Astoria: In Chaos – Part One

This story is set somewhere after the events of Hydra’s Season 2, but before he gets hitched to ‘MC’ (who is actually Jazz in this instance). Der, Miho is the NEW MC.


DAY X

Miho rounded the corner with a spring in her step, but came to a sudden, jarring halt.

Before her stood a man she thought she’d never see again – a source of deep, agonising love, deep pain and terrible trepidation.

As if he too was surprised, Hades simply stood staring at her, though with far less confusion than she – after all, he had been doing the searching, and she the hiding.

Careful to not yet move, he studied her eyes, locked with his. Those hazel meres had once held such strength, a powerful, noble and idealistic passion he’d thought immutable, but now the light seemed all but gone. She was exhausted, her skin far paler than he had ever seen, her hair dull, her lips a slowly parting line of anguish he had carved there himself.

When finally he moved his hand, just the slightest of forward motions, she flinched back a step, poised to flee.

“Miho wait,” he said quickly – not quite a gasp or a hiss, not quite a barking command, but clearly conveying the urgency of his entreaty.

Her lips began to tremble, and the sea rushed to fill her eyes with waves barely held in check.

“You have no idea,” she began, her voice a mere and shaking whisper, “how much I have wanted, to hear you say my name…”

There she paused, as the knife drawing new blood from her already tattered heart, also cut deep ravines across her brow.

“… and how much I have feared it,” she finished on little more than a desperate breath.

But as she inhaled she drew herself up.

“I am so tired, so empty – just a frayed, threadbare effigy of my former self you set on fire,” she asserted through her teeth, “but I am not going back. I will not surrender – so stop hunting me.”


DAYS 1 to 5

Once upon a time, idealistic me thought exposing and telling the truth was all that mattered. Lies, white or any other colour of the spectrum, were the root of all evil, chaos and discontent, and as a crusader, what I wanted most was to play my part in revealing them.

For justice.

For transparency.

For equity.

So good could prevail.

Well, I was an idiot, like most young zealots – blinded by self-righteousness and the lofty stature of my moral high horse.

I had cast aside the nay-sayers who told me journalism was a highly competitive fist-fight over the scraps of humanity, and set my sparkling, innocent eyes on uncovering corruption, slashing my way through subterfuge, and sticking it to the powerful who thought the ‘little guy’ was inconsequential.

Au contraire!

As one of those negligible blips in an ever shifting city, I was determined to prove it only took effort and perseverance to make a positive impact in the world. So I slogged my way through cat-up-tree stories, to burst water-mains and traffic chaos, from teacher strikes to criminal vandalism. From there it wasn’t long before I had my claws into theft and assault, and I was wolfishly eyeing off which local politician looked like he or she harboured a deep, dark secret. And I’d lived in Astoria my whole life, so I knew it like the back of my hand.

Except neighbourhoods are a whole lot more complicated than hands.

Hell, you can’t always see what’s really happening in the light, so you can forget about what’s lurking in the darkness… unless you’re a stupidly passionate investigative reporter looking for wrongs to right. Because if you’re anything like me, that leads you down dark alleys and into underground clubs, through seedy bars choked with smoke and into dens filled with monsters far worse than anything humanity really has to offer.

I stumbled into a labyrinth, resolute I’d find the bare facts at the centre – even if that meant I’d never find my way out.

But was I lost? Hell no!

Nope… wasn’t lost.

Not even once.

Knew my way back at any time.

Yep.

Back at my desk in three… two…

DAY 6

Miho had run three blocks flat-chat, and when she finally skidded to a halt felt like she might vomit. Seeing her objective in front of her, however, swept away the nausea and refocused her mind on the goal of her mid-morning sprint.

There was a bloody great hole in the north end of Vernon Boulevard, rimming with jagged asphalt, concrete and dirt, but a cordon had already begun to take shape stopping traffic in both directions and access to Hallets Cove Playground.

“Regular cops,” she noted, still listening through one earbud to the police scanner she had tucked into her handbag.

As she looked for a way to get closer, she stretched out with her ‘reporter senses’, a preternatural ability to spot even the most seemingly insignificant detail.

No broken water mains here, not stranded cats, but also no bodies, no crashed cars, no smoke – just this ridiculous crater like something had exploded in the middle of the street.

“No bomb squad,” she murmured, slowly weaving through a group of curious bystanders toward the playground.

