Helkey 5 – Hell Gate in the Arch of Time

Tick frigging tok.

We move swiftly down the halls toward Ivan Volkov – pausing at corners to make sure we’re unobserved. Mori is handy with his brief case. It has a switch that shoots out a signal interruption for any cameras in the halls. Mundanes and their tech are our most likely trouble up until the point when Ivan starts the big sploosh. I’m not too concerned about actual live demons rampaging right now. But our contacts with Felix and Gannon have me more than a little freaked out. Their wisp-hungry paw-prints, claw and tooth marks are all over the damned place. Part of me is wary of stumbling on mangled corpus, blood, viscera. Less likely this side of Hell. But man were those guys freaky with their combined curse resistance and pigs in shit wallowing happiness with just plain wrong. I slip my sweaty hand into my pocket. I produce my cell phone. I breathe out. I turn it on. The time is now frigging 6:23. I have 7 minutes left to live.

Omnis scienta shows Volkov again alone. He’s shaken off the red-head fem exec. He licks the last of the crumbs off his fingers, then thrusts a hand in a pocket. He pulls out an ear piece. Plunks it into his right ear. Flipping out his phone, he produces what looks like a play list. But he doesn’t turn it on yet.

“Really?” I whisper to my parents.

Beatrice shushes me. “He’s right down the hall,” she mouths more than speaks.

“But, musical dumps? Really?” I mouth back, pointing to the scene floating before us.

Mori smirks. I know he’s trying not to nervously laugh. He clasps me on the shoulder instead. Trying to reassure. But the effect is opposite. He does this every time he’s worried around me. Doesn’t calm me down for squat.

Ivan approaches a door. He produces a key card. We rush up to the corridor corner about 50 feet behind him. I peak around. The facing hall is bordered on one side by clear glass. I have an unobstructed view of the Berlin skyscape unfolding for miles and miles. The lights of evening are flickering on in the gloaming. Those distant storms have mostly departed leaving behind feathery cirrus that shade the sky in hews of pink and blue. At the end of this picturesque hall Ivan comes to a stop. The omnis scienta fades out as I see him in the flesh for the first time. My weirdo thought is – I’m taller than this man.

Ivan swipes his card over the reader. There is a little ‘beep’ as his access confirms. He turns the latch and I get a glimpse of marble floor ending in a platform edged with golden stairs beyond. He passes through the threshold. The door begins to swing shut behind him.

Mori lifts a hand. “Teneo,” he incants, casting a holding curse on the door. It swings shut and seems to close. But I know better.

Omnis scienta returns as we walk down the hall to the door. Ivan is moving across a marble floor with metal eagles ringed by circles embossed into it. There are three eagles. The eagle to the right appears poised to prey on the center eagle while the eagle to the left looks away. What they stand for, I’ve got no clue. But they seem way too fascist for comfort. Ivan comes to a set of ascending stairs as we reach the outer door. The stairs are golden and rise along the side of a black wall of glossy marble in juxtaposition to the white floor. The stairs terminate at a golden platform facing a frosted glass pair of double doors, each with another eagle emblem upon it.

We stop at the outer door as Ivan approaches his inner sanctum. He pauses for a moment, flips out his phone, then pushes play. Omnis scienta pulses with the sound of a revving engine and squealing wheels followed by heavy metal music.

“Gimmie fuel, gimmie fire, gimmie that which I desire!” rocks our eardrums through the sensor. Ivan Volkov is playing Metallica.

He lifts his arms wide to finger tap a rhythm. With that goblin grin, his face looks kinda like a bat. Rocking out to Metallica in a pink polo shirt. OK, then, a pink bat. He breathes deep, then opens the double doors. Inside is a globe-like chamber that seems to jut out into the sky. Most of the wall and ceiling is glass. The floor is a semi-circle of black marble. Toward the center is a raised section of golden metal. It’s probably actual fracking gold. Upon it is perched a single golden toilet with a golden bidet beside it. Ivan makes his way toward the toilet.

