Wednesday, October 3, 2007


The door was locked. Seven warding spells protected it from being broken, burned, unlocked, affected by magic, touched by living flesh or seen by mortal eyes. It had kept the sanctum to which it served as the only entrance safe for decades. Nothing had successfully penetrated its demesne; it was a testament to the protective powers of true cabalistic High Magic. Behind its complete and total defense, those kept inside were in one of the safest places in North America.

In fact, they were so safe that it took both a wave of raw entropy weakening the rune-inlaid metal around the door and the impact of Matt's motorcycle moving at more than 90 miles an hour down the long hallway leading up to it to tear the invulnerable door from its nigh-invulnerable frame and send it smashing through the far wall.

For the guardian knight standing directly behind the door, life was brief. His wet testament adorned most of the back of the room by the time Matt pulled Zephyr sideways and body-checked the other guard with the animated bike's muffler cowling.

Before the unfortunate man's shins had even finished breaking, Matt was up off Zephyr's seat, somersaulting through the air with his pistols drawn. One shot through the back of the guard's head ended the pain of his ruined legs. Matt considered it a kindness.

The cabalist priest crouching behind the room's massive desk obviously disagreed. "You murdering blasphemer! Burn in the lowest pits of Hell!"

He'd heard that before. Many times. "Thank you for the stock dialogue." Matt hit the ottoman with both feet, using it to spring back into the air and avoid another predictable fate. For a group priding themselves on their mastery of 'holy magic', it was funny how many of them carried guns. Or, in this case, a shotgun.

The cone of fire and steel shards tore through the air under him, right where he would have been standing had he landed and stayed still. The buckshot ripped apart the recliner and wall behind it, sending a cloud of sheet rock powder into the air.

Matt dove behind the calcite fog, using it to mask his landing and keep from getting shot again. The Order of Saint Michael Archangel usually armed their priest-mages with Benelli Novas, sturdy shotguns capable of chambering both slugs and shot in the same feed. Nice guns which, Matt counted his blessings, were almost always carrying pellets to make up for the poor marksmanship of most of the 'blessed ones' carrying them.

If the gun had been full of slugs, the shots the priest was now firing into the recliner would be ripping straight through both the chair and the Matthew. He was not all right with that last part. As it was, the pellet shards were making an unholy mess of the chair but not achieving nearly enough penetration to reach him.

Silently, Matt counted each round. Three... Four... Five...

This was where it got interesting. A few of the priests in the Order were knowledgeable enough about their guns to request an extended capacity. If they didn't, the Nova Pump would be dry in five shots. That meant Matt could pop up and end this now.

If this priest had added the option to his issued weapon, the barrel could still conceivably have two rounds left. Popping up would be a bad choice if that was the case.

Matt decided to take the chance and rolled out from behind his cover, his silver-plated pistol whipping up to draw line of sight on the manic Father. To his dismay, the man of the cloth pulled his weapon around just as fast, an cold smile as he pulled the shotgun's trigger.


The smile traded faces and Matt pulled his trigger a split-second later.

His handgun didn't click. It made a nice, earth-shattering kaboom. The puff of fire and smoke bursting from its barrel surrounded a magically created bullet forged of pure force and blessed by an act of, if the Order was to be believed, Pope Urban II. Every pistol carried by the highest agents of the Order of Saint Michael Archangel, including the two Matt had liberated, carried a relic in their handled. These relics, arrowheads from the first Crusade, allowed the weapons to strike through magical protections and the foul defenses of demons and other heretics.

Matt had become amusedly aware that for all their attunement against 'evil', the guns managed to do nicely violent things to members of the Order as well. Was that a divine commentary about these soldiers of the church? He didn't know and he really didn't care.

All that mattered was the result, that being the passage of the glittering clear projectile through the air between his weapon and the priest's left shoulder. It hit, pierced the protection spell on the holy man's vestments and went straight through the man's shoulder. The hole going in was considerably smaller than the one coming out. The wall went red and the priest went down.

Matt took a second shot before he stopped rolling. This one did ouchful things to the man's right arm, sending the Nova Pump flying across the room in a sanguine shower. Then he was up and taking aim with both guns. No more body shots; the pistols were aimed straight for the High Father's head. He wanted to fire, the darkest corner of his soul was screaming for him to end this man. The thought of shooting until there was only pastor paste on the beige carpet was so appealing. So deliciously violent...

