Los Libertas | Teen Ink

Los Libertas

December 15, 2020
By Akay, Englewood, Colorado
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Akay, Englewood, Colorado
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Author's note:

I'm a student in highschool and this is my first story Iv'e ever written. 

“Mundos is truly a one-of-a-kind island”, as many folks like to say. The inhabitants of the island have been living there for over a century, being descendants of a supposed great pirate only known as “The Great Captain Red Beard” and his crew.  Legend has it that they rebled against a kingdom and sailed out to sea to seek freedom beyond their world and landed on the shore of Mundos after a bad storm. The pirates and the local inhabitants of Mundos worked together to build the island from ground up into a beautiful port city. But that all changed when Los Diablos came 10 years ago.

On that fateful morning, a large and intimidating pirate ship docked on the shores of Mundos. The first to step foot outside the ship was a 6’7 giant of a man with greasy black hair slicked back into a ponytail. A permanent and deep scowl across his face was juxtaposed with a dust of freckles and large eyes giving him an appearance of a man who could pass as a someone in his late 20’s and late 40’s simultaneously. He dressed like he was a mob boss who had decided to become a pirate spontaneously, as he wore a gangster-esque suit and tie with large black dress shoes. All of this was topped with a cartoonishly large Cuban cigar hanging out of his half open mouth. Everyone stopped what they were doing to stare at this out of place man, seemingly unaware that tons of pirates were coming off the ship along with him. I’ll never forget how uneasy I felt watching this unfold through my dad’s telescope. I could tell something was wrong, something was very wrong. Right away I could hear my older sister Suzie screaming for me “Joseph we have to go, now!” I was too young to process the situation, yet I could hear the raw fear in her voice, and it made me jump right out of my seat nearly taking the telescope down with me. She screamed for me once more “Joseph hurry, they’re coming!” I got up and immediately grabbed my book Encyclopedia of the new world and started running down the stairs. Suzie was waiting for me halfway up the stairs in tears, she grabbed me immediately and started running out the front door barefoot. I remember bobbing up and down violently as she ran as fast as I’d ever seen a human run before, I remember yelling that she left the front door wide open and got no response other than very loud labored breathing. I wriggled a bit more in her arms and I could see the chaos unfold as the pirates had begun ransacking our neighborhood and subsequently the whole town as smoke could be seen covering the skyline in the distance. Suzie ran all the way into the trees where many other members of our town had been waiting. I’ll never forget the horrified and confused looks on everyone’s face as they were left completely bewildered. The sound of children crying for their parents while being cooed by random strangers and the sound of people asking if anyone had seen their friends and family had became an indistinguishable jumble of loud sounds. I looked up at my sister who was trying to collect herself. “Where’s dad?” Suzie looked at me, and with a very sorrowful expression she said, “they took him.”

“Joseph me boy, are ya focusin on yer work? What ye doing boy? Ye be a complete addle!” Oldjack yelled. The sound of the yelling snapped me out of my thoughts and made me aware of my surroundings. I had forgotten to reel the net, now filled with fish, back into to the boat. “I’m sorry Oldjack.” I said hurriedly as we both pulled the net up to the boat as the fish flapped back and forth vigorously. Oldjack swore to himself as we both hauled the net in “Boy screw yer head on rite!” he yelled angrily as he fumbled with his shirt to dry off his hands. I catch fish to make a living and Oldjack is my boss. He’s an older man with a matted white beard who talks like a stereotypical pirate and swears like one too. Oldjack was a friend of my dad so he felt obligated to employ me even though I’m not very good at catching fish.

