Alice Cadbury crossed her legs as she appraised the young man in front of her. His pop star good looks would certainly help XSWAT with public relations.

Across the desk, Mirko Song felt the sweat trickling along his scalp. Who would have imagined him sitting here with one of the most powerful women in Angelus when less than a year ago he was training to become a monk.

“I’d like to hear your story candidate Song,” Alice said in a motherly tone that seemed at odds with her position and authority.

“Do you want the high points or all of the details Commissioner Cadbury?”

She checked her watch. There was a moment of indecision before she touched the badge on her shoulder, “Lini, hold all my calls unless they are urgent. And let me know when I have 15 minutes before my meeting with the City Councilor.”

Alice returned her gaze to the young man, “I’d like to hear the whole story. XSWAT is a family and we need to know what we are adopting if we take you on.”

Mirko smiled, it was an innocent smile but still dangerous. “I suppose the story doesn’t really start with me. Lidda Song, my Grandmother, was a witch and that seems like a good enough place to start. I mention her because my father has said that he and his brothers are the children of angels. The family legend holds that Grandma Lidda consoled the angel Uriel after the quake that killed so many.” Mirko shrugged. The story seemed far fetched even to him but something supernatural happened to his Grandmother, something that marked his family.

“I don’t think anyone actually means that Grandma and Uriel, umm, you know. I’ve thought about it quite a bit and I think that the angel was moved to tears at the loss of so many mortals. I think Grandma Lidda held him while one of God’s greatest servants wept. The tears of an angel are powerful and the tears of Uriel, the Fire of God and mankind’s guardian angel, are powerful indeed. He may have shed one tear, seven tears, or a number uncountable but Grandma Lidda had seven kids so I like to think that he shed seven tears – one for each of my uncles and another for my father.”

Mirko leaned back into the cushioned chair as he continued his tale. “No one misses the significance of a witch having seven sons. I still haven’t met all of my uncles and cousins yet but I’ve been told they are an interesting lot.”

Mirko wondered if he would ever meet all of his kin? He hadn't met his father until a year ago. Never met any family, except for mom. Heck, he didn't even know he had a family.

“I don’t know my mother’s intentions. I suppose if we had more time together I would have found out, but she was killed when I was eight years old. Tobias, that’s my dad, said that mom seemed perfect until she disappeared but that Grandma Lidda never liked her much. I don’t know,” he said with a non-committal shrug. “Whatever else she might have been she was good to me.”

Mirko took a long drink from the glass. He stared into the reflections of the water for a few seconds lost in the disconcerting thought that his mother was something more than what he ever imagined. She was his rock in this world and yet he had not known her except with the unquestioning love of a child.

“I never knew I had a father. I mean, I know someone had to be my dad but I didn’t know who that person was and mom didn’t talk about him. We had each other and that seemed more than enough. It wasn’t until Conrad started coming around that I ever longed for a father. Mom was afraid of him and I imagined that my father would walk through the door, standing seven foot tall and made of stone, to throw Conrad out. He never did, but I have no doubt after meeting dad that he would have given Conrad a good beating. Anyway, one night things got out of hand. Conrad was always asking me questions. Strange questions about what I saw when I dreamed or what I thought when I saw pictures of Entities. I always wondered why he would show me pictures of creatures sure to inspire nightmares? Heck, I wonder how he even knew what the Entities were much less how he got pictures of them? Anyway, one night he was forcing me to look at more pictures and their were bodies everywhere. I was crying and mother told him to stop. Conrad put the pictures away and told me to go to my room.”

“Mom stopped me in the hallway. She took off her ring.” Mirko held up his hand. Colorful tattoos laced across the tops but it was the silver ring with runes that drew Alice Cadbury’s attention. “This ring,” said Mirko.

“She whispered a few words. I didn’t know it at the time but she was enchanting the ring.” Mirko looked at the runes enameled into the scarlet face of the ring. “I don’t know much about what this ring is or what powers it may possess but the runes are a script that no one seems to understand. It is arcane, I know that much. Grandma thinks the script is angelic.”

