Astoria: In Chaos – Part Two


Another day, another bloody great hole in the ground – this time slap-bang in the middle of an elementary school playground. Miho knew this, because she’d managed to snap a few photographs of the scene, and then of the suit- wearing sweepers who blew in like the wind and cordoned everything off.

Triumphant, she returned to her office, set on stirring the pot with enough vigour to force the ‘cover-up squad’ to reveal something.

But, it wasn’t an especially clever tactic.

“Fujiwara,” came a shape bark across the top of the cubicles in the news room, and Miho paused the furious tapping of her fingers against the keyboard.

A ripple of whispers rushed to meet her when she stood to find several uniformed police officers, followed by the woman she knew only as Agent Mann and a somewhat nervous looking man in similar attire, stalking in her direction.

“This is an order for the seizure of all your work materials,” Agent Mann told Miho in a business-like manner, “along with your cell phone, laptop and any storage devices.”

“What?” Miho blinked in utter shock. “You can’t do that!”

Agent Mann’s eyebrow raised, but rather than argue, she simply handed the piece of paper to Miho who frantically began to study it.

“This,” Agent Mann continued, producing another piece of paper, “is an intervention order preventing you from approaching any clearly signposted crime scenes. Failure to adhere fully to both will be considered contempt of court, and will attract the full weight of penalties that apply.”

“You’re banning me from doing my job?” Miho snarled, snatching the second piece of paper but not even looking at it – the first was legitimate. “Where’s Hades?” she snapped, even as the police began to empty Miho’s cubicle into boxes. “Did he not have the courage to carry out this gag order himself? What is he so afraid of hm?”

Her teeth gnashed at Agent Mann before her eyes flashed at the man standing beside her.

“Not you,” Agent Mann responded dryly. “You’re also required to delete any data you have stored in the cloud, and surrender any notes and materials in storage at your place of residence.”

No matter what Miho said, Agent Mann would not relent, and in the end she was told to wait in the editor’s office while the police did their thing.

Working her jaw painfully, her knuckles popping in tight fists, she glowered out the window. Outrage grated against her skin, itching and burning.

“Think this will stop me getting to the truth?” she hissed, and it just so happened her editor walked in as she said it.

“Yes it will,” her editor declared curtly. “What use do you think I have for a reporter who will land herself in jail if she so much as looks at a crime scene?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Miho exclaimed. “Editor, I’m the best you’ve got.”

“Not anymore. Go home, Fujiwara.”

“What?” Miho blurted.

The editor sighed.

“I’ll get legal onto this intervention thing, but when the feds are involved…”

“Did you see a badge? FBI? NSA? Homeland Security?” Miho balked, face getting more and more red. “Of course not, because they’re none of those things!”

“Whatever they are, those orders against you are legitimate, so until this is resolved, you’re suspended.”

Slack jawed with disbelief, Miho stared at him until he shooed her from his office. On her desk she found her mobile phone, and when she checked she discovered not just those pertaining to her investigation of the mysterious damage had been deleted, but all images and videos. It wasn’t until he cleared his throat, that Miho realised the suited man was still standing by her cubicle.

“I’m here to oversee the removal of data from your cloud accounts,” he explained, and Miho narrowed wrathful eyes at him.

This caused him to squirm a little uncomfortably.

“Um, really, you have to, so, don’t say you don’t have any or…”

Miho interjected.

“Or what?”

Her teeth chewed through both words, and she looked like she was about to chew through him.

“Or, or Agent Mann said Hades will handle it,” he replied, seeming like he wanted to take a very big step away from her.

“That arrogant toss,” she snorted bitterly.

The man’s eyes widened – a little bit shocked, a little more fearful.

“I wouldn’t speak about him like that,” he warned, the word tumbling from his mouth.

Or… what?” Miho repeated, leaning toward him. “He’ll drag him into the Underworld and torment me for all eternity?”

It was difficult for Miho to imagine the man’s eyes getting any wider without his eyeballs dropping from their sockets, and she couldn’t tell if it was just because he felt affronted on his boss’ behalf, or was thrown off by her gall.

Either way, Miho didn’t back down.

