18 Get Thee Behind Me, Lucifer
Ray stumbled down the shop-lined sidewalk along a narrow side street just off the main square where all the trouble was the day before. He staggered off the sidewalk into the gutter, then wobbled into the middle of the street, and then back to the sidewalk, somehow bypassing the gutter. Ray grumbled incoherent rantings to himself, occasionally raising the volume in a startled passerby’s face while making no efforts to improve his coherence. One affluent looked Seraph rolled her eyes as she spied Ray shouting a stream of undifferentiated phonemes at a nonplussed shopkeeper, sweeping up the front of the store, in preparation to close up for the evening. Ray was waving his hand and pointing his finger as if the steady flow of slobbering noises had a profound point behind them.
“Ugh,” the well-dressed Seraph said to her companion, “I guess that’s what happens when you forsake your home and people for a backwards little mudball full of savage half-apes.”
“Whaa??!!” Ray snapped his head well past making eye contact with the Seraph. His finger stuck out at her as he swung a half emptied bottle of Ichor. He had pilfered the bottle when he thought the bartender wasn’t looking. Not only had the bartender seen him swipe the bottle, Ray had come back to the bar a few minutes later to brag to him about how he swiped the bottle from an inattentive bartender ‘waaaaaaaay across town’. The bartender thought it best to let Ray blow off some steam. He also didn’t fancy the notion of getting in between an ex-Watcher and his seven stages of grief. Back in the present Ray continued to challenge the snooty Seraph, “WhaayasayboutErff? Uhfiteya.”
“Agent Raphael,” the woman said with all the indignance her affluence afforded her, “You’re drunk, it’s disgusting.”
“I may be drunk ma’am, but in the morning I’ll be sober and you’ll still be horribly unattractive,” was what Ray thought he said. What came out was, “I may be morning, but I’ll be drunk agent and you’ll still be Raphael,” he shoved a smug smile in her face, gloating about his devastating zinger.
The two Seraph shook their heads and hurried on.
“S’rite,” Ray slumped against a storefront, “Keep moving if ya know what good for ya,” he swigged from his bottle.
The storekeeper came out and shooed him away with a broom.
“Fine. Nobody wants old Ray around anymore,” he wandered off, shouting at the buildings, “Fine I’ll leave. And you’ll be sad. You’ll be looking me for when you need something punched, I bet. Ray, you were gone. For years. And nobody said nothing. You’re right, Ego Ray. I know I am, Id Ray. Let’s get drunk, Ego Ray. We already are, Id Ray, we already are.”
The street was becoming dark, as all the stores were closing and dousing their Star Bee lures. Ray stood in the middle of the street swaying to and fro. As Ray stared into the growing darkness, he noticed that it began to reverse course, as the street around him became as bright as a rare cloudless day on Parthus could get.
“Dawn already?” Ray said, “Abby must be worried,”
He turned and saw, over the city skyline, a towering column of fire and smoke.
“Shit, I should do something about that,” Id Ray said, “Should I do something about that?”
“Nah, fuck ‘em,” Ego Ray, “They told me to get lost and that’s what I’m doing.”
Ray trudged on in his drunken quest for nothing in particular.
“Guys, this is Superego Ray. You guys need to shut the hell up and let him handle this.”
“Pftt,” Id Ray blew a raspberry, “Too drunk.”
“They’d probably just give me a bunch of shit anyway,” Ego Ray said.
“Let me help,” Superego Ray punched them across the jaw several times.
“Woah,” Ray shouted and held his face, “Maybe Ichor wasn’t the best way to end a teetotal,” he scratched his head him both hands like he was trying to dust off a brain full of sand. He let his head hang loose, swinging with his chin as pivot point against his chest. He moaned low.
“Can you get it together? Can you fly straight? Can you stop talking to yourself?” his body shook like someone had grabbed him by the lower spine and joggled him. He rolled his eyes back in his head and the twitching ceased. He rolled his eyes back down and he shuddered a few more times, “It’s all coming out tonight. Why stop now?”
He put his hands out to the side and the flower petals that littered the street began to swirl in eddies around his feet. The fur on his wings shifted and feet broke contact with the ground. He drifted on a current until a buffet of wind bounced him off in the direction of the conflagration. As he floated over the scene he saw that Adriel’s rally had fallen into chaos as a melee was taking place within a ring of fire. A spotted Michael and the Watchers on one side, Abby and Bart on the other and Adriel's fanatics in the middle. He lowered himself over the fray conjured a gale wind that pushed the fire back and knocked many of the participants off their feet. Michael trudged through the storm toward Ray.
“You were told to stand down,” he shouted, “What are doing here?”
“To do what’s drunk enough that I’m right,” Ray barked back.
“Agent Raphael,” Lucifer waved around a piece of paper, “Written editic. Signed off on by Metatron. And you. That’s your signature agreeing to the terms.”
“Old paradigm, homie,” Ray floated toward the scrum.
“You are in direct violation of the law at this point. You are an intelligence agent in direction violation…”
“Sort it out later.”
Lucifer clenched his hands together until his ashen skin became a frosty white, “Crisis into opportunity. Crisis into opportunity,” he repeated to himself like a mantra.
“What in blazes does ‘homie’ mean?” Michael said.
“I know. It’s an opportunity to see what effects time travel has on one’s psyche.”
“The results aren’t looking promising so far,” Gabriel said, “I’m worried about him.”
