by Joanna Hart (email@example.com)
Hi Evan! (I forgot to mention that ;) )
** A gleaming office in a high tower block. Fluffy clouds can be seen outside a window and tasteful modern art is framed on the walls. A bookcase contains 17 copies of 'How to win friends and influence people.' Marc, who bears a striking resemblence to Richard Branson, has rolled up the sleeves of his hand-knitted jumper whilst he fiddles with a kettle. An androgynous seraph secretary watches, pen in hand. **
SERAPH: I cannot help feeling that removing the fuse may prove to be a bad idea, sir.
MARC: Lighten up, Patricia. All I ask for out of life is a decent cup of tea in the afternoon, I've done this before and it always worked.
SERAPH: I could order a new kettle.
MARC: There's nothing wrong with this one! Do you think I'm made of money? ** he turns before she answers and waves her to silence ** Don't answer that. What was so urgent that it needed to interrupt my tea break?
SERAPH: There is a visitor waiting outside who wishes to see you.
MARC: Could you be a little more specific?
SERAPH: She says she has come to arrange some insurance.
MARC: That's cool. Tell her to make an appointment and wait in line then. I really would have thought you'd have learned to deal with these minor procedural matters on your own by now.
SERAPH: The receptionist would be very grateful if you could make time to see her /urgently/, sir. She is disturbing some of the other clients.
MARC: ** Flops into a leather-covered swivel chair behind the desk and sets a Newton's Cradle into motion ** I see. Anything else you think you should tell me?
SERAPH: ** fiddles with its pencil ** Um... she's a <whisper whisper>, sir.
MARC: Alright. Show her in, but tell her this had better be good. Make sure you get a decent favour from her for talking me into it.
** The seraph leaves through a polished mahogany door and returns a moment later with another woman. A lilim in a business suit, with a tight skirt. **
LILIM: My lord, I realise this is somewhat irregular but on behalf of my sponsor I am very grateful for your time.
MARC: Lets not talk about my time, cutie. Lets talk about.. insurance? Take a seat.
LILIM: ** bows and perches on a seat, showing lots of green thigh ** As you wish. I've been asked to arrange some insurance for an object which is currently in my liege's possession. It is shortly to be put on public display and he is concerned as to its safety. Money is no object.
MARC: So it's in hell?
LILIM: Currently, yes. But he wishes it insured only for the duration of its time in the corporeal realm.
MARC: Mmm-hmm. I'll need to know what it is, how much you'd like it insured for, where its going and for how long, what kind of security arrangements you have figured out for it, an independent valuation.. ** kettle starts to spout smoke, until he presses a couple of buttons on it ** Dratted thing. Sorry about that.
LILIM: ** passes a file across the table, showing lots of cleavage ** I think you'll find all you need in there, my lord. I'm quite good with my hands, I could have a look at that?
MARC: Sure, have a look, have several. ** flips through the file ** Interesting. The premiums on this may be quite high, you realise? ** takes out a calculator and some blank forms and starts to tap away **
LILIM: Thats quite alright, sir. I've been authorised to sign for as much as it takes.
MARC: Right. So you'd like it insured against what? The usual I imagine. Theft?
LILIM: ** nods -- she fiddles some more with the kettle which bursts into flames ** Err... it isn't quite like the one I'm used to...
MARC: ** presses the intercom ** Patricia, could you bring in a fire extinguisher? ** turns back to Lilim in a businesslike manner ** Technology?
LILIM: * rueful nod * Definitely! And Acts of God.
** Patricia enters and nervously sprays foam at the kettle **
MARC: My dear, you are asking me to take a bet against myself. Shall we call it Fate instead? Or Acts of Lucifer?
LILIM: I think he was thinking more of bolts of lightning and earthquakes, sir.
MARC: Alright. Earthquakes... that we can do. I'll have one of my people draw up the contract for you; do feel free to enjoy my hospitality while you're waiting.
LILIM: ** automatic reaction ** That'll cost you.
MARC: You broke my favourite kettle, adorable. Lets not make an issue of it. ** walks around the desk and strokes her hair ** Think of it as an unofficial pre-interview, you never know when you might want to switch employers.
SERAPH: ** sprays foam 'accidentally' over Marc's desk ** Sorry, sir.Would you like me to contact Yves' office to work out the odds?
