January 4, 2029, Level XI, Heaven
The team’s pace is slower than usual as it moves towards the Dimension Portal. This is certainly understandable. The combination of mentally preparing for a dangerous mission with unbelievably high stakes and processing the advice of the saints is a lot to think on.
I have seen this bittersweet pace to the front line throughout my career. Every soldier uses this time to think through the possible outcomes of the battle, and to wonder if his courage is going to be enough. Time after time, I’ve seen men and women rise to meet the challenge of war once it comes for them. These six may not know it yet, but they will become fierce warriors once they see blood extracted from the weak and defenseless.
I no longer doubt any member of this team. More importantly, there are no indicators they doubt themselves. No one has asked to be dismissed from this mission, nor openly expressed any level of fear. Michael has chosen wisely.
Personally, I’m ready. How could I not be inspired after everything I’ve witnessed since I arrived? I welcome the return to soldier mode. Once a soldier, always a soldier. Seneca is right—I’m designed for challenge and live for the thrill of a mission. It’s good to know Heaven has a place for my kind.
Our hope for this mission is we avoid the military tension leading to the impending war outside Jerusalem. We want this to be a covert operation, like the ones I did as a sniper. We want to get in without being discovered, fulfill our yet-to-be-explained mission, and get out without leaving any evidence of having been there.
The odds of this running smoothly are low. We’re heading into the troubled Middle East where military actions are a daily occurrence, and where war is inevitable. If this isn’t reason enough to believe the odds are against us, we also have the presence of a very real enemy who will know we are there—and who is intent upon exposing and thwarting our mission.
As the others walk with their minds deep in thought, I too must sort through my emotions and clear my head. I have a father who I haven’t seen in twenty-six years waiting to welcome me home. I have a mother mourning my death back on Earth. I have the love of my life, who I thought was gone forever, marching beside me into the unknown. On top of all that, I’m leading the mission that will determine the fate of every human remaining on the planet.
Even so, I switch to soldier mode and purge out all the emotional baggage—my self-imposed “brain-washing.” Most men are adept at compartmentalizing. Soldiers work it on a whole other level. We must completely release emotions and memories from both our conscious and subconscious minds. We must push that deep, knowing it may never be retrieved.
This is a soldier’s precursor to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—and doomed relationships. I don’t like the man I become in soldier mode, but it makes me effective at my job, and it keeps me alive. I just hope Tova understands what she is about to see is an act of war, and not the real me.
After several deep breaths, I go through my visualization. I envision the splitting of the protective cover that shields my body. It peels away like a snake shedding its skin to open up for new growth. I emerge from the old skin, kick it away with my boots, and flex the muscles that cover my new, rubbery, tough skin. After removing emotion, I feel the change immediately. I’m standing a little taller, breathing a little deeper, walking a little faster, and thinking a little clearer. I flare my nostrils and push out every bit of stale air in my lungs. I punch my chest with both my fists. I am ready.
As we step up to the opening to the Portal Entrance, Seneca calls us to attention, and lays out the plans. “The tour is over, and we are ready to begin our training. In seven days, you will be on Earth. Your week of training will be short, but intense. On the final day, you will meet with Archangel Michael for an assessment. He’s going to direct your physical preparedness for this. As you’ve been told, Michael chose each of you for this assignment.”
“Excuse me, Seneca, but aren’t these awesome bodies already in great shape?” asks Liam. “If we went to Earth just as we are right now, I’d have to register mine as a lethal weapon.”
The group laughs as Liam runs though some Mr. Universe poses. Seneca laughs. “Yes, Liam, each of you is in great shape. But there are many levels and types of fitness. Beyond building more stamina and muscle on top of what you already have, Michael wants you conditioned in flexibility, the martial arts, and yoga.
From the back of the group, Seiko comes alive when she hears this. “That’s a great idea! I was a big yogi on Earth. It gives you great mental focus and body awareness. It will make us better for sure.”
Sterling objects. “Wait—Seiko, if you like yoga so much, why haven’t I seen you practicing it since you arrived? And, of course you like yoga—you’re a girl. Plus, your Japanese ancestors invented it. You’re built for it. Big guys like us don’t need yoga or martial arts to protect ourselves.”
Seiko is offended by Sterling’s comments. “That’s not true. Yoga originated in India. Martial arts and yoga aren’t about using muscle mass to defend and attack. They’re about controlling your thoughts and breathing to increase your body awareness and flexibility. They’re even about using agility to escape, and even neutralize, your enemy. Tell them, Seneca.”
“Ok, let’s take this intensity down a notch. We’re on the same team here. Liam and Sterling, Seiko’s correct. The preparedness plan is being handled by Michael, who—by the way, is one yogi who has never backed down from a fight. He’s the one who designed the fitness program, including the types of exercise arts used. He wants you to train together so you can become familiar with each other’s moves and strengths. It’s possible you’re going to be doing some intense cave climbing. If so, a limber body is a must. I want your word you will do what he asks. Sterling?”
“Great. Now, two more things I need to cover before we leave. First, the Mission will take place in Jerusalem. The training will take place in a reproduction of Jerusalem in an outlying area of the Milky Way Galaxy in a Gravity Pod.”
“What’s a Gravity Pod?” Seiko immediately zeroes in on the science.
“It’s an enclosed space where gravity is applied in equal strength as it is on Earth. This one was designed to simulate the terrain of Jerusalem. You will be conditioned in a setting identical to the actual city—including the heat, humidity, and sandstorms common in the area. Training in the pod will prepare you for the lay of the land. And, it will give us the privacy we need for your training.”
“Why do we need privacy?” Kimmy asks. “Aren’t all the residents of Heaven aware of the Mission?”
“The challenge is Lucifer. She’s working hard to gather information on this team as well as our battle tactics. She already knows about Grayson. His death tipped her off we were ready to make a play for the keys. This, in turn, tipped her off to Almighty’s timing for the end of the Earth. We don’t want her to figure out your strategy, or your superpowers, before you use them on Earth.”