Lykos tossed the last soldier into the room, then slammed the door. It took only a heartbeat of concentration to seal the metal door into the metal frame. “I want you to know, I did not kill anyone getting in here.” He tilted his head. “Except that doctor. May have broken her skull. A bit.”
“I, uh…” Christophe nodded to him as he pulled the pants up over his hips. They were too big for him, so he had to cinch the belt tight. “Yeah, I’m okay with that.” He smiled, then checked the gun before putting it back into its holster. “You weren’t hurt, were you?”
“I got buried by avalanche.” Lykos stared at him.
“Yeah, but were you hurt?” Christophe raised an eyebrow at him.
“A. Va.” Lykos narrowed his eyes. “Lanche.” He shrugged. “Then forest fire. Also, got shot.”
“Yes…” Christophe drawled the word. “But were you hurt?”
“Well…” Lykos shook his head. “No. Not really. Annoyed. They stole my guns.”
“You stole them first.” Christophe gestured to a corridor, and Lykos started down it. Christophe followed.
“I’m glad you’re alright, Lykos.” Christophe’s quiet voice made him turn, and he saw Christophe giving him a shy smile. “I, uh…” He rubbed his neck. “I was scared for you.”
“Scared for me?” Lykos ran his knuckles down Christophe’s cheek. “You were one nearly got brain fried.” He tapped Christophe’s nose. “Come. Which way go now?”
“I was kind of out of it when they brought me in here, but uh…” Christophe pointed. “These are all laid out similar —” He cut off at the sound of footsteps heading their way. “And since that is the way the reinforcements are coming from…”
“I may have to kill —” Lykos started to put a hand on Christophe’s shoulder. The alarm blared into life as all the lights in the area started blinking red. “Christophe?”
“Yeah, that uh…” Christophe shook his head. “That’s not good.”
“Why is the alarm blaring?” Guerin shook his head. “I didn’t order the alarm.” He stepped into the room, then immediately punched the wall in frustration. The two soldiers in it both took steps back. Dr. Krusen lay on the floor, and the wall was smeared with what had been the contents of her skull. And Christophe was gone. “Where is my —”
“Captain, we have a serious problem.” Lieutenant Jackman came up behind him.
“Damn fucking right. Where the hell is my son?” Guerin snarled the words.
“Sir…” Jackman took a deep breath. “The warheads are live.”
“That…” Guerin trailed off as he processed Jackman’s words. “What?”
“Someone armed all four of the warheads.” Jackman was pale. “And sealed the doors so we can’t get in to disarm them. Administer Darin has ordered an evacuation.”
“My…” Guerin narrowed his eyes. “How long?”
Jackman looked down at his watch. “Twenty-three minutes.”
“Get your squad. We aren’t leaving without my boy.” He started down the hall.
“Sir, where are you going?” Jackman blinked.
“To get something that might take that fuck down.” Guerin growled as he headed toward the lab.
“That’s a countdown.” Christophe stared at the flickering numbers on the display. “Lykos, why is there a countdown?”
“Why you asking me?” Lykos shook his head. “What counting down to?”
“If, uh…” Christophe looked around. “If we are where I think we…” His blood went cold. “Oh. Shit.”
“Christophe?” Lykos caught his arm. “Christophe, you are pale.”
“Lykos…” Christophe met his eyes. “I don’t suppose you have some way of outrunning a nuclear blast?”
“Uh…” Lykos tilted his head, then frowned. “Helicopter?”
“Can you fly one?” Christophe smiled.
“Was uh…” Lykos shrugged. “Sort of hoping you could.”
“I, uh…” Christophe took a deep breath. “Maybe.”
“Maybe?” Lykos glared at him. “What do you mean, maybe?”
“I had two lessons in a simulator…” Christophe gave him an apologetic look. “And I crashed both times.”
“Well…” Lykos put his hand on Christophe’s shoulder, then patted his chest. “As saying goes. Third time is charm.” He looked around. “Which way to…?”
“That way.” Christophe pointed.
“Good news…” Lykos glanced at the fleeing soldiers. “Everyone has bigger problems than us.”
“And the bad news?” Christophe raised an eyebrow.
“They are still all between us and helicopters.” Lykos gave a frustrated growl. Then he shook his head. “You think could be trap?”
“You mean they want us to try to get to the helicopters…” Christophe frowned. “Depends on if my dad is still running the show.” He shook his head. “He doesn’t think that way. Shooting you with a nuke I could see. He’s going to go after a weapon he thinks can take you out, and I’m assuming a nuke would do that.”
