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 – Homecoming

Vicky leaned back and propped her feet on the table. She grabbed the remote in one hand, her beer in another, flipped on the TV, and took a long gulp. Every once in a while she shot a sidelong glance at the ætherial map of Charlotte dominating the majority of the table in the war room, but for the most part her attention was on the two store employees who were obviously infatuated with one another, but couldn’t come right out and say it. Hilarious hijinks ensued, and that was what the people of Charlotte really needed right now; a good laugh.

If Vicky had been a dude she would have a had a hand down her pants scratching her nuts, but she was a hundred-plus year old lady with decades of refinement. Instead, she let out a powerful belch, and continued to lean back until the chair was balanced on the rear two legs. Once she was stable, she went to one leg. As a Soulless, her balance was impeccable, but not even a vampire could be prepared for the sudden appearance of five people in front of her.

“Holy shit!” The chair tipped backward and Vicky hit the ground hard before rolling to her feet. “Who the hell are you?”

Gerry collapsed onto his knees and drew a ragged breath. The sensation of Death teleporting them was even worse than the first time Seere did it to him. He valiantly struggled to hold down the bile bubbling in his gut, and barley succeeded.

Next to him, Gaius’ eyes snapped open and he grunted as he tried to get to his feet. He had to grab a chair to steady himself, but being back in the presence of æther helped. Gerry immediately grasped for his demesne’s power supply and drank it in. The power flooded into him and everything popped back into focus.  It was like he’d been wearing blinders since starting his flight to Death’s island, and now he could see again.

Jezebel and Pete were the last to get up. Pete groaned but didn’t open his eyes, and Jezebel peaked them open just enough to see her surroundings. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you looked at it, the first thing she saw was Death.

“Hello beautiful,” she murmured as she pushed herself up onto her elbows.

Death cocked an eyebrow and smiled down at the Infernal lieutenant. “Aren’t you a pretty thing. And you,” she pointed at Vicky, “you look like a little doll I just want to take home and play with.”

Death’s power was washing over Vicky now, and the Soulless was rooted to the floor, so she didn’t even move when Death came over and pinched her cheeks. “So precious.”

Vicky just ended up giggling like a schoolgirl. Jezebel looked on with envy, which caught Death’s attention. “Maybe later,” her own smile held promises that made the lust-filled Infernal blush. “But I want to see what’s new before I jump straight into the sack.”

“How long have we been gone? Has anything changed?” Gerry was recharged and regrouped, so he wanted answers.

“It’s only been a few days,” Vicky replied. “The military is stepping up patrols in order to find who shot the stinger at their choppers, but they haven’t found shit.” She was talking to Gerry, but couldn’t take her eyes off Death. “The situation in New York is pretty much the same. There’s more fighting in Europe and Asia, so the cat’s out of the bag on the whole secret supernatural society lurking just beneath the surface of the humans.” She shrugged. “As you can imagine the Vatican is a pretty popular place right now. They’re basically screaming ‘I told you so’ from the rooftops and pointing at all the angels that are flying around. Of course, all of the Satanists are also closing ranks and bowing to their Infernal masters. Apparently, their headquarters is someplace in Wisconsin. I guess they thought the Devil would like some cheese when he came back to Earth.”

“I like cheese,” Death spoke up. She’d moved round the table, observing the room, and didn’t look interested in Gerry’s conversation up to that point. “Let’s go to Wisconsin.”

“You want to eat…cheese?” Gerry couldn’t keep the surprise out of his voice.

Death just rolled her eyes at him. “You’re so worked up about your little war that you’re forgetting to live, Gerry.” She made a tsk-tsk sound and shook her head. “There are few better things in life than a dairy product acidified by bacteria and brought about by the coagulation of milk protein.”

“Is she serious?” Vicky asked.

“Of course,” Death smiled. “Do you think the God invented cheese? He wouldn’t know fun if it hit him in the nards with a nine-iron, and Cronus was too busy making other things. He let me tinker here every once and while and I like to think some of my creations have made their mark on history.”

“Gerry, who is this chick? She’s claiming credit for inventing cheese.” Vicky squinted at Death, who wasn’t paying her any attention.

“Vicky, everyone, this is Death, the primordial that created Hell. Everyone, this is Death.”

There was utter silence for a moment before Vicky broke it. “Hey, Death. Nice to meet you.”

Death just flicked a hand dismissively as she studied a picture on the wall. Everyone else was bug-eyed and looking back and forth between Gerry and Death.

“So…cheese…” Gerry didn’t know what else to say.

“Yes!” Death clapped and skipped back over to Gerry.

“I’ll drive this time,” Gerry held up his hands defensively.

Death just smiled with a mischievous glint in her eye. “Good for you, Gerry. Take control, let loose, have a little fun.” She slipped her arm into Gerry’s and waved at everyone else. “We’ll be back.”

With that, Gerry and Death vanished. They left behind several very confused lieutenants who all turned to whose idea it had been in the first place to find the lost Primordial.

“What?” Pete asked. He was still recovering from his time on the island and the rough trip back. “I didn’t think we’d actually find her.” His statement didn’t stop the stairs.

“I’m out of here,” Jezebel rubbed her temples. “I’m going to fuck your grandson. Let me know when they get back.”

“TMI, but thanks for sharing,” Vicky pretended to vomit before leaving the room via the secret exit to the club she was running.

That just left Gaius and Pete. The general took several deep breaths before leaving without another word. Pete just sat where he was until he caught sight of the TV show playing in the background. He laughed and settled in to relax. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen, and there was nothing he could do about it.

 

***

 

“Wisest of the angels, whom your fate betrays, and, fairest of them all, deprives of praise. Satan have pity on my long despair. O prince of exiles, who have suffered wrong, yet, vanquished, rise from every fall more strong. Satan have pity on my long despair.”

