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To: Edgar Weem <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Renegade Son <email@example.com>
Subject: Jason and Azazel
I've gotten a message on my phone from Azazel. She says she and Jason are in trouble and she wants my help. Do you have any idea where they are or how to reach them? I'm beside myself with worry.
"Listen Edgar," I said. "You are definitely not on my side."
"Call me Ted, please," he said.
Marlena poked her head out of the kitchen. "Get him to tell you where the headquarters are," she said.
Right. I went into the sitting room and sat on a chair opposite Edgar Weem. "We're only here for one reason," I said. "We need you to give us a location."
"You don't believe me, do you?" he asked. "You really think I'm out to get you?"
"I don't care," I said. "I already know more about you than I'd like. I've read Michaela's diary and talked to my grandmother and, well, eww."
He laughed again, a deep chuckle. When he smiled he had little smile lines around his eyes. He looked like a harmless uncle. I didn't like it. "Can I explain to you?" he asked. "Can I tell you why I've done what I've done?"
"Marlena," I called, "how long is that coffee going to take?"
"Not long," she said. "If I can figure out this crazy European contraption, it'll be ready in a jiff."
Okay, then. That sounded like it might be a while. I glared at Edgar Weem. "I guess I can't stop you," I said. "But I don't see how you could really explain anything. You've manipulated everyone around you just to get power. Now that you don't have any, I guess you want to be friends."
"You've got it all wrong," said Edgar. "I never wanted power." He sighed then, and looked sad, suddenly. "No, I often wish I'd never gotten the power that I did. It changes a man, not always for the better. But I've made sacrifices. For the greater good, though, Azazel. I think you'll realize that."
He settled comfortably on the couch. "Let's see," he said. "How shall I start?" He mused for a second, scratching his chin. (Really). "I suppose you know about the longstanding feud between the Weems and the Hoyts, don't you?"
"My grandmother told me about it," I said.
"Do you know why it started?"
I shook my head. Like I cared. "Well," said Edgar, "I suppose you know that the Sons are an offshoot of the Order of Reddimus, since you stayed with them in Rome."
"Yes," I said. "I heard about that."
"Well," said Edgar, "the Sons left because they were angry with the Church for creating the Jesuits. This was in the 1500s. I assume you're familiar with the Jesuits?"
"Uh . . . something to do with the Spanish Inquisition, right?"
He laughed. "Indeed. The Reddimus monks had been created to combat paganism, but it was no longer an issue with the Church. Instead, the issue in the 1500s was Protestantism. The Church created the Jesuits to combat that issue. They no longer needed the Order of Reddimus. The original members of the Sons were so outraged at having been supplanted that they stole a large amount of money from the Church, and they used it to create a business. They became money lenders. Eventually, they started a bank. They became very wealthy indeed."
Great. Wonderful. Who cared? "Look, really, all we want to know is—"
"Wait, let me continue," said Edgar. "Where was I? Oh, yes, so the Sons of the Rising Sun were always wealthy men. And they had an enormous amount of power. This wealth and power only grew. With the establishment of centralized banks in European countries in the early part of the twentieth century, the Sons were able to create powerful holds on the governments of major world leaders. They controlled countries, not just money. This was big business and also big power. Lots of money and lots of power are always a bad combination.
"The Hoyts have always been a premier family in the Sons, and they began talking amongst the other members about what they could do with this influence. The Sons had always concerned themselves with the era of the Rising Sun, a period of time they felt would overtake the world and change it for the better. The Hoyts saw this period as a time when a global government could be implemented—a New World Order."
"Did they own the Federal Reserve Bank in the U.S.?" I asked.
Weem raised an eyebrow. "Well, yes. Members of the Sons did."
"I've heard this before. This is Conspiracy Theory 101," I said. In my Da Vinci Code phase, I'd gotten really into stuff like the Freemasons and the Illuminati. Against my better judgment, I found myself getting interested in what Weem was saying.
"All right, then," said Weem. "But I bet you haven't heard this part. My family, the Weems, didn't think this was a very good idea. We were staunchly on the side of democracy and not manipulating people with our money. Of course, we'd always thought the Rising Sun prophecy to be about a person, not a metaphor or time period. We were vocal in our opposition to both the Hoyts and the idea that the Rising Sun would be a period of time when the Sons ruled the world.
"Our dissension held off action for decades, but the discussion of a global government continued. I became increasingly frightened when the discussion began to become more and more serious in the late 1980s. I looked into the prophecies about the Rising Sun deeply. I discovered what I thought was proof that the Rising Sun would be born in the twentieth century. But even this discovery didn't stop the rumbling and scheming of this New World Order. And I became nearly frantic when I learned that the Sons were planning something for 2012. You know the date, yes?"
