Belly of the Beast

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London wasn’t sure how long she’d been climbing, the wet sounds of blood echoing in her ears with each pump of a gigantic heart that wasn’t her own. The hand and footholds of what she had dubbed her ‘Ladder to Purgatory’ flexed and twisted of their own accord which was perfectly normal considering they were the ribs of a giant snakelike creature that was invading the camping area the group had chosen a week ago.

A week ago, seemed like a lifetime after Angelic rations and snarky teen attitudes. A week of tracking practice, mock skirmishes and patrol watches. And the ever constant, ruthless tormenting of each other that the young angels delighted in. She took part in everything she could, but of course certain things were just impossible. And the youngsters often would flutter up near the cavern’s ceilings. At least until one of them was snatched by something with more mouths than should have been physically possible. After that, They seemed to prefer to keep their feet on the ground. “Some losses were inevitable” was the exercise leader’s only say on the matter. Ezekiel and the other ‘observers/ instructors’ generally only spoke to the cadets to correct an errant defensive form or to offer an alternative attack formation. Other than that, it was to give the morning brief or inform of night watch schedules and the like.

She huffed in the confines of her envirosuit, thankful that Ezekiel had made her promise to always wear it when they were with the cadets, reminding her that it might save her life one day. Mumbling for a second she paused shaking the cramps out of her fingers before resuming her ascent. “Wear the suit, he said…” Her comms automatically opened a private channel and she could hear the sounds of battle behind the sweet calming voice of her lover, “It might save your life. Are you with the cadets? Is everyone safe? Are you safe?” She bit her lip, a flush warming her ears and cheeks as she mumbled softly. “Uh, everyone is corralled in the tunnels behind the tumbled rocks like you said. Sekhamet and Mars are guarding the entry with Wu-Kong, Raijin and Coyote are all near the entrance to assist casualties and pull them out of harm’s way. Athena, Hades, Shango and Olókun are running a triage for the injured.

London resumed her climb, grunting softly. Several long moments passed before the radio buzzed again, this time it was not Ezekiel but a deeper voice, used to barking orders. “Human, what is your location? Ezekiel has been injured and is unconscious.” She grunted a noncommittal reply, “I’m deep in the belly of the beast, Sir.” On another channel, Ram chirped in a tense voice, “You’re roughly twenty-three meters above the floor, just over halfway up the upright torso. Over.”

Excellent. Remind me to get you some human snacks sometime.” She rose higher, one step at a time, the constant thrumming as the rapid pulse pressed her rhythmically against the creature’s inner spine as she wriggled her way closer to her goal.

After an eternity with her arms and leg burning in exhaustion, Ram confirmed what she felt, that the beast’s heart was directly behind her, it’s meaty pulsing physically rocking her torso with each beat. Sighing, London rested her head against the glistening bones of the gently rocking spine. Releasing her calcium handhold, she slipped her hand to her hip and wrapped gently shaking fingers around the familiar cool contours of the lightsaber hilt dangling there. Letting the thought of her injured angel fuel her rage, the woman coolly let her thumb flick the emitter into the active position, a beam of black and purple plamsatic light sliced easily through internal flesh with a sizzle. With a grim smile she carved a large chunk out of the throbbing vein cluster just below her real goal. “That’s for Hephaestus you fucking giant maggot. I hope it hurts like hell.” Before the furious dash that ended with her climbing inside a living pile of nightmare fuel, she had watched this hideous behemoth open it’s maw and snap closed around the body of one of the few angels that didn’t treat her like some weird pet they expected to shit on the floor at any moment. Hephaestus didn’t mind that she referred to him as “Fester”. He generally didn’t seem to mind much of anything, even the bullying seemed to have no effect on his cool façade. Until she offered him a piece of jerky, their friendship was fast and firm afterwards. London braced herself as what had been her universe for the last while shook and shuddered in response. Her inner ear registered what was happening before a resonating thud shook her small frame. Slicing above the weirdly shaped mass she guessed was the animal’s heart she freed it from its moorings and cut her way through the now slack carcass. As she sliced through the final bands of muscle and sinew, London dragged her gore covered body as well as her prize out of the darkness.

Standing slowly, the small human arched her back and did a few squats to stretch her burning thighs before wiping her visor clean and blinking myopically she stared up at the ring of several angels looming above her with varying expressions on their faces. Several looked like they couldn’t believe what they were seeing, but the one that mattered simply watched, discretely leaning against young Ram from a slight distance away.

After a few tense moments a distinguished angel who looked in her mind very much like the marble busts of Roman legend Caesar stepped forward and looked down his hawkish nose at her. “What? Mission accomplished, right?” He, this Angelic leader, expressed the tiniest lift in the corner of his mouth flashing before he dropped his mask of indifference snorted, turned on his heel, pausing a moment he looked over his shoulder, “Hephaestus would be very impressed with the way you avenged his death.” and walked away.

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