Stormguard – Episode 2

Slowly descending into the Red Rock Canyon State Park, I couldn’t help wondering why the Fallen had tried to prevent my reaching Earth. They were always a pain in the neck, or causing trouble just out of spite, but there was something very different this time. The dark energy that the Stormguard had detected emanating from this location was not the normal dark energy signature commonly seen around Fallen activity. It was different somehow…stronger. Coupled with the attack on me personally, this was a cause for deep concern.

The bolt they’d hit me with had caused my Halo to slip from my finger as I descended. That shouldn’t have happened, but the strength of that bolt was more than we’d ever encountered before. No matter how I analyzed it in my mind, the bolt that hit me should not have been possible. It should not have been able to knock my Halo from my hand as it did. Uriel and I were now headed for the source to investigate.

I’d used my Halo to restore my shredded clothing and clean myself up. The entropic forces of the devices could be quite handy, having the ability to reconfigure matter as well as enhance and transform most forms of energy. Dark energy being an exception. But even dark energy should not have been able to nullify the interfaces between me and my Halo.

The steep descending road down into the canyon wound around, back and forth, until we reached the bottom of the canyon, where the road leveled out. The incline was so steep, Uriel had to keep one foot on the brake constantly. Precipitous and narrow, the road was barely wide enough for two cars to pass.

“Tell me about the energy you detected, Zak,” said Uriel, keeping her eyes on the road.

“It wasn’t just dark energy,” I said. “In fact, the energy signature we detected from this location had a temporal signature mixed in with it. It could be one huge mess if the Fallen were somehow tampering with Time itself.”

“Temporal?” Uriel’s brow furrowed.

I’m sure her thoughts were along the same lines as my own. What could the Fallen be seeking? They couldn’t change anything in the past – that was not possible due to the paradox laws of physics. While we could view the past, it was not possible to interact with it, or change it. If I had to guess, I would say they were seeking something, either in the past or future of Time itself. But what? What form of power could they be looking for? Whatever they were after, it was no doubt something powerful.

Uriel suddenly spoke her mind. “Attacking you as they did, this is more than just an act of desperation. It’s a declaration of war, Zak. They’re daring us to investigate.”

I felt as if I’d been slammed against a brick wall, my eyes and mind opening wider. She was right. It wasn’t just a rash act, it was calculated. They weren’t trying to kill me, though I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded if it had. They were baiting us, inviting us to examine this energy source we’d picked up. This had further implications than I had originally considered.

“We have to find out what’s going on.” A worrisome foreboding gnawed at me as we finally reached the bottom of the canyon.

The road leveled out to a narrow, asphalt pathway; narrow enough that with two vehicles, one would have to pull halfway off the road in order to pass. The bottom of the sandstone canyon was riddled with maple trees and campsites. The canyon walls, in many places, were nearly fifty feet high, and these were the favored spots for those wanting to rappel down the cliffs.

As we entered the park, there was a pond stocked for fishing to the right of us that sat at the foot of a sandstone wall. As I turned my gaze upon it, I felt the familiar tingle of power from my Halo. There was a source of the dark energy there.

“Stop!” I said urgently, pointing to the pond. Uriel nodded, finding a spot to park.

As we exited the car, the vibration of energy was evident to both of us.

“There,” Uriel said, pointing to the canyon wall.

The faintest traces of a portal could be seen. It was not something a human could see, and we would’ve missed it as well, if we hadn’t been actively seeking something unusual.

“A doorway?” I wondered aloud.

“A doorway, definitely, but to where … who knows?”

Uriel’s question encouraged my own thoughts further. The Fallen wouldn’t hide something where it would easily be seen. The portal obviously led somewhere they wanted us to go.

“It could be a trap,” said Uriel.

“Only one way to find out,” I said, activating my wings. Uriel followed suit.

Our wings were fifteen feet from tip to tip, formed by reconfiguring molecules from the air around us and shaping them with our mental connection to the Halo. When not needed, the molecules were released back into the atmosphere. We also had the power to become invisible to human eyes, and if necessary, even remove any memory of us from their minds. As far as any human observer would know, we’d never even been there. They’d only see a ’96 Camaro parked nearby, not giving it a second thought, other than a glance of envy by some. It was a nice car.

Flying through the portal, we readied ourselves for anything, but weren’t greeted with anything we might have expected. The area around us was obscured by clouds of dark mist. Nothing could be seen beyond a few feet, in any direction. Our only compass was a strong vibration of dark energy that we could feel through our Halos. We flew towards the source of those readings.

The thought of an attack was on both our minds. We were expecting a trap.

“I have a bad feeling,” commented Uriel.

“Yes, I feel it too. Put up your shield.”

We both generated shields around ourselves, near invisible, made from pure light energy. It turned out to be a perfectly intuitive move on our part.

