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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22. Twenty One: War Plans

 

    I leaned forward on my elbows across from Nemi at the conference room table that had become my makeshift office. “So,” I said. “How do you feel about being bait?”

    Nemi blinked, shooting a glance at Isaac, who sat next to her. “W-what?”

    Isaac glared at me, and I spread my hands. “What?” I asked in defense. “It was a legitimate question. Some people get off on it.” He didn’t look convinced. “Besides,” I told Nemi, “you’d be safe the whole time. That’s a Baxel Guarantee.” 

    Nemi had already told me everything I already knew from spying on the angels. They were raising Nephilim batch by batch and training them to be good little soldiers in their war against… Me. And humanity. But mostly me. 

    But all that was old news, so all that was left was looking forward at our next move. Judging by what I had seen when I went to rescue Sirio, the human servants had done a surprisingly good job at killing off the Nephilim. The angels were left to start almost from scratch with their army, and I had no doubt that if they hadn’t been so busy doing so, they would’ve come by to yell at me about it. 

    “What would the plan be?” Isaac asked. 

    I regarded him, not sure yet what to make of the kid. Sometimes he seemed bold, but then he would lapse into quietness and melt into the background. It was like two extremes, and it threw me off. “Well, if we could put Nemi somewhere bright and inconspicuous not far from the Watchers’ compound, we could hopefully draw the attention of the angels searching for her. Then, they’d send a few to intercept her, and we could deal with them in a lower stress environment.”

    Isaac thought on this. “But they’d just call for backup, wouldn’t they?” 

    “But would the other angels hear them if the compound was being attacked?” I pointed out, raising a brow. 

    “By who?”

    “You. The GITS. And I was thinking we might even enlist a human army,” I said. “After all, I have contacts in Spain, as you well know, and their camp is just over the border. The Nephilim may be strong, but they’re mortal.”

    Isaac shook his head. “The humans would get slaughtered by the angels.”

    “Not all of them,” I shrugged. “With enough numbers, anyone can be overwhelmed.”

    “You’d sacrifice hundreds of humans to these angels?”

    “Collateral damage,” I told him, spreading my palms flat on the table. “Got to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Got to crack a few skulls to make a nice centerpiece,” I shrugged. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. I could put it a dozen different ways.”

    Isaac scowled at me. If he had been a little more Emo, very much less hispanic, and a touch more angry, he would’ve looked just like Damian. “Taryn’s not going to like that plan.”

    I cocked my head at him. “Lucky I don’t answer to her, huh?” I smirked.

    “Don’t hurt the Nephilim,” Nemi blurted, her voice as delicate as the rest of her looked, though I knew that she had an incredible amount of hidden strength. “They’re just like me. They’re scared and confused. It’s not their fault.”

    “Listen, I have nothing against them,” I told her. “But if they try to stop us from locking the angels up again, we’ll have to take care of them.”

    “But if they don’t,” Nemi said slowly. “If they just stand aside, will you leave them alone?”

    I didn’t see why not. “Sure.”

    Nemi nodded with a new determination, like this solved all her problems. Isaac sill wasn’t on board with the plan. “How are you going to get them locked up again?” 

    “I don’t need to be telling you all this,” I said, eyeing him.

    Isaac looked around. “I don’t see your pet Damian around to bounce ideas off of, so maybe I can point out the flaws before you make yourself look like an idiot.”

    “Wow,” I muttered. “You have been spending way too much time with Taryn.” Isaac just waited for me to give in, which I did. What the hell did it hurt? “Okay, fine. I was thinking that if we catch the angels off guard, like in the middle of the battle, Damian and I can transport them one by one to the Nether, chain them up, and go back for the next one. Pick them off.” 

    “Would that actually work?” Isaac asked. 

    “Theoretically. Or else why would that be my primary plan?” 

    Isaac shrugged. “Alright, well, I guess that’s an okay plan.”

    “Glad I got your approval,” I muttered, rolling my eyes. Standing, I smoothed down my suit jacket, hands faltering on the tears from the battle. Bastards. “Alright,” I said. “I think it’s time to use this conference room for what it’s supposed to be used for. Conferences,” I said with relish.

