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 Post subject: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2010 11:52 am 
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The Ultimate Temple, Heaven

Michael-Lan strode forward into the Temple. All about him, the people sang; he could feel the artificial ecstasy of the choirs of angels, of those few, fortunate saved humans. As he entered the Holiest of Holies, the thick marble of the temple walls drowned out the beautiful music outside; reduced to a dim glow, he focused his attention on the sight before him.

He knew the sight was supposed to awe him, every time without fail: the great white throne, with its flashing lightning and pealing thunder surrounding the giant figure who sat on it, the One Above All Others. Before the throne were the seven great, gold lamps, burning their ceaseless incense so that the clouds of scented smoke hung thick and hazy, the smell clinging to everything. Once, Michael loved it, for it appealed to his sense of the ridiculous. Now he’d just about had enough of it and of the pretensions of that throne’s occupant. There was one consolation to his chosen course, one way or another he would not have to visit this place after today.

At the four corners of the room stood the four living creatures, chanting their ceaseless cry: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come;” and the twenty-four members of the Private Choir. They were ancient even by the angels' standards, and were constantly on their faces before the throne, murmuring, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." Time was, their voices had outstripped even the living creatures in volume, but even here they were not free from time's ravages. An astute observer might look closely into their eyes and see the misery and despair there. Singing the same praises for untold millennia was not as heavenly as it sounded. Soon, their misery would be ended, one way or another.

In the back of the hall, Archangels were gathered around the Master Mason but watching Michael. They gauged his mood, was it good? Or bad? Was there going to be a thunderstorm and flying rock chips or a quiet and peaceful meeting. Did they need to buy tickets for the mason's bunker? Or could they save the gold? With more and more humans pouring into Heaven and occupying the land around the City, the prices of food and other supplies were already beginning to rise. Rise enough to make even angels careful with their money. They held their breaths as Michael-Lan made his entrance. What to do?

All right, here we go. The only thing left is to hope he gives me the one opening I need. Michael stopped in the middle of the lamps and knelt down on both knees, prostrating himself. He pressed his lips, still scarred from the times he had been exposed to human weaponry, against the cold, dark jade floor. As though sensing intentions, the four living creatures quieted, and the twenty-four elders' murmurs died to whispers. From the white throne, the voice of Yahweh thundered: “Michael, my good general, what news do you bring me?”

"Oh nameless one, Lord and God of all, I prostrate myself to your presence. I have to tell you that The Incomparable Legion Of Light has been utterly destroyed. It was wiped out within the blink of an eye. Your son is dead with hundreds of thousand of human levies and tens of thousands of angels beside him. Few survive the human firepower that destroyed them. Those that did are maimed and sick. A circle twenty miles across burns with the fires the humans created and the clouds of smoke darken the city and chills its air. All this they did with one weapon, with one blow of their fist. The warmaking ability of the humans has proved far beyond the capability of the fallen ones and beyond ours.

Yahweh was silent for a moment, then spoke. "They failed me. It was my irresistible will that they defeat the humans. How dare they not do so.”

You bastard. They died for you and that is all you can say about them? Not one word of regret for their deaths or gratitude for their service? Through his outrage at the casual dismissal of the Incomparable Legion's destruction, Michael-Lan felt his heart skip a beat. Yahweh hadn't failed him, he had the opening he was hoping for. All the maneuvering, all the scheming, all the corruption was about to pay off. That knowledge filled him with a strange, wild joy. It was all over, there was no more waiting, no more doubts. The final showdown was on its way. For good or for bad, it would end the way it would end. One way or another, the End Days had started. Michael looked up at the figure towering over him with nothing but contempt, then climbed to his feet.

"Oh, shut up."

There was a complete, awed silence from the crowd of spectators. Nothing moved, there was not the slightest whisper of sound. For the first time in countless millennia, the constant chanting from the Private Choir of 24 Elders was stilled. Their copper-colored skins, green eyes and silver hair were completely motionless as the unimaginable silence continued. The silence, so intense that it seemed to have a gentle hiss all of its own expanded and enveloped the hall. It wasn't just the three words that had stilled the echoes of millennia, it was the withering loathing and contempt with which they had been spoken. Nothing, not even the legendary final confrontation between The One Above All and the Morningstar, had ever come close to the undiluted malignancy of Michael-Lan's words.

The silence was broken by the panic-stricken whimpering of terror from the Archangels at the back of the hall. A whimpering of mind-numbed fear that swelled into a wave of utter, uncontrollable hysteria. The Archangels were screaming in horror as they tried to crowd into the bunker, pausing only to thrust all the gold they had into the hands of the Master Mason. Inside the walls, those who had decided discretion was the better part of valor complimented themselves on their foresight. They didn't really care what was happening as long as they weren't part of it. They were content to learn the truth as soon as the survivors decided what it was.

Michael-Lan watched Yahweh staring down at him. The great face was motionless, the eyes without expression or feeling. Suddenly, a flash of insight told him the truth. He can't believe it. He's had nothing but fawning adulation for so long, he literally doesn't know how to handle opposition. Or even to recognize it for what it is. He's completely lost.

"Michael, my Great General. . . . ."

"I'm not your anything. What I am is sick of your posturing and your self-importance. I'm sick of clearing up the messes you make and covering up for your blunders. You're a brainless, arrogant dolt who is drunk with unwarranted power and stoned on unearned adulation. You've caused millennia of grief and misery with your insatiable demands for worship. Now, you've pushed too far and the creatures you play your little games with have decided to hit back. Their worship of you is over, Yahweh. They've got a saying down there now, worship is not owed, it is earned. You've done nothing to earn their worship and you've done nothing to earn mine. So shut up and let me try and fix this mess as well."

"Michael, you go too far. . . . ."

"Oh no, no I don't. If I wanted to go too far I would call you a apogenous, bovaristic, coprolalial, dasypygal, excerebrose, facinorous, gnathonic, hircine, ithyphallic, jumentous, kyphotic, labrose, mephitic, napiform, oligophrenial, papuliferous, quisquilian, rebarbative, saponaceous, thersitical, unguinous, ventripotent, wlatsome, xylocephalous, yirning zoophyte." Thank you humans, I've been wanting to use that for years. That would be going too far. But I'm not going to call you that Yah-yah. I'm just going to point out that even Fluffy and Wuffles couldn’t stand the sight of you." Oh, that felt good. Millenia of repressed frustration bursting out at last. It suddenly occurred to Michael that he was enjoying this confrontation far too much.

It was the mention of Fluffy and Wuffles that did it. The suggestion that his beloved pets might have actually hated him combined with the uneasy recognition that the suggestion might be true caused Yahweh to snap out of his stupor. The rolling thunderclouds swirled the thick smoke that filled the Holiest of Holies and caused strange, exotic patterns to appear within them. Sheet lightning flickered across them as Yahweh started to lose his temper. In the earpiece that Michael was wearing, he could hear the bands in the Montmartre Club playing. He couldn't place the tune for a second then it clicked into place. The theme from the film "Dambusters". The bouncing march was just what Michael needed. Clever little humans. A good choice to start the game. Good film too, even if they didn’t get the name of the dog right in the History Channel version.

"Michael, you forget yourself. Your impertinence is intolerable. I strip you of your rank, authority and titles and order you to your estate, never again to enter the Eternal City."

"Drop dead." Michael-Lan's voice slashed across the Holiest of Holies, ricocheting off the walls and ringing in the ears of all present. "I have to put this mess right and I can't do it with you around. So get out of my way. But first, take your decree and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine." Will he even understand that? It just sounded so good, I couldn't resist using it.

There was an appalled silence. The Archangels watching finally understood that this was more, much more, than just a dispute between The Most High and the Great General. This was confrontation. A battle for supremacy, just as the one between The Morningstar and The Most High had been. The last time this had happened, the result had been The Great Celestial War and the great schism between Heaven and Hell. It slowly dawned on them that they were watching the most significant historical event imaginable. The Eternal Enemy had died under the lash of human weapons. Now, Michael-Lan was moving to take his place.

"You defy me?" It was less a question than a scream of rage and disbelief. Then Yahweh's voice dropped into a bewildered, near-whisper. "Why, Michael, my old friend?"

