Saturday, March 28, 2015

Book Review: Dragonborn (Toby Forward)


When Flaxfield dies, Sam is left without anyone to teach him magic. When strange wizards arrive who don't believe he was Flaxfield's apprentice, Sam escapes on foot to find someone, anyone, who can teach him magic and continue his training.

The world in which Dragonborn is charming and fascinating. The worldbuilding was well done, and fleshed out Sam's world of magic and dragons quite nicely (even though we only see one dragon). There are "chapters" that are notes from an apprentice's notebook (I always assumed it was Sam's) that give little details of the world. Creatures, magic, people, and other things. Sometimes, though, these parts don't always hold relevance to the story.

Toby Forward's story idea is intriguing, but I felt it could have been executed better. The story is sometimes a little hard to follow, and the dialogue can be confusing. A character might ask a question, but the person he or she is speaking to won't answer and will start talking about something else entirely, and the question is never answered. In a way, the dialogue sometimes assumes the reader knows what's going on, when we might not.

The ending of this book left me with unanswered questions that probably should have been explained. We never understand why the villainess is in the situation she is, or why Sam's magic seems stronger than people expect. We don't get explanations for things we should, and it becomes a little frustrating.

The conflict, too, isn't as developed as it could be. There is a lot of traveling done, and when the time comes for an intense climactic moment, it passes us by, and we're left disappointed. The moment it should have been most intense comes later, but by then it falls flat.

But there are qualities that made this book fun to read. The world is fascinating and has a fun charm to it. Written perhaps for the younger end of middle grade, the writing style is kind of directed to that audience. But the world is full of magic and strange people and animals. The magic of Sam's world is fascinating too. It almost seems to be its own character. It can fade and weaken inside a person if neglected, or if it's used in the wrong way it can come back to bite you. Magic seems to be almost alive.

The protagonist and antagonist are also well done. Sam's innocence makes him endearing, but he seems almost apathetic as to what he wants to do next. His growth comes gradually, but he becomes stronger and more sure of himself. The villainess, Ash, is among the creepiest villains I've read. She's on the brink of insanity (if she hasn't already tipped over the edge), and her mannerisms and actions add to her creepiness. Her "minions" aren't very described, but they too share her dark atmosphere. Despite the lack of plot or conflict, the magic, the villainess and the charm of the world made the story an entertaining read.

* * *

Violence/gore: Someone loses a few bodily appendages, but they grow back. There is torture, but it's not described very much. Someone is set on fire.

* * *

Sexual content: None. One character (a girl) tries to save the life of another (a boy) by filling their own mouth with potion and spewing it into the mouth of the other.

* * *

Profanity: Reference to swearing from Sam, and he also makes a rude finger gesture, both very early on in the book.

* * *

Other: Some of the characters drink beer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Home Stretch & Hiatus

Hi Fence Jumper readers! I am here with some news. FJs is in the home stretch. It's almost done. However, I have quickly caught up to myself with written installments, and I don't want to fall behind and miss a Saturday because it wasn't ready in time, or have an installment riddled with errors because I was trying to hurry, or leave plot holes for the same reason.

So, Fence Jumpers will be taking a brief hiatus so I can finish writing the story. Without weekly deadlines so close to the end, the climax and plot, I hope, will be nicely smoothed out and unhurried, making it more enjoyable for you guys, and for me because I won't be frazzled trying to hurry around.

So for now, Fence Jumpers is on another hiatus, but this one, I hope, will not be as long as the last. We're almost done, and I want this final stretch to be the best for you all. I have loved all the feedback you've given me, and I want to make sure this story will continue to be fun for you to read all the way up to the end.

While I don't have any special content to hold you over (I'm sorry! D: ), please enjoy the animal edition of Fence Jumpers. ;)


(Image courtesy of Pinterest.)

(Image courtesy of Pinterest.)

(Image courtesy of Pinterest.)

(Image courtesy of Pinterest.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fence Jumpers: Part 39

(Image courtesy of Pinterest.)

Skyler again felt antsy. He was cooped up in the hideout while the others stalked Osborne Hayes, and he didn't like it. He needed something to do. Eventually he found employment in training younger Coyotes to jump fences, and trained with Tag to fight. Both activities usually left him sweating and exhausted, but satisfied. It kept his mind and body busy.

