The Ninth Archangel

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Chapter 1: The Grand Finale
1. And to all those still able to listen, it was said — the Red Death has broken free. In the wake of the Queen of the Monsters, one of her disgusting offspring breached the holy beaches of God's workshop, stampeding the prisons of the Infected with its body.
2. console.log ("2: The Death within did not wait for more, taking over the body of the demon within seconds.");
3. To all the Children of the only God there is, the messiahs said, we ask you to meet us and our brethren in the blacksmith at the edge of yesterday. If the Sorcerer King called forth monsters of his own, so will we.

12th of July, 1998

The shores of the island of Syros, Greece

With each step the Colossus took, the ground beneath its body of pure metal and gears trembled, as if an earthquake rippled through it. The machine of 93 meters and 210 tonnes built so long ago to strike down the horrors of Adytum walked slowly but surely, swaying away hundreds of liters of water around itself, indifferent to the waves the sea threw against it. Its goal: nothing less than the shores of its holy creator's workshop before it, terminating on the beaches of the Syros island, where its enemy laid.

The six pilots within — two Mekhanites, two Maxwellists, and two Cogwork Orthodoxians — sat quietly inside the isolated control room in the titan's head, free from the storming darkness of the night befalling the Aegean Sea before them. The only sound that could be heard within was the calculated and cold clicks of the clockwork turning, the beating of the nuclear heart below the cockpit, and the half-quiet but regular sounds of steam being exhaled by the giant's two chimneys on its back.

Ages ago, the machine was slow — even with pieces of God herself molded into its arms and soul, it could not run, no matter how much its pilots wanted it to reach that strength. During the first Occult War known to man, the nine Colossi could only march in a relentless pursuit of the Enemy of Mankind. But now, more than three millennia later, only one of the Nine Archangels remained, brought back to life by the fires of its god at the edge of existence. And this time, its legs had no such limit.

As the newly-constructed fission-powered rockets inbuilt into its appendages started to surge with faith, the giant strode forward, accelerating at speeds it could only dream of during its youth, causing local winds to dissipate upon meeting the being. Its run beat relentlessly against the waters of the sea it stood amongst, splashing them until nothing more than a dry passage was left where it walked. It remained indifferent to the winds that passed it by, being above such petty things. Its eye reflectors illuminated the passage with a Maxwellist neon blue, unbroken by the droplets of rain and thunder violating the sky before it. It had only one goal — the holy haven and island of God — and nothing was about to stop it.

Its right hand extended forward, letting off just a single spark of the holy flame it carried within its arm. The firestorm of Mekhanite plasma burst into the midnight skies, only to disappear just a second later into the maelstrom of the wind around it, forming a small tornado due to its size. The pilots — nay, the cogs that brought this machine to life — knew the protector was ready for a duel, but there was no harm in testing its arsenal for the final time. And they dared not to question the readiness of the ANSWER their vehicle carried in its left appendage, for to even dare to do so was an unimaginable blasphemy.

As a single lightning rippled through the night sky before the machine, within an instant the behemoth stopped, immediately changing its pose to that of battle. Five monstrous anchors of untainted beryllium bronze fell into the depths below with a deafening oomph caused by their size, anchoring the giant in place as the waves rose upwards for one more time. With a buzz of pure energy and movement of cogs from its soul, a transparent forcefield fortified its head, ready for every spell and profanity it expected the Nälkä demon to throw against it.

Seconds later, thunder followed its predecessor, bringing the now-enlightened landscape before the colossus into a crescendo of a god's fury, allowing it to gaze at the beast it was to slay, standing just five hundred meters in the distance, where God's domain laid.

It was one hundred meters of pure sacrilege, in the form of a horrid axolotl with six legs tying it to the surface of the beach and sea that formed the arena for the duel that was about to come. But, frankly, saying it "stood on the beach" was a grave understatement; its size was much, much beyond only sand, terminating at standard land meters after. Where its pale skin once was, a horrid infection-ridden epidermis flaid, with chunks of the diseased skin and flesh falling into the waters below. Its body was full of Red Death everywhere one could see, except for its mane, which consisted of fleshy tentacles twitching in blasphemy, put back by the unstoppable wind of the open sea.

