Isabel covered her mouth to stifle a yawn. The last several twists and turns in the Labyrinth had been uneventful – mostly chatter between the four gods and her brother. Five gods, Isabel. He counts as one too. She strongly suspected that, if she got her own nanoverse and lived to be ten thousand with him, it would never feel natural to think of him as anything other than her brother.
During the last two hallways, the chatter had died down till all five were walking in silence. Isabel flicked on the radio. “Everything okay down there?”
Ryan raised a thumbs-up. “Just wondering when we’re going to get hit next. How’re you holding up?”
“Starting to drift,” Isabel said, rubbing her eyes. Bouncing back and forth between all the screens was more draining than she had expected it to be. “The drones have another two hours of battery life before they’ll need you all to recharge them, but I don’t think I have quite that much left. Might lay down for a bit and get some shut eye soon.”
Crystal turned to face one of the cameras. “Fair enough, love. We’ve got an intersection coming up though – think you can hold on long enough to check down both paths a bit?”
Isabel nodded, then realized that none of them could see her. “Sure thing.” They didn’t want to do it on every intersection, it would be a waste of time, but they’d started having her check ahead every third or fourth turn.
She grabbed the joystick she was using when manually piloting the drones and selected a pair. Their controls would be inverted, so right for one would be left for another, letting her fly them both with a single push of the stick. The left hand path, in this case, was another long stretch of empty hallway. The right hand path, on the other hand…was also a long stretch of empty hallway. She returned the drones to their follow mode. “Nothing. Again. I don’t suppose that boredom is one of the tests you all have to pass?”
Anansi chuckled at that. “Oh, if only. Then we’d just need time to get through it.”
“Yeah, we should be so-“ Isabel cut herself off, halting drone four. “Wait, hang on. I’ve got something to the right. Missed it on the way out.”
“What is it?” Dianmu asked.
“Flying in for a closer look.” She slowly guided the drone down closer to the floor. “It’s a blade in the floor. But if I fly the drone around to the other side of it, it’s gone. Like it’s only visible from one side.” She panned the camera further down the hallway. “There are a lot of them,” she added.
“That would have been…unpleasant” Dianmu said, as Ryan shuffled his feet at the thought. “Well, Athena, you are the expert – should we head that way?”
Athena considered the question, chewing her lip in thought. “Yes,” she said. “The correct path always covers dangers, so the more we face, the more likely we are to be going the correct way.”
“And this one’s easy to bypass, yeah?” Crystal said, waving her hand. The gods nodded to each other, although as far as Isabel could see she’d just made a gesture.
“Alright,” Isabel said, her head drooping as she did. “I’m gonna…I’m gonna be a mortal for like eight hours, take care of those silly mortal needs and such. You all be safe, okay?”
Ryan gave her a thumbs up and then stepped on invisible steps of air, walking down the hallways a good six feet above it. Isabel pulled back from her monitors and went to take care of the pesky side of being mortal, fighting to stay awake as she did.
Crystal had set up facilities for her in her staging area, and Isabel made use of them. She started to head towards the bed…and then was abruptly pulled awake as she saw what lay in it. Fear gave her a jolt of adrenaline as she raced out to the monitors.
Isabel screamed and raced back towards the monitors. “Guys! There’s a skeleton! In Crystal’s nanoverse! In the bed!”
They all froze, looking at the drones…and suddenly Crystal started laughing. “Oh, bloody hell. I completely forgot. I’m so sorry Isabel!”
“You forgot about a skeleton in your bed?”
The question only made Crystal laugh harder. “Crystal, are you alright?” Ryan asked, his voice tight with worry.
“It’s…sod it. It’s Reshaph, reforming! I left his bloody nanoverse in my staging area.”
The other gods starting grinning as well, except Ryan, who was frowning, and Isabel, whose heart was still pounding. “Well, where am I supposed to sleep then?”
“You can use my nanoverse,” Ryan said. “I think there’s still a bed formed.”
“Sorry about that, love,” Crystal added, finally getting her laughter under control. “It’ll still be a few days since he’s all in one piece. You might want to put a sheet over him before he gets to the organs and muscles and gross parts.”