MARC: Patricia, you're an angel. Sort it out. And cancel my appointments for the next hour or so.
** he escorts the lilim into a private office **
** Kobal's private office, in Hell. A lilim in a bikini is sprawled on a sheepskin rug, trying to teach a gerbil to do tricks. A poster pinned to the far wall reads 'Neither Washington nor Moscow but International Communism'. A damned soul is trying to build a house of cards out of CDs. The lilim in the business suit prances in, looking dishevelled. **
LIL2: Come on Noel , you can do it... ** glances up ** So. What kept you?
LIL1: A little respect please! What do you have to say to your clever sister who's just set up stage one without a hitch? Not to mention getting to know a certain archangel very closely indeed... ** retrieves a white feather from a pocket and waves it knowingly **
LIL2: Did he pull the exploding cigarette lighter trick on you?
LIL1: I don't know what you might mean. Some of us don't need tricks.
LIL2: Or was it the kettle?
LIL1: ** crestfallen **
LIL2: Theres one born every minute. I s'pose I could have warned you about that.
LIL1: ** sniff ** He was... kinda sweet though. You know? Gentlemanly.
LIL2: Uh-huh. You mean he asked your name afterwards. Oh come /on/ Noel! If you don't figure this out soon I swear I'll teach you to play dead with a sledgehammer.
LIL1: ** pouts and tosses her jacket onto the sofa. ** I don't know why you still bother with those stupid gerbils. Liam is even worse!
** Kobal enters the room silently behind Lilim1 and lounges in the doorframe, watching **
LIL1: ... Maybe we should expand a bit and get a canary, or pigeons, parakeets, mynah birds...
LIL2: Someone's on the fast track to nowhere.
LIL1: ** dreamily ** Something with feathers...
KOBAL: I do hope I'm not interrupting anything, girls.
** The lilim bound to their feet, both surprised **
LIL2: Not at all, Boss. We were getting worried about you.
LIL1: ** blushing green **
LIL2: I /said/ 'we were getting worried about you'
LIL1: ** takes the hint and nods enthusiastically ** And ... um... training the gerbils, Boss.
KOBAL: I'm sure you were. I'm touched by the show of affection. ** he casually knocks over the house of CDs, and plucks the feather from the floor ** Dare I ask what this is? Some new rodent-toy perhaps, or an exploding cigarette lighter...
LIL1: ** blushes greener **
KOBAL: ... or perhaps a pen with invisible ink? Oh no, its a feather. Do gerbils have feathers?
LIL2: ** nervous twitch ** Not that I've seen, Boss. Unless you stick them on.
LIL1: We were trying to teach them to fly!
** everyone stares at her **
LIL1: Fly, Noel! Be free!
KOBAL: Nice try, Dizzy. ** sighs and sits on the table ** Is it me?
LIL2: No Boss, of course not! She can't help being a method actress. Its just some minor prank we were setting up, you'll love it, and Dozey got a bit too into it.
LIL1: ** contrite nod -- Kobal walks across and strokes her hair **
KOBAL: That's what worries me. I suppose I could ask Andre to take you in hand a bit. ** sighs **
LIL1: Um. Thats really not necessary, boss. Its just that you're always busy and a girl gets kinda.. .
KOBAL: ** gently ** Au contraire. I think maybe it is. Kizz, looks like you might have to work this prank alone.
LIL2: ** opens mouth to protest **
KOBAL: Unless you'd like to ride shotgun with her, as it were.
LIL2: ** closes mouth tightly **
KOBAL: No? ** strokes Lil1's hair, then winds it around his hand with a yank ** Looks as though the joke's on you this time then. I hope it was worth it.
** Kobal releases the lilim who falls to her knees, and lights the end of the feather with a cigarette lighter .. it burns to ash and the scene fades to black **
** A seedy cafe in South London. A tubby man in a stained raincoat is sitting at a table with Lilim2, who isn't at all green **
LIL2: So what do you think, Sam?
SAM: Yeah, it could be done. Won't be easy though.
LIL2: ** purrs ** Oh nothing worth doing is easy. Apart from me of course.
SAM: You're sure it's going to be there in the vaults on the Sunday? Don't much fancy my chances once it's on display.
