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Lovely Angel-Pocalypse 15

Gashkoro roared its high pitched screech, and chased after Lance, Sarah and Kei.  The road cracked under Gashkoro’s feet, and buckled under its fists as it tried to smash the fleeing truck.

Sarah leant out the window, and hurled balls of water at Gashkoro.  She cursed a lot.  Kei preformed a complex series of staff spins, stopping occasionally to fire Steel Slashes over the roof of the cab.  Unlike before, Kei seemed much more sure of her footing.  She didn’t even stumble as Lance fought to keep the reversing truck on the road at full speed.

Lance tried not to pay attention to the girls, and focused primarily on driving.  Driving in reverse took a bit of concentration.  Driving in reverse while chased by a giant skeleton took even more.  Still, the whole of the situation was surreal.  It didn’t help having both girls yelling their attack names over and over.  At least Sarah had the decency to punctuate her announcements with creative swearing.  Kei yelled her Spinning Steel Slash with no real emotion.  It didn’t seem like she was slightly moved by the monster chasing them.

Gashkoro leapt at the truck again, and brought both fists down, barely missing the vehicle.  The road rose like a wave under the truck, and ramped it through the air.  Lance spun the wheel as the tires connected again with the road, and bootleg spun the truck around.

“Right,” Lance stated.  He didn’t have much to add to that, but he was glad to be driving forward, and figured ‘right’ was the right word for it.

“Not yet,” Sarah replied, misunderstanding Lance’s choice of word.  “Just keep straight for a few blocks.  There’s an alley up ahead, we can turn there.”

The back of the truck glowed bright orange, and Lance looked back just in time to watch Kei throw a large ball of fire at Gashkoro.  The monster screamed as the flames licked across its chest, but didn’t slow down.

“We can turn ahead,” Kei agreed, “then we can stop and face Gashkoro.”

Sarah leant out the window, and threw a geyser of water at Gashkoro.  She caught it at knee level; bowling the monster over.  Gashkoro toppled into the ruins of an outlet mall, and took a moment to regain its feet.  It was immediately after them again.

“No,” Sarah called to Kei.  “We turn ahead, and lose Gashkoro in the side streets.”  She smiled at Lance.  “I don’t think it can keep up in the alleys.  It’ll barely fit.”

“We have to face Gashkoro,” Kei insisted.

“No, we don’t.”  Sarah rolled her eyes.  “Damn it Kei, we barely beat Gashkoro last time; and that was all five of us!”

“We are all five of us now,” Kei replied coldly.  “I have all the power of the Guardians except for yours.”

“No,” Sarah stated finally.  “Just no Kei.”  Sarah pointed at the turn up ahead.  “Lance, up there.”

Kei reached in the back window, and placed a hand gently on Lance’s neck.  The cab filled with the smell of rosewater and cherry blossoms.  “Slow down,” Kei suggested quietly.  “You stop the truck and then we can stop Gashkoro.”

Lance nodded, and eased up on the gas.  It made sense.  If he slowed down, then maybe they could fight off the giant skeleton.  A small voice in the back of his mind screamed about how ridiculous that was, but it was a small voice, and Lance had no trouble ignoring it.

He had more trouble ignoring Sarah’s voice.  “What the hell are you doing?”

Lance shook the cobwebs out of his head, and went wide eyed.  “I don’t know!” he admitted.  Lance jammed his foot back down gas, but it was too late.  Gashkoro had cleared the small distance between them.

Gashkoro caught the back of the truck with a wide sweep of its hand, and spun the truck wildly out of control.  Lance gripped the steering wheel, and tried fruitlessly to get the vehicle to follow his commands.  The truck spun a few more times before tipping onto its driver side.  Sparks flew as the truck skidded along the road, and thudded to a stop against the side of a building.

Sarah grabbed the frame of the passenger side window, and vaulted out of the truck.  Lance followed close behind, and she spared him only a quick glance.  His left arm was torn up pretty bad, but didn’t look broken.  Sarah turned her angry gaze to Kei.

Kei stood on the side of the truck bed, and Sarah had the impression that she’d ridden out the crash there.  She had her staff holstered between her wings (her wing and a bit, really) and had her hands up in front of her.  Kei raised them like she was maestro-ing an orchestra.  Pale green light seeped like mist from her hands, and Gashkoro struggled against a small orchard of vines.  It wouldn’t hold the monster long.

“The hell Kei?”  Rampaging monster or not, Sarah was struggling against the urge to smack Kei.  “You Flower Talked Lance?  You crashed my truck?”

“You weren’t going to stop.”  Kei didn’t look over.  She just stared at Gashkoro with her regular indifference.  “But now we have.  I can’t hold it back for much longer; we’re going to need to take it down fast.”

Sarah growled, but recognized the situation Kei had created.  She flicked her hands out, and water formed into gauntlets around her fists.  “Fine,” she accepted.  “But after this, we are going to have a hell of a conversation.”

“After this,” Kei agreed.  “Get ready, Lovely Angel Water Guardian.”

Sarah frowned, unhappy with her full title.  “Get ready for what Kei?” she asked.

Kei didn’t respond.  She drew her staff, and twisted her body into dance.  Great chunks of asphalt rose like glaciers around Kei.  Branches tore from the broken road, and vines whipped about in a circle around her.  Nearby cars ripped like paper and spun violently in the air like jagged spears.  Fire burst from the sky, and joined the elements surrounding Kei.

Gashkoro tore free from the forest imprisonment, and howled at Kei.  It lurched forward a step, but didn’t charge.  Gashkoro swayed and roared at Kei’s display, evidently cautious of whatever she was doing.

Rock, vines, steel and fire combined above Kei in a vortex of power.  “Mother Earth’s Rightful Vengeance!” Kei announced with more emotion than usual.  She pointed at Gashkoro victoriously.

Nothing happened.

“Mother Earth’s Rightful Vengeance!” Kei yelled again.  The mass of power glowed bright white, and throbbed angrily over her head.  Kei looked down expectantly at Sarah.

Sarah just blinked up at Kei.  “I don’t know what you’re doing!” Sarah screamed.  “What am I supposed to do?”

Kei tilted her head, and stared at Sarah with a mix of confusion and disappointment.  The collected energy above her imploded with an ominous click, and then detonated with a sonic boom.  Lance and Sarah were knocked off of their feet.  Kei was thrown violently, bouncing between the two.  Gashkoro was pushed back a step or two, but beyond being a bit stunned, the monster seemed fine.

Lance was the first to stagger to his feet.  He offered a hand to Sarah, but she got up on her own.  Kei didn’t move at all.  Her Lovely Angel uniform flickered and evaporated from her, leaving Kei with her sweater and jeans.  Gashkoro was already recovering from the explosion.  It growled a high pitched whine at Lance and Sarah.

Lance looked from Gashkoro to Kei.  She wasn’t moving, and was certainly not turned back into a Lovely Angel.  “I’m thinking that’s not what was supposed to happen?” Lance suggested feebly.

“Oh, you think?”  Sarah sighed, and turned full attention to Gashkoro.  “Pick up Kei,” she commanded as she balled water in her hands.  “I’ll try to hold off Gashkoro.”

Sarah thrust her hands forward, and called for Neptune’s Trident.  Water geysered from her outstretched hands at Gashkoro.  The giant skeleton growled, and blocked with its arm.  It swatted the water spray away, and howled at Sarah and Lance.

“Or not,” Sarah said, barely keeping the panic from her voice.

Sarah continued to pour Neptune’s Trident at Gashkoro, but it was having little effect.  The monster put its hand down, and allowed the water blast to disperse along its ribcage.  It roared its nails-on-a-chalkboard roar as it walked slowly against the geyser towards Sarah, Lance, and Kei.

Lance didn’t pick up Kei.  He stood instead beside Sarah, and flicked his knife in his hand.  Lance remembered vaguely the rifle he’d left in the back of the truck, and wished he’d grabbed it.  Sarah gave his knife a sideways glance that made Lance sure that she was thinking the same thing.

The crack of a gunshot rang from the rooftops, and Gashkoro reeled backwards, clutching its eye.  A second shot hit the monster’s shoulder, spinning it back another step.  Lance looked up to the rooftops.

There, siloetted against the purple sky, was Barrowman.  His rifle looked twice the length of this body, and his tattered cloak was blowing like a cape.  If Lance didn’t know better, he’d swear that the old man was posing.  Lance didn’t care even if the man was showing off; his timing was impressive enough to earn him the right.

Sarah was less impressed, though at least thankful.  “Twice in the same day,” she muttered.  “We’re setting Barrowman records here.”

“Something something rhyming,” Barrowman called down from the roofs.  “Are you going to deal with this, Blue, or what?”

Sarah made a choking noise at Barrowman, but didn’t answer beyond that.  She put her arms out, and began a swift kata routine.  Water poured from her hands like ribbons, and twisted around her as she danced.  The water solidified as Sarah pointed her hands towards the flailing Gashkoro.

“Salachia’s Grip!” Sarah called.  The tendrils of ice flew from her hands, and circled Gashkoro.  They spread quickly, and sealed the giant skeletal monster in a glacier of ice.

Lance stared unhidden awe at the ice cocoon that held Gashkoro.  “Why didn’t you do that before,” he asked.  It was a fair question.

“Because most monsters don’t give you the time for a full dance routine,” she replied.  Sarah sighed.  “It was easier when there were five of us.  Four run distraction, while the fifth jazzes up some big guns.”

Sarah didn’t look over as John Barrowman leapt from the rooftops.  “Or we’d just wait for Kei to screw it royally,” she continued for Lance, “and our Deus Ex Distraction would come riding in.”

“Won’t be the first time one of you girls has accused me of being a distraction,” John commented as he walked over to the pair.

Sarah turned to John, and gave him a curt nod.  “Barrowman,”

“Lovely Angel Water Guardian,” John replied with a smirk.

“Don’t,” Sarah warned.  “Don’t call me that.”

