paulmundane

General and somewhat random story things

Khell 03

By the next morning, Khell had convinced herself that Old Snapper had been a figment of her imagination.  A heck of a convincing figment, but a figment nonetheless.  She woke in the library again, and though the sleepwalking left her concerned, Khell refused to dwell on it. It was likely just part of the stress of a major move, she decided. By tonight, her room would be set up, she’d be sleeping in her own familiar bed, and that would be the end of waking up in the library.

Dad was in the living room, building forts out of the boxes in an attempt to sort them. He’d cleared enough space to hook up the television, because essentials are essential.  Khell poured herself a bowl of cereal, and had no trouble convincing her dad that a short cartoon break would make the rest of the work easier to bear.  It was Saturday after all.

After a couple hours of ponies and super heroes, Khell and her dad began the heavy lifting.  More, Khell’s dad heavy lifted, while Khell did some moderate lifting, and pointed out where all the heavy stuff should go. The movers had done a pretty good job of putting boxes in the rooms they belonged in, but there were always some mistakes.

Spread out, Khell and her father’s boxes and furniture were pretty sparse. This wasn’t that surprising, as they’d moved from a small two bedroom apartment to a huge two-story old house. Still, having their stuff in, even if most of it was still packed, made the house feel a little more like home. It smelt more like home, if nothing else.

By lunch, Khell and her dad had lost much of the little steam they’d had. They idly rifled through boxes, and sorted random knick knacks into random drawers. Dad finally went to set up his new office, while Khell went to sort her own stuff in her room.

Khell didn’t really have that much to unpack. Mostly, she owned clothes and books, with a few of her old toys scattered in as decoration. Instead, she spent much of the afternoon shoving furniture back and forth, trying to find the perfect set up. When she was interrupted by a soft knock on her door, she’d expected her dad to tell her it was dinner.  Instead, she was mildly surprised to see Ana standing in the doorway.

“Your dad let me in,” Ana explained, inviting herself into Khell’s room. “He said you’d be up here, unpacking and stuff.  You want some help?”

“I’m mostly just shoving things,” Khell admitted. “There’s not much to do really.”

“Are you going to paint in here?” Ana asked, looking around the room. “I could help.  I painted my room recently.”

“No,” Khell replied. Khell would have liked to paint her room, but she had doubts that her dad would let her just because. “It’s ok the way it is.”

“You sure? Now’s the time to do it; before you finish unpacking.” Ana smiled. “I’ve still got half of bucket of red; it might do one wall at least.”

“You did your room red?” Khell couldn’t hide her surprise. “Like dark red?” Dark colours were a pretty big on the not allowed list. They were not allowed in apartments at least.

“More of a fire engine red,” Ana corrected. “Red with a black trim.” She flicked her bangs. “I’ve got sort of a motif going on.”

“It must be nice,” Khell replied; a little bitterly. “I’m pretty sure my dad wouldn’t let me dye my hair.”

“Yeah well, my grandpa didn’t really let me,” Ana said. “I just did it, and he grew used to it. I mean, it’s just hair, right?” Ana sat down heavily on Khell’s bed.  She idly wiggled her big toe; sticking out of a hole in her striped socks. “I figure he was more worried ‘bout what folks would think,” she continued. “I figure folks can’t think worse, so why not have my hair the way I want, right?” Ana saw the confusion in Khell’s eyes, and answered before she could ask. “I’m trouble. Ask anyone in town.” She struck up a pretty good yokel accent, and snapped a pair of imaginary suspenders. “That Ana Hickory; she ain’t nutin’ but a bad egg.”

“But why?” Khell pressed. “What’d you do?”

Ana shrugged.  “Nothing.” She admitted. “Not yet at least.”

“But that’s not fair,” Khell insisted. “If you didn’t do anything wrong…”

Ana rolled her eyes. “Welcome to small town living Khell,” she declared. “Everybody knows everybody; and everybody knows everybody’s business.” Ana paused a moment. “If your parents messed up somehow, everyone would just expect you to do the same, right? Well my folks messed up bad; bad enough for me to live with my grandpa. People talk.”

“Oh,” Khell replied. She wasn’t really sure what else to say.

“It could be worse,” Ana assured Khell. “At least I’m not going to spend the next few years being called the new girl.”

Khell made a face.  “Is that what I’ve got to look forward to?” She frowned as Ana nodded.  “Great.”

“Hey, the offer’s still on the table,” Ana reminded her. “If you want to, you can come with me when I move to the city.”

Ana didn’t wait for an answer.  She stood up, and stretched cat like. Ana pointed at a stack of boxes in the corner near the door. “So, do you want some help with those,” she asked. “Or are they some sort of secret boxes?”

“Nothing secret,” Khell replied. She gently prodded the pile of boxes with her toe. “It’s just books,” she explained  “I can’t decide if I should set up my shelves, or if I should put them all in the library.”

Ana’s eyes lit up. “You have a library?” Her tone was almost too eager.

“You didn’t see it?” Khell replied slyly. “I mean, you must have passed it in the hall.”

