“We’re at Saint Cyprian’s!” Violet announced. ‘Do you know what that means?”
With a faint hint of hope in my voice, I guessed, “You can get back some of the life force that you lost?”
Violet gently disputed that notion by explaining, “Doctors can’t bring it back. The only way Guardians can get their powers strengthened is if one of our peers gives up some or all of theirs. Well… there is one other way- the Arch Deity can enhance someone’s life force without harming their own. Theirs regenerates itself… unless they give up all of it when it’s time to name a new Arch Deity.”
“Wow, so we have even more cause to find this Arch Deity!” I exclaimed, which made her blush slightly. She saved my life, so I had to return the favor! I put more determination than ever in my desire to accomplish this feat, which prompted me to avidly ask her, “So, you think the Arch Deity could be in this hospital?”
“Maybe,” she answered. “They do a lot of research on new cures and improvements in medicine here. They’re the ones who discovered that the molecules in pharmaceuticals can get cloned and make manufacturing medication a lot cheaper! But ever since then, they’ve struggled to come up with any new developments. Doctor Canenta works out of this place, and he’s the top immunologist in the country, so if he can’t come up with anything, to me, that only means one thing…”
I deduced, “The Fallen are intervening here!” It seemed like the perfect spot for the Arch Deity to position themselves… except… “If the Arch Deity chose this spot, wouldn’t they have expelled all of the Fallen already?”
Violet told me, “Not necessarily. Unless the Arch Deity is the head of HR, they can’t control who gets hired. And they definitely wouldn’t be able to stop anybody from receiving services here! They could try putting up a protective spell, but that doesn’t always work or else Edward would still be alive…” Her face contorted into a guilty expression as that fresh memory’s scar stung her a little.
“His death isn’t your fault! Birsha killed him, and you did everything you could to prevent that from happening, so don’t blame yourself for losing him- blame her!” She appeared to know all that on one level, but that didn’t seem to lessen her pain. I supposed that his demise would probably always haunt her because she took on the responsibility of protecting everyone who worked for her. I felt duty-bound to keep Violet safe, and if something ever happened to her, I would never forgive myself! After giving the matter some consideration, I decided that the best way to handle this situation was to keep her thoughts away from that awful recollection, so I brought her attention back to the task at hand, “The Arch Deity could be here then! Great! Let’s go find them!”
“Wait!” Violet stopped me from climbing the ladder leading out of the sewage system. “We can’t just barge into Saint Cyprian’s as if there’s a wing of the hospital set up for people who want to visit them! We don’t even know what they look like!”
I frowned at this unpleasant realization. She was right; the Arch Deity could have been anyone- any age, any gender, any race, the list goes on! We had no idea who we were actually pursuing! I should have realized that they would be difficult to recognize, after all, it took me forever to find a regular Deity! They blend in so well with the rest of society and purposely make themselves hard to locate. I always wondered why that was until today, and now I couldn’t blame them for not wanting to make their powers known! If the general public learned of their existence, they would bleed their life force dry without a care! I totally understood why they did it, but it became utterly irritating to me right then since it made our job incredibly arduous! “How do we figure out who the Arch Deity is?”
She let me know, “Well, we would have to study everyone’s behavior. A lot of beings like to help one another, especially in the healthcare community, but a Guardian’s desire to save innocent souls goes beyond the ordinary! As the head Guardian, the Arch Deity would show a lot of leadership in caring for people’s well-being!”
“There’s gotta be more to it than that!” I politely objected. “I act like that, and I don’t have any powers!”
“I know! To be honest, I thought you were a Deity at first,” Violet confessed. When she saw my surprised reaction, she clarified, “You have a light in you that I rarely see in anyone who isn’t a Guardian! It’s unusual to meet somebody whose purpose is to help save the world!”
It was my turn to flush in that scenario! Compliments didn’t come to me often! In fact, my boss never praised me for my good work, the only way I would know that I pleased him was if he didn’t criticize my performance! Oh sure, my parents would toss me some accolades when I got the chance to speak to them, but still, I seldom received acclaim for what I did or for any of my favorable characteristics! It felt especially strange to hear admiration from someone I held in high esteem! I suspected that she might elaborate on that statement, but I couldn’t allow that to occur! Not only for the sake of my humility, but I couldn’t let anything distract me from our important mission! I cleared my throat and inquired, “So, other than an elevated sense of watching out for humanity, how else do we distinguish an Arch Deity from a normal being?”
She replied, “The same way you found me- we look for signs of magic.”
“We have to keep an eye out for extraordinary whims of wanting save everyone and signs of spell-work? That sounds like we have to spend a lot of time in the hospital!” I observed. “How can we stay there for so long without getting kicked out? Do we have to give ourselves a serious injury or something?”
“If we hurt ourselves, we’d make ourselves too weak to fight against the Fallen that infiltrated Saint Cyprian’s,” Violet pointed out, which I had to acknowledge as the truth. “We would also be limiting ourselves to one section of the hospital. We need to explore the entire building to see if the Arch Deity is there.” Before I could speculate as to how that would even be possible, Violet stated, “We need a way to blend in so well that no one would question whether or not we belong there, so we need a disguise! We can’t pretend to be doctors or nurses ‘cause they might test our expertise. We need something so low ranking that most people wouldn’t make eye contact with us let alone speak with us…” We both mulled it over for a while…
A small but bustling office was plugging in data on their holographic computers when, all of a sudden, a woman with bright red hair and an obnoxiously hued outfit took several big whiffs of the air and proclaimed, “I think something is burning!”
