Category Archives: MW:ADC

Chapter 71

Lilly

 

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned,” I said, “It’s been…” I thought back. “A month since my last confession.”

I took a deep breath. “I… I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just…” I sighed. “I’ve killed people. In cold blood. And–and I… I enjoyed it. What–what does that say about me? That–that I could ever… take pleasure in that.”

“Who did you kill?” came the reply from the other side of the confession booth. Jack‘s voice.

Jack! What the heck are you doing here?”

“Taking confessions. Figured I’d lend the priests a hand.” He paused. “The real question is what are you doing here? You’re a prophet, so you can just confess to God directly. You don’t need an intermediary.”

“Oh. Right.” I blushed. “Old habits, I guess.”

“Well, since you’re here… killing isn’t a sin. Not on its own, at least. Angels were originally created to be warriors. Killers. Answering prayers, spreading the Word of God… that’s all secondary. Tasks created to keep us busy when there was nobody to kill.”

I shook my head. “That’s wrong. We’re not meant to be killers. We’re meant to keep order in the world, to–”

“And we keep order by striking down the wicked. By showing people the power of God, so that they may bow down in worship.”

“We’re not ‘striking down the wicked’; we’re committing genocide, trying to wipe out an entire species! If anyone is wicked, it’s us. What have the ‘cubi done to deserve death? Why would God ever want us to kill them?”

Jack sighed. “We’re soldiers. We’re not meant to question orders. Just to obey. God has His reasons.”

“And that’s enough? We’re meant to wipe out an entire species on pure faith? How–how do we even know it’s really God telling us this? And not the Devil?”

A long pause.

A quick glance at Jack’s mind told me that he had his doubts, too.

Finally, he spoke. “Someone tried to stop the execution yesterday. Took control of people’s minds, made them drop their weapons. But God intervened. He cast out the intruder in an instant. That’s how we know that God is with us: because God won’t let us fail.”

“So what we’re doing is right, as long as we’re winning?”

“That’s… one way of looking at it.”

We both sighed.

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Chapter 70

Zack

 

<@Aiinacs> Zack: I did a bit of digging online. Looking into that warehouse.
<Zack> Any luck?
<@Aiinacs> Not much.
<@Aiinacs> Obviously they didn't post Twitter updates about their top secret research.
<Zack> Too bad.
<@Aiinacs> But I managed to piece some stuff together.
<@Aiinacs> Seems like things were fairly normal up until a few months ago, when they suddenly hired a bunch of researchers. Genetic engineers, magicians, biologists... I'd guess that's when they started running experiments on the symbiont.
<Zack> Any clue what they were doing with it?
<@Aiinacs> Nope.
<@Aiinacs> I'm looking into the company that runs the place now. I figure the research here might be part of something bigger.
<Zack> Good idea.
<Zack> While you're at it... There's someone else I'd like you to look into.
<@Aiinacs> Who?
<Zack> Luke's brother.
<@Aiinacs> He has a brother?
<Zack> Yeah. I met him last night, when he tied me to the bed and pretended he was going to rape me.
<@Aiinacs> I hope that was sarcasm.
<Zack> I wish.
<Zack> He's creepy. Likes to mess with people. And Luke says he's a god, too. With total omniscience.
<Zack> And it sounds like he stole the symbiont from the warehouse.
<@Aiinacs> Do you know his name?
<Zack> Lucifer.
<@Aiinacs> Interesting. I've heard that name before.
<Zack> Comes from a very well-known character in a really old book.
<@Aiinacs> No. Recently.
<@Aiinacs> He was the one who told Alex to unseal his power so he could save Lilly.
<@Aiinacs> I think it's safe to assume that was the same person. Unless there's another omniscient incubus mortal god named Lucifer.
<@Aiinacs> Which seems doubtful.
<Zack> I don't think it was a coincidence that Luke ended up at the Lab.
<@Aiinacs> Agreed.
<@Aiinacs> You think he's up to something?
<Zack> Luke?
Aiinacs nods.
<Zack> Maybe.
Zack sighs.
<Zack> I guess it's worth looking into Luke as well.
<Zack> He seems like a good kid, but... we don't really know anything about him.
<@Aiinacs> I'll tell you what I find.
<Zack> Thanks.

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Chapter 69

Zack

 

When I woke up in the morning, all the restraints were gone. No sign of that freakish midnight intrusion.

Maybe it was just a dream? I couldn’t help but hope. But if it was real… then it was a lead. And I had to follow up on it.

