Magic is in the air, and it makes the rules. Teenagers Gabe Common and his girlfriend, Millie Themmes, have settled in Angels Camp, California. As a high school dropout with little education and no future job prospects, Gabe is forced to work as a sideshow attraction with Millie at his side. They spend their days taking people on airborne excursions, and Gabe longs for some stability in his life.
However, all things have to change, and change they do when the magic returns with a vengeance. As with Chumsville, their former residence, most of the citizenry of Angels Camp disappear with no rhyme or reason, leaving only fifteen survivors behind. And the changes from human to something else happen once more, this time with frightening speed.
An old friend, Gil Perkins from the FBI arrives as a liaison, and then the army takes over. However, they have another plan in mind, and they imprison Gabe and the other survivors and use them as guinea pigs, trying to copy their powers.
Gabe needs answers, and the answers lie in Chumsville, a small community in South Dakota. He and his friends stage a breakout and make a perilous journey back to where it all started. Once there, Gabe and Millie learn the secret of why the magic happened and have to fight for their very survival.
September 7th, present day, Angels Camp, California
On this cool autumn morning, Gabe Common had already gotten up, made breakfast for himself and his boss, Mike Hartwell, and cleaned up the tiny space in the trailer where they lived. In addition, he’d brushed off the lint from his wings. Long, white and feathery, they needed to look good as well as be functional. An old line he’d heard once—it is better to look good than to feel good—echoed in his mind.
For his job as a flight manager, he needed to look as well as be the part. Flight manager—the verbal linguistics made him laugh. A person could use all the fancy words they wanted. In plain, simple English, he flew people around for a living.
As he fussed around the small trailer, he recalled his manager’s words. Hartwell had been wolfing down his bacon-and-eggs combo only twenty minutes ago. A short and stocky man in his forties, he usually said very little, but waxed enthusiastically about the food. “You’re a damn fine chef, kid. You should turn pro.”
Never mind Gabe had been cooking the meals for the last two months. Never mind he felt hemmed in by this existence. Never mind...
A little humility was in order, so he offered, “Nah, I just like eating, that’s all.”
And now the time had come to get a move on. Gabe peered out the window. A stretch of green, grassy field surrounded by a forest lay before him. The sky, a clear azure blue, waited. Soon he’d be up there, twisting and turning under the warm sun. While he didn’t know exactly how fast he could go, he estimated his velocity to be in the eighty-mile-per-hour range and more, if he pushed himself.
“Hey, we’re go in five minutes!”
Hartwell’s commanding voice cut through the metal walls. As the owner of the Angels, a popular ride service for those who wanted to soar among the heavens and who willingly paid one hundred dollars for a ten-minute ride, he demanded punctuality and always got it.
Gabe peered out the window again. A large cardboard sign sat a few yards away from the trailer. Seven feet in height and five in width, it read: Soar with the Angels. He stared at it while mentally counting down the seconds before his boss yelled again. Sure enough, he heard the cry. “Are you listening?”
“I hear you!”
Yeah, we fly. Mike takes his cut while we perform like trained animals.
The only difference was animals got paid in food. Gabe and his girlfriend, Millie Themmes, who also had wings, got paid considerably more in cold hard cash, but it still didn’t seem like a very cool business to be in.
No, strike that. What was the proper expression to use? Oh yeah, it came to him—the terms mind-deadening along with stultifying stood out.
However, opportunities for gainful employment for seventeen-year-old high school dropouts were few and far between. A person had to take what they could get. He took another peek outside. About twenty customers had already made their appearance. They walked over to the sign, chatting quietly amongst themselves.
A few of them smoked, carelessly tossing away their cigarette butts. Would they have done that in their homes? Doubtful, but it wasn’t his position to complain.
Another cry came from outside. “Four minutes!”
Gabe resisted tossing off a snarky reply. Instead, he called out, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be there.” He stepped outside and spotted a few familiar faces. Having lived in Angels Camp only a couple of months, he hadn’t met many people, sparse though the population was. Estimates had it at around four thousand people.
Making the acquaintance of the locals entailed the usual questions about his wings, altitude and speed capabilities, going to the bathroom, and some other questions that verged on the obscene. Patience was needed, but it took everything he had at times not to clobber the idiots when the questions went into the realm of ultra-personal.
The internet wasn’t much better, as it had certain sites that preached about the dangers of the Changed. Gabe was one of the Changed. He capitalized the C in his own mind, as it seemed to fit him and others like him.
Site names like Mutants Begone and Humans for Humanity were among the most venal, offering everything up from conspiracy theories by the government to certain non-Christian religious groups taking over. The one thing they had in common—hatred.
We do not fear these beings read one site’s credo. We despise them, as they think themselves above us. If we had the ability to rid the world of them, we would.
“Pretty rotten of them,” Millie had commented somewhat nervously when he’d shown her the information. “They’re not going to come here, are they?”
In order to allay her fears, Gabe had offered a noncommittal shrug as he shut off the laptop. “If they try anything, the law’s on our side.”
Or was it? He’d tried to sound confident, but deep down he didn’t feel the same way. When he mentioned it to his boss, Hartwell answered tersely, “You can’t clobber them.”
Usually, Gabe adopted a laid-back attitude, but this he would not stand, and he got in his boss’s face. “So I’m not supposed to do anything, even when they call us freaks or talk about my girlfriend, saying they’d like to date her?”
Actually, some of the younger guys were into the wed-and-bed thing, although they often left out the wed part. Hearing others speak about sex in such a coarse manner pissed him off to no end.
Voice steady, Hartwell had replied, “Yeah, even them.”
“And what about the hate groups, what about them?”
“I know who they are, too.” He reached behind him to pull a pistol out of his waistband. “Mr. Bang-Bang has an answer for them.”