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Forty soldiers stood before him, one man at the head of them like some kind of tale from Arabic lore. Forty theives. The thought popped into Cade’s mind without his approval.
He turned them all into sleeping babies within less than a minute. Dr. Caleb stood behind him when it was over, clapping and grinning like some kind of fanboy. Again
Cade found himself wanting to kill the man.
“How the hell can you not be loving this,” Dr. Caleb asked, arms spread wide.
Cade merely started walking.
There were no more soldiers. The two of them walked in silence. Cade could feel somehow the synthetic nature of the walls around them as they opened wide into a huge, black room. Parts of his new body, the whole of his new system of being, were trying to shove data into whatever comprised his central cortex (as best he could imagine such) but for the moment he refused.
There was simply too much input for him to handle while trying as well to escape himself and his old, traitorous friend, from whatever said friend had unleashed upon them both.
Cade stopped. Dr. Caleb, thankfully, was paying attention and stopped as well. Miraculously, the Good Doctor didn’t ask any dumb questions out loud.
“Where are we,” Cade whispered.
“Beyond me,” Dr. Caleb said. Cade was impressed by how quiet the doctor kept his voice. “I’ve been lost for some time now.”
“Well, great,” Cade said. More growled than said.
“Listen,” Dr. Caleb said, “what is now coming for us is of far greater danger to you than myself, do trust me here. I would have assumed by now that you’d have known my reason for putting that ridiculous soul you treasure so much at risk would not be done lightly.”
“What in heaven’s name is…”
When the thing broke through the wall and Cade felt its power, he understood immediately why Luke couldn’t begin to explain it all to him.
22 Years Ago
Cade grabbed Dr. Caleb’s arm and stopped him in the hallway.
“We cannot do this, Luke. Why aren’t you listening?”
Dr. Caleb stopped and chuckled. “Do you ever ask yourself,” he asked, “if we maybe are in a movie?” Cade remembered how his old friend didn’t turn around when he asked the question. He’d only stopped, but remained looking away.
“Not if I can help it.”
“Is it that ridiculous book of yours again, Cade?”
“How can you believe in such ridiculous superstitions,” Dr. Caleb asked.
“Does it really matter,” Cade asked. “I thought we trusted each other.”
“I’m so sorry,” Dr. Caleb responded.
They had arrived at the holding cell. Some twenty feet below a murderer was strapped to a table. The madman was smiling. Cade could hardly believe the entire spectacle.
“I think I saw this in that movie, Doom,” Cade said.
He watched Dr. Caleb nod his head and then the man in the holding cell below them started to become something else, with all the horrors that such a thing can entail. But Cade refuse to turn his head. Even then, he knew, one day, probably without any pain he’d remember, nor the torture the test subject was enduring, he would have the same thing done to him.
Blood began to drain from the man’s eyes, ears, and mouth onto his body. Cade knew he was gone. The wail he heard following seeing all that chilled him to the bone.
Luke had actually done it. But he hadn’t even bothered to save the man’s soul first.
“It has wings, Luke,” Cade said. “The damned thing has wings. What am I dealing with, Luke?”
Dr. Caleb almost spoke but stopped himself.
“Good choice. If you’d actually said, ‘You know that already,’ your face would be broken.”
Cade turned and faced one of the Two Hundred. One of the Fallen. Not some puny demon with the ability to possess a human and maybe spin some furniture around. Not hardly. A full-fledged angel, one of God’s Army in a previous time, now dark and black with rage, eyed him as though he were nothing.
And Cade felt like nothing. Never had he sensed the kind of power that radiated from the creature. The pulse of the angel’s heart seemed to resonate in the ground below him.
“Do not underestimate your design, you ingrate.”
It was Dr. Caleb.
“This is why I took such a risk with my old friend’s ridiculous idea of a ‘soul.’ Go, Cade; enjoy something and be fucking grateful for it for a change.”
For reasons beyond his comprehension at that moment, Cade launched at the Fallen.
The angel caught him by the neck and threw him down like he was so much wet paper. Cade whirled, stood, and launched again. He pulled his attack at the last second and the angel’s blow missed him by millimeters. The angel was only two feet taller than his new body, but that two feet proved a significant advantage. Not long into the fight, Cade understood he’d need to out-think his opponent. His pride was getting his ass kicked.
Cade ducked the blows while he watched the way the Fallen fought. The voice he heard seemed to come from the distant past.
“…the back of your belt…”
Cade didn’t even remember having a belt on. He reached behind him and pulled out a blade like he’d never seen. In what felt to Cade like a single motion, he whipped the blade from the belt, whirled, and planted it deep into the Fallen’s neck.
Silver blood flowed everywhere, onto his arm, the blade, his conscience.
When the Fallen fell limp in his hand, Cade began to howl like a coyote that’d been caught in a bear trap. He did not hear Dr. Caleb call him a ridiculous idealist.
22 Years Ago
The man in the holding cell had re-emerged from a wall behind them, screaming at the top of his lungs, clawing at himself, tearing the facility’s men apart, one by one, like they were nothing. Cade had waited on his shot. The bullet he’d loaded into the rifle would take out anything. Finally, Cade had seen his shot and he’d taken it.
Cade held Dr. Lucius Caleb by the neck, against a wall.
“This,” Cade yelled as he pressed Dr. Caleb harder into the wall, “is why I said that we can’t do this, Luke.” One thing Cade had always secretly admired about Luke: Dr. Caleb knew that Cade would never kill him, never even significantly harm him. And Dr. Caleb used that like some mad-scientist Bruce Wayne. Betting his own existence on Cade’s predictability.
“It was going to get done,” Dr. Caleb said. “I’ve done you the favor of bearing witness to it all. I’ve done you the favor of being the idealistic moron who ended it. I’ve done you nothing but favors, Cade.”
Cade remembered laughing. Somehow his old friend had always possessed the ability to convince him at some point. But Luke never had any intent on convincing people to side with him. What he possessed was the skill of survival: getting those diametrically opposed to his madness to, for long enough to keep from killing him, reason with him. Though he’d always known it was a ruse, Cade had always felt it to be such a brilliant ruse that he’d played along more than once.
“All right, you son of a bitch,” he remembered saying. “Talk. Because that’s the only tool you’ve got right now that’s keeping me from snapping your neck, O Lucifer, Morning Son.”
Part III: I Can’t Win This, Luke