Based on feedback I’ve received on the last Dragon’s Scion part, going forward I intend on sticking with a particular sequence until there is some resolution, unless I need to cut to another to provide context or if I just get stuck so need to hop threads to keep things moving. It’ll mean when POV changes, it’ll be longer before we get a new POV, so I’ll probably be spending a bit of time recapping whenever the POV changes, but based on what people have been saying you all are fine with it. Thank you so much for letting me know!
And don’t forget that Strange Cosmology comes out on Tuesday! Which for many of you means it will be out when you read this! There might be a slight delay on the print copy. Pick it up at the link provided! There will be a post tomorrow covering what’s new.
Crystal groaned as she pulled herself out of bed. The injuries left by Kali and her trio of…minions, if that was the right term…had barely had time to heal, and every single muscle in her body felt stiff. Well, the world’s ending in a week, love. You kind of need to get the lead out, yeah? She forced herself to her feet, casting a longing look at the pillow. Her Hungers had been satiated. She didn’t need to sleep at this point. But by all that was and all that would come after the end of the world, she wanted to sleep until the aches had fully faded.
Instead, she got to her feet and stretched her back, hearing it pop. Satisfied that she was awake for the moment, she turned to look at the other bed in her staging area.
Isabel was still soundly asleep. The regenerative properties of her shapeshifting had spared her from death after the fight with Kali, but Isabel wasn’t a goddess. She was still mortal. Crystal could only imagine what being that close to death in that many forms had done to her. She took a moment to brush Isabel’s hair out of her mouth. “You awake?” she asked.
Isabel made a murmuring sound and pulled her blanket up to her chin before rolling over. She muttered something that sounded like “Five more minutes.” Well, that wasn’t entirely accurate. What it sounded like was “fvvv murrrr minuh,” but Crystal could understand the subtext to the groggy utterance. She smiled and let Isabel sleep, leaving her Nanoverse and walking into Cypher Nullity.
The obsidian sand crunched beneath her feet as she stepped onto the blasted plane that had once been an afterlife. The broken sky shone above her. All the times Crystal had taken her companions here, and no one had yet asked where the light came from. Planets crossed through the fractured web of cracks that crossed the air, but none of them were suns, and yet the entire plane was lite by perpetual daylight.
It was a side effect of Lemurian biology, oddly enough. Crystal’s people had been nocturnal when they still existed and considered light to be oppressive and harsh. Their Heaven had been comfortably dark, illuminated by a single light that was no brighter than Earth’s moon, so their hell was constantly as bright as the noon sun with no discernable source. After living among humans for thousands upon thousands of years, Crystal had come to see the daylight they way they did, but it was nice to be able to remember why hell was brightly lit.
Crystal took a deep breath. She could hear the others talking in the distance. Anansi, Dianmu, Athena, and Ryan. Presumably. Soon she’d go over and check on them, but for the moment, she simply stood there, grinding the soles of her feet into the sand.
How many cycles has it been? Not cycles of Earth, of course. There had only been one of those. Cycle of her nanoverse. A hundred? Two hundred? She’d stopped keeping count at some point long before humanity had risen from the humble apes that had spawned them. She remembered the last time she’d counted, she’d been on Earth. Out of a desperate need to talk to someone, she’d explained to a passing glyptodon what she was doing.
The creature had been unimpressed.
And now it’s almost over.
She’d never set a timeline to things. Her entire existence, millions of years, had been devoted to stopping the Eschaton Cycle and saving whatever intelligence arose on Earth after her failure. Now it was only a week away, and Crystal knew it was almost over. The reason for being that had kept her going for longer than any other god that Crystal had ever heard of, the purpose that made her the longest-lived being in the universe that wasn’t born eternal…was almost fulfilled.
I think this is my last time around. The thought should have bothered her, but it was comforting to think. Her nanoverse, in this cycle, would endure for thousands of years. Perhaps even longer, with her creating gods within her own nanoverse that followed different rules than the power-stone gods that she’d relied upon in every other cycle. She’d just reset it only a little while ago. Right after the fight with Enki, which felt like a lifetime. Ten, maybe twenty thousand years this time. And when it reached the end, long after it had exhausted its ability to support life…she’d let it fall to heat death.