"Why? Because what you have done has put the whole Angelic Host at risk. Because your actions are no longer possible or acceptable in the world that is evolving around us. Because if we do not change, we will all be destroyed. Because we cannot change while you occupy that throne. So, yes. I defy you and will do so until you are removed from that throne, never again to have power on Earth, in Heaven, in Hell or anywhere else for that matter. Your day is done, Yahweh. Leave now before I force you to do so!"

"You force me?" The scream of rage was back, this time pitched high and loud. The gathering thunderclouds roiled and the sheet lightning gathered in intensity. Suddenly, it erupted in a white blanket of light, directed in a torrent against the figure of Michael-Lan.

He was waiting for it, this was what he had been expecting, how he had always known this confrontation would end. He summoned his own resources, carefully not drawing on those of his allies. Not yet anyway, although that would come. This battle would have to be carefully managed, he would have to expend his power grudgingly, using just enough at any one time. No more and very definitely no less. Michael-Lan was under no illusions about the situation, he knew that Yahweh had not gained his throne by being the creature he was now. He was an immensely powerful being, certainly far more powerful than Michael himself. Michael's edge was that he knew what that power was, where it came from and how it could best be harnessed.

Satan and Yahweh hadn't. They had a glimmering of an understanding but one that was so mixed up with their own pre-formed characters that the understanding had been corrupted beyond recognition. A psychotic sadist, The Morningstar had believed it came from the suffering of the creatures around him. The whole of Hell had been built around that belief with humans tortured in the pit so Satan could draw on their power. Not to boost daemons over the energy barrier to the next life as he had led his followers to believe but to energize his own control over Hell. Was there even a next life? Michael thought as he braced himself to resist the blast. He looked at the figure on the throne, a figure that was now seething with rage. Yahweh was a self-obsessed egomaniac. He had believed that constant singing of praise was the source of the power he could draw on. Oddly, he was closer, much closer, to the truth that the Morningstar had been. That was probably why he had done so much better and why Heaven wasn't as dysfunctional as Hell. It was music that was the key. It allowed different beings to synchronize their minds and that meant their mental power could be synchronized as well. Michael's great breakthough had been to realize that it didn’t matter what sort of music. Anything would do and if people enjoyed listening to it, then its effects were so much greater. That one realization had been the reason behind his nightclub and the gathering of the bands within it.

The blast came, enveloping Michael-Lan in a hurricane of white light. Even as it struck, Michael-Lan knew that it hadn't been intended to kill, merely to hurl him backwards against the walls behind him. Bad move, old fellow. When you decide to strike, don’t hold back. Go for the quick kill. Although I'm rather glad you didn't this time Michael had already concentrated his mind on resistance and his own clouds had gathered around him, the sheet lightning rippling in their shapes. The blast from Yahweh met those energy-charged clouds and the two merged, crackling and flashing, the stink of ozone saturating the atmosphere. Michael concentrated hard, feeling the pressure bearing in on him and carefully measuring out his own power in response. He didn’t need to stop the attack completely, he just needed to slow down its advance. Neither he nor Yahweh could maintain an assault indefinitely; as long as he held out long enough, Yahweh would have to rest. All he had to do was to stop the flood of lightning from reaching him.

He managed it although the effort left his head beaded with sweat. He had just worked harder than he had done for millennia and the sheer effort involved astonished him. Now, as never before, he realized how futile The Morningstar's rebellion had been. He had stood up to The One Above All on his own and fought him alone. He had never realized how important it was to have allied and that mistake had first doomed him then destroyed him. Did Yahweh realize how important his allies had been? That was one of the critical questions that ran through Michael's mind for all these years. It had only been when he had started to kill Yahweh's allies off and watched how little Yahweh really cared about them that he had had his answer.

Michael-Lan watched the flickering displays of sheet lightning change from purest white to vivid multi-colors as Yahweh's fury built up. Michael-Lan knew he had already won a victory simply by surviving that first blast of power. He had shown that Yahweh could be fought, that he could be resisted. That knowledge could never be undone and, if the Angelic Host survived when Michael did not, somebody else could build on his example and challenge Yahweh again. Whatever else happened today, Yahweh's era of unchallengeable rule had just ended.

"You shall not defy me!" Yahweh's scream echoed around the room, mixing with the constant roll of thunder that dominated everything else. Those astute enough to listen and knowledgeable enough to know what to listen for would sense that there were two storms filling the room, each with its own timbre and resonance. Then, the steady roll of thunder changed to a flat, vicious crack as a multicolored lightning sheet burst out from one storm and again tried to envelop Michael.

That blow was meant to kill. No doubt about it. The preliminaries are over, the real fight has just begun. The realization formed in Michael's brain as he poured power into the storm around him, watching his own lightning display shift from white to multicolored as it merged and blended with the bolts from Yahweh. He felt the immense pressure, saw the sheet of energy pressing in on him and realized just how outclassed he was by the figure on the throne above him. He could resist this blow, he could see his own lightning balls were holding fast, but for how long he could maintain this effort was another matter. For the first time, his mind reached out and locked into the network he has so painstakingly created. Across the city, Angels were listening to the massed bands playing in the Montmartre Club, their minds locked into synchronization with his own by the rhythm of the music. Many didn’t even know that they were part of that network, all they knew was that the entertainment supplied by Michael's club had added variety and joy to a heavenly eternity grown stale. But the network was there and Michael made his first tentative withdrawals from it.

Not to defend against the assault that pressed in on him for Michael's own resources had that under control no matter by how small a margin. Instead he used the energy margin he had just gained to hurl an energy blast at Yahweh himself. It was a weak and feeble blast compared with the storm that was engulfing him but nobody before had ever directly attacked Yahweh. Not even The Morningstar had done so, not even at the height of their battle. Enraged by resistance, Yahweh was hurling his power into the attack on Michael and had left himself without a defense in place. Despite its weakness, Michael's pure white blast struck Yahweh and pushed him backwards into his throne. The success was momentary only, black clouds of thunder gathered around The One Above All and his sheet lightning brushed aside Michael's feeble attack. And yet Michael counted it as his second victory and this one was a victory on two counts. The attack had forced Yahweh to divert energy from the attack on him to Yahweh's own defense and the pressure on him had slackened. Michael had learned something else, Yahweh's energy management skills were not that great. He had used far greater force against Michael's weak attack than he had needed to. While Michael was measuring his energy expenditure with an eye-dropper, grudging each tiny packet of use, Yahweh was being profligate. There was no reason why he shouldn't be, he had always had such a massive supremacy over his opposition that there had been no need for learning the virtues of economy of force. Michael, on the other hand, had read books by humans on strategy.

The second reason why Michael counted the exchange a victory was that he had actually struck at Yahweh. Just the way his survival of the first exchange had shown Yahweh could be defied, now the second had shown Yahweh could be attacked. A blow struck at him could succeed. In the part of his mind that was concentrating on the battle now being waged, he felt the pressure subside. The second great surge had ended. Michael-Lan was under no illusions, these two battles had been skirmishing only. He and Yahweh had tested their powers and now they both new exactly the magnitude of the task that they faced. The only questions that remained were, had Michael killed enough of Yahweh's key supporters to reduce his power to manageable levels? And did Michael have enough support to compensate for his own inferiority to Yahweh? The vicious battles to come would answer that.

Michael took the opportunity to glance around the room. It was still, appearing empty with the Archangels taking cover behind anything solid. The walls were chipped and blasted, the damage far worse than anything he had seen in Yahweh's tantrums. He simply had not been aware of how much damage the combined lightning storms were doing. Then, his eyes caught the 24 Elders in Yahweh's private choir. They were silent also, just standing and watching Yahweh. Their leader turned and his oval green eyes met with Michael's clear blue. The Elder smiled sadly then he reached up with his two-thumbed hand and drew it over his mouth in the traditional "zipped shut" gesture. Whatever else happened, the Chorus was silenced and with it Yahweh had suffered his first major loss.

_________________
There are 550 million firearms in the world, enough for one person in twelve of the world's population. The moral dilemma that faces us is how to arm the other eleven.


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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2010 11:53 am 
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One mile from Ground Zero, Heaven.

