Small Worlds Part 28

If pressed, most gods who died and came back would guess the experience was like waking up from sleeping too much, where you were groggy and out of it and stumbling about, trying to find your damn pants because you’re late for work already but you fall on your ass trying to get them on and just sit there for a moment, cursing an uncaring universe.

As Crystal could have attested to before, and was getting a refresher in now, it was so, so much worse. You couldn’t really compare it to anything other than coming back from the dead, which wasn’t particularly helpful as far as analogies go but had the benefit of being perfectly accurate.

First of all, before you became aware of anything else, were the Hungers. First was the need for air, a Hunger that usually filled on its own – but since you were reviving, your muscles didn’t work yet, and you spent a few moments suffocating before your lungs kicked into gear. It was followed a thirst that was greater than a mortal literally dying of dehydration in the middle of the Sahara. Before you had time to satisfy that, or even open your eyes, you felt a hunger that gnawed at your stomach like a living beast trying to eat your own insides. And then you were hit with a need for companionship, a need for human interaction, so strong that the first motion a reviving god made was to wrap their arms around themselves involuntary just to get some kind of touch. And underlying that all was a tiredness, a need for sleep, that lurked in the background just waiting for you to take care of the other four so it could drag you back into a blackness that part of your brain was momentarily terrified of.

As Crystal felt her arms make that first involuntary motion, her first conscious thought was Oh, right, that’s why I don’t like bloody dying. She lay there for a few minutes, keeping her eyes closed. Experience had taught her that – unlike normal Hunger – these cravings would abate a little bit on their own, and she’d be able to be more reasoned in trying to fill them if she gave a moment for her logical brain to kick in.

The less that was said about what happened to gods that didn’t take those few minutes, like Vlad Tepes and his perverse way of filling his need for liquid when he first revived, the better.

Slowly, reason returned to her, and she was able to be shocked she was reviving. In a normal conflict between gods, it was considered over when one side died, and no effort was made to destroy or corrupt the nanoverse. Enki was playing by his own rules, though, and –

Ryan. Oh bloody hell, what happened to Ryan

She forced herself to stop hugging herself, and stumbled over to her console. A few buttons, and a different refrigerator popped up. In truth, the refrigerator was a box where time did not pass so food could be stored indefinitely, but there wasn’t a good word for that to Crystal’s knowledge. This one took full advantage of that time-stasis property, though, and inside was a jug of ice cold water and a steak that was still hot from when it had been cooked.

The water was practically inhaled, and the steak didn’t fare much better. Neither one was enough to do more than take the hunger from brutal need to strong craving, but at least that was an improvement. She turned on some music to help take the edge off the need for company, and sat down to think.

She was back on her nanoverse, which meant Ryan had survived Bast somehow. No other god would have been able to find her door and take her back here. Means there’s still a chance he’s still alive, yeah? Which was good for a few reasons – the important one, she was glad her friend might not be dead, equal with the fact that meant there was some hope of saving the damn world from being incinerated by a solar supernova. But he’s not here, so he could have died while you were dead.

She contemplated that for a moment. If he was dead…maybe there was a chance another Eschaton could be found and made ready in time. Maybe. And maybe she could reprise her role of Eschaton – Crystal Ends the World Part Deux: Revenge of the Eschaton – but that also had no guarantee of working. If she had to, she’d end the damn world at the last second and hope the sun didn’t explode, but…no, Ryan has to be alive. He bloody has to.

Reassuring herself that the universe wouldn’t shag her that badly without at least buying dinner and oh damnit, do not think about shagging right now when all you’ve had is music to deal with that stupid Hunger, she poked her head out of her door to see where Ryan had left her.

Her head pulled back like she had stuck it on a hot stove, and she slammed the door. Athena. Oh you bloody bitch. Okay, Crystal, think – hard.

She hadn’t let it on, but it had hurt when Athena sided with Enki against her. Things had gone bad between them at the end, to the tune of a hundred years of warfare and the death of an entire empire, but they had been close thousands of years ago. Which also meant Athena knew how Crystal thought. Maybe Ryan was dead, and Athena had saved her out of some old sentimentality. Maybe he was her prisoner, same way Crystal was now – she couldn’t move her door from Athena’s nanoverse until Athena opened it. Maybe she’s holding him in her actual nanoverse, where she’s all-powerful. It wouldn’t be the first bloody time someone pulled that trick.

Baseless speculation was leading to panic, and Crystal had to get it under control. If Ryan was alive, Athena would know where he was. Crystal could escape from Athena’s nanoverse, but the exit was likely guarded. No. Better to wait for Athena to come back – hopefully alone – and take her out then. Get information on Ryan’s fate. If he was alive, rescue him. If he was dead…bloody hell, Ryan, you better not be dead.

Hunger would have to wait. She went back through the door, into Athena’s nanoverse staging area, and took up a position behind one of the pillars Athena was so fond of. She pulled down a sword that was hanging over her head and settled in to wait, unfulfilled hungers still gnawing at her.

Don’t fret, love. I’m going to save you, soon as I get Athena to tell me where you are.


The dancing went on for hours, broken up by more drinking, and at the end both of them were flush from exertion and alcohol. The started stumbling back towards Athena’s door, leaning on each other slightly.

Ryan realized something odd as they did. His need for Company was full – the dancing had been a great way to take care of that – but he had felt full a good three hours ago, and still hadn’t wanted to stop. There’s an emotional…thingy. Like a…like a extra part. A gear. No. A component.

“Wha?” Athena asked, and Ryan had to wonder how much he had said out loud.

“I was just thinking. With…my brain.” He poked a finger to his temple to make sure Athena got the point. She giggled – Athena, actually giggling! – which made Ryan grin.

“And what were you, were you thinking?” She smiled at him, and that smile obliterated any hope of rational thought.

“I was thinking…words. Yes. I forgot.” They both stared at each other a moment, then burst out laughing outside Athena’s door.

“Well, in that case…I don’t know where I was going with that.” Athena fumbled at the knob, finally getting it to turn. “Let’s…let’s go in. Oh hell, I’m drunk.”

Ryan stumbled before going in, which was unfortunate, because it meant the watcher knew that Athena wasn’t alone but not that it was him, and knew that she was inebriated and therefore vulnerable.

Athena shouted in surprise when she found herself pressed to the ground, someone on top of her, a sword – Ryan’s liquid silver sword – pressed to her throat. “Don’t say a damn word. Just tell me – where is Ryan.”

The Greek goddess took a moment to try and focus on her attacker. “How…how can I tell you if I’m not ‘posed to say anything?”

“Bloody hell, you’re pissed off your gourd. Are we in Empyrean Provocation?”

“Mmmhmmm. Ishtar? Is that you?”

Crystal sighed, lessing the pressure on Athena’s throat. Intimidation wouldn’t work, and Athena wasn’t a threat to anyone right now. “Athena, love. Is Ryan alive?”

Athena’s face contorted with the effort not to laugh. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s not…you’re worried. Yes.” Athena’s laughter became real here. “Ryan, come in and convince Ish…Crystal I’m not the bad guy anymore?”

Ryan stumbled in, his eyes focusing on Crystal on Athena, his sword in Crystal’s hand and pressed to Athena’s throat. “Oh nooooo! Crystal, don’t hurt heeer!” He ran for them, but tripped over his own feet.

When he rolled over, Crystal was standing, her hands on her hips, her face somewhere between horrified and trying not to die of her own laughter. “Okay. I’ll be honest, I didn’t anticipate this being what I came back to, yeah? So…will someone tell me what the bloody hell is going on?”

Before they did, Athena and Ryan had to get over another round of laughter at her indignation.

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