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The basic idea was to get the demons to invade the school, which didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. Of course, planning relative insanity always seems fantastic in the moment, but now I wasn’t so sure.

Around midnight we had completed rigging the entire main floor with every kind of weapon and explosive we had to go off in a fiery inferno. Duffy was gone for about an hour somewhere. He snuck off with a heat-seeking missile, a dozen sticks of dynamite and a reel of detonator chord.

I looked to Phil questioningly, but all he said was, “Duffy is doing was Duffy does best.” And that was the end of it.

I stood in the dark, gnawing on my thumbnail at the big bay windows on the second floor overlooking the front of the school. Min was doing some last finishing touches on motion sensors hooked to crossbows. Anna was threading grenade pins to tripwires and Phil was backing up the stairs as he set out landmines on each step. In the meantime, the demons hadn’t moved.

Their lack of interest in attacking the school or anywhere else in Muddy Gap didn’t have me worried, yet. I was well equipped this time. I fitted myself out with an AK-47 machine gun, two extra shotguns, the sweet pair of pearl handled pistols I’d been drooling over and enough Anti-Demon ammunition to survive a demon apocalypse. I was lock, loaded and ready to go.

I leaned up against the wall and studied what lay ahead. Edward Dorkface was standing out in the snow at the head of the thickest clump of demons on the front lawn. Not that any place else was less dense. I’d already taken a tour of every exit at the school and the demons had them all covered.

Edward stared up at me, unblinking. Really, he didn’t have to do anything to be annoying. The fact that he was there was enough. He kept grinning at me like we were old pals.

The snow came down in muted clumps. It was well past a foot deep and the wind kicked the flurries into spirals as it fell. I’d marvel at how beautiful it was, but it was lost on me tonight. Tonight, the snow only framed the ugly black demons in sharp contrast of black against white.

Anna joined me at the window, looking out at the bleak, endless ranks of demons. She was the coolest one of us all. She didn’t seem annoyed in the least that we were going to take on demons without back up. Her hair, at night, looked almost silver and her pale skin was nearly white. It was a little surreal.

“I think we’re ready,” Anna said. She handed me a remote switch. Anna had one set up for the first half of explosions downstairs and Min had the other.

“You can keep it,” I offered.

“I’ll not risk it, thanks,” she said. I pocketed the switch and noticed that, for once, Anna didn’t look half asleep.

“I think you might actually stay awake this time,” I said. “I can see the whites of your eyes.”

“Probably because I am a little freaked out right now,” she said.

“You hide it really well.”

“I try to. Someone needs to be the sane one around here,” Anna said.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” I said. “I’ve gotten really good at catching you when you fall. You put the literal into that saying, you know.”

Anna didn’t laugh. “Yes. I know. But I can’t do that tonight. I promised The Boss.”

“Hot dang,” I said, thrown off. “So, no pressure, right? When did He come by to tell you that?”

“I don’t think He did. I think I dreamed it, or was I awake?” Anna’s face scrunched in confusion. “I can’t ever tell what is real or dream anymore. I can hear what is going on when I should be awake and end up dreaming about it. It’s confusing to know what is real and what is not. Does that make sense?”

“Uh, not really,” I said honestly. “But falling asleep can’t be all that bad. You’re still an amazing Miracle Worker.”

“Now you’re being nice,” Anna said shaking her head. “Every year that passes, I sleep more and more. The Boss didn’t just come by to wake me up. He came with a warning. He said that someday I will fall asleep and stay that way.”

“That can’t be good,” I said, which was an understatement. I didn’t want Anna to snore for eternity any more than she did.

“It was enough to scare me awake. I saw the plans you and Min scratched out on the floor and I knew if I went back to sleep, I’d regret it.”

I really didn’t know what to say. My brain cranked hard for a solution.


“Anna,” she corrected patiently.

“Sorry… Anna.”

“It’s okay. It’s an “A” name and close enough.”

Dang, she was nice. “Anna,” I began again, “it’s not like you can help it when you drop off. I’ve seen you. You can’t make yourself not sleep.”

“But I can help it. I have to,” she said, insistent this time.

“I can shoot you with more Panic Buttons,” I offered. “Min had a bucket full of them in the basement.”

Anna huffed out a half-hearted chuckle. “No. Thank you, though. I think The Boss wants me to stay awake on my own. I think t-tonight… tonight will determine if I can do it or not.” Anna punched her fist into the windowsill. “I must find a way.”

“I’ll let you hit me,” I kidded. “You seem to like doing that when you wake up and I’m within in punching distance.”

