Red. Red was everywhere, liquid and warm.
Everything was red and black.
The only sound, aside from the soft drip of fading life, was the wind. No, not the wind. Just a rasping breath. In and out, getting slower each time.
It was his own. Likely his last. There wasn't much time.
Forty three years and they all ended tonight.
His shaking hand lifted the receiver and set it on the desk. It returned to the number pad, dialing a sequence he'd prayed he would never have to use. Then it lifted the handset back up off the crimson-stained blotter and held it to his ear.
A complicated way to make a call, but necessary since only one of his arms worked.
As he'd always imagined, the other line only rang once.
The voice was calm, a tone that meant there was no way the person answering had any idea why he was calling.
"We..." He did not mean to trail off but the pain of speaking was more than he'd expected. Marshaling his will, he forced himself to continue. "We... have... been... attacked." Between words, he was panting, wasting breaths. There were precious few left.
"Has the assault been dealt with, Precept?" Again, the speaker was utterly, eerily calm.
He almost laughed, but what remained in his lungs had to last through the next few moments. "No... The assault... has been successful. We... are slain... to a man. Only... only I remain." Inwardly, he cursed himself for repeating a word.
"Your diocese is lost, then."
It wasn't a question, nor was it phrased like one, but he felt obligated to answer anyway. "Yes."
"Understood. Is there anything else to report?" He had expected cold, given who... no, what he was talking to, but the loss of an entire chapterhouse should have elicited some kind of response. Didn't 'they' care?
The next sound, the last sound, in the old man's life was a metallic click and a clap of unnatural thunder.
More red. More wet. More silence.
Then another hand picked up his phone. "Indeed there is more to report."
The calm voice hesitated. "Uriel," it finally said.
Another moment of quiet passed between the speakers. "Why are you doing this?" There was no accusation in the voice; it was merely a question. Anyone listening would have been hard pressed to determine if the speaker even cared about the answer.
"This house was corrupt, infected. It needed to be purified."
"He will not be pleased."
There was the rhythmic, metal noise of empty steel shells falling onto tile, followed by bullets being reloaded. "He is welcome to discuss the matter with me."
Another pause. "You would do well to beg forgiveness now. His judgment may be more lenient if you show the proper respect before it is passed." Then, after several empty moments. "Do you intend to do so?"
"No." The answer came quickly. "I will not apologize for doing what he should have."
"Understood." There was no pause this time, as if the calm voice had known the answer before asking the question. "What do you intend?"
There was the heavy clack of a barrel locking back into a large revolver. "I intend to see how far this infection has spread." The next sound was the sibilant slide of a handgun into a holster of hard leather.
"He will not forgive further interference."
The answer was just as quick as before. "Nor will I."
"Is there anything further? Or shall I assume this conversation at an end?" The voice was still betraying no emotion, though the words were closer together and the pauses between sentences longer.
"Tell me, Ambriel. Do you know what the humans say about assumptions?"
The sound of footsteps in puddles echoed away from the desk. There was much to do and such a large world to have to do it in, especially for an angel without wings. Most especially for one who would have to shoulder this task alone. There would be no help from above; in fact, he expected to have to cross weapons with old comrades before this was done.
The Powers behind the Order had assumed humanity would serve them according to the Will of Heaven. His chance encounter with a helltouched in a hospital had shown him the error of that belief.
Now comes wrath. Ruin.
And the red dawn...