Victoria Stanton and her partner, Shawn O’Brien, hid behind a boulder that lazily rested on the sandy beach with their hearts pounding out of control. Under normal circumstances, the serene scene of the moonlight dancing off the waves of the Waterfront in Cairns would serenade them in a romantic moment that love stories were made of. The breeze coming off the salt water would add to the surroundings, creating an ambiance that ignited many a moment between lovers. However, this moment was something nightmares were made of.
Over the years as an Angel, God had graced them with numerous glimpses of His boundless love and mercy, but what they saw was something beyond unnatural. She looked to be that of a woman in her late fifties, and under normal circumstances they wouldn’t have thought twice about her – but the form inside of her sent chills down their spine. The tall, thin frame of this beautiful woman would normally send out the comfort of a woman who had lived her life and would guide other women through the trials life threw at them, but the form inside the woman marred and mangled anything that got in its way, creating an enigma of unmistakable significance. She was the queen bee of a swarm of evil that had only one thing in mind – to annihilate the Angels. If they succeeded, it would create a void in the world that would allow evil to have a stronghold on the inhabitants of the planet it would never release. It was up to the Angels to keep the balance of power in check.
The pair were the lookout for the American Angels while they went in to rescue two of their crewmembers. This situation was not abnormal since Angels from the various units had crossed paths over the years in regards to missions, but this one was different. This one made the hair on the back of their necks stand on end as a paralyzing terror surged through their bodies. They had never seen or felt anything of this magnitude before, and to know that it was in their backyard horrified them beyond words. How could something have formed and functioned of this immense size and they not know?
“We need t’ get to Hawk an’ warn him,” Victoria whispered in the dim moonlight.
Shawn nodded in response. He wanted to stay as silent as possible. He adored his partner, Victoria, and admired her skill over the years. She could take a man even of Mark English’s size down in a matter of seconds, and it brought a sense of pride to know she was his love.
Victoria gulped and her heart skipped a beat when she heard a stick crack about fifty feet away. She didn’t want to die. She and Shawn had formally begun a relationship only a couple of months ago and the last thing she wanted to do was lose him...or worse yet, the thought of him having to watch her die broke her heart. She didn’t want to imagine the pain either scenario would cause them.
Shawn rested his hands on her shoulders and whispered, “I love you with all my heart. You are a source of strength for me.” Her body shook under his hands. He knew it would take a miracle of God to pull them from the impending doom that surrounded them.
They used themselves as a distraction so the other four Angels could get away. They heard the alarm in the voices of those within the warehouse and instantly knew those inside realized their prisoners had escaped. Shawn sent in a couple rounds through the front window to pull the attention away from the back of the warehouse where he knew the others were making their escape.
Several large men ran out of the concrete hive and made a beeline in their direction. Even though the floodlights were a good hundred yards away, they watched in alarm as a tall fair-haired woman’s eyes shifted to pure black. Their hearts skipped a beat. At that moment, they knew. Time momentarily stopped for the two Angels as their eyes were opened to what was around them. They saw the true form of not only the demon, but also of the legion that possessed her followers.
They bolted for the boat they stashed as a get-away vehicle. It was nestled in the Cairns Wharf, tucked away from any prying eyes. They made it to the waterfront before they heard them closing in on them. While the distance to their escape was not far, it felt like a thousand miles.
“We need to run,” Victoria whispered in response.
Shawn nodded as he looked at the blond-haired beauty before him. Her expressions did not give away a hint of how lethal she could be. She was a walking weapon. Deadly, and a steel core that could freeze even the hottest area in The Outback if she put her mind to it, but now she looked like a scared child. “You have to be strong. We will make it.”
“I love you,” she whispered as she rested her hand on his strong jawline. His reddish-blond hair complemented the freckles that danced across his nose. Only the Angels and those he worked with in the military knew the man before her had killed many men during his lifetime, even though he did it from one to two hundred yards away in order to help others escape. He was the best marksman of the Australian Angels, yet he had a heart of gold. He would do anything for anyone who needed him – that included giving his life.
“You go. Get the boat ready.”
She shook her head in alarm. “I can’t leave you.”
“You have to. I’ll distract them while you run. I want you to run as fast as those gorgeous legs of yours will carry you. Don’t look back. Get to Hawk and tell him. He has to know.”
“What will happen to you?”
“Don’t worry about me. I will either meet you in Heaven or in the Outback.”
She looked at him blankly for a moment as their reality sunk in. He was going to sacrifice his life to get her to safety. “I can’t let you do it.”
