Astoria: In Chaos – Part Seven

Though Miho laughed, Cyprin was clearly trying not to hit out at Hydra with their aura.

“Hydra!” Jazz barked, and he momentarily stopped.

Jazz,” he acknowledged, licking his lips.

Oh, how she knew that look.

“What’s going on?” Cyprin managed, straightening out their clothing.

“Everyone is the building is on heat,” Miho chimed in, even as Jazz fended Hydra off and warned him to calm down.

“How about you then?” Hydra leered, side stepping Jazz and grabbing Miho’s wrist faster than either she or Jazz could intervene.

“No thanks,” Miho laughed, but his grip tightened and he nudged her against the wall.

“Hydra!” Jazz growled, reaching for him as Miho protested again.

“Get off!” she snapped, no longer laughing, no longer smiling.

His face grew closer, a split second from contact when Miho spoke the second syllable lept from her lips, Hydra stalled.

Blinking like he’d just woken, Hydra had very little time to consider his proximity to Miho, before Jazz pulled him back so hard he stumbled across the office.

“Jeez,” Miho exhaled heavily, slumping a little.

“What the hell?” Hydra gasped, touching his mouth with the back of his hand like he’d actually kissed Miho.

“Yeah,” Miho agreed, looking back out into the hallway to find the semi-naked threesome participants sitting up and looking dazed, then horrified.

“Agent Mann,” Cyprin prompted. “Whatever just happened is going ot have substantial fallout.”

Nodding, Jazz glanced at Miho.

“You okay?”

Fabulous,” Miho replied. “Not sure how, but if I can do something to help with the mop… up…”

Yeah… ew… that wasn’t really what she meant.

“Let’s get on with critical incident protocol,” Cyprin said. “You’re welcome to assist Agent Mann, Miss Fujiwara,” they added.

“Just stay close,” Jazz told her and Miho inclined her head. “That came out of nowhere…”

He he, get it, came out of nowhere?

“… there’s no telling what else might happen.”

“Frogs from the sky,” Miho murmured.

For the rest of the day, Miho worked with Jazz, consoling distraught HERA staff, assessing their needs, and filling out referral documents for appropriate services. It was rewarding when you put aside the bizarreness of what had occurred. At the end of the day, there was still no explanation as to what caused everyone to suddenly become so horny they couldn’t resist one another; all HERA knew, was it had occurred locally, spreading no further than the building.

Day 31

Agents and administrative staff were understandably reserved the following day, edgy, wondering if some unseen force would drive them toward lewd acts again – or worse.

Miho had slept through the same dream of being chased by Zeus and friends to the whooshing, rhythmic sound from above.

In a tangle of blankets she woke with a start and nearly fell from the bunk. Breathing heavily, she took some time to calm herself before getting dressed. She’d always managed on her own, lived on her own, been fine on her own, but now she found herself wishing she could wake beside Hades… and not just because the ‘wake up’ was amazing.

She greeted Jazz with a yawn and went through the motions of a yawn, before asking if she could spend some time with Mieke in achieves.

“Cyprin wants me investigating what happened yesterday,” Jazz told her.

“The archives are pretty well guarded though, right?” Miho pressed. “Should be fine, and it’s like you said, Zeus would be an idiot to attack the building head on.”

“After yesterday I’m not leaving anything to chance,” Jazz said, ignoring Miho’s sigh. “Don’t tell me you’re stir crazy already.”

“Not stir crazy,” Miho frowned, “just – I don’t have a whole lot of friends, and it would be nice to at least see the one I can talk to about all this stuff. I also need to make sure she’s okay after yesterday.”

“Send her a message, she can meet us for P.T. this morning,” Jazz compromised.

“P.T.? Doing what?”

“Cardio and weights in the gym, sparring, then swimming,” Jazz listed, and Miho stretched her arms above her head.

“You and me, sparing?” she grinned. “No auras though, that would be cheating.”

“Sure,” Jazz smiled, accepting the challenge.

Naturally, Jazz knocked Miho on her ass a whole number of times – her training making her far superior to a mere journalist – but that wasn’t to say Miho didn’t have her moments. Mieke cheered and grinned when Miho pulled a number of dirty tricks to gain the upper hand, and in the face of criticism declared when it came to physical combat there should be no rules.

“Normal baddies don’t play by the rules,” she argued, stepping out of the women’s change room with both other women behind her, “I don’t imagine the godly monster kind would be any different.”

“It’s not about rules,” Jazz argued, “rather technique.”

“I have technique,” Miho laughed.

“Dirty fighting is not a technique,” Jazz persisted. “You know as an agent here, you’ll have to pass a number of physical tests.”

