The Underling


“Make sure you get that fixed immediately!” Commanded the superior. 

The underling, though fully understanding his job, protested, “Really? Can’t I catch a break and sit the next one out?” He was not happy about the thought of going back into the field the next day.

“Absolutely not! We are headed out at daybreak. Everyone in our legion will be needed, especially YOU.”

The underling was shocked at being deprived of what he thought was a well deserved break from his duties. And yet, he was intrigued by the emphasis put on his participation in the next day’s intervention. It seemed more important than previous missions.

Still, he just wanted to rest. He wasn’t up for a repair appointment. So, he decided to take a quick nap first and slip into one of the walk-in slots later in the evening. Then he would be good to go.

As he lay down, a wince of pain caused him to adjust himself in order to be in a restful position. While drifting off, he thought about the stupid mistake he’d made that day. The novice error was embarrassing for someone with his level of experience. He’d been lazy and his resulting injury proved it.

Suddenly, light was everywhere. Streaming in all directions like brilliant facets of perfectly cut diamonds. Then, deafening alarms and the whooshing of a thousand giant wings filled the once quiet night.

The underling had overslept.

“What? It’s not even dawn yet.” He mumbled in confusion. 

“He’s on the road! We have to hurry!” Came an urgent command from the superior.

Pain from his injury was agonizing but he knew there was no time left for quick fixes. He might literally catch hell for his disobedience but until then, he had a job to do. He readied himself in the only way he knew how. 

“God help us. And help me be the warrior you created me to be. I serve at your bidding.”

With that prayer of surrender, the underling’s pain disappeared.

He advanced instantly to the scene, along side his cohort. 

Usually, upon arrival, there is little time for clarification. Each must follow orders immediately. But the underling, ignoring protocol, questioned his assigned position.

“You want me where?” He asked.

“Right THERE!” his superior pointed, “Right in front of that mirror. Hold firm your position! Don’t bat a wing!” 

The underling obeyed, finally realizing this might be his only chance to be redeemed from the failures of the last twenty four hours. However, inside he seethed at the demeaning assignment of protecting this vehicle’s side mirror when four of his buddies were inside the car with the human.

He saw it coming a split second before impact. Knowing the cost, he twisted, exposing his entire wingspan, injury and all, between the side mirror and the on-coming semi truck.

He blinked . . . It was over . . . 

The sun penetrated his eye lids, beckoning him to wake up. Slowly he opened them, letting himself take in the overwhelming brightness. His mind caught up with the raging pain from his shoulder blades through his midsection. He knew he was in critical condition.

“Looks like you’re going to ‘catch’ that rest break after all.” Came the familiar, yet calming voice of his superior.

“How long am I in for repairs?” The underling asked.

“It’s going to be a while. It was a total loss.”

“Oh, I see. Rehab then, right?” 

“Yes. And, FYI, they had to remove some of your originals. But no worries, you won’t have any use for those now.”

“Originals?” Inquired the underling.

“Yes. The complaining about assignments and breaks will completely stop now.”

“I don’t understand?”

“This wasn’t a standard replacement. He decided to upgrade you. And with the upgrade, they remove some of the originals. A side affect is the inability to complain. It is rather necessary and you will find no reason to think twice about your assignments from now on.”

At this point, even without his throbbing headache, the underling was completely confused.

“Could you give me the short version of what you just said?” He asked.

“Of course,” his superior continued, “You’re on Life Assignment from now on.”

“But?” He felt the blood drain from his face.

He started again, “But, you only get Life Assignment when you . . .” 

“Yes, when you save a life.”

“But you assigned me to the side mirror.” Said the underling, “I just thought the kid couldn’t afford a new car.”

“It wasn’t about the car. We couldn’t afford to lose the human.” The superior continued, with a lowered voice, “His life had advanced directives in place.”

“How old?” Asked the underling.

“He was in circulation less than twenty two years.”

“So, I . . .?” The underling, now realized why this mission had been so critical.

“It was a team effort,” replied the superior, “But yes, everything hinged on your placement.”

“What can you tell me about Life Assignment?” The underling asked.

“Well, no more middle management telling you what to do. All your orders will come straight from the top.”

“So you’re not my supervisor anymore?” 

“No.” Answered the superior, heading toward the door. “The most important thing about Life Assignment is to remember He only makes one of each human, you lose one and you’ve lost something irreplaceable.”

“How’s the ‘kid’?” Asked the underling.

“He’s fine. Made it out of the ditch and to work only a few minutes late.” 

“And the family?” Probed the underling.

“Oh, I sent your buddies over to the house immediately. They arrived just in time to delay the Dad leaving so he would answer the phone when the kid called. The mom was pretty shook up but she’s fine now. Your buddies set up a temporary aid station for her after the Dad left for work.” 

“An aid station! It took four of them to settle her down?” The underling rolled his eyes.

“She’s a MOM. Give her a break.” The superior answered with a wink and continued, “She started writing a blog and that settled her down within the hour.”

The underling thoughtfully tipped his head, “A blog?”

“Yes, something about an April snowstorm?” 

 With that, the superior gave the underling a thumbs up adding, “I’ve gotta run, I’m late with the paperwork.”  

6 thoughts on “The Underling

  1. You are very talented… taking such a scary, traumatic experience and expressing it so creatively. Good luck to you and your son.


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