Part of Apex of Creation
I sat quietly in the back of the courtroom, amidst students, families, police, and other observers.
“...And last, To the three charges of weapon possession, how do you plead?”
Alvarez’s lawyer stood. “We plead guilty.”
Alvarez jumped up. “Hey!” he shouted at his lawyer. “We had a deal!”
“Sit down!” the judge demanded, locking eyes with Alvarez until he timidly sat back down. Then she looked through her case notes from the DA. “The only plea deal I have here is an offer for reduced sentence in exchange for guilty pleas on all counts. Which it seems like you’re taking.”
I smirked to myself, as I sat in the back of the courtroom. Poor Tomas. I didn’t really feel bad for him. I’d done some digging, and the man had done some seriously nasty things. He’d joined a gang, then killed his own brother for ratting his drug dealing and trafficking out to family. He’d attacked other gangs for getting too close to “his” turf, stolen numerous vehicles, and sold an impressive amount of cocaine.
And after several close calls with the law, he’d finally gotten on the wrong end of someone stronger than him, and had talked to me in the hospital on condition of immunity and witness protection. I’d agreed, then promptly “forgotten” to forward the request to the court. How careless of me. But Tomas had been given his rights when he was arrested. He had effectively waived his right to a lawyer by talking to me, and so the rest of his statement had successfully made it to evidence.
At least he’d get the protection part, sort of. The rest of civilized society would be nicely protected from Alvarez while he sat in prison.
“But the-” Alvarez started to speak, before his lawyer cut him off, whispering something furiously. Probably reminding him that he shouldn’t have spoken to me without an attorney present. Idiot.
“Defendant pleads guilty, sentencing next week.” the judge announced. She hit her gavel. “Next case.”
Two court policemen approached Alvarez, and took him by the arms. As they turned to exit the courtroom, I made eye contact with him.
“That’s the cop!” he screamed, flailing wildly. Two seconds later, he was buried in several hundred pounds of police officer.
I casually took a sip from my flask as I watched the utterly one-sided brawl before me. It was short and brutal. Tomas was hauled off, still screaming obscenities, and the judge called the room to order for the next case.
The world wasn’t going to miss Tomas Alvarez one bit.
Emily and I might have shared most of our classes together, but we still had homework for the general education. I had my frustratingly ancient European history, and Emily had an English Literature class, taught by someone who, according to Emily, was equally dull. So dull, in fact, that he’d somehow made Dante’s Inferno less interesting than the second hand of the clock.
And Emily was trying to write an essay on it, while I tried to make sense of the equally boring history book.
“What if” Emily started “I actually interview Lucifer for this paper?”
“One of the reasons I’m so glad to have you,” I couldn’t help but suppress a grin. “is that unless it’s a creative writing course - which I don’t think it is - you can’t do that. If I didn’t have someone to share this crazy stuff with, I’d be going nuts.”
Emily flicked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “I’d say the same about you.”
“So… um…” I felt myself getting a bit red. “let’s share the crazy with just eachother?”
“It was a good idea too, and you know it.” Emily teased.
Naturally, Lucifer chose the moment to phase up through the table.
“Speaking of the devil.” Emily said. “And I mean that. Literally.” She held up her copy of the book.
“Nice to see you too, Miss Butler.” Lucifer replied, ghosting into the bench seat next to me and, settling in. “James.”
I nodded awkwardly, not sure where this was going.
Lucifer gestured to Emily’s book. “Of course, it’s not really a good depiction. Hell has no circles - but I suppose you knew that already. Maybe there’s a bit of hierarchy by how close things are to my castle, but there’s no distinct ‘circles’. Also, I’m not sure if you noticed, but I’m not exactly trapped in a frozen lake.”
“Yeah. We noticed.” I shot back. “What’s going on now?”
“Well, I’m glad you asked, because there’s something else I needed, in addition to the time in the boiler. I’m almost back to full strength, by the way, thanks for that. Anyways, you two seem to be the experts on sneaking into my castle. How…” Lucifer’s face developed a huge grin “...did you get in?”
I glanced from Lucifer, to my girlfriend, and back.
“Well?” Lucifer asked, expectantly.
“It’s a bit morbid…” Emily began.
Lucifer smirked. “...You do know who you’re talking to, right?”
“Fair point.” Emily took a breath. “You know how all the stones in Hell have faces on them? We climbed straight up them. Used the mouths for handholds.”
“Nicely done.” Lucifer seemed genuinely impressed. Of course, he was the Great Deceiver so… who knew? “And the moat?”
“Improvised a bridge out of nearby materials.” Emily responded. “It fell apart pretty quickly, but we were able to get across in time.”
Lucifer nodded. “And that’s it?”
“Well” I added “Inside the castle, we had a few cases of hiding and backtracking to avoid getting caught. Mostly a combination of stealth and luck, I’d say.” I purposely left out our detour to the Omega dungeons.
Lucifer looked pensive. “So what you’re saying is, after I retake my throne, I need to make my underlings turn my castle walls inside out and put the faces on the inside?”
I shrugged. “Sure? It might actually be better punishment. Humans can’t stand boredom.”
Lucifer frowned. “You sure?”
“Short term, it might seem counter intuitive. No pain, no suffocating heat, no sulfur stench. Sure to be a big improvement over the current state, right? But then… nothing. And more nothing. And more nothing. Left alone with no sensory input and nothing but our own thoughts, we go insane in a matter of days. Never mind all of eternity.”
