by GR "Maya" Cogman

(credits to Beth McCoy, who created the character of Javan, and co-wrote this with me)

Once upon a time, there was a little Balseraph of Technology called Javan, who became Redeemed and a Seraph of Lightning.

Then the Game caught him.

These days, Asmodeus has a tiny, half-insane and barely intelligent Seraph of Lightning in a birdcage in his study, as a convenient audiovisual recorder and example.

Of course, there are people who would like to get him out...


Two Mercurians of Janus inch their way down the chimney. Cue the Mission Impossible theme tune. In the office, Asmodeus rises, heading to the door to check on his secretary...

*puff*puff* They fall to the ground -- one taking the door while the other swaddles the cage in a wrap...

A faint whistle from inside Birdy's cage, hastily hushed. Outside, Asmodeus flicks through files, muttering the occasional phrase which his secretary desperately notes down.

One takes it down, and heads for the chimney while the other rifles through Azzie's desk... The theme music continues...

And there it is.. the file in black, marked only with the letters D.M. The one at the desk tucks it under his arm, following the other to the chimney. Outside, Asmodeus has turned from his secretary, and his nostrils flare as he glances at the desperately terrified demons in the waiting room beyond...

"I smell.... incense."

Soot begins to drift down the chimney as feet disappear up it, staining the pristinely clean fireplace. The empty stand in the corner is silent, forlorn.

"Frankinsense, Myrrh. Herbs from Novalis' garden... Guards, who is supposed to be watching the perimeter?"

The Shedite guard supervisor materialises, and terrified mouths begin stumbling out names. "Luciel, Adamoni, Vereth, Stamon, most Dread Prince, on the closest boundary..."

"So why can I smell incense, and various *Heavenly* odors?"

If the Shedite had cheeks, they pale and vanish. Tendrils reach into some other space, fragments of Song flickering round them as he rapidly streams questions towards the guards. Another fleck of soot drifts into the fireplace, and Birdy is notably silent - and absent.

"They can't have gotten terribly far with the Seraph singing... Unless the guards are incompetent, of course."

Halfway up the chimney, the thieves smirk at each other, and one drops more Toffee Birdseed into the little cage. Birdy grunts faintly, mouth stuck together.

And the Shedite, knowing well that incompetant guards will reflect upon their overseer, blanches even paler...

Slowly, Asmodeus crooks a finger, and the Shedite begins to separate, forced apart into agonised shreds and rags. Without looking over his shoulder, he calls to the secretary, "Guard report. Now."

"Calling them in, sir," murmurs the amused Habbalite, having feasted on the Shedite's emotional state as it dies.

Various demonic forms materialise in Asmodeus' office, tumbling to their knees as they stammer out proof that nobody could possibly have escaped via _their_ section.

"Then where *are* the intruders?" Asmodeus purrs to them, searching faces...

From the secretary's direction comes a snap and flash, as some link blows up in her face, throwing her across the room. Ozone and dust simmer in the air. (Clearly a Lightning-Servitor covering the rooftop getaway?)

Various guards vanish quickly, heading for outside the building. Others hem and haw, sacrificing effeciency for obedience, while a few simply cower and wait for orders.

They are not long in coming. "Catch them. Now."

On the roof, the two Mercurians are squeezing the cage out of the chimney, with many curses and mutters, as an Elohite of Jean scans the horizon, near the smoking forms of several guards. She snaps, over her shoulder, "Utilise more pressure to the north, it will be more effective."

The Mercurians grumble and shove carefully... Birdy blinks its eyes in rotation, trying to get its beak unstuck.

"By the way, what's your plan from here?"

"Plan? I thought you had a plan.. no, not really. We're making for Shal-Mari. Got the spiked outfits and so on?"

The Elohite nods with a shading of disdain. "Painted on the tattoos earlier."

"Good. Now, let's get the wing-covers on here and head on out. I think they've got the alarm sounded..."

