Four Leagues West of Belial’s Stronghold, Tartaruan Range, Northern Region of Hell
Memnon settled back and closed his eyes. He was almost gray with exhaustion but he’d made it up and found a good place to hide. One concealed from Belial’s stronghold yet with good observation points near to it. Now, all he had to do was to make contact.
Hello, humans. Anybody can answer? This is Memnon speaking.
Memnon? Where are you? Is anything wrong.
Memnon stirred with pleasure, it was the human female with the rich mind-voice that sounded like water running over stones. The one who had praised his earlier efforts. Nothing wrong, I just wished to report that I have reached Belial’s stronghold. I am four leagues west of it now and ready to receive the humans.
There was a startled silence at the other end. Wow. You must have moved very fast. Well done Memnon. You wait until I tell the Generals this, they’ll want to give you a medal or something. How are your wings?
Memnon was happy, at hearing praise again, and at the fact one of his masters cared about his health. They ache but they will be better with rest. I had to get here fast so I could arrive when the light dimmed. Nobody will have seen me come.”
That’s great. I’ll get word that you’re in place out, we’ll open a portal to you soon.
Memnon relaxed back on his rock and got ready to doze. His wings hurt and he was hungry but he didn’t care.
Recreational Hall, Camp Hell-Alpha, Hell
“Here, Sir.” The Special Forces Lieutenant looked a bit harassed; he’d been told to find the dead sergeant quickly and it had taken longer than he had expected. And in any case, he felt awkward speaking to somebody who was dead. It was something a lot of people were going to find took a lot of getting used to.
“Get your team together. Quickly, the mission is a go. Get your kit as well, we’ll be gating you to Earth and then to your operational location. Be at the portal hut in twenty minutes.”
“Very good Sir.” McElroy saluted, mentally debating whether he could get away with saluting with the wrong hand and explaining it as being one of the curious effects of being dead. Not worth trying, he decided. Not now at any rate. The Lieutenant, now definitely relieved, vanished in the direction of the command hut.
“Cassidy, DeVanzo and Walsch. Get the rest of the team together, we’re ruling out. Mikkelson, get a work detail, draw our gear and get it over to the portal hut. Let’s roll guys, we’re on our way.”
McElroy, turned and headed for the door, almost bumping into a figure as he went. He stopped for a second, hardly recognizing the man in the red-mottled BDUs. “Hey, Aeneas, how goes things?”
“Not fit work for a man. Teaching scholars about what really went on in Sparta and Thermopylae. One of them insulted Queen Gorgo and when I disciplined him, there was much trouble over that.”
McElroy was fascinated. “Disciplined him? How?”
“He wrote lies about our Queen. So I broke every bone in his writing hand. I thought it was only just but the others were most displeased with me. I wish I was going with you and the rest of the gang.”
“I wish you and Ori were coming too but the brass says otherwise. This is a modern-soldier job. Where is Ori by the way?”
“Teaching some Japanese about the way of life in his era.” Aeneas shook his head. “The ideas you people have are so strange, when they speak of us it is like we see ourselves in a mirror coated with mist. The form is there, but the details…. Anyway, take care my friend. I will tell Ori that you remembered him. And kill baldricks.”
McElroy left and ran over to his quarters, picking up the bankroll he had won at poker over the last few days. One thing that didn’t change was the laws of chance and the fact that people couldn’t understand the mathematics of odds. He had a nice roll of bills for his family, enough to keep them going anyway.
By the time he got to the portal hut, his team was assembled, eight modern soldiers, all dead, none more than twenty years ago. All loaded down with the electronics gear for the mission.
“Ready to go everybody? You know the drill, spot Belial’s fortress, then set up the navigation beacon and wait for the B-1s. No fighting, no hunting, no shooting except if we get discovered.”
There was a series of nod, then a pasty faced, sulky-looking man settled back on the portal generation couch. There was a quick hum and the familiar black ellipse opened up.
“That’s quick.” McElroy was impressed.
“Our gear’s a lot better than the early versions, and its easy to push a portal through from this side. You wait, tomorrow we’re opening up a portal big enough to bring a carrier through.” The technical sergeant grinned. “I’ve even heard that Enterprise is being fitted to generate her own portals. Through you go Top.”
McElroy stepped through the ellipse and found himself in the hangar. Once again, a few families were there to greet the relatives they’d never thought they would see again. McElroy found his brother and slipped him the roll of cash. A few hugs and back-slaps later, he was on his way back. An Indian woman in a royal blue sari was taking to the technical operators.
“Excuse me, you must be Indira Singh. I’m Tucker McElroy. I’m sorry to trouble you, but do you know how kitten is?”
“It is no trouble Tucker. kitten is doing well, she had her last operation three days ago and is recovering properly in the best hospital money can buy. She has many visitors, she is something of a hero for the way she held the portals open by herself while other sensitives were being located. She is much honored.”
“Operation? Nobody told us she was sick as well as suffering from keeping the portals open. What was the matter with her?”
