"But you died," Kyosu repeated as he stared blankly, the girl in front of him smiling still. "I remember, you were in a car accident. I vividly remember. I was at the funeral. I... you're... oh, I don't even know..."
"What do you mean, I died?" The girl asked, standing up as the fire crackled in its home, the girl looking around. "Where are Mom and Dad, Kyosu?"
"You don't know...?" Kyosu said, tears in his eyes as he balled his fists to keep himself from crying, his nails scrapping into his skin. "Sammy, you died. In the car accident. It was two and a half years ago. Your parents left because they had too many memories here..."
"What car accident, Kyosu?" Sammy asked, as she walked forward, looking at the dust particles swirling and smiling, Celestia moving back, the swirls of dust that light was reflecting off of to give the illusion of her being there giving the illusion of surprise.
"It was at Pine and Third Street... you were on the way to my house for Saturday movie night, we were going to watch The Conquest of Space and make fun of it the whole time. I remember everything perfectly still..."
"I remember that night! It was the last time I was with you!" Sammy said, and laughed "I wasn't in a car accident, silly. We saw the movie and everything."
Kyosu staggered back and looked down at his hands, his nails having carved into the palms enough to cause blood to drip from them now. "No, we didn't. You died."
"If I died, why do I remember it? I just got home from it."
Kyosu let his hands fall free, a minute amount of blood on his nails and dripping from his hands as he let out a sob, falling forward into Sammy and embracing her.
"Kyosu, are you alright...?" Celestia started, stepping forward, the girl holding him and patting his back.
"I know you're his angel. I can tell. You aren't really here, are you?" Sammy whispered, a quizzical look in her eyes flashing through. "You're beautiful, you know. And he's fine, I can tell. He's just upset over something, he usually is."
"I..." Celestia started, before Kyosu pulled himself from Sammy's comforting hold, and looked at her eyes slowly, as if trying to see if who was before him was really who they claimed to be. Her bright green eyes glimmered.
"It really is you," he said, as he hugged her tightly and sobbed again, tears of joy and relief both flowing from his eyes. "I can't... believe it," he stammered out, Sammy hugging him.
"There, there, Kyosu. Just let it out. I don't know what's going on, but I'm here now."
"There's so much to tell you, Sammy. I don't know where to begin."
Sammy nodded, as Kyosu pulled away again and smiled. "I've finally beat your record speed for running though."
"Oh really? How?"
"Well, some gangsters were kind of... hunting me down."
Kyosu laughed as Sammy rolled her eyes and ruffled his hair, Celestia smiling as she watched. "And... I can do this."
A portal opened on the wall, showing a gateway to Kyosu's apartment, and Sammy's jaw dropped slightly, her eyes widening. "That's awesome! How?"
"I'm kinda superhero thanks to my angel," Kyosu said, grinning. "Come on, I'll show you the rest of the team. We call ourselves the Angelic League."
Nihilium walked through the mall silently, his hands in his purple coat's pockets and his red and yellow scarf wrapped around his neck as if hiding the collar of his coat. As winter set in, Raelyn bought the man some coats and scarves as if his wardrobe had been her responsibility, and it was obvious that she had bought it for him. The purple was her signature color, after all, but it went nicely with his silver hair and violet eyes. Nihilium had been working at a fast food restaurant though, and he hated it. The grease gave him acne, and he barely got above minimum wage.
"Buy a gift, he says..." he muttered as he walked, remembering when Delirium told him that Raelyn was expecting him to buy her a gift for Christmas
So he had gone to the mall in Milford, with the intent of finding something that he thought clicked with her. In the months since their meeting, he had got to know her well but he still didn't know what she'd want as a gift.
"Hey, buddy, you mentioned a gift right? For a special someone by any chance?" a man asked from inside a store, and Nihilium kept walking, ignoring the man. "Hey, now gimme a minute to sell you the perfect gift- you know the Archangel Satellites, right buddy?"
The man was black with his hair in an afro, and on his face a dashing smile, his baby blue eyes shimmering. His store uniform was a deep red, and had a Christmas tree pin on his shirt.
"Yeah, what about them?" Nihilium asked, turning, his hair letting his blind eye be visible for a moment before he brushed it back.
"Well, we here at Archangel Communications are the only people with permission to use the hyper-fast networking the Archangel Satellites produced. Tell me, buddy, is your special someone into technology?"
"She is a bit, I guess. What are you getting at?" Nihilium asked as he looked into the store, advertisements about the new CommuPad on the walls, bunches of people inside looking at phones, tablets, and more gadgets using the Archangel Communications Network.
"Ah, so why not pre-order her the state of the art CommuPad? It has speeds of a terabyte per second download and upload, and is able to connect with any computer for gaming and movies."
"A terabyte per second?" Nihilium asked, skepticism in his voice. "I doubt that."
"No lie! We use information packaging that is more efficient than the human brain, and for an affordable rate of only two hundred dollars you can get the three terabyte memory version."
Nihilium blinked, the Archangel Communications company was known for making outrageously powerful machines, but... the CommuPad was clearly something else.
"Well she's a medic, she runs a clinic. She'd want something that'd make it be useful while doing that I think."
"How about a CommuPad Smart Wrist accessory?"
"When does the CommuPad come out anyways?" Nihilium asked instead of responding to the salesman's question, and he paused.
"If you pre-order we can mail it before Christmas Eve, guaranteed. It won't be in stores for another week after that though, as all our models being made now are being shipped out."
"I see," Nihilium said, and nodded slowly.
He know that this was a deal. No other company offered anything half that quality, period. And Raelyn would love something like that, he knew. But it was also pricey...
"If you want to give it some thought, that's fine. But we won't be selling the pre-orders for the holidays much longer."
"I'll get her one," Nihilium said after a pause, and the salesman smiled. "What do I sign?"
"We just need you to fill out a mailing address so we can ship it, and pay," the salesman said as Nihilium nodded, following the man to a register. "I'll get you on your way then, and you can call to see where the package is at on its way."
