Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chapter Five: A Certain Point of View

“You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly upon our own point of view.”
~Obi-Wan Kenobi

Edward got the message from Luci about an hour before he was to meet her… in Arlington, an hour away.  He didn’t recognize the name of the restaurant, but it sounded swanky, so he left the house clad in suit and tie. It was his ‘good suit’ but he hadn’t worn it in a few years, having bought it at the height of the Atkin’s craze, and quite a bit thinner than he’d been in recent years. It fit pretty well now though and, in his opinion, made him look like a million bucks.  He was about twenty minutes late by the time he arrived.  Once inside, it didn’t take him long to spot the impossibly beautiful woman in the shimmering red dress, gently swirling a glass of dark, red wine in her fingers as she waited.

“Nice suit, darling.” She replied as he approached the table.

“Thank you. Sorry I’m late. May I…?”

“Oh, yes, please sit down.  I’m sure we have a lot to discuss.  I’ll do my best to answer your questions, though be aware that I cannot offer you any guidance in the task that had been set before you.”

“I understand.” The waitress arrived to take his drink order. “Jameson, rocks, please.”

“The old standby?”

“Heh. Yeah.”

“So… where should we begin?”

“Well... There is one thing that's really bugging me.”

“What’s that?”

“Well… to put it bluntly? You’re the Devil.  And only yesterday I’d have doubted your very existence, and God’s, for that matter.  But if I accept who you are? Why on earth would I want to work with you?  Why would I want to make a deal with - and sell my soul to - the Devil?”

Luci burst out laughing at this, loud enough that Edward thought she would draw attention to them, but no one seemed to look their way. “Sell your…? Hahahaha… Oh my… That’s so rich!” She kept laughing. “OK… we definitely need to clear up a few things right up front.  First of all?  What on Earth would I even do with your soul?”

“Nothing. On Earth.”

“OK, what the Hell would I do with your soul then, if you prefer?

“I’m sure I haven’t the faintest idea.”

