Sephar in the Sewers

She crept away from me in the dark as unable to see me as I was to see her, with the ugly barrel of that gun pointed at me. No. At her body, her flesh, the flesh of the demon that had now taken Liz's body. She had been willing to destroy its own flesh in order to get away. I called out into the dark, "I'm only going to dive in after him."

There was only silence.

I couldn't think of a worse death for a Gabrielite than drowning. So I calculated the flow of the sewage from the smoking place where Eduardo had toppled in, and I dove.

Or tried to. I'm not used to bodies, to how they work, how they move, so many vectors possible that I always seem to mess up when I really try to do something with them. I hit the sewage with a big belly flop that nearly knocked the wind out of me. Oooof. It was viscous, thick with smells that my body was trying to gag on, and I could feel oozing masses of various densities sliding against my skin. I groped about blindly for something more solid, for something like a body, and gasped when I found a solid cylinder within my hand. I pulled and the resulting resistance nearly dragged me deeper into the flow. I pulled harder and finally got Eduardo's body to come with me back to the muddy bank of the sewer under the Metro station. I pulled him up onto the mud and found out he wasn't breathing. Remembering old CPR material from the data briefing about corporeal bodies, I opened his breathing path, set my one mouth upon his, viciously squashed my host's gag reflex at the scents and sensations and started breathing for him.

I couldn't help but think that this was a long way from where I'd started.

I'm normally just a systems boy. Even mostly just a Heavenly systems boy. Was born when the transistor was born, and lived in, with and from doped silicon since I was a little cloud. There are reasons two different people discovered how to get silicon to conduct at the right times. I've learned since that it was quite the battle to get the patent for it into the right hands and even then the victory was mixed.

Software has been an even more interesting battle. Guerilla intellectual battles are always interesting.

Anyway. My main job was to help the Named angels and the other folks get the systems in shape up in Heaven, and I did a lot of system administration from the inside out. The folks of our choir take naturally to the asynchronous, multi-processor systems, to watching the lines and packets, and making sure that things get where they're going when they're going. Not just the network stuff but the systems themselves. Started with simple stuff like trouble shooting tools for angels just learning how to use them, doing support work for the uncertain, and had to learn a lot of angelic communication skills to get some of the more old-fashioned angels comfortable with the new equipment.

Also did a lot on the equipment side, starting with just computer maintenance, building systems from scratch, then setting up OS's and tools and things, and eventually graduating to actually admin'ing clusters of machines. BeOS beta'ed in Heaven long before it showed up on Earth. I still remember the time when I shut down a server that Jean was still working on. Was relegated to server maintenance for the next year, making sure that they were all up while folks needed 'em and that's when I went to normal Jeanite hours, i.e. the dead of night so that there were fewer folks on to notify when I did need to do stuff to a machine.

But I was no battle angel.

Unless you count doing security work to make sure that packets from Hell didn't get into the Heavenly systems, sometimes battling it out in the lines will against will, or making sure that humans never quite figured out how celestial routing worked. Though there was that one letter from a little girl that I did route to Yves since she was trying to write to God. I thought he'd be most likely to have a good connection.

My trips down to Earth were usually investigations into odd connections, odd happenings that Jean wanted me to look into. Things that were being contended along the quieter lines of intellect and persuasion, technology and the like. Or at least that's what I thought. Since then I've come to realize that maybe the Boss and my other managers kept me safe, or at least only set me on tasks that I was set to tackle.

This, it seemed, was going to be a heck of a stress test. Maybe, like the systems, I'd come out knowing more of my capabilities rather than how I might break.

He started to breath. An awful cough, and his chest heaved, so that I could turn his head to the side as he threw up. Sewage back to sewage.

I shook him gently avoiding touching the electricity burnt skin, "Ed?"

His eyes flickered to half open, though his head didn't move from the position in which it was set. "Where... are shay?" he slurred.

