“It’s not much to look at, yet, but I’m close to attempting the final assembly,” said Jessica, tucking a strand of blond hair behind one ear.

James had met her in the parking garage beneath the Marriott where a large space had been cordoned off for Fabricator usage. The air smelled of old exhaust, and the lighting was garish and bright. They were only a floor down, the ramp to the street just visible in the distance, but the area had been marked off by yellow tape and cones to keep any errant vehicles from driving into the construction zone.

At least, that’s what it looked like to James. While he’d been busy visiting the different battalions around the city, patrolling with his own crew and gallivanting off to DC, Jessica had been maintaining her impressive rate of work. Looking around, James saw piles of neatly organized steel pipes of varying diameter stacked to one side, next to huge bundles of iron rebar and large plastic bins marked with biohazard warning symbols.

But what drew his eye were the bins filled with glowing materials he’d never seen before, stuff that clearly had to be the mysterious components Jessica had identified as necessary for her construction of an Angel Wing.

“Yes, you haven’t seen this yet. Here, it’s not dangerous.” She reached into one bin and pulled out a ragged chunk of black and crimson crystal. It had the textured, crumbly look of a geode, the color gradations rich and varied, with the crimson parts glowing subtly within her palm.

“Sanguis petra, or blood rock. This forms wherever demons have spilt enough blood after about a day. We’ve been excavating it by the ton around a number of fallen hives. It’s being studied, but nothing conclusive has been determined yet. Even its basic elemental composition defies understanding at this point.”

James took the rock. Despite its crumbly appearance it was remarkably heavy and hard, the thousands of faceted edges sharp, and felt subtly wrong to his senses in a way he couldn’t pinpoint.

“And here we have Adamantino Divinum, or holy diamond.” Jessica stepped over to the next bin. This was filled with chunks of diamond that glowed from within with a golden radiance. Most of the chunks were the size of his fist, but here and there he saw some as large as his head.

“These grow spontaneously in a variety of locations. We’ve discovered it growing in pre-schools, homes, churches… the one common characteristic is that all these places are highly regarded as spiritual or centers of human… positivity?” Jessica frowned, clearly displeased by her own vagueness. “If it grows in a home, it’s usually a place where several generations of healthy, successful individuals have thrived. Pre-schools or daycare centers are high end and with excellent ratings. Not all churches manifest divine diamond, but those that do are well regarded as centers of their communities.”

“No shit,” said James, reaching down to pick up a chunk. It was faintly warm to the touch, and light, like coral. “So this… what? Absorbs good vibes?”

“No idea. And I’m not going to waste time speculating. It’s a critical component for my crafting, however, so I’ve requisitioned enough for my needs. That’s all I currently care to know.”

“Sure.” James set the beautiful, ethereal golden diamond back down.

“There are several other exotic components, but fortunately they are needed in far less quantity as they are harder to find.” Jessica led James over to a series of smaller bins on a pop-up table. “Hearts of Ivory, Golden Dawn, and so forth. These are the real bottleneck, as we’ve yet to figure out why they manifest where they do.”

“But you’ve got enough?”

“Yep.” Jessica gave him a nervous, bright smile. “It’s been hard juggling my new responsibilities to Blue Light with my desire to develop my Battle Engineer class, but fortunately there are literally millions seeking to do the same across the world, and people have been sharing their findings via a number of different media. Saves me from having to experiment.”

James looked around the job site. “So what comes next?”

Jessica pulled a black plastic case over, the kind you might carry a flute around in, and popped it open. Lying on the black velvet was a wondrous, bizarre looking object. It was about a foot long and composed of a variety of metals, all of them interwoven around small gears and lenses, its sides inlaid with ivory and gold and tipped with a thick, gleaming lens of perfectly clear glass.

“My mechanicus.” She drew it forth and turned it about in her hands. “I manifested it a few days back. Mostly made of Aeviternum, it’s the means by which I’ve channeled Aeviternum into the ingredients so as to make the composite elements for the Angel Wing.”

James leaned down to study it. “You just… manifested it?”

“Essentially. It’s keyed to me. Another Battle Engineer couldn’t use it.” She turned it about, considering it. “It’s… very strange. I’m aware of it as an extension of my own being. My sense of self encompasses its length. Very… very weird. But there you have it. With it I’ve created these.”

“Damn,” said James, following her to another table. “You have been busy.“

Her expression turned wry. “Am I ever otherwise? Now these… these are very… different.”

She reached down into a reinforced storage bin and started drawing out large, bulky objects that were apparently quite light.

