The group reconvened in Cipher Nullity.
“Still haven’t heard from Horus,” Dianmu said as they took their seats. “I’m starting to worry something went wrong for him.”
Anasi frowned in concern. “We can go to Officium Mundi and check with the Curators, see if he at least made it there.”
“Love, as much as I’d like to, I don’t know if we have time,” Crystal said, throwing down a newspaper on the table. For a moment, Ryan had to grin – he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen a physical newspaper outside of a story. That grin faded as he saw the headline. “Global Temperatures Rising more Rapidly Than Models Predicted.” Crystal tapped the headline to make sure none of them missed which story she was worried about. “It’s already started.”
“Is this what happened last time?” Athena asked.
Crystal gave them a grim nod. “I don’t remember how long we had after the heat started. But it was when things started to get close.”
“Does that mean we need to do something right away?” Ryan asked, his voice cracking with alarm. It’s too soon, I’m not ready yet.
“Not yet,” Crystal said, reaching over to pat him on the shoulder. “It just means we have to keep an eye on things. We’ve got a bit to go still before things become urgent, and once that happens you can start using you Zoisphere to slow things down.”
“That’s an option?” Dianmu asked. “Why didn’t you mention it before?”
“I hadn’t remembered,” Crystal said with a sigh. “Seeing…I mean, that whole mess with…” Crystal took a deep breath. “I can’t make myself call Moloch any other name, yeah? The man I knew died a million years ago, and can we leave it at that?”
No one objected.
“Okay. So the whole thing with Moloch jarred some more of my memories loose. Nothing,” she said hastily to Ryan, “that gives us a magic answer. But I do remember that when things started getting bad, I used my Zoisphere to slow things down. Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Floods – local disasters, but not apocalyptic. The more creative things got, the more it helped.”
Ryan let out a long sigh. “So…you’ll know when it’s time to start that?”
Crystal nodded. “And we’re not there yet. But we need to keep an eye on the news.”
“I’m on that,” Isabel said. She’d brought a laptop, and had it on the table in front of them. “I don’t suppose any of you could give me wifi access here?”
“A bit outside of even our power,” Athena said gently. “We don’t have the advantages of permanent twists to reality that we did in Tartarus.”
“No worries, I don’t need it right now, as long as we can keep it working in nanoverses like before. But, since I’m the IT girl, I’ll set up some alerts for rapid temperature rises, climate change, other apocalyptic signs. Anything else I should be looking for?”
Crystal went over some of the other signs they were getting closer to the Sun’s explosion. “But you’re just the IT girl? Won’t be joining us on the battlefield?”
Isabel shook her head. “I got my first taste of gods battling and nearly died. If there’s something that absolutely requires me to join in the fight, I’m there, but other than that…I’m basically an Animorph on steroids, and the stuff you’re fighting is a bit more dangerous than Yeerks.”
Ryan laughed. Everyone else gave Isabel blank looks. “What’s a Yeerk?” Athena asked.
Isabel flushed slightly. “Probably should have gone with a better known reference. They’re…never mind, it would take too long to explain. My point is, I’m in over my head against gods. I think I can do more with the drones and tech support than I can anything in the field.”
Tension seemed to leave the faces of Athena, Dianmu, and Anansi. Ryan felt an urge to defend his sister rising, but he was as relieved as them to have Isabel not in the fights. She can’t resurrect. Not until we get her a nanoverse, and that won’t happen till after the world ends at earliest.
Ryan decided to ignore the fact that he had not guarantee of resurrection yet either. “Well, then I have a question, and stop me if this is stupid-“
Apparently whatever capricious force governs timing decided it was a stupid question, since at that moment a seventh doorway opened in Cipher Nullity. The gods leaped to their feet. Please be Horus, please be Horus, please-
It wasn’t Horus, but it also wasn’t a threat. Hermes stepped out of his nanoverse, blinking at them. “Relax, everyone. I’m bringing word from Artemis.”
“How did you find us?” Crystal said, righting her chair with a wave of her hand.
“My little secret.” Hermes smiled. “Don’t worry, Crystal, it’s not something anyone could replicate. Especially not Bast.”
Crystal frowned at the lack of an explanation but didn’t press Hermes. “So what’s the word?”
“Poseidon has fled.” Angry muttering rose from the table, and Hermes held up a hand for attention. “Artemis doesn’t know who helped him, but once Zeus resurrected, he clearly figured out things were about to go very poorly for him and decided to go to ground.”
“Where?” Athena said, clenching her fists.
“We don’t know yet. Artemis is hesitant to start the search. He had assistance, that much is certain. She’ll be happy to help you all, but with Poseidon being a looming problem…she’s going to be a bit busy for now.”
“She can’t send us any help?” Dianmu asked in clipped tones.
Hermes shook his head. “Artemis has precious few people she can trust right now, and she needs them close until Poseidon is dealt with. Excpet for me, apparently.” Hermes tapped his chin in thought. “Or perhaps she doesn’t trust me, I’m not sure.”
Athena snorted. “She trusts you with this message.”
“Everyone knows I can be trusted with those.” Hermes looked offended.
“Fair,” Athena said.
Hermes nodded. “And with the message done, I must return and see if I have more to carry.”
“Hey Hermes,” Ryan said at the retreating god. “Why didn’t you do your whole ‘repeat her exact words’ thing?”
Hermes smiled, and when he spoke this time, it was with Artemis’ voice. “And don’t repeat what I said verbatim. I hate my voice coming out of your mouth. If they doubt that it’s a legitimate message, tell Athena I never broke her trust on the weaver.”
Athena’s eyes widened. “The message is from Artemis,” she said slowly.
“Then may I depart?” Hermes asked, not waiting before stepping back into his nanoverse.
With that, Hermes was gone. And there’s no way to know when we’re going to be getting help. We’re on our own, Ryan thought bitterly.