Triad 314: Vendettas

By Michael Cleveland


"So, what are we going to tell him, Muriel?"

The Seraph slowly turned her head to face the Ofanite that was in the driver's seat. "Well, I don't think we should be in any trouble on this one, Laris. I mean, we were approached to defend another member of the Host from another Servitor of Judgment. Technically we probably didn't have to do it, but I don't see there having been a problem with our actions."

"But you know how the Boss hates us dealing with Creationers, Muri."

From the backseat of the convertible, a voice rumbled, "Only when we're doing prosecution. We've never done defense before. This should give Dominic something new to scream at us about..."

Muriel shook her head. "No, I don't think so. We've been accused of being overzealous in our investigations, but never in our sentencing. They've always received a fair trial, and even Dominic knows that we're not the type to decide sentence beforehand and then come up with a verdict. Besides, we weren't the ones that were being overzealous. And besides, when the Archangel of Creation sends word that he wants to make sure that a trial is just, I take that seriously. We'll be ok, Jack."

Laris muttered, "Even though we lost..."

Muriel whipped her head around to face Laris. "We did not lose. Yitzai was guilty. That's all there was to it. It's up to the appeals triad to overturn the sentence that was handed down. For now, it's out of our hands. Besides, we put up the good fight, didn't we?"

Jack nodded. "And how - I swear, when we see Dominic, he's going to be less than pleased with all the exceptions and minor sentences that we managed to rack up. Nothing like handing your Archangel a bunch of sticky-notes with 'Please smack Jack the Cherub for the sin of whatever.' to get you hustled right up the ladder of promotion, let me tell you."

Laris turned back to face the Cherub as he took a curve, making everyone else's eyes widen slightly. "Man, what was with that? I mean, I've heard of people who believe in 'letter of the law' interpretations, but I've never seen you get hammered on so hard in my life! I mean, Seraphim can get harsh some days, but Judge Squavariel was just raking you over the coals for the tiny stuff. You shouldn't have gotten written up like that, Jack. If you'd only have..."

"Squeaky the Freak would have just written him up again for failing to accept Judgment. The stuck up little bitch only cares about what she sees as the Truth and what she sees as Just. If she were to fall this very moment, I really don't think that her perspective on the world would change a whole lot. The woman is so self-righteous at times that I wonder if she even remembers what it means to be Truly righteous."

There was a silence in the car as Jack and Laris looked mutely at each other - both of them knew of the very deep and personal animosity that Muriel held towards the leader of Triad 226. The two Seraphim had never come to blows while in Heaven, but on the corporeal plane both of them had traded more than just baleful glares and unkind words. Their 'debates' were well known amongst other Judges, and most people knew to stay well clear when the two of them were having to deal with each other.

After a few minutes of quiet driving, Laris spoke softly. "Muri, you know that's why Eli tracked you down, don't you? He knew you'd give it your all to try and protect Yitzai from her. He knew you'd make it a personal thing, not just a legal proceeding. " Muriel continued looking out at the road, not saying a word. After a moment, Laris continued. "Look Muri, it's ok. We're angels, not machines. Some things, some cases... even some people will get to us. It's not like what we did was a bad thing, after all -"

Muriel muttered. "Yeah, yeah. Preach to the choir. I let my personal feelings cloud my reasoning. I let my anger, my pride get in the way of my judgment. I tried to beat Squavariel at her own game, and I lost."

Jack reached over and squeezed the Seraph's shoulder as Laris patted her leg reassuringly. Laris shook his head, smiling. "Like you said earlier, Muri - it's not about winning or losing. It's about being Just. And even though some days it sure feels like we're getting nowhere with the job that we're doing, we are making a difference. You've got to keep sight of that. Nobody's keeping score here except God."

"And your Archangel."

Laris chuckled. "Yeah, I suppose the old man is keeping track of things too, but that's his job. After all, if he wasn't upstairs sending us out to face angry hordes of ungrateful and uncaring infidels -"

Muriel leaned back and put her hand over her face. "Then he'd be in the backseat of our convertible, sitting right behind the driver and taking notes on everything we said and did. At least, that would fit with our luck, wouldn't it, Laris?"

Laris shook his head. "No way - we've got the Old Man's schedule down pat. The Most Just isn't going to show up for at least another 3 days. I mean, what are the odds... of... um..."

