Blood and Whiskey In the Arms of Slumber
We wondered whether if it was smart to leave in that quote from Gary Mark Gilmore. Not because he is a [executed] murderer, but just basicly that if you put in a quote at the end, it looks like if you're going to end the story and that was rather unfortunate as the Blood and Whiskey-series are long from finished. Think the previous stories as prequels, because that was exactly what they was. And rest assured, we have a lot of good stuff to write about when it comes to swearing irishmen and proud vampires, mixed with a good dose of splatter and your oh-so-typical but oh-so-friendly neighbourhood anti-terrorist organisation and with a hint of your basic over-the-top evil religious asshole [we're ateists, fear us].
And now, when both of us are gathered we can begin the real story... which is a lot more... spiritual [and funny, and silly and more violent] than the other parts. There's gonna be a lot of talk about Life and Death since Vincent is badly wounded and in a coma [for the moment, he'll come around when we feel that we need him in action], which is, by the way, giving the story the absolutely smashing [no irony] title "in the arms of slumber". While in this coma, we weaved together some pretty interesting conversations and debates with Death, the scythe-swinging skeleton in black robes as well as some romantic encounters with the love of his life. Needless to say, we have done a couple [read: a lot] of changes to the usual Vincent Valentine character. More alive and human [or more 'vampire'] in our opinion. AustralianAnonymous, master of absurd humour, made him a bit more cynical and is by the way the one who should be held most responsible for Vincents small [coma]comments which lie scattered throughout the story in-between the other characters dialogues. And the foreword.
Cid was made irish [but you knew that already, right?] since that's what we thought about him the first time we played the game. We also figured out that he probably drinks a lot, smokes a lot and swears a lot and even has done [some kind of] military service [hey, the guy wanted to be the first man on the moon]. But it's all good for the story. He is on his own this time around but is having [some kind of] support from the non-FF characters we put into the story, the staff of anti-terrorist organisation Elite. Cedric, [formerly the "faceless man"] the chief of Elite is staying in his office and will drop some lines here and there whenever we feel it's necessary. Doctor Jeanne is busy looking after Vincent and is the typical kind and sensitive woman. Amanda is however the total opposite of that and has a lot of nice 'kick ass-attitude' every respecting female character with the description "strong" [and/or "cliché"] should use. And while talking cliché... both characters are rather cliché but they have a way of working out so they're in. Don't think anyone'll complain either. Another note: Amanda is based on a mix from comic book heroine Halo Jones and Ellen Ripley from the Alien®-movies. If you have problems seeing where we are going with this character, she's basicly a lot tougher than in the previous stories.
Oh, and talking about tough... tougher-than-tough guy and ex-member of Elite, Frank J. Stryfe is also staying since we need a "stand-in" for the oh-so-lovely [as always, you should expect some rather ruthless mayhem] combat scenes. But he was meant to stay anyway. We feel that we have to have a character we know and Frank is the leading character in Locue's [un-published] work "The Academy", written in the year 1996 when Internet was something mysterious, cold and unknown and was named as "the world-wide network database" whenever someone mentioned the topic, so it was rather perfect to throw him into the story together with his arch-nemesis Mark Jeremiah Richards [another fine trademark of Locue's sick, twisted mind]. Not only gives it us a good way of controlling the story, but also a chance to neglect Cid and Vincent for a while when the story gets out of hand because of their limitations. In this one however, Vincent has the leading role [hey, the guy's in a coma] but in the next story it's Frank who's going to be our leading man and will constantly firing and dodging bullets. Given the circumstances we're going to put the guy into, we don't think neither Cid or Vincent will complain.
The start of Locue's little corner of anger management
Ahem! In order to prevent people from e-mailing us about the matter "Strife vs. Stryfe" again, we just want everybody to know that Frank J. Stryfe is NOT Cloud Strife! Cloud and Frank is NOT the same character [actually, that would be rather insulting] and they are NOT based on each other and they are NOT related. Stryfe is a real name. Strife isn't. Okay? There, done. I won't say it again. Once and once again: I invented Frank BEFORE Squaresoft invented Cloud. I thank you and bid you a good night. Or good day. It really depends on where you work.
While I'm at it: this is important statement! There is supposedly to be some talk about some idiot that goes around pretending to be me. Please do not listen to anything that fucker may say. A good way to recognize him [it's always a "he" when it comes to matters like these] is to see where he's spreading his mischief. I don't go to forums at all, not even the RPGClassics forum, so if you see him at some forum: alert me at firstname.lastname@example.org and then tell him to piss off in the nicest way you can. I want him alive and scared shitless. Tee-hee.
[Hopefully] The end of Locue's little corner of anger management
Ending this foreword we also want to dedicate 'In the Arms of Slumber' to Terry Pratchet, writer of the fantastic Discworld® series. We put a lot of comedy in this part which are pretty much inspired by his work [mostly the Death character as a matter of fact]. Be sure to check out his quotes section here on RPGC and then go out an get yourself a Discworld book. It's easily the best fantasy books we have these days now with Tolkien out of the picture.
Blood and Whiskey - Locue wrote this one on his own free time and on his own free computer and probably sacrificed a couple of hours worth of living in the free world while writing it. It's really just a prologue to introduce the characters. If you read the story and couldn't find the plot, don't worry. There really wasn't anyone.
Bringing out your Dead - Again, Locue wrote this one all by himself however with AustralianAnonymous appearing just in time to the final chapter to spread some sick stuff into the story with, for instance, some good old torturing. Expect more of that stuff in the future. Especially if you're planning to read this...
[Locue and AnonymousAustralian]
Chapter One Starting Up
Fourteenth july, Elite Headquarters Infirmary...
Vincent Valentine had seen better days. Or at least nights... Due to him being a vampire, he hadn't seen all that many days in his life. Not any he could remember anyway. The effect of a vampire sticking out so much as his hand in sunlight was rather suicidal. Not deadly of course, but everybody needs a hand right? However, right now he was lying in a coma in the headquarters of that organisation he and Cid had been recruited by... And for some reason, things hadn't really worked out all that good. Some bad things had led to other bad things and the aftermath of all this was that he now was lying in a bloody coma! He had truly seen better nights.
Hmm... Let's see... I'm lying here dying... Vincent Valentine... a supposed immortal vampire... dying... can anyone tell me what's wrong with that picture? Of all the ways I could've checked out... this has got to be the dumbest...
"What the hell were ya doin' going up against that fucker for! Hey, fuckin' look at you now!"
Screw you, Cid.
"Fuck off, Cid!"
Amanda... will you please kick Cid in the damn groin for me.
"He can't hear you, Cid. He's in a coma for crying out loud!"
Hmm... at least I wish I couldn't hear... Would do me a world of favor if medical research could get it right once in a while...
"I fuckin' know that!"
"Please don't scream in here. Vincent need to rest."
"If he can't hear us, he..."
"Jeanne's right, Cid."
"We know he's your friend, Cid. But that means you're gonna have to let him be just this moment."
Cid considering me a friend? ... what's wrong with THAT picture?
"I'll take care of him."
"He'll uh... he'll make it... right?"
"Yes... He'll be fine."
"... 'kay. Get well, Vince... or else I'll fuckin' beat the livin', dyin', crap out of you!"
Now that's the Cid I know...
Cid left the infirmary. Amanda however stayed behind.
"Some character, eh?"
"Indeed..." Jeanne answered.
"About... about what you said..." Amanda begun and looked around to see that Cid wasn't around.
Jeanne looked up on Amanda.
"You paused. About Vincent... it's... ah... it's more serious than a... regular... coma, isn't it?"
More serious than a "regular" coma? That would be just great! Imagine Death saying "Sorry, mister Valentine. You suffer from a strange coma-like disease that only affects vampires." Yup, that really looks like my kind of luck. Oh, play damn Radiohead music in my ears for all means!
Jeanne stared down the floor for a long time... and then turned up again. She nodded.
"Because he's a vampire?" Amanda wondered.
"I don't know."
"So what is it?"
"... I don't know. He's suffered major burn damage, armor piercing bullets and several hits due to..."
"Richard's little Mortal Kombat-festival... I know... So?"
Comedy... how nice. Never mind the victim. I'm just lying her dying with a strange coma-inspired sickness. Joke around. Please do.
"So... he doesn't have any pulse. No sign of his heart... Technically, he's dead."
"But isn't vampires supposed to be... half-dead... or something?"
Damn you, Bram Stoker! Damn you!
"All living creatures have pulse and heart."
"And people in a coma?"
"Only error about them is that they sleeps for months and years instead of days and hours..."