The Elohite winces. "Oh, they have. Trust me. Come on, come on.. and what the hell are we going to hide that thing with?" She gestures at the birdcage.

"Um, well, we were thinking we could put it in a sack. We can't leave it behind. He's stuck in it." As they stuff the birdcage into a sack and tuck it under a leather-covered wing.

She shrugs. "It wriggles, we give people a meaningful look. We'll fit right in." A glance backwards. "Three, two, one..."


The roofs of Hades spin by, dizzyingly, as the leathery wings catch at the air: each Impudite holds a shoulder of the dangling Elohite, who balances the sack, and together they dive for the Shal-Mari intersection.

And on the roof, a pterodactylish Djinn guard scrambles up the other wall and scans the sky, looking for anything odd. Unfortunately, the trio have gone below the rooftops by now...

At the border-point, the guards have been stepped up. Three large Calabim and a Balseraph are scrutinising the IDs of all passers. As they touch the ground round the corner, the Elohite murmurs, "Optimal prediction did not include the Balseraph."

"He can't tell Truth, at least... Wind him in a paradox if necessary. We can cope..." There's a muffled peeping from the bag...

The Elohite adds a swing to her hips as she stalks ahead, muttering over her shoulder, "I hope that you can." From inside the bag comes a whistle of, "Master? Master? Kind Master give Birdy some more food?"

"Shaddup," mutters one of the Mercurians, "or you'll get hurt. You can have some more food later."

The Elohite leans on the barrier, staring deeply into the Balseraph's top pair of eyes, and inhales deeply, heaving a very secular bodice. "Personal... request. By someone we don't want to offend. Or mention, really."

The Bal's eyes seem to be taking advantage of being able to look in three places at once -- like at her, and down that cleavage. "Request? Request... What sort of request?"

"To pay a visit. With certain clearly defined .. props." She gestures at the two unhappy-looking "Impudites". "He tends to be very precise when he is lusting after.. oh dear, I mean _wanting_ something." She bats her eyelashes slightly, and breathes deeply again.

"Hrrrrmmmmm...." The Bal looks over the two "Impudites" and their bag. "What's in the sack?" it askes, turning its gaze back to the patterned bosom which is *obviously* more interesting than a couple of tawdry Impudites.

She pauses. "Well, it's _alive_, but I'm not sure what to call it. It, ah, wriggles a lot."

"Like you? Is it as cute as you?" The Bal leers.

The Djinn waiting around are clearly bored to yawning, and amuse themselves by hustling round some of the others in the queue to get through the barricade. With a bounce, the Elohite murmurs, "Impossible," as she bends to pluck her pass from her boot, giving the Balseraph a good view of her hips in the process.

The Bal scrutinizes the pass with at least two eyes, though the others may be roving a bit.... "Well, your companion's passes seem all right, but I might need to give yours a bit more going over..."

The Elohite waves the pass like a ticket. "There is this _time_ factor.. though if you'd give me a name to find you afterwards, I'm always pleased to cooperate with .. authority." Her lips curve.

"Well, if you *promise*...." The Balseraph's tail curls around her ankle.

The Elohite strokes the tail, attracting yet more muttered comments and oaths from the _long_ queue that is developing. "As soon as my .. Master .. lets me back into Hades, I'll be right by. The name to ask for?"

(yeah, yeah, "Jean, please can I go back to Hades?" "_NO_." "Oh, good, just had to ask.")

"Just ask for Slick Eddie, of the Game -- drop by the Machiavelli apartments, they'll know where you can wait... And don't take too long, or I'll have to go looking for you." The Bal scribbles a note about her (alleged) name and Principality, from the passport.

She dimples (and makes a note that it is going to have to be a very _long_ shower) "I wouldn't want that. Till later." Gesturing sharply for the sniggering Impudites to follow, she stalks into the crowds of Shal-Mari.

"Sunglasses, sunglasses! Getcher sunglasses here!"

