Note: This is the second part to a fictitious series based off of the threats the world faces from a looming “Great Reset.” Read part I here.
We traveled through an underground network for a week or so. Everyone carrying a loyalty marker were still able to utilize more traditional means of transportation, within limits of course. Those who knew this day was coming proceeded to install tramlines underground and underwater. They had some assistance from those who carry the loyalty marker. Individuals who recognized their error and sought to undo the choices they had made by assisting the underclass. Knowing that no number of good deeds could erase their choice to serve the beast would ever grant them absolution, they assisted us anyway. It provided some semblance of hope, I would imagine. The tramlines were built in sections of ten-mile intervals with parallel backup lines fed into the system. Once you have reached the ten-mile marker, you had to switch from one tram to another. The lines were crafted in sections to ensure that an attack on one line would not serve as a blockade for travelers. This was a minor inconvenience compared to the predicaments offered above.
People traded labor and goods as fare on this vast network of pods rushing about beyond the sight of the loyalists. The power source was obtained by some ingenious hacking. While they could not connect directly to any available source aboveground, they managed to pinpoint the magnetic signatures of lines running out in the open. Once this was accomplished, hackers would leach off the signatures rather than the primary system, thereby sourcing power with little risk of detection. Given the continued attempts to tap the lines, engineers ran a backup system where firewalls prevented hackers from accessing the magnetic signatures. Thermomagnetism was employed as an alternative by harnessing heat from the core of the earth and cold sources in the form of thermoelectric cooling conductors placed along every line. Due to the size of the threat, the contingencies required contingencies. Each one masterfully designed by a network of engineers and physicists who recognized the coming enslavement of humanity and would have no part in it. “Passengers of the Jordan line please approach your assigned pod, departure in 10 minutes” a voice sounded from the service platforms.
Every pod had space enough for at least four passengers. Without Michael and Luna, I would never have made it here. The last part of the journey would be a smooth ride compared to the obstacles we endured along the way. “Why do you want to go to Jordan so badly?” Luna asked with some skepticism in her voice. With the danger of sounding like an asylum inmate, I explained what Jacob had told me in the months preceding the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Well, I had a friend who told me about a mighty city that stood ready inside of a mountain range in Jordan. He told me that this would be the only asylum available to those who rejected the world ruler to come.” He was always certain that this divinely ordained destination would be prepared in advance to keep all who dwelled inside safe, while keeping darkness at bay. “How will this city give any more protection than all the fortresses already sacked by Rihaar and his minions?” Michael asked with a smack of negativity betraying his concerned demeanor. “Apparently this city is walled off by spiritual forces that makes it impervious to penetration and attack from anyone carrying the mark.” This idea sounded much better swimming around in a hopeful mind than words uttered in a pod with a couple of strangers. Luna looked perplexed, “What if that was just not true, and if it was, why would you be allowed in anyway?”
The brakes screamed across the tramlines as the pod came to a steady stop. The voice in our earpieces notified us that we have arrived in Jordan and announced the next stop as Egypt. “Why don’t you just come with us?” Luna inquired beseechingly. It took a few minutes of consideration before I remembered that Jacob had not been wrong once. “There is nowhere else for me to go and I have to know if my friend might have made it out alive somehow. If he did, he would be in Petra.” Michael just shook his head in a combination of unbelief and sorrow. Before I left them, I asked why they wanted to travel to Egypt instead of following me to Petra. “Rihaar has not penetrated Egypt once in all this time. There are only a couple of countries left that did not give in to the G.U.N.” She was right. The only family I had, who did not assimilate, were dead now. Despite Egypt still standing against Rihaar, they were not capable of going on the offensive. The only segment of society that might still put up a challenge to the juggernaut of the Union, is Petra and her inhabitants.
Before my pod started moving again, I told my fellow travelers to seek out Petra if Egypt falls. “Where else will you have to turn if the last vestiges meet their demise?” With the sense that I might see them sooner than expected, my pod started rumbling across the tracks at breakneck speed again.
