The players are now put into motion to fulfill their new destiny.
| During the mid-afternoon in Heaven, Kirsten, Edna, and Chloe sat together at a table. While Kirsten and Edna sipped tea, Chloe imbibed in a banana-peach smoothie and nibbled on a blondie. However, they weren't simply enjoying the wonderful weather in Heaven. They were also finalizing plans to spend the night on Earth. This trip was required so they could keep an eye on Scott. Tonight, they were going to begin the project.
"How far along are you on the dust?" Kirsten asked Edna.
"It's fermenting." Edna said.
"Did you get to see how the dust was made, Chloe?" Kirsten continued.
"Yes," Chloe said.
"Think you could make it on your own?" Edna asked.
"Possibly," Chloe replied. "Two parts sodium flakes, a drop of the subject's blood, splash of water, and three drops of the hypnosis solution."
"Good," Edna said. "But how do you blend the ingredients?"
"Hand beaten into a paste, poured into a micro-sieve to drain, and then placed in a wooden bottle to ferment. Once fermented, we're going to take to paste and grate it to a dust consistency and place it in vials."
"Excellent, Chloe," Kirsten said. "The attributes that made you a scholar on Earth have not been lost in this stage."
"Course not," Edna stated. "She didn't have the chance to lose them. She wouldn't have in any case."
"True, true," Kirsten said.
"Um, ladies," Chloe piped up, "I have a question."
"Chloe!" Kirsten exclaimed. "Just call us by our names."
"Okay..." Chloe hesitated. "Kirsten, Edna, my question is this. Why do we have to stay on Earth overnight if we're going to use the dust?"
"The dust may have side effects that may lead to self destructive behavior, especially those using the subject's blood," Edna said. "We need to be there in case Scott reacts negatively."
"And besides," Kirsten added, "it gives us a change of scene."
The three women smiled at each other.
* * *
"So, Maya, you got any plans for tonight?" a petite girl with raven black hair asked.
"No, Sandy," Maya replied as the wind whistled, tossing her brown curly hair.
"We were thinking about going to karaoke tonight," a third girl said. "Wanna join us?"
"Uh, sure," Maya said. "I'll drive if you need me to."
"Sure," Sandy replied, and the three girls continued to the parking lot.
* * *
Standing at the glass plate, Edna, Kirsten, and Chloe watched the three girls head for their cars in the student parking lot. Nothing seemed unusual to them as Sandy, Maya, and the third girl left Avon Park High School.
"Who was the third girl?" Chloe asked. "I know that Maya and Sandy have been friends forever, but I wasn't sure who the other girl was."
"The blonde who suggested karaoke?" Kirsten asked. "That was Beth. Beth and Sandy met at a youth leadership seminar last year. We narrowly kept Beth from making the moves on Sandy, but that's another story."
"Oh," Chloe whispered, not wanting further details.
"Yeah, I'm thankful that's not our department," Edna said. "From what Jacob tells me, rewriting that information in a person's conscious is pretty taxing."
"A manager of the guardian angels. Since that is a personal concern, much like suicide, the guardian angels have to handle it, but sometimes the managers have to do it."
"Sheesh. Don't we minions and apprentices have control over that?"
"Only in regards to the big picture," Kirsten said. "It would be too much to handle every individual case."
"And on that note, we need to get ready," Edna announced.
"Get ready?" Chloe asked.
"It's essentially a sleepover on Earth," Edna told her. "You need to pack."
With that, Chloe and Edna left the room, leaving Kirsten to watch the events in Avon Park.
* * *
The karaoke club on Main Street was bustling, especially considering it was 8:30 on a Friday night. Though it was for the most part very dark, the club was aglow from neon signs and dimmed spotlights. As opposed to the pub Chloe visited during her last night as a human on Earth, the place was relative smoke free, although one could see a tall, somewhat chunky blonde girl light up a cigarette. Many people were crowded around the bar, clamoring for the attention of two very gregarious bartenders, and a chubby balding gentleman was checking the sound equipment on the karaoke stage.
"Testing, testing," the man mumbled.
Edna, Kirsten, and Chloe sat at a table towards the back. From their spot, anyone could see just about every square inch of the club. Edna and Kirsten were dressed a little differently, opting for long denim skirts and black turtlenecks. Chloe, meanwhile, had managed to convince them to let her not be in uniform for the club visit. Thus, she donned a casual black pantsuit.
"All I need is a drink," Chloe said. "Then, I'd been living my dream."
"Hard for you to live your dream, though, when you're not really alive," Edna replied.
Chloe sighed. "You know what I mean," she said.
"Yeah, we do," Kirsten said. "It's just been so long. And when my time came, I was accustomed to drinking sherry in drawing rooms."
"I hardly had any luxury time!" Edna said. "I lived the pioneer life out in Illinois back in the early 1800s. The only luxury I really got was sleep, sometimes a new frock."
"Wow," Chloe sighed.
"It's pretty amazing to see where we end up no matter what we did on Earth," Kirsten said. "But Chloe, what was your dream?"
"Well," Chloe said. "To kick back with a drink and watch people revel. I'd have opted to sit with my friends, and we'd make commentary on everyone's actions."
Closer to the stage, Maya, Beth, and Sandy were standing around, Cokes in hand. Beth also held a burning cigarette in her right hand.
"Beth, why do you smoke?" Maya asked, fanning smoke from her face. "You know it's bad for you."
