|Fallen Fisticuffs by Beki Yopek|
When those who enforce the law are away, the villains come out to play.
I pumped my wings hard and swerved low around the bow of the Marie Celeste, whipping a 1922 photograph of an absinthe bottle out of my folio. Salty water splashed into both nostrils from below with each wingflap, and it seeped through my crimson blouse and into my trenchcoat. Sunlight glimmered off the ocean in front of me, so I squinted and flew hard toward the yacht where the potbellied demon was flying among the partying humans and spiking their drinks. Whoever the beer-gutted bastard was, I’d clean his clock so hard I’d knock the stains off his smoking jacket.
“Avaline, fly back here now,” The Reaper bellowed from somewhere behind me.
Ignoring my boss, I flew straight for the partiers and pierced my left pointer finger with the haloxite knife I’d drawn seconds earlier. I smeared my orange blood on the photo and kick-started the Blood Magic. We were supposed to be done with the Pneuma Coalition. The Acheria Board’s new tenant should have put a stop to these animals stealing life force from the mote system. I never should have put my faith in Heaven’s politics.
“Don’t you dare destroy him,” Reap screeched. “We have life force to harvest.”
Yeah, not much. This glutinous freak stole most of it. Flecks of red flared in my vision as I shot over the yacht’s prow and snarled. Defending The Reaper was my job, but the T.V.T. tenant was Heaven Law now, and the actual act of harvesting souls was supposed to be easy as thinking. No way would I let this demon continue with the Pneuma Coalition’s parasitic work.
I screeched as I barreled toward the drink-spiking demon. He snapped his head around toward me at the noise, but the party-heartiers were in his way. Blood Magic flaring, I swooped between three half-naked women and slapped the absinthe photo right on the demon’s gut. “That’s what you get for stealing from--”
Before I could stab him a good one, I crashed into a man in a boater hat and tumbled horns over heinie into the water. Humans on the yacht screamed while I re-surfaced, sopping wet and missing my folio. The Atlantic must have eaten it when I face-planted into the surf. Spitting, I pumped both wings and shot upward, seeking the chubby thief.
Reap hovered twenty feet above the yacht, and he tugged the absinthe photo off the demon’s clothing. He was chatting with that demon in mid-air instead of destroying him. People scrambled about on the boat, some slugging it out, others calling for a truce so they could find out what happened. None of them noticed me, Reap, or the thief, and I realized it was my fault they’d gone nuts in the first place. They had no summoners or prayers on board, so of course they hadn’t seen me smack into the boater hat guy.
I flapped over the edge of the yacht next to The Reaper and dripped water onto the deck. I jabbed the haloxite knife at the thief. “He waited until the volunteer left so he could steal life force with no witnesses. Why’d you let him live?”
The Reaper swiveled to face me and hissed, “Voracity here is not violating any tenants of Heaven Law.”
Raising a balled fist, the thief ranted with the offended brusqueness of a celebrity chef. “You don’t get to screw with a Septuplet. Heaven Law’s behind me now. I can manipulate whatever livestock I want.”
“I saw you stealing that life force,” I snapped, pointing to the glow-less ghosts on board the yacht.
Voracity raised two fingers and a wafer-or was it a tablet?- appeared between them. “I was marinating their cravings. They’re the ones killing themselves. Humans are livestock. Earth is the slaughterhouse, and if a Seraph didn’t see me taking life force, then it never happened.”
I squeezed the knife’s handle and bared my teeth at him. All the Septuplets contained such intense magic in their bodies that they carried one superpower to go with any spells they’d learned from Hell’s or Heaven’s colleges. Voracity’s addiction pills-if that’s what they were-wouldn’t kill a human outright apparently. So we couldn’t report him as violating the T.V.T. tenant, or any Heaven Law. “You’re lucky you’re a Septuplet. Nobody’d miss a random demon that got killed in the thieving process.”
The Reaper’s next words were scalding icicles. “Your employment with me ends here. Get thee back to Hell.”
My mouth hung open and I dropped ten feet before catching myself and flying level with them again. “Excuse me? Get the Chief Seraph over here to arrest the shit out of--”
Voracity buffeted me with a blast of air from both wings. “I will make sure that the Acheria Board ousts The Reaper for this. Avarice will take my side and so will the rest of the Coalition. The next Reaper won’t stand for his bodyguards’ insubordination.”
My next shout died when the Septuplet pumped his wings and soared away the same direction Jack and Apathy had flown minutes before. I lost him in the shining afternoon sun and peered down at the yacht to blink the spots away. Men and women darted glances in my general direction, avoiding the spot where my soaked trench coat dribbled water on the ship.
The Reaper swiped Seversoul at me and I beat both wings hard to back away. Its sharp two-toned light gashed the air around it. “What was that for?" I bellowed.
“Voracity used to work alone. Now you have given him a reason to seek our enemies and join them. Avaline, if we kill every demon and Septuplet that resists the mote system, then no one will trust us or the system.”
“You killed Rage during the Great War, not me. Hypocrite's too light of a word to describe you."
"Heaven has asked us to put our faith in their ministrations. The SPD and The V--"
"It's divine dumbassery," I snapped back. "They force their 'justice' on the Three Domains and then get pissed when we enforce it?"
"It was our actions that started this and we are responsible."
"We wouldn't have to bow to Heaven if they busted the Coalition like they should. Jack and Avarice and the others are tougher than ever because of you. What the hell did Rage transform into before you finished him?”
The Reaper pointed a dark hand at me. “The Pneuma Coalition had no leverage over us during World War One. Now they do. You have become reckless. I have to be better, and I cannot do that with you endangering the Soul Fountains.”
Scarlet swam in my vision and I pointed the haloxite knife at The Reaper. “Law doesn’t stop criminals. They’ll steal again as soon as the SPD’s back is turned. Voracity is living proof.”
“Your job was to protect me, and now you use me as an excuse to kill. You don’t think and adapt to what is needed. Those old violent instincts of yours are taking you over again. That makes you as closed-minded as Avarice and the Coalition. When Voracity reports this to Avarice, the Seraphs will hunt you and be justified by Heaven Law. I am glad to be rid of you.”