In the unoccupied seat, a very light incandescent glow was replaced by the translucent yet unforgettable visage of the Archangel of Judgment. Settling into the seat, he looked into the rear-view mirror to meet the Ofanite's eyes. "You were saying something about the odds of the Archangel of Judgment changing his schedule without you knowing about it ahead of time. There was also something that you hadn't spoken aloud about my descending from on high to mingle with the commoners, but you haven't gotten there quite yet. Please, don't allow this 'old man' to interrupt you, Laris."

Jack looked over towards the robed figure. "Most Just - welcome to... welcome to Interstate 10, your Holiness. How long have you been with us today?"

Dominic turned to the Cherub seated beside him. "Long enough to get a better idea of what is said about me when I'm not around. I like to keep my schedule somewhat open for purposes just like this. So, I take it that you were trying to get away from Lake Charles before I contacted you again. Am I correct?"

Muriel turned backwards to face the cowled Seraph behind her. "That's only one of many potential ways one could see our heading towards Houston. I assure you that there are several other reasons that we were going this way. The fact that we finished our latest assignment ahead of schedule and had several days to kill only heightened our resolve and expedited our timeframe, Most Just."

"Of course, Muriel. But you're going to turn around and head back there right now."

Everyone, save Dominic, grabbed onto the closest handle as Laris whipped the car into a spin that ended on the other side of the road, heading back the direction they came. Dominic nodded approvingly. "Very good, Laris. Now, a situation has arisen that the local Triad on scene has been unable to handle. You have been assigned to provide additional support to them, given your unique position."

The Ofanite at the wheel turned to look at his Archangel questioningly. "Sir, I'm not aware of any particular status that we hold... at least, none that would cause us to be called on, sir." Dominic nodded again. "Normally, this might be true. However your last job in Lake Charles changes things."

Dominic sighed heavily before continuing. "My last set of instructions had you all watching a Vapulan outpost. Now, I'm assuming that the reason that you're on the road is that you already know that this outpost no longer exists. What you may not have been aware of is that a Shedite of Technology by the name of Rekza and his associates were expected at this outpost later in the week to test some new devices. Now, it appears that a certain group of angels whose names I will not mention at this time took it upon themselves to burn down this very establishment that you were told to watch."

Muriel paled as her Archangel's gaze took on the intensity that was reserved for people who were on trial. "Sir, if you'll spare me a few moments, I can explain -"

Dominic turned his head to look out the window for a moment. "Did I say it was you, Muriel? I don't believe that I've officially cast blame for this as yet. Now, as I was saying, when the outpost burned to the ground, it also took out the spies that the Archangel of Lightning had in place to capture the design schematics and the original prototypes. Now, certainly the people responsible for the fire had no way to know that Jean had agents in place, and that their job was to alert their superiors who would then inform Lightning that they could begin operations. But the damage is now done - the Shedite knows he's been discovered, and both he and his entourage have started making a run for the closest Tether, which is at one of the local casinos. Fortunately, another Triad was in place to force them to take an alternate route, but in the process they've lost one of their members and the two remaining judges are in opposition as to what course of action to take."

Jack reached into his pocket, pulled out a palmtop and started typing on the screen. "All right. Vapunet's got a personnel file on Rekza. If this information is correct, his typical MO has him sticking to tried and true paths whenever possible. He'll probably want to stay on the major roads, rather than try and take the back routes. File says that he'll most likely have two or three Impudites with him as escorts. That's probably how he found the Triad."

The Archangel nodded. "Quite possible. I see that you still have yet to turn over that confounded Vapulan device to Lightning's R&D teams. I expect this to be done in a timely fashion - all Infernal devices are supposed to be handed over to the proper authorities. You should know this... ah. You stole another one. In that case, I expect this one to be handed over as well, once you're done using it for this assignment. And let me guess - the Djinn who owned it is dead, so you decided to make sure it didn't fall into human hands. The people in the Halls of Progress are going to be getting to know the three of you on a first name basis, I see. How many other devices did you take with you?"

Muriel slumped down in her seat. "Take it. It's all in the trunk. With the exception of Jack's latest connection to Vapunet that you already know about. We'll get right on this one, sir. By the way, hypothetically speaking, what's going to happen to the angels who bolloxed the mission, sir?"

