Monday, September 30, 2013

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“Why?” Winston asked.  Judging by his expression, he seemed to think that I had no use for the information beyond causing him the supreme inconvenience of having to look it up.

“It doesn’t matter why,” I snapped.  I intended for it to sound like I was his boss and I was putting him in his place, but I’m pretty sure it wound up sounding more like I was a petulant teenager who was fiercely protecting his privacy despite having no logical reason to do so.  Actually, that might not have been too far off.  “Just look it up,” I ordered.  “Quinn Madsen.”

Winston sighed.  “I realize that you think this is an unusual name,” he said patronizingly, “But I doubt that you have a clear understanding of just how many people get run through the assignment process down here.”

“So?” I said.  I hated that I couldn’t stop playing the role of the frustrated adolescent.  Whether I was seventeen years old or not, I’d hoped to exert my power as ruler of Hell with a little more elegance.

“So he needs more information, jackass,” Dramien snarled.  I felt his breath on the back of my neck as he spoke.  I willed myself not to cringe, but I couldn’t stop my hairs from standing on end.

“Fine,” I said.  “Like what?”

“Oh, the usual things,” Winston mused wearily.  “Middle name, birth date, death date, birthplace, deathplace, COD, notable offenses, et cetera et cetera and so on and so forth.”

“Okay, well, he died a few days after me,” I said, trying to remember.  “I think it was March 11th.”

Dramien chuckled softly.  He didn’t like me, and I didn’t have a clear understanding of why, but I was pretty sick of it regardless.

I turned around and spat, “What the fuck is your problem?”

“I realize that you think this is an unusual date,” he began with a condescending smirk.

I interrupted by turning to Winston and growling, “Two thousand and twelve, anno fucking domini.”

Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Unhappy Reunion

I teleported to Winston’s office.  He was working busily behind his desk and I clearly broke his focus when I arrived.

“I hate it when people just teleport in unannounced,” he whined.  “I have my blood pressure to consider.”

“Winston,” I reminded him, “You’re already—”

“Already dead, yes, I know,” he interrupted dismissively.   “But I’ve learned that death is not necessarily a cure for hypertension.”

“Did you need something?” a low voice directly behind me growled.  Even more startled than Winston had been, I yelped, jumped and whirled around.  Dramien was standing there, chuckling softly and clearly enjoying the fact that he’d just made me react in an undignified manner not befitting the reigning Lord of Darkness.

“When did you get there?” I gasped.

“I was already standing there when you ported in,” he said.  That was one of the drawbacks of my nifty teleportation power—you could never be entirely sure of how a room was occupied before you materialized in the middle of it.

“Well?” Winston said impatiently as I tried to catch my breath.  “I have a lot of work that I hate doing to get to, so if you could maybe get on with it…?”  He waved one hand in a circular motion to hurry me up.

“Right, sorry.” I said, shifting to a businesslike tone.  After all the time I’d spent building up my powers and asserting my authority, I hated how quickly I could still lose the respect and the fear and the imposing presence that I felt I’d started to earn.  I needed to remember that, whether I was still a teenager or not, I had an image that it was important for me to maintain.  I wasn’t here to jump when I got spooked and let my subordinates adjust my timetable to fit theirs.  I was here to demand that my underlings do my bidding. 

Keeping my voice firm, I said, “I need to know where you assigned Quinn Madsen.”

Friday, September 27, 2013

Back to Base

Jaelin and I teleported our group from Hell’s Attic back to my office.  I was pleased to see that Gavsot was back on his feet and that Sylnie was as busty as ever. 

“How did it go?” Sylnie asked pleasantly.

“Well, Azraal wasn’t lying,” I summarized.  “But now we need to make sure Lucifer’s daughter wasn’t lying.”  I glanced at General Gavsot, who seemed to have just a little unsteadiness on his feet.  “You good?” I asked.

He nodded.  “I am recovering,” he said.  “I can feel my strength returning rapidly.”

“Good to hear,” I said sincerely.  “Can’t lose my star quarterback going into the fourth quarter.” 

