(Lawman's note: Prologue Chapter - Prelude to Cacophony)
"I feel the Earth move under my feet,
I feel the stars tumblin' down,
I just loose control...."
Sam's leather-clad arm was wrapped around Jamie's slim shoulders, supporting and gaining support at the same time. They laughed togethere, tired from the exertion of a night's hard dancing, and then, ever so gently, he reached over and kissed her full on her succulent, red lips. She giggled, slapping him playfully on the arm, and kissed back. For a minute, they hung together, wrapped into one package beneath the buzzing, neon-orange sign that read "Club Lux", and, in smaller letters, "Lower Khazan, Barclay St. 11937".
With an excited inrush of breath, they pulled back, staring deeply into each other's eyes, the woman's a deep sea green, the man's a coldly shining blue. She was tall and graceful, the delicate features of her face enough to drive a man insane with desire, her figure wrapped tightly in an ebon tunic, belted at the waist. Below that, she wore a pair of skin-tight, white leggings, and calf-high boots of white leather. Sam barely topped her by an inch, and he was quite hansome in his own right, although, in a way so striking that it blazoned itself on the mind, he looked absolutely nothing like Brad Pitt. The lack of resemblance was so complete that it could almost have been said that it was intentional. He wore a dark leather jacket, blue jeans, and black Converse All-Stars. "Jamie, this has been the best night of my life."
She cocked one eyebrow playfully, the rest of her face flowing into a catlike smile. "It's not over yet." She turned and ran off into the darkness, pulling him along. "C'mon, my car's just over this way."
"Hey, wait!" He tried desperately to keep up without tripping and falling on his face. The lighted doors of the Lux faded behind them like embarassed angels, hiding themselves from what was sure to come. A wide grin spread across his face.
Jamie stopped with a suddenness that nearly sent him pinwheeling to the ground. When he straightened, he could see why. Five shapes loomed before them in the darkness, humanoid and menacing. The smallest looked to be twice as broad as Sam across the shoulders, and their leader was massive enough to be a small giant. His voice was certainly deep enough to pass for one, although intermixed with a high, nervous giggle. "Well, well, well. Chickie-chickie going somewhere?" The man shook his head. "Why don't you ditch this wimp and find a real man, chickie? We could give you a good time." The other four fanned out, forming a loose pentagram around the pair.
"Get lost, and get out of my way." Jamie reached up and angrily brushed a stray strand of hair away from her flushed face.
"Uh-uh, chickie. You don't know what you're missing. We're going to have to ed-ju-cate you now, won't we, boys?" A rolling chuckle echoed through the alley.
Jamie's eyes were wide in panic. With a gentle, snakelike grace, Sam stepped forward, his voice cool and level. "We don't want any trouble, so why don't you just pass on by?" It was more of an order than a question.
"This is none of your business, boy. You just get on out of here now, you won't get hurt. We might even let you watch."
A sudden anger rose up in Sam's heart at the man's words, scathing like a flow of magma, and he spoke again, with a voice that echoed through the minds of the gang. It was a voice they all felt they had heard before, somewhere, and it put a touch of fear into their hearts. "Stop this now. Turn around, go back home, and don't bother us again, and you'll live." He grinned, teeth shining like bared blades in the light. "Otherwise..."
There was a moment of silence, dark and brooding, until the leader broke out in a fit of laughter. "Get 'em, boys!"
Huge, dark shapes rushed them from all sides. Sam reached out to punch the leader, but he was a fraction of an instant too slow. The man's fist struck him in the side of the head. Sparks flew across his field of vision. He scrambled to his feet again, swinging his right arm through the man's defenses to strike him in the jaw, but that only served to anger the leader. An uppercut slammed into Sam's chin, followed by a powerful right hook to his temple, and Sam's legs buckled beneath him. As he fell, he saw Jamie, white-clad legs kicking as two of the thugs pinned her to the grund. Angrily, he pushed himself to his feet, only to feel two more sets of hands grab his arms, holding them tight in an iron grip. Jamie screamed, but the leader grabbed her jaw, forced it closed, and sealed it with a strip of duct tape. She tried to scream again, but this time all that came out was a muffled, grunting squeal. The man straightened, letting the tape fall to the ground.
