Commissioned Interlude 15 – Gehenna (Heretical Edge 2)

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Several Hundred Years Ago

Striding briskly through the pristine corridor with a crystalline floor and ceiling offset against viewscreen windows depicting an incredibly chaotic deep space battle against yet another Fomorian incursion, the Dyeus (Archangel) known as Selaphiel very deliberately paid no attention to the fighting. Nor did the tall, blonde Seosten allow herself to spare a thought toward the rapid orders being given through the ship intercoms. She was not here for the battle they were fighting, though she wished them well and believed they would succeed. Given the opportunity, she would even aid them in that. But her focus was purely on her own mission, and the consequences for failing would be far more immediate than this single battle. She had no choice but to continue onward, studiously keeping her mind off of the destruction and desperate chaos happening all around her. To allow that sort of distraction could be disastrous on many levels, no matter her personal wishes. 

On the other hand, there was one thing she could do that would not jeopardize her mission by exposing her presence, at least directly. As she emerged from the corridor into a four-way junction area, the woman turned toward the nearest panel and put a hand against it briefly to assure herself she was in the right place. Then she produced a field-engraver, quickly scrawling a spell against that spot in a few brief strokes before pressing her hand against it once more. A thought and a mere handful of seconds sent a rush of energy from her nigh-limitless reserves from the star she was connected to. Such a rush of energy would have overloaded many systems, if not for the protective spell she had laid out first. With that in place, the energy was safely distributed throughout the besieged ship, returning its shields and weapons to full capacity just when they had been on the brink of failure. With any luck, and a decent commander at the helm, the restored power would be enough of a boon to turn the battle around. 

Just because she could not spare the time or attention to put herself in the battle directly, nor expose her presence and potentially allow her actual quarry to escape, did not mean that she wanted her people to lose this battle. She hoped that those few moments she could spare from her true pursuit would be enough for the Seosten defenders to repel the invasion. Or, failing a straight-forward victory, at least allow them to keep the battle going long enough for her to complete the mission so she could turn her full attention to aiding them. When this quarry was finally detained, there would be nothing stopping her from stepping in more directly. 

Turning away from the panel, Selaphiel took a moment to glance at a small handheld computer that she drew from its spot on her belt. She considered the information on it to determine where her quarry had moved in that time,  before pivoting to the left and striding to the elevator there. Sixteen floors below. The target had moved that far, probably searching for a safe escape route from this facility. Not because they knew of Selaphiel’s presence, but because they, like the Dyeus woman herself, had doubts about the ship’s capacity to repel the Fomorian invaders. 

The darkly amusing impulse to inform the target that if they would simply surrender, she could ensure their victory briefly passed through the woman’s mind, while she informed the lift of where she needed to go. Immediately, it began to descend. All the while, battlefield commands continued to be issued through the intercom as the ship’s captain recovered from the surprise of their suddenly restored energy and leapt to take advantage of it. 

In any case, at least she could be assured that the ongoing battle would mean there would be no one around to get in the way or cause complications when she had to detain her target. Some Seosten took exception to the way Gehenna conducted business, specifically the fact that they were independent from the Empire. They often especially did not like Selaphiel herself for being one of the very few Dyeusai, and yet devoting herself to Gehenna rather than continuing to focus her power and skill solely toward the Seosten themselves, and their war.

Many of her own people saw her as a traitor who should be brought back to the Empire and charged for various offenses by the Seraphs. They did not understand the bigger picture of what would happen should Gehenna fail in their efforts. The Fomorians were, of course, terrible, but Gehenna’s mission remained far more important despite those monsters. Should they fail, there would be no more universal war between Seosten and Fomorian forces. Because, put quite simply, there would be no more universe at all. 