“Oh she was not ill, but she had to complete her gender reassignment surgery. Because of her efforts, the governments picked up the charges to make sure she had the very best.” Singh looked at the shock on McElroys’s face. “You did not know that kitten was a trans-sexual?”
“No.” McElroy was aghast. In his pocket was a long letter he had written to kitten, expressing his gratitude for all she had gone through on his behalf. Then to find out she was a……… McElroy stopped himself, hard. She still had gone through all that hadn’t she, still suffered so the people she was supporting in hell could get the tools they needed to stay free and out of torment. How dare he criticize her when she’d done all that? Inbred prejudice and irrational bigotry warred with McElroy’s reason and sense of justice. Reason and justice won out and he reached into a pocket. “Indira, could you see kitten gets this please. And send her our love, that’s from all of us. Tell her we’ll never forget what she did for us and we hope we’ll see her again but if we don’t, we hope she’ll be very happy. And tell her she won’t have to worry about going to hell any more because she’ll have lots of friends there ready to look after her.”
His team assembled, McElroy looked around. Singh was already on the portal opening couch, searching for Memnon’s mind. She found it and locked on. Then she started to shudder as the electronic equipment opened up the portal. McElroy stepped through and found himself back in Hell, but in a vastly different Hell from his previous experience. The mountains were stark, mostly volcanic, but the valleys between them were covered with vegetation, green and purple. It was warm and relatively pleasant, even the choking dust of Hell was less pronounced here. In front of him, the hulking black shape of Memnon was looking at him curiously.
“Sergeant (deceased) Tucker McElroy. We’ll take over the surveillance from here. You are Memnon aren’t you?”
“I am.” Memnon was amused by the way the question had come last. Humans were so confident their machines would work. “I must brief you on this area and where are the things you seek. Then I must fly back to Dysprosium.”
“Why don’t you portal back? We can open a gate easily enough. Just rest up until the next scheduled contact and then we’ll gate you back. No need to work harder than you have to.”
Memnon thought it over. He’d assumed he would have to fly back but the human was right. There was no need to, not now. The humans had a staging point near Belial’s fortress, why should he have to fly?
The Collegium of Fornessa, City of Dis, Hell
“You have heard the fate of Beelzebub?” Deumos sat elegantly in the luxurious seat she had brought with her.
“That he had been defeated, yes.”
“Not defeated. Killed. In an attack by human aircraft. They shot him with their cannon and blew him up with their missiles. He died like an orc, sniveling and weak.”
Dagon looked around at the decaying building that housed the meeting. He needed time to think over the news that Beelzebub had followed Asmodeus into the void. Followed him and all the others. The ranks of the Hell aristocracy had been thinned in a way none could remember. Not even the Great Celestial War had caused carnage like this. So he decided to stall for that time. “Why do we have to meet here? In this disgusting place overrun with orcs?”
Deumos recognized the stall for what it was and knew she had shocked the Great Duke. Time to answer a question with a question. “And where is Satan?”
“He moves from place to place, hiding from the humans and their aircraft. Never stays in the same place long for fear of them finding him and sending their bombers after him.”
“Satan fears the humans. Yet he asks us to fight them while he runs and hides.”
“Lady, those words are treasonous.”
“Does that make them untrue? How many millions have died already? I you do not know, I will tell you. More than three and a half million. Of Beelzebub’s army, 476 legions, only 39,000 survive of the more than 3 million who set out. The rest are rotting on the banks of the Phlegethon River. And the humans advance on Dis even while we sit here speaking.”
Deumos’s words were interrupted by the howl of jet fighters overhead. Both Great Dukes paused and looked up. The jet noise receded and was followed by the dull sound of explosions, a long way off. Somebody had just been bombed. The noise did not cause any great surprise, the sounds of human aircraft and their deadly cargoes were familiar. Familiar but still terrifying.
“And their aircraft fly over Dis without opposition.” Deumos smiled briefly. “And what are your plans Dagon.”
“I have been ordered to fight. To attack the human armies. Those orders still stand.” Dagon was uncomfortable, he had chosen to sit far away from Deumos, by an open window so the air gods would protect him from the strange magic that the Succubae used to bend others to their will.
“You will fight.” There was a note of derision in Deumos’s voice. “To what end? How will your army achieve that which eluded Beelzebub?”
“I do not know.”
“I do. You will fight, you will lose, your army will be destroyed, you will be killed. End. Have you learned nothing? The humans are the Lords of War, they cannot be defeated. They squash our armies with casual ease and they still hold back the most powerful and deadly of their weapons. For every move we make, they have a counter, already sitting in their arsenal, ready to be used.”
