I lay on my belly at the edge of the rooftop across the street from the warehouse on North Union Avenue. I was dressed head to toe in black, with a black skull cap covering my hair, and black grease paint striping my face. I peered intently at the nondescript building. It was dilapidated, with boarded up windows, and a tattered sign hanging from the door that read “MLA Corporation.” Andreas lay next to me, scoping the building out with a pair of binoculars. I focused on the numen, and the energy snapped into view, brightening the dark night considerably.
“No security guards,” Aislinn’s voice whispered, piping through the little headset in my ear. She was across the street scoping out the building from the outside.
“What about an alarm system?” Andreas whispered. He passed the binoculars over to me. I focused them on the building, and gasped with delight. These came equipped with night vision! The entire building came into focus, up close and personal, glowing with an eerie green light through the lenses.
I heard Aislinn laugh softly. “The security system is sound, but simple. Cameras and motion sensors on all windows and doors, infrared trip wires, a door access control system wired for security pass card access. It’s wired against unauthorized entry, glass break detection, and the usual.”
“Can you bypass it?” Andreas asked.
I could almost hear her grin. “Do wolves how at the moon? This is standard stuff, Andreas. You two should get down here. I’ve already disabled the cameras, and it doesn’t appear that there are any internal security issues, so once I get us in the door we should be golden. Meet me in the back.”
I turned to Andreas. He grinned at me. “Told you she was good.”
I flashed a grin back at him, and we clambered down towards ground level. We had chosen a vantage point in the construction zone across the street while Aislinn scoped things out up close and personal. The building we were in was only half finished, so the climb up and down through the skeleton of the building had been a bit precarious, but we were both nimble, and it was only a three-story climb. We got down to street level, where we had to wait, somewhat impatiently, for the sparse traffic to afford us an opportunity to jaywalk unseen. Finally the last car disappeared around the corner and we sprinted silently out of the shadows, across the street, and back into the shadows again, darting down the side of the building towards the back.
My adrenaline was pumping with my excitement. Finally we seemed to be making a little progress. We were about to enter the belly of the beast, or at least I hoped it turned out to be the belly of the beast and not just a dead end.
Rounding the corner at the rear of the warehouse, I spotted Aislinn with my numen-tuned eyes crouched in the shadows behind a large back-up generator near a dumpster. I would never have spotted her, were it not for the energy sparkling around her. She beckoned us over. “We’ve got to get up there,” she pointed to the fire escape. “Easiest access will be through the roof, no one ever expects a roof entry.”
Andreas nodded, and darted to the rickety ladder. We took our turns ascending the metal frame. Andreas slithered up as silent as a shadow. I followed, thanking him mentally the entire way for my enhanced reflexes that allowed me to be as light on my feet as a cat. I understood then how a non-human could be good at this. We were silent, we were fast, and we had our resident security system expert at our back. Any normal human would have made a horrible racket climbing up the wobbly metal fire escape.
Within moments all three of us were crouched on the tarry roof. Aislinn led us to a hatch in the center of the roof that obviously opened upwards, giving access to the top floor. “Give me a minute,” she whispered. Reaching into her backpack, she pulled out some equipment. I didn’t quite know what it all was, but she stuck a thin metal probe into a wire attached to the hatch. The wire, in turn, was attached to some sort of sensor. My untrained mind thought it looked like some sort of contact sensor that would set off an alarm if the hatch was opened. She plugged her probe into a small hand-held computer, and with an expression of intense concentration, typed away furiously. Finally, satisfied that she had succeeded, she grabbed the handle of the hatch, and lifted.
It opened with a slight creak, but there were no claxons of alarms going off, and she sighed in relief. She eyed her little hand-held computer. “I’ve bypassed this door, so as far as anyone could tell looking at the main panel it’s still locked up tight. Let’s go!”
I peered inside, and saw the ground floor, about forty feet below us. We were above the main warehouse itself, and it was one large cavernous room. I looked at Andreas nervously.
He pulled off his back pack, unzipped it, and unloaded rope and harnesses. He helped secure a harness on me, and snapped me onto the rope. “I’m going to lower you down slowly,” he instructed in a hushed voice. “Don’t worry, I won’t drop you.”
