Saturday, November 25, 2017

Case 15 - Ep. 2: Souls By Fire

The Reaper's Mercy by Beki Yopek
Closing time at The Down South Lounge didn’t exist unless Nia said it did. When Apathy’s skyscraper night clubs shut down at 2am for clean up duty, the after-partiers left downtown New Purgatory and flocked here. Every demon living in the First Circle had spent motes and waged war on their livers at the bar where The Reaper and I now sat. None of the demons in any Circle could know how bad The Coalition had wrecked us.

That’s why Reap and I used the last of his brimvisibility to sneak into The Lounge and ask Nia to clear the place out.

I watched Nia shoo a blue-haired grifter demon out with a pushy, “Get the heck out, please,” then downed half of my Sin and Tonic. I couldn’t even taste the alcohol, and the flatscreens behind the bar blaring their music videos sounded as flat as their sources. A paranoid glance around The Lounge showed me the warmly lit standing room tables, the dart booths behind them, the pool tables to my left, and the arcade way at the back. The glass reappeared when I set it on the bar’s polished wood and let go. Adrenaline still prickled in my veins from the fight at the Motery Center. Tonight, I needed shots.

The Reaper audibly slugged the rest of his Hallelujah Tequila, the full highball glass vanishing when he grabbed it and materializing empty. “We will appear to be even weaker after today. Prudence’s fall and our failed trap set us further behind. It sends the wrong message.”

When I heard the double doors snap closed, I shucked my torn blazer and let it fall to the floor and reappear. “Now we’ve both killed a Septuplet. I don’t think The Coalition will screw with us anytime soon.”

Nia flapped behind the bar on vanilla wings and brushed her dark, crescent moon hair back with one hand. Then she squinted at the six barstools nearest her. “I could help a lot more if I could see you. Can’t you switch that brimvisibility off?”

I shook my head.

Nia’s lips quirked up. “You’re shaking your head aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” I grumbled, kicking myself. “And no I can’t. Brimstone Chemistry isn’t like Blood Magic. Wait. You know that. You studied Haloxite Chemistry in college.”

She bobbed her head and grinned wider. “I know. Good thing you’re invisible, or The Reaper might see how embarrassed you are.”

“I’m strung out, Nia. We both almost died and you’re being all devious and walking me into verbal traps.”

Nia clapped a palm on her chest over her Down South Lounge top. “I am not devious. Looks like you need a refill.”

“Two shots this time. Phlegethon’s Kiss.”

“Ooh, the heavy stuff,” she breathed. “You better tell me what happened at work.” Nia whirled around and lifted a pink decanter off the top shelf, then giggled and put it back. “Whoops, that one’s too dangerous.” She snagged a bottle of Styx Comfort and two shot glasses with her hands, and a bottle of amaretto and an acetylene torch from beneath the bar with her wings.

An exhausted laugh escaped me at the sight. Some weight whisked off of my mind as Nia juggled the bottles and the torch between pours. Either it was a miracle she didn’t spill any, or she had bar tending down to an exact magic. Flames flickered from both shots when she slid them toward me. My hand reappeared along with the rest of me when I reached for one, and The Reaper’s black bones shone once more from the stool next to me. 

“You look like krapfen,” Nia said.

“That’s a swear word,” I replied, downing a shot flames and all. Dual fires burned down my throat and I groaned, then smacked my lips. “It burns so sweet.”

“Krapfen is a German dessert, Avaline.” The Reaper rumbled. “No more tequila for me, thank you. With our Case Notes destroyed, we might as well update Niariel now while it’s fresh in our memories. I am sure she will listen to our account of the Cuban Missile Crisis before we have to return to Fountainia. Once we contact the SPD from there, Seraphs will arrive to document our stories, and that will take time.”

Nia put the bottles back and tilted her halo at us. “All your writing’s gone?”

