The Favor, Part 2
rating: +3+x

Last time on Nexus:
The Favor, Part 1

The Greek gods before them did not wear battle armor like Deimos, but togas, even though Ares had decorated his with a few pieces of armor. He also carried a spear. Phobos next to him looked at his brother expectantly. Both of them, like the God of Terror, had thankfully manifested themselves in three-dimensional space so that no one would get a headache looking at them.

"Hello, Elli," Ares greeted her in a friendly manner. "Interesting to run into you along with my son-man. I hope he didn't give you any trouble."

Tau-5 slowly lowered their raised weapons.

"Good afternoon, Irantu my name," Irantu introduced herself. "May I ask what you are doing here?"

"Oh, we were just in the area," the God of War explained. "And Phobos wanted to learn something new to scare people, so we figured, 'Why don't we go in here?' But enough of that. You've gotten far yourself, Deimos. Do they pay properly?"

The god of terror smiled sheepishly.

"I even got my own apartment provided. And a contract for five thousand years."

"Oooh, fancy," his father rejoiced. "Great stuff, Deimos, great stuff."

"What's Phobos doing here?" asked Deimos.

"Oh, I got him out of his cell," explained Ares. "Wasn't so easy, his guards really got grit. While that pleases me as a god of war, it didn't make my endeavor any easier."

"Did you kill someone?" his son exclaimed.

Ares waved it off.

"Nah, a few bruises, a few broken bones…. I think one's going to a wheelchair, but I didn't kill anyone, honest."

Deimos exhaled in relief.

"Now, if you'll excuse us, Mr. Ares," Dean interjected. "We've got a little Qlipoth problem we'd like to solve, but we'll have to go further down to do it."

"Ouh," Ares made. "Good Sir, do you have any idea what lurks down there? You'll need an army to get through there, with guns and cannons and all the war gear. I'm sorry, but you are going to certain death. I can't let you pass as you are now with a clear conscience."

"Not even with a god around?" asked Deimos.

"Son, why do you think we came back up? Our power ends here. I don't want you to perish down there. I just saw you again, after all. And you have so many well-behaved people with you. Picture-perfect people."

"Oh, thank you," Munru said.

Elli, meanwhile, pulled Irantu aside.

"Irantu, there's something wrong here. The Ares I know doesn't care about the well-being of mortals. He would have rather cheered us on to go down there."

"He's slowing us down," Irantu merely stated. "Do you have any idea where the change of heart came from?"

"I think we are in the second qlipa here, Chaigidel, the Confusion of God's Power. I think this qlipa seduces those who enter it with their desires so they don't find God."

"How does Ares fit into this?" asked Irantu.

"Get your gears into working order. Deimos is immortal. The thing every immortal wants most at some point is companionship. To be loved by people who will not leave him again. What do you wish for?"

Irantu fussed a little.

"To be human…" he then said.

Elli shrugged her shoulders.

"That's nothing to be ashamed of, I know someone with the same issue. Explains the picture-perfect human comment, though."

"But how do your desires manifest?" inquired the leader of Tau-5.

"Not at all," Elli replied. "I'm afraid the Qlipa can't read us."

"What do we do now?" wanted to know Irantu, whom this info apparently left cold.

"We just keep moving."

Irantu signaled to his squad and together with Dean he started moving.

"Hey!" shouted Deimos. "Didn't you hear my father? There are too few of us to last down there, we should get reinforcements."

"I'll be so bold and assume I'm smarter than head-through-the-wall Ares," Elli retorted. "We can always turn back after we've looked at it. Are you coming or not?"

Deimos sighed.

"Well then, father. Work calls."

"Oh no!" exclaimed Ares. "Out of the question! I will not expose my son and you to such danger!"
In front of the squad, the corpses of fallen soldiers from all eras of world history rose from the ground.

For a brief moment.

Then they were gone, as if they had been blinked out of existence.

Ares and Phobos had disappeared as well.

Only to reappear almost immediately.

"Hey, knock it off, Elli!" he raged.

"That's the proof," she said. "Deimos, that's a mirage, I would have just irretrievably erased your real father from reality."

The horror god's mouth dropped open.


"Come now, we have a universe to save!"

Deimos reluctantly started to move. His supposed father behind him began to bend reality again, while his brother transformed and took horrible and bizarre forms. But they disappeared. Only to reappear and repeat the procedure. Deimos finally joined them and they exited the cavern through a tunnel on the other side.

"You're a reality bender?" asked Onru.