“In fact, why don’t you scurry on back to whatever rock you lot crawled out from under, and tell him exactly that,” she hissed, snatching her phone and her handbag before stalking from the office.

The agent didn’t stop her.

It was as Miho stomped across the foyer that it occurred to her.

That rock they crawled out from under… if she wanted to know who they were, she should just follow Agent Uncertain back to it.

Twenty minutes later she stood before the building Agent Unsure had disappeared into: the Grand Olympian. Miho debated the merits of making a frontal assault, of walking right in like she belonged there on the chance she could bluff her way to the information she sought, but that was fraught with pitfalls.

“Seriously,” she muttered to herself. “Who do these people think they are? Hades and the Grand Olympian? Hmph.”

Several people walked in and out, allowing her a glimpse of the foyer, and the several black-clad, stoic suits standing guard.

“After what they pulled,” Miho growled to herself, losing the battle with her anger and storming across the street.

Into the foyer she stalked, eyes filled with determined balefire, posture set with get the fuck out of my way, and in the middle she stopped to glare from blank face to blank face.

“I want to speak to Hades,” she declared flatly, locking eyes with the nearest man.

The only movement he made was the slight twitch of his eyebrow and his lips as he spoke in the expected monotone.

“Ma’am,” he began, and that only enraged Miho more. “This…”

“This is about to be a really unpleasant scene,” she snapped, her hands flailing about in an animated fashion. “Because I don’t care what excuse you give me, this front doesn’t fool me. So get yourself on the phone, intercom, radio, whatever, and get that underworld princess down here to face me.”

That got more of a reaction. She may not have known what she said, her comments based purely upon his name, but just as Agent Stutterpants, the suits in the foyer looked startled.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but you’re going to have to leave,” a second suit told her when he emerged from his bewilderment, and he reached for her arm.

“I will drop you,” she warned ferociously. “Keep your hands to yourself.”

“If you won’t leave willingly, Ma’am, we have no choice.”

A moment later Miho was manhandled from the building and propelled toward the pavement, but what might have actually caused her to fall most inelegantly actually resulted in a most serendipitous collision.

“Sir!” Suit #1 exclaimed, when Miho was practically thrown into his arms.

Equally as surprised, Hades looked down at the woman he’d reflexively caught in his arms as she was flung in his direction.

A little panicked perhaps, Suit #2 and Suit #3 moved up to them, #2 grasping Miho’s shoulder. Though Hades’ grip was light enough that she was drawn away from his chest, a moment later the offending suit hit the pavement with a heavy thud, his arm pulled behind him by the wrist, before Miho leaned her knee in between his shoulder blades.

“I warned you what would happened if you laid a hand on me again,” she hissed. “I was an assassin in a past life!”

“Miss Fujiwara,” Hades’ stern voice rumbled, and her blazing eyes snapped to him. “Please unhand Agent Trevaughn.”

“When I have his word he won’t touch me,” she grated.

“Agent?” Hades prompted, deciding it was best to quickly resolve the situation there on the footpath – even if it meant giving Miho some of what she wanted.

“You have my word,” Agent Trevaughn croaked, cheek pressed against the rough concrete.

Instantly Miho rocked back and released her hold, putting a few paces between she and the man before looking to Hades again.

“Fancy running into you here,” she exhaled, her smile the vicious injury he’d perpetrated against her. “Just the god I’m after.”

Like the suits before him, Hades raised an eyebrow.

“You want me to roast you out here, or inside?” she asked.

“Hm, I have a better idea,” Hades responded. “Why don’t you calm down and join me for a cup of coffee?”

“Are you really sure you want me in possession of hot liquids?” Miho challenged stubbornly.

“I seldom get what I want,” Hades told her calmly. “But, if you are in any part the reporter you are reputed to be, you would not turn down the opportunity to converse with the subject of your…”

Ire,” Miho filled in frostily, and Hades merely accepted it and inclined his head.

The suits looked at each other.

“So, is it coffee?” Hades prompted.

“Tea,” Miho sniffed defiantly, but she turned her body to indicate she was ready to move out.

“As you were,” Hades nodded to the suits, and with curt recognition they headed back into the building.