"<wordless warbling>"


("So you let them pass.. Vasis, get me some eye-witness reports on the angelic bribes that they offered this scumheap who allowed them to escape with Prince Asmodeus' pet...")

"A Habbie in a short skirt..."

"Yeah, yeah, so show me a Habbie that doesn't go for the provocation. All right, you two drag this traitor back and start on the skinning, you four get ahead and alert all the Shal-Mari borderposts, put a watch on the Guildhall of Free Lilim, alert the Princes..."

"Yes, SIR!"


The Elohite mutters, "Give it some more seed. Okay, do we try the Lust-route, or the Guildhall route?"

"Lust won't want to charge the same things," suggests one Mercurian.

"But they're more likely to turn us in if they catch us than the Daughters are," says the other.

The Elohite squints thoughtfully at the birdcage, from the shelter of the "Impudite"-wings where the three are forming one of those tangles characteristic of the Principality in a corner. "Stop squeezing me there, Ahaziah. Do you suppose we can try and get anything from the Guildhall on the grounds that we're setting it free?"

"Could work, but we'd better move quickly. Pick one of the ones more willing to make an unofficial bargain. Jean be willing to be a little sympathetic to someone who helped us?"

She frowns. "A little, yes. A lot, no. Us geasing to something that could go all the way back to a Prince, _no_. I've got a couple of gadgets I could bargain with, though. You two "picked up" anything?"

One tugs out a roll of papers, filched from Asmodeus' desk...

The Elohim leans over to look at it. "Dark Malakim File. Anyone know anything about that?"

"Not me." "Nope." From the bag: "Darkness, darkness, dark in their hearts. Find me one, Master says, find me one to play with, make him sink, make him bleed, we shall play most intricate games, they cannot Fall but can they be pushed?"

There is a pause, as the Elohite and Mercurians look at each other. Finally, she says, "That we _don't_ trade." She casts a casual glance over one shoulder. "If our target is bound in that cage, it has to be some sort of artifact. If we can get him out, could we trade the cage? It has to be of some use."

"I don't know if we can get him out... But otherwise, sure."

The one who had the papers fishes around in his other sleeve. "Ah, there's the other one. Ooo, look -- a list of Renegades of... Hm. Lust, Dark Humor, Gluttony... Think they'd like this?"

"I do like your sleeves," the Elohite comments abstractedly as she leans over to consider it. "That might trade rather well. Before we actually go in there, it's straight passage to a Tether topside, all right, everyone? And bear in mind they'll probably expect us to try there, so any ideas how we sneak in?"

"Straight passage topside, gotcha. Sneaking in... We could find a Lilim and get her to bring us into the Guildhall. I bet they don't like the Game there."

Birdy sings, "The passages, they closed them up, sealed them up with Game inside, the spies never returned, no, no, never returned. Failure, my servant? Forgive me, most dread, a momentary setback, they love their freedom, they do not like us."

The Elohite's eyes show half a flick of optimism. "We might do best to split up to find the Lilim. If they've found our track to the gate-guard, they'll be looking for three of us together. Two stay here and one search, or one stay here and two search?"

"Two-one," the Mercurian with the sleeves says. "But we shouldn't stay here. We should circulate a little. Perhaps in the alley back of the brothel two streets down from the Guildhall?"

"All right. As long as those maps are accurate. One of you looking, or me? And how much more of the birdseed do we have?"

"You do the looking -- you can speak angelic without it seeming too funny. And we can probably keep him quiet a few more hours." One slips some more seed into the sack, and there are happy (but muffled) little trills.

The Elohite looks a touch unhappy, then nods. She disengages herself from the tangle with a ruffle of wings, taking care to swing her hips with the air of a habituee of the place as she heads into the crowd, watching for green skin.

The two "Impudites" fade together into the crowds, moving towards their goal, and filching the occasional tidbit off of the passers-by.

