Mallrats in Heaven and HellSubmitted by DaBeast at 2008-09-21 18:35:30 EDT
Rating: 1.11 on 10 ratings (10 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
(Author's Note: For the rest of the "Mallrats" series, check my profile. Thanks for reading!)
Mallrats in Heaven and Hell
I was walking through Sears' Junior Miss department when Mode appeared beside me and fell into step. "Heya, Boss." Mode's got a voice like a wino, all scratchy surfaces and broken glass. He'd been into the emo scene for a while and I was a hair's breadth from slapping him down and telling him to stop being a whiny little bitch. All those safety pins in his lip made it difficult to understand (or even look at) him when he spoke.
Mode annoyed me.
I glared at him once and kept walking. Mode was a pawn - useful but expendable and I wouldn't cry when he came to an end.
The Plus Size women's department saw the ranks grow by two more and Bub came in while whistling a jaunty tune. Bub was all tight jeans, broad shoulders, and cowboy boots like a Texan linebacker. He was sporting the black hat at a rakish angle and the devil-may-care in his eyes danced a happy jig. Now, Bub, he was a knight on this chessboard and I usually gave him his head and just enjoyed watching him run.
Pacing along almost at a trot, the dog was along for the ride. He was a massive brute that looked as if he'd been cobbled together from the spare parts of a weimaraner, a pit bull, a wolf, and a diesel engine. His collar and harness rig were striped crimson and black and they sported steel spikes. His eyes were a very pale pink.
Cerberus looked at me, inclined his head briefly, and then went back to watching everything in sight. The dog takes orders well and I considered him a useful piece. I assigned him to a rook's spot on the mental board.
The Lingerie aisle added another and she came up beside me, twined her arms around my right bicep, and smiled up at me while never slowing the pace. She was tall and lean with long, wild raven hair and flashing witchy-green eyes. Her skin was perfect porcelain - the tanning booth wasn't a place she enjoyed - and her lips a luscious cheery cherry. A soft cashmere vest and short black mini tried courageously to restrain her bouncing curves but they were in imminent danger of serious overload.
"Hi, Lily," I smiled at her.
The Queen had arrived and things were looking up. She flashed a wicked smile my way, laid her head down upon my shoulder, and rubbed against me with every step.
She was an enjoyable baggage, always. I moved my arm and snugged her against my side.
It's good to be the King.
Bel joined us in the Jewelry department. He wore an orange t-shirt that proclaimed "God Made Me Do It!" in bold red letters and a scrungy pair of jeans with some old Converse high-tops that had been dyed yellow and orange with bright red laces. His hair flopped like a strawberry oil slick over his face. "Hi, Boss."
I grunted. Bel was a plotter and usually made an effective ambush early in play but was almost always cannon fodder by the end of the game.
At some point while Bel was making his appearance, Sam had joined us.
Sam wore black like it was his death shroud and large black eyes that were as blind as justice but glinted with an expression of eternal sorrow didn't help the impression any. He put a pair of black wraparound sunglasses over his long face and took hold of Cerberus' harness rig. His blind man’s cane tapped a solemn tune upon the floor.
Even blind as he was, Sam amounted to bishop status and he was an able lieutenant.
Az showed up near the exit that led back into the mall proper. He wore a custom-fitted business suit with just the right amount of entitlement and his leather shoes reminded me of London and hobnails and I just knew that one (or, more likely, both) of them concealed some sort of weapon. He had a couple of lesser goons with him that looked like they'd just cheerfully completed an assignment in the Brute Squad; lots of leather and metal studs and few, if any, brains.
"Gang's all here, Boss," Mode droned.
I resisted the urge to backhand Mode and walked through the exit with my crew well in hand.
"Same skinny, Luke?" Lily's smile was gone and I felt a pang at the lack of it.
I nodded. "Yes, it’s the same skinny; but a different mark."
"Hope this don't go down like last time," Bub grimaced and flicked his hat brim to a slightly higher angle.
I shared the sentiment silently.
We all played our little parts and it wasn't ours to question. We just did and dealt with it.
I felt the others gathering at the far end of the mall but they were coming closer, toward the center of the mall where the fun would shortly commence.
As Bub would say: Yee-haw, ya'll; let's go stomp us some mud holes!
