Standing on the platform of Slateston Cove station, Gideon Cross watched as the porter carefully arranged the number of suitcases on the rickety trolley. The train station was pretty deserted. There were only a handful amount of passengers that had travelled with them from Crownsbridge, which suited the cougar just fine. Humming a random tune for himself, the cougar took a pocket watch out of his tweed jacket and studied the time.
“When did Atlas say he’ll meet us again?” The cougar who was standing beside him spoke up.
Leonidas Cross, or Leon as he preferred to be called, was Gideon’s identical twin brother, older by twelve minutes. Like Gideon, Leon was tall, with strong, broad shoulders and intelligent green eyes. He was slightly more slender than his younger twin but they both cut quite the stalwart figure.
The only thing that differed them was their hairstyle, and the mechanical arm that was in place Leon’s right arm, partly hidden beneath his deep green travelling coat and shirt sleeve.
“Five thirty. He said he’ll be meeting us here.” Gideon replied to his twin as he slipped the watch back to his jacket. He turned around just as a Peregrine Falcon, who was a couple of years younger, called for his name.
“All set, Mr. Gideon,” said the Peregrine, gesturing to the porter who had secured their luggage as he took a last big drag from his cigarette and removed the stub from his beak with a puff of smoke.
Gideon nodded. “Thank you Flint.”
“We just need to meet with this Mr. Atlas, then?” Flint asked.
“Yes. He should be here by now.” Gideon hummed. “Funny name, Atlas, don’t you think?” He mused. “You sure he doesn’t have any first name or surname to go with that?”
Flint shook his head. “All of his letters were signed as ‘Atlas’, except for the first letter which was signed as ‘R.D Oscar’, Mr. Gideon.”
The cougar nodded, humming as he contemplated the letters which had came to their office for the past few weeks. This ‘Atlas’ was certainly a mystery. He turned to his brother when the older cougar nudged his shoulders.
Leon gestured to the figure that was slowly approaching them. “You think that’s him?”
Turning around, the three men could see a timberwolf making their way towards them. The canine was definitely handsome and well made, with neatly trimmed white fur that was flecked with dark greys and black which gives off the impression of brushed silver. His hair had been neatly slicked back, and his tall, athletic frame was impeccably clad in a tailored, dark blue and black suit.
“I think that’s him.” The cougar replied slowly, his mind recalling the last letter which they had received from their mysterious correspondence. “His description fits.”
The wolf’s striking pale blue eyes shifted from Leon, Gideon, and then to Flint, before settling to Gideon for a long moment.
“I see you’ve taken the Chief’s offer after all.” The wolf finally said, flashing the two cougars a small, but charming sideways grin.
“The Chief?” Flint voiced.
The wolf nodded. “I work for Rodger Oscar.”
“So, you’re Atlas, I presume?” Leon addressed the canine, who inclined his head.
“Yes… and I presume you’re Leonidas Cross?” He asked, turning to Gideon.
“No, I’m Gideon, his brother.”
“Ah. My apologies.”
“Just call me Leon, please.” The other cougar replied, stretching out his paw for a handshake.
Atlas did not take it however. His gaze lingered on the mechanical paw construct, eyebrow raised.
“Arlemanian manufacture… seems like Daedalus & Sons’ design with custom modifications.” The wolf murmured as he lifted Leon’s paw to have a close look. Leon stared as Atlas continued to mutter. “Industrial grade steel alloy with high quality chrome plating… this is quite new too. Certainly a prototype, and dare I say if it’s powered by high capacity, battery powered dynamo instead of a miniature low pressure combustion system?”
Leon nodded, feeling dumbstruck by Atlas’s spot on analysis.
“My, my, you seem to have quite the connections, detective.”
“This is a gift from my client actually…” Leon replied, suddenly wary of the grin Atlas was giving him. “How did you know all that?”
“Oh, I dabble in mechanics, Mr. Cross.” The wolf replied simply with a wave of his paw before he turned his attention to Gideon. His piercing blue eyes seem to be sizing up the younger cougar twin.
“I’ve never expected you to be quite the strong figure, doctor.” He seem to like what he saw as he nodded. The corner of his muzzle quirked up.
Gideon simply inclined his head. “Just Gideon Cross, please. I’m not an active medical practitioner, not anymore at least.”
Atlas gave him a small, unreadable grin. “Quite. I read you were quite the talented wrestler in your alma mater. You know, we would be happy to welcome a brilliant doctor as you are, especially in your expertise in diseases.”
“We?” Gideon couldn’t help but stare. Just how much did this Atlas know about them?
“We are always open for new citizenships… and of course there are spots for strapping private investigators as yourself.” The wolf said, still sporting the unreadable grin.
Gideon stared. He wasn’t sure what to make of Atlas’ comment. The wolf now had his attention to the Peregrine standing a bit ways behind Leon however.
“And you’re Mr. Jarred Flint I presume? When you told me that you’d bring another I never thought you’d bring your secretary with you.” This was directed to Leon.
“Flint here has experience in the field.” Leon answered. “You don’t need to worry about him.”
The wolf hummed and nodded. “I see, I see. Well then, if everything settled, follow me.”
Without even waiting, the silver furred wolf turned and moved towards the station building, leaving Flint blinking in surprise. The cougar brothers raised an eyebrow before they followed the wolf with the Peregrine and the porter in tow.
