They’re our last hope. We should probably be preparing our last prayers.
“Do all stories start at the beginning?”
The professor looked out at the quiet lecture hall. No one spoke as he looked for a glimmer of an answer in the eyes of a student; any student. “Let’s ask it in a different way – are there stories that start somewhere other than the beginning?”
One student rose her hand, and the professor quickly pointed towards her. She brushed back her long dark hair and stood up, one of her hands still in her pocket. She put the hand she had risen back into its pocket on her red and blue coat, and cleared her throat with a cough. “Well, some stories start at the climax – especially in film and television. Take Fight Club’s opening, for example.”
“Very good, Miss...?”
“Bellona Serafina, professor.”
“Ah, well thank you for the excellent answer, Miss Serafina.” Bellona sat down again and put her hands in her pockets the students around her writing down her answer. “What purpose does it this serve, from a literary perspective?”
Once again, only Bellona rose her hand. The professor nodded in her direction, and she stood up to answer: “It hooks the audience in by providing a goal for them to get to – it makes the reader or viewer ask themselves how things got to that point, if done well.”
“Very good again, yes, that is precisely what purpose it serves,” the professor said with a smile. He began to speak on about various ways to do this, and Bellona sat back down with a slight smirk. The professor hadn’t noticed that she wasn’t registed for the class – or the college for that matter.
Midway through the lecture she was sound asleep.
The shuffling of students leaving roused Bellona from her sleep. The young woman was wide awake quickly – and was asking herself, had I really dozed off? The professor was grabbing his things as she left in her half-asleep state. But Bellona paid his judgmental glare no mind. She’d just make sure not to show up in his classes again.
The voice wasn’t audible, instead seeming to transmit directly into her mind. “What is it, Gabe?” she thought back in response. There were a few moments of silence.
“There’s a group of angels coming down. At least one is going to be in this area – I can’t tell about the others.”
Bellona nodded, and glanced around the campus. “When’s the Angel going to arrive?” The skies were blue and clear, but bright enough that she couldn’t make out the tell-tale pinpoints of light that marked an Angel’s approach. But even if it had been darker, it was possible that the Angel was too far away for her to see the falling star-esque descent.
“From their speed... probably around twenty o’clock. I’ll keep track of them, we should be able to intercept the one that’s going to be here after it finds a host.”
“Alright, sounds good, Gabe.”
Silence filled her mind for a few seconds, until she was finally able to fill the void with her own thoughts. Her hands returned to her coat pockets and she gently squeezed the metallic handles within, careful to avoid the triggers and safety switches of the handguns. She . If an Angel was going to be in the city tonight, she had to be prepared for anything.
The young man was on the run. His open, white flight jacket didn’t blow in the wind behind him, however; it was drenched from the rain pouring down. His hands clenched so hard that his knuckles were as red as his fingerless gloves.
The streetlamps illuminated his way through the town, shadows and lights flickering across his body with every step he took. Behind him his pursuers were gaining for the time being, the black man leading shouting at him: “Kyosu, get back here!”
“Yo, holmes, we just wanna talk! Don’t run, esse!” another man shouted a few seconds later. On one side of his was a white man, on the other side a Chinese man. They were silent as they followed the group’s lead, the four dressed in identical leather jackets.
Kyosu didn’t respond to their shouts as he approached the corner of the side walk. He grabbed the lamp pole at the corner and swung around it once, propelling himself forward as he started down the other sidewalk. The four chasing after him lost some ground on him as they took the wider route for the turn. The young man’s heart pounded in his chest, his hair falling in front of his eyes from the weight of the rain pulling it down.
The gang members shouted at him again as he brushed the hair out of his eyes. The traffic signal changed in the moment his hand passed in front of his face. His feet hit the wet asphalt of the street as he heard the sound of a truck’s horn blaring out at his jaywalking. A single glance to the left revealed a semi-truck hurtling down the road towards him at a speed that would make it impossible to stop in time.
He let out a short yelp as he bound across its path, the gang members reaching the curb as the truck roared behind him. It was in that moment of relief from their chase that he was able to spot an alleyway. Kyosu turned left and sneaked into it. If he was lucky, he’d be able to get out of the alleyway before they saw him.
