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GOOD-BYE.

A grey December sky hung over Iron Bridge Academy. Classes had been canceled so the students and faculty could gather in the courtyard to honor Robert. A stone memorial had been erected, surrounded by colorful flowers that were warmed by faerie magic.

Robert's parents were dressed in black, their eyes hidden behind dark glasses. Ernie stood beside them in silence as tears ran down his face. Natalia slipped her arm around his shoulder. He smiled weakly, only half listening as Baron Lundgren continued the eulogy.

"...and this garden will stand in constant bloom to symbolize Robert's indelible spirit. Yet despite our sorrow, we must push forward. The weak must be defended. The helpless, protected. Robert may have died, but his spirit remains. He will be with us in our fight, never far from our thoughts."

Cain's voice was melancholy as he leaned on his walking stick. Brooke was standing next to him. It was her first time back on campus since the Reaper attack. "The Templar have a long history, and we know well the pain of losing loved ones. We have been victims of hatred. We have been outcasts. We have known the pains of torture, but we have never been defeated. Our anguish will only serve to strengthen our resolve. Long live the Templar."



"Long live the Templar!" the crowd answered. the crowd answered.

Max looked up at Obadiah Strange, who had returned to Iron Bridge a few days before. The indestructible man looked grim. He also knew that Von Strife still had the Brimstone Key and that the mad genius was more than capable of rebuilding his clockwork army. A man with his determination and wherewithal would never give up.

"I have asked Ms. Burrows to make her office available should any students wish to talk with someone today," Cain added. "The rest of you are free to return to your homes."

As Ernie turned to leave, Robert's mother placed her hand on his shoulder. Then she reached into her purse and pulled out a package. "This was Robert's journal," she explained with a raw voice. "He spoke so highly of you, Ernie. I know he would have wanted you to have it."

Ernie shook his head and stared at the ground.

"We insist," Mrs. Hernandez said firmly, handing Ernie the journal before she kissed him on the forehead.

Ernie removed the brown paper wrapping and opened the book slowly. As he thumbed through the journal, he stopped at a passage that Robert had written the day before he was abducted: We were given powers for a reason....

Max walked over and threw his arm around Ernie's shoulder. Natalia took Ernie's hand as Harley stood silently. There was nothing more to say.

68.

TIRED OF B BEING A V VICTIM.

An hour after the memorial service, more than a dozen changelings were crammed into a storage room on the top floor of Sendak Hall.

Word had come down that another changeling had gone missing. This time it was a geokinetic from Nova Scotia who could move the earth with his thoughts. He was supposed to have transferred to Iron Bridge for the second semester, but now it didn't look as though that would happen.

"I know you're upset," Tejan Chandra said. "We all are. But what can we do? Von Strife is one of the leading military minds of the last century. Most of the changelings in this room haven't even graduated from grammar school."

"Are you kidding?" Ernie argued. "You can wipe people's memories with a touch of your hand. Annie can interface with anything that can be plugged in to an outlet or run on a battery, and I bet Denton can lift a Grimbot over his head. If we work together, we can do anything."

"This isn't some scenario in the SIM Chamber," Denton pointed out. "If we go after Von Strife, people could die."

"People are already dying," Ernie reminded him.

"What about the THOR agents?" Tejan asked.

"They couldn't find Robert until it was too late," Ernie replied. "What makes you think they'll find the others before Von Strife rips out their souls and stuffs them into a bunch of clockworks?"

"I don't know.... Maybe Ernie is right," Denton said. "I mean, going after Von Strife beats waiting around here for Smoke to pop in and pick us off one by one. I'm in."

As Ernie looked around the room, he saw anxiety slowly give way to determination.

"Count me in," Laini said, her pink hair bouncing as she joined the boys in the center of the room. "If we don't look out for each other, n.o.body will."

One at a time the others came forward, ready to join the fight for their survival. The changelings of Iron Bridge had been awakened.

WILL THE C CLOCKWORK K KING.

RETURN TO FINISH HIS.

UNSPEAKABLE PLAN?.

CAN THE CHANGELINGS LEARN.

TO UNITE AND FIGHT BACK?.

WILL THE G GREY G GRIFFINS.

SURVIVE THEIR FIRST SEMESTER.

AT I IRON B BRIDGE A ACADEMY?.

THE THRILLING ADVENTURE.

CONTINUES IN B BOOK 2 OF.





CHAPTER DISCUSSION