As Aaron walked home from the deli there was a sense of foreboding as though he
was being watched. The old neighborhood had rapidly gone downhill in the few years
since he had moved in. Street gangs, drug dealers, and other lowlifes now called the
neighborhood home. Like most of the decent people who lived here, Aaron could ill
afford to move. His job at the deli barely paid for his two room fleatrap that they called
an apartment. Fortunately he ate free on the days that he worked at the deli, and the
footlong sub in the carryout bag would hold him over through tomorrow.
Aaron had graduated high school a few years ago and his plans to attend city college
seemed a distant dream. His parents had been lost at sea a few weeks after his
graduation and Aaron was left to fend for himself. He had managed to survive the
ordeal, if you could call this surviving. As he neared the alley he caught a glimpse of
something moving as the headlights of a passing car illuminated it for a brief moment.
Should he turn around? Should he cross to the other side of the street? Thoughts raced
through his head as he continued walking. He wasn't going to let a shadow intimidate
him. What's the worse that could happen? “They might steal my sandwich. I've got
nothing else,” he thought. “Or they might kill me and save me the trouble.”
“Hey you, get over here,” came a voice from the alley. “I've got a gun. Don't make me
use it.”
Aaron slowly walked into the shadows and was soon surrounded by several teenage
punks. “Hand over your money,” said the one with the gun who seemed to be the leader.
“I don't have any money,” said Aaron. “You're wasting your time with me.”
“Check his wallet,” said the leader. “What's in the bag?”
“Lunch,” said Aaron.
“Hand it over,” said the leader.
“His wallet's empty, Louie,” said one of the punks.
“You idiot,” said the leader. “Don't ever use my name when we're doing business. He
can identify me. Now we've got to show him what will happen if he talks. Rough him
up, boys.”
“Take it easy,” came a voice as soft and sweet as an angel. “Where does it hurt?”
“Who are you?” asked Aaron. “Are you an angel. I thought I saw one just before I
passed out.”
“My name is Angelica,” she replied. “You can call me Angel. But I'm as human as
you are. Well … almost.”
“Are the punks gone?” asked Aaron.
“Not exactly,” said Angelica. “But they won't be giving you any more trouble for a
Aaron sat up and looked around. The punks were sprawled all over the alley. “We'd
better go before they wake up,” said Angelica. “Do you live nearby? We need to get you
patched up.”
“Just a few blocks,” said Aaron. “You're not from around here, are you?”
“No, I'm not,” said Angelica. “I'm looking for my father and brother.”
“Do they live around here?” asked Aaron.
“They're missing,” said Angelica. “I've just got to find them.”
“Missing?” asked Aaron. “What do you mean?”
“They've disappeared,” said Angelica. “I haven't heard from either of them in almost a
“Here we are,” said Aaron as he reached for his keys. “You'll have to excuse the way
it looks. The maid only comes on Thursdays.”
“But it's only Friday,” smiled Angelica, realizing he was joking about the maid.
“Let's see what I have in the medicine cabinet,” said Aaron. “I doubt that I have any
first aid, but I appreciate your good intentions.”
“Hot water and a clean rag can work miracles,” said Angelica. “Lie down on the sofa
while I boil some water.”
“Would you like a beer?” asked Aaron. “That's about all I can offer, I'm afraid.”
“I'm fine,” said Angelica. “Lie down. I'm be right back.”
“But I feel fine,” said Aaron. “It's already stopped hurting. It must not be as bad as it
“You could have internal injuries,” said Angelica. “You may be in shock. Now do as I
“What happened to those guys in the alley?” asked Aaron.
“Looks like you put up one heck of a fight,” said Angelica.
“I did all that?” asked Aaron. “Then how did you know I was the victim? Why did
you decide to help me?”
“Well, I … uh … I could tell by your clothes that you didn't belong with those punks,”
said Angelica.
“You're not a very good liar,” said Aaron. “I couldn't have done all that. But how
could you? You're just a girl.”
“Jujitsu,” said Angelica. “You know, Karate, Kung Fu, that sort of thing.”
