Kitty slides back from the infinite pull of the Mother’s exit. That pinprick singularity hungry for energy. Half of his essence seeks escape to the void, to the grasping maw of soulless black; the other courts the gravity of flesh, the anchor of energy made physical mass.
A brief struggle rages in the midst whilst each part attempts to rip him asunder, then he touches mass with the merest wisp of his power and it pulls him back hard. Jolting. From pure free formlessness to the limitations of limbs, organs, bones, the meat containment cage.
For a moment flesh feels like stone. Unbearable density, intolerable burden. Cumbersome, repulsive and cold as death. Then essence undergoes minute adjustments as it realigns with form and gradually, by increments, the discomfort fades and reality becomes flesh.
Ease of movement returns, the flow of sinew and muscle over bone. Bones feel more like foundations than iron bars rooting him to unwelcome substance. The fierce pump of the heart fills him with elation; the bellows of lungs filtering air through blood brings clarity. It becomes a symphony. Glorious completion.
He opens his eyes. The first thing he sees. Spotlights. Bright green and endless as the ocean. They pin him to the chair, emerald needles through the matter of his being. He reaches out a tendril of power, touches the mind behind them.
You have a question?
Margo shakes her head without moving her gaze from his. No, she says. I realised the answer.
Yes, she says. You’re the Angel they want. They just don’t know it.
He stills. The universe, multiple and infinite, flows around him as if he’s a stone in a stream. Will you tell them? He’s unsure of this woman, this walking paradox. She doesn’t know how dangerous she is, not the danger that counts.
No. But I don’t fancy letting them try and cause more havoc grabbing the wrong Angel. I have friends that may get hurt. Those bandits are unscrupulous, ruthless.
He smiles at her. And? So are you.
Margo returns the smile. I didn’t say I disapproved, just that I don’t fancy allowing them free rein around my friends. She finally tears those emerald eyes from his face, turns them to Leek, still floating in the middle of the circle of chairs. She can’t get rid of that, can she?
So why foist it on her? Margo allows a little of her anger to seep through, it burns the edges of his thoughts.
Kitty recoils. Throws a cooling wave at her, an admonition. It was not a situation that bore too much thought. Swift action was required.
Mollified, though only a touch, and not at all cowed by his small display of power, far less than the display he first subjected her to and therefore negligible, Margo asks, Will you look after her for me?
Kitty’s smile grows wider. I was planning to.
Margo nods, satisfied. Good. Then, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve bandits to go and spank. She rises, struts to the door. As she leaves she throws back to him, so hard it leaves a bruise in his essence. Look after her. Wouldn’t want to have to spank you too.
Kitty winces, murmurs to himself, ‘neither would I.’
Moe’s unexpected laugh at Rolf’s usual flirtatious come-on fades. The slithering of flesh follows until uneasy silence reigns over the ballroom. Beneath it builds a strange weight of tension. That suspension of time within which uneasy allies realign to their previous states and become, once more, opposed.
The hard, mechanical ratchet of a bullet being chambered breaks it. Splinters it to shards around their feet. The tension crashes down on top of them, heavy as a fallen sky and all as vast. Within it two groups stand off against one another over a sea of rotted flesh and corroded metals. Bandits heft guns in lazy prelude to violence, their equal and opposites raise blades, coil whips, poise black gloves to unleash brutal energies laced purest silver.
Choke tips his hat, relaxed in the midst. ‘Reckun we’ll be takin’ that thur Angel along with us now, son,’ he says to Rolf.
Rolf sneers. Steps forward, whips lazily rotating. Beside him, Moe flicks blood off his blades and makes ready to drench them with more. The tension winds up another hundred or so notches. Violate, overexcited, lets off a shot that narrowly scrapes Rolf’s cheek, draws a glistening smear of blood.
Violence gathers like crows over corpses, but before the gathering breaks to a tumult, the Angel clears his throat. The sound is low, vibrates at an odd frequency, tears through bandit’s ears vicious as a spear. Hands clutch to heads, guns drop to sticky floor. Splat. Red splashes like flowers. Funeral wreaths.
Choke almost loses his stogie, his eyes bugging out in horror as it slips. He clamps teeth to it as hands clamp to skull, nails the Angel with a stare that would strip the hide off a walrus. The Angel merely stares back, unmoved, until Choke is forced to lower his gaze. Cowed, whipped and speared.
‘I imagine,’ the Angel says calmly, as the spear point of pain retreats and normal service resumes in their ear drums, ‘that you’ve taken into account whether or not I will allow that to happen.’
‘Or whether I’d allow it,’ says a drawling voice at the doorway.
