“Miller? Sergeant Fetu Miller? You’ve got a visitor.”
Fetu lay in the bed, staring out through the window. He’d joined the military, in the fine tradition of his family. He’d bled for the nation, in the fine tradition of his family. They were soldiers, through and through. He’d never thought he could regret it. He’d never thought he could hate his country.
“Miller? Are you alright?” The nurse leaned forward, reaching out to rest a hand on his forehead, turning his head towards her. He would have backhanded her, but he couldn’t. “She’s from the Marines. She said it was urgent. Do you feel up to seeing her?”
He shook his head once. He turned his head back towards the window, and stared out at the sunny skies. The courtyard. Men and women walked through it, exchanging words, laughs, glances, passing through on their way to one place or another. He recognized a few of the other veterans. One man wheeled himself at a determined pace through the garden, his leg missing, his smile still there. Johnny. The man had gotten shot in the leg during an operation in northern Afghanistan, and the wound had gone septic on him. Some bastard had smeared his feces on the bullet. The medical corps been undersupplied on antibiotics because of a snafu in the logistics chain, and so Johnny had lost his leg.
It was the little things that made a man start to hate his country. The countless little neglects. Things like the fact that the nurse was overworked beyond all endurance, trying to take care of twice as many people as she should handle. The way that the VA’s hospital was always short on beds. Fetu could always get a bed, of course, but he knew plenty of men who weren’t as ‘lucky’ as him. The military was supposed to be a place where everyone was a band of brothers. But once they were no longer able to fight, they were just so many spent shells.
“Sergeant Miller,” said a voice. Warm, soft. He turned his head. A black woman stood over the bed. She had long, red hair, and the most beautiful green eyes he’d ever seen. “I am here to make you an offer.”
“What about ‘no’ do you not understand? I don’t want anything to do with the Marines. I did my goddamn service, I’m useless now, and there’s no amount of money that’s ever going to make things right. I’m not talking to any newspapers, I’m not trying to make the military look bad. I just want to be left alone.”
“Do you want revenge, Miller?”
“Against who? The Afghans?” He spat. “Bunch of poor fucking bastards. What’s the point in wanting revenge? Even if every one of them died, it wouldn’t make things right. Wouldn’t make me whole again.” He shook his head. “There’s no one to get revenge against. I just had bad luck. Now there’s nothing for it but to wait out the rest of my shitheap of a life.”
“You survived, Miller. The military doctors did not think you would make it through the night the entire time they operated. You are still alive, and your mind is still whole. As long as you are alive… There is hope. Now I ask again.” She leaned close. “Do you want revenge,” she whispered very softly, “against those who did this to you?”
He looked up at her, and his heart pounded in his chest. He thought of the superior officers, the uncaring politicians, the paper pushers. He took a deep breath. “It wouldn’t change what happened.”
“It could stop it from happening to anyone else.”
Fetu thought of his little brother. He was in the marines, too. They were talking about invading Iraq any day now.
He nodded, once, sharply. “But what can I do? Look at me.”
“Science advances every day, Fetu. Machines, technology. These are humanity’s magic. A gun can turn even the weakest of men into a killer on par with the gods. A tank can make a fragile man invincible.” She leaned close. “What would you give, to be whole again?”
He looked down at himself. The operation had gone wrong almost immediately. A simple shock and awe attack on a group of Taliban militia holed up in a ruin and raiding convoys. The moment they landed, a sandstorm had kicked up, cutting off their close air support, and something had begun picking off his men. By the time they’d found shelter, and a place to put their backs, there were three of them left. The thing had come out of the darkness, fire and rage, and called itself an Ifrit. It had shrugged off a grenade to the face, and ripped apart Fetu’s men. Then it had taken Fetu back to its lair.
Seven long days he’d spent on an altar as the creature used a very, very sharp cleaver on him. It had started with his leg, cutting him a little bit at a time, and cauterizing the wound each time. It had never asked him any questions. It had just howled with laughter as it hurt him, because it was strong, and he was weak. On the eighth day, he awoke in an army base, and was told he’d been found in front the previous night.
Fetu looked down at the stumps of his legs, his arms. Ending at the hip and the shoulder. He shifted his shoulder, and the stump shifted slightly. “Anything,” he hissed softly.
She bent forward, and kissed his forehead very softly. “I’ll be in touch.”
“I must warn you, this is a very dangerous procedure. We have had only limited success even with the most minor augmentations,” said the man. His hair was prematurely going silver, and a bald patch was visibly growing on his skull, despite his obvious youth. “Even on rats, the psychological strain and the rejection sickness have been…” He coughed. “Universally lethal.”
