1. The First Harvest

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The sky seems bleaker than when I was still standing on clouds.

It's only been an hour or two since I found myself in the university town of Miller, and already I miss the constant breeze that came with being in the air. I'm splayed across a park bench, one hand clutching the infuriatingly thin notebook and another sending an invisible finger toward the heavens.

Sawyer Dunham, Lena Martinez, Mason Goodwin, Bailey Lin and Carter Miller - freshman, freshman, sophomore, freshman and sophomore - the five assignments whose lives will make or break mine. It would have been better - and much easier - if they're middle-aged folks struggling with a broken lawnmower, but I knew God would never let me have it that easy. As if to rub salt into my wounds, three of them are supernaturals.

That's sixty percent.

So while I can't fly or rip trees out of their roots, the very people I'm supposed to be helping have the ability to kill me in my sleep. Wonderful.

And I'm supposed to save them? They're more likely to save themselves.

"What's that girl doing? It's so unsightly."

Unfortunately, I still have enhanced hearing. A small brunette dressed in her grandmother's cardigan and a knee-length skirt sneers at me from afar. I look pointedly at her and try to glare, though I'm not sure she can see my disdain from so far away.

Ugh. Humans.

Regardless, I sit up straight, pulling down the hem of the shorts that have long since ridden up my thighs. I shove the notebook into my satchel and walk away from the bench, making sure to tilt my head up and send all the curse words I can muster toward the Contingent.

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Adam and Eve are a funny couple. Adam sports a bright blue mohawk and Eve takes pride in her dreadlocks, though supposedly both refuse to get tattooed or pierced.

I wasn't around when it happened, but the story goes like this: two angels fell in love and in an attempt to rebel against the authoritarian leaders, laced apples at a conference with ambrosia, the marijuana of supernaturals. They were found out and banished for all eternity, renamed themselves Adam and Eve even though the biblical figures never actually existed, and started a coffee shop aptly named Sunday Harvest.

Unfortunately, I'm forced to admit that they are pretty cool.

"Cinnamon mocha," Eve says, placing the steaming cup of coffee on the table and taking a seat opposite from me.

"Thanks," I reply. "We never got any coffee up there. High import taxes."

"I feel you, kid," she replies, leaning back against the chair and twirling a single dreadlock around her finger. I wonder when she last washed her hair. "So, what're you here for? We don't normally get Contingent members down these parts."

"Ex-Contingent member," I correct. "I was banished. I need help finding my assignments from Miller University, and maybe get a place to stay and a job."

My words come out a little more desperate than I intended. Adam and Eve are known for helping out banished angels of any kind, Contingent or not, by providing them with food and lodging. They're even part of a fund set up to assist banished angels. At best, they'll give me a cosy room and a job and a student alias; at worst, they'll kick me out with only a complimentary cinnamon mocha to my name.

"They're still doing that stupid assignment thing?" she laughs. Her voice is low and throaty, more like a grandmother's cackle than an angel's tinkling laughter. "I thought they'd be against messing around with people's lives ever since that incident."

The very incident which I was responsible for, I muse bitterly.

I nod silently, taking a sip of my drink. It's warm from the coffee and spicy from the cinnamon and I don't particularly like it.

"Miller's got lots of supernaturals running around, but they shouldn't give you much trouble," she reassures, eyes twinkling with mischief.

"Hopefully not," I agree. "You are able to help me out, then?"

"We haven't got a room at the Harvest, but there's a job if you want it, and we can get your student pass sorted out. What'd you think?"

"That's great, thanks," I smile. I put the coffee cup down. "What do you want in return?"

Her eyes twinkle again. It seems that even though she's mortal, she hasn't quite let go of that trouble-making streak back when she was still an angel.

"Just your eternal gratitude is enough," she says, waving her hand. "And I'll only pay you minimum wage for your work here."

The unspoken notion that there's much more to this hangs in the air, but stays unacknowledged.

I nod and smile again, not letting the grin reach my eyes.

"You'll stay at the dorms at Miller," she says. "I've got a few contacts there that can help you get settled in. And you'll need to get a last name."

I cringe. "That's so human."

"It's either get a last name, or eternal damnation. Take your pick."

"Smith, then. It's the most common one, right?" I ask. Truthfully, I have no idea what constitutes as 'normal' to mortals, but Silas Smith does have a nice ring to it.

"Silas Smith, twenty-years old, psychology and linguistics major," she says out loud. "Sounds good. Go join your own clubs, and pick wisely."

"I already know what I'm joining," I say. "Tennis, cross country and graphic design. The assignments' hobbies."

But really, psychology and linguistics? Both are fundamentally mortal disciplines - the study of how humans think and of how humans communicate. I don't object, though; it's enough that she's going this far to help me.

"You realise that all three of those require either prior experience or genius talent, right?"

"It's alright. I won't be sticking around for very long anyway," I shrug.

She sighs and shakes her head, but there's a ghost of a smile on her face.

"Adam will send you the details for your dorm; most likely, you'll have a roommate," she says.

She fishes a black rectangular device about the size of her palm out of her pocket; I recognise it as what humans like to call a 'smartphone'. For all their mortality, they sure do like to be unnecessarily creative while they've still got time. When I meet Eve's gaze again, her mouth is quirked in a smile.

"I forgot you know almost nothing about technology. This is an iPhone," she explains. "We use it to communicate, and you can play games, listen to music and look for information on it."

My ears perk up. Perhaps this could actually be useful. "Information? Is it that thing they call I.T.?"

"Well, not exactly, but close enough. It's the Internet, I'll show you how to use it if you get a phone, of course," she smiles. "I can get you one, but it'll be docked from your pay."

"That's fine by me," I reply. "Thank you."