The two groups turn in surprise, the quiet click of the door opening having eluded them in the diversion of the Angel’s disruption. Margo strides into the room, trailing sparks, trailing quarks from the bright blue AM blade sheathed at her waist. Stops as soft squelches accompany the sparking clack of her entrance. Looks down at the lumpen red mulch under her heels. Quirks a brow, then flashes a wide, gleaming grin at the room in general.
‘Oh I like what you’ve done with the place,’ she calls out as she resumes her strut, ‘very Grindhouse.’
Choke chews his stogie, chews over the appearance of the woman neck to toe in black armour gored with scraps of flesh, drying slicks of blood. She’s too at ease. The casual attitude of her click clack across a stew of remains sends small curls of uncertainty to rifle at his innards. She’s not big, smaller than Violate by a hands breadth. It’s in the spike of her presence. It’s got teeth. Great, ravenous fucking fangs.
Reaching him, Margo plucks the stogie from his hand, pulls in a long lung full and blows a stream of silky smoke into his face, flutters her eyelashes as he struggles to contain a cough. She waggles fingers at him, at the other bandits, chuckling when Dime waggles back with both fingers and eyebrows. She clacks off, puffs as she goes. Click clack, puff puff, a little engine of Margo.
‘You’re late,’ the Angel tells her.
Margo grabs his wrist and peers at his watch, a complex assortment of glowing thaumic embers amongst clockwork. ‘Only by an hour or so,’ she says, a little sulky, ‘I was busy dog whispering.’
‘Am I missing something?’ Rolf inquires.
Margo pinches his dick with vicious fingers, laughs at his screech of pain, and blows him a kiss. ‘I’m pretty sure you were missing me, darling, or I’ll peel your cock like a banana and feed it to a chimpanzee.’
Rolf’s face flashes pure wickedness. He reaches out, pinches her cheek, spits out, ‘no, no, that’s nothing like a nipple. Why is it when I require a nipple to pinch you’ve gone and had them canned?’
‘I’m storing them for winter,’ Margo says, framing her chest plate with both hands. ‘I thought I’d try my hand at subsistence living.’
‘With your tits?’ he sneers, ice-blue periwinkles gleaming amusement. ‘Darling, they’re larger than the US deficit. You’ve enough to gorge the five thousand.’
‘I would,’ she responds sweetly, ‘if I were inclined to share.’
‘Uncharitable cunt,’ he says.
‘Cock-bothering fuckwad,’ she spits back and they catch each other’s eyes, bite lips and start leaping about and squealing, splashing everyone with a slurry of mashed remains. Margo throws herself into Rolf’s arms, legs locked around his waist. ‘I missed you, you filthy little homo,’ she announces. ‘And I was late because I was here earlier but I couldn’t fucking get in. Or I’d have come and bitch-slapped that old cow fifteen shades of uglier.’
Sparrow’s rasping laughter fills the air. ‘Until you’ve seen what she hides under her veil,’ she tells them in that husking agony of a voice, ‘I wouldn’t assume anything about how much uglier you can make her.’
‘We-ull,’ Violate throws in, picking up her pistols and wiping them on her shirt. ‘Ah’d just love ta dehscuss this awl day but y’all unnerstand we have us a lil ole pre-arrangement to bring us an Angel back. So if’n y’all don’ mahnd, we’ll just be awn our way with that there pretty Angel and y’all can jaw the rest o’ the day away.’
Margo sniggers. Violate’s eyes, green but a shade or two darker, not quite as bright or cutting but surely mean as a snake in grass waiting on a juicy ankle, snap anger. ‘Whut so durned comical, beeyatch?’
Margo slides down from Rolf. Clacks to the Angel’s side. Flourishes like a model on a tacky television quiz. ‘The Angel on my right, whilst assuredly an Angel,’ she squeezes his arm, ‘and undoubtedly ripped as all hell, is not tonight’s grand prize. Alas,’ she pouts fake sympathy, ‘tonight’s grand prize, the Angel y’all were looking for, is long since gone with my good bitch Leek.’
Silence hits the air like a slap. The sound of cocking guns follows, a Morse code of imminent carnage. Tension rises fast as monsoon floods, drowns the room. Stand off commences.
Sebus fumbles out his snuffbox. Flips the lid. Shaking hands send a fine glistening shower of powder to the floor, as it lands the deck briefly lights up under a burst of lavender lights. He snuffs a pinch at each nostril. The tinny voice of the speaking trumpet filters into the confines of the communications hub.
‘LandShipMaster Grimm? Report please. What is the status of Peggy Dunne?’
Sebus coughs discreetly. Shoves the box back into his pocket, all-aquiver with nerves. Grasps the trumpet and works the levers. In the dim distance he hears the unmistakeable thrum of thaumaturgy. It tickles his bones as it reaches the trumpet and he intones carefully, ‘I fear we are sand bound and sadly denuded of cargo.’
