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American Atheist: #8

by Nelly 

Posted: 22 May 2005
Word Count: 3456

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“Stupid girl.” Angelo screamed. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done, of what you’ve said?”

Unita scrambled backward out of the seat.

“You have killed both of us. We won’t be allowed to live, not after that.” Real fear had crept into his voice and it was this, which gave Unita pause.

Of everything Angelo had said so far, he had never shown any fear.

Now that edge to his voice was plain to hear, more importantly, it seemed real, not just a tool for him to use. This came directly from his heart. He grasped hold of the mike and ran the dial up and down, listening to the strange mechanical whine. “They’re jamming us, all frequencies, even gold.”

“What does that mean?” Unita half crouched, unsure of what Angelo might do.

Mean?” He screamed. “It means we can no longer broadcast out, it means we stand a good chance of being shot out of the sky.” His eyes were bulging and bloodshot. “I would kill you myself, but it won’t make the slightest bit of difference to them now.” He reached down and picked up the discarded mask.

“What are you doing?” Unita asked.

“I’m going to change course and fly in low to the coast, put us out of radar.” As he put on the mask, his voice changed, dropping low and deep, his words punctuated with sharp hisses, if snakes could speak, this was what they would sound like. “Maybe then I can ditch and try for a more conventional way to get to Rome.

“So America might be sending someone after us?” Unita didn’t dare to hope.

Stupid girl. Not after us, but to kill us, have you not been listening to anything I’ve said.” He flicked a couple of switches and pushed forward on the wheel, instantly the Nightime Flyer responded, dropping down through the night.

“No.” Unita shouted. “Don’t change course, they won’t find me.” She reached forward and grabbed the wheel.

The Cardinal grasped hold of her hands and tore them free with a grip like steel. “Have you lost your mind? They will kill us.” He thrust her away and Unita stumbled back into the plane.

You.” She shouted when she recovered her footing. “They will kill you Angelo, but not me. You’re twisting the truth like you’ve always done, trying to make me believe things that aren’t true. They’re coming to rescue me, but you don’t want that do you, you want me all for yourself, so you can…you can…” She groped for the words and the truth suddenly hit her. “You want me, so you can believe you didn’t kill Bobby, so you can wash your hands of his blood. Train me to become a cardinal, turn me into a perfect soldier, just like you.” Her words ended in a scream and before Unita even realised what she was doing, she attacked Angelo.

Jumping onto his back, she dug her hands into his eyes, he wore the mask, so her fingers scrabbled against the glass, but the right eyepiece was broken and Unita jammed her finger through the hole, feeling the glass cut into her flesh. “I hate you,” she screamed.

The plane pitched into a dive and Unita was thrown forward, landing upside down on the wheel, ramming it against the controls. The plane plummeted downwards, spinning as it went. Angelo wrenched Unita away, but he couldn’t control the plane and hold her off. With his right arm he made a lunge for the wheel and this freed Unita, she savagely kicked out at his shoulder, her foot landed squarely on the gunshot wound. Angelo roared and let go of the wheel, sending the plane deeper into a roll. He clutched at his shoulder, and Unita kicked again, this time to the face. Angelo’s head snapped back and she went to kick once more, but his right arm shot out and he caught her. Then, with a barely noticeable flick of his wrist, he sent her spinning back over the seats and across the length of the plane.

Grasping the wheel, he fought the roll and tried to bring the plane back out of its dive, slowly it began to respond. Through the windows, the dark stretch of the Atlantic rose into view, Unita watched stunned, as it filled her view. A small sliver of sky appeared where the ground should be, a brief glimpse of the moon. Angelo shouted out, meaningless words and the plane levelled out, skimming over the top waves with a few feet to spare.

Unita tried to stand, but found her body wouldn’t respond, her legs felt like lead and her arms lay heavy by her side, she wondered if they were broken, but decided that was unlikely, she should feel pain instead of an icy numbness.

Angelo lifted himself out of the seat and turned to face her, blood ran streaming out of the broken eyepiece. “I should have killed you when I had the chance,” he whispered, “I won’t make that mistake twice.” Two silver claws slid out of his fingertips. “I’ve been wrong about you Unita. You won’t believe, you could never believe.” He advanced across the plane. “I promise, it will be quick.

“You said you would never kill a child.” Unita tried to stand but her legs failed.

It seems I have much to atone for.” He drew level and raised his hand, his eyes narrowed and then hardened, it was like looking into dark waters, but seeing only her twisted reflection staring back.

Behind Angelo, out through the windows, a column of cloud formed over the waters, like a twister, only the conditions were wrong. It veered up towards the plane and broke apart.

Goodbye Unita, I will pray for your soul, every night, without fail.