Ana made a show of avoiding eye contact. “Yeah, I saw it,” she admitted finally. “I didn’t go in yet. I mean, I figured you’d want to show it off.” Ana tugged on the edge of her arm warmer. “I’d want to show off if I had a library to tell you the truth.”

Khell smiled. It was nice to find someone else excited about books. “I haven’t really looked over all the books,” she admitted. “I’ve just been obsessing with this one.  It’s got some intricate lock on the front, but it’s…”

Ana waved her hands. “Don’t tell me,” she insisted. Her face beamed with excitement. “Show me.”

Khell led Ana to the library, and straight to the strange book. Ana went right to playing with the rings on the cover.  She chewed on her lower lip as she shifted them about the page, and seemed only slightly surprised when they refused to leave the front of the book.

“It’s like one of those magician tricks,” Ana said after playing with the rings for awhile.  “Like; the rings are linked, and you think they can’t be pulled apart? And then someone waves a hand over them and voila!” Ana gave the rings a bit of a different tug, and opened her hands in a full ‘ta-da’.  The rings, however, stayed together.   Ana frowned.  “You just need to figure out the trick is all,” she insisted.

Khell watched as the rings slid back into place as soon as Ana let go of them. “They keep doing that,” Khell commented. “They keep going back to their starting position.  I wonder how they’re doing that?”

“Magnets Maybe?” Ana guessed. She shook her head almost immediately. “They don’t move right for magnets.  It’s more like they just know where they belong.”

“What, like magic?”

“Hey, we got attacked by a giant ghost turtle yesterday,” Ana reminded Khell.  “I’m not ruling out anything.”

“No; I guess not.” Khell watched Ana worked the rings. She hadn’t wanted to admit, but Khell had been mentally calling it a magic book since she’d found it. Khell was happy to find someone who evidently didn’t consider that to be crazy. “Do you think you can open it?”

“Maybe,” Ana replied.  “I got a thing for puzzles,” she added. “Bit of a weird obsession I picked up as a kid.  I figured it as a skill I’d need; in case I ever had to open or close a puzzle box super fast.” Ana looked expectantly at Khell, and was disappointed by the lack of response.  “You and me watch very different movies,” she muttered.

Ana pushed and pulled at the rings, finding that there were set ways that they were willing to move. She nodded towards the book in the end; not having opened it, but at least having catalogued the rings, and the movements they were willing to do.

“Ok,” Ana explained with a flourished wave. “There’s four major rings, and then twenty minor rings.  Five little rings in each bigger one. The little rings will move about, but only inside whichever major ring they’re in.  The major rings move about, but only until they’re blocked by a minor ring.  Everything goes back to their starting points if you let go of them.”

“Ok,” Khell said. She pulled five of the lower rings along the cover, finding it easier to do by hooking them one to each finger of her hand. They put up a bit of resistance, like she was pulling them across water. They made a small click as they met the edge of their major circle, and buzzed slightly. “It feels like they’re spinning,” Khell commented. “It’s sorta weird feeling.”

“Don’t let go of them,” Ana pleaded.  She tilted her head, and smirked at the book.  “I think you’ve got it.”

“I do?”

Ana didn’t answer right away.  She mimicked Khell’s hold of the minor circles, but in and upper corner.  This time, as Ana wrangled the smaller circles under her fingers, the click was more audible.  There was a quiet humming coming from the circles now, and the ones under Khell’s hand were vibrating.

Ana smiled triumphantly.  “See,” she explained. “We’ve got to move all the circles at once; that’s why I couldn’t get it.  No one person ever could; it’s a four hand job.” She put her fingers in the other circles on her side, and clicked them into place.  The book buzzed angrily. Ana looked expectantly at Khell.

Khell frowned at the book; her hand hovering over the last of the circles. She wanted to know what was in the book, and she wanted to solve the puzzle. Still, there was a very cautious voice in her head reminding her that books don’t have magic circle locks.  Books don’t vibrate like ignored cell phones. In the end, curiosity defeated caution.  Khell pulled the small circles under her finger tips, and clicked them into position.

Together, the girls slowly slid the four major rings apart.  Unlike before, they didn’t slide back into position along the front of the book.  Instead, the rings shot free of the book.  The small rings ran up the girl’s fingers like rings, and the larger rings flew up their arms; hula-hooping on their wrists like eighties bangles. The band that ran the width of the book sprang open, and slapped on the table with a heavy thud.

There was a moment of ominous silence before the book split open.  Its pages flipped madly, and light shone from the center of the book. It was so bright that it hurt Khell’s eyes, but she couldn’t look away.  The sound of the turning pages reminded Khell of bird’s wings, and deep beneath that, she swore she could hear chanting. Khell strained to hear the words, even as she strained to see the pages flipping past.

Even over the light, and the chanting, and the self turning pages, one thing stood out as particularly strange to Khell.  All the pages that fluttered past were empty.  There was no weird scribbles or strange pictures. There were no spells, and no arcane scripture.  In fact, the book had nothing at all.

“Blank?” Khell commented after the book was finished its light show. “Who’d go to that much trouble to seal up a blank book?”