She wanders into the crowd, flashing a bland and threatening smile from time to time at some of the stranger offers, till she spies a Lilim hustling leather goods on a corner. Strolling across, she raises her hands to show they're empty, eyes slitted. "Hey."

"Wanna buy something? I betcha need one of these, right? Got a good price on 'em, too. See anything you like?" The Tempter bats her eyes fetchingly.

The Elohite leans over, as though examining the goods. She murmurs, "Actually, I need to make a deal with someone inside your Guildhall, but it's a bit awkward to be seen getting in. I don't suppose we could come to some arrangement?" She takes pains to be watching the leather, and not the Lilim's eyes.

"Sure, something can be arranged. Wanna buy some sunglasses while you're here? Who do you wanna talk to?"

"Sunglasses, sure. And I need to talk with someone who's got some authority, enough to be interested in things like people's names, if you know what I mean."

"Secretary, or would anybody do? And whatcha gonna trade for the sunglasses? Three Essence if you don't have anything else."

The Elohite reaches into her minimal bodice. "Secretary would do, but it has to be deniable. Malakite photos?" (Yes, someone with sense managed to arrange some "trade goods" in case of emergency.)

"Deal for the sunglasses!" The Lilim hands over a nice pair and snatches the photograph. "Oooo! It's signed! Right, deniable. No problem. Do you have to be unseen, or will going up the back stair be okay? I can get you into the place that way. Especially if you've got more photos, and can help me carry my stuff back to my room."

The Elohite considers, faking curiosity in another piece of leatherwear. "Got two others with me. We can all help you carry, act doing-a-favour if necessary. Unseen might be safer, for everyone's sake."

"That'll work. The gate-guard for the Hall will see us, though. More than one of you? They need sunglasses too?"

"Two others, and yes. And yes, I do have another photo or two. Who's on gate-guard at the moment?"

"Big sister Taha, I think. Mom's annoyed with her a little."

The Elohite shrugs. "I just don't want to risk anyone else getting involved in this. You know how it is when you're playing politics - the more people involved, the more shaky things get."

"Nobody around but us Free. Here, help me get this stuff packed up, and we can head out, 'kay?"

"Okay." She bends to help.


(Passing thoughts on what's happening offstage: (a) Did Asmodeus ever bother attuning to the cage or Birdy, given that he had them so close and presumably unstealable? If he did, our heroes are in trouble. (b) Is Asmodeus going to let it be known precisely what got snatched (his pet video recorder) or just that it's "a traitor Seraph in a birdcage" or just "it's small and in a cage"? (c) Or is he just hunting "some angelic spies" and not letting the other Princes know _anything_?) :)

(C), probably. After all, he might want to bash the cage around, or Birdy, and it's such a nuisance detuning to things...

True, very true. Need to teach Birdy to scream for help when being stolen, in the future. Look, this is how you scream.. ah, getting the idea.

He looks *forward* to it...

Of course, his own people will be spreading out now...


(And a Balseraph mutters into a little microphone, "Got a couple of Thief Impudites here with a sack -- they aren't talking, though. Can you do a check of the passports?")

(hm, is this an official Balseraph who has them in custody, or a spy who's watching them through the brothel window? I'm assuming a spy reporting to Asmodeus' heretic-takers.)

(Spy, definitely! Trenchcoat and everything...)

The report comes crackling back through an earpiece. "Five parties including Thief Impudites through from Hades into Shal-Mari in the last hour and a half. Three of them listed as having sacks. Of those, one was an Impudite with a Balseraph, one was five Impudites together, one was two Impudites with a Habbalite who did the talking."

"No Habbalite in view. Two Thief Impudites? How many are we on the lookout for?" <pause>

"And the bag is twitching."

("twweep tweep more food? more food? tweep")

("Shhhhhh!" <hands in some more food>)

There is a pause, then another crackle of static. "We're assuming two or three, as one couldn't have done it alone, and four would be too many for secrecy or speed. How are they "not talking"?"