Some hours later, the voice in my ear confirmed that we had reached Wadi Musa. This was the closest point to Petra that the resistance managed to penetrate. There lay one long mile between the city and the mountain, but this would not be easy to navigate. The longest mile of my life was just ahead of me now, and I did not know what horrors would lay in wait for me over such a short distance. As I stepped out, I squinted to see if there were any marker that would guide me along this precarious mile. There was something about the night over the last couple of years. The lack of sunlight was not the only characteristic of night anymore, instead the night felt like an entity, malicious and glaring. One mile from where I stood, I could see light surrounding the entry to the city. Unlike normal lighting afforded by conventional means, this light moved about like the hues flowing above a campfire. The light spread out a hundred yards at most. No sound came from that place, which caused my strength to fall away in hopelessness. This was a feeling I grew familiar with over the last year. Nonetheless, I would take on this stretch to that shimmering light. At the very least, I would step into Petra today.
When I stepped out of the pod, I could see a large metal door to my left. If I did not know any better, I would have mistaken this place for Fort Knox. Streams of people walked between the massive frame and the platform to the tramline. The last thing I expected was to see so many souls gathered in one space without being flanked by guards on both sides. Some congregated in front of a small office, dimly lit by dozens of candles. Every number called out summoned someone else into the room. I took a number and made my way to the back of the line. Some of the conversation inside of the office could be made out.
Several different questions were asked, but one was asked of everyone who stood in front of the administrative consultant, ”will you be needing runners?” Most said no, but those who chose to have one of these “runners” received a small handwritten note with some sort of code on it. This was a curious question to ask. Shouldn’t everyone be sprinting as soon as they are close to Petra?
After a brief introduction the assistant came to the gist of the enquiry which regarded my provisions and purpose. Eventually he asked me about my need for a runner. “I’m not sure what you mean sir. What exactly is a runner?” He looked at me with some surprise then explained this term that suddenly became odd to me. “Runners are loyalists who broke off from the ranks of Rihaar. They want to pay recompence for the sin of taking the mark. There is no sacrifice to be made after you have taken the mark, but they are sure that sacrificing their own lives would grant them mercy, small though it may be.” I understood that need, although I still wondered about their function. “What are they running from?” I asked in the manner a young boy sought to understand a concept alien to his mind. His face contorted with amusement and more than a little superiority. “The runners, my boy, aren’t running away from anything. They are running towards the great sentinels to buy time.” Now that I was utterly confused, I searched my mind for any mention of these sentinels but came up short. “Sentinels? What is a sentinel?” Bemused he answered, “the angels that prevent entry into the City of Incandescence.” Well, this was something unexpected, not in a good way unfortunately. “I assume the runners draw away fire then?” was all I could offer in this exchange. “Something like that” the official exclaimed while sticking out his hand in offering me a piece of paper accompanied by a runner.
My runner spoke for the first time after he led me to open ground. We stepped inside of a compound surrounded by a multitude of soldiers, some armed while others were kneeling in prayer alongside the armed soldiers. “What’s your name?” I enquired of the runner. “Don’t worry about names now. Mine will be forgotten in moments anyway.” That dark exclamation kept me from probing for a clue about his identity. “Why would you sacrifice yourself for me? I’m just a man like you.” The runner let out a sigh before he finally cast some light on the issue. “You don’t have the mark emblazoned on your head or hand. This means that you will be able to enter Petra and assist the rebellion by adding to their numbers.” I was not planning on joining any ranks. Still, if there is a chance of overthrowing Rihaar, I want to be part of it. “Do you really think that anyone could put an end to the Tzar?” The runner looked down at his feet before he answered. “If there is any force that will have the capability of overthrowing him, it would be the mighty army of Petra. It numbers at least eight million men, as we speak.” Another surprise.
I did not think there would be so many who stood against the Global Union. “Millions? How could that be?” Once more the runner looked at me with more than a little concern.“ Yes. Most of them are Jews that fled when they heard that the covenant of Rihaar would be broken. When he stepped into the temple, they ran, taking nothing but their newborn. They would not make it far being weighed down by anything else. Almost 3 million Jews made it to Petra. They were followed by gentiles from all over the world. Those baring the invisible mark of Yaweh would gain entry to the Incandescent City. Their number is estimated to be around eight million and it steadily increases with every new shipment from the tramlines.” Suddenly a new fear gripped my mind and the words fell from my mouth before I had time to process them, “I don’t have the mark of Yaweh. How will I be able to enter? You are going to waste your life in aiding me.” We stood in silence for a while before the runner extracted a piece of parchment from his pocket. “I’m going to place this on your right hand. You will feel your hand and forehead heating up. It is not painful. Don’t worry.” He placed the parchment in my hand, and I felt the heat almost immediately. This was strange but given all that I have seen, strange is the new norm. “What just happened?” The runner handed the parchment to me. “Hang on to this. That heat came from the connection between the mark of Yaweh and the parchment. The loyalty markers are clearly visible, the mark of Yaweh is concealed to human eyes.