"Sounds good," Nihilium said, as the salesman pulled out some paperwork and asked Nihilium to sign on the lines, the man skimming through the contract information. It all seemed to be standard stuff, just about the way it worked and connectivity. He pulled out his wallet and his bank card, the salesman running it through with a smile.
"Pleasure doing business with you today, Mr. Nihilium. Not many people only have one name."
"Most people are also idiots," Nihilium said as he pulled out a cigarette and shrugged, the man starting to say something as Nihilium took the card back and put it in his wallet and grabbing the receipt with the order information.
Nihilium left, walking back into the mall proper and putting his unlit cigarette in his mouth, wiggling it a bit with his tongue. He couldn't light it inside, he knew, but he could just have it in his mouth to chew on a bit.
The doors to the mall opened as he pushed them aside, the receipt for the CommuPad in his hands. He pulled out a lighter and lit his cigarette as he walked in the snow, wrapping his scarf a bit tighter as smoke rose up form his cigarette. He let out a bit of a sigh as he walked on the sidewalk, others in winter coats and apparel walking to and fro.
Raelyn's away-from-home clinic was now open in the winter, and it was far better stocked than the clinic she ran out of her house. He walked past it as he started down a hill, knowing that she would be working more in the winter. People with colds would come to her for help in getting rid of them, and there was always the people who slipped on the ice.
The mall wasn't too far from Raelyn and Nihilium's home though, and Nihilium found himself arriving home as his cigarette burned out, and he remembered back to a few short months ago, when that strange man had burst through the front door.
He had died a few short days after, and Nihilium never did learn who he was like Delirium said. He had been unable to ask the angel, but he had a feeling that Delirium had no answer for what had happened.
That was why when Nihilium opened the door, he was shocked to see the man standing there in the living room, the brown-haired man turning from the couch. "Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?" Nihilium asked as he stepped in, slamming the door behind him.
"Slow down, Nihilium. Please, let me explain myself."
"You died, I saw you die. Raelyn declared you medically dead in her clinic."
"Yes, I know..." the man said, holding up a hand and wincing as if in pain. "And trust me, I don't enjoy this much."
"Just tell me who and what you are," Nihilium said as he stepped forward sharply.
"I'm Connor. Connor Cliff. Lame name, yeah, I know." Connor walked around the couch and sat down, patting next to him as if inviting Nihilium over. Nihilium stood behind the couch and looked at him instead, and he shrugged.
"That you don't remember me isn't surprising. I mean, you vanished. I thought you were dead until my angel told me where you were."
"So what even happened to you?" Nihilium asked, and Connor paused.
"That, I'm afraid is something that involves you. There's some powerful men who want to find you, Nihilium."
"Who?" he asked, and Connor pat the couch again, Nihilium walking around the couch before sitting there.
"I sadly do not know. They knew I was coming for you and wanted to make sure I wouldn't make it, why they've left you alone this far is beyond me though."
"I don't think they have. A man broke in and tried to kill me. They're probably trying to find a way that won't draw attention to that now."
Connor nodded, and he smiled. "Thank you for taking me in though. My angel saved me from death, but Raelyn and you showed great compassion and helped. And in return, I offer you my aid. My angel is Azreal, and he can bring back the dead. Effectively, he makes me immortal as long as it's possible for my body to be repaired."
Connor nodded, and he looked around. "So, nice place."
"Yeah. It's not really mine to take credit for. I just live here."
"I kinda figured."
"So... yeah. You're immortal. That must suck."
"What about your family dying?"
"They did. Decades ago. As I said, I don't die."
"Oh. That solves that problem then." Nihilium nodded awkwardly as a pause followed him, his mouth moving as if thinking of what to say as Connor just sat there and bobbed his head as if to a beat. "So how old are you?"
"I'd rather not," Connor said, quickly grabbing the remote. "Want to see if anything's on? There's this show almost fifty years old now, I remember its premiere still. You might like it."
"... How old are you?" Nihilium asked, as Connor ignored the lack of an answer and turned the television on, flipping through some channels.
"I've honestly forgotten. So, I'd rather not. Now let's see if there's any new cooking shows. I haven't had anything good in a while. Heh, you should know that – but you don't because of your whole amnesia thing. Pity, too."
Nihilium rose an eyebrow, before he shrugged. If this man was immortal and didn't want to say how old he was... well, who was to say it was any of Nihilium's business?
"Bellona?" Kyosu asked as he stepped through the portal into his apartment, a fine layer of dust coating the counter and appliances, Sammy stepping in behind him as Celestia followed, the portal closing. "Adele?"
"Is something wrong...?" Sammy asked as she looked around the apartment, an atmosphere of vacancy filling it.
"I don't know... Celestia, this is my apartment right?"
"Yes, it is," Celestia said, stepping softly through the dust, her particles causing the dust on the wood to blow about randomly. "This is... not right though. Something about it is missing."
"Heh, heh, heh."
Kyosu turned as the laugh echoed through the room, before walking cautiously towards the bedroom. He opened the door, Sammy slowly walking behind him, the door opening to reveal a woman standing there.
"Bellona!" he said, starting towards her, before realizing something – she was frozen in place, as if an ice sculpture, her sword in one hand as if it were in mid-swing, her legs showing a clear attack stance. "What in the...?"
Kyosu looked out a window, to find it snowing outside, and he quickly turned, racing from the bedroom to the main room of the apartment, turning on the television to check the date. It was now December, somehow months had passed between his passage from the house to here.
"Celestia, did we... travel in time...?"
"Oh, did I mess that up?" Celestia asked, her dust form billowing around as she laughed a bit. "Time runs differently to me, my bad." Once again, Kyosu heard the sound of laughter, and he looked around hurriedly.
"You sent us to the future! It's December! Bellona's frozen in my bedroom and I have no idea what happened, I don't know where Adelle is, and would someone tell me if they're hearing the laughing sound too?"
"Laughing sound?" Sammy asked, as Celestia shook her head.
"I don't hear any, Kyosu..."
"Then what in the world...?"
And then Kyosu saw a flash of something in the corner of his eye, and he turned as the feel of an oven's interior began to overwhelm him. Standing there in front of him now was a man, flames rippling across his clothes, a grin on his face. His skin was black and beaded with sweat as he laughed.
