Horus had to suppress a scowl as he stepped out of his staging area into the endless rows of shelves of Officium Mundi. He hadn’t set foot anywhere near this damn world of bureaucrats and paperwork in over a millennia, and breaking that particular streak was about as pleasurable on slamming his head into a bed of nails.
A few Curators glanced at him as he strode in, frowns creasing their faces. Perhaps it was the mud on his boots, or his combat-ready garments. Perhaps it was the way his fingers were clenched into fists. Or, just maybe, it was the assault rifle slung across his back. Ignore it. You’re not here to make friends. You’re here for information.
“Can I help you?” A Curator said. She looked young, although that meant about as much with their kind as it did with gods.
“I need to speak to…” Horus had to think; he had almost forgotten the name Ryan had given him, “Nabu. Yes, Nabu. And I’m in a hurry.”
“Oh, well since you’re in a hurry, I can definitely expedite your request. Would you be willing to fill out a Queue Exception Form – 19A? I can move you to the front of the line if you do.“
Horus seriously contemplated unslinging the gun from his back and demanding that this drone cut through every bit of red tape they had so he could be done here. Two factors stopped him. For one, the Curators rarely got directly involved in anything, but the few times they did they were a force to be reckoned with.
For another, it wouldn’t actually help.
“Sure. I’ll take the fu-,” the Curator’s eyebrows furrowed, and Horus reminded himself how much slower they could make the process if they wanted to. “Form,” he corrected.
Her smile returned. “Wonderful,” she pulled it out, and Horus began to search for a pen. Realizing he didn’t have one, he sighed. “I don’t have a –“
Already the Curator was producing a pen and a Temporary Pen Reallocation Form – 17B. Horus sat down and filled out the forms with strokes of the pen that threatened to tear the paper. The process took about fifteen minutes, and by the end of it he had clenched the pen firmly enough to leave deep grooves in it – which, per the Temporary Pen Reallocation Form -17B meant he would be assessed a penalty of Creation, to be paid in copper.
With a quick twist of his hand, he created the one kilogram block of copper out of some of the air, and laid the forms on top of it to hand to the young Curator, who beamed at him gratefully.
“Thank you, Mr…” she checked the form. “Horus. You can now join the queue with the other Exception individuals.”
She pointed over to one of the isles. Horus remembered how quickly Crystal and Ryan said they had gotten to see Nabu before and leaned in to the Curator that was holding his forms and block of copper. “Please let Nabu know it’s about Ryan Smith.”
The Curator bristled, her voice going up by half an octave. “Mr. Horus, Nabu acted extremely irregularly before with the Eschaton of Earth. I understand fully his reasons for doing so, but a Debt Resettlement Form 23G was not filled out, nor a Verification of Validity of Guilt-Based Motivation 778-O, nor a Request to Act Within Spirit of Law Without Processing Additional Forms 1054-9A! In the middle of Eschaton season, no less! It’s unthinkable, truly. He should have at least filled out Permission to Process Paperwork After End of World(s) 699-G1!”
“Indeed,” Horus said, not bothering to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. The Curator’s eyes hardened and her mouth turned down into a frown.
“You gods can run your little universes the way you want. In this universe, however, we have rules and order and forms. Nabu is on probation pending disciplinary hearing, but you can still see him. If you wait in line. Am I clear?”
“Clear as glass,” Horus growled and stalked over to the line.
It was pointless to provoke the Curators, and Horus knew that, but the sooner he was done here…well, the rest of the group was heading into the Labyrinth. Had already headed in by now, most likely. A few days through, and if Moloch was there they’d have to battle. They’d have to rest and recover afterwards, and then exit, which was at least quicker than entering. Seven days minimum, nine more likely. Unless he got a lead on Moloch here, he had days without obligation where he could look for and rescue Bast.
He could picture it now, almost perfectly.
It was deep in the desert of the American Southwest, because such things usually were. An arid patch of land surrounded by lizards and cacti and wired fences and armed guards. Bast was held captive deep within, restrained with tools they’d forged out of her own ichor that had somehow negated her power.
Horus paused the reflection at that thought. That was something that didn’t add up. Was such a thing possible? And if not, why had Bast not yet escaped?
“Next,” a balding Curator said at the front of the line, motioning the being at the front of the line forward. It was a headless torso that sat atop five arms, the being’s face in the center. It scuttled forward. With no answers, Horus retreated back into the daydream.
Horus was armed to the teeth, but holding back his divine power in case he met those thief gods that were stealing Bast’s power. Instead, he used mortal arms to gun down soldiers that dared stand between him and her, felling them by the dozens. They fought hard but already knew they were doomed. As he neared her containment cell his rifle clicked empty. One of the soldiers smiled, thinking he had an advantage finally.
Instead of responding, Horus threw the now useless metal into his face, breaking the man’s nose and knocking him out. As the other went to raise his rifle, Horus leapt off a wall to kick him so hard that the man flew down the hallway and barreled into and through the doors of Bast’s prison.
She was battered but unbroken. They’d covered her with cuts from torments Horus didn’t dare imagine, and her hair was unwashed, hanging limply in front of her own face. She was strapped to a table.
“Next!” Horus took a step forward in the queue. The being in front of him, a purple humanoid with azure hair, was checking its watch. He didn’t like that last thought, and altered the fantasy slightly as it continued.
She was strung up from the ceiling with immense chains, her feet barely able to scrape the floor. But that fire in her eyes that he’d always admired was still be there, unquenched by anything mere mortals could do to her, and although she was injured her beauty was untarnished.
“I knew you’d come for me,” she said, smiling through the rage. “I figured you’d be here sooner though.”
“I know,” Horus said. With a quick twist, he shattered the chains at her wrist. She slumped slightly where she was standing, but didn’t fall to her knees. “I’m sorry for the hold up. I was trying to find-“
“Hush,” she said, stepping towards him. “It doesn’t matter. You’re here now.”
“We need to get moving.”
“I need to recover my strength. I’m Hungry, Horus.” She gave him a soft smile. Horus’s heart pounded.
“I said hush. You were right, Horus, about everything. Especially us. And after we get out of here, after we’ve taken care of these bastards…we have much to discuss. But for now…“ the crude gown that had barely covered her began to slide down, her lips turning up into a lascivious smile as-
Horus snapped back to reality. The being in front of him was gone. He was up. “Sorry,” he muttered, stepping forward. He didn’t let the embarrassment show. He was a god, after all, he was beyond such base desires. And yet…it wasn’t a base desire that drove him.
He would save Bast, and she would realize that he was right, that their love was eternal. It wasn’t base mortal carnality that drove him to want the physical expression of that, it was something pure and of the heart.
Knowing he needed to focus, he dismissed the thoughts and followed the Curator into Nabu’s office. Here, he’d get answers. And then – unless Moloch was within his grasp – he’d save her. He knew it was foolish to hope that she’d change her mind just because he rescued her, but part of him still did.
Just because you don’t sleep doesn’t mean you can’t dream.