After the normal morning routine, Luke and I grabbed some of the hotel’s complementary breakfast. As we ate, I told him what happened.

“He said he knew you. And that you’d vouch for him.” I shook my head. “Didn’t tell me his name, though.”

Luke stayed silent.

“Does he sound like anyone you know?”

“I–yeah.” He sighed. “Lucifer.”

Lucifer?” I raised an eyebrow. “As in–”

“He’s not the devil. Though he loves to make people think he is.”

“How do you know him?”

Luke tapped his fingers against the table. “He’s… he’s my brother.”

“Your brother?” I mentally shuddered at the thought of growing up with a brother like that. “Has he always been like that?”

Luke nodded. “There’s a reason his name is Lucifer.”

“Seems fitting.”

Silence.

I looked down at my half-eaten muffin. Neither one of us had taken a bite since the conversation began.

“Any idea where he is now?” I asked.

“Um… no. And… we should probably just… find out more about this secret research. That’s probably why he stole the items in the first place: to get us to investigate the warehouse.”

“Any idea how he found out about the research?”

“He’s omniscient. He knows everything.”

“Seriously? Literally everything?

Another nod.

“How’s that even possible?” Possessing all the knowledge in the world… the position of every atom? I figured it wouldn’t be full omniscience, but… I’d seen enough crazy stuff that I no longer dismissed anything as impossible.

A shrug. “He’s a god of truth and knowledge. I don’t understand how it works, but his knowledge has saved my life more times than I can count.”

“Can we trust him to keep his word?”

“Well… he never outright lies, so if he makes a promise, he’ll keep it. But… he likes to trick people. Best to consider all possible interpretations of anything he says.”

I recalled my conversation with Lucifer. He’d been pretty clear that he’d tell us where the items were once we figured out what was going on in the facility. No ambiguity there.

I sighed. “Will he cause any trouble with the stuff he stole?”

Silence.

“Luke?”

“I–he might. He’s hard to predict. I–I never really know what to expect.” He paused. “What’s… what’s going to happen to him?”

“Assuming we catch him? Jail, at the very least. Depends how much trouble he causes. If he tries to do something with the stuff he stole… he might even be executed.”

Luke’s wings twitched, spreading out almost a meter for a split second.

“Sorry.” I shouldn’t have said that. It’s his own brother we’re talking about. “Are you two close?”

“Not by choice,” he muttered.

I frowned.

“Uh–we–we’ve been on the run for a long time. Never been able to settle down for long, so… we don’t have anyone else. Can’t really afford to be picky about my company.”

“Right…” I got the feeling there was more to it than that, but I wasn’t going to push it. Luke was clearly uncomfortable talking about all this, so I’d let it go. For now, anyway.

I sighed and returned my attention to breakfast.

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Chapter 68

Zack

 

“That dream again?” A voice asked me.

I jolted awake. Tried to get up, but quickly discovered my hands and feet were bound to the bedposts, with a gag in my mouth.

Sadly, this was not the worst way I’ve ever woken up. I grew up with Alex, or as I used to call him, “Oh my god you lit my bed on fire again!”. Sleepwalking and nocturnal combustion make for a pretty horrifying combination.

I struggled against the restraints. No luck. And the gag did a pretty good job of stopping my scream.

“All these years, and it still haunts your dreams.”

A light snapped on, revealing the figure before me: a young incubus with a creepy smile. Or at least, he looked young, and male. But ‘cubi can change their appearance, so for all I knew, this could be an 80-year-old succubus.

“I want to have some fun with you.” He climbed on top of me.

What the hell!!? I screamed into my gag.

He burst out laughing. “Oh. Now that was fun. The look on your face.”

What?

“Don’t scream.” He removed my gag, and then got off me. “Now then. Time to get down to business.”

“You’re the thief.” ‘Cubus. Wants to play some twisted ‘game’ with us. Certainly seemed to fit.

“Which thief? The one you were sent to capture, or the ones who betrayed your trust by running experiments on the symbiont?” He smiled. “Which case will you pursue? Who makes for the bigger threat?”

“Who are you?” If he’s the thief, then he’s not going to kill me. He wants me alive, to play his little ‘game’. So I’m relatively safe. For now, at least.

“A future friend, believe it or not.” He had the least trustworthy-sounding voice I’ve ever heard. Getting a very strong serial killer vibe off him. Not someone I would ever want to be friends with.

“Oh, we will be friends, Zack. We are going to grow quite close to each other. With time, you will come to understand me. And today will be your first lesson.” He leaned in closer. “Everything I say is the Truth.” He sat down in the chair next to my bed. “I have never lied, and I never will. I refuse to stoop to that level.”

