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Demon Gun: Lock and Load
by Dirk D. Griffin
Joey Eliot was strictly small time. Even as a member of the Hellions with all their magically infused thugs and leaders, he was usually only allowed to carry a gun. The mages didn’t think he was capable enough to handle the eldritch energies their schemes required. At 23, Joey was impatient with his prospects.
Tonight was going to change all that.. Tonight, with the members of his old gang, all the preparations he’d made, the time spent secretly studying spells he’d finally get what the Hellions refused to give him: power. Real power. Power to take anything he wanted. The time for small spells was over, sure they were good for scamming a few bucks here and there, but tonight was going to be real magic.
Joey ran his fingers through his red, medium-length hair as he entered the abandoned Duke Beer warehouse in King’s Row’s brewery district. Many businesses in this already depressed area were pushed over the economic edge by the Skulls’ and the Hellions’ ever-increasing demands for protection money. The arrival of crazed super-powered criminals and an alien invasion took care of the rest. Duke Beer had long ago packed up their toys and left for Mexico, cheaper labor and the immediate benefit of no super-criminals driving insurance rates through the roof.
Joey lugged his duffel bag full of mystical paraphernalia and other items necessary for tonight’s summoning spell through the outer abandoned offices. He wiped the perspiration from his face and gave his hair a casual flip. The sweat didn’t come from exertion; he was in excellent condition from hours in the gym sculpting his lean body while massaging his vanity. No, it was from pure anticipation.
Further in, he pulled out a torch, lit it, and moved through the inner offices leading to the main storage area where the floor plan opened up. Joey mounted the torch onto a column and dropped the duffel near the center of the cleared space. It had taken weeks, clearing the litter of twisted and broken shelves, desks, cartons and file cabinets, but it was worth it. He placed more torches around the cleared floor filling the space with soft flickering shadows and light. He grabbed a dolly and walked it to a corner where some crumbled shelves were heaped and dug his way quickly through them, exposing the floor. He waved his hands, mumbled a few words, and a small stone floated from the floor to chest level revealing, instead of empty floor, the deactivated hulk of an Assembler Prince.
Joey couldn’t believe the luck he’d had seeing Citadel and Positron fly off after putting down this nest of the damned things. He had sorted through the mess for anything useful, and found this intact Prince unit; he first secured it with the concealment spell, then covered it with the debris from the room. This last bit eased his mind enough that he could leave it till after the clean-up crew came in to sweep the shattered clockworks away.
He grabbed the stone from the air and pocketed it, then worked the dolly under the Prince unit and hauled it near the center of the room. Then, with a piece of chalk he drew two concentric circles, and a pentagram inside the smaller of the two. Finally, several glyphs and Latin phrases were copied painstakingly between the circles and throughout the inner circle and pentagram from a page that he had torn out of a copy of the Obsidian Librum. Lastly, the Prince unit was placed in the middle of the whole effort and a mixture of salt, chalk and crushed bone poured over the outer circle of what would be the summoning portal. Joey was careful to leave an entry, a break in the powder on the circle, for them to come into it during the summoning. The whole process took the better part of the evening, but he had timed it well. Everything would be ready to begin by midnight. As he was placing torches at each point of the pentagram, his oldest friend, Levon arrived.
Levon Whit was dressed in his Hellion colors and bubbled with a nervous energy that Joey suspected was partly pharmaceutical. Joey and Whit grew up together in the shadow of the Zig in Brickstown. They were typical kids growing up in poverty under the hand of accidental parents and spent more time passing blame around for failure in their lives than doing anything about it. Misery and hard luck were family heirlooms their parents had inherited and dutifully passed on to the next generation. Joey and Levon were the children of petty thieves and confidence men and, as such, were taught to hate the establishment. “Take what you want, any way you can” was the motto of families like theirs and “do unto others before they do unto you” the golden rule. After all, the rationale went, the “rich’ve got more than they need anyway.”
All his boyhood gang, the Dark Water Warriors, matriculated into Hellion U because of him. They’d spent their whole lives following Joey, but now, like him, they were all going nowhere. None of them even rated transformative spells to boost their basic abilities.
