Part of Apex of Creation
“...and that concludes our study of medieval Spain. Next session is review, and then midterms are the week after that.” The history professor’s droning voice came to an all-too-welcome end for the class. The upcoming midterms signaled the halfway point of the semester, with only another eight weeks of suffering after that.
But first, spring break was coming up. And with that, I suddenly realized that Emily didn’t really have anywhere to go for spring break. She’d probably drive home, but even I knew that nobody wanted to spend spring break without family or friends. In Emily’s case, family wasn’t an option.
That left friends, of whom she had approximately two: her roommate Marie, and myself. Three, if you counted our temporary alliance with Lucifer, but he wasn’t exactly great company.
I checked the time. My dad would likely be getting out of work in a couple hours. I sent him a text asking him to call me, and went off to meet Emily for our usual session of coffee and homework.
An hour and a half into organic chemistry flashcards, my phone rang. “Hey James.” my dad said. “What’s going on?”
“Well, you know how I’m coming home for break, right?” I said, realizing that I’d totally forgotten to think about how I was going to phrase the question. “I was wondering if… um… I could… bring someone along… for the week?” I felt my cheeks turning crimson as I watched Emily’s eyes go wide.
There was a short silence on the other end. “...Is it Emily?”
I could almost feel my dad taking a deep breath through the phone. “Well, first of all, congratulations on that. Emily seems like a nice young lady and I’m sure your mother would love to meet her. Just so long as Emily, you know, stays in the guest room.”
“No problem.” Really, that was the only correct answer, given the implications.
“Then yes. Now, I know you’re excited for break, but you’ve still got midterms first. Don’t let yourself get distracted too soon. Study hard, make me proud, all that stuff.”
“Will do. Thanks, Dad.”
“Love you too. Bye.”
I hung up, and noticed Emily’s eyes still wide. She was giddy with excitement “So what did he say?”
“He said yes.” I told her. “But you have to stay in the guest room.”
Emily’s face turned to feigned disappointment. “Oh noo… and here I thought I’d get to spend the week with you.”
I chuckled and kissed her hand. “Better than nothing. Sorry I didn’t ask you first; it only just occurred to me earlier today that with your parents locked up-”
“Thank God.” Emily interjected.
“-you wouldn’t have had much to do for the break.” I finished. “It seemed like the right thing to do. Assuming you want to brave the inevitable embarrassment of my parents and siblings, of course.”
“Your assumption is correct, I do. Thank you James.”
“You’re welcome” I replied. I lifted my coffee cup to take a drink, missed, and sloshed it down the front of my shirt.
Emily started laughing as she stood up to fetch some napkins.
“You’re sure you still want to come?” I asked. “Seems I have a drinking problem.”
“Definitely.” she said with a smile.
And then Emily’s phone went off with a Disney ringtone. “Hi… yes this is Emily Butler… oh hi Agent Ramsey… Tuesday? Wow, that’s… I don’t know what to say… yeah, I think I’ll have to let my professors know, but I should be able to make it. I think so… thanks, I appreciate you telling me. Thank you so much… thanks, have a nice day.”
I quickly scribbled a number onto my homework before I forgot it. “What’s Tuesday?”
“Scheduling change at the courthouse, apparently.” Then Emily’s face broke out into a huge grin. “My dad’s indictment is next week!”
Waiting was always the hardest part of anything. It made me feel useless, relegated to the sidelines, forced to do nothing but watch.
Waiting was even harder on high alert. I’d been in full battle gear since Aamon had usurped Lucifer’s throne, and so far all it had accomplished was a slight tickling drain on my power.
Aamon was going to strike, that was all but guaranteed. All that was uncertain was the When and the Where. Knowing him, the When would be As Soon As Possible. The Where was a different story, but the divine transit specialists would be able to move the armies of Heaven around in fairly short order.
Which left me, lounging around my office in full armor, aggressively waiting for something to happen that wasn’t happening. I’d watched the Tomas Alvarez trial with far more interest than it probably deserved, but only because it had been the only significant event that even remotely involved James the Hybrid.
When James summoned me, it was almost a relief. I sensed his call, and without hesitation, I dropped through my office floor into his dorm room.
“Wasn’t expecting you to call.” I said. “It’s been a while.”
“Nice gear.” James greeted me with a smile and a wave. “For Aamon?”
I was momentarily taken aback, then remembered that James had a degree of omniscience. “How’d you find that out? From yourself?” I asked.
Surprisingly, he shook his head. “No, actually, I’ve been trying not to rely on it any more than I have to. Actually…” James took a deep breath. “Lucifer came to me.”
I was shocked, not only at what James said, but also at his statement registering as True. “What? I’m going to need details.” I sat on Kevin’s bed. “Please,” I added.
James shrugged. “Not many details. Lucifer dropped in on Emily and me - literally, from the ceiling - in the middle of our homework. He could barely crawl, and was actually begging for help.”
I cocked my head. “And so what, you helped him? Satan himself?”
A nod. “He told me what had happened with Aamon, and he didn’t seem to be lying. It kinda came down to either help him, or risk fucking up the Apocalypse for the second time this month.”