But fate had other plans for Kyosu. To his disappointment, the alleyway was a dead-end he found, a solid wall about fifty feet into it greeting him, a window maybe twenty feet up but still out of reach. He looked up to try to see if there was a way to climb up to the window, but as far as he could tell he was trapped in this alley. Above him he noticed a shooting star and smirked slightly.
“A shooting star? Might as well wish for a way out...” he muttered to himself. He turned back towards the street, glancing around the alleyway Maybe they wouldn’t see him, he’d be able to hide here as they ran by-
“There he is!”
Kyosu had nowhere to run from here. The four gang members walked towards him in a line that blocked off all of his possible routes of escape. Kyosu backed up and found himself against the wall, his heart pounded in his chest as he looked desperately for a way out. If only I could go through the wall, he thought to himself as he glanced back at it. This would be a lot easier to deal with then...
“You’re going to pay, bozo,” the black man said as the group walked forward slowly, grins on their faces. “Nobody fucks with the Aces, kapeesh?”
“Look, I don’t want any trouble,” Kyosu said as he put his hands up, glancing around. He was looking for some way to get out of here, any way at all... the image of him jumping over the wall passed through his mind, and he wished he was that athletic. But most of all, he just wished for a way out.
He felt himself fall backwards and against the wall, and in a single moment he was looking at the wall. Somehow it was in front of him, and he let out a gasp as he fell backwards and onto the hard ground with a thud.
“W-what the hell?” He blinked as he looked around himself, this was the other side of the wall – or at least the other side of a wall. “What the hell happened?”
He didn’t get an answer as he looked around the empty street. Rain continued to drench him as he ran out and into the asphalt. He turned around, trying to make sense of what had happened. As far as he could see, he had somehow just appeared on the other side of the wall. But that didn’t make sense, there was no way that could have been what had happened. It was a solid wall. He put his hand against it and pressed, pushing against the bricks as he looked for a part of the wall that moved when he did so.
The rain stopped falling and the world fell silent. He blinked as he looked around in confusion. As he took a step he realized that the rain had stopped, but not in the traditional sense. The droplets were frozen in place, the world was unmoving. There were ripples that formed halfway before stopping, and insects suspended in the streetlight’s glow. The total lack of movement explained why he heard nothing now, but not why he could move.
“So you’re the new Angel host?”
The woman’s voice surprised him. In a flash he turned around to look in the direction of her voice. She was young, just a few years older than him, but a look in her eyes gave the impression that she was weary. Her right hand held the end of a necklace up, looking through the hourglass at the bottom of it at Kyosu with a smirk; the sand in it was stuck in place. Her other hand was in the pocket of her red and blue coat. Her coat – and her hair as well - hadn’t been soaked from the rain yet.
“Host? What the hell are you talking about, lady?”
“You just came through a portal in that wall, didn’t you?”
“I- I what? A portal? Look, I don’t know what happened, I was on the other side of it one moment, and now I’m here, and the rain isn’t falling for some reason and it’s really confusing me, alright? You seem to know what the hell’s going on more than me, why don’t you tell me?”
She just laughed and put her necklace back into her shirt. She shook her head as she rolled her eyes. Kyosu started to open his mouth, but she put up a finger to shush him. He glared at her, but grudgingly stayed quiet.
“So you just got your Angel then... odd that you were able to use your power so early,” she mused to herself, pausing for a moment. Her finger stayed up, and Kyosu felt his eyebrow twitch with impatience.
“Basically,” she said after a for moments of thought, “you have a superpower: portals.” Kyosu nearly fell backwards at the words, but his irritation vanished nearly immediately and was replaced by confusion. He stepped forward and out of his stunned
“Wait, I have a superpower? You have one too, I’m guessing? What’s your superpower?”
“You’re looking at it.”
Kyosu blinked and looked around himself before realizing exactly what she meant. “You... you stopped the rain, but everything else is paused too... time! You can stop time!”
“Precisely. And it looks like your power is something with portals – you’ll have to figure it out yourself though,” she responded. “What’s your name?”
“Kyosu, but I’d prefer if you call me the Crimson Hurricane if I have superpowers now,” Kyosu smiled at the thought, it hadn’t truly hit him that he now was a superpowered being until he said those words. He had always wanted to be a superhero somewhat, but had long relegated that to being an impossibility.