I nodded. "Yeah. The world's gonna end. Or there's going to be a polar shift or something."
"The Sons have access to a weapon that uses scalar electromagnetics. This is a very powerful technology that can disrupt gravity. They plan to use it in 2012 to create a global disaster that will very much resemble a polar shift. In the aftermath, they will swoop down to care for a wounded planet, and erect themselves rulers of everything."
I shook my head slowly, trying to absorb what he'd just said. "The Sons are going to destroy the world?"
"Not the whole world," he said. "But many people will die. It will be a crisis unlike anything we've ever seen. And the significance of its occurrence in 2012, with the end of the Mayan calendar and the pseudo-scientific rumblings about this polar shift, will mean that what's left of the world won't think to question what's going to happen.
"I knew I needed to stop this. I now believed that the Rising Sun was to end the terrible reign of the Sons, not help cement their power in the world. I began to search desperately for the Rising Sun, pouring over prophecies. I was half insane in my desire to stop the Sons. I had discovered a link in my own genealogy and the blood line of King Arthur—"
"Yeah, Moretti told us about that. And I read Michaela's diary. So I know it was 'her idea' for the two of you to conceive Jason. But I don't care. She was in love with you and you treated her—"
"You don't think I was in love with her?" asked Edgar. "I married the woman didn't I? I fathered two children with her. It's not that I didn't care about her. But you must realize that the safety of the world trumped my own feelings for her or even for our own son. I knew what Jason had to become. He had to grow to be a fierce warrior who could destroy an organization like the Sons. I had to devote myself to making sure he was ready. It wasn't easy. He was my son. Of course I didn't want to expose him to the dangers I exposed him to. But I had to prepare him for his work. His very vital work."
So I was just supposed to forgive Weem for everything now? Because he was trying to save the world?
Marlena came in from the kitchen with two cups of coffee. She handed one to me. "Thanks," I said. "Are you hearing this?"
"Sure," she said. She shrugged. "I always knew Jason was special. If I had to pick someone to save the world, I'd pick him."
I bit my lip. No. It wasn't right. "You're all so stupid," I said.
Marlena jerked her head to face me.
"Not you, Marlena," I said. I stood up, taking a long swig of my coffee. It was black and bitter, but I didn't care. "I mean you guys. Edgar. Michaela. My grandmother. You're all stupid. And you're cowards. My grandmother was mad at you because you broke off your affair with her and then moved on to Michaela. And so she screwed up Michaela's head, ruined my life, and has been trying to get Jason killed for his whole life."
"Wait," said Edgar. "Arabella is trying to kill Jason?"
"You blackmailed her," I said. "You think she wasn't pissed?"
He looked troubled.
I wasn't finished. "Michaela Weem wanted Jason dead. So, she convinced my parents and a town full of people that I was a Vessel of Azazel and that I was supposed to kill Jason. And you, Edgar—Ted—you wanted to save the world. So you went around Europe having ritualistic sex and then put your own son through abusive situation after abusive situation, trying to turn him into a killing machine.
"You know what's wrong with all of you?" I demanded. "You won't take responsibility for your actions, and you won't get your hands dirty. Ted, I'm gonna have to repeat what Cornelius Agricola said to me. Why didn't you just set a fucking bomb?!"
Edgar was quiet for a second. Then he cleared his throat. "You can't understand, Azazel, how very powerful the Sons are. There was simply no way that I—"
"No," I said. "Don't make excuses. There is no reason to screw up so many other people's lives just because you don't think you can handle the problem. You're clearly a smart guy, Edgar. I can't help but think that there was some way you could have figured out how to take the Sons down yourself. But you left it to Jason. And so, when you go to sleep at night, I hope that you see the faces of all the people that Jason and I have had to kill. And the faces of all the people who have died trying to protect us. Because you know what? They're all on your hands. You started this. And you didn't have the guts to even finish it."
I sat down on the couch. "Now," I said, "you're going to tell us the location of the Sons' headquarters, so that I can go there and save my boyfriend."
Marlena and I surveyed the Sons' headquarters from behind some bushes. The headquarters were, indeed, an old castle. It didn't have a mote, though. The castle was hulking, crouching in a clearing in the woods. It sat in a valley, one large round tower surrounded by fortified walls and several smaller turrets. Marlena and I were above the castle on a hill, looking down. Five or six armed men guarded the entrance. Squadrons of others marched in circles around the perimeter.
"Well," said Marlena, "how do you suppose we're going to get in?"
I sighed. "I don't know."
"You think maybe a distraction of some kind?" she asked.
"Well, maybe one of us could flash them."
I laughed, thinking about suggesting this very thing to Jason when we were trying to get into the library. "I don't know," I said. "They're celibate men. Maybe they wouldn't care."
"Celibate," she said. "Maybe they wouldn't even know what breasts were."
