew up.

As a distant conversation hit her eardrums, she looked across the street to find several suited men, sat in a small café with their black briefcases set to the side. They were quite clearly business employees, likely on their lunch break from whatever mundane office job they had. Edith watched them sip on their coffees and talk about stupid business stuff with a look of distaste, feeling the boredom growing in her chest already.

If in fact there wasn't a need for an AVL in the future, was that how she'd end up? A businesswoman with no aspirations or goals, other than talking about boring corporate stuff all day. She didn't even want to imagine it. Maybe that's the way that some people wanted to live their lives, but certainly, that isn't how Edith Gru wanted her future to pan out.

She desired risk and danger. She wanted to prove how truly cool she was in front of the whole world. She wanted people to gasp in awe at her abilities. Sitting in an office and sorting out papers all day was never going to provide her with those opportunities. Sighing, she dropped her head again and sulkily continued down the street, considering some other options that didn't involve the AVL. That was proving quite difficult.

Maybe she could find a way to fight villains now. Maybe she didn't need to wait until she grew up. The city wasn't safe yet; there were still criminals waiting for their moment to strike. As they'd all found out at the NASA headquarters a few months back, that moment could come at any time. She may still be a kid, but Edith knew she was a lot more capable than people gave her credit for. If given the chance, she knew she could put up a good fight somehow, even with her small stature.

But how was she going to do it? She couldn't just go out and find a villain, and it wasn't like the opportunity to stop one would just fall right in her lap…

That's when the wind blew extra hard, sending a small piece of paper right into her face.

Blinking as it stuck to her cheek, Edith reached up and grasped a hold of it, bringing it into the palm of her hand. She looked down at it with an irritated frown, as if the paper could see her and understand that it had annoyed her. But, when she took in the glimmering laminated surface, that held a little picture of a golden treasure chest, her expression transformed to intrigue.

Taking a moment to study it, the tomboy flipped it over and scanned the back, finding a few lines of writing. She only needed a quick observation to realize that it was a riddle…

The treasure of riches is what you seek,
Your field of view is not so bleak,
Do stand and watch, raise up to tower,
Want your next clue? You'll need the power.

Her eyes widened instantly. Continuing to glare down at the small slip, a million thoughts went flying through her head. A treasure of riches? Your next clue? Was she understanding this correctly? This riddle was referencing a treasure hunt, with a set of clues that led to the apparent 'riches'. What else could this possibly be?

Raising her head again to glare into nothingness, all traces of her earlier frown had vanished. Now, she held a look of hope…

Ensuring to keep a safe hold of the riddle, Edith grinned and darted off down the street, wanting only to return home at pace.

Gru arrived at the hardware store, pulling into the parking lot with a light smile on his face. The radio had played some soft, chilled-out music, and with the beaming sun shining from the sky, his world was filled with a calming atmosphere. Getting out of the metal tank, he strolled into the building and swiftly headed over to the 'Metals' aisle.

Sure enough, sheets of steel were sat atop the shelves, listed at a decent price. As Nefario had said, this was a lot easier than having to find some intricate way to steal some. It may be slightly mundane, but it was worth it if they wanted to progress to the next phase of the shrink ray's construction, which will likely be a lot more adrenaline-focused.

From what he could see on those blueprints and formulas, they were going to need a lot of different materials and substances, some of which Gru had never heard of. Acquiring them was going to be a lot more difficult and time-consuming than this. Knowing Dru, he'll probably contribute to the difficulty and duration.

He headed over to the checkout and joined the queue of other shop-goers, each of whom held an assortment of different hardware products. Glancing down the line, he was irritated to find five other customers, three of which had quite a lot in their basket. Who knows how long they'll all take to pay for their items? He raised an impatient brow, feeling the itch of the freeze ray in his pocket. His hand instinctively reached inside, but before he could grasp a hold of the handle, he pulled away and shook off the urge.

No, he shouldn't. If he was here to cause problems, Dru may as well have tagged along.

Looking around, he decided to give his surroundings a little examination, hoping to occupy the time with some simple thought. He noticed a few very large televisions in the 'Gadgets' aisle, a lot of which were larger than his TV at home. He would consider upgrading his current one, if it weren't for the hassle of linking it up to the security system. Ensuring that it could connect to each part of both the lab and mansion was much more difficult than first thought.

He noticed a few expensive-looking smartphones there too, all of which would probably tickle Margo's fancy. However, he wasn't about to splurge out on another phone just yet. Nefario had spent a few days hooking her current one up with a plethora of security functions, most notably a highly advanced GPS system that detected whether she was in range of anyone listed on the AVL's most wanted list. It was Gru's idea, and he couldn't deny, he was pretty proud of it.

