I am not junco omnibus b.., p.56

I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six, page 56


I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six

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  “What?” This throws my whole game. “This? There’s nothing in it.” There’s a bed, a desk, and a closet. That’s it. I walk to the closet and fold open the doors. Her clothes.

  Fuck, it makes my heart hurt. They’re neat and tidy. Everything hung on a hangar or folded and stacked on a shelf.

  “It’s nothing like her home, is it?”

  “No,” I say. “She was not a child here, no matter what her age. She was a soldier.”

  “But you’ll be happy to hear that she was still the same old troublemaker. We found guns stashed under the mattress and in her sock drawer.” When I turn to look at Ashur, he’s smiling. “She’s a sneaky little shit, isn’t she.”

  “Aye, she is. And normally I’d find it cute. But now, Ashur, I’m finding it worrisome. Where the hell is she?”

  “We don’t know. We can’t track her, wherever she is. It’s like she’s hiding from us on purpose.”

  “Hedging her bets?”

  “Maybe,” he says. “But I’m not so sure. Maybe she just needed a moment, ya know?”

  “I hope so. Everything depends on her.”

  “Yeah, well, about that shit. I realize we’ve already started the genome project, and that we’ve a lot of fucking kids in our clutches right now, but what the fuck is going on with those demons up in the PF, Tier?”

  I take a seat on her bed, which, miraculously, is made so well all the sheets and blankets are still tucked in. Who knows how long ago she made this bed? “I’ll give you my best guess, Ash, but what we really need to do is get everyone out there to tell us what they know. Because it’s painfully obvious, even with all that we know, and the stuff that only I know, it’s just a part of the story. Lucan has placed us like actors on the stage. He’s got us coming and going in so many different directions, it’s impossible to figure out what’s true and what’s not.”

  “Makes sense, though. If no one knows what’s going on, no one can alert Aesin to what’s coming.”

  “Right. I think Junco is the Seventh Demon, Ashur, but these Siblings are not. They are the Siblings, that has to be true because the genetics work.”

  “What if it’s a trap? What if those genetics have a retrovirus coded into them?”

  “We’re talking about Gib, Ashur. Gib. He’s the best they had when he was sentenced with Lucan and Rache. And for the Angels, not enough time has passed to replace him. No, if those Siblings were corrupted, Gib would’ve found it.”

  “Well, let me show you what my vision screen came up with when I was up in the PF when those things escaped.” He shuttles over the data from the impromptu analysis and waits for me to read it.

  He raises an eyebrow. “What is it?”

  I shrug. “Looks like a fucking alloantigen repressor, right? Which looks an awful lot like a retrovirus, right? Both of those things scramble the DNA, to put it simply. So, the SEAR is like some ancient tech that’s obsolete. I’m betting that Gib was the one who invented the retrovirus technique for rapid genome-wide changes. But before that technique, there was the SEAR.”

  I’m shaking my head, not quite sure that’s right. “Ashur, I think Lucan would’ve mentioned this, don’t you?”

  “Are you high, brother? Lucan mentions nothing unless he has to. Maybe this SEAR knife has another purpose? Ever think of that? Maybe it’s not just a weapon, maybe it’s an instrument?”

  I blow out a long breath of air. “My fucking head hurts, Ashur. I can’t think about it right now. It hardly matters what they used the SEAR for in ancient times, right? Who gives a fuck. Right now it’s our weapon and that’s how we’re gonna use it.”

  “OK, then what the fuck is going on with the whole Noah’s Ark shit? Huh? Because that data says those six demons have a shitload of junk DNA inside them. Fucking code for trees and fish and shit, Tier. What’s that?”

  “I dunno, Ash, I just don’t. Maybe it’s part of the plan, maybe it’s not. Maybe Aesin thinks we’ll destroy the entire biosphere and that’s his seed stock for post-apocalypse rebuilding?”

  “What forethought he has, then, right? Seven thousand years of farsight? It’s not possible.”

  “Yeah, well, to us, maybe. But these guys are something else entirely, Ashur. These guys might as well be God, OK? They’ve got tech and they know how to use the brain to full capacity. Maybe we have no idea how powerful they really are?”

