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  • Home > Darren Shan > Demonata Series > Hell's Heroes (Page 19)     
  • Hell's Heroes(The Demonata #10)(19) by Darren Shan
  • “Dead,” Bec says cheerfully. “Torn to atoms, then broken down even further. None of that universe exists any longer. Time and all its creations are lost forever. In this universe they only ever existed”—she taps her head—“up here.”

    “I’m glad you’re taking it so well,” I snarl, advancing on her, trying to figure out a way to kill her, to make her pay for the awful massacre she tricked us into engineering.

    “Don’t be a child,” Bec tuts. “I didn’t trick you into anything. I tricked them—the Demonata and Death. It was the only way. Bran figured it out. He couldn’t be certain it would work, but in the absence of any alternatives, we had to risk it.”

    “If you don’t start making sense quickly…”

    Bec shakes her head. “With such a small brain, I don’t know how you made it this far.” As I open my mouth to protest, she points a finger at me. “The trigger.” She points to Kernel. “The eyes.” She taps her chest. “The memory. You gave us the power to undo time and all its trappings. Kernel guided us. And I absorbed.”

    She waves a hand at the ceiling and it turns transparent. The sky above is black. Impossible to see anything. But as we watch, an object comes into focus. I’m not sure where the light that strikes it comes from, but it’s fully lit and even more recognizable than the room we’re sitting in. It’s the moon, full-size and round, a pockmarked pearl in a sea of darkness.

    “I remembered everything about the original universe,” Bec says, smiling up at the lunar giant. “I couldn’t access those memories, but they had to be there. If that universe was ever to be reassembled, the Kah-Gash would need the blueprints to restore everything accurately.

    “Bran knew that too. It’s what gave him the idea. He figured if the memory of the Kah-Gash could store everything from the original universe, it should be able to memorize all of the new universes too.

    “I was busy while you two were incinerating galaxies,” Bec continues. “To rip the universes to shreds, we had to touch every planet, person, animal, atom. As we touched and tore, I committed everything to memory. The whole of history, from the moment of the Big Bang to the end… it’s all up here.” She taps her head.

    “I know the names of every intelligent being, the spots on the wings of every butterfly that broke out of a cocoon, the genetic codes of the simplest and most complex of creatures. I know how suns functioned, how worlds formed, how life evolved. All of the secrets of the old universes are mine. They can be yours too, if you want me to share, though I suspect you aren’t bothered.”

    “So you remember,” I grunt. “So what? It’s still gone, isn’t it?”

    “Gone but not forgotten,” Kernel murmurs, his forehead crinkling thoughtfully. “Look at these bodies—they’re real. Perfect replicas, down to the smallest detail. That’s right, isn’t it, Bec?” She nods. “And the moon is real too?”

    “Exactly the way it was before we blew it to pieces,” Bec grins.

    “We can bring it all back!” Kernel shouts. “The Kah-Gash has the power to tear a universe apart, but it also has the power to rebuild it!”

    “That’s what Bran counted on,” Bec chuckles.

    I stare at the pair of them, still confused. “What’s the point of building a fake universe?”

    “It won’t be fake,” Bec corrects me. “It will be as real as the old universe was. We can do anything. We can make all the solar systems, worlds, and creatures the same as they were before. We’ll let history unfold as it did first time around, begin with the initial sparks of life and build from there. Advanced species like humans will live and develop souls again. Everything will happen as it did from the dawn of time up to the moment of universal destruction. We’ll direct proceedings that far, then give the inhabitants of all the worlds their freedom. The future will be in their hands after that.”

    “What’s the point?” I frown. “The Demonata will wreck it all. They exist too. They’ll cross and destroy, just like—”

    “You weren’t listening,” Kernel interrupts. “Bec said we could do anything.”

    “You mean we’ll protect them from the demons?” I shake my head. “They found ways to twist the laws before. That’s why the Kah-Gash shattered. We can’t be sure that we can stop them doing it again.”

