Part of Apex of Creation
Officer Dakota Jackson
Detective Sanders was red in the face, the color contrasting horrendously with his beard, making him look somewhere between Sherlock Holmes and Santa Claus. “I got no idea what these two are up to.” he said, as he flopped down in the chair next to my desk. “Been following them for several days and I got nothing.”
I flipped through the photos he had taken of James Exosia and Emily Butler. Most were around campus, walking, studying, or eating. It was clear that were good friends - why else would they spend so much time together?
But as annoyingly suspicious as the bank/hotel/James connection was, there was nothing concrete. That meant it was time for Sanders’s skills to be put to use on more productive tasks. Like actual crimes with proof of existence.
“I think we need to close the hotel assault.” I announced, as I pushed the photos together into one stack. “It seems to me that Allison Butler attacked Nigel Butler. With James coming up clean, I just don’t see any other explanation for it.”
“That ain’t gonna hold up in court though.” Sanders replied. “Especially with the mystery 911 caller.”
“It doesn’t need to. Allison Butler is already on the hook for accessory to Nigel’s production of child pornography. Seems she knew about it and didn’t do anything. The DA’s office told me this morning that they’re pressing charges.”
“Good, fuck them both. When’s arraignment?”
“Two weeks from tomorrow for Nigel, and I haven’t heard anything about Allison. They might be arraigned together, but I don’t think the DA has decided on that yet. You going?”
“Nah, I got too much other shit to do. Been putting off other stuff to tail James. Car accidents and petty crimes have been stacking up on my desk.” Detective Sanders shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Nothing technically wrong with anything I’ve found on James Exosia, but I can’t shake the feeling that something is up.”
“I hear you. I’m going, mainly because I’m pissed at Nigel Butler for making me walk in on his slideshow.”
“Heh. Can’t say that I envy you.”
“Darren, trust me, it would be worse if you did.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Detective Sanders replied, reaching for his flask and then changing his mind.
Sanders’s day drinking was an open secret in the precinct. As long as he kept delivering ironclad evidence, nobody was going to complain. Particularly if a complaint risked jeopardizing the case against Nigel Butler.
I closed the folder on the Butler assault and placed it on my “To Storage” stack.
“When’s your dad’s arraignment again?” I asked Emily, as we walked to the engineering section of campus. The wind was cold, and we had our jackets pulled around our necks.
Emily pulled out her phone and opened the calendar. “Two weeks from tomorrow.” Then she stuffed the phone away and put her glove back on.
“You want me to come for, I dunno, moral support?” It seemed right to offer.
“That’d be nice. Raguel’s been working with me for coping, but company will be nice.”
“Raguel?” I asked, surprised. “How are you getting there?”
“I’m not.” Emily chuckled. “He’s coming to me. We’ve been using the group study rooms in the library. Like, twice so far.”
“Just, you know, helping me sort through all my thoughts. I’m not looking forward to reliving anything at trial, if it goes to that, but at the same time, I might need to. For closure.” Emily gave me a sly smile, and added “And revenge.”
With that, we arrived at the engineering building, and parted ways - it was time for one of the few classes we did not share.
With a sense of dread, I turned and walked back to European History, and found a seat just as the class began.
Bzzzt My phone lit up. It was my dad:
Enjoyed dinner last night. Emily seems nice. Looking forward to whenever we can see both of you next =)
That was nice of him, especially with Valentine’s Day coming up later this week. Of course, at some point, I’d have to share Emily’s backstory with my dad. There wasn’t exactly an easy way to say “oh, by the way, her parents abused her and are now rotting in jail.” Maybe I could-
“Mister Exosia, would you mind sharing with the class what the connection is between your phone and the Wendish Crusades?” the professor suddenly asked.
“Wikipedia” I answered, as I hurried to pull up the actual page. “I’ve got a summary of it right… here.”
The dark gleam in the professor’s eyes could only mean one thing: wrong answer.
“Is that so? Which category of approved academic resources for this course does Wikipedia fall under?”
I had nothing.
“I didn’t think so. Put the phone away, Mister Exosia.”
