Authors: L. A. Weatherly
Tags: #Speculative Fiction
“Not yet.” Alex’s blue-grey eyes met Seb’s; the corner of his mouth lifted humourlessly. “Bet this is just the news you wanted to hear, huh?”
Without waiting for a response – which was good, since Seb had literally nothing to say – Alex let go of Willow and stretched across the table for his T-shirt. Then he seemed to remember. “Oh, great, it’s covered in blood.”
“I’ll get you another one.” Willow kissed him, then pitched the stained T-shirt into the trash and left the room. For once, Seb’s energy didn’t automatically follow after her.
Alex grimaced as he lowered himself off the table. “Don’t ever get shot – it hurts like hell,” he told Seb wearily. Going to the mirror above the sink, he peered at himself, then reached for a towel. He moistened it and started swabbing the blood from his face and chest.
“How?” said Seb finally. His voice was ragged. “How did the
“Christ knows,” said Alex. “It was something to do with the gate – an energy blast when it opened. He did it with that, somehow.”
Alex went silent then; he wadded up the towel and threw it hard at the dirty linens hamper. “
God damn it.
How am I supposed to tell them this? What am I going to say?”
Seb couldn’t answer. Willow re-entered a moment later with a T-shirt; he watched Alex wince as she helped him into it. And for some reason, he thought about his father: the unknown angel, who for all Seb knew was still out there, feeding from unwary humans entranced by his beauty. Right now, the knowledge that someone – some
– so closely related to him could be harming humanity felt like more than he could stand.
“You coming?” asked Alex from the doorway.
It took Seb a second to understand that Alex meant the meeting. He started to say no – he had no desire to hear the news a second time. Then he thought of Meghan, with her bright smile and joyous energy…and, to his faint surprise, realized that he wanted to be there for her even more than he wanted to return to his dorm and block out the world. He couldn’t let her hear this alone.
“Yes, I’m coming,” he said dully, and rose to his feet.
AZIEL LEFT THE
Eden hospital room, he closed the door gently; behind it there remained only silence. The room’s inhabitant was really quite formidable when it came to resisting his attempts to…well,
He gave a considering smile as he straightened his cuffs. The game had been fascinating for months now. The patient was a worthy opponent – so weak, yet so fiercely determined. Yes, he’d be quite sorry when the occupant of room 428 was transferred to Salt Lake Eden; he’d lose his perfect distraction.
And there was much he needed to be distracted from.
He strode moodily down the hallway, his reflection wavering in the polished floor. The Separation the week before had gone as planned – and as he’d suspected, the other angels had not been happy.
Of course, they’d all known that he’d been the one to prepare the gate between dimensions, by wielding the strong, pliable energy field of their own world – which, when harnessed, was capable of amazing things on both the ethereal and physical levels. It had always amazed Raziel that none of the other angels seemed to appreciate the sheer possibilities of this. The energy field was normally used only to create works of art or things of that ilk – and when its use affected them all, it had to be done by consensus.
Needless to say, Raziel had not bothered getting a consensus.
When the Separation occurred, he had been standing in the parking lot of the Denver Church of Angels, shielding his thoughts expertly from the hundred or so angels whose presence he hadn’t been able to avoid. None had guessed that he’d used the link they all shared to implant a tiny essence of each and every angel in existence, including himself, within the gate above.
As Raziel had watched the sky open and the final wave of angels begin streaming in, unease had gripped him. He’d planned this for so long – but was it really for the best?
It was too late. Just as the thought came, a thunderclap roared through him at every level. He’d been expecting it; even so, it knocked him to his knees, sent his hands flying to cover his ears as agony writhed through him. He had the confused sense that he was being ripped in two – bones cracking, sinew tearing.
And then it was over…and he was still whole, after all. He sat up, breathing hard. The low, steady thrum of other angels’ life forces, thoughts,
had simply vanished from his mind, leaving it strangely quiet.
Raziel rose shakily. It had worked: that part of them that had once been linked was now irretrievably damaged by the devastating blast of energy, leaving them forever alone in their own heads. He swallowed. Why had he never realized before just how intrinsic it was, the connection to other angels?