“Been a while since you put the get up on,” John continued.  He lit a smoke, and inhaled deeply before continuing.  “You look ridiculous.  You know that, right?”

“Says the old man in a cape.”

“Says the old man in a cape,” John agreed.  He looked Sarah over critically.  “It’s a hell of an improvement over the jack boots,” he admitted.   “I’ll give you that at least.”

“Jeez.  Thanks,” Sarah muttered.  She waved at Gashkoro impatiently.  There was an ominous cracking noise as it struggled against the ice.  “That’s not going to hold for long,” Sarah stated.  “We need to get the truck back on its wheels, and we need to get out of here.”

John jabbed his thumb at the frozen Gashkoro.  “You just going to leave that thing?”

“You think you can finish it off?”  Sarah put a hand on her hip, but didn’t wait for an answer.  “Me neither.”  She pointed at Kei.  “How about you pick her up while Lance and I flip the truck back over?”

John scoffed.  “You sure you wouldn’t rather me help with the truck?”

“Wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself old man,” Sarah replied.  She gave Lance a light shove towards the truck.  “We got this,” she said.

Lance pushed himself between the roof of the cab, and the wall it had hit.  He reached under, looking for a good hand hold.  Sarah took the back end of the truck, and worked equally hard at keeping her skirt under control as she did finding a good grip.  Water flowed from her hands, and pushed up from beneath the truck.  Lance gave his all, but he suspected that Sarah and her powers did most of the work.

Lance brushed his hands off, and banged on the large dent in the roof of the truck.  “That’ll buff right out,” he said. Lance wasn’t sure what it meant; he’d just heard his grandpa say it in the past.

Sarah nodded at Lance, but she wasn’t really listening.  She watched as John stood over Kei.  He hadn’t picked her up yet.  Instead, he just seemed to be standing there, staring at her.  The ice around Gashkoro was cracking dangerously, and Lance was sure he could see the beast moving in its prison.

“Just pick her up Barrowman,” Sarah called over.  “We don’t have forever.”  She chuckled, mostly to herself.  “C’mon John.  It’s not like this is the first time you’ve had to carry her about.”

John nodded, and chuckled as well.  Still, his hands shook as he knelt to pick up Kei.  “My God,” he whispered.  “She hasn’t aged a day.”

Barrowman looked up at Sarah with wet eyes.  He forced a smile, but it wavered.  “You and the other girls at least had the decency to pretend to get older,” he said to Sarah, “but Kei…”

The steel in Sarah’s voice faded.  “Just get her in the truck John,” she offered softly.  “I’m sure she has a story behind it.”

John put Kei down gently in the bed of the truck.  He took his jacket off, and slipped it under her head.  “A hell of a story, I’m sure,” John agreed.  “Maybe I’ll get to hear it later.”

John looked at his hands, and then down at Kei.  “I’m not coming with you,” he said.  “I don’t want her to see me like this.”

Sarah shook her head.  “Don’t be an idiot Barrowman,” she began.  She was cut off as the ice on Gashkoro’s arm shattered.

“Go,” John insisted.  “I’m going to distract gruesome here; try and lead it away from the Night Posts.”  He hoisted his rifle, and waved off any complaints before Sarah could make them.  “I’ll be fine,” he stated.  “Just get yourselves to safety.”

Sarah considered arguing, but hopped into the truck.  She motioned for Lance to start driving, and only looked back as an afterthought.  “Don’t get yourself killed Barrowman.”

“You wish, Water Guardian,” John called back.  “I’ll be fine.  You’re going to need someone there for you when you screw up again, right?”

Lovely Angel-Pocalypse 14

The darkness above the truck no longer resembled night.  It swirled a vortex of angry purples and deep blues.  Lance tried keep his eyes on the road and not look up, but the sky was almost hypnotic.  The ringing continued in the back of Lance’s mind, holding him on the cusp of panic.  He gunned the truck, and squealed around the corner.

Kei squealed as well, as she tumbled over in the back of the truck.  She rubbed her knee and stared daggers at the back of Lance’s head.  “Could we please just drive straight for a moment?” Kei whined.

“We’re trying,” Sarah replied.  It wasn’t entirely true, as she’d been making Lance take a very roundabout way through the streets.

Even if Sarah hadn’t been giving convoluted directions, Lance doubted he could have kept on a direct road.  The darkness, real night or not, was attracting Shadows.  A pack of them scattered from the one spotlight, but they didn’t go far.  Lance turned hard down a side road to avoid them.  Even with the ringing, Lance could hear the giggling growls of the Shadows looming in the buildings around them.  Lance could see them crawling along the old ruins, and darting away from the light of the truck’s head beam.  There were to be dozens of them; maybe more.

“That’s a lot of shadows,” Lance said.

“They’re massing around us,” Sarah said.  “They must sense Kei and me.”

“Oh,” Lance replied.  There wasn’t much else he could say.  He swerved hard to avoid a few Shadows that had leapt from the windows above, and tried to ignore Kei’s squeals from the back.  “Oh,” he said again.

There was a loud thump as a group of Shadows dropped from the buildings onto the roof of the truck.  A clawed hand scratched at Lance’s arm.  He slowed the truck only for a moment as he tried to grab the knife from his boot.  Lance slashed at the Shadow at the door, and put his foot to the pedal again.

The Shadows rolled unceremoniously from the roof of the truck.  Two fell aside, bumping under the tires.  Three others dropped into the bed with Kei.  Kei scrambled backwards, pushing her back against the truck’s cab.  She flailed at the Shadows, but wasn’t much of a fighter evidently.

“Kei!” Sarah yelled.  “Drop!”

Kei yelped, and dropped hard to her knees.  Sarah pointed her hand out the back window over Kei’s head.  “Neptune’s Trident!”

Water poured from Sarah’s open palm like a fire-hose.  The Shadows were knocked back and swept from the bed of the truck.  Kei yelped indignantly as the truck bed filled with ice cold water.  She lost her footing when Lance turned sharply back to a main road, and dunked completely.

Kei leapt gasping from the water, and glared at Sarah and Lance.  Her already baggy sweater hung crooked and heavy from her tiny frame.  Kei flicked wet hair from her eyes, and opened her mouth to complain.

“Shut up,” Sarah said.  “You need to change before the Shadows regroup.”

“I. Am. Trying.” Kei stated.  “If you guys would just drive straight for one minute, I’d be done by now.”

“Should I slow down?” Lance asked.  He looked in the rear view mirror, both at the Shadows charging from behind, and at Kei staring daggers at him.  “I mean, I didn’t know that you were…”

“You should speed up,” Sarah stated.  “Step on it, Lance.  Keep driving and don’t look back.”

Lance looked back anyways.  Kei had one hand in the air, and the other straight forward.  She looked to be mid pirouette.  “Is she going to be able to change in the back of a moving truck?”

“Oh, like that’s the weirdest place she’s ever changed,” Sarah muttered.

Kei gave a mortified squeak.  “Sarah, don’t you dare,” she pleaded.

“Just change Kei,” Sarah snapped while staring the younger girl down.  She smirked as she hoisted herself up on the passenger side window, and lowered her voice for Lance.  “Ask her about the Tokyo Men’s Club,” Sarah suggested.

Lance watched as Sarah slid out of the window.  She sat on the edge so that only her long legs were in the truck.  “Eyes on the road,” she called from outside as she reached down and tucked her skirt between her legs.

Lance turned deep red.  “Why does everyone think that I’m looking at their underwear,” he mumbled.

“Because you’re a guy,” Sarah answered from outside.  “Just keep driving Lance,” she continued.  “Hold it as steady as you can, but try not to shake it up too much.”

“So, try to avoid bumps, but don’t actually swerve around them,” Lance verified.  “Fine.  What about them?”  Lance pointed at the Shadows swarming along the road.

“Just drive Lance,” Sarah called from outside.  “I’ll take care of them.”

Sarah wove her hands in front of her.  Water formed around her hands and splashed from her fingers.  “Neptune’s Embrace!” Sarah shouted as she flared her hands forward.

A shield of clear water formed around the truck, just as Lance drove head on into the Shadows ahead.  They screeched and screamed as they were swept aside by the water, but did nothing to slow the truck.  Lance wondered momentarily why Sarah hadn’t done this before, but was quick to notice her laboured breathing.  Whatever she was doing was taking a lot of energy.  Already, the water surrounding the truck was thinning and losing it’s rounded shape.  It splashed on the windshield in giant droplets.  Lance turned on the wipers, gunned the truck, and held a straight line.

In the back, Kei began her transformation.  Once she’d managed a full spin, the change seemed to take over, and her steps became perfect.  Lance stole brief glances at the dance.  He thought about how Sarah had been force marched through the transformation, and wondered if anything could stop it once it had began.  Could Kei fall while she danced?  Would it stop her from becoming a Lovely Angel?  Lance added to a growing list of questions for later as Kei finished her transformation in a flash of white light.

The light from Kei’s change lit the road like a flare, and gave a better view of the streets.  Shadows hissed and scattered from the light.  The smaller Shadows were no longer dominated Lance’s thoughts, as Kei’s light had illuminated a huge creature in the road ahead of them.  The monster glared at the truck with deep red eyes, and the ringing in the air stopped.

The giant monster squatted on the road, idly chewing on a Shadow that had wandered too close.  It was an emaciated humanoid creature, nothing more than thick leather stretched over a skeletal frame.  Its head was a misshapen skull, with a thick forehead, cavernous eye sockets, and a mouth far too big for its face.  It unfurled slowly, and stood easily five meters tall.

“Jeez.” Sarah muttered from the window.

“A Mega Shadow,” Lance whispered in awe.

“Gashkoro,” Lovely Angel Kei stated listlessly.  “Blight demon of hunger.”  She motioned lazily, and her staff appeared in her hand.  “It knows we’re here,” she said.

“Oh, you think?” Sarah replied in a panicky voice.  She climbed back in the window.  She motioned for Lance to back up.  It was a wasted gesture, as Lance was already jamming the truck into reverse.

