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High above the earth, Chained Angel couldn’t spare the time to enjoy the currents of warm air lifting her to the heavens. She needed to reach Las Vegas and help answer the call put out by Director Nova to thwart a large robotic monstrosity that appeared out of nowhere. Her large, powerful white wings swept through the air and thrust her forward, each stroke moving her faster and faster toward her destination.
We won’t have a hard time finding the site of the battle, her angelic companion thought to her. Having an actual angel bound to her soul made for a unique relationship. Quite literally, she could feel it residing on her left shoulder, guiding and mentoring her in the use of its powers. It doesn’t take much effort to sense the depravity your modern-day Gomorrah exudes.
“We’re not going there to preach for a better world today,” Angelica replied to him. “The city is being attacked. People are being killed. We have a duty to protect them.”
Lessons will still be learned while innocents, if you find any, are saved. Perhaps some good might come out of such a vile place being leveled.
“Vegas isn’t all bad. At some point you’re going to have to understand that what you see on a television show might be embellished a bit to make everything extra dramatic for better ratings.”
That’s why Hollywood would be my second choice as a city for some wrathful divine intervention to be shown.
While the Angel of Death and its powers might rest within her, that didn’t mean Angelica automatically had full access to its consciousness, so she was uncertain (and a tiny bit concerned) if its comment was meant as a joke or not. Its did have a sense of humor, which surprised her greatly when she first heard it tell a joke. Who would expect a divine servant from above to love George Carlin?
Chained Angel gauged that she would arrive withing the next few minutes to the scene of the battle. Prysmatica and several others of the Star Force league would already be in Las Vegas far ahead of her. She silently prayed that she would arrive before the giant robot fell. Nothing was quite as exhilarating as a good fight.
A brief chill washed over her, stronger than she normally felt. Recognizing the cause to the sensation, a death knell, she thrust her wings once again, adding more effort to the motion. She couldn’t be sure of the exact cause, but people were dying nearby. The angel inside of her grew restless.
Faster than predicted, Chained Angel flew high above Las Vegas and surveyed the landscape. Spotting the threat to the city was akin to locating a zit on a teenager’s face. Not only was the robot far more enormous than she expected, but hundreds of heroes milled around it and traded attacks with the monstrosity. Flashes of light from energy blast highlighted the battlefront, making it clear where she needed to be.
“I’m coming in now. DFA (Death from Above) imminent!” She shouted through her BADGE communicator as she began her dive. It was time for this nail to meet the hammer. As she plummeted, she triggered one of her abilities, aptly named Titanic Fury. She didn’t become as large as the giant robot but large enough to blot out the sun as she approached.
Sure, it might be a bit risky, but so was a gigantic animated reject from Hasbro walking the streets.
She descended like a meteor, an elegant streak of red hair sizzling into streaks of flame until she reached the top of the city’s skyline when she tucked her legs up to her chest and flipped so that her armored feet would slam into the robot’s flat head.
Typical superhero landing.
The collision rippled kinetic force from her impact out in a circle of destruction. Windows shattered in the aftermath of the shockwave. Buildings shook. Heroes that hadn’t braced themselves from her warning were hurled backwards from the epicenter.
The giant robot staggered back one step.
Chained Angel expected her attack to crush the monstrosities head into pieces. She rocked from side to side as she stood up from one knee while the robot moved forward, stunned that she hadn’t even made a dent in the dense metal.
“Angel, watch out,” Catalyst yelled through her earpiece.
She forced her wings down, giving her enough lift from the robot’s head to partially avoid one of the long mechanical arms crackling with energy. It singed one of her wings as the electricity arced from the limb while brushing over her feathers.
The other heroes around her continued their assault. Silver Paladin chopped at the robot’s leg with his enchanted blades, leaving little more than a faint scratch on the surface. Flames hotter than a volcano wrapped around one of its arms as Wyldfyre attempted to melt the robot into slag. Krystal Fae shot at it with mystical bolts of eldritch energy. Heroes from all walks of life, some recognizable and some new, all attempted to disrupt the monstrosities assault on the city.
None seemed to be making a considerable amount of impact on the robot. It seemed nearly impervious to their attacks.
“Do we know why this robot is attacking the city?” Chained Angel asked through her communicator.
“None so far,” Prysmatica replied.
“It’s been strangely quiet so far,” Arcane Ace added. “Not often that I’ve gotten to fight something that isn’t laughing manically or talking non-stop."