“Don’t bother, I don’t have one, neither do you.” Unita spoke the words more with anger than fear of her own life, she felt curiously detached, as if so much had happened to her, over such a short period of time, one more brush with death seemed commonplace.

From beyond the windows, a tiny speck of gold hurtled towards them, Unita eyes were drawn from the Cardinal to watch fascinated, as it approached, enlarging in size and detail, so she could see it was a woman… an iron woman.

“You lied!” Unita said, her eyes widening in surprise. “There are superheroes.”

Angelo’s anger began to slip, his hand wavered, and with a forced voice he said. “No Unita, I never lied, there are no heroes, not any more.

Unita pointed to the windows, but Angelo shook his head.

Goodbye Unita.

The figure hurtled towards the plane, far faster than the plane was travelling towards it, Unita caught a glimpse of a strange metal face, before it raced overhead, a second later, the plane shook and pitched to the right. Angelo fell forwards and Unita crawled away.

What in God’s name was that…” Angelo never finished the sentence, his eyes fell upon the nose of the Nightime Flyer and the figure that was stood upon it.

Iron Maiden was a slender, tall construct made of streamlined sliver and gold, she was carved in the likeness of a woman, but only in the most abstract of ways. She had a full bosom and slender hips, her figure was undoubtedly that of the feminine, but that was were any similarities ended. Her face was a stretched mask with wide insect like eyes, which held no discernible emotion within their alien depths. Her skin glowed like it was hot, as if it had come from the centre of a blazing furnace. She was far taller than any human could be, bordering on eight feet, her arms were impossibly long, dropping down to just below the knees, Unita counted six digits on each hand.

Angelo stood in awe at the apparition; disbelief set upon his face. “No,” he whispered. “That’s not right, you’re not real, they made you up, I don’t believe in you.

The Iron Maiden lifted one hand up to the window, strangely small and out of context with the rest of her body. She rested her palm casually against the glass and the metal armour moved, shifting, as if something were beneath, seeking to escape. It bulged outwards and then flowed back like water, to reveal a dark circular centre, which flared at first with a hazy purple light, transforming quickly into a deep red and finally a brilliant white light.

Angelo screamed.

An energy beam erupted through the glass, tore past the cockpit, and struck Angelo square in the face. His scream stopped abruptly and his body flipped grotesquely to one side. The beam continued its arc, cutting through the insides of the plane, slicing through the back of the Flyer and out into the night. The plane in one simple move, split in two. The top half ripped backwards and the bottom pitched forward, before thrusting over.

Unita was dragged by forces beyond her control, out of the twisted remains and sent hurtling into the night. The wind forced the air from her lungs and she spiralled crazily down, the world spinning around her, both the sea and the sky transforming into a weird mix of both.

She couldn’t think, she couldn’t act, and she didn’t have time to be scared before a silver arm grasped hold of her back, ripping the soft fabric of her dress and Unita was sent in yet another direction.

Stunned, she managed to glance upwards to see Iron Maiden, cutting a path through the dark skies. She could feel the metal of her fingers, hot and pulsating, as if the armour itself was alive. And she was flying…really flying; high over the ocean, if she looked hard, she could see tiny crests of waves, barely visible, so far below.

It was almost to much for her to take in, the very presence of Iron Maiden must mean that everything Angelo had said was a lie, she dwelled on his death briefly, but felt nothing other than a cold satisfaction. She was glad he was dead, Angelo was a cruel, selfish man, who in the short time she had known him, brought nothing but death and misery to her world. If anything, she felt a strange urge to laugh, to lift her head back and shout with wild abandon.

And why not, with Angelo dead, caught in the arms of Iron Maiden, she had been saved, why not laugh at her victory, of her escape. Unita looked again at the strange armoured woman, so utterly alien from anything she had seen before, almost repellent in the armour’s design. The posters, the images on the television, didn’t compare to what she saw now. Reality and her fantasy, she grimly recognised, were two far different things. But none of that mattered to her now -not really. Iron Maiden would take her home, maybe within the hour; Unita would be reunited with Ashanti, and dreams would come true.

In the end Unita did laugh, but she found a tight lump in her chest, all knotted and hard, soon the laughter turned to tears and she cried into the wind. If Iron Maiden noticed, she did nothing, just maintained her grip on Unita’s clothes and flew on into the night.


Dawn was fast approaching, heralded by a softening of the sky, from impenetrable blackness to the faint blue of a new day. Iron Maiden flew over a sullen sea, calmed now the storm had faded. Unita fancied she could see her reflection and that of her golden saviour as they sped past. The sky continued to brighten, the dark blues gave way to pale pastel colours and detail began to take shape. She could make out a wist of cloud, thin and ragged, stretching across the sky. In the distance, two seagulls swooped and dived, their shrieking calls echoing long and loud in the still morning air. The sun rose in the east, a blazing ball of fire that lit up the world with its heat, reflecting of the waters so that sky and sea blended into one vast red plain, giving the impression that they flew across fire instead of its elemental opposite. It was glorious; she would never forget this moment, this one true act of utter and complete freedom.