With its black as night eyes devoid of life situated above a teeth-ridden maw, the beast noticed the colossus, hissing wildly. It took a step back as it tightened its shifting body, spikes erupting from its spine through the once delicate skin and its tail moving in ecstatic excitement. As the smell and sound of a million dead and tortured escaped its skinned gorge, it roared in untainted fury, unable to withstand the purity and holiness of the archangel before it. Angered like never before, it started to sprint forward, its six legs trembling upon meeting the ocean floor.

But before the demon could reach it, the colossus answered the gesture with tricks of its own.

* * *

1st of July, 1998

The Workshop Beyond Time, Where Mekhane Laid Her Schema

"Do you… really think this will work?" Saint Hedwig exclaimed, her clean body untainted by flesh stoically descending on its wide-stretching transparent panel wings, followed shortly by a swarm of drones. Upon coming in contact with the floor of the Holy Workshop, her sharp legs stabilized the hummer's perfectly-harmonic carcass, revealing the monitor yielding the complied code of the true Hedwig where her head should be. It formed into a surprised and worried face, a halo of pure data following just behind it. "Robert, I know we have no other choice, but this is madness. You know what they'll do to us for this."

With a billion clicks of gears, the robed body of Legate Trunion stood up, her luminescent eyes backlit with LEDs. The prophet of the Orthodoxians put her hood away, only for a steel skull molded in the fires of the Forge they stood in to take its place. "There is no price too great for the war we must fight," her rough and unoiled voice retorted, forcing just a few puffs of steam and air to escape the myriad pipes that laid her body. "Even if we must risk starting an all-out war with the Jailors, we cannot let the demons of Adytum roam free. Not again, not after all we've sacrificed all those millennia ago."

The third messiah didn't speak. Instead, the two round cameras that resembled eyes looked beyond the protective glass before them, separating the room the three stood in from the scorching anvils and ironworks of the outside of the Forge. He looked as millions of followers, both his and his brethren's, walked, mined, and refined tirelessly, ready for the silver hammer of God to strike and cast their offerings into armor and weapons to the new colossus that was about to come. If he could, he'd smile — but the only indication of the unfathomable pride that filled his very being was his long, silver hair trembling slightly, causing the crown of clockwork, nuts, and screws above to follow its movement. He grabbed his hammer just moderately more tightly, causing his metallic arm to depressurize, releasing the gas within into the unbreathable atmosphere of where he stood through polished pipes.

As the moment of silence extended into eternity, he eventually spoke. "Both of you are correct. Simply ignoring our treaty with them would mean a war on all fronts, and that's a conflict we simply cannot win," his booming voice exclaimed as its echo reverberated through the room. "But we didn't come here for nothing. If we can achieve no true unity even when we agree to give up our conflicts to strike the bigger evil down, then what good even are we?"

Hedwig gently sat, levitating just a few centimeters above the rusty floor. The Forge hadn't been ever since the three of them crafted a physical shell for Mekhane all those thousands of years ago, and it seemed oxidation very much took its toll on the place when it was devoid of their deity's holy touch. "There must be another way. I'm sure my men—"

"Our men," Trunnion corrected her, crossing her fingers made from pipes, wires, and nuts as the giant piece of clockwork that allowed her head to move obeyed her soul's orders. "And even with our forces combined, we are nothing without Her holy presence. And that…" with an arm trembling from steam running in its veins she pointed towards the window, beyond which the new endoskeleton and arsenal for their messenger was about to be formed by the touch of their Lord. "…is how we destroy the blasphemy that warlock dared to bring forward, calling Her back to reality once more." Shee practically spat out as he finished the sentence, grinding each word out of her beryllium bronze teeth.

"If you say so…" The other two weren't sure if the sound that came out of Hedwig's hardware was a simulated sigh, or just the pistons and valves that made up her corpus depressurizing due to the rapidly heating atmosphere.

