"No...I won't be doing any shady stuff like that anymore"
"It's only shady if it's done for a bad cause" -replied Pope while retracting his hand and smirking because he knew the idea behind what he just said was itself shady at best.
"Ends justifies the means huh?...well I used to think that way but not anymore...what's done is done as far as the election goes and the powers that be have got their man in power for better or for worse...truth is I'm actually glad that I lost cause I've got too much going on..like helping Joan Marvel with the East Pittsburgh Woman's Business Development Center, and helping my own wife out with her business which has me learning to be a carpenter of mini-houses of all things"
"And you also spend time trying to convince what few friends you have left in the business community to hire on Trans-people that you know and think are worthy...you've become quite the 'woke' individual"
"Don't use that word on me..." -Allan snapped back- "...'woke' is a term used by people who watch a few youtube videos or follow some shill on twitter and then think they're some kind of nazi hunter and on par with people like my grandfather who fought actual Nazis' in World War 2...if you must put a label on my evolved world view, then I would prefer...enlightened"
"Enlightened huh?...the most magnificent Angel Lucifer enlightened humans from the start and still tries to do so to this day...but you humans take that knowledge you are so kindly given and use it to oppress and subjugate your own kind and even the World that was also kindly given to you"
"Oh never mind that, I'm just rambling...speaking of enlightenment, you wanna know who killed those five civies in Kunduz in April of 2015?...the guy that walked away free as a birdie sporting a big shit-eating grin while Captain Hue and his Special Forces team got hauled before military investigators and the court of public opinion for those deeds?"
"It was one guy?...I thought it was a group of insurgents who killed those people because they were friendly enough with American forces?"
Pope laughed at the perplexed Allan.
"No you silly man!...Captain Hue's team was closing in on an insurgent sniper that was wreaking havoc on our Afghan allies in the area...was really demoralizing their troops to where they were about to fall apart as an effective military unit...one guy out of the five people who got blasted that night knew and was allied with the sniper and was surely going to alert him of Hue's team coming for him, so the MI (Military Intelligence) operative on the scene keeping tabs on that particular scumbag took out the whole lot of them"
"How did you?...you're amazing finding that out!..." -Allan said after the monumental revelation sank in- "...come and walk with me..." -he motioned for Pope to follow him down to a parking garage that was about as close to completely vacant of people as they were going to get within a reasonable walking distance- "...so tell me the bastard's name...I'll never rat you out as the source but I have to go public with this to conclusively clear Hue, and Marco, and Lance..and the other Green Berets on that team!"
"I won't just tell you, I'll show him to you..because that bastard is me!" -and then he laughed loud and hard; which really threw Allan off and drew out his ire.
"Quit with the broken humor..either you know who the murderer is or you don't!"
"I'm being one-hundred percent serious!...I was there and I killed those people!...then just for shits and giggles I told that idiot Corporal Dey that ODA (Operational Detachment-A) 3331 sent some non-combatants on to their eternal reward on that particular night, and since he was a slacker who was getting his early walking papers by the military and thus had an axe to grind, he of course took the info as gospel truth and ran with it...still don't believe me?...the CIA had me burrow into Military Intelligence, Special Unit: Ultra 55, and my code-name was Death Angel West"
Ultra 55 and Death Angel West immediately perked Allan's interest and sent chills down his spine. The first was a Unit so secret that their existence was only known of by rumor and hearsay. The second was a man, or actually a person, since his/her gender wasn't know by most since that person's existence was likewise only known of by rumors and hearsay. Also his/her affiliation (if any because one of the rumors was that they were a lone wolf mercenary) with any particular group was also not known for certain. Whether the two entities were real or not, the deeds attributed to them were certainly real, and certainly deadly; and it was certain that they cared not for collateral damage no matter how extensive.
"You!...you knew only one of those five people was a baddie but you killed them all?!"
"Well yeaaaah..." -said as if if was the obvious thing to do- "...if I went in there and just shot the guy who was a friend of the household, there would have been a terrible reaction, and I obviously didn't have the time or resources with me to show that the dude was in league with a notorious insurgent...so I just popped them all" -and he finished with a laugh.
Allan poured through his memories.
"There were rumors..." -his voice grew in volume and rage as he rattled-off incidents he had heard about- "...the assassination of General Qiam Khan...the POW massacre at Hill 1133!...THE WHOLE VILLAGE OF KAMTAR!...you kill men who had surrendered and no-longer a threat!...and you took out one or a handful of bad guys but blasted twice as many or more innocents along with them!...and all under the banner of the United States!...that's not how we do things you sorry fucker!"
