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07 November 2010 @ 02:07 pm
[fanfic] Strange New Worlds: Episode V  
Title: Strange New Worlds
Artist: extraonions
Author: tiptoe39
Pairing(if applicable): Gen
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some crude humor
Warnings/Spoilers: None

Master art post | Master fic post

Episode V: War Against Heaven

“I came to research the humans,” she said. “To learn why they were spreading so fast and so well across the universe.”

Castiel and Anna were standing a few feet apart, as Dean hung back in a haze of distress and confusion. The way they were looking at each other knocked him right out of the conversation, like he wasn’t even there. All he could do was listen.

“You and I, CAS/T/L, our race thought we held the reins of this universe. We think we still do, but we are mistaken.” Anna spoke in level tones that betrayed no emotion. It was weird to hear that kind of evenness from a woman who’d screamed at them earlier, who’d pretty much come onto him a few minutes ago. He could believe, now, that there was something inside her that wasn’t quite human.

“These humans,” she said, “they may have little clarity of thought, narrow horizons of perception, but their feeling... They feel so passionately. They know how to want, how to take, how to give. They hold the balance of power in a way we cannot imagine. I built this body because I wanted to experience it for myself. That’s why I ran away.”

Castiel shook his head. “How did you hide from us? I had been searching for you, we all had.”

She slid her hand into his. “Come inside. I will show you.”

They followed her, and once again Dean found himself inside the kitchen. It was just as cramped as before, and Dean had to wonder once more how in space she was able to design and build anything nearly as complex as the Wormwood machine, or whatever drove that bizarre force field.

She looked at him. “This may hurt your eyes.”

Remembering Pamela, Dean looked away. The flash was brief, though, and was quickly replaced by a humming noise that was just as awful as the light had been bright. Covering his ears, Dean dared to look.

Resting on her palm was a small, strange contraption that looked more or less like a metal turnip. Tiny gears whizzed, and lights inside glowed a steady blue. “I've kept this inside me since I arrived,” Dean thought she said. But maybe he’d misheard due to the sickening humming. Inside her? Then again, where else could it have come from? He would have noticed something like that sitting on her pantry shelf.

“It's an oscillator,” she said. “It disguises my energy signature. Hides me from my own kind.”

“You said--” Dean squinted. “You said you kept it inside you?”

In answer, Anna lifted her palm. The oscillator began to fold in on itself. Then light poured from her hand, and as Dean squinted and fought the urge to look away, he could see the metal start to move, almost melt into a shrinking heap of silver. As it flowed down into her hand, the light dimmed until it finally winked out and her palm was whole and flesh once again.

“We are agents of creation,” Castiel said quietly. For the first time, Dean thought he understood what that meant.

Anna turned to him. “There is much more I have built. My body, this body, CAS/T/L, it's fantastic. You should feel what it can feel.”

She cast a meaningful glance at Dean, who promptly turned red. Castiel gazed at him in sudden confusion, but Anna just laughed. "Yes, that. And so much else, too. I've tasted chocolate cake. I've felt the sunrise, it hurt my eyes. It's something you can't imagine."

Castiel looked over at Dean. "I can ... I can conceptualize it," he said. "But I don't know ..."

Anna smiled a small, soft smile. "That's it, CAS/T/L," she encouraged. "That's the piece of you they've buried for so long, wanting to feel. It's a good thing."

“Wait, stop, hold it, cut it out,” Dean said. “Happy for the family reunion, but I still have questions. You built the Wormwood thing, right? Was it like that thing, it just kind of came out of you?”

Castiel’s expression darkened. “The beast we sent for you. You created the technology that blocked it. And gave it to the human authorities. That is a traitorous action.”

Anna’s lip trembled. “Why do you think nobody lives out here? That creature ate up two towns looking for me before I couldn’t stand it anymore. The planetary guard didn’t stand a chance without my help. Maybe you can let humans die, Cas, but I can’t!”

