Location: Aboard the Brimstone and on the planet Terrapin
Time: A few years before Hell for the Company
Steam curled from Verin's nostrils as he stared at the vid. "We're gonna steal goo?"
"We are going to steal experimental intelligent polymer," Shax purred as he watched the clip play yet again. "Look at that lovely stuff."
"Uh-huh. More like creepy."
Shax waved off the comment and ignored him. The Smartmold (galactically registered and trademarked) ran through its paces in the vid again, oozing over objects to "feel" their shapes and then recreating the object or filling an empty space. Smartmold could instantly repair cracks in seals and gaskets in impossible to reach places, even minor hull breeches, useful for modeling and casting. In could even, as demonstrated in a segment that was, admittedly, slightly creepy, act as a temporary replacement for lost extremities.
"I'm not touching that shit. You can sulk and pull drama queen crap all you want. Ain't gonna happen."
"Settle, Ver." Shax tapped the vid off and cracked his knuckles. "I never asked you to. We'll do this the way we always did back home. I'll handle procurement. You take lookout and provide the muscle if it becomes necessary."
After a little bit of planning and surveillance, they broke into the lab on Terrapin during a holiday evening. The majority of staff was home celebrating. The local authorities were running a skeletal police force for the night. The weather cooperated with thick cloud cover. Classic stuff, really. Disabling of security systems – Shax. Disabling of security guards – Verin. Smooth as chocolate ganache. The superior sort, of course.
The signs near the polymer tank gave him a moment's pause.
DO NOT LEAVE POLYMER UNSUPERVISED WITH LID OPEN.
DO NOT TRANSPORT POLYMER PORTIONS IN UNAUTHORIZED CONTAINERS.
"I suppose they do need to be careful," Shax murmured with a one-shouldered shrug. "Proprietary materials and all."
"Just get the goo and let's go," Verin whispered back from the doorway. "Longer you take, better chance shit gets all fucked up."
That was just like old times, too. The familiar refrain made Shax smile in fond remembrance of heists gone wrong. This one would not. He'd covered every possibility. Slowly, Shax slid the lid open on the tank, just far enough to get his glass cube over the opening. As he suspected it would, the polymer reacted and surged up to fill the cube. The force of the surge shocked him, nearly knocking the cube away, but he managed to hang on and shut his captive portion inside his container. A little bit escaped before he could get the lid closed, but the lab boys and girls could deal with that.
Back to the spaceport and the Brimstone they sauntered, without a single hitch.
"Tell me there's a buyer for this weird crap," Verin growled as he started pre-flight to leave the planet.
"Benny has a bidding war going on, apparently. He'll let us know who wins. In the meantime, we'll head toward Amnesia sector. Most likely place a deal might happen."
Shax took the sealed cube to his cabin and set it on the table beside his bunk while he undressed for a nap. He deserved one and Verin would bellow for him if he needed anything. Naps had been scarce lately, and Shax succumbed quickly to the sleep of the successfully wicked.
Two hours later, he woke to the feeling of something profoundly wrong. He surged up and his heart did a police knock in his chest when he spotted the empty cube.
"Hell's pointed sooty gates," he hissed. "What…?"
The cube was intact. Only the seal was broken and the lid carefully opened. Could Verin have taken it out? Curiosity? Shax was about to hit the comm to ask him when he became aware of the oddest sensation. At his groin.
The Smartmold had wrapped around his cock and was oozing around his balls.
"Get off! Get off! Get the fuck off!" Shax screamed in a voice that was definitely threatening and not the shriek of a frightened human child.
Pulling at it did no good. The stuff simply slipped through his fingers. No matter how he batted at it, he only managed to smack himself, and it wasn't even the fun kind of beating off. Finally, it oozed off over his hip and onto his bedside table where it oozed into a perfect standing replica of Shax's genitals.
"Hilarious," Shax grumbled. "You're not funny, Mr. Mold. Now get back in the box."
He held the box out to the sculpture of his own cock, rather handsome thing, of course, but it didn't look its best in gray semi-solid polymer. The Smartmold refused to ooze into the box. Instead, it oozed into the drawer beneath.
"No, no, no! Not in there! Reeking sulfur pits—get back out here!"