I had no choice,
he told himself dazedly as the screams began. The urge to add his own voice to the screams infuriated him.
“What have you done? Raziel,
what have you done?
He gasped as someone shoved him up hard against a car – Lamar, his face raw and contorted.
“Me?” Raziel managed to get out. “I assure you, this had nothing to do with—”
Lamar slammed him into the car again. “
Don’t give me that!
All that fiddling around with the gate in our own world – all those times you insisted you had to go over alone – and now this! You’ve torn us apart!”
As if by magic, Bascal and his gang had descended then; there’d been a brief but violent fracas, angels scrabbling in both human and ethereal forms, shifting to their winged selves, fighting on the ground and in the air. It hadn’t taken long for Bascal’s lot to subdue the shocked, panicked crowd.
Finally Raziel stood panting, a bruise on one cheek. “Will you listen to sense?” he hissed at Lamar, held in a headlock by Bascal.
“There’s nothing you can say,” gasped out Lamar. “No justification you could possibly—”
Raziel raised his voice, sending it ringing out over the crowd. “What if I
separate us? Do you realize it would only have taken the deaths of barely over a hundred more for us to destroy us all?”
Anguished faces stared back at him. Behind them, Raziel could see some of the arriving angels – stunned, making hasty landings. Others were still in the air, reeling like shot birds.
“It wasn’t a decision for you to make alone!” cried someone. “You had no right!”
“I had every right,” said Raziel in a low voice. “Because that is what a leader
If I’d asked you, what would you have said?
Oh, Raziel, no, no, we can’t let that happen!
And then we’d be vulnerable, open to attack whenever the Angel Killers finally decide to strike! You should be on your knees
me for having the fortitude to go through with this.”
“The Angel Killers?” echoed another angel. “But they’re all dead!”
The patient in the Austin Eden hospital bed had flashed into Raziel’s mind. “We don’t know that,” he said harshly. “And it doesn’t matter. It just
occur to other humans to question what’s going on here. What about that wretched Voice of Freedom? If only a handful of humans acted, we could have been exterminated – extinct! Now we’re safe for ever.”
The angels had visibly deflated as he spoke. Now they just looked frightened and unsure. Lamar slumped against Bascal’s grip; at a signal from Raziel, the little thug loosened his hold with a smirk.
“Safe, but at what cost?” Lamar moaned. “I can’t
anyone. I’m just locked inside my own head! First the Council and now this – soon there won’t be anything left of what makes us angels!”
For a startled moment, Raziel thought Lamar was blaming him for the Council’s deaths as well, then realized he was speaking more generally. Lamar didn’t know. No one could.
“Then we’ll become a new breed of angels,” he said in a crisp voice. “This is about survival.”
Lamar’s head snapped up, his eyes hard. “Survival,” he repeated. “And I suppose
will help us survive too?” He gripped Raziel’s hand. At first Raziel was too surprised to pull away, and then slow horror grew. He struggled to keep his face impassive.
The psychic link between angels had always been immediate, enhanced by physical connection. The unfamiliar silence in his head was bad enough, but
Lamar’s hand was merely a hand: warm flesh coating muscle and bone. When Raziel concentrated, hard, he got a glimmer of emotion.
That was all.
He let go of the other angel’s fingers. Lamar looked as sick as he felt. The angels’ psychic bond was at the heart of all angelic interaction – even at its most innocuous levels, their society revolved around both psychic sharing and subterfuge. Without it, they were what? Human?
No – never,
Raziel told himself, shaken.
“As I said, we will have to become new angels,” he said, his voice giving away nothing.
He shifted to his angel form and lifted into the air. For several minutes he hovered defiantly before them. And for the first time ever in a gathering of angels, no psychic undercurrents stirred. With the arriving angels, there were enough in the parking lot now to take on Bascal and his gang, had they tried – instead they stood glancing uncertainly at one another, wondering what to do, how to act in this new state of being. No one moved.
And Raziel knew that he had won.
