I am not junco omnibus b.., p.61

I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six, page 61

 

I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six
 



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  Junco is still now, but her rage comes out as red light.

  Linny coughs and Subjack is pleading softly for me to do something. I am doing something, but my attention is focused on Junco. I don’t need to look at Linny to heal her, but anyone who takes their eye off a pissed-off Junco is just plain stupid. And this man raised her, so I’m not sure how he can’t be worried.

  The whole room is chaos with people rushing around, but oddly enough, Junco’s words are loud and clear above the din. Selia’s hand rests on my shoulder as a show of support and I can feel her fear again. Junco is pleading with Moju to let her kill the baby, Moju looks like he’d rather fight Angels than listen to the bullshit Junco is spewing right now.

  And then Juncs is at the cage door. Gideon tries to stop her but that little sneak disappears, then the baby, then Tier. And then we’re all staring at an open door and a very confused guard.

  “What happened?” Selia asks.

  “Well.” I let out a long breath of air. “I suppose Junco understands how to stop time now. And she just stole the baby and Tier went after her.” I look down at Linny. Her eyes are open and she looks confused from the painkillers she’s absorbed from my wings. “You OK?”

  “What happened?” she asks, shaking her head a little.

  “Your daughter opened your chest with her claws. That’s what.” I look up at Subjack and shake my head. “Look, I get it, you guys pulled off the impossible with Junco, but I’m on her side with this baby stuff. Kill that thing. Junco is barely in control and she’s had all of us to keep her sane.”

  “And that baby will have all of us and Junco.”

  “You’re wrong, Subjack. In about an hour most of us will be dead.”

  “Ashur, please, stop talking like that!” Esta is clinging to Ryse and he’s pissed off that I’m so negative, but hey, I’m a realist.

  “Ashur,” Ryse growls, “you have no more idea what’s gonna happen than the rest of us, so shut your fucking mouth. If you have a death wish, go fulfill it somewhere else.”

  I stand up and pull Linny with me, then hand her off to Subjack. Tessen is back with us as well. Arel healed her while I was busy with Linny and Merk is helping her to her feet. Gideon is staring at me, like he can tell I have something to say.

  And I do. But I’m gonna say it to Ryse. I turn to him, his rage at me seeping out of his body like sweat. “I do know, Ryse. I know exactly what’s gonna happen. Tier’s gonna go to New Peaks. Lucan is gonna be brought there in custody. Aesin makes his triumphant return to Earth, Inanna is gonna reveal she’s been working with Aesin this whole time, and then Junco’s gonna fuck it all up and kill the wrong person. We’re gonna resort to using the Halo as a weapon and we’ve all known from the very beginning that will never work. So we all lose. Lucan gets dissipated, Inanna goes home, Aesin takes over Earth, and Junco gets to watch Tier’s limbs be pulled apart by the Angels.”

  I stop because the whole place is deathly silent. Like they’ve never heard any of this before.

  Hell, maybe they haven’t. Lucan’s been telling me this shit since I was a fucking kid. I’ve heard it so many times it’s not even real. Sans the part about Junco, she was just called the Seven. But what part Ryse or Arel play, I have no idea. Their names never even come up for the end game.

  “You’re lying,” Ryse spits.

  I laugh. “Lying? Fuck, I wish I was lying. This scenario came straight from Lucan. The chances of Junco actually fulfilling her part as planned by Lucan are almost nil.”

  “So let’s fight them,” Pike says.

  “Yeah,” Moju joins in. “Why the fuck are we out here in the middle of nowhere then?” He points to the screen on the wall. It’s been on silent since we turned it on, but you don’t need sound to see what’s happening out there beyond the Stag. There are stacks of bodies, and I do mean that literally. Stacks. In every major city on the planet. Aesin’s Angels like to pile them up for some reason, play a little King of the Mountain with the dead. Why, I have no idea. But the Book tells of all the ways in which Aesin likes to torture. It was written by Lucan himself, thousands of years ago—to record and remember the horrors this Being is capable of. The contents have been drilled into every Aves warrior from birth.

  But only Arel, Ryse, and I are warriors. Real warriors, that is.

