“You had one task, one simple fucking job!”
Bast glanced at Moloch, who could only shrug. Enki had been yelling for some time now, and was beginning to repeat himself.
“I served the Eschaton up to you on a fucking platter, and what do you do?” He leaned into Bast’s face, flecks of spittle flying from his lips. “You shot Tyr and Ishtar first! Then you got your fucking hand cut off!”
This close to Enki’s face, Bast’s eyes flashed with emerald rage. “I work with you, Enki. Not for you. Watch your tone.”
He raised one brutish fist, his neck pulsing with the beat of his heart. “Don’t you dare try to give me fuckingcommands, you catty little bitch, I should-”
His tirade was interrupted by a dry chuckle from Moloch. Both Bast and Enki turned to the rasping sound. “Hmmm?” he intoned. “Oh. You called her catty. Bast. Catty.” He glanced back between them and sighed. “Surely I can’t be the only one that finds that humorous?”
Their scowls deepened, but at least Enki was lowering his fist.
“We had a plan. We had a fucking plan, and it was a good one. I set up the fight, let the four stuck-up prigs slug it out, Moloch shows up and drops the fucking giant, and then Bast fucking mops up the survivors.” His scowl deepened. “But you,” he pointed one fat finger at Moloch, “you decided to vamoose, to fucking amscray, before making sure the fucking job was done, and then you,” shifting that meaty digit to Bast, “ooooh, you. You decided that fucking Tyr and fucking Ishtar were more important! Ishtar will fucking be back on her feet in days!”
“And you completely forgot your role in the finale, dear Enki,” Moloch hissed, the false joviality gone. He leaned forward. “You were meant to be the failsafe, to pick off any who fled. Yet they did so unopposed. Why was that, hmmm?”
Enki directed the full force of his wrath at Moloch. “The Eschaton is stronger than we fucking thought, okay? Took me a bit to undo the twist he did on me.”
“The Eschaton,” Bast countered lazily, “is a Nascent, Enki. How did a Nascent manage to twist you so hard, you couldn’t return to the battle in time?”
Enki slammed his giant fist into the table they sat around. “I. Don’t. ing. Know!” Each word was punctuated by a slam until the table cracked.
“Tantrums will avail us nothing,” Moloch said, once Enki’s fist had stopped. “We still won the day. Tyr will make a fine addition to my collection, and every god and goddess that saw our battle will know we are the winning side. Can you not, my dears, revel in the victory.”
Bast smiled at Moloch indulgently, and Enki took a breath. “You’re not always right, Moloch, but when you are you’re fucking right.”
“I agree,” Bast said, “and as such I’m willing to put the threats behind me, Enki, if you will do the same for my…failure.” The last word was plucked out with verbal tongs, as if it were something slimy and disgusting she’d never touch personally but was willing to offer Enki.
“Fine.” Enki nodded. “Moloch, how long till you can make something fucking deadly out of Tyr?”
“Likely done before Ishtar revives,” was the response, Moloch picking some invisible dirt out of his yellowed nails. “I’m more concerned about Athena. Ishtar may have been a war goddess, but she was never much of a strategist. Athena, for her part…”
Bast had to nod, reluctantly. “I was going to shoot her next. The Nascent should have been easy pickings without them.” Pausing for a moment, she gave a small smile before continuing. “We can hope, however, her personality prevents them from heeding her council?”
Enki let out a snort of frustration. “Not fucking likely. We have to assume they’re going to be all hugs and fuckingkisses from here on out.”
Moloch rose, walking around the table to head to a window. The view was one of his favorites. Ys had been a city that had offended some god or another, and for that crime it had been sunken beneath the Earth, the citizens petrified into salt mummies. Moloch had immediately made it his home as soon as he found it, because Moloch was a man who had no concept of subtlety and embraced the darker side of his nature with the sort of passion usually reserved for rebellious, edgy teenagers, although in his case he at least had the power to back it up.
“Something you want to share, Moloch?” Moloch could feel Bast’s eyes on his back, and repeated to himself that old saw about mortality rates among curious felines.
“We can still proceed with the second phase, I think.”