Fetu sat on the operating table, looking around the area. It was not as clean as he would’ve liked, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. And begging was the only career he would be capable of if this didn’t work. “Death is kind of the runner-up prize for this, doctor. I’d rather die on the operating table than have this not work.”
“It will work,” said War, smiling. “He will be enough to keep you from being a failure, doctor. Now.”
The doctor nodded. “I’ll have you under local anesthetic, but general anesthetic will not be possible. If you feel any pain, please let me know immediately; It could be a sign of a feedback between the nerve connections and your brain. If things go wrong, it could fry your nervous system, and trust me when I say that there are still ways for your life to be more miserable.”
“Hell with it, doc,” said Fetu. “If that happens, just cut my throat on the operating table.”
“It will work,” said War, smiling. “He is a survivor.”
Fetu nodded. The doctor jabbed a large needle into his arm, and Fetu barely felt it. Then he took out the arm. It was only broadly human-shaped. But it was more than Fetu had.
The procedure stretched out. The smell of burning flesh brought back unpleasant memories as nerve after nerve was attached. “It’s incredible,” murmured the doctor. “Your nerves seem to be unusual. They’re linking very easily with the connections. They’re…” He looked up at War. “Growing into them. Nerve tissue shouldn’t repair this quickly. What medications is this man on?”
“It’s a proprietary blend,” murmured War, smiling, as she looked down at him. “He will be fine. Keep going.” She leaned down, and drew Fetu’s head to meet her gaze. “You know who’s responsible for this. Politicians. Generals. The men who start wars for their own petty ambitions. The soldier is never to blame for the war. They are simply another victim of it. You know who is truly to blame. They have to feel the sting of war. They have to taste what it is to lose everything, don’t they. They have to-”
There was a slow mechanical sound, a whirring of servos and a soft gasp from the doctor. Fetu turned his head. The steel hand was clenched into a fist. The doctor was staring. “That’s… It should’ve taken months of physical therapy to get your arm into this shape.” He looked at the red-headed woman, expression stiff. “What did you do to this man?”
War simply laughed.
Fetu stood in front of the mirror, staring at himself. The limbs were inhuman, obviously so. Monstrous things. Steel and carbon fiber. He picked up the golfball, and slowly tightened his fist. He kept tightening it until the rock-hard little sphere crumbled, turning to dust between his fingers. Then he reached out, and picked up the champagne glass. There was no feedback installed in the metal, he shouldn’t have been able to feel it. But he could. He could sense the wine glass, its surface rattling slightly between his fingers.
“Phantom limb sensation,” he said, as War sat just behind him. “Appropriate.”
“I would not want to take away your ability to feel. Passion makes humans strong. Dehumanizing them is rarely useful.” She studied him, and grinned. “How do you feel?”
He was silent for a moment or two.
He stared down at the letter. It had arrived that morning. He was still numb. He looked up and around the room, the fuses, the switches, all of the tools of the trade he had been perfecting. He was perhaps a week or two away from the plan. The plan they’d made together. The plan that would’ve changed everything.
The plan that would’ve changed nothing.
He stared down at the letter again.
Fetu. I am sorry for all I have done to you. I am sorry for the pain I have caused you, for the way I manipulated you. The truth is, everyone is responsible for War. Everyone plays their part, and everyone who refuses to do so robs me of some of their strength. If you went through with the plan, it would not save anyone. It would not bring your little brother back. It would not bring back the years you have spent like this. I have realized what I have done. Your superiors have suspected. I have confessed my part in things to them, and asked them to take you in. I hope that they can help you, and I hope that my gift can help you to be something more than a spent shell.
He stared down at the name. It was unfamiliar, but he knew the writing, and he knew the smell of gunpowder that surrounded it. He closed his eyes, and pressed it against his forehead.
The door slammed open. A dozen military police stood, armed with terribly large rifles. They were designed to be able to kill them. But he could take them. He could kill every last one of them.
Instead, he stood up, and placed his hands behind his head. “I surrender.”
The black silk bag came off of Fetu’s head. He blinked at the stark white light, and stared up at the man. A colonel’s eagle sat on the man’s chest. There were absolutely no other medals. Not even service ribbons. They sat in a room that was dark save for the spotlight shining down on Fetu. His arms and legs were caught in a heavy hydraulic press. He didn’t test whether it could really hold him. He simply looked up at the man. “It’s impressive, son,” said the colonel, nodding approvingly. “Hell of a thing. Most people wearing something like that, they’d be on so many immunosuppressants they’d resemble an AIDS patient.” He lifted the document. “You were Doctor Hechler’s one success. We wondered what happened to you. You kind of vanished off the face of the earth after that experiment. Got into gardening, huh? All of that fertilizer… Would’ve made one hell of a splash.”
