Chapter 1: She Needs Space
Aazuria unfastened the clasp of her heavy brocade robe and pushed the weight off her shoulders. Stiff golden threads grazed her skin as the garment fell from her body and draped itself over the corner of her bed. The queen sighed and reached up to rub the tension out of her upper back. Her thumb dug into the scar tissue of an old wound that had healed long ago, leaving behind only a saddening and somewhat bittersweet memory.
She was in the process of sitting down when a knock sounded on the door. Aazuria quickly retrieved her robe and arranged it around her shoulders again to maintain her modesty. Swiftly crossing the room, she grasped the knob and turned. She was somewhat surprised to see her husband.
“Trevain?” she asked with a furrowed brow. “Is everything alright?”
“No,” he said. The grey-haired man ushered himself into her room and closed the door behind him. He was so large that his presence seemed to cause the chamber to shrink. “We need to talk.”
“Please,” she said, shaking her head. “I just put the ashes of my friend’s body into the sea. Can we not save it for another night?”
“I’m afraid it can’t wait,” Trevain said in a firm tone. “If I don’t accost you now, you’ll be halfway across the world before the sun rises.”
“Yes, and for good reason.” Aazuria frowned. “I promised you that I’d bring your brother home. I have assembled a small squadron from my army to go after him tomorrow.”
“Forget my brother!” Trevain said sharply. “He’s probably off on a gambling bender. If only you knew what he put me through when he was younger—stealing my credit card for crazy Vegas trips. Now that we have real money, he’s probably fooling around in Monaco or Germany—Atlantis instead of Atlantic City, but it’s the same deal.”
“No. Callder changed when he had his daughter,” Aazuria said defensively. “My father mentioned something about instructing his ‘organization’ to deal with your brother. There is much more going on here, and even if you don’t care about his whereabouts—I promised Brynne.”
Trevain let his breath out in a whoosh of anger. “God, Zuri! How can you say I don’t care? I just know the hooligan better than you. We have many far important concerns to focus on at the moment; governments are angry with us! The United Nations is challenging us with the Convention on the Law of the Sea. We haven’t gotten the CIA off our back. We’re being hounded for oil drilling rights, and harassed by environmental activists…”
“And what about Leviathan?” Trevain demanded.
“I know!” Aazuria said, fixing him with a serious glare. “Believe me, I know.” Her brow became knitted in frustration. “I do think that trying to rescue Callder could help us learn about Leviathan. His last known coordinates were in dangerous Mediterranean territory. But even if there is no connection, just because I’m at the helm of the Oceanic Empire does not mean I will forsake my family.”
“Really?” Trevain shot back. “Because it doesn’t seem to me that you’re spending enough time or resources on finding our daughter!”
Aazuria pulled her embroidered robe closer around her shoulders, letting her eyes drift to the ground. “You and I both know that Varia ran away. She doesn’t want to be found. Dr. Rosenberg said that she’s been through a lot of trauma, and it might be best to give her space…”
“Who cares what he says? We’re her parents and she’s a minor! She’s our little girl, in a world that is more dangerous than ever. She should be safe at home with a skilled security detail. She shouldn’t be allowed to go anywhere without our permission and protection!”
“You’re very upset,” Aazuria observed with dismay. “Do not worry so much. Glais will take care of her.”
“I can’t believe you trust that boy,” Trevain said in exasperation. “Why would you send him after Varia? How can you know that he really has her best interests at heart? Who knows what they’re getting up to, wherever they are? Aazuria! I will not let that ungrateful orphan hurt my daughter! What if he gets her pregnant? She’s fourteen, Zuri. Fourteen. I know the kids think they’re adults, but they’re not.”
“Please,” Aazuria said, lifting a hand to her temple. “Maintain your composure. Trevain, it might be prudent for you to head to bed. We’ve had a miserable day. Sionna’s funeral was not easy on any of us. I think you should leave me be. We are both too exhausted to make progress on any matter.”
“You can’t mean that,” he said angrily. “This is Varia we’re talking about! There is no such thing as being too tired to be good parents.”