  “Maybe,” he reluctantly admits.

  “Well, let’s just concentrate on our parts, OK? Maybe Lucan knows what those demons are, maybe he’s got a plan for them too, or maybe they’re meaningless. Whatever the fuck is going on, it’s not our problem. Our six Siblings had to have come from Junco. Junco must’ve been holding that code in her newborn demon form. They extracted it and made the other six, I bet. I mean, think about it. I bet that fucking Aesin was hoping whoever found those containers up in the ice would assume that each of those demons was a Sibling. But they’re not. They are all demons, that’s why Junco is so wild. She really is a demon. But Moju and Esta and them are not demons and that’s why they are so much more… sane.” I stop for a moment and picture all the failed clutches of Seven siblings they’ve made over the years. It took a lot of practice to get it just right. “So here’s my real question, Ashur, OK? Because I’m just gonna assume that what I just said is true. That begs the question—why? Why is Junco not insane? Junco’s clutch was just one of dozens. Gideon is a Seven, Iliana was a Seven before I killed her and she became a clone, and Junco. There are only three examples of the Seventh Demon being made where it was not insane. Why?”

  “Brother, please!” Ashur laughs. “Junco’s fucking out of her mind. What are you talking about?”

  “Yeah, she’s got some severe mental issues, but Ashur, she’s not a demon. She’s not even close. She plays piano, she reads books, she soldiers, she had boyfriends, she plays poker. These are not things that demons do. Demons kill. And that’s pretty much it. And that doesn’t explain Gideon and Iliana.”

  “So what’s your theory, then? Why is she not like those other demons? It’s nature versus nurture? She had parents, a home, culture?”

  “Maybe,” I say. “I’m sure all that’s part of it. But tell me something. Why is that Deb AI inside the Iliana clone?”

  “She was out of control, she was crazy…” Ashur’s response trails off as he realizes what I’m saying. “But HOUSE is gone, she’s in the Halo with Sera.”

  “What if it’s not HOUSE? Junco had all those circuits in her body before she ever morphed into an avian. They were there from the very start, Ash. She was made for something… no, for someone.”


  “Who indeed. I think we need to ask Lucan that question, because he’s been weird about her since he took her from the morph tank in Vegas.”

  “Weird how? I never noticed anything. He was less interested in her, if you ask me. Before she left for Earth he was infatuated with her. And if I were you, I’d have been sorta pissed about it, myself.”

  I give him a sideways glance, my eyes heating up with glow for a moment before I stop it. “So were you, brother. And I didn’t get pissed at you, did I?”

  “Hey.” He puts his hands up. “I didn’t know she’d fucking kill herself to save you. I thought you were finished, remember?”

  “Regardless, Lucan’s the one who has that answer. I think it took a while for him to figure it out, otherwise he’d never have let her fledge and fight in Deliverance.”

  “What the hell are you saying?” Ashur looks at me with wide eyes.

  “We won’t know for sure unless we win, will we? So it’s better to just do our jobs. The other Siblings, their jobs are done now. We got them back, thanks to Sera, and we got the Halo lit up. Whether it functions, well, that remains to be seen. But it’s out of our hands now. Sera is in charge of that, and if worse comes to worst, we’ve got HOUSE. A little ace in the hole, maybe. But let’s take this conversation out there.” I nod in the direction of the great room. “Because it’s time to
put this puzzle together, and each one of us is holding a piece.”

  We walk back out to the great room where everyone is either asleep or almost asleep. “Sorry to break up your slumber, but we need to have a meeting. Annun, line up the circle for me, please.”

  “Fledge Team, let’s go,” Annun orders. Merk, Tess, Pike, and Wyrd all get up and start moving furniture, arranging it like we do for all our meetings. No one at the top, no one at the bottom.

  Once we have enough places to sit I point to each one as I call out their names. “Ashur, Ryse, Arel, Annun, Merk, Pike, Tess, Wyrd, Selia, Subjack, Linny, Deb, John, Moju, Soli, Tukker, Esta, Sariel, Irin, Junco—” I stop to smile at everyone’s shocked face and then point to the last chair that is really the last spot on a long wooden coffee table. “Raubtier.”

