Wednesday, April 30, 2014

First Strike

The four of us left the purple demon and teleported over to the burning remains of the antique shop.
 
I sized up the daunting scope of the blaze.  "Anybody know how to telekinetically extinguish a fire?"

"Our priority should be the apprehending of the demons," Talamur said.  "Once we eliminate the cause of the disturbance, human authorities should be able to handle the situation from there acceptably."

"Good point," I admitted.

"As the human," Talamur added, "I would have thought that you would have thought of that."

"Oh, is that what you would have thought I would have thought?" I mocked quietly.  It felt weird to have a demon label my behavior as less human than his.  I had the sense that I should be slightly offended, but I wasn't entirely sure if I was.  "So where are the demons?"

Jaelin pointed toward an ill-maintained two-story residence across the street.  "They're probably already moving on to their next target."

"There's one," Fikhos said abruptly, teleporting himself away.  He popped up in the back yard of the house and immediately engaged in combat with a hooded invader.  Another came running out and Jaelin went to assist the Director of Housing, leaving me alone with the demon I knew the least about.  There wasn't any time for awkward small talk, however, because two more demons appeared in front of us. 

I had to admit they had a badass look.  Our two foes stood side by side, monstrous black cloaks blowing in the wind, their dark figures silhouetted vibrantly against the fiery backdrop.  Their hoods were long enough to completely shadow their faces from us and their coats were large enough to cover everything but their hands and feet.  Had I been unfamiliar with Hell and with the concept of demons, I would have been scared shitless.  But I'd battled pit guards, demons, and Lucifer's Firstborn, so I was pretty sure that the most dangerous thing about these goons was their image.  At least I hoped so.

"What kind of demon hides his face like a coward?" Talamur crowed. 

I snickered.  "You call that a taunt?  Didn't you just kind of answer your own question?"

"Jason," he chided.  "This is hardly the best time for you to be quibbling over the quality of my verbal jabs."

"Fine," I conceded, teleporting into one of the demons and blowing half of his body to smithereens.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Talamur's Stance

"So what's the situation?" I asked.  "How many are there?"

"Five that I've seen," Talamur said.  "They're wreaking as much havoc as possible, mostly, moving from one building to the next, breaking windows, starting fires, and of course killing people."

“And you’ve been fighting them alone?” Jaelin asked, clearly impressed.

Talamur shrugged modestly.  “I’ve been stranded up here for a long time.  I’ve picked up some tricks they don’t know about.”

“Tricks?” Jaelin replied with a raised eyebrow.  “That sounds fun.”

“Not for that guy, it isn’t,” Talamur said, jabbing a thumb toward the unconscious demon in the grass behind him. 

“If you don’t mind me asking,” I said, “Why are you trying to stop them?  I mean…they’re demons, you’re a demon…you know.   You don’t share similar goals?” 

Talamur gave me a stern but slightly amused look.  “That’s kind of racist, wouldn’t you say?”

Fikhos let out an explosive snort as a prelude to a fit of laughter.  “Trust me, Talamur, this Devil has a reputation for being a little more enlightened than most.  He even made a pit guard the Director of Development.”

“You mean Construction,” Talamur corrected.

“No, Development,” Jaelin assured him.

“Developstruction,” I said exasperatedly.  “You still didn’t answer my question.  What’s your stake in all this?  Why are you trying to fend off the demons?”

“This realm has become my home since I’ve been trapped here,” he said.  “I was really angry for a really long time and I took a lot of that out on humans.  But they’re not that bad, actually.  Not as bad as demons, anyway.  These people don’t deserve what the invaders are trying to do to them.”

“Spoken like a human,” Fikhos said oddly.  It was difficult to tell whether he was expressing disgust or admiration.

An antique shop down the road exploded suddenly, sending fragments of ornamental vases and grandfather clocks skyward.  Talamur gestured broadly toward the disturbance.  “Shall we?”

