116 - Rome
PRESENT DAY Between Michael, Father Antonio, and Amira, we didn’t have the slightest problem getting into Vatican City, despite the late hour. No one even seemed to notice us, although if that was the norm or some sort of supernatural intervention on Michael’s part I couldn’t have said.
We had to leave the jeep outside of the Vatican’s walls–for the most part, it would just be easier to walk and St. Peter’s wasn’t at all that far. I was worried that this would leave us open to attack by Lazarus and Cerberus should either catch up, but Michael just pointed to his phone, still only showing the four of us and the occasional random passerby.
“If they come closer, I will know,” he’d said.
Which was all well and good, but if they appeared as suddenly as they had before, that wouldn’t give the rest of us a whole lot of time to react. Not all of us could just pull a magical sword out of thin air after all.
Then we were at the square. Waiting. I didn’t know what to expect. The voice on the phone had been a woman, but I also thought of her as an angel. Granted, gender didn’t seem to be terribly stable to the angels, so I wasn’t sure it mattered in the long run.
But whoever we were waiting for, she wasn’t there. There were people in the plaza–I doubted it ever cleared out entirely–but no one that either attracted Michael’s attention nor that sought us out. And since the rest of us didn’t know what she looked like, the only option was to just sit tight and wait.
Somewhat surprisingly, we were only getting a very few strange looks. Two priests–both in black with the collars, although I’m sure such a sight was not at all unusual this close to the center of the Church. Then there was Amira, not so necessarily strange in and of herself, but a bit strange in the company of the two of us.
And then there was Michael. He looked entirely human in the general sense of the word, but the details were ever so slightly off. Few men ever grew their hair quite so long and fewer still had that same silvery shade that almost seemed to glow in the moonlight. Then there was the self assured way that he stood, completely sure of himself and not at all worried about his surroundings. This contrasted somewhat with the cuts and bruises still healing on his face–and elsewhere I was sure. They looked as if he’d been in a fight days ago if not weeks, rather than less than an hour as it actually was, but still, it was a strange mix.
On the other hand though, his stance seemed to subconsciously keep keep away. One look at Michael and they would suddenly adjust their path to give us a wider berth. I doubted they were even aware of what they were doing, but at the moment, i didn’t mind. Keeping an open circle around all of us would give us a bit more time to react should Lazarus or Cerberus show up.
But it was neither of them that caught all of our attention, but rather a woman. Shorter than any of us–shorter even than Amira–with a petite frame and a young face, she walked right towards us with her head held high rather than turning away at the first sight of Michael.
It didn’t take much to guess that this was the woman–angel–that had called us here.
“Michael,” she said, stopping a few paces away. Her voice was perfectly even, betraying nothing in the way of emotion.
I leaned forward, the moment barely even registering, hoping to catch the woman’s name. Michael didn’t disappoint. He responded in the same even tone she had used. “Gabriel.”
117 - Rome
PRESENT DAY Gabriel?
Of all the angels we could have met, I’m not sure I ever would have guessed Gabriel–androgynous name and all. After all, he–she–he–Gabriel was referred to specifically as *the man Gabriel* in the Book of Daniel. I don’t know how you could get more obvious about it than that.
Even worse though, it wasn’t as if Michael–the general of God’s army–hadn’t been enough. Now if only Raphael would show up as well and we’d have the complete set of the archangels mentioned in the Bible. Now wouldn’t that be a story to tell. As if anyone would believe me.
Abruptly, I realized that Michael and Gabriel were talking. They’d skipped right past any small talk that any normal human being would have had and jumped right to the meet of the matter.
“Why have you called us here?” Michael was asking. Which was something that I dearly wanted to know as well. I was getting sick of the complete lack of control in the whole situation. God may have had a plan for all of us–and nothing made that more clear than the quite obvious existence of not one, but two angels–but it still would have been nice to get just a peak of said plan every once in a while.
Gabriel didn’t answer though, instead responding with questions of her own. “Where is it?” closely followed by “and what happened out there? Are you being followed?”
If being snubbed bothered Michael at all, he didn’t show it. He just answered Gabriel in that same oddly flat voice.
His tone really made me wonder about the dynamic between the two of them. From what little I knew about either, I’d just always assumed that Michael would have outranked Gabriel. Yet here they were, Gabriel giving orders and Michael more or less following them.
“It’s safe,” he said, of course completely unhelpful for those that didn’t know what was going on in the first place. “And *what happened* was that apparently Lazarus still hasn’t found a way to kill himself and that he’s made a few new friends.
“I heard that.” Despite the dryness, I thought I could sense a hint of a smile in her voice. “A … *big dog* as it were?”
Michael just nodded though, continuing on as if that were an everyday occurrence–being attacked by a dog heavier than most horses. He still had the third question to answer though.
“And regarding being followed, yes and no. Yes, I’m sure that Lazarus has devised some way of tracking us. There’s no other way that he could have managed to keep up even as well as he has been thus far.” That thought alone sent chills up my phone. I glanced over at Michael’s smartphone, showing our exact location and that of everyone within a few hundred feet just standing there. If Lazarus had something like that as well? There was next to nowhere to run,.
“But no. I don’t think that we have to worry about either of them right at the moment. I believe I’ve managed to slow down Cerberus at least for a good long while–” I shuttered to think exactly what*that* meant. “And I doubt that Lazarus will come without his hound.”
Gabriel nodded. “Good. Then we still have time.”
“Time for what?” I chimed in, self preservations a few phrases behind my thought processes.
She didn’t answer though. Neither of them did. They just turned to look at me, both with focused expression, each looking like a hunter sizing up its prey. I realized in the moment that the angels were kind of terrifying. They may have looked human, but the way they moved, the way they acted… They were as different from us as we were from the average ape at the zoo. I could only pray that I’d made the correct decision. That their side was the right side to be on.