“Whoa, what’s up with your eyes? Do you have a whetstone just for each one? I bet you were possessed by some eye god or something. If that even exists. Does that exist? I bet it does. I bet, like, five whole bucks.”
“…You’re the idiot who made that mess by the airport a few days ago, aren’t you?”
“My plan was genius, thank you very much. It went perfectly until that caped vigilante crashed on my party and made it rain. I only have one pair of clothes, you know? And don’t even get me started on the self-righteous weirdo who came after that. I got lectured for disturbing the peace. Who the hell even cares about that stuff anymore?”
Vasil deliberately drowned out the excess words as he narrowed his eyes in thought. This person called himself Chrome E. Heyne and was doubtlessly a demigod. His goal and purpose were still unknown, but Vasil couldn't even begin to think of where to start with this guy. His psychosis was so deeply rooted, Vasil was inclined to believe that he had no ulterior motive or secret agenda. He’d just done what he’d done for the sake of doing it. Vesna would have loved to cross-examine Chrome like detectives did in the books she read. That might have been worth a shot, but honestly, he didn’t want this guy anywhere near her or anyone else.
“Leave that little shit be.” Sorcha shot Chrome a short, but angry glare from where she sat on the floor nearby, head rested below her raised knees. “He ain’t worth the effort. Tie ‘im up and toss ‘im in the ocean, I say.”
“I doubt that would kill him.” Vasil’s muttering was more him thinking aloud than an actual response. “And I can’t think of any sure way to permanently incapacitate him.”
“Try letting me go.”
“I won’t do that to everyone else. They don’t deserve it.”
Chrome snorted incredulously.
“What, you think I bite? Well, I do. But only when some jerk’s trying to off me. Sure, I won’t actually die, but getting killed hurts like hell. And god forbid someone accidently succeeds. Every time a pick a fight, I run the risk of running into someone who, by sheer chance, tries the one way that I don’t know can kill me. Let me go and I can promise you I won’t attack people without a good reason. Probably.”
…He wasn’t lying. Even though he said it with a crazed smile on his face, Vasil was sure that Chrome was actually telling the truth. But why? Because of fear? Was he really scared? Was he that desperate to be let free? That would be suspicious in and of itself, but Vasil couldn’t see it that way. If the other option was to go through the pain he hated so much, it would make sense for Chrome to want be freed. But that called his earlier flamboyant actions into question. Why would he go that far for the menial goal of simply gathering energy for the god who possessed him?
I’m thinking too much.
“Fine.” Vasil sighed reluctantly. “I’ll let you go.”
“Oi.” Sorcha’s head snapped up abruptly. “You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’. Dat jackass wasted almost half o’ dozen blokes and me da!”
“You already proved that we can’t punish him for that. Or do you want to torture him until you’re satisfied? If so, be my guest.”
Sorcha’s face screwed up with irritation, but she could see that Vasil was right. With a groan, she waved her hand impatiently in acquiescence.
Chrome shot to his feet and threw his hands over his head. He turned to run off, but was thrown to the ground when a spark exploded directly in front of him, cutting off his path. Vasil squinted his eyes to protect himself from the sudden burst of light.
“If you ever go near me or me da’ again,” Sorcha’s eyes burned with the passion of her threat. “I’ll scatter the ashes o’ yer corpse as far as I can manage.”
“No problem.” The upside-down Chrome held out a thumbs up. “I never want to see your trigger happy round ass again, anyways.”
The sound of his mocking laughter echoed through the alley
over the sound of the second explosive spark that blew off his left arm and he
disappeared around the corner. Sorcha clicked her tongue audibly as she heaved
her father’s arm over her shoulder and began to lead the unsteady and barely
conscious man to where Vasil assumed their home was.
“Give me your number.”
Sorcha eyed Vasil dispassionately, look like she just wanted to go home and let the day end. Vasil felt inclined to let her go, but this idea just popped into his mind.
“Insurance. We’re two demigods living in the same city. I think there is an Apostle running around, probably chasing Chrome. I don’t plan to drag you into anything, but it’s best to be in contact with each other.”
Sorcha mulled this over for a moment before shrugging. She continued to lead her father away while listing off a series of numbers.
“Send me a text or somethin’. I’ll save yer number.”
Once they were gone, Vasil heaved a heavy sigh and pulled out his phone. There, on the lit up screen, was a message from a number he only recently got from someone else entirely. Just an hour ago, Chrome had been wandering the streets and Vasil had tailed him, mostly out of suspicion. Even with everything solved, he still wanted to know how this demigod had survived an encounter with an Apostle. The answer was now obvious, but Vasil really hadn’t known what to think when he watched the guy get run over by a bus and just get up without a problem.
