Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chapter Forty-Five: Apocalypse... Now?

“Many people do simply awful things out of sincere religious belief, not using religion as a cover the way that Saddam Hussein may have done, but really because they believe that this is what God wants them to do, going all the way back to Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac because God told him to do that. Putting God ahead of humanity is a terrible thing.”

~Steven Weinberg

Edward sat alone in the room that served as both his office and personal Library, staring at the traffic light icons on the Tablet's desktop.

His light was Yellow: His life was finite.
Humanity’s light was Red: The judgment was still coming.

For the first time in as long has he could recall, they had remained this way, unchanged for weeks.
Demons of wrath and pride swelled in him as looked back on all that was accomplished, and the fact that he was apparenlty being told it was not enough.  Health care was now universally available. Economic opportunity was guaranteed for all. Corporate money and the more hateful elements of religion had been removed from politics, and a system put in place that would prevent those forces from once again poisoning political discourse.  Environmental regulations were finally starting to truly deal with pollution and global warming and world hunger was becoming an eminently solvable problem. Governments with the worst  histories of human rights abuses have been torn down and the settling of global conflicts set the world on the path of world peace.

“What more does this fucking Angel want?!” Edward yelled out rhetorically as he pounded his fist on the desk.  Looking down at the tablet, Edward felt a need for advice that his earthly companions would not be able to offer.  He tapped on the messenger icon and sent his inquiry to the only address that was visible.

The response came back immediately.


While he didn’t know what to expect, Edward was incensed by what he perceived as a casual tone in her response. 




But Edward knew that was no more than a hollow platitude at this point. There was really no time left.  Looking at how many impossible accomplishments had been made in the last twenty-three months, he saw nothing that was going to happen in the next few weeks that would make a difference that the last two years did not.  Looking back, he could see no alternatives that would have accomplished more, or more quickly.  A passing thought to being blinded by his pride was soon swallowed by wrath and the idea that he was no longer fighting against the forces that had doomed humanity to this judgment, but rather against the very forces that were making that judgment began to form.

Nothing from Luci. No hints. No clues. No useful advice.  Desperation now mixed with his wrath.  His head was spinning.  He did not have the tools to manipulate or harm Gabriel.  Luci had told him as much. And while the Tablet DID possess power over the fallen angels, anything that would alter Luci’s fate in any way was protected by a password - the last word - the very knowledge of which would kill him if he ever figured it out.  He wondered if others would be so protected.  Even so… he did not know who any of them were and he doubted that Luci would volunteer that information in light of his present state of mind.  As it was, she had only ever told him about one such being:

Who was already dead.

And suddenly the path forward sprang into Edward’s mind with the clarity of a thousand suns.  He fired off one last message before putting what he hoped would be his end game into action.


From the comfort of her dark abode, Lucifer Morning Star was perplexed by Edward’s last message. Had he given up? What WAS he about to do? But before she could reply, she was overwhelmed by the feeling of a spiritual presence behind her.  She knew it well, and had no doubts as to who was standing behind her, even before turning to face him.  It was Gabriel.

But she was not prepared for what she saw when she did turn.  He was protected from head to in gleaming, silver armor. His armor, which no destructive force ever devised by man could so much as scratch:  The Holy Steel.  And even more terrifying than the piercing gaze of the two glowing eyes that shown from within his helm was the weapon he held, drawn, in his right hand: The Godsword.
Its elongated, ornate hilt  held a blade was an irregular surface, an edge compromised of alternating convex and concave curves that would render any earthly blade impractical in combat, yet the sight of it chilled her to depths of her being. The last time she had seen it swung, it split the very atoms in the air, unleashing waves of incredible energy that reduced Sodom and Ghamorrah to ash and dust.  It was the most feared weapon and respected artifact in all of the cosmos.

And he was raising it, as if to strike her with it.

