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Sachael's Test (Celestial Justice 5)

Sachael's Test (Celestial Justice 5)
Release Date: 27 June 2013
Description:

What if you're the angel of water and suddenly face more droughts and floods than even you can bring back into balance?

Sachael has been the angel of water for centuries. He used to love his job, but humans have caused serious droughts and more suffering than he can stand. He performs a miracle which brings rain to East Africa, but is caught and appears before the judicial panel. His boss intervenes, hinting at new ways of doing things and sends him on a ‘vacation' to Earth.

Victor Lomack didn't want to inherit the family farm in the most drought-ridden depths of Kansas, but is the only child. He isn't able to sell the farm, and taking in a mysterious stranger who appears on his doorstep is the last straw.

Will Sachael make the right decision? Or will he fail the test and lose everything?

 

NOTE: This book has been previously released in April 2012. No changes have been made to the story, it is identical to the previous version.


Pages: 74
Words: 23,000
Heat Index:Heat Index
Cover Artist: Allison Cassatta
Book Type: EBook

Chapter One

"Ascension!" Sachael could no longer bring himself to care that swearing, even the celestial kind, would likely get him into trouble with his boss. Again. But really? How was he, as the lowly angel of water, supposed to stop the entire human race from making what looked like a determined effort for self-destruction? They had been at it for a while, and no matter how much patience he brought to his job of balancing one of the basic life-giving elements, lately, they always seemed to be one step ahead of him.

East Africa was his new least-favorite region. Somalia, his current area of observation, was one of the worst-hit countries on this planet. The drought was devastating and any hope of improving the situation long gone. The last rainfall had been during the second rainy season in October and November, giving everyone great hope, but now, two months later, the reserves, depleted from years of drought, had already dried up. There was no food to speak of, the livestock was dying, the local well had dried up so people now needed to walk eleven miles each way to Waajd to get water. To make matters worse, the school house had just collapsed, killing two of the youngest children and injuring five others. Health care was nonexistent, so their prospects were not very good.

"What are we going to do?" The village elder stared at the most recent sign of destruction and shook her head. "At least school gave the children some sort of focal point, now they'll have nothing."

"Who cares about school?" A young father desperately raked his hair as he tightened his grip on his small daughter who straddled his hip. "I'm much more worried that we have no medicines. Doctor Rahim can do only so much with what's left after the last airdrop of medical supplies from the Red Cross."

"You're right, forgive me." The village elder closed her eyes as she rubber her temples. "We have to find a way to help them."

Sachael may not have a human body, but he could sympathize. The celestial energy he consisted of was in turmoil. This newest development brought him closer to understanding what humans went through than he had ever been.

"I'm not sure there is anything we can do. It seems to me that what is required here is a miracle." The young father looked up, staring almost straight into Sachael's eyes.

But that was not possible! Sachael was invisible to the human eye. Yet, the father seemed to silently plead with him as the strangest sense of a connection made Sachael profoundly uncomfortable. He had been too emotionally involved in this situation already, but this soul-to-soul touch had just made it supremely personal.

Shaken, he pulled back from Idannug, the most recent place to be hit by the severe drought that had been plaguing East Africa for years. He took a last look at the tiny community, so small even a good map would probably not show its location eleven miles northeast of Waajd. It lay in the center of one of the worst-hit drought areas. Bakool was ready to shrivel up due to a lack of rain. Combined with the recent military build-up which stopped what few humanitarian efforts were mounted to stop disease and the effects of long-term hunger, the place was pretty much doomed.

Healing disease was not his remit, that was Raphael's job. And as for the prevention of war-the angel able to do that was still to be created. But he should have been able to do something about the imbalance in the water table or the lack of precipitation. The problem was that human meddling with their own climate, on a planetary scale, was preventing him from giving nature the little nudges that had always been sufficient to balance out local issues. And anything more than a little nudge was bound to be noticed by humans, now they had the instruments to measure what was going on. And that could not be allowed. Sachael's instructions on that were as clear as the directive against cursing.

That father's wordless plea had changed everything.

The hunger-bloated stomachs of the children almost physically hurt him now.

The desperation in their parents' eyes, as they realized there was nothing they could do to alleviate their families' suffering, made him mad enough to curse some more.

The sheer need for some sort of relief that emanated from the entire region almost crushed him. Sachael had seen more cruelty in the last few weeks than even an angel should be expected to deal with.