“Well, Kyosu, my name’s Bellona, and-”
“You didn’t use my superhero name, why not?”
Bellona laughed and shook her head. Kyosu felt his face turn red as she put a hand on her mouth as her laugh became a giggle.
“No, I don’t know anyone who does – we keep out of the public best we can, to be honest,” Bellona explained to him as she finished laughing. There was a short pause before she continued, “Now follow me, okay? It takes a lot out of me to keep time frozen, and I don’t want to get wet.”
She grabbed his arm and pulled, not waiting for an answer. Kyosu followed though, it was clear that knew more than he did about what was happening. Besides, it was better than waiting for the Aces to find him again... and she did have a point about not getting any wetter from the rain.
She led him across town at a brisk pace, hurrying to get to the destination. Bellona was getting visibly wearier every minute. Kyosu didn’t comment on it though, figuring that she must have been exerting tremendous effort to keep time frozen. Why she didn’t just unfreeze time and deal with the rain was beyond him, but he assumed she knew what she was doing.
Eventually they arrived at the front entrance of a tall apartment complex, with a small cafe built in on the bottom. Bellona pulled her necklace out and turned the hourglass on it, causing the rain began to fall again as time resumed. Kyosu realized she had no umbrella either. Had she really just kept time frozen to avoid the rain? It seemed like a tremendous waste of a superpower, but at the same time he was somewhat impressed by her use of it in such a unique way.
It didn’t matter that she had unpaused time on the street though. They didn’t have a chance to get wet. In only a few seconds they were inside the apartment complex, where warm air met them with open arms. Kyosu, who had been in the downpour for nearly an hour before Bellona had found him, was soaked completely still. Water dripped off of him and onto the floor, while Bellona looked almost completely dry except for a few splotches of water on her clothes.
“Are you going to explain to me what’s going on yet, then?” he asked, but Bellona made no response to him. The janitor sighed at the tracks the two left on the floor and Kyosu frowned at the realization he was making more work for the man. To make it worse, the floor looked as if it had just been cleaned, too.
The elevator doors chimed as they opened, and Bellona stepped in. “Fine, I guess I’ll wait,” Kyosu muttered, “No need to be a bitch about it.”
The doors shut, and there was a moment of silence.
Bellona’s hand went for her necklace, and Kyosu watched as she turned it – and then unturned it. In an instant she had a gun drawn in her right hand, aimed at Kyosu’s legs. “What did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you anything! What the hell are you doing with the gun!?”
“What did you call me!?”
“I-” she rose the gun up, and he closed his eyes. “I called you a bitch.”
She turned her necklace’s hourglass again, and in an instant her gun was gone. “Never call me that again, got it?”
Kyosu nodded quickly. The elevator doors chimed as they opened again, and Bellona walked into the hallway. He followed, albeit nervously – perhaps he had made a mistake following her? But of course, even if he did turn back it wasn’t as if he could stop her if she decided to kill him. Freezing time gave her too much of an advantage.
She threw open the door labeled as Room 420, the lights still on, and led Kyosu in – the apartment was spacious for the town, but nothing to write home about for living in. It had a kitchen and living room in the main area, combined to save space, with two closets on one of the walls and a bathroom on the other – all in all, it was easily big enough for a family to live in, yet here this woman lived alone to Kyosu’s knowledge.
“Got any roommates?” he asked, and Bellona shook her head.
“No, I just wanted to live in a place I could use for the foreseeable future. In any event,” Bellona threw her coat off and onto the counter, walking into the living room where a three-person couch and armchair faced a TV. The blinds of the window behind the TV were closed. “We have business to talk about – mainly, your Angel.”
“What’s this with Angels? What on Earth are you talking about? I thought you said I was superpowered.”
“Yes and no – it’s complicated,” Bellona sat in the armchair and crossed her legs, watching as Kyosu looked around the room. “Have a seat – it might be a while.”
He nodded and sat down on the couch, making sure not to touch her coat – he didn’t want to irritate her any, getting a gun aimed at him once was more than enough.
