Monday, July 30, 2012

Punishing the Wicked


The waiting room was playing REO Speedwagon.

"Gus," I whispered (because you whisper in waiting rooms) as he stepped inside, "Hand me those knives General Gavsot gave us."  He quickly gave me the two short daggers he'd been carrying since we left the Department of Enforcement.

"Okay," Gus said.  "Stab a couple of these poor schmucks and let's get the hell out of here."

I walked over to an elderly man leafing through a copy of Brimstone Weekly.  "Name," I said authoritatively.

He looked up in surprise.  "Frank," he said.  "Delaney."

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell phone.  "What are you doing?" Gus hissed.  He sounded exasperated. 

"I'm calling Winston to see what this guy did before I stab him," I replied.

Gus' eyes bulged.  "Dude!  He's in Hell!  He did bad stuff to get here, man!  Everybody in this room is gonna get tortured way worse than a little stab in the gut, so you might as well not worry about who did what right now!"

"Maybe so," I shrugged. "But I'm not a stabby kind of guy.  I'd at least like to know I'm punishing a murderer instead of a guy who didn't pay his taxes."

The phone rang.  "Yes, sir?" came the melancholy answer.

"Winston," I said smoothly.  "I need to know the worst offense committed by a recently deceased man named Frank Delaney."

"Hang on," Winston said with glum cooperation.  I heard the clicking of a few keys.  Then, "It appears that Mr. Delaney cheated on his wife with four other women over a twenty-two year period."

"That's the worst he did?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied.

"Make sure that wherever you assign him, it's somewhere with only male demons." I said.  "I don't want this man to see another woman for at least twenty-two years."

"Consider it done, sir," Winston agreed miserably.

"Thank you, Winston," I said, and hung up.  I looked down at Mr. Delaney, who was looking up at me in fear.

"Well, Frank," I sighed. "You're not exactly a mass murderer, but you are kind of a scumbag, aren't you?"  He opened his mouth to answer, but before he could speak I whipped out the daggers and drove them deep into his flesh, one through each thigh.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Way Back


The walk back to my office was long.

"I really think I need to learn this teleportation stuff," I said wearily.  "Walking all over Hell is getting pretty annoying."

Gus shrugged.  "You can try teleporting if you want, of course," he said.  "But it's not like your telekinesis.  Telepathic manipulation is much easier with things you can see.  Ripping open the wall and setting the air on fire is relatively simple.  Altering the contents of a room a mile away by adding yourself to it is much more difficult."

"Well, I won't know until I try," I reasoned.  "Here goes nothing."  I concentrated and attempted to will myself back to my office.  I squeezed my eyes shut.

I opened them.  Gus smiled at me and waved.  "Hi," he said.  "You didn't go anywhere.  Your body looked a little transparent for a second like it meant to go somewhere, though.  Some might say that's half the battle."

"That took a lot out of me," I panted.  "I think that was more exhausting than walking all the way back from the Department of Enforcement."

"Well," Gus said, "at least the Department of Transportation is a little closer."  He pointed to the door we'd arrived at labeled Waiting Room and opened it for me, stepping to one side to allow me to enter first.

And there I was, back where I started.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reviewing the Plan

"So let me quick run through this to make sure I have it right," I said, beginning to get annoyed, but worrying that if I got too uppity the demon in front of me would start ripping my limbs off.  "I go into the Department of Transportation carrying a knife dipped in human blood, which I'm going to attempt to stab Azraal with.  My attempt will fail, Azraal will kick my ass, and this is all according to plan?"

"You only need to succeed enough to convince Azraal that your plan was to bring him down on your own," Gavsot corrected me calmly.  "If you come close enough to succeeding to be a threat, he will consider your effort to be legitimate and without guile.  Once you fail, you must flee the department on foot.  He will follow you with the hope of capturing you in his own territory and making it easier for him to strip you of your title and assume control of Hell."

I was starting to understand.  "So while he's chasing me," I finished, "You and your men jump out and stab him for real?"

"Precisely," the General said.  He seemed pleased.  "You are both the bait and the diversion."

"If this backfires," Gus reminded me warily, "Azraal becomes the new Devil and you're stuck in Hell as a powerless human just like any of the other tortured souls down here."

Gavsot shrugged as if to acknowledge Gus' remark but dismiss it as unimportant.  I thought for a moment and then said, "General Gavsot--where will your ambush be set up?  I take it storming the Department of Transportation in full force would require too much manpower?"