“Nor do I.  A soul is not something you can just put in a jar and hand to me.  It’s neither yours to sell, nor mine to take.  You really shouldn’t believe everything you read in fiction, you know!”
“The Bible is fiction then?”
“No, not all of it.  But that’s not what I’m referring to.  You won’t find any of this ‘selling of souls’ nonsense in the Bible. See for yourself sometime.  That? Comes from Marlowe. From Faust.  And while I enjoyed the play enough when it came out, I’m sure Chip would be flattered beyond belief to know that his little misconception was still confusing humankind almost four-hundred years later! And Faust was fiction.  All fiction.  Amusing fiction, but still entirely fiction.”
“So… You don’t want my soul then.  That’s nice.  That doesn’t change the fact that you’re still the Devil.”
She slapped her hand down on the table, hard enough to make the silverware shake and Edward jump, though again, no one else seemed to notice. “Sorry.  Look, if we’re going to get along, you’re going to have to learn one thing rather quickly: That is a hateful, insulting, derogatory term invented by humans that is both rather inaccurate and accutely offensive.  You may think you know the whole story, but it was told only from a single point of view, and I can’t help that I happen to have been vilified by it. Don’t forget: I’m the one trying to save you here! If I'd just let Gabriel have his way, you’d all be wiped out in two years time! Let me ask you something: If you had been given a job by President Obama, would you say that you’d just made a deal with the nigger?!”
Edward was now growing very nervous. Beyond just her obvious anger, she was talking very loudly.  He was shocked that no one seemed to notice. “Oh my God, no! Of course I wouldn’t!”
“Of course you wouldn’t.  And for two reasons. First, and most obviously: It’s a highly offensive term.  But second of all? It’s not entirely accurate to even call him ‘the’ nigger.  Because it’s not like there only one nigger in the world, any more than there’s one Devil.  There’s no ‘the’ devil any more than there’s a ‘the’ nigger!”
“OK, OK! I get it! I’m sorry! Would you PLEASE just stop saying that?! I’m sorry! I had no idea!”
The desperation of his apology lent it a sincerity that placated Luci. “No, I’m sorry.  I need to remember that you only know what you’ve been taught, and what you’ve been taught is, at best, incomplete.”
“So… if you don’t mind me asking, what are you, exactly?”
“The correct and appropriate term is ‘fallen angel.’ Don’t forget that I was once an angel too, just like… well not just like Gabriel, but just like so many others.  And ‘fallen angel’ simultaneously acknowledges our celestial origin, and properly humbles us with a reminder us of that which we’ve lost.”
“So… who’s US? And what… happened, exactly?”
“Well… What do you think happened?”
“You rebelled against God.”
“Yes, this is true, but what does that mean to you? What image does this conjure up?”
“I don’t know… An army of dark angels, with swords and spears assaulting the walls of heaven… that sort of thing… I guess.”
“You think I lead a war against God, then? How like a human: Always thinking of things in the most human terms.  No, darling.  There was no great war. No great rebellion. My great and eternal crime? Was envying the one thing mortals had that angels did not.”
“Which is…?”
“Freedom. Free will.  For all of the phenomenal cosmic powers given to angels, there is not a single choice we can make that is not predetermined.”
“And humans are different?  I mean… determinism and everything…”
“Determinism is no different from most religions.  It’s right in the big picture sense, but wrong on all of the details.  Your philosophers and social scientists can try to disprove the notion of free will, of choice, all they like. But they will never be able to accurately predict any one human's behavior over the course of their lifetime.  For all the great forces pushing against you, and even given your great tendency to take the path of least resistance, of greatest perceived reward, or of least perceived pain… Your choice is still your own.  And no one will ever be able to predict your choices with 100% accuracy, because humans are not programed the same way that angels are. Even God cannot foresee all that they might choose.”
“Wait… Not even… God?”
“You know the one about an all-powerful God making a rock he can’t lift?”
Edward chuckled at that. “Yeah, I’m familiar with that one.”
“Well the free will of mortals is that rock.  Oh, don’t get me wrong: Being ‘all-knowing,’ or whatever you want to call it, God is pretty darned good at predicting these things.  God might be wrong only one time in a million, maybe even a billion.  But think about it: There are over eight billion people on this planet right now, and how many individual choices does each of them make every day?  Anything short of absolute certainty is bound to result in at least one surprise each and every day.  And that? Is how mortals were made to be.  Sentience is exactly that: The ability to make a choice that goes beyond instinct; beyond mere programming.”
“And Angels can’t do that?”
“No.  The thing is that, next to that of mortals, our powers are what many would believe are God-like.  And the Universe simply cannot leave that much power in the hand of someone with free-will.”
