Lovely Angel-Pocalypse 13
Sarah seemed content to let Lance drive her truck; a fact that Lance was fine with. He could get used to driving. The truck let him see more of the ruins in under an hour than he’d normally see in a day of running.
And Lance was seeing plenty. Driving the ruins wasn’t a straight line event. Instead it was constant turns and detours around other cars, collapsed buildings, and destroyed roads. Sarah gave specific directions, and seemed to know her way about the ruins from inside the truck. Lance wondered how often she’d driven the roads.
Not that she was saying. Sarah stared out the passenger window, and only spoke to give directions, or warn Lance that he was coming to a trouble section of the road. She didn’t talk beyond that, and didn’t acknowledge Lance’s attempts at conversation. Sarah was struggling with whatever Kei had done to her, and evidently preferred to do it in silence.
Lance glanced at her in concern. His eyes wandered from Sarah’s heeled boots, up her long legs, to her pleated blue skirt. He took in the slight show of midriff before her stark white vest with its wide blue bow. Lance stared at the point Sarah’s wings melded in along her shoulder blades. For some reason he’d expected some sort of obvious point of connection, but the wings looked like they’d always been part of Sarah. The Lovely Angel transformation had given Sarah a pair of rounded blue hair clips, earnings, and even blue lipstick that Lance knew for a fact she’d not been wearing earlier.
Sarah met Lance’s gaze with a raised eyebrow. “Maybe eyes on the road?” she suggested.
“Sorry,” Lance replied. He stared hard at the road, and tried to ignore the heat in his cheeks. “You haven’t changed back,” he explained.
“Oh, you noticed?” Sarah said. “Was that what you were checking for?”
Lance went even redder. “Should we pull over? I don’t think we’re going to run into any Blight-Men now. We could stop, and maybe you could…” Lance wasn’t sure what term he was looking for. “…dance it off?”
Sarah looked at Lance as if he’d gone insane. She chuckled at first, but broke out into a full honest laugh. Lance stared at the road even harder, though he laughed too. It was infectious.
“It doesn’t work that way,” Sarah explained as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “I’ll turn back when I’ve calmed down.” Sarah shrugged. “Normally in private, though I have no idea why that seems to be a rule.”
“I swear I’m only looking at the road right now,” Lance said. He crossed his heart with his window leaning hand.
“More private than that,” Sarah replied. She punched Lance in the arm playfully. “The first time I ever turned into Lovely Angel Water Guardian,” she said, “I couldn’t transform back for almost a day. I spent the whole time hiding in my room so my folks wouldn’t see.” Sarah laughed. “I had to go to bed dressed like this.”
Lance tried to picture it, and chuckled along with Sarah. Honestly though, he couldn’t picture hiding from folks in a private room. The subway from last night was one of the few times in his life that Lance hadn’t slept in a common space. Driving through the ruins with Sarah, he found it hard to believe he’d only met her last night. A lot had happened in less than a day.
It didn’t help that everything Lance thought he knew about Sarah contradicted with everything else he knew about Sarah. She was a Blight-Man; a fact Lance kept conveniently forgetting. She was one of the Emperor’s elite in fact. And yet, Sarah was not what Lance would ever expect from one of Blight’s upper staff.
Also she was whatever a Lovely Angel Guardian was. Or at least she used to be. Or, she was now. Lance wasn’t sure. He didn’t even know what a Lovely Angel Guardian was, save for a girl with wings and magic powers. He had a strong feeling that Emperor Blight didn’t like the Angels, whatever they were.
Finally, sometimes Sarah talked like she had been around before The Blight. That would make her much older than Lance. He’d only met a few folks that were around before, and they were all Gaffers at the end of their days. He risked a glance at Sarah, only to find she was already pointing his attention back at the road. There was no physical way she was old enough to have been around before. Lance was pretty certain that she wasn’t any older than him.
“What are you?” Lance muttered.
Sarah shot Lance a dirty look. “What am I?”
“No. Not what are you,” Lance bit his lip. “I mean…That’s not what I meant,” Lance corrected. He looked over at her and tried to reword. He was interrupted by the largest pothole in all of the ruins.
Lance hit the bump hard. He and Sarah hit their heads on the roof of the cab with a thud. There was an even louder thud in the back, followed by a surprised cry of pain.
“Ow!” Kei sat up, rubbing her head. “What’s going on? Where am I? Why am I in a truck?”
“Oh good,” Sarah commented sourly. “Sleeping beauty’s awake.”
Kei’s eyes lit up when she looked at Sarah through the missing back window of the truck’s cab. Her smile faded as she remembered that Sarah and her might not be friends. Kei sucked on the sleeve of her oversized sweater. “Hi Sarah,” she tried.
Sarah didn’t reply. She stared straight forward. Lance looked down, and saw that Sarah was white knuckle gripping the hem of her skirt. “Eyes on the road,” Sarah reminded Lance through gritted teeth.
“Hey,” Kei said from the back. “You’re the guy who broke into my place!”
“Yeah. Sorry about that,” Lance replied. “I’m Lance.”
“Kei shoved her hand through the back opening to shake. “I’m Kei,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Lance reached back and shook her hand. “We’ve met before,” he commented. “You saved me from a horde of Shadows.”
Lance glanced back when his comment was met with silence. Kei was staring at her hands. She looked embarrassed. “Not me,” she said. “I think you mean Lovely Angel Steel Guardian.”
Sarah swore under her breath. “Are you kidding me?” She turned sharply on Kei. “Are you honestly trying to do the secret identity bit? He’s seen you change, Kei.”
“I know,” Kei replied quietly. “It’s just…”
“Look at what I’m wearing!” Sarah continued over Kei. “Do you think he didn’t notice? Lance knows who we are.” Sarah turned back around, and crossed her arms in a huff.
Kei went deep red. “It’s not me, ok?” she yelled at the back of Sarah’s head. Kei turned in an equal huff, and sat down heavily.
Lance looked from one girl to the other, and then back to the road. He wasn’t sure what to say, or if he was supposed to say anything at all. Lance did not often hang around girls. The solid quiet in the truck was only interrupted by the sound of feathers on leather as Sarah shifted irritably, and the occasional sob from the back of the truck.
“Sarah?” Kei finally asked in a small voice. “Are you taking me to The Blight?”
Lance looked over at Sarah. It only dawned on him now that he actually had no idea where Sarah’s directions had been taking them. Sarah’s shoulders drooped, and she looked suddenly very tired.
“I have a place that’s safe,” Sarah explained quietly. “Not even May knows where it is, and it’s fortified against the Shadows. We’ll stay there tonight.”
Kei glanced into the cab with a look that Lance could only call cautiously optimistic. “And then?”
Sarah didn’t look back at Kei. “Then? I don’t know.” Sarah put her forehead against the dash. “I honestly don’t know, Kei.”
No one said anything for a good long time after that. Lance wasn’t sure where the day had gone, but he noticed now that it was getting dark. Lance darted his eyes from road to sky. It was getting dark far too quickly. He looked over to Sarah. She was looking up at the sky as well, her brow furrowed in concern.
“Do you hear that?” Lance asked Sarah. He tilted his head. “It’s like bells. Off in the distance.”
Sarah looked about. “I hear it,” she replied. “It’s everywhere. It’s like…”
“Church bells,” Kei finished.
The girls looked at each other, and nodded a quick understanding of the situation. Lance wasn’t sure what was going on, but whatever it was, it evidently took precedent over their feelings for each other. Lance was sure that meant it was a very bad thing.