I am not junco omnibus b.., p.52

I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six, page 52

 

I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six
 



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  “How long ago?”

  “Six years or so. Right before I left the RR. We found this, the plans started to unravel. I knew about the cloning, I knew they had dozens of copies of Junco, so why not me too? I started asking questions, not satisfied with the answers they were giving me. And I saw what was coming. I couldn’t take Junco with me. Me they didn’t care about. But her? She was everything. They’d never let her go.”

  “Where’s the Seventh Demon? There are only six here.”

  “Junco is the Seventh. I didn’t know any of this when she was brought it to us. I’ve been piecing this puzzle together all these years as well, Ashur. I’m not the mastermind of this plan.”

  “How old was Junco when you got her?”

  “Just a newborn baby.”

  “Who gave her to you?”

  “Inanna.”

  “Where did the other Siblings come from? If these are the other six demons, then what are the other six Siblings inside the Pillars right now?”

  Subjack just shrugs. “I have no idea. Inanna came with seven children, not one. I have no idea who made them, how they were made, or anything else. We were told to keep the demon child and the six human-like ones were farmed out all over the Republics. Esta in the East, Soli and Moju to the MR, Tukker and Sariel in the West, and Irin with Inanna.”

  The demons on the other side of the glass are trying to stand now. They push themselves up against the walls, screaming their war calls, baring fangs, razors and talons extended, eyes blazing red.

  “Carolinia and I were given Junco to raise as a daughter. It took about a year and a half to get her to settle into her human form and then we took her home to the RR.” He looks up at me with very sad eyes. “She’s not like these monsters, Ashur. She’s not.”

  I scrub my face with my hands. “Subjack, whether you want to admit it or not, Junco absolutely is one of these demons. OK? You need to accept that. She’s done well, she might even pull through for us, but you should never, ever forget what she really is. She’s dangerous, she’s a born killer, she’s out of control eighty percent of the time.”

  “She’s not a demon,” he says, refusing to see the reality here. “She’s a girl. She might not be a human girl, but she was raised as one. Culturally, she is a girl.”

  “Yeah? Did you know she chopped off the head of her best friend back in Fledge?”

  “She said it was an order.”

  “Yeah, but seriously, Subjack, come on! If Lucan ordered me to chop off Tier’s head do you really think I would?”

  “He’d chop off yours.”

  “He’s different.”

  “And so is Junco. She follows orders. As does Tier.”

  “No.” I shake my head. “Tier follows orders, yeah, but Junco does whatever the fuck Junco wants. She’s not following her training when she does as she’s told, she’s… she’s making a choice. She makes choices, Subjack. What she does is not automatic. She calculates and then decides. And it’s never predictable.”

  The demons slam against the glass, cracking it slightly.

  “Fuck, we better get out of here. You should evacuate your tunnel.”

  He presses some more controls on the panel and the blackout fades back in to block out the light. We leave as soon as the demons are out of sight and make out way back up in silence.

  And just when we’re close enough to the top to hear the bustle of workers, the entire mountain… shakes, shudders, dims, flickers.

  “It’s starting. Junco is on her way out of the Pillar.” The cage docks and I flip the lever to open the door to allow us to leave and exit the lift.

  “Wait!” Subjack grabs my arm and pulls me back. “We need to get Carolinia, you need to take me to the Stag.”

  “I need to find Caleb. I’m not your chauffeur!”

  “She has his coordinates, she will give them to you if I ask her to. But you need to get us to the Stag or you can find Caleb on your own. And I might not know the details of how all that shit works, but my guess is that Caleb can only be found when he wants to. Otherwise Tier would not have come here asking for his location.”

  He’s right. Caleb can’t be found, only located. With exact coordinates. It’s a precaution He put in place so we didn’t interfere with Caleb’s collection duties. “Fine—”

  The mountain shudders again, only this time it comes with a massive groan, like the gods in Heaven are in pain. Rocks start crumbling from the walls and people begin to panic. “Hurry! We need to get her and get outside so we can port!”

