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The War of Tears - Preview

We all know that there are Angels and Devils.
The Angels’ aim is to get as many Serene Hours as possible for their protégés as, in fact, the aim of every respectable Storm is to set a new SH record.
The Devils’ aim, instead, is to get TOP (Tears Of Pain) which, after having been suitably collected, are transformed by their diabolic machinery into very precious diamonds that go to swell the already immense wealth of the General Devil.
We know what this means because also on Earth we have examples of vast riches built on someone else’s tears.


Chapter 1

On how the 5th Guardian Angels Storm
is organized and what its duties are.

Amidst the clouds, at the 5th G.A.S. (Guardian Angels Storm) headquarter, there was great commotion as everybody was hurriedly trying to line up to listen to the speech of the Archangel Commander who, from his clouds stage, was impatiently waiting for the moment when everybody was silent and had their attention on him.
«I remind you that our storm has for many years been at the top of the rankings and I absolutely want this supremacy to last, at least until I’m in command. Fifty-three mega millions of SH (Serene Hours) in the first six months of the year are a fine result, but woe betide you if you are thinking to rest on your laurels! Our protégés are becoming increasingly restless and imprudent; modern life on earth is becoming more and more complicated and dangerous and only our unrelenting and super professional protection can stop the Serene Hours that we provide every day from turning into sorrow and tears that would be immediately collected by our rivals, the devils.
You are never to drop your guard, never be sidetracked, never forget the absolute value of our mission. And now you can go and get to work!»
The Angels split up and everyone run to his assignment: who had to immediately descend to Earth because his protégé had woken up and needed to be followed during the daily activities; who had to report to his superior … «the child you are taking care of grazed his knees three times last week! What went wrong?...»; who had to instead attend refresher courses. Some children had, in fact, joined swimming courses and a swimming pool could be full of dangers. It’s obvious that those children’s guardian angels needed to take a lifesaving course and get to know each type of wave, current and eddy. Only in this way they would have been able to make the best of their job and keep the storm’s prestige and fame high.
Enrolled in the 5th G.A.S., there were at that moment a million Guardian Angels of all ages, split up throughout the various bases in the clouds covering that Earth sector.
It is well known, in fact, that every man, woman or child on earth, has a guardian angel of more or less the same age who provides a highly personalized service with guidance, suggestions and considerations whispered in the ear every time the need arises.
This personalized service is the angels’ pride and, after all, the secret of their success. Not certainly like the devils who haphazardly swarm around bumping into anyone they meet.
Sometime, it can also happen that three or four devils at the time pick on the same person, and this places a great burden on his guardian angel who has to counteract them; even though in such cases it is possible to call for backup since the SOS Division is there specifically for this purpose. However, the devils aren’t the only ones who can cause harm as there also other life events that must be taken into account, like crossing the street, riding a bike at breakneck speed, trying out the new roller skates… in short there are thousands of chances of getting hurt and lose Serene Hours, and, consequently, the one-on-one personalized service - one angel for each human – is the only one allowing to maximize the benefits.
The guardian angel (or protector) grows up with his protégé and usually flies just a little bit behind him, by his right side, while whispering advice in his ear. The apprentice angels must exercises quite hard to master flying in this position, which must be neither too far to avoid being unheard, nor too near to avoid becoming annoying (it has already happen that a boy who waved his arm to drive away a nuisance he felt in his ear, fell from his new bike with serious consequences. The boy cried for nearly two hours and the tears were immediately collected up to the last drop by the devil on duty).
Obviously the protégé can’t see him and nor speak to him. In actual fact he doesn’t generally know that he is being continuously protected by his guardian angel and the advice that he receive from him seems to directly come from his own head.
«Don’t run so fast in this road full of pebbles… be careful with that paper cutter, you could cut yourself… don’t eat too much or you’ll get a tummy ache…» the guardian angel’s advices sound like the recommendations you could hear coming from any mum, but obviously they are far more timely and above all always available.