The ambush was swift and sudden, hidden behind the mists until they were right on top of us. A legion of mournebeasts burst from the clouds, flinging dark energy bolts towards us from every direction. Fortunately, having expected as much, our shields shattered the bolts on impact, the light enshrouding us like a second skin.

Mournebeasts were mostly featureless, nothing more than amorphous blobs of gloomy darkness. Only the red flames of their eyes gave any hint they were living beings. These weren’t the Fallen, but creatures of darkness, a common minion used by the Fallen. At least fifty of them now surrounded us as we flew together, back-to-back, and prepared for battle.

With Uriel hovering behind me, I held my hands before me and channeled my thoughts into my Halo. The hilt of my Sword of Light appeared in my hands and the blade grew from the hilt to its full length. I swung the glowing blade in a wide arc at the demons in front of me, the light energy sizzling through their shadowy forms, dissipating them. I could hear Uriel’s sword dispatching those she faced behind me as well, as we flapped our wings to maintain our position in the obscure clouds.

Within seconds, we’d cut their numbers down by a dozen, but there were plenty more remaining. Realizing their bolts were useless, the mournebeasts switched tactics. Several moved forward, melting into each other, creating an enormous lump of shadow that engulfed us both. Surround by that mass, I felt my shield being dissolved, slowly but surely.

“We have to get out of this!” I shouted. “I’m losing my shield!”

“Starburst!” Uriel retorted.

Releasing the energy forming our swords and moving together, back to back, we folded our wings and joined hands, using the light energy around us to levitate temporarily. I closed my eyes in concentration. Locked together in this manner, we provided twice the power of our Halos to generate a sphere of pure light energy around us. With each passing second, the light around us grew into a giant ball of force, encompassing us within its core, and at that instant we mutually triggered the detonation of our energy sphere. The ball exploded in a brilliant flash of brightness like a small sun, dissolving the shadowy creatures around us.

With the mournebeasts destroyed, we were once again alone in the mists, and began flapping our wings as we separated.

“I do love fireworks,” commented Uriel with a sly smile.

I chuckled. “Now to find the source of that energy.”

Following the vibrations of our Halos, like one would follow the signals of a metal detector, we soon came out of the mists to behold a barren landscape canopied by a pale violet sky. The clouds where we’d entered were the atmosphere of a planet, and they were now high above us as we landed on the rocky ground and our wings folded and vanished.

“This should be the source, but there’s nothing here.” Uriel wrinkled her brow as she scanned the area.

All we could see where rocks…rocks…and more rocks. The landscape was empty of any life, not even a microbe. I zeroed in on the source of the energy vibrations, only to see another rock.

“Something is odd here,” I mumbled, moving closer to the trashcan-sized boulder that my Halo was directing me toward. “How can a rock be a source of dark energy?”

Uriel was fumbling with the symbols on her ring, trying to fine tune the detection capabilities. She suddenly smiled.

“Aha!” Uriel cried with confidence. “It’s hollow.”

With a sudden surge, a beam of light shot out from her Halo and shattered the rock casing to reveal a simple shard of dark energy encased within some transparent shell. At least, it looked simple at first glance. I realized the amount of power registering from the shard was far above normal.

“What’s this?” I asked rhetorically.

I reached out for the shard and could feel the energy pulsing through my fingertips as my hand approached it. It should’ve been pure energy. Not a solid substance, liquid or gaseous; just pure energy. Yet, this shard was something more. It was as if an invisible container were wrapped around the foot-long, slender shard. Bright, violet flashes could be seen within as the energy crackled, constantly moving within its strange, invisible container.

Activating a light shield around my hand, I grabbed hold of the shard and lifted it up. It was like gripping something that wasn’t truly there; akin to being able to grasp a lightning bolt or a cloud. The intensity of the power that it radiated was almost unbelievable.

“This shouldn’t exist,” I said as I examined it, turning it one way, then another. “I’m reading temporal energy surrounding this shard.”

Uriel opened her mouth, but shut it again. What could she say? I was holding a bolt of pure dark energy encased in Time. Nothing like this had ever been seen before. Something like this shouldn’t be possible, not for anyone.

“How could the Fallen create such a thing?” I wondered aloud.

“Zak?” Uriel’s voice was soft spoken, almost a whisper. “And if not the Fallen, then who—or what—could gave created such a thing?”

Her question sent my thoughts on a quick excursion for an answer, and arrived at a conclusion that put a shiver in me as well. If the Fallen hadn’t done this, then who…or what…had? Had they found some power that enabled this? What made it worse was that it was obvious the Fallen had wanted us to come here. This felt like a setup, but for what? It was as if they were taunting us with some new-found power. I had a disturbing sense of imminent misfortune ahead.

