By Moe Lane


I think that Eric Burns had the right idea (and, now that I have a copy of his Cadre vignette again, said vignette will be going up on my webpage, too) on how to say goodbye. I think that it will make a good tradition.

Still, oh, how I wish that it could never have become one...


The two angels had long since dropped any pretense of dignity and were now unabashedly people-watching. Many angels have this hobby: aside from the practical aspects, it's interesting in its own right. Humans do so many odd things, after all. It's been long agreed among the Host that the best place to watch human souls is at the Pearly Gates themselves. That first shock of peace, serenity and surcease that flows over a human as he or she realizes that, yes, the bad things are over for the rest of eternity... well, it does good things to an angel's own sense of well-being. You can soak up the tranquility like a sponge.


Things weren't going quite to plan - or, more accurately, things were trying to go to four plans at once, and that was just too many dimensions at once, even in Heaven.

Plan #1 was the standard one that occurs whenever someone Destined for Heaven dies with some advance notice: everybody who knows the blessed soul in question shows up to welcome him or her. If things had stopped there, all would have gone well: the honoree of this particular Plan #1 had been properly greeted, and the sight of familiar faces had duly muted the shock of his transfiguration. So far, so good.

However, at this point Plan #2 showed up - and, regrettably enough, was a point of dissension between the two observing angels. The Cherub was of the opinion that this was not a Plan #2 at all, but a mere fillip to Plan #1: after all, the newcomers had known the honoree in life, too. However, the Ofanite had made the counterclaim that this particular group had demonstrated a significant difference in their methodology. Rather than welcome their friend with open arms, they had brought along a fairly tacky halo and set of wings, and had proceeded to make him wear them. This, mused the Ofanite as he idly scratched his chin with the six-foot club that he took with him everywhere, clearly indicated that there was more than one Plan going on. The fact that the latter group had also brought along roughly fifty gallons of akvavit was merely a corroborating piece of evidence.

The Cherub had considered this, then gently pointed out that, for a putatively distinct yet converging set of Plans, there was a remarkable amount of collusion between the two groups. Clearly a dark and sinister plot was in motion. At this point, the Ofanite declared that he would concede the point if the Cherub stopped hogging the bottle (liberated from the gathering by same Cherub, with a degree of old-soldierly skill that was frankly wasted). The Cherub agreed, thus preserving the Peace of Heaven for another day.

At any rate, the two - or 1.5 - Plans would have not been particularly noteworthy (although a pure pleasure to behold), except that at this point Plans #3 and #4 reared their heads. The two angels were of firm agreement that these Plans were definitely distinct - indeed, they could hardly be in disagreement on this, all things considered - and added wonderfully to the day's ambiance.

Plan #3 was a simple one, really. Archangel shows up to welcome distinguished soul to Heaven, bringing along a retinue, a suitable gift (in this case, a particularly good sword) and a book to have signed. All very flattering - and an excellent opportunity to snap up a promising recruit before the enemy (in this case, another Archangel) can do the same. As today's unknowing candidate was emphatically Saint material, the need for speed was self-evident. A very workable Plan #3: at least, the Cherub thought so, and he was considered one of the top ten tacticians among the Host, so it was reasonable to believe him.

Unfortunately, in execution and timing it was almost identical to Plan #4, varying only in the Archangel, the gift (armor) and book. The Ofanite insisted that this had been a mere coincidence: the Cherub thought that this was sophistry, but held his tongue for the sake of the Peace of Heaven. Plus the bottle, of course, as the Ofanite had really been holding on to it too long.

Really, both angels should have been in the middle of the shambolic chaos that had erupted between their respective retinues: as each was the most trusted lieutenant of their respective Superiors, each had arrived early in order to scout out the place. However, both had quickly realized that there was not a single thing that either could do to make the other Plan go away. Warning both Archangels had merely made them run to the Gates faster, with predictable results. Now ... well, there were good subordinates in the good-natured mess out there. Let the youngsters figure it out while the veterans lounged at their ease, sipping akvavit. That was Plan #2's apparent strategy, and the angels thought that they just might be on the right track.

Indeed, from where they were sitting, it was starting to look like Plan #2 needed reinforcements (if nothing else, they had more supplies): alas, an alliance at this point was not to be. The two angels had spotted another group of people-watchers: a youngish Mercurian, flanked - by two of the largest Cherubim in Heaven (their essentially looming nature not hidden by the clean-but-faded work coveralls that each wore). While trade issues between the two groups of celestials had been settled - a pack of cigarettes for a goodish amount of akvavit - the situation was fraught with peril. The Cherub idly lit another smoke off of the Ofanite as he contemplated the situation. Great peril, indeed - worse, the two Archangels were seemingly oblivious to the danger as they radiated "MINE!" at each other.

After all, that group represented Plan #5 right there - no, wait, there was the option of Plan #6, too, wasn't there? A faint possibility, but nothing is ever certain in war. The Ofanite and Cherub both shuddered at the thought.

God only knew what Eli would bring as a 'no, work for me' gift - or thing to be signed, for that matter...


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