“No, but one can be too tired to realize they are being a bad parent,” Aazuria said with warning. Seeing the genuine concern and fatherly desperation on Trevain’s face, she felt her heart soften a little. “Look, Trevain. You had the misfortune of meeting my father. He controlled every aspect of my life with an iron fist. Sometimes, the best thing one can do for a child is to give her the freedom to find herself.”
He stared at her for a moment, before making the slightest of nods.
Aazuria reached out to place a hand on his arm comfortingly. “We have both taught her well. She knows right from wrong, and she knows a great deal more than most children her age. She knows how to pursue knowledge, and she has a passion for art. She’s a good girl. We should respect her enough to let her grieve in her own way.”
Trevain nodded again, with a bit more certainty. “I suppose you’re right.” He paused, cocking his head to the side sheepishly. “You’re always right, you know.”
Aazuria smiled weakly. “I try my best to be.”
“Just…” Trevain hesitated and glanced to the window. “Do you think she’s happy?”
“I truly believe that she is,” Aazuria responded without hesitation. “Happier than either of us.”
An awkward silence hung in the air for almost a minute. Trevain cleared his throat. “Speaking of which… that’s another subject I wanted to address. I would really like to talk about us.”
“Oh, no,” she groaned, turning and moving away. “Please. Not tonight.”
“Aazuria, you can’t keep ignoring our problems. You can’t brush our relationship under the rug like there was never anything between us…”
“I am not in the mood to have this discussion right now,” she told him.
Trevain reached into his jacket and removed a bundle of documents. “Well, I guess we don’t have to talk—but I do have to give you these papers. I’ve signed them already—and maybe you can consider whether or not you want to sign.”
Aazuria’s brow wrinkled. She reached out and took the documents from his hand, scanning them with surprise. “Are these…?”
“Divorce papers,” Trevain confirmed.
She stared down at the words on the paper before glancing up at his mint-green eyes. “Oh.”
“You need…” He hesitated and fumbled for the words. “You need to decide. Either make a sincere effort to fix our marriage—or set me free.”
“Set you free?” she repeated quietly.
“Yes,” he said. “It’s not right for one man to be married to two women. I’ve hovered in limbo for too long, trying to do the right thing and screwing up a little more every day. I finally realized that it’s not my decision to make. It’s yours.”
“You—you want me to sign these papers?” she asked.
“I’m tired of chasing after you, Zuri. I fight so hard… but it’s obvious that you don’t love me anymore. I need closure. I need you to stop hoping that you’ll come around. My mind twists every small sign of affection you give me into evidence that we could still make it through. If it’s over for you—don’t leave me hanging. Sign these papers, and make it officially over.”
Aazuria felt like there was a great boulder sitting on her chest. She took a breath, but was somehow unable to fully expand her lungs. “I—I think…”
Trevain watched her reaction closely, with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension.
She could feel that he sought either her vehement denial or her despondent agreement to sign. Either answer would give him a direction and sense of purpose. He needed her to point him down the correct path, in order to have the certainty to continue onward. Just like everyone else, Aazuria thought to herself. They cannot be strong on their own, so they ask me to create the rules of what should and should not be. Why can people not make their own choices and determine their own paths?
“Aazuria?” he probed.
“Sometimes I feel that I have lived too long,” she said quietly. “Life just goes on and on for hundreds of years—and it never gets any easier.”
“What do you mean?” he asked with concern.
“Trevain, will you please leave so that I can get some rest?”
“Please.” She moved to open her door, and gestured into the hallway. “Leave. Now.”
Trevain seemed ready to protest when another large figure walked through the door and entered the room.
Vachlan made eye contact with Trevain before turning to stare at Aazuria. “We need to get everyone out of here. Now.”
“Out of the palace?” Trevain asked with dread apparent on his face.
“No,” Vachlan said. “Out of the city.”
Aazuria held her breath before speaking. “Are we under attack?” she asked.
Vachlan shook his head to indicate the negative. “No. But we will be.”
“How much time do we have?” Trevain asked.