“It shouldn’t be able to shrug off our attacks so easily. Whatever it is made from isn’t factory standard.” Chained Angel said as she watched a new heroine shooting at the robot with handheld lasers as she flew around in a blue and white skin-tight suit.
“Arcane Ace and I have been hitting it as hard as we can but haven’t accomplished much. Now we’re trying to simply draw its fire now so the heavy hitters can unleash on them.” Prysmatica said.
“Keep looking for whatever opportunities you can find,” Starmaster instructed as he joined the conversation. “It has to have a weakness, somewhere.”
As she drew breath to reply, Chained Angel saw the giant robot pivot to attack the new hero she observed. It grabbed a parked dump truck and hurled it at the young girl’s backside while she passed by the giant robot, strafing it with a volley of laser blasts.
“Not while I’m here, you big tin can,” Chained Angel soared to the new heroine and spread her wings out to shield the girl before the vehicular missile struck her.
The force of the impact of the dump truck knocked Chained Angel backward and into the young woman she sought to protect. They tumbled into an off-ramp to the nearby interstate highway, crashing into it with the truck landing on top of them and sending the women through the cement structure to the road below it.
Bits of rubble fell off Chained Angel as she stood up until a new sensation overwhelmed her. Her body felt as if it were trapped inside of an iceberg, yet she could still move freely.
“Did you get the number of that truck?” The girl said from behind her. “Oh, there it is. I see it now. Watch out. It’s getting ready to fall.”
Chained Angel looked up and spotted the dump truck balanced on the lower edge of a hole in the broken ramp. There was a shatter pattern spiderwebbing across the glass of the windshield, and behind the window, she sensed something else. She didn’t see or hear it, but some previously unknown ability drew her attention.
You must go to him. I need your aid if he is to be helped. The angel inside of her spoke with desperation in its voice.
Without reservation, Angelica lifted into the air to driver’s door of the truck as it tilted.
“Was someone in there?” The young woman asked as she flew slightly behind Angel. “Viewers, I’m taking you first-hand to a rescue in progress.“
The green door to the cab was still closed as Chained Angel came up alongside of it. She could clearly see a man slumped over behind the steering wheel. What she couldn’t see was a deployed air bag. The cold that gripped her body grew stronger as she came nearer to him and even through the metal of the door, she could make out a glowing white form overlapping the space of his physical body.
An astral form. She shivered, finally recognizing the scene before her. It was only a few years ago she was in the same situation.
Talk to him. Know him as I knew you.
“Can’t you get the door open. I’m Kyrie, by the way.” Her new companion said.
Chained Angel struggled to cope with both voices speaking to her at the same time. “Hold on. Wait. Right, the door.” She reached out and pulled to open the door. Locked. She pulled harder and ripped the door from its hinges.
“Sir. Sir. Can you hear me?” Chained Angel asked. As she focused on him, a name came to her, as well as a rush of experiences not her own. Hating school. Living alone with his dog. Missing his parents. “Roberto, can you hear me?”
A gasp came from behind her. “Oh my—”
“Quiet!” Chained Angel glanced behind her and saw the terror on Kyrie’s face. “Go to the front of the truck and keep it from falling. I… I… I’ll take care… take care of this.”
“How?” Kyrie said, evoking a soul piercing stare from Chained Angel. “OK. I’ll see what I can do.” Kyrie drifted to the front of the truck and grabbed the misshapen hood and pushed, steadying the truck.
“Who are you? Why are you here, chica?” Roberto said with a heavy Mexican accent. The lips of his white astral form moved, but not those on his face.
Chained Angel drew in a deep breath. Tears welled in the corner of her eyes. “You’ve been hurt, Roberto. Badly hurt. But you shouldn’t be afraid. Everything will be alright.”
“I hid in the truck. I didn’t know what to do,” Roberto said, his head beginning to turn ever so slightly. “The truck lifted and then suddenly, I was flying through the air.”
“Yes. That doesn’t matter right now. I have to tell you something that is going to be very difficult for you to understand.” Her mind continued to process the life funneling into her. He was a shy, meek man, but a good one. Loneliness filled most of his life. He had been separated from his family as a child and felt unwanted by those who he grew up with. Fear kept him from doing so much of what he wanted to do. Going to the country his family came from to find his parents. Asking for raises after decades of work with a small construction company. Asking the love of his life out on a date, or any woman for that matter.
I can’t do this. Angelica pleaded with the angel inside of her. Raw emotion tore at her soul as empathy and understanding bound her to Roberto. Take over. Please.
I cannot. You are who is here in his moment of need. My powers are yours now, as is the responsibility. Do what needs to be done. Don’t think of yourself. Think only of him.
