PCS to Eden – Confrontation – Conclusion

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.

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PCS to Eden – Confrontation Part 2

Ava and Gerry stood motionless for a moment in the wake of the primordials abrupt exit. They were like two kids waiting to see if the adults were gone before they could get into trouble. Except they were kids who hated each other’s guts and wanted to murder each other.

When he felt safe God wouldn’t smite him on the spot, Gerry’s combat instincts took over and he moved. Everything around him seemed to slow to a stop. Even Ava. He charged her head on as power flooded through his body. He was already halfway to the angel before she reacted, and even that was slow. He couldn’t help but laugh.

It was now clear what Death had done for him. She had leveled him up to archangel status. There was no other way to explain the drop he was able to get on Ava. Her fancy hand cannon suggested she’d undergone her own upgrade, but that wasn’t enough to compete with him now. The fear of facing the woman he’d nearly been killed by evaporated and was replaced with confidence.

He was in striking range before he stopped laughing. Ava was swinging in her defense. A haymaker was making its way to his head. His mind whirled as he saw the path of her blow, where it was going to hit, and the likely path his head would take if she made contact. A wave of dizziness passed over him as his mind tried to cope with the sudden pattern recognition data it was processing for him. He lost his concentration, and the world sped back up.

Luckily, he got his arm up in a blocking position.

Ava’s punch made contact with him and an explosion of force rocked the block. It traveled through Gerry’s arm, around his body, and into the ground and air behind him. The ground cracked and crumbled around him, while hurricane force wind battered the building next to him. There wasn’t much left to destroy, but the debris kicked up into a cyclone that whipped between the buildings before dying down.  

<Ah Ha!> Gerry yelled in triumph when his body wasn’t liquefied by the blow. In fact, it felt considerably weaker than the blows he’d taken from Gaius in training back in Hell.

In that instant, he knew he was going to win this fight. He was stronger, faster, and was able to see where she was going to hit before her hits even landed. All of those new abilities rolled together were a recipe for success. His ego surged.

Ava saw the smile on his face and growled like a rapid animal. It didn’t save her from the uppercut he drove into the bottom of her chin. Her head snapped back, and she rocketed away from him on a course for the moon, that took her in a straight line through a nearby building. It barely slowed her down. She exploded out of the other side in a shower of masonry, but didn’t even flinch as she arched across the city.

<I knocked her out cold.> Gerry laughed as he watched her limp body grow smaller and smaller.

Finally, she came to, and shook herself awake. Her wings flared out to her sides to stop her forward progress, but she was already halfway to Harlem.

<Wings.> He felt his body respond to his command. His bones stretched, his muscles shifted, and two brilliantly white wings sprouted from between his shoulder blades. He gave them a powerful flap, and rocketed after her.

Ava was still regaining her composure when he hit her like a missile in the abdomen. He felt bones snap, muscles spasm, organs rupture, and wetness on his wings and neck when she coughed up half a gallon of Divine ichor from the trauma. He felt the breath violently expelled from her damaged lungs, and the groan of pain that racked her whole body.

He pealed her off his shoulder, grabbed her by the neck, and chucked her toward the ground. She hit just outside Central Park with enough force to make a twenty foot crater, and didn’t get back up right away.

Gerry hovered in the air over her drunk on the power flooding through his veins. He’d crushed Ava so badly, in just under a minute, that he felt sorry for her. God had sacrificed her like a lamb to the slaughter to avoid a brawl with Death. He’d pinned his chances on taking back Manhattan on an outclassed angel. God have to have known that Death gave Gerry Gabriel’s strength. Was God really that heartless? Or was he really that frightened of his sister?

<It’s too easy.> Gerry was convinced it couldn’t be that simple. He just needed to figure out what God’s plan was.

He looked back down at Ava, who still hadn’t moved, and was sure he had a moment to savor the æther. Death was right. There was an extra sense to everything around him now, and all he had to do was reach out and sample it. It was more than just power to be used for power’s sake. There were subtle undertones to it now, tastes that gave purpose to something that was simply bland before. Everything around him was a masterful feast just waiting for his will to shape it.

He’d used a bit of energy to pulverize Ava, so he took a deep breath and felt the æther respond to fill the void. The mix of cloves and Sriracha was gone now. He must have devoured all of it in the area, but a new aroma was everywhere.

There was a slight buzz in the air; like that comfortable sense of bliss after a fine bourbon. It tasted like the air smelled after a good rain. It was life, abundant and free with a touch of lilac. The bouquet was exquisite, and it was everywhere. While a big metaphysical breath, Gerry inhaled the new selection of power and his chest swelled as the power filled him.

That was about the time a powerful energy blast swatted him from the sky.

 

***

 

Ava opened her eyes, only to close them again to wipe away the blood. Her whole body ached. Even her fingernails felt like they’d gone head to head with a jackhammer and lost. With a grunt, she pulled her arms free of the crumbled street all around her. Her shoulder was still dislocated, while her forearm was mending itself with a series of soft cracks. She looked up and saw a small dot hovering above her. She knew she needed to move. She knew she couldn’t stand toe to toe with the mew Gerald Fuller. The realization pained her on so many levels.

<That bitch, Death, did something to him.> As a Power, Ava’s abilities were formidable. She outclassed most of the angels in Heaven, but it was abundantly clear Gerry was far stronger. She couldn’t stand and fight him. She needed a different strategy. What worked last time wasn’t going to cut it. She wasn’t going to be able to drive a flaming sword through his heart and watch Divine fire consume his evil.

She needed to strike from the shadows – quick and fast – before retreating, regrouping, and slowly inflicting death by a thousand cuts. His slow death made her smile.

She needed to engage in guerrilla warfare to win back Manhattan, but even then she had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t be enough. That was when God smiled on her and a ray of violet energy blasted Gerry from the sky. She could tell it hurt him by the roar of pain he emitted.

<Good!> Anything that caused that asshole pain was a friend of hers.

She also saw an opportunity. She tracked his descent, and set off at a run. If she could hit him while he was down, then she stood a better chance at victory. She stuck to the ground to avoid Heaven’s other enemies lurking in the city. It was taking her longer to get to him. She had to conserve her strength as her body knit itself back together along the way. More importantly, it took valuable energy that was not replenishing. Despite her father’s entrance, the area lacked the æther she needed to refuel. She only hoped Gerry had the same limitation.