The center of the mall is open and vaulted, an airy green space filled with living plants that twined their way up the two pillars that guarded each of the cardinal directions, reaching in vain toward the warm sunlight shining brightly from the large thick panes of glass in the ceiling. The tile is always cold and it shimmers somewhere in each concourse and the white bleeds away into this ever darkening, deepening blue until you get to the fountain.
The fountain was the mall's heart, a towering, many leveled piece of artwork that boasted fanciful creatures of legend and myth silently swimming through the stone. The stone benches that lined the bottom tier were of a Victorian-era look with scalloped edges but the bases were sinewy dragons that had rolled onto their backs and held up the seats with huge taloned paws. The Loch Ness monster rose from the center, long neck twined around a stone pillar that held up a slightly tilted disc that allowed water to pour down and obscure Nessie's face. It was a fanciful piece of art. Whenever I thought of that fountain, I was absolutely certain that only a female could have created something that was at once both whimsical and strange.
It was as quiet as a tomb.
People were liberally dispersed around the heart but their movement had been arrested. Like statues, a young couple was frozen mid-stride and her mouth was open, her head turned toward her consort, eyes earnest while the man pushed forward, immobile but still intent upon something up ahead. Young children stood or slouched or chased toys along the floor at the sides of the fountain while their mothers sat upon the benches, frozen in mid-gossip. Teenagers stopped in mid-walk, truculent faces as strange and unknowable as the fountain itself.
Only one bench was relatively free of clutter but for the presence of one lone young woman. The space around her was clean and clear of people as if she sat in a bubble. Her clothing was shabby but there was more to it than that. I sensed it.
For a second, I stopped and regarded her.
The shabby in her clothing was not from design but from heavy use. The shoes on her feet were old sneakers and one of them was held together with grimy strips of duct tape. Her jeans were ragged, torn, and gashed as if she'd worn them while crawling through a muddy thorn bush. Her shirt was too large for her, a man's work shirt. There was a name stenciled on the shirt but I couldn't read it because a heavy leather bomber's jacket styled along WWII lines swallowed most of her body. She was a tiny thing, maybe no more than five feet in height and so slender as to seem agonizingly anorexic. Her cheeks were lined and thin and pale, her neck corded, and her jaw clenched on something. Her hair was short and ragged, not so much cut as it was hacked off in places with what might have been a dull knife, and in it you could see all the colors of candle fire. The hallows of her eyes glimmered a molten silvery blue that was electric with both sorrow and guilt.
There was something there... something I should really pay attention to... but I didn't have the time.
Is it ok if I say "damndamnFUCKdamn" one more time? Thanks.
We stopped at the western edge of the fountain and waited.
I stepped to the right and looked past the heart. "Look sharp, ladies. Incoming."
They came from the east and their crew looked almost as mangy as mine did.
Mike led the way, a purposeful swagger to his step, blonde locks waving just so and eyes all aglitter with anticipation. Uri came two steps behind and to his right. On the left, there was a thin, weasel-faced little blonde snot sporting a pair of Air Jordans and a faded t-shirt with a picture of Tupac Shakur riding the front.
Behind those three came four others and all were arranged as to color. From my left to my right, there was black, white, blue and green. All wore jeans and shirts in their respective colors but the one in black also had a long cloak of midnight trailing from his arms and flowing out behind him like a cloud of doom.
They stopped at the eastern edge of the fountain.
Mike took a step forward. "By Holy writ and proclamation do we assemble in this place on this day at this time. We have come to carry out our Order. Stand aside while we make our appointed rounds and none shall lift a hand to another if the Order is duly undertaken and completed without incident. Are all understood?"
"Oh, yeah," I, too, stepped forward and Lily remained hard (and soft) at my side, "I get you, Mike." I threw him a smile. "Nice Miranda, by the way. Have you been practicing?"
Mike just gave me a level look, "To the Reading of the Order."
In response, Uri pulled a folded piece of paper from his back pocket and he passed it, silently, to Mike.
Mike unfolded the paper, glanced over it for a moment, and grunted. Then, "Upon this day, Holy Writ Number 876,442,569 is duly carried out. It is by Order and Decree of the Fourth and Final Sphere and assigned to the Third Triad that we make ourselves manifest..."
"Ahem," I cleared my throat and Lily stepped agilely from my side and melted back into the rest of the group, "No, you don't get me, Mike. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make my intentions unclear. I’m here to oppose you and that Order; the people with me are here to help me in this endeavor." I smiled, genially, upon him.
