Getting pieced back together was a nightmare. I remembered all too well the anatomy class taught at the Academy where every angel got the low down on correct reassembling technique. It wasn’t as if we had to get every intestine right back where it belonged or we were toast, but there had been mishaps where angels misplaced a lung where a liver should have been. I never understood that one. A lung went under the ribs and it was straightforward where it had to go. Now mixing a liver and kidney on the other hand, that I could understand. I’d swapped those once and I swear I’ll never do it again. Talk about internal knots!
I liked doing my own reassembling. It was my immortal body and despite the fact that I’d take demonfire for any angel or Mortal in trouble, I took relative good care of it. I didn’t like just any old angel slapping me back together. However, I was whole, which made me worry a bit as to who did the reassembling.
I came around slowly. The tiled ceiling I was staring at was fuzzy and it took a few dry-eye blinks to get it back into focus. I expected to see snow.
“He’s awake!” Phil said excitedly.
Duffy and Phil stood over me with matching grins.
“Dude, welcome back,” Duffy said.
“What happened?” I said. My throat was cold and scratchy like it’d been dragged across asphalt.
“Well, Anna and I caught only the last part of the whole scene, but the demons ripped you to shreds,” Duffy said.
“I tried to blast our way out of there,” Phil said. “But there were too many of them. They hauled us back to the school and dumped us on the front steps.”
“So I was dragged across the asphalt,” I said. I coughed roughly and spat out a few tar covered pebbles. I even had grit in my teeth. “Figures. Stupid demons.”
“Anna and I thought we might have to blast you free of them, but they just left you there like somebody’s dirty laundry and went back to surrounding the school,” Duffy said.
“Nice. I’ve always wanted to be the demon’s dirty laundry,” I said wryly.
“You should feel special,” Duffy said. “I think that was the longest I’ve ever seen Anna stay awake for anything. She spent hours putting you back together.”
I perked up at the news. I got a great mental picture of Anna working over my dilapidated body, wiping a tear for my pains and sacrifice. It was a cozy image.
“Well, until she passed out on the floor in the middle of putting your guts back in,” Phil said. “Duffy and I had to do the rest.
“Chop!” Min said. He folded his arms across his chest and glared at Phil.
“Min helped too,” Phil said. “He rearranged your face for you, so if you look lopsided, it’s not our fault.”
Min grinned, satisfied. Duffy smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand.
“We agreed to not tell him about that!” Duffy said.
“Yeah, but we’ve got this not lying thing going, Duffy,” Phil said. “We’re angels, remember?”
“It’s not lying if you don’t volunteer the information,” Duffy said.
The image of Anna weeping over me imploded. For all I knew, she was probably dreaming about Stan again. I rubbed wearily at my face. It felt okay. My nose and mouth seemed to be where they were supposed to be.
“How long was I out?”
“Well, you took on the demons around three o’clock and it’s just after eleven,” Duffy said, consulting his watch. “Phil was going to shoot you with something if you didn’t come around in the next ten minutes.”
I jumped to my feet. “What the wings?” I swore. “Why didn’t you shoot me hours ago?”
“Chill, Gideon. You weren’t even breathing until about twenty minutes ago,” Duffy said.
“We really did try to piece you back together as fast as we could,” Phil said. “It’s not like we were being intentionally slow, but you were a mess. Min had to get the anatomy book from the library for reference.”
“I’m sorry, guys,” I said, deflated in an instant. It wasn’t fair of me to be angry. “You know how badly I’ve got to get out of here. I’m running out of time.”
I dashed to a window. We were camped out on the first floor in the center of the school. All the lights were out in the entire school except for the ones in the main foyer. I hated the dark. Only evil bred there.
Through the frosted pane the snowstorm hadn’t let up at all. The wind had blown snowdrifts five feet high against the school and it seemed to be coming down by the truckload. I’d estimate that a foot and a half of snow had already piled up on the ground and there was no end to the storm in sight.
It was dark out, so it was hard to see the demons. They didn’t seek cover in the darkest shadows. They didn’t have to. It was dark enough out for them to surround the school in thick clumped masses, feeling nothing and especially not the cold. They didn’t converge on the school yet. They seemed to be waiting for the order to invade.
Duffy, Min and Phil joined me at the window. Silently we stared at the demons, wondering what the heck we were going to do now.
“I’ve got to get through them,” I said. “I’ve got to get my Mortal off The List. I have to…”
But it looked, and probably was, impossible. There were so many of them. They filled the parking lot, the street and football field; packed so closely together that the snow they stood on wasn’t visible.
“Bomb?” Min said as he turned to me.
“Gideon,” I said. “Dude, that sucks if you can’t remember names too.”