The group praying was far larger than Gerry expected. There had to be five hundred people gathered in what once – ironically – was probably a church. Instead of Jesus crucified, there was a pentagram with a goat’s head at the center in the position of prominence. The man at the front was dressed in black robes and was yelling at the crowd with zealous faith burning in his eyes.

“Praise to you, Satan! In the heights you lit, and also in the deeps where you now sit, vanquished, in Hell, and dream in hushed defiance!”

“This guy is totally plagiarizing,” Death whispered from her spot next to Gerry. “This was written by a dude in the Fifties.”

Gerry could never forget the power that was near him, it was impossible to ignore a barely contained tsunami just waiting to envelop you, but when he turned to reply, he was surprised to see a bag of popcorn in her hand.

“Where did you…?” he began.

“Made a quick pit stop,” she shrugged as she grabbed a kernel and tossed it ten feet into the air. She effortlessly slid under it and caught it in her mouth on the descent. To Gerry, it reminded him of those videos of Great White Sharks jumping out of the ocean off the coast of South Africa to eat seals. He couldn’t suppress the shiver.

“Take it easy, Gerry,” Death made the situation worse by giving him a smack on the ass. “Remember, this is supposed to be fun.” She boldly strode forward and shot a smile back over her shoulder at him.

<Oh no!> Gerry gulped, but didn’t dare move.

“The prince of exiles has heard our prayers and returned to us!” The satanic priest began his homily, but stopped when Death hopped up onto the alter. ”Umm…sister, if you could.”

“Nah,” Death smiled, and the Satanist disintegrated into dust before everyone’s eyes.

It took a moment for everyone to react, but then the screaming started. It was quickly overpowered by a gust of wind that slammed the doors closed, and sickening hiss of metal being fused together.

While people screamed and beat on the doors, Death hopped up onto the alter and let her feet swing a foot off the ground while she whistled and watched the crowd in full panic mode. She flicked the goat’s skull off the alter, and it rocketed into the wall at just under the speed of sound. She smiled at the explosion of bone and drywall before she popped more popcorn in her mouth.

Everyone sit your asses down.” She commanded after a minute. She didn’t yell, but her command voice could not be denied by anyone, not even Gerry. Everyone quietly took their seats, and waited for her to speak.

“I’m here to drop a truth bomb on all of you, so listen up.” She punctuated her statement with mouthfuls of popcorn. “First, God is a parasitic little bastard who wants to take the fun out of everything and then use you as his own Triple-A batteries. You guys don’t seem to like him too much though, so that’s cool by me. Second, praying to Satan is hilarious. He’s basically God’s spoiled firstborn who threw a tantrum when he didn’t get what he wanted for Christmas. The guy cannot take constructive criticism, and you praying for him to intervene on your behalf is pointless because he only cares about himself.” She studied the gathered people around her. “Lastly, and I know you all know this deep down, but the only person you can trust is yourself, so stop gathering to ask someone else for help and get your shit together. If you need money, go get some. If you want some ass, go get some. If you’ve been wronged and want payback, go get some. Believe in yourselves, little humans, and your lives will be much less pointless.” She smiled at the last bit, and everyone in the church instinctively smiled back.

“Well, that’s it for me. This has been fun. Does anyone know where to get the best cheese in this place?”

It was a second before someone spoke up with the name of a farm not too far from the church.

“Cool,” she hopped off the alter, walked back to Gerry, and put her arm back in his. A second later they vanished and left a lot of confused people behind.

Slowly, Death’s words sank in. A man turned to a woman, not his wife, grabbed her ass and stuck his tongue down her throat. She replied in kind and started to undo his pants. The wife, who was standing right next to the man, screamed bloody murder, pulled a small pistol out of her purse, and shot her cheating husband in the back of the head. She was targeting the woman who’d been about to give her husband a hand job, but the woman’s hand slapped the gun away. She jumped on the wife, and they both started to claw each other’s eyes out. That was only one of the incidents to occur in the hall that quickly descended into madness.

Previous                               Next

PCS to Eden – Be Careful What You Wish For

Something important itched. That was never a good way to wake up; Human, Divine, or Infernal. For humans, it usually meant something sexually transmitted was wreaking havoc in their body. As bad as that was for mortals, it was even worse for ætherial species. They were built not to be concerned with tiny mortal problems. Their body would automatically heal, reduce, or eliminate the cause for the itch. That was why Gerry’s eyes shot open and his hand reached for the back of his head.

<Is this straw?> He was utterly confused as his hand brushed the layer of the material between his head and ground. That was the cause of the itching, but it didn’t explain why…<I’m NAKED!> The reason for other important aspects of his anatomy to be itching became crystal clear.

That was when he heard the cackle. His instincts took over and he rolled backward into a crouch. He was feeling much better than when he’d crashed landed on the beach, but he was far from healed. His eyes scanned the space looking for a weapon or any other advantage he could acquire against his new foe, but found nothing.

He wasn’t even in a building, not even a mud hut like he’d been forced to live in when he first joined Seere’s legion. He was in a small clearing. The dying trees circled outward from the small dirt area, which had a thin layer of straw on it. If that was supposed to be for comfort it completely failed. The only other thing present was the hooded figure that had dragged him from the beach. It had its back turned to him and was bent over a fire. Gerry would have thought the thing was cooking food except the fire was a dark black and seemed to be sucking the life out of everything around it.

As the hooded figure turned toward Gerry all he could think of was the Carver. The natural-born hell creature that had created the Dux body for Gerry’s soul had been similar to this figure in the mystery it exuded. He still couldn’t see its face, but it had to have lungs and a mouth if it was laughing at him, which eliminated one of Beelzebub’s patchwork abominations.