"Medical mystery, eh? I would find that rather attractive it it weren't for the side effects..."
"I can imagine that" Jeanne said.
"So, what about Vincent?"
"Well, he has turned... half-dead, as you said."
"So he's alive? Half... ah, half-living or something...?"
"Some parts of his body are alive, yes" Jeanne said and took Vincents hand, "he's got a sensitive spot between these fingers" Jeanne said and moved her hand in between Vincents fingers.
I wonder if I can report this to the police. "I was assaulted in my coma by a very beautiful woman. I really did suffer!"
The hand seemed to be alive as it started to move along the bed.
It's too bad I never was any good at lying...
"He's got a working hand. Most men have.”
Wonder what she meant by that?
“Is anything else working? Can he communicate with us this way?"
Smart. Give me a paper and I'll write up my most inner desires. Like being able to kick that Richards-fellows arse into orbits!
"I don't want to try it... The... hand... must be in a... real working order. So to speak..."
"So you mean you have to jumpstart his reflexes in order to make it work?"
"... I suppose you can say that. But even so, it would only last for a second."
Oh, so the only way I can communicate with the rest of the world is by having someone touching my hand? Perfect. Just perfect. Why, I should be bloody lucky! ... I still don't know how to lie... Hmm... something to start learning whenever I get out of this shit... Should take a week or two. This is just a scratch. Oh, yup. It's just a scratch. Why am I just talking rubbish? And why am I talking rubbish to myself? ... oh, I forgot... I'm the only one listening. Brilliant. That's how conversations should be. One talking and one not listening.
"But, in short, he's in a coma" Jeanne said.
"You just don't know what kind of a coma it is?"
"There isn't all that many comas to choose from, Amanda. Either he's in a coma, or he's not. He's in it. But he's not breathing, that's the only change from the 'normal' kind of coma."
"I can see why you didn't want to share this information with Cid..."
"He wouldn't understand it properly. He'd gone out of control."
"You know... Something I've noticed about Cid..." Amanda started.
... is that he's a bastard from Ireland who swears and drinks a lot when he won't smoke all day long? Am I right?
"... is that he actually does have a heart. I can bet you whatever you want that under that 'I don't give a flying fuck"-attitude there's a soft, damn heart."
"I suppose so..."
Yeah... supposing Cid having a heart... Well, maybe a hard one. There's no way in hell that guy would have anything soft in his damn body. Except for his blood, I guess. I hope. Or... eh... not that I want to drink it or anything, but... eh...
"Well... I'd better get back."
"They'll be worried about you?"
"Not really. I can take care of myself. I'm darn good at it you know."
"Well... Ah yeah! If you need any help or something... I was a pretty good doctor when I first got here."
"Saved Frank's butt a couple of times. You know how many times that guy's been shot?"
Oh, spare me the info for crying out loud.
"I wouldn't really want to know."
"Can't blame you for that... Well, see you later, Jeanne."
"Oh, and he's been shot with as many bullets as he's old."
I knew she would come back for that.
"Right. And how old is he?"
"We honestly don't know" Amanda smiled.
"What do you mean?"
"We've never asked him."
"What about his personal files?"
Why this sudden interest about the fellows age? I don't see anybody asking me about my goddamn age! I'm older than him! I hope.
"His personal files were all destroyed when he retired. And... well... nobody did bother with ages and all that shit. Nothing important you know."
"How do you know that he's been shot as many times like his age then?"
"He told me at the meeting and... nah, I'd better get going. See you later, Jeanne. Patch Vincent up for us, will ya?"
Jeanne closed the door when Amanda left and sighed. She dropped all thoughts concerning what Amanda had said and sat down next to Vincent. She stared at him. He didn't look like a vampire at all. He didn't even have the characteristic teeth vampires were famous for. Well, they were there but they weren't notable. And he wasn't all that bleak. Nothing of the usual vampire facts were correct. She sighed and leaned backwards on her chair.
"Get well, Vincent Valentine" she said, "whoever you might be."
The conference room was also something which had seen better days. Due to the skirmish of Frank and Mark there was now only one wall that wasn't filled with bullets or damaged in any other way. Cid were sitting at the end of the table and inspected the room. At his feet he could feel the carpet he had ruined by dropping cigarettes on it. There was something else on it. A dark, sticky substance. Blood, Cid thought. Frank had fired a full SMG magazine at Marks head. There just had to come out blood from that kind of wound.
"We probably should clean that up" Cedric said when Cid had looked at the carpet for more than anyone ever had, "suppose it ain't the finest thing, blood on the carpet..."
"Suppose so" Cid answered.
"But more important is to keep your friend alive. I heard he saved one of our doctors. We're obliged to him."
"That means you guys owe him one, right?"
"That's what I thought" Cid said.
A few seconds passed without the two gentlemen saying anything.
"But you really should clean that up."
"It's a nice carpet."
"Indeed it is."
"Wouldn't be fair to treat it that way."
"Suppose it wouldn't."
Another few seconds passed.
"Suppose it should go off if you just, ya know, rub it real hard and..."
"Scream like a jellyfish was touching whatever parts of your body that you consider private?"
"Frank" Cedric said, "how was the funeral?"
"Messy" Frank answered, entering the room, "took me one whole damn hour before we could actually bury the bastard."
"Yer talkin' about that Mark, are ya?"
"Of fricking course we are! Who else would we even BOTHER to bury? We're... I mean, THEY'RE the fucking Elite. They work for the government."
"What's the difference?"
"Usually we just dump the body on the doorstep and frame some poor innocent individual for murder, usually in the first degree actually, so that they get a good death penalty" Cedric explained.
"Why that ain't all that friendly, is it?"
"You can't treat the mafia with kindergarten gloves, Cid. Life is about fucking people up or get fucked up. Not literally of course" Frank said.
"And you usually..."
Frank gave Cid a long look to see if he was serious about asking that question. Unfortunately, he seemed to be serious.
"Fuck them up" he answered.
"Yeah. But we'd better get some reinforcements asap, Ced. He'll be back."
"But you buried him!"
"So what do you mean he's comin' back?"
"You ever read the bible?" Frank asked.
"... No! But I know about it. What!?"
"You know about Jesus?"
"Don't say it."
"... yes. Of course I fuckin' know Jesus! What?!"
"Let's just say that Mark is one of few people, living today, that has shook hands with the son of God himself. Now what does that tell you?"
"Too many things" Cid answered.
"Correct. What're we going to do, Cedric?"
"I suppose we wait for the reinforcements to arrive. After that... well, Markus will be back so we got no other option than to get ready to face him."
"And kill him!" Cid said with a distinct, fury in his voice.
"Yeah... something like that" Frank answered, "at least stop him."
"But eventually we'll have to..."
"I'll kill him I have to" Frank said, "but now's not the time. He knows that, and that's why he's coming back."
"Then when might be the time?"
"When God says so" Frank said and sat down.
"Great" Cid said and sighed, "and when does God think it's time?"
"I don't really wanna know..."
A few seconds of total silence passed. Frank broke the silence.
"What happened to the carpet anyway? Looks like if someone burned it or something."
"I dropped a cigarette on it" Cid answered.
"You 'dropped' it? You can't just 'drop' a cigarette, Cid. You either do it 'cause you're clumsy, or to show people that you don't give a fuck about what they say. Having known you for just two and a half hour, I can't say which of the alternatives is the correct one."
"Wouldn't do any difference anyway, Frank" Cedric answered.
"That a fact, Cid?"
"Yer askin' ME if I'm some kind of idiot?"
"Yeah. I'm too good to draw own conclusions. Lie to me will ya?"
"Fuck you" Cid said, putting both his middle fingers up for Frank.
A short lesson on the phobias mentioned in this chapter: Claustrophobia: fear of tight spaces. Achluophobia, Lygophobia, Myctophobia, Nyctophobia and Scotophobia: a good song by the legendary heavy metal band Iron Maiden.
A short lesson on the hymn Amazing Grace: This is probably the most popular hymn in the english language. It was written by John Newton, a slave trader who finally got to his senses and saw the light, as he himself said. Amazing Grace describes his way to the light, but the hymn is largely used in pretty much everything these days. Anything with anything religious is surely to have Amazing Grace included, even in a manipulated sense. Our version in this chapter is the first and the last verse.
Four feet down, under the cemetery, in a coffin made out of wood... a sleeper awakens.
Hah! So they trapped me? That's inventive... Well it sure is a relief I ain't suffering from claustrophobia. Or achluophobia. Or lygophobia. Or myctophobia. Or nyctophobia. Or scotophobia. Considering the fact that I am...