Khell looked up to Ana, searching for an answer, but Ana wasn’t there.  The library wasn’t there either; at least, Khell’s library wasn’t there.  Instead, Khell was standing alone in a vast room of stone pillars and huge bookshelves.  The room seemed to go on forever in all directions. Khell looked back to the book in a panic, but both it and the table it had been on had vanished.

Everything was gone, and Khell was alone.

Yeah…

Today’s post will be up tomorow.  It needs some buffering, and being Valentines, I have a choice between fixing up some prose, or hanging with my wife.

 

I make my choices, I stand by them.

Khell 02

Originally, Khell and her dad had planned to sleep on inflatable mattresses in what would be their new bedrooms.  After some exploration though, it proved to be less of a great idea.  The entirety of the old house hadn’t been lived in for the past few years, and needed a good sweep at the very least. In the end, dad and Khell set up camp in the basement, near the fireplace.

Though Khell would never admit it, she was happy that they’d ended up sleeping in the basement.  Without her own bed and her own stuff, her new room was just another strange place in a strange house.  Khell wasn’t sure she was willing to sleep there alone just yet.

Not that Khell was getting any sleep here in the basement.  It was far quieter in the country than it had been back home.  There were no cars; no people walking around outside.  There wasn’t a neighbour’s radio playing, or even neighbours for that matter. Instead, Khell lay on her inflated mat listening to the sound of the wind, and the crackle of the fire.  There were various creaks and groans as the house settled, and somewhere upstairs, there was a dripping faucet.  Khell had never known quiet could be so loud. It was when dad started snoring that Khell accepted that she wasn’t getting to sleep any time soon.

Khell snuck out from beneath her covers, and crept up the stairs to the main of the house. She’d expected the old house to seem creepy at night, and was amazed at how bright the rest of the house was in comparison to the basement.  Even without the lights on, the night stars shone through the many windows, and lit the house adequately.

Systematically, Khell tracked down each noise she could hear.  She found the dripping faucet in the second floor bathroom that she didn’t know existed till now.  She found a part of the window plastic was loose, and flapping in the wind; though there was nothing she could do about it right now.  There was, in fact, little that Khell could do about most of the noises the house made; she hoped that just finding them would let her sleep though.  Rattling vents, loose floorboards, squeaky window panes; Khell catalogued them all.

In the end, Khell found herself standing in the middle of the library.  She’d been certain that she’d felt a breeze come from the otherwise cozy room, but after checking the large round window, she’d found none.   She could still hear the wind in the library, but it didn’t seem to be coming from outside.  Khell did a few circles, and came to the conclusion that the draft was coming from near the central table.  She checked the ceiling, and she checked the vent in the floor, but neither seemed to be the culprit.

Khell shook her head.  The breeze was stronger now, and carried the crisp smell of winter.  It seemed to be coming from the center of the table, but there was nothing there but the book she’d found earlier.  Absently, Khell picked it up, and played a bit with the moving circles on the cover.  She ran her hand along the edges of the pages, and nearly dropped the book in surprise.  The breeze was coming from inside the book, as was a slight whispering sound.

“That’s not possible,” Khell told absolutely no one. She tried the latch again, but it still held the book tightly shut.  Khell felt the edges, and still there was a breeze.  Deep inside the book, the wind whispered sounds that nearly made words.  Khell stared at the book a long time before finally holding it to her ear.

“Khell,” the book whispered.

Khell awoke with a start, and looked about.  She was sitting in a large leather chair in the library; and from the ache of her back, she could guess that she’d been sleeping in the chair for hours.  The book was on her lap when Khell looked down; and was still sealed shut. There was no wind escaping its binding, and there was no whispering.

Khell put the book back on the table, sure that she’d just dreamt the whole thing.  After all, books didn’t have their own weather; and books didn’t whisper your name. She tucked the last of the night to the back of her mind, and went to find her dad.  She could hear dishes and movement in the kitchen, and was certain he was there preparing breakfast.

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” Khell demanded as she stormed into the kitchen. “I was sleeping in the library.  I mean…” The rest of Khell’s complaints dried in her throat as she looked around.

Khell’s dad wasn’t in the kitchen. Instead, sitting at the table, was a girl about Khell’s age.  Her hair was coal black with fire engine red tips; the same colors as most of her clothes. She wore old striped socks of the same black and red, and had transformed a second pair of striped socks into arm warmers.  The girl smiled at Khell’s confusion, and ate a bowl of cereal.

“Your dad’s outside,” the girl offered finally.  “My grandpa’s digging you folks out.”

“Oh,” Khell replied quietly. She wasn’t sure what else to say.

“I’m Ana,” the girl added. “I guess I probably should have started with that.”  Ana thought on it.  “Hello, I’m Ana, and your dad is outside,” she tried. “Yeah, that would have been better.”

“I’m Khell,” Khell introduced. She rubbed her arm nervously. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting guests.”

“Yeah well, we sorta surprise visited,” Ana explained. “Grandpa saw you folks pull in yesterday, and saw that your car was still at the bottom of the hill this morning.  He figured he’d come and dig you out.” Ana nodded. “Neighbourly, and all that.” Ana took another spoonful of cereal.  “Same idea of neighbour and all that, he said I should show you around town today, if you’re up for it?”