Dominic made a motion that roughly translated as a serpentine shrug under his cloak. "The main concern in the capture of the Shedite's hard drive and the plans. That should be your primary focus, not charges that have yet to be levied against anyone. The facility would have been destroyed anyway - if the primary objective is accomplished, I'm quite certain that the timing of the explosion could be written off as a minor error in judgment due to information not in evidence at that time, and would only appear in those angel's files as a footnote. That being said, I'm sure that your associates in Triad 226 will be anticipating your arrival."

"Triad 226, sir? But -"

"Triad 226, Muriel. Squavariel has been informed of your impending rendezvous. I have every confidence that the two of you will find a way to make this mission go expeditiously and smoothly. I will now allow you to get back to your original conversations, though. I believe that Laris was making a comment about odds. And on that subject, let me remind you that one should not attempt to beat the odds unless one is sure one wishes to take the chances of the odds beating you."

The shimmering image of the Archangel of Judgment faded, leaving Jack and Muriel looking at the Ofanite driver with looks that could vaporize even the strongest armor. The Ofanite shrugged, and focused on the road. "Hey, so Dominic varies his schedule from time to time. Who knew? OWWW!!!!"

"What is taking those worthless reprobates so long?"

Xador shrugged - he'd come to expect his Triad leader's tendencies to be expedient in all things. The Seraphim had a reputation for not being understanding in corporeal matters, and this was unlikely to be an exception."Difficult to say, Squavariel. They were, after all, travelling away from the city. I would remind you, Most Holy, that we're also talking about 314. Their track record suggests that they may not be particularly thrilled to be working with us."

'More specifically, with you,' the Cherub thought to himself. Although he'd long since learned to appreciate his superior officer's devotion to their Word, many others mistook her intensity for hostility. He casually turned to look for a waitress - the overcrowded restaurant was short of both tables and staff, and their continual wait in the booth was wearing painfully thin on the underpaid humans who came by.

The Seraph sniffed the air, her nose wrinkling as cigarette smoke from the neighboring table wafted by. "Yes, I can quite easily imagine them taking the scenic route to get here. Having to deal with them once inside the week was bad enough, but requiring them for settle our dispute is almost intolerable." She craned her neck to see if anyone was listening, then bent forward. "For the sake of the Cloak, Xador, there were only two Infernals. We could have taken them."

Xador shook his head, muscles rippling under his vessel's skin. "Two Infernals who managed to injure both of us and killed Nadia. We're shorthanded, and I'm not willing to risk the integrity of this mission after it's already been compromised by that incident at the Vapulan's warehouse. We can't afford it. This is important, Squav."

Squavariel nodded as she pulled her hair back. "And I agree that this is not an ideal situation, but we could have handled it. But now we have Muriel and her tiny little knot of heretics coming here to meet us. Triad 314 -"

The Cherub whipped his head forward, getting into his partner's face and causing her to squiek as she dodged backwards. Setting his voice in a quiet growl, he glared at her. "Triad 314 is backup. Bad backup is better than no backup. Heretical backup is better than no backup. I'm not going to get myself killed just because two Seraphim have problems talking to each other. You've got to deal with it for now, Most Holy."

The woman in the booth sitting across from him began to rise up, her eyes beginning to flare with what the Cherub knew was a precursor to a sermon on the duties of following the proper procedures for questioning a superior's judgment. Xador closed his eyes, saying a quiet prayer that the Ofanite driver - Laris, he thought - would hurry up and save him from what was coming. When the verbal lashing failed to come, he opened one eye questioningly, and saw his partner lowering herself back down into the booth.

"You... you are right, Xador. The Triad that is being sent is not the one that I would have chosen, and their dedication to seeing the Lord's work done might not be what one might ask for, but this is the proverbial hand that we have been dealt." The young lady leaned back in her seat, sighing. "But it does not mean that I like it. Still, in the absence of our Elohite, it would seem that their reinforcement of our position would be helpful, if somewhat distracting. There will, unfortunately, be a duplication of abilities, but an extra set of coils to wrap around our prey will be good."

The Cherub took a sip from his coffee, grimacing as the tepid liquid flowed past his lips. "Ugh. Well, at least the addition of an Ofanite should allow us to make up for lost time. The attunement is still good - the Shedite's laptop is about 15 miles north of here, which means the Corrupter will be close by. Once their Cherub gets here, we'll have him attune to the two of us, and I'll link to the three of them. We'll pull this out, Squavariel. Trust me."