Ever since dad was taken by Los Diablos, me and Suzie have been living in Oldjack’s spare house. It was run down with silverfish living there rent free, but we were grateful to have a place to stay. Suzie worked at a brothel to make ends meet while I caught fish in the mornings. We plan on buying the house that was built over our burned down house, so we saved up every penny. After work I went down to the city to buy some potatoes and onions. While it was once destroyed, our city was rebuilt and looked even nicer than before. Even though our city was back, and the people were ok, there was still this looming anxiety. What if they return? What if they take more people? Where do those people go? What did they do to dad? These questions keep me up most nights. We knew nothing about Los Diablos or their origins. We knew nothing of the tall and mysterious man. I pondered these questions to myself repeatedly as I felt around to see which potatoes hadn’t gone bad yet. I was taken back to reality when an ear-piercing scream broke out. I snapped my head to the side to see a pirated holding a woman by her neck while pointing a gun to her head. “We need 20 people today or this woman gets the bullet.” The people in the market attempted to plead with the pirate as he angrily conversed back and threatened to shoot the market up. Everything happened so fast, it was like none of it was happening in real time. The man pointed his gun to the sky and rang out three bullets causing everyone in the market to scream and take cover. I could barely make out what was being said at this point as I felt a loud ringing in my ears. I watched as more pirates dressed similarly to the one holding the woman began to scatter around the town like spiders hatching. The pirates began to snatch people up with immense force. I immediately jumped up from my crouched position by the potato stand and started running as fast as I could to Oldjack’s fish shop. He wasn’t there. “Did they take him too?!” I thought as hot tears began to stream down my face. I turned around and ran as fast as I could towards home, my heart pounding in my chest. I felt like I was going to throw up and have a heart attack all at once. The door was already wide open “Suzie!” I screamed out, barely hearing my own voice. No response. Suddenly, I felt heavy and watched as the ground jumped up and hit my face.

I woke up on the floor with a dull, throbbing pain on the back of my head. I reached over to feel it and felt clumps of something dried up in my matted hair. I pulled some out and saw that it was dried blood. I had been hit on the back of my head with a blunt object and blacked out. I slowly stood up in pain and remembered the events that had just happened causing me to run inside my house. Suzie was gone. I bent over and emptied the contents of my stomach right outside my house as I continued struggling to walk back over to the town where the chaos erupted. A lot of commotion was happening, people where panicking and many were injured, I walked over to Oldjack’s shop and saw that he was sitting at the table with a bottle of whisky and a blank expression across his face. “Are you ok-have you seen Suzie?” I managed to say all at once. Oldjack looked up at me with that sorrowful expression I had seen on Suzie’s face 10 years ago “They-” he hesitated “Los Diablos came back looking for more people to take.” Oldjack didn’t have to finish his sentence for me to understand the gravity of the situation. My knees immediately buckled as I fell to the floor. “No no no” I cried out, knowing what had taken place. I stood up and stormed outside screaming and cursing at the universe for such a miserable fate. My only family I had left, my dear sister who had filled in the role of a mom, the only thing I had left to live for was taken for me. I screamed in despair as the pain was so unbearable. I didn’t know if she was safe, if she was ok or if she was even alive. The mental image of her scared and stowed away on a dark ship made me scream out more and bang my fists into the wet earth in a fit of rage. I was not going to let them get away with this.

            As soon as I woke up the next morning, I sold off all my possessions and told Oldjack I was going to leave since I knew there was no turning back. I was going to find Suzie and put a stop to Los Diablos. I didn’t know how, but I knew the first place to start was to set sail and seek information elsewhere. The people of Mundos don’t know about Los Diablos, but what if outsiders were familiar with them and could lead me to them? The nearest island to Munods is Blanco island. I’ve never been to Blanco island before, let alone traveled outside Mundos in general. I purchased a ticket to board a ferry which was leaving for Blanco island in an hour. The elderly woman selling the ticket was very oddly dressed, a bright red bandana over her head and massive gold hoops. She couldn’t be a day over 90, yet she had the attitude of a 20-year-old woman. She was smoking a cigar and crushing it on the counter she was selling tickets at. She looked like a female pirate to be quite honest, but I had to purchase the cheapest ticket as I had very little money. I had already said my goodbyes to Oldjack so I was ready to embark on my quest to stop Los Diablos. I boarded the ship and headed to the cabin, the ship was large and packed with people who seemed to all know each other. I felt like an outcast as I had no one to talk to. I sat alone and flipped through the pages of my World Encyclopedia book, the only possession I had kept for myself. I mindlessly read through the pages I had seen a million times over, letting myself get immersed in the book until I saw someone take a seat at the table across from me through my peripheral vision. It was a well-dressed man with neat brown hair and blue eyes, you could tell he was the wealthiest one on the ship by his well-groomed appearance. Out of curiosity, I held the book to my face so I could watch the man in secret. Everyone seemed to know and respect him as they all took notice and greeted him. His group sat around him at the table. One guy, around my age, with sun tanned skin and greasy black hair and thick black eyebrows sat to his left. He seemed to know the man well as he skipped the formalities and started small talk while crossing his arms. Another guy, who looked visibly frustrated, sat next to his right and pulled out a book to read, he had shaggy blonde hair in need of a haircut and sunburnt skin. He also had his pants rolled up quite high, exposing his sunburnt legs and wiry leg hairs. Across from them a young boy sat down with shaggy clothing and wavy black hair under his hat which was sticking out in all directions. He looked like he could be the tan guy’s younger brother.

