It's been two years, and you've been waiting with bated breath to find out: will Gavreel and Verin get back together? Or was their love doomed from the start?

Well, gather the kids around your favorite chair and read them the exciting conclusion!

The transport pulled in to Hades station and Verin was the first off; not surprising since he was also the only passenger. He recognized the night shift workers at the consoles, and nodded to the nearest one.

"Hey, Ronwe."

"Hi, Verin. You were out again? Didn't I just see you come in last night?"

"Yeah, I'm working extra these days. I'll see ya."

He went through the revolving door and out into the familiar hot air of Hell, refreshing after his time on Earth. Despite his quarters being off to the left, and anxious to get home, he turned right and walked further into the working district.

It was his habit these days to take the long way around, because any demon even appearing to have some idle time in the eyes of the foreman at the Second Pit was likely to be pressed into service with the labor crews. Even though it hadn't been in active service long, the OP was filling up faster than had been projected. Those humans could be pretty darned naughty!

In fact, the just completed trip was his second of the day. He'd arrived back from one job and returned to Earth for another as soon as the transport was ready. In all, he was working six different humans at the same time; even with that load, he was spending more time on Earth than was strictly necessary. He didn't want to find himself on a sulfur gang, or worse, and figured he'd gain a lot more experience than anyone else in his class while making himself scarce in Hell for a while. On the other hand, he was running the risk of becoming a red flag in the accounting office; with so many active projects, he was running up the balance on his expense account, passing out more temptations than were normally required for the routine cases he was given.

His route took him past the management portal of the USB. Someone was just coming out and Verin saw him casually toss a piece of paper at the trash can, totally oblivious to the fact that he missed by a least a cubit. Verin picked it up and was about to drop it in (he was a very considerate demon, most of the time) but first uncrumpled it and took a glance at it. The bold USB CONFIDENTIAL centered at the top made him decide not to throw it away after all. He quickly stuffed it in his pocket, deciding it would be safer to read it after he was safely alone at home. For a brief moment, he considered following the litterer, but decided against it when he saw him turn toward the more ritzy residential sections. In such surroundings, Verin would stand out like an imp at an all night drinking party, and the constabulary would be unlikely to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Since he'd been walking an extra two leagues home, he'd gotten into the habit of picking up a snack on the way, but today he gave it a pass.

Once home, he flopped down next to the fireplace and took the paper from his pocket. It was a memorandum, and he really couldn't make much sense of the body of the text; it seemed like routine bureaucratic noise to him. But it occurred to him that that really wasn't particularly important, because a sneaky plot was forming in his mind.

What had started him thinking was the line that said

FROM: Naberius
      Director of Staffing, BUPERSUSB
Whether the memo was meaningless dross or the most important work that Naberius would do for his whole career, what mattered was that removing a confidential document from the office would be very significant to somebody, making blackmail a good possibility, and that Naberius was in a position to get Verin into USB in a job he couldn't hope to land for a long, long time in the normal course of things.

Verin was aware that the art of extortion, when done well, was practiced with a suaveness and sophistication that he possessed in about the same degree as Naberius would know how to score a hit of prime brimstone on the lower east side. But that wasn't going to stop him; he'd just have to stumble through it and leave it to his fate.

* * *

Naberius was lounging in his penthouse apartment high atop the newly completed Abbaddon Towers. The music of the human Bach softly penetrated the slightly cooled air circulating throughout his home, and Naberius sighed with contentment as he let his subconscious analyze the structure of the fugue. Rather than taking it for granted as most at his level did, he was always aware of how fortunate he was not to be one of the great unwashed living in the far distance that he could see from his balconies, if he squinted just right.

He enjoyed the perks that would earn an ordinary peon some very uncomfortable repercussions. It was good to be one of the privileged elite, and while he'd been such for longer than most demons had been alive, he remained consciously intent, on a daily basis, on never losing that status. Some, of course, were born to patricianhood, but most earned it early on, when their life took that branch rather than the much more likely route that led to the masses that he avoided, and most of those permanently put out of their minds that they had ever been anything else.

His reverie was interrupted by the fading in of a name, address, and face from the communicator in the corner. "Verin". He didn't recognize the name or face, but accepted the call anyway, even though the address wasn't in any neighborhood he was familiar with. "Yes?"

"Hello, Sir", said Verin. "You don't know me, but I just missed the pleasure of making your acquaintance as you left your office this evening."

