Xenosa crouched down on the opposite wall, as far away from the mechanical spiders as she could. She remained still, not moving until she was sure that they hadn’t detected her. She had no desire to be hanging from the ceiling being torn apart. She crept forward, further down the hall. She made it about 20 feet, before two of the spiders appeared in front of her. For a moment, she saw the spider transform into a ghost, and then flicker back. The second one did it as well, and the ghostly woman looked painfully familiar, but she couldn’t place where she knew her from. She wore a pendant that glowed briefly, before she changed back to mechanical spider form.
The spiders didn’t advance, but she could see their mandibles moving, whispering over and over “Castiel….Castiel”.
There was a brief surge of confusion, which turned into fear, and then anger. Fuck that. She shouted as much at the spiders, lighting and then flinging her last remaining Moltov cocktail. She saw the machine scream as it caught fire, before turning around-sprinting back the way she came. She made it about ten feet, and then something hit her in the back and she fell, descending into darkness.
She was floating, mind blissfully blank, until a voice started shouting “Xenosa. Xenosa wake up! You have to wake up”.
She opened her eyes, and she was suspended from the ceiling, tubes coming out of her neck. Any damage that she had taken was repaired, including the shrapnel in her shoulder. She could feel the spiders crawling all over, and they were taking SOMETHING from her, but she couldn’t figure out what. She could feel herself transforming into her true form, momentarily before being forced into Anika’s body. She tried to focus on maintaining her demon form, trying to activate her fire mantle and burn these motherfuckers, she could feel the tech become available, and then disappear. She struggled to rip out the cables stuck in her neck, and that only made more spiders swarm all over her body. Eventually she was able to rip it out of her, and fuck it hurt. She still couldn’t transform though. She looked around wildly, trying to find anything she could use to escape, before they jammed the cable back into her, and dismantle her piece by piece. The demon suspended next to her had a gun as an arm. Perfect. She jammed the cable in and felt her consciousness occupy the empty space. Hellfire exploded from the arm, and she eradicated the spiders that were nearby in quick succession. There were still a few spiders on the floor, occasionally transforming into ghostly figures. There was that woman again, nagging at her, but there was no time to think about it. She was finally able to fully transform, spreading herself fully, fire and heat rolling off her in waves. She was going to engulf this entire place, destroy it, and it would feel so good…
Suddenly she heard footsteps coming down the stairs, and it was Brandon, the priest, and a group of other hunters. They started placing bricks of C4 on the wall, while the priest held up a rosary and holy water, keeping the ghosts back. Brandon shot her a brief look that said “Go, now”.
She didn’t need to be told twice. As she streaked out of the room wings flapping, she heard Brandon say “Jenny?”, his voice thick with emotion.
Ah, shit. That’s where she recognized the woman from. She could see the picture, Jennifer Margaret Dearborn written in Brandon’s cramped handwriting. Anger coursed through her, and her mantle grew brighter, the need to destroy something, everything. She was unchained, but evidence of her work for the god machine still lingered, and still bound her.
She hovered near the rear of the burning building, wanting to make sure that Brandon and his hunters had escaped before she left. There was no way she could stay, she was being watched and she couldn’t risk being near them. But she had to make sure they made it out. The relief she felt when she saw him walk out calmed some of the fire raging inside her. The look on his face however…
She remembered with perfect clarity, the first time they had met. His words that made her realize what she was. A tool for the God Machine. The realization that led to her fall. She remembered that phone call, where she promised him that she would help him find his wife’s ghost. Now the moment had come for her to make good on her promise.
She landed and assumed Anika’s form before jogging up to the group. “I just got here, what happened?”
The look Brandon gave her was loaded with emotion and weariness. “Why don’t you tell me?”
She led him away from the rest of the hunters, the priest tagging along, which annoyed, but didn’t surprise her.
“What’s going on? Why were you in there? Why was my wife there?”
Xenosa could only be honest with the only person she really trusted. “I’m sure you’ve heard about the Dormier group. They are connected to a lot of strange things going on in Raleigh. I found out about this warehouse, and thought that maybe if I blew it up, it would slow them down. Well, it exploded, a little too well. As I was running out, I got hit in the shoulder with…something. I was able to see into the twilight. You remember that big spectral bear that was running around? Well I could see another one only it was a giant Puma. So I saw a door in the floor, and I went through it. There were mechanical spiders, except they weren’t, they kept whispering Castiel…Brandon I swear, I had no idea. I thought this was just a warehouse.”
She watched him fight to get himself under control. “Ok. Aright. So there must be something anchoring them here…do you know anything else?”
She thought of Samuel running away with files under his arm. “Actually, an associate of mine might have some information. I’ll have to check in with him”.
She couldn’t help but notice the priest look directly at her at these words. She knew that he was thinking “associate means demon”. She didn’t care anymore, let him judge her all he wanted.
She turned her attention back to her friend. “Brandon, believe me. I want to help”. He was looking at the ground, before he nodded once.
The rest of the group was walking around the building, trying to see if there was anything else to be found. Before they rejoined them, she mentioned in a low tone, “Also, I’m being surveilled”.
His eyes became unfocused as he looked around intently. “Nothing is watching right now. Come on, lets see if there is anything left to find here”.
She spent the next few hours helping the hunters sort through the wreckage of the building. They had nothing to show for it, but the manual labor helped her frayed nerves. She rode back to the motel where her car was parked in a van with Brandon and a few of the others. She thanked them for the ride, but before she got out he said “I don’t want you driving alone. Sam will go with you”.
She looked at him intently. “But, I’m being watched”.
He took Anika’s hand gently saying “That’s why I don’t want you be alone”.
As she handed Sam her car keys, she noticed that there was this warmth radiating from her chest. It was strange, it didn’t feel like the normal fire that she had come to associate with her anger. It felt, calm, almost peaceful. It felt weird, but not unpleasant.
As they drove away, Anika’s exhaustion caught up with her. The last thought she had before drifting asleep was “This is what being cared about feels like”.