rating: +102+x

by J Dune

My brain, outfitted with an oscillating prayer engine, powered by a monastery in Lhasa. My eyes, altered with perception filters that display Akiva radiation and can induce instant brain-death should the need arise. My muscles, jump-lifted, with pressurized tendons and belief-powered tissue. My soul, anti-blessed with every sacrament, ritual, and custom you can think of. My entire body, and the bodies of my three partners, is modified to carry out our unholy mission.

I am Sovent-Anth, member of Mobile Task Force Kairos-01, SOLA FIDE, and I am definitely going to multiple hells when I die for the sixth time. Not that hells are much of an issue when you can form a coup on your first day, but it’s the principle of the thing.

There’s an old saying in the Foundation: “If you can kill it, it’s not a god.” Cute, right? Not really. The Department of Tactical Theology has struggled with the exact parameters of “god” since their inception, but even they can’t change the fact that a god is a human creation. A god is a projection of man; it's given life and form through the strength of the collective, universal force of belief. And if it can be made by man, we can destroy it, too. Of course, not every god can be killed, and even if it can, it won’t be easy. It was under this mindset that we were curated from the Foundation’s ranks and drafted into an experimental program to create a Task Force of effective, efficient, heavily-modified soldiers.

For the past thirty hours, we’ve been staked out in Hollusov, Oklahoma. Minor nexus, size of a small town with a large population of some offshoot sect of mekhanites. You’ve probably never heard of it. We’re usually pretty easy to spot, given the heavy armor, shimmering glyphs, and cybernetics, but here we actually manage to blend in some, or at least as well as four nine foot tall metal-bodied super-hulks oozing sin-juice from every aspect of their being possibly can. One woman must’ve stared for a minute straight, as if it’d illuminate her on what exactly we were if she kept looking.

Hollus’ central plaza is organized into a grid, with a beryllium-bronze statue of Bumaro at the center and several places of worship adjacent to it. Amputation temples, standard service houses, and a large spire overlooking the town. Everything shines a steely, reflective gray, polished continuously by fluid-slate technology installed on every structure. I’m loitering near the statue, on my knees and pretending to pray alongside several other pilgrims paying homage to their church’s leader. In reality, I’m running a cerebellum-reset diagnostic in case the initial outburst of deitiec action causes my perception to sink, which, given the miracles involved in pulling that off correctly at a fast enough speed, is a prayer in its own right.

Temmon-Auqer is positioned on the top floor of a steel-plated spire that overlooks the main square, where they can see an overview of the Akiva levels of the entire nexus. Soe-Qaddov, the fortune-teller angel, is crouched on the power-cable basilica’s rooftop, aiming a miniature railgun driven by the dreams of their endless sleep. Their REM patterns feed into a terminal for the four of us to analyze and digest, predicting hundreds of potential outcomes each second, as well as the likelihood they occur. It’s through these ruminations we know the potential to collapse the surrounding area into its own afterlife without a prosecutor is unusually high. We’ll be careful.

Rah-Vavon, lacking any modifications save for a series of Scranton Reality Anchor braces and restraints around their limbs, sits on a park bench across from me. He’s toying with some sort of mechanical rabbit, though I’m not sure when or where he found it. Hopefully it’ll scurry away before the force of 10 trillion weaponized exegesis-class humes warp its copper exterior into microwaved aluminum. I mean, it can’t, but for Rah’s sake, I hope he doesn’t have to see it. He’s already reluctant about being used.

Not me though, never me. Maybe it’s the prayers brute-forced into my brain, or the feeling of being the epitome of man’s spiritual dominance, but I have never felt guilt or shame for my actions on the field. I’m almost certain that it’s been programmed out of me. Possibly by my own request. Funny how memory works when you’re in control of your consciousness.

Seventy-thousand alarms go off at once. Numbers flash before my eyes. Red-class threat, blood pattern unregistered; a reserve of divine power cramped into an incongruous form. Here comes our god. Sorry, our “C-Class Akiva-Saturated Thoughtform”.

A minor deity of various names that served as a god of blacksmiths, mining, metallurgy, and at one point in an obscure Mesoamerican settlement, fruits. For the past few months, the entity’s been seeding itself, as forgotten gods tend to do, in order to disperse its divine influences upon the surrounding area. This is how religion is born, how sects and branches fall from the sacred trees of their father faiths, and how an unsuspecting, happy town of old Mekhanites finds itself engaged in a spiritual civil war a few months from now. If left unchecked. Usually, a lower-ranked deity attempting to assert some control over an area of mass, uniform faith isn’t a cause for concern, but when dealing with the Church of the Broken God or other anomalous religions, the board prefers to stay on the safer side of things, keeping the faith as-is. The department classified the entity as Nephilim-09, “Macriel”, and it will be an absolute pleasure eradicating every trace of its divine footprint from this reality.

Temmon, positioned from the spire, warns me that Macriel is within our parameters, that the Akiva levels are rising without a clear indication of where the spike is coming from. Nothing unexpected when dealing with pluripresence, even of the tiniest degree. But the fact that Macriel is even engaging with us tells a lot. An almighty god will outlast its opponents, a cornered one will fight. Maybe we’re a challenge to it? An opportunity to prove its strength after centuries of doubting itself. Maybe it knows that if it doesn’t come to us, we’ll start interrogating its few followers, revealing its rituals and prayers to larger, hungrier beings, or worse, start systemically corrupting its methods of worship and fundamentally changing its nature against its will. Yeah, fighting us is idiotic, but there is far more at stake if it refuses to. Another massive Akiva spike. Something triggers the nervous sensors in my stomach to tell me I should be feeling nauseous. Hello, forgotten devil.