We’re still at the outer door. Mori gives it a little push. The latch never caught. Mori’s Teneo curse held it. It slides open without a sound. We enter, pouring in over the white marble and three eagles. The door shuts behind us, releasing a spark as Mori lets go of his curse. Holding two curses at the same time takes serious concentration. Mori’s had omnis scienta going for more than a half hour now. That’s true grit. Mori doesn’t show it. Hasn’t even broken a sweat.

We move halfway up the stairs, careful to stay out of sight through the doors. They’re frosted glass. So semi-opaque. If we bob our heads forward a little, we can see Ivan’s form as a pink and khaki blur through them. Omnis scienta shows quite a bit more. I’m kinda thinking I don’t want to watch what happens next.

Ivan is on the pedestal. He turns toward the glass and looks out over Berlin. The sound of Metallica is raging through our sensor. Mori lifts his hand and whispers – visus capitis – adding a modification to his sensor. Our perspective of Ivan blurs and shifts once more. We are now seeing through his eyes. Thank goodness. Looks like we’ll get the PG-13 version.

The view from where he’s standing is spectacular. At his perch he appears to be flying over the city. The glass walls bend in, giving the illusion that his platform toilet floats on a golden pedestal in a circle of black marble in midair. Above are the fading colors of twilight sky. In front, to the right and left, the German countryside rolls ever outward. Dim, but still visible in shades, mists, and little twinkling lights. Below on every side is all of Berlin bustling with evening activity. Cars and trains move like little toys. People seem insect size. Ivan’s fiddling with his trousers. He begins to unbuckle his belt. There is a zipping sound. A rustling of clothes. My phone says 6:29. The shit is literally about to go down on those poor people heading out to dinner or slogging through the still scorching evening outside air.

Ivan lowers himself onto the golden toilet with a happy sigh. He makes little motions with his hands to the music. “I am king,” he says in English at a break in the song and then sings along, badly and off-key – “Oooo wanna burn, fuel is pumping engines…”

There is a loud farting sound. I flinch. It sounds like a trumpet – continuing on for a good five seconds. No-one ever said anything about temporary Hell gates being aromatic. Well, maybe not entirely PG-13 either.

Faetor oculorum,” Mori encants, now weaving in a fourth spell to our shared sensor. At first there is no distinction other than some red strands that look like fire rising up around Ivan. Yeah. That’s demonic influence all right. Like the guy has been rolling around in it. But other than Ivan the environment starts out pretty clear.

Ivan is still singing in narcissistic fugue — “Gimmie fuel…” and then a wet ‘plop!’

Below him, the glistening black marble pools. It seems to swirl hungrily. The little golden pedestal appears to float upon it like an autumn leaf skimming the surface of a dark, bottomless sea. I startle as a ripple of purple-red light flashes in its depths. Tiny, at first. But growing in size. I have a vision of a shark beginning to rise toward an unsuspecting sea otter floating on the surface. Another light appears. Then another. The edges of the marble begin to flicker, steadily bleeding into a circle of spectral red flame.

“This is it, Myra,” Beatrice says. “When I say go, I need you to run to that circle. Mori and I will make a distraction. Hopefully one that will last a year.”

I don’t fully get what she’s saying. But I guess that’s the whole point. I’m committed now. Hell I’m pretty much defiled. I will never be able to scrub this whole event from my memory. Ever. I nod, “I’m ready mom,” I reply. I can’t say ‘I love you’ because that would feel like a too-permanent goodbye. But I grab her arm and squeeze. She is suddenly holding me. So is Mori. He is just there as this big crow-like presence.

“Now Beatrice,” Mori says softly.

Beatrice strokes my hair, looks into my eyes and chants the curse — “Indespectus.” My body suddenly fades into invisibility. I hold my right hand up. I don’t see anything. I have gone completely blank. I turn to see if I have a shadow. Not even that. It’s a little disconcerting. Frack. Mom’s never used this one in my presence before. She’s still holding onto my left arm. I’m still getting my new invisible bearings when she taps it and invokes the second curse – Infernum Clavis!”

Oh shit! That’s my name curse! Sparks immediately begin to fall from my arm. These are not entirely invisible.

