"So this is your office?" Halkkor asked rhetorically, strutting around the room as though he were getting a sense of its threat level.
Gus,still shaking, sidled over to me. "Bro," he whispered. "A little warning next time before you materialize three inches from me with the scariest fucking thing I've ever seen in tow."
"Sorry," I replied. "I didn't know you'd be here."
"What the hell is that guy doing here?" he asked quietly.
"We agreed to work together to restructure Hell," I said. "Make it more efficient." He gave me a look. "It was the only way I could think of to get him to not annihilate everybody," I whispered defensively.
"Shall we begin?" came Halkkor's gruff voice from the other side of the room. I got the sense that he didn't appreciate a furtive whispered conversation going on.
"Absolutely," I said immediately. I turned to face him, beaming with false affability. "I was thinking we could start by reviewing our system of assigning each soul a kind of torture."
Halkkor shook his head. "We don't need that. Everyone in Hell deserves torture but we don't need to concern ourselves with personalization. If anything, the torturers can learn on the fly--as they get to know their subjects, they will learn what kinds of things will torment them the most."
"Oh," I said, shocked by the brutal simplicity of his suggestion. "But we can't just dissolve the entire department of Assignment," I argued. "That would mean--"
"More demons free to contribute to actual torture," he interrupted me impatiently. "I thought you wanted to streamline your organization and maximize the pain you can inflict on your souls." Man, this guy was paranoid. First he thought I was attacking him when I tried to teleport him. Now he seemed to think that I'd only made a deal with him out of convenience and that we didn't actually share the same goals and ideals.
Okay, he was right about his second concern. But it was important for him to not have his suspicions confirmed. I needed to come up with a convincing answer to reassure him that our intentions were aligned. If I didn't, he'd probably put me through one of the walls.
"Right, of course," I babbled. "I do want to do that, but I was just--"
There was a knock at my door. That would work as a diversion--or at least buy me more time to come up with an acceptable response. "Come in!" I shouted nervously.