Axiom 4: Keep open and clear communications.
Huddling behind a rocky outcrop, Alice and I did our best to not move, breathe, or make a sound as the angel drew closer.
I had a dozen different thoughts running through my head, all of them competing with each other and screaming over the others in a wild attempt to be heard.
The angel was going to sense us.
The shadow wasn’t deep enough. It could see us as soon as it turned its head.
We were going to die.
Alice smelled strangely good, pushed up against me.
The wires weren’t going to stop the angel. It was a creature of God, after all – how could it fail to break through a few strands of cable from a hardware store?
I really had to cough. My throat tickled.
We were really going to die, right here.
The angel drew in closer. I couldn’t see it, hidden down behind the rocky outcrop, but I heard the soft, powerful flapping of its wings, felt the gusts of air moving around me as the wind bounced back off of the walls around us.
And then, I heard a twang, like someone plucking a string on a massive guitar.
Next to me, I felt Alice straighten up a little bit at the voice. That’s right, I remembered. She hadn’t heard one of the angels speak before.
The voice carried majestically across the desolate landscape, underlaid with complex melodies. If some hopeful young singer stepped up to the stage of a reality show with a voice like that, the judges would fall to their knees in admiration. That voice, warm and melodious and rich, could captivate stadiums of adoring fans, inspiring tens of thousands of people to fall into reverent silence.
“Drat. What is this stuff?” Another twang.
Alice kept on straightening up, and I realized that she had risen enough so that she could peer out past the edge of the rocks that sheltered us. My heart thumping in my throat, I did the same.
The angel floated in the middle of our web of cables, slowly sinking down to the ground. Its wings seemed impeded by some of the strands of wire, and without their slow flapping, I guessed that he couldn’t stay aloft. It peered forward at one of the strands, reaching out and tugging at it with a long, perfectly shaped finger.
The strand of cable twanged again as the angel tugged on it, but didn’t break. I felt Alice nudge me in excitement with an elbow, although I wasn’t quite sure what point she wanted to make.
The angel’s beautiful face shifted into an expression of petulance beneath his golden hair. He took a step back from the cable and drew his sword from the sheath at his belt.
As that blade slid free of its scabbard, I saw flame, so hot as to burn nearly pure white, ripple up along its length. Even from this distance, I felt the heat radiating off of the weapon, although the temperature didn’t seem to bother the angel.
He raised the blade above his head, and then brought it down in a smooth, decisive swing. The sword’s edge sliced easily through the cable, and the two strands let out one last twang as they parted and shot to opposite corners.
More swings of the sword made short work of the rest of the cables that Alice and I had labored to string up. I glanced over at the woman beside me, expecting her to look dismayed that the angel destroyed so much of her work.
Instead, I saw a savage grin on her face, an expression that scared me a little.
“Why are you smiling?” I hissed at her, as the angel continued chopping through our work.
“Because it worked,” she replied back, still smiling.
I had no idea what she was talking about. Didn’t she see the angel hacking our efforts to pieces?
We waited for another few minutes, until the angel grew tired of chopping our wire into ever-shorter lengths. “And now, onward,” he spoke aloud, flapping his wings and once again rising several feet off the ground. He leaned forward slightly in the air, his wings moving to balance his weight, and began drifting off along the path, away from us.
We waited for another minute or two after he had vanished, and then Alice excitedly turned to me. “Did you see that?” she exclaimed, looking as if she’d just learned that it was Christmas morning and presents were waiting under the tree.
I frowned back at her. “See what? The angel chopping through all of our work without any apparent effort?”
She waved this major problem aside. “No, not that. It stopped him! When he ran into the wire, he couldn’t break through, and he had to land and pull out his sword!”
“With which he broke through.”
She gestured impatiently at me, as if she wanted to push my words aside. “That doesn’t matter. We’ll get to him before he can get the sword out.”
“Get to him?” I repeated. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Haven’t you been paying attention?” Alice narrowed her eyes at me, reaching back and tugging at her ponytail. “We string up more cables-”
I groaned at the thought of tying off more wires across the path.
“-and wait for the next one. But this time, we rig a trap, so that we can pull the wires tight and bind him!” Alice wriggled her fingers like a trap closing on a small animal. “Then we just take his weapon away from him, and he’s our prisoner!”
“Take his weapon away? From an angry, tied-up angel who’s going to be fighting like crazy to get free?” This idea, not exactly encouraging from the beginning, sounded less and less feasible.
Alice, however, leaned forward and grabbed me by the shoulders. She didn’t pull me in for a hug, and I don’t know why I expected her to do so, but her smile as she held me made me briefly forget about everything that could go wrong.
“Trust me, it’s going to work,” she assured me. “We’ll get started on it first thing tomorrow.”
She pointed towards the horizon. “Sun’s going down. We’ll be back out here at the crack of dawn, getting everything set up to catch one of these bastards and find out what happened to our world.”
I groaned at her words, but I couldn’t find the strength to argue with her. Clearly, this mission meant everything to her. “I’ll get some coffee ready for the morning.”