Chapter 42: "Light"

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"Ah! Yes, many a hand that vigorously grasped these Flagstaffs and led the van, now lies crumbling in the grave; and not color-bearers alone, but nearly 15,000 others who fought beside them—the flower of Michigan—return not to receive your thanks and the plaudits of their grateful countrymen."

- General O. B. Willcox, Presentation of Civil War Flags to the State of Michigan, July 4, 1866

"Thank God for Michigan!"

- Abraham Lincoln

1

Old Detroit

Like every other clash of armies in history, up to this final point, the battle was long and difficult. Heavy losses and the strain of sustained combat were pushing all participants to their limits and beyond, showing them new thresholds of terror, rage, and pain never before conceptualized. Also, like every other war in the history of the Megaverse, the final battle was quick and, in the end, unsatisfying.

The goal was simple. The allied forces had a single directive, to make a clear path for the already weakened Meg to reach the crack. Led by the triumvirate of Colonel McCoy, General Lin, and King Walter, the two hundred fifty warriors landed on the Elite Thorn Guard with the force of an army ten times its size.

Despite the intensity, it was all a side show.

Ignore it, Meg, she thought, zipping past the front ranks of Thorns. They can handle the foot soldiers; you have bigger fish to fry. That was easier said than done. Even as her body raced toward her ultimate destiny, her mind bent toward her friends in the heart of the ruined city of her youth.

Behind her, the Grey Bears, Black Needles, Hetrans, and Red Rockers carried the brunt of the battle. Too many of the Olympians and Asgardians had been severely injured or killed during the epic battle with Ast-Murath's Great Beast. Despite the lack of significant deific power (even with immortals fighting side by side with mortals), this was Earth and the natives and their allies would fight till the end.

Opening her mind wide, Meg touched the minds of all her friends. Athena, Walter, Hasani, McCoy, Miranda, John, Rudy, and Adam on the battlefield. Odin, Loki, and all the injured in Red Rock. To all she spoke, "Goodbye my friends... until we meet again."

Once she entered the crack, rocketing past surprised Thorns and a herd of terrified looking prisoners and the radius of Ast-Murath's ancient influence, the connection to her friends was sundered.

That was when the screaming started.

2

The Crack

Oh, gods, Meg, what are you doing? Books thought, his eyes locked on the horror at the crack.

Since he and YJ took up their post, it was an assembly line of carnage as one person after another was pitched off of the edge of the unnatural tear on the river bank to feed the beast. Or at least it had been, until what he could only assume was Meg plunged into the hole at what had to be supersonic speed, yet there was no corresponding boom. The Thorn Elite, always the most rigid and defiant of warriors, broke and ran, leaving their King, Telicum, screaming in vain for them to return.

"And now the Beautiful Angel must meet the Great Darkness," YJ mumbled less than five feet from where Books perched.

"YJ," Books hissed, turning to look at his semi-catatonic friend, "What do you see?" Books demanded. He'd been asking the same question since YJ started his repeated chanting, but there'd never been an answer until now.

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