This had gone too far. Sam had hoped they would fall back, that they wouldn't try and go through with their plan, but that hope was gone. His eyes fell upon Jamie's trapped body with a twinge of regret, that what was about to come could not have been avoided. Their relationship would never be the same again. Once again, Sam spoke, only this time his tone was... cold, feelingless in a way that caused even the leader to pause for a moment at the single, soft word. "No." And then, where Sam had stood a split instant ago, there now was something else. Or, rather, Someone Else. To be specific, 'it' was a seven foot tall form, draped in long, night-black robes, a silvery-blue bladed Scythe gripped tightly in one dead white hand. The figure grinned, not that it really had a choice. The Being that had been Sam, and was now more of Sam, spoke. NO. Blue pinpricks of light inside the skull's eye sockets flard, and he snapped out his skeletal hands, as if flicking away a particluarly viscous breed of oil slick. The two thugs who moments ago had been holding his arms tight tried to let go, tried to run. Unfortunately for them, either action took time, at least one eighth of a second from thought to excution, and there are some things which pass beyond time, the way the Pacific Ocean surpasses a dirty puddle in Tokyo. Sam was one of those things. In the time between seconds, the reality of his being stripped clean their souls from their bodies. As a finishing touch, the molocules which made up that collection of flesh lost their cohesion, atoms hovering freely for a nanosecond before they, too, vanished. Not even a sound marked their passing.
Same gave himself a shake, one bony hand gripping tightly the ebon haft of the Scythe. The leader, thinking that the situation was fully under control, was almost on top of Jamie, hands fumbling eagerly at his belt. Once again, Sam spoke, or, at any rate, his jawbone moved. The words he produced transcended sound, rattling inside the skull of girl and thugs alike, rolling up and down like the waves of eternity. STOP NOW. No one moved, except for Jamie, struggling with her captors, whose eyes were now blank and staring. FACE ME.
There was no doubt to whom the command was addressed Shakily, the leader rose, turning on his heels in the process, until he faced Sam's totality. The eye-sparks flared angrily. YOU HAVE ATTEMPTED TO VIOLATE THIS WOMAN, MORTAL MAN. There was no answer. DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? A terrified nod, this time, the ringleaders's skeptical nature sweaped aside by something deeper than mere human doubt. WHAT YOU HAVE FORCED ME TO SACRIFICE FOR HER SAKE, IS NOT WITHIN THE SCOPE OF YOUR PITIFUL MIND TO COMPREHEND. YOU HAVE RAVAGED AND MURDERED YOUR WAY THORUGH THE ALLEYS AND DUNGHILLS OF KHAZAN LONG ENOUGH. A dark, wet stain spread out from the man's crotch, soaking his tight breeches. NO MORE.
The scythe flashed through the darkness, and the leader of the gangbangers was no more. The two holding Jamie down turned and bolted in opposite directions, leaving him alone with the fallen woman. In an instant, he was by her side, eye sockets travelling the length of her body. Long, jagged gashes parted the smooth, silken fabric of her clothes, revealing scaped skin beneath, where she must have hit on the way down. One eye was all but swollen closed, one cheek shiny red from where the gangster hit her. She was close to unconsciousness, and perhaps she had a concussion. Dark hair spread out on all sides of her head like rippling, raven-colored waters. Reverently, he knelt down, and lifted her into the darkness.
When she awoke, Sam was there, sitting by her bedside like a guardian angel. She stared up at him with wide, confused eyes. "W-what happened?"
"You're in Khazan General Hospital. It took you here, after you passed out." His voice was simple, matter-of-fact, as if denying that anything extraordinary had happened.
"Khazan General..." Jamie shuddered. "Sam, before I passed out, I saw..."
He nodded, appearing almost embarassed. "Jamie, I was going to tell you eventually."
She sat up, and Sam winced at the almost accusatory glare. "Sam, what's going on here? What are you?!"
"Jamie, don't make me do this. You're not ready. I'll tell you all about it later, I promise."
"Don't give me any of that crap. What are you?" With each word, her voice trembled a little bit more, until, at the end, she sounded like a wall ready to crumble.