Gerry didn’t move. He crouched there tense and ready to react, but he’d let the other creature make the first move. If it was hostile, Gerry felt confident he could avoid an attack. If it was friendly, he didn’t want to piss it off and make it hostile.

They engaged in a staring contest for what felt like an hour before the thing finally spoke again. “Interesting.”

The voice was sultry and sweet. He could smell honey and lavender in the air as its words reached him, and it immediately gave him a raging hard on. He would have been more ashamed if he hadn’t been immediately enthralled by it. <Her…definitely a her.>

She noticed his erection and tilted her head to the side. “Interesting,” she repeated.

This time there wasn’t a sweet smell in the air. It smelled like rot and decay. Gerry gagged on the rancid smell and nearly puked. Needless to say, it caused immediate limpness.

“Reactions to stimuli are very mortal, and yet you don’t smell mortal.” She leaned forward and her body kept going and going until she was nearly nose to nose to Gerry.

Gerry would have reacted, but this time the sound of her voice filled him with terror…and not normal terror. Gerry had been in battle, he’d felt the fear of combat and harnessed it to survive. He’d even felt unparalleled fear as he died from impalement by a flaming sword. In returning to Eden, he’d conquered death to a point where he didn’t fear more than was rational for survival. What this woman was doing was exponentially worse. The terror froze him. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe, the only thing he could do was shit himself as she hovered inches from his face. Despite the closeness, there was still nothing but darkness beneath her hood.

Who are you?” Her words demanded an answer, and he didn’t have the will to resist it.

“My name is Gerald Fuller. I was born in 1752 in the American Colonies of the British Empire. I died in 1776 during the American Revolution. I was sent to Hell and served in Prince Seere’s legions until he promoted me to Dux. I returned to Eden and became the Dux of Charlotte. I fought to implement my Lord’s will until a battle between him, Lucifer, Satan, and the Archangels Michael and Uriel. During the course of the battle my Lord and I were killed. I was resurrected and fought to regain control of Charlotte. The other Infernal Lords are pushing hard into Eden while the Veil between the realms is collapsing. I helped the Veil collapse by capturing a Nephalim and assisting in a ritual sacrifice to break the Seal set by God. I don’t know if that’s important, but I’ll tell you anything you want to know.” The words came rushing out of Gerry. He couldn’t stop himself, but more importantly, he didn’t want to.

“Where is Cronus? You came here with one of his children. I doubt he would appreciate everyone mucking around in his backyard.” Her body retracted until it returned to normal-human proportions.

“Cronus was killed by God in the War for Eden. Then some of God’s angels rebelled when he started treating the humans better than his own children; or at least that’s the impression I got from one of his children.”

The creature was silent for a moment, and Gerry thought he’d somehow offended her. His body instinctually began to curl into the fetal position when her cackling laughter shook the dying forest.

“God killed Cronus. That is something.” A hand emerged from beneath her robe and disappeared into the shadow of its hood.

The hand had flawlessly-pale skin without a single hair out of place. It wasn’t often that you saw perfection, and Gerry didn’t need to study it to realize what he was seeing. The hand reappeared from the hood and disappeared back into her robe.

“I never thought that goody-to-shoes would have it in him to take down his own brother like that. God’s grown a pair of balls over the eons.”

Gerry didn’t know what to say to that, so he wisely remained silent.

“So that brings us back to you. You’re a surprising enigma: a dash of human, a pinch of Infernal, and a dose of Divine. Something tells me that you’re unique, and I like things that are one of a kind.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Gerry felt he should acknowledge the compliment for the sake of his physical well-being.

The creature stood there watching Gerry for what felt like another lifetime before lifting both hands and removing her hood. “I like you Gerry. I think I’ll keep you around.”

Gerry gasped as the woman’s face appeared. Just like her hand, it was perfection. It was flawlessly proportioned with luscious lips, eyes so blue they bordered on white, and defined cheekbones meant for kings and queens. As she pulled her hood all the way back, hair whiter than the purest snow flowed out down to her waist. This woman was meant to be sitting on a throne somewhere, commanding legions of devoted followers to do her bidding. She was not meant to be sitting in a clearing that was slowly filling with the scent of Gerry’s fresh shit.

As if she knew what he was thinking, she waved her hand and the steaming, brown heap vanished like it had never existed. Then she smiled. The smile melted any remaining trepidation or resistance Gerry might be harboring. It created laugh and smiled lines on her exquisite face that looked like they belonged. This woman wasn’t some immortal, porcelain doll like Vicky; or an exotic temptress like Jezebel, this woman was the real deal and all that it entailed.

“Who are you?” Gerry instinctively moved his wrist up to wipe the drool that was accumulating at the corner of his mouth.

The woman laughed and it felt like the weight of the world lifted off his shoulders. Everything she did elicited an extreme emotional reaction from him, and Gerry guessed anyone else who came in contact with her.

“That is the million dollar question,” she smiled and waved for him to join her over by the strange fire. “Mortals don’t really have a name for me. I’m more of a concept. Even my closest relatives never named me. I’ve just always been there, present and behind the scenes. God alludes to me in some of his writings, but he’s always painted me as the bogey man. My little brother is a bit of a drama queen like that.

<Little brother…> Gerry was already breathless in this woman’s presence, but he felt everything slow down around him with that revelation.

“Personally, I like Johnny Cash’s description of me,” she smiled again, and when she spoke, her voice had dropped several octaves and taken on the recognizable rasp of the famous singer. “And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts, and I looked and behold: a pale horse. And his name, that sat on him, was Death. And Hell followed with him.” She sighed when Gerry didn’t say anything for several minutes. “The song is close, I don’t really have a gender like mortals, but I prefer this body, I’ve had it for eons, and I’m unwilling to change, so I guess if Johnny said her name was death then he’d hit the nail on the head.”