“We need to get this analyzed further.” I created a long, spherical container of steel with my Halo, and sealed the shard inside. “Let’s get back to the car and contact Gabriel. He’ll know what to do.”

Gabriel was the leader of the Stormguard. Our boss. I knew he could get more in-depth knowledge about this shard, and we needed to search for any other traces of temporal energy on Earth.

Guided by the vibrations of our Halos, we passed back through the portal and to Earth, only to find Gabriel waiting for us at the Camaro. That was unsurprising, as he was always on top of things. I expected he already knew what we’d found. Being in the position he held; Gabriel had access to technologies that allowed him to track every member of the Stormguard. He generally knew every move we made, even though he seldom interfered with our investigations directly. Yet, this time there were some very unusual things happening, so I wasn’t really amazed to find him waiting for us.

“I have some information for you,” Gabriel said as we landed. “There’ve been several temporal readings across the globe, and I need you two to investigate something very important. I’m afraid the situation is becoming more complex than we may have originally anticipated.”

“What’s up?” asked Uriel.

“We’re not sure yet,” replied Gabriel, “but it appears the Fallen have found a way to enhance their power. I’ve already assigned several other teams to explore these temporal readings, but I need you both to handle a special one. It had a powerful dark energy signature as well. The reading is in Paris, at the Eiffel Tower. I need the two of you to check it out at soon as possible.”

“We’re on it,” I nodded.

“Give me the shard you found,” added Gabriel. “I’ll have it analyzed and get the results back to you.”

After I handed the shard over, Gabriel assembled his wings and flew straight up, disappearing into the sky above. At the proper speed, he would then enter the hyper-conduit that would return him to our mothership which orbited above Earth. Invisible to humans, of course.

“Well, looks like it’s time to do some long-distance flying,” I said. “Might as well lose the car for now.”

Uriel nodded and, using her Halo, the molecules of the Camaro were taken apart and disseminated. We spread our wings and took to the sky, flying at a swift pace toward the east coast of the United States. Being in a hurry, we went supersonic, hitting Mach 2. It was 6:00 PM when we left, so it would be night by the time we arrived in Paris. While we had other and faster means of travel, I thought it best we conserve our energy, which was not unlimited.

During the trip, I thought about the many centuries, according to humans, Uriel and I had been partners. We made a good team, and while Uriel could be as tough as nails when needed, she had a strong compassion for others. She took our job very seriously, but she had a playful and jubilant side, enjoying moments with relish. I, on the other hand, knew what was expected of me, and did it without question. I didn’t think about whether I enjoyed my work. I was an agent of the Stormguard. I was bound by duty and honor to obey my superiors.

“Zak?” Uriel’s voice snapped me out of my musings.

“Yeah?”

“It’s been a long time since we had a vacation.”

I looked at her, raising an eyebrow. “Vacation? What do you mean?”

Our pace at supersonic speeds did not falter as we spoke, our wings acting more like jets as we zoomed across the Atlantic.

“You know, some time off,” she said.

I grinned. “Someplace you’re wanting to see?”

“Well, here we are headed for Paris, the city of love. I’ve never actually been there, but we won’t have time to enjoy any of it. We’ll be working.”

I looked over and saw a slight twinkle in her eyes, a small smile playing across her lips. “Turning a bit sentimental, aren’t we?” I asked, returning her smile.

“Just because we’re Stormguard doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. We have before. Remember that time in Jamaica?”

I laughed. She had a point. We’d spent several days taking in the sights and swimming, eating and enjoying some free time in the guise of humans. In ways, it helped us learn more about these people of Earth. There was a saying among humans about entertaining angels unawares. I had to wonder how many of them truly believed angels walked among them. Not that we were these beings they called angels, though we did look after them.

Were their really angels? Who knew? I only knew that the Seraphim did what they could to protect other developing races among the cosmos. Protecting them from malevolent forces, like the Fallen. And the Fallen weren’t the only beings out there with malicious intent, either. But they were our mortal enemies, and as they had once been Seraphim, this made our duty to stop them even more crucial.

These thoughts flashed through my mind before turning my attention back to Uriel. “Jamaica was a lot of fun. I’m sure we can do it again someday.”

Uriel smiled and nodded.

“But right now, let’s keep our minds focused,” I said. “We’ve no idea what we may find.”

It was late at night in Paris when we arrived; well past midnight. There were no more visitors to the top platform this late, so that’s where we landed. We were nearly a thousand feet above the ground as we started checking for energy readings. We were still invisible to any humans who might be gazing up at the top of the tower.

“Zak,” said Uriel, “I’m picking up the same vibrations we got from the shard. Temporal energy.”

Before I could respond, there was a familiar voice behind us. “Ah, so nice to see you running your little errands to protect the people of this planet,” the chiding voice remarked.

Without seeing the speaker, I knew who it was. Lahash. One of the Fallen.