LIL2: Don't worry darling, I absolutely guarantee it will be there. All you boys need to do is slip into the museum and replace it with a fake. I'm getting one of the guards to help.
SAM: I guess we have a deal then. ** raises a plastic cup to her ** Here's to us!
LIL2: To the spirit of free enterprise!
 Liam & Noel are the first names of the Gallagher brothers of 'Oasis' fame. Why the names might have been thought suitable for a pair of stupid, badly-behaved rodents is anyone's guess. [back]
** The Court of Lust. A large sparse room with a platform at one end; all the fittings and fixtures are filigree ironmongery. The lights are low and a Sisters of Mercy track with a thumping bassline is on continuous loop. The ceiling is hung with drapery and a large banner reads 'Make love not war'. Andrealphas is dressed as an anglican vicar  and sprawls on a wooden throne on the platform, inspecting his nails. Zsa-Zsa Gabor, a motherly habbalite advisor, is at his right hand and good looking male-type courtier demons are fawning. Exotic dancers and a sword swallower perform, unnoticed. **
ANDRE: I suppose that was interesting in an unimaginative Sunday-evening airline steward kind of way. Who's next, auntie?
HABB: ** hungarian accent ** Vell dahlink, your next supplicant tonight eez Audrey Miles who vishes to reqvest some crutches for her aged mother.
ANDRE: ** emoting insincerity ** How touching.
** A couple of macho-djinn-in-leather (tm) toss a damned soul down onto her knees on the floor in front of the dais. She is wearing too much make-up and a very obvious platinum-blonde wig. **
ANDRE: Oh, it's you again. What a charming surprise, and how unexpected. What's your name this time?
AUDREY: ** looks up, swooning **
HABB: I sink she must haff slipped in after I checked ze list.
ANDRE: Well something certainly slipped in, I'm sure. You were 'Do-me Debbie' last week. Has someone done you yet?
AUDREY: Audrey Miles, master. I wanted to ask for...
ANDRE: Crutches, yes. Your mother died 17 years ago and believe me, she already has a very adequate pair. You're getting awfully good at this kneeling thing, but I suppose you must get a lot of practice. ** courtiers titter politely **
AUDREY: ** whimper** I just needed to see you again.
ANDRE: Boring, take her away.
** 'Audrey' is dragged off reluctantly. Another Djinn nudges Lilim1 forwards. **
HABB: Zis next von is Dizzy, who haz been sent here by Kobal to learn some better manners.
ANDRE: Now you do look vaguely familiar. I see you've been sent here from Dark Humour. Say something funny then.
LIL1: ** silence -- courtiers titter more **
ANDRE: ** mock sympathy ** Oh dear, you are a sad case. How fortunate for you that I feel one of my little giving and caring turns coming on. [aside: Yes, really I do.] ** he walks down to Lilim1, tilting her face up towards him. His voice is soft like smoke. ** Have you forgotten what you are, little Dizzy? Why don't you tell me what you really want...?
** Lights dim around everyone except Lilim1 who glows with a soft pink light, and the music quietens enough for a piping flute to be heard. She swallows hard and begins to shiver after a moment. Then slowly she runs her hands across her own body and her face relaxes, mouth falling part-open, she begins to move and gyrate to the still-audible beat... as the lights come up and the music returns she reaches out a hand towards Andrealphas, desperation in her eyes **
ANDRE: No, don't touch me, I don't know where you've been. I think that's settled, but that's no excuse for bad manners. What do you say?
LIL1: Thank you, master.
ANDRE: Someone chain her to a railing or something, I don't want her following me around. ** he beckons to the sword swallower ** You.
SS: ** removes the sword which turns out to be 3' long, and bows low **
ANDRE: Oooh, very impressive. You're hired. Come and chase me later.
** The Djinn handcuff Lilim1 to one of the railings and the scene fades **
** A room in pitch blackness. There is a scuffle and thud, and muffled swearing in 2 male voices **
VOICE1: Blimey guv, 'ow the 'ell did that get there?
VOICE2: Never mind that. How the hell did /you/ get there? You were supposed to be distracting the nightwatch while I did the switch.
VOICE1: You wot?
VOICE2: Don't tell me you even managed to screw up a simple thing like that? ** another thud ** Oww.