The lift stopped at the proper floor, allowing Selaphiel to step off into what turned out to be one of the ship’s water collection and treatment facilities. The room itself was enormous, stretching a full thousand feet from one end to the other. Massive tanks that were ten feet high and forty feet wide, each holding a hundred thousand gallons of water, lined the room in rows extending all the way through. Each tank was connected to a pipe that would pump the water to the treatment structure elsewhere in the facility, where it would be made potable for the ship’s inhabitants. Assuming the ship itself still existed in any meaningful form when the battle was over. Which, when it came to the Fomorians, was never a safe assumption to make. 

With that on her mind, as well as the fact that the sooner she got done with this, the sooner she could aid in that battle, Selaphiel stopped and listened intently. Getting nothing, she touched a spell symbol already drawn on the collar of her Seosten bodysuit, activating it to magnify her hearing. With that, she was able to pick up the water bubbling in the tubes and tanks, the orders being given through an intercom far away… and a scuffle of some kind, followed by rather emphatic and creative cursing, coming from far in the distance, in a room beyond this one. 

That was rather odd, of course. Because no one else should have been down here with her quarry. Everyone should have been focused on the Fomorian attack. The fact that there was anyone here to be scuffling with the target, let alone cursing at them, gave Selaphiel pause. But not for long, before she started moving that way at a brisk pace. Not quite running, but close. A thought came to mind to summon her wings, but she decided against it. The target could still choose to abandon everything else and disappear, and after all the time she had spent tracking him down in the first place, she did not want to go through all that again. By the time he knew the level of threat that was about to fall on top of him, she wanted to already have him blocked off from any retreat. 

As part of that, she produced several spell tablets. They were shaped like large metal coins, about two inches across. The discs had been pre-prepared with most of the transport blocking spells she needed, aside from the specific details about where she was. While striding toward the sounds, Selaphiel filled in the last of the details and charged the discs. By that point, she had reached the source of the scuffling and cursing, both of which had gotten louder with each step she took. It had led her to a maintenance hall attached to the main water storage bay she had just been walking through. The place was a relatively narrow corridor of about six feet across and very long, stretching out of sight. It was lined with a multitude of pipes with various fluids running through them, which ran the entire length of the corridor starting at about eight feet up and going all the way up to twenty feet high, each pipe being a foot across. 

Barely in view, she could see two figures struggling with one another. The first was her target, a nine-foot-tall, spindly form with four legs (two on the left side and two on the right, bent outward to avoid colliding with one another), skin that looked like slightly melted plastic, a face in the middle of his narrow torso, and eight long arms spread along the sides of that torso. That included two sticking out the top of it, where a Seosten or similar being would have their head. The face in the middle of the torso included a mouth, which was wide open as the man screamed in rage, trying to grapple the other figure. 

As for that other figure, she was immediately recognizable as a Seosten. Her skin was paler than most, along with dark hair that had been cut short and styled up in a set of very sharp-looking spikes, the ends of which had been colored dark blue. She wore the uniform of a junior officer on the ship, with an armband noting her assignment to the archival records. Which meant that her only real job on the ship would have been to keep a record of every place they went, scan local flora and fauna, compare it to what was known already, and so on. She didn’t have a combat role as she was, in simple terms, a desk jockey. Given her low rank, it was probably her first real assignment outside of the academy, extended on-ship training, and possibly an apprenticeship. She was barely more than a child. 

And yet, despite that youth, somehow she was here fighting one of the most dangerous beings in the universe. Selaphiel was still uncertain as to how the woman had even gotten to this position, let alone how she was apparently holding her own. 

Well, the answer to the latter seemed to be sheer force of will. The spindly-man with the face in his torso possessed a toxin, delivered through the claws at the ends of any of the six fingers on any of his eight hands. The toxin caused intense pain, as well as sapping the subject’s energy. It was clear that this young Seosten had been hit more than once, and yet she still continued to struggle. Which had angered her opponent beyond all measure. He screamed, bellowing in rage in his own language for her to get out of his way. Obviously, he had expected to hit the woman once and leave her a quivering mess on the floor. Her continued insistence on fighting him was raising his frustration and annoyance to truly remarkable levels. 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” the woman in question snarled, her voice coming through gritted teeth making it perfectly clear just how much pain she was in. “Told you before, irrumator, you’re not getting away with that shit! So potes meos suaviari clunes!” She called the man a bastard in the old Seosten language and effectively informed him that he could kiss her rear. Then, as though to punctuate the words, the woman caught two of the man’s wrists as he tried to stab her again. Instead of allowing that, she twisted hard, snapping the bones in order to force them backward so the toxin-filled claws would shove their way into the man’s own torso. “How do you like it, huh?! Futue te ipsum!” She told the man to go fuck himself. 