"Pleasure for you, no doubt. I don't see why it would have been for me."

"Well, yes, but who knows? We may end up being friends anyway. I have something that you lost today, and you may be happy that I found it before someone else did." The image split into two vertically, and next to Verin was an image of a memo that Naberius had written today. All the text was blurred except for the heading at the top of the page.

Naberius's face became stiff, and he said "Where did you get that?"

"I picked it up after you dropped it outside the USB. It looks like something that shouldn't have left the building."

"I see", said Naberius, as he realized the import of the call. "What do you want?"

"A mere pittance. A wave of Sir's hand. I'd like to get an intern position in Surveillance."

"Why?" asked a suspicious Naberius. Maybe Verin didn't realize it, but he could have demanded a good deal more in exchange for returning the memo to him. Indeed, Naberius would have arranged a permanent pension for Verin out of his discretionary funds; he would never have to work again. But then, he was clearly an amateur at this.

"It'll look good on my resumé. It's a good job, but it'll also show initiative and ambition. I'm not trying to get out of my normal assignments, I just want to add some part-time work to it." While that was all true, Verin had worked out the rationale before calling but had no intention of revealing the true reason for his desire to get into USB.

Naberius tried hard to look like Verin really had him in a tight spot. "Very well. I'll get you in as an intern, but it's up to you after that; no special treatment." He pulled up his appointment schedule. "Come to my office first thing in the morning, day after tomorrow. Tell the guard you have an appointment with me; you'll be expected. Bring the memo."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. You won't —".

Naberius cut him off with the just right amount of pomposity. "Fine. We're done." He disconnected, and then sent a message to his secretary to arrange for Verin's meeting.

Damn! Bach had reached the coda while he was on the call. He was no longer in the mood to concentrate, and switched to a passive enjoyment of Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings.

* * *

Gavreel returned to Heaven after the end of his latest assignment. While he hadn't failed in looking out for his charge, who had finally expired after a long illness, he was still depressed. He knew it was worse when a Guardian allowed a preventable accident to end the life he was responsible for, and he was thankful that that hadn't happened to him yet. He moped around Heaven during the break that was mandatory before being assigned a new Human. Recovering Guardians were usually easy enough to spot, but Gavreel took it harder than most. It didn't help that once again, as on his previous breaks, he visited Purgatory many times with never a sign of Verin. He wondered if he'd ever see him again. It might not even be possible to meet him there anymore. No longer a vast void, Purgatory was now more or less filled with a transient soul population, attended to by a staff of— not Angels, not Demons; he wasn't sure what they were. He, and more than a few of the permanent residents of Heaven, was glad when he returned to Earth to be on constant duty for many more years.

He arrived with not much time to spare; the little tyke was already on his way into the world. He nodded to the mother's Guardian and relieved him of half of the double charge he'd been watching over for nine months. He reached out and slowed a bit the slap that the doctor was administering with a little too much gusto, and thoughts of Verin receded back into second place in Gavreel's mind.

* * *

Verin showed up at the USB bright and early. The guard in the lobby looked askance at him, but grudgingly admitted that he had an appointment after the receptionist arrived and found him on the schedule. He still made Verin wait until shortly before the appointed hour before he allowed him onto the elevator that would whisk him down to the executive levels. Naberius's secretary didn't play any games, showing him into the inner office precisely on time. Naberius wasted no time, and was as good as his word. "This is the young demon that's now your problem" he said, addressing the third person in the room, who turned out to be Shalbriri, the superivsor of the first shift in the Level 1 Surveillance department. "Come with me" he said to Verin, and they left the office together. Naberius gave a stern look at the memo that Verin had returned to him, and it burst into a cherry red flame for an instant and was gone. Naberius heaved a sigh of relief, and moved on to his real work for the day.

The plush carpet and gentle indirect lighting were nowhere to be seen when the elevator doors opened and Verin and Shalbriri emerged into the workaday surroundings of level 51. Underfoot now was unfinished slate and overhead flickered torches from sconces every fifteen feet along the hallway. Verin followed as Shalbriri marched quickly, turning apparently randomly at unmarked intersections. Finally they came to a door marked "Level 1 Surveillance 51x12/6A-11H" and Shalbriri pushed his way through. "You'll be working here." Verin saw a long, narrow room receding into dimness, with demons seated on stools along both walls peering at glowing displays. Occasionally a red bulb would illuminate at one of the stations, and a demon on roller skates would swoop down the central aisle, taking a slip of paper from the controller and continuing out through a side door.

