Author's note: Have you ever seen on your TV or read in the paper stories about how peoples' lives and their... Show full author's note »
The Gift (Pilot)Storm Chasers: The Gift
A group of teen angels with special powers
are sent to Earth to protect people from weather disasters.
There was once a world called Earth, whose citizens waited and wondered for a very long time if they would ever be set free from the anger of the Gods from the skies above. They prayed, time and time again, for a savior to come. For centuries they waited and waited, until
Born from the skies...sent to keep it in check.
The menacing clouds were rolling in. It was getting dark, or maybe the sun was in its last stages of settling down for the night. The wind was picking up, and Andrew knew he would have to make the last delivery of farm supplies to old Mr. Warner's place before nightfall. He made it just as the last speck of daylight faded from view. It was time to head home.
But just as he was climbing into his truck, he felt the electric charge in the air tickle the hairs on the back of his neck. He quickly turned, and that is when he sighted the funnel cloud. And it was a big, ugly one, too, less than a mile away. Andy knew it had his name on it, coming for him only. He knew his truck was no match, but it was better than trying to outrun the thing.
He jumped in the cab and gunned the engine. Big mistake. The faster he sped down the country lane, the faster the twister seemed to gain on him. Andy didn't look in his rearview mirror, not once, until the monster was right on top of him.
A cry of terror filled his eyes as he and the truck was lifted straight off the ground and tossed, like a rag doll, a hundred yards away. He was slammed to the ground amidst rocks and lumber of an abandoned construction site, the old Chevy crumpled around him like a discarded note. Andrew's time in the world had come to an end.
Katrina and her friends were glad they finally got a chance to continue their trek by the woods along the riverside. The weather report said a flash flood advisory was still in effect in their area, although all seemed calm in town. The three girls laughed and skipped stones along the way, bantering of how far they would go exploring before heading back.
Kat glanced for a moment down the short embankment from Crystal Cove Trail, and then looked behind her. Unless she was imagining it, she could have sworn that the riverbank was an inch or two higher than it had been just a few minutes earlier. She let her gaze wander back through the woods, to the field beyond, and finally to the edge of the hills; to the community she called home.
A panic rose in her as she spied what appeared to be a low wall of water rush down the hillsides and across the field, heading in her direction. It was wide, and moving quickly. She pointed, indicating the flood was coming, and instructed her companions to run. They did...right toward the water!
"Not that way!" she screamed.
But they feared if they continued in their present direction, the ground beneath their feet would become muddier and slipperier, tossing them into the raging river below. They wanted to look for higher ground, in the direction of the fast moving wall of water, but off to the side, where they would be safe. Kat said they'd never make it. She begged...no, ordered them to follow her. And to be careful. They could just as easily locate higher ground away from the direction of the water.
So, hoping Kat's advice would not put them in harm's way, the girls set off. Big mistake. The water eventually caught up with them, and Kat was tossed into the river below, just as her friends found and climbed onto a plateau. They pleaded with her to swim with the current and try to stay afloat for as long as possible, or find a rock or strong branch along the bank to hold on to. But it was no use. The two girls could only watch helplessly as the angry current carried their friend away faster than they could run alongside the ridge to keep up with her. They stood there, and just cried. Katrina's time in the world had come to an end.
Camille could not believe her luck. She was finally going to get a chance to escape the big city and go skiing with her new friends. This was double good news. Not only was she invited by the popular clique in school, who she thought would never even give her the time of day, but her parents actually gave her permission to go! In addition, she hoped she would get a chance to see a performance by the Blue Angels flying team, who were rumored to put on a scheduled show at the resort.
Cammy made sure to arrive extra early, for she wanted to take in the sights of town before hitting the slopes. She was a very good skier, having learned it when quite young, although she hasn't done it in years. But, like riding a bicycle, there are some things that stay with you. She was sure she would have no problem.
