Nabu’s office was exactly what Horus expected from a Curator. Hundreds of books were stacked floor to ceiling, neat little rows that had the unmistakable sense of order only possible with an actual filing system. No art adorned the walls or desk, unless you considered a statue of an iron atom art. The desk was immaculate, with neat piles of papers sitting in carefully placed rows.
The man behind it, as with most Curators, was plain and unassuming, wearing an unremarkable but neat suit. His hair was brown and cut short, as were his eyes. Horus had seen them throughout the ages. They always wore whatever would allow them to blend in best, so that even the gods that could see them would overlook them, and his form was perfectly calculated to blend in almost anywhere in America or Western Europe. Curators assigned to other parts of the world would look different, to blend in best there – and of course, those that oversaw other worlds would change to fit their societies. He was regarding Horus with a kind of bland curiosity. “It’s been some time, Horus.”
Horus took the seat opposite Nabu, settling into the chair. He expected to be here for some time. “We’ve met?”
“Oh, absolutely. Sometime before Egypt, in fact.”
Horus studied him, and for a moment, Nabu shifted, appearing as he had back then. “You were…you were there when I found the nanoverses!”
Nabu smiled. “Oh, you do recall. Your own, the one you gave to Serket, and the two for your parents, Osiris and Isis.”
“I…the same Curator that was there for the Eschaton was there when I found my nanoverse?”
“Yes. As well as eighty-six percent of the gods on Earth. I have a very, very good track record.”
Horus felt a slight sinking feeling at that. He realized he’d been hoping that it somehow made him…he dismissed the thought. “Then I suppose it’s good to see you,” he said gruffly, offering a hand.
Nabu shook it with a wry grin. “You sound so enthused. Unless you’ve changed a great deal since then, I imagine you won’t want to fill out an Extension of Small Talk Request Form 9-B, so we best get down to business.”
“You need a form to extend small talk?”
“Only because we are on the clock right now, and because I’m on probation. It limits me a great deal.”
Horus could only shake his head at that, changing the subject. “I need to know about Moloch. Where he is, and what he’s doing there.”
Nabu sighed. “I can only say that Moloch’s actions currently are part of a series of actions against the Eschaton. Since I must be neutral in such matters, and the Eschaton and Moloch are on a direct collision course, I cannot tell you more.”
Horus waited for the offer a form. Some kind of Actually Be Helpful 41-D or something. Nabu just stared at him, and it slowly became apparently that no such form was forthcoming. “That’s it? You can’t tell me anything else?”
A frown creased the Curator’s lips. “I’ve already told you a great deal.”
Horus opened his mouth to object, to shout. A great deal? You’ve told me nothing! Before he could speak, Nabu gave him a sharp look, and he paused, turning the words over in his head. “I can only say that Moloch’s actions currently are part of a series of actions against the Eschaton. Since I must be neutral in such matters, and the Eschaton and Moloch are on a direct collision course, I cannot tell you more.”
“If Moloch and Ryan are on a direct collision course, that means Ryan is heading the right way,” Horus said slowly, watching Nabu’s face. It gave away nothing. “And if his actions are part of a series of actions, that would mean Moloch isn’t working alone.”
Nabu shrugged slightly. “I cannot comment on any speculation, of course. I have said all I can on the matter.”
Horus turned Nabu’s words over and over his mind for a couple minutes. It made sense so far, at least it to Horus. Carefully chosen words, within the regulations of what Nabu could say…”So you can’t tell me anything more?”
“On that topic? Correct, we have hit the limit of what I can say.”
It was something, at least. And if Horus was right, and Ryan was already headed towards Moloch, it meant Horus was able to act freely. “I want to know about Bast, then. Where is she? How can I help her?”
It was Nabu’s turn to hesitate. “And those are your questions about Bast? Where is she and how can you help her?”
“Of course they are. There can’t be anything more important than that.”
Nabu opened his mouth, and closed it again. He studied Horus’ face for several seconds. “And you’re certain of that?”
“Of course I’m certain! What else would I possibly need to know?” Horus could help letting his irritation cause him to snap. Stupid, useless, waste of time.
Nabu shook his head slowly, sighing as he did. “Regulation 93429 – Providing Information to Independent Actors – states that I cannot suggest a question. So let me ask you one last time. Are you cer-“
“I know I need to fill out a damn form and make a payment for each question, Curator. I’m certain, every bit as certain as I am that you’re wasting my damn time.”
Nabu looked at the ceiling as he collected himself, then handed Horus a huge pair of forms. “Request for Access to Curator Knowledge 65-B. Needs to be filled out in triplicate for each question. Payment methods are stipulated in section 87.”
Horus skimmed through the document, putting down the falcon hieroglyph that was his initial in various places. It stipulated what he could and could not do with the knowledge, that he could not request knowledge for another decade by standard years -which took the average of a year on all inhabited world. Since so many inhabited worlds across the universe orbited red dwarfs, that came out to 467.8 days on Earth, and payment, which was a full cycle’s worth of energy accumulation from his nanoverse – a cycle being the standard measure of a week across the same as the standard year, which came close to the Earth’s seven days at eight and a half days. That last bit made Horus frown, but he had plenty of energy saved up.
Repeating the forms another five times was a grind that had him wanting to beat Nabu to death with the stack of papers by the time he was done, but after nearly an hour, he was finished. He handed over his nanoverse, which Nabu squeezed to get payment.
“My answers, Nabu?”
“The answers to your specific questions, that you were certain were the only questions you wanted to ask…” Nabu caught Horus’ look and sighed, handing back the nanoverse. “Bast can be found in the military base known to Americans as Area 51. She is, to be precise, at the moment in the bedroom registered to Admiral Dale Bridges. The best way for you to help her right now to her would be for you to aid her in fulfilling the only Hunger she has remaining.”
Horus’ felt his blood run cold. “His…his bedroom!?” His fist clenched. “What Hunger remains? Is he…what is he doing to her?”
“You were certain,” Nabu said, and Horus wished he’d been sarcastic. Or spiteful, or angry. Or even had said ‘I told you so.’ Anything other than the sympathetic tone of those three words.
“Go to hell, Curator,” Horus said, standing up abruptly. “I’m going to kill that monster, and I’m going to save her. And I’m going to kill anyone that stands in my way.”
“Of course you are, Horus. Of cour-“
But Horus was already storming out of the office, and running to his nanoverse. He was going to save her. And then…and then they’d see what happened next.
Nabu shook his head as the door slammed shut and sighed. “Sorry, Horus. But rules are rules.”
That phrase was part of everything Nabu believed, everything Nabu was. But for the second time since he’d started observing Ryan, it rang hollow.
He couldn’t deal with that now. The next client was coming in.
“Hello, Odin. Long time, no see.” Nabu hoped this appointment would be less trying than the last, at least.
If only I could have told Horus the Admiral was chained seven levels below her.