“Anyway, back to mom. Conrad and mom began fighting. Then I heard screaming. I went to look, to protect mom, but she saw me and told me to run. She said ‘Hide Mirko. Hide and the ring will protect you. Run away and don’t come back.’”

Mirko slumped in the chair, the weight of running while his mother was killed still sat heavily on the young man. There were few sins that one could never forgive yourself for but leaving your mother at the hands of a monster was ranked in the top slot.

“I ran. I hid. I don’t like to think about the year I spent on the streets. I think it was a year but it could have been more or less – what did I know, I was eight years old. Eventually I got picked up by a police officer. That landed me in the Clearwater Boys Reformatory. I like to think of that place as my first, hopefully last, taste of hell. A boys home is not a place to send young boys.”

“Anyway, just down the street was the Red Flower Monastery. After school I would watch the monks practicing.” Mirko looked up, his golden eyes catching the gaze of Alice Cadbury, “Have you ever watched the monks,” he asked?

“No. That’s a shame. There is a serenity in them that other people don’t have. The temple takes after the tradition of the Young Forest Temple in China where Shaolin Kung-Fu and Buddhism were married into a seamless lifestyle. It is a perfect marriage. Focus of mind, body, and soul on harmony with all things. Western religion has it all wrong. If you don’t include all parts of what makes us human towards the comprehension of the divine than we are doomed to only understand a fraction of it. In the west, schools and seminaries stimulate the mind but leave the body fallow soil where sloth and negligence take root.” Mirko smiled as he blushed, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to lecture.”

“Anyway, from the first moment I saw the monks practicing in the courtyard I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be a monk. After a month of watching and hoping that someone would talk to me I finally received a visitor. Sifu Gyatsu came to the gate. I had seen them watching me so I knew they were aware of my spying. The Sifu invited me into the temple and performed a tea ceremony with me. We talked for awhile and I asked him if I could learn to fight. He laughed at me in that grandfatherly sort of way and told me that the monks learned to live not to fight or kill. He said if I wanted to learn to live that they would teach me but that it would be many years before I would learn to fight.”

“While the rest of the kids in Clearwater learned robbery and thuggery, I stole away time with the monks. They helped me come to terms with my past and to once more begin to look forward to the future. They became my family. I’d be there now, shaved head and all, if it weren’t for an attack on the monastery by an Entity.

“I’ve tried to figure it out. You know, why an Entity would attack the Red Flower Temple and it just doesn’t make much sense.”

Mirko played with the buttons on his coat, running his fingers along the edge of a seam.

“People always try to make things makes sense don’t they? They try to use logic to deduce why the bridge buckled when their children were on it or why the train derails with their wife on board. I think it might be easier for us to swallow if there were some kind of reason rather than simple dumb luck. Everyone wants to believe they are immune to the 'BAMB you're dead' lotto but it just ain’t so and stuff like this cracks the illusion that we are safe and in control of our world.”

“Anyway, some of the elder monks were fighting the Entity but martial arts is not much of a weapon against an intelligent, alien creature the size of an elephant. The creature seemed intent on reaching the dormitories where the children sleep. I could see that they were not going to make it to safety. There wasn’t enough time for them to make it out on to the escape and down the ladder.”

Mirko leaned forward buttons forgotten, “Director Cadbury have you ever known you were going to die. Wait, I don’t mean like the cognitive awareness that some day this Earth will be without your grace but that right here, right now – you are about to discover the afterlife in an up close and personal way? That’s how I felt. I shut the fire door to the dorm and turned to face the Entity with a crowbar that I had found on the ground. I knew that this was futile but if it stopped for a minute then the others would have a chance to get away. I didn’t really think about it much or what that really meant for my long term prospects of becoming a monk. It just happened.”

