“I told you Dispatch Babe was real,” Phil said as we ran. We loaded Anti-demons rounds in our guns as we bolted for the stairs.
“I believe you,” Duffy said. “Next time, just ask her over to meet us instead of sending a horde of demons to prove a point, okay?”
“And give you a chance to steal her out from under me?” Phil shrieked. “No way! It’s already painful enough to watch Stan do that to Gideon with Anna.”
“Anna!” I skidded to a halt just shy of the stairs and let the others bound up them, two at a time. The lights flickered all over the school and shorted out. That couldn’t be good. Only darkness bred more demons.
“There’s no time to wake her up,” Duffy said.
“I’m not going to just leave her there to get shredded,” I said over my shoulder as I headed back to the main hall. “I’ll catch up in a minute, I promise.”
I made it back to Anna’s bench in record time. The Miracle was still conked completely out, to the point of being beyond sleep talking and snoring. I didn’t bother to wake her. I put one arm under her knees and the other around her shoulders and hefted her up off the bench. Anna’s head lolled forward and came to a stop on my chest. For a brief second I felt pretty awesome, like I was actually saving the day instead of my usual screwing it up. Of course, Anna snoozed through all the finer points of me hauling her up the stairs so she wouldn’t be left behind.
“Why is it you are never awake when I do something heroic?” I puffed as I cleared the last stair to the second floor. “But Stan gets full marks for pulling off amazing stunts while you’ve got your eyes open. I swear I’m cursed.”
I rounded the corner into the first blast of demonfire. I spun back to the stairwell, clutching Anna to me tighter. I took a hit in the back of the head. It wasn’t bad. The demonfire singed off a patch of hair down to my scalp.
Maybe bringing Anna along wasn’t such a great idea. It wasn’t as if I was taking her away from danger.
“Gideon, are you alright?” Duffy called from behind a row of lockers.
“I’m fine,” I yelled back even though I felt far from it. The stairwell was open and if the demons got close enough, they could take me out from any number of angles.
I knelt down on the top stair with the brick railing covering my back and inched my head around the edge to get a good look at what was going on. Duffy was sitting on the tiled floor picking off demons one shot at a time. Phil had a tiny hand gun the size of a peashooter, had his arm wrapped around the locker and was shooting blindly. Min had a sword in one hand and a throwing knife in the other watching for an opportunity to enter the fight.
Min caught my eye and motioned me to join them. He sheathed the knife and grabbed out his other sword. He didn’t say anything, but he used some pretty complex hand gestures. I got the gist of what he wanted, which was insanity. He was going to cover for me while I ran for the lockers and all he had for protection were two samurai swords with blade widths the length of my pinky finger. He was completely out of his mind.
Min didn’t wait for me to agree to the plan. He leapt from safety and went ninja crazy.
“CHOP!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. And he did a pretty good job at it. He chopped, slashed, blocked and pretty much kept the demonfire at bay all by himself as he deflected with his flashing blades. I didn’t hesitate. I grabbed Anna and made a run for it. Heck, I could have walked. Min had me covered. I did a perfect third base slide behind the lockers, rolled Anna to the floor and sprang to my feet.
I began picking off demons one by one as I made my way to Min side. Demons screamed in agony and splattered everywhere. As soon as I had an opening, I grabbed Min by the arm and yanked us both back behind the lockers.
“Whoohoo!” I crowed. “Min, you are the bomb! That was amazing!”
Min’s eyebrows furrowed. “B…Bomb?”
For a second, I stood there and gaped. “Dude, you just said another word besides ‘chop’.”
Min’s face was expressionless for a moment then he pointed to himself and repeated, “bomb.”
“You’re amazing, Min,” Duff said over his shoulder. “You now know two words instead of one. Can we get on with this? Classes will be out in ten minutes and we’ve got a hall full of demons.”
“Just be grateful it’s not the middle of the night,” Phil said as he reloaded. “They can’t multiply in the light.”
“We can handle this then,” I said. “I’d say there’s about fifty out there, but we’re not going to get rid of them in time, picking them off one by one.”
“I’d use my bazooka, but it’s not great in enclosed spaces like this,” Phil said. He wrapped his arm around the side of the locker and shot with his eyes squeezed shut. “And I hate to admit it, but I’m not that great at staying on my feet either.”
“I get it,” I said hastily. “But we’ve got to fight them off out in the open.”
Min wacked me in the chest with the flat of his sword blade and pointed to me. “Chop.” Then he pointed to himself. “Bomb.”
