We once again made our way to Abel, though this time I couldn’t get out of the palace fast enough. I was extremely unnerved by what the king had said, and I was certain that if I stayed there any longer I would have reason to fear for my life. I quickly outdistanced the others and was waiting at the ship, fidgeting anxiously as I waited for Lumial to catch up and open the hatch.
“I’m sorry, Damien, these boots may be great for landings but they are still fairly heavy,” Lumial said in explanation as he caught up to me. The others weren’t far behind, but he quickly opened the door and let me inside. As soon as the mansion was out of my sight, I was able to finally relax and catch my breath.
The others climbed inside a moment later, and Lumial closed the door behind them. As soon as the door closed the angel ordered, “Abel, cloak the ship please. We don’t want the demons to even think that we’re here.”
Though there wasn’t any noticeable difference from the inside of the ship, just knowing that we were invisible to the outside world allowed me to start calming down the rest of the way. My heart slowed down from its record pace, and soon I was breathing normally as well. I about jumped when Lumial spoke again though, and suddenly my heart began racing once more.
“How about a tour? Well, not really, there isn’t that much to see except the lab, which is what takes up most of the ship. I could take you to the engine room as well, and I’m afraid there are only four quarters on this ship, so someone is going to have to share. Anyway, we need to visit the lab if we’re going to put my plan into action, so let’s go.” Lumial said with some nervousness. Whatever he had in mind had him on edge. I wasn’t sure I liked that thought.
We agreed and followed him through a doorway and down a corridor. As soon as we entered the lab, I was blown away by the amount of stuff I saw lying around. Stuff was the only word I could use to describe it, because it seemed as if every piece was unique. Other devices were attached to the wall that I assumed were used in creating most of the items lying around, both on tables and on the floor. A large computer console dominated one of the walls, and a large holographic projector sat in the middle of the screen. I recognized what was currently being projected to be the armor that had been worn by Michael’s cloaked troops.
Apparently Alan had noticed it too. “Have you been working on figuring out their cloaking devices?” He asked excitedly as he approached the hologram.
Lumial chuckled at Alan’s exuberance and said, “Not quite. I’m trying to analyze what my mother did to it in order to shut it off. I know that she created a device once that disrupted angel technology, but I’ve never been able to figure out how she keeps her technology from being affected. I’m hoping that looking at this one will help me figure that out. The truth is how the device works is fairly simple, which is probably why my mother and I couldn’t figure it out. We are usually very good at figuring out complex things, but we often miss the simple truths. I could have this model up and working again in no time, though it would be pointless without figuring out how my mother disabled it.”
We watched in amusement as Alan continued to scan around the room, picking up strange device after strange device. Despite my anxiety over our current dilemma, watching his excitement as he placated his curiosity allowed me to be able to put it all aside for a moment. Alan was on the far side of the room by the time Lumial spoke again.
“I can see why my brother has such feelings for him,” the angel said quietly, startling me from my observation of my friend.
“What do you mean?” I asked, turning to regard Lumial quizzically.
Lumial sighed as he met my gaze with his own tired eyes. It was the first time I had ever really met his eyes, and the intelligence and wisdom in his blue orbs told me that this was a man of experience, and I would do well to listen to what he had to say. “It’s funny, how much my people have lost. They think that they are wiser, and better than everyone else. No doubt our young friend Verina here was indoctrinated to believe such things. Hopefully the fact that she’s here with us now means that she’s changed her mind at least in part.”
He let his questioning gaze linger on Verina’s face for a moment, before she blushed and nodded, shifting uncomfortably on her feet. Lumial nodded back before continuing, “Indeed, fighting what we are told to believe at a young age is difficult, and most of us lose the battle. When I was not much older than you, Verina, I believed much as you probably did. I believed in the moral code of the angels, that they had the high ground, and that there was no greater authority. The first time I was ever faced with someone who disagreed, was my very own brother. Belial.”
Keith added his agreement, “We know, he’s spoken to us about some of his true feelings, and even though I can’t read his thoughts, both Damien and I believe he is sincere.”
“I’m sure he has. He seems to think highly of all of you, but there are some things he has never told anyone but me, and that I am sure of. I don’t think he will mind if I tell you now, though, at least the few secrets I am willing to share. You see, my brother is very similar to you, Damien.”