“Is likely.” Lykos nodded. “Only thing that could survive a nuke is —” He blinked. The only thing that could survive a nuke also happened to be the kind of thing that could arm nukes in a manner that had the soldiers running instead of simply disarming them. And that…
“Lykos?” He turned to see Christophe’s eyes were filled with tears.
He sighed. “How bad?”
“If we are where I think we are then…” Christophe shook his head. “I can’t be sure about the fallout, but a couple thousand are going to die in the initial destruction.” He pointed. “There is a town less than a mile in that direction, and homes scattered…”
“Christophe…” Lykos caught him, and pulled him close. “My Christophe. I am sorry.” He took a deep breath. “Maybe we can —”
A door on the other side of the building burst open.
Christophe’s eyes widened when he saw his father come through the door, followed by six others. All of them were armed. Lykos immediately moved in front of him. He blinked. The weapon his father carried was unusual. It had several lights blinking on it. “Dad…” Christophe swallowed. “Please. Just turn around and walk away.”
“Get away from my son, you sick freak.” Guerin pointed the weapon at Lykos. “Christophe, come here.”
He shook his head. “No. Just…” He exhaled. “Dad, just go. Please.”
“You…” Guerin’s eyes widened. He stared at Christophe. “You’re choosing that thing.”
“You…” Christophe shook his head. He felt tears welling in his eyes. “You were going to let her fry my brain.”
“I was trying to help you get better.” Guerin lifted the weapon. “You’re…” His eyes narrowed again. “You’re with that thing.” He took a step forward. “You’re choosing that thing.”
Lykos took a step back, making Christophe move with him. “Go.” Lykos glanced at him before jerking his head toward the door. When Christophe raised an eyebrow, Lykos nodded to him. “We go.”
Realization struck. Despite everything, Lykos wasn’t going to kill his father. He started backing toward the hallway. “You need to get out of here, Dad. The alarms…”
“You’re choosing that…” Guerin made a snarling sound, then fired the weapon at Lykos.
Instead of a bullet, smoke and red light came from the tip of the weapon. And instead of shrugging off the shot…
Lykos gave a howl of pain before staggering backward, bleeding from the shoulder. “Lykos!”
It was the same sort of thing they’d used to carve into him in the lab. Not metal. Fire. A laser. He started to take a step forward, and staggered. Arms when around him a moment before the captain fired another shot, and he realized Christophe was pulling him out of harm’s way. He shifted his stance, letting Christophe pull him toward the hall as the captain shouted behind him.
“How bad?” Christophe stared at him as soon as they were ducked behind cover. “Lykos, how bad?”
“I heal.” Lykos shrugged. “Assuming we don’t blow up.”
“Well, yeah, assuming that.” He could hear his father shouting, giving orders. “We need to get out of here.” He grabbed Lykos’s arm and pulled him down the hall. “Preferably…” Lykos stumbled, and Christophe caught him. “Lykos?” He yanked the other man’s shirt, then stared. There was a quarter sized hole in Lykos, and blood was pouring out of it. “Shit. Shit.” He pulled Lykos into the next room.
Then he drew the handgun. “This is going to hurt.” He fired off four shots, then pressed the hot barrel to the wound.
There was a sizzling sound and the smell of burning flesh. Lykos, however, just grunted. He made a hissing sound when Christophe pulled the barrel away. “When we get out of here…” He patted Christophe’s cheek. “I send you to medical school.”
Behind them, he heard footsteps. “They’re coming.” Christophe gave Lykos a pained look.
Lykos caught his chin, then pulled him in for a kiss. “I no kill your father, my Christophe.” He touched his forehead to Christophe’s.
“Then I hope you’ve got a pl —”
The wall on the other side of the room suddenly fell down. They both turned to stare at it. A tall, broad shouldered man stood on the other side. He was dressed in a nice, if slightly old-fashioned suit. And despite that, he looked like any moment now he was going to pull out a battle axe and go on a rampage in the name of Valhalla. “Christophe, I presume?”
“Grand…” Lykos straightened. “You are breaking rules.”
“Yes, well…” The man shrugged. “Sue me.”
“Grand…” Christophe blinked. “Grandfather?”
“Yes.” Lykos gestured. “Christophe, Jormun. Jorum, Christophe.”
“Didn’t you say your grandfather was a…” Christophe’s eyes widened.
Guerin watched the soldier shoulder the door open and go through it. He let two other soldiers go through before following. “What the…” He narrowed his eyes. “Wotan?”
“Captain.” Wotan sat, his feet up on the table. “There is precisely one helicopter left. The estimated range of those bombs is a mile, with the EMP effect traveling somewhat further, and you have…” He looked at his watch. “Six minutes and twenty-eight seconds.”
