pastel angel
chapter two: gabby
      By the next morning, Mitch had convinced himself it had all been a horrible dream. He managed to sustain the illusion by having his clock-radio set to an all-music station, not turning on the television, resolutely not looking at the headlines in the newspaper dispensers, and drowning out the conversations of his fellow bus passengers with a personal stereo.
      He even managed to get through the first two hours of work at Valley Plastics, simply because it was too noisy to talk on the shop floor. But all good things come to an end.
      As Mitch entered the cramped break room, he was waved over by Hazim Mutik, the closest thing to a friend he had at this job. The Somali-born man had been an English teacher in his homeland, and had only a slight accent.
      "Have you seen today's newspaper?" Hazim asked. "Is this not truly the age of wonders?" He held up the front page for Mitch's perusal.
      MONSTER ATTACKS DOWNTOWN! blared the headline. MYSTERY GIRL SAVES DAY! There was a fairly good picture of the octopus-thing, and a couple of blurred shots of Pastel Angel Pink. Below the fold was the usual world and national news; a small "extra" section had more on the incident.
      Mitch figured he'd have to get a copy, if only to see how wrong the press had gotten things. Certainly the "artist's rendition" of Pink on the front of the extra section bore only a vague resemblance to the girl he'd seen yesterday.
      "Well..." he ventured, "It certainly is strange. What do you think?"
      "Definitely an American girl," Hazim declared. "No proper young lady would expose herself so."
      "I think she'd look better in something skimpier myself," drawled Archie, a burly loading dock worker, who didn't notice Mitch's slight reddening.
      That earned him a cuff from his working partner, Tom. "That chick is clearly a minor, dude. You got a thing for little girls?"
      "Naw, I just think all good-looking girls should wear less. Now, fat broads, they can cover up."
      "It is a coverup," said Shaver, a pale fellow with a lot of tattoos. "The government was testing some kind of new weapon on civilians, probably a hallucinatory gas, and this is the puppet media's attempt to conceal the facts."
      Mitch chuckled. "You are so full of it, Shaver. Weren't you the one who claimed X-Files was a disinformation campaign to confuse people about the evil Deros from the hollow interior of Earth?"
      "It's true, I tell you, all true!" As the probably paranoid lathe operator ranted, everyone else's conversation turned to the previous day's Twins game. The consensus was that the team would be lucky to make it to the playoffs this year, unless the pitching got better.

