I am not junco omnibus b.., p.60

I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six, page 60


I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six

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  The last number I remember us saying together is sixty.

  Chapter Thirty-Four—TIER

  The Stag

  It takes every last bit of willpower to scoop up Junco and the baby and take them back inside. She’s gonna hate me for drugging her when she wakes up. The guard gives me a sympathetic smile as he opens the door and lets me pass. Everyone is waiting around looking a little confused and then Junco’s mother rushes up and takes the baby. She cuddles and coos at her as she walks back over to the glass room.

  It’s not hard to see things from Junco’s perspective. I understand how she’s feeling. And I want what she wants just as bad. More, maybe. It’s killing me to have everything I ever wanted and not have it be permanent, but Lucan’s words come back to me. Whenever I’d complain about things not lasting long enough—stupid things, like a game with Ashur when we were small or time off to do fun things with no work—Lucan would always remind me that nothing lasts forever. And I always thought that was stupid coming from him. He’s eternal. How could nothing last forever if you’re eternal?

  His answer shut me down every time. And I’d like to give it to Junco but somehow I don’t think she’d take it as a gift. Because Lucan’s answer was always the same—I live for now, Raubtier. Because even though I know I’ll be here tomorrow, that doesn’t guarantee the things I love will be here with me.

  That might send Junco over the edge.

  But it’s true. It’s so, so true.

  “Annun,” I say, walking over to him. “Get the weapon. Ashur,” I call. He nods to me from across the room. “I’ll talk to Gideon and then you. Let’s get this moving.”

  “I’ll be here.” Ashur sends me a half-hearted smile and I feel his sadness too.

  I nod to Gid and he pulls himself away from the a cage where Subjack and Carolinia are getting the baby settled to walk over to me. “This it?” he asks.

  I nod. “This is it. Where should I put her?” I ask, nodding to Junco. “I drugged her with the wings, but it won’t last.”

  He beckons me to follow him down to her bedroom and I place her on top of the covers. I lean down and kiss her cheek and whisper in her ear. “I loved every moment we spent together, Junco.”

  When I pull myself away Gideon is out in the hallway waving me into his childhood bedroom.

  “OK, spill,” he says in a fatigued, but matter-of-fact way. “I can’t take it anymore. Just tell me what the order is.”

  I have every intention of doing so, but somehow a whole other set of words comes out of my mouth. “What’s yer purpose here, Gideon? What? Ya work for Inanna and you took care of Junco, why?”

  “Why?” he laughs. “I love her, Tier. She’s a part of me. I practically raised her. When things got rough, I was her comfort. When she needed help, I was there. I spent my whole childhood, from the day she was born, trying to hold it together for her. I taught her how to talk, did you know that?”

  I watch his eyes as he says all this. They dart back and forth to my own, shifting, not able to stay in one place for very long. I don’t answer him even though he’s waiting.

  “She couldn’t talk for a long time, much longer than most babies. They started thinking she was gonna be uncommunicative, and that was never gonna work for the training she needed.” He stops to swallow hard, like he’s building up the nerve to say what’s got to be said. “Matthew was always looking for reasons to put her down like a dog. Any little thing and he’d jump on that idea. He reported to Inanna. Him and I. But no one else did. Not Subjack or Carolinia, not James or Dale. Only Matthew and I had that pleasure. And the rules were very clear. We were to prepare her for this order. This one final order that would come from someone other than us.”

  He stops to look at me harshly for a moment, maybe weighing all the times he’s resented me for being the one to hand her the final punishment for doing what she’s told.

  “But Junco fought us at every opportunity.” He laughs a little now and so do I, cause I can just picture it. “She fucking rebelled like that was her only purpose in life, ya know?”

  I nod out a yes.

  “And the no-talking shit was just the beginning. She could talk. Hell, once I made her admit it when she was three, she never stopped talking. But she never wanted to give us what we wanted. She always wanted to do the opposite. If I said wake up early, she’d wake up late on purpose. So finally we just started telling her to do the opposite.” We laugh again, this time a little longer. “You have to eat that dinner, Junco. She had these medical tests all summer when she was seven. They required her to fast, but if we said she couldn’t eat until tomorrow she’d find a way to sneak some food and ruin everything. So I’d tell her to eat that damn dinner. And she’d refuse. Problem solved. Right?”