As for the bastards who had caused all this? The ones building dams that interrupted the natural flow of water, or those in favor of large-scale agriculture in regions that did not support it, every single one of the idiots contributing to climate change was firmly noted on Sachael's personal black list. If he ever encountered one of them he would not be responsible for his own actions. He was almost ready to actively go after them, an act that was sure to cause his fall from celestial grace. Killing people, even evil ones, was not allowed.

Ha!

There was nothing he could so about the military idiocy, nor could he really help with the disease. But there was one thing in his power. He had been the angel of water for centuries and had always done a good job. The current situation in East Africa may require more of an effort, but that did not matter.

That one father had pushed him over the edge.

These people had suffered enough.

With a rueful grin, knowing full well this would have consequences, Sachael closed his eyes and let his power flow. Calling to the water, both above and below ground, with just enough force not to cause another major disruption, he used all his experience to bring much-needed rain to the entire region.

There! Problem solved.

* * * *

"Tell me, did you think you would get away with this or are you actually suicidal?" Raguel, head of the judicial panel, tilted his head as if giving the matter serious consideration.

"What... I ..." Sachael looked around, trying to get his bearings. He had expected to appear in the reception area for angels recently returning from the physical universe, same as every previous time he had returned to Heaven from a mission. He was still adjusting to the celestial energies that welcomed him home and infused him with a sense of invigoration. But, apparently, he was not where he had expected to be.

Instead, he found himself right inside what could only be the celestial court room, the residence of the much-feared judicial panel. He stood in the center of a green circle in the middle of the room, facing the seven archangels who were apparently going to decide his fate much sooner than he had expected. Raguel throned in the middle of the half-circle they formed, looking very ready to preside over Sachael's doom, if the archangel's smug smile was any indication. All of the judicial panel members perched on golden stools that allowed their imposing wings free rein. Bright white light poured in from the transparent ceiling, reflecting from the mirrored walls and creating a feeling of being exposed.

How had he been transported here without even noticing? Had they just diverted his energies, against his will and without due process and proper procedure? Was that not illegal-even for them?

"Angel of Water, Sachael, you stand accused of three extremely serious charges." Raguel's smile came close to being triumphant, as if he had waited to see Sachael in his court and had finally been given the opportunity. "Charge number one is performing an unauthorized miracle of continental proportions. Charge number two is interfering in several thousand people's lives directly and many millions more indirectly by exposing them to incontrovertible proof that a higher power does exist. The third and most serious charge is interfering in the Divine Plan."

Yep, that about covers it. Sachael was surprised at his lack of fear. But then, it had all happened so fast, he had a feeling his emotions might still be trying to catch up with what his brain had known all along. After all, even the most recently created new angel knew that there was no escaping celestial justice.

"How do you plead?" Raguel did not move a single muscle as he spoke.

Sachael shrugged. What was he supposed to say? He was guilty in their eyes, but not his own. His personal sense of justice said that those humans in East Africa had deserved a break after years of suffering. Too bad that he wasn't in charge of deciding what was right and wrong on a bigger scale. At the very least he could thwart the judicial panel's precious process as much as possible. It might add a further charge to the list, that of resisting celestial authority. But, really? In light of the severity of the others, that one was a joke.

"You are going to have to plead something." Raguel sighed with enough exasperation to make anyone nervous. "Proper procedure demands a response from the accused."

Just as Sachael was busy imagining exactly where Raguel could stuff his ‘proper procedure', a loud crackling at his back made him turn around. As suspected, the energy barrier that was supposed to close off the court room was turning transparent. Gasps of shock from the archangels accompanied the final weakening to the point where the angel standing outside was able to enter the courtroom.

"But... but ..." Raguel's voice sounded a lot less certain than before. "You cannot come in here while the court is in session!"

Sachael followed Carmael's progress into the room with his gaze. Drawn up to his full official height, wearing the iridescent robe befitting an angel of his level at official occasions, the Power, a whole two levels above the archangels in the celestial hierarchy, walked up to stand next to him.

"As you see, I can." Carmael put a heavy hand on Sachael's shoulder. "And I have. I will deal with this case myself."

Fuck! Sachael jumped at his boss's tightening grip. Carmael clearly knew exactly what he had just thought. He swallowed and tried to calm down.

"This is highly irregular." Raguel was as close to spluttering as he would probably ever get.

"So is your unauthorized snatching of an alleged transgressor of celestial law." Carmael's raised eyebrow made Raguel pull back. "In mid-transport, no less!"

"Well, his misdeed was so significant..." Raguel's face drained of color.

