The assassin positioned themselves across the glass palace of the Horizon Club, a place where the rich, the powerful, the high and mighty of Eirene sat around drinking expensive wine, eating fancy cheese while complaining about how hard their lives are.The Assassin peered down to the busy streets below, dozens of people out and about, either walking home from a regretted one-night stand, or a late evening at the bar, kicking themselves for their equally-regretted high bar tabs, the assassin held no pity for those foolish to stay out this late at night.The assassin sighed and got to work. They waved their hand over their left wrist, the blue holographic keyboard of their User Interface ignited, brightening half of their face. The assassin tapped a few keys, launching their drone from their pack, and sent it in to scan the inhabitants of the club. It scanned ten individuals, highlighting them, six red, one orange, and three green. The red were guards, each armed with at least a side arm. The green were innocent employees, just doing their jobs, putting up with the man children, and the orange was the target, surrounded by guards.
The assassin considered their options, sniper; they could just shoot Gate, but doing that would put all eyes on the assassin. Brute force; they could try charging in, guns blazing, but that would probably get them killed, and Gate would more than likely lock himself in his panic room. Lastly, a choice they didn't want to use, was to send her drone in, and hitting the trigger, causing it to explode, killing everyone in the room, including the innocents. The assassin grimaced, it was truly a pick your poison scenario, either they give chase, the assassin gets their ass kicked, or they have innocent blood on her hands.
The assassin sighed, and chose her sniper rifle from their inventory, drew the hood over their head, and typed a few more keys on the UI, their mask atomized over the top half of their face, the eyes lit up bright blue, hiding them, and a black mesh went over their mouth, a digital editor disguised their voice, making it deeper, in case anyone heard them. The assassin set up the rifle on the balcony, lining up the shot with Gate's head. They were hired a week prior by a man who only went by Mr. Red, to kill Gate, claiming he was a nuisance to his political campaign. The assassin didn't question it, they took the money up front, and spent the following four days studying Gate's moves, trying to decide the best way to kill him. A day prior the assassin learned from one of Gate's employees, that he'd be at the Horizon Club tonight. They placed their finger on the trigger, held their breath, and pulled. The bullet soared through the air, smashing right through the glass, into his skull, painting the wall behind him with his brain matter.
Wasting no time, the assassin tossed the gun into the street, it was no use to anyone now, as it was a single-use rifle. The Assassin made their way down the fire escape, dialing Mr. Red. "It's done."
"And your bonus has been transferred."
Rain pelted Katherine as she glided onto the rooftop, her arms spread holding onto the cape for dear life, landing gracefully as the cape retracted into it's proper holder. She took a stance and awaited her ally Cypher to arrive. She opened her eyes to see Captain Simmons of the Athens police force doing the same, taking a swig from his flask, wincing as whatever was in the container go down. She pitied the man, really. His red-brown hair had gone white, Maria had informed her his wife left him for another man in Parádeisos, his son was all grown up and moved out of the house, his job was truly the only thing he had left, and he only had a year or two before he'd be forced to retire.
Katherine turned quickly as she heard something behind her, hand on her sidearm ready to strike, she saw Cypher standing there hand on her left wrist.
"You look like hell." Katherine said in a mocking tone, her voiced digitally altered to sound far deeper than it usually would "What took you so long?" Katherine turned back toward Eric, who now had a bit of a bounce in his step as he was waiting patiently.
"Oh, stopped a mugging, saved a kids' parents from getting shot, got a crowbar to the wrist." Cypher replied, motioning to her left arm.
Katherine turned back to Cypher, "Are you okay?"
Cypher waved her off "Oh yeah, nothing some ice won't fix. Besides, you shouldn't be saying I look like hell. You dress up like a Fox every night."
"Not every night." Katherine replied with a chuckle. But she was right, Katherine had little room to talk. "Are you ready?"
The two leapt onto the opposing rooftop as the rain increased it's punishment. Simmons turned and nodded to the two. "Evening."
"How's the department?" Katherine asked
"Still not entirely on-board with you two helping us out, especially the Commissioner."
"Well, did you follow up on what we gave you?" Cypher asked, crossing her arms, squinting as she held her wrist.
"We did, we did." Simmons said, looking away "It was a drug den, well armed drug den. Two officers have been hospitalized, one's in the ER." He trailed off "But we got 'em."
"I'm sorry, give them my condolences." Katherine said
"I did-I mean, I will. Thank you." Simmons said, nodding "Quiet night?"
"For the most part." Cypher said "You have anything for us?"
"Not unless you can break the Grant case." Simmons said with a dry smile, "No, not really."
Katherine gave him a small bow and turned to leave, "Then I'll be off."
Cypher turned her head to Katherine "Wait, what?"
"Yeah." Katherine said "I got a History test tomorrow."
Simmons blinked "Are you serious?"
"No, I just don't want to stand outside in the pouring rain when I don't have to."
Cypher let out a sigh and looked at Simmons "She's got a point." and started to follow Katherine's example.
"Good night, Captain." Katherine said as she leapt from the roof.
"Stay out of trouble!" Simmons shouted to Katherine, and glared at Cypher "Well, you gonna say goodbye?"
"Nah." Cypher said, shaking her head and jumping, giving Simmons the middle finger.
Troy sat at his desk, flipping through files with one hand, a cigarette in his mouth, glass of scotch in the other. The lamp on his desk flickering with his rising frustration. It had been six months since the assassination of Senator Grant, and he'd gotten no closer to finding a lead. Troy resisted the urge to just light the files on fire and walk out of the room, go up to Liam Lexicon and hand in his badge, but he knew that was what a rookie would do, not something a man of his age or caliber would. He shut the file, stretched and went to the bathroom connected to his office, and splashed some cold water on his face. He gazed into the mirror, his brown hair had lost it's luster, growing fainter over the past decade, gray had even started to come in around his temples. His eyes surrounded by black rings from lack of sleep.
He sighed, I promised her a straight fifteen, can't back out five from the endgoal.
Troy's phone started going off in his pocket, flipping it open, he answered with a growl, "Troy here, what do you got?"
The voice on the other end answered with a soft, friendly tone, "That anyway to greet a friend?"
"Hello, Mr. Albatross." Troy said, respectful as possible "What can I do for you?"
"Ah, it's not what you can do for me my boy, but what I can do for you."
"Come meet me at the Arcadia Club."
"In Athens? You want me to travel across an entire ocean?"
"Well I know you never turn down free booze."
Troy's ears perked, "I trust that's not all you've called me about."
"You know me all too well. When can I expect you?"
He thought for a second, "I can be there by noon tomorrow."
"Sounds delightful, Salve!
Albatross is the leader of the Pleonektés Family, one of the few who escaped jail time after the trail, and only one of two who holds no grudge against me for what I did. After his brother Giovanni went down, Albatross took over, even paid for Laura's funeral in full. In the following years, Albatross has silently helped the Overseers in so many ways from the sidelines, mainly in the form of ridiculous sums of cash, or general tips on whereabouts of rival gangs. Him calling out of the blue, it can't be for a pleasant chat, either he wants someone dead, or he wants to warn me about another attack. With my luck, it's probably both.
Troy walked out of his office, locking the door behind him and squinted as his eyes adjusted to the bright lights off the building outside. He went down the hall and knocked on the Captain's door before going in, shocked to see a young woman instead of Liam. She was dressed in the Captain's uniform, her hair as yellow as the sun, and her eyes a beautiful blue-green. She looked up from the steak she was eating with a curious stare.
"Can I help you?"
Troy cleared his throat, "I was looking for Liam Lexicon. Is he in?"
She smiled, "I'm not his secretary." She stood up, wiping her mouth with a cloth towel, "I'm his daughter, Lieutenant Serah Lexicon."
Troy blinked, "But you're wearing a Captain's uniform."
Serah nodded, "Awaiting that promotion in a week or so, Captain Lexicon is talking with the committee on allowing me to take over, since he's getting promoted at the end of the year."
She looked at him as if he was crazy, "What, have you been living under a rock? He's taking over for General Hart."
Troy stood there, dumbfounded, So this girl's getting my promotion simply because she shares the last name with the Captain? Well, we'll see how long she lasts before they decide to kick her and replace her with someone with actual experience.
"So." She said, interrupting his inner thoughts, "Is there anything I can do for you, Mr...?"
"Pistós. Troy Pistós."
"Ah, you're the man Father always talks about when he gives us his war stories eh? The Spartan Slayer, the man who toppled Athens!" She said, eyes full of wonder like that of a child
He shook his head, "That's me, but your father has a habit of exaggerating. What'd he tell you, I took out a thousand Spartans by myself? I took the city single handed?"
"No." She said bluntly, "You have a confirmed kill count of seventy-two, and that's not factoring in your time as an airborne fighter, nor as a sniper in the last year of the conflict."
"So he didn't stretch the truth." Folding his arms, a slight smile breaking his lips.
"Again, no. I read the reports. Every year around Haloa, he'd tell us how you and Reapers really turned the tide of the war."
Troy just nodded, "Look, Serah."
"Lieutenant. I'm heading to Athens to follow a lead."
"Good, take a man with you."
"For a sit-down? You're shitting me." "No, I'm serious, some of the men need experience, this is the perfect opportunity."
Seeing as no reason to argue, he simply nodded his head, "Who?"
Serah hit a button on her desk, "Garrus, come in here please."
Not ten seconds later, a young man decked in the standard issue recruit uniform stood in the doorway, his head clean shaven with a five o'clock shadow on his face.
"This, Mr. Pistós, is Garrus Druavan. Top sniper in his class, but to be frank, his detective work is terrible. Garrus, you'll be accompanying Troy on an outing, pay attention, don't fuck it up, and make me proud." Garrus gave a salute and went back towards the locker rooms.