The moment came late in the afternoon that Camille had been waiting for. She was all bundled up like the typical snow bunny, sitting on a bench in the front room of the lodge, eagerly putting on skis. She had her poles leaning against the fireplace directly to her right. She couldn't wait to slide down Mt. Titan, though it might as well have been Everest. She was told that this was a very dangerous run, and even experienced daredevils shuddered at its name. But she had been on treacherous slopes before. Her spirit was full of adventure. Her only regret of the day, thus far, was that she missed most of the acrobatics by the Blue Angels. She would cry later, however, tragically, that she wished they had never come.
She soon found herself at the top of the hill and, after confirming that all was well with the safety guide and the St. Bernard standing nearby—who had a worried look on his face, and let out a soft whine—she started down the incline. It wasn't very steep at first, but gradually became more difficult. She apparently had misjudged the slope when viewing it from a distance earlier in the day. Still, she was able to keep her balance and continue on.
After about several hundred yards down the hill, she paused a moment for a breather. She looked up and saw a small crew of the Blue Angels streak across the sky directly above her. The noise was almost deafening and she thought she would have to cup her hands tightly over her ears to reduce the roar. But she stood there and took it all in, her eyes opened wide and her mouth dropped open with awe and glee. The planes twisted and twirled as they passed, as if the show was just for her. Far off as he was, she could have sworn she saw one of the pilots wave to her.
Cammy yelled, "Wow! Go, baby, go! Oh, yeah!", as her stare followed the aircrafts' trail from one side of the mountain to the other, and beyond.
After standing there misty-eyed for a few moments more, she resumed her run. Faster and faster she went, for the slope turned steeper and steeper. A time or two, she thought she'd trip, but she kept her balance. She learned a lot from her lessons when young.
But not enough to avoid tragedy, it seemed. One last plane dug a trench mark into the sky as it blazed at lightning speed overhead, aiming to catch up with its flock. A moment later was when the first rumble could be heard. Only a few small mounds of earth and balls of snowpack tumbled in the beginning, their grip on the hill loosened by all the sonic booms from above throughout the day. But soon more debris followed and joined its friends in a massive wall.
Cammy stopped for just a second to see what all the commotion was behind her. Big mistake. By the time she realized what was happening, it was too late. She turned, pushed off, and tried to ski her little life away, but she didn't even have a chance to get going. In an instant, she felt something large, heavy and cold violently slam into her, knocking her to the ground. She was immobilized, and unable to even breathe. She futilely tried to cry, "help", but no sound came. Camille's time in the world had come to an end.
The heat wave was relentlessly unbearable today, especially in the city. Or so Floyd thought. He had only just begun the first of four years at Empire State College, but some days he wondered if he'd be there for an eternity. It was only early September, but he was already burdened with work. On this day, however, it was too hot to even think.
The heat wasn't so bad when he left his apartment in the morning, but was at its high point by early afternoon. He had gone in search of a store that sold one of those gallon plastic jugs of ice water, the kind one isn't afraid to be seen carrying around everywhere on a day like today. A lot of folks had them.
But every merchant he visited only had left half-liter bottles, many of which weren't even that cold, despite being kept in refrigeration. It wasn't nearly enough to hydrate his desert-lined, stone-dry throat, plus some left to pour over his head. He reasoned that everyone else had the same idea as he, and that is why the gallon jugs were no more. He tried to be optimistic, thinking that sooner or later he'd find a place with a large amount of water.
But every restaurant and shop he patronized told him he'd have to be a customer to receive a drink, or even gain access to the restroom, where a sink would be worthy of worship. But he had neither the money nor the desire for a useless trinket or a large meal. He just wanted water. He was thirsty, not hungry.
How could they be so cruel on a day like this? Even a large fountain in a park would be welcome. He would swim in it, drink it all in, even propose marriage to it. He didn't care that any or all of those activities might be illegal.