“So you accepted the offer?” Mieke queried, looking happy.

Luckily for her, yesterday had been her day off, so she’d not been caught up in the libido incident.

“More or less,” Miho nodded, dipping her toe in the luke warm water of the indoor swimming pool. “We got a little distracted, what with Zeus and all.”

Her comment was flippant, but Mieke knew her well enough to see the vague shadow of uncertainty in Miho’s eyes.

Perhaps to hide this fact, Miho lined herself up with the edge of the pool, and arched a graceful dive. Her body broke the surface, but the impact was a little harder than it should have been, not because she had misaligned her entry, but because the water was…

“Wha!” Miho gasped, struggling to the blue, giggling surface and grappling for the pool’s edge.

“Is that…” Jazz began, but Mieke finished for her as she helped pull Miho to safety.

“Jello.”

“I like jello as much as the next person,” Miho said, trying to wring the sticky goop from her hair, “but only if naked men are wrestling in it.”

Though they might have liked to ponder that a little more, or at the very least access the Tres Spades Jello Tournament fiction, Jazz contacted Cyprin while Mieke went to change and Miho slipped into a shower stall.

Except when she turned the taps, a steady blue stream of sloppy jello emerged.

“Uuuuugh,” she growled, stomping out and turning on one of the basin taps to find much the same. “Great, guess I’m staying sticky.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Mieke snickered, and Miho swatted her backside.

“I’d have thought HERA would have some kind of protection against stuff like this,” she grumbled.

“I’m not sure anyone anticipated water turning to jello,” Mieke argued, handing Miho a towel.

“Looks like the whole building has been affected,” Jazz reported, striding back into the change room. “Toilets blocked…”

“Showers useless,” Miho huffed.

“… catering is in an uproar,” Jazz finished.

“On the bright side, the jello isn’t trying to hump anyone,” Miho added.

Later that day in Cyprin’s office, they confirmed agents had been unable to discover the origin of the power that had unceremoniously transformed the building’s water to blue jello. Though once again it had only affected the single HERA building – not the primary building, and none of the agents reported anything offsite – the daily operations of the organisation were seriously impeded.

And it didn’t get much better.

When furniture started to move around on its own as if alive – fridges chasing people out of kitchens, chairs refusing to be sat on, tables rolling onto their backs – there was no way work could be done in the building, and most HERA employee were forced to evacuate.

This included Miho and Jazz, who – with armed agents just in case – left for Jazz’s apartment. A black town-car drove carefully in front of them, and there was also one at their flank; their presence actually made her more nervous.

“My very own motorcade,” she smirked, burying her apprehension behind her smile.

“Don’t let it go to your head,” Jazz sniffed.

“Oh believe me, I’d prefer we could do our thing without the need for armed guards,” Miho declared. “And, well, thank you for letting me stay at your place. I know Hydra only didn’t put up a fuss because of what happened yesterday.”

It wasn’t like Miho was rude, but it seemed a bit out of character for her to thank Jazz just like that; Jazz looked at her sideways just brief, and found Miho peering back at her honestly.

“You’re welcome,” Jazz smiled. “We moved to a bigger apartment not so long ago so, he’ll be there later but you probably won’t notice him unless something happens.”

“If Zeus messes up your apartment, I’ll kick his ass,” Miho huffed, and Jazz laughed.

“You’ll have to get in li…”

The conclusion of her sentence was swallowed by a monstrous flash of lightning that hit the lead car, but it was hardly normal lightning. Before Jazz’s reflexes could kick in, the car in front leapt into the air and was engulfed by flame, flipping on its side.

No matter how quickly Jazz slammed on the brakes, there was no avoiding collision, as their car skidded in the treacherous conditions. Desperately, she lurched across the centre console against the vehicle’s momentum and grabbed hold of Miho as best she could, enveloping them both in Hera’s protective shield a mere split second before impact.

Grimacing against the strain of high velocity metal bending around them, the stress of absorbing the speed at which they hit the other car, Jazz could do little more than close her eyes and concentrate. To them both it seemed as if they moved forever, when in truth their crunching spin lasted but a few second then stopped, before the trailing car hit and slammed them up against a brick building.

When the screaming ceased, and the mangled cabin of their vehicle was filled with the two women panting.

They’re in a car wreck, get your mind out of the gutter!

“You okay?” Jazz hissed, immediately tugging away her seatbelt.

“Okay is not the right word,” Miho gasped. “How are we even still alive? We are alive right?”

“Not for long if we don’t get out,” Jazz growled, swivelling in her chair and beginning to kick at her door. “That was Zeus.”

