(Lya, Evie, Alex - The End of the World As We Know It)
The security check for the media is obsessively thorough. News vehicles are parked within a secure perimeter, where their drivers leave them unlocked and accessible for a top-to-bottom search while they are searched and checked against a roster of pre-approved media representatives. Only one crew is allowed inside with cameras, the video feed shared with the local stations and networks.
The staff arrives next. Evie is nearby as the two Einjehar enter and are searched for weapons alongside everyone else. Maybe they should be checking the two of you for a pulse, instead,she thinks.
The guests begin arriving at 10:30. There's the Mayor, of course, and several members of the city government, including a cool and collected Soleil Hunter. Loki and Fenris are going all-in, then - no hesitation or regrouping because Selene and Douglas were removed from play.
Alex smiles at you as he passes by. He makes small talk with a handful of guests that he knows - either past clients or from the courthouse, and pauses by the Mayor's table. District Attorney Clemens flinches at Alex's friendly touch on his shoulder, while Hunter plays the game with more aplomb.
Lya is next to arrive, the Secret Service only giving her cane a cursory examination, to make sure it's not a sword-cane or housing a hidden vial or workings of a pistol.
Russ Keller oozes charisma as he makes his way across the room, attracting the attention of women and men alike. He's the perfect distraction as Lya makes her way to the windows and glances out across the lawn.
Lya tips her cane forward and murmurs the words that will summon the Furies. Evie realizes that the glance out the window allows Phoebe and Orithia to appear outside, possibly even within the treeline itself, while Toxic and Klepto could materialize anywhere within Lya's sight ...
Phoebe had her bow strung and an arrow loosely nocked, a deceptively casual stance that gave no indication of how quickly she could set her arrow in flight.
"He'll be in one of two places, according to Evie," Orithia said. She smiled grimly. "Time to go hunting." They'd foregone modern clothes for fighting leathers and bare feet. A few quick cuts with a knife, and their outlines were further muddied by branches and leaves.
"My guess is the easternmost position. The sun will have moved, leaving him in shadow and without any glare on the windows," Phoebe said. She glanced up at the branches. "And he won't be on the ground."
"Mmmm, right. Wouldn't want a guard to stumble on him at the wrong moment," Orithia affirmed. "Going to be hard to sneak up on him."
"He'll be looking towards the clubhouse, not behind him. We'll get a little closer before we climb up."
Phoebe and Orithia are met by a young Jacob Warner. He raises a finger to his lips and points towards the branches one particular tree ...
"Hello, Chris," Alex said.
His one-time friend sneered. "Didn't think this was your kind of scene, North. Figured you'd be out bucking the system and fighting a grand crusade for justice." Another ADA snorted disdainfully. Something was off about both men. Soleil Hunter had been busy.
"Don't forget tilting at windmills and fighting the Fenris Wolf," Alex prodded. Clemens' eyes remained somewhat blank; he'd been reduced to a puppet, reciting lines that had been spoon-fed to him.
"Oh, did Chris tell you? We're engaged," Soleil beamed. To Alex, Soleil's smile simply looked predatory.
"Well, then. Congratulations. I'm sure you'll be happy together."
"Yes. Happy," Clemens mumured.
That's just creepy, Alex thought. Maybe if we survive the day, we can do something for you, Chris. Undo whatever mind games this she-wolf has put you through.
Evie concentrates upon her job, watching people as they mill about, intermingling and chatting. While she knows, for certain, of the sniper and einjehar, there's still plenty of room for unexpected surprises.
She tries her best to keep her expression relaxed, though it is hard to not seem as high-strung as she is. Knowing what is coming is, at once, calming and an absolute nightmare. She knows what is going to happen and what must be done, but...how will it all go down? With figures like Loki and Fenris involved and worlds coming together? Add onto that that Saul is here, as well. Though she's certain that all of Vegas will feel the effects of today, it will be more deadly here. The knot in her stomach tightens a notch.
For right now, though, Evie just watches. She knows that it won't be until the speech that she'll mostly likely need to move.
You can hear the thunder of the VH-3D Sea King helicopter, dubbed Marine One, as it came in for a landing on the lawn outside.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise," the emcee said quietly. A moment later, as the steps came down and President Jacob Warner disembarked, he added, "The President of the United States." Ruffles and flourishes filtered over the speakers, followed by Hail to the Chief as Warner entered the club. He waved and smiled, and did the 'I know you' point that made politicians seem connected to the audience.
"Mr. President," smiled Justin Holliwell. "Welcome to Las Vegas."
"Thank you, Justin," Warner said. You tense as he pauses at the Mayor's table to exchange niceties, but the angle is wrong for Krieger to take a shot. Warner takes his seat without incident, with Holliwell beside him. But if Fenris is loose in the reality Hitoshi is in, how can he be here? Of course, if the man's appearance is an illusion, he could be anyone. Lunch begins with a small salad, then proceeds with what the Country Club does particularly well. Menu options were presented at the time of ticket purchase. It was explained that LVPD officers working the event would be fed after the President had departed for Nellis AFB.
There's a moment where the room seems to flicker. For a brief instant, you see a room where flames lick at the curtains, tables are upended, and several Secret Service agents are downed with arrows sticking out of their chests. Then all is calm. Nothing here has changed.
"It's over, you bastard," Lya says to Alex. But it's a Lya you barely recognize, a jagged scar scoring one cheek, her face covered with grime and ... blood. The fire in her eyes is no longer a dance-on-the-edge sparkle, but a dangerous kind of madness ...
Lya and Russ are to your left. Nothing is amiss.
A blade tumbles end over end through the air. Honsho Masamune.
Alex is sitting at a table, politely applauding the usual introductions and pleasantries. Holliwell is sitting beside the President.
As chaotic as the images are, you're able to sort between the two worlds and keep your focus ...
It's happening. Oh, shit. I wish I could ask the others if they can see this. Evie glances at her friends, but there is nothing to indicate that they are seeing any of this. Of course, they may see it and simply be, like her, sorting it out on their own, still playing their roles here just as she is.
Evie starts making her way closer to the President, edging along the outskirts of the room. She wants to stay as inconspicuous as possible. She's nothing more than security, taking a new position...
She glances at Lya and Alex, hoping to catch their eyes...
Lya glances quickly back at the hallway leading to the restrooms and kitchen area and smiles to herself as she sees the telltale flash of red and blonde hair before they slip into the women's restroom to wait for the signal.
"She told us to do what?" asks Toxic.
"Just shut up and stuff the TP in your ears already!"
She catches the glance of a worried Evie out of the corner of her eye and smiles as she gestures with both hands over her ears before running her hands through her hair as if fixing her hairdo. We've got this Evie... nobody's dying on my watch, just a good night's sleep... except maybe a few rabid dogs that need to be put down.
Grabbing a martini off of one of the servers drink trays, she puts her best fake smile on and walks over to Soleil Hunter's table as she begins to sing a lilting lullaby...
The merest hint of Cradlesong begins stealing into the minds of the audience. Eyelids flutter, people begin to yawn, and more than a few people do face-plants in their salad. Soleil Hunter seems unfazed, but is unable to prevent your power from sending the mortals, including the District Attorney, into a deep sleep. Several officers and agents enter the room and are quickly caught up in the lullaby.
"Rock-a-bye Baby isn't going to work on me, Lya," she sneers. "Not that it will matter after I rip your vocal cords out."
You can feel the power in Lya's voice, but it leaves you untouched. Perhaps it's the gifts of your own bloodline, or perhaps it's because you're allied, but the lullaby isn't anything more than a pleasant tune. Of course, with the staccato flashes of other realities, sleep is the farthest thing from your mind.
Everyone seems to be affected, from the President on down - even Justin Holliwell, though you remain suspicious. Even officers who you know aren't given to kipping off are leaning against the wall, eyes closed. Alerted to something odd taking place, other agents and officers enter from the lobby, including Saul. But while everyone else begins to nod and fade, Saul rests his hand on his pistol. His eyes are sweeping the room, meeting yours. He gives you a familiar head bob as if to ask, 'What the hell?'
Alex and Arky are unaffected, as is Soleil Hunter, who rises from her seat and begins stalking - there's really no other word for it - towards Lya ...
Phoebe is completely at ease among the spreading branches. She is able to sight in on Krieger, who is nestled against the bole of another tree, watching the scene through his rifle scope.
"Wofur?" he mutters, clearly in response to something that's happening inside, but he neither breaks cover or aim ...
Phoebe slowly and quietly notches an arrow as she takes aim between the shoulder blades of the sniper and gives a shrill whistle. Just raise your head and we'll see how well you take an arrow in the back of it...
It speaks to Krieger's discipline that his only reaction is a slight tensing between his shoulder blades. The bark of his rifle and the song of Phoebe's bow are simultaneous, her arrow sinking deep into the man's neck. He goes limp, knocking his rifle from the tree.
Phoebe nocks a second arrow and shoots Krieger again, straight through the heart. A third arrow goes through his left knee.
"I think he's dead, Phoebs," Orithia says.
"He was summoned from Valhalla. I intend to send him back," she says.
Evie meets Saul's eyes, her own expression mirroring his, though for a slightly different (though related) reason. What the...? Why aren't you sleeping, Saul?
Her gaze flicks back to Holliwell, who seems to be out along with everyone else. He could just be faking it, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. After all, Fenris probably doesn't know that they know he's replaced the senator. But...could they have pulled a switcharoo and replaced Saul, someone they certainly wouldn't expect?
If they did that, it would have to be a rush job, Evie quickly thinks. She was with Saul just this morning. And, she's been here ever since this whole affair started. They would have little opportunity and no real reason to switch out but...still...it's weird. No mortal should be able to resist Lya's magic.
Though she isn't completely ruling out the idea that her Saul is tied up in a closet somewhere, Evie still leans toward the idea that Fenris is playing possum.
Evie gives Saul a half-shrug, Hell if I know. She gestures for him to stay put. If that is the real Saul, trying to get him to leave would be fruitless, anyway. This is clearly a suspicious situation and he's an excellent officer. He won't walk away from this anymore than he would any other of his duties. All Evie can hope for is that the enemy will focus on the Scions and leave him be.
She continues to move towards the president, more swiftly now that everyone is blissfully napping, setting herself up to shield him from whatever attacks might come.
"Good thing I didn't come alone then," Lya replies loudly as she grips her cane tight. "We just had to finish putting your bitch sister in a kennel first."
