Yechhh - Chapter 1 should be liz.t2t -- maybe make it chapter 0?
|Chapter1-Liz||Chapter3-Liz Engages an Attorney|
The devil strolled into his office at 0630. Not surprisingly, he was alone in the massive pentagram shaped administrative complex. The workday in Hell is 730-1830 seven days a week and no one, ever, shows up early or works late because the work is -- by intent -- mind numbingly dull. Hell is not intended to be a fun place. And it is not. In many respects it resembles Dayton, Ohio.
Pentagram building security is not designed to keep people out, it is designed to keep people in. It works 0700-2000. Off hours, security is provided by a single -- generally dead drunk -- rent-a-cop and an elderly German Shepard. They are usually sound asleep before midnight and are traditionally pushed out the door by the most junior member of the Security Team at 0703 every morning. You can set your watch by the time of their ejection.
Satan poured himself a cup of coffee from his own coffee machine. The stuff -- whatever it was -- dispensed by the vending machines was -- in Hell as on Earth or in Heaven for that matter -- absolutely undrinkable. He disposed quickly of his eMail. The devil's impatience with having his time wasted with silly messages had become legendary. There wasn't much eMail.
He then checked news sites on the Internet. A war brewing in East Asia. Corrupt politicians coming to power in Southern Europe. Several African countries reverting to barbarism. Free market economics happily setting up Europe and America for the mother of all economic crashes. Couldn't have been going better for Satan and Hell. No need to do anything this day about the future course of humanity. Humanity was busily creating hell on earth. Satan smiled.
He was just reaching for the top folder in his TODO box when an alarm chirped then started to screech. Without pausing, Satan dropped the folder, slapped a button to silence the alarm, kicked a panel on the wall console. He backhanded his TV on the way by and grabbed a waiting suitcase out of the wall console. The TV came to life and showed four pictures -- three with groups of armed men(?) -- faces covered by gas masks entering halls. The fourth showed a roiling smoke cloud. "Coup" Satan barked as he shut off the TV and headed for the door.
He paused at the door and typed 1234 into the keypad. A number of minor explosions shook his office as computers, file cabinets, a paperweight, and two potted plants that were neither plants, nor, strictly speaking, organic, self destructed. Panels dropped out of the ceiling. Wires dropped and hung like vines in some tropic hellhole. Plaster dust flew through the air. Satan did not stop to admire his handiwork. He strode through the outer door, slamming it. Again, he entered 1234 into the keypad.
No explosions this time but all the existing access codes were erased and replaced by the sixteen character random code the technicians had insisted Satan should change daily if he really wanted his office to be secure. Satan had handled that by lining up the technicians and serially consigning them to a fiery pit until he found one who would set the access codes to something he could remember and didn't have to change. (It only took two). His theory was that for those whom the threat of consignment to a fiery pit didn't provide security, a sixteen character code was unlikely to be more than a momentary distraction.
He turned and strode down the hall. As he walked, his suit turned into a set of military fatigues. His features blurred and reassembled themselves with a light complexion, blue eyes, a vastly altered profile, and freckles. His hair turned red. The father of lies is good at disguises. Does that surprise you?
He paused at the mid-building elevator, sent it to the fifth floor and ducked back into the hall. Hopefully, half the invaders would follow it and would congregate on the fifth floor and roof. Satan had no intention of going to either place. He rounded a corner and found himself facing two armed men.
"Quick" Satan babbled. "He's barricaded himself in his office and he's shooting hostages. He killed my buddy."
The soldiers trotted on toward Satan's office. One was yelling into a mobile phone. The other shouted back over his shoulder that Satan should go to the front lobby where he'd find help. Satan reckoned that the last thing he needed was the help he'd find in the lobby. There was a real risk that there might be someone there with half a brain.
Instead, he dived down a stairwell and descended five levels to the sub-basement. He strode down the hall, and ducked through a door marked "Maintenance Personnel Only" and a second marked "Radiation Hazard". He turned off at a door marked "Janitorial Supplies" and brushed his way through a tangle of mops and brooms to a boarded up door in an ancient brick wall. Opening the door (mechanical objects do not generally argue with quasi-deities), he proceeded down a dusty, candle lit passage.
Ever wonder who lights all those candles in dusty, candle lit passages in horror flicks? Turns out that it is the international association of candle sprites. Although commonly associated with the Freemasons, Trilateral commission, Scientologists, and the Teamster's Union, the sprites are hard working, and honest. They are best known to the public for their association with certain ditzy celebrities; their belief the individual ownership of nuclear weapons is a necessary and sufficient condition for world peace and prosperity, and their annual Days of Dimness in October when all candles in their domains are extinguished and electric light bulbs are ritually smashed.