“Anyways, from what Lucifer told me, the industrial boilers in the basement are basically a healing chamber for him. He’s been regaining his strength, very quickly too, it seems.”
That was genuinely surprising. “How fast?”
“Well, he said yesterday that he’s close to how he was prior to getting zapped by the closet Gate.”
I thought about the timing in my head for a moment. “So by now he should be back to full strength. Which means he’ll likely head back down to Hell and boot Aamon off the throne.”
“And probably put him on janitor duty. Mopping up bloodstains or whatever it is they do down there.”
“Construction work, I think. Making those building stones out of souls.” I let out a chuckle of my own. “Aamon, the great and terrible, reduced to lackey status. Now that I’d like to see.”
James tilted his own head and furrowed his brow. “Does this kind of thing happen often? Great big conflicts with eternity at stake?”
“Only when Hybrids are around, James.” I replied, letting the conversation go back to its serious tone. “Both sides generally try to go by what’s prescribed in Revelation - albeit with Lucifer thinking he’ll win at Armageddon of course - but it’s events we can’t anticipate that throw a wrench into everything.”
“Aren’t you omniscient?” James asked.
I shook my head. “I can only see things past and present, and I can use that to make reasoned guesses about the future. Only the Lord truly knows the future, and He only shares small pieces of that information with anyone else.”
James nodded. He seemed to understand, and didn’t say anything else.
“If that’s all you have to say, I need to go report Lucifer’s recovery to Michael. I’ll see you around James. And, um, thanks for not holding a grudge. I appreciate it.
There was something I still needed to talk to my dad about. So I used one of my increasingly-rare moments alone to call him. Not that I minded Emily’s company, of course.
He picked up on the fifth ring. “Hey James.”
“Hey, Dad. There’s one more thing I wanted to talk to you about.”
“I need you to promise my that this doesn’t leave this conversation. It’s something you need to know, but you can’t be letting Emily know that you know.”
There was a pause. “Is this a… what do you call it? Bro code type thing? You know I discuss serious things with your mother.”
“You can tell her when you think it’s right, but nobody else.”
“Truth is, there’s a reason I want Emily to come over for spring break, and not just because we’re dating now. You see, she doesn’t have a great relationship with her parents…”
I told him the story of Emily’s parents getting arrested, but I left out all the supernatural parts, and I left out my own involvement in the bust. When I finished, there was silence on the other end of the line.
“...That’s… pretty serious, James.”
“Yeah. So… um… I guess just don’t be surprised if she doesn’t warm up to you right away.”
“Noted. I’ll… I’ll keep that in mind. No questions about growing up, I suppose.”
“James, if you don’t mind me asking, is Emily alright?”
“Yeah. I think the investigation was hard for her, but she’s mostly been alright.”
“Yeah. Her therapist is an angel.” I was being literal, but my dad didn’t need to know that.
“Glad to hear it. Listen, um, I’ve got a conference call in a few minutes, so I’ve got to get going, but thanks for letting me know about Emily. She seems like a nice girl, by the way. I’ll see you in what, two weeks?”
“About that, yeah. See you then.”
I picked up my new armor off the stand. It was the latest run of Belial’s soulsteel, a special batch of highly refined metal. I glanced at the inscribed enchantments, before heaving the massive platebody over my shoulders. The hard steel was padded with human skin, and the armor fit comfortably. I could not, however, buckle myself into it.
“Do you need a hand, my liege?” I heard Belial say.
“If you don’t mind.” I grunted, flailing at the backstraps. A moment later, I felt Belial tugging at the armor. He pulled the straps tight and buckled them into place, did the same for my leg armor, and then handed me my sword, scabbard, and helmet.
Thus equipped, I hulked out onto the tower balcony, overlooking the army assembly. Spread out before me was the full might of Hell. Sprinkled among the millions of demon infantry were countless siege engines, enormous hellhounds, and dedicated power coils that fed off the damned to help fuel the surrounding forces.
And every unit was covered head to toe in Belial’s enchanted soulsteel. Lucifer may have been a coward, but the enchantments on his personal armor were clever, and Belial had done a good job modifying them for mass production.
“Never thought I’d see a sight like this again.” I heard Belial say as he came up behind me. “It’s been ages since the Rebellion.”
“Me neither.” I agreed with him as I donned my helmet. “We’re lucky that Lucifer was weakened in his conflict with the Hybrid.”
An audible hush fell over the army as they noticed my presence. I grinned, knowing that my plan was finally approaching fruition. I raised one hand, and silence fell immediately, save for some distant rumblings.
Then I drew my sword, and pointed it in into the sky. The sound from the army rose, swelled, lifted into a great roaring cacaphony of cheering and screams. The very air shook my lungs as the force of Hell’s bloodlust threatened to knock the castle off it’s foundations.
I had never heard anything like it before. I kept my arm raised, and smiled with pure demonic joy.
This chapter was written with the support of my Hybrid-tier patron:
- Olli Erinko
As well as 1 Demon Underling