Sol Manderson arrived next. Always a little nervous, his small and wiry build amplified his quick movements. He seemed to twitch with excitement. Sol completed the Holy Trinity of the Dark Water Warriors. Joey, the leader, planning and giving orders, and Levon and Sol, his good Left and Right arms carrying out his commands. They always had each others’ backs. It felt right again, being together. This meeting started to feel like a reunion and, in spite of the deadly serious business planned for the night, there was a party atmosphere as they prepared.
Jack Guarset and Bobby Barbarosa showed up together. They were an odd pair, but fiercely loyal to one another. Jack was cautious and thoughtful. Almost never flustered, he took few risks and when he did you could be sure he’d studied the matter for a bit. Bobby, on the other hand, was impulsive and jumped in with both feet before he’d ever seen the edge of the water. His temper was particularly volatile and he could flash hot, explode, go cool and turn on a smile all in an instant. Their trust was unquestioning and born from the camaraderie of fighting side by side.
Last in was Janet Crowe, a fiery brunette with an attractive athletic figure. She was five feet, five inches of pure high explosive energy. She was also Joey’s girl. Lately, though she was mostly arm candy for a Hellion boss by the name of Fire-Fist, who worked mostly out of Galaxy City. Fire-Fist didn’t know Janet was really playing him to help Joey get the things he needed. That was a secret known only by the DWW. She entered while the boys slapped each other on their backs and joked good-naturedly.
Joey dropped everything the second he saw her. They met midway, Janet jumping onto him and wrapping her legs around his waist. Joey caught her and they kissed passionately. “Good to se you, lover.” she said, sliding down his body to stand next to him.
“You too, babe; you too. Did you get ‘em?”
“What d’you think?” she cooed, and produced a small bag from the pocket of her tight jeans. Joey took the bag and opened it, pouring six rubies into his hand.
“Great. Just a little more preparation, and we’ll get this party started." He pulled a bone chalice from the duffel and a Kris. “Okay, everybody, you're going to need to donate a little blood. I’ll show you how to do it, and don’t worry; I’ve got a quick healing spell that’ll fix you right up. He reached into the seemingly bottomless duffel and pulled out a white fleshy plant, then cut six thin pieces from it. “Now, watch me.”
He held the Kris, blade down, over the cup clenching the blade with his other hand. He pulled the Kris quickly out of his fist, and blood flowed into the cup. He opened the bleeding appendage, palm up, slapped a piece of the plant over it, and mumbled a quick incantation. At once, the white plant turned deep red. Joey removed the plant and his hand was completely unharmed. He did this for each of the remaining members. After each had been bled and healed, he poured some wine into the chalice, swished it around to blend it before setting it aside.
“Hey, Joey,” Bobby began, “how’d you score all this stuff?”
“This isn’t even the best of it, man; it’s easy to come by this kind of thing, if you have eyes in the right place.” Joey cast a sidelong glance at Janet, who struck an innocent, who me? look at the group and everyone enjoyed a brief laugh.
“Levon, Solly.” Joey said, still smiling from the easy laugh, “there’s incense and a couple of burners in the bag, pull them out and get them ready. I copied off the chant and’ve been practicing it, but you've gotta join with me on some lines so that we can—“ he paused to get the right phrase, “pool our spirits to summon as a group.”
“What exactly are we summoning?” It was Jack, who rarely spoke, asking in slow even tones that reflected his concern about tonight’s ritual.
“A demon of some kind, that with the binding should grant us all power we can use to get ahead faster than we’ve been doing. Hell, we were here first, anyway.” he spat out, boasting and complaining in the same breath. And he was right; the Dark Water Warriors did predate the Hellions, though they were never more than a turf gang protecting their neighborhood while pursuing petty theft and vandalism in others.
“What’s the clockwork for?” Bobby Asked.
“That’s the shell for the demon. It's gonna inhabit it, and with the glyphs I’ve painted on it, it’ll be bound to that metal body.” He snapped his fingers, “That reminds me.” He reached to the bottom of the duffel and produced a large hat box. “I don’t want to forget this.” He opened the box and removed a large inhuman skull. It was big enough to fit over the head of the Assembler Prince, and spouted two horns that curved out from each side of the skull then arced forward and down into a crescent shape on either side. It was black as if it were burned.
“What the hell is that?” Janet shuddered slightly.