At her use of the nickname, Castiel’s mouth dropped open. Dean sucked in a breath. He watched Castiel expectantly, praying -- harder than he wanted to admit -- that he’d give the right answer.

“I have no wish for humans to die,” he said, after a pause that seemed to last minutes. “But you must know they are planning war on the humans if you don’t return.”

Her face froze in abject horror.

Sam came by an hour later, bringing some food over. The four sat, and three of them ate in the small kitchen. Castiel attempted to taste but said it did nothing for his palate; Anna took the opportunity to chide him again about how he should really try a human body. He looked close to put out, and Sam actually laughed.

But on the whole the conversation was serious. Anna's predicament was troubling. She knew that returning home would render her miserable, because if she dared speak of her desire to remain human she could surely be sentenced to death for her betrayal. But should she stay on Wisconsin, stay human, it would bring the end of the race she wanted to join.

“I suppose I’ve become that human,” she said mournfully. “I forgot about the long-term consequences. I wanted to be happy, just me, right now, and I was willing to fight for that, even if fighting would bring worse damage than giving in.”

“That’s how everyone feels,” Sam said. “They think they’d sacrifice for the greater good, but when it gets right down to it, you want to keep what you’ve got. And that’s not always a bad thing. I know right now I’d choose Dean over the whole universe, because we’re family. That’s what family does.”

Dean was more blunt. "Cold-hearted bastards," he said between bites. "Why can't they let you live your own life?"

"Ours is not an existence solely for our own sake," Castiel said. "We have power that must not fall into lesser hands."

"Yeah, well, define lesser," Dean retorted, and Anna took his hand, calming his nerves.

"Understand," she said, eyes huge and doelike and pleading, and Dean had no chance but to do just that.

"There has to be some way to defuse this," Sam pondered, looking up at the ceiling. He licked his fingers.

"There's only one," Anna said mournfully. "I must go back."

"No." Everyone was surprised to hear the word come from Castiel's lips.

He clenched a metallic fist. "We will go. Attempt to reason with them."


He leaned toward her. "If I can learn the worth of humans, then so can they."

"They will destroy us the moment we dare speak against them."

"We have to try."

"I will not put your life in danger along with my own!"

"Wait, stop." Dean inserted a hand between the two of them. “I’ve got an idea.”

The way Anna told it, the beings that made up her and Castiel’s race, though they had no bodies or mass of their own, were builders. They used their own force of light and life to draw elements from the space around them with which they created contraptions and machines. But most of all they created buildings. Not for the sake of living within them -- they had no bodies to move -- but for the sake of creating, in a glowing silver corner of space where no humans -- or any beings -- had yet intruded.

“It’ll take us two months to get there,” Sam whined as Anna patiently plotted out the path.

“No, it won’t,” Castiel said. He looked at Anna. She nodded.

A few hours later, Dean was standing at the dock, watching as his Impala got the upgrade of a lifetime. He was white-knuckled. Sam stood by him, face lit with amusement as he watched his brother sweat over their trusty old junk heap of a ship. It was one of the last chances they’d have to be amused, considering they were about to embark on a subterfuge that would more likely than not kill them all.

“Remember when we did this for the money?” Dean quipped as they headed aboard the ramped-up but still cramped ship.

“No,” Sam said flatly. And it was true. For the whole time they’d been saving people and hunting things, it was never really about the money. It was about the job, and about each other. The family business, and family came first. Even when the whole world was at stake.

Dean bit down the unsettling feeling that maybe that’s what the aliens were thinking, too.

It looked like heaven, built of concrete blocks and marble pathways. It soared in domes of glass and resonated through gigantic winding twists of metal that folded in on themselves, reversed course, and dove into nothing. The Impala soared among the breathtaking architecture like a bee in a garden, each flower more attractive than the last.

Sam was at the window, slack-jawed, staring. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“How are we supposed to know where to go?” Dean sat with Anna in the back. Her eyes were closed and her hands clasped as though in prayer.

“I’ll make inquiries.” Castiel’s hand landed on the airlock wall with a dull metal thud. “You may want to avert your eyes.”

