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My Pet Project

Zero

1,247 views

You guys may not be aware of this, but writing is my biggest passion. I've never been much of a reader (ironically enough), but I learned a lot about storytelling through the shows and movies I watched and the games I played growing up. Even now I'm learning more and more about great storytelling and how to piece an interesting plot together. Which brings me to the reason for this blog post tonight.

When I was 11 years old I wrote a short story out of sheer boredom. The grammar was terrible and the plot was absurd, but I went back to it a week later and fixed it. Then, I rewrote it. Then, at 14 I stumbled on the file on my computer and decided to rewrite the entire thing using the main character and scrapping everything else. Now, here I am at 27 having written, scrapped, and rewritten the same story for most of my life. That crappy little short I started as a kid has evolved into a an entire series of novels I wanted to have published someday. By chance I've made a contact with someone who worked in the publishing industry and after I told her what I had been working on she offered to take my book, edit it for me, and pass it along to her friends in the business with her recommendation attached to it.

It's the opportunity I've been waiting for since I decided I wanted to become a published author. So, I've been going over the last draft of the first book revising and rewriting as much as I could each and every day. Yesterday I completed chapter 6 and I'm happy to say that I'm really proud of myself. I feel I've come a long way and I want to share with everyone here the project I started when I was just 11 years old. The following sample chapter took me 20 hours to completely rewrite from scratch and it's been physically and mentally exhausting, but worth it. I hope you guys love reading it as much as I loved writing it.

This is my novel. This is my dream.

"Eternal Requiem"

Chapter 6

Angels of Death

The intensely bright yet beautiful and dazzling gold-colored energy kept flowing around the back room of Reed’s shop gaining momentum and creating a draft. The Sovereign, still trapped in the center of the anomaly he unintentionally created, disappeared in the chaos when the cloud became thicker and more difficult to see through. Eventually they lost visual contact of Zach and couldn’t even hear his shouting over the rushing whirlwind caused by the localized storm of light energy. Neither Reed nor Powell had ever encountered a situation like this before and both Guardians were completely lost as to what steps would need to be taken to stop it, but it was getting desperate now.

“Do something!” Julia shouted to the men.

The light storm had gained so much strength and speed that the wind it created started ripping up the wooden floorboards and tossed loose books around as if it were a hurricane. Stopping it was going to require an ingenious amount of unconventional thinking and luckily Reed was known in the past for thinking outside the box.

“Zach!” he shouted over the gale-force wind in his shop. “You have to focus the energy into a form of some kind! I gave it to you in a sphere! You have to force as much of it as you can into a single form! Any shape and size will do!”

The Sovereign could barely make out the instructions given to him by his Guardian, but he managed to piece together what he could of it and understood the basics. His lack of experience, however, made it difficult to understand just how he was supposed to accomplish the feat. He closed his eyes and focused all of his attention on the sixth sense he learned to use. The energy was more intense than he realized and it almost felt as though the cloud of light was shouting something at him making it difficult to concentrate on a form to give it. He was all but ready to give up on his efforts when the image of his nameless hero suddenly popped into his mind, wishing he would show up now and save him again.

The golden haze then gradually decreased in speed, slower and slower until it stood completely still. Everyone in the room stayed frozen in place watching the energy as it hummed and flashed in brief intervals. Clearly something was happening to it, but there was no way to guess what that something was. The cloud continued to hum and flash louder and quicker until it stayed lit up so brightly that everyone had to shield their eyes. Then, the massive body of light energy moved inwards, compressing itself into a smaller form a few feet away from where Zach stood.

“What’s happening?” asked Julia.

But Reed was just as confused as she was, “I don’t know.” He rushed over to Zach when the energy had completely moved away from him and checked him over, “Are you alright? Do you know what its doing?”

The Sovereign was shaking like a leaf and his eyes looked like they were about to start pouring tears of relief and he stammered, “I- I dunno!”

Reed could tell the young man was terrified, “It’s alright, Zach. You’re okay now. You handled it well and you stopped it. I’m proud of you.”

“Derek,” Powell called out and pointed at the energy still present in the room.

The cloud had managed to shrink down to about six feet tall, but it stopped there while the width continued to slim down. The spectacle that threatened to destroy the shop had started to take on a very humanoid shape now, but it was becoming something more than that. It had clearly taken the form of a man; a man with wings!

The four humans in the room stared at it in stunned silence except for Julia whose verbal reaction matched exactly what everyone else was thinking, “What the hell is that?”

The featureless angelic figure stretched out his arms, tilted his head back, and his voice called out loudly proclaiming, “I am the light of God!”

The bright glow emanating from his energy-infused body intensified and he stretched his wings outward unleashing a powerful gust of wind in the enclosed room. Everyone had to shield their eyes again as the creature flapped its gorgeous white feathered wings and lifted through the ceiling like a ghost causing no damage to the structure and leaving the humans bewildered and wide-eyed. Zach successfully averted total disaster by giving the energy a singular contained form, but just what form he gave it was beyond his comprehension.