A fancy looking sedan was already waiting for them as they made it outside. A gryphon in a form-fitting greyish blue uniform, adorned with silver fittings. The gryphon was also wearing black leather gloves and a peaked cap was standing at attention. He snapped to attention and quickly opened the door for Atlas to enter, before moving to let the guests in.
The uniformed chauffeur finally settled into the driver’s seat once the luggage has been secured in the trunk, turning to look at the wolf sitting behind him.
“To the harbor, Mr. Atlas?”
“Yes, but go directly to the pier, Santos.” The wolf answered as the car started. “You remember your instructions?”
The gryphon nodded with a grin. He seemed to be quite happy about the situation for some reason. “Yes, sir.”
“Good.” Atlas said, before turning his attention to his guests. “You mind if I smoke?”
Gideon would not rather breathe in the smell of cigarette in an enclosed space, but Atlas had pulled out a stick of unknown brand of cigarette as he said those words, so the cougar simply nodded his head.
“Sure, go ahead.”
There was a few moments of silence as the silver furred wolf flicked his lighter and lit the cigarette. Flint looked like as if he wanted to take a smoke but he held himself. The unknown brand did pique his interest however.
“Atlas, I will sound impudent, but if you don’t mind me asking...” Leon spoke up. “Is Atlas your given name or surname?”
The wolf stared at the cougar, exhaling thick, sharp smelling smoke. A low chuckle came out from his lips.
“It’s simply Atlas.”
Gideon hummed. “And you intend to keep it that way, I presume?”
Atlas’ pale blue eyes glinted. “Maybe… if you ask nicely enough then, perhaps.”
The cougar gave the canine a wry smile.
The wolf raised an eyebrow, looking amused as he shook his head and took a few more puffs of his cigarette. “Well then, I’m sure you’ve read the files I’ve sent you?”
The two felines nodded. It was Leo who spoke first. “Yes, but I’ve got to say, the files, well… even with the facts laid out… is just quite impossible.”
Atlas inhaled, and slowly exhaled the smoke, giving the two cougars a cryptic smile. “That’s the essence of Prometheus, Mr. Cross. Oscar—the Chief—chose the impossible, and the impossible became possible.”
Prometheus... A secret metropolis built under the cold, icy depths of the Altosian Ocean. A full fledged city built by the Columbian billionaire industrialist, Rodger Oscar. The tycoon wolf had disappeared from the media six or seven years back, and all of his enterprises were slowly being sold to other companies one by one. His disappearance prompted many rumours about himself.
A financial column in the Daily Postal had speculated that Oscar had gone and somehow gotten bankrupt and thus why he sold his remaining businesses to keep up with the finances, and had been lying low. The Inquirer wrote that they had a reliable resource informing that Oscar had gone off sailing with his private yacht with friends and family one day, and never returned. Whereas Vox Weekly got wind of the news that Oscar had debauched himself on drugs and alcohol and had died from overdose like so many other famous people these days.
Never Gideon thought that Oscar had gone and built a living, breathing, and thriving underwater city with a population of five thousand and growing. No doubt the tycoon had went on his yacht with friends and family to move into Prometheus instead of being lost at sea like the Inquirer implied.
However, even with the pictures and documents that Atlas had shown him, Gideon and his brother still had a hard time wrapping his mind around the fact that city like Prometheus could exist.
“And tell me again why it’s not public knowledge? The city and Oscar, I mean.” Leon went to ask.
Atlas replied with a surprising amount of finality. “It’s not ready for the public eye, Mr. Cross, and it will never be… unless we weed out the parasites.”
“Parasites.” Leon repeated.
“Yes. Parasites, Mr. Cross.”
The older cougar looked at Atlas to prompt the wolf for more explanation. However, none came as Atlas contented himself to enjoy his cigarette.
Letting out a dissatisfied huff, Leon turned to his twin brother for help. Gideon shook his head, knowing that Atlas wouldn’t tell them, for now. The wolf seemed to be the type to not divulge any information he didn’t deem necessary. Furthermore, Atlas had given them more than enough information to go by.
In his correspondence letters, Atlas had described the growing dissent among the factions of Prometheus’ citizens. Small protests had broken out in its streets, and there had been a number of “accidents” in various factories. Recent development saw a few construction projects halted because a number of heavy duty equipment were found irreversibly damaged.
Rodger Oscar had suspected that someone had been deliberately sabotaging the development of the city and riling up the citizens. As Prometheus was supposedly a secret utopia, Oscar did not want to draw attention from law enforcement on the surface, naturally. So, he needed a private detective to sort out the problem for him who could keep things hush-hush.
And he had chosen the Cross & Cross Investigations, for some reason. Perhaps it was because their agency was relatively not that well known just yet. Big time agencies like Grayston could attract unwanted attention from the government.
“The Chief is looking for someone who can be trusted, reliable and discreet. I trust you won’t disappoint him.” The wolf had written in one of his letters.
So basically, the tycoon wanted them to investigate the problem, find the instigator, find out their reasons, and bring them to Oscar without causing too much havoc, and then job done. Nothing more, nothing less. As an incentive, Atlas had deposited a very large sum of money to each of their bank account.
Honestly, the money wasn’t really needed to push Gideon and his twin to take the case. The prospect of going into an impossible underwater city was enough incentive. Still… a few hundred thousand bucks could be handy in the future.