The voice that echoed from within the helm sounded as the voice of thousands speaking as one.  She jumped aside a fraction of second before the sword came down, splitting he marble desk in two, a perfect cut, strait and flat, down to the molecular level.  And yet she knew he was holding back.
“GABRIEL, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! WHAT’S GOTTEN INTO YOU?!” she screamed at him desperately but this did nothing to slow his advance.

He drew the Godsword upwards again, knocking over one half of the desk as did so. “YOUR DAYS ARE OVER, SINFUL TEMPTRESS!” The voice of legion echoed out from under his shining helm.
“Well, if you think I’m going down without a fight, you really have lost your senses!” she screamed back at him.

And with that, Lucifer summoned her own ornate armor of Black Obsidian, Gold and Flame. And from her hand hung the Abyssal Scourge, a brutal chain linking strands of darkness and hellfire.  No armor ever created by man would prevent the wearer from being completely incinerated should they be struck by it.
But against the Holy Steel, she make as well have flicked a birthday candle at him.  Her mightiest blow glanced off of Gabriel’s armor, failing to leave even a trail of dust in its wake.

His hand clasped around her neck and slammed her down on top of the half of the desk that remained standing. The Scourge dematerialized as she dropped it, choosing instead to struggle against the impervious and relentless vice that now closed around her neck.  Angels did not need to breathe, but it was not his intent to suffocate her.  The hand that was crushing in around her neck was not seeking to deprive her of breath, rather it was crushing her very life force.  He vision was going dim.  Her fingers still clung to Gabriel’s hand, but it felt as hard as stone.

She saw the Godsword held aloft, high above her head, poised to bring an end to what was no more than a curb-stomp battle for the Archangel.

She closed her eyes, dematerialized her armor and resigned herself to her fate.  A single thought filled what was left of her consciousness: How did Edward survive the password?
And as she braced for the inevitable, she perceived the slightest sound – like the plucking of a guitar string tuned nearly to it breaking point. And at once she felt nothing.  No pressure on her neck, no spiritual presence.

And yet, she wasn’t dead.
She sat up. Gabriel’s form was still there, but she felt none of his spirit remaining.  The armor still stood, but it now looked old and diminished, the light that emanated from it was extinguished.  The helm now housed only darkness where two glowing eyes once gazed outward.

“Gabriel…?” she asked tentatively.
She reached up to touch the chest plant of the Holy Steel and found it was cold, inert.  And this slight touch was enough to upset the balance of whatever cohesive forces still held his form together.  The body within the armor now fell under its weight, collapsing to the floor in a pile of ash and a cloud of dust.

Her eyes widened in shock.
The Godsword felt to the ground, its blade breaking from the hilt and splitting into three pieces, it’s once sublime construction now as brittle as glass.

She reached down and picked up a handful of dust, now all that remained of her beloved friend and spiritual mentor and once the most powerful being in this plane of existence.  She held back tears as the fine powder sifted through her fingers.
“No, no, no…”

But almost at once her resolve returned to her and she glanced back at her own Tablet with eyes now  filled with blood and fire.

Back in his office Edward’s Tablet sounded a brief alarm. He looked down to see a traffic-light combination that he hadn’t before: Humanity’s light was green, but his own was red. He tapped it and opened up his profile page: 13 seconds to live. Uh-oh.

Luci’s form materialized, fully armored, in the same space as the room’s closed doors, causing them to explode into the room.  On her back were wings of flame, and the bookshelves on either side of the former entranceway began to smolder.
Her voice was deep and dark, and crackled with force. “HOW DARE YOU!”

Edward had anticipated this, and bet everything that she possessed a least some small amount of the pride she once did paired with curiosity that even slightly resembled that of a human’s. “Did you come here simply to kill me, or do you want to know why I did it, and HOW?”
Her golden-clad boot, decorated to resemble a cloven hoof, stopped. Edward looked down.

Seven minutes. ‘Some room to maneuver,’ he thought.

