Here Comes The Flood
“Sorry, ma’am,” Ray said to the old seraph, “Wrong address. My apologies for bothering you.”
The old seraph, frowned, “You’re Raphael, aren’t you? Alien sympathizer,” she spat on his uniform and slammed the door.
Ray glared at the shut door.
“Well,” Stovall said, “I could be wrong.”
“I’m not convinced you are. That was a giveaway.”
“What happens now?”
“We’re finding another way in.”
They walked around the block to the backside of the row of houses and buildings that bordered onto a natural area, full of wild growth. They sneaked through the bushes and low hanging trees, to the back of the house of the old seraph. They came upon a basement door at the bottom of a sunken stairwell. Ray tested the knob. It was locked.
“Can you pick locks?” Ray asked Stovall.
“How dare you, sir,” Stovell huffed, “What do you take me for? Of course, I can.”
Stovall pulled a small, thin metal file from the brim of his hat. He slipped it into the keyhole and jiggled it about. It clicked and he opened the door.
“Like magic,” Stovall said and held his hands out, inviting Ray to enter first.
Ray pulled his pistol and stepped in. It was dark and dusty. Every inch of floor space was home to stacks of crates that reached the ceiling, save for a small, jagged path that led to the next door.
“What do you think’s in all these crates?” Stovall asked.
“Why don’t you open one and find out?” Ray replied.
“Don’t mind if I do,” Stovall cracked the slats of a wooden crate and several shiny packages slid out and fell to the floor. Stovall picked one up and showed it to Ray.
“Basic field rations,” Ray said.
“What does an old spinster need with crates of field rations?” Stovall asked.
“Cheap food for prisoners?”
Stovall tore the wrapper off the rations and held it in the shaft of light that streamed in through the narrow windows. He broke off a corner and tasted it.
“Yup,” he said spitting it out, “That’s what they tried to feed us. Nasty stuff.”
“Try eating it every day for three months in a foxhole.”
They heard the sound of scuffling along the floor. It sounded as if it had ascended a stack of crates to their left. Ray looked and saw a small figure perched on top. He jumped and pointed his pistol at the figure.
“Oh, for crying…” Ray said lowering his weapon, “What are you doing here.”
Pietro signed that he was following them.
“You get around, don’t you? Were you at the rally?”
“And you slipped out leaving your father, Abby, and Cletus to get arrested?”
“Well, you’re here now. I could use an extra hand.”
Il Corvo saluted.
“That’s just irresponsible,” Stovall said.
“This kid will have more notches on his belt at the end of the day than either of us combined.”
Abby watched Bart relaxing on the bench in his cell next to hers. His hands were behind his head and one knee was raised with his foot resting on it. He bobbed his foot to a lazy rhythm.
“How can you be so calm?” Abby asked.
“This is nothing new,” Bart replied, “Besides, we’re probably safer in here than out there with that crazy lady running around.
“Right. Aren’t you worried about Pietro? He could be anywhere.”
“Nope. He can handle himself.”
“I know, but still, he’s just a child.”
“A very dangerous child. You should be worried about everyone else.”
“I don’t know if I could be so blithe if my child were alone on an alien planet. Even if he was a danger, rather than in danger.”
“Let Adriel come after him. He’ll stick her ax where she keeps her shadow.”
“Where do people keep their...nevermind.”
Gabriel entered the cell block and waggled his fingers at Abby and Bart, “Hello, guys,” he said with a pained grimace, “So sorry about the cold, empty cells. It’s all we have at the moment, but I have arranged for house arrest. You’ll be taken back to your apartment as soon as we have the free hands to escort you.”
“Why don’t you just send us back home?” Abby asked, “It’s clear nobody wants us here.”
“I’m so embarrassed by the face Parthus has shown you so far. It wasn’t like that when Enoch was here. This is...new. And it certainly isn’t a majority of Seraphim. Just a vocal few.”