The small group of armored vehicles cautiously approached the cobalt-blue crater lake at Ground Zero. The troop of Challenger 2s and accompanying platoon of Warriors spread out to cover the two Fuchs NBC Reconnaissance Vehicles. Very pointedly, the infantry on board the Warriors did not dismount while the Fuchs started taking readings and soil samples.

“It’s still pretty hot around here, Sergeant.” Corporal Peter Matheson, one of the vehicle’s operators, reported.

“To be expected I suppose.” Sergeant James Franks, the vehicle commander, replied. “Nobody is going to coming through here anytime soon. The Big Boss is routing the entire army group around this place, not through it. It’s the Boffins who will find our readings and samples interesting. I hope they appreciate them.”

Franks had been a member of the CBRN Reconnaissance Regiment for ten years, having served in 1 Royal Tank Regiment for ten years beforehand. However as soon as The Salvation War had begun he had tried, unsuccessfully, to transfer to a tank regiment so that he could see some proper action. Unfortunately for him, CBRN specialists were too thin on the ground to make the transfer possible. After all, at the start of the war, nobody had known how quickly it would go nuclear. Now he was finally getting the chance to put his training into action for the first time.

Several other NBC reconnaissance teams were exploring the area around the initiation, most equipped with the Fuchs, or M39 Fox, as American units knew it, but none had gotten as close to GZ itself as the two vehicles commanded by Sergeant Franks. However Franks did not want to hang around too long, not even with the NBC protection system carried by the British vehicles.

“Should we risk taking a sample from the lake?” He wondered out loud and tried to ignore the frantic shaking of heads from his crewmates.

A mile or so away, Lieutenant Tom Potter, the OC of 2 Troop, A Squadron, The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, was a nervous man. Like a lot of people, he had a morbid fear of radiation and he hated to be this close to the site of a nuclear initiation. Even if it had been a low fallout air-burst. That actually made him a very good CBRN recon team escort commander. Now, he traversed his commander’s independent sight to watch the progress of the nearest Fuchs as it continued to move slowly around the lake taking soil samples. “I wish those prats would get a move on. I’ve no desire to glow in the dark, or grow an extra head.”

Back by the lake, Sergeant Franks had successfully managed to get a sample of the highly irradiated and very poisonous water from the lake. Now he was keen to withdraw from the area as soon as he could. "Okay, back us up.” Sergeant Franks told the driver who obeyed with unseemly alacrity. The two Fuchs withdrew first, the Challengers and Warriors following a moment later.

“What was it like, Sergeant?” Franks’ troop commander asked an hour after he had returned to base.

“Pretty eerie, Boss.” The sergeant replied. “It looked like everything that could have burned had done so and we were driving on a sheet of glass for last couple of miles. Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. We went though all the training into dealing with this sort of thing, yet nothing really prepared us for seeing it close up.”

"It's worse further away. You were at Ground Zero, you didn’t see what the outlier margins are like. Fires are still burning out there. Being dead is one thing, the angels and humans out there didn’t die at once. Some of the angels are in a pitiful state. They're encased in massive, fast-growing cancers. Like that Indonesian tree-man. Nobody here knows what to do about them. They've never seen anything like them. As far as we can make out, cancer was unknown until the Big Boss popped that nuke."

Franks shook his head. “I know, I know. Still, after having seen Ground Zero, all I can say is I’m pretty glad I wasn’t under it when it went off.”

"Tell the angels that. If they don’t jack it in soon and the rumor mill is right, there'll be a lot more coming."

Headquarters, Human Expeditionary Army, Heaven.

"By the holy half-chewed cigar of Saint Curtis, will you look at the size of that place?" General Norton A. Schwartz looked down at the pictures of The Eternal City with something approaching awe. Large areas were obscured, partially at least, by the smoke clouds from the fires at Ground Zero. Yet the rest was stunning in its sheer size. The Eternal City was a lot bigger than Dis.

"At least 1,500 kilometers per side. Those walls are thick, fifty meters at least, and a hundred meters high. Major redoubt at each corner with even thicker and higher walls. Three gates along each wall. Each gate flanked with guard towers." The photographic analyst looked up ar his audience. "The slums where the humans live are outside the walls of course. They add another band around the city. Those slums look pretty much like Dis as far as density and configuration are concerned. People packed together, narrow twisting streets."

"Meaning we'll be in for a hell of a street fight before we even get to the city walls." Petraeus sounded gloomy. He could see himself being forced into a decision that he really did not want to take.

"At least." Marshal Dorokov sounded even gloomier. The days when the Russian Steamroller had infinite amounts of men at its disposal were long gone. All the trouble that had cropped up in the Russian Zone of Occupation in Hell had stretched his manpower resources even thinner. "And punching holes in those walls will not be easy."

"It will." Petraeus disagreed politely. "We can nuke our way in. But, anything short of that and we'll be in a world of hurt."

There was a saddened sigh around the briefing room. "Once we're through, Sirs, things might be easier. The city itself is thinly populated. Most of the buildings are these big palaces and the streets are very wide, very straight. We could just roll down them and shoot the buildings on either side to crap. With all these trees, the place is more like a park than a city."

"The distance is the real problem." Sir Michael Jackson sounded seriously depressed. "We can't get to the center from outside, not without stopping and refuelling. This place has the same ground area as Algeria. It isn't a city, it's an urbanized country."

"Perhaps we ought to rename it Coruscant." The photo interpreter grinned at his own joke.

The grin slowly faded as Petraeus just stared at him. When the interpreter was feeling thoroughly miserable, Petraeus spoke carefully. "That might not be a bad idea. Its present name is certainly inappropriate. We'll make that suggestion to our political masters."

"Sir, if I might make a suggestion, Sir." General James Conway covered the awkward gap caused by the interpreter's faux pas. "My staff has been looking at this problem and we think we have a solution. Or part of one anyway. If you can detach the Marine Corps from First Army Group, we can portal an amphibious task group and carrier battle group to that lake in the center of the city. Lemuel-Lan-Michael says it's so deep nobody knows where the bottom is and its almost a hundred kilometers across by fifty wide. We can land the landing force right in the middle of the city, barely ten kilometers from Yahweh's palace."

"Don't we need a beacon or something?" Jackson was intrigued by the idea.

"We thought we would borrow one of those big Japanese flying boats. The Shin Meiwas. Fly it in through a portal, land on the lake with a sensitive on board. That can act as a beacon. Enterprise is fitted to generate her own portals. She can open the way up and take her battle group in to the city. Then the amphibs can follow through."

Petraeus shook his head. "That's an occupation plan, not an invasion. If Heaven folds, we can consider it." He looked more closely at the photographs that showed the area of Yahweh's palace. "What's going on here?"

"The Ultimate Temple Sir?" The photo interpreter spoke a lot more carefully than he had done before. "That foxes us completely. We took these shots from a Global Hawk a few minutes ago. She's still over the scene sir, and the anomaly is still there. It looks like there are two thunderstorms directly over Yahweh's palace. Take a look at this."

He slid another photograph over. It was a close-up shot of an Angel's face. Taken from more than 50,000 feet over the city and crystal clear in detail it showed one thing that was indisputable. The angel was terrified.

Petraeus reached out and tapped the anomaly. "Just what is going on down there."

The Ultimate Temple, Heaven

Yahweh had gone beyond raving anger. He was now possessed by a cold, deadly determination to destroy the opposition to him that had so suddenly and unexpectedly erupted. Opposition from a quarter he had never even begun to suspect. He was summoning his strength to wipe that opposition out. In the meantime, another part of his mind was trying to understand how his most trusted servant could have turned against him.

"Michael-Lan-Yahweh, it is still not too late. Submit to my justice, cleanse yourself of the sin of pride and I may yet spare you from the full force of my wrath. Do not force this to its inevitable conclusion."

