I am not junco omnibus b.., p.62

I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six, page 62

 

I Am Not Junco Omnibus: Books Four – Six
 



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  Gid shrugs. “Who the fuck knows what those assholes are doing.”

  “Tier just stole Selia, Gideon! You don’t even care?”

  “Juncs, this is his day, all right? Today is Tier’s day. So whatever he’s doing, just go along.”

  “Since fucking when are you Mr. Go-Along?”

  He grabs my arm and drags me back out in the big room and stops in front of the screen. “Look,” he says. “The fucking Angels are here, Junco. They’re destroying entire cities. No one has a body count because no one can get close enough to tally shit up without getting killed. We’ve got millions of refugee avians huddled in the center of the United Republics sucking up resources that no one really has, we’ve got all those fucking countries wiped out from Tier’s Halo initiation, the Amazon is still burning from Irin’s Pillar, Madagascar is gone, Junco. Gone. Along with Kodiak Island and the entire nation of Japan. The Angels are in New Peaks as we speak and your friend…”

  I stop hearing him because I see what he’s gonna say next.

  It’s Lucan on the screen now. Walking up the center mall at New Peaks that leads to the fountain. “He’s back.”

  “He’s back, which means it’s begun.”

  I look out at my friends. Tessen is still in her bloody uniform, my mother’s shirt still slashed. “I’m sorry, you guys.” They just stare at me, then the screen. John Hando comes up and gives me a squeeze. “What are you doing here, John? Your family needs you.”

  “I’m here for you, Junco. I’m here for you. We’re all here for you.”

  I look around at all their faces. My Siblings are huddled on a couch on the far side of the room, unwilling to separate from each other. Ryse is with them. I catch Annun porting away with my clone/Deb, but the Fledge team are still here, in their own huddle over near the kitchen entrance. My mom and dad are inside the nursery, paying attention to the baby.

  The baby.

  “Later, Junco. If we win you can make that decision, but right now we have to get to the hotel.”

  “I’m never gonna see you guys again and I’m sorry.” I say it to the entire room. All of them. “I’m sorry.”

  “Just do your job, Junco,” Ryse calls out from across the room. “That’s all ya gotta do. Follow orders.” He gets up and leaves Esta with a desperate look on her face, and walks over to me. “Don’t fight us this time, Juncs. We need you to do what you’re told.”

  “But what is the order, Ryse? And if it’s the right thing to do, then why does everyone doubt that I’ll do it?”

  “I dunno. Only two people know what that final order is, and that’s Tier and Lucan.”

  “I’m gonna have to kill Lucan, aren’t I? I’m gonna have to choose Earth. I won’t do it. I’m not gonna end him, Gideon.” I look out at Ryse, then the Fledge team, and finally Arel. “I’m not gonna kill Lucan. I won’t.”

  “Even if it’ll save everyone else, Junco?” I pivot at my father’s voice. “Even if that single act of annihilation will save billions of avians and humans alike? You’d take the side of this one man and kill everyone?”

  “It makes no sense!” I protest. “None of this makes sense. Why does this High Order think they can just come here and cause all this death?”

  “Because, Junco”—it’s Esta’s turn to talk now—“we do not own this planet. Lucan doesn’t own this planet. This planet, as hard as it is to believe, belongs to someone. And we’re trespassing.”

  I look to Ryse and he’s nodding. “It’s true, Junco. As far as he’s concerned, he’s got every legal right to kill everyone here. Lucan and Gib made the human race. Cloned the native people here on this planet thousands of years ago. Built this entire civilization using illegal genetics, then created a virus that would corrupt the genome of the High Order beings, the Angels, the Archers, and the Avians. Lucan and Gib drove them from Earth—making them return home to find a cure. Lucan and Gib cast themselves out from avian society and they’ve spent the last several thousand years trying to fix the genetic defects and build an army so that when the High Order came back, they could fight.”

  “But no one’s fighting!” Moju protests as he comes towards us. “We’re just sitting the fuck around doing nothing!”

  “There’s only one warrior in this fight, Moju.” Ryse looks at my brother with total sadness. “Just one warrior required to make it end.”

  “Tier,” I say softly.

