End of Days Page 14

I take a deep breath and let the tension out. We’re safe for the moment.

Raffe watches them go with a frown, deep in thought. I look back at the hellions retreating and realize what the problem is. The hellions aren’t behaving as stupidly as they should.

I have a nagging worry about what just happened. What did I release into the world?

The funnel over Alcatraz becomes thinner as more of the locust swarm peels off and heads toward us.

This new group flows in a spike formation led by a locust with an extra large scorpion tail curled over his head. Something about that makes me nervous. They’re just following my sister out of instinct, aren’t they?

I dismiss the uneasiness as a reasonable reaction to the sight of a large locust swarm coming in our direction.

But a second later, the leader proves my worries right. He’s close enough now for me to see the white streak in his long hair. I turn cold when I recognize him.

He’s the one who toyed with me by shoving me against the rollup gate of the shipping container filled with desperate people who had been starved for sport. This is the one Beliel said they bred and trained to be part of the locust leader group.

He’s bigger than the others, and I remember Beliel saying the leader group got better nutrition. Why is he here? Can Paige order the locusts to turn on him? This one is too twisted and dangerous to live. I don’t want him anywhere near us.

When he reaches us, he grabs the arm of the locust Paige was tending to earlier, jerking him to a stop in midair. White Streak looks almost twice the size of Paige’s locust.

White Streak rips off a wing and tosses the screeching locust toward the water.

Paige screams. She stares wide-eyed as her pet helplessly beats the one wing he has left as he falls like a rock toward the water.

He makes a tiny splash in the dark bay. The water swallows him up as though he never existed.

White Streak roars at Paige’s other locusts, jabbing his oversized stinger menacingly into the air.

Paige’s small band of locusts buzzes in circles, looking confused. They look to White Streak and steal glances at Paige, who is crying over her murdered pet.

White Streak roars again.

All but four of Paige’s locusts flutter reluctantly into the insect swarm behind White Streak.

White Streak’s locusts tighten their circle around us. The roar of their wings is deafening, and our hair blows everywhere. White Streak swings back and forth, staring down Paige.

She looks like a little stitched-up doll in a monster’s arms with an even bigger monster stalking her.

Raffe must feel my tension, because he flies in White Streak’s path toward Paige. Raffe’s demon wings claw the air around us with every stroke. He pauses in front of White Streak, letting his crescent-shaped wing blades flash in the sun.

White Streak widens his eyes like a crazed man. I wonder what he was in the World Before? A serial killer?

He puffs up at the sight of Raffe, assessing him. He glances at me, probably wondering whether Raffe will drop me to fight him.

He roars at Paige’s locusts, not daring to take on Raffe directly, at least not right now. He may be a killer when it comes to starved prisoners and little girls, but he’s not willing to fight an angel demon.

He turns and swipes his tail at one of Paige’s remaining locusts. He doesn’t sting, just uses his stinger to slice Paige’s locust across the face, drawing a line of blood across his cheek. The smaller locust cringes, looking like he thought that the bigger one meant to slit his throat.

White Streak turns his back on us as if to show that he’s not afraid. He grabs Paige’s pet by the hair and flies away, with the smaller locust awkwardly fluttering his wings to stay up.

The unsure beast turns and gives Paige a distressed look. He doesn’t want to go. But all Paige can do is reach out her hand as he fades farther away from her.

This is some kind of leadership challenge, and the swarm seems to be waiting it out to see who they’re supposed to follow. Whatever it is she did last night to rally the locusts against the angels, it’s not working against White Streak.

A serial killer versus a seven-year-old girl. No contest. I’m just glad he didn’t make a move to hurt her, thanks to Raffe.

Paige is left with the locust who carries her and the two flanking her. Our smaller group probably makes it easier for us to fly without being noticed and shot at, but I don’t like the feeling of being bullied, especially by that marauding insect.

We move on.

I can see worry in Paige’s eyes. I’m guessing she doesn’t care about having her power taken, but she hates to see her locusts getting punished.

12

‘We need to go to the Resistance,’ I say as I cling to Raffe’s neck. ‘Maybe Doc is there. He might be able to help both you and Paige.’ My mother should also be there, waiting for us.

‘Human doctor?’

‘Trained by angels. I think he sewed on Beliel’s wings – I mean, your wings onto him.’

He’s quiet as he sweeps his large demon wings through the air.

‘I don’t like it either,’ I say. ‘But what choice do we have?’

‘Why not?’ He sounds resigned. ‘Might as well fly into the heart of the enemy where the primitive natives can tear me to pieces, sell my body parts for money, and grind the rest to be consumed in teas for sexual potency.’

I tighten my arms around his neck. ‘We’re not that primitive anymore.’

He arches his perfect eyebrow at me, sending waves of skepticism.

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