      It was a weary Mitch who returned to his apartment building that afternoon. Not so much tired from work, as from holding in his secret. he walked up the worn steps to the red brick building, and bid Mr. Hernandez a good day.
      Mr. Hernandez grunted in reply, and continued staring at the ceiling. "I heard rats."
      "Oh joy," replied Mitch. "Time to lay out the traps again."
      He trudged up to the second floor, noting that the yellow wall paint was peeling again. Mitch put the key in the lock of door 23, opened it--and had something fall on his head.
      Something warm, furry and alive! "Ahgh! Getitoff!" Mitch screamed as he flailed his arms. The thing obligingly hopped off his head, and Mitch got a good look at it. He immediately wished he hadn't.
      He'd heard about 6-inch-long rats from time to time, but hoped never to see one. Yet here one was, alive, eyes glittering, and for some reason dyed a bright lime green, in his apartment. Mitch made a choking noise low in his throat and reached for the broom he'd conveniently left near the door.
      Surprisingly enough, the animal did not bolt, even when Mitch lifted the broom. Instead, it said (in a voice uncannily reminiscent of Gabby Hayes) "Now just hold on a second, sonny! 'Taint no call fer using that thing on me!"
      The broom slipped from suddenly nerveless fingers, bapping Mitch lightly on the way to the floor. "Y-you talked. A talking rat?"
      "I ain't no rat! I'm a Guide Spirit!"
      "A Spirit Guide? Like in those Castaneda books, with Don Juan and all that mystic mumbo-jumbo?"
      The rat took a deep breath. "No, idjit, a Guide Spirit! Klintara sent me."
      That would explain a lot, Mitch thought. "'re a Guide Spirit. Who happens to look like an oversized rat."
      "Consarn it! I'm s'posed to be a wolf! Must not have been one available. Never a lupine around when you need one..." Amazingly enough, the rat had facial expressions, and Mitch was beginning to be able to read them. "Anyhoo, I'm here to guide you."
      "Guide me where?" asked Mitch, starting to forget that he was talking to an animal.
      "Not where, perzactly, so much as how. I'm to guide you in your role as a Pastel Angel."
      Mitch felt a nauseated boiling in his guts. "You can forget about that! I'm not turning into a girl again for anything! You can just haul yourself back to Klintara and tell her I quit! She can have her powers back, thank you very much!"
      "Cain't do that."
      "And why not?"
      "Because, you sorry excuse for a hero, once an entity from the Angel World fuses with a body, it stays with that body till it's dead! Pink's stuck with you fer the duration!"
      "Don't you mean I'm stuck with Pink?"
      The rat cocked an eyebrow. Rats have eyebrows? asked a small part of Mitch.
      "I reckon you could put it that way. Sit a spell and I'll give you the rundown."
      Mitch slumped down, leaning against the closed door. "Go ahead then."
      "Now, there's a lot of stuff I cain't tell you right now, but there's three worlds we gotta concern ourselves with. The Human World, that's you folks, the Monster World, and the Angel World. The Human World is between the Monster World and the Angel World, and the Monsters want to conquer the Angels, so they've gotta take over your world first."
      "As a staging area, right?"
      "Right. Now, fortunately for y'all, the Monster World can only open portals to the Human World during a short period of time every centorm or so."
      "Centorm? What's that in Earth years?"
      "Dinged if I know. Figger it out later. Anyhoo, for this period of time, they're going to try to get over here to build a permanent portal so they can take over. The other fortunate thing is that they have to do it right around this locality. Which means that we can concentrate our forces here too."
      Mitch's eyes narrowed. "'Our forces'? You mean more guys are gonna get suckered into this?"
      "Hold on a minute, Sonny! Pink coulda never gotten into your body, lessen you were willing! But you weren't susposta be the one getting her."
      "The girl. The one I pulled into the alley. She was supposed to be your warrior, wasn't she?"
      The rat shrugged. "Prolly. I wasn't there. But we try to get host bodies that are close to the spirit."
      Mitch thought of another point. "And why host bodies, anyway? Couldn't you just come here like the Monster World people do, or will?"
      "Cain't. Our energy levels are too high. That's why the Monster World wants the Angel World. It'll be like a never ending power source for them. In order to function at all, we need a local body to link with, so we don't just burn whatever we touch.
      "And the Pastel Angels are so powerful, it'd be like touching off a whole shack of nitro next to an oil well. That's why you turn into a girl, by the way."
      "Pink is so powerful that she can change your body to make most efficient use of her abilities. While she's dormant, you can't use any of her powers, so she lets your body go back the way it was."
      Mitch felt more than a little uncomfortable. "If she can control how my body looks...can she control my mind?"
      "Well, she can certainly influence your behavior, while she's active, but she cain't take you over. That'd be a violation of her honor. And Angels take their honor pretty personally."
      "That's a relief, I guess. But--"
      The rat's hackles suddenly rose. It hissed angrily.
      "There's another one a'coming! We gotta go stop it!"
      "What we, kemosabe?"
      "Right now, you're the only combat-grade Angel on the planet! Quick, summon Pink!"
      "And if I refuse?"
      "Then a whole bunch of innocent folks are going to die, for starters!"
      Mitch couldn't really argue with that, so he sighed and said, "Angel Rising!"
      Once again all his senses drowned in the feeling of power, and this time he recognized it as Pink awakening. In the process he rose off the floor and to the center of the room, giving his wings room to appear.
      When the light show stopped, he looked around and said, "Damn!"
      "What?" The rat seemed taken aback.
      "How the heck am I going to get out of here without being seen?" Then Mitch remembered that his bedroom window looked out on a blank wall. There was still some risk, but it might work.
      He opened the window and began to squeeze through. His smaller girl's body helped, but the enormous wings didn't.
      "Wait such a second, Pink, I gotta go with you!" cried the rat.
      "I am not going to carry a rat."
      "I ain't no rat!"
      "Oh, very well." Mitch had never liked animals much, even growing up on a farm, so he was uncomfortable as the lime green creature scuttled into his arms. Especially as it stuck its nose between his breasts.
      "Sorry, Pink! Let's go, time's awasting!"