“So, this must be the captain.” I thought to myself. The man took notice of me and locked eyes with me, not changing his expression or demeanor. It was as if he could see me right through the book. The man then looked back at his crew as if he didn’t see anything. This caught me off guard as I was sitting quite far and frankly made me frightened, but I went back to pretending to read as he began conversing with the entire cabin. “Men” he bellowed, causing me to secretly look back at him from the book. “We have worked very hard searching for Daemien and his crew, but we have been unsuccessful in finding any clues.” He stated as the cabin members erupted in anger. He remained completely calm as people around him cursed and yelled over the news. “Who’s Daemien?” I thought to myself as my curiosity peaked. “You promised to get those damn Los Diablos! We didn’t pay you for nothing!” someone shouted. What? They knew about Los Diablos I thought to myself suddenly hearing my heart pounding in my ears. The man remained calm and composed as he spoke “We are trying our hardest, but we just cannot pinpoint the islands he’s been targeting.” This feels like a dream, I just know this can’t be real. These people know about Los Diablos and their leader’s name? and this is all conveniently after they ransacked our island for the second time in ten years? I knew I had to speak up now. I slammed my book down and shot up, “I can” I said loudly as my voice cracked. The people in the cabin looked at me in silence. Trying my best not to cringe at my own voice cracking up I spoke up once more “Los Diablos attacked my city yesterday and they took my sister.” I went on shaking as I spoke “Please help me find them.” The uncomfortable silence carried for a few seconds. “I know what daemien looks like too, I’ve seen him before.” The kid in the hat sitting across the presumed captain chimed in “Huh? You really saw him? Are ya sure it was him? What did he look like huh? Please tell me.” He whined, before the blonde man smacked him on the back of the head abruptly. The man calmy stood up from the table ignoring the commotion of his crew. “You there, what is your name and how did you board this ship?” he asked. “I-my name is Joseph, and I got a ticket from an older lady back on Mundos.” I replied. The tanned guy snickered in silence as the kid with the hat spoke once more “You bought a ticket from big mama?” he said between laughs. The other men in the cabin began laughing and snickering as well. The moody blonde man inhaled deeply as he tried not to laugh too. “My apologies, you got scammed by our cabin lady. Please, have a seat here. Let’s discuss what you know.” The man said motioning for me to sit at the empty chair.

“Dressed like he’s a gangster you say?” the man asked rubbing his chin. “Yes, he was” I said. The whole cabin had gathered around me to hear the story of Los Diablos and the tall, freckled man all gasping and listening carefully. “I’m sorry about your sister, we will do our best to assist the citizens of the free world. Everyone here has lost someone because of Los Diablos, so we’ve banded together to stop him. Would you like to join our crew?” the man asked. “Yes!” I blurted out with no hesitation. I was finally going stop Los Diablos and save Suzie and it was all in the span of a day. I couldn’t believe what was happening, maybe the universe hadn’t cursed me after all.

