Rise 7.7: The Troupe

Why was I doing this?

 

I’d never wanted to get wrapped up in any of this ‘save the world’ nonsense. I just wanted to take care of my boys. But apparently, out of all the many people involved in this mess, I was the only one who was a responsible adult. This unfortunately meant that I was sort of obligated to step in.

 

What a drag.

 

Standing out in the snow, I knocked on the motel room door. As if the freezing cold wasn’t bad enough, dealing with Carter was going to be a headache in itself. If he answered the door at all, I’d be greeted with off the chart levels of angst and whininess. I wasn’t sure if that was preferable to his usual annoying brand of cheerfulness and joy.

 

He did have a cute butt going for him though.

 

I tapped my foot as I waited for him.

 

Wonder how bad Hell’s gonna be when I die later, I thought. Hopefully the place at least looks cool.

 

The door opened up just a crack, Carter peeking out an eye.

 

Hope?” he questioned in a laughably gravelly voice. “Go away.”

 

I really don’t have time for this bullshit, I thought as I sighed, kicking his door down with enough force that both it and Carter went to the floor.

 

I waited a moment for him to get up or say something but he didn’t do either.

 

Our only shot at survival just got knocked out by a door,” I said, clenching my nose between my fingers. “Don’t know why I’m surprised.”

 

The door skyrocketed up, slamming against the ceiling, having been hit by Carter’s edgelord black lightning. He stood up, punching the door to break it in half as it fell back down.

 

Sorry about that,” I said. “And for stabbing you in the back the other night. But you had it coming.”

 

His hands lit up.

 

What are you doing here?” he growled.

 

What are you doing here?” I mimicked. “Do you know what you sound like?”

 

In a single movement, he put his fist up against my neck.

 

I could kill you.”

 

Uh huh.” Carter was definitely preferable when he was being irritatingly happy. “You know what’s happening today don’t you?”

 

Yeah,” he answered. “I kill Abraham and save Shay.”

 

No,” I shoved him back. “He’s going to come here and he’s going to beat the crap out of you, and then kill you and everyone else. You can’t win like this.”

 

A blast of lightning fired out of his chest, hitting the ground in front of my feet.

 

We’ve already been over this. Leave or die.”

 

This was going about as well as I’d expected. I still had one card left to play.

 

I intentionally widened my eyes and dropped my mouth open.

 

Shay,” I said with wonder that hopefully didn’t sound too forced; an actor I was not.

 

Hope,” he shut his eyes. “If you’re making a hallucination of Shay behind me right now, I really will kill you, no more warnings.”

 

No hallucination little bro,” I had her say as she walked up beside him. Carter swung his head down, closing his eyes. “Not happy to see me?”

 

Die!” he screamed, raising his head and breaking my concentration as he lifted up his arms to shoot lightning at me.

 

I dodged out of the way, jumping off the platform down to the parking lot below.

 

Carter was an idiot, but I’d had a feeling he wouldn’t buy Shay’s sudden health. All I’d wanted to do was get inside his head for a few seconds to see what he was really thinking. And it was pretty fucked up.

 

Wanna tell me why you’re thinking about electrocuting a chained up, weird looking woman?!” I shouted up at him.

 

As if there was no other way he could come off as a bigger doofus than he was already, he laughed maniacally.

 

I’m thinking about it because that’s what I’m doing right now in my soul!” he screamed back at me. “That isn’t a woman at all! It’s a demon! The reason I have this power at all! But she’s also a monster who deserves to be punished. And I’m happy to do the punishing.”

 

Kinky, I thought. More importantly, Olivia hadn’t given us much detail about souls and such, but it seemed pretty obvious to me that him torturing the source of his powers was only making him weaker.

 

But there was nothing I could do about that. He was off the deep end, wasn’t listening to reason and there was nothing I could do about the going ons in his soul.

 

What a waste of time.

 

Fine,” I said to myself. “Plan B.”

 

Yeah, run away!” he screamed as I ran off. “In a few hours, you’ll be singing my god damn praises!”

 

Not even if you really did win, Carter.

 

*

Daddy…Daddy please wake up.”

 

I howled, breaking out of half-consciousness as ice water was dumped on my face, awakening in our base.

 

You’re the one whose gotta wake up, dude,” Sammy said, tossing away a bucket. “It’s time.”

 

Could have just shaken me or something,” I groaned, rubbing my eyes as Sammy sat down in his chair.

 

I couldn’t believe I’d actually just had a nightmare of when my dad was killed. You always see characters in movies and TV shows have dreams about their dead loved ones, but somehow it had never happened to me before now. Eerie timing.

 

Hope, who was the only one of us not seated, looked mildly frustrated. Things must have gone pretty terribly with Carter.

 

I don’t even know how you could sleep right now,” Harrison commented, arms crossed.

 

Might be the last chance we have,” I replied.

 

Most likely,” Hope said. “But we’ve still gotta try something.” Harrison had been doing a kick-ass job at running the business end of things back when we were in charge of a crime syndicate, but when it came down to it, Hope was always our leader. “Now since Carter was a bust and I can’t get in touch with Raina or the rest of this city’s supposed “heroes”, we need to go with our other plan.”