"You'll pay!" Selene snarls as she moves towards Lya.
That's it, focus on me...don't pay attention to Klepto coming up behind you...
"My only regret is that she won't be here to see it," Soleil hissed. She tenses as if preparing to leap at you.
"Bad dog. Heel," says Klepto, her arms snaking around Soleil's throat.
Soleil rakes her fingers down the outside of Klepto's arm, leaving claw marks that quickly well with blood. Klepto doesn't relent.
"I will bear the scars with honor," she says. "Didn't anyone tell you Greek heroes kill mythic beasts for practice?"
"I'll add your skull to my collection," Soleil sneers. She drives an elbow into Klepto's stomach and breaks free, springing at Lya ...
"Lya!" shouts Toxic, tossing her pistol to her in a practiced move.
The pistol barks once. The bullet tears through Soleil's right eye, an ironic note in the Norse saga.
"Heal that," Lya says, coldly. She lowers her hand, and the pistol barks twice more, a double-tap to Soleil's chest. "And that."
There's another sharp report as a bullet lances through one of the windows.
"Nooooooooo!" Evie shouts, starting towards the dozing President and knowing she'll never make it in time.
Time distorts. You're moving in the space between heartbeats.
"Evieeeeeee!" Saul is calling out, his service pistol coming up in anticipation of another threat.
Evie can see the wake of the bullet's passing as if this were an action movie. Even though she's still yards away, she reaches out as if to pluck the bullet from mid-air. And before it can strike the sleeping man, there's a flare of light, an image that looks remarkably like Evie's badge. The bullet is deflected and plows into the wall behind Warner.
Time snaps back to normal.
"... eeeeee!" Saul finishes. "What the?"
"Stay down," Klepto says, her wrist snapping out and back as an ASP baton coshes Soleil on the head.
Alex feels a tug on his sleeve. It's the ghost of young Justin Holliwell, and he's pointing towards the kitchen.
"Company!" he shouts, moving towards the two Einjehar ...
"Got your back, Alex!" barks Toxic as she draws her sword and moves to his side.
"Evie? Is the President OK?" Lya yells out to her friend as she takes aim at the head of one of the Einjehar.
Evie nearly trips as everything snaps back into place for her. She gasps softly, realizing that she must've tapped some power that she didn't know she had. She blinks and the room flickers annoyingly, jumping between realities, again.
Gathering herself, she continues to run towards Warner, to stand as the back line of defense. And, to possibly deal with Holliwell. At this point, she's not exactly sure what to expect from him...though jumping up and trying to rip her face off seems like a possibility.
Over her shoulder, she calls out to Saul, "I'll explain everything later! Promise!"
Her first instinct is to tell him to call for backup, but that would be pointless. They'd all just fall asleep and wind up being big, lumpy targets who could inadvertently be hurt in all the commotion. As she takes up a position by the president, she points to her allies in turn, "Alex, Lya, Arky, the Amazons...ours!"
"He's okay!" Evie calls to Lya.
"Einjehar! Face me!" Alex belts out in a direct challenge.
It is no surprise that both of them turn to face him. However, the MP5 submachineguns that both men point in Alex's direction are. They spit bullets that tear into Alex's body, staggering him and dropping him to his knees.
"North!" yells Saul, new to the game of gods and powers.
Alex slips Hel's gift over his face before rising as an ominous spectre.
"Jesus!" Saul exclaims. "What the hell is that?!"
"I am Death," Alex proclaims. "And now I come for your souls." He resumes walking towards the Einjehar, who empty their weapons, then toss them at the looming phantasm. They raise their fists, prepared to fight, but Alex simply grips each one by the throat and lifts.
"Gkkkkkk!" one squawks, pawing ineffectively at Alex's arm.
"Mercy," gasps the other.
"Have you killed anyone during your time here on Midgard?" Alex asks.
"N-n-nein," stammers one. The other shakes his head.
"Then I release you from the summons that binds you here," Alex says. "Your fate is in the hands of the All-Father."
"Danke," breathes one man. The other man gives a Nazi salute. Despite the gesture's historical meaning, the respect is clear. Both of the men vanish from Alex's grasp.
"Glad you're on our side," Lya smiles. "But could you take that mask off? You're creeping me out."
"I didn't know I could do that," Alex said. "The power was just there all of a sudden."
"I know what you mean," Evie says. Quietly, she points at Holliwell and shakes her head. The meaning is clear. "I'm protecting the President."
"Ah, but who's protecting you, Evie?" says Senator Holliwell - if it was ever him to begin with. He gives a familiar smile - that of Jason Lyman.
There's a meaty, cutting sound as he turns towards Evie.
"Uhhh," she gasps. There's a good six inches of gleaming steel sticking out of her belly, with Holliwell/Loki twisting the handle of his dagger.
"You see, once you're out of the way, I can dispatch the President," Loki says. "Fenris kicks off a global war against the gods, and Ragnarok begins." He pulls the dagger out and flicks it clean of Evie's blood.
Determination is etched on Evie's face as she stands her ground, but she is forced to brace herself against the table.
"Son of a bitch!" Saul snarls as he fires a perfect double-tap at Holliwell. The bullets never reach him, seemingly consumed by fire in mid-air.
"I've been called worse," Holliwell/Loki smiles.
Saul continues to fire, emptying his magazine, with the same results. He holsters his weapon and draws his side-handle baton.
Toxic bars his way. "Don't. He's a god."
"He's not a god to me," Saul spits.
"The child wants to play? Let him," Loki leers. "He'll burn along with the rest of your miserable world, and all who dare interfere with the gods! This day was written in stone before any of you were born!"
There's a twin clap of thunder.
"It's a lousy ending. Gonna write a new one," Evie says. She pulls the trigger a third time, sending the bullet up through Holliwell/Loki's torso. A froth of blood appears on Loki's lips.
"That's not how it's supposed to happen ..." he says. "I am Loki!"
"And I'm my father's daughter," Evie smiles. "Did you forget?"
Loki sinks to his knees, fumbles at the table but only succeeds in pushing it further away. He falls to the floor.
"Fenris ..." he breathes before becoming still.
"Evie!" Saul calls out. This time, Toxic doesn't hold him back. He gathers her into his arms, murmuring Evie's name. "Don't you leave me, Cartwright!" he says.
There's a flare of light, prompting Klepto to ask, "Oh, what the fuck is it now?"
It's Valeria. Radiant as an angel, clad in silver scale armor and carrying a gleaming sword.
"No," says Alex. "Valeria, no!"
Valeria smiles at Evie, then looks back at Alex. "It's not her time. My business here is with you."
Alex glances down at himself to make sure his wounds aren't reappearing. "But I'm not dead."
"You have set foot upon a different path," she says. "We will not meet again, warrior." She vanishes.
"You must forsake Valhalla," Alex breathes. "Son of a bitch." He slams his fist down upon a table, and it collapses to the floor.
"Evie!" Lya yells as she holsters her gun and falls to her knees beside Saul.
"Did she ever tell you I went through a crash course in healing taught by an Asian goddess?" She asks Saul with a smile as she rolls up her sleeves and hovers her open hands over the wound.
"Never... came up..." Evie gurgles with a weak laugh.
"Evie, save your strength!" Saul admonishes in concern. "I don't care who taught you if you can save her."
The ring gives off a comfortable warmth that radiates through Lya's hands and up her arms as the knowledge comes to her. The knife fortunately missed Evie's lung, but she's got a nasty stomach wound that's bleeding internally thanks to that bastard twisting the dagger.
"I wouldn't want to miss retelling this story to your grand kids," she replies as the warmth flows down through her hands into the wound. "I got you, Evie... I got you."
Toxic moves with sword in hand to guard Lya's back as Klepto kicks Loki in the side to make sure he's not moving.
"I'll be okay," Evie squeezes Saul's hand, holding it to her chest as she reassures him. "I'm already feeling better."
She can feel the healing warmth spread through her abdomen, pain subsiding as flesh knits and rearranged organs align themselves. Evie smiles gratefully at Lya, so very thankful that her friend is there. Had she not...well...this would've turned out much differently. "Thank you," she sighs in relief.
Evie sits up and leans forward out of Saul's grasp just long enough to give Lya a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. Then, she turns and hugs Saul, kissing him softly on the lips. She chuckles, "What is it with you and me getting stabbed?"
"I don't know, but it needs to stop!" he holds her tightly, as though he intends to never let her go.
After a moment, she taps his shoulder and gently extracts herself from Saul's embrace. Looking at Loki, she says, "I doubt that killed him. He's a god. It probably just damaged him enough that he had to return to Asgard."
Looking between all of her friends, she asks, "Is everyone okay?" Her gaze lingers for a moment on Alex, noting his distressed expression and the crumpled table. She had been too distracted by her own condition to have truly registered Val's arrival and disappearance.
"Peachy keen," Lya laughs in relief as she sits back on her knees and pulls out a flask from her inside jacket pocket to take a drink. "Klepto? I don't think these guys are moving... you want to see how Phoebe and Orithia are doing?"
Klepto wrinkles her nose at the still bodies of Loki and Soleil Hunter before nodding and moving to the window to look towards the woods. She smiles to herself as she sees Orithia waving from the trees. "Looks like Phoebe got her man."
"She always does," Toxic agrees as she sheathes her sword and claps Klepto on the shoulder.
"Awesome," Lya replies as she dusts herself off and walks over to Alex to offer him a drink. "You going to be OK? I'm sure you'll still be able to see each other when she's off duty or something."
Alex's shoulders sag for a brief instant. "I don't know, it sounded official. And final," he says. "I guess I stepped on the All-Father's toes by standing in judgment over two warriors who had already been welcomed into Valhalla. Or because he found out what we did for Mimir."
There's a thunderclap. A real one, this time. Outside, the sky darkens in a manner that can only be described as wrong. Lya rubs at her arms as if staving off the 'hairs standing up' feeling.
"You, too?" Evie asks.
Saul draws his pistol and slaps in a fresh magazine. "What's next? Iron Man fighting the Hulk?"
"Don't joke about it," Alex says, his moment of vulnerability set aside. "I've got ..."
"... a bad feeling ..." Lya continues.
"... about this," Evie and Saul both say. "We saw the movie."
"Hitoshi?" Alex asks. "Loki said his job was to kill President Warner while Fenris kicked off a global war against the gods. It's happening."
"But that's in another reality!" Toxic protests.
