The Downing Building
New Hebron, California
Light flooded out from the pair of exemplar’s washing over the surging torrent of Chemoshes. One by one each of the once-gods were consumed by the light emitting a shriek of agony before disappearing into nothingness. The luminescence grew brighter and even the streets themselves receded into it.
Amy, Sapphira, and Ashtar become one. Where once three awarenesses existed, there was only a singular consciousness. One with the training and mental discipline of an AEGIS agent, the knowledge, expertise and raw power of a goddess, and Everett’s life experience.
As the conjured realm became swept up on the tidal wave of light, their combined consciousness noticed the outside world, but it was not yet time to return. The streets of New Hebron gave way to the blackness of the void, and a single set of eyes looked about.
The woman, looked down on herself. Her well-endowed form unfamiliar, her skin looked too light, but also too dark. She cupped her breasts; they were both too small and too large. Her fingers too slender and too stubby. Everything about this woman was a contradiction, even her memories seemed inconsistent.
She remembered being a young transgender girl terrorized by an abusive father, recalled being a man who had lost everyone and everything he’d held dear, and knew also that she’d once ruled over thousands as a cruel and malevolent goddess. The woman glanced down at her hands flexing them and marveled at the new experience.
The woman, or Ashira as she thought of herself, jerked her head sideways gazing at a specific point in the emptiness. A figure materialized before her and she tensed staring across the void at the slender form of Chemosh.
The once-god did not act as Ashira expected, neither attacking nor speaking, but instead stepped around the amalgamation. With each step her eyes grew wider and when she’d done a complete three-sixty around the other woman, she stopped her jaw hanging open.
“H-how is this possible?”
Ashira cocked her head and eyed the other being with a slow shake of her head. “I’m not certain I understand the process myself, but we both it is unimportant.”
Chemosh threw both hands up and a beam of energy burst out toward Ashira. A blue bubble snapped into place around her. The blast slammed into the barrier and dissipated. This time the shield did not wobble or quiver, but kept its shape.
The once-god dropped her hands, the beam faded and before she could level another attack against her opponent, Ashira countered. She did not strike with an energy beam or make use of her telekinesis. Armed with the knowledge of a ghost of a virtual goddess, she understood how ineffective it would be to use such tactics.
Ashira stretched her mind out toward Chemosh. She slammed into a wall, a metal barrier she could see no direct path through, but that just meant she would have to make one.
Ashira was the amalgamation of three awarenesses, but it went beyond that, she possessed the spark, the power which fueled Sapphira’s abilities and Ashtar’s before her. She possessed incredible power, and though Chemosh seemed to draw energy from the gate, his awareness did not exist within this realm. The once-god would be no match for a being such as Ashira.
One by one she overcame the layers and the mental barrier crumbled away before her. As she stretched out her senses able to touch the other’s mind, she heard laughter, and sensed the wall come back down around her. She did not understand. Had she walked into a trap or was something else at work?
For a time there the darkness, so complete, so all-encompassing, that there was nothing. Even thought did not seem to exist within the abyss, identical in every way to the one which had bridge their minds. Ashira became aware and the endless black receded. A scene unfolding itself around her. A figure stood atop a platform, and thousands supplicated themselves below.
The figure was short, by modern standards, but as she watched him move, his bare chest rippled with muscles, and she realized he looked familiar. To the part of her that was Ashtar she recognized him as Chemosh, but to the parts that were Sapphira and Amelia his face was familiar for other reasons. His features and skin tone were different, in minute ways, but just enough he resembled a person of middle-eastern descent rather than the man of European descent he presented himself as in modern times.
Time progressed, and the god known as Chemosh grew bored with his existence. Even flittering between the Moabites, who knew him by his proper name and the Ammonites who knew him as Moloch did nothing to sate his discontent. His kind were adaptive they took whatever form suited their needs and so he changed. The face he came to wear belonged to Ashtar.
And so she continued her reign. This female aspect came to call herself Ashtar. Within her existed darkness, much like that that within Chemosh, but while she did not shirk away from violence, she did not lust for it when she wore a male face. She was a force of nature, a maelstrom of sensuality that manipulated those who worshiped with glee. She took countless lovers to fill the void within herself. Absent was the gentle and caring being that agent and Sapphira would later encounter.
Sometimes she would return to her male form, and on those occasions she meted out violent with the same ferocity as before. In either form she committed countless atrocities. Sometimes she even encouraged her adherents to perform human sacrifices or send them off on fruitless quests just because it amused her. Human worshippers were killed or maimed to entertain her male side or because they had dissatisfied her. She sent her subjects off to war and would even pit the Ammonites and Moabites against one another.
There was another man, he looked familiar to Ashira, but she could not name him. She believed he may have served as a priest at one point. She witnessed Ashtar making love to the man, riding him so hard that he collapsed in exhaustion. Time and time again she took lovers, some female, some male all attractive. When she made love, she was passionate and violent. She would strike the object of her desires with the back of a hand, or press the man or woman into the wall with enough force to break bones, but she did not care. She abused them and then discarded them when they could no longer sate her lust or on a whim.
“This is wrong, this can’t be true,” she called out, but there was no answer.
The images flashed to many ancient places, some of them Ashira recognized some she did not. A figures sitting upon assorted thrones, standing amongst supplicating worshippers, or watching battlefields with cold disinterest in their eyes as those who served them flung themselves into battle with fanatical zeal. These were beings like Ashtar and Chemosh across the world and in many places.
