Two sleek cars surged down the road, taking advantage of the night and its empty streets. Both vehicles were no doubt prized possessions to their drivers. They had the heavily modified looks that went along with small-time illegal drag racing. If you asked the two youths behind the wheels, they’d likely say it was no big deal. No one got hurt. Plus, if the city would just open a track, they’d claim, they wouldn’t have to fulfill their need for speed on public roads. But the risk of getting caught was part of the real thrill to them.

So on the cars blazed, waking neighborhood after neighborhood as their engines roared. But at the end of their self-made track, where the current straightaway ended in a “T” intersection, someone was very much about to get hurt. A young man sleepily shuffled home from his second job as a gas station attendant. The world barely existed to him as his sluggish footsteps carried him home to his bed. Even had he been alert, his ears were plugged with earbuds pumping music to help him cope with another disappointing day.

The racers neared the four-lane intersection, eyeing each other more than the road, preparing to take the coming turn with as much speed as they could. A moment before the bright lights ended the young man’s worries for good, a dark figured pulled him back to the curb with unnatural speed. Two streaks of pure speed screeched around the corner and down the next street, and the man looked up at his savior in shock.

“Th- thank you!” he managed to spit out in his stupor.

The tall, lean figure that looked like a man but seemed like something more grinned deviously and replied, “It’s no trouble. You ought to pay more attention next time.”

The young man nodded his head in agreement and returned to the crosswalk, this time with much more care and attention. As the shadowy rescuer walked away down the sidewalk, he spoke, seemingly to no one, “Well, how was that Atrea? That was a pretty selfless and friendly deed. That’s got to be worth something!”

Another figure materialized from thin air next to him, this one almost seemed to shine with her own light, “You stole the man’s wallet, Veronius.”

Veronius’s gaunt face scrunched up in offense as he produced a plain brown wallet from his cloak, “Yeah, but he’s alive! I could have let him get squished like the puny, pathetic, mortal vermin he is! Broke is better than dead.”

Atrea, her full face beaming, glared at the demon, “You’ll never break your contract if you keep seeing the humans as worthless inferiors. You’ve got to really try!”

The hellspawn stopped walking and put his head in his hands, “This is impossible! Are you sure there’s no better way to break my demonic bond to my overlord than ’the power of friendship?’ " He said this last bit with an air of disgust as if the words were a poorly made soup.

The angel nodded knowingly, “Magic. It’s a legitimate form of magic. And unless you somehow think you can best Balthamaar the Ageless in a contest of wits, this is it. My money is solidly on Balthamaar there, by the way.”

Veronius stared into the quiet street as if seriously contemplating the choice, and finally assented. “Fine, let’s keep trying,” he muttered, “but the dental benefits on your side had better be phenomenal.”

The two supernatural beings turned into wisps of light and dark energy and dashed off into the night.