God winks at Gabriel. The kid hasn't moved since she told him to stay put.
He can't move, and he wants to. She sees the desperation in his wide, startled eyes. It tugs at Her heart, but she doesn't relent.
God smiles instead. "Got an errand to run. I'll be right back."
She disappears in a blaze of light, and no one on the cruise ship notices.
The reapers float motionless in their shrouds, pale and unmoving as stone mountains. This is their place in Creation, the place from which they come from, the place to which they always return. It's a vast space, the greyness broken only by thin ribbons of white mist.
God appears in their midst in a flash of brilliant golden light. She doesn't bother to change Her clothes or Her appearance; her wild curly auburn hair, the improbably bright color of Her cruise attire immediately brightens the place.
The reapers move away as Her gaze sweeps over them. God is displeased.
"WHAT IS THIS?" God thunders. "WHAT IS THIS?"
No one answers.
"A BOYCOTT? DO YOU REALLY THINK YOU HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CALL A BOYCOTT?" Her smile is sharp enough to cut. "IS THAT WHAT YOU CALL THIS?"
Still no answer.
"YOU PRETEND YOU HAVE EGOS. THAT YOU HAVE A SAY IN THIS. YOU DON'T. YOU HAVE A JOB TO DO. NOW GET BACK TO WORK."
The Almighty disappears as brilliantly as she came.
A moment later the reapers fade out, one by one.
They have work to do.
For a brief second God appears in the wreckage of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Dean Winchester lies a few feet away, pale, unmoving and perfect in repose. She looks at him and the stern look on Her face softens.
"Never said I'd make it easy for you, kiddo," She whispers as She gently strokes his bruised forehead. "Can't."
Samirah steps out into the open hesitantly at first. The suite is quiet, empty. No possessed humans for once. Mary can somehow sense that the roof is directly above their heads.
The black horse stands quietly. She turns her head, looks Mary square in the eye. "Get off," the animal rumbles, with a flash of her copper bright eyes and a brisk jerk of the head.
Samirah shakes her head from side to side. Her long forelock momentarily settles down over her eyes. Mary's fingers twitch with the sudden urge to run her fingers through that fine black hair.
Samirah doesn't notice. "I said get off." She doesn't wait for Mary to answer. "I want you to hide. I'll go up on the roof alone. Buy you as much time as I can. Kill as many wurms as I can. I won't harm your people, no matter what. Gaelen wouldn't like that."
"No?" The black mare's eyes narrow dangerously. "I said get off."
Copper light flares around her, and once again Mary experiences the feeling of being moved against her will. When the light fades she's not at all surprised to find herself standing next to the horse.
"I said no. Whatever happens, happens to both of us."
"I won't allow that."
"You don't have any say in the matter. I'm not leaving you."
"Are you deaf?" Samirah's eyes flare red. "I told you to hide." She turns in a tight circle to face Mary head-on.
My God, the woman thinks. She's huge. Pure muscle.
Samirah arches her neck, teeth bared, her ears pinned to her head.
Mary stares back defiantly. "You don't scare me."
"I don't, huh?" Samirah snorts steam.
"No. We can stay here and fuss at each other, or we can get moving. I'm betting those dragons can sense it every time you 'port."
Samirah's silence is as good as a Yes.
Mary nods. "You can move me away from you, but it won't do you any good. I'll follow you. I'll find you, and with the wards on this place it's not like you can get me out of the building and away from here anyway."
Bright hazel eyes stare intently into brilliant copper ones. Neither one blinks.
"I'm not leaving you, and that's final." Mary moves forward. Samirah backs up, moving her head from side to side -
"Stop it. What are you doing-"
-but Mary doesn't stop. She gathers up the reins and silently swings into the saddle.
Samirah sighs. "You're just as stubborn as he is."
"Yeah, I get that a lot," Mary says proudly.
"All right then. Let's go."
Everyone falls in slow motion.
The crowd of humans Glasya-Labolas used as weapons are in free-fall, screaming and wailing. Castiel's former vessel, Jimmy Novack, is still in shock, dazed and confused, mercifully unaware of what's happening.
The sight of the churning darkness miles below his feet, the chittering sound the things make raises the hair at the back of Sam's neck, chills him to the bone, but he refuses to give in to it.
Another Marine lecture of John's immediately comes to mind: Never give up control, no matter how screwed up things get….
I'm making this up as I go along, Sam thinks. He reaches out with his mind and grabs ahold of Novack, then extends his influence to the humans. The combined weight of them is heavy, but nothing he can't handle. Sam turns in mid-air, reaching back with his right arm, fingers curved slightly. He can see it, the shimmering edge of his power against the darkness. Line of sight is the key; it goes where ever he directs it to go. Sam throws his power out like a grappling hook and sinks it into the ledge of the ledge of the earth behind him.