Despite how simple their job sounded, Gideon suspected that there was something that Atlas wasn’t telling them. He and Gideon had sensed that the wolf was the kind of client who wouldn’t divulge information if it wasn’t deemed necessary for them.
No matter. Life as private investigators was always full of complications, and they would have to suck it up.
The drive to the harbor was spent in silence, and the sleepy town of Slateston Cove went by quickly. They arrived at the harbor, which was called Havenstone Quay, in less than fifteen minutes. The harbor was a rather fancy affair, adorned with a single, modern white building that was three stories high, and adorned with tall windows.
Santos drove the limousine towards the side of the building, and past the gates after the security guard waved him in. Atlas must have been a regular to be allowed in without any security checks.
The car drove through the pier where ferries and luxury yachts alike were docked bobbed slightly in the choppy waters. He quickly parked inside the available private parking lots and helped the passengers out.
Gideon was ever glad to get some fresh air.
“Through here. Santos will handle your luggage.” Atlas quipped, leading the other three towards the outer piers, where a large motor yacht was docked.
Flint let out an appreciative whistle. “She’s a real beauty alright.” He remarked.
The yacht was a modern construct, with a long and streamlined silhouette, painted in deep blue and white. Gold trims adorned its oval shaped portholes and windows. A golden plaque on the bow identified the name of the yacht: The Windward.
The yacht’s crew were already waiting for them on the pier, and they gave Atlas a small salute as he approached.
“Afternoon Mr. Atlas.” The captain, who was a rather imposing Grizzly Bear rumbled with a polite smile.
“Captain Rufus!” Atlas replied brightly. “How are the preparations? Are we good to sail?”
The bear nodded to the wolf. “Weather’s fair, sir. Although I heard there will be strong winds later tonight.” He said. “We should be able to reach the island safely however.”
Gideon turned to the wolf. “Island, Mr. Atlas?”
“The only gateway to Prometheus.” The timberwolf answered him. “We are sailing to Enclave Point.”
“Wasn’t that one of Oscar’s private islands?”
“You would be correct.” Atlas nodded.
“And… how long until we reach the island?” Flint went to ask, watching as Santos heaved their luggage into the yacht with the help of the ship’s stewart.
Captain Rufus turned to the Peregrine. “If the weather’s permitting, we should reach the island by tomorrow noon.”
Flint whistled. “That far off?”
“It is some two hundred miles off Hesperican coast after all.” Captain Rufus replied.
“Right then.” Atlas nodded. “If you have no more questions, let’s get going.”
The Windward was sailing at the speed of fifty five knots across the waters fifteen minutes later. Atlas had generously given the detectives and Flint cabins to rest and refresh until they reach Enclave Point tomorrow.
The cabin was rather tiny, but it was quite luxuriously appointed with modern tastes; fine wooden panels, soft plush bed, with an ensuite bathroom attached. The cougar had felt more refreshed now that he’s washed and had changed something more comfortable.
Closing the door behind him, Gideon made his way across the hallway and up the staircase to the upper deck. Across the anteroom which housed the staircase landing, he could see that Flint had availed the open balcony to enjoy a smoke, and a camera hung from a strap around his neck. Leon had made himself comfortable on the lounge, deeply engrossed with the automobile magazine held between his paws.
He had been getting particularly interested with automotives as of late. Gideon could not really tell the reason behind his brother’s new hobby, but he suspected it might have something to do with Leon’s new boyfriend, who took auto racing as a hobby.
It’s a wonder how his twin brother managed to get companions with exotic hobbies.
Meanwhile, Atlas was just coming from the direction of the small bar at the corner of the lounge, holding two glass of ice cold amber liquid. The timberwolf had dressed in a far more comfortable shirt and vest, with a few buttons undone, giving a nice peek of his well muscled chest.
“Whiskey?” The wolf offered one of the glass to Gideon. Evidently, he had caught the cougar’s gaze as he was giving Gideon a rather salacious grin.
“Thank you.’Gideon accepted it, returning Atlas’ grin with a stiff smile of his own, and quickly took a sip. “Mmm… this is really good.”
Atlas chuckled. “Prometheus-grown rye whiskey. I’m glad you find it to your liking.”
“No, really?” Gideon couldn’t help but stare at the golden hued liquid. It doesn’t look that much different from the other whiskeys he had drank before, but it does have a unique taste which he couldn’t quite point out.
“Yes.” The silver-furred wolf nodded. “I had the entire bar stocked with drinks from the city, particularly from my favourite bar.”
“Ah, I see.” Gideon turned to look at the small bar, which was manned by a rather spiffy looking brown rat in burgundy uniform and bowtie. The rack behind him was filled to the brim with various liquors. Hard to believe Prometheus could produce so many brands.
“I think you’ll enjoy the club as well,” said Atlas as he stood closer to the cougar, “it is your kind of club after all, Mr. Cross.”
Gideon gave him a pointed look as he sipped his whiskey. “Just what do you mean by that?”
The wolf simply raised an eyebrow. The corners of his muzzle quirked as he drank his own glass of whiskey. There was a slight purr in his voice. “I believe you know the answer to that question, detective.”
Before Gideon could ask the wolf to elaborate further, three chimes of a bell could be heard from somewhere down the corridor, drawing the guests attention away. The bell chimed again three times, and then another three times.
