Pants on Fire

A Taste of Things to Come

Dante DeVille was one of the legendary and sought-after political lobbyists on Capitol Hill. His official title was a LIAR, or the Lobbyist for Infernal Affairs and Rituals. Contrary to the popular belief, politicians didn't just sell their souls to the Guy Downstairs. They tried to get credit on them, of course. The real kicker always was they never paid attention to the interest rates ("the Devil was in the details, after all"). The souls of politicians rented to the Devil accumulated debt and corruption faster than a lawyer could suck a man dry. And he was the way that politicians got to the Boss.

Of course, there were plenty of other special interest groups waiting the souls of politicians. The great thing about politics was in every era, and in every nation, politicians were like flies to the rear of a horse: Ready to feast on the crap and avoid being swatted. Dante heard his cellphone ring. "Dante DeVille speaking!" he said as picked it up.

"Dante, there's been some problems lately. Come to my office whenever you get a chance," the unmistakable voice of the Boss echoed.

With a slight shudder, Dante walked down the hall to the Boss's place. Why the Boss always used his cell phone to call the office next door rather than knocking or making an announcement over the PA system was something he never understood. Then again, it likely had something to do with the fact his office could not be reached by most mortals. Dante opened the latest Proctor and Gamble catalog, read the sequence of numbers on the back cover backwards, multiplied them by zero, and added six-hundred sixty six. That formula always gave the Boss's favorite number as a result. Idiotic Satanists everywhere had no idea why. He then burned the offering of a mutilated rabbit fetus in his ashtray and chanted "NATASLIAH!" A giant red pentagram appeared, glowing in midair (the Boss always was one for special effects), and the next thing he knew, Dante was in the Boss's place.

Contrary to other popular beliefs, the Boss's place wasn't a fiery pit of sulfur and brimstone (that was for permanent 'guests'). His office was decorated like most modern ones, except for the variety of art on the wall. Instead of pictures or photographs, the Boss kept all manner of goods the mortal world called "Satanic" erroneously. There was Dungeons and Dragons game books, Teletubby dolls (which even gave the Boss creeps), Harry Potter books, and a book entitled "Necronomicon."

That one Dante didn't recognize until he saw the tag on it, "Borrowed from Miskatonic University Library." It was overdue for a few decades, since not returning library books on time would be quite evil. Now, the Elder Ones weren't the only ones with a copy of Abdul Hazred's delightful account of descent into madness.

The Boss was there in his favorite outfit (so far as an amorphous personification of evil incarnate had): He resembled a clean-suited man with a smiley-face mask. "Dante, good to see you!" he said, extending his hand. Dante shook the Boss's hand, and asked, "So, Boss, what's the problem?"

"We've been getting some competition," the Boss growled. "Political competition."

"From who? The Religious Right's been in our pocket since…well, they started," Dante shrugged. "We all know the Falwell Equation: External political religiosity and internal corruption are directly proportional. What happened to him, anyway? He was a great agent of ours."

"He's currently shoveling shit to Marquis de Sade's place, so he'll have more writing material for his new novel, 121 Days of Gomorrah," the Boss continued. "But our normal perversions of the Abrahamic religions aren't the problem. They're better than ever, in fact. The problem is some other special interest groups are trying to inch their way onto our turf. I need you to convince our potential clients to stay away from them."

"Boss, no one's tried to compete with our hold over DC since the Sixties! Why now?" Dante asked.

"That's what I want you to get to the bottom of," the Boss replied.

"Do we know what we're up against?" Dante asked.

"Watch, and learn," the Boss grumbled as he pushed a button on his desk. A projector screen dropped down, and he dimmed the lights. "There's a few new lobbies we know of. First is INSANE."

"Quite an acronym," Dante commented.

"It's short for the 'International Network of Scientists without A Need for Ethics.' There's four main members around the world, and they're mainly trying to get funding to push the boundary on mad science for "Homeland Security." They might prove useful under normal circumstances," the Boss explained. "But the problem is their theological opinions, or specifically, lack therefore off."

"Humanists of all sorts scare me. How do they hope to accomplish anything without the help of the supernatural?" Dante asked. "Are they Dawkinites, at least?"

"I wish," the Boss answered. "They range from deists to atheists to agnostics to Buddhists, and other sorts of humanists."

