Simon Pulse ~ MAR 2001
$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.
—The Watcher's Web
Back Cover Text
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....
by John Passarella
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: http://www.passarella.com/angel.htm Thank you!
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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