  Subjack runs, leading us farther and farther into the mountain. Farther and farther away from the safety of outside, and closer and closer to the final showdown with evil.

  Chapter Twenty-Three—JUNCO

  Pillar Seven

  Inanna’s touch makes my skin crawl, but I keep that hidden in my dark place. I need her, regardless of all that shit in the past that is definitely not water under the bridge—I need to use her like she’s been using me. So I let her touch me. I let her think I’m hers. I force myself to squeeze her just a little tighter than she’s squeezing me and we move through the Pillar. It looks a little bit like a timeshift tunnel—the sides of whatever it is that surrounds us are clear, but yet not. They are a blur of motion, streaks of light, lines of light really, like we’re moving very fast and that makes the light stretch.

  The pressure from my hands disappears and that’s when I realize I’m alone now. Inanna is gone, no one holds me, no one commands me, no one can stop me. I lean into the blur of the tunnel and things rush past me even faster. I push my face into it, like there’s a barrier there that I must cross, and the coldness as I cross that threshold and enter the other side makes me scream. I tip my head back and open my mouth.

  And it enters me, like the wind that impaled my lungs when Moju flew us across the prairie. I am filled up.

  And…

  It stops.

  “Junco?”

  “Juncs?”

  “Shit, give me a hand, Moju. Junco, get up. I’m so not happy with you right now. We’re fucking tired and hungry!”

  “Yeah,” the Moju voice replies to Irin’s bait. “I’ve been in this thing the longest, you sneaky bitch. I’m ready to get the hell out. Get your skinny ass up and deal, Junco!”

  I try to open my eyes but they feel so heavy. “Guys?” I decide words don’t require eyes. Both of my Siblings exhale loudly, then Moju picks me up off the ground and carries me somewhere.

  “Wake up, Juncs,” he whispers. “We’re ready, Snowbird. We just need you and we can all go home.”

  My eyelids are forced open by fingers and Irin’s face is staring back at me. “Wake up, you bitch! We’re ready!”

  I swat her hand away and try to open my lids on my own. “Why am I so tired?”

  “You’ve been shattered, Junco. Sera had to pull you back together using the tags left in your blood from some shit you did on that last Earth mission. Then HOUSE came and put your mind back or something. She had to go inside you and—”

  “No, I was with HOUSE. Sera was there, too. I just saw Inanna. She—”

  “Junco,” Moju says in a rough voice. “We do not have time for this shit, OK? You’ve been shattered. No one has seen Inanna, I’m not sure if Sera put her back together too or what. But it doesn’t matter. You’re back now and we just need to join up and make this Halo, then we can all go back to Earth and help Lucan win.”

  Moju lets go of my legs and my feet come into contact with the ground, but I feel like I have no muscles at all. Or like I have no skeleton. I’m rubbery. “I can’t stand, Moj. Why can’t I stand? I was just standing a minute ago when I was in that tunnel with Inanna.”

  “Junco, that was a dream—”

  “More like a psychotic episode,” Irin snorts.

  “I saw Isten, he was here with me. I was at my virtual cabin, I was in the lake, and we slept in a bed. HOUSE was there, she said—”

  “Junco,” Moju says, leaning into my ear as he suppor
ts me. My legs are getting a little more used to the idea of standing, but if he lets go I’ll fall for sure. “That wasn’t real, OK? But I promise you, this is real. We need to get busy.”

  “Isten?”

  “Not real, Junco. Isten is dead and gone.”

  This hurts. My chest feels like it’s going to split, I swear. He made everything better and now—

  I’m here, Junco. Don’t listen to them, Snowbird. I’m still here. I’m with you, OK? Just be strong.

  “Let’s just do it, Moju. I’m tired of waiting for her.”

  “Soli, shut the fuck up,” Irin snaps. “She’s still wobbly, she needs a minute.” And then Irin leans into my ear. “Junco, we do need to go, but you’ll be on your own the instant we trigger the halo because we’ll all be flushed out of the Pillars, each of us alone. So we need to know you can take care of yourself.”

