Chapter Twenty-one

I let my power loose on the guards, confusing them, making them doubt their purpose. They lowered their guns and looked around, as if they didn’t remember where they were. But Jason fought my power, strengthening their resolve. They lifted their guns again.

Jason and I went back and forth for fifteen minutes. He tried to force the men to fight. I tried to make them confused. Eventually, I realized this was stupid. Jason and I were evenly matched. We could fight over the minds of these guards for eons, but neither of us would get the upper hand.

While still keeping my focus on clashing with Jason’s attempt to focus the men, I branched out, searching for other nearby minds to control. There were many to choose from. I didn’t care whose they were. Jason’s people, OF army, remnants of Sutherland’s forces. Armed bodies were all that mattered. I brushed the minds of forty or fifty men and filled them with the desire to shoot Jason’s guards.

They flooded the cemetery, their guns ready. Jason’s guards were mowed down with gunfire in a matter of seconds. Bullets ripped into their flesh and blood spurted onto the tall grass of the cemetery. They fell, screaming.

But that wasn’t the end of it, because Jason had also taken control of the minds of a group of soldiers as well. They charged across the cemetery heading directly for Kieran.

Kieran turned to me. “What the hell?” he said. “What is going on?”

I shook my head. “Get behind me.”

Kieran wouldn’t, so I redirected my army against Jason’s new group of soldiers. The firefight began. It was loud, messy, and relentless. Our soldiers moved without fear or hesitation, because Jason and I had both taken that away from them. His soldiers moved with a single purpose. Mine moved with the desire to destroy. They shot at each other. Bullets shredded men’s arms and guts. They tumbled to the ground. The ones left behind scrambled over them and kept heading for the other side.

As my forces were depleted, I called for more. There were enough men that I could do this for quite some time. The air smelled of discharged firearms and dead men. I fueled my soldiers with rage, and the carnage continued.

Kieran said to me, “You’re killing all these men.”

“Jason is trying to kill you,” I said. “I won’t let him.”

“Fine,” said Kiernan. “Let’s run away or something. You don’t need to send all these soldiers to their death.”

Was it bad that they were dying? They’d come here to fight Sutherland, hadn’t they? I felt confused suddenly. Should I feel bad about the dead soldiers?

But while I was distracted, Jason surprised me by sending in a squadron behind me. I heard their gunfire before I saw them. I only had time to glance at them over my shoulder. There were twenty of them, and they were coming at Kieran and me, guns blazing. I hit the ground, pulling Kieran with me.

Using my mind, I urged some of my forces to engage the squadron attacking us. They turned away from Jason’s other men and dove over us. More shooting.

I couldn’t tell who was winning or losing. It was only important that I kept Kieran safe. My men were taking a bit of a beating from Jason’s men, so I called in more. Kieran and I were sprawled on the grass of the cemetery, the ground around us soaked in blood. I reached for him, and he put his hand in mine. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned towards it. Jason’s men were closing in on us, forming a circle around Kieran and I. Their faces were blank as they moved forward, like blind men.

I had enough men within the circle of Jason’s forces to hold them back, but the rest of my guys had been cut off. I called them in to attack Jason’s men from behind.

Jason strode across the grass to us, his men parting to let him through. He was holding a gun. His face looked darkly intent on his purpose. I got to my feet, putting my body between the approaching Jason and Kieran.

Jason had one of his men run over and toss me out of the way. I had one of my men shoot the man in the forehead, and I dove for Kieran.

Jason was two feet from him. He tossed his gun aside. “I think I want to do this with my bare hands.”

“Don’t you touch him,” I said, sending three of my men at Jason. Their bullets tore into him, but he barely reacted to them. He just laughed and kept going for Kieran.

Right. Jason was indestructible. Only I could kill him. Maybe. Michaela Weem had told us that. We’d never tried to test that theory. I thought it was about time we did.

I lunged for the gun Jason had dropped, picking it up and rolling onto my knees. I leveled it at Jason and pulled the trigger.

But at that moment, one of Jason’s soldiers slammed into me, and my shot went wide.