"I wanted you to understand... I'm not so terrible if you get to know me. I was only protecting you."
"Sam, I'm going to ask you one more time. What are you?"
ISN'T IT OBVIOUS? And Sam, the ordinary human man, hansome but bearing (quite intentionally) absolutely no resemblance to Brad Pitt, disappeared, leaving only Sam, in his black robes, the ebon Scythe resting across his knees. In one corner of the room, an incredibly expensive, and supposedly fool-proof, surveillance camera died without cause, its internal circuitry melted spontaneously into slag. Jamie stared at him open-mouthed, unable to comprehend fully what she was seeing. Sam could feel the fear in her sea-green eyes, a blow against the wall of his heart.
He straightened, rising to his feet in a flowing, unfolding motion, so unhurried as to appear timeless. He turned to Jamie, the skull somehow protraying a gentle, deep sorrow. I'M SORRY.
Her call, "Sam, wait," hung on empty air.
For a long, long time, Sam stood atop KOMBG Tower, cutting winds as fast as sixty miles an hour ruffling his night-black robe. The security systems failed to detet him, due to the quite simple fact that he was always present, just in varying degrees. Looking out over the Khazan metropolis, he remembered.
The year was 1996. Sam took his ease in the Fife Bar and Grill, on Haight-Ashbury Street in San Francisco, his pale Harley unattended and unlocked on the street outside. Four prospective owners had tried to hotwire it in the past half-hour. Three were currently on their way to the San Francisco General Hospital ER. The one remaining never regained full control of his arms, and had to be locked up in a room with poofy white walls, very, very far from anything with wheels. You can't expect to steal the bike of one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and come away unscathed.
Another motorcycle, this one pristeen and white, pulled up to the curb. A block away, a traffic light suddenly went berzerk, infecting itself with hundreds of viruses simultaneously, and causing one of the worst pile-ups in automotive history. The stranger smiled, flakes breaking off its dry, pock-marked skin at the movement. As he walked through the door, a man began to cough uncontrollably, and the stranger smiled. With an oozing gait, he walked up behind Sam and cleared his throat.
"Pestilence." Sam turned, letting the mortal guise drop with only the slightest annoyance. The Macarena started to play over the bar stereo. Angrily, Sam waved one hand in the general direction of the speakers, and the music changed to the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". The bartender thought this quite strange, since he didn't even own a copy of the album. DO WHAT DO I OWN THE HONOR?
"I've come to set something straight.
" Pestilence took a seat at the bar, pale white hair falling from his scap to form a small pile on the floor.
WHAT? Without pausing to listen, he turned to the bartender. JIMMY, TWO GLASSES OF MERLOT, PLEASE.
Jimmy, meanwhile, was staring open-mouthed at the pair before him. He tried to say something- "Excuse me, you're a skeleton and you're friend looks like a refugee from a leper colony." No. "Stop shedding your skin in my bar." No. "I'm going to have to ask you to put that Scythe-" No. Finally, his mind cracked, then healed up again, as the human mentality tends to do when confronted with things beyond its comprehension. It was impossible for the First and Fourth Horsemen to be sitting at his bar, so they weren't. It was only Sam (perfectly normal-looking, aside from a complete lack of resemblance to Brad Pitt) and his friend (What was his name? P-something... maybe Paul) from out of town. He poured them two glasses of Santa Clara Vinyards 1993 Merlot, then left for the kitchen as quickly as possible.
Sam picked up his wine, glowing eyesockets watching the gentle red liquid swirl in the light, then took a deep sip of Chateaux LaFitte 1875. DELICIOUS. THIS STUFF YOU'LL NEVER FIND IN HEAVEN, LET ME TELL YOU THAT.
Pestilence, annoyed, peeled off a strip of dried skin from his hand to expose the black, maggot-ridden flesh below. "Damn it, Death...
CALL ME SAM, PLEASE. THE OTHER IS JUST STATING THE OBVIOUS, AND IS, THEREFORE, UNNECESSARY, WHEREAS I PREFER THE NAME SAM.
"I'm not here to discuss drinks or semantics, Damn you!