Then his gaze veered upward, towards the CCTV display attached to the ceiling. It was slowly flicking through the few cameras installed across the premises, currently displaying a view of the store's back exit. Then, it switched to the one above the counter, giving Gru a view of himself and all the other customers in front of him. Grinning, he waved up at the camera, like a child enthralled by the simple things.

That's when it switched over to the store's entrance, where a flash of white thundered through the door.

Eyes widening in horror, Gru's smile quickly erased and he spun around to examine the front of the store. There was no one there. He definitely saw that correctly, right? The automatic doors were fully closed, so maybe his imagination was just playing tricks on him. He noticed that the store seemed eerily quiet, like someone was trying to stay hidden. Slowly looking around between the aisles, he kept a keen eye out, hoping to god that he was just hallucinating.

After a full twenty seconds of watching every corner of the interior closely, he concluded that he was likely just paranoid. Sighing in relief and adding a little chuckle, he turned back towards the counter and got back to waiting. Even if Nefario failed to keep him busy, there was no way he would know which store he'd headed to, as long as the scientist didn't spill the beans, that is…

That's when the flash of white reappeared from behind him.

With an overzealous laugh, Dru yanked the steel from Gru's hands and quickly darted through the line of customers, knocking each one of their feet. Blinking in total and utter shock, the AVL agent was astounded as his brother jumped up onto the counter and maniacally cackled, holding the steel in the air like a magnificent trophy.

"Come on, brother! Let's get OUTTA HERE!"

Dru leaped over the desk and bolted towards the 'Employees Only' door. Gru growled in fierce rage and reluctantly chased after him, avoiding all the floored customers and jumping over the counter. The cashier barely had enough time to process what was happening before they were both behind him, prompting him to stretch out his arms and call out.

"Hey, wait! You can't be back here!" He yelled. Unsurprisingly, they didn't slow down. "And you gotta pay for that!"

As Dru thundered through the door into the restricted area of the shop, Gru momentarily turned back and rummaged through his pockets for the cash. After throwing the necessary amount of money across the floor, he gave the cashier an apologetic shrug, before joining his brother in his escape.

"Sorry about this!" He cried out.

The two brothers thundered through the hardware shop's storage space, where a few employees were completing a quick inventory count. Before they could note down the number of GameDrive X's they had out back, Dru came out of nowhere and barged them off their feet, sending their clipboards and papers into the air.

"HEY!" One of them screamed in rage. Dru only replied with a mocking laugh.

As Gru ran past them to keep up with his brother, the aforementioned enraged employee leaped to their feet and grabbed the bald man in a hold. He attempted to heroically tackle him to the ground, but by impressively maneuvering himself to the side, Gru had enough breathing room to unleash his freeze ray and trap the guy in a block of ice.

Stunned, the other men inched backward and held their hands up in surrender. Gru shuffled out of the frozen man's grip and addressed them briefly.

"Don't worry, he'll thaw out."

Continuing to run past the dozens of shelves, Gru and Dru had the back exit door in their sights. All they had to do was sprint through it and they were home free. Despite the fact that they hadn't technically stolen the sheets of steel, they assumed that the security wouldn't be too happy about them trespassing into the private section and freeze-raying one of the employees, so avoiding them was in their best interests.

Speaking of the security…

A guard bolted from the left and turned to face the duo, standing threateningly between them and the door. All three men came to a halt and stared at each other in silence, like they were involved in an old-fashioned Western duel. After a few seconds, the guard reached for his back pocket and uncovered his trusty taser, making Dru squeal in fright.

However, keeping himself composed, Gru darted his gaze around the room in search of another escape route. That's when he spotted the small window to their left, built high into the wall. Grabbing a hold of the highest shelf he could reach, the man yanked himself into the air.

"Up here!"

Dru glanced over as his brother quickly climbed up the shelves. The guard, realizing that they were trying to evade him, darted forward with his taser bared menacingly. The blonde screamed again and jumped up to latch onto the shelf, trying to keep up with his brother. But, after losing his grip in fear, he began to tumble dangerously towards the floor.

Thankfully, at the right moment, Gru reached down and grabbed his arm, where he used every ounce of his strength to help Dru regather his balance. The guard was fast approaching the twins, but right before he could fully close the distance and tase his closest target, Dru recaptured his grip on the shelf and they both successfully climbed to the top at a swift speed. From there, they were able to open the window and just about squeeze themselves through.

They perilously fell from the building and crashed into the below trash cans with a hefty thump. Once he realized that they'd successfully escaped the store, Dru leaped up and raised his arms in the air, cheering ecstatically as his brother dizzily tried to get back on his feet.

