Chapters 13 and 14
Present Day Heaven....And An
Introduction To Hell
For those that that have followed
chapters 1 through 12 of Poison
Well, this is a special treat.
We meet the two brothers that
actually run Hell, which isn't as
fun as it sounds
JHAD Threat Assessment Center
Christine stepped off the elevator, and her breath caught just like it had every single day for the past few decades.
The 28th floor’s Threat Assessment Center was 250 feet in diameter, brimming with sophisticated computer terminals manned by diligent analysts. The giant globe spun silently in the center of the huge roundel, sparkling with real-time murder data.
Conversation was hushed, with only the hiss of liquid nitrogen rushing through miles of piping to cool the sensitive equipment. The work areas in TAC were kept dark, to afford a better view of the slowly rotating globe and the grisly information it portrayed.
JHAD had become, if nothing else, devastatingly efficient.
Rodger, one of the original analysts, and senior Intelligence Officer, looked up from his workstation radar set.
“Good morning, Dr. Taylor.”
“Good morning, Rodger.” Christine smiled grimly. “Was last night bad?”
“The usual, ma’am. South America was a hotbed of activity, with 1,184 confirmed murders. We saw some spikes in the Ukraine…and 1,233 kills on the African continent. America experienced a surprising drop, with 566 death-by-homicide victims. Want a list of the murders?”
“Maybe later. Thank, Rodger.”
The discussion had – at one time – made Christine cringe inside, but those days were long gone. She wandered over to the hand-railing and leaned over, taking in the view. The floor encircled the middle of the globe at this level, and the East Coast of America was immediately visible. Something was wrong, though…very wrong.
Christine turned back to Rodger for a moment. “Is the IPEX filter up?”
“Yes, Dr. Taylor.” Rodger answered. “Why?”
“Doesn’t feel right.”
“What doesn’t feel right?”
“Something feels off.” Christine said, and noticed as Rodger began to immediately run a full diagnostics check. Christine’s gut was trying to tell her something….what exactly, she didn’t know.
She’d learned – over the years - not to ignore her instincts, though. They hadn’t failed her yet.
Other agents had taken Rodger’s cue and began running systems checks across the board. Christine may have not made many friends over the past few decades, but every analyst in JHAD respected her judgment. Most employees thought she was a stuck-up prude. She’d heard the water-cooler talk, of course.
Dr. Taylor is an uncompromising machine.
Taylor is an ice princess on a mission.
She’s an unsympathetic workaholic with no home life.
The water-cooler talk was – sadly – pretty accurate. Christine wished things were different, but the Threat Assessment Center was a serious business, and she had no time for games.
It was absolutely true that one human killing another human being was morally wrong - and ingrained from birth as such. God had hardwired that default setting in rather early on, not that it always took root. Murderers that chose to break the cardinal rule lost a bit of their humanity when they snuffed out another human life.
Unfortunately; the dedicated agents tracking those murderers lost a part of their humanity as well – including Christine.
It was one of the hazards of the job.
Christine turned back to the globe, deep in thought. The Eastern Seaboard sparkled with blue lights, indicating murders in progress, and the deaths coincided with flat screen displays that hung from the ceiling over complicated data control terminals.
Each station was in communication with separate SPEC 13 agents operating independently in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, transmitting video, situation reports and other information to the signal analysts seated at the data terminals.
The original Thirteen Specialists that had watched killers and potential killers were a huge success, and now there were 37,000 agents in Earth’s orbit at any given time.
Every SPEC 13 agent was equipped with a modified Long Tom camera that was extremely compact and much more powerful than the original. The agents that qualified for SPEC 13 duty were loyal to the cause…and armed with extremely good eyesight, plus loads of patience. As with all JHAD employees - the pay was decent, the healthcare superb, and the fringe benefits were….beyond belief.
Each SPEC 13 agent’s territory was outlined in different colors on the Gyrotourbillion, along with tiny dots of light showing unclaimed bodies, murderers on the run and a myriad of other detailed data.
All of the JHAD workstations were a beehive of activity, and stayed that way 24 hours a day. A new murder occurred roughly every twelve seconds across the Earth, not to mention the men and women in every country planning or preparing to kill someone. The streamlined organization that tracked murderers had become a reality, mostly due to Christine’s hard work.
Years of hard work.
Of course, she gave credit to Harry for thinking up the entire thing in the first place – and a few hard-core employees that had been toiling diligently since the beginning.
But facts were facts.
SPEC 13 had only expanded into a viable force after Christine had redesigned the Long Tom cameras, and then she had written - then rewritten - every single line of code on their target acquisition and simulation computers.
She was proud of her accomplishments. They still relied on Awair Overjohn’s IPEX filters to alert signal analysts of an impending murder, but Christine had lowered the signal-to-noise ratio considerably – making the filters much more reliable. She missed working with Awair, but he’d been reassigned to Earth as a Black Ops agent stationed in London a few years ago.
Christine’s latest contribution was a photo/video recce camera that relied on the electroencephalographic triggers in a murderer’s brain to relay mode, distance and bearing information to SPEC 13 agents, hopefully making their job easier. The package was called CoRDS – Coherent on Radar Doppler System.
She was still working on the conditional parameters of the camera – in truth, though, figuring out the hard stuff still made her tick.