He grabbed her face as he held it close to his. “You have to. Only one of us will have a chance. We won’t be able to make it out together. They will get us if we try. Go down Wharf Street until it crosses Spence Street. Turn right. Spence Street dead ends into the wharf. Get out of there as fast as you can and don’t look back. Do you hear me? Don’t look back.”
She heard him, but she shook her head as she felt the color drain from her face. What was he saying? If she did that, then she knew she would never see him on this planet alive again. “You’re not fighting flesh and blood.”
“I know what they are.”
“You won’t survive.”
“But you will. Don’t argue with me about this.”
Victoria leaned forward and kissed him with every ounce of love she had for him. She knew the kiss would have to last them a lifetime. She prayed she would be wrong and that God would protect them as He often did in the past, but there was a feeling of foreboding that churned deep inside her.
He returned the kiss with the love he had for her. He knew what he was doing. He would protect Victoria with everything in his power. He would start as soon as he saw the first one in his site until that was no longer an option. Then he would step into the line of fire. He had to give her enough time to get to the wharf.
“I love you. Now go,” he said, feeling the pit in his stomach wanting to take over his emotions, but he forced it back down.
“I love you too...with all of my heart. May God have mercy on you, my love.”
“God will have mercy one way or another. I am one of His. He will either call me home or allow me to see those beautiful blue eyes of yours once again here on Earth. May He keep you safe.”
“A prayer from both of our lips to God’s ears,” Victoria whispered.
They held each other one last time before Victoria looked around the rock to make sure her way was clear. Not seeing any movement, she bolted toward the road, knowing Spence Street was but a few precious blocks away. If she had to, she would cut through Marlin Parade to get to the dock.
As she ran, she heard the distinct pop of Shawn’s rifle and knew the firefight had begun behind her. The stride of her long legs covered the ground before her as she felt she might have made a mistake leaving Shawn. She remembered his words, “Get out of there as fast as you can and don’t look back. Do you hear me? Don’t look back.”
Massive rounds of gunfire erupted from where she left Shawn. Her stomach lurched when the barrage of gunfire came to an abrupt halt. Tears stung her eyes and her heart skipped a beat. She turned down Spence Street. She knew her lover was sitting in the peace and comfort of The Lord, but how could he leave her there by herself to continue the fight without him?
The wharf. It was in her sights when a horrific sting pierced the back of her right thigh then another bit into her left shoulder. She fell to the ground and skid about five feet, with sand splattering into her face. She spit it out and wiped off her face as she pushed up and ran, creating a cloud of dust around her. The wharf was less than five feet away. She didn’t look back. She didn’t want to know how close they were.
Her feet thumped across the wood of the wharf as adrenaline surged through her body, carrying her further than she would be able to go on her own. With each step, visions of her life flashed before her eyes. God had protected her and granted her many exciting adventures that allowed her to save numerous lives in His name throughout the years. He allowed her to be a part of plans that helped His children out of situations they would not otherwise escape from. She was part of an elite force for not only her government, but, and most importantly, for The King of Kings and Lords of Lords. She took pride in the work He granted her over the years.
Another capsule of searing heat grazed her head. She dropped off the wharf into the water. A peace enveloped her at hearing God’s words clear in her mind, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. You have done well My good and faithful servant. Come home.”
* * *
Casey saw it all. She had no idea if it was real or not, but it felt as strong as the dream she had of Keith, and that turned out to be real. She had to let the others know, but her body didn’t want to cooperate. She pushed until her eyes flew open and she gasped. “They’re gone!” Then, just as quickly, her eyes closed and her head dropped to the side while she lay in Mark’s arms, unconscious once again.
“Who’s gone?” Mark knelt on the ground with her in his arms. When she didn't respond, he scooped her back up in his arms and picked up his pace. He wanted to get her back to camp.
The Colonel had to practically run to catch up with Mark. “She’ll be okay, brother, slow down a bit, eh?”
“She’ll be okay now, but will she be able to weather the incoming storm?”
He stopped short and looked over his shoulder toward the Colonel. “You and I both know it’s coming. It gets bigger day by day. They’re coming for us. I know we can handle it, but is she ready for it?”
“She will be. Trust us to get her ready. Trust God. He hasn’t let us down yet. I don’t think He’s going to start now.”
“From your lips to God’s ears.”
* * *
As the small band walked back into camp, the Angels who stayed behind anxiously stood from where they were sitting around the fire.