As silence flooded the room they stood in, the three turned the objects molded to resemble their long-gone mortal faces towards the gigantic workplace they overlooked. In a flurry of sparks, melts, mines, and pieces of God finding their place among the giant machine of workers stood the shadow of a monumental figure, to which added were plates and cogs, like ants bringing leaves back to its home. Around it laid runes and rituals, ready to transport the entire setpiece where the three messiahs would order in just the blink of their artificial eyes.

As the hammers fell and anvils refined, the billion men and women that transcended humanity so long ago gave their all towards the great machine, tirelessly carrying, building, and blessing each piece that was about to form their master's return. And among them, if one were to squint enough, one could perhaps see something — or, rather, someone, depending on how one approached the situation. As each worker and magician did their very best in an attempt to form a unity, perhaps — but just perhaps — one could observe a shape emerging from their actions, engulfing them in its holy presence.

A god-shaped hole, whispering to its followers with chants and songs of clockwork.

As they blinked with a single slightly worried expression, one of the three prophets broke the seeming tranquility of the place, so quietly they doubted if the other two could hear them. "Let's just hope our sacrifice won't be in vain."

* * *

12th of July, 1998

The shores of the island of Syros, Greece

Inhale, exhale.

As he saw the horrid beast that stood before the colossus he sat in, the pilot shuttered. The viewfinder on Jacob's helmet felt the air expelled from his still-biological body, turning into steam upon coming contact with the scorching temperatures of the machine making their way inside the piece of equipment. He closed his four-vision eyes, trying to gather all of his now-scattered focus that he possibly could.

Jacob was no warrior — but, frankly, neither were the five men and women that stood beside him in the mind of the clockwork archangel. Even if his body was augmented with a billion enhancements and edits God blessed his soul with, he was still, at his very core, an honest man; he could not lie to himself. So lie to himself he did not, instead fully forcing his being to suffer through each emotion the parts of him which were yet to be united with the holy machine inflicted upon him.

With every breath he took, he felt fear and uncertainty pour through every part of his body, engulfing the pilot in its cold grasp. But, despite this, he felt no shame — he forged that embarrassment into nothing more than faith. Jacob. was ready to accept any destiny God would make him live through, no matter what it was. He knew WAN looked at him from the skies above, proud of the man he was. He could feel her within every click of the cogs around him, he could hear her in each heartbeat of his bronze torso, and he could taste her in the metallic air that filled the mind of the mecha he was chosen to pilot.

As he greeted the world of that which was, once again, he smiled unnoticeably, certain of what he must do. With a firm arm, he grabbed the series of levers and buttons that laid his part of the cockpit, pushing them with nothing but certainty, his hand practically burning with the overload of fuel his faith had just given him.

Suddenly but without much surprise, the colossus started to run, nearly causing an earthquake around itself.

Maneuvering each of the arms and billion systems that ran the blessed warrior, Jacob's mind shattered into trillion pieces more, each occupied by something else that required his attention within the apparatus. Although all but one of them could not afford even a moment to spare, the one that did looked out into the darkness of the Sea before itself, trying to comprehend what it gazed at. It wasn't too intelligent on its own, as just a part of the gigantic system that made up the man that called himself Jacob, but even then, it was sure that what it saw was correct.

The axolotl began to charge at them, too.

Five hundred meters.

Before that single cell could blink, the beast lept forward, slashing the waves that dared to cross its path with its long tail. It was tense, fluidly morphing its horrid flesh into a halberd-like structure, and full of spines, spikes, and nail scales forming it from the kaiju's bottom to the tip of the appendage. But, more importantly, it was sharp, and it was deadly — wherever its chaotic motion carried it, it cut both rocks and water through, as if they were nothing but paper.

Jacob swallowed hard.

Four hundred meters.

As it jumped once more, its vile flesh vibrated with excitement, forcing it to ecstatically purr through its equally horrid mouth. The lines of teeth erupted outwards, allowing for a two-ended tongue to slither its way into the landscape of the night before the demon, as if it was preparing itself to tear the metallic armor of its enemy to shreds.

