Hey all, new chapter below, and just a reminder that Friday is your last chance to donate and get your name in the dedications for Whiteout! If you have a chance, share the link below and donate. Thanks for reading!
Just a reminder, this is unedited, a rough draft, is the product of too much caffeine and CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WHITEOUT AND DOWNPOUR. You have been warned!
Links to previous chapters: Prologue,
9. Old Friends
“Hold on a minute, who’s Lopsang?” asked Good Cop, taking the notepad from his pocket once more. “Was he with you on your little excursion? You’ve mentioned him a few times now.”
“If you mean however that boat got on top of city hall, I’m going to say probably.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. The memory is still fuzzy.” His mind was still racing about the fact that they had reconnected with Lopsang. That had been yet another detail his alcohol-induced blackout had conveniently decided to leave out.
“Alright, so who was he?”
“That’s a long story.” Nick had no intention of getting into the complexities that surrounded demi-gods and Lopsang’s history unless he had to. “Suffice it to say we traveled together, and he presented some abilities that most would consider unusual.”
Christ, always with the questions. He’s not going to believe me anyway. “I once saw him dismantle a group of twenty militant cultists, literally, in less than a minute.”
“So he’s a fighter?”
He’s not going to let me around this. “He’s a demi-god. Means half human, half god. Not sure how exactly it came about, I never really took the time to ask.”
“Come on Dr. Ventner, you can’t possibly expect me to—”
“What did we say about suspending your disbelief?” Nick was sure Murphy was fuming on the other side of the mirror, begging for someone to let him rough up the prisoner.
“Right, of course. I suppose if I’ve put up with zombies, sea monsters, and secret pirate towns, a demi-god isn’t that much more on the pile,” he said with a tired sigh.
“Knowing myself, I’m sure there’s more.”
“Well, as this may very well be the last tale you spin for a while, go on.” Good Cop sat back in his chair, settling in for what he clearly believed to be yet another helping of bullshit.
Why couldn’t I have just been a lawyer? Nick thought about it. Oh right, they don’t get to be drunk on the job and carry harpoon guns. “This was the first time I had seen Lopsang in years. As I said earlier, he hadn’t taken the loss of his powers very well…”
Lopsang took us up a flight of stone stairs concealed behind a bookcase and into a solarium. Or at least what would have been a solarium if Tortuga had not been underground. Outside of the large glass dome that topped the room was a view of the cave above them. A waterfall fell from its roof, collecting in an aqueduct that ran around the edge of the building, pouring down in small fountains throughout the room.
Unlike the rest of the library, the room was filled with people talking. Groups of scholars were huddled around wooden tables, drinking coffee and heatedly debating various topics. At one point I am pretty sure I heard someone shout: “There’s no way in hell Mars was a woman, and you’re a crackpot for even suggesting such a thing!”
Lopsang laughed. “That’s Thesius, always calling everyone a crackpot, never coming up with any theories of his own.”
James, who had quietly followed up until that point, spoke up. “Where the hell have you been, Lopsang?”
Lopsang looked put off by the question. “I’ve been here.”
“One minute you were with us, helping us with that necromancer, the next you were gone. Why?” His tone was heated, and full of hurt.
“I’m sorry James.”
“Not going to cut it.”
“Look, fighting her reminded me too much of what I had lost.” Lopsang stopped walking and sat down at a table near the edge of the room.
James stood, defiantly.
“Oh come on, James, don’t be an ass.” I had wondered my fair share about where Lopsang had gotten off to, but I understood the need for solitude. Sometimes its better to deal with sorrow alone, and most people can’t cope with that idea.
James reluctantly sat down. “Why wouldn’t you tell us you were leaving?”
“You would have tried to stop me, and I needed this. Time away has been good.”
“But what have you been doing here?”
Lopsang shifted uncomfortably.
The answer came to me in a second. “He’s trying to figure out how to get his powers back. You sly dog!”
“Nick,” protested Lopsang.
“All that talk about being fine without them.”
Lopsang reddened. “Was a bunch of bullshit.”
“Knew it,” I laughed.
A smile cracked across Lopsang’s face. “I never was a very good liar.”
“No you weren’t. So, tell me; what do your powers have to do with the gods of Atlantis?”
“How did you know about that?”
“We met up with Ike,” said James.
“Loose-lipped drunkard,” spat Lopsang.
“Relax,” I chided, “he only told us after he found out we were looking into the same thing.”
