They roam among us, human, but not not quite. Healers on the one hand and Ravagers on the other, a Yin and Yang bound to each other in an eternal war. When Kat is ordered to assist the Russian government suppress a Ravager-backed uprising in St. Petersburg, she uncovers a secret that will change how the world sees her kind, forever.
Chapter 2: The Prophecy
Our armored truck rumbles along the bumpy road, swerving from side to side as it avoids the breaks in the road and the piles of rubble gathered in clumps by the collapsed buildings. The city looks like something out of a movie. Entire blocks flattened, abandoned military hardware everywhere, smoke rising from giant gouges in the streets where bombs have gone off or tanks have fired—or even worse, where Ravagers have attacked.
I look over at the soldier seated next to me; he’s one of the American Foreign Corps infantry assigned to escort Cody and me. He has thick armor, a vicious looking rifle, and pockets full of magazines across his chest. And yet, despite his lethal appearance, he looks like the most nervous one here. His hands are wrapped tightly around his rifle, cradling it close to his body, and one of his legs bounces up and down like a jackhammer.
I look at his nametape and at the stripes on his chest. “Specialist Toole, you’re making me anxious,” I say, trying to sound as lighthearted as possible.
He looks over and stops his leg. “Sorry. That obvious?” I nod, grinning. He exhales loudly and looks out the front window, as if expecting his bus stop soon. "I've never been around an Archangel before, and I've definitely never been around a Ravager. It's all just kind of…strange to me, you know?"
"Yeah, I get it," I reply, though his words sting, making me feel like some sort of freak, or like a predator that could jump out and snap at him at any moment.
A sergeant seated beside him leans in and claps his thigh. “She’s just another person, like you, Toole,” he says. “She just has a different set of skills. You specialize in taking lives, she specializes in saving them. We need both. And as far as Ravagers go, they’re just Healers throwing a tantrum. Bullets kill them as good as anything. Just treat Lieutenant Miles like you should, like an officer.”
“Yes, Serge. Sorry, ma’am.”
“No, it’s okay,” I say in an attempt to console Specialist Toole. “It is all kind of weird, isn’t it?”
He gives me a furtive smile, then turns his face back to the ground. "I guess I just don't get this war, you know? Like, how did it all begin?"
I shrug my shoulders. "Well, I think the workers in the western oblasts of Russia have been influenced by European ideals more than the rest of the country, and they felt like they weren't being heard the way they wanted—”
"No, I mean with the Ravagers," he clarifies. "How did Ravagers and Healers get mixed up in this?”
The Sergeant speaks for me before I can answer. “The Ravagers and Healers are always at each other's throats, no matter what war it is. Like in the South Pacific and in Honduras. Not to sound insensitive—and with all due respect, ma'am—but they’re all just proxy wars with us non-irregulars in the middle."
I don't know whether to be shocked or offended by his use of non-irregulars. It's such a brazen accusation with just enough truth in it to bite.
A private first-class across the way pokes his head forward and speaks up for the first time. "Careful, Serge. Remember who you’re talking to,” he says. “She's an Archangel. She’s the only person that can seal in your guts if they're ever inside out."
"Right, I know. And I mean no offense. I respect everything you guys do, it’s just the truth, isn’t it?”
“Have the two sides ever tried to negotiate it out?” Specialist Toole reasons. “Like, come to some sort of truce or an agreement?"
I laugh, as do most of the others in the transport. The Specialist's face reddens and turns downwards. "Oh, no, I didn’t mean to laugh at that," I say, suddenly feeling bad for my outburst. "It's just, you know. The Prophecy?"
"What?" he asks in genuine confusion.
I'm surprised. I thought everyone knew of the Prophecy. "Hundreds of years ago? The Great Healer, Santiago De Los Lobos?"
The specialist’s puzzled look persists, so I continue:
"White and black eternally bound
With only one forsaken crown,
Ever fated to fight and fall
Save one arise to rule them all.
Thus reasons one is more than two
While one less one is nothing, too.
The fettered bond will liberate
The selfless gift remunerate.
Only then can one be more
Only one can win the war."
I notice that the transport has gone silent, and I'm suddenly conscious of everyone’s eyes on me. "Essentially, only one of us can exist in the end. Neither of us survive if both of us remain. That's why we can never just make a truce. And it's up to us, as Healers, to make sure that the good guys come out on top. We never start the wars, but it's our job to stamp out the fires the Ravagers start before they spread and cover the world in flame. And if that means enlisting the help of another country's armed forces, I think it's a healthy price to pay when you take into account how many lives the Ravagers are capable of taking."
My words may have been a little sharper than I was intending, but it seems fair, considering what they’ve already said to me. The Specialist's cheeks turn a deeper red, and the others in the transport, save the Sergeant, look away as if they were never watching.
"Like I said,” the Sergeant mutters humbly, “I mean no offense. I'm sorry, ma'am."