Beatrice is pushing me forward. “Go!” she says, throwing away all caution. I spring up, driven by some kind of inner surge of bravery I didn’t know I had. There’s a niddling in my mind that I actually trained for this action. My muscles sure as hell remember what to do for some reason. I’m at the glass frosted doors. Mori has already rushed forward to kick one open. With his right hand he has pushed a third button on his briefcase.

Not the third button!

I spring forward through the door. My curse-enhanced sight shows the magic circle – now clearly formed. It is fully red and double ringed. Angry words in alien tongues fill out the gap. From the black marble, three spectral shapes have arisen. They appear to be formed of flesh and sinew without skin. Humanoid. But at least 7 feet tall. Their heads are skull-like but taper in the back toward points. Their hands distend into wicked claws the size of hedge shears. Before now, I’d only heard tales of the Pride-Eater demons. Yet here were three towering directly in front of me. Clutching hungrily at the glistening red tethers streaming off of Ivan’s inner wisp. They’ve gathered over Ivan – who is now playing the air drums on his golden toilet. One reaches out to stroke at Ivan’s head with a massive talon. It flicks some of Ivan’s thoughts from his mind. They appear as more red mist. The demon’s long tongue flickers out and laps at the bad-thought-mist like a cat lapping milk.

Swallow future, spit out hope…” I hear it hiss along to the song. Hey, demons can enjoy Metallica too, I suppose. Information I really didn’t want to know.

My boots squeak as I race across the marble floor toward the circle. I’ve got more than a little fear driving me on now. Pride-Eaters are serious bad mojo. The three demons don’t notice me. Ivan is too wrapped up in his Metallica and hubris-high to hear the sounds of my footfalls. I definitely notice the serious stench of his farts and offal. Whew! I don’t give a flying fuck at the godsdamn moment as I make my way for a portion of the Hell gate not presently occupied by demons.

Mori is in the doorway. He pressed the third button, remember? There’s a whirring sound as his briefcase begins to transform. Yeah. Cool, right? A frigging transforming briefcase. The front section pops upward, extends and narrows, the bottom section splits, the back section elongates and widens, the handle stiffens and produces an optical scope. A few seconds later, Mori is no longer holding a black briefcase. It’s now a dreadful-looking magical, long-barreled assault rifle. He spins the optical on his scope and lifts his weapon into the ready position. From a pocket in his leather jacket, he produces a blue magazine that, to my curse-sight, crackles with divine energy. What’s he gonna do with that? Protect Ivan?

Not my problem. I am now at the edge of the circle. Sparks are flying from my arm. One of the demons tilts its head curiously at the falling light. It lifts a clawed hand. Its tongue flickers out – tasting the air. It doesn’t see me. But it senses something.

“Hey! Over here!” Beatrice has moved up beside Mori in the double doors. Her rapier is out and is glowing like a golden-silver beam of sunlight through a window on a winter’s day. The demon turns its eyes toward Beatrice.

“Blyat!” Ivan curses as he now sees my parents standing in the door, one holding a full-on overgrown assault rifle, the other a freaking sword. Another loud fart escapes his ass.

Beatrice’s shout has bought me the second I need. I jump into the air, cross the magical circle’s threshold, flip forward, and do a hand plant like a skater on my left arm. My hand hits the marble and for a moment I am suspended upside-down — staring into that black, flickering with red, marble. My active name-curse dumps sparks into the gateway which lights up brighter. It flashes once. Like a camera shudder opening. I fall face-first through it.

Darkness surrounds me. The sparks from my arm drift about me like lazy stars as I fall. My stomach is now in my throat. I shout “fuuuuccckkkk!” I can’t help it. I’m plummeting to my death or worse. Above, Ivan and the demons are rapidly receding, they don’t even notice me. No Earthly sound seems to cross the threshold I just breached. Though the harsh ethereal scrapes of Pride-Eater claws is quite loud. I shift to face the direction of my fall. Ahead is blackness and a little rainbow dot. The dot rapidly grows as I approach it. It bends into a rainbow arch that seems to stand on a rainbow floor. As I drift still closer, the colored archway moves in three dimensions – becoming a circle. It is the frigging Arch of Time. To pass from one world to the next, you have to go through it. Time seems to slow. The darkness in the center of the Arch bends toward me. I feel that I bend toward it. There is a ‘pop!’ and a feeling like I’ve been turned inside out. I am through! The darkness blurs away into a greenish glow as I tumble onto hot sand and take a gulp of noxious air.