Adults’ guardian angels have clearly less physical work to do, but the problems to be solved are often far more challenging: marriages in crisis, problems with children (in that case the respective guardian angels do sometimes organize special work groups to try to solve the problem), conflicts with their office supervisor, etc.
Angels can’t obviously do everything. In the end are always their protégés who decide, thanks to their Free Will, whether to follow the advice from the angel or from the devil who too often interferes. The Devil’s advice is often more convenient and less demanding. Carrying on eating those sweet, delicious snacks is much easier than making a healthy ham roll. Unfortunately, though, the dentist will afterwards make us cry tears of pain. It’s just what the devil has always been looking for, while for the poor angel there is nothing left to do, but to pick up the pieces and try to cheer up the unfortunate fellow and hope that things will go better next time.
In the evening, when the protégés are asleep and the angels can rest a little, many of them return back to their base entirely exhausted.
«…Just think, my protégé has joined a tennis club despite being nearly forty pounds overweight. You can’t imagine how vigilant I have to be in trying to stop him from eating too much, or from playing without having first warmed-up, or from getting angry when he loses…he doesn’t always listen to me and when he does things his own way, I should really tell him to go to hell. The devil will take care of sorting him out for good!»
But angels have to make a weekly report of their activity and Cherubs Inspectors are very strict in their evaluation.
Oh, if only those imprudent children realized how many problems they can cause their guardian angels! An imprudent child does, in fact, put his guardian angel under a lot of strain and often causes him to have nervous breakdowns. And yet it would take so little! But who protects the protector?
However, if the angel does his work well, he can be promoted to a higher rank and, above all, his protégé can count on a lot of Serene Hours, which are added up by the storm A.S.C. (Annual Serenity Counter). It’s precisely this counter that establishes the absolute supremacy of the 5th G.A.S.
This storm’s protégés are in fact the ones who live longer and cry less than anyone else and, ultimately, they live better than anyone else on earth. It’s not a small thing.
Most angels are stationed directly on the field and paired with a human, but there are other Elite Corps dealing with Logistics, Administration, Subsistence, Health Service, Training…and special Emergency intervention, like the SOS Division.
When an ordinary angel isn’t able to protect his human by himself, he calls someone from the SOS division to give him a hand. As a matter of fact, its members, a sort of wild card always ready for any event, are specifically selected for this purpose among the most skilled and creative angels.
For this reason the members of the SOS divisions must also attend intensive training courses, especially courses preparing them to be experts in all possible fields of intervention. Needless to say they need to have great flexibility, constant dedication towards perfection and great commitment to the cause. It’s not easy to always be on the crest of the wave!
In addition, within the SOS division there is also the JUNIOR section who deals with emergency interventions for children and teenagers.
Hence, when one of these angels of the SOS division reports to a Cherub or, more in general to one of his superiors, he must stand to attention and loudly and clearly state his name and the division he belongs to: First Class Angel so-and-so, 5th Angels Storm, SOS Junior section!
It must be said that no one is shy when it comes to identifying himself. The commitment for serving in the SOS division is so demanding and exciting that all members are extremely proud and never miss a chance to let others know say who they are, whether they were asked or whether it was appropriate. Membership to the division is also shown by a beautiful badge bearing the SOS name which they pin to their chest.
Well, among the members of the sprightliest team there is a group of special angels who had been through really interesting adventures. Their names are Speedy (the very competent and always ready for action group leader); Rubicund (called Ruby by his friends, plump and chubby but very strong and with a golden heart) and finally Serenity (very sweet and pretty. Her specialty are consolatory fables).
These three have carried out endless interventions and spared thousands of tears of pain to a lot of reckless, or simply a bit unlucky, children. They didn’t know, though, that in a few weeks’ time they would have been facing the most difficult adventure of their life; a battle that could destroy forever the honour of the 5th Angels Storm.

Chapter 2

Where a typical feat of the mythical
SOS Junior Section is narrated.