VOICE1: Nah, nah, that was sorted guv. Not a problem. But you never gave me the signal, then 'e went on a walkabout so I fort I'd nip on down and do the switch meself so's to save you time!
** A torch [American translation: flashlight] flicks on, to show a store-room in the British Museum vaults. Shelves are stacked with books, objets d'art, vases, rocks and beer cans. A mummy case and bits of statue are piled in a heap. Two men are wearing balaclavas, and behind them is a goods lift. The man holding the torch takes off his mask. It is Sam **
SAM: You did what? When? You'd bloody better not have switched them after I got down there, Meths.
VOICE1: You wot?
SAM: No-one told me we had two fakes!
VOICE1: Some tart gave it to me. So when I figgered you got 'eld up...
SAM: Oh give me that! ** grabs a small pewter jug from the other man and plays the torchlight over it, comparing it with an identical one he is carrying ** They all look the same.
VOICE1: Did I do sommit wrong?
SAM: I bloody hope not. Come on, we don't have time to go back, the one I've got is the business, and this is the fake. Next time you drive the getaway car.
** Sam tosses the second jug into the mummy case and flicks the torch off again. There is another thud and then a loud bang, followed by the sound of something shattering **
VOICE3: An uninvited visitor? How nice of you to join us.
** More footsteps and the full lights come on. Sam is surrounded by grinning calabim. **
SAM: Now let's not be hasty. Those horns, they're plastic right?
SAM: Hah, you almost had me there. I'm sure we can sort out this little misunderstanding. We're all reasonable people, right?
CAL1: My boss is the Prince of Theft. He don't like it when people try to half-inch his property, does he Spiggs?
CAL2: No, he don't.
SAM: This is for some TV show, isn't it? You've got those cameras well hidden. We're just going to walk out of here and go to the studio, right?
** Sam is manhandled into the goods lift by the demons. The doors close behind them with a *ping* and an electronic female voice says 'Going DOWN' **
** The court of lust again. This time the lights are brighter and the music has been turned off -- its obviously not in use at the moment. A djinn is sweeping the floor and a few other demons are drinking coffee and swapping make-up tips. Lilim1 is still chained to a railing. **
LIL1: Why don't any of you understand? It doesn't have to be like this! You don't all have to be slaves, always fighting for his attention!
HABB: Such silliness! Vot else should ve be? Zis is ze vay of things.
LIL1: Yeah, the workers get oppressed by the capitalist scum! You could go on strike.
HABB: Zis is vot you'd do at home zen, dahlink? ** smirks -- a few other demons look round and grin **
LIL1: Sure. The boss loves it. He's really into trade unions.
HABB: And ve are not. Zis is demons of lust you are talking about, if we went on strike zen who would see to that, huh?
LIL1: Don't you get it? All you guys do is go around fulfilling other people's lusts.
** the demons nod and shrug, they are starting to gather around her **
LIL1: ** getting into her stride ** But if you fulfil someone's lust then it isn't lust any more! You can still go on strike for better working conditions and not betray your job!
HABB: Clever. Clever. She may haff a point here. Go on, dahlink.
LIL1: Throw off the chains and handcuffs of oppression! And the little leather thongs which give you friction burns when its raining!
HABB: I like zis idea of ze class war! Shall ve maybe try a leetle strike?
** demons stand up and cheer loudly. One of them pulls down the banner and scribbles on it until it reads 'make war not love' and they march round the room, hoisting it high **
HABB: ** takes out a small shrill whistle and blows it ** Alright, brothers and sisters. Everybody out! Ve vithdraw our labour as of now! A fair night's work for a fair night's pay!
** The demons march out chanting the Internationale, all except for Lilim1 who is still chained to the railing **
** Cellars of the British Museum. A small pen-torch plays around the room and a shadowy hand reaches into the mummy case and takes something out. Then the scene fades to black **
 If anglican vicars could afford decent tailors. [back]
** A spotlight illuminates Lilim2, muffled in a trenchcoat, who is in a phonebox. She dials a number and waits with increasing anxiety for someone to answer. Every so often she looks outside nervously, as if worried that she is about to be caught **
PHONE: [click] ** ringing stops **
LILIM2: Thank Lucifer! Hello! Hello?