Markus knocked lightly on the coffin lid.
... buried somewhere... alive. Hah... that's not inventive at all... But it's a nice change to be the one buried alive. It shall be interesting, to say the least. I shall... learn... from this. Yes. Learn.
Another knock on the coffin lid. This time he knocked a little bit harder. In fact, it was more a punch than a knock.
Not very safe, is it? Hmm... should it collapse all over me I have no other option than to dig my way out. And that will take too long. Not to mention it will totally ruin the suit...
He sighed and tried to lift his legs. It didn't work out all that well as he only could lift them one inch. And it's a very, very small inch we're talking about here. Moving his legs wasn't any kind of an option. He really didn't need to try to see if he could, but he wanted to test it just to have something to do. Call it some kind of entertainment, if you will. When you're buried alive, even the slightest spider on your chin can be Charlie Chaplin. And the rat down in the corner, trying to eat it's way into your leg, is Oliver Hardy and the voices in your head represents Stan Laurel who constantly messes things up for Hardy. Markus didn't bother with trying to stop the rat. He smiled.
I only need to wait.
And he waited. And waited.
Any minute now.
And the minute came.
"Good afternoon, mister Death."
A dark, robed figure had appeared inside Markus head, picturing Stan Laurel, he was wearing a scythe in his right hand and a gloomy smile on his face.
"GOOD AFTERNOON, MALCHIUS", Death answered.
"Ah, so I was right about the afternoon-thing? I don't a clue about the time..."
"EVERY MINUTE IS AFTERNOON, MALCHIUS" Death answered and appeared in front of Markus, enlarging the coffin so that he wouldn't bump his head in the roof, or whatever you call it. The rat stopped chewing on Markus leg and ran in terror at the sight of Death, "RATS HAVE A WAY OF BEING AFRAID OF ME. I WISH I COULD KNOW WHY. DO YOU THINK IT'S BECAUSE I LIKE CATS?"
"Possible" Markus said, "but, uh, listen... I'm in a... heh... tight spot right now, even if it doesn't look that way. Could you help me out?"
"I CANNOT DO THAT, MALCHIUS."
"And why's that now all of a sudden? And cut it out with using my real name! I know yours and I don't go around using it just because I can! Knock it off!"
"NICE TO SEE YOU TOO, MARKUS" Death smiled.
"Yeah, yeah... answer my question. Why can't you help me out?"
"I THINK YOU KNOW THIS, MARKUS, ALL TOO WELL."
"What? Serving God? YOU serve God!"
"THIS IS NOT ABOUT SERVING GOD OR NOT, MARKUS, THIS IS ABOUT SERVING GOD IN THE RIGHT WAY" Death said.
"Pah... 'the right way'. I follow the 'right' way!"
"YES. BUT YOU ADJUSTED YOUR MISSION ORDERS TO FIT YOUR OWN FEEBLE DREAMS."
"I got the order to evaluate mankind. This I have done."
"FOR NEARLY TWO THOUSAND YEARS."
"Yes. Two fucking thousand years have I evaluated mankind to serve God! And I'm growing weary about the job!"
"YOU NEED TO FINISH IT. IT IS THE WILL OF GOD!"
"Then free me, damn it!"
"AS I SAID, I CANNOT DO THAT."
"Then how the fuck..!"
"FIND A WAY. THERE'S PLENTY OF WAYS TO ESCAPE. YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT, MALCHIUS" Death answered.
"Hey! I told you not to..!"
"FIND A WAY, MALCHIUS. THAT IS ALL THE HELP I CAN OFFER YOU. ESCAPE, AND FINISH YOUR WORK."
"Hah! God damn it all! It would go faster if you just helped me!"
"I AM AWARE OF THAT, MALCHIUS. BUT I AM NOT SO EAGER FOR YOU TO COMPLETE YOUR MISSION. ERADICATING MANKIND MEANS PAPERWORK. AND I HATE PAPERWORK, MALCHIUS. HONESTLY, I WOULD SEE IT BETTER IF YOU FAILED."
"You would, huh? Well, you better start rooting for Frank then!"
"JOSEPH YOU MEAN? IS HE HERE AS WELL?"
"Yeah, arrived... ah... yesterday, I think, and sent me here. He hasn't lost his touch. I can tell you that."
"REALLY? I SHALL PAY HIM A VISIT AS WELL. AFTER ALL, HE IS ALSO A PART OF YOUR MISSION. A LARGE PART."
"WANT ME TO GIVE HIM A MESSAGE?"
"Yeah, tell him to watch over his remaining friends, 'cause I'm coming for some sweet revenge."
"WAS THAT ALL?"
"And tell him to fuck himself."
"I THINK THAT WON'T BE NEEDED, MALCHIUS. AND NOW, I MUST GO. I'LL SEE YOU SOON. FIND A WAY OUT OF THIS MESS."
"Am I to consider you an enemy?"
"YOU ARE TO CONSIDER ME AS DEATH. NOTHING ELSE."
The robed figure vanished from Markus thoughts.
"Hah!" Markus said and squished the spider walking on his chin, "fuck you, Death."
He didn't wipe off the remains of the spider. Instead, he started laughing.
So Death wants me to escape from here, all by myself, using the powers of the divine? Fair enough, I've given him enough work, trying to accomplish my goals. Suppose I can understand why he won't want me to finish my work. Having the whole mankind waiting in line, monday morning, would drive me crazy. But you really would think Death would have some pride in his work.
I HAVE, Death's hollow voice echoed in his head, AND THAT IS WHY I AM NOT GOING TO HELP YOU, MALCHIUS.
Hah! Thought you would come back if I killed something and talking bad about you. You can't ignore when people are mocking you, can you?
I CAN, BUT NOT IN YOUR CASE, MALCHIUS. AS FOR ESCAPING USING YOUR INFERNAL POWERS, "DIVINE" AS YOU CALL THEM, YES. THAT WILL WORK. IF YOU PUT IN SOME EFFORT...
Effort? Oh, I'll give you some fucking effort. I'm gonna blow this joint, and then I'm going to... pay some visits.
YOU DO KNOW YOU'RE GOING TO LOSE, MALCHIUS? YOU DON'T STAND A CHANCE.
Frank's not a problem.
I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT JOSEPH.
YOU WILL SEE, Death said, AND WHEN YOU DO, YOU WILL KNOW THAT YOU HAVE LOST.
Is that so?
"YES" said Death and appeared in front of Markus, using his divine powers once more to enlarge the coffin.
"Hah! Fuck you, Death! You're just trying to scare me off!"
"BELIEVE ME. I DON'T HAVE TO 'SCARE PEOPLE OFF'."
"Yeah, that's the best part. You're so goddamned overconfident that Frank'll win that you just try and do your mumbo jumbo-thing and your scary, hollow fucking voice of yours! Fuck! What's the matter with you? You bet any money on Frank or something?"
"NO. I AM SIMPLY INTERESTED IN YOUR LOSS ON BEHALF OF MY OWN WORKLOAD. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MANY SOULS I NEED TO TRANSPORT TO HEAVEN AND HELL EVERYDAY? SHOULD YOU DRAW DOWN THE APOCALYPSE ON EARTH... WELL, YOU'RE SMART ENOUGH TO THINK OF THE CONSEQUENCES..."
"But we won't kill them! God will start over with new creations!"
"REALLY? AND WHO WILL BELIEVE IN GOD THEN? MANKIND WERE HIS FIRST CREATIONS OF FLESH AND BONE THAT COULD THINK! WITHOUT THEM TO BELIEVE IN GOD... NO MORE GOD."
"So? He'll create a new race and teaches them to believe!"
"MALCHIUS? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA, ANY IDEA AT ALL, HOW LONG IT TOOK FOR MANKIND TO BELIEVE?"
"EXACTLY. AND WE STILL HAVE OUR FAIR SHARE OF ATEISTS..."
Death and Markus shivered and said together, echoes included:
"MAY THEY BURN IN HELL."
"May they burn in hell."
"... WHO CONSTANTLY TRIES TO CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT THERE IN FACT IS NO GOD. THIS IS BY THE WAY ONE OF THE MANY REASONS TO WHY YOU MUST COMPLETE YOUR MISSION, WITH ANY POSSIBLE RESULT, AND OF ANY COST."
"Yeah. Suppose so."
"AND I REALLY DON'T WANT PESTILENCE, WAR AND FAMINE HERE. I DON'T WANT TO PUT ON MY APOCALYPSE-COSTUME FOR THE FOUR HORSEMEN-ACT. IT'S ITCHING."