"Kyosu, did you miss me?"
Kyosu realized then and there who was standing there in front of him, seeing the missing hand he was responsible for. "Jacques."
The two glowered at each other, Sammy glancing at Celestia who was backing up. "Who is this guy?"
"He's a horrible, horrible man. He calls himself a king, but he's nothing more than a petty gangster," Celestia whispered to Sammy, who backed up immediately after being given the explanation.
"I meant, why is he covered in flames?"
"Oh. He has an angel. Like Kyosu."
"Seems a bit wrong for an angel to help someone like him."
“What do you want, Jacques? I thought I killed you.” Kyosu was in a fighting stance, even though he wasn't necessarily trained for fighting. All the same, the usage of portals he had could make things easier and better, and he had a feeling that he could easily apply that to fighting.
“I bet you did, punk. But you can't just kill a guy like me.”
“Where did my portal even send you...?”
“That's not important!” Jacques said, pointing at Kyosu as flames erupted from his hand, Kyosu opening a portal under him that he fell through, the other end of the portal letting him fall down behind the man.
“What did you do to Bellona? And where's Adele?”
“Bellona? Oh, you mean the bitch with the sword. Heh, she wasn't easy to beat. Once I figured out her little trick with the sword and necklace, all I had to do was pull my own trick and turn them for her – now she's a lovely little statue.”
“You mean you froze her in time?” Kyosu said, as Jacques slowly turned towards him and smiled. “You bastard!”
“I'm the bastard here? No, I don't think so. I'm doing this for my kingdom. I've been promised one... in exchange for your life.”
“What did you do to Adele then?”
“Adele? You mean the other girl?I don't know, she wasn't here. I'm honestly surprised by that too, Kyosu.”
“I don't believe you,” Kyosu said as he opened a portal in his own hand, a knife falling through it and he caught it as the portal closed. “Now tell me what you did to her.”
“I'm not lying, punk. I have no fuckin' reason to lie to a dead man.”
Jacques took Kyosu's pause as a moment to attack, lunging forward with flames billowing from him, his body's flames seeming to hold him in the air, heat rippling through the room
Kyosu barely had time to escape, a portal opening under him as he fell through into it, Jacques swearing as he turned. Sammy was fleeing, Celestia's earthly apparition leading her out of the apartment as Jacques hovered towards them, the flames propelling him.
“So who's this bitch, I wonder. Kyosu's girlfriend with his angel?”
“Leave them alone!” Kyosu roared, as a portal opened on a wall, the knife flying through it and hitting Jacques' arm, the flames sputtering as he lost concentration, Kyosu closing the portal as he came out of the bathroom's door.
“She's your bitch then isn't she?” Jacques sneered, Kyosu glowering at the man. Flames billowed from Jacques body, towards the two, and Kyosu closed his eyes, a portal opening behind Sammy and Celestia, leading into the hallway.
“Sammy, step into the portal!” he shouted, the girl nodding and turning quickly, stepping through it as Jacques snapped his fingers, the flames roaring at her. Celestia's apparition fell to dust as the portal closed behind Sammy, the girl seeming to have got through safely.
“You're still going to die, though,” Jacques said as he turned towards Kyosu, a smile on his face. “And then I'll have my own kingdom.”
“What do you even mean by that?” Kyosu asked as he opened a portal in the palm of his hand, another knife being pulled through from his kitchen, grabbing it with his other hand and closing the portal.
“The man who saved me from wherever you sent me, Kyosu. He promised me a kingdom of my own, a physical domain to reign over. All I have to do is kill you.”
“Who saved you?” Kyosu asked, and Jacques laughed.
“I guess I can tell you, before I kill you, Kyosu. Alexander Stoneheart.”
The flames roared through the air, and the heat slammed into Kyosu like a brick wall. He felt the knife fall from his hand and hit his leg, the flames reaching him and setting his clothes ablaze. Kyosu swore as he hit the ground, pain coursing through him.
And then Kyosu felt a strange presence, as if it was inside him. He closed his eyes and opened them, and something seemed different about the world around him as Jacques walked closer.
A portal opened above the man and under him, Jacques falling into a void of air as Kyosu grinned, the man falling from the portal above him and into the one below him. Kyosu turned the portal's angle, and Jacques was sent through the window of the apartment as if out of a sling shot.
“Bastard, you'll pay for this!” Jacques shouted, glass shards falling next to him towards the street bellow, pedestrians pointing and gasping. And then Jacques' flames grew.
Kyosu didn't see the man propel himself into the air with his flames, preoccupied with his burns that were stinging now. Jacques lifted himself into the window, the flames pushing his body upwards and forwards as the apartment itself began to ignite. People in the streets were shouting in panic, Jacques stepping down onto the apartment's floor as he cracked his neck, the flames stopping.
“You really thought I'd be that easy to beat?” he asked with a laugh, Kyosu turning towards him. “I've killed men who were considered lethal weapons on their own, and you think a trick like that would kill me? You don't have the balls to kill.”
“So what if I don't?” Kyosu asked as he turned, the knife in his leg still deep. Either Jacques had pulled the one in his arm out or was ignoring it, but Kyosu couldn't move without gasping in pain. He grabbed the handle and pulled, letting out a shout of pain as he did so.
“You're going to die regardless, so it doesn't matter,” Jacques said as he stepped forward, flames snaking down his legs and int the floor of the apartment, the sound of sirens wailing. Someone must have called the fire department, Kyosu thought, as he heard the sound of glass shattering from heat.
“If I die, you'll die with me at least,” Kyosu responded as he stood up, his injured leg a little limp as he raised his hands. “And I can promise you that.”
Jacques stepped forward, flames expanding around him with each step. The sound of firemen shouting outside reached Kyosu's ears as he heard the rush of water from a hose, some spraying into the apartment and hitting Jacques. The man yelled out as the steam hit him, despite his immunity to fire the heat from steam was still painful to him.
