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Angel: Avatar

Angel: AvatarAngel: AVATAR
John Passarella
Simon Pulse ~ MAR 2001
ISBN: 0-7434-0698-2
$5.99 US / $8.50 CAN
Evil has a dew domain...

An original novel based on the TV series Angel, created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt.

SYNOPSIS: A trail of desiccated corpses stretching across the city leads Angel and company to a a techno-savvy demon using online chat rooms to find his victims. And when this monster has claimed his final victim, he will have completed a ritual that extends the arm of his evil far beyond the reaches of even the Internet

Read my Watcher's Web ARTICLE on writing Buffy/Angel books.



"An exciting romp." —Official Buffy UK Magazine

"Tightly plotted... surprising twists and some absolutely cracking dialogue. An exciting romp... If you liked Ghoul Trouble, you will love [Angel: Avatar]."
—Official UK Buffy Magazine.

[8.5/10 rating]
—The Watcher's Web


Back Cover Text

'Net Stalker

When Angel arrived in Los Angeles, he assumed he'd find enough evil to keep himself busy for, well... eternity. Up until now, he's had his hands full in real time. So when Cordelia suggests starting up a Web site for their detective agency, he's hesitant. As Doyle puts it, "People in trouble want to interface with a face."

Soon, though, the police discover a trail of desiccated corpses stretching across the city. The only thing that binds these victims (other than their cause of death) is their pastime: online chatting. One by one, they are being hunted down by a techno-savvy demon. And when this monster has claimed his final victim, he will have completed a ritual that extends the arm of his evil far beyond the reaches of even the Internet....



Angel: Avatar Excerpt

by John Passarella
(sample chapter)
Excerpt Copyright © 2001 by
Twentieth Century Film Corporation, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Historian's Note: AVATAR takes place during the first season of Angel,
before the episode "Hero."]

Angel: AVATAR preview below. All rights reserved. You may not print (except for personal use), copy or distribute this text in any way. You are however encouraged to link to this preview page: Thank you!


"Everybody's using the Web now," Cordelia Chase explained to Doyle as if he were an inattentive child. "Even people who have a life."

The moment Angel stepped out of the office she'd begun her campaign to win Doyle over to her plan to drum up some business. Namely, to create a Web site for Angel Investigations.

"So that's it, then," Doyle said with his pronounced Irish brogue. "Put up a Web page and all the poor downtrodden masses will flock to our door."

"Of course not," Cordelia replied. "The poor don't have computers. We need more paying clients. Emphasis on the paying part."

Cordelia was sitting at her desk in the reception area of Angel Investigations in a sleeveless red crop top, black jeans, and stiletto heels. Doyle leaned on the corner of her desk, slouching in his old leather jacket over a green shirt with a rumpled collar. Even though Cordelia complained about her inability to keep up with the latest fashions on her meager receptionist's salary, being around her always made Doyle feel as if he'd slept in his clothes, out on the street, in the rain. Not that he was complaining. At the best of times, Cordelia took his breath away. The rest of the time, she put a lump in his throat. And while he had yet to work up the nerve to tell her he had feelings for her, well, hope sprang eternal.

Though Doyle imagined that Cordelia made most men feel unworthy of her company, he carried the extra burden of having a father who was a Brachen demon. Sure, he was one hundred percent human on his mother's side, but how far would that get him with the former Sunnydale prom queen. Cordelia had made it abundantly clear that she had relegated all demons to the enemy column. So it was no surprise that he'd neglected to tell her about his Brachen side. Someday he would convince her that being a half-demon didn't necessarily make him one of the bad guys. Until then, he thought, no sense dashin' the dream.

"We help the helpless," Doyle countered. "It says so right there on our answering machine. In your very own voice, I might add. And generally the helpless aren't known for their stock portfolios."

"We'll still help the helpless," Cordelia countered. "But would it kill us to find some helpless people with disposable income?"

"I suppose not."

"So are you with me? Can we present a united front?"

