Part of Apex of Creation
Special Agent Samuel Ramsey
Dr. Roscoe and I stared at the screen.
You have been banned from #sexdungeon (+b)
“You have been banned from hashtag sex dungeon.” I read aloud. “What’s plus-B?”
“Just the name of the flag indicating that a user is banned from the channel.” Dr. Roscoe replied. “And there’s really only one good reason for them to ban Nigel Butler from their group.”
I saw where she was going with that. “They must know he’s been arrested.”
Dr. Roscoe nodded. “Or at least, they’re suspicious. I mean, the Butlers were arrested, what, twenty-something days ago? He was a regular participant in the channel, so I doubt that an extended absence would go unnoticed.”
I sat back in my chair and let out a lungful of air that I didn’t realize I’d been holding. “I was afraid of that. It would have been way better to infiltrate the group and take them all down at once.”
“Yeah. But in this case, we had to work with what we were given”
“How much do we have on them, just from digital forensics?”
“A lot of incriminating stuff, but not much in the way of identification material. Once the identification is made, though, someone by the name of, ah, thanlols, is going to have a very bad day.”
“So we subpoena… what is this… Sin IRC?”
“They’re not in the United States, and by the time we can get a court order from someone with jurisdiction, they won’t have anything useful.” Dr. Roscoe ran her fingers through her mane of hair. “My God, Sam, did you not read the digital forensics report?”
“I’ve been busy.” I deflected. “Besides, we didn’t even get the case until just the other day.”
“We could pass it over to the CIA, see what they can get with PRISM and all that other backdoor stuff, but I doubt this will be very high priority for them.”
“I’ll keep digging here, see what else I can find. In the mean time-”
“-I should interview Emily Butler.” I finished. “I’m on it.”
Hi, Ms. Butler. This is Special Agent Ramsey with the FBI; it’s Tuesday at about 3:30 in the afternoon. I hadn’t heard back from you yet about an interview about your father. Please give me a call back. Thanks.
“What do you think?” I asked James, as he finished listening to the message.
“I already told you, I think you should do it. And besides, I’ll come with you.” he replied.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to put James through that. Hell, I wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself through that. Reliving those memories… I shuddered inside. “It won’t be fun.” I said. “There’ll be some pretty fucked up stuff.”
James shrugged. “I like hanging out with you. I like you, if you hadn’t noticed.” He turned slightly red. “If that’s what you need, then, well… I’ll try and help you.”
I nodded. It was sweet of James, to always be there for me when I needed it. I didn’t know what he liked in me, but whatever it was, I was grateful that he liked me at all. But despite my uncertainties, and in spite of my tour through the dungeons of Hell, I still wanted - no, needed - my father to pay.
I dialed, and tapped the speakerphone button so James could hear.
“*Special Agent Samuel Ramsey, this line is recorded.*”
“Hi, Agent Ramsey, this is Emily Butler, um, returning your missed call.” I winced at the awkward introduction.
“*Oh, hi, Miss Butler, thanks for calling me back. I take it you want to set up an interview time?*”
I heard typing noises in the background. “Y-.” Gulp. “Yeah.”
More typing. “*Excellent, I’m glad to hear that. Let me check my calendar… Does Friday morning work for you?*”
“Uh, later in the morning, yeah. I have class early.”
“*No problem, let’s say... eleven?*”
“Sure, I think that will work.”
“*Alright, see you then. You have the address, right?*”
“Alright, good. When you get here, ask for me at the front desk. Thanks a lot, Miss Butler.*”
“You’re welcome.” I paused, and then added “Can my boyfriend come?”
“I don’t see why not, but he won’t be able to be part of the interview.”
“Any other questions?”
“Um, no, I think that’s it.”
“Alright then. Friday at eleven. I’m looking forward to meeting you. Thanks again for calling me back, Miss Butler. Have a nice day.”
“That went well. Or at least, it could have gone way worse” James said.
“Yeah.” I hesitated. “Man, Friday is gonna suck.”
“Want me to drive you?”
I wasn’t sure I’d be safe driving a car afterwards. “Yes please.”
I was at my desk, when my office door was taken off its hinges by a juggernaut of raw power.
“Good morning to you too, Michael.” I said, as the archangel set my door down and entered the office. He sat himself down opposite my desk.
“I wish I could say the same to you, Cael.” His face and voice were stern. “You utterly failed to protect Emily Butler from the Whispers of the demon Alocer. As a result, we lost the Scroll, and only through the heroics of a human - a Hybrid, admittedly, but a human nonetheless - were we able to retrieve it.”
“All’s well that ends well?” I offered.
“Hardly. I was ready to destroy you, but the Lord ordered me to stand down. He alone knew that James Exosia would succeed in returning the Scroll.”
“Of course He did. But I sort of guessed as much when I didn’t get smited.” I said wryly. “So why the visit?”
“Well, aside from wilfully endangering an innocent, you also manufactured a counterfeit Scroll with the intent to deceive James.”
I saw where this was going. “I am an angel, Michael. My will is bound to that of the Lord. Perhaps I had an error in judgement, but I am no more capable of treachery than you are.”