The Elders came to know that the Dead Sea scrolls would grant them the ability to differentiate between allies and foes. Infiltrators who delivered intelligence to the beast, and those who have the mark of Yaweh. The mark was not awarded to infiltrators until they completed their mission of smuggling intelligence to the beast and his ranks. Before the parchment, they had no difficulty in accessing facilities ran by the resistance.
This made sense, yet I still needed more clarity. “Can’t the loyalists just feign heat when they touch the parchment?” The runner took the tone of a teacher again. “They can’t feign the heat that the holder of the parchment can feel.” I still had a multitude of questions. Those would have to wait until I finally reached Petra. Knowing how I would make it across the entry to Petra, I asked the runner how we will navigate the stretch between the bunker and Petra. “We are going to move alongside the protruding cliffs. This will give us cover until we are one hundred yards away from the entrance.” Butterflies were having their own little party inside my stomach now. “There are angels between the hundred-yard mark and the entrance. How will I make it inside?” With one hand placed on my shoulder, the runner explained. “That’s where I have my chance to confront the enemy. When you get within a few yards of their glare, we will split off. Make sure you stay right behind me until I tell you to move. As soon as you are within a couple of yards from the guards, lift your head and align your eyes with the eyes of the sentinels. Yaweh will blind them for a moment. Enough time to sneak past them and step over the threshold keeping them at bay.” I looked at my runner, the fear in his face clearly visible now. Somehow that fear seemed to be constrained by purpose, even with the knowledge that he had minutes left to live. There was one last issue that remained unclear to me. “Why would the sentinels let anyone come near when runners bring refugees so often? Surely, they are familiar with this tactic by now?” While answering my last question, my runner stared off into the distance. It looked as though he was taking an account of his own life and purpose in these last moments. “Most of the loyalists still bring intelligence to the sentinels. I suppose the risk of letting one or two refugees through is a small price to pay in exchange for valuable information.”
The Incandescent City
When we stepped out of the bunker, I looked up and it became clear why they called this the Incandescent City. An invisible wall stretched across the entrance to the city. This was not a wall made of brick and mortar, it was a wall of flame and light. It reminded me of the Aurora Borealis. Waves of fire drifted up and down the invisible wall like a burning curtain, supernaturally empowered to burn without the flames consuming the translucent draping. Above the entrance, the flames took on a mixture of blue and red pointed waves. Flames licked the sky and dissipated far above the brightest demonstrations of the supernatural glow. I could see people moving around behind the wall of flame, yet no loyalists were forthcoming to slap handcuffs on any of the citizens. The surge of adrenaline drummed up the rhythm of my heart. All my senses felt charged somehow.
The runner used a pair of binoculars to scour the landscape one last time. “We have five minutes, then we make a run for it.” I would have preferred five more hours, but I knew it would not make a difference. I had one more look as if my glare would paint the target so I cannot veer off track. The guardians floated above the ground on either side of the entrance. Massive beings adorned in green glimmers of light. They were covered in cloaks with belts that crossed their chests and groins. On their backs you could see parts of the sheathed swords protruding. One of them had a sword drawn. This was not an ordinary sword. Instead of metal, the shaft was pure light. The shaft did not retain its shape either, it morphed between the shape of a sword and a whip with nine tails at the flick of a wrist. The sentinels stretched out to a hundred feet in length. Gigantic angels with eyes affixed on every side of their heads. If hazard were a creature, this would be it.
We sat in a line of ten people. Every person had one runner to accompany them. We watched as half of them made it across the line, while the other half were slain. The runners would fall under the gaze of a sentinel or the searing heat of their swords and whips. The runners that fell came within a dozen yards of the angels. The sentinels attempted to evade the eyes of the runners’ companions. Opting instead to catch one of the companions with the erratic swinging of their blades and whips. My time to make this suicidal move toward the enflamed servants of Satan had come. Before I could make a gesture, my runner looked at me one last time with a determination that emboldened me and set fire to my spirit. The last words I would hear him speak came next. “Now.” And so, he set off with me at his back.