No! He wasn't here to kill. He was here to deliver a message.

"Get out. Get your people and get the fuck out of Tennessee. Go thump your bibles in another state." As he spoke, Matt thumbed back the bolts on both his guns. It had taken him days to perfect that little bit of legerdemain but it looked really cool. "You're not welcome here any more. Get it?"

The priest looked up at his from the floor. Though both shots had been non-fatal, they were still serious. The shoulder wound was just going to bleed until it was stitched shut and the arm... well... quick enough medical attention might save it. Might. "You are a monster. The Order of Saint Michael Archangel takes no orders from the spawn of the Devil."

"I am trying to save your lives, old man. You don't want to know what's coming next." He wasn't lying. This priest had no idea why Matt was here. if he had, the poor man might nibble the barrel of his own shotgun.

Instead, the older priest, going a touch pale from blood loss, spat at him. Literally spat, as the bubbling droplets on Matt's face could attest. "Let me guess," the man said in an Italian-accented snarl of derision. "Hell rides behind you? So arrogant. So typical..."


The man's head lolled backwards, pitched forwards without a face and slumped to the ground. Matt lowered his guns, cussing and looking to the doorway. There, a smoking pistol rested in the flawless grasp of a white gloved hand. "Heaven... actually."

"Damn it!" Matt hissed. "I thought you said we were here to warn the Order."

The angel pushed his mirrored sunglasses back up to the bridge of his nose with his free hand. His suit, which should have been covered in little crimson dots form the spray of the dead priest's ruptured skull, was immaculate. As always.

"You did warn the Order."

Matt sighed and holstered his guns. "Yeah, sure, and now they are all dead. What good is a warning if everyone who heard it is dead?"

Uriel returned the sigh, kicking a guard's corpse out of his way as he crossed the room to the dead priest. He knelt, his white clothing completely uncorrupted by the wholesale death he waded through without hesitation. "Two things. Pay attention."

"I have a choice?"

The angel shook his head. "If you don't want me to kill you, no."

Matt glared but knew that was no idle threat. "Okay, fine. I'm listening."

"That's better. The first thing is that messages are not always meant for the people who first receive them." As he spoke, Uriel tore open the man's cassock and pulled a gold crucifix off his red-drenched neck.

Matt looked away. He was in no way squeamish about death but this didn't look like anything he needed to watch. Whatever the crazy angel was doing, he didn't feel like providing an audience. Instead, he pulled his motorcycle around and walked it back to the doorway of the ruined office. "And the second thing?"

"The second thing," Uriel said as his gloved fingers dropped the small cross into his inner jacket pocket. "Not all messages can be given directly. The people who find this mess, the people who will be sent to clean this up? They'll get the message loud and clear."

Matthew stopped at the door just as he was climbing astride Zephyr. "Wait a minute."

Uriel looked up, rising to his full six foot height over the bodies of the fallen. For a moment, the shadows of the room included a full spread of wings folding to settle against his back. In the next instant, the dark image was gone and in its place a soft white feather fluttered to the ground. Its silken fletching touched the edge of a pool of blood, staining half of it in a matter of moments.


"You said we were going to get rid of the Order in Tennessee, not attract even more of the bastards here. You lied to me. This isn't what I signed on for."

The angel looked down at the floor, regarding his lost feather with a strange, unreadable expression before raising his eyes to meet Matt's. Disturbingly, Matt could feel the celestial's gaze though all he could see was his own reflection in Uriel's sunglasses.

"I did not lie. This will ultimately result in the dismantling of the Order."

"By starting a war?"

Uriel nodded, tugging his gloves tight at each wrist. "Indeed."

Matt turned away, unable to bear the intensity in the angel's attention. "You son of a bitch."

"Correction. Technically I was never born."

Matt's only reply, at least at first, was the growl of his bike's massive engine as he revved her to life. Then, without looking back, he murmured, "Don't you care about the people who might get caught up in this?" He didn't bother to speak up; the inhuman creature would hear him anyway.


Then, just as Matt started driving away down the fourth floor hallway, Uriel said to the empty air, "But apparently you do."


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