Ava knew she’d gone from hunter to hunted the second she ran into the war band of Amazons. They didn’t even ask questions. They unleashed hell on the angel of God without provocation. She fought with all she could, but Gerry had wounded her, and she’d spent enough of her energy on charging the Hand of God that she wasn’t ready to get in a prolonged battle with multiple opponents. She ended up using her most powerful weapon on the weaker women.
She screamed in defiance as she swept the powerful beam of energy back and forth. She caught a squad of Brawlers trying to surprise her from behind. They sizzled and popped like pimples when the Hand of God passed through them, but Amazon’s weren’t idiots. They dispersed and started hitting her from multiple directions. Smaller, weaker energy blasts started to cook the broken asphalt around her. It made her dance around and affected her own targeting. She took hits too, and each one was more painful than the last. Finally, a well-placed, Divine Steel round to the head brought her down. She’d been so concerned with keeping the remaining brawlers at range, and keeping the energy wielding Amazon’s heads down that she missed the sniper all together. The angels who taught her how to fight would have brought her down a peg – or five – for her lack of situational awareness.
She’d been able to take down half of her opponents with the now-expended Hand of God. It wasn’t the worst showing, but this was war. You didn’t get a silver medal for coming in second. You got dead. The Divine Steel round knocked her out cold, and the last of her healing power was expended pushing the bullet’s fragments out and repairing her damaged brain. When she finally came to, she was being dragged by two women through a remarkably clean lobby.
She didn’t recognize the building, but it looked like it had avoided the apocalypse that had engulfed the rest of Manhattan. When her captors rotated to fit through the elevator door, she saw Central Park just across the street. They were basically at ground zero, which could only mean one thing.
Ava tried to pull herself to a standing positon, but didn’t get far. One of the Amazon’s kicked her in the back of the knee to drive her back down. The other donkey punched her in the back of the head, which made everything spin for the rest of the ride.
With a soft ding the doors opened into an elaborate penthouse. Ava had never been to the Amazon’s seat of power in the city, but the line of thrones by the giant window overlooking the park could only be one thing. Most of those thrones were empty, but a few princesses looked on with interest as Ava was dragged in and tossed in the open space before them. They were all dressed for war in armor, weapons, and items endowed with ætherial power. The courtiers were gathered around the edges of the room, similarly armed, so she couldn’t tell the difference between them and the royal guards.
None of that mattered though. As Ava raised her head, and spit out a mouthful of Divine ichor, her focus was on only two people. Sitting on the steps leading up to the small dais, where the central throne sat, was Hippolyta. Sitting next to her, laughing at a joke she’d said, and sipping a glass of wine was Gerry.
“Ah,” the Amazon Queen finally took notice of Ava. “There you are.”
Ava couldn’t do anything but glare. “You…”
“Silence,” Hippolyta flicked her wrist and an unseen force slapped Ava across the face. It rattled her teeth and made her eyes water, but she snapped her head back to the Queen, her eyes burning with defiance.
“God will extinguish your pathetic species for this,” Ava spat back, and got another slap from the opposite direction.
“I don’t think so,” Hippolyta held out her empty glass and a servant immediately refilled it. “Gerald, dear, would you like some more.”
“Yes, thank you very much, Your Majesty.” Gerry replied.
Seeing him sitting there, smiling, chumming it up with the Amazon Queen while Maria was gone from existence made Ava want to puke. Instead, she lunged at them. She only made it a few feet before an invisible force slammed down on her from above. It flattened her like a pancake, breaking some bones, and knocking the wind out of her.
Gerry and Hippolyta didn’t even blink. They were in complete control, and there was nothing Ava could do. She tried to draw in more power. She tried to feel the warm embrace of her father that influenced every other place in Eden, but she felt nothing. The Amazon’s place of power was too well warded for even God’s influence to penetrate.
“This is exquisite, Your Majesty,” Gerry complimented the Queen with a charming smile.
“Eighteen Ninety-Eight was a fine year,” Hippolyta clinked her glass softly against his. “To new relationships.”
“New relationships,” he echoed, and they drank.
Finally, the two turned their attention to Ava. “Despite what the False God may say about us, or what you may think of us,” the pressure on Ava’s spine increased with every word from the Queen’s mouth, “my people are people of their word.” Of all the things, that Ava thought she would hear that wasn’t it. “Before all of this unpleasantness started,” she waved out the window to indicate the cataclysmic events that had destroyed the city and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent humans, “we made a deal. The primary participants in the deal have left. Gabriel has been slain, and Beelzebub bloodied and bruised to the point of returning to Hell. However, neither act was executed by the other, so the contest remains open. As Queen, I deem it in good spirit for others to take the places of honor in this contest of power. For the Infernals, the Dux of Charlotte, Gerald Fuller shall step in as Beelzebub’s second. For the Divine, Ava, will fill the role of the departed Gabriel.”
Ava pushed against the tile as her rage built. Gabriel had died in front of her, murdered just like her innocent daughter, and there was nothing she could have done to stop it. She made it through half a push up before the æther smashed her back down again.
“Like I was saying. My word is my bond. The Amazons promised their allegiance to the victor,” suddenly the force pressing against Ava was gone. “So please, give us a victor to follow.”