    Bec crosses the room and takes my hands. Her fingers are trembling. “We won’t have to protect our people if the demons aren’t there,” she says softly.

    “But they are. I can sense them.”

    “I can too,” Kernel says. “I know where all of them are, along with the Old Creatures. If I close my eyes, I can visualize all sixty-four zones and track the whereabouts of every living being.”

    “The Kah-Gash holds everything together,” Bec says. “We are the universe. We bind every molecule to those around it. Nothing can hide from us. And nothing can defy us.” The mansion fades and we’re floating in space, illuminated by the light of the re-created moon. The freezing cold and lack of oxygen doesn’t affect me. Why should it? As the Kah-Gash, we create temperature, air, all the rest. I begin to see why Bec and Kernel are so psyched.

    “The Kah-Gash never sought to control the universe,” Bec says. “It had no will of its own. It simply held things in place. It didn’t know why it kept the demons and Old Creatures apart—it just did. It wasn’t capable of making choices.”

    “But we are,” Kernel says, a twinkle in his eyes.

    “Ideally we should respect the order of the original universe,” Bec says. “Never interfere. Let things develop in their own way. Stay neutral.”

    “But to hell with that,” Kernel grins. “I think this is why the Kah-Gash began to explore after it split, why it took up residence in a host of different creatures. It was learning, growing mentally, choosing.”

    Bec nods. “Choice was everything. When the piece in Lord Loss chose to leap into me—that’s when the Kah-Gash gave us the means to self-govern, assuming we could work out the kinks.”

    “Are you getting it yet?” Kernel smirks.

    “I think so,” I sigh. “We can build it all again, the worlds and people of our own universe?”

    “Yes,” Bec says.

    “We can re-create time?”

    “Or the semblance of it,” Kernel says.

    “But before any of that…” I close my eyes and focus. Like the other two, I can sense the position of the demons, every one of them, spread across thirty-two zones, still celebrating their triumph and return to eternal life. As the Kah-Gash, we’re the force holding their bodies together, the blood gushing through their veins and arteries, the cells of their grey, lumpy brains. We bind them. But if we choose, we could just as easily…

    “… un bind them.” I open my eyes and smile. “We can wipe them out. Kill them all. Eliminate each and every one of the beasts.”

    “Yes,” Bec says, then her features crease. “But we mustn’t.”

    “What do you mean?” I frown.

    “It would be genocide,” Bec says.

    “Don’t be crazy,” I laugh. “They’re demons, not humans. It can’t be genocide if you only kill monsters.”

    “They’re living beings,” Bec insists. “They’re cruel and merciless, certainly, but that’s just their nature. They have a right to exist.”

    “No, they don’t,” I protest. “They tried to wipe us out. Hell, they did! They never cared about our right to life. Why should we care about theirs?”

    “Because we’re better than them,” Kernel answers softly, taking Bec’s side. “If we kill them, we’ll be as bad as they are.”

    I shrug. “I can live with that.”

    Bec’s eyes flash and she gets ready for an argument. Then Kernel snaps his fingers and says, “Wait. I remember something. Give me a minute…”

    While we stare at him, Kernel turns his back on us and hunches down. Moments later a landscape swims into place around us. We’re in a valley and everything’s a light blue color. There are jagged pillars all around us. It looks familiar, but I don’t know why.

    “This was the first place in the demon universe you came to when you crossed with Beranabus and me,” Kernel reminds me. He waves a hand at one of the shorter pillars and an angular demon steps out. As I gaze at it, Beranabus forms in front of the creature. It’s not the real Beranabus, or even a reconstruction, merely a recorded image of him. Bec starts to cry when she sees the magician, but they’re tears of happiness.

    “No,” the recording of Beranabus says to the demon. “We’re not going to leave you alone. You know who we are and what we want. Now…”

    “I remember,” I sigh. “I was surprised. I thought all demons were as powerful and dangerous as Lord Loss.”

    “Yes,” Kernel says. “Before you left, you wanted to know why we didn’t kill the blue demon.”