“I'll fucking kill you, you bastard!” Jacques roared with anguish as he hurled himself forward, flames rippling through the air at the Asian boy who ducked down, opening a portal under himself with the other side on the wall. Kyosu flipped through it and onto his feet, swinging a fist to slam into Jacques' skull, knocking the man to the side. The flames sputtered out, and Jacques hit the ground.
Jacques spat as he started to push himself up, Kyosu walking up to him and looking down. “I won't kick a man who's down. I'm going to give you one chance to leave and only one chance, and that's final.”
Jacques pushed himself off the floor, blood dripping from his head and arms, glass shards penetrating parts of his torso. His outfit was drenched in sweat and blood, and the two fighters were panting out of breath. Kyosu had blood soaking his shirt, burns on his arms that were already blistering.
“Heh. You're not bad, fuckhead. A bit loco but that's about it,” Jacques said with a chuckle, as he popped his knuckles one by one. “I'll take you up on that offer, Kyosu. Next time, though, I won't be needing to. I underestimated you today.”
“If you're smart, you won't let there be a next time,” Kyosu spat as he heard the water splashing past the apartment from the fire trucks, mist falling into his home.
Jacques smirked and threw his hands down, flames bursting out from his body in waves, Kyosu flinching as the inferno roared around him, and he turned to race into the bedroom, Jacques laughing as he stepped out of the apartment, propelling himself with his powers as he shot into the air and smoke.
Kyosu swore with the realization that Bellona was still frozen, but he had no idea where Adele was, and now he had even less idea as to where Sammy and Celestia were. He was sure the two had fled the apartment, but he had no way of knowing.
He grabbed Bellona as he coughed, smoke filling the room slowly, and he felt his eyes watering. He couldn't focus on a destination, his mind was as blackened and hazy as the room around him.
Then he heard the whoosh of flames and flinched, his mind preparing himself for the burns he was sure he'd go through. His eyes shut close tight, and blackness was all he saw as he gripped Bellona tightly, the girl still stuck in time.
The air was brisk as the two walked down the path through the park, snow falling from the sky as the man squeezed the woman's hand tightly. They both had wool coats and scarves, the man with a plaid golfer's hat on his head, the girl with a small cap with a button on top. Her long, luscious hair was red and her eyes glimmered with an amber glow. His earlobe-long, curly hair was red and his eyes were the color of mud.
The two of them walked in happiness as the snow fell harder. Alexander Stoneheart sat at a park bench and watched them walk by slowly, whistling as the trees along the path glimmered brightly, the icicles hanging from it making the trees seem to be made from ice.
Alexander Stoneheart looked up as the final rocket launch for his satellites passed into view, the trail behind it stretching into the horizon beyond the building in the city. He smiled softly as he continued to whistle, the sound of someone sitting next to him gaining his attention.
“Alexander Stoneheart?” the woman beside him asked, and he nodded. The woman was in a black, wool coat with a lavender scarf on, her hair a golden blond with a rose, her blue eyes circled with eyeliner. “It's a pleasure to finally meet you, sir.”
“Ah, Emilia. It's a pleasure to finally meet you formally too. I find that my employees tend to be dissociated with me after some time, and with your track record it's well worth saying that I'm very impressed. I wouldn't want you to abandon my cause.”
“Of course, sir. Is that why we are meeting here today?” Emilia asked, and Alexander shook his head.
“I wish it was. If I could, I would meet with every individual of my companies and get to know them. No, today's meeting is sadly business. It involves the girl you won over for me... and something a bit closer to home as well.”
“Which one, sir?”
“Please, just call me Alexander here. We're off the record.”
“Alexander, then. Which one?”
“Alison DiMaggio. The one with ties to both Ariel Smith and Leopald DiMaggio.”
“Oh, her. She has been behaving, right?”
“Certainly, Emilia. Certainly. But I need to know if she herself has any desire for more than what we've offered. She's been an amazing asset, and I feel that it would be wise to reward her good work. Some men like to punish. As you might know, I prefer to reward the good to discourage the bad.”
Emilia nodded, and when she told Alexander she'd find out from the girl, there was a pause. “What was it you needed to tell me about that was closer to home then?”
“I want you to make sure your brother doesn't do anything stupid, Emilia. His angel's power signatures have been detected again, and you know that he knows more about the organization than any other host that we haven't bought.”
Emilia nodded. “I understand, Alexander. He might be my brother, but I owe him no loyalty. He showed none to Mother or Father.”
“Do as you want to ensure he doesn't cause us any unwanted attention. Soon, I will be announcing the beginning of Phase 1. And when that happens, I want to make sure he isn't involved. He's one of the variables Subject N cannot see after all.”
“I will, Alexander. You have my word.”
“Good. Now, shall we go grab a bite to eat? I do not usually stay out in public this long, but I have the strangest urge to eat out.”
“I would be honored to dine with you, Alexander,” Emilia said with a smile, the man smiling as he stood up. While Alexander was not necessarily aged or decrepit, he was not youthful either. But for his age, he was quite able all the same. He walked, Emilia starting behind him and to the left a little, Alexander whistling to himself now.
“How is your brother, anyways?”
“He's fine, last I heard,” Emilia said as she looked at the crystalline trees, the icy glimmer of them making her shiver a little. “He always seems to be though. His angel is very helpful in that regard.”
“Without a doubt,” Alexander said, the two stepping onto a crosswalk and hurrying across. The sidewalk they were on had a local cafe not too far ahead, Alexander reading the name of it as he walked closer. “Shall we eat here?”
“It's up to you, Alexander. You are the one who's hosting after all. Besides, I love their sandwiches.”
“Excellent! Let us then,” Alexander said as he opened the door for Emilia, the girl thanking him as they walked in. The smell of coffee hit them like a wall, the several people at the art deco tables in winter coats and scarves, the steam rising from their cups of coffee and soup, some with half sandwiches of all sorts.
“Hello, hello, welcome!” said a friendly waitress in a black shirt and pants, a red apron with the name “Mickaela” on it in a fine cursive print. “Help yourself to a table with menus and I'll be right over to help you.”
“Thank you,” Alexander said as he walked towards one table under a portrait of a woman in a blue dress with a wine glass looking down at the table, the two taking a seat and lifting the menus.