"No," Elli denied. "I can only think fast enough to use the moment of the drop of reality that other reality benders create when they use their powers. This allows me to rewrite their inputs. It's like judo, but with brain power."

"What would you have done if it had really been my father? Would you have erased him the same way?" asked Deimos bitterly.

"Deimos, your real father would try to kill me if he even caught sight of me," Elli replied calmly. "That's how I knew he wasn't real."

"He wants to kill you?" it escaped Deimos. "Why?"

"I'm bad for business," Elli explained. "Besides, I started laughing after he undressed in front of me. And I slept with his girlfriend…. And his brothers… And other relatives… And I stole his helmet…"

"Oh," made Deimos. "No more questions… He likes his helmet…"

There was an awkward silence until, after a while, Onru spoke up.

"Irantu. We should be moving downward, but we're walking on absolutely even ground."

No sooner had she said that than the walls around them faded away to make way for pure white.

Immediately, everyone who had one raised their weapon. But there was nothing for them to aim at.
Elli, meanwhile, bent down to the floor.

But there was no floor.

They were standing on nothing. But they weren't falling.

"Ah," she said, "Sathariel, the Concealment of God's Power. That's easy."

"Why, where are we?" asked Irantu. "Onru, scan the area!"

"I'm trying, but I'm not getting a response," Onru countered. "Either there are no reflective surfaces here, or this space is infinite.

"The structure of the world is hidden from us here," Elli explained. "There is no creation here at all. No being, no laws of nature."

Nanku cleared her throat.

"And we're still alive because?"

"They're just hidden, not completely gone," Elli explained. "Just enough there to keep us in existence. But because there's nothing here, there's little reality here, which means I can do something like this here."

Elli snapped her fingers. Next to them, the London Eye materialized.

"If there's no creator, you'll just have to do it yourself."

In front of them, with a "plop," the exit appeared.

"Where does that lead?" asked Deimos.

"Back into the tunnel," was the answer.

"Couldn't we use this room to get to the bottom?" asked Onru.

"Do you know what happens if we try to fool the Qlipoth?" asked Elli.

Onru shook his head.

Elli shrugged her shoulders.

"Neither do I. Does anyone here want to find out?"

Irantu silently gave the order to move on.

"What's next?" wanted Nanku to know.

"We'll reach the middle Qlipoth," Elli replied. "If we keep reaching them in order, Gamichcoth should be next. The Devourers."

"Oh, finally something to shoot at."

"You should start over with the humanization," Elli remarked dryly.

They entered another cavern, even larger than the one with the Ares mirage. The room seemed strangely distorted, as if lines and figures had been drawn in dough with a thin stick.

"Over there is the exit," Deimos remarked. "Where are the devourers?"

"Wait a minute before we go, I need to take some measurements," Elli asked.

She pulled out a satellite dish of some sort and pointed it at the distortions.

"Ah, space is gone," she then said. "Do not under any circumstances touch these distortions, they act like cutting wire, only infinitely thin. You won't even notice that you're losing fingers or limbs."

"But where are the devourers?" asked Nanku.

"Did any of you ever think of looking at the ceiling?" asked Dean, glancing upward.

Everyone followed his example.

Above them, strange things were making their circles. They most closely resembled black holes, but they were surrounded by a kind of static noise, as if they couldn't decide which geometric shape they wanted to take, constantly changing between all imaginable figures within a fraction of a moment. There were six of these beings, and they all trailed one of the lines that distorted space.

"Spatiovores," Elli explained. "They don't eat matter, they eat space itself. However, they swallow everything that occupies space right along with it. I think they will notice us if we try to cross this room. They react to space distortions and we create some with our mass."

"Can we shoot them?" asked Nanku.

Elli shook her head.

"Shooting a spatiovore is somewhat like firing at a black hole. The projectile is simply absorbed."

"What do you think we should do?" wanted Irantu to know.

"I can't use the Nexus in here, so run all the way to the exit."

"Alright, on your mark, get set…. GO!"

Everyone started sprinting. The spatiovores immediately took notice of the newcomers and pushed down with remarkable speed. Each of them took on one of the group, except Elli. Dean and Deimos had noticeable trouble getting through the space distortions because there were hardly any places they could fit through. Nanku lost her nose, Munru peeled off part of his left arm. In general, Tau-5 didn't really manage to keep his weapons intact Here barrels were cut off, there parts of the pistons fell off and the attachments on the arms got affected.

The Spatiovores, however, were not deterred by what they left behind and came ever closer to the fugitives.