"Demonpower," Gus mumbled to himself.

Gavsot looked grave.  "I could attack in full force," he said sternly.  "I do not wish to.  It is unwise to consolidate all military power in the same place."  His tone of voice made it seem like if I asked for too much backup, he would withdraw his support and leave me out in the cold. 

"Okay," I said nervously.  "Surgical strike it is.  So where will the ambush be set up?"

"Directly outside the gates of the Department of Transportation," Gavsot said.  "You must survive long enough to escape the building."

I swallowed.  "Okay.  Let's do it."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Another Spell


"Whoa," I said, "Slow down.  I was thinking maybe I could lend my Pit-Gaurd-Ass-Kicking expertise or something.  What do you need bait for?"

"You cannot set a trap without it," Gavsot said simply.

"Maybe you don't need my help," I backpedaled.  "Can't you just teleport to him, teleport him back here, and slap some handcuffs on him or something?"

The General glared at me in response.  Then he nodded toward Gus, who said, "Azraal could easily teleport himself back in an instant.  And I think you've been down here long enough to realize that handcuffs are useless on demons."

"Fine," I said.  "What do I need to do?"

"There exists a certain spell," Gavsot began, "that can be used to limit demonic power.  It can keep Azraal from using any of his abilities, including his ability to teleport."

"Okay," I said.  "Another spell.  Sounds good.  What exactly do you need me to do?"

"The spell is more complex than most," the General explained.  "It takes some time to complete and the subject must be contained for the duration of the spellwork."

"So how do we contain him?" I asked, still not understand what my role was going to be.

"Stab him in the heart with a knife dipped in human blood," Gavsot said with vigor.  "This is paralytic to a demon, but temporary.  The effect should last just long enough for the spell to be completed."

I blanched.  "So you want me to stab Azraal?" I asked incredulously.

"Azraal will tear him to bits before he gets close enough," Gus cut in.

Gavsot smiled serenely at Gus.  "That," he said solemnly, "is exactly what I'm counting on."

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Perfect Job


General Gavsot appeared unfazed.  "Azraal," he said, as if to confirm he'd heard correctly.

"Yes," I said.

"The Director of Transportation," he said, with the same tone as before.

"So I'm told," I replied.  I glanced over at Gus, who was clenching his teeth and looking pained.  "Is this a horrible idea?" I asked.

Gus shrugged.  "Absolutely.  Unless it works, in which case it's a great idea."

"This will take some doing," the General intoned thoughtfully.

"But you can do it, right?" I asked anxiously.

"Of course," he replied.  I thought he sounded just a little offended, but I couldn't be sure.

"Great.  I'd like to help you do it," I said.

For the first time since I'd met him, General Gavsot smiled.  It was a thin, stiff, uncomfortable looking expression that only slightly managed to alter his grim demeanor.  "I have the perfect job for you," he said. 

"Great," I enthused.  "What is it?"

He said simply, "Bait."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Plan


"First of all," I said, "I'd like to apologize for the mess I made in your entrance hall."

"Not necessary," the General said.  "The pit guards are useless enough, and repairing the wall will give them something to do once they wake up."

"So no hard feelings about their injuries, I hope?" I said.

He shook his head.  "My soldiers are demons.  These were just my guards.  I care little for their well-being."

"Okay," I said.  "Um, good.  In that case, let's discuss the show of force."

"Show of force?" Gus echoed inquisitively.

"Yes," I said.  "Gus, I wanted you here to cut in just in case the plan I'm about to suggest turns out to be crazy or suicidal or something."

He smiled wanly.  "Hell of a job I have," he said softly.

"So what is your plan?" the General asked me.

"General, as Director of Enforcement, do you have any prisons?" I asked.

"Prisons," he said with a curt nod.  "Dungeons, catacombs."

"Good," I replied.  "In that case, I need you and your men to capture and imprison the demon Azraal."  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Laying the Groundwork


I kind of liked General Gavsot so far.  He seemed straightforward.  I wasn't nearly as worried about him manipulating me as I was about Kivra or Vilnius or Azraal or anybody else I'd met down here.

Except for maybe Gus.  Gus seemed pretty safe too.

"Let's talk business," I said.  "I've been told that you like your position as Director of Enforcement."

"I do," he answered.

"And I've also been told that you're more loyal to that position than to whoever's in charge, is that true?"

"It is," he said.