An alternate version of the dining room is superimposed over things. Tables are askew, and a line of grim-faced men and women, armed with guns, swords, and bows are advancing into the room. Lya, dressed in dark leathers, has a dangerous gleam in her eyes. She is flanked by four women in armor, though the only one you recognize is Toxic. Evie, too, is there, along with several men and women wearing battered and salvaged LVPD gear.
Across from them stand a greying Justin Holliwell, Hitoshi Ryder, and a man in military uniform. He looks up, and you see that it is Alex North, but this Alex is missing part of his right arm.
"No. I will not nuke this city or launch some sort of mass damage attack on american soil that will kill thousands of innocents," Hitoshi says.
"American soil?" Holliwell/Fenris sneers. "CASCADE is global, Hitoshi. Colonel, time to earn your keep. Jotun, to me!"
With that, Fenris flicks something through the air towards his Alex North. A piece of metal, looking like a keyring. But there are no keys upon the short chain, which makes it something considerably more dangerous: a relic ...
Evie has absolutely no idea if she can interact with this reality or whether she and her companions are relegated to on-lookers in this battle. She mutters, "Won't know unless I try..."
She lunges across the room, trying to catch Alex's relic. If Fenris is giving it to him, then it must mean that he's confident that Col. North will do his bidding. She can't trust that this man still holds the same, good heart as her friend...
"I don't think so," you hear Hitoshi say as he, too, leaps for the relic sailing through the air. His fingers close around it ...
... and a burst of cerulean energy tosses you aside. You crash into tables, whether from one reality or the other, you cannot tell. You see Hitoshi straining against power and pain, his fingers still locked around the relic.
Whether he was a good man or not, neither Fenris nor Loki would be so foolish as to place complete trust in Alex North, even one who had been broken to their will.
"Fool," Fenris sneers at Hitoshi. "You, your friends ... you will stop nothing. I had hoped to use your noble instincts to my advantage, but this ... this is beyond all my hopes. Ironic, even. Oh, and Colonel? Your services are no longer required."
Fenris levels a pistol at Alex, but it is one of the Jotun who swiftly closes from behind and impales him with a sword before kicking him free of the blade. Deprived of any of his divine heritage, the light is already fading from his eyes as his body drops to the ground.
"War! Glorious war!" Fenris calls out.
There's a metallic tzing! as an Asian woman, clad in a waitress' uniform, deploys two battle fans and takes on the soldiers forming a loose cordon around Fenris. She dances and whirls in a fluid dance, deflecting shots one moment, drawing blood with the fans' edges the next.
And you see yourself. Jeans, work shirt, leather jacket ... but the men and women around you are clad in salvaged LVPD gear. Tactical vests, riot shields, helmets, Sam Browne belts. When the world went to hell, you and your colleagues stepped forward to protect it.
This world, and the other begin to resolve. No longer intangible, you're in both places at once, a dining room filled with slumbering guests, and one with tables and chairs tossed about, a battleground where Jotunblut thralls stand in defense of Fenris.
But you are not alone. There's an Asian woman wielding twin battle fans, already fully engaged with the Jotun. And a line of warriors, men and women, all carrying weapons of some form, advancing from the lobby. At their head is Lya's twin, a dancing-on-the-razor's-edge gleam in her eye. She is surrounded by four women who should be the Furies, but you only recognize Toxic.
"Anchor," Alex swears. "They're using him to bridge the worlds."
"Fuck me," Evie mutters as she looks up from the tangle of chairs and tables. She knows that sight. She's seen it before, back at Castle World. And, it had all been a trap, one that her stupid ass had fallen for.
She lurches to her feet and whistles, getting the attention of...herself. Man, this is weird.
Chief Evie glances to the side, giving her a cursory once over. Then, she stops and does a double-take. "What the hell?"
Detective Evie points to Hitoshi, gripped in the magical trap. "It's an anchor holding our worlds together! We have to cut the line! Don't hurt Hitoshi if you can help it. He's ours, from our world!"
Oh, gawds. I hope she's a Scion, too, so this will all make sense. I don't have time to explain everything...
Back in Castle World, the anchor had been destroyed when Sarcophagus Alex had interrupted it with a shield. Of course, it had destroyed him, too. She'd rather not wind up vaporized, not after Lya was so kind as to mend her. And not after Saul had to endure watching her be impaled.
But, you do what you have to do. Greater good and all that...
If Alex and Lya can handle Fenris, perhaps she can somehow break the anchor and free Hitoshi.
"Glorious?" Lya mutters angrily as she holsters her gun and grabs her staff, the wood creaking under the strain of her death grip around it.
"Glorious?" she yells out as the vines on the staff glow and she begins to weave her way through the throngs of Jotunblut like she was on the dance floor.
"War isn't glorious... it's a seething ... writhing ... chaotic shitstorm!Loki? DEAD! Soleil? DEAD! Selene? Imprisoned! Let me show you just how chaotic war can be!"
The other Lya slowly smiles and nods.
The vines on the staff glow brighter and begin to move and snake up her arm as she clenches it tight. She sneers in disgust at the Jotunblut holding the sword still bloody from impaling the other Alex. You.
Klepto's eyes widen in sudden remembrance of being back in the castle the last time Lya lost her cool. "Oh shit..." she whispers as she grabs Toxic's arm to warn her. "It's happening again!"
Toxic nods. "I'll warn Saul."
The Jotunblut thrall meets Lya's direct and challenging stare, thinking her to be his next target. Instead, he stumbles a half step. He moves to raise his sword and its point wavers as if he were having trouble fixing on his victim. And then his jaw falls slack, his mouth opening in a wordless cry of torment.
Colonel North looks at the commando, someone he'd trained, someone he'd been assured was now superior to mere mortals, and instead sees eyes that have gone blank and unseeing, pupils dilated ...he begins to tremble. His hands fly to grip his temples as the world spins out of control in his mind.
The chaos spreads like lightning, quickly consuming the entire squad of blood-bound soldiers. The young Asian woman who had been dancing through their ranks raises one battle fan to shield her eyes and changes her tactical focus. Instead of fighting the Jotun, she is clearly protecting HItoshi's prone figure.
"Indiana!" someone on Chief Cartwright's side yells. "Look out!" The men and women on the opposing line raise their off arms and shield their eyes without giving ground. The warning cry hearkens to the climactic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. They've apparently seen this party trick before and want no part of it.
Holliwell/Fenris smiles and locks eyes with Lya.
"Glorious," he repeats. His entire frame begins trembling, but not with the confused palsy crippling his men. It's worse than that. "I am the Fenris Wolf! I cannot be bound by such petty enchantments!" he roars. And he begins to change. The features of Justin Holliwell melt, his jaw elongating in a lupine slide; dark, inky fur appearing beneath clothing that tears as his limbs lengthen and he grows in height and breadth. No mere werewolf, but a terrifying and primal creature that exudes its own chaotic aura.
"Fenris?" the other Lya says. "Dionysus save us."
"Fine," snarls Parthenope. "I've got an arrow for him, as well." The Maenad draws her bow, nocking a pair of arrows and sighting on Colonel North's head.
"Look at me, you bastard," she says, even though North turns unseeing eyes towards the sound of her voice, though he is beyond comprehending her words.
"This is for Phoebe." Her arrows fly and pierce Colonel North's eyes. She pivots and has another arrow nocked, set to fly at Fenris.
"Take your best shot," Fenris slavers. "The warriors of Asgard tried it all. Arrows. Swords. Fire. Poison. Magic. I am the World's Ending!"
There's an answering volley of fire, arrows and bullets alike, as Bach and Cartwright's people open fire. Fenris doesn't even flinch. Ichor mats his fur, but wounds close as quickly as they are inflicted ...
"Huh?" Evie blinks in surprise. However, as soon as Indiana is mentioned and she sees the LVPD folks cover their eyes, she knows what is happening. She remembers Castle World and Lya's warning...Don't look.
Evie has no idea if anything has changed in herself, since then. Can she withstand this, the way she did Lya's lullaby? Don't know and not going to risk it. However, she does chance a quick look to Saul and sees him already shielding his eyes, Toxic standing at his side. She breathes a small sigh of relief, at that. Dropping her eyes to the ground, she thinks furiously. How can she help Hitoshi? She certainly can't fight anything, right now, without risking madness. But...maybe...maybe...
Inwardly, she laughs at herself. This is either going to be brilliant or the stupidest thing I have ever done...
Without lifting her eyes beyond a few feet ahead of her on the floor, she sprints towards the kitchen. Butter, oil, lard...just need something slick...And something small, long and round. Crab pick? Ice pick? Pen? For what she is going to do, she'll need a small tool to slip into Hitoshi's grasp and pry/push at the relic to help wiggle it out. The last thing she wants to do is use her own hand for that. It would, presumably, just trigger the trap, again.
"You and Odin are both cowards and fools!" Lya yells out in frustration as the battle continues to rage and Fenris grows. "Ragnarok is a farce made up by an old man too scared to take control of his own life, and like the well trained pup you've heeled at his feet and continue to perpetuate his lies! Look at you!" She gestures at him in disgust. "You aren't even capable of being a man without Loki telling you what to do! You're just a dog begging for a master. You couldn't be a man on your own if you tried."
"Being a man?" Fenris laughs. "What does that mean? I have never been a man. Justin Holliwell was a mask, like all the others I have worn over the years. And Loki? That puling windbag couldn't direct a fart out of his own ass. Decades wasted in grandiose schemes, for what? This is how it's supposed to work!"
He waves a hand (paw?) and several of Cartwright's people fall, torn apart from a distance by invisible claws. "Nor are these toy soldiers my only allies," he says. A cloud of dark smoke uncoils from the ground around Fenris, resolving into black-clad and fully-masked warriors. At their head is a man who must be Hitoshi's twin from this reality. The cloud does not disperse, and you have the impression that you are grossly, horribly outnumbered ...
You scramble about the kitchen, your choice being an artisan steak butter smelling like garlic and cilantro, or good old extra-virgin olive oil. A handheld stone for sharpening knives meets your criteria for something to push the item with. You run back outside.
"Please, please, please, please," you murmur as you pour oil over Hitoshi's hand. You slide the sharpening stone in by his pinky ...
... and it slides right through the object and out the other side.
"Ohhh, nice idea. But I think he's in the other reality," Alex says. "So we either have to wait for them to come together, or we need to find someone who is where he is."
"Simple enough!" Evie mutters, not deterred. If there is one thing that can be said about Heimdall's daughter, it's that she's stubborn.