The colonel shifted, setting aside the panel. Fetu remained silent. “You know, I read the report. The one that would’ve gotten you drummed out if the quadriplegia hadn’t already done the job. The one that got you marked as suffering traumatic hallucinations.” He held up another file. “An Ifrit. Pretty dangerous thing. They make a lot of goddamn trouble in that part of the world. Those places, they have some pretty savage things still hiding in the dark. Course, the same is true for the States, as you learned.” He sighed. “You got drafted into a war, soldier. So you’ve got a choice. One, you work for me.”
“And the other?”
“I can let you go, with the caveat that you’ll be kept under surveillance for the rest of your life, and that any new attempts at sedition are going to be met terminally.”
Fetu opened his mouth, and then frowned. “After all that happened. After what I nearly did.”
“You ran face-first into one master mind-fuck of a bitch. We call her War. She’s one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Nasty piece of work. Fond of suicide bombing tactics, turning men into weapons, telling them they’re doing the right thing, and then turning them loose.”
“She said… she turned me in.”
“She did.” The colonel turned towards him. “And that’s the problem about you working for me. You’re compromised.”
Fetu stared down at his knees. “So it’s easier for you to turn me loose and tell me to be good than to try to use me.”
“That’s the idea.”
“She’s got a thing for people motivated by higher ideals. Those who want to protect, to make things… right. Nothing more dangerous than a righteous man, you know? So she finds their breaking points, their weaknesses, sets them up, and then lets them go. Makes it easy for them to betray their principles.” The colonel took out a cigarette, and lit it. “I don’t blame you for hating your country, son. It does some shitty things.”
Fetu thought of his own body. He’d never have children because of the Ifrit and what it had taken from him. His brother was dead in Iraq. His parents were gone. He didn’t have any hobbies, didn’t have anything he loved, didn’t have anyone. “You’d take me back, if I could figure out a way to promise you that I’d be loyal?”
“Bomb. Bomb in the head. My body’s… The gift she gave me, it makes me compatible with machinery, technology. You could put a bomb in my skull with no… unintended harmful side-effects. Trigger it if you worry about me. Pop.”
Love was born out of desperation, so often. Put the last two people in the world together, and they might fall in love simply because they had no other choice. Human beings needed something to love, something to pour their hopes and dreams into. Something to trust when everything else had failed them.
And that was how Fetu fell back in love with his country.
“This is the big one,” said the Colonel, his eyes narrowed. The two of them stood in Fetu’s modest office. A horned skull, scorched and broken around one eye socket, sat on the wall. Fetu looked up at the skull. It had been a hell of a year. The Esoteric Forces had invested a lot in him. He was strong. He’d been able to wring the life out of the Ifrit, strangle its head clean off, in single combat. Someday. Someday he would be strong enough to fight War, herself. To end her.
“You know the stakes, Fetu. If Prester John falls as monarch, that vault of his gets opened. Every dark and loathsome god and monster that he has taken in, and kept out of sight, will be freed. The Aztec gods and the Loa don’t know what kind of shit he has in there. If he dies, or the city is broken…” The colonel shook his head. “That’s your mission. Make sure that they don’t get out. Or failing that…”
He nodded. “It was approved?”
“Yeah. The *Robert Heinlein* is carrying three *Gae Bolg* class railguns. They should be able to buy time, but if things go south…” The colonel shook his head. “Catch 22. If things get that bad, the world might just end after all out of spite.”
“I will endeavor to ensure that it does not, sir.”
The fucking driver.
The driver that had responded to the request they’d put out, who kept his head low, who stayed quiet. The driver who’d seemed like an inhuman monster who just wanted to avoid putting anyone off. If this were Afghanistan, Fetu would be dead by now.
Silas Nash was not much to look at. Fetu had at least a foot on the man, and was built of state of the art cybernetics. And Fetu could feel the aura of power that surrounded the man. The gift that War had given him, the ability to plan, to maneuver others, it had given him a single glaring message that agreed with the instincts of an old, distinctly non-bold soldier. That man was not to be fucked with. He’d stood up to an entire room full of monsters, gods, to the messengers of Almighty God himself, and not a single one of them had been willing to step to him. That was the kind of respect Fetu had once dreamt of possessing.
