Authors: Heather Killough-Walden
Tags: #Paranormal, #Angel, #Romance
It was something to think about.
“Perhaps Gregori never intended the Adarians to cause trouble in the crowd tonight,” said Eleanore softly, venturing a hopeful thought amidst many that were quite the opposite. If she was right, then it meant that Gregori might actually be telling the truth about Samael, and maybe, in some bizarre way, Gregori and the archangels were on the same side just now?
“We will never be on the same side,” said Rhiannon, as if she had been reading Max’s mind. Her light green eyes were locked on his with hard meaning. Gregori had attacked her and Michael at Michael’s apartment not long ago. His men had been responsible for the death of a beloved pet, one that belonged to a little girl who was very close to Rhiannon. “Just think about it. I have a hard time believing that if Sam’s goal is to get the archangels out of his way, he could be so stupid as to kill one of the archesses. He knows good and well that there’s little more dangerous than a man with nothing left to lose.”
“I agree,” said Sophie softly.
Everyone’s attention returned to her. She nodded at Az and tried to sit up. He helped her. Her voice was indeed scratchy. Both archesses who’d healed her had barely managed to bring her back from the brink of death Jason had sent her to.
Sophie took a deep, shaky breath. “I’ve spoken with Gregori,” she said. She looked up at Az and then up at Max. They recalled the scene where she’d faced him in his iceberg, kidnapped and isolated. “I’ve…
him.” She shook her head, and her hand went gingerly to her throat. She swallowed hard, and he could tell it hurt. Finally, she finished with, “There were black dandelions on the ground when Jason attacked. Whatever happens,” she paused when her voice became to hoarse, then continued after a moment. “We can’t trust Gregori.”
Max thought about this. He thought about the entire messed up situation: Sam going to scary extents to find an archess named Angel, Gregori going to scary extents to stop him and doing terrible things to the Adarians in the process, the Adarians doing terrible things to everyone else, and somewhere out there, an archess all on her own, running like mad and trying to do the good things that her archess blood demanded she do along the way.
And the Culmination… whatever that was.
He nodded and took a deep breath. “We need to regroup,” the Guardian said, taking a deep breath. “Boys, let’s shut this place down, get these people safely home, and meet back at the Mansion.” He paused, then remembering the crack in the hearth and the unsettling feeling they all had that even there, they might not be safe any longer. “Which, with any luck, will still be there.”
They moved as a group to the parking lot. As they walked, they fell into a companionable silence, until at last Juliette spoke up.
“You called for Az when we split up, right?”
Max turned to find Juliette was speaking to Sophie. Sophie nodded. “Then why couldn’t you hear her, Az?” she asked for the second time. Clearly, this idea frightened her. It would, though. Her archangel was the Messenger Angel, and communication had always been key with Gabriel.
Az shook his head, his stern expression revealing how uneasy he felt about that. “It must have been something to do with Angel. I felt her power. It’s as strong is Sam’s, if not greater.”
“Or it was Gregori,” Michael interjected.
“Or Sam,” added Uriel. “Let’s not forget that it was Jason who attacked Sophie. And though Rhiannon’s right about how unlikely it is, we have to keep our minds open to the possibility that he’s behind it.”
“From now on, we stick together,” Max told them. “No more splitting up. Got it?”
“I need to speak with someone,” he said next, as he approached the nearest car door and gestured for everyone to step forward and use it.
“Lilith?” everyone asked at once.
Max blinked, looking back at them over his shoulder. They gave him weary smiles.
And then they stepped one after another through the doorway-portal and into the world on the other side.
The television had automatically switched on to a hotel channel, so Angel grabbed the remote again and began to flip through the channels until her finger froze on the button, and a cold numbness crept into her gut. She swallowed hard, her eyes widening, and then punched the volume a bunch of times until the sounds of what she was witnessing filled the hotel room.
