Little Cottonwood Cyn
It was rowdy. There were almost a hundred people in the cafeteria, crowded together. All wore their dusters and all were chatting, yelling, carousing. --Except that is, no one was drinking. They were just celebrating very noisily.
In came a lone figure dressed the same way they all were: all were in black, except for the white button-down shirt and the blue circle on the bottom of the black tie. He was covered by a voluminous black duster with glittering gemstones for buttons. He carried a large staff also topped with a glittering gemstone.
“Silence,” he called out. “Silence, please.” The volume in the room died down to a tenth the sound. No, it was nearly impossible to have a completely silent gathering of Destroying Angels, especially at an occasion as joyous as this was.
“Welcome to the graduation of 2005 Squad!” Hands were in the air and voices at full volume. Even a few Cavalry hats bounced off the ceiling. The ’05 Squad had quite a few fans. Even the ’04 was here in full recognition. The sound, if anything, had gotten louder as it was allowed to continue.
The man in the front raised both hands and called for silence again and again. He pursed his lips and let out a piercing whistle. A second and third DA joined him and soon silence reigned.
“Welcome, welcome!” he said. “I am Daniel Grant and...”
“Tell us something we don’t know!” yelled a friendly distractor on the fourth row.
Grant just smiled and pointed. “As Archangel, I’ve gathered you to celebrate a great squad of Cherubs getting their wings!” Another round of laughter, cheers, and general noise erupted.
“I’d like our ’05 Cherubs to come forward. Squad Leader Matthew James Hamblin!” There was no denying it; Matt was smiling so wide that his cheeks were hurting. His smooth and even dentition shone in the dark. He scooted between the too closely packed rows of chairs and walked to the front of the room. Thunderous applause and copious cheering followed him there.
“And Luc de Bellevue, Joel Theodore Allred, Owain Patrick Turnbull, Justin Orion Nickerson and José Eduardo Santos Tavares Melo Silva, called Nehto.” There was applause between each of the names. The roar of the crowd increased until the last nickname was called.
There were no parents, no little sisters, no girlfriends in the room. Only Destroying Angels. This was a company party and only they were invited.
Grant began telling stories of each of the squad members. He told about Matt finding a mana reservoir in the Amazon basin. Gasps echoed in the chamber. Apparently, some had not heard. Each of them, in turn, had failed to discover any in their day; it was a famous test of the late, beloved Archangel Smith.
Luc’s story started with the tears he shed over his poor squad leader who was brutally stabbed to death by his machete wielding teacher: “Agent Andersen the Cherub Slayer!” Even 2006 Squad laughed uproariously at that since they had gone through the same “Healing Lesson.” Another story told of tracking down and arresting a group of Graffiti artists who had tagged up part of a chapel in Brussels. Luc had to crack a rather difficult warding override they’d used to cover their tracks.
Grant told another story about Matt at this point. How he’d saved a regional church authority in Ecuador. He then pulled out a handful of buckshot, told the story of... Matt was getting rather embarrassed at this point and said: “I’m using half-inch steel ball bearings now!”
“They must have a bigger kick!” yelled someone.
“They do!” he responded. “But they weigh more in your pocket!” Everyone laughed and that story stopped, as he had hoped.
The twins were alternately praised and roasted, from the first wrestling match to the eating contests, to farting contests. Each also had a small story about catching a perp doing minor things to members in remote locations.
Justin’s story was about how he and his mentor found and arrested a mage using an override that compelled a crowd to riot over the construction of a temple in Southern California. It was a very brutal battle and Justin had actually played a major part in breaking up the opposition to the construction site.
Grant told how Nehto had discovered an ancient group of mages that could control the movements of piranhas to the detriment of locals living on the edge of the river. Nehto had saved the young girl that they had taken from a small branch of the church in deepest Amazonas. Nehto had quoted Orrin Porter Rockwell when he warned off the mages: “I did not aim for you; if I had, you’d be dead!” Then he ended with a line that Matt wished he himself had said: “The next time I see you, it will be the week of your funeral!”
The stories finally ended. “Let’s have a great applause for these former Fledglings who are finally Destroying Angels!” said Grant. He pointed and called each by name from Matt to Nehto. The applause got louder and louder as they went on.