“Hell is exactly what it is, baby. This is a one hundred per cent pure demon skull. You can’t believe what this thing cost me, and I don’t mean cash.” He stepped into the circle and placed the skull over the Prince’s head, dipped his finger in the chalice of blood-wine and inscribed a glyph on the skull.
“I think we’re ready to go. Each of you take your place on the points of the pentagram–use the entrance, here,” he said indicating the open area where the powder hadn’t been poured. He passed a ruby to each member of the circle, “Concentrate and don’t forget when to speak and when to answer all together. Don’t mess up the powder marking the outside of the circle–that’s the most important thing. I don’t think we wanna find out what happens if we screw this up.”
Joey held his palm skyward with the ruby in it, chanted a short spell and the deep red stone floated up and began circling his head. He lit and took up the two incense burners swinging them in figure eights. He walked around the outside of the circle and began chanting.”
“Noctis in umbris huius convenimus
Nocte ad profundum media clamavimus
ut tenebras divinas petamus”
He continued walking around the circle swinging the censers in varying patterns. The group answered his invocation with their own:”
“Nocte ad profundum media clamavimus
ut tenebras divinas petamus”
Then in unison they quickened the pace:
inter haec ossa adeste ”
And again the group intoned:
“Nocte ad profundum media clamavimus
ut tenebras divinas petamus”
The fire in the torches flared as the metal bones of the Assembler Prince began to shift and change color. Joey entered the circle and laid the censures on either side of the Prince. Flesh began to rapidly grow over the clockwork; he completed the pouring of the powder closing the circle. The chant raised in pitch, their voices became louder; a shriek poured from the writhing creature of metal and flesh. As Joey continued the chant alone, he poured the chalice of blood-wine from head to toe onto the convulsing, screaming heap of crawling flesh and flashing steel:
The group joined him:
“ex tenebris vos invocamus
ex barathro inferno
ut nobis cedatis
et per epiclesem nostram!”
“Nocte ad profundum media clamavimus
ut tenebras divinas petamus”
“vis vivet vostra
in hoc mundo
Again the torches flared as the warehouse echoed with what seemed the horrible shrieking of a thousand burning victims. The convulsing abomination erupted in fire, and bolted to its feet spinning and flinging fire into the corners of the room. As Hellions they were used to seeing hellish things, but this was rapid and violent enough to startle them. Bobby and Janet dropped their crystals; Sol stumbled backwards and, in his rush, violated the circle. His foot slipped and swept through the powder wiping out a section of it. Jack fell to his knees and also damaged the circle. Levon, motionless, wet himself while rapidly mumbling Hail Marys over and over again. Joey made the worst mistake of all and fell into the burning tower of metal and flesh. He screamed briefly, and was gone in a burst of flame. The explosion threw everyone to the perimeter of the room and extinguished all the fires leaving it dark but for small patches of moonlight pouring in through the upper windows.
It was morning before anyone awoke. The first up was Sol. A direct beam of morning sunlight guttered through the upper windows and concentrated directly on his face. At first, he thought it was all a dream, but the smell of charred flesh mingled with burnt wood and metal convinced him of the reality. He immediately checked himself for damage even as he extricated himself from a tangle of shelves and boxes: “Joey? Levon? Bobby? Jack? Janet?” he shout-whispered repeatedly as he clawed along the floor afraid to stand up for reasons he couldn’t articulate. He resembled a lizard crawling through the wreckage, looking first one way and then the next. Without noticing, he crossed into the circle and put his hand on it.
It was about nine feet tall. He recognized the skull, though now it was crimson with black around the edges and the tips of the horns. The thick flesh was reptilian, with raised areas that seemed to be some kind of bone plating on the torso, arms and legs. There were great chains wrapped around the upper forearms and the gloves and boots were made of bone or metal. The whole of the creature was a blood red and midnight black. He then realized that the chest was moving up and down in slow, deep breaths.
Immediately, Sol backed away trying to make sense of the night before. Slowly he managed to gather the group and they compared notes. Each one was certain that they saw Joey destroyed by the demonic flames. Between all of them they managed a fairly accurate picture of the preceding evening’s events. Finally, Janet barked in frustration, “Well, where does that leave us?” She looked at each man’s face and then at the behemoth sprawled on the floor, “and that?”
