[Note: This focuses on Delilah and Seraphim's relationship (sticking with the Japanese names this time), as well as how Armageddon immediately affects Machonom, and how Delilah bonds with Har. It's a little-known fact—and I emailed Working Designs about this so I'm fairly secure in my idea that this is true—that the two were lovers, or possibly married, before she was mutated into a Guardian Angel in the attribute experiments. This explains the title of Seraphim's theme song, "Your Wife is an Angel." Anyway, this is a piece taking place before Armageddon, when Delilah finds out that Seraphim will be used for the Edo experiments, and afterwards, when he takes control of Media City and meets Har.]
"My darling," Delilah whispered, wringing his hands. "My dear, darling Seraphim. I...I cannot believe this. This is monstrous..." Delilah sat down in one of the posh couches in his ample parlor, burying his head in his hands. The vibrant green hair fell around his pale fingers as he sat there unmoving, listening to the drone of the man standing in front of him.
"Delilah, please understand that this is of severe importance to the attribute experiments." The scientist sat in the chair opposite and explained, calmly. "We have found that Seraphim contains the inherent purity that will make the manifestation of the attributes most apparent, and most potent. It's possible that we may even be able to finally obtain a Protesian if she is experimented upon."
"I don't care! You are turning my wife into a monster!" Delilah shouted, glaring at the scientist malevolently through his emerald curls. "You...you cannot just steal her away from me and hook her up to machines like a laboratory animal! I forbid it." He tossed his head arrogantly. "You will be hearing from me and my lawyers, I daresay—"
The scientist sighed, and continued. "I'm afraid that decision is not yours to make. This is a government-sanctioned series of experiments. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that's the way things must progress. The experiments...they are quite safe, quite reliable. Seraphim will not be in any danger, and there's a strong chance she may even become the Messiah. There is nothing you can do to stop the procedures. I simply wanted to let you know."
Delilah listened, digested this information, then gave a resolute sigh. "Very well," he moaned. "Answer me one thing, though: will I see her again?"
The scientist stood up and picked up his briefcase. "I'm not sure. In the current states of testing, the Edo project must remain under complete secrecy. I've taken a lot of liberties by even coming here and letting you know about Seraphim, Delilah. But if Eruza ever becomes open to the public, you'll be the first one I'll inform."
"Thank you," Delilah replied, and coldness crept into his voice. "I will be quite anxious to see how many additional appendages my wife will have sprouted by that time. Leave me, now."
Silently his visitor exited, and Delilah sat on the plush velvet sofa, considering what to do now. He loved Seraphim more than anything else he could ever think of. Their blossoming love had led to a true celebrity marriage in Media City between Delilah, the star attraction of MC-TV, and Seraphim, a beautiful singer and musician who had been regarded as "the darling of Media City." And now...she had been taken from her home, from her love. Plucked from the life she knew to become one of those horrible beings through those experiments at Eruza.
Delilah sighed heavily. "Samson," he called, and momentarily his servant stalked into the room. His figure was muscular and intimidating, and he rarely spoke. "Samson, please be a dear and fetch me some wine. I...I have just received word that my dear Seraphim will not be..." How should he put this. "Appearing around our home for quite some time, being otherwise engaged."
His servant nodded silently, and walked off to the kitchen, returning a few moments later with a bottle of Delilah's favorite wine in his large hands. His master nodded his thanks as Samson poured it and handed it to him. "Thank you very much, Samson..." Delilah took a deep draught of it, feeling the liquid slide down his throat and pool in his stomach uncomfortably. "You may leave if you want, put please leave the bottle. I will almost certainly desire more tonight."
The general area of Machonom wasn't very far away from Araboth, where Edo was housed. So when Armageddon occurred, Delilah felt the effects of it before he really knew what was going on. He remembered that they had ended his show early that time, and for the life of him he didn't know why. Something about a malfunction in Araboth, and he wondered why something going wrong all the way over there should affect his personal business.
And then he, and everyone else in Media City, was brought to his knees by the wave of energy coursing over the world.
Afterwards, he could mostly only recall the feeling of something...bursting inside him, and of something boiling to the surface of his being. He remembered the pain, too, a feeling of fire, and the sensation that his brain was speeding up, accelerating to a thousand miles an hour. Strange images had cycled through his mind, of what, he didn't remember. There was a feeling of every process inside him building to a climax, and then, as the wave passed, it drained away and he collapsed to his knees, shaken and shaking.
