|Featured In||The Reckoners|
”Zeff was more like a thorny tumbleweed than a real person.
Zeff pushes his trainees to their limits. His favorite form of punishment is "The Post," a post outside the Coop on which trainees are forced balance for hours under the sun.
Zeff has three rules at the coop. Rule 1: No excuses, ever. Rule 2: I am God. You do what I say, and no questions. Rule 3: You are weak. These rules are enforced inconsistently: Jax will occasionally break these rules without receiving punishment. Zeff seems to only bring up Rule 2 when he doesn't want to answer. Despite his harsh demeanor, he looks out for his trainees. He has a soft side, though he rarely lets it show.
Appearance and Personality
”Underneath all that thick skin and gruff posturing, he was a good man who cared more for the people around him than he let on.—Jax
Zeff has hard, unforgiving eyes, and has skin that looks like old stone. He has a weathered look to him, and and is likely well into his middle years. He wears a cowboy hat and drives an old once-blue pickup truck. He has a gruff Southern accent. He is harsh and unforgiving, and is a cruel and demanding task master. Despite having a sense of humor, Zeff rarely shows it, his face staying stoically cold and indifferent. He is very observant, and nothing escapes his attention.
Training Jax and Paige
”Prof thinks that because you're young, I can teach you more than how to fight. He thinks I can make you into something new. Something better. I told you this was going to get harder. But if you do what I say, I'll turn you into someone who is truly dangerous. Someone who isn't slowed by hunger, doesn't flinch at danger, and yes, knows how to fight and knows how to kill.—Zeff
Zeff was in charge of Jax’s training at the Coop. He was harsh with Jax, and made him spend hours upon hours on The Post. He took Jax’s sword away from him, and said Jax could have it back when he knew how to use it. Zeff drove Jax away from the Coop and left him outside in the heat, then told him to think about why he’s here. He showed Jax the motivator workshop, but said Jax could only work there once he reads all of the dozens of books on motivators and biochemistry they have.
Zeff put Jax through many “no-flinch games” where he placed Jax in tough situations and didn’t let him flinch. One such exercise included having Jax lie down on the ground and having mice crawl all over him. Zeff said that the fundamentals of being an assassin are not flashy skills like being able to shoot or use a sword, but more subtle ones, like being able to sit in a bush for days without moving. Jax wanted to learn to use his sword, but Zeff tought him martial arts instead. He also made Jax do what he called “peaches training”, in which he made Jax do regular exercises, but with a backpack full of peaches on his back.
A girl named Paige arrived at the Coop after several months, and Zeff began training her along with Jax. He introduced them to each other, antagonizing them by describing to each of them how Epics murdered their families. When Zeff realized that both of them cared more about each other than themselves, he declared that when one of them messed up, the other would bear the punishment.
At long last, Zeff started teaching Jax swordplay. He only taught Jax how to block strikes, and says that Jax could attack once he had blocked 100,000 sword strikes. After a long time training with practice swords, Jax lashed out at Zeff out of frustration and anger, striking Zeff hard in the ribs. Jax said that he has blocked the required 100,000 sword strikes. Zeff simply corrected Jax’s stance, and they continued training as if it hadn’t happened. That night, Zeff told Jax that he had broken Rule Three: You are weak. Zeff made Jax stand on the post, and that night, he returned Jax’s sword to him, polished and sharpened.
Two years passed, and Zeff taught Jax and Paige stealth, acrobatics, observation, and firearms. Despite how he downplayed guns, Zeff was an extremely good shot. Though Jax initially struggled, he eventually got better at firearms. Paige, however continually remained the better shot. Zeff made Jax fight older kids who were five or more years older than him. In addition, Zeff made Jax fight outnumbered, sometimes facing two or more enemies. Jax and Paige started working together, fighting side by side. From then on, Zeff let them fight together but made the bouts even more unfair, making them fight up to six or seven enemies at once, or making them be otherwise impaired.
Months later, Prof came to visit the Coop. Zeff locked Jax and Paige in the kitchen, saying that he was too embarrassed to present them to Prof. Zeff met with Prof, unaware that Jax and Paige were eavesdropping on his conversation. He praised Jax’s determination and great skill with the sword, and talked about how impressed he was with Jax. Upon returning to the kitchen, Zeff noticed Jax’s smirk and saw the ventilation duct in the kitchen that they’d used to escape. He discerned what had happened, but instead of being angry, he was impressed with Jax’s skill. The next day Prof asked Jax about his work with motivators, and Zeff revealed that he has known the whole time about Jax sneaking out every night to work on them in secret. Zeff also revealed that he had been finding certain objects that Jax needed and planting them for Jax to “steal.”