The passage opened into a small room where plastic wrapped clothing hung on iron pegs pounded into the limestone walls. Satan selected a package and changed from the well tailored suit that had restored itself at some point into an ambiguous workman's uniform that proclaimed his name to be "Joe" and his affiliation to be "Opus Dei". He packaged the suit into the plastic against future need by some other refugee and rehung the package. There was a pile of props by the opposite wall. Purses, backpacks, weapons, a saddle, tools and objects quite impossible to identify. Satan selected a plastic wrapped toolkit, moved the contents of his briefcase into it, wrapped his briefcase in the plastic and added it to the pile.
You, the reader, might be wondering why, if -- as we saw not a dozen paragraphs past -- the devil can change his appearance and attire at will, this charade was required. I've been wondering that myself. The only answer I can identify is that some mysteries are beyond the power of human understanding.
Satan then followed a passage -- the twin of the one he had entered through on a reverse journey through a boarded up door, mops and brooms out though a door marked "Radiation Hazard" and another marked "Maintenance Personnel Only". He found himself in an sub-basement and then, after a couple of flights of stairs in a broad hallway in an industrial office complex. The floors were marked with colored lines. Satan was no longer in Hell.
Satan turned to his left and started to follow a blue line. He believed that he was heading for the heavenly reception hall where he would hide out for a decade or two diddling aimlessly with the computerized reception consoles and plotting his counter-coup. All the forces of Hell would shortly be looking for him with his reeducation high on their priority list. Satan had no intention of being the reeducatee in any reeducation exercise. For the time being, he needed to lay low and the heavenly reception hall should be a near perfect place to do so. Nothing more natural or expected than a technician working on those consoles. By now, no one really expected the technicians to fix the consoles. The machines shipped broken and had defied millenia of fixes by an army of technicians. No one expected them to work right any more.
As I said. Satan believed that he was heading for the reception hall. In reality, he was on a collision course with Liz.
Satan moved briskly along the blue line as it skirted a park apparently devoted to such urban sports as marbles, stickball, half court basketball, drug dealing and extorting lunch money from third graders. He turned his attention to his environment. The kids in the park were common layabouts. Pedestrians strolling toward him appeared to be a normal mix of business folk (what business had they here?), workmen, mothers with small children, schoolkids, and a couple of homeless panhandlers who apparently saw no reason to give up their mortal ways just because they had entered the afterlife. Two men dressed in fatigues caught his attention briefly, but their total incuriosity about other walkers quickly caused Satan to dismiss them. Weekend warriors on lunch break. However, behind him a man with dark sunglasses and a black suit caught his attention.
Satan slowed. The darkly dressed stranger slowed. Satan speeded up. The spook speeded up. Satan stopped ostensibly to check out a display of mysterious electronic devices in a store window. The tall, dark stranger crossed the street and paused to tie his shoe. Satan walked briskly to the next corner, his attention focused on reflection in a store window of the man who had recrossed the street and now followed at a distance of perhaps 20 paces.
At the corner, Satan abruptly turned right -- planning to turn around, grab, and shake down his follower. Instead, he collided with an attractive if slightly tipsy young lady carrying a transit pack. They wobbled, almost recovered, then fell to the ground, two seconds later the black suited man rounded the corner at speed, tripped over the pair and fell on his face.
Satan scrambled unceremoniously over the lady, grabbed the black suited man and started rapidly climbing up the recumbent, but quite lively, torso hand over hand with obvious malign intent. He stopped when his eyes, level with the man's chest, focused on a small, neat white tag that read "Trainee, First Church of Apollo the Immortal and Incandescent. How'm I doing? Call 1-800-411-5001." The devil sighed, and resumed his climb at a more moderate pace until he was face to face with his follower. "To be perfectly honest, you're not doing so well, mate."
"Let me guess. You're in training to be a door to door missionary, and your instructors thought that some practice in tailing people who were attempting to escape your sales pitch might somehow be useful?
"Did it cross your mind that your instructors might not know squat about following people?
"N-n-n-o, Not at the time."
"And you just picked me at random?
"Well, y-y-ou were the only person dressed like that -- the white coveralls and all. I th-ou-ou-ought that might make it easier. Following you, I mean.
"Yeah, it should help. And this is your first attempt?
"Shouldn't you have an instructor with you?
"I did. He was following me.
"And he got lost? Does that suggest anything to you?
"Yes ... now"
The devil thought for a moment. He wasn't against aggressive religious proselyting. Anything but. However, he was concerned about the potential for operations like this provoking amusement rather than annoyance. "Look, why don't you ditch these Apollogists or whatever they call themselves and sign up with a sect with a track record and some smarts?" The devil stood, helped his follower to his feet, shook his hand dismissively and turned to the girl he had run over who was slowly sitting up. The man in black wandered off with the slightly dazed expression of one who is pretty sure something has happened, but isn't quite sure what it was.
|Chapter1-Liz||Chapter3-Liz Engages an Attorney|