"Hey! Chief!" Evie lets out another sharp whistle, to get Cartwright's attention. "Got an idea, but need someone from your reality to do it. I can't touch this damn thing."
"This is how it's supposed to work? Who told you that ... Odin?" Lya sneers. "You've never been human because you don't have the balls for it," she spits.
"Did it hurt when Tyr clipped them off? Look at you trying to be all scary with your army... you can't even carry out your plans by yourself! If it weren't for Hitoshi catching the damn anchor your plans would've already been over!"
"Nor am I truly a wolf," Fenris smiles, all fangs and slaver. "That is only how mortal men can begin to comprehend what I am. I am the darkness beyond the edge of the campfire. The predator that stalks them through shadow, across mountains, plains, and forests. The fear that freezes their hearts, the hunger that consumes their children as well as their minds.I am at the heart of every political and religious movement. Politicians, kings, and clergymen all bow to me."
"I am the chaos you thrive on," he continues. "Not all of my servants are warriors. Some are activists and protesters who comfort themselves with lies as to the purity of their motives. I was here at the beginning of time, and I will be here at its end."
"And yet you were still imprisoned by the Gods," Lya laughs in disdain. "Look at you trying sooo hard to prove that you're some scary embodiment of chaos... but you're still nothing without Man! Who will fear you? Who will hear your whispers and machinations? Who will worship you? NO ONE! Because you, in your so called wisdom, decided to kill off everyone who gave your existence meaning!"
She rolls her eyes and stomps her staff into the ground. "So tell me... were you just too STUPID to think about the consequences, or were you just too cowardly to think for yourself and do something other that what Odin said was fated to happen?"
"I live my life the way I choose and told the gods where they can stick their destiny... which is something that I will always have over you."
"So tell me... just who is the master, and who is the servant of Chaos?"
You whistle for your twin.
"Busy!" she says, shooting a ninja-like creature between the eyes. "Saul! Help her. Help me. Whatever!"
"On it!" come two shouts in the affirmative. And you are met by Saul Anderson and his twin, the latter being somewhat more battle-worn, but still with that devil-may-care sparkle in his eyes.
"Oh, wow," he says, seeing his twin. "Damn. Okay. What do you need, Chief? Drinks and gab later."
"I need you, because he's in your world, to push the object in his hand free," you explain. "But don't touch it. It's evil."
Officer Anderson laughs. "Got it, Evie. Go. Get clear, just in case."
Whatever power you used to protect President Warner, you now focus on Saul's twin. You're not entirely sure it will work against whatever power or artifice is tearing the universe - both universes - apart, but you can't ask Saul's double to risk his life and not work to protect him.
"All right, you little dickens," he mutters. "Let's see if we c- whoa!" He jerks his hand away from the sharpener. "Remember that time I tried replacing the light switch without cutting the power?" he says. "Um, it's like that."
You smile, although you've got no idea what he's talking about, you can see yourself and the Saul you know having a home repair misadventure along those lines.
"Time on target, five minutes," a speaker squawks. Fenris bats a briefcase aside with a snarl. "I have no master. I am Chaos."
Around you, the fight is not going well. Cartwright's people, unprepared for melee combat, are taking casualties. Even the Maenads seem to be pressed, and the shadow warriors also have the edge of superior numbers. You see Alex gesturing towards the briefcase Fenris had knocked aside. He scrambles up over a table and leaps towards the nemesis of his pantheon.
"Get the briefcase! The launch is coordinated!" he shouts. "We can still stop it!"
Fenris looms over Alex and takes a swipe at him, overreaching the smaller (?) man. It's weird to think of Alex as 'small,' but the comparison is true, if only one of relative values. For every strike Fenris lands, despite drawing blood, Alex lands three or four solid punches. You remember him shattering a table a moment ago, and realize the power those punches must pack.
"Death to the Son of Tyr," Fenris hisses.
"It was never Loki," Alex breathes. "It was you."
"As it must be. We are fated to be enemies," Fenris growls. "Nothing personal, Counselor." Fenris finally manages to cap Alex's face with one hand (paw?), drawing blood as he begins a slow raking of Alex's face ...
"Fuck your fate bullshit!" Lya yells as she quickly draws her gun and shoots Fenris repeatedly through the arm. "Klepto! Toxic! Get the radio so we can stop this!"
"Well, shit," Evie mutters. Her lips press together in a grim line as she looks at Hitoshi, curled and taut with pain. She sighs and gives Anderson a smile, "Thanks for trying. Get back out there and watch Cartwright's back. And, be careful!"
She looks at Saul, speaking to him as she thinks aloud, "I don't know what else to try. The last time we did this, there was a line. We were able to interrupt the line and break the connection...but this isn't doing that. I can't touch it. They can't touch it. Knocking Hitoshi out won't change anything. Alex was unconscious the entire time he was trapped..."
Evie growls and stands, pacing a small, desperate circle around her friend. Saul simply watches, knowing that there's not really much he can do for her when she gets like this. The only thing to be done is to let her wind down on her own.
I could cut his hand off. That would probably do it, she thinks. The very idea makes her stomach churn. She couldn't do that to him! Hitoshi is her friend and he's suffered enough but...
She glances up at the darkened sky. There, across the field, Alex valiantly battles Fenris, blood staining his shirt where claws have raked his flesh. Lya and the Furies are mowing their way towards the radio, intent on stopping the launch. LVPD and Bach's people fight furiously, blood and dead bodies are scattered everywhere.
This is bigger than us. If Lya can't stop the countdown...something has to be done. I'll do it, then. Evie's heart aches at the very thought.
With a heavy sigh, she turns back to Saul. She gives him a brave smile and says, "I can't think of anything else. Let's go out there and guard Lya. She needs to be able to think and work uninterrupted."
Pulling out her gun, she starts shooting her way across the field.
The double-tap of shots plow into Fenris' arm, with pretty much the same effect as everything else thrown his way. He continues dragging his talons down Alex's face, more to inflict pain than anything else.
"Skoll told me you healed like we do," he says. Alex appears to flail helplessly, a wordless cry spilling from his lips. "Beg, Son of Tyr, and I may spare you."
"Fuck, who writes your lines?" Alex says. His left hand snaps up suddenly and seizes Fenris' wrist. The Wolf tries to jerk away, but finds his efforts to be futile. Not only can he not break away, but Alex holds the Wolf's arm in place. "Fate, is it? Then you'll love what comes next. I drank from Mimir's Well."
You've had the gift of prophecy long enough to know the power in those words. Alex has acknowledged the prophecy, bringing its force to his own efforts. Imbued with the vision from the well, he is, in this moment and place, invincible.
Hitoshi's double - everything Hitoshi is not - strides towards you, a black tanto in one hand.
"Look out!" Anderson shouts, tackling you to carry you the descending blade.
"What? No 'you will face justice' Officer An-der-son?" Ryder laughs mockingly.
"Gods, are you all a bunch of wordy, melodramatic bastards?" Parthenope huffs.
Ryder deflects the arrow, but is immediately forced on the defensive as the young Asian woman whirls into another kata with her battle fans.
"I'm sorry, Papa. You have allied yourself with the wrong side," she says.
There is clear surprise on Ryder's face. "Who the fuck are you?"
"Ask the Lady of Shadows," she says without relenting.
The words come with difficultly, not only because of the energies spasming through your body, but because ... well, because they're part of a chapter begun long ago, and never finished.
"Father ... p-p-please," you breathe. "Help me!"
"Foolish brat," Izanami's voice hisses in your ear. So close. "Loki was a fool to think you would be so easily plied. But I have torments to strip away the last vestiges of honor. I shall craft you into a servant to remind mortals why they should fear and obey me."
"You cannot touch him, Izanami," another voice declares. Hachiman. "Wayward or not, this is my son."
"Aiya! Take him!" Izanami says. "You have your son, and I have mine."
"There, too, you are in error," Hachiman says.
"... the Lady of Shadows," the young woman says.
"Aiee! You! You are mine! You are ..." Izanami protests, realizing what is transpiring.
"A pest? An afterthought of your machinations, 'Aunt Izzy'? When was I anything but a tool for your ambitions?" Asami says. "I was shown another path, and I choose to walk it."
"Then you choose to die," Izanami hisses.
"Not today," the young woman says. Her fan dances back in a slicing motion, layering another cut over several others inflicted against Ryder. "And certainly not by his hand. When I was the bait, even though he suspected it was artifice, Hitoshi Ryder looked upon me with true joy in his eyes and heart. He would give anything to save Akane, and me. I can do no less."
"Asami," you manage to say weakly.
"You are nothing, girl. A phantom, a showpiece," Ryder hisses. He snatches a tablecloth and winds it about his arm to foil the slicing, dancing fans.
"Is that your excuse for abusing Akane and I?" Asami retorts. "Hitoshi Ryder looked upon us and saw something he cherished above all else. You have never looked at me with anything but contempt."
"Why should I? You are a bag of maggots and dirt, a conjured toy."
"The Lord of Nets showed me otherwise," Asami says. "I am samurai."
"A fantasy shared by Hitoshi Ryder," the man says mockingly. "One I have never shared or deluded myself with. I know who I am, and what I want. I am free of ridiculous notions like honor and bushido, with power to do what I want!"
He raised his arms like an itinerant preacher calling his flock to know Jesus, then drew them inward as if seizing something out of the air, and everything went black.
"Thanks," Evie manages to gasp out as she untangles herself from Anderson. She taps him on the shoulder and quickly gets back to her feet. As she does so, there is a grin upon her face. "You actually gave me a fun idea."
Again, two voices answer, but Saul is off to the side a bit, busy shooting enemies who would close on Evie and Anderson.
Evie points to Anderson, "Anderson."
She points to Saul, "Saul."
"Gods, keeping you two straight..." she mutters, though she is smiling.
"Okay, we're going to try a battering ram maneuver," she says quickly, since Ryder is distracted by Asami. "Do you trust me?"
"Of course," Saul answers without hesitation, a mischievous gleam in his eye.
"Good, I want you to flat out run smack through the middle of all these guys. I'm going to be right behind you, protecting you, I'm going to use the same shield I used to protect Warner and we're going to plow down these bastards."
The staff continues to pulse with power as Lya holsters her gun and weaves and dodges through the throngs of maddened warriors and resistance fighters. "Fuck, the President's got to have the briefcase with him, right?" she mutters to herself as she searches frantically.