It caught Jason in the shoulder. I watched it burst through his shirt, blood gushing.

Jason screamed. He clutched the gunshot and fell to his knees. And he lost control over his men. They all stopped what they were doing and surveyed the bloody battlefield, strewn with hundreds of corpses.

I was on my feet. I was next to Jason in three steps, my gun against his back, right behind his heart. Jason looked at me. “You,” he said. “You shot me. It’s not healing.”

“I want you out of my life,” I said.

“I can’t believe you shot me,” said Jason. “I love you.”

“No, you don’t,” I said.

A high-pitched shriek echoed across the cemetery. “Stop!” And then Polly streaked in front of us, her arms going around Jason. She looked at me over his shoulder, her eyes full of tears. “Don’t shoot him.”

“He’s trying to kill my boyfriend,” I said. “He’s caused all of this.” I waved my hand around at the dead bodies.

“I know, I know,” she said. “He scares me. But you can’t kill him.”

Jason shoved Polly. “Get away from me,” he said.

Polly stumbled and fell. She looked up at Jason with hurt eyes. “I just wanted you to live long enough to see your child,” she said.

Jason closed his eyes. “Child?”

“She’s pregnant,” I said.

Jason hung his head. “I’m sorry, Polly.”

He moved too fast for me. His feet kicked my legs out from under me, and I dropped the gun. Jason had the gun in his hands, and I was on the ground before I could stop him. He aimed the gun at me. “I’ve realized something,” he said. “I used to think that you should kill me, because I brought nothing but death to this world. But now I realize that if I should die, you should too.”

Kieran put a gun to Jason’s temple. “Stop,” he said.

“He’s not afraid of that,” I said to Kieran.

Kieran pulled the trigger anyway.

There was an explosion of blood and bits of bone. I shut my eyes, and I felt it spatter against my face. When I opened my eyes, Jason was shaking his head like a wet dog and laughing.

Kieran stepped back. “What is he?”

Jason bowed low in front of Kieran, still laughing. “Haven’t you guessed? I’m the messiah.”

I got to my feet and plunged head first into Jason, sending him sprawling on his back. “I don’t think so,” I said.

He reached up and stroked my cheek gently. “Last time we did this,” he said, “I remember it being a lot more pleasant.”

Suddenly, I was crying. “Kieran, give me your gun,” I said. Kieran did. I put the gun in Jason’s face. “You’re crazy. You tried to kill Kieran. You mutilated people and sent us their fingers. You hurt Chance. You deserve to die.”

“Do any of us deserve to live?” Jason asked.

I was still crying, because for some stupid reason, I was thinking of things that Jason had done that had made me love him. Like the way he always snored, or how he loved Guns N’ Roses and would sing along at the top of his lungs to “Welcome to the Jungle.”

“You gonna do it, babe?” Jason said, grinning at me.

“Yes,” I whispered, fingering the trigger. “Jason, some part of me still cares about you. I’m so sorry.” My tears were blinding me. I took one hand off of the gun to wipe them away.

It was only a second, but Jason took that second to drive his fist into my stomach.

I oomphed, doing my best to absorb the blow.

But before I could pull myself together, his other fist collided with my chin. My teeth crunched against each other. My head snapped back.

Jason was on his feet, his foot on my chest. He kicked the gun out of my hand. He stared down at me. His eyes were full of tears too. “As long as there’s a part of you that cares about me, there’s a chance for us,” he said.

And then Jason was running. Kieran scooped up the gun and fired after him, but what did that matter? Only I could hurt him, and by the time I’d made it to my feet, he’d disappeared into the trees.

Maybe I should have gone after Jason, but I didn’t. Instead, I stumbled over the dead bodies to the corpse of my little brother, Chance. I collapsed next to him, pulling his head into my lap. We could go west now. We could get electricity. But I didn’t care, because my baby brother was dead. I looked into his lifeless eyes, stroking his cheek. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

Epilogue

I paced back and forth in the alley, gripping the cell phone tight against my cheek. “Yes, Phillips,” I said, “it’s very impressive that you always find a way to contact me.”