Troy chuckled, "Your pep talk needs work."
She gave him a smile, "And your attitude needs some as well, Mr. Pistós."
"Call me Troy." As he shut the door behind him.
Katherine stepped off the city bus, backpack slung over her shoulder, hoodie flowing in the wind. She started her trek toward the school using the sidewalks and bike paths to avoid as much traffic as possible, even if that meant taking an extra twenty minutes to get to her destination. She made it past the movie theater, which already had a fairly large line for tickets to the new Elementals movie, despite it being seven forty-five in the morning. She maneuvered around them, a few grunts and an accusation of cutting later, she was greeted by another mob yelling at police.
She sighed, "Today's just not my day." she said to herself, as she was unable to see a way around the glob of people.
She tried skirting her way through, only to be pushed away. "Hey, I need to get to school!" She yelled at the shover, who only growled at her. She spotted a small gap between people near the back and slipped through, stopped short of running over a young man in a blue shirt.
She tapped him on the shoulder, "Hey, you know what's going on?"
The man looked at her, "Oh, police raid. Someone reported these people trying to summon a demon or something."
She couldn't see over the tall people, and found trying to hop to get a view was pointless, "So what really happened?"
"You said it was reported, that implies that's not what really happened."
"Oh, they're Jupiter followers."
Katherine glanced in the direction of the convicts as the crowd started calling for their heads. "Wait, what?"
"Yeah, damn Jupiter lovers, good riddance to them. If they wanna worship some other god, they should do it in their own country!"
Katherine wanted to tell him off, yell at him about how they were prosecuted in their own country for their beliefs, and only came here to escape that, only to be met with even more hatred, but she simply walked away.
"Hey, where you goin' you're gonna miss them being loaded up!" The blue shirted man shouted, but she didn't want to dignify a response.
Twenty minutes later she finally made it to school, and was greeted by the kind face of Mr. Bryan Malcom, her teacher. He was a kind man in his late forties, like Detective Simmons, his son had moved out of the house, leaving him and his wife alone, however unlike Simmons, the two had a strong relationship. However, like Malcom, his hair had started falling out, leaving Malcom to try different ways of concealing it, none of which had worked.
"Good morning, Katherine." He said, smiling beaming like the sunlight through the room's window "How are you?"
Katherine gave him a greeting bow, as the custom by the people of Grecia. "Good morning, sir. I'm alright, yourself?"
Malcom gave an honorary bow in return, "I'm fine-" He looked at his watch, "You're a tad bit later than you usually are, bus run late?"
"No sir, a police raid held me up near the movie theater."
Malcom braced himself on his desk, "Ah, what uh..what was the raid about..for? Something..."
"They were arresting a few followers of Jupiter." Katherine said, unable to hide her anger
Malcom saw the rage boiling inside her and simply raised his hand, "Katherine, may I ask why this action bothers you so much?"
Katherine looked at him square in the eye, "Well, how would you feel if you were dragged out of bed in the middle of the night by police, and hauled off to jail simply because your neighbor didn't like you worshiped a different deity?"
"Well, that's wrong and it shouldn't happen." He said bluntly, Katherine watched him, waiting for him to laugh, or smile or say he was only joking. "As humans, we should have the right to worship whomever we believe in. You live with Maria, the Vestal, yes?"
Katherine nodded, "Yeah."
"Tell me, which God or Goddess does she worship the most, which one does she call to first in her nightly prayers?"
"Ah, so she prays or beauty?"
"No, love and kindness."
"And you, if I may ask?"
She thought for a second, "None in particular."
"You, I think Apollo would suit you best."
"He represents light, music, poetry...-"
"None of which applies to me." She said, waving across her all black-gray clothing
"And knowledge. Katherine, you are here every day, every school day I should say, an hour before, and you leave a half hour later, I watch you just trying to absorb as much information as you can into that head of yours. And that, is why I equate you to Apollo. Now, right when you walked in, you said it would be wrong to discriminate against people who worship a different god, or goddess. I agree, it wouldn't be fair if Maria had you arrested for worshiping a different God, it's wrong, and those people you saw will most likely get a few hundred drachma."
"It still isn't right."
"And you're correct, it isn't. And once Anton Anemoi is put into office, he'll place those fines, and create punishments for those people who discriminate. Just wait and see."
"Thank you, Mr. Malcom."
"My pleasure, Katherine. Now please take your seat, it's your favorite day of the week."
Katherine took her seat near the back wall on the lifted seating. She took out her notebook and got ready for the next seven hours of straight history lessons. And he was right, it was her favorite course, she always loved learning about those who came before. Just as Malcom got ready to start talking, another student burst into the door. A young woman with black hair, black top and a white skirt.
"S-Sorry I'm late, the bus left without me!"
Mr. Malcom smiled, "It's alright Jessica, just take a seat."
"Jessica" scanned the room, and spotted Katherine, the seat next to her wide open. Katherine watched her come up the steps, stop right in front of her, bounced on her heels and smiled, hand out stretched. Something about Jessica was extremely familiar to her.
"Hi?" Katherine said, confused at her fellow student
"Hi, I'm Jessica Ravel."
"Katherine Thárros." She said, shaking her hand. As Jessica took her seat, Katherine noticed wrist tape on her left arm. "Hey, you okay?"
'Wha- Oh, a guy tried to mug me, when I tried to run he hit me with something."
Katherine glared at Jessica, before turning her attention to Mr. Malcom as he began his lecture.
"One hundred and sixty-five years ago, a man named Collis began his hunt for the Seven Devices created by the Order of Mages..."
As he droned on, Katherine leaned over "Are you sure it wasn't a crowbar?"
Jessica's eyes shot open "Fox?"
Katherine winked, "Hey Cypher."
Troy stood in front of elegant entrance to the Arcadia Club, the magnificent white doors decorated with crystals and blue rose foliage and ivy. He watched as men dressed in three-piece suits, each different colored entered the building, laughing like the snobs they were, ready to spend some of their endless fortune for overpriced booze. He remembered from his last visit to the Club over a year prior ended with many patrons threatening to riot from the bartender giving them "expired booze", but really all they'd do is storm off, complain to their parents and post on their blogs how crappy the service is, only to come back two days later for more alcohol.
"I'm ready when you are, sir." Garrus whispered via his headset
"You got a good lay out of the building, all the guards, possible exit points?"
"Thirty-seven armed guards, ten exit points."
Troy smirked "Now is that the guards you can see, or do the ones in disguise count?"
"D-Disguise?" He stuttered "I don'-"
"I'm fucking with you. Akin ain't that kind of guy. Just keep watch."
"Will do, sir."
Troy sighed and walked through the doors, flashing his Overseer badge to the bouncer who waved him in. Troy made a b-line to the bar, quickly glancing around the room, he spotted Garrus in a secluded dark corner booth, a mug of beer fizzling in front of him. The kid looked so nervous, his foot tapping a mile a minute, he'd have to work on his undercover skills. As Troy glanced around some more while he waited for the bartender, he saw all the guards Garrus told him about, all armed with Thompson M1A1 machine guns, staring down every patron in their vicinity, Albatross must've become paranoid since they'd last met.
"What can I get ya, sir?" The bartender asked, his voice chipper, full of joy
"Scotch n'rum." Troy replied offhandedly
The bartender stared blankly "Mixed, sir?"
Troy nodded "Yeah."
"Cash or tab?" He asked, mixing the drinks
"Put it on Albatross' account."
The bartender's eyes widened "I highly recommend you don't, sir."
Troy smirked "He won't mind."
The bartender handed Troy his drink, hand shaking "Thank you for your service."
Troy gave him a nod, and downed the concoction in one gulp before gently placing the glass on the counter, "Thank you."
Troy made his way outside to the gardens where Albatross was waiting, his jet black hair slicked back, kept in place by the gods know how many hair products, his three piece suit tailored perfectly to his body with his jacket resting on the chair beside him. Albatross had yet to notice he'd arrived, pre-occupied, fawning over his spreadsheets, two guards dressed in midnight blue trench coats, black sunglasses, and fedoras, armed with Thompsons standing at attention for their boss. Troy walked up, hands in the air, acting as if he was surrendering.
"Hey Akin." He said, chuckling
Albatross looked up, smiling at him, a single gold tooth shimmering in the warm sunlight, "Hello Troy."
Troy glared at the two henchmen behind Troy, triggers at the ready, "Bumped up security, eh?"
Albatross nodded, "Well it's the only thing I can do after Grant was assassinated."
"And why would you be killed? You're not a politician."
Albatross took a sip of his red wine, never breaking his gaze from Troy, "You already know, I was a public benefactor of the WINE party. First go the figure heads, then go the suppliers. Same tactic we used in Sparta."
Wanting to change the subject, Troy cleared his throat, "So, what'd you call me all the way out here for?"
Albatross put down his spread sheets and folded his hands, "I'm told you've been having trouble putting away a case, I want to provide assistance."
Refusing the urge to roll his eyes, he instead played along, "What would you like in return?"
His smile somehow widened, "Oh, just the pleasure of seeing my fellow criminal put away is enough for me."
Troy chuckled, "What do you got for me?"
Albatross retrieved a flashdrive from his left breast pocket and placed it in Troy's hand, "Some information."
"Do I wanna know how you got it?"
Albatross' face hardened, "No."
"Not that I'm ungrateful." Troy started, putting the drive in his pocket, "But you had me fly all the way to Athens to give me information you could've sent in an email?"
"Well my boy." He replied, smile breaking again, "Someone had to get you out of that steel tower."
Troy turned to leave, "Well thanks for the information, I'll keep your name out of the paperwork."
"Ah, one more thing." Albatross said, snapping his fingers "Something to further your investigation."
