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Teen Titans Fan Fiction Dwr Budr 2 (Teen Titans; J)

Discussion in 'The Story Board' started by Matt A, May 14, 2005.

?

What story should I write next?

Poll closed Oct 23, 2005.
  1. STT3: The Cassandra Syndrome

    9 vote(s)
    40.9%
  2. Locked And Loaded

    2 vote(s)
    9.1%
  3. Black Hawk Rising

    4 vote(s)
    18.2%
  4. Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter

    2 vote(s)
    9.1%
  5. Reality Cheque

    5 vote(s)
    22.7%
  1. Matt A

    Matt A Smile. Or Else.

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    Okay, time for another chapter. Like many of the other chapters in this story, you'll have to think really hard about what the point of it is. The point is there, that much I can assure you, but there's nothing in there that I've stated outright.

    'Course, once you've actually figured out what I was trying to say, you might just want to kill me.:evil:

    (Note: I've had to change a small detail concerning one of the characters. Just so's you don't get confused.)

    Let's bring it on...


    Chapter Thirty-Four: Under The Influence

    "Do you swear to serve me?"

    The voice slithered from behind his mask like something foul, contaminating the day. It was a voice that you could hate or love, the kind that belonged to a man who could talk calmly while plunging a dagger into someone's heart, a man who could take fear and slip it under doors and through windows. But this man hadn't bothered with knives or fear in a long time. A horribly long time. He fingered his mask, a mask that he used to hide his face, to keep him mysterious. He had many names: Deathstroke the Terminator, the Shadowstalker, Duality, but to his greatest enemies, his name was simply Slade. He eyed the girl standing in front of him. Even though he had but one eye to see her with, he could tell that she was remarkable. The girl stood tall and straight, regarding Slade with a stubborn purple eye. She was black, with a red streak in her black hair.

    "I swear." she said, her eyes not leaving Slade’s face. Her voice was sinister, calm, and somehow hungry, like one of those female vampires you always see on the horror channel.
    "Slade's New Apprentice", Magick
    The gravel crunched under the horse’s hooves, letting off the ear-shredding low squeal that gravel is always wont. Under the wheels of the cart being pulled behind it, the noise was even worse. The man at the reins, he hated that sound, he really did, but there was no escaping it in this part of the world. And with the state of his life right now, he wasn’t too concerned with the things he didn’t like.

    This man, riding this simple wooden cart, he isn’t anyone we’ve ever met before. Yet, with his nondescript features, short black hair and faintly cold grey eyes, he would also look quite familiar if you ever stumbled across him. But unlike the person he so closely resembled, this man had a somewhat kindly face, one that always smiling, with a genuine smile rather than a mocking one. He was a nice guy all-round, really: honest, dependable, courteous, surprisingly bright in certain circumstances. He was no one’s fool, yet he didn’t consider that an excuse to be an arsehole.

    This man, his name was Miguel. He’d never bothered with a surname, because in his little universe, everyone knew who he was. He might not have ever been the most distinctive or memorable of people, but the people he knew weren’t going to confuse him with any other Miguel who crossed their path. That was the most important thing, really.

    Right now, Miguel was having a good day. Under the circumstances, you wouldn’t have thought so, but he was still happy. He and his wife owned a small vineyard in the rolling hills of Catalonia, an hour’s bumpy cart ride from the large town of Manresa. There were a lot of small vineyards in this region, so the business was not an especially successful one, but the monthly trips into the town always provided enough money to get by. Which, considering the frugal life that he and his wife had to lead, wasn’t very much, but it was still enough. It annoyed him that he always had to cart a barrel or two back with him each month, but there was only so much he could do about this.

    His good mood, surprisingly enough, was due to something else. Something that was waiting for him when he got home.

    As he rode through the dusty, arid yet hauntingly beautiful Catalonian landscape, Miguel’s thoughts slowly wandered back to this certain something. Only two months ago, his wife had given birth to their first child, a son. Despite the amount of money this son would suck up, and the amount of work his wife now wouldn’t be able to help him with, becoming a new father put a certain glow into his soul. This was something that happened to most men at this point in life.

    The gravel still crunching under the horse’s hooves, the cart started to pass through a line of trees. At this time of year, there wasn’t much in the way of tree lining the gravel track, but what little shade they provided was still a welcome relief from the harsh Catalonian sun. Even with the wide-brimmed hat he’d bought especially for these journeys, it still got very warm on top of that cart.

    Miguel was looking down at the road, still deep in his thoughts, but even then he noticed the extra shadow that passed above him. There were plenty of wild birds round here, but whatever that thing was, it was definitely too big to even be an eagle.

    Feeling a little spooked, Miguel stopped the cart. After a few seconds, but what felt like several minutes, the shadow passed over again. This time, it came from behind him, but now he couldn’t see anything in the blue skies ahead. There must have been something up there, so where could it have gone?

    It wasn’t long before he found out. Without any kind of warning, something dropped onto the gravel a hundred yards ahead. It was big, it was black, it was terrifying beyond words. Like most people in this region, Miguel was a devout catholic, so he instantly knew what this thing was: the wings and the horns just confirmed it.

    Miguel’s horse, a young chestnut mare called Maria, wasn’t one to get skittish. Even now, with this nightmarish demon stood right in front of her, she didn’t scream and leap about. She was too scared for that.

    Acting on terror-induced impulse, Miguel crossed himself frantically.

    In front of him, the demon laughed. It was a monstrous sound, something twisted and unnatural.

    “Believe me, He will not help you this time.” The demon’s voice was as terrible as its appearance, or maybe even more so. Miguel could do nothing but stare in unprepared terror.

    It was a few seconds before the demon spoke again. “You are Miguel, are you not?”

    Still staring, Miguel nodded dumbly. He couldn’t think of anything else to do.

    “Good. Your wife and child are well, I see.”

    In the tiny part of Miguel’s brain that was still working, he wasn’t greatly surprised that the demon knew of his family. The Devil and his minions knew everything. But still, there was something wrong with what he said…

    Gradually, Miguel’s mouth started to form words. “Wha…what do…do you…wan…want?”

    The demon smiled, a distinctly derisive gesture. “Nothing you or your family can provide, believe me. I merely thought would just drop in and say hello. It is such a nice day, after all.”

    The demon smiled again, then took off back into the sky. As its wings beat down, they kicked up a cloud of dust from the gravel track. It was another ten minutes before Miguel started moving again, and it was twenty before he convinced Maria to follow suit.

    The final half-hour of the journey went without incident. As he rode, Miguel started to wonder if he’d imagined that whole encounter. He knew demons and suchlike existed, that went without question, but demons didn’t just “drop in to say hello”. If they dropped in for anything, it was to tear you limb from limb and then gorge on what remained of your flesh. And they didn’t talk to you about your family, or indeed about anything. Yeah, he probably had imagined something that patently absurd: he knew all too well the kinds of things that heat could do to your brain. He’d have a quiet lie-down when he got home, and he’d feel much better.

    Finally, he pulled up outside his house. It was one of those Roman-style farmhouses that are typical of the Mediterranean countryside: large, pretty but not particularly grand. In fact, the outside looked on the verge of falling apart, though Miguel’s reasonable DIY skills made sure that it wasn’t.

    Miguel stopped the cart in the middle of the front yard, or at least what was laughably called as such. It was a large, dirt-covered area in front of the house, one that they couldn’t use for anything other than parking on. Miguel hopped down from the cart and walked towards the house: he’d untie Maria in a bit, but he wanted to see his wife first.

    In fact, his wife was stood just outside the open front door. Her name was Alba, and she was without doubt the most beautiful woman he had ever met. Like him, she was in her early twenties, and her slender figure had survived her first child, an event that had only increased the captivating glint her eyes always seemed to wear. If this had been the right century for it, then you’d have compared her to all the old-school movie stars, women like Grace Kelly and Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth: even in a rough brown cotton dress and with her long black hair curling all over the place, Alba still looked elegant and dazzling. But, strangely enough, she point-blank refused to acknowledge this, which was a big part of why she was so likable.

    With a big grin, Miguel playfully kissed his wife on the cheek. She grinned right back.

    “So, how’d it go?” she asked.

    Miguel look back at the cart, still with two wine barrels sat in the back. “Same as usual. Not brilliant, but well enough.”

    “That’s as much as you can ask for, I suppose.”