A short time later, Hades placed a cup of Lady Grey tea before Miho, before sitting down opposite with his freshly squeezed juice.

She considered his choice of beverage, still clinging to her scowl, determined not to be pacified and yet the grass-shot juice Hades lifted to his lips seemed somehow incongruous with his presence.

“Something wrong?” he enquired, putting the glass down.

“I’d write you a list, but you’d only have your lackies swoop in here and confiscate it,” she charged, but Hades remained unaffected.

“You were warned,” he pointed out, aware the remark would win no favour with her.

“Oh well then, a warning makes it all just peachy,” she snapped, leaning forward. “What are you hiding you’d ruin my career like it was nothing?”

“Actually, Miss Fujiwara, only you are responsible for your actions and their consequences,” he told her, an Miho’s grip tightened around her tea cup.

He watched as she struggled to hold in another unseemly public outburst, that could flip the table and spatter the green rage of vitamised fruit all over the café. But trembling she slowly rose from her seat.

“Thanks for the tea,” she dropped icily and turned to move, but the command – or perhaps something else in Hades’ voice – caused her to freeze.

“Sit down, Miss Fujiwara.”

Before she could comply or tell him to fuck off, Miho made eye contact with a familiar person.

“Oh, hey Miho,” Mieke grinned at her best friend, then slid her gaze to the man behind her. “And… Hades… uh, I mean, Sir.”

“Hades… Sir?” Miho repeated, processing Mieke’s greeting carefully. “You work in an office?”

“Uh… yeah, I do,” Mieke cringed.

His, office?” Miho pressed on, and she didn’t miss Mieke’s pleading glance at Hades.

“Miss Fujiwara,” he prompted, but this time her resistance was decisive.

“Rabbit holes,” she chuckled mirthlessly as she stepped in beside Mieke. “You really never know what you’ll find.”

She then stalked on out of the café.

“You and Miss Fujiwara are acquainted,” Hades stated, and with shoulders slumped, Mieke sighed out her answer.

“Best friends, Sir,” she breathed, “though probably not anymore.”

“Perhaps you could soften the blow of her recent employment crisis,” he suggested, but Mieke was already shaking her head.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but if there is one thing Miho really can’t tolerate, it’s lies, and I’ve been playing dumb as she poured out her frustration over not being able to get anything on HERA – ugh – if she ever speaks to me again it’ll be a miracle.”

Avoiding the confines of her apartment, Miho strapped on her sneakers and began a steady lap around Astoria park. If she couldn’t work, she’d lose her apartment, but that was the furthest thing from her mind – there was no one she could trust now: not her boss, not city law enforcement, not even her best friend.

She was on her own.

And where there were lies, there was something to hide.

“I – will – find – out,” she vowed, words panted out to the rhythm of her footfalls, but her cheeks were wet with distress.

Mieke’s betrayal hurt so deeply, Miho lost sight of what she’d been pursuing and just ran, so much so it was dark by the time she finally stopped.

“Now what?” she exhaled, looking down at her hands where she sat on a park bench.

Feeble fists clenched.

“Ugh!” she shouted, jumping to her feet. “This is bullshit.”

Scratching at her aggravation rather than allowing herself to sink into misery, she picked up her feet again and headed to her local gym to take a shower and change her clothing. But she didn’t go home after that she didn’t go home.

Swathed in brash indignation, she caught a cab a little way before getting out a block from the first crime scene she’d investigated where Hades and his band of merry suits had shown up – she would check them all again, slip through the black fencing and look for clues, anything that could give her a story worth her boss putting his ass on the line.

Sticking to the shadows she slunk with practiced silence and dexterity, but suddenly she stopped her advance.

It must have been her day for familiar people showing up at inopportune times.

“What the fuck is Agent Moron up to?” she murmured to herself, watching him acting very suspicious as he approached his own barrier.

With tailing skills even Kaga would be proud of, Miho drew closer, slipping with almost ridiculous ease past the couple of guards posted, and into the obstructed area. Hiding, she crept closer to see what Agent Hopeless was up to.

She found him examining the deep hole in the sidewalk, much like the others she’d seen, waving over it with a little device with flashing lights.

