by Stewart Wilson
Jack broke free of the Canary Wharf tesseract and fell down into the night air. The Murder Bishops stood in the gaping hole he had blown in the wall/floor, feeling the pressure of external thoughts forcing them into three dimensions. The hideous forms coalesced into black shades, and the creatures floated down. Towards Jack. Bugger. If he'd know they could do that he wouldn't have thrown himself rather foolishly into the skies above Alternate London #239.
One of the lower rooftops erupted into a blaze of fire and noise. Anti-aircraft rounds tore through the Murder Bishops and Becky's victory-whoop rang out as the echoes died. She had managed to get her cannons on top of an office block, and by the looks of things was preparing a place for Jack to hit. A landing mat of the kind used by pole vaulters, only thicker was waiting on the rooftop of the same building. With all his might, Jack forced his denim jacket open and angled himself towards the mat, preparing to roll.
His shoulder wrenched alarmingly on landing and everywhere beneath his left knee was just a dull throbbing, but he was alive. Becky had joined him on the mat in the time it took Jack to compose himself, her eyes just crazy enough.
"This reminds me of the water-bed in Paris, you know... you doing daring things and me saving you, you being every so grateful and me being ever so horny."
"It would. Everything reminds you of sex."
"Sex, drugs and guns. The Holy Trinity of a generation of anarchist assassins."
"I didn't make it in time. If we don't stop the Antipope putting the crown on his pet angel and making her the Queen of Sorrows, we're going to end up in another generation entirely."
"Aww. You're no fun."
"We can fuck like mad rabbits later. Right now we have guns to shoot and a universe to shape."
The cannons and crash-mat were discarded. The stakes were too high to worry about little things like the hardware being found. In front of the building was a Jaguar convertible in British Racing green with enough firepower stowed to start a war, or so Jack hoped. They got in, heading for St Paul's Cathedral. The Jaguar roared through the streets of Alternate London, in between the skyscrapers. Jack checking and loading firearms as Becky wove through traffic like a girl possessed. In a back-alley they changed positions, Jack driving like a lunatic, Becky stood on the bench seat cradling a light machine gun. She laughed; squeezing the trigger and making the cars on the way crumple and disappear in explosions and smoke. Her skirt whipped around creamy thighs in the wind, the ammo belt streaming out behind her.
Tracer fire screamed around the car as Jack turned into the churchyard. A pair of Death Nuns were blockading the doorway with MP5s. Becky's bullets tore one apart, the black leather and chitin skin dissolving into a sickly red-brown ooze. The returned fire was more accurate. Two rounds punctured her chest, one just below her left breast, one piercing her sternum. She fell backwards in slow motion, Jack catching her final moments alive as he threw himself out of the speeding car. Her death scene was an eternal post-modern orgasm, and then she was gone.
The car had crushed the second Death Nun. Jack put a bullet in each corpse for luck before striding into the cathedral. The scene which greeted him was terrible in its majesty. Five hundred invited guests, each an important figure in the government, the Masons, a handful of lesser Royals, all crammed into pews almost at random. The choir all identical boys down to the same haircuts, the same hollow eyes. Cast-offs from one of the Parliament rituals. The priest, a portly dark figure who was probably adding more boys to the "potential choir" every chance he got. The cancer at the heart of England runs deep, and all the main tumours were right here.
On the throne was eternal bliss. A body made of light so bright it seared Jack's blackened, scabby soul. There was the suggestion of wings, but also the feeling that to sully a body like this with such additions would be sacrilegious. It was pure sexless beauty. It was music in human flesh. Two eyes the brightest blue looked past the crowd of nobles and dignitaries squabbling for its attention, and fixed square on Jack. The mouth smiled for a brief second.
The light was gone, but still there. Superimposed on the visage of perfection was what Jack knew to be the angel's true self, the four-dimensional body shifting uncomfortably in the limited three. The second time in less than an hour Jack had seen a similar thing. The creature's skin was blackened and oily, spurs of bone protruding at odd angles. The collarbone pierced the skin in an armoured ridge, pale skin stretched over an obscenely twisted neck and a skull which looked a size too large. Four eyes of that same beautiful blue now gazed regally across the cathedral.
The Antipope lowered the crown slowly, savouring the moment he cursed the world. The priest finished his libations and turned in silent reverence. He was the first person to see Jack. A bullet tore off the right-hand side of his face. The guests tried to stop Jack, but they didn't stand a chance. It was the dance of universes, whether it was the Antipope and his Queen of Sorrows or London Hive after the invasion of the bugs. It always came down to this moment. Bullets flew into the crows, killing rich and powerful perverts and thieves almost indiscriminately. The Antipope tried to lower the crown with ceremony, but one arm had been winged by a stray shot. It was all he could do to avoid dropping the artefact.
Jack reached into his pocket, and withdrew a grenade. He pulled the pin, and threw it square at the would be Queen of Sorrows.