  “No, Junco,” Arel says as he puts a hand on my shoulder. “You.” I shake my head but Arel persists. He points to my father. “He trained you.” Arel points to himself. “And we took you and changed you. Lucan should not have had any of the Seven in his possession, but it was sort of a fluke. Isten wanted you, we all thought you’d make a good nine, it started out so innocent. We thought Iliana was the Seven for a long time. And she’s still part of this, right? Annun just took her to New Peaks because she’s got a part to play. But things got… complicated. Lucan likes you.” He says it like it’s not possible. “I mean, he’s like… obsessed with you. He gifted you, he rescued you. And I—” He looks over to Ryse who nods. “We have no idea why. Not that we don’t love ya, Juncs. We do. But something is so fucking off with this plan. And none of us have enough information to figure out what it is.”

  He stares hard at me and then takes my hand.

  “But Junco, Tier does know. Lucan does know. And both of these men have given you orders over the past few weeks. You need to do what they say otherwise they—” He points to the carnage on the screen. “They will win. So no matter what that order is, if it’s to kill Lucan with that monster of a gun you got there, then just do it. He’s eternal, Junco. He’ll survive. Somehow, some way. He’ll be back. So just fucking do it.”

  “Snowbird,” Gid says next to me. “We gotta go.”

  I want to hug them all. I want to tell them what they mean to me. But I can’t. I just can’t make myself accept the fact that this is really the end. But Gideon can because he taps my shoulder and we exit the timeshift on top of the luxury hotel that HOUSE and I stayed in a few weeks ago.

  How is it possible that only a few weeks have passed since I was rescued from Inanna’s clutches by Lucan?

  I have no understanding of time right now. I’m so fucked up with the time, it’s not funny.

  Gideon pushes me to my knees and we crawl over to the edge of the building and peer over the side. They stand in a semi-circle far down at the end of the mall. Lucan is off to the side. I dial in the scope sight and watch his lips move. His eyes dart around to the various men and then, as if he knows, they find me. It’s the briefest of seconds, almost undetectable as he sweeps his gaze from man to Angel to the various warriors.

  But I feel him. No matter what he does, I can’t help myself, I know that he is good. I feel it.

  “I don’t want to kill Lucan, Gideon.”

  “Shhh. You’re not even sure that’s the order, so knock it off. And if it is—” He stops to look harshly at me. “You’ll do what you’re told.”

  “I just want to go back to Amelia to my 039 room and stare out at the traffic from the window seat,” I say, ignoring him. I wonder if I can make my own virtual in my head? Why do I always get stuck on that stupid fucking dock?

  “—listening?”

  “What?”

  “Junco, I swear to God—”

  But I stop listening again because Lucan’s eyes sweep past me one more time. “He’s sorta beautiful, don’t you think? Even with his—”

  “—I will kick your—”

  “—bat wings and fangs.”

  “—ass.”

  I sigh and look over at my best friend. He’s pissed off. But I don’t care. “I’m not gonna shoot Lucan. There, that’s the end of it.” I roll over on my back so I can stare up at the sky. “That Halo thing is like directly overhead. Do you see that, Gideon?”

  For some reason this jolts him out of his anger and he turns on his back too. We stare at it for a few seconds. “You think it’s gonna shoot us or somet
hing?” He’s back to normal Gid now. His anger at my refusal to shoot Lucan is forgotten, because above us is a giant silver ring around the planet that, according to every-fucking-one important, is the key to winning.

  “Yeah, I imagine it will, don’t you?” I look over at him and he’s sad. I can feel it so acutely, it makes my chest swell with that broken-heart pain.

  “It’s gotta do something. They said it’s a shield.”

  “Yeah, but Sera said it can do much more than that. She said it’s a weapon.”

  “But what is a weapon, really?”

  “I dunno. Tier is supposed to be Lucan’s weapon. But if I’m the one doing the shooting, and I’m on Lucan’s side, then how can Tier be the weapon?”

  A far-off roar pulls us back to reality, but before I can turn back onto my stomach Gid grabs my arm. “I love you, Juncs. I do,” he says, almost pleading. “You’re my best friend. I trust you, Junco, above all others. No matter what happens. I trust you. So please, Snowbird. When I give the order, please just do it.”