"Ha!...get off your red, white, and blue high-horse, cause of course blowing away innocents is how America does things!...your grandpa was in WW2 right?...was he part of a bomber crew?"
"No...he was a ground pounding Infantry man..but no, your argument isn't going to fly..."
"Ha ha!...nice pun"
"Shaddup you!...we had to bomb those cities in Japan and Germany to get their factories, otherwise they would have kept churning out tanks, and planes, and munitions which would have dragged out the war and caused even more people to die"
"Oh come on, did you not learn or forget basic military history!?...sure the Allies bombed factories like they should have, but they also fire bombed places just to burn them to ashes...ya know...cause children, women, old people, and cripples contributed SOOOOOOO much to the Axis war efforts!..." -for the first time Pope dropped his sadistic mirth and showed some indignation...but then switched right back around- "...but that's ok...you guys won the war so you were one-hundred percent in the right"
Allan gritted his teeth so hard that if they weren't in perfect health, one or more would have probably cracked; and all because he didn't have a rebuttal to his opponent's hard but true words.
"Well that was then and this is now...and right now you're going to put it down on paper or in a social media post or something what you did in Kunduz..that way there at least is a counter story out there to go against the rumors that idiots still believe about Captain Hue and his men!"
"That's the dumbest thing you've come up with...almost as dumb as you thinking that you could scare Erin 'straight' by having her pretend raped..." -Allan of course had no idea what that meant since the whole sordid affair had been wiped from his mind- "...so what if I don't do such a ridiculous thing and just walk around free with a shit eating grin like I did after I killed those people knowing that those Special Forces sacks of meat were going to face the heat for what I did..." -and to add to the insult, he made the aforementioned obnoxious and exaggerated grin- "...whatcha gonna do about it hero?"
The mocking and taunting were just too much for Allan to handle, and he got into posture for an attack while saying in deadly earnest:
"Well then I'll just have to send you to the next world"
"Nah...I won't be going to the next world...but the same can't be said for you..." -Allan was already in mid-jump before the ex-Angel's statement had ended...and since the two were only a couple of meters apart at the time; when the former lost consciousness was only a few inches beyond that point. And so he fell flat on the pavement at the latter's feet- "...well that's a handy ability" -He casually said before he and Allan vanished.
~ Approximately 200 miles away in a barely known of cave far from human habitation ~
Hubert Van Hauser was pursuing his greatly loved but rarely undertaken hobby of exploring caverns when he saw a burst of pure white light from below him as he was preparing to rappel down from the opening of one cave down to the common section where several cave openings met. Blanking out immediately, he free-fell down a straight drop of about ten meters and then tumbled down sharply sloped but smooth rock another fifteen meters to end up in a rope tangled heap near a small pool of water.
"AW CRAP, I did it again!...and it's the same guy from last time!"
"Last time when you took us to that field you assumed was unoccupied?...do you have something against scanning an area for mortal humans before transporting there?"
"Well we're seriously out in the middle of nowhere at it's most secluded point!..." -the Councilor said while walking over to where Hubert was 'piled'. He healed the man's surprisingly minor injuries and put him in a sitting position; and then he walked back over to where Wang Chung (ex-Purge Angel 13's new name given to him by the Counselor due to that fact that the latter liked the name...ALOT...because of the 80's band; with the former having quite the opposite opinion of it) was, and did a mocking imitation of him- "...anyway...tee hee hee..I killed those four innocent people and one not so innocent person in Afghanistan in 2015...and tee hee hee..I set up a bunch of Army guys for some hard times just for the fun of it...and hee hee ha ha..I did it all with a big shit eating grin..." -and he made that expression- "...see...this is my big shitty grin that I make when I'm eating shit and making life shitty for people for the fun of it..." -he then got back to being serious- "...I send you down to test Mr. Allan Byrne and then collect him for me if he passed that test...but NOOOOO!...you just had to be a bastard, didn't you?!"
"Sorry...these humans just bring the worst out of me" -Wang Chung's words were spoken non-chalantly, but inside he was afraid of facing the ire of such a powerful Angel.
"Well you know what?...you need to 'git gud' at dealing with human beings..mortal or otherwise!"
"'Git gud'?...looks like someone's been immersing themselves a little too deep in the human's improper slang language"
"Well I was one of them after all...so go a bit easier on them...and that's not a request by the way"
"I'll do my best" -Wang Chung said hesitatingly, since he meant what he said but doubted his ability to do so.
