Ryan dove to the side as one of the gods serving the United States government threw a ball of solidified air at where he had been standing. It was a woman, and the harness she wore across her chest glowed brighter as she attacked. Some kind of monitoring tool, or enhancing her power? Ryan couldn’t make heads or tails of it, not without a moment to study the equations that surrounded it.
Shockingly, neither her or her authoritative companion seemed inclined to allow him time to study their equipment. They focused their attention on him, while the other two special-forces gods focused on Anansi. Divide and conquer. I can’t worry about Anansi – I have to assume he can handle it. He glanced at where the solid air had ripped a hole in the wall behind where he had been standing a moment before. I have my own problems.
Decision made, he went to go on the offensive. The man facing off against him let loose a burst of assault weapon fire while the woman began manipulating equations again. Ryan rolled to avoid accessorizing his shirt with bullet holes and threw out his hand.
This was a trick he’d been aching to try out in actual combat, although he’d wished it was under less dire circumstances. The air he sent rolling towards them underwent two changes as it travelled. First, all spare hydrogen and oxygen in the air spontaneously combined, increasing the humidity of the Ghana air from “the Sahara isn’t really that far away” to “your shirt is now clinging to you in the grossest possible way.”
Second, the nitrogen in the air changed to sodium.
The resulting explosion sent both his opponents flying out the glass window they had broken through, far further than Ryan had expected. He didn’t watch as they struggled to their feet, instead reaching out to create a gust of wind that would blow the tear gas their way before it could reduce Anansi and him to coughing messes.
Of course, they were wearing gas masks, so they didn’t seem overly concerned by it’s presence. Stupid. No one here actually needs to breathe anyway, so it just would have annoyed their eyes. The man was standing up and began to manipulate equations, doubling the force of gravity on Ryan while the woman opened fire.
The sudden increase in weight was hardly crushing, but it did slow him down enough where the bullets hit their mark. Ryan attempted to roll as the bullets slammed into his chest, fully expecting the end of his brief tenure at godhood was upon him. For a moment he thought it actually was as pain lanced through his body, but the bullets failed to penetrate.
He glanced around for a moment, shocked. Anansi had broken away from his opponents for a moment and dropped an air pressure bubble around Ryan’s chest, a much weaker version of the one they had used to contain a nuclear blast in Canada. It had been so weak the bullets had gotten the impact through, but dispersed to they felt more like fists than anything else.
Ryan returned the favor as Anansi’s attackers tried to take advantage of their target’s distraction. Ryan reached out and heavily ramped up the magnetic attraction between the two guns, so when they opened fire it was with guns that were desperately trying to point at each other, like lovers in a crowd.
Much to Ryan’s chagrin, the two men weren’t so stupid as to keep shooting up to the point where they were facing each other. Instead, they let go of their guns which had a happy reunion mid-air before clattering to the floor. Anansi was moving, but Ryan had to miss what happened next since his attackers were back on him.
The man was throwing a bolt of lightning, and the woman was getting ready to toss another sphere of air. Instead of dodging this time, Ryan reached out and amped up the positive charge beneath the woman’s feet. The man’s lightning arced away from Ryan and towards the woman, disrupting her concentration as it struck her. She clenched in pain from the bolt, and the harness around her chest sputtered before the light went out.
She held up her hand again, ready to try another attack…but nothing happened. Her eyes widened in shock to match Ryan’s.
Realization struck Ryan and he shouter, “Anansi! Their harnesses give them god powers!” Ryan was rolling again to avoid another round of assault rifle fire from the woman, but he was twisting equations as he did.
He didn’t have a good line of sight for his remaining empowered opponent, so he tossed the lightning at Anansi’s attackers. They dodged his attack, but it left them open to Anansi. The spider-god leapt the distance between him and one of them and shoved his daggers directly into the harness before kicking off the man. The harness sputtered briefly before it went out, and suddenly the odds were looking much better.
“Fall back!” The man who had been attacking Ryan shouted. “Fall back now!” He gestured, gathering up the remaining tear gas and sending it hurtling towards Ryan and Anansi to buy him and his soldiers space to escape.
It wouldn’t have worked if he’d left it just tear gas, but the commander must have noted the lack of effect the gas had earlier. With another quick flick of his hand he altered the chemical composition of the gas. It lost tear gas’ complex formula of C10H5ClN2 to the much more simplistic CH4. Methane, also known as natural gas.
Ryan and Anansi both saw the man raise his rifle again and realized what was coming, each of them reaching out to twist reality to protect themselves. The first few rounds the man fired did nothing, but the fifth or sixth round struck something metal, which produced a spark. That spark found the methane and did what heat and methane were known to do best, which was explode with enough force to demolish the building they were in, sending the roof briefly upwards before it collapsed down on the two gods.
By the time they had dug themselves out, the four artificial gods were gone.
“You know, my friend,” Anansi said, walking over to give Ryan a hand standing, “you might have wanted to mention your government was making artificial gods sooner.” Ryan began to respond with indignation, then saw the worried smile on Anansi’s face.
“Yeah, that would have been good to know, wouldn’t it?” Ryan dusted himself off as quickly as he could. “I need to get back to the others, they need to know what kind of danger they’re in.”
Anansi walked towards the back of the building, where a single doorway stood in spite of the explosion. When he opened it, Ryan could see a universe of stars beyond. “I trust you can tell me where we are going?”
Ryan headed towards Anansi’s staging area. “Thanks. Yeah, I can. C’mon – I just hope we’re not too late.”
As the four prototype super soldiers’ flew home to recover, Doctor Parvathi was getting their report and working on a more resilient harness design, Admiral Bridges was getting his ear chewed off by the President for the failed mission, and Bast was staring at the ceiling. She didn’t know what was going on with the others, she didn’t know how long had passed since she last saw her captors. She didn’t know that at this very moment they were looking for new ways to ensure their Myrmidons would harness power stolen from her nanoverse without it being torn from them so easily.
And if she had known, she wouldn’t have cared. Because there was one thing Bast knew for certain. A few hours ago, as near as she could tell, something had happened. Her nanoverse had released a burst of energy for some reason. The details didn’t matter, not to her, not half-mad with Hunger as she was.
What mattered was that that some of that energy, a tiny little sliver of it, had found its way into its rightful host. Not enough to do much – certainly not enough to escape. Just enough to make a tiny little tweak to her surrounds.
She chose to weaken the pipe that was running directly above her, a pipe she had been staring at for days. And just now, that weakening was paying off.
A lonely drop of water detached itself from the pipe and let gravity do its work, bringing that drop of water to its final resting place – which in this case, was the dry, chapped lips that belonged to Bast.
She forced her mouth open just enough to let that drop run between her teeth. It didn’t run down her throat, instead being swallowed by the desert that was her tongue. It barely even registered for her, certainly didn’t take the edge off the thirst.
Five agonizing minutes passed before…
This drop fell straight into her mouth. And although, like the one that had come before, it barely registered, Bast still felt a surge of joy.
One Hunger was being taken care of. One weakness was being removed. It might take days, but I’ll get there. I’ll finally have one of my Hungers addressed…and when my mouth is less parched, maybe I can sleep. And once I’ve slept…
This time her tongue darted out to meet the drop, and she let herself smile while waiting for the next one.
Once I’ve slept, I’ll find out who dared to make me their science experiment.