“What he means is,” Gus jumped in, “He can’t lose his strongest ally when he’s about to go to war.”  From the corner of his mouth, he hissed at me, “Come on, using a sports metaphor on Gavsot?  Get your head in the game, bro!”

Gavsot nodded appreciatively.  From his expression, I gathered that he knew what I had meant without Gus’s help, even though he had no understanding of football. 

“So are you going to make a knife that can kill Lucifer’s Firstborn?” Sylnie asked.

“That’s the plan,” I said with a little more bravado than I needed.  I could often sense myself trying to play things up when I was around Sylnie, and I didn't like it—but I couldn’t stop doing it.

“What do you need?” Gavsot asked loyally.

“First,” I mused, “I think I need to pay a visit to Winston.  I need to locate a murderer, and I have a specific one in mind.”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Weighing the Options

“No, I mean, what do you do?” I asked, the repetition intended to communicate some level of specificity.  “Why are you in Hell?  What’s your role down here?”

Tithenai appeared confused.  “I play video games.  I just told you.  Told you everything loud and clear but nobody’s listening.”

I tried a different approach.  “So how is it that you supposedly know stuff like how to kill Lucifer’s Firstborn?”

“What, you want to see her credentials?” Gus wisecracked quietly.  I think he wanted to say it but he didn’t want anyone to hear him.  Azraal gave a slight smirk.

Tithenai grinned at me like I’d just told an awful joke.  “I’m Lucifer’s daughter,” she said, like it somehow explained everything perfectly.  “Listen, you should probably go and get on with your whole fighting off an invading army thing.  I’d like to get back to my game.  Head games.  Instead of makin’ love, we play head games.”

I had no idea how to respond to that, so she shrugged, flopped back down on her couch, and resumed playing.

I turned back to my comrades.  “What do you guys think?” I asked.

“She’s crazy,” Torvin said fearfully.  “Maybe she’s plotting to get us all killed by following her stupid directions.”

“What do the non-hysterical ones think?” I asked flatly.

“I agree with Torvin,” Jaelin admitted, patting him reassuringly on the shoulder.

“Hey, if she’s Lucifer’s daughter, I have to believe she’s plugged in to more old-school Hell stuff than just about anyone,” Gus reasoned.  “But I’d still like to try her idea out before you take another swing at Halkkor.”

“I think it would also be prudent to test this quietly,” Jorge added.  “If this works, this could help us defeat Halkkor’s army—but if we keep it our secret weapon, it can be that much more devastating.”

I nodded.  “Okay,” I said, rubbing my hands together with a lot of excitement and maybe a little evil.  “Let’s go get some blood.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Assessing Credibility

“So how do I know I can trust you?” I asked.  “I mean, no disrespect,” I added swiftly, “But your dad is kind of known as the Father of Lies and everything.”

Tithenai cocked her head at me.  “So?” she retorted.  “My mother was an angel.  Earth angel.  Will you be mine?”

Ignoring the creepy lyrical come-on, I leaned over to Gus and whispered, “Is that true?”

“Bro,” he said sharply, sounding a little disappointed.  “I didn’t even know she existed until like an hour ago.  How the hell would I know?”

“Right,” I said sheepishly.  Glancing hopefully toward Azraal’s head, which Gus had grown tired of carrying and set on the ground, I asked, “So, is that tr—”

“I’d never heard of her until yesterday,” Azraal snapped.  “Right now, you know everything about her that I do.”

I looked back at Gus and nodded in Azraal’s direction.  “Is that true?”  Gus gave me a chuckle.

“Acting on the assumption that he can’t be trusted has worked well for you in the past,” Jorge reminded me.

“Listen, whether not you trust me has nothing to do with who my parents are,” Tithenia cut in.  “I haven’t seen either of them in centuries.  I don’t care about them anymore.  I don’t care what you say.  I never did believe you much anyway.”

That sounded kind of sad—a child, eternally abandoned by both her parents, sitting alone in some cavity of Hell.  I was starting to feel kind of sympathetic toward this weird little demon-angel-tomboy-chick.  “So…what do you do?” I asked.