"...that you decided you were above the law?" Caramel shook his head. "Really, you of all angels should know better."

Raguel folded his arms in front of his chest and stared. He was not about to admit wrong-doing defeat or withdraw his accusations.

"By the power vested in me as this angel's boss and my station as a member of the Second Triad, I herewith relieve this court of any further jurisdiction in this case." Carmael flicked an official-looking document in Raguel's direction. "I trust you will find the paperwork in order."

Without another word Carmael let go of Sachael's shoulder and pointed at the still transparent energy barrier. It was time to go. Even though Sachael was relieved to be turning his back on the idiotic, short-sighted judicial panel, he could not stop feeling mounting apprehension as they made their way out of the courtroom.

What was to follow would not be any easier.

* * * *

"What in Heaven's name were you thinking?" Carmael, the angel of joy, no longer seemed very happy.

"I can tell you exactly what I was thinking." Sachael tried to look calmer than he felt. Moments after their exit from the courtroom, they were standing in the busy hallway just outside the waiting area.

"Please do." Carmael had never been so angry. His entire celestial body vibrated with negative energy, ugly splotches of gray energy marring his face.

Every angel within reach was affected, resulting in lots of empty space around the two of them. They were giving Sachael and his boss a wide berth, trying to avoid the unpleasantness.

Sachael was as uncomfortable as the rest of them, but he had no place else to go. He had known full well his actions would cause a stir, but actually being angel enough to stand strong was turning out to be a lot harder than he had anticipated. Carmael may have rescued him from the clutches of the judicial panel, but he still faced punishment. He could only hope that none of the other angels in the Second Triad got wind of this. They would be far less lenient that Carmael, who at least knew him and was responsible for him. Some of those other Powers, like Raphael or Verchiel, were scary.

"Well?" Carmael took a deep breath and looked around. Noticing the absence of other angels he raised his eyebrows. "On the other hand, we may need a more secluded location for this discussion."

Really? Heavenly waste matter, he was officially losing it. Sarcasm in the face of adversity was not a celestially approved reaction. And even though it made him feel a little better to give in to his emotions it would do nothing to improve his situation.

Carmael, who must have picked up Sachael's latest indiscretion, just raised his eyebrows farther and waved them away. As expected, they rematerialized in a quiet corner of the Angelic Recreation Facility. Having seen his friend Taharial in this exact spot a few weeks ago, conferring with Carmael and Raphael just before the other angel vanished from sight, did not imbue Sachael with a lot of confidence. He had not been able to find out what had happened to Taharial, only the latest angel in a series of mysterious disappearances. It made him wonder whether he was about to follow his friend?

"Right." Carmael took a seat in one of the energy constructs designed to support celestial bodies and pointed at the second one. "Have a seat."

Sachael sat, not daring to make himself comfortable. The stern gaze form his boss was more than enough to stop him from wriggling about like a junior guardian angel about to receive a reprimand for failing an assignment.

"Now, please explain to me why you found it necessary to perform a full-blown miracle to save East Africa from the current drought." Carmael leaned forward, clearly intent on not missing a word of whatever explanation Sachael could come up with.

"It was the only way to save all those lives." Sachael took a deep breath, holding on to his memory of that young father's plight. "Those people did nothing to deserve the fate they have been dealt."

"I am not disputing the fact that you saved lives." Carmael's celestial energy changed, the gray splotches making way for red ones. Acute fury. His boss leaned back as if trying to control his temper. "But that is hardly the point."

"Well, maybe it should be!" He was finding it more and more difficult to control his own anger.

"What?" Carmael reeled back. "Are you saying you disagree with the Divine Plan?"

"Am I?" He shrugged. "Maybe so. If following this Divine Plan means seeing thousands, no, millions, of humans suffer due to the idiocy of just a few of their fellow beings, then, yes, maybe it is time to revise it. Things have changed since it was developed, maybe it should move into the next millennium. After all, even the species it was designed for has managed to do that."

Carmael stiffened, his mouth agape. The silence was crushing.

What in Heaven's name had he just said? It was exactly what he had felt at some level, but he had never let it rise to his conscious mind before. As for saying it out loud? Someone just end his existence now! High treason was too positive a description of what he had just committed.

"Angling for the Big Guy's job, are you?" The new voice from just behind Sachael's seat made him physically jolt.

