Axiom 6: Formulate a long-term plan.
It turns out that a furious and bloodthirsty woman is a fairly decent opponent for a distracted and disarmed angel.
After a couple of minutes of holding back, worried about catching a blow if I tried to interfere, I finally managed to scoot between Alice and Eremiel, praying that the bloodlust hadn’t clouded Alice’s vision to the point where she wouldn’t recognize me as a friend, rather than just another enemy.
She held her next punch, although her eyes blazed at me. “Get out of my way, Jack,” she snarled.
“Oh, knock it off, would you?” I fired back at her. “Look, this isn’t doing us any good. Even if you beat the crap out of Eremiel-”
“Keep on beating the crap out of him, more like-”
“-it won’t actually help us at all!” I finished, not letting her words stop me. “If anything, we’ll just be worse off, because then we’ll be back on our own again!”
Those words got through to her at least a little. She lowered her fists by another fraction, but the anger in her eyes didn’t go away. Of all the women still left alive after the Apocalypse, I had to be stuck with the slightly unhinged one with one screw loose. She did look kind of sexy with her hair in a wild tangle around her face, and I had to carefully ignore how her chest rose and fell with each deep breath, but she was still definitely crazy.
“Fine,” she spat out. “So now what, then?”
Fortunately, I’d had a minute to think on that question as she kicked and clawed at Eremiel. “I think we have some more questions for our angelic friend, actually.”
“Oh, come on, mortals,” Eremiel groaned, his attitude not earning him any points with either of us mortals. “Can you not simply release me so that I might return to my task, on the off chance that my absence hasn’t yet been noticed?”
“Afraid not,” I told him. I tried to make my voice sound like I actually did feel sorry, although the angel’s uppity attitude was also wearing on me. I had a little more control of my temper than Alice, but it wouldn’t last forever. “But listen – what happens after the angels finish counting up all the goodness in the universe?”
“Well, whatever is written in the Book,” he replied.
“And we don’t know what that is, right?”
“Only Metatron is entrusted with the contents of the Book,” he confirmed, although I noticed that he was using the Capital Letters again in his speech.
“But regardless, he’s probably not going to just leave the Earth sitting around, once everything’s been counted. It seems like a loose end, and angels probably don’t want those just sticking around forever.” Eremiel didn’t look fully convinced, but I kept on talking. “So, from this, we can conclude that the counting is still happening.”
“So?” Alice transferred her annoyance over to me. “What good does that do us? So the Apocalypse isn’t over yet, just halfway done.”
“If it’s not over yet, it still means that we can try and stop it,” I finished.
For a moment, Alice blinked at me. “That’s it?” she asked incredulously. “That’s your big plan? Just try and stop it before they finish? How will that fix anything?”
I tried to find an answer, but my mind ran blank. “It’s better than just sitting around and waiting for it to be over,” I finally came back with, the excuse sounding weak even to my ears. “Look, we either sit and do nothing, or we go try and stop the count somehow. Maybe, if we can prove that Metatron isn’t following orders, they’ll reset everything back so that we can keep on living until the real Apocalypse?”
“You assume that he isn’t following his orders,” Eremiel interjected. “The Book contains many secrets, and no mortal may truly know what it contains. This Book was entrusted directly to Metatron, and there is no reason why he might act out and disobey the orders given to him within the-”
“-the book, yes, yes,” I groaned. “Hey, Eremiel, remember that thing about not using all the capital letters?”
“It is the proper way to refer to these items,” Eremiel insisted, but he closed his mouth when I glared at him. My anger might not be as explosive as Alice’s, but it somehow seemed to intimidate the angel enough to shut him up.
Or maybe it was the fact that my hand curled around the handle of his flaming sword, sitting on the coffee table in front of us, where I’d set it.
“So, if that’s our plan, we need to figure out the next step,” I went on, after a moment of just breathing deeply, keeping my own rage under control.
“And what’s that?” Alice didn’t yet sound fully convinced, but she also wasn’t snapping at me. Yet.
“We need to get to Metatron.”
She nodded, as if this made sense to her – and I suspected that it did. Take the fight to the enemy. We both turned to Eremiel, who started after a moment as we both waited on him.
“What?” he asked, looking confused.
“Getting to Heaven,” I clarified. “How do we do it?”
Again, he just gaped at us for a moment. “It’s impossible.”
“Impossible?” Alice repeated, that razor blade of anger still glinting in her voice.
“Well, yes. For mortals, at least. It’s not like you can just walk through the doorway at Megiddo and enter-”
Eremiel’s mouth snapped shut, as if he’d already said too much. “Portal at Megiddo,” I repeated back, just emphasizing that we’d heard him speak. “Where’s that?”
“Er, at Megiddo.”
Alice turned to me and rolled her eyes. “Now do you see why I want to beat him up so much?” she asked me with a groan.
I actually did understand the temptation a bit better, but I held off on hitting the angel. “Okay, new first step. How do we get to Megiddo? And where is that, anyway? In modern locations,” I added, guessing what Eremiel might say next.
He just looked back at us. “Megiddo is in Israel, where an ancient tower still stands above the fields of Armageddon.”
Great. “Israel,” I repeated. This might be tougher than I expected.
Eremiel was still speaking. “But even if you reach the tower of Megiddo, no mortal can open the gateway to Heaven. It is forbidden, as well as impossible.”
“But an angel can,” Alice guessed, as she smiled down at the angel. Eremiel started to nod, but shrank back a little as he saw the expression on her face.
It was not a very pleasant smile.
“Cheer up,” Alice grinned, still smiling down at the angel. “It looks like you’re coming with us.”