A seraph in a guard’s uniform trudged through the door carrying a bloated sack, slung over his shoulder like a Christmas elf.
“What took you so long?” Gabriel scolded, “I’m sorry, I know we’re short-handed and even the most basic of direct orders can be carried out in a lethargic fashion, even if I did instruct you to make it a top priority. While we’re on the topic, where are we on the escort I request several...well not several, a few hours ago...it’s been a bit of time since I asked for it. I know we’re busy, I’m not blaming you personally for the complete lack of compliance.”
The guard dropped the sack and locked eyes with Gabriel, “We’re working on it. We have the entire force working security in the streets and everybody is expecting instant gratification and miracles. We’re all working overtime on our last nerves down here…”
Gabe held his hand up, “No need to let tensions run higher than they already are,” he paused, “But if you maybe, go ahead and expedite that escort,” he grinned, “That would be greatly appreciated, um…” he squinted at the guard’s badge, “Corporal,” he smiled wider.
The guard loped away, grumbling.
“Here, I brought you both some things,” Gabe opened the sack and started handing Bart and Abby pillows and blankets. He kept handing them linens and pillows until they both had a pile up to their knees.
“This is a lot of stuff,” Abby said looking around at the soft, puffy things piling up on the bed and floor.
“I thought you might want the place to be a little homier. You could decorate a bit, put some pillows in the corners, stack them up, make levels, a reading nook maybe. But if you think it’s overkill, I’ll just tell the already overburdened staff to come and collect what you think is in excess. I mean, I only wanted to…”
“Gabriel,” Abby reached through the bars and put her hand on his, “It’s great. I really appreciate you looking out for us.”
He placed his other hand over hers and gave her smile that conveyed pure pity.
“I’m sorry I have to leave you alone, but I have other things I need to attend to. We’re short staffed after all.”
He gave an apologetic glance to both of them and exited the block. Bart was leaning on the bars that separated their cells. He looked at all the pillows, then back to Abby and shrugged. She picked one up and threw it at him. It bounced off his face and they both laughed, but soon remembered they were in a prison. No matter how accommodating the warden was.
Ray, Stovall, and Pietro crept through a vast underground complex that was far larger than the house it was attached to above ground. It was a network of crisscrossing hallways lined with doors. Behind some of the doors were large rooms that looked like prisons. Other rooms looked like they were being used as office space. Others looked like storerooms, like the one they entered from. Most of them looked like they hadn’t been used in ages, filled with cobwebs and dust bunnies, lacking in even basic furniture. They also noticed how they hadn’t seen a single other person.
“How does somebody build all of this under the city without anyone knowing?” Ray wondered aloud, “And how did you find your way out of here, Stovall?”
“I shadowed some guards,” he replied.
“What guards? It’s empty down here.”
“Maybe we head back and start over?”
“Could you even find your way back? We took so many turns, I’m dizzy.”
“Lost as you are,” Stovell said after a resigned sigh.
“How about you, kid?” Ray said to Pietro, “Any ideas.”
Pietro stopped and squatted. He twiddled his fingers like he was counting something out and looked toward the ceiling.
“Is he praying?” Stovall asked.
“Looks like he’s trying to remember something,” Ray replied.
Pietro pointed to Ray with one hand and his nose with the other then returned to his calculating. After a bit, he beckoned his companions to follow him. He led them along a long and twisting route. The came to a door and he pointed at it. Ray opened it and it was the storeroom through which they entered the underground complex.
“That’s a pretty good trick, son,” Stovall said to Pietro, “But now what?”
“Go right instead of left this time?” Ray said.
Stovall rubbed his face and looked at his feet. He snapped his fingers. He started whacking the walls with the umbrella from the bench, “Instead of hunting the snipe, make the snipe hunt us. Then see what direction they ran at us from.”
