Chapter 7:

Divergence Point

Archangel Accelerate

The room they walked into was a vast jungle-gym of walls and ledges. It looked like it was better suited to parkour than military training. The ledges of the climbable blocks that were stuck across the room appeared worn, with black streaks on their edges. This was a testing ground for Relic abilities. The vastness of the room interrupted Aurora’s yawn as she walked in.

“What is this place…,” asked Aurora.

Xinyi looked down, already annoyed. Was she even listening to me?, she thought. She looked across the room, eyeing the new additions.

They added a lot more traps in this place since I was initiated. Is this kid gonna survive?

“It’s a training room. They want to see your ability in person,” responded Xinyi.

Aurora looked to the large glass windows overlooking the room. She saw the outlines of white coated scientists, all hastily taking notes and scrutinizing data poured from their screen. Before long, she was flanked on both sides by two scientists. One of them pulled Nock towards them, plugging a small handheld computer into it. It was Annette, the engineer from yesterday.

“Hey there. Just adding some finishing touches on my masterpiece.”

“What are you doing?,” said Aurora, watching Nock’s screen flash rapidly. She sensed a slight perfume as Annette drew closer to her. She blushed as they rubbed shoulders, her view covered by her long blonde hair.

“You’ll see,” said Annette/

Xinyi aggressively stuck out her wings. She stared at Annette with contempt. Her dress was often casual, today wearing joggers and a T-shirt. It gave her an air of seniority, as if her status freed her from cleaning up her presentation.

“Are you serious? The kid needs to learn to activate their Angel by themselves. This fancy shit is just gonna get them killed. Not like the right way would even save them at this point.”

“Yeah, yeah. Anyway, good luck kiddo,” said Annette, stepping away. Another duo of scientists stepped forward, strapping a wired helmet to her head. The tubes extending from it latched into one of Nock’s ports. Next, they pulled out a series of intravenous lines, connecting them into Nock.

“You’ll feel a small prick. It’ll be quick. Just need to read your vitals during testing,” one of the scientists said, not even bothering to ask if she allowed this.

Sure. What else is knew, thought Aurora.

The IV lines had a thick end, similar to a lock. She felt the ending of the line lock with a whirring sound, along with a tight squeeze in her veins. The IV was connected. She heard a voice coming from Nock as the scientists departed.




Would you like to activate the connection?

Aurora looked at Xinyi. She was quickly tapping her sneakers, looking towards the distance.


Angel connection activated. Standby…

Aurora’s vision dimmed. Sparks began to cover her vision, burning her retina into a sea of white spots. Her muscles vibrated. Something was taking her over.

Synchronizing neural oscillation.

As her vision cleared, she felt the loud whirling on Nock against her arm. Sparks twitched as she raised her hand and flexed her fingers. Now, she was a mobile weapon. The only thing left was to learn how to control herself.

“Are you done? Tell that stupid thing to hurry it up,” said Xinyi.

Nock flickered a few more times, but returned to its home screen. The bubbly UI bounced around the screen like it usually did.


Xinyi walked over. She raised one of the indents in the floor on her tablet. It was 15 feet above the ground, with adjacent raised blocks and bars to parkour between. It seemed like an advanced playground.

“Now don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not helping you because I want to. Just doing a favor for a friend. Fritz told me what went down. Lightning, right?

Aurora looked down at the bolts climbing up and down her arms.

“Yeah. I could maneuver like I was a superhero or something. My punches felt like they had the force of a cannon.”

“Must be elemental augmentation. The lightning isn’t just for show, it must be enhancing your physical attributes. Super strength, to put it simply. Give it a whirl, hop up onto that block.”

She squatted down, prepping her legs to leap into the air. Her body was light and mobile, but not from her own strength. It felt like another force was pulling her, listening to her brain’s commands and dragging her in that direction. Her legs wobbled under the force.

Last time… during the fight with Brunhilda, I remember. My legs ejected me into the air.