“Was that--,” and Julia paused at the impossible questions she was about to ask, but forced herself to finish the thought anyway, “an angel?”

Powell, with his eyes fixated on the spot in the ceiling where the creature flew out through, said, “We might have a much bigger problem on our hands now with him on the loose.”

“How do you mean?” asked Zach, still reeling from the trauma of nearly blowing himself to kingdom come. “Aren’t angels good?”

And Reed responded, “It depends on which angel he’s supposed to be.” The Guardian pulled away from his charge and started walking to the front counter with everyone else following his lead, “He called himself ‘the light of God’ which could mean any number of things. I need all of you to start looking through every reference book here for those exact words; check under Judeo-Christianity and Catholicism.”

“Wait,” Zach began as he rushed up to his mentor stopping him mid gait, “does that mean there really is a God and a heaven and hell and all of that?!”

Reed placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders, looked him in the eyes, and said, “Everything ever written has some basis on reality, even fiction and faith. Keep an open mind, don’t assume you know the answers to everything, and most importantly don’t let the things you see or read about affect who you are.”

Zach was never a religious person and he believed that being a good person was the only thing anyone needed to do in life. That never eliminated the questions and doubts he had about the existence of God and the role religion played in the world and in people’s daily lives. Seeing an angel with his own eyes cracked his beliefs and the teenager felt cheated out of the answer he wanted, but after taking into account the things he had witnessed up until this point he understood Reed’s words better than he would have a week ago. Regardless of what demons or angels he saw, or even if he saw gods and devils in the flesh, he had to always remember that being a good person is what he originally believed in before his life as the Sovereign and it was just as important to hold onto that belief now more than ever.

For the first time since this new life began Zach, Julia, Reed, and Powell began investigating the creature they encountered together as a team. Reed pointed out all the shelves where the necessary religious reference books were located and the teens grabbed as many as they carry piling them up on the front counter while the two Guardians checked through the tomes kept separate from the normal books. They had a better idea of how to narrow down the identity of the angel born from Zach’s accident, but hours went by and none of the four were close to finding the answers they needed.

The sun had set and night had fallen by the time Reed decided the group needed to take a break. They had gone through dozens of reference books, all piled on the floor around them leaving rows of shelves completely empty in the store. Thankfully, Reed remembered to lock the door so the possibility of potential customers walking in or demons or human abductors coming to pay a visit were minimal.

Julia huffed, placing a hand over her growling stomach, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starving.”

To their surprise, Reed reached behind him for the store’s phone and handed it to her, “Order a pizza for everyone. You can use the money in the register to pay for it.”

“Pepperoni and extra cheese,” Zach blurted out from where he sat on the floor surrounded by musty old reference books.

The Sovereign then dug into his pocket pulling out his smartphone and checked all of his social networking profiles to pass the time, but then an obvious idea dawned upon him making him want to slap himself across the face for not thinking about it sooner. He closed the profile pages and clicked on his phone’s web browser pulling up the greatest tool to come from his generation: Google. At first when he did a search for the phrase “light of God” the results which came back were the ones he should have known to expect consisting of nothing but websites promoting or discussing Christianity. Then, he added the word “angel” to the phrase and lo and behold he found the name the group had spent the entire afternoon searching for.

He hopped up from the floor and held out his phone for all to see, “His name is Uriel!”

“Did you really just Google search the angel on your phone?” Julia asked, forgetting she was on the phone before quickly returning the man on the other end waiting for her to complete the order.

Powell let out a boisterous laugh upon seeing the agitated look on Reed’s face, “You’ve been spending too much time in this old fashioned shop, Derek.”

“Well, it didn’t occur to you to check the internet, either,” he said, closing the book he had buried his nose in for the last hour.

“I’m an old man, what’s your excuse?”

Reed didn’t give one and turned his attention to Zach and his handy smartphone, “What does it say about him?”

Zach felt rather proud of himself for finding the elusive information about their mystery angel and bore a satisfied smile on his face as he read the information aloud for everyone to hear, “Uriel is one of the angels of punishment and is a pitiless angel who scrutinizes souls. He’s one of the most important angels, described as an archangel, seraph, and cherub. Uriel probably means “fire of God” or “God is my light.” Uriel is often identified as one of the four primary angels, along with Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, possibly aspects of the angel of the lord. He is not part of the official Catholic canon, but he is prominent in Jewish texts and apocryphal writings.”

“I suppose that’s why he wasn’t in any of these reference books,” Reed concluded. “We had the wrong religion.”