Skyler and his friends slowly gathered information on Osborne. He spent a lot of his time in City Hall, but made frequent trips to a storage facility, often with an entourage of Nabbers. But whatever storage unit they accessed, it was too deep among the units and unable to to be watched. Osborne and his group would leave the storage facility shortly after arriving, but no one could figure out what he was doing.

Skyler focused on teaching the younger Coyotes again. Since he couldn't join in on the stakeouts, Skyler kept his mind and body busy with exercise and teaching. He realized how much these kids looked up to him, and it made him a little nervous. Skipper eased his mind when she joined in to help train. Skyler smiled, watching as she demonstrated to the Coyotes what Skyler wanted them to do. She had become quite the expert in it, even though she had spent most of her time in their old mechanic's garage hideout.

And then the world exploded.

A few days later, Emma visited. Skyler was passing the entrance when she came, so he redirected his course and jogged up to her.

"Hey Emma." he smiled as he approached. "Kip's--" Skyler nearly tripped over himself when Emma firmly turned him around and firmly pushed him along with her. "Emma? What's wrong?"

"Get the others," Emma said. "Kip, Hannah, Wes, Tag, and Kate. Now."

Skyler bolted, nervous now. He rounded up his friends and met Emma in one of the shelters. She was pacing, chewing her thumbnail.

"Em?" Kip went forward. "Em, what's wrong?"

"Madi's been arrested," Emma blurted.

Skyler froze and nearly forgot to breathe. Madison? Arrested?

"Why?" Wes finished his thoughts.

"Spreading lies about Horatio." Emma shrugged. "He's caught on to our magazine scheme. She was arrested this morning."

Kip wrapped Emma in a hug, whispering gently to her. Skyler ran a hand through his hair. This couldn't be happening.

"I'll see if Fred can visit her," Wes said. "Make sure she is actually in a prison, and not a cyborg factory."

"Wes!" Hannah glared.

"What?" Wes glared back. "Don't you want to make sure?"

"Tell him to be careful," Kip warned. Wes nodded and looked at Hannah. "Wanna come with?"

"Sure." Hannah nodded. She looked at Skyler. "You gonna be okay?"

"Go on." Skyler smiled. "I'll work on plans to rescue the Jumpers."

Hannah nodded and hurried after Wes. Skyler took a slow breath. He turned and headed off.

"Where are you going?" Kip asked.

"I need to think."

Skyler headed behind the shelters and jumped the fence of the cemetery, landing silently on the other side. He headed deeper into the forest. His heart and his throat felt too tight. He needed to calm down. Madison would be fine. She would.

Right?

Skyler swallowed. He could not afford to panic right now. He needed to focus on stopping Hayes from supplying guns, or rescuing his friends.

"Go any further and you'll get lost."

Skyler spun around, pulling out his switchblade. Sitting with his back to a tree was Jonah. Skyler had walked right by him.

"What are you doing out here?" Jonah asked.

"I needed to get away," Skyler replied. "Sorry."

"Nah, s'okay." Jonah scooted over. "I could use company. Everything at camp okay?"

Skyler sat down by Jonah. "Madison's been arrested."

"What?!" Jonah stared at him. "Serious?"

Skyler nodded. "This morning... and I don't know what I'm gonna do. Wes is going to get Fred to visit Madi, but we have to stop Hayes, we need to rescue our friends. Then there's Horatio himself we have to deal with, and whatever reason he wants Hannah and me for--"

"Hey." Jonah pushed him lightly. "Chill. Calm down, breathe, and take it a small step at a time. You're trying to take it all in at once and that's gonna make your head explode. You don't always have to figure stuff out alone, Skyler. It's what you have us for."

Skyler looked at him. Jonah smiled. "Focus on Hayes. We can't do much for Madi right now, so let's work on what we know."

Skyler smiled back. "We just need to get into that storage facility."

"Yeah." Jonah nodded. "Find out what goodies they've got in there."

"Yeah..." Skyler dug his toe into the dirt. "How are you doing?" Skyler felt like a jerk for not having asked earlier, having whined about his own problems and not asked about those of his friend's.

Jonah just shrugged. "Well as anybody would be, I guess. I don't whether to be happy he's okay, or hate him for joining the bad guys."

"We don't know what's going on, Jonah," Skyler said.

"I guess," Jonah said again. "But it's still hard..."

"I know," Skyler said. "But we'll figure it out." He pushed Jonah gently as he stood up. "C'mon. Let's go infiltrate a storage unit."

