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The Art of War

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It was just a few short hours after General Riesen’s funeral that David Whele made his power play for control of the city. As political machinations went, it was a master stroke. In one fell swoop he removed a vital ally of House Riesen, eliminated the driving force behind the “Chosen One” fallacy, destabilised the senate, and created a threat to the city’s security, all of which led to a power vacuum into which he was only too ready to step. And the one stone with which he killed these four birds? Michael. Or rather, the absence of Michael.

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“Ah, Michael. Thank you for coming.” David Whele leaned back expansively, the rich leather of his office chair creaking under him. “I know how busy you are...”

The archangel’s face was as impassive as usual as he interrupted, “You said you had important information about angel activity within the city?”

“Of course,” Whele smiled. “Straight to business. Indeed. Are you sure I can’t offer you a drink?” He waved his own glass of whiskey, ice cubes clinking gently against fine crystal, as one of his staff approached the archangel hesitantly, drinks tray in hand. Michael barely glanced at the man before turning his attention back to Whele.

“Consul...” The face was as impassive as ever but the voice betrayed a hint of irritation.

“No? Oh, well. My apologies. Just trying to be polite...” He grinned genially, his attitude relaxed but his gaze sharp.

The drinks waiter moved quickly, to give him his due, but not quickly enough...for his own safety. Whele thought he’d done a good job of holding the angel’s attention but Michael reacted almost instantaneously as the waiter lunged forward and jabbed a syringe into the side of his neck. The drinks tray clattered noisily to the floor as Michael caught the man around the throat, half-turning to throw him clear across the room. The ugly crunch as the man hit the wall and slid limply to the ground suggested he wouldn’t be getting up again but David had expected as much. Acceptable losses.

Michael was furious, his wings suddenly unfolding as he turned back to Whele, a palpable sense of threat in the air as he stalked forwards. “You dare...?” he fumed, the great span of his black wings rising up behind him, making the large room feel uncomfortably small.

David held his relaxed pose, leaning back in his chair, a slight smile hovering at his lips, though underneath he was tense, expectant. He was taking a hell of a chance here. If it didn’t work...

But even as the thought crossed his mind, the archangel staggered and David’s smile grew.

Watching Michael’s face morph from anger to confusion was delightful. His wings beat once, the downdraft a cool rush against David’s face, rustling and lifting the papers on his desk, as the angel fought for balance, staggered again, and dropped to one knee.

David let his chair tilt forward as he sat upright, placing his glass carefully on the desk, his eyes never leaving Michael’s. The angel was sweating now, breathing heavily. “You...” His brow furrowed, unable to make sense of what was happening to him.

“Interesting, isn’t it?” David observed calmly, his cool gaze taking careful note of the angel’s reaction to the drug. “Archangel you may be - stronger than us, faster than us - but nonetheless here on earth you inhabit a physical body just like we do and are subject to the same laws of biology...”

The angel was shaking, struggling for balance, clearly unable to rise. His eyes looked glassy, unfocused, his eyelids beginning to droop. “What...” he gasped, “what have you...?”

“Oh, you’ll be wondering what I dosed you with?” David smiled. “Remarkably effective, isn’t it? Just a little something I had my scientists brew up using some blood samples taken during your recent hospital stay. Your blood chemistry is like nothing they’ve ever seen before, apparently, but eventually they came up with something they were fairly certain would take you down.”

Michael’s face darkened with a renewed anger and with a snarl he surged upwards, his wings whipping forward, taking David by surprise. He flinched back, his chair tilting back under his weight, as the tips of Michael’s wings swept past inches from his chest, the sharp as steel edges slicing his desk lamp in two, stiff feathers brushing the contents of his desk onto the floor, paperwork sent fluttering. His whiskey glass hit the floor with a dull thud and rolled, trailing amber liquid onto the carpet.

But it was a last desperate play, a burst of energy that left the angel drained and helpless. His legs gave way under him and he fell to the floor, gasping for breath, his wings flapping weakly.

David licked his lips, his heart hammering in his chest, adrenalin still flooding his nervous system, and pushed deliberately to his feet. He walked slowly around the wide expanse of his desk, forcing himself to breathe evenly, to relax the tension in his shoulders, until he stood over the fallen angel, the tips of his polished shoes mere inches from Michael’s face, making it clear that he was not afraid, that he was in control here.

The angel lay on his side, long legs splayed helplessly, his impressive wings stretched out behind him, limp and twitching. He was trembling, his breath coming in short, shallow gasps, but there was still determination in his glassy eyes as he looked up defiantly, meeting David’s impassive gaze.

David watched calmly, Michael’s gaze still locked on his, as the angel’s breathing slowed and his eyes grew heavy. Michael kept eye contact as, with a last grimace of effort, his wings folded and twisted and, in that mysterious process which David had yet to understand, disappeared. And then the angel’s eyes slid closed and his head lolled, tension draining from his body as he slipped into unconsciousness.

For a long moment David Whele didn’t move. Then he reached out a perfectly polished shoe and, none too gently, nudged the unconscious angel. Nothing. He pursed his lips. He’d have preferred the wings out, given a choice, but no matter. He smiled. There were ways and means, he was sure.