Zach’s face then changed from smugly satisfied to deeply concerned, “Umm… there’s more here and it doesn’t sound good.” He continued reading the passage to the rest of the group, “Uriel is among the angels identified as the angel of death; angel of great counsel; angel of peace; angel of truth; and as one of the angels of the earth; angels of the presence; angels over the consummation and one of the angels of destruction sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Uriel is portrayed as a stern and punishing angel. Enoch said he is head of the seven archangels, and he presides over Tartarus or Hell, where he pursues punishment of sinners. According to the Apocalypse of St. Peter, this punishment consists of burning sinners in everlasting fire and hanging blasphemers by their tongues over unquenchable fires. On the Day of Judgment, he will break the brazen gates of Hades and assemble all the souls before the judgment seat.”

Julia finished placing the order and hung up the phone, “It should be here in a half hour and I’m really worried about the part that says he punishes sinners. Do you have any idea how many things are technically sins these days?”

“It’s true,” Reed agreed, much to her surprise. “Depending on how deep his convictions go he might kill everyone just for pressing buttons on Sundays.”

“Okay, if that’s a sin then we’re all dead,” commented the young Sovereign. “Why did the energy turn into this guy anyway?”

“Unfortunately the blame for his creation rests entirely on you,” Powell said to the boy. “You were the one to give it form and, for whatever reason, you somehow chose the form of a punishing angel who walks the line between darkness and light.” He then looked to Reed, “Possibly one of the most dangerous types of beings in existence.”

“But I didn’t even know who Uriel was until I looked him up just now.”

Reed sighed realizing Powell was once again reminding him of the conversation they were having and the dire warning given to him before Uriel’s creation, “What form were you trying to give the light energy?”

“I don’t know,” he explained, “I couldn’t really think about it. I just kept wishing someone would save me.” His mind raced back to the thoughts he had when the energy cloud was threatening to destroy him finding the answer tucked away in his desperate mental wish for a savior, “I was thinking about that guy, though.”

Of course, nobody knew quite who Zach was referring to, but Reed had already been working out the mystery of the only person everyone had met whose name eluded them all, “What guy?”

“The one that saved us in the alley when we were attacked by the boar demons.”

His suspicions were correct and Reed knew he was a step closer now to solving one of the many mysteries surrounding Zach, “Why him of all people?”

The Sovereign suddenly felt himself shrink under the microscope as everyone eyed him waiting for an answer, “He came to me last night.”

“What did he want?” asked his Guardian in a tone more dreadfully serious than ever before.

Clearly, he didn’t approve of the nameless cloaked man who randomly appeared and kept his motives secret from everyone who encountered him. Zach didn’t think the man intended to cause any harm, but if thinking about him created an angel whose sole purpose was to pitilessly and indiscriminately punish people and whose motivations teetered between good and evil then maybe he really should have been considered a threat. The boy thought back to the words the cloaked man used to describe himself; the physical embodiment of chaos and loneliness. An archangel who walked on a fine line that weaved in and out of the sides of good and evil could probably be labeled with those exact words.

“He’s chaos and loneliness walking through history’s shadow,” repeated Zach.

“He’s dangerous,” said Reed in a scolding manner, “and if he appears to you again you need to let me know.”

Powell released a tired exasperated sigh, “We’ve gone from a cloud of energy threatening to destroy the shop to a rogue angel threatening to punish every human being alive.”

“Don’t start lecturing us,” said the younger Guardian.

“Who said I was lecturing? It brings back a lot of memories,” he chuckled. “Oh, how I’ve missed this life.”

“Was it like this with your Sovereign?” Zach asked him.

“Oh, yes.”

“Is it always like this?”

With a delighted grin the elderly Guardian repeated, “Absolutely.”

“You’re enjoying this too much, old man,” teased Reed.

“The only time you ever truly feel alive is when you’re facing death.” He then turned to Zach and casually said with a kindly assuring smile, “Somehow we’ll find a way to stop your angel before anything apocalyptic happens.”

Apocalyptic? Yeah, that’s nothing to worry about.

The group spent the rest of the evening picking up the mess of books they laid out everywhere and replacing them on the shelves. Zach’s thoughts stayed on the nameless man and the archangel Uriel the whole time even as they sat together to eat the pizza which arrived a few minutes later than it was supposed to. Nobody seemed to mind the inconvenience, though, but he was the only one to notice it. Is that how they viewed the threat presented by the angel he single-handedly gave birth to? Was Uriel’s presence nothing more than an inconvenience like the late pizza delivery? If it hadn’t been for Powell’s nostalgic appreciation for facing what could lead to doomsday the Sovereign probably would have been frantically worrying about finding the angel all night. It may have been senility or it may have been that there simply wasn’t a reason to panic. If this was going to be an everyday thing, Zach was going to have to learn to take it easy.