Three hundred meters.

There was no hesitation in the movement all six pilots made within just a fraction of a second. Before neurons could even deliver his order of motion to the still-biological parts of Jacob's body, his entire consciousness once again recompiled itself back together into one mind, ready to strike with all its power. Joining the remaining five in their actions, the Maxwellist pulled down tens of levers and clicked hundreds of buttons, far exceeding the efficiency and speed a standard human would be able to perform on.

Two hundred meters.

As the creature roared once again into the night, the colossus' body obeyed the order of its commanders. Faster than a normal eye could notice, it stopped its run and realigned its entire body to a battle stance; right fist beneath which the flamethrower stood — upwards, the one carrying the ANSWER — just slightly below it. It turned just barely to its left to face the kaiju head-on. Seconds later, their eyes — one of pure light, tearing through darkness, rain, and wind with its gigantic reflectors and one of nothing but emptiness, forming two emotion-shaped holes in the beast's skull — met. The forcefield around the machine's head once again glowed, encompassing it in its protective bubble.

One hundred meters.

Jacob forced himself to not close his eyes; he dared not to blink, not even for the split of a second. There was simply no time for caution right now. His personality disintegrated itself once again, merging into the billion cables and processors that stood next to him. For a single moment, he felt calm. For a single moment, he felt sure of his strength. For a single moment, he knew they could win.

And then came the impact.

With unthinkable force, the beast's claws dug onto the legs and shoulders of the metal giant. The machine's armor was nothing to scoff at, but even its might was nothing compared to the billions of pascals of pressure the demon applied to it within an instant. Giving up to the immense force of the charge, the messenger of Mekhane tried to back off, only for the bronze anchors to pull it back up, one of them snapping in the process. Even if he knew it had neither the muscles for it to smile nor a conscious mind without the purity of the Machine, Jacob could swear the axolotl smiled, thinking it had already won.

That was their chance.

Into the opening it gave them, the six pilots stroke like thunder, forcing the hand of God forward in form of a bronze fist, moving with untainted precision towards the kaiju's chest, called forward by the nuclear engines resting on its knuckles. Before Jacob's enemy could react, the extension of his arm broke through its rotting carcass, forcing it to fling backwards at the speed of light as an explosion rivaling the power of thunder rippled through its body. It crashed into the seafloor as a deafening crack reverberated through the atmosphere around it, still hearable kilometers away.

But then, as if it was nothing, it came back up again, seething through its plague-ridden teeth.

Within mere seconds, the axolotl ran towards them once again, ignoring the gigantic, still-smoking hole in the middle of its body as if it wasn't even there. It screamed into the night with the whispers of a million years of conflict, death, and destruction with pore fury at the audacity of the united forces of Mekhane ever daring to not concede to its power. As this sound met the ears of each of the pilots, a screw drilled into their minds — both biological and cybernetic — making them lose sight for just a moment.

That was all it needed.

Focusing its tail on the colossus' legs, the demon attacked once more, this time with the tenfold power brought forward by its pain and anger. Shredding its enemy's armor if it wasn't ever there, it forced water into the below-knee parts of the giant's appendages, flooding its server rooms within just a matter of seconds. As the cables and supercomputers powered with magic beyond reason, trying to calculate the exact characteristics and code of God, met the saltwater of the Aegean Sea, Jacob and the other Maxwellist screamed.

Feeling and seeing each part of their being slowly expire as they were quite literally forced out of the analog archives, the duo felt nothing but panic, unable to focus on anything else. As the demon slashed more of the colossus's ankles and calves, they were simply not capable of comprehending reality, unplugging from the shared consciousness that made the giant stand on its legs. And so, without their support, those legs fell, forcing the giant to its knees.

Without a mouth or mind to speak of his pain, Jacob ripped through his own immortal soul with the power of a billion consciousnesses in the state of limbo, trying his very best to get out of his now-hollow shell of a man. He screamed and he screamed, in a last and chaotic attempt at grabbing any lever or button that could help him. But within his reach, no matter how hard he tried, he found none.