I somersault three or four times before I come to a sprawling stop. Spread eagle on the ground, I look up at the green as goo colored sky. To my left, oily clouds of black smoke rise from an array of jagged dark-metal towers. Above, a merciless sun beats down. Beside the sun is what looks like a floating black web. It casts shade below it – providing pitiful relief to the scorching lands.

“We did it!” I choke in the rotten-eggs air. “We fucking did it. Holy Hell! Oh my gods! I’m in fucking Hell. What do I do now!?”

(Haven’t yet read the first chapter? You can find it here: Helkey 1 — The Memory Draught.)

(Looking for another chapter? Find it in the Helkey Table of Contents.)

Helkey 4 — Greenwash Interns

The elevator door squeaks open. Great. They have a squeaky elevator to a Hell gate toilet opened by demonic interest in a dude who’s also attracted the attention of the worst big bad there ever was EVER. Things just went from terrible to unimaginably catastrophic. The novelty never ceases to amaze. Are my parents really the geniuses I know and love, or am I growing up now to the point that I realize they are complete imbeciles who are going to get me killed in nigh on 50 minutes give or take a few seconds. Jesus holy fuck!

Mori notices my hang-dog expression. “Cheer up baby girl. This will be just like pulling teeth with a door-slam. Bam! Over before you know it!”

Jesus holy fuck doesn’t even begin to cover it. I know Mori’s shit-talking to make me feel better. It’s his way. But sometimes the effect is just the opposite. Beatrice leans closer.

“You got this, Myra. Don’t look like that. We both know you can do this.”

The elevator starts ascending. For me, it’s like one of those SpaceX rocket tests where you know it’s all good for the knowledge of flying metal tubes filled with explosive liquid into space safely and such but the poor rocket is likely a goner. The lobby and surrounding offices shoot by. In a few seconds we plunge into a tube in the ceiling and the experience is more like a normal elevator except for the path of fancy lights ascending to a vanishing point above and seen through the glass elevator walls.

“I got this. Sure, fracking-sure. Because all the stuff I forgot had better be frickin damn good to make this worthwhile.”

“Oh it is,” Beatrice replies.

We’re about half-way to the top floor when Mori begins to cast a spell. He reaches out to put a hand on my shoulder, then does the same with Beatrice.

Una,” He incants. In that moment we are joined in magic – as one company. In this case a trio. Then, lifting his hand, he draws a circle in the air. “Omnis scienta,” he says. I dizzy a bit as my perspective shifts to an invisible point within the elevator. Mori lifts a strand of hair from some stash on his person. “Ivan Volkov,” he states to complete the curse. The hair, which must be one of Volkov’s, burns up in a flash. Immediately, the invisible sensor goes into motion. Our perspective lurches as it floats up through the elevator. Moving more swiftly than our ascent, it blurs through floor after floor, whisking by the dwindling remaining workers, through empty halls, past dark rooms. At last, it comes to an office door with a gold-plated name label upon it. The sensor phases through.

A brief darkness and then the sensor is suddenly in the not-at-all divine presence of Ivan Volkov. His is a large corner office with two walls made of glass window overlooking the picturesque Berlin skyline – now fading into red dusk edged with flashes of lightning. A large and mostly clean desk faces the door, beside which is a burgundy couch. On the left interior wall cattycorner the door is a big-ass picture of a sprawling tar sands mining operation. The Mordor-esque photo is enlarged to the point that feels like it’s smacking me in the face. In it, plumes of toxic smoke billowing from coils of metal tubes stretch for hundreds of meters in every direction. Here and there, flares of yellow or blue flame top the bitumen-to-oil refining towers. Little eyes of Sauron winking through the smog. Squat dump trucks — dwarfing any 18-wheeler I’ve seen — crawl through a ripped expanse. Black rivers pump poison like the veins of an anti-heart. Giving death rather than life. It’s eye-sore, horror scene, and action of gory violence against Mother Earth all wrapped up together. Literal Hell on Earth. And it covers most of one of his walls.

