Author: James A Brown III

Father Provious Del Ladra stared out the window at the green planet. His hands were clasped in front of him, his eyes closed and head bowed.

“And please, Father, bless the 237th, especially Commander Nadia Ryes, as they protect your works so that these people can be brought to your everlasting…”

There was a soft succession of chimes, gently noodling around a central tone.

“… light and love. Please look out for their safety and please return them to us unscathed. If that isn’t possible …”

Again, the chimes.

“… then take their souls into your loving embrace and, if you will, grant them an eternity of warmth as reward for their devotion and dedication to your war against the Californs. Amen.”

He unclasped his hands and turned to the door. “Enter,” he said.

“Please excuse the interruption, Father Del Ladra.” The woman bowed deeply, her bare head reflecting green from the window.

“What is it Attendant Theodre?”

“Father, I’ve been sent to inform you that we’re losing. The 88th and 237th have been overrun and none of the leadership is replying. The others have requested your approval in triggering the Pre-Apocalypse.”

“It’s that bad now? Is the Michael still with us?”

“Yes, Father. Barely. They are drawing fire away from us as much as they…”

They stumbled toward the door. The ship shook as klaxons sounded. A young male voice came over the speakers.’

“We’ve been breached! I say again, we’ve been brea…”

The speakers went silent.

“Father, you have to get to your escape pod!”

“You go. I need to stay with the ship. There are things I must do when a ship is about to be ransacked.”

“But Father, they will be boarding…”

“I know, I know. Go. Your services are needed elsewhere. Remember, you have been chosen. I’ll try to make it, but I have to finish my tasks. Now go.”

Theodre rushed out the door, pausing to look back at Provious, then the doors hissed shut.

“Good kid that one. She’ll make an excellent angel.”

Provious calmly walked to the window and again, looked out at the mostly green planet.

“Thousands of years of work. All the terraforming and guidance and preparing. So unfortunate.”

He watched as grey egg-shaped escape pods shot out from the ship towards the planet. If they made it to the lower atmosphere, they would open in a blast of splendor and light, and would be welcomed as angels sent to purge the world of demons. This belief had been instilled in the populace ages ago. It was rumored that Saint Adamis himself had chosen this planet a thousand years ago as one of the twelve to begin. He had established himself as a great Father of the war, leading more successful operations than any other of the higher clergy, but he saw that no one was winning. The Californs had many aliens as allies. Adamis came up with something to give them the eventual edge. The plan he devised was to find lifeless worlds and make them into believer worlds that would give all to the cause. Already seven worlds had come to fruition, and the war was quickly tipping in their favor.

“Provious to Captain Grange.”

“Here Father! What’s the plan? Can the Adamis make it out?”

“No. I believe our last act will be as a heavenly sign to accompany the arrival of angels.”

“Understood. Michael out.”

The door behind him exploded and skidded across the floor a few feet to his right, crashing into the wall under the window with a crunch. He did not flinch, nor stopped looking out at the descending pods.

“Father Provious! We meet at last.”

“General Paige Remanth. I’m surprised to see you so close to the action.”

“Once I had confirmation that you were on board, staring out a window, I had to make sure I addressed you.”

“Ah, so you would come to make sure I am treated fairly then, out of a soldier’s respect for a worthy foe.”

“Hardly. I wanted to be the one to shoot you myself.”

“I see. I take comfort then in the fact that I did so well in my tasks to warrant your direct attention. God will be pleased.”

“Well, you’ll certainly have a chance to find out. Turn … around.”

Father Provious, his hands still clasped in front of him, tapped a cuff link on his bright white jacket. A deep rumble started and quickly began rising in intensity.

“What’s that?”

“Engine overload, General. In a few seconds, too fast for you to get out, this ship will join the Michael in an explosion that will be seen all over the surface. Many will see it and recognize the new star in the East. The star that announces the arrival of angels.”

“But you haven’t sent your artificial Jesus yet. You can’t destroy that. Your people put a lot of resources into its construction.”

“It’s a setback no doubt, but we’ll get one down there eventually. First, we need to make sure the people below keep believing enough to drive you and yours back into space, when you eventually land that is.”

“You know we don’t operate that way. We do not interfere in anyone’s development. We merely observe and…”

“Yeah, sure. You don’t have anyone down there right now, trying to undermine God’s plan with your teachings.”

“I don’t know about such things. I just know I’m to make sure that people like you become extinct.”

“Well, let me help with at least me. Saint Adamis, guide me home.”

At that, the ship erupted.

As the escape pods dropped through the clouds, they exploded, revealing their winged passengers, who soared majestically down to the awestruck locals below.

And the sky lit up, a new star flickering gently in the night.

Hundreds of thousands dropped to their knees, and began to pray.