  “What about me?”

  We all turn to look at Gideon.

  “Any luck?”

  He shakes his head. “No, she’s hiding, I think.”

  I blow out a breath and point to my spot. “Gideon. I’ll stand in the middle then.”

  Gid takes his seat and I stand in front of them all, walking in the circle as I talk. “Each of us knows something important, so we’re gonna sit here and figure out if anything critical needs telling. If yer holding secrets that are not supposed to be divulged, well, we’ll talk about that. But the most pressing issue in my mind, and Ashur’s as well, I think”—I look over to Linny and Subjack—“is where did you get the genetics to make Junco?”

  Subjack clears his throat. “Caleb. Caleb gave us the genetics decades ago. They never came from that Gyr fellow who went missing in the MR. We already had the genetics by the time we got a hold of Gyr. His code was put in as a diversion, to make sure no one could connect Junco to who she truly is.”

  “Who is she?” I breathe.

  “That’s still a secret, Tier. I would tell you if I thought it was important, but it’s not.”

  “How is it not?” I ask loudly. “I want ta know, dammit! Where the fuck did she come from? Who the fuck is she really?”

  “She’s the Seventh Demon, that’s true. That was the code that Caleb gave us. But we were told to make her a certain way, so she could hold something inside her.”

  “Hold what? An AI?” I look over at Iliana/Deb.

  “No—well, yes. She was made to hold HOUSE inside her, that helps with the insanity issues that come from her demon side. But she was made, Tier, not grown.”

  “What is this? We don’t make beings anymore, even Lucan has stopped that.”

  “Well, Caleb’s father has not stopped his creation science program, and Junco comes from Him. He made her, he gave her code to us to insert into the demon genetics from the Seventh Cylinder, and he told us exactly what to do to make her more human as a child, more compliant and normal.”

  Everyone mumbles a little at the word normal. Normal she is not.

  “And then we spent the next twelve years of her life leaching out the bad things. Every six months I took her down here and we recoded her entire genome. We took things out, put things in, made her able to morph, made her receptacle more advanced, made her machine parts more usable and less invasive.”

  I shake my head. “That makes no sense, you just told me she is demon, she is Gyr, she is human, she is machine. Anything else?”

  He nods. “Yes, but that’s not mine to tell, it’s Lucan’s.”

  I knew it. I look over at Ashur and we exchange a conspiratorial look. And then I shift my gaze to Gideon. “And you? What’s yer part in this, Gideon? How are you involved?”

  He looks down, his knee jumping a little as he thinks of what to say. When he starts talking he does so with a bowed head and this look alone fills me with dread. “I was the first test soul.”

  I squint my eyes at him. “Meaning?”

  He looks over at Subjack and gets a nod to continue. “The reason I’m not insane is because I was given a soul and I’m not a demon, I come from the same stock as Junco. A few clutches earlier, but we are the same stock. But with my clutch, they leached out the demon parts and inserted a soul. Dale could collect souls.” He stops to see if any of us will find this notion ridiculous, but we’re so far past that now, no one even blinks. “He gave me one and since I was the first experiment, they needed a control. So I got the soul, but the other six siblings they made from me to complete the clutch did not. They… had to be destroyed at birth—that was a disaster. It turns out you can’t take away the demon part and make the other Six Siblings from those genetics. They learned the hard way. Iliana was another experiment, a couple clutches later. She was given a soul as were all the other siblings, but only half of them took. And as we all know, you have to have all the Siblings to make the code work and they all have to be mature. So they let those Siblings live, but Iliana was the only one who made it to maturity.”

  He stops to point to me. “And you guys came and thought she was the real Seven and that’s how all this started.”

  I look around the circle to gauge how everyone is taking this. They all look how I feel. Tired and confused.

