The Rapture has come to pass. Jesus Christ has returned to the earth and taken the faithful with him to paradise. Those Left Behind must accept the Mark of the Beast and the rule of Nicholas Carpathia and his Global Peacekeepers. A few survivors of this cataclysm refuse to bow to Carpathia's will and fight on in the name of Jesus Christ, trying to save souls and win their way into Heaven. These few are known as the Tribulation Force, and though they are small in number, they are the greatest enemy of Satan on earth.
They also have a meeting once a month to discuss internal disciplinary issues.
The Tribulation Force prepares to battle some evil. Rayford Steele took his seat at the head of the Tribulation Force meeting room table in the Tribulation HQ Bunker. He was wearing his pilot's uniform, covered with dust. His jaw was square enough to find prime numbers and his eyes were like two burning embers of blue religious steel. At his right hand sat his daughter, Chloe Steele, who looked like an angel if ever an angel wore a crop top. At his left sat Cameron "Buck" Williams, who was as friendly and honest as he was Christian, which is to say very.
It was the fifteenth of the month, which meant it was time once again to review the disciplinary write-ups from the various Tribulation Force shift supervisors. It was up to Rayford Steele to decide the fate of mankind on earth, and also decide what disciplinary action, if any, the Tribulation Force should take against its volunteer staff.
"Who's up first?" Rayford asked, thinking about the Lord.
Chloe picked up the first of the manila envelopes and opened it. Two bright yellow disciplinary forms and a photocopy of an ID card dropped from the envelope and into Chloe's hand.
"Faith Truestead," Chloe read the name from the ID card. "Shift supervisor is Carlos Montoya."
"I know both of them," Buck interjected, "good people. Extremely Christian."
"How many write-ups?" Rayford asked.
"There are two," Chloe replied. "Write-up number one is for 'suspicious woman issues' and Carlos says that he thinks she is going through menopause."
"Is that bad in the Bible?" Buck asked.
"Hmmm," Rayford opened his copy of the Bible and began flipping through it. "Menopause, menopause, menopause. Is that like a Corinthian?"
"Don't think so, Ray," Buck shook his head.
"Well, what else did she do, Chloe?" Rayford clapped shut his Bible with a flourish and returned it to the table. "That might impact our decision."
"Write-up number two is...," Chloe scanned the yellow demerit sheet, "Carlos says she swears a lot. Especially when they're being shot at by Global Peacekeepers."
"Lord's name?" Buck asked the salient question.
"Ahh, no, but almost as bad. She likes to use the m-f word."
"Well," Rayford began, "that's a humdinger. Normally I'd say we should pray on it, but it looks like we've got quite a few of these to work through. How about we say she had the Mark of the Beast and we cut her right arm off at the elbow? Does that work for everybody?"
Chloe nodded. Rayford looked to Buck.
"I don't know, Ray," Buck slid Faith's demerit sheets over to look at them.
"Come on, Buck," Rayford urged. "Do you want to work through lunch? We could have egg salad and milk from some bunker animals or we could finish all this and go knock over a Satanic pizza parlor and have meat lover's with extra cheese."
"Alright," Buck laughed, "I don't need anymore convincing."
Chloe stamped the forms with the "de-markification" punishment and then moved on to the next envelope.
"Maximum Joshua," Chloe laughed, "is that his real name?"
"Oh, yeah," Rayford grinned, "he was a Muslim guy who developed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and so we told him to pick a new name out of the Bible. Turns out they use 'maximum' a couple times in Psalms."
"Really?" Chloe laughed.
"Yeah, 'sniper' is in there a few times too in Genesis. That's why that fat African guy is named Paul Sniper."
"Oh, yeah," Buck's face brightened with the recollection, "he does the Tribulation Force website, right?"
Nicholas Carpathia, ruler of the post-Rapture world. "Anyway," Chloe interrupted, "this one is from Bruce. Three write-ups against Maximum Joshua. Number one, Bruce says, is that Maximum Joshua drinks all of the Coke we loot from the Satanic grocery stores."
"Can gluttony be beverage based?" Buck asked.
"Sure," Rayford replied, "I think gluttony applies to any calories. So as long as it wasn't all diet soda, which I think is zero calorie, then it counts as gluttony."
"Right," Chloe continued, "number two here says that he wears undergarments suspiciously like a woman's."
"Ha ha, yeah!" Rayford chortled. "I remember this guy's laundry was a bunch of silk underpants. They looked like guy's underpants but they were like a woman's."