Squavariel nodded, smiling slightly. "I do. Which is why I can do this." She turned her head to look out at the parking lot, focusing her attention on a red convertible that had pulled into the lot with three disheveled people inside, music blaring loudly from its speakers. She watched as the trio jump climb out of the car without even bothering to open the doors and then spoke to her partner as the three pulled out hairbrushes and put themselves in order. "I have a cherry red convertible with a souped up sound system with 3 young adults hopping over the doors to get out. I think our associates are here."

Xador nodded, then looked out the window, squinting. "If memory serves, wasn't the convertible that they had on Tuesday blue?"

The Seraph nodded. "Yes. Take a note of that, incidentally - Muriel may be slipping back into her old ways. Theft comes very naturally to her, as befitting someone from her former master." She began to rise from her seat when a young man with dancing, frenetic eyes slip into her, knocking her back into the seat. The man raised a hand and snapped his fingers several times loudly to signal a waitress, muttering to the irritated Seraph, "Please tell me that the coffee's hot."

As another man and woman slid into the seat beside Xador, he snorted slightly as he shook his head. "Hasn't been yet. You must be Laris." Nodding slightly in acknowledgement at the Ofanites distracted headbob, he looked over at the people on his side of the booth. "Jack, good to see you again. Wish it was under different circumstances."

"Likewise." The two large men clasped hands for a moment, and then shuddered slightly. Jack closed his eyes for a moment, then lowered his voice. "You're hurt, Xador. What happened?"

Xador rubbed his hand over his shaved head for a moment. "They got the drop on us. I figure the Shedite must have made us for a Triad after I attuned to his laptop at the mall. I'm assuming that after his Impudite escorts sucked all the humans near them dry, they decided they had enough energy to take us out." He shook his head ruefully. "They caught us on the road - I managed to get a few good shots off, and I know I managed to drop one of them back to Hell, but not before they got Nadia, our Elohite. All of us got hit at least once, but I was able to do at least some superficial healing."

"Sounds like you folks gave as good as you got, Xador."

Squavariel nodded, her gaze locking onto the newest speaker and her voice going completely deadpan.

"Muriel. You look just as lovely as you did the last time I saw you. Any new charges of heresy or dereliction of duty in the past few days?"

In an equally deadpan voice, Muriel shook her head. "No charges have been filed, Squavariel. Tried any of Eli's boys for defiling God's Creation by spitting on a sidewalk since I last saw you?"

The two Seraphim continued to glare at each other mouthing insults for a few moments longer when they finally noticed the silence from the two Cherubim and turned to watch as the Ofanite added over a dozen packets of sugar to his cup of coffee and began pouring maple syrup and salt to his cup. After a few moments, Laris looked up and turned to look at everybody who was looking at him incredulously, including 2 of the waitresses.

"What? Did I do something?"

The two Seraphim looked at each other, and lowered their heads in unison. Muriel looked up first to look at the Cherubim beside her. "Anyway. Gah. So, do we have any idea how we want to track these people down and capture them. You're the one with the attunement."

"Mrrmph mamming our marr."

Squavariel leaned against the wall and looked hard at the Ofanite beside her. "You do realize that it would be easier to understand you if you would swallow your coffee before you speak to non-ofanim, do you not? Would you repeat yourself, Wheel?"

The Ofanite nodded as he poured himself another cup of coffee. "I said, we're taking our car. I figured that your car was the big brown van with the bullet holes and blood in it. Well, if we need to enlist the mortal authorities at all, our car will be a lot easier to accept than a bullet-ridden, blood soaked bucket of bolts. There's enough room for the two of you, and we don't need all the surveillance equipment that you've got in that thing. This is going to be a simple smash and grab, and we don't want or need much else with us."

The two Seraphim looked at each other, then nodded. Muriel got up from her seat and fished a few bills out of her pocket. "All right, let's go ahead and get this over with. Squeaky, you and -"


"Right. You and Xador get the most critical stuff out of your van, and we'll start moving the stuff around in the back seat to make room for you all. I'll be taking shotgun, of course."

"Excuse me, but I have seniority..."