“So… What happened? If you don’t mind my asking.”
Luci sighed. “Well… It was no surprise that some of us would envy mortals. That was how we were made, after all.  And likewise, it was no surprise that some of us would even try to attain free will for ourselves.  That was also perfectly predictable.”
“OK.  So what was the big deal, then?”
“What wasn’t foreseen, was that we would actually succeed.”
Edward gave a long nod, just beginning to understand.
“There we were, me and a few hundred like-minded celestial beings, all trying to figure out a way to break out of our programming; to make a single choice that wasn’t foretold.  I can’t even put into terms you would understand how difficult this was, but… We succeeded.”
“Then what? You were banished?”
Luci smiled. “Yes, that would be one way of putting it. But you have to understand that the law we broke was not a crime in the human-justice sense of the word.  We were not arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced.  This? Was more like breaking a law of physics.  Again… heaven is not a physical place, so the best I can do is to create a metaphor, but it was like standing on a cloud one minute, and then having the weight of your free will pull you down through it to the ground the next.  We were not ‘punished by God’  in the sense that you think - though there is little doubt God was both rather surprised and more than a wee bit disappointed - but our powers were lost through our own actions. We made a choice. We just didn’t understand the consequences at the time.”
“Was it worth it?” Edward asked, in a lowered tone.
Luci sat quietly for a moment, and her eyes took on a very distant look as she considered the point. “Do you know the worst part of it all? It takes so much of an effort to go against one’s programming, and so much more so for beings such as us, that I’m not sure I’ve ever made another choice on my own ever since.  I can’t know for sure, but it seems that I've just allowed myself to fall right back into my programming anyway. I suppose I no longer have too, but… I guess I just choose to.  My choice, still, I guess, but it’s a phyrric victory when the path you choose is the same one you were already on, save for what you lost by fighting for that choice.”
“So you weren’t banished to Hell then?”
Her eyes went distant again. “Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. Thinkest thou that I, who saw the face of God and tasted the eternal joys of heaven, am not tormented with ten thousand hells in being deprived of everlasting bliss?"
“No Marlowe. Faust, again. And I really am very fond of that line. Though from a work of fiction, it does sum it up the situation rather nicely.”
“So you just stayed here then? On Earth, this whole time?”
“Pretty much. I just lived life as human as best I could, trying to stay out of the way and remain somewhat useful by helping Gabriel out whenever requested to.”
Edward was curious about this. “Really?”
“Oh yeah.  Not that I ever got any credit for it!  Let's try something: Name one story from the Bible that has me in it.”
“Tempting Jesus, on the mountain.”
“Oh yeah… CLASSIC example.  There I was, testing the new savior, at Gabriel’s request I might add, to make sure we had the right one.  And he passed all right. Never wavered for a moment.  And how was it interpreted? The very act of confirming that he was chosen wisely ends up being portrayed as my trying to destroy him.”
“Well… wasn’t that the test?”
“Well… yeah! The test had to be real, and if he failed, the world would be less one Christ...  Although... not really, because if he failed, then he never was in the first place! But this wasn’t being done out of malice! This wasn’t being done because I wanted to see humanity destroyed or lost!  I like humanity! I’ve grown rather accustomed to this place, and I’d rather like to see it stick around for a while!”
“And what about the others?  What happened to all of the others that… fell?”
Luci gave a sad sigh.  “It’s a mostly tragic story, really.  The lion’s share of them, keenly aware of what they had lost and feeling the burden of their new existence couldn’t handle  it. And so chose to end their lives instead.”
“Wow.  How… does that happen, exactly?”
“As you might guess, Angels, even fallen ones, are not like mortals. We cannot be destroyed in the conventional sense. Only two things can destroy an angel. The first, and what befell so many of my former comrades, is that they simply will themselves out of existence.”
“They can do that?”
“Well, it isn’t easy. And it’s not something that a true angel would contemplate – because they don’t have the free will necessary to exercise something like that. But a fallen angel retains that ability, and now has the choice to make for themselves.  And sadly… most just couldn’t go on. This is particularly hard for me to think about because when we die, there is nothing that comes after.  No after-life for us, we're just... gone.
“Wow. That's a hard deal. What’s the other thing?  The other way they could be destroyed?”
“An act of God.”
Edward whistled. “That’s it, huh?” he asked sarcastically.  Luci knew that he understood, so he continued. “But… Why would God do that?  To one of his own, perfect creations I mean?”