"That against the Bible?"
"Eh," Rayford scratched at his massive Christian chin, "maybe not technically, but I think it's one of those letter versus spirit of the law things."
"Aren't we Biblical literalists though?" Chloe asked.
"Technically, yes. Spiritually, no."
They all laughed.
"Decapitation?" Rayford asked and looked to Buck and Chloe.
"Wait," Chloe held up a finger, "one more demerit. Bruce says that Maximum Joshua uses some sort of occult sorcery."
"I think I've heard enough," Rayford reached for the decapitation stamp.
"What sort of sorcery?" Buck asked and then added quickly, "Just so we know."
"Bruce says that every time Maximum Joshua uses the vending machine in the bunker he is able to get two packages of Twix for the price of one."
Buck nodded gravely and passed the decapitation stamp to Rayford. Chloe returned the stamped papers to Maximum Joshua's case file. She retrieved a third manila envelope from the stack and upended its contents onto the table.
"It's from Carlos again," Chloe lifted the single yellow sheet from the table, "he says Shawn Willpower is accused of unauthorized rocket launcher usage."
Rayford raised an eyebrow.
"Apparently this Shawn Willpower guy was out on patrol and he just decided to fire his rocket launcher at a house in the suburbs. Family, kids, dog, everybody died."
"Sounds like decapitation again to me," Buck said with a sigh.
"Wait," Rayford held up a hand, "was the family living in that house evil?"
Chloe looked over the file again and then shook her head.
"It doesn't say if they were good or evil."
"So for all we know that family and their dog were the most evil people in the city. I mean, there's no proof that they aren't evil. No evidence that they were good, I mean."
"Yeah, but any evidence probably blew up with their house," Buck countered.
"Exactly," Rayford slapped his palm on the table, "which is why we can't send this guy up for decapitation. I mean, think about it, these people have a house in the suburbs. How many people up there can manage that without being evil?"
"Good point," Buck agreed.
"Let it go, then?" Chloe asked.
"Eh, have him pray on it for a couple hours," Rayford waved a hand.
Chloe found the rarely-used "pray on it" stamp and then moved on to the fourth case file.
"Heather Christian," Chloe said the name with an amused laugh to her voice. "I think the name probably sounds familiar."
Buck and Rayford shifted nervously in their seats.
Luckily Thomas Kinkade survived the Rapture and joined Tribulation Force to paint cliched post-apocalyptic landscapes. "Item one is that she burned down a church."
Buck hissed with dismay.
"Now," Rayford began uncertainly, "again, if it was on the surface it was probably an evil church. A Satanic church, and-."
"It was full of people at the time," Chloe interrupted. "She locked them in and burned it down."
"Yeah," Buck joined Rayford's argument, "but that just means she knew what she was doing. She couldn't let any of the Global Peacekeepers escape."
"Fine," Chloe failed to conceal her irritation. "Item two is that she willingly submitted to the Mark of the Beast and when questioned about that admitted that she got the Mark so that she could buy birth control pills."
"Health issues!" Buck gasped.
"Deep cover!" Rayford spluttered.
Chloe arched an eyebrow, but said nothing in reply. She watched them stew before continuing.
"Item three: Heather Christian stands accused of filming and circulating a pornographic video of herself engaged in various sex acts with two men."
"Uh," Buck stammered, "they were her husbands."
"Both of them?"
"Oh, yeah," Rayford enthusiastically agreed. "Yeah, I remember. She was married and then her husband disappeared so she assumed he was dead and married again. Then he came back. So technically it's all okay."
"That sounds like polygamy at best and a-,"
"Trust me on this, Chloe." Rayford scowled at his daughter. "She is the best personal assistant I have ever had."
"I'm sure she'll do anything you ask her to," Chloe sneered.
"That's just uncalled for," Rayford said sternly, "I want you to do a good ten minutes of praying on that tonight."
"Fine, what about Heather Christian?"
"Ah, I would be happy to counsel her personally," Buck offered. "You know, help her pray."
"Yeah, right," Rayford laughed. "I can handle this. I'll stop by tonight and take care of it."
"Alright, lastly we have Dwayne Atheist-Traytor, written up by Buck here."
Helpin' y'all get raised up! "Buck says that Dwayne Atheist-Traytor 'looks suspicious' and 'may be an atheist traitor.' He recommends that Dwayne be burned at the stake."