“Forgive me if I doubt your honesty.”

“Of course you doubt me. People lie. You lie, Alex lies, Luke lies… but I do not. Lying is the most uncreative form of deception. Far better to simply set things up for people to jump to the wrong conclusions. If a known lair tells you something horrible, you won’t believe it. But a man you know will never outright lie… you will lay awake at night, trying, desperately, to find a new interpretation that will make it a less horrible truth.”

“Why did you steal that stuff? Just to play your twisted little game?”

“No. As much as I enjoy playing with you, this goes far beyond mere entertainment. As with most of my actions, I do this because it is part of a series of events that must happen. One thing leads to another, as it must. You must investigate this facility. Find out the true nature of their research. When you have done that, I will tell you where to find the stolen items.”

“And I should believe you because…?”

“Ask Luke. He will vouch for me.”

“You know Luke?”

“Oh, yes. We go way back.” He took a pill bottle out of his pocket. “Here’s a little something to help you sleep.” He forced several of the pills down my throat.

Within 30 seconds, I was out again.

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Chapter 67

Zack

 

“I thought we were supposed to be looking for the thief,” Luke said.

After my unsuccessful chat with the head of the warehouse, I was back in the conference room we were using as our base of operations.

The wonderful thing about having access to high-level government servers and a bunch of computer skills is how you can often find ways around the assholes that try to keep you away from their lower-level servers.

“Yeah. We’ll do that, too.” I logged into the facility’s servers and started looking around. “But it might be related somehow. If they were working with the symbiont here, then it’s entirely possible that the thief stole an altered version. If so–”

“It might give us an idea of what they’re going to do with it.”

“Exactly. There are samples of the symbiont in facilities all over the world–most of them just sitting in storage or undergoing basic examination–so it seems like an awfully large coincidence that the thief would pick a warehouse that’s doing unapproved research-even experimentation, I’d wager–with their sample. Unless the thief knew about the research, and targeted this warehouse specifically because of the research.” I sighed. “Though if all he wanted was the symbiont, then why steal all the other items? There has to be some sort of connection between the items, but I’m not seeing it.”

The symbiont. A halo. Some books written by dragons… There didn’t seem to be any connection. But there had to be something.

“Maybe it’s not about what he stole,” Luke suggested, “The note said he wanted to ‘play a game’. If all he wanted was to get our attention, get us to investigate, then he could have just chosen items at random.”

“You’re right.” I turned away from the screen and looked at Luke. “Except the symbiont. No way that was a random choice. He chose it because he wanted to guarantee my involvement.”

“Um… what exactly is your connection to this symbiont?”

“It’s–” I sighed. “It’s complicated. And highly classified. I wish I could tell you, but…”

“I understand.” Luke nodded. “Sometimes… some things need to be kept secret.”

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Chapter 66

Zack

 

“Bullshit!” I clenched my fists. “You were researching the symbiont without my approval–or even my knowledge–and I have every right to know what you were doing!”

“You’re on a need-to-know basis here,” the asshole-in-charge said, “That research has nothing to do with the break-in, so it’s none of your business.”

“Of course it’s my business!” I forced myself to take a deep breath. Getting angry wouldn’t solve anything. “Don’t you know who I am? Those samples–”

“I know perfectly well who–and what–you are.” He glared at me. “And that’s precisely why I don’t want you messing around with this research.”

Great. I sighed. This again.

A lot of people think I’m the last person who should ever be in charge of the symbiont samples. They don’t trust me. They’re afraid I’m going to infect people with it. I can’t blame them for being afraid; the symbiont scares me, too, just for different reasons.

Fear exists to keep us safe. To ensure we take precautions. It’s good that people are afraid. But it’s not the symbiont they should fear; it’s people.

In its current state, the symbiont isn’t contagious, and it actually benefits the host. Makes them stronger, smarter, more resistant to infection, all kinds of cool things. Sounds good, right? Not if a brutal dictator uses it to enhance their soldiers.

It’s an incredible scientific discovery, with applications both good and bad. My role is to ensure we use it responsibly, for the good of all.

“You leave me no choice.” I stood up. “I’m going to have to report you. Open an official investigation into this whole facility. Every little secret you’re keeping, every unapproved research program, everything will be revealed, and you’ll spend the rest of your life locked up.” I smiled wickedly. “Or perhaps they’ll just execute you. Going rogue with the symbiont? Could be considered treason. And when you hang, you’ll look back on this day and wish you’d just come clean. The last thought you’ll ever have. As you enter the empty void of death.”