The hatch opened with a hiss and click; Castiel disappeared behind the door. By now Dean knew to look away, but Sam uttered a cry as white light flooded the ship’s windows and then faded out, leaving no sign of a metal angel except for a glimmer of light sparkling at the edge of one of the ridges of mile-long steel.

Dean wandered to the window to look, and Anna followed. After a moment, her chin tilted upward, and she placed a hand on the glass. “They’re here.”

At the peak of one spiraling tower, an answering light winked into existence. It slid down, was joined by another as it fell from a metal grid of a thousand colors and ignited sparks as the two lights met and moved on together. A few more joined them, and the metal buckled with the electricity that surged through it. For an instant Dean feared the structures would melt or explode. But as abruptly as they’d met, the lights were gone.

A moment later, the airlock was opening again with another groaning hiss. Castiel emerged, looking none the worse for wear. “Steer into that bay,” he directed, gesturing to an alcove within one of the nearby stone-and-steel palaces that towered above them. It was roughly the size of a mountain, and even so it was dwarfed by some of the other buildings that hovered in this galaxy-sized corner of space.

Dean looked over at Anna. "You gonna be OK?" he said. It was a weird question to ask, considering it was her technology they were relying on to pull this off, her disguise and her weapons they were depending on to fool the aliens. But looking at her now, it was hard to believe she was anything but human, and he honestly worried she wouldn't have the strength to make it through this.

But when she looked at him there was fire in her eyes. "Let's go."

They stepped out of the ship onto a towering hallway of gleaming silver and bright glass windows. It was designed to be walked in, Dean thought, and he had trouble believing these creatures were so removed from other living things that they didn't intend for this to be a promenade. Human architecture had clearly influenced this place. Dean felt stupidly proud. Even without knowing it, these aliens wished they were human.

Castiel walked a few steps ahead of them, and stopped in front of a scalloped marble sculpture of crashing waves, or clouds, or something else that was emblematic of the majesty of physical nature. It was hard to interpret, but the feeling came through clearly. This was a place where creation was revered.

"I bring the ambassadors from the human race," Castiel announced to the empty room. His voice rang off the vaulted ceilings and long spotless floors.

And then the room was empty no more. For an instant there were flashes of light, and just as suddenly there stood a tall man with metallic-brown skin, as though he were made of burnished copper. To his right, another man, this one with skin so bright white that it might as well be ivory, or diamonds, stood surveying them skeptically.

"RAF/I/L," Castiel said in greeting to the one. "MAIK/L" to the other. Inside his head, Dean resolved their names to spellings he could handle. Funny, how their names unconsciously mimicked human sound as well. Dean was really starting to suspect they really were jealous of humans. They had taken so much from them. Or had the humans grown from them, in the beginning? It was a series of dizzying thoughts, and it all felt too big for his comprehension. He had to stick to the task at hand.

"This is your language?" the dark one said. "We are communicating?"

"Yup. Hear you loud and clear, Raphael," Dean said, winking and clucking his tongue. "Nice place you got here. A bit over-the-top, but..."

"You have AN/NA," the other said. Dean was almost afraid the aliens had seen through their plot, but they did not address Anna directly. Good. Her machine was still disguising her identity. Dean breathed a little easier.

"This is an act of war,” the man with diamond eyes went on. “Release your prisoner or face annihilation."

"MAIK/L!" Castiel raised a hand.

This brought a derisive sneer from Raphael. "You use human gestures now, CAS/T/L? It's foolish enough you are insisting we lower ourselves to speak directly to the humans. These bodies are not comfortable."

Castiel let out a little sigh, but then stood stock still, ceasing all motion. "It would harm them to hear our true voices," he said. "And they bring an important message."

"Oh?" Michael tilted his head. His tone dripped with derision. "Let us hear this ‘important message.’"

"Sure thing," Dean said with an easy smile. "Anna's not anybody's prisoner. Not ours, and not yours. She gets to do whatever the hell she wants, and if that means living on our planet with our people that's exactly what she's going to do. Got it?"