Thankfully, the approximate area of his crash was mostly free of the wards the Amazon’s had littered across the island. She could tell by all the scattered scorch marks that his violent landing had destroyed the magical protections. She tallied the destruction and thought they’d been able to pull enough æther off him to weaken him.

That brought a smile to her face. In anticipation, she started charging her Hand of God. If any weapon could kill the Infernal bastard, it was that.

 

***

 

“Oww,” Gerry grumbled as he pulled himself out of the long furrow he’d dug into the street. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs before the æther took care of any lingering injuries.

<Something smells like fried chicken.> He looked over his shoulder to see a chunk of one of his newly-sprouted wings had been incinerated. <Damn.> He banished the wings with a thought, and they sloshed off his body like garbage. <Gross.>

He stepped out of the hole and cracked his neck. The smell of lilacs filled his nose as he pulled in more æther to get back to full strength. Whatever attacked him wasn’t Ava. He had eyes on her, and her new weapon’s discharge wasn’t purple. Something new had joined the fight. He wondered for a second if God had reneged on the deal.

He got his answer shortly.

Two dozen women appeared from hiding. They had completely surrounded him. Some had weapons out and pointed at him. Others’ hands were glowing with various degrees of energy, and a few just cracked their knuckles as if they were hoping for a brawl. Despite their disposition, they all waited for orders. He guessed they’d come from the woman in the honest-to-god crown.

Gerry recognized her, but his memories from just before Death powered him up were a little fuzzy. “We’ve met before, right?” he asked lamely.

The woman was clearly insulted by the question; as most women would be when they believed they should have made an impression. With a wave of her fingers, the other women attacked. Hundreds of bullets, tipped with Divine Steel, sprayed from dozens of SMG’s. Energy blasts pelted him from above in a rainbow of colors. Lastly, the brawlers moved forward while the fire shifted to cover their advance.

The energy blasts he could handle. They barely singed the hair on his skin. The bullets were something else. A few got through before he recognized them as a threat. Divine Steel was Divine Steel. No matter how powerful Gerry was, it was still specialized metal blessed by a primordial and capable of killing Infernal Lords.

One bullet cut into his arm. It cut through his bicep in a spray of blood. Another hit him in the quad, and neatly severed his femoral artery. If he was human, he would have bled to death. Instead, he laughed at other’s mortality.

The wounds closed themselves and the bleeding stopped. He threw up an energy barrier of his own to intercept the bullets. They couldn’t damage if couldn’t hit, and despite their initial effectiveness, they were still being fired from mundane, mortal weapons. That eliminated that threat.

Next were the brawlers. They moved in confident and sure of themselves. On punch and Gerry educated them on their overconfidence.

“Enough!” The leader yelled and another powerful energy blast cut through the air.

Gerry caught the blast in the chest. It threw him backward into a nearby building where he saw purple stars. <So, she’s who brought me down.> The skin on his chest had blistered, boiled, and burned off in some places to reveal the muscle beneath. Fresh æther moved in to fill the void, and his wounds closed.

“Everyone stand down.” The command from the woman brought everything to a halt.

“Finally,” Gerry brushed some debris from his shoulder. His clothing above the waste had been completely obliterated by the woman.

He faced the dozens of women shirtless and unafraid.

“State your intentions.” She kept her chin high, despite his ability to fight them all to a draw.

“I’m just here to win a bet,” he kept it simple. “I was fighting with an angel, and kicking her ass – thank you very much – before you shot me down.”

“You have no claim on this city?” she asked.

“I don’t care what you do with the place, ma’am,” he added the hint of respect at the end. The last thing he needed to do was get bogged down by these women. Defeating Ava was what would end all of this.

“You were with Eris?” she asked. “Does she have any claims on this city?”

“I don’t think she gives a shit about anything that happens here or anywhere else,” Gerry replied truthfully.

“Very well. I am Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, and I will help you to defeat the false god’s servant so you can leave my lands.”

<Hippolyta,> now he remembered.

“Sure, let’s do that.” He agreed.

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PCS to Eden – Confrontation – Part 1

Gerry felt feeling slowly returning to his extremities. He’d blacked out. He knew that much. He didn’t know for how long, or in what shape he was in. All he knew was that Death did something to him. Something instinctually wrong.

He pushed his way to his feet, shook his head, and tried to get his bearings. He felt like someone stuck his head between two gongs, gave a group of eight year olds a metric ton of sugar, and let them get all their energy out at his expense. He shook his head to try and dislodge the pain, but it didn’t work. It should have worked. He was very aware that his Infernal nature should have used the æther to heal something as mundane as a headache, but it persisted.

“You need to make a selection, Gerry Dear.” Death was standing close by. “Choose what tastes good.”

Gerry didn’t understand her, but her bringing attention to it made him feel what she was referencing. There were distinct differences all around him. He wasn’t sure how they ‘tasted’, but his head was really starting to pound, so he grabbed the nearest one. The scent of cloves filled his nostrils, and he felt like he’d eaten Sriracha.

Death looked on with approval. “It’s easiest to choose what’s most familiar. We’ll broaden your pallet in time.” She turned away from him and focused on a man standing about twenty yards away.

“No hug for your big sister?” Death smiled and took a step toward God. God stepped back, and Death’s smile broadened. “Are you still scared of me, Brother?”

<God?> Gerry gulped and had the sudden urge to puke.

He had never seen God before. He doubted anyone outside of Heaven had really seen the Primordial, but he was not impressed. God wore a standard brown robe tied together by a plain piece of rope at the waist. The rope had to work a little harder than normal because of the gut on the deity. It made him look like Saint Francis’ fat brother.  His face was nondescript, his brown hair was unimaginative, even his eyes were dull. If Gerry passed this guy on the street he wouldn’t have given him a second glance.

“I’m not here to impress you,” God’s eyes looked past Death and straight at Gerry.

Gerry couldn’t help but pee himself a little bit. God might look plain, but the power and majesty in his voice was anything but. Gerry had been spending so much time with Death that he’d forgotten what it was like to be facing an unfriendly primordial.

