Ha Ha, I'm Underground
Abby, Cletus and Ray pushed through the low, but dense, vegetation, punctuated with fields and sheep. The oblong, terraced belly of the tor rose out of the ground like the Earth was frozen while inhaling. At the top stood the stone Tower of St. Michael, all that was left of the church that bore the same name.
“Ray,” Abby said, breaking the silence, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” replied Ray.
“You’re a Seraphim? But not an angel?”
“‘Angels’ is just what humans remember of us. It’s like a game of telephone.”
Abby frowned at him.
“Uh, current technology, current technology,” Ray tapped his head, “Whisper down the lane!”
“A tale that gets distorted in the telling.”
“So you were here before?”
“Yes, unfortunately. A long time ago. ‘Millenia’ you would say.”
“Unfortunately?” Abby chuckled, “Didn’t you like it?”
“We didn’t have any business being here.”
“Why were you here?”
Ray took a deep breath, “Have you ever heard of Yaldabaoth?”
“Yes,” Cletus chimed, “‘The Demiurge’ as the Gnostic Christians called him. Creator of the material world. The blind, idiot god.”
“‘Idiot’ is the only part that’s accurate,” Ray replied, “He’s a Seraph and a con artist. He came here, and to other pre-civilized worlds, posing as a deity. Complete hack move, but he took it to a whole new level. Long story short, the Galactic Administration…” he noticed Cletus and Abby had stopped walking, stood and looked at him askance.
“Space government,” he said poking a talon upward, “Anyway, posing as a deity is felony, in addition to a litany of other criminal charges. So we came after him. And he was ready. With an army. There was a war.”
“The War in Heaven,” Cletus said.
“Ugh,” Ray winced and pinched the bridge of his nose, “I hate when people call it that, but yeah. That war. And you’re still fighting it long after we left.”
“What of Yaldabaoth?” Cletus asked.
“He fled. Went underground,” Ray replied, “No one has seen hide nor hair of him since. Until now.”
“What do you mean?” asked Abby.
“I crash landed investigating the presence of Parthi technology,” Ray answered.
“As in coming from Parthus, my home planet.”
“Like the planets in the heavens?” Cletus pointed to the sky.
“Like those, but much further away, you can’t see it from here, but you can see the star it orbits.”
Cletus closed his eyes and shook his head.
“Science lesson over,” Ray snapped, “This is how Lucifer screwed up. And shit, that’s a slew of new questions. Suffice it to say, the bulk of Galactic Admin Intelli…’space police’ are Seraphim. So your myths are littered with us. Also, Zeta Reticulans.” Ray began walking toward the tor.
“The entrance is at the the top,” Ray said, “What do you want to bet that tower was built right on top of it?” They began to climb the hill.
Not far behind, Cardinal Martell followed. He traced a path along the thickets of trees that defined the borders of the fields, keeping out of the sight of his quarry. He could see them ascending the tiers of the hill until they reached the summit and disappeared inside the Tower of St. Michael. Martell began to sprint along a more direct route, crimson cape flapping behind.
Once inside the tower Ray stopped and looked around, frowning. Cletus and Abby stepped in behind him.
“Huh,” Ray scratched his stubbled face, “Not much in here, is there?”
“Is this where the entrance is supposed to be?” asked Abby.
“Yeah,” Ray sighed, looking at the floor, “I’m guessing the last Merlyn stationed here built this over top of it to keep people out.”
“Merlyn?” Abby gasped, “The Merlyn?”
“A Merlyn,” Ray replied, “It’s like a quartermaster, but for highly sensitive items. Munitions and what have you.”
Cletus tapped at the stone floor with his walking stick. When he got to the center the sound of the tapped became deep and hollow.
“Promising,” Cletus mused, routing through his satchel. He pulled out a long, metallic device with two overlapping feet on one end and a crank in the middle. He started to turn the crank. He found a seam on the edge of the hollow stone tile and struggled to wedge in the feet of the device.
“I could use a hand here,” he said looking up at Ray.
Ray squatted down and pushed the feet into the seam.
“Now pull it back,” Cletus instructed. Ray pulled it back and the feet slid under the stone. Cletus released the crank and the device began to whirr. Under the stone the top foot began to migrate to the other end of the device, lifting the stone with it.
“Pretty clever.” Ray remarked.
“Well,” Cletus grinned, “I do love to tinker.”
