I’m really sorry for the delays lately. Caught a nasty sinus infection and have been struggling. Good news is, if you missed it – Strange Cosmology paperback is now available!
“There’s a small army outside the UN Building,” Isabel said in Ryan’s ear right before they stepped back into his nanoverse. They’d taken the doorway directly into the United Nations, bypassing most of the external security and ensuring there would be no interruptions. Isabel had drones, hidden behind illusions provided by some of the Olympians, monitoring. “I’m going to lose connection as soon as you close the doorway. Come pick me up – there’s more I need you to see.”
Ryan waited for Dianmu to enter than closed the door behind them and took a deep breath. “Isabel says they’re gathering for a military engagement out there. No sign of Kali or she would have mentioned it. We need to go get here though, there’s something else she wants to show us”
“That’s a bloody relief,” Crystal said. Ryan gestured, raising chairs from the floor for the rest of them, and headed over to the console. “You know you could have warned me before saying ‘oh, hey, here’s Crystal, she’s the reason I’m here in the first place, I’m going to give her the floor.’ Wanker. You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“I was kind of grasping at straws there,” Ryan admitted. “You did great, though.”
“You were phenomenal,” Athena said. “Both of you. I just hope it works.”
Ryan flushed at the compliment, and Anansi cleared his throat.
“We’ve done what we can,” Anansi said. “I think it was a good idea to open only a limited number at first. As numbers swell and evidence mounts, we’ll get more people willing to come through.”
“I still think no matter what, we’re going to have a desperate scramble at the end,” Dianmu said. “People at the last minute trying to get through when they realize that things are going as we warned.”
“I wish I could say I thought you were wrong.” Ryan shook his head. “Okay, we’re going to meet up with Isabel. Anansi and Dianmu, can you two rendezvous with Cassandra and Nabu and see how things went there?”
They barely had time to agree before they arrived. It was kind of silly to take a doorway such a short distance, but given the gathering military outside the United Nations building, it had proven to be prudent. “Isabel,” Ryan said as he stepped out of the doorway. The hotel room they’d commandeered for this had an excellent view of the United Nations building, and five doorways along the wall for each of them to have a point of entry and exit. Isabel had set up her monitoring station, and a dozen screens showed news from across the world. “Please tell me the news is good.”
Isabel made a see-saw motion with her hand. “It’s news, that’s for sure. Athena, the Olympians are clearing out through their doorways. Should be a smooth exit before the military moves in. Still no sign of Kali – guess she figured it was too obvious a trap to stumble into it.”
“She’ll attack the portals,” Athena said with absolute certainty. “We’ll be more spread out then, and there will be hundreds of targets for her.”
“More like thousands,” Isabel said. She pointed to one of the monitors, which showed a generically attractive thirty year male old standing outside the white house, and turned up the volume.
“Following Ryan Smith’s announcement of his intent to evacuate the world in the face of an impending solar apocalypse, reactions across the globe are strong. World leaders have yet to issue statements, although we expect those in the next hour, but social media has begun erupting. Trending hashtags include NotMyGod, MyPlanetNeedsMe, EffThisPlace, and more. As of right now over one hundred thousand people have announced their intent on social media to pass through one of these wormholes taking friends and family with them using the hashtag OneSmallStep, and more are coming in every second. If you’re looking for the nearest wormhole and date for your location, the website Ryan Smith mentioned in his broadcast is included at the bottom of the screen – however, we would caution you that thus far his claims of safety have not been verified, nor has the impending apocalypse.”
“Thank you Kevin,” said a similarly generically attractive thirty year old female sitting behind a desk in a newsroom. “We can now add that NASA has confirmed that Ryan Smith’s claims that the sun has been undergoing unusual activity lately. Solar luminosity is up five percent, which is the cause of the unseasonably warm weather we’re feeling across the globe. According to NASA, it was up one percent two days ago and two percent yesterday, which does suggest that Ryan’s claims of an exponential growth have some merit to them. However, they caution that what Ryan suggests is the long term outcome, the sun going supernova, goes so far outside the realm of known physics they can’t give it any credit.”
“Well, Megan, you’re right about that,” said her companion, a somewhat older generically attractive male. A banner under the screen labelled him as Grant Edwards, a Harvard Mythologist, “but we are talking about gods. You’ve spent the past few weeks reporting on supernatural occurrences that have been happening across the globe. The battle with a Hecatoncheires outside a hotel, beings claiming to be gods have battles across the globe, angels fighting reanimated dead in Ohio, two separate attacks by horrific monsters on Grant, Texas, Anansi’s spider followers in Accra, Ghana – which, it is interesting to note, is one of the initial locations to get a wormhole. Given that Anansi initially stated he wanted to keep his people safe, I think that lends some weight to the argument that – if nothing else – Ryan and is allies at least believe what they’re saying.”
