Angel fire, p.46
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       Angel Fire, p.46

         Part #2 of Angel series by L. A. Weatherly
Page 46


  “Come on, we’ll go this way,” said Alex to his own group. He took them down another path. “Start scanning, everyone. Tell me what you can sense. ” He’d already found angel energy about a quarter of a mile away – wanted to see how long it took the others. Angel spotters were supposed to be good, but he didn’t know what their training had been like; the CIA had recruited them all.

  A moment of concentration. “That way,” said Sam and Trish almost in unison, motioning down the path. “Not too far,” added Trish with an earnest glance at him. “And more than one, I think. ”

  “Yeah, I got that, too,” said Alex. “Okay, let’s start cutting through the trees. ” He looked at Willow as they made their way up a slight rise, wondering if she was all right. She was walking silently, staring down at her purple sneakers. She’d been quiet all day.

  As if feeling his gaze, Willow looked up as the other two pulled ahead. To his alarm, he saw that her eyes were miserable, almost frightened. “Alex, listen, I – I can’t take part in the hunt,” she blurted out. “I know this is really bad timing, and I’m so, so sorry – I should have told you this yesterday – but—”

  “There!” called Sam from ahead. “Oh hell, it’s a whole goddamn feeding party!”

  Alex’s head jerked up. Whatever Willow had been about to say was forgotten as he saw Sam sprinting off, with Trish following after, both pulling out their guns as they ran. Oh Christ, didn’t they know any better, after all the hours he’d spent drilling strategy into them?

  “Sam!” he called as loudly as he dared. “Trish, wait!” Trish stopped in her tracks, looking sheepishly back over her shoulder; Sam went on, barrelling through the trees like a guerrilla warrior.

  Alex pounded after him; caught up with him and grabbed his arm, yanking him to a halt. “Stop,” he hissed. “Are you completely insane? You don’t just go racing in, you have to scope things out!”

  He could see the angels for himself now, a hundred yards away down a small hill where the path curved past. Sam was right, it was a feeding party: four angels clustered around four people. Their touching wings made a shining flower shape, their halos bright and pulsing as they fed.

  “We have to hurry!” Sam cried, jerking away from him. “Those people are being hurt, right this second—”

  “Get down,” said Alex, not taking his eyes off the angels. Sam didn’t move. “Get down,” he repeated in a snarl, shoving hard on the Texan’s broad shoulder. Sullenly, Sam lay on the ground beside him, both of them flat on their stomachs. Trish joined them and did likewise, her usually neat ponytail rumpled. Her face paled as she regarded the scene.

  “Okay, look,” said Alex. “I know it’s not easy to watch this, but they’re already feeding – we can’t save these people. The best we can do is wait for a clear shot. ”

  “But we gotta shoot now!” Sam’s voice rose. Trish glanced at him worriedly. “We can’t just let them—”

  “Lower your voice,” said Alex, his own voice a knife that cut Sam’s protestations short. “Look at how they’re standing; their halos are too close to those people’s heads. We could blow someone’s brains out. ”

  “Yeah, well maybe that’s not such a bad thing! They’ve got angel burn now; what good is—”

  Alex swore as one of the angels looked up. For a brief, burning second its eyes met his – and he knew that it knew. He tore his gaze away and reached for his gun. “Well, you’ve got your wish now; they’ve seen us. Nice going, hotshot. Stay in position, both of you – shoot when you can, and don’t look into their eyes—”

  There was no time for further instructions; the angels were jetting towards them in a frenzy of light. One banked and soared high, ready to dive; Alex ignored it for now and went for the angel in front. The sun dazzled off its halo, momentarily blinding him, then it flashed back into view and he fired. As the creature exploded into fragments, he felt the familiar rush of energy from angel fallout howl past.

  Panicked shooting was going on beside him; a hasty scrambling in the grass. “Whoa!” shouted Sam, flipping onto his side as one of the creatures dove – its female face fierce and beautiful, long fingers straining towards Sam’s life force. Alex rolled onto his back and sat up in a single motion, tracking the angel as it wheeled on one wing, ready to return.

  Beside him he heard Trish’s gun go off, saw a bright explosion out of the corner of his eye. Yes! Good one! he thought as he fired. The female angel darted sideways, its wings cutting against the sky. Alex fired once more and got it this time – and as he twisted to track the fourth and last angel, Sam’s gun went off again.

  Silence. Light, falling towards the ground.

  “We. . . we did it,” said Trish, sounding stunned. “We really did it!”

  Alex turned to Sam, giving him a long, level look. The Texan’s gaze faltered; his face turned red as he put his gun away. “Don’t you ever do that again,” said Alex in a low voice. “If any of us had died, it would have been because you’d drawn their attention to us. ”

  Sam swallowed. “Yeah, but—”

  “Shut it. I don’t want any excuses from you. You do not go running off before you know what you’re getting into, and you do not keep talking loudly when I’ve told you to keep quiet. Do you understand me?”

  “I’m sorry,” said Trish in a tiny voice. “I went running off too. ”

  “You were okay,” said Alex, still watching Sam. “At least you stopped when I told you to. ”

  “I – I guess I acted pretty stupid,” said Sam finally, looking sick. “I got excited – I wasn’t thinking. ” His eyes rose to Alex’s. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. ”

  “No, it won’t,” said Alex. “Because if it does, you’re off this team for good. ”

  Sam nodded, his lips white. “I understand. ”

  “Okay then,” said Alex as they got up. “Aside from that. . . you can both be pretty proud of yourselves. ” He gave Trish a quick one-armed hug; clapped Sam on the shoulder. “Listen, that was seriously not shabby – it’s hard when they’ve seen you. Good work; I mean it. ”

  Trish looked like the adrenalin was still pulsing through her; she managed a shaky smile. Sam winced and ran a hand over his short blond hair. “Yeah, but I – I completely choked at first – goddamn, I could hardly even shoot straight—”

  A long-ago day in an Albuquerque park came back to Alex, and his throat tightened as he remembered Cully: Weren’t you listening to me? It’s tough when they see you. You did good. You did good.

  “You did good,” said Alex quietly. And he meant it. Though their first kills hadn’t exactly gone smoothly, he was acutely aware they could have gone a hell of a lot worse. And he still had over seven weeks left to train them. With luck, it should just about be enough time.

  Below, the victims seemed to have come back to themselves and were walking away down the path, talking in low, ecstatic voices about los ángeles. One girl looked barely sixteen, with long black hair that gleamed in the sunshine. As the group rounded the bend she staggered, and took the arm of the woman next to her.


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