"They're running. I have to go get them. Do you have any essence you can spare?" I said, then added, "I'll get you help."

A Song sounded in the tunnel, a sound of flowing air, an echo of speed and fleeing and the demon that Eduardo had shot vanished.

The effort was palpable as he managed to shake his head, the motion minute and almost mistakable for a random twitch. Get. Shem," he says. "Impor..."

And from the touch I had on his terribly burnt body, flowed the blessing of essence into me.

"Okay." was all I could think of to say.

I set the demonic Vessel on the edge of the sewer run and then let go, bursting out for a moment for anyone with the eyes to see. Free, free, free of the limitations of a single point of view, I flew from the anchor of that body that took all of me to take. The body slowly fell into the sewer flow and sank without a bubble.

Eduardo's lips pulled into a frown. "Go. Duty."

The bat had perched upsides down on the roof of the sewer pipe, so I took it. With its radar, I spotted the mouse, which had run away from Liz and was hiding in a hole just outside the evil smelling niche. I possessed it.

I trusted the instincts of the mouse and kept it hidden in the tiny hole in the wall. To this body the scents were not so bad, nearly intriguing with the possibility of foods. Comfortable with the closeness of the walls, I curled up and waited, whiskers twitching and bright eyes peering out into the darkness, body flattened to the ground to feel any vibration or weight that might approach.

The stench of decay and death was still thick upon the air from the niche, so I backed just a bit more to keep from smelling quite so much of it. I heard Eduardo's breathing and was comforted by the fact that he still lived.

The symphony crashed and the reality over me opened up. I peeked out the hole and saw a whirlwind of darkness, from which a wheel of fire and a Malakim with wings as black as the sewer's heart flew. Then they landed, two human Vessels, both of which I recognized though it gladdened me greatly to recognize she who was now a Wheel of God.

I squeaked and ran out to them.

I winged my way down the tunnel, in the direction that the demon in Liz's body had fled. I thought of her as 'Liz' as I followed, callable by Zebina's corporeal name, but not really her. I pinged as I went, using the listening capabilities of the flying rodent rather than its dim eyesight. I was rewarded with the sound of running feet. Quick, but not quite as quick as this creature was through the air.

The feeling of the air pressure against fragile vanes of skin, muscles pumping, breath shifting through the tiny body as its tiny heart hammered with the effort. Then the sound of feet moving from concrete to steel, clanging up metal steps.

I had help. I was going to have to slow her down however I could so that they could catch up as they were not going to be any faster than she. I had to think of ways to get her to pause, stall, stop. So I thought frantically as I flew into the stairwell, looking for her.

She was up against the door, just turning the knob to open it to get out. Like the other, the lock must have been broken, the security systems cut.

"That way!" I pointed my tail in the direction that Liz had run and asked, "May I have a ride?"

Aron glanced at me, "Rat of Lightening?"

"Yes!" I replied, "Sephar, Domination of Lightening!"

I fluttered in the air, just hanging there to watch which way she would go, what she would do. To tell the others.

The sound of her frantic breath, the screaming of the hinge as the door opened.

I flew out after her.

I became the door, sliding into its cold metal structure, feeling its workings, the stiff hinges, the lock, the knob.

Concentrated, with a will to just hold closed. I found I didn't have the strength to hold it against her, so I slid out again.

The right shoe lace was all cramped by the knot, and I was in it and so I straightened, relaxed, untied.

Then I slid into the left one and did the same. Untying and then spreading out, stretching. She kicked off the shoes, so I left.

The fanny pack was warm from her body heat, zippers all closed, buckle tightly latched.

I slid in and squeezed the control to loosen the buckle, to slide it from her body. She clutched it close, swearing in Helltongue. So I departed.

I pointed my tail again in the direction 'Liz' had run, "I'm trying to distract her."

Aron turned to Azalea. "As fast as you are able, Sister, keep the demon busy and I follow." He then stayed behind, while I jumped onto Azalea and she ran with all the speed that her new Choir had. I was pleased to see her, pleased to know that she survived Redemption and even more pleased to have her on my side now.