“Their panini sandwiches are my personal favorite,” Emilia said, Alexander nodding as she looked through the menu. “Although it's not much of a sandwich day is it?”
“I can't say it is, a bit too cold. Although I'm not particularly fond of paninis. I prefer the Reuben or a Philly Cheese-steak.” Alexander said, the waitress coming over to taking their orders, Emilia ordering a clam chowder while Alexander settled on the Philly Cheese-steak, both of them ordering caramel cappuccinos.
The two talked about a range of topics, from family (particularly, Emilia's brother) to the topic of politics and charity. It surprised Emilia that her employer was being so personal and candid, but she didn't think much of it, instead enjoying it. Alexander was an interesting man, after all.
Adele was running as fast as she could, the icy sidewalk a mere inconvenience as the smoke rose up into the air, her legs pumping with adrenaline as she quickly turned, a long scarf wavering in the wind behind her. She feared for the worst, that the apartment Kyosu lived in was on fire. She knew that Kyosu had gone missing for a few months now, but she couldn't bring herself to just watch.
As she turned onto the street, she had confirmation of what she had thought was on fire was in fact in flames, the front of the apartment collapsing as fire trucks sprayed water, doing minimal work in putting it out. The flames had gone too fast, it was clearly set. And it was directly from Kyosu's apartment room as well, she could tell. There were people rushing out of the front, and she figured that the fire escape ladders would be relatively clear.
Adele quietly slunk into an alleyway, jumping up with a burst of flames beneath her feet to push her the extra few inches needed to grab the fire escape ladder of the apartments. Some people were headed down it, but not that many.
She raced up the few flights of stairs before finding the door to the floor Kyosu lived on, kicking the door open to find the halls filled with smoke. Seemingly this floor had been evacuated already she thought as she raced down the hallway, passing by her old apartment. She had gotten a house from Alexander Stoneheart in exchange for information on the Angelic League, and to her the price for loyalty to him seemed to be small. Besides, it wasn't as if he had anything against angels or their hosts.
“Kyosu!?” she shouted as she used her control over fire to push flames and smoke away from herself, a bubble of clean air formed around her. She opened the door to his apartment, the hinges on it creaking before snapping from the heat. She pushed the flames from her body as she walked into the apartment, the shattered window the first thing she noticed. “Oh, god no...”
She hurried to the window and looked down, no sign that Kyosu had fallen out visible, outside of the obvious glass shards that were being cleaned from the rescue squads.
“Ada, he's in here,” Samael said as the door to the bedroom was pushed open, the angel stepping out of it. Adele grumbled about his calling her that as she rushed to the bedroom, finding Kyosu gripping Bellona as he lay on the ground coughing despite his being unconscious from the smoke, the woman frozen in place still, her pose the same as before.
“Dammit, what the hell?” Adele asked as she pushed the flames away, the bubble of air without smoke expanding around the two. “Samael, what happened to Bellona?”
“Her angel says that the two hourglasses that control time for her got turned the wrong way, she's stuck until someone turns them back.”
“Great, that's a good little thing for someone to figure out how to do,” Adele muttered, grabbing the hourglass on Bellona's necklace and turning it, the sand in it starting to flow again as Bellona's swing went through to hit air, the girl looking around confused.
“I don't know, but Kyosu's unconscious and the apartment's on fire. We gotta get him out, I can keep the flames away until we get out but I don't know how he's doing.”
Bellona nodded, sheathing her sword and grabbing Kyosu's body and lifting him up, an arm around her as Adele took the other side, the two dragging the young man through his apartment as Adele pushed away the heat and smoke with her powers. Where her angel had gone she didn't know, but she had her two friends there.
“Do you know where Jacques went?” Bellona asked as they started down the hall again, Adele shaking her head. “That bastard figured out my power I think. I don't know where Kyosu came from though, he wasn't there when Jacques attacked.”
“I wonder where he's been,” Adele said, looking at Kyosu and biting her lip. She still had interest in him, but knew that he had none in her.
Kyosu slowly opened his eyes as the three got onto the fire escape stairs, and he looked around groggily. “Wha...”
“Kyosu, we're almost out of the fire. Do you think you can walk?” Adele asked, Kyosu looking around before nodding.
“Good,” Bellona said as Kyosu let his reliance on the two women go, standing weakly but managing to start down the stairs alongside them. “Do you know what happened? What about that Jacques guy?”
“He got away,” Kyosu said, not mentioning that he had allowed him to. “I tried to get us out, but I blacked out.”
“It's okay, don't worry,” Bellona said, as she put a hand on Kyosu's back. “We're just glad you're back. It's been a long few months. We've both been worried sick.”
“I can explain that, actually.” Kyosu said, but Bellona just shushed him. “I need to find someone, I think they'll be out front,” he added, as he started down the ladder of the fire escape stairs, the ground below with some ash on it now.
“I don't know who that'd be, but I'll take you word for it,” Bellona said as Kyosu jumped down onto the ground, Adele right behind him and Bellona following her, the two girls helping Kyosu, who was once again gripped with pain. The adrenaline in his system was gone, and as they walked out of the alleyway they expected him to need their aid more than going down the stairs. Of course, it wasn't as if they could have helped him easily going down them, particularly the ladder.
Kyosu looked into the crowd, before he felt a girl hug him tightly, saying something about how she had been incredibly worried for him. He smiled and hugged her back.
Adele raised an eyebrow as she glanced at Bellona, the two letting Kyosu go as he grinned. “Bellona, Adele, this is my friend Sammy.”
“Glad to meet you! Visiting?” Bellona asked, Adele smiling and also saying hello.
“Er, kind of,” Sammy said, looking at Kyosu. “Kyosu understands better than me, I think.”
“She kind of... came back from the dead,” Kyosu explained, and laughed a bit from how absurd the idea sounded now that he said it, the other two members of the Angelic League both just giving him a quizzical look. “She died, or at least I thought she did, a few years back. Then when I left I went to her old house, and she was there at the age she was when she died. What happened I really couldn't tell you though,” Kyosu explained, and Bellona nodded slowly.