"WOOO! That was so much fu-"

"Have yoo lost your GOD-DAMN mind!?" Gru clenched his fists and fiercely hissed the question into his brother's face, startling the blonde back a little. "There were CAMERAS in there, yoo idiot! If they check de footage, they can easily find out who we are!"

"So!?" Dru argued, holding out his hands in confusion. "It is just a hardware store, who cares!?"

"I'm an AVL agent, Dru! I could lose my freaking job if Ramsbottom finds out I have been attacking de local stores!"

"Yoo paid for de steel!" Dru held out the sheets of metal, a confused frown on his face. "We didn't do anything wrong!"

"What do yoo MEAN we didn't do anything wrong!? We trespassed on private property and freeze-rayed one of de employees!"

"Exactly! Wasn't it awesome!?"

Gru opened his mouth to angrily exclaim in his brother's smiling face, but with that reply, he was left a little stumped. His frown fading, he considered that entire predicament. They were pursued in a high-energy chase across the store after breaking into the employee-only section, without causing a lot of damage in the process. Yes, he'd frozen somebody, but that guy would be fine in a few hours.

Yeah, thinking about it, that was awesome.

"Quick, they went through the window!" The guard yelled from inside the building, as a barrage of footsteps sounded in the distance.

The brothers glanced back nervously, realizing that backup had arrived. Huffing in pure exasperation, Gru gently grabbed the blonde's arm and motioned to his left. "Come on, let's just go."

Pacing down the back alley, they climbed over the metal fence and jumped out onto the nearby field, where they ran off into the wilderness…

Jack released a heavy yawn and slumped back in his uncomfortable wooden seat.

He couldn't deny how lethargic he felt right now. It was as if the weak light of the laptop screen was painfully searing his eyes, proving that he likely needed a break from it. He'd only been awake for two hours, of which thirty minutes was spent researching on a man the AVL considered a threat. Despite this, he was already feeling very tired.

He couldn't lie to himself anymore. He was sick of staying in his room, he was sick of sitting in this chair, and most importantly, he was SICK of this stupid, boring research. It had started out as a somewhat entertaining variant of AVL work, but over these last few months, it was quickly getting tedious. Watching the news last night, where he got practically no credit for stumbling across Ember's plan, that entire report really encapsulated why he was beginning to hate it.

But still, it was important that he got it done. Yes, there might not be any cheers or celebrations coming his way when the villains were eventually caught, but with the knowledge that he was helping to protect innocent civilians, why should that matter? He was doing good in the world. That's what he'd promised himself he'd focus on after breaking free of the IVB's grip. He should be proud!

It was hard to feel pride when you're sat alone in your bedroom…

Sighing, he stood from the chair and trudged through the door, deciding that he needed some fresh air if he ever wanted to concentrate on his work. Heading out into the front yard, he found Agnes and a few of the minions playing in the pink dollhouse, loudly yelping about a fairy and her pixie friends. Jack sat down on the steps and observed them in fatigue.

He clearly heard her shout something about a magic television that they could watch. Then, he could vaguely hear the minions cheer uproariously in response. Then, every sound around him became an incomprehensible mess of noise. Then, his eyelids started to…droop. From there…he slowly…drifted…off…into-



Before he fell stone-cold asleep on the front steps, Edith appeared on his right and yelled in Jack's ear, all while possessing an ecstatic grin on her face. The teen almost had a coronary right there, as he jolted backward in unfiltered fright. Once he spied his little sister, he huffed and rubbed his eyes, shocked at how quickly he almost passed out.

"Jeez, Edith. You almost gave me a heart attack." He reopened his eyes and watched the tomboy, as she continued to hyperactively bounce on the spot. "Where'd you even come from? Didn't you go to the park with Margo? Wait, where is Mar-"

"Stop talking!"

Edith joyfully grabbed her brother's arm and yanked him back into the mansion, startling Jack once more with a sudden exclamation. As he had barely any energy to protest, he allowed her to drag him upstairs and into her bedroom, where she securely closed the door and turned back to beam up at her brother in glee.

"I've got something awesome to show you!" She grabbed his hand again and pulled him over to the little table, her hands raised to her chest excitedly. "Remember when we were talking about villains and the AVL last night!? Do you remember, do you remember!?"

Jack raised a brow at the way she spoke at a very heightened pace. He was barely able to process her words. "Uhh…yeah?"

"Well, look what I found!"