"ITCHING. PESTILENCE CURSED IT WHEN I REFUSED TO PAY OFF MY DEBTS FROM THE LATEST POKER GAME WE HAD AT WAR'S PLACE."
"I TOLD HIM HE WAS CHEATING AND, WELL, THINGS GOT OUT OF HAND..."
"I CAN'T REALLY UNDERSTAND HOW YOU COULD POSSIBLE SEE IT, GIVEN THE FACT THAT YOU WEREN'T EVEN THERE."
“It's just a way of saying "I don't want to know" in a shorter way."
"I... UH... SEE... HMM... YOU SURE HAVE ADAPTED TO HUMAN WAYS QUICK, MALCHIUS."
"Had no choice. Walk the damn earth for near two thousand years and spend as much time around mankind as possible, and you can bet your robe that you'll pick up every single fucking gesture the fucking critters make."
"IS THAT SO?"
"Oh yes. And spend one minute with young people, and you'll learn all kinds of things."
"I THINK I KNOW MOST OF THE THINGS."
"Not the things you don't need to know."
"CORRECT. AND FOR THAT I AM VERY GRATEFUL."
"So... you play poker a lot?" Markus said, avoiding another discussion about the apocalypse and his mission.
"I AVOID IT. IF POSSIBLE. THAT IS WHY I DO NOT WISH THE APOCALYPSE TO HAPPEN."
"I see... so to you, all this just comes down to the fact that you don't want to play poker with your buddies?"
"THEY ARE NOT MY BUDDIES, MALCHIUS!"
"Neither are you if you're intending to continue using my real name without my approval."
"WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOUR NAME, MALCHIUS? BRINGS BACK OLD MEMORIES, DOES IT?"
"And nightmares" Markus said quietly.
"REALLY? WELL, THAT'S WHAT I WOULD HAVE EXPECTED FROM A HUMAN, SERVING THE LORD..."
"Fuck you, Death."
"THE SAME TO YOU, MALCHIUS. AND SWEET DREAMS. I AM EXPECTED ELSEWHERE AND WILL IGNORE ANY FURTHER CALLINGS UPON ME. FROM YOU, THAT IS..."
"Yeah, yeah... I'll use my divine powers, infernal as you speak of them, to escape. And then I'll give you enough workload to..."
"DON'T FINISH THAT SENTENCE, MALCHIUS. AND DO NOT TEST MY PATIENCE. AND DO NOT TEST THE PATIENCE OF THE LORD EITHER. HE WANTS RESULTS... FROM THE BOTH OF YOU, I SHOULD SAY."
"So Frank's late with the homework too?"
"NO. HE'S JUST WAITING. SO FAR HE HAS REPORTED IN 'SO FAR, SO GOOD' TO THE LORD. DARE YOU TAKE A GUESS OF WHAT HE'S WAITING FOR?"
And Death vanished, shrinking the grave (and by the way crushing the rat into a really unpleasant goo).
"Me" Markus said, "he's waiting for me. Aw... how romantic."
Markus laughed and tried to sit down in the grave. It would be easier to escape that way. But when he accepted the fact that it was impossible, he sighed once more and knocked on the coffin lid, laughed and snapped his fingers in front of his eyes.
"We'll have to do this the hard way then."
The "upper side" of the Boston cemetery is actually a rather comfortable place in daylight. The nightlife however is a totally different thing...
"Did you bring the sacrificial offer?"
"Yeah, Billy Bob, I sure did."
"Good, Raynor, good. 'Cause today, we will offer it, out tribute, to the Lord of Darkness!"
"Bring it forward, Raynor."
The man called Raynor laughed and put a birdcage down on the ground.
"That's the sacrificial offer?!"
"Yup. Just like you said, Billy Bob, a chicken to offer the Lord of Darkness!"
"It's dead, Raynor!"
"But I asked the people of Chicky World to make it as raw as possible!"
"Just because it's as raw as possible, doesn't mean it's alive. And how the hell are we supposed to greet the Lord of Darkness with this grilled chicken from Chicky fucking World!?"
"It's better than nothing, Billy Bob! There ain't all that many chicken farms in Boston, you know!"
"For fucks sake... Okay! We'll offer this to the Lord of Darkness. Is there any blood left in it?"
"I think so. I asked them to make it bloody."
"You ASKED them to make it BLOODY!?" Billy Bob exclaimed, "at CHICKY WORLD?!"
"Yeah, and they promised me they would. What?"
"Oh, in the name of everything unholy..! Can I ever go back there and order something at Chicky World? I mean, they didn't ask for me, did they?"
"Of course they did. I mean, our Chicky Card is listed in your name so I had to explain you wanted it. You should have gotten a call from them... Right?"
"Raynor... I... You... FUCKING IDIOT! OH, YOU'RE SO GODDAMN STUPID THAT I ACTUALLY HOPE YOU'LL GO TO HEAVEN WHEN YOU DIE! FUCKING IDIOT!"
"I'm sorry, Billy Bob."
"YOU'RE SORRY!? YOU WALTZ INTO CHICKY WORLD, ORDER A GRILLED CHICKEN AS "BLOODY" AND USE MY CHICKY WORLD CREDIT CARD!? AND YOU'RE SORRY!? OH, I'LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO BE SORRY ABOUT!"
"Hey, calm down Billy Bob. I'm sure everything will be allright. I mean, maybe we can ask the Lord of Darkness, when we see him, to set things straight? You know, erase the past mistakes?"
"I... I... guess so... IF we can see him, offering this damn grilled, bloody chicken to him."
"Of course we will" Raynor answered.
"Allright... did you bring the ceremonial sacrificial knife?"
"The CSK, yeah..."
The man called Raynor brought forward an object, wrapped in red coloured sheets. He unveiled the object.
"That's the ceremonial sacrificial knife?! A bread knife?"
"Hey, that's the official CSK at out house. I don't know how your family..."
"IT'S MADE OUT OF WOOD!"
"But it's sharp! It'll tear through the chicken like it was... well... paper."
Taking a deep breath, Billy Bob tried to sit down on a gravestone for some serious settling down.
"You sure about that?" he asked.
"Of course I am, Billy Bob" Raynor answered, "I mean... I don't think the Lord of Darkness can be THAT picky when it comes to knives? Can he?"
"I don't fucking know. But you better be right, Raynor. We need to speak with him. We have been loyal to him since we were fourteen, and he OWES us!"
"Quiet, Billy Bob. He might hear you, you know!"
"Oh don't be silly. We all know the Lord of Darkness keeps away from everything earthly. And so does his minions."
"You better be careful anyway. You never know what can happen."
"Oh, for fucks sake! What can he do!? Emerge from hell and knock my head off? No, Raynor, I doubt that."
Billy Bob stood up and took up the bread knife.
"Might as well get this over with. Place the sacrificial offering on the ground to this gravestone."
"Yes, Billy Bob."
And so he did and the pair kneeled before the grilled, bloody chicken.
"Oh, great Lord of Darkness, eternal master of everything unsacred and official evil-doer of the world! Hear our call and accept our simple offering!"
And Billy Bob thrusted the knife down on the grilled chicken. His hand bounced back up from the grilled chicken.
"Uh... Hear our call and accept our simple offering!"
And he thrusted the knife down of the grilled chicken a second time with the same result.
"Maybe he's a vegetarian?" Raynor suggested.
"BE QUIET! I CAN'T CONCENTRATE!"
Billy Bob started thrusting the knife up and down on the grilled chicken.
"HEAR OUR CALL AND ACCEPT OUR SIMPLE OFFERING!" he screamed furiously.
"Maybe the knife's dull?" Raynor suggested quietly.
Billy Bob turned into Raynors direction. And looked at him. And screamed.
"YOU SAID IT WAS SHARP!"
"I thought so." said Raynor and started to withdraw from Billy Bob.
"YOU THOUGHT SO?"
Billy Bob dropped the knife and stood up.
"What I am going to do with you is going to hurt a lot, Raynor!"
And Billy Bob quickly took Raynors arm and dragged it down on the grilled chicken.
"Now, stay there."
"What... what are you going to do?"
"Make an offering."
"But, the knife's dull."
"I am not thinking about the chicken, Raynor. And absolutely not the knife either. There are lots of other sharp object we can use."
Billy Bob searched his pockets and found his keyring. He tried all the keys sharpness and then took out the best one.
"Now, hold still."
"Wait a minute! You ain't gonna..?"
"Oh yes. Since you screwed up twice, you're going to be our offering. Well, at least your arm. Now, hold still."
"What was that word, Raynor? Did you use profanity in my presence?"
