Chapter 34: "Riders on the Storm"

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"This is my homeland, Tamara," Astrild responded not unkindly. "It has been centuries since I've seen the ramparts and glens of Asgard."

Tammy winced at the use of her proper name. Since the death of her mother during the cataclysm, she hadn't allowed anyone to know, much less use her birth name. Of course, Astrild was closer to her than a sister and could be forgiven the slip. That it'd gotten out as her name when her visions were documented during the Dark Age made her even less willing to admit who she was.

"I saw all of this coming," Tammy whispered, then she added, "we saw all of this so long ago, Astrild."

"Yes we did," the goddess replied. "We have seen much that was foretold come to pass, Tamara."

Gathered at the gates of the Golden City, a regiment, far from the bulk of the Eternal City's guard, waited for the coming wave. Standing at the head, was an ancient man astride an eight legged horse and wielding a spear. The single blue eye was all the warriors needed to see in order to understand the resistance they were about to encounter.

Odin, the All Father and King of Asgard, was leading the defense personally.

"I'm afraid, Astrild," Tammy whispered, "I can see nothing beyond the moment these armies clash."

Thunder and lightning ripped through the clear skies above Asgard. Thor, God of Thunder and Prince of Asgard, declared his allegiance to the rebels.

There was no turning back.

3

The Battlefield, Outside Red Rock

The last of the withdrawing defenders and refugees made it behind the defensive walls of Red Rock moments before the detonation of the Glitterboy's reactor on the battlefield. Automated defense systems kicked into gear, and for a few minutes the defenders behind the walls experienced a period of unsettling calm. They were separated from the battle by walls and guns, while the ad hoc Red Rock flying corp did battle with the Thorns in a desperate attempt to stall the advance and buy time.

Miranda unleashed her magic, and a storm of lightning spanning the spectrum scorched the enemy occupied ground. Even miles away, the sizzle of electricity could be felt by the defenders manning the walls. The lightning was rejoined by a barrage from the rest of the Air Corp with missiles, plasma, slugs, and lasers raining down on the swarm of Thorns.

"We need more time," Books said, looking through his binoculars from the scouts' position at the Thorns rear, "they're making up ground faster than we feared."

"We were never going to stop them," YJ muttered, making a notation on surviving enemy troop strength and forwarding it back to Red Rock, "this is all about keeping them corralled in one place until Meg and her friends come back. If we fail it could mean the ruination of the world." Then he added, turning to look at the terrified group of observers, "Karl knew that and was willing to pay the ultimate price."

"So does, Miranda," John Anders agreed, his voice thick with contained emotion.

No one knew when it happened but, much like with Meg, one second John was a friendly stranger and the next he was a Grey Bear. He knew if he survived this battle he'd never go back to Lazlo as a student; he didn't need the approval of the Masters and a fancy piece of parchment to tell him he was a man and a Wizard.

"She's tough as nails," Books agreed, placing a hand on his new friend's arm and squeezing.

"No one will stop Randa but Randa," YJ agreed with an almost feral grin. "When this is over, Johnny Boy, I'll tell you about the time she single handedly cleared out a Juicer bar in the Pecos."

Contained laughter filled the darkened observation area. Everyone loved the Elfin Techno-Wizard. If anyone could buy them the time they needed it was Miranda.

"What the fuck is that?" one of the observers, a skinny Red Rocker named Tommy asked. He wasn't looking toward the battlefield but instead had his monocular fixed northward toward the ruins of The D.

At first Books was unable to make out what the boy was seeing. Between the smoke, ruins, and landscape, he didn't see anything out of place. Then he realized the landscape was what the boy was looking at.

The dark undulating mass of appendages, a mountain of demonic flesh, crawled its way from the direction of the ruined city on a direct line to Red Rock and the people behind the walls. Before it, nothing could stand.

"Lord Thor save us," Tommy said, clutching the hammer sigil around his young neck.

The ground shook and a horrific wail filled the air.

"We're gonna need bigger guns," Books whispered in response.

To Be Continued


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