Albatross handed him a lamanated ticket, an entrance to Idris Griffyon's Remembrance party, "Do I need a suit for this?"
"One will be provided, Troy." Albatross said, returning his attention to his paperwork as a young woman with crimson red-colored hair walked past Troy and placed a vase with three blue roses on Albatross' table. "Oh and Troy?"
Troy stopped in place, he expected now was when he wanted to ask for something in return, "Yeah?"
"Next time, do choose a protege who knows how to blend into a crowd."
Laughter echoed in the night as Katherine and Jessica walked the narrow rocky road toward the Bakırçay river, their pathway lit every few dozen feet by a street light. Jessica took a moment to collect herself and catch her breath before asking, "So you make this walk every day?"
Katherine peered up into the sky, the sun starting to set in the west, painting everything above her into a beautiful tapestry mix of orange, reds, and blue, thinking hard on the question, "Most days, but if I'm feeling lazy, I'll hitch a ride from one of the city buses, or have Maria drive me."
The two walked in silence the rest of the way, coming up to the three-story house sitting on the river, house number 8579, the back half adored with shadowed glass, giving the occupants a nice view of the water bank, and making it more difficult to get eyed by snooping neighbors. Katherine punched the numbers into the keypad on the door, and entered, half-hazardously tossing her backpack below the coat rack, and prompted Jessica to do the same, as she threw herself onto the couch, yelling "Maria, I'm home!"
Jessica peered to her left as a gorgeous woman came down the stairs, she was at least in her late thirties or early forties, crimson-red hair, deep emerald eyes, and wore the white-green robes of a Vestal, she smiled at Jessica and gave a friendly nod.
"Hello, I am Maria Altheta," her voice soft, and inviting
Jessica returned the nod, "Jessica Ravel."
Katherine chimed in, and indicated to Jessica, "That's Cypher."
"Katherine!" Jessica shouted in disbelief
Maria blinked, her smile unwavering, "And I assume you know she's...ahem..White Fox?"
Jessica nodded, keeping her eyes on Katherine, "Yes ma'am."
Maria sighed, her smile faded, "You kept your identity longer than I thought you would."
"Hey!" Katherine shouted in rage, "What do you mean by that!?"
Maria just turned to the kitchen and opened the fridge, "What do you think I meant by that?" She turned her attention to Jessica, "Would you like some fresh apples and jam as well, Miss Ravel?"
Jessica nodded, "Yes, thank you."
"You're welcome, dear."
Katherine settled back into her seat, arms crossed. She looked at Jessica and grinned.
"And why did you tell her who I am seconds after I met her?"
"Had to come out sometime, best now before she breaks out the booze."
Jessica's eyebrows raised, "Come again?"
Maria came into the living room, handing both the teens a plate of apple slices and raspberry jam, "A glass of wine a day is good for you."
"And by a glass a day, she means at the minimum, three."
"I don't hear you ever complaining, Katherine."
Katherine smiled, "Not complaining, just explaining."
Maria turned to Jessica, "Would you like some? It won't hurt me if you say no."
Jessica nodded, "I'd love some, thank you."
Maria walked to the kitchen, stopping at Katherine, "See? She has manners, you could learn something from her."
Katherine rolled her eyes and waved her off.
Maria returned, a glass to each of them and took a seat in the eggshell recliner directly across from Jessica. A few minutes of awkward silence between the trio before Jessica cleared her throat.
"So..Maria, what do you do?"
"I'm a Vestal for the Following of Aphrodite."
"I see, and..are you married?"
Jessica glanced between the other two, blinking in confusion.
"Katherine is my ward."
"I was friends with her mother during the Spartan War, I took her under my care."
"Oh...I'm sorry, I didn't uh.."
Maria waved her hand, "It's no problem."
Katherine sat up, moving her tray to the other side of the couch, "It's way too gloomy in here. C'mon, let's share stories."
Jessica raised her eye brow "Like what?"
Katherine cleared her throat, "So. You know how my costume's all white with the layer of body armor and the retractable cape?"
Jessica nodded, "Yeah, what about it?"
"Well, that's like the what-" She glanced at Maria for support "Seventh suit? Eighth?"
"Ninth" Maria corrected, taking a sip of her wine
"Ninth." Katherine continued, "Well, first one I had made was this heavy thing, bulky completely bullet proof. Problem was, I could barely move in it, let alone fight. The second one was so light, it would cut by the tiniest blade imaginable."
"So you got rid of it?"
"No, it was good, really good actually."
Maria chuckled "Until you got stabbed."
"Until..I got stabbed." Katherine said, no shame in her voice. "I came home, crashed on Maria's brand new white couch, blood going everywhere...I just sat there..well, laid there actually. Face-down just...blood oozing.." Katherine lifted up her shirt, showing off the scar below her left rib cage.
"On my nice, new white couch." Maria emphasized
"So that was the end of that one. The next few were made of this new rubber the guy created, this pseudo rubber. Really comfortable, let me move around, and offered protection from guns n' blades."
"Well what was wrong with those?"
"The material shrank when it got wet. I let her think she was getting fat for a few weeks."
Jessica laughed, very nearly dropping her glass, "That's just cruel."
"It provided entertainment."
"It was a dick move," Katherine said "The last one I requested was more in-line with the first suit, specifically made to be bulky and resist armor-piercing rounds. And then the one I have now."
Jessica nodded, "So..you think your guy could make me a new suit? The one I have is getting old."
"Yeah, sure, I'll set something up."
Maria cleared her throat, "Jessica. What is it you do?"
"Same as Katherine. Fight crime. But unlike her, I don't need any body armor." Katherine tossed a rolled up apple skin at her in response, "Just my wrist blade."
"Wrist blade?" Maria parroted
Jessica nodded and rolled down her sleeve, revealing a brace with two pronged blade. She curled the top of her fingers before making a first, causing the blade to pop forward over the top of her hand, coming out two inches past her knuckles. "Easy to conceal, hard to see."
"I've had the pleasure of using it once or twice." Katherine said, "Non-lethally of course."
Jessica smiled, retracting the blade, "I'm sorry, could I use your phone to call a cab? I got homework to do."
Maria raised her hand, "Of course."
After seeing Jessica off, Katherine retreated to the Den, an underground sanctuary built as a bomb into the caves as a bomb shelter during the Spartan War. Upon cleaning the dishes, Maria entered the elevator to the Den where she was greeted to the soft rush of water, the doors opened and she exited to the familiar site of the computer processors, as tall as two men, braced against a glass barrier which the water rushed down, offering a bit of coolant. Sat in front of it, were four large computer screens, each as large as a television monitor commonly found in someone's house. At the keyboard was Katherine's favored weapon, a six-shot revolver. Maria found Katherine at the wall of weapons, assembling an assault rifle, adding a scope attachment, screwdriver in her mouth.
"You know..." Maria started, her kind, motherly mask gone, "For someone who preaches non-lethal methods, you have a lot of guns."
Katherine glared, "Say what you're really thinking."
"You're far too trusting with Jessica."
Katherine scoffed, "What makes you say that?"
"I knew her father during the war."
"Of course you did, you know everyone."
"Cut the sarcasm, her father is-was, a thief and a liar, who's to say she won't turn her back on you?"
"You're judging her for something her father did. If she was gonna betray me, she would have already. She's known who I am for..thirteen hours, she had plenty of chances to rat me out without me being able to retaliate."
Maria let out a sigh, "Just..be careful, I won't always be able to bail you out."
Katherine nodded, looking up at her for the first time in their conversation, "I know, and I'll always appreciate your help."
Maria took a seat next to her, "Will you ever be done with these guns?"
"Oh yeah, I will before Tristin ever delivers on that payment."
Maria cleared her throat, "Well, I think I'll call it a night, call me if you need anything."
"Sure thing," she replied, absent minded "Oh, could you hand me the revolver before you go?"
Maria nodded, and turned to grab it, but it was gone. Katherine elicited a scream before crashing out of her chair and onto the floor. Maria turned and saw her, her hand was shaking...the revolver in-hand. Katherine's green eyes glazed over, mouth hanging open...
Maria's eyes widened in shock, "No, no no no...Not you..."
Jessica knocked on the door to the Altheta house, and stood there patiently, admiring herself in the outer glass door. She flicked away a few crumbs from her breakfast left over on her shirt, straightened her red tie, and threw her hands to her side as the wooden door opened to Maria staring in confusion.
"Good morning, Maria." Jessica said, happily
"Uh, good morning Jessica. It is Saturday, right?"
Jessica nodded, "Not a school day, Katherine said she wanted to attend a Jupiter ceremony."
Maria folded her arms, "Really now?" Her tone shifting from cheerful to annoyed
"Oh if-if you don't want her to go, I can-"
"No no, I'm happy she's taking initiative. How long do these last?"
Maria's lip twitched, "Alright. I'll see if she's out of bed. Would you like to come in? I made butterbread."
"No thank you, ma'am."
"Suit yourself." Maria stated, turning back.
Jessica heard Maria trek up the stairs inside the house, Jessica let out a sigh of relief, finally being out of Maria's gaze. Within a minute, Katherine barreled out of the door, very nearly crashing into Jessica, her hair a mess of frizz while the back was plastered to her skull from bed head. Her shirt was wrinkled, and her shorts were slanted. She must've forgotten to set an alarm Jessica thought to herself.
"Uh, good morning, I'm sorry did I wake you up?"
"Kinda, but it's cool." Katherine said, stifling a yawn.
"We could do this next week if you want, you look tired."
Katherine waved her hand, "I'll be okay once I get some coffee in me." Katherine's eyes narrowed at Jessica, anger flashed in them.
Katherine pointed at Jessica's formal attire, "Am I going to be under dressed for this?"