The ground crumbles. He can't get a grip.
He tries again, with the same result. There's no solid ground behind him.
Sam strengthens his shields. Maybe they can survive the fall. He tries to push against the air, but they're still headed down.
The air around Sam and the humans fills with a soft copper light.
Samuel? Nahele rumbles softly. I've got you.
"Oh me of little faith," Sam mutters to himself.
The screaming stops. The humans disappear, as does Castiel's former vessel. Tiesen rumbles inside Sam's head: I sent 'em away. Figured I'd put a scare into them first. Serves them right.
Sam finds himself on Nahele's back, sitting in the saddle. They stand comfortably a few feet from the edge of the newly opened hellmouth. His spotted horse gives Sam a backwards glance, amused and totally proud of himself.
Anna unfurls her wings, and she just can't believe her luck.
Famine releases her grip.
The angel rises up into the air. The Horseman falls.
Hmph. Bitch. Anna turns in mid-air, raises her right hand and gives Famine the finger.
The sly smile Anna gets in return should have frightened her.
Famine winks out in a blaze of copper.
Anna looks down at herself, and it happens so quickly she doesn't have time to scream. Her skin shrivels, turs pale and wrinkled as it shrinks, stretched painfully tight over her bones. Anna's long red hair falls out. She molts, in a sudden explosion of soot dark feathers, and as her wings falter and she falls backwards into the hellmouth, all she can think of is that she's so damn hungry...
Rika and her horse Actaeon appear in a flash on Sam's right. Tiesen sits his big red stallion on Sam's left. All three apocahorses practically bounce on their toes, eager to get on the move.
There's no time for anything else.
The dark sky overhead screams. The Horsemen and their mounts look up just in time to see one hundred angels surging down at them in a furious scramble of golden armor, wings, and swords.
Incoming pigeons, Ajani snorts excitedly.
The Horsemen vanish just as the angels slam into the ground around them. Their swords at the ready, the angels look around warily. This isn't what they expected.
Moments pass, and they relax slightly. One of them even laughs out loud. "Cowards. They ran from us."
Sam, Rika and Tiesen come back.
Rika appears in the middle of a group of angels. She's older, taller now, easily Sam's height, fully armored in white from head to toe. The air around her shimmers copper as she projects her power through the crowd. Angels weaken. Their skin grows loose with hunger, but they rush her anyway. Rika breaks the outstretched arm of the angel in the lead. She takes up his sword and in one smooth motion severs his left arm at the shoulder. He staggers backwards into his fellows and she smiles as she turns towards the others. Another angel goes down, a withered bag of bones encased in bronze armor. Rika moves like a dancer among them, in a lithe, balletic motion. The bright sword she wields cuts through the darkness, severing heads and hands.
Rika's horse Actaeon returns. She rears up on her hind legs, roaring, eyes blazing furiously. Normally docile, placid Actaeon tramples several angels. The ones closest to her back up. One of them turns and runs.
He doesn't get far.
Tiesen reappears as a blaze of bright red armor. The air around him thunders as he reaches out and grabs an angel by the throat. Tiesen pours his rage into the angel (damn misbegotten pigeon) and the being immediately shrivels at his touch.
The others rush him, dealing blows against his armor. He smiles coldly at them and deflects the blows with his gauntlets as they slash at him with their swords. The crack of his armored fist against their chins and faces is echoed by thunder above.
Tiesen doesn't back away. He grabs one angel and decapitates him with a twist of his hands. He flows through the crowd, breaking bones, snapping necks. Tiesen slaps another's sword away from him and twists the arriors head completely off in one quick jerk.
This is War, after all.
His horse Ajani reappears in a flurry of slashing hooves and bared teeth. He buckjumps, kicking one angel into another.
A group of intruders swarm Sam and Nahele.
Sam collapses his shield until it's just a faint silvery outline around him and his horse. There's a moment horse and rider are completely hidden from view, covered by the crush of angels, bronze armor, flailing wings and the flash of steel.
Dark air pulses, armor crumples as Sam expands his shield outward. Angels go flying, and not gracefully. They land in a heap around the young Horseman and his horse, and then the survivors hastily scramble to their feet.
Sam dismounts. Slowly, almost casually. His bronze armor turns transparent as his power wraps around him.
Nahele angrily paws the ground. He breathes fire and steam, and his eyes blaze red.
The three Horsemen and their mounts stand in the midst of a rough circle of angels. Horses and riders alike have all taken damage: scratches, bruises and blood, yet they stand defiant and proud. They fought fuelled by worry about their missing loved ones, out of fear for Dean and Samirah, for Chale and Bobby and Ellen. They will continue to fight driven by the desire to give back as much hurt and pain as they can.
The angels look worse. Several of them will not rise. Ever.