Doyle thought about uniting with Cordelia and had to clear his throat. Better get beyond that visual image before you stuff your foot in your mouth, boyo. "Fine. I'll play devil's advocate. Though, for the sake of this example, I suppose that'd make me Angel's advocate. What about the expense?"

"We can do it on the cheap," Cordelia assured him. "Lots of free stuff on the Internet I can use. It would be like -- like another utility bill. And so far we've managed to keep the electricity and phones working." She rapped her knuckles on the desk. "Knock wood."

"Next problem, then. Do you even know how to design a Web site?"

"I figured out how to print invoices," Cordelia said. "Not that I get a lot of practice. How much harder can Web site design be?"

"I'd wager good coin it's gonna be harder than printing invoices."

"That's your problem. You wager too much," Cordelia commented. "This is more like a sure thing."

Doyle cleared his throat. "I've lost more than one shirt on a sure thing."

Cordelia opened a desk drawer, removed several thick computer manuals, and dropped them with a resounding thud on her desk. "That's every book the library had on Web site design, except for The Complete Simpleton's Guide to Web Site Creation, which is a title I found a little insulting." She frowned. "Although encouraging."

"I still think you're insane to try."

"Doyle, they even have software wizards to do this for you," Cordelia said. "It won't be that difficult. And the Web site will be like having another office, with even cheaper rent than this dump. I'll even set up a subscription service for access to our demon database. I'd bet a lot of people will pay good money for that information."

Doyle gave a wry grin. "And you say I'm the one who wagers too much."

"Doyle, some of these sites get ten million hits a month," Cordelia said. "That's like...the population of L.A. or something."

"But don't you find it a bit depressing? All these people parked in front of their computers, ignorin' their loved ones?"

"They invented chat rooms and instant messaging for that."

Doyle rolled his eyes. "Oh, brother." Finally he sighed. "You really believe you can do this?"

"Right from my desk," Cordelia said, flashing her lovely smile. "In between answering the phone, mailing invoices, and all my -- um, auditions."

It had been a while since Cordelia's last audition. Doyle wondered if she was tackling this project to take her mind off the lack of chances at stardom. When Cordelia left Sunnydale for Los Angeles she'd assumed it would only be a matter of time -- and not a lot of time at that -- before she was discovered. Meanwhile, she needed her job at Angel Investigations just to make ends meet.

Since Doyle could offer no help in jump-starting her film career, he figured the least he could do was to offer his moral support in her Web site project. He saw just one problem: "Angel will never go for it."

"Which is why I've decided to keep it a secret from him," Cordelia explained, then held up her hands as he started to protest. "But just until all the extra income starts rolling in. So are you with me?"

"I'm with you, Cordelia," Doyle said. "But I've got a bad feeling about this."

"Okay, Mr. Doom-and-Gloom," Cordelia replied. "But you're worrying over nothing."

Angel worried that he was too late. One of the big problems with the visions Doyle received courtesy of the Powers That Be, aside from the splitting headaches they gave Doyle, was that they tended to be vague -- brief glimpses of people in dire need of being rescued from what often turned out to be a fate far worse than death. Angel reviewed the tidbits Doyle's vision had given him this time. A video arcade and a teenage boy in danger from a card-carrying member of the Creatures-of-the-Night Club. And not many helpful details about the exact nature of said creature. Just that it was big.

Leaving the bright lights of the Santa Monica Pier behind him, Angel recalled another detail. Doyle had seen the word "one" in red neon outside the arcade. A telephone-book check had come up empty. Thinking it might be a new arcade, as yet unlisted, they'd called information. Again, no luck.

He was about to climb into his convertible to check out the Beverly Center, when a group of teenagers crossed the intersection. In the direction they were heading, was a blue neon sign that read "Warp" in slanting letters. On impulse, Angel walked several steps across the street. More of the sign came into view. The word "Warp" had a large yellow lightning bolt symbol after it.

Bit it was not a lightning bolt, he realized as he walked faster toward the sign. It was the letter Z. He ran toward the place, knowing what he would see next. His instinct was confirmed as red neon letters eventually spelled out "one."