“What happened to ‘er?” Harper ran to meet them when he realized Mark was carrying Casey...and worse yet, that she wasn’t moving.
“She jus’ sleepin’,” Ollie assured him. “No worries, she’ll be apples.”
“Meanwhile, we’re hungry,” Hawk said, while the scent of the stew cooking on the fire wafted past him. “How ‘bout gettin’ us some tucker?”
Harper looked up at his commander, baffled and confused. Casey was unconscious, her hair was dripping with sweat, and no one seemed to have a problem with it.
“No worries,” George said, almost reading his thoughts. “Grace look after ‘er.”
Grace immediately headed over to the tent with Mark on her heels, still carrying Casey. When they went in, Mark laid Casey down on the cot and covered her so she wouldn’t get cold from the chilly spring air. “She’s sweating.”
Grace brought over a bowl of cool water and a washcloth. “I do. You eat. Been a couple days.”
“A couple of days?” He looked at her wide-eyed. “It only seemed like hours.”
“More than a couple of hours...it two an’ half days.”
“Yes. Now eat or I get Hawk.”
He smiled as he stood to leave. “No need. I’ll go eat. Take care of her for me, will ya?”
“Of course. Dat why I here.”
He leaned down and kissed Casey’s cheek before he left. He didn’t want to leave her, but he knew Grace would take care of her.
Derek sat down on a log by the fire with the others, while Carson and Grant disbursed the food to those who returned. “Wow! That was wild!”
“We were gettin’ worried,” Carson said, relieved to see them. “It’s been almost three days.”
Hawk raised an eyebrow at him. “Dinkum?”
“‘Strewth!” Harper agreed. “Then ya come back carryin’ ‘er in yer arms actin’ like nothin’ happened.”
“No worries. She in good ‘ands,” Ollie assured him.
“Where are Pete n’ Charlie?” George asked, noticing they were not around.
“Somethin’ came up at yer village. They came an’ got Pete sayin’ somethin’ ‘bout friends a’ his comin’ on a boat,” Grant said. “Sorry, didn’t get it all, but Charlie went w’ him”
“He showed me how t’ make some a’ those ‘recipes’ a’ his before ‘e left,” Harper added.
“Ya showed the others, right?” Hawk asked. “Does Jack Newton swim in circles?”
“Good onya!” Hawk patted his shoulder. “I knew you were a good bloke.”
George took a bite of his bread. “Pete good too.” “Yeah, his blood’s worth bottlin’,” Harper agreed.
After a few minutes Hawk asked, “So, have we heard anythin’ from the others lately?”
Carson nodded. “Yep. Fletcher flew in yesterday. He was only here for a couple hours before ‘e flew back out.”
“What did ‘e say?”
“Well,” Carson said as he sat on the ground, resting his elbow on his knee while he stirred the stew with his other hand, “They know ‘bout Hunter Morgan. They’ve identified the body.”
“Do they know what happened?”
“They’re peggin’ it a suicide.”
“What about r’ other friends?”
“They’re still chasin’ their tails t’ find out what happened t’ them.” He nodded toward the American Angels.
“Have we heard from Stanton an’ O’Brien?”
“No. Not yet.” He shook his head. “Not since that night, but we’re keeping an eye out for ‘em. But you’ll be happy to know that Parker an’ Peters r’ home n’ hosed.”
“Good.” Hawk nodded, dwelling on the men and women who worked for him. He was concerned about not hearing from Stanton and O’Brien, but he knew they were in God’s hands and he had to trust that God would take care of them. “Find out where they are. I want to know. If they are on another assignment, that’s fine, but something doesn’t feel right. We should have heard somethin’ by now.”
“Make it a top priority.”
The Angels throughout the world had done a lot of work over the years, and many were lost in battle. Only the Aussies had their full crew of ten. While there were some narrow escapes, they hadn’t lost one in over thirty years.
* * *
While the others talked by the fire, Grace wiped Casey down, quietly humming an Aboriginal song her mum had sung to her as a young child while she thought through the horrible visions she saw in the hut. While she never got used to it, the insight she often gained boggled her mind. What goes on during dreamtime forces people to take a good, hard look at their life, enabling them to see things from a different perspective.
Casey’s dreamtime was different from anything Grace had ever experienced. The man in white was strong and powerful. The authority he spoke with was not his own. She wanted to know more. She wanted to know why, with the Angel speaking in the name of ‘The Almighty One,’ the demon was forced to release the girl. And, how would three men praying create such a power behind the sword that made it so strong, it allowed the Angel to disintegrate the trio on contact. It was a comfort to her to know the words from praying hearts held so much power.