Levon was the first to speak up. “Man, I don’t know about the rest of you, but Joey was the only one I knew who had the whole picture. Did he share it with any of you?” The group looked guiltily at the floor and mumbled, each in their own way that Joey hadn’t told them any more than the chant and to show up.
Jack suggested, “Well, wasn’t part of the deal that he’d do what we say?”
Levon stammered “Yeah. Yeah, that’s right, we were all supposed to get some kind of power over that demon, thing, whatever.” he finished in frustration.
Janet spoke again: “So, where does that leave us? Do we tell it to get up and serve us? Was there a special word or something buried in all that mumbo jumbo?”
Jack offered, “Maybe we should just try n’ wake it up?”
Sol erupted “Wake it up!” he bellowed. “Wake it up!” I don’t even know if I wanna stick around, but you want to ask it out to breakfast?! What the hell are you thinking? We should just pack up our sorry [censored] and get the hell out of here before it wakes up! This thing was summoned from the deepest pit of hell and the guy who was supposed to know what he was doing, is dead?” Waving his arms wildly, Sol began pacing and kicking various pieces of debris for emphasis while his voice began to resemble something between a shout and a wail. “You, Miss Janet. You want to know where that leaves us? I’ll tell you where that leaves us: SCREWED! Screwed with a capital S-C-R-E-W! Look, I don’t know ‘bout the rest of you, but I’m hauling it out of here and if you’ve got any sense, you’ll be right there with me.” He paused to see if he was making any headway. The group sat there surrounded by the hellish mess of destruction all around them, mouths agape, eyes wide, and pale as milk. Sol continued, “Guys? Hey, are you listening to me?”
A deep, baleful voice reverberated and rumbled, “Sit down, Sol.” Hot brimstone-tinged air enveloped him. Sol turned to see the creature, now standing--and looking taller than nine feet—its burning eyes seemed to bore into him. Sol felt very small and fragile as he sank first to his knees, then back on his haunches. Tiny squeaking sounds came from his mouth.
The creature continued to speak: “This wasn’t the plan. I want you to know this. I don’t know what went wrong, but I’m in here.”
After a seeming stunned eternity, they asked collectively, “Joey?”
“Yes, Joey. I don’t know what happened, I don’t remember anything after I tripped.”
“You caught fire and exploded,” shouted Levon. “You freakin’ caught fire and exploded! That’s what happened!”
“And now I’m in here, where the demon was supposed to be.”
They all sat and considered the possibilities. They weren’t used to reason, and as a result, became frustrated with trying to piece everything together. At last, Janet suggested: “Maybe you got the powers too? Can you do anything? Make anything? Throw fire? Something? That’s what Fire-Fist does–he throws fire.”
Joey considered his hands for a moment, and then held them out. They quickly let loose a burst of flames and in his hands appeared two guns, rough approximations of .45s, but scaled up for his size. They were more like LAW’s with handles and triggers and sported dancing flames along the barrel. He raised one of the enormous weapons and fired it into a pile of debris causing it to erupt into flames. Then, as an afterthought, he waved his hand, and the fire went out.
Jack let out a long slow whistle and said, “Now that’s cool.” There was general agreement among them that cool pretty much covered it.
“If I think about it, I seem to know what I can do. Ideas are coming to me.” Without warning he produced a flame in one hand and tossed it at Levon’s feet. The flame disappeared as quickly as it had appeared after it engulfed Levon. It changed him, he seemed tougher, more muscular, and instead of Hellion clothes, he was wearing a leather suit similar to Joey’s new appearance. He also held a matching pair of .45s, flames and all. It took a few seconds, but Levon managed to exhale a quiet, excited, “Wicked! Dude. This is so wicked!”
“Janet,” Joey began, “you wanted to know where this left us. I’ll tell you where: powerful enough to do exactly what we wanted. We’re taking this town from the Hellions first. Then, were gonna take anything we want from anybody, and if someone gets in our way. . .,” he fired a quick burst of hellfire from his guns obliterating an overturned desk and some chairs, “we’ll let these bad boys deal with them.” He looked at his friends, he could see their enhanced hell-forms in his mind; he knew what each would become in his altering flames, and realized that they were powerful enough to take what they wanted. “From now on,” he proclaimed, “this is Demon Gun Territory!”