    Isaac stared at me for a minute, then shook his head. “You’re so strange.”

    I looked up at the ceiling as I replied, “I don’t remember caring what you thought.” I clapped my hands, and turned to Nemi. “Alright, here’s a choice for you, Nemi. Should we do this the boring way or the fun way?” 

    Nemi blinked, eyes darting from Baxel to Isaac and back. “Uh-“

    “The fun way it is!” I reached out to the shadows and sent them slithering about the compound, finding Sirio, Griffiths, Taryn, Damian, and Hillary, just for kicks. When they located their targets, they wrapped around their wrists, effectively dragging them to me in the conference room. Griffiths was the first to arrive, the front of his clothes stained with something dark. 

    “What-“ he began as the shadows dragged him to a seat. “I was holding coffee!” 

    I tilted my head at Isaac, saying pointedly, “Collateral damage.” He gave me a look. 

    Griffiths did not look amused. Hillary was dragged in squealing in fear, which of course, was only to keep me entertained. Sirio was next, having broken through the shadows the moment they arrived and just taken the message to come find me. Nemi’s eyes blew wide upon his entrance, and Isaac put a hand on hers to calm her down. It didn’t seem to have an effect. “It’s okay,” he tried. 

    Nemi just shook her head, her eyes squeezed shut. “Where’s Taryn?” 

    As if on cue, Taryn and Damian came next - again, without the shadow shackles. I hadn’t expected Damian to be thrilled with those anyway. Nemi stood, almost running to Taryn, who caught her in a hug. 

    “What did you do her?” she demanded of me over Nemi’s shoulder. 

    I raised my hands. “It wasn’t me, I swear! It was my evil twin brother.”

    Taryn gave me a look, but followed as I pointed at Sirio, who was glaring and snarling at Taryn in a rather unsightly display. He looked to be about halfway to his normal handsome angel self, but he wasn’t there yet, and the gnarled black hand that rested accusingly on the table didn’t help. Taryn’s jaw tightened. “You didn’t tell me he was going to be here.”

    “He’s an angel,” Nemi hissed into Taryn’s ear, loud enough for the whole room to hear.

    “He didn’t tell me you were going to be here,” Sirio growled. “You’re just a human. I don’t see how you’re essential to these proceedings.”

    “Don’t,” Damian and I both warned at once. We shared a glance, and our unity only seemed to irritate Sirio more. 

    “I hate all of you. The moment this is over, you’re all fair game,” Sirio declared. He glanced at me, and I knew what he was thinking. I tried to send a firm don’t you dare back in my own gaze. 

    Taryn sat Nemi down the farthest she could from Sirio, then took the seat next to her. The way her arm fell, it looked like they might have been holding hands, but I didn’t care enough to draw on the shadows lurking beneath them to make sure. Damian sat next to his sister, and my eyes flicked between them before returning to Damian. Damian’s lip quirked in a hint of a smile, and he gave a barely perceptible nod. 

    I grinned, then clapped my hands and said, “All right!” I looked around at the group. “Who wants to start us off with a prayer?”

    Everyone looked at each other except for Damian, who rolled his eyes, and Sirio, who was still glaring at Taryn. “Hillary?” I suggested. 

    Hillary, chosen only because I hated her and because she, unlike the others, still had a healthy fear of me, stammered. “U-uh… All hail the mighty… Satan, may he protect us and… watch over us-“

    I ruined it by laughing. “I was just joking, but okay.”

    Flushing with embarrassment, Hillary sank back in her chair. 

    “Anyway,” I continued, “I bet you’re all wondering why I called this meeting.” I waited for someone to reply, but no one did. “This is our war council! Fun, huh?” Again, no reply. “Wow, tough crowd.”

    “We’re a little busy, Baxel, if you just want to jump ahead to the point,” Damian suggested. 

    “Okay, okay. How’s the light research coming, Griffiths?” I asked. 

