Rumors Of War
War In Heaven
This time when I woke up inside of a medical pod, I didn't have to question where I was, or how to get out. I addressed Able almost immediately and was met with an eminent opening of the chamber. As the two halves slid apart, I was immediately aware of the fact that none of my friends were there to greet me. Other than me, the lab was devoid of anything living.
It was probably for the better, considering the fact that I was just as naked as I had been when Lumial had placed me in the chamber. As soon as I was reminded that I was naked, I also realized that there was something terribly wrong. The body I was staring down at wasn't my own. Instantly, anxiety began to overtake me as I started patting myself down, trying to determine if it was real or not. I searched for a mirror, any reflective surface I could find in desperation to see my own face, and not whoever's face belonged to the body I was wearing.
I found my mirror in the shining faceplate of the helmet of the cloaking gear. I recoiled in horror as the face came into view. It was definitely not my face, but rather that of Michael, the angel whom I had helped to destroy. I began to claw at my skin, scratching deep furrows into my cheeks. There was nothing I wanted more than to destroy the image I saw in the reflection, but no matter how much I tore at my flesh, the image didn't change, and Michael's smug look of satisfaction continued to stare back at me.
I forced my fingernails into my eyes, but I still couldn't tear my gaze away from the face of the angel. The image, now laughing, continued to taunt me even as I sank to the floor in pain and agony. As my consciousness finally began to fade, Michael's face split in two, and was joined by Lucifel's similarly cackling visage. It too split, and was joined by Shatan and King Ikarus. Soon I was facing the images of every person who had ever done me wrong, from the bullies at school to the angel from the alleyway. Every tormentor I had ever had was there to face me.
And then all at once it stopped. The faces that were haunting me disappeared and I was left with nothing but blackness. My eyes fluttered open, and I once again saw the inside of a medical pod. The entire ordeal had been nothing more than a nightmare.
Abel was just as accommodating as he had been in my dream, and I again found myself on the outside of the medical pod, standing in the middle of the lab. I was naked, and I did notice that my body was different than it should have been, and though the thought did bother me, I had been expecting it.
With a bit of hesitation, I walked toward the same mirror like surface of the helmet, and gasped when I saw Michael's reflection, but even though it was uncomfortable, the urge to destroy myself never came, instead I felt nothing but a strong sadness. It took me a moment to realize that the sadness was not entirely my own.
I began to remember. It was only a few bits and pieces, but when I looked at the reflection, I started to feel almost as if it were actually my face. I could remember staring at it in the mirror before, and not just from my dream, but rather from times when I was a younger angel, full of happiness that I no longer had. When I was an angel…
That thought drove me away from the mirror and brought me back to reality. I didn't want to think about being an angel, or to be one for any longer than was necessary, especially wearing Michael's face. This was a means to an end, and nothing more. I knew that this would be the only chance we had of rescuing Marc, and I was ready to do whatever it took, but that didn't mean that I had to like it.
I questioned Abel about where I could get some clothing, and was directed toward a small storage closet on the side of the room. It was filled with garb similar to that which Lumial wore, and as I put it on I was pleasantly surprised to find it quite comfortable. It had taken me a moment to find the right size, and as I straightened out the clothing, I realized why. I was used to wearing a smaller size, but now I was taller and thicker. This would all take some getting used to.
I figured that the others would probably be in the common room of the ship, and I left the lab, thinking to meet up with them as soon as possible. As I neared the doorway to the room, I could hear their voices, and I smiled as I thought about seeing them. I was about to enter the room when I heard something that made me stop cold.
Verina was speaking, and her tone was nervous and fearful. I didn't know who she was speaking to, but it didn't matter, because what she said was all that was really important. "So what I'm trying to say is… I'm pregnant."
I heard a loud gasp that sounded like it came from Alan, and I was glad he had done so, because it had covered up my own. I almost gasped again when I heard Keith's follow up, "We're hoping both of you can accept this, and that Damien will as well. I know it's a shock, especially considering all of the things I've said about angels in the past, but Verina and I just ended up together… there's really not anything to be done about it except to move forward."
Everything that had happened between them began to make sense. All of their whispered conversations or where Keith had been going in the mornings. They had been hiding their relationship from us the entire time. I was initially hurt that Keith hadn't trusted me, but I also realized that he had a really good reason for it. I had made my opinion on Verina quite clear in the past, and I had also been going through a great deal that Keith probably hadn't wanted to put yet another stress on my shoulders.
I knew what I had to do. Lumial was talking about how wonderful it was, and that it would be an exciting adventure for them, but I knew I could interrupt him with what I had to say, and that he wouldn't mind a bit. With only a bit of uncertainty, I slid the door open and stepped into the room.
Every face in the room turned to look at me, and all were a mixture of surprise and fear, though I knew they were for different reasons. Everyone except Lumial, that is, who gave me an appraising look as he inspected his work. I reached out with my telepathy and read the minds of those gathered there. Alan was frightened by my appearance, Verina by the fact I had walked in on their conversation, and Keith was terrified of both. It was the first time I had ever seen him terrified, and it was a look I hoped to never see on his face or in his mind again. It didn't fit him.
"Of course I accept you, though you can't expect any double dates with Marc and me if Verina is still under the impression that our relationship is worthless," I began with hint of anger that I couldn't seem to quash. I met Verina's gaze until she gave me a sheepish shake of her head to tell me that she no longer thought that way. With her acknowledgment, I continued, "Other than that, I couldn't care less about what you two decide to do in the bedroom. That's your business. But does that mean that I'm going to be an uncle?"