"It's Michael-Lan-Michael now. I am your servant no longer. And it is already far too late. It was too late the day you betrayed the humans and closed the gates of Heaven in their face. It was too late the day you had the incredible stupidity to tell them that was what you had done. It was too late the day you condemned those who had made it here to being menial servants instead of living in the paradise you promised them. I will not submit to your justice for you have shown you do not understand the meaning of the word. How could you condemn humanity to everlasting torment and still speak of justice? You say you may spare me the full measure of your wrath? Be careful Yah-yah. The humans are coming and they will not spare you the full measure of theirs. Already their armies are encircling the Eternal City and starting to choke off its life-blood. Perhaps if you were to throw yourself on their mercy, they might hold their hands. Humans are oddly merciful to those they defeat. Usually. In your case though. . . ." Michael-Lan-Michael shook his head.

The music in his earpiece had changed to Mars, The Bringer of War. Whoever put this program together had done well. Michael thought. Let's hope it's enough.

The sheet of multi-colored lightning that enveloped him came with almost no warning. The only slight hint Michael had was that Yahweh had reserved some of the power for his own defense and the sparkling globe that protected him had become visible a tiny fraction of a second before the onslaught started. Grimly, Michael realized that Yahweh's appeal had simply been intended to lure him off guard. Had he fallen for it, he would have been caught completely unawares. As it was, his own protection, his own blast of lightning, was only just barely adequate to prevent him being crushed out of existence. He could feel it crushing under the strain, buckling under the relentless pressure of Yahweh's power. Michael reached out, sensing the mental energy of those minds that were in step with his own, incorporating it with his own. Slowly, agonizingly slowly, the situation stabilized with Michael in the middle of the storm yet untouched by it.

Yahweh's scream of frustration shook the whole Temple and echoed around the Eternal City. Word was already spreading of the cataclysmic events taking place within the Ultimate Temple and, all over the city, angels of every rank stood and watched as the cloud of storms engulfed the Temple. Inside, Yahweh was reaching out for his allies, to add their power to his. By instinct, his first instinct was to call on Uriel.

Michael-Lan-Michael felt the call go out and relaxed ever so slightly. Had the call been received, this confrontation would have been over. Uriel had been Yahweh's sword and shield. His massive power had been beyond that even of Michael and his ability to bring death wholesale had made him an enemy of unshakeable power. Together, Yahweh and Uriel were utterly unbeatable. Only, Uriel was dead. Methodically blasted apart by humans. Michael remembered the days and weeks he had spent maneuvering Uriel into attacking one human fortress after another. Always trying to throw him into the teeth of the human defenses and staying awake nights when time after time, Uriel had escaped. Michael's coup would have remained forever an abstract concept if Uriel had not died at the hands of humans for killing him had been far beyond Michael's power.

He felt Yahweh reaching for his sword and shield, his mind seeking to lock with that of Uriel. But, all it reached was a blank emptiness. Uriel was dead and the reality of that suddenly sank in on Yahweh's rage-engulfed mind. He reached out further for his less-powerful allies, seeking for the tiny margin of power that would allow him to overwhelm the rebel who stood before him. He ran through the list, trying to bring in each of his allies. Each to be met by the grim silence of death,

Colepatiron, killed by humans.
Nesupeh, killed by humans
Sacereor, killed in a terrorist bombing
Neripon, killed by humans
Erikehan, killed by humans
Irnasodeor, accused of treason and died under interrogation
Esetatuteh, killed in a terrorist bombing
Tonolpalon, killed by humans
Lesoteminiel, killed by humans
Hisralraman, killed in a terrorist bombing
Ritosehon, accused of treason and died under interrogation
Zaslohael, killed in a terrorist bombing
Umadipsah, killed by humans
Pinaliel, killed by humans

Michael-Lan-Michael sensed the lack of response from Yahweh's greatest and most powerful supporters. He also felt the rejection of Yahweh's touch by those who had forsaken him. All of the Chayot ha Kodesh that had survived refused to aid Yahweh and by implication threw their support to Michael. He sensed Yahweh's growing desperation as the truth was slowly forced on him. Every one of his allies had been killed. Either thrown against the humans and died under their guns and missiles or blown up when the terrorist bombings in the Eternal City had struck their temples. It dawned on Yahweh at last that those terrorist bombings had been nothing of the sort. They had been carefully planned assassinations and Yahweh finally understood who had been behind them.

Tahenael, killed by humans
Arsasaum, assassinated by Michael
Tcuadahiel, assassinated by Michael
Zunael, killed by humans

In desperation, Yahweh turned to the one ally he was sore he had left. Michael-Lan-Michael felt Yahweh reach out to his son, Elhmas, for the support he needed. For a tiny fragment of a second, Michael thought that Elhmas had answered the call and the chill of defeat started to sweep though him. But, Michael crushed it down even as the grim silence made the answer obvious. Elhmas was dead, destroyed so thoroughly by humans that not even a shadow of him was left.

Michael felt the assault on his existence beginning to ease very slightly. He had survived another round but he knew that he was dangerously close to using all the power that he had available to him. He had called on his allies, he had taken every effort they had offered to him. He had destroyed Yahweh's allies and forced him to fight this fight alone, unaided. For all that, he was barely a match for the immense power of Yahweh. In fact, it was an open question whether he was a match at all.

As the pressure on him slackened, Michael allowed his own energy output to decline. He needed to conserve strength and economize on that he was drawing from his allies. Slowly, his consciousness expanded away from the duel to take in his surroundings. The throne room, once resplendent in its brilliance was blackened and charred. The floor was covered with the precious stones from the walls, many cracked, blackened and charred from the energy discharges that had flooded the chamber. Poor stones. Michael thought. Looted from worlds beyond number and brought here to be baked. Too bad.

He took a deep breath and looked through the shimmering arrays of lightning that still crackled and swirled around him. Then, he spoke once more, his voice loaded with scorn. "Is that the best you've got?"

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2010 11:54 am 
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Angelic Treatment Ward, Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda, MD

"What do either of you know about cancer?" Doctor Zinder asked the two angels in the ward.

Lemuel and Maion exchanged bewildered glances. "What's cancer?" Lemuel answered for them both.

Zinder frowned, it was a strange reminder of the fact that the two angels were from a different universe. "Strange growths on or in the body. They grow out of control and will kill the victim unless treated. And treatment can be very difficult indeed. You've never heard of things like that?"

Both angels shook their heads. Again, it was Lemuel who answered. "Never. In all the millennia I have been in the Eternal City, I cannot recall anything like that. We are as we have always been, perfection."

"I doubt that very much." Zinder tried to hide his annoyance at the unwitting arrogance of Lemuel's reply. "The absence of cancers is remarkable. Your healing capability should make you more vulnerable to them. Obviously there is something about your physiology we don’t understand yet. No matter. We'll sort it out. We're not perfection, just smart." Zinder took an unprofessional delight in the jab but to his disappointment it didn’t seem to register with either angel.

"Why do you ask about this thing." Maion was confused and slightly disappointed. Behind her, the stumps of her amputated wings were changing, slowly morphing into a new set, wings that were but miniature reproductions of her original pair but ones that enlarged every day. She had been hoping to show them off.

"We took out one of your formations, some 50,000 angels and five times that many humans. The weapon we used killed most of them but many of the survivors have developed skin cancers. The victims are being covered in them. We've tried cutting them out, but they grow back even faster. We've tried every thing in our arsenal, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, to beat the cancers and we've failed. Frankly, you two were our last hope. We thought you might know something that might help. Without a few new leads, we're out of ideas and that means our patients won’t make it."

"The Incomparable Legion of Light? Gone?" Lemuel could hardly believe what he had just heard. He knew that was the unit ordered to attack the human invasion but that was all. Yahweh's own personal guard gone? By a single weapon?

"Was that what it was called? No matter. It's gone." Zinder was slightly irritated again. He wasn't really interested in what had happened except in as much as it affected his patients. "I believe the Army nuked it. We think the sleet of radiation from the blast is the cause of the skin cancers. The oncologists believe it mutated the DNA in the victims so your rebuilding mechanisms have gone out of control."

Lemuel and Maion looked at each other again in confusion. That almost caused Zinder to grin openly. These angels might think they are perfection but they know less science than a human seven year old. Then he decided to try something. "Perhaps Michael-Lan might know more?"

Lemuel answered very carefully. "Ah yes, Michael-Lan. There is much I wish to discuss with my old friend Michael."