She shrugged.  “I play a lot of video games,” she said simply.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reviewing the Intel

Because of the unknown severity of her mental state, I wasn’t convinced that we’d be able to trust her information, whether she verified what Azraal had said or not. 

“Well, the reason we came to talk to you,” I began, feeling extremely awkward, “Is that—”

“You need to make sure that the intel you got from Azraal about killing Lucifer’s Firstborn is accurate?” she finished.  She seemed to sense my uneasiness.  “No, I get it. It would really suck for you if he turned out to be lying.”

“So you can tell me for sure how to kill Lucifer’s Firstborn?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said with a shrug.  “You take any sharp object, a sword or a stake or whatever, and you soak it in the blood of a murderer and the blood of a healer.  Then you burn it in the fires of Hell.  Then you wash it in the waters of Earth.  Then that’s it.  Don’t make it harder.  That’s it.  Don’t make it tough.”

I was starting to realize that it could become difficult to communicate with her if I didn’t know every song ever written.  I was assuming that last bit was from a song that I didn’t know, and I was hoping that everything important she said actually came from her and wasn’t one of her apparently compulsive references.

“Okay,” I said, “So let’s break this down—the blood of a murderer and the blood of a healer.  So if I get myself a knife and stab Jeffrey Dahmer a few times and then stab Florence Nightingale a few times, that would work?”

“Sure it would,” Tithenai replied.

“Then what if I dip that knife in the lake of fire by the Department of Torture and then dip it into Lake Superior?” I asked.

“Then you will have crafted yourself one fine piece of Lucifer’s-Firstborn-killing weaponry and you can go to war,” she said. 

I thought she was done, but when I opened my mouth to express gratitude, she grunted abruptly and said, “What is it good for?  Absolutely nothin’.”

I really hoped that was simply an irrelevant song lyric and not a commentary on our chances of defeating Halkkor’s army.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Another Introduction

“Finally!” said an exasperated female voice from the couch.  “I was getting so bored waiting for you to show up.  The waiting is the hardest part.  Every day you get one more yard.”  The game paused and the speaker got off of the couch.

She was strikingly hideous.  She could have been beautiful, but she wasn’t.  She shouldn’t have been ugly, but she was.  She looked like the offspring of a zombie and one of Hollywood’s most beautiful celebrities.  Her features all looked almost-perfect, but not-quite right.  Her slender, strong nose had a slight bend on the bridge like it had always been broken.  Her extraordinary blue eyes appeared permanently bloodshot, and the left one might have been crooked.  Her lips were plump, full, and pale gray.  Her teeth were perfectly aligned, like she’d just gotten braces off, but they were small and pointed.  Her skin was a blotchy, ashy color, but it appeared smooth and soft nonetheless.  The wavy blonde hair that tumbled just to her shoulders was greasy and a little tangled.

She was short and had an awkward, boyish gait as she strode toward me.  “Hey.  I’m Tithenai,” she said, extending a hand.

I shook it dumbly.  “Uh, Jason,” I mumbled.  “I mean, I’m the Devil.”

“Yeah,” she snorted.  “I know that, genius.”

“Azraal,” she said with a nod toward the head in Gus’s arms.  “Nice to see you again.  Reunited and it feels so good.  Reunited and it’s understood.”  She was clearly referencing the song, but it was somehow weirder that she quoted it solemnly than if she’d actually sung it.  Torvin and Jaelin exchanged a mildly puzzled glance.

“So,” I said slowly, hoping to get down to business but unsure of how to break the ice, “You’re…?”

“Lucifer’s daughter?” she finished.  “Yup.  That’s me.  I am I, Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha.”

She was crazy.  At least, she sounded pretty crazy.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Through the Ceiling

As my fireball reached the top of the cavern and burst harmlessly against the ceiling, I took a good look at the opening up there.  I took a moment to hold that image in my mind.  Then I teleported.