"What, now?" Jonah blinked. "Skyler, you're not even supposed to--"

"Since when do I follow rules?" Skyler grinned. "I'm sick of hanging around. I need to do something, Jonah. Horatio is busy trying to recover his political image, Madison's been arrested. We need to do something now."

"Dude, Kip's gonna kill you." Jonah followed him back to the cemetery.

"Maybe." Skyler jumped the fence. "But he'll have to catch me--"

"Catch you doing what?" Kate asked. Skyler froze and looked up. Kate stood before him, watching them both.

 "Umm." Skyler glanced at Jonah. "Going... out?"

"To where?" Kate crossed her arms.

Skyler sighed. There would be no avoiding Kate. "We're going to the storage unit, to find out what's in it."

Kate nodded. "I'll go with."

"You'll-- what?" Skyler blinked. "Kate--"

"I'm not letting you both run off without help," Kate said. "Skyler, you don't even know what the place looks like, and Jonah's only been a few times. I've watched the place more, and I've scouted around it. You need me."

"You're not gonna tell Kip?"

"I would've told him already if I was," Kate replied. "Now are we going or not?"

"Yeah. Let's go."

***

They reached the storage facility a little while later. Skyler glanced around the area. They weren't too deep into the city, but they were too close for his Jumper instincts to be at ease. They walked apart from each other at varying distances until they found a quiet spot by the units, then Skyler leaped the fence, grabbing the chain link fencing and pulling himself up to the top. He paused for only a second to catch his breath before twisting and swinging his legs up and over before dropping.

It was growing dark, but Skyler still crouched, shrinking back into shadow and scanning for any security. He gave a soft bird whistle, and a few seconds later he heard the fence rattle slightly and Kate's small frame drop over the other side. Another few seconds after that Jonah dropped over.

Kate took the lead then, taking them down aisles of units. There were so many of them. Any one of them could belong to Hayes. Skyler split off from his friends and headed for the entrance. Maybe there was a chart or file.

The person on duty looked to be closing up for the night. Skyler darted to the wall and peeked in the window. The person on duty was an older man, with a cell phone pinched between his ear and shoulder as he cleaned up and talked.

A strong hand clamped over his mouth and grabbed his arm, pulling him back into deeper shadow. Skyler's yelp was muffled as he struggled. Someone else whacked him over the head.

"What are you doing?!" Jonah hissed. "This was your genius plan to come here. You trying to get us all caught?"

Skyler pulled Jonah's hand away. "We need to figure out which unit is Hayes'. There should be records in there."

Jonah glanced at the window. "Well, how do we get past Grandpa in there?"

"We don't," Kate said. "Back! Back, back, back!"

Skyler grunted when he was pushed backward to the opposite wall from where the door and window were located. He crept to the corner and peered around. He could hear a car engine idling and people taking before the gates opened, screeching and creaking all the way. Skyler ducked back as two cars drove through. They looked more like vans, but heavy duty vans.

"Odds those belong to Hayes?" Jonah asked.

"Let's go find out." Skyler started off. "We can always come back here later."

The trio followed the vans, always staying just enough behind to watch which turn the vehicles made before darting to it. They followed deep into the maze of units until the vans stopped just a little before where Skyler and his friends had entered from.

They watched as several men climbed out, all in black like the Nabbers would wear. Skyler shifted uneasily as he watched Hayes step into the light of the vans. A unit was opened and the men stepped inside. Hayes have an order from the outside, watching them all carefully.

"Gently!" Hayes snapped. "Horatio would like his cyborg munitions to remain intact. He can't very well use them if they're dented."

Skyler felt his whole body tense. He glared as he watched the men load things into the first van, then the second. Hayes then stepped into one of them as the unit door was shut and locked. The vans continued onward and Skyler heard them circle back around on the other side of the unit to head back to the gate.

"Anybody catch the unit number?"

"No," Kate said, staring straight ahead, "but I see it."

They waited a full five minutes before moving. Kate never let her eyes leave the unit, and when they sprinted for it they found the number 77 by it.

"Remember that number," Skyler said. "Kate--"

There was a click, and Kate opened the unit a few inches. She waited, listening for any alarms. Skyler listened for any sound of the vans coming back. When nothing happened, Kate slid the unit door up all the way and they looked inside.

