I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six, page 13
And why do I bother bringing those memories back up at all? I mean, seriously? I told Annun. I fucking told him it was better to put that shit away and never look back. Never. Look. Back.
My eyes are so puffy I can barely open them, but I get up anyway. Start the shower and let the hot water blast me until I'm red and sore all over.
I dress in a pair of jeans that fit like they belong to Selia, then grab a faded brown hoodie with a cracked and peeling yellow chicken on the front. It says, Cluck if you love Chick-Chick-Chicken. It's either that or the brand new one with a giant pink face of Cora! on it.
I'll take the chicken any day.
Someone's put a pair of field boots in the closet too. I tug them on and don't even bother lacing them up.
I grab my lime-green bag filled with weapons and go looking for Gideon.
The kitchen is filled with noise when I walk in. Irin, Selia, and Lili are sitting in front of the wall-sized screen, staring intently at some massive catastrophe.
"Anyone see Gideon? I need to talk to him."
Every head bolts sideways to stare at me. They all glance back at the screen, then each other.
"What the fuck? Where's Gideon?"
Lili takes a shot at it. "Uh, Junco. You've been out for a couple days and they've all left to start raising the djeds."
"What the fuck is a jet?"
"D-j-e-d, Junco. The ancient Pillars."
"OK, so when will he be back? I really gotta—"
"Junco." Selia this time. "They're not coming back. Lili's supposed to take Irin to meet them at the sixth djed, and then Irin will raise it and I'll take you over to your Pillar and you'll finish the sequence."
Clearly I've missed a great deal during my psychotic incident and subsequent drugged stupor. I look up at the screen and I see a massive—something—near the ocean, the Aleutian Islands apparently from what the crawl says on the bottom of the screen. It cuts away to a split-screen to show tsunami warnings blaring across Tokyo.
The cause is a giant pillar, about a hundred miles wide if the data on the crawl is correct. And it looks as if it's self-assembling in real time, climbing up towards the sky. "Please tell me that is not a djed."
"It's a fucking djed, Junco." Irin's turn now. "Welcome to the Apocalypse. The first tsunami waves already washed out Kodiak Island and took out the entire Kenai Peninsula. Fucking awesome, isn't it? We got the Fallen Archer, the Goddess of Retribution, and now the Angel of Death. Tokyo might be underwater by morning. Millions of people annihilated."
"Wait." I have to shake my head here. "Pretend I'm an idiot and spell that out for me again."
"Junco." Selia again. "It's started. The End of Days. Get it now? And you are the final piece of the puzzle, just like I told you."
I slap her. Hard. Right across the face.
Her hand goes up to her cheek and palms it tenderly. "Ow, what the fuck was that for?"
My slap has left a red print behind on her perfectly tanned skin. "For telling me a bunch of bullshit the last time we were down here, that's what. What ever happened to I'm an atheist, Junco. There is no such thing as a fallen angel, huh?"
"That was two years ago. Shit! A girl can change her mind. And when the goddamn Devil comes to you with fucking proof, you accept it and move on. He's the Angel of Death and you're the only one who's in the dark about all this shit, ya know!"
"So now Lucan's the Angel of Death?"
"No, you idiot." Irin steps in front of Selia and sneers at me. "Tier is the fucking Angel of Death, Junco. Tier."
"And he makes a fucking good one too." Lili's grim expression tells me that comment contains both truth and fear.
My words to Cora come back to me. If a few thousand souls have to be sacrificed, hell, a few million even, I don't care. It's got to be done.
"Oh shit. What are we doing?"
It's far too late for that, Junco. Sera blips into existence but no one notices except me.
"Junco." Lili starts in on me. "Why are you so fucking clueless? They say you're so powerful, so important. But all I see is craziness. Are you in with us or not? Because if you turn your back we all die. It's us or them."
"That's it. I'm done here unless you assholes spell it out in tiny little baby words. What the hell is going on? Who is them, Lili?"