“Play nice you two,” Death chided them both, and brought their attention back to her.

“You’ve created an abomination,” God spat and the city rumbled from his agitation. “It’s against everything we swore to obey.”

“Swore to obey,” Death doubled over with laughter. “What are we obeying anything for? Please, enlighten my, Brother.” Death crossed her hands across her chest and tapped her foot against the ground. With each tap a building collapsed in the distance. “I look around and I see a broken toy, and it’s not even your toy!” she laughed. “You stole this toy from your brother and you broke it. You can’t control the pieces on your own chessboard, Brother. They instinctually go against everything you have strived to teach them, and some of the worst offenses, they do in your own name. Talk about irony.” She barked, pulverizing an adjacent building down to its molecules. “Admit it, Brother. You killed your own brother for these things and they are an utter disappointment to you.”

“Enough!” The East and Hudson Rivers rose several feet and flooded into the city before subsiding. The space around God rippled with his sour mood.

“Looks like I struck a nerve,” Death looked over her shoulder and gave Gerry a wink.

Gerry headache was gone. In fact, he felt like a million bucks. The scent of cloves still lingered, and he felt an after taste of spice on his tongue, but he felt like he could take on the world.

<But not God. Definitely not God.> He was pretty sure that Death and God could read his mind, and he didn’t want to irritate either of them.

“Don’t talk to me about murdering our siblings. You started that.” It was obviously God was visibly trying to constrain himself.

“Don’t put that waste of æther on a pedestal,” Death waved her hand in front of her like she was banishing a fart. “He made you look like a hellion. Do you remember him?” Death put her arms at her side and stared straight ahead. “Everything must be precise. No deviations are acceptable. You are one one thousandth of a centimeter out of position.” She made a robot voice before turning and spitting on the ground. “I did existence a favor by getting rid of him. But you, little brother, you killed poor Cronus. The curious one of us. He might not have agreed with you, but he respected you.”

“You’re impossible!” God shot back. “Whenever I do something its wrong, but when you do the same thing its ok.”

“That’s the gist of it,” Death smiled sinisterly. “So, what do you say?” She cracked her knuckles and the planet seemed to hold its breath. “Are we doing fisticuffs and putting this place out of its misery?”

God looked like he wanted to. He really did, but Gerry saw something in his eyes that he’d never expect to see in a billion years: fear. God wasn’t sure he could win a fight with Death. Death had been telling him that since Gerry met her, but it was an out-of-this world experience to see it confirmed by God himself.

“I’m waiting,” Death sounded eager and bored at the same time.

God took a deep breath, visibly shook himself, and looked away in the universal sign of defeat.

“Ah well, maybe another time.” Death smiled, turned her back on God, and gestured for Gerry to follow.

No.” The command stopped Gerry in his tracks, but got nothing more than an exasperated sigh from Death. “He is an abomination. He can’t be allowed to stand.”

“Oh he’s gonna stand,” Death challenged, “on his own two feet with a big swinging dick.” She looked excited that they might brawl after all.

“You took Gabriel from me. You took my son. I demand retribution.” God looked pissed, but not pissed enough to go to war with his sister.

“Hmmm,” Death pursed her lips and seemed to be deep in thought.

While she pondered. The leviathan rumbled into sight. Like a dog seeking its master, her eyes found Death. Death smiled, “Get him, Girl.” She pointed at God.

The beast new what that meant, and with a challenging roar, charged the Lord of Heaven. It was almost comical. The five hundred foot gargantuan was stampeding toward a fat man dressed like a monk who didn’t top six feet. To a layman it looked like she was going to scoop him up and have a pint-sized snack, but Gerry knew better. Even though he’d watched the leviathan had driven Michael, Lucifer, and an injured Beelzebub from the field of battle, it was no match for a primordial.

There was a loud crack, like lightening had struck the earth at Gerry’s feet, followed by a blinding white light. When Gerry’s vision returned, and spots stopped dancing like sugar plum fairies in his vision, the leviathan was slain. It wasn’t just slain. God had fileted the beast. All that was left was clean bones that toppled down the street. They still destroyed everything in their path, but they skid to a halt just short of God. The dust didn’t even settle on his robe.

“Well, there you have it. An eye for an eye. I took one of yours, and you took one of mine.” Death clapped her hands, and the bones turned to powder.

“The beast was Cronus’ not yours,” God argued.

“Cronus has been dead for a long time. No one knows that better than you,” Death retorted. “And it was clearly following my orders, just like Gabriel was following yours when you came here, along with the other minor angel you sent with him. She’s around here somewhere.” Death likened Ava to misplaced keys.

Ava took the moment to push herself out from under some rubble. She still looked battered from Death’s slap, but she was alive. God waved her over, and after placing a hand on her shoulder she looked as good as new.

“Father, I…”

“Shhhh.” God shook his head and silenced her. “I know.”

“Like I said, our business is concluded here.” Death stated. “See you around.” She grabbed Gerry’s hand and…

“Wait.” This time it wasn’t a command, but when Gerry turned back around he did not like the twinkle he saw in God’s eye. “Do you fancy a wager, Sister?”

Death’s body vibrated with anticipation. “Always, Brother.”

“You and I will retire from the battlefield and let our champions fight in our stead. Winner takes control of this island.”

“Deal,” Death answered immediately. “But no alterations to them starting,” she placed her hand on Gerry’s shoulder and he felt a rush of energy, “now.”

God grimaced, but didn’t make any moves towards Ava.

“We’ll leave you two to it,” Death gave Gerry a smack on the ass like he was about to run out of the tunnel for Monday Night football. “Here’s a chance for some payback.” Death whispered the incentive.

Gerry didn’t know if God had any words of wisdom for Ava, because when he turned around, the primordial was gone. All that was left was him, and a small vortex of dust stirred up by the void suddenly created by the departing primordials.

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PCS to Eden – Crossroads Part 3

“We’re almost there,” Ava panted as she continued to half-carry the injured archangel toward freedom. They were only a block away now, and she could see the river through the final line of buildings. “We’ve made it.”

