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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