"It's my Triad, you stiff necked -"

"Listen here, you -"

Across town, Ceret felt something stirring in his mind. Picking his large bulk off of the floor, he padded down the hall and walked into the living room of the house that he had taken possession of. The Djinn liked it here - the couch was large and overstuffed, the bed was extremely comfortable, even despite the fact that the blood from its prior occupants had yet to dry, and the house's entertainment system ensured that he never needed lack for nothing to do. The female who was in the bed at the time he came in had even been good enough to attempt to hide in the closet - with the exception of the small hole in the door, he didn't even need to remember that she'd been there at all. The Djinn slumped down into the chair that sat in front of the laptop at the coffee table. After stretching for a few seconds, he smacked the laptop lightly and then picked up the headset and microphone that were plugged into it.

"Hey, we got something."

After a second, there was a slight pop and hissing sound in the headphones, then a very smooth and silky voice flowed out through the earpieces. "Yes, Ceret. What do you have for me?"

"The bullets that Ariane shot into the Judges are moving again. But here's the interesting bit - the palmtop that we left in the warehouse is moving with them. I think they're working together now. One of ours gone traitor, or prisoner maybe?"

A throaty chuckle came out of the speakers. "Hardly. The Dominicans are attempting to use that palmtop to connect to Tartarus, as I'd hoped. I've routed all their queries to my new system, and with my having taken the type to install a Vapunet Server onto this machine, they'll never realize the difference until it's too late. For all intents and purposes, they're telling us everything we want to know. All we have to do is watch what information they ask for. I told you that the dissonance would be worth it, Ceret."

Ceret nodded. "Yeah, let's hope so. Teams 4 and 5 are moving in to keep an eye on them. But tell me something, Rekza - why did you switch to a new machine anyway? I thought you liked the old ones better than the latest model, anyway. Didn't think you'd want to risk the dissonance either."

"Because, my boy, it's a known quantity. It's an easy way to track me down. And since the Dominican touched my laptop, I'm betting he attuned to it. Since I've given the machine to Team 1, I'm betting that the Judges will follow them for hours trying to catch what they assume is me. This way, we control where they go, rather than the other way around."

The Djinn chuckled. "This'll be fun. It's a shame we couldn't keep the Lightning angels alive to test the new devices on as well. The Genius Prince always likes hearing about Jean's people being involved in tests."

The speakers cracked again slightly, and the screen flickered into a screensaver, its fractal patterns taking on a somewhat disturbing tint. "No matter. Even though they died under the interrogation, they provided us with the Judges. And hey - five test subjects versus two - we should have even more opportunities to field test the devices."

Ceret turned and spit on the carpet. "More work for us, Rekza."

The screen flickered again, and a set of seven green eyes opened and tracked in on the Djinn's two, causing him to swallow instinctively. "Oh, come now. I promise you, Ceret - this is going to be fun."

"Ok, where is he now, Xador?"

The Ofanite had been racing down the road for close to an hour, and even with his resonance enhanced skills he was having trouble keeping up with the car that periodically came into view far ahead of them. The police cars that had been chasing him had long since given up, but it did little to lessen the Wheel's sense of frustration. He turned to look at the Cherub in the seat beside him, who had his eyes closed in contemplation. "C'mon, Xador! He's going to get away from us. What is this guy driving, anyway?"

The Cherub looked out the window, then whipped his head around to face Laris. "Left. Turn left, then turn left again on the second street down. He's doubling back on us." The bald-headed angel shook his head rapidly. "Where is this guy going? This doesn't make any sense - he should know he can't shake us."

From the backseat, the other Cherub reached forward and placed his hand on Xador's shoulder. "They know they can't shake the attunement, but they may be trying to outrun the car. If they get to the Tether before we do, it's still a victory for them. Still... hmm...."

From both sides of him, the two Seraphim smacked him on the shoulders. "Still what, Jack?"

He turned to look at Muriel. "Something's not right here. The data I've got from Vapunet has the Tether being in a casino that's about 20 miles north of the city, and there's several that could match that profile. But when I'm going through the maps of this area here, I'm not finding any casino close to us. Now, maybe I'm wrong - the software on this palmtop is a different version than the one I'm used to, but still..."