HMMMM... NO THANK YOU. HELL HAS TOO MANY INSURANCE SALESMEN FOR MY TASTE, FOR ONE, NOBODY CAN DANCE RIGHT, FOR TWO, AND THEY DON'T HAVE GOOD WINE, FOR THREE. GREAT PLACE FOR SKIING, THOUGH.
"This is about the Fallout.
WHAT ABOUT IT? YOU CAST THE VOTE FOR THERMONUCLEAR WAR, AS I RECALL.
"That's not the point. The way the bombs are configured now, they explode on impact. Most of the people are killed by instantaneous explosion. You cast that lot.
"The current attitude is that it would be more beneficial to our Cause if a few of the bombs, say the ones for Moscow, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, detonated at a higher altitude, about three miles up. The immediate loss of life would be much less, of course, but in the End Times that followed, there would be more souls for each of our camps. More people to make war, less viable grain so they starve, and, of course, the radiation sickness. Also, with more people involved, there will be much more... fun. As it is, barely enough people will survive the initial assault to constitute a species.
"We ask you to recast your vote.
"It has become clear recently that there is a much higher risk of total destruction at the first bombardment, due to improved plutonium purification systems. Without population, it will be impossible for a decisive Battle to take place. If you recast your vote, the assumptions change, and a greater than expected population survives, only to fall to Us at the End. Uriel agrees with me on this.
URIEL. Sam laughed. Each of the Horseman had an Archangelic counterpart, and each regarded the other as an inferior being. The Horseman were far more powerful, of course, but the Angels automatically assumed that they were the greater. Sometimes, though, a second opinion could be useful. MY ARCHANGEL ASSISTANT, WHO HASN'T SET WING ON EARTH IN MILLENIA. QUITE AN EDUCATED OPINION. Sam sighed. He had never really shared the Others' passion for Armagedon. He had spent too much time down here on the surface to treat destroying it all as one big chess game, the way the rest seemed to. Well, actually, Chess Game was a bit of a misnomer. Depending on you angle, the whole thing looked a lot more like cosmic Solitaire.
NO, I UNDERSTAND. I WAS JUST THINKING.
"Fine. Think your bloody heart out.
" Pestilence started to rise, skin flakes falling to the floor all around him. "Just remember, we've got just thirteen more years, and then it happens.
" His graveyard voice took on an almost beatific tone. "I get to unleash the greatest plague this world has ever seen. No thanks to you.
SO, THAT'S THE REASON YOU CAME WITH A MESSAGE ANYONE ELSE WOULD HAVE SENT BY MAIL. STILL ANGRY ABOUT THAT PENICILLIN THING?
" One tooth sprayed out onto the floor. "That boy was supposed to die! And his friend, too, that Churchill. We could have had the Apocalypse fourty years since, but for that.... mortal! As for Penicillin- that bloody drug ruined millenia of guided evolution. The Influenza in 1913 would have been peanuts compared to what I had coming, but for Fleming and his bloody bread mold. That was on your watch, too!"
SO WHAT? YOU'RE BITTER ABOUT A PLAGUE THAT NEVER GOT RELEASED? DOES THAT MAKE YOU SO FOOLHARDY TO CHALLENGE ME WITH TREASON?
"If I thought I...
Sam rose up to his full height, towering above the lesser Horseman. One arm shot out, a bony hand clamping around Pestilence's shoulder like a vise. REMEMBER, YOUNGER BROTHER, THAT IT IS DEATH WHICH DEFINES THE BOUNDARIES OF YOUR KINGDOM. I HAVE BEEN WORKING FOR THE SERVICE OF OUR ENDS UPON THIS EARTH FOR LONGER THAN MEN OR GODS DREAM. DO NOT PRESUME TO NAME ME TRAITOR.
Pestilence smiled, his skin slowly dissolving into a bloody pulp. "Always so secure, Brother. Always so secure.
" The blood collapsed in a puddle on the ground, and Pestilence was gone.