"No, I didn't! I didn't! I promise I didn't!"
"Of course you do. Now hold still. And bite your lip, or something. But this won't hurt a bit anyway."
"But you said... AAARRGHH!!"
"It really hurt, damn it!"
"Oh, don't be such a pussy! Now kneel before the Lord of Darkness!"
And they both kneeled in front of the Raynor-bloody grilled chicken.
"Hear our call, oh Lord of Darkness, and accept our simple offering!"
Just in that moment, the earth shook and the two satanists exclaimed: "whoa".
"It's working! It's working!" Raynor screamed.
"YES! OH, LORD OF DARKNESS! HEAR OUR CALL, FROM TWO OF YOUR MOST TRUSTED SERVANTS... IN BOSTON! WE KNEEL BEFORE YOU!"
Suddenly the gravestone was crushed right in front of their eyes by a strange beam of light. They looked at the place where the gravestone once had stood. It was now a hole. The two satanists withdrew quickly from the hole, awaiting their Lord of Darkness.
"Holy fuck! It's working!"
Two arms, one by another, came from the hole and started grasping from something to hold onto. And something was pulled up. A head. A body. Two legs.
"Good evening?" Markus said.
"G-g-good evening, mr Satan, Lucifer, Sir... Sir Lucifer Satan, sir."
"Oh? You've been trying to call upon the Dark Lord, eh? Won't do much with flattery I'm afraid, he's a stubborn old geezer."
"Who-who are you?!"
"Markus Jeremiah Richards. At your service. I work for God. I was however buried alive in that coffin for some... what day is it?"
"Well, it doesn't really matter now, does it?"
"So, you boys are satanists? Am I correct?"
"Uh... yes. That's uh... correct."
"And why we're you trying to call good ol' Lucky for?"
"Lucifer then, what did you want him to do for you?"
"Well, there's this girl in school and..."
"Shut up, Raynor!"
"He works for God" Billy Bob whispered, "if we tell him we wanted to achieve total dominance of girls in school, we'll sure to be punished!"
"What are you boys being so quiet about?" Markus asked.
"Well, we, ah, we were trying to call down..."
"Up" said Markus, "he lives down under, so to speak."
"Call up... uh, the Lord of Darkness. Lucifer. So that we could... uh... kill him for the sake of humanity and prove our loyality for God!"
"Yeah, that's it!" Raynor quickly said.
"Is that so?"
"Uh huh!?" the two satanists said in stereo.
"I think you're either lying, or are just two incredible dumb fucks from Boston. And... yes, you're lying."
"Oh, don't be ashamed. There's nothing wrong with asking for a favour here and there. What did you want to ask him for?"
"We uh... we wanted to be kings of our school and, you know, get really popular with the girls and all."
"I see." Markus said, smiling.
"I could settle for one girl, actually" Raynor said honestly.
"Oh. True love, eh? How nice. Even under circumstances like using dark magic... So, how much do you want to achieve these goals?"
"We'll do anything!" Raynor said.
"Under reasonable matters, of course" Billy Bob said.
"Reasonable matters? Okay, I will grant your wishes if you dig up a certain grave here in the cemetery..."
"The one with a star on. No text. Just a star. Should be easy to find, eh? Dig it up and I'll give you your wishes."
"Really." Markus said.
And the two satanists started searching. Eventually they stumbled across a gravestone with a star on it.
"This one?" Raynor asked.
"Yes. That one." Markus answered, "dig it up."
Raynor and Billy Bob got the two shovels which had strangely just appeared behind them, and started digging.
"Why do you want this grave open anyway?"
"Don't question the powers of the di... infernal..." Markus smiled.
It took the whole night to dig up the grave, and when the two satanists were done, Markus told them to jump down in it and fetch something for him.
"A sword. Yes" Markus said.
"What does it look like?"
"Like a sword." Markus answered.
"It's inside a wooden chest. Break it open and hand me the sword."
They found the chest, broke it open and searched it's inside. They found the sword.
"Bring it to me."
"You'll grant our wishes?"
"Yes. Hand me the sword."
Raynor and Billy Bob handed Markus the sword. It was actually rather big. Actually, it was humongous in size for a sword but Markus took the sword and sliced the air with it. He smiled.
"Still as magnificent as it was when I first made it."
"Made what? The sword?" Raynor asked.
"Yes. This sword. Finest of all sharp edges you boys can possible think off. Try and carry it in your belt..."
The sword suddenly transformed and sharp edges appeared from the grip.
"... and you'll sing the soprano the rest of your life." Markus smiled.
"Uh... About our rewards then?"
"Yes. Yes. Your wishes shall be granted. Continue digging."
"Your rewards are further down in the grave."
"Don't question me. Just dig."
"You're not tricking us or anything?" Billy Bob asked.
"Less talking, more digging" Markus answered, "you shall be rewarded for showing your loyalty."
The two satanists went mute and continued with the digging. Meanwhile, Markus inspected the sword.
"The inscription is still here. It's the right one." he said to himself.
And the two satanists continued.
"The ground is getting harder to dig in..."
"Yeah, I don't think we can dig much furth..."
"Well, how much do we hav...?"
"You'll know when to stop."
"You aren't taking us digging a way to hell or anything?"
"No. To your rewards, however."
Markus continued to inspect the sword. The inscription was ingraved into the blade itself.
"The words of God" Markus said to himself, "the Hellraiser. Hah! Now all I need is a trenchcoat to look really cool when I bust into Elites headquarters..."
"UH, MR MARKUS SIR!" the two satanists suddenly screamed, "WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?"
"Hell." Markus said.
They had digged further down into the grave and were now looking at something that looked like a manhole. Only less metallic, and more red. Well, not exactly red, but glowing red.
"He always were a bit dramatic about this gateway."
"Dramatic? Gateway? Who?" Raynor asked.
"Good old Ace."
"Yeah, he was supposed to be nicknamed "Ass" but he skinned that guy alive and turned him into a hat. So we suggested "Ace" instead."
"Skinned alive? Who?"
"Good old Ace, Asmodeus."
"Yup. Knock on the manhole. He'll grant your wishes."
"Oh, don't worry. Just tell him Malchius sent you."
"Malchius." Markus repeated, "now go."
Billy Bob and Raynor lifted the red glowing manhole with rather terrible ease. Something smelled.
"It's not me" Raynor quickly said when he noticed Billy Bob staring at him.
"Boys, get a move on. He don't like waiting."
"Okay, get in there, Raynor."
"Get in there. We can't go in at the same time, you know. Get in."
"Uh, Markus, Malchius... Sir. We got a rope over there, uh, you could perhaps help us up with it, could you?"
"Sure thing" Markus answered.
Raynor tried to climb down into the hole, but found it more intelligent just to jump down. It wasn't deep. Two meters maximum, perhaps. Billy Bob followed him, jumping down the hole.
"You will see a passage" Markus screamed down the hole, "it'll lead to a door. Open it, and tell Malchius sent you."
"Okay!" Billy Bob answered.
They walked a bit and soon stumbled upon the door. They looked curiously at it. It was, just as the manhole, glowing red.
"Open it" Billy Bob said to Raynor.
Raynor opened it and got pushed in by Billy Bob, who soon followed. It was a rather large room. Actually it was pretty much the size of whole Boston. They at least thought.
"Hello? Uhh... mister Asmodeus? Ace? Mr Ace?" Billy Bob screamed into the large area, "uh... a certain mr Malchius sent us..."
Back at the upper side; Markus was leaning on a gravestone. "Any second now" he smiled.
Downstairs; a thundering roar echoed through the area and made the two satanists both wet their pants in horror.
The upper side: "Amazing Grace..."
"Oh fuck." Billy Bob screamed as the demon appeared.
"WHO DARES DISTURB MY SLUMBER!?" the demon Asmodeus demanded.
"Uhh... we were sent... ah... uh... by Malchus... Malchius! Yeah, Malchius!"
"Y-yes..! He sent us to you for our wishes."
"AH. I SEE. HE FINALLY REMEMBERED HIS DEBT."
The upper side: "... how sweet the sound..."
"I DID HIM A FAVOUR YEARS AGO. AND NOW HE HAS FINALLY COME TO PAY FOR IT."
"Pay? Uh.. hol... hold on a second!"
"What are you going to do with us?!"
"OH, NOTHING DRAMATIC. YOU HEARD SOME STORIES FROM MALCHIUS ABOUT ME THAT WEREN'T TRUE, I IMAGINE? SKINNING PEOPLE ALIVE AND SUCH?"
"That's not true?"