Lunging forward, she slammed the item she'd been concealing in her hand on the table, inviting the teenager's intrigued gaze. It appeared to be a poorly cut-out laminated slip of paper, which donned an amateur clipart image of a treasure chest. Silver and gold sparkles were littered around the edges, as if they'd been quickly scribbled on with felt-tip pens. Jack glared at it in befuddled silence for a short while, uncertain on how to respond. Considering her unrestrained excitement, this was certainly anti-climactic.

"What is that?" He eventually questioned.

"It's a riddle!" She flipped over the paper at speed, revealing the scantily written words on the back. "It says something about a treasure chest!"

Somewhat intrigued again, he leaned forward and picked up the supposed 'riddle' to examine it up close. It took some work to understand the tremendously messy font, but with a little bit of effort, he finally managed to make it all out.

The treasure of riches is what you seek,
Your field of view is not so bleak,
Do stand and watch, raise up to tower,
Want your next clue? You'll need the power.

"Edith, this ain't real." Chuckling, he lowered the paper to his side and gave his sister a slightly teasing smile. "There's no such thing as hidden treasure chests!"

"Duhhhh! Obviously!" Edith frowned and snatched the paper back, clearly wanting to keep it safe in her possession. Jack, not surprisingly, was even more confused now. He offered the child a weird look as she gently placed it back on the table, her gaze studying it thoroughly. "I don't think this riddle actually leads to a treasure chest! I think a villain made this, to try and lure someone into a trap! I was thinking that me and you could stop them together!"

Jack stared down at her, dumbfounded.

"You're not being serious, right?" Edith hadn't been anticipating his highly doubtful response. She spun around to offer him a surprised look, but when he began to shake his head dismissively, it slowly transformed to anger in a desire to defend her theory. "It's just a stupid riddle that someone made, it probably doesn't mean anything."

"It does mean something! Why would it just be lying around on the street!?"

"I dunno! Someone probably dropped it or something…"

"No! B-because it, uhh…because…"

Edith hesitated in her attempt to argue, unsure of how to respond. Her gaze darted back to the riddle, her little mind rapidly attempting to explain how a villain was definitely behind this. She had to be correct! Why else would someone make a riddle that leads to a supposed treasure chest? Either they're trying to trap someone with promises of riches, or there's actual riches at the end of it…

…or she was overthinking everything.

Jack continued to glare at her as she desperately tried to concoct a response, but after a short period, her head dropped in defeat. Every inch of her hopeful smile began to fade, to be replaced with the exact same hopeless look she donned last night. With that, the teen felt the guilt hit him at pace.

What was he doing? Why was he arguing with her? It was pretty obvious where all of this was coming from. After she admitted how worried she was about her future in stopping evil yesterday, it was a no-brainer that she was going to search for an opportunity to stumble across a villain's plan. It was probably the exact kind of re-enforcement she needed right now. Outright robbing her of this was cruel on his part.

Glancing back at the riddle, Jack kneeled to the young girl's level and picked up the paper again, giving the words another brief scan.

"So, what d'ya think this means then?" He gently questioned. Edith shrugged.

"I'm not sure. I can't figure it out." She released a heavy, defeated sigh. "You're probably right anyway. It don't mean nothing..."

Jack looked at her sadly, annoyed at himself for speaking on this without thinking. It was obvious she was excited to do this with him, how could he deny her so quickly? He'd wanted a break from AVL research anyway. Spending this kind of time with his sister was a perfect way to get that break. They stayed quiet for a few seconds, as Edith glowered at the ground and frustratedly rubbed her boot across the hardwood floor.

"Well…" He reached over to hold the riddle in front of her, electing her to glance up. "Maybe we should find out together."

Her eyes quickly lit up. "Really?"

"Yeah, I mean…" Jack looked off to the side for a moment, thinking of a way to word this that'll reignite her hope. "There's…there's been a lot of times where I've been suspicious about stuff while I'm researching. Actually, one of those times was yesterday, and…that turned out to be Ember. So, maybe you're right about this!"

The hopeful smile exploded from the tomboy's face, filling Jack with a huge sense of relief. Edith knew she wasn't overthinking this! An inept-looking riddle leading people to a 'hidden treasure chest' just couldn't be real. She had to know who was behind it, and with her brother's help, maybe they could be the ones to stop a huge villainous scheme in the making…

Either way, there was definitely something sinister behind this riddle.

This was not good news.

It was rare that I felt fear. In most threatening situations, it was seldom present. But this was likely the largest threat I'd ever faced. Being criminally charged and ordered to court. A guilty conviction and a prison sentence would ultimately lay my dreams in their grave. It was hard enough that they were already being heavily strangled...