  “Because Moju, we cannot fight them. It’s impossible. They hold dominion over Earth. This is not our planet, it’s…”

  And just like it was planned, Aesin appears on screen. His fangs out, his knives slashing through people in New Peaks as he makes his way down to the fountain. Lucan is behind him, restrained by a device clamped to his spine. He walks alone though, so it must be turned off or tuned down. Just a threat then. I turn back to the expectant clan around me. “His. This planet belongs to him and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

  “I don’t understand, Ashur. Then what are we—”

  The door opens with a creak that scares the shit out of all of us and Tier walks through carrying his two sleeping demons. His gaze tracks across our group and then it rests on me.

  I smile at him because even though he’ll be dead soon, he looks fulfilled. Like holding those two psychotic girls is his life dream realized.

  “Annun,” Tier says. “Get the weapon.” Annun disappears. “Ashur, I’ll talk to Gideon and then you. Let’s get this moving.”

  “I’ll be here,” I say, smiling at him. He’s sad, I can feel it.

  He hands the baby off to Linny and then Gideon walks down the hallway to the bedrooms with Junco still in Tier’s arms.

  “Now what?” Selia asks.

  I lead her over to the table by the hand and pull her into my lap as I sit. “We wait, Sel. That’s all there’s left to do.”

  “Well, can’t we do something? Anything? We just have to sit here and wait for the world to end?”

  I hug her tight and notice everyone is a little more interested in spending what time we have left with each other. Moju has his Siblings with him, except for Esta, who is over in the corner by a pinball machine crying to Ryse. Arel is fussing over Tessen and the Fledge team. Linny and Subjack are back in the nursery with the baby, talking to Wyrd about the gas mixture necessary to keep her unconscious.

  I can hear Junco down the hallway, so she must be awake, and then Annun appears with a huge sniper rifle. Junco lost hers back in the Runout tunnels, but we had a bunch of them made. Isten was pretty sure Juncs could still snipe with the best of them using our weapons, but why chance it? If the existence of an entire planet rests on the accuracy of one shot to the chest by this girl, why risk it?

  We copied her design. We’ve given her everything she needs to complete this mission. Everything. She’s been trained since birth, she’s been coaxed into a precarious sanity, she’s been morphed up to High Order Archer status. She’s as ready as she’ll ever be.

  It can go either way, I guess. She could surprise us. She told me a long time ago, while I was thinking about dating her and I was gonna take her out to dinner on Amelia, that she might like to be a mother instead of a soldier. She just wanted to get the choice.

  Little did she know she’d get that choice.

  Today is her day. Because today is the day she gets to choose.

  Is she a soldier?

  The whole world sure the fuck hopes so.

  Because if she chooses to be a mother today, we all die.

  Tier and Junco are arguing in the hallway now and then he walks back into the big room and heads straight to Sel and pulls her to her feet, looking me straight in the eye as he does it. “I’m taking Selia. Lucan gave her to Caleb as a gift. I’m sorry, brother, but you’ll thank me later.”

  And then he disappears with my fucking girl.

  But it’s what he leaves behind that jolts me out of my stupor.

  His wake.

  Tier never leaves a wake. Ever.

  I look over to Arel and he sees it too. “Better jump in, brother,” he says casually. “There’s only one
reason for that to be there and that’s so you can follow.”

  Chapter Thirty-Seven—ASHUR

  I dive into the displaced waves head first and let Tier’s leftover timeshift pull me. I exit the shift a few seconds later inside what looks to be a house. Tier is holding Selia by the arm and Caleb is walking towards him. It takes me a few seconds to realize where I actually am. Junco’s house.

  “What the fuck is going on?”

  All three sets of eyes turn to look at me. Selia looks scared, Caleb looks… uneasy, and Tier turns and smiles so I’m the only one who sees it.

  And that’s all the answer I need.

  Caleb grabs hold of Selia and pulls her to him. She struggles but Tier growls, “Hold still, Selia, that’s an order.”

  “What? I’m property now? You think I’m gonna hold still because you tell me to? Fuck you!”

  “I think,” Tier says in a voice that means this is not the time for questions, “you will let Ashur and I handle this. So shut yer mouth.”