“I don’t know,” Vachlan responded. “It could be days. It could be months. But I don’t want to have my children in harm’s way when they come.”
Aazuria squinted. “What has led you to believe that we will be attacked?”
“I have a bad feeling,” the dark-haired man responded. “Something’s about to go wrong.”
Trevain and Aazuria exchanged confused looks.
“A bad feeling,” Aazuria repeated. She shook her head in disbelief. “A bad feeling? Vachlan, I understand that you’re upset. We all are. Just go to bed, my friend. We’ll deal with matters of state in the morning.”
“Queen Aazuria! I’m your advisor, am I not? Well I’m advising you to evacuate every soul in Romanova. You’d be wise to do as I recommend.”
“My friend,” Aazuria said gently. “As much as I trust your counsel—which is usually implicitly—we simply cannot send thousands of people out of their homes in the middle of the night because you have a bad feeling. It’s not good for morale, to send everyone into a panic like that.”
“Panic is good!” Vachlan roared. “Panic will keep them alive when fire rains down from the sky. You need to send all your people back deep underwater, where they stand even the slightest fighting chance!”
Trevain cleared his throat and looked at Aazuria. “Should I say it, or do you want to?”
“I will,” Aazuria responded quietly. “Vachlan, you haven’t been yourself lately. You’re not thinking clearly, and you should probably take some time off. Your judgment has obviously been impaired by Visola’s disappearance.”
Something flashed in the man’s dark eyes. “This has nothing to do with her!” he almost shouted. “We are at war and none of you morons even realize it! You’re going to get us all killed! For God’s sake, they shot Sionna! Sionna! Do you know what that means? It’s the beginning of the end!”
Aazuria felt a chilling sense of alarm creeping through her spine. She could not seem to ever recall seeing Vachlan so emotional. For the first time in their acquaintance, there was something approaching fear in the man’s eyes. It was unnerving. Aazuria swallowed and glanced at Trevain. “Your grandfather is not well. Please take him to bed.”
“Not well?” Vachlan said in disbelief. “Being cautious and trying to save your people makes me insane now, Aazuria? Fine! You want to avoid making them panic? I’ll bomb the city myself and say that our enemies did it! I’ll show them what terror really is! I’ll put the fear of god in those puny little people!”
“Please don’t do that,” Aazuria said quietly. “I highly doubt that will help the situation. I will consider your advice and begin planning a calm and efficient method of evacuation for the future, in the event it will be needed.”
“It will be needed,” Vachlan spat. “Mark my words. It will be needed, and you won’t be ready!”
“Come now, Gramps,” Trevain said in a kindly way. “You could probably use some shut-eye. When was the last time you slept?”
“I… I don’t know. I guess it’s been a few days. But I don’t need any sleep,” Vachlan swore. “I’m being perfectly rational.”
“Take him to the infirmary,” Aazuria told Trevain. “Maybe Sionna can give him some…” She trailed off in mid-speech.
Both men stared at her in stunned silence.
Unable to bear the weight of their pain-filled gazes, Aazuria shut her own eyes. “Go,” she ordered them sharply, her voice breaking. “Both of you, leave my room and shut the door.” When they complied, she moved to the edge of her bed and allowed her body to sink down into the mattress. She let her head fall forward into her hands.
“Viso,” she whispered into the empty space. “Where are you? Please come back. We all need you so much.”
* * *
Vachlan was woken from his fitful rest by two tiny bodies jumping on him. He extended his arms protectively to catch the dozens of pounds of energetic toddlers that had catapulted onto his chest. Looking up into a pair of inquisitive little eyes, he could not, for the life of him, think of how to respond. “I… I don’t know, munchkin.”
The little girl wrinkled her nose. “Is Mommy in outer space?”
Vachlan released a sigh. “Maybe. That woman… It’s just as likely that she’s in orbit as anywhere else.”
“Is she with Auntie Sio in outer space?” Ivory demanded.
The dark-haired man gave his daughter a puzzled look. “Who told you that Aunt Sio was in outer space?”