The a space opened under the stone wide enough for Ray to slip his talons in. He heaved the stone tile over. Underneath was a large, metallic plate with a keypad embedded in the corner. Ray stood on the pad.
“Everyone stand here,” Ray said, pointing to the plate.
Abby and Cletus obliged. Ray crouched and dusted off the keypad.
“Hope the Merlyn didn’t change the combo,” Ray said tapping the keys. The plate lurched and a hum drifted up from beneath the hill, “Try to hold steady. There’s normally a booth we could stand in, but the Merlyn probably removed it to camouflage the depot.”
The plate jerked downwards, then began to glide. Cletus wobbled and grabbed Abby’s hand. Fluorescent lights flickered on as they passed down. The wall in front gave way to a wide, long corridor ending in a steel aperture. The plate slowed to a halt. The lights blinked on down the corridor. Ray sniffed the air.
“It’s fresh,” Ray said, surprised, “Must have left the circulators running.”
They stepped out into the hall and toward the aperture. Beside it was a glass plate. Ray placed his talon on the glass.
“Identified: Seraph Raphael. Galactic Administration Intelligence agent. Serial 24601. Entry authorized.” a metallic voice filled the corridor. The aperture dilated and a gust of air and light debris pushed past them. It opened into an engineered cavern. It was dark and the light flooding in from behind them cast the shadows of giants on the far wall. The floors of were finished with metallic tiling and periodic red and yellow lines crossed the surface.
“A cave,” Abby gasped as she passed through the iris, her voice produced chaotic echos “It’s enormous.”
Cletus jogged through behind her.
“It’s the hangar bay,” Ray said, “And don’t just run in…”
As Ray stepped toward the threshold the iris snapped shut leaving Cletus and Abby in darkness. Ray slapped his talon against the glass sensor. The iris briefly began to hum, but it whirred back to silence.
“Can you guys hear me?” Ray called, swiping his hand on the sensor.
“Yes,” they answered in unison.
“Well, just hang tight, I guess,” said Ray, “I’ll go around to the other door. Hopefully, it works better than this one. Give me ten minutes or so.”
Cletus started to rummage through his satchel.
“I got the makings of a torch in here somewhere,” Cletus mumbled.
“You’re not scared of the dark are you, Grandpa?” Abby giggled.
Cletus continued to search then stopped, “Is that you?”
“What?” asked Abby.
The sound of soft, distant shuffling was heard. It metamorphosed into rhythmic white noise by the echos off the hanger walls. It crescendoed until it was almost deafening, then come to a full stop leaving only lingering reverberations. Overhead spotlights ignited with a pop revealing a group of men about thirty yards from Cletus and Abby, dressed in yellow robes and standing various martial stances. They began to shuffle toward them, weaving between one another, oscillating through several formations making their approach seem endless. Cletus put his hands to the crossbows hanging from his belt. Abby looked at them with curiosity.
“The penalty,” said the only man in a magenta robe, in soft even tones, “for entering the Reliquary of The Archangel Raphael. Is death.”
“We know Raphael,” Cletus pleaded, “He’ll be here momentarily, if you’d like to…”
“Silence,” spoke the man, “You dare address the disciples of the Archangel Raphael as taught by the All Powerful Wizard Merlyn, protectors of the Reliquary of Raphael and the Tomb of Merlyn?”
“Whisper down the lane,” Abby said looking over at Cletus.
One of the men ran toward Abby. Cletus drew his crossbows and they lobbed glass vials that impacted the floor in front of Abby and erupted in a roaring flame. The monk slid to a stop before the flame. Another monk twirled a staff and launched an invisible pulse towards Cletus, knocking him down and pushing him along the floor into the wall.
“Grandpa,” Abby shouted.
She turned toward the monks and they began to advance. She frowned, tight lipped and balled her hands. She extended her arm, hand open and palm down over the flame. The flame rose from the floor and began wrapping itself around Abby’s extended hand like vines. She turned her hand over and cupped a small ball of fire. It turned from red, to orange, to blue, then white. The flame from the floor clung to her hand like an umbilical cord as she coiled her arm and pushed it back out. The white ball of fire raced between the monks and exploded in a shower of sparks and liquid flame, singeing their robes. Abby coiled again and stared at the monks. The monks faced Abby and as one, dropped to one knee.
“Disciples of Archangel Michael are welcome in this place,” the magenta man with his head bowed. The rose again together.