She felt complete satisfaction that things had worked out the way they were supposed to. She’d completed her mission while thinking outside the box. She’d done things other angels would have walked away from because it put them in danger, but she was willing to take the chance to save an archangel.

When it came down to it, Heaven couldn’t lose the Voice of God any less than they could one of their most formidable generals and leaders. Gabriel was irreplaceable, and Ava had brought him to safety.

She was flying high on their victory that she nearly missed Gabriel’s whispered words. “No we didn’t.”

“Wha…”Ava frowned at him, but when she turned her eyes back forward she saw their path was barred.

She didn’t recognize the woman, but she radiated power. She assumed it must be Hippolyta, the Amazon Queen, by the way Gabriel was looking at her. Ava only gave the woman a short glance before her gaze settled on the man standing next to her.

<Impossible.> Her brain was slow to connect the dots. The face, body, expression, and even the power she felt emanating from him wasn’t supposed to exist.

The man looked just as confused as she did as he looked at them. His eye passed over Gabriel, and settled on her. The recognition in them confirmed Ava’s worst fears.

“YOU!” She screamed in anguish and anger as Maria’s killer stood alive in front of her.

Rage blotted out all conscious thought as she grabbed at her Divine power and pulled. She didn’t care if every Amazon in existence came bearing down on them because of it, but she needed power to end the man who killed her daughter once and for all.

She screamed at Gerald Fuller. There was no meaning behind the words other than a way to release the pain at seeing him. She felt her power slowly return to her and she funneled all of it into her greatest weapon. The Hand of God began to glow as she directed every scrap of energy she could into it.

“Ava…” Gabriel’s tone held a warning, but she didn’t listen.

There was only one thing on her mind, and only one thing that could quench the inferno of emotion burning within her. Gerald Fuller, fake martial magician, and Infernal agent needed to die…again.

 

***

 

“Geez, what did you do to her? Not call her in the morning?” Death elbowed Gerry in the ribs as waves of energy continued to pour off Ava. She was the exact last person he expected to see when he woke up in the morning.

The man who was leaning on her for support Gerry didn’t recognize, but by the look in his eyes, he recognized Death, and his expression was properly terrified.

“What should we do?” Gerry whispered. He could tell Ava was clearly building toward something, and his gut told him it wouldn’t be good for his health.

Death closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Can you taste it?” she seemed to be talking more to herself than him. “There is nothing better in the world than pure, unadulterated rage. It’s like a fine wine. You bottle it before letting it sit and fester. The longer it goes, the better it tastes. I’d put this bouquet at less than six months, but there is a trace of sorrow to it that gives it a floral scent. Can you taste it, Young Gerry.”

The only thing Gerry could taste was the bile rising in his throat. Every instinct he had was telling him to get the hell out of there, but his fear of Death outweighed his fear of Ava. <She said she’d protect me.> He tried to bolster his courage, but the glow from Ava’s had was making that more difficult by the second.

The seconds passed and no one moved. Ava continued to seethe and her hand grew brighter and brighter. Soon it was like trying to look at the sun, and Gerry had to look away. A whining noise started to build in the air. It reminded Gerry of the times right after a volley of musket-fire knocked out his hearing. Gradually, sound would return, but accompanied by the same whine. The man with Ava was trying to say something to her, but Gerry couldn’t hear it over the noise. That was confusing. When he wanted to, his power allowed him to use his senses far more efficiently than humans.

“It’s the æther.” Death said as she read his mind. “It’s being pushed and pulled inward. She’s bending the will of the cosmos far more than she should. She must really hate you, Gerry Dear. What did you do to her?”

“I helped kill her daughter.” He answered tonelessly. The whining evolved into a ringing that was growing painful.

“Wow. I didn’t see that one coming.” Death actually laughed, and that was the straw the broke the camel’s back.

Ava let out an unintelligible scream and a ray of light blasted from her hand.

<Death was right,> was Gerry’s last thought as he saw reality ripple around the blast. Whatever this was, it was a serious upgrade from the last time he faced off with Ava. <And last time she killed me.> Gerry closed his eyes, put his trust in Death, and waited for the inevitable.

 

***

 

“DIE YOU BASTARD!” Ava screamed as she fired, but something was different this time. Everything around the beam seemed to bow outward as reality stretched. She would have paid more attention to it, but her eyes were fixed on Gerald Fuller, and every iota of her being was praying for a horrible death consumed in Divine energy.

Before the beam made it to Gerald the woman he was with stepped in front of him and opened her mouth. Ava assumed it was to scream, and she wondered why this woman was sacrificing herself for such a piece of shit, but then her beam shuddered.

<What?!> It was like something had locked onto the pure energy.

Then Ava saw the woman’s mouth. Something dark was stirring within and she could feel the insatiable hunger radiating from it. Her attack, which had been aimed carefully, gave another jerk, and changed course for the woman’s mouth. When the beam finally struck her, Ava expected some cataclysmic explosion. Instead, the beam simply disappeared into her mouth. The energy from the Hand of God, one of the most formidable weapons in existence, was swallowed whole by this mysterious person.

As reality flexed back to normal, and the ringing from the Divine energy subsided, Ava didn’t know what to do but stand there and look confused. <How?>

To add insult to injury, the woman belched loud enough to knock loose debris free of nearby buildings. Now, Ava wanted to hurt her too.

“Do not move. Do not breathe. Do not speak. And for the love of our Father do not antagonize her.” Gabriel commanded as he slid in front of her. The gesture made his frail body seem even weaker, and it went against her mission, but when she tried to push him away he held her back.

As the woman made her way toward them, with Gerry in tow like a show dog, Gabriel bowed at the waist. A silent jab in the ribs made Ava do that same.

“Hello, Auntie. Please forgive the misunderstanding. What brings you to Eden?”

 

***

 

Gerry watched as the man Ava had been supporting stepped in front of her and bowed. He caught the word ‘auntie’, but his head was still ringing from the exchange of power. It might not have done anything to him, but he was seeing the equivalent of ætherial spots in his vision as the æther realigned itself. Whatever weapon Ava had used could do substantial damage to this realm if used wrong.

What was even more wrong was Death simply swallowing the attack like she was chugging from a keg. He had so many questions he wanted answered, but he knew better than to ask. The smile on Death’s face showed she was enjoying herself, so he’d just have to find out later.