    Miguel decided not to tell Alba about the demon. By now, even he didn’t really believe it had happened, and she definitely wouldn’t dissuade him from that. His wife might have been a gentle and supportive woman, but she was also completely unsentimental: she didn’t believe in monsters and demons, at least not in the same way her husband did.

    This was also the reason why she didn’t share her own demon experience. Not even an hour ago, the very same demon that had waylaid Miguel had also appeared outside the house. It had simply asked her name and if her husband and son were okay, and then flew off: like Miguel, the sheer absurdity of this had already convinced her that she’d just imagined the whole thing.

    Miguel looked down at the small bundle in Alba’s arms. Wrapped up tight in a brown cotton blanket, only the head poking out at one end, was their two month-old son. Perhaps unsurprisingly to us, they’d called him Miguel. At this stage in life, Miguel De La Cultivador Del Vino looked just like any other two month-old baby boy, all big eyes and no hair and daft grin. The two parents looking down at him lovingly, they had no idea that, five hundred years from now, he would be the one who’d kill the very same demon that had so recently troubled them both.

    Maybe they’d be proud of this, maybe they wouldn’t. But in the long run, how much difference would it have made?
    * * * * *​
    It was a few hours later, and a few thousand miles away. In this cold, frigid landscape, you’d have a hard time believing you were even on the same planet as that Catalonian farmhouse, but on the same planet you’d very much be. Only those who live on this planet do not see how truly remarkable this really is.

    Siberia was a lifeless place even at the best of times, but even “nothing” would be classified as eventful this far north. On this vast ice shelf, sitting on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, only amoebas were able to cling to what they laughably called life. For hundreds of miles in any direction, there was precisely zero to look at, unless you had a particular obsession with ice.

    Somewhat strangely, there was one thing to be found here. Balanced on the edge of the ice shelf, with only sheer willpower keeping it from tumbling into the Arctic, there was a ruined ice cathedral. It looked spectacular, but in a way you couldn’t quite a put a finger on, it also looked fake. It looked as if it had been built as a ruin, and this was because it had.

    In what was recognisably the nave of this cathedral, four black feet touched down on the floor. There was a distinct crunching sound as its claws punctured the ice flagstones, but then everything was still.

    This new arrival, a nightmarish creature with four wings, two horns and a crown of fire, bowed before the near-empty altar. The only thing at the far end of the cathedral was a small fire, the existence of which was highly remarkable in these surroundings.

    “I have completed my task, my master.” Gabriel said.

    Slowly, the fire rose into the air, growing and morphing until it formed a six-foot sphere. The black line that appeared down the front signalled the arrival of God himself, taking on the one form he could bear to have in this mortal realm.

    “WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND, SERVANT?”

    Gabriel grinned. “Everything that you expected. Miguel will come to fulfil the task you have assigned for him. Even if the parents do not realise it, he will be raised to be the person you need him to be.”

    “YOU ARE SURE OF THIS, SERVANT?”

    “Absolutely. Miguel may not turn out to be a willing servant, but a servant he will most definitely be.”

    “OUR CONTROL OVER HIM WILL BE COMPLETE?”

    “He will not even pose a challenge, my master. You may have to carry him kicking and screaming, but in the end he will thank you all the same.”

    Gabriel smiled viciously. “You just need to give him the right reward.”
     
    #281 Matt A, Feb 5, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2006
  2. Rae

    Rae Insert amusing comment

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    An interesting tale, i wasn't expecting you to have gabriel visit both of micheals parents when he was just a few months old

    Now, this point...is it that possibly, Micheal is actually working for God, and that this is all just some elaborated scheme? Or maybe, God is forcing him to do something without his knowing....

    I have no idea!

    But that chapter was still well written, as per usual, and you appear to be stalling, not wanting to tell us exactly what Micheal's big plan is

    Can't wait to find out!

    Rae
     
  3. JAG

    JAG Active Member

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    So, they've been manipulating Micheal all along? Interesting....

    My favorite part. A freakin' demon just drops down out of the sky to say hello.:D
     
  4. Pun-3x

    Pun-3x Member

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    Quick error-comment. The horse's name is Maria? At one point in the story, once he gets home, you refer to her again as "Megan." Unless I skipped something. Just bringing that up.

    Anyway, THIS is an interesting flashback. A visit to the parents (though at first I thought THIS "Miguel" was our Michael, except I think it was designed to look that way anyway) was definitely unexpected.

    And now we have to wonder what exactly the plan is here. Is the "right reward" supposed to be Carrie's life maybe? That she wasn't anything more than a bargaining chip to make Michael do what God wanted? That might be too easy though, and I already know better about guessing the outcomes of this story.

    Though I still like to try. :D
     
  5. Matt A

    Matt A Smile. Or Else.

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    I thought it was a nice touch. Before we see where Michael winds up, we get to see how he started out. Or something like that, anyway.

    You're all on about the right lines. Though Carrie is a big part of the "bargain", there's something else that Michael wants even more. If you apply a little thought to everything I've told you about him so far, it shouldn't be hard to figure out. So, what would Michael sell everyone out for?;)

    And there's another question you need to ask yourselves: why am I giving you this information now?;)

    It seemed like an amusing idea.:p

    Ah, that was a typo. I've gone back and corrected it.

    Make no mistake, this story has been some 100,000 words of stalling. But, thank every deity under the sun, the time for spoon-feeding you pointless information is now over...

    Yes, you read that right. The next chapter is nothing less than the Grand Finale, where I finally stop mucking around and start giving you some answers. All things going as well as I hope, it should be here by the end of the week.

    And you have no idea how good it feels to say that.:anime:

    -Matt A-
     
  6. Pun-3x

    Pun-3x Member

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    Yes I do. In the same boat myself. :D
     
  7. DeathscytheVII

    DeathscytheVII Farewell, Daughter of Trigon

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    Damnit mate, quit stallin and get to the point! XD

    In any case, it was a great chapter, i just loved seeing our recently departed Gabriel again. Taunting Michael one last time for us to read, and to really remind us how far the balance of power has tipped in their centuries old feud. Great stuff as always XD.

    Can't wait to see them take on god...i do wonder though, if gabriel died, shouldn't his soul go to god, who can ressurect him?
     
  8. Matt A

    Matt A Smile. Or Else.

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    Relax, alright! I'll be writing it tomorrow. I hope.:sweat:

    A nice one-fingered salute, I thought.:evil:

    Or has it?:evil:

    You know, I'd never thought of that. But I suppose there will be a mention, albeit in a more indirect way.;)

    -Matt A-
     
  9. TeenTitansGO!

    TeenTitansGO! expremental Upnnas

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    Ok, so I noticed something. You've said that these things are both angels and demons. Angels in popular view, demons in the reality. OK, knowing this along with some ways you explained things...Is their another side to all this? An anti-deity thing i guess. That would be weird. I honestly wouldn't like it. Hopefully not, but the chapter made me think that.

    I'm having a very HARD time figuring this out. Sorta like DB1...

    TTG~Matt H. I still don't understand why you gave us the last bit of DB1 info in an epilogue (genius)
     
  10. Matt A

    Matt A Smile. Or Else.

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    As I explained way back in the beginning of this half of the story (the "The Boxer" and "The Private Psychedelic Reel" chapters), there is no Satan in this story. There was, way back in the beginnings of time, but God executed him after his failed revolt. It seemed a little more in-character for my omnipotent villain.:evil:

    As I said, the next chapter will (hopefully) explain all. I said I was going to write it on Saturday, but I got a little side-tracked (man, I'd forgotten just how addictive AoEII really is...:sweat: ). So it won't be here until Wednesday now.:sad:

    I must be being a bit thick today. What epilogue are you referring to?:confused:

    -Matt A-
     
  11. Matt A

    Matt A Smile. Or Else.

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    Right then. After all the fannying about, after all the digressions and distractions and generally pointless garbage, I now finally present to you the grand finale of Dwr Budr 2. I don't think this will explain everything, but hopefully it'll explain enough for you to infer the rest. Also, I hope I haven't done anything too obvious or anti-climatic, but after the amount of build-up this chapter has had, I think that might just be inevitable. As I've said many, many times, we'll just have to see.:sweat:

    Oh, and for the love of God, do not ask me about the opening part. I really don't have a clue why it's in there, apart from the fact that it's funny.:sweat:

    Okay, enough time-wasting. Let's get on with the main event...