"See...all that time with the mortals did rub off on you..cause that's a very human thing to say and an ultimate expression of their true capacity...they can only do the best they can at any given moment...to say any more is to promise too much, and to say any less is to indicate that one is less than human"
"Well then there are tons of less than human humans out there, because for most of them, the idea of putting forth a maximum level of effort to do ANYTHING never enters their minds...some deity, some great leader, some higher-up in some religion, some celebrity, somebody..anybody..is going to do the work they don't want to do to achieve the ends they think they are somehow entitled to...lately the big thing is so called 'social justice'...lazy morons think that 'society' is the one that should and will give what they think is a 'just' end for everybody...but those same idiots will only go as far as retweeting the words of fools on the internet, or at most showing up at some protest to shout down people whose only 'crime' is to have a different opinion...and they think that disrupting their fellow humans from merely speaking their minds will somehow bring about the 'great justice' that they know not shit about but desperately long for" -he would have ranted for much longer, but the hard glare from his superior made him stop and turn his head down.
"Ahem...humans generally want to do what's right by their fellow humans...but there are forces at work in the World that seek to confuse people as to what actually IS right and the means to achieve that end...I'm not excusing willful ignorance or the laziness of those who think that justice is the product of social instead of individual efforts...I want humans to see what is right and to do those things...that's why I created the Babe Protection Force"
WC squinted his eyes and then let out a laugh that he tried to keep in before saying:
"The master of naming things strikes again...Babe Protection Force?...that's just so ridiculous"
"Whatever...I know it's not as cool as the name I gave you (WC's eye twitched at that) but it has a catchiness to it...and anyway..I didn't come up with the name..Mr. Greene did"
"Mini Mussolini came up with that gem of a name?...the guy who though he was going to beat me down with a stick?...seemed to me that he was more on the ball than that"
"Bro...what's important is that I like the name..and since I'm the boss of those guys, it's the name that sticks with them...and since I'm the boss of you, same goes"
"Yeah...so anyway..what does 'protecting babes' have to do mortal humans seeing and choosing to do what's right with their best efforts?"
"No women, no mortal World...in my time as a mortal human, I had been given a vision of a World without females...not long after I got 'translated' into the Host of Heaven where not only do I give excellent names to things (WC rolled his eyes), but I have also taken it upon myself to expose and crush all forms of anti-feminine mischief"
"And you're going to do that with four losers who barely get along with each other?"
"Those four 'losers' are the ones that you'll be assisting and working with every so often, so you BETTER develop a good attitude toward them!..." -he then turned his head towards Allan, who was laid out facing up near the feet of WC- "...and you can get good practice at doing that with this one here...but first I have to do a Special Translation with him...carry the spelunking dude out of here and wait with him till he wakes up...then you'll get transported to where I want you next"
A blue radiant light encased Allan for a mere second, and then it and the man's body simply disappeared; and soon after so did the Counselor.
~ Inside the Counselor's office ~
Except for Winter, the Force members sat and gawked at their surroundings. Barney had an eyebrow up in an exaggerated expression of perplexity while Drew scratched his head a couple of times.
"Man...this place is weird"
"Told you so" -was Winter's response to Barney.
Not long afterwards, the Councilor appeared in an instant standing a few feet in front of the men...a thing which startled them.
"Oh, sorry bout' that...I should have transported into the hall and walked in, which your still mortal senses of things would have been more accustomed to..." -he waited a moment for any responses and then continued- "...so here we are guys...another after-action debriefing after another mission..yeah!"
The Councilor's forced sounding excitement permeated the room but not the four Force members who were cringing on the inside to varying degrees.
Drew: "There's really not much to be happy about with this mission...we failed to keep Erin safe from her father's misfit crew or the wildly extravagant plan of Darren..Angel...thing?"
Winter: "We didn't help the cause of womanhood any, except for helping Erin retain his..her...womanhood, which I suppose counts in the smallest way"
Barney: "We went in with no clear objective and piss-poor intel...in the military, missions built on such shakey foundations always yield less than stellar results, and that's the same case here as far as I see things"
Dru: "Well I had fun...oh but what the others said is true...anyway, Erin's still alive and she's still pursuing her life as a woman...so it was a..success?"
