Despite there being no immediately discernible light sources, the vast area, larger by far than I could previously have imagined as a single enclosed floor-space, was airy and bright. Panoramic windows enclosed it on all sides, offering an uninterrupted view out into a brilliantly blue skyline. I turned in a slow, awed circle, confounded by the extent of Father’s domain. Not that I should have been surprised, but I’d never once set foot on Olympus and if this was even a suggestion of what Olympus must once have been…
My thoughts trailed off as I wondered how I was supposed to turn this immense expanse of bare canvas into a manageable workspace? How Father expected me to take up residence here, as many of the other immortals had already done? Logically, I understood that having a base here was a solid business decision. New Zealand, especially the isolated and sparsely populated location I’d pressured Castor into, had never been the most practical of choices for a primary base of operations. Whereas an office like this, here, in this building and validated by the presence of other immortals, would lend a whole new level to our credibility.
To clarify, Castor and I are co-CEO’s of Dioscuri Stunt Agency International. We work mainly in film, but also with stunt-related performance exhibitions in general. We perform stunts, train stunt animals and artists, and plan and coordinate stunts. If it has to do with performance action of any kind, count us in.
That said, the project of transferring an administrative base here felt way out of my league.
The amulet at my neck vibrated against my skin and I clutched at it reflexively, half-wishing he wouldn’t come, half-wishing he’d stay away. But only half and only half-heartedly, because no matter where I was, I always felt lost without him at my side.
“Holy shit, Pol! You weren’t kidding! I mean, this is freaking unbelievable! And this is all ours? The whole floor?”
Castor could be so much like a child and he wore the expression of one now, his tangled, sun-bleached curls swirling around his broad shoulders as he turned on the spot to admire the vast space of the 36th floor of the OA. Our floor. I could see the wheels turning in his head to match his steps and knew the plans were already unfolding in his mind. I’ve always been the micro-strategist. Castor is about scope. He’d ask for my input but, in the end, he’d be the one drawing up the plans and making the most of it. I was glad for it.
He clapped his hands together with enthusiasm as he jogged over to one of the vast windows and stared out at the vista beyond.
“Holy shitballs, Pol! If this is the view from here, can you imagine what it must be like from up there?” He jabbed enthusiastically towards the ceiling and I knew he meant the Penthouse, the top of the behemoth of this building of Father’s.
“I can and it’s enough,” I said. “Don’t be getting any smart ideas about ever going to check it out for yourself. In fact, maybe you should be a little cautious about popping in and out of here at will, too.”
There was a definite spark of mischief in his mismatched eyes as he danced back to me to drop a hand on my shoulder. “Lighten up, Pol. She’s not even there right now. Do you think I’d have come if she were? I’m not a complete idiot.”
Debatable, but I narrowed my eyes at him. “How do you know? That she’s not there? You ventured that far? You looked?”
He tapped the side of his head and gave me a serious look, a look I’m not familiar with when it comes to my twin. “I’m not stupid enough to go seeking it, Pol, but I think she’d resonate fairly loudly if she was, don’t you think? The alarm bells aren’t ringing, ergo, she’s not here.”
“Father?” I persisted.
He nodded. “Zeus? Loud and clear, though I’m doing my best to distract myself and block him out.”
“You can do that?”
“Been doing it for forever,” he admitted, his expression rueful. “Blocking, not specifically Zeus.”
Now, what was that about? Did Castor…I narrowed my eyes as I studied him, my attention momentarily captivated by his presence and my question forgotten. He had always, in my opinion, been the more striking of the two of us. He had the form of a god, even if he’d not been born as one, and he moved with all the poise and grace of a born athlete. There was a freedom in Castor I never saw in myself and I both envied him for it and yet, at the same time…
I shut the thought down, suddenly uncomfortable and feeling the heat of remembered shame and guilt rise in my face. Damn it! Castor, oblivious, spread his arms as he walked away from me.
“Private living quarters, offices, workshops, dojo, personnel quarters maybe…” he rambled on for a bit, his voice sparkling with his enthusiasm. I simply watched him, fascinated by him, as I had always been. His voice faltered and I simultaneously felt the shift in him, a shadow slipping across his face to take his smile as he turned slowly towards me, the words no longer vocal but whispered directly into my mind.
Do you feel it, Pol? Can you feel it coming?
My palm itched and I rubbed at it, the rough calluses on my fingertips doing little to alleviate the discomfort. Castor was right. There was something here, a dark mist insinuating itself into my consciousness to slowly overwhelm my thoughts. Castor’s voice became a far-distant whisper, a fading echo between midnight mountains.
Pol, don’t listen to it! Don’t look at it!
The darkness kept coming, swallowing Castor’s voice, and I barely felt my hand rise to lift my burning palm upwards and outwards.
He collided with me with all the force of a juggernaut and we hit the floor and bounced, my jaw cracking and my teeth crunching and all the wind knocked clean out of me. We were left locked together as I gasped for breath and struggled to free myself of his weight. He rolled off me and lay on his back beside me.
“You all right, Pol?”