Anna didn’t laugh at all, not that I could blame her. My jokes were pretty lame. Instead her chin trembled and her pale blue eyes welled up with tears. My brain switched off and years of Guardian training kicked on automatically. Crying girls seemed to be my specialty.

Quickly I took her in my arms and hugged her tightly. I’m sure it didn’t feel nice with her face plastered against my ammunition belts, but I worked with what I had.

“Hug it out,” I said, letting her cry. “You’ll feel better.”

Anna fought me for less than a second and then she just melted. Her arms wrapped around my waist and she full on blubbered into my shirtfront. Yep. I was kind of a pro when it came to the waterworks. It’s a Guardian thing.

“Better?” I said after a solid five minutes. Tip from the Academy: the eyeball has roughly twenty minutes of fluid to expel depending on hydration. Angels have much more, but emotionally our spans were shorter. We had a lot to do and moping on The Boss’s time was limited.

Anna pulled away and scrubbed at her cheeks. I offered my sleeve, but she declined.

“Much better, thanks,” she said. “Wow. That was good. What did you do? Drug your shirt?”

“Guardian,” I reminded her like that explained everything, because it basically did. “You’ll stay awake. Don’t worry.”

Anna nodded, her face set and determined. “By the way, thanks for everything.”

“Everything?” I said. “I haven’t done anything yet. I have managed to ruin a teen girl’s life in less than two weeks and attract demons like flies on raw meat. Other than that, I’ve done squat.”

“You let me have a say in this plan of yours,” Anna said. “That’s not nothing.”

“I feel super sweet,” I said as I scanned the front lawn and parking lot. “Especially since there is a high chance of the entire school coming down on top of us too if we don’t get out in time.”

Anna didn’t reply for a long time. We watched the snowstorm as time on my watch hit one o’clock in the morning. Every second lost made me more antsy. Communications were out between Headquarters and Muddy Gap High and I didn’t like not knowing where Katelyn was.

It felt like and age, but when Min finally joined us, it was really only ten minutes. He pressed his fist into the palm of his hand and bowed.

“Ji do jah.”

“I really wish he’d stop doing that,” I whispered to Anna between clenched teeth.

“It’s cute,” Anna teased.

“Adorable. Especially since I have no clue what he’s saying.”

I bowed back awkwardly. I didn’t understand the formal stuff. Min had the other remote and carefully placed it in the breast pocket of his shirt. He had a wicked looking sniper rifle too, which looked odd on him. He was old school.

“As soon as Duffy and Phil get here, we’ll begin,” I said, checking my watch yet again. I was twelve hours down with twelve to go. I didn’t like cutting it this close. The demons had doubled in the time that we rigged the school. Given any more time and there would be no way we’d be able to get out.

Phil jogged down the hall, his overly large feet thumping loudly on the tiles. “Is Duffy done yet?”

“Haven’t seen him,” I said.

As if on cue, Duffy took the stairs two at a time and sprinted to the window. Preparation for war was complete and we were ready.

“Did I miss anything?” he puffed.

“You’re right on time,” I said.

“Excellent! Let’s blow this joint,” he said. He grabbed his sliver glock and busted out one of the panes on the bay window with the handle. “Are we shooting randomly or picking them off in a specific order?”

Min shoved the sniper rifle into my hands. “Shoot Dohlkface,” he said.

“It’s Dorkface, Min,” Duffy said. “You’ve got a weird accent.”

Min’s eyes narrowed. One of these days I could see him slicing Duffy’s butt cheeks off with his swords if he didn’t stop pestering him about his language skills. Come to think of it, I hoped I was there to see it.

“Shoot to get his attention,” Anna said.

“Funny you should say that,” I whispered so only Anna could hear. “It was because I shot him that got me in this mess in the first place.”

I pressed the rifle into my right shoulder and dropped to one knee. Through the scope, I could see snow obstructing a clear shot and a whole lot of black. It took me a second to find Edward. There were so many demons, they crowded in on top of each other, and sandwiched together shoulder to shoulder. But, there he was, staring up at me with a half grin smirk plastered on his face. Dorkface was a good name for him.

“So,” I mused, mostly to myself. “What should I take out first? His head? Or something a little more nefarious.”

“Noh head,” Min said.

“We need Dorkface to give the order to attack,” Phil said. “He reforms wicked fast, so if he’s got to go, it should be last or with all the other demons.”

“You’re right, Phil,” Anna said. “We need to give Gideon as much time as possible to get to Katelyn demon free.”