Grant turned and feigned leaving by the door. At the last minute, he turned back and said: “Oh, one more thing!” The audience laughed and cheered. “I just happened to run into the Prophet this morning.” They were in on this oldest of inside jokes. He reached into his duster and pulled out a sheaf of envelopes. The noise level got to the quietest it had been for the whole evening.
All except one of the 2006 Squad cherubs. His voice rang out above all. “What is going on?”
“They’re getting their mission calls.” The boy’s eyes got very round and he closed his mouth so quickly that you could hear his teeth clack.
“You gentlemen are all trained up and fully apprenticed. We are sending you out to the world to teach. But you also need to remember that you will be paired up with an Earth-Bound. He will be spiritually equal to you, but he must never even suspect that you are a mage. It will destroy his worldview. Never be overt with your use of mana.” He was in full Yoda mode, giving the last advice before sending the young mages out.
“The Lord will never do for you what you can do for yourself, so use the Blessing Override whenever you give a blessing. He has sent you for this very purpose. Never, ever, alter the perception of your colleagues or investigators. That would be contrary to their freedom of choice.” He paused and gazed at his charges, one by one.
“Now we ask, ‘Where will you be spending the next two years of your life?’” He flipped through the legal sized manila envelopes, laying them on a small table beside him, drawing out the anticipation. He nodded at one then smiled slyly, and then at another and chuckled slightly. Then he looked at Justin and pantomimed extreme surprise.
“Come on! tell us!” shouted one. “Yeah! now!” The grumbling began to rise.
“Alright, alright!” he said, first to the crowd and then to the boys, waving the envelopes. “I’ll let you open these with your family, but I’ll tell the whole room where you’re going. If you don’t want to know...”
“Then plug your ears!” nearly everyone in the room shouted. Altogether, 2005 Squad stuck their fingers in their ears and everyone in the room laughed as they pulled them back out.
Elder “Nehto” Silva, you are called to the Brazil São Paulo South Mission.” He paused to hear the applause and handed over the envelope.
“Elder Justin Nickerson, you are called to the most exotic mission possible --on the other side of the world-- to the Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission. There is ancient Mana use there. Your services will be needed.”
He pulled two of the documents from the stack and switched them back and forth. “The twin Elders will be going to each other’s homes: Elder Turnbull to the Idaho Pocatello mission, remember your twin lives on the border and a thin slice of Wyoming is in the Pokey mission. Elder Allred, you are called to the Australia Melbourne mission. Tasmania is part of that mission. The Prophet promised me that each of you will serve for a time in the other’s home ward.”
He was interrupted by excitement and hugging.
“That’s the worst case of Bromance I have ever seen!” said one of the 2006 squad.
“You can see why Smith called them the Twins!” said Justin. He turned and said, “Matty, where’s Papa New Guinea?”
“They call it PNG and it’s on the island just north of Australia. Tropical, jungly. It’ll be an adventure. Get used to eating bugs!”
“Elder Matthew James Hamblin, you are called to the Germany Berlin Mission.”
“Oh?” he paused “How random!′ he said taking his calling --and smiling.
“...And Elder Luc de Bellevue, you are called to the Canada Montréal Mission. You can all offer your congratulations, but these boys do need to get back to their families to share the news.”
He stepped over and gave Matt a bear hug. “Congratulations, Elder Hamblin. I expect to hear great news from you. Oh, and I told the Prophet you wouldn’t need to learn German at the Missionary Training Center, so...” He tapped Matt’s left ear, temple and lower lip saying “Doych-oh-nok!”
Das Ethnologische Museum
A Year & a Week Later
It was Elder Matt Hamblin’s humpday, the midpoint of his two-year mission. His zone had decided to celebrate by visiting a few sites in Berlin. They’d already seen the Brandenburg gate, the Berlin Wall, what was left of it, and several WWII sites. So, he suggested a museum and a restaurant; he’d pay. His zone members really couldn’t say no to that, especially since he was one of the leaders and he’d called a Zone Conference afterward.