“Angels?” she asked, and then shook her head. “No, I think I'd be able to tell. That or Gabriel would have came out. All the same, that's... weird. Are you sure it's her?”
“I am,” Kyosu said sharply, and Sammy looked down.
“I just know what happened up until when he claims the crash happened. After that, my memory goes to his place and then to my house when he arrived.”
“Oh, well...” Bellona said, as Adele just nudged her elbow as if to tell her that she's said enough.
“Where were you the past few months?” Adele asked sharply, not concerned over the origins of this Sammy girl.
“I don't know. I thought it was still the day I left.”
“Okay, then,” Bellona said as she interrupted. “We now can all accept that both Kyosu and I are now homeless with his house burning down, right?”
“Right,” Kyosu said, Sammy standing there awkwardly. “Wait, what about Adele?”
“I got a house now,” Adele said with a smug smile, and looked at Sammy. “I guess you and your cute friend can stay there. Bellona too, I guess.”
“What do you mean, 'cute friend'?” Sammy interjected, stepping forward.
“I mean 'cute friend', honey,” Adele said with a playful wink, Sammy stepping forward and pointing, a finger right into the girl's sternum.
“I'm not cute, and I don't like being called 'honey' either.”
“I don't know, you are kind of cu-” Kyosu started, before Sammy just shot a glance at him, Bellona snickering to herself.
“Shut up, Kyosu, this isn't about you.” Sammy turned back to Adele, who was smiling nervously, her eyes looking up and down Sammy's body. “I think I made my point.”
“Several,” Adele said as she bit her lip, Sammy just pushing her back and turning to stand by Kyosu. “I like feisty.”
“What do you mean you aren't cute?” Kyosu asked, the boy stuck on that. He didn't like people putting themselves down, and now that he was with a friend he thought was dead until recently he was worried for her more than ever. He knew she used to be better than him at nearly everything, but he had no idea what had happened to her that had kept her alive, or brought her back.
“I mean I'm not cute,” Sammy answered, as she sighed and crossed her arms.
“I'm not. End of story.”
“What about good looking?”
“That, yes. Sexy? Sure. But cute? Hell no.”
“Now that we have the terminology figured out, can we just go to Adele's new place? Get ourselves situated and stuff?” Bellona asked, and the group paused before Adele nodded.
“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Adele said as she turned. “Bellona, do you think you could use your powers so we don't have to worry about traffic or anything? My car's only a few blocks away.”
“Should be able to,” Bellona said with a nod, and turned one of her hourglasses before turning the other also, time freezing around the four but not for them. Sammy was awed as she looked around, pulling Kyosu as she started to follow Adele.
“This is amazing! You mean the three of you have powers?” she asked, and Bellona laughed and nodded.
“Yeah. I have the power to freeze time and exclude certain individuals or places, or just certain individuals and places. Since I saw Kyosu, I've really mastered my powers though. They're really helpful.”
“I bet. So you could like, spend an hour doing something and then unfreeze time, and have it done?” Sammy asked, Bellona nodding. “Totally awesome! So what's Adele's power?”
“Hotness,” Adele answered and laughed. “I can control fire. That's how I got those two losers out of the apartments. The fact that I'm hot and control fire is just a coincident.”
Sammy laughed a bit, and nodded. “Pretty cool too. So you're like that guy who attacked us when Kyosu got back then?”
“You mean Jacques?” Adele asked, and paused. “Kind of. He's... different somehow. His angel is just more powerful, greatly so. The powers come from the angels, we just channel them and use them.”
“That's pretty cool. How many other people have angels?”
“No idea,” Bellona said as she closed her eyes and yawned. “I know there's a lot though. And not just in the US. It's global.”
“I can't believe that they even exist like that,” Sammy said as she sighed. “There's a lot I don't know though, I guess.”
“There's a lot that none of us know, like why Jacques attacked and said that he was working for Alexander Stoneheart.”
“He told you that Stoneheart told him to?” Adele asked, her voice full of shock. “As in, the inventor of the Archangel Satellites?”
“Yes, as in him, unless there's another rich Alexander Stoneheart.”
“Then...” Bellona said, and paused. “He has to be involved with the angels. There's no other explanation.”
“We should hurry,” Adele said, Sammy not having much to add as the group started to run, the sensation of urgency in her as much as the others. She had no idea what all that meant, but she could feel the tension the group had after their realization.
An extremely rich, and seemingly powerful, man was after them.
The moon shone down on the streets, shimmering back off the snow as the two shadowed figures leaped through the air off of a rooftop, landing on the next one and barely slipping on the ice on the roofs. The girl panted, her black outfit making her seem to sink into the shadows, the red giving an overtone of her not being afraid to get dirty while she fought. Her face had a mask that made her eyes seem to glisten and left her face under her eyes open, her hair tied down in a ponytail. She wore a belt with what seemed to be a skull on the front of it, the skull a dulled gold color.
Meanwhile the man was grinning in his long-sleeved, mainly black outfit. The sleeves were red, the torso black and gold and his pant legs were black as well. His utility belt had several strange boxes and containers, and on the chest he had a circle with a dot in the middle.
“Psychout, do you sense anything going on?” asked the girl as she peaked down from the roof, the man shaking his head.
“Can't say I do, Nightclaw. Looks like those scoundrels changed their plans on the bank robbery.”
Nightclaw sighed in disappointment before she paused, and then laughed. “Why am I upset that there's not a crime? I should be glad.”
“Because our job's boring without it,” Psychout replied as he chuckled, and then he paused. Nightclaw started to say something, but he raised a finger to stop her. “I sense someone.”
Nightclaw nodded and felt out into the shadows, some splitting out of her shadow and moving as if a cat was casting them. “Want me to go check it out?” she asked, but her partner in justice shook his head.
“No, this one seems like a heavier presence. I think we're dealing with another host,” Psychout said as he looked down, and closed his eyes. Nightclaw was silent as he reached out with his mind, the shadow of the cat moving its mouth as if to meow but there was no actual meow.
“It is. I just got through his mental defenses. It's a guy, about seventeen. The mob got him because of his powers – manipulation of metals. I'm going to psychic link us again, okay?”
