Gunkanjima Island had once housed the greatest population density in the world. Off the coast of Nagasaki, the island had housed coal mines for most of the early twentieth century, and had been home to thousands of people on its only sixteen acres of land.
Then the coal had run out, and the island had been abandoned.
That was why Bast had come here. There weren’t supposed to be any humans on the island.
Bast couldn’t fathom why an abandoned and collapsing coal town would become a tourist destination.
“No, please, don’t!” the man screamed, holding up his hands. He was young, and prior to this moment, had his full life ahead of him.
Emphasis on had, Bast thought as her hand slammed down and shoved through the man’s chest with the sickening crunch of bone. She pulled the arm back, letting the man slump bonelessly to the ground, the man’s beating heart still in her grasp. She raised the organ to her lips bit into it like it was a pulsating apple. “As far as last words go, I’ve heard better,” Bast said as she finished off her meal.
“You do like playing with your food,” Vlad said, stepping out from behind the wall. Blood caked his lips and chin. “When I was as young as you, I certainly did.”
Bast ignored the barb. “Was that the last of them?”
“There’s one more your pet monster is hounding right now. Then that will be the last of them. Cassandra ate herself sick, by the way. You should encourage your underlings to exercise some restraint.”
“Please, spare me the lecture,” Bast said, stepping out of the room and into the courtyard. “There weren’t supposed to be people here,” she said as she stared up at the apartment buildings that dotted the island, vines winding up the walls.
“I’ve learned that if people can manage to stand in a place for a full day without immediately dying, they’ll spend time there.” Vlad chuckled to himself, “and if they cannot, they’ll find a way to stand there. We’re a tenacious species.”
Bast shrugged. She hadn’t warmed up to Vlad in the past few days. He was a useful tool, and she was certain he felt the same way. He was just better at idle chatter. “We can’t use this island,” Bast said, shaking her head.
Vlad growled at that. “What do you mean, we can’t use it? It’s perfect. So what if we had to eat a few tourists to clear it out? God’s Blood, Bast, there’s a mine right under the town we can use on top of the facilities we can repair! And now you want to abandoned it?” Vlad kicked the body of the tourist Bast had just killed. “Look, he’s Korean, not even Japanese! No one’s going to realize where he died.”
“You really don’t understand the modern world,” Cassandra said, approaching the two gods. She was wiping her mouth as she did. Bast made a mental note to ask Cassandra if she had been a fastidious eater in her past life, too, or if that was a habit that had been picked up more recently. You certainly weren’t a clean eater a few days ago.
Vlad scowled at her. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“The tour guide would have logged this tour, digitally. Maybe with the government, or may just in his books. The people who he took with him would have used credit or debit cards, leaving a record of who they were with. The harbor will note the boat didn’t return. A rescue party will probably be here in twelve hours, with a plane flying overhead even sooner,” Cassandra finished and looked at Bast, who nodded approval. Cassandra flushed at the gesture.
Before Vlad could respond, there was a sickening howl as Bridges’s found his prey and snapped the poor bastard in half.
Vlad dismissed the interruption. “The more food for us. We can face down an army if need be.”
“The whole point was to not, however,” Bast said firmly. “No. This place is no good to us.”
Vlad growled wordlessly. “Then where do you suggest we go? We need a place with existing infrastructure, easily defensible, no humans that someone might look for – do you have such a place in mind?”
“We’ll figure something out,” Bast said. “There’s other places on our list.”
“No,” Vlad said with a snarl. “We’ve taken long enough. Next time is the last time. If we have to slaughter a thousand humans to hold it, so be it. We’re never going to find the perfect place, and there is still a ticking clock.”
“If the next place is inhabited, we’ll come back here,” Bast said firmly. “It’s the closest to what we’re looking for we’ve found, and the heat should have died down by then.”
Vlad glanced up at the sun and scowled. “The heat is precisely what I’m concerned about, Bast.”
“We’re almost done,” Bast said. “What about the others? Would they want us to take needless risks this close to the end of it?”
Vlad sighed. “Very well. But,” he held up a finger, “No more attempts. The location is hardly this important. If our next location ends up being a dead end, I’m going to tell the others you’re stalling.”
It was Bast’s turn to scowl. Her position was tenuous. Such an accusation could completely undermine her, see her cut out of the process. She glances at Cassandra. See us cut out of the process, Bast amended. “I assure you, Vlad, our next stop will be our last.”
Vlad gave her a curt nod and stalked back to his nanoverse.
“How can you be certain of that?” Cassandra asked, in the quavering tones she always used when questioning Bast.
Bast shrugged as the door to Vlad’s nanoverse closed. “Because he was right. I have been stalling.”
Cassandra gaped at her. “Why?”
“Because there’s too many things unaccounted for. We still don’t know where Athena, Ishtar, and that little shit vanished to. We still don’t know who’s side half the gods are going to come down on. I was using this as a pretext to buy myself time to get answers.”
“Did it work?” Cassandra asked.
“Oh yes,” Bast said, her eyes sparkling. “I know exactly what our next move is going to be. Come, Cassandra. We have work to do.”
And what a glorious thing it will be, Bast thought as they stepped into her nanoverse.