“Thank you Grant,” Megan said.
“This is kind of standard,” Isabel said. “Lots of news channels have a mythologist or theologist or something on staff right now. They’re kind of in demand given that it’s all, y ’know, real. Right now it’s pretty mixed, but you’re going to have a much bigger turnout than you were expecting.”
Ryan grimaced. “We’ve got to hope we can handle the load.”
“We should be able to, love,” Crystal said. “I mean, at the end of the day, we’ve spaced out the first batch of wormholes carefully enough that most people will be better served waiting a day for the second batch. Even if they try to make it to the first wave, they’ll have to stop for gas or sleep and won’t overwhelm us completely.”
“You’ll have some problems with the Hong Kong portal,” Isabel added. “China is not too happy with you opening the first one there.”
“I was afraid of that. Dianmu, do you think you could get some of your old pantheon to turn out there?”
“Absolutely. We have little concerns for how mortals are dividing things up. It’s been awhile since I spoke with many of them, but I’ll head straight to the Jade Emperor and inform him of the situation. He’ll be less than pleased with me, but he’ll care more about protecting life than he will about old grievances or that I didn’t clear this with him first.”
“Awesome. I guess…Anansi, could you go and get Cassandra, Nabu, and hopefully Horus alone?”
“Yes. Horus will be important especially. The Egyptian pantheon is likely none too pleased with us for killing Bast.”
“Hopefully you can smooth that over. Or he can. Or will.” Ryan grimaces. “With what Cassandra told us, I really hope Horus is over the whole Bast thing, but still be careful. He helped a ton in Seattle, but I don’t know where his head is at these days.”
“And if he became an Anthropophage?” Anansi asked.
“Grab Nabu and Cassandra. Stuff her in a staging areas, and the two of you take him down,” Ryan said without hesitation. “We’re not playing games with Anthropophages anymore. Not after what happened in Grant.”
“I shouldn’t stay long either,” Athena said. “I need to go to Artemis. She’s going to mobilize the Erinyes, and they’ve always liked me. At least, since the Theogony. We could use their help.”
“All right,” Ryan said, running his hand through his hair. “That leaves Crystal, Isabel, and me. Crystal, would you mind sticking around and talking me through the wormholes? I’m…really worried about that going badly.”
“Would I mind?” Crystal laughed. “Ryan, love, I’ve waited a million years to make sure you don’t bugger this sideways. Of course I’m going to go with you to do that.”
Ryan sagged a bit with relief. He knew what he had to do, but how to do it…if he screwed it up, the world was completely and utterly doomed. “Okay, thanks. Isabel, stay here and monitor. The barriers we have in place will keep you safe, but I’ll keep my doorway open so if anything comes out we’ll be able to respond.”
Isabel gave him a thumbs up. “All of you keep your cellphones on and connected to Bluetooth when you’re on the Core. The last thing we want is for anyone to need information and not be able to be reached.”
“Exactly,” Ryan said. “And remember, if there’s a sighting of Kali, drop what you’re doing if you can and get there. Right now, she’s the biggest threat we have, and if we don’t take her down, we’re going to have to fight her at one of the wormholes. I really, really don’t want it to come to that. There’s no way we get out of that without lives being lost if we do.”
Everyone nodded somberly.
“Alright. Everyone knows what to do. We’ll meet back here tomorrow at six am. Let Isabel know if you burn through enough power you need to sleep, and park your staging area here before you do so you can join in as soon as you get that Hunger taken care of.” Ryan took a deep breath. “It’s going to be crazy. We might not even all get here tomorrow. This…this could easily be the last time the six of us are together. And I just wanted to say…thank you. All of you. We came together oddly and for our own reasons, but there’s no way we could have gotten this far without all of us. If I don’t get to speak to you until after the apocalypse, I just want to say it’s been an honor.”
No one chided him for the unspoken implication – that this might be the last chance he’d have to say that to all of them. That some of them might not make it through what was to come. That he might not make it through what happened next.
Instead, hands were shaken, and gods departed, living him, Crystal, and Isabel. Isabel shook her head with a small smile. “Listen to you, Ryan. Bossing around gods. Never would have thought you’d have it in you.”
“I can second that, love,” Crystal said. “Why don’t you head into your nanoverse and start setting up. Pull up your Globus Mundi and mark out where the first wave of wormholes are going to open. I’ll be along in a second – I want to have a word with Isabel.”
Ryan hesitated, then saw the look Isabel was giving him, and nodded. “All right. See you over there, Crystal.”
And with that, he left them and entered into his staging area. It was hard not suppress a surge of jealousy. Isabel and Crystal would get their moment, but he hadn’t gotten to give Athena a proper goodbye. You’ll see her tomorrow, he reminded himself.
He just hoped there would be time to do something beyond a quick meeting then. For now…it was time to get to work.