“About that time Tragen Kos entered the picture. I think you know more about him than me. I am not even sure how he managed to arrive in time but somehow his mystical awareness warned him of the Entity attack. Who knows, maybe he was in the neighborhood taking a walk? Kos told me to run but I was trapped. I could not open the door and I could not sneak past the Entity so I stood my ground while Kos unleashed his wizardly powers.”

“That was the first time I ever saw magic in use. I know mom did magic and now I know that Grandma does magic but this was the magical full monte – fires, planetary emanations, bindings, and all that cool stuff like you see on video walls. It sang to me. I could feel it in my blood. I didn’t realize that others didn’t feel magic the way I did until much later.”

“Where was I? Yeah, the magical assault. Kos had the Entity whipped but there was a second Entity. It was human form and powerful. It got the drop on Kos cause I didn’t realize what it was in time to shout a warning. Suddenly Kos was hurt and this new Entity, the shadow man, was unleashing magic of his own. I got knocked down and dazed in one of the explosions and when I came to the creatures were gone. Kos was alive but barely. I don’t know how he was alive, most of his guts were simply gone. It was horrid. He kept waving me over like this.”

Mirko tried to imitate the wave for director Cadbury.

“Honestly, I hesitated for a moment thinking that he would just give up and die and then I wouldn’t have to watch him pass but he didn’t give up. So, I crawled over to him.”

“Will you grant a mans dying wish?” Tragen asked me.

“The man had died saving me, what the hell could I say? Of course, Master, if it is within my ability.”

“I remember that the wizard closed his eyes. I actually thought he was dead until I heard him whisper, 'Take my hand.' One hand was nearly gone so I took the other, the one he had waved me over with. I felt him press something hot into my palm but then he began to chant.”

Mirko leaned back into the chair. His eyes searching for the words used by the dying wizard.

“I stand with the angels. Raphael commands all before me. Gabriel, the watcher, guards behind me . Michael, the flaming sword stands to my right. Uriel, the vengeance of the holy waits on my right. The cardinal directions are closed and sealed. The five flames of the otherworld surround me.

I call upon the spirits that light the earth and heavens. I call upon the angels to witness my deeds. In the name of the spirits of the heavenly bodies and the emanations of the world spirit I relinquish my powers to this worthy vessel. Let my tasks become his tasks. Let my fate become his fate. Let my powers become his.”

“We were both wrapped in a green-gold light and then suddenly it and the wizard were gone. Kos let out a rattling noise from deep in his chest and I could tell that he was dead.”

Mirko’s hand touched the cold silver metal of the Eye of Horus Amulet, “I found this pressed into my hands and my senses were different. Kos had passed his arcane heritage to me rather than let them fade with him.”

“Dad showed up even before the battle was over. I knew who he was the moment I saw him. Grandma Lidda had felt me in the battle. She said she could feel the spark of angelic blood in me and knew that I was one of hers. I suppose mom never let on that she was pregnant. I know Grandma enough to know that nothing would have kept her from me if she had even a hint that there was a grandson out there. She is protective that way.”

“Dad and Uncle Cornelius made sure everyone was safe and then got me away from the Temple.”

“There isn’t much left to tell. I’ve begun study as a mage with Grandma but it has been slow going. At least it seems that way to me but Grandma says that I am ungodly powerful but ignorant as a duck’s footprint. She also says that our line does not produce wizards, only witches. Dad and his brothers have talents but that is about the extent of it.”

Mirko looked at Alice once more, “I don’t rightfully know what I am. I don’t know where all of the pieces fall together. I do know that I cannot be a monk. Not now. I’ll never be a spell for hire and that leaves me very few other paths. I suppose I could work with Grandma but she warns me to stay away from the Entities. Director Cadbury, they have plagued me all my life – and I am not that old. I’d like a spot on XSWAT. I’d like to make sure that my children know Entities only as fictional bogey men who have gone the way of the dinosaur.”

Mirko sat back just as the comm went off, “Director Cadbury, you have 15 minutes.”

Early the next morning Mirko smiled as he reported to the XSWAT Training facility.

Return to Shadows Angelus II