<This is weird,> Ava thought as she walked along the nearly-deserted streets of Manhattan.
She’d just tripped over a piece of debris, and it reminded her just how clumsy humans were…and how weak. Every time she came across a sufficiently large and heavy obstacle, she had to find an alternative route. She couldn’t just fly over it, or move it, and it made her pity the mortals. Their lives were so short to begin with and then they had to overcome all the minutia that the Divine could sweep aside with a thought.
<But they keep on thriving,> and that was when Ava realized why God loved humans so much. They were the weakest, least intelligent, and most prone to the whims of fate, but they kept on going no matter what. They invented, they created great art and culture, they burned it all down in a fit of jealous rage, and then they built something new from the ashes. There was something to be admired there.
<I still don’t want to stay this way.> The thought intruded on her praise of humanity. <They might be inspirational, but I’m happy being what I am.> In her current situation she was more concerned about self-preservation than self-actualization.
Manhattan was a war zone, and contained all that implied. Some of the tallest buildings destroyed during the fight in Central Park had crumbled and made debris piles as large as most of the shorter buildings. All of the electricity was out, and the smoke from the seemingly-infinite amount of fires blotted out the sun’s weak rays. Soon it would be night and total blackness would consume the city.
That was perfect for her plans. She was almost at the rendezvous where she would meet up with Gabriel. She would evaluate the situation and start the extraction while darkness still gave them cover. If all went well, they would be at the East River by dawn and crossing it. Midway across the river seemed to be the border drawn by the æther between the Amazon’s annexed territory and the rest of God’s Eden. If they could make it there then it would take a small army of Amazon’s to take them down. Michael would be waiting to help, so she doubted the warrior women would try anything.
<Now I just need to get us there.> Ava rounded the corner and found herself at her destination.
Normally, lights would be lighting up the entranceway and framing the columns spaced around the exterior, but it was all shrouded in darkness. She glanced either way to make sure no one was looking, and then sprinted up the short flight of stairs to the front doors. She hoped if anyone was watching that they just thought she was a frightened girl looking for refuge during the apocalypse.
Three doors marked the entrance to the building. Two looked to be shut tight, but the third, in the center, was hanging precariously by a single hinge. Someone had already been here; someone powerful enough to kick in the old, heavy door. Ava quickly went over her options. She could recall her power at any time, but it would take some time to gather her strength. Starting the process would light her up light a torch for the Amazons to track, and she didn’t know if that was worth it since Gabriel might have been the one to kick in the door in the first place.
She didn’t hesitate long at the door before heading inside human and powerless. It wasn’t as dark inside as out. Someone had lit candles and spread them around. That struck Ava as a risky maneuver when the building was the flagship location for the New York public library and all the rare books it held. A fire would be devastating.
<But then again most humans think the world is coming to an end, so a couple of old books getting accidentally singed isn’t at the top of their list of priorities. That’s where food and shelter are right now,> she thought as her eyes scanned the area.
Several bookcases had toppled over, but the damage was localized, which meant there had been a struggle. There wasn’t any blood, but Ava still avoided the area. The last thing she needed was to step in Amazon blood and lead a blood trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow. There were no other signs of struggle, so she started to meticulously search the building. Gabriel would be hiding, and judging by the destruction in the city he was injured.
It took Ava a lot longer than she was proud of to find the archangel, and when she did it was a little anticlimactic. She was trying to get from one section to another by squeezing through a tight space, and she literally tripped over him. The Messenger of God came up swinging, and if she hadn’t been toppling over, he probably would have killed her. Ava would need to thank her father for the good luck as she got to her feet.
“Take it easy, Gabriel. It’s me, Ava. Michael sent me to rescue you.” She backpedaled to stay out of his range and tried to calm him down.
Gabriel stepped out of the shadows and Ava grimaced. The archangel looked gaunt and emaciated. There were ugly red scars along his body, and dark circles under his eyes. He looked like he was just as much cut off from God’s æther as Ava was, but unfortunately he’d been in a knockout brawl right beforehand.