“It is,” Reap said while I threw back shot number two. He steepled his finger bones. “Almost everything went to plan, save for the shot to The Soul Fountains’ reputation and the loss of the Case Notes.”

Nia pouted a little, then hurried into the office behind the bar and emerged with a handful of loose leaf paper and a pencil. “Finish what you started, and I’ll help with the lost stuff. Now screw the taboos and tell me everything.”

Amaretto lingered on my breath as I let it all out. I shared Reap’s two-week plan to suss out The Coalition’s leader. The way we lured Avarice to his office. How I’d ended her existence with Seversoul. 

Just when I’d finished venting, Nia pushed the paper and pencil at me. She found my eyes and held them, her voice solemn. “It means so much that you worked up to telling us about your history with Avarice. I don’t think either of us will forget the day you told us. I know how long you suffered under her. That pain will stay there even though she’s dead. However you justified what you did as her bodyguard, don’t use that pain to justify another downward spiral. If you feel yourself slipping, you can fall back on us.”

It was probably a little more than the alcohol spreading its warmth from my chest outward. I smiled and twirled the pencil. “You’re such a cheeseball angel.”

“And you wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Damn right. So, the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Nia’s wings ruffled in excitement. “That’s one I haven’t heard yet. I thought I was your best friend.”

The Reaper cackled while I continued. “Avarice had just dropped Prudy a couple thousand feet out of the sky. . .”

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Case 15 - Ep. 1: Souls By Fire

The Reaper's Mercy by Beki Yopek
Glass imploded behind The Reaper and I pumped both wings and leapt backward by reflex. Grenade after grenade plunked down between Reap’s chair and the wrecked windows. Each one exploded within a second’s time. Over a hundred decibels slammed into my eardrums. All that stopped me from deafness and immolation was the physical protection my brimstone horns lent me.

The Case Notes I’d been writing fluttered every which way. They crumbled to ash and joined the maelstrom of debris that had been Reap’s office seconds earlier. The flames and the splintered office furniture devoured everything in the room except the building’s supports. Flaming file cabinets blew outward through the office door to plunge thirteen stories where they’d crash and hopefully alert the Motery Center’s banker demons and usher angels.

Tangs of metal and burnt wood charred the air I managed to breath amid the heat and dust. I staggered backward when Avarice swooped into The Reaper’s office. Her hair was as messy as the runway dress and pumps she wore. The Septuplet conjured a pair of whips with her Soliduction power and searched for me and The Reaper. 

She wouldn’t find us. The Reaper had chugged a vial of brimvisibility and vanished as planned. We’d been expecting a Sunday ambush since we started writing down Reap’s incidents with The Coalition.

After a century of duking it out with the spoiled satanic skank, I knew how Avarice fought. Conjure expendable weapons first, then remove the biggest threats in the confusion and save her favorite non-magic weapons for last. Thank goodness she couldn’t conjure haloxite or brimstone. Even the sins re-branded had limits.

I slunk back into the smoke and dust filling the room to obscure myself. Avarice swung a whip at random through the middle of the wrecked room. "Come on out here, traitor. Killing you will convince The Coalition that I was right."

Was Avarice their leader if she had to convince them of anything?

Wrapping both wings tight at my back, I bent and drew the haloxite lancet pen I used for Blood Magic in place of my knife. I jabbed my thumb and crept to The Reaper’s burning office chair. Then I reached into the flames engulfing it to smear orange blood on the back. 

Avarice’s eyes snapped my direction and she whirled both whips over her head. 

I surged the unguided Blood Magic before the blood started boiling and the chair shot toward her.

She batted the thing aside with a wing and screeched, "You would live through this day if you were still on my side."

Fear of the past spurred the adrenaline into my veins faster than the threat of death did. I seized the only other object on the floor-The Reaper’s scythe-and raised the awkward thing in both hands.

Wings beating, I leapt toward her and threw out a flying side kick. The heavy weapon weighed me down enough for Avarice to lash both whips around my leg and hips. She wrenched them downward and I crashed, rolling through seared debris and smacking against the shattered window frames.