“Kaito told me. Kaito knows lots of things,” Ivory said with a solemn nod.
Ronan frowned, tugging on his sister’s pigtail in a cynical way. “Why would Auntie Sio be in outer space? She’s not an astronaut! She’s a doctor.”
“Oh Sedna, you’re so stupid,” Ivory told her brother with a groan. “There’s sick people in outer space too! They need doctors there badly, because everybody gets sick from the radiators. Right, Daddy?”
Vachlan nodded dumbly, unable to focus on the conversation.
“Radiators?” Ronan said with a puzzled look. “So Aunt Sio has gone to save everybody from the radiators?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Ivory reasoned. “Nobody will tell me anything, so I have to figure it out myself. I think mommy went to outer space too.”
Reaching over to the side of his bed, Vachlan retrieved a bottle of painkillers. He popped three pills into his mouth and swallowed them down to attempt to combat his headache. “Okay, tidbits,” Vachlan said, with strained cheerfulness. “I think you should head back to your bedroom and let Daddy rest. I have a very critical meeting early in the morning, and some phone calls I can’t miss.”
“No,” Ivory said firmly. “We have important news, and we need Mommy.”
“What’s wrong?” Vachlan asked, sitting up and yanking his gun from beneath his pillow. “Are they here? Are they coming for me?” On second thought, he reached to his side and slipped his hand under the pillow that used to belong to his wife. Retrieving another gun, he handed it to his five-year-old daughter. “Here, take this. Just stay calm, and we’ll get out of here together.”
Ivory stared down at the gun in her hand. “What’s this for, Daddy?”
“He thinks it’s time for fighting,” Ronan whispered to his sister. “That’s why there are dark, puffy bubbles under his eyes.”
Vachlan reached up to touch his eyes self-consciously.
“Silly Daddy,” Ivory said, putting Visola’s gun back under the pillow and patting her father’s cheek. “There’s no fighting yet! I’ll be the first to let you know when the fighting begins.” She nodded gravely. “The important news is other stuff. We have a surprise!”
“A surprise?” Vachlan asked in a tired voice.
“Yeah! Ronan lost his tooth!” Ivory shouted. She pointed to her brother’s face with excitement. “See?! It fell out when he was eating a banana!”
Ronan gave his father a big smile to demonstrate the large gap where one of his front teeth used to be. He then removed a hand from behind his back, offering up the tooth to his father proudly. “I want to show Mommy,” Ronan told him. “She said I could play with the flamethrower when I lost my first tooth!”
“It’s not fair,” Ivory said, shaking Vachlan’s shoulder. “I want to play with the flamethrower too. Why did he lose his tooth before me, Daddy? Is he more growed-up?”
Vachlan stared at the small tooth in his son’s outstretched hand. He reached out and took it between his thumb and forefinger. He held the incisor up and stared at its silhouette in the dimly lit room. He looked back to the gap-toothed grin of his little boy, and felt overwhelmed by emotion. The desire to share the experience of the lost tooth with Visola was so strong that it hurt. Feeling a prickle in the back of his eyes, he closed them briefly and cleared his throat, where a lump was developing. “I’m proud of you, champ.”
Ronan was surprised when his father enveloped him in a giant hug, but he quickly returned the embrace, curling up against his father’s side and nestling his head in the crook of the man’s shoulder. “Daddy, do I get a prize if I put it under the pillow? Is that how I get the flamethrower, from the tooth-fairy?”
“Yes,” Vachlan said, kissing his son’s forehead and placing the tooth under the pillow, beside Visola’s gun. Then he wrinkled his brow in thought. “Well, maybe not a flamethrower. Maybe a crossbow, or some grenades.”
“Yay!” Ivory shouted, violently seizing her spot on Vachlan’s other side to avoid being left out. She smiled and wrapped her tiny arms around Vachlan’s chest with as much strength as she could muster, giving him a vicious hug.