Dean made it through unscathed, as Elli had equipped his body with sensors that detected the distortions. And if Deimos lost something, it grew back. But Elli only had to do some quick math to realize that neither of them would make it in time.

Wait, what if it wasn't a coincidence that they themselves hadn't been targeted. The only thing the spatiovores were following was…


The MTF members responded immediately, firing repeatedly upward from their position with their remaining armaments. Sure enough, a hail of rocks came down, including a chunk as large as a small car.

The spatiovores promptly let go of their victims and pounced on the boulders. Everyone except Dean, who must have been expecting something like this, looked at Elli in disbelief.

"Don't stand there," she shouted, "Quickly! Quickly!"

Everyone started moving again and reached the other side unharmed.

Elli noticed with a furrowed brow that Nanku's nose was growing back…

"How did you know that would work?" asked Onru as they all disappeared into the hallway.

"The spatiovores have been tracking everyone but me," Elli explained, out of breath. "And I'm the lightest of us. Less equipment, you see. That means the spatiovores prefer moving things with high mass. Because more mass means more space curvature."

"I see," Onru returned.

"But now I have a question for you, too. Why do your wounds heal so quickly?"

"I'm afraid that's confidential," Irantu returned.

"You can tell me now or provoke another hack," Elli threatened. "I've already proven that I can get in your databases easily. Besides, this info might allow me to develop better strategies."

Tau-5 exchanged a glance.

"We are made of the cloned flesh of an anomalous being, we can heal minor injuries, only survive more severe ones," Irantu then explained. "That is all I can tell you. Especially since there is another party present."

"'Scuse me," Deimos muttered.

Elli pulled her metaphysical resonance meter from her pocket. She received divine vibrations…. To this she felt thaumaturgic energy emanating from the four of them.

Her hatred for the creators of Tau-5 grew. It might be a noble goal to improve humans, to optimize them, but it pissed Elli off when such creations were then used like expendable drones.

They reached another cavern. It was large enough to hold the remains of a burned city. The ceiling and the back of the cavern were not visible due to rising smoke.

Tau-5 swarmed out, aiming their still-usable weapons at the surrounding area.

"What's waiting for us here?" asked Deimos.

Elli looked around.

"Well, now Golachab should follow, the-"

The ground shook under a loud stomp. And then another. Now another.

A hiss came from the smoke.

Tau-5 moved back toward them.

Then the head of a dragon peeled out of the smoke above them. With a loud rumble, its scales caught fire and set the creature ablaze. Not that it cared. Fiery wings spread out, sending sparks raining down on the group.

"-The… Burning Bodies…," Elli concluded.

"Fire!" roared Irantu.

Tau-5 began firing assault rifles and a shotgun, but nothing managed to penetrate this giant's scale. He took a deep breath…

"COVER!" yelled Elli, throwing herself behind a collapsed wall of a building along with Dean and Deimos. She could hear Tau-5 do the same before a true sea of fire blazed past them. Elli felt the stone begin to heat up.

When the stream of flames finally died down, she dared to peek out from under her cover.

The front part of the wall had melted.

"Looks like it's my turn now," Deimos muttered beside them, standing up.

Dean and Elli exchanged a glance and then decided to follow what was happening.

Deimos walked calmly toward the dragon. The dragon seemed to take this as an affront, for it let out a bloodcurdling roar.

Then a black tentacle choked him.

It had come from the ground that had broken up around the dragon and was still doing so. More of the pseudopods emerged from the resulting hole and wrapped themselves around the reptile, regardless of the fire on its body.

With a stifled roar, the dragon was finally pulled into the hole. Deimos hopped in after it.

Tau-5, Dean, and Elli stepped to the edge of the hole.

"What do you think is happening in there?" asked Nanku.

"Well, he's the god of panic," Elli returned. "Concluding from that…"

It took a while, but then the dragon burst out of the hole again with a primal scream. Deimos climbed out again as well. Then the creature made an amazing sound.

It whimpered.

Hectically, without paying attention to whether it was destroying its surroundings, it tried to get backwards as far away from Deimos as possible.

All eyes turned to the god.

"And you managed to do that without hurting him?" asked Munru.

Deimos just shrugged his shoulders.

"I have experience with dragons. Are we going to go on, or not?"

He strolled to the other side of the cavern.

Irantu exchanged a quick glance with Elli.

"This guy is a cheat code," she commented.

"It doesn't matter as long as he keeps us alive," was all Irantu said.

"Your ability to make small talk is remarkable," Elli commented dryly.

"We're working on it."