The same day, Prof called a meeting with all the Reckoners at the Coop. Abigail, one of the Texas Reckoners, arrived at the Coop. Zeff greeted her with a smile and kissed her. Zeff introduced Jax and Abigail, though Abigail already knew a lot about Jax. At the meeting, Prof assigned almost all of the Reckoners to go to Arlington with Abigail to intercept Lux. He gave Zeff and Jax the task of going to El Paso, a former battlefield where a large group of Epics had fought against Lux and lost, and where Dean Knighthawk had set up a mobile lab.
Zeff and Jax drove eight hours to El Paso, where signs of Epic fighting were clearly visible. On the battlefield, Knighthawk had set up multiple buildings, as well as a mechanical clean-up crew. They met with Knighthawk, as well as a man who Knighthawk introduced as “The Californian”, who said he was a California Reckoner. Jax started talking with Knighthawk about motivators and Lux, inadvertently giving away valuable information. Zeff tried to get Jax to stop talking by glaring at him, but Jax didn’t get the hint. Knighthawk moved to his lab to work on a motivator, asking Zeff to come with him. Zeff stole a sample of DNA from Mitosis, and went back to retrieve Jax. He found that Jax had revealed even more valuable intel to the Californian. Saying that he needed Jax’s help unloading crates, he pulled Jax outside. He angrily berated Jax, furious about how much information he revealed. He said that he doesn’t know who the Californian was, but that was not a Reckoner. They left quickly, and started driving towards Arlington to join Abigail and the other Reckoners.
”We don’t play their games. They play ours.—Zeff to Jax
On their way to Arlington, Zeff got a call from Abigail. Gunfire and explosions sounded over the line, and a panicked Abigail reported that they were being overwhelmed by soldiers from Lux, called Ravens. Their group had been discovered, and they were losing people quickly. Abigail told them that the Ravens weren’t dying, their wounds being healed by an unknown Epic. Zeff and Jax drove towards Arlington at max speed, and they soon saw Lux up ahead. Lux started moving away from the Arlington, and Abigail called and said that Lux was leaving, though there were only a few Reckoners still alive. Lux suddenly changed course, heading straight for Zeff and Jax in their truck. Zeff tried to shake Lux, but it followed them, tracking them with precision. Zeff drove into Fort Worth, and they ditched the truck, grabbing their gear. Ravens touched down in the city, and started fanning out to find Zeff and Jax. They tried to fight some of the Ravens, Jax having moderate success with his boomerang watch, but the Ravens were immortal. They were chased down a street, fighting as they ran, but Zeff got shot, falling in the street. The wound was bad, and he ordered Jax to leave him and find cover. Wingflare arrived, and ripped a hotel out of the ground with her powers. When Jax refused to leave him, Zeff activated the boomerang motivator on Jax’s wrist, smashing the device as Jax teleported away. Jax was transported to a nearby building, unable to return to Zeff.
Wingflare held the hotel over Zeff, and said that if he told her where Jax was, she would let him live. When he refused to tell her, she ordered the Ravens to go search for him. She then ordered Zeff to start running. She said that if he ran fast enough, she would let him live. Zeff got to his feet, standing defiant. He refused to run, telling Jax over their radio that “We don’t play their games.” Furious, Wingflare dropped the building on top of Zeff, killing him.
Zeff used to be married, is not anymore. He hints that the reason is that he made a promise he couldn’t keep.
Zeff trains Jax at the Coop. Zeff is very harsh and tough with Jax, but that strictness grows out of a desire for Jax to be strong. He has Jax's best interests at heart, though Jax often doesn't see it.  It’s only much later that Jax grows thankful for Zeff’s intensive and sometimes strange training methods. When Zeff is shot and badly wounded in the street, Jax doesn’t want to leave him, but Zeff uses Jax’s boomerang watch against his will to save him.
Steelheart · (Mitosis) · Firefight · Calamity
|Characters||David Charleston · Megan Tarash · Jonathan Phaedrus|
|Places||Newcago · Babilar · Ildithia|
|Reckoners||Abraham · Cody · Exel · Mizzy · Tia · Valentine · Sam|
|Epics||Calamity · Conflux · Faultline · Firefight · Fortuity · Nightwielder · Obliteration · Regalia · Steelheart · Loophole|
|Other||Faithful · Coven · Great Transfersion|