"No." Jessica said, laughing a bit, "No one will mind, let's get going, we'll be late."
Jessica made her way down the drive way, and made a left back toward the city, Katherine in tow, hands clasped behind her head with her eyes closed, enjoying the warm sunlight.
"So, I haven't seen you in a few days, is everything alright?" Jessica asked, slowing her face to match Katherine's.
"I take it you've seen the news." She replied
"You're an Abnormal."
"Uhmhmm. I've spent the past few days in the backyard trying to get a leash on these... things."
Jessica cleared her throat, "Are you..."
"I got the go-ahead, I'll be fine in public. The past couple days haven't been easy though."
Katherine stopped walking, lowered her hands and raised her right shirt sleeve, revealing her tattoo of a blue rose. "Watch." She said, taking a deep breath. She opened her eyes, now flashing a bright light blue, and the tattoo itself started glowing as well. Within a few seconds, the glowing stopped. Katherine lowered her shirt sleeve and waited, watched Jessica, waiting for any kind of reaction at all.
"Well..." Jessica started, "At least you won't need a flashlight."
Katherine scoffed, "You dumbass." As she started walking again, keeping her hands behind her back. The pair made it into the city limits, Jessica taking the lead, snaking their way across the city streets.
Jessica cleared her throat, "So, what else have you been doing? I can't imagine that's all that's happened."
"When Maria well... found I wasn't going to burn the house down by accident, she went to the library and rented about a dozen books on the... history of Abnormalities, and told me to read them. Some interesting stuff, a lot of it's fucked up."
"Yup. Like how about...four hundred years ago, Abnormals were called Empusa, and burned at the stake for simply existing." Katherine replied, sadness in her voice.
Katherine grinned, "Different times, I wouldn't blame them. If my thirteen year old suddenly summoned the Kraken, I'd be scared shitless."
"Oh yeah, there's this report of a woman named... Andromeda. When she turned thirteen, she found out she could summon monsters to her, make them do whatever she wanted." "And one of those things was...a Kraken?" Jessica asked, anticipating a "gotcha" joke, but Katherine only nodded
"Didn't end too well for Argos."
The two traveled the rest of the way, about a twenty minute hike to a small building, what appeared to be an old wood log cabin on the edge of the forest in the park, people strolling in. Katherine noted two stained glass windows on each side of the main door, and she could see another pair on the east side as they walked up to the building.
Katherine stopped short of the stairs, her head dropped, starring at the ground. Jessica turned back and asked, "Hey, are you okay?" as she placed a hand on her shoulder.
She nodded slowly, "Are you..sure this is okay?"
Jessica embraced her, "I'm not forcing you to convert, I'm not telling you to convert. You wanted to see what this was all about, I am going to show you. No one's going to care that you're not a follower. We welcome visitors with open arms. Okay?"
Katherine nodded, "Yeah, yeah, I'm okay." she said, pulling away.
"You sure? We can go get you that coffee if you want."
Katherine made a joking gasp, "You would commit a sin for me? I didn't know you cared that much!"
Jessica flipped her off, and entered the building. Katherine was greeted by marvelous waxed wood benches all pointing to a shrine, a red vortex in the center, with a painting of an nondescript man and woman on each side. Jessica grabbed Katherine's hand and lead her to an open seat near the back. The two sat down, and the preacher began the ceremony, talking of the amazing feats Jupiter accomplished in his life living among men, separating the continents, battling the beasts of the wilds, clearing the forests, cleaning the water, teaching men how to fish and hunt, before his human vessel succumbed to old age at "two-hundred and twelve years old." Since then, his followers have lived on, practicing his teaching, following his laws written and adapted from old parchment.
As the preacher took a break for a glass of water, Katherine bent over and tapped Jessica on the shoulder.
"Yeah? What's up?"
Katherine inquired to the paintings, "I thought you said Jupiter was a woman, the guy up there keeps calling her a..him?"
Jessica smiled, "The old text refers to Jupiter as both a man and a woman, some of us believe she's a she, other's believe she's a man."
Katherine blinked, "Yeah, okay...makes sense."
"Heh, I'll explain later."
The preacher returned to the front, and started a chant with the other members of the Followers, in a language Katherine couldn't understand. She simply slumped back in her seat and hoped no one noticed she wasn't singing along. The chant itself was beautiful to listen to, but as it dragged on, the words started hurting, her ears started ringing, and her head started pounding so much so she bent over and held her temples.
Jessica patted her on the back, "Hey, you okay?" But the words were foreign to her, just like the song, indistinguishable.
"Shut up." she muttered
"Shut up!" Louder, venom in her voice
"Shut UP!" She shouted, the chanting stopped, everyone turned toward her
Jessica waved her hand at everyone, "She's okay, she's just going thro-"
Jessica jumped back, grabbing the collar of the man in front of her, pulling him back with her in case something happened. But nothing did, at least, nothing damaging. Jessica just watched at Katherine's hair started floating and glowing an eerie fiery red-orange. Everyone in the room were stunned, silent, sliding away from Katherine, fear in their eyes. Jessica waited for a reaction, anything, positive, negative, in what felt like eternity, nothing came. But then...
The preacher scowled at Katherine, "Your kind aren't welcome here!" He said, bleeding with authority, "Get out or I will call the police."
Katherine's expression shifted from anger to sadness, her hair stopped glowing and skirted back down to her shoulders. Tears welled in her eyes as she ran out the door.
"Katherine!" Jessica shouted
She turned to the people still sitting in their seats, hushed mumbles between each other, satisfied to be rid of her.
"Do not be sad it has left, be thankful it did not harm anyone."
Jessica pointed at the preacher, "You can go fuck yourself. She just turned you asshole, she's in pain and what you did isn't helping her!"
The preacher stood there in stunned silence as Jessica walked out after Katherine. She wasn't hard to spot, crying on a wood bench overlooking the river. Jessica cautiously sat down, but Katherine didn't seem to notice.
"Hey..are you okay?"
She moved her hands from her face, tears streaming down, her nose and cheeks red, she glared at Jessica and said nothing.
"I didn't know they'd react like that."
"Of course you didn't."
Jessica grabbed her head and twisted it so she was looking at her, "Do you really think I would take you there, knowing they'd do that to you? Make you feel like shit?"
"No but, you had to have known tha-"
"I've read every book, every scroll they've ever given me, not once does it say "we hate Abnormalities". That preacher is, and has always been a dick. Just forget about him."
Katherine slapped Jessica's hands away and got up, looking out toward the river. The two stood in silence for a few minutes, muffled piano music and chants could be heard from the cabin a couple hundred feet away.
Jessica cleared her throat, "You mad at me?"
"No, not at you. But..."
"If you really wanna make it up to me."
Jessica sighed, "I'll buy you a damn coffee."
Katherine wrapped her arm around Jessica's hip and pulled her close, "Two shots of caramel, please."
"Just promise me you won't burn down the coffee shop."
Troy entered the dinning hall, tables covered in white cloth, flowers and candles abundant, workers running tirelessly trying to get everything prepared for the party starting in less than four hours. One of the workers, a red headed woman nearly crashed into Troy, unable to see above the mountain of plates she was carrying, Troy grabbed them from her hands, setting them on the table, catching her before she could hit the floor. Their eyes met, Troy glared, her face, those steel blue eyes so familiar.
"Do I know you from somewhere?"
He helped her up, eyes locked on her face, trying to recall where he saw it last, "I'm certain, do you have a sister by any chance?"
Her cheeks reddened, "Monsieur, I need to-"
"What's your name?"
"Detective!" A voice shouted from across the room,
Troy looked to see a dark-skinned male dressed in a rather nice looking three piece slate suit with a purple tie standing on the stage, a clip in his hand, waving with his other.
"I'm sorry," Troy said to "Christina", keeping his attention to the man, "I have to go."
"Good day to you, Monsieur."
Troy started walking, Garrus bent in "Y'know her?"
Troy nodded,"I think that's the woman from the Arcadia Club, working for Albatross."
"You think she's a spy? Mole?"
"I don't think a mob boss would give a shit about a waitress who works for a politician."
"I have no idea, kid. I could be wrong. Booze damages the brain."
"When did you start drinking!?"
"That isn't too bad."
Troy climbed the steps to the stage, hand extended to Idris. He accepted it with a smile.
"Good morning, detectives. I was under the impression we'd be meeting at the party?"
"That was the plan, Mr. Gryffon, but we decided not to interrupt. This'll only take a minute."
"Certainly, what may I help you with?"
"It's about your partner, Grant."
Idris's smile faded, replaced with annoyance, anger, "This again."
Garrus stepped in front of Troy, "We're sorry, sir. But we just need to know where you were when it happened...did he have any enemies? Anything?"
Idris glared at Garrus, "I answered those questions six months ago, young man. I was prepping another rally in Lerna. I heard he was killed, I read it online. I didn't believe it, I figured it was hoax written by a child with too much time on his hands, but I received the phone call that he was in fact, gone."
"What did you do after?"
"Tried to find a replacement, but after Grant was killed, no one wanted to step in to replace him. The party just..surrendered, we were a hydra with no head."
Garrus cleared his throat, "Was there anyone-"
"He was a politician. Everywhere he walked, every city he entered, he made an enemy. It's the name of the game, boy."
"He earned those enemies." Troy said, withdrawing a cigarette, but waited to light
Idris chuckled, "Yes, some of his policies were...out there. But I wouldn't get worked up, it's not like you're a-" Idris stopped as Troy snapped his fingers emitting a flame to light the cigarette - "Ah."
Troy just glared "Yeah."
"In any case...I have no idea who killed him. Why? Probably some fanatic angry at one of his promises if elected. Hitting the banks, cleaning up Hades? Evicting Abnormalities? I'm sorry I could not be more of help."