Khell nodded her agreement.  She wanted to get dressed and eat some breakfast first, but seeing town with someone was better than seeing it without.  Besides, she really didn’t want to be around when the movers arrived. In less than an hour, her and Ana were outside, ready to go to town.

“This has got to be a big change for you,” Ana commented with a gesture to the property. “I mean, you’re from the big city, right?” She didn’t wait for Khell to answer.  “I’m going to move out there.  You see if I don’t.”

Ana continued on, as much to herself as to Khell.  “I’ll finish high school, cause I’m already in the midst of it, but I tell you girl; first chance I get after that I’m out of this town.” Ana looked Khell over as though measuring her up.  “You can come with, if you like,” she offered.  “I mean, coming from the city; you can’t be that impressed with Quarrytown, right?”

Khell shrugged.  “I haven’t actually seen the town yet,” she admitted. “We just got here yesterday.”

“Are you kidding?”  Ana trudged through snow drifts as she walked around the house.  “You live up here on King’s Rock, and you haven’t even seen the town yet?”

“King’s Rock?” Khell repeated, following behind Ana.  “Why’s it called that?”

Ana didn’t answer right away.  Instead, she waved an arm towards an outcropping of stone; prompting Khell to look over. Khell edged up the rock, and stared down the hill.

Khell gasped as she looked down.  “I can see the whole town from here,” she said. “I mean; the downtown at least.” She looked back at Ana, and rolled her eyes. “And that’d be why it’s called King’s Rock,” she noted.

“Yup,” Ana replied.  She walked back to her grandpa’s truck, and pulled a long wooden toboggan from the back.  “Nice thing about being up here is that you have the best route to town as well.” Ana thought about it. “Well, during the winter at least.”

Khell stared at the toboggan uncertainly.  “I don’t know,” she replied slowly.  “Isn’t that a bit…”

“…Childish?” Ana smirked at Khell.  “Sure. Probably is.  It’s certainly unladylike; if you care ‘bout that sorta thing.  You know what prim and proper gets you around here though?” Ana pointed at the town below, then off to the other side of the hill towards the road.  “It gets you an hour and a half walk to town.” Ana patted the seat of the sled.  “This is much faster.”

Khell looked at the hill.  What she was actually going to say was ‘isn’t that a bit dangerous’, but felt it’d just sound foolish now.  Ana was already setting the toboggan down on the edge of the hill.

Khell looked at the trees along the hill, and thought about the random rock cliffs that grew around her driveway as she sat behind Ana on the wooden toboggan.  “You know a safe path down, right?” she asked.

“I know a path down,” Ana replied.  “Least I’m pretty sure there is a path Gravity has a lot to do with finding it.” She looked back at Khell, and gave a half shrug.  “I’d probably hold on tight, if I were you girl.”

They managed to make it down the hill without impaling themselves on a tree, though Khell was certain that they’d come close to two separate occasions.  They did manage to flip the toboggan a few times, and actually ramped it over a large rock once.  In the end, the girls were covered in snow, and giggling with the adrenaline rush. Ana dragged the sled behind them as they walked into town.

Khell looked about.  The downtown looked the same as it had on her pamphlet, save for the flowers being replaced by large drifts of snow.  The streets were quiet; seemingly devoid of life. There were a few people here and there, but not many.

“Where is everyone?” Khell asked.

“School or work,” Ana replied with a shrug. “Almost no one is in town during the day.” She pointed off down the road. “Factory up there makes cement; or packs cement; or whichever. If you don’t work there, it’s because you don’t work in town.”

Khell nodded.  “I forgot that there’s school still,” she admitted. Holidays were coming up, so there was little reason for Khell to start a new school quite yet.

“I wouldn’t sweat it,” Ana said. “I forget there’s school sometimes too.”

Ana led Khell down the quiet streets to a little coffee shop called The Steamer.  It smelt of fresh bread and ground coffee, and Khell liked it right away.  Plus, it was warm, and Khell was not. The woman behind the counter smiled friendly at the two girls as they entered The Steamer.  Her smile faded immediately as she recognized Ana.

“You turn right round and walk back out that door Ana Hickory,” the woman commanded as she picked up the phone.  “I’ll be calling the school right away; you see if I don’t young lady.”

Ana put her hands up in a mild surrender.  “Relax, Ms. Lois,” Ana insisted.  “My grandpa knows I’m not at school today.”  Ana pushed Khell forward, using her like a shield.  “This is Khell,” she introduced.  “Her and her dad just moved into the old Allens place.”  Ana smirked.  “Grandpa’s digging out their driveway, and I’m playing tour guide.  Figured I’d start her here.”

Ms. Lois narrowed her eyes dangerously at Ana, but she put the phone back on its cradle. Her scepticism was replaced with a wide smile as she looked from Ana to Khell.

“Well of course,” Ms. Lois agreed happily.  “Where else would you start?  Welcome to town,” Ms. Lois beamed.  “Kelly was it?”

Khell rubbed her arm.  “Just Khell ma’am.”

“Well.” Ms. Lois’s smile faltered ever so slightly.  “That’s interesting, isn’t it?” She rolled Khell’s name around her mouth a few times, as though trying out a foreign language.  “How do you like some coffee, Khell?”