That day, at the beginning of March, the activity at the SOS division’s base was as usual.
In casualty there were 14 angels who needed medication for having been involved in some of their protégés imprudent actions. The most serious one was Cloud who sprained a wing, even if a good massage would have put him right within a day.
In the showers area, the old Tobias was recounting for the umpteenth time to a group of recruits, how 82 years before he had solved an important emergency situation by rescuing from the devils’ intent a whole group of tourists who wanted to explore a volcano during an eruption . A carelessness, which could have cost them dearly.
What a bore though! The story could have been interesting if everybody hadn’t already heard it (recruits included) at least ten times only in the last month.
On his bed, Speedy was doing a bit of homework in preparation of the “Slings and Darts” refresher course. Soon school would have finished, and this would have set off the busiest period for the guardian angels, and pointed objects have always been a source of great amounts of tears.
Rising his eyes from the instruction manual, Speedy saw that Ruby, sitting on his bed on the other side of the dormitory, was eating as usually, and obviously getting even fatter. A good kind of example for his protégés. Without counting that in so doing he would have had even more difficulties in flying and keeping up with Speedy.
Serenity, on the big wicker chair by the window, was instead reading a fables book. There was a constant need for fables to soothe children who had perhaps followed the advice of the devil on duty, and if the fable was new, the comfort provided was greater; thus, she constantly kept herself up to date by reading the latest publications.
Suddenly the alarm bell rang and, since their team was the nearest, Speedy, Ruby and Serenity dashed towards the hole in the cloud to grab hold of the tubular ray of light that would have made them slide down to earth quicker than any flight.
Few minutes later they were flying over a suburban area where, nearly at once, they spotted a guardian angel who, on the edge of a small brushwood field, was vigorously waving his arms to attract their attention.
They could see that the angel was still not very experienced because, as soon as the three angels landed, he immediately tried to tell them everything in such an excited and garbled manner that Speedy had to concentrate quite hard to get an exact picture of the situation.
It did happen that Lew, the eight-year-boy he protected, during his wandering around on his mountain bike, had witnessed, from the edge of road where he had momentarily stopped, a robbery at a gas station.
After having knocked senseless the pump attendant to steal his takings, the robbers had escaped by foot, climbed over a fence and after having run through some fields, took hiding in a deserted farmhouse thinking that the police would never have looked for them so nearby. When the waters would have calmed down – the robbers thought – they would have quietly left as if nothing had happened.
But Lew, who is a detective movies fanatic, in having seen all this from a distance, decided to follow them with his bike, and any advice from his guardian angel telling him to forget about it proved useless. A devil, who had obviously arrived almost immediately, after having shoved aside the angel started to whisper in Lew’s ears the most tempting words about a medal, a reward for the money recovered… and so on. Lew fell for it straight away. Once arrived at the farmhouse, Lew dropped his bike and climbed over the fence to get a closer look, except that in the next field there was a very vicious guard dog that immediately started chasing him, forcing him to find safety up a tree.
Now Lew was up there, hiding in the branches, while the dog was circling around the tree.
«If the bandits see him, there’ll be trouble – the angel concluded anxiously – they could kidnap him, if not worse. Dear me, what a problem!»
«Don’t worry, now we are here – Speedy calmly said like a real pro – quietly place yourself aside and let us do our work.»
Speedy, Ruby and Serenity flew over the field moving closer to the dog who was now crouched under the tree. The dog, obviously, couldn’t see them. He was too busy keeping an eye on the boy who, perched on the biggest branch, was trying hard to hide as best as he could where the leaves were thicker. But the big dog (tall and massive, with short brown fur and powerful muscles) could easily see him since he was crouched exactly under him, and most of all he could smell him thanks to his well-trained nose. That reckless boy wouldn’t have got away. No, no, a thousand times no!
His owner could rest easily as nobody would have been able to come into the farm he guarded and get away with it.
A bit higher up, Speedy was racking his brains to think of a way to drive the dog away.
The problem for angels is that they don’t have physical consistency and, consequently, they can’t grab the dog by the collar and pull him away. They can only give advice by whispering and, at most, use the environment and the atmosphere for their purposes. Hence it would have been a big problem persuading that big dog to step aside.
