The Familar Box

  There was no time. I instictively realized that this strange box could not be allowed to open. Likewise, I could not allow Wrath and Justice to kill the stranger until I at least understood what was going on and who he was.

  And so I chose. I pushed the blood haze back in my mind, and I redirected the portion of my chi that I still controlled, and "overloaded" the singularity that Wrath and Justice were forming. The cannons exploded again, blowing both me and the stranger away from the box. But I did not have much time to congratulate myself for my quick thinking, as the stranger had not even fully lost his footing. He had adeptly spun his body into the force of the blast and landed on his feet. Shit, I thought, and still tumbling wildly myself, I abruptly thrust my hand into the ground and forcibly stopped my own movement, rolling briefly before landing in a crouched position. It would only be a split second before Wrath and Justice attacked again. And I had to get this moron to listen to me. One chance here, defeat Wrath and Justice, without this stranger killing me first.

  For reasons that I still do not understand, it never occured to me to just kill the stranger. That would have been so much easier. But I simply did not want to do that, although I was pretty sure I could. Well, at least I was decently sure, as the stranger suddenly hurled a wooden staff at me. The ordinary quarterstaff, not unlike a jo, caught me squarely in the chest. My armor screamed, and so did I, not so much from the pain, but from the fact that my armour was screaming.

  I was dangerously deep in the blood haze.

  Without hesitation, I deflected the remaining energy from the impact of the jo, and again, called Wrath and Justice to me. Hestitantly, my cannons returned, and I immediately fired two chi blasts just over the stranger's shoulder, intentionally missing. Not that it mattered, as the stranger still had his shield from Daniel's Prayer, so the chi blasts dissipated into the energy barrier surrounding him. Briefly, I wondered just how strong that barrier was, because if it would hold, I might be able to end this.

  Unfortunately, Wrath and Justice sensed my lack of resolve to kill the stranger and flew from my hands, firing short chi bursts directly at the stranger. And when that did not work because of his barrier, I witnessed my cannons evolve, but unlike most occasions, this step forward was not in defense of me, or in accord with my will. Wrath and Justice clearly intended to kill this stranger. And to that end, both Wrath and Justice shattered completely, creating a strange red cloud of fragments. I felt my chi drain, and the cloud of shards began to pulse violently with energy. Stunned, although for very different reasons, I and the stranger looked up and watched the red dust cloud fly toward a nearby pile of demon corpses, and settle over them. And that is when **it** happened. Movement flashed in the cloud, a dreadful sign of life.

  Ironically, the stranger recovered his senses before I did. "Silly demon! Do you doubt Zion's power? The Creator provides for all circumstances!" And the stranger began to chant in Hebrew again, and suddenly lightning flashed across the sky. And a white cloud of smoke rolled down around us, as the ground itself began to twist and distort. Tree limbs contorted into familar shapes and forms. The remaining pools of water from the sea that had once decorated this dreamscape, boiled and turned red, and then flowed toward the Zion. The strange box glowed eeriely, and soon, Ezekiel's Prayer was finished. A legion appeared to defend the Zion -- a rotting and rambling tribute to the box's contents and the promise it represented.

  Ok. This had to stop, but it was not long before I found myself surrounded by ancient warriors of incredible strength, speed and fighting prowess. The undead of Wrath and Justice immediately engaged those of the Zion. And I, still befuddled, stood dazed and confused in a sea of battle. However, I snappe out of my daze as an iron broadswrd whizzed by my ear, and I instictively feigned left. Apparently, I would not be allowed quareter to merely watch this battle, and I found myself thrust into the fray. No, it was more than a fray, because we were losing. For every one of the bastards I killed, two arose to take his place. The Zion laughed. And while turning to glare at him, one of the undead warriors plunged his broadsword squarely into my gut. And I felt my diaphram rip in half, and I could no longer breathe. The pain was unbearable. If I did not lose conciousness from the pain, the lack of air would be just as fatal. I only had seconds to end this, and there was only one way. Fuck! I had no choice left, I had to risk drawing my soul blade, even though I was still subject to the curse of the blood haze. If my soul blade succumbed to the blood haze, we were all dead. Well, I was dead anyway under the status quo, and so I fell to my knees, clinched my fists together, and then quickly extended them in a full release of my soul blade.

  Houston, we have a problem.

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