WIth an angry sigh, Sam returned to the barstool and took another sip of wine. His mind railed against being labeled a traitor, but there was something else there, too, a deeper current to his mind than he had before guessed. Looking outside through the plate glass, streetside window, he could see the sun streaming down through the clouds, falling upon a hops garden across the way, next to a red brick microbrewery. The others, Famine, War, Pestilence, specialized in violence, carnage, the slowly creeping destruction. But he was the End, and, by extension, the Beginning, too. There was something pure about this world, where nothing could die without giving birth to new life, but after the Battle, there would be no cycle, just World Without End, Heaven or Hell. There would be no more bars on Haight Ashbury, no hops, no birds, no butterflys, no sun, no clouds, no clumsy, wonderful humans to talk to... no more stars. Angrily, he pushed away the glimmer of doubt. He was destined to ride forth on the wings of the storm! He was a Horseman of the Apocalypse! A Horseman. Disturbed more deeply than he could admit, Sam took another drink, the tingling liquid thrashing as it went down, like a thing alive.
Everything was going flawlessly at the semi-annual Celestial Ball, up in the halls of Heaven. In fact, this particular Ball was the same as every single one of its predicessors, save for one thing: someone had let Sam pick the music. LALALALALA BAMBA SI PORQUE NO DE PORCA DE GRACIAS...... LA-LA BAMBA.... LA-LA-BAMBA... The guests, mostly angels accustomed only to the music of the spheres, had been a bit put off at first, but now a few of the younger ones, at least, were getting the idea. Sam was off in one corner of the room, in the midst of an angry debate with Uriel. He took another sip of the punch. Earlier in the evening, he had remarked on an odd taste to the liquid, but since then it had gradually faded. He was feeling quite a bit light-skulled, though.
Uriel was speaking, his wings twitching nervously. "Horseman, you must recognize the need for your party to ride in four mortal years. The Plan is coming to fulfillment." With those words, the angel's face gleamed with a fanatical light. "And we shall ride to Earth to smite the angels of darkness. It shall be glorious!"
IT SHALL BE USELESH, ISH WHAT IT SHALL BE. I SHWEAR, THISH WHOLE APOCALYPSE THING ISH SHTARTING TO GET ON MY NERVES. I MEAN, WHAT KIND OF CREATOR WOULD MAKE A WORLD WHERE YOU HAD TO BLOW IT UP TO FIND OUT WHETHER YOU MADE IT RIGHT OR NOT? IT ALL SHEEMS PRETTY SHTRANGE, ASH FAR ASH I'M CONCERNED. AND THE RESHT OF YOU, YOU JUSHT SIT UP HERE ON YOUR HALOSH PASSHIVELY, AND TRUSHT IN SHOMETHING WHICH DOESHN'T MAKE ANY SHENSE IN THE FIRSHT PLACE! He was oblivious to the crowd starting to form, amazed angels wondering what he was thinking, to be saying such things in Heaven, of all places. A pair of Servitors were steadily closing in on him, speaking in low tones.
"Sir, you'll have to come with us."
From the shadows, Pestilence smiled. A dash of artificial flavor added to pure alcohol and food coloring, with some Sodium Penthenol thrown in, and a bit of Magic to bypass Sam's defenses, was all it had taken. The magic had cost him nearly every favor he ever earned, and he needed to make a couple deals with the higher-ups to get the Servitors in place, but it was a cheap price to pay for revenge.
The Court of Ineffable Justice was packed for the first time in memory, from the white marbled floor to the highest painted domes, where the Archangels stood in midair, silently watching the proceedings. Sam stood upon the dais, still proud and tall despite his guard of one hundred fourteen seraphi and seven archangels. He clutched his scythe tightly, feeling the reproving eyes of hundreds of thousands of dignitaries in the Heavenly army resting on his body. No one could take that from him, at least. The way he held himself left no doubt in the mids of the audience that he was here because he wished to see the case brought to its completion. Even his Guard were starting to doubt whether they could stop him, if he wished to break free. They were right to wonder. Still, Sam reflected, they were only ornamental. The Dais hung over the deep black pit of Oblivion. If Sam were to make a move to escape, he would Fall straight down. He might have tried it even with that risk, had it not been for the two attendant judges.
