“Hello, Atë. I would say I’m surprised to see you in here, but…” I neck my whiskey and turn to my old acquaintance. Tartarus hasn’t robbed her of her glamour. She’s a rose in a bar filled with thistles, and every eye is on her.
She cocks her hip to the side and fixes me with a stare, which makes me think I’ve done something wrong. “You know, you’re harder to track down than before. You’ve gotten better at hiding. I’m impressed!”
Why would she be looking for me? “I’m here on business,” I say. “I’d heard they’d let you out. I would have visited, but, well, you know…” I look Atë up and down and raise my eyebrows. The outfit hugs her figure, accentuating her curves, and I don’t need to use my skills to know what every man in the bar is thinking.
“Business in a rusty dive bar with mortals?” The look of disgust is apparent as Atë takes in the surrounding bar, décor, and jukebox. “Whatever. I’m here for a reason. And no, not the overthrowing Olympus kind.”
I have a bad feeling about this. Trouble follows Atë around like a lost puppy.
“You want a beer, then?” I ask. “Or something stronger, perhaps?” I imagine we might require something potent for whatever it is she has to say.
Atë shrugs and then turns to Blind Bill. “Sorry old chap, but I need to borrow him, okay? Why don’t you have a nap?”
As soon as the words leave her lips, Bill’s head lulls, and he snores deeply. Atë turns back to me. “Sure, a beer sounds fine.”
“I’ll get us some shots, too. Might as well enjoy ourselves whilst we’re here.”
I turn to the bartender and order some drinks. This time, he’s keen to please. I look around and notice that the men are still gawping at my drinking companion, and making no attempt to hide it. “You might have some unwanted attention,” I mutter. “Those four at the table have been eyeballing me all night.”
Atë takes off her jacket and sits down on a barstool. She looks at a stranger casually waving at her and smiles at him. Then she turns to me with her arms folded. “Oh, the wannabe badasses? I can sense trouble from here. What did you do to piss them off?”
“I walked in.”
The bartender brings us some drinks, and I pass a shot to Atë. She shoots it back in one gulp without hesitation and slams it down on the bar. “Mortals are scared creatures. They probably sense your power and fear it.”
“Hmm.” I turn to Atë. “I don’t want to make a mess. There’s already trouble brewing, I can feel it. But then, you’d know all about that. How was Tartarus?” I give Atë a sly smile and shake my head.
At the mention of Tartarus, Atë takes another shot. “Hell. Literally. How about you? How is life since not joining up on my failed uprising?”
I smile. “I would say I told you so, but I’m not sure that’s what you want to hear.”
I down another shot and then get the bartender to bring us some more. Mortal juice is weak compared to the nectar of the gods, but it eventually does the trick.
“I’ve had a few issues to deal with,” I say, downplaying the last few months. “Could have used an extra pair of hands. I guess you were busy dealing with the many-handed… I thought of you down there. Must have been tough!”
I know all too well how hard a stint in Tartarus can be. It’s not something you recover from quickly.
Atë turns her head slightly and snorts to herself. “You were probably the only one.” She pauses for a second. “It’s good you didn’t join, though. The Titans that did are in Tartarus now, or dead. Kronos and Chronos both fled, and my leads have all died on where they are.”
I think of my family imprisoned down there. There’s no love lost between us. It was my father who sent Alastor after me. He can rot in Tartarus as far as I’m concerned. I hand another shot to Atë. “I am known for, you know, forethought. Not that I could have convinced you otherwise. Kronos and Chronos could be anywhere by now, biding their time. So, you’re definitely not planning another uprising?”
I look her in the eyes. She breaks first and snickers, before taking her glass and spinning it slowly.
“No, not this time.” She curls a piece of hair behind her ear and turns serious. “I wanted to talk to you about something, and no, it’s not an attempt to end the world.”
I take a deep breath, bracing myself. “Go on…”
“You were affected, and from the energy you are giving off, it no longer runs in your veins, yes?”
Her question startles me. “You heard about that? I got lucky. I found something that burned it out of my system. Why the interest?”
Atë gives me a once over and reaches over to investigate. I can feel her breath on my neck and the soft touch of her skin as she examines me. “Any weird side effect?” she asks.
I clear my throat. “Queasy for a few days. I had bigger issues to deal with. You’ve not been playing with Hind’s blood, have you?”
Atë stops checking me, and I realise that I was tensing my muscles. She sits back down, her brows furrowing. “So, no weird power surges?”
“Hard to say,” I reply, and then look around to see if anyone is listening. “I found Pandora’s Box,” I whisper. “And when I held it, it messed with me. Suddenly I was soaring. Hard to know whether it was the box or the Hind’s blood. Now that you’ve finished inspecting me, want to tell me what’s going on?”
Atë’s eyes are wide. “You found Pandora’s Box?! Remind me to ask you for instructions on where to find it. And me? Well…you know Erebus?”
I nod slowly.