  He’s looking at me with a weird expression. Almost pleading with me to agree. “Gideon, as much as I can appreciate the cuteness of a defiant baby Junco…” It’s my turn to stop and smile, picturing her with HOUSE. “I mean, I can, really, really can appreciate that. And I find her almost… adorable in a psychotic killer kind of way. But I can’t afford for her to play games this time. I need her to follow yer order, so tell me, because if you don’t think she’s gonna do it, we need to know this before I stand in front of the being who technically owns this planet, and defy him in a very big way.”

  He sighs. “I know, but here’s the thing, Tier. I don’t control her any more than you do. I will give the order you tell me to, and I will do my damnedest to make sure she chooses to follow it, but there’s just no guarantees with this girl.”

  I glare at him, not in anger, but determination. “Gideon, I need a guarantee. Ya understand? I’m putting myself up there, but if Junco won’t do her job then I can’t do mine. We’re twined in this way, in our destinies. We depend one on the other to complete them. And if she refuses, then my job won’t get done, the Earth will be overridden with Angels, and one particularly nasty man named Aesin will kill every sentient being on this planet. So can you make her follow yer order even if she wants to refuse?”

  “No,” he says with no emotion. “I can’t make her, but I’ll use every bit of power and pull I have over her to try my best.”

  I huff out some air and turn away.

  Junco is staring at me from her doorway.

  “You were gonna leave me, weren’t you? And not say goodbye.”

  “Junco, I love ya, darlin’, but this is not about us.”

  She nods her head but stays silent. A quiet Junco is almost worse than an irate and angry one.

  “So when Gideon tells you to complete the mission, no questions—”

  “Just be a good little soldier, right?” she quips before I can finish. “Just say yes, sir and more please?”

  “Yes. Yes, that’s what I need you to do, Junco. How much more clear can I make it?”

  She shrugs this off like it’s nothing. “I’m not gonna do it.”

  “You will.”

  “I won’t.”

  “Junco, I swear to God—”

  “There is no God, so you can swear to anything you want. I do not care. I quit.”

  “Ya don’t quit! This is a military fucking mission and you are still my warrior! You will follow the order and you will—”


  I grab her by the shirt and shake her. Gideon puts an arm between Junco and I, and then pulls her away. “Enough of that, Tier.”

  “Junco, you will obey!”

  “I won’t.”

  “Then you’ll kill me, is that what you want? Ta kill me? Ya want to be the one who finishes me off? Because if you refuse, Junco, that’s what’ll happen. OK? You understanding this, princess?”

  She glares at me for the insult but I wait her out.

  “You’re lying, I can tell. I won’t kill you if I refuse.”

  “Ya will, darlin’. Ya will. I’ll die and it will be all yer fault.”

  Annun walks up with the weapon and Junco folds her arms across her chest, defiant. I take the
weapon and hand it to Junco. It’s longer than she is tall, but she takes it with a look of awe on her eyes. “What’s this?”

  “That’s your sniper rifle, darlin’. It holds a SEAR knife. Yours and yours only. You load it, you shoot the target, you save the world. You refuse, we all die. And I’ll be the first, because I’ll be the one up there in Peaks standing for Lucan.”

  I turn to Gideon, so angry I’m shaking. “You wait forty-five minutes, then ya take her to Peaks.” I look over at Junco. “To the hotel you and HOUSE stayed in before Rikan found ya and brought ya back to the Subjack Mountain. You remember?” She nods, her eyes trained on mine. I can see the soldier in her coming through, even though she doesn’t want it to. “Ya stay on the roof, set up the rifle—it’s a simple bolt-action, just like the ones ya used in sniper school, Junco. The SEAR is the same size as the rounds used for yer .50 caliber. Understand?”

  She never takes her eyes off me, and they are still defiant. But she swallows down her rebellion and nods.

