Helena stepped into the living room and was surprised to find Matt still there. The thirteen year old had knocked off his shoes and was lying across the couch playing with his phone.
“What are you still doing here?” she asked.
Matt glanced over bored, “Attempting to get Ethan to do something other than sulk. He’s being unresponsive.”
Helena frowned, “Wouldn’t it be easier to make him do something if you were with him?”
Matt nodded, “Yes, but he refuses to divulge his location and I don’t want to walk to his place only to find out he’s at Rob’s or something.” he swiped his screen, “According to this article, I’m in a fantasy novel.”
“Really.” She took a seat on the chair across next to him.
“It says that if there are only two religions and one of them is being a Viking, it’s a sign that you are in a fantasy novel.”
She shook her head, “There are more than two religions and you are not a Viking.”
He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, “What? Just because I’ve never gotten my pillage on, I’m not a Viking?”
She smiled, “I think there’s more to being a Viking than pillaging.”
He rolled his eyes, “Shows what you know.”
His phone beeped and buzzed, and he quickly flicked across screens before sighing.
“Not Ethan. Just my valet…” he murmured, trailing off. He stared at the screen confused.
“What is it?” Helena asked.
“My valet sent me a text saying ‘CR230’. What the hell is CR230?” Matt said only half to Helena.
“Could it be a mistake? A missent message intended for someone else?” She asked as her brain started to wheel it’s way through possible meanings.
Matt shook his head, “No. Well, I hope not. He still punishes himself for silly mistakes and he doesn’t have anyone else’s number as far as I know.”
Thoughts froze in Helena’s head, “Wait, when you say valet-”
“I mean my personal organ donor.”
She flinched, “I thought Rob was joking when he told me about that.”
“Oh, no. Varick is very serious about my living forever in some form or another. I understand he bought Jake on discount. Or he killed his parents, I’ve never been clear on it.” he put down the phone and stared up at the ceiling, “What is he trying to say? Something he can’t let Varick know, but he thinks I should know…”
Helen took a deep breath, “Okay, ‘CR’… Country Road?”
“We have country roads?”
“Right, wouldn’t use that term. Uh, chromium?” She suggested.
“The ‘r’ is upper case, if it was Chromium is would be lower case. And I think it’s like twenty four on the periodic table or something.”
“You know the periodic table?”
“I know metals,” he glanced over at her, “remember: Viking.”
Helena laughed slightly as she stood up and started to pace, “Okay, let’s look at this differently. Your valet knows you, so he’d go for something you’d understand, something you’d relate to.”
“I’m following.” Matt replied sitting up.
“So, what have you done in the last few days that starts with the letter ‘C’?”
His eyes glazed over, “Saw a movie, could be called a cinema, but I didn’t tell him about that. Had some carrots… Cookies last night after we found Ethan had broken into my room.”
“Ethan broke into your room?” Helena asked, “How?”
Matt shrugged. “He flew. Pissed Jacob off. He demanded to know how he’d done it. Apparently he just flew up to the roof and hopped down.”
Helena frowned, “Did anyone see him?”
“I doubt it. No one looks up at the mansion. God forbid someone calls a drone strike on us.”
“You don’t have exterior cameras?”
“Of course. There’s a camera right…” Matt paused, “There’s a camera pointing at that window. It’s section thirty of roof two.”
Helena looked at him confused, “Your uncle’s house has thirty cameras just on roof ‘two’?”
He shrugged, “It’s less of a house and more of a compound.”
“So your uncle really does run a secretive cult on a compound.” Her concern about what she’d heard about Varick’s organization was growing. The Gatekeepers knew about them but had never interacted. It hadn’t seemed like the “Aesir” would be involved in anything the Gatekeepers would be concerned with.
“Yes.” Matt replied distractedly.
“Why does he let you leave?” she paused, “Matt?”
He started “Oh, I just did one day.”
“I just left.” He shrugged, “I’m the chosen one. He can’t contradict me in public. I want to do something I just wait until I’m in public to ask. Well, I guess it more like telling.”
“What about when you aren’t in public?” Helena asked slowly.
“It’s Southern California, that’s plenty of an excuse to go shirtless.” he frowned, “Not that most of my worshipers seem to need to see anything. I’ve had to stop them from prosecuting thought crimes before. And by thought crime I mean thinking not just a kid.”
“You are a kid.”
“You shouldn’t visit the compound.” he said typing on his phone and putting it to his ear. “Oh, you picked up!” He said sarcastically, “Took you long enough.”