Min looked like he meant business. His narrow eyes were calm as he flexed his shoulders and did a blindingly fast test swipe with his swords.
“Right,” I said. I had no clue what I was agreeing to, but I think Min wanted us to take on the demons ourselves. Cool. “Let’s chop.”
Min nodded once and leapt into the fray. I was right behind him. I had my six shooters out and began blasting away as Min blocked demonfire. The kid was freaking amazing. He spun, swiped, blocked and did a crazy awesome backflip to avoid a wicked body shot. We kept pressing forward toward the demons until Min was within striking distance. At arm’s distance they went down faster. I shot everything that wasn’t already being hacked and Min was amazing at making sure I had a cleared area to shoot.
“Get them!” Edward screamed at his demons.
There wasn’t much he could do. Min and I were hacking them down and were joined by Duffy and Phil. In no time the only demon left standing was Edward the Dorkface or whatever lame title he decided to call himself.
Duffy held him at gunpoint, his glock smoking. “He’s all yours, Gideon. Take him out.”
“Thanks, I’d be glad to,” I said. I holstered my guns and unstrapped my shotgun. I wanted to do maximum damage. Edward didn’t flinch.
I aimed, but there was no way I could have predicted what came next. The demon disintegrated. One second he was sneering at me and the next he was in front of my face, fist back and flying at me like a…well, a demon from Hell obviously. He punched me square in the face and I toppled backward, dropping my shotgun. He bit, hit and kicked every inch of me.
I’d been taught hand fighting at the Academy, but it hadn’t been used for at least four thousand years and even then, those ancient angels used rocks and spears. Edward was a pro. I got one solid hit to his gut with my elbow and that was it. The demon grabbed me by the wrist, twisted it and bent it at an unnatural angle that made my knees buckle.
I gasped out in pain. The demon wasn’t finished with me yet. He kicked out my feet from under me, slammed his knee into my chest and knocked me sprawling. My ears were ringing, but I could hear Duffy and Phil yelling and Min chasing me down the hall as my butt skidded on the tiles until I slammed head first into a row of lockers.
Duffy fired, but he hit nothing but air. The demon was gone again. The hall was silent except for the quiet drip drip of splattered demon guts falling from the ceiling. The light bulbs flickered back on and the hallway was flooded again in fluorescent light.
I rolled over with a groan. The demon broke a few ribs, busted my arm and tore a hole in my shoulder. I was on the mend already, but it still hurt.
“Choppy, bomb?” Min said worriedly.
“I’m okay, Min,” I said. At least that was what I thought Min was saying. He sounded concerned, so I just assumed.
“Well, that was awesome,” Duffy said triumphantly.
“Shh!” Phil held up his hand, his head cocked and listening hard. “Do you hear that?”
I held my breath. The hiss was so faint; the air from the heat vents in the school was louder. Nothing was quite like the insidious sound of a demon reforming though.
The guys lunged forward, but I stopped them with a finger to my lips. If they kept quiet, maybe I’d get in a solid shot. I scooted along the floor, pulling my body forward with my one good arm toward the sound. Around the side of the row of lockers I caught sight of a shadow, blacker than the darkest, moonless night.
“So pretty,” Edward whispered as he stood over Anna who slept on. “Angels get all the beautiful ones.”
He bent down and with one long finger, reached out to caress the side of her face.
“Don’t you dare touch her,” I spat.
Edward didn’t look up, but he smiled greasily as if he knew I would show up.
“Hello, Gideon,” he said. “I think you’ve been expecting me.”
“I want nothing to do with you,” I growled.
“You definitely do. Since when do angels lie?” Edward smirked. “You’re becoming demon already.”
“I will never be a demon. I will never be like you.”
“We’ll see, Gideon,” Edward said. “I like it here. This school is fresh and my demons are hungry. At the end of the day, I have a feeling you’ll change your mind.”
“Danny!” I called out.
“You mean Duffy, right?” Phil said.
I knew I got his name wrong, but Duffy figured it out. He threw my shotgun and, thank The Boss, I caught it. I didn’t have time to fumble with shells as I rolled to my back and pulled the trigger. The kick of the gun felt like it embedded into my already mangled body. I wouldn’t have cared all that much if I had blown him to bits. Edward laughed and in a crack of black thunder, he disappeared.
“Dang it!” I shouted. “I missed.”
“That’s strong language for you, Gideon,” Phil kidded.