"I'll watch her back," Toxic says hurriedly to Klepto as she unsheathes her sword. "Get to Orithia and Phoebe and check the helicopter for the briefcase!"
"Okay, as soon as I say 'stop,' don't shoot," Evie warns Saul. "I'm pretty positive the bullet would just ricochet around in here and kill us. Okay...ready...stop!"
As soon as Saul drops his gun down into a ready-but-waiting position, Evie concentrates and drops the shield over him and herself.
"Last I saw Lya, she was over that way," Evie points in the singer's direction. "Let's go! Try to avoid our guys. And run the hell over everyone else! I've got us covered!"
The unorthodox strategy of Saul playing a juggernaut catches the enemy off-guard. More than a few of the shadow warriors go flying, misjudging his charge as something that must stop as their opponent seeks to engage them.
Unfortunately, that's neither your or Saul's intent. He barrels through them as if the room were a giant pinball table, and the enemy the bumper targets. The rest of Chief Cartwright's people begin rallying behind you, taking advantage of disoriented and scattered foes to regain their own footing and press the advantage.
"Well ... shit," Lya says, looking down at a satcom unit that has been shot apart. Fenris' work, no doubt. Except there must be a backup, in this reality or your own.
And you're running out of time ...
"You're not going anywhere," Alex says.
Fenris swings his other paw in a vicious sweep, but Alex catches it, just as he did in his vision, and now the two are locked in a desperate grapple, with Fenris unable to break free, and Alex occasionally leaning back from Fenris' snapping teeth.
There comes a slow, grinding sound, followed by a snap so loud it almost sounds like a gunshot, except for the howl of pain that follows. The Wolf's forearms broken, Alex whips the creature around and into an equally punishing stranglehold ...
Evie and Saul roll up to where Lya is, staring down at the broken satcom unit.
"Any luck?" Evie calls out.
"No! The damn thing is broken," Lya shoves at the useless item in frustration. "But, there's got to be a backup. Klepto has gone to check the helicopter and find Orithia and Phoebe."
"Any ideas where else to go?" Evie asks. She grins, "You can join me and Saul inside the Juggernaut Express. We can get you where you need to be in no time."
"We've got to find that radio!" Lya replies. "But we're also going to need the President if we're going to have any chance of stopping this strike. Do you think you guys can help me get him to the helicopter? If the backup is there I can wake him up to use it but we'll need you to protect him."
"You got it! Going will be a little slower while hauling him but we can do it. Grab him and stick close to Saul," Evie lifts the shield so that the others can enter.
Evie will help Toxic with the slumbering president. Saul will be busy "driving" the shield and the size difference between Lya and Toxic would make lugging an unconscious body far more awkward for them.
An inky darkness swirls about the room, but you only have a glimpse of Ryder pulling it forth out of the air, like a conductor summoning a brassy crescendo.
"I can't see!" Saul yelled.
"Left!" Evie told him, steering him towards their goal. "Table on your right, and ... straight."
The pain is beyond physical. You feel Loki's magic flensing your very soul, bridging the two worlds with tendrils of hate and suffering. Ragnarok will sweep across realities as a mountain cataract crashes down upon the rocks below.
"Let go," you hear Hachiman's voice.
You strain, but your fingers are still locked upon the corrupted relic, if it was ever one to begin with.
"I can't," Hitoshi says.
"Not the lodestone," Hachiman says quietly. "Let go."
"Of what?!" you protest. Ever, always the taskmaster.
"Everything," Hachiman says. "The only way to catch fish is not to try."
"What? What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Hachiman is the crazy monk who whacks you with a stick when you fail to comprehend some bizarre koan.
"The fisherman casts his net and waits," Hachiman explains. "He does not fill it by demanding the fish do so. He reads the currents. He knows the waters. He is patient. Let go."
"My friends ..."
"The missiles ..."
"I ... don't know how," Hitoshi finally admits.
"You have never really tried," Hachiman chides. "You have built a life around saving things and fixing things, from Akane to Lya to your classic cars. You must let go. No demands, no fears, no regrets. Let go."
"Come on, come on," Klepto complained as she swept her eyes across the interior of the helicopter. "Be a nice briefcase and be out in the open where I can see you." The crew were all dozing - once a Secret Service agent reported what was happening, it was enough. Which explained why the entire security contingent hadn't come crashing into the dining room.
There. The agent nearest the door had a briefcase handcuffed to his left wrist, and it wasn't likely to be the President's fantasy football picks.
"Then you'll have the keys, too," Klepto said, fishing in the man's pockets. "Let's see ... handcuff key, and this one looks like the case."
There's a sudden tapping on the helicopter and Klepto looks up with a start to see Orithia and Phoebe smiling. "Let me guess, business as usual?"
"You know it," Klepto snorts and quickly unlocks the briefcase from the mans wrist. "Now let's get this to Lya so we can save the world... again."
The Furies turn back towards the clubhouse.
"Ick... nasty evil creepy darkness up ahead," Phoebe says. "Why can't it be something traditional, like a hydra or a giant snake?"
"Triangle formation?" Orithia asks.
Phoebe shouldered her bow and drew a short sword, turning slightly so as to form a close triangle. They moved with a slow rotation that left no one's back exposed.
The swirling darkness floods the room, along with Ryder's laughter. Izanami had seen the the pain and darkness in Ryder's soul and exploited it with a virtuoso's touch. That he was the Scion of Hachiman makes it even more ironic. And the chilling thing is, you can see Hitoshi walking the same path, thinking he was protecting others or making a noble sacrifice. He said as much in his letter bequeathing you the Westview.
But that won't help you call off Ragnarok, or help the mortals who are now easy prey for the shadow warriors.
"We have to get where there's light," you tell Evie.
"Working on it."
"Gnnnnnnnh," Fenris manages to say as Alex continues wrenching at the wolf's neck.
The darkness that rises about the room is troubling, but you have no time to spare. Fenris is healing, his broken arms straightening. There's no longer any question of merely subduing your enemy, and even though legend has it differently ... you change your grip, capping Fenris's forehead ...
Inwardly, Evie curses. She can see in this inky soup just fine, but that doesn't help anyone else caught in it. And, she can't properly steer Saul while she's helping to carry the president. Certainly, she can call out directions but that's not quite as good as being able to put a hand upon his shoulder or hip to keep him on course.
She quickly glances around the field, looking for Arky. She knows where they left him, but who knows where he is, now? And, though she can see in the dark, she can't see through the multitudes of bodies or over-turned tables.
"ARKY!" she yells, trying to be heard over battle. "Can you do anything about this darkness?!"
At first, there's no response to Evie's shout, and both of you are fearful that something has happened to your friend.
"INDIANA!" shout two voices at once. And then there's a burst of brilliant light, the noon sun and then some, as Arky and his twin from the alternate reality join forces. The darkness retreats like fog being burned away by the rising sun.
Alex and Fenris are still wrestling with each other.
Asami - the young Asian woman who, somehow, is related to Hitoshi Ryder - is in the midst of a graceful but wholly unpredictable dance, bobbing and weaving around attacks that she couldn't possibly have seen amid the darkness. Her tactics shift from defensive to offensive almost immediately as Arky's flare of light changes the battlefield.
And Hitoshi - our Hitoshi - is still pinned to the ground.
"Damn!" Lya exclaims as she blinks away the spots on the edge of her vision. "Over there, the door! Let's move it like we've got a world to save, people!"
"Go, go, go!" Evie shouts, grinning even as she narrows her eyes against the brightness. She and Toxic double their efforts to haul the president and keep up with Saul.
Lya scrambles to her feet with staff in hand as she rushes blindly towards the door. Get the radio...save the world...get the radio...
The door slams open with a bang and an exclamation of female voices before Lya runs into a solid wall that wraps arms around her.
"Woah, Lya!" Klepto yells. "You can stop running now!"
"Shit, don't DO that!" Orithia exclaims.
"Gottagettheradio!" Lya replies breathlessly as Evie, Toxic and the two Sauls follow behind with the unconscious President between them.
"You mean this thing?" Orithia grins as she holds up the case.
"Blessed Gods on high, YES!" Lya replies with a wide grin before turning to gesture to the others. "Toxic, bar the door so we can try and do this uninterrupted!"
"You got it!" she replies as she grabs an ashtray stand and snaps off the top with her foot before jamming the bar between the handles of the two doors.
The two Sauls lay President Warner down on the ground as Evie carefully cradles his head. "You don't need to kiss him, do you?" Evie jokes with a nervous laugh.
"I think we've got enough to try to explain already," Lya laughs as she kneels down beside him and gently prods his shoulder.
"Mr. President, you need to wake up! The world needs you, Mr. President!"
"Lemme ... five," Warner mumbles sleepily. "Justalunch."
"Jacob, wake the hell up," Lya insists.
"Screw this, he's not my president," Klepto says. She digs into a pressure point on Warner's right shoulder.
"Gahhhhhhhh!" Warner's eyes fly open. "Wait. Who the hell are you?"
"Welp. That'll do it," Evie mutters. She doesn't look at all sorry about anything. In fact, there is a touch of amusement, there.
Evie helps the president sit up and then turns to watch what is happening back in the clubhouse. She'll leave explanations to Lya. Evie pulls out her gun and waits patiently, ready for any attack. After all, if the enemy realizes what they are doing, they'll be swamped with attacks...
"... no demands, no fears, no regrets," Hachiman tells his son.
"I can't, old man!" Hitoshi rages. "I have to help! I have t-"
"Then you will die," the Lord of Nets says. "Let go. Of everything. Of past and present and future."
Reflexively, Hitoshi's grip upon Honsho Masamune tightens. He wasn't going to just walk away from everything. He couldn't.
There's a grisly snapping sound as Alex breaks Fenris' neck, but the Son of Tyr does not stop or relent. He tears Fenris' head off, a task ascribed in legend to Vidar.
The remaining Jotun stumble, bereft of the fanaticism that had spilled forth from Fenris. They are caught between a line of Cartwright's people, Maenads, and - on the other side - the Scion who just tore their master in half ...
Gomen'nasai, Asami breathes, bringing her battle fans around in a sweeping move that sever her father's right hand neatly at the wrist. She follows through with a kick that sends him sprawling atop Hitoshi.
Cerulean energies rage as the two men - different aspects, predicated on a moment of mercy - become enmeshed in the growing nexus between the worlds.
"My name is Lya Bach, Mr. President, and my friends and these brave police officers just pulled you from an assassination attempt by Senator Warner and his men inside."
