Scene 283 – Fortitudo Gigantum

FORTITUDO GIGANTUM

EVA

My name is Eva. Just Eva. I am a titan of Niflheim, just a few steps below the Colossus Thrym himself. For months, I had been overseeing a small spy outpost in kemo territory. It was boring, but important work. It was punishment for a… minor indiscretion with a married man. The fact that he was one of Gruul’s get hadn’t helped my case.

Now, I was back in the fray, fighting to defend the Ginnungagap from invaders.

Thrym and Surtr had made it clear that it wasn’t a case of forgiveness. I hadn’t finished serving out my sentence. It was just that they needed every able hand they could get, especially skilled frost forgers like me.

I had a small group, six Nifs, all hiding in one of the small shops lining the street right outside the gate. It was a perfect ambush position, well behind enemy lines. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to actually use it that way. If the enemy saw us bursting out of a building, they might start checking all the other buildings. That would end with civilians getting hurt. Most of them had fled or joined Odin’s army, but there were still plenty of noncombatants lining the Ginnungagap.

The place was sweltering by Nif standards, but we were all soldiers. We had dealt with far worse than a bit of heat in our service. We just buckled down and did our best to ignore it, as well as the sweat it produced.

The black-out blinds were drawn, so I couldn’t see anything outside, but I had a small radar unit in my hand. Once I judged the time was right, I signaled to my giants. We headed towards the back, through the storeroom. I double-checked to make sure no one was outside, then nodded to the icebreaker. He burst out of the back door at full speed, ready to rip apart anyone waiting to ambush us.

There was no one. I had built the radar I was using myself. I’d stake my life on its accuracy.

But there was no need to. I nodded at the other Nifs, and they fanned out as I closed the door behind us. Two covered the alleys on either side of us, while the other two kept their guns on the backstreet.

I sorted through the assorted junk and devices in my belt. Thrym had given me free reign to do this however I wanted. My only orders were to make it spectacular, ‘fitting for the Ginnungagap.’ I knew {exactly what I should do. I knew what the Muspel on the opposite side of the Ginnungagap would be doing too. It would only make it more impressive.

I checked my watch. Not much time left. We were on radio silence, but we had synchronized our watches. We should be able to pull this off at the exact same time, for maximum effect.

I pulled a small silver orb out of one of my pouches, twisting and turning it in a complicated pattern to unlock it. It opened with a hiss, revealing a small panel of tiny red switches. I had to take out a needle-like tool in order to flip them, one by one, until almost all of them were green.

The device started beeping, and I pushed it back together, reverting it to its orb shape. The other Nifs glanced at it, but didn’t say anything. I had tried to explain it to them earlier, but their eyes had just glazed over. We were all soldiers, but they weren’t engineers. It would take another frost forger to appreciate what I had done here.

Still, they knew their job. I nodded at the icebreaker, and he pulled up the sewer grate before dropping in. A moment later, the other Nif followed, and when there were no sounds of screams or gunfire, I followed as well.

These sewers had been expanded years ago to accommodate giants. We still had to walk stooped over, but it was better than nothing. For most sewers in the domain, we still had to call in baselines to repair them, because there was just no way any of us could fit inside.

I looked both ways up and down the sewer, then glanced at the river of sludge running down the middle. Judging by the horrific smell, it would work for my purposes. Trying not to breathe, I indicated that the icebreaker should lead us farther down the tunnel.

Once I was sure we were far enough, I indicated we should stop. We weren’t that far at all. I could still see the entrance, light shining down like a beacon. We could have done this there, but I wanted to be sure.

I pulled the device out again, and double-checked it. Everything seemed fine, and it was beeping along at a slow and steady pace. We didn’t have long before it went off, but it would be more than enough.

I scanned the river of sewage and selected a particularly thick clog of… organic material. One of my guards sounded like he was trying not to throw up, but I just did my level best to ignore him. Once I was sure the device was in place, I nodded at them, and we went back the way we came.

We clambered out and shut the sewer behind us. The rest of the guards backed up closer to us, eyes watching the alleys, but we needn’t have worried. All the Americans were still bottled up in the Ginnungagap proper.

I pointed at the nearest fire escape, and the icebreaker nodded. It was too tall even for a giant to grab, but he was able to boost one of the others up. They pulled it down with minimal loss of dignity. I would have jumped up and down like an idiot trying to grab it.