    Chapter Thirty-Five: The Test

    "No! Never! Never will I…" Her words cut short, the girl stands in utter horror. She knows she cannot defeat her father, and she knows he will win. Though she fights with all her mind and heart, her physical strength can never overpower this great devil. He has won, and there is no chance to win now. Reluctantly, she lets go, knowing she will exhaust her chances of coming back into this world if she keeps resisting. The being wins her over, and the girl is no more.

    The towering being yells maniacally, "AAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!", and he fades into the girl. She falls to her knees in surrender, and she prepares herself for the horrible feeling she is about to witness. As the monster slowly evaporates into the young one, her true self slips away. When finally he has complete control over her, the girl stands up, rejuvenated with a new power. Looking straight forward and holding her head high as if to say, "I rule all," she glares, all four glowing red eyes menacingly growling at the stale air. She speaks.

    "I am Trigon.”
    "It Will Always Rain", TeenTitansGo!
    Even at this time of night, there was still light in the park. There were three gravel paths running through it, one going across the bottom and the other two going diagonally through the middle, and all three were lined with high, cast-iron streetlamps. Their orange glow cast weird shadows over the many trees and gravestones, giving only enough light to make out their presence. It wasn’t completely dark out here, but you wouldn’t try to, say, read a book out here.

    Considering the inner-city location of this park, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to know what it was mainly used for this time of night. In the south-west corner, there was a large statue on a pedestal, one of the many war memorials strewn through this city and the surrounding towns and villages. Perched on and around the pedestal were half-a-dozen teenagers, all in tracksuits and trainers of varying brands and colours. They were passing around two spliffs between them, big clouds of ganja smoke billowing out into the cold September air as they each took their turn to have a puff. Sat in the park, getting high on very illegal weed, they thought they were the business: but as we all know well by now, there’s much worse in the universe than they.

    One of the teenagers, Simon, inhaled deep on a spliff, then sprayed out the smoke like he wanted to breathe fire. “What did Jenny say to you last night? I heard she was going on about some bad sh*t.” He clearly wanted to sound like he was from the ghetto, but it just wasn’t working.

    His question had been directed towards Laura, one of the two girls in the small group. “Oh God, it was real bad sh*t.” She didn’t sound any more common. “She was saying I was just some f**ked-up slag, that I’d gone off and f**ked her boyfriend at Kelly’s party last week.”

    Laura soo wanted this to be true. But as much as she did want to be seen as “just some f**ked-up slag”, Simon knew for a fact that she’d never even got into as much as some heavy petting. Because he’d tried.

    “And did you?” This was Tom’s question.

    “F**k no! I wouldn’t touch that guy with a f**king ten-foot pole!”

    Rumour was, the guy in question had enough ten-foot pole for both of them. Simon and Tom were keen to believe this, if only because it gave them a good excuse to hate his guts.

    Sat slightly over to one side, but not so much as to look anti-social, Becky put the other spliff to her lips and started to inhale. She got about halfway through a breath when she suddenly stopped, eyes wide at something none of the others could see. Her mouth dropped open, the spliff falling out and landing on the stone paving. There was a loud hiss as the impact stubbed it out.

    Dave looked over at her, eyes loaded with pot-heightened fury. “Oh, f**king nice one Becky! D’you know how f**king hard those things are to ligh-”

    He stopped talking, having just seen what made the girl of his dreams so distracted. Over the other side of the park, deep within the shadows of a huge oak tree, there was a black shape. It was so black that it actually stood out from the blackness around it. This shape was a rough circle, with half-a-dozen lines curling out around it in a rough spiral. In a way none of the six teenagers could put their finger on, it looked like the most evil, forbidding thing they’d ever seen. The ganja that was pumping through their veins suddenly didn’t seem so powerful.

    Just when they thought it couldn’t get any weirder, it did. Two people suddenly appeared out of the circle, touching down on the grass with graceful ease. There wasn’t enough light to make out any of their features, but they at least looked human. They two people looked around them briefly, as if to make sense of where they were, then they started walking across the grass. The black portal closed up behind them, the shadows seeming to darken without anything to show them up.

    The six teenagers looked at each other, suddenly feeling all-too sober. These two people were walking towards them. What the hell was going on?
    As they got closer, the two new arrivals were easier to describe. One was a man wearing a suit, trenchcoat and sunglasses, and the other was a woman with dark purple hair and a long dark blue cloak. If the teenagers hadn’t been so worried, they’d have recognised them instantly.

    Finally, the two adults reached the war memorial. The man looked down at the teenagers and smiled. With his eyes invisible behind the sunglasses, it looked like a shark’s smile.

    “Good evening.” the man said. He looked at his watch. “Or, rather, good morning.”

    He pointed to the large building beyond the memorial. It was big, old and very grand, a building that completely suited its purpose. This building, a cathedral no less, was what the park had been built to accommodate, to keep it away from the noise of the rest of the city. The six teenagers, they’d been living here so long that they hadn’t even thought about its looming presence.

    “Have any of you seem anything go in there?” the man asked. “Anything particularly freaky or unusual, probably in the last few hours?”

    Simon eyed him cautiously. For all his thuggish bravado, he wasn’t a fool, and he sensed that this guy was best treated without his usual arrogance. “We’ve only been sat here for half an hour. You two are the first guys we’ve seen.”

    The man smiled. “That figures. Thanks for your time.”

    He started walking towards the cathedral, the woman only a step or two behind. If the teenagers had been paying attention, they’d have noticed just how worried she looked.

    The pair had only got half a dozen paces before Simon called out to them. “Who are you guys, anyway?”

    They both stopped. The man turned round and smiled for the third time. Now, it didn’t look so malevolent. “The ghosts of Christmas future.” he said.

    Without another word, the pair carried on walking again. Only once they’d gone inside the cathedral did the teenagers look away.

    Laura looked over at Simon. “What the f**k was all that about?”

    “F**ked if I know.” Simon held out the spliff in his fingers, the one that had miraculously stayed alight. “Want a toke?”
    * * * * *​
    Raven closed the huge oak door behind her, not bothering to lock it. As far as she remembered, the main doors of this cathedral hadn’t been unlocked for a good fifty-odd years, the frequent visitors always using the smaller doors on each side: tonight, funnily enough, wasn’t the night for doing things the usual way. Her and Michael hadn’t even been the ones that had unlocked it: that had been done by the other current occupants of this building.

    Though Raven had been in this cathedral many times, it never failed to stun her. The sheer epicness of the space – 30ft wide, 50ft high, 150ft long – was overwhelming, the vast, empty cavern being an engineering marvel even now, let alone the eight hundred-ish years ago when it was built. This majesty was fairly average by cathedral standards, but it was still immense.

    But this wasn’t the important part of the scene. At the far end of the nave, where the altar always used to be, was a huge fireball. A twenty-foot sphere of flame floating in the air, the black slit down the front giving the impression that it was staring contemptuously at everything it saw. This, Raven knew well, was entirely the case, and she new the reason why. Remarkably, this was the first time she’d ever come face-to-face with God, and he looked every bit as imperious and frightening as she’d been told to expect.

    Of all the places for the final showdown to be, this one struck Raven as being a little unusual. But Michael had explained the reasoning on the way here: Winchester cathedral, deep in the heart of Home Counties England, was where Carrie had first come to God’s attention, where she had first battled with an angel. Ergo, for reasons Raven still wasn’t quite sure of, this was where his hold over her would be most powerful.

    Regardless of the reasoning, Michael still seemed to be correct. A few feet in front of God, Carrie was hovering just above the floor. Her arms were crossed inside her cloak, and her face showed an expression of absolute, undisguised contempt.

    This was not an image Raven relished.

    Michael started to walk down the nave, the hard sound of his shoes hitting the stone paving echoing around the vast space. He looked like he hadn’t even noticed his daughter’s disturbing presence, with all his attention focused on the being behind her.

    “So, your Almightiness,” Michael said as he walked, voice dripping sarcasm, “where’s the angelic escort? I’d have thought the few we’d left alive would have been here for this. They wouldn’t want to miss the main event.”

    “I HAVE NO NEED FOR MY SERVANTS NOW.” God’s voice was as thunderous as Raven imagined, perfectly suiting his appearance. “THEY WERE LOYAL, BUT THEY WOULD BE A HINDRANCE IN THIS FINAL HOUR. I HAVE DEALT WITH THEM.”