“Death?” Gerry didn’t know what else to say.

“Yeah,” she sighed. “It’s really God’s influence on everyone else that assigned me the moniker, but I guess it’s accurate. I took the first life while my siblings and I were gestating in the universal womb after creation.” She frowned at the look Gerry was giving her. “Hey! If you’d been surrounded by the thoughts of my other little brother you would have killed him too. If you think God’s a pompous prick then my other brother was an uber douche.”

“Uber douche?”

“I know…” the smile was back on her face. “I love the way people talk now, it’s so creative.” She stuck her hand into the black flames and stroked it.

The stroke looked intimate, like she was tending to a lover, and it instantly made Gerry jealous. “Mmmmm,” she licked her lips and smiled at Gerry again. He quickly schooled his expression and banished the jealously to the back of his mind. “No, don’t do that,” she reached out and grabbed his hand. To Gerry, it felt like he’d been struck by lightning. “Don’t be ashamed. Feel jealous. Let the emotion flow through you. It’s natural and pure. You have a right to feel any way you like. Don’t let my pretentious brother’s influence get to you.”

Gerry was more confused than jealous now, which elicited another sigh from Death. She released his hands and looked at him with disappointment. Gerry would do anything to put a smile on her face.

“See…this is the problem with everything now.” She gestured out toward the nearby sea and beyond. “My brother has his grips into everyone’s minds. He tells them what is right, what is wrong, and what they need to do to be eternally happy. The problem is, God’s got a stick so far up his ass I doubt he’s been happy a century of his entire existence. People don’t need to live by a code, or police themselves. People are happy when they do whatever they want. If you want to fight….fight. If you want to screw…screw. I don’t care, in fact, I encourage it. It’s your lives. You’re only around for a snap of the finger, so do what you want and be happy,” she sighed again. That’s why I built Hell. It was supposed to be a place where people could come and do what they wanted. I was the first to form a realm, and I’m the oldest, so the duty fell to me. Sure, I made some mistakes, but it wasn’t half bad.”

Gerry thought back to what he knew of Hell and tried to match it with what he’d experienced. He didn’t quite see the connection, and she saw the doubt on his face.

“The three realms didn’t used to be so segregated like this. God built his Heaven and populated it with angels to achieve Divine purpose. Cronus created Eden more to be a follower than anything. He experimented more than God or I. He made different races that he believed embodied a different part of himself, but he was open to new things. He even let me come up every once and a while to do some tinkering.” She saw the look on Gerry’s face and grinned. “Sure, my brother was scared shitless of me, but I didn’t bear him any ill will. I actually liked what he was doing. He made his people and let them do what they wanted.” She smiled at the memory. “It was like that for a long time. I made a few of my own creations over time, some better than others.” Gerry got the feeling she was talking about Beelzebub, but that could be his own preconceptions talking.

“Eventually I got bored. If I have a flaw it’s that I get restless, so I stepped away from Hell, made my little island, and set about on a project of my own.”

“So this is a whole other realm?” Gerry couldn’t resist asking the question. “I felt like I flew forever to get here.”

“No, we’re still in Hell,” Death corrected. “In fact, we’re only about a mile offshore from Seere’s former Kingdom.”

“No! That’s impossible.” Gerry stood up as anger flooded through him. “I nearly died flying here. A mile wouldn’t have almost killed me.”

“Yeah, get worked up.” Excitement flashed through her pale-blue eyes. “Let the anger take hold of you. Go punch a tree if you need to, but embrace it and feel alive.”

Gerry didn’t go punch a tree because confusion replaced his anger. Death felt it and sighed again. “But we are only a mile out. I just had you fly in a loop until you got tired. I kind of like my privacy out here and you aren’t the first to come searching for me…but you are the most interesting.” She smiled, and excitement seized Gerry, but it quickly ebbed.

“You’re friends are going to be fine.” She read his mind and waved a hand dismissively. “It’s no fun to snuff out people like that. They’ll take a while to recover though, so until then, you’re my guest. I expect you have some sort of sales pitch for me.”

“Why will it take them so long to recover?” Gerry asked, wondering for the hundredth time how he could be so weak. The æther should have replenished his strength by now.

“Ahhh,” she waved a finger and grinned. “That’s another million dollar question, and the answer if my friend here.” She pointed at the black flames.

Gerry just raised an eyebrow.

“Try to draw power. Try to use æther. Try to do anything,” she challenged.

Gerry was determined to meet the challenge, but no matter how hard he tried he got nothing. “I can’t.”

“Of course not.” Death smiled and caressed the flames again. “It won’t let you.”

Gerry was glad it wasn’t a he, but he still didn’t understand.

“Think of it as an anti-æther. I don’t have a PR firm to run promo testing on a more interesting name, but it cuts to the chase. This whole island is under its influence. This is an æther-free zone. Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars.” She smiled again.

“Then how are you…?”

“I’m a primordial being who’s been around since the beginning of the universe. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. Plus, it’s my creation. It takes my advice seriously. What child doesn’t love their momma.”

Gerry guessed Beelzebub didn’t love anything but himself, but he decided not to bring it up.

“So, that sales pitch,” she waved her hand for him to proceed. “You want me to regain control of Hell. To take the fight to God, blah…blah…blah.” She waved her hands around.

“Hells a mess,” Gerry shrugged. “Satan is on a rampage to get to Heaven. I’m sure Lucifer is up to something. He always is. Cronus’ remaining children are rallying. The Amazons took New York, and a leviathan has made a nest of Central Park. God’s going to step in and put his foot down according to Prometheus, and all of Hell’s legions are going to get slaughtered and gain nothing.”