"Where are my men?" he asks as he looks around hurriedly.
"Most of them were drugged along with you at the beginning of the lunch, sir," Evie replies. "When Holiwell started issuing threats and his men started attacking our main goal was to protect you."
"Because of the worst part," Lya adds.
"There's more?" Warner asks incredulously as he sits up and rubs his head.
"You could say that," Lya replies as Orithia unlocks the briefcase and hands it over. "It seems that Holiwell had men loyal to himself acting on the inside... and he decided he wanted to be the President who created a new world on the ashes of an old one. So... on behalf of everyone on planet Earth, we'd all really appreciate it if you could issue the recall order."
"Justin? But he was the one who organiz-" Warner says. "Oh, hell. Where's my chief of staff? My principal agent?"
"Out cold," Evie says. "I'm Detective Evelyn Cartwright with the Las Vegas Police Department."
Warner blinks. "Wait. You were running towards me ..."
"Time for chat later," Lya insists with a beneficent smile.
"Right. Crystal Palace, Rockstar. Status!"
"Rockstar, this is Crystal Palace. Confirm identity."
"President Jacob Warner," Warner says. A light on the console flashes green, but the matching light blinks yellow.
"Voice authorization failed."
"Fuck!" Evie curses. "It was launched using the alternate briefcase."
Evie looks to Lya, hoping that what she is saying sinks in. She doesn't want to actually explain anything out loud and ruin the comfortable illusion that Lya has created for Warner...at least, not yet. It may be impossible to maintain, but there's no sense shattering it prematurely.
The launch was authorized by President Holliwell/Fenris, not President Warner. The codes are probably different.
"That's why we have a manual input code," Warner smiles. He punches in an alphanumeric code and presses ENTER.
The lights do not change, while another indicator begins to blink.
"I don't understand, I'm sure that's the right code," Warner says. "I can try again, but if I get it wrong, the system will lock me out."
"Dammit, we need whatever codes he used!" Lya hisses. "Evie... we need to see if Holiwell has the codes on him, stat! Toxic, Orithia, back her up!"
Orithia whips her duel swords from her back scabbards and swings them into a ready stance as Toxic removes the bar from the doors. "Once more unto the breach and all that..."
"On it," Evie nods and runs back towards the club house, intent on trying to find the codes. Maybe there are some shreds of clothing left from when Holiwell transformed into Fenris that she can check. Or...she doesn't know. Something around the table where he was sitting? Another briefcase? Folders? Anything at all!
Inside, the battle has turned decisively. Alex is standing over Fenris' body, and ... was that a ... head ...?
Several of the Jotun are still putting up a fight, but they are no longer fighting with the same ferocity as earlier. Some of Cartwright's people manage to tackle one to the ground and subdue him; the others quickly follow.
The shadow warriors are also falling, stripped of the darkness that had engulfed the room. A part of you hopes the bodies all wind up in the proper reality, or there'll be some 'splainin to do.
"Alex! We need a code to stop the launch!" you shout. "Look for a code, some kind of password!"
Alex nods to show he heard, but Fenris' clothes are shreds of fabric scattered across where they'd fought.
"Colonel! Time to earn your keep!"
Yeah, that's twisted enough for Fenris. Toss him a relic with the code to stop Ragnarok etched on it, Alex thought.
"Evie! It's on a keychain in Hitoshi's left hand!" he shouts.
Which is a problem in and of itself - both versions of Hitoshi are embroiled in a knot of coruscating energy, and there was no way to dislodge the damned rock ...
"Holy shit..." Evie blinks, impressed by Alex. That...that had to have taken some doing. A fierce pride in her cousin swells in her chest. More than anything, though, she's just glad that Alex is alive and that bastard is dead. Screw Fenris and screw Ragnarok.
However, Alex's words reach her and she feels a distinct desire to have Fenris alive, once more, so that she can rip his head off.
"Oh come on!" Evie shouts in frustration. With a growl of pure annoyance and desperation, she charges back over to Hitoshi's side. How to get the relic? They don't have time...there's no time...
"Give me your sword," she turns to Orithia, tear starting to form in her eyes. Softly she says, "We're going to have to cut off his hand. I can't get the damn thing, otherwise. I don't want to do it. I really don't...but I don't know what else to do and we're running out of time..."
"You know he'd give it in a heartbeat if it meant saving the world," Orithia replies as she nods towards Hitoshi. "If you like, I can make sure it's quick and clean."
"Do it," Evie says. She feels terrible guilt about asking someone else to do this thing. She is asking it. She should do it. However, Evie knows that she has zero experience with a sword and will most likely flub it up, making it more painful for Hitoshi. It's best that Orithia does it.
"Hey there, my name is Lya," Lya recites softly into the radio communicator as she kneels next to the President, "and I don't want to kill or conquer anybody. In fact, I want to help everyone, because isn't that what people do? We all want to help one another... because human beings are like that. It doesn't matter if what gender or religion or race... we all want to live by each other's happiness instead of each other's misery. In this world there's room for everyone and life can be beautiful... if we just remember our way."
"You don't have to be brutes enslaved by men who despise you and tell you what to think and feel, who drill you, treat you like cattle and use you as cannon fodder. You are not machines! You are not cattle!" her voice builds as she becomes more impassioned with her plea. "You are men and women with families and friends who all want to go home at the end of the day to remember the good that being here on this planet brings... and right now only you have the power to make that happen for all of us. You have the power to make this life free and beautiful... and in the name of all that's holy be it love, family or freedom... I beg you to use that power to turn back the machine dedicated to our destruction and say NO to the Apocalypse one...more...time."
Orithia nods and squeezes Evie's shoulder reassuringly. "You might want to stand back."
"Whether you live to remember this or not, my friend..." she whispers as she swings back with her sword, "be comforted that you gave your all."
Hitoshi's eyes are blank, though they are clearly focused on something - just not anyone or anything within immediate reach.
"... have to help ... can't ... let go ..." he breathes.
"Forgive me, Hitoshi," Orithia says. Her sword comes down. You wince, though you've seen much worse as far as crime scenes go.
Fingers that had been locked in rigor relax, and the troublesome relic lay more loosely grasped Hitoshi's hand, but the nexus of energies continues to crackle and dance around his still-quiescent form. You reach for it, but Anderson scoops it up before you can.
"No. You're a Scion, Evie, you can't touch it," he says quietly.
The other Saul knows his Evie Cartwright is a Scion? Whoa.
There's a long pause on the other end.
"Rockstar, this is Crystal Palace," comes the answer, though the voice is now heavy with regret and a burden of duty. "Negative on your last, we cannot comply. Please identify."
"We've got it!" Klepto shouts, as the others rush forward, still wary of any remaining soldiers or Jotun.
Anderson pries Hitoshi's fingers open. There, attached to the keyring, is a small watch fob, a strip of metal with a sequence of numbers and letters. He calls them out.
"That has to be it," President Warner says. "If it's not, though ..."
"I for one am out of ideas if this doesn't work," Lya replies and gasps as she turns to see the hand cradled in Anderson's grasp still wearing Hitoshi's ring. She quickly turns away and wipes at her eyes as she mutters. "Do it."
"I'm sorry, Lya," Evie's stomach churns as she says the words. "I couldn't think of anything else. Maybe...maybe if I had more time I could've but...I was out of ideas. I'm so sorry."
"Not your fault, Evie," Lya consoles her with a watery smile. "We all know how it goes; the good of the many outweighs the needs of the few. I'd give more than a hand if it meant we could put an end to this once and for all."
Evie nods. She, too, feels the same way. Had she died to Loki's blow, it would've been worth it to know that she played her part in ending this. It still doesn't make her feel any better, though.
"Please work," she whispers. "Please, please, be the right code..."
"Neither of you are allowed to get all weepy and sorry," Orithia said, nodding at the severed hand. "That's his sideshow."
President Warner murmurs the code to himself as a double-check, then presses ENTER. The paired lights blink green.
"Crystal Palace, abort launch. I say again, abort, abort, abort," Warner says calmly, but with no mistaking the authority of his office.
"Standby," comes the answer. You realize it's not just one launch, it's a series of launches by America and its allies.
"Abort order confirmed. Launch status, abort," the speaker affirms.
"Why can't you stay dead!?" someone shouts. "Bastard!"
Alex coughs as an arrow lances through his chest, then another. And another. All of them expertly aimed at vital organs.
"... didn't see that coming," Alex says, falling to his knees. He coughs up a reddish foam as he reaches for one of the arrows.
"Fuck," he breathes. "This is gonna hurt."
He yanks the arrow out and gives a muffled cry of pain. Fresh blood darkens a shirt already stained with blood, ichor, and grime.
"That's one," he gasps. He pulls the second out, with another gush of blood. His hand flails weakly at the third. "Been shot before, never hurt like this."
Someone kicks him backwards, and he simply doesn't have the strength to resist.
"That's because these are dipped in hydra's blood," Parthenope hisses. "I will never forgive you for killing Phoebe."
"Stop!" shouts Bach. "Parthenope, that's not him!"
"Oh, hey, Lya, nice'a see'ya," Alex slurs. "Hurts."
"I'm sure it does," Bach says. She pulls the last arrow out. "You went toe-to-toe with Fenris. Don't give up now."
"Aaaaaah!" Alex cries out as the last arrow comes free. "Just give me a moment ... hydra's blood? If I was mortal, I'd be dead."
It's clear that Alex is healing. His voice is no longer the wet, wheezy sound of a man with a collapsed lung, but closer to normal.
"I'm not going to apologize," Parthenope said.
"For what?" Alex said. "You lost someone you cared about. Just ... just point that thing somewhere else, okay?"
The pain of Orithia's blade coming down was lost in the searing, rending pain from the energies tearing him apart. But a small measure of the burden lifted from his spirit.
Not a physical grip, but what Hachiman had tried to tell him. And with his hand cut off, he began to understand what the Lord of Nets was telling him. His entire life had been a defiant march against what he perceived was Hachiman's dictatorial manner, and then the just-so sensibilities of his mother. He'd cataloged each and every moment of their pestering, every time they told him he couldn't do something, or that they would not do something for him.
What he should have done was not always what he ended up doing. He'd gone to rescue Akane and failed, then blamed it on his father. He'd embarked on his crusade against the gangs, but it wasn't justice he was dispensing, it had been vengeance. And then, his clever manipulations in acquiring stock and taking over the Westview - all to show his mother that he was something more than a simple mechanic. Even in this other reality, he'd immediately launched into trying to fix things and make things better.