After he pulled on a pair of work pants, just in case, Shax yanked open the drawer to find the Smartmold exploring his toys. Yelling at it didn't help. A stern talking to, likewise. Frustrated and oddly embarrassed, Shax finally pulled the drawer out and shook it over the glass container so that ship gravity forced the Smartmold to drop into the cube.
Shax set it on the floor, placed a heavy box atop the lid, and continued grousing as he got dressed. Stupid Smartmold.
* * * * *
Course set, nothing to do but let Ms. Ivana handle Copernicus drive flight, Verin wandered down to the galley for a cup of coffee. He found Shax sitting on the bench by the wall, sulking. The glass cube was on the table with that weird moldy stuff moving through shapes next to it. Shax wasn't trying to put it back in its box. He just sat there with his arms crossed over his chest, glaring.
The Smartmold was making…shapes? Wait. That shape was clearly a dildo, a long, straight one. That was a cock-shaped one, or maybe an actual cock. That was a flanged butt plug.
When Verin figured it out, he burst out laughing, hanging onto the wall to keep himself upright. "Oh, unholy fucking pits! It got into your toy drawer, didn't it?"
"Yes. Shut up."
But Verin couldn't stop. Every time the goo took a new shape, he started howling again. He wiped at his eyes, gasping, and managed to get out, "Why's it out of its damn box?"
Shax pouted, looking like the sulky little demon kid he'd once been. "It kept getting out. Seemed easier to let it amuse itself."
"It's been quite an education," Ms. Ivana sang from the speakers. "Who knew that Captain Hotpants had such an extensive collection? I'm just all aflutter."
The mold almost seemed to be looking at Shax for a few seconds before it collapsed into the shape of a studded cock ring.
"Stupid smartass goo," Shax muttered.
It was the one time Verin recalled that he felt like he might die laughing.
Location: Heaven, Fifth Sphere training grounds
Time: Directly after "The Fourth Hallway" (two years prior to Hell for the Company)
"What…is it?" Sagnessagiel turned the object over in his hands, completely baffled. While he didn't want to sound ungrateful, when Captain Iaoth had mentioned new weapons, he had envisioned a new sort of sword. This stubby tube with a handle had neither point nor edge. How could it be a weapon?
"This isn't a time for jokes, guardian." The trainer frowned, stern and forbidding, her huge silver wings marking her as one of the older martial angels, a veteran of the first rebellion.
Sagnessagiel shook his head. "Forgive me. I truly don't know."
She stared at him long and hard until he squirmed. He had just come to the conclusion that he should probably drop to his knees and beg forgiveness for his stupidity, when she let out a breath through her teeth.
"Seventh sphere guardian?"
He answered without raising his head. "Yes, sergeant."
"I understand you're a bit sheltered there but you never took the time to look down into the human world?"
That puzzled him even more. "No, sergeant. It wasn't…I wasn't…is that something I should have done?"
"You…" She stopped glaring and patted his shoulder. "You're a good, obedient guardian, Sagnessagiel. Let's leave it at that. It's a gun. A projectile weapon like a bow, but more powerful."
"Ah," he said, as if he understood. He didn't.
She held her palm up, twitched fingers inward to request the weapon and Sagnessagiel handed it to her, more than willing. "It's a plasma cannon, handheld, rapid fire."
She held the stocky part below the tube in both hands, pointed the end of the tube toward the dark cloud target and…did something. A blinding ball of light shot from the tube and struck the target where it was absorbed and the glow dissipated in little forks of lightning.
"Oh. And it…?" He let the question hang, unable to complete it.
"It kills, guardian. Specifically attuned to demons. You aim center mass. Head or heart. Nothing else will kill them."
Sagnessagiel nodded, though the words simply rattled around in his head, refusing to settle. Killing demons. They were evil. Made of it, spawned from it. They lived for it. And yet, a life was a life. Could he do that? Take up a life in his hands and crush it? End it?
He supposed he would do as he must, as he was ordered. The legions would never use him in a way that he was ill suited. Guardian. He would keep his comrades, his shipmates safe. Defend them. That's why he was here, and if he had to kill a demon to do that…well, no sense getting ahead of things.
"Please show me," he finally said as he straightened his wings and steeled his resolve.