"Well thank you for your time." Garrus said, fearing Troy would light Idris on fire.
Troy just grunted, and made for the door, Garrus in tow.
"That could've gone better."
As soon as Troy stepped out the door, his phone went off, he opened it, growling into the receiver, "What."
"I believe I have a lead for your investigation, Troy." It was Albatross, his voice as sinister as it was inviting. "I shall send an address to your phone, it is a man only known as "The Dealer."
"Thanks." Troy said.
"Straight from headquarters." He replied, punching the address into the GPS on his phone, "You drive."
"You got it."
Katherine opened the door to the refrigerator, and selected her orange-flavored energy drink, nodding in approval while closing the door with a tap from her hip, careful not to make too much noise. She exited the house through the backdoor, and was startled to see the sight of Jessica sitting on the back porch, her back to Katherine, arms above her head in the shape of a scale, the palms of her hands matching with the tops of the mountains in the distance. She was chanting something under her breath, completely oblivious to Katherine's presence.
"...we thank thee, Oh great one, for your perils and plight, may be show our thanks, by easing your duty." she said audibly, standing up slowly, matching as the sun kissed the top of the mountain. "Amen."
Katherine cleared her throat, "Morning."
Jessica turned, "Uh, hey sorry."
Katherine blinked, "About?"
"Why are you apologizing? It doesn't bother me."
"But a couple weeks ago, with the shunning and the..."
"A group of asshats isn't going to make me think all of you are asshats."
"Yeah. So what are you doing here at...-" She looked at her watch-"Four-fifteen in the morning?"
"Well you said Maria called a mentor to teach you stuff this morning. Thought I'd come and watch you. See what the guy looks like, what your training regiment is."
"This isn't going to be me running around with a dude on my back while he talks backwords. He's probably going to kick the shit out of me, and shout shit in my face to piss me off."
The two shared a laugh, and Katherine took a seat next to her, watching the sun rise.
"Any idea when the guy's gonna show up?"
"Nope." she replied, taking a sip of her drink.
Jessica nodded, "So..what exactly are your powers?"
Katherine chuckled, "I honestly have no idea. I can make fire, summon electricity, and I make weapons teleport."
"Can you teleport!?" Jessica said, hardly able to contain her excitement
"What? No. I mean, I don't think so."
"Oh that'd be so cool. I'd love to be able to do that. Or fly, I don't think I'd ever stop."
Katherine smiled, "I'd happily trade."
"Uhmhmm. Moving here was already awkward enough, getting death stares from people, getting called a coward for moving out of a warzone, and treated like a common criminal by the Department of Immigration was annoying enough. But now that I've got powers, and it's basically public knowledge? Oh yeah, I can't wait for the lynch mob to show up outside my door, demanding I get burned at the stake because I accidentally light someone on fire when I sneeze."
"You lit someone on fire when you-"
"No, I was making a point."
"I'm sorry, I didn't..."
"Hey," she said, raising her hand, and giving Jessica the most friendly smile she could, "It's fine. Really."
Katherine stood up and wrapped her in a hug.
"Thanks? A little much."
The two were interrupted by the sound of a car pulling into the drive way, the pair walked through the gated fence and were greeted by a man, average height, black stubble, and a white scar on the right side of his lip. His attire was that of an old west hero, dark brown and yellow cowboy attire, from a curved hat with a harpie feather on the left side, all the way down to the spurred boots, black inner vest, and a brown overcoat, and a revolver on his left hip, resting in a right-handed holster, ready to be retrieved. The thing that stuck out most was, his eyes were hidden behind a black veil. a blindfold. He approached with a swagger earned seemingly through a lifetime of experience. He stopped ten feet away from the girls, removed his hand with his left hand and bowed.
"Bonne matinée, les dames."
"The hell did you just say?" Katherine said, shocked at whatever was just uttered towards her.
"He said good morning," Maria said from the front porch, cup of hot tea in her hand
The man performed a similar bow to Maria, this time with less pronounced flourish, but with a wider smile, "Good morning, Ms. Maria. So which one of these fine ladies am I whipping into shape?"
"The red head."
He glanced in their direction, back at Maria, and back at Katherine, "Found a man eh?" Maria's lip twitched, the man backed away, hands raised in surrender, "I jest, I jest." He turned back to Katherine, offering a handshake, "And what might your name be, madame?"
Katherine shook his hand, trying to make eye contact through the mesh, "Katherine."
"Sal Passow. At your service."
"Yup, so..you're my teacher?"
"Or the next best thing."
Katherine blinked, "What? I thought you were a professional."
Sal turned and started walking to his car, "Hitman, spy, dealer, liar...lover. Yes. Teacher? Nah."
"I don't get it."
Maria chimed in, "He was the only option on such short notice."
"Awesome, and what's he going to teach me? How to pick a lock? I know how to do that already."
Maria mumbled to herself, "Well that explains where my candy went."
Sal unlocked the trunk to his car, a mightnight blue V8 Interceptor, the windows were tinted pure black. Katherine tapped her knuckle against the glass. Pure bullet proof, the guy didn't mess around. Sal pulled a wooden fold-up table out, setting it up, he placed a fairly large briefcase on top, opening it to reveal firearms in pieces.
"Know how to put these together, enfant?"
"Please, I have a basement full."
Sal aligned his jaw, obviously shocked by the answer, "Then show me."
"Show me a weapon."
"You want me to go inside and grab a weapon?"
"No. Summon it."
"Any size, don't care. Pistol, rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher. Anything."
Katherine sighed, and held out her hand. She closed her eyes, and imagined her favored six-shot Venom Hand Cannon revolver would appear in her hand. A flash of light, and a sudden added weight to her hand, she opened her eyes. The gun was there just as she wanted. Joy filled her heart, she'd never tried at that far of distance before.
Sal clapped, the grin returning to his face, "Good job. You've mastered a skill that's taught to Abnormal children."
"Wow, way to ruin the moment."
"What else can you do?"
Katherine imagined the gun going back to it's proper place on the rack in the basement, closing her eyes, she exhaled, and the weight was lifted. She opened her eyes again, and the gun was gone. Next, she concentrated, and summoned a blue fireball to the palm of her hand. She looked at Sal with the cocky smile of accomplishment.
"Hmmph." His face showcasing just how unimpressed he was
"Oh come on!"
"No no, it's cool. Never seen it blue before." She threw the fireball into the air, exploding like a firework."Never let your emotions control you, I've seen many of teenagers lose complete control when they let themselves go."
"Now, show me a clothing change."
"Change your clothing."
Katherine just stared, "Now I know you don't want me to go inside and change..."
"No. Use your power, do what you did with the gun and change your outfit. Abnormals have a gift to conjure attires to meet their needs. It's a gift passed down from the Gods of Olympus."
"You can summon fire, and make shit teleport. Changing clothing should not be that big of deal to you."
Jessica chuckled, "He's not wrong."
"Shut up!" She said, with a hint of a laugh
"Again, just picture anything in your head. Any attire at all, and it should appear."
"Should? And what's going to happen to my clothes I'm wearing now?"
"Don't worry about that."
She sighed and closed her eyes once more. Thinking about anything in her wardrobe that didn't involve her White Fox suits. However, instead of anything she'd normally wear, her mind drifted to an old photo of her mother's, the one where she was wearing an Oxford blue dress. Made of silk, she imagined it felt awesome to wear... And all of a sudden she felt a cold breeze on her arms. She opened her eyes and suddenly, she was wearing the dress from the photo.
"Holy sh-did..this teleport onto me?"
"Materialization. The Order used it in their spy games for decades."
"Blue Rose. Like the one on your arm." Sal replied, pointing to the tattoo on her right arm, Maria cleared her throat, and Sal stopped talking there. "Anyway, try something completely different."
Katherine closed her eyes again, and thought of mocking Sal somehow, so she pictured herself in an outfit similar to his, complete with a stereotypical longcoat, and three revolver holsters on her person, one on each hip, and one on her chest, a rifle holster on her back, and a weapon for each holder. Another flash of light, and she opened her eyes. She made finger guns and playfully shot Sal.
"Bang." She said with an added wink.
"Cute," he replied, unimpressed.
Catherine gave a bow, and with a flash, she was back in her workout attire, a white tanktop and gray yoga pants.
"Now training begins." He said, his jacket vanishing like a bad Hollywood CGI effect
"Fighting huh?" Katherine asked, taking a stance, hopping around a bit like a child
"Yup, you ready, kid?"
"Let the games begin." She said with a smile.
With a nod, he vanished. She stopped bouncing, she looked around, and saw nothing, a swift nose, like a speeding car flying past, her eyes widened with shock as she felt his knee striking her in the rib cage. It felt like she was just hit with a battering ram. She went to the ground, fell on her side, clutching her shattered ribs and coughing up blood, barely able to catch her breath.
Sal stood over her, right hand on his hat, "Y'see what I did there?"
She shook her head, her only way of responding without choking on the blood
"Nah, of course not...But you'll learn."
Jessica stood in shock, unable to comprehend what she just saw, she turned to Maria, "Are you gonna stop him?"
Maria's face with told Jessica, she was sad to watch that happen, but she knew it had to if Katherine was going to learn.
Sal shouted, "She'll heal, we Abnormals heal faster than humans, within an hour those ribs'll be good as new....-"He trailed off, slapping her left hand away, and grabbing her right rib, causing Katherine to squeal in agony - "She's in a shit ton of pain."
"Hey, fuck you man..." Katherine hissed, her voice filled with venom
"Oh right there...that face...the same one your father gave him after I broke his balls. One swift kick, ain't that right, Maria?" He turned to her, arms stretched in victory
"Leave me out of this, Sal."
"I'm just jestin'" He said, smile a mile wide.
