I should have known it was too good to be true as soon as they gave me sealed orders.
At first I was optimistic. Here I sat in the belly of one of our biggest black ops helicopters with forty-nine of my fellow demons, stripped naked to our bat wings and our fanny packs, ready to make our entry into the field at nineteen hundred hours.
We were hovering over a sleepy little neighborhood in Chicago, a place I’d only seen on television.
But we weren’t moving.
Because, not content with launching an all-out assault, the Regional Office was coordinating, if you can imagine that, the assault with a similar vehicle from the Home Office. Two immense, cumbersome bureaucracies, so old and sloppy they’re like zombies with dead parts dropping off all over, coordinating.
Trying to picture fifty naked angels in one of their gooney-bird airships, my mind boggled.
Still, I was chuffed to be back in the field. After manning a desk for centuries, I tingled in places I’d forgotten I had.
I flexed my wings and tested my talons. Yup. Not too rusty.
As I sat there, wearing nothing but a fanny pack containing the essentials—credit card, toothbrush, condoms full of holes, and my orders—I realized that something had gone wrong.
What was holding things up?
I could hear explosions below us, reaching almost as high as our helo. Surely no earthly weapons could have an effect on us?
The mission captain yelled.
Guys ahead of me began bailing out of the open bay. Flashes of brilliant-colored light went off intermittently. I smelled sulfur, though that could have been me. They were jumping down into the colors.
By the lingering afterglow of one long red blast, I furtively pulled out my orders. This was strictly against procedure, but I was a field operative for only four centuries. I’d been a desk clerk a lot longer.
I didn’t trust the Regional Office not to fuck something up.
I peered at the orders sheet.
Boy, was I surprised. At the name of our lone target most of all. Fifty ops from each office, a joint task force, the whole unfathomably complex and bureaucratic rigmarole, to get one guy?
Oh well. Mine not to reason why. Mine but to make somebody else die.
The line in front of me dwindled rapidly.
Or something like that.
As I bailed out, I saw the dark red, bat-winged figures of my teammates below me. They weren’t descending in tight, vulture-like, controlled spirals.
They were falling like rocks.
Occasionally a wing would catch the air and a guy would slow, twirling insanely like a maple seed.
Then—bam!—I heard them hitting rooftops, the cars, the street. Ba-dam!—bam!—bam!
So, again contrary to orders, I veered sharply as I exited the helo and glided westward, away from the landing zone. Now I saw my opposite numbers exiting their gooney bird. They were falling like rocks, too, like albatrosses winged and flailing.
Those colored sparks had mostly faded, although I could now see a huge blaze of multicolored fire below, arranged in an ominous-looking circle. Rooftop, I guessed. And then foom, just as I was congratulating myself on escaping whatever got the rest of the task force, another shell took off from that rooftop.
It burst right below me.
I descended through a cloud of green sparks.
I smelled sulfurous cinders in the air as I skimmed over the landing zone. It was those almost-extinguished, darkened sparks that had nailed my teammates, I was willing to bet.
Shit, and I was headed right down into the stuff.
I soared down in a tight spiral through sparks that stung and numbed me.
Unbelievable. Had those ground-bound land mammals finally figured out how to fight back against heaven and hell?
Unless it wasn’t them at all, but this one guy we were after.
That made sense. He’d always been a smart one.
I couldn’t feel my wings. I began to spin out of control.
I saw a wall and a vast area of darkness beyond it.
Another tremendous green flower erupted in the sky above me. I was temporarily blinded.
When my eyes cleared, I saw I was very close to hitting that wall. I had just enough time to stick out a wing, just as the last of the angels skimmed below me.
He hit the top of the wall and flipped over it like a Chinese acrobat, hitting my thigh a glancing blow with his wing.
The two of us tumbled over the wall.
We fell thirty feet into a pond.
Keek and I were putting ourselves to sleep by complaining about men when we heard a commotion in the street. It sounded as if the locals were setting off fireworks. Then a car alarm went off. Then another.
Keek peeked out the window. Something banged like cars smacking together. “Oh my god!” she yelped.
I came up behind her. “What is it? I’m in my nightshirt.”
“This guy just fell off a building and hit that car. Oh my god, there goes another one!”
I looked out. A guy was indeed lying on his back on the hood of a parked car. It seemed he had landed on a sheet—something white anyway. A woman came running out of the apartment building across the street and flung herself on him. That was weird.
“Should we dial 911?” I said. Then I noticed the other guy. He’d landed on the sidewalk, where he lay in a puddle of blood. No—was he lying on a dark red cloth? And some woman was bending over him, kissing him. “Super weird.”
“It’s not just fireworks!” Keek pointed.
As I looked, a huge blast of green sparkles erupted in the sky and then faded. Something white whizzed past our window, swooped, and went up. I gaped. It was a man, a naked man, and he had huge white feathery wings.
Right behind him swooped a naked man with huge red bat wings.
They disappeared over the cemetery wall.
“I’m going out there,” Keek announced, grabbing her keys and jamming her feet into her shoes.
“Wait!” I yelled. “You don’t know what’s happening!”
“Yes, I do,” she said. “Take your mouth guard out. You’re scary enough with your hair down your back as it is.”
“Wait, what’s happening?” I shrieked down the stairs after her. “You’re in your pajamas!”
Her voice floated up to me. “It’s raining men!”