"What...what in the world was that...?" he moaned, attempting to stand. The studio didn't seem to have taken much damage...although he couldn't say the same for the staff. Delilah stared at the stirring forms, mutated and twisted so as to be nearly unrecognizable. Most seemed to have shrunk in size, to become diminutive figures with skeletal forms and gaping black mouths. They gave strange, high-pitched moans, and Delilah stared down at himself, partly to keep his gaze from these mutations, and to survey the possible damage to his body.
Miraculously, he didn't seem to be changed in very many ways. His skin seemed slightly paler. He brought out a compact from his pocket and surveyed himself in the mirror, cringing inwardly at the added length his nose seemed to have obtained. Other than that, he was unchanged. Well, physically. He still felt somewhat ill, and there was no telling what had occurred to his body during that powerful wave. Just because he couldn't see it, after all...
Delilah got to his feet and stumbled over to the window. High above the city in the Broadcast Facility, he could see the chaos that was occurring in Media City below him. The streets were a sea of confusion, filled with more mutants. "Oh, my Lord..." he whispered in awe and fear. "What has happened..."
He understood. Araboth. The energy. The mutations.
Delilah noticed that the skeletons were beginning to pick themselves up off the floor. "What...what are you doing?" he said, almost ready to flee the Facility himself. "Wait..." Maybe he was wrong. Maybe they could hear him and understand after all. He crouched and called out to some of them, bringing them closer. They didn't seem to be any real danger, aside from looking horrendous, and they came when they were called.
Hmm...that gave him an idea.
"Skeletons," he said in a firm voice, "do you remember how to operate the broadcast machinery?" The mutations exchanged glances with hollow eyesockets and Delilah, more than slightly disturbed, saw them nodding. "Good." He pulled up a microphone as the skeletons ran to and fro, gathering equipment with their old knowledge. Delilah didn't think that the mutations would be watching a lot of TV, but chances were that there were some radios still operating, and if he managed to get them under his control over the airwaves, he could at least stop the rampant rioting that was going on.
There, he was on the air. "Attention, citizens of Media City!" he announced in a commanding voice. "Your attention, please! As of this moment, due to the unexpected technical difficulties being experienced in Araboth, control of Media City is temporarily relinquished to myself, Delilah, centered in the Broadcast Facility." Delilah continued to talk into the microphone as he stared out the window, seeing the mutations take notice of his voice emanating from the speakers mounted on the outside of the Facility. "Please remain calm, and as soon as is possible we will make an effort to get our regularly scheduled programming and city processes back on track. Until further notice, stay inside your homes." Obediently the mutations departed the city streets, leaving only broken glass and a few overturned cars damaged in the momentary chaos.
Delilah placed the microphone back on the table. Now that he didn't have to worry about them mobbing his car, he should probably get back home. He prayed that Samson wouldn't have departed in the rioting. He made his way down through the facility to the parking garage, and looked around for his missing chauffeur.
"Samson?" he called. "Samson Hairpower! It's Delilah! Come!" he shouted sternly, as if to an unruly child. "We have to—"
He was cut off by a monstrous roar and a sound of squealing tires as Delilah's car came careening around the edge of the parking garage, skidding to a stop a few feet away. Delilah advanced carefully upon it and entered the limousine, sitting down on its comfortable plush seats. "Samson?" he said, and his chauffeur grunted in reply. He tapped at the rearview mirror, and Delilah stared into the almost unrecognizable face of his servant.
Being muscular before, Samson was hulking now: his body mass had almost surely doubled in size, and Delilah wouldn't have been surprised if he were unable to get out of the limousine at all. With a feral grunt, he slammed a foot down on the gas pedal, sending the car speeding off haphazardly towards Delilah's home.
Several days afterwards, Delilah received notice that someone was amassing the Mirage forces, and was making his way towards Media City. The word had spread that someone by the name of Hal was rapidly building a massive empire out of Araboth. The exact details weren't really known yet, and Delilah was somewhat apprehensive about someone of such apparent power coming into what was now very much his city.
So he decided to make a radio broadcast. "Citizens of Media City," he pronounced, "it has been brought to my attention that we are receiving a highly esteemed guest in our humble city today..."
"There is no need for a broadcast, Delilah."
The mentioned jumped in his seat at the sudden statement and looked around, startled. "Who...who is that?" he said shakily. "How did you get in here?" Then, remembering that the microphone was still on, he flicked it off and turned to the man who had spoken.
