An Almighty Paintball Game
By Ms. Moonstar
The sky was a pleasant orange with wispy pink clouds of the sunset over Tadfield. No longer were the skies the Apocalyptic red of earlier. Four children and six adults stood on the American Airbase, still dazed at what had just happened. The Four Horsepeople of said Apocalypse were defeated by the children's belief in their future. Aziraphale couldn’t help but feel pride in humanity for the decision to make their world better for themselves. And he was proud of Adam, as he chose not to be the Anti-Christ since he grew up loving his parents, his home and his friends.
Before they could contemplate this any further, a crack of lightning filled the air, and the smell of brimstone permeated the area. Two figures appeared, much to the dismay of Crowley and Aziraphale-and they were Gabriel and Beelzebub. Both Angel and Demon shifted uncomfortably as their superiors walked to meet the group.
Crowley flourished his hands as he bowed, “Lord Beelzebub….” he began.
The Prince of Hell cut him off, eyes narrowed. “Crowley, the traitor.”
“That’s not a nice word,” Crowley grumbled but knew that punishment would come as soon as this was settled.
“The words I have for you are worse.” Beelzebub snapped.
There was an extremely long pause before Gabriel pointed to Adam. “That’s him, Adam Young.” The Archangel and Prince of Hell trekked over to the 11-year-old, bending only slightly so that they were at eye level. “Young man, “ Gabriel pressed his hands together, “Armageddon must…..begin again. The temporary inconvenience cannot get in the way of what is to be.”
“As to what it entails is yet to be determined,” Beelzebub interrupted. “But it must start again, that izzz your destiny. Now start the war!”
Adam seemed to contemplate this a moment. "You both want a war, so you can see who’s gang’s best?”
Aziraphale’s eyebrows rose, surprised at the boy’s intuition. That was what this whole stupid war boiled down to, and which the human world would pay the price for in the literal end of the world.
“Well of course,” Gabriel sneered, “It’s the Great Plan! It's the entire reason for the creation of the Earth.”
“Alright.” Adam shrugged. Aziraphale’s heart dropped, and Crowley’s face took on an expression of disappointment. This was it then, the end of the world. Everything they had worked for, the underlying hope that the Anti-Christ could be persuaded to not end everything was all for naught. Suddenly, nothing made sense. Adam said that they wanted war just to see who’s best, then agreed to it. There had to be something more to this…
With a snap of his fingers, the world seemed to shift dizzily for a moment before righting itself. Aziraphale, Crowley, Gabriel, and Beelzebub along with Adam found themselves in front of Tadfield Manor.
Aziraphale gaped, confused as to why they were now standing in front of the former maternity hospital. Then his eyes lit up. “War as imagined by an 11-year-old boy, Crowley.” He whispered to his friend. Now it was Crowley’s turn to be astonished. But he too saw the humor in this and chuckled under his breath, which garnered a hard look from Beelzebub.
“Where the Hell are we?” Gabriel growled, shifting to assess his surroundings.
“Tadfield Manor. Former home to St, Beryl’s Satanic Order of Chattering Nuns.”Crowley chimed in helpfully with a grin, “Now the site for Corporate Business Training.”
The Archangel rounded on Adam. “Okay kid, what the fuck are we doing here?!” Gabriel’s voice was no longer calm nor amiable in any way.
“Really? Such language in front of an 11-year-old. And from an Angel, no less.”Aziraphale admonished.
Adam just shrugged, “Heard worse at school.”
“Keep your mouth shut, Aziraphale.” Gabriel barked, as he spun on his heel to rebuke the Principality.
“Aziraphale and Crowley aren’t to blame.” Adam shook his head sadly, “I didn’t understand what this power was in me. I hurt my friends and nearly ended the world. It may be what you wanted, but it’s not what I wanted. I want the world to change for the better, but I don't want it to happen with my powers. Humans are the ones responsible for Earth.”
Aziraphale nodded, “That’s what I felt when we came down here looking for you,” he admitted with a kind smile. “Angels can sense love since we are essentially beings of the same sentiment. ”
“Excuse me,” Gabriel interrupted again, eyes narrowed.“What the Hell are we doing here?”
