Ryan’s first conscious thought was Isabel. He started reaching up, his heart pounding. They’re going to kill Isabel, they’re going to kill my sister, I have to get up. He could hear someone saying his name, grabbing at his outstretched hands, trying to hold him back…
His vision cleared. Crystal was over him, saying his name repeatedly. “Ryan! Ryan, it’s okay love. I got there in time. She’s fine.”
That penetrated the fog of pain covering his thoughts, and he relaxed. He started to ask a question, but found Crystal’s hand on his mouth. “No, Ryan, don’t. I’ll explain, just…give me a thumbs up to show you understand, yeah?”
He raised the requested digit, and she relaxed. “You got shot in the face. You’ll be fine, but if you try to speak right now, you’re going to tear open the stitches, okay?”
Ryan nodded, a motion he instantly regretted as pain shot through his head. A groan of pain escaped his lips, and Crystal winced. Isabel stepped into view. “What’s wrong?” His sister asked, her forehead creased.
“I asked him a yes or no question, and of course he nodded. My mistake, love.”
“Well, it’s not your fault he’s a dumbass.” Isabel fixed him with a firm glare that belied the moisture in her eyes. “Don’t nod, dumbass. And don’t you dare get shot again, or I swear to god I’ll put itching powder in your underwear drawer again, okay?”
Ryan slowly raised his hand to give her a thumbs up, then with even more deliberate care rotated his hand ninety degrees and closed the thumb while extending his middle finger. Isabel choked out a laugh, then stuck her tongue out at him. “He’s going to be okay. Unfortunately, he didn’t learn anything.” she said to Crystal, her face stuck in a wide grin.
Crystal had watched the entire exchange with a wide grin. “Oh yeah. You two are definitely siblings. Okay, Ryan, do you feel up to standing up? I want to get you back to your staging area. Thumb up for yes, down for no, sideways if you’re not sure.”
Ryan considered for a moment, then held his thumb up.
“Okay. So here’s the plan. I get you back to your nanoverse. You hop down into its time flow, spend some time among your people, wait till you heal up, yeah? You’ll know you’re fully healed when you can reshape your nose. Isabel stays here with me, we go check on Athena and that lot, you join us when you’re ready. Same way to signal your answer.”
Ryan felt himself start to frown, and it was agony again. He clenched his eyes shut and made himself stop as he held his thumb out to the side.
“Lemme guess, love. You want your sister to come with you, yeah?”
Ryan gave Crystal a thumbs up.
“Not a good idea. You might need a couple months in there. If you were to take Athena or me in there for that longs, any abnormalities that cropped up over time from the physics being slightly different would clear up once we got back to reality. If you take Isabel in there, and you make even the slightest mistake on fixing physics or her to avoid that…” Crystal bit her lip and looked at Isabel, whose face had gone pale.
“I think I’ll stay with Crystal, if you’ll be okay on your own,” Isabel said in a small voice.
His eyes wide, Ryan gave a thumbs up.
Crystal poked her head out of her doorway to check for any remaining military presence. Law enforcement – including a number of men in suits – were on location. None of them had those strange headsets that allowed them to see through her phasing. And hopefully none of the bullets that let them shoot through it. I wonder how they’re going to spin opening fire on an apartment building? Crystal made a mental note to ask Isabel to keep an eye on social media for that. The poor woman clearly had a good head on her shoulders but was massively out of her depth, same as any other mortal would be. Giving Isabel something proactive to do would help her wrap her head around things.
And it would be good to know, because Crystal had questions. Somehow they had been ready for fighting gods, better than any mortals Crystal had ever encountered. There were three answers, none of which Crystal liked. One was that they had struck a deal with some power, a god or goddess who was working with them to take them down. Another was they had found some artifact – Excalibur or Mjollnir or the True Cross or something else – that could hurt divine beings. But the third, and to Crystal’s mind the most terrifyingly likely, was that they now had an answer to where Bast had gone.
Horus is going to be impossible if I’m right. Athena might too, although for different reasons. Crystal shook her head to clear away the thought. Later, Crystal. Worry about that later. Let’s get Ryan to his nanoverse.
