Avalanche – Snippet 24
Holographic lines sprung into vision, emitting from the energy cannons of the Death Spheres. John did a flip in mid air, diving and coming back up in a flash of fire too fast for the human eye to track as dozens of actinic energy beams screamed through the air. Vickie’s Overwatch system and his reaction speed had saved him from being torn to bits, obliterated in the sky. Sera was still miles away, flying as fast as she could to reach him and help him. John felt something building inside, however. He had been watching the Thulians decimate people he was supposed to protect for the last few weeks. Watching them go unopposed, dancing just out of range of any meaningful response to their terror attacks. He resented them, despised them for being unwilling to stay for a stand up fight. That resentment built itself into anger, and then into rage. Incredulousness. How dare they not face him? That feeling morphed into something…else.
An overwhelming sense of righteous retribution.
John didn’t even register when the fires built up around his hands, then his arms, and finally his entire upper body. He tensed, his brow furrowing as he watched the energy cannons on the Death Spheres moving to track him again. Then he frowned, and whispered once, “Stop.”
The spheres moved forward, and he said, “Die.”
It wasn’t a lance of fire, or a wave of plasma. It started as a tiny ball of Celestial energy, roiling fire…that grew, and grew, and grew. The power was cataclysmic, and all-encompassing. If John hadn’t controlled it, it would have been like a nuclear explosion; utterly devastating and all-destroying. But control it he did. He moved the energy, the fire, out from himself, feeding it with his anger. The sphere completely engulfed both lines of Thulian warships, vaporizing them almost instantly; John felt the life forces inside of the ships being snuffed out as the crest of the sphere reached the ships, and felt a surge of satisfaction with each death. Each murderer being erased from this world. The power was right there, if only he would take it. He could burn all of them, take control and keep anything like this from ever happening again. It would be absolute, and no one would be able to stand against that sort of power—
Then there was a twinge in John’s chest. He felt like he was on the cusp of something, something momentous. He had to ramp down, otherwise he would let the sphere grow, his own energy pouring into it until there was nothing left. He couldn’t just release it, either. He had effectively created a small sun on the surface of the Earth; all of its energy, save for an extremely small fraction of its luminosity, contained. It obliterated whatever it touched, but nothing that it didn’t contact. He focused his will, forcing the energy to coalesce again, to come back to him. It shrank and reabsorbed into his outstretched hands. He had to fight hard to keep drawing the energy into himself; it threatened to explode again with every beat of his heart.
It was all too much. As soon as he had absorbed the last of the deadly Celestial sun that he had created, John felt his eyes begin to roll back in his head, and darkness cloud his vision. He was falling unconscious…and falling from the sky. He was going to die, smashed into the ground that he had foolishly thought he could escape.
I think not. Something caught him in midair, a small jolt, smaller than he would have thought; then the buffeting of immense wings beating the air frantically, until he was awash in cool movement. You will not fall, beloved, not while I am here to catch you.
There was a moment, as he hovered between darkness and awareness, that power surged into him, scorching him. Just the briefest of nanoseconds that forced a gasp into lungs that had forgotten how to work. He felt…rather than saw or heard…the touchdown on the earth, and the scorching sensation turned to cool and healing, and life flowed back into him–and something else too. Something he couldn’t have put a name to unless…could emotions have an energy?
Of course they can. Open your eyes, beloved. You must see what you have wrought, some for ill, but mostly for good.
John opened his eyes, cautiously at first. Sera had placed John on the ground, cradling his head and shoulders. He smelled burnt ozone. The first thing he saw looked like snow. It took him a moment to realize that it was ash, falling from the sky in a constant rain. He brushed a covering of it from his face, shaking his head wearily; he still felt out of it, not entirely himself from the expenditure. Then he looked around.
His HUD told him that all of the civilians were safe. Whatever else he had done, he had limited the destruction to spare them. At least he had had enough sense to do that. But, for the rest of the campus the devastation was…complete.
A bowl of blackened, smoking Georgia clay was all that was left of several thousand feet of the school’s campus. The outer crust had been vitrified, and the cracks the outer layer made as it cooled sounded like distant thunder or gunshots. Just outside of the zone of destruction, the trees and even the grass were utterly unharmed. John was simultaneously awed and sickened by the sheer power he had brought to bear against the Thulians.
“You very nearly burned yourself out, beloved,” Sera chided.
He nodded, swallowing back bile. “I felt it. I almost lost it, too. It took damn near all of me to reel it all back in.”
“Sweet suffering Christ,” said Vickie. “How the hell did you manage that?”
“I almost didn’t, Vic.” John noticed that he was shaking. He had felt the effects of an adrenaline dump before, and this wasn’t that. This was unmitigated fear. And strangely, euphoria. Because…it had been so….easy. What could he do? And…what would he do?
“This is why you have me,” Sera replied calmly. “You have all the power that I once had…correction, I believe I had more, though never as a mortal.” She knelt down next to him and cupped his face in both her hands. He shook even more fiercely, and had to force himself to meet her eyes. “You will never exceed your moral limits. I know this. Think on yourself. You exceeded those limits only once in all your life, and having done so, you have made it the deepest part of yourself never to do so again. Never to shed innocent blood. Had you not done this, nor you nor I would be here now, today, as we are. I should never have saved you, nor wished to. You would never have come to Atlanta….nor wished to. It is one strong, unbroken strand of the past that brings us to this moment.”
John felt his shoulders heave, fighting back a sob. He couldn’t break away from Sera’s gaze. Since she had become corporeal—human, in oh so many wonderful and mundane ways—her once molten-gold eyes had turned to the deepest blue. Except when he and she fought together. Then her eyes became fiery and gold again. Now, as they looked into his, they were–halfway, deep blue under a veil of Celestial gold. As she found her old self through him, he found his better self through her.
“Darlin’…it was so easy. I—”
“Seductive.” She nodded with understanding, and took his hands in hers.
“Yes!” he cried, almost pleading. “Everything that I could do, with that power! Thrown everything I believed away, and just…just done things!”
“And you did not. Without even thinking about it, as if it were instinct, the deepest part of you reined it back in.” She nodded at the undamaged part of the campus…the part where the students and teachers were now emerging to see what he had wrought. “You kept them safe. Even while the power sang in your veins, you kept them safe, to your own cost.” One eyebrow rose, and her mouth curved in a half smile. “You would have done better, however, had I been here to help you with control. But perhaps they can make a pond.”
John fell into an embrace with Sera, holding her tightly. “Darlin’, those were the worst two minutes of my life. I don’t want to be far from you ever again. An’ we’ll figure out how to get both of us ‘up to speed’, as it were.” He pulled away from her, taking her by the shoulders for a moment. “This is a game changer. You know that, right? If we can get to hot spots before the Thulians can withdraw, or arrive before they even show up…”
“And we will learn to do this. But now, there must be rest.”