Remain. [NaNoWriMo '16]

[Sequel to NaNo '15 novel Run.] Ruling the world isn't as easy or as fun as it sounds, especially not when a group of angry angels are thrown into the mix. What's worse is that Baxel is without his right-hand man, who just so happens to be the key to everyone's plans.

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4. Three: Well, I'll Be Damned. Oh, Wait...

I wanted to be angry with Damian, and I was. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but be a little impressed. After all, bringing light into the Nether? I had never heard of that done. Granted, that’s because I never heard of anyone who could traverse the Nether but myself, and I had no light powers, but even so. Impressive. 

    Still, that didn’t change the fact that not only was there apparently an angel on the loose as a result of his reckless experiments, but that angel was a criminal from what was effectively Heaven’s Maximum Security Prison. If I thought my life as ruler of the world was getting a bit dull, well, here was some excitement, that was for sure.

    “So,” Damian began, “how do we find an angel?”

    “Same way you find anyone else,” I replied, digging around in my pocket. 

    Damian frowned at me. “How’s that?”

    I grinned, pulling out my phone. “Have someone else do it for you.” 

    “Is that a Samsung Note 7?”

    Pausing, I looked up at him. “Are you a sponsored ad?”

    “I was just asking because you know those have a tendency to explode,” Damian commented, leaning back in his chair. “Let me guess, you had someone else get it for you because you’re too lazy?”

    “…No.”

    Damian smirked. “Looks like one of your ‘followers’ doesn’t like you very much.”

    I considered him for a long moment, trying to decide on what I could say in my own defense. That it was a simple error, that the servant was probably too stupid to know better, that the chances of it exploding were one in a million, right? In the end, I settled with, “Shut up.”

    I scrolled through my contacts until I reached one labeled “Servant #48.” I searched my brain for a face to go with “Servant #48,” but came up blank. Not because my brain was blank, just because I had never really bothered to learn the faces of any of my servants, of course.

    “Hello?” a female voice answered on the other end.

    “Hello, yes. This is your Overlord Baxel.” I waited for the shuddering praise.

    “I know who it is, you made us all put you into our contacts on the day you enslaved us for life, remember?” she replied. I had the sneaking suspicion that Servant #48 was the same one I had encountered in the hallway earlier. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. 

    “Right, I did,” I answered. “Of course I remember that, I forget nothing.”

    “Mhm,” she murmured, sounding distracted. “So how can I help you, Most Majestic Overlord?”

    I felt my chest swell at the title. “You’re the one who gave me the report about the light sightings, right?”

    “Yep.”

    “Okay, I need the location and time of the most recent one.”

    There was a rustle of papers on the other end. “One second…” I tapped my foot to imaginary elevator music. “Alright, I got it. The last sighting was five minutes ago in your room.”

    I blinked. “Um. Repeat that.”

    “Alright, I got it. The last sighting was five minutes ago in your room.”

    “One more time.”

    “Alright, I got it. The last sighting was five minutes ago in your room.”

    I could feel Damian’s eyes on me, but I didn’t look his way. “How did he get in? What about my massive amounts of security? What about the fancy lock I had installed on the door?”

    “I don’t know,” she replied, sounding annoyed. “All I know is that a few minutes ago, someone went into the hallway, found a bunch of dead people, and came running out screaming. We checked the security cameras, and all they showed was white light for, like, five solid minutes.” 

    “Why didn’t you tell me immediately?” I demanded. 

    She sighed. “Your exact orders were to tell you as soon as possible, and it wasn’t possible because I forgot the password to my phone, but apparently when someone calls you, you don’t need a password to answer, so-“

    “Alright, alright! Whatever, I don’t care. Did he ransack my room? Did he steal the signed Hamilton program that I keep in my bedside table?”

    “They said it doesn’t look like anything’s missing,” Servant #48 said hesitantly. “Other than, well…” 

    “What?”

    “Not as much what as who.”

    I stood up from my perch on Damian’s bed. “No.”