And none of it had amounted to anything. Estrangement. Anger. Resentment. Ragnarok.
"I'm sorry," he breathed, though he was certain there was no one to hear him.
"Let go," Hachiman said. "To learn from one's errors, one must let go of them."
As the Lord of Nets was doing now, with him. No recriminations. No more lectures.
Hitoshi let go.
Yes!" Evie whoops and bounces in a circle, finally breathing. She hadn't realized that she had been holding it. Without thinking, she spins into Saul's arms and kisses him soundly. Letting him go, she steps back and looks towards the clubhouse, "Okay. Let's go see what's left to clean up. Celebrations after we know that everything is over."
Still keeping her gun out, she strides back into the club house, not quite sure what she'll find. How will the worlds unmerge? How much will everyone remember? What will the damages be?
And, how the hell will they explain it all?
"Take that you bloody Vikings!" Lya exclaims as she wipes the sweat from her brow and brings out her flask. "I'd say this definitely calls for a drink!" She takes a long swig and offers it to the President. "Some of the best whiskey mankind has to offer, sir!"
"I think it's going to take more than a flask when we get home," Klepto chuckles as she slaps a smiling Orithia on the shoulder.
Lya catches Evie heading back into the clubhouse out of the corner of her eye. "Phoebe, Toxic, don't let her go in there without back-up. No telling what's still going on." They both nod in confirmation and pull out their swords to quickly follow close behind into the clubhouse.
There's a gasp and then Toxic yells out in dismay from inside, "Phoebe, get Lya! Hurry!"
"Wait... what did you say her name was?" another female voice calls out.
Phoebe runs back out of the clubhouse with a look of dismay. "Lya... come quick... it's Hitoshi!"
"What? No...no-no-no... come on! We were so close!" Lya moans as she stands up. "Pardon, Mr. President. My guards will stay with you until we can wake your men."
She quickly runs with Phoebe back into the clubhouse. "Oh Gods... Alex? Are you OK?"
"Stings like a mother, but I'll live," he groans as he pulls out another arrow and tosses it aside. "Bout ready for that drink, though," he mutters to himself as he pulls himself into a sitting position against the wall and sighs.
"No... Hitoshi!" Lya exclaims in dismay as she sinks to her knees in front of her friend. "We just got you back!"
Hitoshi's face was peaceful. That of his twin, not so much.
The tangled knot of energies was dwindling, barely an occasional crackle of electricity. There was an odd symmetry - Hitoshi had lost his left hand; his twin, his right.
Asami kneels to retrieve Honjo Masamune.
"Put that down," Lya says.
"Iie. Hitoshi will need it when he recovers," she says.
"Recovers? He's dead," Lya points out.
"Here, now ... yes, that is true," Asami says. "The Lord of Nets wishes to give his son a second chance, as he did with me. But the worlds are separating, and we cannot remain in either one."
"Then where will you all go?"
"A time and place where Hitoshi can learn who he is. A samurai," Asami says. "As for myself, I will go where I am needed."
"Are you one of us? A scion? His sister?" Lya asked.
"Daughter," Asami smiles. "In one way, I never really existed. I was a thing of shadows, crafted to tempt Hitoshi and turn him away from the light. The Lord of Nets found me and rescued me, so that I could be here, at this moment. As a samurai serves his daimyo, so do I serve Hachiman."
"Come with us, Asame," Lya begs with a gentle hand over the one holding the katana. "I could introduce you to your grandmother... I have a feeling she's going to need you when I tell her about Hitoshi."
She smiles. "Not to mention I could use a friend when I try to run the hotel he left to me."
At first, Evie's face is a mask of dismay. How? I know that he was bleeding, but surely it hasn't been long enough...? Knowing that she had been the one to make the call that left Hitoshi dead is like a punch to the gut. It's one thing to have a companion die in the line of fire. It's entirely another to be the one that orders that death.
However, as Asami explains, her guilt eases. Perhaps, with Hachiman's help, Hitoshi will find the happiness that he deserves. The knot in her own stomach dissolves. Still, there is a bit of a sour taste in her mouth.
"Glad you're okay, Alex," she says. "Ripping off his head? Day-um, man."
She shakes her head, smiles wryly and continues, "I'm going to go check on the others and see if anyone needs immediate help. I'll call for you, Lya, if someone is dying," Evie turns and begins to walk among the remaining people, checking upon their welfare."
"Are there any among your people who are trained paramedics?" she asks Anderson. "I can spot obvious distress, but...the not so apparent stuff? Nope."
"When The Break happened - everyone calls it that, but no one can really tell you what it is - martial law, police state, everyone seeming to go sort of nutso," Anderson tells you, "Social services were disbanded or ... restructured. At first, we tried to fight from within ... until orders to arrest our leadership came down, like it was World War II. The department disbanded. Months later, we - the officers who really cared, people who'd devoted their lives to law and order - ended up, well, on the same side of the fight. Sorry about the ramble, but, yes - we have some paramedics and firefighters among us."
"Ramble away. All knowledge is valuable," Evie smiles and waves off the apology. Though the likelihood that she will ever see the people of this reality again is slim, she still files the information away."Excellent. Have one of your people quickly do a triage. If they find anyone who looks like they won't survive to reach a hospital when our worlds separate, call our Lya. She can heal. But, we're extremely short on time, so she can probably only get the to the worst before all this sorts itself out."
"Yes. I will accompany you, though I do not know if I can stay," Asami says. "First, I must see to the tasks that are still before me."
She holds Honjo aloft, as if offering it to her liege lord. A swirl of golden motes rises about her, and she fades from sight, along with the bodies of Hitoshi and his 'evil twin.'
"'Bout ready for that drink now," Alex moans. "Oh, gods, one more."
"Shush," Lya says, soothingly. And then she reaches up and jerks the remaining arrow out without any wind-up or hesitation.
Alex bites back a cry of pain, and with good reason. Parthenope's arrows weren't just envenomed, the heads were triangular barbs. The Maenad looked up as someone called out Phoebe's name.
"Wait! What did you sa- Phoebe? It can't be you!" she exclaims. "I watched you di- I saw that bastard North kill you."
"We all did," said Leucosia. She glanced down at Alex. "He shot her in the head."
"Wasn't me," Alex protested weakly. "Didn't do it."
"Don't expect me to apologize," Parthenope sneered.
Alex raised his hands. "I'm not asking you to. You thought you were avenging a friend. A sister."
"I'm honored, Sisters," Phoebe says. "I'd fight beside this warrior any day."
"Look, I'd love to stick around and chat," said Bach. "But I don't think we're out of the woods just yet. My people need to go to ground, until we sort things out. With Fenris out of the picture, we'll have a better shot at returning things to normal."
He woke to sunlight filtering through bamboo blinds. The smell of smoke and blood was gone, replaced by the refreshing smell of clean air in the wake of a storm.
A moment of fear touched his heart. His hand. Orithia had cut it off to access the relic he'd caught, and with which he'd almost unleashed Ragnarok. But his hand was whole, with not even a weal upon his forearm.
"You're awake," someone says softly. Akane.
"I didn't dream ..."
"No, Hitoshi, you didn't," she smiled.
Hitoshi looked around. This wasn't his residence at the Westview. He was in a room of traditional Japanese design, lying upon a futon. He was dressed in a kimono, as was Akane.
"Where are we?"
"Somewhere we can start over," she said. "Both of us."
She slid open the shoji doors and he looked out over a forest at a snow-capped Fujiyama.
"We're in Japan?" he marvelled. "How? Where are the others?"
"I do not know," Akane told him. "They are of another time and place; we are here. The Master will be waiting."
"Master? You mean my father?"
"No. I mean Master Goro," she said.
"Master Gor-" Hitoshi began, broke off. It couldn't be, he told himself. He was in Japan, in simpler settings. And the only master named Goro would be Goro Nyudo Masamune, the Master swordsmith.
"Let me help you dress, Hitoshi," Akane smiled, assisting him with the unfamiliar garments. And then he walked quickly to a courtyard below, where one could feel the heat from the forge, and hear the steady tapping of a smith's hammer.
"Ohayo, Hitoshi-san," the older man said. "Are you ready to begin?"
"I must admit I do not know what I am doing."
"The first step to true knowledge," Masamune told him. "We begin with the saetsu ..."
Lya hands her flask to a grateful Alex and dusts her knees off before turning to her counterpart with a smile and a tilt of her head. "It was an honor to meet you guys, and it does my heart good to know that even in other worlds I'm still fighting the good fight... but maybe... " she looks over the gathering of grim and tired eco-fighters, "take some time to remind yourselves and the people that good things still exist to fight for."
She winks and holds out her hand to shake. "I hear music is good for that."
"Nice to know that even when I'm in a poncy suit I still have the balls to fight for what's right," the other Lya chuckles in response as she returns the handshake. "Sorry about the misunderstanding," she adds quietly as she nods towards Alex.
"I hate to say it, but I think he might be getting used to it," Lya replies as they both break out in laughter.
"I talked to my sisters, and we wanted to give you something," Parthenope says as she walks up to Phoebe with a quiver in her hand. "This was hers... and we'd like you to have it."
"Dimensions may separate us, but we will always be sisters," Phoebe replies as she takes the quiver and holds out her hand. "I am honored and will carry it with pride."
Parthenope clasps forearms with Phoebe and leans in to add with a grin, "There's a little vial of something special in the bottom... for those special occasions."
"Hey, maybe you should check if Fenris' blood is poisonous," Alex laughs. "He's got to be good for something."
He makes a note to go through the dead man's pockets for other potential relics. Maybe even his own self, though it seemed as if he were being kept apart from his divine heritage as a means of control. But it wouldn't do to have a mortal happen upon a potent relic and unknowingly cause more damage. The same for Loki and Soleil Hunter in their own world.
He takes a deep drink from Lya's flask before handing it back.
"Now that's the ticket," he says. He starts to get up. "Search all of the dead Scions and divines. Tokens, relics, weapons, whatever - let's make sure we're not leaving anything behind."
As Anderson hurries off, Saul moves to stand beside Evie. "So, Scion," he says. He slips his hand in hers, "You got some 'splaining to do, Lucy."
"Uh, yeah. Sorry. I really should have warned you, last night. But, I was a touch preoccupied," both Evie and Saul blush, recalling their evening together.
"But, anyway," she continues, "You've seen Percy Jackson, right?"