“Is that you, Gabriel?” She practically skipped to within a few feet of the man. “Look at you, you’re all grown up. What’s it been ten, twenty thousand years?”

“Closer to a hundred, Auntie.” The man called Gabriel replied respectfully.

<Oh shit.> Gerry put two and two together. <Auntie…with Ava…been around for at least a hundred thousand year…this is the Archangel Gabriel.> Now Gerry felt like he should be doing some bowing.

“And you,” Death’s neck elongated to the length of an anaconda as she peered around Gabriel at Ava. “You’re a ballsy young one aren’t you? I like that, but is your courage a product of youthful naivety, or do you really have the stones.”

Ava’s face was red with anger, but she kept her mouth shut.

“Come on! Speak for yourself. I can feel you want to. You want to scream it from the rooftops. You want to howl at the moon. Tell me child. What do you want?”

“I want that fucker’s head!” Ava’s composure broke and she pointed at Gerry.

“Ha Ha,” Death clapped and looked pleased with herself. “Finally some honesty.”

Death turned around to regard Gerry, and Gerry’s eyes watched as Ava tried to make a move against her, but Gabriel held her back. His grimace showed just how hard that was for him, which meant he was weak.

“I’m inclined to give you the opportunity.” Death decided a few seconds later.

“What?” Ava looked surprised.

“What!?” Gerry was sure he was more surprised.

“Of course, we need to level the playing field.” Death whipped back around and was smiling again. “I can feel you gathering your forsaken æther. That was smart to avoid detection with Gabriel as weak as he is. You might have even made it if I hadn’t been looking for something to play with.” Ava’s triumphant expression dropped as Death continued to speak. “With your power level poor Gerry is no match for you, and I abhor an unfair fight. We need to even the odds.” Death’s face was particularly terrifying as she turned her attention to Gabriel. “What do you say, Gabe? The old ways were always the best. I think a little ritual sacrifice is in order.”

Gerry saw Gabriel gulp. <Who are we going to sacrifice?>

“Should we get on with it?” Death rubbed her hands together with anticipation.

“Auntie, please.” Gabriel didn’t sound like a mighty archangel as he begged.

“Stiff upper chin, Gabriel.” Death chided. “Show some backbone in front of the younglings.”

“I…”Gabriel didn’t have a chance to respond. Before anyone could react, Death was in front of him and had punched her hand through his chest.

The crunch of bone and sucking sound of blood and slippery muscle was something Gerry would never forget.

“No!” Ava screamed out, but Death flickered her wrist and Ava went careening sideways. A sonic boom announced she’d broken the speed of sound before she impacted the nearest building. The whole structure shuddered and looked on the brink of collapse, but froze with another hand gesture from Death.

Her attention wasn’t even on the attack or the building. It was completely focused on Gabriel. The archangel’s face was deathly pale and he was struggling to draw breath. Death was chanting something under her breath. The words sounded deep and bottomless, like they weren’t being spoken by a simple woman at a Manhattan intersection.

“A…a…auntie,” Gabriel gasped.

“Shhhhh,” the sound was surprisingly motherly as Death used her free hand to comb his hair to the side. “It’s almost over.”

Gerry felt whenever “it” was over. There was a monumental shift. Serious vertigo hit him and sent him tumbling onto his ass. When he looked up, or at least what he thought was up, Death was standing over him cupping something between her hands.

“Come here, Gerry dearest,” she cooed and something unseen grabbed Gerry and hoisted him into the air. “You have a part to play in this game, and I’m going to give you the power to be more than a pawn.”

Then, slowly, like she was making a point, Death took the shifting mass of energy in her hand and punched it into Gerry’s chest.

Gerry screamed out, but he had no voice. Everything in him was burning. A raging inferno was devouring him from the inside out. Death had put a cancer in him, and the disease wasn’t waiting around. It ate through him with ruthless efficiency.

 

***

 

Death dropped Gerry to the ground, and watched him writhe in pain. His eyes were rolled into the back of his head and he was foaming at the mouth. She was mildly impressed that he hadn’t passed out or died yet, which was a good sign. The longer he was conscious the shorter the process.

She stood back and looked within him at the gift she’d bestowed. <Mmmm not quite right.> Like a hacker manipulating computer code, Death delved into Gerry’s programming and started to make changes. Changes that would make the game that much more enjoyable.

She felt the building’s foundations begin to shift as the lesser angel regained her senses. She was still weak. She’d given her all when she tried to kill Gerry, but she’d neglected herself in the process. She had only a slim bit of power when Death gently swatter her away. It was enough to shatter her body, and delay her return enough so Death could focus on the task at hand.

<Nearly there…Last chance.> She smiled and looked around. <Nothing…fine.> She did the equivalent of his the save button and Gerry went still.

There was utter silence before a thunderclap shook the city. “About time.” Death threw her hands in the air. “For the love of You. You’d think I’d have to burn down your little sandbox before you came out to play, Brother.”

Death turned around and smiled at God.

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PCS to Eden – Crossroads Part 2

Panic.

It was not something Ava was used to feeling, but no matter where she turned she felt eyes on her. As a human, there was nothing else she could do but keep her head down and keep moving.

<How to humans live like this?> She hadn’t understood it before, but now she got a glimpse of why humans didn’t trust one another. She couldn’t get a glimpse of what someone was going to do before they did it. She couldn’t determine intentions by small alterations in body language, and worst of all, she knew she couldn’t defend herself if push came to shove. Technically she could, but there was no guarantee she would win.

All the fear, mistrust of others, and vengefulness humans were capable of made a little more sense now. She still didn’t agree with it. Dialogue would fix a lot of those problems instead of just guesswork, but she had a better idea where they were coming from.

<It might be good for angels to walk a mile in a human’s shoes when this is all over.> As their protectors, it was probably a good idea if they understood human nature better.

Ava arrived at an intersection and hugged the brick wall of a still-intact building. She’d been steadily making her way to the river with Gabriel, but it was slow going. Even at night, New York City was still the city that never slept.