The older man could not help but smile at her aggressiveness. Ivory’s energetic ways clearly betrayed her to be her mother’s daughter. Receiving a Visola-style hug from this miniature version of his wife should have eased his agitated heart, but it just made him miss her even more. He slipped his gun back under the pillow so that he could ruffle Ivory’s auburn hair. Feeling the soft red curls beneath his rough hand, he frowned. The organs in his chest felt like they were spinning around within his ribcage, and smashing into each other like bumper cars. He could not remember ever having felt so unsettled.
“Why are you mad, Daddy?” Ivory whispered in the dark. “Did we do something wrong?”
“No, sweetheart,” Vachlan said, sighing and hugging her against him. He reached down to kiss her forehead as well. “I just have a lot on my mind.”
“Can we sleep here tonight?” Ronan asked. “Please!”
Vachlan found himself nodding before he could vocalize his assent. “Sure, kiddo. There’s a lot more room here in this big bed, lately.” He realized that, in this moment, he probably needed the touch and cuddles from his children more than they needed his affection. The two adorable innocents had bundled around him, bringing plenty of love and good energy—it was easing his headache and anxiety much more than any medication had managed to do in the past few days.
“When’s Mommy coming home?” Ivory asked again, in a sleepy voice.
Vachlan studied the ceiling, seeking answers. “I don’t know,” he said miserably.
“Is she on her way back from outer space?” Ronan asked. He put his thumb in his mouth, poking around at the spot where the tooth used to be.
Tightening his arm around his son, Vachlan sighed. “I certainly hope so, Ronan.”
Chapter 2: She Deserves Retribution
A pair of black combat boots pounded the pavement with surefire purpose. Dozens of armored boots followed soundlessly, keeping in perfect stride behind their leader. Filling the steel-reinforced footwear were solid calves that rippled in flawless synchronicity. Attached to these calves were thick, burly thighs, which heaved and alternated in a dogged, relentless rhythm. Erect torsos, with abdominals not too dissimilar from brick walls, floated gracefully forward, presenting the illusion of being carried on liquid limbs. Most importantly, severe faces with utter devotion to their objective, and sinewy arms carrying the necessary tools and weapons for success, drew nearer to their destination, moving as a single, unstoppable unit.
These warriors were not driven by motivations of a financial nature, or patriotic duty; they were not compelled by any tangible force. It was the woman spearheading the operation that filled them with fire and bile. They drew on her emotions, inspired by the way she clenched her jaw and fist. They clung to her decisions, recognizing something holy in her altered mental state. All her capacities were heightened in her madness, and she was somehow more than just a woman. Her warriors had each become an extension of her body. They felt what she felt. They moved according to her will. Their purpose was the purest of sorts. Revenge. Revenge on a nation. Revenge on a people. Revenge of any kind; damage of any conceivable measure that could possibly amount to the loss that had been suffered. Punishment. It was only fair. It was merely what the universe owed her. She was from a place where the holy people taught balance in all things. They said that everything the earth took from a person, the sea would someday return. But this time, the land had taken too much. There was nothing else to do.
She would punish the world.
Marching stealthily in the darkness, the woman turned back to her warriors. She waved her hand to indicate where each person should move in order to properly penetrate the power station. Their Japanese features displayed acknowledgement, but their boots did not even squeak as the men swiftly dispersed. The woman crouched down as she approached the gates, and waited for a full minute for all of her men to take their positions. Once she felt adequately covered, she pressed a button on a large panel on her forearm to indicate that she was about to take action. Dozens of green lights appeared on the small LCD screen, signaling that the coast was clear.
The dark-haired woman reached into the holster at her thighs, removing a small weapon with one hand, and an electronic master key. She used the key to open up the gates, and placed her gun in the crack between the doors, using the barrel to push it open. She carefully slipped her body inside, positioning herself behind her weapon and making sure to check every angle from which she could be approached. She frowned when she saw that there were several security guards in the courtyard who had already been killed. They had not been killed by her men. Her own weapons contained a fast-acting neurotoxin in tranquilizer darts, not lethal bullets. Lately, she had been feeling rather insane with rage—but not this insane. Frowning, she quickened her pace as she began to jog toward the central control room of the power station. More and more bodies seemed to litter the area, and it was obvious that the security guards of the power station had fallen hard and fast—before they had even been able to draw their weapons.