“What a dream,” thought Aaron as he awakened on the couch feeling refreshed and
rested. “When did I get home? I don't have a hangover. What the heck happened last
As he looked in the mirror he could see no indication that he had been in a fight.
There was no one else in the apartment. It had obviously all been a dream, but why
couldn't he remember what really happened? As he removed his clothes and turned on
the shower, he tried to piece together the events of the previous evening. The water felt
soothing as he stepped into the shower. This was unusual as it normally took minutes for
the water to warm up to a comfortable level, then just as quickly it would be cold again.
But today, it felt wonderful.
Minutes passed as Aaron thought about the previous evening. He had gotten off from
work at the normal time and begun his walk home. He remembered the dark alley, but
that was just part of the dream he had just had. Maybe he had run into Louie and his
gang, but then what? Had they drugged him? Why would they drug him? Were they
trying to get him hooked on some new drug? Aaron couldn't remember the last time he
had felt this good, but he had seen what drugs can do to a person's life. He wasn't about
to play their games. Aaron looked down to see that he was standing in ankle deep soapy
“The drain must be clogged again,” he thought as he shut off the water. The previous
tenant had been a long haired brunette from the looks of the drain the last time this had
happened. He reached down and removed the loose drain cover. “Feathers? What the …
How did I get feathers in the drain?” Aaron grabbed a towel and headed for the closet.
“Good morning, Aaron,” said Angelica. “Sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you.”
“Angel!” gasped Aaron. “It wasn't all a dream. You're really here.”
“How are you feeling?” asked Angel. “You look fine.”
“I feel great,” said Aaron as he checked the towel wrapped securely around his waist.
“But I'm a little foggy about last night. Was I in a fight? Did you walk me home from the
“Actually that was the night before last,” said Angel. “It's Sunday. Sunday afternoon.”
“Did you find your brother?” asked Aaron. “You did say you were looking for him,
didn't you?”
“No, not yet,” said Angel. “But I think I'm getting closer.”
“I don't think I ever got a chance to thank you,” said Aaron. “And it's really nice of
you to check on me, but I feel great.”
“It might be a little early to be thanking me,” said Angel. “Have you noticed anything
“No,” said Aaron. “If you don't count feathers in the drain.”
“Turn around,” said Angel. “Let me see your back ... Not your butt. Put the towel
back on. That's not good.”
“What?” asked Aaron. “What's wrong with my butt?”
“Nothing, actually,” said Angel. “It's kind of cute.”
“Then what?” asked Aaron.
“You'd better sit down,” said Angel. “When I found you, you were near death. I didn't
have a choice if I was going to save you.”
“A choice about what?” asked Aaron. “Did you drug me?”
“No!” said Angel. “Well … not exactly.”
“Then what did you do?” asked Aaron. “And what do you mean … not exactly?”
“It's a long story,” said Angel. “It all began with my father. He was a research
“He's missing too, right?” asked Aaron. “Does it have anything to do with his
“Maybe,” replied Angel. “But that's another story. Anyway, my brother and I were
badly burned and almost killed in a fire. He saved our lives.”
“I don't see any scars,” said Aaron. “How young were you?”
“I was five,” said Angel. “Richard was seven.”
“Is Richard your brother?” asked Aaron. “The one that's missing?”
“Will you let me get to the point before you sprout wings and fly away,” said Angel.
“My father's research involved nanobots.”
“I've heard of those,” said Aaron. “Did you just say … sprout wings?”
“Sort of a side effect,” said Angel. “I had hoped you would be spared.”
“Are you sure you're not on drugs?” asked Aaron. “You're starting to worry me.”
“See for yourself,” said Angel as she stood up, grabbed the shawl draped across her
neck, raised it over her head, and let it fall to the ground behind her. A beautiful pair of
white wings spread out behind her.
“I did see an angel in the alley,” said Aaron. “It was you!”
“I'm not an angel,” said Angel.
“So I'm going to grow wings?” asked Aaron. “Will I be able to fly?”
“Like a bird,” said Angel. “Why did the guys in the alley try to kill you?”
“I think they just wanted to scare me,” said Aaron. “Any other side effects I should be
aware of?”
“A few,” said Angel. “All of your senses will be enhanced. Your muscles will be
stronger and your speed and reflexes will be greatly improved.”