The ocean gave way to pebbled beaches and a velvet run of hills. She watched it pass by, seeing the occasional farm with its thatched roof, and winding narrow road. She didn’t recognise the lay of the land and was about to ask Iron Maiden where they were, when she found herself falling; Iron Maiden had let go.

Unita landed unceremoniously onto her front. She lay their stunned, unable to move, feeling the soft grass beneath her skin, the wet dew of morning upon her face. This was madness, but she had been saved. Iron Maiden did live, Angelo had been lying, and superheroes existed. She struggled to sit up and managed to speak the words. “Thank you.”

Iron Maiden stood nearby, tall and imposing, the armour humming and crackling with flashes of electric that surged up her arms and distorted the air. Lithe like she stretched out her hand, palm facing up, and a soft nimbus of light appeared, a small blue globe that rose into the air.

Unita watched with a smile, it was beautiful, incredible, she had read articles about Iron Maiden and her battle-suit, they explained about her weapon systems and her propulsion unit, but she couldn’t remember reading about a ball of blue light. It must have been classified, secret information in case the Catholics got hold of it.

“What does it do?” She asked.

Iron Maiden ignored her; she looked intently down at the ball and said. “Configure.”

The ball stretched into a thin strip, the light changing texture, taking on the appearance of dull beaten bronze. It grew to twelve inches, becoming thin to the point of transparency; the tip formed an edge like that of a knife, which gleamed wickedly in the morning sun.

Unita laughed, what would it do next?

“Wrap, search and scan.” Iron Maiden spoke the words coldly and Unita’s laughter stopped as the top end moved, then the whole strip writhed as if alive, two narrow yellow slits opened upon one side, as if they were eyes and focused on Unita.

Iron Maiden let the strip go and it landed onto the grass, where it immediately scuttled towards her, she screamed and tried to back away, but Iron Maiden grasped hold of her shoulders and held her firmly in place.

The strip raced up her legs, tiny metal claws pinching her thighs and then across her body. She bucked and struggled to escape, but Iron Maiden’s grip remained powerful. The strip rose up before her face, its yellow eyes glowing with a calculating intelligence, she twisted to one side, but it was no use, the strip plunged forwards and dove into her nose. Pain exploded across her mind, as it slithered inside, cold and alien.

“What did you do?” Unita shouted.

“Transmit,” Iron Maiden said in response, her voice calm.

A bright point of pain exploded before Unita’s eyes. The strip was sliding around inside, looking into her mind, her memories. Opening each one in turn, leaving nothing untouched. She could see her schoolhouse, with the whitewashed corridors, and tall splintery wooden desks, her schoolteacher with nails like glass, leaning over her and screaming, or was it Unita screaming, long and high.

Then Bobby’s face, leering and red, fumbling in the back of the playground. But the red turning to blood and pouring from an open wound in his head. The strip shifted, dragging out each memory in turn, before leaving it discarded, and moving onto the next: Father Fletcher in Voltaire’s run, Ashanti running by the plane, Angelo, sat within shadows, talking to her of lies and deceptions. The strip was now a fat monstrosity, crawling through her mind.

Dimly she became aware of Iron Maiden, ordering it to download and she found herself lying on her back, staring out into the sky. The strip was gone, but something wet leaked from her nose, gingerly she dabbed at it, and discovered on her fingers, a rusty metal liquid mixed with her own blood.

Iron Maiden stepped over and looked down, there seemed nothing heroic about her now; she seemed dark and twisted, no more human than the ground she lay upon or the sky overhead.

The metal of Iron Maiden’s palm drained back, the dark core beneath surged with a powerful purple radiance and she extended her hand to face Unita.

Had Angelo been right, did Iron Maiden intend to kill them both?

“Please.” Unita pleaded desperately. “I just want to know the truth.”

Iron Maiden took a small step backwards and made an odd clicking sound, Unita detected the slightest trembling of her arm. She cocked her head to one side as if listening to something far away and lowered her hand. The glow faded and the metal slithered back in place. ”How odd.” She said, whirrs and clicks like a camera winding on film accompanied her voice. She wrung her hands together and walked past Unita, stepping into a field of long grass and wild flowers.

Unita lay still, trying to catch her breath. She had felt certain she was going to die; yet somehow she had been spared. The day promised to be hot and already Unita could feel its warmth on her face, giving strength back to tired limbs. She sat up on her elbows, taking in the surroundings.