I crawled over to the edge of the ledge, and swung my feet out into open space. “You better not,” I hissed. My heart pounded, and I yanked the rope. Andreas held it firmly, and nodded at me. I slowly scooted myself off the ledge, until I was dangling in mid air, clinging by nothing but my finger tips on the edge of the hole.
“Let go, Rhiannon,” his voice whispered into my ear piece.
I gulped fearfully. “You better not let go,” I whispered back, and I let go, trusting in him, and I dangled in mid air, hanging securely by the harness attached to the length of rope, swinging gently from side to side. Slowly he lowered me, foot by foot, until finally my feet touched the ground below me. No alarms went off when I made contact, no lights flashed, no one came running, and I sighed in relief.
“Now don’t move until I get Aislinn down thereh” He ordered in a whisper. I unhooked the harness, and he pulled it back up to lower Aislinn.
I looked around, giving the interior a visual inspection. I stood in the center of the large warehouse. The space was virtually empty. These people were obviously not using this as a warehouse. The floor was dusty with dirt, and multiple foot prints had stirred it up into a busy mess. Impressions were left in the dirt and dust, as if there had once been large items on the floor taking up space in neat little rows. A couple of crates remained against one wall. Several doors lined the walls to my left and right, exiting into other rooms. Offices, supply closets, bordello bedrooms? I had no idea, although I highly doubted it was the latter, however much it amused me. The walls in front and behind me were filled with tall windows, all of which were boarded up from the outside, although slivers of streetlight managed to worm their way in through cracks. This place was really quite a dump.
Aislinn joined me, grinning fiercely, obviously enjoying the excursion. She pulled out some night vision goggles, and scoped the warehouse floor, walking slowly and treading lightly. Andreas lowered himself slowly, climbing hand over hand down the rope. By the time he had reached the concrete floor Aislinn had returned.
“Just as I thought,” she said triumphantly. “No interior security to worry about. It looks like whoever was in here cleared out in a hurry. The crate over there,” she pointed to the large wooden one against the far wall, “contains a gas-liquid chromatograph.”
I gasped. My time spent watching CSI was actually paying off for once. Andreas shrugged, looking at me for explanation. “It’s lab equipment,” I said. “Scientists use it to analyze gases and liquids. Like blood,” I emphasized.
A light dawned in his eyes. “So this was a laboratory?” Given what we had learned about who was responsible for this warehouse, it was a good guess.
“Come on,” Aislinn said. “Let’s go explore the rooms.”
We each chose a door, which Aislinn inspected carefully with her funny goggles and a device that reminded me of a stethoscope, except that it was plugged into another of her miniature computers. She declared each door safe, so in we went.
My door did not lead me into a dank warehouse bordello bedroom. I was slightly disappointed to find nothing but a janitorial closet. With all these cleaning supplies on hand, why on earth didn’t anyone bother to sweep the floor, I thought, eying the large industrial broom. I took a cursory inventory. Bleach, ammonia, mops, buckets, toilet bowl cleaner, feather dusters. Nothing special or out of the ordinary. I rolled my eyes and closed the door. Aislinn was doing the same twenty feet away from me, shrugging her shoulders. “Bathroom,” she whispered. “No toilet paper, though.”
I laughed softly. We slipped silently to the third door that Andreas had entered. It was an office, I saw, excitedly. Andreas was tearing through desk drawers. A metal file cabinet stood, drawers askew, but empty. He looked up at us grimly. “Nothing,” he muttered, slamming a fist on the desk top.
“Come on,” Aislinn gestured for us to follow. She led us to the doorways on the other side of the large room. After she declared my door secure, I cracked it open, and found myself facing another office room. A large computer sat on the desk. I ran over to it excitedly, and reached out to power it on, but thought better of it. What if the computer was wired to the security system?
“You guys,” I whispered into my com system, “There’s a computer in here, come check it out!”
Aislinn was the first to arrive. “Don’t touch it,” she said softly, approaching the machine slowly.
Andreas slipped into the room. “Do you think it’s wired?” he asked her.
She bent down and examined the wires. Finally she looked up and shook her head. “If it is, it’s wired through the network.”
“Can you hack it?” I asked her.
She shrugged. “I can try.” She pulled out the chair, sat down, and flipped on the switch. With a familiar hum, the computer came to life and booted up. Once the log-on screen popped up, she frowned. Rather than type into it, she plugged her small hand-held into a USB port on the side of the box. “I think I can hack it remotely,” she whispered, and began typing furiously.