“You…” Guerin lowered the gun a fraction. “You armed the bombs.”
“I wished to test a theory of mine.” He looked at his watch again. The soldiers shifted nervously. “Six minutes fourteen seconds.”
“You fucking…” He waved his hand. “Shot him.”
The soldiers fired, pulling the trigger repeatedly. A dozen bullets, at least, hit Wotan. And Wotan…
Smiled. “Six minutes and three seconds, captain.”
“What the fuck even…” Guerin started shaking his head. The soldiers were taking steps backward.
“There is a saying, Captain.” Wotan stood. “Do not meddle in the affairs…” His body began shifting, the skin growing scaly as jet black wings grew from his back. His size began increasing, filling the huge mess hall. Guerin’s back hit the wall, and he saw one of the soldiers turn and start running as the massive head lowered, smoke coming from its nostrils. Thunder rumbled in its gullet. “Of dragons.”
“Was he serious?” Christophe stared at Lykos.
“With him…” Lykos shrugged. “Is hard say.” He stared at the contraption in front of him.
“Lykos.” Christophe was shaking his head.
He reached out and caught hold of Christophe’s mouth, clamping his lips together. “Shhh.” He put a finger to his lips. “Need concentrate.” Christophe made a slight whimpering sound, and nodded. Lykos released him and took a step toward the first bomb.
The well-dressed man, Jormun, was waiting for them when they emerged from the bunker. He looked at his watch, then shrugged. “Twenty-three seconds to spare.” He smiled. “Or are we all about to explode?”
“You…” Lykos glared at him. “Are still asshole.”
“Base is cleared of soldiers, individuals in charge will be thoroughly discredited, operation is blown wide open…” Jormun looked around, clasping his hands behind his back. “A little gratitude would be appreciated.”
“Little…” Lykos shook his head.
“Do you have any idea how many fucking people could have died if he hadn’t…” Christophe took a few steps toward Jormun. “Innocent people. Civilians. Not to mention the effects of the radioactive fallout on the local ecosystem —” He jabbed a finger into Jormun’s chest, then almost immediately regretted it when all it did was nearly break his finger. “He’s right. You’re an asshole.”
“I needed to know if Lykos’s ability to manipulate earthen elements extended to the radioactive ones.” Jormun shrugged. “And he is notoriously stubborn.”
“You were prepared to kill thousands of people to…” Christophe stared at him. “To test Lykos?”
“My Christophe, perhaps…” Lykos started to put a hand on his arm.
Christophe balled up his fist and punched Jormun in the face. He felt the bones in his hand break, but got some satisfaction out of Jormun being taken by enough surprise to actually stagger backward a step. “You fucking asshole.”
“Christophe…” Lykos’s voice sounded frankly impressed. “That was…” He pulled Christophe behind him protectively as Jormun straightened to his full height once more. His voice shifted from admiring to a bit frightened. “Maybe not such a good idea.”
Jormun, however, just laughed. “I’m starting to see why you were so enamored of this one.” He nodded to Christophe, then his tone became businesslike. “Lykos, you neutralized irradiated materials. It’s time you resumed your duties.”
“My…” Lykos went still. “My duties?”
“This world requires…” Jormun squared his shoulders. “Cleansing. Recently, we’ve managed to require several dryads, and there are —”
“Dryads.” Lykos stared
“Uh…” Christophe blinked. None of this made any sense at all. “Dryads?”
“You…” Lykos shook his head. “You want us be shepherds again?” He made a growling sound. “Was your kind stopped us!”
“I spoke against that decision then, if you recall.”
“I…” Lykos nodded. “And what, you convince the others to change their minds?”
“No.” Jormun smiled. “I stopped giving a shit about what they think.” Lykos made a snickering sound. “Are you in?”
“I…” Lykos looked at Christophe. Lykos… Lykos had just disarmed and rendered inert radioactive material as easily as he’d once crushed coal into a diamond. If Lykos could do that and Jormun… Christophe gave Lykos an encouraging smile. Lykos nodded, and turned back to Jormun. “One condition.”
“You’re setting…” Jormun rolled his eyes. “Name it.”
“A violin.” Lykos folded his arms. Christophe blinked before staring at him. “Good one. Not some shit walmart knock-off thing. Proper craftsmanship.”
“Done.” Jormun nodded. “Let’s go.”
“Do you have a helicopter or…” Christophe let Lykos take his hand as the other man followed Jormun.
“Christophe…” Jormun laughed softly. “I’m a dragon.”