Doyle had only seen part of the sign. The place was called the Warp Zone.

The group of teenagers who had led him to the arcade entered a few steps ahead of him. Amid all the beeping, blooping, zapping, and blasting sound effects, he found it hard to concentrate. There were at least a hundred teenagers in the place. Those who weren't already mesmerized by battles with space aliens, fighter squadrons, tanks, zombies, mutants, and, yes, even vampires, were feeding dollar bills into machines that spat out tokens needed to begin or renew the mayhem. Hardly any of the teens interacted with one another. Even those arriving in groups would split up and look for an unoccupied pinball machine, video game, or virtual reality helmet. If the Pied Piper of Hamelin ever makes a return visit, Angel thought, he'll come bearing handheld video games.

Aside from misspent youth, Angel noticed nothing sinister in the arcade. Granted, some creatures of the night were good at passing for human, as he should know, being a vampire himself; even a vampire with a soul had to hide his true nature in public. Yet he doubted a vampire would make a move inside a crowded arcade, so Angel stepped out into the cool night and looked for the shadows. Toward the rear of the arcade, the white exterior walls were riddled with a mosaic of graffiti. With all the beeping and zapping still echoing in his ears, he couldn't be sure at first if he'd really heard the sound of shoes scuffing cement. Nevertheless, caution won out.

Crouching, Angel peered around the back of the arcade and saw what appeared to be a large, bulky man in a dark overcoat and crumpled fedora ambling down the poorly lit street behind the arcade. The man had one arm wrapped around a teenage boy with straggly blond hair who was wearing a World Wrestling Federation T-shirt over apocalyptically frayed jeans. Judging by the way the boy's sneakers dragged and flopped along the ground, he was unconscious or worse. By supporting the teen's weight, the big guy made it appear as if they were walking along together. Near the back wall of the arcade, Angel spotted a fresh pack of spilled cigarettes.

Step outside for a nicotine fix and walk into a supernatural ambush.

Careful not to make a sound, Angel climbed atop a Dumpster against the side of the building. From there, he leaped gracefully to the arcade's roof, then ran along the length of the building, quiet as a shadow, his raincoat flowing behind him. As he neared the edge of the rooftop, he veered toward the corner, adjusting his angle on the fly, then launched himself toward the ambling figure clutching the boy at his side. At the last moment, Angel lowered his head, brought his elbow up, braced it with his other hand, and drove it like a wedge into the back of the creature.

The creature stumbled with the impact, dropping the boy and crashing into a chain-link fence. Angel felt as if he'd attempted to tackle a tree -- a very large tree, with an extensive root system. He rolled and sprang to his feet, marveling that he hadn't dislocated his shoulder. Still, it hurt like hell. Proverbial hell, anyway, he thought. He'd spent time in literal hell. And nothing hurt worse, by far.

Instead of fleeing or turning to fight, the creature simply lumbered over to the unconscious teen and picked him up again. In the dim light, Angel was still unable to tell exactly what he was dealing with, but the creature seemed to be wearing sunglasses under the floppy hat. And black leather...mittens? "I need to see some I.D.," Angel called, "because, frankly, I can't figure out what the hell you are."

The creature all but ignored him.

So Angel charged, this time leaping into a kick. He caught the creature square on the jaw, the sole of one boot snapping its head back and dislodging its hat. Once more the teenager slipped from the creature's grasp, slumping to the ground. Angel saw that he was still breathing. But now Angel had the creature's complete and undivided attention. Not really a good thing, just a necessary thing.

With the hat gone, a pair of twitching antennae were now exposed. And what had looked like sunglasses turned out to be bulbous, multifaceted eyes, like those of an insect viewed through an electron microscope. Below a flat nose, the creature had protuberant mandibles, which upon cursory inspection might have been mistaken for a dark beard. All of which meant the creature wasn't actually wearing leather mittens over its hands. It had no hands. Instead, its arms terminated in crablike pincers. With a quick backhand blow, one set of those pincers struck Angel alongside the head, staggering him as he was climbing to his feet.

