Take This Job and Shove It
Peace and normality had returned to the streets of Murias. The merchants at the evening bazaar were hanging fresh yellow and red blossoms from their awnings. The blossoms would attract schools of the bio-luminescent star bees that flitted along the shores of the nearby lake. Their thoraxes would glow in colors unique to each bee ranging from pale yellow to deep violet. When swarms of them would loop around the blossoms the collective effect would be a warm pink glow that would illuminate the entire square.
Seraphim flooded the square, dressed in fineries made of reflective cloth and polished jewelry made of rare metals, all intending to amplify the light of the star bees. It was the first day of lace berry season, a favorite among the Seraphim. Lace berries were a sweet delicacy that only fruited during a two week period just prior to the start of Autumn. They grew long and thin, often up to two feet in length, with a supple, leathery hide that contained a thick, sweet pulp that elicited heavy rushes of dopamine and endorphins. The seeds scattered throughout the pulp were bitter and produced a gentle psychedelic effect. The children loved them because they could use them as weapons in whatever war game they dreamt up for each other. Among the youth, lace berries are referred to as whip fruit. The adults didn’t discourage this mutual abuse among the youngsters, as this had the effect of softening the fruit’s touch skin, making it easier to ‘do a shot.’ ‘Doing a shot’ was biting off an end and sucking down the entire contents, then spending the next hour staring at one’s talons. The adults browsed, mingled, and flirted and the children shrieked as their comrades lashed them with whip fruit.
A crash rang out and glass fell from the fifth story window of a tower overlooking the square. Glass shards rained down in a glittering waterfall. The awnings began to patter and scratch as the glass struck their fabric and slid down. Ray stuck the ground, scattering a gaggle of shoppers. A flaming sword soon followed and pierced the ground inches from Ray’s head. Ray floated off the ground and drew the sword. He hurled it through the window from which he was expelled and shot himself in after it. Flames billowed and winds whipped and Michael’s massive frame toppled from the window onto the ground below. His hands ignited and he bolted into the air. Ray shot from the window like it was a cannon and slammed into Michael, grabbing him by the throat. They spun in the air, in a ball of wind of fire.
“He’s back for what, 12 hours? And they’re already going at it,” one Seraph said, clucking her tongue.
“He should have just stayed on Earth,” replied another shaking her head.
They both shook their heads and moved to more a tranquil corner of the square. Lucifer came jogging into the square waving his arms at the combatants, twirling in the air as they grappled.
“Unruly boobs,” he shouted to them. “Get down here immediately!”
“They can’t hear you,” Yuri’s cavernous voice muttered behind Lucifer.
“I can see that. What’s this all about?”
“What’s it always all about? Michael desires quick decisive action and Ray councils weighing every option.” Gabe sighed.
“Weigh every option a thousand times,” Yuri grumbled like a landslide.
“Get them down,” Lucifer grabbed Yuri by the lapels of his uniform.
“It's best to just let them tucker themselves out.”
“Then get them out the Night Bazaar. They’re destroying public tranquility.”
Ray slammed into the ground at Lucifer’s feet.
“Raphael,” Lucifer said, “Stand down at once.”
Ray hoisted himself to his feet, adjusted his neck and darted back into the air.
“Get them out of here,” Lucifer jabbed his finger into Gabe’s chest.
“Please stop poking me,” Gabe said.
The ground began to rumble.
“No,” Lucifer turned to Yuri.
The ground continued to shake.
“Stop it. Not in the square, Uriel.”
“You want them to stop?” Yuri said.
"Without damage to public property.”
Mike crashed through several merchant stalls in blazing fireball, skidding through the door of a house that sat on the square. He erupted through the roof and flew at Ray.
“Any more damage,” Lucifer said.
The polished cobblestones that paved the square began to dislodge and uproot, gathering around Yuri, encasing him in a shell of shiny rocks. He leapt into the air and bludgeoned Michael over the head with a rock encrusted fist, sending him sailing to the ground. Yuri dropped and stomped him into the ground, grabbing by the neck. Ray flew at him and wound up for a strike. Yuri put his hand out and gripped Ray by the throat. Ray wrapped Yuri in a shroud of whipping winds. The stones that lined Yuri’s frame began to wear away. Yuri clubbed him on his head. Ray’s eyes rolled and he went limp. Mike exploded in a ball of fire, throwing off Yuri. A wave of water crashed over him, dousing his flames.
“Mike,” Gabe said with his hands up, “Remember your breathing exercises. Find your quiet place.”
Mike wiped the water from his face and stomped toward Gabe.
“Count to ten,” Gabe held his hands like he was trying to placate a hungry panther.
Mike continued toward Gabe. Gabe fired a bolt of ice. It struck Mike on the shoulder and he continued toward Gabriel, undaunted. Gabe fired another. Mike held up a flaming hand and the bolt sublimated in a puff of steam. Mike fired a fireball. Gabe waved his hand in the air like he was running it along a pane of glass. Where his hand passed, a sheet of ice formed and caught the ball. Gabe looked over Mike’s shoulder.
“Ray,” he yelped, “I could use your help.”
Mike’s face twisted and he turned, with both hands alight. All he could see of Ray was him lying unconscious on the cobblestones. Gabe pelted him on the back of the head with hailstones until he slumped to his knees and then face-planted.
“I asked you calm them down,” Lucifer said, “Not join the fray.”
“They stopped fighting, didn’t they?” Gabe snapped. He breathed, “I apologize for my tone. It’s the adrenaline. I just pummeled my friend into unconsciousness on your behalf.”