She poked her head out around the corner and looked both ways. With all the building and street lights out, she could only see as far as the light from the fires let her. It wasn’t far, but she didn’t see much. Still, she didn’t rush out right away. She sat there for several minutes and strained her human senses to their maximum.

“Ok, I think we’re clear.” She grabbed Gabriel by the arm and started to drag him across the street. They were three quarters of the way across when a clang echoed from close by.

The sound soon revealed itself as a beer can being kicked down the street. Of course, only the best kicker in the NFL could kick the can as far as the woman walking down the street and laughing, and she only gave it a half-hearted punt. Ava couldn’t help but watch the can arc through the air as she hurried up her pace and dived behind a parked car. The car’s hood had caved in from falling debris, and what used to be fire-engine red was now dull gray, but it successfully hid them from the approaching Amazons. Or so she thought.

“Come out, sister. We won’t harm you.” There was a slight slur to the Amazon’s words.

<Great. They’re a little tipsy. You don’t let drunk humans drive tanks, so why would Hippolyta let her people drink. There could be a Divine counterattack any second.> Ava set tactics aside and tried to become one with the car.

“We know you’re there, sister. We can smell you. Don’t be afraid. We’re here to liberate you from the patriarchal rule of man.” There was a giggle identifying a second Amazon.

Ava looked at Gabriel. The archangel put his hand flat and wobbled it back and forth to show he wasn’t sure they could take them, and even if they did, an alert would get out. Ava was human and Gabriel was severely weakened. Ava was probably more of a liability than anything, but she was the person the Amazons had identified. She tried to convey her plans with her eyes and hand-and-arm signals. She planned to distract the two drunk warriors and pull their attention away. Gabriel would ambush them and try to disable whoever was the stronger of the two. Once they were out of the way it would be two against one and they’d have a better chance. If they won that fight, then they’d run like hell for the river and hope they made it.

Ava held up her fingers and counted down, <three…two…one…> She stepped out from behind the car and didn’t have to work hard to look afraid.

She opened her mouth to reply to the Amazons, but the ground rumbled beneath her and threw her onto her knees. An ear-splitting roar raced through the city, extinguishing fires, and drawing all eyes toward Central Park. The Amazons, who’d been pleasantly tipsy moments before, snapped back to full readiness. They ignored Ava’s weak human form and sprinted back the way they’d came.

“Huh,” Gabriel hauled himself to his feet once the Amazons turned the corner and were out of sight. “That was lucky.”

Ava agreed, but only in terms of their survival. The Amazons might have left them alone, but that was only because they had bigger fish to fry, and anything bigger than capturing an archangel wasn’t going to be good for the Divine Host’s plans to retake the city.

“Should we check it out?” Gabriel deferred to her judgement because this was her mission.

Ava consulted her mental map of the city. They’d gone three blocks to their destination judging by the location of the Chrysler Tower to their left. The roar they heard could have only come from one think, the leviathan in Central Park. The park was twenty-plus blocks away, and they’d have to get through an army of Amazons to even get close. As much as Ava wanted to gather intel there was no way it would end with them getting out of there alive.

“No, we need to get out of here. Whatever is going on is the perfect distraction, so let’s move.” She propped the archangel up using her shoulder and set off toward the river hoping she’d made the right decision.

 

***

 

Gerry had never been to the new New York City. He’d participated in what was eventually called the New York and New Jersey Campaign of the Revolutionary War. That was where he’d died, but back then NYC had been a town of twenty-five thousand people not over eight million. The sea of concrete, glass, brick, and asphalt was a little overwhelming. He’d been extremely impressed by Charlotte when Lord Seere first had him take over Infernal operations in the city, but New York was another beast entirely.

“I know, right.” Death looked around her and breathed in the scents of destruction. “People call me evil, but look at this. How many things did humans have to kill to build this city? Don’t get me wrong, it’s magnificent, but they’re a pretty hypocritical group, and my brother isn’t helping. Did you know he’s been telling his representatives on Earth for centuries to pass along the message that dogs don’t go to heaven. What kind of shit is that?” Death threw up her hands in frustration. “You’re going to call me evil, but big, benevolent God is going to give Skippy the boot at the pearly gates. Now that is fucked up.” Death continued to ramble as Gerry looked around.

It quickly became obvious they were standing in a depression, a big one. He had to crane his neck to even see the top of it. He’d seen pictures of the leviathan causing destruction and mayhem on television, but he wasn’t prepared for just how big the thing was up close. If the giant footprint was any indication, he wasn’t even sure Death could handle the massive beast.

“Size isn’t everything, darling,” Death had added an aristocratic drawl to her voice for some reason, and he was totally unprepared for her to grab his ass. She laughed when he jumped. “You’re so innocent. This is going to be fun.”

Death’s feet left the ground as she levitated out of the footprint, and Gerry jumped up to follow. The æther felt different here, so he conserved his strength and jogged along as Death hovered over the ground. Together, they quickly crossed Central Park toward a small mountain.

<Wait…what…?> Gerry didn’t remember a mountain in Central Park. Then the mountain moved.

A vividly-golden eye twice as large as Gerry was tall opened as Death approached. The mountain, a.k.a. the leviathan, shuddered as its enormous body began to move.  It had been curled up like a dog and asleep, but it sensed something in Death that made it warry. Soil and a lot of debris fell from the creature’s hide as it unfolded itself until all five hundred feet of its glory was on display. Its tail lashed back and forth with agitation; swatting aside hundred-year-old trees and anything else that got in its way. As Death approached, it let out a challenging roar that shook the bedrock of the city. Its eyes never left Death as she casually floated toward the great beast’s head. Her own eyes were locked on the leviathans in an intense stare down of willpower. After several minutes, the leviathan looked away. The alpha had been identified.

“You’re a good girl aren’t you,” Death approached and ran her hand across the leviathan’s head. A ripple passed down the entire length of the creature’s back, like Death’s hand was actually much larger than it appeared to be. Gerry could see the intelligence in the creature’s eyes, the acceptance of its new position in the hierarchy, and even satisfaction as Death’s hand continued to stroke her head.

“Girl?” Gerry asked. He was keeping a safe distance.

“Of course she’s a girl. She’s such a pretty girl,” Death was using baby talk, but the leviathan didn’t seem to mind. “All we need is a boy and we can make some babies. That would be fun, wouldn’t it?”

