Nash walked out of the forest alongside Officer Crupky. In the wide grassy lot behind the hotel, a number of tables were being set up. Gene was huffing and puffing as she moved chairs and tables into place, struggling with stubborn joints and levers. It was afternoon, now, and there was a warmth in the air as she worked. She wore a pair of denim overalls, and a tight white cotton shirt, simple clothes that seemed quite comfortable in the warm summer air.
“Why do you dislike me, Cassandra?” Nash asked, as he drove. Cassandra sighed.
Morning came, and with it a slew of anxieties. Nash sat up slowly, prepared for his bones to scream at him, protesting at the treatment from the night before. But he felt good. A bowl of the fish stew sat on the bedside table, with plastic wrap over it. He was so hungry that he ate it cold, gobbling down bite after bite, almost choking on a tiny bone. The stew had thickened as it cooled, and he luxuriated in the taste of saffron and meat. When he finished, he set the bowl aside, and walked to the shower.
Silas Nash walked up the path with the hero and the monster. His throat still hurt. Quite a lot of him hurt, but the big man’s grip had been an entirely new kind of pain. Watching that fist prepare to come down on his tender skull had been more frightening than fighting Talos. Now, Harry had his lion skin around his wife’s shoulders, showing a galling lack of embarrassment about his own nudity. The three of them walked to the front door, with Harry making soft clicking noises of disapproval at the broken bay window, and the shattered floor. “I hope it’s not going to rain anymore tonight.” He gave his wife a questioning look. She flushed, quite to Nash’s surprise.
Harry Constantinou was born in a slum, in one of the worse parts of Athens. It was never quite clear how the Sarin wound up in the apartment complex’s basement. With such a short shelf life, someone had to have kept it there. They might have been a lethally careless chemist. Perhaps a home grown terrorist with more knowledge than sense. The government officially blamed it on the actions of a group of mercenaries who had been planning an attack on government buildings. By the time the hazmat teams managed to sweep the building, a hundred and twenty three people were dead, and Harry Constantinou was getting hungry, crying in his crib for his mother. People called it a miracle, celebrating the child’s survival. They were right about that much, at least.
Rainwater splashed down between Nash’s bare toes. The sandals, comfortable though they were, had not been designed for this kind of situation. They were meant for light sunshine and sand, not torrential rainfall. His feet were frigid. His colorful shirt plastered to his chest. Wind gusted in huge, ferocious bursts across the bare hilltop. Each time the lightning crackled between the clouds, every hair on his body stood on end, reacting to the intense static charges warring through the sky. Another bolt of lightning flickered down, and struck the barrier in two places. The color of the dome stood out as a bright blue for a few seconds, before drifting down through the rainbow. Green, yellow, settling on a dull red, and then flickering out. The sun had set. The only light came from the flashes of lightning across the tortured sky. It was perfect weather for confronting an enraged goddess trying to avenge the death of her stepson.
“Nash? Nash!” Someone was shaking him. Nash opened his eyes slowly. A broad red stripe, dried and flaking, was painted across the pillow. He reached his hand up to his forehead. The bandage had soaked through. Heather turned him over onto his back, a furious expression on her face. She wore a tight-fitting black sweater that emphasized certain parts of her body in a way he couldn’t quite ignore in his current brain-scrambled state. She was wearing a tight pair of canvas shorts, and her hands were on his shoulders. “What did I tell you to do?”
Silas Nash had never been in a riot before. He tended to arrive in places after the riots happened, or sometimes, just before. He was not a riot officer. He was very glad for all of these facts. A riot was humanity at its worst. People got panicky in large groups. A single thing set someone off, and suddenly, everyone was angry at ‘the other’. And a man in uniform was always the other. Things were destroyed in riots. Businesses were lost in riots. Cops died in riots. Innocent people died in riots. The riots didn’t care, because they didn’t have a brain.
Heather raised an eyebrow, but the smile on her face didn’t waver. “A second set of clothes ruined? Nash, sweetie, you may need to be a little less hard on your wardrobe. I’m only one woman, here.” She’d met him outside of his apartment. He didn’t have the heart to tell her what had happened last night as she had sat him down in the main office. That he had almost died, his heart stopped in his chest. She was brushing a bit of bactine across his cheeks. It stung, but that was probably a good sign. The last thing he needed was an infection. “Have you ever considered backup? Maybe even just not getting into situations where you’re going to get murdered?” she asked, tone chiding as she folded the tattered outfit. She sighed softly, and the sound was warm and pleasant, as she fussed over him. It had been a long time since he’d felt something like that. He slipped the pink book he had recovered from his jacket into his pants pocket.
Consciousness returned reluctantly to Nash. Every part of his body protested. His chest was on fire. His legs ached. The skin of his face was stinging painfully. His palms were scraped, contused by gravel. And his heart felt like it was being stabbed with every beat. But he was alive. He’d not expected that. He took a deep breath, and was made horribly aware of the way his ribs ached. He opened his eyes and took stock of his situation. He was sitting in a white-walled room, on a large, comfortable white bed. A single window let in the bright dawn light as the sun rose over the hills. He leaned back against the soft mattress. He thought back to last night.