“That’s right, how was it that you ended up in the service of the CIA?”
“I’m pretty sure we were set up, but in the end they just threatened the usual life and limb. Still not sure if we’re getting paid for this job.”
“What is the job exactly?”
“Well, in five days they’ve got a ship moving through the Triangle, and they’ve been having a real problem with sea monsters…”
“I knew it! This explains everything.”
“What, you mean about Poseidon sending his little beasties after the government vessels?”
“God damnit, Ike.”
“You really need to pick better drinking friends.”
“I believe the three of us have done quite a bit of drinking together have we not?”
“More than a bit.” There were more nights than not that ended in a hazy blur when drinking with Lopsang was concerned. When he was a demi-god that is. Usually I’d have one too many, and challenge him to a drinking contest, forgetting about his divine constitution.
“How’s Poseidon going to get you your powers back?” asked James.
“I’m not sure that he could be able to, but there are quite a few histories of him imbuing a chosen few with divine strength. I’ve read about a great many of the gods, and most are far too cautious to give powers to a mortal these days, but Poseidon has been known to give into whims. He seemed like he’d be the easiest to convince, albeit, the hardest to find.”
“I’ll say. We barely got near the triangle and had a kraken on our tail.”
“A kraken? What an idiot.”
“Clearly he’s not one to do his research either. Now there’s a beast running around out there, a few hundred years after the extinction of its kind, probably wreaking all kinds of havoc. I wouldn’t be surprised if the army loses a whole fleet to it.”
“Have you found any way of getting into Atlantis?” asked James.
“Yes, as a matter-of-fact, I think I have, but I haven’t been willing to risk it.” Lopsang looked ashamed. “With the state of my mortal being, traveling into the triangle would be far too dangerous.”
“Tell me about it. We found an entire island of the dead trying to do so. We came here to try and find a way to kill the sea monsters. Didn’t really have a plan beyond that.”
“I’m surprised the CIA didn’t give you anything. From everything I’ve found, they’re the closest to being able to get in.”
I swore under my breath. “Those bastards would send us on a suicide mission without all the information.” I had expected that we were merely some sort of pawn in a greater scheme the moment the CIA hired us, but finding it out with almost certainty was aggravating.
“I’ve suspected for a long time now that the only way to get into Atlantis is with a high energy power source.”
“That would explain why the kraken attacked us during the storm, and the legends behind the weather.” Most of the disappearances around the Bermuda triangle were chalked up to strange and sudden bouts of horrible storm weather. Squalls the size of ships, even bigger than what we had seen, would come seemingly from nowhere.
“Yes,” continued Lopsang, excitedly. “It also explains why the attacks never occur in the same spot.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Hold on a minute, let me get something.” Lopsang stood hurriedly and walked quickly to the staircase we had walked up.
“Well he seems to be in good spirits.” I had expected much worse for a depressed demi-god hiding out in the land known for drinking and pillaging.
“Doesn’t it seem a bit obsessive to you?” James looked concerned.
“If I had lost immortality and the powers Lopsang had, I’d be holed up in a pit somewhere trying to drink myself to death. At least he’s doing something about it.” Honestly, that had been where I’d expected to find him one day. After he left, I wasn’t sure we were ever going to see him alive again.
Quickly as he had gone, Lopsang was already bustling back through the secret door, carrying a few large books and long reams of paper. He dropped them all on the table and spread one of the reams out. “This, is a map of every disappearance that’s ever been reported in the Bermuda Triangle. Note, there are plenty of un-reported disappearances, but let’s ignore them for now.”
The map was covered from top to bottom in tiny dots representing mysterious cases. Lopsang had color-coded them for aviation, sea-faring, and unusual. “What’s unusual mean?” There were only two dots of that color on the map.
“Accidents that were likely the result of stupidity but also happened to occur within the triangle’s border. That one,” he pointed to a dot at the top of the map, “was a man who was content on trying to cross the Atlantic with nothing but a surf board. Storm kicked up and the ship that was following him told him to turn back. The man told them to let him go it alone and kept paddling. Never seen since.”
“A true American hero, I’m sure.” I’m not sure what it is about fascinating acts of dumbfounding stupidity, but the American public tends to recognize them as acts of heroism. Walk a tightrope between skyscrapers, risking life and limb, for no reason other than to reach the other side? They make a god damned movie with Joseph Gordon Levitt about you. Hunt creatures that otherwise would threaten the very existence of society as they know it, occasionally someone buys you a drink.