I appeared in the air maybe five feet below the opening.  Though I immediately began to fall, I made sure to get a good look inside the five-foot, vaguely circular hole in the ceiling.  I saw more of the reddish variety of shale enclosing a small room that was illuminated by an orangey, occasionally flickering light source.  As I fell, I held the glimpse of that room in my mind and I teleported again.

I felt a wave of pride wash over me as I found myself standing inside that little room an instant later.  I was maybe six inches from the edge of the opening that used to be in the ceiling of the last cave but was now in the floor of this one.   I teleported back down to the others and returned, taking Jaelin with me so she could see her destination.  Then the two of us quickly ferried the rest of our party up through the ceiling.

The room we’d arrived in appeared to be the end of a long, winding tunnel lit by slow-burning torches that had been placed along the walls at semi-regular intervals.  We followed the tunnel—some of us more hesitantly than others—along its course.  It took us maybe half an hour before we reached the other end.

It opened up into a cavern about the size of my old high school’s gymnasium—although gym class seemed so long ago and so foreign to me now.  The cavern was bathed in a rich orange glow from numerous torches blazing around its perimeter.  At the center of this mostly empty space was a big comfy couch.  The couch was facing away from us and toward a television.  Based on the images on the screen, someone on the couch appeared to be playing a video game.

We approached the back of the couch slowly.  Everyone but Azraal appeared just as confused as I was.  As we neared the couch, I squinted at the TV.

“Is that…Assassin’s Creed?” I asked dubiously.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Dank Cavern

After a few minutes, we emerged into a small damp cavern that was dimly illuminated by a small light from its distant ceiling.  From this far away, it was hard to tell exactly what the source of light was.  I decided that it needed some help.  Exercising my pyrokinetic abilities, I shot a few little fireballs into the edges of the cavern.  They fizzled out quickly in the shallow pools on the ground, but at least I was able to verify that the only exits from this cavern were through the ceiling and through the way we’d come in.

“That must be the tunnel Azraal was talking about,” Gus said, looking skyward.

“Of course that’s the tunnel I was talking about, you fuckwit,” Azraal grumbled.

“Looks like we’re climbing,” I said, feeling along the wall for a good handhold.

“I’m not climbing that,” Torvin said.

“Do me a favor, Torvin,” I grated.  “When you’re about to say something annoying that I’m not going to give a shit about, don’t.”

Torvin went silent.  Jaelin giggled.  It was a weirdly girlish sound for a demon to make.

“Sir, I don’t think you need to climb,” Jorge said, speaking up for the first time in a while.

I hadn’t exactly been relishing the thought of climbing the slick, inwardly-angled, thousand-foot-high rock wall either.  “I’m listening,” I said, giving him an expectant look in the darkness.

“You can teleport to any location you’ve seen, correct?” he said.

“Yes,” I said.  I could sense the solution he was about to describe dawning on me, but it was still just beyond my grasp.  “But I can’t see what’s up there.”

Gus was close enough that I could see the broad smile spread across his face as he stared upward and finished Jorge’s thought.  “Bro…then let there be light.”

I sent a very robust fireball hurtling directly upward, splashing dazzling, blazing brightness against the sides of the cavern all the way to the ceiling.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Dark Passage

Gus, Jorge, Jaelin, Torvin, Azraal’s Head and I walked around behind the huge spike of dark gray rock and slipped into the small, jagged opening in the wall.  The opening was less than ten feet high and narrow at the top, so we had to enter in a single file.  I scraped the sides of my head along the rough wall a few times as I led the way through a cramped, increasingly dark passage.

“This gives me the heebie jeebies, Boss-Man,” Gus whispered behind me.

“Oh, you think it’s bad?” Azraal snarled sourly.  “Try being carried through this shithole with no body.”

“It’s not so bad,” Jaelin said softly.  “It’s intimate.”  Torvin yelped suddenly.

Jorge, bringing up the rear, remained silent.  Though he was only human, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had the best night-vision of all of us.  Either he was the least perturbed by the closeness and the darkness or he was stifling his cowardice most successfully.  Maybe he was only the bravest because he was the best at acting brave.  Maybe that’s what bravery was to begin with.