“Figures,” Miho volleyed, searching for something to break her window that was miraculously still intact.

An old-fashioned steering lock caught her attention, and she stretched to reach it on the floor before swinging as best she could. The roar of further thunder-claps and the accompanying lightning muffled the shatter of glass, but Miho was more concerned about the heat growing from the crumpled bonnet and radiating through where the windshield used to be.

“This way,” she barked, beginning her awkward climb out the window.

And Jazz didn’t hesitate to follow, her mind a blur of what she was going to do after they were both free. Through snow and slush, they scrambled away from their vehicle like it might explode at any moment, but Jazz grabbed Miho and pulled her to a stop when Artemis stepped around one of the burning town-cars.

“I suppose it makes sense you’d be guarding Hades’ pet,” Artemis maligned, stepping slowly, deliberately around what looked to be a smouldering car door. “But what a waste.”

“I am no one’s pet,” Miho spat, her nose wrinkling and her lips drawing back into a sneer.

“Ha!” Artemis laughed. “Hera may as well be a golden cage. You can sing all you like, but they will keep you locked away until you forget how to sing.”

“Complex metaphor,” Miho nodded. “I didn’t expect that from someone so stupid looking.”

“Damnit, Miho,” Jazz hissed through her teeth, urging her backwards until the world flashed and was shook by thunder so close it rattled around inside Miho for some time.

“Get out of the way,” Zeus drawled at Jazz, a man seeming several hundred feet tall though he wasn’t dissimilar in height to Hades.

“You have got to stop whatever you’re doing here, Zeus,” Jazz declared, but her tone leaned toward pleading. “Can’t you see what is happening to the world?”

“You would blame me, when all I ever wanted was the one I love returned to my side!” Zeus growled, lifting his hands.

“Oh shit,” Miho murmured, doing her best to resist the urge to close her eyes, but she jumped against Jazz suddenly, when something abruptly splattered against the ground before them, and it wasn’t Zeus’ wrath.

Unless Zeus’ wrath now looked like a bloody, frog-pancake.

“Is that…” Jazz began, but paused when the sky rained down an amphibious hail of Kermit the Frog’s extended family.

Artemis looked to Zeus, but Zeus’ fierce gaze was fixed on Jazz.

And as the wind picked up and began to dance down the street in whirling dervishes, frog filled tornadoes swept in from both ends of the street.

“Hey! Down here ladies!” came a voice above the frognadoes.

Yeah, frognado.

Dripping with frog guts, a sewer grate to Miho’s left shifted away, and head popped up.

“Quickly!” the figure below urged.

Their pinkish-grey eyes peered up, dark grey, curly hair swishing around strong shoulders. A hand reached for Miho’s ankle, but Miho pulled back, just as Jazz dragged her from the path of an arrow fired by Artemis.

“Or you can stay there and be slaughtered if you’d prefer,” the individual below sniffed dismissively, but Miho had already crouched.

“I’m convinced!” she quipped, dropping her butt into the slush before lowering her legs into the manhole.

“Don’t you dare defy me!” Zeus roared, and more lightning cracked against Jazz’s shield, a violent spray of sparks and peacock feathers attesting to the sheer power Jazz had to resist.

“Hurry, hurry,” the unnamed person muttered, very nearly dragging Jazz into the darkness.

“Ack!” Miho squeaked, movement around her feet suddenly leaping toward the brightness of the manhole, revealing a great torrent of fuzzy rat bodies. “No, no, no, no, I hate rats, not rats, not rats, why did it have to be rats?”

“The rats are your friends,” their rescuer declared, taking Miho’s wrist with one hand, and generating a gentle light that illuminated the narrow sewer tunnel.

The frosty sludge.

The grimy bricks.

And a really, really big crocodile.

“Don’t mind Agnes, she’ll guard our retreat, so less talking and more running.”

Miho was then dragged into motion, and Jazz followed closely behind.

As they travelled at speed, other small critters – including mice and several cats – joined their little procession through the undercity, with Agnes lumbering behind. There was no evidence of pursuit, but such were the twists and turns they took, even if Zeus or Artemis had entered the sewers behind them, Miho thought they would have seriously difficulty locating them.

“Where are we going?” Jazz demanded to know.

“As far from angry Zeus as possible, Hera,” their leader replied.

Of course, this caused Jazz to blinked, for her soul’s identity wasn’t common street knowledge. She chose, however, to say nothing, as the tunnel widened suddenly before them, filled with light emanating from a multitude of tiny, delicate, glowing mushrooms.

Miho might have appreciated the sight, if she wasn’t so out of breath having fled the wrath of top tier gods on a rampage, and that there was now a mouse peeking out from her collar.