Internet Chat Room
22:36:10 →thanlols has logged in 22:36:11 thanlols was opped (+o) by @ChanServ 22:36:21 <@thanlols> has anyone seen toxxxic? 22:37:15 <xXcarvrXx> nah man 22:38:09 <@thanlols> .seen toxxxic 22:38:10 <+screwgle> (thanlols) toxxxic was last seen 16 days and 5 hours ago saying: i’ve gotta get going. Flight’s boarding 22:38:39 <xXcarvrXx> i think he was going to go see his kid at her college 22:38:54 <xXcarvrXx> could be wrong tho 22:39:01 <skivmaster> the pizza girl? 22:39:12 <xXcarvrXx> yah 22:39:39 <skivmaster> too old for my tastes lol 22:40:03 <skivmaster> ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) 22:40:05 <xXcarvrXx> lol 22:40:06 ←skivmaster was kicked by %AnthraxXx: you sick motherfucker 22:40:10 →skivmaster joined 22:40:12 <%AnthraxXx> y’all need some jesus 22:40:13 <@thanlols> hotdogger: you know toxxxic IRL right? 22:40:30 <skivmaster> speak for yourself AnthraxXx =P 22:41:02 <hotdogger> yo 22:41:06 <hotdogger> i have been summoned 22:41:07 <hotdogger> sup 22:41:10 <hotdogger> thanlols: yeah I do 22:41:13 <hotdogger> idk what he’s been up to tho 22:41:14 <hotdogger> why? 22:41:15 ←xXcarvrXx quit: (Quit: Connection closed for inactivity) 22:41:21 <@thanlols> hotdogger: 16+ days radio silence 22:41:26 <@thanlols> just tryin to be careful 22:41:30 <hotdogger> .seen toxxxic 22:41:30 <+screwgle> (hotdogger) toxxxic was last seen 16 days and 5 hours ago saying: i’ve gotta get going. Flight’s boarding 22:41:32 <hotdogger> yikes 22:41:39 <hotdogger> thanlols: I’ll text him and let you know if he responds. 22:41:49 <skivmaster> pizza girl prob got him 22:42:40 <skivmaster> thanlols: you got any more of yours? 22:42:50 →maphunter has logged in 22:42:59 <@thanlols> skivmaster: i trade you mine if you trade me yours 22:43:09 <skivmaster> thanlols: deal lol 22:43:20 <maphunter> ooh I want some 22:44:01 <hotdogger> thanlols: I know a guy who knows a guy, who knows some more guys 22:44:05 <hotdogger> if you know what I mean 22:44:31 <%AnthraxXx> lol 22:44:38 <%AnthraxXx> it means ur gay, right? 22:44:51 <@thanlols> ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) 22:45:02 <@thanlols> hotdogger: yeah that’s good but don’t do anything yet. 22:45:12 <@thanlols> no point in drawing attention where it’s not needed 22:44:05 <hotdogger> thanlols: got it
I had really screwed up. James and Emily had not taken the path through the library that I had anticipated. Instead, by sheer luck, they had stumbled upon the hiding place of the real Scroll of the Apocalypse. And the Scroll was now in Hell, likely being displayed on Lucifer’s artifact wall.
I could fix it though. Well, no, I couldn’t fix it, but maybe - just maybe - James could fix everything before anybody noticed. Ok, so God had definitely noticed - He was omniscient after all - but the fact that He hadn’t yet casted me out of Heaven was at least encouraging.
I had to check in with James. I was sure he’d get it eventually, but I had a mental itch that needed to be scratched.
I dropped into the metaphysical realm near James. “How’s the portal work coming along?” I asked him.
“Dude. It’s the middle of class.” James answered, gesturing at the packed (and frozen) lecture hall around him.
Prickly as always. “I know, that’s why I paused everything.” I answered.
James shook his head. “Maybe a little bit more give on the portal since last time. I’ll let you know if anything major happens.”
“Hardly. Now, if you don’t mind…?”
I vanished, back to my office. This was not good. If James couldn’t open the Gate, then the Scroll - the real Scroll, not my holy bomb decoy - was stuck in Hell. And nobody wanted to gamble the fate of eternity on another Hybrid coming around.
I retrieved the decoy from my desk drawer. I had to level with James - it was the right thing to do. With another twitch and a time stop, I reappeared next to him.
“Now what?” James asked, slamming his pencil down on the desk.
“Well, to put it bluntly, I screwed up.”
“Yeah.” I answered, and showed James the fake scroll. His eyes went wide with recognition. “It’s not real.” I explained. “It’s a fake. I knew that Alocer was Whispering to Emily. And I had been hoping that she would take this one instead.” I hung my head in shame.