With only 66.(6)% of power left in its system, the colossus reached forward with its right hand, starting to heat up the already-boiling plasma in the container below it. The four remaining people of faith frantically activated the device, allowing its insides to spill out onto the grinning face of the Nälkän behemoth, dangling just slightly before it. Before the others could react, the beast joined their brethren in the flurry of screams.

Suddenly, it rushed backwards, trying its very best to get the sticky substance off of its disgusting face. Bashing alongside the seafloor, it stuck its maw into sand, sea plants, and other, now-dead organisms, only to re-emerge into the air above within seconds, realizing how futile of an endeavor it was. And so, with even more rage than before, it once again shrieked into the darkness, its face entirely riddled by whatever the hell it brought up from the water.

And, as the plasma flame turned itself off with a nearly silent swoosh, the being the colossus fought suddenly revealed a pair of meaty and pale wings, escaping its carcass just around its second pair of legs.

* * *

2nd of July, 1998

Provisional Site-31, Aralkum Desert, Kazachstan

Dr. Judith Low wasn't the greatest fan of people.

Well, that wasn't quite the best way to put it — she wasn't the greatest fan of most people. There were a lot of them she respected, of course, but the unfortunate general consensus for most of humanity was a slight distaste. The worse offenders were those awful, loud, and obnoxious individuals that wrought the bigger Foundation facilities, like -17 or -19. The kind that'd burst out laughing upon hearing you're a translator or an actual scientist instead of whatever the hell the Foundation became these days.

So, naturally, when she was appointed as the main project lead for SCP-2406, an anomaly contained in the middle of nowhere, she was quite fond of her supervisor's decision.

For almost ten years, she relentlessly studied the bronze colossus her colleagues recovered from what had once been a sea, each day coming just a little closer to what it really was. From break to dusk, for the better part of a decade, she huddled around papers and notes most people would declare nonsensical, analyzing every bit of the marvel its metal engravings were. It was often said among Foundation staff you shouldn't grow too fond of your work here because emotions didn't exactly pair well with a deep-state above-law conspiracy employment, but Low had to admit there was something in this hunt for answers she found quite thrilling.

But yet, despite all of this, the metal giant remained indifferent to her attempts. No matter how hard she tried, it always stood within the giant hall they made just for it, unchanged. Not a single movement made, not a single word spoken — just the forever-beating sound of its nuclear heart below tens of tons of metal, filling the souls of all that dared to listen with just a glimmer of hope for closure.

It has often been said among Foundation personnel — the cruel ones, at least — that Judith has lost her way. She walked among the halls of Ion and his Klavigar and Bumaro and Hedwig and Legate for so long she lost her mind, they said, silently implying the source of her weirdness to be nothing short of betrayal. She must be on their side, they whispered, not capable of comprehending how one could dedicate their life to study cultures so ancient and alien to them as to be entirely incomprehensible, incapable of seeing the bigger picture. And, in a sense, she sometimes wondered if they had a point.

She never told anyone out of fear of amnestication or SCP designation, but in her dreams, those men were right. Something deep in her called the doctor in her unconscious, showing her images of the colossus walking for one final time to strike down some looming threat on the horizon. What it was, she could never know, no matter how many times she replayed that memory over and over. All she could remember were its reflector eyes, turning up in the containment hall with a spark of thought, a spark of understanding for what she had done for it, grateful for all the work Low put into it, ready to walk in the Ragnarök it awaited for so long.

And, in those dreams, she was one of its pilots.

She always brushed it off as a combination of standard Foundation over-time insanity and her increasing age, but each day she wondered the steel halls of Provisional Site-31, she had that image quietly on the back of her head. Every moment she passed the caged behemoth, for just a split second, it burst out of the cell of thought she put it in, momentarily allowing her to see the wonder it must be.