One of the men declared, “I’ll stop working when you know something is burning!” Seconds later, a flame engulfed part of the wall near the front entrance of that structure! The employees all screamed as the fire alarm blared and the sprinklers went off, and as they all raced out of the backdoor, the red-haired lady gave that confidant man an I-Told-You-So stare, and the man exasperatedly addressed her, “Don’t even say it!”
After they all scrambled out of there, Violet and I rushed in next to the weakening blaze, and as Violet stood watch in the lobby, I zoomed into the supply room. “This feels wrong!” Violet fretfully commented.
“It’s not,” I differed with her as I grabbed the materials we would need for this endeavor. “An old client of mine got caught taking some of this stuff home, that was stealing. We’re bringing it back when we’re done, so it’s really more of a loan.” As I exited that area, I remarked, “Any inconvenience we caused for them will be for their own good in the end!”
“I know,” Violet frowned as we dashed out the door. “It just seems so dishonest! I hope that we don’t have to constantly deceive others for this quest! It may tempt me to the Fallen’s side!”
We snuck out of the hospital’s human resources office and crouched between the cars as we traversed the parking lot. When we got to a fairly secluded section near some trees, I handed Violet some uniform pieces and opined, “That’ll never happen! We’re being secretive, but it’s for an effort to do the right thing! Birsha and those politicians she controls conceal certain truths to do harm to humanity- that’s true deception! Here’s something I learned from defending my cases: not everyone who breaks the law is a bad guy! If we didn’t fight back, we’d be committing a far worse crime!”
Violet straightened out her hairnet as I tied an apron for her, and she sounded less anxious as she admitted, “You’re right! I guess I spent so much time being my real self in Sylph’s Hollow that I forgot I spent so many years pretending to be something I’m not already! I did a lot of snooping and spying back then, and I blended in well in the Fallen’s world…” We switched places so she could tie my knot, and then she went on, “I always worried that I’d go too far and never come back! I came awfully close…”
“But you didn’t cross over!” I reminded her. “You were tested, and you passed! If you did it once, you can do it again! Besides, we might find the Arch Deity today, you’ll never have to do anything like that again!” I checked out my reflection in a car’s window, and the getup altered my visage so drastically that I almost didn’t recognize myself! I laughed, “Wow, they really haven’t updated cafeteria workers’ clothes in the last seventy years! I’m pretty sure I saw an extra in one of Arielle’s music videos that wore something like this!”
“Do I look like a cafeteria worker, or will people still see me as Violet Harlow?” she posed to me.
I turned back around, and even through a less than flattering disguise, she had an attractive appeal to her! Personally, I had never seen a person in this field who bore such appealing features, but I couldn’t disclose that to her! I would have been mortified to have screwed up our shot at saving the planet by creating an uncomfortable circumstance like that! Although she had done some modeling gigs in the past, she had morphed into a successful businesswoman, so she more than likely wouldn’t enjoy getting ogled at anymore! But why was I gawking at her like that though? Yes, I always viewed her as pretty, but I had dealt with lovely ladies previously, and I typically got over my awkwardness fairly quickly. I blamed the rising anticipation of this venture in clouding my judgment, and I rapidly shook off my excitement in order to concentrate on the potential peril we might face along the way. I assured Violet, “Nobody will ever suspect a billionaire is serving them food!” She smiled gratefully, which I had to persuade myself to not savor too much. I couldn’t comprehend why I continued to get entranced in such a manner, but I didn’t have a moment to spare for analyzing this occurrence! I queried to Violet, “Ready to go?” She nodded, and we headed inside of Saint Cyprian’s.
We used the signs that the property had posted to guide us towards the kitchen, but as we passed by the various patients and personnel, we covertly watched their conduct. So far, we didn’t’ witness anything that stood out, and while I logically worked out that we wouldn’t stumble across the Arch Deity at the onset of our operation, I started to wish we could rapidly run into our target because it was obvious that individuals who belonged in our department didn’t customarily take this route! The people we passed gazed up at us in surprise, and I began to grow such doubts about our likelihood of victory that day! All it would have taken was one person to call us out, and it would have been all over! After folks got over their mild shock of our arrival in these quarters, they returned to the business they had in progress, so I strove to convince myself that our masquerade was proving effective. Despite that reasoning, I still inwardly trembled by the precariousness we placed upon ourselves!
When we rounded the corner, we passed by a group of gruffly composed nursing assistants, and something about them gave me the chills! I didn’t believe that a surly expression would have been enough to have that kind of reverberance in my body, it was something about their aura. A lot of staff members showed indications of being in the midst of a long shift, but this group had all the markings of a full night’s rest as well as a filling meal, so for t hem to have a demeanor that conveyed so much animosity meant only one thing to me- they were Fallens!
Violet obviously got the same vibes that I did for she avoided eye contact with them and drifted to the other side of the hall. I mimicked her move, but I could sense that their eyes had gotten locked on us! I prayed that we could go by them without having to interact with anyone in this crew, and for a minute, I reckoned that we were going to squeak by without incident! Right as I was starting to regard that incident as benign, a deep voice from behind us bellowed, “Hey, you two! Get over here!”