    That, it seemed, was that. With a sweep of the hand, God had done what all of the Titans together could not. And he’d done it to his own servants.

    Michael stopped walking, now halfway down the nave. He smiled. “I thought as much. It sounds like something you’d do.”

    Carrie finally spoke. “You’re a great one to talk, dad.” She almost spat the words, like they were bullets. She’d been angry before, but this was something entirely beyond her previous performances.

    Still stood in the back of the cathedral, Raven could do nothing but stare at her daughter. Did she mean what it looked like she meant?”

    She couldn’t see Michael’s face from this far back, but it didn’t seem that he’d made any kind of reaction to Carrie’s statement.

    Michael was silent for a few seconds. “He told you, huh?”

    Carrie’s eyes blazed fire. “Oh, he did. You’re disgusting, Michael. After all this time, after everything you’ve said, how could you even think of doing this to me? Of doing this to us?”

    Raven slumped against a pillar, her mind and body numb. The others might have suspected something like this, but she hadn’t.

    “You lied to us, Michael.” Carrie went on. “Your own family. You betrayed us. You supported us, you comforted us, you fought alongside us, and all that time, you were just f**king us around.

    He’s right, you know. If the world can still produce f**kers like you, then I’d say it’s in need of an overhaul. Let’s see if we can’t make something better out of all the sh*t that’s lying around.”

    The worst part was, Carrie wasn’t shouting. She was just spitting out the venom, a hate that went beyond any of kind of expressible rage. It was just there, hidden in the background, poisoning every word and look and gesture.
    Still leaning against the pillar, Raven put a hand up to her eye, wiping away the tear that had started to form. Right now, she could only manage the one, but countless others would come in time. In less than a minute, the two people she genuinely loved had turned against both her and each other: even her worst nightmares didn’t go this far.

    In the background, God laughed. His low chuckle shook the building, one that still hadn’t been fully repaired since the last time Carrie was in here. The blue tarpaulin that covered the missing roof sections fluttered loudly, banging against its mooring ropes.

    “MY MY, THIS IS SWEET. I DO LOVE FAMILY GET-TOGETHERS.”

    Michael slowly walked over to one side, leaning against the end of a pew. He sighed deeply, then looked up at God. “How much did you tell her?” he asked. Raven was used to his world-weary tones, but it still felt like a long time since she’d last heard them.

    “YOU BETRAYED HER. WHAT ELSE DOES SHE NEED TO KNOW?”

    “A damn sight more than that.” Michael looked back down at his daughter, then over at Raven. He shifted his eyes between the two of them as he spoke: this next speech was for both of them.

    “You’ve both come a long way,” he said, “so I suppose the least I can do is explain myself. The stuff I told you when I came back, it was all true. Every word of it. All I did was omit the less…palatable bits.

    It was a simple arrangement, really. I was given my healing powers, my immortality, as a punishment for not helping God. If I helped him in something else, then he would take them away again. Give me my life back. Being immortal, it’s worse than being dead. It’s a pain the likes of which even you two can’t imagine. I love you both dearly, I really do, but I would do anything to be free of it.”

    He looked directly at Carrie. “Quite simply, all I needed to do was deliver you to God. To pretend to be a loyal friend and father, to help you right until the very, very end, then make sure the angels got you. To make sure that, when the time came for you to fulfil your role, you were filled with as much loathing of the world as you could possibly be.

    Everything that’s happened so far, your troubled birth, your time in the orphanage, my sudden return, the war against the angels, everything that’s ever happened to you, it’s all been designed to lead you to this point.
    I just want to make one thing clear about all this. I’m not God’s puppet. I don’t like him, and I don’t enjoy working for him. He’s just got my by the fuzz, good and proper. As much as I feel like an arsehole for doing his will, there was no other way.” Michael grinned viciously. “And I’m impressed with how well things turned out. Only two people came close to f**king it up.”

    These two people, as Michael didn’t need to say, were General Bradley Vaughton and Dr Jacob Light. The two smallest cogs in the entire system.

    Bearing in mind the convoluted and often contradictory thought processes of your average teenager, you’d be forgiven for thinking that hearing all this would calm Carrie down, screwing around with his plan out of sheer spite. But it didn’t: if anything, it made her feel even worse. Like her mother, she’d genuinely trusted Michael…and also like her mother, she didn’t appreciate betrayal. Carrie was only an average teenager in that respect.

    Strangely, the person who wasn’t affected was Raven. She was already well aware that her role in all this was only a minor one, at least at this point in time: there was nothing in Michael’s explanation that changed her own plight. Considering what Carrie had committed herself to doing next, she didn’t feel all that bad for her daughter. It was her own choice, after all.

    God looked down at Michael, showing admiration for perhaps the first time in history. “YOU HAVE DONE VERY WELL INDEED, MY SERVANT. IT IS TIME I MADE GOOD ON MY WORD.”

    It looked like nothing happened. There were no bright lights, no rushing sounds, nothing that would indicate Michael’s powers being removed. The only event was Michael closing his eyes for a dozen or so seconds, but even that wasn’t greatly note-worthy.

    Eventually, Michael opened his eyes again, grinning widely. Very slowly, he pulled a gun out from inside his trenchcoat, pressed it against the back of his left hand, then fired. The gunshot rang out across the cathedral, the echo increasing an already defending bang to insane levels. Any louder, and the building would have started to shake.

    It took a few minutes for the sound to die down. Michael looked at his hand, blood pouring out from a half-inch hole. It ran down both sides of his arm, splashing down onto the stone floor. He didn’t cry, didn’t scream, didn’t do anything except look at the wound and smile.

    “Well, that’s me back to normal.” he said to himself. “Long f**king last.”

    It might seem strange that God fulfilled his promise: after all, when you’re an all-powerful, behind-the-scenes villain, the cardinal rule of deal-making is to f**k over your colleagues right at the very last second. It runs like clockwork, every single time. But, let’s face it, why would God want his only enemy to remain unkillable?

    Though it wasn’t God who made the next move. Carrie looked over at her father, grinning viciously. “Congratulations, dad. Out of all the dumb things you’ve done in your life, of which there are many, that one was easily the dumbest.”

    Suddenly, Carrie brought up a shield around herself. The black sphere was about six or seven feet across, just big enough for her to stand up in. She spread out her arms and legs, touching them against the very edge of the shield.

    Then she grinned. “Bet you can’t do this, mum.”

    The shield expanded outwards, racing down the cathedral at a phenomenal speed. Raven only just got up a shield of her own in time, but the impact still flung her into the far wall, with so much force to it that she nearly shattered six feet of stone. Luckily, she still kept the barrier up, as much as the impact hurt.

    Carrie’s own shield moved ever onwards, disappearing through the walls and the roof. The whole building shook as the blackness passed, shattering the many priceless stained-glass windows and shaking the looser bits of stone down to the floor. An entire section of roof smashed down into a group of pews, throwing wood everywhere.

    Eventually, the carnage ceased. Raven slowly got back to her feet, looking down at where Michael had landed. He’d been much closer to the shield, and he no longer had any powers to hide him from its effects: he was still alive, that much was obvious, but he was one big series of evil-looking cuts and bruises. This wasn’t the most welcoming thing Raven had ever seen, but he’d made his choice.

    Carrie looked over at him, laughing viciously. “Enough of those,” she said, “and the entire f**king universe will be reduced to dust. Your precious life, the one you’ve f**ked over so many people to get back, you’ll have it just long enough for me to kill you slowly and painfully.

    You really should have thought about that one, you know.”

    He was face down, so the sound was somewhat muffled, but Michael was very clearly laughing. He slowly lifted his head off the ground, twisting round to give his daughter both eyes.

    “I couldn’t give a toss, Carrie.” he said. “I think I’ve had enough life, or at least something close to it. Death sounds like a good laugh.”

    Carrie narrowed her eyes, then smiled. “In that case, dearest dad, your wish is my command.”

    She let off another shield blast, shaking loose whatever glass was left in the window frames, sending bits of roof and wall crashing to the ground. The cathedral wasn’t going to collapse, not just yet, but the damage was considerable.