"Alright," she says with a note of finality. Her right thumb swipes over the screen of the smartphone, and it seems like she is typing on the tiny thing. "I'll pencil you in for nine to three on weekends and you can tell me what time you're free on weekdays. The more you do, the more you're paid."

"I'd rather work in the Contingent again," I admit. "Even though we weren't paid at all."

"You'll think differently after you actually see how humans work." The look she gives me is one of pity, as if I were a small, naive child. I want to frown. "It's because they're mortal that they have to find ways to make things better. All you've been doing is running after rogues and having a love affair with nature, after all. You only ever notice humans if they're useful to you. You haven't really been paying attention, have you?"

I sigh. I'm in no mood to try and argue with someone, much less a banished angel.

"Sure," I reply. "So, do I start working now? I can't move into the dorms right now."

She nods. Her lips are pursed, the slight furrow between her brow a little more distinct. Right now, she looks as old and as wise as Ezekiel.

The next few hours are spent showing me the ropes. Thankfully, it's a late morning on a Thursday, and most people are either working or at school. Most of the clientele, I eventually learn, are regulars from Miller Uni or office workers who grab a cup on their way home or during lunchtime. Even at their busiest, the cafe only seats a maximum of forty, so it is really the baristas and cooks who have the busiest jobs.

"For now, we'll just put you with serving," Eve says. "You just have to take orders, key them in, serve the dishes and clear tables. Customers who do takeaways will order directly at the counter, so you just need to direct them there and whoever's in charge will handle it."

I glance around. Adam is off in a corner, typing away furiously on a laptop; one half of the full-time staff, who is (not) coincidentally another banished angel, Cillian, is manning the counter and barista station; part-time server, twenty-three year old graduate student of Miller Uni, Holster, is waiting on the three occupied tables while constantly fondling his gel-slicked hair; and in the kitchens, a single cook and pastry chef are on hand to deal with hungry customers.

Needless to say, I'm not very optimistic right now.

"Alright, that doesn't sound too bad," I reply. Frankly, it really doesn't. "I'll familiarise myself with the menu."

It's a small cafe, and that is only made more evident by the dismal size of the menu. There are only two pages: one for food, and one for drinks. What Eve describes as 'cafe mainstays' (Full Monty, French Breakfast, Eggs en Cocotte, Croque Monsieur - whatever those are) make up most of the food menu, but there is a section dedicated to salads, soups and sides. There aren't even any desserts listed; everything available is on display at the counter. The drinks menu is more extensive, with a list of various coffees, teas and juices. While I was still with the Contingent, we never indulged in luxurious meats and fine wine. We were provided with basic meals, meals of bread and vegetables and inexpensive meats. Only when God was in a good mood were we ever graced with a cut of loin or a miserly glass of cider.

"For your meals, just tell Cook what you'd like to have, and she'll make something with what we have in the kitchen. You can eat at one of the empty tables."

Cook is an apt name, though I don't think it's her real one. Unlike Diesel the pastry chef, is twice my size, with forearms the size of tree trunks and a fitting name, Cook doesn't look like a Cook. She is half my size, her forearms look like twigs, and she looks like an Alice.

I have no idea what to order, but Cook decides for me. "I'll whip you up a salmon sandwich. Although we outsource our bread - that oaf can make fancy macarons and confitures but can't bake a decent sourdough - we smoke our salmon in-house and grow the herbs at the back."

I smile. I have no idea what's a macaron or a confiture, but they don't sound very appealing.

I thank her and head to one of the empty seats with my plate. At the adjacent table, there's a blonde girl who looks vaguely familiar; it takes only a moment before I realise that it's Lena Martinez. Compared to the photo I was given, her cheeks are rounder and her body a little thicker, but most notably, she looks haggard and pale and downright tired. The bags under her eyes are a clear sign that she's been having some sort of trouble.

The sleeves of her Miller Uni XC sweater are shoved up her arms. She picks listlessly at her fruit cup, as if trying to decide between a pineapple cube and a watermelon ball. The black coffee sits at one end of the table, completely untouched. With a look of what can only be described as longing, she stares at the display of pastries, then shakes her head furiously.

Interesting.

I pick at my own food. Surprisingly, it's pretty good. I don't care much for the bread, given that I ate it everyday while hunting with the Contingent, but the salmon is surprisingly flaky and tender and not at all fishy like the seafood I usually get.

I get up, balancing the empty plate in my hands, and look toward Lena Martinez.

"You should get a slice if you want to," I smile.

She looks startled, if a little embarrassed. The smile she returns is shaky and much too fake.

When I return from the kitchens, she's already halfway out the door, a full cup of coffee and half a fruit cup still left at the table.

I make sure to keep a distance as I tail her. It isn't really hard; she isn't paying attention to her surroundings, even bumping into a little kid once. Much too jittery.

She enters a convenience store near the university campus; unsurprising, given that she stays in the dorms. I lean against the side of the entrance and read one of the posters outside with a little too much enthusiasm. Perhaps I should give up on following her for now; after all, there are four more that I need to get acquainted with before I execute my plans.

As I make to leave, so does Lena. In her arms she clutches a paper bag full of snacks, and on her face she wears an expression of pure defeat.

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A/N: Holy shit how long has it been since I updated?! I just finished my exams, and can finally get back to outlining and writing seriously. I'm hoping to do up a chapter for RS soon as well.

And so it begins. This is the first story to actually have a plot, and though there are six/seven (?) simultaneous stories to tell, ultimately this is about Silas. It'll have moral undertones and individual messages on the parts of all five assignments as well as Silas and other characters (ahem), but those won't quite come through till the end. There isn't a prominent antagonist either, so this is more of a character-driven story (like my others).

(Also, expect some stupid humour.)