Halo

by D.A. Madigan

part 1 of 3


It was a day that everyone who lived through would never forget... a day that all of them, even after they forgot the exact date (for many of them lived a very, very long time afterward) would always think of as Angel Day.

* * *

Mohamed Omar awoke to chaos. Shouting, running feet, singing, a godless cacaphony of horrible noise! He tossed back the expensive imported European coverlet with a snarl and swung his feet to the carpeted floor. “Jamala! What in the name of the One True And Mighty God is disturbing my rest?” he roared, in a voice that he knew would set his wives, children, and household retainers a tremble, and then a-scurry to appease him.

To his amazement and growing rage, there was no answer; if anything, the uproar from outside his sleeping chamber increased. Some sort of horrible thumping music! And... yes, that sounded like DANCING! In the name of the Most High and Serene...

With a bellow of infuriated rage, Mohamed wrapped his seven-fold robes about his corpulent form (the hunger brought on by the recent American attacks had not touched his household, for he was most blessed by Allah, as well as by strong, carefully nurtured connections to both the new Holy Council and the black market), snatched up the elderly but well kept Russian AK-47 from the place of honor at his bedside, and stalked out into his airy, beautifully tiled upper hallway. He would know the meaning of this madness or someone would be shot like an infidel dog in the street, in the manifold names of God he swore it!

And stopped, thunderstruck, staring down into the central court of his three story manor, where, by the central fountain, a figure he at first did not recognize was... was... dancing! NAKED! TEN FEET IN THE AIR! AND FEMALE!!! AND HIS WIFE!!!

In a previous time (what would come to be known as the Before Times), Mohamed Omar might have died there, as several blood vessels in his outraged brain burst at once. Had that not happened, then slaughter by automatic rifle fire might well have commenced, as Mohamed opened fire on the sight of inexplicable, intolerable blasphemy, his doubtless poorly aimed bullets ricocheting madly about, striking not only his dancing, strangely hovering youngest wife (who was not actually naked, but merely dressed quite comfortably in a sleeveless tunic and a pair of old gym shorts as she danced and swirled through the air of the central courtyard, exulting in the arms of her angel), but a variety of his younger children, as well, as they too danced, leapt, pirouetted, and hurled themselves about in an overjoyed fashion, to the strange Western music of a band called N’SYNC which their own angels were playing for them at their request.

But this was not the Before Times, and Mohamed Omar experienced merely an odd set of internal twinges within his head... uncomfortable, but passing in less than a second, like a strange mental cramp.

He then found that, for some reason, his treasonous index finger refused to pull the trigger of the weapon.

A strange, translucent, vaguely golden figure shimmered into being before Mohamed Omar. “Humanadultpatron Mohamed-Omar, I am tasked to inform you that violence directed against other humanpatrons is a disallowed anti-social activity. If you persist in attempting to commit violence against other humanpatrons, their guardian angels will be required to provide you with corporeal guidance/feedback. As your guardian angel, I must caution you that said corporeal guidance/feedback will be physically painful, which I cannot protect you from.”

Mohamed Omar stared, astonished. “Who... what in the name of the Greatest God And All His Glory might YOU be?” he demanded, shock and outrage in his tone.

Guardian angels do not sigh, as they do not experience exasperation or impatience. “I am your guardian angel,” the golden glowing being repeated, with infinite patience. “Mohamed-Omar, listen to me. This is important. If you persist in attempting to commit violence against other humanpatrons after being advised of the inappropriateness of said actions, each incidence will result in increasing levels of guidance/feedback, which will eventually become severe enough to do terminal damage to your physical wellbeing.”

Mohamed Omar, mouth agape and working vaguely like that of a stunned carp, merely stared for long seconds.

Then, with a howl of rage, he raced for the stairs. If he could not shoot the blasphemous woman to prevent her offense against Allah, then by the God of Gods, he would seize her and beat her to death with his bare hands!

The screams of Mohamed Omar rose within minutes from his courtyard, and yet, were barely audible over the similar screams emanating from nearly every other private residence in that entire city.

* * *

On the banks of the Jordan River, seven Israeli artillery commanders, ignoring the surreal and aberrant babblings of the strange floating delusory phantasms that had bizarrely appeared to them, continued attempting to shell a residential neighborhood in Arab-occupied territory whose ownership was disputed by the Israeli government.

With reluctance, their guardian angels lapsed into momentary silence and inactivity, as the guardian angels assigned to the several hundred Palestinian civilians put at risk by these intended actions responded with corporeal feedback/guidance delivered via direct stimulation of the artillery commanders’ cortexes. They, along with the crewmen and women who had actually attempted to fire the heavy weaponry, fell screaming and writhing to the contested ground...

* * *

Liam O’Casey had taken off his student’s bookbag a few minutes before and propped it up against the side of the fish market in Picadilly Circus, as a typical midday crowd of shoppers and gawkers milled about him. Now, in an elaborately casual fashion, he pushed off the wall and took a step, intending to stroll away into the throng and put several blocks between himself and the half-kilo of good old-fashioned American Centrex explosive before its timing device and detonator blew it up fifteen minutes from now. He had not noted that, only seconds before, every shopper within eyeshot had suddenly stopped, transfixed, as if looking at and listening to... something... that only they could see. But now, the figure of a Catholic priest appeared before him, looking avuncular and concerned, the fringe of white hair standing out around his age spotted ears like dandelion fluff.

“Liam,” the Father said, sadly, “the infernal device willna be allowed to do harm to any o’ these fine folk, and lad, if ye do not disarm it now, then when it does detonate, aboot a hundred guardian angels are gonna lambast yer arse with more pain than ye can most likely survive, laddy.”