The trumpet crackles. Hisses. ‘How very unfortunate,’ comes the response, distant and whistling. ‘Can you report as to the cause?’
Sebus rubs a hand across his forehead. Licks his lips. ‘Unforeseen storm damages,’ he says.
There’s a silence. And then. ‘Have you full compensatory insurance filled for the current traversing?’
Sebus visibly relaxes, the trembling falls from his limbs and he smiles, an unctuous slide of silken satisfaction. ‘Naturally,’ he responds, emanating smug self-assurance.
‘Excellent. Can we expect you fully functional and back to port within the week?’
‘Assuredly,’ he replies, no trace of uncertainty to be found.
‘Bereth the Benevolent watches ever over us,’ whistles the trumpet.
‘And anoints us with her presence,’ Sebus says, sombre, resonant, his voice ringing through the hub.
‘Way ah see et,’ Choke says, eyeing up the stand off and lighting up another stogie, ‘we gots us two choices.’
‘Whut’s them, Boss?’ asks Carbine, thunderbuss trained between the Angel’s eyes. Knows it won’t kill the big bastard but it might stun him long enough to truss him like a steer and drag him to market.
‘We c’n take the laydee at ‘er word and figure our Angel done blew the coop, in which case we gots to haul arse ahfta the damn thang.’
Carbine spits a cheek load at that idea, unimpressed. ‘Or?’
Chokes pokes out his lip. ‘Or,’ he says, ‘we say if’n it walks, squawks and acts like a Angel, then it’s a durned Angel and taint nuthin Turk c’n do ‘bout et if’n it happens to be tha wrong durn one.’
Carbine’s head gives a slow nod. ‘Reckun that thur’s a cherry of a plan, Boss.’
Choke looks mighty pleased with himself. ‘Whah thankee, Carbine. Now whut say you put a round out and we bag us a payday?’
‘Raht chew are!’
The Angel snarls impatience, raises a hand, palm out. Black specks curl around the medians, form archaic runes, pictograms, occult symbols.
‘Leave,’ he whispers and a column of black bursts forth, soundless, deadly, direct. It surges across to the bandits. Swallows them whole. Rises to a twister, floor to ceiling, bandits whipping round in the centre fast enough to blur to streaks of colour.
Yells and curses bite out from the twister’s eerie silence. The Angel drops his fingers to a loose fist about the stream of black, pulls. The twister rises off the floor. He opens his fingers, a derisory flick, and that rent in the world reappears. He throws the bandits through it and, with a final negligent twitch of the hand, seals it shut.
‘That,’ declares Margo, ‘was rude.’
‘Expedient is the word you’re looking for,’ the Angel replies. ‘They’re a nuisance and they have no idea who this Turk of theirs is working for. I can’t risk dealing with him just yet and it’s better that than decorate the floor any further.’
‘Just what is all this?’ asks Moe. ‘I mean, what the fuck have we involved ourselves in?’
The Angel gives him a sad smile. ‘Before it ends,’ he tells him, ‘you’ll know far more than you ever wanted to.’ He turns to Sparrow. ‘Will you accompany me?’
Her veil flutters as she nods. ‘There is much to be done. The Mother will return. The twins will find her; she’ll build another matrix within them, more powerful than the last. She knows its weakness now and I’ll guarantee she’s realised which Angel she needs.’
The Angel smiles. ‘We’ve bought time. And, much as I dislike it, I’d say my dear friend the cat’s notion of housing the matrix in the woman Leek will prove even more advantageous than it already has.’ He turns to Margo. ‘Beware tiny men,’ he tells her. Margo’s red lips part but he places a finger on them. ‘You’ll know,’ he says, ‘maybe too late, but you will know.’
The Angel takes hold of Sparrow. His eyes surge into lambency, twin suns of brightest blue. Dazzling, brilliant, awe-inspiring light swells to encompass first the Angel, then the slender dark statue of Sparrow. It flares, a super-nova in slow motion, drenches the room in radiance then snaps out, leaving them ankle deep in Ravid remnants, half-blinded and none the wiser.
‘All that,’ Rolf says, peevish, ‘and I didn’t even snag a blowjob.’
‘Your problem, darling,’ Margo announces, slipping her arms through his and Moe’s and dragging them across to the door, ‘is that you’re too shy.’
‘Shy?’ Moe’s tones are high with disbelief; ‘he did everything but shove his cock in my bloody gob!’
‘Exactly what I’m trying to say,’ Margo crows, ‘he’s too bloody shy!’
© Ren Warom 2011