East Ridge Chapel
St. George, UT
9 Sept. 2006
To the east of town, there were cliffs that had been eroded from the red sandstone many, tens of thousands of years earlier. At the bottom of the major cliffs were a series of smaller ones that looked almost like markings on a topographical map. Each terrace led further and further down to the valley floor. Half way between a vertical cliff and flat valley floor, on such a terrace, was a chapel, constructed for the worshipers living both on the cliffs above and on the flat lands below.
It was a modern building, in the stereotypical LDS style: one large gabled roof with an entrance on the three sides not facing the main traffic artery leading to the tops of the cliffs. It is strange that there were no entrances at the front. But the parking lot surrounded the building on those three sides, so the entrances were there.
Matt Hamblin looked down from Dickhart Smith’s house on the cliffs above. He and Grant were to escort Smith’s daughter, the aged, Deloris Greene, to the funeral in that chapel below.
Fog began to fill the parking lot, first one stall then another. Soon, the majority of the asphalt was covered in thick, dank vapors. Matt took out the telescope from his breast pocket and pulled it as long as it would go. He turned up the audio override and soon the sounds of Destroying Angels exiting their cars accompanied the images.
The fog began to thin, leaving cars of interesting make and model behind.
“Matty!” called his mentor. “Get your ---”
“Ass?” said Matt under his breath.
“Get up here, would you?” he frowned seeing that he’d almost swore in front of a lady.
“Oh don’t worry, Agent Grant,” said the old woman. “You should have heard my father when he got agitated. I will miss him.”
Matt hurried to where they stood. He opened the side door of mentor’s decades-old Cadillac and assisted the daughter of his former boss into the back seat.
“It’s too bad you’re not driving, Agent Hambone. I could have used some excitement, in a classic muscle car!”
“Well, ma’am,” he said ignoring the mispronounced name. “My car doesn’t have much of a back seat. Though, I did squeeze my mother, brother, and little sister in once.”
He smiled, closed the back door and slid into the front passenger seat. Minutes later they pulled into the chapel parking lot. There were still a few puffs of fog as late arriving DAs portaled in.
“That ride was just as boring as the car!” said Mrs. Greene on the sidewalk beside the Caddy. Both she and Matt stared at the elder agent as he came around the vehicle.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing,” said the two together. They walked to the entrance at the northeast corner of the building, through the foyer to the chapel where they were met by Bishop Styles.
They were escorted to a seat in the middle of the chapel. “Stay with me, Matt,” she said with just the hint of tears in her eyes. She held on to his arm with more strength than he thought she possessed. “My father outlived my husband, and I miss them both, today.”
He sat beside her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Her tension seemed to leave her.
He noticed the middle-aged children of Mrs. green jockeying for positions around her. The teen-aged great-grand-children of Old Man Smith were surly and sullen. The pews filled up quickly, but the meeting was long and boring. Matt didn’t know any of Smith’s relatives nor anything about the man’s life outside the DAs. At least LDS funerals didn’t beg God to get Smith’s soul out of purgatory. It was more like a Sunday school lesson on His Plan For Us.
Matt was glad he believed Smith was in a better place. It would have been too sad to think his friend and teacher was extinguished. Mrs. Greene cried, softly for the most part. But some of her relatives cried louder and Matt was almost embarrassed at the sobbing of one very blonde great-granddaughter. But, they had real feelings and he only knew Smith for a little over a year.
It was during the singing that Matt’s feelings came on strongly. He could hardly get through the words of “God be with you til we meet again.” He was afraid he was suddenly a soprano rather than a baritone.
Mrs. Greene noticed and patted his arm. She held onto his hand for rest of the funeral. Finally, the closing benediction and the final Amen came.
People gathered around Mrs. Greene who clung to Matt’s arm for strength. The casket was loaded into the hearse and the guests into the limos for the drive to the grave site.
He stood outside the limo and as he was about to shut the door, she grasped his hand all the tighter. “Don’t leave me, Matty!” she cried.
With his arm still in the open doorway, he leaned out to his mentor. “She won’t let go of my hand,” he said in Mananok.
“Stay with her til this is over. I’ll drive my car behind this one. It’s probably good to have you inside that car.”
The drive to the cemetery was eventless and in the words of Mrs. Greene: “Boring.”
Two sons, three grandsons and one great-grandson lifted the casket and marched from the open hearse to the grave site up a slight incline in the horridly warm weather of Southern Utah. Hundreds of people were there. Nearly half were family and nearly the same percentage wore black coats and hats respectfully on their backs rather than on their heads. There were about fifteen from the greater Mana Community.
Matt looked over at the strangely dressed visitors. The one in a monk’s robe was nearly as tall as he, but old and white-bearded. He slowly walked to them. “Mrs. Greene, may I offer my condolences?”
“Professor Johnson,” she said. “I haven’t seen you in a few years.” She turned to her young escort and said: “Matthew, you must know this man. He’s a mage as well.”
Both men looked first at each other, warily, then at Mrs. Greene. “No, Ma’am,” he said. “I have never met him.” He extended the hand. “I am Agent Matt Hamblin. LDSSecurities.”
“Still a Cherub, I see.”
Matt smiled, “Yes, eight and a half months of apprenticeship left.”
“After that and your two-year mission, you might want to consider coming to the Institute I run in New Mexico. You have heard of the Institute of Manamancy at Atalen ya Doaka?”
“Yes, but I don’t know a whole lot about it,” He smiled and shook hands. “You must be Keith Johnson, then.”