The man’s enraged bellow got louder, as he grabbed onto the woman with four of his remaining, uninjured hands. He stabbed every claw on those hands into her arms, clearly pumping as much of his pain toxin as he could into the woman to slow her down. Then he went to grab her head with the two remaining hands, clearly intent on snapping her neck. 

Selaphiel certainly wasn’t going to allow that to happen, even if she had briefly stopped to see what was happening. And yet, even as she started to take a step that way, raising a hand, the other Seosten literally spat into the man’s face. Which, taken by itself, wouldn’t have amounted to much. And yet, the moment the saliva touched him, he immediately released her and collapsed to the ground with a scream, writhing in agony. 

It took Selaphiel only a second to realize what had happened. At some point, the other Seosten must have prepared a pain-sharing spell. Transferred through bodily fluids, the spell forced those touched by it to feel the exact pain that the owners of those fluids had felt at the time the spell was cast. The woman had intentionally drawn her opponent into using the full force of his pain power on her, then sent it right back at him through that simple act of spitting on him. She could take the pain. He, on the other hand, had collapsed to the floor, still writhing. 

Not that the woman was entirely unaffected, of course. The very moment she was released, the Seosten figure fell back against the wall, cursing violently while struggling to grab something nearby. It was a side arm that had clearly been knocked there at the start of the fight. Her fingers weren’t cooperating very well, continuously failing to keep hold of the thing so she could point it at the man. It was a race to see if she could recover enough to get the gun pointed correctly, or if he would be able to pick himself up. 

Or, it would have been a race for that, if Selpahiel hadn’t been there. As it was, she crossed the distance between them. The man saw her coming, rolling over and raising his torso enough to get his eyes on her. Instantly, he spoke the single word that would take him out of this place. 

Of course, it did nothing. Selaphiel had already activated the transport-blocking spells she had prepared. Clearly realizing that, the man’s eyes widened, before he reached for the bomb stone in his pocket. If he couldn’t escape, he was going to make damn sure she couldn’t take him in. The bomb stones were his specialty. If he set this one off, it would destroy several levels of this ship, possibly crippling it just in time for the Fomorians to tear it (and everyone inside) apart. 

He reached for it, but the pain was still coursing through him too much to get his hand to it quickly. And before he could manage it properly, the tall blonde woman extended a pair of malachite green energy-wings from her back, letting a tiny sliver of that energy shoot through the distance that separated them. It was a thin beam, just enough to sever the man’s hand before he could grasp the stone. 

He tried with another hand, his scream only rising in volume. But Selaphiel was there by then. One of her wings lashed out, expertly cutting into the man’s pocket to destroy the stone without doing more than singing his skin a bit. At the same time, her foot collided with his face as she used enough of her wing-assisted boost to send his torso back to the floor. He slumped there, groaning and twitching long enough for Selaphiel to produce a small, metal cube about four inches across. She set the cube on his chest, pressing her thumb against an indentation in the top while flatly announcing, “Vorkos Mien of Penye Major. Under the authority of the Gehenna prison system, you are to be detained. You are designated prisoner Twen-Seur. Your appearance in front of the tribunal for official sentencing is scheduled for three days hence. Until that time, you will be put into suspended animation.” 

Vorkos made a motion as though to heave himself up, clearly desperate to escape, but it was too late. The cube activated, surrounding the figure in a net of red energy lines. The ‘net’ constricted, drawing a new scream of rage and disbelief as the net retracted back into the box, shrinking the man down in the process and drawing him into it. Soon, the only thing that remained was the cube itself, rattling around a bit on the floor before settling in place. 