“So, where to begin... Okay, so, the Angels – they’re not actual angels, that’s just their name in English, by the way – come to Earth from, well, I’m not sure where. My Angel, Gabriel, has never told me where they come from. In any event, they come to Earth and find hosts, at least that’s the word they use to describe their human partner. These hosts get powers through their angel,” Bellona explained to Kyosu, the man nodding as she spoke. He didn’t fully understand everything about it – why did they come to Earth? How did they choose hosts? - but felt he had a basic grasp of what she was saying.
“So... is there a way to talk to your Angel?” Kyosu asked.
Bellona smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked that. There is a way – it’s a kind of telepathy. It takes a while to master, though. I’m partially surprised that your Angel hasn’t revealed themselves to you yet, though, since you have already used your power.”
“Is there a way to prompt that?”
“Well... maybe. I’ll ask Gabe, alright?”
Kyosu nodded, and Bellona seemed to sit silently for a few moments. Her facial expression changed slightly, as if she were in conversation, and Kyosu watched with interest – would he be able to telepathically communicate with his Angel soon, too?
“Try thinking about what you were wishing for when you got your power.”
“Yes – your power is always based on a wish you made when the Angel attached to you.”
Kyosu thought back to when the portal had opened, and nodded – it made sense, with that information, now. He had been hoping for a way out, and it had come to him in the way of that portal.
There was a heavenly glow that filled the room, emanating from the figure of a shapely woman. Streams of what seemed to be long, luxurious hair flowed around the figure. The glow grew in intensity as the figure formed more and more, Kyosu and Bellona being forced to avert their gaze. If this was what an Angel was, he wondered how such illustrious beings had avoided attention.
When the light subsided, before them stood a girl with hair as dark as the night and skin as white as the stars that filled it. Her irises were golden, her facial features smooth and almost too perfectly shaped – she looks as if she’s a character ripped straight from an anime, Kyosu thought to himself.
“You are Kyosu Trovao?” she asked, and Kyosu nodded. “I am Celestia, your Angel – it is with pleasure I meet you, my host.”
Kyosu started to open his mouth, but only closed it again. He wasn’t sure what to say, or to ask – how did one approach what was clearly beyond humanity’s level of existence?
“Do you understand what I mean, Kyosu Trovao?” She tilted her head as she spoke.
“I do – I just am not sure how to respond,” he said as his face flushed. “I was wondering: what exactly are my powers?”
“I can create portals between any two points that you can picture in your head,” Celestia said, her voice with little emotion. “Further distance and more barriers will make it take longer to form them, though.”
“Wait, so do I have to have been there, or do I have to just picture it?” Kyosu asked, and Celestia paused for a few moments.
“If you can picture it close enough, I can make it work. But the mental image you have has to tell me the exact location, or it won’t work,” Celestia explained. Kyosu nodded slowly, and the Angel smiled. “Is this your place?”
“No, this is my place,” Bellona said quickly. “I’m helping him get the hang of this whole Angel thing.”
“Who are you?” Celestia asked, turning to look at Bellona.
“I’m Bellona, host of Gabriel.”
“Gabriel is your Angel? Do tell him I say hello – he was a good friend before he fell.”
“Where exactly did you fall from, anyway?” Kyosu asked.
Celestia paused and looked at him for a few seconds, hesitation clearly in her face, before answering: “I would try to explain, but... it is too complicated for a human to understand the details. We come from our homeworld, which is far away from this one – that should be a sufficient answer.”
“But where is it? In this galaxy, in Andromeda, wherever it is, surely you can just say where it is.” Kyosu pressed for an answer, hoping that the Angel would respond with actual information – of course, that assumed that Celestia was not lying when she said that it was beyond what humans could understand.
“It is not a location known to your kind yet,” Celestia responded with a short shrug. “Perhaps one day, you will be able to understand.”
Kyosu paused before he nodded – as far as he could tell, the Angel was telling the truth as she knew it. And it wasn’t as if it mattered where she was from – she was here now, like it or not, and as a result he had the ability to use portals.
“Then let’s try this power out!” he said with a grin, glancing towards the wall the TV was on. He pictured a portal between it and his own apartment, and there was a sudden flash of light on the wall.
It was a hole that seamlessly appeared in the wall, and where one would expect the outside to shine through, instead Kyosu could see the mess that was his apartment – clothes thrown across the floor, the bed undone, and stacks of games by a TV. Through the air came a smell of what could only be described as being not entirely unlike a mixture of masculinity and pizza. Bellona scowled at him as he laughed out in joy at his new found power.