But he keeps looking at Reed like they’re hiding something…

--

The school bell cut through the silence the following morning signaling the start of the school day and the students piled into the halls making their way to their lockers before settling into their respective classrooms. The archangel Uriel was still on the loose and the threat he presented felt like it should have kept Zach from attending school, but Reed and Powell convinced him to let them worry about tracking down the creature he created. He knew the responsibility fell on him to find Uriel and stop him from causing harm to anyone, but with his lack of skill and experience he’d most likely get himself killed in the process, so he went to school. As far as the rest of the world was concerned today was just a day like any other.

The Sovereign couldn’t help but zone out when his teacher began the lesson of the day and his mind, as always, meandered between doubting his ability to succeed and worrying about the consequences of failure. Then he started thinking about who the shadow man really was and what role he played in the grand scheme of things. He didn’t seem to bear Zach any ill will when he saved him and if his intentions were to kill him he had the perfect opportunity to do so when he appeared to him and “hijacked” his brain. In his eyes Reed’s concerns about the man potentially having a dark motive were nothing more than paranoia simply because no one knew a thing about him.

The girl sitting behind him tapped his shoulder with her pencil and whispered, “Hey, Zach.”

He turned his head to look her in the eye; her gorgeous emerald green eyes slightly covered by a stray lock of blond hair. He had known her since the 4th grade and the two occasionally shared short discussions between classes, but he had ignored her the last few days ever since he became the Sovereign. It wasn’t intentional, though, he just had a lot on his mind. Trista was probably one of the brightest people he had ever met and her personality, along with her highly attractive Japanese and Dutch features, made her intimidating to him. She could always tell when something was wrong with him and after observing how much time he spent pensively thinking to himself, she felt it was finally time to approach him about it.

“Are you alright?” she worriedly asked. “I saw you coming out of that bookstore this morning on my way to school and you looked really stressed out.”

Oh no, not her. The last thing I need is Trista getting involved in this mess. He was about to come up with a half-witted lie to throw her off when, without warning, a lowly voice called out to Zach addressing him by title rather than name, “Sovereign.”

His eyes went wide with terror, his heart started racing in his chest, and a cold bead of sweat ran down the side of his face. He stayed seated for a long moment unsure of whether or not he was having some kind of mental breakdown brought on by his own pessimistic thinking.

Until, that is, he heard it call out to him again, but by name this time, “Zachary.

He jumped out of his seat, startling the other students and drawing attention away from the teacher to himself and deeply concerning Trista, “What’s wrong?”

“Uh,” he searched the furthest corners of his mind to come up with some kind of excuse for his unusual behavior, but he was never any good when he was put on the spot. “I gotta go!”

He hurriedly shoved his belongings into his backpack and fled the classroom as the teacher called for him to return to his seat. No one had ever seen him act so out of character and he was never one for skipping a class let alone running out of the middle of one. Unfortunately for Zach, by suddenly bolting out of class without giving anyone a valid reason, everyone was now talking about him and Trista was aware that something was indeed wrong.

The Sovereign sprinted through the halls in search of the classroom where Reed was still acting as a substitute and burst through the door panting heavily and saying nothing. All eyes fell on him and everyone was shocked and confused by the irrational behavior of one of the most quiet and reserved wallflower students. Reed sighed in disdain at the lack of tact Zach used by his charge, but scolding him would have to come later. Clearly, there was something amiss otherwise the teenager would not have so rudely interrupted his class in such a manner.

“Fitzroy,” Reed called out to one of the students sitting in the front row, “keep reading the passage to the rest of the class while I deal with our visitor.”

The addressed student looked back and forth between Zach and Reed a couple of times before standing from his desk to resume the reading session that was interrupted. The Guardian walked through the aisle of desks and all of the students present watched as he put a hand on Zach’s shoulder and led him back out into the hall, closing the door behind them. Now there were two entire classrooms that had witnessed the boy making a scene and in high school that was more than enough for rumors to begin forming.

“What the hell has gotten into you?” Reed scornfully asked the panicked Sovereign.

“I heard a voice calling out to me,” divulged the student in a hushed voice. “First it called me “Sovereign” and then it used my name.”

“Isn’t it possible what you heard was one of the other students?”

“The only person in this school that knows what I am is Julia, but she’s a sophomore and we don’t have any classes together, Reed!”

“Calm down,” coaxed the Guardian. “Try to remain collected, Zach. Things like this are going to happen a lot from now on.”

“Not now! Not here!” he began, nearly on the verge of a total breakdown. “I wanna graduate this year and if these things pop up while I’m at school--”

Reed cut him off midsentence completing it for him, “Then you’ll have to deal with them just like you would with any other type of crisis that happens in life.”

Zach groaned in defeat reluctantly accepting the fact that his mentor and Guardian was right, much to his plainly visible consternation. Like it or not, for good and for bad, this was his life now and no amount of hoping or wishing would change that. Goodbye, high school diploma.

“Now,” Reed began, “you should go back to class and leave the angel to me.”

“But you didn’t even know it was here,” Zach protested. “How are you gonna find it when it only talks to me?”

Now it was Reed’s turn to accept and admit defeat, “You’re right.” He was taken aback at Zach’s sudden willingness and desire to track down the angel and put an end to this problem, but then he recognized a perfect opportunity to put the young Sovereign to the test in a leadership role, “So what do you think our first step should be?”

“Well,” and Zach’s gaze lowered as he thought to himself about what would be the best way to go about tracking down the angel not realizing that Reed was purposely handing over the reins to him, “I guess the first thing I should do is sense out his energy.”

“Let’s go to work then.”

With his finally cleared Zach’s determined resolve came back and he nodded in agreement with Reed, but as he was about to hone in on the angel’s aura Julia surprisingly popped up from around the corner. She seemed to be in a bit of a hurry and had her sights locked on the two males standing in the hallway as she approached them. The brunette had a look in her eye as though she were annoyed or even upset with one of them, most likely Zach since that was how it usually was.

“What are you doing here?” Reed asked when finally met up with them.

“I heard a weird voice in my head,” she began, “and I thought I was going crazy, but then I remembered I’ve been spending the last few days hanging around you to. So what the hell is going on?”

“You heard it, too?” asked in surprise.

Reed wasn’t ready to say the next thing on his mind, but there was no way around the fact he had already come to, “She should come with us.”

“Seriously?” asked the teens in perfect unison.

“The angel is speaking to the both of you,” he explained. “She’ll be safer with us than alone in a class where no one can protect her in case he decides to attack.”

The voice then resounded in their minds again whispering as quietly as before, “Come find me.

Zach looked all around in bewilderment from where the trio stood, “Tell me you heard it, too.”

“I definitely heard that,” she answered back.

“I didn’t hear anything,” said Reed, perplexed and concerned that he was out of the loop.

The Sovereign wasted no time and closed his eyes, cleared his mind, and focused all of his energy into honing in on the angel’s light aura. It didn’t take long before he started to sense something incredibly powerful nearby, but it didn’t feel like the source he was looking for. It almost felt like whatever he was detecting had somehow figured out a way to throw off his ability to sense its aura. Without saying a word to his allies he started walking through the school pursuing the spiritual energy to its source with Julia and Reed following closely behind.

They eventually made their way to the first floor and reached the closed doors of the school’s auditorium. The presence Zach detected was somewhere inside, but unfortunately they could all hear there was an assembly in progress. It sounded like someone was giving a lecture to the crowd and Julia sighed, leaning against the doors in frustration.

“What’s wrong with you?” Zach asked her.

“I just snuck out of here to find you guys,” she replied. “It’s just some guy from Future Sight Industries giving a speech about energy conservation. It was boring.”

“Did you say Future Sight?” asked the Guardian.

Come find me.”

“I’m sick of this guy talking in my head!” Zach growled.

He pushed open the left door and made his way inside as Julia followed his lead and Reed silently called out, “Wait!”

“This guy is toying with us,” Julia stated.

Zach then stopped cold in his tracks in the middle of one of the aisles leading to the stage and felt a cold shudder run through his body. The energy he had been following suddenly came into focus and he could sense three separate sources instead of just one. It was most likely the reason why it didn’t feel quite the same when he started zeroing in on it; they were combining and throwing him off. Reed came up behind them and yanked them back by their arms after sensing the extremely dangerous situation they had brazenly walked into.

“Tell me you sense them, too, Reed,” Zach pleaded, hoping he wasn’t wrong about what he felt.

“I do now,” he said, “and we need to get everyone out of the building before someone gets hurt.”

Julia accepted the task and exited the auditorium, “Leave that to me.”

Merely a few seconds after she left her two male counterparts the fire alarm broke through the entire campus interrupting the assembly and making everyone visibly jump in surprise. Following the fire drill procedure they were all taught since their elementary years the students all calmly departed from the assembly hall to the designated safety areas outside. The only people who stayed behind were Zach, Reed, the Future Sight speaker on stage, and Julia after she returned from setting off the school’s alarm.

“Shouldn’t the three of you be outside with the others?” asked the speaker once he noticed the trio had ignored the alarm.

“Reed,” Zach started, “he’s definitely one of the three.”

“I know,” replied the Guardian. “You did a good job finding him, Zach. Now, take Julia and leave while I deal with him.”

A powerful familiar voice then called out from somewhere among the darkened auditorium, “No. He’s mine.”

Zach recognized the scruffy voice and spotted the man hiding in the shadows, pointing him out, “It’s him.”

The nameless figure had returned, though it was Reed’s first time seeing him after hearing about his appearance in the alley. The Guardian noticed, however, that he kept his eyes locked on the speaker from Future Sight and showed no interest in Zach. By his count they made up two of the three sources of energy he and zach sensed when they entered the assembly hall, so where was the third one? And why is he hiding?

“The three of you, leave,” commanded the shadowy unidentified man. “This has nothing to do with you.”

The teens seemed willing to obey the stern command from the man, but Reed stepped forward defiantly and called him out, “Not until we get some bloody answers!”

Zach and Julia were in shock at Reed’s sudden burst of outrage and rebelliousness from someone who he knew was easily a hundred times more powerful than he was. It was obvious to them that the cloaked man was just as surprised as they were judging from the silent way he gawked at the Guardian. Of course, the meek skinny speaker on stage was more confused than anyone else and he looked like he was about to take off running behind the stage, but the cloaked shadow knew he’d make an escape attempt. He made an impossible leap from where he stood in the empty audience to the exit on stage cutting the man off, his long tattered cloak darkly fluttered in a manner most terrifying making him look almost like death itself gliding through the air.

The frightened defenseless man from Future Sight took a few steps back and away from the intimidating shadow, “W-who are you? What do you want from me?!”

“Leave him alone!” the Guardian shouted to the aggressor.

“You don’t know what’s at stake, Reed,” responded the shadow. “He has to die here and now.”

The speaker loudly began to beg for his life, “I just came here to talk about--!”

“Shut it,” the nameless shadow interrupted. “I know who you are and I know what you’re doing. I’ve known for a long time,” and he retrieved the massively-sized sword from underneath his cloak just as he had done in the alley, “and I’m here to throw a wrench into the machine.”

“Someone, help me!” screamed the man as the shadow raised the heavy sword overhead to strike.

Without mercy or reason the cloaked shadow swung down with his mighty blade ready to end the life of the trembling terrified man. Zach and Julia instinctively looked away knowing the sword would cleave the innocent man into a bloody mess. However, Reed couldn’t avert his gaze no matter how much he wanted to and he found himself frozen in place, lost as to how to handle the situation. He any attempt he could have made to stop the killing would have been effortlessly put to a halt by the man in the cloak; he was simply too powerful and far out of his league. So as the blade came down to deliver the killing strike all he could do was watch helplessly.

Clang!

The sound of metal striking against metal loudly resonated throughout the empty auditorium. Zach and Julia opened their eyes and daring to look back at the scene playing out on stage and, to the surprise of everyone there, another man appeared from seemingly nowhere standing between the would-be killer and his victim. He blocked the cloaked man’s blade with his own normal-sized sword which was covered with a slow-burning blaze. The man, standing six feet tall with bright blue eyes and short blond hair, stared the attacker down clenching his jaw and ready to fight.

The Sovereign immediately felt the powerful aura emanating from the newcomer and pointed at him to Reed, “It’s him! He’s the angel!”

“Things just became much more complicated,” was the older man’s response.

The shadow leapt back and away from the angel to the other side of the stage and asked, “Who the hell are you?”

“I am Uriel,” he proclaimed and then pointed his blade at the shadow adding, “and you are a man drenched in sin. Once I rid the world of you I will begin cleansing this Earth of its sinners until only those righteous enough to dwell in the kingdom of God remain.”

Zach tugged on Reed’s arm like a child and timidly said, “I’m not sure whose on what side anymore.”

“Hey, guys,” Julia began as she slowly started backing away towards the exit, “I think we should get out of here before we get locked in or killed or something.”

Uriel sharply turned his gaze to the trio standing in the audience and erected a barrier of energy against the doors cutting off their escape route. Then he looked to Zach and sternly said, “You’re next.”

The girl loudly groaned and threw her hands against her sides, “Goddamn it, I knew that was gonna happen!”

“You just got in the way of the wrong sinner,” said the shadow before rushing at the angel with his massive sword held high overhead.

Uriel then sprouted his stark white angel wings and with a single uplifting flap he evaded the shadow’s swing of his large unwieldy sword. He had the upper hand now that he was above and behind his opponent and quickly took advantage by diving back down to deliver a strike with his own blade. Without even looking the shadow swung his sword behind him, the width of his weapon acting as a shield deflecting the attack from the angel’s fiery blade, and rotated in place using the only the momentum from his defensive counter swing. The two unbelievably powerful swordsmen continued their duel across the stage, the sound of steel on steel filling the auditorium, and the speaker from Future Sight fled from the battleground towards Zach’s group.

Reed caught the man and dragged him off with the teens in tow to the furthest corner of the assembly hall shouting, “Who the bloody hell are you and why is that man trying to kill you?!”

“I’m just a scientist!” he shouted back in terror.

“Reed,” Zach began as he took a couple of steps away from them with his eyes locked on the man they were now protecting, “he’s the third one.”

“The third what?”

“The third big aura here! It’s Uriel, the guy with the giant sword, and him!”

Reed grabbed the scientist by the collar of his shirt and slammed him against a wall, “Start talking!”

“I’m Dr. Stauber,” shouted the petrified man of science, “I just do research for Future Sight!”

“I’m not a stupid man, Stauber.” Reed pressed him on, “What kind of research do you do for them?!”

“Genetics!”

“Why would Future Sight send a geneticist to host an assembly about energy conservation?!” demanded the Guardian.

“I don’t know!” he cried. “I asked the same thing, but they wouldn’t give me an answer!”

Reed didn’t like the answer, but he knew it was most likely true, so he moved on to the next two big questions, “Why the hell are you emitting a dark aura and why is that man trying to kill you?!”

Stauber, still clearly frightened for his life, suddenly became tightlipped and fell silent. Reed slammed him against the wall again, this time making sure the scientist hit his head against its hard surface, and repeated the question. Stauber, however, passively refused to divulge the information demanded from him. His refusal spoke volumes, though, and Reed knew he was onto something.

The Guardian reached under his blazer and pulled out his trusty sidearm holding it to Stauber’s temple, “We need to get out of this room and you’re just the man to take down the barrier locking us in.”

The cowardly scientist went into a deeper state of panic at the sight of the Walther P99 and the feel of its short cold barrel against his temple. Zach and Julia’s jaws nearly hit the ground unable to process what they were seeing. Stauber may have been emitting a dark aura, but he clearly either didn’t know it himself or he didn’t know how to use the power it granted otherwise he would have used it to defend himself.

Reed forced him over to the barrier of light energy against the door, still holding the gun to Stauber’s head and shouted, “Negate the light! Now!

“I don’t know how!” cried the scientist. “Please, don’t kill me!”

Reed pulled back the hammer of the gun and harshly pressed it against his skin, “I’m not a very patient man, doctor! Now, figure it out!

Stauber was fearfully bawling tears with his shaking hands raised in the air. Zach called to Reed not wanting him to shoot the man in cold blood, but his Guardian ignored every word spoken to him. He smashed Stauber’s face against the barrier, breaking the frame of his corrective eyewear, and pulled him away only to slam him against it again screaming and swearing in his ear to take the barrier down. The geneticist could do nothing but cry and beg for his life, his heart pounding away like a jackhammer in his chest and his brilliant mind crumbled to pieces. The chaos all around him was too much for him to bear and through it all the only thing he wanted was to live past this ordeal and make it to tomorrow. He kept his eyes closed, never stopped pleading for mercy, and failed to realize his aura was strongly reacting to his desire to survive. The dark energy gathered around his hands and, when Reed slammed him against the barrier one final time, the energy he unknowingly summoned negated the light energy giving them access to the exit once more.

The Guardian kicked open the doors letting the teens flee the assembly hall first before hauling off Stauber with the gun still buried in the back of his head. Further down the hall they spotted a squad of what looked a dozen SWAT members in full riot gear performing a sweep of the area. Stauber flagged them down and, when they all raised their rifles taking aim, Reed shoved the man into the nearest open classroom and dove inside while Zach and Julia took refuge in the bathroom nearby just as the first shots rang out from the squad.

“Who the hell are they?!” Reed screamed at Stauber.

“They’re here to rescue me!” he shouted back.

“They wouldn’t open fire if they were rescuing you, you idiot!” Reed pointed at a door on the other end of the classroom with his gun, “We’re leaving through there! Get up!”

Meanwhile, back in the auditorium, the battle between Uriel and the man from the shadows continued to wage on heavily damaging the large room in the process. The two stood on opposite ends with Uriel standing at the exit and his cloaked opponent taking a defensive position on the stage. The empty chairs which were once bolted to the floor had been torn from their places, the pristine wooden stage was now mostly a giant heap of fragmented wood, and the curtains had been scorched from the flame localized on the blade of the archangel’s sword.

“That man needs to die,” the cloaked man said to his opponent from across the destroyed assembly hall.

I will be the one to pass judgment on him,” replied Uriel, “but not before I deliver you to damnation.”

“You’re a little late there.”

Uriel flew up with his flaming sword leaving a blazing trail in his wake and, just as he was about to make a strike, the cloaked man hefted his blade to his left hand, raised his right arm with his palm facing outward, and a bright flash of light shot from his hand blinding the angel. Uriel then lost control of his flight and crashed down to the ground rolling forward a few times before coming to a stop. His collision against the hard floor and damaged remnants of the auditorium disoriented him so badly that he found himself unable to immediately recover. He stumbled onto his feet loosely clutching his weapon and checked himself for injuries and when he looked over his left shoulder he felt a rage stir inside of him like no other. Half of his left wing was blown off and what was left of it had been badly burned by whatever the man of shadows had done.

“You will pay dearly for--”

And the cloaked man charged with his sword, “Let me finish it for you!”

