Gavin Hadley watched the group enter his confines and could not help but smile. The eight of them were so young, so new to life, yet they had accomplished so much. Not only had they found it in their power to travel from different parts around the globe to this monolith in the middle of South West England, but they had also done the unthinkable after arriving, which he doubted they had shared with the authorities.
Hadley looked them over and noticed the four that bore identical bracelets. This most likely indicated a team, as he knew that they came in groups of four. If memory served him properly, that was the Kehtayahn. He could remember their group name, though their specific names eluded him. It had been a very long time since he had seen them last, so recalling their particular names took some effort. The two Italian-looking ones were probably the Marcianos, since he knew that they were siblings. Deulough had given him the heads up on them, and from that he had verified their names and the details of their lives in Colorado.
He was also familiar with Christian Jex, whom he had already met earlier that day. The young American had seemed abrasive when he had showed up during his meeting with the military liaisons. His look now was much more passive, despite the suspicious eye the Warrior was giving him.
That left Apollo Slaughter, standing there in his business attire. He alone Hadley could remember without fail. After what had transpired, no amount of time could erase that young man’s face from his memory. Initial reports had indicated him as Garland White, but further investigation by Hadley’s own personnel had revealed his true name. It seemed that Mr. Slaughter was slightly revered in the world of computer hacking, considered one of the elite by the hacking community. Members of Haldey’s own team of white-hat hackers had expressed awe upon discovering this one’s identity. He was not the best hacker, but he was perhaps the most well-known.
The other four had to be the Rheigns. On Apollo’s arm was a young blind woman holding a white cane named Summer Grandal. The two of them were an item, apparent by their body language toward each other. Hadley also knew of Bramora Maskil, as his father had come forward soon after the Altar Stone incident. Majecki Night’s identity had not taken long to discover, either, and they had a young medic to thank for that. He had recognized Night from his music career and told his superiors immediately.
Joseph Stacs was also among them. Hadley was hit with a feeling of nostalgia upon seeing him. After all, it was Joseph that had gotten him involved in the whole situation. If not for him, his life would have taken a different path, one not involving these extraordinary Warriors and the hell that they had had to endure for the sake of others. He had helped them, that was true, but they, too, had helped to put him on a path where his extraordinary abilities came into better use. For that, he was forever grateful.
The desire to ask the Rheigns to present their counterparts was strong within him, but Hadley contained himself. That day would come. Now was simply the time to send them on their way, having played his part in securing their release.
“Thank you for coming,” he said politely, standing to his feet and bowing slightly. “I apologize for the delay in arranging your release. There are certain channels to go through, and it would seem that the process is rather lengthy.”
“You’re Mr. Hadley, right?” Christian Jex asked.
“Yes, sir,” he replied courteously. “I do remember you from earlier today, Mr. Jex.”
“Can you please explain what is going on?” Summer requested politely.
Hadley walked from around the desk he had been sitting behind, presenting himself to them without the table to obstruct their view. The suit he wore was Caraceni, charcoal black and tailored specifically for him. Curly hair and soft features lended to his boyish appearance, while a grin that was a permanent fixture upon his face made him look as though he had a secret from the world, which he did. Hadley knew that they would look him over and deem him to be in his early thirties, a misassumption that he would allow them to believe. There was no use in giving them all of the details now. To them, he would just be a rich, British businessman.
“My name is Gavin Hadley, and I own Hadley Corporation.”
“Wait, yeah,” Angel interjected, finally remembering where he had heard that name. “The man on the plane. He worked for you. You guys look for proof of God or something, right?”
“Essentially,” Hadley conceded with a nod. “You see, I come from a place where the Lord is revered, where everyday life revolves around him. The poor acknowledge Him, the powerful pay homage to Him, and men quest to bring glory to His name. But here, here in this godless, heathen world, His name is no longer worshipped. False religions have overtaken the world. Thus, it is my decision to invest my wealth into making this world remember what they used to know: that there is one God, and that His Son died to save our souls.”
“What are you, a preacher?” Christian Jex asked, and Hadley was unsure if he was being serious or not.
“I am not,” he replied. “I am simply a man with the means to bring the truth to the people. Historical evidence convinces those that faith alone will not, and I have invested my time and money into finding the relics of the past that lend credibility to the authenticity of the Bible.”
“Okay,” Bramora said with an Irish brogue, shrugging. “Just tell us why you helped us. What did you even do?”
“Hadley Corporation is a very powerful entity. Its reach goes beyond archaeology and into the economic, political, and even military aspects of multiple European countries. If I so chose, within one hour I could shut down the Bank of England. I have tea with the Italian Prime Minister monthly. So arranging for a group of children to be released from custody is a relatively easy task for someone of my power.
“As for why, I will just say that you do not deserve to be put in some foreign jail for something as simple as the crime of which you are charged. You are heroes, and I believe that right now you all simply deserve to go home.”
The businessman turned and walked back behind the desk, pulling open a drawer and pulling forth a manila envelope. Hadley made his way back to the group and reached into the folder, and he could see the apprehension on their faces as he got closer. A part of him wished that one of them would produce a weapon from their wristband, but they all managed to contain themselves as he pulled a handful of bankcards from the package. One by one, he handed the lot of them a card apiece.
“Each of these cards contain a substantial amount of money. There is more than enough to fly you home, first class if you wish, or you could fly coach and keep the difference. It makes no matter to me. You will also find that I have booked suites at the Sheraton Park Tower Hotel in London should any of you wish to get a good night’s rest before your flight.”
Hadley handed Bramora Maskil his bankcard and paused.
“Mr. Maskil, you will find that your card has sufficient funds for both you and your father. He has been very worried about you during this whole ordeal, and I imagine he is anxious for you to return to him.”
Gavin Hadley took a step back and looked the group over one last time. They were so unassuming, so innocent looking, yet he knew that these young people had blood on their hands. They had seen and done things that no one else had ever done.
Then there was the part of him that wondered what the repercussions would be for killing Apollo Slaughter right then. He knew the theories that abounded regarding such paradoxes, and he had a few of his own. Honestly, he doubted he would even be able to do so if he tried. It was not a matter of whether they could stop him, but more of knowing the outcome before he even began. Apollo did not die this day.
“You called us heroes,” Angel Marciano said suspiciously, pulling Hadley back to the present. “Why?”
Hadley gave that childish grin once more.
“I think we both know the answer to that question, Mr. Marciano.”
Many eyes widened at this, and Hadley knew it was time to end the meeting.
“And now, it is with deepest regrets that we will part ways. My security will escort you from this place. There are helicopters waiting to take you to a private jet not far from here, which will take you all into London, upon which you will be taken to the hotel. What you do from there is your choice.”
As the men entered the tent and began to usher the young people from it, Gavin Hadley gave them one more small bow.
“My friends, I hope to see you soon. But until then, may God be with you.”