  I stare at him as the roaring down below continues, like there’s a fight happening. But I cancel out all that noise for a moment and find something else to take its place.

  Gid’s heartbeat.

  It’s so strong for a second I think his heart might burst from his chest.

  “I’ll try, Gideon, I swear I will. But I’m just not sure I can kill Lucan. Even if he’s not dead for real, I don’t know that I can do it.”

  He swallows hard and nods. “Then it’s my job to make you do it, Juncs.”

  The roar is even louder now, mixed in with demon screams. We both roll on our bellies to see.

  “Annun’s here,” Gid says.

  “And Iliana. And I’m guessing there’s no Deb in there to calm her down by the looks of it.”

  “Yeah, and your real fucking Siblings are coming down the mountain, look!”

  I dial up my scope sight and find a cloud of debris and dust above the largest red rock near the amphitheater.

  “Those… they… I’m… one of them?” Holy shit. I am a fucking demon. That’s what I look like when I’m in my angry form and I am so much uglier than Lucan when he’s a demon, it’s not funny.

  Gid grabs my arm again and shakes me until I look at him. “You’re not one of them, Junco. You’re not. I raised you from a baby and I know you’re not a demon. You’re human. I made you human.”

  “Yeah, but for two years, Inanna—”

  A new wave of roaring stops my words and I take my scope back to the fountain down the mall.

  “Tier,” I breathe. “Tier’s here.”

  “And this is the beginning of the end, Junco. So please, just do what I tell you, OK?”

  I stare at Tier down there, he’s circling the one who looks like the Angel in the Book he had in his nightstand drawer back on the ship. Tier is already looking pretty fucking demonic, he’s definitely not the Tier I just saw like half an hour ago. But he surprises me and the two adversaries level up another demon morph at the same time. My eyes are glued to the standoff. There is no actual fight, but they continue to circle.

  “Junco,” Annun says, suddenly lying down next to me. “You ready?”

  I stare past him and find Gid’s apprehensive face. He nods to me.

  “OK, I’m ready. Tell me what the target is.”

  Annun’s blank look tells me he’s gone into his vision screen and then he snaps out of it. “I sent it to Gideon. He’ll tell you. I’m gonna go take Hand home and wait it out with his pretty sister Esma.”

  And then he’s gone and I have what might be my last laugh ever. “Fucking Annun.” I chuckle and turn to look at Gideon.

  He’s white. Just all color gone from his face.

  “Who?” I demand. “Who is it?”

  He shakes his head.

  “Dammit, Gideon, tell me!”

  He stares me straight in the eye. He’s got no choice, not really. This is it. I gotta know and we’re out of time. He opens his mouth, the words almost there. Then he takes a deep breath and spits it out. “It’s… Lucan.”

  My shoulders drop and my heart sinks. I knew it. I told Lucan this way back in the Fledge Church, after I killed Isec. I told him they’d ask me to kill him. I knew it.

  Chapter Thirty-Nine—TIER

  Peak City

  I watch from the tallest red rock that overlooks the mall of New Peaks. I’ve got a clear show of the fountain and it surprises me that I’m not detected immediately.

  Arrogance gets you nowhere, even if yer an eternal being with unjust righteousness on yer side. Aesin owns this planet. Fine. I’ll give him that technicality. But he’s no steward, and the very idea that High Order Justice puts up with what he does, what he did… well, fuck them. Fuck. Them. This is our planet now.

  Movement down the mall catches my eye so I scan and pick up Junco and Gideon. I sigh.

  What will she do? What will she think?

  I watch them as they crawl across the flat roof. They seem fine so far, but Annun hasn’t delivered the news yet. Junco positions the rifle and then I can tell she’s arguing with Gideon.

  He better be able to control her.

  They drop down behind the little lip so I can’t see them anymore, but I send out a feeler and catch her mood.

  It’s… neutral. Almost contemplative. I realize she’s thinking about the Halo and I look up. It’s beautiful. Deadly, but beautiful. It sparkles a bright silver as it catches the sunlight.