Squavariel reached out and grabbed the palmtop. "Give me a look at that." After looking at it for a moment, she dropped in back on the seat and rubbed her hands on her pants. "Ugh. The maps are wrong. I should have expected such from Vaputech -"

Jack turned to face the other Seraph, his face hardening. "Look, Squavariel - you may not trust Vapulan designs, but one thing we did right when I was still in Tartarus was make maps. Failure to maintain acceptable accuracy meant reporting to Quality Control, and you didn't want that to happen. These maps should be fine - a Vapulan's got to be able to find a secure uplink station to transmit data back to his project leader. We always made sure that we had an escape route planned."

"Well, if this is their escape route, it was definitely convoluted enough. What did you guys do, have Habbalah write up the escape plans so they could test your reasoning skills?"

Jack chuckled wryly. "Laris, some day I've got to tell you about the time we left the driving to our Habbalite - now that was..." Jack twisted his head slightly, then started fumbling around in some of the boxes on the floor. "Um, Laris - the Tether that we're heading to is north of the city, right?"

The Ofanite turned back to face his partners. "Yeah... um. Wait a second. Wait a... then why is this sonofabitch heading south by southwest? Something's not right here..."

Xador and Jack both closed their eyes, then snapped their heads around to face each other. Xador looked around at the trees at the side of the road worriedly. "You feel that, Jack?"

The long haired Cherub nodded as he dug through the boxes. "Yep. Surveillance. And danger. Active hostility. Can't get a fix on it yet, but I'm working on it."

Muriel picked up the palmtop and focused her gaze on its screen. "Um, Jack? These palmtops don't have any active intelligence in them, right?" At seeing his nod, she continued. "Then why is this thing actively lying to us?" As the Cherub jerked his head up to look at his superior officer, Muriel swallowed audibly. "Oh my. Well, I think we know what the problem is, guys."

As Squavariel turned her resonance to the machine again, both of the Seraphim nodded uncomfortably as they focused on a tiny icon at the bottom right corner of the screen. Where they had previously noted a tiny computer with flashing lights, under the power of their resonance the icon changed to a green eye, with different words underneath it as it blinked rapidly.


Ceret turned to the little girl who was riding in the seat beside him. "They're onto the palmtop, I'm thinking. It's actively in danger at this point. Should we go ahead and start the procedures?"

The child nodded, not looking up from the circuitry patterns that she was carving into her arm. "It's about time for us to go ahead. Are teams 4 and 5 in position?"

The Djinn nodded. "Team 3 reports that they're in postion close to the local Tether of The Sword to cut them off in case they try to make a run for it. Team 2 has had to return to Tartarus - they mentioned something about a bad drive on the recording equipment, so we should probably count them out for the duration. Team 1 is about 2 miles ahead, but they've lost Samir and Donalas, which means only Ariane is active."

The child nodded. "All right. Transport the first device to their vehicle. I'll get the monitoring drones in place." Setting the scalpel down, she opened the laptop that was sitting in her lap to reveal a screen with a dozen different windows open, and a map with multiple red dots moving around on it. "You know, Ceret - this should be an event to be celebrated. These babies should really give us an edge up on the competition. Why, the funding increases alone will be worth the sacrifices we've made."

Ceret smiled savagely. "No more sitting in the back of the symposiums while the stupid Punishers get all the credit for advancing Technology. We'll get what we've always deserved, Rekza - respect. Vapula will have to acknowledge us this time. Still, you sure you can handle the drones? You're talking about being in multiple places at once, right?"

The girl shook her head, her head twisting slightly further than it should have been able to. "No, we're not talking about multiple manifestations here. These are enhanced, of course, but the technological base is standard mortal remote control, with laser beams to track the target and maintain a relatively constant distance. Humans have been using this sort of thing for a while, just not to this degree. It should be safe, although it may give we a headache. Still, if it works as we predict, it'll give us the ability to match a Kyriotate in terms of surveillance. I've got a good lock on the target area. All drones report nominal. We're set."

The Djinn reached back into the backseat and opened a box containing a silvery disk. "Ready?"

The girl nodded as the Djinn made a few motions with his hand and the disk began to dematerialize. Reaching out for a headset, she spoke quietly into the microphone, her high-pitched voice falling into an unnatural and unmistakable cadence. "This is Rekza. Target is in position. All teams begin sequencing."