"But it's my choice," Beth replied. "I'm not all goody two shoes like you."
"Goody two shoes?" Maya screeched, her hazel eyes narrowed and ready to burn holes in Beth's forehead.
"Geez, you guys!" Sandy shouted. "I didn't bring you two to argue!"
"I'm sorry, but when people jump on me for smoking, I get miffed," Beth grumbled, and she sucked a little on her cigarette.
"Give me a moment," Maya said, and she walked off, trying to hold back her tears.
Edna and Chloe had been watching the exchange between the two girls, and Kirsten had been keeping watch on the main entrance.
"What the-?" Chloe asked. "They were getting along earlier."
"It's kind of hard to explain," Edna said. "Maya wants to break from her prudishness, but everytime she tries, well, she chickens out."
"Is she supposed to break out of her shell?" Chloe asked.
At that, Edna retrieved her PDA and handed it to Chloe. "That's a query for the palm," she said. "Select the Search option at the top. When it prompts you, put in Maya Emilia Burkhalter."
Chloe did as Edna said, but before she could read Maya's information, Kirsten jumped up.
"Scott just arrived!" she exclaimed. "It's time for me to go to work." With that, Kirsten left Edna and Chloe at the back of the club.
Briefly, Chloe read over some information she had pulled up.
"So she is," she muttered. "Now what is Kirsten up to?"
"Well, Chloe, Kirsten's gonna help you get the ball rolling," Edna said. "Observe at the bar for a few minutes."
Scott took a seat at the bar. By this time, the karaoke contest was underway, so the bar was significantly less crowded. The bartender approached Scott, who was slouched in his seat and looking very weary.
"Well, Scott, the usual?" the bartender asked.
"Yeah, sure," Scott mumbled. He was so used to drinking a J&B and soda that he never actually thought about what he'd get at the bar.
Little did he know that Kirsten was standing behind him, waiting for Maya to drift into the vicinity of the bar. As the bartender set Scott's drink on the bar, Kirsten spotted Maya approaching the bar, thumbing through her purse. It was time.
Scott jumped. Who the hell whispered in my ear? Looking over his left shoulder, he caught a glimpse of Maya. She was also looking at him in curiosity. Kirsten stood back a little, watching them.
"Oh, that little sneaky..." Chloe said, barely suppressing a smirk.
"Standard procedure," Edna said. "It still manages to shock the apprentices every time."
"Well, I wish I could have done that," Chloe replied. "I suppose now they're going to chat for the rest of the night."
"Hmmmm.....maybe," Edna said. "Such things aren't that predictable, but you're right. That is the intention. In the middle of the night, right before Scott goes to sleep, you're going to sprinkle the dust."
"Provided they end up talking," Chloe said.
"No, you'll still do it. They have been gazing at each other for a bit now. I wonder if Kirsten's going to prompt them again."
As Edna said that, Scott got up and approached the dumbstruck brunette. When he finally came up to her, he could tell that in spite of her mousy appearance, she felt a similar worldly sadness that rested on his shoulders at that very moment.
"You okay?" he asked her.
"No," Maya replied.
"Wanna talk about it?"
Maya hesitated but then said, "Okay. I could use some company."
Edna and Chloe watched as the two sauntered near where they were sitting.
"We better move," Edna said as she stood up. "Come, Chloe. To the bar."
With that, minion and apprentice headed to the bar. They walked to the bar just as the emcee announced they were having a dance break, and a wild dance song began to play. Patrons in various states of sobriety gravitated to the center of the dance floor and began to dance in a way that could only be described in one word.
"Hilarious!" Chloe shrieked as she made her way to the bar. She had been watching the dancers, finding their antics amusing.
"Good to see you finding the comedy in human behavior," Edna said. "Truthfully, Earthlings are absurd."
"I know," Chloe said.
Scott and Maya, meanwhile, had seated themselves. In the back, the music was a little softer, but they still had to concentrate on one another in order to have a conversation.
"So what's the problem?" Scott asked.
"Well," Maya began, "it's Sandy's new friend Beth. Sometimes she's okay to be around, but other times like tonight she's intolerable."
"Why's that?" Scott asked.
"Beth seems to insist that we aren't allowed to express concern over her health whenever she lights up a cigarette."
"How old is Beth?"
"How 'bout you, Maya? How old are you?"
"Seventeen. I'll be eighteen on New Year's Day. Why?"
"Well, first off, Beth is legal to smoke. You and I both know that. Second, while it is good to have concern for your friend, you have to understand she's old enough to make such decisions about her body. You'll understand soon enough."
"Your concern may remind her of her parents, and just like any teenager, she finds her parents to be annoying and overbearing. It's the way life is, Maya."
Maya sighed. "I just wish I could be more sympathetic to Beth's decision," she said. "However, I just keep thinking that she's doing herself unnecessary harm by smoking."
"And she may be," Scott replied. "Look, you need to let these sort of things go. If you want to improve your relationship with Beth, you're going to have to accept her for who she is, smoker or not."
As Scott and Maya talked, Edna and Chloe watched them. Meanwhile, Kirsten scanned the club to see what else was happening. As the music wound down, Kirsten saw something unusual. A black free floating plasm disguised as smoke drifted to near where Scott and Maya were sitting. Only Kirsten saw this apparition.
"No," she whispered. "God, no."
"I'll Love My Love"