Musical Challenge: The Arena

Music: The Arena by Lindsey Stirling
From: Brave Enough (album)
Composer: Lindsey Stirling

Warnings: language warning, lack of editing warning. Vague blasphemy warning, maybe?

Universe: apocalypse ‘verse

 

There’s a moment where I think I can make it, if only I run a little faster. If only I fight a little harder through the crowd of people and angels trying to kill each other. There’s screaming, echoing like thunder, screams like hymns in Sunday choir, all absolution and blind, faith-riddled terror.

You fight enough battles, you get good and used to ignoring the screams of pain and death. You have to, or you go crazy. Crazy in the field helps nobody. Doesn’t matter that you know those voices like they’re your own, nothing matters but the battle. You win, they survive. You lose, you all lose in a kind of permanent way.

The roar? That’s new. The angels pause in the fight, step back to let the humans admire their handy work. That’s the thing about angels- God made himself an army of vaguely sadistic sorts. Then again, no one can kill anything without at least a little disgust at whatever it is they’re killing. The angels are watching our reactions, some even crack a smile at the confusion, pain, and panic.

The humans, we pause, too. Some in shock, some of the better trained look for attack. Me? I just try and find her.

I know, though. How can I not? Michael is gleeful, too gleeful to have caught anyone but her. His wings span outwards, catch the light like they’re dipped in gold, like they’re on fire. The sky pales around them, like they leech the colours out of anything that gets too close.

She’s too close. Unmoving, aside from the hands struggling to free herself from Michael’s grip. Both of his hands are wrapped around her throat as he flies them higher, too high for us to do a damned thing about. There’s no panic to her, nothing but the sort of movements that come with far too much training. Had Gabriel made her practise even this, just in case? Or is she so tired of fighting that she can’t even muster the energy to fear her oncoming death?

Or maybe, just maybe, she’s hopeful that her uncle won’t have the heart to tear hers from her body. She wouldn’t still be alive if he didn’t want to take her prisoner. Do something NOW. It’s lightyears beyond stupid to try and shoot him, but it’s the day for stupid, clearly. ‘Snipers, aim for Michael’s right wing, central area. Rip a hole in it. He needs to drop her, now. Everyone else, protect the snipers.’

There’s no answer, of course. They’re too busy aiming, firing. The thing about angels is that they’re powerful, but their wings are vulnerable to damage, just like any other bird. Though angels have stronger feathers that are a pain in the ass to tear apart, they’re not strong enough to withstand a prolonged assault. Not like this.

It takes maybe five seconds for the rest of the angels to figure out our play, and then they’re in motion. The scariest thing in the world is an army of angels. Demons’ll kill ya, but angels move as one. An infinite number of furious beings moving in perfect synchronisation, hurtling towards you to rip you apart? Whoever taught them that gets top marks in psychological warfare and intimidation.

Bullets and blades. If you’ve got a clear shot at a wing, you use a gun. Wings not in play, you use their own blades against them. God made a failsafe, to make sure his lesser creations couldn’t take over the sandbox: angels only die from angel made blades. Only grace can kill grace, though high powered weapons can fuck it up some.

The angels throw themselves towards the snipers, and those with the urge to fly start getting shot down pretty damn fast. My guys are damn good at what they do. Two teams, competitive slaying. Gun toting crazies draw the focus. The rest of us shock and awe their asses back to the pearly gates.

You fight with Michael, they give you a blade. A lot of the big name demons started out on Michael’s team- the only way to kill them is a blade. It’s treason of the highest kind to use it against one of Michael’s angels.

Doesn’t stop us.

Angels don’t scream or cry when they die. They just… stop. Hit them through a vital bit with a blade, and it’s like hitting the power switch. Boom, gone. Kick out a kneecap, more to startle them into stumbling a moment, rather than to do damage (good luck kicking and actually doing much damage to anyone but yourself), slam a blade through their ribcage if you can, their stomach if you can’t, and watch them stumble and fall. Gotta be a vital area though: they’re ornery bastards when they’re waiting to bleed out, and it doesn’t count as a victory if they kill you on the way back.

Everything narrows down to simple steps. Kill the angel about the hit the ground, his wing a gaping hole of blackened, broken feathers. Stab him in the neck, keep moving. Run. Shoot the SOB sneaking up on O’Malley right in the back of his halo, just to buy the kid a few seconds more time. Run. Dodge the angel trying to tackle me, like we’re in some C grade football movie of the week deal. Asshole. Turn at the last second, drag the blade across his cheek as I fall. Shoot him in the forehead, pointe blank range to daze him a few seconds while I jam a blade in his heart.

Run.

The angels have overrun the snipers, there’s no one shooting at Michael anymore.

There’s a second, just one, where the world slows down to a crawl and I can see everything. The angels have taken the teams down, hard. But they’re not trying to kill them unless there’s no other choice. They’re cats toying with their prey. We’re not a threat. We’re losing, bad. And nothing we do is gonna make an ounce of difference in this thing.

When it all goes to hell, remember your training. Rule one: complete the mission.

‘Alpha team, you got the hostages?’

‘Got ‘em and gone, Boss.’

Rule two: get your people home alive. May God forgive me for this, because I never will. ‘Retreat! All teams, move out!’ no one waits for a second telling- they’re in motion before I’ve finished saying ‘out’. The angels don’t try to stop them beyond a few playful swats. Without the battle raging, I can hear her.

May God show me no mercy for this.

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