Hill 331, Overlooking the Western Wall of the Eternal City. Heaven

The ZBD-97 platoon was parked in the trees that covered the crest of the hill. The scouts had left them and moved forward so that they could overlook the massive city that lay below them. Captain Tao Gan had very specific orders from his command, orders that did not eventually trace back to H.E.A. supreme command. He had followed those orders exactly. His reconnaissance platoon had slipped through the countryside with all the stealth that four armored personnel carriers could muster. He had avoided contact with enemy forces, steered clear of population centers and done everything else to make sure that his presence on this hill was undetected. From this hill he could see as far into the Eternal City as was possible. The Chinese People's Liberation Army didn’t have the wealth of equipment than the Americans did but they now had an asset in place that could substitute human eyes for remote-controlled aircraft.

The Americans had promised that all the information they gathered would be shared out but the CPLA commanders had been suspicious. Perhaps that was the wrong word Tao Gan thought. Cautious might be better. With his unit here on the hill, they had a way of checking whether the information the Americans sent them was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

"Sir, look at this." The voice from his 3rd-Level NCO was barely a whisper. The staff sergeant had been operating a pair of tripod-mounted surveillance binoculars, a set far too large and heavy to be lifted by hand. Tao Gan slid over to his position and looked through the binoculars. A slight adjustment of the focus was necessary to bring the street scene into sharp relief. Once done, he could see the angels in the street. Most of them were standing still, staring in the direction of the far-off city center. They seemed strangely motionless, as if they were in some form of trance. Or so terrified by what they saw that they were incapable of motion. Tao Gan's thought spurred his next decision. He needed to report back to Corps HQ.

The Ultimate Temple, Heaven

Michael-Lan felt the first beginnings of fear darken his mind. Even with the support of his network, he was only just barely surviving the barrage of electric bolts that enveloped him. Yahweh had given up talking to him or trying to persuade him to drop his guard. Now, he was relying on sheer brute force to batter down Michael's defenses and crush him out of existence. The non-stop onslaught was wearing Michael down. He could feel his legs weakening and it was all he could do to stop himself staggering. He was actually using some of the power drawn from his allies to keep standing firm and erect. It was a vicious cycle and he knew it. The more power he used for that purpose, the less he could feed into his defensive shell. That meant more of Yahweh's attacks reached him and weakened him still further. That meant he would have to use still more power to stand tall.

Michael caught himself, his momentary inattention had caused him to slip slightly, to begin the twisting fall that would end with him helpless on the ground. He chanced a brief glance at Yahweh, seeing with relief that his brief lapse had gone unnoticed. Then, to his intense relief, the grinding assault slackened and faded. He, Michael-Lan, had survived another confrontation with Yahweh's raw power. His senses reached out, feeling for the reserves of power that Yahweh still had in store and noting grimly how far they exceeded his own. He sucked the cold, ozone-tainted air into his starved lungs, feeling it rasp at the raw lining of his throat as he breathed in. His mind reached out, embracing all those of his network, all those whom he had lured into his net. His plan had worked, he had allies when Yahweh had none. He knew how to draw on their power with maximum efficiency while Yahweh did not. He understood economy of force while Yahweh was profligate with his power. And yet, for all that, Michael-Lan knew that he was slowly losing this fight. For a moment despair seized him. He felt it cloud his mind and the treacherous realization of just how easy it would be to give up and let go started to coil into his consciousness.

Michael looked up and saw the vindictive half-smile on Yahweh's face. That told him where those treacherous thoughts had come from. Yahweh hadn't slackened his assault, he had simply changed one mode for another. For a brief second, Michael wished he had one of the hats that humans had taken to wearing, the ones that protected them against the mind-deceptions of the daemons. It would do him no good of course. The hats only protected humans against daemonic mind-entering powers and incompletely at that. Those tinfoil hats were of no use against a being with Yahweh's power. Now if I had one of their tanks . . . . . The thought of him sitting in a human tank, suitably enlarged of course, made Michael snort with laughter. And that wiped the smile off his face.

"What's the matter Yah-yah? Getting weaker and feebler? You know, you should be grateful for me taking over. Gives you a chance to take a nice holiday. Why don’t you take a tour? I hear the other side of the Minos Gate is nice this time of year." Michael stepped sideways suddenly. It was nothing to do with Yahweh's response to his gibe, simply a large slab of marble had become detached from the ceiling and its fall was just a touch too close for comfort.

"I will crush your very soul from existence for this treachery." Yahweh's voice could have been used to grind rocks such was the grating venom loaded into each syllable.

"Now that's a good question." Michael tried to keep his voice light and goading despite the tiredness that consumed every muscle he had. "Can you actually do that? You couldn't do it to The Morningstar and his resistance didn't last this long. You know, old chap, I really don’t think you have it in you any more."

Michael actually missed Yahweh's reply to that for the music in his earpiece had changed again. Now, it was Wagner's Ride of the Valkyrie. As the massed bands poured the music out, the stirring score caused Michael to wonder if the old Norse gods were actually coming to his aid. Is that the message they are sending me? Reinforcements would be very welcome at this point. But the Aesir had retreated from Earth long ago, back to their own bubble world. Why should they help Michael who had commanded the armies that forced their abandonment of the Earth? Anyway, the human bandleaders didn’t know that little bit of history.

Still the changed music helped and Michael felt his spirits lift. Just in time for Yahweh chose that moment to launch yet another blast of raw power against him. Michael-Lan's defenses were up but they crumpled under the massive blow, allowing the energy to pour in towards him. He threw every last shred of power he could scrape up into the breach, saw the flood of multicolored light grind to a halt a few bare inches before it had contacted him. He sweated, breathed deeply, summoning the tiny reserve of power he had, feeling the muscles in his legs weaken as he did so. But, Yahweh's fireball was pushed back, the gap around Michael widening slowly, fraction of an inch by fraction of an inch until enough of a safety margin existed to allow him some tiny comfort. For all that, he knew this was the end. He had thrown everything he had unto the battle. He had nothing left. Soon, his power would run out and it would all be over.

In the background, outside the consciousness of the immediate struggle, Michael-Lan-Michael heard a familiar banging noise. It took a second for it to register then its identity hit him. It was the sound of the doors to the Throne Room opening and then slamming shut. He was also aware of something else. He now had a power reserve, a tiny one for certain but one that was growing. Grimly holding the line against Yahweh's furious assault, Michael sneaked a look through the scintillating globes of power towards the door.

Leilah-Lan had entered the room. Not just entered it, but made an entrance. She'd dyed her wing feathers black and was wearing her full dominatrix outfit. She strode across the throne room floor, the heels of her boots clicking on the marble as she turned and stood beside Michael, her face screwed up with concentration as she tried to pour power into him. Michael felt Yahweh's assault slacken and fail with the sheer shock of what had just happened. Leilah-Lan in full professional outfit was something this throne room had never seen before.

"What are you doing here? I told you to get ready to run if this failed."

"You did. You seem to forget Michael, I don't take orders very well." She chanced a quick grin at him.

"You're mad. . . . ." Michael's words were cut off by the doors banging again. Charmeine, Raphael and Gabriel walked in, striding across the rubble-covered floor to take up position around Michael. "All of you."

"Grateful isn't he." Charmeine-Lan spoke lightly in the silence that had followed their entrance. "And us flying all the way here in a thunderstorm just for him."

"What's happening at the Club?" Michael was actually at a loss for words. He had assumed his inner circle would make a run for it if he lost. Their decision to come here and stand with him, he just hadn’t seen that coming.

"The humans are running it. We explained what was going on and why. Told them what we wanted to achieve. What you were trying to do and what you were risking to do it. So, they took over there. Glen's officially in charge by the way. That freed us up to come here. They aren't leaving either by the way. They're going to keep playing until we win or Yahweh pulls the roof down on their heads. More of our high-ranking clients are on their way here . . . . ."

"Get ready." Michael suddenly remembered why he was here and what the battle with Yahweh was like. "Yah-yah's got a habit of throwing attacks without warning."

"Nasty of him." Leilah-Lan sounded most disapproving. "I'll have to . . . . . . ."