“Excellent! With this, none can dare question the ability of I, Kyosu!” he announced, pointing forward. The portal closed as he stopped thinking about it, and he looked towards the two women with a grin. “Brought together by fate, wherever we’re needed we’ll be! We’re the Dynamic Duo!”
“Er, I’m pretty sure that’s already copyrighted, Kyosu.” Bellona shook her head as Celestia laughed slightly, the man pausing in embarrassment at the slip-up he had made.
“Did I say we’re the Dynamic Duo? My bad, I meant the, uh... Daring Duet!”
Bellona simply sighed as she facepalmed, the young man put a foot on her couch and pointed forward into the corner of the ceiling.
“The Daring Duet will be there when danger strikes, night or day, far or near!”
“Why do we even need a name? I didn’t agree to being in some stupid comic book-esque team-up with you.”
The two bickered as Celestia watched with an amused giggle. For such a backwater planet, it seemed nice.
Sirens wailed as the police cars rushed to the scene of the accident, two cars had crashed in a head-on collision on the highway. Smoke filled the air and soon the first responders were arriving. They immediately set out to see who was in the cars still, if they were alive or dead.
“One of the cars is empty, not sure where the driver is – might be a hit and run,” an officer said through the walkie-talkie. Static buzzed through the air when he let go of the talk button. Fire trucks arrived on the scene as the police pulled out the bodies of the two dead men in the other car. A few officers were scouting the surrounding area for the driver of the other car, but to no avail.
“I got the license of the driver– this is Samson Jenkins, that scientist folk from Stoneheart Labs. Do you have an ID on the passenger?”
“Leeroy Jenkins – his brother? I didn’t know he had one.”
“Husband, they’re from Iowa.”
“So you say.”
The police investigation continued as in the distance a man sat against a tree, wearily watching with one eye. His long hair was an unnatural silver that covered one of his eyes, but the other was just as unnatural as his hair. A dark purple, he opened it slowly as he brushed the hair out of in front of his left eye – revealing a cloudy white.
“I told you not to do that.”
The voice seemed to echo throughout the man’s mind. He slowly looked around the field in a daze but couldn’t find the voice’s source anywhere.
From behind the tree came a man that looked like he was pure shadow, walking up to him. The man sighed and shook his head. “I told you not to do that, didn’t I?”
“Wh...what?” His voice was just slightly raspy, that of a smoker.
“You tried too hard – I can’t do that much, it’s just not possible. Too much clutter, too many possibilities – the stream gets diluted.”
“Wha...who are you?”
“Oh. You’ve forgotten who I am? I am Delirium. I am your Angel.”
“... who am I?”
“You are Nihilium.”
“You truly have forgotten, then?”
“Yes. Or, maybe, this is the first moment of reality and you have false memories,” Nihilium said. He paused – the name seemed oddly fitting, he mused to himself. More than fitting enough, in fact.
“Trust me, I know what happened.” His voice was cool, like a lecturing professor’s. “You tried to see too far into the future, and it backfired.”
“You’re telling me I can see into the future?”
“Certainly. You have many times before.”
Nihilium smiled and stood up slowly, glancing towards the car accident. He shrugged, and looked back at Delirium. “Show me what I can do.”
His vision clouded for a moment, and then he saw. There was a crisp image of a rooftop, and on it a man that walked towards him slowly. He heard the sound of a woman shouting his name in desperation, but only the man’s face was there in his sight now.
He looked familiar, not that Nihilium could place a name to the man’s face.
Pain shot through his body and he found himself standing in the opening again, gasping out as his hand went to his closed eye. A few moments passed before he opened his eye again, and looked at Delirium. The Angel was nearly a foot taller and looked down at him with a fiery, red smirk – where a mouth should be was only red, the same for the being’s eyes.
“Now do you believe me?”
“In any event,” Delirium said with a shrug, “I’ll bring you home. The wreck did a number on you – I don’t trust the police in any event.”
Nihilium nodded again, and followed the Angel. He wasn’t sure entirely what was going on, but he felt a strange persuasion from the man. Besides... he had no real other goals that he remembered. He put his hands into his jean pockets and silently walked, his hand wrapping around what felt like a wallet.