Guardian angel

by Miriam English

Kelly awoke lying among rubble and twisted metal in a dim room lit mainly by blinking lights on a large control panel. Sitting up, she saw she was dressed in torn, but mostly intact, battle fatigues and kevlar body armour. There were blood-darkened parts that looked like the previous wearer had been badly injured.

"Yes." She jumped up and whirled at the sudden, hushed voice. "You were hurt and losing a lot of blood. I fixed you up."

The speaker was a beautiful, ghostly angel, though without wings. Bluish and semi-transparent, she looked like a holographic projection. The light, sparkling dress she wore added to her youthful appearance. She seemed cultured and gentle, but her expression was intense, worried. "Kelly, you don't have much time. They are coming from that direction." She pointed to a large, blast-damaged room beyond shattered windows. "You need to get out this way," she indicated a metal door, "and work around the corridors to find the exit, which is behind them."

"How...?" Kelly began, but was hushed frantically by the angel girl.

"They can't hear me but they have equipment that can up pick sounds you make. You must be very quiet. And now you have to move quickly; they undoubtedly heard you. Don't forget your pulse rifle."

Kelly picked up the large, black, malevolent-looking weapon. It was surprisingly light and clipped snugly to the harness she wore on her back. She stepped quickly to the door avoiding glass and other litter on the floor. The door opened soundlessly to an undamaged, well-lit corridor. She shut it behind her and whispered to the angel, who simply strolled through the wall, "Is there some way to lock it?"

She shook her head, "Not without noise, and it'd be no use anyway. Run. They're close."

Kelly found that her boots were made of some kind of spongy material that allowed her to grip silently on the shiny floor. She ran. Fast.

Where was this, she wondered? The corridor had long straight sections broken by t- and cross-intersections. The angel guided her at each turn appearing before her and waiting for Kelly to reach her. The signs were useless as they were all written in some mechanical-looking script that was unintelligible to her. At times there were long stretches with no doors, and other sections were studded regularly with them.

As she continued to run and run, she was amazed that she could keep up such a good pace for so long without difficulty. She had run for perhaps ten minutes and covered maybe a kilometer through these corridors but was not really straining. Her body felt wonderfully fine-tuned and she was enjoying every movement.

Eventually the angel waited for her at a closed door indistinguishable from the hundreds she had passed. Kelly slowed and stopped. The angel had her finger to her lips for silence, and stepped through the wall next to the door. Kelly tried the handle and it opened quietly into a moderately large, undamaged room. It looked like it had been some kind of lounge. The angel was beckoning and she went through to some kind of kitchen beyond.

The angel indicated a large stainless steel fridge, "Food and drink. You'll need it after that run."

Kelly whispered, "I feel fine... better than fine. I feel great." She found, to her surprise, that she was grinning.

"Believe me you'll need it. You use energy very quickly."

Puzzled a little by that, Kelly opened the fridge and looked through its contents.

The angel instructed, "Concentrate on sweet things. Cakes and greasy foods. Maximum energy. There is a bottle of cordial there too."

Kelly grabbed those things, stuffing some into her mouth (it was glorious), others into into her vest and pants pockets. Then she took the lemon cordial over to the sink.

"What are you doing?"

"Dilute the cordial with water." She vaguely wondered how she knew that.

"You don't need to. Try it straight, you'll like it."

Uncertainly, Kelly lifted the bottle to her lips and drank what should have been sickly sweet cordial base. To her surprise it was the most delicious elixir, even though it was just as she remembered cordial base was. ...Remembered???

"We need to keep moving." The angel motioned her toward another door.

Kelly put the bottle down and turned to face the transparent light blue girl. "Answers first. Who are you? Who am I? Where is this? What the hell is going on?"

The angel sighed, "We don't have time... but I'll give you the quick version. I'm your guide, your guardian. It is very important to me that you make it to the exit safely. You are Kelly. I don't know much about who you were before. All I know is that you are stronger and faster than you used to be. I don't know how much you remember," she shrugged. "More may come back to you." She looked around. "This...is a battlefield. The enemy need to kill you. I don't know much about them other than that there are eight of them and they are not very smart. They have a helper like me too. We have to outwit him and get you to the exit. Now we must get moving again. They will have picked up your trail and though they are not as fast as you, they don't need to pause for food."

She wasn't very satisfied by this, but drained the last of the bottle and moved to the door. Beyond was a short corridor. She strode down it in a fast walk, mindful of not running immediately after drinking. The angel girl was at the end, indicating that she should go through the door very carefully.

