“Witches, demons, and now robots,” Malcolm groaned as I wrapped bandages around Raina’s burned waist. “I just wanted to live a quiet, happy life murdering drug dealers and child molesters. Was that so much to ask?”
I don’t think either Raina or I had an actual answer for that question, but rather than make a mean joke, Raina let out a soft cry.
“Sorry,” I said, hoping I was applying the bandages correctly.
“It’s fine,” she grunted. “The lasers hurt, and by this point I’m sort of getting used to being hit into things.” Raina coughed for a few seconds. “But my body’s still getting over whatever that demon did to me.”
“Precisely why you’re benched,” Malcolm said authoritatively.
“What?” Raina asked, standing up from her couch. “You can’t do that.”
“Actually, I can,” he responded, getting up in her face. “The two of you wanted me as leader, and while both of you have been taking excessive beatings as of late, Carter’s wounds heal far faster.” My friends and teammates were staring hard into each other’s eyes. “For your own safety, stay out of the action for awhile. Carter, Shay, myself, and I guess now Joey can handle all the crime in the city that, you know, you aren’t behind.”
Raina’s criminal operation was actually going pretty well. The only people getting hurt were super awful criminals, and Raina had left was she was doing to them vague enough that I was only a little worried she was killing them, and from what I’d seen, the quality of life in the Negative District had gotten quite a bit higher. People were happier because of the rec center Raina had built, food was no longer scarce because Exposure and his goons stole from restaurants, delis, and grocery stores every day, and Elphaba had scared the mayor into beginning to install indoor plumbing in the district.
“Great,” Raina moaned, sitting back down, apparently accepting Malcolm’s decision. “I’m being replaced by the fat oaf who thinks that all Gucci is is another word for “cool.””
“Don’t think about it like that Ray,” I said, finishing up with the bandages. “No one could ever replace you.”
She looked at me and smirked.
“You know it.”
Raina’s prank on me this morning was horrifying. However, it did allow us a moment of being completely open with each other, and because of that, we were closer than ever.
“Say Snipey,” she started. “Since you are part of my family’s staff, why don’t you go get us something to drink from the wine cellar?”
“Sure thing,” I said, even though I knew my hatred of strong wine meant I wasn’t going to be drinking any.
Yeah, Raina had been having some fun ordering me around as a servant, but it was all in good fun.
“Oh, and Snipey. Bring the bottle on a silver platter.” She snapped her fingers a few times. “Chop, chop.”
All in good fun.
Honestly, it was, I thought to myself as I descended down the spiral staircase. Unlike Stella, Raina wasn’t throwing things at me, insulting my worth as a human being, or making me cry.
By the time I returned from the wine cellar, with some Spanish wine the name of which I couldn’t pronounce, Malcolm was sitting down next to Raina, and they appeared to be talking to someone on Raina’s laptop.
“Just a sec,” Raina said. Carter just came back with the wine.
“Ooh, put him on!” I heard Eve say excitedly over the call.
Setting down the platter on Raina’s coffee table, I walked over to the others, and crouched down so I was visible to the webcam. From her end, she could see me from the chest up, while her camera was close up to her face.
“Hey Eve,” I said, waving to her. “How’s Greece?”
“Amazing!” she shouted. “Yesterday, Liv and I spent the morning in the spa. After lunch, Liv started teaching me how to hunt, and a huge bonus for us, the resort allows skinnydipping in the pool after midnight.”
The thought of a beautiful woman swimming around in a pool naked might have gotten me a bit aroused, if not for the fact that she’d mentioned they’d been hunting, something I did not support.
“Glad you’re having a good time,” Malcolm said. “Is Olivia there? We have some questions for her?”
Malcolm may have been the oldest, I may have known the most about super heroes, and Raina may have had the most connections, but Olivia seemed to know more about the world than the rest of us put together, even if she didn’t talk much. Hopefully she’d be able to shed some light on demons, robots, or both.
“No, she’s busy getting ready,” Eve answered. “What do you want to ask her?”
Raina gestured to the platter, desiring me to pour her a glass.
As I got to work on that, Raina said, “We want to know if she knows anything about either demons or artificial intelligence.”
“OH!” Eve exclaimed, a huge smile appearing on her face. “If you want to know about demons, or anything mystical for that matter, I’m your gal.”
“Uh, what?” Malcolm asked, confused. I opened the wine bottle and began pouring drinks for Raina and Malcolm. “You’ve never once shown interest in that kind of stuff as long as I’ve known you.”