That night everyone rolled out their futons to sleep, I didn’t think to purchase one, so I laid on my back using my book as a pillow. I couldn’t have been more than 2 hours when I felt someone throw something at me to grab my attention. “Hey pssst, hey Joseph.” I heard someone call out. “come out to the deck.” I got up quietly and tiptoed my way over to the deck clutching my book. On the deck, the guys who were sitting around the man in the cabin earlier sat around each other in a circle quietly conversing with one another. “Come have a seat.” The kid with the messy black hair said as he patted the ground for me to come sit. The tanned guy and blonde guy stopped talking and stared up at me, slightly annoyed. “Hi.” I said awkwardly feeling the tension in the air. The blonde man immediately stood up and crawled into a messy futon that was already laid out on the deck and turned his back to us. “Sorry, Frankie doesn’t trust new people.” The tanned man said. “It’s fine.” I replied sitting down. “Joseph, right? I’m Mike.” The tanned guy said reaching out to shake my hand. I shook his hand and greeted him as the kid interrupted “and I’m the great pirate Shanks.” Mike rolled his eyes at his response “and that’s Nathan, but we call him Nate for short.” The kid pretended to act annoyed as he waved his hands out “hey, don’t lie to the poor boy.” I chuckled “boy? You’re like 12 and I’m 18.” I said jokingly. “Actually” Mike went on to explain “He’s 19.” I laughed “sure”. But Mike wasn’t laughing, he was being serious. This kid was 19? I was baffled. “How old are you Mike?” I asked. “I’m 18, Frankie is 17 and Bruce is 26.” “Who’s Bruce?” I asked. “Bruce, you know the guy you spoke to earlier?” Mike said raising his eyebrow. “Oh, your captain?” I asked. “No, he’s our boss. We’re not pirates, we just work with them.” He replied. “What kind of work do you guys do?” I asked. “Were bounty hunters.” Mike said stretching out his arms and lying on the floor. “So, you guys are doing it for the money?” I asked. “Yes and no. We’ve been paid by the government of Blanco island and the pirates on La Esmeralda, the ship you’re on now, to do it. But we all have personal reasons just like you.” Mike said as he sat back up “They stole some crew members from La Esmeralda so that’s why they’re paying us.” He said in a more serious tone. “What did Los Diablos take from you guys, if you don’t mind me asking.” I spoke. Mike paused for a moment before he continued “were actually not from Blanco island, we’re from an island off the coast of the unionized territories called Cisne. When we were kids, we were orphaned at the hands of Los Diablos. They raided our island 10 years ago, like they did yours. Bruce took us in and raised us despite being only 16 years old himself. He associated with a lot of street gangs and the mafia and did a lot of dangerous work, so he knew that life wasn’t for us, so he took on bounty work instead. We came along with him and learned the trade.” I sat in silence for a bit, taking in Mikes story. I couldn’t believe what he’d been through and how hard it must’ve been on all of them, especially Bruce who took them in on his own volition while he was a young teen himself. “What did Los Diablos take from Bruce?” I asked. Mike looked around the deck and looked at Frankie and Nate who were sleeping in the futons, his eyes then darted to the cabin door and the surrounding area before getting really quiet “Bruce used to work for them but rebelled against them. There’s a bounty over his head issued by Daemien worth 50 billion. He never got to see Daemien’s face and has been searching for him since.”

The following morning my mind was so occupied with thoughts of last night’s conversation that I could barely focus. Was there really a bounty that big over Bruce? Do people really trust him and respect him that much since no one has made the move to claim the 50 billion? My mind was occupied until we docked at Blanco island in the afternoon. “Alright guys we need to plan the next move, lets regroup at the El Cielo hotel before dusk.” Bruce said as soon as we got off the ship. “Hey man well show you around, don’t get lost cuz well just replace you.” Nate said jokingly as he elbowed me. Frankie watched me in silence, he seemed almost upset at me being welcomed into their group so easily. I smiled and nodded, he in turn grit his teeth and looked away. I don’t know why he was so upset, but I had done nothing to the guy, so it really wasn’t my problem. If Mundos was “truly a one-of-a-kind island” then Blanco was a piece of heaven on earth. The shops were littered with flowers and delicious street food adorned every corner. The women were tanned and smiling, and the men were constantly chuckling, the inhabitants were truly as beautiful and lively as their island.

