For What It's Worth
Ray, Cletus and Abby walked a marble path to the steps of what looked like an ornate cathedral, flanked by Seraphim guards. Two pink marble spires, encrusted in golden filigree pierced the clouds that hung low in the sky, framed on either side of a heavy oaken door, that stood three stories tall. The marble split in the middle and surrounded a fountain of frozen water, draped in the snow that had been falling since they arrived. The fountain was ringed by shrubbery bearing blossoms that glowed with deep colors that illuminated the snow that covered them. The path was lined with trees with low hanging fruit that lit the path with golden light. Cletus and Abby ogled in wonder at the sprawling Seraphim city the stretched out around him, rolling with the hills of the land. Ray scowled. He knew nothing good goes on in this building, especially when you’re led there by security. He was being taken before the Seraphim Council of Parthus. The council was populated by Seraphim Ray had fought alongside in some of the worst wars known to the galaxy. They fought side by side, slept on top of one another in flooding trenches, caught dysentery together, tended each other’s wounds and watched friends die together. That didn’t matter now. In times of relative peace, soldiers either fade away or become pencil pushing politicians and policy wonks. Ray chose neither option, much to the chagrin of his allies.
They were led into a cavernous chamber of white marble, dark wood and swirling, gold, rococo ornamentation. Ray was taken to the center and Cletus and Abby were seated off to the side. Behind an elevated stand, seated much like a judge at the bench, was a long, lanky Seraphim with features more drawn than an average Seraph's.
Seraphim tended to be lanky, but this one appeared to be part spider, tapping his spindly finger against the surface of the bench. Ray stood before a chair that was placed behind him and glared at the spidery Seraphim, looking as nonplussed as he could manage. Circled around the perimeter of the round chamber were Seraphim of all shapes and sizes, seated at desks of their own, all staring at Ray.
“Please, Raphael, be seated,” the tall Seraph whispered, but his voice penetrated every corner of the room. Abby could feel his voice booming in her chest.
Ray sat and continued to glare.
“Seraphim Raphael…” the Seraph boomed.
“Raphael?” Ray said, “Are we going to pretend we aren’t friends here?”
“This is a court of law. Friendship is placed to the side.”
Grumbling broke out in the court.
“Ray, these are serious charges,” said a Seraph, surrounded in white light, emitted from his apparently bioluminescent skin, “Interfering with a primitive species. The humans no less…”
“Oh, Lucifer has an opinion on interfering with humanity?” Ray scoffed.
“Perhaps you should allow Lucifer to serve as an example to you Ray,” Metatron said, “He made a mistake. You deliberately interfered in human affairs even knowing what that mistake cost the Earth in the past. Millennia of strife and violence. Fighting fire with fire didn’t work then and it won’t now. And now you bring humans here, to Parthus? Do we not learn from our mistakes? Did we not learn from the Enoch affair? I thought you understood, Ray. And here, not only do we have humans walking upon Parthus, you’ve taught them sacred Seraphim technology.”
“First of all I was shot down and marooned,” Ray said.
“What technology do the humans possess that could do that?” a stout Seraphim asked, in a calm tone.
“The technology Yaldabaoth gave them. It was Parthi weaponry.”
“If you suspected Yaldabaoth was active on Earth…,”
“Is. Is active on Earth, Uri, if you’d let me go back and apprehend him...”
“...You should have notified the council,” Uriel finished.
“So you could call for endless, hand wringing committees?”
“There’s procedure , Ray,” Lucifer said, “There’s rules of conduct that need to be followed. This isn’t the war anymore.”
“Point two, I didn’t teach the humans anything, they already knew Seraphim technology when I got there.”
“Where would they have learned that?” Metatron said.
“Didn’t you just mention the Enoch affair?”
The council let out a collective sigh.
“Exactly,” Ray said, “We’re still paying for our mistakes, but you want to pretend that we’ve got it all sorted and whenever more of it blows up in our faces, you want to make-believe that it’s an all new situation and pin the blame on somebody. You have to sleep somehow, right?”
“Say, I’m willing to concede that point, Ray,” Metatron said, “You’ve still brought humans to Parthus. You can’t blame the past on that.”
“I can blame the future.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve spent a few weeks there, courtesy of Yalda himself.”
“An incarnation of Yaldabaoth, from 900 years in the future, cracked the secret to time travel.”
The chamber erupted. Metatron bellowed for order.
“Ray,” he said, “I’ve never known you to be a liar, but this is beyond credulity.”
“If this is true,” Uriel said, “We all could be in grave trouble. Altering time? That could be devastating.”
“Don’t start panicking. I’ve handled it.”
“You’ve handled it?” Metatron said.
“I, two future incarnations of myself and several extraordinary humans. Including Abigayle Rosenkreuz and Cletus Wensleydale,” Ray pointed to them, “600 years from now. On Earth.”
“I thought you said 900 years,” Lucifer said.
“The time traveling Yalda is from 900 years now. The battle takes place in 600.”
Metatron rubbed his eyes and sighed.
“I know it’s confusing. You can have your science team examine this, Lucifer,” Ray held up the miniature time travel device that Yalda had given him.
“Bring that here,” Lucifer said, donning spectacles, looking askance.
Lucifer examined the device, scanning its circuitry through its metal casing.
“This is extraordinary, Metatron,” he said, looking spooked, “I’d like to have science and engineering look at this immediately.”
