|Chapter8 - Counter Coup 101||Chapter10 - ?????|
SUMMARY: After consulting with the UFF who, surprisingly perhaps, have no objection to Liz couriering the ring, Satan and Liz plan a quick expedition to retrieve the ring. Satan and Liz disquise themselves as maintenance workers, slip into Hell and merge with the morning crowd of office workers converging on the Pentagram Building. They enter the building without incident. They are able to gain access to the executive office area where they discover that Satan's old office has been converted into a cafeteria. Satan clears the cafeteria via a ruse and he and Liz managed to recover the Ring of Power. Unfortunately, Satan's presence in Hell is revealed to the current management in the process. Satan and Liz escape the Pentagram Building, but find that the exits to Hell have been sealed and that door to door searches are being conducted throughout the domain.
In the bunker, things settled back to their usual routine while Satan planned his ring recovery operation.
"OK," Said Satan. "We need a plan."
Rex whined almost inaudibly. Liz was tiring of Satan's elaborate schemes that seemed to her to be prone to fail at the second or third step. She rolled her eyes. Liz observed that Satan seemed to enjoy planning for its own sake, a conjecture that she confirmed at the cost of having to look interested and approving while Satan showed her a 700 element Gantt chart which Satan explained was only about half done. Thankful that he hadn't had time to complete it, she returned to her soap operas praying that she could somehow avoid a three day briefing on the operation once Satan was finished with planning. Tentatively, she considered making a slide of a one element Gantt chart featuring one bar labelled "Do the damn job". But she worried about hurting Satan's feelings.
But Satan surprised her. About three hours later, Satan said. "Yeah, you're right. I plan too much. Thing is, that it makes me think things through. If I hadn't planned to handle a coup, I probably wouldn't be in this bunker today. And I don't think, I'd be in a happier place.
"So bear with me if you will."
"What we need to do is get into hell proper. ... We'll use the rabbit hole. That should be easy enough. I'm pretty sure that even though the rabbit hole doesn't seem to be where I paid to put it or built according to the spec I signed off on, that there will be side tunnels that will take us directly to any of the major landmarks in Hell. If not, we'll find another way in. There are a million roads into hell.
"Then, we need to get to and into the Pentagram building. Not a big problem. We'll, take a commuter bus to the building. The bus is slow, noisy, and uncomfortable but the worst that can happen is that a wheel will fall off and we'll have to wait a few hours in the heat, smog and dust for another bus. If people in New York City can do that every working day, we can handle it.
"Into the building? We'll just merge with the crowd. We're supposed to have security badges, but the badge readers screw up so often that the guards just ignore bad reads -- going in anyway. I can conjure up some plastic that will pass for a badge from a distance.
"Then we need to get to my office. Can't take the elevator. It'll want a working badge. But there are stairs. You up for five flights, Liz?"
"I reckon I can manage that somehow." Liz drawled. She stifled a yawn.
"Where do I fit in?" Asked Rex.
"I don't think you can." Said Satan. "Aside from Cerebrus at the Styx crosssing, there aren't any dogs in hell. They don't like the heat, or the smells, and they make the demons nervous. So I think you stay here and maybe do a little general surveillance work for us."
"OK by me. Do we have a way to communicate?"
"Of course. A secure, triply encrypted, high speed leased line. Of course, it only operates at about 7% of the data rate I'm paying for, but that should be good enough. Besides which, I'm charging it to Donald Trump's credit card, so I figure it's only about a 7% chance that Comcast will ever get paid. Nice symmetry there, eh?"
"OK, back to the Pentagram. We get to the fifth floor. In at that point, we have to improvise. My office used to be right in the center of the building. But I doubt they're still using it as an office. Too big a chance that I left cameras or bombs or who knows what in that area ... which I did of course. Problem is that they shielded the whole area, so I wouldn't be able to use my devices unless I was inside the shield. And I'd have to be pretty dumb or pretty desperate to use them, because they've no doubt found half of them and arranged an alarm if someone tries to use them.
We'll pose as repairmen. Hell has just as much modern technology as Heaven and it works about as well, so techs of one sort or another are always bustling through and working on stuff. I think we'll be technicians that fix door entry systems. We'll fix 'em OK. When I'm through with them, they'll let people into to fifth floor complex. But they won't let them out. Unless they are us. Does that make sense?
