Small Worlds Part 38

“Go!” Athena said, much to Crystal’s relief. “I’ll hold them here!”

She didn’t waste any time, giving Athena only a quick nod and bolting off after Ryan. Athena can hold her own against Bast. As strong as Enki is, he’ll bloody kill Ryan if I don’t get there.

For a moment, Crystal considered taking off flying after Enki. The act of flying was fairly simple for anyone who’d finished apotheosis – once your brain wrapped itself around the fact that you could fly, it was easy to figure out how to do so, but it was a massive drain of power – one that Enki could apparently afford. Or he’s gone absolutely mad. She dearly hoped for the latter – if he wasn’t as strong as he seemed, he’d burn himself out quickly.

If she wanted to, flying fast enough to catch up to them in time to save Ryan’s life would be easy. However, she wouldn’t have anywhere near the strength to pull off the rescue when she got there. Just have to hope Ryan can hold on.

She had to swing wide to avoid the varcolacs, but a few of them broke off from the main army to follow. “Oh come off it!” she shouted over her shoulder at them. “I don’t want to deal with you wankers!”

Unfortunately, it would take more than the most British insult she knew to discourage her attackers. Annoyed, she reached into her nanoverse for weaponry. And it won’t be a bloody stick. Poor bastard. She drew out a pair of short swords and kept running, waiting for the swifter monsters to catch up to her.

After a few seconds, the first one did, leaping into the air with an animalistic snarl that betrayed its inhuman nature. Crystal leapt to the side as it landed, swinging her sword as she did so. It bit into the varcolac’s neck, and Crystal found herself down a foe. As much as the quick victory elated her, it also stopped her forward momentum, allowing the other four to close the gap between them.

“Come on, then, loves. Who wants to die next?” She grinned, hiding the pounding she felt in her chest. The delay was taking too much time, she wouldn’t get to Ryan in time…

The varcolacs charged her as one, not giving her the chance to fight them individually. She had to whirl away from where she stood to avoid being surrounded, her swords flashing out strike the two closest to her as she did. One blocked, and the other took only a shallow cut. Guess they won’t all be as easy as the first.

As the varcolacs closed back in, she realized the problem was time. She didn’t have enough of it, not with Ryan facing off against Enki. She was sure she could slice four werewolf vampire goblin hybrids apart – she’d faced far worse – but by the time she did she’d have gotten a few cuts herself and Ryan would be dead. As much as she wanted to save her energy, she had to burn some power.

Well, since time is the problem… She ducked under a narrow strike from a varcolac sword. That one gave her an opening to bury her left-hand sword in its gut, which had the dual benefit of freeing that hand and causing the monster to howl in pain and rage. Hand now free, she rolled away from the varcolacs and twisted an equation.

Time dilation was a nasty side effect of trying to travel close to the speed of light. The closer you got, the slower time passed for an outside observer. If you got close to the speed of light, the rate of time got close to 0. Crystal took that equation in a small area surrounding the vacolacs and removed the speed of light, replacing the blistering pace of 299,792,458 m/s with a much more sedate 1 cm/year.

The result? Each varcolac froze in place, completely unmoving. Were they gods, they could have undone the effect in a matter of seconds – a temporary inconvenience at worst. Since they were not, however, they would remain frozen here until the edit she made to reality here was corrected.

I love that trick, she thought, though she didn’t take any time to admire her handiwork. Instead she took off again, headed towards where she had seen Enki and Ryan impact the ground.

As she drew closer, she heard the most beautiful sound that ever could have reached her ears – Enki letting out a bellow of pain. Ryan was still alive and still in the fight. Unfortunately, before she could get much further she saw Ryan’s limp body go airborne, where it impacted the wall of Enki’s castle with enough force to crack it before collapsing to the ground.

She saw Enki take to the air to follow Ryan. Screw it. At this point, it wouldn’t matter how weak she was – now speed was the only thing that mattered. She took to air, changing the direction and strength gravity pulled her to variables she could alter at her whim. Her swords were held before her, and she silently begged the universe for Enki to be caught unaware, so she could just impale him and be done with it.

The universe heard her plea and decided that she could just sod off. Enki twisted out of the way at the last second, and while Crystal was able to get a good slice off, it didn’t have anywhere near the stopping power she had hoped for.