Ray grunted in consternation. Pietro looked impressed. Stovall added shouting and whooping to his ruckus. After a spell of this racket, they could hear a set of booted feet running through the corridors. Pietro crept in the direction of the approaching feet. Ray aimed his pistol ahead of them. Stovell held his umbrella like a fencing epee.
“You know it’s a felony to beat someone with an umbrella?” Ray said to Stovall.
“Specifically?” Stovall asked.
“They had to make a law specifically for umbrellas.”
“In the old days when dueling was still in fashion, people would just grab the umbrellas out the barrels and start beating on each other.”
“And human are the uncivilized animals.”
“Go team Seraph.”
Pietro motioned for Ray and Stovall to fall back. He leaped down the corridor into the darkness on the other side of the intersection the footsteps were approaching. Two seraph holding rifles emerged. Pietro vaulted over them, striking them both on the head with his sap. The collapsed into each other and slumped to the floor.
“Kid,” Stovall said, “We should hang out more.”
“That’s just what he needs,” Ray said, “More shady influences.”
They continued on in the direction the guards had approached from. The corridor emptied out into a large room, with makeshift cages erected and scattered about. The cages were stuffed with tired and dirty humans. A young seraph holding a rifle saw Ray enter the room.
“Agent Raphael?” he asked.
“That’s Director to you, son,” Ray said, grabbed him by the should and spun him around, putting him into a chokehold. The young seraph’s eyes rolled back and he lost consciousness. Ray eased him to the floor, “Me and Corvo are going to take care of the other guards. Stovall, start picking these locks. Tell the humans to stay put and stay quiet, until we get back.”
As Ray walked among the cages with Pietro perched on his shoulders, the humans inside recoiled and gave him baleful glances. A woman noticed the human child crouched between his wings, holding himself steady with one hand on his wing. He looked like a painting of an ocean explorer in his tricorn hat.
“Is that a little pet you trained?” the woman spat, “Torn from his mother’s arms no doubt.”
“He’s a friend,” Ray replied we’re here to help.
“Doesn’t that game get tiresome?”
“There’s always a guard coming through here claiming to be here to rescue us, then mocks our hope.”
“What a dick. No, I’m here to help.”
“Just go. I’ve become immune to your cruelty.”
Stovall was walking along the cages, making lazy stabs into the locks with his file and they each clicked upon in turn, “These locks are crap. Not one of you could pick these locks? My blind, arthritic grandmother could open this junk.”
Ray stepped back and allowed Stovall to do his thing. The lock clicked and the door inched open.
“Hold it shut,” Ray said, “We don’t want the guards getting wise until we’ve got you all out.”
“If this another cruel tease,” the woman said, “It’s certainly elaborate.”
“How many guards are down here?”
“I don’t know. I always see different ones. They come and go. A lot of them are wearing the same uniform you are.”
“Adriel’s fanboys are starting to infiltrate law enforcement…” Ray scratched his temple in a thoughtful spiral.
“What’s a fanboy?”
“Just stay put. We’ll be back.”
“What’s all the commotion over here?” a voice shouted.
“Hide,” Ray said to Pietro.
Pietro opened the cage door and wedged himself between the captives and lowered his head.
“The kid’s clever,” Stovall said, getting into another cage, “I’d have booked it.”
The guard saw Ray and ran toward him. He was wearing a GAI uniform, “What are you doing here...Agent Raphael?”
“Hey, check this out,” Ray said laughing, “I just told these dumb animals I was here to rescue them.”
“Ha, yeah, dude, that’s a good one,” the guard said, “We get all the new guys to do that one.”
Ray put his arm around the guard’s shoulders and pulled him toward the cage with the woman in it. She was scowling hard at Ray. He pointed at her, “Look at that one. That little monkey is so pissed,” he cackled.
The guard leaned forward, laughing. He poked at the woman in an effort to tease her. Ray grabbed him by the hair on the back of his head and slammed his head into the bars with such force, his head narrowed and his eyes squeezed out of their sockets.