“Tea?” the nymph offered blithely as she climbed down a ladder into the surprisingly clean and homely space.

“Who are you?” Miho gasped, nearly losing her footing as she also descended.

“Jackie,” they answered, peeking a little cheekily over their shoulder and tossing Miho a wink.

“Well, that explains everything,” Miho snorted. “But thank you for the assist.”

“I can’t get reception down here,” Jazz scowled, her face dark, her eyes now a little watery; she had – after all – just lost several colleagues.

“So Jackie… you’re a…” Miho prompted, heading to where Jackie had a spotless kitchenette.

“Nymph,” they replied cheerfully. “Chamomile?”

“Yeah, I’m definitely in shock,” Miho grunted, finding herself a place to sit, slumping forward a little and dislodging her little mouse friend.

“You’re safe here,” Jackie assured, chorused by the soft prattle of a boiling kettle. “Zeus is fucking crazy.”

“I need to get in contact with HERA,” Jazz blustered, burying her upset behind a veneer of cold calm, “but there is no reception.”

“There’s a landline over there, go ahead and use it,” Jackie said, pointing over at a retro, circular dial phone. “But best you don’t have them ferreting around down here searching for us, there are all sorts of nasty things.”

Her brow twitching, Jazz lifted the phone receiver from its cradle and began to dial, while Miho stared at her shaking hands.

“How did you even know?” she whispered, and Jackie responded.

“It’s my business to know what’s going on in Astoria,” they answered lightly, carefully handing Miho a steaming mug of sweet-smelling tea. “So when Zeus and Artemis make landfall, I’m there to find out why; aaaand there you are, Hades’ squeeze.”

“How do you even know that?” Miho exhaled, lowering the mug without taking a sip.

Bringing up Hades made her realise, that in such a short time she had come to miss him, that in the aftermath of what she had just escaped, his arms around her was what she wanted most.

“Aw, don’t worry,” Jackie soothed, plopping down beside Miho and putting a slightly muscular arm around her shoulder, “I’m sure Hades, and probably some of the other super gods will high-tail it down here once they learn you and Hera were attacked in the open street like that.”

Turning her head, Miho peered at the nymph closely.

There was a strange, androgynous beauty about them, a near hypnotising depth to their eyes that made Miho forget they were in a sewer – until Jazz let out a loud breath and put the phone receiver down.

“Cyprin thinks it’s too dangerous to go back to the beta HQ right now,” she reported, flicking her braid over her shoulder. “There was nothing officially recorded about our plan, or the route we were taking, so it may be there is a mole in HERA feeding Zeus information.”

“Lovely,” Miho sniffed, cracking her neck. “I hope Hades gets the opportunity really kick Zeus’ ass for this.”

“So,” Jackie prompted, slithering her arm away from Miho, “what’s the plan?”

“Can you get us topside?” Jazz asked, but she assumed since the nymph appeared to live in, and move around through the sewers, they had the ability to get just about anywhere.

“Of course,” they smiled – not arrogantly, but simply proud of their own abilities. “Tell me where you need to be, I’ll get you there.”

“Great, I’ll have Hydra meet us, say, behind Queens Library at Broadway?”

“No problem,” Jackie nodded, and Jazz returned to the phone, presumably to call Hydra.

“So what’s gotten Zeus’ panties in such a twist over you?” Jackie then enquired, focusing back on Miho. “Love triangle?”

At this Miho nearly choked on her own breath.

“Hell no!” she coughed. “Zeus is a grade-A cunt, stomping around with an aura of hubris far bigger than lightning bolts he’s killed HERA agents with,” she spat out, the colour rising in her face.

The increase in volume of her voice also caused various rodents milling around to sit up on their hind legs and look over – black beady eyes curious for a second before…

Butterflies.

All of them with a quiet whooshing noise, ceased to be rats and mice, and began fluttering around the space on delicate, brightly coloured wings making no sounds at all.

“Umm, which one of you was that?” Jackie frowned, scrutinising a lacy opalescent butterfly that had landed on the back of her hand.

“It wasn’t you?” Jazz asked.

“Well don’t look at me,” Miho shrugged, but Jazz was looking at her.

“Okay, coincidence is one thing, but if I ignore all the circumstantial evidence much longer, Miho, readers are going to get pissed off.”

“About friggin’ time I got some super powers,” Miho nodded. “But, my transmutation skills are just as out of practice as my necromancy,” she replied.

“All that happened at HERA HQ, only happened when you were there,” Jazz insisted, narrowing her eyes and batting a couple of fluttering insects away. “And then the frogs on the street? You were there.”