Gashkoro roared; a thin metallic noise that vibrated through Lance.  It took one rickety step forward, and leapt suddenly at the truck.  Lance slammed his foot into the gas, and gunned the truck backwards.

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.

Lovely Angel-Pocalypse 12

Lance and Sarah were already running when the explosion rocked the streets.  Lance nearly dropped Kei in shock.  At least the explosion had startled the Blight-Men as badly.  They actually stopped shooting for a moment.  Lance dove around a corner, Sarah following close behind.  Despite carrying nearly 50kg of unconscious girl on his back, Lance needed to slow his pace for Sarah to keep up.  Lance was very good at running.

“What was that?” Lance asked.  Directly, he meant the explosion, though indirectly he wouldn’t have minded some answers about the sniper, the girl with road breaking powers, and the entirety of his day so far.

“A convenient distraction,” Sarah answered vaguely. “And a bit of nostalgia.”  She waved at the rooftops.  “Barrowman,” she clarified.

Only, it wasn’t very clarifying at all.  “The religious bartender?” Lance asked.

Sarah rolled her eyes.  “Barrowman used to come to the rescue every time Kei screwed up,” she explained.  “It was pretty much a weekly event.”

Barrowman.  He knew more about this than Lance could guess.  “Lovely Angel,” Lance said.

“Shut up.”

“I don’t mean you,” Lance replied, though he wasn’t sure if that was entirely true.  “Barrowman got upset last night when you called Kei a Lovely Angel,” Lance continued.  “It had nothing to do with religion; he recognized the words.”

“This probably isn’t the time,” Sarah said.

Lance ignored her.  “That girl called you Lovely Angel Water Guardian.  She said Lovely Angel a few times.  It’s not just a description, is it?  It means something.  Barrowman knew what it means, and you obviously know what it means.”

Lance looked to Sarah for an answer.  He had to look twice to be sure of what he was seeing.  She was still beside him, but she wasn’t running.

“You’re flying,” Lance commented.  He looked away, and looked back.  Nothing had changed.  “You’re really flying.”

“Yes,” Sarah replied.  “I have wings, and I can’t run in heels.  So I’m flying.” She smirked at Lance.  “And yes, Lovely Angel Guardian used to mean something, but I’m not going to get in to it right now.  You’re just going to have to learn to roll with these things.”

“I’m trying,” Lance admitted.  “But this whole magical girl thing is a lot to take in.”

“Oh, you haven’t even gone half down the rabbit hole Lance,”

Lance didn’t get the reference.  He figured correctly that it translated out to things getting crazier.  He didn’t think long on it though.  Shouts from behind them, and the universal sound of rifles being readied told him that thinking would have to wait.

Sarah circled Lance, and stopped suddenly.  “Stay close,” she commanded to Lance.  Sarah lifted her hands into the air, and twisted her fingers in a complex pattern.  Ice crystals formed into a thick swirling cloud above her.  “Glaucus’ Blanket” she announced.

Sarah’s frozen cloud dropped as a thick mist, and poured into the streets.  The Blight-Men fired into the mist, but their shots went wide as they lost all visibility.  Lance felt Sarah grab his arm, but he couldn’t see her anymore.  He could barely see his own hands.  In the cold of the mist, he could barely feel them either.

“Stay with me,” Sarah insisted as she dragged Lance forward.  “We have to keep moving, or you could freeze.”

Lance nodded quickly.  He could feel the cold right to his bones as he let Sarah lead him through the mist.  He assumed that Sarah could see, since she was the only one not tripping on stuff as they went.

Lance adjusted Kei on his back.  He heard sheets of thin ice fall from her as he moved.  “What about Kei?”

“She’ll be fine,” Sarah stated flatly.  She thought for a second.  “Maybe.”  Sarah banged on something metal.  “We’re here anyways.  Just dump her in the back, and we can get out of here.”

Sarah dismissively waved a hand over her head, and the mist cleared away from around the truck.  It had a rounded hood, a long cab, and a deep rear bed.  The truck had been painted blue once long ago, but it was only evident in small islands amongst the rust orange that covered the truck.  One headlight was missing, and the other was half full of water.  The truck was old.  It looked like it had been old before the world went to pot.  Right now, it was the most beautiful thing Lance had ever looked at.

Lance carefully laid Kei in the back of the truck, and circled to the passenger side.  He could see shadows of Blighters trying to find their way through the fog.  They were getting close.  He cringed as he opened the door.  It gave a rusty squeal, and based on the shouting from the Blighters, had also given away their position.

Sarah was in the driver’s seat, hunched forward uncomfortably to make room for her wings.  She was swearing openly.  Sarah snapped her fingers over her head.  “C’mon,” she moaned, “c’mon!”

Lance watched her snap, and swear, and slam her fists into the dashboard.  He shrugged his confusion when she looked over at him.  He wasn’t sure what the problem was, much less how to help.

“I can’t change back,” Sarah complained.  “It like an adrenaline thing.  I can’t turn back until I calm down, and I can’t calm down while there are men shooting at us!”

“Ok,” Lance stated.  He watched the vague shapes of the Blight-Men getting clearer in the mist.  They were close.  “Maybe we could worry about that once we’ve gotten out of here?”

Sarah brushed the pleats of her skirt irritably.  “The keys to the truck are in my pants,” she stated coldly.

Lance stared at Sarah’s Lovely Angel skirt and vest.  He only took a second.  “Oh,” he said.

“Yeah.  Oh.”  Sarah smacked the side of her leg as if hoping a pocket would magically appear.  “So, unless my pants return from wherever my clothes go during Stupid Angel Suit time, we’re pretty screwed here.”

“Huh,” Lance said.  There wasn’t much more to say really.  “Alright, switch me seats.”  He crawled low along the truck floor before Sarah was out of the way; looking up at the steering column.

Sarah crawled over Lance.  She simultaneously tried to keep her wings in check, while keeping her skirt down, while not kicking Lance in the teeth.  “This is really awkward,” she admitted.

Lance grunted a response.  He flipped out his knife and pried the ignition switch from the truck.  “Sorry,” he muttered as he pulled some wires from behind the steering wheel.  He touched them together with a small spark.

Sarah blinked at Lance as the truck roared to life.  “How do you know how to hotwire a truck?  For that matter; why do you know?”  Working vehicles were pretty rare.  It just seemed an unlikely skill.  “Where did you even learn to do that?”

“Where’d you learn to throw balls of water around?” Lance retorted.  He smiled at Sarah.  “My granddad taught me to hotwire cars.”  Lance shrugged.  “I can also fix radios and toasters, for what that’s worth.  Televisions too.  Granddad always believed in knowing everything, even if it was useless.  Guess he was right.”

Sarah smirked.  “Did he teach you to drive?”

Lance took the question as permission.  He leant back in the seat, put his elbow on the windowsill, and his hand causally on the wheel.  Just like his granddad had taught him.  Lance revved the engine once, then jammed the truck into drive.

In the mist, Blighters screamed and ran blindly in all directions.  With the light from the one working headlight, and the roar of the engine, Lance could only imagine what the Blight-Men thought was coming for them from the fog.  He crashed through the small streets, and burst through the mist onto the ruined road.  Lance turned right into the last of the Blight-Men, and smirked as they dove for cover.

Sarah actually laughed.  “You never fail to amaze, Lance.”

“Says the girl with angel wings.”  Lance watched in the rear view as the Blight-Men recovered their feet.  By the time the men had pulled their rifles up, the truck was long gone.  “Where to?” Lance asked.

“Just keep driving,” Sarah replied.  “I have a place.”

May dropped down from the destroyed roof to the destroyed road below.  Blood poured from a gash in her leg, but she paid it no mind.  She watched Sarah’s truck vanish into the distance, and shook her head.

May paced back and forth.  “I cannot believe this,” she moaned.  “I mean, really, I can’t.  Blown up by Barrowman?  Beaten by a Lovely Angel?  I mean, like, when did I become the bad guy in this?”  May looked down at her uniform.  “Oh,” she accepted, tugging her bow straight.  “Right.”

May brushed off her knees, and knelt down.  “Well,” she said.  “If I have to be the bad guy, might as well do it right.  Right?”  May looked for verification, but none of the Blight-Men answered.  Most of them were too busy bleeding, or moaning, or being dead.  “Right,” she finished.

May put her ear to the ground.  “There,” she muttered.  When she tapped the earth, there was a deep sound like a church bell from under the road.  “You’ll do perfectly.”

May sat up, and motioned with one finger at the road.  Indents and lines appeared in the dirt, forming a giant circle around her.  Ancient looking symbols scrawled around the circle, inside and out.

“Gashkoro, Gashkoro,” May whispered to the ground.  “Ever hungry never full.  I summon you, Gashkoro; feed on their bodies, and send their energies to the Blight.”

The ground split.  Something huge moved from beneath.  A gong sounded loudly.  The Blight-Men that could ran screaming.

Lovely Angel-Pocalypse 11

Sarah looked at the Blight-Men; her Blight-Men in regular circumstances.  She looked at Lance, and at Kei still unconscious on his back.  She looked at her skirt and her vest with its large blue bow on the front.  Sarah sighed and shook her head.

The men didn’t lower their weapons when they saw that it was their superior officer in the Lovely Angel costume.  Most of them in fact trained their weapons purposely on Sarah.  “Ma’am?” one of the Blighters managed.  He didn’t say anything else, but his question was evident.

Sarah sneered at the men.  She needed to get the situation under her control.  “This is a temporary situation,” She stated.  “It changes nothing.”  Sarah pointed at Lance.  “This man is taking the fugitive and loading her in my truck.  We will take her directly to the Emperor.”  Sarah narrowed her eyes at the men, and they all stepped back.  “Is there any questions?”

There was a laugh from the crowd.  A light voice piped up.  “Oh my God, what are you wearing?”

“And the hits just keep on coming,” Sarah muttered under her breath.  She forced a smile.  “Hello May.”