She ran past the signs of hurried passage visible even in the dim light: the staircase leading upwards, when she came to it, had footmarks on it that were still wet.

"Up up!" I squeaked, "We're just outside the door up top."

Azalea followed the tracks, and my voice, relentless as fast and able footed as I would be slow and clumsy. Ofanim are often the grace of God manifest.

I kept on with the updates. "She's casting about and going for some phone booths to the right at the top."

When she reached the broken door she only increased her speed, bursting out into the clean night air. This was going to be possible, I thought. When I'd, for a moment thought all was lost. This was going to possibly work.

The air was so sweet above.

She ran out the door. I followed on erratic wings, the viewpoint bobbing and dipping like crazy as I flew out into the night air. The air from the sewer had attracted insects towards it and careful of shaped swarms, I ate the bugs that I ran into, keeping her in sight while feeding the voracious body.

She stopped to look around, casting back and forth for a moment like a hound.

I circled, swooped and dipped. Each circuit keeping her within my range of sound. The pings telling me of the walls, the insects, the poles, the sky swallowing all sound like an infinite sink. The sharpness of the glass and steel defined edges I could never have seen.

A moth crunched, savory between my jaws.

'Liz' swore again, as she looked down at her unzipping tracksuit, and made a grab for the box before it fell out.

I watched with my faded eyes as she continued to run for the phones while I circled above.

The zipper was warm, and the clasp smoothly slid to part the suit, baring the heavy Box underneath. I made sure that it went beyond the bulge of the box's presence within the skintight suit.

I felt her gasp expand the stitches and when the weight of the box did not depart, I did just as she reached the phones.

It was glorious to go so quickly.

Azalea sped towards the phones as I pointed the way. Then, when the figure screaming at the phones was in view, I squeaked, "That's her!"

I slid into the simple workings of the telephone, found the ringer line and connected current. I rang.

I slid into the simple workings of the telephone, found the ringer line and connected current. I rang.

I circled as the phones all rang.

She screamed furiously at all the phones, "CURSE YOU!"

I slid into the simple workings of the telephone, found the ringer line and connected current. I rang.

I slid into the simple workings of the telephone, found the ringer line and connected current. I rang.

I slid into the simple workings of the telephone, found the ringer line and connected current. I rang.

Azalea slowed to watch 'Liz', body tensing and then stopping.

I squeaked to her, trying to encourage her, "I have the safety off." No, wrong way, "On, sorry."

I felt her body gather a deep, slow breath and then she began to sing quietly, her dark eye steady on this false Liz.

'Liz' whirled away from the telephones, and saw Azalea running towards her. She turned, the gun going up and snarled, "Stay back!"

I heard a car roaring in our direction in the night, from a far ways away. I sped my wings to lift up into the cool night air to see what it was that approached us. I spiraled up

I flowed into cool iron, warmed by her touch. So simple, so deadly a construction with something just as simple to stop it from firing. I flicked the safety on.

I felt the Song of Entropy hit just as Liz staggered, her gun swinging wide. She suddenly shrieked at something she alone could see, scrabbling frantically at the air for a few seconds. Blood trickled from her ears.

Azalea took a few long strides to tackle 'Liz'.

I squeaked to her, "Get the box, that's what they came for."

I spiraled further up, looking for the on-coming headlights. My sonar showed me a form that my eyes could not see, something moving behind 'Liz', and I squeaked to it, "There is a car coming." I heard the body shift, move to be between her and the on rushing car.

I kept spiraling up, looking for other flyers in the night. There were a number of birds that roosted on a rooftop nearby. I headed over to them to take them.

'Liz' went down hard. I was squished in the pocket by the tackle, but not so badly I was hurt at all. The breath knocked from the demon, but as she went down, I could see her eyes starting to clear, to focus again.