I was a little surprised by his claim, though when I thought about it, I realized it was probably well founded. I had always gotten along well with Belial, despite the fact that he was working with someone I had never trusted completely. “You may be right about that, though I’m still not entirely certain what you mean.”
Lumial chuckled as he explained, “Well, you may not be able to read his thoughts, but a twin tends to know something of what his other half is thinking. You see, Belial had feelings for another male angel when he was very young, and he was so scared of being found out that he confided in the one person he thought he could trust, which was me. He asked me to help protect him, and I was faced with a dilemma. Do I help my brother, who I loved more than anyone, or do I follow the moral code of the angels? I chose to help my brother, but I had to think about it.”
“Belial has always wanted to do the right thing, and by that I mean taking the option that will benefit as many people as possible. It’s remarkable that he has always taken a role that puts him in charge of warriors, but he has done so as a manner of protecting people. He puts himself in the line of fire in order to make sure that others will be safe. He’s a bit of a martyr. I was able to justify siding against my moral code to protect him because I knew that he was the best person I had ever known. That’s when my philosophies began to change, though it certainly wasn’t overnight. It wasn’t until mother betrayed us that I started to really understand how fragile our morality was.”
“So what does that have to do with Alan?” I asked, trying to get to the bottom of Lumial’s first comment.
Once again the angel chuckled, though this time he sighed before he replied, “Everything, but I have to explain a little more background. You see, when my mother betrayed us to work with Shatan, I was initially torn between the two sides of my family. While I believed in the morality my father espoused, I had never been close to Michael. My mother on the other hand was my teacher, my confidant, and the woman who had made me who I was. All of a sudden I was faced with a choice. I could chose to side with my morals, or with my best friend. Raphael chose to side with my father immediately, and Belial sided with my mother almost as soon as he got her side of the story. I was drawn to Belial and Lucifel, but they were the traitors. They were the ones who had caused the rift in our family. I chose to stay at Eden while I decided what to do.”
“My father didn’t care that I hadn’t decided. We didn’t even talk about it. He took my choice to stay as a good enough answer. I wasn’t going with her, and that was enough for him. Unfortunately, my mother took my decision to stay as a clear sign that I had sided against her. To her mind, I had betrayed her completely. That’s when she ordered my brother to kill me.”
Lumial sighed, and once again he looked at Alan. The only emotion I could get from him was profound fatigue, and I knew that he was thinking about his family. He was ready for it all to end, and somehow Alan brought it all back to him.
“When Belial came to do the deed, he was heartbroken. He had no idea what to do, except that there was no way he could ever harm me,” Lumial explained slowly, his voice threatening to break with the emotion of the memory, “I was the one who suggested I go into hiding. I was the one who rigged the recording so that it looked like my ship was blown to pieces. I was only grateful that the demon king was willing to take me in, though I spent my first two centuries as little more than a prisoner. In time I proved useful, and they gave me more freedom. I have to say though, watching Alan almost makes me wish that I hadn’t. He’s a lot like I was when I was young, and he has the heart to fight. Honestly, if I didn’t know better, I would think that my brother is in love with him, just as he was with me.”
I was shocked, but as I thought back on my experiences with Belial, I realized that Lumial was probably correct. Belial had always had a soft spot for my young friend, though he had never voiced anything that would have given an indication of further interest. I could only assume that the angel felt it would be improper, considering their vast difference in age, though it could have had more to do with his mother’s feelings on homosexuality. My thoughts were soon disrupted by my young friend digging through a table near us.
“This stuff is so frickin’ cool!” Alan exclaimed as he picked up another device. This one was some kind of belt, with a disk shaped automatic buckle. He slipped it around his waist but as he did so I noticed the look of alarm on Lumial’s face. The angel quickly grabbed it from Alan’s hands and put it back on the table, carefully.
Lumial explained as quickly as he could as Alan’s eyes became filled with disappointment. “That one is still in its testing stages, and I really don’t want you to end up somewhere you don’t want to be. It’s a teleportation device, first one of its kind actually. My people have been trying to figure out teleportation for as long as I’ve been alive, and I finally managed to figure it out. You set the coordinates in the matching arm piece and then activate it, but I wouldn’t know what would happen if you tried to activate it without proper coordinates. I haven’t built a failsafe yet.”