I laughed again. "Seriously," I said.
"I am serious," she said. "Distraction. Get most of them away from the door and then one of us sneaks in."
"So what would happen to the other one?"
She considered. "Good point."
When Jason and I had been trying to get into the library, all we'd had to do was go up to the door and ask. Of course, everyone at the school had been under some kind of mojo, making them want to make us happy. Still, maybe . . . "Let's try this," I said, and I explained what I was thinking to Marlena.
After some discussion, we both leapt out of the bushes and ran to the door, waving our arms in the air. "We surrender!" we yelled over and over again.
The men were startled. Rather than rushing to us, they kept their distance, staring at us like we were nuts. Marlena and I trotted up to the main door.
"We surrender," I said to the men at the door.
"So we hear," said one. "What for, exactly?"
"You don't know who we are?" I asked, pretending to be wounded.
"We're very dangerous enemies of the Sons," said Marlena. "You'll want to take us to your superiors right away."
The men looked even more confused.
"Of course," I said, "if you don't accept our surrender, I suppose we'll just leave then."
"Absolutely," said Marlena.
"Hold on," said one of the guards, grabbing me by the arm. He and another guard opened the door and took us inside. The inside of the castle, oddly enough, was all fluorescent lights and linoleum floors. Inside the door was a man at desk, typing things into a computer. Marlena and I took a quick look around and then both drove our elbows into the midsections of the men who were escorting us. While they huffed and doubled over in surprise, we scampered out of the room and down a long corridor.
Men were walking down the hallway, wearing suits. Marlena opened a random door, snatched hold of my shirt, and yanked us both inside.
The room was an office. There was a man behind its desk, which was covered with pictures of little children and dogs. He wore small horn rimmed glasses. "Who are you?" he asked, horrified.
Marlena got out her gun. "We're looking for the holding cells," she said.
"And the pregnant girls," I said. Palomino was here too somewhere.
"Pregnant girls?" Marlena asked.
"My brother's girlfriend is here. They have some place where they keep teenage mothers. Then they take their babies away from them."
"They still have places like that?" Marlena said.
The man had put his arms in the air. "D-don't hurt me," he said. "I have a map of the castle here on my desk. You're welcome to look at it all you want."
"Thanks," said Marlena, sidling over to him. He shrank from her gun as she waved it in his face. With trembling hands, he gave her the map. "In the dungeon," she said. "Figures." She handed me the map.
The castle had six levels. The lowest level was labeled "Dungeon" and showed rows of small rooms. They looked like cells.
"Pregnant girls?" I asked the man.
He shook his head, his eyes wide. "I d-don't know anything ab-bout that. Really."
"Looks like there's an elevator at the end of this hallway," I said to Marlena. We'd go for Jason first. Once we had him, he could help us find Mina. That is, if they hadn't gotten to him yet. I gulped. How soon could a trial and execution take place, anyway? It had been about three days since Jason and I had been captured from Rome. They couldn't have done it already. Could they?
"Let's go," she said.
But as she opened the door to go back into the hall, a loud alarm went off. It was an annoying beeping sound.
We both turned on the man. "Did you do that?" I asked.
"No," he said. "No, no. I swear."
Another alarm started to go off as well. This one sounded like a school bell.
The man slid off his chair and crawled under his desk. "It's like the end of the world," he sobbed.
Marlena and I glared at him. She opened the door a crack to look outside. "It's pandemonium out there," she said. "There are people running all over the place."
"Because of us?" I asked. I was confused.
"I don't know," said Marlena.
A loud recorded voice came over PA system. "Alert," it said. "Lock system disengaged. Manual lockdown pro-cedures commencing. All personnel to designated areas." It repeated. And repeated.
"Lock system disengaged?" Marlena said, yelling over the sound of the alarms and the recorded voice.
"Jason," I said.
She flung open the door. We ran out into the hallway, which was filled with people in suits and men in black outfits, running in various directions. Marlena and I sprinted for the elevator at the end of the hall. Once inside, the door snapped closed on us. Marlena punched the button for the ground floor. The elevator whisked us down. When the door opened on the dungeon floor, I was astonished.
It really did look like a dungeon, complete with bars and chains. It was dank and dark and musty. All of the cell doors were open and empty. Marlena and I raced through the dungeon, but there was no one there.
Abruptly, the recorded voice changed. "Security breached," it said. "Powering down."
It didn't make much difference in the dungeon, but when we got back to the elevator, it wouldn't work.
"I think Jason shut down the electricity," I said.
"Great," she said. "Apparently, he didn't need us to rescue him."
"We've still got to find him," I said. "And Palomino."
"Stairs," said Marlena, pointing.