I was sat in the kitchen, glaring at the summoning form on the stained tablecloth. It took a lot of my will to avoid ripping it or burning it or disposing of it in whatever was the quickest method. I knew it wouldn't solve the problem. Getting rid of the order wasn't going to exempt me from attending court.

I grabbed it brusquely, scanning the written details.

'Official Summoning: You are hereby required to attend court on July 9th, 3:00 PM PST. You must arrive at the courthouse one hour prior to receive further instruction. You will stand before a judge and a jury of your peers to defend against the following charges: Domestic Violence, Child Maltreatment & Attempted Manslaughter.'

I slammed it down again, stewing in anger.

It was ridiculously unfair that I had been slapped with such charges. If social workers knew the context, they'd see EXACTLY why domestic violence in that situation was 100% necessary. Then, I doubt they'd be calling for these extremes.

First, he cripples our finances, with needs of food and clothing. Then, he chats away with his teachers, telling them about our secret plans for the future. And now, he exaggerates his injuries, delving me deeper into these criminal charges. If anyone was in my shoes, they would've done the same thing.

Although, maybe that decision wasn't worth it. I'd silenced the teacher about the topic with threats to her and her family's life, so those aspirations should remain under wraps. Yet, I was so RIDICULOUSLY angry in that moment, that I had to manifest the severe rage somehow. He just always finds a way to ruin EVERYTHING and I'm sick of it.

I shouldn't have listened to my wife. I should've just killed him.

Regardless, he was still alive, and they were all trapped in this pretty rough predicament. The threat of jail time was way too realistic for comfort. Maybe it was best to avoid the possibility altogether and go on the run. I know my wife might not want to leave him behind, but this situation must take precedent, especially over HIM. She always was a little softer in the heart than me, a trait I deeply wish I could erase.

We have to run away, though. What other option do we have?

Ding, dong!

I frowned at the call of the doorbell, lifting my head a little. Who could that be? The lawyer said he wasn't coming until tomorrow. I rose from my seat and headed for the door, which I swiftly opened. A black-haired man with a thick beard stood before me, a wicked smile gracing his expression. I looked him up and down, puzzled at the sight of the stranger.

"Can I…help you?"

"Hopefully, yes." They replied. I frowned harder. Vague responses are one of my many pet peeves. "Look, I'll cut to the chase. We've never met, but believe me, I know a lot about you. These criminal charges that you're facing are quite the issue. I assume you are looking for a way to avoid them, correct?"

I watched him closely for a few seconds, silent. His outward appearance screamed an odd mix of professionalism and poor cleanliness. I'd hazard a guess that he was homeless, but his demeanor and cocky smile gave the impression that he was an aspiring entrepreneur. Those oddities considered; I didn't like the look of him.

"Correct." I mumbled, eyes narrowing.

"I may have a solution. You see, I've been in the process of perfecting a revolutionary invention. One that is nearing completion." He reached into his back pocket to reveal a set of dirtied papers. I hesitated but slowly took them. "It's a bit ambitious and definitely needs a little more perfecting, but I'm confident that it's coming along well. I am certain it will help you in, shall we say…IMPRESSING the judge."

I perused through the papers, each one brandishing a complicated blueprint. Though I'd only gave it a brief assessment, I didn't have a clue what on earth it was trying to represent.

"What is this?"

"You don't have to understand them. It's unquestionably the most complicated invention I've ever worked on. All you need to know, is that it has the ability to BRAINWASH people." I blinked, looking up at him in surprise. "One second of being under its rays, and that judge will see you as a perfectly innocent man."


"Yes, sir. Whatever you want that judge to think, this ray will make it happen." He cleared his throat and turned away for a second, like he'd become slightly more uncomfortable. "I'm gonna need a little, uh…financial support, but it shouldn't take too much to get this up and running. If you can get me some cash, I'll help you avoid jail."

I shook my head, baffled at this very sudden situation. How did this guy even know about the court case? I'd tried to keep it all private, so he must've been digging DEEP into my personal life to uncover this. I didn't really know how to feel about that, but if this was the real deal, those grievances can be discarded for now.

"Who even ARE you?"

"Oh, my apologies. I should've introduced myself sooner." He straightened his collar and lifted his head a little, his smile growing.

"My name's Dr. Simon Joshua, and I think we're gonna get along quite well…"

So, there we go, that's chapter two!

Honestly, I must apologize for how freaking long this chapter is. I remember a time when six to seven thousand words was plenty for a Down The Bloodline chapter. Nowadays, it seems I can't stop myself from unintentionally writing them WAY longer than that. Five-digits is apparently the new norm for me haha. Regardless, I hope it was a good read.

Will try to get another chapter out ASAP. If you choose to review, it's VERY much appreciated :)