“This other one,” Lopsang pointed to another dot just off the coast of Florida. “Was a man testing a jet ski powered by lightning.”
“Florida, remind me if we get out of this alive never to go there.” I had made it a personal goal since childhood to never return to the state that people referred to as the devil’s blindspot. Talking to those in the demon-hunting profession, it was chock full of unwelcome visitors from the realm below, and worst of all, the rich elderly population that always threatened to tank the country with their rigid ideology.
“The important thing,” Lopsang said, in an attempt to refocus the conversation, “is that none of these incidents show a geographical pattern.”
“Great, another mystery.”
James looked intently at the map. “But they all occurred during some form of storm or on a vessel with a high energy source didn’t they?”
“Yes,” exclaimed Lopsang. “Yes, they did, and I think it’s those high energy sources that open the portals to Atlantis. Well, not necessarily all the way, but enough for a craft to accidentally slip through, or for something to creep out.”
I looked through the stacks of books by Lopsang’s side. Each one made him look more like a conspiracy theorist than the last, but despite myself, I was following his logic. That was, right until I came upon the last book on the stack. “Oh no, Lopsang, not you too…” I lifted a volume labeled Encounters with the Extraterrestrial Vol 5.
“I know your opinion on the subject, Nick.”
Lopsang had sat through many a drunken night where I would lambast the idea of life from other planets visiting earth. Sure, it made sense that they were out there, but no sense whatsoever for them to come visit our cesspool of a planet. Anyone who claimed to have seen or made contact with them was just cloying for attention or suffering from an overactive imagination.
“Tell me you didn’t read through volumes one through four to get here…”
“Look, Nick, it’s the only solution that makes any sense. All of these portals could have been triggered accidentally,” Lopsang pulled out another map extending beyond the range of the triangle covered in purple dots, “but not all of them are so happenstance.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“This is ridiculous?” asked James. “We literally just left an island of the dead to come to a secret pirate town hidden under an island off the coast of Haiti.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.” Everything that had happened so far at least made sense. I had known for a long time about the dead clinging to life in various forms, and the idea of a black market hidden beneath an island actually seemed tame by comparison to most of my career.
“I’ll give you this,” I said, trying for compromise. When someone has a belief, even if it’s in something as ridiculous as aliens, it’s hard to change. “The idea of high-energy electrical signals opening these portals or somehow signaling the gods beyond them makes sense.
“But, I think that ships are slipping through when the gods send their little beasties out to do clean-up duty.”
“It’s a possibility,” admitted Lopsang.
“And as far as the CIA goes; I’m sure the vessels they’ve been sending through have been carrying high-voltage power sources in an attempt to open the portal. If I know them as well as I think I do, they think there’s some Atlantean technology that can be weaponized, or they’re catering to their general fear of the unknown.”
Saying it out loud, the theory began to make more sense. Certainly, it was miles more reasonable than the idea of little green men opening and closing the gates to Atlantis due to a misinterpretation of the phenomenon of lightning. “As far as I’m concerned, that leaves us with less time than we previously thought.”
“Why is that?” asked James.
“We need to get to Atlantis and shut those gates before the CIA can get through.”
“If you’re going to Atlantis, then I’m coming with,” replied Lopsang.
“What about all that talk about not wanting to risk your newly mortal life?” I asked.
“It’s definitely still a risk, but you seem like my best shot at getting in there.”
Lopsang was always the rational actor. James seemed offended by this reasoning, but to me, it just made sense. A person acting to maximize their odds of survival, I can understand. It’s when things get into the realm of sentimental, or vendettas, that my understanding runs out.
“And,” added Lopsang, a little hastily, “I’d rather die with my friends than rotting away in some library dreaming about what could have been.”
“Great, it’s settled then.” As I said it, a yawn escaped my mouth and I realized just how long it had been since I had slept. I shook myself awake. “We will go to hidden city of Atlantis,
get your powers back, and screw over the CIA before they have a chance to get their hands on a new technology that will likely lead to death and destruction.”
“I’m in,” said James.
“Fantastic,” I said, drowsily. “But I think we should do it in the morning. We’ve still got five days until the CIA will be there with their ship, and without some sleep, we’re going to die before we even get off the coastline.”
“I’ve got a place you can stay,” said Lopsang.
“Lead the way then.”