Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Armageddon Cog

He sat across from her, halfway through his second drink, gesturing for his third. He'd be damned if he was going to handle this thing she had sober. From the look of her, she felt the same way. The problem was, she'd been handling it for the past week.

Her body slung forward in that state of advanced drunkenness where remaining upright was a near-insurmountable challenge. Her head didn't so much weave as swivel and lurch. When she managed to bring her face up, her bleary eyes were a watery blood-red. Her hair was a ragged tangle, and the last vestiges of makeup blended into an ashy ochre smeared down her face. An arm swung wildly to point at him, then flop down on the table. She knocked a double vodka back and dropped the glass on the floor, giggling as it shattered. The giggle became wet sobbing and she tried hard to force words from numb lips.

"You godda take it," she said for the tenth time. "I promissa steal it, but I donwanna keep it. Can't." She shook her head and it dropped to the table with a loud thud. She forced it back up, to stare at him, bleary-eyed. "Didda buncha ninsha shit t'get it. Fuggin badass's me. 'swhat I do. Badass shit an stealing an stuff." She reached into her pocket with a hand burned nearly to the bone and threw it at him. "Take it."

He took it in the hand that wore the specially designed glove, then placed it in the reinforced briefcase. The song of madness had erupted in his brain the moment he touched it, but subsided once the case was closed. He finished his drink, further muffling the dread song. He looked on the sodden mess with new pity. She'd been carrying it around in her pocket. He held out a thick envelope.

"Well, you've earned every penny of this."

She lay sprawled half across the table, not even bothering to look up. "Fugyer munny. Fuck you." He started to put the envelope away and her uninjured hand opened. "Gimme," she said.

He placed the envelope in her hand and left. At the door, he turned and looked back. The kind old man that ran the bar had come to her and, with the help of his round little wife, essentially carried the drunken spy to what he presumed was a back office. Let her sleep it off, then. If she could.

The limousine pulled up in front of the bar as he exited, the back door opening.

"Get in."

He obeyed.

Once seated inside, he immediately handed the briefcase to the thin gentleman with the wispy blond hair. The man did not bother to open it, merely closed his eyes briefly and smiled.

"Well done," he said. "I trust she was sufficiently compensated?"


The thin man clicked sympathetically. "Such a shame. She was the best we had, the only one who could do the job. She knew it would ravage her," he pursed his painted lips thoughtfully, "but I don't believe she really understood how much."

"What happens now?"

Thin shoulders shrugged. "She drinks away all the money you gave her and dies in a gutter somewhere, most likely."

"No, I mean with..." he gestured at the case. He could still feel its pulsing song.

The man laughed. "Oh, that. Yes, well." He patted the case. "I'll put it where it belongs in the machine."

"What machine?"

Another laugh. "Oh, you darling little hominid. This is the final piece of my infernal siege engine, the one I'll use to finally batter down the gates of Heaven." A shrug, then, "It will require fuel, obviously." He smiled, his teeth a foul yellow.

"But that's what all you people are for, isn't it?"