“Ok,” Abby said, “Good,” she closed her hand and yanked upward. The flame covering the ground lifted up, like she was picking up a discarded coat, and extinguished. The monks began talking among themselves as if they were picking up a discarded conversation. The magenta robed one ran toward Cletus and helped him up.
“Are you okay?” Abby asked Cletus.
“I’ll be fine,” Cletus replied eyeing the magenta monk.
“How about you?” Abby said to Magenta.
“We will be fine,” he answered and smiled, “What brings you here?”
“As my grandfather was trying to explain. We’re here with Raphael.”
Magenta stared wide eyed and mouth agape, “It’s as Merlyn foretold in his tomes. Raphael has returned for us.”
“Actually,” Cletus interjected, “He’ll probably be pretty surprised anybody is here. Not to mention a sect of warrior monks that worship him.”
“The look on his face,” said Abby.
“May I have a word with my granddaughter,” Cletus asked Magenta, taking Abby to the side, “Where did you learn to do that, child?”
“I read your books all the time,” she said pointing toward Cletus’ satchel.
“I never wrote down any such spells,” Cletus huffed, “I don’t even know such spells.”
“But all the pieces are there. I just put them together.”
Cletus looked hard at Abby, stifling any pride that might have been leaking to the surface, “That’s very dangerous work. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Would you have let me?”
Cletus looked away in thought, squelching any outward signs of pride. A loud crack shook the room. Then another. And another. The monks began to muster. A tall, thin, black clad figure draped in crimson paced into the floodlight, tamping his hammer on the ground in time with his right foot. He stopped and regarded the monks and smirked. He turned toward Cletus and Abby.
“You two,” Martell started, “You can both home, back to whatever the hell it is that you do and it will be like we never met. Just give me the angel.”
“Can’t really go home since you broke it,” Abby narrowed her eyes at Martell. Cletus secreted another vial into Abby’s hand.
“I did say that was going to happen,” Martell said, “Keeping me from my quarry.”
Monks began to create a semi circle to Martell’s left. He sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Who are these people?” Martell asked Abby.
“Disciples of Raphael,” she replied.
Martell hung his head, grunted and hefted his hammer onto his shoulder.
“Okay,” he groused, “I know he’s in here. I can drop this whole tor right on top of the lot of you.”
“How did you get in here?” Abby asked, stalling.
“I pressed the only buttons that didn’t have dust on them.”
The monks closed in. Martell gave Abby an aggravated glare and spun his hammer behind him scattering the monks into the air. They landed unconscious. Abby tossed the vial to the floor and thrust her hands at the resulting fire. Tendrils of flame reached out to Martell. He covered himself with his cape and the flames licked off. Martell turned his hammer head down and slammed it to the floor. Cletus and Abby were knocked off their feet. Martell approached and stood over them.
“Would you feel honored if I told you; you will be the youngest person I’ve ever killed?” he said to Abby, lifting his hammer.
“Citizen,” bellowed a voice above them, “Do have the proper permits to operate that machinery?”
Martell turned to see Ray floating. His loose robes were replaced with a more form fitting grey suit consisting of a myriad of straps and buckles. What looked like a small cameo, embedded with a crystal, engraved with a caduceus was affixed to his chest.
“You,” Martell growled, “I’ll get to you in a minute.”
He again raised his hammer over Abby. Ray swept his hand in a clockwise motion. A gale wind lifted Martell and spun him again the wall. He dropped his hammer mid flight and it crashed to the floor, shaking the walls. Crack formed and raced up the wall to the ceiling several yards above them. Rock fragments began to rain. Cletus and Abby helped each other struggle to their feet. A prodigious fragment of rock fell and blocked the entrance Ray had emerged from. He glided down to Cletus and Abby, blowing falling rock away with concentrated bursts of air.
“Get under,” he said gathering them under his outstretched wings, ushering them to the iris. The falling debris was rerouted by the the turbulent air currents that surrounded Ray.
Cardinal Martell limped toward the iris dragging his weapon behind him. The scrapping of it’s head along the ground caused the hanger to rumble. He lurched through the iris and hastened his faltering gait down the hall toward the elevator plate. Ray, Cletus and Abby jogged after him. Martell began swinging his hammer against the supports in the corridor walls as he shambled for the lift. The ceiling of the corridor began to buckle, the seams bent open and began to spray dust, soil and rocks. Martell began ascending.
Ray, Cletus and Abby huddled as the complex broke down around them. One final, muffled thud from the surface and the lights went out.