We clambered up the metal staircase, trying not to make too much noise. We managed to get to the roof without anyone shooting at us, which was about all we could hope for.

Giant ‘scrapers weren’t built like a lot of others in the city, where people spent half their time on the roofs. There were no bridges from here to nearby ‘scrapers, no cheap stall shops or even simple benches. Just skylights and air conditioners, plus a hatch leading back down into the building. This one had a thick metal bar keeping it locked from this side. Good thing I decided not to go up from the inside. We could have broken it, but it would have taken time and might have attracted attention.

I walked to the edge of the roof and looked down, trying not to let my vertigo get the better of me. With my power, I could survive a fall from this height, but my stomach hadn’t quite gotten the message yet.

I could see the American base camp. It was in chaos. Ogres and Aesir rampaged through it, tearing through barricades and walls like so much tissue paper. They weren’t completely unopposed, of course. I could see the muzzle flare from the Americans defending themselves, and the painful howls of trolls and oni.

I looked up, to the ‘scraper across the Ginnungagap. There was someone up there, and while I couldn’t see more than his silhouette, I knew exactly who it was. I pulled a small mirror out of one of my many pouches and reflected some light at him. He returned the favor, and I nodded. Now all we had to do was wait.

Behind me, my guards kept watch on the fire escape and nearby ‘scrapers. Even if we were killed now, the plan would continue unimpeded, but it would be a very embarrassing way to win. Best to just not risk it.

Down below, I noticed the giants withdrawing from the base like ants fleeing a picnic. Odin must have seen the signal. It was hard to tell, but it looked like the Americans were letting them go. They were likely trying to shore up their defenses. Better than performing a suicide attack that wouldn’t do any good.

They might even try to retreat back behind the gate, which would be a problem. If they got a resupply from the ships, they could get the large-caliber rounds that would chew through us like paper. Our berserkers wouldn’t last long. They were powerful and dangerous warriors, but they only survived because of circumstance. Melee fighters couldn’t survive against prepared opponents with guns for long. And the Americans {would be prepared next time.

Then the building rumbled.

I grinned, and looked over to my opposite across from me. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew he’d be grinning too.

Deep in the sewers, on opposite sides of the Ginnungagap, two devices were activating. Complex reactions were taking place inside them. They spread that reaction in the direction we had chosen. The organic material in the sewers worked as an excellent catalyst for this kind of reaction.

I saw his first. Across the street, a plume of flame blew out of the sewer right next to the wall of the base. It sent the soldiers scrambling for cover, but they had little luck finding any. The fire spread along the sewer, making steam and smoke hiss out. The street buckled and groaned until the concrete could no longer contain it. In moments, an entire line of fire burst out of the ground. It was like Muspelheim itself rising up to meet the soldiers.

And on the other side of the street, Niflheim rose.

The complex organic reaction sucked all the heat out of its surroundings. This dropped the temperature to well below freezing temperatures in a heartbeat. The sewers were filled to the brim with mud and water. They expanded in great blue-white icicles, bursting out of the street like thorns.

The blue was my personal touch. Just a minor tweak to the chemistry. After all, everyone {knew ice was a bright, white blue. If I had left the color to nature, the ice would have come out black. No one would have realized what we had done. It would have sucked all the drama out of it.

In seconds, the American camp was split in two, with West Gate on one side and Odin’s armies on the other. Soon the flames would die and the ice would melt, but it would take longer than the Americans had. The ones on the gate side had no choice but to flee back to their ships. The ones within the reach of Odin would either surrender or die. Or maybe surrender and die. Ogres could be hard to control when their blood was up.

I smiled down at the scene as the little ants reacted in exactly the way we had expected them to. Loki even had holding cells ready for the prisoners. We wouldn’t need to keep them for long, just enough to trade them back to America.

But my smile faded as I saw the number of giant corpses left behind on the ground.

This was not the first time the Ginnungagap had seen war and bloodshed. It wouldn’t be the last. But… still. I couldn’t help wondering if maybe fewer would have needed to die if I had come up with a better plan.

I turned away, and headed back to the fire escape. Regrets were for fools. We still had a war to win.

Behind the Scenes (scene 283)

“Icebreaker” is a Nif term that outsiders often translate as “the guy who breaks things.” The Nifs, however, use it to describe anyone who is in charge of opening things violently. Doors, locks, etc. They’re usually the point man, at the front of the squad.

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