“Yes, it was good to meet you, Agent Hamblin. And Deloris, your father will be missed.” He turned and walked away.
“Wait for the next one, Matty, ” she said watching a much shorter man, in what could only be described as a Jedi costume, approach. He had graying hair and an anchor beard on his chin. His mustache was thin, just along the upper lip. “The two of them always play a kabuki dance.”
“Deloris!” he said with exuberance in a very high tenor, almost in the range of women. “So good to see you. I am so sad about the passing of your father!” he reached out to hug her, but she didn’t cooperate as much as he would have liked.
“Hello, Eric,” she smiled. “How is your grandson, Keith? I just saw his namesake.”
Eric’s eyes narrowed a bit and he looked both right and left. Having caught sight of Johnson, he watched the taller mage as he slowly descended the stairs leading to the car park.
“And how’s your wife?” Mrs. Greene brought the conversation back. “I understand she’s not feeling well. I hope she gets better.”
“Yes, it was very sudden. She should do well soon.” He turned and looked straight at Matt. “And who is this?”
The young apprentice felt like the shorter gentleman’s eyes were drills, boring into his soul. He didn’t like the feeling. “I’m Jason Hobbs. I just made Cherub this year.”
Eric stayed and chatted about himself for a bit then he too left.
“LeDuc sure is full of himself!” she said as he walked away.
The crowd thinned after they consecrated the grave site. Soon a bossy and fussy middle-aged woman bustled up and took Mrs. Greene’s hand. “Mother, we must go now. You’ve been here long enough. You’re going to get sunburned. Come with me, now.”
She looked down sadly. “My prison guard is here,” she said to Matt in Mananok, and then in English: “Thank you for the protection, Agent Hamblin. Take care.”
As they left, Matt had the distinct impression that the daughter was acting like a mother who thought the other was an unhappy toddler. “Good-bye, Ma’am.”
“It’s kinda freaky to be back, don’t you think, Luc?” Matt asked his former squad mate. He sat on the edge of a white circle on the mat in the gymnasium of the camp.
“Yeah, it’s been, what, four months since we left? How’s your apprenticeship coming along?”
“Pretty good. I sure am learning a lot. Grant is a more than just a dutiful taskmaster I think it’s the major love of his live!” Several others filed in and sat on the mats, they all faced the wall with the mana screens. There were over a hundred in the room so far, more and more came in. Some were old and worn, others in their middle years and a collection of six were younger than them.
It was easy to pick them out. They all stood together and looked around the room as if the current occupants were zoo animals that might escape.
Matt stood and called to them: “’06 squad! come over here!” He waved and called again. One of the boys pointed and whispered to his squad mates. They all smiled and practically ran to meet them.
“Are you Matt Hamblin?” one star struck cherub asked. “You’re all Andersen talks about, you and Luc and the twins and Justin and Nehto! Are the twins going to be here?”
The room was quickly filling up. There were now over two hundred and fifty people in the room. Seventy-five more people and all the DAs in the world would be in this room.
“Yeah!” said Luc. “There they are.” he pointed to the door as they came in, arms over shoulders, looking for the world like a set of twins that hadn’t seen each other in years.
“Matty!” called Owain as he came and bear hugged his long lost squad mate. Soon Justin and Nehto came over and sat with them. The ’06 Squad was speechless, when they weren’t crawling over each other to ask questions about the missions their idols had been sent on.
Moments later, the lights dimmed and all the Destroying Angels rose to their feet, ’06 Squad was last of course. A hush fell over the room. except in the youngest group. One cherub kept chattering and was shushed by DAs three layers deep around them.
Matt pointed first to his lips and then to the doorway. He opened a mana-window before him in the air. It showed the Prophet, escorted by the remaining teachers: Andersen and Brumley, Smith’s clerk. . . and Matt’s mentor.
Matt raised his eyebrow at seeing his mentor with those around the prophet.
They sang a rousing song about Angels protecting those on Earth. One verse was about special charge over the Prophet. It was sung in a round, as a cannon, and Matt felt it was his personal theme song. Then as one, all the DAs sat on the floor. A prayer was offered.
The Prophet came forward and talked about how Orrin Porter Rockwell was called as an Archangel to watch over the founding prophets and how others were called as Angels to the work and as Archangels to train those blessed to see and manipulate the forces of nature that God had put here to hold the universe together.
He then recounted how the latest had died suddenly and needed replacement. “I have looked over the records and dossiers of the leaders of this body. I have interviewed seven men to consider who the Lord would wish to be the next Archangel. The Lord has revealed that I should call Daniel F. Grant to this position. He has excepted. I place his name before you and ask you to sustain him and the Lord in this calling. All those in favor of this calling, please raise the right hand.”
A murmur of excitement rose. “Yes!” said more than a few. Soon the room was filled with excited conversation. Matt was stunned. Hands rose all around the room. Luc slammed his hand on Matt’s shoulder “He’s your mentor!”
A profound excitement rose up in Matt’s chest. He called “Yes!” and raised both of his hands over his head. “Yes!” he called out, shaking his arms in excitement.
“He’s just like Smith!” he said slapping Luc on the back.
“You’ll have a connection to him, Matty!” said Luc.
“And he’ll keep his eye on you,” said Justin.
“You cannot believe how much I learned from him already!” smiled Matt. “He was ornery just like Smith, but I learned from the best!”
“This is much noisier than a church service!” said the youngest ’06 squad member.
As one, Matt’s squad said “Rockwell!” as if that answered every question.