Angel shook off the blow and moved in close, striking the creature's broad gut with a flurry of punches. When that proved ineffective, he tried to chop the side of its neck with the edge of his palm. A pincer came up and caught Angel's hand, squeezing painfully, grinding the bones of his hand together. Blood dripped down his wrist. Before the creature could crush the bones, Angel drove the heel of his free hand into the creature's face. If it had a nose, he might have driven cartilage back into its brain, assuming its brain was in its head. But it had no nose, and all Angel managed to do was drive its head back a few inches. Mandibles clacked inches above Angel's face.

He morphed into his vampire mode, displaying creased brow, yellow eyes, and fangs. Then he flexed his wrist, releasing one of the spring-loaded wooden stakes he kept hidden in the mechanism up each sleeve. First he drove the stake into the creature's wide midsection, but, as he'd expected, it had little effect on what seemed like an armored hide or carapace. Let the eyes have it, Angel thought and tried to pound the narrow end of the stake into one of the glittering eyes. The point skidded off the rounded surface of the eye and over the head, giving Angel another idea. Dropping the stake, he wrapped his free hand around the left antenna. It was rough and bristled with short spikes, like tiny thorns, but the pain of clenching it was nothing compared to what his other hand was experiencing in the crushing grip of the creature's pincers. Angel yanked hard on the antenna.

The creature shrieked horribly.

Through gritted teeth, Angel said, "Here I thought you were the strong silent type."

The creature tried to hurl Angel away, even releasing his hand from its pincers. Uninterested in a stalemate, Angel held on to the antenna, though the blood drawn by the tiny spikes made his grip slick. Because of Angel's momentum, the creature had no choice but to stagger forward bent over. Even as it continued to lumber forward, gaining speed, the enraged creature clutched Angel around the waist and hoisted him into the air.

I have a bad feeling about this, Angel thought about two seconds before the creature slammed him into the back wall of the arcade. It stepped back and lunged forward again, repeatedly ramming Angel into the wall, using its own weight in an attempt to crush Angel in the process. At some point, Angel's vision dimmed and he must have sagged in its grip because the next thing he knew he was sailing across the back street, bowling over three trash cans full of rotten garbage. Yet he doubted the crashing and banging of metal trash cans would be heard above the otherworldly electronic din flowing out of the arcade.

Angel rolled onto his hands and knees, ready to resume the fight. As he climbed to his feet he realized he must have been groggy longer than he thought because both the creature and the unconscious teenage boy were gone. Shaking his head to clear away the cobwebs, Angel bent down and picked up his stake. He was about to put it back into the spring-loaded mechanism when he noticed the end was discolored, coated with something pale green.

Blood, he realized. So he had hurt the creature after all.

Angel's face reverted to his human countenance. All the pounding to his head must have dislodged some information stored way back where the synapses were dustiest. He recalled reading something years ago about a beetle-like creature -- a Sakorbuk demon! What else did he know about Sakorbuk demons and their -- as Detective Kate Lockley might say -- modus operandi? Only one thing came immediately to mind: they preferred to eat the flesh of recently dead humans. This demon's current victim was still alive, but for how long?

Knowing the shambling creature couldn't have traveled far, especially carrying its prey, Angel loped down the back street in the direction it had been heading before he'd attacked it. Every few strides he glimpsed a droplet of green, almost glowing on the asphalt. Even better than bread crumbs, he decided. Abruptly the trail ended. Either the creature had stopped bleeding or Angel had missed a turn. He backtracked, looped in a circle from the last drop of blood and was about to give up when he noticed a manhole cover in his path. No stranger to the Los Angeles sewer system, Angel removed the cover and was soon underground. As he dropped from the bottom ladder rung, he heard rhythmic splashing to his right.