Friday, April 25, 2014

Staying Focused

Fikhos and I joined Jaelin on the other side of the street.  Her arms were around Talamur's broad shoulders and her legs were wrapped around his waist.  He was supporting her weight with both his hands on her upper thighs. I could tell that they were still kissing but I wasn't sure exactly what kind of activity was going on in their groin areas.  As gorgeous as a couple as they were and as long as they'd been apart, it was nonetheless a little concerning that they were getting this passionate this quickly.

I cleared my throat. Instead of stopping, they executed a joint pelvic thrust that pretty much confirmed my most awkward fears.  I tried clearing my throat more loudly, but all they did was get into a rhythm.

"Hey!  Jaelin!" I shouted.  "Yo!  Exhibitionists!  Hey!"  My volume increased with each exclamation but their level of interest in my outbursts remained at zero.

"If you'll allow me," Fikhos said with a wink. He took a large shard of glass from the broken window, wound up like a major league pitcher, and hurled it at Jaelin's back.  He must have put some telekinetic oomph into it because it went straight through both lovers and landed in a bloody mess on the grass a few feet behind Talamur.

Clutching her wound, Jaelin dismounted and glared at Fikhos.  "That hurt," she growled at him.

"That was just a gentle reminder to stay on mission," I said.

"Speaking of which," Talamur said, apparently unfazed by the gash in his chest, "what are you doing here?  I never expected to see you again."  I didn't realize until he was done speaking that he was directing his remarks at Jaelin.  I guess he had a make nasty demonic love first and ask questions later kind of policy.

"I'm here with the current Devil," Jaelin told him with what sounded suspiciously like pride.  "We're here to stop some demons that are trying to invade this realm."

Talamur nodded solemnly.  "Yeah, I've been fighting 'em.  I haven't been successful, exactly," he admitted, gesturing toward the extra-crispy neighborhood.  "Then again, I am a little outnumbered."

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Talamur

“I don’t believe it,” Jaelin continued, awestruck and emotional.  “It’s Talamur.  It’s actually Talamur.”

“Who the hell is Talamur?” I asked.

Fikhos seemed as confused as I was by Jaelin’s apparent tears of joy.  “He was the Director of Torture before Kivra,” he said.

“He was my lover,” Jaelin corrected passionately.  “The one being I ever cared about as much as I care about myself.  I haven’t seen him in centuries.”

That seemed like a long time to be apart, and on some level I understood her sense of longing, but I still didn’t grasp what was going on.  “Why not?”

Jaelin ignored me and teleported across the street, next to the tall brown demon who was beating the crap out of the smaller purple one. 

“Talamur was banished,” Fikhos said quietly.  “A long time ago.  The Devil sent him to the Living Realm and performed a spell barring him from ever returning to Hell.  It was a pretty big deal back in the day.”

“He got kicked out of Hell?” I asked, staring at Jaelin as she and Talamur shared an intimate embrace and Talamur’s victim writhed on the grass in agony.  “What did he do?”

“Not sure,” Fikhos said with a shrug.  “It was all kind of…hush-hush.”

"Are you telling me nobody gossips in Hell?" I asked with a grin.

"Well, sure," he admitted.  "But this was an unusual case.  Very shocking.  It didn't get discussed because we were all scared shitless at the time.  It was a pretty big power play by that Devil.  Most of us had never even heard that such a spell existed, let alone seen it used on anyone."

I gazed at Jaelin and Talamur, who were kissing so deeply that I was seriously worried that they were about to have sex on the spot.  "Well," I said.  "I guess we should probably stay focused on the task at hand."

"Yeah," Fikhos agreed.  "Yeah, that'd be good."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Into the Lyonsville

Two blocks from the main road, an auto body shop was in flames.  On the street in front of it was an overturned fire truck that looked like it had been snapped in half and set on fire.  A few other buildings in the area had smaller blazes as well.  It looked like someone was running from building to building on an arson spree. 

“Something’s not right about this,” I said slowly, staring at the fiery scene before us.

“Yeah, the whole town is burning down,” Jaelin snapped sarcastically.  At least she was talking to me now.

“No, I mean…besides that, something doesn’t look right.  I can’t figure it out.”

“Where are the people of the Living Realm?” Fikhos asked pointedly.

That was it.  There were no people.  No fire fighters were visible.  No one was fleeing from burning buildings.  Nobody was even standing outside watching the tragedy unfold.  Lyonsville was not densely populated, but fires of this size tended to have victims, concerned citizens, onlookers and emergency response personnel.  There should have been people.

“How can there be no people?” I said.  “Are they hiding or did the demons kill them all?”

We slowly approached the burning garage.  As we got closer, we could see a fireman’s body, severed at the shoulders, resting beside the burning wreckage of his vehicle.  Through the window of the repair shop a mechanic’s grisly corpse was visible, although his arms and legs were missing.

Fikhos answered the question I’d asked before our period of stunned silence.  “Maybe both.”

An explosion rocked the building across the street, which appeared to be an old house converted into an antique shop.  The second floor had been smoldering a moment ago and was now engulfed in flames.  A purple demon crashed backwards through a ground floor window and landed heavily on the pavement outside.  As he got to his feet, a dark brown demon leaped nimbly out through the shattered glass and approached him like was about to seriously fuck him up.


Jaelin’s breath audibly caught in her throat.  I glanced at her and was surprised to see her staring at the two demons with teary eyes.  “Talamur,” she whispered.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pinpointing

I tried to gauge the location of the smoke.   The camp was a good half hour drive from my home, so I didn’t know this area too well.  But if I could remember a place that was anywhere near the fire, I could teleport us there instead of trying to walk.  The thought of trying to get a bus or a cab with two naked demons in tow was amusing, but I dismissed it as irrelevant when I remembered that I didn’t have any money.  Another option was to use my Devil’s powers to carjack a means of transportation.

I probably needed to try teleporting first. 

“I’m going to make a few jumps,” I informed Fikhos and Jaelin.  “With any luck, I’ll be able to get pretty close to whatever that smoke is and then I’ll come back and get you two.”

“You’re the boss, sir,” Fikhos said.  “We’ll be here whenever you’re ready for us.”

I psychically transported myself to a gas station that I remembered.  It was near the highway exit we used when we drove to the scout camp.  I scanned the horizon, ignoring the shouts of surprise from the two guys beside whose car I’d suddenly appeared.  I was definitely closer to my desired destination, but I was a decent distance to the north.  I tried to think of another place that might be closer.

After a frustrating failure to bring up Google Earth in my head, I teleported to a dying strip mall where my old pediatrician’s office had been.  It was even more abandoned than I remembered, but it was also close enough to the smoke that I was pretty sure I knew where it originated:  Lyonsville.

Lyonsville was a little town clustered around a road that lead through the emptiness between two larger cities.  Once you left the central street, it was the sleepiest little hamlet I’d ever seen.  Except for now, of course.  Fire made things a little more exciting.

I jumped back to the lake where my sidekicks were waiting for me.

“Did you find it?” Fikhos asked.

“I’m pretty sure I did,” I told him.  “Let’s go.” 

A moment later, the three of us appeared in the parking lot of a diner at the edge of Lyonsville.  We could smell the smoke immediately. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Arriving Upstairs

It looked to be the early afternoon of a gorgeous spring day.  The sky was nearly cloudless, the sun was warm, and a soft breeze blew to complete the effect.  I felt a twinge of nostalgia.  I never had much time to dwell on it but I really missed being alive.    

“So this is the Living Realm,” Fikhos said, gazing around in awe.  “It’s beautiful.  There’s so much light.”

“Yeah, kind of reminds me of your office,” I said.

“Sure, but this is real light,” he said.  “It’s more organic.  Less glaring.  Is that the Sun?”

“Don’t stare at it too long,” I advised.  “Unless you want to find out if demons can go blind.”

He quickly shifted his gaze downward.  “So what’s the plan?”

“Well,” I said, “I’m assuming if Torvin took anybody up to the Realm of the Living, it would have been here.  Unless you two went anywhere else?” I asked, glancing at Jaelin.  She gave a half shrug and grunted noncommittally. 

“Right, so if there were any demons up here, they would have arrived somewhere in this general area,” I continued.  “Maybe we need to take a look around and see if we can find any signs of, you know…demon stuff.”

“Demon stuff,” Fikhos repeated.  I wasn’t sure if he was mocking me or taking mental notes.

“Yeah, you know,” I elaborated.  “Like disemboweled corpses, burning crosses, footprints in the shape of a pentagram, I don’t know.  You two are the demons here.  Tell me what to look for that would indicate the presence of other demons!”

“How about a really big fire?” Fikhos suggested, pointing to the tree line behind me.  Thick columns of dark smoke were rising in the distance. 

I stared.  “Yeah.  That seems like a pretty good place to start.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mental Checklist

Jorge had been somewhat eager to be interim Devil last time and he required little coaxing on this particular occasion.  In a matter of mere minutes, Gus’s spell had sworn Jorge in and I’d given him a lift back to his temporary office.  I was all set to go back to the land of my birth and scope it out for demon activity.

“Okay,” I murmured, mostly to myself.  “Gavsot is taking care of Sebrev and the search for Torvin and Tithenai.  Jaelin and Fikhos are accompanying me to the Realm of the Living.  Jorge is in charge while I’m gone….”

“I’m guessing I’m supposed to be Jorge’s aide while you’re out?” Gus asked.

“Yeah, well, he’s never been the Devil before and he’ll need someone to show him the ropes,” I explained.

“No, trust me, I’m not complaining,” Gus said quickly.  “As long as you’re not sending me into battle or making me do your job, I’m good.”

“What will I do?” Sylnie asked.  “I’m beginning to feel kind of left out.”

“You’ll do your normal stuff,” I said.  “And keep in mind that Jorge will need more than just Gus to help him out.”

“Normal stuff,” she said sullenly.  “Right.”

“Look,” I told her, “I know you want to move up, and I’m not against that at all.  Just keep working on your telekinesis and stuff whenever you can and it’ll happen.  You won’t be an aide forever, I promise.”

“Okay, but if you want some help with the bad guys up there, just let me know,” she said.

I turned to Jaelin.  “You ready?” I asked her.

She nodded.  I got the distinct impression that she was doing everything she could to avoid speaking to me.  I looked at Fikhos.  “You?”

“I’m always prepared,” he said, holding out his hand.  “Lead the way.”

I gripped him by the wrist and carried him with me to the shores of the lake in my old scout camp. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Third Team Member

His Satanic Majesty Requests one Department Director for a top-secret mission.  Combat will almost definitely be involved.  This matter is urgent and the first capable director to respond will be chosen for the position.
I read through the order one more time before I signed it in blood and scanned the printed sheet into the bulletin system.

“Sir,” General Gavsot said, “may I assume that I have permission to transport your captive back to my department?”  He indicated the bloody mess of Sebrev on my carpet. 

“Yeah, of course,” I said.  “You won’t be able to contact me once I leave Hell, but when I get back I’ll call you to see how things are going.  Anything important you can let me know then.”

“Excellent,” he said, tucking the head under his arm and gripping Sebrev’s body by the shoulder.  He glanced over at Jaelin.  “Torvin was one of mine,” he told her.  “I will find him.”

“Thank you, Gavsot,” Jaelin said with genuine appreciation, despite her current mood.  The General disappeared with Sebrev.

A moment later, Fikhos arrived.  “Sir!” he said exultantly.  “Has anyone responded to your call for assistance yet?”

“No,” I said with a slight smile.  “I should have expected you to be the first responder.”

“I would be honored,” he said, bowing his head.

“Then consider yourself honored,” I replied, trying to ignore the way Sylnie was admiring either his physique or his selfless willingness to serve.  “Just hang on for a minute, I have a quick errand to run.  Gus?”

“Yeah, Boss-Man?”

“Do you still have those ingredients for the spell I can use to appoint a temporary successor?”

He grinned, probably because he knew the spell wouldn’t be used on him this time.  “As long as you have blood, I have everything else,” he replied.

“Great,” I said.  “We’re going to pay a quick visit to Jorge.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Giving Out Orders

This situation seemed to be getting worse at every turn.

“Good work, Gus,” I said appreciatively.  I immediately wheeled on Jaelin.  “What the fuck were you thinking?  Taking a demon to the Realm of the Living?  Especially one like Torvin?”

“Hey, it was a mistake, okay?” she fired back.  “And Torvin’s a lot tougher than you give him credit for.”

Sylnie put a calming hand on her arm.  “Nothing against Torvin,” she said quietly.  “But that was a bad call and you know it.”  Jaelin scowled but fell silent.

“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do,” I said.  “I’m going to take two demons up to the Living Realm.  We’re going to take a look around, we’re going to stop an invasion if there is one.  If we can’t stop it, we’ll know what we’re up against when we come back for reinforcements.”

“I’m staying here to find Torvin,” Jaelin said.

“No, you’re not,” I told her firmly.  “You’ve already taken one stupid risk for that guy, and I don’t need you taking any more.  I need you with me when I go up to take a look around because, let’s face it, you know how to kick some ass.”

“No,” Jaelin said stubbornly.  “I need to find Torvin.”

“That’s what Gavsot is going to do,” I said.  “General, you’ll take over Sebrev’s interrogation.  I need you to find out as much as you can about the organization, who’s in it, and what they’re planning.  If you learn anything about Torvin or Tithenai, you’ll be in charge of rescuing them as well.”

“Yes, sir,” Gavsot said.

“Jaelin, please trust me.  The search for Torvin is in very capable hands.”  She glared at me but said nothing.

“Gus,” I continued, “I’m assuming you still have qualms about being temporary Devil?”

“Obviously,” he blurted.  “I mean, obviously, yes, sir.”

“Then I’ll call Jorge,” I said.  “He’ll do it.”

“So who else are you taking with you to the Living Realm?” Sylnie said hopefully.

“Sorry, I can’t take you,” I told her.  She heaved a sigh and nodded knowingly.  “I would, except I need someone who can teleport.  In fact, I think I need some serious firepower.” 

I sat down at my desk and began drawing up a Satanic Order.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Motive

“General Gavsot,” I said.  “You’ve arrived just in time to help us stop Hell from invading the Living Realm.”

“Who is invading?” he asked.

“That’s a good question, isn’t it?” I said, glaring at Sebrev.  “Our prisoner here hasn’t been very forthcoming, but he’s claiming that he doesn’t know the identity of whoever is planning the invasion.”

“We also need to rescue Torvin,” Jaelin reminded me.

“And Tithenai,” I added.  “I’m assuming her kidnapping is connected to Torvin’s.  You wouldn’t know anything about Tithenai, would you, Sebrev?”

“Who?” he said blankly.

“Of course he wouldn’t,” Sylnie muttered.

“Then you have two allies missing and a looming invasion,” Gavsot summarized.

“The invasion could be in progress already,” I said.  “It’s not like we hear the noise our upstairs neighbors make.”

Gavsot smiled.  “Then we have a few more questions for our prisoner.”

“Boss-Man,” Gus piped up suddenly.  “I think we can probably assume that there are already demons invading the Realm of the Living.”

Almost everyone with an attached neck turned and gave him a suspicious look.  “What do you mean?” I asked.

“Sebrev’s guys targeted Jaelin and Torvin,” Gus explained fearfully.  “It was right after they got back from their little trip.  Jaelin, where did you take Torvin on your vacation?”

Jaelin closed her eyes slowly in a silent acknowledgement of her mistake.  “To the Realm of the Living,” she admitted softly.  “To that lake that you showed me when we were making the Firstborn weapons, sir.”

Sylnie gasped.  “So when they kidnapped Torvin….”

“Whoever these people are,” I finished, “they have in their possession one of the only two demons in Hell who can teleport into the Living Realm.”

A stunned hush fell back over us.  It was broken a few seconds later by Azraal’s voice cackling, “Hoo boy, this is what they mean when they talk about being up shit creek with no paddle, isn’t it?”

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spilling It

Sebrev took a moment to sulk and consider my threat.  Finally, he said, “Let’s say, hypothetically, that I’m feeling inclined to cooperate but that the information I have wouldn’t be very useful to you.”

“Hypothetically,” I returned, “I think I should be the judge of that.”

“Hypothetically,” he replied angrily, “I don’t want to spill my guts only for you to tell me that it wasn’t good enough and lock me in your desk with that other guy.”

“You have my word that I won’t do that,” I told him.

“Hypothetically,” Sebrev went on.  “Let’s say that I don’t trust you.  And furthermore, let’s say that I don’t trust you specifically to keep my boss from finding out that I ratted him out after you let me go…hypothetically.”

“There is way too much hypothesizing going on in here,” Gus muttered.

“What, you want witness protection?” I asked my captive.

“No.  I want to go back to my old job,” he said.  “But if you ever try to take down my boss, I don’t want him knowing that I’m the reason you got to that point.”

“Tell me who he is and I’ll take him out right now,” I offered.  “Problem solved.”

“I don’t know who he is,” Sebrev said.

“Bullshit,” Jaelin sneered.  “You’re just trying to cover your own ass, and you’re doing a shit job of it.”

“No, I swear!” Sebrev said desperately.  “Come on, you saw us when we tried to capture you,” he appealed to Jaelin.

“You mean when I kicked your asses and you made off with my lover instead?”

“Yeah, that, whatever,” Sebrev said dismissively.  “I meant you saw how we were all wearing stuff to hide our identities.  We all do that, whenever we meet.  I’ve met my boss a few times, but I’ve never seen his face.”

“Well, at least we know it’s a ‘he,’” Sylnie commented dejectedly.

“I only know one guy in the whole group,” Sebrev explained.  “The guy who recruited me.  Everybody else, all I see is masks.”

“How many others are there?” I asked.  “What’s the purpose of your creepy little organization?”

“I’m not sure how many,” he replied.  “At least a few dozen.  And the purpose…well, there are lots of purposes.  But the current objective is to send demons to invade the Realm of the Living.  Set up a permanent occupancy.”

Sylnie, Jaelin, Gus and I all exchanged grave looks.  In the ensuing silence, General Gavsot teleported in. 

“I apologize for my lateness,” he said.  “How can I help?” 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Yet Another Interrogation

“Okay,” I announced.  “Gavsot will probably be here soon, but as Jaelin will doubtlessly remind us, we don’t have time to waste.  So let’s get started.  Sebrev?”

“What?” the disembodied head grouched. 

“I need you to tell me where Torvin is,” I said.

“Who?”

Jaelin’s lip curled.  “Torvin.  The demon you captured when you attacked me.”

“Oh, that guy?” Sebrev replied with a half-chuckle.  “Fuck if I know.  I passed him off to an associate and that was the last I saw of him.”

“You’re lying,” Jaelin said.

“I’m not,” he claimed, meeting her steely gaze.  “And even if I am, it makes no difference.  I have no interest in helping you find him.”

I frowned.  “I’m counting more on your self-interest than your altruism,” I told him.  “Sure, I cut your head off, but there are much more painful things that I’m going to do to you unless you give me some information I can use.”

Sebrev rolled his eyes.  “I’m not scared of you,” he said.  “Whatever punishment you throw at me, my boss can triple it with his eyes closed.”

I’d gotten that answer once before and I was already tired of hearing it.  I set his eyeballs on fire in reply.

Sylnie stepped up to me as I watched the demon’s face burn.  “Sir,” she whispered, “Maybe you could hold his body to ransom.  If you destroy his body, he’ll be stuck as just a head.  That’s probably the worst thing you could threaten him with right now.”

In a moment of gratitude and boldness, I gave her a quick peck on the lips.  “You’re awesome,” I told her.  I turned back to our prisoner.  “Let me explain your situation to you another way,” I said.  “If you cooperate, I will reunite you with your body so that you can heal and regain all your previous abilities.”

“And if I don’t?” he challenged me.

“Then I’ll chop your body up into little pieces and scatter them across the depths of Hell so that you’ll never be whole again,” I snarled darkly.  “You’ll always be nothing but a powerless, useless, hopeless head sitting around waiting for someone to put you out of your misery.”

Sebrev stared at me, his smoldering eyes wide with fear.

“Trust me,” came Azraal’s muffled voice from my desk drawer.  “He’s not fucking around.”