“So?” Death shrugged, but she was watching him closely.

“So…SO! So you said it yourself, God’s a pompous ass. Do you really want him exerting more influence? If we lose, and he pushes us back even farther, what’s to stop the Divine Host from coming down here to Hell?”

“I don’t care. There are very few things I still care for in this realm, and they are protected.”

“What about this island?” Gerry countered. “What about your anti-æther? If God comes here I’m sure he’ll find it.”

“He comes at his own peril.” It was the first time Death said something vaguely threatening, and Gerry would have soiled himself if he had anything left in his intestines.

“Ok,” Gerry recovered and looked at it from a different angle. “For the first time a force other than God’s is making headway. You might not see eye to eye with Satan’s grand plan, but something tells me you could deal with him no problem.” The statement brought a smile to her face and she motioned for him to continue. “So don’t come and fight for Hell. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want. Take a vacation to Eden. It sounds like you’ve been cramped up on this island for too long. I think it’s time to have a little fun.”

“And that’s the magic word.” She clapped and sprung to her feet.

“What? Please?”

“No you idiot. Fun…fun is the magic word. I’m not going to do whatever God, Satan, or you want me to do. I have always, and will always, do what makes me happy. Right now, a vacation to see the chaos sounds fun.” With a wave of her hand the dark flames rushed out of the little fire pit and straight toward her eyes.”

Gerry yelled out, but Death didn’t even flinch as her anti-æther fire was absorbed into her. Gerry didn’t even know that was possible, but he wasn’t going to ask and push his luck. He’d found the primordial that created Hell. She was probably more powerful than he thought. She also had a MILF thing going on that he just couldn’t get over, and best of all, she had an open mind as long as things fell into her definition of “fun”.

“Well, I don’t have all day.” Death raised her hand, snapped her fingers and they vanished. Even on the beach, the bodies of Pete, Gaius, and Jezebel were there one moment and gone the next. All that was left was the sound of the ocean breeze cutting through the dying forest which slowly began to disintegrate into dust.

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PCS to Eden – Down the Rabbit Hole

If a human had been traveling as long as Gerry had they’d say they’d been doing it forever. The Infernals, Divine, Remnants, and whatever Gerry was had a very different interpretation of time and distance. For the majority of human existence, people hadn’t traveled much beyond their dwellings, small villages, and cities. Their world had been as far as the eye could see, which thanks to the curvature of the Earth, was maybe a dozen miles. Even today, with globalization at its height, a lot of humans had never left their hometown. More so, they were content with that decision.

While the gap between Infernal and humans interpretation of distance might be closing, their different interpretations of time would never be shared. A human lived maybe eighty years, and as medical advances continued they might increase that number two or three fold. Still, humans were mortal. They lived and they died while their æther was distributed according to God’s great plan that the Infernals had distorted. Even Gerry, a former mortal, viewed time vastly differently than a human.

So, when Gerry felt the ache in his wings, the cramping in his back, and was laboring to draw breath he knew he’d been flying forever. To make matters worse, Gerry didn’t understand why he was so tired. It was like the bad dream when you’re being chased by someone. No matter how hard you try you can’t run as fast as you know you can. It’s like you’re trapped in quicksand. That’s what it felt like. Every beat of his wings made Gerry feel like something was tugging at him, pulling him down, and expending a lot more energy than he knew it should.

Gerry’s plight wasn’t his alone. Gaius had faltered what felt like hours ago, and Gerry had been helping the gasping general. Normally, Gaius would have been mortified, but at the moment beggars couldn’t be choosers. One look down at the black, churning waves beneath them and the general didn’t complain.

Surprisingly, Pete seemed to be doing the best. He was tired, sweating, and every once and a while the shimmering air around him would falter like someone accidentally pulled the plug, but he always started back up before he dropped more than a dozen feet.

When push came to shove, Gerry knew they were screwed. They were long past the point of no return. If they didn’t find something soon, they’d all run out of energy, fall into the sea, and be devoured by whatever lurked in those dark depths.

“This was stupid,” Pete spoke up after several more hours of struggling. “We’re dead.”

“It was your idea,” Gerry huffed back.

“It was my idea to come down here, not to fly out to sea and be lost forever. I just got out of prison, and now I’m going to drown.” Pete sounded bitter, and Gerry couldn’t blame him.

“You’re all fucking idiots,” Jezebel stated flatly.

She was the only one who had no control over her fate, and ironically, would probably live the longest once they hit the water. She was near full strength, so she’d tread water for weeks if nothing came to eat her first.

Gaius looked like he wanted to say something, but didn’t have the energy. He was currently carrying the Infernal of lust, and he looked like he very much wanted to buck her off his shoulders and into the waves below. He also knew if he did that Gerry would kill him on the spot. Without the ability to really defend himself, Gaius took the approach that allowed him to live the longest, so he sucked it up and kept on flying.

Unfortunately, sucking it up can only get you so far. It felt like a few days went by before Gaius slipped into unconsciousness. Gerry caught him before he hit the water, and thankfully he did. He was pulling the general up when a giant shadow passed beneath them. Even against the black waves it clearly highlighted something huge swimming just beneath the surface. Gerry had not doubt whatever it was would have gobbled Gaius up like a mid-afternoon snack and ended the general’s two millennia of existence.

Pete was still flying, albeit slowly and a bit erratically as exhaustion took its toll. Gerry didn’t want to burden him with Jezebel and Gaius, so as the strongest, he took over. The next few hours were pure hell. Since they were already in Hell that was saying a lot.