“What was that?” Flint, whom had returned into the lounge, voiced the question.
“That would be the dinner call.” Atlas spoke up, rising from his seat. “The dining room’s this way. Would you all kindly follow me?” He spoke, not bothering to wait as he disappeared to the anteroom.
Feeling like he have no other choice, Gideon downed the rest of his whiskey before he followed Atlas, with his brother and Flint in tow.
* * * * * *
They were just finishing a hearty lunch when The Windward arrived at Enclave Point on the next day.
The island was basically a huge slab of rock, Gideon thought as he gazed at Enclave Point from the balcony of the yacht. The entire island was made of solid black rocks dotted with very few vegetation. The only thing that stood out was the paper-white sand beach which circled the entire island, and the glass, concrete, and steel building which dominated one side of the island. The pier was connected to the building, which seemed to serve as this island’s harbor.
Atlas’ yacht wasn’t the only boat docked on the island too, Gideon noted.
“Welcome to Enclave Point.” Atlas announced with a flourish as they were lead down to the pier on a ramp. Same as yesterday, the wolf was dressed rather casually and hadn’t bothered with a jacket despite the cold, buffeting winds. In fact, Atlas looked like he was in his element with the cool, clear cloudless skies and the freezing waves crashing into the rocky cliffs of the island.
Flint hummed as he took a few pictures of the pier, the beach, and also the building with his camera. “Nice little retreat you have here.”
“The Chief had spared no expenses to make sure every guests feel welcomed of course. Now come along. Try to keep up!”
Feeling not a small amount of excitement but also a dash of apprehension, Gideon followed the timberwolf up through the illuminated stone steps and towards the building looming above them.
A large blue banner lined in gold welcomed visitors into the building. Atlas lead the detectives through a large revolving glass door which opened into a wide hall, covered in marble tiles, sculpted columns, and ornate brass fittings. There were quite a few visitors inside the port’s entrance hall.
Travellers from various parts of the continent, it would seem as Gideon caught snippets of Arlemanic, Gallian, and even Rosvenian among the chatter of Bretonian. There were also a number of personnel, mostly wolves, in stark white vest over bluish-black uniforms.
“Prospective citizens of Prometheus with their guides. Special invitation from the desk of the Chief.” Atlas explained.
“And how does Mr. Oscar select his prospective citizens?” Gideon asked as Atlas led them past the hall and down the sweeping staircase that opened into a wide, glass paneled hallway that showed the clear blue cloudless sky outside.
The wolf was sporting his small grins again. “Sorry, Oz-Corp trade secret.”
“I’ll find it out sooner or later.” Gideon tried to match Atlas’ grin. This seem to spark something in the wolf as Atlas hah’d. He was looking at the cougar before him in a new, appreciative light.
“As persistent as you are, I’m sure you will, Mr. Cross.” He murmured.
Gideon raised an eyebrow and turned his attention away from the infuriatingly charming wolf to his surroundings. He could see various posters and banners promoting venues and products of Prometheus. There were even advertisements of a metro system! He wondered how trains would work down there.
There was a snap and whirr as Flint paused to take several pictures, before he caught up with the others. The Peregrine couldn’t stop grinning as they continued further down the hallway and towards a checkpoint which was manned by a dozen or so security guards.
“They’re with me.” Atlas told the guard, who let the three pass through.
Gideon noticed that they were now at the edge of the building. A wide balcony opened to the floors below, dotted with another set of stairs. He could also see a handful of people using the elevators.
Atlas motioned to one of the empty elevators. “It’ll be quicker this way. My nautilus is docked further down.”
“How else would you reach an underwater city besides a submarine, Mr. Cross?” The wolf replied, pressing the call button for the elevator, which curved, decorative metal gates slid open.
Without further comment, the two men stepped into the elevator. Atlas pressed a button, and the elevator slowly descended, going past the lower level foyers… and then, the docking bays came into view.
The nautilus docking bays were essentially multileveled halls with coffered, vaulted ceilings. A number of spherical submersibles bobbed on the open waters, tied to their piers with their pilots waiting for passengers to board.
The elevator went past two of these bays before it stopped on the third one.
“Nautilus Bay C.” The elevator announced as the gate doors slid open and the occupants stepped out.
Nautilus Bay C was much, much smaller than the other two bays above it, but it was no less luxurious. It had the similar coffered vaulted dome ceiling, but the grid patterns were gilded with what looked like gold leaf, and were decorated with more sophisticated light fixtures.
There were only five submersibles docked on the stone-tiled piers. Each of them looked different from one another, but they they retained the basic spherical shape.
Flint took quite a few pictures as they followed Atlas towards the second submersible from the left. Gideon, who had been rather distracted by the polished, streamlined pillars that were shaped into a wolves whose muscular arms were raised seemingly to support the vaulted ceiling, turned to look at the strange, undersea vehicle.
Atlas’ submersible was a compact-looking vehicle, larger than the other nautilus in this docking bay. Atlas’ nautilus was clad in reflective, silvery plates, with streamlined fins that were equipped with headlights and other fixtures which Gideon couldn’t identify.
And, to their surprise, Santos was already waiting for them by the nautilus. Must have taken an employee’s route. Gideon noted that the chauffeur had changed out from his driver’s uniform into something more naval themed, still double breasted with dark blue hues and silver fittings. He had removed his hat however.