I moved over to the vertical file cabinet that stood in the corner and tried opening the top drawer. It was locked. I pursed up my lips and looked at Andreas. “Can you pop it?” I asked, gesturing to the lock. He came over to inspect it.
Aislinn pulled open the front desk drawer and rummaged around a bit. “Try this,” she said, and tossed us a ring of keys. “People who own file cabinets are so predictable,” she muttered, and went back to work on her little computer.
I let out a small whoop of delight, and caught the keys mid-air. The third one fit, and with a small click, the drawer unlatched. I grinned at Andreas and yanked the drawer open.
“No, wait!” he cried out, but he wasn’t fast enough to stop me. Alas, nothing happened, no alarms, no explosions, nothing but the sound of Aislinn typing away and of the three of us breathing. We both let out sighs of relief, and peered inside.
Manilla folders were stacked neatly inside, stuffed with papers, and bearing the names of people. One of them bore my name. I gasped, and pointed it out to Andreas. “Look!”
He started grabbing folders by the handful. “Stuff them in your backpack, we can check them out later,” he ordered. I began clearing out the files. “How’s it going, Aislinn?” he asked.
“This is a little trickier than I thought it was going to be.” Her whisper held tension. “They’ve got some pretty deep security levels here, and I’m having trouble…” her voice trailed off.
Just then I heard a light click, a barely inaudible snap, like an electronic switch going off. “Shit!” she shouted. “We’ve got to get out of here, this place is gonna blow!” She jumped up and rushed over to us. “Move, move!” she shouted, running out the door.
We jumped up and ran after her. “I don’t know how I didn’t see it,” she was shouting. “The computer triggered it as soon as I bypassed the first level of encryption. Andreas, can you teleport us out of here?” She was looking around desperately for an exit, but the doors were locked from the outside, and the windows were all boarded up. It would take too long to exit the way we came in.
He shook his head. “I can’t teleport two people along with their gear this late at night, it’s too much!” he shouted. He rushed over towards the nearest window, and began to kick and punch, liberating the window of its boards. Finally there was a hole large enough to for us to squeeze out. The claxon of an alarm sounded as Aislinn crawled out of the hole, but we were no longer concerned with triggering it. Andreas shoved me quickly out after her, and then began to crawl his way out, as well. Aislinn and I began running across the street.
Andreas had barely made it out when the explosion hit with a deafening boom. I’d never seen a real explosion before. The shockwave hit me and knocked me flat on the ground in a haze of dust and smoke. Rocks and debris plummeted into my back. My ears reverberated with the boom as I slowly pulled myself back onto my feet, coughing, and brushed myself off. I felt bruised and banged up, and I knew I was bleeding in a couple of places, but it was minor. I tuned out the pain and turned around to eye the damage.
The warehouse had been completely flattened, turned into rubble. Where once sturdy, albeit dilapidated, walls had stood, nothing but a pile of concrete and brick rubble smothered in a haze of dust and smoke, with a few fires scattered about, remained.
I saw Aislinn a few feet away from me. She was standing on her feet, bleeding from a gash on her cheek, but otherwise appeared unharmed. Andreas was nowhere in sight.
“Oh no!” I gasped in alarm, and ran back towards the rubble.
We heard sirens in the distance.
I smelled him, and sent a silent thank you out to him once again for my enhanced senses. He was buried underneath a pile of rubble, and bleeding profusely from multiple lacerations due to shrapnel. I was dismayed. Aislinn joined me, and we rapidly dug him out, tossing the rubble over our shoulders as the sirens grew closer.
“Get him to the van,” she ordered. I still had a hint of vampiric strength left, and the slight enhanced strength of an angel, so with some effort, I carefully pulled the tall man across my shoulders, fireman style, and lumbered down the street towards where our van was parked, half a block away, just beyond the dispersal of rubble. His feet nearly dragged on the ground, I was just that short.
Aislinn was hot on my heels. She and I got the unconscious angel loaded in the back of the truck. I climbed in after him. Aislinn drove. We pulled around the nearest corner just in time to avoid the sirens of police and fire engines that were arriving on the scene of the explosion.
I didn’t know where Aislinn was driving. I didn’t care. Andreas was hurt, badly. A pool of blood was slowly spreading out from his leg, where a sharp fragment of rebar had embedded itself. Cursing quietly, I grabbed a blanket and put pressure around the wound, being careful as possible not to dislodge the shard. If it had punctured an artery, Andreas could bleed to death long before I could stop the bleeding if I removed it.
