"But, when the work was finished, the Craftsman kept wishing that there were someone to ponder the plan of so great a work, to love its beauty, and to wonder at its vastness."- Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

First and foremost, allow me to apologize for taking so long with the ending. I never meant for it to turn into a two month long project, but the more I thought about it—the deeper I delved into it—the more I realized that it needed to be substantial and thorough. I didn't want to cheat any of you by producing a half-hearted ending. Hopefully, you have enjoyed the fruits of my labor!

When I began writing Collateral Damage almost ten months ago (quite a gestation period, really…) I never could have envisioned what it would become. I had written stories before, but not quite on the same level. I suppose I had something to prove to myself. I came up with the idea rather whimsically in August of last year and thought it held some promise. Initially, I believed it was going to be a short story…maybe five or ten chapters. As I worked with the idea, though, I just ran with it and developed it more; I saw there was a greater story to be told. I am pleased that I went with my gut and decided to fully develop the initial idea. I must say that I have never felt such pride in my writing before; it is rather infectious, too, I may add…

This story has been a constant in my life for ten months now. It has seen me through a rather turbulent stage in my life: I recently moved, student taught, and began working multiple jobs. Writing afforded me the opportunity to do something for myself. It was the one activity that did not hinge on others. It was just me, my notebook, and my imagination…and boy was it fun.

I owe all of you a great THANK YOU for making it such a worthwhile experience. While I had a lot of fun writing the story, all of your comments and support have been invaluable to me. When I began working on Collateral, I was not very confident in my writing (sometimes I'm still not…) but all of your kind words have done much to help my efficacy soar. Never before have I felt so empowered to write. While I know part of it has been my perseverance, I also feel that you—my beloved readers—have played an even greater hand. Hearing your impressions of my work and corresponding with you has brought me a level of solidarity that I find truly exhilarating (yes, I am that dorky…ask around)

I don't know what lays ahead for me. I have a few ideas for some one-shots and am even more excited about a collaborative work that I will be undertaking with fellow writers TheForceIsStrongWithThisOne, titanfan45, and still too old for this. It promises to be an enjoyable endeavor. I also have ambitions to begin an original story. The praise I received for my OC's in this work really struck me; I figure I must have done alright. If people enjoy my OC's maybe—with some work—I can develop some wonderful characters to incorporate into something completely my own. It will be a challenge…but I always enjoy a good challenge (and an opportunity to improve myself.)

One last thing. I feel I must acknowledge all of the people who have helped me in some way along this long journey. This list may be lengthy, but it is also necessary!

VilaVi: Thank you for being my pillar of support throughout this process. Your insight has been indispensable and your opinions have been most helpful. Know that Collateral would not have been as good if it weren't for you. You made me a better writer and I am in your debt! (Oh, and yes… Vi did make a cameo in the story… my way of saying thanks…)

VociferousVixenofDarkness: Thank you for your insight and for being there to talk me through my frustrations…both within and outside of the realm of writing. There were times I wanted to throw in the towel…when I was so irritated and fed up that it made me sick. You kept me levelheaded enough to continue and for that, you have my thanks!

Templar of Honor: Your story (Perfect Apprentice, check it out people!) has been an inspiration to me and you have been a wonderful asset to me. Being able to talk writing with you has been a great joy and has given me a greater understanding of what a good story is.

TheForceIsStrongWithThisOne: An author who needs no introduction. He has written eight hit stories while I have written just this one! His work(s) have been a constant in my life and provided inspiration to me since I first began reading them back in November. Being able to speak with you and pick your brain has been greatly beneficial. Definitely a first class guy, all around.

Titanfan45: Your honesty has been a great asset to me throughout this process. You don't hold back. You simply tell it like it is and THAT is what I need to improve. You have stuck with me throughout and that means a lot to me. Thanks for being a cool guy (and a fellow Mustang owner, to boot!)

The Flying Frog: Your reviews alone have solidified you in my good graces! People have forgotten how to properly review…You should give lessons! Receiving a review from you is like unwrapping a gift. It just makes my day. You are thorough, meticulous, and offer valuable insight. Rereading your reviews motivated me throughout! Thank you for taking the time to be so assiduous!

Renting: Again, thank you for your honesty, your support, your expertise, and all of your help and advice. Conversing with you has been a joy. Whether we are discussing literature or simply talking about life-stuff, you are unfailingly yourself and that is more than admirable! I must say that I cannot wait to see some of your writing in print one day!

Nightcrawler's Shadow: You were my first reviewer and you have stuck with me all of this time, which is a feat in itself. Thank you for sticking around and believing in this story from its infancy! Words cannot express my gratitude!

Still too old for this: As an admirer of your work, it is a great joy to be able to speak with you about writing—your processes, your inspiration, etc. I must admit that Too Young is probably in my top 5 favorite stories, as it was just that mind-blowingly good, and Opening the Closet Door a Crack is so wonderfully original and inspiring… Thanks for everything!

Rosalind2013: It has been fun to get to know someone who is so passionate about their writing. It pleases me to no end that you have decided to pursue your dreams and whet the sharper aspects of your mind by choosing to work on original stories. Thank you for your support over these past few months!

The Mighty One: Thank you for your undying devotion to my work and your thoughtful reviews! It has been fun to talk writing with you and watch you improve over the passed few months. Seeing someone so committed to writing is a real treat; I know if you continue on the path you're on, only good things will come of it.

Sir Alwick: Your stories just speak to me on a very high level. I love them. Your devotion to your craft is awe-inspiring and it is wonderful to read your work. So many people don't put the effort forth… you, however, make everything so believable and emotive that I cannot help by admire your writing.

Rabula Tasa: Your work also speaks to me. I love it. To see someone put so much thought into their writing and so much originality is absolutely breathtaking. Moreover, the reviews I have received from you have meant a lot to me. They have made my day on more than one occasion…giving me insight into what I am doing right, and what I could improve upon. I am always looking to improve, so that—to me—means everything!

Raven2k8: For being so undyingly supportive, for sharing your thoughts on writing with me, and for putting such creativity into your stories. I have enjoyed getting to know you over the last few months…your work speaks for itself! I look forward to seeing what is to come from you!

Finally, to all of you (sorry if I missed you!) Thank you for reading and for all you have done for me over the passed ten months or so. I am grateful you have chosen to allow me into your lives in some way and I am humbled that you have read my work, when there are so many fantastic writers out there. You have made writing this story—even the frustrating parts—worthwhile!

THANK YOU ALL!

-Novus Ordo Seclorum

P.S. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or if you just want to pick my brain, feel free to PM me. I love to hear from my readers and fellow writers.

P.P.S. If you haven't reviewed yet (I am loathe to beg…) this is your last chance to let me know what you think!