He rolled his eyes as he listened to the response before interrupting, “Varick knows you have wings.”
Helena could hear the response, “How?”
“Cameras on the roof.” Matt answered, “Where are you?” he waited, “Ethan?”
He expression fell, “Defend yourself.”
“What’s going on?” Helena asked.
“He’s being followed.” Matt said, switching back to the phone “Helena. I’m at Reinhardt Manor.” he paused, “Doesn’t matter. Go to a public place. Defend yourself. Do not let them take you.”
“Take him where?” Helena asked.
Matt looked at her nervously, “I don’t know. I know Varick has a place. He doesn’t talk to me about it.”
“Research. Experimentation. I think he’s trying to make superhumans,” Matt said, his voice shaking slightly, “Sometimes I wonder if he’ll decide I’m too much work and put me there.”
“But your people-”
“Not all of them believe. There’s a whole subset that knows it’s a load of crock. They’re loyal to Varick and could make me disappear in an instant.”
He switched back to the phone, “Ethan? Ethan? Line’s dead.”
“Varick knows you have wings.”
Ethan nearly walked into a telephone pole. Why hadn’t those been replaced with something that didn’t take space on a sidewalk?
“Cameras on the roof,” Matt said matter-a-factly, “Where are you?”
He hadn’t been thinking about it before, but that man behind him, how long had he been there? Josh had taught him how to tell if someone was following you, it was a concern as they might have lived as hobos, but Josh had money.
“Ethan?” Matt repeated.
“I think I’m being followed.” He whispered in to the phone, “What do I do?”
“Defend yourself.” Matt said instantly. Ethan could hear him repeating to someone else in the room.
“Who are you talking to?”
“Helena. I’m at Reinhardt Manor.”
“What are you doing there?”
“Doesn’t matter.” Matt said, “Go to a public place. Defend yourself. Do not let them take you.”
“Where would they take me?” Ethan asked, his pulse racing as he rapidly headed towards the closest shopping center. It wasn’t too much further.
Matt wasn’t answering, he was saying something to Helena.
That wasn’t the bad news. His tail knew he was onto them. He’d sped up too much.
The one behind him came up and he smashed his phone into his attacker’s face.
It was a surprise, Ethan hadn’t even turned until he did it and realized he had two more men running towards him.
He remembered what Rob had told him about drawing in power just in case they can prevent you from connecting to the local source of aether. He automatically shifted his feet and braced for the charging men. He assumed he looked ridiculous, but they both hesitated slightly as they ran towards him.
Perhaps they has some sort of intuition, since as both come up on him, he shove them back, further than he expected. Ethan barely had a chance to turn before a fourth attacker came from the other direction.
The angle was wrong and he had terrible leverage as the man tried to choke hold him sideways. Ethan clawed at the man’s waist in vain, only to find himself dowsed in blood. The man let him go, stumbling back and attempting to hold his insides in.
The others were recovering from the initial assault, except for the one who’d taken the phone to his face. That guy was just a bloody mess on the ground.
His wings wanted out, he felt like they’d intimidate them more, but that would be a terrible idea. It was the middle of the day, if someone saw him they’d likely shoot him.
One of the men stood up and reached for a gun.
Ethan’s wings decided he was an idiot. They burst out of his shirt to their full length and with a single flap he was nearly in the air. Nearly because the man had dropped his gun and grabbed hold of Ethan’s leg.
Honestly, he barely knew what he was doing flying. His own weight wasn’t that bad, but a grown man on him was more than he could hold. He mentally cursed Josh for not explaining how to set things on fire. Rob too, that was like his thing.
Even with the man on his leg it was only a matter of time. Once he was in the air it would be easy to make him drop. Or to crash entirely.
He’d forgotten about the other man until the dart hit him.
His last thoughts were the obvious realization: they wanted him alive.
“What do we do?” Matt asked frantically, “What can we do?”
Helena pull out her own phone and considered it momentarily, “They’re going to take him. We can probably track him, but they’ll just take him again.”
Matt was pacing around the room, his emotions were causing the pictures to rattle on the wall.
“The full force of the Aesir will track him anywhere he goes. My uncle makes it seem like we’re a small organization, but we’re much larger than he lets on. He has as private army hidden somewhere. I don’t think he lets them outside.”
Helena smiled with inspiration, “The Aesir worship you because you’re part Aesir, right?”
“Yeah, so?” Matt asked glancing over at her.
Her smile broadened, “Asgard exists.”