But the 5th G.A.S. training is very comprehensive and Speedy had already found himself in similar cases; the solution was only a question of time.
Looking around with a critical eye, Speedy saw a mole mound; a clear sign that a mole was digging a tunnel under the field.
«Ruby, since you who know a lot about food, concentrate and look if under the ground there is something that could interest the dog », said Speedy to his friend who was flying near him.
(Contrary to what we generally think, angels usually can’t see through walls or pass through them. They can only do it if they concentrate very hard and use up a great deal of their energy and calories, capable of knocking anybody out. So, when really necessary, Speedy usually asked Ruby to do it, seeing that in this way he would have lost some weight.)
Ruby took some minutes to concentrate and gather his energy, then, resolutely, stuck his head under the ground like an ostrich, trying hard to see through the clumps of earth. «Hey, under here there is buried a nice bone!» he yelled. Then he pulled his head out of the ground and collapsed to his side, exhausted by the effort.
For Speedy it was like a revelation. It was just what he needed. He immediately put his head near the ground, exactly over the mole’s hole, and as soon as the mole came out to have a sniff around, he whispered in its ear with a smooth voice: «Why don’t you dig a little more to the right?»
The mole, which has a simple brain, accepted the suggestion and began digging in the direction indicated until it came across the bone, and started shifting the earth around until it poked out of the ground.
At this point, it was easy for Serenity to get close to the dog and suggest to him to take a look around.
Convinced that the idea was entirely his, the dog pricked up his head and looked curiously around, but most of all activated his nose that was soon reached by a scent that was not at all bad.
From the top of the tree where he had climbed, Lew saw the dog leaving and immediately took the chance of climbing down a little. As soon as he noticed that the dog was busy digging up a big bone poking out of the ground, he gathered all his courage and jumped to the ground. Also because it was what Speedy had just whispered in his ear to do.
Lew, as his feet touched the ground and before the dog had time to notice him, began to run towards the fence. But it so happened that, precisely in that moment, one of the bandits peeked out of a window of the farmhouse and, in seeing Lew, let out a shriek of rage. It was clear that that boy had seen them and he was now running to tell the police – why would he be in such a hurry otherwise?
Without wasting a second, the bandit came out and dashed off in pursuit of Lew.
To tell the truth, Serenity had seen that it wasn’t the chance that made the bandit take a peek out of the window in that precise moment, but the advice of two big devils who had been following the two bandits for some time. What's more, in order to have a free hand, the two big devils had even gagged and tied up in a corner their two poor guardian angels (also bandits have them even if they are obviously not much listened to. Very often the guardian angels of hardened criminals have real nervous breakdowns!)
Outside, Lew was running flat out towards the riverbank, chased by the bandit who was now holding a big gun in his hand. Speedy had immediately flown to side of the boy, but he was soon reached by the big devil advising the bandit who began pushing the angel to shove him away. Dodging the umpteenth push, Speedy approached Lew from the left and whispered in his ear.
«Turn left and pass very close to the tree!»
The boy followed straightaway the advice and, by passing close to the tree, forced the devil (who was at his right) to strike hard against branches and leaves and take a terrific blow to his head (not even the devils can easily pass through things, especially if distracted by some evil action).
Speedy, having seen that the devil was lagging behind (the short cape he was wearing got caught in the branches and nearly strangled him), tried to put the boy on the right path but unexpectedly, instead of turning towards the path, he continued to run towards the riverbank passing on a dangerous narrow wall shoring up a dam.
At that point it was even too easy for the devil, who in the meantime caught up again with them, to whisper to Lew to jump over the other side of the low dam gate. The boy did try but, clearly, since the devil had maliciously advised him, tripped over an almost invisible steel wire and ended up in the water, where he was immediately dragged away by the current.
The situation was really tricky and Speedy had to apply all of his willpower to try to keep it under control. While the bandit took a turn to bypass a cluster of trees by the river bend, Speedy flew near the boy who was struggling to keep afloat and tried to advise him for the best:
«Stretch out your arm…try to grab the branch…no, don’t fret, be calm…»