Gerry was standing before Ava could even raise her head. He held out both hands and swords from the royal guards answered his call. The women tensed as their weapons left their sheaths, but a motion from the Queen sent them back to their posts.
Ava struggled to her feat. She felt the bones grating against each other in her back. She couldn’t even stand up all the way, so she face Gerry as a hunchback. He looked flush with power, unbeatable, and armed while she could barely raise her eyes to meet him, which was why it was so surprising that he tossed one of the swords to her.
She thanked God she was able to catch it and not look like a complete invalid. She knew she could never win, but she’d die with honor. Gerry kept a safe distance before giving her a bow. She couldn’t tell if it was mocking or not.
He came in for a quick exchange to test her. The clang of their blades echoed through the throne room. He nearly knocked the sword from her hand twice, but she held on. She was surprised when he backed off to study her.
A sensation passed over her. It made her feel claustrophobic and trapped, as if she was stuck in a small closet lined with coats that brushed up against her from all sides.
“We have a small amount of privacy now, and can speak our minds.” Gerry kept his blade up, but his stance relaxed. “None of this is personal,” his eyes scanned the room. “We’re both pawns in a much larger game.”
“You consort with Death. This game only ends with one way for you,” she spat back.
“Maybe, maybe not,” he shrugged. “What I do know is that I wasn’t thrown to the wolves as a sacrifice so someone didn’t have to fight.”
His blasphemy drove Ava to action. She attacked, but her thrusts her batted aside. He easily circled her, and cut a shallow gash in her thigh. She bled and kept bleeding.
“I’ve always thought you were extraordinary, and I am sorry about what happened to your daughter. I didn’t pull the trigger, but I put her in the path of the bullet.”
Ava didn’t know why he was saying this. He had her beaten. She couldn’t win. Why was he torturing her by playing nice? “She wasn’t shot,” Ava fired back. “She was lying helpless on a sacrificial alter where she got run through by incarnations of evil.” She attacked despite the tears in her eyes.
Her wild chops and thrusts lasted about three seconds before Gerry took her only remaining hand off at the wrist. She didn’t bother to stop. If she did, she’d go in to shock from the pain and bloodloss, so she swung at him with her opposite hand. He moved so fast, she didn’t even feel the sword slicing through her heart.
All of her strength left her in that instant. She fell forward limply, and to her great displeasure, he caught her.
“Don’t fucking touch me!” Her growl was interrupted by coughing up blood.
He ignored her as he placed her on the ground. She couldn’t move as he stood over her and started to chant. She could barely keep her eyes open much less understand what he was saying. Normally, she would have recognized the spell to absorb her essence before it returned to Heaven. Normally, she would have feared what came next. The afterlife of mortals was something she knew well: Heaven or Hell, but no one knew what happened when an immortal died.
Her last moments, when her body started to disintegrate, and the æther was pulled from her being were for her children. Not just Maria, but all of them. She wanted them to live in peace and happiness, but knew that wasn’t going to happen. Armageddon was upon Eden, and it showed no signs of letting up.
That didn’t concern her anymore. Her job was done. She would go join Maria in whatever afterlife awaited her.
Slowly, but then faster and faster, her body dissolved into clear, pulsing power. Gerry stood over her, his body metaphysically swelling with her essence. In the end, it wasn’t much. Ava was nearly completely depleted of æther as result of the battle. When he was done, all that was left of the former Power was a golden gauntlet. Gerry reached for it, but it shot into the air like a bullet, crashed through the roof, ignoring the protection wards as is they weren’t there, and disappearing into the overcast sky.
“Hmmm,” Hippolyta frowned at the hole in her roof. The material quickly started to rearrange itself to fix the structural damage.
She turned to regard Gerry. Her face wasn’t as warm as when she talked down to the now-deceased angel. “You are victorious, Infernal Lord, and so I grant you my assistance as promised.”
There was a tension in the room as she spoke those words. All eyes were on Gerry. “And as I promised, the only assistance I require is for you to rule as you see fit.”
A collective exhale swept through the room. Gerry and the Queen had come to a deal, but both had prepared for the other to renege. The honesty was a refreshing change of pace.
“Come with me,” Hippolyta rose gracefully to her feet and extended a hand.
Like the eighteenth century gentleman he was, Gerry took it and followed her to a side door. It opened before they arrived. What he saw brought him to a stop. A giant bed stood in the center of a room on another dais not that different from the one in the throne room and surrounded by mirrors. Gerry would have paid the surroundings more attention, but with a rustle of fabric and a clink of metal, the Queens clothing fell away from her.
She looked over her shoulder, her eyes smoking with desire, while a soft glow coming off her creamy skin. “Are you coming?”
Gerry’s own clothing disintegrated as he moved to sweep the Queen off her feet and take her to her bed. It didn’t matter if war was waging all around them. It didn’t matter if Michael was planning a counter attack to retake Manhattan. It didn’t matter that they didn’t particularly like each other. Both were caught up in their lust for one reason or another.
As far as Gerry was concerned, the Queen of the Amazons grinding on top of him as she clawed at his chest was the perfect end to a perfect day.