PHONE: - The number you are calling has been disconnected. Concentrate, and try again later [click] -
LILIM2: Hello?! Please? ** her face falls, then she dials again **
** fade to black -- panning out we see a brass plate attached to the side of the phone box which reads 'HMS Marie Celeste'**
** A Victorian style drawing room, complete with chintz wallpaper and overblown antique furnishings. Tasteless china cherubs lurk on a mantelpiece and an enormous mirror is hanging over a fireplace. A writing desk is open and covered with papers. Valefor, wearing an impeccable victorian evening suit with a wing collar, is standing by a window watching some fireworks. Sam, who has acquired 2 black eyes, sits on an overstuffed sofa with a sharp-suited calabite on each side **
SAM: Look, I can explain all this. This is all a misunderstanding, we were just there to do some last minute cleaning. It wasn't my idea, I was put up to it...
VAL: ** interrupting sharply ** No, no, no. Not like that.
VAL: My dear fellow, you should always begin by denying everything. 'I don't know what you are talking about', 'I wasn't there', 'That's not my car', 'Those aren't my fingerprints' ... I'm sure you can imagine the sort of thing. Now you have a go.
SAM: ** after a brief pause ** It wasn't me. I wasn't there. I never heard of the place. I never been there in my life. I never saw no jug. I was on holiday in Skegness at the time. I was at my grandmother's funeral.
VAL: ** interrupting smoothly again ** Interesting holiday arrangement. Do go on.
SAM: Uhh.. Its not my signature. Those aren't my fingerprints. Thats not my blood and I never got beaten up in the lift. Would I lie to you?
VAL: There. Much more professional if I might say so. Now who did you say put you up to this?
SAM: It was this bird. ** he realises he has given the game away ** Damn.
** Lilim2 is still in the phone box **
PHONE: ** rings ** [click] Good evening, you have reached The Game's call-in hotline. Please press 1 to leave the name and number of someone you dislike so that we can persecute them after the beep, or 2 to enter this week's prize draw.
LIL2: ** mutters ** Oh come on, answer it!
LIL2: Come on, boss. Answer the phone you bas...
PHONE: [click] ** silence **
KOBAL (from the phone): Kizzy? How sweet of you to call. I had another thought about that little prank of yours, but what can I do for you?
LIL2: About this prank thing. Its gone a bit pear-shaped and I was wondering if... ** suspicious pause ** Err.. when you say you had another thought about it..?
KOBAL: Mmm. I was curious so I checked it out. Not a bad idea, but I thought it might benefit from a few minor touches here and there. You can thank me later.
LIL2: ** wincing ** Right... thanks, boss. I was wondering if I might thank you in person, kind of soonish? I'm sort of hiding out here at Valefor's and a bit of moral support would be apprecia...
** she trails off as a couple of demonic hoods grab her and pull her out of the phonebox. The phone dangles on the end of its lead **
KOBAL: I suppose I could. I'll see how I feel later. Ciao, Kizz.
** Valefor's drawing room. He is weighing one of the pewter jugs in his hand, and another one is standing on the writing desk. Sam and the calabim are still sitting on the sofa. **
VAL: ** smoothing the side of the jug ** All this effort, old fruit, and you don't even know what it was for, do you? Being caught is a terminal offence here, of course, but failing to appreciate what you were trying to purloin is almost worse. It's like being run out for a duck.  This little fake is a model of the ...
** a particularly loud firework drowns out the rest of the sentence **
VAL: ** Evidently irritated, and the jug he is holding fractures into a zillion pieces ** Spiggs, find out who is letting off those flares and tell them to stop, on my authority. I have no objections to high-spirits or civilised celebrations but this is ridiculous.
** One of the calabim nods and leaves the room, being passed in the doorway by an identical calabite who has Lilim2 in an armlock **
CAL: ** salutes ** Your Grace. You asked me to bring her in as soon as I found her.
VAL: Ahh, yes. Nice of you to join us, my dear. I was just instructing your hopeless little accomplice here on a few minor techniques which he unfortunately won't be able to put into practice. Do take a seat.
** The calabite throws Lilim2, who is looking very bruised, onto the sofa next to Sam who is a shivering wreck **
VAL: ** picks the other jug up from the table and inspects it briefly ** Now this is the genuine... ** his brows curve into a 'v' ** Very amusing, I'm sure. What have you done with the grail?