Kelly squatted and opened the door just enough to squeeze through. The room was some kind of large office where perhaps 10 people might have worked at large desks. There were filing cabinets around the walls. Oddly, all the desks were bare.

The angel was frantically motioning for her to move backwards behind a row of the desks but to keep low. "Back! They didn't follow directly. They cut through."

She was wondering what was meant by that when a wall on the other side of the room splintered and crashed as a shiny, black, almost mirror-like thing walked through it. It looked like some kind of bipedal robot and was walking awkwardly towards the angel girl who turned to Kelly and signed for her to be quiet and get back. It walked through the angel as if she wasn't there.

Kelly silently backed away on all fours to take cover behind an adjacent desk. She watched as more metal "people" walked through the room, and the leading one blundered through the wall near where she'd come in. Six of them passed. That meant there were another two somewhere.

The angel girl reconnoitered, then waved for Kelly to come through the hole in the wall that the mechanical-looking people had made. Kelly went through three such holes torn in walls, then was motioned aside to take a door and yet another corridor. She set off at high speed again, running silently down the corridor as it turned left and right.

Finally she came to a nondescript door where the angel wanted her to stop. "Beyond this door is a large warehouse area. On the other side is the exit." When Kelly reached for the handle the angel girl put up her hand. She put her head through the door and pulled back to look seriously at her. "Unfortunately two of the enemy are guarding the exit."

"Is there another entry to this area closer to the guards?" She whispered almost inaudibly.

"No. We have to cross the space in front of them, and it is mostly open. No cover."

"The ceiling? The floor?"

Angel girl paused for a moment, thinking. She led Kelly a little further down the corridor to a door and went through it. Kelly opened it and followed to a stairwell. They went up to the floor above. The room there was full of large banks of hundreds of computers in shelves, all switched off. There were no screens anywhere. The angel walked over to the far wall, knelt down and put her head, shoulders, and torso into the floor. When she came back up she smiled. "They are right under us. This floor is hollow for computer cabling. These floor sections lift up. Underneath, you must stand on the struts. The ceiling below us won't support your weight."

Kelly grinned and measured back away from that spot about 9 paces and carefully lifted one of the meter-square panels. She looked around and went over to one of the computers, unplugged the cabling from its back, took it over to the hole and set it down softly on the floor. The angel girl was still kneeling near the wall, looking puzzled. Kelly walked over to her. In the quietest of breaths she asked, "Can you push things?"

She shook her blue transparent head.

Kelly thought for a moment. She walked over to the shelves of computers again, unplugged a length of cabling, and took it over to the computer on the floor by the hole, which she shifted to the side of the hole farthest from where the angel girl was and placed on its face with the cable connectors now on top. She plugged the cable into a connector, then walked back to the angel girl, gently laying the cable out across the floor as she went. She put the remainder of the coiled cable down and quietly lifted the floor panel near the angel. She signalled to angel girl to look and see if all was well below. The angel put her head through the floor, sat back up and nodded. Kelly whispered softly to her to watch and signal when the guards moved away from their station. Angel girl nodded and got down into the hole in the floor.

Kelly took a deep breath and tugged on the cable pulling the computer forward so that it toppled into the hole, broke through the ceiling underneath, and into the room below, hitting the solid warehouse floor with a loud, splintering crash. Angel girl's head was out of sight with her arm extended up. After several seconds that seemed to stretch unnervingly, the angel gave her signal.

Kelly jumped into the hole at her feet and crashing through the ceiling, she landed like a cat, her pulse rifle firing. One of the enemy was sent sprawling. The other had turned and fired. Kelly's hip felt like it was on fire. Kelly fired at the other and knocked it off its feet. She turned and there was a large, yellow wall panel with 'EXIT' printed in big, red, English, block letters in the middle, with a hand-sized button below it. She lunged at the button, pressing it with both hands. Nothing happened. "Open!" she screamed.

She realised that somebody was laughing and shouting. And she was having great difficulty standing. She fell to one side and looked back, expecting to see the two glassy, black humanoids approaching, but they were motionless on the floor. She was lying in a widening pool of blood gushing from her leg.

The angel girl was laughing, but not at her. There was another angel in the room; a boy. The girl was shouting in triumph, "I won again. She is perfect, isn't she?"

The other angel answered, "Not bad, sister dear. Care to increase the wager this time?"

The angel girl laughed again, "Three out of three? I'm game. How much do you want to lose this time?"

Neither of them looked at Kelly, who was slumping, her vision fading.


2005-08-13