Liz had some reservations rooted in the difficulties they'd had initially getting into the rabbit hole and bunker. But she decided that bringing that up wouldn't be productive and allowed that the plan made sense.
"OK," she said. We have the ring and we're in the Pentagram parking lot about six steps ahead of the forces of law and order. What then, kemosabe?
"Depends on how hot the pursuit is. If we get in and out without detection, we'll just hop a bus, ride it for two stops, locate the nearest entrance to Hell -- it won't be more than a hundred yards or so in that neighborhood and stroll out. Once we're on the surface, we'll call Rex and he can get us a cab back to the rabbit hole.
"If we are detected, I'll release 50 decoys dressed like us. We'll duck into a convenience store -- there's one every 25 meters -- lock the staff in the freezer -- change our clothes and general appearance, and improvise a way out.
"These decoys, and our spare clothes? How will we carry them?
"I'll bring my backpack. Of course if I have to use it near the Pentagram, they'll detect the persuasion field, but with sufficient chaos by the time the locate where we were, we'll be somewhere else. I'll create a lot of chaos.
"I suppose you expect me to wear a bronze bikini and carry a broadsword or some such?"
"Alas no. The Pentagram is mundane on steroids. Part of the misery of working there. You and I need to blend into the crowd. You'll wear something neat, tidy and very professional looking with dressy heels until we get into the building and get past the security checks. Then you'll duck into a ladies room and swap that for jeans and a sweater under a light gray workman's overall -- name over the pocket sort of thing. And you'll lose the heels and switch to sneakers. You'll ditch the coverall during our escape. Then you can wear a bronze bikini if you really want to.
"OK, we're on the fifth floor and inside the secured area. We proceed to whatever my office has morphed into. I'll take care of any security doors or checkpoints along the way. I'll get you to the ring. That's where you come in.
"I can't handle the ring. Not safe for me. Or for anyone in the neighborhood since I have no idea what it would do to me, and don't want to find out. What you do is pull on latex gloves -- You're not allergic, right? -- and put the ring in this carrying case." Satan picked up a small and extrordinarily ugly primitive statue hanging from a chain. He handed it to Liz. "Then you sling the ring and carrying case around your neck and we make tracks. You should be perfectly safe."
"Should be ... Right ... I'd prefer /will be/ thank you very much" muttered Liz. She nonetheless took the statue -- which proved to be surprisingly heavy.
"Made of a Lead-Osmium alloy." said Satan. "Theoretically, it's sort of like Kryptonite. Magic proof. Of course theories are dime a dozen and mostly wrong. But this stuff seemed to work when we tested it."
Liz found this less than completely reassuring.
"Here, Let me show you how to open it." Satan demonstrated the use of a latch on the bottom. "Now you try it. No Hold it face down, then press in and up. Yeah. That's it. Try a few more times. Got it? Great."
Liz slung the monstrosity around her neck and tucked it down through her collar.
.... Fill in some more plan. Satan had some thoughts on how to carry the ring and how to leave
"Sounds OK, I guess." Said Liz. "One thing, though. You seem to think that we're going to just walk out of Hell. How easy is that going to be?"
"Easier than you'd think. If you belong in Hell, it's like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave. If you don't belong in Hell, and YOU clearly don't belong in Hell, you can just walk out. Someone who belongs in Hell, can stroll down that same path -- literally in your footsteps, but they'll find at the end of the day that they're pretty much right back where they started from. There are roads out for them, but finding those roads is a philosophical problem, not a geographic problem.
"But, don't you belong in Hell? How did you leave?"
"Well, for one thing, like all bosses, I make the rules, I don't necessarily follow them. And I was incentivized to leave Hell. There were a bunch of people in hot pursuit who wished me ill. And I used a secret exit. And besides, I'm trying to get back.
"So we'll just walk out and there won't be any border posts, or machine guns, or barbed wire?
"Oh, there probably will be unless you want to hike for two days through the wilderness, or scuttle down a tunnel. But we'll have papers that identify us as outbound drug smugglers. A small bribe and the border demons will just wave us through.
... To be continued ...
|Chapter8 - Counter Coup 101||Chapter10 - The Sets|