The first was a head-sized chunk of complex machinery composed mostly of steel and gold filaments around which the diamond seems to have coalesced. Jessica set it down carefully, and James studied it with avid curiosity.

“The Proprioception Helm. The best way I can describe it is as a sensor array for the Angel Wing. It allows the Wing to have a sense of itself, and its place in the world. Apologies, I barely know what that means myself. This is the Virtuous Heart.”

She placed a second object on the table. It was an amalgam of blood stone and divine diamond, a complex interlacing of both elements the size of two fists placed together.

“This holds the bulk of the Aeviternum that will power the vehicle, and the duality apparently is necessary for both its ability to store power and then distribute it via the Adiaphoron Network. When fully charged, it will probably be painful to look at. Here is the Throne of Reason.”

The third object was a large, golden soccer ball inlaid with ivory filagree, easily the most beautiful artifact of them all. Nodes of divine diamond were placed here and there.

“This is the means by which the rider controls the Wing. Not sure how it works yet either. And then we have this, the Adiaphoron Network.” This last was a series of thick, interwoven cables, looking to be composed of flexible blood rock and other materials. “It forms a literal net, and I think dictates the form of the Wing, as well as acting as the conduit for the power.”

“You made all of these?”

“I did. Over the past few nights.” Jessica placed her hands on her hips and frowned. “Nobody has yet managed to create a final Angel Wing, as any mistake in the crafting of these key components dooms the endeavor, and it’s hard to get 20 Aeviternum to pour into an attempt. But we’re ready now. All I need is to lay everything out, gather a company so they can supply the power, and, well…”

“Make your first Angel Wing.”

“Supposedly.” Jessica rubbed her hands briskly on her hips. “Do you think your Alpha Company would be up for helping out?”

“I’ll check in with Captain Torres. Don’t see why not. What time?”

“I’ll start laying everything out now. Perhaps you all could come down here in a couple of hours?” She checked her watch. “Say eight on the dot?”

“Eight it is.” James looked over the alien yet beautiful objects on the table once more. “This is outstanding work, Jessica. You’ve outdone yourself. I think. I’ve got no idea how hard this was to do.”

“It took a lot of focus.” She studied her components critically. “But I think we’re in good shape. Teams in Taiwan have come the closest to crafting a functioning Angel Wing, and I’ve followed their advice where it made sense. Though I’ve made a couple of changes of my own. Things that just didn’t make sense to me. I don’t know. It’s not a science. More like… cooking, I suppose.”

“You cook?”

“I most certainly do not. But I imagine I could if I had to.”

James grinned. “I bet you’d become a top chef in a week if you set your mind to it.”

Jessica laughed. “Perhaps. Let me know what Torres says?”

“Will do. We’ll bring Alpha Company down here at eight. See you then?”

“Yes.” She took up her mechanicus and tapped it on her palm, already distracted by her thoughts. “See you then.”

* * *

Captain Torres was amenable; that, and his relationship with James was a weird one. While technically in charge of Alpha Company, there was no denying that James was the heart of Blue Light, and thus worth deferring to. So the captain, a massive, high-energy ball of determination and fierce focus, listened to James’s request, and immediately agreed.

It helped that their company had no patrol duty till the next morning, when they were due to do a circuit with Second Group’s Bravo Company from their third battalion.

The members of Hydra, Dragon, and Medusa all gathered together, over eighty individuals of varying ranking strength, and together they descended to the parking garage with Captain Torres leading the way.

Carvajal, Crimson Dragon’s charismatic leader, moved up alongside James. “So you really got to me the president? Is he as crazy as he looks?”

James grinned. “You know we can’t slag the president, amigo. He’s the army’s big boss.”

Carvajal laughed. “You kidding me? He’s the crazy guy who said he could bring the economy back with prayer. I may be a poor boy from Asturias, but even I know the economy doesn’t work that way.”

James chuckled. “Well, the demons saved him from having to manifest that particular miracle.”

Lindsey edged in behind them. He was a massively corpulent guy in every way, easily six foot four and over three hundred pounds. He had a penchant for wearing jean overalls, dirty long-sleeved shirts, and little else, even in this weather, and insisted on carrying a chainsaw with him wherever he went. James had heard folks call him Leatherface behind his back, and done his best to stamp out that habit, but even he had to admit Lindsey wasn’t doing himself any favors by dressing that way with the mug he was born with.

“I can’t believe you got to meet him,” Lindsey said in his high-pitched voice. “That’s so cool, James. So cool. Did you get to hang out?”