"Who's in charge there?" Dante inquired.

"They're a decentralized international movement, with four primary leaders in their own secret lairs. We have Doctor Will Moore of New York City, a specialist in cybernetics and nanotech. His secret base is an old bomb shelter under New York City, bought second hand from a retired super villain," the Boss continued. "He's the main one in American politics. He's a deistic libertarian Extropian cyborg with a gun fetish."

Dante absorbed the information. "How about the others?"

"Well, there's three others, located in Europe, Russia, and the South Pacific," the Boss explained. "The European one was recently elected, despite being one of the founding members of the organization. He was selected over some guy named Redrum, and is quite renowned. His name is Doktor Johan von Schadenfreude, a mad scientist of the classic sort."

"Classic sort? So, you mean, German accent, castle in Eastern Europe, maniacal laughter, and the like?"

"Yup. He has a zeppelin, hunch-backed lab assistant, and an army of clockwork automatons as well. He has a steam fetish, I think," the Boss commented. "But enough on that. The next one is a Russian mad scientist who's turned towards the private sector since the Wall fell down. He's Doctor Nikolai Molotov, operates from an undersea base, and likes electronic weapons and death rays. He's on fairly good terms with the Russian Mafia, so he's got some buddies even I don't want to mess with."

Dante shuddered for a moment thinking what would give the Devil pause. "Who's the guy in the South Pacific?"

"He's a Singaporean-born Chinese scientist with a base on a volcanic island. His name's Doctor Fuk Hing, and he has plenty of genetic experiments protecting him. He's a Buddhist, so we can't just blame him as "atheistic intellectual" in media campaigns as easily. His network extends all across the Pacific, down to Australia and up to Korea."

"What other groups?" Dante asked.

"Plenty. I'm just going through the ones we know. There's plenty we don't, at this phase," the Boss continued. "The other two are EMO and DIPS."

"What's EMO, other than a type of horrible music and subculture for people who should kill themselves?" Dante inquired.

"A new international taskforce created to engage extraterrestrial threats, utilizing emotionally charged adolescents in inefficiently sized, overly complicated humanoid powered armor," the Boss explained. "That's directly from their mission statement. EMO is short for "Emotional Mecha Operators." Essentially whiny brats who pilot giant robots to fight tentacle monsters from space."

"Let me guess. There's American and Japanese pilots, all who are described as strong, but whine at the slightest provocation?" Dante suggested.

"Exactly. Each also has a stereotypical robot design. At this phase, there's three of them. The leader is teenager kid named Gary Stu, and his robot is red and has a large gun mounted on it to compensate for his…other shortcomings. His sometimes love interest is Mary Sue, who has a pink robot that looks like a ballerina with a giant staff. The last one is a Japanese guy named Kenji To who has a yellow robot that looks like a suit of samurai armor and holds a giant katana. There used to be a fourth one, until his robot randomly exploded," the Boss explained. "Accidentally, of course."

"Right. And the last one was the token black guy?" Dante suggested. "Black robot, talked like a stereotype, and mainly comic relief."

"Exactly. As for DIPS, we're still unsure. We know they're called the Department of Inter-Planetary Security, and they specialize in men-in-black, mind control satellites, cover-ups, fluoridation of drinking water, and black helicopters. We don't know who the bosses are, and we doubt they even know themselves. They seem to be preparing for an alien invasion, last we heard," the Boss said. "Like most bureaucracies, they're incapable outside of their field of expertise. I mean, they mistook our demon warriors for alien invaders, of all things. Our problem with them is the same with EMO: They could both mistake we demons for aliens."

"And do we know if there actually are any aliens?" Dante asked.

"We think so, and we know one of the people involved," the Boss replied. "We know Elvis was one of their agents, if not a highly-ranked alien warlord."

"Great, just great! We've got mad scientists, men in black, emo kids in giant robots, and aliens we know nothing about! What else is there we have to watch out for?" Dante exclaimed.

"Oh, plenty. Those are just the threats we know about," the Boss said sarcastically. "Now, it's time for you to get to work. If you have to call in favors, blackmail them, or sabotage them, I don't care. Just get them out of our hair so we can get more souls!"

The boss snapped his fingers, and Dante awoke back in his office. He had a long day ahead of him, for sure.