Quite simply, JHAD had become her entire life, encompassing everything she thought and cared about. Christine couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
And that was about to change.
The skinny girl was nineteen or so, cute as a button and dressed in a raggedy dirndl typical of the Out Town whores. Ulf whispered something in her ear and she squealed in delight.
King Brian looked on with a grimace of distaste. He loved Ulf, but back on Earth, his brother would have been an ice cream cone and a zoo trip away from being a sex offender.
“Is she new?” Brian said.
Ulf nodded. “Janie? Yes, killed her parents last week with an axe. Lovely girl.”
“How Lizzie Borden of her. Charming, I’m sure.”
They sat outside in the shade of the olive grove, surrounded by the youngest female servants Hell could offer. A gentle breeze blew the odors of fresh bread across the patio, and the stone mill churned relentlessly several yards away, providing a steady supply of cornmeal. Ulf pinched the bottoms and flirted with as many girls as he dared in front of his brother.
“Ulf, knock it off.” Brian growled, opening a box of cereal.
King Brian and Ulf enjoyed their usual routine of breakfast a half mile from the weariness of the Oubliette, which towered menacingly in the morning heat. It was their only break from the dreary day ahead.
Brian ran the Oubliette with an iron hand, while his brother made sure Out Town, a sea of damned humanity built onto the outside walls of the Oubliette, functioned as it should. The ironsmiths forged their weapons, the prostitutes didn’t cut each other up too much, and the ovens continued to churn out bread, beef and pork so the masses didn’t starve.
They both had equally difficult tasks. Brian oversaw Roman-style events that kept the crowds happy; while Ulf made sure they bought plenty of local ale. It was a tough economy, but it worked…to an extent.
Ulf the Quarrelsome smiled broadly. “Just because you married that lunatic Landgravine doesn’t mean I can’t have a little fun. She’s sucked the life right out of you, brother.”
Brian sighed. Ulf was right. On Earth, there was a fine line between law and chaos, but here it was just another day in the nuthouse. He’d married Landgravine Amelie to satisfy some stupid Gaelic law that he couldn’t remember. Unfortunately, this was Hell, where it was extremely hard to get rid of an ex-wife. His first wife – the demented serial killer Bona Sforza – was still around to remind Brian what an idiot he was each and every day.
King Brian fondly wished for the old times back in Ireland. It had been a thousand years, but damn, those were the days.
“Remember when I made a merry-go-round by impaling real horses, Ulf?”
Ulf rolled his eyes, pouring a bowl of Cheerios. “The old days? Again? Yes, Brian, you were the man. You ransacked the village of Savin, raped their women and roasted their children on a spit…4,000 people died, if I recall correctly.”
“I was pissed off.”
“Yeah, but you were pissed at me for forgetting to pack a lunch that day. You tend to overcompensate with your anger.”
King Brian snorted. “I’m a man! I’ve never worn an Abercrombie Finch shirt or gone to a Coldplay concert in my life…unlike you.”
A buxom blonde, one of the better-looking working girls from Out Town, tiptoed up to the table and held out her gift to Ulf. He grinned and patted her butt, then held up the prize – Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch.
“I totally have a boner.” Ulf said. “Roxie has great sweater monkeys and can always snag a box of the Captain. What more could you want in a girl?”
Brian fist-bumped his brother. It was, indeed, the little things that made life worth living. From 1900 or so, getting the commodities of Earth into Hell had become increasingly difficult. Out Town could make beer, wine and most rudimentary liquors, but the finer enjoyments were much harder to come by now.
“I remember back - ”
Ulf raised a hand, cutting him off. “Change of subject. Is that little ant James going to go through with his part?”
Brian nodded. “As far as I know, yes.”
“Have you heard from Juno?”
“Yesterday.” Brian paused, glancing around. “According to Frank, the Sukuh Kris was delivered by airfreight to Washington just as expected. Sonnet will pass it along as she was instructed. If things go as planned, we should know something today.”
“Do…you think this going to work?” Ulf asked quietly.
King Brian sat back and contemplated the question. He’d kept Ulf in the dark about this phase of the plan for a very good reason. Ulf was extremely loyal; he hadn’t even been sentenced to the Oubliette, in fact. He was here out of brotherly loyalty.
On Earth, they’d devastated entire countries until running afoul of tougher forces in England. Ulf had proved himself time and time again. Brian knew that if Ulf realized his ultimate goals, he would fight it every step of the way.
“Ulf, I don’t know. Are the legends true? Possibly. We won’t know without trying.” King Brian rubbed his face and gazed to the west. The smoke plume of the bi-weekly supply train was approaching Battleship Bridge. A hundred years before, the Styx River was still a strong torrent, not the dried-up pathetic stream it was today.
The Russian battleship Potemkin and the HMS Dreadnought, stolen by the dark side, had been locked into fight to the death, sinking right where they were now. In 1923, Brian’s engineers had turned the massive ships into a bridge for the new railway.
Ulf threw his spoon down. “Why, then? Why all this madness?”
“Brother, stopping the world is madness. There is no way around that.”
“He started this. Remember that.”
“Bullshit.” Ulf said impatiently. “When are you going to let this vendetta with God go?”
Although it was against his nature, King Brian couldn’t share the full plan with his brother because it was a….means to an end.
And it wasn’t something you could walk away from.