May stepped out from behind the Blighters.  “Look at you!” She covered her mouth, and giggled excitedly.  “Lovely Angel Water Guardian!”

“Please don’t call me that,” Sarah replied.

May ignored her.  “You haven’t worn that in, like, forever.”  May tilted her head.  “Which is probably because the Emperor doesn’t want us to, right?  He is not going to be happy with you.”

May didn’t leave a gap for Sarah to answer.  She gasped as she looked a Kei draped on Lance’s shoulders.  “Is that Kei?” May squealed.  “Oh my God, she hasn’t aged a day!”  May smirked.  “Too bad she’s out.  Kei’s the only one here young enough to pull off the Lovely Angel getup.”  She gasped suddenly.  “Ohmygosh.  I’m older than my older sister.  How weird is that?”

“May,” Sarah started.  She stepped forward,  hands in the air.

May gestured.  The ground cracked and rose a short wall in front of Sarah.  It was only knee height, but it was enough to stop Sarah in her tracks.  “I’m sorry, Sarah,” May explained happily.  She waved at Sarah’s clothes.  “Kei is obviously contagious?  I can’t risk some sort of Lovely Angel infection.”  She smiled mischievously.  “Heck half of these men would look pretty silly in a skirt.”

“You know that’s not how this works,” Sarah commented.

“If you were such an expert,” May retorted, “you wouldn’t be wearing a school girl uniform right now would you?”  May shrugged apologetically.  “You know the protocol on this sort of thing Sarah: you wrote it.”

May’s eyes narrowed, and her smile became maniacal as the darkness overtook her.  She raised a hand to her men, and pointed at Sarah, Lance, and Kei.  “Fire,” she commanded.

There was a crack from the rooftops, and the nearest Blight-Man’s head exploded.  Two more cracks and two more Blighters fell before anyone could react.  The Blight-Men panicked and strafed the rooftops with bullets.

Sarah took quick advantage of the confusion.  She weaved her hands to her side; water forming between her palms.  “Neptune’s Trident!” she yelled as she shoved her hands forward.  A tidal wave of clean clear water poured from her outstretched hands, and flooded the streets.

May brought her hands up as the wave flowed towards her.  The road rose in a wedge, splitting the flood around her.  It did nothing to protect her men, and they were washed off of their feet by the surging river.  Half of the Blighters were washed up the road.  The ones that weren’t were easy targets as the sniper continued to fire from the rooftops.  May narrowed her eyes at the roofs.  “Barrowman.”

May yelled her men’s attention, and pointed after Lance, Kei, and Sarah.  They’d already turned and ran halfway down the block.  “Do not let them escape!” May told her men.  She touched the ground quickly, and a pillar of earth burst through the road.  It carried her quickly towards the rooftops.

May’s pillar stopped short, and the momentum tossed her the last bit of distance.  She landed gracefully on the roof John Barrowman had fired from.  He was already running away.  May smirked.  She touched the roof with one hand, and raised the other like she was conducting an orchestra.

John kept running as the roof split and rose beneath him.  He vaulted from the floating chunks of broken cement, and freefell to the next rooftop.  John tucked around his duffle bag, and rolled as he hit the roof hard.  His rifle went scattering over the edge, and clattered to the streets below.

John scrambled aside as a large chunk of concrete smashed where he’d been.  May walked lazily over the ruined rooftops.  Small pieces of broken roof circled her, and shot under her bare feet every time she stepped down.

“Whatsamatter old man?” May mocked as she stepped onto the solid roof.  “No poems about thorny war roses?  No prose about the power of love?”  She put her hands on her hips.  “I mean, you used to give the Shadows a warning haiku or something.  You run out of material?”

John wiped a line of blood from his lip and smiled.  “I’m too old for that sort of thing May,” he admitted.  “I’ve been in this world too long, and I’ve grown too cynical for poetry.”

“Not you John!” May’s eyes flashed honest concern as she covered her mouth with her hands.  “You can’t become cynical!”

“You’re one to talk about change,” John replied.  “I don’t know what Blight did to you May, but you’re unstable.  You’re dangerous.”  John shook his head, and placed his duffle bag down.  “You were always the heart of the Lovely Angel Guardians.  You gotta wonder what your condition says about the others?”

May beamed.  “You thought I was the heart of the team?  That’s so nice John.”  She pouted.  “Abbey says I’m the comic relief.  She doesn’t even say it nicely.”

John dug a couple small boxes from his duffle bag.  “Abbey always did have something to prove,” he agreed.

“I know, right?”  May paced as she continued.  “She thinks she’s soooo special.  Super tough hardcore warrior.  And you know why?”

John unravelled some wiring.  He looked up at May.  “Because she can throw fire?”

“Because she can throw fire,” May agreed haughtily.  “I mean, who actually cares, right?  Kei’s not afraid of fire.  Sarah’s certainly not afraid of fire.  I mean, water, right?”   May’s eyes darkened again.  “I’m not afraid of fire.”

John clipped the wires together.  “Maybe she’s making up for that with attitude.  Girl like Abbey’d have trouble accepting that she’s actually the weakest link.”

May giggled.  “Weakest Link,” she agreed.  “But that’s what she thinks I am.”  May brushed her long copper curls back.  “I control the earth itself, right?  I can see anyone who walks the land.  I can summon the Blight’s Horrors from their slumber.  I can bend the ground like…” May stopped as she tried to find a good metaphor.  “I could crush her,” she settled on.  “I could crush any of them.”  She turned her attention to John.  “I could crush you,” she insisted, bringing her hands up.  The building shook in agreement.

John dusted off his hands.  “I suppose you could May,” he said.  “But not today.”

May sneered.  “Why not?”

“Because for someone who can see anyone anywhere, you’re not very perceptive.”  John stepped back and waved to his set up.  A pair of small boxes sat on the roof beside him.  Each had a panel that simply read ‘front toward enemy’.  They were both pointed at May.

“Well, poop,” May accepted.  She waved all the broken concrete into a cocoon around herself, just as the rooftop exploded.

Lovely Angel-Pocalypse 10

Sarah’s attack had smashed Kei through the wall of the old apartment, and washed her out to the streets below.  Kei had managed to use her one wing to stabilize her fall somewhat.  She hit down on her back, and rolled immediately back to her feet.

Sarah was already in the air when Kei looked up.  She had her hands tucked to her side, and a small sphere of green foaming water had formed between them.  Sarah thrust her hands forward, firing the water-ball at Kei.  Kei threw herself backwards as the attack cratered the street where she’d been standing.

Kei rolled again, this time coming up in a crouch.  She kept one hand on the ground, as she pointed her staff at Sarah.  “Gaia’s lance,” she announced.

The earth split, and great pillars or stone shot up at Sarah.  She was clipped hard as one of the thick pillars smashed into her side, and tossed her off course.  Sarah landed hard on her chest.  She crossed her hands quickly in the air.  Water swirled upward, disintegrating the stone pillars as they fell towards her.

Sarah kipped up to her feet.  She brought her hands back, and again formed a ball of water.  Sarah was about to attack when she heard the gunfire from the apartment, followed by angry shouting.  The water in her hands splashed to the ground as she stared back at the ruined window.  The anger in her eyes was replaced by concern.  Had the Blight-Men shot Lance?

Kei swayed from foot to foot, and twirled her staff in her hands.  She saw the change in Sarah’s stance, and lowered her guard slightly.  “We don’t have to do this Sarah,”  Kei said.  “We don’t have to fight.”

Sarah snapped her attention away from the apartment, and fully back to Kei.  There was no emotion to Kei’s comment.  Sarah felt the comment was obligatory; a verification of who was the good guy, and who was the bad guy.  Sarah could feel the darkness wash over her.  She had never hated Kei more than she did this minute.

“We wouldn’t have to do this,” Sarah corrected, “if you’d just died.  But you couldn’t even do that right.”  Sarah clenched her hands, and ocean water pooled around her fists.  It trailed in waves behind Sarah as she charged at Kei.  “Lets see if I can’t fix that!”

Kei took a few steps back as Sarah rushed at her.  She swirled her staff over her head, and swung it in a wide arc.  “Spinning Steel Slash,” she announced robotically.  A crescent of white energy flared from the staff.

Sarah vaulted over Kei’s attack.  She twisted in the air, and brought her hands together.  “Triton’s fist!” she screamed.

Kei was firehosed off of her feet by Sarah’s geyser attack.  She crashed hard enough into a wall to bounce off of it.  Sarah didn’t let up as Kei crumpled to the ground.  She ran forward, and soccer kick Kei in the jaw as she tried to get up.  There was an explosion of brackish water as Sarah’s foot met Kei’s face.

Kei was thrown back by Sarah’s kick, and she landed down hard.  Her wing twitched above her, but it was all that moved.  Sarah muttered something against the ground, and feebly waved her hand.  An inferno of flame circled around her, and separated her from Sarah.

“No,” Sarah declared.  She weaved her hands before her, pulling water from the ground and spinning it around herself.  Steam rose  around Sarah as she walked through the flames unmolested.  “Ifrit’s Embrace won’t stop me.  Nothing you can do will stop me!”  She sidestepped as Kei clumsily threw another Steel Slash at her.  “Nothing!” Sarah threw her hands wide, and the rest of the flames vanished with a hiss and a burst of steam.

Kei scrambled backwards.  She pointed at Sarah shakily as she got back to her feet.  “Neptune’s Trident!”  Kei yelled.  A geyser of clear water flew from her hands.

Sarah stood with her arms out wide as the flow washed over her.  The water spun and churned around Sarah, turning to the thick angry green of the ocean.  “Against me?” she accused, fury in her voice.  “You used Neptune’s Trident against me?”

The water seethed and frothed around Sarah, matching her fury.  She motioned lightly as she stormed towards Kei.  A fist of solid water shot forward and knocked Kei backwards.  Sarah stood over Kei, smiling triumphantly.