Azalea hit her hard in the head, and then hunted for the box on Liz's body.

I kept going up, looking for my first sonic hit on the metal body of the rushing car headed for us. I heard it coming and went even further up to see better, sooner.

Wings opened to the night air as I woke and then sped for Pat's house, looking for a cloud of bugs in some formation...

I awoke and dropped into the night air, and headed for the headlights.

I saw the car and focussed on the rear view mirror so I could see the driver.

I squeaked, "The car is sucking me in!" to Azalea, before there was nothing left to squeak.

When I tried to take the rearview mirror to see the driver, I felt all of me get suuuuuucked in, in a single long inhalation of Kyriotate Forces…

I was caught.

All in one place. No sight, no sound, no touch, no smell, just the taste of my rage and fear within me. Nothing. So quickly. The last trap had been slower, more forgiving. This had been as quick as my own will. I wondered about my mouse. It had been a very good mouse, one that had lived fairly fat at Pat's place. A white lab mouse it would be safer in the white concrete than a field mouse would have been. No mouse is entirely domesticated, but I worried a little. It would eat, though, if there were food. I didn't have to worry about that.

My patience wore thin. Where was I? I had no idea where I was, what had found me, or even if my allies knew what had happened to me. It was nerve racking, frustrating. There was, however, nothing I could do about it. So I fretted and waited, until I remembered what else I could do, from the times when I had to spend days within the network's guts with no contact with the outside world except through keystrokes.

I set aside a part of my memory, and started to write. Boss would want a full report when this was all through, and it wouldn't hurt to get started on it now.

So I structured the report within my mind, and recorded all of the details of the niche as Liz and Ed had found it. All the details of the gizmos, the demons, and their approach to the stash where things that I vividly remembered and wrote down. I also recorded my own approaches to the conflict, including my own evaluation of how effective my actions were. There were things that I could have improved, so I included those as well.

Then I ran through this series of actions. The ones that ended with my getting swallowed by the car, in hopes that other Dominations of Jean would not get caught or would have better warning of the types of traps that I had run across in my adventures. I didn't want any of my brothers getting caught in this way, especially the ones that couldn't stand the solitude and singularity of such confinement. It was nearly as bad as being wholly stuck in that demonic Vessel and completely unable to do anything.

By the time I was done with my report, I was starting to panic. No, there must be something else I could do.

Pain shattered through me like rain through a screen, and the invisible, untouchable walls about me crashed and fell away. It felt as if they pulled parts of me away with them. I boiled out in celestial form, with enough eyes to see, limbs to grasp, and mouths to speak. I found myself in a car which was out of control, spinning and sliding. Wheels without tires were metal screaming on concrete. Broken shards of crystal fell about me, the walls of my trap broken.

With the crystal broken, there was nothing to hold me, so I dove into the car and took control of its steering mechanisms. I steered into the slide, easing up on the brakes, and car came back into control.

I grabbed his underwear, and wedgied him viciously.

I unpossessed his shorts.

My celestial form hovered within the car as a flaming sword came slashing down, cutting through one guy's shoulder and into his chest. He doubled over and died.

A much bulkier man grabbed Azalea.

His hands tightened on Azalea, and in a very high-pitched voice said, "Let me go or I break her neck and stop that now."

Aron's voice was nearly as dangerous as the flaming sword in his fist, "Release her."

The bulky guy wriggled to get his back to the door. He said, voice slightly lower, "I get out, I let her go, we both walk away."

Azalea took things into her own hands, or voice, and she growled a song that was an echo of the one I heard from her when I was a mouse. A song of tearings, of age, of chaos in full action.

"Sephar," said Aron, "Open the passenger door on my side please."

I boiled about in frustration and then opened the passenger door on Aron's side.

The demon's eyes went wide, and with a terrified shriek, he threw Azalea away from him, a brutal shove. He struggled with the door, trying to get out as Azalea began pounding him furiously. Every blow shook the car and her eyes were narrowed with rage.