Min shook his head, his forehead furrowed in concentration. He pointed at the demons and made a fist with one hand then he pointed at me and made a fist with his other hand. He rammed his fists together and looked to me as if that made all the sense in the world, which it didn’t.
“You’re going to have to give me a little more than that,” I said.
Min growled in frustration. He rammed his fists together again and again.
“Jun Jange,” he said.
“Great. Now he’s speaking oriental,” Duffy said.
“Can you be any more offensive?” Phil said. “Min is clearly Korean. It’s all in the shape of the eyes.”
“I don’t care if he’s got an extra eye in the middle of his forehead, it’s not going to help us figure out what he’s saying,” Duffy said.
Min ignored him and grabbed my arm. He steered me to the window and pointed at the demons. He placed his hand on my chest. “Ji do jah.” Then he made a fist and shook it at the demons. “Jun jange.”
“I’m sorry. I really wish I knew Korean, but that doesn’t make any sense,” I said.
Min closed his eyes like he was praying for patience. When he opened them again he was determined.
“Wahl,” he said.
“Water?” Duffy suggested.
“Water doesn’t slam together, Duffy,” Phil said. “Unless it’s a wave.”
Min rolled his eyes. “Noh,” he said. “Wahl.”
“You lost me, Min,” Duffy said. “What is a wahl? Wall? Wash? Wipe?”
It hit me. Of course, I had to get past the shock that Min was actually communicating with more than “chop” and “bomb”. Call me dense, but it all made sense.
“War,” I said. “We wage war. Is that what you meant?”
“Lhisk wahl,” Min said. “Beeg Lhisk.”
“You mean risk, right?” Duffy said.
I whacked him in the shoulder. “Who cares about the pronunciation,” I said. I turned to Min. “I already tried the direct approach. It didn’t work.”
Min held up a finger to stop me. “Fohltess,” he said.
“Fohltess?” Duffy snickered. “Sorry, that sounds like bathroom humor. I like it though. We take out demons with the power of gas. IBS, anyone?”
Min ignored him and looked pleadingly to me. He patted the walls of the ancient school. “Fohltess.”
Duffy laughed harder. “I’ll make a fartapult—,”
I slapped my hand over his mouth to shut him up before he really got going on the flatulent related jokes. I was struck with a brilliant idea.
“We use the school as a fortress,” I said. “We wage war from inside the school. If we draw the demons in, then we have a chance to get out. You are amazing, Min!”
“Fight foh Ji do jah,” he said. Then he stiffened and bowed to me; a traditional show of respect. My guess was that Ji do jah was Min language for Gideon or war leader. I couldn’t really tell.
“Wow,” Duffy said, staring like what Min did was a big deal. “Aside from the fact that this was the most Min has said, ever, I’ve never seen him bow to anyone.”
Duffy shook himself and turned to me. “I’m not going to bow, but whatever you need, Gideon, say the word. We’re with you.”
Now that felt pretty darn good.
“Again,” Phil said, shaking his head. “I feel for you, man. If Anna could see you now…”
I hated to admit it, but Phil was right. Regardless, I grabbed Min and took him to the ring of light in the center of the hall. Speaking of Anna, she was passed out on the floor, snuffling in her sleep right where she’d dropped. The others didn’t fuss over her like I did and she was a jumble of arms and legs with her hair spread out in all directions on the tiles.
There was one particular lock of hair that crossed over her open mouth and I drew it away and hooked it behind her ear. She’d probably inhale it if she snored deep enough.
Once finished, I grabbed out one of Min’s swords and went to work, tracing out plans on the floor under the fluorescent hall light.
“This might not work, especially if the walls don’t hold up,” I muttered to myself as I drew. Min unsheathed his other sword and helped.
“Hold, yes,” Min said as he drew a complicated tactic at the front doors.
“If you do that, we’ll lose the bottom floor to the demons,” Phil said.
“Lhisk, yes,” Min said. “Take out many.”
“What?” Duffy said, confused. He still wasn’t getting the hang of Min’s new language skills.
“He says it’s a risk, but if we draw the demons into the front of the school, we can take a lot of them out in one blow,” I translated.
Phil puffed out his cheeks. His eyes were bugged out because what Min was proposing was tactical suicide.
“And you’re okay with this?” his voice squeaked high.
“Technically, yes,” I said as I studied the plans. “If we rile them up enough we can get them to attack in one big mob.”
“To what end? It’s dark, they’ll just multiply and attack all over again,” Phil said.
“But it’ll create a gap for me to run through,” I mused.
“Only to have Edward the Buttface hunt you down wherever you go,” Duffy said.