They had landed on the edge of the field and a muddy dirt track ran by her side, cutting a diagonal path through the grass to end at an old metal gate.

She considered running, but knew she wouldn’t get far, if Iron Maiden wanted to kill her, she would have done so by now.

At length, she climbed back to her feet.

She had longed for this moment, for as far back as she could remember, Iron Maiden was a superhero, the partner of American Atheist.

Iron Maiden had always been her favourite, their had been something legendary, almost mythical about the armour, when she had looked upon it, she was reminded of greatness, of the knights of old, of Arthurian legend.

Now she had met the knight of her dreams and barely survived the encounter.

But the question persisted, why wasn’t she dead. She should run, long and hard and not look back, but knew she wouldn’t.

Making up her mind, Unita walked into the field. Iron Maiden stood facing the sun. “Why didn’t you kill me?” She asked.

“What you said earlier, when you were on your knees.” Iron Maiden said, her voice sounding distorted as if the words were spoken through a phone or television set. “I said the same thing once, a long time ago when I was young. Those exact, same words, what would have been the chances, a hundred to one, a thousand to one, more. I couldn’t carry out my orders after that, I still have something which resembles a soul.”

“You believe.” Unita said shocked.

“Yes. We all have souls, of that I’m convinced.”

“But you can’t believe, you’re an Atheist, like me, like the rest of us.”

Iron Maiden sighed, a curious sound, like an old recording played to often, now crackling with dust and time.

“Do you still want to know the truth?” She asked.

Unita nodded her head warily, if Iron Maiden couldn’t be counted on, then no one could.

“It will be far easier to show you the truth rather than tell it, come here.” Iron Maiden lifted her hands up to Unita, who immediately backed away.

“Don’t worry, I won’t harm you. “ When Unita still didn’t move, Iron maiden added. “You have to start the trust somewhere.”

Unita could feel her entire body trembling and she chewed at her lip nervously, some part of her warned not to, try and run away, hide, anything to get away from this terrible and powerful woman. But she knew that wasn’t the answer, her best hope, her only hope, lay before her with the Iron Maiden. She made her decision and stepped forward. At once, she felt a surge of warmth press against her skin; heavy in the air it slid past skin and left a sweat upon her brow. The ground dropped away from them both and they were flying once again, rising above the grassy fields and over the land.

“Where are we going?” She asked breathlessly.

“Rome.” Iron maiden replied.


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Comments by other Members

paul53 [for I am he] at 10:18 on 23 May 2005  Report this post
Email notification of uploads not working again. Have pasted this to Word for later perusal. Get back to you soon.

Nelly at 10:41 on 23 May 2005  Report this post
Strange, I've never had a problem that I'm aware of. Try contacting writewords to see if there is a problem on their end. Or it might be your E Mail software blocking it, mine always comes up as Spam. See if you can fiddle with the settings. I'm not very technical minded, so that's about the limit of my knowledge, sorry if you've already tried all this.


paul53 [for I am he] at 13:14 on 24 May 2005  Report this post
Coming along nicely. About time we had a few more characters, hopefully will get them in Rome.

Minor point:
While written conversation is an approximation of real speech rather than real speech verbatim, would Angelo really call Unita by name so often? It isn’t as if there's anyone else on the plane to talk to.
“You have killed both of us. We won’t be allowed to live, not after that.” Real fear had crept into his voice and it was this, which gave Unita pause.
Real fear crept into his voice, and it was this which gave Unita pause.
Of everything Angelo had said so far, he had never shown any fear.
In everything…
Now that edge to his voice was plain to hear, more importantly, it seemed real, not just a tool for him to use.
Now the edge to his voice was plain to hear; more importantly, it seemed real, rather than a tool for him to use.
As he put on the mask, his voice changed, dropping low and deep, his words punctuated with sharp hisses, if snakes could speak, this was what they would sound like.
…his words punctuated with sharp hisses. If snakes could speak, this was what they would sound like.
She could make out a wist of cloud, thin and ragged, stretching across the sky.


Nelly at 16:53 on 24 May 2005  Report this post
Thanks Paul,

I'll look through and edit, taking into account your comments. I do try and avoid using the characters name in speech, but it seems this time it has crept through and eluded me.

More characters...hmm. I have a plan for the story, a kind of guide to work from as each chapter progresses. Of course with a work such as this, I have so many different ideas that it may well veer off into a different angle from the original concept. It hasn’t been my intention to write a full blown novel out of this, but I could see it easily becoming just that. I do have a kind of natural cut off point, which is coming up either in the next chapter or the one after. As much as I like writing this, I keep getting ideas about other stories that I know if I indulge, I will never finish this one.

So much to say and so little time to write about it. lol


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