Uri rolled his eyes and muttered something rude in Russian. The weasel in the Tupac t-shirt began to hop up and down in excitement.
Mike just looked put-upon. “I knew it. As soon as I knew that you were in the mall, I knew this is what you’d come to do. Again. Again, Luke. Don’t you remember the last time?”
“Yeah, I remember,” I continued to smile, “and you were wrong, then, too.”
Mike’s eyes flashed in anger. “Impossible. I could not have been wrong for I was there at the Order and Decree of the Fourth and Final Sphere and you know as well as I do that the Fourth and Final is never wrong!”
“If He were never wrong,” I planted my feet more firmly into my shoes and bent my knees a little bit and felt ready, “then He would never be opposed.” I pantomimed and pointed around the group of people at my back. “We stand as opposition; as always.”
Mike’s glare was akin to lightning, sharp and blue and pointed. “Your interference during Holy Writ Number 876,442,568 ended up costing the lives of almost six million people of the Jewish faith, almost three hundred thousand people known as “gypsy”, a little over ten million of Slavic descent, and almost two hundred thousand people that were handicapped in some fashion. Your opposition is not only the height of idiocy but also completely, unbearably evil! There can be no defense for that alone despite a long list of other unpardonable sins!”
“I notice you forgot the homosexuals, Mike.” I smiled. “Almost three hundred thousand gays met their end but you don’t mention them. I guess you still haven’t come out of the closet. All this talk of “Get behind me!” was just a ploy to get me, you, and a gerbil together. Admit it.”
Mike spat, “Serpent! We could have stopped the bloodshed before it ever began!”
“Perhaps,” I shrugged, “but Free Will doesn’t come cheaply, Mike. They have to learn, they have to know, and coddling them will not teach the lesson. You realize that most of them still see in shades of gray, Mike? They wouldn’t recognize real evil if it came up and grabbed them by the gonads. Sure, you could have stopped that one man, that one time. But another would have come along and taken his place. The conditions were ripe for it and killing the man would not have changed those conditions. In the end, they have to have the right to Choose for themselves, Mike. Your role as Heavenly Babysitter ill suits you.”
Mike’s eyes dulled a bit and his voice was softer but I heard it clearly, “Don’t you ever tire, Adversary?”
“Never, Viceroy,” I spread my hands in a gesture of acceptance, “it is what I was Made for.”
Mike’s cheeks reddened at the title I had given him. “You once wore the Mantle proudly and there was no sin that you could ever commit in His eyes but you were never Made, Luke.”
“Yes, I did,” I agreed for I could do aught else, “and you’re right, I wasn’t. I am the Light Bearer and I came with it.”
Mike’s voice rose a bit, “Yet, still, you were flawed and imperfect and now the Mantle’s mine. Stand aside, Morning Star. We are here to carry out an Order and you shan’t stop us.”
“I am sorry, old friend,” I whispered it over the pain that I felt that this should happen yet again, “but I can not stand aside.” I lifted my voice and shrugged, “I serve the Light, Mike. While you serve a moldering Ideal that hasn’t contemplated aught else but its navel in over a millennia.”
“Base lies!” The weasel hissed.
I looked at him, sadly. “No, Gabe. No lies; just a hard truth. Turn from you path and renounce the wrong decreed by that Order. If you do so, then I will not harm thee.”
“Go to hell!” Gabe replied.
I sighed. “Been there; done that. Can we get some original material here?”
“Da,” Uri coalesced before me in the blink of an eye, “I believe we can accommodate.” Then he punched me in the stomach hard enough to make my liver explode.
Can we say that that’s the point when all hell broke loose without sounding too tiresome?
I hope so but, if not, then fuck off. You’re not my editor.
This is the point where the gloves – and the disguises – came off.
Gabriel’s shirt ripped into tatters as lily white wings sprouted from his shoulder blades and his hair seemed to take on a life of its own as a tiny golden halo popped into being over his head. He pulled a golden horn like a coronet out of the aether and blew a lone note of command; then he yelled a wordless war cry and sprang onto Nessie’s back in the fountain.
Uriel’s wings were like those of a raven and his halo was a darker, more amber hue. His eyes were lit with Holy Zeal even though his tattered shirt was still flapping from the tops of his jeans and it threatened to entangle his legs.