It was evident to her that this could only be the handiwork of one person. One very dangerous, volatile person. Lifting her gun to eye level, the woman cautiously crept forward, trying to ignore her heart beating in her ears. She saw a door that was slightly ajar, and heard large smashing noises coming from within, followed by electronic beeping. Moving forward rapidly, she tried to breathe as quietly and calmly as possible. Shoving her weapon into the tiny space between the door and the wall, she carefully advanced into the room.
Before she could take a step, a large hand had clamped around the barrel of the gun and pulled her forward. She found an elbow slamming into the back of her neck, and a knee against her lower back. Her face smashed against the cold, sticky floor, and she gasped as the air was forced out of her lungs. She felt the chilled circle of a gun nozzle placed against her temple.
“Don’t shoot!” she said desperately. “It’s me.” She felt the shooter hesitate, and she was almost sure that her opponent’s finger had already begun to squeeze the trigger before being halted by the sound of a familiar voice.
“Yamako.” The voice that spoke this acknowledgement was as cold as steel and much more bitter. “Why are you here?”
The Japanese princess exhaled and shifted her body on the ground so that she could stare up into the expressionless face of General Visola Ramaris. For a moment, her heart caught in her throat—the empty jade eyes and grim red lips were identical to those which had belonged to her dead lover. For a moment, she wanted to go to her, and trick herself into believing that Sionna still lived. Instead, she managed to croak out, “You’re doing it wrong.” Taking a ragged breath, she cleared her throat. “I’m here to help shut down the electrical grids.”
Visola turned away, and headed back to the control panel. She picked up a giant sledgehammer and returned to smashing the machinery.
“That’s not effective!” Princess Yamako shouted in exasperation. “For Sedna’s sake, Visola.”
The furious redhead turned to look at her sharply. “Get away from me. You shouldn’t be here.”
“This is precisely where I should be.”
Swinging her arms one final time, Viso plunged the entire power station into darkness. The only light in the room was the dim glow of the electronic arm band worn by the Japanese princess. Yamako could see the green glint of Visola’s eyes flashing at her with fury.
“I know what I’m doing,” the general said. “Don’t fucking get in my way.”
Yamako sighed. “Will you listen to me for a moment? This is temporary. You destroyed the hardware, but it can be easily repaired. Granted, it’s pretty important hardware, and the parts will take some time to replace. But there are tons of backup generators. This won’t slow them down for as long as you need.”
“How did you find me?” Visola snarled.
“I can find anyone,” Yamako said with a shrug. “Listen, Viso. You need me. I can get you way more intelligence than you could possibly find on your own.”
Visola was hoisting a weapon against her shoulder as she peered through the window of the control room. “Why are there guns pointed at me?”
“I brought a team with me,” Yamako explained. “They’re covering us.”
Visola arched an eyebrow. “They’re amateurs. I could spot them from a mile away.”
“They’re not just warriors. These men are field engineers and programmers. I went to school with some of them in Japan, and others are specially trained Ningyo warriors. We can help you, Viso.”
“I don’t need your help,” Visola spat. “What do you take me for? I don’t need fucking electrical-engineer-ninja-mermaids.”
“Yes, you do!” Yamako insisted. She used her elbow to push herself off the ground and pointed at Visola accusingly. “With your methods, you could put about eight million people out of power for a week. Sure, it’s no small feat, and it will allow you barely enough time to carry out your plans. But with my methods, you could have eighty million people without power. For several months.”
Seeing her opportunity, Princess Yamako rose to her full height—which wasn’t much—and stepped closer. She pulled a small microchip out of her bra. “See this? Just one small bug, Viso—one tiny little virus is enough to give you what you need. Something similar caused the Northeast blackout of 2003. You want riots and massacres? You want mayhem and anarchy? I’m your woman. Take away their refrigeration and they’ll lose their civilization. We can sit back and watch as they turn on their neighbors and kill each other for a bit of a food. How else does one bring down a giant?”
