“It’s called a polar vortex, Mr. Slaymaster.”
Thor Slaymaster grunted. Thor Slaymaster liked cold weather, the way that he liked beer and nachos and hot alien women. Zombies were easier to kill in cold weather. The shapeshifter aliens were easier to spot, as the mist from their breath tended to glow in a pale lavender color. And Thor Slaymaster’s hot alien girlfriend positively hated cold weather, and wanted to spend every cold day wrapped up in blankets with a warm body beside her.
But the snow made the roadways impassable, and the winds made the helicopter unflyable, and Thor Slaymaster was restless. Beer and nachos and sex had fulfilled his basic requirements, but he hadn’t killed anything in days and the forced inactivity wore on his nerves.
“Has everything shut down?” Thor Slaymaster asked.
Terry bit his lip and stared at his monitors. “Everything’s still quiet, Mr. Slaymaster. Air traffic is shut down. All the bad guys are stuck inside drinking hot chocolate. Only thing running is the subway.”
“Then that is where I must go.”
“Revenge,” Thor Slaymaster said.
Down in the tunnels, deep beneath the city, there lived an angel. Thor Slaymaster had seen her once, and she had defeated him. But he was still alive, and it was a good day for revenge.
Thor Slaymaster had no idea who she was or even if she was still alive. She had attacked him after he had agreed to help relocate the local mutant community to a new housing project in Baltimore. The mutants had moved willingly, and were rapidly gentrifying a bombed-out sector of the city. But the angel had not reappeared, and Thor Slaymaster had been bogged down with a zombie uprising in Miami and had not been able to track her down. He reasoned that she was likely a mutant herself, and had stayed behind in the tunnels. It was a decent place to start.
Thor Slaymaster took the subway to the end of the Green Line and went exploring down the far end of the tunnel. The area where the mutants had been looked like a beehive without the bees. There was a startling assortment of earthmovers and tunneling equipment everywhere, but all the workers were home due to the freezing weather.
Thor Slaymaster trudged through the mess left by the construction crews until he came to the place where the new station was being prepared. He saw the woman with the angel wings and the dead-white mask standing on the platform, as though she was waiting for the next train.
“Thor Slaymaster,” she said. “Predictable.”
“As predictable as me finding you here.”
“Have you come to gloat over your triumph?” the angel asked.
“You misunderstand,” Thor Slaymaster said.
Thor Slaymaster was talented, athletic, and deadly, but certain things were not part of his skillset, and leaping was one of them. He had no more chance of leaping six feet off the railbed to confront the angel standing on the platform than he did of, well, growing wings. He thought about taking a shotgun from out of his over-the-shoulder harness and just blasting the angel into the next world. But Thor didn’t know what defenses the angel had against such an attack–she could be a shapeshifter, or another kind of alien altogether with unguessable powers. And the revenge he truly wanted was to wrap the angel’s whip around her throat and squeeze.
“You have a mission,” the angel said. “So did I, once.”
“Everyone knows my origin story,” Thor Slaymaster said. “I did not come down here to listen to yours. If you want to defeat me, here I am.”
“And give up my strategic advantage? If you want your revenge, come and get it. Don’t think you can taunt me into coming down there, either.”
The only reason that Thor Slaymaster was still alive was his ability to recognize and exploit the weaknesses in the strategies of others. He searched his mind for anything that could give him an advantage. He could fetch one of the construction machines waiting down the track, but they would be slow and he would be a sitting target. He could approach the subway platform from above, but the angel would be ready for such a tactic. There were no ramps or ladders or jetpacks lying around.
“You showed wisdom in dealing with the mutants,” the angel said. “Show wisdom now, and leave this place.”
Thor Slaymaster said nothing.
“I will not harm you. I would even give you some hot chocolate if you wanted some. It is cold, even down here, and far too windy for me to fly.”
Thor Slaymaster said nothing.
“Ah, the famous Thor Slaymaster silent treatment. Let me ask you this, silent man. Why did you come down here? It wasn’t for revenge.”
“Revenge,” Thor Slaymaster said, “is a dish best served cold.”
“That is an excuse,” the angel said. “An excuse made by incompetent or inefficient men. If vengeance works at all, it works when it is sudden and bloody and violent and unrestrained. You know this, in your heart, and yet you did not seek vengeance against me until now. Why?”
“My duties lie elsewhere,” Thor Slaymaster said.
“Then I give you a blessing,” the angel said. “And, as is traditional, a curse. Do your duty. Fight the monsters and aliens that infest this world. Protect the innocent where you can, and fight ruthlessly where you can’t. When you are done with your duties, and if you still want revenge, then meet me here. I will be waiting.”
“Back so soon?” Charlie said. She was still in bed, wrapped up against the chill. Thor Slaymaster thought he saw a small movement in her lower body, under the thick covers, that might have been her tentacles.
“Yes,” Thor Slaymaster said.
“That didn’t take long,” she said.
“Duty called,” Thor Slaymaster said.
“Zombies?” Charlie asked.
“Something more important,” Thor Slaymaster said. He flipped the covers back. He had been right about the tentacles.