Then she’d finally get to rest.
Although…the moment she thought that, a competing thought rose up to counter it. Most gods would succumb to their age after a dozen millennia or so. She’d endured for at least ten times longer than that. The thought of dying had been comforting moment, but immediately afterwards it had become terrifying. Perhaps after so many times resetting her nanoverse, life had become a habit that she wasn’t ready to break. One she couldn’t break, even if she wanted to.
Crystal shook her head, shaking away the thoughts. You have thousands of years to figure that out. You have seven days to figure out the end of the world. Resolved to put aside the question for now, she walked towards where her companions were talking.
There was a member at the table she hadn’t expected. Nabu was sitting stiffly in his seat, observing the conversation with wary eyes. Unlike the others, Crystal hadn’t really gotten a chance to get used to the idea of a Curator that abandoned his purpose and was now working with them. Still, Ryan smiled when he saw her and motioned for her to join them. “Oh good, you’re awake. How are you feeling?”
“Like I spent the night in a blender,” Crystal said, sliding into the seat.
“Don’t you mean cement mixer?” Ryan asked. “That’s usually how the idiom goes.”
Crystal winced as a new ache rose from her shoulder. “Nope. Blender. Cement mixers aren’t pointy enough for how I’m feeling.”
Dianmu gave her a sympathetic smile, and Anansi chuckled and shook his head.
“You at least look better,” Athena said. “I was worried we’d need to wait for you to resurrect.”
“You wouldn’t have time to wait,” Crystal said, frowning at the thought. “In fact…none of us do at this point.”
That killed the mood like Crystal had driven a dagger into its heart, but it was true. Resurrection took a few days unless one was very lucky. Crystal had been back when Bast had killed her during the fight with Enki. A hole in the head was quick to repair. A more complete destruction, like what Resheph had needed to recover from…anyone who suffered a death like that would be out for the end of the party.
“Well, at least we have a plan,” Ryan said.
Crystal’s eyes shot wide. “You do?”
“Oh, right.” Ryan had the decency to look embarrassed, at least. “You were fairly out of it when Isabel and you got back. How’s she doing, by the way?”
“Sleeping. Should be fine. Now, what’s this about you having a solution?”
Ryan nodded. “So there’s a loophole in the rules for the end of the world. It has to be the end of civilization on that planet, including all written records. In short, I mean,” he said as Nabu started to open his mouth, cutting off the Curator’s clarification. “Which gives us an option. I use my one big twist to create stable exotic matter wormholes across the planet. We’ll need gods in their nanoverses to take the other end of these wormholes to a habitable world. Then it’s just a matter of evacuating the planet.”
“I feel like ‘evacuating a planet’ is a bit too large a process to put down as ‘just a matter,’” Anansi said, although his eyes sparkled.
Crystal didn’t listen to him. She was looking at Ryan, her mouth hanging open. “Bloody hell,” she finally said. “That just might work. Although…are we certain it does satisfy the requirements?”
Dianmu stepped in here. “That’s the best part of this plan, as far as I can see. Even if it fails…humanity won’t be here if the sun goes supernova. Earth might be lost, but humanity will endure.”
Crystal leaned back into her chair. Millions of years, and now here was the solution. Nice, simple, and clean. She thought it would give her a rush of excitement, a reason to stand up and celebrate…but mostly what she felt was relief. A tension she’d carried for countless eons, fading away.
“There’s still details to hammer out,” Crystal said, half expecting some horrible, overlooked detail to rise up and replace the tension she’d just let go of.
Ryan nodded. “And that’s what we’re doing here. Trying to get those details hammered out. I was going to wait for Isabel, but let’s start with the big one.” He took a deep breath. “The first day of the 74th United Nation’s general assembly happens tomorrow. I want us to go to it. I want us to announce our plan to the world and let them know what’s at stake. We need the leaders of the world on our side, or at least we need the world to know what we’re trying to do.”
“You absolutely can do that,” a voice said from the doorway. Everyone turned to look at the speaker. Arthur stood there, Uriel at his side. He was smiling broadly and walked up to the table and took a chair. “But first, Ryan, there’s a little matter of a debt you have to settle. And right now, I’m collecting.”