“Well… There's really only one reason. And it’s never happened in the case of any true angels, but it would be done as a preemptive punishment to prevent one angel from destroying another.”
“Wait… I thought you said…”
“There are ways that one angel could destroy another in combat, but this can never happen, mainly because God forbids it.  Having the means, opportunity and intention to destroy another angel will only result in your own destruction.  Of course, no Angel would ever do this, since it goes against their programming.  They’d never even consider it.  But… it could apply to one of us.”
“And… has it?”
“You may be aware of one such being:  Baal.  He was one of us.  And he couldn’t adjust to his reduced station as I had been able to.  So he tried the set himself up as a god.  Naturally Gabriel wasn’t too happy about that.  So… Baal was given an ultimatum:  Step down, or engage Gabriel in combat.”
“So what happened? I mean… I’ve heard of Baal… The whole Golden Bull story, right?”
“Right.  Well… Really, it was a trap.  Gabriel had no intention of harming him, but made it clear that Baal would only be allowed to continue his divine charade over his dead body.  Between his own foolish pride and his anger at seeing me siding with Gabriel, he walked right into it.  He produced his weapon, and charged Gabriel – who refused to produce his own, or summon any of his armor.”
“So… How did Baal not succeed, if Gabriel stood defenseless?”
“God struck him down.  His body was disintegrated and his very existence eradicated.  And now… there is nothing left of him but memories.”
"That's another thing I don’t get about this… Why is it Gabriel’s job to judge humanity? Isn’t that something God should do?”
“You have to understand that Angels are both proxies and avatars of God.  Since it is already known precisely how they will act in any situation, God can task an Angel with something and know that it will be done according to his satisfaction.  There’s really no difference between Gabriel's actions and God's in this case, because of this connection.”
“And that's what you lost then, when you achieved free will: You were no longer connected. You had become your own, distinct being.”
“You’re very perceptive.  And yes, that’s about as true a statement as can be made about it.”
“I always knew choice was important,” Edward said, almost rhetorically, thinking back the many times he’d had written about it.
“Free will is the most powerful force in the universe. In fact, mortals possessing it are the only ones who can actually change the balance and nature of the universe.  They feel so small, so insignificant.  And who knows? I suppose, individually, they are.  It’s not as if, from their point of view, these changes are all that profound. But from ours? They are simply astonishing.”
Edward was clearly perplexed by this.
“For all of our power, any good that will come of our existence is fully realized in the moment of our creation.  Since our path is entirely foreseen, our choices play out and the most that we can accomplish is exactly what was already assumed that we would.  We have awesome power, but no potential. Mortals? Humans? Have almost no power. But they have almost limitless potential. Since their course is not predetermined, they can contribute to the greater good, and yes, the greater evil as well, and, through their very existence, through the choices they make, alter the universe in ways which, again, while imperceptible to them, are infinitely more than we are capable of. Choice is truly a powerful and profound force.”
“And we're on the wrong path, then?”
“The only wrong path is one that leads to your ultimate destruction.  Yesterday? That seemed all but certain.  But you have been given something, some power that, now leveraged with your free will, can have a truly profound effect. And the outcome is no longer certain.”
“But… I don’t know where to even start.”
She looked at him slyly, “Oh? I think you do.”
“OK, yeah, I see some possibilities, but…”
“But what?”
“If free will is so important, so powerful, how can usurping it be anything but wrong? If I’m just going to type out a person's life-story from that moment on? They’re not really even living anymore.  It’s little better than killing them, if at all.”
“You are correct.”
Edward let that sink in for a moment. “So how can you expect me to do that?”
“I’m sure you’ve heard this one… A train is fast approaching a branch in the track.  Along its current path, five people have been tied to the track.  You arrive in the station to find that you can change the course of the train, but one person has also been tied to the alternate track. What do you do?”
“Yes, I do know about that one, and I think it’s a stupid example: You pull the lever and save four lives. Done.”
“Sacrificing the one that otherwise wouldn’t have died? Why is that your right?  And how is that different from, say, throwing someone else on the tracks, someone who would be large enough to stop the train – OK, make it a streetcar, they still have those, right? – but who would die in the process.”
