Time: Before the final scene of Hell for the Company
Ness checked the shop numbers on either side of the street and conceded he was lost again. It had all looked so easy on the map, but somehow the nice, orderly lines of streets didn’t translate to walking the route. Spatial translation issues. It was why he’d been a simple angel foot soldier and not a pilot.
Admitting temporary defeat, he found a concrete divider wall on which to perch, out of the way of foot and small vehicle traffic, and pulled out the little bag Ivana had given him. Jellied candies for his excursion, she had said, so he had something to snack on. He supposed he could pull up the holo map on his wrist com, but Verin had told him to avoid doing it in public. Looking lost made you a target.
Verin had also told him to keep his “big-ass wings” under his coat, and compliance was becoming rather hot and itchy.
“What’s wrong with your back?”
Startled by the high-pitched voice, Ness glanced around and finally down to find a small person glaring up at him. “My…? Oh. Nothing’s wrong with it.”
“It’s all lumpy.”
“Yes.” Ness turned before he could stop himself for a quick glance over his shoulder, as if he could see his own back. “Those are my wings.”
The small person took a step closer, face shadowed by a deep hood. “Do your wings got feathers?”
“Feathers. Mine got, er, have feathers.”
The person pushed back her hood, revealing thick black curls and a cunning cherub face. “Angels I’ve seen don’t keep ‘em all covered up.” She climbed onto the wall, a rather laborious process during which Ness couldn’t figure out whether to offer help or not. “And your coat and shit is all black leather. You look more like a pirate.”
“I suppose I am an angel pirate now. More or less.” Ness held out the bag. “Jelly? They’re cinnamon flavored. A little hot, but not bad.”
“You’re a really weird angel,” the little girl pronounced, though she happily plunged her hand into the bag and came up with three jellies. “So what’re you doing here, looking all lost and shit?”
“Does your mother know you use those words?”
The girl shrugged. “She’s dead. So I’d say probably not.”
“Oh.” Ness chewed slowly on his jelly. Did he say he was sorry? She was so matter-of-fact about it, perhaps she wouldn’t welcome that either. “I’m, ah, looking for something.”
“What’re you looking for?”
“Er…” If he admitted to being lost…but she didn’t seem dangerous.
“C’mon, I can probably help. You know, payment for the candy.”
“I’m looking for sulfur.”
“Yes. It’s a mineral, often yellow and—”
“I know what it is, you big twit.” She rolled her eyes. “What the hell do you want it for?”
“Oh. My friend needs it, for medical purposes. I thought I knew where the shop was, but I seem to have turned myself around. Badly.”
“Huh. So you gots demon friends?”
“How do you know—never mind. I’m sure you see all sorts of people in this city. I don’t suppose you could tell me where Minerva’s is? Where I’m supposed to buy the sulfur?”
She jumped down from the wall, dusting off her hands. “I’ll take you, Mr. Angel Demon Pirate.” She took his hand and turned him to walk back the way he had come. “And you can buy me lunch.”
“Can you read maps? Don’t you find them confusing?” Ness asked after they walked a block and a half, her little hand warm and comforting in his.
She tilted her head back to glance up at him, forehead wrinkled. “You really are a weird ass angel.”