“Apology accepted. I much prefer your passive-aggression. Now get them out of here. I have to go put out some fires. And thank them, for me, for giving Adriel more ammo to use against us.”
Adriel scrunched her face as she looked into a small vanity mirror. She was pulling back a nostril with one talon, while she approached it with a pair of zircon encrusted tweezers, exercising the meticulous care of a surgeon with the other. Harut and Marut appeared in a flash of light. Adriel glared at them in the mirror.
“From now on can you materialize outside the door and knock?” she said, laying down the tweezers and turning on her chair.
“Have you seen the news?” they said in unison.
“Save the creepy talking together thing for the masses. No, I didn’t watch the news. What lies are they telling about me now?”
“They’re not obsessed with you for once,” Harut said as Marut clenched his fists and bit his lip, his face twisted in apparent agony.
“It’s about the watchers,” Marut said panting, as Harut performed a similar ballet of pain.
“What? Some ‘go team’ nonsense?”
“No, ma’am,” the both yelped together and collapsed in puddles of relief.
Adriel stung them with a sidelong glare and snatched the remote off the white plastic coffee table and aimed it at the window. She never broker her glare. The view from outside the window was replaced with footage of the Watchers fighting at the Night Bazaar. Adriel lit up.
“I’d hug you guys if you didn’t freak me out,” she said through a snake’s smile. “Change of tack. Cancel the outworlder executions for the rally. Plan a more sedate, low key affair to contrast with that spectacle. We’ll appeal to the cowards on the fence as the sensible alternative to that chaos. Serve expensive food and booze. I’ll make a big speech where I bat my eyes and say, ‘aren't they supposed to be the good guys?’ Send Ray a fruit basket, with a letter thanking him on my behalf for returning to Parthus.”
Abby stood by the broken balcony door and looked at Ray convalescing in the bed across the room. She shook her head, in a mixture of disappointment, disbelief and a dash of concern. Cletus sat by the bed and dabbed Ray’s abrasions with a cloth damp with blue liquid. A knock came at the door. Abby and Cletus looked at each other.
“Should we get that?” she asked.
Cletus shook his head. The knock came again. Abby fidgeted a bit, then bolted for the door. She stood with her hand on the knob, staring at it. Another knock came. She cracked the door. Outside was a young Seraph wearing a blue jumpsuit with wings emblazoned on the left breast.
“Oh,” he said, “A human.”
“Yeah?” Abby replied.
“Is this Raphael’s room?”
“Is he here?”
“I’ll bet. Michael knocked him for a loop,” he laughed.
“This is for him,” the Seraph held out a fruit basket wrapped in a pink bow.
“Okay?” Abby looked at him.
“Are you going to take it?”
Abby reached for the heavy basket and took it in her arms, “Okay, thanks.”
“Wait,” the Seraph said, “Somebody needs to sign for it,” he held out a touchpad.
“Yeah, sign your name...on here.”
Abby stuck out her finger while still cradling the basket. She brushed it over the surface of the tablet, forming a few loops and chicken scratches.
“Have a good day,” the Seraph departed.
Abby dropped the basket onto the dresser and pulled out the letter that was nestled between the odd fruit.
“What does it say?” Cletus asked.
“It’s Greek to me.”
“It looks like Hebrew.”
“It’s the basis of the Phoenician alphabet,” Ray said, sitting up, holding his head. He held out his hand. Cletus handed him the letter, “It’s Adriel taunting me.”
“About the mess you made?” Abby asked.
“He threw the first punch.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have called his mother a…”
“Knock, knock,” Gabriel poked his head in the door, “You’re up? How are we feeling?”
“Like I was hit with a mountain,” Ray replied.
“You weren’t making things easy for Uriel. You left him few options. I hope you don’t hold it against him.”
“No. We’re fine. How’s Mike?”
“I wouldn’t say seething.”
“He’s gotta learn, not everything is a nail, he’s…”
Gabe held up his hand, “Not that I mind lending a sympathetic ear, but this needs to be hashed out between the two of you.”
“That’s easy to say. The guy’s a battering ram. Everything is,” Ray punched at his palm.
“Preaching to the choir.”
“Then why don’t you step in?”
“Ray, I’ve been stepping in for the last couple millenia while you having adventures on Earth,” Gabriel said, his voice swelling, “There’s little I can do when you’re there feeding his fires. And the hotter he gets the more of a gasbag you become…” Gabriel breathed, “Sorry, I apologize. It’s been a hectic day...and night...and day, since you got back.”
“Should I just leave?”
“No. No, I’m just out of practice with the old...dynamic.”
“Okay, okay, you’re spilling out over the edges. Leave.”
“Get some rest,” Gabriel smiled. As he turned to leave, he saw the letter lying on the bed, he read it and sighed, “Then there’s Ardriel. I was waiting for you to get your strength back before I brought this up, but the options on this aren’t good for us, Ray.”
“I get it. I’ll sit this out.”
“Thank you, Ray. It’s not personal, but when it comes to Adriel you bring too many liabilities. An alien sympathizer, who’s spent the last few millenia offworld. You even brought some back with you. You’re back for a day and you demolish the Night Bazaar. That’s too many arrows for Adriel’s quiver. Couple that with the fact that you and Michael clearly can’t work together and…”
“Gabe,” Ray snapped, “I get it. Just make sure you get Michael to consider all Adriel’s possible angles. Especially after last night.”