We moved alongside the protruding cliffs. Our company consisted of ten pairs, five runners accompanying five refugees split into two groups. I could hear my own footsteps moving across the dry ground. Every step sounded like loud bangs to my paranoid ears. We would move a couple of yards, then kneel behind the larger mounds along the pathway. Some of the refugees and their runners waited until the closest sentinel was occupied by a loyalist offering the gift of intelligence. The other angel kept scanning the ground in its line of sight, waiting for another victim to meet their end at the hand of this powerful being. Runners moved in companies of five to increase their odds in number.
A group of loyalists approached one of these watchers, the first group of runners held up one hand to motion their refugees to readiness. The loyalists were in discussion for a minute or so when the runners dropped their hands and the company of ten started running from behind the rocks that hid them.
The occupied sentinel drew a sword from its sheath, instantly turning his wrist as the shaft on the illuminated blade traded its linear shape and length for an extended cord and nine tails.
The company came within ten or twenty feet of the sentinel to the right. Two of the refugees raised their heads to meet the eyes of the angel on their side of the city gates. Another glared across the clearing and caught the opposing angel on the other side. As their eyes met, a flash of lightning reached from the glare of the refugees to the eyes of both angels. Screams echoed through the plane. Blue and white rings surrounded their heads, covering their eyes with electrified blindfolds. I have never heard anything like the cries coming from these creatures. It was the sound of a million men writhing in the grip of unrelenting streams of lightning and fire. The crackling interrupted by horrifying screeches. The sentinels were unable to avert their eyes and their lack of vision caused them to flail their arms wildly in the hopes of catching some prey in the sting of their whips.
Three refugees made their way past the malicious guards. One of the whips caught four runners and one refugee in five of the bright red tails. Their clothing was set alight upon contact as the tails curled around its victims, tightening like a noose, these deadly instruments proceeded to cut all of them in half. As soon as the glare from one of the refugees broke, the heads of both sentinels swiveled to reveal another set of eyes searching out their quarry. The angel on the opposite side of the scuffle broke loose from its visual bindings completely and plunged the tip of his sword into the ground. Slight tremors erupted around this new wound in the earth, producing a vortex of wind and dust that drew the remainder of the company closer to the fiery blade of their adversary. Without hesitation the last runner moved in between the remaining refugee and the blade that caused this magnetic whirlwind. He threw his body between the blade and his companion, releasing him from the grip of the blade’s vortex for a second. Enough time to make it across the threshold and into the city. The agonizing screams of before morphed into screams of fueled hatred.
The loyalists made a run for it as soon as the fighting broke out. We knew that the ensuing madness would be our opportunity to make a run for it. The sentinels had all their attention on the last refugee as he barely made his way past the barrier. Their rage was tangible. The anger of our enemies presented our opportunity. Both were boiling with rage, swinging their whips towards the wall of fire as they cussed and screamed blasphemies into the heavens. Every time their whips connected with the wall of fire, the translucent wall was scarred with tiny cracks that melted like glass after every blow, and reformed immediately when the points of a whip withdrew. The angels slammed against the wall repeatedly, but their efforts were in vain. They couldn’t penetrate this supernatural barrier. This was our chance to move.
Our company stepped out and made our way to the city. Only a few dozen yards between us and divine protection. We ran in a straight line until the sentinels became aware of our presence. When we broke off, we were almost in front of the enraged guards. Two in our company set their gaze upward. The same rods of lightning I saw earlier shot up to meet the eyes of the sentinels. Upon closer view, I could see the electrified blindfolds wrapping around the heads of these creatures. Smoke protruded where the blindfolds met the faces of the angels as the blue light seared the skin of our adversaries. Behind me, I heard rocks cracking where the red blades made contact with stones in the clearing. One of the sentinels grabbed at his newly acquired blinders, only to burn his hands in fevered attempts to rid himself of this barrier. The angels flailed again, hoping to strike down the opposition hidden from them. Exploding rocks struck down one of the runners as three of the refugees made their way across the barrier to safety. The crackling that emanated from the flailing whips brushed past me, spitting heat from the ends more ferociously than blowtorches. Another refugee made it past the barrier when two runners ran in between me and one of the sentinels as it drew its blade through the air, cutting them down with no effort at all. The wall was just a few feet away now. Suddenly the remaining runners let out a sharp cry “get down!” Instinctively, I fell to my knees, mere feet away from the entrance. One of the blades flew across the air above me.