As the day wore on, the temperature climbed higher, and Floyd began to feel the first tinges of faintness. If he did not get some fluid in him soon, he feared all that remained in him would dry up, leaving him a dusty skeleton on the urban landscape. He reasoned he'd have to settle for a half-liter bottle, after all. He should have thought of this earlier, but now it was all water under the bridge, with no intended pun.
He finally surrendered at a small convenience store. Inside, all the water he found left were in small, novelty-type, half-pint bottles. There were a few left on a shelf. They weren't even cold, but Floyd didn't care. He brought one up to the counter, reached in his pocket to pay, and then realized he had forgotten his wallet! He began to plead his case to the clerk, saying he'd return to pay double the amount. He offered his name and address; confessed that he'd just moved into a new place, and the electricity and water hadn't been turned on yet. That was the reason he was at the store.
But the proprietor wouldn't budge. Desperate to save his own life, Floyd defied the law, tore open several bottles of water, and quenched his thirst. As he scolded Floyd for his behavior, the shopkeeper pressed a silent alarm underneath the counter, alerting the police. It turned out that a squad car was but one block away. Panicking at the sound of a siren, Floyd bolted from the air-conditioned sanctuary of the store and out into the heat of the day.
He ran toward home. He ran...in triple-digit heat. Big mistake. He didn't quite make it, and collapsed on the sidewalk by the plaza of a small shopping center, in front of a stunned crowd. The next thing he remembered was a different sounding siren, bright lights flashing around him, and strangers asking his name, handling and talking to him, repeatedly reciting a phrase that sounded like, "hold on."
But Floyd could no longer hold on. He was a mere 100 yards from his building, and the very last thought which filled his mind before he let go was regretting not seeking his neighbors' assistance in the beginning, which he did not think of until just then. He was forced, slowly, by the power of the sun, to face his death. Ironic it was that he was always taught it was an entity responsible for giving him life. Floyd's time in the world had come to an end.
In the blink of an eye Andrew, Katrina, Camille and Floyd found themselves each walking on a different cloud. They were far from one another, yet drawn together. They did not know what they were being led to. Certainly not to each other, as far as they knew. Each of them didn't even know the others existed. They simply felt something pulling them toward a distant bright light. They knew they had crossed over into a different world, and hoped to find answers soon—the answers to what happened to them, and why they were forced to leave their previous lives so abruptly. They had no recollection of it, but something deep inside told them it was quite memorable.
They walked toward each other in the form of a semi-circular pattern, each of them coming from the connected points of a fan. Andrew was the first to cry out when he saw another person across an expanse of sky. He ran toward the figure, overcome with joy, as if he had never encountered another being like himself before. It was still too far away for him to make it out clearly, but he knew it had to be human.
Katrina also knew she had found another familiar soul. This could only be Earth's heaven, she thought, not an angel's station for collecting the population of other worlds. The split-second they caught the eye of an actual carnal, mortal body, they ran as fast as the wind would carry them to each other, for there was no solid ground to trample on. And yet another split-second after that, they were embraced in each other's arms, with a grip as tight as two lovers reunited after being kept apart by a million forever’s. All Katrina could do was sob and beg, over and over again, not to be let go.
"I am so glad I finally found someone," she cried. "Please don't ever leave. I don't want to be alone."
"Never," Andrew replied. "The end of time will not make me leave you, stranger."
Just then, Camille and Floyd spotted each other, and raced on diagonal paths to a rendezvous point, then straight ahead to the Andrew-Katrina animal. They stopped five feet away from it. Floyd held out a hand, cautiously, half-expecting it to pass right through them. But he ended his reach just short. He gave a quick hello.
Andrew replied in kind, and let out a brief smile. Katrina's was next, followed by Camille's, which seemed to be the widest. Then she quickly frowned, with a look of sadness.
"Are we the only ones in this space?" she asked. "I mean, did any of you guys see anyone else come along?"
"No," answered Andrew, who quickly seemed to assert himself as leader of the group, even if only by body language. "I think it is just the four of us, alone."
