I took as instant a dislike to Los Angeles as I’d expected. And I rapidly realized that Sigyn’s gambit would not truly work.
Maybe it was that part of me that came from her, but I knew leaving would not stop me from caring. And if Surtur knew I still cared, he would not change his plans.
Goddesses can be wrong. But then, so could I.
The city sprawled below as the plane descended. True, DC sprawled too, and ran into other cities, and threatened to run all the way to New York and create an east coast megalopolis. But there was something about this city that said it didn’t care.
Didn’t care how far you had to travel to find anything green. Didn’t care how much water it greedily sucked up.
Maybe we were both right and both wrong. Maybe I had to leave, just not here. The airport was as busy and obnoxious as any airport I had been to. The heat was as stifling as DC, except somehow worse.
And the entire place felt as if a pall of evil fell over it. Or maybe I’d seen too much urban fantasy that cast Los Angeles as an evil place.
I couldn’t be sure, even as I flagged down a cab to take me to my hotel. Which wasn’t particularly expensive. I wasn’t spending a lot on this trip – they were refusing to pay travel expenses, which I decided was a bad sign.
They clearly wanted me, but they also wanted me to, what? Prove I was serious, maybe. Prove that I really wanted to work for them, to travel this far.
The agency wasn’t far from my hotel, but for right now, I needed dinner. I texted Kanesha to tell her I was there safely, then headed for the nearest place that looked reasonably cheap. I rapidly discovered that cheap in Los Angeles was even harder to find than cheap in DC. I finally found a “deli style” restaurant that would sell me dinner for less than $25, ordered the beef stew, and settled down.
Maybe nobody would notice me here. Maybe nobody would know me. That might almost be worth it. Then again, if that pall of evil was real then whatever or whoever was causing it certainly would become rapidly aware of my presence.
Not much I could do about that. I was here, and it would notice me, and we’d probably…dance around each other a little.
Unless it thought it could crush me. I shook my head and ate my stew, although that thought made it taste less wholesome than it might have. It was still pretty good stew, although I wasn’t sure it was worth the price.
But anywhere I went was likely to be expensive. My meeting was in the morning and I decided to go to my room and rest.
I wasn’t able to sleep.
Oh, I dozed off a couple of times, but when I did, I felt as if I was under attack. It did occur to me whatever it was would hide me from Surtur.
But…whatever it was was doing things to people in this city. There was no way it wasn’t. And I was, once more, off my turf and completely alone.
I couldn’t fight this, so the best thing for me to do was get my business done, give a polite no, and retreat until I could.
Strategic retreat again.