Khell sat with Ana at one of the large booths near the window.  From here, Ana was able to point out most of the interesting places in town.  The bookstore was directly across the road; looking sad with its papered over windows. There was a hardware store beside it, and a second hand clothing store beside that. Down the road was a restaurant, an ice cream parlour (that was closed for the season), a sports outlet, and a few knick knack stores.

“That’s about it,” Ana announced, finishing her virtual tour of the town. “Nothing that you’d find in the city.  No mall, no McDonalds.  Nothing much at all.”

“I think that’s what my dad likes about it,” Khell agreed.

“Yeah; it’s an old people’s paradise,” Ana agreed.  “What about your mom? Is she looking forward to moving here?”

Khell fiddled with a napkin. “It’s just me and my dad now,” she admitted quietly.

“Ah, sorry,” Ana said. She shrugged. “I understand what it’s like,” Ana told Khell.  “It’s just me and grandpa, which I guess is the same really.”

Khell looked over at Ana.  “Are your parents…” she wasn’t sure how to politely finish the sentence.

“Nah.  They’re both alive,” Ana said.  “Alive and well; I guess.”  She sipped her coffee, and poured another healthy portion of sugar into it.  The two girls sat in silence for a few minutes.

“Hey,” Ana asserted suddenly.  “You haven’t seen the quarry yet.” She grabbed Khell’s hand, and dragged her out before she could protest.

The quarry was a good ten minute walk out of town. Khell and Ana took turns pulling the other in the toboggan once they’d left the main road, which made the walk take all the longer, and yet made it feel that much shorter. Before Khell knew it, they were leaning on a small fence, staring at the ice covered quarry.

“It’s over 100 meters deep in some areas,” Ana explained with a wave towards the rock pit.  “It’s pretty deep every part though.  Some say that there’s still work equipment at the bottom; you know, pumps and generators and stuff.”

“Does anything live in it?”

“Oh yeah, tons,” Ana replied.  “frogs, turtles, and fish.”  Ana shrugged “Don’t honestly know how the fish got into there, mind.  I mean, the lake’s landlocked right?” she thought on it a moment.  “I guess someone dropped the fish off, and then they, you know, however fish do it.” Ana mashed her hands together, to suggest fish ‘doing it’.

Khell giggled, and gave a nod. “typical lake stuff though,” she commented.

“Well, all ‘cept for Old Snapper of course,” Ana replied. She smiled slyly at Khell’s look of confusion.  “Old snapping turtle,” she explained.  “Older than me; maybe older than even my grandpa.”  Ana leant in as if sharing a secret.  “He’s been there forever really; or at least as long as there’s been water right?  Folks say he’s at least the size of a motor boat.” Ana held her hands out wide, to suggest size.  “He could be bigger.”

Khell looked over at the quarry, then back at Ana, then to the quarry again.  “Nah,” she said finally.  “It’s not possible.  I mean, what would a snapping turtle that big eat?”

“Well,” Ana offered. “There’s always a few kids that go missing every year.  Tourists mostly.”

Khell shook her head again. “You’re having me on,” she insisted.

“If you say so.” Ana laughed. “No pulling the wool over your eyes, huh city girl?” Ana stepped over the small fence, onto the ice. She motioned for Khell to follow.

Khell stepped onto the ice reluctantly.  “Is it safe?” she asked.

“Sure,” Ana replied without a second thought.  “It’s been real cold lately, so the ice is good and thick.  You don’t want to go too far out, mind, cause it never freezes completely over, but so long as we stay to the edge here, it’s safe.”

Khell slipped and slid as she followed Ana out onto the quarry.  She watched her feet as much as she watched her new friend, and listened for any ominous cracking noises.

“Do you think it’s weird that folks like walking on the ice?” Ana asked suddenly.  She ran a bit, and slid along the lake surface.  “I mean, when you think about it, it’s really just walking.  Heck, if you don’t have skates, it’s walking with difficulty.”  Ana spun an amateur pirouette, and laughed as her feet slid out from under her as if to prove her point.

Khell helped Ana up, nearly falling over as well in the process.  This really was just difficult walking, but it was still fun.  “I’ve never really thought about it,” she admitted.  “I guess it’s just different, right?”

Ana brushed the light snow off of her pants.  “You know what I think?” she asked rhetorically.  “I think it feels just a little forbidden; just a little wrong.  I mean, walking on a lake?  You shouldn’t be able to do that.  I know it’s ice, and I know that’s just part of winter, but I think deep inside, your brain thinks you’re doing something impossible.”  Ana kicked off into another slide.  “Tiny winter magic, right?”

Khell nodded a quick agreement, but didn’t take her eyes off of the ice.  She was certain that she’d seen something move below them.  “We should get back,” Khell suggested suddenly.

Ana looked over at Khell.  For a moment, she looked like she was going to argue, but it faded as she followed Khell’s gaze to the ice.  A dark shadow slid beneath them as something huge shifted.  It was easily the size of a bus, but rounded off.  The monstrosity moved slowly; lazily, but it was steadily moving towards the girls, and certainly getting bigger as it came closer.