  Caleb pushes Selia behind him and shakes his head. “What’s this then? You two are here for what—you’re going to go back on the deal Lucan forged? The one you and I forged just yesterday? I find that hard to believe, seeing as you’re determined to finish this the way Lucan wants it to go.”

  I’m totally in the dark here so I just shut the fuck up with Selia. Obviously this is Tier’s plot.

  Tier stalks Caleb in a circle, making him pivot to keep from turning his back to him. Turning your back on Tier is never a good idea, but turning your back on Tier when he’s hunting, now that’s just stupid. “Our deal is still good, Caleb. I traded my passage across the Bridge so another could take my place.”

  Caleb looks at me and I get a bad feeling about this.

  “But the deal has already been brokered. I already said the words the last time we were together, brother. I already gave my passage to you. Now all that’s left is to end yer life here in this world so you can cross that Bridge and be granted the salvation you so desperately want.”

  Caleb starts shaking his head before Tier is even halfway finished talking. “Wrong. Wrong. That’s not the deal we struck and besides, I’m not interested in crossing that Bridge.”

  “No?” Tier asks as he continues to circle. Caleb has to pivot with him and now he’s got his back to me. His gaze shifts between Tier and I, not quite sure what’s going on.

  I’m not sure either, so I remain still.

  “Yer not interested in crossing? Or you can’t cross if we kill ya even if you’ve got my gift? Because the way I see it, the fucking Bridge is closed, brother.” He snarls out that word, like it disgusts him to no end. “If I had the gift my soul would cross how, exactly? How would I be rewarded with my gift after I finish the job in Peaks? Tell me how I could cross if the Bridge is closed, Caleb? And maybe I’ll let you live.”

  “Let me live?” Caleb laughs. “You’re mistaken if you think you can kill me, Raubtier. I have immunity.”

  Tier laughs. “Ya think? Is that what ya think?” He laughs again. “Did ya not hear my words? The Bridge is closed, brother. Yer almighty father is trapped beyond. Did ya really think I’d give ya my brother’s lover? Really?”

  Selia laughs and we all turn to look at her. “I never did,” she says casually. She looks each one of us in the eye, then rests her gaze on Tier.

  “I never did either,” I say.

  Tier grins at this. “I never would, Ashur. In fact, since Selia has already been marked for eternal salvation and I’m a dead man walking, I figured I’d broker a deal with our other half here and give my gift to you.” He stops to look at me for a minute and I can feel his sadness for a brief second before he locks it down. “If it was possible, Ashur, I’d still do it. But it’s not, brother. They’ve cheated us again. I’ll die in Peaks, but I’ll never be saved. Because Caleb has already forfeited his access to the Bridge. I’d wander like all the ordinary souls that inhabit this realm. They were gonna cheat me.” He turns to look at Caleb. “Weren’t ya?”

  “Tier,” Caleb starts. But Tier flies through the air and slams into Caleb. They both go crashing backwards until Caleb is smashed against the far wall. A loud groan escapes his mouth before he can put together any sort of defense, and Tier takes advantage of this brief moment of superiority and swipes his metal claws across Caleb’s face, opening up both eyes and essentially blinding him.

  Tier backs off as Caleb’s eyes heal and he waits. I look over to find Selia and she’s huddled in a corner. “Stay there, Sel. Don’t move.” I stalk towards Tier and stand next to him as Caleb drags himself up off the floor.

  “Is this how it ends with us then?” he asks. “We kill each other?”

  “No, brother,” I answer this time. “We kill you.”

  Tier and I attack at once. Caleb tries to port, but Tier catches his wake and I catch Tier’s. We enter the shift and Tier stops time so Caleb can’t escape. I can’t make out what he says, it’s too distorted, but whatever it was, it’s not good for Caleb. Tier’s much faster in the shift than either Caleb or myself, so he grabs him and then exits the portal and I follow. We come out in the back yard, next to Junco’s barn. It confuses me for a moment, because this place should not be here, but that thought drifts away as Caleb morphs up to his demon self. Tier and I make our morphs as well, and I launch myself at Caleb, my wings flat against my back to make the movement as fast as possible. I barrel him over and we roll. He gets to his feet and I grab an ankle, making him fall down flat. Tier’s razor-edged talons step on Caleb’s back, pinning him to the ground as I hold on to his legs to keep him from kicking.