"So it's my understanding," I continued, "That so long as I keep you as Director of Enforcement and give you things for you to do while you're in this post, I can count you as an ally, is that correct?"

"It is," he said.

"Great," I replied.  "In that case, I have an assignment for you."  I waited for him to respond.  He didn't.  So I continued.  "I need to make a show of force."

"I can do that," General Gavsot said.

"I had something specific in mind," I began, "but I'd like to have my advisor here to help me assess the risk of this particular course of action."

"I will permit it," the General said.

"Thank you," I replied.  The General briefly disappeared, and then reappeared with Gus standing next to him.

"Wonderful," I said.  "I think we're ready to begin."

Friday, July 13, 2012

The General


I was still looking down through the destruction, admiring my handiwork, when I heard an unexpected voice at my elbow.

"You wanted to see me?" the voice said gruffly.

I whirled, my heart pounding.  Another demon stood behind me.  He was short, but muscular beyond what you'd think was even possible.  His skin was a blotchy mess of deep shades of red, and he was--I glanced down--dammit...he was naked too.

"General Gavsot?" I asked.

He nodded.

I extended my hand.  "I'm Jason.  The new Devil."

He looked down at my hand.  "Good," he said.  "Let's talk."  He reached out to grip my hand, and suddenly we were somewhere else.  He'd transported me to what must have been his office, as austere and simple as it seemed.

I looked around at the small, silver-toned room.  The entire thing seemed to be constructed from stainless steel and kept in good repair, unlike the entrance to his lair.  The room featured only a stainless steel desk with a neat arrangement of sleek electronics on it.  Oh, and there were two stainless steel chairs.  The General sat behind his desk, and I seated myself across from him.

"Somebody has got to teach me how to do that teleporting thing," I muttered.

He leaned forward and interlocked his fingers in front of him.  "Let's talk business," he said.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Counterattack


The hallway was flooded with those hideous little green fuckers.

I waited.

Gus elbowed me nervously.  "You do have some kind of plan, here, right?" he shouted over the earsplitting sound of the shrieking pit guards.

"I have a kickass plan," I exulted, starting to brim with confidence.  "This is probably even going to be fun."

Gus shouted something in response, but I didn't hear all of it.  I think he said, "It better be one hell of a plan."

I waited until the first row of charging pit guards were about twenty yards away, and then I flexed my telekinetic muscles. 

With a thought and a lot of concentration, I ripped into both sides of the wall, digging two feet deep, and pulled chunks of stone and mortar out.  The first few rows of attackers were buried in an avalanche of dusty, filthy stone, collapsing under the weight of the walls that had just exploded inward on them.

As the first ranks went down, I extended my telekinetic reach further back, letting the walls tear open in a kind of rippling wave that I pushed back to as far as my powers would let me.  Hundreds of pit guards were crushed under my onslaught.  Once I couldn't push any further out, I stopped. 

I stood staring down the hallway, heaving, sweating, and feeling like a complete badass.  A thick dust hung in the corridor, but nothing moved other than a few loose stones.  I was ninety percent sure that I'd just taken out every single little goblin thing in the entire hallway.

Gus let out a low whistle.  "I'll tell you one thing," he said reverently.  "Even at the peak of his power, your predecessor never would have even thought of trying what you just did."

Monday, July 9, 2012

Incoming


"But how do they even know what happened?" I asked frantically as the rumbling sound grew steadily in volume.

"General Gavsot is a little more progressive than some of his demon peers," Gus explained.  "He's utilized some technology from the realm of the living."  He pointed toward a security camera mounted awkwardly in a cobwebbed corner.

"Fuck," I said.  "What do we do?  Run for it?"

Gus shook his head.  "You're the one who was so hellbent on asserting your authority.  It would look pretty bad if you didn't reassert it here."

I waved my hand, covered in blood from my thigh, in his face.  "I barely made it out of a fight with one of these things!  How am I going to 'assert my authority' against five hundred?!"

Gus smiled broadly.  "Remember, you're not just a kid with an attitude anymore," he reminded me.  "You're the Devil now.  Attack as the Devil, not as a human."

A terrible shrieking began echoing from down the hall.  Apparently that noise the first pit guard made was some kind of battle-cry, and hundreds of those things were making it now.

I looked down the long, featureless hallway and saw a swarm of greenish, three-foot-tall pit guards rushing toward us.

"Here goes nothing," I murmured.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pit Guards


The goblin pounced.

