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