Caption: Heaven, Arch-Angel Gabriel's Office. Monday 28 April 1980. 8:40pm GST.
<Gabriel and his staff, the Powers Uriel, Arsayalalyur, Jeremiel, and Helammelak, are sitting around a table. Each is watching the others carefully, almost suspiciously.>
Jeremiel, laying down five cards on the table: I call. Read 'em and weep boys. Full House, Kings over Damsels.
Helammelak, tossing his cards face down on the tables, exasperated: Saints and Angels!
Arsayalalyur: I knew I should've folded.
<Uriel lays his cards down and watches Gabriel, who is the only one smiling besides Jeremiel. Uriel clears his throat. Jeremiel looks at Uriel, then at Gabriel.>
Jeremiel: OK, Gabriel, lay 'em down.
Gabriel: Four of a kind. <He lays down the Queens of Stars, Clubs, Diamonds, and Spades.>
Jeremiel: I was sure you were bluffing.
Gabriel: I never bluff.
Jeremiel: Well, I know. <He smiles.> But there's always a first time.
<Gabriel collects his winnings while Arsayalalyur gathers the cards and starts to shuffle. There is a knock on the door.>
Jeremiel: Deal me out. I'll get it. <He walks towards the outer office. The sound of the door opening and several voices talking can be heard. The conversation continues long enough that the angels at the table turn to try and see what's going on. Jeremiel returns, accompanied by Modiel, Paquel, Saphrael, and Daelotial.>
Gabriel: Well, now. Isn't this an interesting bunch.
Jeremiel: Gabriel, you remember Daelotial.
Gabriel: Yes, there's no forgetting him.
Jeremiel: And this is a former member of my Choir, Saphrael. She was transferred to the programming team for the Soul Routing System. And this is Paquel and Modiel. They're all on the Lost Souls Task Force.
<Gabriel and his staff exchange worried glances.>
Gabriel: That's very bothersome stuff. It's not an enviable task you've been assigned. <He looks at Saphrael.> If there's anything I, or my staff, can do, just ask.
Saphrael: Actually, that's why we're here. You see, we've discovered that the problem of the Lost Souls is more disturbing and more time-critical than we initially imagined. We-
Daelotial, interrupting: She's pussyfooting around the subject. Some of the Lost Souls were destroyed. The longer it takes us to find the rest, the more likely it is that more will be destroyed.
<Several of the angels gasp at the news.>
Saphrael: I want to go looking for them, personally.
Gabriel: Well, I don't see why not ... <He trails off.> There's more to it. What did you have in mind Saphrael?
Saphrael: I want to be transformed. I want to become Human. I want to go to Earth as a Lost Soul.
<There is stunned silence for a moment. Paquel steps forward.>
Paquel: I've been working on this theory that random travel of the Net, like the way the Lost Souls can travel it, will lead them to certain worlds more so than others. And also that such random travellers would be drawn towards each other.
Modiel: And I've examined his work. There's merit to it. Enough to warrent such an extreme measure.
Gabriel, looking at Saphrael: So you want to become one of them, in hopes that this theory of Paquel's is correct?
Modiel: His theory is sound.
Gabriel, ignoring the interruption: Do you know what you're asking? Do you have any idea what you'd really be doing here?
Saphrael: I know what I'm doing. My job. We <She indicates the other LSTF members.> may not be being blamed for what happened, but it is our fault. This never should have been allowed to happen in the first place. The thought of losing more of these children ... I just can't bear it.
Gabriel: And you're here because you need an Archangel to request the transformation. Which means either Raphael said no, <He waits. Saphrael blushes, embarassed, and looks down.> or you haven't told him.
Daelotial: And what are the odds.
Caption: Heaven, a path not too far from Gabriel's Office. Wednesday 30 April 1980. 4:52am GST.
<Paquel and Modiel are walking along the path. Both look very tired.>
Modiel: That had to be the longest meeting I've been at since the Time Traveler incident.
Paquel: Yes. <They walk in silence for a moment.> On the bright side, they asked some good questions. I think I have a better handle on my theory and the unresolved questions than this time last week.
Modiel: Yes, Helammelak made several good points.
<They come to a fork in the path. They look down each fork for a while and then look at each other. Silently they reach a decision, step off the path to a nearby bench, and sit down.>
Modiel: And Gabriel is going to take Saphrael's petition.
Paquel: Do you really think she should do this?
Modiel: Well, something drastic needs to be done. And I haven't seen any other plans that have as good a chance of finding the Lost Souls quickly.
Modiel: Having some doubts?
Paquel: About my theory? No. About Saphrael taking this kind of risk based in no small part on my theory? That's a different matter. Do you think HE will allow her to try it?
Modiel: Well, as we like to say, HE works in mysterious ways.
Paquel: That's not an answer.