That done, Selaphiel turned to check the other Seosten. After everything the young officer had been through, she expected to find her barely conscious. Instead, her gaze found the woman, though still slumped against the floor, holding that pistol her way. Her eyes were clearly bleary, though she held the firearm steady enough to take the shot. “I… Identify… yourself… fuck.” It was clearly all she could do to hold the weapon and make that demand. Whether or not she could even have pulled the trigger (let alone actually hit her target properly) was questionable, yet she forced out the words anyway. 

In answer, Selaphiel knelt next to the woman. That brought her glowing emerald wings close enough for the slumped figure to focus on them. Her eyes moved that way, then back to the woman’s face, before she let the pistol fall. It was obvious that the last of the energy she’d been using to keep herself even that upright was finally spent. “Oh,” she managed, eyes fluttering as her consciousness began to flee. “It’s… you.” 

With that, she fell on her side, the woman’s body entirely collapsed limply against the floor. She had nothing left to give, no more energy to even keep her eyes open, let alone speak. She would be out for quite a while, as that toxin worked its way through her system. Even with medical and magical aid. 

And yet, nothing further needed to be said for Selaphiel to make her decision. She had already seen more than enough, and while she had many questions, one thing was perfectly clear. “You, my young friend,” she murmured while picking up and stowing the prisoner cube, eyes on the unknown Seosten, “are coming with me.” 

*********

“You’re sure Trierarch Neusrael signed off on this whole thing?” the young Seosten, who had introduced herself as Larees, asked while giving Selaphiel a long stare several hours later. The two of them were standing on a rising lift, which itself was part of a tower on a planet that would have taken weeks to get to via ship from where the battle had been happening. The benefit of having dozens of transportation specialists under her command who were ready at any moment to send her anywhere she needed to go, and a nearly unlimited energy source she could use to refuel them if need be. 

“What he signed off on is technically immaterial,” Selaphiel informed the woman next to her while the lift continued to carry them through the tower toward the top floor. “Gehenna enjoys broad authority when it comes to offering recruitment. Now, that is not to say that you are not allowed to turn it down. Even if we were allowed, shall we say, a mandatory draft, we would not employ such a measure. We find that forcing people to work for us creates a sort of… negative relationship. It is much better to simply offer incentives and draw talent our way.

“That said, yes, your captain is aware of what is happening and that I have brought you here. At the risk of deflating your confidence and morale, I do not believe he actually remembered who you were at first.” Which was saying something, given the Seosten natural perfect memory. But then, even someone with perfect memory had to actively listen and commit a name into their mind in order to recall it later. “It ahh, took the man a few minutes to look up your record. And even then, I believe he was confused as to why I would single you out.” 

Muttering something under her breath about not being surprised and how she had only taken the captain his breakfast for six months, Larees turned to her. “So what about that piece of shit prick there?” She nodded toward the prisoner cube that the other woman held in one hand. “What’s his name? I mean his real name, not the shitty pseudonym he signed on under. And what’s the deal with him?” 

“His name is Vorkos Mien,” Selaphiel replied as the lift came to a stop, the forcefield fading to admit them into a wide, circular room with a series of one-foot-wide pillars lining almost the entire open space, at seemingly random intervals with just enough room to move between them. “As for his deal… why don’t you tell me what happened to lead to your altercation with him?” As she spoke, the woman stepped off the lift and began to weave her way between the narrow pillars, heading for one in particular on the other side of the circular room. 

Trailing after while glancing around curiously, Larees hesitantly answered. “I ahh, he came onboard as a lifter a few weeks ago. I mean, simple muscle that could carry supplies around and work with my boss with the whole collecting samples thing. That was my job. I mean, not collecting samples, but scanning and logging them. That guy–he came on under the name Bundon.” 

“Farmer,” Selaphiel noted, stopping by the pillar in question without making any other motion toward it. She simply turned, watching the younger Seosten curiously. 