“Of course I haven’t. That stuff freaks people out. Apparently super powers are just A-ok, but magic, which has been around just as long I might add, freaks people out. Though weirdly, my mom was more upset when she found out I was a lesbian than the time I accidentally flooded our living room in sewage and mozzarella.” I stopped what I was doing, and all three of us gave her a look of confusion. “Anyway, why do you guys need to know about demons?”
I handed my friends their drinks, one of which, Raina’s, was chugged down immediately.
Given what she had to explain, it was understandable.
“A few months ago, back when I was on a rampage, I completely destroyed the life of a guy my age named Takato. I thought he was just some nerd who was into marionettes, but as it turned out, he was also into the occult.”
I continued the story.
“He summoned this big, winged demon and sent it to kill Raina. The two of us did our best to fight it off, but it kicked our asses something fierce, and we were only saved by the intervention of a couple who have been looking after Takato.”
Malcolm finished up.
“We don’t think Takato is going to stop coming after Raina, and if he brings out another demon, we need to know a way to fight back. So far all we know is that there’s a chant to get rid of it, but none of us know it, and it’s too risky to go back to where Takato is staying, and ask his guardians what it is. Anything you can tell us may prove helpful.”
Even though I couldn’t see her do it, I could hear Eve cracking her knuckles.
“You guys want all the info I’ve got? That’s not doable within a week, let alone the time I have until Liv’s done getting ready. But, I can give you the cliffnotes version.”
“Please do,” Raina requested.
“Alright, before I get started, let me ask: What religion are each of you?”
“Atheist,” Malcolm answered.
“Agnostic,” Raina followed.
“Christian,” I said, raising a hand. The other two looked at me like I’d just said my shoe tasted good. “What? It’s not like I’m super observant.”
“Actually Carter, you’re the closest to being right,” Eve said.
“Come again,” Raina responded in a deadpan tone.
“Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the religions of the ancient Egyptians and ancient Mayans; all bullshit. Parts of them are true, but the details are all different. Heaven, Hell, angels, demons, monsters; they’re all real. But it’s history, not mythology.”
“Raina, did I just sleep through this stuff in high school, or do they not teach this in history class?” I asked.
“No, they most certainly do not. Go on, Eve.”
“Now that I’ve clarified that what I’m about to tell you is all true, we can begin,” Eve said. “Hundreds of billions of years ago, there was nothing. Then, somehow, all that nothing came together, and God was born.”
“God is real, huh?” Malcolm asked. “Well, I’m going to Hell.”
“But, much like the God from the Abrahamic religions,” Eve continued. “He quickly grew lonely. And so he created the first, and highest plane of existence, Heaven. There, his sons and daughters, the angels, lived peacefully. Of course, when you have millions of children, you’re bound to pick favorites. And even more so than his seven archangels, God’s favorite son was Lucifer.”
“Lucifer?” I asked. “As in…the devil?”
“The one and only,” Eve answered. “But in these early days, he was God’s right hand man, helping him run things. For billions of years, everything was great. Then, God made a mistake: He created a second plane of existence, ours. He made Earth, and populated it with unintelligent creatures which he hoped would evolve into smarter beings over time. However, when the first humans, Adam and Eve,” she laughed, no doubt because she shared a name with one of the first humans. “When they were born, God was fascinated with them, and more specifically, intrigued by the way they did things he couldn’t predict. And as the human race grew, God showed more and more affection towards it. Lucifer was not pleased.”
“Lucifer hated humans, thinking they were an insult to God and everything he stood for. Many angels happened to agree with him, but that wasn’t enough to start a war. After all, Lucifer loved his father. But then,” Eve sighed. “The serpent, who I’m sure you’re familiar with from the story of the Garden of Eden, came to Lucifer. Whereas in the stories you’ve heard, the serpent was an extension of Lucifer, in reality, he’s the one who filled Lucifer’s mind with the ideas of greed and lust. Of pride and wrath. And because of Lucifer’s anger, he gave in to the sins, deciding to wipe out humanity, and take God’s place and the master of all creation.”
“Not that this isn’t all fascinating,” Raina said. “But when are you gonna tell us something germane?”
“The answers in the present lye in the past,” she said. “Now shut it!” Eve continued her story. “The battle between God and Lucifer’s armies lasted ages, but eventually God’s side was victorious. Thing is, no one actually died in this war. Unlike beings born on Earth, angels weren’t created with the ability to die. But God still had to punish those who had opposed him. So, he created the entity of Death, along with the lowest plane of existence, Hell. Lucifer and all of his followers were turned into the first demons by Death, and sent to Hell. From this moment on, any angels that defied God would be “killed”, and would be reborn as humans, with no memories of their past lives. And if humans didn’t live good lives, when they died, they’d be reborn as demons in Hell. And to ensure that no one ever went to a place they didn’t belong, barriers were put up between the three planes of existence. There have been thousands of theories on where superpowers come from, and even I’m not sure myself. But if I had to guess, I’d say that humans who were reborn angels are the ones that have powers, while natural born humans don’t.”