"Not saying a word. Smirk and nod, a few hand-gestures... Thieves do that, though. Want me to approach and question?"

"If you can do it without alerting them. If they are the people our Prince wants, then they're to be brought in as unobtrusively as possible, and we also need to pick up any contacts of theirs."

"I'll ask for their passes."

And the Balseraph slithers up to do so. In Helltongue.

The "Impudites" exchange a glance, then the quicker-thinking one with the sleeves reaches up and pulls the other down into a kiss across the side-table where they're slouching, a wing carefully covering Birdy's sack, both ignoring the muttering Balseraph. This is not in any way out of the ordinary in Shal-Mari, and collects no more than casual glances and the odd catcalled comment as to technique...

In Helltongue, repeated slowly and loudly, "PASSES. PLEASE."

The wriggling four-winged lump continues to suggest ardent passion. At that moment, the Elohite and Lilim walk in the door, the Elohite bowed down with a certain amount of luggage. Her eyes go flat, and she lets most of it rattle to the floor (lost in the general ruckus) as she heads towards the elsewhere-attending Balseraph, hefting the remaining crate in her arms for a nice heavy swing...

The Bal pokes his targets in the ribs -- or somewhere -- with the end of his tail. "What's the matter?" he coos in standard celestial.

"Can't understand when you're supposed to show your passes?"

(Overconfidence is a nasty thing for a Bal...)

There is a squawk from the interior of the leather-winged bundle (must have been somewhere sensitive) as the crate smashes into the back of the Balseraph's slouch hat. A few of the onlookers exchange bets.

The Balseraph wheels -- with little Birdy-like things flying around his head, courtesy of a Kobalite -- reels, and launches himself at the Elohite in a fury.

The Lilim gathers up her luggage calmly, pretending she has absolutely nothing to do with this and no interest in it.

The Elohite screams, in what might be a Habbalite's fury, "Game-servant-scum! Spying filth!" As the Balseraph's coils clench round her, she locks her hands round it's throat, "accidentally" dislodging the crackling microphone to underfoot.

The Impudites uncoil from their tangle, smiling as they pick up stools and approach the knot of Balseraph and Elohite.

The crowd - this being Shal-Mari - probably cheers the Elohite and boos the Balseraph.

From amongst her luggage, the Lilim draws a short, heavy-looking stick, which she hands to one of the startled "Impudites" when he gets flung out of the coil of undercover angels and battered Bal. "It's an unofficial favor. You're cute."

He blows a kiss at her, then steps back into the tangle to rain blows on the struggling Balseraph's head. After three hefty whacks, the knot opens to reveal somewhat mangled Elohite, less battered "Impudites", and very-much-the-worse-for-wear unconscious Balseraph.

(*peep*?) from the sack...

The Lilim shakes her head. "Not very subtle," she murmurs to the trio, reclaiming her stick. "Okay, you wanna help me carry this stuff?"

The Elohite pulls the remnants of her outfit back into place, or rather, off place. "Sure. These two are the muscular types, they'll be glad to." She idly collects the sack itself, patting it, and giving a "just do what you're told" look to the Impudites.

The Lilim waves the two others over and loads them up -- giving a pat on the backside to the one she loaned the stick to. "Okay, let's go. This way to the egress."

The Balseraph's body is being looted of any useful items, as they leave, and given the odd kick by those who enjoy kicking unconscious Game-Servitors. The loaded porters follow the Lilim, heads bowed over their belongings, acting like good little convoyers...

A few streets over, an alley down, a few kicks of demonlings trying to steal stuff, and they're in back of the Guildhouse.

The Lilim strolls up and knocks on the door there (next to the loading dock). It's opened by a Lilim with only a few Geas-bands. "Hey, Nai. Back already?"

"Yeah -- slow day, and I found this cutie," she waves at the "Impudite" she liked, "so I figured I'd come back in while I had people to help me carry my stuff."