Michael and Raphael looked at each other. The light in their eyes was fierce. Sparks flew from their fingertips.

It was Raphael who turned toward them. "She?"

Dean frowned. "Huh?"

"So AN/NA has fallen that far into the human experience." Michael gave some semblance of a smile, but on his ivory face it looked only like the curved edge of a knife. "It has a sex." He locked eyes with Anna, who trembled but stood her ground. "You there, female representative. Is your sex not the weaker of the two?"

Anna bit her lip hard but made no reply.

"None of our race would willingly choose weakness over strength," Raphael said. "That is proof positive that AN/NA has been taken prisoner. You have forced it into a weak body."

"That's bull."

Dean had clenched his fists. Sam and Castiel both looked at him in shock.

"For a sexless race you are sure a bunch of sexist dicks," Dean said, stomping his foot. His boot made a squeaking scuffing sound against the floor. "Where the hell do you get off? Let me tell you, I'm pretty damn good with women, and the only time I crash and burn, it's because I underestimated them."

"Why are you upset?" Raphael squinted at him, and between narrowed lids, his eyes flashed all the brighter.

“I’m upset because you’re full of it!” Dean hollered. “Look at this place. This looks like something we’d build. You’re giving Cas hell about human expressions but you’re scowling like a bully who just got punched in the nads. You wish you were human, don’t you? You build all these castles in the air, but they’re empty. You’re empty. And you’re afraid if more of you get to know us, they’ll all run away just like Anna did.”

Raphael’s scowl only deepened. “You know nothing of us,” he said. “You know nothing of AN/NA. If what you say is true, it is guilty of the worst betrayal. What it has done is inexcusable. It is a traitor, and once we find it, we will extract from it our justice...”

“Stop calling me ‘it!’”

Raphael quieted. His eyes, and Michael’s, turned immediately to Anna. All the oscillators in the world wouldn’t disguise her now.

Red hair blazed about her pale face and she was at that moment everything regal and very nearly divine. Dean couldn’t help but catch his breath. “You want to know why I chose to be a woman?” she said. “Because they feel more. They're not foolish, like we are. They don't hide their ability to care. You think you don't have feelings, but you do. You think it’s a weakness, but it’s not. We can feel just as much as humans can. It's just that we've been taught not to.”

Dean caught a glimpse of Castiel. He was watching carefully, shock in his gaze, but realization, too. Somewhere in the midst of her speech, Castiel nodded firmly in agreement.

“So yes, I chose to be a human. And I won't give it up. I would rather be down there, feeling, than up here building your palaces for you, helping you create some misguided tribute to your own glory. If that's a betrayal, I’m a traitor, but you’re the ones who aren’t being true to yourselves.”

Michael glanced at Raphael. “We have our confession of treason, then,” he said. And they both began to glow.

“Now,” murmured Castiel.

Dean nodded, drew the gun at his waist, and took a shot.

The blast of energy from the unfamiliar weapon knocked him back a step. The invisible wave rippled through the two aliens, and the light that had begun to eclipse their skin faded. They looked down at themselves, shocked. "What did you do?" Raphael's voice rose.

"He's trapped you in your humanoid bodies," said Castiel, stepping forward. His hand was wrapped around a long silver slab of metal. "For the moment, at least, if you wish to fight us, you'll have to do so physically."

“As you wish,” Michael said. He clenched diamond-hard fists and moved forward.

Dean stood frozen, entranced by the sudden clash of bright and sharp and solid, almost abstract in how fast it moved from shape to shape. One moment Anna’s arm extended, the next the flash of a sword, just as quickly gone as Castiel’s shout rang out. He couldn’t follow it, but he also couldn’t look away. Not until Sam grabbed him by the shoulder.

When his eyes met his brother’s, for a moment the world made sense again. “Come on,” Sam said, giving him a slight smile. “We’ve got work to do.”

*to be concluded*