The next chamber greeted them with a breathtaking stench. Tears welled up in Elli's eyes at the smell.

"Thagirion, Those Who Spread Sorrow And Tears," she gasped, "Now that's a creative interpretation…"

The source of the stench was a musty swamp with poison-green water. Everything that grew here was stunted and misshapen. Nearby squatted something that was probably something like a frog, but too many limbs grew out of inappropriate places for him to make an accurate judgment. In addition, its skin was covered with boils. The sight was so disgusting that Elli began to gag.

"Oh, I saw him too," Deimos gasped next to her and began to gag as well.

Elli wanted to reach for her flask but then changed her mind. If things went wrong, she'd create an explosion with the swamp gases here. Therefore, she did what she had wanted to avoid and threw up together with Deimos. In the surroundings, the expectoration was not very noticeable…

Dean rubbed her back.

"We should move on quickly," Onru said. "The air here is toxic. Dean, you're holding up surprisingly well."

"Seen worse," it came back. "But I don't want to be here. This place is filthy…"

He helped a dazed Elli stay on her feet. She was pretty sure she was turning green in the face. Muru and Onru supported Deimos.

"Let's not make a fire," Elli moaned. "Or you'll set everything ablaze here."

Finding a way through the swamp wasn't easy, especially since they had to wade through the stinky water. Dean carried Elli on his hands during this, but this was less due to caring and more due to the fact that he then only had to wash one pair of pants. Several times they had to turn back. Elli was feeling worse and worse, Deimos was barely holding on, and Tau-5 also seemed to show the first signs of nausea after a while.

The misfortune struck shortly before they reached the exit.

Munru took a wrong step and sank into the mud.

"Wait, I'll help you," Nanku said and began to pull.

Munru moved in only one direction, and that was down.

"Something grabbed my leg," he relayed to his leader, as if he had just realized it was raining.

"Hmm, we can't get you out," Irantu stated with a similar lack of concern. "Can you lift or throw us over there, there's dry land behind you."

"I can try."

As Munru sank lower and lower, he hurriedly threw each member of the group three feet onto the shore. For Elli, the impact was painful. Dean was the last to go.

"Are you sure you don't want me to help you? I'm guaranteed to be too heavy to throw."

Munru, by now with only his head sticking out of the water, shook his head.

"Then use me as a stepping stone. My death is not the end and therefore beside the point."

"Don't come to me with religion now."

"Uh, no, he's right," Deimos called out to him. "Tau-5 just gets new bodies when one of them dies, that's where the dead person's consciousness gets transferred into."

"You guys are creepy," Dean commented.

Says someone who's been through it seven times, too, Elli thought to herself. She hadn't thought her opinion of the creators of Samsara could sink any lower, but apparently she hadn't reached the bottom of the barrel yet. Wasn't it bad enough to go through death once?

Dean, meanwhile, seemed to get his way and put a foot on Munru's head. The leap he made hurled him to shore, but Munru disappeared underwater in return.

"Drowning is one of the most painful deaths," came weakly from Elli.

"We know," came unanimously from the rest of the Tau-5.



Elli and also Deimos breathed a sigh of relief when they reached the corridor. The air in there got better again. After a while, she could even walk again by herself.

The next cavern was very small, but high.

And it had several exits. Above them circled black birds, which Elli recognized as ravens on closer inspection.

"Which way is it?" asked Elli. "Irantu, this is where your knowledge is needed, you've been here before."

"Well, I can't help you there. You're Mrs. Smarty Pants here," Irantu replied.

He sounded… Irritated?

"We could split up," Onru suggested. "Maybe I can use echolocation to rule out some exits."

The ravens began to crow.

"So it's just you going down there to be celebrated alone afterwards?" inquired Nanku. "No way, if somebody, then I get the glory, did I make myself clear?"

"Can't we maybe take a break first?" asked Deimos. "Elli, you can show me what you did to my father."

The ravens' cawing grew louder. They seemed to fly lower…

"Figure it out for yourself," Onru countered. "I must carry out my mission."

Nanku pointed a gun at them.

"Oh, so I was right? Then this is the end of the line for you, Onru."

"You two, I am your boss. You follow my orders and nothing else," Irantu snapped.

He was angry. And he pointed an assault rifle and a grenade pistol at his team members. Onru and Nanku then made the Mexican standoff complete.

"Meh, come on Elli," Deimos grumbled. "Let's let them work this out on their own and we'll have a nice time."

He grinned suggestively.

The screeching of the ravens became deafening.

Next time on Nexus:
The Favor, Part 3

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License