Aron stepped out of the car and around to the driver's side, sword leveled. "Out," he barked.

The demon took all the blows, unresisting, as Azalea's fists slammed into him, and he forced his way out of the door, staggering. His eyes were wild, white edged and rolling, as he opened his mouth to scream. I boiled form the car. The demon fell to his knees, hands pressed together as though in prayer. His whole body trembled.

Aron looked at the demon in disgust. Looking on, Azalea said thoughtfully, so surprisingly quiet after the violence within the confines of the car, "It's been a long time since I help create carnage that made sense to me."

The demon mutters, "Please.. help.. I beg.."

The flame on the sword winked out. Aron said, "Sephar, he is yours."

I just blinked in astonishment. What was I going to do with him?

Then the Symphonic crashed, hard. A very high level of activity that disturbed all the normal workings barged in.

Aron said dryly. "I will not dirty Eduardo's fire with such as this." I halfway wondered what he thought I was going to dirty when I was completely in Celestial form when I saw a man in a white lab coat at the far end of the street who started walking towards us.

Oh, God. Oh, Boss this is too much for me. The man had a metal gun of some sort holstered at his side. It's the Enemy. It's actually him.

"I believe it is time to effect a retreat," said Aron.

What was so surprising was that he looked kind, and scientific, and concerned.

"Yes." It was all I could say as I looked up to see if there was any bird in the sky, any creature I could leap into. I had no form. Even if Azalea could run with me there was nothing to run with. Then he unholstered the raygun to point it in our direction.

"Now," said Aron.

Azalea slid out of the car and prepared to bolt.

"Go. I'll cover your rear," said Aron.

"Run," I whispered, there was no where to go. All the birds of the sky and creatures of the land had wisely run away with the crash. The demon huddled on the ground, cowering and when I saw his fear, how it made him despair unto immobility. I was an angel. I could do better. I didn't have to do this by myself.

Vapula pointed the raygun directly at Azalea. He says, his voice carrying, "Don't go," and there is warmth to it, and charm, and dedication.

I possessed Azalea's coat, disappearing into it. Blinded but warm, covering her back if The Mad Scientist fired. My Forces guarding her back. My prayers all the hotter, I called upon my Bright Lord, asking for His protection and His regard for His Adversary was here, now. And I was not too proud to ask for help when it got to this level.

Aron growled. "GO." He placed himself between Vapula and Azalea. Foolish Malakite, but, like Eduardo, so brave and so true to how he was made.

I felt the uncoiling of Azalea's shoulder muscles as she began to run.

A leaping stream of green light, so bright it lit the cloth I was within spun towards Aron from Vapula's gun, and for a moment I tasted the reflection of dissolution, of absolute entropy, of total destruction as it reached for him. A moment of synchronicity as both Aron and I called upon our Father, who art in Heaven.

Reality tore, like a piece of fabric shredding to the sizzling hiss of my Bright Lord's being. Pure actinic light crackled forth from me, lightening leaped to spin a living shield of light before Aron, absorbing, buffering, spilling away the ugly green. The lightning coalesced into the form of a man: blond, soberly dressed, grey-eyed, utterly unimpassioned. I wanted to whisper, "Father, thank you," but I had no voice. He would have thought it inefficient even as he also knew and acknowledged the love I had for him. In a voice that had both the weight of storms and the evenness of a straightedge he said to us, "Run."

Above, in the sky, thunder crashed and rolled with a rumble that shook the street. The echo of it flowing from the steel and glass walls all about us as the buildings looked down upon the two who met here.

Azalea grabbed for Aron before she took off. His weight hitting the shoulder of the coat hard, carrying him like a sack of potatoes as she bursts into lightening speed, muscles pumping and breath like spirit flowing through her.

Lightening flashed, lighting the sky behind us all the brighter, shining even through the fabric of the jacket, and if I had eyes to weep, I would have wept then, but we had to be somewhere soon with this infernal Box.