Luckily after the river bend there was a pier where a man was fishing. He was one of those typical little men who, after having retired, look desperately for something to do to pass the time. He had opted for fishing and now he was standing there fully equipped with a folding chair, rod rest, multi-drawer and multi-compartment box full of every kind of tackle, hooks, reel lines, floats, bobbers, any conceivable accessory and device that may be needed to catch the smallest or biggest fish, from a white bass to a blue whale. In that moment, the fisherman, worn out by the expectation of catching the second catfish of the day (he was there since five o’clock in the morning), was peacefully snoring, lying on his folding-reclining chair made of washable camouflage fabric, nicely warmed and protected by an astonishing fisherman’s jacket, also this super professional. In fact, it had at least thirty pockets jam-packed in an orderly manner with spare hooks, cleaning-tissues, microfiber glasses cleaning cloths, matches, pencils, notepads, sinkers, food shopping list, watches (two, so not to risk being late back home for his usual pasta meal appointment), portable radio tuned to the football match station, coins, a big banknote for all eventualities, pocket knife, toothpicks individually sealed, etc., etc.
In his chest pocket he even had a battery operated hand warmer that spread an exquisite warmth all over his belly during his sleep, while the lovely spring sun warmed the rest of his body.
Who or what on earth could ever wake him up! The boy’s screams were only fleeting reverberations passing far, far away in his brain, which was concentrated on one and only thing.
But luck wanted that Lew, while being dragged by the current, slightly brushed against one of the very thin nylon lines and caused the end of the fishing rod to which it was joined to set off the little bell that fishermen always put at the top of their super sophisticated rods so as to be warned, by the rattling sound, that a fish has taken the bait.
The rattle was exactly what the fisherman’s brain was unconsciously tuned into.
Like an instantaneously superefficient robot, the fisherman suddenly woke with his eyes wide-open and with a ninja jump stood up while seizing the rod with the rattling bell. Only to stop, immediately after, with a disappointing grimace when he saw Lew passing near him waving his arms and screaming like crazy.
To tell the truth, the disappointment for the lost fish lasted only a moment. The fisherman dropped the rod and threw himself, always with a remarkable leap and decision, towards the steep riverbank and the small wooden pier only a few yards away, upon which he kneeled to extend his hand towards the water, ready to grab Lew.
In fact he grabbed him. As soon as Lew got hold of the hand stretched out towards him, he grabbed it with both his hands, completely exhausted and incapable of doing anything else.
And this was precisely the new problem: also the fisherman was unable to do anything else. As he kneeled down on the pier, he got stuck to it by jamming his foot through a large crack in the wood planks while with his other hand he grabbed a pole sticking out from the muddy water. But Lew was to heavy to be pulled up with only one hand. And if the man had used his other hand, he would have had to let go of the hold keeping him precariously balanced and both would have ended up in the water.
In short, the fisherman and Lew were clinging to each other in that uncomfortable position without knowing what to do, while both were yelling like mad; the youngest out of fear, the oldest to tell him to calm down and not to worry.
Speedy was desperately watching the dire situation. Not only did the fisherman risk of letting go of the hold and end up in the water with Lew (risking in this case to drown), but the bandit who was chasing them had heard the screams and was now setting off towards them after having finally managed to extricate himself from the canes that were blocking his path along the riverbank. This without counting the devil that was still around and who was certainly planning some other evil action.
Speedy had to think fast.
Flying fast upwards, he threw a quick glance around and saw that they were quite close to the road where a police car was just passing.
«Ruby, stop that car!» shouted Speedy at the top of his voice.
Ruby was slowly flying very close to the road surface as he was trying to recover from the earlier effort of having looked under the ground. He heard Speedy shouting and in turning towards him saw that he was vigorously waving his arms to indicate the approaching police car on its usual patrol duties.
All at once Ruby woke completely up, and he too started to look for a way to stop the car. The officers couldn’t obviously see them and, since the windows were closed, he could neither whisper them something or warn their guardian angels who were surely inside. Ruby knew how policemen’ guardian angels were: so overstressed and so edgy to the point of being afraid of everything, always suspicious and, above all, extremely jealous of their prerogatives, as if only they knew what is best for their protégés. Ruby would have had to spend at least an hour to convince them on what to do, while it was clear, seeing how Speedy was agitated and the way he was waving his arms, that they didn’t have an hour.
So he decided to do something different, also because he had finally seen exactly what he needed.
