The strain is tremendous, but I keep my attention focused on the oxygenation systems. Bloodwing's attention is turned away towards his first mate...Mermet it is what his name sounds like, a shelled demon that just landed from the black armada above us. The crustaceanoid crouched and nodded before his captain like a proper quisling as Bloodwing told him where to set up the throne room. I broke protocol by interrupting Royal Business.
"You can't stay here, Father."
"Qli, my dear," Bloodwing turned to softly reassure me before returning to his plans of annexation. "We are demons. We do not need to breathe. Once the mortals have left the city you can..."
I shook my head as best I could in my self-entrapment of glowing chains.
"No Father, I am not letting you take this ship. I am steering it towards a collision course with the Wormwood comet."
"WHAT?!?" the demons barked in unision. As the incubus turned to face me, I could see Mermet's antennae and protruding eyes peek at me from behind the prince's wingspan.
"Have those chains shorted out your brain, child? You are going to be a Princess of Erebus! These drones shall be your handmaidens! You shall want for nothing! I regret I could not reach here fast enough to save one of my son's lives, and Ash incinerating my old body was unfortunate, even if I no longer had need of it, but there is no reason to despair and contemplate..."
"You are missing the point, Father," I interrupted. By the calculations of the Steel units, in the century after next the Wormwood comet will come withing striking range of the Earth. If it does not collide head-on and destroy the planet utterly it will certainly cause an Extinction Level Event when it disrupts the atmosphere and the gravity of the Earth and Moon!" Bloodwing sighed.
"Sweet Qli, always the selfless martyr. I applaud your devotion to Humanity, but it is misplaced. Your loyalty belongs to me now, as this is my city."
"Your city to administer under possession and rule of the Obsidian King, Your Grace," hissed Mermet in an apologetic but slightly concerned...hiss.
"Excuse me one moment." Bloodwing turned, and through the cover of his wings I saw a ball of flame shroud them both. I heard a loud and slow cracking sound as Mermet's shrieks of terror were quickly silenced. He turned back to me, pointing at me with his assistant's smoking claw as he approached.
"As I was saying, even if I let you throw my hard-earned prize at that green rock, it is not large enough to destroy that comet nor even change its course!"
"By itself, yes...but with your help and the Steels we could set up a frequency to..."
He leaned in inches from my face, the flaming crown on his head made my eyes smart.
"Do you expect me to join in your madness?"
"Do you expect to hold off the Obsidian King's fleet forever? Even if the armada above is ready to mutiny with you, you shall eventually fall. You meant this to be your last stand...to face off Hades as an equal with a final blaze of glory before you fall in battle." We stared at each other in immesurable silence.
"Your way," muttered my father, "would leave nothing left for him to claim. And it would deny him the chance to claim the last crop of Humanity's souls in one great reaping."
"And the eternal praise of Humanity as well."
"I like the way you think, daughter. We will do this your way. On one condition. Whether we die in self-sacrifice or throw ourselves upon the enemy's spears, I would still be King of New Erebus." I nodded slowly, and addressed the gathering of Steels that were beginning to look humanoid again as they continued to repair each other.
"Sisters! Bow to Bloodwing as your new King, and our last wish shall be fulfilled!"
The drones stopped reattaching their limbs and rewiring their sinews of glowing ciruitry and stood staring at the demon.
"My children! Who is your Master?" roared the usuper.
Instead of the sumbmissiveness I expected, I felt a torrent of anger swell and rise within the drones, spreading through their souls. Someone else's anger.
"JEREMIAH MASON!" They roared as they reconfigured their limbs into weapons.
"So he still lives," chuckled Bloodwing. "I'm not surprised he had an extra body hidden here."
He waved his arm (the one not still holding the chitinous arm) in a sweeping gesture, shattering the drones again and scattering their components across the engine room. I screamed. These were duplicates of me that he slaughtered!
"You are mistaken, child. Similar to you they are, but none of them were of my creation."
As I tried to make sense of his statement through the numbing shock of feeling their psyches obliterated en masse, I felt the presence of something even more malevolent as the cloud of the collective ebbed from my consciousness.
"Bloodwing! Jeremiah must have reached the Gygax! He has unleashed the Pandoran!"
TO BE CONTINUED