“So what?! That demon destroyed half the city!”
“Well yeah, but that’s hardly worth what you’re giving me.”
“What?! That power core’s half full of souls!”
“Yeah, and if it were double that and you’d have yourself a deal.”
“You greedy bastard.”
Hunter grinned and crossed his legs, leaning back in his cushioned chair.
“They don’t call me Hunter for nothing. Fill up that power core and I’ll go hunt your demon.”
“I can’t just get fifty more demon souls!”
“Sure you can, I do it all the time.” Hunter’s grin stretch across his face.
The man standing in Hunter’s control room groaned and rubbed his tired face in his wrapped hands.
“It took me centuries to gather that many souls. I don’t exactly go looking for demons, and it’s not like many of them are up on the Midscape attacking people.”
“Well you must be some pacifist. Listen, I can’t help ya, darling.” Hunter sat forward, tapping his fingers together. “Unless of course…”
“What is it?” The man stepped forward. “You can have whatever you want, just capture that demon.”
Hunter cocked an eyebrow and leaned closer to the man.
“Whatever I want?”
The next morning Hunter was sat up in bed and pulling on a new shirt. He wore a smug grin and glanced over at the man on the other side of his king sized bed who was nervously trying to button his pants.
“Can’t say I’ve ever bed an Archangel before.”
The man sighed, his face flushed bright red.
“I told you, I’m not an Arch anymore.”
“Hey, I can dream.” Hunter stood and pulled on his pajama pants. “So, Uriel, what’d you say this demon’s name was?” He flipped open a little note pad he kept on his side table. He flipped through page after page of random notes; trades he’d made, demon’s he’d hunter, names of men, the usual. He’d already started scribbling.
“No, no. Call me Lars.”
Hunter rolled his eyes and crossed out the name ‘Uriel’ from the top of the page.
“You just can’t let me have this, can you?” He glanced up at him, writing ‘Lars’ without having to look.
Lars dragged his hands down his face before grabbing his shirt off of the floor. Hunter tapped the end of his pencil on the pad and cleared his throat.
“A name would suffice, sweetheart. I need something to work with.”
“Right.” Lars pulled a shirt over his head. “The locals call her ‘The Imp’, but her name’s Valdi.”
“Imp? You’re telling me a small demon destroyed half a city?”
Lars shook his head.
“She's savage. She's more like a hellbeast than anything. But she was human once. Maybe at one point she was like a normal demon but…”
“I don't need a sob story, love. Just tell me where she is.”
Lars rolled his eyes and stood from the thick, soft blankets.
“Last I saw she was in the eastern city, well, what's left of it. After that I couldn't tell you. I was just trying to-”
“Mhm. Mhm.” Hunter picked up a small touch screen tablet and walked over to him. He pulled up a gridded map of the Midscape. What he'd charted of it anyway. “And where's that?” He showed it to Lars. Lars’ eyebrows raised and he squinted at the screen.
“Um…” he got a little closer to it. Hunter grabbed his reading glasses from the bedside table and handed them to Lars.
“You might want to get some of your own.”
Lars took them curiously and put them on.
“Oh,” he blinked for a moment and looked at the screen again, “there.” His ringed finger touched the screen and the image zoomed into that spot. Lars quickly retracted his hand. “Oh, sorry. Uh, what is this thing?” He tapped at the side of the tablet.
“Oh, sweetie, I’m sure you'll find out eventually.” Hunter was zooming in around various parts of the map the sector Lars had pointed out. He didn't feel like explaining computers to an eight-hundred year old fallen angel. Without looking up he took his glasses from Lars’ face and rested them on his own nose. Ah, yes, sector forty-two. It was a highly populated sector; a count of the approximate population was displayed on the top left of the screen. About eight million people. There were many towns in that sector, but the four main ones were the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western cities. The Eastern city was the smallest of the four, but still held about the population of Boston.
While zooming into the most afflicted area, he walked out of the bedroom and down a short hall into the control room. He heard Lars’ soft footsteps following him. He nudged his rolling chair aside and placed his open palm on a scanner. The three screen panels lit up, and with a few more taps on the tablet the map was spread across the huge panels. He turned to Lars and grinned.
“You don't have to stay now, sugar. I'll take care of that demon for ya.”
Lars looked to be getting tired of the pet names, but Hunter found it fun to annoy him. Lars took his peacoat off of the back of Hunter’s chair.
“Don’t get too cocky. She’s savage, but she’s being mentored.”
Hunter’s grin dropped and his eyebrows shadowed his eyes.
“Well you failed to mention that earlier.”
Lars sighed and rolled his eyes.
“You hardly let me explain.”
“Well now would be the time.”