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Chapter 65

Alex

 

I looked over at Lilly in shock and horror.

She enjoys killing dragons!? Pretty much the worst possible thing she could have told me.

She looked back at me with pretty much the same expression.

Of all the people in the world, I just had to fall in love with one that enjoys murdering dragons!

“Alex, I–”

“Don’t kill me!!” I jumped up, my wings doing a half-flap and igniting for a moment.

“Alex, wait. I–I’d never…” She looked up at me, pleading.

“You’re telling me you enjoy murdering people!? How–how could you–”

“I–I don’t know. I just–” She shook her head. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I–I’m sorry.”

I closed my eyes. Calm down. Just hear her out. It’s pretty clear she’s not going to me right now, so… let her speak.

“I know it’s wrong. I just… I can’t help it. It just feels… good, somehow. To…” She looked down at her hands. “slit their throats and… watch the blood pour out.

“That’s fucked up.”

“I don’t want to be like this. Like Jack. Some kind of monster. A serial killer.”

As much as I hated what she was saying–as much as it made me want to hate her–I couldn’t. When I looked at her, I didn’t see a psychopathic killer: I saw the same Lilly I’d come to know, once more beating herself up for not being perfect. Perhaps I was blinded by love, but… I couldn’t hate her.

I sighed and sat back down. “You’re right. You are like Jack in a way. But you regret it, and that makes you different.”

“That doesn’t make it right.”

“No. It doesn’t. But… it has to count for something. Right?” I took a deep breath. “Jesus said every sin could be forgiven, right? That no matter how much shit you’ve done, you’re never past redemption. I’d like to believe that’s true. So… I’m going to give you a chance. But no more killing. If you even think about hurting anyone, you let me know right away.”

She nodded. “I’ll stop. I–I could never do it again. Not now that I know you’re a–”

“You’d better. Because you won’t get a third chance. Not from me.”

“You’re–you’re not mad?”

“That you derive a sick sense of pleasure from hunting down and murdering my species in cold blood? Not okay with that. But if I get mad, the building burns down. So… I’m not mad, just really, really, really fucking dissappointed. Go to your room, young lady, and think about what you’ve done.”

She cracked a weak smile.

That’s better. Comedy, the best defense mechanism against the horrors of life.

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Chapter 64

Alex

 

Silence. Of the awkward variety. When I glanced around, I noticed Flutter was gone. Leaving just the two of us. Alone.

I’m not afraid of what she’ll do to me, I thought, Not anymore. Sure, Lilly’s been in training to kill dragons since she learned to fly, but… I’ve seen what real killers look like. And Lilly’s not like that. She’s not going to turn on me just because she finds out I’m two-thirds dragon.

“He’s right, though.” Lilly finally broke the silence. “You’re trusting me with control of your mind, and yet… we’re still keeping secrets from each other.” She sighed. “We need to be honest with each other.”

“It’s not like that,” I said, “I just–I’m just…” I sighed. “I don’t want to hurt you.” If she knew I was a dragon, that she’s been killing the last of my people… I didn’t want her to have to deal with that kind of guilt.

“Then I’ll go first. And then… maybe you won’t be so afraid of hurting me. You deserve to know the truth.” She took a deep breath.

You have a secret you’ve been keeping from me?”

She nodded. “Sorry, it’s just–”

“No. It’s okay.” I gave a slight smile. “Makes me feel better about not telling you everything before. But… there was a time earlier when I was about to tell you, and then you told me about the whole dragonslayer thing and… I kinda lost the nerve, so… maybe I should just get it over with now, and then you can–”

“We’ll do it together, then. We each write our secret down on a piece of paper, and then we exchange them at the same time.”

“That’ll work.”

I grabbed some paper, wrote “I’m two-thirds dragon” on it, and sat back down.

We exchanged papers.

I had to admit, it felt good to finally let her know. Finally get to stop worrying about it, and just–

I froze when I saw what she’d written: “I actually enjoy killing dragons.”

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Chapter 63

Alex

 

“So Jack can counteract my powers?” Lilly asked.

“It might not be him,” I said, “But whoever it is… we’d better watch out. I don’t know how they managed to push you out, but…” I stopped and stared at Lilly’s toes, which were tapping out a very nice rhythm against the floor.

“Sorry.” She stopped tapping. “It’s just… for them to force me out like that… they would’ve needed to get inside my target’s mind, too, right?”

“Oh. Crap. That means–”

“They have mind control, too,” Flutter finished.