Modiel: No, it's not. <He smiles.>
<Paquel frowns at him.>
Modiel: OK. <He holds his hands up.> OK. When I'm trying to predict one of HIS decisions, I look at how I think the Archangels would feel about it. It's not a perfect predictor, but it works pretty well. So, lets' see ... Phanuel would undoubtedly back Saphrael. He's responsible for all Souls on all the Earths until they're called home.
Paquel: He's my boss. This is tearing him up. He'd go in Saphrael's place if he could.
Modiel: Exactly. And Michael would back her as well. One of the many reasons that he leads the war against Hell is that he's willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. He'd probably even send several angels instead of just Saphrael to improve the odds.
Paquel: And Gabriel is on his way to see HIM with Saphrael.
Modiel: And the reason she didn't want to ask Raphael is because he's the only one of the Archangels that I think would oppose the plan. So, looking at it that way, I suspect the next time we see Saphrael will be at her transformation ceremony.
Paquel: Raphael's not going to be happy about us doing an end-run around him on this.
Modiel: No, he's not.
Paquel: We did, technically, stay within the chain of command.
Modiel: But he won't see it that way.
<They sit quietly for a few moments.>
Modiel: Have you ever tried to climb the Tree of Life?
Paquel: Oh wow! No. I mean, I've thought about it. But I guess everyone who hasn't done it has thought about it. <He pauses.> Why do you ask?
Modiel: Well, I've heard that two Souls are going to attempt it. They're starting out in an hour or so. It's the first time in over three decades that a Soul has even attempted the climb.
Paquel: Is it true that you can see all of Creation from the top?
Modiel: So I've been told. I was thinking about asking them if they wanted some company. It is a long climb after all.
Paquel: Is this just an elaborate way of dodging a couple of staff meetings until Raphael has had a chance to cool down.
Modiel, feigning seriousness: Some might look at it that way. I like to look at it as a spiritual quest.
Paquel, very skeptical: Uh huh. Right.
Modiel, smiling: So are you in?
Paquel, smiling back: Absolutely.
Caption: Heaven, Lost Souls Task Force HQ. Wednesday 30 April 1980. 9:24am GST.
Raphael: Saphrael's off trying to become Human. Paquel and Modiel decide to take some time off to climb the Tree of Life. And YOU, <He stabs his finger at Daelotial.> knew about all of this and told NO ONE. Does anyone here remember that I'M in charge of this Task Force?!?
Raphael: Don't even start! I don't want to hear it! By all that's holy, why didn't you tell me what was going on?!?
<Daelotial says nothing.>
Raphael: Answer me!
Daelotial: If I told you everything that I knew, you'd be as depressed and cynical as I am.
Lake Leigh Anne (one of Econiel's assistants): It could take us years to find all the Lost Souls, if we ever do at all. <Raphael stares angrily at her.> I'm not saying that I'd do what Saphrael is trying to do, but something has to be done beyond what we're already doing. <She looks down from Raphael's stare.>
Raphael: Anyone else want to chime in?
Septus Bluefeather: Well, I for one am with you that they were ABSOLUTELY wrong to bypass your authority. This is inexcusable behavior.
7th Archon 5: But...
Septus Bluefeather: But even I'm growing concerned. The danger to these children is too great. We need to know who they are, and more importantly where they are. And soon.
Raphael: Alright. OK. I still think Saphrael is taking a terrible chance. And I'm still filing complaints against the four of you. <He stares coldly at Daelotial.> And if ANY of you EVER blind-side me again, I'll take it up with HIM personally. So now the question is, how do we proceed from here?
<For a moment the room is quiet. No one wants to be the first to speak up, given Raphael's mood.>
Denesitia: Well, I'm going to miss Saphrael's programming skills, but she confided in me that she was pretty much at a standstill. There was just not enough data to go any further.
Angelica Blue: Which puts the burden of finding the Lost Souls squarely back in my lap. And I need more help.
Raphael: You have someone in mind?
Angelica Blue: Dee'el Hightower. And at least a dozen more teams. <She turns to Jurisial and Econiel.> No offense intended, you're doing a great job.
Jurisial: None taken.
Econiel: We are under-staffed for a project of this scope.
Raphael: I'll never be able to get you a dozen more teams, but I'll see what I can do.
River Arcadia: While you're asking for more personnel, I could use an extra pair of hands.
Raphael: I'll talk to Suryal. There's bound to an Archavist who'd love to have an inside look at this Task Force.
River Arcadia: Thank you.
Raphael: OK. Are there any other pressing things that I should know about?
Quorillael: Well, we have strayed from today's agenda quite a bit.
Raphael: Save it for next time. If there's nothing else? <He looks around the room. No one says anything.> Fine. Get out.
<The room empties very quickly. When the door closes, Raphael leans back and lets out a long sigh.>
Raphael: Saints and Angels!
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and © Copyright 1980-2009 Michael J. Ahlers. All Rights Reserved.