The humidity had been building gradually as we progressed, and soon we began to hear things dripping and echoing eerily from up ahead. 

“Remind me why we’re doing this?” Torvin asked.  I could tell that he was trying to sound casual, but he failed completely at sounding anything other than whiny.

“Because we need to find out how to kill Lucifer’s Firstborn or we all die,” I reminded him bluntly.

“We already know how to kill Lucifer’s Firstborn,” he mumbled.

“We have unverified information on how to kill Lucifer’s Firstborn,” I corrected.  “But that information came from an unreliable source.”

“Watch it, I might get all offended,” Azraal interrupted dryly.  It was a joy to see him in such a continuously foul mood.

“So we’re going to corroborate the information before we act on it,” I continued.  “Because, knowing our favorite beheaded demon, here, he could have made the whole thing up hoping I’d get myself killed trying to take down Halkkor with a useless weapon.”

“No disrespect, sir,” Jaelin said, “But even if you’re doing this to avoid walking into a trap, how do you know that we’re not walking into an even cleverer trap right now?”

“I don’t,” I admitted.  “But it seems safer.”

“If this is a trap, I really doubt it has Halkkor at the end of it,” Gus reasoned.  “That makes it less dangerous than pretty much everything else.”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Give and Go

Wakka, despite being an angry little curmudgeon, was surprisingly grateful.  In fact, I could have sworn that he was blinking back a few tears of joy.  Perhaps my decision to make him Director despite his species was a moment of validation for him.  I felt like I was a socially progressive Devil who was making strides toward ending species inequality in Hell.  Which seemed kind of silly.  But I couldn’t help but feel a little pride—I may be the Devil, but at least I was doing some good.

“I’d love to stay and chat, and maybe help you get settled in or something,” I said lamely, “But there’s something really important that I need to do right now.”  I paused.  “So…here’s your Department, go nuts, have fun, don’t fuck it up…call me if you need me.”  Anticipating possible problems for once, I said, “You do have Vilnius’s cell phone around here somewhere, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Wakka said quickly.  “It’s in the office.  In…my…office,” Wakka said, a slow grin creeping across his ugly features.

“Great.   In that case,” I reiterated quickly, “If you get in a jam, use it to give me a call, but right now I really need to go.  Best of luck.”  I gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder which I immediately realized might be kind of condescending.  But then I figured—I’m the supreme ruler around here, so maybe it’s not so condescending when I’m condescending.  Maybe I wasn’t all about equality after all. 

I glanced meaningfully at my companions and nodded toward the crevice hidden behind the stone spire.  “Time to go,” I said.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Choosing a Director

Wakka’s bold, caustic statement was met with an uproar that was a mixture of cheers of agreement and oaths of disdain.  It took me a little longer to calm the crowd down that it had last time, but when they’d finally quieted, I asked Wakka to elaborate.

“With pleasure,” Wakka said, still abrasive but seeming to appreciate that I was giving him serious consideration.  “Zyzyfus may be Vilnius’s son, but he’s just a kid.  He hasn’t even hit his twentieth birthday yet and I can guarantee you he doesn’t have a fucking clue how to run this joint.  Malkino may be the highest-ranking demon now that Vilnius is gone, but he’s only had that position for a decade or so and he still ranks below me.  I was Vilnius’s second-in-command, his right hand man, his go-to guy, and it had been that way for the last hundred and fifty years.”  He was starting to froth at the mouth a little as he continued breathlessly.  “I know the ins and the outs of this Department better than anybody else, and I deserve to be in charge more than anybody else.  And it’s not about a power grab like those greedy pricks, it’s about doing a job and doing it right.”

I shrugged.  “Yeah, that makes sense to me,” I said.  I realized I was giving very brief job interviews here, but so far my impressions were that Malkino was your typical power-hungry asshole demon, Zyzyfus was halfway between that and Torvin’s useless cowardice, and Wakka was the one levelheaded guy surrounded by a maelstrom of incompetence.

“You can’t make him a Director,” Malkino protested.  “He’s not even a demon!”