She swallows. "The High Order. That's who. They're coming to kill us, Junco. And you can't let them. We're raising the djeds to make shields, to stop the total annihilation, then the avians will come to Earth and we'll all seek shelter here—"
"Here? Where are we gonna fit billions of avians and Archers on Earth? We're almost tapped out!"
"So, what? You'll just let us all die?" She's appalled and I realize I've been holding my breath. I let it out and turn away.
"Of course not, Lili. I'd never do that."
Which is why—Sera steps into my mind—we're going to do it my way, Junco. My way saves all of us.
Lili walks around to my field of vision and sizes me up. She's tough, this little angelic warrior. "Junco, you're crazy. You have no idea what's going on. Why they let you walk around unrestrained, I have no idea. But I'm not going to let you ruin everything. Lucan left me here to—"
"Lili, I'll give you this one warning because you saved me once, but do not provoke me, that's an order."
"I don't take orders from you, Junco. I'm Lucan's warrior and I take orders from him, that's it."
I grab her by the throat and squeeze. "You're my warrior now, you got it? I'm the fucking captain of this operation, so shut the fuck up and let me make the decisions. OK?"
Lili croaks out a throaty “Yes, sir,” and I push her back and let her fall to the ground.
"Now"—I turn to Irin and Selia and pull on my chicken hoodie a little to straighten it up—"what the fuck is the plan?"
Sera and Selia start talking at the same time. I look at my friend, then my former AI as she slips into some secret spectral existence next to Selia, and try to follow both conversations at the same time.
"The djeds are ancient structures, made by the High Order thousands of years ago," Selia starts.
They were sent into dormancy by the High Order, just before they left Earth with the rest of the higher beings—
"—But the Fallen Archer had a hidden sequence, like hidden code in a program, that can be activated if the right actions occur—"
And that's the seven of you, Junco. The Seven Siblings can activate the Seven Djeds. It's more than a shield, Junco. When properly aligned, the Djed Halo can do amazing things.
"—so now we're activating them, one by one, by taking the Siblings to their respective Pillars. And then once they are all raised, they'll produce a shield."
I look over at the Sera apparition and wait for her next explanation but she only shrugs. Yes. You activate them, just like Lucan wants. But then you hand them over to me and I'll take care of things, Junco. I swear, this is the only way to happiness. You want that happily ever after ending, Junco? I know you do. This is the only way. Activate the Djed Pillar Halo and give it to me.
"So what the fuck do I get out of this?" I sneer over at Sera, then remember that I'm the only one who can see her and I just said that out loud.
Irin takes her pot-shot now. "Jasus fucking Christos, you're one selfish little bitch, ya know that? All you can think about is—"
I tune her out as Sera answers. Junco, this is the day.
The day for what?
This is the better day. It's here now. All those days Gideon told you to wait. All those times he made you comply and follow orders. All those wasted days that were not your day of retribution are over. Today is the perfect day to get them back, Junco. This is what I'll give you. Revenge.
Sera smiles. A devious, all-knowing, I'm-gonna-make-your-day smile.
I smile back. I can't help it. Irin is still ranting on about what a bitch I am, but as the smile spread across my face she transitions into screaming at Selia and Lili about my newly acquired insanity.
"Where?" It comes out a whisper and now Irin is shaking me by the shoulders to snap out of it. But I'm not about to snap out of this. I don't care if Sera is some fabricated fucking fairy conjured up from the deepest recesses of my psychotic imagination, I'm gonna hear her out.
"I'm in," I breathe.
"Finally," Selia screams. "Jasus, Junco! You're gonna give everyone a fucking heart attack. We need you to raise the last Djed and—"
I knew you would be.
She puts her arm around my shoulder and leads me out the kitchen door, whispering her plan in my ear. I absently log the protests behind me, but I ignore them.
There is only one thing on my mind now and it's not my sanity.
Sera disappears as quick as she came and then Lucan is standing a few paces in front of me, wearing his Lucifer costume and black pterodactyl wings.