Vasil decided not to approach immediately, which ended up being the right choice, since Chrome just so happened to run into Luna Taubes, the demigoddess of some sea god. Luna had tried to talk Chrome over onto her side, but all she managed was to get verbally assaulted, mocked, and slapped across the face for no apparent reason. She gave up fairly quickly, but not before releasing some key details that caught Vasil’s attention. He only chose to follow Chrome instead of Luna because he seemed far more likely to endanger some strangers than Luna. Plus, he didn’t have to worry about losing track of Luna.
They’re off the coast now, just beyond the continental shelf.
A surprisingly short message, coming from his sister. She was probably distracted with whatever she was doing during the day. Since it fell in line with what Vasil had heard earlier, he could assume it was a fact. Which meant he didn’t have much time to act.
He didn’t like it, but he’d have to leave his comfort zone.
Using his near perfect memory of the city’s streets, Vasil arrived at the City Commissioner office with time to spare. To his surprise, he found that someone beat him there.
“Close it down?
Sending out warnings is one thing, but do you know how much work it is to completely close off a
beach on such short notice?”
“Less work than it would be to clean up the mess that
there’ll be if you don’t close it
down. Look at me, sir. Does I really look like I’m pranking you?”
Out in front of the office’s desk, barely a dozen steps from the building’s entrance, two people are arguing in loud voices. One was the City Commissioner, a tall middle aged man in a tawny suit and a thick goatee connected to his head of hair through his sideburns. The other was a woman Vasil didn’t recognize. She was as tall as the Commissioner, able to glare back at him from an equal position, and had Asian features that made one impressed by how natural and native her English sounded. Vasil’s eyes immediately zeroed in on her weird choice of clothes—some sort of Japanese robe with boots and a jacket over her shoulders. Plus, she had a baseball bat bag slung over her shoulder that looked like it was filled with something.
There was technically no guarantee that every eccentric person was a demigod, but Vasil felt that he could assume in this case. He was sure he’d heard about someone with a similar description at some point…
“If you want me to do something so drastic, how about you give me a proper reason?” The Commissioner insisted. “Even if you’re a renowned environmentalist—”
“It’s not an issue of my credentials. Fish are dying off the coast and we don’t even know why. What more reason do you need?”
“We already have people looking into it. So far, no humans
have been affected. Until we get definitive results—”
“You’ll wait? It’ll be too late by then!”
“You should skip the bureaucracy and take her advice. Entire sections of the beach have been shut down for stupider reasons.”
Both the Commissioner and the Asian looked toward Vasil in surprise, not having expected him to chime in all of the sudden.
“And you are?”
“A concerned citizen. If you just tell everyone that you’re closing off the beach so you can properly investigate an environmental anomaly, they’ll have to accept it. It’s for their safety, after all.”
“And I’m assuming you can’t give me a reason either, sir?”
Vasil shook his head and the Commissioner clicked his tongue.
“So four people know how to handle the situation better than me and come to give their advice all in the span of an hour? Just what is with people these days…”
“Four?” The Asian raised an eyebrow.
“I got a phone call from the Church earlier and one of the priests came personally to complain.”
Both the Asian and Vasil turned in the direction the Commissioner pointed and Vasil struggled to hide his exasperation. Standing off to the side nearby was Uzumel, dressed in a blue wet suit and soaking wet. Judging by his posture, he was being careful not to touch anything. His eyes were right on them and he smiled when they met his gaze, completely unabashed.
“I’ll see what I can do about closing the beach down, but don’t expect too much.” The Commissioner reluctantly turned to head back behind the desk and pulled out his phone. Vasil’s eyes remained focused on Uzumel, trying to ask as many questions as he could without speaking. Uzumel ignored them all, approaching a few steps but keeping a safe distance to avoid getting them wet.
“I should thank you all for coming.” Uzumel spoke amiably. “You really helped me out. Especially you, Ms. Alicia.”
“You know my name?” The Asian raised an eyebrow in surprise. Uzumel nodded.
“Alicia Mirasaki, an American cultural personality who travels across the country helping revive cultural sites, museums, and the like. I didn’t know you were also involved in environmental issues.”
“I’m a bit erratic with what I do, since I’m not the type to
stay too long in one place.” The woman shrugged. “I’m more surprised that a
member of the Church would come for a similar reason. Were you the one that
“Nope. I came personally after checking things out for myself. I have no idea who called the Commissioner. I wish I knew so I could thank them.”
Alicia was about to respond, but was interrupted by the young man who entered the building then, dressed in dark, thuggish clothes. He came right up to Alicia and murmured in her ear. She nodded and looked back to Uzumel.
“How about you help me out a bit? I intend to personally investigate whatever killed off those fish.”
“I already have my own plans, I’m afraid. I’ll have to pass on that.”
Alicia shrugged and turned toward the silent Vasil.
“How about you—Wait. Where did he go?”
“He left while we were talking.”
Alicia raised an eyebrow in disbelief and Uzumel chuckled aloud.
“From what I can tell, he’s not very sociable.”