Saul nods, "Yeah."
"Well, it's real. All of it. And, not just the Greek gods. All of them...Nordic, Greek, Chinese, Japanese...and they do come to Earth, now and again, to sire children. Like the heroes of old, it falls to us to stop stuff like this," she gestures to where Fenris' body lay, still and bloody. "That was Fenris. The man I shot? That was Loki. We just stopped Ragnarok."
Saul looks around the battlefield, his brow furrowed as he takes it all in. The bloody battle, the shadows and magic, the knowledge that everything came very close to ending in a giant mushroom cloud of death. His arms encircle Evie in a tight hug, the enormity of it all catching up to him now that it is over.
"So, what now?" he asks, finally letting out a sigh of relief.
"I don't know. We see what's what when the two realities separate and sort out the mess. After that...back to life as usual, I guess," she smiles and shrugs.
He nods. After a second, his usual devil-may-care grin is back in place. The disaster has been averted, after all, "So, who's your parent?"
"Heimdall? Heim...oh, geeze. The guy who stands on the Bifrost and watches everything?" Saul says, a blush returning to his cheeks.
"That's him," Evie says. She pulls back from Saul a bit, taking in his embarrassed expression. After a second or two, she realizes what is bothering him. Unable to help herself, she starts laughing. It starts as a giggle and quickly escalates to full-throated, guffaws.
"It's not funny!" Saul protests, even though he, too, is starting to laugh.
"Yes, it is," Evie says, wiping at her eyes. "Okay, okay. Yes, he sees everything I see. But, let me just re-enact how that moment probably played out on the Bifrost."
Evie stands straight and tall, taking on a serious expression. She mimes swiping through screens on a touchpad as she mutters, "Let's see what's going on with Evie. Aw, look at that! Good for them. Let's see what's going on in Nilfheim..." she continues to swipe, them stops and gestures in exasperation at the imaginary Vantage before her. "Frost giants! Aw, man...this is why we can't have nice things."
"Come on, let's go check on...us...(man, that's weird) and see if they need a hand before everything rights itself," Evie says. Saul nods and follows, the two of them making their way across the room.
Cartwright stands in the middle of it all, coordinating her people. Anderson stands at her side, presumably telling her what happened elsewhere while she was busy in thick of the fight.
As they draw near, Evie calls out, "Anything we can help with?"
"Before we all go our separate ways you know I've got to do it," Lya calls out to the room as she pulls her smart phone out of her pocket. "Come on everybody... group selfie time! Non-Scions too... we were all in this together now..."
Several selfies are taken with various phones and cameras. Lya recognizes the post-performance high, every bit as contagious as the creeping chaos she can unleash, and lets it run its course.
Tables are righted and dressed, and while there's no hiding the dead bodies of Loki or Soleil Hunter, the shattered window and assorted bullet holes lend credence to a tale of a concerted attempt on the President's life.
Alex makes sure his photo collection includes the decapitated Fenris, as well as Loki and Skoll. And as Alex collects items that might be relics, he removes a ring from Holliwell's finger, and the Congressman's appearance resolves into that of Jason Lyman.
President Warner, still looking a bit incredulous, is kept under guard by Klepto and Orithia. "Let me get this straight," he said. "Some of you are the children of the gods. Not God as any of the major faiths have it, but Zeus and Odin and Ra, stuff we were all told was ancient mythology. And this was an end-of-the-world scenario. We're safe."
"Not entirely. There are still gods who don't want mankind to supplant them or forget them," Alex said.
"It's up to you - and the rest of humanity - to make the right choices," Lya points out.
"Should I be putting your names on speed dial?" Warner smiles weakly.
"It won't always be us, Mr. President," Arky says. "But the children of the gods will be there, watching."
"This feels like the day they showed me the football," Warner sighs. "The power to end the world, and trusting that I'm wise enough not to invoke it."
"Glad to see that you didn't let the PD curl up and die," Evie says to Cartwright, as they work to right tables, making the place seem more like an assassination attempt and less like a bar brawl. "And disguising yourselves as taxi drivers? Genius!"
Cartwright blinks, "How do you know about that?"
"I did some recon while I was on the Bifrost. I saw you coordinating your people," Evie answers. "So, do you think you'll be able to put things to rights, now that Holliwell is out of the way?"
"It's going to be a long haul," Cartwright answers, pausing to wipe her sweating brow upon her shoulder. "There are still Holliwell supporters in the political and military ranks. But, I'm hoping that now that he's dead, things will get easier. What about you? What's ahead in your world?"
"Back to business as usual, I wager. There'll be a big media bruhaha about an assassination attempt on Warner, but it'll blow over. It'll be back to crime scenes and cold cases for me, patrols for Saul. That's not a bad thing, though. I can go back to quietly watching for strange shit."
"Oh! I almost forgot...I wonder if Jacob and Justin are still here, or if this freed them?" Evie looks around, trying to spot the two ghost boys.
"Who are they?" Anderson and Saul ask, almost simultaneously. Both men grin and exclaim, "Jinx!" The two of them are having way too much fun with themselves.
"The ghosts of two boys that Loki and Fenris killed to start the sympathetic magic that would make the club a place of power," Evie answers.
As you glance around, you realize Jacob is holding his younger friend. Doubtless, they'd seen most of the combat, including the grisly end of Justin's namesake in the form of Fenris.
"Hey," Alex says, to Jacob. "It's all right."
"No, it's not. It reminded us both of ... well, that night," Jacob says. "Justin wasn't ready for it then, but all of this? And there was nowhere to run, just like before."
"You were both very brave, and you helped us out," Alex said. "Let me try and help you, now."
He bows his head and then looks skyward, his arms spread in supplication.
"Heimdall. All-Father. You must be watching," he says. "Maybe I'm the last person you want to speak to, but these two boys have been bound here past their them home."
"I guess we're stuck here," Jacob says.
There is a sudden radiance as Valeria appears.
"Jacob Warner. Justin Holliwell," she says. "The All-Father has heard the Son of Tyr's intercession on your behalf. Come with me."
"Where are we going?" Jacob asks.
"Valhalla. You have been judged to be as valorous as any warrior."
"What's Vahalla?" Justin asks, timidly.
"A place where the brave and valorous live forever," Valeria tells them.
"Will we see our parents there?" Jacob asks.
"When it is their time," she says. She smiles at Alex. "It's not your time. How many times do I have to tell you?"
"Does that mean ... I'm forgiven?"
"One does not slay the Fenris Wolf to be turned out into the cold," Valeria told him. "All of Asgard is learning of your deed. But you have more tasks before you still."
"So ... dinner next Saturday?" Alex winks.
"I'll call you."
"It was an honor, Mister President," Lya replies as she shakes his hand. "Lesson learned for all of us, I think, to know that there are people out there who would rather hasten the end of the world than deal with the mess they've created out of it. For all our sake, I hope you and those who follow in your footsteps never become such a person. And if you ever need someone to talk to, my door at the Pantheon Hotel is always open."
"I can't say it was a pleasure, Ms. Bach... but I am glad to know that despite the state of the world today, people such as yourselves of different nationalities and religions still come together when the world is in need. It gives me hope that the rest of us can follow your example some day."
Lya shakes his hand and bows with a smile before turning to catch the exchange between Alex and Valeria. "What I tell you?" Lya chuckles as she walks by Alex to grab Arky in a hug.
"Can't thank you enough, cousin... you came through time and time again when we needed you, in this world as well as others."
She keeps one arm about his shoulders as she takes her camera in her other hand and poses with a peace sign as Arky offers a wide grin. "Here's to the start of something beautiful where we can focus on putting the good back into the world..."
"Instead of just working to stop the bad," Arky finishes with a nod. "You know I'll be there, cousin... I've got ideas just ready to burst out of my head," he chuckles.
"When I'm done drinking tonight, with any luck I'll feel the same," Lya replies with a grin.
"Good!" Evie smiles and nods, having watched Alex's exchange. Those boys deserved to be freed after so long. And, damn straight that Alex deserved forgiveness. If after all that they had been through, Alex had not been allowed his happiness, well...there would have been words.
"What happened?" asks Saul, who was unable to see the boys, so he missed half of what was going on.
"Alex asked Odin to free the boys from Earth, and he agreed. They get to go to Valhalla. Now, we just need to do the same thing for Thomas," Evie answers as she wipes her hands on her pants, smudging dirt down her thighs.
"Thomas?" again, Saul looks so, so very lost.
"Thomas Cardinelli. From the Cardinelli case," Evie smiles and shakes her head. "Sorry. I know I'm dumping a lot of information of your head all at once. He was a Son of Tyr. He's still stuck here, too. Not here here. He's at the cemetery."
"Sooooo, you..." Saul grins, and she knows exactly where he's going with this...
"...see dead people. Yes," Evie laughs and finishes the sentence with him.
"... have released this composite sketch of the sniper, while federal agents and Las Vegas Police continue their search for the suspect and any possible associates. Outside the Las Vegas Country Club, Megan Whittaker, KLAS-TV."
"Somehow, leaving all of you out of the story doesn't seem fair," President Warner said. "You prevented an assassination, stopped an international incident, and the end of the world according to mythology that isn't mythology after all."
"It's not our intention to start new religions or renew old ones," Alex told him. "We're just glad we were here when you needed us."
"I'll find a way to recognize what you've done ... for all of us," Warner smiled. "Even if the public never learns the whole story, I can't let your actions go unrecognized."
Evie shakes her head at the president's words, "I don't need anything. I'm just happy that everything should go back to normal. I've had quite enough of fighting off doomsday."
She thinks for a moment, tilting her head to the side, "You really want to do something to thank us? Then make the world a better place, Mr. President. Make sure that the public schools get the funding they need. Take care of the sick and injured who can't care for themselves. Give kids a place to get off the streets. House the poor. Trust me, you do those things and you'll be making everyone's lives better and I'll have much easier job."
Lya nods at Evie's words. "I was living on the street and dealing with gang life as a means of survival when this all started," Lya adds. "My cousin Arky was the leader of a homeless commune living in abandoned utility pipes and infrastructure. The best way to thank us is to not forget that we came from the disenfranchised forgotten that slips through the government cracks... and to create programs that help people like us in the future." She winks and smiles. "You never know where the next savior of the world will come from."
"I'll do my best," President Warner says. "I know some of my political colleagues don't see people unless there's a dollar sign or a vote attached. But if you ever need ... a favor ... you know where to find me.