by Deborah Cullins Smith -
“Is something wrong, Cassie?”
The gentle voice spun the girl from the observation window.
“Oh, Master Ambrose! I’m so sorry! I’ve done something terrible and now he’s going to murder one of the angels.”
The thin, stooped wizard raised both eyebrows as the torrent of words poured from his young assistant. A trainable and obedient girl, but far too easy to rattle, he’d noted in his journals.
“Now really, my dear. What could you possibly have done that’s so terri…” his voice trailed off and shock washed over his ashen face. His eyes widened in horror at the window just beyond Cassie’s stricken face.
Cassie turned and her scream ripped the air just before she slid to the floor, unconscious and finally silent.
The sea monster was unlike anything ever observed before. Water pumped through its mouth and over its gills as the mottled black and brown body charged toward the human figure in diving gear. A wide, flat snout opened and caught the man in its jaws, thrashing it back and forth like a rag doll. A flash of steel slashed at the snout, but broke against the tough hide like a toothpick against steel.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the attack stopped. The monster released its prey and retreated, paddling swiftly through the murky silt. The human slowly sank to the ocean floor; bubbles still rippling from the air hose told Ambrose that he lived. However that could change any minute if they couldn’t get him inside. But how? To scramble divers would take time—time that the unknown person outside did not have.
Then Ambrose saw the angel. He’d seen this one before, always watching from a distance, curiosity etched in those shiny black eyes. It focused thoughts toward the figure on the ground, but the aged master, an adept empath, heard the projections clearly.
Though you sought to kill us, I will not harm you.
Kill? Ambrose cast a frown at his assistant’s limp form crumpled below the window. Is that what she meant? That she had been party to an attempt on an angel’s life? No, she couldn’t have known. She’d shown curiosity—even awe—at the shimmering beings residing in the sea. He would reserve judgment until she was able to state her case. But he would almost certainly have to terminate her employment. Trust was a primary concern in these labs.
Ambrose peered back out the window and saw vague shapes in the swirl of sediment. The angel scooped the diver up, balancing the limp body on his wide tail fin, and deposited him carefully at the lab’s pressurized chamber door. Tentacles of the angel’s “hair” snaked forward to skim over the panel beside the door, as the angel cocked its head and studied the buttons. Ambrose stared, fascinated at this turn of events, then projected the numbered sequence in his mind. The angel turned to meet his eyes through the window and a tiny smile curved the lips below the mammalian muzzle. Turning back to the panel, the tentacle-like appendages skipped over the buttons. With a whoosh and a blaring alarm, the door opened. The angel shoved the limp body into the chamber with a flip of his strong tail fin, and closed the door. Ambrose knew he should move quickly to assess the damage to the person in the diving suit, but he remained riveted at the window.
The angel swam forward, closer to the glass than he had ever come before.
Why am I so sure this one is a male? We so often think of them as female...
Ambrose felt his heart thump in his chest. Contact! But the angel wasn’t looking at him. He stared through the window at the girl huddled on the floor. Then he raised soulful eyes to meet Ambrose’s.
Sorrow! The empathy was directed at Cassie!
A glow enveloped the girl’s body, and her face no longer bore the trauma that had sent her into a dead faint. Her features relaxed into peaceful repose. Ambrose stared into those deep eyes, strangely flecked with a deep sea green around the edges of the dark iris, and felt a tremor of exhilaration. He’d never been so close to an angel before. Details flashed as his mind recorded them: the tentacles of hair that worked like fingers when necessity dictated, the blue-green tinge along the white wings that reminded him of ancient Earth’s manta rays, the lower face that resembled a feline predator but without the elongated fangs. His eyes were drawn back to those amazing orbs, mesmerizing, alien—and his amazement grew as he felt the angel’s sympathy for the child at his feet.
In a flash of shimmering light, the angel darted away from the window and disappeared into the swirling silt.
It defied all reason. It was inconceivable—in view of the diver’s actions. And Cassie had to have given him access. But in spite of these facts, Ambrose knew that the angel did not want Cassie held accountable for this incident. His mind churning over the ramifications, Ambrose took a lab coat from the back of a nearby chair, folded it in a small square, and placed it gently beneath Cassie’s head. He stared down at her for a moment, then rose to tend the person in the entry chamber.