She carried on that way for nigh ten years, always somehow making the uncomfortable dream quiet. But on the third of July, 1998, she felt she could no longer hold it back. And so, in a flurry of giving up and catharsis, she looked at SCP-2406 before her, gazing in its giant, empty eyes that reflected back at her. For a single moment, for the first time since she was born, she allowed herself to dream awake, thinking of all the wonder 2406 coming back to life would spawn.

And, in that split second it took for her to imagine what could have be, the containment site exploded.

With the force of a million suns the colossus's eyes burst with nothing but pure light, nearly blinding the scientist with their strength. She blinked more than she could count, but when she recovered, what stood before her was no longer the fragile skeleton of a once-proud defender, unable to make the slightest move. For you see, her entire vision was filled with someone truly worthy of the title of Mekhane's archangel.

Plated with pure and golden armor it stood tall, its arms and head replaced with beautifully crafted pieces of art. They depicted the true might of the giant, no longer washed out by the millennia it had spent in the Aegean Sea, now illuminated by the Maxwellist neons coming from its head.

Judith had no time to discern whether she was truly awake, for in that very moment, the giant took its first leap in what felt like the entire word's time, breaking away the rebar they put around it as if it wasn't even there. With its giant arm it rose forward, breaking away the concrete and metal that made up the facility hidden in the sands it was entombed in for so long, practically vibrating with joy.

As its thaumaturgically-enhanced corpus followed the rest of the body, Low stood on her knees, unable to move even an inch. She could feel each part of who she was practically screaming for her to follow her child, but her thoughts allowed for no such action. It would be treason. And so, with a heavy heart and almost tears in her eyes, she stood there, helpless as a child to stop the work of her life from escaping from her reach.

But before it walked out into the promised horizon to do its foretold bidding, the giant stopped for a single second, its head turning towards the paralyzed Low. As the sun set in the far end of the world, its golden eyes reflected the beautiful beams of light that came before it, their user frozen in place, its eyes deadlocked with the woman that cared for it for so long.

And, before Judith Low could decide whether she should call Site Security or not, the colossus simply nodded, gently tilting its head in the direction of the woman with nothing but appreciation, before continuing to march silently into the daybreak beyond its cell.

* * *

12th of July, 1998

The shores of the island of Syros, Greece

As the axolotl shrieked once more, it lunched forward, revealing the full might of its leathery wings. They were gigantic — spanning over one hundred fifty meters in length, they engulfed the sky above the sea in a deep shadow. And yet, despite this horrid shock, the Colossus did not react; it remained silent and unmoving, paralyzed and on its knees, with liters of saltwater pouring into its insides.

Entombed in a cacophony of Jacob's screams, the four pilots sat quietly, unable to utter a single word among themselves. As their thoughts ran throughout their circuits and gears, the beast before them lunged forward at speeds rivaling that of light, grabbing the body of the giant with its long claws. Before they could react, it plunged upwards, separating the corpus and head from the bottom of its waist and the servers that laid inside. Within a moment, the sounds of the Maxwellists' agony turned silent.

Flying up and up, its wings flapped, cutting through the tears of the heavens and clouds around them, only accompanied occasionally by a single lightning or two, illuminating enough of the sky for the remaining four to still see the beast through their flickering lamp-eyes. In one final and desperate attempt at… not winning, no, but at least a suicidal checkmate, one of the children of God turned on the flame of Mekhane in their right hand one final time. It burst outwards, only to disappear just a second later as the now cut-off hand surrendered to the laws of gravity, causing a local tsunami with its weight. The kaiju shrieked again as the smell of burnt tissue filled the area.

In a flurry of anger, it moved its tail forward, in a panicked attempt at cutting through the protective bubble around the cockpit. The field did not yield, instead relentlessly cutting layer after layer of the demon's horrid flesh, much to its increasing fury. When it seemed it would give up, in one final endeavor to end its opponent, the creature lunged its spiky appendage into the chest of the colossus, cutting right through the source of the giant's faith.