Heaven's warriors hesitate, and several of them flinch when Sam raises his right hand and waves them in.
"Come on!" Sam roars. "You can do better than that!"
And the angels rush in where only fools dare to tread.
Ellen sees the tall man in the dusty black suit. At first she thinks he's one of the refugees, come to see what all the commotion is about. She opens her mouth to yell out a warning, and cold terror washes over her as he turns and looks at her with cold white eyes.
Reaper, Ellen thinks. Oh my God-
A flicker of movement, and he's right there in her personal space. The feel of his hand against her forehead is cold and dry.
Ellen shudders underneath his touch. The ties to this mortal world unravel, one by one. As her sight dims she sees the reaper next to Bobby reach out and touch him on the shoulder, and then everything fades to grey...
Jo Harvelle doesn't see the tall, pale man in the black suit. He materializes out of thin air next to Bastet's bed. The cat goddess takes another labored breath, and then her breath stutters in her throat.
Jo doesn't notice that either.
She's too busy at the moment.
Jo's in the hallway with Ash. They raise their rifles and fire repeatedly, and the beast drops Ellen's mangled body from its jaws and swings that massive head in her direction.
Jo's mind goes white with horror, but she never stops firing. She never notices the tall, pale men standing behind her and Ash.
Reapers blink in, one for each human at the Roadhouse.
After all, they're only human, and still alive.
For the moment.
Abaddon takes a deep breath.
The Spear of Destiny is sucked further down into his bony flesh, then into his cavernous mouth. It's about as bothersome as a toothpick now.
Abaddon belches bluish gold flame.
He turns in the direction of the MGM Grand, and in a gesture of supreme contempt spits the Spear out much like a child would expel a seed from an apple, or an orange. A thin plume of white dust rises from the wreckage as the Spear hits.
The Horseman is silent, but the Fallen knows he hasn't broken him for good. Dean Winchester still has his par to play.
Life. It's all around him, in all its messy, disgusting glory. Humans still live in this place, hunkered down in quiet, dark places, casting fearful glances from behind shaded windows, staring at those devices of theirs. There are the ones still whole, and the unreaped ones, screaming, trapped inside their ruined flesh.
Abaddon cocks his massive pale head to one side as he listens. Something has changed. He can feel it. He tilts his head up slightly, as he scents the wonderful acrid smell of fear on the wind.
He'll give them something to fear this day.
"Go now," he rumbles. "Gather my harvest."
The locust swarm lifts up into the air around him. They cackle with delight, their sharp gleeful voices grating through the air like claws against chalkboard.
The unreaped ones scattered up and down the Strip near Treasure Island are swept up first, their souls snatched up, finally detached from their earthly remains. The souls are pinpoints of bright white light. The locusts gather the light up with their mandibles, then rise up into the murky air and sweep back towards the Fallen.
Abaddon laughs, and the locusts release the harvest. The souls curve in the air around the Destroyer, bright planets orbiting a dark sun.
It's only the beginning.
The swarm spreads out over the Las Vegas Metropolitan area like tidal wave of dark, churning water. The shock wave reaches out first.
Only the Imperial Palace and the school bus yard remain untouched. The swarm flows around those places, leaving angels, demons, and Horsemen untouched. The battle between Heaven and Hell rages on unchecked, on earth and in the sky above.
Humans huddled together in homes and hotel rooms turn towards the loud buzzing that suddenly fills the air around them. It's the last sound they hear. Their eardrums shatter.
Several tall buildings along the Strip topple like dominos, in horrid slow-motion. The pyramid shape of the Luxor Hotel collapses in on itself. The Statue of Liberty in front of the New York New York casino is sheared off from its base. The head of Lady Liberty is flung high into the air, only to crash into the lightshow canopy on Fremont Street in downtown Vegas.
The main hotel complex of Excalibur pancakes, as does the Bellagio. The pavement ripples like angry ocean waves. More gas lines rupture, already weakened by Hell tunneling to the surface. Man hole covers are flung into the air by the force of the explosions.
There's no escape. Walls offer no shelter. Humans are crushed beneath tons of debris. They burn like dry kindling. Many are blown apart as they sit in their cars, enveloped in fiery orange blossoms of flame as gas tanks ignite. Some fall to earth in elevators as cables give way.
Reapers quietly blink in, slowly at first.
The locusts ignore them too. Abaddon's swarm slices through brick, steel, glass and drywall, as they unerringly seek out warm, living flesh. They hit each human in the space between their eyes, and then arrow out the top of their heads, clutching the bright, shrieking souls in their greedy jaws.
There were 1,951,269 people in Las Vegas.
1,973 of them were reaped. They may be the lucky ones.
The rest suffered a fate worse than death.
TBC this week.
Next: Dean makes his final stand against Abaddon, and Sam confronts the demon inside John Winchester.