East River lapped gentle at the nearby dilapidated jetty, and for a moment Miho considered a brief swim might be her best way beyond the crime scene tape.

“Get back,” a policewoman growl somewhere to Miho’s right, and when her eyes turned she found a familiar figure.

“Come on,” the man grumbled, “just a few pictures; no one’s hurt right?”

“Thank you Rodger Mallard,” Miho grinned, as the other officer manning the boundary moved to assist his colleague in fending off Miho’s competitor.

She did not waste the opportunity.

Quickly she slid to the wire fence, and with her bag looped over one shoulder, she scaled the obstacle.

“They’re not here yet,” she grinned after a quick scan, and dug her phone out to begin taking photos.

What she found were several other craters like the one on the road, but she was more intrigued by the gaping great hole in the closest building. It looked like a car, or perhaps something a little taller, had crash through one wall, and continued right through and out the other side; but when Miho followed what looked to be the trajectory toward the water, she found no tyre tracks, and the undamaged play equipment between the building and the river indicated whatever had caused the destruction had stopped, or at the very least changed direction at a very sharp angle.

“You again,” came an irritated voice behind Miho.

She dodged away from the sound before looking back, a habit she’d developed after being nabbed for trespassing far too many times. As a result, the hand that had indeed reached for her swiped through the empty space where she’d been standing; it was only after she’d skipped forward and to the right a little, that she turned to look at the man who’d spoke.

Ice blue and fierce in his displeasure.

“I could say the same thing,” she smirked, backing up a little more as she tucked her phone into her pocket. “I’d say it’s nice to see you again, but you and yours have a habit of getting in the way of my stories.”

“Maybe if the tabloids had a little more respect for the victims of criminal damage, we wouldn’t have to,” he pointed out, matching her retreat with steady steps forward.

Miho became aware there was also a female figure approaching from the left, one she also recognised.

“Throw me a crumb and I’ll back off,” Miho volleyed. “What caused this damage maybe? Or how about, the name of the authority you belong to?”

Again she sidestepped when this time the woman reached for her, practiced footwork.

“How about your names so I at least know who keeps covering up these weird crimes,” she added.

Working his jaw, the man looked to his female compatriot almost as if for permission, and Miho saw the slight shake of her head.

“Fine,” he huffed, but it wasn’t in response to Miho’s request.

Suddenly he burst toward her, and it was only by a narrow margin that Miho was able to evade. If he caught her, her phone and the pictures she took would almost certainly be confiscated, and that just wouldn’t do.

As if being chased by a monster, Miho bolted for the gates of the park, even though they were closed and she could see the tall black screening this anonymous group of cover-up agents used to shroud their sites. Even if there were others on the other side, she was confident she could avoid them since she had the element of surprise.

But a tall, broad figure stepped from concealment and through the gates just as Miho reached them, and there was simply no time to stopped. Heavily she collided with the man’s solid chest, and rebounded with such force she was throw inelegantly to the ground.

Gasping and reeling from the shock of the impact, Miho sat dazed long enough for her two pursuers to catch up and block her in, but it was the shadow that had fallen over her that drew her attention.

He was also not unknown to her; she had seen him arrive at many of the other mysteriously cordoned off crime scenes over the last few months, though she had no name for him either.

“Miss Fujiwara,” he stated – a smooth baritone filled with disapproval. “This is becoming something of an inconvenient habit.”

This was the closest she’d ever been to him, and now just a couple of feet away, the magnitude of his presence momentarily strangled the witticism that begged to leave her lips.

And when she found her tongue, her first words to him were.

“Lilac hair. Bold choice.”

“Get up,” the man behind her hissed, taking her under the arm and lifting her up.

“Hey, watch where you’re putting those hands,” she protested, but did not struggle, for it seemed her muscles were paralysed by the luminescent amethysts bearing down upon her.

Eyes, two pools of liquid stardust reaching to some powerful place beyond her understanding.

Her bag, everything within it including her phone, was taken by the black suit-clad woman, while Miho continued to stare up.

“It seems you have me at a bit of a disadvantage,” she managed finally, but her voice emerged much smaller than she meant it to. “More than one, actually. If you’re going to take my stuff, maybe you could exchange it for your name? A badge maybe?”

“Hades,” he answered plainly.

“Sir?” the woman queried, her chin lifting quickly.

