By: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

And clearing throat… “Of course I have a tablet! Roberto’s men will give it to you. Oh! And Máax?”

Get ready for one hell of a ride, my dear brother. The SS Ashli is about to disembark, and this voyage is going to make your bad boy, overbloated deity ego whimper like a sissy.

“Yes, Cimil?” Máax rumbled.

“Whatever you do, do not, and I repeat, do not, take the woman from her time. Do you understand? The woman must remain where she is and be allowed to age the old-fashioned way. No exceptions.”

“Do I want to ask why?” he asked.

“No, you do not, but I will tell you anyway. I’m in a gracious mood.” She took a deep, happy breath. “In order for events to play out precisely and stop us from going to war, the woman must remain where she is in 1993. Alive. Any shortcuts or additional changes to the past would create a different outcome.”

“Not following.”

“In other words, the only variable we can impact is her living. Everything else must remain constant or you will create an entirely new future—a new version of our messed-up one. And I do not believe the Universe will throw us another vision bone in time to course correct. Consider this our last tango at the Oh No Corral. Comprende?”

“Sure. Whatever. Not like I give a crap where the woman ends up,” Máax grumbled on his way out the door.

Oh. But soon, he would care. Very, very much. In the meantime…

“Roberto, baby, open this cell and get your ass inside. We only have a few moments before my brethren wake up.”

Estate of Kinich Ahau, the ex–God of the Sun. (A few miles from the prison.)

Máax repeated the year in his head as he stood in a large bedroom of the sprawling southwestern-style home, preparing himself for the journey back in time: 1993, 1993… His brain itched with suspicion. Was this really the end? And was saving some mortal female, who died decades ago, really their last hope? Or was this simply another one of Cimil’s mind games well-timed to a few tremors? He didn’t know.

On the other hand… What else do you have on your plate, asshole?

Nothing. Besides, either way he was fucked, his days numbered. He’d broken the gods’ sacred laws so many times that if he went on trial again, which he certainly would if he managed to stop doomsday, then he’d spend eternity in some godsdamned tomb. If he didn’t succeed, well… that would be that.

Wait. What the hell am I godsdamned doing? Sanctis infernus! He was screwed either way, so why wasn’t he off enjoying his final days as a free—albeit, invisible—deity? He could be surfing in Australia or diving off the coast of Belize. He could be wrestling great white sharks in South Africa or playing tic-tac-toe with Minky—one of his favorite pastimes.

But nooo. He was a god, bonded to the Universe herself. A slave to his godsdamned honor and his godsdamned need to do right. That was the very reason he was in this fucked up mess; he never turned down a plea for help. Not even from his godsdamned, ungrateful, childish brethren. “Just ask Máax. He’ll do it. He’s the loyal one, the honorable one,” they’d say, knowing that he was the God of Truth. Those responsibilities also included justice and protection. He simply couldn’t say no even when it required him to stick out his neck and break a few sacred laws. A few thousand times.

All right. It was true; a tiny part of him reveled in taking risks. He enjoyed it immensely. But that didn’t mean he wanted to be on call every godsdamned time they needed help. What was he? Fucking Superman?

No, he was no superhero. More like an idiot. In fact, his need to protect everyone else—and keep their dark secrets—was the one reason he’d never pushed back when punishments were handed out. He would never betray one of his own simply to save his skin.

You’re a lost cause, so let’s get this over with. He glanced at the two black tablets laid out on the bed and gave his neck a little crack. Go save the human, Máax, he bitterly mocked Cimil. Stop the apocalypse, Máax. Máax, help us…

He picked up one tablet and stared at the hieroglyphs on the surface, rubbing his callused fingertips over the indentations. He knew what the symbols meant, and he knew the key to opening the portal on demand. His little secret.