“Winston is the Director of Assignment and he’s human,” I reminded him.

“Yeah, and he’s a useless fat fuck,” Malkino reasoned indelicately.  “Humans have no business wielding power in Hell and neither do Pit Guards.”

“Well, that settles it, then,” I said.  “Wakka is the new Director of Development.”  It was worth it if only to see Malkino’s face twist up indignantly.

“This is bullshit!” Malkino screamed. 

I interrupted what was clearly the beginning of a brilliant temper tantrum by teleporting directly behind him, gripping him by the neck, and lifting him up so his ear was in front of my mouth.  “And if anything happens to Wakka, I’ll kill you myself,” I grated ominously.  I tossed him on the ground and turned to face the assembly.  “Wakka now has absolute authority over this Department,” I announced.  “Anyone who has a problem with that has a problem with me.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been down here,” I added with a smirk, “It’s that the best way for me to solve my problems in Hell is by killing someone.”

The crowd was silent.  I think they got the message.  I had to admit, despite my initial revulsion to the idea of becoming the Devil, it was damn good to have this kind of power.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Three Claimants

“Yes, I am a Pit Guard,” the grotesque, diminutive beast snarled irritably.  “And you were born human.  We each have our handicaps.”

Caught off-guard by his frank snarkiness, I chuckled.  “You’re right.  I didn’t mean to be rude, I was just a little surprised.”

“Right, well,” I said, remembering that I had other places I needed to be, “Let’s get down to business.  Malkino, state your claim.  Why do you deserve to be Director?”

“Because I was the highest ranking demon in the Department, second only to Vilnius,” he said simply, speaking with the bold, dramatic voice of an experienced orator.  I was about to ask the same question of Zyzyfus when Malkino continued, “And let it be known, that under my watch and under my rule, this great department will get the respect it deserves!” 

At this, many of the demons in his section of the mob began cheering and whooping.  Malkino was a grandstanding politician at the Demonic National Convention.  I did my best to quickly quell the noise.  Turning to Zyzyfus, I asked him the same question.  “State your claim,” I said.  “Why do you deserve to be Director?”

Squirming uncomfortably, he mumbled, “Because Vilnius was my father.  It’s my birthright.”  His claim was greeted with a smattering of scattered support.  It seemed clear to me that he was the least gutsy and the least politically potent of the three.

It was news to me, however, that Vilnius had a son.  I wondered if Zyzyfus knew about the spell I’d used to force Vilnius to obey me.  I wondered if Zyzyfus suspected that I’d had a hand in his father’s death. 

I gestured toward Wakka.  “State your claim,” I said.  “Why do you deserve to be Director?”

Wakka looked me square in the eye and said, “Because, unlike these two fucktards, I actually know what I’m doing.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What About Vilnius?

When Vilnius had terminated my brief alliance with Halkkor by informing him of my plan to assassinate him, I’d kind of gotten caught up in a mad scramble for survival.  I’d ordered Vilnius to attack Halkkor, which, of course, had resulted in Vilnius’s death.  But then I went through that frantic teleportation thing when I was trying to escape from Halkkor’s murderous grasp.  When I did escape, I was haunted by the possibility that he was still alive and terrified of his army mobilizing itself against my still-helpless legions.  In my quest to learn how to defend against Lucifer’s Firstborn, I’d died, experienced a very bizarre Gandalf moment, and then been confronted with the problem of Niven’s jailbreak.  Then I’d had to worry about Azraal’s double cross and General Gavsot’s survival in his weakened state and on top of all that I’d learned that Halkkor was still alive and was resuming his annihilation of demonkind. 

So I think it was completely understandable for the fact that Vilnius had died at the beginning of all this to have slipped my mind.  Which is why I’d neglected to install a new Director in his stead and left the Department of Developstruction to handle a succession crisis all on its own.  But apparently demons aren’t the most democratic species out there, and instead of peacefully voting on a new Director, it seemed that a few of the frontrunners had jockeyed violently for position and their followers had split the Department into warring factions.