Lucifer eyed me curiously. “Interesting. We have our own methods, designs, engineers, improvement plans. But you know what we could use?”
“I’m almost scared to ask.”
“A human. One that we’re not torturing. Someone to provide my demons with first-hand knowledge and insight into the human mind. Oh, and a few of those boilers, of course.”
“Can’t you get, I dunno, Freud?” Emily piped up. “Or what was the name of that creep who did those weird sexual psychology studies on kids? Kinsey, right? I know you’ve gotta have him down there.”
“Oh, we absolutely have Kinsey.” Lucifer rubbed his forehead as he thought. “We have him, yes. I don’t know why he would he help us when he’s spent the last few decades in a Nightmare Chamber, but I suppose it can’t hurt to ask.”
I took a gulp of coffee as I skimmed the next page of my history book. “You should just let humans manage Hell.” I jested. “We have much better imaginations when it comes to torture and cruelty. And I’m not just talking about Hitler’s industrialized death trains.”
“It’s amazing what a Hybrid can accomplish when he puts his mind onto grander goals than just doing his homework.” Lucifer replied.
I almost spat my coffee back out onto my laptop. “Hitler?”
Across the table, Emily had a similar reaction, only her coffee had come out her nose.
“Was also a Hybrid.” Lucifer answered the question that we hadn’t yet asked. “Why do you think he’s a giant statue in my throne room? Hybrids are rare, James, and the ones that I get…. I display proudly. I wasn’t lying when I said I was a collector, you know.” Lucifer paused. “Oh, and his blood fountain is delicious.”
“...I hadn’t looked at the statues much. Kind of had other things on my mind.” I confessed. “Also, ew. But hang on, back up. How is Hitler a Hybrid now?”
“He was in the German military for what you call World War One, and took shrapnel to his left leg. Between the prayers and medical care, he made a recovery in two months. But poor Adolf very nearly bled out. Not unlike you, James.”
I shifted uncomfortably. “...And?”
“Agents of both sides vied for his attention and favor, as we did with you. But his abilities were different. He didn’t have any omniscience, or your sense of the second dimension of time. He wasn’t able to divine the true identities of the angels and demons he spoke with, for example. His abilities were more along the line of persuasion, manipulation, a touch of compulsion. Mixed with a brilliant tactical mind and a seething hatred of the so-called ‘chosen people’, he was quite the effective tool.”
“...And that’s how the Holocaust got started?”
“Damn. I guess Cael wasn’t kidding when he said that Hybrids end up in history books.”
“Cael may be a clumsy, blundering idiot” Lucifer replied with a smirk “but he was definitely right about that.”
“Well” I said, giving Emily a glance. “Let’s hope I end up in the history books for something better than being Hitler.”
“You want to out-do him?” Lucifer asked.
I turned to him and rolled my eyes. “Not what I meant by ‘better than Hitler’, and you know i… aaaaand you’re already gone.”
“Never going to get used to that.” Emily said, getting back to her essay. “Still, he’d be a fascinating interview, you have to admit.”
“I’ll give you that.” I replied with a sigh, turning back to my history book. But something still scratched in the back of my head. “Hang on a sec, Emily.”
She looked up from her own work.
“What did Lucifer mean, second dimension of time?”
I stood up from the stone throne, and bellowed for my armorer. “BELIAL!”
A few seconds later, the demon pushed the door open at the far end of the room. He was hauling another cart, piled with soul-steel.
“You promised me that I would have working weapons by now.” I said.
“And I have them. Soulstone ore may be plentiful but the refining process-”
I cut him off as I descended the steps. “I don’t need excuses. Just bring them here.” A moment later, one of the new swords was in my hands. I found the spell inscription, and read it. Sure enough, Belial had changed it.
“As you can see, my liege, we added a severability clause to the spell. It took us a while to find the right wording, but I think this is the final product.”
“The only severability I care about, Belial, is the severability of your head from your body if you keep me waiting again. Now power the sword up.”
Belial started to speak, then thought better of it, and started channeling his demonic energy into the spell. “If my liege repeats his earlier test…”
I kneeled, and lay the sword over my knee, as I had done last time Belial had brought me a weapon. With the first push, the blade sparkled and glowed as the spell fought my strength to keep the blade intact. Then, looking at Belial, I pushed harder.
Without warning, he cut power to the spell. The blade instantly shattered under my might, and I nearly tumbled into my own knee. “Problem fixed, my liege.”
“Yes, it would seem so.” I picked myself up off the floor. “How many of these have you made so far?”
“Just this cartload.”
“Make more. Make many more, and apply the same enchantments to all the armor as well.”
“That will take the soulsmiths some time.”
“Then get more smiths and more engravers. Conscript the damned for the menial labor, if you must” I retorted. “I want the armies of Hell fully equipped in enchanted gear. Belial, Hell’s age of quiet, behind the scenes politics is over. No more soft whispers in the ears of evildoers, no more quietly lurking in the shadows. Lucifer’s may have had the right idea originally, but his rebellion was idealistic and naive. No, we will take what is rightfully ours, and we will not compromise out of some misguided sense of duty or righteousness.”
“Our strength and numbers will put Lucifer’s rebellion to shame. Earth is ours, and we shall retake it.”
This chapter was written with the support of my Hybrid-tier patron:
- Olli Erinko