Pain seared through Gerry with every movement, everything was cramping, it felt like the æther had abandoned him, and he didn’t know how long he could hold on. Sheer competitiveness and stubbornness kept him going until Pete finally passed out. The Remnant actually landed in the water before Gerry could rescue him. Thankfully, whatever massive creatures lurked in this sea didn’t appear.

Now, Gerry was carrying everyone. Pete was lying across his back between his wings. The old god was denser than he appeared which only made the situation worse. Add to that the awkward position Gerry had to carry him in, and it made muscles he never ever knew he had cramp, seize, and tear after a short amount of time. He carried Jezebel and Gaius in his arms, but their weight continued to drag him down. Failure was imminent, but Gerry pushed on.

When it happened, he almost missed it. Nothing before him had changed. It was black sea all the way to the horizon. The cloud cover was low, like an eternal fog that sought to obscure everything, so when the pillar of rock appeared out of nowhere Gerry almost ran headfirst into it.

He looked back behind him like he’d seen a ghost, and saw another pillar off to his right. He turned his head, his neck protesting the simple movement, and saw another pillar off to his left. He could see more in the distance, but as he looked straight ahead, he didn’t care about the mysterious, pop-up pillars.

In front of him was an island. The dark waved washed up against its muted, gray shore. Large boulders were piled high on the beach before the land sloped upward into a thin forest. Gerry had no idea how the trees could grow without any sunlight, but they were there. They were tall and spindly, with thinly covered branches. They might be there, but they were not thriving. In the distance, Gerry could see a mountain rising. It looked huge compared to the eternal flatness of the ocean Gerry had experienced in the lifetime of flying since he’d left Seere’s kingdom. He wanted to make it there, but his body failed him.

A jolt of pain went through his right wing before he lost all feeling. He tried to adjust with his remaining wing, but he was too tired and weak. He spiraled out of control and plummeted toward the beach. He did his best to avoid the boulders, but he wasn’t sure he succeeded. All he remembered was seeing gray before unconsciousness seized him.

 

***

 

Consciousness returned slowly. It started as a pinprick of light in his mind. Slowly, it expanded.

<Who am I? What am I? Where am I? Who elbow is in my spleen?> Those were the questions that consumed Gerry for the first few minutes. It was the memory that he’d undergone something like this before that brought everything flooding back.

“Ugh,” he groaned as he tried to push himself into a sitting position. His hands disappeared into the soft sand and he fell back on his face. He sputtered and spat out the coarse material before his hand found a nearby rock. It was much better.

It turned out Gaius was the one poking him in the spleen and it was his knee not his elbow. With great effort, Gerry turned and the general fell off his back and onto the sand. Gaius didn’t even grunt on impact. For a second, Gerry feared everyone else was dead. He did a quick check and found they all had pulses. They weren’t exactly strong, but everyone would live once they regained their strength.

It was at that unfortunate moment when Gerry realized he wasn’t healing. His exhaustion persisted, constant spells of dizziness threatened to return him to unconsciousness, and he couldn’t even get to his feet. All he could do was pull himself the short distance along the beach to a boulder. He put his back to it, tried to take a deep breath, and gauged his surroundings.

Everything looked like it had from the air. The beach tapered off and led into a forest. From his new vantage point he could definitely tell the trees looked sick. They reminded him of pine trees, but there were a lot of empty patches. He was looking at one of those empty patches when movement caught his eyes. The wind had blown and ruffled something down and to the right. When he refocused on the spot his body gave a weak jump of surprise. Something was standing there watching him.

It was partially covered by the shadows thrown by the trees. These shadows weren’t created by light. Everything about this place had a dark gray hue to it. The darkness just seemed to linger there, and whatever the figure was, it was a part of it. It looked humanoid, but it was wearing a thick, baggy cloak, so Gerry couldn’t see anything in detail. Some of Beelzebub’s blasphemous creatures were humanoid too, so Gerry didn’t put a lot of faith in a creature’s outline from a hundred yards away.

Fear gripped him for a moment as the thing started to approach, but he quickly realized he couldn’t do anything about it. What strength he had left had been zapped away when he’d crawled to sit by the boulder. He could barely lift his arms, and staying focused on the thing was hard enough.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t in a rush. It calmly picked its way through the boulders with a casual speed that said it knew the area well. When it finally reached Gerry, it came around from behind the boulder. The hairs on his neck stood up as he felt the thing’s presence over his shoulder but just out of sight.

“What have we hear?” There was a sharp intake of breath as the thing breathed in his scent. There was silence for a moment. “Interesting…” A rough hand grabbed Gerry by the collar of his clothing and started to pull him along.

Gerry reached out toward Gaius, Pete, and Jezebel, but they remained unmoving on the beach. Whatever this thing was it didn’t seem concerned with them. His hand fell limply to his side and his head lolled to the side as he lost consciousness.

The creature effortlessly dragging him noticed but didn’t care.

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PCS to Eden – Welcome Home

Despite what people might think, getting to Hell was the easy part. Gerry had God to thank for that. Whatever he was now had retained some characteristics of his former Lord, Seere. Since Seere was a Throne before being exiled, he’d been bestowed with unparalleled transportation powers. Gerry had been on the receiving end of those abilities when he’d been transported to Earth what felt like another lifetime ago.

<That’s because it was.> He reminded himself of his death and subsequent resurrection as something new.

That old part of him made the nearly-instantaneous transportation possible, and the physical throne sitting in his new underground demesne made it even simpler. The realm of Seere was gone. The Infernal Lord’s connection with the land had been severed with his death, but the throne’s connection, which had funneled power into the land for eons, was stronger. Even so, so long after Seere’s death the connection was tenuous at best. It was a good thing they were undertaking this now.