Seversoul tumbled like a wrecked helicopter blade toward The Soul Fountains below.

Avarice dropped a whip and drew a haloxite switchblade from inside one of her pumps. "All seven of us raised you to be my partner, Avaline. We raised you. The Coalition."

I arched my back and kipped up to my feet to take wing, but Avarice swept my legs out with the whip she’d kept hold of. "We cast The Convictionists down and adapted to Earth's metamorphosis. Why did you backstab us during The Industrial Revolution?"

Flashes of conversations I had with Nia back then hit me and I spat, "I was a better bodyguard than you deserved."

Her laugh was a banshee’s shriek. "You still fight and twist words rather than face what is true."

I twisted my hips and threw a leg sweep at her pumps. It whiffed by a foot. "What's true is I was never yours."

Avarice spread her wings and snarled, "Everything you are belongs to us. Your ideas and your training."

"You chose to teach me. I took that and did what you should have."

"Heaven Law will never erase the human farms we set in motion. Demons need the life force from our tortured souls."

"They don't need the eternal backstabbing game you forced on them. Demons. Need. Hell."

Her giggle was iced sulfur. "Pride will be jealous that I murdered her former student."

My ex-boss pounded her wings and lashed the whip that bound me. She flung me up against the ceiling and let me drop to the floor in a heap. 

With that whip of hers, Avarice could keep me at a distance and no amount of martial arts would help. 

Blood Magic was useless unless I bled on her whip. I could use that. 

I shoved forward and reached for the leather weapon binding my leg. Avarice’s mocking laugh saturated the air while she beat her wings and ripped the whip upward. I smashed into the ceiling again and this time, Avarice readied the haloxite switchblade. 

Flapping hard, I soared over her head and her knife slash missed my stomach by half a foot. Her enraged cry sounded like she’d taken a huge gut punch.

I pounded air and flew out the office's wrecked wall. I cranked some unguided Blood Magic and summoned the scythe I’d bled on moments ago. Its haft snapped into my hands from thirteen stories down. 

Avarice didn’t emerge to fight me, so I seized the chance and smeared blood along the back of the two-toned blade and on the bottom of the handle. I would spin the blade at her like a cartwheel of death if she came at me. 

Cautiously, I flew closer to Reap’s burnt out office to find Avarice’s arms pinned to the floor by an unseen force.

I cheered at the mad image of The Reaper sitting on Avarice’s chest, unseen thanks to the brimvisibility vials I’d mixed up. In two flaps I was back in the office where the Septuplet writhed against Reap’s invisible weight. Her whips disappeared when she conjured grenades in both hands, but she couldn’t reach over to pull their pins. So he wasn’t sitting on her chest. He was standing on each wrist with his legs spread.

Avarice writhed and twisted her legs and wings. “Avaline! I’m gonna tell The Reaper everything. I'll smoke you for what you did to us. You will be a jobless washout again.”

The Reaper’s snarl was a landslide. “Your threats are as empty as you.”

“Wh--what spell is this? Blood Magic? Incantation?”

A scraping sounded from the floor. That haloxite switchblade Avarice dropped vanished. The Reaper rasped, “Ava told me everything herself, you husk of a bitch. I did something no being from Hell would expect. I forgave her.”

“The Coalition will own the Three Domains. We will not st--”

A gaping wound sliced open Avarice’s ribcage and she screamed. Orange blood poured from the flesh and pale white ribs parted like curtains. Heavy bones clacking against the floor told me The Reaper had stepped off of Avarice’s body. Hefting the scythe, I brought it down like a sledgehammer on Avarice’s chest.

Smoke gushed outward from the corpse and Avarice’s body disappeared. While the smog remained, the glowing white life force siphoned into the scythe’s blade like she was just another soul we’d harvested. Her brimstone horns thunked to the floor and I picked them up. They were the only evidence that anyone from The Coalition had acted out against The Soul Fountains. Not that one being’s horns were enough proof that The Coalition had decimated Heaven Law. Without the Case Notes intact, they could claim murder, or tragic accident, or some other bs. 