“What are you doing, Agent Dipshit?” she whispered under her breath.

The answer that came wasn’t really an answer at all… two bodies suddenly flew overhead, limbs flailing and faces pinched in painful grimaces. Their impact with a nearby building was so solid some of the render cracked and flaked away, and when the pair of suits hit the ground – they didn’t move.

“What the?” Agent Stupid blinked, turning sharply from his fallen compatriots to look in the direction from which they’d come.

Scrambling to stay hidden, Miho narrowed missed being hit by… a car… that soared several metres into the air before barreling in Agent Idiot’s direction. He dove to one side, drawing a handgun as he did and taking aim at…

“You HERA guys,” a low, slow voice rumbled, as a real lump of a man came into view on one side of the crater, “so squishy.”

“Minotaur?” Agent Dumbass grunted. “You’re back in the States?”

It was a stupid question, because clearly the guy was right there.

“You gonna shoot me?” Minotaur sneered, and Miho inhaled a sharp breath while fumbling to get out her phone and start recording.

“That depends if you’re willing to cooperate or not,” Agent Sideways replied, but his gun hand was trembling and he seemed to be in considerable pain.

“Unlikely,” Minotaur chuckled, slamming his balled fist into his palm, and for a second there was an orange flash.

Miho swore there was an orange flash in the shape of an angry bull.

“If… if you’re responsible for this,” Agent Retreat stammered, scuttling back, digging for his phone with his free hand.

“And imagine what I’m about ta do ta ya head,” Minotaur leered.

Raging to life, the orange bull, surrounded by irritated sparks, rushed from behind Minotaur and snatched Agent Hapless off the ground. Much to Miho’s amazement and in no small part horror, Agent Ragdoll was shaken violently in the luminescent bull’s grasp, so hard his keys and loose change were flung from his pockets and his phone was thrown across the crater and landed close to where Miho was hiding.

“Agent Schmit?” a voice called from the asphalt, more urgently the second time when Agent Schmit, let out a cry coinciding with his own solid path to the ground.

“Fuck,” Miho gasped, twitching in indecision before finally darting out and snatching up the phone. “Agent Schmit is down!” she hissed. “27th Avenue near St. Margaret Mary – there’s a… mino…”

Despite the questions flung at her Miho stalled as the rampant, glowing bull stomped up to Agent Schmit and look set to crush him underfoot, all while the man himself grinned sadistically.

“Fuck,” Miho exclaimed once more, dropping the agent’s phone and turning her own around. “Hey asshole!” she shouted, setting her phone’s flash on strobe.

In the darkness she might have been little more than a silhouette, a faint shape flashing brightly that divided the creature’s attention long enough for Agent Schmit to crawl to where his colleagues were beginning to rouse.

“Who the hell are you?” Minotaur huffed, and as he turned his body to fully face her, the towering bulls did the same, pulsing with furious energy.

“I… am…” she stammered, eyes stretching even wider as the apparitious bull’s approaching footfalls somehow made the ground shake. “I’m not with them,” she exhaled. “I’ve been tracking your trail of… of awesome destruction looking for an interview! This lot keep cock blocking.”

The bull stopped, and Minotaur narrowed his eyes on Miho as she lowered her phone to her side. He appeared to be processing what she’d said… slowly.

“You ain’t HERA?”

“These suits? Are you kidding me? They ruined my career!” she told him, and well it was the truth.

So she kept talking, talking while Agent Schmit and the other two struggled out of injurious grogginess.

“These… three-piece twits stormed my office and confiscated everything I’ve worked so hard on,” she rushed on, hoping to keep his attention for as long as possible. “But here you are, the very one I’ve been… I’ve been searching for, ha ha, right in front of me.”

“Miss Fujiwara get back!” Agent Schmit shouted, and as if he’d waved a red rag, Minotaur’s attention snapped back to him as bullets were fired.

The next few seconds seemed to move in slow motion.

Thunder seemed to explode from the ground that heaved so hard with the impact of the luminous bull’s hoof, that Miho pitched backward at speed. She soared, glimpsing the night sky above just briefly before even the brightest stars were consumed by an all-encompassing black.

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.


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.


Back at my desk in three… two…


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.