Shalbriri kicked an empty stool over next to one of the controllers. "This is Verin", he said; "show him the ropes." Shalbriri spun on his heel and was gone. "So, what is Level 1 Surveillance?" Verin asked. "We're looking for anomalies in the temptation gradient. We triangulate down to a single grid square, and if it's intense enough, we pass the coordinates to Level 2." As he spoke, he had been fiddling with horizontal and vertical sliders and twisting a knob which seemed to control focus. "Like here." He pointed to an area glowing strongly red, and pushed a button; the red bulb above his head turned on and the printer spat out a ticket covered with numbers. He gave it to Verin who held it out for the passing runner. "Level 2 will zoom in and narrow it down to a likely suspect; then a field agent"—Verin realized he was talking about him now—"will be dispatched to assess the susceptibility of the soul and if it's promising, he will begin a temptation regimen to acquire the soul."

At the end of the day, Verin had to make a quick run to Earth for his real job. On the train, he reflected on his first day in surveillance. He knew it was too much to ask that he get placed right away where he really needed to be; while it had been interesting in Level 1, he knew that it was the Missing Souls department that he needed to get to. He was hatching a plan to get there without having to go through all the others on the way.

* * *

Gavreel watched his young charge as the years passed, keeping him from true harm while allowing the occasional bump and bruise, in accordance with Section 1, Chapter 26 of the Guardian manual that attempted to prevent humans from becoming complacent if they noticed their unexplained luck. By the time Aravind was 30, Gavreel was resigned to the fact that he would never leave his hometown. In his entire life so far, he'd never been as far as the next town, let alone to the big city of Udaipur fifty miles away. Gavreel thought that with the railroad coming through, the moderately well-to-do Aravind might holiday somewhere exotic, but apparently the sedate man was content to spend his three score and ten within a stone's throw of Hariyali. As a Guardian, Gavreel of course loved his current human no matter what and found it distasteful to compare him to past or future ones; nevertheless he did find himself hoping that the next life placed in his care would be a little more exciting.

* * *

Verin finally, by dint of good work and just a bit of haranguing of Shalbriri, got transferred to Missing Souls. By this time, nobody remembered he'd originally gotten into USB as an intern. After a short training session, he was given a station of his own. Occasionally a field agent would be working a soul and would lose track of it between visits. Then he would submit a tracking request and the MSD would find it using the UUEID. This was always possible, but it wasn't free and was charged to the agent's expense account. As Verin knew from his own experience, an agent turned to MSD only as a last resort. So while there was a constant trickle of requests coming in, it wasn't uncommon for him to have spare time during his shift. He used the time to learn all the hidden features of the Soul Locator. He knew he still had a big problem, but since he had no idea what to do about it, he tinkered with the machine every chance he had. He even bugged the manager to dig out the operator's manual, blow the dust off of it, and let him take it home to study.

* * *

The Watcher From Below was still watching Verin. The assignment had faded away after the young angel Gavreel had begun his work, but it was never officially terminated and the Watcher continued to keep a diary of the project, though he hadn't seen the Watcher From Above since then either. He realized that Verin was trying to locate Gavreel but was stymied since Gavreel had no soul. When they thought about it at all, everyone assumed that only beings with souls were tracked by the USB.

And while that was true in practice, the USB's abilities extended beyond souls to any being that had been assigned a Universal Unique Entity ID by the Universal Registration Bureau. He saw that it was likely that Verin was in a dead end and he didn't want the story to end that way. He decided he would try to help. He sent a message to Satan's secretary requesting an audience.

* * *

Sometimes, Gavreel thought, you should be careful what you hope for.

Paul "Bunyan" Franklin, his new charge, led a life that was a little more exciting than Gavreel needed. He was only twenty four years old but had been working the forest for half of them and hundreds of little scars bore testament to the reckless abandon with which he pursued his trade.

Gavreel had had to allow most of them, but they didn't deter Paul. And some of them had been achieved despite Gavreeel's best efforts. He couldn't prevent them all, but it was seeming more and more likely that he'd miss a major accident one of these days. Paul would already be living life as an armless ex-lumberjack were it not for the sixteen occasions that Gavreel had acted in time. And that was just at work, with the axes and saws and falling limbs.