“Shoot him in the shoulder or something,” Duffy said. “Or, if you want to make it interesting, see if you can pop out his belly button.”

“Lower,” Anna said.

All heads turned to stare at her. Anna studiously stared out the window as she picked nervously at her chin.

“I’m not going to shoot his nuts off,” I said, shuddering. “That’s beyond cruel, even if he is a demon.”

“I’ll do it,” Anna said. “I wouldn’t mind at all. Then again, I don’t know why you’re being so noble. He did order you to be ripped to shreds, nuts included.”

I think I saw red, among other things. I didn’t pause to really calculate the ramifications. Bypassing looking through the scope, I found Edward and pulled the trigger. His scream echoed in the night.

I grabbed the lever, popped the empty shell out and reloaded a new shell into the chamber. Duffy grabbed a pair of binoculars and searched for Edward.

“Ho HO! That was close!” Duffy crowed. “You blasted off his entire inner thigh.”

I aimed again, but this time, Edward was bent double, clutching at his leg. The second shot took off his arm at the shoulder. The ranks of demons began to stir. The shadowy hordes moved forward in a wave.

“Hold!” Edward screeched. “Hold your positions! Nobody moves until the Mortal is dead!”

“Want to bet?” Phil grabbed one of my shotguns and aimed. I knew he wanted to take out Edward, but instead he took out the three demons standing next to him.

Duffy began shooting too, taking out demons at random. Min watched our progress and Anna yanked a pin out of a grenade and tossed it. Demons scattered in the blast, but not enough to create any gaps or rile them up enough to charge. The only thing they did was hiss as they regrew body parts that got blown off. I emptied my shotgun and my spare, but we were getting nowhere with the demons. I knew it would be difficult with Edward leading them, but I was counting on their demonish lack of self-control and discipline to sway in our favor.

We paused for a moment and in that half-second, the demons filled in the gaps as if we’d not shot them at all. Min and Duffy reloaded as Anna checked for damage through the binoculars.

“No change,” she said.

“Phase two,” I said. I got behind Phil as he loaded up a fat missile in his bazooka and braced against his back for impact. “Fire!”

Phil pulled the trigger and the flash of light was blinding. The detonation was beautiful. Demons splattered everywhere. Phil plopped a new missile into his bazooka.

“Did it work?” I yelled. My ears were ringing from the blast.

“Nope,” Anna said. “Fire again.”

Phil hefted the bazooka to his shoulder and this time I plugged my ears and closed my eyes as I pressed against his back to keep him upright. When the blast was over the demon’s shrieks were music to my ears. There was nothing better than a few hundred less demons in the world. I peered over Phil’s shoulder to see what was going on. I barely blinked when I bolted for cover.

“Incoming!” I shouted as I grabbed Phil and dove behind a row of lockers. A fiery red ball of demonfire rammed into the window and shattered all the panes. The stench of sulfur filled the hallway as smoke clogged my throat and stung my eyes. Glass shards were everywhere and my lungs burned.

Even though I was knocked back hard on my bottom from the blast, I jumped to my feet. The demonfire smoldered on the tiles and burned away at the ceramic like acid. Duffy, Min and Phil were on their feet too, but Anna was at the window going back-woods crazy with a machine gun.

“Take that, Demon scum!” she yelled. When her round of ammunition ran out, she tossed the gun and whipped out a handful of dynamite she had roped to her waist. In all honesty, she was more gorgeous than any angel I’d ever laid eyes on as she flipped on a lighter (it spewed flames like a blowtorch) and lit the ends. They caught and illuminated the night in a ball of brilliant light. Then she spun around and flung them all out the window. It was like poetry.

The explosion was amazing. The demons had no time to scatter as particles of light sped downward like a meteor and splattered them where they stood. Phil’s bazooka did damage to their ranks, but Anna’s dynamite cleared an entire hole, not enough to run through, but enough for the demons to struggle filling in the gap.

We stood behind Anna and gaped in awe.

“That was freaking amazing,” I said.

“Epic!” Duffy said.

Anna turned to me with a shrug. “Miracle Worker,” she said, because that pretty much explained everything. “That ought to get them riled up.”

Min got the binoculars out. “Chop,” he spat and handed them to me for a look.

I searched for Edward in the demon ranks. Dorkface was there at the front, fully regrown and spitting mad. His hands were smoking from demonfire and he was holding back the demons that seemed to be in no real rush to storm the school.

“Chop!” I swore. “It didn’t work.”

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