“No freakin’ way,” Ana said.  “It can’t be.”

The ice groaned and buckled as the huge shape scraped against it beneath them.  Its head was visible, though blurry, as it chewed at the ice beneath the girls.  Khell could easily have fit in the monster’s mouth if it were to get through.  She slid and fell as she tried to run.  The whole of the quarry seemed to shake.

“Old Snapper!” Ana screamed.  She grabbed at Khell’s hand; nearly falling herself as she dragged Khell to her feet.  The girls ran and slid as they desperately rushed to get off the shifting ice.  The ice bucked, and shattered as Old Snapper surfaced with a train roar of a hiss.  The girls were flung forward, and landed with a crash in the snow bank at the edge of the quarry.

Suddenly, everything was quiet. Khell and Ana laid in the snow on the bank for a good few minutes before daring to look back at the quarry lake.  The ice was untouched, save for their footprints.  There was no break; not even the slightest crack. There was nothing suggesting that a giant turtle had surfaced.

Ana stood up, and brushed herself off. “Well,” she said. “That was new.”

“That was new?” Khell stared at the ice.  She screwed up enough courage to tap it with her foot, but drew away immediately as if it were lava.  “That was impossible. We were attacked by a giant turtle!”

“Giant ghost turtle,” Ana suggested. “In that it didn’t break the ice.” She rubbed her arms, and stepped a good bit away from the ice.  Finally Ana shrugged. “I’m going to state the obvious, and suggest we don’t mention this to anyone, right?  I mean; who’d ever believe us?”

Khell stared at the ice. It had broken with enough force to throw them through the air, and yet it was untouched.  “Yeah, who would?” she agreed. She’d been part of it, and even she wasn’t sure she believed it.

That night, Khell dreamt cracking ice and giant turtles. The whole of her dream played to a soundtrack of flipping pages, and singing books.

Khell 01

Moving sucked under normal conditions. Khell had moved from apartment to apartment hundreds of times in her fifteen years, and could attest to that. Still, all of those moves had been in the same city. Khell had only ever had to change schools once. She’d never really had to say goodbye to friends, and she’d never really suffered more inconvenience then having to pack and unpack (which admittedly is a big inconvenience).

It was different this time. This time she was moving to a place called Quarrytown; four hours north. Her grandparents used to have a house and a bookstore there, and now, due to wills and ownership and legalities, she and her dad owned a house and a bookstore. Goodbyes had to be said, and new schools had to be planned. There was still packing and unpacking, but now it involved a truck that would show up in Quarrytown a day after Khell and her dad. Moving always sucked, but this felt different. This felt much worse.

Khell read the brochure for the hundredth time, hoping to find something to be excited about. The front page was a wide shot of Quarrytown’s main street. All the downtown buildings looked like they were carved from slabs of limestone, and were drab to look at; even decorated as they were with flags and flowers. The picture tried to look all summery and fun, But driving up the snow covered highway, Khell was having trouble picturing it.

Quarrytown lived up to its name only by default according to the pamphlet. After all, it had a quarry. In fact, Quarrytown had one of the largest quarries in the area, and had been a real rock mogul in its heyday. Quarrytown still had a major cement production company, and a thriving tourist industry, but the quarry was no longer in use. Left abandoned, it had flooded, and was now considered one of the greatest swimming holes in the area.

Khell wasn’t sure what it took to be a mover and shaker in the world of granite stone sales, but she could understand why anyone who wanted  to be one would set up shop in the area. Looking out the passenger window, she could see nothing but rock on either side of the highway, and hadn’t for the past hour. Giant wind blown cliffs that looked to be made from misshaped bricks rose up on either side of the road; topped by great pines that seemed to be clinging desperately to the rocks. Rocks, and trees, and snow. Tons of snow.

“There was never this much snow back home,” Khell commented, breaking nearly an hour of silence. It wasn’t that she didn’t talk to her dad normally, but after a few hours alone in a car, conversation can run dry.

Her dad rose an eyebrow. He’d been humming tunelessly to the radio for awhile, and seemed surprised to hear Khell’s voice. “You get a lot more snow this far north,” he agreed after a moment. “A lot more of, well, a lot really. More snow, more stars, more animals. And not just more racoons and pigeons either,” he added. “Deer, and coyotes, and owls. Things you’d never see in the city.”

“Wolves? Bears?” Khell thought a second. “Wolverines?”

“We’re not far enough north for wolverines,” her dad muttered. He chuckled quietly, and Khell was pretty sure he was making ‘snikt’ noises in his head.

“So just wolves and bears,” Khell verified. “Great.”

“Well,” Her dad said. “We’ll try to keep them out of the house.”

“The house,” Khell echoed. Her dad said that they’d spent numerous summers in her grandparents old place, and Khell had been hoping that she’d remember it during the ride, or see something that sparked a memory. None of the continual rock cliffs were looking familiar so far. They’d stopped coming north when Khell was very little; back when mum had originally become sick; back when they’d all stopped doing anything.

Dad mistook Khell’s silence for despair. He patted her knee. “I know this seems tough,” he offered. “Moving always does.  But I promise, you’re going to love it.”