Aurora looked up, seeing the metal plated roofing. She imagined the scientists taking diligent and detailed notes of her slamming into the roof.

Ok, I’ll ease the tension on my muscles, and see what happens, thought Aurora. Her muscles contracted slightly. The sparks calmed. But then, like a rubber band snapping off a finger, she pushed herself upward. Cutting through the air, she snatched the ledge of the block. She looked down at her legs, still twitching with a bluish glow. They were dangling above 15 feet of open air.

Hah… I did it.

The lightness of her body was incredible. In the past, exercise felt like struggling through a sea of molasses. But now, her twisting legs floated through the air like a feather in the wind. Her power was unlocked, she just needed to control it.

A bluish electric glow revved up and down her arms as she pulled herself up. Xinyi flew up to Aurora. Her wide, pearl white wings stuck out of holes cut in her sweatshirt. Their long arc whipped a powerful wind in Aurora’s direction, almost knocking her on the ground. She flew around Aurora, inspecting her from all sides.

“Hmm… not bad. Seems like you’ve gotten a bit of a handle of your power. Mobility will be key once they send you to the Firmament. Over there, the laws of physics are just a suggestion. And it’s been crawling with Imperium scouts. The faster you are, the better chance you have of surviving.”

One of the scientists overlooking the training grounds signaled at Xinyi, telling her to hurry up. She looked to the side towards a row of platforms. On top of each platform stood plastic test dummies. Lights flicked from their bodies, while the the sides of the platforms held blue scanners for tracking movement. Thick vacuum tubes and a rainbow-colored bundles of cables draped off the sides from the scanners.

“See those platforms over there? Try and hop from one to the other while taking out those dummies.”

As Xinyl flew away to create some distance, Aurora readied herself to launch. The gap was wide, nothing any normal human could make. Luckily, she was no longer a normal human. She took a deep breath. After a running start, she could concentrate all her energy into her lower body and launch herself like a missile. She took off, the blue sensors beyond the gap getting closer and closer. Just go, she thought. Give it everything you got. Her neural capacity was a like a muscle. The harder she pushed herself now, the easier it would be out in the field.

Approaching neural overflow. Divergence point imminent.

She hit the ledge of the platform, and sent herself flying. Her lower body glimmered as she ejected herself into the air. Nock’s internal pumps tightened, always at the ready to release an ejection of Serphium. The platform was getting closer, until it was too close for her speed. At this rate, she would miss it, and fall right onto the carbon fiber flooring.

Shit! I misjudged the arc!

The only chance was to grab the ledge of the other side of her target. Aurora stretched her arms out, using her power to augment her grip. As she did, however, her legs felt weak and light as her electrical augments shifted priority. The Relic’s power moved around her body, changing its center of augmentation at the user’s will. Suddenly, she was slowed down by a strong gust of wind. It was Xinyi, flapping her wings in Aurora’s path. She slammed against the platform, her palms digging into the carbon fiber as she tried to slow herself down. When the world stopped spinning, she found herself hanging off the other side of the platform, staring down her burn marks illuminated by the sensors. A 15 foot drop awaited her below.

“Climb up, you’re fine. A drop like that is a paper cut to people like us. Let loose on the targets here, they wanna see what you can do in combat.”

Lifting herself onto the platform, she got a closer look at the sensors. Their blue lights moved in tandem with her position. Every few seconds, Nock and the sensor would sync together with a slight buzz. The screen read off the standard vitals signs, along with ones specific to Relic users. Neural load, neuroplasticity, brain waves, they all appeared in a slick looking UI, similar to modern Ilyas tablets. Annette paid close attention to the user interface, it seems.

Alright. Time to throw a punch. Tight grip, thumb on the outside. I’ll give these guys a light show. I’ll survive in the Firmament, no matter what.

Without any hesitation, Aurora shifted her entire body weight into the metallic dummy, tearing its head off and sending lighting streaking into the air. The head whipped towards the wall of the room, twisting in the air like a curveball.