She gave him a nod, obvious approval, and did just that. One hand here, the other there, how to stand, how to aim, how to compensate for the kick that came not from the ball of ionized gas but from the firing mechanism. Plasma, projectile, sidearms and rifles, laser knives and bolas, long-range and close fighting, she showed him everything.
Much to his, and most likely his instructor's astonishment, Ness found that he was not only a fast learner, but that he was good. Frighteningly good. It stirred something deep within him, something hot and fierce, that he tucked away as quickly as he became aware of it. He was no killer, after all. He would simply be a guardian on a spaceship.
Surely, it would be more challenging than guarding a hallway.
The Fourth Hallway
Location: Heaven, Seventh Sphere, Fourth Hallway
Time: Approximately two years prior to Hell for the Company
Temperance. Patience. Contemplation. Sagnessagiel repeated these qualities as a mantra, a chant, a way to stave off the stray thoughts and questions that constantly assailed him. Why could he only guard the fourth hallway of the seventh sphere, where the most contemplative souls resided? Why could he not travel between spheres as some of the angels did? Why had he never seen another sphere? Or perhaps he had and no longer remembered? Could that be? Did angels…forget?
Temperance. Patience. Contemplation. There was something wrong with him. Terribly, horribly wrong. Contemplative souls never wanted to stop and talk. He wasn't supposed to interrupt their contemplativeness, anyway. Was that a word? Con-temp-la-tiv-osity. Con-temp-lav-is-it-y.
Temperance. Patience. Contemplation. Why couldn't he simply meditate on the music of the spheres as he was supposed to? He had done so. Perhaps for hundreds of years, he'd done so successfully. What had happened to disturb his meditations? Another contemplative soul drifted by, serene and silent. To contemplate. I contemplate. You contemplate. He contemplates.
A trumpet sounded in the distance. There. That was it. The noise that had distracted him. Had been distracting him for some time. What did it mean? Was it louder this time? Perhaps coming closer? Did that mean something was going to happen? Nothing ever happened in Sagnessagiel's corner of heaven beyond the occasional silent drifting of souls. His bones itched at the trumpets' clarion, wings rustled, fingers tightened around his ceremonial spear. He wanted so badly to move, to speak, to do something.
But he was obedient, ever obedient, and stayed still, no matter how much he wanted to spread his wings and fly toward those trumpets. Something was wrong with him—these stray desires that had nothing to do with his purpose, his angelic duty. Down that path lay disobedience and rebellion, the path of the fallen. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
The trumpets were coming closer. He hadn't imagined it. A voice called out after each trumpet blast, Attend, angelic hosts! Demons have defiled the very firmament of heaven, daring to sojourn into the stars! Let those of courage and fortitude step forth to be counted among heaven's warriors beyond Earthly realms!
Asroilu, the guardian of the seventh sphere, and Iaoth, one of the captains of the anti-demon legions, rounded the corner into Sagnessagiel's hallway followed by four trumpet-blowing cherubs.
Sagnessagiel stepped away from the wall, spear gripped tight in his fist. "Me! Pick me!"
Unfortunately, he said it just as the cherubs blasted their trumpets again and Iaoth bellowed out his recruitment call. Neither Asroilu in his sky-blue contemplative robes nor Iaoth in his shining battle armor heard him.
"I do think you should move on to the next sphere, Iaoth," Asroilu said in his soft, pensive voice. "The guardians here aren't martial angels."
"They're guardians," Iaoth said with what seemed rather un-angelic impatience. "They'll be given a chance to volunteer like all the others."
"But their guardianship is, ah, largely ceremonial," Asroilu protested. "To add to the beauty of the sphere."
Sagnessagiel took another half step and both senior angels looked up from their lists, blinking at him as if they hadn't realized he was there. "Please, sir. I'd like to volunteer."
Iaoth flipped through his lists. "Who's this?"
"This is Sagnessagiel." Asroilu shot him a rather pained look. "Guardian of the fourth hallway."
Iaoth gave him an up and down inspection. "Well, he looks a likely sort. Veteran?"
Asroilu shook his head. "No, Sagnessagiel is too young to have seen the Great Rebellion and he's been safely tucked away here during later demon wars."