Gerry had already tapped Pete for the expedition, but he could take others too. Vicky was out. As a Soulless, there was a slight chance her presence might alert Satan to Gerry’s arrival, or even worse, throw off their course and put them in the wrong realm. She didn’t like it, but he put her in charge of getting the nightclub the demesne was connected to up and running. Having the first place where people could unwind after supernatural disaster after supernatural disaster was going to bring in a lot of money. Money that could then be used to expand Gerry’s network and influence.

As much as he didn’t want to, Gerry knew Gaius needed to come. His knowledge of the former kingdom was second to none, and he was a skilled fighter. When they ran into trouble – not if – Gaius would be needed.

Gerry felt comfortable carrying one more person, and the logical choice was either Jeb or Jezebel. Both had pros and cons to their participation. Jeb and Gaius had been consorting a lot, and Gerry knew his former commander was sowing dissent. It was the way generals operated back during Seere’s reign. If there was a hint of weakness in one of their opponents they would exploit it, and then when that person failed, they would attack. Seere didn’t care. To him, competition was healthy and beneficial to his army, which compared to other Infernal Lords’, was modest. So, if Jeb accompanied them back to Hell. Gerry would need to keep a close eye on the two of them.

Jezebel’s issue was the opposite. He’d seen a link form between her and Brock after their shared adventure taking down the guardians and reestablishing Gerry’s claim to the city. He was also sure they were fucking like bunnies, so not bringing her along would lead to complacency in his rear detachment. Since he wanted to retain control of the city, it was important he left people in charge who weren’t too busy sucking dick or eating muff.

In the end, Gerry needed to make the call based on a worst case scenario outcome. He needed to assume he wouldn’t find Hell’s Primordial, and he would return empty handed. “Jezebel, you’re with me,” he decided.

She looked disappointed, and shot a look over her shoulder at Brock as she walked over to Gerry. With Pete, Gaius, and Jezebel now surrounding him, Gerry turned his focus inward and concentrated.

The teleportation wasn’t complicated, but pulling three other people with him took a lot more power. Thankfully, his throne had been busy collecting æther from the surrounding city for days, and it had more than enough juice to get the job done. Gerry made sure his personal tank was topped off before teleporting.

Just like previous times it felt like someone had hooked him behind the navel, attached the hook to a pickup, and then floored it. He didn’t have time to be uncomfortable. One moment he was in his demesne, and the next he was on hard-packed, red soil. Instinctually, Gerry did a three hundred and sixty degree assessment while the rest of his entourage collected themselves.

<This is wrong.> Gerry’s sight clashed with his memory.

The sea was to their right, so there was no mistaking where they were, but everything else was different. He’d deliberately dropped the group well outside Seere’s former capital because he was sure enemy forces were still pillaging it. Time didn’t move the same in Earth and Hell, and hellspawn took their time when it came to pillaging. If Gerry focused hard enough, he could hear the screaming in the distance.

<Not my problem.> He turned to the sea, but the surroundings still looked foreign.

This had once been a road leading north toward the River Styx. Seere’s legions used it to quickly move troops to the front when Cain pressed his attacks. The road was kept meticulously clean. Souls that weren’t drafted into the legion, working the Elysian Fields, of subsumed by the land itself, were tasked with keeping the roads maintained and clean. It was a thankless, never ending job, but someone had to do it, and you didn’t get much of a choice in Hell.

Now, it looked like a road never existed. The gray-green of the fields that once occupied either side was gone. It was now a barren desert of red as far as the eye could see. Even the rolling hills were gone, like a giant had flattened them.

“The Tectonic Laws of Hell,” Gaius followed Gerry’s eyes. “He who owns it can do whatever the hell they want with it.” Gaius’s expression was unreadable, but his eyes were hard and he kept glancing back in the direction of the city. He could hear the screams too. “You remember when we defeated Beelzebub’s horde in the pass before you became a Dux. Almost instantly, Seere began to exert his influence and change the landscape. This is just it on a much larger scale.” Gaius sniffed the air. “It smells like sulfur to the south, so I’m guessing Beelzebub has laid claim to most of the kingdom. The north is sweet and sickly. I smell rotting growth, so Cain has finally pushed past the Styx, and probably ceded some of his northern land to Lilith as compensation for assisting with the war.”

Gerry had no reason to doubt Gaius’ analysis, but it also didn’t affect their mission one way or the other. They weren’t heading north or south.

“Let’s…” Gerry began but stopped when the rattling of metal against metal sounded from all around them.

Creatures popped up from beneath the sand like spiders while others appeared from behind a bend in the road that camouflaged their position with a rock face. A quick assessment showed thirty creatures, but it was their disposition that confused Gerry more than their sudden appearance.

The creatures that popped out of the ground to spring the ambush were clearly from Beelzebub’s horde. They had a few tell-tale human characteristics, but extra-long, hairy legs had been added along with thin wings like mosquitos. He knew that because their leader had a pointed snout they could only be designed to penetrate and draw blood.

The group that emerged from behind the outcropping were the cursed soldiers of Cain in varying states of decay. Their leader’s skin on his face had sloshed off the point you could see entirely through the opening, into the mouth, and all the way to the other side of the opposite cheek, which look like it only had a matter of days until it joined its opposite’s fate.

Lastly, and certainly not least, was who Gerry assumed was the commander of the entire force. She was big, at least eight feet, with bulging and defined muscles, but wearing nothing more than an armored bikini. The bikini was Infernal Iron painted over in gold and with numerous precious stones attached. To a seasoned fighter like Gerry this meant one of two things. First, the woman was a moron, and more interested in looking good then winning battles. That thought was quickly discarded because it was a thought that belonged on Earth, not in Hell. You didn’t survive in Hell by simply looking good. You just became a stronger person’s bitch.