Near it is a table arrayed with a glass case containing some snacks and supporting a pod-style coffee machine. Ivan Volkov is standing in front of this table. He’s a small man of stocky build. Once a Brazilian jujitsu amateur competitor, he still keeps his muscular physique. His hair is shaved close to the skull. His face is blank, pale. A hooked if somewhat squashed nose. Semi-pointy ears, reminding me of a Tolkien goblin, sprout from the sides. Thin lips that seem to easily snarl cover overly white teeth. Eyes of faded blue like those of a wolf peer out. He’s fiddling with the coffee machine, cursing in Russian.

“Proklyatyy sekretar’ nikogda ne gotovit kofe,” He mutters.

“Classy,” Mori narrates. “He’s complaining about how his secretary never makes coffee.”

“I wouldn’t make him coffee either. He’s clearly capable of doing it himself,” I scoff.

“Is he, now?” Says Beatrice.

At that point Ivan exclaims loudly as the machine shoots coffee grounds into his cup and all over his shirt.

“Nyet! Nyet! Nyet!” He shouts, which needs no translation from Mori. I laugh despite myself as the red-faced Volkov opens a small closet door, still cursing, produces a new polo shirt, this one garishly pink, strips his now ruined yellow polo and puts this hideous thing on. He glares one last time at the pod machine, shifts to the glass snack case instead, pulls out a half-eaten bran muffin and takes a surprisingly dainty bite from it as he turns toward the door.

I blink my eyes and my perspective shifts as the elevator door woosh-squeaks open. We’ve arrived at the top floor hallway. I can still see the omnis scienta granted vision of Volkov as semi-transparent in mid-air. He’s walking down some long hall, nom, noming at his bran muffin. The vision is quickly interrupted by a tall and lanky, bespectacled, old man wearing a white button-down shirt and khaki pants. He lunges toward us from the hallway as the elevator door opens. He’s holding up his cell phone which he has on speaker. Behind him is another security guard. This one in a black uniform and carrying a holstered firearm. Looks like possible federal police assigned to the building. Oh fricking great. The voice of that pesky guard from downstairs is blaring from the tall man’s phone.

“Lord, my head hurts!” shouts the voice in English.

“Never mind that,” says the tall man in front of us. “They’re here now. I need the names.”

“They said they were the Jansens. No! Nansens! They said they had an appointment. I thought I saw it on the list but I …”

Mori subtly turns a nob on his black brief-case and the cell signal splutters out. Sometimes technology is the best counter to tech. Curses are for the living and for the dead – as the case may be. While Mori deals with the cell signal, Beatrice steps forward and puts on her best shy expression. Dear gods she’s even blushing!

“F.. F… Felix?” she stammers, looking seeming-nervously at the guard. “I suggero … I mean we are your new interns. The downstairs guard was really confused! I’m afraid he looked at the wrong list. You do remember our scheduled tour for this evening, don’t you? I’m so very sorry…”

The guard behind the guy I assume is Felix Azriel visibly relaxes under Beatrice’s curse. But Felix seems to struggle with it. I find the situation to be beautifully ironic. Anyone paying attention knows Furze Bank is source for a thousand vulture investments the world over. Yet they always wrap their cruddy projects up in sicko-sweet market copy. They’re pros at cutting deals and funneling funds from various dark groups into manifold harmful works. All while tossing up enough mind-fog to keep the public unaware. Now top Furze exec Felix is struggling with our own brand of mind-fog. Looks a lot like poetic justice from where I’m standing.

“I’m…” he looks at his phone with a baffled expression, grasping for help from the now-silenced front desk guard. But the phone is dead. Zero bars. I can see it from where I’m standing, trying not to laugh. He sways on his feet, pivoting his eyes away from Beatrice and toward Mori. Beatrice the elf-girl mom could probably still pass as intern-aged. But Mori, though fit, wears his 44 years plain as day. Felix cranes his head around – it makes me imagine an awkward ostrich – getting a good eyeful of Mori from a total of at least 120 degrees. “Intern?” is all he manages as the curse struggles to grab hold of his perception.