Reaching out, she did a modified version of her earlier bent light trick, this time creating a corridor between her doorway and Ryan’s. She let enough light in so they wouldn’t be moving in total darkness.
“Okay, we’re clear,” she said, poking her head back in. Isabel nodded. Ryan was standing with his arm draped over the woman’s shoulder, Isabel supporting her brother’s weight to make sure he didn’t pass out during the walk. Crystal moved smoothly over and took the other side, and they gently lead Ryan down the pathway towards his nanoverse. Once they were sure he was settled in, they headed back to Crystal’s nanoverse.
Once they were inside, Isabel let out a deep breath and sunk to the floor. Or would have, if Crystal hadn’t moved to support her, putting an arm around the other woman.
“It’s okay. He’ll be fine. Cranky, maybe, but fine.”
Isabel nodded, and Crystal lead her over to a chair. She could have just summoned one, but something in Crystal preferred to take the time to walk her. She needs human contact right now, yeah? We gods aren’t the only one with a social Hunger.
“I’m just…” Isabel said as she finally settled into the chair, groping for the right words “It’s…I’ve never seen him like that, y’know? He was always so nervous about one thing or another, and so he never really did the stupid things guys do, so he never got injured, almost never got sick…” She trailed off at that last thought, then looked up at Crystal, who was expanding Isabel’s chair so she could sit next to her. “Is that because he was going to become a god?”
“Nope,” Crystal said, settling into the seat now that it had room for two. “He was one of thousands the Curators thought were likely to find the last Nanoverse and kick off the end of the world, but it wasn’t because of anything special about him. They just have gotten really, really good at predicting outcomes over the millennia. Hell, the Curators could have been wrong, it could have been some other random person.”
“Oh.” Isabel nodded in understanding. “I dunno, I guess with gods being real, I figured prophecy was involved or something.”
Crystal laughed at that. “We don’t have any special ability to tell the future. But after hundreds and thousands and thousands of years, you get really bloody good at spotting patterns, love. Seems prophetic to the average bloke who doesn’t have the benefit of that much experience.”
“Drat,” Isabel smiled at Crystal. “I normally hate spoilers, but I’d love to know how this whole thing ends. If I’m going to be okay and my brother is and the world is…”
Crystal reached out to pat her arm reassuringly. Isabel shivered faintly at the touch. “Isabel, love. Most gods give up on immortality after ten or twenty thousand years. I don’t know any who stuck around for more than a hundred thousand at most. But I have. You know why?” Isabel shook her head, and Crystal reached under the other woman’s chin to make sure their eyes met. “Because I wanted to make damn sure that everyone would be okay this time around. So I can’t see the future, I can’t tell you absolutely what’s going to happen. But I can tell you that I didn’t wait around a million years to cock it up now, yeah?”
Isabel laughed at that, and held her gaze for a few moments longer before brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. “Thanks. So I guess we need to go to Venezuela now?”
“Oh, we already are. But I want you to stay in here when we get there. For all we know, we’re walking into an active war zone down there.”
Isabel nodded. “So what do you want me to do?”
“Well, how good are you with a computer?”
“Pretty good. I’m no leet hacker girl or anything, but I know my way around a search engine and various websites and such.”
Crystal smiled. “Good. From here, you’ll be able to get wifi. I want you to start digging. See what you can find out about Myrmidon, about the government’s spin on the attack on your apartment, any references to Bast after the Canada fight – anything. Right now we’re completely in the dark in regards to those things, and we need to know what’s going on.”
“I can do that,” Isabel said, her eyes lighting up. “Do you have a computer I can use?”
Crystal pulled one out as they arrived. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
“Sure. Thank you again, for everything.” Isabel tilted her head slightly. “One last question? How the hell am I getting wifi if I’m technically in another universe?”
The most impish grin Crystal could give spread across her lips. “Why, the answer to that is simple. Roll with it, love.”
And before Isabel could do more than laugh, Crystal stepped out the doorway and into Moloch’s temple.