She was interrupted by a massive blast of power from Yahweh. This time, the response was different. With his most trusted allies around him, Michael didn’t have to worry about drawing power from his network. They were pouring it into him and the difference was more than significant. This time, he stalled the blast half way towards him and held it there. The pressure was immense but for the first time since the battle began, he felt as if he was in control of the situation. He was aware of something else as well. The choir outside the room were no longer singing hymns of praise. They were singing in tune with the broadcast from the Montmartre Club.

That was when Michael felt his power slacken slightly. Leilah had pulled herself out of the net, stepped slightly to one side and hurled all the energy she could muster at Yahweh. The discharge cracked and was followed by the flat vicious hiss of her whip as it flailed across the room and struck Yahweh full in the chest. The unexpected physical impact pushed him hard back against the throne and sent splinters of marble flying through the air. It was a one-shot trick-pony that relied on surprise rather than force for its effect and Michael knew it but, once again, Yahweh's poor power management had left him open to it. For a few seconds, his assault stopped and the blast of power from Michael flooded across the room and besieged Yahweh in his throne. Leilah had slumped to her knees, exhausted by the effort needed to generate the blast but she had made a historic mark, one that would never be forgotten in Heaven. For she, an Erelim, had managed to attack and hurt Yahweh. From within the shield of energy that surrounded them, Charmeine reached out and pulled her into the protection of the field.

For a moment, the initiative was in Michael's hands. He poured power at Yahweh, exhausting himself and his allies in the process, but he had Yahweh on the defensive at last. Now it was Yahweh who was struggling to hold back the assault, it was Yahweh who was fighting to prevent the energy breaking through and crushing him. Concentrating on managing the assault, Michael was only dimly aware of other angels from his club entering the room and joining the group around him. He just felt their energy joining his and supporting the streams of power that mixed and blasted inside the shattered throne room.

Never in the memories of anybody present had there been anything like the displays that now saturated the throne room. The scintillating, interacting arcs of light had gone far beyond white and multicolor. Now they shimmered with iridescent hues beyond the imagination of those watching in awe. The confrontation left that between Yahweh and the Morningstar pallid by comparison, pallid and lackluster for the brilliance of the light battle was enough to blind those unprepared for it. Just as Michael had clawed his way back from the brink of defeat just a few minutes earlier, now Yahweh tried to do the same. He also poured power into his defense and saw the assault on him slowly forced back. Watching him, Michael realized that, for the first time in uncountable millennia, Yahweh was actually running out of energy.

The battle was deadlocked. The two great shimmering walls of light energy were stationary in the middle of the room, their interface twisting with wild, unknowable colors and were beyond any mind to describe. Neither side could disengage now, both were locked in a death-grapple that could only end with the defeat and utter destruction of one. Or both thought Michael. That's an outcome I hadn't considered before. He looked behind him and saw another thing he had not expected. There was a disturbance around the entrance to the mason's bunker, now stained, blackened and scarred by the battle. The mason himself pulled free of the crowd inside and walked across the room to stand with Michael and his allies. The added energy pushed the wall a little bit further back towards Yahweh

Michael-Lan-Michael looked around, quickly assessing the situation. Leilah-Lan was back on her feet, tapping the palm of her left hand with her riding crop as she poured her recovering energy reserves into the battle. He had more than a dozen allies around him now, including at least five Chayot Ha Kodesh of the first and second degrees. For all that, he still hadn't quite got the edge to finish off Yahweh. They were evenly balanced, Yahweh on one side, Michael and his allies on the other and that was it.

There was one question Michael needed to know the answer to. That one question would be decisive in the titanic struggle that was now reaching its conclusion. Michael asked it of himself time and time again, his mind searching desperately for the answer. How would the humans handle this situation?

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2010 11:55 am 
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Headquarters, Human Expeditionary Army, Heaven.

"Two kilometers?" General Asanee spoke carefully. She'd measured the pictures taken by the Global Hawks for herself and come to the same conclusion as the analysts. The main streets carving The Eternal City into sections were that wide.

"Two kilometers wide and dead straight. Three run north and south, three run east and west. They join the gates, or rather the flanking ones do. The one down the middle is blocked by Yahweh's palace here in the middle. They cut the city into sixteen blocks with the palace area forming the seventeenth." The analyst sounded displeased; he didn’t like having his work checked so carefully. The great model of The Eternal City was largely his work. He had a feeling it was the supreme achievement of his lifetime. After all, where could he go from making this?

"So each block is 375 kilometers on a side? And these are 20 kilometers wide?" General Petraeus tapped the corner redoubts on the outer walls of the city.

"That's right, Sir. The gatehouses are twenty kilometers wide as well. Each flanking tower is nine kilometers across. How they swing a gate a kilometer wide open and closed is beyond me. No matter how carefully counterbalanced they are, the inertia must be enormous."

"They probably don’t open the whole gate. I bet you'll find there are small doors set in the face of the giant ones." Asanee smiled. "That's how we did it in our walled cities."

"Each of the city blocks duplicates the structure of the city as a whole. Cut into 16 sections, each a little under 95 kilometers square, by roads about a kilometer wide. Then each sub-block divided into 16 sub-sub-blocks by roads 500 meters wide. Each sub-sub-block is around 20 kilometers on each side. Populations seem to vary. Some just have four palaces, others have dozens. There are what appear to be temples all over the city. That's hardly surprising of course. We've done a rough estimate of the city population. We think there's around 200 million angels living in the City itself."

"Two hundred million." Petraeus seemed haunted by the number. "This has all the makings of a nightmare."

"We can chop the City up into isolated blocks using the roads and then take down each sub-sub block individually. It'll be one hell of a street fight though." Asanee was measuring the likely cost of doing so while she spoke. The answer wasn't one she liked.

"We're better equipped for fighting Angels and Daemons than we were at Hit. We've got rifles that can actually hurt them now." Jackson looked depressed, he was calculating losses as well. His answer varied from Asanee's, reflecting the difference in their characters. "And Angels don’t have the bloody-minded guts of the daemons."

"We don't know that Michael." Asanee had a warning note in her voice. "That's true in the fighting so far but it all took place away from their city. This time, it'll be on their home ground, in their sacred city. We can't be sure they'll fold. Where have they got to run to?"

"That's a good point Asanee." Petraeus looked at the great model again. "They've nowhere left to go. We can't assume they'll fold. Anyway, another point we have to think about. Yahweh's palace, here in the center of the city. Right in the middle. It's in what amounts to a park, 200 kilometers square with that lake beside it. We have to advance through 650 kilometers of urbanized terrain before getting there. That's more than the operating range of our tanks. We'll need every heavy truck we can get to keep the front line forces fighting. We can open portals of course, move the stuff directly in from Earth but it's still going to be a massive effort just to keep the troops supplied.

"Anyway, there's something else I wanted to discuss with you." Petraeus pressed the keypad on his desk and the electronic displays that dominated the wall behind his desk flickered into life. The map showed the square of The Eternal City with great blue arrows beginning to coil around it. "We've got all three Army Groups moving into place now. Combined with air operations, we're methodically cutting supplies into the City. So far, we haven't actually moved into sight of the city. Not officially anyway. Unofficially, we're picking up communications that suggest a number of countries have moved covert forces into observation points around the city."

At that point Petraeus became aware that Jackson and Asanee were both looking shifty. In fact, they looked downright evasive. "Let me guess, you two as well?"

"We have a couple of reconnaissance units near the city walls." Asanee sounded apologetic. "My government insisted we move them up to check on the data we were getting."

"I can honestly say that Her Majesty's Armed Forces have no covert operations groups stationed outside The Eternal City." Sir Michael Jackson sounded positively righteous. Asanee's head snapped around to look at him and one of her eyebrows was raised.

Petraeus smiled. "I see the SAS are living up to their reputations then. I suppose it was to be expected. A coalition this big doesn't exist without this kind of thing going on. Just make sure that these groups don’t start stepping on each others' feet. Asanee, Michael, I don’t care how you do it but set up some sort of system so we don’t get mutual interference between these groups. By the way, somebody better talk to our friend Gaius Julius about that as well. He's hired enough deceased special forces people to have something going. And he's not the kind of leader who'll miss a trick."

