As Roy Mendez stumbled out of Hell and sucked in the first breathable air, setting off a racking cough, he had a vague awareness that the hands of an angel were half-carrying him. He knew very little else at that point. He had been far from the door and completely disoriented when the flames ripped with unnatural speed through the offices he had been searching. Without his unknown benefactor’s help, he would never have stood a chance of reaching the exit.
The heat from the structure faded only a little as his rescuer dragged as much as led him away from the building, but it no longer seemed to be baking him alive. The hands eased him down onto blessedly cool concrete in the parking lot with care.
“Ja… Jack…,” he croaked, then succumbed to another coughing fit, his lungs desperate to expel the smoke. At last he rasped, “P… partner… still… inside.”
Radio calls had been coming through his mini unit since the moment the first flames appeared. He could hear other officers calling for the fire department, and calling for Jack and him. The calls had grown desperate as the ordeal went on.
The flames lit up the unimaginable amount of sweat pouring off him onto the concrete like gushing blood, and cast sharp shadows of himself and the person bending over him.
In shocking contrast to the powerful arms that had carried him, the reply was feminine, and gentle. “He is dead or escaped, Officer. No life remains within the building.”
Her voice had a foreign flavor to it, a latin lilt with crisp, light consonants. He forced himself to roll over and blinked through blurred vision, squeezing the smoke out of his eyes to stare up at his rescuer, crouching beside him.
She looked back at him for just a moment, then declared, “You must rest yourself. Relax, officer.”
With that, she stood up and regarded the fire. In the early hours after midnight, it would normally have been too dark to see her, but the raging fire lit her face clearly. Crystal blue eyes set in honey colored skin peered out from the space between veil and hood. Tresses of blond hair had snuck out from under her head covering, betrayed by their light color against the black cloth. She fully covered herself with that color, except for her eyes.
Even her sword scabbard, hanging from a jeweled belt, where she rested a gauntleted hand, was primarily in black. The outfit somehow combined the appearance of a Middle Easterner and a Ninja to become a martial interpretation of an Arabic woman’s attire.
Her head jerked around, toward voices shouting in the distance. Markhov and Johansen were calling out Roy’s and Jack’s names while searching for them. His mind had only begun forming questions when she returned her gaze to him. Her eyes becoming wide and fierce as she spoke words in a language he did not recognize. His memory of her and his questions blurred and faded, as consciousness grayed away.