“Athena! Can you hold off the flying scorpion face things? I have an idea.” Ryan’s voice was a quarter octave higher than usual, and he took a deep breath after the words were out of his mouth to calm himself.
“Manticores.” There was an edge to her voice too, although nowhere near as pronounced as the note in Ryan’s.
“What?” Up to a half octave higher.
“They’re called manticores.”
“Oh, good. Now that we have the terminology sorted out, can you hold them off?” Thankfully, it didn’t go any higher this time.
“Yes. Do whatever you’re doing quickly, we wasted too much time with your understanding of what they are.” She drew her blade, and Ryan tossed her the one he’d been using. She caught it easily without turning around.
“But you -” The manticores were getting closer. Time was drawing short. “Alright, go.” Ryan started manipulating the equations as quickly as possible, changing numbers of electron dispersion and static buildup.
Athena nodded, and first took her sword and threw it. She manipulated her own numbers. Any object has gravity, although for something as small as a human it was barely noticeable. But her manipulation meant that, as far as the sword was concerned, Earth’s gravity didn’t matter and his own was Earth-like. The sword began to orbit him, spinning at the blistering pace of nine point eight meters per second in a one meter radius orbit. A blade shield.
Then the manticores were on her. As Ryan continued his manipulation, he got a chance to see her fight for the first time when she wasn’t trying to kill him and Crystal.
Crystal fought like the wind and air, dancing about like a leaf caught in the breeze. A ballet of battle. Athena, however, was an earthquake of lightning. Like a Riverdance, noise and precision and power. One of the manticores struck at her with a bladed tail, and instead of dodging or parrying she caught it in her free hand and buried the mercurial blade right behind the stinger, then, when it tugged the tail away, let herself be taken with it so she could sever the stinger and use the momentum to propel herself up to another. This one she met feet first, her heels digging into the human eyes on the face, and kicking off to come back down on the first one, the sword lodging itself in its skull.
Ryan was so impressed, he almost couldn’t tell that she was still hopelessly outnumbered. But the mummies were moving back in, and that impressive stunt had only killed one of the manticores. I have to finish this. As soon as Athena went down, he’d be dead only seconds after. Some of the mummies were even trying to advance on him, although so far those that got too close to the orbiting sword were faring as well as blades of grass trying to slip past a lawnmower.
Gunfire erupted from the stores still. The mummies, in their hatred of divine beings, had continued to ignore the ordinary humans nearby, but bullets still proved to be inconvenient for the attacking horde. That’s right, need to make sure I don’t kill them in the process. Fortunately, for what he had planned, they should be fine.
First move – give Athena a better chance against the manticores. Their primary advantage was flight, so that needed to be taken away. He could increase gravity on each of them, but with no idea how strong they were, he could waste time under doing it, and it would have to be one at a time.
Instead, he assigned direction to every molecule of the air surrounding the entire group. Although the monsters were unnatural and biologically impossible, they still had to obey the laws of physics to a degree, and wings don’t work so well without air to push against. The sudden vacuum turned off all sound in the area, and brought the manticores crashing to the the Earth.
Athena gave him a thumbs up. Now that they couldn’t fly, they could only approach her one at a time, and as a bonus, Ryan didn’t have to worry about them flying over the orbiting sword.
Second move was to end the fight. While Athena continued to brute-force her way through her attackers – Ryan almost winced in sympathy as she drove a flying knee into one of the manticores’ faces, then reached up and impaled it on its own flailing stinger – Ryan continued to manipulate electron field and static charges.
There are some phenomena that are poorly understood by science, which meant what he was about to do confirmed for Ryan that his power wasn’t based on half-remembered bits of equations from physics classes he’d mostly failed. Because no one knew the equations governing this particular phenomenon, but here he was, manipulating them – until out of the spinning sword began to spit dozens upon dozens of instances of ball lightning.
Each one streaked unerringly towards the first target it could find, with the exception of Athena, who Ryan had ‘grounded’ to keep her clear of the charges. As soon as they met their targets, be it manticore or mummy or evil sentient dust cloud, they exploded, filling the air with the smell of sulfur and a ball of blue light. If there had been air in here, the thunderclaps would have been deafening, but instead the entire barrage played out in eerie silence. All it needed with a musical score to be a climactic moment in some sort of big-budget summer blockbuster, and a small part of Ryan wished he had slowed time when he had unleashed the assault so he could have watched it play out in slow motion.
Instead, he fell to one knee, his vision darkening. He held onto consciousness long enough to cut off the flow of current before it could reach the civilians nearby, and then – to at this point what should be a surprise to no one – passed out.
Moloch and Bast shared a look from the highrise where they had watched the fight play out. Athena was dealing with the last of the mummies of Ys, and the Eschaton was unconscious.
“We could go into the fight now,” Bast said, quietly. She took a sip from her martini, the green dress she wore shimmering in the sunlight. “Athena will be exhausted, and with the Eschaton passed out…”
“I do not do direct battle, my dear, and you do not strike until victory is assured.” He took a long draw from his glass as well, letting the whisky run between his yellowed teeth. His suit was already starting to look worn and frayed, simply from being a garment he wore.
“I know. Can’t you call up anything else to finish them off, though?”
Moloch shook his head. “I Hunger too much from my exertions today. Although you could help me fill some of that Hunger and then perhaps…” he couldn’t finish, letting out a dusty cough at the disgusted look on Bast’s face.
“We’d have to be far more desperate than this, Moloch.” She stared down again. “The Eschaton is proving more dangerous than we expected. Athena, Ishtar – we knew they would be difficult prey. But this one is…”
“Clever.” Moloch finished for her. “He’s clever, my dear. I think we need to begin to make preparations.”
“Preparations? What for?”
Moloch watched Athena decapitate the final mummy. People began to pour out of the shops around them. Some still had their guns raised, but others were holding their hands in the air. “For if Enki fails in his quest. I do not want to get dragged down with him, and I assume you feel the same?”
Bast nodded. “A fair point. And for now?”
“For now, we report our failure to Enki, deal with his wrath, and then prepare for our next move. We’re survivors, you and I. And I think we’ll find others who are interested in survival as well.”
She grinned. “Then take care of your Hungers. I’ll deal with the brute. He still has information we need, and I’m going to try to get him talking.” She turned on her heels, and headed to the door that lead to her nanoverse. Moloch did the same.
They both suspected that they shared a thought, and they both would have been right. Enki wasn’t the only one they were willing to throw under the bus if it meant their own survival. Each one would happily sacrifice the other.
But for now, they were still allies, and could only hope the trigger-happy Texans before would finish what they had started.