Wait. The lightning travels through the air. Does that mean…

Aurora began to smile devilishly. As she slowly got a handle of her power, she realized how fun this could be. She stuck her hand out like a hand cannon, pulling all of her energy into her arm. Her new weapon: a railgun. If she could twitch her body hard enough, it would release a menacing stream of lightning towards any poor sucker unlucky enough to stand in her way. After a moment of focus, she jerked her muscles forward, releasing a scattered beam of energy towards the test dummy. It wasn’t very effective, only blowing off a few chunks of its body, but it was a step forward. However, she needed a precise shot. Something less scattered, and with more impact. Surviving the first days on the Firmament would require a decisive strike.

Ok. Calm down my breathing, and focus.

Aurora felt the air around her move in rhythm with her breathing. She held her elbow with her other hand, and aimed her palm at the head of the damaged test tummy. Energy slowed concentrated into her arm. A tingling sensation grew stronger as her palm began to flicker.

Neural load approaching divergence point, said the voice from Nock.

Her arm slowly grew numb as lightning swarmed her body. Azrael’s power, in the form of electric voltage, slowly consumed the space around her. Yet Aurora would be not budge. She was the calm within the storm.

Neural load at 99%. Approaching brainwave synchronization boundary.

She ignored the voice from Nock. This power existed on the limit of what her nervous system could handle. If she could thread that needle, infinitely approaching perfect synchronization with Azrael, she could tap into a source of boundless power.

Nock’s touchscreen began to flicker. A mumbling voice appeared in her mind, like a harmony of damaged air sirens. Her vision began to blur. This was it.

“Infinite Divergence.”


Dr. Ferdinand looked down at the training maze, drifting her focus from her augmented reality glasses to the commotion below her. The scientists under her watch were hastily plugging in a headset while Annette strolled away from the scene, carefree as ever.

She doesn’t seem to be taking this as seriously as she should, thought Dr. Ferdinand. As annoyed as she could be, she couldn’t let it show on her face. The head scientist needed to be calm and composed.

“Preparations all clear, ma’am. Biometrics should be appear in your heads-up-display,” said one of the scientists under Dr. Ferdinand.

A head-up-display appeared in Dr. Ferdinand’s vision, revealing Aurora’s current status. Same information as Annette’s new toy Aurora wore on her wrist, but being pulled from her her headpiece. It seemed like they were finally syncing together. It was rare that their parallel research projects worked in tandem. The Administrator’s various research teams often worked separately. In Dr. Ferdinand’s mind, Annette could pull whatever information she wanted. It was the neural load she cared about, and nothing else.

“Jonathan, give the all clear to Xinyi. Tell her to begin the warm ups in our plan.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The assistant scientist walked away, chatting into his earpiece. She wished for something more low-tech like his radio earpiece. These glasses the engineering team made often smelled of Serphium, a pungent, gingery smell. It was like she was holding a candy-cane to her nose. But, it was the most advanced material they had available. Flexible and strong, it seemed to have almost infinite uses. There’s nothing in this reality that could be molded into a semiconductor and a serum like Serphium could, and the well was dying up. Today’s tests had to bear fruit, and she needed to see for herself.

“Neural oscillation synchronization at 50% and steady. Connection complete,” said one of the scientists, standing in front of a large monitor.

50% was considered the base line to be considered “connected” to your angel. For an experienced scout under standard combat, this would fluctuate between 50% and 80%, depending on their stress level and the complexity of their abilities. Anything above 80% would lead to a dangerous level of neural load, and potentially kill the user. But, with enough training, you could operate at high neural limits for a long periods of time. Reaching 100% however… that was unheard of. Never before has a human’s brainwaves perfectly synchronized with an angel with the person surviving. Besides, nobody really thought there was anything to be gained there. All you would get is a bloody nose and a deadly seizure.