“A game to determine the winner of the war. Paintball version of Capture the Flag.”Adam announced with the surprising authority of an adult.
“What is Paintball?” Beelzebub’s bemused expression looked odd on the Prince of Hell.
“It’s a game.” Crowley explained, “You shoot paintballs at one another while trying to capture each other’s flag on their side of the course.”
With a wave of Adam’s hand, a flag appeared at either side of the grounds, gold for Heaven and black for Hell. “You’re going to need more players for the game to be fun.” Another snap of the fingers, and Sandlephon, Michael, and Uriel appeared on Heaven’s side alongside some other equally confused Angels. Meanwhile, Hastur, Dagon and one Duke of Hell Crowley had heard of but never seen. Baal, appeared from nowhere. They too gained some participants so that there 10 members of each team. Both factions of newly surfaced Angels and Demons blinked, suddenly aware that they were on Earth without knowing why.
“We came down here to see what was-,” Michael began, but stopped to glance at Adam. “Oh, Lord!” Then looking to Gabriel, she asked in a sotto tone, “What’s happened? Why has Armageddon not occurred yet?”
“Seems the kid doesn’t want to start the War.” Gabriel sniffed while crossing his arms. “It appears he thinks a little game will settle this whole blessed matter.”
"Think of it this way. 'Least we'll still get to see who's best, use weapons...and the Earth will survive."Crowley chirped with a shrug of his shoulders.“Call it...part of the Ineffable Plan.”
Gabriel groused as the Angels looked at him, waiting for a decision. Finally, he threw up his hands. “FINE. We’ll play your little game, boy.” Beelzebub also nodded in agreement.
With a magnanimous nod, Adam snapped his fingers. Crowley looked at the teams of Heaven and Hell in tactical gear (with black helmets for Hell and gold helmets for Heaven) and holding paintball guns, then burst into laughter. Aziraphale nearly did the same but hid it with a polite cough. It again drew a look of ire from their respective superiors. Instantly, with a wave of Adam’s hand, they all knew how the game was played, perhaps saving them a half-hour that it would take to go through training. Which was good all around, as sunset was rapidly approaching, and paintball was generally not played at night.
The Angels and Demons all retreated to their respective bases to plan their ‘attack,’ only looking back at the 11-year-old who had unwittingly dragged them into this rather silly situation.
Crowley was, for all intents and purposes, tense. Hastur was shooting him hard looks, almost as though he was thinking of how he was going to tear him limb from limb. Of course, none of them no longer trusted him. Crowley shifted his feet on the dirt, waiting for the accusations to pour forth from his comrades. Much to his surprise, it did not come, not at first anyway. They seemed busy laying out their plan of attack in the dirt. The demons seemed to ignore him completely until their line of assault was set.
“This will be easy.” Hastur snickered, “The wank-wings won’t know what hit‘em.”
“Crowley,” Beelzebub's head shot up to glare at him, “You’ll go and find out what the opposition is planning for their attack. You’ll guard our flag on your return.” Their eyes narrowed,
“My Prince,” Hastur interrupted, “You’re not going to let him go?! He’ll just try to escape.”
“Shut it!” Beelzebub snapped at the Duke of Hell. No one dared to oppose the Lord of the Flies. “If there’s any conspiring with the enemy, or trying to escape, I’ll have you found and your wings ripped off feather by feather, then you’ll be thrown into the deepest pit of brimstone.” Do you understand?”
The demon visibly gulped. No doubt that they would exact that punishment on him sometime in the future. Hell had very creative ways of tormenting not only mortals but demons as well. So it would be in his best interest to follow orders.
“Y-yes, Lord Beelzebub.” Crowley bowed, in a truly respective way this time. He scurried out of the shelter, making himself invisible before trekking to the enemy base.