  Gid continues. “My job was never supposed to be Junco, that’s why we had trainers, Tier. I was just a companion, to keep her demon side in check when she was small. But the main handler, Matthew, was mean to her and she ended up rebelling. They gave her to me when I was twelve and she was six. It worked well for a while, but I had to leave. I am Inanna’s property. I was supposed to run Iliana, not Junco. But it got all fucked up, and Junco was just… too fucking fragile to leave alone until my teens. She never really recovered from that, but I had to go morph. And then I had to prepare Iliana. You killed her, but Inanna cloned her, thinking she would pass for Junco at the end anyway. But I started having second thoughts about working for Inanna back in Runout—”

  He stops again, maybe to see if I’ll attack.

  “It had been a while since I saw Junco, and I was gonna deliver her to Inanna when we got there. But I couldn’t do it. So I told Junco to kill Iliana and shoot Inanna when we were on that rooftop. And… and Inanna had to take Junco and level her up to Archer status because the clone she was gonna use to duplicate Junco was half demon and had no wings. The only Iliana she could use was not avian. She had no wings. You fucked up everything when you morphed Junco, Tier. She was not supposed to be avian. We had to take her wings away. Iliana is Inanna’s contribution to this showdown. She needed Junco and Iliana to be indistinguishable.”

  I want to kill him. I want to walk over to him, morph into my demon, and rip his head off with my teeth. But I need him to tell Junco to obey and he knows it. His look says he’s smug in this knowledge, this makes him safe.

  I hate Gideon. But I need him, I repeat to myself. I need him.

  I look over to Tessen. “And this baby?”

  She is the only one in the room, besides Linny Coot, I now notice, who is smiling. Tessen gets up and beckons me with a finger to follow her. I look at the circle and bark, “Don’t anyone move.”

  The cage is really a wall of glass that spans the far back corner of the room. Inside is a human-looking nursery. Not as posh as the one Inanna had set up in the Vegas lab. There’s a feeding tube attached to the baby’s stomach and she’s naked.

  She’s sucking her thumb.

  This is my child.

  Mine. And Junco’s.

  “Can we go in?” I ask Tessen.

  She shrugs. “I wouldn’t, sir. No offense, but she’s killed seven warriors. She could wake up at any moment. We have her drugged via the feeding tube, and we have gas at the ready, the system in this room is well equipped to handle such a child, but—”

  I’m looking over at Linny and Subjack as Tessen talks, but I look back to her when she stops. “But what?”

  “She’s very unpredictable. And dangerous, sorta like Junco, but without all the cute parts.”

  I can’t help myself, that makes me laugh. “Cute parts?”

  “Well, you know what I mean. Junco is sort of lovable in
her own crazy way. And when this baby is like this, she’s very lovable too. But, well, I’ve seen what she can do and if you’re asking for my honest opinion, I’d say no, sir. Stay out of that room until we know more. I have an idea, and we should run it by Junco’s parents. They are, after all, experts in raising a part-demon child.”

  Linny’s words come back to me now—Come to us. Do not hesitate. She knew. She and Subjack know what to do with this baby, because they already did it—successfully, I add to myself—with Junco. I look over my shoulder and she’s smiling.

  “We’ll leave the baby for now, Tess. Thanks.”

  She walks away, but I stay there. Looking down on my little girl. I wish I could see her eyes, but if she opens them now they’ll glow red. And I’m definitely not ready to see the demon in her just yet.

  I just want to look at her like this.

  A soft and innocent child.

  I never thought about a family before Junco came along. And really, it was not until she said she might be pregnant that I considered it. Briefly, just briefly. Because there’s no family for me in the future.

  But if I can save this child, make her whole and happy, then the baby would be like a gift.

  Something Junco might cling to afterward, if things go well. Something to give her peace and comfort.

  A piece of myself, to remember that I loved her, a child to keep in her heart forever.

  To replace whatever feelings she has for me.

  Because I will be gone.

  Chapter Thirty—JUNCO

  Rural Republic

  The whole earth rumbles beneath me, not like an earthquake, but like something just got blown up outside.

  I sit up, rub my eyes a little, yawn, and then let out a sigh. Fuck. I was having a nice dream. Tier and I were stargazing, leaning up against a flat red rock that was stuck in the ground especially for this reason. It was sorta like the one up top that my dad put in, except the view was wrong. Like the whole sky was shifted somehow and all the stars were in the wrong place. And there was someone else there, sitting between us… a little warm—


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