The first figure glowed with an unbearable bluish-white light, his features so delicate and sculpted they resembled a statue formed out of thin air. Gentle, chill blue eyes stared out from under eyebrows so blond they were almost white, that eternal gaze locked fast on the disgraced Horseman.
The Other being resmbled the first, save for a few minor changes: instead of angelic robes, he wore an Armani suit, his eyes were a flat, burnished gold, and he glowed a red so bright and vibrant that it hurt to look at. His features, too, were beautiful, but cutting, a beauty so terrifying it tore at the substance of reality.
Michael and Beelzebub, with the exception of their masters two of the most potent beings in existance, were sitting in judgement. Sam stood tall before them, unafraid. The combined power of Heaven and Hell was impressive, yes, but this was a matter of honor, and besides, it wasn't like they could kill him or anything. Finally, Michael spoke, his delicate voice piercing the silence like a whaler's harpoon. "Death, you have been judged by this tribunal, and found guilty of questioning the Plan and thereby attempting to prevent the approaching Apocalypse." A murmuring arose fron the audience, excited and amazed at the verdict. The tone rose up like the tide for a long moment, before Beelzebub cut it off with an angry glance which sent a sizable minority of the lesser angels running for cover. "Any other being would be annihilated, or sent to the Torment, but you are a... special case."
Sam laughed under his breath. What they meant was, annihilating him would be an exercise in paradox, and no one wanted to chace trying to throw him in the Abyss. Eternity was a long time, and there was always the chance that he could break out. One of the problems with being theoretically Immortal is that your enemies have forever to get back at you. Sometimes, being a Horseman had its advantages.
Bored with Heaven's longwinded speeches, Beelzebub broke in. "What thisss old fool is trying to sssssay," he intoned in a (quite naturally) demonic hiss, "isss that we feel we can't trussssst you to lead the Riderssss at the moment." He had to force the word 'trust' out. Several cherubs in the front row collapsed in epileptic fits. Retching sounds were widely heard, as the Prince of Hell's voice subtly corrupted and twisted Angelic psyches.
Michael seemed a bit put out. "Fool? Why you demonic-"
"Why thank you. I don't think I've ever gotten a better - ssss! - compliment."
GENTLEMEN, Sam interjected, sounding a bit like Jerry Springer, CAN'T WE PLEASE JUST GET THIS OVER WITH? IF YOU'RE GOING TO LISTEN TO THESE LIES, WE MIGHT AS WELL FINISH THE FARCE.
Both the archangel prince and the demon lord currently had their hands locked around each other's throats, auras flaring violently. Finally, Michael spoke. "On three, okay?"
"One, two, three." No one moved. "Let go, damn you!"
"Ssss. You did that already."
Michael sighed. "Look, can we do this later? We've still got four years till the Big One."
"Oh. Right." The Demon turned to Sam. "If you don't mind?"
OH, SURE. ONE, TWO, THREE.
Both figures simultaneously released their death grips. Beelzebub straightened his tie. "Ssssory about that. I gave a ssspeach to the troopsss jusssst before coming here. Got a little worked up."
"It's fine," said Michael, in a tone that made quite clear that it wasn't. "Neutral ground, remember? No fighting until the trial's over."
"Forcssse of habit." The demon took a seat. "And asssss for the trial...."
"Oh. Death, thou art sentenced to banishment to Earth, to be barred from Heaven and Hell until thou dost re-accept the true merit and virtue of the great Plan, and repent thy actions-"
I'D STILL LIKE TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THOSE ARE. I HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING.
BUT WHAT? I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT I'M BEING ACCUSED OF YET!
"Can I FINISH?!?!?!"
"Okay, then. After a period of ten years, during which time the Apocalypse shall be delayed, a tribunal shall review your deeds and your mind. If you have renewed your commitment to the Plan, then your post shall be returned to you-"
AND I WILL HAVE SOME WORDS WITH WHOEVER COOKED UP THIS IDEA IN THE FIRST PLACE.
"In the meantime, you shall hand over your ride-"
Michael finished in a rush, hoping that Sam wouldn't interrupt him again. "tothearchangelUriel.Handoverthekeys!" With a wave of Michael's well-manicured hand, the Pit around Sam's dais transmuted to empty floor, and Uriel floated down fron his perch to light on the newly created floor.