She made a decision right there to ask one of the three about it after dinner. She knew she would have to be clever in how she did it though – she didn’t want anything to seem improper or inappropriate in the eyes of George and Ollie. This, however, was something she had to do. She had to know.
* * *
“We need t’ work on gettin’ you people out of here,” Hawk said as he ate his beef stew, damper bread, and water – his mind working overtime.
The Colonel shook his head. “Not until she’s up to good health. If we have to fight or run, I want her healthy. We’re safer to get her strength up here than we would be out in the real world. We’re also going to have to do more in-depth training with her. I want her to be able to defend herself.”
Hawk nodded in understanding. “Yer gonna want big n’ burly o’er there healthy too, yeah?”
Mark narrowed his eyes at Hawk regarding his new nickname. He had worked with these men for years, but this was the first time they actually called him ‘big n’ burly.’
The Colonel nodded. “That would be preferred.”
“How come I’ve been granted a nickname all of the sudden?” Mark asked, using his bread to sop what was left of his stew. “I’m not used to having that type of nickname. It’s kind of a slam.”
“We’re not used t’ ya being hulked up w’ us either,” Harper pointed out.
“We understand why, though. Ya got a valid reason,” Marshall interjected. “She’s a beauty.”
“Thanks...I think.” Mark wasn’t sure if he followed the conversation. He struggled as they pulled more Aussie lingo than normal. He had to guess at over half of the conversation.
Carson saw the confusion on his face, so in order to set his mind at ease, he said, “No worries, it’s all good.”
“You need us ‘ere?” Ollie asked. “We go?”
“If you guys could have Grace watch ‘er ‘til the mornin’ we’d appreciate it. That way English can get some rest.” Hawk glanced over at Mark. “I think ‘e feels more comfortable w’ Grace watchin’ ‘er than the other guys.”
“Only because she’s a woman,” Mark clarified. “Casey and I both have full confidence in you guys, but...”
Harper held up his hand, cutting off Mark. “We get it. No worries.”
“Will that work?” Hawk asked.
Ollie nodded in agreement. “We go in da mornin’.”
The Colonel rested his hand on Ollie’s shoulder “Please accept our sincere thanks and appreciation to you and your tribe for your help. You guys have done a lot for us and we’re strangers to you. We appreciate it.”
Ollie’s white teeth glowed in the firelight with a peaceful smile, as he said, “We knew you come. We jus’ waitin’.”
Derek furrowed his brow in confusion. “You knew we were coming?”
“Had dream ‘bout it couple days before. Is normal.” He waved him off. “We jus’ needed t’ wait.”
“Well, guys,” Mark said as he stood from the log by the fire, handing his empty bowl and tin cup to Carson. “I’m still tired. I’m gonna hit the hay. Anyone mind if I sleep on the cot next to Casey?”
The Colonel refilled his own bowl as he said, “I would appreciate it if you slept on the cot next to Casey. Then I know she’s being looked after.”
“You guys can sleep in my tent if you want to,” Mark offered Ollie and George. “Not as comfy as your bed at home, I’m sure, but it’s a roof over your head.”
“We do. Thank you,” Ollie said in appreciation.
“Thank you guys. There is no way I can repay you for everything you have done for me and Casey.”
“Wit’ da work you do, debt already paid.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Ollie thought for a minute about how to word his statement before he said, “Yer dreamtime, Casey’s dreamtime, an’ da visions we had in r’ own dreamtime showed us yer true missions.”
Hawk’s heart skipped a beat, but he tried to play it off until he knew more. “Don’t know what ya mean, mate.”
“It’s okay. We know,” Ollie assured them, trying to set the men at ease.
All the men sitting around the fire froze. They wondered how much these strange little men knew about them and their work over the years. If they even knew a portion of it, it could paint a target on them that could put their entire tribe in danger.
“No worries,” George said, reading their faces. “Jus’ Ollie n’ me know. We not tell. Secret safe.”
“Jus’ how much do ya know?” Hawk challenged.
George and Ollie glanced at each other before they looked each man steadily in the eyes. Ollie said, in probably the clearest he had yet to speak since his arrival, “Yer actions as Angels r’ known. We admire yer hearts n’ valor. Yer missions ‘r never easy, but w’ yer faith n’ prays you reach many. While ya may not win all da battles, you will win da war. Yer side is stronger den anydin’ da enemy can give.”