"That's the spirit!...you guys be more like Dru (he pointed at the half Puerto Rican to indicate the Dru/Drew he was talking about) and I, and realize that a glass filled to the middle is halfway full instead of halfway empty!...sure the mission to protect Erin from harm didn't work out...but the add-on mission to keep her from living the lie that she's some kind of manly man from man land was a big thumbs-up (and he gave a thumb-up to emphasize the point)...and womanhood was helped...albeit indirectly...by your wise decision to allow the opportunity for Erin and her dad to reconcile, leading to Allan Byrne becoming a big time advocate for women in business...and he also tries his best to help out select transpeople find employment...sort of a little bonus I'd say..." -the revelation comforted the Force to some degree; especially Drew and Winter- "...and I know you won't ask out loud Barney, but no...I did not sent you down on some made-up mission when the real mission was for you to confront Wang Chung...that's Darren, the former Purge Angel 13's new name by the way..." -Winter sang part of the chorus of the song "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" that was one of the ex-Angel's namesake's hit songs...bobbing his head to the beat as he did so- "...yeah you know it...great song from a great band!...your generation of humans had the best taste in music Winter"
Drew, Dru, and Barney were completely dismayed, having never heard of the band or any of their songs.
"Uhhhhh...so you're trying to say that a fallen Angel was integrally involved with the person who was the subject of the whole mission, and that took you by surprise?" -said skeptically by Barney; with his comrades sharing the same skepticism as indicated by the piercing gazes they all leveled at the Councilor in anticipation of his answer.
"Guys, guys..fallen Angels are a special case, and monitoring them can only be done in an indirect manner...like how you can generally only tell when a fish was in a certain spot because they broke the surface to gobble up a bug on the water...get it?"
"No!..." -snapped back Drew- "...I mean..I'm sure there's some wormhole in the rules of Heaven that a worm like that ex-Angel Darren..."
"Wang Chung, Wang Dang, Wong Dong, I don't care about his stupid name..I care about beings like him causing all sorts of havoc down on Earth, and APPARENTLY..they can't be properly monitored or dealt with unless beings like us run into them by accident!"
"And what makes you think that fallen Angels can't be dealt with?...you saw how I took off his arm"
"You took off my arm too!...and I'm sure someone from this side of reality has run into...Wang Chung..before...and yet he was left to mess with humanity until we encountered him!"
Winter quickly interjected:
"And where is Wang Chung now?...you tryin to tell us that you just gave him a stern lecture and sent him on his merry way amongst the mortal humans?"
After a short moment the Councilor spoke.
"My dudes...I can only do so much when it comes to fallen Angels...Heaven can't take them back...this place can't keep them either...they chose to try their luck in the mortal World so that's where they gotta stay...their goal was to become human or as human as possible...but physically they aren't a part of the World, they're above it...and as far as what humans regard as the moral scale, well they aren't even on it...they're like God in the sense that everything they do is right"
"Bullshit!" -cried Winter.
"You're shittin me?!" -exclaimed Barney
"Can't you just...ZAP! (Dru made a gun shape with his hand and jerked it back and forth like it was firing)...and turn him into a little dust pile?"
"Even a fairly minor Angel can do something to that effect...but that's strictly forbidden..and anyway, they just get reconstituted back into the mortal world if that happens...God is infinitely durable...Angels are parts of God..so they are infinitely durable as well"
"So what are we then?..." -asked Drew with deep concern and fearful of the answer- "...I mean here we thought we were just regular humans with human bodies being transported from here to Earth and back, but underneath the surface, human-looking layer is..." -his brows drew towards each other and he looked pained as he thought of what else to say- "...so are we like some sort of fallen Angels too?"
"No brother, you're not fallen beings like them so don't even stress!" -the Councilor's boisterous and toothy grinned answer took all the heaviness out of the air all at once.
"So what are we even made out of?" -asked Dru
"Well mi amigo, you're all made out of the same stuff that Angels are made out of, just a little different"
"Don't Angels have super hero strength and abilities?"..."If Angels can do no wrong, then what about the things we do?"
Barney and Winter's (respectively) questions were asked nearly simultaneously.
"What?!..." -Barney responded- "...what do you mean no comment!?...you send us off to run operations in the World on your behalf where we might have to face powerful fallen Angels and you don't think we should know if we have the ability to fight back or stop them from committing bad acts?!...as a Commander you should find that unaccepta..."