  “I wish you could take a message back to him, brother. I’ll have ya tell him that his days of controlling this side of things are over. But since ya can’t, I’ll just tell ya this. Yer days of living are now over. And since I’m an Angel of Death as well, I’m gonna collect yer soul when ya drift and give it to Ashur to hold for Lucan. And do ya know what we’re gonna do with it, brother?”

  Caleb offers up a cough that spits blood and Tier loses his patience and rakes his knives across the thick muscles of Caleb’s back. I get to my feet and wait this out. I’ve never heard this plan before.

  “Answer me, Caleb. What do ya think I’ll do with yer soul?”

  “The same thing we did with Amelia’s?” Caleb finally manages. “Load it into a demon and call her Junco?”

  Tier laughs but I’m stunned. “What?”

  “Junco,” Tier says slowly, trying to contain his anger, “is the soul of the Fallen Archer, Ashur. The women who was sacrificed for Lucan back before the Flight. Aesin collected her soul and supposedly hid her on Earth. The only place that Lucan couldn’t look because of the demon change would be permanent if he stayed too long.” He stops to look me in the eye for this part. “Even though they said the machines didn’t have souls, Aesin collected one from that first Amelia. But Lucan never did find that hidden soul. And Caleb’s Maker, his almighty Father, would like us ta believe that the soul of Amelia One was stuck inside the Seventh Sibling all this time, up in Polar Friendly ice until Inanna and Subjack forged a deal to nurture our little psycho snowbird.”

  Tier stops and picks Caleb up by the neck, squeezing his throat so hard that Caleb claws at him and chokes on his pleas. “But that’s not the truth, is it, brother? Junco wasn’t the first host you used for this soul. In fact, I’d guess that the Seventh Sibling was never up in that ice. Because Gideon and Iliana both came from that same seed stock, didn’t they? Ya forgot that part, I imagine. Kinda hard to explain how two more Sevens are still alive when Junco’s the only one supposed to exist.” Tier throws him on the ground about six feet away.

  “Listen,” Caleb says, gasping for breath.

  “Oh, we’re all fucking ears, Caleb. By all means, fucking explain.”

  “Junco was the first demon infused with that soul. Gideon and Iliana are not demons. Just genetic experiments that worked better than most. We’re on the same side, Tier. We’re al
l on the same side. We—”

  Tier flies into a rage. His talons actually rip an arm from Caleb’s body and it goes flying into the side of the white barn with a loud thud as it spatters blood. A gasp come out from behind me and I turn to find Selia with her hand over her mouth. “Stay there, Selia. Don’t move.”

  Caleb is writhing on the ground, wailing in pain. Tier makes him symmetrical by ripping off the other arm and I turn and walk away, grab Selia’s hand, and take her back inside to let Tier finish it off. “Go into Junco’s room, please.”

  I watch from the back door as Tier tears Caleb apart.

  Ever so slowly. Piece by piece.

  When he finally stops, satisfied that the small pieces of bloody flesh on the ground will not somehow mend and come back to life, he takes out a thin silver cylinder that was hanging on a chain around his neck. He slices Caleb’s head open with his claws, right through the cranium bone, then the brain tissue, until the head is cut in half. He yanks on the chain, breaking it, and then dips the silver device down into the gray matter where he collects the soul.

  I’m pretty sure this is not the sanctioned way of collecting souls, but it’s the Apocalypse, so I’m also pretty sure no one gives a fuck.

  Tier walks towards me, not even bothering to change from his demon morph. I wait for him to speak, unsure of how much he feels is necessary for me to know.

  “Ashur,” he says as he hands me the collected soul in a straw. “Give it to Lucan, he’s gonna need it to finish the deal. Stay safe, brother. Because without this soul, we’ll never win.” And then he disappears.

  Chapter Thirty-Eight—JUNCO

  The Stag

  “He just…” I’m fucking speechless so all I can do is stare at the empty space with an open mouth. Ashur jumps into the disturbance left behind from Tier’s port and then he’s gone too. “What the fuck just happened?”

 

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