Gerry imagined dozens of the five-hundred foot creatures wandering around the world and didn’t one hundred percent agree with Death. If she heard his thought, she didn’t care. Her eyes swung around to a side street leading to the park where dozens of armored women had gathered.

“We’re about to have company. Just stand there and look pretty.” Death commanded, and suddenly Gerry was several hundred feet closer to the leviathan without any idea how he’d gotten there.

The mighty creature looked down at him and sniffed. Whatever the test, he seemed to pass, because she turned her attention to the approaching army. At the head of it was a beautiful woman in a regal crown. That beauty was marred by the expression on her face, which turned downright hateful when she caught sight of Gerry. She barked some orders, pointed at Gerry, but when she turned around Death was inches from her face. The woman nearly fell over as she toppled backward.

“Don’t fret, Hippolyta. You’ll get wrinkles.” Death waved dismissively to the amazon Queen.

The anger on the queen’s face was snuffed out like a candle in a hurricane. “You!” There was only fear in her voice now.

“Me.” Death smiled a smile that was fitting on someone christened as death. “Boo!” The Amazon’s jumped and she laughed.

“What do you want, Eris?”

“Mmmm the old names,” Death smiled and looked behind Hippolyta. “Looks like you’ve been busy. Been doing a lot of man eating have we?” She sniffed the air and the women gathered behind Hippolyta flinched.

None seemed to have met Death before, but the name Eris seemed to stir some primal fear in them.

“We thought you were dead and gone along with our father?” Hippolyta had regained some of her regal demeanor, but she was still cautious.

“No. I’ve been around tinkering here and there. Found some people on a beach,” she gestured at Gerry, “nursed them back to health, saved their lives, and imparted the secrets of the universe. You know, all that jazz.”

Several dozen women, with very hungry looks on their faces, looked at Gerry like he was a tasty morsel ready to eat. Death had imparted no such secrets to him, she was just screwing with everyone.

“I will have to ask you all to not touch my little treat. The punishment for doing so is…unpleasant.” Death did the equivalent of peeing all over Gerry to mark her territory. Despite that, Gerry didn’t feel very safe.

He had to juggle a primordial, a leviathan, and now dozens of Amazons. What else could happen?

As if on cue, Death’s head snapped around and look to the south east. Her smile stretched across her entire face. Gerry had never seen her smile so wide, and wasn’t sure he wanted to know what was causing her reaction.

“I’ll be right back,” Death gave the leviathan a final pat and grabbed Gerry’s hand. “Hold down the fort, Hippolyta. Shit is about to get really interesting.” With a smile bordering on deranged, Death and Gerry vanished to reappear some twenty blocks away.

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PCS to Eden – Crossroads Part 1

<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.

Previous                                  PCS to Eden – Crossroads Part 2

PCS to Eden – Escape from New York

“We can’t keep going like this,” Bart heaved.

It wasn’t every day that you saw a Dominion struggle to draw breath, but today was that day for Ava and her small team. The fact that she wholeheartedly agreed with Bart’s assessment didn’t make her feel any better about their situation. Worst of all, their situation proved just how thoroughly the Amazons had planned for this day.

The three angels were being weight down…literally…by binding wards. Normally, these common wards would have less effect than a wet fart on an angel. There primary use was against humans and lesser creatures, but the Amazons had devised an ingenious use of them, and it would pose a problem when the Divine Host sought to retake Manhattan.

What Hippolyta and her people had done was layer binding ward after binding word in an ever increasing trap as it approached their headquarters and center of their power. Binding wards could be tailored to bind specific things: people, emotions, animals, even children. More than a few sorcerers had kept their budding teenage children bound to a home for a week when they were grounded. Ava and her team’s problem was that these wards were set to bind æther. It couldn’t collect the DNA of the universe, but it could cling to it.

At the moment, Ava had two thousand seven hundred and thirty one binding wards pulling at the fabric of her being and trying to pin her to the ground like a wrestler at Monday Night Smackdown. Since binding wards couldn’t be thrown down and powered overnight like that, Ava knew that Amazons had been carefully preparing for centuries. Manhattan was now a fortress.

Thankfully for this mission, Ava knew of an easy solution. “We need to do it.”

“Are you crazy?” Razael hissed as another binding ward snagged onto him and tried to pull him down. “That’s suicide.”

Ava was well aware of that, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. They needed to find an injured archangel that was trapped behind these binding wards, and that didn’t even count the other wards she’d seen. Luckily, binding wards couldn’t gather information. They were ‘dumb’ wards. They only conducted their primary mission. Surveillance wards were smarter than that, and she’d seen a few. These wards measured whatever their creator wanted them to measure: sex, age, color, race, height, weight, species, and that only scratched the surface. It made the latest facial recognition software look like crap, and best yet, the data was easily gathered and reachable for the Amazons. Since they were skilled ætherial craftswomen, Ava bet there was a central mainframe somewhere that was collecting and analyzing all this data. Ava and her increasingly winded companions were drawing too much attention.

“We don’t have a choice.” Or at leave Ava didn’t, so she did what she had to.

The easiest way to avoid a binding ward aimed at æther was to shed the æther. As a creature of æther, she couldn’t completely get rid of it, but she could make it so the binding wards, made to counter angels, wouldn’t detect her.

Aether started to leave Ava and return to Heaven. Even her Hand of God powered down until it resembled nothing more than a natural prosthetic. With that æther went most of her abilities as a Power. She was still stronger and faster than a human, but she was no match for an Amazon.

Once she completed the process she straightened, the tremendous pulling sensation was gone, and surveyed the area. She looked at Bart and Razael, and both of them looked back at her before shaking their head. She didn’t blame them. What she was doing amounted to allowing yourself to be killed. If she was slain by an Amazon, with the wards that were in place, she doubted she’d be able to reconstitute herself in heaven. That meant permanent death. On top of that, things weren’t looking good for the remaining men of NYC. Since Bart and Razael would effectively become human males, shedding their æther added a whole other level of proposed misfortune.

“Fall back to the rendezvous point. I’ll come with Gabriel once I find him. We might have to execute a fighting retreat, so I want you ready to go if we come in hot. Understood?” Both men nodded and, with barely hidden pain, made a one-eighty and headed back the way they’d come.

