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The Second Deluge was a marvel of human engineering. When we realized that whatever was Up There had no plans to let us in, well, the only other place to go was down. Sea levels had been rising even before the Rapture, and the Stratagem took advantage of that. I don’t understand the physics behind it – I don’t think anyone does, really – but it was awe-inspiring. Great steel gates built into the seabeds inched open, revealing the world Underneath – a literal hellscape of fire, lava, and immortal souls being tortured for eternity. Our people had told us it would be there, but it was shocking anyway.

And then the water started pouring in. The water level of the entire planet dropped by feet. We still don’t know how much water we poured into the Low Kingdom, but it was enough. The Stratagem did the impossible: we managed to extinguish the flames of Hell.

Part of them, anyway. Once the flames were gone the Stratagem moved in and occupied Pandemonium – taking the capital is the biggest part of any invasion. Aircraft carriers parked outside of the Gate would send in fighter jets. The fighter jets would drop bombs on the city, rendering its finely-crafted quartz walls to dust. Demon blood poured down the rough cobblestones in a never-ending cascade. I was there, I was part of the second exploratory force sent in after the line of defensive Afreet had been rendered into viscera by Hellfire missiles. The irony was painfully apparent.

The battles raged on for almost a month. A back and forth of missile bombardment and demons flying out and being shot down into the water. Fireteams like mine would be given copious resources and ammunition before being let loose into the city. No supply lines, no tactical support. Our only job was to spread terror through the ranks, and that’s exactly what we goddamn did. Human rights don’t really apply when the enemy species has been torturing humans for centuries. But we eventually broke them. The fight waned out of them, then died. Waves of them still ran forth from the Citadel in the center of the city, but it wasn’t a battle, it was just a meat grinder. He was trying to delay us, and it didn’t work.

The Citadel you know is the headquarters of the Stratagem, all gleaming white and blues. Looking at it now, you wouldn’t believe it was once Satan’s fortress. The walls that now hold banners used to hold headless corpses, still thrashing as the birds pecked away at their innards. The walls, filled with holes after an air bombardment, had been packed with bloody bodies lain like bricks. Even the path up to it was a writhing mass of cacodemons and hellhounds.

Lucky for us, they hadn’t seen living humans in millennia. And even luckier, those guys didn’t have machine guns. A few minutes of sustained fire and the Devil’s defensive army were Swiss cheese. We kept moving, ducking behind cover to fire out at whatever we saw. It wasn’t long before we breached the gates, and then the throne room. Satan’s reign over the underworld was ended by a few rocket propelled grenades to the face.

And then the Stratagem commanders set to the task of making Hell livable. Troops and food were airlifted in, along with construction supplies. The exterior walls around the city weren’t just rebuilt, they were raised taller than ever. Modern defensive architecture was applied during the reconstruction of the Citadel – the Palace of Hell now sits on top of a server farm running the defensive systems of the entire city. It’s a true modern military city. Reconstruction is ongoing, but Pandemonium’s only been under human occupation for a few years now, and firebombing isn’t exactly light on infrastructure.

But rebuilding the city for civilians isn’t as big a priority. Taking Pandemonium wasn’t a solution to the Rapture problem; it was the Stratagem making sure they’d have somewhere to run to. Sooner or later, we were going to have to take the fight to them.

So that’s exactly what we did. It started simple; retake the cities we had lost. Boston and New York were the first cities to fall under cherubim control, and they were the first ones we violently wrested from their grip. A secondary Gate was constructed, this one leading out onto the Greenland coast. That’s where the Stratagem amassed the First Fleet. A hundred-odd ships ranging from warships to aircraft carriers and dreadnoughts, all loaded with troops over a month. And then we were given the go-ahead.

A laser-focused campaign to retake New York came first. The vids are impressive, but there’s something totally different about seeing a hundred-foot-tall four-headed baby monster get hit by a bunker buster. I never thought I’d see the day of a military occupation of New York City, all orchestrated from a few ships docked in the Hudson. It took a few weeks, but the Cherubim in downtown fell one by one, bleeding light and hymns all the way down. Apparently you can still hear choirs in Times Square if you listen hard, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a myth.

Anyway, the New York Campaign was a landmark. The turning point of the Rapture, the Stratagem said. From there, it was only a hop, skip, and jump to the other campaigns. A two-pronged assault to retake Boston and Chicago from Ophanim and Cherubim, respectively. I had a buddy in Chicago, actually – he sent me a video of one of them. A flaming wheel, fifty feet tall, covered in thousands of blinking gold eyes, balanced perfectly on the tip of Willis Tower. And then an explosion as an artillery barrage from the Chicago Skyway knocked it back to kingdom come.

The Stratagem was finally winning the war. And we continued, until the last monstrosity was driven back to where they came from. Least, that’s what they want you to think. Truth is, the Campaigns were only the first part of this battle. We may have taken Hell, we may have taken back Earth, but we know that they’re going to keep coming back. And when they do, we’ll die. We managed to win because they didn’t know what to expect. But if they come back again, we won’t be able to defeat an organized force of angels set on driving humanity to an early grave.

So we’re taking the fight to them. The Stratagem is going to announce it in a few weeks, and begin mobilizing reserve forces. But they’ve already set up a forward operating base – Point Aquinas, they’re calling it. A concrete eyesore, pressed right up against the pearly gates. If you stand on the battlements, some of the soldiers say you can even see the Garden, smell the fruit. I’m heading up there next week with the rest of the exploratory force. The current plan is to see how we can push to His Throne without taking overwhelming losses. Apparently the Stratagem’s cut a deal with what was left of Satan's mangled body – we’re going to be getting fire support from demons during the initial assault on the Gate.

Invading the Kingdom of God isn't going to be easy, but we've had thousands of years of practice on defying the gods. He won't know what hit Him.

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