“What is it, chica? Is the doctor on the way?” Roberto’s astral body glanced down and saw his mangled hands. “My HANDS. I cannot feel my hands.”
His panic washed over Angelica. The realization that more happened than he was aware of. “Calm down, Robbie.” Memories of his pleasant familiarity when teachers called him by that name crept into her mind. “I know how scared you are, but it will be alright. It’s going to be alright. You have to trust me.”
“Who are you talking to?” Kryie shouted from the front of the truck. “Was someone else in there with that poor guy?”
“Why can’t she hear me? Nobody else is in here. What is going on?” Roberto struggled to move his astral form, trying to rip it free from the body that housed it.
Chained Angel had fought villain and monsters alike. She lifted semis. She’d been to space and fought in great challenges with BADGE and the Star Force. She had fought to live as the murky Detroit River tried to steal her own life away as she sank into it. She couldn’t do this, even though she knew she had to.
“Robbie, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry, but you’ve died, my friend,” she said as tears trickled down her cheeks.
Kyrie sobbed as she shouldered the weight of the vehicle, clearly listening as Chained Angel spoke.
“Died. No, I’m hurt but I cannot be dead. I’m talking to you, Chica. You’re a hero. My angel with bright white wings.” Roberto’s spirit met Chained Angel’s gaze with the eagerness and hope of a child found while trapped in a burning building. “You will save me, yes?”
“Yes, Robbie. I can save you.” Chained Angel choked back the thick snot filling the back of her throat. She remembered begging the angel to do the same for her as she drowned. “But I can’t heal you. Let me guide you where you will be shown all the love you’ve missed for so long.”
Call it forth. The angel inside of her instructed.
Where are the other angels? Why aren’t they here helping him? Angel shouted in her own thoughts.
We angels can sense when another of us is near. You were too close when his death happened. Being mortal, you are seldom in close proximity to any as they pass. Close enough to hear or answer the tolling of a soul looking to be taken to the next world. Since you responded to this one’s plea, no other angel will answer it. If you don’t do this, he will not find his way.
“Will I finally see my momma and pappa again?” Roberto said, his thoughts full of his memories with them.
Chained Angel didn’t know. She only drew on the powers of one of the Angels of Death, or Reapers as they were sometimes called, because of a Morphon power she never even knew she had. She had its strength and other gifts, but not its knowledge.
Call for the gate to open, and they will be revealed to him if they are present.
“I’ve called 9-1-1,” Kyrie said. “An ambulance is in route. Should we get the truck down on the ground before they get here?”
Grateful that the new heroine could manage to hold the dump truck aloft, Chained Angel thought of the warm, white light that bathed over her body as she sunk deeper into the cold river water years ago. She refused to go into it then, fighting with the last of her strength to live and not give into the peaceful beckoning. After being assaulted as she had been before being dumped in the river, a fury inside of her needed to be sated. A fury that needed to feed. That she wanted to feed.
If she summoned the gate here and now, would she have the strength to refuse passing through it again? Would it call to her once more, or had she forever lost the privilege of that choice when she absorbed the angel into her? So many questions she never thought to ask before rushed to mind.
“The blue girl, she says an ambulance is coming. I can live yet, no?” Roberto asked. “I don’t see my parents here with me. Please tell me I can stay.”
CALL FORTH THE GATE. The angel inside her demanded. It is cruel to give him false hope. It will only make his journey harder to accept.
The battle in the distance raged on. On top of the memories flooding her from Roberto’s mind, his pleas for help, and Kyrie seeking advice, Chained Angel was overwhelmed by the added noise of the angel’s shouting. She wanted to scream and expel the growing pressure within her, but knew she couldn’t, fearing showing her inner turmoil might disrupt Roberto’s transition to the next world. “Everyone, be at peace. Please—,” she said as she closed her eyes and sucked air in through her nose and held it before releasing it through her mouth, “—I can do this. I have to do this.”
“Who is everyone?” Kyrie asked, looking over each of her shoulders once. “Do you have cameras broadcasting your adventures too?”
“Kyrie!” Chained Angel shouted with exasperation. “I can’t explain right now, but this is important. Just hold the truck up a bit longer.” With that, Chained Angel reclosed her eyes tightly and focused her thoughts on opening a door she had never tried to open. The frigid cold faded and she grew warmer. The sensation of being surrounded in bed by the softest, thickest blankets washed over her.
“Chica, I see something. A light. Such a beautiful light as I’ve never seen…” Roberto said, his voice full of wonder.