“No, he did not get to hang out,” said Carvajal in disgust as they all filed into a concrete stairwell. “What are you smoking, Lindsey?”

“What?” Lindsey sounded baffled. “Why wouldn’t the president want to hang out with James?”

“I only saw him in the Situation Room,” said James. “Just for the briefing.”

“Listen to this guy,” said Serenity from behind them all. “Just a quick briefing in the Situation Room.”

“So cool,” sighed Lindsey again. “Wish you’d taken some selfies with him. I’d love to see those.”

“Can you quit kissing James’s ass for one second, Lindsey?” Carvajal shoved open the fire door and waited for Captain Torres to lead them out onto the parking garage. “Is that humanly possible?”

“But I’m not kissing his ass.” Lindsey’s voice got higher. “James is a good guy. What’s wrong in saying that? If he hadn’t done what he’d done, I’d still be in Maine -”

“Defending your grandma’s place, yeah, we know,” said Carvajal.

“Let’s focus,” said James, clapping Lindsey on his massively broad shoulder and stepping past him to join Torres as they approached Jessica’s work area. She’d laid everything out on the floor, with each of the alien components set down amidst rods of rebar and steel piping. A dozen other Fabricators were assisting here, but they all stepped back as the soldiers approached.

“Captain Torres,” said Jessica, straightening from where she was positioning some final items. “Thank you for your time and letting me use your company.”

“Yes ma’am. How do you want ‘em?”

Everybody was crowding in behind James and Torres, peering down at the components that glittered under the fluorescent lights.

“Perhaps we could have Alpha stand here on the right, Bravo there on the left, and Charlie at the end there?”

“Very well,” said the captain, and everybody moved carefully about, till each company was stationed about the workspace as directed, clustered into tight groups of just under thirty and craning to get a view.

Jessica moved to her table, took up her mechanicus, frowned one last time at the pipes and golden spheres and the rest of the components and then gave a curt nod. “Thank you everyone for coming. We’re going to be attempting to create an Angel Wing here today. As you probably know, we’ve been busy collecting all the necessary components, and I think we’re finally ready to try and create one. The last missing component is raw Aeviternum; my understanding is that we need at least twenty for a functioning Angel Wing, but the more the better. The most anybody has managed to harness was a team in Taiwan who collected thirty points; I’d like to see what we can accomplish with eighty-one.”

Captain Torres raised his chin. “Why eighty-one, chief?”

“This whole system seems to enjoy the rule of three as a basis for everything.” Jessica shrugged. “Nine for a squad, twenty-seven for a platoon, and so forth. Eight-one is nine times nine; that seems a fortuitous number.”

“Very well.” Torres frowned down at the gleaming pipes and components. “What do you need from us?”

“I’ll begin the creation process. It’s deceptively simple. On my mark, everyone’s to spend an Aeviternum. Try to focus on my mechanicus here. I’ll use it to channel everyone’s points into the creation.” Jessica’s smile was self-deprecating. “If it sounds vague, blame the system. We’ll figure this out as we go.”

“Very well.” Torres looked around the three companies, then nodded back to Jessica. “Ready when you are.”

Jessica took a deep breath and glanced at James. Only then did he realize how nervous she was. He gave her an encouraging smile, and she flashed one back before turning to the components.

“Here we go,” she whispered, and pointed her mechanicus at the ground.

It immediately began to glow with a soft, golden radius, which poured from its tip to envelope the artifacts. In moments everything was consumed by the light, lost within its aureate glow. Jessica’s hair stirred as if before an invisible breeze. She lowered her chin, narrowed her eyes, and then raised her hand. “Now.”

James summoned a point of Aeviternum, but rather than expend it on himself or pour it into an attack, he simply… offered it up to Jessica. It was a bizarre sensation, yet there was a clear opening for it; the Aeviternum didn’t dissipate into the air, but immediately pulled forth as if being set upon a steep slide and sucked down into the mechanicus, which radiated a powerful gravitational pull.

The mechanicus immediately grew painfully bright; the parking garage was filled with its blinding radiance, and James had to squint or be blinded. Jessica was barely visible, lost within that glorious cloud of gold, and he heard her cry out with effort.

Was she in danger? Was it too much power? James raised his hand, tried to make out what was happening - and then the golden glow dimmed and just as quickly disappeared.

Jessica staggered back, gasping, wisps of smoke rising from her mechanicus, her eyes wide, her face pale.

But her gaze was fixed on the long, sleek, elegant vehicle that now lay before them all.

The Angel Wing.


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