I stop abruptly and both Selia and Irin slam into me. Lili scurries around us and starts babbling to him about how uncontrollable I am.
What a fucking sell-out bitch.
I cross my arms and shake my head at him.
"Out! All of you!"
Irin steps forward and spits on him. "Fuck you, devil. I'm not here for you, I don't work for you, and I most certainly will not take orders from you!"
"Irin," I breathe. "Stop it." I wait for him to smack her down but she stands her ground and he makes no move to correct her.
Irin turns to me and leans down a little to capture my full attention. "He can't fucking hurt you, Junco! You are so clueless! You are the Goddess of motherfucking Retribution, you are the goddamn Wind of Vengeance! Will you please start acting like it!"
"Irin," I say softly. "I have no idea what all that means."
"It means," she emphasizes, "you could end his fucking existence with very little effort. Dissipate his ass into the nether, that's what it fucking means! And I swear, Junco, if you let him get a hold of you, he'll—"
"OK, I've heard enough." Lucan's voice is harder now, like his patience is wearing fast. "Junco, I'd like a moment with you, please."
I make to move towards him but Irin pulls me back. "No. She's not going anywhere with you, devil." She looks over to Selia. "Go get Subjack, Selia. Now!"
Selia shakes her head. "No, Irin. I work for Gideon."
My laugh bursts out in a boom that echoes off the walls of the subterranean hallway.
They stare at me like I'm insane. But that's OK. I absolutely am insane. "Looks like we've got a hell of a team going on here. One of you mind telling me who's in charge?"
I look up at Lucan and he finds a little smile for me. "You are, Junco. You're in charge here. Now, please, I need a moment. Call off your sister," he nods slightly towards Irin, "and your guard," this time motioning to Selia, "and I will send Lili with them so we might have a small moment of time to sort through things."
"Where's Gideon?" I'm looking at Lucan, but Irin answers me.
"He's with Tier and them, turning the whole fucking world upside down raising Djed Pillars."
"I want to see him. Now."
Tier appears in front of me and I step back a little in surprise. Since when does he teleport?
"No, Junco. He's busy." Tier turns to Selia and growls, literally growls, at her. "Get out. And take them with ya and do not fucking come back until I call for you."
Even Irin scurries away without a backwards glance.
Apparently Tier is the the real monster here. I raise my eyebrows at him but he ignores me and looks over to Lucan. They are having some private internal fight as my dad walks in bellowing.
"I told you, monster, you may not do your business here!"
I look at him, then back to both Lucan and Tier. I have no idea which monster he's referring to. He grabs me by the arm and pulls me towards him. "Junco, did you call for him?"
I stare up at his eyes. "Which one, Dad?"
He squints down at me, his face slightly pinched at my question. "Lucan, who else?"
Tier grunts with disgust but I ignore him. "Dad, I need Gid. I need him right now."
"Bring him, Raubtier," my father commands. The order is not harsh or overly loud and commanding, so I don't expect it to have much sway with Tier, but he considers it for a fraction and then disappears.
I let out a huge breath of relief and look back over to Lucan. "Now, what did you want to talk to me about?"
He shakes his head at me. "Privately, Junco."
"Not going to happen, devil. You're costing me right now, costing me things I cannot afford to pay. Leave." My dad's command comes out with such force Lucan considers complying.
But only briefly.
He ignores my dad and turns to me again. "Junco, a word in private, please."
"Dad, just give us a minute, OK?"
His silence says this is not OK.
And after several long seconds my dad turns and leaves the way he came in, calling out behind him, "He has five minutes. You can reach me on that comm if you need me, Junco."
I turn to Lucan and he promptly taps my shoulder and we disappear.
And reappear on the side of a mountain, looking out across a rolling valley that has been blanketed with the reflection of a Rocky Mountain sunset.
I smile to myself and turn to look up at Lucan, find his pleasure in mine, and cop a seat on a boulder that looks like it's been trying to roll down the side of the mountain for the better part of a thousand years.
"It's nice, thank you," I say.