"Are we even alive anymore?" Camille continued.
"I don't think so, honey," Katrina spoke for the first time among them. "If we are alive, this is a different kind of life. We now know what heaven is."
"This is not heaven," proclaimed Andrew. "Heaven is that light over there. Or beyond it." He pointed, at arm's length, to a blinding illumination in the distance. "I think we will find answers in there."
Floyd asked, with mild anxiety and a rasp in his voice, "We-we're supposed to go to that...toward that?"
"Toward it...and then inside it, I think."
"You seem so calm about all this."
"Because I know I am about to enter a place of eternal peace, I have no fear. That is why."
"And once inside..." started Camille.
"Then what?" inquired Katrina.
"Then," Andrew tried to reassure them, "we wait to find out what happens next."
And so, after the obligatory, identifying introductions, the youngsters set off to face their fate.
The light was blinding, but did not hurt their eyes, for they weren't even alive. They walked side by side; not surprisingly, in two pairs: Andrew holding Katrina's hand, while Floyd stuck close to Camille. They strolled a trail of sky, with clouds above and below them. It was not a leisure walk, but they moved slowly, cautiously, wary of incurring the wrath of unknown forces for the slightest mistake. One might presume just as well. New, frightening experiences would throw many spirits for a loop. But imagine you're dead and about to meet your maker! Talk about having a stressful day!
Their nerves were calmed somewhat, though, by the scenes to either side before them, and beyond. Wide fields of green grass stretched to the horizon; meeting the blue, clear sky. Trees and flowers were placed intermittently, strategically, across the meadows. Young children were running about and playing in this postcard picture. Some were rolling in the grass, with absolutely no fear—right alongside lions, bears, elephants, and large, wild birds. Andrew and his new friends could only stand in awe, eyes opened wide and mouths hanging open. Never in a million years could they imagine this scene on Earth; surely the kids would have been trampled or eaten by now. This was yet another sign that they had come into the paradise known as the afterlife.
The fields eventually gave way to a large lake in front of them, filled with meandering swans and dam stick-gathering beavers by the shore. The lake was fed by streams trickling down from a range of snow-capped mountains, which stretched across the horizon in both directions as far as the eye could see. The mountains were luminous, reflecting the peaceful aura of the environment.
As the foursome got closer, the light grew brighter, which they considered strange. Then a massive bulk of the light escaped the peaks and began to move toward them, slowly. They were afraid, though they knew they shouldn't have been. They reasoned that this light was what they were supposed to find. This could be their salvation.
As the light got closer, it began to divide itself into four vertical shapes—unrecognizable as anything at first, but they gradually began to resemble humanoid form. Before too long, it became apparent that these beings, whoever or whatever they were, had come solely for the teens.
When they finally materialized, they looked like the most gentle, peaceful angels. They were old. They appeared as human elderly persons, though they were far from frail. They wore long, white robes, and there was a yellow aura framing the top half of each of their bodies, down to the shoulders. The kids felt inferior and humble, the fact being they were wearing their last set of clothing they were attired in before facing their demise.
They smiled at the kids, intending to put them at ease, for they were sure the children were quite frightened, though there was no need to be. Katrina and Camille stood slightly slumped, with somewhat of a cowering posture, giving shy smiles and guilty looks on their faces, as if adopting the stance of a child being scolded—or meeting an older stranger for the first time.
Floyd could only be a statue, arms at his sides, mouth tightly closed, eyes wide open, stone cold with fear.
Only Andrew smiled back, as if to set an example for the others, as their leader. It was a quick, weak smile, given more out of a show of respect than anything else, for he was sure he knew, instinctively, who these angelic strangers were. At least he was sure he knew the gentleman standing directly opposite him: he was meeting his grandfather for the first time, who had died before Andrew was born.