"OF COURSE NOT! I MEAN, FIRST I HAD TO TIE THE FUCKER TO A WALL BEFORE I COULD START TO CARVE THE SKIN OFF HIM."
The two satanists started screaming. Much to Asmodeus own twisted delight.
The upper side: "... that saved a wretch like me...!" Markus sang as he heard the screams. He smiled.
Downstairs; the two satanists were running back to the exit as quickly as they could. "HE'S GAINING ON US, BILLY BOB!" "RUN RAYNOR!" "YOU PIECES OF FLESH CANNOT POSSIBLE TRY TO OUTRUN ME." the demons thundering voice said.
The upper side: "I once was lost, but now am found..." Markus continued.
Downstairs: The two satanists were gaining in on the exit.
The upper side: "... was blind, but now I see."
"THERE'S THE EXIT, BILLY BOB!"
"HURRY, RAYNOR! HE'S GAINING ON US!"
"THIS IS FAIRLY AMUSING." the demons voice echoed throughout the passage.
The upper side:
"When we've been there thousand years, bright shining as the sun..." Markus sang as he was walking towards the gateway between, well, 'safety' and 'safe death'. He smiled and looked down in the hole. Soon, he saw the two satanists down there.
"THROW DOWN A ROPE! HE'S GAINING ON US!" they screamed.
"We've no less days to sing God's praise..."
"HELP US! HE WANTS TO KILL US!" Raynor screamed, "THROW DOWN THE ROPE! HELP US! PLEASE!"
"HELP US!" Billy Bob screamed as he saw the demon coming closer.
"... Than when we'd first begun." Markus finished and closed the manhole.
Darkness overwhelmed them. And everything got really silent. Then the thundering roar was heard, and the horrible screams that followed, quickly died out.
"Remember kids, God loves you." Markus smiled.
He could imagine what happened down there. In fact, he could see it. He sighed, used the rope the satanists had carried with them to tie the sword to his back. Then he put both of his hands down in the jackets hands, and walked away.
"Would do better with the dramatic feel if it were snowing" he said quietly.
"SURE WOULD, MALCHIUS" Death said behind him.
"Oh? I hope you ain't holding some grudge against me for taking care of those lowlifes?"
"NONE AT ALL, MALCHIUS." Death answered, "AFTER ALL, THEY WERE ATEISTS."
"NO DIFFERENCE." Death said, "NOW GO."
And when Markus left the cemetery, he felt something cold landing on his neck. He looked up on the sky, and saw the falling snow.
"Looks like winter's coming early." he smiled and continued walking out from the cemetery.
When Markus finally was nowhere to be seen, and had left the cemetery. Death looked up on the sky, sighing.
"YOU CAN COME DOWN NOW."
An eerie light appeared from the sky, and a figure appeared to be landing just next to Death.
"WAS THAT NECESSARY?" Death asked the figure.
"He asked for a dramatic feeling" the snow goddess answered, "and I granted it. Was it wrong of me?"
"NO. BUT THIS WILL SLOW DOWN HIS PROGRESS."
"I AM SURE OF IT."
"Oh? I thought you wanted him to fail? To ease your workload?"
"I WANT HIM TO FAIL, YES. BUT TO FAIL WITHOUT ANYONES 'HELP', SO TO SPEAK. AFTER ALL, THERE'S A PRICE TO PAY FOR DRAMATIC FEELINGS."
"Tell me about it" the snow goddess said.
"... NOTHING." Death said.
"I know what you were going to say. I am going to fix it. I promise."
"... TELL ME IF..."
"I will" INNANA, the goddess of winter, said, "goodbye now. Mayhaps, we'll meet again?"
"I WOULD HOPE SO."
And the goddess of winter, INNANA, disappeared into the skies. Leaving the falling snow behind her. Death sighed and stared up on the skies once more, but not for long. He suddenly found himself staring down on the ground.
"I WOULD LIKE TO HOPE SO, INNANA" he said.
And with the falling snow over him, Death carefully opened the manhole and jumped down into Asmodeus realm.
"I HOPE SO" he said as he walked through the blood drenched passage.
Chapter Three The Wake, part two
Seventeenth july, Elite Headquarters Infirmary
"Sure has been a while since I talked to you, love. How's heaven treating you?" Vincent said.
"As good as anyone up here, Vincent" a female voice answered, "how are you then? No! No, don't answer that one. I think I can guess."
The invisible spirit of Jeanne d'Arc were floating over Vincents hospitalized body in the Elite Infirmary. She had frozen time itself to find time to talk to Vincent, who had once been her lover. Or at least something that could remind of a boyfriend. It didn't matter now.
"You always were a good guesser, Jeanne."
"Indeed. I was. But I am guessing what God would guess, and it is therefore he who should be hearing your praise."
"God... yes. How is he doing? Still giving you a hard time for speaking with the 'infernal beasts of the netherworld', as he calls me... and a dozen others?"
"Oh shut up, Vincent. God knows you're pure-hearted. It's just that he's... he... he has to set examples."
"He can't have business with the undead. I know. But yet, he recognizes my will of making good in the world. So why won't he help me?"
"You said it yourself, Vincent. He can't do business with the undead."
"Sounds like some kind of discrimination to me. Damn, is it election day up there soon or something?"
"Gods do not get elected, Vincent."
"Neither do vampires, Jeanne."
"I... know... I'm sorry. I think."
"It's ok" Vincent answered, "do you remember the day we first met? You had your first visions that day."
The spirit of Jeanne d'Arc turned her head up, looking up on the ceiling. After a while she turned down again and looked at Vincent.
"I do remember" she said, "it was summer, and you came walking through the village all dressed in black and with a cape concealing your whole body. All the villagers thought you must be either crazy... or perhaps a victim of some strange disease..."
"They got frightened?"
"Not really. But they held their distances, and they held their children closely. Just in case."
"But I was the only one not frightened. I knew you were pure-hearted. Cursed, but pure-hearted."
"Yeah... and you took the chance, came up to me and here we are now."
"Not exactly... But I know what you mean."
"Yes... What I mean is that God should give some kind of... credit... for the things I have done, using my everlasting lifetime."
"Do you remember the first time we had that discussion, Vincent?"
"You bragged how you had killed Adolf Hitler..."
"That was almost true. The bullet missed, and I was... ah... killed. So to speak. They shot me, dumped me in a pile of bodies and didn't make any further notice of me getting up on my feet and walking away. After that attempt, I didn't get another chance..."
"... and that you was the one who had..."
"Okay! So I lied about pretty much everything I had done in my lifetime. So what? God shouldn't be angered by that. I know the truth about the bible he keeps bragging the mortals about."
"You do know that the bible is a lie, Vincent. But it is a good lie."
"So is killing Adolf Hitler" Vincent answered.
"No! I mean... You know what I mean, Vincent!"
"Yeah... but it's so much more pleasant hearing you explain it to me, Jeanne."
"Ah! You haven't changed a bit, have you?"
"I'm in a coma, Jeanne. Changing would be the last thing I would want to do. The jokes are on me anyway."
"Oh please... You'll wake up sooner or later so make the most of your silence until you do."
"Only for a moment. I'll be back to check on you when I can."
The spirit of Jeanne d'Arc started to fade away.
"You wouldn't be the same Jeanne who's the doctor around here now, would you?"
"Hmm? No. Why?"
"You said you'd check on me when you could. She said the same just when you appeared."
"I can't be on two places at the same time, Vincent. I'm no goddess."
"Yeah... suppose so."
"Don't worry yourself, my love. What happens in the mortal world is beyond your reach for the moment."
"... suppose so. See you later, Jeanne. In one way or the other."
And the spirit of Jeanne d'Arc faded away, starting the flow of time once more.
Elite Headquarters, Conference Room
"So what's the scoop on Vincent?" Frank asked holding a hot cup of coffee in his right hand.
"Think Dracula" Amanda quickly answered.
"Vampire, huh? Figures" Frank said, "Jesus. This coffee looks like someone took a pi..."
"Ye don't seem awfully surprised 'bout that, do ye?" Cid interupted.
The morning meeting took place as usual at the Elite HQ. However of course with one minor detail. Bulletholes and dried blood decorated the walls, and everyone was in a some kind of depressed mood.
"Apparantly not" Cid answered.
"Right." Frank said.
Amanda stared anxiously at Frank who quietly tried to drink his coffee. His hands were shaking and his forehead were dripping with sweat. Fever, he had told them. None had believed him.
"How are you feeling, Frank?" she asked.
"Like hell" Frank answered in a surprisingly calm tone, "and you?"
"You should be resting, you know."
"No. What I... What I really should be doing, is getting all the info you have to give me."