Inside the stairwell it was pitch black. We grasped the railing and went up them as fast as we could. Two flights up, we heard someone clambering down the stairs. Marlena put out her hand to stop me from moving and pulled us up against the wall. We flattened ourselves there.
"Hello?" said a voice.
Dammit. Whoever it was had heard us.
"Jason?" said the voice. Wait. I knew that voice. I was used to hearing it say things like, "You are forbidden to sleep in the same bed," but it was familiar all the same.
"Hallam?" I called.
"It's okay," I told Marlena. We started back up the steps until we met Hallam.
"Were you in the dungeon?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. "It's empty."
"Great gods," said Hallam. "I don't know where Jason is. It's a bloodbath up there."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I mean," said Hallam, "that there are dead people everywhere."
"You think it's Jason?"
"I don't know what to think. I came when I found out he was here. I was able to get in, because I know the protocol from when I worked for the Sons. I found him in the dungeon. I helped him dismantle the locks. I was supposed to meet him back in the dungeon. But then the lights went out."
"Oh God," I muttered. "You talked to him? How did he seem?"
"That's why I told him to meet me, Azazel. I've never seen him like this. Never. He seemed . . ."
We both knew how he seemed. My grandmother's words came back to me as she was describing the curse she'd laid on Jason. Soon, he won't even be human. God. I had to find him. I had to get to him. I didn't know if my grandmother could actually really curse people, but she sure had done a number on Michaela Weem. It was possible, I guessed, in a world where men went nuts from a kiss and Jason could come back from the dead.
"Where do you think he went?" I said. "You think he went to Hoyt?"
"Could be," said Hallam. "Hoyt's office is on the top floor. It's where the Council Room is."
"I don't understand," said Marlena. "What's wrong with Jason?"
"Maybe nothing," I said. "Hopefully—"
I was cut off as a door below us opened. Gray light streamed in and a woman toddled in, holding her protruding belly. "I can't make it down these steps!" she protested to the person who was coming in behind her. "It's dark."
A pregnant woman?
"Hello?" I yelled. "Are you guys from the pregnant teenagers wing?"
"Who is that?" called the pregnant woman.
"Do you know Palomino?" I asked.
"Yeah, we know Mina. Who are you?"
I turned to Marlena and Hallam. "Go with them," I said. "Find Palomino. Get her out of here. Get all of those girls out of here."
"Where are you going?" asked Marlena.
"To get Jason," I said, starting up the steps.
"I'm coming with you!" Marlena protested. "I don't even know this Mina person!"
Hallam caught her arm. "Let her go," he said. "When Jason's like this, she's really the only person who can do anything. Come on."
The stairs went on forever. At first I ran, but I started to sweat and gasp for breath. I slowed to a walk. I couldn't tell where I was. It was so dark. All I could do was take a step at a time and climb higher into the castle. Once I paused at one of the floors, so I could see where I was. I was on the fourth floor. The fourth floor was littered with about twenty bodies. Some of them had just been shot, but a few were worse. One man's entrails spilled out of his stomach, dragging out onto the floor. Another man's jaw hung loose from his body, torn away from his face. I slammed the door and kept going.
As I reached the sixth floor, I heard screams and gunshots. There's nothing like the sounds of men screaming. It's eerie, because it's high pitched but throaty. And, somehow, it's scarier. Maybe it's sexist, but you don't expect men to scream. At least, not like that, you don't.
I pushed open the door to the sixth floor. The same gray light greeted me. There was no light, so the only illum-ination came from small windows. I stepped over the bodies at the door, trying not to look at them. And I walked in the direction of the screams.
On this level, the castle didn't resemble an office. There was a plush carpet on the floor. The original stone walls were showing. Paintings of women and horses and strange mythological creatures decorated the walls. It reminded me of the ceiling in the library at the Sol Solis School. A man pushed by me, hobbling away. His leg had been shot, and there was blood smeared all over his suit. I kept moving forward, a feeling of dread knotting in my stomach.
I was going to find Jason, I told myself. I loved Jason. I tried not to remind myself of the time that Jason had cut off his own mother's finger and left it for his brother with a note. I tried not to remind myself of Jason stumbling into our apartment in Bradenton, covered in blood. I tried not to remind myself of the matter-of-fact way Jason had talked about killing Jude.
Soon, he won't even be human.
What would he be, then?
I rounded a corner, and there he was. He was standing in front of a closed door which had Ian Hoyt's name on it. There were two men lying on the floor near him, wearing suits. They weren't dead. They had shots in both of their legs, and they were trying to crawl away from him. Jason was standing over a third man, his foot on the man's hand. He was shooting the fingers on the man's hand. The man was screaming each time one of his fingers exploded into gore. There was huge, leering smile on Jason's face.
I shuddered. "Jason?" I said.
Jason didn't even look up. He just leveled his gun in the direction of my voice and pulled the trigger.
Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers