“Thanks for coming,” I said, walking toward him. Malkino silently continued leaning against the rock wall, his arms crossed. “Listen, I need to make this quick, so let me get right to the point. Do you want to be the Director of Torture?”
His eyebrows shot up, abandoning his stolid countenance for a moment. He regained his composure quickly. “What happened to Kivra?” he asked in his smooth Barry White voice.
“Kivra declared open rebellion against me and I was forced to remove her from a position of power,” I said diplomatically. I was intentionally vague, hoping that his imagination’s attempt at filling in the blanks would work as a veiled threat. I wanted him to get the message that I was doing him a huge favor, but that if he made me regret it, I’d destroy him. I didn’t want to say those exact words, however, because I really needed him to accept my job offer.
He pondered that for a moment, his wiry green arms still crossed. I wondered if that body language was intentional. “What’s the catch?” he asked.
“The first thing I’ll need you to do when you take over the Department of Torture is to organize a massive army of Pit Guards,” I told him. “I need them to assist in the defeat of the army of Lucifer’s Firstborn. After it’s all over, they can all go back under your command.”
“The ones who survive,” he amended.
“Yes, the ones who survive,” I agreed.
“So you’re going to save Hell using a few thousand imps with spears?” he asked. He was mocking me, of course, but with that deep, rich voice everything he said sounded so agreeable.
“It’s part of a larger strategy,” I assured him.
“So they’re bait,” he summarized. “When the fighting is over, assuming you win, I’m not getting very many of those Pit Gaurds back, am I?”
I heaved a sharp breath through my nostrils impatiently. “Why does everyone think that? They’re not bait! It’s war, so I’m sure plenty of them will die, but I’m not using them as meat shields!”
“Your indignation is very convincing,” he said dryly.
“It’s genuine, so it better be convincing,” I said. “Listen, I know you’re pissed at me because I chose Wakka over you, but what I’m offering you now is the chance of a lifetime.”
I paused. Then I added, meekly, “And that phrase should mean a lot more to you than it does to me, considering you’re probably hundreds of years older than I am.”