The scientists watched Aurora hop on to the first platform. There was a strong sense of desperation in the room, like a wildcatter hoping to strike oil. Papers and coffees stains lined the tables of the room as researchers went cross-eyed in front of glowing monitors. Suddenly, the sensors for their test dummy immediately shot up, like an engine after the slamming on the pedal. The mood immediately shifted as the room was covered in glowing red graphs. A quiet desperation turned into a cautious optimism. Dr. Ferdinand continued to scrutinize the live data.

“Wait. What’s happening? What is she doing?,” a scientist cried.

Lightning began to cover the test subject down below. Dr. Ferdinand thought this was a temporary anomaly, brought about by Aurora’s inexperience under angelic connection. It wasn’t. She watched the neural load slowly creep upwards in her heads up display. First 80%, then 90%. The increase in her load slowed as it approached 100%, as if the graphs on the monitors were being dragged down by some force of friction. They had to do something, fast. This was clearly suicidal.

“Disconnect her, now!,” Dr. Ferdinand cried.

“We can’t! Nock is rejecting our kill order!”

Rejecting the kill order? How?! Wait…

Dr. Ferdinand looked across the to the windows on the other side of the room. It was Annette. She smiled at the chaos unfolding below before walking away. The blood drained from Dr. Ferdinand’s face as the room shined bright red with warning signals. All she could do was focus in on her display as Aurora slowly approached the divergence point.


The air vibrated as dust particles fought against the stoppage of time. After a moment of calm, Aurora’s was blinded as she flung back into the air. A sharp bolt of lightning whipped out of her hand. It was as straight as a draftsman’s marking, but as deadly as a swordsman’s killing blow. The recoil slammed her against the carbon fiber wall, blurring her vision and knocking the wind out of her. When she regained consciousness, she saw it. A cloud of smoke and dust covering a headless dummy. It was a perfect shot, and exactly what she needed.

After viewing the destruction left in her wake, Aurora felt faint. Xinyi flew over to catch her. She looked at Aurora’s frizzed black hair and outstretched arm. Her arms were covered in bruises and burns. In that moment, she began to understand what Fritz had been talking about.

What kind of connection did this kid make?, thought Xinyi, holding Aurora’s still electrified body in her arms. Her eyes began to open as she sprung back to life. Nock, seemingly unfazed by the stress, rebooted into a splash screen.

“Hey, are you ok!?”

Aurora looked around, trying to get her bearings. As her eyes moved into focus, she saw the fruits of her labor. Pieces of scrap metal still twirled in the air. She had her proof. She knew she could survive in the Firmament.

“Yeah. I’m ok. Let me run wild a little bit more.”

Xinyi couldn’t believe it. Using the power of a veteran Relic user when she’s only been connected for about a week or so. It all came into focus. They want to start taking back the Firmament, and this girl will be the flag bearer. Xinyi still had her doubts, but it felt like they had just come across a miracle.

“No sane person would do what you just fucking did. You really want to go to the Firmament, don’t you?”

Aurora tightened up her gloves.

“I do. Guess I’m pretty easy to read, huh?”

Xinyi’s eyes widened, focused with determination. As strong as Aurora was, she was still a novice.

“Alright, look. You got power. Lots of it. But you’ll find a lot of people like that over on the other side. If we can get you to control it properly, you’ll be a real threat.”

She got a message on her headset. The test was over. The research team saw all that they needed to see.

“Meet me back here, tomorrow. Command is definitely antsy to send someone like you out, so we won’t have a lot of time.”

“Ok. See you there.”

Aurora stepping down off the platform onto the jet black carbon flooring. A group of engineers ran out to unplug her helment and read data off of Nock. After that, she was left all alone.

Disconnecting. Neural load at standard non-operating levels.