  I force my feet to stand and my muscles to be firm enough to hold me up. And then I sigh. Because that’s how it always is, isn’t it? Do your job, Junco. Never mind you’re a psychotic mess, just do your fucking job. And while you’re at it, don’t count on anyone helping you, we just fill your brain with pretend images to keep you sane. You’ll never have help, you’ll never be done working, you’ll never have a life. Ever.

  I open my eyes and I’ve got six sets looking back at me. All my Siblings. Moju, Soli, Esta, Tukker, Sariel, and Irin.

  “I’m ready,” I say.

  Fuck them. Fuck everyone.

  If I have to do this alone, then I’m gonna do it my way.

  “Let’s go, what the fuck are you guys waiting for?”

  Moju is staring at me hard as he lets go of my upper body and waits to see if I wobble.

  I hold it together but he doesn’t look convinced. “What?”

  Esta leans in this time. “Junco, Ryse is waiting for me at my Pillar. All of us have someone to pick us up when we come back. I’m pretty sure Gideon is your contact. So when you go into the light, just look for him, OK?”

  “Right,” I say. But she catches the sarcasm and gives me the stink-eye back.

  “Junco?”

  “Es-taaa?” I drawl it out, irritated. She’s so fucking perfect it makes me sick. And Soli? She’s a helpless bitch. Why do I have to carry everyone? I don’t even know if I’ve said more than two fucking words to Sariel and Tukker. Moju is cool and Irin will carry her weight if you ask her, but neither of them can do anything for me. Because I’m the only Seven there is.

  I’m fucking sick of it.

  But they’re all watching me now, so I just let out a long breath, close my eyes like I’m asking myself for patience, and smile. “Got it, Esta. I can’t wait to see Gid again, actually. God, I totally miss him.”

  They all walk away and stand on these little circles of light shooting up from the… floor, I guess is the only thing you can call it. We don’t look like we’re standing on a floor, there’s not even a word I can find to describe what we’re standing on, or where we are for that matter, or if we’re really standing. It feels real. But hell, it always feels real. That’s part of just being off-your-meds crazy, as Tier would put it.

  Moju squeezes my arm and then lets go. I do not wobble.

  Fuck that. I’m not wobbling. I look him in the face and he smiles. “OK, when I’m on my Pillar, you can step on yours.” He points to a light on the floor. “Got it?”

  I nod.

  “Junco, please, this is too important to fuck around.”

  “I said I got it, Moj, fuck.”

  His look says I’m the biggest liar on the planet, but that’s not true. That’s Tier. And Inanna. And, well, pretty much everyone who’s ever come in contact with me growing up and after morph. They’re the biggest liars on the planet, not me.

  He walks away nonetheless. What choice does he have?

  His light is just a spot on the ground, like mine. But as soon as he approaches it begins to glow. It lights up his face with the most beautiful yellow color. I drop all my anger for a moment and smile.

  Moju smiles back. “See you on the other side, Sister.” And then his gazes travels across all the other faces in the circle. “Godspeed, Siblings.”

  I snap off a salute. “Change your fate and all that good shit.”

  And then I step into my light.

  The whole world is the white room for a moment.

  And then it… blinks, shudders, snaps, skips…

  I shatter again, scatter again into billions of pieces of light, glittering and shimmering in a shower of particles.

  I am everywhere and nowhere at once. My Siblings are gone, I am gone, and only the light remains.

  Everything shoots… out… and my arms stretch and circle the Earth.

  And just like it came, it’s gone.

  The light is gone, the dark is back.

  And I am empty.

  I fall, like gravity is pulling me down, only harder. Like Earth is as big as the Sun and that gravity is pulling me down. I’m shooting headfirst this time, like the jump from the ship when we came back to find my brothers and sisters. I flatten my body, push my arms against my sides, and pick up speed.

  Voices trickle in. First Gideon, then… more. Annun, and Hand, and… someone else.

  Someone I know.

  Someone I hate and want to hurt.

