Rumors Of War
War In Heaven
The Adam bore similarities to both of the other ships I had been on. It was as large as Hell, which made sense considering that it was the flagship of the fleet of Heaven prior to Michael's fall, but it looked very different. Its décor was more like that of the Abel, Lumial's ship. Whereas Lucifel's ship had almost a military level of professionalism to it, as we walked through the corridors of the Adam, I couldn't help but see that the ship felt lived in.
We didn't see many people, Raphael's escort kept us away from most of them, but what I saw gave me a different look at the angels than what I had previously had. There were old ones and young, and they ranged everywhere in between. I didn't see any children, though I remembered being told once that Verina was amongst the youngest of the angels, so I wasn't too surprised, but there were several that I saw who were around Verina's age. This ship was a ship of families.
It had been easy to think less of the angels before; that they were all a mess of horrible people who were trying to kill my own. But now that I saw how they actually were, how human-like they seemed to be, I was having a hard time hating them. Having the memories of Michael in my mind didn't help me hate them either.
The memories may have been a couple thousand of years out of date, but I could recognize most of the older angels. They were people I had lived with, worked with, fought by their side, and forged a community with out in the middle of the asteroid belt. It was true that the memories weren't actually mine, but they felt real enough that I couldn't help but feel as if I knew these people, at least the older ones.
Though of all the people that I had seen so far, the only one that stood out more than Raphael was Lumial, and that was only because he was the eldest of the two sons. I let my mind play through the conversation that we had had when his ship had hailed us, almost amused at how strange it had made me feel.
I had played my part beautifully, and I was surprised at how natural it had felt. With the air of command that I knew from his memories that Michael had possessed, I was able to use his voice and his face to convince Raphael to readily grant us an audience. The original plan was to have had Lumial do the talking, but I knew that Raphael wouldn't have found it quite as convincing if Michael hadn't taken command. And so I had, and now we were docked with the ship, and Lumial, Keith, Verina and I were on our way to meet up with Raphael. Alan was with us too, though he was following silently behind, his cloaking suit keeping the angels unaware of his presence.
In short order we arrived at a council room, with the doors open to reveal a long metal table that had obviously seen many years of use. I recognized it almost instantly, and knew that it had even been used by Michael's father while he was still alive. Standing at one side of the table was Raphael, his eyes still filled with disbelief.
On either side of Raphael was a guard, though they seemed to share his astonishment, and I briefly considered the taking advantage of that surprise and making an attempt to take over the ship. It was strange thought for me, and completely out of my character, but I pushed it out of my head and forgot about it, instead sticking to the original plan.
"Son!" I said with enthusiasm, and stepped forward with arms outstretched, offering an embrace. He stepped back warily, and I was glad I hadn't made good on my thought of attacking him and his guards. He had apparently been on his guard the whole time, and I would have been in for a nasty surprise if I had pressed the issue.
"I am not convinced of your identity yet," Raphael said firmly, and then motioned to the seats at the foot of the table, the seats normally reserved for guests who sought council with Michael. "Have a seat, so that we can determine the truth."
I bowed and moved toward the chair, and then replied, "This will be the only time I will allow you to take the head while I'm present. When I have sufficiently proven myself to you, I expect a full apology." I wasn't entirely sure if it was something that Michael would say, but I hoped that by continuing his air of command, I would at least be convincing enough.
It seemed to do the trick, as Raphael turned from suspicious to thoughtful as he replied, "If that proves to be the case, I can guarantee you that I will make it up to you, but until then…" he again motioned to the chair, and I took my seat. Lumial sat down on my left, with Keith as Gabriel sitting on my right. Raphael took Michael's chair at the head of the table, while his guards took up position on either side of him. Our escort filed into the room and took up positions around us, watching my companions and me warily. Verina was offered a seat in one of the corners of the room. Raphael had ignored her since our arrival, but the guards still paid heed to her presence and kept an eye on her as well.
"So, let's start with the biggest problem I see here. You are supposed to be dead. The ship you took with you was monitoring your health during the entire encounter with the forces of Hell and the demon rabble, and then that data was sent directly to me at the time of your demise," Raphael stated firmly. There would be little point to argue any of that data anyway, considering that I had no knowledge of that system, but I made special note to avoid touching on that subject if I could help it. Raphael continued even while I was thinking of how to respond, "While it is true that we have medical technology at the level that we can easily revive a corpse within a certain timeframe, it was already well beyond that time."