      Mitch's flight was a bit more wobbly this time, the power seeming to be giving him more room to handle things on his own, and the squirming thing in his arms didn't help.
      So it was a good five minutes before they got all the way over to the State Fairgrounds.
      Fortunately, this being spring, the Fairgrounds were mostly empty, with only a skeleton maintenance crew and security guards, both of whom it appeared had done the smart thing and hid.
      The Monster looked like a cross between a calico housecat and a canary, if both of them were blown up to twenty feet tall and equipped with a spider's spinnerets.
      The creature was busy tearing down buildings in a straight line and covering them with its web-like excretions.
      "That is really disgusting looking. Well, what now, O Guide?"
      "Be careful, Pink. The Monster you faced before was the weakest of their forces."
      "That figures. Well, I'm gonna drop you off here, Gabby."
      "Hey, if you get to call me 'Pink'..." and Mitch set the rat on the roof of the Swine Barn.
      Once again he rose into the air, and words came unbidden to his lips. "Creature of noisome fluids! You defile a place of joy and heritage with your presence! Begone, by the power of Pastel Angel Pink!"
      I have really got to hire a dialogue coach, thought Mitch as the creature suddenly took to the air itself. Okay, what kind of weaponry do I have? Peach Blossom Hurricane, and what else?
      The power swelled.
      "Mists of Sleep!" A pink fog began to drift from Mitch's wings, which evidently was meant to make the creature sleepy. The only problem was that while he'd been accessing the attack, the Monster had gotten above him, and its own yellow wings were creating a wind that shredded the pink cloud.
      The creature cawed in triumph like a ten ton crow, then dived at Mitch.
      He dodged easily, and it took a few moments for the Monster to correct its flight vector.
      Okay, it's less maneuverable than I am. And that means... Mitch had his plan. He let the creature get a little closer, then took off towards the midway.
      "Nyaah, can't catch me!" he shouted, and noticed that it actually seemed to understand that it should get angry. It sped up, and it was all Mitch could do to evade its claw swipes.
      Despite his danger, Mitch was starting to get into this. He'd always envied birds and pilots for the freedom of flight, and now he had it, and was using it.
      At last the midway was below them. Most of the rides and booths were on the road or shut down for the season, but the roller coaster was a permanent fixture.
      Just a little bit more... "Your mother was related to your father and your breath stinks!" Mitch taunted, letting the Monster get just a little bit closer--
      Then he dived between the supports of the roller coaster. As he'd hoped, the creature was unable to slow down and plowed right into the structure. The coaster began to collapse, pinning the Monster temporarily to the ground.
      That was all Mitch needed. He span in place, screamed "Peach Blossom Hurricane!" and the rose-hued cyclone did the rest. The creature disappeared just as the first one had.
      He noted that once again his power was beginning to fade. Evidently the PBH took a lot out of "Pink".
      Mitch flew back to the Swine Barn, scooped up Gabby, and left the Fairgrounds.

      Mitch was almost back in the window when "Pink" faded entirely, causing him to lose his balance and nearly fall out again. "Aggh!"
      "Take ten, sonny. You earned it."
      "Thanks, Gabby. Y'know, you're not such a bad sort for a rat."
      "And stop calling me a rat, dadgummit!"


Next time: Meet a new Pastel Angel! She's exactly what you'd expect...or is she? Be here for "Blue"!

Copyright reserved 1998 Scott Jamison []

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