Sarah grabbed Kei by the bow on her chest, and hoisted her up.  Kei tried to get her staff up between them, but Sarah easily swatted it away.  Sarah brought her hand back, and the water circling her formed into a rough oversized gauntlet.

“You’ll kill her,” Lance warned.  He put a hand on Sarah’s shoulder.  “If you hit her again, you’ll kill her.”

Sarah looked at Lance.  She hadn’t seen him come out, or seen him standing so close to her and Kei.  She didn’t know how long he’d been there, or what he’d seen.  There was a flash of relief that Lance hadn’t been shot, but it was quickly washed over by shame.

Sarah didn’t want him looking at her.  Lance hadn’t trusted her because she was a Blight-Man.  Like most, Lance thought of the Blighters as thugs and murderers, and here she was ready to crush Kei.  Lance saw her as a murderer.  She didn’t want that.  She looked at Kei; helpless in her grasp, and the anger returned.

“I don’t care!” Sarah screamed; as much to herself as to Lance.  Sarah hoisted Kei up again.  “You don’t know, Lance,” she insisted.  “You don’t know what she did!”  Sarah waved to the streets.  “She did this!  All of this!  Everything that happened is because of her!”

Kei lifted her arm; water forming around her hand.  Sarah shook her head, and laughed coldly.  “Again?” She accused.  “You’re going to use Neptune’s Trident against me again?”

Kei reached out and pressed her hand against Sarah’s chest.  “I’m not trying to attack you with Neptune’s Trident,” she coughed.  “I’m trying to give it back.”

“No!”  The anger in Sarah’s face vanished, leaving cold fear.  “NO!  Kei, don’t you dare!”

Kei didn’t acknowledge Sarah’s plea; she only pushed her hand harder against Sarah’s chest.  A pulse of pale blue energy flared from Kei’s hand, and Sarah rocked back as if she’d been shot.  Kei collapsed where Sarah dropped her.

Water flowed from the road around Sarah.  It swirled violently around her, lifting her from the ground.  Lance could only just see her silhouette through the foam.  Sarah moved like Kei had before, but unlike Kei’s graceful gymnast movements, Sarah’s dance was jolted and forced.  Lance saw Sarah’s face through the rough waters, and could see from her features that Sarah was desperately  fighting against the transformation.

Lance grabbed Kei by the front of her vest.  “Stop this!” he insisted.  “Make it stop!  She doesn’t want this!”

Kei’s eyes rolled in her head.  “It doesn’t matter what she wants,” Kei forced.  “This is part of Sarah; part of her that she’s missing.”  She went limp in Lance’s grasp.  Her white vest vanished like mist, replaced by the bulky yellow sweater she’d been wearing earlier.

Lance lowered Kei carefully back to the ground, and looked back to Sarah.  The water had pulled tight against her body.  It had washed away her grey uniform, and replaced it with a white vest, and a blue pleated skirt.  The waves swept over Sarah’s back, and solidified into a pair of pale blue wings.  Sarah stumbled forward.  Her hand shot to her temple against her will.  Sarah cringed as she gave a cute salute, just before her knees gave out, and she crumpled to the ground.

Lance rushed to try and catch Sarah, but she put up a warning hand to stop him.  “I’m fine,” Sarah stated.  She staggered to her feet, and swayed drunkenly.  Tears ran down her face, but she stared defiance at Lance, daring him to comment.  “I’m fine,” she stated again, mostly for herself.  “This is just temporary.”

Sarah put her hand in the air, and snapped her fingers dramatically.  She stared at her hand surprised when nothing happened.  Sarah snapped a few more times desperately.  “No,” she moaned.  “No nonono.”

She clutched at her stomach suddenly, and dropped back to her knees.  Sarah glared at Lance as he tried to help her.  She opened her mouth to insist once more that she was fine, but instead vomited forth a seemingly unending geyser of green water.

Lance held Sarah’s hair back.  He wasn’t really sure what else to do.  When she was done, he put her arm over his shoulder, and helped her to her feet.  This time Sarah didn’t deny the assistance.

“Where is Kei,” Sarah asked in a tired whisper.

“She’s out,” Lance told her.  He helped Sarah to where Kei was laying, but kept her out of reach.  “Are you going to try and kill her again?”

Sarah narrowed her eyes at Lance.  “I don’t  know,” she admitted.  “I haven’t even decided what I’m going about you, much less her.”

Sarah let go of Lance’s shoulder.  She staggered a bit, but it was less from vertigo, and more from the fact that she hadn’t walked in magical-transformation-evening-heels for years.  She motioned for Lance to pick up Kei.

“I’m not going to kill her right now,” Sarah said finally.  “But if we don’t all get out of here now, I won’t have to.”

Lance shifted the rifle at his side, and hoisted Kei up into an unconscious piggyback ride.  He followed as Sarah walked away.  “I don’t understand,” he admitted.

“The only reason I beat Kei so easily is because she really didn’t fight back,” Sarah explained.  “She made a show of it, but only so she could get me close enough to do this.”  Sarah tugged at her white vest in disgust.  “I wasn’t expecting her to do this to me.”

Lance hopped Kei up to a better position on his back.  “What did she do to you,” he asked.

Sarah stared at Lance for a moment.  She shook her head and kept walking.  “It doesn’t matter,” she said.  “And it’ll take too long to explain.”  Sarah snapped her fingers over her head again, and swore.  “What does matter is that I’m wearing the stupid Lovely Angel Guardian costume, and my men will kill all three of us because of it.”

“Your men,” Lance repeated.

“My men,” Sarah said.  “I’m not stupid.  I have back up coming.”  She motioned to Kei, currently drooling on Lance’s shoulder.  “I expected her to fight back.  If she had, she would have had a good chance of beating me.  I prepared for that possibility.”  Sarah rolled her eyes.  “I didn’t admit that to the rest of the Elite, which is a small plus in that, but I have Blight-Men on their way here in case I lost.”

Lance almost asked how many Blighters were coming.  He didn’t have to though, because the two squads of Blight-Men chose perfect timing to swarm the area, rifles drawn.

Lovely Angel-Pocalypse 09

Lance looked at the girl beside him.  Kei, evidently.  He looked over at Sarah, still motioning for him to join her.  Finally he looked over at the Blight-Men with their badly injured faces.  Neither of them was very happy to see him.  There were plenty of questions, and yet for some reason, Bill and Mike being here seemed the most confusing.  Lance’s brain worked funny under duress.

“Lance,” Sarah repeated, “step away from the fugitive.”  She held out a hand to Lance.  “Please, you need to get away from her.”

“No,” Mike insisted.  His ruined face twisted in fury.  “Nobody moves!”

“Hands in the air!” Bill added in a panicked squeak.

Lance made to put his hands up.  Mike aimed his rifle menacingly.  “I said don’t move!”

Lance stopped dead still.  “I’m getting conflicting messages here,” he admitted.  “I’m going to put my hands up now, slowly, and I’m not going to move.”

Sarah glared at Mike.  “Lance is moving over here with us.  You two are to keep an eye on the fugitive.”  She held her hand out to Lance again.

“No one is moving!” Mike yelled again.  He never took his eyes off Lance.  “We have our orders,” he continued.  “Both of the fugitives are to be detained until backup arrives.”

“Orders?” Sarah fumed.  “I’m giving you orders here right now.”

Bill looked nervously at Sarah.  “I’m sorry Elite Officer Mizumi,” he stuttered.  “But we’re to ignore all of your orders regarding the Runner.”

Sarah almost asked who gave the order, but she knew.  “May,” she muttered.

“Elite Officer Hokori was very specific,” Bill offered nearly apologetically.  “Both fugitives are to be brought in by any means necessary, and that any conflicting orders you give are to be ignored.”  He gave a half shrug.  “I’m sorry,” he added sheepishly.

Sarah clenched her hands in anger, but said nothing.  Lance felt like he should say something, but wasn’t really sure what to say in a situation like this.  It wasn’t a common situation to be in.  Besides, he didn’t like Mike’s gun pointed at him.  It didn’t take an expert to see that the man was waiting for an excuse to pull the trigger.  Lance didn’t want to give him one.

Kei evidently had no qualms against giving a reason, and wasn’t against moving despite orders.  Kei raised her arms slowly, as if she was starting a dance routine.  She swung one slowly in front of her as she raised the other to the sky. Lance wasn’t sure he heard Kei properly, but he swore she said something along the lines of ‘Lovely Angel Princess Guardian Transformation’.

“I said don’t move!” Mike yelled.  “Don’t move!”

Kei didn’t stop, and Mike didn’t waste any more words on warnings.  He pulled the trigger, spraying the room with bullets.  He didn’t even waste time aiming.  Bill, startled by the yelling and the sudden firing joined in.

Sarah yelled something at Lance over the gunfire, but he couldn’t hear.  She cursed, and motioned as if throwing Lance aside.  A wave of green water formed around her outstretched hand, and slammed into Lance.  He was lifted off his feet, and thrown across the room.  Lance smashed through the neighbouring wall into the apartment’s unused bathroom.

Lance crashed into the tub with a thud.  His shoulder was sore from ramming into a support beam in the wall.  He shook wet plaster from his hair and crawled back towards the hole nonetheless.  Lance expected to see Kei’s bloody corpse splashed across the room.  He was surprised to see that she was fine.  It was the least of his surprises.

A kaleidoscope of light enveloped Kei, and deflected the bullets around her.  Lance could make out her silhouette through the blinding light, but little else.  Yet he couldn’t force himself to look away.  The light pulled in on Kei.  It hugged her like a second skin; replacing her bulky clothing with shimmering color.  Kei moved like a gymnast under the glow, and yet stayed in one place.

Ribbons of silk appeared around Kei.  They circled around in time to her movements before they wrapped her body, and formed the pleated skirt and vest she’d worn when Lance had first seen her.  A large silver bow sprang from her chest, pinned by a golden star shaped pendant.  The color bled from Kei’s hair as it tied itself into two long braids.  One great angel wing sprouted from her right shoulder, and the golden capped stub of the other grew from her left.