“That doesn't seem so bad,” said Aaron. “What's the bad news?”
“That is the bad news,” said Angel. “You'll never be normal again.”
“Normal is overrated,” said Aaron. “When can I fly?”
“You'll have to learn,” said Angel. “I'll help you. I feel responsible.”
“You really are an angel,” said Aaron. “Thank you for saving my life. How can I ever
repay you?”
“Keep this a secret,” said Angel. “You can't go around showing off and you definitely
can't let anyone see your wings.”
“How soon will I grow these wings,” asked Aaron, “and how am I supposed to hide
“It's already started,” said Angel. “It'll probably take a few days before they are full
grown. You can borrow one of my brother's modified backpacks to keep them hidden.
But mostly we don't go out in public during the daylight hours.”
“We?” asked Aaron. “Does your brother have wings too?”
“Yeah. He has wings and so does Father,” said Angel.
“What about your mother?” asked Aaron.
“She died in the fire,” said Angel. “That was before any of us had wings.”
“I'm so sorry,” said Aaron. “I know what it's like to lose a parent.”
“Which one did you lose?” asked Angel.
“Both,” said Aaron.
“How did they die?” asked Angel.
“I'm not sure they're dead,” replied Aaron. “They're just missing.”
“We can help each other,” said Angel. “Help me find my family and I'll help you find
“Where do we start?” asked Aaron. “Do you have any clues?”
“Nothing but dead ends so far,” said Angel. “I'll need to go home and do some more
research first.”
“Where's home?” asked Aaron. “When do we leave?”
“You can't come with me this time,” said Angel. “Just stay out of trouble till I get
back. Do you need any money?”
“Only if I plan on eating,” said Aaron. “I'll be fine. I can eat at work.”
“You'll have to quit your job,” said Angel. “Here's a hundred. Take my cell phone. I'll
be in contact.”
“Are you leaving now?” asked Aaron. “Is there anything I can do to prepare. Should I
work out or take Kung Fu lessons or anything like that? I'm not sure how much help I'm
going to be.”
“The nanobots will take care of that,” said Angel. “We wouldn't want you to hurt
anybody. Try to avoid contact with others if at all possible, until you get accustomed to
your new abilities. Better yet, don't leave your apartment unless absolutely necessary. I
should be back in a few days. I'll try to keep in touch.”
“You're not going to fly away in broad daylight?” asked Aaron. “I thought you said...”
“You're absolutely right,” said Angel. “I should wait until dark. Why don't we go get
you some groceries to hold you over. Then you won't have to go out alone while I'm
“What time is it?” asked Aaron. “The grocery doesn't open until noon on Sundays.”
“It's 3:30 in the afternoon,” said Angel. “Get some clothes on, sleepyhead.”
“Hey, you drugged me, remember,” said Aaron.
“I didn't drug you,” said Angel. “I simply gave you a few drops of my blood.”
“That's all,” said Aaron. “What if I have to go to the hospital? Can I infect others?”
“You won't have to go to the hospital,” said Angel. “At least not as a patient.”
“I can't die?” asked Aaron.
“You can die if your heart stops,” said Angel. “Too late for a hospital if that happens.
The nanobots will die too. The only way you can infect others is through a blood
transfusion or through direct contact through open wounds. The nanobots die if exposed
to the atmosphere.”
“What about sex?” asked Aaron.
“No thanks,” said Angel. “I have a headache.”
“I mean ...”
“I know what you mean,” said Angel. “I was only joking.”
“So you don't have a headache?” asked Aaron.
“You want one?” asked Angel.
“I think we're ready to go,” said Aaron. “Just let me grab the keys.”
As Aaron tried to nod off to sleep, the tick tock of the alarm clock seemed to get
louder and louder. Normally pleasant aromas seemed stifling. The room seemed brighter
than normal, although the curtains were tightly closed. “Will I ever get used to these
magnified senses?” he wondered. “She didn't tell me it would be this bad. What if this is
only the beginning?”
“Are you sure this is where he lives?” asked Louie.
“I followed them home from the grocery,” said Rick. “The lights came on in that
apartment right after they went inside.”