The powerful respected only those who could stand up to them. It was a bitch when you were a human, but gods only had regard for the things that were their equals. Maybe that was why Betty liked him.
“You want to use the *Gae Bolg*,” he asked, staring at the cat-eared goddess, her hand extended towards him. “You want control over one of the most deadly weapons in the world.”
“I want to threaten or murder Tezcatlipoca.”
He handed the small beacon to her with his functional arm, flicking off the biometric keying. “Press this button, and 20 seconds later, it will launch a shot intersecting the point where you pressed the beacon. Then the railguns need to be replaced, which will take approximately a week. I fired one last night. You’ve got two shots left. Don’t waste them.”
“Thanks.” She grinned. In truth, he liked her. She had saved his men. She had put herself in harm’s way to save them, when he had been able to do nothing. She’d almost died because of that. That was worth a lot, in Miller’s approximation of the world.
“Do you think War can change?”
“I don’t know. I changed. Horace used to say War never changes, but he did that thing where it was obvious he was quoting something.” She shrugged. “Do you think she can change?”
“I think… that I’ll never be in as good a position to kill her as that man will be.” She didn’t answer. That was okay. Betty was an ally, but an ally today could always become an enemy tomorrow.
The arm slipped into place, and clicked as it fastened. Fetu let out a sigh of relief. It was like regaining a part of himself, for obvious reasons. He slowly stood up, and flexed as the morning sunlight began to pour into the room. His men milled around the room, recovering after the raids they’d run on the Aztec slave-takers. Hit and run. They’d bloodied the noses of the monsters. But right now, a bigger fight was raging. The freaky star gods had been orbiting that temple for the past few minutes.
The island shook slightly under his feet, and he frowned. One of the men standing at the window let out a gasp. “Holy shit.”
Fetu stood up, staring out the window. In the Bloody Crescent of the Aztec Quarter, a slow pillar of smoke was rising. The stepped pyramid there was simply gone. “Well. I guess Betty DID need it.” He looked at the soldier who had spotted the shot. “Don’t give heavy ordinance to cats, Private.”
“Yes sir.” The man snapped a quick salute. “We should-”
There was a soft tapping at the window. They all turned towards it, their eyes widening. A small scarlet macaw sat on the ledge, knocking at the window. Fetu’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t let it in.”
The scarlet macaw twisted suddenly, its shape contorting. And then a man, with Hispanic features, stood there, smiling. His hair was as white as snow, hanging around his shoulders, but he looked youthful. And he balanced easily on a quarter inch of ledge. Fetu’s eyes narrowed. “Domingo Santigo. Prester John is going to be pissed when he learns you ate his parrot.”
“He already knows,” said the man, a thick Spanish accent filling his voice. He winked at the Sergeant Major. “And he wants to see you. Now.” He took out a small letter, with the seal of Prester John in red wax.
If the man was lying, the seal would’ve burst into flame. Magic was handy, and yet made life so goddamn difficult sometimes. Fetu narrowed his eyes. “Fuck.”
Two minutes later, the two of them sat in the small towncar, the cannibal servant of Conquest driving. He looked across the divider at Fetu. “Let me ask you, Miller. What in this world do you want?”
“Your head would be a nice start. You’ve killed good people.”
“Oh, yes, yes, but that can’t be the thing that would make you happy. People have many little goals, things they wouldn’t mind happening, but what’s the big thing? What’s the one thing where, if you got it, you could say ‘I can retire right now’? What would you need to make you truly happy?”
Fetu stared out the window.
“I wonder. Would a new body tempt you?”
Fetu couldn’t help it. He turned his head sharply, and stared at the man. A grin spread across Santigo’s face. “Oh, yes. I thought that might do it.” He looked forward. “Tell me, what is it you miss most? The sensation? No, no, you get around that, don’t you? Part of War’s gift.”
“It wasn’t a gift. It was a trap.”
“A gift that is a trap remains a gift even after the trap is sprung. Sometimes we are given things that seem useful, then harm us. But if we are careful, we can still use them.” Santigo grinned. “Conquest is fond of such things. So is War. Those two share many things, which is probably why they loathe each other so. Now, what would you be missing… Oh! I know.” He grinned. “You wanted a big family, didn’t you? When you settled down, you wanted to raise children with a good woman, and continue the line.”
The door handle creaked under Fetu’s fingers.
“Oh, I got one!” Santigo laughed like a schoolboy.
“Why are you here?”