He was not the only one that enjoyed Das Ethnologische Museum in Berlin. There was one other elder who had such an interest. The rest of them moped about and dragged their feet. There were more than a few smiles on their faces when the time came to leave for the restaurant.
As they were descending the grand staircase leading out. Matt paused. There, ascending the stairs below them, were two young, bearded men in monk’s robes. They were glowing with mana.
Matt stopped on the landing half way down and stared at them. First one and then the other stopped and stared at him. The slightly overweight one was almost Matt’s height and the other was about 5′10". The taller had massively curly hair and looked a bit rumpled. The shorter had a more aggressive style with quick glances here and there.
They locked eyes with Matt for a second then headed up the stairs, chatting quietly with each other.
“Elder Hamblin,” said one of his colleagues in German. “Are you coming?”
“Yeah, I’m coming.” He spoke in German as well, but with a much better accent than his American colleague. “I just thought I recognized those monks. I think they’re Johnson’s students.”
“Nothing, nothing. I’ll tell you later. Let’s go eat.”
Elder Hamblin’s apt
June 2nd, 2008
Looking furtively from his reflection in the bathroom mirror toward the locked door, Matt threw a small mana spike and with a handy override, trimmed his beard to 5/8th of an inch.
Everyone who knew anything about LDS missionaries had asked him about it. He usually pulled a small credit card sized “Beard Permit” from his pocket and handed it to them. Of course, no one had heard about such a thing since there were so few mages on missions. And because mages had to go undercover he could never tell the real reason that he was a missionary with a beard: “I’m a mage and our founder, Orrin Porter Rockwell...”
No, the Beard Permit was by far the easiest solution. Still, he didn’t want his colleague to burst in on him, hence the locked door. He disappeared the beard trimmings and combed his hair. He then brushed his teeth and headed back to the kitchenette part of his apartment. It had been a long day and he was ready to go to bed.
“So, who were those monks on the stairs we saw last month?” asked Elder Young, taking off his shoes.
“Not really sure,” said Matt as he slid off his button-down collared shirt. I just thought they might be from the school run by a man I’d met at a funeral.” He finished laying down his Destroying Angel tie. He still wore his other uniform, the one given to him to wear at church. Now that he was a missionary, he figured this is what he should wear at all times.
Suddenly his phone rang. Not the one that he did missionary business on, the other phone.
“What was that, Elder?” asked Young.
“My phone.” He walked to the closet and pulled his phone out of the side pocket of his duster, which he wore as a winter coat.
“MoMatt-Hamblin a’shih,” he said in the mananok language he’d always spoken as a mage.
“HoMattik!” came the response. ”MoGrant a’ez!”
“HoGrantuv!” he said very cheerfully. “Old Man Grant!” he continued in Mananok. “What are you calling me on the bat phone for?”
“Bat phone! that’s funny.” He laughed a bit. “Hey, we’ve got ourselves a bit of an emergency. I am pulling rank and getting you transferred for the duration of this to...”
“Transferred! What? No!′ said Matt with a great deal of emphasis. “I’m Zone Leader and doing very well; I have three baptisms lined up; they need me here!”
At this point, Elder Young was standing opened mouthed staring at his normally mild mannered colleague who was nearly yelling in a very strange language on a very strange phone. That’s when the regular phone rang.
As it was in his pants pocket, Matt fished it out and threw it to Young.
“Hello?” Young asked on the regular phone.
“Hello, Elder Young?” At least this was in a familiar tongue: German. “This is President Weiss, is Elder Hamblin there?”
“Good evening president Weiss. Yes, Elder Hamblin is on the other phone right now.”
“He must be talking to Salt Lake then. Tell him I need to talk to him when he’s done.”
Right about then Matt hung up on the other phone and nearly threw it against the wall.
“PoGrantuk al’chuth!” he yelled as Young gently handed him the regular phone.
“It’s President Weiss.”
“PoWeissuk al’chuth!” he yelled then took a very deep breath and forced a smile. He took another breath and let it out completely. “Hello President Weiss, How can I help you?”
“I just got off the phone with Salt Lake,” he said. “It seems they’re transferring you to Samoa.”
“Samoa?” Matt was deeply puzzled. “What’s in Samoa?
“A little island named Ta’u. You’re to leave immediately.”