  “You load it, you aim, you shoot, you save the world. It’s that simple.”

  She does not believe me, but she keeps quiet and I guess that’s the best I can hope for at the moment.

  “Gideon, you have thirty minutes to get her one hundred percent compliant and I’ll send Annun to the hotel roof with the target. I’m leaving now. Annun, get the demon Iliana and meet me in Peaks in ten minutes.” I stop to stare Junco in the eyes and she looks a little panicked. “I’m leaving,” I repeat. “And you better get on board, Junco. You exist for this moment in time. Everything you’ve ever done is tied up in this last command. So when yer handler here tells ya, you will complete the mission, soldier. You will do yer job or my death, my blood, my torture and pain will all be on yer hands. And you’ll have to spend eternity with that fact. That you could’ve saved me but ya didn’t.”

  I walk away before she sees the lie behind my words. Because I need her to believe this more than anything. I need her to believe that what she’ll do will save me, not condemn me to hell. I stride into the big room, leaving Gid and Juncs to sort it out, and make my way over to Ashur and Selia who are sitting at a table. I pull Selia to her feet and look at Ashur. “I’m taking Selia. Lucan gave her to Caleb as a gift. I’m sorry, brother, but you’ll thank me later.”

  And then I port away, stealing his woman and setting off a chain of events that will count down the minutes until total annihilation.

  Chapter Thirty-Five—LUCAN

  Outer Solar System High Order Ship

  The Reliving was both a blessing and a curse. I had not specifically thought about Amelia since I made her replacement. My wife, my Amelia who is now a captured soul with Crage, is not the Amelia I fell in love with. I reminded myself of this fact over and over again relentlessly for more than a thousand years after Gib helped me create the AI that would run our capital habitat after Sera and I had a falling out.

  Sera was the first AI after the punishment cycle started. She was not hard to make, she had no mold to follow. She is simply Sera. But she is vengeful and selfish and was never going to calm the longing I had for the woman I watched die that day. That soul who was captured by Aesin and hidden from me. Hidden on Earth, so I’d go mad looking for her. Hidden within my grasp, almost close enough to feel. Almost.

  Because I can’t stay on Earth for any length of time. My body reverts to the infected version of itself. My bat wings burst forth and everything about me changes. My calm demeanor is pushed away. I can’t stay very long at all, not without leaving to let the effects wear off for a while. High Order beings are special. But not in a good way. High Order beings are always part demon. We take a lot of planning and care to bring to maturity and even more to be productive members of society. That’s why there are so few of us.

  As a young man, I was determined to never be like my father. I’d never earn a punishment cycle to cool down and think about my actions. It embarrassed me that he was so out of control.

  Not all High Order beings are the same. Most are much less violent than the strain I come from. Like Gib. He’s practically docile. Not a violent bone in him. Rache is somewhere in between. He has his moments, but he’s not vindictive or sneaky.

  Inanna is both vindictive, sneaky, and violent. But she can be rational when she chooses.

  Aesin is just insane.

  All these years I’ve depended on the actions of others. On the eyes of others. On the loyalty of others. I bred loyalty. And Tier is my greatest accomplishment. But he still has free will. And if he refuses to go through with his job, I would not be angry. In fact, I’d probably be relieved. My plans for Tier are not guaranteed. I’ve seen the end many ways, but only one will make it all worthwhile.

  I suspected Junco was not who she said in the beginning, but it took me until after Deliverance to accept it. It was the Resurrection that lifted all doubts.

  Junco is my first Amelia.

  Her soul called to me the minute I saw her floating in the morph tank on the ship. Her auburn hair swaying, her golden wings almost fully formed. But there was no way. No possible way it could be that easy.

  And it’s not.

  Because she is in love with my son.

  But that’s not the impossible part, because I am in love with my Amelia, the one I created, the one I’ve shared my life with. So, no. I’m not jealous of Tier and his bond with Junco. The impossible part, the cruelest joke in nature, is that I made Tier to be my weapon and Aesin took Amelia’s soul so he could make her his soldier.