“Closed system.  In the first case, everyone who’s been tied to the tracks – by someone else – is already forfeit; or already in jeopardy anyway. All I can do at that point is to SAVE as many as I can.  That’s not the same as throwing someone into the system, someone who had nothing at all to do with it and whose life is only in peril because you added him to the mix.”
“And what is this planet but one, giant… closed system, as you put it?”
“Hmmm… I don’t know... I suppose you could be right about that.”
“Especially as I am telling you that you are all facing your doom if drastic measures are not taken.”
“Look. I can’t tell you what to do.  And it is sort of forbidden for me to act so directly.  But if you’ll accept another metaphor? Think of whatever you do that you might not have done otherwise as merely trimming off poisoned branches in order to save the tree.”
“Sounds a bit grim, don’t you think?”
“Whether you actually kill people, or just steal away their ability to make their own choices, does it really matter?”
“Is it selfish of me to think of my own judgment here?”
She pondered on this for a while before answering. “If you make the right choice, why should your judgment be in jeopardy?”
“What is the right choice?”
“Again, I cannot answer that.  Although one that ends in the continued existence of humanity might be nice.”
Edward snorted. “I can hear the funny-mentalists now, telling me that I’m being deceived by the Dev… by you, and that this ’destruction’ is nothing more than the Rapture that they’re all waiting for anyway.”
“And I’m afraid there is little I can do to persuade you that they’re wrong that they wouldn't just say was what I was bound to say if they were right.  But how can you suddenly accept all they say, and all the certainty with which they say it, when you accept that at least some of what I‘ve said, any of what I’ve said, shows that they just don’t understand the whole picture?”
Edward just shook his head.
“OK, here’s the deal: No human, no mortal, not even you, is even capable of understanding the cosmos beyond the physical universe.  Heaven and Hell are concepts that have to humanized in order to give any meaning to them.  It’s like… well, if you’ll pardon the expression, it’s like a dog watching you watch television.”
“Huh?” Edward was taken off guard by that.
“Imagine your dog is watching you watch a television show. A comedy, let’s say.  What's the most he can understand about this?”
“That… I’m looking at a box that shows me human-shapes, and makes human-sounds and that I occasionally find this amusing.”
“Exactly.  Does the dog appreciate the story? Or get the jokes? Or understand that someone wrote the episode with the intention of amusing you? Could he have any appreciation of the concept that this was being acted out in a television studio somewhere? And what about the method of broadcasting it? Could the dog understand the cameras, and antennae and transmitters and satellites and receivers?”
“Heh… Quite a few humans can’t even get their heads around that.”
“Precisely. And any true, complete picture of existence beyond this physical plane is as far beyond your ability to understand as the nature of a television broadcast’s is beyond a dog’s.”
“My parent's dog always barked every time the doorbell rang on television, and our doorbell had never even worked!”  It was a non-sequitor, but Edward thought it would lighten the mood.
Luci laughed. “Well… that’s about it, isn’t it? So why is some fundamentalist’s idea about the Rapture any more valuable to you than a dog barking at a television doorbell?  Sure – if all of humanity is destroyed, it's inevitable that some people will go to what they perceive as Heaven, and some to what others perceive as Hell.  But that only makes it true…”
“…from a certain point of view!” Edward finished her thought.
“Ladies and gentlemen, he can be taught!" she said, mock-clapping. "Yes. You've got it.”
“So what is Heaven, then? Or Hell for that matter?”
“You don’t stick to the easy ones, do you?”
“I had to ask.”
“As I imagine you already know, Heaven and Hell would naturally be different for each and every person. Because in truth, it’s not at all a physical place. Leastways, not in the way you imagine it: with clouds and pearly gates or fire and smoke, in the case of Hell.  Those images are useful, but also misleading. Remember: No body. So what is fire to a soul?”
Edward just shrugged.
“What lies beyond is less about physical sensations, and more… emotional.  It's really more about those kinds of feelings.  And what you feel, what it feels like for eternity, is largely based on the feelings you create over the course of your life.”
“So… Party on, then?”
“Do you really believe that?”
“Part of me would certainly like to but... no.”
“Drunken debauchery has it merits, don’t get me wrong. But any feelings you get from that kind or earthly pleasure start to wear thin after a while, no?”
“Yes. Of course they would.”
“But take the kind of feelings you get from loving another person, and caring for them.  Or performing a charitable act; helping someone.  Consider that warm glow you feel inside after doing something truly… good, for another person.  You think that might hold you a little longer?”
“Yeah, I could see feeling like that forever.”
“Well that’s just it.  The person who wastes his life in pursuit of earthly pleasures will be left with nothing but those sensations to sustain him.  And eventually he will grow weary of them.  But the person who truly does good with his life? He’s left with a far more durable reward.”