"There should not have been a ship capable of resurrecting you remaining on Earth. The ship you took with you returned without you when your forces were destroyed, so you could not have been revived by them," Raphael's voice took on a tone of suspicion again as he narrowed his eyes and said, "I might have thought that this was some ploy from Hell, if you had come from the direction of that beast, but instead you've come from Earth. Somehow, you found the one ship that could revive you, and it's one I recognize, though I never thought I would see it again. Somehow, Lumial is alive, his ship is in great condition, and he has managed to bring you back from death. The last part isn't really a concern. If you are in fact, Lumial, then I know that you had the capability of reviving our father, though I still intend to verify that. So, we will start with you explaining yourself, brother."
I was slightly surprised that that was his main concern, but then I realized that whereas I was supposed to have been dead for less than a week, Lumial had been dead for thousands of years. My presence was a curiosity that could be answered with some logic, especially considering the presence of the Abel, but to Raphael, his brother was an ancient ghost, long forgotten in the rigors of time. I had no idea how to answer his inquisition, and I started to get nervous that we had already failed.
Thankfully, Lumial had the answer, and since the attention was on him anyway, I was able to rest easy as my angelic companion replied, "I think I can explain myself quite easily, brother. We have to step back in time to an age when you were quite young, and I hope your memory will serve you well."
Raphael nodded, and so Lumial began his explanation, "The first thing you must understand is what happened with our other brother. Belial…"
Raphael interrupted him suddenly, outraged as he shouted, "Do not say that name in my presence, brother. Both his name and the Devil's are spoken as curses here. I would ask that you be extremely careful how you speak here."
"My apologies, brother. I ask you to remember that I have been distanced from the conflict for quite some time. I do not see things the same way as you do, though I wish you to understand that I respect the way in which Bel… they have harmed you," Lumial replied as smoothly as he could, though I could tell that he was very aware of how little his younger brother trusted him, "I want you to know that I too have very little love for Hell or the Devil. My twin, on the other hand, has given me reason to suspect his involvement with the Devil to be less than you believe it to be. May I ask why you hate him as much as you do? Because he sided with Luc… moth… the Devil, or is it something else?"
Raphael seemed struck by sudden realization, and then smiled slightly, though I could still see a bit of the outrage in his eyes. There was almost a fanaticism there, which frightened me slightly. I wasn't sure of his sanity, and I reminded myself to be even more wary of how I handled myself with him. I was glad that Lumial had some experience, for I would have been lost without his presence.
After a moment of pondering, Raphael responded, almost awestruck as he said, "It just might be you. I had never thought I would witness a miracle such as this, but I am still not convinced that I have. You certainly sound like my eldest brother, the one I lost when my other brother chose to end his life… You speak so carefully, to avoid offending anyone. I always admired that in you," he replied wistfully, meeting Lumial's eyes. I wondered if my companion could also read the fanaticism I saw there. Raphael's next words brought me back to the present as I realized we had an opening. "I hated him because he killed you, but now you're back, and I suppose I must give you the opportunity to defend your murderer if you see reason to. No more side-stepping around his name. The conversation will go much easier if you use it. I will forgive you, though if your answer does not suit me, I will reinstate the ban."
Lumial bowed his head in agreement and said, "I thank you, brother, and I am glad that you remember me so fondly. I understand how the feeling of brother killing brother can generate such feelings." He was solemn as he continued, "It is why I have avoided the conflict between Heaven and Hell for so long. I could not stand the thought of killing another angel. I've never been particularly fond of killing in general, actually, but you probably already knew that. It is why I have focused so much on the medical field. I prefer to heal, not to destroy."
"But this isn't really about me, it's about Belial. Belial did not murder me, and in fact he lied to our mother in order to protect me," Lumial explained as Raphael's eyebrows rose incredulously. This was definitely new information to him. "The Devil ordered my death, because I chose to remain in Eden instead of following her. As you probably recall, she and I worked very closely together, and she chose to see my not wanting to involve myself as choosing father's side. Belial came to me, distraught, and couldn't figure out how to solve his dilemma. He couldn't kill me. There was no way he would ever follow through on that order. I doctored up the video image of the Abel exploding well enough that even she would think it was legitimate, and I sent him away with it, and then I went into hiding. You were fed the same image, I'm afraid, but it wasn't because we wanted to conceal the truth from you. It was because if it were known by anyone that I was alive, then that information would have gotten back to mother, and she would kill Belial, and then send her best agents after me as well."
Raphael nodded as he digested the information, but it was clear that he was far from satisfied. "Okay, but that doesn't really explain why he left in the first place. Our father had the grace of god with him, and he chose to leave with an evil woman and a demon," he said smugly, "Whom he chooses to serve speaks a great deal about his character."
"Ah, but you must understand Raphael, that when he left it was in an attempt to bring the family back together. He wasn't trying to betray father, he was trying to bring mother back." Lumial looked at me and smiled, with a conspiring twinkle in his eye and said, "Father understands that now, and would like to give Belial a chance to prove himself."