    But this time, Raven was ready. She brought up her own shield in good time, staying on her feet despite the impact as the two shields collided. To everyone’s surprise, her own included, her shield was big enough to protect more than just herself: safe within the black wall, Michael was protected from further grievous bodily harm.

    Once Carrie’s shield had left the cathedral behind, Raven lowered her own barrier. No one spoke or moved for a few seconds, too confused by what just happened to think of what to do next.

    Raven briefly wondered if the stoners outside were still alright. Hell, they probably hadn’t even noticed those two blasts.

    Eventually, Michael looked up at his girlfriend and smiled. “Thanks, hon.”

    Raven shrugged. “If you can tell me why I just did that, then I’d be grateful.”

    “Help me up, and I’ll give it a good go.”

    Still not quite sure of her own actions, she pulled Michael to his feet. He gently swayed on the spot for a few seconds, then grabbed hold of the remains of a pew. Bending double, he coughed up a large mouthful of blood, which splattered against the cracked stone floor.

    He stood back up, wiped his mouth with his sleeve, then grinned. “Ah, that’s much better.”

    He looked over at God, doing his best eyeball a being that was in itself a giant eyeball. There was a few seconds of silence.

    Suddenly, he grinned. “And now, if you don’t mind, it’s time for me to kick your arse.”

    All three people, Raven, Carrie and God alike, could do nothing but stare at him. Michael was good at doing the unexpected, but this was definitely a new one.

    “EXPLAIN YOURSELF, MIGUEL.”

    Michael mock-saluted. “As you command.

    Do I want to die? Do you think that’s what I want? I mean, after all the time and effort I’ve put into getting my life back, do you seriously think I’m just going to chuck it away again? I might be an idiot, but there’s only so many things I’ll do.”

    Michael leaned against a pillar next to him. “I don’t want to die, you know. I want to live, and to live as fully as I can. Immortality’s boring. I’m not looking to encourage death, but life is a lot more interesting when it might just be around the next corner. So I thank you for that.”

    He nodded in God’s direction, but didn’t wait for him to respond. “As I’ve said many times, I hate your guts, or at least whatever you’ve got instead of guts. But at the same time, I need to be nice to you in order to get what I want.”

    “SO NOW OUR ARRANGEMENT IS OVER, YOU SHALL WORK TO DESTROY ME?” God chuckled, the deep rumbling shaking off a few loose pieces of stone from the walls. “I WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOU TRY.”

    Michael gave him an odd sideways look, the kind a dog does when it’s curious. “Oh, do you now?”

    He smiled. “I can’t kill you. Both you and I know that. I wouldn’t say there’s really anything to kill, at least not in any physical sense.

    But here’s the beautiful thing. It doesn’t matter if I leave you alive or not. The power you have, it comes only from people following you, from people believing that you’re worth following. I show people your true nature, and I guarantee that no one’s going to listen to a single f**king word you’ve got to say.

    You won’t be dead, but you’ll still be out of our hair. That’s a good compromise.”

    “IS THAT IT? AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, I FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE YOU WOULD SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS THAN TOTAL VICTORY. YOUR LACK OF AMBITION IS STILL SURPRISING.”

    “F**k you. I’ve already got what I want. I’ve got my life back. Anything else is just a bonus.”

    He looked round at Raven and Carrie, giving them both a quick but searching look. “If neither of you want to come with me, then I can understand. I hardly deserve your sympathy.

    If you’ll all excuse me, I have business to attend to. With luck, and if Cyborg’s done his job right, half the media population of this planet will be outside those double doors. I need to go give them the biggest scoop in history.”

    Without another word, Michael started walking down the nave. Even with half the roof spread all over the cracked floor, his shoes still echoed loudly throughout the cathedral.

    He was only a few metres from the big cathedral doors when God called out to him. “IF YOU DO THIS, I WILL KILL HER.”

    Michael stopped in his tracks. He turned round very slowly and very deliberately, revealing a blank face that did wonders to show the anger bubbling away inside. Raven hadn’t seen his get like this for a long time, but she knew what it would result in. Or maybe not.

    Since she’d let off the second shield blast, Carrie hadn’t spoken a word or moved a muscle. Even at the best of times, Raven found her daughter to be something of a mystery, but she could give a good guess as what she was feeling right now. She’d been standing in front of God because she’d been furious with Michael, but now that the reason for her hate was gone, what should she do next?

    But it was obvious as to what God himself had in mind. Raven hadn’t ever seen it herself, but she knew of his rather curious ability to spit fire: it came with his preferred form, apparently. Carrie was standing only a few feet in front of him, and being hit at point-blank range with a flamethrower wasn’t known for being good for your health.

    “You aren’t going to do that.” Michael said.

    “I’M NOT? HOW CAN YOU TELL, EXACTLY?”

    “Because you can’t destroy the universe without her. That’s still your plan, isn’t it? And besides, burning a fifteen-year-old girl won’t do wonders for your image, not after I’d opened those doors.”

    It was hard to tell on a being without any kind of facial features, but it was almost as if God was smiling. “OF COURSE. MY MISTAKE. IT SEEMS I THREATENED THE WRONG LIFE.”

    Without warning, a huge stream of fire surged out of God’s sole eye. It flew up and over Carrie’s head, singing her hair, then rocketed down the nave. Within seconds, it was almost right on top of Michael.

    But it didn’t get that far. With inches to spare, with the fire so close that he could feel it burning his face, a black shield flew up around him. The fire bounced against it like the sea hitting a wall, the shield shaking as the immense force piled into it. A few metres away, Raven was buckling under the pressure, driven down onto her knees, but the shield held.

    Eventually, the fire stopped. Raven lowered the shield, slowly getting back to her feet. Carrie stood back up as well, seeing as she’d hit the deck to avoid getting cooked. Sometimes, natural instincts are worth trusting.

    Michael looked over at Raven and smiled. “That’s two I owe you.”

    Raven smiled back. “I’ll take payment later.”

    “I bet you will.”

    Down the other end of the nave, Carrie finally turned to face God. Standing this close, she had to lean her head right back to get a full view of him, “It seems I hadn’t misjudged you after all.” she said.

    “EXCUSE ME?”

    Carrie walked backwards a few paces, just enough to rest her neck. “Michael told me you were an arsehole, and I believed him. I thought it was the smarter option, all things considered.

    But then, when we finally met, I realised you were actually a lot more reasonable than that. I was bit f**ked off with what you’d told me, so it wasn’t hard for me to get your point.

    But you know what? My dad might be an arsehole himself, but I reckon his heart’s still in the right place. Or at least roughly in the right place. I think I could give him the time of day.”

    Nothing happened for several seconds. Eventually, the silence was broken by sounded not entirely unlike God sighing, though his guttural tones gave it a distinct hint of growl.

    “SO, IT HAS COME TO THIS, HAS IT? AFTER ALL I DO FOR YOU, YOU STILL INSIST ON BEING AN UNGRATEFUL WRETCH.

    FINE. I WOULD BE BETTER OF DOING THIS MYSELF, ANYWAY.”

    God started to shrink slightly, the sound of rushing air faintly audible. It was as if he was taking a deep breath…and it was obvious what for.

    Oh no you f**king don’t!” Carrie shouted.

    This was when something entirely unexpected happened. Black energy swarmed all over Carrie’s body, coming out of nowhere to cover her from head to foot in seconds. But then the energy started to grow, a nightmarish cloud climbing and twisting up through the air, soon forming a distinct shape. It was one Raven had seen many times, but had never expected to see here.

    A thirty-foot raven, all done up in black.

    Raven and Michael looked at each other. “I didn’t know she could do that.” Raven said.

    “I don’t think anyone knew she could do that.”

    The raven screeched, a deafening and terrible sound that threatened to rip open the very skies. It reared up, head almost scraping the roof, and plunged its beak deep into God’s eye.

    Never in recorded or unrecorded history, not even in the very beginnings of time, had anyone ever heard God scream. Up until now, no one had even thought it possible. It was an immense roar of pain, something beyond primal, something that could have been heard even on the very edges of the universe. The whole cathedral shook under the sheer power of his anguish.

    Over the all-powerful noise, Michael was able to scream one word.

    Carrie!”

    The raven withdrew its beak. It turned round, staring down at Michael with a murderous glare. Behind it, God stopped his screaming, trying to get his traumatised mind back under control.