Raphael’s wings were as green as his clothing or his eyes and his hair burned with auburn glimmers beneath a pale lemon halo. Suriel sprouted crimson wings and his halo was like a crown of orichalc above his golden head and there was Phanuel with wings of heavenly blue and it mirrored in his halo onto his long black hair.
And then there was Nato. Good old Nato, wrapping the Doom Cloak around himself and pulling the Scythe of Office into existence as a rangy, pale horse suddenly appeared behind him. Thanatos always did his best fighting from the saddle and it looked as if this wouldn’t be any exception.
Lily’s clothes fell away to reveal a midnight slick sheen of aether wrapping sinuously and transparently around her magnificent body with an opaque ribbon wound through and obscuring just the juicy naughty parts. Her wings were an iridescent sheen against her shoulders and they sported wicked, sharpened talons at their ends. Her eyes burned with knowing wickedness and she leapt atop Nessie’s back and went after Gabriel like she used to run after John Holmes. With a will, woman! She always made me proud.
Cerberus turned jet black and sprouted three heads – each one meaner than the last – and each head had a pair of eyes that burned like the crimson heart of a charcoal briquette. He loosed one long, hoarse howl that caused the glass in the ceiling to protest and rattle. He jumped upon Uriel and they rolled away toward the fountain.
Belial grew some vicious looking bat wings that dripped a viscous oily fluid onto the tiles and his face took on a definite saturnine aspect. He drew forth a wicked blade of dubious origins, screamed “Damocles! To Judgment!” and he took off after Suriel. He wielded the Tyrant’s Blade well.
Samael whipped the blind man’s cane and it became a bar of white iridescence that hurt if one looked at it for even a second. His clothing whispered and moved to accommodate the disproportionately large golden wings that unfurled from his back and flexed once in the sunlight. Rainbows from the waterfall and the sunlight refracted from them and sent the prisms skittering across the fountain. Unerringly, he went after Raphael with a cried, “I hate pizza and ninja turtles and fat naked chicks lounging on ugly furniture!” rebounding in his wake.
Azrael’s wings looked as if they’d been glued to the outside of his suit jacket because the material didn’t rend or shred when the midnight wings aglitter with tiny jewels like stars bled into being behind him. He was shod in irradiated starlight that sparked and crackled in time with his gleeful cackle as he jumped into the air and hurled himself at the pristine blue of Phanuel.
Beelzebub’s wings were the ruddy color of a Rhode Island Red rooster and they ripped free of his shirt as if with a mind of their own. He pulled a length of hand-woven rope from his belt and used it to form a lasso that glowed with insensate energy and caused the air around it to shimmer in the heat haze it exuded. With a cowboy holler of “Yippee-ki-yay!” he sprang into the fray and began to chase Thanatos… or Thanatos’ horse… I’m not sure which nor, do I think, was he.
Asmodean’s transformation was sly and unseen. One moment, the emo boy stood in all his depressing anti-glory; the next, he wore a pair of blindingly white wings and held an old-fashioned straight razor that gleamed thirstily in the sunlight. He rose up, flipped a hard turn to the right, and cannoned into Thanatos headfirst. He and Thanatos rolled away into the unmoving crowd of humans around us.
Bub kept chasing the damned horse.
“Morning Star,” Michael spoke softly. His wings were pure and pristine and as white as a Clansman’s sheet. His halo burned so fiercely that it was like looking at the very sun itself. His tattered shirt lay trampled upon the tiles behind him.
I loosed wings of a shade so dark and depthless that they drank every last slurp of available light and made the sun seem to dim and flicker away. “Viceroy, Archangel, Prince… so many titles, Michael. All of them, strangely, were ones I have cast off.” I reached up and polished one horn with a finger.
“Yet, all were well earned,” he walked toward me through the melee as if he strode through a garden, all unconcerned, “and all have been cherished. At least, by me they have been.”
I moved to meet him in the center of the northern concourse. “You could renounce the Order, Michael. This is madness; you must know it is. You do Evil in the Lord’s name when you could do Good.”
“The Lord’s Will is not evil!”
I shook my head at him and came to a halt. “You would kill a soul that has not yet harmed another; a soul that could still be saved, Michael. You have no guarantee that the Target will commit acts of Evil. You interfere with Free Will.”
“I do the work of God!” He lunged for me.
I met his flight and took hold of his neck in both my hands. “No,” I grated out, “you do the work of a Fool.” I picked him up and threw him from me.