The men stared at him, stunned. They didn’t know what to say.
“What...how...?” Mark sat back down in shock.
Ollie chuckled, tickled by their reactions. “No worries.”
“Are you followers of Christ?” Derek bluntly asked. He was tired of the cryptic messages. He wanted the bottom line.
Ollie nodded. “Drough Pete, we know. He bring back many stories so we test.”
“And?” Derek pushed.
“George n’ I are, yes. Not many know.”
Derek nodded, satisfied with his answer. If their tribe mates knew, they might have difficulty within their tribe, or at the very least be taken down from the status of elder. As long as their secret was kept, they could lead the tribe with God’s guidance.
They sat there quietly for a few more minutes before Mark got up and went to the tent. He didn’t understand what was going on, but that was nothing new. He only knew what he needed to know – nothing more, nothing less. All he was required to do was to obey and follow the orders passed down to him, whether they were from the Colonel or from God. The two were never in contradiction, so he always knew he was working with the right people. He thanked God for the opportunities He gave him over the years.
When he walked into the tent, Grace looked up from washing Casey. She finished Casey’s legs and was in the process of washing her arms. She kept Casey’s sarong on and she only washed what was exposed.
“You ok?” Grace asked in concern. He looked exhausted.
“Just tired,” he said, sitting down on the cot. “How’s she doing?”
“Okay.” She glanced toward Ollie and George to make sure they were distracted before she turned toward Mark and asked, “Can I talk?”
“Yes. Is okay, yes?”
“Yeah, sure. Why wouldn’t it be?”
Mark watched her for a moment as she nervously glanced at where the men sat around the fire, and then turned back to him. He crossed his arms, studying her. “What do you need to ask me?”
She was slightly taken aback by the way he asked the question. It was as if he knew she specifically needed to talk to him.
“In da dreamtime, Casey’s?”
“Dat man was powerful, no?”
“His words, dey hold power, no?”
“Yes.” He nodded, praying silently for clarity and direction. He was having a hard time following her questions. As important as this conversation was, he wanted to make sure he understood her words.
She looked down, thinking for a moment. Oh, how she wished Pete was there to help her talk to him. If he was there though, she wouldn’t have the opportunity to ask at all. She glanced back toward the men around the fire before she looked back to Mark and asked, “Dat man glowed. He was stronger, no?”
“You dree helped, no?”
“Why ‘e stronger den da other one? Why da ugly one let ‘er go at just ‘is words? Why power wit’ yer prays?”
Mark took a deep breath, praying for the right answers. “Angels have power – they get it from God, the Almighty One. They get stronger, though, when the saints are down on their knees in prayer, taking the authority granted to them by Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross.”
“He no dead, no more?” she asked, confused.
Mark was tired and in pain, but this was important so he pushed himself. “The simplest way I can explain this is to spell it out. So, bear with me, this could take a while.”
She nodded in understanding. At this point, she didn’t even care if George or Ollie saw her, she needed to know. She needed to understand what happened in that hut and she knew this man would help her.
Mark sat her down and explained what is known as ‘the ABC’s of Christianity.’ He explained what happened regarding Adam and Eve’s sin, and how that sin created the reason Christ needed to come in the first place. When they disobeyed God, it created a break in the communication between God and man.
Then, he rolled it into the birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Once the communication was broken, the only way to God was through a blood sacrifice. It had to be a sacrifice of a perfect lamb, one who did not have a spot or blemish. In order to fix the communication there had to be bloodshed. Since Jesus was the only perfect ‘Man,’ it was only by His blood that the communication could be restored. He shared John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” And also, Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
Afterward, he ended with Christ’s second coming in Revelation. He used First Thessalonians 4:16 – “For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven, with a commanding shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”
While this information was new to her, it made complete sense. She felt bad that it took Mark hours of the precious sleep that she knew he needed, but she was grateful that he explained it. She was so excited about the story that it took all she had to wait and finish listening before she jumped at the chance to pray, asking Jesus for forgiveness of her sins and to accept His gift of Salvation.
As they talked and prayed, the men around the fire felt the Spirit swirling around them, and one-by-one they began to pray. They prayed for courage, strength, power, and for the Spirit to rain down on their little group. While they prayed, they realized what was happening less than twenty feet from them and prayed for Grace. By the time Grace and Mark were on their knees in prayer, the men had wandered into the tent and were laying their hands on Grace’s head and shoulders, praying for her and her new life with Christ.