Aziraphale stood apart from the other Angels while they planned out their strategy. He had always been an outsider amongst his colleagues, especially since he had been working on Earth these last 6000 years. Now that sentiment seemed to be intensified by having ‘betrayed’ Heaven’s will for the Apocalypse. It didn’t help that all them shot him cold looks when they entered the shelter earlier.
Oddly, despite bulking at the idea of playing a ‘game’ instead of the actual apocalyptic battle, Gabriel was planning for it seriously. Not once did any of them take any notice of Aziraphale. He tried to make suggestions but was just told to keep quiet by Gabriel, or given looks of disapproval from Uriel. Aziraphale suddenly remembered why he disliked the higher-ups. They liked nothing more than listening to the sounds of their voices and had an unruly habit of believing that their actions were always the correct ones. A ‘stick in the mud’ as humans like to call it.
“Alright.” Gabriel clapped his hands together, “Everyone knows what to do. We’ll be ready when the whistle blows. We will win this!” There were nods of agreement from the other Archangels.
Aziraphale raised his hand.“ Ummmm…excuse me, I wasn’t given a position.”
They all frowned, and Aziraphale suddenly wished he hadn’t said anything at all. He didn’t step backward in deference to his superiors. If Adam wanted him in this game, the others could not object.
"We'll make you guard the flag since you're too cowardly to fight. Then again you couldn't even defend a gate of Eden."Gabriel mocked, which brought a cruel smile to the lips of Sandalphon.
Aziraphale said nothing for a moment, his eyes lowered to the ground. With a shuddering breath, he spoke up, eyes level with the other Angels. "I may be a coward, but I'm not so blind I can't see past the end of my nose. You thought you were following God's Plans. I thought I was doing the proper thing. Adam was right-humanity shouldn't have to pay the price for our war."
In response to this Aziraphale was lifted off his feet by his coat lapels and shoved bodily into a wall of the shelter, making the angel shout with pain as his shoulder slammed into it.
“Listen, you pathetic excuse for an angel,” Gabriel hissed. “You and your little demon friend defied Heaven and Hell to stop the Divine War. You’re lucky I don’t rip your wings off right here.”
Aziraphale heard a hiss and stared up at the door. He saw a rather familiar snake standing almost upright, yellow eyes blazing. He spoke calmly, hoping to keep the other Angels from noticing. “I’m not really to blame for Armageddon not happening, and neither is Crowley. It wasn’t our fault that the nuns mixed up the babies. Adam would have grown up in a normal family, whether it be the Youngs or the Dowlings. You’re just angry because I refused to fall in line with the rest of the lot. If you want to punish me, I will gladly accept it. But right now, the Anti-Christ has control of reality and wants us to play this game. If you want me to be a team player, then assign me a position for it. ”
He was let go of, dropped to the ground roughly. When Aziraphale got to his feet, Sandalphon advanced, a cruel smile on his face as he punched him in the stomach. Aziraphale doubled over, coughing while holding his stomach. “I think you needed another lesson. That’s for your insolence.”
He heard the hiss, louder this time. The others turned upon hearing it as well. The source of the noise had disappeared by that time.
There was a sound of an airhorn alerted them that the game had begun. “We will speak of this further in the future, Aziraphale,” Michael added coldly. “Get to your position and pray that you hold it.”
Crowley decided half-way across the course to take on snake form. It occurred to him that although humans could not sense him while invisible, angels could. Crowley thought it would be prudent for him to take on that form not only for that purpose, but to have even more stealth. Still, as a demon, his hearing was excellent, which allowed him to tune into the Angels conversation-or rather, their strategy. He was just about to slither away and rejoin his side when he heard Aziraphale’s voice say that he wasn’t given a position for the game.
“We’ll make you guard the flag since you’re too cowardly to fight.” He heard Gabriel mock. “But then again, you couldn’t even guard a gate of Eden.”
Crowley let out a tiny hiss that no-one caught. He heard the angel sputter out how he did what he thought right and that they were only angry because he wouldn’t fall in line with them. Aziraphale was correct, Though. Perhaps it had been for selfish reasons, but the fault of Armageddon didn’t fall completely on their shoulders. The Archangels were just looking for a scapegoat. Heaven help him, Aziraphale had been too kind, too forgiving to do anything to put up with it, until now.