Nightclaw nodded, and suddenly she felt a presence in her head. It wasn't a bad presence, it was like her conscience. Except, well, it was foreign and she had to force her mind to not push him out. It'd be easier if you didn't boost your mental defenses by practicing on me, your mind reflectively associates me with an intruder now, Ariel.
Heh, well, that's your own fault. So what's the plan, Leopald?
The sound of the door opening, or rather the door being torn in half like it was a piece of paper being ripped and crumpled up, interrupted Psychout as he transmitted the plan to Nightclaw, and he swore. She smirked and jumped, the man using his telekinesis to help her leap from the top of the building to the bottom gracefully.
Of course, the grace was her. He merely slowed down her falling. The flip she did was all her talent, however, and the quick turn to look into the dark bank was also her. Psychout landed by her and looked in. Ironic that I need you to light up the inside, isn't it?Of course.
Nightclaw spread her hands and walked into the bank, using her powers to see with the shadows. The man wasn't nearby, she couldn't feel his shadow as the cat shadow nuzzled hers, the girl just ignoring it as she found the light switch and hit it. The bank lit up and she instantly heard someone swearing.I think that's our man,
Psychout said as he walked forward, pulling from his utility belt a stick of gum and putting it in his mouth, mentally scanning the room for the man they were after.
“Look, man, please,” the boy said as the two walked around a corner, Psychout taken by surprise that he hadn't mentally found the boy before they physically did. “I was- oh, you're not the Enforcers. It isn't what it looks like,” he said, and Psychout chuckled.
“It isn't, you're right,” he agreed. And it wasn't. The black boy's eyes looked like they were begging, the computer screen behind him showing some interesting pictures of women. He was clearly seventeen, the start of a beard growing. But the thing that struck Psychout and Nightclaw the oddest was that the boy was stark naked. “I thought you were robbing a bank. Not looking at porn on its computers. Don't you have Internet at home?”
“That's what I meant, with that” the boy stammered, grabbing his shirt from the desk and covering his nether regions. “And I don't want viruses, man, are you crazy?”
“Really, you get caught looking at porn in a bank you're robbing, naked, by two people dressed in tight superhero outfits. And you don't have any reaction other than that?” Psychout asked, Nightclaw looking away with a deep red face. “What the hell did you even take your clothes off for anyways? You're more likely to catch a virus that way.”
“Look, man, I don't question you and your girlfriend being dressed like superheroes, don't question how I look at porn,” the boy said, and then paused. “I'm guessing this means I'm not going to be able to rob the bank then?”
“You know, for a mob job, this is really... low.”
“I don't even want to be involved, they told me to do this or they'd kill my family man. They thought I could get in and out easier by myself with my powers”
“Can you stop explaining and put some damn clothes on already?” Nightclaw interrupted, still turned away. “I can't believe that wasn't the first thing you did!”
“My sidekick's right, you probably should. At least let us arrest you with dignity.”
“Please, don't. I can't go to jail, man... my mom, my pa, my little sister...”
Nightclaw glanced behind her, the man pulling up his boxers and then his pants, the girl finally turning around. “Psychout, maybe we shouldn't... I think his family is a bigger concern.”
“You mean you'd rather bust into the mob than simply bust a bank robbery? Really?” Psychout asked, the boy pulling his shirt down, his chain necklace with a Buddhist wheel at the end under it.
“Dayum, you've got spunk now. I didn't know you had it in you, you're the squeamish one even.”
“His family is innocent! They need help!”
“I wholeheartedly agree too, Nightclaw. I was just surprised.”
“So... you're really superheroes?” the boy asked, looking at the two. “That's pretty cool. How'd you get your powers?”
“Same way as you, kid,” Leopald said with a smile. “An angel fell to Earth and we thought it was a star, so we made a wish. Or at least, we had enough of something giving it reason to attach to us.”
“What's your name anyways?” Nightclaw asked, and Leopald nodded, realizing that he hadn't asked.
“Tyrone. Tyrone Smith.”
“Well, Tyrone, get your stuff together. We're going to get your family out, and help you out,” Nightclaw said with a warm smile.
“But the mob's going to just go after us,” Tyrone said, and Nightclaw paused as she looked at Psychout.He's right,
she thought at him, the psychic link he had up still working.I know, but we can't just let things go wrong... I'll just mind-wipe some people into thinking the killed the our of them.
You can do that?
Heh, yeah. It's for a good cause though.
Nightclaw nodded, and looked at Tyrone. “Don't worry, the two of us have it under control. Where are they holding your family then?”
“I'll show you there, it's not far. I got here on foot within ten minutes.”
The two superheroes nodded and walked behind Tyrone, looking around as they expected trouble from any turn. Nightclaw's shadow powers reached out around her, the shadow cat yawning and stretching before leaping onto her shadow's shoulders, curling up and falling asleep.
Within minutes they were at a warehouse, a truck parked outside with a man in it. “That's one of them,” Tyrone whispered, and Psychout nodded. Go.
Nightclaw started out, moving her arms with the shadows that whipped around the man, covering his eyes and effectively blinding him. Psychout reached out with his mind, the man's eyes rolling back and Nightclaw taking her shadows off him, the man unconscious.
“Alright, then. Want to lead us in?” Psychout asked, and Tyrone nodded.
The man found his way into the warehouse, gesturing for Psychout and Nightclaw to follow before he turned around a corner. Tyrone walked towards a door, a man in front of it holding an AK-47 as Psychout and Nightclaw cloaked themselves with Nightclaw's shadow powers.
“Yo, Tyrone, you got the money?”
“Yeah, right here,” Tyrone said as he cracked his neck, and before Psychout and Nightclaw revealed themselves he shot his hand forward, bits of iron shooting through the air and impaling the man in several places, blood shooting out of his head as a large bit flung into his brain, the man collapsing without a sound thanks to the bit that had impaled his windpipe. Tyrone blinked, his hand falling as he stared at the body.
“You... killed him,” Psychout said in shock, Nightclaw pulling away the cloaking as the two rushed forward. “We don't kill!”