Solid light shot from Kei’s hands, and braided together to form her staff.  Kei spun her staff over her head as the light faded.  She stopped her performance in perfect stance, her staff’s blade pointed at Sarah.

Lance had stood transfixed throughout the entirety of Kei’s transformation.  He’d even stepped back into the room without noticing the movement.  He wasn’t alone though.  Bill and Mike had stopped shooting, and stood staring at Kei; just as hypnotized.  Only Sarah seemed unimpressed.  She stood with her arms crossed, and rolled her eyes when Kei was done.

“Ah, the little dance,” Sarah patronized.  “Adorable.”  She smiled coldly at Kei.  “This is how the big girls do it.”

Sarah held her hand up, and snapped her fingers.  Cold blue fire flared from her hand, and quickly crawled down her arm.  It burnt away her clothes; replacing them instantly with a solid grey military uniform.

Sarah straightened her blue ribbon bow with a sharp tug.  “Efficiency,” she commented.  “It’ll beat drama every time.”

Sarah’s shot a hand forward at Kei.  A geyser of ocean water flowed from her outstretched palm.  Kei wrapped her one wing around herself, blocking the blast.  Still, the water hit her like a battering ram.  It threw Kei backwards through the outer wall, and down to the streets below.

Sarah followed quickly.  She dashed across the room, and landed in a crouch on the edge of the destroyed windowsill.  The anger in her eyes subsided briefly as she looked at Lance.  “Stay here,” she ordered.  “Just stay here out of the way.”  With that, she leapt out after Kei.

Lance dashed to the edge of the ruined wall.  He could see both girls on the streets; facing off.  He wanted to leap down and get between them, though he didn’t have a plan beyond that.  Lance in fact wasn’t entirely sure of what was going on.  It would have been easier to blindly assume Kei was innocent and that the Blight-Men were evil if he hadn’t met Sarah.

Lance felt a rifle barrel pressed against the back of his head.  “Look at that,” Mike said behind him.  “You moved.”

“Mike, I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” Bill started.

“I’m willing to agree with him,” Lance offered.

“Shut up,” Mike hissed.  “I’ve been looking forward to doing this all day.  You broke my face, you think there ain’t payment coming for that?”

“Mike,” Bill tried again.

“You shut up too, rookie; this is happening.”  Mike shoved his gun harder into the back of Lance’s head.  “And after I splatter your brains across this room, I’m going to go down and do the same to your friend.”

Lance chuckled dryly.  “Which one?”  It was a decision he was having trouble with himself.

“Maybe both,” Mike snapped.  “Won’t matter that much to you anyways.”

“Because I’ll be dead,” Lance agreed.  “I get that.  Which one though?  Which one are you thinking of shooting more?  You gotta have a favourite.”

The gun against Lance’s head shifted just a bit as Mike took a peek over the edge to the streets below.  He couldn’t help himself but to look; which was exactly what Lance was expecting.

Lance ducked quick before Mike could react.  He twisted, and slammed an elbow into Mike’s chest.  Lance shoved the large man hard before he rolled through the hole in the wall that led to the bathroom.

Mike roared his anger as he staggered back.  He fired a few rounds at the fleeing Runner, but only managed to perforate the wall.  He waved for Bill to circle to the bathroom door.  “Don’t let him get out,” Mike yelled at the rookie as he stormed through the broken wall.

Lance wasn’t planning on getting out quite yet.  He waited for Mike to follow him through the wall, and smashed the Blighter’s face with the lid from the toilet’s tank.  There was a wet crunch noise as the porcelain lid shattered across Mike’s face.  Mike clutched at his face, and fell back screaming.  Lance spin kicked Mike back out of the bathroom, and across the room.  He drove a straight arm punch into Mike’s already ruined face.  Mike succumbed finally to the pain, and collapsed to the floor.

Bill stood frozen as Lance pummeled Mike.  He couldn’t find the ability to move until Lance looked right at him.  Bill did the smart thing.  He put his rifle down, and put his hands up.

Lance picked up Mike’s rifle.  He pointed it at Bill, then at the apartment door.  “Go,” he suggested.

Bill nodded quickly, and dashed out the door.  Lance took the clip from Bill’s rifle and stuffed it into a pocket.  He didn’t have a plan, but he had a feeling he’d need extra ammo for whatever happened next.

Lovely Angel-Pocalypse 08

Lance ran, and never looked back.   He soon let the weirdly convenient stairs slip from his mind, and stopped thinking about the two Blighters he’d laid out.  Lance cut across the roofs, and managed to startle a few farmers on the pass by before he was clear of Night Post 28.  It was only after he was clear of the crowds that Lance climbed back to the road.

As Lance headed towards the place he’d seen Kei last, He reviewed the story he’d told Sarah over again in his mind.  Lance cringed.  He might as well have drawn Sarah a map.  Worse; he’d given her plenty of a head start.  Lance expected her to have beaten him to where he’d seen Kei.  He expected the area to be lousy with Blighters, and was surprised when he found the streets abandoned.

Abandoned and a bit more ruined than normal.  All the streets of the city were in disrepair of course, but this was beyond the usual.  The asphalt street was torn and buckled, in some points exposing the cement sewer tunnels.  Muddy puddles had formed in the pocks along the shredded road.  Most of the thorned bushes Kei had protected Lance with had fallen, leaving only dead branches in the streets.  Lance tried to pick one up, but it crumbled like cigarette ash in his hands.  Lance walked a bit up the road.  There was a perfect circle of unbroken road under the spot Kei had stood when she’d battled the Shadows.

Lance stood in the middle, and mimed Kei’s actions.  He spun, and pointed where she’d fired her ‘Spinning Steel Slash’.  Not only had it cut through the Shadows that night, but it had sliced clean through a row of old street poles, and cut deep into the wall of a building a block up.  He twisted back, and pointed an imaginary staff at the ground.  ‘Mother Earth’s Fury’ was what had torn up the asphalt for three blocks straight.  Lance pointed his hand palm out, finishing what he’d seen with the ‘Neptune’s Trident’.  He hadn’t even seen what she’d done to grow all the trees.

Lance shook his head.  It was hard to believe that all of this had only just happened last night.  He found his thoughts straying to Sarah again, and tried to move away from them.  Lance looked the damage over, and remembered how blasé Kei had been about the whole fight.  To have this much power, only to seem bored by it?  Sarah was right about one thing; Kei was dangerous.

“It doesn’t matter,” Lance said aloud.  “She saved my life.  The least I can do is warn her.”  This was a lie.  The least Lance could do was nothing, and he could almost hear Sarah tell him as much.  Smarter to just get away from the whole mess.  Away from Sarah and away from Kei.  Lance knew he couldn’t though.  Besides that, Lance wasn’t known for doing the smart thing.

Warning Kei meant finding her first of course.  Lance took in his surroundings, searching for a clue of where she might be.  There was always the possibility that Kei had simply been passing through, just as Lance had been.  Lance doubted this though.  He was certain that Kei would live out in the ruins somewhere.

Lance had been to most of the Night Posts in the area.  He did more than just tell stories; he listened to them as well.  Lance liked to be up to date with news in the area.  He felt pretty certain that if a white haired girl with a wing sprouting out of her back had come to a Night Post, he’d have heard something of it.  This meant that Kei lived in the ruins somewhere, and it was likely she’d stay close to her home; especially at night.

Lance wasn’t a detective; he’d never even heard the term used before.  However, he’d spent years running the ruins, and had trained his senses to be sharp.  Sometimes, being able to recognize when something was out of place could be the difference between life and death.  Lance was good at seeing what was off about an area; which was why he was still alive.  He turned slowly in the circle, and took in everything.  He began with the obvious.

The building Kei had jumped from looked even taller in the light of day.  Easily seven floors; all of them rotting away if the outer condition was to be believed.  Lance considered trying to make his way to the top, but decided against it.  There’d be little to see anyways.  There was almost no chance there was anything alive in the large dilapidated building.

The building beside was a more likely suspect.  It was a sturdy built brownstone, only a couple stories tall.  The door was long gone, as were any of the windows.  What caught Lance’s attention was the windows on the second floor.  Several of them had been boarded up; recently by the looks of them.  Someone had taken the time to secure the area, and therefore someone had stayed there recently.  Lance nodded once, and went in.

Finding the apartment on the second floor wasn’t that difficult; it was the only one with a door.  The apartment was small, but open.  Battery powered lanterns hung from the walls and littered the floors.  There was a chair, and a mattress on the floor in the middle of the room.  Beyond that, all the furniture had been dragged out and dumped in the hall.  Girl’s clothing was scattered about the floor with little order.  The mattress had a floral printed blanket, and a small army of stuffed animals.

Lance picked up a black plush cat that looked very loved.  He furrowed his brow at it, and at the rest of the toys.  This didn’t feel like the room of a super-powered angel magical girl.  It felt like the room of an ordinary girl who perhaps just liked her privacy.  He wasn’t sure what he’d expected Kei’s room to be like, but this wasn’t it.

Lance heard the floor board creak behind him, and took stance immediately.  He got an arm up just in time to block the lead pipe being swung at his head by an unseen assailant.  Lance followed through with his off hand, swinging a solid uppercut.  By the time he saw that his target was a girl half his size, he’d already hit her.  Hard.

The girl was slight, with long blonde hair pulled into a ponytail that stuck out the top of her head.  She hid herself under an oversized thick sweater, and wore pants twice her size.  Her pipe weapon skittered across the floor as she flew backwards.

The girl bounced as she hit the floor.  She pushed herself into a corner, and used the wall to get back to her feet.  Tears of pain formed in her eyes, and her chin was already showing signs of what was going to be serious bruising.  Still, she put her hands up in a clumsy fighting stance.

“Oh jeez,” Lance stated.  “I’m sorry!”  He put his hands up, and tried to look non threatening.  “You attacked me,” he tried feebly.

“You’re in my house!” The girl retorted.  She held her jaw, and scowled at Lance.  “Get out!” she demanded.  “There’s nothing to steal here!  Get out!”