“Everything ready, Santos?” Atlas asked.
“Primed and ready for a dive, sir.” The gryphon smiled back, holding the wolf with his leather gloved paws as Atlas climbed into the submersible.
“Watch your step, sir.” He said as he helped Gideon to climb into the nautilus.
It was almost like stepping inside a luxury sports-auto, Gideon mused. The interior of the nautilus was entirely covered with leather padding and decorative brass panels and tiny strips of light, with plush red seats that was arranged around the driver’s seat so the passengers could have a clear view from the opening up front.
Gideon sat himself on the passenger seat right across Atlas, while Leon and Flint took the seat behind them.
“Comfortable?” asked the wolf as Santos settled into the driver’s seat and immediately fiddled with the controls, which consisted of several levers and a small panel of buttons and indicators.
“Yeah, I am.” Gideon couldn’t help but grin.
“Good.” Atlas nodded as he pulled a strap across his lap from the edge of his seat and secured it down. “Just in case we ran into a turbulent undersea currents or other kind of accident.” Atlas explained. “But don’t worry, the nautilus is perfectly safe. Accidents rarely happen, Mr. Cross.”
Gideon gave him a tight smile. The prospect of having an accident underneath the sea inside this tiny sphere was not a pleasant thought, but he nodded either way.
There was a hiss as a large, curved glass screen descended down from the folds of the hull, enframed by a series of concentric semicircles. It soon covered the opening they had used to enter nautilus. The entire frame locked into place with a series of clicks and hisses as Santos worked on the console.
“Alright, here we go.” The gryphon proceeded to pull the larger levers, and the nautilus rumbled to life almost immediately. The passengers watched in anticipation as the entire sphere began to descend. Bubbles flowed past the screen as they began their descent through a tunnel of sorts, lined with aquatic-themed murals and indicators of how far they were diving.
10 Fathoms… 18 Fathoms… 26 Fathoms...
“This thing is pretty fast.” Flint remarked as they went past the 42 Fathom mark.
“It is.” Atlas nodded. “FN Series Nautilus by Voyagetronics. They’re one of our leading luxury nautilus construction companies.”
“Oh, I see.”
The nautilus continued to dive deeper and deeper until it slowed down as a tunnel, spreading horizontally into the darkness, appeared before them. Atlas piloted the submersible towards the tunnel, which opened into the sea.
They weren’t that deep that sunlight could still light the waters around them in a soothing blue hues. Occasionally, Gideon could see a couple of fish swimming past, and a few manta rays. However, the light around them slowly grew dim as the nautilus continued to dive deeper and deeper.
Santos was keeping his focus to the controls, carefully piloting the nautilus towards their destination. Gideon couldn’t help but tense up as the waters turned darker and darker.
“Ah, there we go.” The gryphon announced, pulling the two detectives’ mind out of their musings. Santos had flicked a few switches and the headlights flashed up, illuminating the darkness ahead.
“We should be close now.” Atlas informed, leaning over his seat as he kept his eye on the radar screen on the side of the controls. He then leaned back, and let his icy blue eyes wander from Gideon to Flint, who kept their eyes peeled to the glass screen ahead.
Not a moment later, the murky darkness suddenly seem to melt away. Before their eyes, a massive metropolis seem to loom from the depths. The city literally shone like a brilliant gem in the gloom, shining in an almost ethereal, cerulean glow.
Atlas’ muzzle quirked into a smile as he took in the three passengers’ gobsmacked appearance. “Gentlemen, welcome to Prometheus.”
Gideon couldn’t help but gape as he took in the entire view of the city, and also the sight of marine wildlife swimming almost lazily among the buildings. He could see some wild sharks, a few stingrays, a couple of sea turtles, and…
“Mr. Gideon…” Flint seemed to gasp. “Is that…”
“I believe we are looking at a Humpback Whale, yes.” Leon answered. He could barely believe his own eyes as the massive cetacean lazily swam through the gaps between the buildings.
Just how big is this city?
Gideon watched in amazement as the nautilus began to weave between the buildings, over and under the many, tubular, glass encased walkways that connected one building to another. Citizens of various species were walking back and forth inside the walkways. Some, mostly children, pointed and waved at Atlas’ nautilus in excitement.
Still in an amazed stupor, Flint waved back at the children. Leon was busy taking the sight before him to notice, as was Gideon, who had noticed that there were a few other nautiluses swimming about.
As they passed by one particular building, the detective thought he caught sight of an ice rink through an expansive glass dome. On the other building, a full fledged shopping arcade showed itself through a series of large, transparent windows. The neon sign outside the towering structure shouted out: “Zenith Emporium - The Number One Shopping Destination Under The Sea!”
It wasn’t the only brightly lit sign attached to the building. Various illuminated billboards and flickering neon lights casted colorful undertones to the undersea skyline. There were so many that it almost rivalled the show billboards in Capitol City’s Times Avenue, and Gideon was trying to see all of them at once.
On one of the fancier towers with gilded ornaments, a bright yellow neon sign flickered: “Savoy-Prometheus - Luxurious Suites, Excellent Food, and Breathtaking Views!” On another building, a large circular sign with a highly stylized "V" that glowed bright purple shouted, "Excotic Cocktails and Extravagant Vices, only in CLUB VAGABOND." Far above the Club Vagabond sign was another neon sign that simply read, “BOREALIS”, wrapped around a semicircular platform, entirely wrapped with glass and illuminated with bright lights from within. It seemed to be an upscale restaurant of sorts from what Gideon could see.
