Okay, so I decided I really wanted to try to continue this, preferably with 'Our Heroes' actually trying to do something... Think of it as a kind of meta-Rayford in this... Rayford if he had a real personality.
Nicolae was staring out the plane window when it happened. He didn't know why it happened. Just that suddenly, the clouds had blurred and lurched right before his eyes.
Rayford had been praying under his breath, from the pilot's seat. There was no reply. Of course, there never was. Nicolae seemed to hear voices no-one else heard, Nicolae seemed to move to the rhythm of a strange and ineffable certainty, but for the Tribulation Force, there was only prophecy from times long gone, and the desperate hope that if they followed along for long enough, maybe this time they'd be given a sign.
They were the last believers, weren't they? The final hope? Surely the Lord wouldn't leave them stumbling blindly. Not again. Not even if there had been no warning, no chance, no time for farewells between those who were gone and those who were not -
No. He couldn't think about that. Emotions hurt too much. Faith would have to be enough, because faith didn't tap on his mental shoulder at the sight of every discarded child's toy and remind him of his son, of how Rayford had put everything off for later, and then 'later' had happened, and there were no more chances -
Stop it, stop it, stop it!
He couldn't break down. Maybe his focus on faith made him seem heartless, but it was the only thing holding him together. If he let himself consider the magnitude of the tragedy, if he let himself see it as a tragedy at all, his guilt and grief would swallow him whole.
And here I am, ferrying the Antichrist about his destined mission.
It was grotesque. Rayford almost swore under his breath - not allowed to say those words anymore. They might keep me from seeing them again.
His eyes hardened. He'd spent so long thinking he was a great and mighty hero, the renowned and dashing pilot. What would that pilot do, right now?
That pilot would do his duty by humanity. "To Hell with prophecy," he whispered, and jerked on the controls, sending the plane diving down toward the earth.
Nicolae opened his eyes. At least, he thought he did. From the sensations racking his body, he wasn't entirely sure he had eyes left to open, or eyelids to cover them.
This is not what was destined! The Malevolence was screaming at him.
"Please. Father. I don't know what happened, I don't know what went wrong, please - ahh - please, let it stop burning..." His words trailed away as he saw the charred skeleton of the plane around him.
Something told him not to look down at himself. He was likely in the same condition as the plane, and there were some things he just didn't want to see.
He looked anyway.
Nicolae screamed, just once.
I will not be denied! This is fated, and it shall not be prevented! You are the instrument of my will, Nicolae, and you will not die. I forbid it.
And then his flesh was creeping back onto his body, even as the plane reconstructed itself around him and rose slowly, painfully, into the air.
It was agony beyond agony. Why could his Father not let him rest? Why could he not find some new tool to carry out his cruelties? Tears coursed down Nicolae's cheeks, stinging flesh still red and raw as it healed with unnatural speed.
"Please... no more..." The words slipped out like the pitiful whimpering of a hurt child.
You will do my will, Nicolae. You will reign, and you will grant me your gratitude and service in all things.
Somewhere deep in his mind, he realised love had never been mentioned in that command.
Rayford writhed in place as his body was restored. How could he be sent back like this? He'd been so close to seeing them all again, he'd been sure he'd destroyed their enemy.
And then he heard it; a great voice, a sensation just like when he'd said the words.
The Presence was not welcoming this time. It was angry. It railed at him for his ingratitude and impiety, for daring to try to prevent what was destined.
"Lord, please, forgive me!" he gasped, eyes filling with tears. He'd been wrong; it was nearly unbearable.
Nicolae heard the quiet pleading and prayers of his pilot. He could almost pick up a sense of rage-filled replies in the air. He listened closer, reaching out with the sense he'd developed over time.
Strange, he thought, though he knew not the source of the chill rippling down his spine.
The voice they both heard sounded just the same.
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