And so he concluded that the others were the kids' grandparents, also (or at least a distant relative). He also concluded that the older relatives had come to guide him and the others to their new home in heaven. Little did the kids realize just how wrong that presumption would be. In a few moments they would receive the shock of their afterlives.
"Hello, Andrew," the old man spoke for the first time. "We've been waiting for you."
Andrew replied, "Are you our guardians? Are you our grandparents, or other long-lost relatives, who have come to take us 'home'? And how do you know my name?"
Katrina immediately shot him a look as if to berate him for asking such a question. This is heaven, she would say. Don't you think they know who we are?
"No," the old man continued. "We are not your grandparents. We are..." He pondered the next moment or two in deep, careful thought. "Why don't you kids sit down? We have something to tell you."
The elders continued to stand, their body language giving the message of being in a superior position. Andrew and the others looked about them for a moment, and then sat, Indian-style, right upon the cloud on which they were standing. It did not feel cold. It did not feel like anything. They were floating in mid-air, which was bewildering to them, for they had not yet become accustomed to the milieu. The elderly gentleman spoke up again.
"No doubt you are all wondering who we are, exactly what this place is, what is going to happen to you, and I'm sure a hundred other questions. I will tell you something you probably already know. You no longer have the lives you once knew on Earth. You have come upon a different kind of existence. The bodies you have are not real bodies, only images. You are now only spirits, but not yet angels. That won't come until you complete the crossover. And we have been sent to help you with that.
However, there is something else you should know. The universal laws of nature and physics cannot be changed. The rules cannot be broken, and you cannot go back. Under ordinary circumstances. But we feel this is a special case. We feel it is unfair that you are innocents who were taken so young. And we want to help you get back; to have a second chance."
On a cue from Andrew, the four teens stood back up. Katrina half-scolded them.
"We agree, she said. It is indeed unfair that we were taken when—and how—we were. But everyone on Earth...throughout history...has faced this. Why are you offering this...TO US? What makes us so special? Not that we're complaining or anything," her demeanor suddenly changed to that of the cowering child again.
Andrew added, "You all are just ordinary angels, I presume. What makes you think you have the power...or even the authority...to do what you are proposing? You haven't even told us who you are." A semi-revelation started to take shape in Andrew's mind. "Have we been chosen...for some reason...to do something? Were our lives taken from us intentionally?"
"Not to our knowledge," the old man said. "But perhaps that can be arranged, with our help. You would be the first souls, ever, to be allowed to go back and live again."
A moment of silence passed between the two groups on a shear of wind cutting high through the atmosphere. "Who are you?" Andrew asked for the second time. "I demand to know."
The four older persons consulted one another with merely a few moments’ glance, contemplating how to proceed. The man directly across from Andrew began, just as he had before, "We are...we are you."
"Huh? I don't understand," said Katrina.
The gentleman clasped his hands loosely together and continued on. "We are you. My name is Andrew, and these are my friends: Katrina, Camille and Floyd. We are who you would have grown up to be...your future selves...if you had lived. You see, my child, destiny dictated that you were to meet soon, anyway, and grow to be lifelong friends. You were supposed to die not now, but when you were old and had lived your lives. Unfortunately, heaven had other plans. We think it is unfair, and want to send you back to have another chance."
"But you cannot do this!" yelled Camille. "It is against the rules! Do you know how much trouble you will be in...we will be in? And, like Andy here said before, how can you do this?"
"We have special secrets," commented older Camille.
Older Katrina repeated the message from earlier, once more. "Trust us, you can go back."
"But what about God?" inquired Floyd. "Aren't you afraid of incurring the wrath of the Supreme Being? Surely he will learn of this plan. He knows all. He knows this conversation is taking place. If you do this, what is to stop others from following after? The heavens will open onto the Earth, and the Lord will destroy us all!"
"Don't worry, son," exclaimed older Floyd. "Nothing will happen. Everything will be fine."