“Yeah, real creative, huh?” Larees made a face before shrugging. “Didn’t matter though. It’s not like our people really care that much about anyone’s criminal past as long as it doesn’t affect their ability to do their job on the front lines. Figured he was on the run from someone, but as long as he was willing to do grunt work on a military vessel, they didn’t ask too many questions.

“Anyway, for a few weeks, every time we stopped at a place to pick up samples, I swore he was coming on the ship carrying more than got scanned in. Most of the people who do this job, they don’t give a fuck about being down there, you know? They just wait for the lifters to send up the itemized report and work from there. Once it’s all loaded in, they go down with a scanner and log everything, then compare that to the written report. Most of ‘em don’t walk down and watch the stuff when the lifters carry it in. And they sure as hell don’t get off the ship and go down there themselves to see the samples in the wild. Too much fucking work, I guess–err, pardon the language, I guess? I’m not used to being around… you know… you. Or anyone. Mostly work by myself.” 

“No apologies necessary,” Selaphiel assured her. “I prefer people who speak their minds.” 

From the brief look that flashed across her face, Larees had heard that before and had her doubts about how true it was. Still, she simply continued. “Sure, well, the point is, most of my peers don’t go down there and look for themselves until everything’s put away. I went down there, I saw what this guy and the other lifters were bringing in. And the stuff he had with him when they came on didn’t match the reports they were sending up. Only by a little bit at first, not enough to stand out. Then he got more brazen about it. Especially after my…” She gritted her teeth, clearly restraining the urge to say some choice adjectives. “… boss told me to leave it alone when I brought up the discrepancies the first time. He said it was no big deal if the lifters kept a little extra for themselves as long as they did their actual jobs. Thought they were probably selling the flora samples on the black market. You know, underground medicine.” 

“You disagreed with his assessment,” Selaphiel guessed, already having some idea of where this was going based on what she knew of the prisoner in question. 

Muttering a long string of quiet words about what the man in question could do with that ‘assessment,’  which included several anatomically impossible suggestions, Larees finally exhaled before giving a very short, tight nod. “You could say that. I knew he was keeping some stuff, but I didn’t know why. I tried looking through what was missing, but it was hard, since the only thing I had to compare the official list to was what I could see by watching them walk past. I didn’t want to walk down there and open it up because then he’d know someone was on to him.”

“A wise choice,” Selaphiel murmured while thinking about how the man in question likely would have reacted. At the very least, it would have made him even harder to track down. He was notoriously jumpy, always ready to take off and disappear for months with no sign at the slightest hint that someone was getting close to him. It was why she had gone to such lengths to conceal her presence until it was too late for him to retreat. The woman had been burned more than once by attempting to apprehend Vorkos Mien too directly. He was a slippery one.

Now, thankfully, he was in custody. And it was at least partially thanks to this young Seosten, barely out of the Academy. Which made her someone Selaphiel very much wanted to get to know, despite the clearly inadequate evaluations from both her Trierarch and direct superior. They were fools to not recognize that, and their loss would be her gain. Still, she was curious as to what had happened next, so the woman simply watched in silence, clearly waiting. 

Larees continued after a moment. “Anyway, eventually I got an idea about how to really see what he was keeping. I found the crates they use and put a spell on the inside that monitors contents.  It generates a list of everything that gets put inside over a certain amount of time.” 

“Not a commonly known spell, outside of people who focus on shipments and such,” Selaphiel noted. “Even then, it’s fairly rare. Most rely on the technology to scan contents at the end-point.” 

“Yeah, well, I knew it existed,” Larees replied with a snort. “Didn’t know how to use it, but I heard about it from some of the slaves in the warehouses. So I found one that would teach it to me.” 

The blunt words made Selaphiel raise an eyebrow at the younger woman. Her voice was mild as she pointed out, “I find that most of our people don’t directly refer to such… workers as slaves.”  