  I laugh a little and detect some murmurs around me. Not enough to bring me back from the pain or care what’s going on outside my own mind.

  If I had known, of course… I would not…

  My thought trail off. Because I would have. I would have still made all these choices. Perhaps they would’ve been harder, perhaps not. I might even have fallen in love with Junco myself, once I realized the soul within her was my first choice.

  But that’s why it’s called punishment. That’s why my Amelia is locked away in another universe right now. That’s why I take no chances. I have planned for this moment. I have pieced together the song and now I will play it on the piano, like Junco did that day in my living room. Like Inanna has done with the clones. Like Crage has done with Subjack and Carolinia.

  Junco has a father but he is not Subjack. He is not Aesin either. He is Crage. Just as Inanna is her mother. That’s the only way to create a High Order being. And that’s the only thing that saved this version of my Amelia’s captured soul. The High Order genetics made it possible to train her.

  But we’ve made so, so many mistakes.

  And Sera, Inanna, Crage, and I have not trusted each other for a very long time. Instead of working together we worked apart. Afraid that when Aesin returned he would see through us. See our plans. So the lies gushed forth like raging rivers. Lies about everything. Who belongs to which plan. I’m not sure we even know at this moment which of our plans will succeed. Or if all are necessary to complete this one last act of vengeance.

  Rikan’s voice comes to me like a faraway echo.


  I pull my thoughts away from Rikan. He will do what he will do. His part in all this is like sugar on a cookie. Just decoration, but still desirable.

  They pull my body up and set me in a chair. I know this, I can feel the cold stone beneath my legs. I can hear the audience, the officiator, the judge. They retell my crimes but I don’t even bless them by opening my eyes.

  I know my crimes, I do not have to be told.

  They recite Gib’s crimes next. His are actually much more severe than my own. I authorized things, yes. But Gid is the engineer of the virus. He is the one who inserted it into the crops.

  Rache is next. My brother. We’ve been inseparable since we were small. Like Tier and Ashur. He is Justice, he presides over the festivals, he ultimately is the one who fed the virus to everyone that day I was incapacitated on the sacrificial platform.

  Oh, how th
ey feasted!

  The only ones missing are my complements, of course.

  Sera. They don’t even know she exists, but they will. Very soon.

  Inanna—the untouchable favorite. She must be made of fairy magic, to make them bow to her whims as she does.

  Crage. My uncle who stole the new realm, built a bridge to keep us out, and then proceeded to dictate this world as well as the next by holding the truth over my head.

  When did he figure out who Junco was?

  When did Inanna know? All this time? She knew I was harboring my first love. She took Junco’s wings? Why?

  There has to be a reason, but what it is, I have no idea. Just as she will have no idea of my reasons.

  More voices from the courtroom. A fight erupts and I recognize the voice of Aesin, protesting something.

  That can only be good news for me—and then the pain is gone. The restrictor releases from my spine and I slump down, fall to the side, actually, like an Aves warrior drunk off the drugs of a clutch mother.

  “Lucifer,” the officiator’s voice booms through the large courtroom. “Son of Aesin, grandson of the Great Ea—”

  Ea. I forgot about him. Where is that son of a bitch? He was never part of this plan. He might not even know this is happening.

  Chapter Thirty-Six—ASHUR

  The Stag

  “What’s going on?” Selia asks me. I can almost feel her apprehension from across the room, but when I grab her hand to lead her over to the couch, she’s shaking. Junco is throwing a fit, and honestly, I can’t blame her. What are they doing with that child? I get that Tessen and Tier want to give Junco the chance to have her say, but Carolinia is way too enthusiastic about having a new demon in the house.

  “Let’s just sit down and—”

  Junco is in full freak-out mode over by the demon cage. She lunges for Tier, then Carolinia gets too close and Junco opens her chest with her knives. I run over to Linny and instinctively start to heal her. Junco is spinning again. This time she hooks Gideon in the face and then Tessen gets to close and she takes her out with a slap to the throat that might’ve broken her windpipe. Annun and the Fledge team rush over to help her.


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