Michael went backwards towards the fountain. Lilith and Gabriel jumped off of Nessie’s back as Michael flew into it.
The fountain exploded.
A puff of white dust and Michael came rebounding back towards me, trailing crumbling bits of stone, and flicking droplets of rainbow kissed water from his wings. With a cry of rage, his head plowed into my chest and we both went down, fists flying and legs kicking.
Several moments later, he reciprocated and threw me away.
I went through the main window of Victoria’s Secret and mowed down a row of skimpily clad, headless mannequins. When I stood back up, I had to remove a sparkly thong from about my horns.
Michael winged toward me and, now, he held the huge haft of a golden spear with a gleaming bloodthirsty look about it. It was the Viceroy’s Spear.
I grabbed the nearest thing to hand and I waited for it. Just as the Spear came upon me, I spun to one side and clocked Mike in the head with a stiff plastic leg that bore a garish red garter.
He veered off to one side and disappeared into the changing rooms. I heard mirrors shatter and the walls shook.
I took a second to think.
We could relocate the Target; but that wouldn’t stop them from finding it later on. We had to beat them into submission before they would give up the Order. Of course, that wouldn’t stop them from crafting Holy Writ Number 876,442,570 and going after the Target again… but they generally didn’t work that way. If you beat them, then they let it go and they moved on to the next Holy Writ and they let things take their course.
I hot-footed it out into the mall proper again and sprinted toward the remains of the fountain. I reached into the aether and grasped my Sword and pulled it to me as I ran.
Michael came out of Victoria’s Secret with a bellow of inhuman rage, spotted me, and gave chase.
He caroomed into my legs and we both went rolling.
I came to a stop against what was left of the southern fountain wall.
And there she sat, still shabby, small, and lost and I looked up into her eyes.
Those eyes weren’t evil. They were lonely and sad and they yearned, in their still silence, for something more. Those eyes were all too human.
I didn’t know her; had never spoken to her. If not for curiosity, then I wouldn’t even know her name. She was Lucy, a Light-bearer like me for it derived from the same place as my own moniker and that small, microscopic link had been enough to make me ante up.
There had been many others where I had not stepped in. Others that I had written off and left it alone and allowed Mike and his crew to take care of their business.
Yet, for some reason, this time I could not sit idly by while Michael killed her. I didn’t know why.
Mike surged upward and swooped down like some kind of hellish buzzard to push his arms beneath mine, wrap them around my chest, and pluck me from the floor. He spiraled tightly, dizzyingly upward toward the panes of glass still left at the ceiling’s apex.
I dropped my Sword.
“Hey!” I balled up my right hand and, swifter than thought, brought it back and down with as much force as I could muster straight into his crotch. “My dance card’s full, buddy!”
He dropped me, grabbed his Mister Happy, curled into a ball, and careened off course, straight into the nearest pillar. The ceiling shuddered, the windows cracked, and a pane of glass that was roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle fell to the floor and shattered.
Whoever said that angels were like Ken dolls (sans genitalia) apparently had never been accosted by one. Remind me to tell you about this one time that I’d managed to corner all twelve of the Muses…
I’d lost the girl! Where was she? I scanned the area quickly.
There she was! Gabriel had knocked her unresisting body from the bench and, still in a seated position, she rested on her side amidst the fountain’s debris. He had recovered my Sword from the floor and he held it high as he ran back toward Lucy.
Lilith ran up behind him and delivered a round house kick to the back of his head.
Gabriel went headfirst into the fountain and the Sword fell to the ground.
I went after the Sword.
Bub rode past me on Thantos’ pony and the pony wasn’t happy about it. It bucked, it kicked, it spewed streams of saliva from loose lips, and a gleam of madness shimmered in its wild, dark eyes. Bub yelled happily and held on.
Belial had Suriel in a corner with Damocles held at his crotch. His voice rose over the din, “Now, I won’t take the wings because that would just be rude. So how about the family jewels? You’re not using them, right?”
Sam had pulled Raphael off to a clear side and was bandaging up what was left of Raphael’s left leg. Nothing below the knee but that would grow back in time.
Azrael had flipped Phanuel onto his back and was punching him in the face but Phanuel wasn’t really moving too much except for the occasional twitch.