“Yeah,” Isabel said faintly. “I will. But not now…I’m up for the next couple hours after that fright. How’s the air-walking going?”
“About halfway done,” Ryan said. “Just a matter of-“
Whatever it was a matter of, Ryan was cut off after Anansi let out a shout of pain as his foot began to sprout a red fountain.
Ryan had been looking at the drone while talking – it seemed rude to not try and make eye contact – so he didn’t immediately register Anansi’s shout. He did, however, notice the drone start to wobble, and felt something tug at his sleeve where a nice neat slit had formed.
“Run!” Crystal shouted, leaning down to grab Anansi under the arm. Ryan went for the other arm and the group as a whole began to dash down the hallway.
The razor sharp blades were shooting out of the floor, only glinting when behind them and therefore visible. The drones were taking a beating, although it seemed Ryan’s alterations were holding.
The actual people, however, were faring worse for it. Anansi was not the only one to take a blade through the foot – Dianmu and Athena got caught there as well, and Ryan took one directly through his free hand, drawing a hiss of pain. Crystal managed to avoid getting hit in hand or foot, but one of the blades went through her bicep and all of them were getting grazed along their skin.
“Not much further!” Isabel shouted over the speakers. “Just another ten feet!”
They were slowing down. Ryan stumbled, almost dropping Anansi in the process, when another blade embedded itself in his heel. The barrage was relentless, and the slower they went, the more cuts they took.
“C’mon!” Crystal was shouting, tugging on Anansi to pull them along. One of the blades had lodged itself in her calf now, and it glinted as she moved.
Dianmu rolled the last four feet in a single motion, whirling around as she did. Ryan glanced over his shoulder to see what she was looking at – the blades were turning in the air, moving to come down on them. The adrenaline of that sight gave him the push he needed to pull across the last few steps, and Athena limped across at the same time he, Crystal, and Anansi stumbled through.
With the blades mere feet away, Dianmu raised her hand and made a rapid twist. The air between them and the oncoming blades collapsed into a wall of iron, and although the blades struck it – at several points punching halfway through – none of them came all the way pass to cut them to ribbons.
That being done, Dianmu joined them in collapsing to the ground as Isabel guided the drones over the top.
“Damnit!” Ryan shouted to the air, pain and frustration mixing in his voice. “Is this going to be the whole thing! Damn ‘gotcha’ traps we couldn’t have possibly expected!?”
No one answered right away, although they were starting to rise and bandage their wounds.
“I don’t think so,” Athena said, after a moment. “I think that we’ll see less of that as we get deeper. I think the entire first segment has become the test of Body – the skeleton tested our battle prowess, the blades tested our reflexes.”
Ryan nodded at that. “Good. I’m ready to be done with the bullshit.” He sat up and started dressing his own wounds with scraps of his shirt.
“Good thing you reinforced the packs,” Crystal said with a laugh. “I don’t fancy finishing this maze in rags.” She looked at the tatters they were all wearing, “Hell, at this point, we’d be lucky to end in the nude.”
A few weary chuckles came at the thought. “We should take care of some Hungers,” Anansi said, “and rest for a time to give our wounds time to heal.”
“I’m down for that,” Ryan said, glancing around. “Although if you’re suggesting we take care of the Social one the quick and dirty way, I’m gonna want Isabel to turn off the drones.”
“Oh my god ew,” Isabel said over the speakers, and Ryan could practically see the disgusted face she’d be making.
Anansi laughed through his pain at that. “I think, if nothing else, we shouldn’t leave ourselves vulnerable like that.”
“Then what did you have in mind?” Dianmu asked, finishing wrapping cloth around her last cut and turning to aid Crystal.
“Once we’re patched up? I think we should fill the Social need in the second oldest way there is. Telling stories.”
Ryan finished applying a cloth to a cut that had come dangerously close to his femoral artery. He shuddered at the thought of what would have happened had it been slightly to the right. “I think,” he said, turning to assist Anansi, “that would be an excellent idea.”