Book 1. Our magical hero teens come together to fight the evil New York-obliterating plot of Dark Lord Doomblast. The plot is vanquished.
Book 2. Our magical heroes are reunited, a year later. Various growing-up stuff ensues; also a second plot by Dark Lord Doomblast, which is similarly aborted.
Book 3. Our heroes, half a year after the previous book, decide they will be active, not reactive. They find Doomblast’s lair, and kick him in the head until he is dead. Then they take the lair and the remaining minions as their own. Except for the horrible torturer types. (“Mom, I’m moving out! It’s a nice underground cave on Long Is— I mean, it’s a nice place in the suburbs!”)
Book 4. Our heroes, half a year later, have tired of the lair and the lack of a dark lord. Seeing a popular Eastern European revolution in the news, on the cave’s Dark-Lord-A-Vision, they jet there and help to topple the tyrant. (Well, they do their best. Not knowing the language is a bit of a problem.) They open up prisons, confound secret policemen, turn tanks into pudding, and leave, pleased by a job well done. Elections in six months. (Let’s call the place Rutenia.)
Book 5. Half a year later, our heroes are troubled to hear the Evil Ethnic Banhammer Party is predicted to win the first free-ish elections in Rutenia since 1935. They fly in, try to find out why the people don’t vote right, and end up fixing the vote, sparking a civil war, and unwittingly revealing themselves to the world. Book ends with a cliffhanger involving Wolf Blitzer.
Book 6. While the Rutenian Civil War spirals out of control, our heroes (“the nameless mystery teens!”) are hounded by reporters; and as they leg it to their Brooklyn lair, they discover it has been raided by the FBI, and all the ex-minions are in prison. And then a tear gas cylinder flies in through the window. The rest of the book is Fraction A of the heroes as FBI prisoners, trying to tell they’re not the teenage masterminds of a drug or vice operation, honestly; and Fraction B who are vacillating between rescue and surrender. It does not help that the FBI finds the heroes’ parents and places them under constant surveillance. In the end, Fraction B-1 goes to talk to the President, while Fraction B-2 agrees to wait for a week and then attempt rescue. The book ends with B-2 rescuing the A people… and coming to the realization that the B-1 people, the ones that went to see the President, have dropped off the face of the Earth.
Book 7. Where the metaphorical shit gets real, as an intrepid reporter realizes that these English-speaking Rutenian-rebellion inciting vote-fixing weird young people are Americans — and she tracks down their parents. (“Toppling foreign governments? No, my daughter lives in Brooklyn!”)
At which point the CIA gets mightily interested, especially since (after some wranging) they hear from the FBI about the “escaped drug dealers”, and from the Secret Service / Homeland Security about “President-menacing druggie terrorists in custody”. The CIA doesn’t have any magical enforcers of its own; but who needs magic when you have machine guns, satellites, Internet surveillance and the stern patriotic spirit of a fraction of the populace?
Shortly after, our remaining heroes are in Rutenia; turns out being hunted by the CIA is no fun. Then again, it is no fun to be in the middle of a civil war, with US and Russian agents involved. And oh, this civil war is one of those where the people split down a religious divide: both the Cruciform Christians and the Intersection Christians were oppressed by the former evil atheist tyrant, and now being liberated both want to pre-emptively oppress the dirty heretic other. Because, you know, the tyrant had the sense to use the military from one side of the country to oppress the other. With this much rancor, our heroes spend their time trying to prevent random executions. (Also, language problems continue.)
As the Intersection side seems to be backed by people in sunshades, speaking American English and carrying big crates of guns, our heroes retreat out of necessity to the Cruciform side. And when it feels like things cannot get any worse, well, the newest US agents on the other side turn out to be familiar ones: the ones that went to see that old wonderful President of the US. Huge cliffhanger.
Book 8. A tense confrontation in Rutenia. (“Hang on, why are you in that black spy-assassin getup? And where did you vanish after seeing the Prez? And, er, could you put that gun down?” versus “What are you doing on the Russia-backed side of horrible oppressive war criminal terrorists? Don’t you know we-us is backing this side of noble if occasionally forced into hard decisions freedom fighters? Also we were held until we saw the error of independent semi-terrorist action; you should be held too.”)