    Griffiths blinked, straightening a little. “It looks like there’s a suppression spell,” he said. “It’s ancient magic, and really tricky to pull off, but I think we could do it. It would cut the subject off from the light-“

    “I know what it does,” I grumbled. “And yes, it is possible. It does work. Keep working on it.” Snapping my fingers, I added, “Also look into warding a dagger to hold shadows. If you can make a few of those, Damian and I can put shadows in it, and that’ll give you all an advantage in the fight.”

    “Sorry?” Taryn spoke up. “The fight?” Nemi looked to her, and Taryn spared her a small smile that faded when she turned back to me. 

    “Yes, you’re all here to hear the plan,” I said. “I came up with this plan, so it is, of course, flawless. Even so, raise any concerns now. I hate surprises.”

    “Let’s hear it,” Sirio drawled, lounging in his chair. 

    “Alright, so the Watchers are currently in a compound in France,” I said, turning around and grabbing a marker from the whiteboard that was plastered to the wall behind me. I drew something that looked vaguely like the French border, then put an X where the camp sort of was. “They’re also currently searching for Nemi, which is why this room is about as dark as the intentions of Hitler. They might have given up on her, but considering their army is probably still toddlers, I’m guessing they want her back.”

    I raised my hand, writing “NEMI” a little to the right of the X. “So I was thinking, if we put Nemi over here in the light, they’ll likely pick up on her pretty quick and send maybe three angels, for good measure.” I drew three little dots above “NEMI.” “That would leave fourteen left in the compound. While Damian and I and a few of the GITS take on the three over with Nemi and get them chained back up in the Nether, a human army from Spain will be advancing here,” I said, drawing an arrow and labeling it, “on the compound. The rest of the GITS will be with them, and SIrio, you too.”

    Sirio’s face was impassive, but he didn’t protest. 

    “You’ll have to fight whatever Nephilim they’ve raised at that point, but that shouldn’t be too hard. They’ll be strong, but untrained. And, of course, the angels,” I said. 

    “Fourteen of them?” Griffiths asked. “We could barely take on three with all of us.”

    “You just have to keep them occupied,” I told him. “They’ll need to be distracted so Damian and I can sneak up on them one by one and take them back to the Nether. We’ll pick them off as quick as we can. Plus, you’ll have all the branches of the GITS, from all across the world.”

    Griffiths thought about this, then nodded. “If we can get the suppression spell down and share it with the other branches… It could work.”

    “I don’t like this plan,” Taryn stated. 

    I turned to Isaac, saying, “Just as you predicted.” Looking back to Taryn, I asked, “Is it because of the bait thing?”

    “Yes.”

    I sighed. “Look, she’ll be just fine with us. We’re really safe people.”

    Taryn scowled. “Let me go with her.”

    Shaking my head, I replied, “I think you’d be better served going with the GITS. I’ve heard tales of your knife abilities; if we can get you a shadow knife, you could do some damage.”

    “I could do some damage to the three angels after Nemi. Or however many they end up sending,” Taryn replied, adamant. “Besides, the quicker you wrap up there, the sooner you can start picking off the other angels, and the shorter amount of time the GITS will have to hold out.”

    She did have a little bit of a point. 

    “Let her come,” Damian encouraged. “The GITS can hold their own without her for a while.”

    “Alright,” I agreed. “But if you mess this up by jumping the gun or anything if Nemi’s in danger, I’ll personally kill both of you.”

    Taryn met my gaze. “Noted.”

    “Any other objections?” I asked. 

    “Let me go with Taryn and Nemi,” Isaac spoke up.

    Groaning, I turned dramatically to him. “You too? Why do you care?”

    “Because-“ Isaac flushed, his eyes darting from me to Taryn to Nemi and-

    “You know what?” I asked, throwing my hands up. “I don’t give a shit. Go wherever the hell you want, you’re not one of the important people anyway.”

    Isaac closed his mouth, hurt flashing over this face. I didn’t even bother to try to bring myself to care. 

    “Alright, so is the plan set?” I asked. Everyone either nodded or didn’t object, and that was good enough in my book. “Good. Griffiths, you contact all the branches of the GITS. Sirio, help them with the suppression spell. Hillary, you… do you. Isaac, Taryn, you train Nemi as much as you can. We might need her in the fight. Damian, I need to speak with you.” Damian nodded at me. 