"I SAID..NO COMMENT!...dude who dared to call me a weak snack..one of the worst insults in Heaven and Earth!...something I advise none of you to ever do again!..." -the Councilor's voice was amplified and reverberated in the room because he had become just that serious...and at the end he and Barney stared each other down, with the latter not showing a hint of ever backing down inspite of knowing that he was vastly outclassed if a throw-down were to ensue. Tensions were astronomically high in the room, but the situation ended in a few seconds when the Councilor snapped back to his usual overly-jovial self and said- "...at least I won't comment on those matters yet, but don't worry my buds...you'll have the physical power to do what you need to do, when you need to do it...or else me and the whole host of Heaven have got your back if you get in a particularly bad spot...I promise...and rest assured that if you're doing what I've told you to do in the commission of your duties during a mission, then you'll morally be in the right...guaranteed!...so ya'll feel better now?..." -he didn't wait for an answer- "...of course you do...now go ahead and rest up cause I got a nice juicy mission all lined up for you..." -after all the Force members had stood, he added as an aside- "...and I was just messin' with you about the weak snack thing...it's not the worst insult...far from it..." -and then he got serious again (though not end of the World, apocalypse serious like before)- "...but don't ever...EVER...tell me I have a nice hat"
Barney, Dru, and Drew were completely dumbfounded by the bizzare statement, but Winter understood it's meaning and significance right away.
"Ohhhhhhh yeah, that's a bad one"
"You know it pilgrim...and I'll know right away if I'm being verbally assaulted cause I hate hats and won't ever wear one"
"Uhhh...you guys mind letting the rest of us in on...the joke?"
"It's no joke Dru B...in my time period people are pretty chill about things..but if you would say to someone, 'yo...nice hat'...number one, they better be wearing a hat...and number two..it better be a nice hat...otherwise you might find yourself on the receiving end of a punch or two, or ten"
"And just a heads-up...no one in the Host of Heaven wears hats or head coverings of any sort, so they likewise don't take too kindly to that insult...so get on outta' here and catch some Zs...you deserve the rest after doing such good work"
After the force members left, the Councilor was going to go check on the condition of his recent 'guest' fresh from the mortal world when what could best be described as a 'pressure' that seemed at once to exert a force to cause one to both explode from within and implode from without befell him. A fear of equal tremendous 'pressure' befell him too...so much so that he...an Angel with greater power than an Archangel...was brought to his knees. He was surely suffering; but he also sensed the even greater suffering of the whole Host of Heaven who were of lesser capability than himself. In fact the only ones oblivious to the tumult occurring in the Divine realm were the Force members and the newest resident of the Quanta Building, Allan Byrne.
Fortunately the dire occurrence ended within a minute; and even though the Councilor felt wasted on the heels of it, he still cracked a small smile and uttered the words with as much glee as he could muster:
~ At an intersection in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, PA ~
A dark grey 'government-looking' sedan rolls onto the sidewalk and stops, and two individuals step out. They both...like the vehicle they exited...are government-looking in attire; with even the color of their suits matching the color of the car. The shortest of the two (still 5ft 7 and a half inches tall; but compared to his 6 foot 10 inch tall companion, he looked like a real pint-size fellow) who was clean-shaven and sported a short crew cut (thus making him basically 'government-looking') turned to the taller one (a person of questionable gender since his/her features were so androgynous that she/he could be considered a pretty male or handsome female) and asked with concerned words:
"You feeling alright now?...you looked like you had a gut ache on the way over...I thought I'd have to pull over and let you out to puke or shit broken glass or something"
The beautiful one threw a lock of his/her long golden hair back and answered in an (of course) androgynous voice:
"I'm fine...I was feeling the effects of the entrance into this World of The One and The All"
"The One and The All?...so another intruder from the Other Side huh...just what this Country needs...more interlopers..." -he didn't hide his disdain with that last statement, but then changed his attitude right around and quickly amended the statement with softer words directed to the beautiful one- "...present company excepted...anyway..so this is like that apartment over the LGBT bar right?...it reeks of intruders?"
"Yes...but the 'stench'..as you would put it..of them is particularly powerful here...and more than one class of intruder has left artifacts of their presence here...one is surely a fallen Angel...a fallen Purge Angel to be exact...one issssssss..an Archangel...no...more powerful than an Archangel...like Metatron in essence..but not Metatron...peculiar...even more peculiar are the artifacts from a class of being that I've never sensed before"
"A new kind of intruder huh?...from Heaven?"
"From the Heavenly realm yes...but Quantized Heaven...with a strong essence of Mortal humanity mixed in...it's connected to an object over here"
The one then took off with long graceful strides to an area where a small park was; and just a couple of meters into it from off the sidewalk...in the ankle high grass...was a portion of a navy blue, dress shirt sleeve. The tall one pointed it out, and the short one reached down and picked it up.
"This baby goes back to the lab...thanks Miss Columbia"
"Your quite welcome...Mr. Hue"