“She’s being mentored by an ancient demon. I don’t know its name, but I saw it.”
Hunter pulled out his notebook again and listened.
“It was a little bigger than me, even when it was hunched over.” Lars stared blankly at the wall while he relayed. “It was in a black baggy suit and had no face.”
Hunter’s brow furrowed.
“You’re not messing with me, are you?”
“You really think I would go this far just to pull your leg? He had no face. It was just a piece of slate or something. There was a crack in it.”
“M...hm.” Hunter wasn’t sure if he trusted that description, but scribbled a crude doodle and took notes on the side.
“When they first arrived he was perched on a huge scythe.” Lars shook his head and pointed to the left end of the big room. “The blade was from here,” his finger traced a ten foot line to the center of the room, “to here. It was ridiculous.”
“And did this demon do anything or was he just there to look ugly?”
“I didn’t stick around too long but…” Lars sat down, as if this coming explanation itself was too exhausting to hear standing up. “I watched him touch one of the buildings, a big apartment building.” He gesticulated the shape of such building. “All the bricks just,” one of his hands made a fist and the other clapped right over it, “all got sucked into the center. And all of the people inside came flying out.” He spread his fingers and tossed his arms to his sides. “A lot of them were hurt. Some of them dead. But I watched Valdi pounce on someone who still had the energy to run. She just,” He shook his head, “ripped their head right off.” Lars hunched over and gave a burdened sigh. He hung his head and rubbed the back of his neck.
After some more bulleted notes and scribbly diagrams of Lars’ descriptions, hunter clapped the notebook shut.
“Well then. I suppose there’s no room for messing around.” His clammy hand wrapped around the lined notepad and he felt a pit in his stomach. He’d captured a lot of demons before, but he’d never faced an ancient. They held tremendous supernatural power, but were completely unstable. So unstable that they are not allowed to hold power in Hell like the Archs, even if they are just as powerful. Hunter knew of a few, but none of them matched Lars’ outlandish description.
“I’m going to need a Hell of a lot more demon souls for this, sweetheart. This ain’t just something you can sleep your way through.” Hunter turned back to his monitor and zoomed out so he could see the whole city. “But I’ll keep you in a debt.” He turned to Lars. “Which half is it?”
“The lower half.”
Hunter picked up the tablet and scribbled out the lower half of the city. The big monitor mimicked the marks he made.
“You should go now, I gotta get ready.”
“Are you okay? You’ve gotten awfully serious.”
Hunter stared down at the blinking buttons on his control panel. The light started to give him a headache.
“No. Not really. This is more serious than I thought.” He huffed and rubbed his face. “Fuck, why’d you come to me for this?”
“You were the first name I heard. I was helping the city refugees and someone mentioned you. We needed a demon hunter. They said you’d helped them before.”
“Who did?” Hunter glanced back at Lars. He could feel his sweaty palms slipping on the metal panel.
“Does it really matter?” Lars looked concerned. This was getting all too serious for Hunter.
“I guess not.” Hunter wiped his palms on his night shirt and stretched. “Fuck. I guess I was going to get to this point eventually.”
“Don’t be sorry, I guess I signed up for this shit.” Hunter thought for a moment before snatching up his tablet and closing the map. He found an image of blueprints, but disconnected this display from the monitor so Lars wouldn’t see what he’d opened up. It was something he’d been working on for a while, but it wasn’t complete. Still, maybe it would work.
“You should really go. I’ve got some things to take care of.”
“But where should I go?”
“Hmm?” Hunter looked up from the blueprints. “Oh, right. Uh, follow me.” He locked the screen and set it back down on the control panel.
While he was leading Lars down the right hallway his mind poured over the idea he’d had. Years ago he knew if he was ever going to hunt anything above a lesser demon he needed more power. Humans couldn’t do was demons could, at least not unassisted. He’d pulled together his knowledge of robotics and demons and started creating something right out of a space age movie. He didn’t have a name for it, but had just been referring to it as the power suit. The blueprints he’d opened earlier had displayed a perfectly measured schematic of a robotic suit that would fit his body. For the most part it acted as armor, but he’d started equipping it with defensive weapons.
“Thanks.” Lars’ voice broke his concentration and he snapped out of his deep thoughts. He found himself holding the door open to a spare room just a door away from his own.
“Yeah, uh,” he snapped his fingers to try and bring thoughts back to the present, “there’s more blankets in the closet. While I’m gone don’t touch anything. I mean it. Anything.”
Lars held his hands up defensively.
“Okay, yeah got it.”
“You know what? Just stay in here while I’m gone.”
“Well what am I supposed to do in here? How long will you be gone?”