“I didn't try to. I missed.”
Nightclaw glanced at Psychout, who sighed. “Look, kid, just don't do it again and we're cool.”
“I didn't try to. Seriously. Maybe you two should go in, you know your powers better than I do.”
“Alright then, you first girl,” Psychout said to Nightclaw, who nodded and pushed the door open, instantly the shadows blinding everyone in there but allowing her at Psychout to see, the armed guards shouting in panic.
“Someone turn the lights on!”
“Fuck, who was tha-”
The two moved quickly, Psychout using his powers to knock out guards by triggering their brains to go to sleep, each one getting a false memory planted as Nightclaw rushed towards the chairs where Tyrone's family was.
“The memories are planted. Tyrone broke in and tried to save his family, and the guards killed him and then the family, no guns were fired because they managed to knife him.”
Nightclaw nodded, the old man and his wife looking around in panic, their small daughter whimpering.
“I don't know who's there, but please don't hurt us,” the man said, and Nightclaw realized that the shadows were still covering their eyes. She pulled them away, the three staring at the two costumed vigilantes.
“You're safe now. Your son had us help break in to save you,” she said with a smile, Psychout waving for Tyrone to come in.
“Mom! Pa!” Tyrone shouted as he rushed in, smiling. “Isabella!”
“Oh, Tyrone,” his mother said as she wrapped her arms around him. “We were so worried.”
“I'm alright, mom. These two found me and offered to help. They're superheroes.”
“I can't thank the two of you enough,” Tyrone's father said, walking towards Psychout. “My name is Gerald Smith. I run the local used car dealership Gerald's Motors, if you need anything at all, anytime, just come and I'll help. You saved all of us, Tyrone included.”
“No problem, Gerald. It's our duty. But we shouldn't celebrate yet, we should try to get out of here before they wake up.”
“You're probably right,” Gerald replied.
“C'mon, everyone, follow us!” Psychout said as Nightclaw smiled proudly at her job done here, the six of them hurrying out the door and into the warehouse, Psychout leading the way.
“I'm Psychout and my side-kick is Nightclaw, by the way,” he said to Gerald, who nodded as he followed quickly behind. Gerald was somewhat large, his face having some bounce to it, but he wasn't that large of a man. Particularly he was stout, and his wife was rather skinny and with a brilliant skin tone that almost glistened when some moonlight hit her. Isabella was a cute little girl with two long braids of hair, her teeth having a gap from a baby tooth that she had lost without the permanent tooth growing back in yet.
They exited the warehouse, Psychout taking Gerald's business card as the man once again thanked him, Nightclaw shaking Tyrone's hand and telling him that if the mob came back into his life at all they'd find out and come in, and that they'd be keeping in touch.
When they finally left the family after escorting them home, the moon was setting and the start of dawn was clearly on the way, Nightclaw yawning. “Good thing it's Christmas break,” she said, the crunch of snow under her feet as the two walked into a patch where some snow had blown back onto the sidewalk.
“Heh, yeah. Well, we did good tonight didn't we?”
“I'd say so,” Nightclaw replied as she pulled her arms back to stretch. “I think it's time to get home though.”
“I'd say so. Put a cloak up?”
Nightclaw nodded and did so, shadows swirling around the two just right, so that no one watching would be able to see them walking. “Think we should get Tyrone in on this?”
“I don't know. I don't know if he was being honest when he said he missed. But maybe with some training, he'd be a good person to work with. I certainly wouldn't want him to be our enemy.”
“I'm just glad he wasn't really wanting to rob the bank. Fighting him with that power of his might have been hard.”
Psychout just nodded somberly as the two walked slowly. “At least the city's small enough that it won't take long to get home,” Nightclaw muttered, the man nodding in agreement again.
Nightclaw stopped as she passed by her drive way, pulling a key from her pocket as she told Psychout she'd see him tomorrow night for more vigilantism, cloaking the man as he walked with her powers until she saw him go into his house, and then she walked up to her door and uncloaked herself too.
She opened the door as she peeled off her mask, becoming Ariel once more, stepping inside. when she closed the door behind herself, she thought she saw someone outside the window. She turned to look outside, but there was no one there.
“Must've just been my mind,” she said with a shrug, headed upstairs, but outside the window there was someone, who had ducked under the window in time to dodge being spotted. Alison watched as Ariel pulled off her costume, turning and starting to walk away when the girl vanished from sight.
Alison sighed as she walked. She'd have to figure out what she had seen, but if she was right it looked as if Ariel was a superhero now. She felt a pit in her gut from guilt, having to betray her best friend's trust again. But it'd get her the college she needed, and that's what she wanted the most.
The men in white coats sat at the rows of computers, the screen showing the countdown hitting one minute as camera footage showed the night sky and a rocket, lights on the rocket showing the words “Archangel XIII” on it, the satellite itself visible on one screen from inside the rocket.
“Fifty-five seconds until launch of the Thirteenth Archangel Satellite.”
The men pressed buttons, the lights around the rocket dimming on the screens, the satellite itself beginning to glow as a large gyroscope in it began to turn. A flash of light in the gyroscope was visible, the multiple hoops rotating faster yet.
“Fifty seconds until launch of the Thirteenth Archangel Satellite.”
The men worked faster, the counter ticking. Seconds dropped one by one, forty-five, forty, thirty-five, thirty, twenty-five, twenty.
“Disengage the locks, engage the Arch.”
A button was pressed, a knob turned. The gyroscope in the satellite turned faster, its solar panels slowly turning inwards as its light bulbs began to flash, the glow from inside growing more and more intense.
“Thrusters activating in nine... eight... five... four... three...”
“Arch gyroscope is at maximum rotation.”
“One. Activate thrust.”
“Thrust activated, rocket lifting off.”
The men stood up and clapped as they watched the automated rocket lift off on the screens, a brilliant burst of fire propelling it into the night sky, the Archangel Satellite blinking inside it as the screen from inside it shook as altitude increased.
Within ten minutes, the rocket was out of the atmosphere, the crew cheering as they watched the satellite eject into the void of space.
“Archangel Communications System Engaged.”