Visola narrowed her eyes.
“It’s easy,” Yamako whispered. “Just give me the word, honey. You don’t even need to go anywhere and get your hands dirty. The entire electrical grid is run on software. It can all be accessed remotely. And hacked remotely. Just trust me, sweetie: This tiny bit of metal in my hand is enough to start the end of the world.”
The general’s pink tongue darted out and slowly ran over her top lip. Her lips then pressed together to share the moisture, as if hungrily preparing for a scrumptious meal. Even in the dark silence of the control room, where the only sound and light came from the fizzing and flickering of destroyed equipment hissing its final breaths, the microchip in Yamako’s hand seemed to glow with the promise of far greater destruction. Visola looked into the eyes of the Japanese princess, and saw the reflection of the dancing sparks, along with a glimmer of sadism—the latter might have been her own emotions mirrored back at her, but she could not be sure. A few gunshots distracted Visola from her thoughts, signifying that it was time to go. The redhead stepped forward and pushed past Yamako. “I work better on my own,” she stated simply.
“Viso!” Yamako shouted, following after the woman frantically. “You can’t do this without me! Most of the organizations you intend to target specifically have backup generators anyway. Even after I mess with the RTOs and ITOs, cutting the power for almost 100 million people, we will have more work to do. We’ll need to carefully plan the attacks on the big boys, once they are too focused on protecting their people to remember that they’re sitting ducks. If we plan this correctly, we can…”
“There is no we!” Visola shouted, swiveling sharply. She slung her weapon over her shoulder, sending Yamako a finite look. “Do you understand me? I’m doing this alone. Get the hell out of my face, and keep out of my way.”
“I can give you Washington D.C.!” Yamako shouted. “I can give you D.C..”
Visola turned back to look over her shoulder in a skeptical but interested way. Her lips parted slightly, as though she were considering the offer—she looked as though she might be deciding between having waffles and pancakes for breakfast. “No,” she finally said. “I will take it on my own. I can get around more quickly without you and your band of nerdy-ninjas getting underfoot and slowing me down.”
“Damn you!” Princess Yamako said bitterly, flicking a few tears from the corner of her eyes. “You and your fucking selfish pride! You act like you’re the only one who lost her. You act like you’re the only one she meant anything to. I loved her. I deserve my own chance at retribution, Visola Ramaris. You won’t deny me that!”
Visola swiveled suddenly and put her hand to Yamako’s throat, slamming her into the wall. Sirens began blazing throughout the hallway, sending red flashing lights over the faces of the two women. The coloring enhanced the bloodshot veins in Visola’s eyes, accentuating the madness that had taken over every corner of her being. “You’re a child playing at vengeance, Yamako. This isn’t a game that you can win with your fancy gadgets and gizmos. This is fucking war. Get. Out. Of. My. Way.”
Princess Yamako’s dark eyes began to water. “I loved your sister,” she whispered tenderly. She lifted a hand to encircle Visola’s wrist around her neck as she struggled to choke out her words. “I understand why you’re like this. I loved Sionna too.”
Visola’s eyes widened in horror, as though someone had just spoken the secret name of God. She stepped away as though she had been struck. “Don’t say her name!”
Yamako looked down for a moment, unable to bear the pain on Visola’s face. Partly because she felt the same way, and partly because Visola’s face was too familiar, too indistinguishable from the woman who had been so brutally killed. Ghosts of the past came rushing back to the princess in Visola’s every scowl and glare—yet, this was the preferred situation. Yamako felt like she might fall to her knees in grief and be unable to stand ever again if Visola were to smile. Luckily, that did not seem to be a very plausible event. “Please,” Yamako said quietly. “We’re stronger together. This needs to be done correctly. Please, let us help. Vachlan and Dylan have prepared plans, and Aazuria wants to…”
“They’re all useless to me,” Visola whispered.
Yamako did not look up, for she could hear the chilling expression on the redhead’s face.