I’m tempted to use my faetor oculorum on him to see what’s up. He’s giving Beatrice’s curse a run for its money. But I can still also see good ol’ Ivan through Mori’s omnis scienta sensor noming his bran muffin and trailing crumbs as he makes his way to a door on the tower’s northern side. Adding another layer would further confuse my loaded senses. So I pass. But man, this place must be crawling with demonic influence. I guess I’m the only person that’s actually close to intern age. So I figure I’ll help my folks out just a little. Not like I’m raring to go to Hell or anything. But there is the supposed good of the mission and all that jazz. Not like I would know a damn thing about it.

I step forward and thrust my hand out toward Felix. “Ira Jansen from across the pond states-side. You must be Mr Azriel. Been back home recently? Gotta say it’s a real pleasure to meet ya-dude. Can’t say how awesome it’s gonna be working here this summer.”

Felix, seems even more startled by me in my not-at-all formal dress complete with spiked wrist band. He springs back – as if suddenly surprised by a nasty trick-or-treater. “Halloo,” he says as he lifts his arms comically. Still seeming at a loss, he turns his wrist and looks at his diamond-studded Rolex. “Now would you look at that? 5:47. I guess it is time for an intern tour of the top floor executive suites after all.” The curse has finally broken through.

And with that Felix begins his tour. He leads us on a swift circuit – briefly explaining titles and job functions of the senior executive staff. He opens a few offices, makes a few uninformative statements about the purpose and resident of each. Most are empty. After about 15 minutes, we enter an office occupied by a raccoon-faced man whom Felix introduces as Mr. Brian Gannon. Gannon has his nose in a tablet computer. In his hand is a glass of what must be whiskey from his personal office mini bar. He raises a hand and waves at us with two fingers without even looking up. Muttering to himself, he thumbs through a couple of pages, making us wait.

Felix clears his throat. His eyes look more focused now and there is an air of excited energy. “Mr Gannon, could you please briefly explain to our interns what their summer project will be?”

Gannon seems to wake up. He lifts his eyes, noticing our motley assemblage for the first time. “I suppose eccentricity is indeed the gateway to genius,” he says as much to himself as to anyone present. Then, more directly addressing us — “Well, you see, Felix and I are very excited to get you involved in our new project.”

Felix nods and his eyes seem to glisten. If he lost his poker-face, you can’t really blame him too much. Suggero often has a side effect of making emotional states more visibly obvious. “Yes, the project. Very high profit potential.”

Judging by the look in Felix’s eyes, ‘profit potential’ is a pretty magical term. I have a flash memory of reading The Hobbit as a child and coming to the part where the dwarves first encounter Smaug’s towering heaps of treasure. A great spell of lust falls over them – inspiring all kinds of bad behavior. I imagine they had the same beady-eyed expression Felix does now. I’m pretty sure I don’t need any curse-enhanced senses to see what kind of demonic influence has wrapped its oily tendrils around Felix. Mori may be an expert with his rifle, but I’m a dead-eye for greed.

Gannon, who was practically undead a moment before, is now quite animated. “So you see, we’ll have you helping the planet.” He twirls his fingers in the air as if he’s flicking off an after-thought. “We’re joining with lots of banks to sponsor it for North-Central U.S. The company is Pont de Boue, a pipeline builder. They’re laying out a line from Canada to the U.S. But what’s great that you’re going to do is talk publicly about the solar panels that will be funded through pipeline construction.” He grins ghoulishly.

Beatrice looks at me and simply says – “don’t.”

I can’t help myself. It’s like a sneeze. “Interesting. So how many glittery solar panels?”

“A big offset. Maybe even twenty sparkling megawatts. You should be super-excited to take part.”