Fucking demons.  Always with the blood and the violence.

Stressing the need for a quick resolution, I ordered that everyone who had made a claim for the position of Director be summoned immediately.  Malkino protested on the basis that he was the only one with a legitimate claim, so I blasted him with a pyrokinetic fireball and suddenly everybody realized that I wasn’t messing around. 

A few moments later, the three claimants stood before me.  Malkino, the short, bright green demon with the smooth, deep voice seemed confident in his right.  Zyzyfus, a lanky, pale orange demon, seemed uncomfortable standing within fifty feet of Malkino.  And Wakka—

“You’re a Pit Guard,” I said dumbly, staring at Wakka in open shock.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Talking it Out

“Who’s your leader?” I asked the demon who’d been brave enough to speak. 

“His name is Wakka,” he said.

“Wakka?”  Gus said incredulously.  “And what’s your name, Fozzy?”

The demon gave him a briefly look of perplexity and addressed me again. “Sir, we believe he is the rightful Director of the Department of Development but we’ve faced incredible opposition trying to give him the position.”

I shook my head.  “I really don’t have time for this,” I said irritably.  I turned to the opposing mob.  “Okay, so why can’t we just make this Wakka guy the Director?” I asked. 

It seemed as though each member of the mob decided to explain it to me simultaneously using entirely different words.  I was assailed with a barrage of overlapping exclamations that amounted to complete gibberish.  “HEY!” I bellowed, and instantly the crowd went silent.  “Don’t you have one guy to speak for you like that nice army over there does?”

“I will speak for them,” a short, lime-green demon with a Barry White voice said.   “I’m their leader.  I’m the rightful Director of the Department of Construction.”

“Wait, which is it?” I whispered to Gus.    “The Department of Development or the Department of Construction?”

“Both,” Gus whispered back.  “It’s switched back and forth countless times over the millennia.  To everyone else it’s kind of a running joke, but the demons in the Department of Developstruction take it very seriously.”

“Interesting,” I murmured.  To the Barry White demon, I said, “What’s your name?”

“Malkino,” he replied.  I’d noticed that he was brazenly forgoing the “sir” that his counterpart had used. 

“Malkino,” I asked him sternly, “Why is there any question of who the rightful leader of…this Department…is?  Aren’t all Department Directors chosen by and given authority from the Devil?   Don’t all of you serve at the pleasure of your Supreme Overlord?  Don’t you all derive all rights to exercise power from me and no one else?” 

I admit I was power tripping, but he was small and I didn’t like him.  “There should be no question of who is in charge of this Department,” I thundered in conclusion.  Malkino gave me a hesitant stare.  He clearly had no idea what to say next.

“Uh, Sir?” Jorge said quietly.  “Vilnius is dead.  He was the Director.”

I’d completely forgotten.  “Oh, shit!” I exclaimed in surprise.

Azraal’s head cackled gleefully.

Friday, September 6, 2013


We braced ourselves for battle as the demons rushed toward us from the open door.  Jaelin and Jorge were on opposite sides of me.  Gus had set Azraal’s head on the ground and stood loyally at my heels.  Torvin was trembling and whimpering a few feet behind him.

“I wish I’d brought some kind of weapon,” Jorge said grimly.

“You might not need it anyway,” I replied with growing astonishment.  The angry mob wasn’t charging us—it wasn’t even an angry mob.  It was a frightened mob, which had suddenly stopped, turned, and prepared to hold its ground against the actually angry mob which was now pouring out of the door.

We were witnessing demon-on-demon warfare. 

“Just hang back for a minute, guys,” I murmured to my comrades.  “I’m going to see what’s going on here.”

As the second group organized itself in front of the door—probably preparing to attack properly—I teleported, arriving directly between the two groups.  I’d have called them armies, but each one seemed to have no more than a hundred combatants. 

When I appeared, the tense hum and the shouted orders died down to a hush.  “Hi,” I said, turning as I spoke to indicate I was addressing everyone present.  “What’s going on here?”

“Who the fuck are you?” someone in the army closest to the door called out.