    “I’m afraid so.”

    “No.” 

    “Yes.”

    “I’m hanging up now. I’ll be there in five.”

    “Okay.”

    I hung up, turning to look Damian straight in the eye. “He has Mr. Skullcrusher.”

 

—[]—

 

    “We should think about this,” Damian insisted, following me as I dropped into the Nether. I walked a few feet in the other plane, the rough glass-like sand crunching under my shoes. “We shouldn’t just run back there because he has your dog. What if he’s waiting there?”

    “I hope he is,” I shot back. “We’re looking for him anyway, aren’t we?”

    “Yeah, but we’re not prepared,” Damian protested as I gathered the shadows around myself, ready to teleport through the Nether. “We don’t even have a-“

    I ignored him and disappeared, letting the shadows go when I reached the section of the Nether right beneath my headquarters. Damian appeared behind me a moment later, finishing, “-plan. We don’t have a plan.”

    “Lock him up in the Nether again,” I said, my voice hard. “There, we have a plan.” I turned to look at him. “Are you coming or not?”

    With a sigh, he shrugged. I went first, materializing in my room. It was empty. Too empty. I missed the normal slobbery greeting from my German Shepherd. 

    “This is your room?” Damian asked, crossing the room with long strides. “I expected something…” 

    “What?”

    “Darker.”

    “Cream is in right now.”

    Damian raised a brow. “Uh huh.”

    I shot him a glare, then swept past him into the hallway. “Servant 48!” I called in my most booming voice as I approached the secretary room. Several servants looked up from their cubicles. 

    “Uh, I don’t think you ever gave us numbers, your Majesty,” one of them ventured. 

    I waved an impatient hand. “Get me whoever I was on the phone with earlier. Girl, about yea tall,” I said, motioning at about my own eye level, “dark skin, black hair.”

    The guy in the cubicle nodded to one of the others, and they hurried off. In a few seconds, they returned from the other room with Servant 48 in tow. “Ah, Servant 48.”

    “I have a name, you know.”

    “What is it?”

    “Riya Kaur.”

    I thought about it. “And you think that’s catchier than Servant 48?”

    She scowled. “Yes?”

    “Fine,” I shrugged, pulling her into my room. Damian followed.  “It doesn’t matter what you’re called, as long as you tell me everything you know about the person who stole my dog.”

    Riya crossed her slender arms. “Well, from what we can tell, ‘he’ appears to be a ball of light,” she said slowly. “And not really a person? As such?”

    “True, he isn’t a person,” I agreed. “He is the devil.”

    “I thought you were the devil.”

    “I was exaggerating,” I snapped. “He’s actually an angel.”

    “That’s pretty nice of you, considering he just stole your dog.”

    I shot her a look. “I mean he’s a literal angel, I wasn’t calling him a- You know what? I don’t think I like you much, Riya.”

    “I do,” Damian spoke up from my shoulder. “And considering she’s the only one who’s not shaking in terror from being in the same room with your ugly face, I think you should cut her some slack.”

    “Thank you,” Riya nodded at him.    “Excuse me,” I said, turning a stern look his way. “What did you say about my face?”

    Damian ignored me, talking instead to Riya. “Look, the important thing is that we find this angel before he does anything disastrous.”

    “Disastrous?” Riya echoed. “The world is a disaster. What else could he possibly do?”

    Pausing, Damian glanced from me to her. “What do you mean?”

    She looked at him like he was insane. That was usually a look reserved for me. “Um, the famine in Asia? The war in China? The civil war in South America? The complete devastation of the northern half of Australia? Do you want me to go on?”

    Damian’s mouth fell open, turning to me. “What the hell did you do? I left you alone for three months and you ruined the fucking world?”

    I made a face. “I don’t know about ruined…”

    For a moment, Damian just stared at me, then shook his head like he was waking up from a daze. “Okay, well, we’ll fix the world after we capture the angel. Can you get everyone on it? Talk to everyone, let us know as soon as you find any leads.”