Magic made it way too easy to cover up a crime.

Dozens of wingbeats pounded the air behind me and I spun around. Motery Center demons and angels surrounded the thirteenth floor where I stood in plain view with The Reaper’s bloody scythe gripped tight. I didn’t know how much of the fight they’d seen, but I knew better than to let the adrenaline from the fight control me, so I stood tall and faced the flying crowd. 

Waving both wings, I stepped aside to let Soul Fountains staff into the office. Some talked of calling the SPD, others spoke of an internal vendetta against The Reaper. The majority fell into asking me questions, piecing together the rumors from the past two weeks with the sudden explosions and raining debris that Avarice’s attack caused.

Amid the chaos of bringing order to the scene, The Reaper’s disembodied voice rumbled one word into my ear. “Lounge.”

An invisible hand took one of mine off the scythe and placed a vial into it. Brimvisibility.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Case 14 - Ep. 3: Engineered Starvation

How F'd Are We by Beki Yopek
“Do you want to tell them we’re fucked, or should I?”

I brushed sand off my cerulean admiral’s jacket and waited for Prudence’s response. The Reaper’s other bodyguard tied her long brown hair up and pushed past me with her honey-gold wings. She strode across the Cuban beach toward the Volunteer Guardian Angels I’d been training with moments ago. Prudy’s deep blue dress and sandals lent her a stiff movie-starlet image that she hadn’t exuded until recently. She might be one of the Lucky Seven, but her white collar powers and full-moon halo weren’t free passes to trample on others.

Her ugly mood and my blood loss would help us stop a nuclear missile strike. Yep, they sure would. Time to fake it like we weren’t underprepared and exhausted.

Breathing the salty ocean air wasn’t enough to calm my nerves. A last check of the weapons and the Blood Magic folios under my jacket helped more. I waved The Reaper over and crossed to the front of a company of a hundred demons from the Make A Sin Foundation awaiting us on the beachfront. Sand slid and squished beneath my haloxite-toed boots. The sun slathered us with so much heat I was surprised Reap wasn’t melting under that heavy brown robe.

Towering over me by a foot and a quarter, he pointed his brimstone-and-haloxite scythe skyward in one bony fist. His voice was a bone-on-bone bullhorn. “A bomb that would destroy the humans whose souls we harvest could launch into the sky above us. If that occurs, more could follow. It is our responsibility to prevent this. If you stand here with us Fountainians, then you believe in The Soul Fountains and what we do for all three Domains. For Hell to have a future, we must infiltrate Cuban bunkers and watch the skies for nuclear missiles. Are you prepared?”

One blue-haired demon called out to The Reaper. “We have brimstone horns, big guy. An atom bomb wouldn’t even tickle us.”

The Reaper’s voice was a cat-o-nine-tails. “Do you want humanity to nuke itself to death?”

On any other day, I’d be proud of Reap’s sarcasm. Speeches like that might set some of these demons off today, so I stepped up and announced, “We are all demons here. We’re the superior ones. You want to prove it? Then stop the men in this missile crisis from doing something that your inferiors chose to ignore. The SPD is ignoring this and so are all the demons that didn’t show up today.”

Blue-head blurted, “Maybe I like the idea of not having to work for my life force. That’s what The Coalition’s all about. They want abundance, and you want everyone to starve so that a select few can hoard the life force. Why not let the war happen? Free life force for all of us.”

Spots flared red in my vision and I almost pounced at the blue haired demon. What, was this guy the ringleader? Maybe he was Coalition, and maybe he didn’t know any better than to toss insults. I’d already assumed The Coalition had something to do with this global tension, especially after Reap and I discovered their underground human towns during The Korean War. It looked like none of these demons knew that. Arguing the opposite point would just turn the demons against each other and against us.