WHAT, EARTH? YOU'RE GOING TO BANISH ME TO THAT MUDBALL? I CAN'T STAY THERE!
Beelzebub smiled evilly, not that he knew another way to smile or anything. "Then you'll have a good inssssentive to repent your wayssss." The word 'repent' got a little mangled on the way out, as if the speaker's mouth couldn't fit around it properly. "Hand over the keysssss."
Carefully, Sam took a step off the dais, and walked over to the Archangel of Death. He dug his motorcycle keys out of a hidden pocket in his robe, the silver metal dangling aimlessly on the end of a Harley-Davidson keychain. Uriel's hand closed around the key, alabaster skin offset by the keychain's black and red. LISTEN, URIEL, AND LISTEN WELL. THIS DISHONOR WON'T LAST FOREVER. ONE DAY SOON I SHALL BE BACK, AND IF YOU VALUE YOUR CURRENT EXISTANCE AS MUCH AS I VALUE THAT BIKE.... he left the threat hanging.
Uriel nodded, a bead of sweat running down his pristeen, chiseled face. Sam turned back to the tribunal.
ONCE AGAIN, I REQUEST CLEMENCY. YOU CAN'T FORCE AN AETHEREAL BEING TO LIVE AMIDST THE FILT OF EARTH!
"You'll jusssst have to get ussssed to it."
"The sentence takes effect.... now."
A gavel thudded into the dark wood of the judge's podium, and Sam fell. The universe rushed past him at an incredible speed, stars and planets blurring into a seamless rainbow of light, and then it all stopped. He was on Earth, in the midst of a copse of scraggly maple trees. In the distance, he could see the yellow triangle of the Trans-Am building rising out of the center of San Francisco. A bluebird chirped above him, high in the treetops. He laughed, out loud this time. It took him a full five minutes to regain his composure, rolling over on the grass and smiling, honestly smiling, at the sky above. Exhausted and happy, dishonor momentarially forgotten, he spread out his skeletal limbs to soak in the sunlight, black robe flowing out over the grass.
BORN AND RAISED IN A BRIAR PATCH, BR'ER FOX. BORN AND RAISED.
He laughed again.
That had been before the Omens brought him to Khazan, of course. Something had doomed his Earth, something beyond his own realm of experience, and he indended to find out what. While he was here, though, there was no reason he shouldn't have a good time. Perhaps there were things he could explain to Jamie. She might be able to understand. After all, Superheroes were fairly common in Khazan. Of course, he wasn't exactly a typical "superhero
", but, then again, that phrase was kind of a non sequiter, wasn't it?
A beeping sound broke through his reverie. That must be the Arena calling. Sighing, he replaced his beeper. A Horseman's work was never done. With a sigh, he stepped off the building, pushing back the sleeve of his robe to check his watch. LOOK OUT BELOOOOW!Some time later....
A large crowd had assembled at the base of the tower, watching in horror as a black-clad comet plummeted to the earth, closer, closer, closer.... It hit the pavement with the kind of force that can only be caused by a man-sized mass falling more than one vertical mile. Concrete erupted towards the sky like a volcano, the onlookers scattering to avoid falling chunks. At least twenty people were injured by shrapnel, a dense cloud of dust mercifully obscuring the point of impact. In the seconds it took for the crowd to regroup, the hushed wheels of the rumor mill had already started to turn.
"He must have been on drugs!"
"It's a Conspiracy, I tell you!"
"That's what comes of seeing movies like The Matrix!"
HEHEHE. The dust cloud was shredded by a sudden gust of wind, and Sam stood there, grinning, an immense, jagged crater sprawled out behind him. There was a perfectly Sam-shaped depression at the bottom. Raising himself up fully, he brushed a speck of dust off his robe. THAT TICKLES. Without so much as noticing the amazed stares, he walked towards his gleaming white Harley, mounting the bike with an ease born of long practice. Keys in the ignition. CD player- on.
AND LET'S ROCK. As he roared away towards the center of Khazan City, he started to sing. COME ON MARY, DON'T FEAR THE REAPER.....