When the Principality was dropped to the ground, the one called Sandalphon snickered, “It looks like you need another lesson.” He swung a punch at Aziraphale’s stomach, causing the angel to double over and cough. He was tempted to transform back to throw some Hellish punishment on them but saw Aziraphale’s panicked expression. Crowley thought better of it and decided to return to his side of the course. They had turned just as he slithered away.
Crowley entered their base in his ‘human’ form. He explained the enemy’s ‘plan’ in detail, every given position that the Angels were each taking in the dirt. He partially wondered if the demons even believed a word of what he was saying. But then, they knew he wouldn’t lie because they’d probably rip him to tiny demonic pieces.
“Good,” Beelzebub affirmed. “We’ll know how to attack.” A whistle blew and the Prince of Hell spoke to Crowley, “Get to your position, Crowley. If you lose our flag, you’ll pay for it dearly.”
He nodded, not really afraid of what Hell would do to him. As he stalked towards the flag’s base, Crowley already had come up with a way to make the Archangels pay dearly for their treatment of Aziraphale.
Aziraphale, guardian of the Eastern Gate shifted on his feet nervously. He knew that this was merely a diversion from the actual War, but would probably be taken seriously as if it were the actual Last Battle. He wondered with a pit in his stomach, whether he’d have to hit Crowley-or like him, was assigned ‘flag duty’ because he was considered ‘untrustworthy’ by his superiors.
He glanced at the paintball gun with some trepidation. It was not like his celestial sword and the paintballs would only hurt. But it was not in his nature to wield weapons, in general. Having been hit by one, he was not looking forward to inflicting it on others, nor being on the receiving end. It was going to be painful, in every sense of the word.
Aziraphale didn’t have time to contemplate this as the whistle blew. He felt a ripple in the air and suddenly felt odd, like a human . So Adam had made sure that it was going to be a fair ‘fight’ (not that demons would fight fairly). He heard a roar as the players from Hell’s side rushed forward to meet the defense. Within seconds they had fallen to their knees as the paintballs had hit, managing to get up and strike back with an attack on the opposition after a few seconds.
Much to his surprise, Aziraphale saw a rather short figure and a slightly taller one he knew to be Beelzebub and Hastur advancing rapidly on him. Aziraphale inhaled sharply then fired paintballs at each of them while ducking to the side as two paintballs were lobbed at him. He astonishingly hit Hastur in the knee, which halted the demon for the moment, and sent a glancing blow towards Beelezebub’s elbow that earned a demonic glare. Aziraphale watched with fascination as the few defense members of Heaven got up and took to attacking the Duke and Prince of Hell respectively.
He yelped and jumped as a paintball struck his shoulder ... again. He glanced back at the paint smear only to find two more from the other side advancing on him from behind. Aziraphale grimaced and dodged towards a stack of barrels, once again aiming at knees or legs to slow down the advance. He pondered just letting them take the stupid thing but realized that Heaven was meant to triumph over Hell. Aziraphale cleared the barrels, firing at the oncoming horde, while sweat poured down his face. They retreated backward towards more secure shelter and the Angel gave a small self-satisfied smile. That was until, he was hit it the calf with a yell, which was followed by a round of paintballs hitting him everywhere.
“Bugger!” Aziraphale yelled as he struggled to stand and aim his paintball gun at the enemy. His whole body stung from hits with paintballs, but he stood and aimed the gun…only to find that it had run out. He quickly loaded new ones as Beelzebub, Hastur and the others closed in. Aziraphale shakily brought the paintball gun level when he was struck in the back of the neck, causing his vision to blur. He saw the outline of Beelzebub's face as they smiled while crowing. “Good try, Angel. You’re juzzzzt no match for us.”
With that, he was hit once more in the neck with something even heavier than a paintball. His vision tunneled into darkness.