"No!" old Floyd pleaded, trying to silence his protege. "You must do this! We beg of you! If you don't, you cannot live your lives and grow old and be like us! You must go back and live again! You have families to raise and love! You have things to do; people who depend on you! You cannot settle for having your lives cut short in vain! We will teach you how to live again!"
"What do you mean, 'be like us'?" asked young Andrew. "You're not ordinary angels, are you? Are you even of this Earth...this existence? I think the question is not, 'who are you', but 'what are you'?"
Andrew's older self answered, "It is true we are special beings, but there is no reason to fear us. We are guardian angels. Your guardian angels. We have knowledge of the secrets of life, and we can bend the rules for you. Death is not always the end. This is one of the treasures of the universe that you are not supposed to know about, so you can never tell a soul. Not that anyone would believe you, anyway. That's why you were chosen...for this experiment. If you don't go back and live again, you will have wasted all those years. They'll be gone forever, never to return. And even we cannot turn back time. You won't have the chance to perish in your elder years, and become like us. There is a rule in heaven: only those who have lived a full life may receive angel wings of gold. They are very special. They place you higher than all the others and give you special powers, like the ability to send someone back who was taken before their time."
"So you want to send us back so you can...you're doing this out of selfishness, aren't you? You're only thinking of yourselves! Well, what about us? Huh? WHAT'S IN IT FOR US?!"
The elder Andrew got right up in the face of his young charge. "Now you listen to me, son! You will not use that tone with me, do you understand? We can very easily forget this whole deal, and your lives will end, here and now! ALL OF YOU!"
He tossed a stern, scolding glance across the faces of each of the youngsters, and they hung their heads down, Andrew included.
Katrina looked back up and started to cry. "I want to go back!" she wailed. "I miss my family...my friends...I left them all behind!" She recalled being swept down the river, while her two friends stood on the ridge, helplessly, screaming and calling out her name.
The old man pleaded with them. "You are being given a gift. Please let us do this. Let us help you. You're not going to stand there and say that you're willing to accept what happened, are you? You have an opportunity for a second chance. Don't you want to take it?"
The four youngsters looked at each other for a long moment, each knowing what the others were thinking. Andrew asked, "What do you want us to do?"
The elder Floyd took over. "The plan we have in mind for you is quite simple in theory, but it involves a lot of work...on your part. Do you remember when we told you about the special powers we are endowed with when we become full angels?"
"Yes, we remember that," young Floyd answered. "What does that have to do with us?"
"When you died so young, you weakened us. We are your guardian angels. We are a part of you. When your lives ended, it greatly drained our life force. We almost received our golden wings...when this happened. The only way we can get our strength back is if you live again...and do something for us."
Floyd echoed Andrew's sentiment. "What do you want us to do?"
"We have a proposition for you. An assignment, really. The four of you must return to Earth and use your powers for good, to help others. You must—”
"Wait a second. We don't have any powers. That's your thing."
"Yes, children, you do have powers; special magical abilities. Only you don't know it yet. And the only way we can get them back is by you returning them, slowly. We need to be proven worthy of getting into heaven, and receiving our wings. Otherwise, we will linger in eternal obscurity, here, along this fine line between life and death. Forever. And you need to be proven worthy of having a second chance; to grow old and live again."
"The powers could be dangerous in the wrong hands. We don't even know how to use them."
"We will teach and train you. Each of you was forced to face your end by a different form of severe weather, isn't that right? Andrew was crushed by a tornado, Katrina drowned in a flood, an avalanche buried Camille, and you, Floyd, my young one, succumbed to the extreme heat of the sun."
"That's right!" said Camille, excitedly. "You want us to go back and use our powers to stop it from occurring? Then we won't die and we'll have a chance to continue our lives, right?"
"No. I'm sorry, my dear Camille. You can't do that. We told you before, we cannot turn back time. What is done is done. Instead, we have another plan for you in mind. We want you to go back and use your powers to have control over each of the violent elements that killed you: wind, rain, snow and heat...and use them to prevent this tragedy from happening again. Make sure it doesn't happen anymore. We want you to go back and save others. You will be Earth's new heroes."
