The room was silent. Roderigo sat in his chair, his hands folded under his chin, staring at the White Flame as it rested on the coffee table. Even with sword inside its scabbard, he could see heat shimmer in the air above it. For a moment, Roderigo wondered why the sword didn’t burn the table, but that line of thought gave way to what Fiona had just told them.
He turned his gaze toward the others. Pepper was alone, standing by the kitchen door and nursing a can of Vanilla Blitz. Carlton sat on the arm of the couch, eyeing his weapon cache. Steven was clearly uneasy, and his eyes darted nervously around the room. The entire room seemed tense, and was filled with a foreboding atmosphere that was steadily worsening. When it became unbearable, it was Carter who broke the silence.
“Twitch?” he asked, attempting to maintain a stoic facade. It was betrayed by the hint of dread in his tone.
“Yes,” Fiona said. “And she knows that I know.”
“How?” Carlton asked.
“A look,” Jacob said. “A change in her heart rate, a deepening of her breath, anything really. And it could be so subtle that none of us would pick it up. Her mind isn’t limited the way ours is…. She designed us. She’s probably more familiar with how we work than we could ever hope to be, and that’s assuming she can’t read our minds.”
“That’s a terrifying thought,” Steven said. “A god that eats people, reading minds…. Yeah, I really hope not.”
“We should kill her,” Pepper said. The others stared in disbelief. “It’s her, or the whole world, right? It’s not technically murder, killing a god… and honestly, I’d rather have life in prison than see everyone I know die.”
“Bad idea,” Roderigo replied. “You’re talking about killing a god, one who we know is capable of wiping out the planet on a moment’s notice. Nothing we do could take her by surprise. If we go after her, she will kill us without breaking a sweat.”
“You’re immortal,” Pepper said. “You can’t die.”
“We don’t know that for sure,” Roderigo said. “And If that’s the case, then it stands to reason that she can’t either. Either way, you can, and considering what we know now, are you looking forward to that? Besides, we have a more pressing issue: Ash and Sabbath are living alone, with her. We need to get them out of that house before she turns on them.”
“That won’t be easy,” Carter said. “He thinks he’s her father… and technically, he’s right. He won’t leave her behind without a good reason. If we tell him what we know, it will just convince him that we’re delusional. Not even my reputation would would help us.”
Pepper tossed her can in the trash. “What about your sword?” she asked. Carter rubbed his eyes in frustration. “You got it for a reason. Use it to take the bitch out.”
“You mean the Saloi-Asyai?” Jacob asked, motioning toward the weapon. “It can’t do that. It’s a weapon of containment–a seal with a blade. The best we can hope for is to trap her inside, and even then the wielder would need a great deal of power to get the task done. We have no reason to believe Roderigo has is capable of that.”
“I really don’t think killing her is the solution anyway,” Carlton said. All eyes turned to him. “There’s Blades, and then there’s that… thing in the pictures. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s coming here. That creature is going to pose a very real problem for this town–we should deal with it first, and then take care of Blades afterward. We can discuss what to do about Dheania once they’re out of the picture.”
“You do remember the prophecy said that the ‘kings of the ocean’ will take care of it, right?” Pepper asked. “Besides, the thing’s huge. The Coast Guard–better yet, the Navy–can handle it. Leave it to them.”
“Absolutely, not,” Roderigo said. “Even if you convinced them it exists, it would just be an animal to them. They won’t consider it a threat until it’s already killed people. In all honesty, we at least know that it’s not an animal. That alone makes us the first line against it.” He grabbed his coffee off the end table and took a sip. “It’s a bad idea either way. I doubt we can get our hands on anything powerful enough to kill that thing, even if we burn cash.”
“There’s always slugs,” Carlton said. “I don’t mean deer, bear or boar rounds either. I’m talking Paradox loads. Imagine a .73 caliber chunk of heat-treated, hardcast lead traveling at about twelve-hundred feet per second. They’re dangerous game rounds–they were developed by the British army to tackle elephants and rhinos. And the modern imitation rounds can do even more damage, although you have to know where to look to grab them.”
“That might work,” Carter said. “But you’d have to get it to breach the surface. Which means we’ll need you to steer.”
“I figured you and Steven could do the shooting,” Carlton said.
“Why not Rod?” Pepper asked. “He’s trained for watercraft combat, and he knows how to handle heavy weapons. Steven doesn’t have any experience with that kind of recoil, and Grandpa has arthritis. At least with Roderigo, you could limit the loss of life.”
“That’s definitely true,” Carlton said, “but I think we’d have better luck if we left Roderigo to deal with Ash. Since we’ve established that talking to him won’t work, we’ll have to show him. And for that, we need someone who can pull off a miracle.” Carlton leaned back against the wall, propping his legs up on the couch. “As for Carter, there’s a few things about him you and Fiona don’t know. I think he can handle a few blows to the shoulder, at least better than the rest of us can.”
Carter closed his eyes halfway and leaned back in his chair. He gave a silent, solitary nod of agreement before resting his temple on his knuckles. He wasn’t sure how Carlton found out about his time in Brazil, but it didn’t matter to him at the moment. Carlton had long since earned his trust.
“And Steven?” Pepper replied. “I know Steven can shoot, but you’re talking at least fifty pounds of recoil with that round. That’s enough to dislocate a person’s shoulder. You won’t be able to teach him how to handle that overnight.”
“I don’t intend to,” Carlton said. “Steven’s more than comfortable with the .30-06. We can always get our hands on some surplus steel-core ammo and pair it with the Garand. Those rounds can blow a hole in an engine block, so they’ll be able to do some serious damage. If nothing else, he can just stick to the more obvious spots, and make potshots at the throat and eye.”
“Even then,” Fiona said, “if we do kill them, they’re just harrows. Dheania can replace them. If we try to take her on, she’ll just kill us. And we know what happens afterward.”
“So what?” Steven asked. “What if all we do is kill a couple of monsters and die? We’ve known all our lives that our day was coming–none of this changes that. We owe it to ourselves to make some kind of noise. Maybe if we’re lucky, someone higher up on the food chain might take notice.”
There was a moment of silence as the group considered Carlton’s idea. As Carlton placed a cigarette in his mouth, he continued to smile as the room that was once filled with tension began to lighten once more. Soon the silence was broken as Roderigo spoke up; in a nearly ironic tone he said, “That’s the best idea I’ve heard all day.”