With a dismissive snort, Larees replied, “Yeah well, they’re still trying to delude themselves about how far we’ve gone in this fucking war. They think we’re the bright shining heroes bringing peace and stability to the universe. Maybe we do some of that, but we’re not heroes. Not by any stretch of the imagination. We’re just the lesser evil. A hell of a lot lesser, considering the opposition, but still. None of our hands are clean in this war, and they haven’t been for a hundred fucking generations. Someday, there’ll be a reckoning for all that.”

When Selaphiel gave no response to that, the other woman seemed to decide she had said too much, and shifted her focus back to the main story. “Whatever, the point is, I got them to teach me that spell. Then I put it on the crates. I didn’t know which one that bastard would use, so I had to put it on all of them and compare later to find the one that didn’t match. I did that for awhile, kept track of the stuff he wasn’t turning in, and tried to figure out what it was all for.” 

“And you eventually worked it out?” Selaphiel asked, her flat tone betraying no emotion about it, despite inwardly already being impressed by the young Seosten’s actions. 

“Took a lot of studying everything our archives had about the stuff he was keeping back, but yeah.” Larees made a face at the thought. Though whether she was grimacing more at the knowledge of what the man had been doing, or at the memory of being stuck in a library doing research for so long was unclear. Probably at least a bit of both. 

“How bad was what he was putting together?” Selaphiel quietly asked. Knowing the man as she did, it obviously wasn’t anything good. 

After a momentary pause, the other woman answered. “That stuff he was putting together would have liquefied the bones inside anyone within a five mile radius of wherever he released it. And you know what? Something tells me he wasn’t planning on setting it off in the middle of a Fomorian army.” She muttered a string of curses under her breath, tightening her fists before adding, “When I figured out what he was doing, I tried to tell the stupid assholes in charge, but they were prepping for the battle and didn’t want to hear it. So I had to take care of it myself. That’s what you saw when you showed up. And now you know what happened.”

“Indeed I do,” Selaphiel agreed, reaching out to tap a few discreetly-placed buttons on the side of the pillar. A moment later, a slot opened up that was just large enough for the cube to hold. Rather than putting it in, however, she looked to the younger Seosten and held the thing out. “Why don’t you do the honors?” 

Larees took the cube, but didn’t move to put it in the slot either. Instead, she stared at it for a moment, clearly considering. “He’s really into that chemical warfare, isn’t he?” Larees was looking directly at Selaphiel by then, her eyes narrowed. “That’s why you brought him in. He’s done some really bad shit with that stuff. This whole thing wasn’t the first time.” 

Giving a very slight nod once more, the archangel quietly replied, “Warfare is the wrong way to put it. Because there was no ‘war’ about it. Vorkos Mien has murdered over a hundred thousand beings in the universe in horrific ways. He specializes in poison gases, created from obscure and rare ingredients In order to both make the effect as traumatic as possible, and to restrict the ability to prepare for or protect against it. He has no real creed or ideology aside from doing as much damage as possible. His main enjoyment seems to be observing the aftermath. He gets true… delight out of watching those left behind grieve for the fallen, and their desperate attempts to save those who have been afflicted. Most of his attacks leave a good number of victims alive… for a few days, drawing out their suffering for as long as possible while medical professionals desperately attempt to save them. But because he uses such obscure ingredients, most often there’s no time to find the exact cure before the victims suffer a horrible, agonizing death. Many times, they are… put out of their misery.” 

After the long moment of silence that followed that explanation, Larees let out a long, unsteady breath. “Right, so I guess I’ve just got one question. Why the fuck are you putting this piece of shit in prison instead of putting a bullet in his head right now?” She waved the cube emphatically. “Or, you know, throwing this fucking thing into the nearest star.” 

“If only it was that simple,” Selaphiel lamented. 

“Oh believe me,” Larees retorted, “it’s pretty fucking simple. I’m pretty sure if you give me a shuttle and about six hours, I can get rid of this guy right now. Or, if you prefer, just let him out of this thing and I’ll finish it in thirty seconds. No need to pretend it’s complicated.” 