Calm washed through me and I put a hand on my hip. “An all-you-can-eat buffet this year means no life force next year. Think of humans as crops if you have to. We still need to keep growing them.”

Naked, armed, and crazy, the demons murmured and actually nodded their agreements. Blue-head tilted his horns sideways. “Guess that makes sense.  We can’t exactly eat happy thoughts.”

The Reaper cackled and all the Foundation demons flinched. Hundreds of angel wings fluttered in sync behind me, peppering us with sand. Fear needled every inch of my skin and I searched the skies overhead. A single dot rocketed upward from Cuba’s mainland, and Prudence led the Volunteer Guardian Angels in a webwork formation straight up into the bomb’s path.

I tasted dust when I shouted, “Live nuke overhead. Demons, hit all the Cuban bases you can find and kill the humans in charge of launching bombs. It's your job to prevent more launches. Reap, stay with the VGA or with me or Prudence. Blue-head and the naked ones, with me.”

At that, I launched skyward and re-opened the scab on my left hand with a haloxite knife off my belt. I checked behind me and found everyone was flying along in a loose cloud. Dozens of demons slugged vials, spun inland, and vanished from sight. A handful of full-frontal demons flapped closer, and the blue-haired demon opened his hand. Scarlet and white motes darted away from his palm and formed a bi-colored halo over his head, the coins spinning in a ring around his horns. He yelled, “Gonna cuddle me a bomb today.”

I didn’t have time to snicker. We were three-quarters of the way to the bomb when I noticed four more streaking along in a line behind the first. The VGA was already swooping around the first missile and slowing it to a stop. I recognized the Septuplet that was clashing with Prudence in mid-air alongside the first warhead’s flight path. 

It was Avarice. Her expensive hairstyle and pin-up girl’s uniform wasn’t made for fighting. The former tangled in her face and the latter tore a little every time she flapped her wings to dodge Prudy’s telekinetic blows. I hadn’t seen her cut loose with her white collar super power since The Battle Of Amiens. Dozens of broken, jagged, and half-sheared haloxite bayonets swirled around Prudence’s body in a spherical cloud. Pair after pair lanced out, missed Avarice, and returned to the sphere as she flew.

Only the seven virtues embodied and the seven sins re-branded had abilities, and only Avarice and her Soliduction power could gain airspace on one of The Lucky Seven. 

Avarice conjured an oversize bola in one hand and slung it at Prudence. She cut the flailing weapon out of the sky with one of her bayonets. More bolas appeared in Avarice’s hands. With each manic sling, she got closer to entangling Prudence.

She and I knew that traps were more dangerous to demons and angels than brimstone or haloxite. Prudence pumped her wings hard, staying close enough to the streaking bomb so Avarice couldn’t stop the VGA from catching it. An explosion now wouldn’t serve The Coalition, and Avarice knew it. A pair of Prudy's bayonets circled behind Avarice for a psychic backstabbing. Avarice shot toward Prudy and heaved two bolas into the open space in her sphere. Ropes wrapped around my colleague’s wings and legs. They cinched tight. 

Avarice conjured bola after bola and unleashed them at Prudence. Every time she sliced a rope free with her bayonets, she shredded her dress more and took two or three more bolas to the body. In moments, she was a mummified pincushion plummeting to the ocean’s surface thousands of feet below.

My pissed-off shouts did less than Prudy’s falling bayonets. She tried harrying Avarice with them, but the farther Prudy fell, the more the haloxite weapons became a danger to me and the Foundation demons following behind me. She wasn’t as experienced at escaping immediate traps like I was. It probably never occurred to her to try anything but slaying her original target.

Reap switched his grip on his scythe and tried to shoot forward, but I seized his robe and bellowed, “Stop. Avarice will trap you too.”

