I strolled down the hallway to my father’s office. My curiosity was rather high because of what the man in black had told me. I knew I shouldn’t have been surprised when he said that Dad had information about what was going on. The old man always liked to play things close to the vest. However, I had hoped that after his brush with death, he would be more open and honest with his family. On the other hand, I wasn’t shocked that he was reverting to his old self.
As I approached his office door, I saw a new portrait of him hanging on the wall. When I had first returned two years ago, I had punched a hole in the original one after a conversation with him. This one looked to be a more recent work of art. I studied it for a moment, deciding that he appeared just as arrogant in this one as he had in the other one. I shook my head and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” his booming voice called out.
I opened the door and walked in. He was on his exercise bike, riding hard and not even breaking a sweat. Closing the door behind me, I walked over, picked up a towel, and tossed it at him. “Nice to see you getting back into shape,” I said.
Dad caught the towel and wrapped it around his neck. “I’ve never been out of shape,” he replied.
I snorted in response. He had gotten a little lazy since our return, enjoying some of the fine dining establishments in the area. Some of us had noticed that he had developed a bit of a dad bod because he ate out so often. “If you say so.”
He started his cool down, his sharp eyes scanning my face. “How are you doing?” he asked. “Have you had any luck finding Kara yet?”
I shook my head. “Some of my men have started scouting the forest to the north,” I told him. “Satellite images show hills and valleys there that may contain caves or other places to hide.”
“I’m not sure if you want to talk about this, but what about your time in the alternate reality?”
“What about it?”
“I was just wondering what happened to you.”
I rubbed my chin for a moment as I thought about how to answer. “Actually, What happened there does have to do with why I’m here,” I said.
Intrigued, Dad got off his bike, walked over to his mini-fridge, and grabbed a bottle of water. Tossing one to me, he opened his and took a long drink before moving behind his desk and sitting down. He motioned to one of the chairs in front of his desk. “Tell me about it.”
I sat down and spent the next ten minutes telling him what had happened, leaving out the part about the man in black coming to my office for the moment. “Do you think that what happened to the woman in the alt-reality could be similar to what happened here to Kara?”
“I did, at least at first,” I admitted.
“What changed your mind?”
I took a drink. “I had a visitor a little while ago. The man in black from that other world.”
Dad stared at me, his bottle of water halfway to his lips. He lowered his arm as he arched an eyebrow at me. “An interesting twist,” he said, clearly intrigued. “Tell me what this man looks like.”
“He’s about 6’2”, 190 lbs, black hair, black eyes, dressed head to toe in black. I wouldn’t call him arrogant, more like self-assured and confident. I don’t think he’s looking to cause trouble. He seems to sincerely want to help, yet at the same time, seems to be holding back.”
“Yes, I believe I know who you are talking about,” Dad said, nodding. “His name is Telemachus. We’ve crossed each other’s paths a few times. What did he say to you that made you rethink the situation?”
“He said an old enemy is back in play.”
“Oh, really? Who?”
“The Ultimate Power.” I watched him for a reaction.
“Those idiots again?” Dad replied, shaking his head. “I thought they learned their lesson the first time.”
“Before I killed him, Marcus, their leader, told me there were more of them out in the world. He warned me that they would be back.”
“Has anything happened to make you believe that’s true?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” I admitted. “However, our mutual friend intimated that you know what’s going on.”
“Me?” he said, his eyes widening in surprise. “And you believe him?”
I studied my father’s face for a moment. “You have, at times, been known to play things close to the vest.”
“Only when I feel it is in the best interest of the family.”
“So you did know about it then.”
“I might have heard a few things. Nothing that I felt was urgent or pressing,” he said dismissively.
“Are you serious?” I said, flabbergasted by his blasé attitude. “They caused us nothing but trouble the first go ‘round. They disrupted the forge, spied on you, killed a woman in your office, and they murdered Cassie in cold blood. Anything to do with them is urgent.”
“You have a weakness for mortal women, Ares.”
“You’re one to talk,” I retorted.
“This group is no threat to us,” Dad said. “We do not need to concern ourselves with them. There are more pressing issues to worry about right now.”
“No, there are not, at least not as far as I am concerned,” I said firmly. “I want all the information you have on this new threat.”
“Who are you to give me orders?” he said, his eyes flashing.
“I am the one who is concerned about the safety of this family,” I snapped, “not about promoting his public image to the masses. This isn’t about your ego. These people are a serious threat to our family and the people of Olympus. That should be our priority, not marketing strategies.”
“Your only concern is that mortal woman. You need to forget her and marry one of your kind. An immortal. Why don’t you find Aphrodite and bring her back?”
“Because she’s my brother’s wife, and I have no interest in her anymore.”
“Well, your brother is back, and I’m not sure he believes that.”
“If it comes up in conversation, I’ll discuss it with him. But that is between us; that has nothing to do with you. I intend to find Kara and eliminate this new group.”
“Your priorities are skewed,” he said. “Family comes first; the mortal woman can wait.”
“So this new group is going to be a problem.”
He shrugged. “There have been rumblings in certain circles.”
“You are unbelievable. And you didn’t think these rumblings were important enough to bring to my attention?”
“I would have if I truly thought there was anything to them.”
“Well, there is. I want all the information you have by the end of the day,” I said, getting to my feet. “From the conversation I had with our mysterious friend, they have Kara and plan to use her against us.”
“Then sacrifice her for the greater good,” Dad said. “The needs of the many…”
“…outweigh the needs of the few or the one,” I finished for him. “Are you really going to quote something from a Star Trek movie to me?”
“It is the truth, Ares. The family always comes before anything, or anyone, else.”
“Listen here, old man,” I said quietly, putting my hands on his desk and leaning toward him. “I plan to marry that woman, whether you approve or not. That makes her family. If you don’t like it, you can just shove a lightning bolt up your ass.” I turned and walked toward the door. “Get me that information by the end of the day, or I will come back and get it from you by force.”
A flash of light hit the wall beside me, and I spun around. He had a bolt in his hand, his arm cocked back ready to throw it. “You do not give the orders here, boy,” he thundered as he threw the second one at me.
I dove to the side just before it hit the spot where I had been standing. I got to my feet and glared at him. “The end of the day,” I said, “or I will come back to finish this.” I opened the door, slamming it behind me just as a third lightning bolt hit the door.
His portrait smiled down at me. I punched it, leaving a huge hole where the face had been, then turned and stormed down the hall.