"No way."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review: The Maze Runner (James Dashner)


Thomas wakes up with no memory of who he was or how he came to be in the Glade, a place where several other boys live, each with no memory of their past life except their own name. The boys live in the Glade, surrounded by high walls that protect them from creatures that live without in a place of corridors and dead ends: the Maze.

Thomas soon integrates himself among the self-named Gladers, and aspires to join the Runners, boys who run the Maze to try and solve it. This place, the Glade and the Maze, are full of questions that don't seem to have any answers.

Until the very first girl shows up. Then their small world explodes.

The Maze Runner is full of mystery and tension. Like Thomas, readers have very little idea what's going on, and the questions will nag and leave a need to be answered, making readers turn the pages. And when we do get answers, they come hard, and they come fast, making the tension and conflict skyrocket. The conflict can be found almost everywhere. There's the expected conflict against the Grievers, but Thomas finds himself in the middle of conflict with some of the other boys. Suspicions rise, making the tension and mystery greater.

There is also a creepy factor. The Grievers, creatures part metal and part squishy sewer-something, are monsters that prowl the Maze. If you're caught outside the Glade when the walls close, you're pretty much a goner. The Grievers are gross, and the sounds they can make give them an atmosphere that can make one's hair stand on end.

I enjoyed the mystery and elusive answers. I wanted so badly to know what was going on and why. The idea of electricity in the Glade was interesting, giving a modern touch to a place that would otherwise feel like a campsite. In some ways I liked the creepy atmosphere the Grievers brought. I felt myself getting tense, especially during Thomas's first encounter with one.

Thomas, the main character, was very interesting. And in my opinion he is probably one of the most realistic characters I've read. He showed moments of weakness in his emotions. He cried a couple times, he felt offended or angry. There would be times when Thomas would try to hide it behind a mask of acting tough, but I appreciated that he wasn't always trying to act brave and strong. I liked that about many of the boys, like Alby and Minho, and how they showed moments of weakness. I appreciated how real the boys seemed.

The Gladers also have their own slang terms, like "klunk" or "shank." It gives the Gladers a rough appearance, but it adds a nice layer to the all-boy community development. However, sometimes I felt one of their words, which they used quite often, could be used in place of a bad word in some places. Newt uses the word "bloody" frequently in his speech (in case this may bother some readers), and there are a couple references to swearing, but otherwise the profanity in this book was minimal. There are occasions of crude bathroom humor/talk, too, but they use their own slang term.

There is violence and gore in the story, but it's not a lot, or described in great detail. I think for the most part some of it could be seen as unsettling instead of violent or gory. But again, I don't think it is very detailed in most places. As for sexual content, there were only possibly vague references in the boys' dialogue a couple times, but the book was clean of any action.

All told, this was an exciting and tense story. Some of the characters were endearing, and the mystery that enveloped the Maze can keep a reader turning pages to find the answers to these questions. As tension rises, so do the stakes.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fence Jumpers: Part 38

(Image courtesy of Pinterest.)
"Hannah?" Sarah Pelton spoke first.

"Mom?" Hannah squeaked. Skyler vaguely registered Hannah rushing forward and being enveloped in their mom's arms and tears. Skyler's eyes flicked up to his dad, Arnold Pelton. His dad was still taller, but he didn't seem as tall as before when Skyler was a runty fourteen-year-old.

Skyler didn't move. He knew he should do something. Anything. But he couldn't make himself move. He stared, shocked, as his parents held Hannah close. All three cried. Skyler tried to take a slow breath and process this.

"Skyler?" Hannah looked up at him. "What's wrong? Come on."

It was different for Hannah, Skyler realized. She wasn't the one whom their parents had basically sold out. Hannah didn't have to run away, but she took Skyler and ran, even though all she could have done was make him run away. She could have safely stayed.

But now here they were. His parents. They looked healthy, but what did Skyler care? They hadn't cared enough about him to keep him safe from Horatio.

"Skyler." Sarah stepped forward. Skyler's instincts took him a step back. Sarah stopped, frowning. "Skyler, it's okay. It's me."

"I know who you are," Skyler found his voice and hated how shaky it sounded. "What are you doing here?"

"We-- we came to see you," Sarah replied. "Why else would we be here?"

"I don't know. You tell me."

"Skyler." Hannah glared at him. "What's wrong with you?"

"They're what's wrong!" Skyler snapped.

"That's enough." Arnold stepped forward. "I will not--"

"Since when do you care?" Skyler shouted, letting months and months of held back frustration vent. "Why do you care what I say or do?"