Oh shit! He flinched even as he thought the human words. But, really, a celestial curse was not strong enough to describe the utter shock he felt at hearing Raphael's voice. He was in for it now. Facing his boss had been bad enough. But having two Powers on his case, demanding an explanation? No way was he going to be able to keep himself out of the Void. Unless they decided to totally end his existence, which might be the easier way out. But then, nobody ever came back from the Void, so it probably made no difference.

"Well?" Raphael moved around him, robes rustling as he picked a position next to Carmael, and sat down in a conveniently appearing third energy construct. "Are you trying to tell us that you know better than the Big Guy?"

He shook his head. No, that was not what he had thought. He had not thought anything much at all. His entire focus had been on ending the human suffering that made no sense to him.

"So-if you are not about to replace the Big Guy, what was your plan?" Raphael's eyebrows climbed up his forehead.

"I just wanted the suffering to stop." Sachael fell back against his seat under the full realization of what he had done. "Bringing balance to Earth's water supply has been what I was created for, and I have handled the job for a very long time. Seeing some of these humans destroy their own environment without regard for their fellow beings is getting to me. Nobody deserves to suffer like that just because there are some idiots in power who cannot use the brains the Big Guy has given them to think their actions through."

Raphael tilted his head, suddenly looking thoughtful.

"Nobody deserves to die because of that." Sachael closed his eyes. He was just so tired of it, and his latest activity, even thought it had helped many humans, had caused more issues than he could ever hope to solve. Even if, through yet another miracle, he was given a chance to redeem himself.

"Your reasons seem sound, if only on the basis of a very limited perspective." Carmael's voice was softer than he'd expected. "I am glad you did not try to hide what you have done. I am equally certain that you are aware of the Prime Directive of Non-Interference which has not changed in longer than Earth has existed. So the only thing we can rightfully charge you with is being overly enthusiastic and too involved in your job."

"I agree." Raphael's reaction surprised him enough to look up.

"Are you serious?" He looked from one Power to the other, desperate for a sign of confirmation that they actually understood why he had reacted the way he had. He would still get punished, but as long as he knew someone had ‘heard' him, had understood that it may not always be right to rigidly adhere to whatever plan there was, even a Divine one, he would gladly accept the consequences.

"Very." The twinkling in Raphael's eyes was unexpected and more than a little unnerving.

"I still think you are no longer suited to your job as water angel." Carmael's expression stayed serious.

Here it comes! Sachael steeled himself to accept whatever they threw at him.

"In fact, I think this is a good reminder that you need more joy in your existence." Carmael winked. "Being the angel of water is an extremely important job, and you have taken it seriously for a long time."

"M-more joy?" What in Heaven...

"I like the way you think." Raphael grinned. "It fits well with our plan to take a different approach."

"What different approach?" What had he gotten himself into?

"Never mind that." Carmael waved Raphael' words aside. "What you need, Sachael, is a vacation."

"A vacation?" If he had not been sitting down already he would have collapsed where he stood. Who had heard of angels taking a vacation?

"I agree." Raphael nodded and lifted his hand at the same time as Carmael. "Try to have some fun, enjoy yourself, and relax."

Before he could even open his mouth to reply, Sachael felt the disorienting sensation of long-distance transport. The familiar energies surrounded him, pushing him toward Earth with unstoppable force.

When he opened his eyes he stood in the middle of a wheat field. The sun hung high overhead in a cloudless azure sky, insects buzzed around him and the ground under his booted feet was almost as dry as in East Africa.

Booted feet?

He stared down at his strangely human-looking body. Gone was the zing of celestial energy that normally accompanied him even when he made himself visible to humans in the course of a mission. His clothes were that of a cowboy, from his fancy suede boots, along his much too tight jeans, all the way up via his checkered shirt and the wide-rimmed black cowboy hat. He looked up to confirm his suspicion. A grain elevator in the distance and the fact he could see nothing but flat fields as far as his eyes could see confirmed his suspicion.

He was in Kansas.

What in Heaven?

An icy wind reminded him it was only February and that was a cold month even here. Unfortunately, whoever had designed his wardrobe had forgotten the jacket and his first priority now was to find shelter.

He started walking toward the farmhouse he could see to the west as his thoughts churned, trying to determine what was going on. What am I doing in Kansas? This is supposed to be a vacation? More like Divine error!

When he was close enough to the farmhouse to sense there was a human male inside he was relieved. At least he could find out where he was. But when he listened more closely, and detected the pain and despair rolling off the stranger, he stopped in his tracks. That man needed more help than he did.

And this was supposed to bring joy back into his life?

©Serena Yates, 2012 & 2013
All Rights Reserved

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