“You gotta try some of this man! C’mon, c’mon open up” Nate cooed. “Stop man he’s already eaten enough; do you want him to actually explode?” Mike said. We’ve been eating at this lovely restaurant for over an hour trying to pass time. “He’s full.” Frankie said coldly, getting up and gathering his belongings to leave. “Thanks for paying Mike” Nate said patting Mike on top of the head. “W-WHAT?!” Mike yelled out “Fine, how much is the bill.” he said coolly. “383 bucks and don’t forget a tip, a fat one, like yourself.” Nate said holding the bill in Mike’s face causing him to start arguing back and forth with Nate. The interaction made Frankie smile for a moment before going back to acting stoic. After paying the bill, we headed to El Cielo with Nate talking during the entire trip there. We were about 5 blocks down when a man stepped out from hiding “Excuse me, have you kids seen this man?” he asked holding up the 50 billion bounty with Bruce’s face in the center. “Br- “Nate exclaimed loudly as Frankie yanked him back before he could finish his sentence. Almost immediately after saying that, a group of men came out from the shadows, all dressed in black. I stepped up in front of Nate, shielding his 5’4 frame behind me “we don’t know that man, we’re just trying to get home to our dad.” I said sternly. The man looked us all up and down “Ok, have a nice day.” He said as he fakes smiled. We made our way back to El Cielo. Upon entering I noticed that the hotel was desolate and seemingly abandoned, odd. I suddenly felt someone wanking my shirt from behind me “Are you stupid?” Frankie yelled grabbing my shirt and violently throwing me against the wall. “Woah man, calm down.” Mike said grabbing Frankie’s hand “Calm down? Calm down?!” he put us in danger back there. He made us look suspicious. Now we have to abandon this hotel and find a new meetup place!” Frankie yelled angrily still holding my shirt. “He didn’t do anything wrong man, just let it go.” Mike said trying to cool Frankie off. “You Imbecile.” He screamed in my face “If you put Bruce in danger, I won’t hesitate to kill you.” He warned. “Enough” a voice boomed from the lobby stairs, it was Bruce making his way down to us. “What happened, why are you guys fighting?” he asked worriedly. Right before Frankie and Mike were about to talk Nate called out “Guys come over here.” He said in a serious and low voice. Frankie let go of my shirt before giving me a look and walking over to the window Nate was peering out of. He pulled back quickly “We need to get out of here, let’s go quick!” he yelled running to Bruce. I ran up to the window and saw a group of men approaching the hotel from the distance, it had to have been around 30-50 of them. They had to have been Los Diablos coming after Bruce. “I said let’s go you damn idiot!” Frankie yelled yanking me back from the window. We ran hurriedly outside the emergency exit and into the parking lot where a single beat-up black car was parked. We didn’t have cars back at Mundos, I’ve only ever seen them in the movies, so I hesitated to get in. “Get in!” Mike yelled grabbing me and helping me to the car. We speed off and I watched as people raided the hotel in the distance. My heart was racing as I could see a flame engulf the hotel and watched as smoke began rising from the distance as the hotel got smaller and smaller. I knew I had left my book at the hotel and it was no more. “Bruce there’s a bounty over your head and-and Los Diablos and- “Nate began explaining out of breath “I know.” Bruce replied keeping his cool. “There has been a bounty over my head for many years. Only Los Diablos members are after me, only they will receive the 50 billion if they kill me.” “But why?” Nate whined. Bruce remained silent “Because their corrupt, that’s why.” Mike said in his place. Bruce locked eyes with me through the window as he adjusted it while driving. It was as if he knew that I was aware of why Los Diablos was after him. Like he had been listening to us talk on the deck. I swallowed nervously like a kid in trouble. Did he know that I knew?