The Ultimate Temple, Heaven

A single phrase hammered through Michael-Lan's mind. The Issue Is In Doubt.. Who actually doubted it was a good question. The clouds of static lightning that filled the Throne Room had stabilized, more or less, but there was no clear advantage to either side. Sweat was running down Michael's face, not just from the intense effort that he and his allies were making but from the rising temperature within the room. That was inevitable with the sheer amount of energy that was being discharged. Even with the immensely thick marble walls acting as a heat sink, that energy had to go somewhere. He and his circle were getting nowhere fast and it was questionable how long they could hold out.

On the other hand, it was also questionable how long Yahweh could hold out. What was happening was unprecedented. Yahweh had been fought to a standstill and his own resources, once capable of overwhelming even the most determined opposition, were now depleted. Michael consoled himself with the thought that his day was done. Even if Yahweh survived this battle, there were those who had watched and learned from Michael's mistakes. Yahweh would go down eventually. The problem was that if Michael won, the same assault could be used against him. Whatever happened, today's battle marked the end of the old ways in Heaven.

It was getting harder to hear the music being transmitted from the Montmartre Club. The energy battle that was being waged interfered with the broadcast. The constant crackle and hiss of static drowned out parts of the program and that was a problem Michael hadn't anticipated. His whole plan depended on the musical broadcast keeping his allies minds in synchronization with his own. That meant their mental energy was transferred at maximum efficiency. As the music was lost in the interference, that synchronization would be lost and with it much of his edge over Yahweh.

Through the crackle, Michael heard the music had changed again. It took him a few bars to recognize it but when he did, it was with the pleasure of meeting an old friend. It was the theme tune from the film Zulu. One of his favorites, Zulu was a regular feature in the cinema attached to the Montmartre Club. Michael's mind went to the end of the film, when the British redcoats were making their last stand and pouring fire from their rifles into the mass of maddened Zulu warriors before them. He could hear the Sergeants giving the orders. 'Front rank fire. Middle rank fire. Rear rank fire.'

That's what humans would do in a situation like this. The realization dawned on Michael-Lan in a flash of understanding. He had the answer he was looking for.

"People, get ready to push together. Every bit of energy we have. But don’t hold it. We'll just push as hard as we can and then relax a little. Then push again. In time with the music." So far they had been maintaining a long, steady, maintained pressure. But if they started pulsing the pressure, if they used their energy in bursts instead of a continuous effort, it might work. "Get ready and . . . . heave."

Michael-Lan threw every bit of energy he had into the pulse. He felt his allies doing the same and the sudden effort forced the flickering wall between them and Yahweh back. Not far, a foot or more at most, but a definite push. There was a curious strip on the wall where bleached white stone and blackened jewels met that showed the result. His team relaxed and Yahweh started to regain the strip but the music struck another chord and his team threw another pulse. This one worked as well and the bleached and blackened strip of wall grew wider.

"Come on friends, it's working." Michael was caught up in the battle, orchestrating the pulses of energy with the rhythm of the music, emitting the massive pulses that were slowly but surely having their effect. Each one gained just a little more ground, each respite between them lost just a little less. "Heave!"

The strip down the wall was wider by far and Michael's team stepped forward, feeling the heat of the stone under their feet. The jade floor was hot enough to be uncomfortable even through their sandals but that was of little importance. Michael knew, every member of his team knew, that they had Yahweh on the run. The battle was slowly swinging in their favor.

The change, when it came was sudden. The defensive wall of energy that Yahweh had maintained between him and his enemy collapsed. Where once there had been a solid barrier that kept Michael's allies away from the Peerless Throne, now there was a bubble of energy around it. That was not a final loss. At the start of the fight, it was Michael who had been trapped within an energy bubble but he had fought his way out of it. With the help of his friends, who had cast their lot in with him beyond any means of withdrawal. In a part of his mind that was not involved in this battle, Michael still wondered at that. They could have stayed clear and had a chance of survival if things had gone badly. But they had given it up to stand beside him. That thought gave him much to think about but one thing stirred uneasily in his mind. I don’t deserve friends like these.

The energy pulses from Michael and his team struck at the sphere of energy protecting Yahweh from all directions. He could see the colors rippling in it, saw the surface of the sphere rippling under the impacts. Above all, the sphere was shrinking. Each successive onslaught left it smaller and weaker, its colors dimmer and more familiar. His team were losing energy also, but slowly, they were gaining dominance over the defense in front of them. Their pulses were still multi-colored even though the spectrum was one familiar to those watching. In contrast, Yahweh's screen showed glowing areas of white.

Over the crackling roar of the energy discharges, Michael-Lan heard a groan, then an increasing wail of pain. Yahweh was in the center of an energy discharge and that discharge was being crushed inwards. He was being crushed with it. The ball was almost completely white now yet still being assailed by waves of energy in all seven colors of the visible spectrum. The wail turned into an agonized howl as the pressure continued to crush inwards. It grew louder and more unstable, the voice from within the sphere wavering and breaking under the terrible pressure. Despite his size and unimaginable power, Yahweh was dying.

When it burst, Yahweh's defense bubble just vanished. Swamped and overwhelmed by the energy thrown at it, it was scattered and absorbed. Yahweh was consumed by the sheets of lightning that enveloped him. They crushed him, drowned him, they cast him down. By the time they were finished, the vast figure that had once dominated the Throne Room was crushed to a size no greater than the greatest of his Angels. It was slumped on the throne itself and was still.

Leilah-Lan left the group standing at the foot of the throne, the heels of her boots clicking on the jade. Her whip lashed out, just as it had once before, but this time the lash curled around Yahweh's foot. She started to pull, intending to drag his body off the throne but she lacked the strength. Others came to help her and between them, they managed to shift the still, gray form off the pedestal and drag it to the floor below.

Michael-Lan stood, looking down at the dead body with something very close to disbelief in his heart. It seemed impossible that, after all the planning and manipulation, the battle really was over. For a brief second he couldn't help but wonder what he would do next. After centuries spent plotting Yahweh's downfall, the completion of the task was almost an anti-climax. The thought didn’t last long. The humans are still out there and I have to stop them blasting their way into the City. Then he looked around and watched the other Angels slowly gathering around Yahweh's body. They looked down, bewildered and lost.

"Oh Great And Incomparable Father Of Us All." Michael turned towards the speaker. It was Raguel, an obsequious expression on his face. Typical of him. Trying to curry favor once the fighting was done. Yahweh's most loyal supporter and the first to change sides when he was cast down. Michael crushed the thought down.

"My name is Michael, remember? We went though all this so that kind of ridiculous posturing would be forgotten." He paused and then put all the emphasis he could into the next four words. "My name is Michael."

He looked around him, trying to gauge the mood of the crowd. There was something he had to do right now, so that at least one of his team would be properly rewarded. "Leilah-Lan. You are the only Erelim in my inner circle. Yet you came here first and were the first to strike a blow at Yahweh. I raise you to Chayot Ha Kadesh, the highest of all ranks of Archangel." He reached out and laid his hand upon her head. To his surprise he felt power running through his hands and he saw Leilah standing tall. Was she raised in more than just name? Michael honestly did not know.

"There is much to be done if we are to survive. First, we must clear this place up." He looked down at the body on the floor. "Somebody throw that in the lake. Where's the Master Mason? Zacharael-Lan, take that throne down, break it up, chop it up, whatever. I don't care. Just get rid of it and throw the bits in the lake as well. Use them to weigh Yahweh's body down. Then, up on the dais where it used to be, I want a table and a set of chairs. Normal sized ones for us. Heaven will be ruled in future by discussion and agreement between free people. Not by the whims of a single dictator. We'll hold the meetings up there and they will be free for all to watch."

Michael paused and looked around again. "Raphael, when you have recovered, I have a special task for you. I want you to fly to the commander of the human army and tell him we surrender. Tell him that I am declaring The Eternal City to be an open city. It will not be defended and we will throw the gates of the city open to his army as soon as we find out how they work. If we can't we will ask his assistance in blowing them open. When you go, make sure you have the biggest white flag you can find and wave it as energetically as you can. Otherwise they are quite likely to blow you out of the sky."