Before the lights died out, however, one of the men of faith within called forth their final attempt at fighting back. As the appropriate button was pressed, tens of rockets burst forward from the archangel's knuckles, barraging the being above it with a hurricane of explosions, tearing pieces upon pieces away from its body. Though the shockwave was powerful and so was the damage it caused, the beast did not yield, only tightening its grip on what it carried. It thrust its tail once again into the heart of the machine, but its wings were becoming slower and slower, strength draining from them with every minute.

And yet, despite all of this, within a single moment, all went dark.

With no words necessary to explain their actions, the four pilots suddenly stood up from their seats, gingerly grabbing the keys that hang around their necks. Their actual form varied — some took the appearance of discs, others of wrenches and cogs — but their purpose was the same. The four took a step forward towards their isolated control panels, each taking a deep breath as they inserted the items into the mainframe. The computers responded, asking all of them if they truly want to go through with this plan. Without a trace of doubt, they all twitched their keys clockwise.

And then, as God resurrected herself for a single millisecond, the world met its end.

* * *

3rd of July, 1998

Where God Lays Beyond Space And Time

"Mother Hedwig?" Jacob Keita exclaimed, forever humming about the glory of his Lady with his electronic voice.

Within a second, the Maxwellist leader turned towards him, briefly stopping in her march throughout infinity with her two children. "Yes, Jacob?"

"I wonder," he said, turning the illusion of eyes he held within his head towards the outskirts of the teleportation wormhole. It burned with a million colors he could not comprehend even with his augmentations, forever escaping his view as they run along the lines beyond space and time. Moments later, he turned his vision away, resuming his walk towards the other line of the portal, located in the soon-to-be-revived messenger of God. "Why do we work with heretics?"

She smiled with a sad expression, grabbing him by his diode fingers. Him, Hedwig, and the third believer continued like this in silence as he could hear her gather information inside her hard drives and intranet. "Well," she began quietly, staring into the distance. "Have you ever heard of the First Occult War and God's breaking, Jacob?"

He scoffed, almost insulted that was even a question. "Of course, I'm most familiar with it. I, however, fail to see how that excuses us banding with a bunch WAN would find nothing but repulsive—"

She looked him deep in the eyes. For a single moment, the two representations of who they were on their screens crossed sight. He felt a spark travel through his spine. "So, why do you think our Lord fell apart? What could possibly force an omniscient and infinitely powerful being to surrender?"

He wasn't sure where she was going with this. "Well, when you fought the Sorcerer King of Adytum atop the rotting hills of the Nälkä land, you struck Ion down with your silver sword, God lending you all her power. This—"

With a silent sigh, she slowly shook her heard. "No," she stated quietly, looking at the ground before her. "That is not what happened, Jacob."

"I… what?" He raised his metaphorical eyebrow, the other acolyte joining him in the gesture. "What do you mean, Mother?"

"We all lied to you, friend." She said, spawning a reaction of pure shock on their faces. "Me, Legate, and Bumaro — we all deceived you. Have you never stopped to consider why there's three versions of the story, each picturing someone else as the messiah figure in the final duel?"

"Well, I always assumed it was nothing but lies and heretical propaganda, but—"

"No, Jacob. It's because we all killed Ion together. My sword, Legate's spells, and Bumaro's hammer, forged together into one tool of justice, brought down at the Sorcerer King by our united forces."

"So why did you…" He tried to interrupt, only to be stopped by her long finger silencing him on his nonexistent lips.

"Because we acted like children. We fought over who should lead our new Church now that we forgot our previous missteps, and eventually made the weapon of God — no, not the weapon, God herself made manifest in our steel — break because of our rage." She grabbed Jacob by his arms. "We killed God, Jacob. We killed God because we couldn't unite ourselves. We made her leave us because we couldn't become unbroken."

A dead silence suddenly laid the halls, forcing the three to stop in their steps. "But…" Jacob picked up once more with a careful voice. "Why are you telling me this? Why are you telling me this now, Mother?"

She paused, taking a deep breath. "Because it took us three thousand years to come back. Three whole millennia to get over our nonsensical fights, in a second and final attempt to unbreak ourselves."