“I want to pave Paradise and put up a parking lot. Why do you think I’m here? The servants of the Horsemen only come to a city in order to destroy it.” Domingo chuckled, and his eyes dropped down to Fetu’s chest. “Present company not excepted, right?”
If Fetu still had a heart, it would’ve run cold. His face was stiff, as he tried to change the subject. “So what do you want?”
“Oh, me. I’m a bit of a people-pleaser, is the thing.” He chuckled. “I just want to help people. You know? However I can. Give the people what they want. The whole reason I made a contract with Conquest was to seduce this boy.” Domingo shook his head. “He was so mad when he found out that Tia Carrera hadn’t, in fact, just had her car break down in front of his house. It was a laugh a minute. Now? I’m helping Conquest destroy this place, and the Baron Samedi to try to lead, and Prester John- Well, you’ll find out about that soon.” Then his expression turned ugly. “And up until a few minutes ago, I was helping to keep Tezcatlipoca on an even keel.”
“You seem to have some mixed motivations there,” said Fetu.
“Well, that’s the trouble with being a people pleaser, isn’t it?” The man winked. “But keep strong, Miller. Your salvation is coming. Prester John called for him a few minutes ago. By the end of the day, a man is going to arrive who can help you. All you’ll need to do is find a body. But I shouldn’t give away the surprise.” He chuckled. “Surprises are so fun, aren’t they? And they’re so rare, too. When you see as many stories as these gods do, everything starts to become the same old patterns. Giving them a surprise… Now that’s pleasurable.” He pointed out the window, in a direction vaguely towards the *Robert Heinlein*. “Like that weapon of yours. I wonder how long it’s been since the gods felt personally threatened by what humans are capable of? And now, you’ve brought something that’s going to make them absolutely terrified. I wonder what they’ll do.”
Fetu narrowed his eyes. “Turnabout is fair play.”
“Definitely! I mean, hell.” Santigo chuckled. “They’ve been on the top for so long, gotten lazy, gotten corrupt, gotten confident… It’s going to shock them to be dethroned. They’re probably going to make some very foolish choices. You know how terror motivates people to go to war.”
Fetu looked out the window again. “You’re a real piece of work, you know that?”
“Guilty as charged!” said Domingo, smiling cheerfully. “You know, you’re pretty built. You have any women you’re particularly attracted to? Perhaps that catgirl? I know how men are about cats.”
Fetu sat in a stony silence for the rest of the trip, and tried to ignore the wink that Domingo gave him when they stepped out of the car. It was strange, but it was not even the offer that disgusted him. It was the fact that he couldn’t act on it. A harsh reminder of all he’d lost. The man was disturbingly well informed. It was enough to bring forward paranoia about who in the government had been talking. But he had his mission, and that was all that mattered.
The ★ floor was empty, save for Prester John. The king sat at the far end of the conference table. He looked as unperturbed as the previous time Fetu had visited. “Sergeant. It is good to see you are well. Particularly after that.” He waved towards the smoking hole in the Bloody Crescent, without turning his head. “Amazing what a simple investigation can do to the property values, isn’t it?” He shook his head slowly, and sighed. “What happened, Domingo?”
“Nash happened. The man infiltrated the slave-taking expedition, interrupted the first sacrifice, stood up to the gods, and argued to protect them in Huitzilopochtli’s place. After the captured Vemana were released, he was drugged, and prepared for gladiatorial sacrifice. While drunk and pinned by a stone, he fought off four elite warriors, and defeated the god Huitzilopochtli. He then proceeded to defy Tezcatlipoca, fight his way through half the Tzitzimimeh, and redirected a round from the *Robert Heinlein* at my head, and through the Aztec temple. From what I saw…” The white-haired servant of Conquest sighed. “Nobody died.”
“Well. God has a special providence for fools, children, and the United States, as they say.” Prester John smiled.
“That doesn’t make you nervous at all?” asked Fetu, his eyes narrowed. “That man’s strong. Stronger than me. And stronger than you.”
“He is. But he will not stop me. Do you know, Miller, I learned about it.” He pointed towards Fetu’s chest. “The *Pugno Dei*.” Fetu’s heart would have frozen if it was still there. “Your government tried very hard to hide its existence from me. They did not want me to have too much influence over events here, and they needed a trump card. But there’s always someone who needs more money, isn’t there?” Fetu’s face was set in a stony expression, trying not to give away more than someone already had. “You may think I would be angry about a superweapon aimed at this city, but…” He sighed softly. “Well, how can I be? It’s just what I needed.”