"I am your father!"

"Yeah? Where've you been the last two flipping years, huh?" Skyler glared. "Where were you? Or mom? Oh that's right, you were busy giving me up!!"

"Skyler!" Hannah snapped.

"What? It's not true?" Skyler felt hot tears sting his eyes.

"Will you shut up a minute?" Hannah approached him. "We've talked about this."

"Yeah. Doesn't make it any better."

"They had no choice!"

"Yes they did!!" Skyler shouted. "And they chose money and promotion over me!"

Skyler glared at his shocked parents. "Get out." He turned and walked off, anger and distress roiling inside him like hundreds of snakes.

A strong hand grabbed his arm so hard it hurt. Skyler yelped and twisted, but Kip held on. "What the heck was that, kid?!"

"What do you think?" Skyler wrenched free.

"I think I've never seen you be such a disrespectful idiot," Kip replied sharply. "And to your own parents!"

"They sold me out, Kip!" Skyler fumed. "And now they decide to come back? After two years?!"

"What makes them any different from Grace?" Kip asked instead.

"What?"

"What makes them any different than Grace?" Kip repeated. "She sold us out too."

Skyler blinked. "That was diff--"

"Was it?" Kip cut him off. "She was coerced, your parents were coerced. Granted she didn't do it knowingly, but your parents were doing what they thought best for you and Hannah, Skyler. Neither they nor Grace had any choice, and you know it."

"They could have--"

"Done what? Refuse and watch you and Hannah die or be taken away? Or both?" Kip interrupted again. "You've known your parents for years, Skyler, and you've only known Grace for two. You forgave Grace, so why can't you forgive them?"

Skyler looked back. He couldn't see his parents, but he thought he could hear their voices. He looked back at Kip, who nodded with a gentle smile. "I know it's hard, but we don't know what's going to happen in the weeks to come. If forgiving the ones we love is the last thing we can do, shouldn't we take every opportunity to set things right?"

Skyler nodded slowly. He still felt betrayed, but Kip was right. Who knew what would happen? His parents were here. He had a chance to reconcile. He had the chance to make his family whole again. Whatever happened to him, if Hannah made it out alive, he wanted make sure their family was together.

Kip squeezed his shoulder. "Go on, kiddo. Your parents miss you."

(Image courtesy of Pinterest.)
Skyler nodded again and backtracked. He found his parents and Hannah talking by a warm fire, plates of food in hand. Skyler watched as Hannah talked, her eyes bright but misty with remaining tears, and her voice energetic and eager. Their parents listened closely, taking in every detail. Their mom was still crying, and their dad held her hand.

His family looked up at his approach. Skyler stopped. Another lump rose in his throat, but this one he feared held a sob. Suddenly his anger melted under only one boyish desire: His mom's hug.

"Hi," he said weakly. "Mom... Dad, I'm sorry--"

Sarah was standing and closing the space between them. Skyler wrapped his arms around her as she hugged him. That sob escaped him, and his mother held him still tighter, stroking his hair and crying too. Skyler held on, afraid that if he let go he wouldn't be able to hug her again.

"Oh baby, I'm so sorry," Sarah whispered.

"It's okay," Skyler choked out. "It's alright. I know you were doing what you thought best. I'm sorry for yelling at you."

"Shh." Sarah kissed his cheek. "You deserved a chance to get that out of your system."

Skyler felt a firm hand rub his back. He looked up at his father, who pulled him into a bear hug. Skyler held on. "I'm sorry."

"I am too," Arnold said. "But here you are now, and your mother and I won't ever let you or your sister go. I promise."

Skyler's heart swelled. He held on tighter, and felt his dad's grip tighten too, and a kiss pressed onto his head. He pulled back and looked up at his father.

"Look at you." Arnold smiled, pride swelling in his eyes. "So tall... and brave."

"That's a new thing?" Skyler managed a smile. Arnold laughed.

"No, but it's not afraid to show now." Arnold clapped him on the back. "Come on. Your sister's been catching us up. It sounds like you're all in a spot of trouble."

"Just a little." Skyler sat down with his mom at his right. Hannah sat between their parents. "But I want to hear about you guys."

"That can wait." Sarah took his hand.

Inwardly, Skyler grimaced. He and Hannah exchanged looks whenever she reached a part where it involved either of them getting hurt. Skyler's exerience in Horatio's underground lab brought his mother to full tears. Skyler hugged her.