“That may be so, Cael, but your judgement has not been very good as of late. If you wanted James Exosia to carry your holy bomb into Hell, you would have needed to get his explicit agreement. Instead, it was doomed from the start, because you tried to deceive him. Really, Cael, you should have known better.”
I stared at my desk. Michael was right. Of course Michael was right. “Yeah. I suppose I should have.”
“You are on thin ice, as the humans say. Do not make me demote you.”
I nodded in deference. “As you command.”
“Thank you. Now, moving forward. Emily Butler has an interview scheduled Friday morning with an FBI investigator. Special Agent Samuel Ramsey, to be precise.”
“The same FBI investigator that-”
“Yes.” Michael interrupted me. “The same one. And no, you’re not allowed to tell them.”
“Then what the heck am I doing?”
“Emily will need strength during the interview, more than what James will be able to provide from outside the room. I expect you to be there for her during that time.”
“...You’re putting me on emotional support duty?” I asked incredulously. It seems like there are other moves that could be made, more important things to do. Like-”
“Well.” Michael cut me off again. “Being connected to a Hybrid automatically makes it a very important task, but if you’d rather be sweeping the streets of gold, I can arrange that.”
“No, no, that’s fine. Emotional support duty it is. But if I may ask, why not tell James and Emily?”
“There is a time for everything under the sun.” Michael answered cryptically. “If you handle this well, we just might come out of this ahead.”
“That’s at least encouraging.”
“But don’t try anything stupid. You know the rules, Cael. Keep everything on the up and up. You’re clever, and I like that, but remember: you’re literally incapable of underhanded trickery.”
I sighed. “Yeah. Got it.”
“So try not to be too clever.” Michael stood up. “And thanks for helping out Emily. Friday is looking like it’s going to be rough for her.”
With that, he left. On the way out, Michael reset my door on its hinges, and then he was gone.
I swiveled in my chair, and then pulled open the desk drawer. The fake scroll was inside, an artifact of my own failure at trying to do something sneaky. I stared at it miserably.
I’d screwed up James’s healing, accidentally allowing him to become a Hybrid in the first place. Then I’d introduced myself to him llike a hammer introducing itself to a nail. That hadn’t gone well, and Alocer had made a better first impression. And I’d completely dropped the ball on handling Alocer’s Whispers.
Obviously, I should have just cleared Emily’s mind as soon as I’d realized she was being manipulated. But I had been too focused on my not-quite-so-brilliant idea to blow up Lucifer’s castle that I had allowed the Scroll of the Apocalypse to be stolen.
Holding off Aamon while James rescued the bank hostages was about the only thing I’d actually done right in all this mess. That, and point James and Emily to Raguel.
Maybe I should talk to Raguel. He usually had good advice, and after Michael’s warning, I really did not want to screw up a simple emotional support job.
Alocer had given me a rather… interesting… idea. An idea that plenty of demons had thought of, but only a few foolish wretches had ever dared act on.
I slipped into the throne room. It was mostly empty, Lucifer having been out of commission since his accidental exposure to Heaven. There was no court being held today, no underlings petitioning for promotion or souls pleading for mercy. All those requests were simply being administratively denied right now. There were just two long rows of statues going up the side, the steady flow of sulfur through the channels cut in the floor, and the constant bubbling of blood from the fountains mounted in the walls.
Slowly, I walked up the center, taking my time to admire the statues and sample the blood. Normally, I’d never drink from Lucifer’s fountains unless invited. But today wasn’t about formalities.
I approached the stairs leading up to the throne itself. Each step seemed to take a small eternity, and my dark heart beat faster as I made the short climb. Lucifer stirred in his seat.
“Aamon? I didn’t send for you.” he said, confused. “Why are you here?”
If I was wrong about Lucifer’s weakness, I would suffer terribly for it. I could not afford to be wrong.
“Lucifer, my friend.” I said. “You’ve taken quite the beating. For someone who commands the armies of Hell, you’re not in very good shape.”
“You’ve come to gloat?” Lucifer asked, his eyes flicking around in confusion.
I’d never been this close to the throne before. I closed the last two steps, and ran a claw along the stone armrest. It spat sparks with a grinding screech that made fingernails and chalkboards seem like impling’s play.
“No.” I growled. “I’ve come to take.”
I grabbed Lucifer around the throat. His eyes went wide as he realized too late what I was doing. As I lifted Lucifer off his throne and into the air, he tried to unleash his trademark inferno. Small harmless flames danced in his fingers. “You… traitor!” Lucifer choked out.
“No.” I replied. “Hell needs strength, and you’re weak. Pathetic. A worm that I could crush with my foot and not even notice.”
“You…” Lucifer gasped. “could never… defeat… God.”
With a roar, I turned and threw Lucifer down the length of his throne room. Lucifer sailed high into the air, and landed on the stone floor with a satisfying crunch.
My heart pounded in my chest. I sat down in Lucifer’s throne, and felt the power of Hell course through my veins.
This chapter was produced with the support of my Hybrid patron:
- Olli Erinko