Then one by one these false gods, were overthrown by worshippers who’d grown discontent with their deities. She saw them dying, ripped apart by their own worshippers. Unable to defend themselves against angry mobs that seemed to stretch on for miles. Though they were powerful the sheer numbers of their former adherents proved their downfall.
This much Ashira remembered she’d inherited those memories from Ashtar, but even so there were differences. She watched as Ashtar-Chemosh looked on in terror, but soon she convinced herself that her peers had become lax, and had done it to themselves. Even so, her doubt and it ate at her like a cancer.
Though she ridiculed the downfall of her rivals, she feared that the same might happen to her, and so she took steps to uncover and quell any rebels. She did not realize, at first, that she was fueling the fire of discontent. Adherents were taken and held prisoner if they showed the slightest signs of unrest. The goddess even became so desperate she peered into the mind of those she captured. When she found no signs of rebellion, she did not quit, unable to quell her fears. So, she invaded the minds of even her most ardent followers and that brought about change.
She understood the humans which she so despised. She viewed them as a lower-life form, much as a human might look upon livestock, there only to serve her. That changed. She wept, when she saw the pain a misery she’d visited upon her followers and she even felt guilt, but this created conflict.
These were foreign emotions to her kind, they knew nothing of kindness, or even love. A wild, almost primal hunger for power drove every action. Nothing else mattered to them. The trauma to her psyche was irreparable and as a result it split her asunder. Her people were adaptive, and so her spark compensated, not be merging the three identities, but by tearing them apart and giving them each a form of their own.
Three beings emerged, each taking upon themselves a familiar name. Chemosh, became the embodiment of everything Ashtar had come to loath about herself, a creature that hated everything and everyone and wanted nothing but more power. Moloch, became the embodiment of her guilt, and would always carry it upon his shoulders and Ashtar embodied compassion, and love and she would come to wear it like a badge of honor.
Of the three, Chemosh was the only one who remembered their true origins. Moloch remembered being the brother of Chemosh instead of a different aspect of his personality, and Ashtar believed herself to be their wife a fickle creature who moved between them whenever she grew bored. For a time, when they emerged they lived an uneasy peace, but over time each became convinced that the others were too dangerous and they turned upon the other. Chemosh for fear he would succumb to the madness again, Ashtar because she feared that the others would destroy their worshippers out of spite and Moloch for much the same reason.
Ashira saw the three battling, and this much, at least, she remembered, but the details were very different. She recalled a grand battle between their three different military forces. In this version, there were only two armies, the Ammonites and the Moabites, and they were fighting amongst themselves as much as against one another. Each of the three gods ordered their worshippers to attack the other army, but considering they had come from three different versions of the same deity it was no wonder there should be so much confusion.
Amidst the chaos they fought, flinging one another across rooms, demolishing everything in their path, whether it be a pillar, a wall, or one of their many worshippers. Moloch was the first resorted to invading the other’s minds, and when they became linked Ashtar and Moloch saw that Chemosh represented the real threat. Within him they saw all the wrongdoing they’d done manifested in physical form.
And so they joined forces. Even when the pair combined their wills, it took hours for them to defeat the other god and when the ordeal was over, it had decimated their armies and those few that remained turned upon them. They fled, with Chemosh their captive.
When they escaped, they faced a decision. Kill Chemosh or imprison him. Before their split, such a decision would not have been difficult. They possessed no mercy, but they no longer thought in such a way. Death and destruction did not have the same allure, and their sensibilities would not allow them to end the life of one they believed to be a brother and a lover. And so they spared him.
Long ago, they had come to Earth, not by ship, but through the same gateway that Chemosh and Garos would millennia later steal from AEGIS. It was that device which they used to banish Chemosh to the realm of the Gallu. A race of extra-dimensional creatures that their kind had long feared because of their volatile nature and their tendency to feed upon the life energies of those near death, but ones which did not possess the technology or intelligence to travel outside their realm. It would be a horrendous fate, but his demise would not be on their conscience.
Chemosh’s reckoning ended there, but Ashtar’s memories filled in the remaining gaps. After the battle Moloch, seemed to have lost his abilities. Though he did not age that seemed to be the only remaining trait that differentiated him from a human. Their little skirmish had resulted in the deaths of countless humans, and it was only afterward Moloch had muddled over the consequences of their actions.
Ashtar had told Sapphira that Chemosh had been the cause of her departure and Moloch’s impotence, but that had been yet another piece of the delusion. Though the effect was different, the reason was the same, their guilt was eating away at them.
Ashtar had other reasons for leaving. With Moloch she shared her belief that their people were a danger to humanity, and they needed to leave Earth before they inflicted further harm. Moloch felt they must remain and try to undo some of the damage they had inflicted upon mankind. Despite this dispute they parted on civil terms. Ashtar left Earth, and though she had vowed to stay away, she would remain vigilant, just in case its people should ever have need of her.
As for Moloch, he agreed to hide the gateway some place out of humanities reach, but Ashtar never knew what had become of him.
And with a start, Ashira came awake in the real world, gasping for breath and grabbing at her chest which was throbbing in pain. She was under attack, but as she tried to fight back, she grew weaker and weaker. She had come awake too late to save herself. Her vision was blurred, and it was getting worse by the moment, but she could just make out the form of Babalawo standing over her. He had phased his hand inside her chest and his fingers had found purchase around her heart.
As he squeezed the life out of her, Ashira heard Chemosh’s laughter fill the chamber. The images she’d projected in her mind had been to keep her occupied while she summoned her puppet. It had been a trap, and she had walked right into it.