“We can’t stay here anymore because it’s not safe. We will be taking a ship to the United Territories to stay with Tito.” Bruce explained as we all gathered around the single bed hotel space, he rented out the previous night. Nate let out an exaggerated groaned and sunk into the couch. “Who’s Tito?” I asked Bruce. “Tito is a close friend of mine and an ally to the cause.” He spoke. “Tito is annoying, he always overfeeds us and babies us. He thinks he’s our dad.” Nate said causing Frankie to glare at him. “Tito is like an uncle to us, he’s a really good guy.” Mike said “you’ll like him.” Frankie got up “How are we going to sneak you on board, Bruce? Los Diablos knows you’re here.” He exclaimed. We’ll sneak in at midnight, I’ll go with Joseph and you guys should sneak in ahead of me. They know were a group of five, so it’ll be less obvious if we split up.”

Bruce had the rest of the team take the train while in disguise and we took the car for extra security. The car ride was silent and awkward for the first hour. “How are we going to catch Daemien?” I asked breaking the silence. “Tito will help us; he’s been gathering information for three months now. He says he’s on the verge of finding him.” Bruce said as he focused on the road. I tried to think of what else to say, but I couldn’t make small talk with him. The feeling that he was aware that I knew the truth about him lingered in the pit of my stomach. “I know.” Bruce said as if he could read my thoughts “I know Mike told you.” I tried to respond but I was too shocked that my intuition was true. “Los Diablos has done a lot to protect Daemien’s identity over the years. The fact that you said you saw him on Mundos 10 years ago…I’m not sure if I believe you. I used to be a diablo 10 years ago. I had no other choice, my mother had cancer and we couldn’t afford the treatment. Cisne was a mafia-controlled territory, not even the police had as much power as they did. The mafia would up the prices of her treatment so they could make money off her as they did to the other citizens. This is the norm for Cisne and many islands. I sought any means I could to make money for my mother, I dropped out of school and worked full time and I still couldn’t make enough. That’s how I found Los Diablos, a smaller gang at the time. They promised me a high amount of money to be their hitman as I lied my way through my credentials. I was 14, posing as 18. Every hit brought me thousands of dollars and one more night to have my mother with me on this earth as she was only getting worse. Then Los Diablos found a new way to make money though human trafficking. They treated people like objects and put a price tag on them, who knows where they went after being sold. One day the money just wasn’t enough for to keep her alive and pay the mafia. She passed away the following year. I had nothing left to live for, no family or real friends. I was too deep in the gang; I worked my way as a higher up and personal hitman for Daemien even though I never knew his identity. Leaving meant death, I was essentially trapped. The universe had dealt me such a miserable fate.” Bruce explained to me. “Was Tito a member too?” I asked. “Well, Tito-“suddenly in midsentence a car crashed into the driver’s side sending it skidding down the empty street. For a moment Bruce appeared lifeless, his head planted onto the steering wheel with his arm dangling by his side as he was barely held up by his seat belt. “BRUCE!” I screamed grabbing him. He slowly propped himself up, a giant gash now across his forehead “Are you ok Joseph?” he asked before someone yanked the passenger door open. It was Los Diablos. I jumped out of the seat, adrenaline of the car crash racing through my body as I grabbed the guy and punched him in the face as hard as I could making him fall back. I sent another punch directly to his face, the pain of my fist dulled out by the adrenaline. This knocked him out and I unbuckled Bruce from his seat and helped him up hurriedly. “Listen to me” he said trying to remain conscious “Please take this address and go here” he said tucking something into My pant pocket “This is where Tito lives.” He said struggling to form words. Before I could respond I was blinded by headlights of a car approaching us. Not again I thought to myself expecting another round of Los Diablos. To my surprise, Nate jumped out of the car and helped me carry Bruce to the open door. Nate explained to us that Frankie knew something would go wrong so he sent him out in a rental car to trail us just in case.

Luckily the gash was not as deep as it seemed, so Bruce was able to recover and rest on the ship ride to the United Territories. The United Territories is a union of 64 different territories that were independent hundreds of years ago. It’s a huge piece of land, almost like a gigantic island. I remember reading about it in my book when I was younger. When we arrived, a middle-aged man was waiting for us. He was dressed like someone in a midlife crisis who wanted to look young and cool. Pretty odd for someone who looked to be 38 at the least. He had blonde hair slicked back, a black leather jacket and sunglasses. He wore dangling earrings, which I had never seen on a dude before and had a big goofy smile. “And that’s Tito” Mike said to me as he pointed him out. If this was our best bet on finding Daemien, I thought to myself, we are screwed.