It took all my willpower to prevent myself from laughing in delight. Lumial had handed me the answer to getting out of this debate by doing all the convincing for me. I turned to Raphael and in my best Michael I agreed, "Lumial seems to think that the key to ending the conflict with hell rests in Belial. While I still question his choices, I think that it is a better shot than not making the attempt. One thing we can all agree on is that the Devil must be beaten, and cannot be allowed to retain control over the forces of Heaven. From the fact that the Adam remains untouched, I trust that no physical conflict has occurred between the ships as of yet?"
Raphael was convinced at least on one level that we were genuine, but then he began the process that we had been expecting all along. "I believe you. You sound like Lumial, and you sound like my father. Gabriel hasn't spoken much, but I suppose that's normal isn't it Gabe?" Keith glared at Raphael murderously, which appeared to confirm his identity enough for the angel. "But that isn't enough. I'm afraid that at least the two of you are going to have to do more to verify who you are. We're going to have to escort you to medical to get your DNA checked. Once that's cleared, you will be welcome to resume command of the fleet."
He stood, and the rest of us followed suit. As we were about to leave the council room, Raphael surprised me with a hug from behind and said, "I'm glad you're back father. I'm sorry that I didn't believe you." He then embraced Lumial and whispered something to him that I couldn't quite make out. Raphael led the way out of the room and down the hallway, leaving me to ponder his strange personality as we followed his trail.
"Well that was the most in depth physical examination I've had in my entire life," I remarked to Lumial as we entered my chambers. Michael's chambers in all actuality, but passing the medical exams meant that they would now serve as his quarters for the duration of their stay on the Adam, however long that ended up being.
Lumial laughed as he replied, "The deepest you've been conscious for. Most of your serious exams have taken place while you were out of it, whether it was that coma of yours or sleeping in a medical pod." He sighed in relief as he added, "The important thing is that we passed, and that he didn't see a reason to examine Keith. How did you know to just glare at him anyway, Keith?"
The druid smiled slyly as he answered, "I was reading his thoughts the whole time. Apparently Raphael is terrified of Gabriel to some extent, so I thought I'd give him a reason." His expression morphed into one of concern though as he said, "There's a lot going on in that head of his. I'm not entirely convinced that he's sane. It's similar to reading the mind of a preacher from the Bible belt, one of the ones who is so convinced that God hates specific kinds of people that he thinks it's his righteous duty to hate them too."
The only real angel in the room sighed for the second time, but this was a sigh of helplessness. He looked back at the druid and shrugged as he said, "He wasn't always like that. I don't know what happened to him exactly. Maybe when his brothers left he took it personally, and wanted revenge on those that he saw caused them to leave. He was a very fun loving kid when we were younger."
He turned away again and walked deeper into the room, as if he was searching for something. I thought he was going to leave the conversation there, but he kept speaking, even though he did drop the subject. "The important thing now is that we are past the first hurtle, almost miraculously. Now we have to convince him to seek an audience with Lucifel. It would be better if she didn't know that I was here at all, and if your identity was kept hidden until we were a bit closer to her. She most likely won't let you on the ship if she knew in advance you were coming." Pursing his lips as he started to lose himself in thought, he added quietly, "We have to get you on that ship somehow."
"Maybe he could wear a cloaking suit like mine?" Alan piped up, startling everyone. We all had failed to remember that he was with us, and we shared a nervous laugh as we turned toward the source of the sound. He deactivated the suit for a moment and lifted his faceplate, grinning at us. "It obviously works pretty well, except one major problem that I'm not certain Damien could pull off."
"Oh, what is that?" I asked with my pride slightly pricked. I didn't like being told I couldn't do something before I found out what it was.
"You've got to be incredibly silent, and I've heard you walk. You have a hard time being quiet when wearing almost nothing. Imagine wearing armor and being quiet…" He replied smugly, and then with a grin he said, "I'm sorry, now that I've brought it up, I'm one hundred percent certain you can't do it that way. By the way, there is another problem, though it hasn't come up yet, and it might not. This ship is swarming with cloaked soldiers, and they can all see me like I can see them. The infrared sensor that allowed them to see the demons activates with the cloaking device."
Surprised by the revelation I asked nervously, "Wait, so they know that you're here? What do we do now?"
Alan smiled wide as he said, "It's all a matter of blending in. For all they know, I've been assigned to watch you by Raphael." His grin turned cocky as he explained, "All I had to do was watch how they walked and acted, and soon I was just another soldier. I didn't get a single weird glance. I don't need anyone's memories to get the job done."