[this part is Sephar's player's dream, not what happened in the game, though the above happened in the dream as well.]

She ran and the sky pealed with power, singing with each strike. Echos and flickers of reflections of burning bright lights played along steel and glass.

I watched in the pale, blurred reflections from Azalea's coat buttons, the bobbing flowing stream of vague sight suddenly catching the gleam of speed and power shining in a club's neon glow. Also a huddled gray form, hidden from the lights. I reached out into the huddled form and took on flesh, abandoning the coat.

I groaned softly as I stood up and stretched, wobbly with drink and lack of sleep. I stepped out into the sidewakl blearily and, to the blur that was approaching me I said, "Azalea, stop. I'm Sephar. There's something even faster there."

She stopped, eyed me.

I pointed at the steel and glass dream of glass, steel, and fire.

I slid into the machine, grasping at security systems first. The electronic locking mechanisms were child's play, and came to my will easily, quietly, smoothly well built as they were. The engine started and roared to life with a purring growl that brought a thin smile to Azalea's lips. Good, she liked it. I opened my doors.

Azalea didn't even bother looking at the man falling into the passenger seat. She unslung Aron from her shoulder and helped him into the back of the car, gently. Then swung around to the driver's side of the car, slid in so smoothly and beautifully, so much like the machine itself. She impassively watched until the other part of me was back in.

I closed the door.

She took off and I gave her all control.

The drunken body was hard to steer, head wobbly and eyes bleary from drink, all the balance shot. The world started to recede in a black tunnel of vision, but I bit my lip and the pain brought some of the world back. I stagged over to the now running car, and I focussed on nothing more than the car and fell into it, strapped myself into the passenger seat, and hung on grimly to the contents of the poor guy's stomach.

The little swings of the car did not forbode good things happening, so I leaned out the open door and emptied the contents of the poor stomach quickly, onto the street, so as to not mess up the car. I leaned back into the bucket seat, feeling better for the cleansing.

I hung on.

"Please, get me and the Box to the Museum of Aerospace in the Smithsonian?" I asked.

Azalea simply nodded as the world blurred by her window.

I felt the world shake with the sound of thunder, as the flash of lightning lit the sky. The peals echo'ing against the hardness of steel and glass. Rain pelting down from the sky, making the windshield awash in water, in tears from the sky.

The body was not feeling at all well, but there was so much more as well, within me. Feeling that roiled about like a boiling within me, like the clouds boiled outside with a conflict they couldn't contain, only express. Fear and rage and others all mixed together, so hot and bright within me that I curled up and started to sob, great racking sobs that shook my entire frame. Azalea didn't even look at me. Aron was still half passed-out in the back seat from the edge of what I'd vaguely felt through my connection with my Boss. But slowly, eventually, my sobs eased, slowed, and somehow feeling the release within every muscle of my borrowed body, all that emotion eased, slid away after the expression.

I let part of my mind slide back into the machines around me.

I slide softly into metal heated by internal explosions, into pumping pistons and greased gears, running joints and slipping differentials. It was so clean in there. Milled to millimeter perfection, all tight, all solid, all working so smoothly together.

There was peace to be had within the machine, so completely patient, emotionless, always performing to the best of its ability. Smoothly capable, powerful in every detail of its construction, so whole and in that way holy.

I relaxed against the seat and breathed, finally coming to wonder again at the mechanical complexities of the human body. I closed my eyes, feeling my heart beat within me, the flow of fluids, the pressure of air and the need for air. The swing of joints and bulk and comfort of muscle. The blinks of eyes and the scents.

It was good to be alive. To have a host again, and to be going home, for a bit, with something that still scared me, but would now be under control of my Boss, who would take care of everything.

I hadn't failed him. Or my friends.

I slid back out as we pulled up to the museum and walked with Azalea and the Box into the steel and concrete bowels of the building.

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