“What are you planning?” Fetu asked, his voice tense.
“Mmm. A good question. Miller, I was a normal man, once. The son of one of the Rajas of India. A great priest traveled west on the silk road, and spoke to me. He spoke of the divine providence of God. You see, I was the descendant of one of the men who came to see the birth of the Savior. The story was passed down in my family. When I learned of the rest of the story, and the grace of God, well… It was a revelation. Through God, I found immortality, as the stalwart leader of my people. When the Mongols invaded, God protected us, the sole unconquered kingdom of Asia, the only rock not swept away on that vast tide. For you see, no man is greater than God. I marshaled my forces, and had a succession crisis not done it for me, I would have led forth a crusade to inspire the west to shatter that vile horde.” He sighed. “But in time, I realized the truth.”
“The truth?” Fetu asked, an eyebrow raised.
“Everyone needs something,” said Domingo. “Gods, monsters, heroes, men, even the Horsemen need something. Gods need someone to believe in them. Humans need something to believe in.”
Prester John nodded at the cannibal. “But gods so seldom live up to human expectations. Faith in the Church was waning. When a feudal monarch turned on the Knights Templar, and thus forever sacrificed the dream of regaining the Holy Land, they came to my land. They told me of their ways, of banking, and their finance. You see, God and Money, both are dreams of men. They may not be real, but humans need to act as though they are.”
“I’d be surprised to hear you say that about God,” Fetu said, his eyes narrowing. He was not a religious man, though he was raised Christian. But it never failed to disgust him when the powerful behaved hypocritically.
“Look at this place. Deities are here. Monsters. All the things that mankind believes in. So where is God? In all my years, I have never heard him speak to me. The angels of the Lord cannot hear him. Perhaps he exists and does not interfere. Perhaps he does not exist. Perhaps he cannot exist. If gods are made by men, how could men dream up their creator? But the point is, it doesn’t matter. God does not need to strictly exist to have meaning. Money is a fantasy, too, but men die for it. Nations bleed for it.” He smiled. “Physics are the bones and the muscle on which the world operates. But humans, we are something new. We have stories. And those stories motivate us more strongly than any physical force.” He pointed out the window at the smoking crater. “That is what stories can accomplish.”
“We know about the vault,” said Fetu, trying a gambit. “Your little safehouse.”
“Ah, yes,” said the man, grinning. “Five miles south of here. One of the deepest trenches in the world. The deepest point in the Caribbean. A perfect place for the entrance.” He smiled. “Hell is not other people.”
“Hell?” asked Fetu, his voice shaking slightly.
“Oh yes. So many religions believe in Hell. A place of karmic punishment, where those who deserve it are sent. And so, I figured, we had it available… Why not make it a place for them?” He chuckled. “The Vemana who could not live with others go there. Those who are not allowed to come home. There are many we keep there. Condemned, until they can prove their worth, or… for the rest of eternity. Imagine if they were to be unleashed on the world. That is why they sent the *Pugno Dei* with you, isn’t it?”
“What do you know about it?” asked Fetu, his voice soft.
“I know that at this moment, a seventy meter-wide asteroid circles the Earth. If it is triggered, it will enter a terminal descent, triggered towards your current location. That it will strike with a force equivalent to the Castle Bravo thermonuclear weapon, turning this island into a smoking crater, and everything around it. And hopefully, destroying the contents of Hell along with it.” He took out a small remote. Fetu’s eyes widened. “I understand you are the only one who can use it. This will ensure that you do not do so without my say-so.” He smiled.
“Where did you get that detonator?” Fetu could feel it, like a part of his own body. He could feel the pulse of Prester John’s hand, and was very aware of the small chunk of metal and plastic explosive by his hypothalamus. The detonator that would kill him. Then he gritted his teeth. “What’s to stop me from bringing it down on you, right now?”
“Oh, that’s the thing.” Prester John grinned. “I want you to bring it down. Sooner is a shame, but it would still work. This city would be destroyed, I would escape, and the inhabitants of Hell would run free. But I do not want that to happen quite yet. This is a contingency plan, you see. I still need a little more time.”
“What the hell do you want?” asked Miller, his eyes narrowed.
“What do I want? I want what every good Christian wants, Miller. What every good Christian knows must happen.” He raised his eyes towards the sky. “The end of days. The last war. Heaven.”
“I don’t think God has a place in Heaven for you.”
“God has a place in Heaven for all of his children, Miller. Don’t worry.” Prester John smiled warmly. “The End of Days has come. Hallelujah.”