    Suddenly, the raven changed its expression, now just looking confused. There was a pause for a few seconds, then it vanished altogether, leaving Carrie standing in its place. She also looked confused.

    Michael smiled. “I thought that might get your attention.”

    Carrie looked at him shrewdly. “Why did you just stop me from killing your worst enemy?”

    “Remember what I told you before, Carrie. I’m a killer, you’re not. Or at least, you shouldn’t have to be.

    Besides, I want that motherf**ker alive. He’s about to find out, just as I did, that there’s much worse fates than death.”

    Michael turned to the cathedral’s double doors, the huge oak ones that stretched half the height of the building. He put his hand on the doorknob, ready to pull the door open, then looked back over his shoulder.

    Down the over end of the nave, a hundred-and-fifty feet away, God was silent. He hadn’t accepted defeat, ‘cause he wasn’t the sort for it, but he knew he was still in deep trouble. A brave new world was coming, and whether he liked it or not, he was going to take centre-stage. This was the only way it was going to be.

    Michael grinned evilly. “God, it’s time for you to meet your congregation.”
     
  12. Rae

    Rae Insert amusing comment

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    Wow!

    The whole Micheal crossing Raven and Carrie wasn't really a shock to me, but when he crossed back to them, now that i didn't expect. Nice one! :anime:

    The scene was well written, and i liked Micheal's way of 'killing' God without actually killing him, it's a fitting punishment really. I have to ask, did Micheal tell Cyborg about the whole of his plan, including what you added here, it would certainately explain his reaction.

    NIce touch with the 'raven' form of Carrie, as well as that sheild blast thing.

    Great work as per usual!

    Rae
     
  13. Alpha Man

    Alpha Man Raven in a Bikini? Brilliant!

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    Good stuff. A lot of f-bombs, though. Family issues are always fun to read... let alone write.;)
     
  14. TeenTitansGO!

    TeenTitansGO! expremental Upnnas

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    Ya, way to much cursing for me.

    Beside that, AWESOME! I don't know what more to say than, I wasn't shock with the crossback. Michael's too cool not to be good.

    Totally explains Cyborg's reaction earlier though. Totally. I wish youd've killed God though. (Wow, you don't know, being a Christian, how very awkward that feels....ugh...really)

    TTG~Matt H. I'm very very regretting the above
     
  15. DeathscytheVII

    DeathscytheVII Farewell, Daughter of Trigon

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    I like how you acknowledged that you cant kill god, but you can destroy his power through destroying the belief of his congregation. One of the biggest problems of having villains with limitless power it that i really limits your writing potential. You find yourslef adding limits to the villain's powers and i was really thinking that when Carrie actually 'hurt' god. That was an awesome scene nonetheless, it looks like hidden power is a hereditary trait from raven.

    Michael shooting himself in the hand just to find out his mortality? Priceless moment there.

    And for being the all-knowing, all-seeing god, i'm surprised michael is able to pull a plan on him. Then again, this happened to trigon too haha. And the way god always talks LIKE THIS RAWR! sounds like he's shouting all the time ;) haha

    God destroyed all his angels? PFFT. the least he could do was ressurect gabriel ;) it'll come back to kick him in the proverbial arse for sure hehe.
     
  16. Matt A

    Matt A Smile. Or Else.

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    Hence why I put in the "Under The Influence" chapter. Before the finale even started, I'd already told you that Michael was going to set everyone up: two changes of allegiance in the space of one chapter is a little too much to deal with, especially when said chapter relies on it making logical sense. Or maybe I'm just underestimating my audience...but seeing as my tactic worked anyway, I don't suppose it matters.:shrug:

    Yeah, it seemed like a good idea. Considering what the story's about - the dangers of authority, tradition and obligation - it made sense that the story should end with God being brought down by all of humanity, not just by three people. But that's an issue best saved for the next chapter (the second-to-last one, if you count the epilogue).

    Exactly. Michael's plan may have been highly effective, but it was also highly callous. He did deserve that punch.;)

    Considering just how far-reaching Raven's powers are on the show (I've yet to think of something it isn't theoretically possible for her to do...), they both seemed fairly natural tricks to put in.;)

    Just for the record, the idea of Carrie's "soul self" was directly inspired by a drawing that DS7 sent me a few weeks ago. It wasn't something I'd thought of beforehand, but once I saw it on paper, I just knew it had to be done.;)

    Hey, it's one of my chapters. What else did you expect?:evil:

    Amen to that, brother.:evil:

    As cruel as this may sound, I'm very proud to see you write that. It seems I'm doing my job properly.:anime:

    That's a good point. After all, whilst having a Mary Sue hero just makes your story suck, having a Mary Sue villain makes it impossible to even resolve. I'd never really thought about it that specifically before, but it's pretty true.

    Besides, as I said above, Carrie's thang was a later addition to the sequence. But it just seemed like too cool an idea to ignore.;)

    Yeah, it's something he would do.:evil:

    The only fatal flaw of every villain, no matter how powerful: lack of foresight. They'll always miss the thing that comes back to bite them on the arse.:evil:

    I needed that imperious touch.:evil:

    Well, I needed the angels to be defeated somehow. The Tower battle wasn't going to be a complete victory, that much was a given, and so this was the next-best place. Besides, wiping out your own private army is something God would do.;)

    On a more serious note, I'm very glad this chapter's gone down as well as it has. Considering just how this story's been going and the following that it's got, not to mention the amount of dramatic weight I've been building up, I felt it was pretty much guaranteed that this chapter wouldn't stand up to your expectations. But, against every odd going, it has...and I'm very grateful for that.:anime:

    -Matt A-
     
  17. Pun-3x

    Pun-3x Member

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    I'm getting a bit of an SG-1 "Ori" vibe here. The less followers, the better.

    I always figured that Michael would threaten to destroy the entire world as part of his plan, for similar reasons. No one around to worship God, no point in God being around. I always figured he'd use it as a threat, but would be willing to follow it through if need be. Only because that's his character. (so now you know what I thought was going to happen. Eheh...)

    Still, we do get to see Michael as himself--doing whatever it is he needs to do to get what he wants, surprising and angering everyone in the process. And then, get the other thing he wanted anyway ;) Maybe because I already thought he might be willing to destroy the world in my own mind, I didn't find his turning to be a surprise...or his wanting to keep after God once it was all done. Still, nicely written and portrayed.

    The cursing was a bit much. Understanding it was all coming to a head...it was still too much. (I type this knowing you've responded to everyone else, but I haven't read yet :sweat: )

    The only other thing that irks me is why God doesn't just leave. Is he too wounded at this point to do so? Or is this where he's always been and has been 'transmitting' at other locations FROM here? (okay, as in, he's in his current realm, but his ability to see the rest of the world comes from this one spot?) I dunno, got kinda lost on that one.

    Then again, I figure the next part might explain this. We'll just have to see where it finishes.
     
  18. TeenTitansGO!

    TeenTitansGO! expremental Upnnas

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    Actually, the only way I ever came to terms with reading this was to accept that the "God" in this fiction was not the God I worship, that it was not a canon character so to speak (HAHA!). In other words, this God did not have the same character or goals as mine or the same attitude. It was simply a character of fiction.

    TTG~Matt H. there's my little religious rant, it could be longer, but I'm not sure what's allowed on TZ:sweat:


    EDIT: I think I forgot to say that I think it's amazing that you quoted me! Wow, bad place though, but I guess it worked for the chap.
     
  19. Matt A

    Matt A Smile. Or Else.

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    Seeing as I've only ever watched SG-1 twice in my entire life, I think you'll have to explain that one.:confused:

    Good to see someone managed to pre-empt me. Thinking things through to their logical conclusions is a good approach.;)

    But there's one small thing I need to correct you on. Michael never intended to threaten anyone with the universe's destruction: after all, that's what God wanted. As Michael explained way back in chapter nineteen ("The Private Psychedelic Reel"), God's plan was to destroy the universe, and then re-build it with creatures who would actually obey him. Michael wasn't trying to play along with that, seeing as it would be fairly counter-productive in the long run. If he was being anything, then he was being a self-obsessed, borderline-suicidal lunatic.;)

    I thought that a dramatic situation called for lots of unpleasantness, and it's in Michael's nature - and Carrie's too, to a certain extent - to swear like a trooper even at the best of times. But yeah, maybe I could've downplayed it just a little, but that's me all over.:shrug:

    The next chapter was going to explain this briefly, but I might as well mention it here as well. God didn't leave because there wasn't any point: as Michael and then Carrie demonstrated, he'd finally come across people who were able to out-play him. If he left now, he wouldn't be able to go anywhere where they couldn't hunt him down any destroy him anyway. Basically, he'd accepted defeat, or as close to that as he could get.