"We surrender One Ab . . . . . . Michael?" Raguel sounded confused and slightly belligerent.

"Of course we do. We make peace with the humans as fast as we can, before they start shooting. Remember what they did to the Incomparable Legion Of Light? They blew it up, so decisively that the smoke from its destruction darkens our skies and chills our air. They did that with one of their bombs and that one far from their most powerful. Do you want to see their most powerful ones hitting this city? They will, you know. They will study this city and decide that taking it by storm will be far more trouble than it is worth. So they will blow it up and all of us with it. That's why we have done what we have done. If Yahweh had remained in charge here, he would have killed us all."

There was a plan to fulfil still and Michael knew it had to go on, even with the lethargy of exhaustion clouding his mind. "Gabriel, spread the word of what has happened here. Tell everybody that Yahweh has gone, there will be no more purges or mass arrests, that the prisoners taken by Yahweh will be released. Tell them of the concentration camp Yahweh had built and what was done there. Also, make sure everybody knows what happened to the Incomparable Legion of Light as a result of Yahweh starting this futile war. Above all, make sure everybody knows that the humans are coming and that Yahweh's elimination means we can save the city from their attack. Rest before you go though."

Raphael-Lan and Gabriel-Lan waved in acknowledgement to him. Michael-Lan paced across the shattered floor and stared at the choirs and the strange creatures that had once decorated the room. The sight made him realize he had another job for the master mason. "Oh, Zacharael-Lan. We need more light in here. Could you make some holes in the walls please? When you get a chance."

"What of us?" The soft, sibilant voice from the leader of the choir grabbed at Michael's attention. "What do we do?"

"Anything you like." He looked at the members of the choir with sympathy. They were the last survivors of their kind, an ancient race that had been first seduced and then enslaved by Yahweh. When he had tired of them and found others to take their place, they had been cast down. Some might survive in the very depths of Hell. If so, the humans would find them and look after them.

"We know of nothing to do. Except to sing praises."

Michael-Lan shook his head. "Don't worry. We'll find an honorable place for you." Then, a thought occurred to him. "Charmeine-Lan, go to the Montmartre and tell the guys there that they can stop playing now. Thank them from me for everything they've done. We've won. All of us."

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:35 pm 
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I haven't been this drained by your writing since chapter 16 of The Big One, oh so many years ago....

WOW. :o :shock: :o


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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:40 pm 
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That was a little bit of awesome :)


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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:26 pm 
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I was specifically playing the 11th Doctor's action theme during this chapter, Awesome multiplied by Awesome with a remainder of Woot.

I am definitely hoping that book 3 totally explores a bit of the "Humanity Universe Police" story line suggested in SDN, but having to fight like, Cthulu and stuff :)


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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 12:53 pm 
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Yikes !!

Seems they won't need a Plowshare Device (TM) to breach the walls...

( FWIW, how long did it take to assemble the A~~Z litany ?? )

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:45 pm 
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Nik_SpeakerToCats wrote:
FWIW, how long did it take to assemble the A~~Z litany ?? )


Probably about 30 Googleseconds ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:27 pm 
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I was going to offer Stu the British Army's last remaining 18inch howitzer for wall breaching purposes. I even had a scene half written in my head of a superannuated RA Colonel trying to convince General Jackson to offer the howitzer to General Patreaus.

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 9:33 pm 
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Excellent climax Stuart.

Raphael meeting Petraus should be interesting. Perhaps Abigor and Caesar might attend :twisted: now or at more formal surrender proceedings in Yahweh's old digs with the USN sitting just off shore.

Jan, there may be more worlds that Man visits and more fortifications potentially to reduce so an 18" howitzer has my vote. A thought - how many 16" tubes does the USN have sitting around in Museum BBs that might perhaps be refurbishable?

Jonathan


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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:56 am 
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I knew that the 18inch howitzer still existed from reading a book by the late Ian V. Hogg, but it was not until I read an article in The Railway Magazine that I realised just how excellent a condition it is in. The weapon is on a proof-firing mount, rather than it's original mount, but it is still the UK's heaviest rail vehicle! :shock:
What really attracts me to it as a potential weapon is that during 1943/44 we designed a concrete penetrating warhead to deal with German fortifications in France and Italy. Now that might be a handy non-nuclear way of breaching walls.

I don't see that it would be too hard to construct a new mount similar to the one built during WW1. I think there are still plenty of railway engineering works in the UK that could handle the work.

Logistics is an issue that some brought up on SDN, but I don't see it being as much of a problem as it was in the past. Keep the howitzer at Larkhill and whenever it is needed open a portal to the destination, lay a bit of extra track and have a loco push the weapon through the portal. Fire how many rounds are needed then withdraw back to Larkhill.
I also know that bombers are probably superior in what they can deliver, but aircraft can be grounded by weather, or be shot down. An 18inch howitzer shell is less vulnerable to the latter.
I do also wonder if we could develop a 'special' warhead, after all the Americans did for the 16inch gun.

This seems a bit like vandalism to me, but I wonder if we could take a couple of the 6inch guns off Belfast?

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 6:27 am 
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JNiemczyk1 wrote:
This seems a bit like vandalism to me, but I wonder if we could take a couple of the 6inch guns off Belfast?


What do you want them for? Could Belfast herself be made operational at reasonable cost - that would be interesting . . . but how to use her?

Take care Fritz


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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:56 am 
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Railway artillery; we used naval 6inch guns in both WW1 and 2.
Belfast is too much ship to make operational. She would eat a lot of manpower, needs people familiar with steam turbines and would need to have all the holes cut into bulkheads for display purposes fixed.
In the time it would take to refit Belfast the RN could build and crew at least half a dozen War Emergency Type 45 destroyers.

It is basically the same argument against reactivating the Iowa class battleships and the other battleships that survive as museums.

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:00 pm 
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Belfast has 6 inch (152mm) guns, the modern British Army already has 155mm guns - what would be the point in pulling guns off o a Museum ship, when they aren't significantly bigger/better than what's already available?

Now seeing as the British military never throws ANYTHING away, maybe the RN still has a few 15 inch guns in store somewhere from when they decommissioned Vanguard and the Queen Elizabeths?


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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:30 pm 
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Michael wrote:
Now seeing as the British military never throws ANYTHING away, maybe the RN still has a few 15 inch guns in store somewhere from when they decommissioned Vanguard and the Queen Elizabeths?


Well, there are the ones either side of the main entrance to the Imperial War Museum, but I suspect they've been rendered permanently unservicable, and ammunition is liable to be rather scarce in any case. That might be accepted for a single gun firing specialised ammunition in a limited role, but would be a serious impediment to more general service.

Oh, and you appear to have confused us with the Russians: they never throw anything away, whereas our storekeepers just don't admit to having things so that they can't be thrown away, nor indeed used. After all, the term is 'stores', not 'issues'.

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2010 1:28 am 
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Question: Why bother pushing the gun through the portal?

Just set up a portal a bit in front of the gun, set the other end short of the wall, and shoot. For that matter, we wouldn't need a fancy mounting for a gun, since the portal can do the aiming.

Yes, that does mean that an Iowa can be crewed with ~300 men, giving a crew for each turret plus housekeeping. One Portal Tech per turret, and you're in business. Just leave them where they are - the noise shouldn't bother anyone.

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:00 am 
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Yup, definitely mixed up with the Russians. We throw away pretty much everything as soon as we no longer need it, for example a lot of our Emergency War Stock of vehicles, some almost brand new were disposed of fairly recently.
Apart from the two guns outside the IWM and the surviving 18inch howitzer all big guns were cut up for scrap once the ships that used them were scrapped.

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2010 11:41 am 
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JNiemczyk1 wrote:
I was going to offer Stu the British Army's last remaining 18inch howitzer for wall breaching purposes. I even had a scene half written in my head of a superannuated RA Colonel trying to convince General Jackson to offer the howitzer to General Patreaus.


Why don't you do just that? I can see a place for it :D

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 Post subject: Re: Pantheocide 73 - 76
PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2010 12:12 pm 
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Soon as I get 129 finished for TLW I'll work on it.
Btw there is a German railway gun in France somewhere and the US has several, but ours is apparently the largest survivor.

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