“This is quite surreal…” Flint breathed, craning his neck to see a large tower crowned with an illuminated “Oz-Corp Innovations - Building a Better Future Together”.
Gideon wished he had another pair of eyes right now. Prometheus was definitely becoming more than what he had thought.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Atlas mused as the nautilus swam past a large sign that was promoting Nereus Investments. “What you see here is Mr. Oscar’s dream realized… ah, and there’s where you will be staying.” He gestured to a pair of towers located a few ways away.
The towers were shaped with soft, curving contours, and crowned with what looked like gigantic stylized fins. The massive green and white neon sign spelled out “Triton Plaza,” in thin, sophisticated letters.
“Looks like a really fancy place to stay.” Leon chuckled.
“Quite right there.” His brother agreed as his gazed at a nautilus that lazily swam past them. His attention was then diverted to a strange looking vehicle that had zoomed out from a building to their left. It looked like a cross between a submarine and a subway train.
“What is that?”
Atlas followed Gideon’s line of sight. Leon and Flint also had followed suit. “Ah, that’s the Prometheus Metro. A joint project by Oz-Corp Innovations and Voyagetronics.” The timberwolf explained. “It’s a popular mean of transportation by the citizens of Prometheus. Nautilus travel is akin to having a yacht in this city, you see…”
“I kind of noticed that.” Leon remarked dryly as he leaned back to his chair. “All of this... is a lot to take in, however.”
“I agree, Mr. Leon,” said Flint, pressing his face to the glass to get a better look at what appeared to be a garden that they were passing by.
“You’ll get used to it, Mr. Cross.” Atlas chuckled.
“And here we are. Prometheus Central.” Santos announced, pulling the nautilus towards a great domed building with a dozen or so tube-like frames jutting out from one side of the intricate facades.
Gideon could see a handful of nautiluses, and quite the number of Prometheus Metro coming in and out of the tube structures.
Gideon watched as Santos reached for the small device by the panel and spoke to it. “Metro Control, this is the Orion Prime, identification: Foxtrot-November-Two-One-Eight-Seven. Requesting permission to dock at Nautilus Bay Cygnus, over.”
“Nautilus designation Orion Prime, identification: Foxtrot-November-Two-One-Eight-Seven, you are cleared to dock at Nautilus Bay Cygnus.” The radio spoke back. “Welcome back to Prometheus, sir.”
“Thank you Metro Control.” Santos replied back and began to pilot his nautilus into one of the tubes that was set a few ways away from the others. Just as they went past the first ring, the submersible shook slightly as something seemed to clamp to the sides, and the submersible began to glide smoothly into the grand building. Gideon could barely see the intricate and highly detailed facade of statues and geometric shapes before the entire nautilus was swallowed into the building. There was a bump as the nautilus came to a halt and then, slowly, it began to rise up.
The nautilus broke through the surface in a rather gentle pace. It bobbed slightly as Santos flicked a switch, pushed a couple buttons, and pulled the lever. With another flick of the switch, the glass hatch opened with a hiss and the passengers began to file out, helped by the ever helpful gryphon chauffeur.
“Welcome to Prometheus, sirs.” Santos said in a rather cheerful manner.
“Thank you.” Gideon inclined his head to the feline before he turned to Atlas. “A private nautilus docking bay huh?” He remarked as he stretched his feet, looking around the well lit chamber they were in.
Solid concrete piers lined the side of the wide chamber that bordered the water. Besides Atlas’ nautilus, there were two others docked a few piers down. The entire chamber itself was lined with murals and pillars, crowned with a pure white granite dome.
“Working as Mr. Oscar’s right hand man does have its perks.” Atlas replied, lighting another smoke. “Come through here.”
The three followed Atlas through the large double doors at the end of the chamber and emerged into an immense hall that was topped with two, massive barrel vaulted glass domes and tall glass screens. Gideon could easily see the Promethean undersea skyline almost from every side as he followed Atlas down the sweeping marble staircase. Gideon couldn’t help but wonder how these glass could have withstood so much pressure.
Announcements echoed through the massive concourse as they made their way past the crowd of Prometheans heading to and fro the various archways and staircases.
“Attention, passengers: the train for Hesperides Gardens will be arriving at Platform 3 in five minutes. Attention, passengers: the train for Capitolium Heights has arrived at Platform 10. Please mind the gap. Next train for Capitolium Heights will arrive in ten minutes…”
“This is the Prometheus Central, where you can get to every point in Prometheus in the quickest way possible, whether by the metro or your personal nautilus.” Atlas explained.
Flint looked around the concourse with awe. “This place is truly a marvel.”
“It is, isn’t it?” The timberwolf beamed.
“Just a question,” the Peregrine went to ask, “Are avians allowed to fly here?”
Altas lets out a small laugh. “Well, this city was built with many open spaces for the airborne citizens. The walkways are designed to be wide and large enough for comfortable flying.”
Leon shook his head in awe. “Incredible.”
Flint nodded with a grin. “Flying underwater… now that’s something alright.”
“Well then, let’s get you settled to your hotel room.” Atlas said again. “I’ll guide you there, and perhaps... Santos,” he turned to the gryphon. “See if there are any messages from the chief for me.”