“He may or may not have stabbed me with it.” Atë waves her hand over herself. “Now it feels like my powers came back with a vengeance. The lights and sounds are deafening. Visions of Tartarus dance in my subconscious, and,” she lowers her voice, “I don’t think I’m in control of my vanishing abilities anymore.”
I sit back, processing her revelation. “Sounds to me like you could have been dealt with a higher dose than me,” I say somewhat unhelpfully. “Should I ask why?” I’m not entirely sure I want to know.
Atë takes another shot. And then one more. “Oh, I tried to kill him,” she tells me and looks away.
I take a deep breath. “Remind me never to piss you off. So you’re telling me you might suddenly pull a vanishing act?” I chuckle. “Never a dull moment with you around is there?”
I look over at the pool players who have stopped their game and are watching Atë, talking behind their hands. It is obvious they are planning their move.
“You might want to pull a vanishing act soon. I think you might have some admirers.”
Atë turns in her seat to see who I’m talking about and then turns back to me. “That’s the other thing. I literally have not had sex with anyone since Erebus, and I have tried. Like, tried.”
She drops her head on the bar and mumbles to herself as I cough awkwardly into my hand.
“… I think I’m broken. Hind’s blood broke me…”
I look around and gently pat Atë on her shoulder, before passing her another shot. “Vanishing probably doesn’t help. I wouldn’t recommend looking in here. Hind’s blood isn’t the only thing you need to worry about. With me, once it had burned out of my system, I seemed to recover pretty quickly. If you’ve had a stronger dosage, it’ll take longer, but I don’t think it’ll be too long until you’re back to your good old, crazy self.”
In truth, I don’t have a clue, but it’s all I have. I neck my shot and then order some more.
“How did you find me, by the way?” I ask.
Atë flips her head up and looks at me. “Power, duh. You reek of Titan energy, plus I have connections everywhere. The second you got back in this area, my phone lit up. Why? Are you hiding from someone?” She tilts her head, her demeanour changing.
“Not hiding. Looking. You know of anyone called the Piano Man? Or the Mechanic, or the Engineer?” It’s worth a shot.
“Doesn’t ring a bell,” Atë says, shaking her head. “Who are they to you?”
“I don’t know yet. But I intend to find out. Could just be the ramblings of an old man.” I look over at Bill, who’s still snoring like a yeti. And then a thought crosses my mind. “How would you like to help prevent an uprising this time?”
Atë downs a shot. “Mmhmmm, will there be violence?”
I laugh. “Almost certainly. That’s why I’m here, fishing for information. No other reason to hang around these…undesirables. Just make sure you don’t vanish on me.” I smile at Atë and then down another shot. “You in then?”
Atë looks at the bar and then turns back to me, smirking. “Oh, I’m in,” she says. “Who can we hit first?”
The men from the pool table walk over and hover close by, staring at Atë. One of them smirks. “So which of us are you having first, then?” he asks as he grabs his crotch.
“You can warm up on them if you like,” I whisper into Atë’s ear.
She didn’t need any encouragement. She looks at the man who spoke. “Well, that’s so sweet of you to ask. Let’s see…” She points at them one by one. “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…”
As soon as “moe” leaves her lips, she shoots off her stool, grabs Moe by the back of his neck, and brings him face-first down against the bar. Teeth fly as the wood breaks. A crunching sound also suggests that she might have broken his skull. His body drops to the floor, and she spins to face the others who are looking at her in disbelief.
“Who’s next?” she asks.
I watch, amused as everyone in the bar backs off. The bartender hurries across with another round of shots and apologises profusely.
“They’ll have seen worse,” I say to Atë as she turns back to me. “But not from someone wearing stilettos.” I turn serious. “I need to find someone called Jimmy Crease. I might need your help to get to him. He’s an elusive son of a bitch, but he has a weakness for…” I wave my hand towards Atë.
“Sounds fun.” Her mouth forms into a devilish grin. “I can ask around if you like? See what I hear from mortals who I know aren’t too high on the good civilian list.”
“Yeah, that would help. All I have are the ramblings of a senile old man. This is big, though. I can sense it. He mentioned a prophecy. Do you know anything about that?”
Atë shakes her head. “Not at all. Every human from the dawn of time has yelled about prophecies. I have yet to see or experience one they have gotten right.”
I mutter my agreement and then drink another shot. “You know,” I say, studying my empty glass, “getting horrendously drunk off this mortal juice could cure your Hind’s blood problem.”
“Say no more,” Atë says and waves at the bartender. “Can I have all your liquor, please?”
I chuckle. “I like your thinking. I’ll stick it on Bill’s bar tab.” I check the old man to make sure he’s still breathing.
We continue drinking, this time from the bottle, oblivious to everyone else in the bar. After Atë’s display, they daren’t come near us, which is a blessing because we have a whole bar’s worth of liquor to get through.
“Morning Atë,” I mumble as a power drill thuds in my head…