"Hmm. Your guardians still get the standard training?" Iaoth tapped his quill on his lists.
"Well, yes, of course, but—"
Iaoth suddenly pointed at Sagnessagiel. "You, guardian! Do you want to fight evil? Protect humankind in the vast panoply of stars?"
While Sagnessagiel wasn't certain what a panoply was, he straightened, trying to look properly stern and martial. "Yes, sir!" Of course, his little-used voice squeaked, ruining his efforts. His heart hammered so loudly, everyone had to be able to hear it, even the trumpet cherubs who were notoriously hard of hearing.
Iaoth ignored him for a long moment, writing on his lists. "Go on, then. Report to the fifth sphere for training. Weapons have…" Iaoth glared pointedly at Sagnessagiel's golden spear. "Developed considerably since you probably received yours."
"Thank you, sir!" Sagnessagiel did his best to keep his expression blank as he saluted and walked far enough away to spread his wings without striking the recruiting committee. With a powerful downstroke, he was aloft, his smile competing with the sun for brightness.
I'm going to see the galaxy. I'll experience things besides my single hallway now. This is going to be a wonderful adventure. And I am a protective guardian. They won't expect me actually to kill any demons.
Sagnessagiel reported to the angel sergeant at the gates of the fifth sphere, his heart overflowing with optimism.
A Secret Recipe from Ms. Ivana
Location: Aboard the Brimstone, docked
Time: Just this past weekend in which the author has a conversation with Ms. Ivana
I’m a little busy right now, short stuff. Can it wait?
Ms. Ivana, I was hoping--
Hush a second. These fuel calculations don’t do themselves, you know.
But don’t you have a pilot and a captain to do those?
Of course I do, hon, but a girl needs to check these things. My boys are good, but demons will make mistakes…did you need something?
I was hoping you’d share your cinnamon roll recipe. The one Shax loves so much.
Oh, sweetie, not on your life. I shared it once because my adorable little Captain Hottie asked me so nicely, but that was diplomacy. Important stuff. I don’t just give it away, hon.
No, ma’am. Would never suggest it. But the boys can’t stop talking about the things you make for them. Couldn’t you share one little thing? Please?
No need to sounds so desperate, sweetie. I’ll hook you up with something nice. Hold on…ooooooh, I have just the thing! You’ll love this. There aren’t too many places out here to order good cream cheese, but when we have it, our Shaxy just dies over this. All the little moans are positively filthy! Perfect for when he’s in one of his tempers.
Got it. Filthy, orgasmic moan food. What is it?
Cheesecake, of course, sweetums.
Ivana’s Special Shax Taming Cheesecake
1 ¼ c graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp sugar
3 (plus maybe a little bit) tbsp. melted butter (margarine’s fine, if you must *sigh*)
3 pckgs (8 oz) of cream cheese + 1 pckg (3 oz) (Don’t ask – this is the perfect amount.)
1 c sugar
2 tsp lemon peel (No, you can’t use lemon juice! Stop trying to substitute things!)
¼ vanilla ext.
Oven at 350. Stir the graham cracker and 2 tbsp sugar together, then mix in the butter thoroughly. Press into the bottom of a 9 in Springform (honey, you can use something else if you have to, but this works best.) Bake 10 minutes. Take that hot little crust out and let it cool.
Turn the oven down to 300. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, adding the sugar gradually until it is super, super fluffy. The fluffiest fluffy you can get. Add the lemon peel (Put that lemon juice away! I’m going to smack you!) and the vanilla. Beat in the eggs. One. At. A. Time. Fluffy, remember? Fluffy, fluffy, fluffy.
You’re gonna bake that bad thing about an hour. The center should be firm. Then you need to let it cool off a bit before you stick it in the fridge. Be patient. This is the hardest part for Shax, so I let him lick the beaters. That’s to keep him quiet and so I can watch him lick the beaters. Be still my heart. Let it sit in the fridge for at least three hours before you run a knife around the outside edge and take the outer rim of the Springform off. Put whatever you want on top – but you have to try it plain just once.
You don’t even know. And incredibly hungry now, too.
About The Brimstone Journals
Extra treats for our Brimstone readers, Brimstone Journals will post every Tuesday. Short scenes from characters' lives before, after or during the stories.
About the Author