And because intelligent conversation is really difficult when people are pointing guns and jabbering in English, Russian and Rutenian, things become messy and violent. And in the usual fashion of series like this, our heroes, on both sides, get more and more powerful. Then a suitably tragic and dramatic event convinces them of the facts that (a) they need to trust each other, and (b) they can’t trust anyone else.
In other words, they find themselves a hell of a lot more powerful, but in opposition to America, Russia, and pretty much the whole world, come to think of it. Plus it begins to seem neither side of the civil war likes them that much.
Book 9. Meanwhile, back in America. Our heroes’ parents are worried. Most parents would be, knowing their children are suspected of terrorism, drug trade, revolution, presidential assassination, war crimes, and the like, and also are under twenty years of age. While something is very obviously going on in Rutenia, our heroic parents probe official and unofficial channels, trying to find their children. The official channels are very unresponsive. The media is… well, since the parents are not dumb folks, they know that’s a dangerous road to take.
Which is the point where a sulfurous gentleman of slightly diabolical aspect appears, offering them help for free.
As said, the parents are not dumb folks, so they tell the sulfurous gentleman to go lose himself.
By the time he comes back, each of the parent households has at least one CIAFBINSAWTFBBQ agent as a permanent houseguest, and unmanned drones hover over the neighborhood. Something has gone really wrong in Rutenia, and the government really wants to talk to our heroes.
So, in a burst of sulfur, the parents disappear; the government’s distress level jumps up a few notches.
The parent’s distress level does likewise: because they find themselves not united with their children, but in Hell.
The sulfurous gentleman gives them a lecture about the events of the series so far, and then drops a bomb: the origin of the heroes’ magical powers is the War Between Heaven and Hell. Except in reality there is no God, and according to Mr. Sulfur this Hell side is the good guys. And he wants the parents to convince their teenaged children to fight for him, which shows he clearly has never had any children himself. (“You want me to tell my girl to join the Legions of Hell? Isn’t that Alice Cooper’s job?”)
Then there’s an incursion from the other party, showing the glowing Lovecraftian terror of angels, and the tentacled counterstrike of Hell; and the parents start to feel this whole war business is not NC-17; it’s NC-and-no-humans.
Then a portal opens to Rutenia, and the parents see — continued in the tenth novel.
Book 10. Our heroes find their business going steeply downhill, because the Russia-backed Cruciform locals have found extra backing for their attempts to take over the whole country. That extra backing is three-meter-tall pale-skinned humanoids with dove wings, burning eyes and bloody huge swords. As one can imagine, the Cruciform ethnoreligious segment sees this as an endorsement of their cause by God; this is moral-riffic!
Meanwhile, the US-backed side has no angels, but instead repeated armed incursions from the neighboring, and equally Intersectionist-Christian republic of Transpanphlagonia.
Actually, the only party that’s behind our heroes are the remaining followers of Mr. Bigtyrant, given as either side would like to kill them all and they have families too. Given how these things go, our heroes hold the capital — 30% cruciform, 40% intersectionist, 30% friendly — and see clouds of smoke at every horizon. Even worse, night by night arsons, assaults and murders grow more frequent.
Which is the point when a portal to a red burning sulfur-belching hell opens in the central square and their parents march out, flanked by a honor guard of horned devils.
Some gibbering occurs. (“I had a dream like this once. Am I still wearing my pants? And is Mr. Hockings the algebra teacher in that crowd too? Because that’s all that is missing.”)
Now, since our heroes have had a few lessons in cynicism in the course of the series, they’re not immediately leaping to the side of Lucifer. After all, they’re against the US and Russia both already; being against both Heaven and Hell is possible too. Because they want to be peacemakers. They want to make things better. They want to be heroes, and this is a lot harder than defeating Dark Lord Doomblast was.