 

You mean the one where we wildly throw ourselves at the ungodly strong archangel?” Sammy asked.

 

No, she means the one where we wildly throw ourselves at the ungodly strong archangel,” Harrison snarked.

 

I volunteered to come with you guys,” Sammy’s voice cracked.

 

And you’re also much squishier than the rest of us,” Hope stared right into his eyes. “One serious punch and you’d die for sure. You’re probably dead one way or another but I’m not letting you get killed on my watch.”

 

Real loving words there, sis,” he laughed.

 

Hope rolled her eyes, putting back on her resting bitch face.

 

They’re taking this pretty lightly, I happily thought.

 

So, we know Abraham will be attacking Carter at the motel he’s staying at tonight. We need to cut him off on his way there and somehow stop him. Maybe I can do something to his mind again, maybe Harrison can get heavy enough to crush him, I dunno.” Hope looked like she was about to cry, lower lip quivering, but no tears were coming out. “I don’t want us to die.”

 

Harrison, Sammy and I all looked at each other, both of them suddenly looking bummed out.

 

So much for the light mood, I thought.

 

We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all of the time,” I stood up as I did my best Patton impression. “Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose; like shit through a tin horn!”

 

As I finished, I put my fingers against my lips as if I was holding a cigar.

 

Wooh!” Sammy cheered, leaping to his feat. Hope and Harrison also smiled. “You just come up with that, dude?” The H’s both glared at him. “Please, like you two know who he was impersonating.”

 

It’s amazing what you can know when you read a book every once in awhile,” Harrison said.

 

Oh go to Hell!”

 

Harrison and I laughed and Hope’s smile widened as Sammy continued to scream about something or other.

 

Role-playing was something I mostly did as a form of escape. But maybe more importantly, even if they sometimes found it annoying, I loved getting to use the skill involved in it to make my friends happy. I had no clue if we were actually going to die in the next few hours. But I figured that having a positive attitude could only be beneficial.

 

*

I had a good life going for me. Parents that didn’t suck, friends that weren’t too annoying, financially stable, I wasn’t regularly putting myself in life or death situations. But for whatever reason, I decided to throw in with this pack.

 

I know I said this a bunch already, but good luck out there guys,” Sammy said over speaker phone.

 

Sammy was undoubtedly one of the dumbest people I’d ever met in my life.

 

Don’t worry about it,” I said. “We need all the luck we can get.”

 

But his heart was usually in the right place.

 

Yeah, yeah,” he muttered. “Alright, I better let you guys get to it. Kick his ass for me!”

 

It definitely is for you,” Hope said as she hung up.

 

Hope could get incredibly irritating with her constant indifference to everything.

 

No, “I love you” or “goodbye?”” Casey asked, teeth chattering.

 

We know how we feel,” Hope said,pocketed her phone.

 

But no matter how she acted, she would always have our backs.

 

And there’s no point in saying goodbye if we’re coming back,” she continued.

 

We weren’t coming back. Hope definitely knew that too. Maybe Casey. Abraham had been playing with us the last time we fought him and everyone only survived because of very specific circumstances.

 

Maybe Raina and Olivia were cooking up some plans of their own and that’s why we couldn’t reach them, but it sure would have been nice for them to let us know. As it stood, we were dead men walking.

 

Figuring it was the best way to get a look at a flyer, we’d gone up to the roof of a skyscraper a few blocks away from the motel Carter was staying at. Hope and I had tossed on our costumes, minimal as they were, and Casey was completely nude. It was freezing and snowing pretty hard, but we wanted him at his strongest from the start and to have access to his extra power.

 

You holding up okay?” I asked my butt naked friend.

 

Casey, while funny at time, could be the most annoying of all at times with his constant role-playing. I got why he had to do it, but we could have gotten a lot more done if he’d taken things seriously more often.

 

Yeah, yeah I’m good,” he said, hugging himself. “Just a bit chilly is all.”

 

But even on his best day, I’d say he beat out Carter when it came to being the nicest guy around.

 

Hey,” he continued. “Do you regret joining us at all?”

 

Even with all their redeeming qualities though, they’d still all been pains in my ass for years and now I was going to die because of them. If I’d never met them, I’d probably be sitting an office, completely unaware of what was going on right now.

 

I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

 

Looking away from Casey’s smile, I turned to Hope, who was keeping her eyes focused on the sky.

 

Any sign of him?” I asked.

 

No, not…” she stopped talking, eyes widening. “Scratch that! Big puff of black smoke at 10 O’Clock!”

 

And here we go.

 

He should currently be seeing Carter standing here and not any of us,” Hope said. “Get ready!”

 

Hope pulled out her knife as Casey and I took fighting poses, Abraham having changed his direction to flying right toward us.

 

A couple seconds later,  Abraham arrived, taking his humanoid form as both of his lackies jumped out of the cloud.

 

Ah fuck,” Hope whispered. Based on the sneer Abraham expressed as she did so, she’d ended the illusion. Made sense. It was going to last much longer and with the angel and vampire here, he was about to find us out anyway.