He turned back and was met with a swift punch to the jaw, making him perform a backflip, landing on his ass, dumbfounded, he looked to see Katherine, one arm still wrapped around her ribs, barely able to stand, blood pouring out of her mouth, fire in her eyes.
"If you ever, talk shit about my parents again, I will rip your god damn throat out."
"Same attitude as your mother...if that's how you wanna play it..."
"Then let the games begin" She finished
Troy exited the car, shutting the door behind him. He glanced down the street, people heading home after the long work day, the sun setting in the west as the white fog enveloped the street. To his right, Garrus stood at attention, waiting for an order. Troy took another look at the building. It was an older building, the windows had a black tint to them, common with apartments from two decades prior just before the start of the Spartan War. Only one single light was active, that being on the third floor. Troy motioned for Garrus to follow. They entered and found an old entrance hall to a hotel, run down, black mold running up the walls, the furniture ripped, stuffing on the floor.
Garrus, hand on his gun mumbled, "You sure this is the right place?"
Troy just grunted, cautiously moving up the stairs. The pair came across the lit room, light shinning under the door. Troy glanced to Garrus, motioning to stay calm as he opened the door. Much to his surprise, he was greeted by a man covered in shadow, a large flood light illuminated behind him, obscuring his face in shadow. In front of him was a glass case typically seen in jewelry stores, lit for easy viewing of the product. As Troy approached, he saw a plethora of weapons typically seen in a weapons depo.
"Good evening, gentlemen," The man said in an deep, yet elegant tone.
Troy gave him a respectful bow, "Good evening."
"How may I assist you? Are you looking for home defense, something nefarious, or something you flash at a party to prove how big your balls are?"
Troy imagined a wide cheshire smile on his face after that line, Troy cleared his throat, "I assume you weren't filled in on our arrival then?"
The dealer performed a double take, "Was I?"
"Our mutual friend told me he said up a meeting."
The dealer looked toward the ceiling, "Ah. That."
The dealer hit a button near his right hip, the cabinet to Troy's left flipped, revealing new weapons, they were a dark graysteel color, purple and red oozed in lines running over the weapons themselves.
"The hell are these?" Garrus asked
"These, my dear fellow, are H-Guns." Troy and Garrus exchanged a glance, returning to the dealer, "They're powered by an ore found in the mountains of Hades, their shots are powerful enough to break through even the toughest of armor, not yet available in the typical weapons shop."
"Where were these manufactured?" Troy asked
"These were created by Orion, through some...special channels, I was able to get my hands on some prototypes. I predict within the year, the entire battlefield over in Hyperboreans will be filled with these." The Dealer said, pride in his voice, he raised his head to look at Troy, "You're not here to buy?"
He shook his head, "No, I was wondering if you knew the weapon that killed Senator Grant."
"The one that left no shell casing, and a smoldering hole in the wall." Reciting the specifications by memory
"Of course. H-Weapon. Sniper series, Arachnid-Thomisidae. Single shot."
Garrus scoffed, "And why do you know that by heart?"
"Well, a young woman came in here looking for information, she had the shell casing."
Troy's eyes shot open, "Who?"
"I don't give out client-"
"Give me the information before I snap your damn neck, and take the information myself!" Troy shouted, grabbing his collar
"You wouldn't be able to-"
"I could have any passwords broken by my friends within an hour. Now make this easy, and tell me."
The Dealer slapped Troy's hand away, and brought up his computer, showing a security clip. A young woman dressed in a white Elemental t-shirt, and blue jeans, blood-red crimson hair at the register. There was something familiar about her face, like a specter from his past. She looked like a younger version of someone he knew, perhaps he knew her mother? If only the name would come to mind.
"Who is it?" Troy asked
"She gave me a false identity Rachel Black."
"How do you know it's fake?"
The Dealer chuckled, "No one has a color for their last name you fool."
Troy glared, "You make one more smart ass remark and I will take one of these guns, and fire it where the sun doesn't shine."
Garrus, nervously laughing stepped between the two, "May I please have the disc so I may run a facial scan?"
The Dealer sighed, handing Garrus the disc, "Now please, get out."
Troy said nothing as he left, Garrus performed a bow, "Thank you, have a good day."
On street level, Troy muttered, "Kiss ass."
"Run that information to Serah back at headquarters. The H-Weapons."
"What are you gonna do?"
"Visit an old friend, I think I know her mother. We'll meet in a couple days for the interview with Anton."
As Garrus started walking down the street, Troy entered the car, but did not turn it on. He pressed his forehead against the wheel, silently cursing. "Please..don't let it be her..."
The arena buzzed with excitement as fans from all around the surrounding city-states found their seats, chatting about potential outcomes, making bets, and contemplating purchasing the overpriced arena concessions as Katherine sat patiently, slouched back in her seat, arms folded to her chest with her hood over her eyes. Jessica on the other hand the near exact opposite, hands on her lap, foot bouncing off the floor a mile a minute, head darting in every direction.
Katherine raised the hood a bit to look at her friend and chuckled slightly, "You okay over there?"
"I don't do..well in crowds."
Her smile faded, "Why didn't you say anything, you didn't have to come."
"No..you had the ticket, Maria obviously didn't wanna go..."
"Jess, you nearly stabbed Ned to volunteer to come with me."
Katherine raised her hands in mock-surrender, "Alright, you're right. You didn't almost stab him. You threw him to the floor."
Jessica glared, "Shut up."
"Look, if you don't wanna stay, I won't make you."
"No, I just need to...get used to the noise is all."
"Well sit back and relax, the show won't start for another twenty minutes."
Jessica settled back in her seat, conceding to her fate. A few days prior, it was announced the local professional wrestling circuit, Global Wrestling Alliance would be taping their three hundredth episode of their DOMINATION television series in the local arena in Athens, Katherine immediately purchased two modest seats for the event before even asking anyone if they'd wanted to go with her. She asked Maria, but she had service and would be unable to attend. She asked around school, and there were some interested in going, but Jessica snatched the opportunity, despite her better judgement. Katherine had been a fan of wrestling for at least a decade, finding out about the product on television when she was eight or nine, she fell in love with the over the top characters, the personal stories and hardships they went through, especially since at the time, most of the people portraying the characters were ex-military veterans, Overseers to make it easier to sympathize with them as heroes, or villains when they would "turn" on the crowd, most of the time calling the paying audience "lazy miscreants" and were "taking advantage" of the hardships he and his fellow soldier went through during the Spartan War that ended only over a decade prior. Around five years prior, the sport had picked up traction in the East, smaller federations became widely popular with more outlandish personalities, who were immediately bought by GCA in the West to...moderate success. Only three wrestlers ever made it to the superstar dome they made back East, most had flopped hard and simply left the company, being forced to get new ring names as GCA had purchased the license to their names upon arrival.
Katherine's personal favorite star, Hanzo Itomi, a man hailing from Nazuri, a small City-State in Hades was known for his odd facial expressions and dancing before fights, and his finishing maneuver being a stiff knee to his opponent's face was known to legitimately knock people out. She was saddened to hear most of her childhood favorites were unable to attend, whether through travel difficulties, money disagreements, or in the case of Jon Blood, better known as "The Drake" had died a year prior in a car accident.
As the arena lights dimmed, the crowd grew quiet. A single spotlight engaged, and a well-built man in a suit stood in the center of the ring, microphone in hand. His elegant black suit with blue trimming enamored the audience with his presence. Paul Lenon, son of Theodore, he inherited the company from his father after his passing six years prior. With a single smirk on his clean-shaven face, he raised the mic to his lips, and with a commanding, growly voice he shouted, "Ladies and gentlemen, let's get ready for CARRRRRRRRRRNAGE!"
The crowd lit up as the lights exploded back on, Paul stayed in the ring, continuing announcing the matches for the card, and thanking them for their continued support over the past twenty years, two company re-brandings, five owners, and near-financial collapse under Theodore's reign in his final months of life. Katherine removed her hood but stayed back in her seat as Paul left the ring, and Barbary entered. He was a massive man, seven foot tall, five hundred and fifty pounds of pure muscle, long locks tied with barbed wire. He was dressed in a plain white tank-top, and leather pants, and wore a silver chain with a key lock around his neck, adding to his imposing stature. He was followed by his manger, Mr. Dangerous, a short obese man with a commanding tone almost equal to that of Lenon.
Mr. Dangerous cleared his throat and spoke into the mic, "You people have seen my client, The Bringer of Armageddon, Barbary destroy all the talent that has been sent his way, each have fallen, each have added a tally to his unblemished record for seventy-seven wins, and ZERO losses! My client, the Count of Cataclysm, the Messenger of Hades, the Bringer of Bewilderment demands a title shot, Mr. Lenon, and if he is not given one, my client will destroy everyone on your precious roster until he is the only viable contender for the title, my client will smash, my client will destroy, my client will...break them all!"
Jessica bent over and nudged Katherine, breaking her from her enamoration with the fat man's speech, "Who the hell comes up with these nicknames?"
"I think he does himself."
"Cause it's funny."
Jessica sighed, and slouched back in her seat, as the entrance music for the heroic wrestler, Tyno Karon burst through the speakers. The dark skinned man was dressed in light purple and black attire, and pumped up the crowd with his magnetic, cheerful personality, with his million dollar smile proudly spread across his face, he entered the ring, being dwarfed by his opponent who was nearly two feet taller than the younger man. Katherine wasn't familiar with Tyno, he was apparently extremely popular out East, being signed to GCA six months prior and given a major push as the rookie underdog, she read online he was being considered to be getting a major world title push by the next major pay per view event, OnSlaught 7. Barbary on the other hand, was well known across Athens. Not for being a wrestler, but as the bodyguard for local Mafia boss, Albatross.