"Pass, pass. Just tell 'em not to try swiping anything here without paying for it." The doorkeeper stands back and holds the door while the four celestials (and sack) enter. Nai leads them to a cargo elevator and presses a button. The doors close.

The Elohite murmurs, "So who precisely are you taking us to see?" A faint meeping comes from the bag, and is hushed.

"First, we dump my stuff in my room. Then -- I dunno. You can go looking yourself, or hang around in my room while I find you someone. But that won't be a freebie, cutie," she adds to the "Impudite" who blew her the kiss, with a wink and a grin.

"How much would it be for you to suggest some people to start asking?"

"Well, since you beat up that Gamester -- going straight to the top gets you Mom's secretary, but there'll be a waiting line. I can get you in touch with whichever of her secretaries is off-duty now, though. But he *definitely* stays for a little while." She pats "her" Impudite on the rump.

"Sorry, but we all need to stay together, and we're in a bit of a hurry." She glances at the "Impudite", who is trying to tread the fine facial line between appreciative lust and nervousness. "Suppose you take a sample of our goods to your Mother's secretary - self-bound not to look at it, of course - and let her decide whether or not to see us?"

"I can do that. But it's gonna be more Malakim photos if the sweetie here can't stay a little while." She pouts at the "Impudite." "What's your name, sweetwings?"

The Impudite murmurs, "Itherai," silently blessing the fact that names are neutral and he doesn't have to lie on that one. The Elohite begins to hunt through the battered remains of her costume for more Malakite photos, eventually coming up with three. She offers two, but hangs onto the third with a sweet, bruised smile. "Third one has him sitting in a tree."

"Oooo, cute." She admires the pictures she has. "Okay, soon as we get to my room, I'll head out."

The door opens, and she leads the way to a surprisingly mundane-looking 2-room apartment (living room/kitchen, bedroom, etc.). The Lilim puts the pictures into a drawer in the kitchen. "Okay, no poking around my stuff, right? Now, I'll be happy to transport the goods to the secretary. And I swear by my nature that I will do my best not to look at the stuff in transit." A thin band appears around her neck.

"We will be restrained." The Elohite gives the "Impudites" a *look*. "Itherai, the folders?"

Itherai produces them, and she sorts through, retrieving the one on Gluttony: she passes it to the Lilim, face down. "You would probably be _safer_ not looking at the stuff."

"Gotcha. No problem. Can I fold it so nobody'd see it till it got to my sis?"

And after getting that response, she heads out, leaving the three and their sack...


The Elohite sits down, body draining of tension, and puts her head in her hands. "I don't know how much longer I can keep this up. I keep on wanting to force quiet on the people around me. They're so loud..." Her words spill out absently. "Have we any birdseed left?"

The Mercurian with the sleeves shakes out another packet of caramel seed. "Some. Want me to give him some now, or wait till later when the Lilim's more likely to be back?"

"cheepcheep? Woooooooaaaaahhhhweeeeeeeannooooo..." Birdy warbles like a Mogwai. [Movie: Gremlins...]

The other Mercurian prowls around in the apartment, carefully examining everything that looks interesting or shiny.

"Try talking to him for the moment. Shamei," she glances to the other Mercurian, "no touching, remember. And can you keep watch at the door for the sounds of anyone coming?"

"Oh, right." Shamei heads over to peer out the door's peephole. His teammate uncovers the cage in the bag a little, and makes "Shhhh" noises. "Hello, there." The Seraphling blinks its eyes in alternation. (Upper, lower left, middle right; then vice versa.) "Seeeeeeed?" it asks pipingly.

Ithekai offers a little seed on the tip of its finger. "Here you go, Javan." Outside the door, the corridor is worryingly deserted, in the way that any person alone in the depths of enemy territory finds an empty corridor to be merely a sign of ambush lying in wait. No, it's quiet. Really.

Javan nibbles daintily at the seed. "Master-says-call-me-Birdy," it sings brainlessly through the sticky treat.

The minutes tick.