That left the only reasonable alternative. She was a strong, skilled, seasoned fighter who didn’t need armor protection to get the job done. Judging by the blood-stained battle ax she easily hefted onto her shoulder Gerry was inclined to believe she’d done her fair share of pillaging.

But most importantly, she was clearly a member of Lilith’s tribe. That was three separate factions of Hell working together. Gerry was impressed by the amount of teamwork on display, but that didn’t stop the fact that he needed to go through them to continue with his mission.

There was no banter before the fight. Gerry could see the bloodlust running through the enemy’s veins. Most of the eyes were glued to Jezebel’s curves, but the big woman was looking straight at Gerry. He could practically see her though process. <Kill the rest and have some fun with this one and the slit his throat before moving on.> Gerry was sorry he’d have to disappoint her.

Gaius moved first. He was never one to go on defense, and he sprang at Cain’s soldiers. They had normal human characteristics, and he made easy work of them with his trusted gladius. Jezebel and Pete turned toward Beelzebub’s abominations that scurried toward them on wrongly-placed appendages.  They coordinated their attack to limit their power usage. They had no idea how long they’d need to go before recharging.

Pete laid down a suppressive layer of fire like a human flame thrower. He caught a third of the beasts in the blast. They shrieked as the fire burned through skin, flesh, and bone. Some retreated to the cliffs above the ocean and threw themselves into the mercy of the water; completely ignoring the dangers of what lurked beneath the waves. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. They continued to burn as they sunk into the shallow depths and were dead before they hit the bottom.

Jezebel darted in after the wave of fire passed over the enemy. She was partially transformed into her combat form. Fangs and claws lashed out at lightning-quick speeds and removed heads, arms, and multiple legs in single wipes. When the beasts regrouped, she nimbly danced backward, drew them forward, and let Pete hose them down with fire. It took less than two attacks to completely decimate them.

That left Gerry to face the leader. She was calm and confident, even when she saw her allies being chopped to bits and burned alive. She gave a few experimental swings of her axe, seeming to test the weight, before suddenly swinging into action. Gerry read her intentions a mile away, and reassessed her prowess. She was undoubtedly a good fighter, and powerful, judging by the speed of the blade as it sung through the air toward his throat. However, she also appeared young and full of herself. She hadn’t had enough trips to the resurrection pit to learn some valuable lessons.

Today, Gerry would be her teacher. He was moving nearly before she was, and the blade passed through empty air. Expecting to meet some resistance, the warrior over rotated, and Gerry took advantage of the opportunity. He could have drawn the blade of Divine Steel he was carrying with him, but if any Infernal Lords were nearby they might sense the blade touched by God. So, Gerry decided on good, old-fashioned brute force. When the warrior over extended, he directed a powerful blow directly into her side. The warrior woman expected her body, which she’d been directing æther into for days, to stand up to the punishment. When Gerry’s fist nearly went through her, pulverizing bone and internal organs in the process, she realized how seriously she’d miscalculated.

She tried to reverse her swing, but her body wasn’t obeying her commands. A follow-on kick snapped her femur and nearly wrenched her legs from her body. She went down hard, but didn’t give up. Gerry had to admire that. In the shock of the first blow she’d lost her ax, but she doggedly crawled toward it. Gerry drove his boot into her extended arm when she got close, and picked up the blade itself.

“Nice quality,” he said to himself as he brought it high and down on the warrior woman’s neck. He then channeled his own æther to absorb the woman’s. “You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He shrugged. The warrior would never have the chance to rectify her mortal mistake.

Gerry quickly used the gathered æther to top of his lieutenants who’d been forced to use their power. It still left plenty, and the smidgeon Gerry used to defeat the woman was inconsequential, so he used the rest of the considerable power to wipe the land clean and ward against what happened. The last thing he needed was someone else happening upon the scene and alerting their superiors. Gerry and his team were powerful, but he didn’t want to go up against an Infernal Lord.

The remainder of the absorbed æther he dispelled into the ground. Where he released it a well-manicured square of grass appeared. It was healthy, green, and a total contrast to everything around it. Gerry quickly kicked some red dirt over it to hide the abnormality before turning back to his team.

“So, that was fun and all, but what now?” Pete was looking around clearly not impressed with what he saw.

“We start our search,” Gerry replied calmly, as wings sprouted from his back and he unfurled them to their full length.

“Where?” Pete didn’t have wings but the air around him started to ripple with heat and he rose into the air.

“There,” Gerry pointed out to sea. “When I was in Seere’s legion it was drilled into us from day one not to venture out beyond the fog wall.” Gerry gestured at the natural barrier that obscured everything beyond the shore. “We know all the Infernal Lords of Hell and where there kingdoms are. We’ve studied maps, planned contingencies for invasions, but we’ve never looked that way.”

“That’s true.” Gaius’ own wings had sprouted from his back. “We never went out to sea, and that complacency lost me the capitol during the defense. I can honestly say if anyone was looking for Hell’s Primordial they haven’t looked out there. If they have, they never returned.”

“That’s great,” Jezebel was standing with her hands on her hips. “Slight problem.” She pointed at herself. “I’m not a big fan of water, and unlike the rest of you I can’t fly.”

“Gaius will carry you.” Gerry ignored the slight squinting of Gaius’ eyes that showed he felt disgraced by the order.

Gerry didn’t care. He was looking out into the sea, past the fog wall, and to what could possibly lie beyond it. As far as Gerry knew, no one had mapped all of Hell. Anything could be out there.

<Including what I’m looking for.> Without another thought, Gerry flapped his wings, lifted off, and headed out to sea.

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