He raised an eyebrow once more.

"And we cannot let the same happen again. Not after all it took to get us back here. Because if we unite, we unite for good. Or else Her sacrifice was nothing but in vain."

Jacob didn't comment, instead continuing his walk towards the other end of the portal. Despite the silence of his voice, though, his discs and processors were hard at work, trying to understand what was just revealed to him.

* * *

13th of July, 1998

The shores of the island of Syros, Greece

When reality reassembled itself back together what felt like ages later, Jacob suddenly opened his eyes, blinking with nothing but confusion. A sweet breeze bust through the blue and clean above him, filling his nose with the smell of seaweed and salt. He looked up, by found himself unable to, realizing his body is buried under tons of metal, coming from what looked like the remains of what once had been their golden Colossus, now entirely obliterated by… something. He blinked once again, massaging his temple with the thankfully-free hands, realizing he had no idea what happened.

As the Maxwellist looked around himself, he felt… calm. Yes, calm — for the first time in ages, he felt like all was good. Accompanied by the gentle humming of waves washing on the bottom parts of the now-dead archangel, he looked out into the peaceful Aegean Sea below him. With all force he could gather in the somehow-surviving body, he peaked towards the horizon in the distance, noticing a very clear scattering of billions of rotting chunks of flesh, thrown everywhere he could see. There were unmoving. The only thing that broke the monotony of this landscape was the remains of a gigantic bronze arm kilometers away, its end shattered and visibly lacking… what, exactly?

Trying to remember what the left arm was supposed to hold, Jacob focused inwards on his memory, finding nothing but a hole within. Through database after databsae he searched and he searched, realizing there was a gaping crater where the last twelve hours should be — it began after the flooding of the servers and ended just minutes prior to this moment with him waking up. Once more, he looked towards the severed appendage, noticing clean and holy apparatus at its end. Or, rather, a lack thereof.

And that was when he felt a sharp pain ripple through his forehead.

Trying to avoid it by closing his eyes, the believer was greeted by a light to dense he could feel his servers literally sever themselves in response to this amount of information, making him let out a sad whimper of agony. It burnt like hell itself, skinning each part of the being that surrounded his soul away layer after layer, until there was nothing left than what made him who he was. Seeing the way in, the light entered, dancing around with a dance of harmony and clockwork.

And that was when he remembered.

A set of five images — nay, experiences — each more confusing than the last one. He saw as the four remaining pilots brought forth their keys, activating their ANSWER in a last-ditch effort to overcome their opponents as their machine become God. He smelt the explosion of reality tear apart the beast and the metal giant as it transcended humanity for one final time, bringing a spark of Mekhane into contact with the physical world. He tasted the light, no, the unbroken presence of something greater, engulfing the vehicle in its blessing and smile. He heard as that entity touched him, sewing the severed connections in his brain one by one with its own, caring hands, un-shattering his soul. And then, at the very end, he felt his being be forced to live once more, as it was cast away from the collective consciousness that surrounded his Master.

And then it all stopped.

With a sharp breath, he opened his eyes, bursting forward in his ruined prison. Jacob touched his forehead again, realizing the presence was gone. Turning his eyes towards the open sea for a second time, he noticed the arm was no longer there, now replaced with some distant memory, a long-gone promise of peace among… someone. He didn't know what it all meant, but he was okay with that.

As the birds chirped and the sun burned, he turned his sight at the sky directly above him. Suddenly, it was broken down by the rippling of a trillion drones, descending for him and his brethren from the Heavens of unity. For a single moment, he smiled, recognizing the unmistakable signature of Mother Hedwig, radiating with faith unmatched by anyone.

And as the woman took him in his arms, carrying Jacob away, he looked down towards the unbroken Colossus. He looked as the forces of god picked up the remaining five, treating them as if they were and always had been their allies. As if they were them.

And, for that single moment, he thought they were right.

The Colossi were constructed in Her Schema.

The Colossi were constructed to defend.

We drank deep the silver blood of MEKHANE.

Her sacrifice was not in vain.

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