Crystal nearly died when she stepped onto Isabel’s street.
The late Hector Ross may have been the only member of Project Myrmidon to receive the new and improved harness, but they didn’t send him in alone. A sniper on the roof of Isabel’s building, placed there in case Ryan attempted to bolt, saw Crystal step out of her doorway and opened fire. If he had waited another second to aim, he likely would have been able to put the bullet through her skull, and Crystal would have revived alongside Bast in Project Myrmidon’s laboratory.
But he knew he was shooting at a goddess, and fear made him hasty. So instead of giving her brain a good airing out, his bullet went through her shoulder, causing her to shout in pain and drop to one knee. Oh, you sodding little wanker. Crystal thought as she phased out of reality. The bullet had hurt far more than it should have, too. Something about it…They’ve infused the bullets with ichor. Bast’s, most likely. Shit. She’d dealt with arrowheads forged with ichor before, and bullets were far worse.
As far as the soldier could tell, she just vanished. From Crystal’s point of view, the entire world vanished. She was alone in a pitch black void, the light bending around her instead of reaching her eyes. Invisibility is a two-way street, she thought angrily as her shoulder made sure she knew exactly how much pain it was in.
No time to deal with that now, though. A god would have seen through the phasing in a second, but a mortal was not going to. And even if he couldn’t see her, ichor forged rounds could hit her while she was phased. That thought cut through the pain and gave her feet the energy they needed to move out of the spot she had been in. Just in time, too – the sniper fired another round where she had been, hoping she had made the exact mistake she’d barely avoided.
Okay, he can’t know where you went. Hell, you don’t know where you’ve went. She found a car to jump behind. It would provide cover long enough.
Now that she had shelter, Crystal took a few deep breaths. The military was here, which meant those damn super-soldiers Ryan had talked about were here. Which meant Ryan was in danger, possibly even dead. No, Crystal, don’t focus on that. You have to save yourself, then you can save him.
First thing was that bullet wound in her shoulder. Gritting her teeth, she reached in to pull out the bullet. It was an agonizing process, especially since any noise could give her away, but after a few seconds she felt it between her fingers. She let out a low, shaky breath after that. Okay. Okay. Ow. Okay. You’re fine, love. You’re good.
The next step she wouldn’t have risked if the situation wasn’t so dire. Not just dire, but dire in this specific way.
It’s worth the risk. You’re up against mortals, not gods. Now that you know you’re in a fight, you’ll just have to use low power tricks from here on out. And if you don’t, they’ll kill you. Resolved, she put her hand over her bleeding shoulder. First she turned up the heat to cauterize the wound – another bolt of agony sprung from the injury, as did a smell that was so much like roasting pork that its appetizing nature made her stomach turn.
Then, with a twist, she altered the flow of time.
Multiple weeks of healing passed for her shoulder in an instant. The sensation was several times more agonizing than even the cauterizing had been. Literally feeling bone knit itself back together was the worst part, although it was closely followed by the sucking sensation of her skin and muscles and blood vessels growing into the hole the bullet had left. Her already faint vision went dark for a bit from the sheer torment, but she didn’t lose consciousness, and she kept the invisibility effect up. Barely.
She took a moment to flex her arm. It was still tight and hurt, but it would work well enough for now. The scar was going to probably last for a few decades, maybe even a century. Nothing that would stop her from fighting.
Now…lets deal with these wankers.
A couple soldiers had arrived near where she had been and were looking at the bloodstain she left behind. Without phasing back in fully, Crystal crept closer – then extended a field of invisibility to cover one of the soldiers, bending light to plunge them both into darkness.
As far as his partner could tell, he had just…vanished, followed by his disembodied scream floating out of nowhere. Underneath the scream were the sounds of blows and crunching sounds – and then his companion re-appeared with two broken arms and his face beaten in.
“Oh…shit.” The remaining soldier whispered, moving to stand over his fallen friend. “I have hostile contact out here!” He shouted into the radio. “Repeat, I have hostile contact!”