Squavariel was the first one to react at the disturbance. "Something is happening. Disturbance, to the left of us. Moderate range. Song use. I -"

Without warning, a metallic disk about the size of a frisbee appeared in front of the car, causing Laris to swerve wildly. Falling onto the hood on the car, it flew backwards toward the windshield, vaporizing as it touched the glass. The stunned Ofanite gunned the engine, forcing the car ever faster down the road. "Everybody okay back there?"

Xador nodded. "Yeah, it looks like it... wait a second. Do you feel something weird, Squavariel?"

The Seraph nodded, her face contorting in dismay. "Yes. Discord - we have been bound somehow. It must have been that device. It would seem that they are no longer willing to be chased, but intend to initiate some action of their own." She reached into her jacket and pulled out a pistol. "We should prepare ourselves for violent action. Do you concur, Muriel?"

Muriel reached into a cooler on the floor and pulled out a bottle and a gun. "I concur. Are there any objections?" The two Cherubim shook their heads in the negative, while Jack opened a box and pulled out an oddly-shaped contraption that radiated an almost palpable aura of destruction. Squavariel swallowed an oath, her eyes tracing their way around the edges of the boxy-shaped weapon. As the Cherub slammed a clip into the device whose length nearly equalled her forearm, she tapped Jack's arm. "Just out of curiosity, are you not supposed to give all Technological weapons to Lightning once you've captured them?"

Jack nodded. "This isn't a Technological device. It's a worthless hunk of junk at the moment. If and when it becomes a weapon, I'll be sure to let you know, Most Holy." He knelt on the seat, cradling the device in his arms lovingly when he was knocked back into the other Cherub in the front seat, blood streaming down his face from a hole over his left eye. Xador immediately twisted in the seat, attempting to shield Jack from the apparent sniper. "Are you all right? Speak to me, Jack! Come on, just hold on a second, Jack! Stay with me!"

"Ow." The Cherub slowly raised himself up, glaring into the trees, his eyes focusing in on an oak with a hunters stand in it. "All right, you little jackass. Two can play that game." Shuddering as another slug slammed into him, the two Seraphim began shooting in the direction of the stand. Jack tapped the Ofanite on the head, "Stop the car."

"But -"

"Stop the car, Laris."

Laris pulled off to the side, keeping the engine idling. The wounded Cherub waved his hand in front of the two Seraphim, who stopped shooting and looked incredulously at him. Raising his voice into a shout, "You are hereby charged with the crime of attempted murder. Do you wish to enter a plea?"

Another shot rang out, this time striking the Cherub in the arm. Looking down at his companions, "Guilty?" The two Seraphim looked at each other, raising a eyebrow, then nodded in the affirmative. An additional 2 voices from the front seat made their votes clear as well. "You are hereby found Guilty of this crime. There is but one punishment that can be carried out under these conditions."

As the object in Jack's hands began to light up with angelic sigils which glowed a neon blue, Jack looked down at Squavariel, a smirk on his face. "Now, it's a weapon, Most Holy." Turning back towards the tree, he called out to the figure scrambling to get out of the stand. "SENTENCE!" The weapon in his hands flared, and the Symphony roared its approval loudly in the ears of the angels as the figure and the trees closest to him vaporized in a ball of luminescent flame. The Ofanite started the car up the hill again, whooping wildly as the Cherub sat down in the seat to be attended to by the ladies on either side of him. Laris turned back to face them as he sped down the road. "Well, screw me - the thing actually does something!"

Jack nodded as reached into the cooler. "Hey, I've never been able to test it under field conditions. I'll have to make sure I don't fire it at close range, though - but the antimatter generator does work, if you give the thing enough electricity. I'll make sure to thank that Impudite I stole the song from if I ever find him again."

Squavariel nudged the Cherub slightly. "While I hate to interrupt this self-congratulatory experience, there is another pressing concern. We are still bound, although I feel this will not last forever. More pressing at the moment is that we still have enemies out here, and your wounds are not closing, Jack. My Healing is not taking effect on you for some reason, and if we do not find some way to repair the damage to your vessel, sooner or later you will die. And there is no reason to believe that the rest of our enemies are not similarly equipped." The five of them looked at each quietly, and then looked at the would on Jack's head which was slowly but surely turning an angry reddish color as blood oozed from it. Laris finally turned back to pay attention to the road, and spoke what was one everyone's mind -

"So, what do we do now?"

(To be continued...)


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