Crowley felt the air ripple and realized with horror that his demonic powers had vanished-no doubt the work of Adam. If anything, it was going to make hitting the Angels with paintballs even more enjoyable for him. Since the Beginning, Crowley knew not only how to fight, but also how to survive. He silently hoped that like him, Aziraphale was regulated to flag guarding duty and he wouldn’t have to hit him as an opponent.
He heard the sound of paintball guns firing as two forms running forward at him. He recognized with some glee, that it was Gabriel, Uriel and Sandalphon(who wasn’t so much running as he was trotting) next to one another. Crowley grinned, “Perfect!” He said under his breath.
When they were close enough, he shot several paintballs at the two most offending Angels. He sent pellets at Sandlephon’s stomach, and a few at Gabriel’s chest, laughing all the while. Uriel got off a shot that whizzed past his shoulder. He returned it with a paintball to the arm that was holding her weapon.
The demons were fighting valiantly (if demons could be valiant) to defend their base, but the ‘enemy’ continued to forge ahead towards their goal. He dodged to the left behind the bunker and let off a few pellets towards Gabriel and Uriel who were running fast towards the flag base. A paintball hit him from the right by a random Angel, who was stationed behind a stack of barrels. He planted his feet over the flag and shot at anyone who was within his line of sight. While he was busy with a few Angels on his left flank, he only noticed out of the corner of his eye, someone approaching from behind. Before he had time to react, the flag was taken from between his feet, while he was hit in the chest, followed by the stomach (no doubt by Sandalphon as revenge) a few times. By the time he could get to his feet, the flag was gone, taken by Michael’s retreating form.
His fellow teammates tried to stop the Angels. To their credit, Heaven’s agents were fast on their feet and more clever to keep their opponents pinned down while withdrawing back to their side of the course.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Crowley cursed under his breath, all the while throwing up his hands in frustration. Great, he really would never hear the end of it. Hastur was going to have fun dragging him down to Hell for a torture session. He tried to cobble together any kind of excuse as Beelzebub and Hastur approached with satisfied smirks on their faces. The Prince of Hell was holding Heaven’s flag.
“Congrats on successfully retrieving the enemies’ flag, Lord Beelzebub.” Crowley praised with yet another bow.
Hastur snorted, “It was easy enough. That fat Angel was easy picking when he was surrounded. It was nothing to take the flag when the stupid bugger was unconscious.”
Crowley stiffened slightly, attempting not to show his discomfort and worry for Aziraphale’s well being across the field. He tried not to turn his head to look in the hope of seeing his friend and draw their attention. Inwardly, he was uneasy at the thought of Aziraphale lying insensate somewhere. He hoped that the other Angels would at least find him and attend to him
They all heard a horn blaring, signaling the end of the game. As if on instinct, they trudged to the front of Tadfield Manor, slightly sore and perhaps even oddly tired from the adventure Likewise, the Angels tramped in too. But Crowley noticed that one of them was missing. He glanced from one to another, looking for Aziraphale, while his heart raced in his chest.
“It was a tie. I was keeping track.” Adam announced, with groans of dissatisfaction among the two groups. Gabriel muttered something about it being ‘an exercise in futility’ that gained Adam’s attention. “Would you like to try again, then?”
“Ugh, no!” Michael exclaimed, trying to dust off her jacket.”I’ve had quite enough of this. Being a human is quite tiring.” There was a murmur of agreement from both Angels and Demons.
Gabriel, unhappily, huffed. “ALRIGHT. We’ll call it a draw…..for now.” He glared at the fallen angels. “We will win the real battle.”
Dagon snorted, “Yeah right. You keep telling yourself that, moron.”
Adam appeared to accept this and snapped his fingers. With another billow in the air, their powers were returned to them and the paintball gear disappeared, leaving them in the clothes that they all had arrived in.
Beelzebub shot a dark look at Crowley, “We’ll be in touch with you, Crowley. Don’t think you’re going to get away with defying Hell.” With that, the Infernal creatures disappeared in a puff of purple smoke.