The shot was an aerial one, clearly taken from the vantage of a helicopter. The camera zoomed in on what appeared to be an accident involving more than two dozen cars in a pile-up unlike anything Angel had ever seen. But that was merely the beginning of the catastrophe.
A nearby building was on fire, another seemed to have had a chunk taken out of one side, and everything nearby was missing glass. Trees had been uprooted, electrical currents zapped up and down exposed and broken wires, and someone was saying something about a leaking gas line. The air was a dark brown-yellow, ominous and wrong, the wind was clearly still roaring through the scene, shaking the helicopter’s blades and the camera, and people were scrambling this way and that amidst police officers and firemen desperate to regain some sort of order.
It was a disaster, clearly brought on by the weather, which appeared portentous to say the least. Angel turned the volume up a little more and tuned in, trying to get the information right.
There had been a tornado in Kansas City. Apparently, the weather had turned a sunny but humid day into a sudden nightmare. The T3 storm had developed over short minutes, then turned into a T4 that lasted several destructive seconds. It struck the west side of town, ripped a shallow scar through a half-mile of it, then dissipated. There was little to no warning, and though it hadn’t been as large as it could have, and hadn’t lasted long at all, the damage was extensive. At the moment, they were unsure how many people had been trapped in the storm, and how many were possibly dead. News crews were only capable of reporting on the story this soon after the fact because they’d conveniently been on hand at the location for something entirely different. A silver lining to a deadly tempest.
Angel moved off the bed and took a deep breath. She ran a hand through her hair, closed her eyes, and knew without even having to think about it that she had no choice. The event had taken place on the same continent, and even in the same country, making the transport far less taxing than it would have been to travel overseas. The authorities were scrambling and things were still in that chaotic stage that made it safe for her to get in and get out, help as many as possible, and not be seen. Situations like this were rare.
Too often, she was made aware of disaster or trauma long after it had occurred, after people had been found dead or tended to, and when there was little she could do, especially without being seen. The destruction of the trade towers had been like that. The bombing in Boston was like that too. She’d gone as quickly as she could as soon as the trouble had begun, but the situation was tragic and escalating and frankly overwhelming. Those she helped would never know they would have otherwise died, survived with third degree burns over their entire bodies, or lost limbs. She did what she could before she was completely drained, and then ducked away in the crowds, disappearing through walls or stepping into shadows. But she’d had to use precious energy to scramble cell phone images, blur evidence, and otherwise convince onlookers she had never been there. If she hadn’t had to do that, she could have helped a little more.
This would be different. The weather, scary though it was, would be on her side. It would provide cover, as would the on-going problems the city was experiencing, such as the gas leak and electrical wiring gone awry.
She made up her mind in seconds and transported, changing her appearance once more as she went. When she arrived on the scene, she found herself in an alley between two buildings. The wind was blocked a little here, but it formed eddies of dirt, leaves, debris and trash at either end. The ground rumbled a little – a sign of a tornado probably. A second one.
She ran to the end of the alley, and everything slowed down. Destruction always played in slow motion. Always. Trauma was a film whose speed had been decelerated. It would forever exist in a realm of time all its own. She entered this time as she exited the alleyway and took in the scene before her.
It looked just as it had on the news station, overturned and ruled by discord. Sparks of electricity zapped through loose wires that whipped about in the wind. Sirens screamed, attempting to be heard above the weather, but sounding futile and distant nonetheless. People cried out, calling to one another, but their voices were mute. As she stood there for those few precious beats of observation, an overturned car upon the green across the street was picked up by the wind and tossed in her direction.
A second tornado had indeed formed.
The groan of metal turned into a screech of tearing fabrication, and Angel thought fast. She lifted her hand, guiding the vehicle at once with a strong burst of telekinesis that jarred it in its place in space and sent it flying in another direction. It crashed into the ground, a bomb of metal, paint, and glass, sending fragments scattering everywhere.
