"So how was today?" asked Sky as he and Zack walked through the corridors of the Organization together. They were on their way home, or at least, the direction of home, which was what Zack assumed, since they were leaving the direction of the Organization; Mikey and Weston had left for their own way already. "It was the first day you met a lot of people, too."
"A lot? Yeah, that's true," said Zack, startled. "I didn't notice." The Organization's building was right behind them, and Zack turned to walk backwards, looking at it. "So . . . you'll really skip for the rest of the day? It's only afternoon."
"Yep," said Sky. "Also, there's someone I just saw coming back from migration from the winter weather, so I thought a 'welcome home' was in place, with the same message going to you. Speaking of which, I need to drop by the grocery store."
"Okay," Zack turned around to walk beside Sky. "What did that threat say?"
Sky made a face of disapproval.
"So it's one of those that plan to attack Gladiators or threaten it if we refuse."
"Sorry about having to get you this holotop. If the game gets in danger, I'll have to depend on you. Not as a brother, but as the new Paladin. That's one of the parts I hate for my position as the Director of that building."
"Hey, that's what I came here for. To protect the world's greatest game. I've always wanted to help Garrett and repay him for his help. He saved me, that time. When I was still a kid."
Sky smiled at him, then stopped at the convenience store. "Hold on, I'll be back soon!" he slapped a few credits into Zack's hand. "Go buy doughnuts in the meantime."
"Doughnuts!" Zack sped off.
When they regrouped later, Zack with a box of doughnuts, and Sky with a grocery bag with some packaged meat and vegetables, they went to a tall apartment building and took the lift to the sixth floor.
They were stepping out when Zack ran into a young man with dark hair taller than him, and a black bag landed onto his foot.
"Ow!" Zack yelped.
"Sorry, did that hurt?" asked the young man, startled, as he picked up his pack.
"Carter?" said Sky, startled.
"Your neighbor had some extra parts he wanted to give me, so I came here to get them," said the young man. He eyed Zack suspiciously. "Who's he?"
"My brother," said Sky. "I told you that he was moving in with me, right?"
"Sorry, I forgot. Well, then, see you at work tomorrow."
He walked past them towards the elevator.
Zack stared after him. Not directly at the young man, but at the pale-blue crossbow hanging off his back with a quiver of arrows. "That's Carter Trent?"
"Yeah, that's him. He actually lives on the floor below us, so he's a neighbor."
When they arrived at the apartment, Zack stared at the interior; it was spacious and large, bigger than the place he lived in back at the Meteor Hole. He hopped into the couch. "I wonder if the old man back home is beginning to wish he came, too!"
"Ronan did want to come when he heard you knocked yourself out."
Ronan Hemmings was the name of a lawyer who had been a friend of their father's. When their father died, and Sky left the Meteor Hole, Hemmings had adopted Zack as his own. He'd been willing to leave the Meteor Hole to join Zack on his trip to Redwall, but because of his work as a lawyer, and a new client, he had to turn it down. The brothers had the habit of just simply calling him, 'Old Man' out of amusement.
"Tell Ronan I said sorry," said Zack.
"Tell him yourself," said Sky, entering a corridor. "This way is your room."
"Got it! I'll see it later! Right now, this couch is getting more of my attention." He rolled over in it.
Sky laughed, coming out. Zack sat up. "On second thought, I'm gonna take a bath. I feel a little stiff. Maybe because I moved a lot today."
When Zack came out, he found that Sky had been cooking, and had set everything out onto the coffee table in the living room.
"There's no dining table," Sky said, explaining why they would be eating in the living room.
Zack simply grinned and plopped onto the couch.
As they ate some beef stew, Sky said, "You got attached to Weston pretty fast. You don't usually do that, do you?"
"Did I? He was a cool guy, anyway. A ninja. Also . . . he asked about me, anyway. Living in Redwall is kinda . . . different from the Meteor Hole. And I don't want to not know anyone. I want to get to know this new city."
"I'll be running into Weston everyday if I'm going to Gladiate at the Dome, too," said Zack. "It'll be fun to make friends with him. Living on Redwall's going to be a little more relaxing than in the Meteor Hole."
There was a tapping sound on the window that interrupted them, and Sky got up to open it. A large eagle swooped in and flew around in a wide circle before landing on Sky's forearm. "You're back rather early, too."
"Gates!" Zack sprang to his feet, grinning. "It's been a long time!"
The eagle left Sky, flew towards Zack with a few flaps, and landed onto Zack's shoulder.
"He's bigger since you last saw him, this guy," said Sky.
"Y-yeah, I can tell . . ." said Zack. "Gates, don't ever land on my shoulder again, your claws are sharp. Get off me!"
Gates flapped off and went towards a stand that stood in the middle of the room, and Sky brought over some of the packaged meat he bought earlier.
The eagle had been a chick when they rescued it in a forest that grew a long ways from the Meteor Hole when the brothers were younger. Sky had been smart enough to figure out how to raise one, since they couldn't find the nest it had fallen out of. Gates had followed Sky when he was still only a secret agent for the Synchron Organization, after Zack persuaded him to take the eagle along. The danger had been that Zack found out that a gang the two of them had beaten up had found out their hiding spot in the forest and waited there to ambush them, and Gates, being used to human presence, might make the mistake of approaching them, and there was worry that he might get attacked.
"Please take care of hi now. I'm afraid I'm running around a lot recently, with the Reflection Program working," said Sky.
"Oh," said Zack. "oh, so now, it's my turn, and he's my companion."
Sky shrugged, but smiled.
"Sky, are you worried that I might get into danger, as the Paladin?"
"Why do you ask?"
"You don't panic a lot these days when I get into trouble. Well, sure, you do get angry, though."
Sky's smile became more like a grin. "Idiot, I know what you feel like when you see someone get hurt, or when you know that someone's up to something bad, and you want to stop it. I have to try not to panic when you get into danger, because that's what you're like. And that's what I'm like, too. So the only thing I can do is be like a friend; one who can trust that you'll be fine as the Paladin, even if I'm worried and want to take control of bad situations like an adult." He chuckled. "And I only turned twenty-two just three months ago.
Zack nodded gratefully. "So . . . what do you think the other two Core Gladiators are like? Think they're stronger than me?"
"I think they are going to be stronger than you. Even if they are, you've got to be tough, too. The Paladin is the protector of the Core. You'll have to find them. If they exist, and that they're the cause of why Gladiators is still alive."
Then Sky laughed. "I think they'll be as fiesty as you as well, Zack."
"Nice to know," said Zack.