Tyno proudly stepped up to the giant, snatching the mic from Mr. Dangerous and stated, "I'mma slay you like Jason slayed the Kraken!" to a modest pop. Katherine and Jessica exchanged a glance, and rolled their eyes at their annoyance with the lackluster joke.
"That was supposed to be a threat?" Jessica asked
"Banter" Katherine retorted
"Better than anything you tell street thugs before you kick the shit out of them"
"True to the tenth degree, babe."
Tyno and Barbary took their places in opposite ends of the ring, the bell sounded, and Tyno rushed the Goliath, unleashing a flurry of punches, kicks, and knee strikes to the legs and chest of the mountain of a man. The crowd firmly behind Tyno, Barbary simply pushed the smaller opponent away, Tyno performing a back roll to avoid further attacks, he stood up on one knee only to be met by a running big boot from Barbary, sending him to the mat. Barbary picked Tyno up, hoisting Tyno over his head, and brought him down on his knee, a rather loud crack noise elicited from the ring, the crowd went silent as the only thing that could be heard were Tyno's screams of agony. Barbary simply covered Tyno with his boot as the ref counted the pin fall for the victory. However, Barbary wasn't done, much to the crowd's dismay. The monster grabbed Tyno's left arm at the elbow and twisted hard, a snap, and Tyno flailed on the mat, tears strolling down his face as EMT's and security rushed the ring. The crowd was completely silent, not knowing what they just saw. Jessica huddled against Katherine, tears ebbing in her eyes.
"He's gonna be okay, right? This is all part of this show?"
"I-I dunno..." she replied, bringing Jessica closer, "I hope so..."
The pair watched Barbary leave the ring, a smug, slimey smile on his face as Tyno was stretchered off into the back behind him, a wall of security guards blocking off a potential attack from Barbary. Mr. Dangerous stayed behind a few seconds, a face as equally bewildered as the crowd's. He simply bowed to the audience and made his way backstage. Within minutes, the next match was underway, the secondary title, the Television Championship being contested, Johnny Global and Joey Jupiter. The match went off without any injuries, but the crowd was too shaken by Barbary's actions to care, and the stars knew it, no smack talk, no gestures, no profanity, they hit their spots, Johnny retained his title, and they went backstage. The next two matches, Robert Rile, an intellectual villain slain by Scilian Silver, the crowd still dead. The women's match was next, the crowd had a small pop for the stars, Star Siren and Karen Kelly, the audience was finally starting to liven up again. A mid-show promo from Paul announcing that Tyno would recover, but he would be out of action for a year with a damaged disc in his back, and a broken elbow, both requiring surgery. He announced an impromptu match between the "Maniac" Max Moxy and the "Architect of Destruction" Barron Black, the two had a fairly played out, but still compelling storyline, the two were tag team champions back East, and Barron had been called over to GCA. When he did they had one final match together in which they lost the titles. During his goodbye speech, Barron turned on Max, throwing Max through a television monitor. A year later, Max was signed to GCA, and made his debut smashing Barron's car. Three months later, Max has still been chasing Barron throughout the country, coming ever so closer to getting his hands on Barron.
The two entered the ring, Barron, a slender man, fair build, dressed in Spartan armor-inspired latex, long flowing blond hair with a single black streak by his right eye readied himself as Max walked down the ramp. Anyone not familiar with his character would be confused, and would probably assume he was a fan or a bum who made it past security, as he was a minimalist, dressing in only black workman's jeans and a black tank top. With rage in his eyes, he stormed the ring and tackled Barron to the ground, unloading on him with close-fisted punches, finding their mark in the ribs and back. A huge pop from the crowd as the ref clawed Max off, Barron recovered in the corner, Max tossed the ref aside and dashed Barron, hitting him with a leaping elbow to the jaw, Barron collapsed. The ref threatened to disqualify Max if he laid his hands on him again, and Max backed off as the ref checking on Barron. While this was happening, a rather tall man leapt the barricade and rushed the ring, smashing the back of Max's head and planted him with a spin-out power bomb, much to the crowd's jeers. The man removed his mask, revealing himself to be Oz, the green hair-dyed ex-bodyguard of Max's during his villainous days in the East.
"Are there always run-ins like this?"
They were popular twenty years ago...Now they're just...annoying."
Barron stood tall over Max as they made their way back. A minute later, Max stood up, more rage building as he tore apart of the ring side, tossing chairs, water bottles, and punching the time keeper in the face before tackling one of the innocent security guards. The main event was up next. The GCA World Champion, Anthony Logan entered, a literal chorus of people following him, singing his praises of "Glory" and "Domination" in line with his theme song. He was adorned in a white robe, bejeweled with diamonds. He spoke in an equally grandeur voice, "My fellow people, we must not allow a man of Hanzo's..caliber be allowed anywhere near my precious title, a man of his origin, his race doesn't deserve to be seen in the same building as this belt, let alone get a shot at it!"
Before he could continue, the catchy violin theme of Hanzo erupted. Performing a bit silly of a dance, he came into the ring ready to fight. The ref held the title up, the lights dimmed and the two met face to face. Normally there would be a pre-match promo to further hype the match, but Hanzo wasn't a native English speaker, and his normal manager, Mr. Blume was unable to attend due to a failure on his end to re-new his passport.
The match was one that Katherine was actually looking forward to, as it had been three years since Hanzo had last won a title, a year since he last got a shot, and according to the man himself, would be retiring within the next year as he'd been suffering from a nasty neck injury he'd received during his time out East, and this was probably going to be his last run with GCA. The company had refused to pay for the surgery to repair his neck several years prior when it worsened as it was in the middle of their road to Incursion, their biggest pay per view of the year, and they couldn't afford Hanzo to be taken off television for nine months to recover. Instead, Hanzo powered through, had an excellent match with Terry Drake, and paid for the surgery himself, taking an additional two months to recuperate the damage done at Incursion, announced upon his return, this was his retirement tour.
Anthony on the other hand, was a young up and comer. He was a GCA creation, being fed through their developmental territory, being the last hand picked hire from Theodore Lenon before his death, he won the title on the GCA title on his first pay per view match, and has held it ever since, for about eighteen months. He was a disaster in the ring, he often had to be carried through his matches, and even then most of them weren't good due to his lack of experience. Now here he was facing off against an industry legend with fifteen years of experience under his belt.
The fight itself went on for twenty-seven minutes, a slow start from Hanzo, showcasing how his age and build up of injuries had slowed him down over the years, while Anthony literally danced circles around him, showing off his swiftness. Around the mid-way point they started breaking out their power moves, each getting closer and closer to that coveted three count. It wasn't until the closing minute that each tried their finisher, Anthony attempted a "Dominating DDT", but Hanzo shockingly broke out of it, keeping hold of Anthony's arm, he grabbed the younger man's head and brought it into a swift knee, Anthony's eyes rolled in the back of his head as Hanzo covered him for a quick three count, and victory. Hanzo held the belt above his head, happy tears rolled down his face as confetti showered the ring. Katherine was ecstatic, hopping from her chair, she jumped with joy, she looked to Jessica, hand extended inviting her to join, Jessica just smiled and shook her head in denial. Katherine frowned...
Katherine and Jessica took their leave, calling a cab, the two spent the ride in silence. Katherine guessed Jessica was still shaken up over Tyno, or her ears were still ringing from the crowd in that last match, she didn't care, she knew Jessica didn't have any fun. Katherine just braced her elbow against the window and cupped her chin, imagining Jessica sharing the same jubilation she did when Hanzo won the belt. Jessica snuggled against Katherine, who patted her on the head, the silence between the two as deafening. They arrived in front of the house, a car Katherine didn't recognize was parked out front. A black Venom Cobra. Katherine figured it was either a dinner delivery, or a person wanting to get some extra prayers in.
Katherine opened the door, Jessica still in tow, she announced, "We're home!" as she entered the kitchen, she stopped short, her heart stopped as she saw an older man, mullet hair style, brown graying by the temples, those piercing blue eyes glazed with booze.
"Katherine" Maria stated, "This is Detective Troy Pistós."
Jessica waved and said, "Sup?" in a louder-than-she-meant voice, Katherine winced as her ear finally popped...
Troy brought the car to a peaceful stop on the edge of the driveway, his back tire on the edge of where the green grass and the pavement met. He cut the ignition and slouched back in his seat rubbing his eyes. He went over all the information he red on Maria's file over and over, hoping he didn't miss anything, that he wouldn't forget anything. She was unlike any other suspect he'd questioned before, he knew her, they had history. He considered asking Serah to pass the questioning to someone else, but thought against it, knowing they'd be eaten alive. He chuckled to himself, picturing a newbie trying to question her, sweating bullets as she scared the holy spirit out of them while not doing a single thing. He exited the car, shutting it softly and made his way up the path to the door. Two twisting trees graced each side of the drive way branches extended like tendrils, their leaves browning and falling as the weather cooled. He glanced up at the house. It struck him as something Maria would never have, far too much space for someone like her, if it hadn't been something she'd inherited, Troy knew in his heart she would've sold it. She'd always been more of an apartment owner rather than anything, however the quiet the location provided her did resonate with him. He stopped short to admire the stone work, the gold coloring of the aged brick, and the stain glass decorative windows showed off the building's age, built during the city's founding. He glanced to his left toward the edge of the forest, twin silver fox kits emerged, play fighting. They paid him no mind, biting at each other one constantly overpowering the other. After a few seconds they made a quick sprint straight back into the brush toward their den. Troy sighed, continuing his self imposed journey, to the door, his stomach dropping further with each step, his legs turning to lead not wanting to move further. He knocked on the outer door, the glass showing his reflection.