Most nights he would spend drinking whiskey and beer, and it wasn't unusual that his temper would flare at some real or— more often—imagined slight and he would start a brawl. It seemed to Gavreel that those were the parts of his life that Paul liked the most. But Gavreel was finding it difficult getting through this assignment. As a Guardian, he derived great fulfillment keeping a human safe; it was what he was made for. But humans like this one were making him wonder more and more: why? There were so many of them that so clearly didn't deserve their favored position in God's plan. Such thoughts questioning God gave Gavreel great grief but he couldn't keep them away.

Unfortunately, it was during one of these bouts of reflection that Tony "Tiny" Paine gave a mighty swing of his axe that slipped from his grasp and flew unerringly to make contact with the back of Paul's head. Paul died instantly and Gavreel's spirit sank as he felt himself being lifted up to Heaven. It didn't help that he saw Paul's soul heading in the other direction. That was hardly unexpected, and while a Guardian had no influence over the final destination of his client, it wasn't the preferred way to see the relationship end.

As soon as he arrived at the Angels' Gate, he requested a stint in Reflex Rehabilitation. The functionary on watch, seeing Gavreel's pain, immediately removed him from the normal Guardian rotation and gave him a pass for the transport to the Convalescence Cloud.

* * *

Verin had cut back on his extra temptation assignments, even though he'd received a commendation on the number of contracts he'd won (many of the counterparties to which were already in everlasting torment in the Pit), so that he could spend more time studying the manual—and he needed it! Despite the immense multi-level index, the use of which may have just made his task harder, it had taken him three long nights just to find the section on targeting.

But along the way he had accidentally learned that there were different kinds of UUEID; in retrospect he could see that all the ones he had tracked at USB were of type 18-A, which he now assumed was the type assigned to any human. Using the table in section four of chapter eleven, he found that his own was of type fifteen. Of course, he didn't know Gavreel's ID, without which all this work would be for naught, but if he was ever able to get it, he knew it would be type fourteen (heavenly creatures always had a zero in the lowest order bit, and those in the underworld had a one).

* * *

Satan was surprised when a notice appeared in the air above his desk, reminding him of an appointment later. Most business was done via email, and with underlings at that.

"Hey, Arianna!", he bellowed. "Who in Hell is Morail, and why do I need to see him?"

The schoolmarmish answer came back immediately. "He is one of the Watchers assigned to that demon/angel tryst experiment a while back. He said he really needed an audience; he's got a request that's too sensitive to go through channels."

"Oh, is that still going on? Haven't heard about it in a while. All right. Do I have time for a round of obstacle golf first?"

"No. And you've got 841 items in your inbox. 842."

He had managed to get through 719 of them before she announced that the Watcher had arrived. "Send him in."

Morail entered and fell to his knees, entreating Satan in a barely audible whimper. "Thank you for seeing me, Terrible One."

"Well, you're here. Get up and talk, man. Is this about that young demon and angel that wanted to spend eternity together, or some such thing? I thought that was over with."

"No, Terrible One. I mean, yes, that is why I'm here, and no, it's not over. I've continued to Watch young Verin since he and the angel Gavreel got assigned duties and haven't seen each other since."

"I see. I did like that project; somehow it seemed to grease the skids with the Other Realm. What's up now?"

"Well, as I say, I've continued watching them. Gavreel is heartsick, and Verin has put forth ceaseless and creative effort in trying to find him. He wangled a position in the USB but has run into a roadblock: he doesn't know Gavreel's UUEID, and of course has no way to obtain one belonging to an angel. I've come to you hoping you might look it up and let me get it to Verin somehow. I wasn't excited about this assignment originally, but now I'm fond of them and I want to see how it turns out!"

Satan sat tugging at his goatee for a moment. He conjured a video screen and watched something that Morail couldn't see.

"I was just reviewing the project records. You did a good job, by the way. I agree with you. I'd like to help, but it would seem odd to Verin that the confidential information he needs is just dropped in his lap. Do you have a way around that?"

"I was thinking it could show up in a routine temptation assignment, and after he looked it up, he could get a message saying there was a snafu, like some digits got transposed or something, and give him the real target's ID. Still kind of amazing, but a young being like him might just convince himself that he got lucky."

"Good enough. Flimsy, but deniable." He glanced toward the ceiling and seemed to address the air. "Get me the chief of the Universal Registration Bureau." It took a while, since the Bureau was not in Hell, being a department shared with Heaven. Finally the image of a being in a natty suit materialized.