Out of nowhere Lumial jumped up and hugged Alan, who staggered back in surprise. "Alan! Thanks for reminding me!" He then turned toward the computer console embedded in the wall of the chamber. He started fiddling with it, saying no more and leaving the rest of us bewildered.
"Um, you're welcome, I guess," Alan replied, looking between Keith and me for an explanation. Both of us shook our heads and shrugged, and turned to watch Lumial as he excitedly moved things around on the screen. Whatever he was doing appeared to be quite technical, and I didn't follow any of it, but moments later it appeared he had found what he was looking for.
"Aha!" he shouted enthusiastically, and pulled a small device from his pocket which he then inserted into the console. A moment of satisfied whistling later, he removed the device and placed it back in his pocket, then turned around to meet our confused stares.
"I just hacked into my father's personal files. I may have been able to upload his memories from before I left Eden to your brain, but not the ones that he's had since then. You'll be able to fit in even better if I can give you the memories over the years since then," Lumial explained, his expression a mixture of smugness and excitement.
I wasn't sure how to feel about the new information. The memories that weren't my own were already unsettling to me, and having more of them was something I didn't know if I could handle. It might help things, but there was also the chance I would lose more of myself in the process.
Still, there was the chance that we would be found out if I didn't learn how to play Michael even better. I found myself nodding a moment later, and said more calmly than I felt, "Alright, so what do we have to do?"
Lumial shrugged and replied, "All we have to do now is get you to a medical pod," He then sighed and looked troubled as he went on, "It would be better if I could get you to Abel, but that might be a problem."
"Why is that?" I asked.
"I think it would look quite suspicious if we were to sneak back on to my ship when we have the Adam at our disposal," he explained, and I smirked in response as he continued, "I might be able to get back without any questions raised, but you? You're too high profile now. Raphael might suspect something."
"Why don't we just go back to the medical bay then?" Keith suggested, "Could you implant the memories without your specific equipment?"
Looking thoughtful, Lumial replied, "Yes, I think so. I would probably have to hack the system in order to get the computer to do what I want it to, but I think it would be possible." He smiled as he looked at Alan as if it triggered another thought, "It's just a matter of getting in there and getting it done, not to mention having a good excuse if we get caught. We have to blend in somehow."
"I think we'll be able to come up with something. Perhaps I could fake a sickness?" I suggested, though I knew as soon as the words left my mouth that it wouldn't work, and Lumial was quick to jump in and confirm my own reservations about that plan.
"The problem is that you just got your DNA checked. They all know that there is nothing wrong with you." Lumial replied with a shake of his head, "That means that we're just going to have to guard the door and make sure no one comes in. Of course, we'll also have to handle the medical staff, whoever is on hand. I'd say you should let me do the talking, but unfortunately this is your ship. I don't think they'll listen to anyone other than you, except perhaps Gabriel, there."
"Then I suppose I'll have to think of something," I said as I began searching the room for an answer. There was little other than basic necessities, and I found myself wondering why the room looked so different than I remembered from Michael's thoughts. From his memories, I had expected extravagance, rather than minimalism. Everything I knew about him had taught me that he liked to show off. This room didn't fit him at all.
But that also left me with very little to work with. There were no tools for me to take advantage of, nor any items that would give me an excuse to visit the medical bay. The others seemed just as lost in thought as I was. Lumial with his pensive look, Alan leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, and Keith sitting on one of the couches with one hand resting under his chin and the other resting casually on the hilt of Gabriel's knife.
Then it came to me. The knife! It was the same knife that Gabriel had almost killed me with in the alleyway, back when this had all started. We had added it to Keith's outfit when he agreed to take on the guise of the fallen angel. It had been explained to me that the metallic knives were meant as a way for the angels to kill people they needed to on Earth without using any form of energy weapon. So that their killings would look like they were the result of a standard knife wound. They were the perfect way to help blend in, and now they would do the same for me.
"Keith, hand me your knife." I said as I extended my hand toward him. He looked at me in confusion but then handed me the blade. I looked at it for a moment, refusing to meet their eyes. I knew that if I gave them a chance to talk me out of what I needed to do, then I was going to chicken out.
Just as Lumial opened his mouth to ask me what I was going to do, I pointed the knife toward the right side of my stomach and stabbed inward. The searing pain as the blade punctured my flesh made me let go of the knife almost immediately, and I was soon far too distracted by the agony to be concerned as to the fate of the blade as I clutched at the wound.
"Shit!" Keith yelled as he rushed to my side. Lumial was right behind him, and was already pushing the druid out of the way as he used his medical skills to try and stem the blood flow.
"This is serious, Keith! We have to get him to the medical bay immediately," The angel said as he tried to stem the blood flow. Despite the pain I couldn't help but smile. I had given us a way in.
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