"Sounds good to me," Rayford agreed.
"Hang on," Chloe stalled. "Because of the severity of this one I asked Dwayne to stop by and defend himself."
The door swung open and in stepped a curly-haired man with a large aquiline nose. His dark eyes seemed enlarged by his spectacles and his whole body was hidden inside a black Adidas tracksuit.
"Hi," the man smiled sheepishly.
"Are you Dwayne Atheist-Traytor?" Rayford asked, throwing a bit of macho bass into his voice.
"That's, uh, that's the name I was given when I joined a couple months ago, yes. My real name is Dwayne Weintraub."
"Excuse the forwardness of my question, Mister Atheist-Traytor," Buck began, "but you don't look Christian to me."
"Oh," Dwayne pinched his nose, "yeah, well, my father was Jewish but I never practiced. My wife was a Methodist and I attended church regularly. She died not long after the Rapture, so I joined up-"
"He's a Jew?" Rayford asked with disbelief.
"Yeah," Buck laughed, "which is why I gave him that name when he joined up. I knew he'd be trouble."
"Alright, burn him at the stake."
"Wait a second, guys," Dwayne held up his hands. "I figured this might happen. That's why I asked Chloe to come down here and talk with you."
"Make it fast," Rayford spit out and slumped sullenly in his chair.
"Yeah, sure. Well, okay, I don't know exactly how to put this, guys, but...when was the last time you left the bunker?"
"What do you mean?!" Buck replied with righteous indignation. "We go on ops all the time!"
"I know, I know. You guys bomb buildings and steal stuff and shoot missiles at buses. That's fine. Great. Go Jesus. But, like, when was the last time you just quietly walked around up there?"
"Get to the point," Rayford pounded the table for emphasis.
"The point is, guys, that the only other Tribulation Force cell still operating is Utah and it consists of two ex-Mormons who think the antichrist came on a UFO and talk to us all night long on a HAM radio."
"Watch your mouth," Rayford roared, "Longinus Cell is one of our best covert ops units in the war against the unbelievers."
The Tribulation Force's phamphlet's vision of the present day. "Look," Dwayne tried to sound conciliatory. "I mean no disrespect, it's just that…I've got a family up there. There are parks and restaurants. Movies, books. The Dow Jones just hit an all-time high. They cured diabetes and cancer. Other than our terrorist attacks there has not been a war since the Rapture."
"Blasphemy," Buck seemed aghast. "You would stand with the armies of the Global Peacekeepers? The foul Satanic prince Nicholas Carpathia?"
"Carpathia? He was the representative from Hungary. He retired two years ago and lives in France raising geese. I printed out his Wikipedia entry if you guys don't believe me."
"Just the sort of lies the Beast would send with his servant!" Rayford hammered his fists on the table again.
"The Global Peacekeepers harvest blood for their black masses!"
"Are you talking about the blood drive the UN held for the earthquake victims in India?"
"Christian blood for the unbelievers!" Rayford surged over the table and clawed for Dwayne's neck.
"I had hoped you would hear me out," Dwayne stepped back, "but there's one more thing."
Dwayne reached into the front pocket of his sweatshirt.
"It's a letter I asked your wife to write," Dwayne pulled the envelope out of his pocket. "She didn't join the Holy Host in Heaven, she ran off to the Poconos with your gardener. There was never any Rapture."
"BURN THE HERETIC!" Rayford screamed and reached for the Christian battleaxe he kept close at hand for just such an emergency.
Dwayne retreated toward the door.
"Don't worry," he shouted over the clatter of the rack of medieval blessed weaponry toppling onto the bunker floor in a heap. "I can show myself to the stake!"
By the time Buck and Rayford turned back to confront the Satanic intruder with consecrated mace and billhook, their foe had long since fled.
Unbeknownst to them, they had their revenge an hour later when they drove a stolen army tank through the window of the Sbarro where Dwayne Weintraub happened to be enjoying a slice of meat lover's with extra cheese. The heretic was crushed beneath the treads of the tank and three large pies were brought back to the Tribulation Force bunker.
"Really, Holmes!" I dropped into my seat, shocked. "You are remarkably tall! What are you, six foot six? Six foot eight?"
As the 19th century diver approaches a giant clam, a flash of brilliant golden light flares from within the shell. I emerge in a swirl of bubbles and do the timeless universal underwater hand signals for the following: ZODIAC KILLER, KKK, BLOOD OF YOUTH
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