The Good Fight
Dela paused at the edge of a circle of transfuse light spreading downward from an old-fashioned street lamp a few feet from the door of the church. Beneath the light, Angelo sat on a wooden chair turned around so he could lean casually against the back, his hands folded on the upper edge, his wings draped casually across his back and sides. Lines of fog spread close by, thicker in the shadows behind him.
She gave a sigh and started forward. Angelo's head lifted and he gave her a wane smile. "This is a trap, you know."
"I knew that when he looked so relaxed. You never relax."
"They told me to look calm," he replied with a little shrug. Feathers fell from his wings and she grimaced. She could see bruises now on his chest and face. "So I decided to cooperate for once."
She laughed pulling one gun from her holster and holding it ready. She could see the faint hint of red eyes in the fog: One set, two sets, three . . . Dela stopped counting at six and took a moment to look over the thin strands of magic holding her partner in place. She needed to decide the best way to break those bonds, get Angelo free and both of them survive.
Surviving seemed to be getting harder of late. The fact they'd caught Angelo at all showed something had changed. She wasn't certain what yet, but maybe they'd talk about it later.
The creatures with the glowing red eyes were starting to move. She knew the sounds; mutant rats out of the darkest hell. They'd fought them before. The battle was never easy, but they were still the lesser of the enemies. The darker, stronger ones, still stayed clear when they stood together.
The first rat leapt as she laid a hand on Angelo's shoulder. She held her fire until she had a clean head shot. She dared not waste any of the bullets.
A surge of magic swept from her to him as she brushed her fingers against his skin. "Get free," she whispered.
Transferring magic was painful and drained energy of all sorts, and the ones directing the rats would not expect Dela to make herself weaker. Her hand almost trembled, but she waited and got the next rat within a foot of her leg.
Another leapt at Angelo and she spun, trying to get the aim, but he threw himself out of the chair at the last moment, kicked the rat in the head, and she shot the creature as it went down.
She tossed him her second gun and he caught the weapon, turned and fired. No games tonight. They took down nine of the rats and he missed killing the last one, though Angelo did wound the back leg.
She was already clearing out the bodies of the rats away with swift strikes of magic, though her arm trembled. The darkness had retreated -- what had watched was gone again. Cowards. They rarely came out for the real fight. She could hear sirens not far away. They didn't have much time.
"Fly? She asked, hoping he still could.
He nodded, rubbing at his shoulder. "Your magic helped. Thank you. We better hurry or we'll lose that last one."
They took to the air, up and up into the night sky; above the fog, above the dirty human city and up to where the stars shone like jewels. Up here they could feel the winds of home and if they turned away from their endless battles, they could have flown home. They could have left this world, abandoned the humans who had seemed to abandon them ages ago. She had tired of the endless battles and saving humanity from things they never saw in the light of day. They could . . .
But they swept back down into the world of humans again.
Maybe tomorrow they'd go home.
The rat led them straight to an old abandoned building. There they found a lair of the rats, hidden in the depths with the feel of darker magic all around the dozens of creatures. The arrival of the two set the mass in movement and there was no way they could take them all down.
So they raced back to the roof, the rats snapping at their heels and obviously expecting them to take to the sky as soon as they reached the opening.
Instead, Angelo spun and flung lighting straight down the stairwell, so bright and powerful that the flash lit up all the windows in the four-story building.
"My. Bad mood tonight?" Dela asked moving back from the sudden heat.
The building caught fire. Giant rats tried to leap from broken windows, but Dela's magic swept them back in and sealed everything closed.
Before long they could hear sirens again. The magical fire had destroyed the enemy, though and the natural fire had followed, too quickly to stop. Smoke already curled up into the sky around them.
"Time to go," Angelo said, stepping towards the edge of the building.
"Things are getting worse," Dela whispered. She hated to say such a thing aloud, but as the building burnt beneath them, she had a vision of more darkness coming, spreading through the city where they had been set as guardians. "What are we doing to do, Angelo?"
Her wings fluttered and her head bowed, the weight of the future on her.
"We're going to fight the good fight, protect humanity . . . Go have breakfast?"
He made her smile again as they swept out into the sky and then back down to ground. Morning drew near, the sounds of birds filling even this urban world. Both she and Angelo folded their wings away, hid their identity behind a veil of magic, and went to have breakfast.
They'd rest and wait for the night to come again . . . and fight the next battle.
She had to make herself believe, still, that they would win.
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