“So were you,” Miho pointed out, peering at her hands like they were the source.

“Hey, frog and butterflies are cool,” Jackie grinned. “Do something else.”

“If it’s me, I’m not doing it on purpose,” Miho admitted. “So in advance, I’m sorry if you end up as a butterfly, or a frog, or a sentient piece of furniture.”

“You’d better no,” Jazz scowled. “As if this isn’t already complicated enough.”

“What was that thing Zeus dug up?” Miho exhaled heavily, shaking her head.

“You know about that?” Jackie piped up, leaning their face closer to Miho.

“You mean, you don’t know?” Miho countered, and Jackie’s brow twitched. “Isn’t it your business to know?”

“Well obviously I won’t know this until you tell me,” Jackie volleyed. “So spill it. What about Chaos?”

“Chaos is right,” Miho sniffed. “Zeus dug up a glowy thing, and now it’s in me.”

“Ooooh, well that’s a whole different level of pain,” Jackie declared, and their expression made Miho feel genuinely uncomfortable. “Zeus stopped flailing about in a tantrum a while ago and started making plans to retake his position at the head of the Pantheon, but he didn’t have enough power, even after recruiting other gods to his cause.”

Though Jazz wanted to get in contact with Hydra as quickly as possible, she couldn’t pass up this kind of information, and began listening intently.

“And where better than in New York to find congealed deposits of Chaos’ energy?” Jackie smiled, like it was all no big deal. “I’ll be honest though,” they continued. “It’s a bit weird you ended up with it – how’d that happen?”

“It just did,” Miho answered. “Hades and I encountered Zeus and friends uncovering this angry ball of light, that then just came at me and… poof…”

Lightly, she tapped her chest.

“It just, seeped in,” she sighed. “Aaand, now it’s apparently frogs and butterflies.”

“Chaos sought you out,” Jackie concluded. “Ouch.”

“Well, how do I get it out?” Miho exhaled, then swallowed.

Jackie shrugged.

“No clue,” they admitted. “But the saying shit happens? Oh, shit is going to happen because of you from now on.”

“Because I needed more of that in my life,” Miho grunted, looking to Jazz. “HERA can help with this right? I mean, Chaos, can’t stay in me, look at the city right now – the last thing it needs is more anarchy.”

“Amen to that,” Jackie agreed. “So, maybe you should get your boy on the horn?”

With a nod, Jazz returned to the phone to contact Hydra, while Miho stared intently at the butterfly sitting on the back of her hand.

“Cheeseburger,” she whispered, flaring at the inset, but it did nothing but slowly flap its wings in contempt. “Bah, I’m not hungry anyway.”

“Understandable,” Jackie smiled sadly. “I doubt any of those HERA guys survived the crash.”

“Way to make me feel better, Jackie,” Miho grumbled, lifting her eyes to focus on Jazz.

Miho could see the strain through Jazz’s professionalism, and it made her angry.

“Zeus is going to pay for thi…”

Poof.

The butterflies disappeared, and tiny sparks filled the air; agitated, white oscillations cutting jagged paths through the air.

“Ahh, if you’re going to explode, could you maybe wait until we get to street level?” Jackie pleaded, and Miho closed her eyes against their burn.

“Let’s go,” Jazz prompted, slipping her hand around Miho’s and pulling her to her feet.

Without Jackie, Jazz wondered if they’d ever have made it out of the sewers. The smell had faded to the very edge of their awareness, but the gloom seemed to stick to their skin.

When natural light finally returned, they blinked furiously against the bright, and Hydra had wrapped his arms around Jazz before her eyes had adjusted to the glare.

“Don’t tell me to let you go,” he growled against her neck, ignoring both Miho and Jackie who stood close by.

“Believe me,” Jazz murmured, just as happy to feel his warmth as he seemed to desire hers, “I’d like to stay just like this, but…”

“It’s too dangerous out in the open,” he filled in, separating from her enough to look into her face, “but you’re not hurt are you?”

“No,” she smiled, “but things are a whole lot more complicated now. We’d better get going.”

“Thanks for the help, Jackie,” Miho said, and the nymph gave her a bright smile that twinkled in their eyes.

“No problem,” they grinned, giving Miho a light hip bump. “I could leave a rat with you, you know, in case you need my help again.”

“Umm, no rats,” Miho rushed, shaking her head furiously, and Jackie laughed.

“Eh, I’ll be keeping tabs on you anyway,” they chuckled. “Stay out of Zeus’ way okay?”

“That’s the plan,” Miho nodded, and joined Jazz and Hydra at his car.

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