Khell forced a smile. “Yeah, dad,” she said. “This’ll be great. I’m sure.” Khell hid back behind the brochure, and let her smile fade. She was sure of a lot of things, but this tiny rock town being great wasn’t one of them.

The trip to the house didn’t bring Khell and her dad through the majestic streets of Quarrytown, or even near the famous quarry.  They instead pulled off the highway onto a series of small country roads that led to their new property.  Dad parked the car at the bottom of their new driveway, and whistled low as he stared up the rock hill to their new home.

Khell hopped out, and trudged through the calf deep snow to stand beside her dad.  The driveway wound all corkscrew up the hill; or at least the parts she could make out did.  The whole of it was under the same thick layer of snow that the rest of the area was. She couldn’t even see the house from here at the bottom of the driveway.

“How are they going to get the moving truck up that?” Khell asked.

Her dad shook his head.  “That’s what we pay them the big bucks for,” he offered with a chuckle.  He smiled at Khell, but she didn’t return the favour.  Dad sighed.  “We’re likely going to have to shovel it,” he admitted.

“The whole thing?” Khell looked up the driveway with disdain.

“It’d be silly to only shovel half of it,” her dad replied.  His ambition faded somewhat as he looked again up the hill.  “Tell you what,” he offered.  “Lets just get up there, warm up the old place, and see what we can see.  Maybe we can find the number for a plowing company that’ll dig us out by tomorrow.”  He shrugged.  “Snow like this, someone in town’s got to be cashing in, right?”

“Right.”  Khell agreed. She wanted to be helpful, but shovelling a mile of snow was pushing her limit.  Khell watched her dad unload the trunk of the car, and took some of the lighter bags from him.

It was a slippery walk, and Khell almost lost her footing on several occasions.  The driveway winded around rock outcroppings, and through a small forest of great pines, which together did a fine job of hiding the house until Khell and her dad reached the top of the hill. At the end of the driveway was a small clearing with a snow covered picnic bench, a forgotten truck, a tiny shed, and of course, the house.

Khell wasn’t sure what she’d pictured the house looking like, but she was sure this wasn’t it. The old house was made of limestone bricks of varied color and varied size.  It had two floors, but it looked as though the first floor was only grudgingly accepting the second.  The windows were round, and placed at random intervals on either floor. A stone chimney jutted from the side of the house, and carried up over the top floor in a lazy zigzag.  In all, the house looked like it had been built by someone who had a lot of rocks, and little time for planning. The only thing of the house that looked new was the closed porch that ran around the front of the house.

Dad looked expectantly from the house, to Khell, and then to the house again.  “So?” he asked.  “What do you think?”

“Why are the porch windows Saran wrapped?” Khell asked.

“The windows.”  Dad rapped on one of the thick plastic covers.  “It’s to keep the heat in,” he replied matter of factly.  “In the spring, we’ll take them all down.”  Dad looked expectantly for Khell to answer.

Khell looked hard at the lopsided house. “We should get inside,” she said finally.  Her feet were getting cold.

“Yes,” her dad agreed, sounding a bit crestfallen.  Still, he smiled as he fumbled with the keys.  “See the whole place, then decide what you think.”

Inside didn’t impress Khell much more than outside did.  The house had a thick dust and age smell to it, mixed with stale air, and a hint of rotten wood and oil.  Old furniture was covered by thick white sheets, which in turn were covered with a second sheet of dust.

The light gave a dull yellow glow when dad finally found a switch.  He led Khell down the hall to the kitchen, and then to a set of stairs going down to the basement. Khell pulled back, and stared at her father sceptically.

“You’re going to start the tour in the basement?” she questioned.

“It’s a finished basement,” he assured her.  “Not a, you know, creepy old house basement.  Besides, we need to warm the place up before we can get comfortable.”

“Warm the place up?” Khell couldn’t imagine why the heat wouldn’t be on already. After all; the lights were working, albeit barely.  She followed her father down the stairs.

Her dad said nothing until he’d led Khell past more covered furniture, and shelves of random boxes, to the far end of the basement.  “The old place has a woodstove,” he explained, pointing to an ancient cauldron shaped stove.  “We need fire to heat the house.”

Khell put her hands on her hips.  “You don’t know how to make a fire,” she stated with a smirk. “You can barely handle the ordinary oven.”

“Oh ye of little faith,” her dad replied, mocking hurt. “I can make fire.  Heck, people start fires by accident all the time; it can’t be that hard to do on purpose.”  He opened the gated mouth of the woodstove, and began to jam flammables from the pile nearby into the opening.

Khell watched over her dad’s shoulder.  He stuffed the woodstove with a full week of old newspapers, as well as a small tree’s worth of twigs.  Two giant logs crushed the whole mess down.  It looked like a pretty good start to a fire, though really Khell was just guessing as she’d never made fire exist before.

Dad nodded at his work.  He patted at his pockets, and looked up at Khell.  “Hey, you haven’t taken up smoking have you?” he asked.

“What?  Dad, no.”

“Good,” dad said.  “It’s a terrible habit. Never start.”  He stared into the open wood stove.  “Of course, if you were smoking, or if I was, one of us would have a lighter.”

