When most people think of home, they tell you that’s where their heart lies. Jack would wholeheartedly disagree. To him, home was where you kept the food and where you slept. Get too attached to a place and you would have only yourself to blame when it burnt down, something that had happened to the Goodbody family in the past. The main floor of the current Goodbody house possessed two kitchens. The larger one of the two was for the help to prepare larger meals and the smaller one was for family members only. Goodbody family members staying at the house tended to make food in their own apartments and so eating down in the smaller kitchen had long ago become an act of familial love for a family that prized individualism.
The family kitchen lay directly next to the staff kitchen, but there was a family entrance from a set of stairs on the third floor. The smell of scrubbed steel drifted out from behind the door, causing Jack to wonder if the kitchen even had any food. Opening the door, he was hit with a wave of nostalgia. This was the room he used to eat breakfast in. The table they had eaten at must have been moved, but the steel counters along the walls still stood where they had been. All the walls were lined with cabinets, except the wall to Jack’s left which had a stove and an enormous refrigerator that was taller than Stan.
Sam slid into the room next to him and whistled softly, “I can’t even smell any food. Who knows what we’re going to find? Maybe inviting you to eat down here wasn’t the best idea.”
Jack grabbed his sister by the wrist and tugged her into the room, Despite that fact, or maybe because of it, after an hour of rooting around Jack was only able to find a bag of potatoes.
Setting the bag on the counter, Jack waved his sister over and tossed her a potato, “Get to peeling. You invited me, so I’m not doing all the work.”
Sam snatched the potato out of the air and whipped her knife out from her pocket. Jack leaned against the counter and watched her work, the blade a mere flash of metal running over the spud. It had been a long time since he had gotten a close look at the blade that had ended so many lives. It was the very reason his sister was renowned more as a back-alley fighter than as a monster hunter. The blade functioned as a long, slim switch blade. The sides of the hilt were a dull black, emblazoned in silver with the family motto running up and down each side. Jack tossed her another potato when she had finished the first, peeling it and cutting it into small pieces. Sam snatched it out of the air and got to work.
After a few more potatoes peeled, Jack finally spoke up, “You said things had changed since I left, do you have any details for me or were you just being purposefully vague for no reason?”
“Around two or three years after you left, most of the rest of the families started heading off on their own as well. They still come back for the reunion every year but after you came back from California I…”
“I will never answer any questions about that.” Jack cut his sister off. Pulling out a pan, Jack dumped the potato pieces into it and seasoned them, testing the flavor every now and then. Once he was satisfied, he turned the oven on and stood next to his sister to watch the potatoes cook.
Sam spent a few long minutes watching the oven before reaching her arm out hesitantly for Jack’s. She pulled back a few times before she finally rested her hand on his arm, “All I needed to know is that it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong and you did everything you could to save our brother…”
They stood in silence for a long time, holding hands in front of the oven. Somehow, to Jack, the distance between them felt even greater than usual even though they stood so close together. Time slipped away until the oven rang out a tiny bell and Jack pulled the potatoes out. While they cooled, he pulled away from her to set places and pour them both a glass of water. The sound of cooked meat drifted through the doors letting Jack know that Stan was eating as well. Soon the smell of meat was overpowered by the scent of spicy potatoes and Jack served up two plates, one for him and one for his sister. They sat down and dug in, silent but for the sound of chewing for a long time.
The entire time, he thought about what his sister had said. When he had eaten his fill, Jack pushed his glasses up and massaged the bridge of his nose, “So around the time I left, father must have started looking for the Machina and it’s been taking a long time since most of the families are out doing their own thing.”
Sam nodded and speared herself another forkful of potatoes, “And if he were to find anything out he would then be able to call in some help from the family and they wouldn’t be able to say no, at least not unless they have a death wish.”
Jack pushed the rest of his food to Sam who eagerly added them to her own plate, “Given our family? Even odds that they ignore him anyways, especially our cousin Julian.”
“The artist with the faggy lisp? Yeah, he’ll say no so long as it suits him, no matter what threats we send him.”
Jack playfully slapped Sam on the back of the head, “Knock it off, sis. He has a lot of bad qualities but his choice in companions isn’t one of them.”
Sam rubbed the back of her head and scowled, “He drew a painting of me as a gorilla.”
Jack stared off into space for a few moments, “I guess that would count as one of his bad qualities.” They both burst out laughing, Sam pulling Jack into a tight hug for a long time. It took them a long few moments to realize how loud the silence had become. Sam pulled away from Jack a little and whipped out her knife. The silence of an empty building that should be full of people is mournful. An empty home echoes loneliness and the echoes of faded dreams. What was also unnerving was the silence of a house that should be empty, but was full of people. From the other rooms, both of them could hear whispers and the gentle brush of clothes against walls and furniture.
Slowly, careful to make no noise, Jack raised a finger to his lips and Sam nodded. They split up and headed around the kitchen walls until they each came to the door that led out into the main kitchen. Jack raised a finger to get Sam’s attention and waved his finger around in a circle. She nodded and held her knife at the ready.
He stepped into the doorway and yawned as though nothing were wrong. In that instant, something lunged at Jack, detaching itself from the other shadows in the dining room and stabbing at him with a glinting blade. The dagger whirred through the air towards Jack’s neck as he danced backwards. Sam lashed out with her knife in the same instance, slashing the arm and stopping the assault short. Before the attacker could pull away, Jack moved back in and grabbed his arm pulling him into the kitchen and into Sam’s waiting blade which sliced across his neck. The attacker fell to the ground with a heavy thud, bleeding heavily on the kitchen floor.
Jack hunched down and rolled his attacker over. He was wearing a dark, dull colored body armor that covered his entire body and a mask that covered his face. Sam’s strike had bitten straight through the armor over his neck. On the left side of his armored vest a patch glinted slightly in the kitchen lights. It only read S.P.H.K.. Jack ripped it off and held it up to Sam, who took it and turned it over in her hands.
“Seems we’ve been attacked by some Special Forces group or something, but what could possibly be so important to get people to attack our house? That seems like a bad idea.”
“Bad idea or not, I assume there’s more than one. They must be all over the house by now. We should be careful.” Sam took the lead and Jack snatched up the dagger from his attacker and followed behind at a short distance and watching her back.
Sam paced warily out into the main kitchen and almost instantly two more shadows materialized to attack her. It was uncanny, like watching parts of the kitchen pull away from the wall to attack them. It should have been impossible and yet they almost managed to get into Sam’s blind spot. She turned to block the first attack, knowing full well that she was leaving her back open to the second attacker. When the second foe rushed in to stab at the back of her head, Jack caught him in his blind spot and rammed the his dagger up to the hilt into the side of his head. The first attacker crumpled to the ground in an instant. Sam used that instant of confusion to bring a quick kick to the left of her attacker’s head, sliding her blade across his neck as well.
“We need a few more of them alive, Sam. I’d like to ask them a few questions about why they’re here, though I suspect I know the reason.” Jack left the original dagger embedded in the side of his attacker’s skull and took up his own blade to take its place.
“I gave father a list from Jimmy. I got it when I ran into him on the road.” Jack took the lead this time and headed for the door to the dining room.