 

I don’t know why you drew me to you, but I hope you don’t plan on delaying me any further,” Abraham said.

 

Not dressed like a damn Nazi this time, he wore just a black tank top and black jeans.

 

Seriously bros, whatever you’re thinking of doing, you don’t wanna try it,” the angel dressed in all multi-colored leather warned.

 

Hmph,” the flannel clad vampire grunted, her arms crossed.

 

Hope stepped toward them, her legs shaking.

 

If you want a fight, we’re the best you’re gonna get right now,” she said, fear in every word. “Carter is currently about as threatening as an angry dog. A really small, angry dog.”

 

The angel looked concerned at her words.

 

Is that so?” he asked rhetorically. “Unfortunate. But I’ll see for myself.”

 

Damn it! I thought as Abraham started turning back into a cloud. This is all falling apart!

 

Stop!” Casey screamed, stepping forward. For better or worse, Abraham stopped his transformation half-way through.

 

You have something else to say?” Abraham asked.

 

Better have a plan, dude.

 

We’re not going to let you kill him. We’re not going to let you kill all the people in this city!”

 

If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was sweating. Of course, we didn’t have any muscle to back up the gusto.

 

Abraham sighed.

 

You three seem to be fairly in the loop on what’s going on,” he said. “I would have thought you’d realized that I have no intention of killing anyone else.”

 

Wait. What?! I thought, Abraham giving what looked like a sentimental glance at Gordon.

 

Adam is going to kill everyone on Earth if Carter is as weak as you say,” he continued. “I’d hoped that the threat would have given him the push he’d need and because of the trauma I put him through, he’d be blind to my true intentions.”

 

The three of us exchanged glances. We had no idea if what he was saying was true, but it did make sense.

 

You’ve still killed plenty of innocent people already,” I said. “Someone we knew, even if not too well.” Gordon hung his head low. “You can’t just get away with…”

 

Idiot,” the vampire cut me off.

 

What you call me?”

 

Idiot,” she repeated. “Master Abraham is the only one who’s been doing anything to try and save this worthless world. If what you say is true, then he’s failed and will die alongside everyone else. But all of his actions have been for the best.”

 

We’d been so focused on Abraham and Carter going crazy that we hadn’t been paying much thought to the biggest threat out there. Maybe this had just been a way to distract ourselves. Because if we were ants to these guys, we were even less to Adam.

 

Stand down,” Hope said, defeated. “Don’t fight.”

 

What?!” Casey exclaimed. “But we can’t just let them…”

 

Let them what? Kill Carter? He’s already gone. Even if this wasn’t completely out of our league, there’s no point in attacking them.”

 

Glad you feel that way, bra,” the angel said. “I wouldn’t want to hurt any of you.”

 

We can’t…” I muttered under my breath, pissed as Hell at what was going on.

 

It’s over boys,” Hope said, momentarily turning to us. “For what it’s worth, I hope I’m wrong and Carter kicks your ass.”

 

Abraham changed his scowl to a look just as defeated as ours.

 

I hope so too.”

 

Gordon and Salaran both jumped into him as he became a full cloud, flying off toward the motel.

 

Before I could say anything, Hope fell over into the snow.

 

Hope!” I screamed, Casey and I dropping down to check on her.

 

Seeing an archangel, an angel and a vampire fly off in a puff of smoke made out of the former? That was weird. Seeing Hope laugh like she was now was even weirder.

 

What’s so funny?” Casey asked.

 

She continued laughing, snorting as she stopped herself.

 

You boys didn’t really think I’d just give up like that, did you? After the way he thrashed us around last time? Can’t let disrespect like that go.”

 

Wha…what did you do?” I asked.

 

Let’s just say while I was talking to him, I left a little surprise in Abraham’s brain.”

 

*

It was hard not to feel useless right now.

 

My friends were all fighting for their lives for the sake of the world, but they’d said it was too dangerous for me. Meanwhile Raina, back to her old self, had chosen to seek comfort in and was apparently dating some other girl.

 

I told her I still loved her!” I screamed at no one, walking down the street. “I didn’t even know she was bi. Or is she a lesbian now? Man if I was so bad in bed that I ruined men for her…

 

…not important right now.

 

Stupid Carter,” I said. “This is all his fault. All of it! I should go over to that motel and kick his ass myself!”

 

Yeah, that’ll go over great with Raina if you survive today, I thought.

 

Damn it! I killed demons! I should not be so useless!”

 

My cell rang.

 

Probably someone else here to tell me how irrelevant I am,” I said as I answered the phone. “Hello?”

 

Sammy!” she exclaimed, sounding happy to hear me. “Glad you picked up.”

 

Raina?” I smiled. “Hey! We were trying to call you all day, but you didn’t…”

 

Sorry about that,” she cut me off. “Been busy and we don’t have much time.”

 

Time? Time for what?”

 

I’m with Malcolm, Olivia and Eve at the Chinese place behind the motel Carter is at. We think we have a way to get Shay out of her coma and stop Abraham but we need your help. Now.”

 

And just like that, it actually was pretty hard to feel useless.

 

Whatever it is, I’m in.”

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