  Her voice rings out in waves, beautiful waves that create a melody, they dance along the atmosphere in the place that I am.

  I know her voice. I’d know that voice anywhere. And that bitch definitely has some explaining to do.

  Cora.

  Poor Cora. I almost feel sorry for her.

  Because she’s the first enemy on my list.

  Chapter Twenty-Four—ASHUR

  Polar Friendly

  “Subjack!” I yell. He ignores me. He knows what I’m going to say and he’s not about to turn around and leave Carolinia here to be mutilated by the demons. I give in, because I can’t leave him here either. He knows things and I need him to tell me the rest of the story. “Subjack!” I try again. “Wait, goddammit!”

  The whole mountain groans. The walls of the tunnel we’re in begin to rattle and rocks start falling. In fact, whole slabs of rock begin to shift and crack. Subjack stumbles, catches himself, and then disappears around a corner, his large muscular body going a lot faster than I ever imagined it would. I follow at full speed and as soon as I make it around the corner, I crash into the two of them.

  Carolinia goes wheeling backwards as I barrel into Subjack. She lands on the rocky ground with a grunt and then whimpers as she grabs her ankle.

  “Hurry, Linny! We have to go!”

  Carolinia stands and then almost collapses from her injury. “I can’t walk!” she moans in pain.

  I don’t know this woman at all. The only time I’ve ever seen her is when Junco was forced to eat breakfast with her when we came back to Earth two years ago, but I’m guessing she’s not a whiner. She looks like a fighter to me, so if she says she can’t walk, she’s telling the truth.

  “Subjack, you carry her—”

  That’s when the demon screams begin.

  The three of us look at each other, eyes wide and terrified. I’m not sure what they’re gonna look like, but I’m fairly certain I’m no match for six of those fuckers when I have no gifts available beyond talons and razors, because this place has a gamma wave inhibitor blocking my vision screen. But I’m all we have, so I make do. “Carry her. I’ll fight if we meet up with them. Just call out directions to me from behind so we don’t get lost.”

  Subjack throws Linny over his shoulder like a fireman, her ass in the air and her feet kicking as she screams at him to put her down. If we live, I’ll never let her live this down. I’ll bring it up in every drunken poker game we have. But right now, it’s no laughing matter because those demons are between us and the exit.

  Subjack calls our directions—“Left. Right. Left!”—and I can tell we’re going the right way because the screams, human and demon alike, are gettin
g louder with each twist of the tunnel.

  The mountain shifts again. It feel like the entire mountain range is shivering, that’s how big this movement is. An earthquake, I realize. We’re in a massive earthquake. “The Halo!” I yell over the loud rumble of moving earth. “The Halo is activating!”

  I’m not really paying attention to where we’re going—walls are coming completely apart now, the ceiling crumbling over top of us. So when I turn another corner and burst out into the main cavern where we came in, I stumble over some dead bodies.

  And in between us and the door outside are all six demon Siblings.

  Roaring, killing, screaming. Fangs out, blood dripping down, talons made of knives… and standing on piles upon piles of dead soldiers.

  And then, like they have Ashur radar, every demon head turns to me.

  Their eyes glow red, first a wave of intense light, then a pulse so strong I have to shield my face with my hand. If I had my vision screen I’d be protected from the UV rays, but I don’t, so I have to turn away.

  “Subjack,” I say in a low whisper as the place goes still and silent because everyone else but us is dead. Whether or not people are alive outside, I have no idea. But we are the only ones alive inside, and that means we’re the only targets they have. The light pulse has died back down now, so I take a chance to see what they’re doing.

  They’re looking at me, pondering who I am, I bet. They know I’m avian, they sense that much at least. But I’m not an avian they’re supposed to care about. So I’m not safer than any of the other bodies beneath their feet. “I’m gonna distract them, OK? I want you to run to the door and go outside. I’ll be right behind you, and don’t go far, because as soon as I’m through the door I can port us out of here.”

  Subjack has no time to answer me, or if he does, I don’t catch it. Because the demons all lift their heads and open their mouths to scream.

 

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