"Yes, Mr. Lucifer? How can I be of service?"

"There's a young angel, name of Gavreel. I want its EEUID."

"Yessir, right away. I will, of course, have to report the request to Yahweh."

"Of course."

"Here it is." He read off a sixty eight digit number. Satan echoed it back and got confirmation. "A pleasure to serve." The image faded away.

Satan turned back to Morail. "It's going to take a lot of setup to get the ID to Verin. I'll have it taken care of. Keep Watching; when you see things start to happen, send me a message at this address. I'll want to look in on it, too."

* * *

A new assigment popped up on Verin's phone. Now that he had pretty much resigned himself to having hit a dead end, he wasn't so annoyed at them anymore. He looked at the profile: Bud Fox, a young man working as a junior stockbroker in New York. He smiled. This would be a cinch; he'd get a signed contract in short order. Since he was doing temptation jobs as well as his stint at USB, he'd gotten lazy and tended to look up new potential clients by their IDs before setting out, since he could charge it off to overhead, or a test query. He'd wait until the morning to get started.

* * *

Morail sent a message to the one-time address Satan had given him. "Verin has Gavreel's ID."

Satan picked up the hotline, and waited for God to answer, and greet him in his slow Heavenly drawl. "Okay, the demon's got Gavreel's ID. Time to get him to Earth."

"Roger that," said God. "Let's keep this line open while we see how it plays out." He turned to Metatron: "Get Gavreel going on that errand we discussed."

* * *

"But I don't think I'm ready yet!" Gavreel objected.

The supervisor, in a calming tone, said "Don't worry. This isn't a normal Guardian mission. I just need you to carry a message to an angel currently based on Earth. Piece o' cake." He handed Gavreel a capsule, sealed with the sigil of a Cherub. "You're to wait for an answer, no matter how long it takes. Enjoy your time on Earth; think of it as a working vacation. Now run along."

* * *

Verin got to the office and took his stool. He punched in the ID of his new client and looked at the screen. He was halfway through syncing the information to the homing device app in his phone before he noticed. It didn't say stockbroker, in fact it didn't even say New York.

Entity type: Angel (Ishim)
Occupation : Guardian (3rd class)
That was weird. He'd never heard of the machine screwing up before.
Name       : Gavreel
He looked around to see if someone was playing a joke. Every sullen-faced demon was intent on his own station. The several minutes it took him to get to the exit of the USB building seemed as long as it must have seemed to Lucifer when he Fell.

He ran all the way to the transport station.

* * *

"This is a weird assignment, all right" thought Gavreel. He'd been following Anael around for three Earth days now. Anael had read the message sealed in the capsule, looked at Gavreel, and just said "Well, okay. You'll be with me for a while." Then he'd gone about some incomprehensible angel errands, Gavreel at his heels, making no mention of the message.

This morning, he'd instructed Gavreel to stay in the town square while he was gone for a bit. While wandering around and making the acquaintance of the Guardians in the area, Gavreel heard his name. Somebody was calling to him from behind a nearby tree. It obviously wasn't Anael. He saw a small head peek out, preceded by two small red horns; "Gavreel!"

It was Verin! It wasn't that unusual to see a demon on Earth, but obviously they were far fewer than angels, since there was a Guardian for every human. But this could be no coincidence. Verin must have sought him out. Gavreel couldn't remember when he'd last been so happy. All the angels in the vicinity were going to have some tall tales to tell their friends, when they returned to Heaven, about the time they saw an angel fly into the arms of a demon for a totally non-selfconcious hug. (The Guardian whose gaping allowed his charge to break his arm wouldn't include that part in his retelling of the day.)

Anael appeared next to the engaged couple. "This must be Verin." He chopped his hand in the air and a black gap appeared. "The two of you go on in there. You're done here, Gavreel." They stepped through and the rent sealed behind them. They were surrounded by a pearly glow that came from all around. Metatron greeted them.

"Hello, kids. God wants you to know that He's glad you found each other, and He has set aside a nice, new isolated corner of the Universe where you're going to spend Eternity together. That'll be phase two of this little adventure. Right, Luke?"

Satan, seated nearby, said "That's right." He winked at the two: "Good luck with that, Verin. Well, it's been fun, but" —he looked pointedly at Metatron —"let's not do it again". He vanished in a puff of smoke.

Metatron directed Gavreel and Verin to a sign hanging in the air that read Lovers' Lane and they walked away toward it, hand in hand.

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