“Spread the word among the new arrivals,” he said finally. “We have room for some here in Denver Eden; the rest will need to go to Edens elsewhere. My staff at the Church have the details.”
His smile was cold, insincere. “And now, if you’ll excuse me.”
At the hospital ward’s waiting area, a pair of angels stood talking – they turned as one when Raziel approached. From their body language, they were unhappy but trying to hide it.
The room was empty apart from them; this was the restricted ward. “Anything?” asked a male angel with tousled blond hair.
Raziel shook his head. “I’m pretty certain we already have all there is to get – that’s why I’ve decided to let Salt Lake Eden have its fun with our esteemed guest.”
The male angel was named Gallad, one of Raziel’s cronies of old – he’d just come across with the Third Wave. He lifted an eyebrow, as if trying to put the best face on things. “Well, you never know. Mind if I try?”
Raziel gave a sardonic bow. “Be my guest.”
The angel headed off. The remaining one, a svelte dark-haired female named Therese, sank into one of the blue plastic chairs. “I still can’t believe you did it,” she said after a pause. “Gallad and I were just talking about it. I’ll never get used to this.”
This past week it had felt as if Raziel were perched on a shifting mountain of sand. It drove him mad that he couldn’t sense what the other angels were feeling and thinking. They
too stunned still to band together and overthrow him – but how could he be sure? He’d ordered Bascal to keep patrols going, ready to crush any sign of dissent.
At least he could trust Gallad and Therese – as much as he could trust any angels now, which perhaps wasn’t saying a lot. He sat beside her. “I had no choice,” he said tersely. “I would do it again in a second. I won’t be dragged down by the deaths of others.”
“Or the presence of others?” Therese asked, her tone suddenly arch.
He glanced sharply at her; she gave a pointed smile. “Imagine, just a dimension away but no way to get here,” she said in a soft sing-song. “They must be furious.”
Raziel laughed then; he couldn’t help it. When he’d separated the angels, he’d also used the energy field in their world to destroy the gate between dimensions – and made it impossible for new gates out of their world to be formed. There were still several thousand angels now trapped there, all violently opposed to Raziel. Picturing them slowly starving as the ether died had cheered him more than once this last week.
He rose, suddenly restless. “I’ll see you and Gallad back at the church,” he said. The two angels were thinking of moving here to Austin Eden; for now they were all staying in his church quarters.
Therese’s beautiful face grew pale. “You’re leaving? But—”
“Only for a while.” Raziel tried to squelch his irritation – he’d noticed that many angels didn’t like being left alone any more; they tended to travel in small packs or not at all.
“All right.” Therese sounded forlorn.
Shoving aside the realization that he too now felt better near other angels, Raziel shifted to his angelic form and flew straight up through the ceiling. A moment later he was out in the humid Texas afternoon, soaring against grey-tinged clouds.
The sight should have soothed him: another walled city made up of neat zones. Below, the residents of Austin Eden went about their business, life energies bobbing in contentment – even those that were grey and shrunken.
Hovering overhead, Raziel felt for the energy field of this world, thankful that he could still reach it. His muscles relaxed. Yes, exactly as it should be: a faintly chaotic sense of power, nothing like the energy field at home. Then, in a flash, he sensed it again: some strong force pulsing through the field and drawing everything else to it, like an unknowing black hole. As always, the moment he became aware of it, the sensation vanished.
Raziel stared down at the crowded city. The other angels didn’t seem aware of the mysterious force, though whether this was because they hadn’t checked or couldn’t sense it, he didn’t know. And he wasn’t about to ask: the last thing he needed was to give them another reason for unrest.
Something had shifted since the quakes, though: something subtle yet vital. He knew it; he felt it. He just had no idea what it was
Feeling helpless and angry, Raziel gazed back at the hospital building as he hung in the air…and suddenly an idea came. He began to smile.
These past few days it had felt as if he were straining to hold things in his grasp – but
was something he could easily control. When it was time to transport their friend in room 428 to Salt Lake Eden next month, his plan would be the simplest thing in the world to engineer.
And the benefits if it worked would be…quite spectacular.
If you are still out there, my daughter, I may have a surprise for you,