At which point the question rises: if their powers are in some way derived from the War of H&H, what about Doomblast’s magical mystical fell potencies? And what does “derived from” really mean?
So they take the sulfurous gentleman hostage, and ask him a few pointed questions. Mr. Gentleman says “pop!” and vanishes in a puff of, well, sulfur.
Now, US- and neighbor-backed civil warriors on one side; angel- and Russian-backed civil warriors on the other side. Our heroes, and their parents, in the middle.
Our heroes manage to capture a few leaders from both sides — talking sense at them is unsuccessful — but then a captive angel drops a moderate bomb.
There is a God.
Or actually there was a God.
You see, He, the leader of the angelic side, was exiled a few decades ago — something about insufficient strictness in warfare against the hellish foe — and banished to this barbarian planet Earth. Where, it is believed, He became mortal and started building a new power base, so a few naive idealistic humans, chosen in random, were given powers sufficient to take this renegade God down.
Yeah, Dark Lord Doomblast? He was God-in-exile. And now he’s dead.
Wait — it gets worse. Though to hear that worse thing a few of our heroes need to infiltrate “Heaven” and browbeat a few angels taking care of the meters and levers underneath the Winged Citadel. They can’t do a thing about the heroes’ powers; but they can point wildly at readings that are very bad, and explain that God’s (or whatever you want to call Him) existence was the cornerstone of Heaven’s existence, and now the whole place is collapsing. There are one hundred billion three-meter-tall angels, and they all need to evacuate within the year or face annihilation. The alternatives are Hell, pop. one hundred billion, and Earth, pop. seven billion. The latter has been chosen; what remains is sealing the doorways between Hell and Earth so the old enemy cannot interfere.
Boom. Nice job breaking it, heroes.
Book 11. Our heroes discover the Russian leadership, the Kremlin, the whole shebang, has been taken over by the angels — they’re not just pretty, but can offer infinitely prolonged, invigorated life and great riches to their servants, too. (Prolonged life, the same one-directional way the magical powers were pushed into our heroes.)
And when our heroes turn back to Uncle Sam… well, the very persuasive sulfurous gentleman has taken that side over.
Then, just to put a cherry on this sundae of horror, the question arises: one of the technical angels, one that thought it better to throw her lot with the heroes, either because of an obscure death wish or some soon-terminal friction within the heavenly bureaucracy, admits that angels sort of want to clean up Earth a bit before they come in en masse and start terraforming Earth to their image.
Here “clean up” is an euphemism for “thermonuclear armageddon”.
What the hellish side wants, is apparently to deny the angels the possession of Earth. Since it’s kind of difficult to oppose this scheme with more mad nuclear weapons, it seems reasonable they are planning to destroy Earth altogether. That way the angels have no place to go, and will perish.
The US government, ruled by devils, wants to destroy the whole planet.
The Russian government, ruled by angels, wants to cleanse the planet with nuclear fire.
Our heroes, in sort-of control of the capital of Rutenia, with a vicious civil war outside, would like to sort of keep on living, along with all of mankind if at all possible.
Oh, and the sentence a few lines up about our heroes growing in power? That’s to be expected, because their powers come from the very fabric of Heaven itself, whatever that might be: as Heaven collapses, the powers flood them, and this will be very bad for their general wellbeing in very close future. (On the other hand, a few of the angel-rewarded Russians have noticed their new powers are much greater than the angels expected.)
Meanwhile, the Chinese are sure something really weird is going on, but they don’t know what.
Angels attack our heroes, reducing Rutenia City to rubble — well, some of the reducing is done by our heroes as their powers get out of control for a bit.
Our heroes escape; and this is the moment our dear friend the sulfurous gentleman reappears. If he is to be believed, why yes, he is planning to destroy the planet, oh so sorry; but that is just because he could not get our heroes on his side. Because the heroes are powered by the collapsing fabric of Heaven, they could be used to hasten that collapse, and destroy Heaven before it could blurt its citizens to destroy and displace those of Earth. The power released through our heroes could be funneled into Hell, which he promises would be vaguely “pushed away” by the increase, so it would be cut off from Earth forever.