The Angels were just about to do the same when Crowley stopped them. “OI! Where is Aziraphale?!” They all looked at one another. He barked louder, “WHERE IS AZIRAPHALE?” Some of the lesser angels winced, but that didn’t stop the Archangels from losing their unconcerned expressions. “You left him, didn’t you?! He could have been injured and just because he defied you, you left him behind! You lot are bigger monsters than Hell ever had!” He growled.
Before any of them could say a word, Crowley took off towards the course, calling Aziraphale’s name. He stopped every few seconds to look around for him. “Aziraphale! Where in Heaven are you?” He called out. It was nearly nightfall, but his demon eyes finally made out a shape near where the flag base was located.
“Aziraphale!” He shouted. His feet didn't touch the ground until he came to a sudden stop next to the prone angel. Instantly, Crowley knelt beside his friend and helped him to a sitting position as he began to stir. “Angel, are you alright?” He slapped Aziraphale’s cheek.
The angel’s blue eyes opened, looking slightly glazed. “C-Crowley? What-?”
He checked over the Angel and flinched at the sight of a red welt at the back of his neck. A paintball pellet hadn’t done this, a blow to the back of the head had-and he knew it was probably Hastur. He set aside thoughts of revenge for the moment to attend to his ailing friend.
“I’ll explain later. Can you move?” Crowley said hurriedly. The Angel bobbed his head slightly. Throwing one of Aziraphale’s left arm over his shoulder, Crowley slowly trekked back to the entrance of the building. To his surprise, Adam was still waiting, an expression of concern was visible on his small face. “Mr. Aziraphale, are you alright?”
“N-not really.” The Angel stuttered. Just-just give me a moment.”
“We’ve got our powers back, can you miracle away the concussion?” Crowley inquired.
Aziraphale nodded slightly, then closed his eyes. A golden glow surrounded his body for a flash of a few seconds, and afterward, he lifted his head, the dazed look having vanished from his face.
“What happened Crowley?” the Angel shuddered. “All I remember was being hit with paintball then Beelzebub telling me something. Then there was a blow to the back of my head and that’s all I can recall before you came looking for me.”
Crowley’s face pinched. “Hastur probably hit you in the neck with the paintball gun or something heavy. You were unconscious, and those bastards that you call angels left you after the game was done.”
Aziraphale was crestfallen by this. “Oh.” his voice quiet. “I never thought I bore such a disdain from them that they’d ever leave one of their own.” He rubbed the back of his neck and winced in pain as the remanents of his injury were still fading.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Crowley, Mr. Aziraphale. I didn’t think this through. I never thought they’d hurt you as they did. I shouldn’t have forced you to fight when you don’t like it.” Adam trailed off.
“It’s not your fault, child.” Aziraphale consoled with a pat to the boy’s head. “You stopped Armageddon and I am very grateful for that. So is the entire world for that matter, no doubt, even if they don't know it.” That made a small smile appear on Adam’s face.
Thank you for coming up with a battle that wasn’t ya know-deadly.” Crowley added with a laugh. He looked at his watch. “Won’t you be in trouble for being out this late?”
Adam shrugged. “Probably, but it’s okay. I’ve sent everyone home.” He glanced around. “I’m going to fix everything tomorrow. Don’t worry about that.”
Aziraphale and Crowley shot confused glances at one another, then to the Anti-Christ child. Crowley miracled a calling card. “This is my phone number. Should you ever need us for help or advice, don’t hesitate to call. You’re a good kid, Adam Young, just don’t tell anyone I said that.”
“Thanks.” Adam gave a little wave. “Bye. Thank you for your help.”
When the boy was out of sight, Crowley groaned. “Heavens it been a day. I could use a damn drink…..or several, Angel.”
“I couldn’t agree more, Crowley.” Aziraphale nodded, He turned and saw something glimmering on the pavement. Picking it up, he realized what it was. “My Celestial sword!” Aziraphale said happily.
“Adam really did think of everything.” Crowley grinned. “C’mon, Angel, let’s go get some alchohol and try to work out Agnus Nutter’s last prophecy.”