She walked around the room, inspecting all the parkour mazes and jungle-gym like obstacles. She felt somewhat sad that she didn’t get a chance to try them out, instead deciding to blow apart what looked like a crash-test dummy to prove herself. But according to Xinyi, it seemed like they already made up their mind. She was going to the Firmament, first on the beach in their attempt to take it back from whoever crazy enough to reside there. Pieces of metal and wire sat the ground as the wind settled, revealing a long burn mark stretching across the room. The high was letting off, and the only thing left as anxiety. What was happening to me?, she thought. She had to see her old comrade again and put an end to her haunting past, but at what cost? The Bernadetta she knew may be a monster if this is what you need to survive. She began to fear that a lack of closure is better than the horrifying truth.

Internal serum stockpile running low. Please reload canisters, said Nock as glass tubes slowly ejected out in a puff of steam.

Aurora stared at the canisters for a moment. Gooey clear serum stuck to the sides of the tube. This was her lifeline, for now.


You gotta be fast and alert”, she says. How much does she expect from me?

Aurora leaned against he glass window of the engineering bay. Her arms and legs felt like they were made of lead after a few training sessions with Xinyi. As powerful as she felt while connected, her body still had limits. Sure, she was augmented, but it was like multiplying off of a base number. Her neural load was the multiplier, and her body itself was the base. Running the limits of what her mind could handle was dangerous, so it was important to strengthen her body. Although she accepted this reality, Aurora still longed for the initial thrill and terror of Azrael’s power where it felt like she was invincible. She turned to stare at Annette, hard at work as always.

A couple days left until I make my first drop. They’ve been running all sorts of tests. Feel like I know the medical bay like the back of my hand now.

Annette locked eyes with Aurora from a birds nest of cables and half-soldered circuit boards, winking slyly from her remaining eye. Her style felt like she tried to look presentable, but her energy couldn’t help but turn her into a walking mess. Her long blonde hair was frizzled, her lab coat was ruffled, and her lipstick looked slightly smeared, yet she still moved around with a proud self-confidence. But her creations were meticulously crafted. She was an artiste who somehow found herself with a militia.

“Hello, Ms. Aventador.”

Aurora quickly looked down the hallway, startled by the voice. It was the Director. Her leather black overcoat gave a feeling of authority to her sharp looks, taking Aurora aback. For all she had experienced so far, she had never met the leader of the Administrators.

“W-who are you?”, stammered Aurora. The Director stepped further, unfazed by Aurora’s anxiety.

“I’m the Director of the Primordial Administrators. I’ve heard a lot about you in this past few days. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

She had a businesslike aura to her, like that of an PR manager. Her hair was cut short, almost bald, with large gold earrings that dangled as she walked. Her height gave her a strong presence, but her round face and softer features helped offset her authoritative appearance.

“Oh. Uh, hi.”

The Director looked into the engineering bay, holding her hands behind her back. She stared at the cables snaking across the floor.

“How are you feeling? What do you think of all this?”

“I feel… alright. I’m getting stronger, and I’m not having seizures anymore.”

Aurora rubbed Nock’s leather glove, weaving her fingers across the slight grooves.

“But I’m a little scared. Excited, nervous, confused… a bunch of things. The thing that I’ve been searching for is right in my grasp, and I don’t know what how to feel. What am I going to do, and what can I even say? I’ve thought so hard about finding it that I didn’t even consider what I would do once I did. And after that, now what?”

“I can assure you there’s a long road ahead. You’ll have plenty of time to consider your next steps. Besides, it’s desire itself that we really crave.”

“Mhm. I guess so.”

The Director stared at Aurora with an eyebrow raised.

“I assumed you’d have more to say, considering how deeply you’ve thought about your purpose, and how briefly you’ve been with us.”

“What do you mean?”

“Any questions on our purpose? Personal goals usually don’t drive people to travel to another world full of inhuman dangers,” said the Director, smiling.

“Alright. What do the Primordial Administrators want with the Firmament?”

“Good question. Come with me, I’ll give you some nice visuals to go along with my lecture.”