“The second fucking phase?” Enki growled. “The Eschaton is still out there! The second phase doesn’t fucking work with him still running around.”
“Yes. About that, dear Enki.” Moloch didn’t turn away from the window. “The very first day he obtained his nanoverse, when he was still just a mere Finder, you could have killed him. Stopped all this then, with a bullet to the back of the skull. Why not?”
Now Moloch turned, slowly, to see that Bast had also focused her attention on Enki.
“What kind of fucking question is that?”
“We’ve been working on this plan for centuries. Updating as needed, but always the same core plan. Why did you not kill the Eschaton before he could begin to come into his powers, you short-sighted oaf?”
Enki bristled at the tone, but Bast spoke up. “I’ve been wondering that too, if we’re being blunt. Why did you spare him?”
“Because I didn’t know he was the fucking Eschaton then. He might have still been an innocent person, who just found the Eschaton’s nanoverse.”
“And I told you. I told you from the beginning. The reason we’re going to win is because we’re the fucking heroes of this fucking story!”
Bast and Moloch shared a look, and Moloch spoke. “Enki…you do realize, of course, that-”
“No, Moloch, no. One group’s trying to fucking end the world, the other’s going to fucking save it. That’s about as black and fucking white as it gets. And that means the Law is on our side. If we go around executing people like fucking monsters, we’re going to lose.”
Bast took a long breath. “This again.”
“Too fucking right, this again.”
Moloch and Bast’s eyes met again. Enki’s belief, that as long as they acted heroic for a long as possible, some cosmic Law would favor them, was inconvenient, at times.
“Well, at least it’s a reason.” Moloch said aloud. “But I wish to confirm that phase two can proceed even without the Eschaton’s death. It makes trickier, to be sure, but not insurmountable.”
“Not yet.” Enki growled. “Damn you, not yet. I don’t want to fucking let him out until all our ducks are in a fuckingrow.”
Moloch nodded gravely, again glancing at Bast. He sent a message into Bast’s mind. I worry, my dear, about the stability of our ‘fearless leader.’
I don’t, Bast responded, her mental ‘voice’ a curt contrast to her languid speaking voice. I’m certain he’s unstable. Do we need him?
Unfortunately, dear Bast, he has not yet revealed the location of the pieces we need to continue without him. Nor has he revealed the way to open them.
Bast’s lips twitched slightly, though the look was too subtle for a brute like Enki to note. If I have to, I’ll seduce it out of him, though I really would rather not.
I understand, I truly do, my dear. Unfortunately. and here he did smile, in front of Enki, with the yellowed corpses of teeth that lined his mouth. I don’t think I would be successful.
“You all got fucking quiet. Can I take it to mean you’re fucking on board, or do we have a problem?”
“No problem, dear Enki, no problem at all. We can wait on phase two…but we must draw out the Eschaton.”
“Too fucking right.” His beady eyes peered at Moloch, then at Bast. “Either of you have a good idea how we can fucking get him to show his face?”
Bast stood up, sauntering over to the window with Moloch. She looked over the ruined city, and a smile crept across her face, inch by inch, until she was grinning a Cheshire grin. “I do. But you shouldn’t hear it Enki – if you don’t know what we’re doing, it won’t interfere with your…heroism.”
The little hateful dots that were Enki’s eyes lit up. “Too fucking clever, Bast. I’ll let you two to it, then.” He turned and walked through the doorway that lead back to his nanoverse.
Moloch grinned. “Black void, he’s a thick little jackass, isn’t he?”
Bast laughed. “Yes. But I do have a plan, not just wanting him out of our way.”
That grin from earlier did not waver on her face. “Oh yes, Moloch. He gave us his weakness earlier, it just took us a moment to figure out.”
She cast her eyes over the ruined city of petrified corpses, and suddenly Moloch saw what she saw, and laughed that hacking laugh again as she continued.
“Like Enki, our Eschaton thinks himself a hero. Can you do it?”
Moloch’s laughter slowed to a diseased chuckle. “Oh, absolutely, my dear. It will be a pleasure. Just tell me…where should I raise hell?”