Lance held his hands up.  “I’m sorry,” he insisted.  “I’m not here to steal anything.  I’m just looking for someone.  Someone else.”  Lance backed towards the door.  “I’m sorry, really.  I’ll just…I’ll just go.”

The girl stared defiantly at Lance.  “You?”  There was a flash of surprise in her eyes, but only for a second.  “Who are you looking for?”  the scowl returned to her features.  “No one else lives here.  Just me.”  She scrambled to grab her pipe weapon, and held it between her and Lance.

“I’m not going to…” Lance was going to say ‘hurt you’, but he recognized that it was a bit late for that.  “I’m looking for a girl with wings.”  He took a deep breath.  “That sounds crazy, right?  I just thought that she was here.”  Lance backed again towards the door.  “I’m really sorry.”

The girl watched Lance cautiously.  “She’s not here,” the girl commented as Lance tried to go.  “The girl with wings, right?  That’s who you’re looking for?”  The girl smiled at Lance’s look of surprise, and quickly rubbed her jaw with a moan of pain.  “She’s not here.”

“But you know her?” Lance asked.  “She’s in trouble.  If you know her, please.  I have to find her.  I need to find her before Sarah does.”

“Sarah?”  The girl looked suddenly terrified.  “Sarah Mizumi?”   She looked about, as if expecting Sarah to be in the room.  “Why is she looking for me now?  Does she know I’m here?”

Lance blinked at the girl.  “You?”

“Me,” the girl replied.  “I’m…”

The girl’s words were lost as the door to the apartment exploded inward.  Two Blight-Men; Mike and Bill, charged in, rifles readied.  Sarah stepped in behind them.

“Lance,” Sarah acknowledged.  She motioned for him to come to her.  “Step away from the fugitive Lance.  Please.”

Lance didn’t move.  In all fairness, he was a bit confused about what was happening.  He looked at the girl beside him.

“You should probably step aside,” the girl agreed.  “Sarah’s here for me.  I’m Kai.”

Lovely Angel-Pocalypse 07

Bill was new to the Blight-Men.  He enjoyed having a gun, and he liked the power the position gave him over the folks around the ruins.  Being a Blight-Man simply came with certain perks, and Bill liked all of them.  As he followed Mike into the ruins of an old bank, he found those perks slipping from his mind.  “Are you sure he went in here?”

“I’m sure.”  Mike had his gun out.  He always did.  Mike was a veteran Blighter, and not too pleased to be saddled with Rookie Bill.  “You scared boy?” he chastised.  “It’s too bright in here for Shadows.”

Bill looked around.  The old bank was a large space of broken marble and square pillars.  Their steps echoed as they walked, and Bill honestly thought there was plenty of darkness here for Shadows.  He stuck close to Mike, without making it obvious he was sticking close to Mike.

When he was younger, Bill had always thought the Shadows worked with the Blight-Men.  Both worked for Emperor Blight after all, it sort of made sense.  Now part of the Blighters, Bill had found out that he wasn’t any safer from the Shadows than he’d been before.  Well, except for the owning a gun part.  Bill turned and twisted, trying to keep all the room in sight at once.

Mike laughed at Bill’s nervousness, and checked his gun again.  Bill thought on it a second.  “If you aren’t worried about Shadows,” he questioned, “why do you have your gun out.”

“Just ‘cause I ain’t worried about Shadows don’t mean I’m not prepared for them.  Always be ready,” Mike replied.  “It’ll keep you alive.”  Mike chuckled.  “Besides, I’m tired of chasing Mizumi’s little friend.  Next time I draw a bead on him…” Mike mimed shooting his rifle.

Elite Officer Mizumi doesn’t want him dead,” Bill reminded Mike.  “He has information.”

“That’s why I’m going to shoot his legs,” Mike replied with a smirk.  “He’ll be able to talk just fine.”

Bill kept an eye to the shadows.  “I’m pretty sure that’s not what Elite Officer Mizumi meant.  She said unharmed.”

“Or I answer to the Emperor,” Mike agreed.  “I’m pretty sure the Emperor isn’t going to be too upset if I shoot Mizumi’s boyfriend.”  He smiled at Bill.  “We get our boy to tell us where to find this Kei person, without all the girly whining and begging, the Emperor might even reward me.”  Mike slapped Bill on the back.  “Stick with me kid, you’ll go far.”

Bill nodded.  He’d be happy to just get out of the bank and back to the streets.  He pointed past Mike to the exit beyond.  The door was invitingly open.  “Pretty sure he went that way,” Bill said hopefully.

“Figure that one out yourself Bill?”  Mike laughed.  “Course he went that way, it’s the only exit.  Between you and me though, he ain’t getting far.”

Mike continued walking.  He waved his gun causally at the door.  “Beyond that’s a small courtyard, but it’s completely blocked off.  Building collapsed God knows how long ago; blocked it all off completely.”

Mike aimed at the doorway.  “Right about now, he’s either getting ready to run back in here, or he’s wetting himself near the rubble.  Either way…” Mike mimed recoil and made a pew noise.

Bill answered with a small yelp.  “God dammit Kid,” Mike growled.  “It’s just your imagination.  There’s no Shadows in here.  There’s nothing to be worried about.”  He turned around to face Bill, only to find the rookie laid out on the floor.  Lance smiled at Mike.

“What can I tell you?” Lance commented with a shrug.  “It wasn’t his imagination.”

“You son of a bitch!”  Mike spun his rifle around, swinging high.

Lance blocked the rifle barrel with his arm, and knocked it upward.  Bullets tore into the ceiling, and rained plaster dust down on him and Mike.  “Aiming pretty high for my legs,” Lance snarked.  He slammed his palm hard into Mike’s chest, sending the Blighter stumbling backwards.  Mike’s rifle clattered off into the bank.

Mike gasped for breath as he staggered back to his feet.  “You stupid bastard,” he wheezed.  “You can’t hit me; I’m a Blight-Man!”

“Who isn’t these days?” Lance replied bitterly.  He slammed a forward kick into Mike’s stomach.  Lance grabbed the large man by the hair before he could fall, and smashed the Blighter’s face into his knee.  Mike’s nose burst with a  pop.  He grunted, and went limp.

Lance stood over the two downed Blighters.  He’d never hit a Blight-Man before, but he was pretty sure he couldn’t be in any more trouble than he was in right now.  He looked back to the main entrance to the bank ruins, and considered just running.  He was going to need to double back if he was going to find Kei before Sarah did.

He looked down at the two men, and then around the bank again.  The sun was moving up the sky, and soon most of this building would be in darkness.  If he left them here, the Shadows would most certainly find them.  Lance shook his head.  He couldn’t leave them to just die.  He grabbed each man by an arm, and dragged them out of the bank.

May crouched in the rubble that surrounded the bank’s courtyard.  She held her hands to the ground, and stayed out of sight.  May tilted her head slightly as she watched Lance.  Most people would have just left the Blight-Men behind.  The Blight-Men certainly would have left Lance in the ruins; probably after stealing his boots.

May shifted her fingers through the dirt.  Lance wouldn’t see her; she was too well hidden.  In true fact May couldn’t see Lance either from her cover.  Not conventionally at least.  Unconventionally, May could see anyone touching the ground.  Well, evidently anyone but Kei, but that was another thing.

May watched as Lance checked the men’s pulses, and made sure they were laid out straight on  their backs.  “Wow,” she whispered to herself.  “He really is a nice guy.”  She could see why Sarah liked him.

Still, it was important that he go and find Kei.  If he didn’t, than Sarah wouldn’t find her either.  Finding Kei, and stopping her, was possibly the most important thing in the world, though all of the Elite might argue on the why.  Either way, Lance wasn’t going to find her if he was stuck in a dead end.

May pressed her fingers against the ground.  It rippled beneath her touch like water.  “Just a few changes to the landscape,” she muttered.  “Something subtle to help him out.  That’s all.”

Lance dragged the men to the absolute center of the courtyard.  It would be hours before they’d lose the sun there.  He’d shouldered Bill’s rifle, while leaving Mike’s lost in the old bank ruins.  Lance sighed.  He didn’t know if these were the only Blight-Men chasing him, but so far he’d been lucky that only these two had found him.  He needed to go back the way he’d come if he was going to find the place he’d seen Kei.  But he couldn’t just run back down the street; there were more Blighters out there, possibly looking for him.

And then there was Sarah.  Sarah was a Blight-Man.  Lance tried to shake the thought out of his head, but he couldn’t.  Sarah was a Blight-Man, and she most certainly would be looking for him.  Not that he’d be hard to find right now;  Mike was right after all, this was a dead end.

The ground shook, and a large section of the collapsed building’s face broke free.  Lance leapt back, but the debris came nowhere near him.  As the dust settled, Lance got to take a good look at the damage.  Deep in the damaged building, a mix of broken floors and concrete steps formed an almost perfect stairway over the fallen building blockage.  A section of the wall that hadn’t broken loose formed a rough arrow pointing to the stairs.

Lance stared at the makeshift stairs for a good little while.  It was far too convenient.  It felt like a trap; only Lance couldn’t imagine what the point would be.  If nothing else, he was already trapped before the stairs appeared.  Also, Lance couldn’t imagine how  a stairway would just appear, much less how it would appear as a trap for him.  Lance backed up a step, and took a run at the stairs.  He didn’t like them, and he didn’t trust them, but really the clock was ticking, and he didn’t have another way out.

May risked a look from her hidey hole.  She giggled into the back of her hand as she watched Lance run up the stairs.  May, in her mind, was the master of subtlety.  She smiled at her work.  Lance would go up the stairs, cut past the crowds, and find Kei.  Then Sarah would find Lance.  Then?  May wasn’t sure of the final then, but it must be good.

May’s smile darkened.  She brought her hands back to the ground.  “Or,” she stated as she watched Lance run, “I could close the buildings in on you and crush you, Mister Nice Guy.”  She could feel the ground ripple and bend under her control.  It would be so easy.