“Well well well, Ishtar! So glad you could fucking join us! Was worried no one was going to get to see me tear the Eschaton to little pieces.”

Crystal arrested her flight, zeroing out gravity’s pull so she could float across from Enki. “I finally get why you swear so bloody much. It’s the only way you don’t sound like an 80’s villain.”

Enki snarled. It had an interesting effect on his face, with one eye fully gouged out. Guess I know why he screamed now, yeah? “I am not the villain here, Ishtar,” he spat, infusing her name with more venom than he ever used with his other repeated and emphatic swears. “I’m going to save the world from you! I’m the goddamn hero!”

“You damn idiot! If you kill Ryan, the bloody sun explodes. There won’t be a world to save!” Crystal knew they were both stalling for time. She was hoping Ryan would get up to turn this into a two on one. Enki was probably hoping she’d wear herself out with the mid-air banter.

The snarl that had crossed Enki’s face earlier turned into a smile. “You don’t know a thing, not a single fuckingthing.” Crystal wanted to push for an explanation, but Enki seemed to be disinterested in monologueing. “You could have been a part of it, Ishtar. You didn’t have to work with the Eschaton.” His voice was almost soft.

“No, Enki. I can’t watch the world burn.” She glanced down. Ryan was wasn’t moving, and she was going to wear herself out. Stalling wasn’t an option anymore.

“You wouldn’t have to. I figured out a way to-” but Crystal didn’t wait for him to finish. She hurled herself at him, bringing her sword around in a wide arc aimed at Enki’s neck.

She expected him to dodge, or maybe even pull something out of his own nanoverse and parry. She didn’t expect him to just raise his hand, catching the blade like it was plastic. A thin line of blood came out from his fist, but it clearly didn’t bite his skin as deeply as it needed to.

“Dumb move, bitch,” He growled, bring his hand up in what would be a devastating blow, but Crystal was already moving away, dropping to the ground. No point to meeting him in the air anymore, he holds the edge there. How did he get so bloody strong. In the distance, she heard something let out a horrible roar. Athena!

No time to worry about her. Enki slammed into the ground from above feet first, nearly landing on top of Crystal. She was able to dance out of the way, but the impact still left a crater where she had stood. “You lost! Just admit it and fucking die already!” He threw out his hand towards her, sending a gale of wind hurtling her way. She stuck her sword into an ice patch as the air struck her with the force of a tornado, stripping up rocks and sending them bouncing off his own castle.

Although it anchored her, it opened her up to a new attack. With his hand still outstretched to buffet her with wind, he brought down his other hand, and a bolt of lightning leapt from the clouds to strike her. Crystal grit her teeth as pain coursed through her and into the ground through the sword. He brought down his hand again, and another bolt struck her. She heard someone screaming. She knew it was her.

“Just. Die!” This time the lightning that came down didn’t vanish immediately afterwards like a normal bolt. This time it struck and continued to pulse energy. She could smell her skin burning, feel lines of agony racing through every inch of her body. The small part of her brain that wasn’t consumed with pain offered up one small thought.

So. This is how I finally die.

Then the lightning stopped, and a wave of heat struck her through the wind tunnel. She blinked her eyes, barely able to see. Enki was also staring ahead, and his arm. Or what was left of it. It ended at the elbow in a charred stump.

Crystal glanced behind herself. Ryan had risen slightly off the ground, his own arm outstretched. By the equations that were dissipating, it looked like he’d pulled all the heat from the lightning to a single point, centered on Enki’s elbow.

Shock wore off, and Enki howled in pain. Clutching at the stump, he leapt into the air again. For a moment Crystal thought he was going for Ryan, but he went past Ryan’s battered form, retreating into his castle.

“We need to…” she gasped out, her mouth full of copper. “We need to follow. We have…to finish him.”

Ryan shook his head and said two words. “Moloch. Athena.”

Crystal’s brain, still reeling from lightning, took a moment to process what he meant. If they went into the castle after Enki, they’d have to face a completely healthy Moloch. And if she was still alive, they had to save Athena. She nodded and slowly, achingly, they both rose to their feet and began to limp back towards where Athena was hopefully still fighting.

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