Just ahead of him the beetle demon lumbered along with its limp prey, heavy feet sloshing through the thin stream of foul-smelling water that trickled along the base of the sewer tunnel. A luminescent green substance -- a bodily secretion of the Sakorbuk? -- had been smeared in an uneven line on either side of the sewer tunnel, eerily lighting the way. A thought nagged at Angel: he was forgetting some vital bit of information regarding Sakorbuk demons.

Following at a discreet distance, he stayed to the side of the water stream so as not to alert the Sakorbuk to his presence by splashing. The demon seemed to have a destination in mind, and Angel suspected it would be some sort of hive or nest.

Less than fifty yards farther on, the Sakorbuk dropped its burden. Angel counted four beetle demons waddling around a T-shaped junction in the sewer system, all wearing roomy overcoats to disguise their appearance from casual observers. Besides the demons, Angel saw three more teenage victims, one of them a girl with dark hair and a pale complexion. Fortunately, all were breathing. They were all upright, propped against the tunnel wall, arms crossed over their heads, hands glued to the wall with some sort of sticky white substance, like the mother of all discarded bubble-gum wads.

Angel crept forward as the Sakorbuk he'd trailed hoisted the unconscious boy again, then engaged in some sort of chittering, mandible-clacking dialogue with the nearest beetle. The second one lurched forward and raised the boy's arms, crossing his hands together against the wall. Once they were positioned, the first beetle raised its head, spread its mandibles wide, and emitted a sputtering, hissing sound. Clear fluid sprayed over the boy's hands, quickly congealing and turning white. Now all four victims were lined up like ducks in a row. Or platters on a buffet table?

The lumbering beetle demons positioned themselves so that one stood in front of each victim. In unison, they tilted back their helmet-shaped heads and emitted a gurgling sound. Their pale throats swelled and seemed to split open vertically as something moist and maggot-white pushed its way out from the flap in each beetle's skin.

Angel edged closer and saw they were teardrop-shaped beetle larvae, about a foot long. Each one plopped to the wet floor of the sewer tunnel and immediately inched its way, using twin rows of tiny feelers, toward the nearest victim. That was when the other bit of information clicked into place. The four larvae did not intend to feed off the teenagers' flesh; they wanted to incubate inside them until the humans became beetles themselves. That was how Sakorbuks reproduced, for want of a better word. All the hormonal changes running rampant inside human adolescents was conducive to better beetle raising. The relationship was more parasitic than symbiotic, as the demon larva eventually took over the host body and mutated it into the adult Sakorbuk form. Angel had seen more than enough to know he'd better put a stop to it and fast.

Each of the four larvae had already made its way over a shoe and onto a pant leg of its chosen victim. Inch by inch, they worked their inexorable way up the bodies of the unconscious teens.

"You're having a party and I wasn't invited?" Angel said as he stepped into the center of the tunnel and approached the four startled beetles. The one Angel had trailed emitted rapid-fire clicks and squeals to the others. They clicked and shrieked in turn, moving to intercept Angel while their offspring continued to climb.

All the commotion roused the teenage girl, who was farthest from Angel. She took one look at the glistening lump of translucent white flesh wriggling and squirming its way up her shirt and screamed loud enough to rouse the three other teenage hosts. In moments they were all yelling, kicking frantically, and flailing their bodies from side to side in an attempt to dislodge the climbing larvae.

Less than twenty feet away from them, the four Sakorbuk adults had surrounded Angel. He launched himself at the first one, the one he'd already injured, propelling himself off the side of the tunnel for maximum impact. Possibly because it was standing in water, unsure of its footing, or because it had been weakened by Angel's earlier attack, it went down, rolling on its curved back. Angel somersaulted through the stream of foul water and took the open lane toward the teenagers. He would never be able to defeat all four adult Sakorbuks before the larvae committed whatever unspeakable atrocity they were attempting in order to obtain host bodies. He ejected a stake into his hand from his wrist device and swept it over the WWF boy's chest, impaling and dislodging the larva. He whipped the stake, flinging the larva across the sewer tunnel, where it landed with a wet splat. But in a moment it simply rolled over and scuttled across the tunnel again, returning to its chosen victim.

"Talk about a one-track mind," Angel said.