“Ava the Dominion?” Gabriel kept the giant tome he was using as a weapon raised in front of him.
“I’m actually a Power now, but I’m still that Ava,” she replied, and made sure her hands were where the archangel could see her.
“If you’re really Ava what was your daughter’s name?” Gabriel still didn’t believe her, but his face softened when hurt flashed across her features.
“Maria,” Ava whispered and fought back tears.
“I’m sorry,” Gabriel lowered his improvised weapon. “But I don’t know who to trust here. Anyone could be anyone.”
That was true. It was simple magic to change your appearance, and the archangel was right to keep his guard up. The loss of an archangel in Heaven’s new war effort against the Infernals and Eden’s rebelling remnant species was unthinkable.
“We’re going to hunker down here for another hour until darkness completely sets in. Then we’ll use it to move seven blocks east to the river. From there, we’ll steal a boat or swim to the border.” Ava relayed her plan and Gabriel nodded. It was simple. Anything more complicated was likely to get them both caught.
“Take a nap, I’ll take first watch,” Gabriel offered. “You don’t look so good.”
Ava couldn’t stop the sharp laugh that escaped her lips. “Have you taken a look in the mirror lately?”
Gabriel conceded with a nod of his head, but when Ava took a seat next to him she felt sleep pulling at her eyelids. Walking all that way, avoiding the obstacles, and the roving Amazon patrols had taxed her more than she thought.
<How do humans do it?> she thought as she fought sleep’s pull.
“You want to go where?” Gerry asked .
They were back in his underground Demesne after their trip to the Wisconsin Satanic gathering…and the dairy farm down the street. Death was chewing on a wheel of cheese, sampling a dozen different wines from the collection they’d brought from Jeb’s house for VIPs, and flipping through the channels on the flat screen.
“Mmm York,” she said through a mouthful of Wisconsin’s finest.
“You want to go to New York City…in the middle of the fight between the angels, Amazons, and a Leviathan…right now?” Gerry couldn’t help but think this was a very bad idea. “God will know you’re here if you do.”
“God shmod,” she waved her hands dismissively of a Primordial whose power Gerry couldn’t’ fathom. “If he comes he comes. I’ll deal with him if I have to.” Her face suddenly became pensive and her eyes unfocused. “That would be pretty interesting if he did show up. It would confirm that he’d grown a pair since I last saw him, and then we’ve got all the fixings for a party.” Whatever party she was talking about Gerry didn’t want to tag along. “Plus,” she continued, “I want to see the leviathan. Cronus boasted they were the most powerful creatures ever created, and I want to see if he was right.”
In Gerry’s mind, that was not a good reason for venturing into the middle of a warzone between two enemy sides, neither of whom would like to see Gerry enter the fray. Especially since he was still pretty convinced one side thought he was still dead and that anonymity greatly assisted his operations in Charlotte. He opened his mouth to explain all of this to Death, but the look she gave him brought him up short. No matter Gerry’s reasoning, she wanted to do this, so they were doing it.
“Fine,” he relented, which brought a beaming smile to Death’s face, and wiped all Gerry’s fears away.
<She won’t let anything happen to me…right?>
“You bet I won’t,” she was already moving, and she swatted his ass playfully as she passed. “Who else is going to show me around if my Gerry Berry gets hurt.” She pinched his cheeks as she tossed the half-eaten wheel of cheese on the table.
Gerry couldn’t stop from blushing. As she sat there, hovering inches from his face, the only thing in the universe he wanted to do was kiss her. Her lips were like a magnet drawing him forward, and he started to do it, when a finger interposed itself between him and her.
“Don’t ruin the moment,” she pressed the finger to his lips, and his whole body trembled. “Anticipation is the spice of love, and I like my meals nice and spicy.”
Gerry didn’t know whether to be horrified or horny, and he didn’t have time to consider before she grabbed his hand and they disappeared.