    I looked to Griffiths, asking, “If we put this plan into effect tomorrow morning at four AM, French time, will that be enough time to get the GITS all in Spain?” 

    Griffiths did some quick calculations in his head. “I think so. If you dish out some orders.”

    I nodded to him. “Whatever you need. Come get me when you’ve got a list.” Surveying the group, I finished, “So we’re set. And do try to get some rest, all of you; you’re going to need a hell of a lot of strength tomorrow morning. Dismissed.”

    They all filed out of the room, headed to set their tasks in motion. The way Taryn’s arm slipped around Nemi to guide her out didn’t slip my attention, nor did the way she caught the Nephilim after she ran into the edge of the table. Damian hung back, nodding to Taryn as she passed, then approaching me at the other end. 

    “So, you and your sister worked it out, I take it?” I asked, smiling a little. 

    Damian nodded. If I wasn’t mistaken, he looked less angry than the day before. Maybe taken down from a 9 Angry to a 7.5 Angry. “Yeah. There was some shouting and tears I think, but everything is okay now.”

    “She doesn’t hate you because you’re my son?”

    “Funnily enough, she hated me because I left without saying goodbye,” Damian replied, his voice dry. “Weird, huh?”

    “Women,” I said, shaking my head, unable to stop the smile from spreading across my face. When I looked up, Damian was smiling too.

    “Thanks for helping me,” Damian said. “You really sold it by giving in to all my requests.”

    Yep. That was why I gave in. “I probably could have done more, but,” I paused to shrug, “it seemed like something you needed to sort out.”

    Damian nodded. “You’re right. I’m starting to think that everything… isn’t as bad as I thought.”

    I let out a brief laugh. “That’s what I strive for. Not as bad as first impressions.”

    Shaking his head, Damian rolled his eyes. “So, this plan of yours… do you think it’ll really work?”

    “Do you?” I asked. I had wanted to consult him first, but he was a little pre-occupied. 

    “It sounds good on paper,” Damian hedged. 

    I raised a brow. “But…?”

    “But these angels… They seem pretty unpredictable and very dangerous,” Damian said. “I’ve never faced more than three at a time and the prospect of even doing that again is… intimidating.”

    “You’ll do fine,” I promised him. “You’re one of the strongest sorcerers I know. Plus, you have shadows, which is the best weapon against them.”

    Damian still frowned. “I know, but… We have to take seventeen angels to the Nether. I’ve never even taken one, but the way you talk, it’s a struggle to get a being of light down there.” I didn’t say anything to refute that. It was true. “I’m only half demon. What if that’s not enough?” 

    I tried to find words to reassure him, but none came. Instead, what came out was a joke, “Hey, just a little while ago, you hated being half demon. Now it’s not enough for you,” I smiled, but he didn’t smile back. I sobered, trying to come up with something real to say. 

    “Damian, seriously. It’s going to be okay. You’re as strong as I am right now, until the shadows trust me a little more, and I’m not worried.” Not about that, anyway. “We’ll just work together. If you can’t take one on your own, we’ll ambush them and go together. It’d probably be helpful once we get down there anyway. Shackling them even in the Nether isn’t going to be a picnic.”

    Damian let out a breath. “Yeah. You’re right. We’ll be fine.”

    I reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. “Of course we will be. I’ve faced worse things in my thousands of years of life, and I’m still here.”

    “You’re immortal,” Damian pointed out. “I’m not. My sister isn’t. You’ll watch out for her, right?”

    “Only because I know you’ll give me hell if I don’t.” At Damian’s look, I amended, “Of course I will.”

    I dropped my hand from his shoulder, and was suddenly enveloped in a hug so brief I didn’t even have time to hug back. “Thank you,” Damian said as he stepped away, not meeting my eyes. “I don’t think I hate you anymore.”

    Before I could say anything, he turned and hurried from the conference room. I stood there in the dark for a minute, smiling at nothing. 

    Aw. My son didn’t hate me anymore. That was nicest thing anyone had ever said to me.

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