“Please show Miss Fujiwara to the correct side of the barrier, Agent Mann,” Hades prompted.

“Is that Mr. Hades? Dr. Hades? Officer Hades?” Miho pressed, seeming to snap out of the spell Hades’ had her under, thanks perhaps to the shove given to her my Agent Mann.

“Come on,” Agent Mann urged with an exasperated sigh.

“Come oooon!” Miho called back over her shoulder. “Professor Hades? How about Reverend Hades?”

“Reverend Hades,” Hydra smirked, when Agent Mann and Miho had disappeared from sight. “If only she knew.”

“It’s our job to ensure she doesn’t,” Hades pointed out coolly.

Though there was no longer any question about who it was Agent Mann had chosen as her lover, there was still no love lost between the god and the monster.

“Then why did you give her your name?” Hydra pursued, bristling a little.

“I hope giving her something might sate her long enough for at least this matter to be resolved,” Hades answered, but Hydra was shaking his head even half way through Hades’ sentence.

“That one’s a bloodhound, and in case her showing up at every crime scene we’ve been called to doesn’t clue you in, she’s persistent too,” Hydra told him, a little heat creeping into his tone. “She’s going to continue being a pest until we do something about it.”

“And what, precisely, would you suggest?” Hades enquired, his arms slowly moving until they were crossed over his chest.

“Silence her,” Hydra answered flatly, “or at the very least her voice.”

“You focus on who’s carving up the neighbourhood,” Hades instructed. “Leave Miss Fujiwara to me.”

Though she tried every persuasive trick she knew in the book, Miho was unable to get the ‘suits’ to return her bag and phone until Hades himself strode to the edge of the barricade.

She pouted sourly when he held out her handbag and she saw the police scanner was gone.

“I don’t suppose you left me any pictures?” she grumbled rhetorically.

“No,” Hades answered curtly, then lifted a brow when Miho looked up at him with a suddenly sweet smile and fluttered her eyelashes.

“Phone number? The hair is totally growing on me.”

“It is in your best interests to not interfere with any further investigations,” he told her firmly, watching as her hands crept to her hips.

“I’d consider it, if I knew who exactly was doing the investigating, Hades,” she suggested.

“This isn’t a negotiation,” he countered calmly, but Miho wasn’t yet done.

“You only say that because you think I’ve nothing to offer,” she grinned.

Hades shifted his feet.

“Is that your modus operandi, Miss Fujiwara? Sexual favours for inside stories?”

Miho’s grin widened, her eyes laughing.

“I don’t know how you figured I was offering sexual favours,” she chuckled. “The conclusion you jumped to out of hope, perhaps?”

At this Hades blinked – in surprise at her gall? Astonishment he’d walked right into it?

Seriousness suddenly reshaped Miho’s expression as she shifted gears.

“Damage like that has been appearing around Astoria for a week now,” she declared – like he didn’t know. “Huge holes in solid concrete, brick and asphalt with no evidence of heavy digging equipment, vehicular impact or explosives, and no evident pattern or motive, so I, and local residents would like more of an explanation than nothing to see here and don’t interfere.”

“I understand your frustration, but for your safety…” Hades began, but Miho cut him off sharply.

“I don’t feel safe in a city where pseudo-authorities, suits, relieve actual law-enforcers of their jurisdiction, and refuse answers to the tax-paying citizens who live in fear,” she growled.

“Hydra was right about her,” Hades thought a little bitterly, then spoke, drawing himself up and pressing out with his presence. “You don’t look very afraid,”

“I’m…” Miho began, her teeth bared, when it suddenly felt as if the man before her had grown ten feet, and could somehow squash her like a bug. “…not.”

“Take this as your final warning,” Hades told her, his voice shuddering its way through her skin. “Do not interfere in any further investigations of any kind. The consequences of failing to heed this will be unpleasant.”

“Threats now?” she responded through her teeth, glaring fiercely though Hades could see her trembling slightly.

“Yes,” he affirmed plainly, then stepped back and headed once more behind the barriers.

For several minutes Miho remained standing, stuck to the spot in an attempt to slow the thundering of her heart.

“What the hell,” she exhaled finally, a whispery, raspy sound.

Slowly she broke free of the spell that had rendered her immobile, and the anger began to bubble again.

“Who does he think he is with his ridiculous I just want to be trendy earring, and that unicorn, fairy-floss dye job?” she fumed.

So much for threats.

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