"Look out!" the WWF boy yelled a split-second before Angel was clubbed by a hard set of pincers, knocking him against the wall.

Angel lashed out with a snap-kick that staggered the beetle a step. Before it could recover, Angel swung a powerful backhand, stake point extended. It struck the hard carapace of the creature without penetrating it or even slowing it down long enough for Angel to rescue the teens.

"Oh, God!" cried the second boy in line. His neck was tilted all the way back as his designated larva moved from his shirt collar up to his neck, leaving a trail of slime on his throat.

The third boy gritted his teeth and continued to thrash, attempting to yank his hands free of the gummy substance gluing them to the sewer wall. His larva was also making its way up his neck.

The girl, farthest away, was the shortest of the four victims, which meant she presented the shortest climb for her larva. Hoarse from screaming in terror, her voice was now just a harsh whisper as she shrieked, "Jesus! Get it off me! Get it off!" Then, abruptly, she fell silent. The larva was over her mouth, which she had snapped shut at the last instant. She appeared to be foaming at the mouth until Angel realized the larva was secreting a bubbling substance across her lips and up her nostrils. Her eyes rolled back into her head, and her whole body relaxed, becoming completely slack, including her mouth, which sagged open. Immediately, the gelatinous larva began to squirm into the opening between her gaping lips. Apparently boneless, it would have little trouble working its way into her mouth and down her throat.

Angel reached down and pulled a dagger out of a hidden sheath in his boot. The blade was six inches long and perfectly balanced. He flipped it in his hand so he held it by the tip, prayed his aim was true, and flung it toward the girl's face. The blade sliced through the fat, wriggling larva's body, and the force of the throw dislodged it from the girl's mouth with a loud, wet plop. The skewered larva rolled several feet down the tunnel end over end -- or side over side, it was hard to tell -- squirming on the knife blade until, finally, its glistening white body became dull gray.

Then Angel was struck down, but not before he saw the second boy in line actually attempt to bite a chunk out of the larva climbing onto his face. But it, too, started to froth. The third teen in the line whipped his head around, mouth clenched shut, but foam was already starting to form around his mouth.

Angel braced his hands on the wet floor of the tunnel and kicked out with both legs, knocking the first beetle into the others behind it. But unlike a row of dominoes or a set of tenpins, none of them went down. Their outer shell was simply too hard for him to inflict much damage. However, as that first beetle had tilted precariously backward, Angel caught a glimpse of the pale flap of skin under the mandibles, the flap that had expelled the larva. If the Sakorbuks had a tender spot in their armored hides, he was betting that was it.

Two of the beetles attempted to flank him. Angel caught the one on his left with an uppercut, striking directly under the flapping mandibles. Even as the blow landed, Angel flexed his wrist to eject his other stake. He drove it home, right into the center of the pale flap of skin. To his surprise his hand went in as deep as the stake was long and a sound not unlike a walnut in the wooden jaws of a nutcracker prefaced the creature's head ripping free of its broad thorax. It toppled over with one last twitch of its antennae.

Before the beetle on the opposite side could react to the beheading, Angel drove an elbow into its head, rocking it back a step. A roundhouse blow with the stake went into the flap on an angle, but the damage was done. Angel backed up two steps, then launched a wheeling kick that ripped its head off. It fell with a crash.

While Angel fought the adult beetles, the WWF-promoting teenager he'd followed into the sewer waited until his appointed larva was just about to climb up his foot again. Then he launched a preemptive kick. The larva sailed away and slapped against the far sewer wall where it stuck for a moment before oozing down to the floor again. If not dead, at least it was stunned. The boy twisted sidewise and kicked high, managing on the third attempt to kick the larva off the biting boy's face. The biter then attempted to use the same kicking maneuver on the third larva, even as its victim was slowly succumbing to the foam secretion. But the biter was woozy himself, having swallowed or inhaled some of the debilitating foam and his kicks weren't reaching nearly high enough to help the third teen.

