The Devil Went Down to Sounion
rating: +13+x

Athens is sunnier than I remembered. I want to say it's just my faulty memory, but it might have to do with the newly opened temple of Helios that sits right across the street from the city's hyper-train station.

Not that it can be helped.

Word in the rest of the Immortal Empire is that you can't spit anywhere on Earth without it landing somewhere sacred. They're not wrong. With the return of the old religions, the temple of every god that has ever shat on this planet is being rebuilt or restored. Athens just so happens to be the city with the second largest number of temples in the world. Cairo is still número uno. Point for Ra, I think.

That being said, I do like it here. It's nice to see the sun every now and then. I won't be missing New Ravenshire and the Black Forest in a while. This time of year the sky is so bleak even the Impaler's spawn can walk in daylight. This city, on the other hand, with its white marble buildings and Mediterranean climate… hell, I'll even visit the Parthenon if it buys me more time here.

Unfortunately, Athens is but a brief sight before we take a bus to Sounion, our actual destination. The Fanatic and the Paladin have stockpiled our equipment in a safehouse nearby, and we only have two days to get everything ready before our target shows up. Better get going.


Guess my visit to the Parthenon will have to wait.

A few hours later I'm already missing Athens.

We're in an old, decayed building with a wooden roof so full of holes that any rain will have us soaking. The floor is covered by a thick layer of dust, and the walls look like they're about to give in. A battered, cracked and obsolete television is the only electronic in the room, and I'm wary of even asking where we're supposed to sleep.

What little remains of the windows tells me that this was once a Christian church, probably abandoned at some point during the collapse of Abrahamic religions. It ain't easy to keep a following when every god but yours shows up to the party.

The TV is playing a news broadcast on the temple's reopening. We have a full house, it seems.

A horde of Atlanteans from every one of the Seven Kingdoms has gathered in the waters surrounding the precipice where the temple stands. The Savant says he can feel almost five thousand different minds down there. Bet they also invited every merrow, mermaid and selkie they could find on their way here. Right now, they're dancing and singing, anticipating the arrival of their patron god, even though he won't show up until tomorrow evening. I'll never get religious types.

From what the reporter's saying, the precipice itself will soon be overrun as well. Half of Greece has planned to attend the temple's reopening, and local government expects a crowd numbering the thousands. There's even rumors that a troupe of Amazons has been seen heading in this direction, riding a small fleet of Pegasi straight from Themyscira. Let's just hope Athena does not show up with them. One god is plenty.

No worries, though. We brought an arsenal.

The Paladin and the Fanatic lift up a hidden trapdoor, sending dust flying everywhere. The Savant and the Engineer cough loudly in protest. Guess they'd hoped for a cleaner hideout. I, on the other hand, can hardly wait to get my hands on the treasure trove they've just uncovered for us.

I can tell by Frank's expression that I look a bit overeager, but I just can't help getting riled up at the sight of guns.

The plan is as follows.

The Engineer and the Fanatic will set up the explosive device, the Red Death contained in its entrails. It'll be hidden within a complex nest of redundant electronics, so as to pass the security checkpoints as simple cleaning equipment.

Before the sun rises tomorrow, the Paladin will present the guards outside the target's perimeter with forged credentials that'll allow her, the Engineer and the Savant to pose as part of the restoration crew. If anything goes wrong, the Savant will subtly influence the guards' minds into letting them in. They'll go inside the target and place the device beneath the main altar, then leave the way they went in.

When the main event shows up the following day, I'll be waiting with a bullet ready for him. I'll have to select my position carefully. I only get one shot before everything goes south.

Either way, that'll be all I have to do before I cash in on that paycheck. Once I've taken care of my objective, the Fanatic will remotely detonate the device, spreading Red Death everywhere and finally making his statement. The Paladin and the Engineer will gun down anyone trying to escape, and the Savant will make sure to erase our faces from anyone's memory.

After that, it's every woman for herself. I'm hoping to visit Tír na nÓg afterwards. What better victory than drinking with gods after you shoot one of their kind?

In the meantime, the Paladin, the Savant and I will go do recon on the target, leaving the Fanatic and the Engineer to work on the bomb.

Hopefully this means I get to at least enjoy the sight before we blow the place up.

It's been three hours since we returned from recon, and things are still not up and running, a sign that everything and anything can go awry tomorrow; certainly not what any of us had hoped for.

Though the Fanatic and the Engineer have been working tirelessly to have the Red Death kill as many people as possible, they were not counting on so many different species showing up for the temple's reopening. According to Frank the Savant, there's almost ten flavors of Atlanteans down there, along with three other species of merpeople, one race of magically enhanced women and at least five representatives from distinct extraterrestrial species. Hell, maybe they won't call it genocide if the bomb kills people indiscriminately.

In any case, the Fanatic had me and the Paladin go down into the crowd to pick up… samples to upload into the Red Death's programming. It's about as fun as it sounds, mainly because many of the party's guests have either moist skin or hair… or no hair at all. At least we being women means that scary looking Amazon did not beat us into a pulp when we dared ask for a lock of her hair. Sometimes, being straightforward gets you places.

The Paladin moves like a hunter through a herd of prey, a wolf in sheep's clothing waiting to strike. In two days, all these non-humans will be coughing up blood and melted organs; her family will soon be avenged… and the temple of the Earthshaker will be nothing but a pile of scorched rubble.

Well, whatever floats her boat, I guess. Vengeance and personal grievances are not why I signed on this mission; I'm just in it for the money. Guess that makes me an even worse monster than any of these fools, doesn't it?

Sometimes, perhaps, I should pin the things I do on some childhood trauma. Might look better before a judge if I too play the victim.

After all, I too have a great story to tell.

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