As the Admiral screamed in horror, deep in space, Isabel Smith screamed in delight. Ryan had just finished chugging something that was apparently brewed on Jötunheimr and would kill pretty much anyone who wasn’t a giant or god.
He swayed in his chair, but stayed upright, and gave everyone a big, watery grin.
Crystal was cackling, and Athena looked like she was hovering between laughter and unconsciousness. “You!” Someone shouted, pointing at Isabel. “Your turn!”
The bar cheered again as Crystal’s laughter died. “Noooo!” She reached over and put a hand over Isabel’s face, like she was afraid someone would try to shove the drink down the poor mortal’s throat. “She’s…she’s a. Thingy. With the…you know? Thingy? Where if she drinks it, she’ll…she’ll get worse than drunk. Like…forever drunk, only it’s not fun?”
Isabel finally managed to pry Crystal’s hand of her mouth. “I’m mortal!” she shouted between giggles, “It’ll kill me. Dead. Deader than…than a really dead thing.”
The patron wanting her to drink the Jötunheimr ale, an individual of indeterminate gender and too many eyes, sighed dramatically. “Then you should chug something!” they exclaimed with the infallible logic of a drunk.
After some back and forth, they settled on a boilermaker, whiskey dropped in beer. “Chug, chug, chug” people began to chant as she worked her way through the drink. She almost lost her concentration when she realized that Crystal was chanting “slug, slug, slug” out of rhythm with everyone else, but she managed not to cough and finished it to a round of cheers.
When people had begun realizing there were gods here, it had spread rapidly throughout Empyrean Provocation, and soon people were buying them drinks to test out divine immunity to alcohol poisoning. The end result was all of her remaining companions were far drunker than they had intended, and Isabel was pleasantly drunk. Anansi and Dianmu had both wandered off with partners to finish filling the need for Company.
Isabel was also realizing, in the part of her brain that wasn’t completely drowned in alcohol, that if the immortals started passing out, she wouldn’t have any way to get out of here. She leaned over and tapped on Crystal’s shoulder. “I think we should get going,” she shouted over the wall of noise.
Crystal looked at her, and slowly nodded. “Yes. Yes! Oh bloody hell, you’re…you’re the thing. Right! You’re right.” She reached up and pawed at Isabel’s face, eventually managing to cup Isabel’s cheeks in her palms. “You are sooooooo smart.” She turned to everyone, almost falling out of her chair in the process. “Ryan! Your sister.” Ryan looked at her, his eyebrow raised. Crystal took a few deep breaths then grinned in triumph. “Is smart!”
Ryan nodded eagerly. “Why?”
“Huh?” Crystal asked, looking like he had just asked her to solve a quadratic equation.
“Why is she smart?” He asked again. Isabel knew this face – this was Ryan’s ‘I’m confused but I’m not sure if it’s because if you’re drunk or I am, so let’s keep trying until we get it.’
“Oh! Because she said we…we need to go.”
Athena heard it this time. “I think that is excellent, splendid council. We should retire. For the evening. Not from being gods.” Her forehead furrowed. “Because we…can’t. Retire. From being gods.”
It took several more false starts for all four to get out of Empyrean Provocation. Athena had dragged Ryan through the doorway to her nanoverse, so Isabel wandered with Crystal into hers.
Once inside, Crystal landed face first on a bed that had come out of the floor.
“Hmmm?” She asked, managing to get herself into a chair nearby. “Yes?”
Crystal groaned and rolled over. “I am suuuuuuuper pissed.”
“You’re…why are you pissed?”
“Because I drank too much,” Crystal said, as if that should be obvious.
Isabel frowned. “But…why would that piss you off?”
That got Crystal to erupt into another round of laughter. “No! I’m not…it’s slang, lover. Love, I mean. It’s slang for…drinking too much thing.”
“Being drunk?” Isabel prompted.
“Yes! That’s the word. It’s a British thing.” Crystal rose to a sitting positing, wavering in the bed. “Because I am British.”
Isabel nodded, then frowned. “You’re like, a million years old. Britain is…is not. Why do you talk British?”
Crystal frowned. “Because…roll with it, that’s why.”
After thinking for a time, Isabel decided that was an acceptable answer. Apparently she had taken too long to decide, however, because Crystal was already asleep. Minutes later, Isabel had joined her.
In Athena’s nanoverse, Ryan found himself with Athena, slumped on the floor. He couldn’t quite remember how they had gotten here, but both of them were leaning against low walls that had risen to accommodate them. “That was…that was fun” he said, trying to force his thoughts into order. It was like trying to herd swimming ducklings.
“Mmmmhmmm,” Athena agreed, giving him a wavering smile.
“You…did I say you look gorgeous tonight? Did I say that? Because if I didn’t, I should. Because you do. I mean, you always look gorgeous. But even more now. Like…you’re already the sun, but now you’re…magnified.”
Athena laughed into her hand. “So I’m going to burn your eye?”
“Yes!” Ryan shouted, then realized what she had said. “I mean, no. I mean…yes, because you’re so pretty.” She laughed some more, and Ryan didn’t know if it was wishful thinking or if she was blushing.
“We never did have that talk,” she said, her voice low.
Ryan shook his head. “No. We did not. Then we got…then we got drunk.”
“This is true,” Athena said, moving her finger up and down for emphasis. “So talking is going to be…tricky. Maybe we could talk later?”
“Talking later seems like…seems like it would be a good idea.”
Athena leaned in. “Maybe we could…”
Ryan caught his breath. “Yeah?” Athena tilted her head, and Ryan realized he had two options. Say something, or do something. “We got drunk,” he said again, a bit more seriously than he had before.
Athena furrowed her eyebrows and leaned back. “Yes, we did.” For a moment Ryan thought she was going to be upset, but then she leaned in again – this time to rest her head against his shoulder. “I’m glad we did.”
“Oh?” Ryan said, trying to think if she could make a statement right now he would disagree with more.
“Yeah. We’re trying to save the world. Well, end it. But in a save-y way. We shouldn’t get distracted.”
Ryan felt his heart sink to rest in his shoe. “Yeah.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. But she didn’t move from his shoulder, and before too much longer they both were pulled to sleep.
In Empyrean Provocation, there was a figure that had not joined in the calls for the assembled deities, and one mortal, to chug. The bar’s upper level had seats, and he had been in one for the entire night, keeping an eye on the budding pantheon below. Now that they were gone, he was finally able to enjoy a much needed drink.
He’d watched them before, and when they returned, he’d watch them again. His job was quite simple, in that regard. But since they had just left, he was able to finish his drink and head back to Earth for a bit. It was unlikely they’d return right away.
Once he’d gone through his nanoverse and returned to Earth, he pulled out a phone and made a call. “They just left, sir.”
The voice on the other end of the phone responded. “Good. Keep it up for a bit longer. We’ve gotten the information, and we’ve gotten our first shipment.”
Shipment, he thought. Such a clinical term for what we’re doing here. “Understood. And the asset?”
“She had to activate her contingency plan. We’ll know more in a few days.”
“Understood, sir.” He gave his report, recounting every detail he could recall, then ended the call. In a way, he reflected, Enki had been a blessing. He’d focused the Eschaton’s Pantheon on the direct and immediate.
By the time the Eschaton was aware of them, they would be ready to move.