Alan nodded emphatically as his smile quickly returned. “That’s understandable,” he said with a laugh, “I guess I wouldn’t want to teleport into the air when I don’t have any wings!”
“Definitely not, it’s not like you’re a demon!” Keith returned, and then cleared his throat when he saw me wince. My mind was instantly drawn to Marc, and I couldn’t help but let it show on my face. “I’m sorry Damien, but I guess that brings us around to why we’re here. Lumial, what is your plan to get us up to Heaven and rescue Dae’Marca, not to mention try and stop your mother from killing us all?”
“Indeed, let’s get to that, and it’s good that we’re already on the subject of demons because that’s the basis for the whole plan.” Lumial replied with a wry grin, though he dropped it when all he got was confused looks from all of us. Before I could protest that the demons weren’t going to help us, he continued his explanation.
“Inside every demon is a very specialized organ, which allows them to store the DNA of another life form other than their own. Through a process that we don’t have time to go over at the moment, a demon is able to use the information in that DNA to alter their physical form, practically becoming that other creature. Demons can change into practically anything, which includes angels, if they can only get their hands on the DNA. I just so happen to have the DNA on hand of a very important angel who a demon could masquerade as, given the proper instruction.”
Keith snorted, which drew a raised eyebrow from the angel. The Druid quickly offered his pessimism. “Well, that’s all well and good, but the demons aren’t going to help us. Where are we going to find one to shape shift for us?” almost as an afterthought he added bitterly, “We could ask the king again I suppose…”
“Oh ye of little faith, Keith. I already have that worked out. We have a demon in the room, or at least we have the next best thing,” Lumial replied with satisfaction, though the second round of confused looks caused him to sigh and then explain, “Damien. He may or may not have a very small version of the organ buried in his skull. Even if he doesn’t, the information is still in his genetic code, which means I could cause his body to grow it inside of the medical pod. All we would have to do after that is give him the DNA of the angel, and initiate his shape shifting.”
I was astounded by the thought, but I was also starting to get excited. I wasn’t so sure about the thought of taking on the form of an angel, but when it came down to it, I was willing to do anything if it meant a chance to rescue Marc. Or, at least I thought I was willing to do anything until Keith asked a question that had me struggling with my emotions.
“Wait a second,” the Druid asked, “Whose DNA were you planning on using?”
Lumial smiled confidently as he replied, “None other than Michael himself. Who did you think? He’s perfect, and I can do even better. Before I left Eden I downloaded my father’s extensive journal entries, most of which were downloaded directly from his memories. I have the technology to imprint that information into Damien’s brain, meaning he’ll be able to pull off Michael quite well, albeit a younger version of him. He will look, sound, and if he can read the memories correctly he will even act exactly like my father.”
I had a hard time listening to the next part of the conversation. Keith was asking about other concerns that I didn’t quite make out, and Lumial was responding with solutions. All I could think about was the two warring parts of my mind; one that held an image of Michael’s bloody and broken corpse, and the other an image of my captive lover. Eventually Marc won, but I felt sick to my stomach even as I interrupted the debate with my simple statement, “I’ll do it.”
“One last concern,” Keith said, staring at me with a bit of surprise, before he turned back to Lumial and said, “The angels know that he’s dead. They would have known as soon as he didn’t return, and I’m sure his physical status was being monitored. How are we going to get them to believe that it isn’t some kind of trick?”
“Ah, you forget that my people are religious, dear Keith. Miracles happen, and this one was even prophesied, though we can get into that more later,” Lumial turned to me with a look of concern and asked, “Are you sure that you’re up to the task, Damien?”
I nodded, though my nausea only strengthened. Despite my stomach, I was able to say with conviction, “Yes, I’m sure. What do we need to do?”
Lumial beckoned me follow him, and he led me to a medical pod that resembled the one that had restored my strength on Hell. “Climb into the pod, and we’ll get the process underway.” Lumial said with a smile, though I didn’t feel reassured. This would be a big change for me. Still, it seemed like the only chance we had to rescue Marc and save the human race. It was time to get over myself.
I stepped into the pod, and my world once again faded to black.
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