“That’s what you get for disgracing the uniform,” Ray said and punched him one more time on the back of the head. The time it squashed all the way through the bars and dropped forward on a limp neck. Blood began dripping from his eyes onto the prisoners, “Oh man, I’m sorry guys, I didn’t mean to get blood all over you.”
The guard’s large, black, seraph eyes dropped from their sockets and dangled from their nerves.
“That’s disgusting,” Ray said, “Really, again, sorry.”
“Don’t apologize,” the woman said, “I’ve dreamed about that,” she dipped her fingers in the guard’s blood and painted stripes on her face, “Just give me a sword.”
“Wait, slow down,” Ray said.
Pietro pulled a long dagger from his boot and offered it to her, hilt first.
“Good enough,” the woman smiled. She lifted herself on the bars and exited the cage.
“What are you going to do?” Ray asked.
“You don’t think I can handle myself?”
“I literally want to know what your plan is.”
“To slit every angel throat I see.”
“There’s where I’m going to have to hit the brakes on you.”
“Yours excluded of course. You’re one of the good one.”
“Most of us are ‘the good ones.’ Not every angel you see will be on board and most of the ones in here have no idea what they signed up for. They told a lot of lies and given a lot of false promises.”
“I spent God knows how long in that cage, being beaten, starved and humiliated.”
“And you have every right to feel that way. But once you get to the street you’ll run into a lot of sympathetic seraphim, who aren’t too keen on Adriel’s rantings. You don’t need to be slicing them up too and you kind of seem like you’re in loose cannon mode, right now.”
The woman looked at Ray and took a deep breath, “Okay.”
“Okay. Good. I’m going to need you focused if we’re going to get all these people out of here. What’s your name?”
“Catherine. Catherine of Swindon.”
“Swindon? A friend of mine stole a pair of pants in Swindon.”
“I had a pair of pants stolen about a year ago. They were right out there on the line. If I ever find who took them,” Catherine rotated the blade in front of her cold-blooded face.
“Anyway...shall we get these people out of here, Catherine.”
“Ray,” he held out his hand.
“Ray,” she accepted his hand and shook.
Abby and Bart were being led through the street, on their way to house arrest, in their apartment. Michael led the parade. Gabe and Uriel flanked them. A small contingent of GAI agents followed up in the rear.
“This feels like a grim march,” Abby said, “Somebody sing a song.”
Mike and Gabe chuckled. Uri squinted in a way that suggested he was smiling. They returned to their silence.
“In the future, they have carts that move around without horses. They're fast too. Do you guys have anything like that? If you did we’d probably be back at my apartment by now.”
“We do,” Mike said, “We use them for long distances between cities. Inside the cities, the streets are too cramped. So we walk.”
As they rounded a tight corner, they could see down the straightaway groups of humans and seraphim clashing, filling the street. The humans were using the free umbrellas as weapons. Adriel was shouting her rhetoric over the scrum while grappling with Ray.
“Oh dear,” Gabriel sighed.
From behind they heard the rifles of the GAI agents in the back hummed to life. Abby, Bart, and Watchers turned to find the agents pointing rifles at them.
“Damned traitors,” Mike fumed, as dark smoke poured from his nostrils.
“Miss Rosenkreutz,” Gabe said, “Feel free to defend yourself.”
“About time,” Abby said and her hands ignited.
“For Adriel,” the agents shouted in unison.
Lucifer and Cletus sat across from each other, sipping nectar tea from golden cups. They both had their noses buried in ancient scrolls. On occasion, one would throw out a comment about what they were reading and the other would hum in approval over their teacup. An agent opened the door and walked in. Lucifer looked at him over his spectacles.
“Yes?” he said, “What do you want?”
“Director Lucifer,” the agent said, “Get on your knees with your hands behind your head.”
“What is this?”
A group of agents filed in and lifted Lucifer from his chair and dropped to the floor on his knees. The put his hands in cuffs.
“Take the human to Adriel,” the agent barked.