Uriel was still too disoriented from the crash to evade his foe in time and with one quick swing the cloaked shadow sliced off what was left of the wing and the amputated wing returned to its original energy form and dissolved into the ether scattering as particles of light before it disappeared. Uriel growled and tightened his grip on his sword intensifying the calm flame and turning it into a raging inferno, but before he could rush in to deliver an attack of his own a small group of six well-armed men garbed in black burst into the auditorium. The enraged archangel fled the scene vanishing into ribbons of energy that flew off in separate directions leaving his opponent alone to deal with the men.

“There he is!” shouted the squad leader. “Fire!”

The sound of automatic fire echoed through the halls of the school and Zach and Julia were still taking cover in the bathroom unsure of what to do. The situation had elevated so rapidly that neither of the teens could even think clearly in their own minds. The noise from the gunfire kept them afraid to leave the relatively safe confines of the restroom and through it all Zach’s innermost desire to make it out alive slowly began to take hold. One by one, he heard men loudly screaming and yelling and someone shouting orders to fall back as something attacked them in retaliation. The gunshots and the screams soon ceased and the school fell silent once again, but it was impossible to tell if that meant it was safe to leave the bathroom.

Julia, who had been huddled in a corner with her head tucked behind her knees, looked up and quietly whispered, “Is it over?”

“I don’t hear anything,” answered the Sovereign. “I can still sense two of them, though.”

“Were those guys cops? Why were they firing at us?”

“They definitely weren’t the cops.” Zach very cautiously poked his head out of the bathroom to examine the area finding nothing but the empty hallway and shell casings littering the floor. “It’s clear. C’mon,” he took Julia by the hand and helped her to her feet, “I can find Reed by tracking down Dr. Stauber’s aura if they’re still together.”

“Is that a good idea?”

“I dunno,” he truthfully replied, “but I can’t stay hiding in here the whole time.”

She looked to her friend in disbelief at his apparent change in attitude and willingness to boldly head back out into a potentially dangerous situation, “When did you decide to grow a pair?”

To which he said with a grin on his face, “After I crapped myself.”

After taking a moment to recollect herself Julia accompanied Zach out of the bathroom and followed his lead as he followed the trail left behind by the geneticist. The search led the pair to the back of the school, through the cafeteria, and past the evacuated kitchen. It wasn’t long before they found Reed and Dr. Stauber, but they unfortunately weren’t alone. Stauber was huddled in a corner and Reed had his gun out and aimed ahead of him at the cloaked man, who had tracked the geneticist and the Guardian down much faster than Zach.

“You don’t need to kill him,” Reed said to the cloaked man whose loyalties were now being severely questioned in Zach’s mind.

“I do,” was his short response.

Zach stepped forward and cut into the conversation, “Why? Who is he? What did he do to you?”

“If you don’t let me kill him now he’ll bring about something no one here is prepared to deal with.” He locked his gaze with Zach’s and urged, “You know you can trust me. Let me kill him.”

Reed then shouted back at the man, “Leave Zach alone! I’ve got no idea who you are, but--”

The man cut him off, “I’m asking you one last time: let me kill him the way I want, quickly, or I’ll have to do it in a much more painful way. It doesn’t matter what anyone here says to me because one way or the other that man is going to die here. Today.”

“That isn’t going to happen,” said a defiant Reed.

“Then you leave me with no choice.”

All of a sudden Stauber who was cowering behind Reed like a scared child started screaming at the top of his lungs, his skin had spontaneously burst into flame. He continued screaming in agony as Reed removed his blazer and desperately tried to put the out the fire. Zach looked to his right where a fire extinguisher was secured to the wall and tore it from its mount while Julia rushed over to a sink filling a large pot with water to throw onto the burning scientist. They did everything they could, but nothing worked and the man was on the ground still screaming his last breath as he tried rolling around to put out the flame. Reed rushed over to the sink, kicked off the faucet head which let loose torrents of water, and used his power to redirect the liquid onto Stauber. It was too late, though. The man had stopped moving, stopped screaming, and all that was left of him was a black scorched corpse still burning down until there was nothing left but ash.

The cloaked man had disappeared amidst the chaos and the three stood over the burnt remains of Stauber in defeat. He died an agonizing horrible death and even though they did all they could, nothing could have saved him from the overwhelming power and unknown motives of the cloaked man from the shadows. Reed didn’t get the answers he needed and Zach’s hero was now a cold-blooded murderer in his eyes.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Reed, his voice low and apologetic.

Together, the three slowly exited the cafeteria slinking out the back to join up with the rest of the evacuated school with their tails between their legs. Zach had never known this kind of defeat; had never watched someone die right in front of him. The world around him shattered into a million pieces and all he could see was a man burning alive, screaming for help. A sight he felt would surely haunt his nightmares for years to come. The fear of failure was now more prominent in him than ever before with one thought – one undeniable truth – lingering at the forefront of his mind.

I couldn’t save him.


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