I ignored him and just lay there, staring up at the tar-like splatters on the ceiling. I couldn’t believe I missed.
“How could you miss?” Duffy exclaimed. “He was like two feet in front of you!”
“We’ll get him next time,” Phil said. “Wait… will there me a next time?”
There was a loaded pause where Min, Duffy and Phil looked down at me expectantly. I would not lie to them.
“Yes. Until Buttface the Delinquent gets what he wants, he’ll be back.”
“Whoa,” Duffy said. “That’s not cool, Gideon.”
“Tell me about it,” I grumbled.
“Rule one,” Phil said. “Always follow rule one. That’s why it’s the first rule. I mean, if every angel followed rule one, the afterlife would be a breeze.”
“Thanks for stating the obvious,” I said.
The bell rang, ending our little hallway chat. My ribs knit back into place and my arm healed over nicely. Min helped me to my feet and I staggered over to Anna to pull her out of student hall traffic.
“I can’t believe Anna slept through all this,” Duffy said, nudging her shoulder with the toe of his boot.
“Yeah, sucks that she’s always passed out when you’re saving her, bro,” Phil said whacking me on the back. “Those were some pretty sweet moves.”
I rolled Anna to her side where she was most comfortable and brushed her yellow-white hair out of her face. I half expected her to mumble something about Stan and his awesomeness. However, looking at her, I couldn’t be angry about it. She looked peaceful and at least somebody could pull that off.
Duffy checked his watch. “We’ve got one hour left in school and two and a half hours until it’s dark. Those demons are coming back so, what are we going to do?”
“Hold them off until morning,” I said.
“How are we going to do that?” Phil said. “If they multiply like they did in Jeffery City, the school will be overrun by midnight. Don’t get me wrong, I like demon hunting just as much as the next Guardian Angel, but I don’t relish the idea of getting my butt fried by demonfire again.”
“I give my condolences to your butt, but our only other option is to let them pick us apart piece by piece,” I said. “We can’t let them take over the school.”
I checked on Anna one last time and stood up. I slipped my shotgun back into the straps on my back and strode to the window to get a good look at what we were up against.
It had started snowing. The wind was blowing it practically horizontal and coming down like nobody’s business. If it kept it up like this though the night there would be a foot of snow on the ground by morning. Usually, the weather didn’t bother me. I only took notice of it if it directly affected my Mortals. Today, however, I was irritated. I had to squint through the large flakes to see what was rolling in over the horizon.
Shadows, pitch black and ominous, clung to every dark side of an object, flitting from bush to house to tree with frightening speed. There had to be thousands of them and come nightfall, there would be millions. Clear as day, Edward the Jerk demon formed in front of a bus that had parked in the school parking lot and prepared for the go home rush. He saluted up at me before leaning against the bus grill as he waited for his slimy pals to join him.
This couldn’t be good.
“That is a lot of demons,” Phil whispered.
We were toast; crispy fried on demonfire and eaten for lunch. I pinched the bridge of my nose. If I could get headaches, I’d have a whopper by now. I turned back to Anna and paced the hallway.
“We need a plan,” I said. “A big one.”
Min grinned. He tapped the tiles where he’d already traced out the floor plan of the school. He pointed to all the exits and windows and marked an X at the center of the school where the main hall was.
“Chop,” he said pointing to the exits. “Chop, chop… chop.” He drew a circle, no, a perimeter around the X and tapped it. “Bomb.”
It was a solid plan… I think. It looked as if the idea was to hold the school from the center and cut off entrance through the doors and windows.
“I take it you’ve done this a few times,” I said.
Min shrugged like it was no big deal, but it was a big deal to me. I needed at least one Guardian with experience. He was the oldest and thank The Boss he knew how to fight!
“Sounds good to me,” I said. “We should get started…”
Anna bolted upright gasping like she’d just surfaced from drowning. Whatever she’d been dreaming about, it must have been a nightmare. We all jumped out of her way. It was reflex and self-preservation combined in our desire to not get punched in the face.
“Where are they?” she demanded.
“The demons are gone,” Duffy said. “You’re a little late for the party.”
“Not the demons,” Anna said frantically.
“Stan left too,” I said glumly.
“Not Stan either… wait, Stan was here? I slept through that?” Anna blushed a pretty pink.
“Snored like a freight train,” Duffy said.
“And you drooled,” Phil added for good measure.
“Nobody thought to wake me up?” Anna said, then she waved off the offense. “Forget it. Where are the Mortals? We have to find Katelyn and Greg.”