“Does it corroborate Agent Raphael’s testimony?” Metatron asked.
“As of right now, I’m mystified. My team will be able to tell us more.”
Metatron regarded Ray in long silence.
“Agent Raphael, I’m placing you on administrative leave until Lucifer can tell us more. You won’t be taken into custody, but remain close.”
“I was planning on taking the humans back to Earth.”
“Unfortunately, they’ll have to stay for the time being. They’re under your care, Ray. Keep a close eye on them. This hearing is adjourned.”
Metatron and Seraphim stood and filed out of the chamber. Cletus and Abby ran to Ray.
“That could have gone a lot worse,” Ray said.
“What happens now?” Abby asked.
“It looks you’ll be spending a bit of time on Parthus.”
Abby’s eyes lit up.
“I know. Terrible,” Ray smiled.
“It’s beautiful here. It’s like what I imagined…”
“Heaven to be like?”
“Humans have been here before. We briefly relocated refugees here during the war. I guess the story got passed down until we became legends of angels living in the clouds. It is pretty foggy in the lowlands.”
“Welcome to Murias,” Ray said to Abby and Cletus as they exited the council hall and into the streets of the city,” Largest city on Parthus.”
As they walked through town, Abby notice most Seraphim were happy to give her a pleasant grin. She also noticed the occasional bitter scowl. They came upon a town square where an elevated lectern was erected on a dias. A female Seraph of harsh countenance ascended the podium, flanked on either side by two more grim Seraphim, carrying flags emblazoned with severe emblems. She began to wail like a firebrand preacher.
“Dear Friends, have you heard?” she began, “An inferior specie walks on the surface of our beautiful world. Fouling it with every footstep. Humans walk among us today.”
Abby and Cletus shrank behind Ray.
“Who is this?” Cletus asked.
“Adriel,” Ray said, “A malcontent. Joined as always by her sorcerer toadies, Harut and Marut. I’d tell you which one was which, but it doesn’t matter, They’re are of the same mind on all things. Adriel’s mind.”
“Not only has our oh so wizened council allowed them to breach our space, they allow them to stay. There is no reason good, hard-working Seraphim should be suffered to breathe the same air as these low beasts. Brothers and sisters join us as we march on the council hall and demand that Parthus be kept for the good and noble Seraphim. We shall not be debased by this invasion. Our way of life will not be compromised by the negligence of our incompetent council. They work for us and they should be reminded in no uncertain terms.”
Throughout the crowd a wave of jeers erupted. Several Seraphim in agreement ascended the dias with Adriel and locked arms and a few on the fence followed. They raised their fists and chanted slogans about Seraphim purity.
“I’ve never seen her bluster getting this much traction,” Ray said.
“Ray,” a voice said behind him.
“Gabe,” Ray turned to meet the voice, “What happened while I was gone? Adriel should be covered in trash by now.”
“Adriel has been building pockets of support planetwide. You should get your friends off the street. You never know who’s flying her flag now. She has people everywhere.”
Harut and Marut descended the dias and disappeared into the crowd. When the returned they were ushering in two hooded figures. Their exposed hands identified them as human. They were led to the front of the dias. One was large and stout, they other seemed only a child. Harut and Marut whipped the hoods off their prisoners. Abby gasped as the faces of Bart and Pietro were revealed.
“Why are they here?” Ray said to himself.
Harut and Marut drew long daggers and held them to Bart and Pietro’s throats.
The gathered crowd cheered. A few pockets voiced their protest, but were quickly overrun by Adriel’s supporters.
“Gabe,” Ray said, “Get Abby out of here.”
Gabe took Abby by the hand and began to lead her back to the council hall, but they found themselves boxed in by Adriel’s fanatics.
“Adriel,” Ray called, walking to the dias, “That’s enough.”
“Raphael,” she replied, “The human sympathizer. Aren’t you facing trial for mucking around on the human home world and bringing these filthy creatures to Parthus.”
The crowd grumbled.
“What are going to do with them?”
“Make an example of those that would foul our fair home.”
“Let me take them into custody. I’ll return them to Earth.”
“Behold, people, the bleeding heart of the alien sympathizer. He cares more about lowly beasts then he does his own kind. An example must be made, a warning must be sent to those who would disturb our tranquility.”
“I’d be more than happy to take you into custody too.”
“See? The toady of Metatron’s authoritarian regime wishes to stifle our free expression.”
“Murder isn’t free expression.”
“Is it murder to kill a dog? These are lesser beings and will be treated as such.”
“Talk about authoritarian.”
“You forced the hands of decent Seraphim to act out of desperation.”
Adriel raised her and Harut and Marut readied their blades to the cheers of the crowd. The crowd began to pummel Bart and Pietro with half eaten food.
The fanatics grabbed Abby from Gabe and pushed her toward the dias as the crowd showered her in refuse.
“Another one?” Adriel shouted, “This will be a great display. A message to those animals who would dare walk our shores. I know this one. Raphael has great affection for this one, the object of his deviant desires. This one deserves my special attention.”
Adriel hefted a battle-axe from behind the podium and pointed to the ground. Her followers pushed Abby to her knees and pushed her head down on the dias, sweeping her hair from her neck. Ray and Gabe attempted to rush the podium but were held back by Adriel’s goons.
“Behave yourself Ray and maybe I’ll let you keep her head.”