"I'm okay, Mom," he soothed. "Kip and Cody rescued me."

"We've met Kip," Arnold said. "Where is Cody? Was he the dark-haired boy?"

"That's Wes." Hannah blushed. "No, Cody... he's gone. He was shot, but he stayed behind to give Kip and Skyler time to escape..."

It was his mom's turn to hug him. The memories were still painful. Skyler moved closer into the hug, assuring himself it was real and that it felt safe.

Hannah moved on to their two years of being fugitives. That part was easier to tell without their mom tearing up. Hannah finished up with their last mission, and their mom hugged and kissed them both.

"You both have grown up far too fast," Sarah said. "But I am so, so proud of you both."

Skyler flushed. Hearing the old stories had brought feelings of homesickness for their old hideout. He missed the days when the only big danger was being caught on the scheduled sweeps. Now, the Nabber sweeps were random. The streets were never safe now.

"So what about you?" Skyler asked, pushing down the memories. "How did you find us?"

"We guessed, actually," Sarah replied. "We had heard about Miss Carter's fall from reputation, but we had heard her stories. And there was also the news of the Fence Jumper capture, which at first we thought was good, but then we began to wonder if you two had found your way to that group. Your father was too busy in the government to really begin an investigation, and I had a new job at the mall. But then... we began to see changes. Your father grew uneasy."

"Guilty," Arnold corrected. "I hated working for the people who would have taken my son from me... even worse, having agreed to let them take him."

"Dad--"

"I quit my a year ago," Arnold said, looking at Skyler. "I refused to work for the man who was possibly doing such horrible things. We didn't entirely believe Miss Carter's articles, but we began to find clues suggesting they were true. After I quit my job and got one as a semi-truck driver, we had more time to learn more."

"You drive semis?" Skyler blinked.

"I'm not too bad," Arnold laughed. "A little while after the Fence Jumpers were caught, we heard rumors of more delinquents causing mischief."

"The Coyotes." Skyler grinned.

"Your mother and I wanted to see if you both were with them. Whenever we had spare time we would try to find a way to contact them, but of course we had nothing to go on. Eventually we tried to contact Miss Carter, thinking she may have a connection. It took time to finally find her and set up a meeting, but when we did, we talked and told her we were looking for you two."

"She recognized your names," Sarah added. "She was wary, and rightfully so, but we convinced her to take us to you."

"Horatio isn't keeping tabs on you?" Hannah asked.

"He was for a few months," Arnold said, "but I think he's lost interest in us."

"And so here we are." Sarah smiled, hugging Skyler and Hannah. "You both have grown! And all this..."

"That's mostly Skyler's doing." Hannah looked at him. "He found this place."

"Jonah and Grace did too." Skyler flushed. "Pretty sure it was Grace who saw it first."

Hannah rolled her eyes. "Fine, but you brought everyone here. Skyler's been like our leader. At least for us Jumpers. The Coyotes already had one, but now Skyler's like their leader too." Hannah grinned at her brother. "And he's pretty good at it."

"I couldn't have done any of it without help," Skyler deflected the praise. "Everyone has helped a lot."

"Skyler!" Skipper's squeal made him turn. Skyler grinned when Skipper crashed into him with a hug. "Your mom and dad are here!" Skipper looked at them shyly.

"Yeah, they're here," Skyler laughed. "Mom, Dad, this is Skipper. Skip, meet my parents."

"Hi." Skipper waved. She wrapped her arms around Skyler's shoulders from behind. "Nice to meet you."

"It's nice to meet you, dear." Sarah smiled. "Are a Jumper or a Coyote?"

"Jumper." Skipper nodded. "My sister is too, but Horatio has her..."

"We'll find her, Skip," Skyler comforted. "We'll find them all."

"I know," Skipper said. "You always know what to do."

Skyler's smile faded a little. "Yeah..."

Later that night Arnold and Sarah had to return to the city. They tried persuading their children to come, at least for one night, but it was too risky. They would try to keep in touch, but it would be better and safer if they kept physical meetings to be minimum. Neither Skyler nor Hannah had mentioned their being exclusively targeted by Horatio.

Skyler sank under the blankets, his heart lighter than it had been in months. Seeing his parents had been hard at first, but it was good to finally face that part of his life. Skyler felt encouraged. They could do this. They would win.

They had to.