“You were never in any danger. And if you were, the password would have…”

“I didn’t break your password.  Like I said: You were never in any danger.” Edward looked down.
Thirteen minutes. Progress. And when he returned his gaze to Luci he could see that her armor was gone, replaced by the blood red dress she typically wore.  Fire still burned in her eyes, but he could tell that he had piqued her intrigue.

“It was a gamble, but if it wasn’t going to work out the way I planned, then no harm would be done anyway. Either the Tablet would not be enough to compel Gabriel, or the password would kick in. Or God would intervene.”
Her eyes narrowed, but the fire in them was almost out. “What do you mean? The tablet does not have the power to alter the fate of one such as Gabriel!”

“It didn’t have to. I never even opened his page. I recalled the story you told me of Baal, and how he was destroyed.  So…”  Edward held up the tablet, showing Luci her profile page. Her fate, now greyed out and locked, read:
Lucifer Morning Star will be killed by the Archangel Gabriel.

“Assuming the Tablet had that power over your fate, there were only two possible outcomes. The one that ended in your death would then have asked for the password, which I didn’t have.  So I had nothing to worry about in terms of hurting you.  As such, when it did go through, I knew that my plan would work: God would intervene.”

Luci stood in stunned silence.  “You… killed…  the Archangel Gabriel.”
“No… God…

“FUCK YOU!” Again her voice crackled with shadow and flame. “Do you have ANY IDEA what you’ve destroyed?!”
Edward fixed a gaze on her that gave her pause in a way that she would not have thought possible for a mortal to do. “I did the job I was given to do. I saved humanity from its destruction.”

Edward jumped to his feet, “WHICH UNTIL FIVE MINUTES AGO WAS A DECIDEDLY FINITE VALUE!” He was pointing at her aggressively as he yelled at her. “Can you really say that now, Luci?! Can you even know the net value of every potential human life from this point forward, now that our lifespan as a species is indefinite?”

“Another will be appointed.”
“And why would God bother doing that? If the judgment was going to be the same, why allow His greatest creation to be destroyed? Would it not be a simple matter for God to invalidate the fate I had entered?”

“That doesn’t justify you wielding the Tablet like a child who’d found his father’s gun!”

Edward smiled. “Then we’re back to the original point: Why did God intervene as he did?  If God had chosen NOT to…? Well then precisely NOTHING would have happened.  I would have to enter a password that would have killed me if I even knew it. And things would have moved forward just as they always would have.”

Luci had no answer for that.  Edward looked down at the tablet, flipping back to his own page.  His counter was now fully restored.
“So you’re not going to kill me.  That’s good. Do you plan to take away my little toy?”

At the glib tone of his inquiry, Luci balled her hand into a fist that would have crushed coal into a diamond, but quickly released it. “No. You will keep the Tablet. And know this: Your task has been expanded indefinitely, effective immediately. You might think you’re done, but you’re not.  I will not allow Gabriel’s death to ever have been in vain! You, and your little council, will be responsible for seeing that the progress you’ve made continues. You will keep humanity on it current path, and should it stray to the point where another judgment is ever needed, I will personally make sure that you are not on the planet when it happens. I will not allow you the release of death than so many others will receive. I will see you recieve proper payment for your arrogance!”
“I understand. And I had no intention of quitting now anyway.  What about the Tears?”

She closed her eyes against this, the bitterest of truths. “They’re yours now.”

She looked at him emotionlessly. “Have you heard how possession is nine-tenths of the law? Well, when it comes to heavenly artifacts, it’s actually ten-tenths. Gabriel passed them to you willingly, and they remained in your possession when he died. If anyone took them from you know, we would be obligated to return them to you, their… rightful… owner.” 
Edward could feel the palpable bitterness in her voice as she said this.  “Luci… I cannot say that I regret what I’ve done. Not when every single life on this planet, every single one of my people, was in jeopardy.  But, for what it’s worth, I am sorry for your loss. I truly never intended to hurt you.”

Luci could not even look at him. She just held up her hand as she turned and receded into the darkness.