Hal stood tall above him, stately in his newly formed Imperial robes. "It is to Hal that you are speaking," he said calmly, in a voice smooth and deep as velvet. "And there is no need for my presence to be publicly known. I suppose that many of the citizens of this city are aware of my presence anyway," he continued, moving across the floor—gliding. He seemed to have no visible lower body under his robes, and a flicker or two of internal light gave Delilah the glimpse of a mass of wiry green tentacles moving inside. Doubtlessly he had been deeply affected by Armageddon at ground zero. "As I am now the ruler of the Mirage empire, and I wish to take control over this city."
"I appreciate your...er, concern," Delilah said, smiling bemusedly, "but if you please, I would appreciate a few good reasons as to why I should allow you control over my city."
"Media City is a wealth of information," Hal said, looking down his sizable nose at Delilah, who compared the size of his own and found them similar. His long, tightly curled green hair seemed fairly similar to Delilah's own, as well. Funny how Armageddon should have mutated them both in such ways. "And I have been impressed by how quickly you were able to gain control over the populace using this information. I believe it would be quite advantageous to my growing forces to have this area under my jurisdiction."
"And in return?"
"I am a very powerful person, and I know many things. For example, there have been a few recent bursts of discord in this city, have there not?" Hal asked. Delilah nodded. Although Media City had been blessed with momentary peace for the past few days following Armageddon, with the Silhouettes and Mirages attempting to coexist in their newly altered environment, occasional violence had begun to escalate. The Silhouettes were getting restless, and belligerent. "I will expel the Silhouettes into Shehaqim. Machonom will become an exclusively Mirage-populated area. You are a Mirage, are you not?" Har said, cocking his head and smiling thinly, though he already knew the answer. His eyes were unique, allowing him to see the vital statistics of living organisms superimposed over his sight.
"I am," Delilah affirmed. "And I appreciate your offer, Hal. I am quite willing to accept, although I ask that you do not banish all of the Silhouettes. My servant, Samson, is one, as well as Georg Faust, one of the contestants on our wildly popular reality television show You Die, You Lose."
"All right. The weaker Silhouette Devils, then, I will have removed," he said. "One of my officers, Zohar, will be here shortly to oversee this. And...excuse me." This was to be carefully played on his part. Hal suspected that he could find a staunch ally in Delilah, if he knew what to promise him. "I am dimly aware of a rumor that your wife was to become a Messiah prototype. Is this true?"
"It is," the other man replied coldly. "And I have not seen her since the day I received such news."
"Ah! Such a shame! Are you aware of the rioting in Eruza that occurred prior to Armageddon? Many of the Messiah prototypes were heavily damaged," Hal intoned, seeing Delilah grow paler. "However, I have fixed and enhanced many of them to working order, and they are to become my bodyguards, the Guardian Angels. Your Seraphim, thankfully, was untouched deep within the walls of Eden, which is now my residential castle."
"Why do you bring this up, Hal?"
"Simply to provide leverage. The toll the experiments took on your wife is irreversible, I'm afraid, but she has been expressing a desire since her reactivation to see you again. She told me to tell you this while I was in Machonom..."
Delilah gasped, jumping to his feet. "I...may I...will you take me back to Araboth with you, Hal?" he asked, the words staccato, anxious. "I must see her..." His heart was filled with joy. She hadn't forgotten him!
Hal considered this. "Very well. I will take you there myself, as it's quite far away, and a Transport Nexus would be most suitable."
Delilah faded back into existence inside Eden on one of the many suspended platforms, and took a moment to regain his composure. Nexuses, he would have to remember, were not his preferred method of travel at all. He would really much rather stick to automobiles...but for now, he smoothed down his elegant yellow jacket, tucked a stray strand of soft green hair behind his ear, and followed Hal into the deepest reaches of Eden.
It was an awe-inspiring construct, made of shining metal and circuits, glowing a cold and emotionless blue. In the distance massive shapes could be seen...strange half-human, half-machine organisms. A gigantic mechanical fish in the midst of being repaired, its head the head of a girl, lay with her sides open to reveal the circuitry underneath. A tall lady, quite beautiful, with dark skin, green hair and her hands cuffed behind her back, was busy giving orders to a squadron of Cupids.
Hal piloted the platform over to a long bridge of sorts, and he and Delilah stepped off. The bridge led to a massive column, which was, apparently, where Edo itself was stored. "This way," Hal said simply, walking to a control panel located on the bridge. A writhing tentacle slipped out of his robe, the "pod" at the end splitting into five flanges, and dexterously entered in a code to the panel. "Seraphim," he called. "Seraphim, I've brought Delilah. You may come out, now..."