A cacophony of struggling trumpets rock my body and barrel through the streets, no; into the streets. They’re coming from beneath. Feedback on the terminals, but we’re still clear. I tune into the bodies of my team, and they feel it too. If we could, we would collectively vomit. Thoughts sling back and forth between the four of us, running equations, checking equipment. It all happens in a split second, as I leap to the ground from my kneeled position and immediately fly back into the base of the statue behind me.

Here’s the trick to fighting an intangible being: make it tangible. Without missing a beat, seven spore-based dampeners fire off inside the square. The trumpets are more like rocks now, bashing against our collective consciousness. Slowly, we see the outline of something, an indescribable shape unlike anything around it, being forced into this world against its will. It flickers, fighting an impossible battle against the pull of reality to confine to its rules. It’s beginning to learn that it’s no God. Soe-Qaddov, whose thoughts sink into ours, unconsciously fires anywhere between zero and one slugs into the outline. Their aim is calculated to account for every geometrically sacred weakness, and hits without issue. The bullets make contact, anchoring the beast to the location, overwhelming it with a concentrated holy transgression that forces it into a shape.

A series of inter-linked, blacksteel ovals connected to a top-heavy silver-rock shelved land-mass of impossible earth, floating twelve feet above the ground and extending at least forty. It shines, it folds, it scintillates and sparks, but most importantly, it screams. The trumpets are now screams, and our god can feel pain. Soe’s onslaught continues, an unending salvo of bullets to keep the target staggered. Macriel lashes out, slinging its extending cable-like chains in a circular fashion, but before it can wreck any of the surrounding terrain, Rah-Vavon outstretches his arms and sheds his human form. The reality anchors pop, unlock, and dissipate from existence. Our brains fire and overheat in an attempt to keep up with the change in space. We’re somewhere lower than we were before, where time stops giving a shit. Here, we have everything we need. There is no Hollusov, there are no civilians, just perception-engines, Akiva levels, and the imprinted, pre-programmed directive that I need to punch this god in the face, metaphorically speaking.

I charge forward, palms open, unleashing a barrage of faith-based ammunition from the two built-in cannons inside my arms. I grab one of Macriel’s chains and pull down, swinging the beast into the ground while refusing to let up on my arm’s attack. Temmon-Auqer, who has been processing over one thousand rituals over the past two seconds, transmits a signal directly to the symbolized representation of our fight. Macriel begins to fizzle, and its screams turn to sputtered chokes.

A stinging sensation shoots up my left arm as I unsheath a blessed dagger, sharp enough to penetrate Macriel’s Ishan Barrier and pierce its barely formed skin. Soe’s calculations pinpoint a softer part of its metaphysical shell towards the underside of the mass making up the top half of the entity. Without prompting, Rah further centralizes the reality sink to Macriel’s location, trapping the forgotten god against what would be the square’s metal pavement. I run forward, stepping over chain-link tendrils and making my way to Macriel’s center. My blade bounces back, forced away from slicing due to the Barrier’s strength. With precision, I carefully carve a series of sigils intended to soften Macriel’s presence. The barrier gives. A wave of light splashes my armor - first blood.

I cleave and slice, turning the knife deeper into Macriel’s skin. When suddenly, I’m not. One of Macriel’s chains launch me away, slamming my head against what should be a building. In a split second, the god has regained aviation, and is actively fighting Rah’s anchor-induced safehaven. I can feel my perception of time returning, the feeling of pain surges through every remaining receptor in my body. Temmon and Rah feel it too, and Soe’s stirs send a rush of discomfort through our shared consciousness. Metal works itself back into the shape of Hollusov’s square, and coloration returns to the sky. I’m on my feet, my body is here, and Macriel is elevating itself into the sky, no doubt to fire off a damning display of raw, divine power. Rah’s reserves are depleted, and using another reality sink would most likely erase the few traces of consciousness he has left. In this moment, we are once again reminded of what we are fighting.

But Macriel stops. Something is wrong. This realization doesn’t come slowly, as it would a person, but suddenly, as the entirety of the god’s mass drops into the square as if being crushed from above by a weight. The screams are back, and I silently thank Soe for timing this properly. Macriel’s Akiva levels are lower than before, but the filter is overcrowded by masses of energy shining from every building, as far as we can see.

Today is a Mekhanite holiday. The anniversary of Bumaro’s battle at the golden walls of Amoni Ram. A service far larger and more powerful than anything Macriel has ever mustered up in the entirety of its lifespan. We planned our assault concurrently with the great prayer of enhancement, the divine importance of which pins Macriel to the ground. Every Mekhanite in the nexus is engaged in prayer, in a showing of grace to their god, one that is not Macriel. It doesn’t just scream anymore, it shrinks, becoming more tangible than it ever has been. An Akiva rating is barely detectable, and now, we don’t have to hold back.

I run towards the god, my entire body fueled by open displays of faith across the nexus. Temmon and Soe continue to fire, this time penetrating its Barrier. Closer. Closer. Here. The dagger shimmers, extending and vibrating against Macriel’s shell. Further and deeper, until my nerves inform me that I’ve reached its core. I thrust my hand into the wound, letting my now-overheating cannon, powered by the church services around me, finally unload. Macriel’s form mutates and stretches, brimming with power it can’t handle. A final cleave across sends it over the edge, and a shockwave of radiation pours from its body, a final cry that it may be remembered by the world. The corpse transforms into a bubbling mass, some parts searing and disappearing into the fabric of all things, others cementing as worldly objects.

Finished. Not a word was exchanged between us. What’s left will be transferred back for research. Once again, I am reminded of that adage. It is true that a man could not do this. In order to kill a god, you must become one.

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