“He’s the Devil, dumbass,” they demon next to him grated, cuffing him across the scalp.

“Yes, I am the Devil,” I confirmed.  “And I demand to know what is going on here.”  Sternly, I added, “We’re currently under threat of extermination from an army of creatures we still don’t know how to defeat.  So I’d like to know why I have demons fighting amongst themselves when even the most selfish of you would have to admit that if we aren’t united against Lucifer’s Firstborn, we are all going to die.” 

The hush fell again.  I stood there proudly, feeling like I’d just channeled Denzel Washington from Remember the Titans.

A demon in the first group finally stepped forward.  “Sir,” he explained, “We were attempting to rescue our leader, who is held captive inside, but we were discovered and driven back.”

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Department of Development

I appeared in a creepy little corner of the underworld.  The rock here was mostly dark gray and jagged, as opposed to the smoother burnt-red shale of most of the other parts of Hell I’d visited.  It made the area seem darker and eerier. 

“Here we are,” Jaelin said.  “You ready?”

I looked around for a moment and said, “Yeah,” but once again she’d teleported me before I finished my short response.  I was back in my office with the teleportation equivalent of whiplash. 

“Okay,” I wheezed.  “I’ll take Gus, Gus will take Azraal’s head.  Jorge, you’re with Jaelin, and Torvin, you’re on your own.”  I scowled at him.  “Try not to fuck it up this time.”

He frowned at me.  I think he was actually offended.

“Let’s go,” I said, gripping Gus’s wrist tightly.  A moment later, I was back in that creepy cranny of Hell.  Jaelin and Jorge appeared beside me.  After a frustrating pause, Torvin finally teleported in a few yards behind us.

“So where to?” I asked.

Gus pointed to the rock wall a few hundred feet away.  “The door to the Department of Development is right there,” he said.  There was a black double-door set into the wall.  That was the only indication that there was anything other than rock here.  “So the crevice is…?”  He lifted Azraal’s head to our eye level, indicating that the bodiless demon should answer.

“Off to the right,” Azraal said.  “Behind that big stone spire sticking out the ground.”

Jorge was squinting.  “I think I see it,” he said, but he didn’t sound sure.

“I don’t mean to sound impatient,” Jaelin piped up.  “But is there anything else you need me to do?”

The black double-doors burst open suddenly and an angry mob poured out. 

“Why don’t you just tag along with us until further notice, Jaelin?” I suggested.  “I have a feeling we might need some help.”

Monday, September 2, 2013

Enlisting More Help

We were prepared to go.  Gus was holding Azraal’s head.  A reluctant Torvin and a resolute Jorge were standing beside me.  I suddenly felt stupid.

“Hey,” I said slowly, “Does anybody know how to get to the Department of Development?”

“It’s past the Department of Transportation,” Gus said.  “Let’s start by going there.”

I felt stupid again.  “I’m the only one here who can teleport, aren’t I?”

“I can teleport,” Torvin said meekly.

“I’m the only one here who can teleport,” I amended, “effectively, and with a passenger.”

“Would you like me to call one of my aides to assist us?” Jorge suggested.

“Yeah, that’d be super,” I said, mentally kicking myself for horrible planning.

He pulled out his phone and made a brief call.  Moments later, a demon appeared next to me.  She was short, slim, and hot pink.  And she was naked.  Thankfully, her petite body wasn’t nearly so distracting as Kivra’s or Sylnie’s.  But she made up for it by being insanely cute—for a demon, anyway.  She was the first demon I’d seen that made me want to pinch her cheeks.

“Thank you for coming, Jaelin,” Jorge said.  “We need your help traveling to the Department of Development.”

“Okay,” she said.  Even her voice was cute.  “What do you need?”

“I need you to teleport me there,” I said, stammering slightly.  “So that I can see it and teleport there myself.  Then I need you to come back here and take Jorge there with you.  Can you do that?”

“Sure,” she said.  “Now?”

“Yeah,” I started to say, but halfway through the syllable, she grabbed my arm and shot us halfway across Hell.