With a small, humorless smile, Selaphiel replied, “You see, Vorkos has a family, who love him very much despite everything he’s done. They are well aware of what sort of monster he is, but they will not consent to his execution. Imprisonment for life, yes. They agree with removing him from society. Yet their culture is decidedly against any sort of death penalty, no matter the crime.”

Larees stared at her as though she had grown several heads. “And why the fuck do we give a shit what they think? Last time I checked, family of fucking sociopathic mass murderers don’t usually get to choose what the appropriate way of dealing with the piece of shit in question is.” 

Selaphiel shook her head. “In normal situations, no. But in this case, there are extenuating circumstances. You see, there is a solar system known as Plaegoc, with four inhabited planets. Three of those planets are essentially owned and operated by a criminal cartel. Oh, ostensibly they are under Seosten control, of course. But you and I both know that our people lack the forces to completely hold every planet that is far from both Elohim and the frontlines of the war. It’s a relatively unimportant system, as far as the Seraphs are concerned. So long as they continue to contribute their taxes and troops to the effort, no one really pays attention. So, the Sarath Cartel controls those three worlds, and grind their people under an iron fist. They would control and enslave the fourth, but it is protected by a private army, owned by…” 

“Let me guess,” Larees muttered, “Vorkos Mien’s family.” 

“Indeed,” Selaphiel confirmed. “They are a mercenary group of sorts, powerful enough to keep the Sarath Cartel off the world. Which allows the billions of inhabitants on that planet to remain free. But, if we were to execute their black sheep of a son rather than fulfill their request to simply imprison him, they would turn that army toward conducting war against Gehenna. Which would both be a distraction for us, and would leave that world unprotected, allowing the Sarath to complete their takeover of the Plaegoc system. And, given how long the world has held out against them, the cartel would make a firm example of them. The entire planet would be enslaved, while many, many would die. Far more than Vorkos killed by himself. By executing him in the name of justice, we would be ensuring that far more victims died, while billions would be enslaved.” 

With a heavy sigh and a string of curses, Larees gave her a look. “You’re a fucking Dyeusai. You can blow apart a fucking capital ship with those wings. You’re really telling me you couldn’t fly down there and tell all of them to back the fuck off?” 

“Much as I would enjoy that,” Selaphiel replied with a small chuckle, “I cannot be everywhere at once. The moment I took my eyes off of them, they would make their own moves. They would find some pretense. Or they would simply act more subtly. Either way, my moment of satisfaction would be followed by intense suffering on the parts of anyone they could hurt.” 

Turning away from her, Larees looked down at the cube in her hand. “So this fuck gets away with everything, huh? Just cuz he’s got a special family, he gets to live out his life in a special prison cell, getting waited on hand and foot while everyone he fucking killed out there stays dead, and their families can go fuck themselves.” 

A hand fell on her shoulder, as Selaphiel quietly replied, “Unfortunately, my hands are tied. His people have an awareness of one another’s lives. If he dies, his family will know. So long as he is alive, they will be satisfied. Now, put his cube in the slot and use the controls there to schedule his trial so that he may be released from stasis and assigned to a cell. We use the galactic standard year and day of that year system. You need to schedule the trial for three days from now. Make sure you set it correctly, because we unfortunately do not have the time to manually check every prisoner after they are secured. There is far too much work to do.” 

With that, she turned and began to walk away. “Meet me in the lift when you’re done.” 

Larees watched her go, pausing briefly before turning back to stare at the stasis cube. A cube that would keep Vorkos completely locked down, alive but completely frozen. In that position, he might as well have been dead. Until they let him out and put him in a real cell once his trial arrived in three days. 

Three days. 

She put the cube in the slot, sliding it shut. The prompt came up for the length of his stasis imprisonment before trial. For a moment, Larees stared at it. Her hand rose to type in a date three days in the future. Then she paused again, her finger hovering over the year input. A squint crossed her face, and she muttered a curse before sliding it up, and up, and up. Finally, she stopped when it would move no further. The man’s trial date was set for three days… and nine thousand, nine hundred, and ninety nine years in the future. 