“Dorkface,” I said. “I named him Dorkface.”
“Okay, Dorkface. He’ll catch up to you and the school will be overrun,” Phil said. “We’ll create a gap only to lose everything.”
Min froze. His hand shot out and grabbed my wrist. He scrawled on the floor in wild gestures creating a plan for a school wide catastrophe that I didn’t think possible. When he was done he tapped the drawing nervously as if he couldn’t believe what he’d just drawn.
“Boom,” I whispered, because basically, that was what he proposed.
“Beeg boom,” Min agreed.
“No way,” Phil said. “You’d level the school.”
“That’s what “big boom” means, Phil,” Duffy said.
Min and I stared at each other for a long time, neither of us willing to give the final say on whether or not we were going to flatten the school.
“It’ll take more fire power than we have,” I said. I don’t know why I was trying to talk him out of it. It was a pretty stellar idea: Insane, but genius.
Min didn’t reply. He studied me for a moment then he stood up and left. Just like that and he was off running down the hall.
Call me crazy, but I followed him.
“What’s going on?” Duffy said as he and Phil ran to catch up. Phil, in his excitement tripped over his own feet.
I had to speed walk to keep up with Min who was dashing through the halls. We trotted down a flight of stairs into the spider-infested basement where it seemed nobody had been in decades. There were mops and cleaning supplied strewn everywhere along with some moldy building materials. Even the janitor wasn’t big on keeping up the school. The smell of mothballs and ammonia was overpowering and there was a leak in the plumbing somewhere. We splashed through a few puddles until Min stopped in front of a rusty metal door.
Min placed his hand on the door. “Bomb.”
“Ah shoot,” Duffy muttered. “I was hoping he’d keep up the new vocabulary. Min, that’s a door. Duh. Ooh. Arr.”
“No, he’s right,” I said. “A lot of older schools were equipped with shelters during the Cold War. This is a bomb shelter.”
Min carefully turned the rusted doorknob and pulled slowly. The hinges were so far gone, the door fell off its frame and plunged to the floor with an echoing crash.
My jaw dropped. Inside the ancient shelter was the widest array of weapons I’d ever laid eyes on. There was everything from a Civil War era machine gun to heat seeking missiles, including every kind of sword, crossbow, ammunition and my personal favorite, a set of pearl handled El Paso Classics; the smoothest shooting guns ever made.
“Big boom,” Phil said in awe.
Min flipped on the light so we could get the full effect of weapons he’d stockpiled. With that kind of firepower, we could fight armies of demons for a very long time.
Duffy was reduced to monosyllabic sentences. “What? When? How?”
“HQ send,” Min said gesturing to the stores. “No like. Sword only. Keep here. HQ send more.”
“So you just kept it all?” Phil said incredulously. “How many years have you been collecting weapons, Min?”
Min put his hands up and shrugged. “Two hundred year?”
My brain did a flipping happy dance.
“Woohoo!” I yelped at the top of my lungs. “Yes! Min, you are the bomb!”
I tackle-hugged the compact Asian and noogied him. I whacked him congratulatory on the back like he was the sole survivor of an apocalypse. He just saved our butts.
“Beeg boom, yes?” Min said, grinning.
Oh we were going to seriously boom, in an epic way. Heck, not even the Mortals would be able to ignore the ground shattering explosions we were going to set off.
“I think we can do this,” I said. “We can win this.”
I looked to Duffy and Phil. What Min and I were asking of them was huge. Not only were we going to let the demons waltz right in the front door and take over, we were going to level the school on their heads. The decision had to be unanimous.
Phil swallowed hard. “I don’t know, Gideon. No angel has ever done something like this before.”
“If we pull it off, we’ll be the stuff of legend, Phil,” Duffy said. “Junior Angels will be talking about this for centuries.”
The corners of Phil’s mouth curled upward in a slow devious smile. “Well, when you put it that way,” he said.
“In, yes?” Min said.
Duffy and Phil nodded vigorously. I was in, but I had one minor reservation: Anna.
“Guys, I think we should wait…”
“Yeah, you’d better wait,” Anna said from behind me. I jumped about a foot and Phil managed to trip and fall with out moving first, which had to be some kind of record, even for him. “Since when am I left out of the vote?”
“Since you sleep through everything,” Duffy said under his breath.
“I was just saying—,” I said loudly to cover over Duffy.
“You were about to wipe out the entire school,” Anna said. “Am I right? Because that is total insanity.”
“Well…” I didn’t really want to tell the truth, but I did anyway. “That’s the short version of the plan, but yeah. We’re going to destroy the school and all the demons with it.”
Anna took less than a second to think about it.
“Cool. When do we start?”