Khell watched as her dad patted his pockets again; as though a lighter would magically appear there.  She giggled despite herself.  “Maybe the fire will start itself accidentally,” she offered.

Dad made a face at Khell before he stood, and began to search the shelves.  “There’s got to be some matches or something, right?” he said.

Khell watched her dad rummage for a while before standing up as well.  “I’ll go check upstairs,” she offered.  “Maybe the kitchen?”  Khell took her father’s grunt and dismissive wave as  a yes, and went back upstairs.

Khell searched through a few kitchen drawers, finding silverware, dishes, and a particularly large collection of elastics.  She did not find a lighter though, and decided to see what the rest of the first floor had to offer.

The main floor was all connected by a long central hallway; capped on either side by the living room (at the front) and the kitchen (at the back).  There was a bathroom; with a large claw footed tub, and flower printed tile walls.  There was a small sitting room that Khell was certain would be called a study, though she wasn’t sure.  There was an even smaller room that didn’t hold any purpose that Khell could see.  She named that the cloak room because why not? The living room had a pair of couches, and a piano, but no T.V. Finally, there was the library.

Khell had always been a fan of books, and would be lying if she told anyone she wasn’t interested in the library.  It was nearly the same size as the living room, and full ceiling to floor with shelves of books.  There was a large table in the middle of the room, lost under a stack of books waiting to be sorted, and a small nook near a large round window, perfect for just sitting and reading. Khell ran a finger over the spines of some of the books as she walked through the room.  She supposed that it shouldn’t be surprising that her grand folks had liked books enough to have a library; they did own a bookstore after all.

Of course, the library also seemed the least likely place to find a lighter.  Books and fire were never big friends after all. Khell sighed, and made a mental promise to come and check out the books soon. She was just about to close the library door, when she heard a soft thump from inside.

Khell held the doorknob, but didn’t look back in right away.  She was neither an easily frightened, nor superstitious girl, but this was a new unfamiliar house, and strange noises could really spook anyone.  Khell listened for a good few seconds for any more noise before she screwed up enough courage to look back in the library.

When she finally did look back in the library, she found that one of the books had slid from the table, and was lying on the floor. Khell mentally chastised herself as she picked up the stray literature.

Khell stared at the book.  It was older than any book she’d ever seen.  The cover was coated in a rusty red leather; worn thin along the edges.  The book’s spine was a thick brass hinge, and the corners had gilded brass protectors hammered on.  The title of the book was a series of markings Khell had never seen before, made of inlaid iron.  Below that was a large curled symbol of interwoven circles atop a thin metal band that ran the width of the book, and held it closed.

Khell squinted at the title of the book with a strange feeling that the markings would make sense if she stared at them long enough.  She ran a hand over the circle symbols, and found them to be warm.  The circles of it felt loose, like they could be moved about. Khell wondered if they had anything to do with the band sealing the book.

Khell’s heart skipped a beat as her dad’s shout broke the silence.  “I found one!” he yelled from the basement.  “Little magnetic box on the side of the pipe!  Ingenious really.”

“Alright dad!” Khell yelled back.  She put the book down on the table, and headed back towards the basement stairs.  Already the house was filling with the thick black smoke of her father’s first attempt to start a wood stove.

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?”

Intermission

So, been sick for the last few days, hence no new chapters.  It’s not to say I wasn’t writing, I just wasn’t cleaning up for presentation.

Alright, I wasn’t writing as much as I should, to be completely honest.  In fact, I reaquainted myself with the Mass Effect franchise.  I WAS sick though, so I’m going to cling to that as an excuse.

What I did do while I was out though was reach my 50 000 word goal for November.  You know, Nanowrimo and all that.  Yeah, I know, you’re all like ‘Hey Paul, we can see your story here.  There’s no way Lovely Angel-Pocalypse is at 50 000 words.’

Unbelievers.  Let me tell you how I write.  See, what you see here on the blog is rough.  It’s really rough.  I’ve mentioned it before.

But that said?  It’s not the roughest my work can be.  I polish a bit before I post, you know, for you guys.  The rest of my writing is a series of out of context quotes, roughly laid out scenes that I may or may not use in the future, and conversations that I’ll likely shoehorn into the story later.  I have about 30 000 words of random unsorted garbage.

And that’s a good thing.  Most of it will get tossed, to be honest.  I’ll get to where I was going to use a scene or a conversation, and I’ll rewrite it.  Some of it will never even be reached, because I’m not as much of a story architect as some are, and my characters tend to drive the truck.  Sometimes they don’t drive where I planned for them, and sometimes stuff I thought would be cool just never happens.

Which is great by the way.  I like to have half an idea what my story is going to be, but I also like the surprises.

Speaking of which, I’ve already introduced three of my main characters, with some cameo from two others.  None of them acts the way I originally envisioned (which means in clean up, first few chapters will get complete makeovers).  This is the type of thing I like from my characters.  They reach a point where they exist outside of whatever caricature I originally based them on, and become people.  Then, as I said, I can hand them the keys and let them drive.

ANYways.  New chapter will be up later today, or tonight.

Thank you for your patience.

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.

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