"Huh? 'bout Vincent? Thought we'd be done with him."
"We are" Frank said, "what other info I need is why the hell Markus recruited you and your vampire buddy Vincent. Now... I can understand why he wanted Vincent, he's a vampire. But you? What do you have that's so special that Markus entrusted you with an assignment?"
"No, Cedric did... Fuck... didn't YOU recruit me an' Vincent?"
"On Markus orders" Cedric answered quietly.
"And after spilling the cards, we'll move on to the question at hand. What makes you special, Cid? Except your irish blood and your fiery temper?"
"Military training? Special forces? Secret Goverment Fucking Operations? Anything?"
"I served in Vietnam..."
"I know. You told me. As a mechanic, right?"
"As a mechanic... Yes. Nothin' fancy..."
"I see..." Frank said, slightly disappointed, "then why could he possibly think he would have any use of you?"
"Me an' Vince been hangin' together since... ah..."
"The dealing with the Shinra Corporation... messy story, I understand?"
"You have no idea..."
"Correct. But you in turn, are incorrect if you would think Markus would let you tag along just because you were buddy-buddy with Vincent. Markus don't work like that. If you won't have any use, he's likely to chop your head off and use it as a fucking whiskey glass!"
"Well... I didn't say that..."
Frank sighed and emptied his cup of coffee.
"I know" he said and put the cup back down at the table with his shaking hands.
"You nervous 'bout somethin', Frank?" Cid asked.
"No... I just... I just didn't sleep anything... these three days."
"Been thinking of Markus?" Cedric wondered.
"Not really. He's not that big of a problem... more a nuisance, to be honest."
"Then what?" Amanda demanded.
"I just slept badly. And I think I've gotten the flu, or something. Fever, I suppose. Nothing to be bothered about."
"Let's continue" Frank interupted, "I can handle Markus be sure of it. You three on the other hand, or the new soldiers sent here, cannot. So you would do best to let me have it my way until it's too late. Only God know what Markus is doing right this very moment."
The streets of Boston
Markus walked through the newly fallen snow that had covered the asphalt streets. He found it peaceful and beautiful, and looked up on the sky whenever a snowflake landed upon him, thanking the sky for the gift and continued walking, paying no attention to the passing humans that looked at him, wondering what kind of lunatic would thank the sky for something as cold and useless as snow. Actually, they had asked him this, but didn't anymore since they had asked themselves the question of what kind of a lunatic would ask a stranger why he thanked the sky for snow, and risk getting thrown into a window. That would hurt, they imagined and therefore left Markus alone.
"Cattle" Markus muttered as he went into a dead end to rest.
"INDEED" a freezing voice said behind him.
"DEATH IS BUSY CLEANING UP YOUR MESS WITH ASMODEUS , MALCHIUS."
Markus stopped and to look over his shoulder.
"God" Markus said, "right?"
The white light surrounding God stretched towards Markus.
"Still busy with the special effects, eh?"
"Have it your way" Markus answered, lighting a cigarette.
"I HAVE COME FORWARD TO AID YOU, MALCHIUS."
"Aid me?" Markus said, "that sounds bloody curious. What's the catch?"
"THERE'S NO CATCH. YOUR GOALS, ARE MY GOALS."
"Except for eliminating mankind."
"EXCEPT FOR THAT, YES. BUT SHOULD YOU SUCCEED WITH THAT... THEN I WILL CONGRATULATE YOU."
"Glad to hear it" Markus said, blowing out the cigarette smoke, "So what exactly are our common goals? Frank?"
"FRANK, YES. AND THERE'S SOMEONE ELSE AS WELL... SOMEONE WHO MIGHT PROVE TO BE A BIGGER THREAT THAN FRANK. IF THAT WOULD BE POSSIBLE AT ALL."
"I thought he were on your side. What did he do?"
"YOU AND FRANK HAVE LIVED..."
"YES. AND WHILE YOU WERE MY FINEST WEAPON OF DESTRUCTION..."
"Aw... you're going to make me blush, dammit!"
"... FRANK WERE MY NEUTRALIZING FORCE OF PEACE."
"So when did he piss you off then?"
"TWO MONTHS AGO. WIPING OUT THE VELASCOS."
"Ah yeah... some sort of vendetta or something. Heard the Boss Velasco messed up Franks girl real bad. Got him pissed and murderous, so he wipes them all out, eh?"
"So Frank broke his promise of being the eternal force of goody-good by killing bad guys?"
"NO. BY STAINING HIS HANDS WITH THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT HE HAS RAISED MY ANGER!"
"He killed an innocent bystander or something? Aw, there's gotta be casualties in every war, God. You of all peop... fuck... things should know that."
"ARE YOU DEFENDING HIM?"
"Not at all. But I'd rather keep my fight with him as close to a private matter as possible. I don't need your help with killing Frank."
"YOU MIGHT NEED HELP WITH THE OTHER IMMORTAL."
"Hah! You mean that vampire? He's no fucking problem."
"IS HE NOT?"
"He's got potential, I'll give you that. But he's no problem. And with Hellraiser itself in my hand, none can beat me!"
"PRIDE, MALCHIUS. YOU DO NOT WISH TO SUCCUMB TO THE DARK WAYS."
"I thought I already had?"
"... NEVERMIND. I'LL GO NOW... LEAVING YOU TO YOUR PATH AHEAD."
"Yeah. Do that. Be sure to catch the final battle though! It's gonna be a goddamn blast!"
God sighed and disappeared.
"Hah" Markus said as he watched how the time started to flow again, "what a character."
Elite Headquarters, Conference Room
"God knows what that guy is doing. I'm sure of it" Frank said, "and it ain't pretty."
Cid leaned backwards in his chair, almost falling off it.
"We're talking God? As in God, creator of mankind and the universe?"
"No, Cid" said Frank, "we're talking God, as in the god that created the universe and created the monkeys that humanity arose from."
"So I take it you're into Darwin?"
"... 'kay" Frank muttered, feeling strangely insulted.
"So what's the plan of action for dealing with Markus?" Amanda asked.
"I'll take care of him. The rest of you tries to stay alive. How's that for a plan?"
"It's the best I can think of. Rather than sending you all to another country and letting me handle things alone."
"Why don't you?"
"Because that's not a good plan. I want you were I can see you."
"Protect us?" Cedric spoke, "everyone here have done the same combat education as you have, Stryfe."
"Not exactly. You ought to know that."
"Know what?" Amanda asked.
"Too much" Cedric answered.
"Like what?" Cid asked.
"Classified information" Cedric answered and muttered something that he needed to go and finish his report on all the damages.
"What goddamn classified fuckin' information!?"
"... Save it" Amanda said after a quick look at Frank, "My guess is that it would be best not to know."
"We'll end the meeting now. You are free to go as you please as long as you don't leave the facility."
"Right" Cid muttered and got up from his chair, leaving the room, "You comin', Amanda?"
"No, I want to have a talk with Frank."
When Cid had disappeared Amanda began talking.
"I know what you are, Frank."
"Guess I can't help it, can I?"
"Guess not" Amanda said, "fill me in on everything. Exactly everything."
"Right... Well, this will sound odd..."
"Vincent's a vampire and Cid's an old Vietnam veteran. I think I can handle the thought of you being some kind of Highlander-stylish immortal guy."
"So what's the scoop?"
"I am an Highlander-stylish immortal guy."
"Sent by God to battle the forces of evil and..."
"God did not send me down here to fight any forces of evil, Amanda. He sent me and Markus to... well, evaluate mankind. To judge you. See if you were worthy the life God had given you."
"So what's the verdict?"
Frank stared at Amanda.
"Very bad" he answered.
"Honestly: mankind should get another chance to correct the evil they have done, but I'm afraid that's not for me to decide. And with the report I am supposed to be bringing to God, he'll pretty much send Earth down the drain."
"Righ..." Amanda paused, "supposed?"
"I haven't sent the report yet. Figure if I've taken 2000 years on me for evaluating mankind, I can wait two more weeks before I finally get my thumb out of my ass."
"You don't want to give him the report?"
"Not really. I like humans. It's those little bastards, Hitler and whatever, that screwed up for the rest of you. I'm afraid God ain't particularly forgiving when it comes to genocide."
"So just because a minority of mankind screwed up..."
"Yes" Frank interupted.
"Well... that sucks" Amanda said.
"Indeed" Frank answered.
Elite Headquarters Infirmary
Cid Highwind found himself walking into the infirmary and taking a seat next to Jeanne.
"So how's the fuckin' bastard doin'?"
