“Bast! Moloch! So good of you to show up. How’s the Eschaton, hmm?” Enki’s smile was wide and he had managed to string together two sentences without swearing, but Bast noted the way the veins in his forehead bulged, and the red discoloration to his skin.
Bast growled, wondering if she would have to draw weapons. Here in Enki’s staging area, they were still on equal footing, but if he dropped it into his nanoverse…I won’t allow that. She took a moment to observe the layout in case it came down to a fight. Enki’s staging area was carved from bones, hundreds of leg bones laid together to form a platform, and his command console was composed of skulls that were carved with runes. And yet he wants to claim heroism. He’s every bit as gauche as Moloch. And these are your allies. Realizing Enki was going to stare at her expectantly until she gave him what she wanted, she spat out an answer. “He lives.”
“Gosh gee whiz, Bast, you don’t say? You and Moloch, you unleashed an entire army of mummies, and you couldn’t kill one little-”
“Enough, Enki,” and to Bast’s surprise, it was Moloch who interrupted the brute. He clenched the rotten teeth with such force Bast had to wonder if they’d snap out of his head as he continued. “He arrived before they had a chance to create a city of Manticores for me, else he would have been slain. And the new King of Hell has severed ties with me. We need an advantage, so spare me your recriminations and offer something useful.”
“Getting real sick of your shit, Moloch,” Enki muttered, the fake cheer dropping at meteoric speeds. “Well, while you were licking your wounds, I got some actual fucking work done.”
Enki turned and waved, the galaxies moving around them. For a moment, Bast thought they were dropping into his nanoverse, but then realized this was an echo of what had happened before.
The view resolved on a fleet of ships. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. As Bast narrowed her eyes, she could see glimmers even further – similarly sized fleets. Warships, fighters, cruisers, solar cannons, destroyers – every type of imaginable spaceship. “Impressive, Enki,” she commented, glancing at the obscenely proud god. “Impressive, but useless. What point is there to making such an armada in your nanoverse?”
“Maybe if you’d fucking wait a bit, Bast, you’d see. Watch and shut the hell up.”
Once this is done, I will kill you. The thought wasn’t a threat or a promise, just a realization. Moloch, at least, showed her the respect due to a fellow deity. Enki had gone too far, long ago, and she wouldn’t suffer the indignity indefinitely. For now, however, they needed him, so she shut her mouth on her retort and watched.
In front of the vessels space began to warp and twist, forming what looked like wormholes – but they were wrong, a fundamental unnaturalness to them that caused the hair on the back of her neck to stand to attention like soldiers. She saw Moloch’s eyes widened – he felt it too.
“What abomination is this, Enki?” she asked, feeling sick looking at those gaping holes in reality.
“Oh, just the culmination of five thousand years of work; and that’s real world time..” His grin widened as the ships flew through. “Just an invasion.”
Moloch spoke here, his normally hoarse voice now carrying a slight tremble. Is that fear, Moloch? Do you feel it too? “Invasion of where.”
Enki pulled out a pair of small black orbs, Nanoverses. Only they weren’t separate anymore, instead looking like a pair of cells halfway through mitosis. “I finally did it. You two wanted to destroy Tyr’s nanoverse – I decided conquest was a better option. Two nanoverses are under my domain now.”
Bast’s heart pounded, and Moloch’s face fixed itself into a horrid mockery of a grin. “It’s impossible!” she blurted out – not because she didn’t believe what her eyes and divine senses were telling her, but out of some desperate hope that denial would undo the truth.
“No, Bast. It’s very, very fucking possible. And you both are going to, right here right now, get down on your faces in full on fucking supplication, or I’ll kill you and add your nanoverses to my collection.” He let them stand there dumbfounded for a few seconds, and it was obvious he was basking in their expressions, but then those beady eyes narrowed. “Right. Fucking. Now.”
Bast did, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Moloch doing the same. They prostrated themselves the way their worshippers once had before them.
“That’s it, right there. That’s how it should be. So here’s the plan – keep your fucking head down, Moloch, I didn’t give you permission to fucking move – we’re going to kill Athena, Ishtar, and the Eschaton. I’m going to merge their nanoverses into mine. I’ll be the Eschaton then. And then, once that’s done, we give everyone an option – join or die. If you two haven’t pissed me off between now and then, I’ll show you how I did it. If you have…well, there’s always room for more.” He stood there after speaking, and the only sound was his breathing. “You may rise and speak now.”
Bast did, trying to unclench her jaw as she stood to her feet. While she didn’t quite manage it, she at least kept it off her face. Moloch, also, seemed to have schooled his expression. “There’s still the little matter of opening the cage, Enki.” Bast saw his face, saw the veins of rage return, and quickly amended herself “Lord Enki.” That, at least, seemed to mollify him.
“Not to worry, Bast. I’ll make sure you and Moloch know where to find the key if things go to shit in the last fight. I don’t know why you two want it so badly, but I don’t give a shit anymore, because you’re my bitches now, and you’ll tell me when it’s important, right?”
Moloch’s nod was a slow motion, while Bast couldn’t even manage that, instead baring her teeth in what she hoped was a grin of agreement.
“Good. Now get out of my fucking sight, and make sure you come when called. Go. And find the Eschaton while you’re at it!”
They both did, and when out of his nanoverse, shared a moment. No psychic communication was needed this time – the understanding was primal, the language was shared rage and humiliation.
Enki had to die. The only things more important than that – the only reasons not to cast their lot with the Eschaton and his guiding goddesses – were getting their promised prizes. What’s that term? Sunk cost Fallacy. But this is important. You can endure a bit longer, Bast. Moloch’s face said the same, and they shared a nod.
“Well, my dear, that was unexpected. Any suggestions how we might find the Eschaton now? I doubt our….no, I can’t keep up the pretense when he is not present. I can’t imagine that self-important heap of sentient offal will tolerate a delay.”
Bast reached into her pocket, which was buzzing. She’d set up some alerts on her phone – guns weren’t the only way she embraced modernity. After reading the screen, she showed the headline to Moloch.
Ryan Smith to Enki – “Let’s do this.”
“Should we tell him?”
Moloch thought for a moment. “I need a few hours before I can endure his arrogance again. You?”
“Same. But at least we won’t have to wait long.”
Soon. They’d both have what they wanted, Ishtar, Athena, and the Eschaton would be unmade – and now, before he could claim their nanoverses, so would Enki.
I’m going to enjoy that last bit more than I should.