“Right away, sir.” The gryphon inclined his head and quickly went away.
“Alright. The Triton Plaza shouldn’t be a long walk from here.” Atlas spoke as he led the detectives towards the other side of the hall. “Unless if you’d like to get there quicker, we can use the metro.”
The cougar twins hummed and turned to look at each other. “Well, I think we can agree that some walking might be more beneficial.”
“Yes.” Leon nodded. “I’d like to stretch my legs after sitting for so long.”
The silver furred wolf nodded. “No time like the present. Alright, follow me.” He motioned with his paw.
Atlas lead them out of the station building, which opened into a wide, glass enclosed boulevard that gave a breathtaking view of the city. Real trees and lined the centre of the street, illuminated by many lights and interspersed with various travel-themed bronze sculptures.
Dozens of Prometheans walked to and fro, and Gideon could see some of the avian citizens taking advantage of the vastness of the boulevard to take flight. He turned to Flint to see if the Peregrine would be airborne but Flint seemed to be content to walk and take the sights on the ground level.
The boulevard then branched into three, smaller streets that connected with the nearby buildings. Atlas lead them to the street to the right, which opened into a short, wide building. Gideon couldn’t help but stare as he saw two sharks in safety harness and protective suit standing outside the glass encased walkways, apparently doing some maintenance work on the side of the building.
The walkway opened into a long and wide, multileveled hall with wide, sweeping staircases leading to the upper levels. A huge dome gave view of the towers that was connected with the building, while various shops and establishments were situated on either side of the building. Colorful banners hung from the skylight while various advertisements were placed around the streets.
A large chrome plated sign propped over a wide, decorative fountain and lit by soft purple and gold lighting by the entryway spelled out: Orchard Avenue. The purple banners which were spread around the hall also welcomed visitors to this Orchard Avenue in slender gold letters.
Announcements echoed through the speakers strategically placed throughout the long square, shouting out advertisements among others.
“Now you won’t have to fear going to the dentist again! Quicksilver Dental guarantees painless and fast dental service and also perfect teeth! Visit Quicksilver Dental in your closest Medical Pavilion today!”
“How long does this place go?” Leon whistled, craning his neck to look ahead. “I almost can’t see where this building ends.”
“The Orchard Avenue is the hub of commerce in the city.” Atlas explained. “Comprised of several buildings and a couple of towers, so it’s a few city blocks long. Some of the high end hotels are also accessible from here.”
“Ah, I see.” Gideon nodded as they passed by a billboard promoting some dental health product. “And I see you have your own security force here.” He added, nodding to the two burly officers in black uniform with gold highlights, complete with shades, sidearms, and batons.
Atlas turned to look. “Ah, Prometheus doesn’t really have it’s own security force.” He said. “We have several security contractors working under the City Council to keep the peace. Those men are from Warren Securities. They’re under contract with the shareholders of Orchard Avenue.”
Gideon blinked. “Several? How many security contractors do you have?”
“Oh, around five or six.” Atlas replied. “Anybody can open any kind of business in Prometheus, Mr. Cross. As long as they are not deliberately killing or harming the citizens.”
The detective nodded. “I… see.”
“Seems like a lot of risk for me.” Flint remarked from the back. “And you said these Warren Securities is under contract by Orchard Avenue… so I guess Mr. Oscar has a couple of them working for him under contract?”
“Risks are a given, Mr. Flint. I’m sure you are well acquainted with them.” The wolf replied. “And you would be correct. We are currently hiring Perseus Defenses and Morrison-Reyes.”
Flint hummed and nodded, giving no further comments. The Peregrine set his eyes on the many advertisements instead.
“High quality products at half the price, only at Oz-Central!” The announcement echoed through the hall. “Now with our brand new Electronics Department! Come and see our new fangled products by our very own Oz-Corp Innovations!”
A thought strikes Gideon. “Am I right to guess that this Oz-Corp is Rodger Oscar’s own company?”
Atlas gave him his cryptic lopsided smile. “Wouldn’t you know, Mr. Cross?”
Gideon rolled his eyes.
“Evolving. Energizing. Invigorating. Evolution for a better future! Pick your Fortis today! Visit Oz-Central Pharmaceuticals for your Fortis needs.”
“That’s… an interesting ad.” The cougar remarked.
“No kidding.” Flint piped up. “This ‘Fortis’ is everywhere Mr. Cross.” He pointed to a billboard showing a generic, stylized lion holding out a paw. And above the open paw a ball of brilliant blue light seem to arc electricity. Words written above the billboard said: “Energy at your fingertips,” and directly below the image of the paw, in big, bold letters was, “All new Fulmens!”, while “Fortis by Zenith Solutions,” were written in smaller letters below the billboard.
Right across the board was a similar advertisement, but instead of a ball of lightning, it was a ball of flame, and “All new Incendio!” was written instead of “All new Fulmens!”
Not far from them, on a rather fancy stand, another advertisement shouted: “Fortis - Invigorate Yourself Today! Brought to you by Oz-Corp Innovations.” Looking closer, Gideon could see that there were several small diamond-shaped vials filled to the brim with strange golden colored liquid.
A small amount of crowd had gathered in front of the salesman, who was demonstrating something. Gideon couldn’t see what was being demonstrated due to their position, but it had marveled the crowd from the number of “Ooh’s” and “Aah’s” and not a small amount of cheers.