I rolled my eyes at Kieran, who was leaning against the side of a building, a tiny blanket-wrapped bundle in his arms. Skyscrapers surrounded us, and the sounds of explosions underscored our conversation. Kieran made hushing noises as loud wails emanated from the blankets in his arms.

“Can you hear that?” I asked Phillips. “The baby’s screaming.”

Phillips’ voice crackled a little. Cell reception wasn’t great these days, especially since Jason’s people kept knocking down all the towers. “The baby is Wodden’s child, isn’t it?” he asked. “Can’t you see how risky it is to have him with you?”

“Little Chance is safer with me than he’d be anywhere else,” I said. Why was I arguing with this dick anyway? I had better things to do. Like annihilate Jason’s army. “Jason’s already sending messages that he wants his son. There’s no way I’m letting that happen.” Polly hadn’t made it through delivering him. There were too many problems with the birth, and the doctor had tried to do an emergency C-section. There had been so much blood. She hadn’t even been able to name her baby before she died. But she’d grasped my arm, stared into my eyes, and made me promise to take care of him. I was determined to keep that promise.

“Please, Azazel,” said Phillips. “Please relinquish your command to the OF forces. You aren’t trained toβ€””

“Phillips,” I said, “stop trying to convince me to give up command. No one can fight Jason better than I can. I know what I’m doing.”

Phillips’ voice shook. “The destruction the two of you are wreaking on the country isβ€””

Phillips voice cut off as I lost the call on my phone. Good. I didn’t want to talk to him anyway.

I went to Kieran and little Chance.

“The explosions are scaring him,” Kieran said.

I touched Chance’s grimy cheek. “What’s going to happen to you, little man? Growing up in the middle of battles all the time? Watching everyone die?”

“Azazel,” Kieran said.

I looked up at him sadly.

“Maybe you should turn over command to the OF,” said Kieran. “The three of us could go into hiding.”

I shook my head. “Jason would take over the world if I didn’t try to stop him.”

There was a loud crack as a bomb struck a building close to us. The ground shuddered.

“If there’s a world left after this,” Kieran muttered.

I sighed, refocusing myself on the battle. My army was gaining ground on Jason’s, but that hardly meant anything. We fought so constantly, huge masses of people against each other, all over the United States, that one victory or loss made no difference. “I’ll kill him,” I said. “If I can ever get close.”

I could see Jason’s armies coming for mine, and I received messages from himβ€”demands, insane ones. He wanted his child. He wanted me. He wanted our complete surrender, and he wanted us to join his fight for freedom. That’s what he called it.

“If only we’d been able to find the grimoire,” said Kieran.

I hated that he brought this up so often.

“Jason must have had it on him when he left Columbus,” I said. “Let’s get moving. This area is unstable. We need to find cover.” With my mind, I pulled a few dozen men to cover us as we made our escape. I didn’t tell Kieran I was doing this. It upset him that I forced people to protect us and didn’t give them a choice. But it was the only chance we had to survive.

Kieran didn’t move. “If we had that grimoire, we could get rid of both of your powers.”

“I know,” I said. Someday, I wanted that. I did. Someday, I’d tell Kieran that I’d found the grimoire in Jason’s RV, and that I carried it with me, tucked in a pocket inside one of my packs. Someday.

I yanked on Kieran’s arm. “Let’s go,” I said.

He followed me, then, handing me little Chance. I walked with the baby snug in my arms, staring into his tiny eyes, so similar to Jason’s.

Someday, I would get rid of both of our powers. But…not yet. Not now. I just needed to feel the power flood through me again. A few more times. And there wasn’t any point in using my power without a worthy adversary, was there? I needed Jason to wreak this havoc. If he didn’t, I didn’t have any excuse. Did I?

Finis

All right, before you ask, I haven’t started the second book yet. I have a little outline worked out for it, and I’m working through several ideas. I do know that Azazel’s hiding the grimoire from Kieran is going to bite her in the ass in a pretty bad way. I’m also promising to have it out no later than next fall.

Here’s a follow up discussion post on the book: http://www.vjchambers.com/jason-and-azazel/why-azazel-doesnt-love-jason-anymore/

Thanks for reading!