Monday, November 23, 2015

NaNoWriMo 1K-A-Day: Day 23

Deus Maximus: Do you trust me, Remus?
Remus Hemptor: Trust is not the same as blind faith. Everything in my experience has been fallible.
Deus Maximus: Even me?
Remus Hemptor: Just because your missions have gone exactly to plan doesn’t mean they always will. But I still trust you to have answers to all my questions when I ask them.
Deus Maximus: Then I accept your trust. You have a new mission.

Jonas jerked awake and flailed weakly at the air. His eyes popped open--only to fill his photoreceptors with blinding sunlight. He yelped and snapped his eyes shut again, seeing the flashes still behind his eyelids.

That’s when it registered that there had been a familiar shadowy shape in his apartment, where there hadn’t been one before. Jonas rolled over and slowly opened his eyes.

Something between an animal snarl and a girlish shriek ripped itself out of the young man’s throat as his body convulsed so hard, he practically fell off the couch he’d been laying on. He sprawled in a heap on the floor--right at the feet of a shadowy figure in a trench coat.

“Well, good,” said a rumbling voice from the deep shadows around the man’s chin. “Saves me the trouble of waking you up and hauling your ass off there myself.”

Jonas flinched and opened his eyes at the sound of the voice. He knew that voice! He looked up. He couldn’t see the man’s face very well, underneath the fedora. The shape of the chin, though--the cleft in the middle rang in his memory, but he couldn’t tell where he’d seen it.
“W--who are you?” He stammered. “What do you want?” Syrien Corp heard about my prophecy and sent a guy here to kill me! His paranoia screamed.
The man stayed where he was, peering around the apartment in barely-concealed disgust.
“I came to talk,” he mused. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you.”
Jonas winced; in his bleary, newly-awakened state, he really couldn’t be blamed for anything that inadvertently made it out of his mouth. “I didn’t--uh,” His brain registered just in time, and he quickly eased himself up onto the couch. “Who did you say you were?”
The man finally located one of the two chairs Jonas possessed--and it was stacked with magazines. To the young tenant’s chagrin, the stranger swept the whole pile off with one hand--yet they didn’t scatter like he expected them to. Instead, the comics seemed to defy gravity itself, floating down and settling on the floor still in that same neat, organized pile Jonas had kept them in. The man settled into the chair.
“Ah, that’s better.” He sighed, giving the apartment another once-over. “So, is this a squat or do you actually live here?”
Jonas frowned at the unusual reference, but he understood: the man wanted to know if the apartment was merely a temporary “safe zone,” like the various hotel rooms Remus Hemptor maintained. He referred to them as “squats” in the comics, too.
“No, no, this is my home,” mumbled Jonas. “I live here.”
The man gave a dubious glance to the clothes piled every which way around, above, and on the tiny hamper in the corner of the living space.
“Do your parents live here too, or is it just yourself?”
“Uh, what? Oh, I, uh, live by myself.” Jonas squinted at the face before him; he could see the man’s features clearly enough in the daylight--but still, only that chin stuck out as familiar. He didn’t recognize the rest of the face at all.
“Ah.” There was no underlying judgment in the tone, that Jonas could tell.
He was getting less worried about the man’s origins (if he were an assassin, Jonas would be dead by now, not watching him judge his laundry habits!) and more irritated at the way the man seemed to care more about extending the conversation with menial observations and awkward pauses. “Look,” he finally said, fighting (no, praying!) to keep his voice low and mature-sounding, no matter how badly his vocal cords wanted to snap into the “high and squeaky” register. “Would you mind telling me who you are and why you’re here?”
The man chuckled. “Why, no, Jonas,” he mused softly. “I wouldn’t mind at all.”
Jonas felt his body go numb all over. “Y-you know my name?”
The man gave a dark chuckle. “See? Now we’re getting somewhere. I know a lot about you, Jonas. I know where you live, obviously; I know that you’ve been pretty popular of late, because of one prophecy that you made last summer that ended up amounting to something.” The man slowly began pulling off his gloves. “I know that you haven’t been able to predict anything like that since. I know that you’ve been invited to the convention in San Diego because of that one prophecy… and I also know that it’s probably going to be your last con for a while, if you don’t find something new to get the network buzzing again.”
Jonas sat on his couch, watching this mysterious man talk, while his brain scrambled to figure out where he had seen or heard him before. “You know about the cons?” He asked. “How did you know? And for the last time, who the heck are you?”
The man still grinned. “You know who I am, Jonas.”
Jonas shook his head. “No, really I don’t.”
“Yes you do; you’ve been trying to remember this whole time, when the answer’s right in front of you.”
Jonas scanned his immediate vicinity in confusion. The only things around were his B.Y.B.L. comics. His eye fell on a familiar-looking fedora. He picked up the comic. It was an issue from the series Deus Among Us, when Remus was busy and another crisis arose, so Deus himself actually left his office and went looking for recruits. He wore a grey fedora and a camel-colored trenchcoat… Jonas felt his brain stop working as he raised his eyes to the man in the camel-colored trench coat and grey fedora sitting in his apartment.
“Y-y-you…” He didn’t want to say it; what if he said it and it wasn’t true? “You’re… Deus Maximus?