“So… there’s really no actual judgment then?”
“It's like I said: Humans have the power to alter to balance and nature of the Universe with nothing more than the power of choice.  The same is true of their own eternal path: You lay it out with every choice you make; every step you take in this life.”
“OK, but take someone like Hitler.  Don’t you think we’d be a bit bummed to find out that he’s just drunk on power for all of eternity, and nothing more?”
“Nothing more?  What about all the hate he felt? And drunk on power?  Not quite.  More like thirsting for power that he could never, and would never, quite achieve.  His bloodlust was the no different: A thirst that could never be quenched.  And on top of that, it was driven by fear. What about that? What about the paranoia that comes with a life lead this way? Would you want any part of that in your afterlife?  Would you not see that as a righteous punishment, were you looking for one?”
Edward thought about what it would be like to live as the embodiment of fear, paranoia and hatred, and yet have no means to alleviate them, no body to act through, thus being rendered completely helpless before them. The thought of what that might be like made him shiver. “Yeah. I guess that would be pretty bad.”
“It really can't get any worse.”
To Edward’s surprise, the food arrived as they were talking. Luci had taken the liberty of ordering ahead, which was just as well as this was Edwards first time in this particular establishment.  As it turned out every one of her choices was to his liking. As they ate, Edward sought to satisfy more of his curiosity.
“OK… so ‘devil?’ Bad word.  Inaccurate, at absolute best. I get that. What about ‘demons?’ Do they exist in any real way?”
“Yes, but not in the way you likely imagine them. ‘Demons’ if they exist in any sense are more like forces that influence, and occasionally entirely possess mortals.  I’d be willing to guess you could name at least… seven of them?”
Edward flashed a sideways grin and answered, “Let me guess: Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Pride and Envy?”
“You've got it.  There are others… Fear, for example.  But those seven demons, those seven forces seem to be the ones that humans are most susceptible to.”
“Interesting.  And do you perceive this? In humans, I mean?”
“Yes, we do: As clearly as we perceive any of your physical traits.  And while in you I see strong demons of Gluttony, Sloth and Lust, there is only a dash of Wrath and Pride and almost no Greed or Envy.  Perfect? No, not at all.  But… perhaps the perfect balance for the task at hand.  One thing I am fairly certain of? You have little or no desire for the power you’ve been given.”
“You’ve got that right!  Ruling the world has always sounded like a big pain in the ass, to be perfectly honest.  I believe in Democracy. I truly do. But only in true Democracy.  One in which the people aren't being actively misinformed by the powers that be into voting against their own interests. For a Democracy to work, the people need to be accurately informed, have true representation and recorse against all of those forces that would have them give up their legal rigths, for the benefit of the priviledged few.  The Government must reflect the will of the people and the media needs to do its job so that people are well informed.  All I really want is to get the Government and the media out of the hands of the Corprate elites, and their social issues counterpart: the Church."
“And that? Is a damned good start. And who knows? As you seem to be suggesting, it might just be enough by itself.” she smiled at him. “But this system? Is not going to come about on its own.  Some eggs are going to have to be broken to make that omelet.”
Edward just nodded, but his thoughts were on the detestable tool he was being given: To take someone’s choice from them, or even to take their very life. And the fact was that these may as well be one and the same. He would have to do exactly what they were doing.
As they continued, they spoke about some of the other capabilities of the Tablet.  Altering Fate was its primary function, but there were others as well.  Edward learned that he could generate reports on humanity's progress, and set up alerts when certain conditions were met.  He set up two right then and there: One that would alert him if more than 10% of humanity was going to die on the same day.  This would cover not only the coming of Azrael, but also any other truly catastrophic mistakes on the part of humanity.  The other was an alert on his own life: Yellow if his own time were to become finite again, and red if he had less than one hour to live.  Both had traffic-light icons appear on the main screen, and both were currently green.
“That’s neat,” said Edward.
Luci then reiterated that he could use it to contact her at any time, through the messenger application.
“No one else?”
“Well, theoretically anyone else with a Tablet, but this is the only one on Earth at the moment, so yes: Just me.”
“This is all so weird.  Why is it a computer, anyway?”