Asmodean, however, was in trouble. Thanatos held the Scythe overhead and brought it down in an arc so swift and sure that it blurred into invisibility. That blade was sharpened on the music of the stars and the wind’s very breath and it could slice even things as intangible as dreams into so many bloody ribbons without effort but with much deadly grace. Asmodean’s wings hit the floor but Asmodean himself was a good ten feet away. He went down in a heap and was lost.
I moved in that direction when Michael came up behind me and laid the haft of the Spear across my throat, pulled it tight, and began to choke me with it.
He gripped it tightly, with his elbow bent up around it and hand lodged behind my head. “Give over, Morning Star! Call off your fiends and end this!”
“Fuck,” I managed to grate out, “you!” I flipped the Sword into a backhanded grip and hit him with a sharply pointed elbow reinforced with Damascus steel. The runes on the blade burnt brightly as they sliced into his ribcage.
However, it wasn’t enough to make him let go.
Lilith appeared in the air before me like the guardian angel from Hell that she’d always been. “Mikhail! NO!” Her wings lifted back and down and she arrowed toward us as if fired from Sagittarius’ celestial bow.
Thanatos appeared before her, Scythe raised high. She tried to brake her flight and only ended up crashing into him like a nuclear missile. With a thud and a *THUMP* they disappeared through the floor.
The entire building began to quiver.
Alright, let’s play.
I lifted my foot as if for a marching beat and brought it to the floor with every ounce of otherworldly energy I could push into it.
Tiles shattered and a sound like a dull gong roared through the air. The building quivered again.
Thanatos’ horse had shied at the sound and taken to the air. It flew about the room upside down in an attempt to dislodge Beelzebub. Bub was crowing like he was riding every last one of the last ten Miss Universe winners at once and he held the fuck on.
Michael staggered but he held on and even increased the pressure on my abused larynx.
If I tried to throw him, I’d probably only end up ripping my own head off. I dropped the Sword, put both hands on the haft of the Spear, and I began to push it away. Once I got the wiggle room that I wanted, I put my hands between the haft and my throat, bent forward at the waist, and rolled.
When I stood up, I had the Spear in my hands.
I turned around.
Mike had picked up my Sword.
Wordlessly, we charged one another. When the Spear met the Sword, sparks flew in an incandescent arch and spattered the broken tiles at our feet. Where the sparks landed, cracks appeared and an entire section of floor off to my right shattered and fell down into the darkness of the first floor.
“Goodbye, Orange Julius!” I laughed. Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe OJ?
Now, being the Father of Lies (a title that wounds me – I have never lied more than any other male on the make) and the Creator of All That Is Evil (another title that I have a problem with – ‘evil’ is a human concept that they created and I had nothing really to do with it), I have never been accused of fighting fairly. Not that I do fight fairly, for I don’t (I consider a fair fight to be one where one guy holds a gun and the other guy pulls a bazooka out of his ass) but sometimes I pretend to because it just creates havoc in the minds of my enemies.
This wasn’t one of those times.
“Hey, Mike!” I yelled. “Your shoes are untied!”
This seemed to incense him and he took a swipe at my head. I ducked and took a step back.
“Look, Mike!” I yelled, again. “It’s Elvis!” I pointed to a place over his left shoulder.
Mike lunged toward my gut. I parried it and flicked the butt of the Spear toward his left ear. He dodged to one side.
“Hey, Mike!” I yelled a third time. “Lookit! A gay couple with a marriage license! The little one is holding a bouquet and wearing a white dress!”
He couldn’t help himself. Mike can’t stand a happy couple of homos. His eyes slid in the direction that I had indicated.
I took the Spear and broke the haft across my upper thigh.
Now, the Viceroy’s Spear isn’t just a weapon. It’s a Weapon of Godly Might (I have never regretted my time spent taunting D&D geeks) and as the Chosen Weapon of Heaven’s Viceroy (gawd, that’s a lotta titles, ain’t it?), it held all the power that the Viceroy might need in order to carry out Divine Law.
In layman’s terms, when you break something like that, there’s usually a backlash.
A golden ripple of power lashed outward in all directions, with me at the epicenter.
Mike got blown into the last whole pillar.
I came to a halt three stores away from the center of the mall with a clean Lucifer-sized hole leading back to it and a trail of burning merchandise littering the floor in my wake.
I looked up.
The ceiling trembled as if it had been infected with Parkinson’s disease. For a second, there was only silence. Then there came a long, low, disturbing groan.
“Aw, fuck.” I dove into a pile of women’s clothing.