“All right guys,” said Louie. “Try to control yourselves this time. The boss wants to
question both of them.”
“Why did you tell the boss about the alley?” asked Rick.
“The boss had already instructed me to let him know if we ran across anything
unusual,” said Louie. “I think the alley qualifies as unusual, don't you?”
“What if they kick our butts again?” asked Rick.
“We've got the element of surprise on our side this time,” said Louie. “Tie them up
before they know what's happening. The boss said to use flashlights to blind them. You
three go in first, then you two grab them while the two with the duct tape tie them up.
“Ready boss,” said Rick as he turned on his flashlight. “I think the door's unlocked.
You still want us to break it down?”
“No, stupid,” said Louie. “Just open the damned door.”
“There's nobody here,” said Rick as he flipped on the light switch. “The bed's made
up. They must have gone back out again after I left. What do we do now?”
“Let me give the boss a call,” said Louie. “He may want us to wait until they return.”
“What did he say?” asked Rick. “Should we turn out the lights and hide?”
“No, the boss has other plans for us tonight,” said Louie. “We'll come back tomorrow
night. Let's go guys. We've got a couple of burglaries to commit before sunrise.”
“I can't believe I heard them coming half a block away,” thought Aaron as he peeked
out from beneath the bed. “For somebody who wasn't in the alley, that boss of theirs
seems to know a lot about Angel. I hope she calls soon.”
“I might as well stay under the bed. It's quieter, it's darker, and the carpet smells better
than the dishes in the sink,” said Aaron, talking to himself. “I wonder how Angel handles
all these distractions.”
“You get use to it,” said Angel as she closed the door behind her. “Get up. We've got
work to do.”
“I thought you were headed home,” said Aaron as he climbed out from under the bed.
“Why are you back so soon?”
“I heard about your visitors,” said Angel.
“What! A little birdie told you?” asked Aaron.
“I set the phone on transmit before I gave it to you,” said Angel. “I heard every word.
Seems this boss of theirs has more information than I'm gonna find at home.”
“I'm glad you're back,” said Aaron. “Can you teach me some sort of transcendental
meditation or something to help me ignore my heightened senses?”
“Sure,” said Angel. “Sit down and cross your legs, close your eyes and hold out your
hands in front of you.”
“Okay. Now what?” asked Aaron.
“Open your eyes,” said Angel.
“Cotton balls,” said Aaron as he looked in his hands. “That's it!”
“What do you want from me?” said Angel. “I'm no yoga guru. Stick 'em where the
sun don't shine, and if you drop your pants again, we're gonna have a problem.”
Aaron plugged his ears and nostrils. “That is better,” said Aaron. “But I can still hear
“The cotton balls just dampen your senses,” said Angel. “They should be about
average now. Get dressed. We're gonna try to find your visitors while it's still dark.”
“I'm not even sure which way they went,” said Aaron. “Besides, they're probably not
on foot.”
“I tagged Louie with a micro-transmitter while he was unconscious in the alley,” said
Angel. “We'll be able to spot him if he's within a fifteen mile radius if he's still wearing
that jacket.”
“And if he's not within a fifteen mile radius?” asked Aaron.
“Then I'll have to fly around until I find that fifteen mile radius,” said Angel as she
looked at the scanner. “There he is, about seven miles southeast of here.”
“What are we going to do when we find him?” asked Aaron. “He does have a gun,
you know.”
“We need to get our hands on his phone,” said Angel. “His boss is the one we need to
“So. You just happened to have a micro-transmitter with you and you just decided to
tag Louie?” asked Aaron.
“It's my job,” said Angel. “My brother and I are insurance investigators. Whenever we
run into Louie's type, we tag em so we can keep a eye on them. I not only know where
he is now, but I can retrace every step he's made since I tagged him.”
“So, if an insurance job comes up, you can check to see if he was in the area when the
theft was committed,” said Aaron.
“Exactly,” said Angel. “You catch on quick. Speaking of bright, you'd better bring
along some sunglasses until we can get you some special contact lenses.”
“What good are our senses if we mask all of them?” asked Aaron. “What's so bad
about seeing in the dark?”
