Arik sat quietly, thinking, but nothing came to mind. He didn’t have very many memories of childhood, and there was nothing there as he struggled to remember anyone taking care of him. "I don’t remember.
That’s just the way it’s always been done and I’m sure I was no exception. I honestly remember nothing of being a child, except for my training."
Geary was doing her best to understand his world, but it made no sense to her. "And what kind of training was this?"
He sighed as if the matter irritated him. "Even though we’re cursed, we still have residual emotions when we’re born. Those have to be stripped from us and we have to be shown how to enter dreams, as well as what is allowed for us to do there and what is forbidden. Then we have to learn how to fight the Skoti who will ultimately fight us for control of the human host. It takes years to fully master our powers, and it’s all very complicated."
It sounded like it. But one part of that stuck out in her mind. "And how do they strip emotions from you?"
"Usually by beating," he said in an empty tone. "It’s actually quite Pavlovian. You show an emotion and the punishment is such that you learn it’s better to feel nothing than to suffer the consequences of having them."
"Does the training ever fail?"
"So what do they do then?"
"They execute us."
She wouldn’t have been more stunned had he reached over and slapped her. "You have got to be kidding me?"
"No," he said in all earnestness. "At least I don’t think I am."
Still, Geary was incredulous over his blase tone and that they would simply kill the Oneroi for no other reason than they continued to have emotions. How cruel was that? "And all of you accept this?"
He appeared to be as equally baffled by her standpoint as she was by his. "Have we a choice? Unless we mount a revolution against Zeus, this is what we have."
"Maybe it’s time you revolt."
He scoffed at her indignation. "It’s not that simple. The pantheons have a balance of power and you have to be extremely careful adjusting it. One wrong move and you can destroy the entire world. What good would overthrowing them be then when we’d all be dead?"
As much as she hated to admit it, she’d lost this argument. "You make an awesome point."
Geary opened the door and got out while his words haunted her. Her poor Arik. She had to save him from this nightmare he was caught up in. She couldn’t bear the thought of returning him to that life where there was no one to care for him. To hold him or love him. It just wasn’t right.
"Why are the gods so callous to our suffering?" she asked as he joined her in front of the car.
He took her hand in his before he answered. "The world is filled with suffering. If you open yourself up to it, it will consume even a god. But not all of them are callous. ZT is one who cares."
"I thought you said he wasn’t a god."
"True. He is technically human, but he does have the powers of a god and immortality, and he does care about humanity in spite of what he says. And in spite of what they’ve done to him, he’s never lost his compassion for others. There are several more like him who feel the same way. Who protect humanity."
"Yes, but is there a true god who does so?"
He thought about it a few seconds before he answered. "Apostolos."
Geary was surprised by his choice. "Apollymi’s son?"
"I thought he was dead."
"That’s what the rumor says."
"But you don’t believe it?"
Arik shrugged. "You hang out in dreams and you hear all kinds of fascinating things. Apostolos is alive and I’ve heard his mother speaking with him. I know that he often tries to calm her down when she’s extremely irate and threatening to destroy the world."
Geary took a second to let that soak in, "How ironic that the Great Destroyer’s child would be the one who cares about the very people she wants to destroy."
"It is, but he does. He understands the grand scheme of things and consequences better than anyone else, and unlike the other gods, he won’t punish people for their mistakes."
"Let’s just say that if I had to choose between my life and his, I’d much rather live mine."
Geary frowned. Jeez, how horrible had Apostolos’s life been that Arik would make that declaration? It was a scary thought. "Wow. You seem to know a lot about him even given the fact you hang out in dreams."
"Yeah, well, I’ve been in his a time or two, too. I just hope he never remembers it or I’m really screwed."
She looked up as she heard Kat’s voice. The tall blonde stood on the docks in a pair of shorts and a loose T-shirt.
"Hey, babe. Glad you made it."
Kat shrugged. "Well, if you really intend to go poking around Atlantis again, I want to be there for it."
"I’ll bet you do," Arik said under his breath.
Geary scowled at Arik’s odd tone but chose to ignore it as they neared Kat on the docks. "Do you have all the gear ready?"
Geary was grateful.
"Did you tell anyone what we’re doing?" Arik asked Kat as they joined her by the boat.
"Not at all. I know how to keep a secret."
"Good." Geary rubbed Arik’s arm before she headed to the boat. "Come on, kids, let’s get this under way. We have a date with destiny."
Arik paused as Kat narrowed her gaze on him with such intensity, he could actually feel his skin burn. "
How many times do you have to be warned? I can’t believe you’re this stupid."
"I’m not. She and I have an agreement. We give her a couple of innocuous trinkets to prove that Atlantis is real and save her father’s reputation and then she will doctor her findings to help send others off on a wild-goose chase. She will help us safeguard the location of Atlantis."
Kat looked stunned by his declaration. "Are you serious?" she asked in a low tone that only he could hear.
"Yes. She understands why it can’t be found and is in full accord."
"I don’t believe you."
Kat led him on board the small boat where Geary was already making preparations to sail. "So, Gear…
where’s the rest of the team?"
Megeara looked a bit sheepish. "I’m thinking we only need the three of us."
She met Arik’s gaze before she answered. "Look, Kat, I know how much finding Atlantis means to everyone, especially you, but I’ve done a lot of thinking and I don’t want it really found. I know it doesn’t make sense to you right now, but I think this is for the best and I want you to trust me."
Kat still looked unconvinced by Geary’s reasoning. "So why are we going back?"