    Riya seemed much more inclined to obey Damian even without the ring. “It would go faster if you helped. Delegate, that is.”

    “I’ll make some commands,” I offered. 

    “Uh,” Riya began. “Can I be honest here?”

    Damian nodded. She still hesitated, so he added, “Go ahead. If he gets offended or whatever, I won’t let him take it out on you.”

    A flicker of confusion passed over Riya’s face as she glanced between the two of them, but it faded as she said, “If the orders come from you, people are really inclined to look for loopholes that let them out of helping.  Um, I think the orders would be better received coming from him,” she said, nodding at Damian.

    I was offended. I wanted to take it out on her, but Damian gripped my arm, stopping me. “That’s really rude,” I hissed. “Are you saying people don’t respect me? That they don’t love me as their Supreme Leader?”

    “Uh…” Riya looked more scared than she had the entire conversation. Perhaps her bravado and calm had a limit. 

    Lucky for her, Damian stepped between me and Riya, saying, “Why don’t you give me the ring? Just for a little while, so I can make a few commands that’ll actually be properly followed, then I’ll give it back. I swear.”

    I searched his eyes. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Damian, it’s just that… I didn’t trust him. Though he had changed considerably over the past few months, I was worried he was still too… good. At heart. That he would get it into his head that saving the world was the most important thing and that by taking the ring from me for good, he could accomplish it. 

    Even so, I was kind of curious to see just how much he had changed. What if those sympathetic days were behind him? What if I could finally have the son, the friend, the right hand man, that I had always wanted? What if… 

    “Okay,” I agreed, ignoring the shock on both of their faces. “But just until you get things sorted with the humans here. And then you give it back.”

    “I will,” Damian promised. 

    “I know you will,” I said with a tight lipped smile. “After all, I’ve been watching your sister. I know exactly where she is, and if you don’t give that ring back the moment I ask for it, I’ll send a stream of shadows straight through her heart, understand?”

    Damian’s jaw clenched. Soon he would realize that family was an unallowable weakness, but that time hadn’t yet come. “I understand.” 

    “Good,” I replied. I slipped the ring off my finger, saying, “I, Baxel, transfer temporary control of the ring to Damian Cross.” I handed him the slim band of dark metal, and he put it on. It instantly conformed to the size of his finger. “Alright, team. Get to work. Get me my dog back.”

    Riya nodded and went to leave, sending a glance at Damian. He waved her off, saying, “I’ll be out in a minute.”

    When we were alone, Damian looked at me. “You’ve been watching my sister?”

    “More than I’ve watched you, actually,” I admitted. “She’s pretty interesting in her own right. Watching the GITS flail around as they try to figure out how to best sabotage me is pretty fun. I especially like watching their confusion when I foil their plans in the most dramatic way possible.” 

    Damian scowled. “How… How is she?”

    I tilted my head. “Not this again.”

    “What?”

    “Attachments. Empathy. Feelings,” I grimaced. “It’s annoying.”

    Damian huffed, “Look, you’re the one who sought me out, so humor me.”

    I rolled my eyes. “She’s fine. She was pretty upset about you abandoning her without a word, but I think she’s getting over it now. She doesn’t seem to be as angry at you anymore, but I think she’s still pretty angry at me. After all, she’s been tirelessly working to defeat me since the moment I took power,” I said. “Well, that was up until recently.”

    “What happened recently?” 

    I studied my fingernails. “She came up with a new plan. Less defeat, more… diplomacy. She’s off looking for what she thinks is the key to it all right now.”

    Damian leaned forward in interest. “What’s that?” 

    I smiled at him, for this whole situation was more than a little amusing to me. Taryn off spending miserable weeks in an excruciating search for her brother - and actually getting quite close - when her brother was sitting here right next to me? Me, the one she was trying to convince him to come and see?  I don’t know. I found it funny. 

    What was funnier was the look on his face when I answered, “You.”

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