    As patronising as this may sound, that was kinda my point. Getting people to leave their beliefs and opinions at the door is nigh-on impossible, especially when religion gets involved. Succeeding in this is as remarkable as changing someone's views entirely.

    -Matt A-
     
  20. Matt A

    Matt A Smile. Or Else.

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    As much as I don't want to have this as the last post on the page, I'm not sure I have a great deal of choice. Needs must and all that.:sad:

    Anyway, onto something more cheerful. Chapter thirty-six, the penultimate outing for this story, is now here for you read and review. To be honest, it's a fairly conventional "post-adventure" thing, detailing what everyone gets up once they've ridden past the sunset. So there's not really much to say from me, 'cept that, just this once, I've shown off a little bit of my sentimental side. Be warned.;)

    Oh, and I don't have a bloody clue how to waltz.:p


    Chapter Thirty-Six: Setting Sun

    "And here we are again." said Arella to her daughter. Two whole weeks had passed since Raven and Terra's conversation and everyone had noticed the difference in the way the two acted around each other.

    "Sorry for the hostility." said Raven. She had totally recovered but spent more time in meditation, not wanting another outburst like that again.

    "Sorry for bringing Terra back without asking you first."

    "It's okay, you weren't to know. Besides, this could work out better than I had first thought."

    "Everything happens for a reason." said Arella. "But I have a strong feeling that life's about to change."

    "Change isn't always a bad thing." Raven replied, smiling at the look on Arella's face at this comment.

    "Last time this happened I was the one who said those words." she said.
    "Change Isn't Always A Bad Thing", Rae
    Some things change…

    Raven leaned against the tree, looking at everything around her with an uncharacteristically lazy eye. But truth be told, there wasn’t much to look at here, and what there was could be followed easily enough. As any equine expert can tell you, horses don’t tend to move around when they’re eating: in fact, they’ll profoundly object to moving anything other than their jaw, which will go fast enough to turn Bugs Bunny green with envy. This makes for one very amusing sight, especially late on in the day when your sense of humour is feeling as tired as you are.

    The four horses – Mo, Ollie, Megan and Jessie – got through their feed buckets in a few minutes. Raven sighed and gently pushed herself off the tree, ambling across the small paddock to the empty buckets. Actually, it was more of a squelch than an amble, what with the autumn rains turning most of the grass to mud thicker than quicksand, but it was just one of those things. Now halfway across the paddock, Raven bent down to pick up the buckets: it was almost as if nothing had ever even been put in them, they’d been licked so clean. Even with the three paddocks’ worth of all-you-can-eat grass-fest, these horses were still always hungry. But that’s horses for you.

    The four horses had wandered over to the larger paddock to the left, where Raven had already left out a few piles of hay. Feeling no need to disturb them, Raven tucked the feed buckets under her arm and walked out of the middle paddock, closing the long metal gate behind her. She walked down the short hill to the stables at the bottom, wellies squelching into the sticky mud that used to be a path. As soon as she’d put the buckets back in the stables, she’d walk home, make a brew and curl up in front of the fire for the evening.

    This must strike you as a strange existence, considering the kind of life that Raven’s had. But, then again, a simple life was all she wanted.

    Today was the 24th of October 2021, just over a month since the defeat of God. Needless to say, the world had changed somewhat, now that his true nature had been revealed to one and all. As well as the media frenzy that sparked when Michael opened the cathedral doors, a passing helicopter had managed to film most of the events in the building itself, via the many holes in the roof that had appeared during proceedings. Between most of the world’s press, from both before and after the “official” announcement, there was several days’ worth of footage showing God in his full evil majesty. Even when he could have disappeared, robbing the world of most of the evidence, he didn’t: he just sat above the altar, radiating unpleasantness to all who cared to look (which was everybody). In the forms of Michael, Raven and Carrie, he’d finally met people stronger and smarter than himself, and he knew full well that any more fighting was pointless.

    It would be tempting to say that the world was a better place, that humanity had finally thrown off the shackles of religion and embraced a new dawn of reason, understanding and fraternal love. It would be tempting, and it would also be a lie. Though most people had accepted the truth of things, there were still many thousands, maybe even millions, who’d yet to do so. They insisted that the tons of media footage had been faked, that it was all just some giant atheistic conspiracy to debase religion once and for all. But you couldn’t blame them: after all, the entire of human history and society was being re-written overnight, and this does take some getting used to. Still, they’d come around eventually, now that the many religions of the world were on their deathbeds. Like that wasn’t already happening, but that wasn’t the point.

    For the most part, people had been starting to ask the right questions. With God and religion now no longer acceptable sources of authority, they were now beginning to wonder what other kinds of order they could do without. This sounds like a recipe for a global descent into chaos, but it wasn’t turning out that way: rather, without any higher authorities to appeal to, people were starting to take their neighbours a little more seriously. As it turned out, everyone was actually equal.

    The future was looking like a much more interesting place.

    Raven was now at the bottom of the path. The muddy track opened out into a wide gravelled courtyard, with various buildings on all sides: garages to the left, the stable block to the right, and a large cottage straight ahead. All these buildings, and the land around them, looked well-kept and well-loved, but lack of funds still gave them that distinct sheen of disrepair. Despite the fact that she kept four horses here, none of the property belonged to Raven: her house was on the other side of the village, a few minutes’ walk from here.

    Does any of this sound familiar? Well, it should.

    Considering their new-found place in human history, the eight people responsible for God’s defeat – Michael, Raven, Carrie, Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Terra and Starfire – had been very lucky over the last few weeks. Through not inconsiderable effort, they’d managed to avoid the media spotlight that was searching them out, quietly shifting into their chosen areas of life. Robin had gone back to Gotham City, resuming the Nightwing persona he was so fond of. Cyborg, Beast Boy and Terra had stayed in Jump City, protecting the city until such a point as new heroes could be found for the job. Carrie had headed off to London to head up an all-new superhero team, at the Mayor’s most humble request: luckily, her fun with the shield blasts had caused zero destruction beyond the city of Winchester, so she was still a media hero. Starfire had returned to her family on Tamaran, taking a few thousand copies of God’s TV debut with her: in time, the rest of the inhabited universe would come to know the truth as well, which was perhaps the most important thing in all of this post-match drama.

    Though these chosen careers were all very public, none of the six had yet done much to gain attention. Maybe, a hundred or so years from now, superheroes wouldn’t even be needed.

    As for Raven, she’d gone straight back to her old life, the one she’d been living before Carrie turned up at her door only four months ago: the more she thought about it, the more the smallness of this time-frame astonished her. Once again, she was back in the quest English village of Shipton Bellinger, running a moderately successful horse retirement home under the name of Tara Strong. She was even back in her old guise: hair dyed black, wearing jeans and cardigans rather than cloaks and leotards. Everyone else in the village thought that she’d just gone on an extended holiday, and even if they suspected otherwise, they didn’t want to mention it. This was the simple life, lived just the way Raven wanted to live it.

    Raven dumped the feed buckets in the stable’s back room, changing her muddy wellies for a pair of black trainers she kept in there. She then walked out of the courtyard and round the side of the cottage, where a tarmac driveway led to the main road. High Street, one the three roads that linked all the various parts of the village, had one of the most quietly ironic names in the universe: with the thatched cottages, the tall oak trees and the stream running along one side, it looked more like a stereotypical English village than an English village has any right to be.

    To the left was a series of alleys leading to Raven’s house: “Well Hidden”, as it was rightly called. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, Raven went right, down High Street and towards the edge of the village. As much as she wanted to get home, to get the living room fire lit before the cold October air got any colder, there was something else she needed to do first. Something she wanted to do even more.

    Out of everyone involved, Michael had been only one who’d wanted any kind of limelight. After all, the defeat of God, and the social revolution it was now bringing about, had been entirely his idea, and he wanted the credit for it. To that end, he’d been with the UN for the last month, chairing talks between various heads of state, religious leaders and respected academics. Between them, they had lots of stuff to sort out, and he wanted to ensure that it was resolved with minimum mess.