He sits next to me and sighs. "You're welcome, Junco. I'm sorry for how I left you back on Sargassum. I know that hurt you, I saw it in your face as I left with Tier. I'm sorry Tier was angry at me and took it out on you. That was not fair and I hope you realize he does not really feel that way."
"Then he shouldn't have said it, Lucan. I mean, that was not cool. Blaming me for being taken and then on top of that, he blamed me for the death of a child I was never even pregnant with. But I do realize one thing." I look up at his face, a face that is less and less familiar every time I see him. He's changing, drastically, back into the being he was and losing the familiar Archer form. "Tier is not very forgiving and that worries me. I would've never said something like that to him. Never. I mean, I could easily have blamed him for my current situation."
I stop and stare straight into Lucan's eyes for the next part. "Or you, right? You let me leave Amelia, he let me do the mission even though he thought I was pregnant with his child. How does that make either of you good guys? Or fucking friends, for that matter?"
He's hurt. I can see it all over his demon face.
"Gideon would've never said that shit to me. He never blamed me for anything, he stood by me, trained me, held me, came for me. My dad never said I was the bane of his existence, Lucan. Even though it is painfully obvious that I am the cause of all his problems in life."
I feel the air come out and know that Lucan was holding his breath at my words. But I don't care, I need to set this straight right now. "I have a best friend and his name is Gideon Stag. I have a father and his name is Johann Coot. So my question is, what the fuck are you? What the fuck is Tier? And why the fuck should I depend on you two when I already have what I need?"
My swearing is excessive, I realize this. But fuck it. I'm not happy right now. I'm so fucking far from happy I don't even have a word for how unhappy I am. I'm not in control of anything. I'm at the mercy of these god-like beings, of the world, of their perception of me, or my perception of myself. And my past. How many deaths were caused by my hand to get to this moment? Several hundred, easily. These are all things that cannot be fixed. Ever.
No matter what happens in the future, the past cannot be undone.
Lucan's fingers entwine in mine but I don't look at him when
"I don't know if I need you, Lucan. You and Tier—you're risky." The heat climbs up my face and when it reaches my eyes the tears slip out again. "You said you were gonna love me for thousands of years, Lucan. What did that mean?" I look up at him and wipe the water from my eyes. "Why do you lie to me? Why? You're killing me, Lucan. You and Tier, you're both killing me."
"I'm sorry, I—" He stops and takes a moment before continuing. "I didn't realize you were so vulnerable, Junco. I've misjudged you at every turn and I'm sorry. You don't need me, you're right. I am nothing compared to these other men who have cared for you and been there. And I'm sorry Inanna took you, hurt you so badly. I'm sorry you had to go through the unsanctioned morph and I'm sorry that you have no idea of the consequences of that action and what it means to be you right now. I understand your feelings, I do."
I swallow down the words and make to get up, but he grabs my arm and shakes his head at me.
"No, Junco. Not this time. What she's done to you will affect everything and you need to be prepared."
I snort. "Yeah, like the way you prepared me for coming back to Earth, Lucan? How you prepared me for my father being alive, for Gideon, Aren, my clones, my fucking demon half-sister or whatever she was, Iliana? Like how you prepared me for all of them?"
"I did my best."
I laugh. "That's funny. Because your best never included the words, Junco, I need to tell you the truth about your life." I watch his face as the words sink in. "And you have no intention of telling me the truth right now, either. Do you?"
"You're wrong. I'm trying to tell you."
"Yeah, that's great. Well, here's a fucking screenflash for ya. I already know I was insane before, and I already know this will just push me over the edge now. There. That what you wanted to tell me, Lucan? That I'm a fucked-up mess? Well, save your fucking breath, I already got the message."
He squeezes my hand until I look him in the eyes. They are glowing. "What's that mean, anyway? When your stupid fucking eyes glow?"
He almost laughs, a small chuckle that is so unlike him I feel like I'm sitting next to a stranger. "Oh, I thought you knew."
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