He closed his eyes again, "Just ask about the girl, get the information you need, leave. Don't make small talk, let her bait you. This is business, not a social call." He pondered, "Will she recognize me? No..it's been too long." Then wondered if he'd recognize her. The inner door opened and gone was Troy Pistós, detective. Gone was Troy the man who brought down a mafia, gone with years of pain. At the mere sight of her, the cool wind of Athens replaced with the warm sticky climate of the jungles of Sparta suddenly he was twenty-six again, wide-eyed, naive, and shy as could be, waiting for the mandatory weekly medical exam. She hadn't aged a day in sixteen years, her beauty that which rivaled Aphrodite untouched by the combined might of Cronus and Dionysus.
"Can I help you?" Maria asked, snapping him out of his flashback, he stared at her for a moment clearing his throat to buy himself some time
"Maria Altheta?" He asked, his voice cracking a bit, his nervousness and anxiety were kicking in too early, he hadn't even started asking questions yet
"Yes?" She replied, glaring at him, puzzled look on her face, she was looking for something at him, on him, did she recognize him?
"I'm with the Overseers, Private sector, I'm Detective T-"
"Troy Pistós!" She cut him off, jubilation filled her voice, a wide smile graced those gorgeous lips "It's been too long!"
"Yes, it has Maria."
"Why didn't you call? I would've had tea ready, come in come in!" Turning before he could say another word, he followed her in.
The house was decorated with statues and paintings of the Gods she worshiped above all, Athena, Aphrodite, Hera, Hermes, and Poseidon. A few he couldn't recognize, one that looked like a man and a woman spliced down the middle, each holding half of a book in the other's hand. The inscription was in a language he couldn't read, staring at it he wondered if she switched religions, or if this was her way of showing acceptance. Then it dawned on him, perhaps her daughter was practicing something else and this belonged to her instead.
"May I take your coat?" Maria asked
Troy just smirked, the overcoat seemed to vanish, disintegrate as a white light traveled from Troy's boots up his body, eating the coat away, revealing his bandolier which housed his pistol, his prized Luger.
Maria smiled, "Learned a new trick have you?"
"Several." He pointed to the statue, "Yours?"
"What is it, some kind of art project?"
She shook her head, "No, it's of the God or Goddess Jupiter."
"I'm not familiar"
"Katherine's friend Jessica is a practitioner, I bought the statue to make her more comfortable for when she visits."
"How nice of you." He said offhandedly, trying to keep sarcasm out of his voice
He followed her into the kitchen, a standard marble sink with an ovate wood dining table enough to sit a dozen people. He took a seat on the west side of the table, leaving the other side open for Maria as she rummaged through the cabinets.
"Tea or alcohol?" She asked, no hint of humor, taking him off guard a bit
"Neither, thank you." His voice serious.
She took her seat, her face told him she was ready for the worst, "This wasn't a social call, was it?"
She sighed, "What'd she break now?"
"She beat anyone up?"
"Then what, I don't understand."
Troy took the mock shell out of his pocket and put it on the table. "Care to tell me what this is?"
"It's a bullet, people shoot each other with it." She said, taking a sip of tea
He glared at her, not in the mood for her jokes, "It's made out of tungsten."
Maria's eyes glassed, "From Sparta."
"From Sparta. Care to guess where I found it?"
"At the assassination site of Senator Grant."
"What does this have to do with me?"
"Your daughter was caught on camera with the real casing and trying to pawn it off."
"You don't really think she killed him."
"I don't, but everyone at my department doesn't care, they look at an immigrant pissed off at the Presidential candidate looking to cut off all aid to Hades and alienate anyone trying to get into this country, angry enough to buy some illegal ammo and shoot the guy in the head to keep him out of office."
"Where would she even get that?"
He looked away, contemplating whether or not to tell her the truth. He could see her staring at him from the corner of his eye, tears forming in her eyes, she was afraid for her daughter and he knew it. He sighed...
"People are ready to say...she brought it with her to Athens, untraceable ammo, easier to kill someone and get away with it. Burns the gun, any prints you have with it...makes sense."
"But you don't think she did it because...?"
"If she did, why would she bring it to a gun store to ask where it came from? I saw the video."
"If you know she didn't do it why are you here?"
"She still has the shell casing I want to know where it is, what she's done with it, and what she knows. Were you aware your daughter was in possession of the casing?"
"Two things, I didn't, and she's not my daughter."
Troy stared blankly at her, "Your file says..."
"Legally, she's my ward yes. But we're not related by blood."
"I don't understand."
"About a year ago she contacted me, asking me to get her out of Athens, the government took her house, the food shortages were getting worse, and her aunt had finally keeled over." The venom in her voice at the last remark sent a wave of fear down his spine, "I filled out the paper work and I got her moved out here about seven months ago."
"Why go through so much effort for her? What's wrong with her aunt?"
Maria smiled, "I was friends with her mother, we met before the war actually, she was on assignment in Oia while I was studying medicine. She saved me from a mugger by jamming a chisel in his throat."
Maria chuckled, and nodded in agreement, "She was so young, so beautiful. Katherine turned into her spitting image. She told me she was visiting one of her Masters in the city when she heard me cry out, we got a drink and exchanged contact information...she left the city not too long after. About oh I don't know, a year or two before the war broke out, I got a letter from Koutsi to come visit."
"From her mother?"
"From Molly, yes, sorry. I made the trip and was greeted by Molly, her new husband Aaron, and introduced to Katherine." A beaming smile of joy and pride graced her face, "She was such a gleeful child, happy as could be, chasing butterflies and what not." She droned off a bit, "I met her a couple times during the war, said she had some business in Sparta and Krocylea, and the camp just happened to be along the way. About four years into the war, you know they allowed us to go home for a month, I chose to stay in Hades, I made a trip down to Koutsi to visit, I found Katherine and Aaron there, but Molly was nowhere to be found. Aaron told me she was away on business. At the time I met Katherine again, still happy as a clam... I gave her my address in case she ever wanted to talk to me."
"I never saw them again, well...until a year ago, Katherine sent me the letter and you...you know the rest."
He cleared his throat, "Has she shown any violent tendencies?"
"Oh yes, I set up a gym of sorts in the basement for her to work anything out. She's a fighter, pretty good one too. I think her parents started training her once she started walking."
Troy glared at her and cleared his throat, not wanting to bring up the next subject. "Maria. In your file, it said you were paying for hypno therapy, but you weren't attending. Is there something you're going through?"
"Oh it's not for me, Troy."
"But the therapy was provided for..you know, people like us. Is it for Katherine? Is that who you're paying for?"
"Yes. She has PTSD, Troy"
He blinked, "From what?"
"Remember the Andromeda incident?"
"The Abnormal who..summoned the monsters. That was her?"
"She was there... She was visiting that market when Andromeda accidentally summoned the monsters to her, Katherine's aunt ran...left her behind. She hid under a cart and all she could do is watch as those monsters tore people apart, she was found a day later shivering and crying. Her aunt was charged with neglect but the government ruled in her favor."
Troy nodded, "Well...how's the treatment going?"
Maria cleared her throat, "Well she's not screaming in her sleep as much anymore, she'll get a full night's rest every now and again, but it'll take some more time."
There was something else, something she wasn't saying. "What else is the therapy for?"
Maria's grip on her glass tightened, cracks started to form, rage in her eyes caused Troy to back away slightly in case she threw the cup at him, but she took a deep breath enough anger subsided for her to talk
"Let's just say...her aunt wasn't the nicest caretaker out there."
He nodded in understanding, wanting to change the topic to avoid getting glassed, "So Katherine now, how is she? Any different?"
"She's crabby, easily annoyed, socially awkward, but when she's with me or Jessica, I see glimpses of that girl I met so long ago."
"After she became an Abnormal?"
"I've tried being there whenever I could, hard to hug her when she accidentally starts coughing fire balls, or setting the shower curtains on fire."
"Have you had any major...?"
"Oh goodness, no. She's still getting a hang of her..gifts and they're still freaking her out, but Sal Passow's helping her."
Troy smiled, "That old bastard's still doing that?"
"Oh he was highly recommended by the government."
"Well good for him. And her."
"You know, I've caught her a few times taking a nap in the water fa- in the pond out back, in the water out back."
"Troy insisted on her, helps cool her blood, she's not gonna set water on fire, Troy."
He thought for a second, "It's really not a bad idea."
Maria nodded, "So Troy...How have you been?"
He was caught off guard, shifting his weight in the chair, he cupped his face in his hands, "What do you mean?"
"Since Sparta, since Laura...since the mafia?"
Troy motioned toward his graying temples, "About as well as you can expect."
"I'm sorry I missed the funeral."
"Didn't miss much. Closed casket, her mother blamed me for it. Her father said he forgave me."
"Was it true? Was she...were you two...expecting?"
"Six months out, we were gonna name her Emily."
"I'm so sorry Troy."
He shook his head, "It's fine. It's the past, I have to live with it, my mistakes."
Without warning, Maria got up from her seat, and returned with a rather large container of scotch. Pouring two glasses, she clacked them together and raised hers in the air.
He smiled, picking his up, "To Laura."
The two downed more, naming off their friends they lost in the war, in the years after, the hours ticked by in a blur. He didn't even notice how drunk he'd become, tears were strolling down his face as memories he'd thought lost flooded back. She'd since moved her seat next to his and held his hand as he openly wept, something he hadn't allowed himself to do the past six years.
The front door to the house opened and shut, a young woman shouted, "We're home!" He glanced up as Katherine and another woman around her age he didn't recognize entered the room, she stopped short and couldn't take her eyes off of him, fear in her eyes, petrified to move he stared her down meeting her gaze.
"Katherine" Maria stated, "This is Detective Troy Pistós."
"Sup?" the other girl asked as Katherine winced at something.