Ev Bannen is on track to become a god of justice and secure a bright future with Maya. However, everything changes when Zero Grade launches an attack on his hometown. Ev races to the rescue, but he's powerless to stop the outbreak of the next great god war. Soon, everyone he knows is dragged into the struggle, and it seems only a miracle can stop mankind from being decimated.
Remn 8 of 3022 NY (Narska Year)
The phones were out. The lights as well. Marli Drezowicz didn’t know how, but they had cut power to the building and were looking to get inside. The bolt lock wouldn’t stop them; they were determined and professional.
Marli and her eight-year-old daughter Neena sat huddled together in the bathtub of their apartment, praying to Bethos for deliverance from this nightmare. They had always been devout Holoists; surely their god would show mercy tonight as they trembled in fear for their very lives.
“The bad men aren’t going to hurt us, are they, Mommy?”
Marli stroked her daughter’s hair. “No, geemam,” she said, employing the Morovian term of affection for one’s children. “I won’t let them lay a finger on you.” She hated herself as she spoke this lie. Oh, she would fight with everything she had, but she knew they would be coming with greater numbers than she could deal with. Her only chance was to try and reason with them. If that didn’t work, she would have to employ the letter opener in her hand. It was the only thing she had had time to grab when they ran into the bathroom.
They nearly jumped out of the tub when a knock sounded at the door. It was gentle, but she knew the men on the other side wouldn’t be. “Open the door, Mrs. Drezowicz. I’m only going to ask you once.”
Mother and daughter were deathly silent; fear overpowered any words they might have had. Nevertheless, Marli wasn’t about to comply with his demand.
There was a crunch, and the door flew open. Dark silhouettes stormed the bathroom while shining a flashlight upon them. Marli held up one hand to block the glare, but the other remained firmly around her daughter’s shoulder.
The letter opener proved useless as the two of them were dragged into the living room and thrown down in front of the couch where a man sat like some king. Marli couldn’t see him, but she knew it had to be Viro. He was a top lieutenant in the Koroni crime syndicate.
“You’re a very bad hostess, Mrs. Drezowicz,” he said. “You don’t invite me in to discuss matters like civilized people, so we have to be uncivilized.”
She glared at him with a barely-contained fury akin to the cold wind blowing in from outside. “There’s nothing to discuss. My husband was the one who borrowed money from you, not me. And when he couldn’t pay you back, you murdered him.”
By this point, Neena was bawling uncontrollably. “Shut her up,” Viro said.
“I’d say she has every right to be upset, considering what you’re putting us through.”
“Shut up her,” he repeated. “Or I will.” Of that, Marli had no doubt.
She said to her daughter, “Everything’s going to be OK, geemam. Look at me.” Neena looked up at her, face soaked in salty misery. “Everything’s going to be OK. We prayed to Bethos for deliverance. He won’t let us down.”
Viro replied, “Yes, geemam,” he said mockingly. “Everything’s going to be OK. Provided your mother pays us what she owes.”
“You’ll get your money. I just need more time.”
“Tsk, tsk. Time is something you no longer have. Either pay us the money now, or we’ll take something of equal value.”
“Look around you!” she yelled, not wanting to scare her daughter further but unable to contain her torment. “Look at the dump we live in. I don’t have anything of value. We’re living paycheck to paycheck as it is.”
“Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong. You do have something of value: your geemam.”
She looked down at Neena, eyes wide. “No! You can’t be serious!”
Viro lit a cigar and puffed casually. “Mrs. Drezowicz, we are very serious and very professional. We mean what we say. So if I say we’re going to take your daughter and introduce her to the sordid world of sex trafficking, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
She lunged at him. To their surprise, it took two of them to hold her back. “You monster! Leave her alone!” Now it was her turn to cry.
“Sorry, Mrs. Drezowicz, but your husband agreed to the rules when he chose to play the game. And as you seem to have crapped out, I’m going to have to ask you to cash in your chips.”
She returned to Neena whom she held so tight she was afraid she would suffocate her. Still, she was absolutely convinced they would take her daughter if she gave even an inch. “Where is the justice in this?” she cried.
Viro laughed. “Justice? The world is run by people like me. We decide what is just, and people like you have to live with that.”
They turned their heads to the door, where a dark figure stood. “Who are you?” Viro said.
“Someone who’s very interested in this situation.”
“This doesn’t concern you. Get lost.”
To Marli’s amazement, the man strode into the apartment like it was his. “That’s where you’re wrong. This woman has asked for my help.”
“Is that true?” he asked her.
She shook her head as emphatically as she could. “No! Of course not. You would have killed us if we got the cops involved. I know at least a few of them are on your payroll.”
“Smart woman,” he replied before returning his attention to the interloper. “You heard her. She didn’t ask for your help. Leave here before we cut your dick off and feed it to you.”
“I can’t do that. This woman has asked for my help, and she’s going to get it.”
“I told you, I didn’t—”
“But you did.” He knelt before her and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “You prayed for someone to save you from your nightmare. I’m afraid Bethos is busy right now, but that’s OK; I’m more suited to this sort of thing anyway.”
Marli could swear she heard Viro sigh in exasperation. “All right, he had his chance. Kill him.”
One of his goons removed a pistol with an equipped silencer from his holster and fired off several shots at the intruder. They sounded like deadly gusts of wind to her.
But the mystery man did not go down. To her utter astonishment, he actually stood up as if nothing was amiss. “Damn—I should have caught the bullets instead of letting them hit me. I’ve got more holes in my clothes now. In comic books, the heroes either have bullet-proof costumes or they’re rich enough to keep multiple sets on hand. It sucks that I don’t have either. Oh, well.”
Viro said, “The guy thinks he’s funny with his body armor. I’ve had it with him. Now I really do want you to cut his dick off and feed it to him.”
Marli could feel something was wrong with her unknown savior. Even if he was wearing armor, he should have still been floored by the shots. But he hadn’t so much as flinched. He seemed to be exactly what he claimed to be: a superhero. She christened him Mr. X.
The first goon rushed Mr. X and grabbed him with his beefy hands. However, he couldn’t even budge him. After several moments of grunting, he fell to his knees, exhausted. Mr. X gave him a slight push—which sent him flying into the wall.
The other two lackeys exchanged worried looks before deciding to double-team him. But even with the two of them working together, they didn’t have any more luck than the first guy. Mr. X simply grabbed their heads and gave them a serious meeting of the minds.
“That’s it!” Viro leapt to his feet and leveled a submachine gun at Mr. X. With no more regard for subtlety, he unloaded it on the mystery man. To his surprise, though, Mr. X was no longer there. He had somehow teleported to Viro’s side where he proceeded to relieve him of his gun and his consciousness. The KO’d mobster unceremoniously dropped to the floor.
“I’ll notify the police. Don’t worry about the ones Viro had in his pocket; they won’t be around to cause trouble.”
He turned to leave. When he got to the door, Marli found her voice again. “Wait! At least tell me your name.”
He paused, apparently for dramatic effect. “My name is Ev Bannen. I’m the god of justice.”