“And you knew that all along?” James asked, his voice rising in volume. “Why didn’t you clear the Whisper?” he demanded. “Emily has been through more than enough trauma for a lifetime; she doesn’t need goddamn demons fucking around with her head!”
“Because I wanted to plant this one in Hell.” I answered. “It’s a bomb. An unstoppable torrent of holy force, that would raze Lucifer’s castle, and set back the armies of Hell by centuries. An irresistible opportunity to take advantage of the enemy’s manipulations. Feel it.”
James leaned away a few inches, but reached out and brushed a finger across the end of the scroll. “It feels like power, but locked up, yes?”
“Externally, very similar to the real Scroll. The difference is that this one can be opened by Lucifer. The real one can’t be, though I have no doubt Lucifer would try to open the first four seals at some point. Hence, the bomb.”
“So why not just ask us to take it?” James inquired.
“Because you didn’t want to take sides or participate in the war.” I answered. “This seemed like the next best thing.”
“Well, it fucking wasn’t.” James spat. “Stop fucking with me, and leave Emily out of your plans. She’s not your fucking pawn.”
“Lesson learned.” I said, and vanished back to Heaven. What else could I do?
The Whispers had been successful beyond my wildest imagination. Emily had suspected nothing, mindlessly adding the Scroll of the Apocalypse onto her stack of books. Lucifer was thrilled, but it wasn’t Lucifer that I was worried about.
I had faced down an unhappy Lucifer countless times over the centuries. Surely one human couldn’t be too bad - even if he was a Hybrid. With the raiding portal closed and the Gate sealed, and no sign of transdimensional abilities developing, the Scroll was safe and secure on Lucifer’s throne room display wall.
Time to rub salt in the wound. Because why the hell not. With a casual twitch, I ghosted into the elevator where the Hybrid was riding up, alone.
“Good evening, James.”
He jumped, startled. Heh. Worth it.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
“Where the hell have you been?” James damanded.
“Tied up.” I shrugged. “You know, Lucifer and his razor wire.”
James’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t buy that.”
“...And Lucifer’s been taking his sweet time with everything. Something about a scroll…”
“What do you know about the scroll?” James asked.
“I’m afraid I don’t have all the details.” I lied. “New collection item or something. Not really my business; it’s just what I’ve heard through the grapevine.”
James was quiet as something churned in his mind. “You know, Alocer, I’ve been meaning to pay another visit to Lucifer.” he said. “We kinda got started off on the wrong foot and I was hoping to make things right.”
Wow, he really was pathetic. “Go on…”
“But the Gate’s been closed.” James continued. “Any chance you could re-open it?”
I shook my head sympathetically. “No can do. I was ordered to close it, and I closed it. My hands are tied.”
“I wish there was more I could do for you, but at the end of the day I’ve got to follow orders.” I said, spreading my arms, palms up in mock defeat. “I don’t really have a choice.”
“I’d help you if I could.”
“Yeah. You’re a demon, Alocer. I never should have trusted you.” James answered, as the elevator arrived at his dorm floor. I could feel the resentment and anger in his voice, permeating his every word with burning fury. Excellent.
As James stormed away, I felt a twinge of satisfaction. Hybrids may be powerful and unpredictable, but no creature in Heaven or on Earth or under the Earth was immune to stress and frustration.
I dumped my backpack onto my bed, fuming.
It was all so unfair, having this kind of a burden on my shoulders. Not that the power itself was unwelcome - I’d made good use of it, as Cael had so bluntly pointed out a few days back.
It was that I had been unwillingly saddled with the task of preventing the devil himself from indefinitely forestalling the Apocalypse.
Me, twenty year old engineering student, nerd, physically unimpressive human.
Effectively alone against Lucifer, the Great Deceiver, Ruler of Darkness and Prince of the Power of the Air.
With my angelic support going behind my back to try to trick Emily into doing his dirty work.
None of this would ever have happened if it hadn’t been for the drunk driver over Christmas break.
Fucking drunk driver.
In anger, I punched my pillow as hard as I could, throwing it back against the wall with a dull whump.
I heard a noise behind me and turned towards it.
With a belch of smoke, the floor groaned, opening up a fist-sized hole, glowing dull red, and reeking of sulfur. As my anger turned into excitement, it closed.
This chapter was produced with the support of my Hybrid patrons:
- Olli Erinko