“Vehicle head lights, neon signs and that sort of thing can blind you temporarily,” said
Angel. “We'll use our senses when it's necessary and safe.”
“And flashlights,” said Aaron. “But how did they know?”
“Flashlights will blind anyone in a dark room,” said Angel. “We don't know how
much they know but we're gonna find out. If they know about my special powers, then
they know about my family.”
“How are we gonna get there?” asked Aaron. “Seven miles is a long walk. You know I
can't fly yet. They could be long gone by the time we get there.”
“The subway,” said Angel. “Where's the nearest entrance?”
“The subway cars don't run after midnight,” said Aaron. “What's plan B?”
“The tracks will be dark and empty,” said Angel. “We're gonna run.”
“Couldn't we just run on the sidewalks?” asked Aaron.
“Someone might see us,” said Angel. “We're not talking about jogging here. Ever run
a one minute mile?”
“I couldn't even run a four minute mile in high school,” said Aaron. “but I'm betting
you already knew that. You said I would have fast reflexes but I didn't know that was
what you meant.”
“Let's jog to the nearest entrance,” said Angel. “No showing off. Try to look normal.”
“Follow me,” said Aaron.
“Slow down,” said Angel. “You're gonna draw attention.”
“Sorry,” said Aaron.
“Too late,” said Angel as she saw the flashing red light reflecting off Aaron's back.
“Head for that alley as fast as you can.”
“It's a dead end,” said Aaron as they approached the wall.
“Jump,” yelled Angel.
Aaron jumped with all his might.
“Over the wall, dummy,” said Angel when Aaron came back down a few inches from
where he took off. “Two minutes and you've almost gotten us arrested.”
“That's why I wanted some training,” said Aaron. “It would have been different if I
had jumped a wall before with my new skills.”
“Just take off your sunglasses and keep running,” said Angel. “We've got places to be
and criminals to see.”
“Birds of a feather,” said Aaron.
“We're not criminals,” said Angel.
“Why did we run away?” asked Aaron. “What could they book us for? Speeding
without a vehicle?”
“Any confrontation with the police isn't going to end well?” replied Angel. “You get
booked and finger printed and the next thing you know they're looking for identifying
tattoos, scares, wings and such.”
“I hadn't thought of that,” said Aaron. “That could be a real problem. Do you think
they got a good look at us?”
“It was dark,” said Angel. “They didn't get a look at our faces and I haven't heard
anything on the police frequencies. We had better stop for a moment.”
“Are you tired?” asked Aaron. “I'm just getting my second wind.”
“Of course not,” said Angel. “We're getting near the terminal. We need to be sure it's
empty. Remove your earplugs.”
“I am a bit hungry though,” said Aaron. “But we just ate before we left the
“The nanobots supply you with full energy until your resources reach a minimum
level,” said Angel. “Your body will become more efficient in time. Hunger just means
your resources are getting low.”
“It means it's time to eat,” said Aaron. “Are you buying?”
“Hush and listen,” said Angel.
“Something is following us,” said Aaron. “What do we do now?”
“The terminal sounds empty,” replied Angel. “We need to get to the terminal and hide.
There's light there. We should be able to recognize our followers if they aren't too shy
too leave the darkness.”
“Followers! As in more than one?” asked Aaron. “How many do you think there are?”
“Three or four maybe,” replied Angel. “It hard to tell. They're trying to be stealthy.”
“Not just out for a casual walk, huh,” said Aaron. “Shouldn't we make a run for it?”
“I don't want you to over exert yourself until we've eaten something,” replied Angel.
“You could pass out.”
“I don't feel tired,” said Aaron.
“You won't feel tired until it's too late,” replied Angel. “Hunger is your early warning
system. After we see what's following we'll leave the terminal and return to the streets if
we can elude our followers. We don't want to have to do battle with them where there
are any chances of witnesses.”
“Oh, it's just a couple of hobos,” said Aaron as he watched them head for the exit.
“They must have been sleeping in the tunnel. I bet we woke em when we ran past. They
looked pretty frightened the way they were sneaking around.”
“Well, let's go find a late night diner,” said Angel. “You can bet they aren't hanging
around the exit.”


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