At which point a hero makes the pertinent observation that, hang on a minute, wouldn’t that mean like literally killing one hundred billion angels?
Eh, the gentleman says, that would be the case. But this alternative does not include the genocide of humanity.
There is a bit of a row; the gentleman leaves and says he will be back in a week’s time; any more than that, and the world-destroying war is sure to overtake them.
Book 12, the final volume. Our heroes formulate a clever plan: they will indeed let the fabric of Heaven be funneled through themselves and into the fabric of Hell; but they will make sure there are portals open from Heaven to Earth close to the doorways from Earth to Hell. They’ll let all the angels escape to Hell, and then hopefully push Hell away from bothering humankind.
To do this, though, it would be good to known where the Earth-Hell doorways — more permanent than portals — are.
The first guess is, Washington D.C.? While intuitive, that is wrong.
The second guess is New Jersey; the hero who suggests this is whacked with a rubber mallet.
The third guess… well, there was a reason Dark Lord God-Doomblast’s lair had TVs tuned to view the local news of Rutenia.
Rutenia. There the sulfurous gentleman will strut out of a Hell’s doorway, and stop, shockedly seeing the portals of Heaven opening above. There a desperate battle for survival will be fought, and billions of angels will rush out of a dying place, with void taking the hindmost: but will they go through a doorway, or take Earth? There the force of that great death will be pushed through fragile human forms: a force that could destroy Earth as much as push away Hell.
(An obvious point in the finale will be that none of the three sides is all evil, or all good; because in urban fantasy a happy genocide is not an acceptable solution.)
Characters? Whaddaya mean characters? Isn’t a plot enough?
Okay, I’ll give you a few young heroes. Say six teenagers, of which one will die in one of the first three books, and one more for each three that follow. That leaves two of them alive at the series’ end; but along the way a few more are introduced; say eight main characters total.
The original six are from the same neighborhood in the vicinity of New York City.
- Three female, two male, one transgender.
- Three straight, two gay, one bi.
- Two Caucasian, two Asian, one Hispanic, one mix-and-match. (God, I’m so not suited to planning things like this; good I’m not actually going to write this.)
- One feelgood Christian, one lackadaisical Muslim, two apatheists, one hardcore skeptic-atheist, one philosophically inclined kind and generous Satanist.
- Three generic wizard-witch power sets, one wereghost, one tank, one flying telepathic telekinetic tank.
- One claustrophobe, one claustrophile, one with a debilitating fear of staplers; two with trust issues, and one with a history of violence.
You picks one from each category, you builds your heroes from that.
The added two (to replace those that die) are the technical, geekish angel of Heaven’s deepest, most lever- and meter- and dial-filled bowels; and a Rutenian with a lot of prejudice to work off.
* * *
I don’t have the slightest intention of ever writing this thing — but if someone did, and could find a publisher, and a big-ish fandom, it would be very interesting to follow their reactions as the plot went on.
Then again, I am a cackling nihilist, and I think I and a brother of mine once came to the conclusion that the last Harry Potter book should have been J. K. Rowling killing everybody.
Then there should have been a prequel, the time of Harry’s parents at Hogwarts… which would have ended with everybody dead. No Harry, and no plot complications: an alternate universe, you know. She who has the creative control and oodles of cash already, she makes the plot.
Then again, almost as fun as that would be to imagine Rowling’s agent calling back at her —
“Hey, Jo. I read your… the last book draft, I read it.”
“Excellent! So, how did you like it?”
“It… was unexpectedly harsh.”
“How about the bit with Ron and the fork? Or the expectora polonium spell? Or the Osterhagen Lava-Cleaning Jinx? I’m really proud of that one.”
“Look, Jo, I think the publisher might not be happy with this kind of an end for the series.”
“Screw the publisher! I have money!”
“The publisher ought to be happy I spun off the animagus sex scenes.”
“The what now?”
“The first of those is almost a novel already; call Harlequin and ask if they are interested, okay? If not, I might really need to move to the adult market.”