She tried to open her eyes but couldn’t. They were somehow sealed shut. Strangely, she could still view the glorious light shining through the opening she made. It took a second to realize she was seeing it as if watching with Roberto’s eyes, and she could see beyond the world she knew. Beyond even the astral plane she experienced while training with Starmaster and other psychics.
She could see what came next. Insufficient words played in her mind. They couldn’t describe it or allow her a concept by which to comprehend it. Shaded colors with vaguely humanoid forms crowded around the gap, becoming slightly opaque. Featureless, she could identify them by Roberto’s awareness only.
“Grandmama. Oh, I’ve missed you so. Yes. I’ve grown since you’ve last seen me.” His mind, no, his soul spoke to the amassing group, welcoming each with gratitude and joy. Each one sent a different message of greetings. Dozen of dozens of indescribable entities waited beyond the threshold.
Chained Angel felt as if she were Oda Mae in Ghost and couldn’t help but be moved by the divine presences.
Tell him it is time to join them. Her angel said.
“Go to them, Robbie. They are all here for you,” she said.
The loneliness that enveloped him before melted away as his astral form moved to the light. He stopped suddenly, turning to face Chained Angel. “But who will take care of my Carmen? I cannot leave her alone. Nobody is there to care for her, Chica.”
An image of his dog replayed in her mind. The brown lab doing twists and spinning in wild circles who sought only to greet him every time he came through the door from work played in his mind’s eye. Of all the emotions playing through him, this one bond was the strongest and most unyielding. He couldn’t continue his journey if there was any worry for her within him.
“I’ll see she is cared for,” Chained Angel said, meaning it with the fullness of her heart. Near the feet of the humanoid shapes waiting for him beyond the gateway, she noticed smaller, blobs with tails and four legs waiting with them. “You will see her again someday, when the time is right.”
Accepting Chained Angel’s reassurance, he nodded and drew closer to the portal. The essence of his being touched the edge of it and the white light swept forward and enveloped him, and quickly snapped shut.
His memories faded from her mind, but Chained Angel couldn’t help but to feel she had been forever changed by them. She opened her own eyes, finally able to once more, and saw only a lifeless shell in the seat. The head listed to one side and dangled, clearly snapped by the collision. Blood dripped from fingers that had crashed into the windshield and broken.
Dangling from the mirror was a pendant with a photo of Carmen, her tongue hanging happily out as her brown eyes twinkled.
Chained Angel grabbed the frame of the door, bracing herself to carry its weight. “OK, Kyrie, let’s get this down to the ground.”
“Finally,” Kyrie mumbled not quite quietly enough to be under her breath.
You handled that well. I’m proud of you. Her angel companion said.
Not yet ready to speak about the event, Chained Angel thought nothing back to her bound companion.
Seeming to understand, it departed from the immediacy of her mind.
Angelica felt very alone but for the lingering memories left by Roberto. Not the alone that Roberto felt. She knew she had people in her life and that her unique companion would be there if she called on it, but she felt her individuality, her soul’s solitary state of being. As if she were the sole viewer of the most fantastic painting in a museum, able to appreciate it undisturbed in her own personal corner of the universe.
Together, she and Kyrie lowered the dump truck to the ground. Kyrie walked around the cab to Chained Angel’s side. Her voice thick, she asked a single question. “Did he suffer?”
Reaching forward, Chained Angel brushed her hand over the vacant eyes staring out and closed the lids. “Yes.” Chained Angel bid farewell to Roberto’s spirit in silent prayer. “But if you mean did he feel any pain when it happened, then no. It was quick.”
A scream of energy echoed beneath the overpass, reverberating off the concrete structure. The battle with the giant robot continued in the distance.
“What do we do now?” Kyrie asked, turning away from the body and searching for the ambulance she called to arrive. “Do we wait here for the EMTs?”
Chained Angel wiped her cheeks dry with the soft edges of her white wings. The sound of battle rekindled the fury welled inside of her and her magnificent wings shifted to a dark, raven black. The robot needed to pay for what it had done.
“There’s nothing more we can do here, except make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Chained Angel said with a sneer, hungry for vengeance. “It’s time to open up that can of soup and see what its insides look like. I hope it’s tomato!”
As they flew back to the fight, Chained Angel sent a text to Agent Leslie of BADGE, giving her Roberto's address and the events of the collision on the offramp. She then asked Leslie to go there and care for Carmen until the end of the fight with the giant robot. Chained Angel made a promise that nothing would prevent her from keeping.
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