    But now, on this cold October evening, he had arrived back in England on a brief adjournment. Raven could understand why he wanted to see her, but asking to meet in the Shipton parish church…well, she still hadn’t wrapped her head round that.

    Shipton church was near the edge of the village, where the housing started to spread even more thinly. It was a smallish thing, the kind of simple stone-and-tile building that was typical of a country church: there was an almost Saxon/medieval quality to it, insomuch as that can be explained. Also like most country churches, it looked more peaceful than majestic, like a true religious structure should.

    Raven slowly opened the gate to the church grounds, walking through the small cemetery that surrounded the building. Though the grass was still mowed on a fairly regular basis, the cemetery hadn’t been used for decades, maybe even a century. The writing on the headstones had long since faded away, victim to the rain and the steady-growing moss. But still, cemeteries had never caused Raven any great deal of trouble, and she reached the church door without even thinking about all the headstones that she passed.

    Unusually for this time of evening, the door was unlocked. Raven pushed open the heavy oak door, gently swinging it shut behind her. The inside of the church was an unexceptional as the outside, with the obligatory pews, altar, stained-glass and smaller pieces of religious paraphernalia. The only notable detail was that the altar had been pushed back to the far end of the room, leaving a large area of empty floor in its place. Stood in the middle of this area, wearing a business suit and with his hands clasped behind his back, was Michael himself.

    It probably comes as no surprise that Raven and Carrie let Michael back into their respective lives, though it really should. As both women reflected, he’d been playing a very cruel and twisted game with all concerned, holding back the kinds of cards that they really could have done with knowing. But, as Michael had explained once they’d left Winchester cathedral, he simply couldn’t risk people giving away his plan. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust them, because he did implicitly, but there was just too much at stake for him to put his faith in anyone other than himself. After all, he’d put the entire universe on the line so that he could still get his own way.

    But, strangely enough, both women were able to forgive him. To be fair, this was the kind of stunt that Michael pulled all the time, only in a form several hundred times bigger than they’d seen so far. With all the stuff he’d pulled since they’d known him, he wasn’t seriously going to surprise them anymore. Besides, if there was something that Raven and Carrie had in common, it was the ability to take unpleasantness on the chin: okay, so Raven had needed to learn that, and learn it the hard way, but it was a skill she was good at by now. They might have been pissed at him first off, but they were alright with it now.

    Raven briefly thought about the rest of her friends and family. She missed them, of course she did, but she didn’t mind not being around them. After all, they’d already spent fifteen years apart, and they could always meet up again. In fact, Carrie had promised she would drop by sometime next week, and she was going to visit the guys the guys in Jump as soon as they’d got their stuff together. So, there wasn’t a goodbye in any of this, not by any means.

    As soon as Raven walked through the door, Michael couldn’t help but smile. “I was worried you weren’t going to show.” he said.

    “Why wouldn’t I?” Raven started to walk towards her boyfriend, trainers banging against the stone paving in a very familiar way.

    Michael shrugged. “I suppose you’re right. I shan’t argue.” He paused for a second or so. “I hope you don’t mind, Raven, but I need to ask you a very personal question.”

    Raven stopped by the final pew, where she leaned against it. “Go right ahead.”

    Michael waited for another few seconds, then spoke. “Do you know how to waltz?”

    Raven burst out laughing. “Excuse me?”

    “I meant exactly what I said. Do you know how to waltz?”

    “No. Why would I even want to know how to waltz?”

    Michael finally moved his hands in front of him. His left hand was still bandaged up from where he’d shot it a month ago, but it didn’t look anywhere near as painful as it once did. It seemed that he was adjusting to his new-found mortality a lot easier than anyone was expecting.

    “I’ve always been a big fan of waltzes.” he said. “It’s much more fun than it looks, I have you know. Some great music, too.

    In fact, I’ve always wanted to teach you, ever since we first met. I must admit, I never had the courage to ask if you were interested.”

    “Well, I’m not. But I can think of worse ways to spend an evening. Dentistry features somewhere on that list.”

    Michael smiled. “That’s a good attitude. Come on over here, if you don’t mind.”

    Raven walked into the open area, which she now realised was a makeshift stage. She didn’t much feel like doing this, and she didn’t have a clue what it was all for, but at least it meant spending some time in Michael’s company. Besides, as she said, there were worse things she could do with her time.

    “Okay, now stand right in front of me. Stick out your right arm, to the side.”

    With only an inch between the couple, Michael stuck out his left arm, taking Raven’s out-stretched hand in his.

    “Now grab hold of my shoulder with your left hand.”

    Raven reached up to do this, Michael placing his right hand just under her left shoulder-blade.

    “That’s the basic position. Despite its reputation, waltzing is actually very simple. Basically, all we have to do is spin clockwise whilst moving anti-clockwise, like backspin on a cricket ball. I imagine you’ve got the co-ordination to manage that.”

    Raven nodded. A Titan probably had.

    “Okay, let’s try out a half-turn.”

    Using their out-stretched hands as steering, they span 180° to the left, whilst moving one pace to the right. Remarkably, they did this without treading on each other’s feet.

    Michael grinned. “There, that wasn’t so difficult. Now for a full turn.”

    With the same process, they span a full 360°. After a second or so of movement, they finished a few metres to the right.

    “Great. That’s as much as you really need to know, moves-wise.” Michael grinned again. “Now, let’s keep going.”

    So they did. Their feet clopping loudly on the floor, they span quickly round and round the small stage. After only a few turns, Raven found that she didn’t even have to think about what she was doing. Then again, with all her years of combat and combat practise, agility and co-ordination weren’t exactly unknown to her.

    After about a minute or so, Raven smiled. “This is quite fun, actually.”

    Michael smiled back. “It is, isn’t it?” He paused for a second, the two of them carrying on dancing. “Okay, now let’s try it with music.”

    Michael stopped suddenly, Raven pirouetting round on his arm through sheer momentum. She couldn’t help but laugh at this, though she nearly fell over. Michael walked over to the side of the room, where he’d put a small MP3 player and two portable speakers on a table. After pressing a few buttons, a piece of classical music started to drift out over the room: a Strauss number, from what Raven’s limited classical knowledge could tell her.

    The couple took up their starting position once again. “Let’s see what you can do, sister.” Michael said.

    As the strains of “The Blue Danube” filled the church, Michael and Raven danced. They had to speed up a little to keep up with the rhythm, but this only made it more fun. It was strange, that something so simple and so old-fashioned could also be so fun, but not all of life’s surprises are nasty.

    “I was there, you know.” Michael said, as they sun around on the impromptu stage. “Paris, 1775. The first time the waltz was performed. Some rich dude in the suburbs decided to throw a house party. I was there on…other business, of course, but I got to see it danced in public for the first time. I didn’t take part, but I could still tell that I was watching history in the making. Mostly because it was immediately branded as being too sexy. “Licentious and morally degenerative”, I think the phrase was. I suppose that’s why I’m so fond of it.”

    Michael laughed. “Makes you think, doesn’t it? I wonder what they’d have said about modern dancing…”

    Raven was lost in thought for a few seconds, though she kept dancing. Eventually, she gave Michael a knowing grin. “Ah, now things are starting to make sense.” she said. “Waltzing in a church. The final insult for our defeated enemy.”

    Michael laughed again. “Something like that, yeah. Plus I’ve wanted to see just how good a dancer you really are.”

    “So how good am I?”

    “Very. Just as I suspected.”

    Raven had always thought otherwise. Deep down, that’s probably why she never wanted to have a go. People can be strange like that.

    They continued to dance in silence, save for the surprisingly good backing music. After a minute or so, Raven felt compelled to speak again.

    “When are you going back to the meetings?”

    “Tomorrow morning. My involvement’s kinda needed, I think. We’ve still got to convince a few people that all it really happened. The US President is currently top of my list.”

    He saw the look of disappointment on Raven’s face. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back to stay once it’s all over. Should be another month or so, if that. I’m up for some real life, so I’ll make it as quick as I possibly can.”

    Raven nodded, then smiled. There was another minute-ish of silence, which Raven broke again, this time by laughing to herself.

    Michael looked at her curiously. “What’s so funny?”

    “Oh, just a thought I had.” She paused for a second or so. “It’s amazing what you don’t know about people.”

    …But some things never change.
     

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