A beam cut through the air in the form of a Star of David, the Guardian Angel symbol. Delilah bit his lip in apprehension; what would she look like now? What if Seraphim turned out to be something...like that half-fish Guardian Angel, or worse? The thought was unbearable. Seraphim appeared in midair, and Delilah gasped as he saw what she looked like now.
She was a butterfly. An enormous butterfly. Her head was human, with a crown of curly golden hair, but she lacked arms and legs and her thorax seemed to be a living organism unto itself. "Ahhhh," she sighed, and her voice was crystal clear. "Oh, I was so lonely, Delilah. I missed you so much..."
"It would probably be much more comfortable, to both you and your husband, if you reverted to your more manageable form," Hal stated, and Seraphim began to transform as she floated down to the platform. Her wings grew smaller and she brought her arms and legs out from where they were hidden under her metal chassis.
Delilah trembled as he took Seraphim's hands in his own. "Seraphim," he whispered, breathlessly. "My darling."
"My love," she whispered back, smiling. "Are you all right? Where you harmed when Armageddon occurred? Oh, you're a Mirage!" she whispered in joy. "Like my dear father..."
"Father?" Delilah repeated in puzzlement.
"I have reprogrammed the Guardian Angels to think of me as their father," Hal whispered in Delilah's ear. "Think nothing of it, Delilah. It is simply to ensure their loyalty to me."
"Hal's been so good to me. I'm so happy that he's taking control of Machonom," Seraphim gushed. "He's going to keep this new world, so that we won't have any more experiments. We won't have another Armageddon," she sighed. "And then...after that...I can stay with you, maybe..."
"I'd love that, Seraphim." Delilah took her into his arms. "You don't know how much I've missed you..." Lost in the soft perfumed arms of his lover, standing in a castle filled with grotesque mutations and sinister machines, it was almost easy to forget that nothing could possibly ever be the same. Not only in themselves. Not only in their relationship. But on a massive scale...
"I trust that you will be quite cooperative from now on," Hal breathed, standing behind him back in Delilah's office. The other man winced, almost imperceptibly.
"Yes," he said. "I will." But deep inside him he felt surging contempt for this man, who desired power more than anything else, even going so far as to adapt the Eden experimental creatures to become his weapons of war. His army was sweeping over the territories like lightning, and had already claimed Araboth and Machonom as its own. Could he really trust his wife to this...this thing calling itself the leader of the new world?
"You resent me, Delilah." Hal's voice sounded sinister, and the star felt a sudden chill wash over him. "As a precaution...to make entirely sure that you will not work against me...kindly allow me the courtesy of your brain."
"What—" Delilah began to protest, but felt Hal's long, sinewy tentacles anchor him to the spot. Immediately a feeling vaguely similar to the transformation he'd undergone seized him: he could feel cryptic ciphers being reprogrammed into his brain, his will molded to fit the Mirage master's designs. But the feeling this time was of chilling electricity crawling over his skin, cold and calculated, instead of the uncontrollable energy that had awakened inside him.
Weakly he sank to his knees, hearing Hal's voice inside his head.
Very good. Your mind now belongs to me. Understand that I have not been able to take control of the deepest facets of your will, but enough to assure that you will follow my orders where and when they are given. I have also made it so I will be able to communicate with you by my telepathy from long distances.
Delilah was pulled to his feet and the tentacles withdrew from his body, slipping back inside Hal's imperial robes. "Wh...what..." he stammered, still woozy from the ordeal he had just undergone. Overpowering all seemed to be a strong familial bond growing to Hal, almost as if he were a long-lost brother. "My head...Hal..."
"I will be taking my leave of you now, Delilah," Hal said sternly. "Enjoy your power in this new world, my protégé, for it exists for us...the generation of Armageddon." He turned towards the window, his back to Delilah, looking out over Machonom, with its skyscrapers and lights, the glittering coast and the clear blue ocean. "The children of the experiments. You, me, Seraphim, the angels, mutations of both attributes. A world that I can purge of the sinful desires of the New Humanity..."
He trailed off into a momentary silence, and began to fade away. "Farewell, Delilah." With that, he was gone, almost as if he had never existed.
But he had. Delilah cautiously stepped up to the window, to the spot where Hal had been standing, and pressed his palms against the glass, looking outside, aware...almost supernaturally...of the inexorable march of Hal's immense forces across the face of the world. And Hal's phrase reverberated in his mind:
"Enjoy your power in this new world, for it exists for us."