I know the hellish pits of Tartarus, but this modern world of humanity is on course to becoming something so much worse. And I suspect my king is about to make humanity’s problem, my problem.
I am the god, Hyperion, Father of Heavenly Light, The Watcher, a Titan. For my part in our ancient war against Zeus’s upstart Olympians, I and my kind have languished for eons in the hellish pits of Tartarus. For reasons known only to him, Zeus has seen fit to release me—with certain restrictions on my powers.
I can’t blame him for being cautious. After all, we did attempt to overthrow him.
Zeus’s giant disembodied head, glowing and charged with lightning, floats before me. The guy really knows how to dominate a room. His imposing image drowns out the splendor of Olympus, fading it to a hazy background. This is a dream. I’m dreaming about my parole hearing with Zeus. After so many years imprisoned in the pits, the circumspect thing to do would be to keep my mouth shut. Something which I did in the real meeting.
But, since I know this is a dream, unlike in my actual audience with the King of the Gods, I ask a foolhardy question, “Why am I being released?”
He brings his gigantic, disembodied head close to my face. His lips part, and he says—
The sharp chirp of the jet’s wheels touching down wakes me before I can get my answer. My eyes open, and I take in the spartan, functional cabin of my private jet. My hand is resting on the case containing the Eye Of Ra, the powerful artifact my latest heist was all about. I’m counting on it to restore some of the power being withheld from me as part of my release.
I look at the woman strapped-in across the aisle from me—the stranger who came to my aid after my theft of the Eye of Ra went a little sideway. The woman whose thoughts, unlike other mortals, I can’t seem to read easily.
She’s relaxed but alert as she looks back at me. When I say nothing, she returns to surveying the landing field taxiing by outside her window. Without a word between us, I know Araceli is doing a threat assessment to prepare for our disembarkation. She’s going to make one hell of a bodyguard and driver.
Araceli doesn’t talk much, but I confirm what I’d already suspected on the flight back. When she happened on me, near unconscious on a lonely back road, she herself was attempting to retire from black ops work with one of the Alphabet agencies. It was the kind of job where the retirement package is usually a bullet to the retiree’s head. I was near incapacitation after a run-in with the security team for the Eye Of Ra when, in ninja-level fashion, she took out the threat and got me out of there.
I promised her that if she came to work for me, I would make her disappear from her old boss’s radar. I can tell she’s skeptical, but she’s also short on options. Now I have to figure out how to make good on my promise.
“Nice car,” Araceli breaks the silence. She’s looking through the open cockpit door at the black Audi A8 parked at the hangar we’re approaching.
“Ever driven an A8?” I ask.
“Stealing an A8 got me sent to the Army.”
I reflect on how fortune’s whim changed the trajectory of this young woman’s life. Instead of prison, she had become an Army Ranger. One so deadly, a shadowy agency recruited her for the government’s most sensitive and dangerous off-books missions. Arguably a better direction, but one that would test her concepts of honor and service. Well, the government’s loss is my gain.
She opens the back door for me, but I shake my head and enter the front passenger side, saying, “I’m riding shotgun tonight. We need to talk.”
“As you wish, jefe,” she purrs. I like her voice, soft but dangerous, like the whisper of a Katana being drawn.
“I thought you said this car was armored,” she says as we approach the airport’s exit. “It’s much too agile to be armored.”
“It is hella’ armored. A very special friend named Hephaestus created the armored sheet metal and glass for me,” I say with a smile and then launch into my story.
I tell Araceli everything. That I am the Greek God Hyperion, released from the pits of Tartarus by Zeus. She listens in stony silence, showing no emotion. I forge ahead. I need Araceli to hit the ground running. This is her last test. It will either break our nascent relationship or cement it.
“You’re not saying anything,” I say. “Do you believe me?”
“So you’re saying you teleported from that castle on the hill, to where I found you, and that’s why you were tapped out? Mierda extraña…that’s some really strange shit, jefe. And honestly, I’ve seen a lot of strange in my time, but nothing like what you’re saying. It sounds crazy, but you don’t seem crazy. Let’s say I’ll keep an open mind.” She tenses, and her eyes narrow as they flick to the rearview mirror.
“What?!” I look over my shoulder to see two black SUVs speeding toward us. Small arms fire ricochets off the car as Araceli executes evasive maneuvers.
She seems to read my mind. “I’m pretty sure that’s my old boss. Those security assholes you tangled with back at the castle probably snitched.”
“And you weren’t exaggerating. That Hephaestus guy’s armor is primo,” she notes appreciatively as small arms fire pings off the A8’s body and rear window like BBs.
“He’s the best damned engineer and artisan in Olympus. Anything less than high velocity .50 caliber rounds are harmless,” I assure her.
“Like that .50 cal?” she asks, as a heavy long gun pokes from the lead SUV’s sunroof.
Just then, one of those high-velocity rounds slams into our rear window, starring it, but not penetrating. The window can’t take another round like that. As my ears ring, the perfect plan comes to me. One that will get us out of this jam and take Araceli off her previous employer’s radar.
“Remember that stuff about teleporting?” I ask as I lay my hand on her shoulder.
We wink out of existence, but not before I simultaneously detonate the gas tank and yank the steering wheel to send the car on a collision course with a bridge pylon.
The bad guys watch as the exploding Audi crashes into the bridge.
Meanwhile, we wink into existence in a dark dead-in alley in Dallas’s Deep Ellum district.
“What the fu—Uargggh.” Araceli’s rant cuts short, replaced by the sound of her puking. She glares at me, leaning against a grimy alley wall, totally tapped out. “I don’t know whether to thank you or shoot you.”
“You don’t have a gun,” I point out. “And like I said…sorry. Mortals don’t handle teleportation well.”
“No shit,” she spits as she stands shakily and looks around. “Now what?”
“Now, you help me across the street to that bar. I’ll get us an Uber to my place.”
“You know, this the second time in 24 hours I’ve had to carry you. If this is a regular part of the job, you should really consider losing weight,” she smirks.
“Hey! Muscle mass is heavy. Heavier than fat.”
As the two hobble across the street, a piece of cardboard leaning against a dumpster pushes back. A man looks out from his hiding spot, eyes wide with terror and confusion at what he’d just seen. He has a shock of white nappy hair that stands up on his head in a parody of a low rent Don King. The junkie struggles to his feet and takes a hard look at the syringe he’d been about to use. He drops it and grinds it beneath his foot, muttering, “That’s it. I’m out.”