“I was attacked on Day Zero.” His gaze grew unfocused, and he winced at whatever he was remembering. “I wanted them to stop hurting me, and suddenly they did.”
So he was immune to their bites as well. “Why didn’t your Bagmen react when you were shining? I thought they feared the sunlight.”
“If they’re not starving or dried out, the light doesn’t seem to bother them too much. In fact, they are drawn to me, seeming to sense me, even ones I’m not controlling.” He shrugged. “Unless they’re simply attracted to what they fear.”
As I’d been with Death? Aric, where are you? Silence. I glanced over at the two Baggers. “Can you talk to them in any way?”
“I can command them with my thoughts, see through their eyes, and hear through their ears. I can merge my mind with any Bagman within a certain range.”
“You borrow their senses?” As the Lovers had with their carnates, and Lark did with animals.
“Sí.” His eyes turned filmy white. “I can see the scorched Statue of Liberty through one Bagger’s eyes. Another Bagger just limped down a highway exit for Disney World.”
“What else?” Vincent had said his carnates had ranged all over, finding only ash and waste. “What about people?”
“Lots of fighting. Murders. Rapes.” Sol’s eyes cleared. “If you saw what I do every day, you would not have so much sympathy for the men in those cages.”
“Each week, my range extends, and I’m able to meld with Bagmen farther away. One day I hope to reach my native Spain.” In a softer tone, he said, “Maybe my family survived.”
“Would you know if they were . . . turned?”
He nodded. “It’s likely they were. So many were transformed.”
I thought about those boys in the Lovers’ tent, the ones they’d purposely infected. I cringed to remember a half-turned boy crying over a trough of blood, fully aware of what was happening to him. I asked Sol, “What do you feed these two?”
“Blood. There will be a jug of it in the back of the truck. My worshippers would know to pack some.”
And where had they gotten the blood? From the fallen men on Olympus’s field? “Your pets don’t smell as bad as some.” Still, I grew red roses on their thorn cage to scent the air.
“The slime is what stinks. It takes a few days after it seeps to rot. I keep their skin clean.”
“Why are these particular ones special to you?”
His gaze grew shuttered. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Fine.” Switching subjects. “How did you get good soil for crops?”
“We harvested it from caves. If you get deep enough, it’s still fertile.”
He and his followers had figured out a way to cultivate crops, and they’d discovered the Bagger mutation. If Sol could be believed, then they were doing some good.
“We’ve been growing for about half a year, so no trees yet,” he said. “No apples, pears, or oranges.”
I’d grown Tess an orange tree to atone for nearly killing her. As if that would make up for the risk I’d forced her to take when she’d unleashed her power. At least my own powers couldn’t end me.
Sol asked, “You don’t need dirt to grow things, do you?”
I shook my head, figuring that reveal couldn’t hurt.
“Do you have any seeds? Maybe apple? I could give you some sun, and we could have apples tonight!” he said, as if it were an apple-pie-in-the-sky dream.
I sliced my thumb with a claw, and started a tree. When it grew to a sprout, I said, “Be my guest.”
Excitement lit his gaze—heated brown eyes framed with thick dark lashes. He beamed, sunlight pouring from his chest, arms, and legs.
I went heavy-lidded as the tree shot to the ceiling.
I directed one of its limbs to him and one to me. We each plucked a shiny red apple. At his first bite, he groaned. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.”
I tasted mine. Not bad. “What did you do before the Flash?”
“I was a history student, and I ran a party promotion service with some partners. We hosted raves in abandoned buildings. Everyone thought we got paid to have fun, but actually a lot of work was involved.”
“So you went from raves to bloody free-for-alls?”
He answered with a Russell Crowe Gladiator impression: “Are you not entertained???”
“You didn’t just do that.”
“Why’d you go Roman?”
His eyes lit up again. I’d compared Aric’s starry gaze to a sunrise, but Sol’s blazing eyes were like high noon at the equator. His irises went from dark brown to backlit caramel. “I learned from my job: presentation is everything. And talk about a culture that understood presentation! The Romans had emblems, symbols, elaborate uniforms, pageants. They were ruthless, but had codes of honor. They adored warriors and contests. And they worshipped me.”
Ugh! “FYI, you are not a sun god. We were enabled by gods, but we are not divine.”
“Speak for yourself, querida.” He flashed me his seductive smile. “Kiss my lips, then tell me I’m not divine.”
If I hadn’t seen him hosting a death match, I would’ve found him charming. He was as playful as Finn, but also possessed a simmering charisma.
“In Roman times, one fighter with a sword could change the world,” he said, his excitement making him seem younger.