Hunter sighed and held up a finger for Lars to wait. He strode down the hall to his own bedroom and wished that he could just get back to his schematics. He snatched up a bottle of scotch from his packed liquor cabinet. He’d acquired almost all of them from hunting commissions. He returned to Lars and plopped the rounded bottle in his hands.
“Go crazy.” He shut the door and snatched his tablet from the control room before going down the middle hallway. He tapped the button to the elevator and slipped inside. He dragged his finger over all eight buttons before pushing the second one. He unlocked the tablet and poked around at the features on the suit’s blueprints. A list of defensive attributes were bulleted on the side with their corresponding numbers on the suit. Only three of the eight were highlighted, the only three he had been installed thus far.
Jetpack? (maybe some day)
It would have to do. The elevator opened to the second floor down and revealed a tall room the size of an aircraft hanger. Hunter walked right in, still looking over the blue prints. When he looked up he was in front of the real thing. The steel of the suit was a sleek black. Hunter poked the front black plate of the helmet and the suit activated. Streaks of orange light illuminated across the chest plate and down the limbs. Hunter huffed and set his tablet down on the table to get a closer look at his work in progress. He’d worn the suit before many times, but it had never left this room. He could just ignore Lars’ request, but he found a sense of duty under his snarky charisma. If he was going to stop these demons then he needed more than just guns and traps.
Hunter detached the arm of the suit from the body. He pulled it up his own arm and the fabric lining fit comfortably. He flexed the his fingers, listening to metal glide over metal. He popped the small arm gun open and found the ammo holder empty. He reached over the table he’d set his tablet on and snagged a box of bullets from a high cabinet. The metal table rattled and Hunter jumped back, spilling the bullets all over the concrete floor. The tablet was lit up and hovering around the table. Hunter huffed and snatched up vibrating tablet. He was almost relieved that he had a notification to distract him from this stress.
The screen was white with large, flashing red lettering.
“Now? Really?” Hunter groaned and pulled the arm brace off. He stuck it back to the suit and pressed a finger to the screen. The words stopped flashing and a circle appeared under his touch. “Hello?”
“Ey, Hunter.” The man barely pronounced the ‘H’ in Hunter’s name with his heavy Australian accent. “You got that angel yet?”
The man didn’t even need to state his name, Hunter recognized the client’s voice from a few weeks ago.
“Yeah, just wait there, I’ll be up in a minute.” He lifted his finger from the tablet and locked it before dragging a hand down his face. He carried the tablet from the table and walked across the room to retrieve a pair of cuffs. They were heavy and engraved with the jagged symbols of the demonic language. Hunter hadn’t made them, he couldn’t even read what the symbols said. Just another thing he’d been given for a job. Ever since he’d started hunting angels as well he’d been accumulating equipment from clients.
On his way back to the elevator he snagged a pistol and strapped it to his leg. Just incase. Not every captured being went quietly. He pushed the button to the next floor down and the door opened to an equally large room. The difference was the walls lined with glass cells. He unlocked the tablet and stared down at a roster of the floor, ignoring the fists pounding on the smudged glass panes. He poked around the floor plan with the names of the angels and the clients that had requested their capture. The one he was looking for was the last cell on the right which read ‘Luewit/Rook’. He looked up from the screen at an angel sitting in the center of a large cell. Her wings were out and folded behind her and her glare burned through Hunter’s pupils. Hunter couldn’t help but crack a smug grin.
“Enjoying your stay?”
“Woah, hey now, I thought angels were supposed to be nice.”
“If you keep me here any longer that man is going to die!”
“That man is the one who requested your capture.”
“He doesn’t know what is coming to him. He will not listen. You will be responsible for his death, and for the rise of a new belligerent demon.”
“Well, honey, they can’t be any more belligerent than you.”
The angel groaned and jumped to her feet. She dashed towards Hunter and slapped her palms on the glass.
“Will you not listen?!”
“Listen, sweetheart. I’m getting something vital out of this trade. The fact that this aussie dolt is in danger isn’t my problem.”
The angel bared her teeth and pounded her fist on the glass. This should be fun.
“Alright, this can go two ways.” He held up the cuffs in one hand and his pistol in the other. “I’ll even be nice enough to let you choose.” The angel didn’t to much as glance at either object.
“Go. To. Hell.”
Hunter sighed and shook his head.
“You really didn’t have to make this hard on yourself, honey.” He reached to his right where a small control panel was. His fingers grazed the bottom and he found the switch he was looking for. He flicked it and grazed at the small button beside it. “C’mon, I’ll even give you another chance.”
“I do not need your pity.”
Hunter gave a feign grimace.