We arrived at Tito’s mansion later that night. It was literally the biggest home I had ever seen in my life, Tito sat us down in the living room and brought out snacks and drinks like we were his kids coming home from school. “Any updates on Daemien?” Bruce asked him “Yes!” Tito exclaimed “He resides somewhere by a church in the United Territories, well at least “he” does” Tito said with emphasis on the “he”. “Mr. Tito, what do you mean by the “he.” I asked. Tito looked at me surprised “You didn’t know? Daemien suffers from a very odd illness. When he goes unconscious, he becomes a different person. It’s like he’s possessed. Apparently, he thinks he’s a 19-year-old named Salo.” “It’s not odd” Frankie said rolling his eyes like a know it all “It’s called D.I.D, he suffered trauma at some point in his life and in order to cope he developed a personality. It’s 19 because he probably suffered that trauma at 19.” Does he recall what goes on when he’s conscious? I thought to myself as an argument broke out between Tito and Frankie. After their argument Tito showed us a rundown church, apparently this was where he believes Daemien resides. The only problem was that we had no idea where this church was. Tito made copies of the image so we could go around asking people in the area if they knew where it was. No luck. I spent the whole afternoon around the downtown area, which had more people, yet not even one recognized the church. I slouched down across a man begging for change and a woman mumbling to herself. Maybe it was a mistake I thought to myself and was about to get lost in thought once more, but I was startled back to reality when the elderly woman mumbling to herself earlier was waving around the picture of the church in front of my face. “Can you take me here sunny boy?” she asked. “Sorry, but I have no idea where that is.” I told her checking my pockets to see if I was pickpocketed. “I do.” She said smiling. I looked up at her “you do?” I asked “Yes, I just need a ride there.”

We had all come together to drive the elderly woman to church as she claimed to know the directions. Apparently, it was in the city, despite no one recognizing it. “Ma’am how do you know of this place?” Bruce politely asked her. “Hrrmmmm I used to go here before my husband passed.” She said smiling. “Are you like a hundred years old? Have you seen a dinosaur before?” Nate asked before getting smacked on the back of the head by Frankie. The elderly woman chuckled at the joke and went on about how much she liked Nate and how he reminded her of her own boy. When we got to the church it was completely vacant, but very clean like it was abandoned and inhabited at the same time. The woman brought Nate over to the seat with her and sat down like Nate was her son, cooing him and going on about nonsense to him. Nate looked up at me and wiggled his brows, I tried not to laugh as I heard Mike laugh behind me since he was watching the whole interaction. Tito and Bruce were discussing something with Frankie who seemed less angry for once and was half smiling. Everything seemed so picture-esque for a moment. Until suddenly a small “pew” sound rang out and Bruce collapsed without warning as blood began to spread across his back. Daemien had entered the church without us knowing and had shot Bruce with silencer. In the span of 10 seconds, he pointed the gun and shot Tito too. He collapsed in pain instantly groaning. Frankie ran up to him and tackled him to the ground, attempting to wrestle with the giant man. Nate tried to jump up, but the old woman was trying to grip him down. Mike rushed to Bruce and flipped him over, he was going pale. Not knowing how to react during the intense situation I made a b line to where Frankie was while screaming “Knock him out Frankie, knock him out!” Frankie struggled with Daemien before he easily threw him aside. I jumped on him before he could get up continuously hitting him in the face as hard as I could trying to knock him out. It was like sedating a bull as he violently grabbed us and tried to pull us off him. Eventually we knocked him out and rushed over to Bruce and Tito.