  Lucan’s feelings invade my thoughts and I stop my skygazing to find him down below. How many pawns do we have in play? How many irons in the fire, as they say here on Earth?

  Dozens. It’s a fucking miracle we even got here. But really, it’s just Junco and me. We’re the only ones who matter in the end. Everyone else is a diversion.

  Annun appears near the fountain with Iliana. She’s calm for a fraction and then all hell breaks loose as Deb leaves her body and probably inserts herself into the empty AI facility that HOUSE vacated when I took her from New Peaks a few days ago. The cliff behind me begins to crumble and I port away just before the six demon Siblings from the Polar Friendly thunder down the mountain. I end up on the miniature version of the red rocks in the fountain.

  The screaming demons are almost overwhelming, but I’ve got no time to worry about it because Angels attack instantaneously. I port. They follow in the wake I leave behind. I catch about a dozen of them, then speed up time so fast they appear to be still. I cut their wings off, pair by pair, and then hold them by the flight feathers. Like a trophy.

  I exit the time tunnel and toss the feathers on the ground like so much dirty laundry. I smile at the one they call Aesin, then reenter my time shift and take out the Six Siblings and grab Iliana, writhing and screeching, her teeth gnashing as she tries to bite me.

  My knives burst forth from my hands and I cut Iliana’s arms off at the elbow, tossing those limbs into the growing pile. “You want to stack bodies?” I ask Aesin. “Killing is yer thing? Well, killing is my thing, too, Aesin.”

  He bares his teeth at me, and we circle each other. Fangs and claws out, eyes red like fire, and hate and anger coming off us like steam.

  “Brother!” Rikan says from the other end of the fountain. “Brother! Hold up, hold up, Tier.”

  My jaw grinds and it takes all my power not to let my energy escape as heat from my eyes, but even as Rikan approaches, Aesin never leaves my sight.

  “Aesin, this is the mighty Tier!” Rikan says it sarcastically and the fact that I’m offended almost has me laughing. “I told you I could deliver him. I told you he’d come fight for his precious father.”

  “Aye, the mighty Tier. The one who will end you,” I call back.

  Aesin laughs and this is a good sign. “You? I know all your secrets, Angel, all of them. I see far, I see wide, and I have your brother here to tell me what you’re doing. He has sold you out, Raubtier. You think you can hide secrets from me?” He laughs again. “Your weapon above will
not work. All the Pillars were already used, son, thousands of years ago to wipe the planet clean after we left. They can do nothing but shield the planet from a space attack now.”

  “So says you, Grandfather.”

  His eyebrows shoot up and the look of surprise might even be real. “I think not, Beast!”

  I shrug. “Close enough, though, right? I’m his one true son.” I nod my head at Lucan. “Not the throwaway yer keeping safe.” I nod to Rikan this time.

  “I know how you were made. Illegal genetics, illegal Archer gifts, and yet… you have wings, son. How does that happen?”

  “We cheat,” I say with no emotion at all. “We lie, just like all of you. But unlike you, we’re really, really fucking good at it and we’re about to cheat you the fuck out of this planet and claim it for ourselves.”

  Inanna appears next to Aesin and puts a hand on his shoulder. “Mmmmmm, it’s been a very, very long time, my Master.”

  Aesin bellows out a laugh at her charm. “Master? Since when, Inanna?”

  But she’s not even paying attention, she’s circling Lucan as he stands quietly in his locked position just off to my right. “The great Lucifer finally gets what he deserves,” she says. “That girl, Aesin”—she points to Iliana—“that’s not the Seven.”

  “I should hope not,” Aesin says. “And she was a pathetic substitute. I can feel my Seven, Inanna. She is close by. You have her set up to take the shot?”

  I steal a look at Lucan, but his face is stoic.

  “She’s ready, Aesin. But first, my promise. I have delivered the girl, she will shoot the SEAR knife using a weapon made by Lucan’s best team, and that one shot will put an end to it. We’ve lied to her so often, she has no idea who’s telling the truth.” Inanna looks over at me. “He doesn’t either and neither do—”

  She stops as her gaze sweeps around the circus and takes in the players. Her brows knit together for a moment as she realizes what’s just happened.

 

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