Turning away from the pillar as it sank back into the floor, where its occupant would spend the next ten thousand years safely locked away from everyone, frozen in stasis (and very much alive, as far as his family would be concerned), Larees strode back to the lift. 

Selaphiel was there as promised, waiting for her. When Larees stepped on, the old archangel said nothing. She simply pressed the button and the lift began to descend. The two rode in silence all the way to the ground floor, which continued as Larees was led through a maze of corridors to reach the exit from the obsidian tower. There, they walked for several minutes through a forest of violet trees to reach a wide, circular clearing made of light pink grass. 

Once they had arrived, Selaphiel brushed blonde bangs away from her forehead, revealing the tattoo of two emerald serpentine eyes. At a touch and thought, the eyes began to grow, turning three-dimensional before emerging from the woman’s head along with a reptilian snout. Soon, a full-sized, massive wingless dragon, fifty-feet in height, had pulled itself free from the archangel and crouched there in the clearing, staring intently at the two of them. 

“Larees,” Selaphiel casually announced, “I’d like you to meet my… friend, Eleutheria.” 

“Freedom,” Lares translated, squinting up at the summoned figure. “she’s… very impressive.” 

“I’m glad to hear you say that,” Selaphiel replied with a small smile. “Now come.” With that, she summoned her own energy wings and, with a thought, sent them over to her dragon. Eleutheria extended the wings out fully to either side with a roar of delight before lowering herself once more, allowing Selaphiel to climb up before she offered a hand to Larees. 

“We have much to talk about,” the archangel informed the much-younger Seosten once both were settled onto the dragon’s back.  

“Beginning with, how do you feel about tattoos?” 

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11 comments

  1. Thanks to the commissioners who requested this chapter and then extended the length! I hope you all enjoyed getting another look at Selaphiel, and seeing a bit more about Gehenna/Larees’s recruitment. And hey, your tags are: Boy It’s Weird To See Larees Go More Than Thirty Seconds Without A Drink, Come To Think Of It‚ A Thousand Points To Anyone Who Knew Who Larees Was From The Description Alone Before She Started Talking‚ Just From Remembering Her Hair, Eleutheria, Exactly How Many Wild Theories Have Already Started Based On The Fact That Eleutheria Was Another Name For Artemis?, Larees, Selaphiel, Vorkos Mien

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, for wild theories, we could always start with Sariel being one of Selaphiel’s decendants, and to add to that, and if we want to go down a dark path, was it via Sariel’s father, and did Selaphiel arrange for him a fate worse then death either way?

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  3. Thanks for the chapter! A very well written chapter about someone I don’t remember.

    Who is Lares and where have we seen her before?

    The lack of a complete dramatis personae is getting worse every day

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Larees is the Seosten woman with the phoenix tattoo on her face who drinks all the time. She was rescued from Kushiel’s breeding prison on the teleporting ship in one of those tubes along with others (including the four Seosten toddlers). She’s most often seen cursing a lot and taking long swigs from her seemingly bottomless flask. And, as I said, has the tattoo of a phoenix across her face which she turns into a full three-dimensional fire bird.

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  4. How much d’you want to bet that Selaphiel pretty much expected Larees to do that? That this was a test—and Larees *passed*? I don’t see any other reason she would so blatantly assign such a simple task and leave the room…

    I also gotta ask. If they have safe stasis magic like that…why not just use this solution for *everyone*, barring those who have some ability or magical failsafe that makes it unsuitable? I’m guessing it wouldn’t work on Ehn (just too fucking strong), or that plant guy (if it allows any fragments of him elsewhere to become the “main body”), but if it worked on half the prisoners that would be that much more effort they can put towards containing the others and capturing new threats.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. antlan makes a good point, yes. Particularly as they’re supposed to be using as much energy as possible for containing Ehn. And… well, there may be other reasons.

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