After Midnight...

Jean sat on the edge of the bed in the almost empty infirmary, listening to the sounds of combat outside the protective dome, as those last few desperate souls tried to penetrate the defenses around the Halls of Technology. He stared at the wall o f equipment, the bottles of esoteric fluid, and the stark white walls, all bathed in a soft yellow glow. But with all of this technology, there was nothing he could do.

With one last great heave, the doors finally gave way with a tremendous screetch and, for the first time in millenia, that which seperated Shal-Mari from Perdition began to swing closed to the sounds of a thousand voices cheering, ripped from the t hroats of the demonic hordes. No trains, subways, cars, or foot traffic was to be permitted between the Principalities. If nothing, Shal-Mari would stand against the tide of the growing madness, and would be there with the morning glow.

Erlithan watched the work from high above, on the scaffolding. He pulled his rag out of his suit pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow. For now, he felt, the Principality was defensible, even somewhat safe, against the horrors which were occur ing outside the walls. With a sudden pang, he realized it was ironic that a Principality in Hell was one of the safest places in the Universe. He spun suddenly and said something scathing to an Impudite standing behind him, which sent the lesser demon s crambling.

For a moment, he wished that Daimonique was there to hold the whip and get everyone moving, but he knew that, for all intents and purposes she, like so many others, was dead.

Terry hung up the phone, and sat at his chair, rubbing his temples. Behind him, the sun was setting, but that was of little consequence. Before him, in small piles, were televisions tuned into satellite stations around the world. The entire plan et decided to erupt at once, like an out of control tidal wave, and it was nothing more then one big connected story. It was just all happening so fast, he could barely keep up.

He wondered, distantly, if anything was worth it. It would be so simple just to go outside, sit by the pool, watch the setting sun and let it all just happen as he sipped Mai Tais. But he couldnít do that. It was against his nature. He needed a t least one more good run at ratings, and this might be the last run of his long life.

He picked up the phone again, and cradled the receiver against his ear. A few minutes later, he was back in the saddle, sending his minions off all over the globe with their cameras in hand. If mankind was going to watch Armageddon in the privacy of their homes then, dammit, is was going to be his Armageddon.

He had tried to sing the wound shut, the song had no effect, as it continued seeping its foul smelling black ichor. He cursed the Heavens above as he tried to hold it closed in his hands, but it flowed over his fingers and dripped onto the floor w ith small splats.

His robes rustled across the burnished black marble as he leaned and picked up the long thin wire from the mantlepiece. One hand pulled the sticky black cloth back from where it had fused to the silvery skin, and the other hand gripped the tip tig htly between the forefinger and the thumb, white bandages twining around the thin rod of iron. With force and a small gasp of pain, he thrust it through the hardened skin, and up through the other side of the gaping hole, and pulled through until only th e tip of the wire remained free. Then he thrust it back down again, and over and over, pulling so the dangling ragged flaps skin were forced toward one another.

The ichor still dripped in small splatters on the black marble floor, but as Dominic draped his robe over the maw, he felt for the time being, it would do.

Michael didnít really want to do it, but choice wasnít entering into his game plan. It was either this or let the entire house of cards collapse, which he wasnít willing to allow for the continued survival of one single being. It was a hard choic e to make, but it wasnít the first he had made in his lifetime. Hell, it wasnít the first he made this past week.

He walked lightly through the Groves, axe balanced in one hand, and moved silently through the trees. He would miss the old Heaven, but there really was no going back, and no real way to put it all back together. All the Kingís Horses and All the Kingís MenÖ

No need for regrets. Heíd put it back together before, heíd put it back together again. Those who survived would be strong, and all there was in the universe was the certainty of a future.

The trees parted to a clearing, and before him was his target. The Malakite turned toward him, and Michael bowed his head in greeting. He would at least allow David to go to his death honorably.

The Mercurian tossed the Spear at the other of his same Choir and said with some mirth, "I think you know what to do with this."

Raphael looked up from the Book of Truth and peered at the Spear of Destiny lying on the floor in his Cathedral. His life, he decided, had rapidly filled with too many words which required capitalizations. He left the podium and hefted the light weap on in one hand lightly. "I had never thought it would come to this. I had never wanted it to come to this. You should have left me where I was."

Eli crossed his arms. "Even you canít fight destiny."

"Oh," Raphael said with a soft laugh filled with horror, "but I will."

They lay the Archangel on the green grass of the Glade, and the talk about what next began.

Daimonique sat on the earthly carpetting and wrapped her arms around her knees. The hooks, the discord, the entire scene had disturbed her deeply. Iím not a demon anymore, you know, she told herself. Iím not really anything anymore. I was a Mediator, I was a Demon of Desire, I was worded and distincted and powerful. I spoke words and beings trembled. I was near the pinnacle of an Empire. Now I am nothing but myself, but I am better for it.

She looked down at the white stars on her palms, silent reminders of the price of love.

She looked up and watched the Malakite Archangel and sighed. Even so ill and so sad and so broken, he was still beautiful. Her heart ached. And she wondered, abstractly, if he could hear God in his head, too.

There was no place to hide. The Angels swooped down from the sky as it had stated in Revelations and descended upon the City. Before them buildings burned, homes were set ablaze, and children screamed. In the streets, mankind who was rank with the h eresy of Corruption died, and their sweet stench spiraled up into the sky.

To the tune of the Trumpet, the land would be cleansed.

Jean sighed as the last of the light flickered and went dim. "Goodbye old friend," he said.

Flaming edge graphics from Our Domain Gallery of Graphics
The "In Nomine" and "flaming feather" graphics are
(C) 1997 Steve Jackson Games, Incorporated.
Used with fnord.