Ray found Ariel with her heel digging into another Seraph’s neck and her battle axe held high above her head.
“Adriel,” Ray said.
“Agent Raphael,” she looked over her shoulder, “Here to take me away in shackles?”
“That’s my only motivation for coming here.”
“Really? Not your girlfriend?” she gestured to Abby who was chasing a cluster of Seraph around with a herd of fire elementals.
Ray chuckled, “She can handle it.”
“I noticed,” Adrian sighed and dropped her grin, “Under what ground are you going to arrest me? Defending myself against a vicious, politically motivated assault?”
“Well, I just got here and it looks like attempted murder to me,” he tipped his head toward the Seraph gasping under Adriel’s heel.
She lifted her heel and slung her axe over her shoulder. She smiled and held her palms out.
He surveyed the chaos around them, “Maybe inciting a riot?”
“No, no, agent. That was your boyband,” she pointed at the Watchers.
“Not my boyband. I got kicked out.”
“Couldn’t sing the tunes?”
“Something like that.”
Ariel leaned in and whispered, “Or was it that they wouldn’t sing yours? You and I are lot alike, you know?”
“Why does anybody ever think that’s going to throw me off? A lot of people are a lot alike. Ever think that that’s precisely why we rub each other the wrong way? That’s how the Shadow works. You don’t have to keep explaining to me how the Shadow works.”
“Alright, Professor Pedantic, I’m not everybody, okay? Quit yelling at me. I used a hackneyed tactic are you going to arrest me for it?”
“No,” Ray grabbed Adriel by the wrist and spun her around, clamping a cuff on her one wrist, then the other, “I am arresting you for the attempted murder of that Seraph heaving his whip fruit smoothie all over the square.”
“It was self-defense. He attacked me.”
“We’ll sort all of that out at the precinct,” he shoved Adriel at Michael who was charging over to chew him out.
“I’m not done with you,” Michael yelled.
“Later,” Ray said running toward Abby and Bart, who were fending off a mob of Adriel’s fanatics.
Ray fought his way through the mob, meeting up with Abby and Bart. They chased off the rest and Bart flung the three that were still clinging to him, at the fleeing crew. Ray locked eyes with Abby.
“What were you thinking?” Ray asked.
“I wanted to go out,” she replied, “I was going stir crazy up in my cage.”
“It’s not a cage. It’s was a very nice hotel suite and it was for your…”
“Protection, I get it. I can handle myself.”
“It was to keep you out of trouble. Like this. Now you’re going to have to be taken into custody and questioned. Both of you. And by the way where’s Pietro?”
“Hiding,” Bart said.
“Good,” Ray called out, “Stay hidden Corvo. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Wait, we’re being arrested? Why? I was defending myself.” Abby protested.
“You defended yourself against a group of fanatics that have been convinced they should hate you and can easily identify you when they’re questioned about this at the precinct. And I’m sure they’re dying to say you attacked first.”
“No, Ray, you know me, I would never…”
“I know. We’ll get to the truth of this but, I’m sorry,” he pulled out a set of cuffs.
“You’re going to it?” Abby said, as her gaze fell on the cuffs in Ray’s hand.
“Would you rather someone else?”
“Do you need to put those on?”
Ray looked around. Michael was across the square staring him down. Ray beckoned him over. Michael softened as he realized what this was about. Ray gave him a forlorn look, as he tipped his head toward Abby and Bart. Michael gave a solemn nod and called the other Watchers over. They surrounded the pair and lead them off. Ray watched as the Watchers lead his friends into the back of a prisoner transport vehicle, shielding them from prying eyes.
Ray scanned the devastated square. The stage had collapsed and bannered were blowing in the breeze, still blazing. Seraph fire control crews were working on the blazes, as medics tended to wounded. Some even appeared to be dying. Ray wondered if one who was dying for a cause even through about the cause in the dying moments. Are affiliations even a consideration when one is looking into the oblivion of an artificially shortened life. Heard Lucifer chanting behind him.
“Crisis into opportunity. Crisis. Into. Opportunity,” he said through gritted teeth.
“I don’t think your mantra is working,” Ray said, as he watched a piece of torn clothing smolder at his feet.
“No. You keep your mouth shut.”
“I didn’t do this,” Ray stomped toward him, “You sidelined me to keep this from happening.”
“No not just this. You brought the humans here. You interfered on Earth after you knew what would happen. You gave someone like Adrien all she needs to spread her brand of discontent.”
“If you want to play the chain of events game, let’s go all the way back to you convincing Parthus to go war against Yaldabaoth on Earth. You every law, statute, guideline and neighborhood association rule at your fingertips, making your scalpel sharp cases why it was the just thing to do. I kick my own ass plenty over how much responsibility for Yalda I think I should take. But Adriel? At a certain people make their own choices. The only guilt I feel about any of this not tell you to shove your mandate or edict or whatever the fuck, straight up your cloaca and keeping this shit from happening.”
“Agent Raphael,” Lucifer stuck his chin out, “I believe time travel has taken a toll on your mental state. You are hereby suspended until your future as an intelligence agent is has been decided,” he held out his hand, “I’ll take your badge and your sidearm.”
Ray held up his badge and sidearm in his talon. Then he pitched them over Lucifer’s shoulder.
“That will be taken into consideration,” Lucifer said to the back of the departing Ray.