Turning, I saw Lahash standing on the other side of the platform, grinning with a strange delight. He was dressed in a typical business suit, with a red tie laid against a black shirt, and a light-gray coat and pants. He appeared totally unafraid of Uriel and me, or the power he knew we could wield.

“What are you up to, Lahash?” Uriel asked. Her eyes bored into the Fallen lieutenant, her jaw set firm.

I noticed his bravado, and knew him well enough to know he wasn’t just being boastful. He had some advantage, I was certain.

“What I’m up to is my business,” he replied confidently. “I’m more interested in what you’re up to, though I think I can guess quite easily.” At that he let a chuckle escape, causing me further concern. I realized then that the vibrations we were tracking came from him.

“Careful, Uriel,” I commented softly. “He’s the source of the temporal energy.”

Lahash’s grin widened with playful glee, his eyes shining with pure mischief. “Oh, the humiliation. You’ve discovered my little secret.”

I saw his eyes narrow with a flicker of intent, giving me a split-second warning of his attack. I called forth a shield of light in front of both Uriel and myself, and just in the nick of time, but the sudden blast of energy he sent toward us hit the shield with far more force and power than I would’ve imagined. The shield collapsed. Uriel was knocked off her feet, up against the platform rail.

I managed to hold my position, but the burst had left me stunned for a split second. The power I registered with that attack was unbelievable, and I knew our normal shields would not be enough to protect us. Quickly, I helped Uriel to her feet.

“We must work together,” I urged.

Uriel was just beginning to realize what we were up against. We joined hands.

Together, we created a wall of light between us and Lahash, with all the power we could muster in the mere seconds we had to act. Our wall erected itself just in time to fend off another explosion of energy from Lahash’s fingertips; this time the shield held. We instantly retaliated with dual Spears of Light at our adversary, only to watch in shock as our spears broke against some invisible barrier that encased him.

At that moment, I noticed the silver ring on the middle finger of his right hand. It wasn’t a golden Halo like my own, but it apparently worked much like ours did. The Fallen had evidently found a way to channel the dark energy that they favored as the source of their power, as opposed to the Seraphim’s light energy. I realized his ring was the source of the energy we had detected. The same energy that the invisible container that surrounded the shard we’d found earlier.

Lahash, seeing the shock on both mine and Uriel’s faces, grinned wider. “Now you realize with your destruction at hand, that you are no longer a match for the Fallen. Now you realize, you are no longer in control.”

I sensed he was about to let loose something we had no defense for, and did the only thing I could to prevent us both being blasted off the top of the Eiffel Tower. Releasing my wings, and grabbing Uriel tightly in both arms, I surged up into the sky as fast as I could. The energy Lahash sent for us barely missed, but my quick action had saved us both. Before he could bring another attack to bear, we were many miles away.

Uriel found her voice. “What in Heaven’s name was that?” she cried. “Did that just happen? It’s not possible!”

I held on to her. In her confusion, she had yet to release her wings. I had never seen my partner so dumbfounded. I landed us well outside the city of Paris, in the dark, quiet countryside.

“I’m not sure how, but Lahash had a Halo,” I said as I folded my wings away. “No, not a Halo, but something, perhaps, even more powerful.”

Uriel had regained her composure, though still awed by what we had just experienced. “This is definitely not good.”

At that moment, I felt the call coming in from Gabriel, and opened the channel with my Halo. A ghostly image of Gabriel formed in front of us.

“I need you both back here, pronto,” the ghost said.

“Why?” I queried. “What’s happening?”

“We’re officially at war! We’ve lost several agents already. We must regroup. The rules have now changed.”

“The temporal anomalies?” Uriel asked.

“Yes,” replied Gabriel with a stern expression. “We don’t know how just yet, but the Fallen have somehow learned to master chronokinetic abilities. They can manipulate Time energy to create temporal constructs.”

“We just encountered Lahash,” I said. “He had some kind of Halo that gave him extraordinary abilities, and his attacks were far more powerful than any we’ve encountered before.”

The image of Gabriel sighed. “That’s what we’ve discovered. The temporal energy they use warps spacetime itself. His shield and your weapons were in different phases, making our energy almost useless.”

So, that was it. He was impervious to our attacks, as if he occupied a different place in spacetime altogether, while his attacks against us carried far more power than the usual bolts of dark energy the Fallen were known for.

“Both of you get back here immediately,” said Gabriel. “We’ve work to do.”

With that, the ghost faded away and I shot a glance at Uriel, who now had a sad expression plastered across her face.

“He said some of us had already been lost,” Uriel said.

I sighed, sharing her sense of calamity. The Stormguard were our family, people we’d known for ages, which means we’d lost some very close friends.

“Come on,” I said finally. “We’ve work to do.”

Uriel nodded and we both soared skyward, towards the mothership, The Gloriosa.