Finally, Shamei hisses, "She's coming back!" Ithekai gives Javan a sticky glop of stuff and bundles him back into the sack, just before Nai walks in.

The Lilim appears boggled. "Um. Like, well, my big sister says that you people have a deal so long as it doesn't involve assassinating Word-Bound. You're supposed to meet her in the basement."

The Elohite pulls herself off the couch, affecting an air of mild superiority. "I'm sure you'll get your cut, don't worry. Going to show us the way down, or does that cost extra?"

"Hey, any excuse to hang around with Ithekai here." Nai grins at the "Impudite." "Come on, follow me. We'll take the cargo-elevator again."

The Elohite follows her, tucking the Javan-sack under her arm, and affecting to ignore the faint meeping noise from within it. "Sure." The two "Impudites fall in behind her, glancing wistfully at the interesting contents of the apartment as they leave it.

The elevator again, and then down a flight of stairs into a creaky sub-basement. The tingle of a Hell-tether pervades the area. A tall Body-by-Nybbas Lilim is standing in the middle of it, wearing nothing much more than a brief bikini and a few day-Geasa. "Okay, I don't know who you are, and I don't want to. And you don't want to know who I am. That stuff, you want to trade it for a quiet exit, right?"

The Elohite nods. "Exactly." She extends her hand behind her, and Ithekai passes the folders forward. "And you might want a word with the gate-guard, that we never came in."

"What, let non-sisters in? How lax that would be. Of course you never got in. We sent you to one of the brothels down the street. We don't even know what you look like. You're a Balseraph, right? Whatever." She takes the folders and flips through them, grinning. "Okay, this Tether leads to Freedom Trail in Boston, Mass. It's fading out, but it'll still get you there. No Seneschal at the other end, but you'd rather that, I gather. From there, you're on your own. Shouldn't be too much worry about noise, though, if you want to jump right back to your Hearts somewhere..."

"Sounds like what we want." The Elohite glances over her shoulders at the "Impudites", and collects nods of acquiescence. "Best of luck with those things."

"Thanks. Now off with you." The elder Lilim steps away, herding Nai off with her. Nai waves pathetically at Ithekai. "Come back and see me sometime, cutie!"

And they head Upwards...

... and as they step out of the Tether door - well, sprint - they are met by five young men with swords. "All right, Children of Freedom. Put your weapons down and surrender in the name of Laurence..."

Ithekai looks depressed. "Okay, okay, fine, we surrender. But as soon as you realize what a big mistake you're making..." <resonates for name> "...Johann, I hope we get this stuff back." He starts divesting himself of his few weapons -- mostly a couple knives.

Meanwhile, his partner is discovering that he's got what looks to be an empty birdcage in a sack. "Hey, Javan, you okay there?"

The Elohite drops a gun in front of her, saying, "Haniel, of Lightning..." as from the birdcage comes a low-voiced tweedle in the dawn light, and a hum of sparking air crackles around a forming, _very_ realistic hologram of Asmodeus.

One of the nice young fellows with the sharp pointy objects goes and sticks it at the back of the cage-holder. "Explain that *fast*," he mutters grimly.

There is a unison shout by Elohite and Mercurians at the birdcage. "JAVAN, STOP IT!"

With a faint, pathetic singsong in angelic tones, the image fades away, managing to look disapproving as it does. "Seed? More seed for Birdy?"

"Why," asks the leader of the Laurencians, "is an empty birdcage asking for *seed*?"

The Elohite says - at the speed of lightning - "Rescued Seraph, from the middle of Hades. By all means bring in Judgment or have the Malakim resonate us, but would you mind letting us get upside before Asmodeus comes looking for his tape recorder there?"

The fivesome look to their leader, who nods curtly. "Get their gear and let's get out of here. They've been busy rescuing a Seraph from Hell, all right."

The Laurencians gather the equipment (one holding the birdcage gingerly), and escort the three rescuers away....



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