I stumbled, turning in the fall to land on my back. Reality swiftly stepped in to rob me of hope. I knew I wouldn’t have time to get back up before the next stroke fell. The last couple of runners made their way towards me, but they would not make it in time before I was killed by the blade of an infuriated sentinel. As if prompted, I looked up and met the eyes of the sentinels. Hulking figures looking down to dispatch me from the earth. In the grip of terror, a bolt of white and blue light shot up from my brow and broke the stare of these immense beings. That familiar crackling sound accompanied the intense light and obscured me from their view. Another blade swung through the air, cutting down the remainder of my company. I couldn’t move. It wouldn’t be long before one of those blind strikes burned through me like it did their earlier victims. Two hands grabbed hold of my shoulders, dragging me backward before another blow was struck. They pulled me through the wall of flame. The wall parted where I made entry then drew shut like a waterfall hiding a cave behind the streams. As if by some miracle, I made it to safety.
As I came to my feet, I looked around a vast and magnificent cavern. Sandstone made up the interior with brown and red stones covered in writing unfamiliar to me. The engravings emitted soft light and the air was filled with a slight fog carrying specs of yellow light like gold flakes drifting in the air above the occupants. Along the walls were groups of bearded men, huddled around the engravings, curious looks adorning their faces. If I didn’t know any better, I would say these men were engaged in conversation with the floating symbols exuded by the engravings. Between puzzled demeanors, some looked at me, smiles brimming from their half-covered faces. Between the pillars and hewn rocks stood gigantic men, clothed in pure white robes. Some of them were conversing with the other inhabitants, others had their eyes closed and their hands lifted towards the sky, softly singing praises in some ancient dialect. Apart from those who would have my head a few yards away, I have never seen any other angels before. Their heads were adorned with crowns and every kind of precious stone. Beryl, Onyx, Carbuncle, and Amethysts colored the air around the crowns, spreading beautiful hues around the faces of these guardian angels. Their kindly faces, spectacular as they were, had another feature to them. Their countenance, both fierce and inviting at the same time. Sterling light crossed their faces, reminding me of something Jacob once told me.
He always had a way of stepping into his own little world of wonder while regaling me with epic tales from the Bible. One of these tales puzzled me a little as he shared it in amazement. “I used to think that Satan would be this hideous creature, with horns and fangs fit for a tale by the brothers Grimm. At least a dark hooded figure would suffice for such an adversary, wouldn’t you say?” Jacob had a way of pulling me into the tale to see if he could stretch my imagination beyond the mundane. I never offered anything fantastical during these exchanges, but played along nonetheless. “Wouldn’t that be a bit obvious? How would he manage to sway men to his bidding when his visage screamed terror?” Jacob considered my question then proceeded. “Good point. Strange you should mention that. Actually, Satan is not grotesque at all.” He searched my face for surprise, but found none and continued to explain. “The Hebrew word used to describe Satan in the garden of Eden is Nachash. The translators focused on the attributes of Satan in that context and replaced the original word with ‘serpent’ to portray the cunning attributes of Satan instead of focusing on his appearance. The Hebrew word ‘Nachash’ gives us a glimpse of his appearance while simultaneously denoting his character as a deceiver.” Just as I started to wonder where this lesson in ancient Hebrew was going, Jacob filled in the blanks. “Nachash means ‘shining one.’ The more accurate translation would be ‘shiny deceiver.’ Jacob expounded. My friend always had a way of making the most tedious of topics interesting somehow.
As I travelled back in time for a moment, the appearance of the guardians confirmed that Jacob wasn’t reaching when he told me about the accurate depiction of Satan in the garden. It made sense that such a powerful adversary would not be grotesque at all. He was one of the most powerful angels created, after all.
One of the glistening faces turned my way, motioning me to come closer. If this was any other day, I would just run if I saw something like the giant diamond head over there. As it stood, I made my way across the cavern to give this immaculate being an audience. When he touched my shoulder, my mind fell out of sorts and traveled to a place between consciousness and slumber. Bright light filled my field of vision and his voice pierced my awareness like the sound of breaking waves interrupting a dream, holding my mind suspended between the ethereal realm and the present.