He reminds me of a mean uncle dangling a lollipop in front of a baby and watching her struggle to grab it. What would I taste if I did but the thin candy shell of greenwash over a nasty gobbet of toxic crud? No wonder there’s an Asmodeus interest here. Devils certainly do covet our wisps as a kind of power currency. But they’re also keenly interested in what they call ‘blood of Earth.’ Sacrificing life-giving lands to the looting interests of short-term gain is a quick path to attracting diabolical influence. Slashing and burning forests and tilling salt into fields was the old blood of Earth. Gouging holes into the land. Breaking it. Stripping it. All to unleash liquids, rocks, and gases made up of the millions-years dead, for burning in Satanic Mills. That’s the diabolical ‘modern advancement’ on the old blood of Earth concept. The story of Faust, one of our mage progenitors who was ensnared by Hell, foretells a hint of it. What does the Devil want in return for giving you what you desire, after all? Your ultimate ruin — body and soul. “So you’re funding the tar sands pipe? The one running over unspoiled lands and through clean waters? Lands where people live?”

Gannon points at me with the finger holding his whiskey glass and gives me a wicked grin. His yellowing eyes leer. He has no shame. He seems to take pride in it. “Oil sands. We don’t say tar sands here. Besides, your own work will help.” He waves his empty hand dismissively, then glances over at Mori with raised eyebrows. “Youth these days are very interested in green. We believe the venture has a great future.”

I suppose he thinks interns are easy fools. Maybe most who seek a summer job at Furze Bank are. Or maybe Brian Gannon just doesn’t give a flip. That tar sands pipe he’s funding is a fuse rammed into literal buried mountains of combustible Earth blood. For the Earth’s gown of life-giving air, it’s titanic heat bomb. One of the biggest on the planet. And blowing the whole thing up would pack the temperature-raising punch of lighting off two thermonuclear Hiroshima bombs every second. Continuously. For thousands of years. Mordor candles indeed. Considering how hot and wicked the climate has gotten lately, we sure as hell don’t need any more of those. What he wants us ‘interns’ to do is put a young face on some token solar to turn public eyes away from their Hell-to-pay ruined lands, wicked weather, and burning tar goop.  

“Why not just build a crap-ton more solar instead?” I say. Can’t let it go just yet. Though I know the real answer. It’s all in the grab hold of as much of that dragon’s hoard as you can mindset. Devils love it. It’s their literal stock and trade.

“Well, you’ll learn over the summer, then won’t you?” The misdirection comes naturally to Gannon. Like a hat trick. Man, is this guy a real piece of work.

Beatrice is trying to keep smiling. I decide to relent. No reason to troll a troll further. Gannon blithers on for a few more minutes – spewing out mangled facts and massaged figures. I look away, wondering what our Ivan’s up to now.

Omnis scienta continues to run in the background like a hologram. On the other side of the tower, I can see that Volkov has stopped to talk with a female executive. She appears to have him cornered and is asking him question-after-question about something having to do with eastern finances. Ivan keeps a straight face, finishes his muffin, and nimbly sprinkles the remnant crumbs behind him as he answers – “Da… Da? Da.” to her queries.

Felix breaks away from Gannon, who drifts back to his touchpad as we leave his office, settling back into flabbergasted after his brief moment of greed-induced-clarity. The suggero curse keeps having to adjust as his eyes shift around wildly. He leads us down a final hallway. He stops in a break room through a side door, opens up a fridge, and jerkily pulls out a glass bottle of Perrier sparkling water for each of us. I pocket mine. Could be useful later. Then as he starts to steer us back toward the elevator, Beatrice steps in once more.

“Thank you so much for your generous hospitality, Mr Azriel. I suppose we should be going now? No need to worry about escorting us. We know the way and I’m sure you’re very busy,” Beatrice says as she nods toward the door. She’s dismissing him. I’m eating it up.

Felix pauses, shrugs his shoulders in a strange gesture that looks like both rebellion and acquiescence, then, without another word, he abruptly lurches off. The guard who met us at the elevator is also long-gone. We are at last alone and left to our own devices. No more posing as greenwash interns. I am the opposite of relieved.

(Haven’t yet read the first chapter? You can find it here: Helkey 1 — The Memory Draught.)

(Looking for another chapter? Find it in the Helkey Table of Contents.)

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