They walked through the engineering bay into the research bay. The hallways on this side of the base were pristine and shiny, with modern automatic doors and retinal scanners. The wide glass windows into the room gave a clear view of the research going on. Organic tissue sat in jars alongside reverse engineered equipment and weapons. To the untrained eye it seems more like a pile of viscera and scrap metal. The Director caught a glimpse of Aurora’s expression.

“Technology is what propels us forward. It’s a dirty business, but without it we’d still be fighting over scraps. In the past, people didn’t have the sense of technological progress that we have now. They thought that what they had now was what they would always have. Never changing, never growing, just a big pile of stuff to fight and die over. Now we can be greater than that.”

Aurora felt the glow of Nock’s touchscreen as she pressed against it looking for the time. Advanced technology right at her fingertips.

The Director led Aurora into a small glass elevator towards the end of the research bay, brining them down into a small hallway.

“Ok. I get that about technology, but the Firmament, the Relics, they’re beyond anything I’ve ever seen. That’s no longer technology, that’s dabbling into the occult!”

“As time as passed we’ve realized that there is more than the material world. What you call reality is merely a fragment of what was one a unified world.”

The hydraulic doors opened into a dark, gunmetal hallway. A white fluid hypnotically flowed through the walls in a veiny patten, illuminating the path.

“Is this… Serphium?”

“It is,” said the Director. Her eyes changed into a deep red as she stared into Aurora’s eyes.

“It’s the lifeblood of those who hold our mutual gift. When our angelic connection is in its infancy, it’s what keeps our angels from annihilating us with their power.”

The Director rubbed her shoes against the burned cuffs of Aurora’s pants. They glowed in the Serphium light, revealing the blackened stitches.

“Azrael… angel of death, who separates souls from their bodies. What is it like being connected to him?

Aurora looked into the dazzling fluid, looking for the right words.

“I don’t know. It’s scary, yet I sometimes feel like I’m been given the power to finally take control of my life.”

They walked down the corridor into a large room. Aurora was immediately taken back by the dazzling stained glass windows that shone from the back of the room facing the door, illuminated by a backdrop of glowing Serphium. The bright multicolored glass against the dark walls gave the room a sacred intensity. Aurora stood in awe.

“Look closer. Step forward towards the wall.”

She felt an anxiety creep up within her. The feeling that she was past the point of no return, and that this discovery would forever tie her to her new compatriots. Any potential escape routes she had were rapidly closing. The Director’s red eyes slowly crept in the darkness. Aurora stepped forward, feeling on the grooves on the wall.

“Our worlds were once one. Humanity lived in harmony with what we call the angels. They were our caretakers who shielded us from harm and guided us with wisdom. They are the source of all of our mythologies, but humanity’s fall from grace has eternally separated us from their guidance.”

The walls were covered exposed rock. They were imprinted with the fossils of angels, drawn out like cave paintings with detailed grooves in the rock. Wings and tentacle-like organs splayed out through the walls of the room in detailed marking. The organs were closer to that was a parasitic insect, yet the wings were breathtakingly wide and serene.

“And that separate world… is the Firmament?,” said Aurora.

“Yes. And with the power of the Relics, the traces of our lost caretakers after our worlds diverged, we can connect to it. It’s a place of great power, Aurora. It must be cultivated like a garden, shielded from those who would exploit it. Yet there are some who would use its power selfishly to support their violent conquests on Earth.”

“Are those the people that I fought?”

“Yes. That is the Angelic Imperium. They believe their angelic connection is a sign of divine right, a mandate from heaven to rule on Earth and subjugate who they see as unworthy.”

Aurora looked down at her feet, avoiding the Director’s red gaze.

“I don’t care about your politics. But I’ll go along with your crusade for now. It’s not like I have a choice anyway,” said Aurora.

“Fair enough, Aurora. But soon enough you’ll realize this is something you can no longer run from. It’s involves all of us, whenever we like it or not.”

The Director walked across the room, lightly pressing against the rock and facing the stained glass windows. The rainbow colors of the windows glistened against her jet black overcoat.

“I’m giving you chance to be greater than yourself.”