On a power line, stretched across the road, about ten big pigeons were lined up enjoying the sun and the traffic beneath. Ruby swiftly flew near the first one on the line and quickly whispered something in its ear.
The pigeon only reply was to shake its head, jog a little along the wire while shaking its wings, nearly as if wanting to communicate a mysterious message to its other colleagues, which one after the other repeated what at first seemed like a synchronized wiggle. In fact, it soon became clear that it was a disguised signal to which all at once responded by letting a mountain of droppings fall on the road below, just as the police car was passing.
The policemen inside jumped in fright when the windshield got literally flooded by the yellowish excrements and the view turned completely black. The one at the wheel swore, but he was wise enough not to switch on the wipers, which, with that slippery and stinking sludge, would have had sickening results. Instead he steered sharply to the side, put his foot on the brake and stopped the car at the edge of the road.
The policeman at his side slummed open the car door and jumped out like a fury, looked up and cursed when he saw a line of pigeons that were staring back at him with a scornful laugh (but do pigeon laugh scornfully? Well, they were looking down just like they were doing so).
But a second later, and this had been Ruby’s plan all along, the policeman finally heard Lew and the fisherman’s shouts coming from the riverbank.
Without wasting further time with the pigeons, the policeman dashed across the field to reach the pier, followed just after by his colleague, who still hadn’t understood a thing.
While Ruby reached Speedy in flight, who was praising him for his achievement (and Ruby proudly puffed out his chest since it wasn’t common to receive a praise from Speedy, reputably the best in the business), the first policeman reached the small pier just in time to grab the poor fisherman who truly had no strength left and was beginning to fear the worst.
You can imagine his face when he saw the, by now, unhoped-for help. But, despite his surprise, and, as the policeman grabbed and pulled him towards the bank, the fisherman was very careful not to let go of the poor Lew, who was continuously struggling and kicking his legs in the water, also him near to exhaustion. The fisherman, saved at last from his precarious balance, could relax for a moment and, after stretching his limbs, he and the policeman could finally pull out also the shaking and numb Lew.
The boy was now safe on the riverbank, when from the thickest part of the bushes and reeds appeared the furious bandit. But also the second policeman was arriving, which, in seeing the gun in the bandit’s hand, let out a scream that froze him.
The bandit took less than a second to understand how things were. He turned around like a shot and off he went in the same direction he came from, but it was too late. Now that Lew and the fisherman were safe, the policemen dropped everything and set off in their chase of the bandit, who, naturally, led them straight to the farmhouse where his accomplices were hiding.
What broke out is what we commonly call a gunfight. The bandits fired some shots from the farmhouse and the policemen returned the fire from their cover behind the trees. But the bandits were now trapped because, before leaving the car, the second policeman had called by radio some colleagues who were now on their way at full speed and that, in hearing the gun shots, would have soon understood how things were.
From high up, Speedy and his friends enjoyed the scene as if it was a cops and robbers movie on television. There was even a comic part due to the dog that, always in the fenced field which he was meant to guard, was barking and jumping around like mad, unable to decide who he should attack first.
After less than an hour, with the help of the reinforcements, all bandits had been secured to justice and the money robbed at the gas station was recovered. Lew and the fisherman had become heroes and, although still shaken by the whole incident, they enjoyed the happy ending and the deserved compliment from the policemen and a couple of newsmen who in the meantime had rushed to the scene to interview them.
«Just think if those pigeons hadn’t fouled the windscreen and we hadn’t stopped – the policemen were saying among themselves – That boy had been very lucky!»
«Luck has nothing to do with it – remarked our angel friends, while watching from high up and satisfyingly exchanging fives with their hearts still in turmoil – this was another amazing feat by the SOS JUNIOR Section; no doubts about it!»



Chapter 1
On how the 5th Guardian Angels Storm is organized and what its duties are.

Chapter 2Where a typical feat of the mythical SOS Junior Section is narrated.

Chapter 3
In which we take a closer look at our Guardian Angels’ adversaries, especially at the most dangerous ones.

Chapter 4
In which our heroes, during a routine operation, have to face the most serious threat ever encountered.

Chapter 5
In which our friends of the SOS division arrive and go into action.

Chapter 6
In which the time is running out and it’s absolutely necessary to invent something.

The Authors

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