I don't understand myself.
That's nothing truly unique, I know. Multiple semesters of psych classes left me with the realization that no one truly understands themselves. My favorite instructor, Professor Magner, used to say that the mind protected itself by burying true understanding deep into the subconscious. She was of the opinion that self-knowledge is good, but too much self-knowledge will fill someone with loathing for themselves.
There was a lot more to that particular lecture, but I can't remember it. Favorite instructor or not, I did to Professor Magner's classes what I did with every other class -- memorized only what would be useful to me. Right after Wolfram & Hart recruited me in sophomore year, I had a goal and a purpose. Everything that wouldn't make me a brilliant attorney had to be laid on the side of the road.
I'm not just talking about the ability to compare the poetry styles of Homer and Margaret Atwood, either. A lot of those moral borders got completely trashed along the way. My law professors would try and beat into our heads an unimpeachable sense of integrity. With me, that lesson bounced like a bad check.
One of the only qualities left intact in reference to my professional life by the time I passed the bar exam was a deep sense of loyalty. Loyalty to my family and loyalty to Wolfram & Hart.
At the beginning of my sophomore year at Hastings, I was trying to get by on a piddling scholarship. It paid my tuition, but I was left to my own devices when it came to everything else. My textbooks often had whole chapters missing, and the rest I had to bind together with scotch tape. Dorm rooms were too expensive, so I lived off-campus in a rat-trap apartment with my older brother James and two of his friends. Whenever I didn't have enough money for bus fare, I hitch-hiked. My little sister, Morgan, worked double shifts at a restaurant downtown and would keep me fed with leftovers in a doggie bag. Mom gave me every penny she could spare, and often a few she couldn't. My other brother, Nathan, worked as a janitor at an office-supply store and managed to 'procure' school supplies. Big sister Dorothy was working under similar conditions to get herself through a two-year technical school, but she was always there to kick me in the ass whenever I thought of giving up.
Everything changed the day I met the recruiters from Wolfram & Hart. Suddenly, all my college expenses were paid. *ALL* of them. When I worked as an intern for them over the summer, I was even able to earn enough to help out my family. They demanded that I take the tough courses and keep my grades in the upper ten percent of my class, but in return they did more for me than I could even imagine. Suddenly Morgan didn't have to work double shifts, and could go back to high school. James was hired by a construction company that was willing to train him for a management position. Nathan got a secure job. Dorothy was given a complete scholarship for a four-year college. Mom got the medical coverage and was able to have the surgery needed to save her life.
They gave me everything I had ever wanted on a silver platter. If some of my clients were a little off the beaten track, I could handle it. I'd do anything for Wolfram & Hart, and they rewarded that loyalty. Money, respect, and power. All that for just upholding the American right to legal representation.
So when I felt uncomfortable defending my latest client, I couldn't understand it. She was no worse than many of my other clients. She was an assassin and rather freaky, but her crimes were less than many others I had successfully defended.
When I found out about the three children that needed to be terminated, I went straight to Angel Investigations without even considering any other options. Even when my life was put into danger by my actions, I didn't even waver from my desire to save those children. I threw myself at the most dangerous assassin the firm had to save three blind kids.
And I didn't even really want to do it.
I didn't care about those kids. If the senior staff had decided that they needed to die, then I could accept that. I could defend our assassin. I could go home and sleep at night. After all, little kids die all the time. At least their deaths would be easier than those suffered by little Joseph and Petra, who had died in my arms of a flu virus so common that most people still go to work with it.
But I did it anyway. I risked it all. I didn't understand it, though.
If I felt so strongly about those kids, and that it was wrong to kill them, why was I so pleased at Holland's praise - and why did I accept the promotion he offered so readily?
When the answers you seek refuse to reveal themselves by common means, you try to get them through uncommon means. I learned that the first time I had to do heavy background research for a case. My actions had been so out of character that nothing short of complete hypnosis would reveal them. Or mind-reading -- but I had no intention of meeting with the company mind-readers again anytime soon.
It took me two weeks of after-hours work. I visited two witches, one monk, three demons, and what looked like a gigantic sea-slug. It was the slug who finally told me of the Oracles, and of how to access them.
Lilah was the only one I trusted enough to tell even half of what I was doing, so she came with me to light the fire and speak the incantation. I walked through the passageway, and found myself standing before two golden-skinned humanoids in togas. One was a blond male, and the other was a woman with a mass of dark curls.
"Come before us, Lower Being." hissed the man. Having read up on these Oracles, I kept my mouth shut and did as I was told.
"What have you brought me?" asked the woman, looking at me expectantly. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a highly polished jade statue about five inches tall of a rabbit. When faced with the problem of what to get the Oracle who has everything, I had gone with something sentimental yet costly. My first client had been a polite Rughter demon on trial for a quadruple-homicide, and he had been so pleased at how I handled his case that afterwards he gave me the jade rabbit as a gift. After a quick check with one of the wizards at the firm who assured me that it wasn't cursed, I had kept it perched on my office computer.
"Lovely." the woman murmured, tracing the delicate nose with an appreciative hand.
"What would you wish to know?" the man snapped. It was pretty easy to tell who was in charge of the business end of things.
"I need to know why I saved those children." For a moment, I wondered if I needed to elaborate a bit more, but they seemed to know what I was talking about.
"Is it too hard to believe that you did so out of compassion?" the woman asked. I suddenly remembered why I avoided dealing with mystics. Responding to a question by asking another question is a tactic I prefer to keep to the area of law and not to theological discussion.
The man seemed almost amused by my straightforward answer. "You are right," he said. "Your actions were not your own, but rather inspired by a higher power. The end days are coming, and the stage must be set for the final act. There are many players who will occupy the principal roles, but there are also many things that must be put into their places before the curtain can be raised."
Theater references. Crap. I got the general gist of what he was trying to say, but I'd have to think it over more later, and possibly get Lilah's input as well. In the meantime, though...
"Why me?" A classic question, and one that never went out of style.
"Why not you?" This from the woman again. This time, thankfully, she elaborated a bit. "You owe fielty to powers neither High nor Low, but only to those earthly and fleeting. You would be a powerful tool for either side to have, and had your task driven you to choose, then you might have thrown off the balance. But you did not."
"So I was chosen to do this because you knew I would just go back to my old job?"
"Yes," the man picked up again. "Those who serve the Higher Powers do so out of love. Those who serve the Lower Powers do so out of greed or lust for power. Your baser instincts are already satisfied with your present position, and your heart is locked away."
"So I got tapped because I have a good job and I'm an unreachable bastard?" The whole 'choosing' thing was far more flattering *before* I got the search criteria for candidates.
Apparently our little chat was over, because the man waved his hand in a dismissive gesture and I find myself tumbling head over heels to land at Lilah's feet. It's a shame I couldn't sue the Oracles for damages, because my back was complaining at my little maneuver.
Lilah put whoever she was talking to on her cellphone on hold, and asked me, "Did you get your answers?"
"Partly." I said, brushing myself off. "They answered all my questions. I know what and why."
"What's left to know?"
Self-understanding. As Professor Magner said, that was the key that you hid under the pillow so you didn't have to find it. Even after the answers the Oracles gave me, I don't understand myself.
And I don't particularly want to.