Everything shook as the ceiling finally gave way and large blocks of cement, glass, and pretty architecture finally stopped resisting the siren song of gravity. The weight of it was too much for the second floor to handle and it, too, began to quiver spastically before it gave.
For long moments, there were only the sounds of water spraying from different points where the sprinkler system tried in vain to put out fires that had never existed and the crack of loose bricks and blocks of stone falling.
It took me a little bit to dig my way out of the rubble but, finally, I made it. When I stood up, I looked around to get my bearings. Once I had them, I scrabbled my way to the approximate place where I had last seen Lucy and I began to dig.
Five minutes later, I pulled a particularly large hunk of stone away and I found Lilith. Her wings were fully extended which had left her spine exposed and her body bowed around something trapped beneath her. A piece of rebar from the stone had skewered through the small of her back and she wasn’t moving.
“Lily…” I whispered. My mind went back to the time when I was newly Fallen and there was no place in all the universe that was not Hell for me and I would have welcomed death and gladly if not for the comfort given me by this one dark demoness that History reviled and religious zealots yearned to meet. She had been my Light, then.
And then I felt Anger and I reached down and I grasped the rebar and I called upon my own Power and I sent it down into the twisted metal that had pierced her.
The rebar melted into nothingness and the wound instantly cauterized.
Slowly, I placed my hands upon her too still form and I turned her over.
Beneath her body, lay a dusty, bloody Lucy.
Lilith had saved the Target.
I shook my head and wiped the dust from Lilith’s face and I spoke to her, then, without really knowing what it was that I said. “Come on, Lilith. The battle is over and we have won. Wake up, baby. You can’t sleep through the Victory Party. It wouldn’t be right to have a VP and you weren’t there to jump out of a cake or a lava pit or something.”
A small rockslide happened nearby and I looked up.
Thanatos had worked his way carefully through the rubble until he’d uncovered his own prize. Gently, he took the Viceroy into his arms, and stood. Expressionless, he looked upon Lilith in my arms and then he met my gaze. “What price, Lucifer? When given enough damage even things such as we can be killed, what price for the continued existence of your Consort?”
I said nothing.
He continued, “Many times, your followers have paid the price for your folly, Luke; and now, it looks as if Lilith has given her all.” He looked down at Michael for a moment then his eyes lifted to mine again. “Is it worth it?”
“I…” I looked at Lilith and Lucy, there in the dust and the debris and the wreckage. I looked at them and I felt all my long years come to sit upon my shoulders and they were heavy, indeed. I pushed a lock of hair away from Lilith’s face with one finger.
He shook his head. “Asmodean and now Lilith, along with countless others, Luke, and all are gone forever because you had them at your side when you opposed the Throne. How can you continue to do this?”
“Because it needs doing,” I brought my eyes back to his, “and if Asmodean or Lilith or any of the others hadn’t believed that, too, then they would have never stood at my side.” I hardened my gaze. “Unlike the Throne, I do not expect blind obedience, Nato.”
He made a noise somewhere between a cough and a harrumph. “Your blindness is killing your soldiers, Luke.”
“And your willful ignorance is killing innocent humans, Nato.” I gathered Lilith into my arms and stood up. “Get off my ass, Specter.”
He just looked at me for a long second but he said no more. Without fanfare or huzzah, he and Michael slowly faded out of existence.
With a pop or a sigh or no indication at all, the other Angels also went away.
I heard rock tumbling so I turned my head.
Beelzebub had parked Thanatos’ horse in a relatively clear space and was coming toward me. The horse waited for him, meekly. “I got me a new ride, Boss. Can I keep her?”
Suddenly more tired than I have ever felt, I nodded at him. “You can use her to transport the Target. We can’t leave her here.”
Bub nodded and went to gather up the still form of Lucy. A few minutes later, he had managed to get her limbs into a better position and he had her slung over the horse’s back like a sack of grain.
I held more tightly to Lilith and called out, “The Target is saved! Come, brethren! Tonight we dine in Hell!”
Cerberus had dragged Asmodean from beneath the rubble; he growled happily at my words and kept his jaws tightly clenched in Asmodean’s jeans. With a whoop, and a holler, and various other expletives of joy, my cadre of Demons vanished.
Of course, I cleaned up the mess before I left. Do you think me a complete scoundrel? I even straightened those ghastly plastic plants.
Never let it be said that I don’t appreciate the mall.