As unlikely as it seemed to be, Visola smiled. It was a disturbed and deranged smile; one which a woman might wear while standing on train tracks with her legs spread wide apart, waiting with anticipation for the impact. It was evident that she was either positive that she could stop the train with the power and precision of her thoughts, or in her heightened state of madness, she was completely invulnerable to being slammed, crushed, or flattened. Indeed, Yamako believed that a barreling train would not make a scratch on Visola. She feared for the locomotive that dared to try.
As gunshots sounded throughout the power station, Visola did not even flinch or seek their source. “They’re all soft,” the redhead declared. “They have families. They have responsibilities. They have lives. They can’t commit to this the same way that I can. Sionna was everything to me.”
“Then we’re in the same boat,” Yamako said harshly. “I can commit. You know I can. Please, Viso. If we work together, we can sick the armies of the oceans on more than just the CIA. We can sink New York down into the sea. Chicago and Detroit are on the water, and we can take them down as well. Miami, Houston, Los Angeles. You name it, and we will crush it.”
Visola stared at the Japanese woman for several seconds without blinking. “I’m going to avenge my sister. I’m the only one who can do what needs to be done. Go home, Yamako. Go home to your son. Don’t worry. I’ll crush everything that needs to be crushed. By the time Kaito is an adult, the United States will be a distant memory.” Visola rotated her body and began to walk away again. “I will wipe that abomination off the map, or die trying.”
“What a shame!” Yamako shouted after her viciously. “Sio deserved more. She deserved the best retribution that we could give her, and you’re half-assing this because you don’t want to depend on other people? I thought you were better than this, Visola. I thought you were stronger than this!”
Visola clenched and unclenched a fist around her weapon. She then turned and lifted her gun to point it at Yamako’s face. “And just how could I do this better?” she demanded.
“Maximize your resources,” Yamako said, flinching slightly as she looked past the barrel of the gun. “If you don’t want to talk to Zuri and Vachlan, if you don’t want to drag Adlivun and all of Oceanus into this—then you need to go to him—you need to seek out Leviathan. You need to go to the rebels, the gangs, and the wayward warriors of the water. You need to go to him. You need backup. You need armies!”
Swallowing a lump of disgust, Visola growled softly. She imagined that her sister had told Princess Yamako the story of her fleeting romance with the former Prince of Atlantis. This memory added fuel to her already raging fire of wrath.
“Please,” Yamako urged. “He’s the only one who can help. Go to him. Secure his armies, and let me take care of the tech. I have Japan on my side. I am more powerful than you give me credit for. If we play our cards right, we can take America down in a concentrated three day span of calculated attacks.”
“Leviathan,” Visola repeated thoughtfully. Then she spat in disgust. “Leviathan! Honestly, I would rather die than ask Taranis Evenor for help. After what that man did to me? Fuck him. And fuck you, Princess Yamako, for underestimating me. Do you even know who I am? Do you know what I’m capable of? If you did, you wouldn’t be here interfering with my shit. Get the fuck out of my face, and take your newfangled technology. She was my sister. I am doing this the old fashioned way...”
A security guard rounded the corner, pointing his weapon at the two women. “Freeze! Don’t m—”
He had not finished speaking before Visola had shifted her weapon and unloaded a round of ammunition into his chest. It knocked the man off his feet instantly. The redhead moved to his side and crouched down, turning to the Japanese princess with a grave look on her face. Pulling a dagger out of her boot, Visola slammed the knife into the man’s throat. She sliced directly across his neck, in a tantalizingly slow manner, as though she intended to make a point. Wiping the knife on her thigh, Visola returned it to its sheath. With fingers that were sticky, wet, and still dripping with blood, she pointed at the dead man. “You see? I like working with my bare hands. I don’t need technology. And I will wreck anyone who steps in my path. Including you, Princess.”
With that, Visola was gone. Yamako was left standing in the hallway, grinding her teeth together in frustration. “Damn her,” Yamako swore. “She’s a lunatic. She is impossible. She is so…” The Japanese woman let her hands fall to her sides in defeat. “She is so fucking hot.”