Before I could nab a picture from my folio, Avarice surged straight at the VGA flock. Soliduction wreaked chaos among them; every second it took us to catch up was another bunch of thrown bolas binding more angels’ wings to their sides. They flopped out of the air and plunged after Prudy’s form.

I caught up to Avarice first, snagged the bola she flung at me in my bleeding left hand, and hurled it back at her with an unguided surge of Blood Magic.

The Reaper shrieked behind me and I wrenched my eyes away from Avarice before the bola connected. I focused on Reap long enough to catch the words, “--Konos and more Septuplets. One with each bomb.”

My eyes found a being escorting each of the four warheads following the first.

So I didn't see as the bola cinched off my windpipe and wrenched itself too tight to yank off.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Case 14 - Ep. 2: Engineered Starvation

How F'd Are We? by Beki Yopek
Demon that I am, my trips to Heaven were next to nil until the 1960s. All I knew of angelkind was from the north side of Fountainia. Angels could construct wondrous temples, ziggurat offices, and cumulus cafes if you were into that kind of thing. Whenever mankind needed saving from a disaster-in-progress like the Cuban Missile Crisis, angels and their magic got shit accomplished.

The sun blared its white light onto the Florida Straits a thousand feet below. Salt tang crusted the air and I tasted the grit with each ragged breath. The Reaper gripped his scythe and  flew at a fast clip ahead of me. I beat my wings in an hour-long back-and-forth to keep an eye on him and crank out Blood Magic for the flock of angels following us. Blood crusted both palms. It stuck to my forearms in orange runnels under the Hades Watch and the white-lined cerulean admiral’s jacket I wore. The haloxite knife I’d used to draw that blood was one of a dozen belted to my hip with a thick belt and holsters beneath the jacket.

I slung an empty tractor-trailer plastered with magazine ads at the hundreds of Volunteer Guardian Angels behind us. My magic, guided by the attached pages, made for a prop the size of a nuclear warhead that returned to me every time the Volunteer Guardian Angels caught it. Good practice for if a real warhead took flight, which damn well might happen today. For the past eighty-eight miles, they hadn’t let the rig touch water once. How they caught it was beyond me.

One angel would fly straight for the back of the truck, circle it top-to-bottom, then flap aside for more angels to do the same. After fifty or so angels ringed around the big rig, it would slow down. After a couple hundred, the truck would freeze mid-air. Then I’d boomerang it back to myself and try the whole thing again over the next mile of ocean. Thanks to the magic, I even got to choose whether the Newtonian kickback affected me or not.

What’s physics going to do, arrest me?

The Reaper swooped in close once I flung the truck at the angels for the eighty-ninth time. “What did you use for pictures?”

“Boomerangs,” I replied. 

“Before the Fountainia sirens went off, you were rooting through toy store ads.”

“Where else was I going to find the right pictures?”

“I am not sure. Weren’t boomerangs always children’s toys?”

Two hundred angels looped the back end of the truck and stopped it dead in the air. Glancing behind me, I saw the Cuban shoreline and a hundred tiny winged figures standing in ranks with a familiar winged woman pacing among them. I flapped and faced The Reaper. “You should know. Reap, you’re so old that if you had wrinkles, they’d have wrinkles.”

“It is rude to comment on a Reaper’s age.”

Laughing, I summoned the big rig back to me with guided Blood Magic. A few of the boomerang ads had fluttered loose. One weakness of my magic: if the demon’s blood dried up, so did the spells. I wasn’t quite dizzy from blood loss yet, but this whole flight to Cuba combined with constantly re-attaching pictures took more out of me than The Battle Of Khalkin Gol did.

As we descended on the beachfront, Reap shouted, “As soon as our boss knew the likelihood of an Earthly catastrophe, the Fountainia sirens went off. We responded within two minutes. Over two hundred VGA angels rendezvous’d with us in that time. Your hasty training regimen will serve us well in preventing nuclear war.”

“And it’ll keep us in jobs,” I answered. “The VGA can catch one bomb, or slow down three long enough to stop detonation. If I did the math right.”