“So I used to be an angel, huh?” Raina asked. “I always knew I was amazing.”
“Hm,” Malcolm said. “Demons are just people with powers who died without living a good life. That’s actually pretty interesting.” He paused. “Let me guess. Demons are just as strong as angels, and angels are far stronger than any human, right?”
“Basically,” Eve answered. “Well, except for King Power and Perses. As far as I can tell, there’s no record of any angel, demon, archangel, or archfiend being as powerful as them.”
That didn’t surprise me at all. King Power WAS the greatest hero ever after all.
“What about Smog?” I asked. “You mentioned archfiends, who I’m guessing are like stronger demons. Any chance he’s one of them?”
“Possibly,” Eve answered. “But I’m not sure.”
“So how do we kill these demons?!” Raina asked, getting really antsy. “All we know is that some dumb chant can make them go away.”
“There are actually several different chants you could be referring to. It’s only more about the conviction that you say them with than the words themselves. As for killing them, that’s gonna be tricky. As you saw first hand, they are incredibly strong and durable. In addition, they also have other abilities based on the abilities of the angel they used to be. The only way you three will be able to stop them is with magic.”
“So you’re gonna teach us?!” I asked, excited to learn the same craft of which Magistar had been a master.
“Uh, no,” Eve answered. “I’m an expert, not a witch.” She turned her face to Malcolm. “Malcolm, I have some books that might be able to help you guys in my room. There’s a key under the matt to our apartment.”
“I’ll take a look,” Malcolm said. “Thanks. Anything else you can tell us?”
“Yeah, if this kid can summon demons, odds are he’s got a lot more power than just that” Eve said, her entire demeanor changing to a much colder one. “If a stronger demon gets summoned, no chant will be able to get rid of it. My recommendation would be to kill Takato.”
“What?” I asked, getting worried that my friends would like the idea.
“I can’t,” Raina said, clenching her fists. “I’ve hurt him enough. I can’t bear to do it anymore.” She turned to Malcolm. “And if you have any regard for my feelings at all, you won’t kill him either.”
Malcolm just nodded.
“Alright, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Eve said. Her attitude then changed back to bright and peppy as she excitedly asked, “Hey Liv, wanna say hi to Raina and the others?”
Eve had been able to shed some light on the demon situation, but we still didn’t know anything about the artificial intelligence we faced. If we were lucky, Olivia could help us there.
The computer on Eve’s side was moved, resulting in the three of us getting a better look at both Eve and Olivia.
“Oh my God,” Malcolm, Raina, and I all said in unison, no other words really being applicable.
Olivia was dressed in full on dominatrix gear. She had on a black leather corset, a chain necklace, leather pants, and spiked gloves, and had a bullwhip in hand. Eve on the other hand was completely naked, her hands and feet tied together.
“Hello everyone,” Olivia said, either not realizing or not caring how weird this was.
“Hi…Olivia,” Raina stuttered.
“Say, do you know about anyone who could make independent, intelligent robots?” Under other circumstances I would have been more polite in greeting her, but this was really uncomfortable.
Just…Eve’s exposed breasts…
I shivered, thinking about dead puppies.
“Hm,” Olivia said. “Perhaps. Why do you ask?”
“We just fought one,” Malcolm answered. “Whoever built it made it specifically to fight us, and counter our abilities. Only reason we won was because the inventor didn’t know I had explosives. Even so, the thing acted almost like it was human. I didn’t even realize that technology existed.”
Olivia put her hand that wasn’t holding a whip to her lips.
“Don’t get involved with this,” she said. “I know who’s behind this, and I’ll handle it when Eve and I return.”
“We can’t just…” Raina started.
“Please Raina,” she interrupted. “If your opponent is who I think it is, it’s someone who is as smart as King Power was strong.” Holy… “I don’t you getting hurt, and she will kill you if you confront her directly.”
The three of exchanged looks, non verbally discussing what we thought of this.
“OK,” Malcolm said. “We’ll wait for you.”
Malcolm hated to admit it, but Olivia was by far the most powerful out of all of us, and next to Shay, she was also the best fighter. Something like this that didn’t directly involve us was probably best left to her.
“If that’s all,” Eve said. “Liv and I have something to get to.”
“Figured,” Raina said. “Have fun.”
“Oh, we will,” Eve said playfully, shutting off the call.
Once again, the three of us traded looks, but for a completely different reason.
“All agreed to never speak of what we just saw again?” Malcolm asked.