Katrina placed her hands on top of her head and, try as she might, could not stop the smile on her face from growing. Camille looked upward and raised her fists in the air in a victory gesture. Andrew and Floyd were too stunned in shock. They placed their hands over their mouths, eyes wide with wonder. Floyd ran his hand slowly down the length of his face first. These four young persons were being given the chance to not only get their lives back, but to do something special with them.
Old Floyd continued, "Each time you successfully complete an assignment, we get a little bit of our strength back. When your work is done, we will become whole again and get our golden wings. And you will get your lives back, and find in each other lifelong friends, as you grow old together. You will look out for each other, help one another's families, and other enjoyments. Perhaps it was meant to be that this happened to you. Maybe this is what you were meant to do."
"How long is all of this going to take? And how long is the training?" asked Andrew.
"Who cares?" cried Katrina, ecstatically, as if she were about to participate in a game. "When can we start?"
"It could take only a year or two," the elder Andrew answered. "Or it could take ten years. However long it takes to make us complete. The training will begin at the crack of dawn tomorrow, and last, nonstop, for one or a few Earth days; maybe 24 hours at most. Don't worry, you will learn to use your powers wisely."
At that very moment, a spoken and unspoken agreement and bond was made between two groups of angels: one set young, strong, complete and unlearned; the other old, weak and semi-whole, yet wise. The training and exercises were vigorous and exhausting, but the kids gladly endured, for they knew it was well worth it. And besides, it only took 48 hours.
They were constantly placed in situations where they were told to use special given powers to stop or destroy fierce weather elements and save mock civilizations. When the teachers were satisfied that their students learned all they could, they made final preparations to return them to Earth. Before transfer, however, the very last order of business was to impress upon the kids the knowledge that they will still be watched and looked after, and that their superiors will be always available, in a heartbeat, if dire circumstances should arise.
After the second full day of magic education, before retiring in their last night in heaven—until their second visit, which is permanent and won't come for another 60-80 years (just about every other person in history gets only one visit)—the kids were treated to a feast fit for a kingdom. Any dish they wanted and thought of instantly materialized before their eyes. They were told to eat as much as their hearts desired—literally—and not to be concerned with any consequences. They would not even feel full because, technically, they did not have corporal bodies. This was most likely the one time they would get to pull off a trick like this, yet another thing the living had to be envious over.
Much of the dinner conversation was a joyous occasion for the two groups—and the members of the younger one—to learn more of each other. The kids shared stories about themselves and their lives, and their adult versions revealed tales of special moments and events that would come into their lives, once their mission was finished, perhaps as a reward. A family-like atmosphere evolved, and all were pleased with this new revolutionary development and task that was about to be accomplished on the planet below. There were laughter and smiles all around, but after awhile a dark cloud formed over Andrew. He had one question nagging at him, begging to be asked.
From nowhere, he blurted out, "You say you want us to save people from bad weather and storms. But this is the heaven, the home of all things just, right and good. Surely you can't simply stand back and do nothing while people's lives are devastated. Unless...do the heavens and the powers-that-be cause disasters to occur, like I've grown up to believe that—”
"NO!!" Andrew's mentor shouted. "This is not our doing! Do you honestly believe that the Heavenly Father wants his children to suffer? He does not bring pain and anguish unto the Earth, yet he cries right along with you when it happens. He was very much saddened when you died. Ideally, I'm sure he wanted you to enjoy long lives. So, no, we are not behind the bad things that happen. We are not going to cause catastrophic weather just to give you something to do. In our hearts, we wish it wouldn't happen. But we know, logically, that it will. And when it does, we want you to be there to save people; to save their lives."