Tito was seated upright groaning in pain. The shot wasn’t fatal, but it caused a lot of damage to his thigh. Bruce was still lying on his back going pale and gasping. I ran over to him as everyone had gathered around him. He was in horrible shape, blood running from his nose as he tried to breathe. “The truth is-“ he began pausing as blood began pooling in his mouth slowly “I was always part of Los Diablos, I wanted to protect you guys because I couldn’t live with what I had done to your parents. We sold them off and left you guys unable to fend for yourselves. I couldn’t live with myself when I saw you guys so saddened through my mask. That’s why they’re after me. This is all my fault.” He managed between pauses “No.” Frankie began “It’s not.” Mike held back tears as he began speaking “We don’t blame you Bruce, you did what you had to do to survive. Thank you for taking care of us” he said. Bruce’s eyes glazed over as he began speaking “I-I-“ he managed to utter before suddenly going limp as his head fell to the side before he could finish his sentence. Frankie began crying and walked away to the back of the church out of sight. Mike stood up “we need to get out of here before the rest of them show up. Let’s go guys, come on.” He spoke. “You can’t leave him here!” Nate said tears streaming down his face like a faucet. “Guys we can’t leave Bruce here, please” he said panicking between sobs like the reality of the situation hadn’t hit yet. “Nate, he’s gone come on we have to go.” He said as Nate collapsed, sobbing loudly. This in turn caused Mike to begin crying silently as he sat down with him. As this was going on members of the Los Diablos had burst through the door and began grabbing us, Tito was lying down passed out, so they assumed he was dead and let him be. They didn’t react to Nate sobbing as they dragged us out. The old woman sat in silence as we were taken.

They were taking us, as they had taken many before. I was so grief stricken that I was overwhelmed. First my dad, then my sister then Bruce. Maybe the universe really was working against me. I looked around at my teammates one last time knowing it was probably the last time I’d see them before we got separated. Nate wasn’t crying anymore and looked empty as if his childish personality had vanished, Mike looked worried and Frankie seemed to have been trying to get my attention as we walked alongside one another. I stared at Frankie, trying to make out what he was telling me. “Keep moving!” One of the Los Diablos members yelled shoving me forward. I walked up ahead a little more before turning to look at Frankie once more who was mouthing the word “fight me.” It took me a while to process his request, but when I did, I nodded causing him to smile. Suddenly Frankie paused and took a swing at me which I barely dodged “you wanna fight? Let’s go!” he yelled followed by obscenities. The Diablos looked confused as they watched our fake fight erupt. I punched Frankie in the gut, and he fell over in an exaggerated stumble, I gasped audibly as I heard Nate yelling “get him! get him! go for the neck!” Almost on que Frankie jumped up and sucker punched a Diablos in the neck causing him to fall over another one grabbed him by the neck, but I hit him over the head and began attacking him from behind. As a fight erupted among everybody, we weaseled our way out and ran back to the church.

When we opened the door, we saw Tito seated upright once more on the phone with somebody. He was drenched in sweat and looked exhausted. Daemien had come to, but he was acting strangely as he rocked back and forth in the arms of the elderly woman who was spewing nonsense to him. He was suckling his thumb and taking it out and repeating this motion until the woman took his thumb into her hand and told him “no.” This must’ve been his hidden personality. It was hard to watch this unfold knowing he must’ve had an unfair hand of cards dealt to him in life leading up to this point. “Let’s get Tito to the hospital” Frankie said putting his hand on my back as he smiled “he’s calling the higher ups to take care of this mess right now.”

About 6 months have passed since Daemien was detained by the United Territories “secret forces” and Los Diablos was disbanded. With the members getting charged with human trafficking and weapons offenses. It took 4 months to track down Suzie who was sold off as a maid to a family of millionaires in Cisne. I told her everything that had happened up to that point and we had made a grave for Bruce back home in Mundos and we leave flowers for him every week. If it wasn’t for him, Los Diablos would’ve never been destroyed and Daemien wouldn’t have been brought to justice. I touch base with Mike, Nate and Frankie every week as I consider them to be my closest friends. Tito often sends us post cards with the signature “Long live Los Libertas” on all of them. That’s what we go by apparently, of course Frankie decided this. Many people have been reunited with their family on Mundos and life is back to the ordinary way it was back in the day. The port city always busy, the marketplace always full. Balance had been restored. We were unable to track down dad, but I’ll never give up hope. So long as I live, I will do what’s right, Long live Los Libertas.

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