That left Ava all alone to find Gabriel. Thankfully, God, by way of Michael, had told her where to look. Binding wards might be able to trap æther, but nothing could stop prayers from reaching God’s ears.

 

***

Gabriel slipped in between the columns of books and breathed a small sigh of relief. The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman building had avoided the destruction the leviathan had wrecked while making its way through Midtown. That was good because it was the establish rendezvous point for Gabriel is things went wrong. Things had gone spectacularly wrong.

This was the flagship branch of the public library and the architecture showed it. It was designed in the Beaux-Arts style and had symbolized the free and open access the knowledge for over a century. Over 530,000 cubic feet of marble had been used to construct the three floor building holding hundreds of thousands of books, art, photography, music and movies. Despite the decline of library systems with the advent of eBooks and commerce, this building had kept going strong. Now, it was virtually empty, the power was cut, and only a handful of dedicated employees were still present to protect the rare book collections that they believed were more valuable than their lives.

With his gifts, Gabriel easily avoided them as he slid between the stacks and found a quiet corner to wait. Michael was going to come he hoped. He’d seen the blow the beast delivered to his brother, and he didn’t envy the bruise that was going to leave in the morning, but he knew the leader of the Divine Host wouldn’t let this stand. He would come down on the Amazons with the full might of the Host. The only question was when, and if Gabriel would be in any shape to assist them.

Secure in the fact that he was in an isolated location a decent distance away from the leviathan and the Amazon’s HQ, the archangel gradually let his needs take over. With the æther shifting away from the Divine his body needed more natural processes to remedy his situation. So, after thirty minutes of semi-vigilant watching, Gabriel fell asleep.

He didn’t feel like he was asleep for more than five minutes when a loud CLANG snapped him back to consciousness. He checked an old clock nearby, not powered by electricity, and saw two hours had passed.

“Everyone up!” A powerful female voice seemed to come from everywhere at once. Gabriel felt that æther probing the building for occupants, and tried his best the shield himself from its reach.

He must have been successful because the search party of Amazon’s didn’t run straight to his location. Instead, they focused on the humans.

“You three…let’s go!”  A second voice ordered, and there was a scream.

Gabriel’s sense of duty demanded that he take action, but his rational mind told him not to be foolish. If he let them know his position now, then more would converge, capture, and maybe even kill him. Death was not something the archangel had feared in a long time, and its sudden presence was sobering. Despite logic, he felt deep shame when he thought about leaving those people to the Amazons. He couldn’t live with himself if he did nothing, so he slowly crept from his hiding place to get a better read of the situation.

His gift of spatial awareness worked to his advantage. He saw the angles and worked them toward his goal. As he crept through the dark library, he always stayed out of the two Amazon’s vision, while gaining the maximum amount of information possible. Both were armed with swords and guns. They had the three humans: two men and a woman, on their knees by the exit from the original room Gabriel had been hiding in. The men were gagged and hogtied like animals while the woman sat nearby crying. The Amazon’s didn’t pay her any attention, but they actively looked at the men with hateful-lust in their eyes. The men looked appropriately terrified.

Gabriel looked at the fear on their faces and knew he couldn’t leave them to be used as breeders and then slaughtered by their amazon children. He threw logic to the wind and worked on a plan. If he was lucky he could save the men and not alert other Amazon’s to his presence. He worked through the possibilities, ran through multiple contingencies, and sent up a last prayer to his father for assistance. Then he waited.

The opportunity to do something presented itself as the Amazons started to leave with their prisoners. They walked them down between two rows of books. The concealment wasn’t as good as a wall, but Gabriel squatted down, and rushed forward to get ahead of them. His gift did its job, and he had a few seconds to spare as he waited where the stacks ended.

<This is reckless.> His mind warred with his heart again, but he quickly stomped on it. <They have swords and guns. No one has ever said it’s a bad idea to bring fists to a gunfight because no one is stupid enough to do that in the first place.> His mind screamed at him not to do something stupid, but he was already committed.

To make himself feel better, he grabbed a thick book from the opposite stack. <Time to see if the pen is mightier than the sword.> It wasn’t the correct analogy, but it was the best he could come up with.

As the lead Amazon exited the walkway between the two stacks, Gabriel sprung at her. He used his natural strength as he torqued his core around. He used that power to bring the book from his right hip at an upward angle to catch the Amazon in the chin.

With a sickening CRACK the amazon’s head snapped back as she was picked up off her feet and launched into a bookshelf. It folded backward into the next stack as blood, shattered wood, and books of all different dimensions filled the air around them. The humans screamed, which only added to the chaos.

Thankfully, the two Amazons weren’t high on the pecking order or Gabriel would have been in deep shit. Instead, the other Amazon fumbled for her gun, but in such tight quarters it was the wrong decision. With everything going on between her and Gabriel, the sword was the better option. Gabriel grabbed the humans and swept them aside as he launched himself toward the remaining Amazon. She was able to get the pistol out of the holster and halfway on target before Gabriel tackled her. She still had her finger on the trigger, and the force of the blow to her gut caused on involuntary squeeze. The round went harmlessly into the ceiling as Gabriel drove his head upward into her chin. There was another sickening CRACK, but it didn’t put the woman down for the count. It did stun her, which allowed Gabriel to get the better position and pummel her head. After a few well-placed blows she went limp.

Both Amazon’s weren’t dead. The æther in their bodies would repair the damage, but their lowly status meant it would be slow going. He had at least a few hours, but he couldn’t kill them. They might be foot soldiers, but they would be tied into the Amazon’s ætherial network, and their deaths would set off alarms. That was the last thing he needed.  Meanwhile, the three humans just stood there frightened and wide-eyed until he cut the men’s bindings.

“Don’t say a word. Get out of here.” He gestured to the door and they scrambled away without even saying thank you.

Gabriel gathered the two bodies and dragged them deeper into the library before returning to his hiding spot. Eventually, someone would come looking for the missing Amazons, and in the off chance someone heard the shot, and came to investigate, he wanted to be able to repeat the ambush.

He just hoped someone from his team showed up soon.

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