Out of the radio came a voice responding. “Copy that. Where’s the damn target?”
That must be the sniper, Crystal thought, waiting for the right moment. The still conscious soldier responded back into the radio. “Target is invisible! Repeat, target is-“
Crystal made her move, moving the invisibility field to cover the man and assailing him with every ounce of her strength before dropping his unconscious form out of the invisibility field. This time the sniper was ready and shot at where she had been, but Crystal was already moving.
“Respond! Anyone there?” The sniper swore into his radio, and Crystal loved hearing the panic in his voice. “I need air support! Myrmidon C isn’t responding, Alpha 2-3 are down – Omega is on site! Repeat, Omega is on site!”
Crystal didn’t wait to hear the rest. She ran towards Isabel’s building, dropping her invisibility once she hit the lobby as she checked the director. Myrmidon C must be the super-soldier. If the sniper doesn’t know what happened to him, that must mean he’s already in here. Please be OK you two.
She hit the stairs hard and began vaulting up them as fast as she could, taking them three or four at a time. By the time she got to Isabel’s floor, she could already hear helicopters in the distance. Not yet…not yet. Need a bit more time. Just a few more seconds.
In the hallway of Isabel’s apartment was the collapsed corpse of a man. For a moment, she half-convinced herself it was Ryan…then saw the uniform under the man’s blood. She dropped the phasing, feeling her energy fade. Okay, good, that must be-
A bullet tugged Crystal’s hair as it missed her head by inches. She jerked her head up to see a woman standing there with a revolver. “Oh my god you’re not military!” Isabel screamed. “Oh Jesus oh God please tell me I missed.”
Crystal couldn’t help it. She started laughing at the absurdity. She had almost gotten shot by the woman she was trying to rescue. “No, love, I’m not the sodding military. I’m Crystal,” she managed to choke out.
“Right, Crystal. Ryan said you were coming. Sorry. Oh god. Can you save him?”
Those four words slapped the laughter out of Crystal. “Save him? What happened?” She was already stepping over the body in the hallway.
“He got…shot. In the…his face. His face got shot off. I got him in the bathtub but he’s not breathing but you all don’t need to breathe so I don’t know what-“
Crystal brushed past her and into the bathroom. Ryan’s body lay there, and Isabel hadn’t been exaggerating. With the skin of his jaw snapped and his nose missing, he looked like an unusually fleshly corpse. Taking a deep breath to steady herself for the worst, she reached down to his pocket and felt his nanoverse.
It was still solid, not the crumbling sand that would have indicated a dead Nascent.
“He’s alive, but barely.” She turned to Isabel, her face hard. “Isabel. I need you to do exactly what I say, follow my every cue. We can get out of this alive and I can save him. Maybe. But only if you do everything I say, without hesitation. Can you do that?”
Isabel nodded rapidly.
“Good. Get me something I can eat and a glass of water, now.”
True to her word, Isabel ran off. Crystal took a few moments to tear down the curtain and begin fastening a sling to carry Ryan in. Can’t just toss him over my shoulder, need my hands free.
Isabel returned as Crystal was finishing. “Here. I have – protein bar. Water.”
Without a word, Crystal grabbed both and downed them as quickly as she could. The helicopter sound was getting louder. “They’ll do. That’s two.” Crystal furrowed her brow. “Still not enough. I need a bit more – still hungry. Don’t have time for a nap.”
“Hungry? I can get more food – oh, wait. Ryan told me. You all, you recharge off getting your five Hungers filled, right?”
Crystal nodded, her mind racing. The helicopters were on the other side of the building. Once they flew over it, if they opened fire – they were done for. She didn’t think she could hold off a missile right now. Thinking frantically, she squeezed her nanoverse for a bit more strength.
“Remember, love. Everything I say. No hesitation.”
The helicopter sounds began to move over them as Isabel again nodded frantically, looking at Crystal for answers.
Let’s just hope I have them.