“We’re still three hours from sunrise,” Aislinn shouted, as she screeched around a corner.
I pulled out small pieces of plaster from cuts on his face, and other shards of metal from shallow wounds on his neck. I whipped out a knife and cut his shirt off of him so as to tend to the wounds on his torso. “Won’t he just heal as soon as it rises?” I shouted back, carefully separating shrapnel from flesh. Each newly opened wound bled freely when I removed the fragments, but with a little pressure they swiftly stopped bleeding and began to clot.
“Not if he’d dead first!” came her panicked reply. “You’ve got to stop his bleeding!” she shouted frantically. “He’s immortal, not eternal!” She finally pulled into a parking garage and we rolled to a stop. She leaned into the back of the van where I was hastily working, trying to patch Andreas up and keep him from bleeding to death. “I’m going to go get some supplies, you keep him alive,” she ordered tensely.
I nodded, but didn’t even look up, too engrossed in trying to save Andreas’ life. She took off, slamming the van door behind her, leaving me alone with an unconscious angel. His breathing was labored and shallow, and there was so much blood!
I got the worst of the debris cleaned off of him. He looked like he had been on the losing side of a fight with a lawnmower. His skin was pale, his pulse was rapid, and his temperature was much too low. I wrapped the last remaining blanket around his torso. He was still bleeding from the deep wound in his thigh. I ripped my belt out of my belt loops and wrapped it around his leg above the deep gash, creating a tight tourniquet, and watched with concern and relief as the bleeding finally slowed, and then stopped.
“Don’t you die on me, Andreas,” I whispered. I wiped tears out of my eyes. I would not cry! He was no longer bleeding, but his body was going into shock, and I didn’t know what to do about that. I curled up next to him underneath the blanket, hoping my body warmth would help keep his elevated, willing him with all my might to stay alive.
He didn’t regain consciousness, but he kept on breathing. I sobbed silently, and tears trickled out of my eyes. Fighting the urge to cry wasn’t worth the effort. “Please, please please!” I sobbed. “I need you, you stupid angel, don’t you dare die on me!”
Time seemed to tick by so incredibly slowly. Minute after inexorable minute, he stayed alive, and I stopped crying.
Aislinn finally returned, with some isopropyl alcohol and gauze to clean the wounds. Gauging the situation, she grimly noted that I had done the best I could and only time would tell the rest. She told me she was going to head back to the blown up building to check it out and make sure our tracks were covered. I nod mutely.
More time passed, and Andreas still clung to life, and I was grateful. I disinfected and cleaned all of his wounds. The sting and burn of the alcohol didn’t even stir him, he remained blissfully unconscious. Finally the light of dawn tinted the van windows. “Thank god,” I muttered with relief, and flung the doors open, to let in the daylight. The sun slowly rose, and the instant the first beams hit the unconscious Angel his wounds began to knit close.
I cried anew, tears of relief. I undid the tourniquet and watched, amazed, as the rebar shard worked itself free of his flesh and clattered onto the metal floorboard of the van beneath us. The large gash was puckered and red, but the edges drew close, and fresh flesh replaced the shredded skin, leaving a bright pink patch on his thigh. His skin was still pale and wan, but he was whole.
For the first time since I found him, he moved, and he began to stir. He opened his eyes slowly, blinking and squinting. He looked at me weakly. “Rhiannon? What happened?” he whispered.
A tear trickled down my cheek and I laughed. “You were blown up.” I smiled in exhausted relief, touching his cheek, almost in disbelief.
He reached out his hand and wiped the tear off of my cheek. “Don’t cry,” he whispered. “It hurts. I hurt.” He moved to force himself up, but winced and lay back down. “Water?” he asked.
I handed him a bottle of water. “You should probably just rest for a little bit and soak up some sunshine,” I told him softly. “Aislinn will be back any minute, and we’ll get you back to the hotel.”
He sighed, and slowly forced himself to sit up, wincing. “I’ll be alright,” he reassured me. “No time to be an invalid.”
I gave him a stern look. “You were blown up,” I emphasized.
“What concerns me more,” he rasped, staring at me with a gravely serious expression, “is what was so important that it was worth blowing up to keep secret?”