    As I nod slowly, Beranabus answers the question, as he did that first time. “Not worth killing. There are untold billions of demons. They’re all evil, but most can’t hurt us or cross to our world. That cretin doesn’t even dare leave this valley. It waits, hiding and surviving, doing precious little else.”

    “Hiding and surviving,” Bec echoes. “Are we going to slaughter the weak and innocent, Grubbs? Is that what we’ve sunk to? If it is, I don’t think we should stop with the Demonata. We should destroy ourselves too. If we can’t grant mercy to those who’ve done us no harm, we have no more right to this universe than those we’ve fought so hard against.”

    “OK,” I snap. “There’s no need to rub it in. I see where you’re coming from. We’ll leave the weak ones alone, those who can’t cross, those who don’t pose a threat. But the masters have to be taken out—I won’t budge on that. Any beast that even looks like it has the potential to cross, to defy us, to pick at and weaken the structure of the Kah-Gash… we wipe them out now.”

    “We could isolate them,” Bec murmurs. “Imprison them in a place where they can’t—”

    “No!” I bark. “They’re too much of a risk. We kill every master going. I won’t bend on this one. They have this coming to them, and I’m going to see that they get it.”

    “We have to do it,” Kernel says, trying to win Bec round. “They found a way to destroy the Kah-Gash before. They could do it again. To guarantee order, we have to remove them. It’s the only way to be sure.”

    Bec sighs, then nods reluctantly.

    “I knew you’d see sense,” I chuckle, then grin viciously, the old wolfen Grubbs Grady reemerging momentarily. “Let’s give them hell!”

    And the massacre begins.


    THE demon masters perish in their millions. They don’t see us coming and are helpless in the face of our wrath. We sweep through the white zones like a cosmic wind, obliterating all who pose a threat. We don’t torment those we kill. Unlike these vile monsters, we’re not evil-hearted and don’t wish to cause pain. I’d be lying if I said part of me doesn’t enjoy the cull, but I don’t revel in it.

    Because time doesn’t work like it did before, the culling is both swift and drawn out, lasting the drawing of a breath and the birth and death of a dozen suns. It happens across all thirty-two zones at the same time. We don’t have to localize. We can be everywhere at once, moving across the face of a million worlds in the same instant.

    We blow through the demonic zones with godlike barbarism, felling all who need to be eliminated. We don’t bother with bodies or battles. We move as spirits, a force of nature, and the demon masters are crushed, never knowing what struck them, most dying without a chance to even howl in retaliation.

    It’s clinical and cruel, precise to a devilish degree. We rip through the white zones, staining them red, killing every demon master in existence… except one. Him we save for the end. The rest are vipers to be crushed. We go about our work dispassionately. But with the last one, it’s personal. It’s payback time, and I know that when I look into his dark red eyes and see the final flame of life flicker out, I’ll be so ecstatic I could burst.

    When all the other masters have been taken care of, and only one remains, deliberately isolated and spared, we create bodies for ourselves and fade into existence outside his castle of webs. The demon is waiting for us at the edge of the moat running around the fortress, sitting on the throne that used to rest inside. He looks more alone than ever, bereft of all his peers. But not scared. He’s aware of everything that’s happened—I made sure he could hear and see it all, so he’d know we were coming for him—but to my surprise he doesn’t look afraid.

    “Welcome again, my young friends,” Lord Loss says, clapping cynically. “You have grown in stature since your last visit. Your incineration of the demon masters was impressive, if overzealous. Beranabus would have approved, but I wonder if Dervish would have, or Meera Flame?”

    “We did what had to be done,” Kernel growls.

    “I would say you did far more than that,” Lord Loss counters. “The powerful masters from the original universe I can understand. They posed a threat and always would have. But what of the lesser masters, those with powers similar to mine? You could have easily prevented them from crossing or attacking you. They posed no threat. You could have left them to patrol the depths of their realms and harm none except their own. Yet you chose to kill them too. You rained hellfire down on all.”

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