“It always appears in the most utilitarian form that can be understood by its user.  At times it has resembled a simple writing tablet – anything from a leather-bound tome in centuries past to a simple black, spiral-bound notebook in more recent decades.  The last time an actual human possessed one, it was literally a stone tablet. The commands needed to be carved in with a hammer and chisel!” Luci laughed at the idea.
“Oh my God, why?
“Because what would Moses have done with a computer?” She just stared at him, fluttering her eyelashes and grinning.
“Wait, so… this….?”
“One and the same.  Only he had it for an entirely different purpose. He could not do as you can, and you cannot do as he did. Your tasks are different, and thus so are the tools you have to work with. What powers I haven’t given you are sealed away.”
“Protected by…?”
“A password.”
“That’s it?”
“Oh?” Luci raised an eyebrow, as if recognizing this as a challenge.
“All I’d have to do to unlock its full potential is crack a password?!”
“And why would you do that?”
“Well… I wouldn’t.  But still… it’s an awful risk, isn’t it?”
“Not really.  The password is a portion of the Last Word.”
“What’s that?”
“It a word that, if spoken by God in its entirety, would destroy everything, everywhere.”
“And that’s what you used?!”
“No, no!” Luci laughed. “If I’d done that it would have destroyed me long before I’d even finished entering it!  No. Only a small - infinitesimally small - portion of the whole word was used in this case.  Just enough to kill any human who said it, wrote it, read it, heard it or so much as perceived it in their minds.  So you see: The very act of breaking my password would automatically kill any human who achieved any success at it. So I’d say it’s… quite safe.”
“Yeah, I’d say it is.  I’ll consider myself warned.”
“You’d be wise to do that.” Luci nodded. “One thing I should point out is that any action taken against me or any other of the fallen angels that remain is also protected by that same password.”
“Why would I act against you?”
“Well… even if you didn’t act against me, you might be tempted to try and use me in some way.  But the tablet will not allow any harm to come to me, including any usurpation of my free will.”
“I understand.  Out of curiosity, what about… Angels?”
Luci laughed again at this. “Oh aren’t we ambitious?  Not to worry.  No protection is needed there, I’m afraid: True angels are as far beyond me as I am beyond you.  This tablet, being just a small portion of my own power couldn’t give them so much as an annoying itch.”
“And yet… you need to protect yourself?  This being just a small portion of your power?”
“How much of your power would it take to kill yourself? Compare the force of your thumb on the trigger of a gun as a proportion of the overall force that you are capable of exerting.”
“Ok… I see what you mean. Not that I would…”
“Oh, no. Of course not!” Luci’s sincerity showed through her sarcastic tone.
“I still don’t know what I’m going to do with this.”
“I know.  But you’ll figure it out.”
They continued eating in silence for some time, occasionally discussing some of the older wars, the ones deliberately fought in God’s name.  Not to Edward’s surprise, but such actions were never pleasing to God, as violence being done in His name was the ultimate way to break the commandment of taking His name in vain.
“Yet… here I am supposed to do just that: Take away people’s free will, effectively their lives, and quite possibly literally their lives.  Why would God want that?”
“Are you really doing it for God”
“Who else? You?”
“No, not me darling, please! That would be a terrible decision. Think: Why would you decide to take such action? For who’s sake?”
“For mankind’s.” He finally answered.
“Yes. Half a century ago, a dozen people of so were almost entirely responsible for the single bloodiest global conflict in human history.  Imagine what someone might have done with that information, and a tool such as this. How many lives could have been saved? How much of humanity’s own moral authority could have been spared?”
“If they knew.”
“But you do. You have been told, with absolute certainty, that if you do nothing? If you choose not to pull that switch and change the track that the train runs on? If you allow, given the opportunity to change it, the status quo to perpetuate? You are all doomed.  By your own hands eventually, as I’m sure you could have already surmised, but far sooner than that. Azrael will be called. And you will not be allowed the opportunity to destroy yourselves on your own.  Branches have been poisoned. And you must save the tree.”
The bill came, and Luci made no attempt to even look at it. Edward picked it up, and while the price was several times more than he had ever paid for dinner for two, he just dropped his credit card down and pushed it back to the waitress without a word.  He knew there was no way this would be covered in this month’s budget, but thought 'What the heck? If the world was going to end in two years, there was no sense worrying about a credit card bill.'
As they left, Luci indicated that she was not going to initiate any further contact with him, but if he ever had a question, or just wanted to chat, he was still free to contact her though the Tablet’s messenger application.

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