"Well, if that's all there is to it, that there is no hidden agenda, then I can't wait to play hero. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I feel an obligation—a responsibility, even—to do so. These things took our lives! The least we could do, in the name of justice and revenge, is to save others from a similar fate! Is there any one of the three of you who does not agree with this sentiment?"
Camille arose from her seat. "The last thing I did in my life was something completely innocent. I simply wanted to have fun going skiing with some friends from school. And the snow took that enjoyment away from me."
Camille placed her hand directly inside the burning flame of a single candle situated in the exact center of the dining table. One candle, representing one unified goal. She hoped the others understood her unspoken message. They did. The remaining three youngsters simultaneously stood and started to move their right arms forward.
The elders were overwhelmingly pleased. They were sure of what was coming next. Being much wise and powerful, they prided themselves on being rarely wrong in their assumptions about things. But every winning streak must eventually end. They thought the kids were going to place each of their hands on top of Camille's, in a show of support and solidarity. They did not. Instead, they intertwined the fingers of their hands together, creating an unbreakable sphere. After almost twenty years of having the job of angels, and the instances of their incorrect premonitions coming far and few between, it was more than just a bit disconcerting to be proven wrong twice in one minute. The first was when they thought Camille would rest her hand over the flame; instead, she placed it right inside.
The elders did not hear the next words. Camille whispered to her three new friends in a volume so low that any quieter would have to be telepathic, "Let's go kill some storms!"
As the kids released their grip, for just a second Camille made a fist with her hand; it was still in the flame. A part of her wished it would turn into a snowball, so she could smile sadistically as she watched it melt away, praying for its little life, just as Cammy prayed for hers.
As soon as the meal was finished, the elders announced that it was time to retire for the evening. The kids must be well rested, for tomorrow was to be the beginning of a new life; a new kind of life. This night was going to be the last time in a very long time that the kids would get to sleep on a cloud. During their first stint back on Earth, they never in a million years imagined they would ever get to do anything even remotely like it. They vowed to keep that memory as a treasure, even though they knew that evil lurked in the box it came in. They were about to embark on an unprecedented journey—perhaps into the heart of darkness—that would last a length of time which only heaven knows. They have been burdened with the task of saving those who cannot save themselves from the wickedness of the skies. So, sometime during the night, they will be returned to Earth to begin their endeavor. Their reward is that when all is said and done, they will be allowed to pick up where they left off and have a second chance at a full life.
The light of the sun and the sound of birds singing in the trees awoke the kids at the break of dawn the next morning. They were flat on the ground, forming the lines of a cross, their heads meeting at the center. Their location was in a field at the top of a cliff, overlooking a city somewhere in the world. It did not matter to them, in the first moments, where they were. They were just glad to be alive again, back on Earth. They screamed cries of joy and danced around, basking in their reincarnation, until they thought they would collapse from exhaustion. Then, as quickly as the celebration began, it ended with the realization of what they had to do. They were not given a free ride back to the living. They had a debt to pay; a job to do. It was important they remember a message given to them in heaven: "We can very easily forget this whole deal, and your lives will end, here and now!" It was most likely that one statement which kept them grounded. Andrew was the one to remind the group of this fact.
"So, here we are," he relented, solemnly. "We cannot forget why we're here." The others acquiesced in agreement, looking sad, yet proud.
He added, "You know, guys, if we're going to do the special thing we have to do, it might be cool—or even necessary, if we are to be known as a single entity—if our little group here adopts a special name. If we're going to help people, and they want to know who we are...what do we tell them? What should we call ourselves?"
A hair-thin passage of time whisked by between the end of Andrew's last sound and the beginning of the first of Katrina's. She clearly and fiercely spewed out two words: "Storm Chasers."
Smiles broke out on all four youngsters so suddenly and forcefully, they were afraid their faces would split and crack. Following Andrew's lead, they stood in a straight line at the edge of the cliff, standing tall, like parents, over the society they were sent to protect. Thus signaled the birth of a new breed of superhero. It was time to meet the new saviors of the world.