|Submission and Starvation by Beki Yopek|
Mondays were one evil we’d never magic our way out of.
Warm tingles rippled through me as I leaned against The Reaper’s balcony railing and took in the Fountainia skyline. Heaven’s extravagant architecture to the north, Hell’s neon signage to the south, and The Soul Fountains directly below me in the middle where the two halves melded. Besuited angels bustled this way and that around the Fountains, leading the last of the new souls into the splashing waters at the base and ushering the drained ones into the hell divides and heaven lanes that led to their fates. Crisp, fresh water and life force floated up and filled my nostrils and I grinned.
Yeah I had an awesome and helpful job, but today I’d rather be running my hands along the muscles and cornrows of the Seraph I’d had to leave behind in bed. That warmth swelled to a gush from lips to hips and I shuddered at the goose bumps spreading across my skin. Uniforms did something to--
“Hildariel needs training,” The Reaper rattled somewhere behind me.
I twitched up off the railing and spun to face the solid black skull in the hood that faced me, hovering at eye level three feet off the balcony. “You sneaky bastard, my guard was down.”
Cackling, The Reaper soared overhead and clacked down onto the balcony with Seversoul tight in his grip. “Be happy I am not Avarice, or a ninja.”
Thoughts blended in my head like a bad wop at a college party. “Uhm, that’s a good--ehh, why are you late too?”
Reap tilted his skull at me and I bit my lip. Stupid brain farts. I blame them for letting things slip. The Reaper tapped his bony foot and I answered the implied question. “I’d have been here sooner, but I got busy at home.”
My wings tensed at the ridiculous word choice, but The Reaper must not have picked up on it, because he said, “Working around Hildariel’s explosive weapons causes delays. Harvesting souls in the field is already hard enough with the T.V.T. law still in place. Now I cannot rely on our new bodyguard to cover me while I harvest.”
Since The Reaper was spitting business talk, I shook off thinking of my angel with benefits and crossed my arms. “Is Hildy really that bad at combat? Working as Nia’s bouncer probably made her complacent.”
“It is not her behavior that limits her, but her choice of weaponry.”
“I remember all the knives and arrows she had hidden under her track suit. Thought she was an amazon woman or something.”
The Reaper shook his skull. “Amazons did not bring explosive weapons to the battlefield.”
Leaning against the railing again, I adjusted my blazer and rolled both wings. “Please, elaborate.”
“Incanted arrows and blades that explode are available on the Vice Market in the Third Circle. Hildariel fired on demons with copper-coated arrows that burst with brimstone or haloxite upon striking a target.”
“Ah, so the shrapnel would catch you if Hildy came out shooting at demon thieves that got close.”
“That is the problem. Individual haloxite arrowheads are too slow, and she relies on the magic without considering the consequences.”
“It sounds like she’s a good enough bodyguard, but she has no foresight on how tactics and magic mix.”
“Odd, considering she is also employed at Niariel’s bar.”
I shrugged both wings. “I’ll work with her. Might be she just needs different tools, or better timing or technique.”
The Reaper rattled deep in his throat. Spine. Neck. “New tools will be problematic. The Vice Market is in Voracity’s Circle. He works for The Pneuma Coalition.”
“Go figure,” I said, groaning. “It’s always The Coalition or Heaven Law getting in our way.”
“Heaven supports the mote system a lot, but offers no angelic assistance to me personally.” Reap gestured to the angels working The Soul Fountains. The words ‘Vanna Black’ flashed through my mind as he added, “They send mote bankers and soul ushers to run the financial and distribution aspects, but we do the important job with no support.”
I counted off the work we’d done without any actual Heaven assistance. Soul Harvesting. Route planning across Earth. Building The Volunteer Guardian Angels. Busting Septuplets who worked for The Coalition when the Volunteers were too busy. We even had to call the Seraph Police Department in when Heaven Law forced us not to bust Coalition members ourselves.
“I’m sick of stealing humans’ cell phones to call the SPD while we’re harvesting,” I blurted. “Blind faith makes hypocrites of the faithees. C’mon, Reap. Let’s get this next Case written so we can train Hildy.”
Crossing the balcony, I held The Reaper’s office door open for him and cranked my hearing up to eleven. Sooner or later he’d drop a hint about his plans beyond ending The Pneuma Coalition. Then maybe I’d learn what scared The freaking Reaper so much he’d keep secrets even from me.