She’d planned to use the weather as cover. But she’d transported directly into the heart of tempest. The second tornado had been born suddenly, just as its twin had, and without any warning whatsoever. Apparently, Mother Nature wasn’t done with the city yet. There was nothing Angel could do to help anyone until the weather was taken care of.
She stepped back into the alley, her hair whipping around her like a fury of gold tendrils. She closed her eyes and reached out with her power. She felt her strength, her very spirit expand around her, traveling over the ground, around the buildings, and into the sky. She felt it like musical notes, floating out from her, as beautiful as tendrils of mermaid hair in the water.
They reached far and they reached fast, and as she touched the face of the gale, she felt its fury, empathized with its raging fear, and talked it down. A caress across its cheek, one heart to another, a tear in kinship, and the storm took a deep, shaky breath. It stopped for just a moment, blinked, and looked into her eyes.
Down below, on the ground, telephone and electrical wires writhed like snakes with fire heads. Trees yet unbroken bowed low, and firemen bracing themselves against their trucks or the sides of buildings looked up in seasoned worry. But they tasted something different upon their tongues, too. Saw something in the changing color of the spinning storm.
It was hope.
Little by little, the spinning slowed. The darkness lightened. The wind died down. Metal ceased groaning and rested deformed and ruined. Fires yet raged, but stopped spreading, no longer fed by the wind. People peeked out from beneath cars they’d taken shelter under, and rescue teams at once mobilized, trained well to take advantage of the slightest sign of calm.
Angel opened her eyes. She’d transformed earlier into a blonde woman with deep brown eyes, a short but curvy body, and inherent stout physical strength. She used that strength now to rush back out into the scene. Years – and years – of experience guided her to those who were both in need of her help and able to receive it.
She removed tons of debris with telekinesis, allowing her entrance into a childcare facility on the second floor of one of the destroyed buildings. One by one, she found the children, some severely injured, others just frightened. Children were the easiest to help. They never gave her away. To them, she was a superhero or she was an angel or she was an imaginary friend who’d changed forms for secret reasons. They accepted it, kept her secret, and she moved on.
It was no different now. Though she knew their parents were thinking only of them in those terrifying moments, children were blessedly devoid of mortal fear, and capable of changing their perceptions in any given moment. To them, her arrival became… fun. She assured them their parents would find them soon, and moved them safely into a more readily accessible hallway. Then she went back into the destroyed room she’d taken them from and transported once more.
A pregnant woman… an elderly couple who were both unconscious and trapped at the back of an overturned bus… a bicyclist who’d been thrown into an oak tree’s tallest branches…. She moved from one to another, feeling her power slip through the funnel of her usage like sand through an hourglass. She was working on a few remaining pebbles now, maybe just enough to transport away once more.
Her final appearance was before a businessman covered in blood. He saw her appear before him. And without batting an eye, he said, “
Angel was a bit taken aback by the plain statement that also happened to be her name, but she shook herself free of it and knelt beside him, quickly assessing the wound. The artery on the inside of his left leg had been severed. He was bleeding to death. He also had three broken ribs, his left arm was shattered, and he was having trouble swallowing. She wasn’t sure what that meant, but somehow knew it was bad.
She placed her hands upon his red soaked chest as he babbled. “I was going to kill myself. This afternoon. Jump from Westin Tower. But….” He trailed off for a moment as he convulsed and tried to swallow. Seconds later, light was spreading from her hands and through his body. “But I want to live now. Thank you, angel. I want to live.”
He thought she was a guardian angel sent to save him, to perhaps make him once more value the life he clung to by a thread.
She felt her hourglass completely empty right after repairing his artery and ribs. The arm, she could not do. And she wouldn’t be able to transport away, either.
She stood, swooning a little. Falling back on years of practice dealing with a drained power capacity in desperate situations, she leaned against the wall. “I’m going to go and get you some help. You’re going to live.”
He stared at her. Tried to swallow.
“Nod if you understand me. You won’t be left alone. I’m going to send help right away.”