“You think Yahweh will aid us? He will sit and watch Hell and Human fight until one is gone, then he will attack the survivor. That is what humans think, it is what I and my Succubae think, and we can be very sure it is what Yahweh thinks. And the end of Hell is coming fast Dagon. It is days away, perhaps weeks at most. Have you heard the news from the pit?” Dagon shook his head. “An entire army, ten legions that were once part of the host of Asmodeus have rebelled. They have declared their fealty to the humans and attacked those who would make war on the humans. In the pit, human and demon now fight side by side, as allies. A great area of the pit, a segment of the Fifth Ring and a smaller section of the Sixth are now in human hands and those still faithful to Satan die if they go there. That area spreads hourly as the humans rescue their dead and many of them join the human army. Free Hell they call it.”
The demons rebelling and joining the humans. It seemed incomprehensible. Not just joining the humans but doing so as the junior partners in the alliance. Dagon shook his head, Deumos was right, Hell was dying. His mind ran over the options available to his army. They were few indeed and all of them led to death.
“What do you suggest Lady?” Dagon asked the question but he knew the answer.
“The humans hold Satan responsible for what has happened here. The legions in the pit have the right answer and we must follow their example. We must make peace with the humans, we must pay whatever price they ask for that peace. And, the first thing they ask will be Satan’s head. Detached from the rest of his body and very, very dead. You have said how Satan moves around too much for the humans to catch him. So we must do the deed. Kill him and set up a new rulership in hell, one that can make peace with the humans.”
“With you as ruler.” Dagon’s voice was openly scornful. The Succubae were despised, the idea of one ruling Hell was unthinkable. Most demons would die rather than allow it.
“Of course not. I am not stupid Dagon, I know what will be accepted and what will not. I cannot be ruler in Hell. But you Dagon, you can be. You are one of the very few surviving Great Dukes, you have your army to keep order. You have not fought the humans yet, they do not know much about you. We can turn that to our advantage. For we must make you acceptable to the humans, a leader they can accept.”
Ruler of Hell, successor to Satan Mekratrig. Dagon rolled the idea around in his mind. It beat inevitable death on the battlefield. “And how shall we do that, Lady?”
“The humans have been driven by the way we treat their dead. So we try to show you did what you could to help them We will set up an underground movement, we will call it.” Deumos ran the information Lugasharmanaska had sent her, searching for a suitable name. “Demons for the Ethical Treatment of Humans. We will forge documents, information, to show the humans we were trying to stop the torment of Hell, have been doing so for many years. Humans will see these and accept us. And make you the new ruler of Hell. All that we need is for Satan to die.”
Dagon ran the picture through his mind, then came across a great block that stood in the way. “But without the life energy from humans, how do we ascend to the next level. Satan collects it, it is our tribute to him. He uses it to boost us to the next level when we die. What will happen when he is gone.”
“Then we will control the human life energy. And we can use the existing energy stored for our own ends, to cement the allegiance of those underneath us. And we will make an agreement with the humans, we will continue to milk the energy from some and release the rest. They will agree to that.”
Dagon nodded. “It is agreed Lady. Now, how do we make this fine-sounding plan reality?”
Belial’s Stronghold, Tartaruan Range, Northern Region of Hell
Euryale smoothed lotion on her burns and relaxed on her couch. Quietly, she closed her eyes and sent her mind searching for Lakheenahuknaasi. She found the mind she sought and opened contact, feeling the mind-voice in her head, sensed the respect tempered with ambition.
“What have you learned Lakheenahuknaasi?”
“Much, Highness. I have learned about human weapons, seen what they have. Highness, we have not seen a tenth of what they can do.” The near-panic in Lakheenahuknaasi’s mind-voice was evident. “The deadliest weapons they have are still unknown to us.”
“But you have learned how to make them?”
“Highness, I have learned we cannot make them. The instructions in the magic tome are here but they are full of things we do not understand. And when we look up the things we do not understand, those descriptions also are filled with things we do not comprehend. Everywhere we look, we are faced with the impossible. All I have studied has shown us how little we know, and what we do not know will kill us. Above all, Highness, know this. The humans have no magic. None at all.”
“Impossible. We have seen what their magery does.”
“No Highness, we have seen what their machines can do. They have no magic, in fact the best and cleverest of the humans laugh at the very idea of magic. They say it is a foolish game to amuse little children. They call it conjuring and those who practice it do not pretend it is anything but trickery. The humans have no magic so they build machines to do magical things for them. And those machines are what destroys us. Highness. I will say more. There is no magic, for I no longer believe we have magic either. There are simply things we do not understand.”
“Very good Lakheenahuknaasi. Anything else?”
“Yes, Highness. Our Lord was wrong when he said there were a few great places that build the human machines. There are not. The places that make human machines are everywhere and now they all build weapons. What we face is not a stockpile that has been built up over thousands of human years but what they produce today. We cannot destroy them by striking at their production, we must strike their leadership.”
“And do you know where that is?”
“Yes. In a city called London. A place called Pah-Lee-Amant.”
Last edited by Stuart
on 2008-07-18 02:33pm, edited 1 time in total.
Nations do not survive by setting examples for others
Nations survive by making examples of others