“And it’s probably stronger than mine.”

Great. Mind control is disturbing enough when it’s on your side. When the enemy has it…

“If that’s the case…” I said, “We need to learn to protect ourselves. If they take control of us…”

“Yeah.” Lilly nodded. “We can’t let that happen.”

“Not really sure what to do, though.” I sighed. “I can’t stop you from controlling my mind–I’ve tried–and if we’re up against someone even stronger…” Seemed like we were pretty much screwed.

You haven’t been trying very hard, The Doctor said through the TV.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I glared.

You trust her. Though you may resist on the surface, deep down, you want her to take control. And you let her in.

“What? No.” I glanced over at Lilly. “I–I mean, I trust her, but… nobody should be controlling me except me.”

You’re blushing, Alex.

I growled at him.

Tell me, Aleister. How much is your freedom–your life–really worth to you? You seem awfully keen to give it all away for her. Why is that?

“She’s my–my friend.”

Your friend? You expect me to believe you’d risk so much for a mere friend?

“She’s–” I looked at Lilly. “She’s a really good friend.”

Just a friend? Why not more? You happily let her control you, turn you into her little puppet, but you’re afraid to take your relationship to the next level? Why is that?

“That’s enough!” Lilly came to my defense. “Don’t taunt him like that! He–he has his reasons, I’m sure.” She gave me a look. Questioning what those reasons might be.

“…” I opened my beak, but no words came out.

You’re afraid. Afraid of what she’ll do when she finds out what you really are.

“No. I–I know she’d never–” How did he even know these things?

Lilly grabbed the remote and clicked the power button.

Then tell her, the screen said as it shut down.

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Chapter 62

Alex

 

“I don’t know what happened,” Lilly said for what must have been the sixteenth time in the last five minutes.

Back in our suite, watching TV in an attempt to forget about the execution we’d failed to stop. Failing to forget our failure.

“It’s simple: your powers didn’t work.” I sighed. “You haven’t got the hang of them yet, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it fails sometimes.” I paused. “Seemed like you got pretty close, though. Almost had them.” I forced a slight smile, hoping to cheer her up. “A little more practice and I think you can do it.”

“That’s the thing.” She shook her head. “I did have them. I was in control; I made them put down their weapons and then… and then… I don’t know what happened.”

“They resisted,” Flutter explained.

“I guess… but…”

“How could they resist if you already had control?” I asked, “Speaking from my experience as your mental training dummy, once you’re in control, it’s nearly impossible to even try to resist. There’s no way they all managed to push back hard enough when you were already in control.”

“It felt different, though. When I go inside your mind, you push back immediately. Instinctively, I think. And you keep resisting, until I break through. But back there… they hardly resisted at all. Not until the sudden push at the end.”

“Different minds work in different ways.” I nodded. “And my mind is definitely… different.”

“Yeah.” She gave me a smile.

“Try my mind,” Flutter offered.

“Umm…” Lilly hesitated, clearly not fond of the idea of invading yet another mind. “Thanks, but you don’t have to–”

“You need someone else to practice on,” Flutter insisted, “I–I don’t mind.”

Lilly glanced at me. “I suppose Alex could use a break.” She returned her focus to Flutter. “You’re sure about this?”

Flutter nodded.

“I–I should probably warn you, I–sometimes I… go a little overboard…” Lilly blushed.

“I’ll hit her if she goes too far,” I promised, “Snap her out of it.”

Lilly took a deep breath. “Ready?”

Flutter nodded.

I felt their minds battling for about 30 seconds, until Lilly forced her way inside and Flutter started dancing (really badly).

“Wow.” Flutter blinked several times, now free of Lilly’s influence.

“You okay?” Lilly asked.

“Fine. Just…” More blinking.

“You get used to it.” I smiled and turned to Lilly. “So how does her mind compare?”

“It’s… your minds are definitely different, but… you resist in pretty much the same way. And frankly, your way makes a lot more sense than waiting until I already have control. I find it hard to believe that you’d be the exception here.”

Silence.

“The way I see it,” I said, “There are two possibilities: either all the angels at the execution have the same counter-intuitive, logic-defying way of resisting you… or the resistance came from someone else.”

“Someone else?” Flutter asked.

“Of course.” Lilly gasped. “Someone was protecting them. Once they realized I’d gained control, they forced me out.”

“Seems like they’d have to be pretty powerful to force you out of someone else’s mind.” I groaned. “And clearly, they like murder and torture. If I had to take a guess…”

“Jack,” we all said in unison.

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