“Barely,” I gasped back at him, fingering my ribs and wondering if I’d broken any. Healing was one thing, but that didn’t mean it didn’t still hurt beforehand. “What in the name of all Tartarus was that?”
“I don’t know,” Castor admitted, struggling to a sitting position and flexing an arm, seeking his own injuries as I’d sought mine. “But whatever it was, I’m not so sure it meant to invite us to a hangi on the marae, are you?”
I was inclined to agree and spared a glance at my closed fist where the burning, reminiscent of an encounter with a mains electric fence, was gradually easing to a pulsing throb. I wasn’t fond of electric fences. I wasn’t fond of this, either.
“It’s a whole lot stronger here,” Castor observed, getting to his feet and offering me a hand to join him. “Whatever it is, however, it’s doing what it’s doing and for whatever reason, it’s as if it either wanted us here or was waiting for us to get here. Both, maybe.”
Again, no argument from me and I wasn’t thrilled about it any more than I was thrilled about what it was doing. I risked a cautious glance at my palm. Same callouses, same lines, same hand. Only, still, different. I shook the lingering tingle from it.
“Well, anyway, buggered if I’m going to take this without a fight, Pol,” Castor continued, glowering about him as if the empty floor somehow held the answers. “Why here, do you think? Why now? And why us?”
My eyebrows rose as I stared at him, pointing a finger at myself. “Were you asking me because you think I have the answers?” I shook my head. “I know I tend to be the one with the strategies as a rule but, I’ll be honest, Cas, I haven’t the bloody foggiest.”
He nodded, half to himself, and briefly shut his eyes, his face going blank. I knew this look well and, if I permitted myself to, I’d be able to feel him extending his perceptions outwards, seeking the things he couldn’t otherwise physically sense. He’d told me, long ago, that I was perfectly capable of doing the same. But I’d become aware that blocking his access to me was almost impossible when I did, so I’d stopped and not pursued it since. There were things Castor needn’t know, even now. Maybe especially not now.
“It’s here,” he ventured after a bit. “It’s strongest here because of all the immortals gathered here. They’ve done something, woken things. We just happen to be receiving it because we’re already open to it. Who knows, perhaps the others are, too.”
My eyebrows must have ridden near into my hairline and my eyes widened. I winced as my collarbone grated. Damn it! I’d cracked it. I’d suspected as much. I delayed my response to Castor’s observation as I chased the injury and repaired it, then did Castor the courtesy of checking him over, too. Not bad. A few bruises and no more. After all, I’d cushioned his collision with the floor.
“You know that or you’re guessing?” I asked.
“Guessing,” he replied, “but I think it’s fair, don’t you?” He gestured up and down, much as he’d done earlier when he’d drawn my attention to the floors above, and turned in a circle. “Look at it. It’s effectively a lightning rod, one even constructed by Zeus himself. Or conceived of by him, at any rate. And I told you there’s a good number of the family already here. All this immortal energy, all these immortal powers and emotions…what happens when you contain all that energy in one confined space and fail to control it?”
It doesn’t happen often and, in fact, I think I’ve succumbed to it maybe only a few memorable times in our entire history but, I blanched.
“Exactly,” Castor supplied for me.
“So what are we touching then?” I asked. “What is it?”
Castor shrugged. “I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to say we’re touching it, Pol. It seems fairly obvious it’s more seeking us.”
“To that question, brother, I haven’t even the remotest beginnings of an answer.”
The frown lines etching Castor’s sun-bronzed face indicated the depth of his thoughts and he rubbed absently at the location of one of his tattoos, the eagle and lightning bolt representing Zeus’ grace over his heart. I rubbed at my own in subconscious sympathy. He turned his gaze to the ceiling and his eyes narrowed before he turned to me and nodded.
“We have to get out of here,” he said, a statement and neither suggestion nor request.
“What? Is it coming back? You think we’re in actual danger here?”
I was more than a little taken aback. I mean, no matter what it was or what its intent, this was the house of Zeus, for crying out loud. Surely, no other place on earth could be as safe. Castor turned and looked at me, his eyes boring directly into mine, his mind for once absent in its touch, his features betraying the depth of the emotion he shared only in his expression.
“You have to stop now, Pol,” he said. “You have to stop hiding behind the walls you’ve built and open the doors before the doors are opened for you and it’s too late to face the truth and protect yourself.”
My eyes narrowed and I shifted my gaze from him, my shoulders lifting defensively. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I lied.
It was not his presence alone that tapped at the battlements in my mind and I could feel the warning throbs of a pending headache.
It isn’t going to permit you to hide much longer, Castor whispered in my thoughts. It wants you and I linked, and you’re stalling. What are you keeping from me, brother?
He didn’t know, did he? He was still oblivious to the secret I’d kept from him, from myself, all these millennia, wasn’t he? How could I let down the walls, open the doors to my innermost thoughts and link us any more closely, and not have him know? And yet, if we, our family, were at risk in some way, how could I not?
I was looking at an impossible situation, a classic Catch-22, and I had no doubt that standing here, too close to a power neither of us could yet either understand or contain, wasn’t helping.
“Let’s go home,” I agreed.