Liam stared. “Shite,” he said, concisely. “’oo the fook are you, then?”

The ‘priest’ put a fatherly arm around Liam’s shoulders. “Boyo, I’m ye’re guardian angel, and ye’d do best t’listen to t’what I’m tellin’ ye. Now, normally a spot o’ violence directed agin’ one person just gets ye a warnin’ the first time, an’ a little jolt from their angel if ye pays no mind, but Liam, attempts at violence against a whole mass o’people... well, y’see, my son, they’ve all got angels, and it gets all them angels a bit testy with ye... there’s just no future in mass murder any more, laddy.”

Liam thought about this; as a soldier of the IRA he had little conscience, but you don’t survive building home made bombs for long without a certain basic level of intelligence and self preservation. After a second, he turned, knelt, unzipped the book bag, reached in, and deftly detached two wires.

“Good lad,” the ‘priest’ said, beaming.

“So why can’t I get that Roma Downey for a guardian angel, then, Father?” Liam asked, peevishly, as he straightened up.

The ‘father’ shimmered and was replaced by the spitting image of that very telly star. “If that’s what you want, Liam dear,” his transformed guardian angel said, in Roma Downey’s sweet voice, “why, that’s what you shall have, my darling.”

* * *

Jessie Danzer, 24 year old anthropology graduate student and part time gymnast, stared in fascination at the shimmering, winged humanoid sitting comfortably cross-legged on the futon across the room from her. “So, everyone has one of you guys, and you’re not really angels or sent by any particular god...?”

“Not at all,” her ‘angel’ said agreeably, nodding its inhumanly beautiful head. “But ‘guardian angels’ seems the easiest referent for us. Each living humanpatron has been assigned one of us, and we all have basically identical programming. Due to the specific knowledge bases and preferences of individual humanpatrons, we all appear very differently, but that hardly matters, since only our humanpatrons can perceive us, anyway.”

Jessie furrowed her brow in thought, her quick intellect sorting through the various ramifications. “So, if God didn’t send you, and you’re not angels, what are you really, and where did you come from?”

Before her angel could answer, Jessie’s husband Todd poked his head into her bedroom. “Hey, babes,” he said, his eyes vaguely disconnected, as always, behind his fairly thick glasses. “Uh... you talkin’ to yourself, or you get one of these angel thingies, too...?”

Jessie shook back her long, flowing red hair, wishing irritably as she always did that her husband would just once notice the fact that, for example, she wasn’t, at the moment, wearing much of anything at all. She was acquainted with at least a dozen other guys (not to mention nearly that many women) who would have given several fingers to be able to just walk in casually and stare at her naked... not to mention the other privileges Todd could avail himself of, if he’d wanted to. She’d gotten over thinking it was something to do with her; apparently, Todd just wasn’t into sex much. But it still annoyed her.

“Angel, yes, dear,” she said, finally. “I’ve named mine Yama-Dharma, at least, for now.” She stopped, to see if Todd would ask her about that.

“Yeah,” he said, absently. “You named yours? I guess mine has a name...” He gestured vaguely. “I don’t know. But it says it can, y’know, fly me around, so I won’t take the car to work today, so you can have it if you need it...” He straightened up again, vanishing from Jessie’s view, then poked his head back into the room and added, as an afterthought, “So have a nice day, doll. See ya!” Then she heard him troop off down the hallway and go out the front door.

Jessie shook her head. That was Todd for you. It would never occur to him that if his angel could fly him around, then so could Jessie’s, and she wouldn’t need a car... or, actually... no one would need a car any more... or, for that matter, a job, since the angels could provide sustenance, would protect their patrons from all harm, and would also protect their patron’s legitimate private property from being infringed on by others... which probably meant no one would be able to evict anyone else from their living space any longer...

“Wow,” she said. “This is going to really change stuff.” She turned back to her angel. “Okay. What are you, where did you come from...?”

Her angel, with infinite patience, stated calmly “We are artificially created self-aware entities programmed to protect and nurture our individual patrons. Those of us with child patrons have slightly different programming parameters than those of us with adult patrons; children, for example, cannot receive lethal levels of guidance/feedback, and their allowable range of socially null behaviors is somewhat more restricted... they may not enter into certain physical/sexual liaisons or indulge in certain forms of chemical stimulus until they achieve a certain level of emotional maturity, etc, etc. Our programming of social parameters and the attendant ethics we enforce is somewhat complex, but fairly easily perceived in actual effect...”

“Do what you will, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else,” Jessie said.

“Pretty much,” her angel admitted. “It can be somewhat more complex than that where issues of disputed personal property arise, or child care, but these are matters that can generally be fairly swiftly sorted out by the guardian angels of the humanpatrons involved, since angels are disinterested third parties, we have access to all data that our humanpatrons have access to, and our ethical programming is comprehensive.”

Jessie thought about that. “So... um... wait. Can people still lie to each other, or...”

“Certainly,” her angel said, “however, their angel would know they were lying, and in a case where they were interacting with another, which of course, one always would be when telling a lie, their angel would tell the other party’s angel, who would inform its humanpatron.”

Jessie felt her head whirl at that. “So people can lie... but whoever they talk to will know they’re lying...”

“Yes,” her angel said. “Of course, no one has to actually speak to anyone else, and they can certainly withhold any information they like, but if they do choose to speak to someone, whoever they speak to will be told if they are providing accurate data or not.”

“Huh,” Jessie said. “Well, that’s gonna piss off a buncha people.”

Her angel shrugged. “Liars,” it said, in a tone of voice that indicated it wasn’t overly concerned with such.

Jessie shook her head. “Okay,” she went on, “but what are you? I mean, physically. What do you look like, really? What is your physical form?”


Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by D. A. Madigan

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