May pulled her hands up as though the ground was red hot.  “No, no more bad thoughts,” she insisted, banging her fists against the sides of her head.  “He needs to find Kei.  He can’t do that if I kill him.”

When May dared to look up again, Lance was long gone.  She hopped lightly into the courtyard, and clapped her hands.  The stairs, and the buildings attached disintegrated into dust.

“There,” she chastised herself.  “I’m sure not killing Mister Nice Guy is best for everyone.”  May smiled wickedly down at the unconscious Blight-Men.  “Now.  What to do with you two?”

Lovely Angel-Pocalypse 06

Sarah and Lance were some of the last out of the Night Post.  Only John, his doorman, and a handful of cleaners stayed behind.  Staying in a Night Post during the day was frowned upon.  There wasn’t a rule against it, but people simply didn’t do it.  Besides, safety or not, most folks felt trapped in the Night Posts, and were happy to get out during the day.

The streets around the Night Post felt packed.  The vendors had set up already, and were yelling their wares to passing folk.  Roof farmers climbed ladders to check on their crops.  The gang kids were out on their pedal bikes, laughing and pushing through the crowds.  Clinics helped the sick from large white tents while chop shops offered cheap cybers from dingy grey ones.  Folks mingled and milled and went about their day.  In the day it felt like the city came alive again.

It was an illusion though.  A few blocks past the Night Post, the crowd would thin to only a few people  After that, the streets would be empty.  No one strayed far from the Night Post.  More, the buildings around were also empty.  There were enough dark spaces inside the ruins for Shadows to still be a threat.  The streets felt crowded because that was where everyone was.

Lance traded a pair of good boots for two bowls of thin cabbage soup, and a small loaf of spent grain bread.  Sarah frowned slightly as they sat on an abandoned stairway to eat.

“I could have gotten these,” Sarah said, taking one of the bowls from Lance.

“I know,” Lance said.  “But there’s a fine line between being thankful, and being a mooch.  You got our drinks last night, a room to sleep in, a bed…”  Lance shrugged.  “The least I could do was get breakfast.”

“Technically, the least you could have done is nothing,” Sarah corrected.  She bumped shoulders with Lance.  “Thank you for breakfast,” she said.

Lance nodded.  He tried to mumble a response through a mouthful of bread, but gave up when Sarah playfully swatted him.  It was a beautiful day out, with a clear sky and a warm breeze.  Having Sarah by his side certainly didn’t hurt the day in any way, and yet, Lance felt something was amiss.  He looked about carefully

It took him a second, but Lance noticed that the crowd seemed edgy.  It wasn’t a big surprise; there were several groups of Blight-Men wandering the streets.  The Blight-Men was Emperor Blight’s personal army, and they were tasked with keeping the peace amongst the folks during the day.  They didn’t stay in the Night Posts often, and normally only a few of them were seen here and there.  Lance had counted at least five pairs already.

“Lot of Blighters out,” Lance mentioned.  “I wonder if this is because of last night?”

“It is,” Sarah agreed.  She ran a hand through her hair.  “Lance, I think I should tell you now…”

Lance put his hand up, stopping Sarah mid sentence.  One of the gang kids had nodded to a pair of Blight-Men, and pointed right at Lance.  Lance recognized her as the girl with the bad cyber eye.  She subtly motioned for Lance to get moving, even as she received a pair of ciggies for payment from the Blight-Man.

Lance nodded once towards the girl.  He stood up, and gently took Sarah’s hand.  “We should go,” he suggested.  He watched as the two Blighters pushed through the crowd, stomping in their direction.  Lance pulled Sarah, and began a steady walk away from the incoming Blight-Men.  “We should go now.”

“Hey!” One of the Blighters yelled at Lance.  “Hey you!  You two; stop right now!”

Lance inhaled sharply as he heard the Blight-men cocking their rifles behind him.  Alone, he might be able to run, but he wasn’t alone.  Lance put his hands up.  His heart was racing, but he still managed a smile for Sarah.

“It’s Ok,” Lance whispered.  “We haven’t done anything wrong.  They probably just want to know about the girl from last night.” He turned and smiled casually.  He tried to be subtle as he shifted himself between Sarah and the advancing men.

“They do,” Sarah agreed sadly.  She  turned as well, and stepped purposely in front of Lance.  The two Blighters nearly tripped in their attempt to back pedal as they saw her.  They stowed their rifles, and shot to an immediate attention.

Sarah gave an apologetic smile over her shoulder to Lance.  “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” she told him.  “I wanted to.”

Lance stared confusion at the scene.  Both Blight-Men were saluting Sarah.  Sarah sighed, and saluted back.  Lance looked from the men to Sarah, then back to the men.  It took him a moment.  “Oh,” he said, putting it all together.

“Yeah,” Sarah agreed.  “Oh,”  She grabbed a hold of Lance’s hand before he could rabbit.  The action looked gentle, but Sarah had an iron grip.  “C’mon Lance.  Please don’t be like that.”

“I didn’t know you were a Blighter,” Lance replied under his breath.   He thought of how the men had reacted.  “Some sort of Blight-officer,” he corrected.

Sarah bit her lip.  “Actually,” she started.

“That is Elite officer Mizumi you are talking to,” one of the troops growled at Lance.  “you will show proper respect!”

Lance inhaled sharply at the revelation.  The Elite answered directly to Emperor Blight.  There were only four, if stories were to be believed, and they were all monsters.

Sarah stared daggers at the Blight-Man.  “Yeah, thanks,” she muttered before turning an awkward smile to Lance.  Sarah took a deep breath, and squeezed his hand.  “This doesn’t have to change anything,” Sarah promised.  “We just need you to show us where you saw Kei.”  Sarah gave Lance a pleading look.  “You were going to show me anyways,” She reminded him.

“Kei,” Lance repeated.  “She never told me her name.”

“Which is typical of her,” Sarah sniped.  “You don’t know her, Lance.”

“I don’t know you,” Lance retorted.  “You lied to me.  I thought you and me…” he shook his head.  “All you wanted was for me to lead you to Kei.”

“No,” Sarah started.  “Yes.  At first.”  Sarah made a frustrated sound.  “I wanted you to tell me where to find Kei, and that was it at first.”  She shrugged.  “But you told me that, and then, after a while, I just wanted to spend more time with you.”

“Well,”  Lance replied sarcastically.  “Thanks?”

“Please Lance,” Sarah continued.  “I know what you think, but Kei is dangerous, and we need to find her.  Lance, please, just show me.”  Sarah smiled hopefully.  “Just do that for me.  Just show me and then me and you can get in my truck and drive away from all of this.”

Lance nodded slowly.  He opened his mouth to speak, but was silenced by surprise as he looked over Sarah’s shoulder.  Lance smiled.  “It looks like you won’t need me to lead you to her,” he stated.

The Blighters swung their rifles up and around to match Lance’s gaze.  Even Sarah chanced a look; which was just enough of a distraction for Lance.  He open palm jabbed Sarah under her arm, and forced her to let go of his hand.  She cried out in pain, and turned on Lance, but he was already dashing away.

“That was totally fair,” he yelled over his shoulder as he ran.

Sarah put a hand up to keep her men from firing at Lance.  She ran a hand through her hair, and shook her head.  “I can’t believe I just fell for that,” she admitted finally.

“What are your orders ma’am?” one of the men asked.

“Follow him, and bring him back,” Sarah commanded.

“Alive?” The one Blight-Man asked.

Sarah watched as he fingered the trigger of his gun a bit too fondly, and stared at him with distaste.  “yes, alive,” she clarified.  “He has information on an extremely dangerous fugitive.  If he is harmed, you’ll be explaining it to the Emperor personally.  Do you understand?”

The troop’s eyes widened in fear.  “Yes ma’am,” he assured her as he and his partner turned to give chase.

Sarah watched the two Blight-Men give chase.  She sighed, and drooped at the shoulders.  “I was going to show him my truck,” she said to herself with a forced chuckle.  She felt like she’d been punched in the stomach.  Sarah leant against a wall, covered her mouth, and closed her eyes.

“Are you alright?” a sing-song voice asked from beside Sarah.  “You’re not going to cry are you?”

“Of course not May,” Sarah replied irritably.  She rubbed her eyes quickly before turning to face the girl.  “How much did you hear?”

May smiled her eternally optimistic smile at Sarah.  She was a good head shorter than most people, with light copper hair that stood in direct contrast to her darkly tanned skin.  Unlike Sarah, May was in uniform; a grey military suit with a brown ribbon bowed across her chest.

“I heard about the truck,” May replied.  “I heard you tell the men not to hurt your friend.”

“I don’t think he’s my friend,” Sarah replied bitterly.

May didn’t reply to this.  She knelt down, and pressed her fingers against the road.  Dust rose from the pavement, and swirled around the small girl.

“Your friend is very fast,” May said with her eyes closed.  “The two men you sent after him are trying to keep up, but they can’t.”

Sarah knelt down beside May.  “Lance is a Runner,” she explained.  “Those two can’t catch him.”

“Lance.”  May smiled up at Sarah.  “What a nice name.”  May tilted her head quizzically.  “If you knew they couldn’t catch him, why make them chase him?”

“Because Lance is a nice guy,” Sarah replied.  She chuckled.  “I sent those two to keep him moving.  He knows that we’re hunting Kei, and now he knows we’re hunting him.  Anyone smart would just keep running, but Lance won’t.  Nice guys always do the stupidest things.”

“You think he’ll try to find Kei?  He’ll try to warn her?”  May whistled.  “That is a nice guy.”  She smiled slyly at Sarah.  “Is that why you like him?”

“My feelings have nothing to do with this,” Sarah replied sharply.  “Just tell me what way he goes once he loses the idiots.”

“Kay,” May replied with a shrug.  “You want me to contact the others?”

Sarah shook her head.  “I’ve got this,” she assured May.  “Just point me in the right direction.”

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