Crystal threw up her hands, forming a barrier between herself and the super-soldiers before they could open fire. Ichor-laced bullets bounced off the invisible barrier. “Isabel!” Crystal shouted as the three began to reload in eerie unison. “Get the staff!”
Isabel nodded and shifted form, turning into a rhinoceros and charging across the ground towards where the staff floated. Crystal thought she understood the logic – Isabel was hoping she could tank any traps that might be sprung – but didn’t have time to worry about it. She had other problems.
“Deal with this,” Kali said, gesturing towards Crystal. “I’ll get the staff.” She shrugged out of her lab coat. Underneath she was wearing simple, utilitarian clothing – a shirt and pants, both black, that were loose enough to allow movement but not so loose they’d get caught on things.
“Kali!” Crystal said, her voice tight. “You don’t understand. The world is going to end. We’re trying to stop it, we’re trying to-”
The trio of super soldiers began to twist equations. Flame roared at Crystal from the left, a rush of wind shards from the right, and a bolt of lightning lancing down from the ceiling of the room. Crystal bent the air barrier into a semicircle to deflect the attacks.
She was already panting for breath. She’d barely had time to recover from the fight against the Typhon. And these three were fighting with a degree of unity they’d never shown before. Why do those expressions look so familiar? Crystal wondered.
“I know exactly what you’re trying to do, Ishtar,” Kali said, and Crystal felt a chill. She’d known Kali for millennia. She’d met her during the long trek from the ruins of Carthage to China, when she’d passed through India, refusing to use her nanoverse. They’d talked a few times, and while they hadn’t been friends, Crystal had never considered her an adversary either.
But Kali was a woman of extremes. Protector and Destroyer. The last time Crystal had seen Kali, she’d shifted into her full Destroyer aspect and had nearly crushed her beloved Shiva under her heel. Like all destroyer deities, she possessed immense power.
She’d kill Isabel without even trying. “Kali, please!” Crystal begged.
“I’m sorry,” Kali said, and Crystal thought she heard a trace of remorse in the word. “You believe you’re doing the right thing. I know that. I even commend it. However…you are, unfortunately, painfully wrong.” Kali shook her head, then leapt after Isabel.
Crystal whirled to try and intervene, only to be struck in the back by three simultaneous bolts of lightning. The sudden surge of electricity locked her up, and Crystal could barely even think, let alone move. “No going anywhere, Crystal,” Evans said.
“We have unfinished business,” Munoz added.
“And some things cannot be ignored,” Arnold finished.
They weren’t just taunting her. They were taunting her in unison. The whole situation was so familiar that Crystal experienced a terrible sense of Deja Vu and took a deep breath and reached into her nanoverse, drawing out a pair of swords. “You three,” she said, “are really making a mistake. You don’t even have a power source anymore. I will dismantle you, and you won’t resurrect from it.”
Evans chuckled. “I seem to remember you saying something like that last time we fought, Crystal.”
“You sure did a good job fooling us,” Arnold said, reaching into his own nanoverse and drawing out a sword. Wait, what? These three didn’t have nanoverses.
“Okay, now you’re just crazy,” Crystal said. She kept one ear open for Kali and Isabel. There wasn’t sounds of battle – she could distantly hear Kali’s voice. It meant she had time. She had to stall these three. “I didn’t fight you before. When that whole mess went down, I was in my nanoverse dealing with…”
All three of them smiled at her.
A horrible, sinking fear began to creep into Crystal. “…with…the corruption Enki left behind…”
“And?” Munoz prompted.
“And the three goddesses it spawned,” Crystal whispered. “No. That’s impossible.”
Evans laughed. It was almost a perfect mirror Crystal’s normal laugh, but it was twisted. Wrong. Like a funhouse version of Crystal laughing. “The woman who is a million years old claims things are impossible,” he said, only it wasn’t his voice. She knew that voice. “Potentia,” Crystal whispered in growing horror.
Evans nodded. He pointed to Munoz and Palmer in turn. “I’m sure you remember Inedia and Litura?”
Crystal didn’t bother with answering. Instead she gathered her power and flung out a panicked twist to reality. It was the nastiest twist she knew, one she’d never dare use if the situation was less dire.
She turned the nitrogen into astatine, and the astatine immediately turned the air into fire.
Astatine is one of the most reactive elements a god could produce in large quantities without violating the loophole that created nuclear weapons. It broke down so rapidly and so radioactively that, in the quantities Crystal had produced, it was just short of an actual nuclear detonation. A pillar of superheated gas arose from around the three impossible gods, a pillar of hellfire that stretched rapidly towards the ceiling of the lunar base. It blinded Crystal with the flash, and even at this distance she could feel her skin blister with second degree burns.
A slight twist to reality kept the radiation contained, or Crystal would have killed all of them – but especially Isabel – with radiation poisoning. Instead, that radiation reflected into the super-soldiers turned impossible gods.
They didn’t even scream.
Crystal was panting at the effort. It was impossible to get more energy out of a twist than you put into it, and she’d poured a ton of energy into that. Not so much that she was drained, but enough that Kali…that she’d have to rely heavily on Isabel to finish Kali. In fact
Crystal felt the bullets impact her stomach before she heard the staccato burst of machine-gun fire. Ichor-laced rounds ripped through her, and Crystal screamed at the sensation of them punching out the back. She clutched a hand to her stomach, a reflexive reaction to keep her guts from spilling out the new hole in her torso. She started to immediately burn some of her meager power reserves accelerating time around the wound, trying to at least get a day’s worth of healing in before she bled out.
“You really did think it was going to be that easy,” Evans/Potentia said.
“Poor little Crystal,” Munoz/Inedia said.
“But we already know your trick,” Palmer/Litura finished.
As one, they stepped out of the radioactive flame. Their skin was covered in blisters and burns. They hadn’t been completely untouched by the astatine detonation.
But they were in far better shape than Crystal was. She gritted her teeth as her bleeding began to slow.
The three of them took aim again.