“What are… Atlas, what are these Fortis, exactly?”
The wolf chuckled. “A brilliant finding by Oz-Corp Innovations and Zenith Solutions. It’s… best if I show you, actually.”
“Why not tell us?’ Leon prompted as they turned on the corner and got into an elevator which took them to the third level.
“It involves some scientific gibberish which I doubt you’ll understand, Mr. Cross.”
“Try me.” Gideon spoke up with a challenging grin. He was met with Atlas’ cryptic grins once again.
“All in good time, Mr. Cross. All in good time.”
Gideon huffed and nodded as the elevator opened its doors and they filed out. He could see there were many kind of restaurants located on this floor.
Atlas didn’t let them linger however as he quickly led them towards another undersea walkway, passing by the view of nautiluses swimming above them. Gideon also saw a giant squid swimming close to the glass walkway, seemingly curious by the lights.
The wolf continued to lead them through the glass covered tunnels, past a couple more buildings, and also a wide, airy plaza full of flowering shrubs, trees, and many art deco fountains. Atlas was quite helpful by pointing out what these landmarks were called, and also some of the more important shops and offices.
They reached Triton Plaza through another glass enclosed boulevard. It was basically a mall complex with access to apartment and hotel accommodations run by the establishment itself. Although it was smaller than Orchard Avenue, Triton Plaza was still sizeable in its own right.
The multileveled atrium overlooked a huge wall of windows that gave a wide, panoramic view of the city, while a large, diamond shaped skylight showed the two towers which loomed above the atrium. On the ground level, two vestibules were located just opposite each other across the hall, furnished with marble top counters and receptionists alike.
Atlas lead them towards the reception lobby on the left which was labeled with, “Triton Plaza Hotel”. The receptionist, a vixen in a smart dark turquoise uniform with silver trims and a matching scarf-piece, gave them a practiced, brilliant smile with a welcome on her lips, before she saw the wolf who was leading the small group.
“Oh, Mr. Atlas!” She exclaimed. “How may I help you?”
“I understand there was a reservation from Rodger Oscar’s office under the name Cross?”
The vixen went to look under the counter, rifling through a list. “Ah, yes. Reservation for Mr. Leon Cross.”
“That would be me.” The cougar raised his paw.
“Very well. Everything seemed to be in order,” said the vixen with the customary smile as she produced a form. “Just sign here, and here… and here are your keys. Rooms 2403, 2405, and 2407.”
Leon received the keys from the receptionist after he gave the form a once over and signed it. It appeared to be a contract of sorts, which is odd, but it details the usual nonsense about the management won’t be liable to any missing items or injuries etc., etc.
“Thank you. And uh… how much so we have—”
The vixen shook her head. “Oh, you wouldn’t worry about that, sir. Base expenses has been covered by Oz-Corp Hospitalities.”
Both Gideon and Leon blinked in surprise.
“Oh, how generous.”
“We hope you enjoy your stay at the Triton Plaza Hotel!”
They left the reception counter and followed Atlas who had made a beeline towards the elevators that was situated to the side.
“You should know,” Atlas began as they filed into the elevator, “that it is very rare for the Chief to show monetary generosity.”
Gideon hummed thoughtfully. “I guess we’re pretty lucky, huh?”
The wolf tilted his head, eyes looking at the cougar standing across him intently. “Perhaps…”
Gideon found Atlas’ stare quite unnerving. The wolf’s pale blue eyes never wavered, even when the elevator went upwards, its glass wall showing the undersea panorama outside. With a slight frown, Gideon stared—or rather, glared—back to the silver furred timberwolf.
Green eyes and blue were locked in an unrelenting staring contest, before Atlas chuckled and shook his head, breaking the eye contact. Gideon simply raised his eyebrow at the timberwolf, who simply gave him one of his half smiles.
The cougar frowned at that. Just what Atlas is getting at, he’d never know.
For now, at least.
The ding of the elevator drew Gideon out of his thoughts. They had stopped on the third floor, and a lone Akita Inu with a cream and white coat, dressed leisurely in suit and tie came walking in with a piece of telegram from the looks of it. The canine was reading the contents as he pressed the button for the fifth floor.
Whatever the Akita was reading seemed to have upset him as he quickly crumpled the letter, and—
Flint had jumped back as the Akita’s paw suddenly lit up in bright, crimson flames, burning the telegram in a flash. The flame died out as soon as the paper turned to ash, but strangely enough, the canine didn’t seem to be hurt by it, and the paw didn’t seem to have suffered any burns whatsoever.
“Ah, sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.” The Akita intoned apologetically, completely misinterpreting Flint’s shocked look.
“I-It’s fine.” the Peregrine replied with a dismissive wave.
The Akita smiled and nodded, before he exited on his destination floor, and then the elevator continued to sail towards the higher floors.
All eyes were turned to Atlas for explanation. The timberwolf chuckled, leaning on the curved glass wall, taking out a fresh stick of cigarette, which he slipped into his mouth. With a snap of his fingers, a small, bright crimson flame danced between his paw digits, which he brought close to the cigarette.
“This, gentlemen, is what we call Fortis.” He said as he let the flames dance between his fingers before he extinguished the flames with a flick of his wrist. Atlas grinned wolfishly at them. “Or, it is what I like to call... the gift of Prometheus.”