"A couple of reasons. One, I want inarguable proof that it’s there, to silence everyone who laughed at my dad, and two, we need to destroy the datum so that no one will see it and get curious about it. The last thing we need is someone digging down there on a site we helped set up."
Kat folded her arms over her chest as she gave Geary a doubting stare. "Are you sure about this?"
"Positive." Geary reached out to pat Kat’s shoulder comfortingly. "I’m sorry, Kat. I know you wanted to be there when we unveiled the discovery, but we can’t tell anyone where Atlantis really is."
Kat shrugged. "Don’t apologize to me, Doctor. It’s your excavation."
Geary couldn’t believe that Kat wasn’t angry or hurt. But she was grateful for her friend’s levelheadedness.
Of course, there was a third reason Geary wanted to go. Apollymi. If Geary unleashed Apollymi, she would save Arik. But since Kat didn’t know that and Arik would kill Geary if she mentioned it to him, she kept that to herself. No matter what, she had to save him. She couldn’t stand by and let him die because he’d wanted to be with her. It was wrong and she loved him too much for that.
In less than an hour, they had the boat prepped and were under way. Kat was at the helm while Geary stayed on deck, looking out at the passing boats around them. The island was breathtaking in the
background, rising up out of the water with a grand majesty unparalleled. Her father had been right.
Greece was one of the most beautiful places in the world.
And this was the first time in years she’d headed toward the site without feeling anxious and elated.
There was definitely nothing but dread in her stomach now. She glanced over to where Arik stood, checking their diving gear. For once there was no guessing about Atlantis. There was no doubt. It was there. Waiting. Just as her father had said.
She was about to show it to the world.
And release a goddess…
Geary gripped the rail as she again heard Apollymi’s voice in her mind, calling out to her. She could save Arik. Keep him safe forever.
The promises sounded so good to her, especially as she watched him laying out their gear.
There’s no other way. She’d done her own research and checked it with Tory. Neither of them had been able to think of or find any example of a god becoming human. At least not unless the god was cursed or there was some other extenuating circumstance that didn’t apply to this case.
It was hopeless. To keep Arik, Geary would need Apollymi.
"What am I doing?" Geary whispered. "Don’t meddle in the affairs of the gods, unless you want to get eaten." It was a lesson that resonated through ancient literature.
Who was she to tamper with fate? But as she watched Arik, she couldn’t stand the thought of losing him.
The thought of sending him back to die.
"It’s an interesting moral dilemma, isn’t it?"
Geary tensed as she heard a voice to her right. She turned her head to find a handsome man standing in the shadows, barely a silhouette. His black hair was short and the glowing blue eyes marked him as another of Arik’s brethren.
"Who are you?"
"M’Adoc," he said in a low tone. "I’m one of the three leaders of the Oneroi."
A wave of fear went through her. "Are you here for Arik?"
He glanced over to where Arik worked, unable to see him in the glare of the afternoon sun. "Ultimately, yes. But I know from my dealings with humans that you’re going to fight me if I try to take him, and that I don’t want."
"You’re right about that. I won’t give him up. Not now. Not ever."
"I know. You love him. It’s why I heard Apollymi laughing a few minutes ago." He glanced back to Arik, who was checking their small dredge. "I give my brother kudos… to gain the love of a human is no small feat. The ability of the human heart to sacrifice for the one it loves… there is nothing on Olympus that can
even begin to compete with that."
A weird chill went over her body at his words and the way he said them. It gave her insight to this stranger. "You’ve known love." It was a statement.
His jaw flexed as if he was gritting his teeth, and a flash of pain darkened his eyes, confirming it. "The Oneroi know nothing of love and the Skoti know even less."
Still, she didn’t believe him. He’d known it and by the looks of it he’d lost it. "Then why are you here?"
"To warn you not to be foolish."
Well, that was nice of him. But she didn’t need his warning. She’d never been a stupid woman. "And how am I foolish?"
"You’ve given your heart to someone who has sold you out completely." He cast his gaze meaningfully at Arik.
Geary scoffed at him. "You’re wrong. Arik loves me."
He shook his head. "Arik has no conviction. If he had, he’d have never been turned by Solin."
"You don’t know that."
"Oh yes, I do. Arik is weak. He’s always been weak."
"Sh," he said, cutting her off. "Before you defend him, ask yourself this. How does a Skotos become human?"
"He already told me that. He made a pact with Hades."
"Yes, and you’re a woman who has spent her entire life steeped in ancient Greece. Have you learned nothing of our ways? Has a god ever given such a gift without receiving something extremely valuable in return?" There was an ominous note in his voice.
"What are you saying?"
"You mean so much to Arik that he bartered your life to be here. He isn’t the one who will die when his time ends, sweet child." His blue eyes were searing with heat. " You will."
Geary shook her head in denial. That was total crap and she knew it. "You’re lying."
"I can’t lie. I’m Oneroi."
"What the hell are you doing here?" Arik came out of nowhere to rush M’Adoc. She expected them to fight. Instead, M’Adoc allowed Arik to grab him by his shirtfront, shove him up against the wall, and hold him there.
Like a true Oneroi, there was no anger or any emotion evident as M’Adoc stared unblinkingly at him. "I
told her the truth."
"You what?" Arik asked from between gritted teeth.
"I told her of your deal with Hades. That you swapped her life for your mortality."
Arik’s face went pale as his eyes filled with absolute horror. He didn’t deny it. Rather, he looked guilty.