Small Worlds Part 22

Athena swung her sword at the mummy, altering its velocity seamlessly as she did. The sword sliced through the desiccated corpse’s skull at around Mach 3, sending the top of its head rocketing into the sky while the rest of its body collapsed from the blow.

The sonic boom cut through the cacophony of screams.

“Oh, Athena…why? Why not silent?” Ryan began reaching into his own nanoverse for a weapon.

“I beg your pardon?” She glanced over her shoulder at him, and the pose – with her sword still flung out and her hair whipping in the wind – she looked like a fantasy book cover that had swapped chainmail bikini for comfortable fitting jeans and a practical t-shirt.

“Noise! Haven’t you ever watched a Zombie movie?” Ryan didn’t waste any time admiring the power stance, tugging the weapon he had grabbed on to and pulling it slowly out. Feels heavier.

“I have, but these are technically mummies…but…oh. The zombie survival faux pas.” She didn’t look embarrassed, or upset. Just like she was taking in new tactical information and filing it away for future reference. “Loud noises.”

Ryan’s response was cut short by the sound of dozens upon dozens of approaching footsteps.

“Athena! What’s the difference between zombies and mummies?” Ryan’s voice nearly cracked at the sound of running.

“You have to remove the head and stab them through the heart or they’ll reform.” She brought her sword down on the corpse before to demonstrate. Ryan couldn’t help but note it had been trying to rise to its feet. “And mummies have supernatural powers. And aren’t slow. And hate gods that didn’t create them.”

They had been standing in an empty street, but figures were filling in. Downtown Austin wasn’t a packed jungle of skyscrapers like New York, but still had more than a few, but this street was further out, a row of one and two story shops with minimal alley space – just a couple on either side of the street, a block to the north and a block to the south. Ryan noted with mounting horror that there were people still huddling in the shops, some armed with guns – God bless Texas, he couldn’t help but think – while others huddled behind the ones who were armed.

A couple of the gunmen were pointing their weapons at Ryan. oh, right. I’m the antichrist. The thought was small and distant, but at least they weren’t firing yet.

The mummies began to emerge in a gallop, many of them hunched over on all fours. Others were standing, wielding staves or strangely curved swords or axes that looked like pendulums blades from a video game trap.

Ryan finally glanced at his own weapon. It was…a sword. He felt a surge of disappointment. I guess I didn’t give them enough time to make it out of the Iron Age. But then his divine sight kicked in, and noticed the equations surrounding the sword were incredibly complex. He couldn’t get enough focus to figure out what they were for, though – not in the time as a bunch of undead would need to close the gap.

Athena and him moved back to back. “What’s that dust cloud behind them?” Ryan asked, not looking over his shoulder.

“It’s more of them, still in a discorporate form. They’ll try to fill our lungs while the others attack.” When Ryan squinted, he could see vaguely humanoid shapes made up the cloud.

“Good thing we don’t need to breathe, then.”

“Yes. Up until they become solid in your lungs. Messy way to die.”

Ryan clamped his mouth shut, and wished for nose plugs. You don’t need to breathe, Ryan. Try and just exhale the whole time.

“Charge!” Athena shouted, running to meet her horde head on, and screaming in a mixture of anger and complete terror, Ryan did the same.

He swung the sword as soon as he was close enough. As it did, the mass shifted to the leading edge without dulling the blade, or any manipulation needed from Ryan. As soon as it was through the mummy’s neck, the mass shifted to the other side, and Ryan was able to stop his wild swing in much less distance than normal. He brought it back with that shifting mass adding acceleration, and buried it in the mummy’s side up to its heart.

Another opponent was leaping through the air, though, and Ryan didn’t know if he could pull the sword out in time – but as he did, the sword’s blade went almost completely liquid, flowing like mercury until it had to solidify again to puncture his foe. The angle was awkward and Ryan was sure he’d miss the heart, but the sword adjusted itself slightly in his grip to make sure it hit where it needed to.

The equations surrounding it started to make sense now. It was an early form of programmable matter with tiny cameras along the blade, adapting to help the wielder hit neck, brain, heart, or spine with maximum force. It’s a sword that fights for you.

Ryan began to let the minor adjustments the sword made compensate for a lower energy style on his part, conserving as much strength as he could. The dust cloud closed around him, and he started the long, forced exhale to try to keep it out. Visibility dropped, to the point where he could only see the nearest foes, but that was enough to hold them at bay.

Loud bangs erupted from between Athena and himself, and Ryan had to hope the gunmen were shooting at the actual threats. Hell, at this point, I’m fine with them blind firing into the dust. At least the odds are better they’ll hit a mummy than me.

The truth was, numbers were on his opponent’s side, and Ryan could feel himself tiring. A shout came from behind him and he could only hope that Athena’s cry had been elation and not pain. He’d find out soon enough. They were driving him back, leaving him no option but pedal away or be surrounded and sliced to ribbons . Soon he’d either find himself back-to-back with Athena again, or back-to-face with Athena’s horde, and if it was the latter he’d be cut to pieces.

Fortunately, when he felt something at his back, hair whipped the back of his skull – something the mummy’s lacked. The paused in their assault, and the dust began to disperse slightly.

“Hey, how’s it going over there?” Ryan couldn’t help but resist a chance to banter in the breather they were being given.

“Oh, it’s fine. I’ve always wanted to fight the mummies of lost Ys in the middle of Texas summer.”

Ryan had to glance over at her. “Was that…was that a joke?”

He thought he saw a glimmer in her eye for a moment, but then focused back on the horde. “Why aren’t they attacking?”

“You complaining?” But it did bother Ryan too. The way they stood there, eerily still, even as some of the shooters put bullets in them. They should at least try to deal with the shooters.

“Yes. An opponent doing something unexpected is always bad.”

“Always? What about-” He stopped when, at that moment, they both felt it. A change in probabilities, a twisting of the equations.

Behind the two hordes of mummies, rising over the sound of intermittent gunfire, a buzzing began. Low at first, but rapidly getting louder and harsher.

Ryan swallowed hard as he saw a dozen giant insects. They looked like someone had blown up a scorpion to the size of a rhino and stapled dragonfly wings to the back, but had eerily human faces. One of the faces Ryan recognized – the man who’s heart they had watched get torn out earlier.

“Okay, never mind.” He raised his sword, wondering how they were going to survive these things. “Something unexpected? Always bad.”

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