He surprised me by how high he could jump.  He came hurtling upward at my face claws-first.  I was lucky enough to get the shaft of the spear between us, and his face collided with it.  He fell, swiping his claws within an inch of my face as he went down.  But then he was climbing up my left leg, digging his sharp fingers deeply into my flesh as he scurried up to my torso. 

What the fuck do you do when some supernatural hellspawn is climbing up your body and punching holes in your skin like it's notebook paper?  I did the only thing I could think of--I spun.

I swung my body around as quickly as I could.  It made me slightly dizzy, but it pulled the goblin loose.  He was surprisingly light for a rabid hobbit, and he went flying against the wall, landing with a thud in the corner by the huge metal door.

He started to get up--freakishly fast--and I jammed the end of the spear into his face.  He fell back and snarled, so I hit him again.  It took four more shots to the face before he collapsed in an apparent state of unconsciousness.

My left side was bleeding profusely.  I looked up at Gus.  "What the fuck kind of animal did I just beat into a coma?" I asked raggedly, wincing.

Gus ignored me, instead staring down the long hallway ahead of us with what could only have been a look of horror.  "Pit Guards," he finally said.

I heard a low rumbling noise coming from the unseen end of the corridor.  "What's that noise?" I asked worriedly.

Gus sighed.  "Pit Guards," he repeated.  "Most of them are grunts working under the demons.  They're almost entirely ugly, cranky, and short-tempered.  But I will say one good thing about them--they're loyal to each other."  He turned to shoot me a quick, ironic smile.  "That means if you mess with one of them, you mess with all of them." 

He nodded down the hall toward the sound of a stampede.  "You just made a few hundred enemies," he said.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Guard


In a hallway in front of us stood what I assumed was the guard who'd let us enter.  He'd sounded like a goblin before, but it appeared now that he actually was a goblin.

He was maybe three feet tall, with green skin, grotesque features, bad teeth and a tiny pot belly.  His ears were long, pointy, and drooped as if in an attempt to balance out his ugliness with a splash of cuteness.

He also held a wooden spear.  He pointed it at me suspiciously.

"Take me to General Gavsot," I said.

"That's not how this works," he spat contemptuously.  "He's coming to you.  You don't go nowhere."

Thinking back to my recent success subjugating a badass demon like Vilnius, I decided to throw my weight around and let him know I wasn't going to be a pushover. 

"No, it works how I say it works," I contradicted him firmly.  "Take me to General Gavsot."  The goblin thing narrowed its yellow eyes at me.  "Now," I added for good measure.

"You shut up," the thing said shrilly.  "You don't give orders here.  You don't go nowhere."  It set its jaw like the matter was concluded.

Well, now I had to do something.  I couldn't let this little goblin thing defy me, especially after I'd pushed him to obey.  So I swept my hand out, grabbed his spear from his claws, yanked it free, flipped it around, and brought the butt of the weapon down on his ugly little face.

"Did you see that?!"  I whispered to Gus, who appeared frozen in shock.  "That's some Keanu Reeves Matrix shit I just did!"

Then the goblin thing got up and shrieked at me.  It was the loudest noise I've ever heard in my entire life.  I mean, in my entire death.

His muscles tensed.  He was about to do something, and it looked like he meant business.  For the first time, I'd considered that perhaps I had underestimated him.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Entry


I stared at the door.

"That," I said solemnly, "is one big-ass door."

Gus stared at me.  "Are you gonna knock on it or just stand here zoning the hell out?"

I raised my fist to rap on the door.  As I knocked, the flakes of rust scraped my knuckles.   Almost immediately, a small section of the wall next to the door shifted, revealing a small window at about eye level. 

"Who are you?" a grouchy, goblin-like voice croaked. 

I peered through the window and discovered that it was simply a squared-off gap in the wall.  But the wall was so thick that the far end of the tunnel appeared to be less than half the size of my end. 

"I'm the new Devil," I answered.  "Open the door."

Gus smiled approvingly.  "I like the new tone," he murmured. 

I shrugged.  "I think I'm starting to get used to this being-in-charge thing," I admitted.

The enormous door creaked suddenly, and swung open slightly with a slow, agonizing shriek.  The opening was only a few feet wide, and it gave me the impression that there would probably never be an emergency big enough to require the effort of opening the door all the way.

"Come in," the voice said.

Gus and I slipped through the opening.  Gus had hardly stepped inside when the door began creaking shut behind us.