Verina laughed nervously and nodded, while Keith visibly calmed down and shot me a nervous smile. "Let's handle the dating question later, Damien," the druid replied, the nervousness still not quite gone from his voice. "I think we have more important things to deal with at the moment. Like getting to Heaven and kicking some devil ass. By the way, how do you feel? You look, different."
I sighed as I looked among my friends and shrugged helplessly, "I'm not very comfortable, but I wonder if that's normal when demons shift for the first time? The fact that I have no idea how to shift back on my own is something that's bothering me. All I can really hope for is that we can get this thing done and over with so that things can return to normal. If we even survive, that is. When do we leave?"
Lumial chuckled as he motioned to the window around the corner of the bulkhead. I was surprised to find myself staring at an ocean of stars set in blackness. We were already traveling through space. "We left not long after I got you in the pod. It will take longer to get there than it did for my mother, though we'll get there soon enough; another half a day or so. I spent some time working on the cloaking device on that suit down in the lab as well. I think we have a plan for how this whole thing is going to go down. "
"You will be leading the group, of course. You'll be playing the role of Michael, the commander back from the dead, and past the three days that he could have been revived. We will head straight for the Adam, Michael's ship. Raphael, my younger brother, will most likely be there, hiding from Lucifel. I will help convince him that you are genuine, and once he buys it, the rest of the fleet should as well. I will not go any further than that, though, because my mother would have me killed as soon as she found out I was alive. Instead, it will be Keith and Alan that go with you."
"And me!" Verina interrupted, more than a little annoyed that we had overlooked her. I knew exactly why Lumial didn't want her along though, and I had to say that I agreed with him.
"I'm afraid not, Verina," I replied evenly, "You're pregnant, and you need to focus on that. This is going to be very dangerous, and even if we fail, there's no reason for your child to suffer the consequences if it can be helped. I'm sure Lumial could use your help on the ship."
She was visibly upset, but Keith laid a calming hand on her arm and said, "That's actually quite reasonable, and she would do a lot of good on this end. A lot of the angels probably know that she was working for Gabriel directly not too long ago, but probably very few of them have the whole story on how she switched sides to join Hell's forces. The problem is the fact that Lucifel certainly knows." He turned to her and said calmly, "Really, I think you would be more useful with Raphael's forces, and in a great deal more danger if you came with us. "
Verina wasn't pleased, but she nodded her assent, and we moved on to other matters. I was still a bit confused on one point, so I decided to see what else Lumial had in mind. "Neither you nor Verina is coming with me, which leaves only the two non-angels to accompany me. Is that really the best plan, or are you planning on sending me alone?"
Lumial shook his head and smiled knowingly as he replied, "They will both be coming. First off, you're the entire selling point. You're the only one that they're going to care a great deal about finding out if you're genuine or not. Once that matter is settled, they'll swallow the rest. Remember, I know how angels think, and they are very accepting of miracles, if they can be sold that it happened, they'll never doubt it again, which means that the matter of concealing Keith's identity will be quite easy. I've rigged one of the holographic projectors to project Gabriel's actual form, but I've also worked it out so that they won't know that it's active. Considering I doubt that it will even be checked unless you are found lacking, it should convince them that he is actually Gabriel."
"What about me?" Alan asked, and I could tell that he was worried about getting left behind.
"Ah, well you'll be doing something different. Remember that suit that I told you I fixed after we launched?" the angel asked as he turned his gaze to the younger boy. I laughed as Alan's eyes lit up in understanding and he nodded. Lumial continued his explanation anyway. "You'll be able to go in cloaked, and you'll be the backup if anything goes wrong. You just have to put that training of yours to the test and not make a sound, or they'll find you. Do you think you're up to the task?"
Alan nodded enthusiastically and it was Lumial's turn to laugh before he added one final thought. "You know, this has a very slim chance of working out the way that we intend, but I think that if we all stick to our parts we'll come out on the other end. We just have to cross each bridge as we come to them."
I couldn't agree more. I was actually quite hopeful about the plan, though I knew that we'd run into problems. For one, there was little doubt that I would have at least some trouble convincing the angels that I was actually Michael returned to them. I may have had some of his memories, but they were all from the time before Lumial had left Eden. There was a lot of ground that Michael had covered since then, and I would have to bluff my way through most of it.
The rest of my companions continued to talk about the upcoming events, and about the baby that Verina was carrying in her womb. I remained silent for most of the remainder of the trip, instead focusing my thoughts on Michael's memories. I started to get to know who he was, and explore sides of him I would have never thought him capable of having. By the time Abel notified us that we were nearing the fleet, I felt as if I knew him pretty well, or perhaps it was better to say that I knew myself well.
Everyone took their places. Alan equipped himself with the gear and activated the cloaking device. Keith attached his projector and soon he looked every bit the angel that I was. Within a few minutes of getting ready, Abel notified us that there was an incoming message from the Adam. Soon, the wall that had been a window became a video screen, and we established a com link with Raphael's ship. All of a sudden, the wall was dominated by his visage, and I immediately noted the resemblance between him and the rest of his family. He looked a great deal like Lumial and Belial, though there was a bit more of Lucifel in him than there was in either of his brothers.
He also noted the resemblance in me, and I could tell that he was shocked at who was greeting him on the other end of the viewer. He had not expected to see his father again, at least not alive. He looked from me to the other crew members, his eyes widening as he also took note of Keith, who looked every bit the part of Gabriel, but they widened even more when they saw Lumial. He had seen not one but three ghosts, and he was nearly speechless. The only word he could utter was, "How?"
Lumial was about to speak and offer up an explanation, but I silenced him with a raised hand. It wasn't what we had agreed upon, but I was intent to play my role, and I knew that it had to be I that responded. With every ounce of confidence I could put into my voice I responded to my son.
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