Now that Angel had dispatched two of the beetles by exploiting the weak spot in their armored skin, the third beetle protectively lowered its head and charged Angel, ready to wrap him within the grip of its widespread pincers. Angel dropped his remaining stake, jumped high and curled his body, grabbing one antenna in each hand, planting his feet against the beetle's midsection, and using his own weight combined with the Sakorbuk's momentum to take it down, roll it over him, and kick it away. And he never let go of the antennae. The creature's immense weight pulled against the spiny antennae, and they ripped free of its head. It shrieked and thrashed on the floor of the sewer tunnel, then quivered, almost still.

"I love it when they roll over and play dead," Angel said.

The last beetle, the one Angel had originally followed, collapsed on top of him as he lay in the sewer water, attempting to pin him or crush the life out of him. Angel whipped his head out of the way of snapping mandibles, even dodging a hacking, hissing stream of the clear glue-like fluid aimed at his eyes. His right hand swept the floor of the sewer, fingers struggling to get a grip on the stake he'd dropped. Instead he knocked it farther away, completely out of reach. Undeterred, he watched the snapping mandibles, waiting for the exact moment when they clacked shut. With lightning-quick vampire reflexes, his left hand shot out and clamped over them, squeezing and holding them shut. That gave him the leverage he needed to pry the creature's head back just far enough to reveal the vulnerable flap of skin. Angel morphed into full vamp mode. This wasn't going to be pleasant, and he thought he'd face it better as a vampire. "Open wide," he said and rammed his fist into the flap. His arm went in up to the elbow and broke through the other side. His knuckles were coated with green blood and Sakorbuk brain matter.

Angel rolled the dead beetle off him and sprang to his feet. As he passed the quivering, antennae-challenged beetle, he paused just long enough to drive the heel of his boot through the exposed flap. The pincer arms fell back, the head sank into the water, and the creature lay perfectly still at last. Squashing bugs underfoot had never been so much fun.

The third boy in line had finally succumbed to the foam drug secreted by his larva. He slumped against the wall, his mouth gaping open. Well, it would have been gaping if not for the squirming larva bulging out of it. Angel reached in distastefully, slipping a finger into either side of the boy's mouth to get a grip on the glistening, jiggling lump. He squeezed hard until it squirted out of the unconscious teen's mouth into Angel's hands. It wriggled in his grasp, like a greased piglet. Worse, it began to secrete foam all over Angel's fingers. So he dropped it to the floor of the sewer tunnel and slammed his boot down on it. Its skin membrane ruptured, splattering viscous white goo all over.

The last two larvae were making determined progress back to their intended victims, but still a few feet shy. Angel retrieved his knife from the dead gray larva and made short work of slicing the last two right down the middle.

Finally, Angel hacked through the bonding agent that pinned the teenagers' hands to the wall. Only the WWF teenager seemed fully alert. Although he had enough facial piercings to set off even the most forgiving metal detector, his wide-eyed look of fear caught Angel's attention.

"What -- what are you?"

Angel realized he was still in full vamp mode. No doubt the boy thought instead of being rescued he'd simply become prey for something higher up the demonic food chain than hell's own tapeworm. We all have faces we don't show the world, Angel thought. Some are just worse than others.

"What are you?" the boy repeated, edging away in terror.

"Believe it or not," Angel said, "I'm a friend."

The words hardly seemed to comfort the boy. The others began to stir. The larvae's narcotic had probably induced a short-term stupor, incapacitating the victim just long enough for the larvae to squirm down the esophagus and set up shop in the stomach. Angel decided to make himself scarce.

"You should all be okay, considering," Angel said. "But I wouldn't advise loitering down here. I hear there's strange stuff in the sewer."

As he turned away, Angel shifted his features to look human once again, hiding the darkness that lurked within. Never before had his human face felt so much like a mask.


by John Passarella
Excerpt Copyright © 2001 Twentieth Century Film Corporation, Inc. All rights reserved.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Angel: AVATAR. If you have and would like to read more, please ask your local bookseller to order a copy or visit one of the order links listed above.

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