“Oof, wrong answer.” He pushed the button. Electricity cracked and surged through the cell. It zapped the angel and she dropped unconscious like moth in a bug light. The white of her feathers bore black scorch marks and wisps of smoke came from her light, graying hair.
Hunter wasted no time punching in the code for the door and slapping the heavy cuffs over her wrists. The shock wouldn't keep someone this feisty out for long. He wrestled with her wings for a minute before throwing her over his shoulder and getting in the elevator. He hit the very top button labeled ‘DECK’. As the elevator started upwards he felt the angel twitch. He huffed and anxiously tapped his foot. This was not the place to be stuck in with an angry prisoner. Just as they passed the first floor her wings stretched and unfolded. He could hear her groaning as she came to and the elevator just kept on slowly cranking. Hunter stared at the lit up ‘DECK’ button, trying to will the elevator to move faster. He had another half minute before it would get there.
The angel grabbed him and shoved him. She beat her wings and kicked off of his chest. The force pushed Hunter to the ground and he conked his head off the wall. Pain surged through his head and he had to take a moment. He tucked his head between his legs and grit his teeth, waiting for the pain to subside.
“Where have you brought me?!” The angel shouted down at him. When Hunter looked up he could see black blood seeping from the thick cuffs. They were working, but she hardly seemed phased by the pain. Hunter scrambled to his feet and was met with a long talon. The angel had the tip of her wing pointed right at his face. Hunter raised his hands in surrender.
“Woah, woah, hey, easy.” Hunter kept his eyes on the angel, but assessed the situation in his head. “I’m not gonna hurt you. Well, I’m bringing you to someone who might but-”
“Who? That fool of a man?” She glared eye-level at him and brought her talon closer to his face. “No, you let me go now.”
“Well, see, I can’t just do that.”
“Why?” The tip of her talon touched his nose. Hunter flinched.
“Because-,” The elevator dinged and the doors rolled open. The angel whipped her head around to the outside. That’s when Hunter acted. His pistol was in his grasp in seconds. He fired at her point blank. He’d been more concerned with damaging her then being accurate. When he lowered his gun he realized his mistake. Black blood seeped through her shirt and pooled under her panicked body. He could hear her shaking breath and his stomach dropped. Her blood poured down the elevator shaft and echoed back up it. The bullet had gone straight through her heart.
“What did you do?!” That ridiculous accent from earlier bellowed from outside. A rather burly man stomped up to the elevator from the deck platform. He would recognize him as his client, Rook. He was easily two times the size of Hunter. The gaping hole in the Rook’s stomach only made Hunter more uneasy.
“I-I panicked, okay?! She was going to attack me! Or fly away!” Hunter dropped his gun as he sharply gestured to the twitching body bridging the gap between the elevator and the deck.
“Well I didn’t want her dead!”
“What do you want from me?! I-” Hunter gasped when he was slammed against the elevator wall. Rook leaned right up to his face. The stench of his large death wound turned Hunter’s stomach.
“Luewit was my last chance of finding Monica. She was the only one who knew where she is! And now she’s damned!”
“H-Hey, I didn’t-”, Rook’s baseball glove of a hand crushed Hunter’s windpipe. Hunter choked and coughed. Rook dragged his body up the wall. He could see Luewit’s blood from over Rook’s shoulder. It was smeared all over the ground and dragged out to the deck. He flicked his bulging eyes up the trail and saw Luewit on her feet. She glared back at him and beat her wings, getting airborne.
Hunter slapped Rook’s wrist and pointed with the other hand while he was suspended in the air. Luewit was already flying off when Rook dropped him. Hunter doubled over and hacked. The force shredded through his bruised throat.
“Dammit! Get back here!” Rook ran out of the elevator, giving Hunter some time to get his bearings. He rubbed his throat and watched as Rook chased after Luewit, who was a mere silhouette in the clouds by now. Rook shouted all kinds of profanities before kicking a rock off the side of the deck in his rage. Hunter took a few deep breaths before getting to his feet and walking out onto the deck. The upper structure of the mountain shadowed the flattened land that they were on. He met Rook on the edge where they were watching Luewit disappear into the sky. Hunter huffed and looked down the mountain base. He forced a small yawn to pop his ears.
“No.” Rook faced him. “You will get her back.” The mountain outlined his wide shoulders as he loomed over Hunter. He simply gave a sigh.
“Yeah, I will. I have something else to deal with first.”
Rook didn’t look impressed, but he didn’t say anything. He turned and sauntered into the center of the circular deck up to a small platform. With the touch of a button he was teleported away.
Hunter gave a relieved sigh and sat on the edge of the flattened rock. He stared down at the ground and pulled at his hair. Loose blonde strands swirled in the air as they slowly descended the mountain.