"I... I really don't know. He's in a coma, Cid."
"Right. Well, I just though he might... ye know... show some signs, or somethin'?"
"Well... I think his brain's not damaged. I think he's... aware."
"Aware? You mean... he can hear us?"
"I don't know."
"And sooner or later, their tears will come bursting out... Goddamn lovely, ain't it? She must be the only second woman I have ever gotten to shed tears over a bastard such as me."
"I have a feeling she won't be the last, Vincent" Jeanne d'Arc answered him.
"Ah, welcome back, Jeanne. Always a pleasure having someone to talk to."
"The pleasure might be all yours Vincent. For the time being, I guess."
"You used to be a lot funnier in the past, Jeanne."
"I wasn't joking, Vincent."
"That's what I meant."
"I suppose we can only hope he'll recover" Cid sighed.
"Hopefully in time" Jeanne commented.
"That man... the man that harmed him... He'll come back, will he?"
"Have to say Cid's gotten more grown up now with me gone."
"Do you honestly think that's a good or a bad thing?"
"Honestly? Don't know, but I always have been an optimistic asshole."
The spirit of Jeanne d'Arc stared at Vincent.
"Are you expecting me to protest against that statement, Vincent?"
"You've gotten softer. More grown up, if you will."
"For bad or for good?"
"I don't know."
"Well, I really am an optimistic asshole. There's nothing negative in that, is there?"
"The asshole-part, perhaps?"
"Depends on... well... Let's just drop that discussion."
"He'll be back to hurt us even more, is he?" Jeanne asked.
"I think what's-his-face..."
"You mean that Frank?"
"Aye, he'll try an' stop Markus. He... succeeded, partially of course, the other time. I don't think we'll have anything to worry about."
"I hope so."
"Well, that was truly depressing to hear. Is Markus coming?"
"And this time he's more powerful, more sadistic and even more dangerous than before? Right?"
"... if you say so. It's the goddamn sequel, so it would only be appropriate."
"Well, that sucks."
"Sure does, love" Vincent answered.
Outside the city of Boston
"So a lumberjack walks into a bar and orders a beer" Markus said as he crossed the city signs, "and he drinks it" he continued, "and the bartender asks him: 'what's a lumberjack like you doing in my bar?', and the lumberjack answers: 'why, I just came to have a beer and hack your brains out', and then the lumberjack gets out his really big axe and lands it violently into the bartenders thick skull. 'There's your tip' the lumberjack concludes and walks out from the bar."
Then he began whistling a strange melody that awfully enough seemed to resemblence both Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and Metallica's The Four Horsemen. Perhaps because he couldn't decide which one he tried to whistle? He tried to whistle the strange melody for a moment, but then decided to give up.
"Fuck" he said, "I never was any good at whistling."
"OR TELLING STORIES" Death answered him.
"Thought you'd tag along with me" Markus said smiling and turned around.
"I DO NOT 'TAG ALONG', MALCHIUS. ONLY IN THIS MOMENT I AM BUSY WITH TAKING CARE OF THREE SOULS READY FOR HEAVEN AND HELL. I AM MERELY KEEPING AN EYE ON YOUR PROGRESS."
"Hah. Yeah, yeah... You're freezing time? That'll be a must, I guess. If you'd plan on doing your job."
"I HAVE NOT THE CHOICE OF 'PLANNING TO DO MY JOB', MALCHIUS. I 'DO' MY JOB."
"Hah, and now you're going to do the clean up for me. Feeling nervous?"
Death didn't answer. He just continued walking together with Markus towards the Elite Headquarters.
"It's gonna be a blast, old pal" Markus tried, "you'll be happy to have seen it."
"IT WILL BE AS ANY MASSACRE. I DOUBT YOU WILL MAKE IT ANY SPECIAL EVEN WITH THE HELP OF HELLRAISER."
"It's a nice blade, isn't it?"
"I WOULDN'T KNOW. I STICK TO MY SCYTHE."
"No fun at all, eh..." Markus sighed.
"I AM NOT KNOWN FOR FUN, MALCHIUS. NOR IS IT SOMETHING NEEDED FROM ME."
"Hmm... I don't know. If I was Death, you know... I'd try and, you know, crack some jokes once awhile."
"Yeah. You know: 'Hello, I'm selling these life insurances and..."
"THAT JOKE IS NOT FUNNY, MALCHIUS."
"So you've heard it?"
"VERY LITTLE KNOWLEDGE ESCAPES ME. NOT EVEN KNOWLEDGE, JOKES, THAT THINK THAT THE WHOLE IDEA OF DEATH IS SOMETHING FUNNY, SOMETHING NICE AND SOMETHING CUDDLY TO DISCUSS OVER A DINNER WITH TWO CANDLES AND DEPRESSINGLY ROMANTIC MUSIC. DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE STATISTICS ARE FOR GETTING KILLED IN AN ACCIDENT, INVOLVING TWO CANDLES AND DEPRESSINGLY ROMANTIC MUSIC?"
"Hah... You're just depressed, old pal" Markus answered.
"IT IS A SATISFYING NUMBER..." Death said, ignoring Markus.
"Why not take some vacation? Get a tan, perhaps?"
"I DO NOT..."
"I know, I know. Just trying to lighten up this discussion. What's wrong with you?"
"I AM ONLY THINKING ABOUT THE WORK YOU WILL BRING ME, MALCHIUS."
"Yeah? Is it going to be messy?"
"YOU SAID IT YOURSELF, MALCHIUS" said Death and sighed, "IT'S GOING TO BE A BLAST."
Elite Headquarters Infirmary
Vincent Valentine was bored. He was convinced that this was an effect of the situation, being in a coma, he currently was suffering from. He was tired from hearing friendly voices encouraging him to "wake up" or "wake up, ye fuckin'..." and he was mildly irritated with the fact that he could feel that the weird supersadistic superhuman Markus, or whatever his name is, was getting closer and closer. And lastly he was, of course, bored. He had tried to entertain himself with remembering different Steven Seagal-movies. He had just ended "The Glimmer Man" and had decided that whenever he got out of this mess, he would kill Steven Seagal and the writer behind the movie and burn every piece of poetry Seagals character had read during the movie.
"Let's see... Shall I continue with Jean-Claude van Damme?"
"You could, but it would only boil down to the fact that you would swear to kill him."
"Not really. d'Arc has a bit less of my whiskey-voice and more of that special oh-the-angels-sing-to-me-voice. Fuck it, I don't believe we've met. My name is Frank", said Frank.
"You're that Stryfe that saved me... Well... ah, tried to save me from that Markus. ... Um... What are you doing in my coma?"
"Call it visitors hour", said Frank.
"A visit? What for?"
"You enjoying your coma", Vincent?
"You want out?"
"Take a wild guess."
"I could. But that wouldn't be necessary."
"Oh, you're a bright fellow."
"'course, I could just leave you where you are now and allow the Devil to claim you."
"The Devil? Claim me?"
"Not really, of course."
"Yeah, he'd only say something like 'get in line an' we'll deal with yer punishment once it's yer turn'."
"Glad to hear they're doing those things in a proper pick-a-number-way."
"You shouldn't. Waiting is actually the punishment."
"So anyway... I'm here to get you out. Or at least something like it."
"What exactly is it you're going to get me out from? This isn't a coma, is it?"
"Ah... No. It's the purgatory."
"Ah yeah... The place where souls gather to be judged and then sent to either Heaven or Hell. Anyway, it's not important. What we need is to get you out of there before some bored angel decides to judge you to impress on God."
"You have five different souls at your disposal, haven't you? Cid has filled me in on your strange abilities when the two of you were fighting the Shinra and whatever. As difficult as it might be, you have to give one of those souls up. May I advice you to ditch that chainsaw-wielding maniac? Or that incredible Hulk-character?"
"So... it works like... I give up one of my special tranformations... and gets out of the coma?"
"Uh-huh. But again; it's not a coma. It's purgatory, you see."
"... I suppose I don't need the Death Gigas..."
"So give it up."
"Get transformed and wait for that bored angel to come by. He'll judge the Death Gigas - should've had a fucking camera for that scene, by the way - and you'll go free."
"As easy as that?"
"As easy as that. Now hurry up, for fucks sake."
Frank left the mind of Vincent Valentine who immediately began working on that transformation. Since it was part of abilities that only could be awakened by massive blood loss or mental damage, he tried to press his brain to the limit. While he was trying to scream out the pain he knew that he should have asked Frank to attack him. Vincent swore as his ears began bleeding.
"Frigging Steven Seagal!" he repeated to himself as a mantra, just to feel better.