LIL2: That's got to be it. Unless .. ** her gaze drifts to the fragments of jug on the floor **
VAL: My dear girl, I wonder if you entirely realise how much trouble you are in. I suggest strongly that you don't aggravate it by implying that I don't know my own property. We are in the presence of two unconvincing fakes... as well as the pair of /you/. So where is it?
LIL2: I swear to Lucifer, I don't know!
VAL: ** sighs ** Oh very well. Remember that I offered you the easy route. We only begin with material goods here, you know.
LIL2: ** blank look **
VAL: We begin by taking all of your worldly possessions, bank accounts, savings, then move onto friends, job, peace of mind, health, self-confidence and future, and finally wind up the job by stealing your sense of purpose, sanity, dreams and identity. And your name of course. Are you sure you wouldn't like to reconsider?
** There is a brief knock on the door and another identical flunky enters **
VAL: ** raises eyebrows with a hard-done-by expression **
FLUNKY: Prince of Dark Humour has come to pay his respects, sir.
VAL: How sociable. Do show him in.
LIL2: ** closes her eyes in relief **
KOBAL: ** shown in by the flunky. He nods politely to his fellow prince. He is holding (tightly) onto a large bag ** Good of you to see me. Hello, Kizzy, you're looking well.
VAL: The pleasure's all mine. She's one of yours, old fellow? I'd appreciate it if you could train them a little better, you know. Can I offer you some tea?
KOBAL: No thanks, I'm trying to kick the habit. I'll try not to steal too much of your precious time, Val. I'd like to propose a business transaction.
** he reaches into the bag and draws out another identical pewter jug **
VAL: ** formal ** I see. I believe you are holding my property.
KOBAL: I thought property was theft?
VAL: Only when its someone else's property. I presume you have come to return it.
KOBAL: Actually I had planned to sell it, but I thought it was only fair to offer you first refusal. I seem to have taken out some rather excessive insurance policies lately, so if you could see your way to making me an offer that covers the premiums we could have a deal.
VAL: Oh, I suppose... ** stops. Thunderstruck expression as he gets it ** This is outrageous. I am actually paying a fair price for something that is in fact my own property.
KOBAL: I knew you'd see the funny side. I'll take it in hard cash if you don't mind.
LIL2: ** starts to giggle **
** Another knock at the door, another flunky enters **
FLUNKY: Your grace, I have a messenger at the door who has an urgent delivery for the Prince of Dark Humour. He says that he was told to find him here.
VAL: ** waves the flunky to bring the delivery in. He is still speechless **
** The flunky comes in with Lilim1 who rushes over to Kobal and buries her face in his shoulder **
FLUNKY: The message that came with her is .. ** he uncrumples a note ** 'Andrealphas is sending her back as he thinks she is a bad influence.
KOBAL: Good girl. I knew I could rely on you!
** Another flunky enters and maneovers through the growing crowd of servants, addressing Valefor **
FLUNKY: Your Grace, the flares aren't fireworks. The prince of lust has called in the army to deal with his industrial relations.
KOBAL: ** Delighted -- he is having a good day ** Not to rush out on you, Val, but I'd rather like to see that.
VAL: ** Also brightens -- someone is evidently having a worse day than he is ** Allow me to offer a conveyance, I do believe I'd be curious to take an observation role myself.
** The princes leave together, and the scene fades to black **
** Total blackness **
PHONE: ** rings ** [click] Herro, Lin Fu Lung's Chinese Laundry. Your dirty linen is our business.
** pause -- distant muffled speech **
KOBAl (answering the phone): Good evening Marc, what can I do you for? Really? That's interesting. Mine, you say? Well, I'm not their keeper in the strictest sense of the word. Ah... I see. Can you give me a little more to go on? That doesn't help a great deal, they're all green. OK, I'll see what I can do but in future this sort of thing would be a lot easier if you just remembered to ask her name.
 The cricketing equivalent of 'adding insult to injury'. Valefor is one of hell's top slow bowlers. [back]
Back to the INC Mainpage.
Back to the Fiction page.
Elizabeth McCoy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Archangel of Archives