Touching down in the surf, I dropped the truck next to us and cut the magic. The rig pounded down amid plumes of sand and salt water, creaking to a halt. A quick jacket check confirmed that yes, I was still armed to the horns. The inner pocket held two Blood Magic folios. A chest holster snagged at my breast, but it held a snub nosed pistol with one haloxite round within easy reach for drawing. A new pair of haloxite-powdered boots were laced to my feet. One fresh scarlet mote was tied into Nia’s bracelet on my wrist, and the Hades watch on the other wrist showed it was business o’clock.

The feathered wings of the VGA fluttered behind me as The Reaper took the lead, marching toward the ranks of demons awaiting us. My best friend Nia had put in a call to the Make A Sin Foundation after I called her about the Fountainia sirens. The Foundation sent a hundred demons trained at Hell’s colleges in stealth and sabotage in war zones. Breathing the sea air deep, I strode up to the rows of demons and inspected their clothing, armaments, and magical objects of choice.

Some demons wore vials in pouches. Others had haloxite needles. A few stood naked with nothing on them but the wings on their backs and the horns on their heads. One blue-haired demon squeezed a fistful of red and white motes like a handful of candy he wouldn’t let anyone else have. If I didn’t absolutely trust Nia, I’d say she picked the crazy brigade to back us up. At least it seemed like none of them were Coalition spies. They liked to keep their followers close to starvation, which meant they’d have pounced at the mote I wore by now if they were here.

Prudence, one of Reap’s other bodyguards, emerged from the Foundation’s ranks. She was five-eleven, scowling, and her wings and full-moon halo were honey-gold. Everything else about her had changed in the past several decades. Prudy had grown her hair out in a long brown drape that fell down her back. A mote necklace similar to my bracelet dangled below her collarbone. The coin’s pale white aura set off the midnight blue of her business dress like a bleached skull on a velvet cushion.

Smiling at the demons, I gestured for The Reaper to continue inspecting. He did, and I took Prudy aside. “You look like a pissed-off mother.”

She nodded approvingly, her voice mellow but crisp. “Good. You look like a woman of authority for once.”

“For once. Pfft. It’s better when I’m in charge, and I don’t need clothes for that.”

Eyeing me up and down, she continued slower than before. “That jacket is far more commanding than your zoot suit. Are you ready for responsibility, or do you still insist on being the party girl in your off time?”

I raised an eyebrow and hissed, “Who do you think you are talking to me like that?”

“We Lucky Seven hone our powers to be sharper than any demon’s second rate magic. What do you do besides plunge The Reaper into trouble?”

“We’ve escaped Coalition traps dozens of times.”

“He is never in danger with me around.”

“So you wouldn’t know how to get him out of danger. It’s okay. I forgive you, but I do expect you to learn from this mistake.”

Before she could respond, I flapped to The Reaper’s side and kicked up sand when I landed. “Prudence has changed, Reap.”

“She recently finished an Incantment that prevents recording devices from capturing images of demons and angels. For my safety, of course. She is exhausted and grumpy. She will handle herself if a nuclear weapon gets launched.”

I made a mental note to dig up what Incantment was. Heaven magic, probably.

Warm winds whirled around the winged warriors gathered on the beach. The VGA behind us, the Make-A-Sinners ahead of us, and The Reaper and Prudence ready to give orders. I whipped out my folio and asked Reap, “When’s the SPD getting here?”

“No sirens in Heaven,” The Reaper rumbled. “The Seraphs believe they watch over the biggest targets in the world, so they’ll already be there in the big cities when a missile approaches.”

When Prudy approached us, I leaned into her space and whispered, “Do you want to tell them we’re fucked, or should I?”

Final Episode - Cycle Seen, Cycle Reaped.

Finale In Chibi by Beki Yopek Nia leaned on the bar and eyed me through a drape of dark hair. “Well you obviously stopped the Cuban Mis...